All characters © Amano Akira

Author's note: In my personal canon, yes, Haru is adept with guns. This came out a little disturbing, despite myself, but it was fun to write!

This Thing of Mine

She has always known it was there. It is one of those things, like the weather or a birthmark or the way the radiator in her house clanks during the winter; something that she acknowledges but has never really bothered to give much thought.

She's laid eyes on it for years, but she doesn't recall ever really seeing it before. At first it had only been a curiosity. There had been things of greater importance that had demanded her attention, so it was only given a cursory glance out of the farmost corner of her vision. She hadn't wanted to admit it, when her inquisitiveness slowly transformed into obsession. Girls her age should engross themselves in magazines, cosmetics, anything but...this.

Slowly she has become mentally parched, her mind in need of quenching. It scares the hell out of her, but at the same time she cannot avert her gaze. Could she deny the allure, the insidious appeal? Probably, but she would surely drive herself mad in the process.

Its burnished surface catches the twinkle of the sun as it emerges from behind a cloud, and the stainless steel winks coolly up at her. Tempting her. Does she want more? Of course she does.

It is difficult to get Reborn by himself, as he usually spends his time at the Sawada household ameliorating (or instigating, depending on his mood) any debacle that is going on there. But she manages. She plans ahead and corners him as he's walking the streets of Namimori.

Does she want more?

She almost forgets to answer when he asks her what she wants. She knows that it's in his coat; she's aware that one flimsy layer of fabric is all that separates her from it. She's already captivated by the image of its smoothness, its sleekness, and remembers that she has to speak. And she does. Because she wants more.

"Y-your gun," Miura Haru says, reddening and knowing that she must sound foolish, "I was wondering if you could tell me about it."

Despite the odd question he doesn't look in the least bit surprised. He takes it out. "This?" As she nods, he notices the way she's looking at it, and he barely manages to curb a smile.

"You do know that this is a tool for killing." It is not a question.

"I...I know that, Reborn-san," she answers honestly, "but does it, um, how is it...I mean, how does it work? I really want to know!"

It is a summer day, and the humidity is almost unbearable. Behind the shade of his fedora Reborn debates, and decides to give her one more test. "Why, Haru?" he asks. "You couldn't possibly have much use for a gun. You're not even out of high school yet."

"True," she admits, eyes falling first to the slide, then dropping to the perfect curve of the trigger. The way his finger curls around it is magnificent. Does she want more? The ridges on the hand grip seem to laugh at her as they dip in and out, in and out. They mock her so.

Of course she does.

"But I am involved with the mafia," is her adamant reply. "I've watched Tsuna-san and the others get hurt for years without being able to help them in any way. Don't you think it's time I proved my usefulness?"

Reborn will say yes. She knows this because she is smarter than the boys give her credit for. They fret over box weapons and training and her. Even though they no longer tell lies, they claim they'd be happier if she would just support them from the kitchen or the house where she is safe. And for a while she was content with just that, but Haru knows that she can do so much more. Her life is not made of heating pork buns and ironing wrinkled shirts.

"Besides, how much longer do you think it will be before I am targeted?" she asks, becoming infuriated by her own words. Reborn listens silently. What she says next sound almost too noble, like some hackneyed lines of an adventure novel brought to life. But she doesn't care. It's that gun, the barrel of the gun now, and now the barrel is winking at her, oh god.

"I want to defend, I want to protect, and most of all, I want to be someone my friends can rely on!"

Reborn does not speak for a minute. Haru, thinking that he is sizing her up, tries to stare him down, but it is impossible. His eyes are hidden by the wide brim of his fedora, so she cannot see them or tell what he is thinking. In the silence she looks again at the way the steel gleams off of the barrel. Insidious, but so inspiring. A poison cake. A bomb wrapped in gift-paper. She begins to wonder if Reborn will ever answer.

He looks at the gun in his hand, then up at her, and tilts it so the resplendent afternoon sun catches the steel even more brilliantly.

"It's a Beretta M 1951," he begins.

It's the falltime now; leaves dance in a lifeless ballet as they skitter across the ground. Jackets are brought out from the closet, mothballs are dusted off, and scarves are adorned as the air grows chilly. Namimori's students flock together after the school-bell rings, walking home or playing ball before the threatening winter can unleash its wrath upon them.

But not Haru. She rushes home every afternoon to quickly get her assignments out of the way before dinner. Because you see, after dinner are her lessons with Reborn.

Tsuna has his own problems with school, his friends, and the mafia so he rarely notices Reborn's periodic disappearances. If asked, the baby grins coyly and makes up a new story each time. Part of the fun is that Tsuna is completely oblivious to what Haru is doing, and none of the boys have ever stopped to ask her. Kyoko knows, though. Haru is glad for this since she has to have someone to pour out her ebullience to. Kyoko doesn't believe in guns any more than she does in violence, but she supports Haru's studies and listens intently to her spates of magazines and bullets with a smile.

