A/N: I CHANGED SOME STUFF IN PREVIOUS CHAPTERS. SINCE IT'S BEEN ALMOST A YEAR, YOU MIGHT AS WELL REREAD THE WHOLE THING.
yes thank enjoy


(Age 7)

Months passed by. The nightmares slowly faded and my sleep schedule regulated itself, but I never really started dreaming normally again. It wasn't like I was having strange dreams or that I was forgetting them as soon as I woke up. I could vividly remember the utter silence. Nothing at ever moved or spoke or happened. At first it creeped me out, but eventually I got used to it and even started enjoying it. As I got older, my days became more and more hectic, so in a way it was comforting to have such a long period of emptiness.

I still looked over my shoulder sometimes.


At the very end of the first month of school, our teacher (a perpetually chipper woman with thick brown hair named Hisagi Mamori) assigned us an essay over the weekend- one to two pages over our dreams for the future. Illustrations were optional, but encouraged. I had never been good with essays, but seeing as how it was acceptable for second-grader's handwriting to be enormous, a page could probably be filled with just one paragraph. It wasn't like they were expecting college-level essays from a seven-year-old, anyhow.

"I was thinking CEO or something," Hana hummed casually around her perfectly triangular slice of sandwich. The food she brought to lunch was always incredibly neat and tidy, although we were both happy to admit that Momma's cooking blew normal sandwiches out of the water. "What about you?"

"I dunno. Psychologist, maybe? Or a doctor. Or a superhero, superheroes get great salaries." Hana looked at me like she was considering smacking me in the head. She had developed a habit of doing that whenever I said something stupid. For a seven-year-old, that girl could hit. It made me wonder how much damage she could do if someone properly trained her and stuck a heavy object in her hands. Food for thought.

"…Seriously, Tsunami-chan." She sighed. I twitched at that and glowered at her over my juicebox, though she didn't seem very phased.

"Don't call me that!"

"It's your name."

"Well yeah, but it's a weird name. It's annoying!"

"Which is why I use it," She concluded smugly. My glare darkened, but her smirk only grew. I hated my first name. What kind of parent names their child after a natural disaster? It was like being called 'Earthquake' or 'Tornado' or something. My name was literally Hurricane Sawada. Nami wasn't much better, but it was a start.

"Jerk." Hana just snickered.

"So, Tsuna-san, what-"

"Oh sure, you'll use his nickname," I pouted, hunching over my juicebox and trying my best to look like a kicked puppy.

"-are you planning on writing about?" Hana completely ignored my attempts at garnering sympathy and even physically twisted her body away. Tsuna, traitorous sibling that he was, followed her lead and nibbled at his lip, looking up at the ceiling in deep thought. He stayed that way for several long seconds, swinging his stubby legs back and forth under the small table we had made by pushing our desks together.

"I think… I wanna be a robot."

Hana's sandwich was squished in her small fist as her head flopped the desk with a solid thunk.

"…You two are hopeless."


Over the weekend, Momma and Hana's mother set up a play-date for the three of us. Instead of sitting in a circle and talking or watching movies like we usually did (none of us were terribly big on gross sweaty play-time and there was something to be said about watching My Neighbor Totoro without needing subtitles), we all brought paper and pencils and worked on our essays together. Momma was overjoyed that her two and a half children were developing something remotely resembling a work ethic and brought us all snacks and juice to celebrate.

"Um, Hana-san? What's a CEO?" Tsuna asked, looking up from his full color robot drawing. Surprisingly, it actually looked pretty awesome. He'd cleaned up his lines and tried to shade a little bit and everything. I knocked his hand out of the way so I could tug the paper closer to me for further inspection. He made an aborted little whine in his throat and almost leaned forward to tug it back, but changed his mind at the last second to listen to Hana.

Hana and Tsuna, while still not really best friends in the truest sense of the phrase, had gotten a lot friendlier with each other over the years. Hana was the verbally abusive nanny my brother never had, while Tsuna was more like Hana's skittish puppy who had a knack for destroying everything he came in contact with. I had told Hana about this metaphor once and it only seemed to increase her drive to 'house-train' him.

