Characters: Gokudera Hayato & Yamamoto Takeshi

Content: Each of them is tormented by his secret, while they dance dangerously on the edge of the border where jokes become the truth.

Tags: shonen-ai, inner conflict

Rating: T so far

Disclaimer: Kateikyoushi Hitman Reborn and its characters belong to Akira Amane.

The scorching late spring sunrays focused and reflected off the bead of sweat that slowly trinkled down the tightened cheekbone of a certain baseball player as his gaze locked onto the patched off-white ball slashing through air at an amazing speed right towards him. Baseball was natural to him; he didn't need to struggle to keep his mind focused, to predict the path of the ball's trajectory, to calculate the angle at which to swing the bat, to concentrate his energy into the end of the bat he swung around vigorously – it was all natural to him, all instinct, or so to say, his notorious "gut-feeling". The game, the movement, the swings; it was all natural to him, while the other players of the Namimori middle school team went through rigorous training to achieve the same.

Well, it's not like Yamamoto would be left off the hook when it came to training. He never missed a single practice, and while his teammates were sweating their asses off on additional form training, he'd be facing mortal danger – or getting beaten by Squalo, which was pretty much the same.

'thunk'

And the ball flew, hit by Yamamoto's signature bat swing – a mixture of the classic baseball swing and shigure souen. The teen darted off to the first base, and then straight to the next, merely flicking his gaze over towards the sky for a moment, confirming that this would definitely be another home run.

"Sugoi, Yamamoto ... – that's the third one today already... – yeah, he's totally in the mood..."

His teammates couldn't help but wonder at his prowess – and search for the ball that flew far beyond the boundaries of the netted baseball field once again.

'toink' "Ouch!"

"Are? What was that..?" Yamamoto wondered as he heard a strange noise as if the ball had hit something hard, followed by what seemed like a muffled expression of pain.

"Oi, what is it, Yamamoto?"

One of the teammates approached him, noticing the frown forming on his face, distorting the always-smiling features of the star of the Namimori middle baseball team.

"Didn't you hear anything?"

"Huh? Nope, didn't hear a thing."

"I guess it's nothing then. Must've been my imagination," replied the baseball ace, scratching the back of his neck in slight embarrassment for imagining hearing voices, flashing one of his signature 100-watt smiles. "Anyway, let's search for the ball!"

Somehow, the raven-haired teen's elation inspired nearly everyone on the team just with his energetic words, and thus they dispersed into the jungle-looking bushes behind the court, navigating their way through the thick flora while the most exhausted of them stayed behind, taking advantage of the search to take some rest, chilling in the shadow and discussing the tactics for the upcoming game.

'Geez, where did the ball go...? I knew I shouldn't have hit it that hard...'

Without noticing, Yamamoto strayed away from the rest of his team, and deeper into the bushes, following the direction of the ball's flight until he was out of sight and, given the thick leafy curtains that surrounded him, most likely out of hearing range of the rest of the team as well. However, the deeper in he strayed, the more signs he could notice – signs that he is not the first one making his way through the thickness today. A freshly broken young branch here and there... a squished bug, with his entrails spluttered over the bark of a nearby tree... a half of a footprint in the mud that still persisted from the last shower the sky blessed them with... and even – huh? cigarette ashes?

Suddenly, his instinct took over, and he could clearly sense the presence of another human being nearby. If he focused hard, he felt like he could even hear shallow breathing as if someone was almost next to him. Cautiously, he rotated his head, and located an opening that seemed to lead somewhere; the teen pushed several branches obstructing his view aside, and slowly made his way into a small clearing next to him. His heart was pounding with excitement, threatening to tear up his chest while his amber eyes focused on a young man leisurely stretched on the grass before him.

His heart skipped a beat as he recognised the silvery hair neatly clipped into a tiny ponytail.

"G-Gokudera?"

"Tch, seems you found me, yakyuu-baka," the bomber replied, tilting his head backwards to face his schoolmate who had so nonchalantly intruded into the secrecy of his hideout. His eyes were a perfect illustration of despise, the pool of olive green squished into narrow slits staring back at the intruder.

"Ah – um – I – what were you doing here, Gokudera?"

The startled raven-haired baseball player blurted out the first thing that crossed his mind, while flashing the juudaime-right-hand-man an unconvincing grin as a reply to his piercing gaze.

"I was going to have some sleep before you came to annoy me, yakyuu-baka," the storm guardian retorted back rapidly. If anyone, he certainly did ear his title – if not with his fierce fighting and his demolishing disposition, then surely with his stormy behaviour and retorts that would make anyone feel like a raging storm just passed the sky above them. No one, except the juudaime of course, was ever spared from his always raging anger once he let it loose. And that was, especially lately, rather frequently.

"By the way, you lost something, you jerk."

A rather familiar-looking battered baseball flew towards Yamamoto's head, while his hand instinctively reached out and caught it in a safe grip before it could make impact with his face and put his a-bit-over-hundred female fans into misery. The star of the Namimori middle school team suppressed could hardly suppress a grin, with the corners of his lips twitching upwards just minimally.

"So that's where it landed..." 'So that's what I've heard earlier...'

"What are you smiling about, asshole? And what the hell are you still doing here? I'll blow you to pieces if you don't–"

"Fine, fine, I'm already gone," replied Yamamoto apologetically to the furious threats of his classmate as he retreated backwards into the thick bushes, all the while with his amber eyes locked on the silver-mane fighter lying temptingly in the clearing.

His twitching corners stretched into a sincere smile once he left Gokudera's sight, a smile of true happiness; and yet, there was a tingling bittersweet taste to it.

However, the sight of this afternoon kept popping in his mind for the rest of the day persistently. After all, the training sessions with Reborn and Squalo did have some effect on Yamamoto's behaviour even in non-life-threatening situations. For one, he didn't left his guard down and, more importantly, always observed his surroundings closely as well. Nothing escaped his attention – especially not the carefully made clearing in the branches allowing one a perfect view of the baseball court while remaining unseen, and a patch of grass right before it that Gokudera tried to hide with his body, stamped flat by someone's knees.

'Hm... I wonder... since when is Gokudera into baseball...?'