Talk about change. New video game on my shelf. New picture on my profile. New holiday to prepare for. And a new story to begin publishing.

Yes, it's me. It's safe to say that I am indeed BACK!

Anyway, onto a few important warnings you should know before reading (The length is because this is the only time I'm saying this. Future A/N's will be considerably shorter) :

1. There will be no lemons. Will characters get frisky on screen? Definitely. Will there be implied sex, and maybe a short flashback or two? Probably. Will things escalate to a lime? meh...maybe. But I don't want to go all out and explicit with any intimate scenes, then it stops being hot and evolves to some form of porn. (if you want to put them in your stories, that's fine, I really don't care. And I'm a teenage guy, so it's not like I hate reading them, but...It just feels weird to write.)

2. I know it's labeled as 'Adventure/Drama' but it actually has a little of everything in it. Expect everything from Mukuro pervertedness to Tsuna inspirational speak.

3. Just because I'm not going to have lemons doesn't mean this doesn't deserve the M rating. Dark themes, explicit violence, and bad days for all will be ensued in the following chapters.

4. This is going to be LONG.

5. The story is told from third person, and it's going to be switching off between Guardians. So, when the story is following Hibari, then expect the characters to be called by what Hibari calls them (herbivores, baby, etc.). When it switches to someone else, what everyone is referred to will switch. This is for showing character relationships; it's confusing now, important later.

There's probably a bunch of other things I should warn you about, but I can't think of anything else right now.

So, without further ado, I give you the first chapter of Phoenix Fire, I hope you enjoy it.

"Seems like just yesterday, you were a part of me.

I used to stand so tall, I used to be so strong.

You're arms around me tight, everything, it felt so right.

Unbreakable,

Like nothing could go wrong..."

The Enemy that Conquers All-More then fire and water, space and earth, light and shadow, life and death; the one thing everything must bow down to is Time...

The citizens of Namimori are used to having to repair the shingles on their rooftops about once every month. It's almost become a tradition in the cozy city, to the point where families that live on the same street often pool money and hire the same carpenters to try and get discounts.

The reason behind this odd custom is none other then the city warlord. Since the age of ten, he had taken a liking to leaping across rooftops in an attempt to get where he wanted to go, faster, and to avoid the crowded streets. For six years, people put up with the fearsome "Predator of Namimori" using their rooftops as his pathways, albeit always listening out for him, hoping for him to one day kick the habit.

That's why no one missed when, two years ago, he suddenly started using the rooftops more frequently, sometimes in broad daylight. He always seemed to be heading to a certain house, although who lived there, no one knew. People had seen a kind, middle aged woman in the windows, happily humming a tune while washing the dishes or dusting her furniture. But of course it couldn't be her he was going to visit; he would never be caught dead within ten yards of someone like her. And so the mystery remained.

His rooftop crusades had paused briefly, about six months ago. Suddenly, citizens stopped hearing the telltale thumps or clinks that signaled he was running across a roof. People had theorized that he may be participating in some form of gang violence at the school; claims had been made that explosions and other odd occurrences had been happening in the dead of night. But these events ceased after a week, and homeowners began to hear the thumps and clinks again, only now they were much quieter, and fewer, and further between. Almost like he had learned to travel longer distances with each jump. Or he was just bored and practicing, lazily taking his time, waiting for the days to pass.

But tonight wasn't like the other nights. Tonight, the thumps were many; tonight, shingles were ripped off roofs with enough force to break tree branches; tonight, buildings were crossed in record time.

Because tonight, Hibari Kyoya had somewhere to be. And he needed to be there now.


He jumped from rooftop to rooftop, using hanging flagpoles and thick tree branches to help him cross large distances or change direction rapidly. He used every bit of structure and land he could to help him get to where he was going without having to take the winding streets below.

Some people called it freerunning; others referred to it as the art of parkour. To a generation of adolescence and young adults alike who desired freedom from restrictions, and were constantly exposed to media with protagonists making nearly impossible leaps and bounds, this style was revered and mastery was highly desired.

To Hibari it was simply a natural form of movement that allowed him to get where he wanted to go and not have to deal with other people.

He hopped onto another roof, letting the slant and his momentum take his feet away from him until one leg was slightly folded underneath him, the other sticking out in front as he slid down, a hand behind him on the roof to help steer his direction. Time seemed to slow as he approached the lip of the roof, his adrenaline spiking, telling him to grab something. Only years of training and his own confidence kept his composure as he felt his back foot reach the lip and begin to slip off. He waited until the absolute last second, feeling the air below him of a four story drop and his front foot resting on nothingness, before he used his other foot to push off the side of the building, propelling him forward at an alarming rate.

Hibari reached a hand out and felt it slam into a vertical flag pole. He instantly wrapped his fingers around it, feeling his body swinging. His eyes locked on where he wanted to land as time slowed again; he agonizingly released the pole, his body arcing perfectly, landing exactly where he had wanted to, on top of a flat roofed, residential house. Rolling, he recovered from the launch and got back on his feet. Though he didn't smile, he felt a familiar fire in his heart. Just another example of my power Hibari thought, straightening the cuff of his school uniform's shirt.

