Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue.

Warnings: Spoilers, language, violence, angst

Pairing: 5927 (Gokudera x Tsuna)

Author's Notes: My blood, sweat, and tears, folks. Please enjoy.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

A Story of How the Sky Fell

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Gokudera knows that he should remember in its entirety the day that the sky fell, but he doesn't. Small miniscule details constantly change should he attempt to recall the vague and unclear memory, details that don't matter in the grand scheme of things, and yet bother him regardless. Maybe he's being pointlessly neurotic, maybe he's taking childhood promises too seriously. Even so, he can't shake this overwhelming impression that he's failed Tsuna again.

Sometimes, when silver bullets aren't whistling through the air on a death arc for his flesh, when the metallic stench of permeating blood has faded from the folds of his suit, he closes his eyes and tries to remember.

But now as the lingering violence whorls through the cresting dawn, gunshots echoing in the remote valley, he realizes this isn't quite an appropriate moment to reminisce, realizes that he needs to focus on finding I-Pin and Lambo before the Millefiore does. He glances down at the charred corpse by his feet, about to light a well-deserved cigarette, and suddenly remembers with striking clarity that on the day that the sky fell, Tsuna had been laughing.

The tangled forest shivers through the throes of a distant detonation and Gokudera exhales slowly, stirring from the shock of his revelation. Taking a quaking drag of his cigarette, he drops it on the remains of the Millefiore scum and abruptly departs, unable to erase the searing image of Tsuna's laughing face from his mind.

He thinks that after that day, there hadn't been much to laugh about anymore.

Gokudera walks steadily, head bowed, and finds he can't concentrate now. Because on the day that the sky fell, Tsuna had died with a smile lighting up his face and the echoes of a laugh coloring his voice. Gokudera knows this now, remembers it clearly. Obsesses over it, because his life is subjugated by the sharp edges of broken promises and the inexplicable ache of blurred details, and he finally remembered something, something completely irrelevant.

(But to you, it's something critically important.)

Tsuna had been laughing.

How pathetic, he wonders, is it that a guardian can remember absolutely nothing concerning the death of his boss? Having calculated the math very meticulously, he assumes it happened on a Sunday, but mania is a powerful catalyst, and he needs to know. Needs to know if it had been morning or night, if the weather had been fair or dismal, if Tsuna had died outside on the streets or inside of some obscure building. Somewhere, in the jaded pictures and hazy images that make up the tattered remains of his memories, he understands that there had been many innocent civilians killed, that Yamamoto had received his scar that day.

Gokudera can't dredge up the rest, seems to have unconsciously suppressed the memories, and refuses to bend to his shame and ask someone for the whole story, the story that he'd been present for.

Very, he decides, eyes blank. Very pathetic indeed.

So instead of asking, he rewrites the story himself, the story of how the sky fell.

(Start from the beginning. Write the story the way it could of, should of, might have been.)

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

i. once upon a time

"One day as a little chicken was strolling through the woods — "

"Wah! Stupid chicken!"

Not a sentence into the retarded story and already Lambo was pissing him off. Gnashing his teeth together, Gokudera reigned in his homicidal urges and ignored the idiot cow, continuing in a flat, monotonous tone. " — an acorn fell from a tree and hit her on the head. 'Oh goodness!' she cried. 'The sky must have fallen! I must go and tell the king!'"

He paused, uncomfortably warm where he was crammed between the fidgeting brats, who were half sprawled across the bed and half in his lap, squirming closer to paw at the colored pictures in engrossment. Dropping the book unceremoniously, he none too kindly seized the collars of their nightshirts and deposited them as far away from his being as his arms could possibly reach. Consequently, Lambo fell off the narrow bed with a muted exclamation, and Gokudera unsuccessfully fought down a satisfied smirk. I-Pin impatiently gestured for him to pick up the book and resume reading.

"Right, so," mumbled the teenager as he lazily scanned the page, searching for where he'd left off. "…The little chicken ran off to find the king, and came upon her friend the hen. 'Where are you going, chicken?' asked the hen. 'Oh help! The sky is falling!' replied the little chicken. 'How do you know, chicken?' asked the hen. 'I saw it with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head!' replied the chicken."

"Oooooh," Lambo whined miserably, scampering across the sheets to fling himself into Gokudera's chest. "Th-that's scary! Scary, scary!" Likewise, I-Pin had bodily attached herself to his right arm, face buried in his shoulder as she shuddered.

"K-knock it off!" Gokudera snapped, chagrined. Oh God, is Lambo wiping his nose on my sleeve? Lip curling in disgust, he tried to shake the brats off. "It's just a stupid fairytale! How the hell is it scary!?" After multiple repeated attempts to remove the children, he resorted to clouting them both over the head with the damn book.

Predictably, Lambo began to loudly wail, tears streaming down his obnoxious face, while I-Pin sprung away into a familiar martial arts position, her cheeks suffused with an angry, glowing red. To be honest, Gokudera's immediate reflex to such dismal threats was to snag a stick of dynamite from his jacket and blow the brats sky high, however —

"Don't concern yourself, Juudaime," he'd told a worn out Tsuna, stubbornly leading the boy away from the destructive duo, who had somehow managed to pry the heavy-duty lock off the cookie jar. "You need to get some sleep for your retest tomorrow, so I'll watch them for tonight."

Tsuna's expression had been one of trepidation. "U-um, that's alright. I don't mind staying up with them until my mom gets back. You should go home, Gokudera. Before it gets too dark."

"Your grades are more important." Gokudera had gently ushered his boss into his bedroom, grinning assuredly. "It'll be fine, you'll see. I can take care of the brats for a few hours."

Admittedly, blowing up said brats probably wouldn't constitute taking care of them. Fisting his hands in frustration, he swiftly rectified the situation, all too aware that Lambo's shrieking would raise the dead, never mind the slumbering Tsuna. "Okay, okay! Shut up!" the silver haired boy hissed through his teeth, eyes darting to the door apprehensively. "Do you want me to finish the story or what!?"

Sniffling, a sulking Lambo shrugged obstinately, having decided to be difficult and not respond. I-Pin seemed to weigh her options, and nodding, plunked back down beside him, her hands in her lap.

