Big Bang Theory
When Tsuna was in his last year of elementary school they spent a week covering the universe in science class, and the first day of that week they spent covering the Big Bang Theory.
"In the beginning," his teacher began, "there was nothing, just a small point of extremely dense and hot matter held together by energy. Then it exploded." His teacher, who was young and excitable, threw her arms out wide to illustrate. "This released a lot of energy and matter that worked to form stars and planets and galaxies. At first everything was close together, but the energy released caused the universe to rapidly expand. Even today the universe is getting bigger."
"So," Tsuna started, hand in the air, "what you mean is the sky is getting bigger?" He was eleven years old, and not particularly bright, and that explanation was confusing, so all he really understood from all that was that outer space was getting bigger.
The other kids began to laugh. 'Stupid Tsuna' they muttered to each other. But his teacher, who was probably his most favorite teacher ever because she was always kind and gentle and patient, just like his mother, merely smiled and said:
"Yes. The sky is always getting bigger."
"Excuse me." Tsuna called into the front of the Rolls Royce he and Gokudera were currently being chauffeured around Rome in. "Are you sure you know where the meeting place is?"
Earlier that week Tsuna had been ordered (threatened) by Reborn to attend a series of meetings with a small time mafia don from Rome. The only problem was that Tsuna had never been to Rome before, not even the airport as Vongola had a small fleet of private jets with private airstrips to match. Gokudera and Yamamoto, the two guardians to accompany him on this trip, had never been to Rome either. As such they were almost completely reliant on the driver assigned to them to get them where they needed to be.
Unfortunately the driver, while a Rome native, had not lived in Rome for close to ten years.
"Of course." The driver growled back. The driver, Tsuna was fairly sure, did not like them much. He was mumbling soft words under his breath that neither Tsuna, nor fortunately Gokudera, could catch.
"If that's so why the hell have we been circling the coliseum seven fucking times!" Gokudera growled at him from his place next to Tsuna in the back seat.
The driver nearly plowed into a small food stand as he pulled the car over to cast an angry eye at the two in the back seat. Clearly this man did not care that, even though he was only twenty, Tsuna was indeed the boss of him.
"You want to try driving?" The man offered. Gokudera opened his mouth to send back a scathing and profanity filled reply when a tapping noise at the passenger side back window surprised them all into a brief silence.
The tapping sound came again along with a muffled voice calling out a greeting, and Tsuna, at a loss for what else he should do, rolled down the window.
"Yes?" Tsuna asked in his accented Italian as the last of the heavily tinted and completely bulletproofed window disappeared into the door.
"Hey, you lost?" A girl, or actually a young woman, bent over to peer inside the car. She was averagely pretty, with typical Italian looks. Olive skin, dark hair, dark eyes, a nose that was just a little too big and a mouth that was just a little too wide for her to be called beautiful.
"What makes you think we're lost?" Gokudera leaned over Tsuna to spit at her. Tsuna sighed as he was pressed into the door.
"Well, I guess you could just being touring the coliseum from the comfort of your own car, but I kinda doubt that, yeah?" A dark eyebrow rose over a sparkling eye. "This was your, what, sixth trip around?"
"Seventh." Tsuna corrected as Gokudera bristled besides him.
"How the fuck did you know that?" Gokudera's eyes narrowed in suspicion as he pressed Tsuna even further into his door. "Have you been following us?" He reached slowly into his suit jacket, the menace in the action lost on the girl who stood looking confused outside the car but not to Tsuna who quickly grabbed Gokudera's wrist to stop him.
"Huh? No, I was sitting at that cafe." The girl pointed to a small shop surrounded by crowded tables, bright yellow and white striped umbrellas hovering over each table. Tsuna and Gokudera had both swiveled in their seats to follow her pointing finger, before slowly swiveling back as the girl continued. "It's kinda hard to miss a car like this going around and around in circles, yeah?" She laughed lightly and Tsuna revised the age he'd assigned to her from twenty-five to maybe a couple years older than himself, maybe.
"Ah." Tsuna replied, the bridge of his nose turning a faint pink in his embarrassment, besides him Gokudera was also sporting a blush. The driver however had returned to his mumbling, saying something about people butting in where they weren't wanted. "Well, I guess we are a little lost."
"Thought so." She pushed her head into the window. "Where were you trying to go? I know where everything is in this city." Another laugh, this one at some secret joke.
