chapter twenty-seven has Enma and G.
"From this day forward, Emilio Mariano Nathaniel Shimon shall henceforth live under the roof of Gaspare Tempesta, who is to provide him with all the basic necessities of food, a stable home, and an education. Come the time that young Emilio enters adulthood, he is free to live his life however he wants. Court dismissed."
Sweetness never had such a concentrated taste of victory before that day, with the thickness of a solid block and a mass greater than a mole of cotton candy. It'd been a word known in two separate forms to the young redhead, and something he hoped his brother would bring him so many times since those eleven years ago when they parted ways.
But his brother was dead. Roberto Cozart Gabriel Shimon II was dead, the foster family he lived with was more of a corporate business babysitting job, and he couldn't even remember what the real face of Roberto Shimon I looked like.
Enma stared at the judge—the one who had just told him he was free to live his life. An empty crevasse lavished his mouth, supplied with salty saliva as the rest of him trembled, the concept of liberation seeming practically impossible.
He was almost far, gone in his thoughts had it not been for the firm grip of G's hand rolling into his shoulder with an overzealous look of relief. Scarlet eyes turned their way to the man who came in pairs with Tsuna's big brother—and all three, when G, Giotto, and even his brother were best friends.
"For a moment I didn't think I'd be able to get you." G's voice dropped in volume, gentle as a spring breeze as he pushed unfurled locks of his mop-hair, and a look of scrutiny passed through his eyes. The brightest pigment of red managed to flutter across the teenager's face; an action that often went unnoticed by the adult. How? "I'm gonna…talk things over with the judge—see what I've got to do, alright?" Much gentler, those serene red orbs fluttered with concern. "You alright, kid?"
"…stunned," Enma mumbled. Even after a week with his voice back, Enma felt as if he'd used all excuses in the book and shunned the poor adult away. He felt ashamed, knowing his big brother wouldn't approve if he shut out the world. It had been a topic they'd talked about often because of their father, but he was only five years old. So many thoughts ran through his mind—from the Shimon Family to ending up in Shimon, the town, and…meeting Tsuna. Meeting everyone.
Tsuna had left their little civilization and returned with an entirely new world. One he wasn't familiar with.
G nodded slowly, pulling away with much reluctance to speak to the judge along with child services. It was a silent, unintentional understanding between them, where the adult had it in his mind Enma still wanted nothing to do with him. That was wrong. To be back in a world where his best friend reigned—with friends who didn't have him scared, and a brother who was sweet and loving—Enma wanted G more than the world.
In the two weeks they'd gotten to know each other, he'd never seen an adult fumble or react in such a way none of the others in his life would. G tried hard to keep his attention, and tried twice as hard to befriend him. It led to a lot on Enma's mind.
He wasn't Tsuna.
In so many ways the similarities were there, but throughout the years and core knowledge, Enma knew that he and his best friend were clearly two different people. He thought before silently leaping, and Tsuna tended to lunge head first when processing only half the thought. G seemed to understand that, patiently waiting for any answer without second guessing or horrid questioning, and had even volunteered to expand his knowledge on Italian. There was nothing more in the world Enma wanted more than to know the language of his origins.
Turning his attention, Enma's eyes crept across the room, and very grimly (though not surprisingly) Zakuro-papa and Kikyo-mama stared back, faces firm. There was no outburst, no scowl, or any physical sign that they would suddenly grow violent.
All of his foster-siblings remained at home for the time being, and the crowd involved with his case was small.
Enma turned his head down the aisle as his best friend whirled through the doors, eyes wider than they'd ever been with Giotto on his trail. Before the redhead had a chance to say anything, Tsuna's arms flung around his neck—a tight, death grip and he held the desk before he had the chance to fall over. He'd always been smaller than the brunet, so it came as no surprise, but he finally hugged back. "Hi."
"Hi." Cheeks abashed, the brunet turned away with a crooked, timid smile (he loved that about Tsuna. He loved the sincerity glowing through Tsuna's face, followed by the humbleness that made him a better man) before his lips curled into worry. "So…what happened? How was the case?"
The redhead raised his gaze, meeting eyes with Giotto for the first time since the hospital, followed by a much taller blond that was directly behind him. Tsuna noticed.
"That's Dino. My other brother." The other teen turned a fervent pink, gesturing to the pair as they gave a greeting's salute, and his face twisted with a small smile. "I…I almost didn't recognize you. If it wasn't for that Band-Aid on your nose and all."
Matching the other boy, Enma's cheeks stained the same red of his hair, and he shrugged. "We won the case."
"You won the case," Tsuna repeated. It was a charmingly laughable sight, watching all of the little gears spin like clockwork in his best friend's face. An irrevocable grin of relief spread across those lips, and he actually seemed giddy. "S-So you get to come with us?"
Enma nodded. His head still felt fuzzy from the news, along with waking up early that Friday morning to speak with Child Services. November's crisply cold weather stung at the tips of his fingers, and his new scarf…a gift from whom, he realized, was his new guardian, tangled about his cardigan and any other neat clothes he had to put on for the "occasion."
"Did you really have a doubt, little brother?" Giotto's voice teemed with a casualness G wouldn't have known he and his best friend both shared. Their tone of voice; the way they spoke—there was a similarity and livelihood, even if one friend was strict to the other's casualty.
The latest older brother to Tsuna's family smiled, leaning into the other blond goofily before extending a hand. "You're under good hands when it comes to G. But uh, are you two dating?"
Enma shook his head just as the brunet offered a sheepish and flustered smile. Tsuna's natural talent involved his bashfulness, after all. He took his best friend by the hand, fingers tangling together, and felt Tsuna squeeze in return.