The fire quickly faded as he looked at the scene below him. Many people were crammed into the front yard of the house, surrounded by five foot tall brick walls. They were all mulling around, looking lost, not doing anything. Which would have irritated him, had he not understood the situation and laid eyes on the matter at hand.

He'd come to this house many times over the past two years since one of it's occupants stopped his tonfa with one hand and a small pet. Though the rest of the residents in the household never knew it, he'd actually been inside as often as some of the other, more...vocal...guardians, challenging the master living there to a fight. He'd always been turned down of course, but that didn't stop him from constantly fantasizing about actually fighting the baby.

He saw him now, standing on top of one of the walls, fedora pulled over his eyes and hiding his expression as his pet chameleon-the very same one he'd used to stop Hibari's attack-drooped it's head.

But Hibari, for once, didn't care about getting a fight off him. Or anyone, really. No, this was not a hunt. This was a track. And one he was failing miserably.

Hibari turned his attention back to the person in the center of the crowd. She was the woman of the household, with chocolate brown hair that seemed to hug the sides of her head, and an eye color to match. Her clothing was unremarkable - a light blue sweater and ankle length gray skirt - except for the yellow apron that seemed to be a part of all her outfits. She'd always seemed like someone who literally glowed; all smiles and laughter.

Not today. Today, she was a crying mess, a ball on the ground in the arms of her husband.

"H-he said that he-e was liv-ving a lie. Th-th-that he needed-d somewh...ere ELSE!" she sobbed, holding her knees to her chest, refusing to be comforted. "He's lo-ost all trust in us..h-he didn't even tell me w-w-where he was GOING! He just h-hit my neck and left. I lost con-sci-ous-ness after that...it's been...hours..."

Her husband leaned close, whispering something into her ear. Her head snapped up, a fire in her eyes as she stared him down, tears running down her face.

"What did you do!" she sobbed. "What did you do to drive him away!" her voice increased in volume. Her husband pulled her close, trying to calm her down.

"C'mon!" Shouted a familiar yet unwelcome voice. Hibari quickly glanced out of the corner of his eye to acknowledge his storm counterpart, who looked like he was ready to blow up. "What are we doing standing around! We gotta go after him-"

"With what?" The baby asked from the wall. Looking up, he laid eyes on the storm guardian. "His pills, gloves, and gear are all gone. If he used flames, he can move faster then any of us, excluding Hibari up there-" the baby nodded towards Hibari, who raised an eyebrow, "-but he can't fly."

For a few moments, silence reigned. Then, the storm guardian yelled and punched a wall, shattering his knuckles.

"We shouldn't be surprised." whispered someone from below Hibari. Looking down, he locked eyes with Yamamoto Takeshi, who quickly looked away. "After what he's gone through over the past six months...after what we've done to him..."

That strange cow boy sat crying loudly near the woman, not paying attention to anything else. The captain of the boxing club had his brow furrowed, like he was trying to still make sense of what was going on. The female illusionist leaned against a wall away from everyone else, facing Hibari, but not really looking at him. She was probably staring at the moon behind him. Out of all the people in the yard, she was the only one who seemed to be in control. In fact, she almost appeared thoughtful.

"He didn't say goodbye." Whispered that annoying girl that always followed the herbivore around. Her brown hair, normally up in a pony tail, was all around her face, which was bloated from all the crying she had done. The captain of the boxing club's younger sister sat next to her, patting her back. She had a blank look on her face, as if, like her brother, she hadn't fully understood the situation.

"...Coward."

The muttered word caused everyone to look at the old man standing near the baby. He had his cane out, his hand holding it in a death grip. His bodyguards were around him, looking displeased.

Hibari searched through his memory for a moment, trying to remember these unimportant crowders. Weren't they the previous herbivores, or something like that?

"Coward." the old man said again, louder this time. "I gave him every chance...I gave him so much time to choose...yet still he runs away after just six months?"

"Hey!" called out the storm guardian. "What do you know about-"

"I know a hell of a lot more then all of you combined!" yelled the old man, suddenly fixing the storm guardian in a death glare. "And I'm telling you, right now, that he was a lying coward! We gave him a year and a half to make up his mind, a year and a half to come to a final decision, yet, just like always, he couldn't be a man and stick with what he said he would. No, he ran off after a few words of discouragement!"

"It's not like that!" cried Yamamoto Takeshi indignantly.

"That's exactly what it's like!" roared the old man. "And you know what? I've coddled all of you for far too long." He looked up and over his shoulder at the baby. "You've coddled them for far too long." The baby flinched.

He narrowed his eyes. "I sent you here to train them, not befriend them. I sent you here to prepare the next generation, not baby it till their potential is all but mush!"

His head whipped back around. his eyes traveled over each guardian, ending at Hibari, who glared right back. "You all are the Vongola Guardians. Start acting like it, and less like some team of self righteous superheroes! You're supposed to be the reformers, the people who would bring the Vongola back to it's original roots; not a bunch of punks who sit back and wait till the problem at hand has walked right up to them and stabbed them through the chest!"

