Of Burdens Overdue
A Katekyo Hitman Reborn! fan fiction by Hitokiri-san
A/N: I pity Gokudera in the TYL arc, I really do. Not only did he learn that he actually let Tsuna die ten years later, but he also gets to learn later that Tsuna isn't really dead, but has feigned death and let Gokudera out of the loop. I could totally imagine TYL Gokudera moping over the matter by himself after all is said and done.
The issue of why TYL Tsuna didn't let Gokudera or the other Guardians know about the plan is never quite resolved, but I do think it would leave quite a negative effect on the Storm Guardian's mind, even after the whole ordeal; especially when Gokudera has somewhat of a self-esteem issue to begin with. So I decided to have TYL Tsuna deal with the matter.
Also, since TYL Tsuna tends to flit about as an elusive shadowy figure throughout the whole arc, I feel the childish urge to pin him down in words.
I've drawn a pic to go with the story. If anyone's interested, just click on the deviantart link under my profile and voila! It will lead you there.
Crap, thought Gokudera in mild horror as he watched the Ten Year Bazooka fly out of Lambo's outstretched hands and flipped skywards. It soared through the small room, made an abrupt 90 degrees turn, and landed snugly on the Tenth. If the silver-haired teen had bothered to think about it, he'd have noted this as a gross violation of the laws of physics. That, or the bazooka was actually intended to be a homing device.
He'd tried, out of ingrained instinct, to yank Tsuna out of harm's way; but the ordeal had just been too sudden, and he'd been halfway across the room when it happened. When he'd realized it, Gokudera had immediately launched himself at his boss, but to no avail; by the time he reached where Tsuna should have been, he found himself surfing in a sudden gush of pink smoke, and his boss had disappeared into thin air.
Gokudera reiterated, clutching at his head as it connected with Tsuna's bedpost. He swore, on the spot, that he was going to confiscate Lambo's ten-year bazooka - along with his Thunder ring, Vongola box and various other armaments - for safekeeping for years to come. He'd do it so thoroughly that there was absolutely no way the cow brat could accidentally endanger the Tenth in one of his stupid escapades.
It had been irritating enough when Lambo'd shot himself, and sometimes I-pin, with the cursed thing – the use of the bazooka was always followed by all sorts of hellish commotion, as though the Bovino had actually jinxed the thing before they gave it to Lambo - but shooting the Tenth, out of all people, with it was simply unforgivable.
The day had started off well enough – well, in his sense, in that the Tenth had graciously invited him over to help out with some English homework Gokudera thought was a grave insult to the Tenth's intelligence. Reborn was out in search for - citing his own words – a decent cup of espresso, as though his current stash, bought generously with Tsuna's money, wasn't already good enough.
Neither Gokudera nor Tsuna bought the excuse, but both knew well enough to let the matter be. When the world's most feared hitman went off with a loaded M-7 for a cup of espresso, self-preservation instincts dictated that you mind your own business. Yamamoto, on the other hand, was off to his daily baseball practice. It made Tsuna glad to know that his friend had the chance to get back to his beloved sport after the whole Byakuran affair, and it made Gokudera equally glad that he didn't have to deal with the baseball idiot's stupidity this afternoon.
Gokudera ignored Tsuna's hasty explanation that no, Gokudera-kun, I am not being humble, really! I have absolutely no idea what this stuff is! and launched an impromptu lecture on the use of subordinating conjunctions and verb complements in an enthused attempt to be of service to his boss. The Tenth had looked more and more nauseous during the talk, his face taking on a deathly blue hue as though he'd been poisoned. Bianchi and her poisoned cooking flashed through his mind, and the Guardian frowned in puzzlement, sorely tempted to ask if his boss was alright.
He was distracted from his worry when Lambo hopped into Tsuna's room through the open window, heralded by a bout of loud, obnoxious laughter. Apparently, he'd been playing the mafia version of hide-and-seek with I-pin again - one that involved an unjustified amount of grenades and martial art techniques. Gokudera was about to kick the idiot out of the door for interrupting the Tenth when Lambo stopped in his tracks, taking an experimental sniff of the air.
"Tsuna, what is that?" he drawled out with childish greediness, round green eyes zeroing in on the wrapped package sitting on Tsuna's desk. Gokudera let out a small growl and laid a hand on the package protectively. Those were glutinous rice dumplings, covered in dried coconut shreds, that he'd ordered from Hong Kong solely for the Tenth's enjoyment. He had to admit that he owed I-pin for suggesting this particular confectionary, and had hoped that the Tenth would approve of it too.
