A/N: So… here, for you all, is a story that has been niggling away at the back of my brain for quite some time. I hope you enjoy it, and review!

Disclaimer: I do not own Katekyo Hitman Reborn.

Keeping Your Character - Chapter One

Before I tell you my story - or rather, to lead into the events of my story - I want to ask you all one question.

Have you ever been born with full self-awareness? No? Didn't think so.

Let me tell you, it's freaking weird. Especially when you know that the weird giants crowding around you after the muck and gunk has been wiped off are not your real family.

I'm sure you're thinking something along the lines of, 'How was this chick aware of her own birth?' or 'How can anyone be born to someone that's not their family?' or if your mental dialogue is particularly articulate, 'Huh…?'

Well, I'll tell you, obviously, or I wouldn't have a story.

Oddly enough, the series of events that makes up this story doesn't start with my birth - or at least not the one I just mentioned. In fact, it starts with my death.

Weird way to start a story, huh?

Anyway, since I'm the main character, you'd think that perhaps I'd die in an awesomely badass way, right? Maybe with gunfire, explosion and an epic car chase? Or a fight to the death with my childhood friend who turned out to be my arch nemesis? Wrong. It was just one of those split-second things, that could happen anytime, anyplace, and would just be another statistic on the evening news.

I was walking home from my minimum wage job at the local grocery store - keep in mind the fact that I'm only fifteen, so I don't have a driver's license yet. So, there I was, walking along, minding all the usual pedestrian guidelines. I looked both ways before crossing the street and -


- I was hit by a drunk driver. At four o' clock in the afternoon, in the middle of the little podunk town I grew up in where the most exciting thing to happen was a couple of squirrels chasing each other around a tree trunk.

Who drinks that much that early in the day anyway? Especially on a weekday?

In fact, why drink at all? My mom says alcohol is an acquired taste, but who would want to acquire it in the first place when all it does is impair your judgment until you start acting like a complete buffoon?

Not to mention the taste of some of it. The one time I tried any kind of alcoholic drink was at a communion service in church. That little, tiny plastic cup of 'wine' tasted like someone had eaten a bunch of grapes, vomited them up, and then proceeded to put them through an old winepress where the method of crushing was filthy, bare feet.

I suppose it's just one of the things I'll never get.

Anyway, I'm getting off topic - where did I leave off? Oh yeah. I'll try not to wander away from the storyline this time.

WHAM - hit by some moron DUI.

Now that I think of it, it was more like a CRUNCHSNAPTHUD, with a loud screech thrown in just for kicks.

Either way, it hurt like hel- erm heck. Swearing is bad - even if some deformed son of a diseased monkey seemed to have shattered all of my bones into such minuscule pieces I can just imagine them shredding my internal organs.

If I were still alive, I'd sue the jerkwad and his mother.

So after my quick, anticlimactic-for-a-protagonist death, I suddenly found myself in a long line of people.

I looked around, and found that about half the people in line looked like old farts about to keel over, and the rest looked sickly, or had some kind of grievous injury. Even as I examined the line behind me, I saw a couple dozen people pop up as I watched. There was just empty space one second, and the next they were there. There was even an entire group that showed up at exactly the same time, all with horrendous burn scars and a few carrying bits of themselves that seemed to have been blown off.

The one thing that all these people had in common, however, was that they were all deathly silent (pun intended), complacently moving forward with the line with no regard as to the condition their bodies were in. One soldier was even pulling himself along with his arms, his severed legs strapped to his back. My mind rebelled sleepily at the observation, but I couldn't actually bring myself to the conclusion that anything was out of order.

Looking ahead of the line, I could see the people at the head of the line stepping inside a giant building. Actually, it looked more like some sort of machine than a building, and it had the word 'CLEANSER' written all over it in big, bold letters, over and over again in any kind of language I could think of, and some that I couldn't.

As I moved up the line myself, somehow moving despite the fatal injuries, and more and more people disappeared into the Cleanser, I could hear one thing through the absolute silence.

It was a monotone voice, almost robotic, a tone that I could recognize immediately after having used it myself many a slow day of cashier work. It was the voice of someone utterly bored of their assigned task, who still had to talk to people.

I craned my neck to see the speaker, because they were something out of the ordinary in this long line of silent people. As the line inched forward, my ears managed to distinguish the actual words the droning voice was saying. The speaker turned out to be an actual speaker - the electronic kind, though I'm not sure that it was running on electricity. It was black, about the size of my head, and because there was absolutely nothing for it to be attached to, it was floating in midair, a couple dozen yards away from the Cleanser.