"We're just friends." Tsuna smiled softly before they all turned their attention toward G, who finally seemed to be finishing up his conversation with Julie from Child Custody, and another G had hired as their lawyer. Someone named Alaude.
Light red eyes followed to Enma's form, locking firmly, and reluctantly did the adult's lips contort into a smile. The trio parted ways briefly before taking the proper steps toward Enma. Realizing he hadn't moved, Enma nudged Tsuna in the arm lightly and scooted closer to…well. He looked to Dino and Giotto from the corner of his eye. To his new family.
"You heard everything the judge said." Alaude spoke curtly, pushing what appeared to be reading glasses on his face as he looked at what appeared to be a manila folder. "G is now in charge of your wellbeing, your health, education, and any other absolute necessity. All that's left is to pick your transcript from the school and enroll you into Namimori first thing when we get back home. You want me to do that myself, Boss?"
Julie erupted in a tight fit of giggles. Eyes darting to his Social Services agent, Enma looked at the man who couldn't have been more than in his late twenties. He flashed a tiny smile, mouthing a quiet thank you, and taking what would probably be the last look at his agent. Julie Katou: a man who wore flashy clothes, loved women and wore the gaudiest coke-bottle glasses Enma had ever lain eyes upon.
There were moments Enma doubted Julie knew what he was doing—and often was he proven wrong. Julie may have been odd, but he certainly knew how to do his job—otherwise without the combined forces of both Julie and Alaude he'd never end up living with G. Though, since the man dyed his hair that heinous color of a clowny orange, Enma yet again couldn't take him seriously.
"I guess this is our parting then, isn't it?" Julie raised his voice, then as any time he'd ever met with the adult, his agent pecked a rosy kiss to his hair before his departure. "Seeing as you're set with Tempesta, our job is done~" As Julie directed his attention elsewhere, Enma felt Tsuna's hand tighten against his own. "Ooh. I remember you."
"Er." Tsuna shifted, something he always did when he was incredibly uncomfortable. From the corner of his eye, Enma could see mortified heat rushing to the brunet's face. "Ditto."
"Take care of the kid for me." His agent raised his voice with good nature, hand patting G on the back, before turning his head. For the last few minutes before his departure, they watched the same newfound redhead scrutinize all that was to be Giotto Vongola. Giotto in turn was no close to phasing than either his brother or pointing out any of Julie's oddities. He did, however, scoot closer to Tsuna's side without word. "You're a very pretty man."
"…So I get a lot." Giotto tilted his head wondrously, and from the side Enma felt Tsuna jerk, concerned.
"We should get dinner."
"We shouldn't." The blond's voice shifted briefly, and Enma took notice as Tsuna fell into Giotto as naturally as Giotto fell into him. They hadn't been this close the last few times Enma'd seen them. Right? "I'm seeing the lawyer."
For a long, stern moment, no one said a thing. Julie, bored and somewhat drunken expression radiating from his features, laughed and shook his head majestically. "How anticlimactic. I'll see you later then, Giotto Vongola, no?~" One last kiss to Enma's head and the strange man was off.
They stood still in silence, the small crowd who had come to witness the trial having dispersed. Breaking into motion, Enma let go of Tsuna's hand for a brief moment to collect the paperwork and suitcases brought that'd been taken along with them. G followed mutely, no word passed while either redhead flittered and scooped things up.
From the corner of his eye, Enma saw Tsuna turn his head between the trio of adults, and it was an interesting sight. If Giotto was indeed involved with the lawyer as they said, Dino didn't look like a happy man. Alaude seemed apathetic, but a familiar stress and creases between Giotto's brow, caught in the middle of their mess. Finally, the brunet gave up between them all (Enma hid a smile, noting that Tsuna was in the middle of another growth spurt) and helped gathered everything.
"What time is your flight?" Alaude was the first to speak.
Dino seemed stunned. "At…nine this evening. I'll be taking the plane overnight."
"G-san?" Tsuna's voice was soft and timid as ever, barely audible. Ironic, since Enma had been the one to get the surgery on his vocal cords.
Like the rest of the day had been going, Enma waited, eyes falling to many strips of paper while G looked up, acknowledging his best friend's little brother, and smiled. "Long time, no see huh, kid?"
Tsuna was a hugger. It wasn't a surprise to Enma as it was to the adult redhead when Tsuna swooped through and wrapped his arms around G. The same adult looked to Enma, puzzled and taken aback, but said nothing. Red fluttered to the teenager's face, matching the darkest hues of his red hair as he stacked papers and grabbed the scarf the man was so fond of.
"Um." Predictably, the brunet pulled away with sheepish pink spreading across his face. He smiled embarrassedly and nudged Enma gently in the arm. "That was…thank you. For taking care of Enma."
"Pleasure was mine." Enma almost laughed listening to G's tone drop an octave. He himself had endured his new guardian's soft side, running around and worrying about the teenager's wellbeing. The G here and now, however, retained a nurture Enma'd only seen when the man was taking care of Tsuna. "He's…interesting."
And quiet. Really quiet. Fingers lacing around Tsuna's once more, he stood at the tip of his toes and wordlessly wrapped the scarf around G's neck. He wrapped it delicately, eyes glued to the wool of the soft material, and smoothed it against the adult's chest. G hadn't said a thing, but Enma knew he was being watched.
Finally, he yanked at Tsuna's hand, quick to wipe a sweaty palm and gestured toward the exit. "…we should go."
"There's a lot that needs to be done, isn't there?" Tsuna smiled tentatively and leaned into the shorter boy. Huh. Enma was shorter than his best friend now. "Gathering up your things, getting your transcript. Have…you talked to anyone recently? Longchamp? Fran-san?"
