A/N: HELL TO THE YES!! JEEZ, I've finally finiiished! AHHH!!

…Haha, not quite the introduction you were expecting, was it? Sorry, but, honestly, I've been slackin--I mean, working on this retarded fanfic for the longest time and it insisted on being a pain in the ass and gave me a major headache because I really didn't know where in the world I was planning on going with its skittish plotline and it got to the point where I almost gave up on it altogether but I hated to see it go to waste and and and… and…

Oh, who gives a shit, just read the damn thing.

Don't own characters, bla bla bla, rated M because, well, I said so. 8059 ftw.

Ugh I'm so tired lol excuse me for cussing D: It's been a while since I've uploaded a new story and, hopefully, I'm not such a n00b anymore. There's also some noncon 2759 for you fans out there but it's kind of… eh? Well, either way. If you haven't read Lie to Me, you should prolly go see that first… (actually, I won't blame you if you don't, because it is teh suck) But I'm pretty sure you'll be able to survive if you wanna read this right now anyway. Beware: OOCness, angst, all that jazz.

C:


Lie to Me

-x-

"I don't think I can do this anymore."

It was like the world had stopped.

"I'm sorry."

This wasn't supposed to happen.

"Goodbye, Yamamoto."

Yamamoto never thought his heart could break in half so cleanly, but it did.


"Yamamoto-kun, are you feeling okay?"

Tsuna's earnest face peers expectantly at him and Yamamoto is at a loss for words. He manages a gentle, defeated smile and absently tweaks the brunette's chin as he stands and picks up his backpack.

"Don't worry about me," he says softly.

Tsuna's anxious gaze follows him into the hallway, another layer of guilt added to his shoulders. He shrugs, like it might drop the unwanted burdens.

It doesn't.

He moves to turn the corner and something whams into his chin. He almost bites his tongue in surprise, but takes a half-step backwards and regains his balance, rubbing his sore jaw. Someone cusses under his breath, in the same predicament.

"Watch where you're--oh, it's you."

Yamamoto freezes.

Gokudera blinks up at him coolly, frowning, one hand on his forehead. "Ouch. Don't walk that close to the corners next time." Then he moves on. Yamamoto just stands there as his former love passes by, cursing himself for moving his head to catch a last glimpse of the Italian teen. But he can't help it. It is instinctive; the way his body responds to Gokudera. It's like he has been set on automatic pilot and he can't do anything to control how his eyes follow that lithe shadow, how his heart expands and constricts as though it is full of helium.

Sometimes he wonders if it's only him. Is he the only one doomed to have such smitten reactions to someone he could never have?

Someone I can never have…

Yamamoto trudges on down the stairs.

Their breakup had been so unexpected that he honestly didn't know how to handle it. He remembered meeting Gokudera by the park, happy that he got to spend the day with the one he loved, thinking the Italian was joking about ending the relationship.

Being together… it was the most he could have asked for. It was everything he could have asked for, and knowing that Gokudera belonged to him made his entire existence perfection incarnate. He had never feared what lay ahead before them. And then…

"Goodbye, Yamamoto."

It cracked a fault line down the very center of his heart.

"Why?" Yamamoto had asked desperately. "Why are you doing this?"

He prayed for excuses; for a reason that really wasn't one. But Gokudera had paused and said,

"Because I can't lie to you anymore."

That night, Yamamoto went home and collapsed on his bed without bothering to change his clothes. He lay there, a crumpled husk, and refused to eat dinner. Gokudera was the only thing that came to mind, and with his remembrance came a flood of reminiscences that hurt like acid on bare skin, dissolving Yamamoto to the bone. A gnawing sensation ate away somewhere at the hollow pit of his stomach. He was hungry, but not for food.

"Gokudera," he had whispered, over and over again like a sacred mantra, hoping to cast a spell that would take him away from this meaningless pain. "Gokudera Gokudera Gokudera." The name blended together, fusing into awkward letters until he could no longer discern one from the other and his lips had repeated it so much that the syllables sounded incorrect. Then he snapped into action, nearly overturning his desk as he jammed a drawer open, spilling its contents across his floor and grabbing a blank notebook. His fingers fumbled for a pen he kept under his calendar and when he first opened the journal he pulled so hard at the page that it tore, splitting a giant slash down the middle. He didn't care. That was the sound he heard from his heart when it had been tattered to shreds.

He started ripping the pages out messily, fisting them in his hand and throwing them forcefully away from him, around the room. He went on and on until he got three paper cuts and the last began to bleed profusely. His face was still and hard, his mouth a firm line. He took the pen and started writing furiously, pressing so hard he left indents through the remaining pages. His cuts burned. It didn't matter. Nothing did. He wrote and wrote and wrote, filling every space of white with black ink and smeared blood, cramming his agony into the sheets, front and back, all the way to the end until his fingers cramped and the skin rubbing against the pen was raw.

GokuderaHayatoGokuderaGokuderaHayatoGokuderaHayatoGokuderaHayatoGokuderaHayatoGokuderaHayatoIloveyouGokuderaHayatoGokuderaHayatoGokude

Hunched over the notebook with no respite, he finally gave in to exhaustion at four in the morning. His hand was still curled around the pen, gripping tightly as though he wanted it to break.

"Goodbye, Yamamoto."

He cried in his sleep but when he woke up, the tears were never there.


"Oi, Shamal."

"That's Doctor Shamal," the man returns leisurely, frowning. "Aren't you supposed to be in school? It's only Friday."

Gokudera is immobile, his usually glowering expression replaced by a an empty, blank-faced one that is unnerving because he is the very image of a walking corpse. His lips are pressed together so strictly they are turning white. He walks through the door, under Shamal's arm, and into the well-furnished apartment.

"Hey," Shamal protests, taken aback by this uncharacteristic behavior. "What do you think you're doing?"

"I'll be staying at your place for a while," Gokudera says, monotone, hefting a worn backpack more securely over his shoulder. He moves past the assorted décor and disappears inside the guest room down the hall.

Shamal raises his voice. "And who said you could do that? Oi!" He shuts the door and walks after the drained teenager, annoyed. He finds Gokudera kneeling on the floor in front of the bed, unpacking his belongings.

"What's wrong with your place?" Shamal demands.

"Nothing," Gokudera replies, folding his clothes and placing them discreetly in the drawer next to the mattress. He takes a pack of cigarettes out, too, setting it facedown on top. Shamal strides over and picks it up questioningly, the corners of his mouth turned down.

"I thought you quit," he says.

"I did," Gokudera agrees.

Shamal frowns again and sighs, running a hand through his hair. "Look, brat. You're not staying here. I have guests to entertain, ones more important than some delinquent like you, and if there's nothing wrong with your place you should go back and stay there. I'm not going to baby-sit--" he halts, irritated when he invokes no response from Gokudera, and grasps his arm to haul him up. His fingers wrap all the way around the thin, sickly limb and he almost releases it in surprise.

"You…" He can feel a layer of muscle tense when he strengthens his grip on the arm, but other than that, Gokudera is skin and bone. He drops the appendage and Gokudera lets it fall to the ground with a dull thud, as if it is not a part of his body. Shamal crouches next to him with a dark look in his eyes. "How long have you not been eating?" he growls.

Gokudera stares through him, glassy-eyed, and when he loosens his lips a rush of color blooms at their supple skin, blood flowing back to stain the white of his complexion with a ruddy hue of pink. He shakes his head and continues to unpack, refusing to meet the man's gaze. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Like hell you don't. What's the matter with you? After all the shit you've done to see your own life, you can't even take care of yourself?!" Shamal is angry now, his glare stark and piercing. "Get out," he says, his tone rumbling with antipathy and disappointment.

"Shamal--"

"Get out!"

And suddenly Shamal's fury dies a short death because Gokudera tilts his head to look at him with eyes that are dead, the personage of his face like that of a man condemned. He stares at him for a prolonged moment, and just when it appears he is going to say something, a small, sharp intake of breath interrupts and then those eyes are brimming with tears that trickle down arid cheeks, foraging salty tracks down a tapered chin and dripping onto his hands. Gokudera stiffens in astonishment and woe, touching his face with a shaking finger and seeing it come away wet. His lips are parted, his breathing unnaturally normal as those drops of grief plummet from stricken eyes.

It is like watching a statue cry.

Gokudera lowers his head. "Shamal," he says softly. "…Please."