"Those are for the Tenth, idiot cow. Go get your own sweets!" he snarled at the child, loud voice drowning out Tsuna's rational suggestion that they could actually share instead of fight to death for some sweets, for god's sake, no matter how expensive the air postage was.
Time seemed to freeze as the series of events unfold - Lambo threw himself at the package of confectionary with a – Tsuna thought he must be seeing things - deranged gleam in his eyes, as though he was an impoverished wolf cub rather than a pampered child. Gokudera, for his part, was now used to random family/friends/foes attempting to ambush the Tenth without warning, and promptly stopped the boy by snagging his tail. Unfortunately, this caused the various items stuck in Lambo's afro to fly out at the impact, and the teenage delinquent soon found himself showered with miscellaneous items from lollipops to hand grenades.
Tsuna looked up and found himself staring into the darkened tube of the Ten Year Bazooka. He thought, with some amount of tired resignation as he felt himself being whisked off in a familiar burst of smoke, that the day's quota of bad luck had finally caught up with him.
…On second thought, Gokudera conceded, he might have been partly at fault for his boss' demise. He absently allowed Lambo to make off with the pack of confectionaries – it simply wasn't the time for that anymore - and made a mental note to apologize formally to Tsuna after he returned from the time trip.
If, a part of his mind noted, sudden and unwarranted, he managed to come back this time.
That single thought shell-shocked him, because in all honesty they had all been treating the Ten Year Bazooka as an errant toy, something on the same level as I-pin's time bomb or Fuuta's ranking tome. These items, or techniques, were all impressive in their own right, and could be quite deadly when used wrongly; but they always seemed woefully insignificant when compared with the deadly foes they had come across. Simple hand grenades, no matter how badly thrown, could not compare to the sheer horror of being faced with Xanxus' X-guns or Belphegor's flying knives.
It was for this reason that no one had ever thought of taking the bazooka from Lambo before. They accepted the fact that the Bovino boss had seen fit to grant a legendary time-travelling device to a five-year-old child at face value, and that was that.
And then Gokudera had found himself face to face with the ugliest future possible, and began to see the bazooka in a much more ominous light. A month after the Byakuran ordeal, Gokudera still couldn't get over the shock of realizing that, ten years into the future, his boss would be lying dead in a black coffin among stale white lilies. His future self would be wandering, desperate and lost, clutching at straws in what was probably a futile effort to change the past.
Granted, they'd changed that particular future – he would never in any universe allow his boss to die again, feigned or otherwise. But he knew he'd failed Tsuna in the worst possible way in that future (honestly, where the hell was he when the Tenth attended the meeting with Byakuran, and why the hell didn't he try to stop Tsuna?), and the knowledge still kept him awake at nights.
It was no wonder, he thought with bitter regret sometimes, that the future Tsuna hadn't seen fit to entrust him with his plans of bringing down Byakuran. He had apparently become so much of a liability to the Tenth in that accursed future Tsuna had little choice but to make Hibari in charge of his plans, despite the man's notorious lack of loyalty towards both the Vongola family and its boss.
Dismissing his unfounded fear with a firm shake of his head, Gokudera stared with a kind of lightheaded apprehension at the clearing smoke. He knew, logically, who was going to appear at that spot, provided that the Ten Year Bazooka wasn't malfunctioning like it always was; and the mere knowledge of the fact turned his brain into a puddle of goo.
The artificial smoke clear eventually, and Gokudera was gripped with the momentary panic that nothing was going to appear in the 15-year-old Tenth's place. He thought of the time when the future Reborn hadn't appeared after the bazooka went off, and how he'd found out the implication of that fact. His mind wandered to the image of dark, lonely woods and a well-polished black coffin, and he felt a sudden urge to be sick.
The silver-haired teenager freaked out when a large bundle of something fell through the air, momentarily obscuring his sight as it whizzed past him and landed with a dull thud. It was, as far as he could see, a lump of black cloth. Maybe the Ten Year Bazooka was malfunctioning so badly it had decided to swap random junk for a living, breathing person this time.