How the hell, Gokudera wondered absently, running his long fingers through the pale fringe of his hair, does Tsuna's mom tolerate these monsters?

"'This is terrible!' said the hen." Not as terrible as this stupid story. "'We must go tell the king!' The two ran off to find the king, and came upon a duck. 'Where are you going?' asked the duck. 'The sky is falling! The sky is falling! We're going to tell the king!' replied the little chicken and her friend the hen. 'How do you know?' asked the duck. 'I saw it with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head!' replied the chicken. 'This is terrible!' said the duck." Hold on…didn't I just read this part? "'We must go tell the king!' The three ran off to find the king, and came upon a goose. 'Where are you…?'" Gokudera trailed off, blinking owlishly as he thoughtfully reread the passage. "What the fuck?" he growled. "This is the most asinine, repetitive piece of — "

"Lambo wins!" crowed the cow triumphantly, whipping out a small, compact tape recorder from behind his back. "Stupidera said a bad word! Lambo has proof! Lambo's gonna tell maman on you!"

Gokudera swiped the tape recorder and hurled it against the opposite wall, where it promptly smashed into several little portions. The look of utter devastation on Lambo's face was priceless.

An aggravated I-Pin spouted some Mandarin at him unintelligibly, flailing her arms as she furiously pointed to the book to Gokudera's mouth and then back again.

"You don't speak Japanese!" he argued, rolling his eyes. "You won't even understand what I'm reading, so what does it matter!?"

She yanked on his hair smartly for that.

"Whatever," he muttered crossly, grousing about damned brats under his breath as he flipped through the next three pages, "but I'm skipping this part." Of course, just when he found the last page and cleared his throat to read, the two threw a tantrum and forced him to go back so they could see all the pictures. Shouldn't have left my cigs in Tsuna's room, he thought in irritation. These kids are enough to turn anyone into a chain smoker. "So the little chicken, her friend the hen, the duck, the goose, the hare, and the cock ran off to find the king, and came upon a fox. 'Where are you going, my friends?' asked the fox. 'The sky is falling! The sky is falling!' replied the animals. 'How do you know?' asked the fox. 'I saw it with my own eyes, heard it with my own ears, and part of it fell on my head!' replied the little chicken. 'Do you know the shortcut to the king's palace?' asked the fox. 'No, please show us!' cried the animals. And so the fox led the animals into his den…"

Lambo and I-Pin gasped melodramatically, clinging to him so hard that his smoker's lungs were wheezing desperately for air. Eyeing the rest of the paragraph, Gokudera shoved them off and rolled his eyes again, quickly making the decision to rewrite the story's ending. "…where he devoured all of them alive!"

As the two brats stared up at him, mouths gaping in disbelief and eyes wide with childlike horror (well, as wide as the nearsighted I-Pin could squint, anyway), Gokudera unnecessarily added, "Oh, and then the sky fell. The end."

Blissful silence, and just as he was congratulating himself on a job well done, Juudaime will be so impressed, all hell broke loose.

And so Tsuna awoke to an enthusiastic chorus of high-pitched screaming, terrified crying, and the telltale sound of things exploding.

Nothing out of the ordinary in the Sawada household.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Gokudera chuckles, the sound reverberating in the empty embrace of the forest, because he remembers that. He remembers reading the strange Western fable to Lambo and I-Pin, remembers his frustration with the bratty children, his desire to please Tsuna. Gokudera laughs and laughs and then stops, because he's just remembered that he doesn't remember this, that this never happened.

This is not a memory, this is a scene from a chapter never written, a book never opened.

Suddenly, it's very cold and very lonely, and Gokudera has never felt so stupid.

What's more pathetic? A guardian who can't remember the death of his boss, or a guardian who creates fake memories to fill the void in his heart?

(Easy, easy. It's okay. This is your story. You can write it any way you want.)

That's right, thinks Gokudera sluggishly, trying to work around his confusion and humiliation. This story is his. This story…of how the sky fell.

(Good. Continue.)

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

"Please forgive me, Juudaime," Gokudera later pleaded, prostrating himself on the ground wretchedly. Down the hall, he could hear Nana patiently putting the sobbing children to bed. She had impeccable timing, having had returned home in time to cheerfully whisk the brats away before he could permanently obliterate them, all the while graciously thanking him for watching the two while "my no-good son slept." Nearly ten minutes later, Gokudera still flinched at the lack of confidence she had for Tsuna. "Because of my irrationality, I woke you up," he quietly continued, bowing so far that his eyelashes flickered against the rough fibers of the rug. Hot shame washed over him, because really? He couldn't help but think, Yamamoto wouldn't have screwed this up, goddamit.

"Actually," murmured the smaller boy, rubbing bloodshot eyes as he peered through the shades of his window. "I think you three woke up everyone on my street." The storm guardian distraughtly groaned, Tsuna's words eliciting a slew of apologies. "It's fine, Gokudera!" Tsuna hurriedly amended, tugging persistently at his friend's arm to pull him from the ground. "Really! There's nothing to forgive! I wasn't sleeping well anyway, because I felt bad about leaving you with those guys."

Juudaime couldn't sleep? Pushing himself up onto his hands and knees, Gokudera regarded the mafia boss with a mixture of happiness and repentance, a tentative smile creeping over his lips as he pressed his forehead to Tsuna's knee reverently. "Thank you, Juudaime. I don't deserve your kindness."

Tsuna frowned lightly at that, but didn't comment. "Well, I hope you don't mind staying here for the night," he said instead, stumbling clumsily out of his bed to flick off the light and shut the door. "It's too late for you to walk home to your apartment, and I don't have a futon for you to sleep on. Reborn and Bianchi took it."

Gokudera shuddered, trying not to think about his sister and the infant hitman sharing a futon. Then, understanding the meaning behind Tsuna's words, he looked up, a current of electricity flowing through his body.

"My mom will kill me if you have to sleep on the floor," Tsuna weakly joked, climbing into his bed and tucking himself against the wall. "And I know that you won't let me sleep on the floor."