"Well, we're supposed to be at Plaza Della Carmin in," Tsuna looked at his watch and grimaced, "two minutes ago." Reborn was going to kill him for being late. It didn't even matter that Reborn was hundreds of miles away and had, supposedly, no way of knowing. Reborn was going to kill him. Most likely by using the telepathic mind powers Tsuna was sure he had.
"Hmm, I know a lot of shortcuts but none that can actually distort space-time, sorry!" The girl waved a hand in his face. "But the quickest route to Plaza Della Carmin is, ah, it's sort of hard to explain..." Placing her elbows on the sill of the window she leaned into the car. "Why don't I show you the way?"
"Show us?" Tsuna asked while holding Gokudera back from pushing the girl out of the car with a hand to the face.
"Yeah, I'll lead on my bike," here she pointed to a vintage Benelli motorcycle painted a cherry red. Tsuna only recognized the brand because Bianchi had taken to riding a variety of old Italian motorbikes and scooters whenever in Italy. She'd even gone as far as to import her favorite Vespa, painted an eye-blindingly pink color, to Japan at great personal cost (personal to Tsuna who was somehow left footing the bill).
A minute later their driver, grumbling and snorting the whole time, was following the small bike as it darted down alleys and through intersections. Ten minutes later they were pulling to a stop at a side street. The girl quickly kicked down the stand on her bike before hopping off to walk back to Tsuna's window. She pulled off her helmet, the only concession she made, besides her heavy soled boots, to her method of transportation, otherwise she was dressed in cut-off jean shorts and an oversized t-shirt.
"The plaza is just down there. You'll have to park here though, yeah?" She informed them, motioning with a toss of her head where they needed to go.
"Thank you." Tsuna replied. "We might never have found it if not for you."
"Haha, no problem." She laughed as she placed her helmet between her knees, tightening her ponytail with a quick tug. "I had some time." She replaced her helmet and began to walk off. "Bye-bye!" She called with a wave over her shoulder.
It wasn't until Tsuna was making hurried apologies to the don he was nearly fifteen minutes late meeting that he realized that he had never gotten her name.
Tsuna liked Rome. He liked the history of it; buildings hundreds and thousands of years old nestled among modern high rise buildings, cobblestones paving roads once used by horses and chariots now being used by bicycles and cars, fountains and statues by genius artists with street performers in front of them. He liked the people; friendly and easygoing, prone to taking two hour lunch breaks and exchanging greetings on the street. And maybe most of all he liked the food.
There was a lot of good food to be had in Italy. Restaurants and delis and bakeries and tiny mom-and-pop grocery stands filled the streets, and each one was almost constantly packed. At that very moment he, Gokudera, and Yamamoto were sitting on the patio of one of these overflowing cafes, observing the traffic while waiting for their lunch to arrive.
Conversations flowed around them like water in the rippling, elegant Italian tongue, Tsuna found the sound pleasant when he didn't try and translate it. Yamamoto and Gokudera were arguing in hushed Japanese besides him, the sound so familiar that it was oddly comforting. They had nowhere pressing to be that day and no Reborn to breath down their necks. Today was a good day.
And then the roar of an engine, the squeal of tires, and the indignant squawks of offended pedestrians ruined it.
Tsuna accidently upset his coffee as a motorcycle pulled up to a stop next to the small iron balustrade that surrounded the patio they were eating at. Gokudera jumped up, steak knife and fork in hand to use as impromptu weapons if need be. Yamamoto reached down to the sword cleverly concealed in one of the long, cylindrical tubes used by artists and architects to protect paintings and floor plans. All three were tense until the driver pulled off her helmet.
"Hey! It's Mister Rolls Royce!" The girl from the day before leaned on the handle bars of her bike. "What a coincidence, yeah?"
At that loud proclamation the other diners sitting outside on the patio switched their attention from the loud, illegally parked, motorcyclist to the, apparently, rich man; Gokudera slipped back into his seat with a harsh sigh; and Yamamoto straightened in his chair, sending a confused look Tsuna's way.
"Ah! It's, err, I didn't get your name, actually." Tsuna said with a sheepish grin, a hand rubbing at the back of his neck in embarrassment.
"Oh, I never gave it to you, did I?" The girl laughed loudly and brightly, bringing a small smile to Tsuna's face as well. "I'm Portia, Portia Falconi." She stuck a hand out in Tsuna's face to be shaken. Tsuna took it and bobbed his head in a small bow.