"No..." his voice dropped back down, gaining a deadly edge as he looked into the crystal at the top of his cane, as if mesmerized. "No, this will not be a wasted effort. I can still salvage it. I can still make you all into the perfect soldiers; the people Vongola Primo dreamed you would be. You all still have the potential to take on the Vongola's past sins." The old man looked up, his eyes lit with a fire that bothered Hibari; whether it was because of the danger they radiated, or the fact that he was responding to that danger, the disciplinarian couldn't tell you. "I will personally train you all until you understand exactly what your purpose in life is." he straightened, fixing his suit idly.

He walked towards the man of this particular household, putting his hand on the other's shoulder. "I am sorry I didn't see this coming sooner. I could have prepared for it."

The man shook his head. "It's his own fault for throwing away the kindness you've shown him. Just make sure it doesn't happen again."

The old man nodded, patting his shoulder. "Don't worry. I won't."

And with the way he made that solemn promise...the way his eyes glinted unnaturally in the moonlight...it was then that Hibari understood. He'd felt a slight tinge of something that could be mistaken for worry when he first arrived here, but he'd brushed it aside. Now he understood what his instincts had been telling him; Angry, this old man is a forced to be reckoned with.

He had just declared that he'd reshape all of them. And there was no more kind, frighteningly strong herbivore to hold back his desires.

A cold feeling began to seep up from Hibari's tail bone, along his spine.

"What did you do?" muttered the woman, looking up at the old man. He simply shook his head, walking away.

"What did you do?" she asked again, looking around at the group of children, none of whom could meet her eye.

"What did you do?" she asked, louder, this time looking at the baby. He held her gaze, but his once vibrant onyx orbs were dead, their spark and life sapped by the day's events.

The woman fell back into a ball, placing her forehead against the ground as she sobbed more.

"WHAT DID YOU DO?"


A day...


A week...


A month...


One...


Two...


Three years later...


"You haven't seen her, have you?"

Gokudera shook his head, looking into the eyes of the ninth cloud guardian, Visconti.

Visconti-sama was an older man, to say the least. His hair had probably been brown at one point, but was now a dark gray. As if to contrast his age, that very same mop of hair was an unkempt mess, with strands of the sleeked back hairdo lifting off his head. His solitary bang hung limply across his forehead, stretching from the center of his scalp to the tip of his sunglasses, which were pulled down, hiding his eyes behind reflective lenses.

"No, sir." Replied Gokudera, "Haven't seen even a glimpse of her tiny little ass."

Visconti-sama scoffed, and Gokudera mentally tensed, wondering if he'd overstepped some form of language guideline. But Visconti just wiped a hand across his mouth. "I see. You know, she broke one of the laws of the city. And she's been on the run for about a week now."

"Really?" said Gokudera, intrigued.

Visconti-sama nodded, scratching at his beard. "I was assigned to track her down as soon as she went off the grid. But she's one slippery bitch."

"She did learn from the best of them." Pointed out Gokudera.

Visconti-sama chuckled lightly. "That she did. We've got them under watch pretty well though, and she hasn't contacted them. Anyway, she really needs to be caught, so she can be punished by us."

"I'll let you know if I find anything out." assured Gokudera.

Visconti-sama nodded one more time, fixing his suit before dropping a card on the table. "Call that number if you find anything out. Trust me, it'll be worth your while."

"I will." said Gokudera. "Have a good day, Visconti-sama."

Visconti-sama waved a hand lazily as he walked out the door of Gokudera's apartment. "Yeah, you too kid. Better get ready; it's almost time for school."

Gokudera nodded, not moving until the door was shut. Then he dropped the grin off of his face, and counted to thirty, looking around the room.

1...2...3...

He'd been 'asked' to move apartments soon after the Ninth took up permanent residence in Namimori. It had beige walls, a soft white carpet, and a matching ceiling. It had one full bathroom, two bedrooms-both of which were down the hallway to his left- and a sizable kitchen/living room.

This apartment was bigger, yes, but he wasn't allowed to bring any of his old stuff along. All his furniture, clothing, even his books and games had been bought previously and set up for him. He'd been angry at first; but with one word from the Ninth, Gokudera 'lost' his work history, so it was kind of hard to get a job that paid any form of money. He was limited to the allowance that the Ninth gave him, which was enough to buy food and keep up with school supplies.

27...28...29...

Gokudera sighed. Visconti hadn't returned in the past half minute, so it was safe to move. He turned around, grabbing the one possession he'd been allowed to keep: his laptop.

He knew that everything he did on it was being monitored by a bug; he wasn't an idiot. So he kept it simple, popping up his e-mail and sitting down on a nice, red recliner in the back corner of his living room, near the small table he ate at. Kicking the foot rest up, he went through his junk mail.

It took him about five minutes to shuffle through all his stuff. After he was finished with that, he turned his laptop off, setting it on the floor next to the recliner and standing up, stretching. He yawned a bit-school starting early was torture, but Visconti waking him up an hour before his alarm went off was a killer-then walked over to the door, taking a look through it's peephole. He saw nothing out of the ordinary.