"Of course I won't, Juudaime," replied Gokudera instantly, but the words got caught in his dry throat and came out unintelligibly. Warmth pooled heavily in his stomach as he unquestioningly complied to his boss's unspoken word, sliding in behind Tsuna with an idiotic grin on his face. He shivered.

They awkwardly shifted long limbs and repositioned their bodies, figuring out how to comfortably fall asleep without invading the other boy's personal space. A difficult task, considering that Tsuna had the penchant to sprawl.

Afterward they lay face to face, Tsuna drifting off and Gokudera intently watching him, head propped up by a large, calloused hand. The boy shifted, nose wrinkling slightly, and a sudden impulse shot through Gokudera, his protective inclinations transcending into something more possessive, something more fervent. An ache burned in him, an ache to reach through the wall of darkness separating them and touch Tsuna, to kiss Tsuna, to sink inside and bury himself in Tsuna's skin, because there were holes in Gokudera, and Tsuna could fix them.

"Mm, Gokudera?" mumbled Tsuna, voice thick with sleep, his eyes fluttering open.

The guardian jerked away guiltily, a flush crawling up his neck, and nervously averted his eyes, licking his lips. "Y-yeah, Juudaime?" Stupid, stupid, stupid. Get a fucking grip and stop acting like a love struck teenager.

Tsuna rolled onto his back, dragging the thin blanket with him. "You know…you know what Yamamoto told me?"

Jealousy reared its ugly head, and Gokudera's face contorted with envy, because here he was, just him and Tsuna, and yet Yamamoto still managed to get in the way, to be the one that Tsuna wanted to talk about, to be the subject of their conversation. "What'd he tell you?" he asked with thinly veiled venom, inwardly wishing that, wherever he was, Yamamoto would drop dead.

"Yamamoto told me…" The Vongola boss broke off with a noisy yawn, arms stretched over his head. Gokudera's eyes followed the path of his shirt as it rode up. "…He told me that you can play the piano."

Well, that wasn't what Gokudera had been expecting. Jaw dropping in surprise, he fumbled for some kind of response, expression screwed up in astonishment. Th-they were talking about me? The baseball dork and Juudaime?

After a moment's reflection, Gokudera decided he still wished Yamamoto would drop dead.

"U-uh, y-yeah," he tersely replied, feeling cornered. "I, um, haven't played in a while though."

Ochre eyes curiously studied him, and then slowly, Tsuna smiled sleepily. "Would you mind if I listened one day? I'd really like to hear you play."

But Gokudera hated the piano. Despised it, really. He hated the rush of memories that would surface when he brushed his hands over ivory and ebony keys, his father's voice echoing mockingly in his mind. He loathed his weakness, his weakness to create illusions to hide in, illusions of happiness and freedom and completion, illusions he fabricated in the music he fashioned, the notes he twisted, and goddamit, but he —

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(No, no, no. What're you doing? This is your story. Don't let it spin out of your control into something dark and painful.)

"This is a story of how the sky fell," snarls Gokudera irately. "It has to be dark and painful!"

(Who says this story, your story, needs to end so tragically? What if this isn't a story? What if it's a fairytale? A fairytale like the one you read to Lambo and I-Pin?)

Gokudera stops walking, bewildered. "No, wait," he says to no one but the unhappy ghosts in his head. "That never happened. It's just part of the story."

(You don't remember? Then again, you don't even remember the sky falling, do you?)

Mortification is a hot brand, and Gokudera stares at the ground balefully, tendrils of doubt weaving lies in his mind.

(It was a Friday, a school night, and Tsuna had failed his math exam. You were tutoring him for his math retest while his mom was visiting her friends. You wanted him to do well, to pass the class, so you told him you'd watch the kids so he could sleep.)

The situation sounds vaguely familiar, and so Gokudera believes it must have happened. "Yeah," he mutters, nodding as he starts walking once more. "I do remember that."

(Alright. Now pause. Rewind. Rewrite.)

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Ochre eyes curiously studied him, and then slowly, Tsuna smiled sleepily. "Would you mind if I listened one day? I'd really like to hear you play."

"No," Gokudera whispered, failing to return the smile as his heart clenched haplessly. "Of course I wouldn't mind, Juudaime. I-I'll probably be rusty, but I — " His expression steeled into something intensely focused, and he moved closer to Tsuna, eyes dark and smoldering. "Juudaime. I'll play whatever you want, whenever you want. I promise."

Tsuna stilled, eyes sharp, and there was a perceptiveness there that told Gokudera that the boy wasn't fooled by the pretense of "playing the piano." He'd heard the underlying vow, honest and sincere, and he understood. Or maybe he'd always understood.

The heat from their bodies crept under Gokudera's skin temptingly, teasing him with his boss's scent, and the ache was back full throttle. They breathed in each other's air, and Gokudera shuddered, inching forward, heart slamming violently into his ribcage as Tsuna's expression softened, his mouth opening to murmur, "Goku — "

"Stupidera!" hissed an annoying voice from the now open door, and the two boys sprung apart as if burned, Gokudera's tense body howling in loss and denial. "H-hey! Stupidera! Are you in here!?"

Groaning, Tsuna struggled to sit up. "Lambo?" he called out uncertainly, exchanging a puzzled glance with the silver haired boy. "What are you doing? It's way past midnight!"

The small forms of Lambo and I-Pin appeared in the darkness as they tiptoed in, managing to trip over a pile of Tsuna's clothes on their way and crashing to the floor. "O-ow!" wailed Lambo, having broken I-Pin's fall. "Y-you're fat and heavy!" Her face took on a threatening pink hue, but fortunately she did not spontaneously combust, choosing instead to beat him upside his ego-swollen head with a shoe.

Gokudera might have found this amusing under different circumstances. "What the hell do you want, you little shits?"

I-Pin stopped thrashing Lambo, glowering at Gokudera as she crossed her arms over her chest in a very un-intimidating manner. The cow interpreted for her. "You told us that the f-fox eats the animals, and that the s-s-sky fell!" he accused, the tremor of fear in his voice making him stutter. Tsuna shot Gokudera an incredulous look, mouth hanging open. "N-now Lambo and I-Pin can't sleep! Wh-what if the sky f-falls!? Then Lambo will never k-kill Reborn and take over the world!"

