The actual rights belong to the mangaka.

2nd pov again.

Think late 1970's to mid 1980's for a time period. Not quite AU.

La Stessa Cosa

Autumn. The year? You're not sure. But you're seventeen and still a bit gangly, still clumsy and just a tad no-good even though you try hard to hide it. Italy. You've been here a month at least, and your Home Tutor hasn't let up his barrage of lessons since you set foot on the beautiful soil. Italy is beautiful. But mornings with Reborn are going to be the same be they in Namimori or in Messina or in Paris or New York. And you're running. Autumn, Italy, running. Running down a winding road that's so local off the estate that it doesn't need to be paved. The people who live here probably travel by horse, no matter how obsolete that sort of thing is in Rome or in Milan. The year? You're not sure.

What you are sure of is what Reborn will possibly do to you once he finds you. You're not ready to be Vongola the Tenth no matter what he says, but you won't need to be for a while yet. Still, there is training. And as long as there is training, be it in Namimori or in Messina or in Paris or in New York, Sawada Tsunayoshi would be running away from it. You've gotten pretty good at it in the past three years, actually.

But maybe you're a bit rusty because sooner or later you're leaning against a brick building, newer than the other places you've passed, and there's some of your supper spilled all over the grass. The street behind you is paved, but worn down.

"…K-kuso," you mutter. You ran too fast, didn't breathe enough, and you're dehydrated, to boot. Of course your system would eject whatever was available.

"Hey. Are you alright?" The voice is deep and weirdly explosive at the edges, but it's the sound the 'r' makes that relieves you. He sounds as though he might speak Japanese. Which is strange, unless he's been sent by Reborn. So you look up.

"I think I'll be fine," you start to say, before your lungs decide to fail. He's taller than you, but can't be much older. Twenty, maybe? His features are definitely sharp enough to be Italian, though something about his eyes – a strange narrowness of grey and green - suggest otherwise. That and the color of his skin, which isn't as olive tones as the other people you've seen here. He wears a suit. Not as polished as the men who stand in the hallways at the Vongola estate, though. It's pinstriped and he wears a wine red dress shirt. From his belt hang a few chains, probably looped to his wallet. His hair is a pale sheen of silver, pulled back messily with the air of someone who wastes little time on brushing it, yet doesn't care to have it cut.

"Come with me. You need some water and a place to lie down for a few minutes."

Reborn would have a number of horrible things lined up as punishment if he found out that you had allowed yourself to be lead into a brick building by a stranger. But there is something trusting about him that you can't ignore, being such a good judge of character. Besides, he's handsome, and you wonder if he has some Japanese blood in him, as you suspect.

The building is a sort of apartment complex, with three large penthouses, as far as you can tell. You're taken to sit in the front room of one of them, and a glass of water is shoved into your hands. He doesn't stay to keep you company, nor does he offer you his name, so when you've drunk the water and rested enough, you head back, not worrying about your waiting punishment as much as you thought you would.

Winter. Italy. It's raining. The same year, some two weeks later. You're standing in front of the brick building, holding a package of yatsu-hashi as a small token of gratitude. You realize, hand frozen over the door, that once you knock you have no idea who to ask for. Thankfully, you're spared the trouble. The door opens, and out of any of the three residents of those tidy little penthouses it could have been, there is your savior. He wears no jacket today, and his shirt is the color of the storm clouds in the west, his hair hanging loose. You expect him to ask who you are and what your business is, but upon seeing you, his face darkens, and he says, quite abruptly, "You're soaking wet! Come inside before you get sick."

Startled, you follow, and are admitted once again into the front room.

He's frowning still, though.

"It's no use! Your clothes are soaked clean through." He runs a hand through his hair and mutters something you don't quite catch. Your Italian is touching on intermediate, at best. "You'll have to have a hot bath. I'll dry your clothes." You think a moment later how strange it is to be undressing in a stranger's house. But the bath is full of warm water, and you think you might have dozed off a little because knocking on the bathroom door seems to drag you out of a calm place in you subconscious. "I've set your clothes out." Then there are footsteps and the sound of the bedroom door closing. When you peek inside, you notice that the door leading into the hallway has been locked, out of courtesy. Still, you pull your clothes on hastily, ashamed at having intruded even further on the handsome young man's hospitality.