"I'm Tsunayoshi Sawada, Ms. Falconi." He started to introduce the others but was interrupted by Portia wrinkling her nose.
"Please just call me Portia. I really hate being called Ms. Falconi. It reminds me of being back in school getting called up to the headmaster's office." She leaned down on the small fence encircling the patio as she spoke.
"I see..." Tsuna agreed with a nod. He could remember several instances of being in the principal's office being called Sawada-kun, it was not a name he enjoyed hearing.
"Who're your friends?" Portia said, switching topics with a smile.
"Oh!" Tsuna fumbled, never quite used to introducing people. "These are my friends, Hayato Gokudera who you kind of met, and Takeshi Yamamoto." He said indicating each in turn.
Gokudera simply grunted in reply, ignoring the hand held out to him, but Yamamoto greeted her brightly.
"I totally knew it. You guys are foreigners." Portia seemed oddly excited by this. "I never get to meet foreigners, where are you from?"
Her exuberance threw Tsuna for a bit of a loop before eventually he answered.
"Japan, although Gokudera grew up in Italy. He's Italian." Tsuna looked to his friends in confusion. Yamamoto seemed to be having trouble following the conversation, his Italian not nearly as good as Tsuna's, due mostly to the fact that Reborn was is Italian tutor, and Reborn believed that the best way to learn was at the end of a gun. When it came down to conjugating foreign verbs or getting shot in the head Tsuna would take the verbs any day of the week.
"Oh wow!" Portia gushed. "Japan must be amazing! I've barely been out of Rome." There was a faint trace of bitterness to her voice and a touch of sadness in the way her shoulders drooped.
"Why?" Tsuna asked, flushing when he realized that might be a rude question.
"No money." Portia shrugged. "Can't travel if you don't have money, yeah?" Tsuna thought it was probably something more than that. Portia, though he barely knew her, didn't seem like the type to let mere money prevent her from going wherever she wished to go.
"Well, it was awesome seeing you again Mr. Sawada." Portia ignored Tsuna as he sputtered and flailed, trying to get her to call him Tsuna. "But I gotta get back to work." Portia opened a pouch on the side of her motorcycle to pull out a manila envelope thick with papers.
"What is it you do?" Tsuna asked, honestly curious.
"I'm a courier!" Portia told him with a bright smile. "When people don't want to wait for the Post or don't trust them or something I deliver stuff. The company I work with mostly works with lawyers and government types. Paperwork you know?"
Tsuna did know. He had recently started handling a lot of the paperwork generated by the Vongola family. It was quickly becoming the bane of his existence.
"It sounds, interesting..." Actually it sounded boring, but what would he know?
"It's great!" Portia said, holding a thumb up in a gesture so retro Tsuna nearly snorted in laughter. "I get to drive around town on my bike all day, I love it."
"That's good." Tsuna replied with a brilliant smile. Portia looked momentarily stunned.
"Jeez, you should be careful with a smile like that." She smiled too, to show she was joking. "Bye Mr. Sawada!"
"It's TSUNA!" He yelled at her retreating back. He could swear he heard her laughing at him.
"What a weird lady." Gokudera said with a mumble, lighting a cigarette.
"I thought she seemed fun." Yamamoto laughed before attempting once again to eat his spaghetti with a fork.
Tsuna loved his family. He really did. He loved Gokudera despite his, well, insanity, and he loved Yamamoto despite his, and actually Yamamoto was pretty damn crazy too. Regardless, he loved them. But that didn't mean they didn't drive him completely bonkers. Five days in one hotel suite was really just a little much. He hadn't been alone for longer than the time it took to shower since they got to Rome.
It was this, and the fact that both of them were conveniently distracted by something else, that caused him to slip out of the high class hotel and head down the cobblestone street. There was a park a couple blocks down. Small compared to the parks back in Namimori but possessing a gorgeous fountain, the park would be a good place to get some peace and quiet.
Entering the tiny green space Tsuna headed straight for the large fountain. There was no telling how old the fountain was, but if it was less than a hundred years Tsuna would be shocked. Tsuna didn't know what it was made of, never having spent much time on geology, too busy learning how to dodge bullets instead. It was the statue though that truly stood out; on a small pedestal in the center of the fountain kneeled a woman carved of the same white stone as the rest of the fountain, leaning to place a long fall of hair into the water.
