Sous Entendre

A Katekyo Hitman Reborn fan fiction by Hitokiri-san

A/N: I've been pretty productive lately, haven't I? So here's my second attempt on the Reborn fandom - I'm still on the TYL-Tsuna-didn't-tell-his-guardians-about-his-plans idea, albeit on a slightly different perspective. This time, Yamamoto seems to have made his way into my work, the cheery charmer.

I'm working with the same presumption as I did in Of Burdens Overdue: that Tsuna sent all his Guardians to the four corners of the earth right before the Millefiore meeting, and that he kept the news of the meeting from them. This is somewhat my interpretation of why the hell the Guardians had let him fall to Byakuran's plot so easily. Anyway, I digress. Enjoy the story!

As he finally reached the clearing, the only thing he could think of was that he had never come across a more wretched scene in his life.

His fellow Guardian was kneeling, head bent, at the side of the closed coffin, hands clasped religiously on his knees. At this angle he looked, ironically, like he was praying. Yamamoto, of course, knew better – if Gokudera had ever believed in a god, then his god was very much deceased. The world was falling into ruins, and without Tsuna, they were probably going to fall with it as well.

He thought, for a fleeting moment, that it was unfair of Tsuna to leave them without an anchor. He teetered on the edge of the clearing, suddenly unsure of himself.

"Hey, Gokudera," Yamamoto addressed the man as he finally found the courage to enter the small patch of land, lips quirking upwards into something not quite a smile. His companion didn't acknowledge his presence, never breaking his silent vigil over the black coffin. Yamamoto might as well have been non-existent.

This Yamamoto took as a positive sign. At least Gokudera did not react violently to his arrival; he'd heard that the Storm Guardian had nearly shot one of the Vongola men for encroaching unwittingly upon the place. The poor man, sent by a worried Ryohei, had only wanted to ensure that Gokudera was safe. He hadn't expected to be looking up at a gun barrel and a pair of smothering grey-green eyes for his effort. He himself had not been on the receiving end of such extreme actions thus far, but it was only because Gokudera still recognized him as immediate Family. This, he understood, could change anytime. Their Family was breaking apart from the sheer strain of losing their boss, and Yamamoto couldn't help but think that one of these days, maybe the Family would unravel, scatter to the winds; like a sand castle drowning rapidly in the tide.

Today, he thought to himself hopefully. Today, Gokudera was still his Family, their Family. Today Gokudera might be calm enough to listen to reason.

Yamamoto settled on the other side of Tsuna's coffin, hand resting on the cold wood as he muttered a worn, empty greeting to his fallen friend. Gokudera did not budge. The Rain Guardian steeled himself; despite his misgivings he would need to do this.

"Gokudera," he began, dark eyes unblinking, as though he might be able to see past the curtain of bangs hanging over the Storm Guardian's face, "you should go back to the base. I can take over the watch for you."

Feral eyes snapped up, sharp and delirious, and for a brief moment Yamamoto couldn't see his long-time friend in the broken man before him. His hand tightened on Tsuna's coffin, seeking support, and finding only a chilly sense of absence under his fingertips.

"Go away," his fellow Guardian growled, voice hoarse and gritty, as if he'd been smoking too much in the past few days. The Rain Guardian knew, however, that Gokudera wouldn't consider smoking in this sanctuary. Tsuna didn't smoke, himself, when he was alive; and Gokudera usually put off smoking in front of him, half out of respect, half out of concern for his boss' health. This small habit shouldn't have changed, even if their world had twisted and warped and mutated into a garbled mess.

Going away was pretty much the last thought on Yamamoto's mind. "Gokudera. You haven't returned to the base for four days, and everyone's been concerned. Lambo's been bugging me about where you are since yesterday. At least go back and sleep for a few hours," he reasoned, one step at a time, willing it to get through to the Storm Guardian's foggy mind. As though he hadn't been saying the same thing for the last two days to no avail.

"The Tenth wants me here," the silver-haired man muttered, a personal mantra, and Yamamoto had the distinct impression that Gokudera wasn't even talking to him, "he said so. He wants me to guard him until he wakes up."

This can't be happening, Yamamoto thought in muted horror, wanting to punch the man in the face for indulging such pathetic illusions. In more peaceful times, perhaps, he'd give Gokudera time; let the man come to his senses on his own accord. Perhaps he'd even arrange psychiatric help for him if it really came to that. But the time was not now, when the whole Vongola Family was at the brink of destruction. Gokudera was the next in command after Tsuna. They needed Gokudera to wake up to reality and take charge, even if their boss was not going to wake anymore, damn it.

"Get a grip on yourself," he snapped, his voice resounding like a gunshot throughout the clearing, "the Family needs you now, Gokudera. Tsuna would want you to look after them. Come."

