Author's Note: While my penultimate KHR pairing is 1827, followed by 6927 and 182769, Gokudera holds a special place in my heart as he was the first KHR character I adored (until my love muffin Hibari was introduced). This is a 3-part story I wrote a few years back because I felt Gokudera deserved some happiness, as did Tsuna. I had been torturing my poor Tsuna-fish in all my other KHR fics so I thought he needed some fluffy kittens and rainbow-type romance for once. Hope you enjoy.

Time seemed to stand still. As if watching himself from a distance, Gokudera Hayato saw his own arms stretch out in desperation and heard his voice scream frantically.


Tsuna's wide, amber eyes turned toward him in shock a split second before Gokudera barreled into him. They fell in slow motion at the same time a popping retort cracked through the air. Gokudera felt the searing pain of burning metal tear through his right arm. Curling into a ball, he created a human shield around the smaller form beneath him. There was a rapid rat tat tatfollowed by the sound of squealing tires. Footsteps pounded toward them. He reached into his jacket, pulling out three explosives. He was on the verge of tossing them over his shoulder but a familiar voice stopped him.

"Tsuna! Gokudera! Are you both alright?"

It was the idiot, Yamamoto. Gokudera relaxed, and became heart-stoppingly aware of the figure pressed tightly against him. He looked down, expecting Tsuna to be frightened or stunned. Instead, the Tenth was staring back at him with angry, worry-tinged eyes.

"Gokudera, why did you do that?" Tsuna shouted up into his face. "You could have been killed!"

Gokudera blinked, unsure of the reason for the Tenth's vehemence.

"As your right-hand man, it is my duty to protect you, Tenth," he stated the obvious, well at least it was obvious to him.

"Dummy!" Tsuna yelled at him, and actually gave him a quick chop to the head.

He lifted a hand to rub his head, though the blow really hadn't hurt. Pain shot up his arm, and he winced. He had tried to use his injured arm.

Tsuna saw his expression and glanced over, finally noticing the blood seeping sluggishly down Gokudera's arm.

"Oh my God! You were shot! Are you alright?" he cried out, face pale.

"Ah, it's only a—."

"It's only a scratch, right Gokudera?" Reborn walked up and finished the sentence for him.

"Reborn! How can you say that? He was shot!" Tsuna glared at the hitman/tutor.

Shrugging, Reborn said impassively, "Well, it's not like he hasn't had worse injuries in the past."

"Th-that may be true, but still!"

"Never mind," Reborn cut him off, "more importantly, how long do you plan to keep lying on top of Tsuna like that, Gokudera?"

Face flaming, Gokudera scrambled backward.

"Forgive my impertinence, Tenth!" he bowed low to the ground, embarrassed to the core.

Tsuna sat up. Smiling weakly, he waved his hands up and down in a calming gesture.

"It's fine. It's fine, Gokudera-kun."

The smile faded, and the Tenth's face became serious. He captured Gokudera's gray-green gaze with his own electrifying one.

"I am grateful you saved me, Gokudera-kun. But if something happened to you in the process, I—I don't want that at all."

Sincerity rang through Tsuna's voice. Pride swelled up inside Gokudera, pride in working for a boss who cared so deeply for his people. There was another emotion as well, one he had first felt six years ago and had been experiencing more and more frequently. He didn't know what this feeling was. He only knew it always caused an inexplicable ache in his chest.

"Yo, Tsuna," Yamamoto stepped into sight, "let me help you up."

The Tenth cut his eyes toward the dark-haired idiot, releasing Gokudera from that unwavering stare. Tsuna grabbed the hand Yamamoto stuck out, allowing his friend to pull him to his feet. Gokudera watched the scene with narrowed eyes and gritted teeth. Always treating the Tenth so casually, that baseball bastard. Gokudera really, really wanted to blow the other man up, but knowing how Tsuna would respond stopped him.

Once on his feet, Tsuna rushed over to assist Gokudera in standing up as well.

"Wait, Tenth," Gokudera lifted his hand in a warding off motion, ignoring the sting in his arm.

"I can get up by myself. You'll get blood on you."

"Who cares about that?" Tsuna muttered in exasperation.

Leaning down, he put his shoulder under Gokudera's uninjured arm and wound his own arm around the other's waist. Gokudera froze at the too-intimate contact, his brain temporarily malfunctioning.

"Oompf," Tsuna grunted trying to lift his suddenly dead weight. "Gokudera-kun, have you gained weight?"

Mortified by the question, Gokudera forced his legs to work. He was attempting to find his balance when Yamamoto appeared on his other side.