For a few minutes Tsuna simply stood staring in silence at the fountain, letting the soft sound of running water wash over him and relax just a little that one knot under his left shoulder blade that had the name Reborn stamped on it. It was only after some time that Tsuna became aware he wasn't alone in the park.
Soft sniffling alerted him to the presence of someone on the other side of the fountain, hidden by the statue. Curious, Tsuna walked around to see who it was, and if they needed help.
It took him a moment to recognize the miserable figure hunched on the edge of the fountain. But eventually he recognized the figure as one he had met twice before in the streets of Rome.
"Ms. Portia?" Tsuna called hesitantly, just in case he was wrong. The figure swung up and turned with a soft gasp and that was when Tsuna realized she'd been crying.
Some women are pretty when they cry. Haru is one. When she cries small crystal tears run down lightly flushed checks and her eyelashes clump together prettily. Portia however did not cry in anything close to a pretty manner. Portia's eyes were red-rimmed and puffy, her cheeks were splotchy, her lips were bloodless, her hair clung to her wet face, and if that sniff she let out was anything to go by her nose was running.
"M-Mr. Sawada." Portia stumbled out, quickly running a hand under her eyes to get rid of the evidence. She even tried to smile. Tsuna thought it would break his heart. "Wow. Isn't there some kind of saying, like if you run in to a stranger three separate times it must be fate?"
Of all the things Tsuna had a weakness to crying women was maybe the worst. There was just something about a sad woman that made him feel about five years old again, unable to do anything when his mom cried silent tears from missing his father. Tears made Tsuna feel desperate and out of control. He wanted to fix it, and he had lived long enough to know that too often he just couldn't.
"Are," Tsuna stopped, considered, continued on blindly when common sense told him not to. "Are you okay?"
"I'm, yeah, I'm fine." Portia told him, looking away, twisting her hands in her lap, practically screaming 'I'm lying'.
"Really?" And maybe it was the blatant skepticism, the sheer volume of doubt that filled that one word, but the next thing Tsuna knew he had an armful of crying girl, sputtering out a story so fast Tsuna couldn't catch more than a word or two.
For a couple minutes he just let her yammer, kneeling slowly on the ground, taking her with him. When at last she stopped to heave giant breaths he spoke.
"I'm sorry. I didn't understand a word of that." He said sheepishly.
Portia looked up at him, blinking, then she busted into raucous laughter. Tsuna joined in after a moment, more relieved than finding anything in the situation funny.
A few more of those gasping, heaving breaths and Portia extracted herself from Tsuna's arms and wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her shirt.
"Thanks." Portia told him.
"What for?" Tsuna asked, honestly bewildered.
"Well, I guess, just for making me laugh." This time when Portia tried to smile she succeeded, even if it did have a sad edge to it. The two sat in silence for a little bit, listening to the gurgle of the fountain and the bird songs.
"What happened?" Tsuna eventually asked when he could contain it no more.
"I was fired today." Portia told him, voice cracking on the word 'fired'.
"What? But you..." Tsuna trailed off. But she loved her job, was what he was going to say. But that would be no help he knew.
"Yeah. I really did." Portia took a breath, and let it out, sounding like every molecule of air in her was being released.
"Why did they fire you?" Tsuna asked as gently as he was able. Portia dug a yellow slip of paper out of her pocket and handed it to him wordlessly. "Violazione del veicolo..." He sounded out.
"It's a speeding ticket." Portia explained. "I think it's my, thirtieth, one this year."
"Thirtieth..." Tsuna looked at her in surprise.
"It's not what you think. Sometimes I get handed packages and I'm told get this across town in ten minutes, so I speed. The company pays the fine if it was given while I'm on a run. Honestly it's expected."
"Then why would they fire you over this one?" Tsuna handed the slip back to her. Portia crushed it ruthlessly in her hand.
"This is just an excuse. My uncle used to be in charge of this branch of the company, but he died a couple months ago. The new manager hates me. He's just been waiting for an excuse to get rid of me." A nerve jumped in Portia's jaw as she spoke.
"I'm sorry." Tsuna told her, briefly touching a shoulder in comfort. There was nothing else he could say.
