Notes: This was written for khrfest Round IV: VI-15. Tsuna, Gokudera, Yamamoto - contrast; worth living for, worth dying for, worth killing for.

Spoilers through the Future Arc (specifically, through Choice), and takes place mostly in TYL!verse. Manga canon used. Gen; no pairings.

He barely makes it out of the library in time. The world is spinning and his back is hot with the flames of the explosion and with each step he takes he feels more and more like falling over, but the Tenth gave him an order and in a split second, he realizes that he is not following it just because the Tenth said so. He follows it because he wants to live.

Gokudera Hayato never had any friends growing up. Up until he ran away the only other child allowed in the mansion was his sister, and to this day she can hardly be called good companionship. On the streets of Italy, Gokudera had little more than a pack of cigarettes and a handful of dynamite; he never cared to be friendly to anyone who crossed his path. People, he realized, are born alone, and they die alone. Everywhere he turned if he did not leave behind a corpse he left behind an enemy who would die at his feet in a matter of days.

Then one day in Japan, the boy he tried to kill in a desperate attempt to prove his worth as a mafioso turned around and saved his life instead. Gokudera never saw such power and compassion rolled up into a single human being. He fell to his knees and devoted his life and entire being to the Tenth Vongola Boss, finally having a purpose to his life and something worth dying for, a nobler reason to kill than he ever thought could exist.

But the Tenth did more than that, he sees now. He gave him warmth and laughter and smiles. And friends.

He remembers Namimori Middle's Athletic Festival, when Yamamoto and Lawn Head helped him help the Tenth towards the other team's leader for victory. They lost, but Gokudera felt a sense of camaraderie with the other two that he never felt with anyone else before.

He also remembers the snowball fight and the pure joy he felt every moment of the battle (well, except for the handful of minutes he spent on the side opposite the Tenth's). A smirk played upon his lips and though he did not wish irreparable harm upon his opponents, he felt, for the first time, he laughed with others who tolerated him and he tolerated.

But most of all, he remembers the fireworks at the festival, the trials he and the Tenth and Yamamoto endured together to be able to see them on the hillside by the shrine, and how he felt that everything missing in his life was not missing any longer. That everything he endured from the moment he was born was worth it for that moment and that moment alone.

For the first time in his life, he has friends. Friends he can rely on, friends he can put up with, friends who complete him. Friends who will be more upset at his death than by his loss of the Storm Ring. Friends he wants to laugh with and fight with and see fireworks many more times with.

Friends worth living for.

As the smoke clears, he sees their outlines: the Tenth and Yamamoto. Reborn-san and Shamal and Lawn Head, too. He tries to smile but all he can manage is collapsing forward. It is better this way, because at least none of them can see the tears in his eyes as he admits to the Tenth that he came back for those fireworks... and for all of them.

Irie Shouichi stares at him, and he stares back, and Tsuna can't help but to realize what a magnificent actor he is. His eyes only bear the slightest, smallest trace of fear and hesitation while the rest of his face remains poised, intimidating, and even a little bit spite. Befitting for an agent of Byakuran, Tsuna supposes.

The negotiations go exactly as they planned, exactly as the Millefiore expect, and nothing like the Vongola hopes. The one or two allowed to accompany him—this is a cruel necessity—fidget with their box weapons, and Irie Shouichi sighs.

"I am sorry that we cannot come to an agreement, Sawada Tsunayoshi," he says with just the right amount of malice and infused with mock regret. Tsuna picks up on the split second of panic with the last syllable, the tiniest moment where Irie lets his worry slip. He knows no one else did.

Tsuna nods and says, as rehearsed, "So am I."

He raises his hand, and his subordinates ignite their rings and moves to activate their box weapons. This is as far as they get before members of the Millefiore Black Spell jump from their hiding spots and cut them down.

Irie aims a gun at Tsuna, and for a moment Tsuna freezes. Ever since Basil gave him the Dying Will Pills, Reborn had little reason to use the Dying Will Bullets anymore and so Tsuna never had the opportunity to get used to staring down the barrel of a gun. Of course, he figures he never would have gotten used to it, anyway. Who in their right mind ever did?

But then he remembers his purpose for being here, and he slips into Hyper Dying Will mode. Irie wastes no more time and fires.

As Tsuna watches the bullet fly towards him, he thinks about how cruel he is being not only to the subordinates now dead at his feet, but to his friends. To Gokudera-kun, who he once yelled at to value his own life, and to Yamamoto, who lost his father to the Millefiore not two weeks ago.

Growing up, Tsuna had some friends, but in the years leading up to middle school, they all gradually left him for smarter friends who could help them with their homework, more athletic friends who won them games, and less "no good" friends who never simply accepted their shortcomings. He acted as though all this rolled right off his back; people grow up and move on all the time, right? But it still hurt, and he was still lonely.

And then Reborn showed up in the foyer of his house, and his life was never quite the same again.

