Death was strange at first. Lambo hadn't been able to understand it. As a matter of fact, he hadn't even known of it.
He had woken up, after his fatal accident, which, at the time, he had completely forgotten about, and had been in the middle of a hallway. On all sides were doors, all sorts of different doors that he had walked through in life at one point or another.
And, behind the doors, were all the people he had loved in life around him. Reborn, big brother, Papa, Mama, big brother's stupid friend, Yamamoto, Kyoko, Kyoko's brother… they were all there. Of course, it had been weird in the beginning, how they all acted out his past memories. One past memory for each door. But they were always his happiest memories, so who cared?
He got used to it.
But then, like any five-year old… he got bored with it. He watched all of his most joyous moments pass him by, his grin slowly fading away… because he just somehow knew.
He was surrounded by all the people he loved and who loved him… but he wasn't actually surrounded by all the people he loved and who loved him. Somehow, to him, that made sense.
He had mumbled nonsense to himself and cried loudly and long as he paced the seemingly endless hallway his new existence seemed to revolve around. After awhile, he had started running. The corridor never stopped. The doors became stranger and stranger, made in shapes and textures that he had never witnessed before.
Whimpering, he opened one at random.
It took him long minutes to understand what he was looking at.
The street was bright from the sun's light, steam rising off the cement. Despite the obvious heat, Lambo felt nothing. There was a breeze, he could see it blowing through foliage and peoples' hair. But it didn't touch him. He felt… he felt… strange. Like he wasn't even breathing. Or alive.
He ran right back through the door and hid in the hallway. Because, TOLERATE, he suddenly knew the truth.
He was dead. He was dead! He was DEAD! And then he was screaming and begging, clutching at his puffy afro, because he was remembering.
He had been with Papa and Reborn… the market… the car… the gun! He clung to himself and shivered. He swore he could feel the bullets puncturing his flesh, stealing his life away. But he was only five years old! … Right? He was only five years old… He was only five years old, five year olds didn't die! They couldn't. He couldn't…
He ran down the corridor, in the direction he had come from, and then slid to a stop in front of a door that hadn't been there before. Or maybe it had been, but he hadn't been looking for it. Or hadn't even known it existed. It was there now, though. And it was blindingly black, like looking into nothingness. It was too much to look at against the cow-print wallpaper around it.
He twisted the handle slowly, black-and-white glove circling the golden door knob. He felt cold as the door creaked ominously open.
On the other side… his death. And it was terrifying to watch, yet he couldn't look away. He saw the horror in his Papa's face, the slight disbelief in Reborn's expression. He saw the people who killed him, the people who had been killed with him. He even saw what gun shot him down.
He was numb as he stumbled back through the door. He went safely back to his favorite memories. Like the times with the kitten in the hole of his big brother's room. Like his Papa and Mama snuggling him in bed. Or like when big brother took him out for ice cream or octopus balls. The good times. He wanted to forget the bad times.
What both relieved and terrified him was that he did begin to forget. And thus began a pattern.
He would become bored and run up the hallway, only to end up in some memory that could never have been created because he hadn't lived for it. He would realize that he was dead and then he would run down the hallway, only to meet the black door. Once he witnessed his death, he would escape to his happy memories. Repeat. This went on and on and on… over and over again.
And then the time came where he was bored again and up the corridor once more. He opened a random door and what was on the other side… it was…
He couldn't be bothered to remember that he was dead. It was that bad.
Because there was his big brother, sitting next to a grave with a bottle of pills in one shivering hand, his wrists bleeding. His eyes were glazed over and he was leaning against the tombstone, lips and fingertips blue.
Lambo had been so terrified… and then he had looked at the words sketched into the stone. His own name. His own name… And his big brother was dying next to his buried body.
He had never run away so fast in his life. He had gone from one door to the one across from it.
His Papa was in Italy, staring blankly at a bottle of wine.