Enma shook his head. G had been going back and forth to get his schoolwork, but apparently he'd been excused until custody was settled. The first week with G focused on checkups to get rid of that God-forsaken pneumonia, then being prepped for surgery. The second week, on the other hand, he caught up and turned in all his homework, took medicine, and was taken out on 'bonding' attempts with G. He turned his attention as a hand squeezed his shoulder and flashed a look of confusion.
"So far the plan is to get something to eat and check these guys into a hotel." G gestured to the back where certainly Alaude and Giotto staggered behind. Oddly enough Dino seemed nowhere in sight, yet no one questioned why. "You've got your last appointment with Doctor Nowaki tomorrow, and we'll see where to go from there."
Enma nodded, red swelling in his cheeks as he leaned into Tsuna to the point neither one felt comfortable. He could hear Tsuna nervously laughing in the corner of his ear, and it only made him more nervous.
"Gaspare, you're scaring the kid." More daring than either one, Giotto offered a primp chuckle.
The redhead stared at the ground, face simply darkening from embarrassment and shame. He felt Tsuna nudge him sympathetically in the arm, he, too, probably laughing at the current situation. Instead he quickened their pace down the hall so they were out of earshot of the adults. "How was living with your brother?"
"How was living with G-san?" Tsuna arched an eyebrow of both worry and interest. Enma felt the last heat from his toes raise to his cheeks and nonchalantly shrugged. "Giotto's been going out on dates with Alaude-san. Er, real dates."
"You don't seem happy about it." None whatsoever. His best friend's brow curved until the small crinkles could be seen in the middle, and the boy attempted a shrug. When Tsuna turned, Enma did the same. He hadn't the slightest idea where they were going.
Tsuna's entire demeanor shifted into apparent trouble, teeth biting against his lips as an exasperated sigh escaped his lips. "I'm really happy that you're moving to Namimori with us. With me."
"But it can be a bit of a soap opera going through things." Immediately the brunet glowed a sheepish pink and hilariously blanched at the same time. "I'm in between dealing with a friend who's in love with his straight same-gendered best friend only not-really-straight, I-I've got a date with a girl a-and don't know how to tell her I'm not straight, Giotto and Alaude are trying to put a label on their relationship, but it makes Dino really unhappy and…then there's you."
"Then there's me," Enma repeated softly. He shrugged nonchalantly and analyzed his own background. Tsuna and he had been best friends since they were six after his big brother unwillingly walked out on him, then said brother died of leukemia, which could possibly transfer to the anemic Enma, who contracted pneumonia and was in the middle of regaining his voice. Not only that, but in some twist of fate, Giotto and G were best friends with big brother Cozart. "Yeah. Your life's sort of soap opera-y."
"It's nice," Tsuna confessed softly. Suddenly realizing his own words, he stood three inches taller in his skin and shook his head. "N-Not the whole soap opera thing, b-but…living with Giotto is nice."
"You're smiling now."
"Am I?" Oddly enough this hue of red was different from the others the brunet normally sported. Enma made note to study the change in his best friend's behavior later. Tsuna shrugged, tentatively smiling again before it became fuller, and more relaxed. "I…I am."
"He's come a long way then, hasn't he?" They finally arrived at a pair of glass doors, where people exited and entered. A yellow taxi rested on the road, but considering there were now five in their group he had a feeling they'd need another taxi. Enma brought his focus at hand, thoughts involving Giotto's known behavior. Self-sufficient. Charming. Delicate. Sometimes through that charm, it seemed like Giotto flirted with every person in sight, but now with Tsuna there was a mutual difference between the both of them. Tsuna was not timid, and anytime the brunet spoke, Giotto was first to listen.
Granted, it'd only been twenty minutes since Tsuna came running through double doors and nearly tackling him to the ground, but that was beside the point. The moment Tsuna spoke of his brother, his voice didn't jump three octaves higher, and he wasn't looking for a constant approval that Tsuna often did with other people. Honestly, Enma confessed to himself, they barely acted like brothers. Giotto was treating Tsuna as an equal than a little brother.
Getting tired of standing up, Enma caught glimpse of the flight of stairs descending toward the streets of Shimon. He sat, pulling his best friend along with him, and waited for an explanation. It was raining. People scurried hurry and about, trying not to fall victim to the mild shower, but Enma couldn't have cared less.
He loved it when it stormed.
On the other hand, Tsuna nearly jumped over him when thunder clapped, eyes widening four times their usual size. Enma bit back a smile. His best friend's acrophobia just didn't make sense even though Tsuna loved stargazing and cloud watching. Enma himself loved to stay close to the earth—grounded—but even he had a deep attachment to skylight.
"…you called me last week, saying you needed to 'remember who you were.'" The redhead nudged his best friend lightly, eyes mesmerized as the storm danced. Obviously it meant Tsuna was in some sort of trouble, but right after the little confession, they sat for ten minutes without saying a word. "And after that, Gokudera-kun and Yamamoto-kun came to pick you up."
"Oh." The other teenager's expression dropped softly and he leaned back against the stairs before picking at the loose ends of his jeans. "I didn't…want to make you worry."
"Well, you did." Enma avoided sugarcoating the truth. "I worry about you as much as you worry about me, you know."
"You don't have to."
"Then you don't have to worry about me." Knowing he won the argument with only half an attempt, Enma hunched over, chest against his knees as he took the declaration to heart. "I know you. You spent your entire life worrying about me to distract yourself from worrying about your brother. Then suddenly, Nana makes you move in with someone who thought of you as the bane of his existence, and takes you away from all of this. I was angry at them. I thought…I thought I'd never like the Vongolas, and they were our enemy, but here—now…I feel like I'm talking to an entirely different person who's trying to return to the past."