Gokudera instantly felt like he'd been fooled by the cursed contraption. Letting out a sigh – half in exasperation, half in relieved tension – he knelt down to poke at the bundle of cloth. He'd need to ensure that the Tenth could get back safely, and that the bundle of mysterious material would not be jeopardizing his boss' return in any way.
"Okay. So what do we have here- aaaaaaargh!" he jumped three feet into the sky and scuttled backwards as an unruly mop of brown hair poked out abruptly from under the material in the manner of a blooming mushroom. He feverishly thought of cloaked wraiths and hooded reapers, and was considering brandishing a ward against the supernatural when the creature spoke.
"Ouch…" it muttered, and the mass of hair slid sideways to reveal, upside-down, a pair of chocolate-coloured eyes, "my chair just vanished from under me." The creature shifted slightly, and he could see what was apparently the face of a young –thankfully human – adult, half hidden under the swath of fabric.
Gokudera wondered at the familiar hue of the hair and the eyes for three full seconds before recognition slapped him in the face.
"AHHHHHH! I apologize, Tenth! I didn't mean to see you as some supernatural creature!"
Sawada Tsunayoshi, the 25-year-old Vongola Decimo, studied him with bleary puzzlement before gracing him with a tentative smile.
"Hello, Gokudera-kun," he greeted, pushing himself upright to a kneeling position with deliberate slowness as though he was unsure of his bearings. The black fabric cascaded around his shoulders, and Gokudera could now see – he was an idiot for not noticing it earlier – that it was actually a mantle, held together with metal brooches and royal red cords. It was the splitting image of the Primo's mantle Nuts would turn into in its defence mode, and it made the bomber wonder if his future boss was really wearing the box weapon right now. He didn't think so; at least Tsuna wasn't in his Hyper Dying Will mode.
At early adulthood, Tsuna looked so much like his predecessor ten generations past that it simply couldn't be passed off as mere genetic resemblance anymore (although how much genes could be passed down after ten generations was an open question). If Gokudera had been even more inclined towards the supernatural, he'd have tried to explain it in terms of reincarnation instead. His brown eyes, once remarkably wide and looked uncannily like a doe when frightened, were now narrower, more defined, filled with quiet composure. His hair still bore a notable resemblance to Hibari's formidable hedgehog, but his bangs had lengthened, shadowing his eyes and framing his face fully. When on his knees, he was taller than Gokudera, though not by far; he had grown to reach the average height among the Japanese populace, but might still be easily mistaken for a teenager in the Italian world. A crisp white suit and a matching red tie peeked through the opening of his mantle.
Gokudera did not even bat an eyelash at the striking resemblance. Tsuna, it appeared, had simply taken the Vongola Famiglia's trait of succession to a whole new level. His endless faith in Tsuna's strength had robbed him of the ability to see things in an objective light where the Tenth was concerned, much to his boss' usual exasperation.
It did not occur to him that Tsuna might have simply met the much-deceased Primo one time too much when he was young and impressionable, and had subconsciously taken to model himself after his legendary predecessor when he eventually grew up. As far as he was concerned, there was nothing out of the ordinary with Tsuna's likeness to an Italian man a few hundred years dead with only the faintest trace of familial ties as their connection.
"Um, this was my room in Japan, right? Ten years in the past," the young adult inquired, looking faintly troubled as he cast narrowed eyes around the place. His subordinate nodded as he sank to one knee respectfully.
"Yes, Tenth. Is…is something the matter?"
"I…" Tsuna brushed at his bangs absently, and Gokudera noted the sleek black gloves on his hands, "was in the middle of a meeting with some allied families. They may just be a little bit surprised to see the Vongola Decimo become a child all of a sudden."
Gokudera paled as the consequences of their tomfoolery caught up with him. "I am sorry to have interrupted such an important meeting! I…"
Tsuna held up a hand to stall his torrent of apologies, looking sheepish. For a split second his expression reminded the Storm Guardian of his own Tenth. It seemed, ten years into the future, Tsuna would still be as complacent and accommodating as he was.
"It happens," conceded Tsuna, dismissing the whole affair with a small shrug, "usually it's Lambo or I-pin who'd get transported over to my time, but we're more or less used to it."
Gokudera wasn't mollified. "But the meeting…!"