"-take your assigned world and body. You will then proceed to go through the Cleanser, so that none of your previous memories or experiences will interfere with the reincarnation process. I wish you luck in your new existence, despite the fact that you soon won't remember me doing so." Then the voice paused, and there was a loud beep, before the message presumably started over from the beginning. "Welcome all ye Newly Deceased. Please stay in the line and be sure not to drop any detached body parts you may have. Once your get to this point in the line, please take your assigned world and body-"

I didn't bother to listen after that, as the message repeated itself. Apparently, I was expected to go through some soul-recycler. Isn't that grand?

My mind whirled dizzily, almost hysterically as I finally snapped out of the strange apathy that had descended on me since the car crash. Along with my new awareness that something was wrong, my brain also started to receive pain signals from the fatal injuries I had acquired, though I thankfully didn't start leaking blood everywhere. My neck was killing me though - har dee har har.

I didn't want to lose my memories. Your experiences make you who you are as a person, right? I wouldn't want to lose my own antisocial, somewhat awkward personality only to become some - I don't know - some prissy valley girl in my new life! Or even worse, some sort of depraved rapist, or racist, or just some all-around tool.

Or the absolute worst option - all of the above.

However, I couldn't exactly think of anything I could do to potentially prevent that.

My near-hyperventilation was interrupted by a blinding light coming from my torso area. My eyes squinted shut on reflex, but when the light died down, I immediately looked down to see the firefly on crack that seemed to have perched on my chest.

There, lying against my blood-soaked sweater was a small, golden medallion, attached to a chain that had mysteriously appeared around my neck. I curiously picked up the medallion, lifting it to eyes level with finger that had been bent into unnatural positions.

I squinted slightly, somehow being able to read clearly without fully intact glasses lenses.

It read: 'WORLD: Katekyo Hitman Reborn - as written by Akira Amano. BODY: Lambo Bovino.'

My first thoughts of course were, 'I can't tell if being reborn - no pun intended - as Lambo is worse or not.'

I mentally cried at the thought of being a snot-covered cow-child with an afro. A male one at that.

My feet unconsciously moved me forward in the line toward the ominous Cleanser, and what felt like would be my second death in the space of however long I'd been dead. Except this time, I'd be losing more than my physical body - which honestly wasn't all that great anyway what with the bad vision, pimply, pasty skin and the chubbiness.

This time, I was losing my sense of self - everything that made me 'Me' - including the memories of my parents and the rest of my family, who were probably just realizing something had happened to me depending on if time ran differently in this place.

And to put the metaphorical icing on this metaphorical cake of desolation, my newly-cleansed soul would be shunted into a body that would grow into an incompetent crybaby with an arrogance problem. The Butt-Monkey of the KHR Universe - other than Tsuna, of course.

So with heavy reluctance, and much mental hyperventilating, I stepped into the Cleanse, which at a closer inspection somewhat resembled a carwash on the outside. As soon as I stepped past the heavy curtains however, all I could see was a dark room, only partially illuminated by the gigantic blue screen on one of the walls.

In the center of the dim room was a seat reminiscent of an old barbershop chair. It was occupied by the old lady that had been directly in front of me the entire time. Even as I watched, an odd device descended from where it hung, suspended directly above the chair, a bulb attached to it that bathed the chair below in light. The part of the device that resembled a plunger fastened around the grandma's gray, wispy curls, and a noise not unlike a vacuum cleaner sounded throughout the dim room. It was a horrible shock after the silence of the line.

The lighting of the room changed, and my eyes darted to the screen on the wall. Instead of a blank blue expanse, it now displayed what looked like a battery that was slowly being filled in with color. I looked back to the old lady in the chair, only to cringe back in alarm as I saw her form get blurrier and blurrier as the vacuum sound continued.

She faded away quickly, until all that was left was a vaguely human-shaped outline with a still clearly-defined medallion hanging from its neck. A loud 'ding', like the noise a microwave makes when it's done, sounded out with morbid cheeriness as the vacuum noise stopped.

The device retracted back toward its position between ceiling and floor, and the screen displayed a full battery. The blurry form that was all that remained of the old lady's soul lifted itself from the chair, before walking, or floating, to the opposite end of the room and moving through the doorway, vanishing in a flash of light from its medallion as it passed the threshold.

My feet felt like lead - or some other ridiculously heavy material - as I stared numbly at the chair. Can you blame me for not wanting to go near that thing?

Apparently, I was taking too long for whatever ran the reincarnation system, because the plunger-like part of the device suddenly separated from the rest of the thing and extended toward me on a long, tentacle-like cord. It was like something out of a bad horror/sci-fi movie, but it was still genuinely terrifying to experience.

My car-crash-mangled hands automatically reached up to clutch at the edges of the plunger, trying to prevent it from closing around my head. I felt something akin to an adrenaline rush, which helped me ignore the pain of my injuries and hold off the plunger. My teeth clenched with effort as the plunger continued to gain pressure.