Quickly turning on his heel, he walked briskly back to the kitchen, turning right at the same counter he'd been leaning on when talking to Visconti, down the hallway. He paused at a closet halfway down, knocking on it erratically.

Tap-tap-ta-ta-ta-tap-tap...t-t-tap.

Walking down the rest of the hallway, he went through the door on his left, into his room-or that's what it was called anyway, it was an identical set up to the other room across the hall, and he had no personal possessions to adorn the walls with-and grabbed his school uniform, peeling off the simple under-shirt and gray sweat pants he'd been wearing.

Taking a look at himself in the mirror as he got dressed, it hit him again how much he'd changed since his life had one eighty'd three years ago: The defined white tendrils he'd had as a middle schooler had since been pulled back away from his face and merged so that now as a high school senior, he had a messy silver mane running down his neck, all the way to his shoulders. His eyes had changed color slightly, from the sea green they had been to an emerald. His face was all angles now, a fact that hadn't been lost on the entire female population of Namimori.

Well, that and the slim yet defined muscles he now sported. Puberty could really be a wonderful thing.

Shaking his head slightly, Gokudera buttoned up his nice white shirt, pulled up his faded yellow pants, meticulously tied his dark blue tie, and slipped on the jacket that matched his pants. Double checking Namimori's winter uniform a few times to make sure it was all straight and orderly, he smoothed out the jacket one last time before walking out the door.

He stopped as he shut the door to his bedroom, watching the closet slide open. He walked over and peered inside, at the woman lying across his washer and dryer. She was in the process of crawling out, her purple hair hiding her face. She swung her booted legs out of the cramped space, making sure they were dangling before slipping the rest of the way out as she stood, coming up to her full height...which was at about Gokudera's shoulder.

"You okay, Dokuro?" asked Gokudera.

Chrome Dokuro looked up at him, one amneythest eye glinting against the limited light in the hallway, the other hidden by a faded brown eyepatch. She nodded, tucking her hair back behind her ears. It had grown as well, the purple strands now stretching to the middle of her back. She'd kept her pineapple hair style though; only now instead of being a small tuft of hair sticking off of her hair swirl, it was an intricate pattern of layers and folds, an attempt to keep up with the long length. It formed a bit of a bump, sometimes fooling people into thinking her head was somehow swollen. However, what in all rights should have looked unnatural and odd actually fit Dokuro quite well.

Especially when she had a light blush on her face because she was right next to you, with the way she clasped her hands behind her back awkwardly, avoiding your eyes and therefore not noticing how she was unconsciously thrusting her chest forward slightly, defining her very nice curves even under her light green sweater and thick, knee length, dirty white skirt. In fact, if Gokudera didn't know any better he would assume she was breathing hard-

Damn.

Puberty could really be an awkward thing.

"So..." Gokudera fumbled, trying to say something before his hand reached out and touched something. "What'd you do?"

Dokuro shrugged, not meeting his gaze. "Jaywalked." she whispered, her bell-like voice rasping out of her throat. It was the first noise he'd heard her make since she stealthily broke into his apartment and begged for help.

Gokudera rose an eyebrow. This I gotta hear. "They're trying to catch and 'punish' you because you didn't cross the street at a crosswalk?"

Dokuro nodded.

Gokudera shut his eyes. "What else did you do?"

Dokuro awkwardly toed the carpet for a second.

"Skipped out on an earlier reprisal." she muttered.

Gokudera's eyes shot open. "What?" he hissed.

No wonder she was such a high priority that she was being hunted by a Guardian. To defy the Ninth like that...it was foolish and ultimately would only lead to more trouble.

"Can you blame me?" She asked quietly, as if reading his thoughts, meeting his eyes again.

Gokudera sighed. No, he couldn't. He'd heard stories about other young women who had been 'punished' under the Ninth's orders. And suffice to say, the fact that Dokuro was still an unsoiled virgin at seventeen was quite a shock.

It seems her luck has run out though. And if she gets caught, I'm screwed too.

"...You probably can't stay here another night." Gokudera finally said, looking above her head.

Dokuro nodded, head hanging. "I'm sorry for the trouble." she muttered, slipping past him and heading back to the guest room. He didn't offer any solace.

Gokudera watched as she used a piece of mirror from her pocket to look up and down the street before opening the window in the guest room, jumping out and landing on a tree branch.

He waited until he was sure she was at the end of the street before shutting the window, walking back to the closet and shutting the doors. He turned around, opening the door across from his closet and entering his bathroom. Grabbing a toothbrush, he began idly cleaning his teeth.

Of course, idle activities give people too much time to think.

Should I have really kicked Dokuro out like that? Couldn't I have at least pointed her in the direction of another safe house? And how long is she planning on sticking around in the city anyway?

What happens if she gets caught? Won't I get busted for helping her? Maybe I should wipe my closet clean; claim she's lying. After all, if she's been hiding out for a week, she's bound to have stayed with a ton of other people. Maybe if I can find out who, we can work to get an alibi together...