Shamal straightens up and leaves the room. He lingers briefly at the threshold, watching Gokudera's unmoving form with an unreadable expression.

"…Get some sleep," he says gruffly, and shuts the door behind him.

He doesn't remember when it started but it feels as though it has always been like this. When Gokudera was young, he had fallen into a habit of running away in search of comfort. It seemed he craved something familiar to hold on to. Countless times, Shamal had entered his office to find Gokudera curled up in a patient's bed, sleeping or pretending to sleep. The discovery was more often than not accompanied by threats of dropkicking him out the window if he ever came into his office without permission again, but somehow the threats had never been carried out and Gokudera kept coming back. No matter what state he was in, he managed to return there--be it either the aftermath of Bianchi's cooking or a slipup from playing with dynamite.

Shamal had locked the door one time, just to see what the kid would do. When he came back late at night he learned that Gokudera had picked the lock and was dutifully dozing away underneath his desk. It was a confusing sight. Shamal could never understand why the child had gotten so attached to him, of all people. Gokudera disliked adults as a general rule.

The man had sat on the floor behind his desk, leaning against the file cabinets and brooding, watching Gokudera sleep as soundly as ever. After several minutes, he sighed and nudged the lad with the toe of his shoe to wake him.

"Come on. Get up. Go to bed. You can't sleep here or you'll catch a cold."

Gokudera rubbed his eyes stubbornly, drowsy but defiant. "I don't care," he had said. "You're a doctor. You'll take care of me."

"I don't treat little boys."

Gokudera stifled a yawn that sent a shiver rippling down his back and for a second Shamal had thought him quite similar to a cat. "You always say that," he murmured thickly, and snuggled deeper into the corner of the desk. Shamal sighed in exasperation, admitting defeat, and reached over to throw a blanket at him. Gokudera had smiled a quiet sort of smile--he rarely did that anymore--and pillowed his head on his arm, pulling the cover up around his shoulders.

"Thanks," he mumbled, the words barely audible as he muffled them into the sheet.

Shamal had hummed a grunt in reply and Gokudera quickly fell asleep.

I could kill you right now, you know, he had thought soberly. You shouldn't trust people so easily. I'm an assassin. A brat like you wouldn't be able to survive me.

Shamal sits on the couch with a glass of brandy in his hand, thinking studiously. Something akin to concern alights in his moody eyes as he sips his drink. Tch. Damn kid. What have you gotten yourself into now? An impending migraine tugs at his temple and he curses the world for giving birth to children and kids and teenagers of the like. After a minute or two, he massages his head, weary of acting the role of Father.

"This is why I use condoms," he groans.


More than anything right now, Yamamoto is in dire need of someone to talk to. It is difficult, trying to keep everything bottled up inside when he knows it is hurting people around him. People who are uninvolved in his complications and have nothing to do with how aggrieved he feels. He seeks advice… No, he seeks the truth.

So he goes to someone he knows will be there for certain.

"Ah, Yamamoto!" Tsuna's eyes are round as he stares up at him from the doorway. "Come in!"

"Is Reborn-san there?" the taller youth asks as he enters, slipping off his shoes.

"Yes," Tsuna says. "In fact, he's been expecting you."

Yamamoto isn't surprised. "Where is he?"

"In my room. You go up--I'll just stay downstairs."

"Thanks."

"And, Yamamoto…" Tsuna catches his arm hesitantly, his warm fingers small and tense on the inside of his elbow. "I, uh… I hope you feel better." He smiles a tentative smile and his face blossoms.

Yamamoto takes a moment to smile back. "You're a good friend, Tsuna."

The door is closed when he approaches; he opens it carefully and heads inside, hearing a soft click as it shuts behind him. Reborn is sitting casually on the windowsill, looking out at the world below. A cool breeze flows in and Yamamoto releases a soft sigh of appreciation as the wind soothes his thoughts. He sits cross-legged on the floor and, unsure of how to begin, chooses to wait.

Seconds tick by and he loses himself in the minutes that pass with each steady breath. According to the clock on Tsuna's wall, it appears to have been a full hour before Reborn finally acknowledges his presence.

"Yamamoto Takeshi."

"Yes."

"What have you done?"

It is an interesting question. Yamamoto doesn't know how to answer.

"I suppose," he says slowly, "I've made a mistake."

And perhaps it had been a mistake, running after someone he knew would have to leave him someday. It was a game he had lost from the beginning. Gokudera wasn't meant to be his. He took a chance, and it had left him battered and bruised, but maybe it was all for the better. Maybe he could move on. Would that be the same as running away? Did it really make a difference? He was a coward, after all.

"I'm sorry to bother you," he apologizes abruptly, standing up to leave, but is stopped short when the baby addresses him.

"This isn't like you," Reborn states with an air of wisdom. "Where is the Yamamoto who never gave up? Where is the Yamamoto who wouldn't let anything get in the way of the people precious to him? Such chasms in the family are unhealthy. Broken bonds will only cause the Vongola's own self-destruction. Do you think this will go unnoticed?" After a moment's pause, Reborn continues in a softer voice, "…Where is the Yamamoto who Gokudera fell in love with?"

Love? Was it really love that had driven them both together?

As if reading his thoughts, the infant speaks up. "If you really love him, you'd chase him down."

Yamamoto stares at Reborn. "He doesn't want me. He's… made that clear already."

"You know him better than that," the baby points out. "Gokudera Hayato is not one to be honest regarding his own desires. His happiness is hardly something he thinks worth trifling with, and that may be his downfall."

Yamamoto stares at his hands and suddenly he thinks they look like they belong to a stranger. He says nothing, just waits for Reborn to go on.

"Yamamoto Takeshi," he says again, circumspectly, weighing the names with care. "What will you do?"

This question is, by far, the most challenging one to answer correctly.

Yamamoto thinks while Reborn waits, and then the raven-haired youth meets his level gaze with an incomprehensible appearance.

"I…"


Gokudera is still sleeping when Shamal enters the room. Unfazed, the man opens the window shades with one twist and yanks the blankets out from underneath the teenager's thin body. Gokudera is awake instantly, tumbling off the bed and onto the floor with a startled exclamation. He had been resting without a shirt on and Shamal can see for himself exactly how skinny the boy is, almost to the point of being underfed and malnourished. Even his pants are hanging quite loose on his frame, the elastic band slipping off one pale, defined hipbone that appears to jut out precariously. Stunned and slightly dazed at the rude awakening, Gokudera has no time to gather his wits before Shamal stalks up to stand over him.

"I don't know what fresh, new hell you've thrown yourself into this time, but it's none of my business and I won't talk to you about it unless you want to. However," he went on, "if you're going to be living in my house, I've got some rules. First--if I have a lady over, make yourself scarce. Stay in your room or go out; I don't really care, as long as I don't see your face around the rest of the apartment. Second, we're going to have to do something about this." He plants his heel on Gokudera's stomach.

"Ow, what the hell?" Gokudera tries to shove him away.

"Tsk, tsk. Look at you. I can count all your ribs. That's pathetic, even for a scrawny rat." Shamal leans over and props an arm on his knee, applying pressure through his leg to render the youth breathless. "Starting today, you're going to cook for the both of us. Healthy foods, with high nutritional value and the proper daily servings you need on a good diet. It'd better be tasty, too. None of that candy and chips junk kids are into these days."

Gokudera utters a plaintive snarl in the back of his throat that leads into an faint swear when Shamal subtly increases the force on his foot. The teen shoots a pained glare at him, his eyes narrowed.

"And third, I'll be taking you to school and picking you up afterwards."

"I don't need to go," Gokudera fights to speak, trying to get air into his lungs. "I already know what they're trying to teach."

Shamal snorts. "I highly doubt that. You've always attended anyway. Are you trying to avoid someone?"

Gokudera pointedly jerks his head to the side, staring fixatedly at the opposite wall.

"In any case, I can't have you staying at the apartment by yourself and I don't want to have to look after you when there's obviously an easier option, so you're going to school whether you like it or not. I'm doing you a favor, kid. I could be making you walk there instead." He pauses to let the words sink in. "As long as you're staying here, these are the rules you're going to follow. Got that?"

Gokudera is silent until Shamal shifts his heel down even farther and the boy hisses, screwing his eyes shut.

"Don't make me repeat myself," Shamal warns.

"Got it," Gokudera pants out, aggravated, and he rolls over on his side, gasping for oxygen when the man lets him go.