"Ah," Tsuna tapped a finger on his chin, looking thoughtful. This, it seemed, was a new quirk he'd gained over the span of ten years, "Gokudera-kun will deal with it. That Gokudera-kun, the future you," he added helpfully, before the teenager could get confused, "he's going to think up some excuse and wave the whole thing off. Maybe something like the child is actually my son and the future Eleventh."
Gokudera nodded uncertainly. He was certain he wouldn't, in any universe, come up with such an outrageous excuse, and the Tenth was far too young to father a 15-year-old anyway. Still, some part of him swelled with pride at the fact that his future self would still be trusted with the boss' back (he was sure that he wasn't worthy anymore), even with what had transpired in that godforsaken future.
He blinked, and realized that in his shock he'd left his boss kneeling awkwardly on the floor.
"Tenth, would you like a seat?" the Storm Guardian motioned to the cushions around the low table, some of which had been knocked askew in the recent commotion. His future boss nodded in amicable acceptance and started to get up, before stepping on his grand mantle and diving headfirst into the floor.
Gokudera made an effort not to wince, and hurried over check his future boss for injuries.
"Gokudera-kun looked really different in the past. Honestly, I've almost forgotten how you used to look," Tsuna commented in wonder after the teenager had taken care to set him safely on one side of the table. Gokudera had arranged his mantle so that it flared out behind him in a way that ensured the Vongola boss was not going to trip again when he got up. He had also offered drinks and snacks to his boss, but Tsuna had declined the offer, explaining that I will be transported back in five – no, make it four minutes anyway, Gokudera-kun, there's no need to bother. Really.
"How so, Tenth?" the teenager ignored his boss' unsettling use of past tense when referring to him, and managed to look politely puzzled, "you are exactly as I envisioned."
"I get that a lot from everyone in the mafia world. Everyone seems to take a look at me, take a look at Giotto-san's portrait in the manor, and think I'll grow up to be the Primo reincarnate," Tsuna chuckled good-naturedly, "but you were far more chubby and adorable ten years ago!"
Gokudera promptly choked. " …chubby and adorable?"
If it had been coming from anyone other than the Tenth, he would have been convinced that it was meant to be an insult. Gokudera Hayato the Hurricane Bomb was many things, but even with their warped logic and skewed vision of reality his Family could not say that he was anywhere near the adjectives "adorable" or "chubby". He had been, for lack of a better description, a juvenile delinquent; and would have remained as angry and violent as he'd been had he not met Tsuna. He tried, and failed to see how either adorableness or chubbiness fit into his character.
He stared at his boss askance. "The Tenth must be joking."
"I'm not!" the older Tsuna reaffirmed, smiling, and reached over the table to ruffle the young Guardian's wayward hair as though this should be a natural occurrence. Gokudera was forcibly reminded of Dino's fond, big brotherly way of messing up Tsuna's hair whenever the Cavallone boss came around; he pondered the fact that this older Tenth was seeing him as a small child, probably somewhere around Lambo's league, and felt properly horrified.
Tsuna noticed his tension – his intuition was still as sharp as ever – and retracted his hand, rubbing at the back of his head apologetically. "Sorry, sorry. You aren't too used to having me like this, are you?"
"No, no," the teenager slapped his forehead; he was being stupid, and his stupidity had managed to offend the Tenth within the short span of five minutes they had together. He hurried to rectify the situation before Tsuna could misunderstand further.
"The Tenth is the Tenth. I will follow you in any timeline, any universe," he said matter-of-factly, pledging his allegiance in a way the younger Tsuna had given up on correcting. There was simply no way, the brunette had long realized, that Gokudera would see him as just Sawada Tsunayoshi, instead of the almighty and gracious Vongola the Tenth.
"It's just that…" Gokudera looked up at the man, and for an abrupt, fleeting moment the sight of his calm, amicable future boss shifted out of focus, overlapping with that of a half-open black coffin and dead, morose lilies in the future that will not be. He recoiled, and felt the room spin around him in a sudden bout of vertigo. "I am truly sorry, Tenth. I am sorry for failing you, and I am sorry for not being there when the Millefiore…when they... I…" he found his voice failing him, and paused.
"I am unfit to be your right hand man."
Tsuna's eyes widened slightly at the sudden turn of events, looking for a while like his 15-year-old counterpart when caught off guard. But the quiet composure didn't waver, and the Vongola boss gave him a deep, contemplating look – one he quickly duck his head from - before speaking up.