"Here, I'll help, too," he said in his stupid, easy-going voice.

Glowering fiercely, Gokudera elbowed Yamamoto in the side.

"Get away from me, you moron," he barked, and almost instantly sucked in a rasping gulp of air as pain radiated out from his injury.

"Geez, Gokudera-kun. After all these years and you are still like this." Tsuna shook his head in aggravation. "It's alright, Yamamoto, I've got him. Why don't you go pull the car around so we can take him to have the wound looked at?"

"Sure thing," Yamamoto answered with a smile, and loped away.

Chagrined at the Tenth's admonishment, Gokudera twisted his head around to apologize and drew up so fast they almost stumbled from the movement. Tsuna's face was close, so close Gokudera could make out the caramel-colored tips of his eyelashes. It felt like someone had taken a sledgehammer and slammed it into his stomach. He couldn't breathe. His eyes were drawn strangely downward to the Tenth's mouth, to the soft-looking lips forming a question he couldn't hear because of the ringing in his ears. Every inch of his body tingled where Tsuna was pressed against him. He felt heated, flushed; agitated and uncomfortable in his own skin.

"Do you have a fever, Gokudera-kun?" the Tenth asked him in concern.

Gokudera wondered if a fever was responsible for his strange behavior, or responsible for the fact that he was hyper-aware of Tsuna's warm, sweet breath wafting across his face.

"Gokudera-kun?" Tsuna said he name softly and reached up to press their foreheads together.

"Hmm, you do feel a little warm."

Their noses actually brushed against each other with Tsuna's movement. Gokudera shuddered, his eyes rolling back in his head. The last thing he heard was the Tenth calling his name frantically.

With a groan, Gokudera slowly lifted his eyelashes. An unfamiliar white ceiling greeted him. He was lying down? He shifted, causing his arm to ache dully. Glancing at it, he discovered it had been bandaged, though the wrapping was a little clumsy.

"Just so you know, I wasn't the one who did that," a scruffy-faced man pulled back the white curtain surrounding the bed.

"Shamal," Gokudera frowned at the pervert doctor who also served as his teacher from time to time.

"Hey, I'm not too thrilled to see you either. I was on my way to a hot date when he ambushed me."


Shamal nodded toward the end of the bed.

"Him. He forced me to let him into the nurse's office. He even made me let him use my precious supplies when I told him quite clearly I definitely wasn't going to treat you."

Gokudera's eyes followed Shamal's nod and widened. The Tenth was sitting in a chair next to the bed, his brown head cradled on his folded arms as he dozed. The weird feelings from before returned with a vengeance.

"Really, that Tenth Vongola has gotten more obstinate over the years. A bit frightening, too. I thought those amber eyes of his were going to burn a hole right through me when I told him to take you somewhere else."

Gokudera stared at Tsuna's sleeping form. An overpowering urge to stroke that soft, brown hair hit him. His hand was already in motion when he realized the inappropriateness of what he had been about to do. Grabbing a fistful of sheet, he cleared his throat and addressed the shady old man currently taking a swig from a green bottle of sake.

"Hey, Shamal, I think something is wrong with me."

"Huh?" Shamal's tone was clearly uninterested, but Gokudera didn't know who else to talk to about his problem.

Taking a deep breath, he described in detail all the physical and emotional symptoms he had been experiencing. When he was done, he turned fretful eyes on the older man.

"Well, what do you think it is, Shamal? Is it fatal? Will it interfere with my ability to act as the Tenth's right-hand man?"

Shamal looked at him oddly and burst into loud, raucous laughter.

Irritated, Gokudera growled at him, "What are you laughing at, you quack bastard?"

Setting his bottle on a nearby table, Shamal walked over and slapped Gokudera on the back, jarring his wounded arm in the process.

"Shit. That hurt you stupid doctor!"

"Ahh, wittle Hayato has finally become a man after all this time. Teacher is so proud of you."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Why, it's obvious. You're in love," Shamal continued with a pitying look, "and you didn't even know it. How sad."

"What?" Gokudera was totally blindsided by Shamal's words.

In love? Him? With who?

"So, who's the lucky girl?" Shamal inquired, echoing his own question.

"Girl?" he repeated the word slowly as if it were foreign to him.

"Yes, the girl. You know, you can come to me any time if you need advice on how to," Shamal wagged his eyebrows suggestively, "woo your lady friend."

No, no. That couldn't be right. There were no girls in his life right now, at least none that he either wasn't related to or actually thought of as family. Shamal had to be wrong. There wasn't anyone in his life he considered—

"Hey, that's great, Gokudera-kun!" another voice entered the conversation.