"Here." Shamal flicks a folded note at him.

"…What is it?" Gokudera picks it up off the floor in irritation, sitting up gradually.

"I made you a list. You're going shopping for me."

"What?"

"Get dressed. I already made pancakes and you're going to leave after breakfast. By the time you get back from the store I'll probably be out, so I'm going to give you the spare key. Oh, and you'd better clean the place a bit because I might pick up a lady friend on the way home."

"I'm not your maid!" Gokudera fumes.

"Thank God," Shamal replies dryly, and exits the room.


He hasn't seen him for days. The past week has been droll and suffocating.

"Because I can't lie to you anymore."

He can still hear those words, uttered softly, certainly, from a pair of lovely, porcelain, heartbreaking lips. What do they mean? They seem to solidify in the atmosphere like an innuendo, floating over silhouetted shoulders as they leave him in the dark. So everything had been a lie?

"I love you."

Was that a lie, too? Was it all some cruel joke he had suffered? The thought pains him unbearably. If it was like that, he decides he would rather have Gokudera lie to him forever; to carry on their farce until Yamamoto died tasting toxic kinship, because make believing that wild, elegant soul belongs to him is better than nothing. He can imagine it is for real and he can convince himself that their love is genuine.

"I love you." And then, "Because I can't lie to you anymore."

If only that was how the phrases had been spoken.

"Yamamoto!" Tsuna waves at him from across the lot, smiling.

"Ah, Tsuna." A restrained curve graces his mouth. "Good morning."

"Good morning." The brunette glances around, seeming to wilt a little. "Gokudera's not here again?"

"No."

Tsuna looks disheartened. "He hasn't been attending school for a while. Have you heard from him at all?" When Yamamoto shakes his head, the smaller youth sighs. "I tried dropping by his apartment but he wasn't there. His cell phone's turned off, too, and even Bianchi doesn't know where he's gone. I hope he's not in any trouble…"

Yamamoto ruffles the sad teenager's mop of spiky hair. "Me too."

He glimpses Tsuna's dejected figure, how those sensitive eyes are downcast and forlorn, and thinks this might be the closest he's ever come to hating Gokudera.

"Oh--is that him now?" Tsuna inquires suddenly, and Yamamoto is alert at once.

A glossy car pulls up to the curb in front of the school entrance. Both its front doors open. Gokudera steps out from the passenger seat first, his willowy build falling into a pronounced slouch. The stance is unwelcoming. Unpredictably, Shamal gets out after him and they linger next to the vehicle for several minutes, conversing. The taller man is leaning close to the youth--too close for Yamamoto's liking, and he tries hard to pretend he doesn't care that Gokudera doesn't move away when Shamal dips his head and speaks into his ear.

They are talking to each other in Italian, Yamamoto realizes with a start, and the knowledge only makes him feel peculiarly anxious, like he is purposely being left out of something important. Words drift his way on the wind, unfamiliar, but he strains to hear them nonetheless. He almost verbalizes his immediate disapproval when he sees Shamal reach into the pocket of Gokudera's jeans, pulling out…

A pack of cigarettes?

Had Gokudera started smoking again? Yamamoto is at a loss. He hadn't known. Gokudera says something fast and heated to the man, his eyebrows knitting together, and Yamamoto starts walking towards them unthinkingly. Tsuna calls after him in confusion, trailing doggedly behind, but the teen fails to hear what he says and instead pays more attention to the rapid Italian he wishes he could fully decipher.

"No," Shamal is saying firmly. "No smoking. Se avviare nuovamente che sarà ancora più difficile per chiudere questa volta."

Gokudera glares at him. "Forse non voglio per chiudere questa volta."

"Non sto vi offre una scelta," Shamal replies coolly, and Gokudera seems on the verge of furthering the quarrel when the doctor spies Yamamoto approaching. He nods pleasantly at him and leans on the roof of his car. "Qui viene il fidanzato."

Gokudera bristles viciously. "Non è mio fidanzato!"

Shamal shrugs. "Qualunque cosa ti dice." He climbs back into his car with an idle salute. "Buon divertimento a scuola," he calls as he drives off.

"Like hell I will," Gokudera mutters before turning to face Tsuna and beaming. "Good morning, Tenth!"

"Good morning, Gokudera!" Tsuna greets, his cheery voice hesitant. "It's nice to see you at school again."

"It's an honor to be here with the Tenth!" Gokudera answers automatically, and it is so Gokudera-like that Tsuna can't help but laugh. Yamamoto feels invisible, but he's felt worse, so he chews on the inside of his cheek and walks beside Tsuna as Gokudera smiles on the other side of him, talking about an upcoming test like everything's fine even though he knows it's not and Yamamoto is dying as he speaks.

"Oh, Gokudera," Tsuna says, "why did Dr. Shamal take you to school?"

"That man…" Gokudera grumbles dismissively, and sighs in resignation. "I guess you could say I'm under a type of contract with him. Ah, and I'm afraid I won't be able to walk you to school for a while! My deepest apologies, Tenth! I'll make it up to you somehow!"

"Ahaha, Gokudera, it's alright!" Tsuna objects, flustered. He smiles. "I'm just… I'm glad you're here."

Gokudera beams again, softer, his slender visage allaying. "…So am I."

And that's when Yamamoto realizes he can't ever hate this bold, graceful being because, watching him now, those quirky, colorless lips have two personalities. One is harsh and biting, laden with poison fruit and venom malice made for hoarse screams, resonating vainly from that resistant mouth. Its weapons are words, sharp and jagged and laced with pride. The other identity is milder, yielding; built for whispers and laughter and kisses.

"Goodbye, Yamamoto."

Don't say that, Yamamoto had wanted to plead. Don't say that with those lips; don't… You should be screaming at me, yelling, pushing me around. If you say it like that, I… How can I…?

I want you, want you, need you. Come back to me, please. Please.

Gokudera.


"I'm home."

"What happened to your lady friend this time?" Gokudera asks bluntly as Shamal enters the apartment, loosening his tie and slinging his jacket over an arm of the couch.

"What, no welcome back?" he chides calmly, rolling up his sleeves. "Turns out she was married."

"Never stopped you before."

"Before, I never had a husband walk in while I was busy with the wife to suggest a ménage à trois." Shamal takes out the silverware and sets the table for two. He glances Gokudera's way carelessly. "Making risotto?"

"Yeah."

"Haven't had that in a while," he comments. "What type of cheese did you use?"

"Grana Padano."

The man vanishes from the room to return a minute or two later with a charily selected bottle of wine. Gokudera dishes the risotto out and is satisfied to see that it spreads quite easily. The texture seems reasonable, and, when he tastes it, the flavor is smooth and rich on the tip of his tongue. He sits down and stares skeptically at the pair of delicate glasses set beside the plates.

"Wine?" he queries.

"Try it."

Gokudera takes a dubious sip and sets the glass back down on the table with a limp shrug. "Eh. It's alright."

"'Alright'?" Shamal repeats, offended. "This is Barolo. Italian red wine."

"Whatever."

A gauche silence ensues. Shamal takes the time to savor his risotto tactfully. He relents, thinking the taste is not bad at all. Of all the dishes Gokudera had prepared, he finds he is enjoying this basic preparation of homemade risotto. It is al dente and all'onda, with a touch of heavy lushness that he appreciates. The wine is also turning out to be a fine accompaniment to the flavor. Following this particular recipe takes some practice, as the food is very sensitive to timing, and the boy had accomplished the task admirably--without even blowing up the kitchen. Ironic, seeing as Bianchi's cooking is anything but edible.

Gokudera pushes his food around on his plate, discontented.

Shamal studies him temporarily. "Eat," he orders. "While it's still warm. I'm not letting you go to bed until you finish your dinner."

Gokudera scowls. "You'd make a very nice mother hen."

"Shut up and eat up." Shamal jabs a fork in his direction.

The teen's wary eyes flicker from the risotto to Shamal. "Make me."

"I might."

"Why don't you?"

"You're not worth it."

"So you won't care if I don't eat," Gokudera concludes, and pushes his chair back, standing up. "I'm going to my room--"

"No, you're not." Shamal slams him back into the chair with one strong hand on his shoulder, leaning dangerously over the tabletop. "Not until you finish your dinner."

"Like I said," Gokudera hisses crossly, "make me."

