All characters © Amano Akira
Summary: The two of them had grown to tolerate each other to the point that it could be called friendship. Almost.
Author's note: my Thanksgiving exchange fic for Reidluver. Curiously, I've never really written about Gokudera and Hibari's relationship, and it's actually a pretty interesting topic once you get thinking about it...
Hibari pinches the bridge of his nose with two fingers and, sighing, walks into the Hall Camino.
The November sky of Venice is cloudy, throwing sharp-edged shadows behind every corner of the room and enhancing the glow of the chandelier light. It is one of the smaller halls of the North wing, and one rarely used since most of the Vongola meetings take place in the East wing. True to its name, unused fireplaces decorate each wall face. It is one of the smaller halls, but Hibari prefers it for its sparsity.
Gokudera is scribbling something on a manuscript behind the grand Steinway, so he does not notice Hibari until Hibari ensconces himself into the nearest settee and yawns. The yawn draws Gokudera's attention, and he looks up to find Hibari staring pointedly at him with those narrow gray eyes. Hibari does not have to speak; Gokudera knows well what this means.
After laying down his pencil and taking a moment to assess what would be best to play, Gokudera settles on the first movement of the Gershwin piano concerto. He's still learning that one, but it's in good enough shape to play for someone else (even if he does rush a little and miss a few of those runs toward the end). The piece seems appropriate for the cool sky and sleepy wind outside.
Hibari will sometimes visit the Hall Camino on days like these when the weather sets a gloom over the estate or he is just having a plain old bad day. Some who remember Gokudera and Hibari from when they were young would express surprise at the thought of Hibari coming to Gokudera, of all people, for solace. Where is the logic in that? In fact, it had been the piano, and not Tsuna, surprisingly, that had improved Gokudera's relationship with Hibari over the years.
The two used to fight all the time. It wasn't an understatement. As a teenager, Gokudera had been known for being high strung, having little patience, and Hibari was...well, Hibari, and we all know what that means. Stick two "problem children" in the same room and they either become friends or tear each other apart.
Shamal had known, probably better than anyone, that Gokudera resorted to compulsive smoking and violence as a result of various anxieties—not to mention an inferiority complex slash-hypochondria-slash-authority issues (the latter being a large part in why Hibari disliked Gokudera so much: a lack of any real parenting plus homeschooling prompted Gokudera to spit in the face of authority whereas Hibari was practically the embodiment of it). When Gokudera turned eighteen Shamal had pulled him aside and suggested that he take up the piano again.
"Don't give me that look," Shamal had replied to Gokudera's sputtered incredulity. "You're actually quite good. I should know; I taught you myself."
In all honesty the whole reason Gokudera had quit was because of the refusal to endure any more dyspepsia by the hand of his half-sister. Then the Tenth had come along, and life had just gotten too busy. His reasons for quitting had never had anything to do with a diminishing love for the instrument.
So he had begun devoting his weekends and early mornings to practicing, giving himself tendonitis twice, which effectively convinced a disgruntled Shamal to give him some lessons. After that things had gone more smoothly, and with Tsuna's permission he could spend a few hours every day at the piano. As long as he got the Family's accounting done early.
Hibari hadn't come until later.
It had started two years ago, with the death of Hibird. Hibari often got into "moods" of moping and sulking for whatever reason (god—or Dino—only knows), but that had been the first real time he had seemed openly depressed about anything. It had the Family worried for a few days, although Dino claimed that Kyouya just needed some time alone and would soon be fine.
Just by chance, Hibari had wandered into the Hall Camino, where Gokudera had then recently taken to practicing. Gokudera had been working on Liszt's Consolation no. 3 at the time, and Hibari had taken a seat and had listened for over an hour before leaving. Ever since, Hibari had visited more often, usually breezing in and giving Gokudera that monosyllabic ultimatum: play.
At first it had been uncomfortable; Gokudera had no idea why Hibari wanted to hear such things, or what he thought of his playing. Hibari said nothing, and after a while the "play" was no longer needed and harmonies imbued the silences.
Then, Gokudera had begun to notice a pattern with Hibari's visits. First one: the day Hibird died. Second: when Reborn moved to conjugations in Italian. Third: when they ran out of black tea. Fourth: when Suzuki Adelheid utterly annihilated him at chess.
Finding solace in music is something that Gokudera understands quite well. After all, it worked for him. Tsuna thinks that Gokudera's calmness and maturity that developed in the past five or so years is entirely due to his influence. If you've never been into music you will never really understand its power, even if it is explained, and Gokudera will let his Boss have the benefit of the doubt just this once.
