A/N: Written for LiveJournal's Write-and-Run KHR fanfic contest. The focus for Round 1 was Sawada Tsunayoshi and the prompt - Memories; "He looked back into the past." with bonus guideline being: The moment before Vongola Decimo gets shot down by the Millefiore OR a memory from Tsuna's childhood; and no pairings, plus the fic length had to be kept in the 1000-3000 word range. I managed to incorporate all of the prompts and uh, I think I met the rest of the requirements as well? Definitely with the word count – just a little over 2000.

Warnings: AU. Dark. Death!fic.

Disclaimer: Reborn! is the intellectual property of Amano Akira and all associated companies. I claim no association with any of them, no profit is being made from this and no copyright infringement intended with this fan-made piece of fiction.

In these crossroads of Hell

At the end of it all, Vongola Decimo stood alone. All hope was lost and he could only see darkness ahead. He reminisced idly – for time suddenly stopped to matter, everything narrowing down to the here and now and the last moments while he still drew his breath – recalling himself from ten years ago. He had been standing all alone then too; no-good Tsuna. Clumsy, awkward. Always failing at everything. If he hadn't met Reborn back then... If he hadn't... If only...

Chrome had been the first one to disappear. Chrome; his Mist guardian. All these past ten years she had stood faithfully by his side and had slowly become more and more Vongola, losing her connections with Kokuyo – but half of her still belonged to Mukuro, and it always would. And even if Mukuro's name slipped past her lips less and less often with the passing of time, not all of Tsuna's guardians had fully accepted her. Gokudera, Tsuna suspected, never stopped looking at her with veiled suspicion, expecting Mukuro's appearance any other moment. (Gokudera was a good friend and the kind of right hand man anyone would have wanted.) Yamamoto and Ryohei had accepted her much more easily, though Ryohei hadn't been able to settle down for the longest time, insisting that this was too dangerous for a girl. (Chrome had never spoken up to counter him; she had let Tsuna decide instead.) And Lambo... Well, in the beginning, Lambo's friendship lasted only for as long as the sweet treats did, but growing up, he learned the value of friends.
Hibari was the one to surprise them all the most, acknowledging Chrome on an odd level – though it took more than a few months to happen; more than a year, in fact. Chrome never grew out of her habit of referring to Hibari as Cloud Person, even though she knew his name and had heard everyone else use it quite often. Hibari returned her small favour of showing distance in the exact same way: taking in all of her with a single piercing look and acknowledging her existence with the slightest tilt of his head – so minuscule a motion that almost everyone missed it.
"Mist Woman." The small emphasis pointed out the fact that she was different and that he had noticed. And that had been it. Chrome had become a part of the family, even if she herself often felt so apart from everything.

Now, with Chrome gone, Tsuna would never hear her quiet voice addressing him, never return her silent laughter with his own – considerably louder and lighter; and he would never see her cautiously navigating the labyrinths of relationships between his family, friends, and his most precious guardians. Chrome was dead – Tsuna didn't doubt this for a second. His intuition had never guided him wrong, and it was screaming about the empty spot where Chrome had been, where she was supposed to be.

Lambo and I-Pin had been the next ones to go in a rescue mission-turned-surprise ambush, and while Lambo, in a rare show of bravery, had ordered I-Pin to run away and let the others know, she had turned back halfway – just in time to fall alongside him. What had been intended as a simple change of hideouts for Kyoko and Haru, had lead to four deaths, ruined buildings, and at least a dozen casualties. What was supposed to slip under the radar, turned out to be a well-set trap against Vongola: Millefiore had been faster and with far more information gathered than expected. Lambo and I-Pin had only managed to get within a throwing distance to Kyoko and Haru's old hideout before being intercepted. They had come close enough to see the smoking rubble and mangled bodies, but too unforgivably late to witness their death. And soon enough, they had been shot down as well, while fighting back to back and trying to protect each other till the very last.

(At this point, the Arcobaleno – save for Yuni, who was a puppet in Millefiore's hands, and Lal Mirch, who had been damaged from the start – had been dead for months, and there was nobody else who could help the Vongola Decimo Famiglia. Nobody wanted to get between the grinding stones that was the Millefiore family.)

For Tsuna, the loss of four very dear people was a heavy blow. On one hand there was Kyoko, who had been his sweetheart for years, and Haru, who had been a good friend and an even greater supporter; and Lambo – his Lightning guardian whose steady progress he had witnessed over the years – and I-Pin, who had grown up with them all and fought alongside them when the need arose. Their hideout became an eerily quiet place without Lambo and I-Pin's constant bickering (though they were good friends, old habits died hard) – a dreadful reminder of all their losses.

Following Kyoko's death, Ryohei brought on his own downfall. He had been hell-bent on hunting down those who had killed his sister, and he had found them. With that, he had found his death as well, as they were of a different league entirely, and the Vongola rings didn't exist anymore, thus making his full potential forever unreachable.

With Ryohei being one of Tsuna's oldest friends, the sudden loss of his extreme personality made Tsuna's resolve falter slightly. Their hideout became empty and grim, and it seemed that everyone spoke in hushed tones. Hana sat pale and quiet, and nobody could gauge what was going on in her mind. One morning they found that Hana had quietly disappeared. They didn't have the resources to go out and search for her anymore, which they lamented no less than the other recent deaths, knowing all too well what kind of fate awaited those who were somehow connected with the name of Vongola. Hana's name never came up anywhere after that, nobody saw her again, and Tsuna never found out what had happened to her.

