Warnings: boys' love! 8018
Rating: T (rated for love, language and rough treatment!)
Chapter summary: the story ends.
Disclaimers: I don't own KHR (if I did Hibari would be more in it… especially in the manga, ah!)
Author's waste of space: Wow, I just visited this someone's profile on DA, and it was stuffed with stamps and icons telling the world how much she hated yaoi and how non-canon pairings, especially the yaoi ones, had ruined shows for her (her artwork was pretty neat though)…! That sucks but, aren't all fanworks of that nature usually clearly marked? I mean, sure, I agree that a lot of non-canon pairings are stupid if the author doesn't explain how or why it might work – but fandoms tend to have their own rules, and either way I think it's interesting to see how other fans perceive the story and the characters in it. Actually I think it's probably the biggest compliment you can give an artist/author if you like their work so much that you'd spend your free time thinking out entirely new scenarios for their characters, analyzing them and filling in the blanks of the original story.
Anyway, just so I don't ruin the series for anyone here… I can see – and by 'see' I mean it's possible to interpret by watching and/or reading KHR – Hibari with Yamamoto; really, not just making it up because they're my favorite characters or because they're both über hot. It first crossed my mind in the Varia-arch when Yamamoto catches his tonfa and his is the only fight Hibari shows up for (heart), but there are other things as well – I won't elaborate on this, but I'm itching to write a list of things that link these two together.
:+:+: Chapter 5 :+:+:
Of how they found Yamamoto again and the test ended…
Yamamoto did not show up for class the next day; he wasn't there for the math test, nor did he come to P.E., which was his favorite subject. He didn't reply to Tsuna's messages, and when Gokudera tried to call him, no one picked up. When the baseball guys came by their homeroom after classes ended, they didn't know where he was either and eventually had to leave for practice without their star player with them.
They tried calling him again. And again and again, but Yamamoto didn't answer.
"'The hell…?" Gokudera slammed his cell phone shut with a loud snap. "Where is he?!"
Tsuna wrinkled his brow and shrugged. Then he glanced around quickly to ensure that they were out of hearing range from anyone else before he whispered, "have you – you know, seen… Hibari today?"
Gokudera shrugged in an exaggerated careless fashion. "…tch! Like I'd know where that ass-wipe is." But then he saw the expression on Tsuna's face and he sighed and muttered quickly, "but yes I happened to see him this morning."
So they're not on some secret date, then, at least, thought Tsuna – feeling a little relieved, because just the thought was enough to make him blush like a ripe tomato, and a little worried, because that had been the most plausible reason he could think of for Yamamoto to skip school, baseball practice and at the same time not answer his phone calls.
"Maybe he's caught a cold and lost his voice?" suggested Gokudera.
"Hmm, yeah, maybe…" Tsuna wrinkled his brow. "Hey, umh, let's stop by his house later," he said and bit his lip. "I don't know. Something doesn't feel right."
There was no flame.
Yamamoto screwed his eyes shut and concentrated, focused! He tried to picture it in his head; azure blue and alive, like swimming pool water, gushing out from his ring. How many times hadn't he done this? And now… concentrate, damn it!
But nothing happened. There was no flame.
He sat cross-legged in a grassy clearing he'd come across in the outskirts of the forest. He felt very tired. He hadn't been able to sleep at all that night and the skin around his eyes was dark and purple. Why wouldn't it work, why wouldn't… the damn ring… work? With a frustrated groan he slumped forward with his head in his hands. Was this what Reborn had been talking about, what he had meant – it had to be, right?
Rain and Cloud don't belong together. That's what he'd said. Was this the price he had to pay because his and Hibari's… elements or whatever, didn't match? It sounded so stupid! So… fucking… pointless…
He stared at his hand and at the pretty, ornate and, sadly, perfectly ordinary-looking ring there on his finger. And yet, so fucking probable – because the flame that was supposed to come, easily as nothing, really wasn't there.
So, then… was this it? He wasn't worthy of the ring or something anymore now? Would he be forced to watch, helpless from the sidelines like a spectator at a game, as Tsuna and the others progressed and became more and more powerful? He wondered if Hibari's ring still worked. It probably did. Hibari was the strongest person he knew of and no conceivable force in the universe could hold him down, Yamamoto was sure.
Except one, maybe, if Reborn was right about the things he'd said – namely him. He would a burden, he realized, a burden to all of them.
No. He wasn't going to be the one dragging Hibari down – or Tsuna or Gokudera or anyone else! He clenched his hands into hard fists. He would find a way to get stronger.
He would just have to train more, train harder – and no one could train like he could. He got nimbly to his feet and started on the way home with his hands in his pockets.