"But the past—"
"The past sucks, Tsuna." Enma looked at his best friend, shrugging lightly. His voice was beginning to hurt again, strained from sudden overuse, and he nudged the other boy lightly in the arm. "And it's a good reason that it sucks, because now…now the way you look at your big brother. It's different."
Surprisingly Tsuna darkened to an inelegant hue of red, from collar bone to his hairline as Enma casually pretended not to notice. After a pregnant pause, he lowered his head and his fluster slowly began to fade. "He's…most of the time I have to remind myself that he's my brother. That he's in the same category as Dino. That he's…"
"I found some locked folders on my phone." Like stepping stones, Tsuna pushed away from the conversation and took out his phone from his wallet. He looked to the other teenager gently, and at that moment Enma chose better to frown than bring another point across. He learned years ago that a puppy face worked far better than any spoken words. Something about being cute or whatever. "They're of Cozart-san."
That was enough for Enma to forget all about his best friend's problems. Taken aback, he stared at Tsuna with much surprise and hesitantly looked to the phone. Tsuna brought it closer until their knees were touching and went through photos.
"He didn't have any photos of Cozart hung up the last time I visited," Enma commented quietly.
"There are…at least five photo albums I know of that are full of your brother." Tsuna's voice turned quietly distant and he pressed the lower button on his iPhone. "Giotto says that he'd rather preserve them in a photo album than risk endangering them on the wall. But…h-he has a lot. And a lot of other photos are just on this phone. This used to be his personal one."
"Your brother's really rich."
"Both of them." Tsuna's expression morphed differently, nose scrunching before he regained his expression.
Finally the screen loaded, and in Italian scripture, Enma easily made out the letters that spelt out, C-O-Z-A-R-T. His breath hitched, and even by a red-blobbed thumbnail he knew it was his brother. Taking the initiative, he selected the album, and the first picture hilariously enough seemed to be Giotto and Cozart's faces meshed together while trying to figure out the phone. His brother looked…ethereal. Rusted red, unruly hair, maroon and delicate eyes—and his hat. Cozart loved to wear hats.
The next picture produced a iggle in the back of Enma's throat. Cozart sat on some desk with the Vongola emblem (bullet and all) pressed proudly to the desk. He wore a weary smile and G stood parallel to him, eyes twice their size and mouth agape. There wasn't a tattoo.
"When do you think he got the tattoo?" Tsuna looked to him curiously.
Enma shrugged. Judging by the village scenery and the fact they were hanging out in what appeared to be an office, it was long ago. Not long enough though. "Probably after my brother died."
"They look young in some of these pictures," Tsuna commented quietly after they surfed through the first dozen. He smiled quaintly, pink teeming through his cheeks. "Hard to believe that this is what they looked like when they were our age."
"You and Giotto look a lot alike. But he still needs to cut his bangs." Enma shrugged as he looked to a different picture obviously taken during Christmas. Giotto had kissed Cozart on the cheek under the mistletoe, looking no more than sixteen or seventeen, and the redhead in return apparently didn't expect it. A quiet sadness rested in his brother's eyes, and the next picture—taken right after the kiss—although a small inch of his lip creased upward, Cozart had pulled his hat over his eyes. "He looks shorter than you in these pictures."
"Is that a good thing?" His best friend smiled gently. "You and Cozart-san could be twins."
"…thanks." He felt the red tingle in his cheeks, pride glowing in his chest. Cozart's hair seemed to be half an inch shorter, but Tsuna was right. They had the same, fuzzy red hair and odd red eyes. The next picture, he blinked and did double take.
"I think…" Tsuna tilted his head. "I'm pretty sure that's your baby sister playing with turtles."
Mami? In a picture of a little girl looking no older than two, her pudgy hands rested on two turtles stacked upon each other and looking incredibly confused and disconcerted. Enma wouldn't blame them, he snorted. Though tiny herself, Mariana-Emilia looked like a naïve little girl who was oblivious to the destruction being caused. Wordlessly, Enma ran his finger across the screen and another string of pictures were to be seen. Plenty were of a smiling Cozart with a G that looked like he'd just been one-upped (proving Giotto probably took the pictures), and others included pictures of little kisses and small gestures of affection between their brothers.
"Do you…think we look like that?" Tsuna paled worrisomely as they came across another picture of Cozart with his hands wrapped around Giotto's form.
"I think we look worse." Enma shed a quiet giggle and shook his head, much to the dismay of the brunet. Flipping the screen to the different ages Cozart, Giotto, and G seemed to share, there were more pictures (some, oddly enough, of just the turtles again. One even had them, what appeared to be an incubator full of chicken eggs, and a reflection of a horrified G stomping toward the cameraman—Giotto) and pictures of Cozart with less flesh to his skin. Bags were under Cozart's eyes, clumps of hair missing or thinning, and he looked like a frail little doll in his hospital bed.
You didn't need a genius to realize these were the last few years of Cozart Shimon's life.
Heart skipping a painful beat, Enma flicked the screen, and the flash of both pink and red hair let them know it was another picture of Cozart and G. Kissing.
He caught his breath, chest tightening in the process where, sure enough his older brother, frail and tiny, sat up in his deathbed. The cot dipped softly—tenderly, even—and one G. Tempesta leaned into the smaller man in what appeared to be a gentle and chaste kiss.
"There you two are. Figured you two snuck off for some makeup sex or something."