He ran from that too. In the door next to it, Reborn was shooting someone in the face. That didn't scare Lambo so much as the dead sheen to his raven eyes.
And across from that, his Mama was in the kitchen, humming to herself, making dinner for children who wouldn't be coming home.
He didn't go back to his happy memories. How could he? He walked back to the black door, in unknowing resignation, and stepped into his last living moment.
He looked back down the hall once when at last his death was over, tears overflowing and tiny body trembling. He wanted to go back… so bad… He wanted to be safe and happy! But… but… but, TOLERATE. His family needed him.
He walked as far as he could into unlived territory, deep into existence. When he opened the nearest door, it was fifty years later. And there was his and his Mama's grave. His brother's was nowhere to be found. So he walked out of that door and into another.
There was a huge building, walls cracked and windows shattered, overcome by crawly plants, to his one side. T.S. Happily Ever After was written on its one face. And there was a cabin nearby. It was in minimally better condition. Walking around it, there was a man in the backyard, standing into a patch of ground where a garden of big white blooms sprouted. The man had long hair, silvery white, and duo-colored eyes, one red and the other blue. He was wearing all white.
Lambo trotted up to him and stared at the garden with the strange person. The man didn't acknowledge him. Lambo wasn't sure why. They stared and stared and stared… for hours.
It was when the sun finally fell and the moon was high that realization dawned on the child. His big brother was buried there. His big brother, who had died decades ago, was in the backyard of someone Lambo didn't even know.
They stayed there for awhile longer, only because Lambo hadn't been tired for a very long time and he suddenly had nothing to be bored about. He stood there, for an immeasurable amount of time, and so did the stranger. And he cried. Not the stranger, but Lambo. Days came and went. Neither shifted an inch. After the third sunrise, Lambo was just standing there because he wanted to know how long the other guy was going to stand there.
One night, it began to rain. Lambo looked down. The stranger was literally rooted to the soggy ground.
Lambo walked away. He wanted to cry, but it just wasn't in him anymore.
He saw big brother's stupid friend and Yamamoto in a nearby room, about 10 years after his death. The apartment was dark and small. Gokudera was passed out on a small bed, skin sunken in and paler than usual. Bruises were on his inner elbows. Yamamoto was sitting at his side in a rickety chair, looking forlorn and haunted.
Lambo left soon thereafter.
The more and more he went through the future he didn't live to see, the wiser he became. He stopped crying after some decades of snooping. He stopped thinking like a five year old. He had to fix this… because this was his fault, right?
He went back. Soon, it was only about four years after his death. And he walked through a door. He fully planned to change the future, completely determined to talk to his family. He was going in there and he was going to communicate with them. He wasn't sure how, but… he somehow felt that he wouldn't have to worry about that. He would just have to want to do it. And then, maybe like everything else with the doors, it would happen.
He wanted to see his dad. He wanted to talk to him, to get him to go home before his big brother hurt himself. He needed to comfort his Papa.
Something happened as he stepped over the doorjamb. There was a bright light, like looking into a fire for a moment. When the flames flickered away, he felt… different. He felt taller… he felt his skin prickle and his head tickled. He looked down at himself and, wow…
He was nine years old. Wouldn't he have been nine years old had he lived? Yeah, he was older now… He wasn't sure why.
But his Papa was on the couch, staring down a bottle of alcohol. Yet, at Lambo's entrance, his dad snapped to his feet, scanning the room with a glare. When his eyes settled on the child, there was little recognition… at first.
And then his eyes bugged, something seeming to click. He began to cry.
Lambo sat in his lap and waited it out with his own tears, murmuring things he didn't understand but seemed to comfort his Papa anyway. Finally, when the night was soothed over, he found his voice.
"Papa, go home! Go home, Papa! We need you… your boys need you."
And he had left. After shutting the door behind him, again five years old, he felt something… something numbing. He opened the door he had just exited – and there was just a wall. The same cow-print wall. The moment he shut the door, the panel of wood disappeared into the corridor.
