You'll find the translation of the lines in Italian at the bottom, plus a teeny-weeny A/N. Hope you'll enjoy! *-*


...


Unawares # 1.

They are eighteen, and celebrating Valentine's Vongola style.

Gokudera crawls on his stomach to further disappear down the trenches him and Yamamoto dug in the Sawadas' backyard to shelter themselves from a conveniently recruited Bianchi's frontal attacks. Too bad there's no escaping Giannini's remote-controlled air assault at the same time. A worn sigh leaves Gokudera's lips as the silverette flattens himself against the ground to somewhat alleviate the uncomfortable ache in his belly, courtesy of his beloved sister's proximity. And here he was hoping the Cavallone minefield was as far as Reborn would go for this year.

"Ne, Gokudera... I was thinking."

Figures. The Italian whimpers in exasperation. "We're already in deep shit as it is, baseball idiot. Don't make it worse with your rubbish."

"But I'm serious! I think I may have figured what the point of this whole thing is."

That catches Gokudera's attention. "You think there's a point? Other than entertaining that little sadist in a suit?" It's extremely unbecoming of the Vongola's second-in-command to speak about Reborn like this, but Hayato is tired, and cranky, and frustrated, and pairing with Yamamoto to boot. Seriously, that alone should justify his bitterness.

Beside him, the Rain guardian shifts to rest his weight on his elbows and turns to stare at his partner, a confident look on his face. "Today is Valentine's Day, right?"

Sweet, he's already starting to regret paying the swordsman heed. "Sharp as ever, freak. So?"

"So, I was thinking, maybe the point of this whole game is the same as the point of this celebration."

Silver eyebrows shoot up in bewilderment. "You mean, making money at the expense of pathetically whipped boys and silly girls under the illusion of eternal love?"

His answer has Yamamoto chuckle softly. "Maa, maa, Gokudera is so cynical!"

"Stop wasting my time and spill it already. You may have not noticed, but they're fucking bombing us out of this hole any moment now."

"Fine." The brunette pushes his brows together in concentration before releasing in a neat, cautious tone. "What if this team battle is actually meant to test the intensity of the bonds we were able to form within the famiglia?"

Gods, Yamamoto's stupidity makes his stomach churn in ways even Bianchi's poisonous treats can't match. "Our sparring sessions in between real fights serve this very purpose, you insufferable blockhead. What's so new about this?"

"Haha, well. That's not quite the kind of bond I meant, Gokudera."

"Then what do you...?" Teal green eyes go wide as plates as the pianist stiffens at the abrupt twist taken by his train of thought. "You'd better not be implying what I think you are."

How can Yamamoto remain so nonchalant while discussing something like this is a complete mystery to the fiery dynamite user. The Rain guardian even makes an attempt at shrugging casually, though their current position – lying prone on the soiled dirt – is none too comfortable. "It's as good a guess as any. I'd say we give it a shot."

"You want a shot, then stand up and fucking get one. Possibly to your head, so there's a slim chance it'll start working properly." Hayato bites out sourly, but the piercing whistle and following detonation of an explosive device going off in the distance cause goosebumps to break on his skin and he quickly reconsiders Yamamoto's hypothesis. After all, Reborn's ways are known to be positively devious most times. Enough so that the idiot could have actually guessed right? He supposes they won't know until they try it. Resignation paints Gokudera's features as he finally huffs. "Whatever. Let's just get this over with."

He scoots closer and drapes an arm around Yamamoto's waist, swinging his hips uncomfortably to adjust to the new position. Somehow he ends up having to roll the uncooperative swordsman over so that they can lie sideways, facing each other, wrapped in an awkward half-hug that leaves Gokudera turning pinker by the second. And he's not done yet: swearing under his breath, the silverette pulls his friend closer in a pale resemblance of a companionable gesture and is caught off guard by Yamamoto sliding an arm behind him to bring their bodies in full contact.

One more whistle, a sinister glowing and a detonation above them. Gokudera shudders and buries his head in the collar of his mate's shirt, merely out of sheer instinct – not fear, thank you very much, he's a fucking bomber for crying out loud.

Then something shifts, Yamamoto bows his head and Hayato brushes his lips against the other's.

That's all. No Valentine's crap, no stars, no sparkles, no sodding butterflies and definitely no strings attached. The Italian pulls back sharply and shivers, partly in revulsion, partly from a certain je-ne-sais-quoi gnawing at the pit of his stomach, but it's over now, or it's going to be if the baseball freak assumed correctly, which of course Gokudera will have to painfully murder him if he didn't, since that sortakinda was his first kiss, after all, and though he's most obviously not one to care for such idiotic girly crap, well, it still is something, I mean, not that it means something, 'cause it doesn't, but still, and just what is taking Reborn so long to cease the fire?, they are, there's more, they're still under attack, his sister is, and Giannini, and why on earth is the baseball dickhead smiling again?

"Aha, Gokudera... not that I didn't enjoy it, but we should probably do that where the little kid can see us, you know."

Yamamoto thinks his friend is really cute when speechless and murderous.


Unawares # 2.

They are twenty, on the bus ride to the port (ultimately heading for Mafia Land) and facing a stalking problem.

"She's still following!"

"What the hell is up with people these days? To go to such lengths..."

"That's what they call the power of love, Hayato. I would do no less for my precious Reborn."

"Love? Tch, now this is a good one."

"Careful! Our supplies..."

"They're floating in the air!"

"Fuuta-kun?"

"The Ranking Star says Whatshername ranks 5th in the Most Persistent Female Stalkers chart."

"Great. Just, great."

The indecent cause of all the commotion, embodied in shameless idiot Yamamoto Takeshi, rubs the back of his head and laughs sheepishly. "Haha, everyone, I think you're making this bigger than it is. That girl is just the chairwoman of my fanclub, there's nothing to worry about."

Gokudera casts his rival an incredulous look. "How can you say it's nothing to worry about when that lunatic has been tracking us ever since we left your flat? We even sent the stupid cow back to try and keep her, but she didn't fall for it. That's one hell of a stalker alright."