"You should be grateful Reborn's on vacation with Bianchi," Tsuna warned, "or he'd kill you for even suggesting something so stupid."

The two children piteously moaned, holding up their arms beseechingly to the smaller boy, eyes teary. Sighing, Tsuna gave in and leaned over Gokudera to help the brats into bed. Lambo made sure he stepped on the silver haired boy's groin in passing, and Tsuna had to tackle his friend to keep him from strangling the damn cow.

So the four of them were squished together, with Gokudera nearly slipping off the bed as I-Pin wedged herself between them, and Lambo perched on Tsuna's chest. Neither child seemed prepared to fall asleep, and Gokudera shared a look with his boss.

"Please tell them how the story really ends," Tsuna implored him in exasperation, wincing as a misplaced horn nearly skewed his eyeball.

Gokudera would much rather go tell them to shove several lit sticks of dynamite up their asses for interrupting his moment with Tsuna. "The fox doesn't eat the animals," he grudgingly confessed. "The king's hounds chase it off, and the king presents the chicken with an umbrella to protect her in case the sky does fall, and they all live happily ever after."

Lambo frowned quizzically. "S-so the sky…the sky doesn't fall?"

For what felt like the umpteenth time that day, Gokudera rolled his eyes. "No, idiot. The sky won't ever fall; it's impossible. Now shut up and let Juudaime sleep."

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Of course, this Gokudera knows that it isn't impossible. This Gokudera had watched the sky fall with his own eyes, had heard the gunshots with his own ears, had felt Tsuna's sickly hot blood sliding down his own forearms.

(Had you? Do you actually remember any of this?)

Gokudera frowns quizzically, and then shakes his head, no.

(Right. You remember none of this. So maybe it never happened. Maybe it was but a fleeting nightmare.)

Either way, this is Gokudera's story…his fairytale…and there are no such tragic endings in fairytales. So maybe the sky never did fall. Maybe…maybe it was only an illusion?

(Exactly.)

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

ii. promise

The bustling celebration was ridiculously overcrowded, with many of the attendees happening to be associated famiglia, some elite members of the Varia, a few of the Arcobaleno, all six feuding guardians, and Tsuna's immediate family. Gokudera, high-strung and paranoid, never left Tsuna's side, swearing that the party was going to end in violence, especially if Squalo and Yamamoto kept downing shots like that.

Five hours ago, Tsuna had been officially named capofamiglia, the tenth head of the Vongola mafia, and later, Gokudera had received the honor of consigliere from Tsuna himself, the right-hand-man of the boss. While his ecstasy had yet to die down, he was restless and anxious, trying to keep an eye on people like Xanxus, who had been glaring at Tsuna all night, and Mukuro, who had been leering at Tsuna all night.

"Relax Hayato," sagely advised Bianchi, having mercifully masked her face. One hand rested on his shoulder as she followed his line of sight. "This is supposed to be a joyous occasion, and you're acting like a little brat who doesn't want do share his prized toy." She took a sip from her wineglass delicately, one eyebrow challengingly cocked.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" he snarled under his breath, jaw tight. Regrettably, his averted eyes and dark blush gave him away, and she knowingly smirked, deigning not to reply. Gruffly, Gokudera straightened his tie and tactlessly changed the subject. "How am I expected to relax? Whose brilliant idea was it to gather this many psychopaths in one room anyway?"

Bianchi frowned. "What psychopaths?"

You, for one, he grimly thought, wisely choosing not to voice it. Instead, he scanned the crowd for an example (of which there were many) and then pointed. Silently, the siblings watched.

Across the room, a very drunk Ryohei playfully slapped a very sober Hibari on the back, enthusiastically shouting something about how amazing last night had been. Consequently, whether for the offense of touching Hibari Kyoya or for making such a bold statement aloud they'll never know, Ryohei was flung violently outside through an ancient stained-glass window via means of tonfa. Unfortunately for Ryohei, they were on the seventh floor.

"He'll be fine," dismissively scoffed his sister, waving it off. "And Kyoya isn't a psychopath. He's just spoiled rotten." Gokudera wasn't sure if he agreed with that critical assessment, but as his sister sauntered off in search of Reborn, he didn't dare argue.

His conversation with Bianchi had effectively distracted him. Whirling around frantically, he sighed gratefully to find that Tsuna was only a few meters away, chatting with Basil and Futa. Then Gokudera noticed the terse, straight line of Tsuna's shoulders and the uncertain, almost rigid way he was holding himself. Blinking contemplatively, he self-consciously shifted his weight, and catching the movement, Tsuna's brown eyes darted over to him. Instantaneously, the tension in his body eased away, his face flushing in relief as he smiled happily.

I'm right here, thought Gokudera earnestly, lifting his wineglass to his boss. You know I'm right here.

How long? How long (years, months, days, seconds) had he spent, steadfast and unwavering, at Tsuna's side? It was unnatural, even uncomfortable, to be separated from the young man, and while Gokudera had once wondered if he was being obsessive about his duty as both guardian and right-hand-man, he knew better now. Tsuna was a radiant light in this dark, somber underground business; it was hard not to fall in love with the kid.

The youth in question excused himself from his friends apologetically, politely inclining his head. Pivoting on his heel, he headed back to Gokudera, looking worse for wear. "What time is it?" he asked blearily, taking his guardian's wineglass and tossing it back like it was water. The silver haired man winced, very aware that his boss couldn't hold his alcohol.

"Tired?"

"Exhausted."

Gokudera briefly checked his watch, his attention focused on the Chiavorone boss who was leisurely approaching Tsuna. Glaring pointedly, the storm guardian stepped closer to the young man. "It's about two in the morning. Want to go?" he inquired gently, noticing that Dino had taken his reaction in stride and was now heading in the direction of Hibari. Gokudera rolled his eyes. Good luck.

The Vongola boss snorted. "I can't. Everyone's come to Italy just to congratulate me. Think about the impression I'd leave if I didn't stick around." He staggered, clutching his head. Gokudera immediately wormed an arm around his waist for support, studying his friend in concern. "Oh, thanks. I shouldn't have had that wine."