It wasn't right, Yamamoto knew. It wasn't right that he was usurping their dead boss' authority to do this. Gokudera could never deny Tsuna anything; that he knew only too well. But he had to; like hell he was going to let his friend waste away here like a broken marionette. There were more dignified ways to die.

He extended a hand towards his fellow guardian; Gokudera didn't take it, his gaze falling back to the sleek coffin with bleak devotion.

"The Tenth told me to guard him until he wakes," the Storm Guardian repeated, emotionless, unyielding, "this is my priority."

Yamamoto felt his heart clench painfully, because he knew Tsuna – kind, caring Tsuna - wouldn't ask something so cruel of Gokudera in his right mind. Wouldn't ask him to while his life away waiting for the impossible.

Maybe Gokudera was lost in denial, in insanity, fooling himself into believing that if he waited long enough, Tsuna would rise from his coffin. Maybe Tsuna was scared, disoriented in that last moment of life; not wanting to acknowledge his imminent death, fervently clinging to the false notion that he was only going to nap for a while, would Gokudera-kun mind waking me afterwards?

The clearing suddenly felt too cold, too empty, and Yamamoto had to suppress a visible shudder. He forced himself into thinking that Tsuna's request was real, not merely a figment of Gokudera's desperate imagination. He'd already lost Tsuna to the Millefiore, and the notion that he was losing Gokudera to madness too was one he didn't want to dwell on.

In the end, whether Tsuna had said that didn't matter much, or so he told himself; what had to be done remained the same. He steadied himself and tried again.

"He doesn't really mean that. The circumstances were exceptional…this isn't something he would have said normally. You know - "

He was abruptly cut off by Gokudera snatching him by his collar, green eyes aflame with such lethal ferocity he was stunned speechless.

"How dare you…you weren't there, damn you! You didn't even see him say that…how dare you…!"

There was nothing he could say to that.

Yamamato was not there.

Gokudera, on the other hand, was there; crashing into the meeting just in time to see Tsuna fall to the ground in a flurry of black materials and crimson blood.

The worst part about it was that he'd suspected as much. He'd suspected it when Tsuna had asked him to track down some Millefiore mafiosi biding their time in China, waiting for the chance to come to Japan and take down the Vongola Tenth in a sneak attack. Gokudera had nodded, then. He'd received reports about the assassins' movements. Vongola was already facing dire circumstances after the fall of the Italian headquarters; they would need to protect the Tenth at all costs. He would personally see to it that those bastards never had the chance to see another day, much less go anywhere near the Tenth.

Gokudera had felt something wrong, even then, in Tsuna's unsteady gaze and the unnatural timing of the mission. But he was too engrossed in the notion of some Millefiore scum trying to assassinate the Tenth, and thinking up ten different ways to blow them into smithereens, that he didn't think much about it.

It would be another five days before he realized that it had been a set-up to get him out of Japan. It would be yet another day before he realized that it was Tsuna who had set him up.

He was halfway across the Mongolia desert in pursuit of the damned Millefiore assassins – who, to his utmost irritation, had trekked all across the northern part of China to evade him – when he eventually learnt about the meeting between the Vongola and Millefiore bosses, due in nine hours. He'd learnt about it from a very roundabout source; the whole Vongola network seemed to be suspiciously oblivious about the matter.

It occurred to him, then, that Tsuna had done an almost uncharacteristically thorough job in jamming the information network. But there was one thing that Tsuna had forgotten, or perhaps couldn't quite help: despite his fiery and reckless disposition, Gokudera was a prodigy, and a natural strategist. While Tsuna had long since graduated from his notorious uselessness as a teenager, when it came down to a battle of wits, there was no question that Gokudera would triumph.

Which was why Gokudera had managed to hijack a plane and make a beeline for Namimori, Japan before the meeting had actually commenced, his heart racing in rising trepidation, all the while thinking holy shit, this isn't happening, the Tenth can't be doing this to me.

Or perhaps he was not smart enough; which was why he was two seconds too late to save the Tenth, a devastated scream ripping from his throat as he witnessed his boss mercilessly gunned down under Byakuran's cruel command.

The Tenth's expression had been one of absolute disbelief upon seeing him. Disbelief, not because he was shot and dying, but because Gokudera was there when he wasn't supposed to be.

"G-Gokudera-kun…why…are you…" he'd choked, breathless, his face messily dotted with patches of blood.

Why are you here was probably the question, and in other circumstances Gokudera might have thought about how inconsequential the question was compared to the current crisis.

But he'd been shaken to his core, and could feel blind hysteria taking over him even as he made a disjointed attempt to stem the blood flowing freely from Tsuna's wounds.

"Don't worry, Tenth, I'll just…just take you back to the base, it's fine," he'd told Tsuna waveringly, his mind shutting down automatically against the horror of the scenario that it was too late, and the Tenth was dying. He picked Tsuna up in a swoop, weaving with blank disregard through the crossfire towards the exit.