"We can't let any civilian find out about Mafia Land! What should we do, Reborn?"

Anything but moved by Tsuna's pleading request, the mini mobster merely tugs at the rim of his hat, Leon sliding to prop down on his left shoulder. "Why don't you get rid of the nuisance with your dying wish?" The chamaleon weapon glows in warning, but Tsuna waves his hands frantically to halt it mid-transformation.

"I'd rather not resort to violence unless it's absolutely necessary, thank you!" Turning round chocolate eyes on his friends and allies, the Vongola's leader asks in a small voice: "Any ideas, you guys?"

The meek request stings Gokudera's right-hand man pride. In all honesty, he doesn't give a shit what underdeveloped female specimen decides she finds the baseball nut interesting and consecrates her life to haunting the man 24/7, but if Jyuudaime minds it, that makes it his problem to solve. Rising to kneel backwards on his seat, the Italian peers through the back window as the infamous chairwoman, who's been tailing them on a bike twice her size, waves some banner or flag in the air, all the while shouting unintelligible nonsense to catch her hero's attention. Sickening, Gokudera sums up, and beckons for Yamamoto to come take a look himself.

In his defence, the Storm guardian was not expecting the motherfucking idiot to wave at the crazed stalker through the glass.

"Oh, great! Happy now, you fucktard? If she had any doubts you could be inside here before, now she knows for sure! We're never going to shake her off!"

"Haha, where are Gokudera's manners? It's rude not to wave back at someone who greets you first!"

"You unbelievable - !" Cutting himself off before blurting out some profanity that would make Jyuudaime's virgin ears bleed, Gokudera chews on his lower lip instead and focuses on doing what he's best at: think.

Then it dawns on him. It's dreadful and gross and degrading to the extreme, as that hopeless Lawn Head would put it, but a (right-hand) man's gotta do what he's gotta do. What humiliates him the most, though, is that he'll be going by his sister's interpretation, which doesn't make any sense, because, come on, who's so dumb as to fall for a guy they've never met outside the baseball field, especially if that guy is Yamamoto Takeshi, moron by default?

"Say, dimwit... does this psycho really have a crush on you?"

"Aha, well... she did offer to bear my children once, so, maybe?"

Ignoring the stab of gut-wrenching annoyance that pierces through him for no apparent reason, Hayato takes a deep breath and nods to himself. That's it. I can do this.

"Just leave it, Gokudera-kun. If there's no other way, I'm going to let Reborn shoot me and deal with this my – " Tsuna never gets to finish the sentence, his jaw gone slack at the positively offputting display that is his two very male best friends kissing the way couples do in those movies he's always watching with beautiful Kyoko-chan on his mind.

His mouth glued to the idiot, Gokudera makes a big show of slipping his tongue past the swordsman's lips to give their little stunt some semblance of realism. It works all too well, if Haru's strangled gasp and Tsuna's background stuttering are any indication.

Upon breaking the kiss, the Italian turns his gaze to the back window impatiently. A huge, fairly scary to be honest, grin stretches his lips as he realizes the chasing bike is no longer in sight. "There! This should do."

He's not sure whether the girl stopped following because their little show succeeded in leading her to think Yamamoto gay and consequently give up on her hopes to have the man's babies, or rather it was her motorbike swerving off the road as she lost control of the vehicle that sort of spoiled the chase. Either way, no hormonal civilian is popping up unannounced to cause mayhem at Mafia Land today, which definitely counts as a personal achievement of Jyuudaime's – hence Gokudera has done his job as a second-in-command and can look at himself in the mirror for one more day. Even if staring back at him there will be the face of a man who kissed Yamamoto Takeshi in front of an entire mafia family.

... holy shit, what have I done?

The Storm guardian takes back his seat together with the last shreds of his dignity, and tries hard to ignore everybody's eyes fixed on him.


Unawares # 3.

They are twenty-three, sharing an apartment (for exquisitely practical reasons, as Gokudera keeps having to explain) and Yamamoto is learning Italian. His own twisted way, sure, since apparently the Rain guardian trusts watching tons of cheap comedies over asking nicely for his native flatmate to teach him.

No fucking wonder silly methods lead to silly outcomes.

"Sei la migliore amica che esista al mondo! Ti voglio bene!" When loud, irritating female voices greet him speaking his homeland language as he walks into the dimly lit living room, Gokudera knows the moron is at it again. Grumbling to himself, the bomber casts a dirty look at the TV screen, where two teenage girls are jumping excitedly on a fluffy bed. His scowl deepens as one of the girls leaps in the other's arms and plants a closed-mouthed kiss on her friend's lips.

While Gokudera barely lifts an eyebrow in mild surprise, the Japanese previously sprawled on the couch sits up and leans forward to get a closer look – a reaction that, for some reason, irks the Vongola's second immensely.

He's just debating whether to go smack the idiot for being a horny idiot, when Yamamoto spots him standing on the threshold and brightens up like a sodding light bulb. "Hey, you're back! Bentornato! Sit with me for a while, will you?"

"Tch. Thought you said you didn't need my help with your stupid Italian lessons." The silverette mumbles surly, but walks over to the couch nonethless.

"I don't." Yamamoto grins at his flatmate as the youth props down next to him. "Hey, what's there in your pocket?"

"Huh." Nodding vaguely to himself in remembrance, Gokudera searches his sweatshirt to produce a strip of paper. "It's the receipt from the grocery store, I stopped by get your creepy milk." The sudden widening of Yamamoto's eyes brings a frown on the pianist's forehead. "What?"

"You went to the shop expressly to buy me milk?"

Why, this...! A furious blush stains the Italian's cheeks at the utter disbelief in the brunette's tone. "I came upon a store on my way back from work and recalled you were running out, that's all. I kept the bill so you could pay me back, don't make it sound like I'm doing you a favour!"

"Haha, right, right!" Raising his hands in surrender, Yamamoto smiles that fond, truthful smile of his he only ever shows when genuinely touched by something. "Grazie mille, Hayato." He stretches across the sofa and touches his nose to his flatmate's. "Ti voglio bene."