Smiling ruefully, Gokudera guided his boss towards the doors. "Alright," he conceded, torn between amusement and unease, "we won't leave." Nervously, he brushed his knuckles against Tsuna's hip, but if the young man noticed, he didn't say anything. "Let's take a break."

"A short break," amended Tsuna stubbornly, locked in battle with a persistent yawn. "Only…only five minutes."

"Five minutes? That's three hundred seconds. Not nearly enough time for you to rest." Tsuna gave him a stern look. "C'mon then," bid Gokudera, a tender nuance coloring his usually curt tone. "I'll grab the idiot."

"No, leave Yamamoto. He's having a good time with Squalo."

Gokudera had the distinct impression that the sentiment wasn't mutual on Squalo's behalf, and smirked cruelly. That smirk was wiped clean off his face at the grotesque sight awaiting them in the corridor, where Longchamp was messily making out with his latest fling, a beastly girl that reminded Gokudera of the monstrosity that would be Godzilla and King Kong's love child. Choking, he slammed his shoulder into the nearest door, feeling it momentarily resist, before giving under his weight, and they staggered inside. Releasing Tsuna, he swiftly moved to close the doors, his stomach churning in disgust.

"That was mildly repulsive," he remarked airily, shuddering. He dug inside his trouser pockets, and then his jacket, for his stow of cigs, waiting for Tsuna's reply. When none was forthcoming, he glanced up, brows drawn together.

They were in a massive ballroom which, in retrospect, would have been much more appropriate for the current celebration than the cramped chamber that was being used. At one end of the room, great bay windows opened up into the beautiful gardens below, the moon proudly recumbent in the black, starry sky. Above, an impressive crystal chandelier hung, glittering dangerously as it refracted the moonbeams in a hundred different directions, only dimly illuminating the room.

Tsuna was standing by the windows where, tucked into a corner where the light didn't quite reach, a parlor grand piano stood, forgotten.

The unlit cigarette dropped uselessly from his mouth as he pushed away from the doors, transfixed.

"Look," Tsuna called, meticulously brushing layers of dust off the lid with a sleeve. He turned, looking to Gokudera expectantly, the moonlight stirring the air around him.

Cautiously, as if dealing with a deadly animal, the silver haired guardian approached, eyeing the piano darkly. When his boss made a questioning noise in his throat, noticing Gokudera's less than pleased expression, the taller youth sighed. "I hate the piano," he admitted, loathing himself for disappointing Tsuna. "The music is so ugly." By his sides, his hands were clenched into tight fists, fingers twitching fractionally.

Tsuna scrutinized him. "You say you hate the piano," he began slowly, gently, as though he were afraid of offending his friend, "but I can see that you want to play it."

Gokudera couldn't argue with that.

Wordlessly, the Vongola boss sat down at the bench, experimentally pushing a key. The noise elicited was terribly out of tune, and both men cringed. Chuckling, Tsuna glanced at Gokudera out of the corner of his eye, a secretive smile tugging at his mouth. "You know, you shouldn't deny yourself what you desire," he said, and fuck, but Gokudera loved him.

Inspired, he briskly flipped open the lid, eyeing the strings reproachfully before he went to work on tuning them. Astonishingly, there wasn't much to be done, and after reworking a few keys, he loudly slammed the lid shut, hands shaking apprehensively.

He sat down beside Tsuna, their thighs brushing, and mentally prepared himself, conflicting emotions spinning in a nervous vortex within the empty pit of his stomach. Suddenly, he felt nauseous, and almost as a reflex, he glanced over his shoulder for his sister. She wasn't there, but the ghosts of his past were, and he paled, hands falling away from the keys limply.

Tsuna was silent, a reassuring hand pressed against the small of his guardian's back.

Exhaling, Gokudera whispered his fingers over a few familiar notes, not quite pressing hard enough for the hammers to produce any sound. He peered forlornly at his boss, not sure how to explain his cowardice, only to be blown away by the simple expression on Tsuna's face, unassuming and unpretentious. The brunet smiled warmly, and then Gokudera was abruptly playing, heart drilling a hole through his chest.

The music was rough and uneven at first, as timid and uncertain as Gokudera was, but soon it smoothed out into something melodious and flowing. Song after song after song rolled out beneath his expert fingers, and the piano sung marvelously for him, sung something quiet and ardent, something for Tsuna.

He exhausted himself past four o'clock, well beyond their five minute break. Gokudera slumped forward over the bench, hands cramping painfully.

Once, he had feared this instrument, feared the illusions it produced, but as he came down from his euphoric, emotionally drained high, there were no haunting memories. Just him and Tsuna.

Or not.

There was a quiet sniff by the door, and both men turned to see that a few people had gathered, attracted to the large chamber by the faint music. Haru was quietly crying, honey colored eyes wide with a mixture of amazement and compassion, clutching the sleeve of Yamamoto's suit in a tight, white knuckled hand. Off to the side, his sister was sadly smiling, and because it hurt to meet her understanding gaze, Gokudera looked away. Reborn, freed from his curse, stood alone in the shadows, leaning against the wall with his fedora tipped over his black, piercing eyes. He was smirking meaningfully at Tsuna, who grinned helplessly in response, and the storm guardian made a mental note to investigate that later. Yamamoto said nothing, just nodded to Gokudera thoughtfully, arms crossed over his broad chest.

"Well done, Hayato," he heard Bianchi say. Hair flipping over her shoulder, she gracefully left, heels clicking distinctly down the hall.

Reborn's smirk widened. "Tsuna," he murmured in that dark voice of his, slender eyebrows raised, before he too departed. His footsteps made not a whisper of sound.

Haru hesitantly walked over to the two young men, yanking on Yamamoto's sleeve for him to follow. Wiping her eyes in embarrassment, she leaned down and kissed Gokudera's forehead affectionately, cheeks glowing. "That was beautiful," she said softly, unshed tears making her eyes glitter. Gokudera, still recovering from the unexpected kiss, just stared at her. "You really ought to, um, play more often."