From the corner of his peripheral, Enma met Tsuna's gaze, ears turning a mutual shade of red. Still, Dino seemed to be missing from their group, but a lighthearted smile glowed on Giotto's face. He leaned casually, intimately into Alaude, and the taller man didn't seem to care. G ran a hand through his hair, sigh escaping his lips and he shrugged. "Do you have anything important to get from your Foster Home?"
Enma shook his head, eyes narrowing to the delicate tattoo that ran down the side of G's face. He'd always noticed the detailed curves and intricate weaving of red, but…now they sort or made him think of willowy branches of a bonsai tree. "Were you in love with my brother?"
Well. That left his mouth earlier than planned. G blinked, obviously repeating the question to himself, while Giotto nearly fell over had Alaude not been as stable as a brick wall. "Uh."
That was all the answer Enma really needed. Luckily Dino tripped down the flight of stairs, a little dog attached securely to his leg as he fell to the bottom.
"I take it I don't need to ask how that date of yours went?" Of all the one-worded conversations he had with the teenager, Enma had to choose that sentence as one of the rare anomalies where he spoke. G sat parallel to his best friend, still trying to maintain the wee ounce of sanity he had left after Giotto's mischievous grins and annoyingly witty attitude. They sat in the taxi, one of the two they called in order to get to the small Chinese restaurant downtown.
Dino sat in the front seat, going through documents G assumed was for Cavallone Industries. He didn't miss the pause in the elder adult's movements before he resumed most hesitantly with his work. Immediately, Giotto started with another laugh and shook his head casually.
"Worst. Date. Ever."
"Really." Granted it was a drunken experience (an explanation G would have rather never heard) that led to their so-called "relationship," but few mentions other than the normal sexcapades made a business-like Giotto falter with an admittedly light blush. Even Alaude would glare if G found a vantage point and poked a timid spot in their relationship.
"We argued, messed around, and I spent the entire evening trying to put a smile on Mr. Grumpy's face because of…unmentionable circumstances." Giotto's eyes darted to the silent blond upfront, eyebrows lowering tenderly, then crossed his arms. He shook his head. "I was scared of what I'd do if he made a move, and he was scared to make a move. We must have bumped our noses six times before ending the night with a kiss."
"So you didn't have sex?"
"I'd prefer holding hands with Tsuna over sex at this point in my life." Giotto sighed, cheerful as ever, so G left the conversation to that. Good.
He looked to his best friend, knowing he'd been worried sick how the blond would act if he wasn't taken care of. The minute Giotto and Tsuna got onto the train in departure for Namimori, he whipped out a phone and called Dino. The first couple of late night and midday calls, he had his doubts because of the blatant uncertainty visible in Giotto's voice—then it changed. G originally meant for Dino to come and watch his little brothers. Ironically, on the other hand, Giotto was the one watching Dino, and now the consequences involved the apparent mutilation of the redhead's desk—among other things.
But Giotto's personality had done a complete 180-flip through two weeks. He wasn't his old self. Giotto wasn't the man who hated his little brother and swore business over passion—and he wasn't the man who struggled to love his friends dearly and try hard not to push them away. Dino may have come to watch Giotto, but…G looked forward to the taxi blurred by raindrops in front of them. Was it Tsuna who changed him so much? Who changed him for the better?
It only made him smile. Most likely.
"So then, how are you and Little Bite-Size?"
G rolled his eyes. "Why do you call him that?"
"Originally it was because you two had red hair, red eyes, and it was funny watching both of you next to each other. Now," Giotto's expression softened and he pulled out his phone. "I think you know why I call him 'Little Bite-Size.'"
"Yeah." His answer was flat and beyond quiet. G looked down to what undoubtedly was Giotto's new background. A simple picture of all three of them together during their graduation from high school. He ran a hand through his hair and opted to look away and out the window.
"You were in love with his brother and fell for him. Hard." Giotto leaned into his best friend, and amazingly hadn't squirmed. Whatever happened over the duration of the two weeks must have gotten him over the fear of physical intimacy. A small part, at least, if he still wouldn't put out for the cranky Frenchman.
"I was also married and by the time I realized I was in love with him, Cozart was down to his final years and giving into the cancer." G narrowed his eyes. It'd been a touchy subject neither mentioned since finding out Enma's background. Every year they visited Sicily to put flowers on Cozart's grave, then remind each other of stories. This year, before the death of Cozart himself, they got his brother. How was he supposed to feel about a kid who seemed like a ghost from the past?
Only not as enthusiastic?
"You were in love with him."
"You were in love with him."
"You, giant pink-and-red M&M cookie, were in love with the little Bite Size's—"
"I get it!" G hastily glared at his best friend, vehemence scraping at his nerves into a scowl so threatening most would cower and urinate in his presence. Giotto, on the other hand, remained unaffected, and instead frowned.
"Don't treat him like Cozart." Plain and simple. Nodding his head curtly, Giotto turned his head back to his side of the car, and the back of G's throat felt empty. "Can you imagine it? That kid is the legitimate heir to the Shimon Fortune, G. He's got the ring, and the minute he enters Roberto Shimon's office, his entire life could change for the better—or for worse. You said yourself that he probably didn't need to go back to school because he has a genius-level intellect. What are you going to do with it?"
"'What am I going to do with it'?" The redhead arched an eyebrow, full attention now on his best friend. "You expect me to make a profit out of the kid?"
"Of course not." Giotto turned his head, eyes narrowing. "How are his math grades?"