"Wait, what on earth do you think you're – ?"

Yamamoto covers the distance between their mouths in a chaste kiss, tenderly and swift.

It lasts long enough for Gokudera to freak out and spring on his feet, the back of his hand scrubbing his violated lips urgently. "Nnngggyah! What the fuck is wrong with you, nitwit?"

His blood hunger is somewhat quelled when a honestly puzzled looking Yamamoto points at the TV screen. "Those cute girls from the movie kissed, and they're just friends. Isn't that how it works in Italy?"

"For teenage girls, maybe! Definitely not with full grown men!" Taking a deep breath to calm down the frantic pounding in his chest, Gokudera crumples the grocery recepit in a ball and throws it in the moron's face. "I'm putting this on your monthly account, plus an extra for not keeping your paws to yourself. Serves you bloody perv right."

There's a goofy smile on Takeshi's lips as the bomber storms out of the room, leaving a foul stream of curses in his wake.


Unawares # 4.

They are twenty-four and preparing for the Haru Haru Halloween Special, as the hyper girl christened it.

"You're full of shit. I'm not doing it."

"Haha, c'mon Gokudera, don't be a killjoy! Tsuna is going too. As his faithful right-hand man, you can't miss it."

"I get it, I get it! Screw this. I'm so not dressing up, though."

...

They are twenty-four and wearing fancy dresses for the Haru Haru Halloween Bullshit. His guts still twisting in self-despise, Gokudera is putting the finishing touches to his pretty elaborate vampire make-up, all by himself since they're running late and the girls (Kyoko, Hana, teenage I-Pin and Bianchi in a spectacularly vivid scorpion costume) went on ahead to help Haru receiving her first guests. In the mirror, he can see his flatmate rubbing a thick, disgusting grey-ish lotion on his shoulders and arms, and the Italian can't help the pained grimace blooming across his face. "What are you dressing as, again?"

Their eyes meet in the reflection, Yamamoto's beaming with totally unjustified self-contentment. "A zombie ballplayer, of course! I was feeling a little nostalgic the other day, so Haru-chan came up with this brilliant idea."

"You mean you still fit in your old uniform? How the hell is that even possible?"

Mirror-Yamamoto bites his bottom lip and glances down at his own striped shirt and white pants as if seeing them for the first time. "Aha, well, that's not exactly it. I just sort of kept buying my baseball equipment even after I quit. You never know when certain things could come in handy."

Gokudera opens his mouth to say something. Something that's, for a change, not an insult. But the Rain guardian's mobile picks that moment to buzz alive, and the Italian swallows whatever word of comfort had been on the verge of slipping past his lips.

"Hello? Ah, Senpai! Yeah, yeah, sure. We're right on our way." The brunette hangs up, shoots his flatmate an apologetic smile. "Senpai says everyone's there already. If we don't show up soon, Haru-chan is gonna have a tantrum."

"And that's a bad thing, because...?" Scoffing at the eerie mask of greasepaint staring back at him in the mirror, Gokudera puts down his black lipstick and turns around. "Whatever, I'm done."

"Gokudera makes a great vampire, haha!"

The idiot's statement is contradicted right away as a very unfitting blush graces the silverette's supposedly dead pale cheeks. "Shut the hell up and get a move on, base – " The baseball reference dies in his throat as he takes in the other's attire, and Hayato just grabs the keys before hurrying out of the door, Yamamoto short after him.

They have already taken the lift to ground floor when the zombie ballplayer catches his image in the mirror and realizes something's amiss. "Oh, this is bad!"

Gokudera crosses his arms and grunts grouchily. "What now?" (It's not like he cares, but, oh well, social niceties and the lot.)

"I forgot to paint my lips. Now Haru-chan will say they're standing out against the rest of my skin."

The bomber casts his friend a closer glance. Takeshi's mouth is, indeed, shining like a rosy gem in his ashy face, just about ruining completely the walking dead effect the Japanese had been aiming for. Wandering down the swordsman's body, Gokudera's stare stops once more on the brunette's outfit, and a pang of sympathy clasps his stomach in a vice. It's too damn easy to forget just how tough he had it since the dumbface is always laughing it off, but if he were to be honest with himself, the former pianist should admit Yamamoto paid quite the price for being a part of this little mafia game.

Maybe he has gone soft in his old age, but Gokudera can't fight the urge to do something for the idiot, if an utterly trivial something. "Tch. No wonder you're no right-hand man, you're too easily defeated." The silverette grabs a hold on the taller man's chin and jerks it none too gently in the right direction. "Pucker up."

Yamamoto is still gaping like a hopeless fish when a pair of black-glossed lips presses up against his own, grazing the tender flesh firmly to leave their dark, burning trace.

The elevator bell rings as they reach ground floor. Gokudera walks out of it and the building first, a faint smudge of gray body paint at the corner of his mouth.


Interlude # 1.

It's Gokudera's twenty-fifth birthday.

They all had a few drinks too many, so it's no big surprise when the guest of honour falls asleep with his head on the table and the carefree youngsters of the company – 16-year-olds Lambo and I-Pin – initiate a game of 'spin the bottle', despite Tsuna's apprehensive glances and frequent "I still don't think this is a good idea".

"For the record, I still don't think this is a good idea."

"Maa, maa, Tsuna, what harm could ensue? They're just fooling around a bit."

"Yeah, that's sort of what I'm worried about." The Vongola's tenth boss gives his old friend a skeptical onceover. "How much did you have, by the way? Your eyes are looking blurry."

Yamamoto laughs the question off, because he is, indeed, quite royally pissed, but Hayato is always going on about how important it is that, the right-hand man being unavailable for whatever reason, Yamamoto himself, as Reborn's favourite and official third wheel of the gang (he never particularly appreciated such brutal definition of his role, but what do you do), should take over the leading bodyguard charge and protect Tsuna with his life. Looking at Hayato, Yamamoto must presume that drunk out of his skull and drooling on a flat surface counts as minor unavailableness (whoa, such a difficult word, haha), so he can't let his guard down.