As long as they were getting along at all, I couldn't care less. At least Tsuna could talk to girls with some amount of success now. When he and Hana had first been getting to know each other, he always seemed to be stuttering or blurting out the wrong thing. It had taken time, but he was actually getting pretty good at dodging the emotional landmines nowadays. Hana hadn't had a decent excuse to lecture him for almost a week.

"A CEO is a 'Chief Executive Officer'. They're in charge of the entire company and they make a lot of money," Hana explained, pencil flying across her page. I abandoned Tsuna's robot in favor of skimming over what she'd written and he snatched his page back right away. Unlike my other classmates, Hana's handwriting was only a little bit oversized and her letters were very neat and legible.

"CEO of what, though?" I asked, returning to my own paper with a blank stare. Hana had to be some sort of iron-willpower homework beast to be writing so fast, because every time I looked down at my own sheet all I felt was the suffocating urge to go lay down and procrastinate somewhere for a few hours.

"I'm not sure. A publishing company, maybe?" She hummed. Noticing my own inactivity, she paused in her writing and peered over at my own sheet.

"You haven't even started yet?" I shrugged helplessly. My entire life up to this point had been totally focused on figuring out how to survive middle school. Screw college, that could come later. Besides, my little brother was going to grow up and run a crime syndicate and my only concrete plan was that I intended to keep an eye on him. Any plans for a normal adulthood that I would have made were probably impossible.

Putting down 'sister to a mafia boss' wasn't really something a second grader could put in her essay.

"You said you wanted to be a doctor earlier, right Nee-chan? Why not write about that?" Tsuna asked, setting his drawing aside to work on the actual writing portion of the assignment. He looked about as excited about it as I was.

"Everyone wants to be a doctor, though," I groaned, sulking. Hana just rolled her eyes and flicked my nose with her pencil. My eyes crossed and I snorted a little to get the eraser shavings off.

"So what? If you wanna do it, do it. Besides, not everyone wants to be a doctor. You've got monkeys like this kid-" She reached over and flicked Tsuna good-naturedly, "-who wanna grow up to be a cyborg."

"A mecha." Tsuna corrected, blushing furiously. It said wonders about his geek status that he was fully prepared to explain the difference to Hana with much gusto. He probably would have drawn her diagrams if given the chance.

"You can't grow up to be a machine."

"Y-you can too! I saw it on TV once!" As it happened, Gundam was something of a universal. I was still anxiously awaiting the release date of Gurren Lagann, but that was years away if it even happened at all so I had decided to make do and watch the entirety of Gundam Wing with Tsuna. Naturally, he had taken to it like a duck to water.

"Just because-"

"Ladies," I interrupted, trying and failing to wrestle down a grin. "Settle down. Yeesh."

"Onee-chan, I am a boy." Tsuna groaned, clutching his fluffy hair in frustration. Hana set her pencil down gently and massaged the bridge of her nose with her eyes squeezed shut. The urge to cackle was too strong and I indulged it happily.


The following Monday, Hisagi-sensei met us each individually at the door and asked for our essays. I had finally caved after half an hour of whimpering at my paper and written about being a doctor. Seven years had done little to dull my bullshitting skills, and it ended up being a lot easier to write than I'd anticipated.

One by one, we all handed in our assignments. Frog-boy, who had since grown out of his frog obsession but was probably going to be stuck with his nickname forever, was the only kid without a paper and consequently had to stay inside for recess and clean the classroom afterschool. After we had all taken our seats and quieted down, Hisagi-sensei hit us all with this little gem:

"Alright class! I've got a surprise for you…You're all going to present your papers for the class!"

Other than the girl quietly hyperventilating in the corner (I think her name was Hitomi-something), it was dead silent. Apparently, class presentations were about as warmly received in Japan as in America. I myself was feeling rather nervous, although it abated a little bit when I thought about how much older I technically was.