"Yeah. I'm sorry too." Portia said with a laugh that turned in to a sob mid-way through. She took a shuddering breath before continuing. "It wouldn't be so bad, it's just... I need that job. I really, really need it. My rent is due next week, and now I gotta pay this ticket. Shit, I'm virtually unemployable!"
"Why? Couldn't you find work with another courier service?" Tsuna frowned.
"I'm a twenty-three year old high school drop-out with a huge insurance premium and no recommendations." Portia explained. "Plus I drive a motorcycle. Most companies won't pay to insure it. They all use mopeds or bicycles, cheaper."
"You could work for me." blurted Tsuna. He had a feeling the surprise on Portia's face matched the surprise on his.
"What?" Portia gasped, looking and sounding shocked.
"Well, I mean..." Tsuna thought desperately. He'd had no idea he was going to say that until the words were already out of his mouth. "Yeah, you could work for me." Tsuna's words grew more confident as he thought it through. "I'm sure we could use another driver. And it would be useful to have someone who knows Rome. You know how to drive cars right? Not just the motorcycle? You said you wanted to travel right? You might have to; we don't always take the jet just around Italy. Oh, maybe one day we'll even take you to Japan! I think you'd really like Japan." Now Tsuna was just babbling.
Portia started to nod absently before shaking her head. "Wait, wait." She held her hands up. "You would seriously just hire me, just like that?"
"Why not?" Tsuna asked her.
"I don't want you to do this just because you feel sorry for me." Portia said. "I might not have much but I do have some pride."
"It's not like that!" Tsuna denied vehemently. "I, you're..." Tsuna frowned as he tried to express himself to her. "You're nice, and you're funny, and you're pretty, and I like you. I want you to be happy and if giving you a job does that then that's what I'll do."
"What?" Portia gasped.
"I think we could be friends, don't you?" What Tsuna didn't tell her was that Reborn had been pushing him for months now to 'expand his family'. You need people loyal to you, Reborn had said, not just loyal to Vongola.
"You want me to be happy?" Portia said in a tone of voice that suggested it was a strange and obscure desire for anyone to want her to be happy.
"I care about you." Tsuna told her firmly, taking one of her hands in his and giving it a squeeze.
"But, we hardly know each other!" protested Portia.
"Yeah, but I know I care about you." Tsuna rebutted.
"Well, I guess just, I never had a lot of friends, right?" Tsuna began. "But then something happened and soon I had one friend, then another, and then after that it just seemed like people came pouring in to my life and with every person I came to care about it got easier and easier to care for someone else. And now I care about you."
"Your heart grew." Portia smiled.
"Yeah." Tsuna shrugged.
"Like the sky." She laughed.
"Ye- what?" confusion spread over his face as he thought about that.
"In high school, right before I dropped out, our teacher taught us about the Big Bang Theory. I didn't really understand it, and I probably didn't pay that much attention but he said something about how everything was still and static and then in one great burst it exploded. Everything started moving and the universe got bigger and bigger. I guess the only thing I ever really got out of it was that the sky was expanding." She laughed and Tsuna joined her.
"Can I think about the job?" She asked when they had both calmed down. "I don't think I should say yes right away, but I don't want to say no yet either, yeah?"
"Take as long as you need. The offer is always open." Tsuna assured her. "I'm leaving Rome, Italy too actually, soon but you can contact any of these people." Tsuna dug out his card case and shuffled through several business cards before plucking out three and handing them to her.
"Thanks. And thanks for talking to me." Portia smiled at him. "I feel a lot better."
With a quick exchange of goodbyes Portia left and Tsuna was alone in the park. He moved back to the edge of the fountain and sat down, relishing once again in the quiet. After a moment he lifted a hand to his chest, clenching his shirt above his heart. He tilted his head up to the sky, blue and cloudless, and whispered. "Just like the sky, huh?"
The sudden ringing of his phone startled him from his reverie and he nearly feel in to the fountain trying to get it out of his pocket. He answered it to hear Gokudera's worried (and at the same time relieved) voice asking where he was. He reassured Gokudera he was on his way back to the hotel before hanging up. He gave the sky one last glance before heading back; hoping Gokudera hadn't terrorized the hotel employees too much.
Author Note: Yes Portia comes from Schizophrenia, but this is actually set in a world where Tsuna isn't crazy. Surprisingly I like this story, even if it did take me way too long to write. It's really just a character study for Tsuna more than anything, this story.