Notes: This was written for LJ's khrfest Round IV: VII-7. Yamamoto/Tsuna: 1000 paper cranes; "To walk again." If you haven't read past Ch. 295 yet, please be warned: there are massive spoilers in here. This is also only canon up to Ch. 295 since I'm pretty sure Amano is going to Joss the hell out of this by the time the Shimon Arc is done.
And yes, there is shounen-ai in here. If this isn't your thing, please do not proceed any further or at the very least, ignore the last five paragraphs or so.
I hope you enjoy! I'm also very open to concrit.
The sun lit up every last detail of the hospital room: the rainbow of flowers with little cards from classmates, from the baseball team, from old family friends, from loyal customers, and the stuffed animals and chocolates from female admirers and the neighborhood children. A slick sushi boat half full of rolls sat up against the wall. Lambo declared the sushi his, and with one yelp from Tsuna, Gokudera grabbed Lambo to stop him from charging to the leftovers.
Lambo struggled in Gokudera's grasp and yelled and screamed and Gokudera yelled and screamed back. Haru snatched Lambo away from Gokudera, demanding that he be kinder to Lambo-chan and promising the toddler lots of grape candy and takoyaki on the way home. Before Gokudera could snap at Haru and before Tsuna could open his mouth to ask them to please calm down because that scary nurse might come around and kick them out, a familiar, cheerful voice rang through the room.
"It's okay," said Yamamoto, a familiar, cheerful smile pasted on his face. "He can have the rest of it. Dad brought it in earlier this morning and I couldn't finish it."
With that, Lambo hopped out of Haru's arms and went straight for the boat, not looking at the teenagers behind him or in the bed hovering over the sushi and completely oblivious to the uncomfortable silence that followed.
This was the first time they had laid eyes on each other since Kaoru's attack.
Tsuna had been called into the principal's office before last period to hear the news that Yamamoto was awake and asking for his friends, him specifically. The principal seemed skeptical at the request but excused Tsuna from class anyway after sternly telling him that he expected Tsuna to make it up later.
Reborn, along with Gokudera, Ryohei, and Kyoko, waited for him outside the school gates. They knew, Tsuna realized. Reborn must have told them and somehow managed to pull them out of class. Kyoko sent Haru a text message and she met them in front of the hospital with Lambo, telling them that she hurried here as fast as she could and that Lambo had followed her, demanding that she play with him.
And now here they were, Lambo munching away at the sushi meant for Yamamoto, who smiled brightly at his friends as though he was anywhere else but here, as though he could up and play baseball if he so wanted to, as though they had never met the Shimon Family. And they could only stare at him, fumbling around for the right words to say. Were there any right words to say?
"Yamamoto," said Reborn finally, his voice solid and betraying none of the emotion the others shared. "It's good to see you awake."
"Thanks, kid," said Yamamoto. "It's good to see you all."
Then, something faltered as though he had something he wanted to say, wanted to ask, on the tip of his tongue, but it was only for a moment.
They gathered around his bed, the girls pulling up chairs and Reborn hopping from Ryohei's shoulder to the bed, sitting cross-legged at Yamamoto's side. Slowly, the conversation slipped into mundane topics, such as the homework he missed and the new video game that came out and the cake Kyoko and Haru had just last week and by the way, they brought him a piece.
Nobody brought up the game the baseball team had played in his (and Kaoru's) absence, about how the initial shock of the hospitalization of their best player nearly caused them to lose before the captain rallied the team into winning for Yamamoto's sake, making one of the best comebacks in the middle school league's history. Nor did they bring up how Ryohei allowed the baseball team to use the boxing club's locker room almost exclusively, and how the boxing club made do with the boy's bathroom in the meantime. Nobody mentioned any of the Shimon Family's names or gave any hint that they knew they had done this to him, nor did they tell him how the Inheritance Ceremony had gone, or that Squalo had asked about him.
They ran out of conversation very quickly.
That was when Kyoko and Haru shared a wary grin and started digging into their school bags, pulling out two packages of colored square paper.
"One thousand cranes," said Haru. "One thousand cranes, and your wish will come true, Yamamoto-san."
"It will be something to do while you're in the hospital," said Kyoko. "Here, we'll teach you. Tsuna-kun and Oniichan and Gokudera-kun, too."
"And Lambo-sama!" The cow-suited child climbed onto the bed, grains of rice sticking to his cheeks and lips.
"And Lambo-kun," said Kyoko. She opened the package and handed everyone a different solid color piece of paper.
Tsuna glanced at Reborn, who only smiled. "It's a good Family-bonding exercise."