But he couldn't stay, not in Namimori. The mere thought of seeing Hibari without being able to touch him – of being around him without being near him – made his insides churn and ache like a fresh bruise. He thought of going home alone by himself after baseball practice each night – had he really done that for years and years before? – Because it seemed impossible, unbearable to him now. And what if someone else fell in love with Hibari, and he had to be there and watch it happen?
He thought about his small almost-smiles, the sound of his voice, the smell of his hair and his skin, the taste of his mouth… no, he couldn't stay.
When Tsuna and Gokudera stopped by the restaurant after school, he wasn't there either and even Yamamoto's father didn't know where he was. According to him, Yamamoto had left the house in the morning, just like he did every day, and then he had just… not come back. He didn't look worried while they were there, but he seemed confused when he realized his son hadn't shown up for baseball practice.
"Hmm, well, it's true Takeshi's been acting a little strange, lately," he admitted. They stood by the entrance to the Takesushi, on a square of yellow created on the pavement by the light streaming out from the restaurant. He scratched his chin. "You don't think he'd be in some sort of trouble, do you? I just figured he'd got a girlfriend or something."
"I can see why you might think that." Gokudera stared at his own shoes and nodded solemnly. Tsuna coughed into his fist.
Yamamoto's father laughed in his normal jovial fashion, apparently mistaking their red cheeks for some sort of adolescent embarrassment. "It's now the girls are starting to become interesting, right?" he nudged Gokudera amiably with his elbow and winked at them. "Right?" Then he became serious again. "So, err… does he? You know, have a sweetheart?"
"Sweet –"Gokudera began, looking like he might have a lot to say on this particular matter, but immediately received another nudge in his side, from Tsuna this time. "What?"
"Umh, there's no simple answer to that Mr. Yamamoto," said Tsuna, doing his best to sound polite and, above all, neutral. He gave a nervous laugh. "You know how it is, right? Anyway, we should leave. But please, tell Yamamoto to call one of us, or both of us, when he comes back!"
And Yamamoto's father promised them that he would.
And Tsuna waited and waited, until it was past midnight and he fell asleep with his cell phone clutched in hand.
And no one called.
The next day it was pretty much the same. Yamamoto was nowhere to be found. When Tsuna asked the baseball guys, no one had any answers for him. He really had missed out on practice the previous night, and then he hadn't shown up for morning practice either.
And they saw Hibari – a lot. It seemed like he had taken on all of the patrol rounds by himself and he stalked the school corridors relentlessly, restlessly, from morning all the way through lunch break. Only he didn't really act like he was patrolling at all, because he didn't even seem to notice that students around him were making noise, crowding, violating the dress-code or engaging in other displeasing activities such as breathing out of sync. Or, if he did notice, he didn't say anything about it; he just looked at them, briefly, before he continued walking. He had a curious look on his face and though he seemed annoyed, increasingly so as the hours passed, it was in a different way from usual. More impatiently, as if he were waiting for something that didn't happen or looking for something that wasn't there.
Tsuna thought he had a fairly good idea of what that something might be…
Tsuna fought back a flinch as Hibari stopped and looked at him, he really looked distracted. It was almost as if he didn't even register that there was someone in front of him at all. "Are you – is everything alright?"
"I seem to have…" a slight pause, "misplaced something and now… I can't… find… it." He spoke slowly and his eyes kept wandering restlessly back and forth down the hallway. So he really is searching for something then, or someone, more likely. He looks almost forlorn, thought Tsuna.
"Can I help?" he offered.
"That, I highly doubt," drawled Hibari. He looked like he was about to say more, when suddenly his cell phone rang. The familiar song only got to: "Miiiido –"before Hibari had it up and, almost breathlessly, "Yeah?" Then his eyes narrowed, "haven't I told you not to call me about useless details? …no, just do it!" And then he hung up, looking very irritated.
"This is a waste of time," he muttered, mostly to himself. He glanced at Tsuna and started to walk away. "Excuse me…"
He very nearly passed out in the end, of course. When he did, three days and some hours had passed since Tsuna had last seen Yamamoto and – though Tsuna didn't know it, of course – three days and slightly less hours since Hibari had. Hibari hadn't slept at all since then. Once he realized that Yamamoto really wasn't there, he hadn't been able to eat anything either. That equaled roughly 72 hours with no sleep, no rest and no food.
So, when he sauntered past them in the hallway by the end of that third day, swaying on wobbly legs on his way to the Disciplinary Committee's office, presumably to rest up, Tsuna wasn't really surprised. What surprised him was Gokudera's comment, which was delivered in a tone of voice that revealed he was clearly a little impressed. "That idiot just never gives up, does he?"