Shamal gets up without a second thought, dragging his chair around the table and maneuvering it next to Gokudera's. He takes a seat, placing his long legs on either side of the boy's chair to effectively block the only escape route between himself and the opposing wall. Retrieving an easy spoonful of risotto from the barely touched plate, the doctor holds it steady in front of Gokudera's mouth.

"Say 'ahh'."

Gokudera stares at him in disbelief. "You aren't seri--"

"I'm dead serious. Say 'ahh'."

"Hell no!"

Shamal's gaze darkens. "I'm damn sure you're going to say it because if you don't I swear to God I will shove this entire spoon down your throat and let you die of asphyxiation."

Gokudera bites his lip, irate, and he seems to be considering the few alternatives he has.

"…Ahhh."

Shamal places the spoon inside his mouth. "Now say 'mmm'."

Light lips close sullenly around the food. "Mmm." Shamal eases the eating utensil out gently and takes another spoonful of risotto, waiting for Gokudera to chew and swallow. After coaxing a few more bites into him, the man lifts the wine glass to his mouth as well and tilts it to let him have a sip.

"I can feed myself," Gokudera mutters.

"I'm sure you can," Shamal replies sarcastically.

And so the process continues, an infinite pattern of spoonful after spoonful, till nothing but a few grains of creamy rice are left on his plate and Gokudera feels full for what feels like the first time in a long while.

Shamal stretches, pulling his arms over his head with a mild groan. "Go sleep. It's late."

Gokudera moves to take his plate and silverware but Shamal waves him away. "I'll take care of the dishes tonight. Make sure to brush your teeth and have the lights off after twelve."

Gokudera blinks and nods, feeling like a child. He lingers in the hall, staring at the back of Shamal's head and unsure of what to say.

"Well… Good night," he blurts finally.

"G'night."

"Thanks," he adds, soft.

"…Mmph."


It is a lovely afternoon, befitting of a restive weekend. Yamamoto rolls over on his bed and wistfully stares out the window. On such a clear day, he and Gokudera might have been outside, enjoying the sun together. He sits up, a distraught expression captured on the plane of his face. It's almost been a month now, and he still insists on dwelling on the past. It is despairingly frustrating, but he finds he can't move on.

He takes a deep breath of sweet air and swings his legs over the side of the bed. After a moment of consideration, he stands, stretches, and walks out of the room.

"I'm going for a walk, Jii-san!" he calls, striding down the stairs two at a time.

"Have fun!" is the eager response.

The light is warm on his cheeks when he strolls out, rolling across his skin like a deliciously soft blanket. He wonders where he should go. It is a nigh perfect day. The only thing missing is…

Where…?

And he thinks that maybe he should find himself before he finds Gokudera.


Shamal finds him crouched on the curb, attracting the eyes of numerous pedestrians and sharing a vanilla ice cream cone with a sleek, skinny Dalmatian. He watches the scene in amusement. Gokudera's eyes are crossed, his tongue poking seriously out from his mouth to lick the ice cream while the dog laps up what it can from the other side, bits of waffle cone sticking to its muzzle.

"Do you know how unsanitary that is?" Shamal asks, walking up to the odd pair.

"Don't preach to me about unsanitary when you swap spit with different girls every day of the year."

Shamal smirks. "Touché." He takes a seat next to the Dalmatian and scratches it behind the ear. Its tail wags in appreciation. The canine is a handsome thing, well-groomed with an old collar around its neck. For a moment the three merely sit on the sidewalk; man, boy, and beast watching the world elapse.

"Hey," Shamal says suddenly, tapping his own upper lip. "You've got some ice cream on your face. Right there."

Gokudera squints at him. "And I care because…?"

"C'mere," Shamal threatens lazily, raising a hand to wipe it off, but Gokudera eludes the touch, making a humorous face. The man rolls his eyes. "What are you, three? Can you eat without a bib?" But he is grinning crookedly. The Dalmatian pays them no mind and concentrates on finishing the snack before it melts.

"Wait…" Gokudera stares past Shamal's head. "Is that…" Shamal turns around, skimming the people in the crowd, but is puzzled when he sees no one he recognizes.

"Who--" He turns back around to receive a big, slushy mess of vanilla ice cream pushed into his face. The biting cold comes as a shock and he splutters in amazement as the treat drips down his nose and chin.

"You're got some ice cream on your face," Gokudera says innocently. "Right there."

The Dalmatian snuffles, pawing at Shamal's suit and leaning forward to lick him clean. After a long moment of stunned silence, the corner of Shamal's lips curves upward wickedly.

"I'm going to kill you," he says. Gokudera chuckles. "No, I'm not joking."

"Shut up," the youth teases good-naturedly and Shamal opens his mouth to object only to get a sloppy kiss from the hungry dog, and then they are both cracking up, laughing so hard their sides ache and no sound comes out, and then laughing even harder because they can't laugh. It feels good and pure and wholehearted.

Gokudera leans back, catching his breath helplessly and regarding the taller man in awed beguilement. "I've never seen you in such a good mood before."

"And you probably never will again." He smiles, and then adopts a somber tone. "Hey. You happy?"

Gokudera has to think about that for a moment. "Sure, I guess." He shrugs offhandedly, stroking the tip of the Dalmatian's chilly nose.

"Really? You're positive?"

"No," Gokudera admits. "But I feel better than I have in a long time."

The man wipes his cheek with the hem of his sleeve, grimacing when the fabric comes away sticky. "Trust me, it shows."

The teen raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means you're being a lot more approachable. And… oh, I don't know. Less of a brat."

"What was that?" Gokudera chuckles. "Was that a compliment?"

Shamal snorted. "Hardly. But it's the closest you'll ever get to one." He gazes at him with a critical aspect to his eyes. "I was thinking it'd be best… if you moved back to your place."

Gokudera blinks. "Why? Getting tired of my cooking?"

"Funny enough, no." Shamal steeples his fingers thoughtfully. "No, it's just… I think it's time you get back on your own feet. You've learned enough to confront your own problems. And yeah, I'd like to get back to having women at my place without worrying you'll march in on some freak porno situation."

"What, you have a small dick or something?"

Shamal smacks him upside the head. "Move out by tomorrow, alright?"

The Italian teen thinks for a moment. He isn't sure if he can cope again with returning to his apartment. The reason he had sought out Shamal was to escape from having to relive unwanted memories that plagued him everyday. His place is thriving with recollections he wants desperately to forget. He had even taken to spending long nights on the cold floor because every time he tried getting in bed, he'd remember his first time with Yamamoto, and how the taller youth had been so tender as they joined. The flashbacks would be vivid and he couldn't sleep, let alone breathe. Yamamoto was everywhere--sprawled out on his bedroom floor, fake-studying; dozing off at the kitchen table; or standing in front of the refrigerator, drinking milk straight from the carton even though Gokudera would scold him for being disgusting and fetch him a proper mug.

"You don't know where that mouth has been," he had said once, and Yamamoto only stole a kiss and laughed,

"I know perfectly well where my mouth has been."

Gokudera bit back a rueful grin. "We don't all go down to your level."

Yamamoto had smiled, extending a hand to tug playfully at the waistband on Gokudera's pants. "No, but I'll go down to yours." Gokudera had fled his arms and Yamamoto chased him around the apartment, dodging projectiles thrown his way. The neighbors had gotten used to their rowdy mirth by this time and knew better than to complain. Sooner or later, Yamamoto would corner him up against the kitchen stove or a closet and imprison Gokudera in his embrace once more, tackling him to the ground for a long awaited cuddle. It was an innocent game of running away and being caught and being loved.

But this time it seems Yamamoto no longer has the will to chase him, and Gokudera has wandered astray to a place he can't be found.

The last straw had been when Gokudera opened the medicine cabinet in search of pills for his insomnia and stumbled upon pictures of him and Yamamoto taped inside. Attached to one of the photographs was an old sticky note Yamamoto had put on a box of pocky: "I hope you're thinking of me!! :)" The treat had been set next to Gokudera's bed as an apology for leaving early one morning. Yamamoto's toothbrush was on a shelf too, stored neatly in a clear, plastic container. He used to place the toothbrush in a cup along with Gokudera's, but had been yelled at after the silver-haired youth went to brush his teeth on one occasion and came treacherously close to using the wrong one.

These memories are still crystal sharp, triggered by the most insignificant things.

That day, Gokudera had packed a various amount of his belongings into a knapsack and trekked to Shamal's place. He needed to be in someone's presence or else he feared he might lose control.