For a moment, Tsuna worried that Reborn would turn this into a competition: whoever made the most paper cranes by the end of visiting hours would win a billion yen or get to go on their dream vacation to Italy or just plain not die a horrible, horrible death or something else completely absurd. But Reborn said nothing more and let the paper folding commence peacefully.
Or, at least, as peacefully as anything around here could get.
Kyoko exercised her infinite supply of patience as she slowly walked the boys through each fold and each crease step by step. The first triangles were simple enough, or at least Tsuna thought. Lambo could barely get past that step, his green triangle not laying at all perfectly on top of the white. Ryohei struggled even after his sister showed him how to make the triangles into diamonds, something more resembling a yellow rhombus in his hands. He scratched his head and bemoaned, "I haven't done this since elementary school. That was an extremely long time ago."
Tsuna wrinkled and tore his paper when it came time to open up the short, fat diamonds into longer, skinnier ones, and the shape looked nothing like it was supposed to. Yamamoto also got stuck there, laughing at the dismal shape his blue paper had taken.
"I used to be good at this," he said. His eyes betrayed something that Tsuna had only seen once on him, on the rooftop so long ago.
But Gokudera's excited yelp distracted him. "Tenth! I finished! Isn't it amazing?"
His red concoction was no crane; instead, it looked like Gokudera had twisted the paper into itself before trying to pull wings out of a headless creature. "Uh… Gokudera-kun…"
"Oh, Gokudera-san," Haru grumbled, snatching the origami from his hands. "That's all wrong!"
Chrome showed up some time later, meekly peering into the room before Kyoko and Haru waved her inside. Her first attempt, to the surprise of everybody in the room and to the delight of Kyoko and Haru, was absolutely perfect, the edges of the dark blue wings and tail and neck and head sharp and angular.
"Chrome-chan, you're a natural! You've done this before?"
Chrome blushed and shook her head. "It's my first time."
Then Reborn smirked under his fedora. "You're being outdone by one of your Guardians, Dame-Tsuna. A boss has to be better at something as simple as folding paper."
Tsuna wanted to scream that origami was not that simple, and that he didn't want to hear an Italian baby criticize him about Japanese art, and what did origami have anything to do with the mafia anyway? But then Yamamoto held up a silver crane, identical to Chrome's and with absolutely no creases except for down the center of the wings and neck and tail and across the body, right where they were supposed to be.
Tsuna could never forget the sad but proud smile on his face or the desperate hope in his eyes as he quietly said, "I did it."
That day, they collectively made eighty-seven cranes, though less than half was anything at all resembling birds.
When a nurse almost mistook the white plastic bag full of cranes for trash, Kyoko and Haru showed up prepared: they had string and they had beads, and while the boys and Chrome folded they strung up the rescued cranes in many different beautiful lines of color. Even the crumples of wrinkled and torn paper blended in perfectly, only looking different than the rest if someone knew what they were looking at.
"They were made with Tsuna-san's and everyone's love and care," said Haru when Tsuna wondered out loud if they were really going to keep their first attempts. "They are the most important cranes of all."
Over the past week, Yamamoto had many visitors from the restaurant, his classmates and his teammates, and even those affiliated with the mafia. Nearly everybody who came in made at least one crane during their visit, and so the count had quickly surpassed the triple digits. If anyone came around for a second time, they brought a package of origami with them, always impressed with how many more had been made between the two visits and always amused by the different patterns on each crane. Some had cartoon characters' faces sprinkled on the paper, others had traditional patterns, some were metallic, and others yet had flowers and rainbows and glitter. For the longest time, Tsuna was convinced the girls from class brought those, until Lussuria, with Squalo being dragged helplessly behind him, burst through the door with another small pack of the exact same designs.
That day, the scary nurse from when Tsuna had been hospitalized barged through, and Tsuna worried that they were going to get Yamamoto kicked out. Turned out that the nurse had not forgotten the last time he had been in the hospital and pinned all the fault of the ruckus on Tsuna. In the whirlwind of events that he could barely remember anymore, Tsuna had been the only one kicked out in the end, with Gokudera calling after him not to worry: he'll do the Tenth's share of the crane folding for him.
But today was a quieter day, relatively. Kyoko and Haru and I-pin gently pulled the cranes through the string, and Chrome silently but studiously folded perfect cranes one after the other. Ryohei still struggled, but he had improved: his birds had wings now, even if crinkled from ten different refolds before settling on the final form. Lambo quickly grew bored of folding just cranes and instead folded his paper in a myriad of different ways that came out to nothing at all. Gokudera, finally making cranes with a spectacular efficiency and perfection, spent more time yelling at Lambo not to waste the expensive paper than actually folding.