Startled, he swung his head around. The Tenth was smiling at him sleepily while rubbing one eye with his fist. Gokudera's mind was filled with one thought: The Tenth was so cute!

Wait! What the hell was he thinking? He shook his head to clear it. The Tenth was strong, fierce, and brave. He was not cute!

"Gokudera-kun?" Tsuna called his name questioningly.

He peered up to find Tsuna leaning over him worriedly. In the blink of an eye, all of those strange symptoms reappeared. His palms began to sweat, his heart raced, and he felt hot all over. If these were truly indications he was in love, then did it mean he was in love with the Tenth? Haha, no, it couldn't be true. He admired, respected, and revered the person who had finally given him a place to belong, but it certainly wasn't love. Gokudera knew he had an above average intelligence. Surely he would have been able to figure out if he had been in love with someone all this time.

"Gokudera-kun?" Tsuna said his name again.

Their eyes met, and Gokudera's mouth went dry. Oh, God! He was in love with the Tenth! He pulled the sheet up over his head to hide his face.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Tenth. Please forgive me. I don't deserve to live!"

"Gokudera-kun, what are you talking about? And come out from under there!"

Tsuna tried to tug the sheet away from him, but he refused to let go.

"No, I'm not worthy to look at you," Gokudera cried out dramatically.

They continued to tussle over the sheet. Tsuna's foot slipped out from under him. His arms spun crazily while he tried to regain his balance. The sheet slid down, uncovering Gokudera's eyes and he saw the Tenth's predicament. Letting go of the sheet, he lunged up, wrapping his arms around Tsuna just as he was about to fall.

Heart thundering erratically, he buried his face in the shorter man's hair before he could stop himself.

"Stupid, Tsuna, what are you doing horse playing at a time like this? Did you forget someone tried to kill you this afternoon?"

Gokudera's attention was diverted by the rough statement. He looked over the Tenth's head. Reborn was standing in the doorway, studying them. Something in the older man's dark gaze made him really uncomfortable. It was like the hitman could see right through to the secret recesses of his soul. And, he probably could. Ever since, no even before he had returned to his adult form, Reborn had the ability to read other people with little to no effort. Gokudera didn't want the Tenth's teacher to look into him too deeply, not now when he had just realized his feelings himself.

He sprung away from Tsuna in time to watch the Tenth grab his head and shake it back and forth.

"Wah! I had totally forgotten about that. Why is someone trying to kill me?"

"Because you are the Tenth Boss of the Vongola. There are lots of people who want you dead," Reborn repeated the words he had been saying from day one.

"I'm just a college student. I'm not a mafia boss right now!"

"And first you were just a middle school student, and then just a high school student," Reborn's tone indicated he had lost his patience. "How many battles do you think you've fought since then? How many members of the family have bled for you over the years? Even today, Gokudera could have died. Would you have stood over his grave still denying who and what you are?"

By the time Reborn had finished speaking, Tsuna's expression had turned stricken.

"I—I'm not…," he glanced at Gokudera with haunted eyes. "I'm sorry. Excuse me!"

He rushed out of the room like the devil himself was hot on his heels. The pained look on his pale face pierced Gokudera's heart, and he saw red.

Rushing over to Reborn, he grabbed the hitman by his shirt.

"Reborn, you asshole! You didn't have to be that harsh!" he snarled, his usual fear and respect for the older man pushed to the side by the Tenth's troubled appearance.

"Didn't I?" Reborn replied softly. "Now, I suggest you remove your hand if you want to keep it."

The last part was said with such killing intent behind it, Gokudera let go automatically. Straightening his tie, Reborn pulled his hat down over his eyes and turned to leave.

"You know, Gokudera," he called over his shoulder, "we can protect Tsuna from a lot of things, but we can't protect him from himself. He's grown strong over the years, and I am very proud of his development. However, he still wants to deny what he is. If he doesn't totally accept his destiny, he may very well hesitate at the wrong time. And that hesitation could cost him his life. Understand?"

On that parting note, Reborn left.

"He's scary, that guy," Shamal observed lightly, "but everything he said is true. You know it, Hayato."

Gokudera clenched his fists at his side. He couldn't get Tsuna's expression out of his mind. Damn that Reborn, for saying all that shit! And damn himself for just standing there, letting Reborn wound the Tenth with his words. Some right-hand man he turned out to be. He laughed bitterly at himself, and walked past Shamal without saying a word.

End Part 1