Hibari was feeling sick; sick to his stomach. If he had been weaker, a weaker person, he reckoned he might have thrown up – he wondered if his skin looked green – but he wasn't so he didn't. Not him. He had a Purpose; and no one could chase a purpose like him. He drew the sliding door to the Disciplinary Committee's office aside and, still feeling rather queasy, prepared to continue his search. But right outside stood Gokudera Hayato, arms folded across his chest glaring up at him in a determined fashion. If he had taken just one step they would've collided. "You look awful," he greeted flatly.
Hibari looked at him with vague curiosity and mild annoyance before stroking past him as if he wasn't there.
"Hey, hey, hey!" Gokudera called after him, "I'm talking to you here!"
He heard footsteps behind him as Gokudera ran to catch up. Hibari thought that of all the herbivores that lived to kiss Sawada Tsunayoshi's skinny behind, Gokudera Hayato might just be the one he hated the most…
"Listen –!" a hand grabbed the shirt of his upper arm and, instinctively, Hibari spun around to punch the invader of his personal space in the stomach – but Gokudera had both his palms up and something about the look on his face, made Hibari stop.
"I am in a bad mood," he said instead, it was a fair warning, lowering his tonfas and turning around to leave.
"Man! You are the most intolerable, stuck-up, selfish son of a –" Gokudera took a deep breath to calm himself. "I know that you…" he paused, "care about that baseball-idiot."
"And I – well, I don't care about him, per se… But the 10th does and – and I want to find him, too, ok?"
When Hibari turned his head, he could see that Gokudera was all red in the face and he smirked. "Your voice hurts my brain," he said – but he meant it as a thank you, really.
The classroom was empty when they got there. Hibari wished it was dark outside and that he was alone with Yamamoto instead of this noisy, irritating waste of human flesh…
"So, when did you last see him?" asked Gokudera. He had slumped down in Yamamoto's seat – in his chair. Hibari's eyes narrowed, but he said nothing. "Last time we saw him," Gokudera went on without pausing, "was when he went to train with Dino, and then he didn't come by Tsuna's for dinner and Dino said he hadn't seen him either. That was three days ago."
Hibari blushed a little – then he was the last person who had seen Yamamoto, when they had… He looked away but Gokudera must have seen the look on his face because he narrowed his eyes suspiciously. Suddenly he threw his arms out. "How?! You and him," he demanded, "how does that happen?"
Hibari rolled his eyes and scowled – this person was so unpredictable, it was really getting on his nerves.
"And you – of all people! That noisy, ignorant sports freak – he annoys me to the black depths of hell, so how could you –"He tugged at his hair. "…How long have you been together?"
Hibari glared defiantly up at him. He wanted to kick his ass so badly…!
Four weeks, he realized with some surprise."I don't know what you're blabbering about, thumb-sucker," or how you know, "but your rambling is getting on my nerves. Is it ok if I smash your face?" He took some satisfaction from the murderous expression that passed over the other's features.
"Why you little –" Gokudera began in a low, dangerous growl, clenching his fists. But he didn't get any further, because Tsuna chose that moment to barge in, looking flustered and winded. "There you are!"
Gokudera and Hibari whipped their heads around to look at him as he stood panting in the doorway and Gokudera instantly jumped to his feet. "10th!" His facial expression softened at once and he lit up like a puppy. Hibari squinted up at him with an expression of vague disbelief. His lip curled in contempt and he didn't greet Tsuna.
"And – ah! – Hibari, too!" Tsuna blushed vehemently for no obvious reason. "Umh, did you find out anything?"
Gokudera glanced quickly down at Hibari, and then shook his head. "No, he doesn't know either."
Tsuna's shoulders seemed to sink a little. He ran a small, pale hand through his unruly hair and looked very disappointed. Suddenly his phone rang and he took it purely on instinct, because his mind was currently too pre-occupied with trying to work its way around the horrible fact that Yamamoto was actually missing. – the kind of 'missing' where you had to report it to the police – to pay much attention to anything else.
"Hi, it's Tsuna," he answered automatically.
"Hey, little bro'!" It was Dino – and there was something weird, something unfamiliar, about his voice and Tsuna could tell right away that something was wrong.
"Listen, Tsuna, I just, err, talked to someone." Dino hesitated, seemingly unsure of how to phrase himself. "Do you know… where Yamamoto is, right now?"
Tsuna felt it like an electric jolt. "Yamamoto?" His attention was instantly focused. At the mention of the name, both Hibari and Gokudera immediately turned their attention toward him.
"We, I – no!" stuttered Tsuna. "No. Do you know where he is?" He was unable to keep the note of hope out of his voice. Not for a moment did it cross his mind that the fact that Dino, of all people, might know where Yamamoto was didn't exactly bode very well.
"I might," said Dino slowly. Why was he speaking so slowly? "I think Yamamoto might be on his way, err… here."
Tsuna was quiet for moment. Here? Hibari and Gokudera watched him intently – it was a little frightening, actually. "Umh, what do you mean? Where 'here'?"