Tsuna could not fret too openly over the volume of Gokudera's voice, because Yamamoto was laughing. It was a sound Tsuna had missed entirely too much.
His silver crane from the first day sat dutifully on his bedside table, glinting in the sunlight. All of his cranes since had been made with a slow, careful precision. Tsuna noticed that whenever he folded he paid significantly less attention to the people around him, his brows furrowed in desperate attention to detail. But now, he had three completed cranes made from Lussuria's suspect origami on his meal tray, and he was laughing.
Too mesmerized by the nostalgic sound, Tsuna pressed down on the opened diamond too early and now nothing lined up the way it was supposed to. He groaned. Like Ryohei, he had not gotten much better, and though his creations looked closer to cranes than Ryohei's did, they still looked awful next to Yamamoto's and Gokudera's and Chrome's and everyone else's. Even Squalo, who didn't even know what origami was, made a picture perfect bird after six tries, one of which wound up on the wall with a sword impaled through it. The hole and the cracks were still there.
Tsuna never had an easy time with origami in elementary school, even the simplest of designs coming out absolutely horrid. And now, not even for Yamamoto's sake, not even after making them nonstop every day after school the past few days could he seem to get it right. Even after everything he had been through, "Dame-Tsuna" was still too relevant, and it never hurt more.
"Tsuna, do you want to know a trick my dad taught me?" asked Yamamoto, pulling the last unfolded glitter-infused sheet from the pile on his meal tray. "Just do what I do."
He worried that Yamamoto would go into one of his weird explanations based completely on instinct again, but instead Yamamoto handed him a gold, metallic sheet from the pile beside Gokudera, still screaming at Lambo, and started folding. Instead of triangles, he started with rectangles, unfolding and refolding on both sides before folding and unfolding triangles. Tsuna followed along, staring at eight perfect triangles on his square.
"See? That's all the creases you'll need, and it'll make folding a lot easier."
And it was. Yamamoto interjected a couple of times, reminding Tsuna to make sure that he pressed down tightly on each fold. When Tsuna folded the head down and pulled out the wings, he could hardly believe it: it was far from perfect, but closer than he ever made it.
"Thank you, Yamamoto," Tsuna breathed.
When visiting hours ended and the rest of the cranes had been strung and hung up next to Yamamoto's bed, Tsuna noticed that his gold crane now sat next to Yamamoto's silver, and the two boys exchanged warm smiles before the nurse all but shoved him out of the room.
According to Kyoko and Haru's count, they had now reached three hundred and thirty-three cranes.
There was a huge party at Takezushi when Yamamoto was released from the hospital.
The girls decorated the restaurant with streamers and confetti and a huge banner that welcomed Yamamoto home. Hanging above the front corner of the bar were all the strings of cranes that had been created by everybody: over six hundred now, thanks to Yamamoto's fan club and the baseball team dedicating three whole lunch periods to folding, and thanks to Reborn holding one of his weird competitions between the Vongola and the Cavallone that, as always, ended up with Enzio growing to the size of the school, something exploding, and Hibari emerging with a threat to bite everyone to death. Miraculously, not a single crane was destroyed in the fiasco, though there was no way to count who had made the most, in the end. That day alone accounted for at least a third of all the cranes.
Everyone gathered at the restaurant, with Yamamoto's father holding back proud and humble tears at the beautiful job Kyoko and the others had done. He thanked everybody for being such wonderful friends to Takeshi, and that his son was truly blessed to have them in his life.
Tsuna felt an instant pang of guilt as Tsuyoshi said all this. After all, if Yamamoto had not been their friend and they had not been his, this never would have happened to him.
Reborn made Tsuna go with Tsuyoshi to pick up his son. "It's the boss's job," he said without further explanation, instead promising Tsuyoshi that he wouldn't let anyone touch the sushi until he returned. To emphasize this, he took out a shotgun with a dangerous glint in his eye.
Tsuyoshi just laughed. "I'll leave it to you, kid."
The car ride was agonizingly silent. Tsuna played with the ends of his shirt and stared at his lap, wanting so much to apologize to Tsuyoshi over and over again. If it hadn't been for me and this stupid mafia "game"… if only it was a game!
"Word travels fast in Namimori, you know," Tsuyoshi piped up. "I know you're the reason my son is still alive."
Tsuna stared blankly at Tsuyoshi. "What?"
"You don't think I know? Last year, when Takeshi broke his arm. I know what happened at the school. Some of his classmates—your classmates—are loyal customers of mine, and their parents came to me with their concerns about Takeshi's idea of a practical joke. Except it wasn't a joke, was it?" Tsuna didn't answer. "Takeshi started talking about you a lot since that day. Even a complete idiot can figure it out. And then he met everyone else, and I'd never seen him so happy before."