"First up, we have…" Hisagi-sensei pulled a paper from the middle of the pile and brandished it for the class to see. "Azumamaro Riko!" The nervous-looking brunette gulped and stood up, taking her papers from the teacher with shaky hands.

"H…Hi. My name is, um, Azumamaro Riko, and when I grow up, I wanna be an o-orthodontist. It's, um, it's like a dentist."

…That was kind of an obscure job choice for a seven-year-old.

Azumamaro-san went on to explain her motivation and then flashed the class of a smiling tooth cartoon character that was eerily similar to the statue inside Kokuyo Land. Speaking of which, Kokuyo Land had finally been called out on its giant health code violations and was set for demolition in around four months. Words alone could not express my joy. I wish I was exaggerating, but honestly. I'd hid in my room and sort of rolled around on the floor for a few minutes laughing like a maniac.

When she was done, Azumamaro-san shoved her paper back into Hisagi-sensei's hands and scurried back to her seat, face flaming.

"Alright, next one! Tomoe Natsuki, come on up!"

It went on like that for another fifteen minutes of so. In that time, I heard just about everything from vet to astronaut to supervillain. There were at least two other girls who wrote about being doctors and one boy who wanted to own a company like Hana. Her face had paled a little when he'd started his presentation, but she seemed pretty confident again when she realized that her essay was better than his.

When it was Hana's turn, Tsuna and I clapped loudly and cheered, much to her embarrassment and slight annoyance. She couldn't really get mad at Tsuna because she knew he was honestly trying to support her, but she was fully aware that I was doing it just to be a little shit and glared accordingly. Her presentation was flawless as expected and at least a full minute longer than everyone else's, which Hisagi-sensei praised her for. Hana was kind of an overachiever like that.

Another few kids went, and then it was finally my turn to present. I wasn't really nervous- unlike the grand majority of the class (excluding Hana, of course), I could actually read my own handwriting and as such didn't have to stop every few seconds to squint at the page. It also helped that I was talking to a bunch of seven-year-olds who really didn't give a crap about anything I had to say and therefore wouldn't notice if I screwed up.

"Hiya. My name is Sawada Tsunami, but I'd rather go by 'Nami' instead of 'Tsunami'. When I grow up-" Again. "-I want to be a doctor. It doesn't matter where in the world you go, someone is always going to need a doctor to help them out when they get hurt or sick. I also don't like seeing people injured, so I want to be able to fix them and make them feel better. I also want to learn more about how people's bodies and brains work, which is why if the doctor thing doesn't work out, I want to be a psychologist. Or a superhero. Maybe even a superspy? I think they'd all be pretty fun."

The majority of the class politely applauded me, with a few enthusiastic exceptions. Tsuna was clapping and cheering with wild abandon, Hana was trying to reach over a row of seats and choke him out to shut him up, and the one kid who had written about being a supervillain was staring at me like he was envisioning the earth-shaking battles we would have in the future. I ignored all over them and handed my essay back to Hisagi-sensei.

Most of that had been total bullshit I'd gotten from the top of my head, but whatever. No one really needed to know that.

…Alright, so maybe it made me feel better when I could make Tsuna stop bawling like an infant by slapping some disinfectant and a bandaid on scrape number fifty thousand of the day, but it was hardly something I could imagine doing for the rest of my second life, however long or short it may turn out to be. That's what they had people like Shamal and Lussuria for. Kyoko, even. She had sun flames, didn't she? I wondered if anyone ever taught her how to use them. As the sister and maybe-girlfriend of important mafia figures, she should have at least had some rudimentary knowledge in how to patch herself up. Food for thought.

Pondering aside, by this point I was fairly certain I didn't have flames period, let alone nice magical sparkly healing ones. I'd been trying to get those damn building blocks to do something for years and had achieved jack shit other than some violent headaches.

But thinking about that made me depressed. I would rather be like Bianchi, anyways. Bianchi didn't take any of the sexist shit these people were so fond of throwing around. She loved who she wanted and didn't try to hide her femininity, but her badassery didn't suffer for it in the least. Bianchi didn't need to use flames to floor a full-grown man and still look fabulous doing it. I was beginning to realize that I maybe had a little hero-worship going on.