"Yeah," agreed Yamamoto, raking a hand through his hair. "You should, Gokudera."

Tsuna was smiling with his eyes, and Gokudera shivered. "Thank you," the Vongola boss said sincerely, hand squeezing his guardian's elbow.

Gokudera closed his eyes tightly, unable to stifle his own smile. You know, you shouldn't deny yourself what you desire. "Yeah," he replied, two hours too late. "I won't. I promise."

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Gokudera trips over an unearthed tree root and nearly falls flat on his face. Catching himself on a wayward branch, he snaps out of his reverie and groans, testing his sore ankle. Perplexed, he steadies himself and stands up straight. Where is he?

(The story, remember? That's where you were.)

Hands clamping over his ears, Gokudera tries to focus on his location, suddenly recalling the mission, recalling that he was supposed to pick Lambo and I-Pin up before one of the Millefiore squad captains did. Faint disgust claws up his throat in the form of bile when he realizes that by now, Lambo and I-Pin are probably dead, that he was so caught up in his mental rendition of how the sky fell —

(Or how it didn't fall.)

— that he failed his teammates and famiglia. He wonders then, wonders if Tsuna would be very disappointed in him, but then considers that Tsuna is very dead, so Gokudera figures, somehow, that they're even.

(Tsuna's not dead. He never died. It was all a nightmare, an illusion. Now come back to the story and finish it.)

Gokudera withdraws into the darkest recesses of his mind, loses himself within his obsession, because it's so much easier to play pretend that it is to face reality and grieve, after all.

(What's there to grieve about? It was just a nightmare.)

Right, a nightmare. And this? This is a story of how the sky did not fall.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

iii. what you desire

Rain assailed him in heavy sheets, plastering his jacket to his chest and his hair to the sides of his face, obscuring his green-eyed vision as he keenly watched the unfamiliar cars blur by. Besides the pleasant hum of the spring storm and the murmuring purr of engines, the parking lot was quiet, almost tranquil. Unfortunately, the last thing Gokudera needed now was silence, to be swallowed in his racing thoughts, and he checked the time on his cell phone, noticing with plenty of aggravation that the idiot was extremely late.

God, but he just wanted to see him.

Fifteen long minutes later, a sleek black Mercedes-Benz gracefully slid up to the curb, oh so inconspicuously, and a group of girls scurried away from where they had been closing in on Gokudera, suspiciously eyeing the tinted windows.

"Hey, what's up?" greeted Yamamoto casually, as if he wasn't fifty minutes late. It took him a moment to unfold his long legs from inside the car, and another to find his umbrella, so Gokudera reached around his more-than-often missions partner to pop open the trunk. The idiot blinked. "Uh, your luggage is soaked."

"No shit," Gokudera growled, tossing his carry-on in the backseat. "You were supposed to be here nearly an hour ago."

The group of girls (or was it a gaggle of girls? A flock of girls? A pod of girls?) were coyly approaching the obviously expensive vehicle, eyes wide with awe. They alternated between staring at the car to staring at the idiot.

"You could have called me earlier," Yamamoto replied, easily hefting Gokudera's largest bag onto his shoulder. "I was a little busy, and I wasn't expecting you to change flight plans."

"Busy with what? Squalo's terrible excuse of porno?" shot back the storm guardian, impatiently glancing at the time once more. "C'mon, let's go already!"

Yamamoto winked at one of the girls before sliding into the driver's seat, unlocking the door to the passenger side. As Gokudera buckled himself in with sharp, jerky movements, the taller young man laughed richly. "Jeez, you really miss him, huh?"

"Shut up, asshole."

Tossing the wet umbrella into the backseat, Yamamoto shook the stray rain droplets from his jet black hair and then glanced at the rear view mirror. "Yeah, well, you've been gone a while," he remarked in appeasement, shrugging. "How was Italy? Ryohei?"

Gokudera rested his forehead against the cool window. "Italy? Ageless. Lawnhead? As retarded as ever."

"He's a good guy," agreed Yamamoto with a bright smile, disregarding Gokudera's scathing glare. "Did you bring anything cool back for me?"

"Huh? What the hell do you mean?"

"I dunno, like, a souvenir or something?"

Gokudera's middle finger was a definite no, and Yamamoto chuckled, eyes alight with amusement. He turned the radio on after that, a signal that his barrage of questions was over, and granted the storm guardian the peace to nod off. When they arrived at the base three hours later, Yamamoto cracked a joke about carrying the half-awake Gokudera in bridal style, so Gokudera locked him in the trunk.

It was good to be home.

"Sawada is in his office," Hibari absently yawned, not bothering to open his eyes from where he was lounging on the couch, Hibird nestled in his black hair.

"What're you, his secretary?" muttered Gokudera groggily, still disoriented.

A languid smirk curled Hibari's pale lips. "You wouldn't like that much, would you?"

The silver haired guardian froze in the doorway, his ramrod back to the other man, and then forced himself to take the next step through the threshold. That was a fight he had no chance of winning.

Haru and I-Pin were down the corridor, conversing about one thing or another in front of the laundry room. When they heard his heavy footfalls, they both turned around, surprise and happiness clear on their expressions.

"Gokudera!" called I-Pin earnestly, waving. "Welcome back!"

He dropped the keys to the car in her hands. "Here," he said, "Yamamoto needs a little help with my luggage. He's in the SLR McLaren." He hurried by.

"Wait!" Haru shouted sternly, hands on her slim hips. "You're drenched! At least change before you go see Tsuna!"

I haven't see him in nine weeks, thought the storm guardian as he lightly jogged down two flights of stars, the lights flickering overhead. Dry clothes can wait.

The grand double doors to Tsuna's office were enormous, especially when one considered the diminutive size of the Vongola boss, who, at twenty-one, could barely boast five foot six. Standing before these doors, Gokudera prepared himself, his heart racing, to see Tsuna again. Shakily, he knocked.

Tsuna's voice, muffled, bid him enter, and so he did.