"Come on Basil, you're up."

"What? I-I am a bit too old for this kind of pastimes, Lambo-kun."

"Rubbish, you're just chickening out."

"Sorry to disappoint you, but childish taunting is not going to – "

"Chicken, chicken, chicken!"

"Oh, all right, all right. If that pleases you kids so damn much."

The Vongola's boss chokes on his gulpful of neat water at that. "Basil-kun just swore?"

"No way, must be the booze talking. Will you spin the damn thing already?"

"Fine, fine. Here. Who's up?"

"Aha, Fuuta is! Basil and Fuuta, sitting in a tree – "

"But they're both boys!"

"I-Pin is suuuuuch a babe. C'mon, you two lovebirds, geron with it. No escaping the bottle."

Yamamoto wonders briefly if the unhealthy wave of scarlet rising to Tsuna's cheeks as the two blonde youths meet in an awkward peck is anything he's supposed to be protecting the Tenth from, but quickly dismisses the thought as the game moves on.

"I-Pin is all red! Sssssuch a babe."

"Shut up, Lambo! Your turn."

Several pairs of eyes follow the spinning bottle until it ultimately stops, pointing at –

"Oh, no."

"N-No way!"

"Not doing it."

The sound of light laughter fills the air. It takes Yamamoto a few moments to realize it's actually his own. "Haha, this is unfair, kids! You wanna play, you gotta play all the way."

The Chinese teenager is blushing like mad and hiding her face in her crossed arms. "I-I can't kiss Lambo! W-We, We..."

If much more blasé, the cow hitman looks none too eager to carry out the task, either. "That's a huge no."

"But you made me and Basil do it, and we're two guys!"

"Yes, Fuuta is right. What could possibly be worse than that?"

I-Pin has gone from timid teetering to downright stuttering. "L-Lambo and I are l-like brother and s-sister! We can't!"

"But it's as Lambo said, ne? 'No escaping the bottle'!" Yamamoto teases good-heartedly around the rim of his wine glass. Which Tsuna promptly snatches from his hand, an admonishing look in light brown eyes.

"Like you'd know any better! You're Japanese." Lambo mutters, and Takeshi will concede he has a point, until the teen adds gruffily. "What are you meddling for, anyway? You're not even playing."

"Haha, true. Though if I were, I'd abide by the rules."

"You mean you would kiss anyone you'd get?"

"That's how you play the game, isn't it?"

"Yeah, but no one expects – hang on." Lambo's usually listless face lights up with something akin to mischief. The boy elbows I-Pin furtively before leaning over, boring his good eye into the Rain guardian's smiling face. "How about you prove it?"

With hindsight, Yamamoto figures it might have been wiser to follow a suddenly alarmed Tsuna's advice and call the whole thing off. But at this moment in time, with liquor flowing in his blood cells and giving his head a delicious buzz, he just can't bring himself to back out on the challenge. "Oh-kay, sure. Who do you want me to kiss?"

...

So as you see, there is a perfectly logical reason why the Rain guardian walks up to the birthday boy, brushes silver hair off his face, leans in with a soft "hey, Hayato?' and kisses the slumbering bomber wide awake, tongue and all – for the sake of meeting exactly the terms of the deal Lambo made him, you know.

Except, on his part, Gokudera does not know. He stays utterly oblivious as to why, on the night of his twenty-fifth birthday, he wakes to Takeshi's mouth making love to his own in front of the whole famiglia. It tastes like déjà-vu, though, and déjà-vu always tastes deceptively sweet. So he sort of goes along with it, feeling too dizzy to do much more than inwardly panicking at the seemingly unprovoked kiss.

Oh, well.

In the forgiving light of hangover, he figures, things will clear up themselves.


Hungover # 1.

They break, at times. Break like mighty men do, like assassins do, like those who happen to clash with their feelings because they can't let them flow gradually do.

Tonight's one of those nights, Gokudera gathers the moment he sets foot in the kitchen. He doesn't know what possessed him to get out of bed in the dead of night and travel downstairs, but now, Yamamoto's shuddering figure crowding his sight as if multiplied, mirrored a thousand times by the scattered glass at his feet, he's thankful for whatever gave him this hunch.

Moving carefully in the dark, Hayato walks towards the only source of light in the room – the open fridge Takeshi is standing by, left hand gripping the edge of the counter to steady himself, right hand wrapped around what remains of a broken glass, whose original content is dripping off the ledge and down Yamamoto's sleeve. It doesn't take a whiz kid and former pianist to piece facts together; even so, the cause of Takeshi's apparent tantrum is not going to disclose itself without some pushing from Gokudera's part, so the Italian sucks in a harsh breath and edges closer, barefoot on the soiled floor.

Before he can come up with something to say, though, the Rain guardian is turning bloodshot eyes on him, the look in them so utterly distraught it takes his breath away and ruins his chances at anything remotely sensible.

"I... had a nightmare." Takeshi's breath is laboured, as though each syllable pained him immensely. "Sorry for wakin' you."

There's a heavy and growing weight at the pit of Hayato's stomach, like a blossoming dark flower taking root in dread, feeding off his anguish. He needs to get the words out, they're obstructing his throat to the point of hurt, but he can't shape them properly and, he being ever the perfectionist, they won't come at all. The silverette mouths the other's name like a silent chant, until something catches his eye and points him the perfect way out of the impasse. His movements are jerky and abrupt, much like a child's, as he goes through the top drawer to produce some napkins and falls to his knees, focusing solely on moping up the spilled liquid he now recognizes as neat water. That's good news; brokedown baseball idiot he can just about face, while booze-induced brooding idiot is way over his head.

Within moments Takeshi is squatting down beside him, kitchen roll in hand. "Made quite a mess, haven't I?" The Japanese observes as calmly as his obviously still shaken senses will allow. Which is not that calmly, mind you. "Sorry."