"I've been wanting to thank you for saving the Vongola and the parallel worlds, Gokudera-kun," Tsuna started softly, his gaze never wavering, "I heard from Shouichi-kun and Spanner-san - you've done so well, and we are all alive because of what you and the others did. You don't have to apologize for anything. And for your information…"
The Vongola boss steepled his fingers in front of him. "You are my right hand man. I don't see how the Byakuran affair has to do with anything."
If the silver-haired teen had been less distressed, he would have marvelled at the way Tsuna readily acknowledged his somewhat self-proclaimed position. The younger Tsuna had always met the proclamation with reluctant acquiescence, torn between an unwillingness to put down his enthusiastic friend and a desire to point out that he didn't need any sort of right hand man in the first place.
Now, however, he only found Tsuna's words to be empty consolation. He recalled his near-defeats at the hands of Gamma, Irie, Kikyou and Bluebell, and failed to find himself commendable in any way. Gokudera gripped his hands in front of him, knuckles white, and could not muster the courage to look up as he uttered his next words.
"I let you die, Tenth. What kind of right hand man would let his boss die?"
There, he'd said it. Tsuna looked openly shocked at his young subordinate's grief, but then he sighed, pinching his nose in a troubled way.
"Not this again, Gokudera-kun…" the young adult muttered, closing his eyes tiredly, "I really am sorry."
"I've told the adult Gokudera-kun once, but I think you need to know as well. You didn't let me die; I ordered you to. I ordered the Guardians not to interfere."
Gokudera felt his world slip precariously, and shot up from his seiza. "Even with your orders I'd never…!"
"…You'd never let me die," Tsuna agreed calmly, "my Family would never stand aside while I was attacked. I know that. Which is why I sent all the Guardians off in the guise of different missions."
"The future you were in China tracking down Millefiore mafiasi who would supposedly be coming in to assassinate me," the Tenth's voice was heavy and saddened, but the man plunged on with renewed determination, "I had Shouichi-kun send them. I didn't let the Guardians know about the meeting until I was sure they couldn't get back in time. It…had to be done."
"You could have told me about the plan, Tenth!" he was still childishly sour at the fact that Hibari was the only Guardian given full details of the plan, "I could have assisted…"
"You wouldn't have approved of a plan where I intentionally get myself shot. And if you did, you'd be trying to take the shots for me instead. The same goes for everyone else in the Family. Hibari-san was my only option; it isn't that I didn't trust you." Obviously the older Gokudera must have raised that issue with him, because he literally underlined the last part when he said it.
"As I said, you have nothing to apologize for, Gokudera-kun."
"Tenth…" Gokudera trailed off, and slapped a fist against his forehead in agitation. "Tenth, you need to stop trying to tackle everything by yourself. Your right hand man and Guardians are there for a reason."
"You've already told me that, ten years later. I am suitably contrite," Tsuna said breezily; the teenager found that, somewhere along the way, the Tenth had learnt to wave off other's comments with ease. He started to interject, but his boss cut in before he could say anything.
"But I am glad we have the chance to have this conversation. The Byakuran incident leaves behind far too many unhealed scars for everyone." Including you, Gokudera-kun went unsaid. Gokudera thought about the casualties and grief they had sustained in the future-that-is-not: Yamamoto's father, Reborn, Colonello and a vast majority of the Vongola forces. They may have won the war, but they couldn't rewrite the whole timeline like video game data; this Tsuna would have no choice but to head back and deal with the losses. The teenager felt his heart clench, and wished he could have done something to change this man's fate as well.
Tsuna only smiled fondly at him before he blinked, pulled out a pocket watch wreathed in dying will flames, and flicked it open.
"I think it's about time," he informed Gokudera with a trace of regret, before snapping the watch close. After a second of consideration, he reached over the table, guiding the pocket watch into his subordinate's open hands. "Here, Gokudera-kun. Think of this as a token of my gratitude."
"I can't take this – wait, Tenth!" he called out as the Vongola boss stood up from his cushion, taking care to pat down his long cloak so that he looked presentable when he reappeared in the meeting.
Tsuna paused in his administrations of his clothes, watching in amused interest as Gokudera strode over to his side, determination apparent in his gait.
"Tenth…I'll work to become a competent right hand. One that will not fail you ever again."