Eventually however, my smashed arms had to give out under the extreme force. The plunger clamped down around my blood-caked head, and my broken fingers scrabbled uselessly and painfully against the edges. This time though, all my struggling did was make the plunger grip even harder in an effort to subdue me.

My eyes clenched shut in what I'm not ashamed to admit was sheer terror. Whether or not it was to hold back tears as well, I can't remember. My ears strained in the silence, anxiously awaiting the awful sound of a vacuum cleaner that would accompany the loss of everything that made me an individual.

Instead, my overly tense body jumped like a scared rabbit as a I heard a hiss, and a muffled explosion, swiftly followed by the plunger releasing its death grip on my cranium. I immediately jolted away from the device, allowing it to flop pathetically to the floor, wondering what the heck had just happened.

There was a loud beep, like the sound just before an announcement is made over an intercom, coming from some unseen speaker in the shadowy room.

"Maintenance needed for the Cleanser. I repeat, Maintenance needed for the Cleanser. Current cleansing process has been aborted. Please fix the machine before there is a backup in the Newly Deceased line." a robotic voice announced.

Contraptions like an individuality-sucking reincarnation machine needed maintenance? Apparently.

Before I could either think on the irony of that, or even contemplate my luck, brilliant orbs of light suddenly descended from the black ceiling. They dropped like rocks, before some unknown power allowed them to slow to a hover about three feet from the floor. Once their flight was stabilized, the converged on the broken device like flies to honey.

They were either estimating the damage, or actually fixing the Cleanser - I didn't stick around long enough to find out. If there was going to be an unlikely happenstance that allowed me to escape a permanent session of Brain-Bleaching, I was definitely going to take advantage of it.

So I took the only way out - through the doorway on the other side of the room that the 'cleansed' souls left through. I sprinted as fast as I could with my broken body over to it, forcing myself not to pause and stare into the black nothingness that was beyond - including no floor. I stepped through the exit, and was whisked away as the medallion around my neck flared like a miniature sun.

I couldn't help but feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole as I fell into the ether of what was presumably the KHR Universe. It was like going on a rollercoaster, except I couldn't exactly feel my body, and I was moving sideways instead of up or down.

Then, I knew no more - for a while. Next thing I knew, I was getting bodily fluids wiped off of me at a hospital by some dude in scrubs before I was handed over to some strange lady who promptly started to coo at me. The lady was on a bed, presumably in a hospital, and there were tons of strange people filing into the room with teddy bears and other crap.

I squinted up at the woman who was definitely way to close to my face, still shuddering slightly from having blood and uterus fluid wiped off me. Way too freaky. The only consolation I got was that at least I wasn't aware inside the womb. Then again, I was probably going to have to get used to squicky stuff like that seeing as I had just been thrust into a manga world centered around the mafia.

'Speaking of freaky…' I wiggled my legs together, making sure there wasn't something between them that shouldn't be. I almost heaved a distinctly un-babyish sigh of relief when I found that I had somehow retained my original gender. Though now that I thought of it, I would never know if my soul had originally been another gender, or even how many times it could have gone through the reincarnation process.

If that wasn't a major mind screw, I don't know what is.

I heard the dude in scrubs saying something to the man who had been lingering closely to the bed - maybe my 'father'? The only thing was, I couldn't understand it.

They were speaking Italian. As if things weren't incomprehensible and unfamiliar enough already.

I scowled grumpily as I listened to them. I had better learn the language fast - along with Japanese, darn it! If Lambo in canon could be bilingual, despite being a complete idiot, I sure as heck could be trilingual at least!

Apparently, however, my disgruntled face was taken as something else, and my 'mother' promptly attempted to breast feed me. It was way closer to another chick's boobs then I'd ever wanted to be. Unfortunately, I did learn something from the reproduction chapter of my Biology textbook, and I knew breast milk would keep me from getting infections or diseases. It was going to take at least around a year until I could actually just drink normal milk. Having the knowledge and experience of a fifteen-year-old didn't keep me from having the immune system of a newborn.

It did make me wonder though, how my brain could be developed enough to actually hold all my knowledge and experience when I had just been born into a little, tiny, baby body.

I'm just going to chalk that one up to supernatural something-or-other.

Plus, my stomach was somewhat empty - and it also attempted to dry heave once or twice when my brain informed me that babies drank uterus fluid sometimes so that they could practice swallowing.

Then of course, my mind following that train of thought and informed me that my motor functions were going to have to develop all over again, and I literally wouldn't be able to wipe my own butt for a while.

I was just going to have to be an 'early-developer'.

Still, this was going to be a very long, very demeaning 'childhood'.