"Think you can handle not having me around?" Shamal questions, smiling casually, as if he can read his thoughts.

Gokudera snorts. "I could ask the same of you."

"Hmm," the man replies, but doesn't deny it.

"I'll move out by tomorrow," Gokudera promises, and Shamal nods in approval. He gets up, gives the Dalmatian a last, friendly pat on the head, and leans over to pat Gokudera on the head as well. Gokudera cracks an airy grin but lets him, the contact feeling a bit fond.

The truth is, Shamal will miss having someone to say "I'm home" to. And, though he will never admit it, he has gotten rather used to taking care of the teenage Mafioso. Though commitment has never really occurred to him as an important attribute, he thinks it might not be so grueling if it is a relationship like that.

He crosses the road, hands in his pockets as he regards the weather contemplatively.

Maybe I'll get a cat.


Yamamoto almost can't believe his luck when he glimpses a heartrending shadow standing absentmindedly amidst the horde of faceless people walking by.

"Gokudera?"

Their gazes meet and something foreign seems to blaze across Gokudera's fair countenance before he frowns and spins around to walk away. Yamamoto quickly hurries after him, trailing his footsteps to a street near Tsuna's house. Pretty soon, they are alone, detached from the mass of passer-bys.

"Gokudera," he says, and is promptly ignored. "Gokudera."

"What do you want?" Gokudera snaps irritably without looking back, his pace unfaltering.

"I just want to talk to you."

"Forget it. We've said enough."

"No, Gokudera--"

"Leave me alone."

"Just listen, will--"

"No."

"Hayato!" Yamamoto shouts in frustration, and Gokudera freezes. He turns around, his shoulders stiff; his expression angry.

"Don't you dare call me that," he seethes quietly. "Ever."

"Hayato," Yamamoto repeats stubbornly, and Gokudera flinches into action, stalking up to him with a glare that burns. Yamamoto is expecting a rough shove or a punch aimed at his face but the silver-haired teen merely stands in front of him, so close that he can count his lashes.

"Well?" Gokudera demands. "Talk."

Their breaths are mingling. Yamamoto forces himself to stare into the other boy's eyes, for fear his gaze might flicker to his lips, but finds it's actually worse. Emerald green meets dark gold and an unwanted shiver passes through the valley of Yamamoto's chest.

Your eyes are supposed to be the window to your soul, he thinks wretchedly. Why can't I see what's on the other side?

Gokudera is still waiting for him to speak, his resolute figure belied with impatience. Yamamoto rushes on with the first thing that comes to mind.

"You're staying at Shamal's place, aren't you?"

Gokudera pauses. That is the last inquiry he had been expecting. "So what if I am?"

"Why? Did something happen to your apartment?"

"No…"

"Then why?"

"That doesn't concern you," Gokudera retorts. "Why do you even care?"

Yamamoto glances away, upset. "It's just… of all people…"

Gokudera narrows his eyes. "Shamal may be a pervert and a womanizer, but he's someone I trust."

"What about me? Don't you trust me?"

This time it is Gokudera who averts his gaze. "…I don't know," he mutters. He doesn't see the flash of pain flicker across Yamamoto's stern profile; how what he says hurts him more than a physical blow.

"I see," the youth says quietly, and then determination takes over. "Gokudera, I--"

"Nii-san!"

Gokudera turns his head, inwardly indebted to the distraction. Yamamoto looks frustrated but also glances over to see Fuuta running toward them, panicked. As the boy gets closer, he can distinguish the child's eyes--wet and shiny, layered with unshed tears. He comes to a halt in front of them both, his face in distress. He puts his hands on his knees and tries to catch his breath.

"What's wrong?" Yamamoto asks in concern.

"It's Tsuna-nii," he pants. "He's gone!"

"Gone? What the hell do you mean he's gone?" Gokudera looks about ready for homicide and Yamamoto yearns to reach out and put a hand on his shoulder, but he settles for stepping forward and speaking up.

"What happened?" he wants to know.

"Tsuna-nii…"

"Did something happen to Tsuna?" Yamamoto asks, his voice kind.

"He just… I c-can't find him," Fuuta sobs haltingly.

"Tch," Gokudera hisses when the boy starts to cry, but, as if contradicting himself, he kneels in front of the boy and puts his hands on his shoulders. The steady weight seems to be comforting and Fuuta takes a few deep breaths before his tears subside.

"Calm down. Look at me," Gokudera directs firmly. "Come on. Where did you last see the Tenth?" Yamamoto watches as the Italian absently wipes away the tears from Fuuta's cheeks and smoothes back his mussed hair with preoccupied fingers.

"W-we were out… feeding ducks at the park. And he left to get more bread, and… he didn't come back, and when I went to look for him I got lost… I had to ask for directions to get here."

"Are you sure you didn't just miss him on his way back?"

"No… I waited for half an hour. When I asked around, no one had seen him. It was so strange," he hiccupped softly. "It was like he… disappeared."

"Did you go to Tsuna's house? Did you tell anyone he was missing?"

Fuuta shakes his head miserably. "Just you."

Gokudera puts a reassuring hand on his head and straightens up, the rest of his stance composed but agitated. "You'd better get home now. Do you know your way from here?" Fuuta nods shakily. "Good."

Yamamoto senses the approaching presence of another and turns.

"Chrome?"

The girl blinks and nods in greeting, her gaze falling on Fuuta's dejected form as she draws nearer. "Is everything alright? I saw you three from far off and it looked like something was the matter." She stops. "Fuuta?" Chrome appears unsettled, leaning forward and stroking his forehead with a pale, delicate hand. "Don't cry. What's wrong?"

"Have you seen the Tenth?" Gokudera asks suddenly.

She glances at him, puzzled. "Boss? I just ran into him a few minutes ago. We didn't speak," she muses, "but he looked like he was in a hurry to get to Namimori High. Why?"

Gokudera furrows his brow and twists on his heel to run off in the direction of the school.

"Gokudera!" Yamamoto takes a step behind him, torn.

"Go ahead," Chrome urges sympathetically. "I'll take Fuuta home. And, Yamamoto," she adds as he inclines his head gratefully, his eyes trained on Gokudera's back.

"Yes?"

"Be careful."

He nods once, perceptively, and runs after Gokudera.


"We'll split up to look for him, alright?"

"Okay." Yamamoto walks briskly down the conjoining hallway, cupping his hands around his mouth. "Tsuna! Tsuna, can you hear me? Tsuna…"

The calls fade as the distance between them lengthens, and Gokudera briefly wonders whether or not Hibari would miraculously appear to punish them for loitering on school property after hours. He pays no mind to the thought, however, and continues his hastened inspection of each classroom, flinging open doors on his way across the first story.

"Tenth! Where are you?"

He remembers Fuuta's teary eyes and some sinister premonition seems to turn his veins to ice.

"Tenth!"

Tsuna!

Certain he has covered the entire floor, he is heading for the stairs when he catches the sight of an entryway leading to the school's basement. He tests the door to see if it is locked, but, to his surprise, it is not. Opening it, he stares down into the gloom.

"Tenth…?"

Gokudera walks further in. His voice echoes eerily in the dank atmosphere. He wanders close to the wall, feeling about for a light switch. When his fingers run abruptly into one, he jumps a little, unnerved by the dark and the silence and the absence of his Tenth. The lights seem to be broken--only one activates, and the dull luminance emitting from its bulb is scarcely enough to light the whole room. But it is more than enough to illuminate the lone figure standing directly beneath it, back facing the entrance, casting shadows on small cracks in the floor tiles.

"Tenth!"

The name is expelled from Gokudera in one grateful gasp and he wonders whether or not he had been heard because the brunette doesn't turn around. Nevertheless, he rushes forward in relief.

"Tenth, we've been so worried about you! Why are you here? Did something happen?" He runs his gaze over Tsuna's unresponsive face and frowns anxiously. "Are you hurt? Tenth?" He moves in front of him to check the youth's shoulders and ribs, his fingers ghosting over thin wrists with light touches in search of injuries. "Tell me where it hurts," he says gently, though his mind is still troubled. Those formerly warm, brown eyes are empty. "Please?"

Tsuna strikes him across the face.