"I mean… Italy, here," said Dino.
"Italy?! Yamamoto's on his way to Italy?!"
In front of him Hibari arched a delicate eyebrow, and Gokudera's jaw dropped. 'Italy?!' he mouthed soundlessly.
Tsuna turned half away from them, the better to concentrate. "Dino, are you sure? The truth is Yamamoto has been missing for a couple of days now, but," he pulled his free hand distractedly through his hair. "But why would he leave the country? I mean – you said you hadn't seen him since you trained with him."
"I haven't," said Dino. His voice was serious now. "Tsuna, I spoke to Squalo. It seems Yamamoto has contacted him and wants Squalo to be his tutor. Here," he said again. "In Italy."
"He what?!" Tsuna felt like the ground was disappearing from under him. He felt light headed. This isn't happening... Yamamoto, what's gotten into you?
Gokudera was poking insistently at his shoulder. "What?" he whispered. "10th, what's he saying?"
"Yamamoto wants to train with Squalo," said Tsuna quickly, breathlessly.
"Apparently, he's told Squalo he needed to become stronger," said Dino. "Do you," there was a brief pause, "or anyone else you know, know what this is all about?"
"No…" Tsuna's mind was racing. Why would Yamamoto want to train with Squalo? Or, more importantly, why would he leave without telling anyone? Not even his… his eyes darted to Hibari, and he felt unable to finish the thought. None of the traditional terms really fitted Hibari, anyway.
"I don't know, Dino," he said and took a deep breath to steady himself. "But we've got to find him! We're… we're definitely bringing Yamamoto back!" His voice sounded suddenly loud in his own ears and was laden with a resolve he had no means of backing up – he didn't even know whether his friend was still in Japan. "And if I have to drag Squalo to Japan by myself, then so be it!"
"Good luck with that," said Dino cheerfully. "But, err, call me, ok?" he added. "I'm kind of worried, too."
He hung up.
And then Gokudera exploded. "You!" he pointed an accusing finger at Hibari, who glared defiantly back at him. "This is all your fault, asshole! What did you do to him?"
"Shut up," hissed Hibari in a deathly quiet voice. His expression was stony, but his dark eyes burned. He looked very dangerous.
"Stop it, both of you!" Tsuna threw his arms out. "We have to stop him! We can't let Yamamoto go to Italy!" He looked from Gokudera to Hibari, who were staring daggers and hellfire at each other, and said in a softer voice, "…Right?"
While this conversation took place in an empty classroom in Namimori, Yamamoto sat by himself in a near-empty train compartment that was speeding away towards Tokyo and the airport. He sat with his elbows resting on his knees and stared out at the landscape rushing by in a blur outside, and the familiar sight of his hometown disappearing behind him.
Bye Namimori. Bye pop, he called out soundlessly. I'll call you when I get there, I promise. I'm doing this for you, you know. For the both of you… He thought of Kyouya and looked down on his hands.
It was the only plan he could think of – it was a stupid and impossible plan, he'd be the first to admit, but it was the only thing that made sense. If he wanted the ring of Rain to accept him again, who better to train him than the other person who had been considered to carry it?
Yamamoto only had a vague idea of where to go and, wherever it was, he expected he would probably spend most of the money he had to buy the airplane ticket to go there... He grinned in spite of himself and decided, with a small nod, that yes, this might just be his dumbest idea yet. But hey, no guts, no glory, right…?
And, maybe, some day in the future, if the flame came back – no, he corrected, when he got it back – he would return here. He would come back and he would be so strong that the elements of the sky could go fuck themselves for all they affected him!
There was a car. They had found a car. It wasn't theirs and they didn't have the keys for it, but Gokudera had a hairpin and he admitted reluctantly, scratching his neck as he did, that not having keys didn't necessarily need be a hindrance to them. At this Hibari glanced at him sideways with a look of quiet approval.
"But neither of us have a driver's license," Tsuna pointed out. He did this rather nervously because, even as the words fluttered hesitantly off his tongue, he just knew that one of them would contradict him. And, somewhere in the future, whatever they were about to do would somehow end up as his fault and his responsibility – curtsey of Reborn, no doubt.
"Shouldn't we just take the train instead? Listen, it's only an hour until the next one leaves and –"
"I know how to drive."
And there it was. Of course… Tsuna heaved a mental sigh. Of all the people to get stuck with, he thought. He was willing to bet that neither Ryôhei nor Yamamoto knew how to hijack a car. Oh man, we're really gonna steal a car! Then he shrugged. Well, at least it's for a good cause. And it's an emergency.
"…tch! Like hell you do!" Gokudera folded his arms across his chest. But the look with which he surveyed the calmly confident prefect was expectant, as if he only insulted him to sort of have it said and not because he actually didn't believe him. He actually looked more excited than angry.