When you go back to the front sitting room he is grinding a cigarette into an ashtray.

Immediately you gesture to the package on the coffee table, explain that you'd come to thank him for his small kindness, all while trying to sound very grateful and humble for being allowed to use the bath and have your clothes dried and pressed.

"You're Japanese," he says. Not coldly, though, and in your native language. Feeling as though the sun has come out, you bow in the manner that your mother taught you and more or less repeat yourself, this time in Japanese.

He's smiling faintly.

And all of a sudden you realize how handsome he really is. He's not polished, but the roughness around him is almost gentle and it makes you flustered. Strange. It's strange that you stare at one another for nearly a whole minute, and you know that you're still a little awkward and no-good and as clumsy as you were last month and the month before. But when he smiles like that you stop thinking it's a bad thing. And quite abruptly, he says, "May I hold you?"

You think it's a weird question, but it makes your heart stop just the same and you feel as nervous as you so when you hear a storm starting overhead but now it's much better, somehow. And he actually looks a little awkward himself. You nod. Barely. Barely enough to give consent and not as eager as you feel. Strange. For an hour he holds you, your legs tangled loosely over the oxblood leather of the chaise where you rested on that day. It's nice just to be held. And the rain stops. You know when you leave – not looking back – that you'll come back again.

Spring. Italy. You. Gokudera. That is his name. He's holding you with a little more care today, and when you pull away to leave, he takes your hand and kisses it. He kisses the finger where the Vongla Sky ring usually rests. You take it off every time you come. You don't want to be Vongola the Tenth when you come here. The kiss is new, though. It becomes a ritual. After the first five or nine times, you wonder what it would be like to have him really kiss you. He just holds you, hands lightly stroking unclear lines over your back. It's perfect, but sometimes you feel little urges and then you start to wonder about kisses and his hands undoing your buttons.

"Do you want me to kiss you?" he asks one day, and you know he's not referring to the tradition.

You nod very slowly, hold your breath and let your eyes slide closed as he draws near than he'd ever. His lips are soft at your temple. You feel a pang of disappointment, but when you see his eyes avert, you know it's because he's scared. Maybe you are, too. It's good enough for now, and you can feel the gentle pressure all day and into your sleep.

The next day and the days after you are so busy with Reborn and lessons and the subject of choosing guardians that you nearly get lost finding the brick building again. Gokudera calls for you to let yourself in, and as you wait on the chaise, your eye catches something sitting on the coffee table. It's a small but thick envelope branded in blue ink with a crest you think you recognize too well. But the ink is smudged, and you don't move from the chaise.

When Gokudera finally appears, he's dressed a little better than you're used to, in a black suit and a pale grey shirt with a dark vermillion tie.

"My father has summoned me," he says quietly.

You know enough about his father. A wealthy man. Italian. Gokudera's mother was half Japanese. His father doesn't take much notice of him. So today is important. You nod gravely.

Then almost a month passes. You feel as though it has been so much longer, once you find yourself at his door again. Your urges have become stronger, and you can scarcely look him in the eye when he unfolds himself over the chaise and makes room for you. That hour is the longest.

"Tsuna," he says, after kissing your finger. You follow his eyes. You've forgotten the ring today. It's foolish to hope that Gokudera doesn't know what it is. You're ashamed and scared. Gokudera's eyes are narrowed slightly. He isn't smiling. You start to apologize in rapid Japanese, knowing that there is no lie you can tell that will convince him.

"Please, Gokudera-kun… I should have told you… I thought that you wouldn't want to see me if I let you know."

He's shaking his head.

The world ends.

And then it breaks in a storm of an embrace so unlike Gokudera's usual gentleness you think your heart might jump out of your chest. "Decimo," he says calmly. "I would never…"

It takes a moment for you to understand why he knows your title. He smiles softly and produced the envelope you saw before, and you can see, though the ink is smudged, that it is the Vongola crest. He opens it and upends the contents into your palm. It is a ring. It bears the deep engraving similar to your ring, but no stone. Instead, there is a small crest and the image of a storm cloud.

You nod, understanding, and watch as he puts it on his finger, kisses your ring again.

"Decimo," he says, reverently.

"Stay by my side," you say, and it almost seems to be coming out of the mouth of Vongola the Tenth. You've never given anyone an order before.

He smiles and carefully pulls you to him, touching his lips to yours.