But the hardest hit was yet to come. Being so used to Hibari's victories, to seeing him walk away from the most diverse battlefields while looking only slightly ruffled and only with minor injuries, they were unprepared for his loss. Learning that he had been killed in battle by Millefiore's Mist user Genkishi after spending all of his resources and wasting all of his replacement Cloud rings was twice the insult, and twice the killing strike. Hibari had been the safe wall against which all enemies crashed, and now without it, the remaining trio had to come to terms with the undeniable reality – Tsuna had failed. With only Storm and Rain guardians remaining at his side, and Mukuro – his second Mist guardian – safely locked away in the deepest cellars of Vendicare Prison with no Chrome to call him out (and with Kokuyo's disbandment and disappearance no other leads to find a connection with him, or a way to him) where he was protected from Millefiore's wrath and completely useless at the same time, Lal Mirch – the only free and still living Arcobaleno who had last been seen fighting against a group of Millefiore's soldiers and no one had heard anything about her ever since. Fuuta had become Millefiore's prisoner and puppet, and if the taunts thrown at Vongola here and there had any truth in them at all, he had already tried to kill himself out of despair on several occasions, loath to betray his friends. Because of that, Fuuta was being kept restrained on a hospital stretcher in a safe cell. And Bianchi – the unrivalled Poison Scorpion – was in an underground Vongola medical facility, paralysed from waist down and still recovering after the emergency surgery after the last clash with Millefiore, which had cost Tsuna his own mother. (Where his father was, was unknown for more than a year now.) As for VARIA...

VARIA was trapped in their headquarters in Italy, unable to break through the massive blockade Millefiore had thrown at them. Mammon's promised replacement had arrived, oh yes. He had also turned out to be loyal to Millefiore to the bone, and before VARIA realised this, Lussuria had lost his box animal, Bel – part of his face, and Squalo – his other arm. The entire reveal of the spy had been sheer luck and an unexpected accident; just a misunderstanding between Xanxus and Torikabuto, and if Torikabuto hadn't brought up the question of his loyalties himself, the VARIA might have remained in the proverbial dark for quite a while still, thus suffering even more damage. (Sil's appearance had been enough to send Bel over the edge, especially now that his princely face had been terribly marred and his tiara – partially melted.)

The last time Tsuna and his surviving two guardians had managed to get through to any place in the world that was more than a few hundred meters away, getting a shaky connection with VARIA, their conversation hadn't gone well. While Squalo had been as loud as he usually was (though somewhat flaky and jerky because of the poor connection) and had wildly gesticulated with his mechanical arm (Lussuria could no longer fix excessive battle damage without his box animal; he could heal up the wounds, but he couldn't restore their health and body to the previous level.) with Bel slouching on the couch in the background, his head covered with a turban's worth of bandages and muttering something incoherently vehement – his speech had become impaired because of his injury – the Second in Command of VARIA hadn't been exactly forthcoming.

No – Squalo had yelled at Tsuna, Yamamoto, and Gokudera – VARIA couldn't go to precious little Decimo's aid even if they had sworn to stick together through thick and thin in all family matters. Why not? Because VARIA couldn't get out of their base and travel all the way from Italy to Japan without a second thought. And no, they couldn't send out some troops to Decimo's aid instead – for fuck's sake; were all Storm guardians such fucking idiots? Why? 'cause there were no troops left to send. The fortress (and at this point it was mostly in ruins) now held only on the shoulders of the five – Levi's shattered ribs and his mostly immobile state were ferociously objecting to this number – last members of Vongola's special assassination squad – the last Vongola association, which still somehow held together with minimal losses.

And so Tsuna stood alone again, the blood of his last two best friends all around him, and their broken and lifeless bodies lying at his feet. He had fought and he had watched them fight. He had seen them lose and he hadn't closed his eyes when they had thrown themselves in the way of a potentially lethal attack aimed at him. Briefly, in the millisecond before the hit connected with his guardians instead of his own body, Tsuna wondered where they all had gone wrong. The destruction of Vongola rings had only been the last nail in their proverbial coffin. Surely, something else had triggered all of the events leading up to this point! But Reborn was no longer there to give one of his usual smirks before dropping bits and pieces of information, only revealing the full picture when it was practically visible; and Tsuna hadn't heard Primo's reassuring and confident voice ever since he had first voiced his wish to destroy the Vongola rings, thus setting the first generation guardians free from their eternal curse of haunting the rings (though the Primo's guardians hadn't complained).

Tsuna wondered, for a moment, if he should have refused to be the tenth generation boss with more resolve and ferocity. Had it started then? He idly wondered, his dying will flames dimming and petering out around his gloves and away from his forehead. He was already at his limit and he could no longer dodge or block even the simplest attack. No Zero Point Breakthrough – not anymore, even if this was the ultimate Point Zero of everything. He was alone again. He was, once more, clumsy little no-good Tsuna, playing in the big sandbox in the park all alone, until the big boys came and chased him away with punches and handfuls of sand. But this time instead of sand there was blood and the big boys were coming in for the kill.

"Natsu," Tsuna spoke gently to the broken Vongola box in his gloved palm, hoping that his words would somehow be heard. "Natsu. I'm sorry."

The box animal wasn't the only one those words were meant for – there just wasn't anyone else around who could receive them.

And then there was only darkness.