First Gokudera-kun tried to kill him before pledging his whole devotion to him. Then Yamamoto tried to kill himself before apologizing to Tsuna profusely for his stupidity. And then an onslaught of colorful people came into his life who just never seemed to want to leave, as much as Tsuna wished they would. As much as Tsuna was convinced they would, just like all the rest, once they realized that he was not amazing and that he was truly "no good."

But then Gokudera-kun threw himself in between Tsuna and Chikusa's attack, and then Yamamoto sacrificed his arm to keep Tsuna safe from Ken. "Friends are more important than baseball," Yamamoto said. Tsuna knew right then and there that he never could get rid of these people, and more importantly, that he never really wanted to get rid of them in the first place.

This plan goes beyond the preservation of the Vongola Family. It is for the sake of all of humanity, after all. But Tsuna is dying today for an even more important reason.

He is dying for his friends, to make sure that they never suffer again. To protect them and their loved ones. To see to it that they have a peaceful future.

The bullet hits Tsuna square on the head. His last thoughts as he falls over and the other Millefiore agents open fire are how he hopes that Gokudera-kun and Yamamoto will forgive him when he wakes up.

He isn't actually dead, but even if Irie did not have this special bullet, Tsuna will have done the same thing.

Because sometimes friends are worth dying for, and Tsuna knows that he is blessed to have those kinds of friends.

Yamamoto defeats all the Millefiore and spins around to meet the last opponent, who has her gun to Gokudera's head and holds Gokudera's hands behind his back.

"Surrender, Signore Rain Guardian, or he dies," she says, a dangerous and ugly smirk playing on her otherwise pretty face.

Gokudera hisses, "Forget about me. Save the Tenth."

Yamamoto frowns and tightens his grip on his sword. "You know I can't do that, Gokudera. Tsuna would never forgive me."

"Don't be an idiot! If you surrender, then the Millefiore wins, once and for all. You have to go and get the Tenth out of here. Now, Yamamoto. You're running out of time."

Yamamoto grits his teeth. Gokudera is not wrong. Tsuna came here to negotiate with the Millefiore and he came with two weaker Vongola agents. He asked Yamamoto and Gokudera to stay behind to watch the perimeter, just in case. Nothing happened during their watch, but Gokudera had a feeling and Yamamoto had it too. So, they stormed the mansion only to have their fears confirmed with an army of black-suited Millefiore agents waiting for them, rings activated and boxes ready.

Tsuna is in trouble, and they have to save him. If Yamamoto surrenders to let Gokudera win, the Millefiore will be in possession of the Vongola boss and two Guardians and the war will be over and for the worse.

But more importantly than that…

Yamamoto cannot remember a time in his childhood where he was not constantly surrounded by people who liked him and people he liked. First they were the children of his father's friends and customers, and then they were his classmates, and then his teammates, and then in middle school his classmates and teammates blurred together and people flocked around him in class and on the field.

But they never walked home with him after practice. They never really talked to him at lunch. Over the weekends he practiced at the batting cages by himself because he had little else to do while the rest of his friends played games at the arcade and kicked around a soccer ball. And when Yamamoto found himself in a slump, he had nobody to turn to.

Something changed the day Tsuna saved him from falling off the same building he was prepared to jump from. He suddenly had someone—two someones, and then many more—to talk to at lunch. To walk home after practice with. To walk to school with. To study with. To play nonsensical mafia games on the weekends with.

But the games were not games, nor had they ever been. Yamamoto knows that now more than ever, with both of his best friends looking death in the eye and his father two weeks dead. He has his choices: forfeit Gokudera's life for Tsuna's or save Gokudera by surrendering the Vongola with Tsuna's death and their capture.

Yamamoto cannot accept this.

The Millefiore clicks her tongue and Yamamoto hears the clack of her gun. "You've waited too long, Signore. Now you all will die."

Gokudera eyes burn with the order to run and save Tsuna, but Yamamoto does not do that. He takes the stance for Shajiku no Ame and charges forward, thrusting the blade into the heart of the Millefiore agent. She falls to the ground, eyes open and empty and blood pooling around her body. Free from her tight hold, Gokudera falls forward and stares, mouth ajar, first at the woman and then at Yamamoto.

"You…" he begins, but Yamamoto cuts him off.

"We have to get to Tsuna before it's too late."

Without further question, Gokudera climbs to his feet and takes the lead down the halls of the Millefiore mansion. Yamamoto knows that beneath his worry and panic, Gokudera cannot believe that Yamamoto has just killed another human being, something he has always been intent to never do, something that Tsuna will not approve of but will forgive Yamamoto for since it meant that Gokudera and Yamamoto both still live.

When both of them ask, later, Yamamoto will give his honest answer.

He will do anything for the two most important people in his life, even kill a man or a woman. They are, after all, worth killing for. Their lives are far more important than his morals.