"Bronco taught me," Hibari explained simply, but there was a small quirk at the corner of his lips that told Tsuna Dino might not have exactly taught him anything.
The two best things that could be said about Hibari's driving skills was that he got them from A to B fast and that all three of them were alive upon arrival. More or less – Tsuna felt weak in the knees and green in the face when he all but dribbled out of the car. Gokudera, on the other hand, was practically beaming, like a kid who had just come off a very fun rollercoaster and wanted to go again.
Hibari hadn't exactly lied to them though, because he did know how to operate the vehicle itself pretty well. Only, he had no concept of such things as traffic signs, traffic in general – which, apparently, counted as crowding in his book – or speed limits.
All in all it was a relief to see the airport…
Tsuna wasn't sure what he was expecting would happen once they got there. Hibari was hardly one for tearful embraces – or for just tears, or just embraces. He had also learned from experience never to assume when it came to that guy because Hibari had a spectacular talent for pulling off the unexpected; such as somehow not being knocked out even after he'd been knocked unconscious, or, somehow, falling for Yamamoto Takeshi, who attracted crowds like a squeaky-toy in a dog pound…
He was not disappointed.
Completely disregarding the security guards, the air port personnel and the travelers Hibari strode through the security check-points as if he owned the place – much like how he always strode – leaving behind in his wake a cacophony of small, high-pitched alarms and beeping and angry or surprised voices.
"Excuse me, sir –!"
"Hey! Where do you think you're – ?!"
"Young man, you can't just cut in line!"
"…is that a bird?"
But Hibari paid them no heed. He only had eyes for the clump of unruly black hair that stuck up like a sky scraper above a crowd of short, balding business men in gray suits. Several people further up the line had turned to see what the ruckus was all about. And then Yamamoto turned, too. He saw Tsuna and Gokudera first and his expression changed from vague curiosity to perfect surprise in a heart beat and he opened his mouth, perhaps out of astonishment or maybe because he was about to call out to them, Tsuna never found out, because then Yamamoto spotted Hibari. His expression changed again, only a little this time, but Tsuna could tell that just then, at that moment, the sky could have been collapsing in pieces around them without Yamamoto noticing – his eyes saw nothing except the dark-eyed, infuriated prefect who was advancing towards him, unstoppable like a train.
Somewhere behind them, a trio of security guards came running, but the passengers were in their way and their progress wasn't fast.
Gokudera and he stood too far away to hear, and there was too much noise around them, but Tsuna could see Yamamoto's lips move, saw them form 'Kyouya'. Hibari had reached him now. He was staring up at him, saying something. He looks much calmer now, thought Tsuna, than he had done in the car. Then Yamamoto looked down, and Tsuna had time to think oh, now I'm assuming things again before Hibari punched Yamamoto so hard in the stomach that he doubled over and sank to his knees clutching at his front with Hibari standing over him like an angel of vengeance.
He picked Yamamoto up in his arms with no apparent effort and carried him like a baby back the way they'd come. For some reason the crowd wasn't quite so dense anymore…
"That son of a bitch…" Gokudera stood with his mouth open, staring in disbelief at the scene that unfolded before them. "10th, are you watching this?"
The security guards reached the 'loving couple' just as they came back out through the first check-point. Tsuna and Gokudera looked at each other, nodded, and dashed towards them – Tsuna's mind was racing, trying desperately to conjure up some explanation, any explanation at all, that might get his two guardians out of the heaps of trouble they undoubtedly were in. He hoped very much that Gokudera was doing the same thing, because Tsuna's mind was blank as a window pane, and also because in the case that Gokudera wasn't thinking up plausible excuses the chances were alarmingly high that he was instead planning some elaborate distraction involving dynamite.
Ahead of them the guards were saying something to Hibari who nodded and dumped Yamamoto unceremoniously down on the hard marble floor. The third guard helped him up on his feet and then the five of them walked towards an entrance marked 'no entry – airport personnel only'. Hibari's little bird was fluttering in the air behind them, twittering. "Hibari. Hibari."
"So, what do you figure is the worst thing that could happen to them in there?" Tsuna was casting nervous looks at the no-entry door. It had been 15 minutes – at least!
They hadn't made it in time, they hadn't convinced anyone that they needed to get in, they hadn't managed to pry the door open themselves and, so far, no one had come out from it.
He and Gokudera had found a baggage trolley which they had placed directly in front of it, about 10 feet away, and which now served as their make-shift stake-out point.
"Don't worry, 10th," said Gokudera gravely. "If it comes to violence I swear to –"
"No!" Tsuna interrupted him, waving his hands frantically back and forth. "No violence! You can't blow up things at an airport!"