But hasn't Dokuro stuck her neck out for me in the past? Don't I owe her for helping cover up some of my earlier mistakes? God, I wonder who helped her hide first, instead of just turning her over. That would've been the smart decision...it was probably Yamamoto...

UUUUUUUGGGGHHH! Fine. You know what, fine. I'll contact someone who can try and smuggle her out of the city. If she gets caught, she's on her own. And then after this, any debt I have to her is CLEAR.

Gokudera looked into his bathroom mirror as he wiped his mouth clean, exhaling softly.

He had missed a new detail of his face when he was getting dressed earlier, mostly because his eyes always seemed to be the way they are now, so he'd forgotten that once upon a time, he had a spark of fire and defiance in them. Now they were just empty, dull orbs, with heavy bags underneath them.

Oh yes. A body to die for now that he was eighteen, but make no mistake; he had become a shadow of his fifteen year old self.

He sighed again. Time for school.


God, what's taking him so long?

Gokudera looked at the clock hanging on the wall across from him again. It'd been ten minutes since the final bell had rung and class had begun. He was the only one in the hallway; just loitering around, doing nothing. For ten minutes.

He turned around, looking out the window of the Namimori High school building, at the peaceful town. It, at least, hadn't changed. It still looked like the most peaceful place to work, to play, to live. It seemed to shine and glow just as much as it had when he'd first come here. Unchanged...

...on the surface, at least.

"Gokudera Hayato."

Gokudera looked to his left, staring dead into the eyes of the school's head prefect.

Hibari Kyoya stood about a yard away, in the disciplinarian uniform - which he wore normally, his arms in the jacket sleeves and the buttons buttoned up all the way to his neck - face impassive as his gray eyes stared right back. Like the rest of the boy's their age, his face had lost any trace of childish roundness, his raven hair slightly shorter, extending down to just above his ears on the sides; a small group of bangs reaching his eyebrows, accenting his eyes.

His hands fidgeted slightly, which he tried to cover up by straightening his collar. Breaking their gaze first, Hibari looked out the window next to Gokudera's. "You should be in class." he commented.

Gokudera looked at him for another second before looking out the window. "Just watching out for owls."

Hibari raised an eyebrow. "Oh? And why would you be looking out for them now? It's the middle of the day."

Gokudera sighed. "Yup. But ya'know, I just can't stand cruelty to animals. And I've heard that owl catching has become popular suddenly."

"Hmmm." Hibari mumbled. "How suddenly?"

"Started about a week ago." Gokudera commented nonchalantly.

Hibari nodded. "Ah yes." he said, snapping his fingers lazily. "I remember a week ago, the members of the committee talking about some contest to catch this rare white owl."

"The disciplinary committee?" Gokudera clarified.

Hibari nodded. "They seemed very excited about participating."

Gokudera sighed. "Any chance we could catch it ourselves and smuggle it out?"

Hibari shrugged. "You have the tools? Because I don't."

Gokudera snorted. "If I had the tools, would I be talking to you?"

Hibari rose his eyebrows quickly in ascension. "Good point...I'll look into it, see what I can scrounge up. No promises."

Gokudera nodded. "Thanks."

Hibari turned, slowly walking the other direction. "Just remember you owe me." he said. He stopped after a few steps, turning around, his mouth open slightly as if a thought had just occurred to him. "And you should really get to class."

Gokudera scoffed. "In a bit."

Hibari narrowed his eyes. "Now, student-"

"Or what?" Gokudera shot back. "You gonna bite me to death?"

Hibari flinched, eyes widening as he took a step back. Gokudera remained calm, holding the other man's gaze as Hibari put a hand to his mouth, looking away. A minute passed.

"...Just please, Gokudera. Go to class." Hibari finally whispered, his plea muffled by his hand.

Gokudera waited a bit longer before walking past Hibari, their shoulders brushing. Gokudera had a slight height advantage over Hibari, whom only came up to his nose. Such as it was, the shorter man was knocked slightly off balance.

But Hibari just rectified himself, not moving as Gokudera reached the end of the hallway. The half italian looked one last time at the disciplinarian as he rounded the corner.

Hibari still hadn't moved, except for the hand that wasn't covering his mouth. It was bent, in front of him in a slightly defensive position, his fist slightly closed, as if holding a tonfa only he could see.


Gokudera opened the door to his classroom. It was a classic teaching room; the front wall was covered in black and white boards, a electronic smartboard in the center. A few feet in front of that wall was a large desk, covered in papers and utensils. The teacher, a short, round, balding man in a faded blue suit named Aezawa, stood behind the desk, lecturing to a full classroom of about forty students, all of whom were obediently crouched over their textbooks.

Aezawa-sensei stopped mid-lecture, glaring at Gokudera as the younger man walked into the classroom. The bomber looked up, meeting his teacher's slaying glare for a moment before averting his eyes, casting them upon the classroom of young adults who all had their gazes robotically locked on him. Though he wore the same uniform as the other boys, he couldn't help but feel so alone in that instant.