There isn't anything Haru dislikes about Italian firearms. They have captured her, pure and simple, like a Venus fly trap closing in on a doomed little bug. She knows they are weapons of destruction, that they draw blood and innards in ropey strings when tearing through imploding flesh, she knows the recoil of a shot could deafen a man. But she can't get enough.

For several months she assiduously balances schoolwork and gunwork until there is nothing left in the books that Reborn can teach her. She feels honored to finally have her own kateikyoushi, that he has personally opted to instruct her, but Reborn simply points out that no one else is better than him at teaching guns. He doesn't admit out loud that she's by far the best student he's ever had.

After a year he decides she is ready for the real thing.

She conquers the target dummies with heavy, clonky rifles, and looks up in astonishment when Reborn tells her it's time to practice on living things. At first she argues with him, fervently, but he only shrugs and casually remarks that she must really not want to get any better, if she isn't willing to take a step ahead.

Haru decides to trust Reborn, since he hasn't been wrong yet. Reluctantly, they go hunting. The animals are then donated to the JTA Taxidermy Association in Tokyo.

There was enjoyment, she remembers with disgust afterward. She had killed, and she had liked it.

These disturbing thoughts are soon forgotten as she rubs her hand back and forth with the cloth, back and forth, cleaning the muzzle of the gun she had used as it lies across her lap. She vaguely thinks that she may hold a child one day in the exact same fashion, but banishes the thought. She continues to polish. It is a soothing motion.

She is not a bad shot. Her eyes, chestnut-brown, have remained 20/20 and without the myopic misfortunes that plague so many of them these days. Now it is a simple feat to fire multiple rounds within five inches of each other, and from several meters away. At first it was incredibly difficult, but she has always been a smart girl. She is not ambidextrous like Reborn, but she is working on that.

Reborn's extolment at her talent and rapid growth is soft spoken, although it is there nonetheless. For Haru's eighteenth birthday he gets her a double-set of M9 pistols. Haru smiles because Reborn is generally not known to procure gifts for anybody but his disciples, let alone pay for them out of his own pocket.

She kisses them before bed each night, one on each slide. It's never occurred to her that this is strange; anything you love you have the right to kiss, in her book.

They go hunting two more times that year.

Although she hasn't attended the Namimori school she goes to their graduation. It's a beautiful spring day, much like the ones you see in a typical anime commencement scene: a light breeze, ubiquitous sakura petals sweetening the air, hats thrown to the clouds, and parents crying over their little babies all grown up. Haru is amused to see several members of the Vongola in the audience.

Hibari Kyouya gives a rather intimidating speech, and she giggles. Tsuna trips on his way to the podium to receive his diploma. Kyoko's brother starts a cheer from the audience that soon has everyone hooting and screaming. Same old boys, they will always be the same.

Following the graduation they all go to Yamamoto's to celebrate with sushi. All in high spirits, they play silly children's games, among other things: Nawatobi and Darumasan ga koronda behind the shop until the fireflies dance around them in the impending dusk.

But then they play Fukuwarai. Blindfolded.

They pin the parts of the faces in all the wrong spots and laugh at the grotesqueness of their creations. And Haru gets up, pins every eye and every nose perfectly in place within a matter of seconds on the blank face cutout. It is child's play, literally, and for her it is easy target practice.

It's suspicious, but nobody seems to give it much thought. Only Gokudera seems to linger on for longer than the others. Gokudera, whose numerous absences and poor conduct had been the only things hindering him from the spot of Valedictorian. He is more perspicacious than the rest, and on that day he is the only one who brushes by the truth.

So they grow into adults as their marks on Namimori fade. International relations are established and the Vongola calls for a leader. None of them go to college.

Haru's real test arrives around the time Tsuna turns twenty.

"I want to defend, I want to protect, and most of all, I want to be someone my friends can rely on."

She doesn't care who these people are. She doesn't care what family they belong to. She doesn't care how powerful they might be. The only thing that matters is that they have broken in, threatened, and are armed. One of them grabs a heavily injured Yamamoto Takeshi by the hair and prepares to slit his throat with some box weapon/knife/sword/she doesn't bother to know.

The M9's are strapped to her belt under a mauve blouse. She feels their weight against her thigh, hears their song.

Does she want more?

Reborn's face etches itself into the backs of her eyelids. Even he had known back then more than she ever would, had known that action is nothing without knowledge...and knowledge is nothing without action. "You do know that this is a tool for killing."

They have not seen her yet; or if they have they have assumed her unconscious or dead. The steel protests again, blessedly cool and comforting against the heat of her skin as if to say 'I am here, everything will be all right, use me.' And who is Haru to deny such a mellifluous song?

She remembers how her passion had grown into something consuming, and how she had been completely at ease with it. After all, it makes her happy so it can't be a bad thing. Letting these mafia goons before her kill the friends she loved, now that is a no-no.

Don't you think it's time I proved my usefulness?"

It will be fun, Haru thinks. Hey ho, let's go.

A smile plays on her lips as she releases the safety.