All characters © Amano Akira

Summary: Tsuna recognizes the only sign of respect in Hibari's book.


Tsuna could count on one hand how many people had gotten it.

The first was Reborn, naturally. Tsuna was secretly glad that the baby chose a neutral stance on the constant clashes between the Vongola and 'insert mafia family here.' Although he had seen Reborn in numerous training sessions, Tsuna had no desire to see him in a serious battle. Even the Varia wouldn't touch him. Reborn could get away with almost anything-- not because he was small enough to go unnoticed, but because, Tsuna mused, no one dared stop him.

Hibari had not known this, on that day that he caught Tsuna, Gokudera, and Yamamoto in the prefect's lounge. Tsuna smiled, recalling the look on Hibari's face when Reborn deflected the tonfa as easily and as absently as scratching an itch. That had probably been the first time Hibari hadn't gotten his way. Tsuna noted with an uncharacteristic grim satisfaction that it would be the first of several.

The second was the Bronco Dino. Reborn wouldn't have had him train Hibari unless there was a reason behind it. At first Tsuna had seemed skeptical; Hibari was too wild a bronco to be tamed and ridden. Most people fell off. Could this guy, skinny, not much older than Tsuna and tripping over his own shoelaces really tame the punitive whirlwind that was named Hibari Kyouya?


Tsuna knew for a fact that the third was Fon, even though not many people were aware of this. Then again, not all of his famiglia had the pleasure of living with Reborn twenty four-seven. The baby let things slip--intentionally, Tsuna was pretty sure. Training to meet with their guardians of the first generation, Fon had agreed to instruct Hibari. Again, Tsuna had been skeptical. Fon seemed too kind-hearted to take on Hibari's omniscient irascibility. But then again, so had Dino Cavallone.

Most now would not notice the slight inclination forward of Hibari's head, the near undetectable drop of ice-chip blue eyes. And Fon would smile, as pleasant as ever. It almost made you wonder about Fon's coercion skills.

Suzuki Adelheid, the dark mare from Shimon proved to be the fourth. Tsuna knew little about her, but, to use an American expression, they were two peas from the same pod. She was just as austere, if not more frightening than Hibari himself. A clone, those who were acquainted with Hibari would say. Tsuna shuddered at the sudden mental image of Hibari with breasts.

And, well, the fifth and final... that was Tsuna himself.

Hibari knew not of companionship or dependency. He didn't believe in such things, and dismissed them as weak, herbivorous tendencies of the pathetically gregarious. The strongest stood on their own, and that was a way of life.

Over the years, unfortunately, this mentality had twisted Hibari into adopting the notion that he was the best, and that everyone else was weaker than he. He became stubborn, callous, and violent when he didn't get his way (which was seldom seeing as how he always made sure he got it). He had come to develop annoyance toward anybody not on par with him, which sadly, giving his talent, was most of the population. As a result Hibari spent most of his life in a state of high pissoff, unreachable, unreasonable, and lonely.

Tsuna, on the other hand, had been raised in another world. His quivering, meek disposition had resulted from a low self-esteem and lack of talent as a child. His mother loved him but had no faith in him. How could he believe in himself when no one else would? Tsuna had no hobbies, no motivation, and at fourteen had settled content with a life of failure.

Or so he thought he had. But things were different now. He had friends, family, and things worth fighting for, which made all the difference in the world. The Tsuna of last year would no more approach Hibari Kyouya than swallow hot coals.

Hibari had only known Sawada Tsunayoshi through word of mouth and reputation. The No Good Tsuna, the loserboy with no spine, the only freshman in five years to fail remedial classes two semesters in a row. These were the kind of grass-eaters that irked Hibari the most. He had no time for such people.

But then Sawada Tsunayoshi had started to become interesting.

At first only the prospect of fighting Reborn had compelled him to associate with Tsuna's gang. Due to his upbringing and mild ochlophobia, Hibari hated crowds. So, he observed them from a distance and noticed that Sawada Tsunayoshi wasn't quite the herbivore after all. A wolf in sheep's clothing, if you will.

The Hibari of last year would never in a thousand years challenge Tsuna to a fight. But things were different now, and Sawada was quickly shedding his wool to reveal more of the wolf's bristle underneath. Tsuna had agreed, sheepishly (pun intended), in that reluctant manner of his.

And after a few hours of battling, Tsuna had finally received it. The one word that Hibari Kyouya only issued to those he deemed worthy of tasting the steel of his tonfa. Even Tsuna had trouble believing it, giving what he used to be, but it was there: the slight upturn of the mouth, the raised eyebrows, the haughty, yet respectful gleam in those snowdrift eyes. And then he said it.