In that one movement, Gokudera is so keenly aware of an alien strength behind the initial force of Tsuna's blow that he is stunned speechless. Knuckles catch him on his lower jaw, snapping his head to the side and driving him to his knees. The pain jars upon impact, numbing and then tingling with millions of needle stabs that make him wince. He sways where he is, dizzied, overtaken by a sudden sense of betrayal that is soon shoved away. He is frozen for what seems like eternity. Slowly, he dares to meet the boy's gaze.

"T-Tenth?" Gokudera whispers, the hoarse question slipping laboriously from his mouth. But even as he says it, he knows. This is not the Tenth, or Tsuna, or even a friend. And yet…

Tsuna tilts his head up with a finger and strokes the spot on his lip where he had struck him. It had split quite a bit, and the touch, however gentle, stung as it rubbed the skin raw. Tsuna withdraws his cold fingers and examines the smear of blood on his thumb with shrewd eyes. He presses it to his lips. Gokudera's breathing seems unnaturally strident in the dark, unlit room. Tsuna's silhouette blocks the light of the entryway. He is close, watching in detached amusement as the Italian teen struggles for words.

"You have a cute face."

Gokudera doesn't know how to respond. Tsuna cocks his head to the side, smiling, licking lazily at his thumb. "Tell me," he murmurs in a low voice, "does your Tenth say that, too?"

A deathly chill envelopes Gokudera and he is loosing a punch at Tsuna before he can even think, but then he sees those brown eyes widen helplessly, taken by surprise, and he falters. In that instant, he smashes brutally into the ground and, gasping for air, winces as his cheek collides with the uneven pavement, raking dirt and grit into his new cuts. His shoulder pops as his arm is twisted behind him, the other limb crushed under his own weight when Tsuna pins him down.

"How worthless," the brunette hisses distastefully, a trace of playfulness hinting at his tone. "There is no reason you should be alive right now. Trash like you…"

He yanks Gokudera's hair back, his grip painfully tight, and all the taller youth can see is a blur of shadows before his gaze, spinning sickeningly in front of him. His hip grinds into the cement when his torso flips over, legs tensing at the force used.

"Ah--" he cries out softly, and hates himself for it.

Tsuna leans nearer, hovering above Gokudera's open mouth until they are trading breaths, connected by a deep enigma of inhales and exhales. It feels unbearably wrong, somehow, even though Gokudera is lost, his head unwillingly becoming light and dizzy. The alien warmth spreading through him tingles at his lips and paints his face a shameful hue of red. Tsuna is immeasurably close, his mouth mere centimeters away from his, and he is afraid to retreat lest the brunette advance… or move apart.

"Trash like you," he repeats, caressing the side of his face, "should be fucked and thrown away."

Gokudera stiffens. He can't find his voice.

No.

He tries to speak, but it is Tsuna's hands on him, Tsuna's eyes, Tsuna's lips, and he finds he is unable to fight back against the Tenth's body as it continues to push him down. He watches with a dull, glazed expression as the Sky Guardian toys with his belt buckle, leering.

"What's the matter?" Tsuna asks sympathetically, though the smirk is still there. "I thought you'd enjoy this."

Gokudera shuts his eyes and turns his head away, but his chin is grasped and a throaty chuckle resounds in his ear once again. "Can't fight me, can you? Can't hurt your precious Tenth…" Tsuna sinks pointed teeth into his wrist, leaving perfect indentations on the supple flesh. Sucking languidly at pale skin, he grins as Gokudera clenches his jaw, the crawling sensation itching up his arm and shoulders.

"Don't."

Tsuna releases the captive wrist only to lap at the marks he had made, his lashes fluttering innocently to meet Gokudera's torn eyes. He massages the inside of his elbow with the knuckles of his other hand, slow and sensual. The steady pressure is dangerously volatile. Taunting, even.

"Don't," Gokudera breathes. Something sour and rotten seems to clog the back of his throat. "Don't disgrace him… any longer."

"Ah, but this is my body now." Tsuna's delicate fingers slide up and down the zipper of Gokudera's pants and the youth's heartbeat stutters.

"No," he says, but his tongue feels like lead. "Stop."

The fingers pause, then press harder.

"Unh--!" The sound seems relatively small compared to the rest of the silenced area and Gokudera is glad for that; glad that somehow, in some way, his troubles appear as insignificant as those of an ant's. He is ready to bear the difficulties of the situation, ready to handle anything for the Tenth--even if it means his pride will be destroyed. So he removes himself from reality as the stranger's touch invades his entire being, purging the purity from him with deliberate, sometimes excruciatingly agonizing movements.

It's nothing I haven't experienced before, he tells himself. So why…

Tears prick at his eyelids, burning. He doesn't understand. He wants…

He wants Yamamoto.

Tsuna's hand tightens around him and he has to withhold a frightened whimper. The brunette smiles and fits their mouths together. Unbridled heat coils within him, growing to an indescribable degree until it seems as if he might explode. Each brush of skin adds fuel to the fire and he is fighting back nausea when the contact begins to escalate.

Please.

He is falling from the brink of all reason with nothing to hold onto because he has pushed everything substantial away.

"Y-Yamnh--ah, to--"

After a blinding, jumbled flash of white, he finds the high pleasantry of relief and when he returns to his senses, Tsuna is sitting next to him, watching the heaving of the teenager's chest intently and licking off his own sticky fingers. Gokudera stares at him through a hazy curtain, feeling sick.

"Who are you?" he whispers.

"La tua morte," Tsuna whispers back.


It's almost dusk when Yamamoto hears the scream. It is a cry of agony, of pain and loss, mingled with what can only be interpreted as fear.

Gokudera.

Yamamoto thinks he has never been this scared before, running blindly towards something that is hurting the Italian teen, something that may rip him apart from his existence. He sprints down the stairs, his heart pounding, fingers shaking as he tries to figure out where Gokudera is.

It feels like a cynical interpretation of their relationship--Yamamoto trying in vain to find someone who has run away on his own. The circumstances tip sardonically toward a cruel game of hide-and-seek and Yamamoto has to fight down the catastrophic terror that threatens to ruin him. He is afraid to call out Gokudera's name, in case he inadvertently alerts someone to his attendance, but he doesn't know what else to do. The outcry had sounded as though it had come from somewhere farther than the first floor, tainted with a ghostly aspect.

Yamamoto turns the corner in apprehension and finds an open door heading to the basement. He runs in at once, unprepared for the sadistic scene he stumbles upon.

Gokudera's navel is bare, his shirt pulled up easily to his neck and displaying four rows of neat, red scratches that extend diagonally from chest to hip. They appear red and incensed, tiny flecks of blood showing underneath the tender surface where flesh has been scraped away. Tsuna leans over his wounded stomach, one hand pinning Gokudera's wrists together above his head, the other dipping lower and lower.

Yamamoto is stunned.

"Ts… Tsuna…?"

"Ah." Tsuna lifts his head and gives him a sly once-over before returning to Gokudera's trembling frame. "You must be Yamamoto." He opens his jaws and takes a nipple between his teeth.

"Mmnn--!" Gokudera squeezes his eyes shut, begging silently for Yamamoto to leave; to let him suffer this indecency alone. It is unbearable, being shamed in front of those innocuous, noble, golden eyes.

Tsuna glances up apathetically at Yamamoto's shocked face. "Do you want to fuck him, too?"

Gokudera doesn't know exactly what happens next, but there is a sudden force aimed to the side of him and he is wrenched from Tsuna's grasp--or is it the other way around? He opens his eyes and sees Yamamoto standing before him, gripping Tsuna's arm. His powerful expression has fallen into a deadly, steely calm, suppressed rage emanating from his stance.

"Who are you?" he asks darkly.

"Me?" Tsuna feigns innocence, pointing a finger at himself. "Why, I'm Sawada Tsunayoshi, of course." He smiles nastily, eyes glinting in the dim light. "Can't you tell?"

He twists his arm free in one fluid movement and kicks at Yamamoto, who dodges the blow. Without pausing, Tsuna aims a fast punch towards him and Yamamoto knows that he is no match for whoever has possessed Tsuna's body. He is inexperienced in hand to hand combat and wishes fleetingly for a sword to wield, although he doubts he would ever be able to use it well against the nimble brunette. It is still Tsuna, and he doesn't want to hurt his friend any more than he has to.

He winces when Tsuna's knee comes into contact with his lower abdomen and a skimming attack jars him, numbing his arm from the elbow down. He can almost swear he hears something snap when he is hit in the ribs, and the pain there comes like a shockwave, traveling through his tense structure.