The absence of the trademark chuckle in the brunette's voice makes Gokudera want to smack the idiot for being less of an idiot than usual, since the usual is how Gokudera has come to like him best. "Stop apologizing." The Storm guardian huffs, not an ounce of the typical bite to his tone. He's mad at himself for not knowing how to deal with this, and even madder at Takeshi for –

– for getting under his skin so easily, and then letting Hayato see him like this. Devastated and helpless. It's not fair, it's totally unfair of the idiot to go and become vulnerable of all things, just now, after Gokudera's birthday party and the thing that happened then got to the bomber's head, making him see things and feel things he had not even known existed for ages.

As a result, this blasted hammering in his chest won't fucking relent, and they're doing a terrible job drying off the tiles, Yamamoto's hands trembling with pent-up turmoil and his own with the urge to pull the goddamn idiot close and chase his demons away no matter what it takes.

Cool down. First things first. "W-Wanna talk about it?" Gokudera clumsily offers, his voice sounding raspy and a tad aggressive due to the prolonged awkward silence.

Yamamoto holds his flatemate's stare for a long second, until realization hits him and he bows his head, defeated.

He tells Hayato everything, up to the last bloodstained detail. It's plain sick, what this juvenile man's mind can conjure when closed up in itself, and the Italian is once more reminded of why exactly it is that Yamamoto prefers always being in someone's company. No fucking wonder, if this is how solitude affects him.

Hayato cocks his head to the side and drinks in the picture before him. Here's his teenage friend, a man he's known for the better part of a decade, gone through all sorts of ordeals with and even slept under the same roof together for years – yet he just about ignores the first thing about him. At times like this, it feels like there's a war in Takeshi's brain and Gokudera is left struggling to reconcile the mental image of his good ol' dumb friend with that of a perfect stranger, and a pretty damn disturbed one at that.

The Rain guardian manages all the way through his little horror tale without breaking down again, though he's shivering real bad by the time he's finished. "I'm sor – I mean, I didn't – I never wanted to drag you in this. I'm just being stupid. More than usual, I guess."

That pushes all of Hayato's buttons in a split second. Before he can give into his conscience's demands, crying out for him to stay the hell away from Takeshi, he's sliding further down the soaked floor and leaning forward, his head bumping against the other's as they meet halfway at a somewhat uncomfortable angle. Neither moves, though. "Damn straight you are." Hayato practically hisses, then touches his forehead to Yamamoto's.

There's no saying who dives in first (although the odds on Gokudera are, like, five hundred to one); in a minute their mouths are latched onto each other, pushing, swivelling, tasting, before parting to make room for ravenous tongues. Takeshi whimpers softly in his throat, causing his partner to nibble slightly on his bottom lip in half-hearted restriction. Then the brunette's hand is cupping his cheek, and Hayato shoves his tongue down the other man's throat, breathing hard through his nostrils as Takeshi tilts his face to deepen their kiss. A jolt of raw arousal shoots straight to Gokudera's groin when Yamamoto suckles on his tongue and fucking moans around it. That sets off the bomber's alarm bells at once.

He's tearing himself away and storming out of the kitchen before the other has had the time to process anything. Well, that just makes two of them.

The salty taste of teary skin lingers on Hayato's lips for nights to come.


Hungover # 2.

Even Uri, Yamamoto considers all too fondly as his eyes take in the scene before them, looks positively adorable while asleep. Then again, a large part of its appeal may depend on the surface he picked for his afternoon nap, that is Hayato's belly.

The bomber himself must have dozen off whilst reading, if the heavy tome left open across his chest is anything to go by. Well, that and the fact that an awake Hayato is hardly a Hayato the box weapon cat can get along with, let alone lower its guard around. That seems to be pretty much everybody's disposition towards Gokudera, too, with the obvious exception of Tsuna and, on occasion, himself – Yamamoto realizes, a softer smile creeping over his face. He doesn't mind being Gokudera's exception, not at all. Well, as long as if it's for the best, haha.

He's slowly bending over his unconscious flatmate when Uri stirs and mews feebly to draw attention. "Evening, cutie!" Yamamoto scratches the kitty behind its right year, wich warrants him an approving little moan of contentment. Really, he doesn't get why Hayato can't seem to ever end up on the pet's good side. How hard can that be?, the Japanese questions naïvely, it's just a cat!

Once Uri has swiftly climbed off his owner's lap, the Rain guardian takes it upon himself to put the silverette to bed. He's got the feeling Hayato wouldn't particularly appreciate waking up in Yamamoto's arms as the swordsman carries him upstairs bridal style, so he'll try and shake the Italian awake beforehand.

As he goes to move the book draped across Gokudera's chest (a scary-looking edition of Piergiorgio Odifreddi's Geometric Diversions - From Euclid to Hilbert) , though, he's faced with an uexpected discovery.

Hidden behind the larger tome lies a thinner book split around the middle by a skull-patterned bookmark (Yamamoto's birthday present), whose cover, reading The Interpretation Of Dreams, tells the baseball lover just about everything he needs to know.

Suddenly it's clear as daylight – Hayato staying up late to wait for him, wearing himself out by studying those psychology essays, falling asleep on the couch with his reading glasses still on, the endaring, so utterly Gokudera-like effort to disguise his care, his apprehension; Yamamoto stiffens, a chill running down his spine. He takes a moment to notice, but he's trembling, shaken to the bone by the unforeseen turnaround in Hayato's attitude. Few appreciate this quality of his as they should, but Gokudera's loyalty is utmost and unwavered. To have gained, no, to have been given the man's attention is big enough, and it's obvious that, seeing as they have been living together for almost three years now, Yamamoto has his partner's trust – but his worry, his affection, the desire to watch over him and keep him safe from harm, that's something old times Gokudera would only ever feel for Tsuna.

The hitman's heart clenches with shattered emotion.

Gently, slow so as not to startle the bomber awake, Takeshi leans in. His breath fans Hayato's face as he stalls, hesitant. Then his mate's features scrunch up in a strangely alluring expression and, blood rushing to his cheeks, Yamamoto closes the distance between them.


Hungover # 3.