Gokudera really should have felt grief. Tsuna was far beyond rescue, now, and his mind recognized that the man wouldn't even be able to make it to the base alive. But he was strangely detached as he kicked the door open and dived out of the narrow opening before the gunfire could catch up with them; as though this was one of those times when some idiot on the calibre of a five-year-old Lambo had thought it was a cool idea to make a loud, clumsy attempt on the young Vongola boss' life.

Tsuna gasped in a jolt of pain at the sudden movement; the Storm's head snapped down in concern, eyes meeting with Tsuna's for a fleeting second. Despite the pain Tsuna's gaze was eerily quiet, like a dead pool of water, as if he'd already seen through the futility of what Gokudera was doing; and in that instance, he saw his own madness and denial reflected in his boss' eyes.

"…Listen, Gokudera-kun…"

It struck him at that moment that this was something he would never want to hear. Irises dilated in gray-green eyes, he gave Tsuna a wobbly, pleading grin.

"We should probably get you patched up first, Tenth. Please, this can wait…"


Gokudera cringed and faltered at the tone, a child confronted with his worst fear; silver bangs whipping from side to side as he shook his head fervently at his boss.

"Tenth, please don't…please! There is still time, there must be…"

The Tenth was regarding him with a strange expression, something indefinable filtering into his gaze as he considered his subordinate calmly. Then the young boss had smiled, lips quirking in some sort of fond acquiescence, and for the life of him Gokudera couldn't understand what it meant.

"Hey, Gokudera-kun…I'm…going to sleep…for a while," he'd told him coaxingly, all the while wearing that strange, out-of-place smile, "do you mind…being here until I wake?"

Gokudera had nodded dumbly, because it made sense that the Tenth should be a little worn out after the day, and would want to catch a bit of rest.

So when the Family wept and grieved and lined Tsuna's coffin with fresh lilies, Gokudera knelt by the body, and wondered with a tinge of impatience when his boss was going to wake.

"Are you going to hit me in front of Tsuna?" Yamamoto levelled a steady gaze at the hand on his ruffled collar. Gokudera recoiled, as though he'd been shot point-blank. Tsuna would have been downright livid with them brawling with each other. The right hand man returned to his original kneeling position, uttering a silent apology – to the Tenth, not his fellow Guardian – under his breath.

"You should go," he told Yamamoto after a long pause, sweeping his rage and uncertainty under his emotional carpet with palpable effort, "take charge of the base in my place, you have my authorization. I'll be back with the Tenth when he wakes…tell the damn cow brat I'm alright."

No, you are not, thought Yamamoto as he conceded defeat. Tsuna is dead, and you're halfway down the road to insanity. Nothing is alright.

Two days later, when he looked down at the 15-year-old Tsuna, who stood blinking in awed confusion before him, and Gokudera, who was equally young and flustered, Yamamoto couldn't quite decide whether to cry or to laugh.

Holy hell, Gokudera was insane and was not. Tsuna had really woken, and Gokudera had really managed to bring him back from the dead. The hopeless purgatory that made up their world was now speckled with curious bits of impossibility, and Yamamoto found himself at a sudden loss.

The Tenth told me to guard him until he wakes.

Tsuna's last words came back to haunt him out of the blue, thrown into sharp relief by the current state of affairs, and damn, it made that much more sense now, like a prophecy coming true or a hidden plot surfacing in a story. But he could still see the missing pieces, jarring and disjointed, holes in the otherwise perfect puzzle.

He'd managed to guide the kids into the base without much trouble. When he piled mashed potatoes upon a disheartened Tsuna's plate – a night snack, meagre comfort to ward away the daunting reality they'd soon be facing – Yamamoto's dark gaze met with Tsuna's; and to his surprise, the boy flinched, hyper intuition picking up the turmoil in the Rain's dark eyes. Yamamoto quickly remedied it with an airy laugh, describing how they'd grown the potatoes in the small underground patch they kept and how they'd used them for making the mashed potatoes. Tsuna looked thrown off for a while, momentarily doubting the insight his hyper intuition granted him. He would soon learn to put his full trust in his intuition, the Rain thought, but at the moment he was almost glad that he didn't.

You hold the remaining pieces, Yamamoto mused at the young brunette, silently. You know something more, enough to make that prophecy to Gokudera; you know that this will happen.

As he watched the younger version of his boss dig unhappily into his snack, however, he realized that no, this Tsuna didn't know, and any answer he might have was probably lost, buried in that black coffin with the now non-existent body of his boss.

He thought, as he turned a mirthless grin to the teenage, scowling Gokudera, who was still fuming at him for letting the future Tenth die, that it was very unfair of Tsuna, on a different level of meaning, to do that to them.