"That, and to tutor Tsuna so I don't have to visit Reborn again." At the mention of the Spartan math teacher, both Vongola brothers shivered, faces blue. Giotto reiterated his previous point, crackling eyes ignited with a seriousness G hadn't seen before. "Hayato already wants to go under business, and we give him files that if he were to make a mistake would cost us billions of dollars. Cozart wanted to be an artist, but Enma? How much do you know about him?"
"…not much." G ran a hand through his hair, and closed his eyes. It struck him maybe an hour after filing the court date that he would be taking care of the brother of the last person he'd fallen in love with. He would be the nurturer to someone—who by looks— felt like a fucking clone of his old lover. G knew he was a stubborn mule that hated being the one at fault. Most of the times as little kids he ended up going along with whatever Giotto did even if it would lead to death. When Cozart entered the picture, he hated the other redhead. Unlike any other pest G determinedly rid their tiny group of, Cozart hadn't the care in the world what G did.
It was annoying. Irritating. But at a point in their life, G found he was lying if he denied liking Cozart's company. Cozart loved being friends, and G made it his job that Cozart, like Giotto, would be treated well. On occasion, anyway.
Enma was different. He rarely ever spoke, sharing a shy quality his older brother honed skillfully, and blushed a delicate red every time G said one word. He was observant, just as Cozart, and one look could spin an entire different tale. But he still wasn't Cozart.
"Think about his future," Giotto shrugged nonchalantly.
"What about Tsuna?"
The blond furtively frowned and looked to the other adult. "What about him?"
"Isn't it obvious?" G pushed thoughts of Enma away, curious to discuss Giotto's stand now that three months had passed. His best friend was more protective of Tsuna, good heart winning in favor of a sixteen-year grudge. "Haven't you thought about it?"
This time Dino piped in. "He's got a point, little brother."
"What point?" Giotto arched an eyebrow, looking between the pair with notable confusion, and the redhead gestured between the pair.
"I've…got custody of Enma now, and you've got custody over Tsuna. Iemitsu and Nana may be getting married, but they're planning to live in Italy. Tsuna has two more years of high school to finish after the wedding and he isn't going to want to be thousands of miles away from his best friend."
"Then," the blond blinked as if it wasn't a big deal, "we'll just move to Italy."
"No, that's not the point." G shook his head, truthfully surprised by his best friend's simple conclusion. They had this same conversation two months ago after Tsuna injured his ankle from the unspoken incident. He remembered the day well, how Giotto grumpily came into the office with a frown on his face. Before G managed to ask what was wrong, the blond had gone on a rant how odd it was for Tsuna to be beaten up, and criticized him for being weak.
After their resolution, however, Giotto had been nervous and cautious. He'd never seen the blond so careful and worried that he'd screw up with anything before. Many times Tsuna rendered Giotto speechless and stunned, a flustered pink staining his cheeks in a way so different from Daemon. For Daemon, it was all about fun and games but Tsuna…Tsuna was honest and quaint. He always meant what he said.
Quite frankly, G now worried what Giotto would be like if he was stripped away from his baby brother.
But oblivious and confused, Giotto merely looked between the pair, along with the taxi driver that couldn't understand Italian. He frowned, expression softening and crossed his arms like a haphazard teenager that failed to get his way. "I know what you're thinking."
"Do you?" When Dino asked it seemed like less a challenge than if G would have verbalized. The eldest adult smiled softly, regaining bits and pieces of his own cheer and sympathy sprinkled through his tone. "Remember our conversation? You said Tsuna would prefer living with me, but seeing the way he smiles…I don't believe you."
"I expected you to be antsy and panicky every time you called and reported Dino's little accidents," G confessed. He crossed his arms, amused, and smiled a little. "But that wasn't the case, now was it? Enma isn't Cozart, but Tsuna, in an essence, can be you. He doesn't adapt well, and thinks his opinion against everyone else's as a hindrance."
"You know what our first conversation was?" Dino chuckled, brown eyes fluttering to the redhead with a gentle grin. In some ways the resemblance was clearly there between the brothers. Others, Giotto was eloquent to Dino's…awkward dorkiness. Still, the eldest blond's demeanor flashed with quaint concern and he leaned forward gently. "He…told me he thought he'd never be accepted by our side of the family, little brother. You make him happy."
The taxi came to a stop once they finally came down town and the storm still had yet to stop. No one made a move to leave the car as Dino casually paid the taxi driver and Giotto held a thoughtful expression to his stature. The younger blond stared at his lap, lips unmoving until finally:
"I've thought about it."
"Good." G exchanged looks with Dino, grateful the other adult was on his side.
"But…" Giotto grew silent again. Surprisingly red scattered across the half-Italian's cheeks, eyebrows knitting together. It was an expression G expected to see when he had first mentioned Alaude and the date. After all, the pair was only a hair away from a budding relationship. However, the way Giotto glowed crimson proved otherwise, and led to more confusion. As if he realized something new, the blond's face turned redder, hand pressing against his lips before quickly opening the car door. "Never mind."
Giotto left without a word.
"You think we were too hard on him?" Dino flashed a look of concern as they crawled out of the car. Giotto was nowhere to be seen, most likely having gone and grabbed a table.
"I think we're missing something vitally important between both of them." G shrugged, and knew it was best not to pry. He'd always been the third wheel when it came to Giotto and other people, and generally became the middle person when anyone had a problem.
Dino snorted. "I feel like I'm missing something every time they're in the same room together."
"That bad, huh?" G chuckled and gestured to the small canopy at the entrance of the restaurant. As Dino took the first steps toward the restaurant, the redhead grappled his arm and held it tightly. From head-to-toe, G scrutinized the blond that he'd always considered as his older brother. The Vongola and Tempesta were just family. "How are you feeling?"