No matter how fervently Bianchi protested it, Gokudera had not wanted to take his piano to his shared apartment. Given how beautifully his mate can play, Yamamoto is incline to agree with the pink-haired woman that it was a damn waste; however, years spent learning the rules of the mafia game have taught him better than to stick his nose in a sibling fight, and he just goes with the flow, occasionally playing the peacemaker whenever similar arguments arise, threatening to result in their roof being blown away like a pressure-cooker's misfortunate lid.

That's not for saying that Gokudera's musical taste has somehow rusted, though. Not at all; in fact, the tone-deaf Japanese is ever amazed at his flatmate's acute sensibility, and scenes like the one they've got going on in the backseat of the family's tinted-windowed car are no rare occurrences.

"You sodding pig, mistaking Liszt for Chopin again."

"Haha, sorry. But they both were great pianists, right?"

"You're a lost cause, I don't know why I even bother."

"Hey, who was the guy who had that piece I liked? The one who went all scharambushhhh, frrrrrrrou, paaaanf, uuuu?"

"That piece was The Flying Dutch overture, and the guy was goddamn Richard Wagner! Seriously, you're a criminal!"

"Haha, Gokudera's German accent, so funny!"

"Stop being your moron self for two seconds and guess this one."

Yamamoto focuses as intently as his unskilled ears will let him on the spectral organ melody coming from the speakers. When it heightens to a point he's most familiar with, a triumphant grin stretches the swordsman's lips. "Ah, I get it! Was in that DVD we rented last week. The opera ghost, or something?"

"You mean The Phantom Of The Opera, and yes, that's the one. Name the composer?"

"Gokudera is really getting into it today… one of those B guys? Beethoven, Brahms… no, no, Bach!"

"Which Bach?"

Yamamoto rolls his eyes in mock exasperation. Truth is, he finds Hayato's going out of his way to trick him kind of endearing, for some reason. "The one with the butler's name. Sebastian."

Sitting beside him, Gokudera looks impressed against his will. For a split second. "It's Johann Sebastian." A self-satisfied smirk crosses the bomber's features as he's able to correct the baseball idiot and the cosmic order is re-established once again.

The victorious face falls soon after, as Bach's sonata fades and melts into something else entirely – something coming from the darkest pit of his past, from a hole in his soul that Hayato has long given up on filling.

"Maa maa, Gokudera is so… hey, what's wrong?"

Yamamoto's gentle nudging wakes him to the pitiful shivering of his own shoulder set. Dancing before unfocused jade eyes are foggy nightmares from an era of dust, solitude, betrayal, pirouetting at the back of his mind to the swinging softness of the melody rising in the vehicle.

"Hayato?" The brunette's hand lands more firmly on his shoulder, squeezing a bit to convey the feeling behind the gesture – a feeling Gokudera himself can't put his finger on, but knows is there. There in the drooping of Takeshi's eyelids, there in the intent pressure of soft palms on quivering flesh, there in his scooting closer and invading Hayato's bubble with such a warm, radiant glow the Italian is overwhelmed. A strangled gasp fights its way past thin lips, and before he knows the former pianist is clutching his head to shut his ears.

"What's wrong? Talk to me, Hayato!"

"M-Make it… s-stop."

"Make what stop?"

Gokudera whimpers then, a sound that chills the Rain guardian to the bone. He's just about to knock on the dividing panel separating the back and front seats to catch the Vongola's designated driver's attention, when the silverette reacts positively to the music shifting, and cautiously unfolds from his crouching position. To his uttermost horror, Yamamoto notices green eyes are brimmed with furious tears.

"Hayato…?" He can only choke out helplessly. Takeshi never feels so inadequate around Gokudera as he does at times like this, when he's even jealous of Tsuna's prodigious intuition. Normally he doesn't mind being called dumb by his fellows, but it hurts that he's not smart enough or quick enough or perceptive enough to support his most precious person in his time of need.

For Gokudera is. His most precious person, though he couldn't pinpoint exactly the moment that happened.

"T-That…" The bomber breathes out carefully, refills his lungs meticulously before having a second go. "That was the piano suite from an adagio of Albinoni's. It's a very simple piece, one of the absolute first I learnt. My mother gave me the score claiming it was good for me to try my hand at some Italian composers, too." Yamamoto swipes his thumb soothingly across the jutting bone of Hayato's clavicle as the man curls his fists in the fabric of his suit pants. "I played it the last time she came to our estate. And when she wouldn't come back, I just kept playing."

The adagio, now enriched with violins and a solemn double-bass, reaches its climax and begins languidly spiralling down. As one note after the other drowns in silence, Gokudera visibly relaxes, his back resting decidedly against the seat. "I thought maybe, if she could hear me play the tune she loved from wherever she was, that nice lady would show up again. I was stupid." He states, tone flattened out and even. Reaching inside his jacket for his breast pocket, the bomber produces a crumpled carton and lights up a cigarette, openly breaking Tsuna's no-smoking-in-patrol-cars rule. The infraction alone speaks volumes about the faithful right-hand man's current state of mind, and Yamamoto can't find it in himself to move his hand, which is now cupping the side of the other man's neck somewhat awkwardly.

"It's not stupid. I – "

"You wouldn't know stupidity if it slapped you in the face. Proof is, you're faced with it every time you look in a mirror and you still don't have a clue."

Yamamoto knows what Gokudera is trying to do. Normally, he would just go along with it, play his "haha" card and get away with murder; but this once, it feels too important to let go. "I mean it, Hayato. It's not stupid to care for someone. It's not stupid to wanna keep them close." A frustrated sigh leaves his lips at his own obviousness. Because he is being obvious, and if Gokudera can't see it, then he's got a much grater problem than they thought. "Just forget about it."

The telltale narrowing of the bomber's eyes warns him he's in for a world of pain if he doesn't take his admittedly badly phrased advice back this instant. "Are you suggesting I forget about my mother?"

"Of course not, just… just the bad parts."