Gokudera's hands, which had been about to reach inside his open shirt, instantly withdrew and presented themselves to Tsuna, empty palms up. "Fine, fine, I'm just saying that if…" his voice trailed off as the door finally, slowly creaked open. A man stepped out. There was no one with him.
As one, Tsuna and Gokudera jumped to their feet.
"Hey! You there," Gokudera called out rather rudely. Tsuna had a bit more tact. "Excuse me, umh, sir…"
The guard looked up at them, puzzled; he scratched his thin hair and grunted. "Whut?"
"Was there two guys in there with you?" asked Tsuna, "About our age? One is tall and has –"
The man's eyes widened slightly. "Are you two… acquaintances of Mr. Hibari?" He began to rub his neck nervously and Tsuna felt something heavy sink down inside him to settle in the pit of his stomach. Mr. Hibari? Oh man, I wonder what he's done this time…!
"If you're looking for Mr. Hibari and his friend," the man went on, "they were escorted out through the personnel-entrance. So sorry for the trouble," he quickly added, "but we have a job to do, you know. It's… They should be outside." He finished weakly and pointed towards the entrance and the parking lot that could be seen through the vast expanse of glass that made up the entire south end of the terminal building.
"So they're not being arrested?" asked Gokudera with uncertainty in his voice.
The man gave a short nervous laughter. "Arrested? Hah, right…" Then he shook his head and, still rubbing furiously at his neck, he tottered off.
Tsuna looked up at Gokudera, who shrugged.
They ran for the glass doors but slowed when they spotted Yamamoto and Hibari tightly locked in embrace sitting on the bench in the sun just outside. They had their arms around each others' waists and shoulders, their faces buried deep in each others' necks. Hibari's pale fingers were clutching the back of Yamamoto's shirt so hard that the fabric formed a big, upraised star under his hand and Yamamoto was stroking his hair gently.
As they approached the bench gingerly, carefully, not wanting to interrupt the two of them, Tsuna could hear Hibari's voice. It was uncharacteristically soft and almost tender.
"I'm not forgiving you for this, ever."
And Yamamoto's reply, which was a mere whisper, "I know."
Neither of the two on the bench looked up as Gokudera coughed semi-discreetly, and, when he did it again, a little less discreetly, neither showed any sign of having noticed the presence of anyone else at all. It was as if there was no world outside of that embrace.
Suddenly Yamamoto looked up and he spotted them standing there only a few feet – a respectful distance – away.
"Ah!" He grinned hesitantly. "Err, hi guys."
Hibari looked up as well and contemplated them sideways over his shoulder. He said nothing.
"Hi, Yamamoto," said Tsuna, knowing full well that his own voice sounded just as hesitant. He paused, searching for the right words. "I'm glad you decided to stay with us," he said finally.
Gokudera did not search for the right words. In fact there seemed to be no searching going on at all. "You – fucking – moron!" he yelled, clenching his fists, "'the freaking hell were you thinking?!"
Yamamoto averted his eyes. "I wasn't… I guess," he said quietly.
"Damn right you weren't!" Gokudera went on, "I thought you'd – That you were – ah!" his balled fist punched the air angrily. "You're hereby disqualified of ever becoming the 10ths right hand man – ever!"
He really cares about Yamamoto, too, thought Tsuna affectionately. But then he noticed the dangerous glint in Hibari's eyes and, very carefully, he put a restraining palm on Gokudera's chest, which heaved with suppressed emotion.
"At least now you know that we know," he said quickly, before Gokudera could continue his tirade. He felt – and probably looked – relieved at the thought. "So now we don't have to tip-toe around each other anymore."
"What are you blabbering about?" Hibari's face was calm and mildly puzzled, Yamamoto's was very red. On Yamamoto's thigh their fingers were still intertwined.
"Umh that, err…" Tsuna blushed vehemently all the way up to his hair roots. "That you two are, you know, that, umh…" He looked to Gokudera, who looked a little hot in the cheek himself and was coughing discreetly into his fist and not helping at all.
"I don't know what you're talking about," said Hibari with a sweet little half-smile. Yamamoto grinned and scratched his neck. He didn't say anything either. "I only came here to fulfill my prefect duties." Hibari slid his free hand into the smallest pocket of Yamamoto's bag and fished out the little leather bound book that had Namimori middle school's code of conduct written inside, as well as the complete lyrics for the school anthem. It was given out to all students and then carefully ignored and forgotten until the end of their third and final year when they had to hand it back – though Tsuna would not have been surprised if someone had told him Hibari kept his in a shrine or under his pillow and read it every night before going to sleep.
"This," he said and held it up, "is school property and you, Yamamoto Takeshi," he put the book back, looking very smug as he did, "have ditched classes for 3 days in a row without a valid reason written up and signed by your parent or legal guardian."
"Err?" Now it was Yamamoto who looked dumbfounded.