He couldn't go back. And, for one reason or another, he was at peace with that. Maybe that was why the room wasn't there any more.
He wandered the hallways. And the rooms. Good things were happening. His Papa and big brother were able to forgive themselves, together. And, just because of that, his big brother lived.
It took exploring his big brother's life between the time of his death and his big brother's suicide to understand what was going on. His big brother had just been told to die by their Mama, abandoned by the duo-colored eyes person, and was the center of the sometime lenient, other times suffocating attention of his friends. None of them could give him what their Papa could.
And that was ultimately what stopped his big brother from killing himself. They only began to understand how little at fault they were after talking with each other.
Lambo was insanely proud that he had been the cause of that. He really wished he could boast about it, but… who could he boast about it to?
He traveled from there to other times and places.
Time and places went by fairly quick.
And then he decided he wanted to talk to his brother. He found the nearest door, its shape and color sky-like somehow, and stepped through. There was a bright green and yellow light, but he didn't feel a tingling or tickling. He didn't change.
He blinked at the large crater he found himself the center of. And then his big brother was there.
They spent the night together. They talked and cried together. And then his big brother slept. Lambo just held on and refused to let go because, well, he was happy. Happier than his past memories had ever made him.
But he had to leave eventually. There were other things he had to do. Because, well, he wasn't a kid anymore. He was older than he looked, had witnessed things far beyond his own time. He was small, but he was wise. And the wise were never done. Or… something like that… right?
TOLERATE. He was right.
Acting on his promise, he went almost instantly to the next door as soon the one behind him sealed shut, never again to be entered. There was a vivid illumination. The tickling and tingling was intense, almost painful. Breathlessness attacked him as he stepped over the sill.
And then he was walking into a tavern. He saw Reborn at the furthest end and felt his entire being flood with love five year old children couldn't understand. But he wasn't five years old, he noticed as he looked down at himself. He was fifteen.
Was it just him, or was it that he appeared to his loved ones in the strangest forms? Why fifteen? Then again, why nine to his Papa? Why five to his big brother?
He kissed Reborn. It felt amazing and unnerving all at once.
He had cried when he had had to leave. And even harder when the door shut behind him.
He cried for a long time.
When he drew himself out of his pit of depression, knowing that he was in love and was unable to experience love, he walked through a door. He didn't know what he would find on the other side. He didn't have anything particular in mind.
It was beautiful. It was united.
Yamamoto and Gokudera (and he had to wonder when he started calling his big brother's stupid friend by his name) were at one end of the sushi bar, closer than simple friends would sit, fingers interwoven between their laps as if they didn't want anyone to know they were holding hands. Yamamoto's father was serving Reborn at the corners tool, the bodyguard respectful to the elder man. Kyoko and Haru were at the opposite end, giggling together. There were two teenage boys that Lambo only vaguely remembered from the other rooms, Shoichi and Spanner, he believed, sitting between the girls and Reborn, openly intimate as the blonde fed the redhead who was blushing furiously. Ryohei completed the row, between Kyoko and Spanner.
And, between Reborn and Gokudera, his big brother had fallen asleep with his head on Mukuro's shoulder.
Peace, peaceful, blissful.
With a small smile, he backed out of the room. The door shut and then whispered into nonexistence.
HAH HAH. He did good, didn't he? He did all of that! He was so proud.
For a moment, he felt like he was five years old again.
He smiled as he spun around on the heel of his one toe and came face-to-face with another door. He liked this door. It was his favorite color of green, like tart grapes!
Without hesitation, he opened it.
On the other side… light.
Maek a wIsh, bIg brother!
~8~ The End ~8~
Author's Note: Why Lambo couldn't save Mama – Ever heard the saying 'blinded by her own grief'? At least Reborn, Iemitsu, and Tsuna were dealing with the loss. Nana wasn't.