Smoke whirls in the air around them, floating above Hayato's stubborn silence. The Japanese can't help but scrunch his nose in protest at the foul smell. Before he can think of starting one of his infamous healthy lifestyle lectures, however, the silverette is speaking up again. "Get your ridiculously huge baseball hands off me."

Takeshi's left is, indeed, still cradling Gokudera's nape, in a display of protectiveness and intimacy they shouldn't, with good reason, be comfortable with. It must be an abhorrence of some sort that Shigure Kintoki's wielder feels in a very happy place, then. Whatever: Yamamoto can live with abhorrent. "I don't think I want to."

As Hayato's scowl morphs into a deliciously baffled what-on-earth-are-you-up-to-now look, the Rain guardian proceeds to show his colleague exactly where he's coming from; using his already settled hand as leverage, he pulls Gokudera flush against him and kisses him as though both their lives depended on it.

A halo of silver hair spreads against the tinted window when the brunette pushes his partner into the door and follows to keep their lips joined. Takeshi's breath is obscenely laboured as he darts his tongue out and conquers the other's mouth, but that's okay, since Hayato is panting like he'd just run a marathon. Both their hearts drum within their chests – Yamamoto's hold is so tight he can feel it distinctly – and the pressure only seems to increase when the Italian drops his hand onto his partner's thigh. Anyplace Gokudera touches is instantly set on fire, and that's all Yamamoto can do not to flat-out crawl in his friend's lap with ecstasy. His attempts at restrain sort of go flying off the window, though, when Hayato hooks his leg onto Yamamoto's and gently presses his knee against, ohfortheloveofpity, against his crotch. The Japanese makes sure to show his appreciation by sucking the silverette's bottom lip into his mouth, biting softly on it, then lapping eagerly at the slightly bruised flesh. (For the record, it sounds way sloppier than it feels.)

Right as the most wonderful of all things wonderful happens – Gokuedera bucks up into him, making a little needy noise in the back of his throat… the door they're heavily leaning against slides open, causing the couple to topple disgracefully.

Eyeing the mess at his feet through dark sunglasses, the Vongola driver announces in a calculated monotone: "We're there, sirs."

Before Gokudera can bolt out of the car and go find himself a quiet corner to curl up and die, the swordsman grabs him by the arm, effectively preventing his flight. "Did it work?" Takeshi asks urgently, a controlled half-smile tilting his lips. "Did it get your mind off the bad things?"

If there's one thing he truly despises, that's being talked to like a fucking child right after being sexual harassed in the backseat of a patrol car, which now smells like an ashtray because he just had to throw a fit at some goddamn stupid tune, didn't he? The stress and insanity of the last hour gets to Gokudera all at once, and he can't possibly punch the baseball idiot's smiling face hard enough.

"Screw your damn music jeopardy, nitwit. What was I even thinking? Pigs will be pigs. Guess some are even bigger pigs than others!"


Interlude # 2.

When Yamamoto is finally discharged and allowed to step out of the hospital, his first action is to draw in a lungful of much needed fresh air, enjoying the taste of freedom in his guts. The second, however, is to stop and swallow hard so as not to choke on his own intake with shock from the sight he's unexpectedly met with.

Well, to say he had not been wondering at Hayato's hard-to-miss absence by his bedside during the confinement would be lying. He'd even been sort of, haha, hurt by his flatmate's apparent disinterest for his conditions. True, he was hospitalized with a minor injure, nothing even remotely close to the dramatic aftermaths of some other missions the Vongola clan requests of them on occasion, but still, having everyone except Gokudera (and Hibari, but whenever has the Cloud guardian counted for anything concerning human relations?) visiting had been… not pleasant.

Now, looking at Hayato's dark face as the man paces up and down the hospital courtyard, smoking a cigarette after the other while blissfully unaware of Yamamoto's enrapt staring, the Rain guardian feels ridiculous and somewhat ashamed, too, for ever doubting his friend's heart. Even though his humungous pride would forbid him to do something so utterly blatant as visiting Takeshi, that doesn't mean Gokudera's concern is not showing clear as daylight through his body language. That is, if his awaiting Yamamoto right by the hospital entrance for fear of missing the exact moment of his discharge was not enough indication in itself.

A timid smile tilts the Japanese's lips as he resolves to put an end to his mate's suffering and make his presence known. The bomber's keen senses kick in one moment too soon, though, and the silverette beats him to it, turning stiffly around to face Yamamoto before he has the chance to speak first.

The following bunch of seconds will go down in history as the longest of Takeshi's life.

At first, Gokudera looks every bit as if he had seen a ghost. Not just any ghost, either; make it, a Christmas carol ghost plus a virtual Bianchi's poison cooking attack. Yeah, that's more like it, haha. The Italian's jaw goes slack around his fag, which falls unceremoniously onto the ground. Bright green eyes narrow to dangerous slits then, and, as Hayato strolls towards him, fear creeps out on the ex ballplayer catching him off guard. How come he's just been released from freaking hospital confinement and has already done something to warrant Gokudera's annoyance…? The brunette observes with mild fascination the emotional slideshow that is his flatmate's face, until Hayato is coming up close, very, very close, and Takeshi's vision is going blurry, creamy skin all he can make out in the haze.

A sharp tug to the front of his shirt is all the warning Yamamoto gets, and is nowhere near enough to prepare him for Hayato bringing their mouths together almost viciously, with intention. The Rain guardian sputters awkwardly in the short break Gokudera allows them, but is cut off soon after by the silverette's lips crushing against his own again, picking up a kiss that never quite died out in the first place. Something goes off in Takeshi's head, then. The swordsman tells himself to just let go and relax and, as Hayato slips his tongue past his lips and charms him into participating, he finds out just how much more gratifying that is.

When they part, the quizzical look on Takeshi's face is so eloquent Gokudera needs no prompting to come up with an explanation. Well, sort of. "Shut it. It was either this or blow you idiot up."

Yamamoto deems it wiser not to dwell on the ambiguous implications of that word, blow, when used by his pretty damn attractive and suddenly inexplicably touchy-feely flatmate. He opts for chasing insistently after the answer to the doubt eating away at his brain ever since Hayato's puzzling mood swings began, instead. "What is Gokudera mad at me about?"