Of course… Tsuna mentally rolled his eyes.
They didn't go home together in the end though. What happened was that Yamamoto and Hibari went to explore Tokyo on their own with their eyes glued to each other and their elbows touching with each step they took; and left a scowling Gokudera and a blushing Tsuna behind, staring after them. For a while neither of them could think of anything to say.
Over the airport the sky was turning red and yellow as the sun began to set, outlining the coming and going planes in sharp, black silhouettes. They looked like toy planes.
That was when Reborn showed up. Out of nowhere, like a magic trick – but at least he didn't come floating down on a green, sparkling Frisbee or come strutting out from some obscure secret hiding place. Suddenly he was just there, standing on the tiled pavement between them.
"Hmm, it looks like my test ends here."
"A test?!" Tsuna couldn't believe his own ears. He stared at Reborn. "'You mean we nearly lost Yamamoto because of one of your tests?!"
Reborn nodded once, looking very serious as he did.
"The Vongola rings are special, Tsuna. And the ones who carry them must be worthy of them. The test is simple and unforgiving," he said, "and it is necessary."
Tsuna thought of the various tests he himself had been put through by the baby. Like the time he made him believe he had killed a man in his sleep, or set him up against Hibari Kyouya armed with a slipper, or when he had put a man eating dolphin in the public pool. Ah yes, Reborn's tests…
"After ten generations of Vongola bosses and their guardians, we are still discovering new things," explained Reborn as they began to walk back towards the parking lot. He jumped up on a low wall and balanced effortlessly on it alongside Tsuna with his small hands behind his back. "But the relationship between the ring-carriers – between their elements, so to speak – is of vital importance. The rings only work because their bearers are the right sort of people for them. But," he paused and Tsuna understood that this was an important 'but'. "The thing about this relationship is that it must often be defined by the individual bearers."
Tsuna wrinkled his brow. "What does that mean, exactly?"
"Some of the elements have a relationship that is difficult to define. Cloud and Rain is one of them. On one side clouds carry the rain forward, but in doing so they become heavy and slow and not the free drifters they should be." He demonstrated with his hand, moving it in a downwards arch. "That, in turn, constrains the rain. Normally these things work themselves out and there's no need for any tests, but when it's a matter of romance…" there was a pause. "Falling in love changes people," he said finally, repeating what he had said to Tsuna many nights ago, when Tsuna had told him about his and Gokudera's discovery. "But just defining the relationship is only the half of it. By changing one's nature, a guardian risks losing the traits that made him fit to be a guardian in the first place. For a weapon like the ring, that is driven purely on resolve and determination, it can be enough just to doubt your own abilities. It's a complex equation. Just be happy it wasn't Yamamoto and Ryôhei," Reborn pointed out with a small grin.
Tsuna stared, struck momentarily speechless by the thought. Gokudera's eye twitched.
"I was testing out a couple of theories on my own, too," Reborn went on. "I was curious about why Yamamoto's box animal was a bird. And I also noticed Hibari of the future acted different around him, almost as if he were having a private joke with himself and, originally, he asked to be the one to train Yamamoto. I have every reason to believe they cared about each other."
"Really?" This was new to Tsuna – he had noticed no such thing. "So, you mean, they were… together then, too?"
Reborn shook his head. "No. You see, my theory is that Yamamoto really did go to Italy and trained under Squalo."
He looked over his shoulder and stared back at where Yamamoto and Hibari had disappeared.
"My theory is that we just changed the future."
They had reached the car – their stolen car, thought Tsuna glumly.
"So…" he was afraid to ask. And eventually he didn't have to, because Gokudera did it for him. "Did they pass the test?"
Reborn grinned. "Of course."
He fished a set of keys up from a pocket. "By the way," he said casually, "good job with the car, Gokudera."
And while Tsuna and Gokudera stared at him, their eyes widening gradually in surprise and disbelief, he climbed into the car – the car they had stolen not two hours ago – and, with those same keys, he started the engine. "I'll make good, upstanding criminals of you yet," he said and it sounded like the prospect made him happy.
"Wha – wait! Reborn!" stuttered Tsuna. He reached after the car, as if he could somehow hold it back by sheer physical effort – but Reborn was already speeding away without so much as a backwards glance and he grasped at dust.
"Are you kidding me?!" He looked up at Gokudera, who looked at him back with a dumbfounded expression to match his own, no doubt.
"Well, 10th, err, looks like we're walking."
Neither of them moved.
"…How does he reach the pedals?"
They were wandering side by side down the street toward the train station. Fortunately it wasn't far. Tsuna felt tired and drained, like someone had let all the air out of him, and he wasn't sure if he could handle anymore action today – and that included crossing streets and asking for directions.
"So," he smiled and looked up at Gokudera. "Will you live this through, you think?"