"How do you think I feel?" Dino offered a lopsided smile.
"Your brother is currently in a relationship with a man you've been chasing for years after you suddenly got rejected. Or you rejected him. You've never disclosed details and Alaude's too much of an ass to say anything to me or Giotto." G leaned carefully into a pole, fingers wrapping around cold metal, and looked across from him with a tight expression. "Don't think because we're so wrapped up in our lives that we never worry about yours."
Dino blinked. "You really are his wife, aren't you?"
"Fuck, so I've been told." The redhead smiled wryly, arms relaxing against his sides, and got a glimpse of the boys hanging around the souvenirs. Quickly he sobered, and stared at the blond expectantly. "Part of me suspects the reason why Giotto's never pursued a relationship with Alaude is because you're in his thoughts. He thinks highly of you, for some ungodly reason."
"…it's pretty much been a big misunderstanding." The mirth disappeared from the elder adult's tone. His eyes darkened distantly, and G followed the other man's trail of sight. Dino was staring at Alaude. He tried for a laugh that simply hollowed, and the struggle for a positive heart tarnished. "It's silly."
"Then why are you heartbroken?"
"I fucking swear to God, if you make me recite one of Giotto's dumbass food metaphors—"
"He," Dino breathed, face twisting, "and I…were exclusive. For a while. And then I wanted to be on his good side. So. I got to know Kyouya and. Kyouya got. Attached. We. Hadn't really decided on the name of our relationship, so. It ended up not being one and. He thought I was. Um, 'fucking his nephew.'"
That certainly wasn't something he expected. G blinked, taken aback and did a double take on the explanation. He knew for a fact that sexual tension was high between the pair, and Dino had followed Alaude around like a lost puppy every chance he got back when they lived in France. Oddly enough, this same explanation sufficed. Alaude had an incredibly possessive streak, and anything of his that was tampered with normally ended up with the perpetrator on the ground with a limb jutting in an awkward angle.
"And you never cleared up the misunderstanding?"
"Qui-ite frankly I think Kyouya has a soft spot for me." Dino rubbed an elbow, but from the way he cringed seemed like that 'soft spot' was a bruise. "And I injured his pride. For better or worse, he'd never forgive me, and…Giotto's happy. Happier than he's been in a long time."
"But you're still heartbroken. More heartbroken than you've been for a long time." G shook his head, knowing that it'd been less than a day and he was already picking things up like he never left. He was acting like the big brother to the many children that were actually his age and currently taking on problems that most of the time didn't involve him.
Dino smiled softly, and for a moment G realized the elder adult was being sincere. "I put my little brother's happiness before my own, G."
G stared at the man in front of him, expression unwavering, and was unsure of what to say. Funny. Tsuna had Dino's clumsiness, and Giotto had Dino's charm. They all had a kind, selfless heart so sweet and gentle that one would wonder if they ever tapered. Dino looked out for Giotto, Giotto looked out for Tsuna, and Tsuna looked out for…everyone.
"You're still a virgin, aren't you?" G looked from the corner of his eye and noticed Giotto in mid-conversation with both his brother and the so-called 'Little Bite-Size.' Occasionally fiery orbs would glance up, anticipating their entrance, but he hadn't said a thing.
Dino shoved hands in his hair, lacking the prudishness of his second youngest brother and the dry wit of his first youngest. "I'm half a virgin."
"That's fucked up logic."
"It's what I consider the right logic. You can have sex all you want, but there are very few people in the world you can make love with." Dino shrugged nonchalantly, eyes shifting to the subtle stormy downpour on the other end of the category. "Get the picture?"
"Oddly enough, more than you think." G stood tall and finally decided to leave the subject on the table. Instead his eyes focused on Enma, who stood at the tip of his toes and reached for a hat on the top shelf. He inspected the hat, fingers brushing against its visor, and curled his fingers into it. G's chest tightened. "We should go inside."
"Yeah." Dino agreed lightly and opened the door slowly. "We should."
"THIS ISN'T WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE."
Before Tsuna knew it, his eyes were being covered by a very small hand from the scene of Enma's doctor with…w-well, apparently his boyfriend or something. It was their last day in Shimon, and after a visit to Doctor Nowaki, Enma was free to move and reenroll at Namimori High. He'd woken up that morning with Enma by his side, sound asleep once again at the Arcobaleno Hotel Suite, and was under the odd obligation of visiting Shimon after moving away. Nothing was different.
The café still sold donuts, the jungle gym still had an odd, star-shaped dent, and the library still had a lingering scent of tuna and gym socks. They'd visited City Hall, Shimon High School, and the mall to buy new clothes and order a mattress—which, under the budget of Vongola Inc., would meet them at the Tempesta-Ugetsu Apartment. He made a mental note to ask Giotto why he didn't abuse his money like most millionaires and live in a flashy mansion.
Now, however, after a long day of going around and forcing down the habit both he and Giotto shared of turning around whenever they heard a destructive noise (because really, those generally meant Dino had broken something or got his head glued to a wall), they had to get Enma to his last check-up before the train left for Namimori that night. Alaude had apparently gone back the same night Dino left for Italy, and they weren't far from departure.
But seeing as Doctor Nowaki was currently inches away from another lip-lock with a smaller man in his office, Tsuna wasn't sure what to say. He'd seen worse; reminded faintly that his first impression of Giotto since ten years prior involved much less clothes. Er, followed by Alaude occasionally entering the living room of Giotto's old apartment with nothing but a pair of boxers and a handcuff over his left wrist. Thank God Giotto finally set boundaries, a-and all of that.