"Who said I was mad?" The pianist snaps reflexively, though, strangely enough, his names calling sounds more meaningful, more heartfelt than his usual go-to reaction to anything Yamamoto. "You really are an idiot." He chides matter-of-factly, but as he turns away and shoves his hands down his pockets, a taut frown creasing his brow, the Rain guardian gets the feeling there's more than just mechanical irritation to his mate's behaviour. " 'I can handle one mission on my own!', he says. Like fuck you can. They owned you royally." The Vongola's right-hand man grunts under his breath, still facing away from Yamamoto.

Who's got the common sense to at least look vaguely sheepish as he laughs the accusation off. "Haha, well, there was this issue that arose…"

"I don't wanna hear it." Silver hair whips harshly as Gokudera spins around, his forefinger laid out to jab pointedly at the taller man's chest. "Next time I say I'll go with you, I'm taking no fucking objections. You got that, shithead?"

Yamamoto is half tempted to grab the other's hand and stop the stabbing, but eventually resolves to take the abuse good-heartedly. After all, it seems like a reasonable price to pay for worrying a man like Gokudera no less. Even so, he won't drop the issue without doing something to reassure his cohabitant first. "I can handle myself, you know."

"That doesn't mean you have to." The Italian huffs grumpily, all the while searching his pockets to retrieve another cigarette. Green eyes take once more the easier way out and divert to lie on unthreatening, un-Yamamoto grass; they are not quick enough that Takeshi can't spot the flicker of emotion in them, though. It comes as no big surprise when Hayato buries the lower half of his face in his collar and lets out a reluctant: "But I know you can, really."

Reborn's protégé had never quite gotten the whole 'soaring heart' image. Till today, with his own heart jumping in his throat and floating sweetly as a leaf carried by the wind because of Gokudera's words. He doesn't fight the bright grin blooming across his face, much to the other man's chagrin, and is right on his heels when a glaring Hayato sets off.

"So, you wanna stop grab a bite somewhere on the way?"

"Hn. Better we get you home soon, you're still convalescent. And you might infect other people if we let you on the run for too long. Lord knows idiocy spreads faster in the open."

As he smiles and tags along, the ballplayer marvels mildly at the new, pleasurable tingle in his chest. Then Gokudera shoots him a half smirk over his shoulder and Takeshi forgets all of it.


No reason # _

They go to the movies together, but half the Famiglia (the noisy half, counting Haru and the Sun guardian) pops out of nowhere and joins. Then some accident involving Squalo's new haircut – courtesy of Bel's misguided sleight of hand – gets them kicked out of the theatre, and the merry gang splits, leaving the Rain and Storm guardian on their lonely way home. Gokudera wants to stop at the bookstore, so he spends forty-three minutes trying to discourage his flatmate from hanging around. Yamamoto is irremovable, which inexplicably ruins Hayato's mood and makes him give up on the whole idea. While strolling down the streets in a heavy silence, then, the pair runs into some old senpai of Yamamoto's, and the Italian takes advantage of the other's forced stop to go on ahead and put some distance between them. The swordsman catches up quickly, and even though his mate slams the elevator's door on his face, he still makes it to their doorstep first. Hayato glares at the panting moron laying against the doorframe and fits his key in the lock with enough vehemence to break it in two. Yamamoto looks vaguely worried for a second – it's not like he has his spare key on, and he knows for a fact his fiery cohabitant isn't above kicking him out on a whim – but Gokudera holds the door open and only curses softly before admitting the tall brunette in. The Rain guardian sighs in relief and steps in, shutting the door behind him by resting against it. Slowly yet surly, a knowing smile arches his lips.

Hayato can't escape him here.

A tan, strong arm reaches out to grasp the edge of his sleeve, and the Storm finds himself spun around and secured against Takeshi's chest in a trice.

"D-Don't you fucking dare, asshole! Let me go!"

"Sorry our date was ruined. It's just the two of us now, though."

"We were not on a date! Let go of – !" Yamamoto kisses the rest of the sentence right back in his throat. It's hotter, hungrier, much more real than any time before. Not reciprocating is simply not an option. Gokudera melts into it and moans like he was always too shyuptightstupid to do, as Takeshi flicks his tongue across his partner's lips and pries them apart.

"I've been waiting for this all day."

Such a corny thing to do, staying forehead-to-forehead after a kiss, yet Gokudera can't find it in himself to rebel when it's one unique baseball idiot doing it. "Why?" He rasps, mortified at the husky quality of his own tone.

Yamamoto shrugs like that's the lamest thing he's ever heard. "Must there be a reason?"

Just the right one, Hayato would say. But then he reads it, reads everything he needs to know in the depths of those foolish, foolishly loving eyes, and who's he to ask for more than this man's very world, again?

"Not really," the Italian grunts, then draws Takeshi close for the first of a long series of kisses they won't be keeping count of.


...

FIN.


Translation:

"Sei la migliore amica che esista al mondo! Ti voglio bene!" -You're the best friend in the whole world! Love you!

"Bentornato!" - Welcome back!

"Grazie mille, Hayato. Ti voglio bene." - Thank you so much. Love you.

A/N: I know this is terrifyingly LONG as it is, so I'm litimiting to the strictly necessary notes. First: teenage Lambo's characterization gave me hell, and I'm not at all happy with the way he turned. But let's just blame his offness on alcohol, okay? :) Also, Basil is none as formal as he is in the canon, but I'm going to blame that on booze, too. Second, here's h t t p : / / w w w . y o u t u b e . c o m / w a t c h ? v = C Z _ x L 3 G u s H w & f e a t u r e = f v w r e l Albinoni's adagio, if you wish to check it out. I fell so utterly in love with it I couldn't leave it out of Gokudera's musical reprtoire.

THANKS A BUNCH to the amazing people who read, fav'd and REVIEWED my other 8059 piece, "Just Once"! This was mainly born because of the support you all gave me with that. *-*