" — what!? No. I said no, Bel. Huh? What do you mean, 'Why not?' Just give the phone to Lussuria. …I don't care if he's busy! This is important!" A frustrated groan, and Gokudera was rounding the corner, past the overflowing piles of paperwork, past the tall bookshelves stocked with tomes and documents. There, sitting behind his mammoth desk, was Tsuna, head in hand. Tsuna. "For the hundredth time, I don't want to play 'I Spy' with you! I need to — !"

"Hello, Juudaime."

Tsuna stared at him, glanced at the calendar on his desk, and then interrupted the little maniac mid-sentence on the phone. "Never mind," he interjected simply, brown eyes trained on his guardian's face. "I'll call Lussuria tonight." Without further ado he hung up, the phone dropped in its cradle, and stood, his hands planted on his desk. "Gokudera," he said. "You're home six days early." And when he smiled, Gokudera had to wonder if he'd ever been so happy in his life. "Welcome back."

"Thanks," Gokudera replied, noticing that his hands were shaking so badly from adrenaline that he couldn't light a cigarette. "Mission went well. Lawnhead should be sending you a full report tomorrow morning." Alright, he thought, feeling dizzy. I've seen him. Everything's the way it should be. Nine weeks, and now that he was back where he belonged, with Tsuna, Gokudera found that he couldn't wait to escape the room. God, this gets harder and harder every time I see him. I need to leave before I do something stupid. "I, uh, just wanted to drop by and let you know I was home," he rambled, grinning uneasily around the unlit cig as he took a step backward. "You look busy, so I'll see you at dinner — "

Tsuna was standing before him, frowning. "You're soaking wet, Gokudera. Why didn't you change? You'll get sick." Critically, he plucked at a soggy sleeve, brows furrowed.

Caught. "Oh, um. I figured I should see you first, Juudaime. I'll go change right now — " Leave, leave! He's way too close! Too, too close!

The fingers curled in his sleeve were a sudden vice grip, a staggering strength from a small and lithe young man who shouldn't be underestimated. Tsuna's eyes, dark and searching, studied him intently, his lips a tight line. "You rushed down here to see me," he began slowly, "forgoing dry clothes, and now you're rushing to leave. Why is that, Gokudera?"

A pregnant pause. Shifting his weight anxiously, Gokudera realized he didn't know how to answer. Tsuna's perceptive, he thought, unable to help the surge of pride bursting in his chest. He knows me too well. Chuckling, he opted for a helpless smile.

Tsuna sighed, but returned the smile. Backing up, he sat on the lip of his desk, dragging his guardian forward. "Gokudera, what did I tell you," the young Mafioso boss gently chastised him, "about denying yourself what you desire?"

Gokudera couldn't breathe, because this was ridiculous, because this was impossible, because —

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Because Tsuna loved Sasagawa Kyoko.

Gokudera's hands tremble, and he has to sit down for a minute. This realization hurt, put everything back into perspective, because it always came down to Kyoko. Tsuna's adoration for her was as fierce, as strong, as Gokudera's for Tsuna, unquestionable, irrevocable. Theirs was a story that would have a happy ending, because it was meant to be, was written in the stars, and all that other bullshit that Gokudera hated but secretly envied.

(What're you talking about?)

Blinking, Gokudera thinks, I'm talking about Sasagawa Kyoko.

(Who?)

Anger rises in him, and he fists his hands, his shoulders hunched defensively. "Sasagawa Kyoko!" he growls under his breath.

(This Sasagawa Kyoko person doesn't exist.)

The anger dissipates so easily, so quickly, that Gokudera feels momentarily stunned. "She doesn't?"

(No. She doesn't. She's part of that nightmare of yours, remember? Now stop brooding and write your damn fairytale already.)

Gokudera smiles slightly, because if Sasagawa Kyoko never existed, then maybe this was possible, maybe he could write his fairytale.

Maybe he could have a happily ever after.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Gokudera's breath hitched. "I'm not sure…what you're implying, Juudaime," he lied, pupils dilating as a firm hand took hold of his tie and tugged. Oh god, he thought, trembling. Oh god.

The Vongola tenth gazed up at him. "What if I told you," he began quietly, "that what you want, coincides with what I want."

As Gokudera considered that, Tsuna removed the unlit cigarette from his mouth and kissed him.

Standing frozen between his boss's legs, hands planted on either side of Tsuna's hips, Gokudera was too amazed to do anything but lean into the kiss awkwardly. After a minute, Tsuna pulled back, lips swollen and spit shiny and so goddamn beautiful, and he smiled uncertainly.

The storm guardian just incredulously stared.

Smile faltering, Tsuna apprehensively studied his friend before clearing his throat diplomatically, cheeks rosy. "L-listen," he stammered, and Gokudera hadn't heard that nuance of trepidation in his boss's voice since they were kids, "I'm sorry. Obviously I misinterpreted — "

Gokudera slammed his mouth to Tsuna's with enough bruising force to send them sprawling across the desk, fountain papers and official documents flying in their wake. Nervous, ecstatic, and aroused, he clumsily flattened his boss to the hard surface, their teeth clacking together painfully in his hurry. Blinking rapidly in surprise, the brunet abruptly laughed and then halfheartedly pushed at his guardian's shoulder.

"H-hey," he chuckled a little breathlessly. "Easy Gokudera. We've got time. I promise."

Gokudera shuddered, thought Everything I've ever wanted has always begun and ended with you, Tsuna, but instead said, voice feverish and reverent, "You and me, Juudaime."

"Y-yeah," groaned Tsuna quietly, hands slipping into his guardian's hair, "you and me, Gokudera. Y-you and me."

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(A perfect ending to a wonderful story.)

Yes, thinks Gokudera with a small, satisfied smile. The perfect ending.

And then he walks into a familiar clearing, a clearing he's visited many times before in desperation and rage and sorrow when the holes in him were growing and growing. There, sitting up in the open coffin strewn with lilies, is Tsuna, his young fifteen-year-old face screwed up in puzzled shock.

"No," says Gokudera in a terrible whisper, horror pitting painfully in his gut. He remembers, very suddenly, that he's stupid and that he's weak and that yes, the sky fucking fell, and the thing that sucks about fairytales is that in the end, they're not real.