Sometimes, as Gokudera is playing, his mind wanders (a bad habit, he knows this), and he will wonder when he and Hibari had crossed the line from "must kill this bastard" to "somewhat respectful of each other." He can see why Hibari tolerates him now, because he knows his piano playing is pretty good. In addition he has an IQ of 150, just below the techies and Shamal (and, infuriatingly, Mukuro), so he can see why people would respect him on an intellectual level.
But as for vice versa...
Out of the entire forty-something people in the closest ring of the Vongola save for Shamal, nobody ever comes to listen to him play. Not even Tsuna.
Gokudera finishes the first movement of the Gershwin, and, not wanting to go on to the second—because he hasn't practiced that this week—he strikes up a comfortable jazzy tune that's somewhat quieter.
Hibari opens one eye. "This is?"
"You don't know it?" Gokudera replies, still playing. He relishes a lovely D-flat seven chord as he lands on it and glides away. It is rare that they talk at all, but it's not unheard of. "Autumn in New York. It's an old jazz standard."
"Hn." The eye closes, which indicates that Hibari is satisfied. In a world such as the underground mafia—dank, rife with yellow turpitude, blood and betrayal, there is little appreciation for the arts (besides perhaps to steal objects of them). The most inclination the Vongola itself has towards music extends to Dino and Rokudo Mukuro being able to sing fairly well and Kyoko playing the flute, but those aren't things they necessarily brag about.
If you aren't too loud, you don't talk too much, and you don't wake him up when he's napping, Hibari can actually be fairly reasonable. Also, when Gokudera is practicing he is always alone, which eliminates the annoyance of crowding. Hibari never brings his tonfa into the Hall.
Your boss may command you, but you are your own authority. Hibari had known this from an early age (perhaps too early), and had first been incredulous at the fact that the only person who Gokudera would take orders from was No Good Tsuna. It had been a partial reason as to why Hibari had never gotten along well with Gokudera in junior high, since the Gokudera of back then had had no concept of self-government, preferring to be a loser's lapdog-snap-dog, even. But Tsunayoshi's growing charisma had changed that. As did the piano, which was how Gokudera had slowly earned Hibari's respect. The piano is something that Tsunayoshi has no control over; never had and never will.
It holds its own authority, in a strange, silent way that seems at odds with its intended purpose. Instruments tend to do that, which is something that Hibari doesn't even try to understand. It is an instinctual thing, as sensory as a whiff of freshly-baked scones. The piano forces individuality, as well as Gokudera's quiescent authority, although Hibari does not know (or care) if Gokudera notices this.
Now, Gokudera watches Hibari on the settee, with his black hair falling forward and framing his face and his eyes closed, and wonders what he is thinking. Is he picturing that Old New York, the lights of Broadway, the women walking around in skirts and hats and nylon stockings? Or does he see the speakeasies of the Prohibition; perhaps the horse carriages in Central Park, stirring up the dancing leaves?
Eventually the song ends, and Gokudera waits a few minutes before asking, "What is it this time?"
Hibari scowls and brushes the hair away from his face. "Bucking Horse."
"He beat you again?" The silence is enough confirmation as any.
"Sometimes it's easy to forget that he was personally trained by Reborn," Gokudera sighs, recalling on his own past defeats by the hand of Dino. It is like being beat by Tsuna, only thoroughly more embarrassing giving that Dino acts pretty much like an idiot on all other occasions.
"I'll bite him to death next time," Hibari replies quietly, closing his eyes, although it is more to reassure himself than anything. He shifts a bit on the settee but does not rise, which tells Gokudera that the piano playing should continue.
"More? Alright, fine," he half-groans, since his fingers are getting tired. But it's Hibari—and Hibari alone who comes to listen to him play, so he supposes that it's alright. A Bach invention to finish things off leaves the air sweet and uplifting in the wake of the piano's silence. Hibari sits up and nods at Gokudera, giving one of those little half-smiles that, because of its rarity, is actually quite beautiful.
So in the end, they end up getting along somewhat amiably.
Gokudera cracks his knuckles and closes the Steinway's lid. "I don't want to see you in here when a bunny gets run over across the street," he half jokes.
"Hn. I don't care about animals."
Gokudera scoffs, since they are both aware of the blatant lie. "Do I really need to remind you about the kitten incident?"
"Do I really need to bite you to death?"
Well, most of the time.