Tsuna is fighting with the intent to harm, not to kill, but that soon changes when Yamamoto is thrown to the ground and Tsuna's hands fly around his neck, tightening wickedly. His fingernails dig into susceptible skin, closing off his airway. Yamamoto chokes, in desperate need of oxygen, and feels his throat constricting as Tsuna laughs a lighthearted laugh and the world becomes a blur around him. Dizzied, the agony seems to float above a thin horizon as Yamamoto's struggles begin to weaken.

Then the pressure disappears.

Tsuna's hands are whisked away and the brunette stares down at him with clear eyes, taken by surprise.

"Yama… moto…?" he questions, as if awoken from a trance, before falling to the side in a crumpled heap.

Yamamoto gasps soundlessly, each intake of breath burning his throat like liquid fire as cool air flows into his lungs. The prickling sensation is uncomfortable and strangling and he has to double over and cough, his shoulders heaving. He glances back though a sore, aching haze and glimpses Gokudera standing over Tsuna's unconscious form, his hand in a fist, his pristine face stony. Then realization seems to dawn and the youth collapses next to Yamamoto, quaking in tiny increments.

"I'm sorry," he says, hushed, shivering on the icy floor. "Tenth…" He feels old and tired and entirely useless, departing into a bitter, stark silence.

Yamamoto opens his mouth to speak but all that escapes him is harsh, labored breathing and he wonders if he has been rendered mute. He swallows, wets his lips, and tries again. His voice is soft and hoarse, the strain on his vocal cords yanking crudely at his throat.

"Gokudera. Gokudera, are you okay?"

"Shamal," Gokudera breathes painfully.

Yamamoto is hurt, his eyes darkening in confusion. It should have been his name Gokudera was crying out, not Shamal's.

"Do you really want him that bad?" Yamamoto asks regrettably, his tone raw.

"No… you moron." Gokudera makes a disgusted sound, his brow knitting in aggravation. "I'm… moving out of Shamal's place tomorrow." He doesn't know why he chose to tell Yamamoto that, of all things. It is completely irrelevant to the situation at hand.

"Oh… okay," Yamamoto whispers, and then coughs weakly, his voice failing him.

Gokudera glances vaguely over at his prone body. "Hey… don't die on me now."

Yamamoto manages a rickety smile. "I won't." He reaches for Gokudera's hand and threads cold fingers through his own. Gokudera lets him, too tired to refuse, and the touch warms him, feeling torturously familiar.

That's how Tsuna finds them when he wakes up--Yamamoto with his eyes closed, his hand tight around Gokudera's, and Gokudera staring at the ceiling, looking utterly exhausted.

Love sure was a bitch.


The hospital smells crisp and clean, like lemons and disinfectant. Gokudera thinks it's probably a bad thing that he's so used to this type of environment. The person behind the front desk had told him the patient's room number and added that there was someone else visiting there already. He wonders if it is Yamamoto's father.

Taking the elevator to the second floor, he walks down the hallways in silence, scanning the rooms blandly. A nurse passes by him, pushing a pregnant woman in a wheelchair. The woman is smiling as they converse, resting her hand on the curve of her belly. She winces once, but says something indistinct and laughs. She catches Gokudera's eye for a split second before he turns the corner. The contact is fleeting; two strangers who have simply met the other's gaze in a mass of people.

But… in that short moment, Gokudera had seen the lady smile. It was a small smile, a mother's smile, but it had been directed solely at him and as he walked along he felt strangely grateful, the strings of discord in his chest loosening and fading away. Did his mother smile like that when she was expectant with him? It is a curious, melancholy thought.

At last, he determines the room he is looking for is at the end of the hall and he slows his pace, feeling self-conscious. He isn't too sure why he feels such a strong urge to go see Yamamoto. He had told himself he owed him--as much as he hated to admit it--and was under obligation to at least thank him for what he had endured. It was common courtesy, really. It wasn't like he was worried about the youth. Yamamoto proved ridiculously difficult to kill when faced with the task. Gokudera knows he will no doubt pull through a full recovery, so no, seeing Yamamoto in a hospital bed isn't something that concerns him too greatly. Still…

Gokudera glimpses the face of someone he knows all too well and he pauses in the middle of the corridor, pleasantly surprised.

"Oh, Tenth?"

The brunette is standing in front of Yamamoto's room, as though he has just stepped out. Hearing his voice, Tsuna whirls around to look at Gokudera, his eyes wide, and immediately bursts into tears.

"Gokudera! Gokudera, I'm s-so sorry, I… That must have been…! I'm sorry--" Tsuna starts to reach out towards him but pulls back suddenly, staring down at his hands as though they are some sort of an abomination. Gokudera can see the thoughts that are speeding through the young boy's mind: My touch must repulse him so much… I'm disgusting… Regret rises to the surface of his stricken face and he just stands there, shaking. His fists are clenched firmly by his sides, his shoulders trembling hopelessly.

"I'll understand if--you never forgive me…" He flinches in surprise when Gokudera gathers him up into his arms and hugs him with all the strength he has. Heat floods the brunette's cheeks.

"G-Gokudera?"

After a subdued moment, he receives his answer. "How could you ever think that what happened was your fault?" Gokudera asks quietly, grievously, every word brimming with gentle reproach. "He wasn't… You weren't you. I'm okay. I'm okay," he repeats with conviction.

Tsuna relaxes fractionally, the warm embrace soothing his ravaged thoughts.

"Even so… I'm s--"

Gokudera hushes him with an impatient intake of breath and pushes his head into his shoulder to prevent him from speaking again.

"Don't be."

Tsuna raises his arms and returns the hug delicately. After what seems like perpetuity, he loosens his grasp and draws back to smile a happy, broken smile at Gokudera. "Yamamoto… He's been asking for you."

The taller youth blinks. "He has?"

Tsuna nods, brushing invisible tears away from his gaze. "You should go talk to him."

Gokudera straightens up, the affection in his countenance blending with puppy-eyed admiration. "You're the best, Tenth. Really. No one can even compare."

Tsuna shakes his head in embarrassment. "Gokudera…"

"Hai, hai," he laughs gently and waves goodbye, watching Tsuna's petite form disappear from view before turning back to the room with a sober look on his face. He reaches for the doorknob, hesitates, and then turns it soundlessly, stepping in.

Yamamoto looks up quickly, his placid eyes large and credulous.

"Hey," Gokudera starts. "Gokudera," says Yamamoto at exactly the same time.

They stop; fidget. "You first," they blurt simultaneously. Gokudera frowns and Yamamoto looses a mellow laugh, rubbing the back of his neck.

"Well… sit down." He motions toward the chair next to his bed.

"I won't be here long," Gokudera informs him, but takes a seat anyway. He clasps his hands together and tries not to look at the bandages around Yamamoto's neck. "Um…" The silence is awkward and disastrously obvious, threatening to ingest them both. "The food here sucks, doesn't it?" he comments lamely.

Yamamoto coughs out a chuckle. "Yeah… sure."

The uncomfortable atmosphere seems to be constructed out of thin, opaque glass; a fake, plastic theme for the false extrication between them. Gokudera doesn't know what to say.

"So…" The word hangs in the air like a receding echo. He trails off and sighs, unsure of how to continue. "…Never mind."

"Quite the conversationalist, aren't you?" Yamamoto jokes, and Gokudera gets annoyed, mostly because it's so much easier to feel angry at him than it is to feel anything else.

"I hate it," he mutters, "when you do that." Do I? Really?

Yamamoto gazes at him in surprise. "What do you mean?"

Gokudera halts, considering. "No… it's nothing." He bites his lip and makes a move to get to his feet. "Maybe I'd better leave."

"No, wait!" Yamamoto intervenes swiftly, latching onto Gokudera's shoulders with a sense of panic belying the action. He falls silent. "…Please," he adds softly.

"…Alright," Gokudera says, taken aback, but Yamamoto doesn't let go. "…?"

"Gokudera," Yamamoto whispers. "I… I love you."

Gokudera stiffens. "Don't--"

"Wait--let me finish. These past few weeks… I've been going crazy. I can't stop thinking about you. You're everywhere to me, and I can't live without you."

Stop, Gokudera thinks terribly, but his tongue is frozen to the roof of his mouth and Yamamoto looks intolerably wounded. Stop it. If you don't stop, I won't be able to turn you away this time. You're my weakness, and I have to learn to live without you. We're both better off this way. Yamamoto… You can't lose something you don't have. Yamamoto!