So somehow, Tsuna felt himself doing the same as he grazed a hand over Enma's lonely Band-Aid and pressed a hand over the redhead's eyes.
"I take it this is your lover?" G's voice.
"Isn't he cute?" Doctor Nowaki.
"Did you just…did you just call me cute? You freaking—GAH!" Now Tsuna was convinced he was seeing the future if Yamamoto and Gokudera ever got together. "I'm not cute, I-I'm Kamijou the Devil, a-and…"
"Déjà vu?" Giotto's voice tickled the brunet's ear, mirth dancing in his voice. He pressed a hand to the teenager's shoulder with a light chuckle after Tsuna nodded. "We're going to go wait outside, alright?"
"Sure thing." G, of course, must have seen every little sexual experience Giotto had ever experienced. The very thought only made Tsuna turn redder.
He felt a hand brush against the skin of his wrist, delicately wrapping around his arm, and was tugged out the door. Tsuna looked up to his brother (though not by much, he realized. Tsuna really was growing) and they leaned against a small rail against the wall. Fiery orbs stared back good-naturedly, not once having faltered since their arrival yesterday. "I'm beginning to see some logic in G's crazy theory."
"The one where he thinks everyone is, er, gay?" Tsuna smiled weakly and felt his cheeks stain pink. "I-I would think Gokudera-kun was the one who came up with that."
Giotto chuckled softly, raising his head elegantly in the air before folding his arms. "Speaking of Hayato—"
"Yeah. A-And Doctor Nowa—"
"Oh God, yes."
They shared a small laugh, and without even realizing it, Tsuna leaned closer to his brother. Any ounce of stress he had—any doubt—suddenly disappeared from his mind, and his brother's soft chuckles only made his spirits rise. Between worrying about Enma and worrying about Yamamoto—Giotto simply made him happy. He…loved it.
"…been so busy trying to keep Alaude and Dino from ripping each other's heads off that I forgot to see how you're doing." Giotto's voice dropped an octave and he lowered his gaze to the teenager. His eyes flickered with tender concern and amusement. "How are you?"
"Trying to keep Enma from having a fainting attack each time G-san gets more than a foot into his bubble." Tsuna smiled sheepishly and felt his cheeks turn red. "You?"
"Just…happy that at least one of my brothers is happy." It only made the brunet darken.
Suddenly the door flew open, revealing the man that Doctor Nowaki had been with, face beet red and scowl demonic. Eek. Tsuna fidgeted, moving closer to his brother instinctively as the man gave them a grouchy glare and stomped off in a different direction mumbling something about 'stupid tattoos' and 'bratty high-intellect little kids.' Doctor Nowaki popped his head out, completely oblivious to the little tantrum produced, and led the way for both Enma and G.
"You're free to go, Enma-san. I wish you the best of luck." The tall adult beamed, looking between the trio. No one expected for Enma to depart from G's side and give his doctor a hug.
A sigh of relief escaped Tsuna's throat, watching sheepishly as the doctor clung onto Enma's form tightly. Looking back at the doctor, he only shivered, remembering that although Yamamoto and Gokudera had made up, their little problems were still unresolved. If…Gokudera and Yamamoto could end up the slightest bit like Doctor Nowaki and his lover, then it would be a miracle.
"So he'll hug the doctor but not the giant pink-and-red M&M cookie." The warmth of Giotto's arm tickled Tsuna's shoulder. Tsuna bit back a smile. Giotto had become more like their older brother than he'd imagine. "Ready to go home?"
…home. With his best friend, his brother, and…and the first person in Namimori who treated him like a person rather than an inanimate object. His chest tingled at the thought, watching as Enma pulled away from the tall doctor with a quiet thank you, and couldn't resist the urge to smile.
"Yeah." Most definitely.
Yes. I know I've been saying, "I don't really like how this chapter came out recently" a lot, but I actually like this one. I'm gonna get bitched for it, I do already know. :B The thing is, this chapter mostly has G and Enma going, "Um, so we were only technically written out of the story for like a month/two weeks. Why are they so touchy-feely now?" And highlight some other things. Now onto more pressing manners, I'm taking a break from this story. A couple reasons, actually.
First off, the past two weeks I've been trying to keep updates each week for every story. With my new one for Young Justice (oddly, at least five of you are now poking at that story) that's three updates, and generally around 17,000 to 20,000 words a week for Zeph to write. I've been wanting to write before hand, but I've gotten boggled. This week and last week I tried tri-updates, which have worked, but also means that one story gets the short end of the stick. This week, it was this story, and do you know what I hate? Beating my butt trying so freaking hard to have material for each fandom to read, then ending up having to give one story the short end of the stick. And school. School sucks.
Before I get complaints and people begging and asking, why this story? It's now 27 chapters long, at least 150,000 words, and the plot has developed. I've said repeatedly that I've got other things I really want to work on, and as you can see, I wasn't bluffing when I said I had other stories to work on. Trying to think of a schedule for this story, worst case scenario being an update every two to four weeks, and honestly? That's not too bad. Updating this story lately has literally become the lowlight of my weeks since there just isn't any time for it, and I really don't want to look at it that way. And…I've been getting reviews lately from reviewers that have crossed the line without even realizing it. Painfully, stressful reviews that like I said, cross the line with extra, unnecessary comments. In all my years of writing, I've honestly rarely (or ever) had to deal with little comments like that.
I know some of you are gonna say, 'haters gonna hate,' but I do know the difference between a reviewer giving you constructive criticism and an unnecessary rude comment that you yourself admit is just absolutely unneeded. Do you? I'm sorry I'm ranting. But nowadays I feel like these reviews are walking all over me. Sorry, sorry, sorry.