Tsuna's expression was indulgent, like an older brother listening to a younger sibling's impossible dream of flying to Mars; and Gokudera had a sudden fear that his 15-year-old countenance was preventing the Tenth from taking him seriously. But then the Vongola boss straightened, eyes alight with utmost solemnity.
"Know that I am always counting on you, Gokudera-kun."
Gokudera brightened at the affirmation, and beamed at his future boss with giddy pride. Tsuna watched him, faint nostalgia tugging at his heart as he patted the teen's shoulder.
"And one more thing…when Reborn comes back, could you tell him 'thank you' for me?"
The request was casual, almost an afterthought of sorts; but Gokudera thought of the Reborn-less world this Tenth was living in, saw the glimmer of sadness in the man's eyes, and felt a lump rise in his throat.
"Certainly, Tenth. Please don't worry."
And that was all he could say before Tsuna was engulfed in a familiar cloud of smoke.
He found the Tenth – his Tenth, the 15-year-old who had actually yet to be the Tenth – drowning in a pile of what appeared to be presents, one hand sticking out from under the mess. Gokudera yelped, and set to digging the brunette out before he could actually suffocate.
"Tenth, I'm glad you're safe!" the Storm Guardian exclaimed in what Tsuna thought was overrated relief, fussing over his boss as though he might be injured by boxes of gifts. Tsuna let him, too used to his overprotective antics to actually bother.
"You know, Gokudera-kun, I ran into a meeting between the Vongola and some other families!" Tsuna said, hands fluttering in nervous excitement as he tried to relate the trip to his friend. Gokudera gave a nod, reminded of what the adult Tsuna had told him.
"The future you told me, Tenth. Were they surprised to have you there?"
Tsuna made a face as though he had swallowed something nasty.
"They actually had to adjourn the meeting for me. The future Gokudera-kun tried to tell the allied family that I am a distant relative of the Vongola Tenth's, but then Onii-san told them simultaneously that I'm just a lost kid they picked up, so the cover was pretty much blown."
Gokudera buried his face in his hands. He should have known; Sasagawa Ryohei's horrible lying skills would still be applicable ten years into the future. "That idiot…"
"And then the allied families looked at me real funny and started muttering among themselves," Tsuna frowned, trying hard to recall their reactions, "something like 'the similarity is striking' and 'he might be the one'. Then everyone started showering me with presents."
Of course the similarity would be striking; they were one person, and ten years wasn't quite enough to blur the physical similarity. Those idiots had probably thought that the younger Tsuna could be eligible as the Eleventh, and had wasted no time in trying to please him. Gokudera wisely decided not to tell Tsuna that, and watched as his boss unwrapped one of the formal black boxes, digging a metal band from within.
"Is that gold?"
"…it is, dame-Tsuna, and I see that you're slacking off once again."
Tsuna's head snapped towards the familiar voice, which was apparently a mistake; he received a roundhouse kick to the head, and dived headfirst into the mountain of presents.
It took Gokudera a few seconds to dislodge his unfortunate boss from the pile.
"Reborn-san! The Tenth got hit by the Ten Year Bazooka when you were away, and the adult Tenth was here just a moment ago! "
Reborn stopped, halfway through an upper cut at Tsuna's jaw, and cocked a brow at the silver-haired teenager.
"And he said thank you."
The hitman's beetle black eyes were unreadable for a moment before he snorted, completing his move and sending his charge careening towards the ceiling.
"Hmph. That idiot had better been worth my time."
When Gokudera managed to un-stick Tsuna from the ceiling, Reborn had already left the room for an afternoon snack. After checking for any permanent injuries to his cranium and finding none, the brunette turned excited eyes at his friend-slash-subordinate.
"So how is my future self like?"
"He is wise, composed and compassionate, an epitome of greatness!" Gokudera exclaimed, oblivious to the fact that Tsuna was shrivelling in embarrassment beside him, and pulled out the pocket watch from his pocket with great care.
"He gave me this as a token and…acknowledged me as your right hand, Tenth. I cannot express how honoured I feel."
Tsuna made a strangled sound, cursing his future self for unnecessarily complicating his life further. Gokudera-kun didn't need to be misled more than he already was.
As he watched Gokudera-kun finger the pocket watch with a brighter grin than he had ever remembered seeing, however, he couldn't help but feel that the meeting with his future self had somehow taken a huge burden off his friend in a way he couldn't decipher.
And this, if anything, made him happy above all else.