Gokudera grunted something incomprehensible and stuck his hands deep down the pockets of his jeans.
"I said yeah, I guess," Gokudera repeated with an irritated shrug. "That cocky bastard is… actuallykindacool." That last thing he mumbled very quickly, as if it pained him deeply to admit it. Then he added, "but I'm not babysitting their brats! Ever!"
Tsuna nodded, slowly, then his lips quirked involuntarily and suddenly he burst out laughing. He couldn't help it and he found he neither could, nor wanted to stop. "Can you imagine them getting married?"
There was a pause, and then Gokudera began to laugh as well. He mimed an explosion with his hands. "The end of Namimori," he announced with an elaborate arm gesture.
The sky above them was a cool purple, littered with tiny little sugar white stars that sparkled faintly. They had found a bench that stood atop a small hill, giving them a very pretty view of the city spreading out below them like a futuristic high-tech fan, and then they had sat down in the grass next to it. They sat close together, their shoulders touching, Hibari's fingers tangled between Yamamoto's. They were quiet and that was ok.
Hibari broke the silence first, for once. "The baby came to me, too," he said, confident in his knowledge, even though Yamamoto had never told him about the conversation with Reborn. "I assume it was the same speech."
"What did you do?" Yamamoto looked at him.
"I've told you, haven't I?" Hibari smirked, but his voice was soft. "I can't be constrained by fickle logic."
"But it's true!" Yamamoto blurted out. "Everything he said! Even if it weren't for these rings," he clutched unselfconsciously at the chain under his shirt. "We know what the future holds – we've been there! If I don't become stronger… if I even end up dragging you down, you who's the strongest of us –"He put his head in his hands and looked suddenly very forlorn. He hesitated for a moment, then "How will I protect dad?" he said finally.
If he had looked up at that moment, Yamamoto would have had the exquisitely rare chance to witness a look of soft compassion and something that might pass for pity cross Hibari's features. But by the time he did look up, it was gone and Hibari's face was serious once again. "Don't flatter yourself, Yamamoto Takeshi," he said unsympathetically. "If I won't be stopped by the laws of nature I certainly won't let myself be tied down by you. And that truth you speak of is highly debatable." He turned completely around now and jabbed a finger at Yamamoto's chest. "Rain doesn't weigh clouds down at all, it relieves them, and either way you choose to look at it," he fingered absently with his own ring and looked down, "rain is what clouds are made of." Hibari glanced sideways up at him. "Without rain, clouds wouldn't exist."
"But the little guy said –"
"It's a test, herbivore." Hibari brought up Yamamoto's hand and pressed his lips gently against the back of his wrist. "The baby was testing us."
"Do you…" Yamamoto looked at him, at the kiss, blushed a little. "Do you think we passed?"
Hibari shrugged. "I don't care. Let's go home, I wanna play Playstation."
"So, what's the trick with birds?"
Yamamoto looked expectantly up at him. "You don't even keep it in a cage, and it still doesn't fly away."
He lay on his stomach in the grass with his head propped up on his palms. Hibari smirked at him and gazed up at the sky above them.
"If you have to keep a bird in a cage, then it's not tame, is it?" he said mysteriously.
"That's not a terribly bad point."
"If it's really tame," Hibari went on, his eyes still on the ice cream clouds that drifted past over their heads, "it will come after you when you leave it, and when it leaves you," he glanced sideways down at Yamamoto through half-closed eyes, "…it always comes back."
Yamamoto pondered this reply quietly for a moment, and then he laughed. "Ahaha! So," he said with a big grin, "when you come running after me, that's when I'll know I have tamed you!"
Still laughing he rolled away to dodge the tonfa that hit the grass where his head had been.
"Hm." Hibari smiled one of his small, lop-sided smiles.
"I can assure you, Yamamoto Takeshi, that will never happen."
And, finally: and so it ends… I can't believe I finished. If you've read this far – thank you, you have my eternal gratitude and please know that I want to hug you to death!
In case I didn't make that clear at the end: yes, Yamamoto's ring did return to normal. The idea is that since the rings' flames are driven by determination, and given to you because you possess certain personality traits, changing your personality or starting to doubt yourself would affect it. So what Reborn did was to test Yamamoto and Hibari's loyalty to each other and to their roles as guardians. Yamamoto doubted himself, so that's why the flame suddenly wouldn't come, but tried to get stronger (by going to Squalo) so he showed that he had the determination after all. And Hibari 'convinced' him to come back to Tsuna (and himself, obviously – thus helping the head of the family for purely egoistic reasons, like the Cloud should, so he hadn't changed either.
As for what they said to each other at the airport when Tsuna and Gokudera couldn't hear – I imagined it like this:
"Is this what you really want?"
"That's nice." And then… pow!