Then he heard a slow intake of breath, and realized what came next. Shit...

"GOKUDERA HAYATO!" Yelled Aezawa-sensei. "Where HAVE you been!"

"Ah, sorry sir." He said apologetically, ducking his head slightly to make him seem shorter as he scratched the back of his head, a hesitant smile on his face. "Uh, I had to go to the bathroom sir..." he trailed off, trying his best to keep the smile on his face as his teacher seemed to debate what blunt instrument to slam into Gokudera's skull.

Then Aezawa-sensei smirked evilly, his entire body language flipping. "Ah, I thought that after doing it for so long, you'd of learned to redo the dye in your hair before you came to school."

Gokudera's smirk faltered slightly. "Ah..ha...yeah, I guess so..." he said, faking a laugh.

Aezawa-sensei's grin only grew. "Being submissive are we? I wonder, did you teach yourself that or are you just following the example of your whore-mother? I bet she was pretty submissive to her clients."

Gokudera flinched, straightening up.

Aezawa-sensei chuckled softly, shaking his head. "This doesn't surprise me. All that punk in you, is it just a way to pick up chicks? Do you have sex down to a science, like your mother probably did? Or how else would she be able to get a wealthy italian to fall for her her?" The teacher sighed.

Gokudera shook slightly.

"Then again, from what I heard, she was only allowed to see you three times a year. Hm...suspicious." He continued. "So maybe, instead of love, your whore-mother got tired of using her pianists fingers on herself and found the first man who could make her squeal like a bitch?" Aezawa-sensei laughed. Chuckles could be heard coming from a few of the students, but Gokudera dare not look up from the floor to see who.

"And so then we have you; a mistake a very nice man made, so he had you shipped off to Japan, for all of us to have to put up with." Aezawa-sensei raised an eyebrow. "Well, at least I was able to beat some manners into you...right?"

Gokudera stood still.

"Right, delinquent?"

Gokudera jerkily nodded his head.

"Good." Aezawa-sensei purred. "Now let me here you tell us."

Gokudera looked up from under his short bangs, his eyes meeting Aezawa-sensei's, pleading. His teacher's smile just turned sadistic.

"Tell them all, Gokudera. All about your precious mother."

Gokudera began to shake his head.

"Aw, does the poor little delinquent not want to speak ill of his mother?" Aezawa-sensei fake cooed. He walked over to Gokudera, and even though he only came up to the young man's chest, he still intimidated Gokudera into backing up to the wall. He patted the younger man's cheek sharply, almost like a slap.

"Tell them, Gokudera!" He said sharply. "Do it!"

Gokudera closed his eyes, whimpering inaudibly. "My mother...w-was a dirty wh-whore." He stuttered out.

Aezawa-sensei smiled. "And?" he prompted.

"I...am a mistake accidentally created by my misguided father." he said, resigned.

Aezawa-sensei slapped the back of his head. "And don't you dare forget it, you useless half breed. Now go sit down."

Gokudera nodded, hanging his head and closing his eyes, trying to keep the tears back. But still, one escaped. And, like a red flag in front of a bull, Aezawa-sensei caught it instantly.

The teacher began laughing, pointing at Gokudera with one hand while the other held his gut. "Th-the half breed is crying! He misses his whore-mother!" he gasped out, laughing like a hyena. The rest of the class quickly joined in, and the logical part of his mind kept telling him that they were obviously faking it. But still...

Though he wore the same uniform as the other boys, he couldn't help but feel so alone.

He walked to his seat, head bent, setting his bag next to his desk, which was up against the right wall. Before he could sit down, Aezawa-sensei called out to him. "Half breed, meet the new student!" he commanded, pointing to the other side of the classroom.

Gokudera turned his head slightly, looking over at a shorter boy - to him at least...but when you've broken two hundred centimeters at eighteen, it's hard for anything to seem tall - about Chrome's height, his hair in a brown bowl cut as his beady black eyes stared at Gokudera with disgust.

"Kimakaze Nakamura." he inclined his head at Gokudera, who did the same back.

As Kimakaze sat back down, Gokudera looked at who sat behind the new kid, and his eyes widened.

Yamamoto Takeshi tensed, hunched over in his seat, glaring at the new student occupying the space in front of him. The glare, which had been intimidating in middle school, was paralyzing with his pointed chin, his messy black hair sticking up slightly in spikes, and sunken in amber eyes. He looked like he was trying to split the kid in half with his thoughts.

Gokudera sighed as he sat down, pulling out the book they were reading from. Could this day get any worse? he thought.

"Delinquent, since you were so late, I assume you're going to make it up to the class by reading Juliet's part?"

Shit.


Namimori High school had a very large field behind it, most of which was taken up by the track, soccer field, baseball diamond, and gym. Normally, these places would be packed full of students practicing something, whether that would be a new pitch or a certain dash or maybe just an old stretch.