Except we ruined his life, Tsuna wanted to say. Not only in this future, but in other futures. The ones where he gave up baseball for the mafia, the ones where you died because of his affiliation with me, and the ones where he won't even have the mafia as an excuse for not playing baseball anymore…
"And because of you, and your friends, and those cranes you're making for him, he'll be able to play baseball again. I know it. This isn't forever."
Tsuyoshi pulled into the hospital parking lot, and together they walked into the lobby. Yamamoto waited for them by the reception desk, chatting cheerfully with the nurses who had nothing but sympathy in their dark eyes. Yamamoto noticed his father and Tsuna walk in, and his smile grew brighter and he waved at them. He spun his wheelchair around to face them and—
Tsuna froze in place, his throat constricted and his eyes burning. Oh, God.
After a few words with his father, Yamamoto rolled over to Tsuna, a bright smile glued to his face.
"Yo, Tsuna," he said, as though he had just run up to him on the way to school and needed consolation that he wasn't the only one who didn't finish the homework last night. Tsuna noticed that in his lap he had a small pile of cranes with baseballs printed all over them, and he wondered who had bought that particular pack for him. In the center of the baseball cranes were the silver and gold pair that Yamamoto always kept at his bedside.
"Yamamoto," Tsuna replied, quickly wiping at his eyes. If he was going to cry about this, he was going to cry about this at home, alone. Not in front of Yamamoto's father, or his friends, and most certainly not in front of Yamamoto. "It's good you finally get to come home."
"Yeah, but I won't be going back to school for about a week or so. Too much homework to catch up on. Maybe you and Gokudera can help me."
Tsuna forced a smile. "Of course we will. Though I think Gokudera-kun will do most of the helping." Considering his most recent marks, the best Tsuna could offer Yamamoto was how not to answer the questions.
Yamamoto laughed. "I'm counting on it."
"Alright, you two, let's get going," said Tsuyoshi, walking behind the chair and started pushing. Tsuna did not miss how the smiles of both father and son faltered just a little bit with this one action, and how Yamamoto clutched the cranes in his lap tighter.
For the first time since Kyoko and Haru pulled out the packages of origami the first day Yamamoto woke up, Tsuna wondered: what if the cranes didn't work?
Tsuna glanced at the digital clock in Yamamoto's bedroom, the red numbers flashing 9:43 P.M. He should have left for home an hour ago. Instead, he took another square of paper with Vongola crests printed on it and began folding it into the familiar rectangles and triangles. They were so close; he could not stop now, even if they both ought to be getting some rest.
After all, tomorrow was Yamamoto's first day back in school.
He had taken an extra week off, the amount of homework piled up being more than he had expected. For a while, Gokudera followed Tsuna to Yamamoto's house to help Yamamoto catch up. Despite Gokudera yelling at Yamamoto for not understanding the "basic" concepts and despite Yamamoto laughing like he used to before they were launched ten years into the future, nothing was really the same as before. Gokudera refused to look at anything in Yamamoto's direction but his homework. Uncomfortable silences lapsed, and Gokudera often wore a distressed look as he kept his eyes glued to his own book.
Finally, after Yamamoto decided that he would be staying home for another week because he was nowhere near finished, Gokudera started making excuses. His sister needed him for something, he had to run a few errands, he needed to start looking for a part-time job to help pay the rent… all lies. Tsuna relayed them to Yamamoto who accepted them without question, but Tsuna watched Yamamoto's fingers twitch over the wheels of his chair.
Though the cranes kept pouring in from admirers and teammates and friends, the visits outside of Tsuna were rarer. Kyoko and Haru stopped in every once in a while after school to help string up the cranes, and Ryohei came in on the weekends when he wasn't busy with the boxing club. Chrome stopped showing up altogether. Reborn stuck his head in once or twice to encourage Yamamoto to get better soon because the Vongola needed him and to drop off the Vongola crest origami ("A gift from the Ninth"). Dino and Squalo and Lussuria had long since returned to Italy, and everyone else, well, they knew they would see him at school again soon enough, and Yamamoto really did need to get his homework done.
Only Tsuna showed up every day, often with a bundle of new cranes that his classmates and the baseball team had given him. "Don't lose them, Dame-Tsuna," they chided. "If he can't ever play baseball again, it'll be all your fault."
He hoped that he did not show exactly how much those words stung.
Today when he showed up to Takezushi, Tsuyoshi grinned and beckoned him inside. "Takeshi's upstairs. Oh, I see you brought more cranes again!"