(It's only an illusion. The sky never fell. You and your Juudaime live — )

What, Gokudera wonders bitterly, happily ever after? Of course they don't. Tsuna dies walking down a congested street in Osaka, Japan, a blissful smile on his face and a cheerful smile in his voice, gunned down by the Millefiore.

Gokudera stares at the boy in the coffin, and remembers how the sky fell.

Tsuna, hands tucked behind his head, walking between his two best friends, because that's all Gokudera had ever been to him, just a reliable guardian and a good companion. They turned a corner, Tsuna about six steps ahead of them, talking about something mundane like what Kyoko was making for dinner, and then the sky had fallen. People screaming in fear as silver rained down on them, Yamamoto shouting to get down, but Tsuna already was. Tsuna was dead, dead, dead, blood splattered over Gokudera's incredulous face as he gazed at the tattered mess of his boss's chest, skin and muscle and lungs torn apart by the bullets. Bodies, everywhere, innocents caught in the crossfire, and the scream of Yamamoto's drawn sword, cutting through the air as he sprang forward, eyes dark and enraged, because it was too late. And Gokudera, cradling Tsuna, his Tsuna, in his arms, crimson staining his clothes and bile rising in his throat as he repeatedly shook his head, no, no, no.

When the sky had fallen, there had been no noble kings to present him with an umbrella, to protect him, shield him, from how much this fucking hurt.

"I'm sorry!" he cries brokenly, sliding to his knees before the Tsuna that's not his, agony shredding his heart. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

He's sorry because he never took the time to read Lambo or I-Pin any fairytales when he was younger, sorry because he never solemnly promised to play the piano for Tsuna as they lie in bed, sorry because he never earned the cherished title of right-hand-man that he had so desired, sorry because he was a coward and a fool and had never told Tsuna how much he loved him.

Sorry, because he let Tsuna die.

"O-ow!" the fifteen-year-old Tsuna whimpers, flinching. "That hurts!"

Gokudera realizes that he's seized the boy, that his fingers are digging hard into the skinny, knobby shoulders, that he's violently shaking Tsuna. But Gokudera doesn't know how to let go, never has, which is why he so easily deceived himself with false illusions of the past, so easily pretended that the sky never fell, that he and Tsuna had lived happily and ever after.

"I'm sorry," he hoarsely whispers, loosening his grip. Gently, Tsuna pulls out of his too large hands, kind brown eyes wide with concern and confusion. "I'm so sorry, Juudaime."

Slowly, Tsuna begins to enlighten his guardian. "…and I was hit by Lambo's ten-year bazooka by accident," he finishes, brows puckered as he carefully examines Gokudera, as if expecting another meltdown.

"I see," Gokudera murmurs, heart heavy, "only five minutes then."

(Five minutes, three hundred seconds, not nearly enough time, but the only time you'll ever have with Tsuna, any Tsuna, ever again.)

(Five minutes, three hundred seconds, and your fairytale won't just be an illusion anymore, but a reality, an escape from the sharp blacks of suits and the runny reds of blood that paint your life these days.)

(Five minutes, three hundred seconds, and you can have Tsuna, whisper to him all the promises and lies and love in the world, imprint the memory in your mind and carry it with you to survive this dark world.)

(Five minutes, three hundred seconds, and you can have everything you've ever wanted.)

(Write the story, Gokudera.)

Gokudera just squeezes his eyes shut, clenches his teeth until they rattle, and thinks that no, he lost his chance to write this story a long time ago.

But there's another Gokudera, fifteen and brash and dedicated, who still can. A Gokudera who this particular Tsuna belongs to. A Gokudera who won't be so careless as to lose his Juudaime on some nameless street in a crowd of people to the shrieking of guns. A Gokudera who'll make promises and won't break them, who'll be named right-hand-man, who won't deny himself what he desires. A Gokudera who won't see the sky fall.

(Clock's ticking. Make up your mind and stop being a coward.)

Yes, Gokudera thinks. It's time to stop playing the little chicken.

"Listen carefully boss," he says softly, savoring the moment of Tsuna's earnest face, turned up to him expectantly. "Please, when you return to the past, you must remember this moment and do exactly as I say."

Sucking in a trembling breath, he explains.

When he pauses to let it all sink in, Tsuna asks, his expression so trusting and innocent, "Why is…why is the future me in a coffin?"

Gokudera can't look him in the eye. "It's because…because I failed you."

But he's no longer kneeling in the clearing. He's standing, disoriented in the garish sunlight, outside of the Sawada household, ten years in the past. Lambo's bazooka gun is lying indiscreetly at his feet, a trail of smoke still lingering in the air. Stumbling, Gokudera waits a moment for equilibrium to return to him, to gain his bearings and think about this, and then he smiles humorlessly.

Hands in his trouser pockets, he heads down the street.

(Yes. Yes. Write this story, not for yourself, but for the Gokudera who still has a chance at happiness.)

Seventeen minutes later, he's fishing a cig out of the inside of his jacket, walking into the first floor of the apartment complex where he waits in line with the residents for the elevator, ignoring the looks his three piece suit elicits.

(Once upon a time, you were forced to play the role of a little chicken who watched the sky fall.)

The electronic ping of the elevator, and he quietly exits onto the thirteenth floor, walking calmly down the hall. Stopping at the correct address, M-51, he gently raps on the door with his ringed knuckles, one hand still in his pocket, green eyes half-lidded.

He takes a drag of the cigarette.

(There's a story, beginning right now, about a Gokudera who won't have to play the role of the little chicken, a Gokudera who won't have to see the sky fall, a Gokudera who has a chance at that fairytale ending.)

"Uh, hello?" tentatively answers a fifteen-year-old Irie Shouichi, pushing his glasses up onto the bridge of his nose.

(Because this time. This time. You won't be the little chicken, Gokudera.)

"Goodbye," Gokudera corrects smoothly, slipping the concealed dynamite out of his jacket.

(You'll be the fox.)

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Fin.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

A/N: Thank you for reading. For those interested, the complete lemon can be found on my livejournal, accessible through my ffnet profile's homepage. If you have the time, please review and tell me what you thought.