However, the track was filled with pot holes, the soccer field's grass was at least fifteen centimeters high, the baseball diamond was filled with trash and missing two bases, and the gym had many broken windows, with it's front door chained up and large red posters posted on the doors saying 'DO NOT ENTER-TRESPASSERS WILL BE ARRESTED AND FINED'. Obviously, none of them had been seriously used in quite a while.

The rest of the field was devoted to students, as a place to eat and relax. It had trees spread out sporadically in it, one of which Gokudera was currently sitting under, his back resting against the trunk as he opened up a store bought bento.

Pulling out a pair of chopsticks, he prepared to eat when a shadow fell across his face.

"Hey, Gokudera. Mind if we sit here?"

Gokudera looked up into the brown eyes of Miura Haru. She'd gotten marginally taller over the past three years, but not enough for you to notice. She'd abandoned her ponytail when she'd entered high school, instead cutting her hair to chin length, letting it fall naturally. She wore the Nami High girls winter uniform; identical to its' male counterpart, except with a black skirt and stalkings instead of yellow pants to cover the legs.

Next to her stood Sasagawa Kyoko. She had miraculously stayed the same height as Miura, although the similarities pretty much ended there. While Miura's hair was a dark brown, Sasagawa's auburn locks seemed to glow, extending down to the bottom of her shoulder blades. Her brown eyes shined, making them seem almost dark gold, contrasting nicely with the school uniform.

With the hand that wasn't holding his food, Gokudera motioned in front of him silently. The girls sat next to him, Miura on his right, Sasagawa on his left.

"So...how was class?" Miura asked after a few moments. Sasagawa gasped, trying to silently motion to her to stop talking.

Gokudera didn't react. After a few moments, he shrugged. "It was normal." He didn't dare look up to see the pity that Miura was no doubt stabbing into him with her gaze.

Sasagawa glanced in between the two of them, trying to find something to say. She was beaten to the punch when Yamamoto walked over, waving, though no one saw him do it.

"Hey guys!" he said, flashing a small grin as he sat across from Gokudera, placing a bento in his lap. "How're you doing, ladies, Gokudera?"

Miura smiled. "Fine as can be, Yamamoto-san."

Sasagawa nodded, beginning to eat her own food. "I'm excited the day's almost over."

Gokudera just rolled his eyes. "I'm peachy."

The smirk slipped from Yamamoto's face. "Yeah...about that-"

"Lies." Gokudera whispered. "All of them."

Yamamoto nodded slowly. "...I know." he said.

They all ate the rest of their lunches in silence.

Gokudera, once again caught in a situation of idle action, began thinking again. Wonder how Dokuro is doing? She obviously didn't come to school; she's probably in someone's basement. Hope Hibari can contact her soon, the thought of the power she holds over me is causing my hair to get whiter then it already is.

Well, let's see: The Guardians have investigated my apartment, I harbored a fugitive of the city, tried to help said fugitive by involving myself with the biggest push over that has power in this school, and got humiliated in front of everyone in my class...again. There's no way this could get worse - ...shit.

"Ah, hello everyone."

Kimakaze Nakamura walked over, standing behind Miura, who looked up, confused. "Who're you?" she asked.

"He's a new student in my class. His name is Kimakaze." Sasagawa said helpfully. The man in question bowed slightly, smiling at Sasagawa and showing off his buck teeth.

"Ah, you remember me! And after only hearing my name once!" Kimakaze cried happily.

"Twice." Sasagawa corrected.

Kimakaze rose an eyebrow, caught off guard. "Huh?"

"You said your name twice." Sasagawa clarified. "Once when the class was first introduced to you, and once when you...introduced yourself to Gokudera-san."

Kimakaze briefly flicked his eyes over Gokudera. "Sorry, didn't see you there." Looking back at Sasagawa, he smiled again. "So, since I'm new here I really don't know my way around. I was wondering if we could leave now and you could show me-"

"Get lost." said Yamamoto gruffly, not looking at Kimakaze, who stopped and rose an eyebrow at Yamamoto. "Excuse me?" he asked haughtily.

"I said get lost!" Yamamoto yelled, fixing the new kid with a glare that could kill elephants. Kimakaze flinched. Ignoring Yamamoto, he turned to Sasagawa. "Sasagawa-chan, I must say you have very rude companions-"

Gokudera jumped forward, spilling his bento as he grabbed Yamamoto around the chest, pulling him down as the other man tried to lunge at Kimakaze. When Yamamoto realized what Gokudera was doing, he tried fiercely to push Gokudera off while shouting at Kimakaze. "Can't you tell you aren't welcome here! Get out of my sight, and never come back into it, you filthy, greasy little pip-squeak of a coward!"

"Dumbass, are you planning on making everyone in the school watch you beat down some snot?" whispered Gokudera as he resisted Yamamoto's pushes.

It seems the swordsman didn't need to actually hit Kimakaze anyway; he was already quickly backing away.

"AND GET A NEW SEAT!" Yamamoto yelled at the retreating form.

"Would you shut up!" cried Gokudera, finally pushing Yamamoto to the ground before quickly scurrying off of him.