"Was it my fault, Gokudera?" Yamamoto is asking brokenly. "Did I do something wrong?"

Yes you did, you bastard, you made me love you like I've never loved anyone before.

"I know I can be a little clueless sometimes, and there are many things I don't understand, but… I've been in love with you ever since we met. I want to know more about you, Gokudera, I want to know everything. I want to be your important person, to have you trust me as much as I trust you. I want… to hold you. To be with you. Is that… too much to ask? I'll never stop feeling this way.

"Even if you don't love me anymore. Even if…" Yamamoto stops, his voice shaking, and lowers his gaze. "Listen, Gokudera. Talk to me, lie to me, I don't care, but please--please. I want you to know that… I still love you. I love you so much it hurts." His words fade away and his fingers are trembling where they grasp the warmth of Gokudera's shoulders. A thick silence settles over the room, heavy and despairing.

"You…" Gokudera chokes out finally. "Damn it, I…"

Yamamoto squeezes his eyes shut, his chest constricting to a point where it is painful to breathe. He is prepared for harsh, cutting words, for a familiar agony to blossom anew in the empty, gaping hole where his heart used to be. Suddenly:

"I love you, too--" Gokudera cries in frustration, and Yamamoto's eyes fly open in shock when there is an angry pressure on his lips.

He realizes this may be the only chance he has to claim Gokudera, and he crushes the slender form to his body with his arms in an effort to keep him from running away.

"Ahn--"

Gokudera tries to push them closer together, the flat of his stomach against Yamamoto's own as his insistent mouth weaves a story of loss and struggle. He tastes thrilling and exotic and forbidden, his cool lips damp with devastating anguish. He is all Yamamoto has ever truly wanted.

Yamamoto's fingers entwine with silver hair to pull back Gokudera's head, granting further admittance. He is lost now; he scarcely remembers ending the kiss but he can recall the brief, vivid instant they make eye contact after breaking off for air.

"I need you," Yamamoto whispers desperately, commandingly. "Now."

Gokudera stumbles away from the bed to lock the door and he is back before Yamamoto has a chance to blink.

The Italian's hair is tastefully disheveled, his lips moist and lush. He climbs unsteadily on the mattress, knees on either side of Yamamoto, but he pushes him back down when he tries to sit up straight.

Yamamoto stares at him wordlessly, his chest heaving.

Gokudera unzips the teen's pants, his hands trembling, and Yamamoto quickly brings his face to his.

"You don't have to do this," he breathes adamantly.

In response, Gokudera slides his fingers down lower and touches him.

"Nn--!" A sharp intake of breath and Yamamoto is oblivious to everything else, his mind a muddled anarchy of pulsating colors and scorching, burning heat. He gasps, arching his spine and gripping Gokudera tightly. His thumbs sink into delicate skin just below prominent hipbones, his fingers curling up on the other side and ensuring that red, crescent-shaped marks will be left by morning. There is a rustle of clothes; a subdued thump as they are tossed to the side and something slick tests him. He can't feel anything but roiling passion, all around, engulfing, suffocating…

"Hold on," he rasps gratingly, though he yearns to say otherwise. "You're not ready yet."

"Just…" Gokudera lines himself up with Yamamoto. "Let me…" He lowers himself onto him, pushing down steadily until the teen almost loses his mind at the achingly tight heat consuming him inch by inch.

He looks up through a veil of hazy mist and sees Gokudera hovering over him, tears gathering in the corners of his eyes. The dim, fluorescent lights on the ceiling create the illusion of a white crown circling his lustrous hair. He looks stunning. Yamamoto shifts slightly on the bed and Gokudera's breathing hitches, grasping the strewn blankets rigidly. The mixture of pain and desire on his face is too much.

"Oh, God--" he whispers thickly. "Ah--"

Yamamoto drives his hips up and Gokudera loses stability, collapsing over Yamamoto's chest with a strangled moan.

He has not gone this fast before, and never in this position.

Yamamoto knows it must hurt and he wants to slow down, to explain that he can't afford to waste time lest this be the last moment he'd ever spend like this, inside of Gokudera. But the best he can do right now is kiss away Gokudera's tears and pivot his hips again, thrusting deeper, deeper--

"A-ah, fuck…"

Gokudera bites the side of his neck in an attempt to muffle his whimper and a shudder travels Yamamoto's entire length at the arousing warmth.

"What you said earlier--did you mean it? Do you love me?" he pants vaguely, shivering as the sheets twist around his thighs and cool air hits exposed flesh. Gokudera trembles violently and a husky moan vibrates in his chest at the incredible friction. His cheeks are flushed, his pulse escalating as the sensation of skin on skin ripples through his body.

"Ah, wait--nh, s-stop--"

Yamamoto's brow furrows, his breathing heavy as he becomes more forceful, more demanding.

"Tell me," he rumbles close to Gokudera's ear, fingers trailing across a sinful expanse of flesh. The youth is lost, spiraling downwards into white fire that is bliss incarnate, his chest heaving with sobs each time their hips connect.

"Nng--!!"

"Do you?"

"Y-yes," is Gokudera's barely discernable answer, his shaking frame tensing. "Oh--Yama--"

And Yamamoto can see Gokudera then, bits and pieces of his tough, unbreakable visage cracking and revealing composed vulnerability hidden in the dip of his collarbone and the frightened glint in his jade eyes. He is giving himself up, Yamamoto realizes, and he loves him all the more for it.

"Then," he whispers roughly, "don't leave me again."

Gokudera gasps at the sudden pressure, his voice caught halfway between a cry and a moan. He clenches his jaw as Yamamoto brushes closer. His expression is distressfully alluring, a perfect shade of pink suffusing his beautiful face. Yamamoto kisses him with soft, wet lips, his vision blurring with--what are they--tears?

He is crying and he doesn't know why.

"…Don't ever leave me again."


It is the greatest feeling in the world, to feel as though you belong to someone you love.

Yamamoto's arms are tight around him even in sleep, the stature of his flawless face breathtakingly handsome. There is a small crease in his brow as he frowns, still dreaming. Gokudera smoothes it out with a clandestine kiss, watching in silence as the youth's lips relax. He doesn't want to think right now; all he wants is to stay like this forever, pressed close to Yamamoto's absolute body without the troubles following an affiliation. Though what he is going to say when the youth wakes up is unspeakably beyond him.

He has neither the strength nor will to sigh. Gokudera rests his head back on that warm chest and closes his eyes.

The quiet is welcome.


Maybe…

Theirs is an extraordinary love, transcending space and time.

Just maybe.

He means nothing to him, and yet…

Everything's going to be okay.

He means everything to him.

"Aishiteru."

-x-

Fin


A/N: Frick to the yeah. I'm still happy about this fic being done. -dances- I apologize to the people who have been waiting on me for… quite a while now. Heh. I really enjoyed writing the risotto scene… and the ice cream fiasco…

I secretly ship ShamalxGokudera, TEEHEE (my pedophile senses are tingling…) Oh--

Here are the translations to the Italian that appears in the text… I used a basic translator so the actual Italian phrasing may be wrong, but this is what they're supposed to mean:

(1) "No," Shamal is saying firmly. "No smoking. If you start again it'll be even harder to quit this time around."

Gokudera glares at him. "Maybe I don't want to quit this time."

"I'm not giving you a choice," Shamal replies coolly, and Gokudera seems on the verge of furthering the quarrel when the doctor spies Yamamoto approaching. He nods pleasantly at him and leans on the roof of his car. "Here comes your boyfriend."

Gokudera bristles viciously. "He's not my boyfriend!"

Shamal shrugs. "Whatever you say." He climbs back into his car with an idle salute. "Have fun at school," he calls as he drives off.

(2) al dente - "firm (but not hard)" …-snort-

(3) all'onda - "wavy"

(4) "Who are you?" he whispers.

"Your death," Tsuna whispers back.

Oh my God. I had way too much fun making Tsuna say things like "I AM YOUR FATHER" or "I am your conscience" LOL. Seriously, I couldn't stop messing with that. It's because I couldn't figure out what to make him say after Gokudera asked him that question, and "Your death" sounded too cheesy so I made him speak Italian. Everything sounds better in Italian. xD Ah, and if anyone familiar with the language spies something wrong with how it's said in this fic, please tell me so I can fix it.

Thanks for reading!

Review? :3