All characters © Amano Akira

Old Joanna


No, Mozart would sound too tinny. Chopin? Possibly, but he didn't feel comfortable enough with the polonaises.

In the end, Gokudera settled on Liszt.

He envisioned himself in a vast concert hall, not unlike the ones in his old mansion, in a room where a note could bounce off the walls faster than a haywire box flame. The lid would be on full stick, of course, to allow the alluvium of pitches to flood out at its maximum volume. And the piano's lid would be made of an ebony so smooth and so shiny that he could look at his reflection as he played—

"Ooh, nice run there," a voice suddenly interrupted his reverie from behind. Gokudera slammed back down into reality; he was not in a hall, but in the dusty music room of Namimori. His fingers halted over the keys as the rush of melody evaporated.

Closing the wooden lid of the piano, he turned to face the room's new occupant. "So you're speaking to me now?" he asked. A cynical tone snaked its way into his inquiry.

Doctor Shamal, for it was he, pouted with false dejection. "Really, Hayato," he strolled into the sunny room. "What reason would I have for not wanting to talk to you?"

Gokudera raised an eyebrow. "I thought you didn't associate yourself with men."

Shamal laughed and ran a hand through his thick, layered hair. "I associate with men, I just don't treat them," he replied. "I just like to, ah, associate with women a lot more."

"Tch. Pervy as ever, I see." With a finger, Gokudera flicked a spec of dust off of the piano's lid. "What do you need, Shamal?"

The doctor approached the piano and casually flipped open the lid. At the same time he plucked the cigarette that was protruding from Gokudera's mouth with a silent the mafia doesn't need lung cancer look that Gokudera'd seen countless times. "Working in the nurse's office is incredibly boring," he whined with a frequency that he knew for a fact annoyed the storm guardian to no end.

"That's because you'll only treat the half of population that doesn't like to beat up anything in sight," Gokudera grumbled, rubbing some dirt off one of the upper keys. The piano really was filthy, a sad, derelict toy of music left to gather debris in the sunlight.

"Hayato," Shamal began, changing the subject after deeming it pointless to respond to his disciple's previous comment, "How many keys are there on the piano?"

Gokudera resisted the urge to scoff. "Eighty-eight. I'm not a complete idiot, you know." He cast his light green eyes on the doctor, who wore a seemingly coy grin. Those eyes, an indistinguishable chestnut muddy color, were crinkled in knowing amusement.

"Want me to teach you a chord that hits all eighty-eight at the same time?"

Gokudera blanched, whipping his head around so fast that his hair smacked against the ridge of his cheekbones. "P-piano isn't like paper airplanes! There's no way to hit an eighty-eight-note chord, or composers would've been doing that for centuries!" he exclaimed incredulously.

"Really, Hayato?" Shamal sat down on the bench, sliding himself onto the smooth wood and simultaneously pushing Gokudera off. "Watch."

And he did it.

Gokudera's eyes widened, and his mouth opened and closed like a beached fish's. He couldn't explain how it was done, exactly, nor could his ears register the sheer amount of mingled pitches holding the same timbre. Shamal, finished, rose from the piano with smugness thinly veiled under his stubbled features.

"I—" his voice came out sounding rusty, so Gokudera cleared his throat gently. "I still don't get after all these years how someone so utterly lazy can know all of these things…"

"What, you think all lazy people are stupid, Hayato?" Shamal laughed again and scratched the inside of his ear.

Gokudera took a deep breath, calming himself. This guy always managed to press all of his buttons—and when he found them he wouldn't just press, he'd hammer on the damn things.

"Shamal, will…" Gokudera trailed off, flushing mildly and submitting to a humbler nature, "Will you teach this to me?" This scene looked familiar, somehow.

Shamal stared at him a moment with a grave look before replying, "Nah, don't feel like it."

A vein pulsed dimly in Gokudera's temple. "You couch potato…"

"Ah," the doctor held up a finger. "But I'll give you a hint, Hayato."

Green eyes brightened considerably. "A hint?"

"Yes, but it's the same hint I've been telling you for ages," Shamal replied.

"Wait, don't tell me…"

"Flirting, Hayato. It's like flirting."

With a heavily-ringed hand, Gokudera slapped his forehead exasperatedly and exhaled.

"If you treat every situation as if you're trying to get a chick, you can do anything," Shamal continued, leaning against the piano's rim tiredly. "I keep waiting for the day that you'll understand this."

Since Gokudera had no response to that, he merely blew out his breath in another sigh. Flaxen hair flapped in front of his face and he pushed it back.

Shamal grinned, straightening up. "Come on, tickle those ivories!"

At this, the storm guardian deadpanned. "That's so lame," he muttered, while absently poking a high e.

"The mafia never has time for much music," Shamal sniffed, lamenting to himself, "It'd be nice to hear some more. Liszt, right?"

"His form's all over the place, but that's what I like about it," Gokudera replied as he set his fingers on the keys, resuming where he'd left off in the work. And after that, Shamal disappeared from his side.

He hadn't really moved, not an inch-- but Shamal, the room, Namimori, they were all someplace far away right now, not to be bothered with. Gokudera smiled gently, in contrast to the fervent octaves that he was playing. He didn't see Shamal turn and leave, nor did he see the doctor's own smile that turned up the corners of his lips as he closed the door shut.

It was times like these that he could forget about the Vongola. And in doing so, he was able to, for a while, feel a fleeting relief.