"How can you protect him?" Yamamoto asked, sitting up. "You saw what seat he was occupying, acting like it was a throne or something. But that's not his seat; that's Ts-"

"Be quiet." Sasagawa muttered coldly, stopping him before he could say that name. Yamamoto looked over at her, his gaze filled with resolve.

"No." he said.

Sasagawa slammed her bento shut, standing up, fixing Yamamoto with her best glare while she still had a temporary height advantage. "Why do you defend him?" she asked, starting off their age old argument. "He ran off, without one word to any of us, abandoning us to that vile old man, and yet you sit there and defend him! We haven't seen hide nor hair of that traitor in three years. Years! And not a single word home, no calls, nothing. He forgot about us!"

"No he didn't!" Yamamoto replied angrily. "He would never do that!"

"Then what do you call what he's done?" Sasagawa shot back.

"You know just as well what was going on in the weeks before he left." Yamamoto growled, standing up. "You know that we just made everything else worse for him. And none of us noticed!" His voice got dangerously low. "Not even you."

Sasagawa flinched.

"Can you blame him for needing time away?" He asked.

Sasagawa looked away. "Doesn't mean that what he did wasn't irresponsible."

Yamamoto threw his hands into the air. "You're never going to listen to me. When are you going to start seeing sense instead of being blinded by your own emotions?"

"That's my line!" Sasagawa's head snapped back. "When are you going to start looking past your twisted feelings of idolization and start seeing the logic? He isn't coming back!"

Yamamoto just snorted, walking away.

Sasagawa quietly shrieked to herself before doing the same.

Gokudera, who was still standing under the tree, looked down at Miura, who had finished her lunch a while ago and was sitting quietly. Feeling his gaze, she looked up, and for the second time that afternoon they just stopped, staring at each other.

"What do you think?" He finally asked.

Miura shrugged. "...I think it doesn't matter what I think. To him, it never really did. And no matter how much I could try to guess at the reason why, it won't change it. He's not here; and that's all that matters."

She stood up, brushing off the back of her skirt. "What do you think?" she asked, repeating his question back to him.

He sighed, staring into her eyes for a while longer then necessary. Then, without a word, he broke eye contact as a bell rang out across the field, reaching their ears.

"Time for class." he said monotonously.


Gokudera, in his undershirt and sweatpants, lay on his bed, contemplating life.

I really need to stop thinking so deeply. It's just going to make things worse.

But what else COULD I think about?...How about the weather?

Hmm...It seems abnormally cold for mid September. Maybe we're going to get snow in the next few days? I hope not, Aezawa-sensei's probably going to stick me with all the shitty jobs anyway...oh wait, he already does...

Why do I put up with him? When I was a kid, I'd of broken his nose if he dared look down on me, and broken his jaw the second he insulted Mom...what changed?

Gokudera laughed humorlessly. Oh yeah...I grew up.

Rolling over onto his side, he thought about what Miura had asked him. "What do you think?"

What do I think? Am I angry at him for just running off? A little.

Am I angry that he couldn't trust me with his problems, after all we've been through? Yeah.

Am I disgusted with myself because, even after knowing for all that time he hated the mafia and wanted to just be normal friends, I still just watched with a smile as he was emotionally destroyed? The first person to ever really accept me, with all my faults?

Gokudera sighed, burying his face in this pillow. He reviewed all that had happened over the past three years. All the changes everyone had gone through. It was almost impossible to believe that his life had become this, but he'd lived it.

He remembered days where after school, he'd head the exact opposite direction of his apartment, going up to a friends' room to try and help with homework. Of going to a local sushi shop and complaining about nothing while having a nice soda with others. Of always knowing there would be someone to get your back.

"I wonder what it would be like with the Tenth around?" Gokudera mumbled.

He quickly squashed the thought, for as much his own sanity as for practicality. After all, if he seriously started thinking about that, he'd be up until dawn. And school started early.

"I told you everything, Opened up and let you in;

You made me feel alright, For once in my life;

Now all that's left of me, Is what I pretend to be, Sewed together but so broken up inside;

Cause I can't breathe, no I can't sleep;

I'm barely hanging on..."


There are so many things I want to say right now, but I don't want to give any of the story away, so I'll settle for this: I have a habit of, right here in the bottom A/N, explaining why I did something that you all may or may not like, or that I think might confuse you. That habit kicks the bucket today. If you have a problem with something, or are confused about something, tell me in a review or PM. (But if it's just questions, preferably a PM. I like for reviews to either be encouragement, criticisms, you telling me how awesome something was or wasn't, or some combination, along with any questions you may have.)

Speaking of reviews, I have a poll up about how you want me to respond to your reviews, that I need you to vote on ASAP. Like, as soon as you're done favoring/alerting/reviewing/none of the above. Really, I want to know how you want me to do this; I don't want to take away from the story because of super long A/N's or anything...

...oh crap.

Oh, and before I forget, From now on all A/N's will be condensed into this bottom one, so that when you pop open the chapter you can read the lyrics and get into the story right away.

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it.

Edit: Edited minor grammar and spelling mistakes, changed how Chrome got out of Gokudera's apartment