They were not as plentiful as the past few days, made almost exclusively by Tsuna and Kyoko. Hana had made a couple before butting out. Gokudera had taken the lunch period to smoke on the roof, and Ryohei was nowhere to be found. Still, when Tsuna took them to Yamamoto's room, Yamamoto had an odd sense of excitement as he counted the cranes on his bed and hanging up in the corner of his room.
"Tsuna!" he exclaimed, looking directly at the bag in his hands. "How many did you bring?"
Tsuna cringed. The number was too low to be anything worth mentioning. "Well, ah…"
"There are twenty-two strings up there, and Sasagawa's sister said that each string had forty, right? I might be doing my math wrong, but that should be about eight hundred… eighty? Right? And I have twelve here. Those two over there." He nodded to the silver and gold cranes next to his alarm clock. "How many do you have?"
"Er, about, um…" What had Kyoko said again? "Fifteen…?"
Yamamoto counted on his fingers. "That's over nine hundred. Tsuna, we're almost there!"
And so, for nearly six hours—well, more like three hours: minus one for dinner, and two when they realized they still had some homework to finish before tomorrow—they folded almost nonstop. Tsuna had no idea where they were now, but after each crane Yamamoto glanced up and counted each bird on the bed.
They were intent on reaching one thousand before tomorrow.
"Nine hundred eighty," Yamamoto announced, leaning back in the chair and stretching his arms behind him. "Twenty-two times forty is eight hundred eighty, right?"
"Gokudera-kun said so," said Tsuna, pulling out his phone for confirmation. "Eight hundred eighty."
"And you counted twenty-two too, right?"
"Good," said Yamamoto, a content smile spreading on his face. "That's good."
Tsuna stared at the half-finished crane under his hands, and doubt crept up on him again. Yamamoto truly and thoroughly believed that the cranes would work, but these were just pieces of folded paper. They couldn't really do anything, could they? Gokudera seemed to think so, having not folded a single crane since laying eyes on the wheelchair, having not called Yamamoto a "baseball idiot" since he rolled into Takezushi the day he left the hospital. He didn't even show up or respond when Tsuna sent him a text explaining that they were going to try to get to one thousand tonight.
If Yamamoto can't ever play baseball again, it'll be all your fault.
Tsuna sighed. It already was. Ever since he saved Yamamoto from the plunge to the school grounds concrete, he had condemned him to never playing baseball again, one way or another. And someday, Yamamoto would never forgive him for it.
"I think my legs are sore."
Tsuna let this sink in. "What?"
Yamamoto's grin turned brighter. "I think my legs are sore. I don't know if they are because I want them to be or if they are because they are, but… the cranes must be working, don't you think?"
"I can't wait to get back to baseball. And the sooner I can get back to playing mafia with you and Gokudera and everyone else, the better."
"But… because of the mafia, you…"
"Because of the mafia, I have you in my life," said Yamamoto softly. "I have you and Gokudera and Senpai and the kid and Squalo and… well… you. And if I lost the mafia, I'd lose you and everyone else, too, wouldn't I? That's why I think my legs are sore."
Tsuna stared at Yamamoto, watching his cheer dissolve into helpless acceptance, helpless defiance. His eyes were fixated on the gold and silver cranes by his bedside, and his hands gripped the wheels of his chair tightly, shaking just so subtly.
Without thinking, Tsuna stood and walked to Yamamoto. He wrapped his arms around his neck and buried his face into the soft black of his hair, smelling like aloe and mint. Surprised, Yamamoto grabbed Tsuna's arm, his hand warm and uncertain.
"I'm not going anywhere, Yamamoto," said Tsuna into his hair. "You're my friend, my most important friend, and I can't lose you. I'm not going anywhere, not as long as you want me with you. I don't even care if you continue with the mafia. Quit it if you want to. The mafia isn't important to me. You are. And I don't want you to go anywhere, I don't want you to leave me, and I can't believe that you don't want to after all that's happened and—" He was rambling, but Yamamoto didn't seem to care.
Tsuna pulled back, and Yamamoto met his eyes. For a long time they stared, hesitant and frightened, but then someone moved and their lips met. Yamamoto wrapped his arms around Tsuna, and Tsuna held tightly on to him, and all his doubts and fears melted away.
When they broke the kiss, they continued holding on to each other, their foreheads touching and smiles lifting their faces.
Not one more crane was made that night, but when they arrived to school the next morning, over twenty made out of scraps of old newspaper with cigarette burns waited for Yamamoto in his locker.
They had surpassed one thousand.
A few weeks later under the fluorescent lights of the physical therapist's office, with Tsuna tenderly holding his hand, Yamamoto took his first step.