Immediately after my presentation, it was Tsuna's turn. In typical Tuna-fish fashion, he nearly fell over himself at least twice before he made it up to the front of the class, much to my classmate's amusement. Much to my amusement, they quickly silenced themselves when they realized that I was shooting them all burning orange death glares.

"Um, h-hi. My name is Sawada Tsunayoshi, but I'd, um, I'd rather be called Tsuna." He gave a quick bow before beginning his paper, blushing lightly. "Sometimes people call me Dame-Tsuna-"

What.

"-but Mom says it doesn't m-matter if I'm a loser right now because people can change. I, um, I agree. That's why when I grow up, I want to be a giant robot!" He flashed his robot drawing to the class. The boy in front of me began snickering lightly, so I leaned over and kicked him in the shin. He yelped and turned around, prepared to retaliate. When he realized it was me, whatever protests he had died in his throat and he whipped back around, suddenly silent.

Forget everything I've ever said on the contrary- I really, really loved my eyes. They made me seem like a total badass and I didn't even have to do anything to scare people into submission. Hana, bless her conniving little soul, had been casually spreading rumors that I could burn someone's heart out if I glared hard enough, and the class of impressionable seven-year-olds had seemed pretty convinced.

Tsuna went on to tell everyone exactly why he wanted to be a robot (robots were awesome, invincible, and brought him one step closer to becoming a real life Gundam, you see) and finished it off with a short bow. I clapped extra loud for him as he retreated to his seat. Hana caught my eye while Tsuna was busy shrinking into his chair and trying to pretend like no one could see him. She lifted an eyebrow and pointed to him, mouthing out 'Dame-Tsuna' questioningly. I set my jaw and leveled a hard glare at nothing in particular.

It was time to figure out who was bullying my little brother. If I happened to try and prove some of those heart-searing rumors true, well, who could blame me?


Later on during recess, Hana and I took up our usual posts at the top of the slide. It hadn't taken long for my friend to realize that I had no intention of giving up my stalkerish ways no matter how much she tried to tell me how creepy and illegal it was. Instead of giving up on me and leaving like I'd thought she might, she started showing up with various composition notebooks. According to her, if I was going to people-watch I might as well make myself useful and keep records of all the embarrassing stuff I see. I suspected that she'd concocted some sort of plan and didn't protest much. Sometimes her evil genius was truly inspiring. Most of the time it was terrifying and I thanked my stars daily that she was on my side.

"Think of it like a lab report. The subjects can be all these monkeys and you're just…observing them in their natural habitat." She had explained, smiling in a way that made me slightly uncomfortable. It was a good idea, though, so I'd taken the little fish-print composition notebook she'd passed me and began making profiles for people. I couldn't help but feel like I was being manipulated a little (okay, a lot), but making my own informant's Black Book was too much fun to pass up. Besides, it would make great blackmail material in a few years. Ever since she'd given it to me, it had practically molded itself to my hand. I suspected some form of black magic on Hana's part. I even took that thing to the bathroom with me. There was actually some pretty good info in there (like why Tomoe Natuski had a crippling fear of school restrooms and how Sakurai Hotaru had a crush on her Uncle Matsuda) that should probably be kept out of the hands of your typical, petty, sniveling second grader.

I was beginning to think Hana's hatred of people shorter than four feet tall was contagious.

I leaned over the edge of the safety fence, my notebook in hand. Hana sat behind me and stretched her legs out in front of her to partially block the slide entrance. The other kids had long since assumed that the only way we were going to move so they could actually use the slide was if something catastrophic happened, so they generally just ignored us and let us creep in peace. I felt a little bad, but not nearly bad enough to willingly move from my perfect vantage point. If anyone had been ballsy enough to actually ask politely, Hana and I probably would have gotten out of the way. Sadly for them, all the nice kids were scared of my eyes and the ones left over were total jerks.

For some odd reason, Tsuna usually opted out of people-watching with Hana and I in favor of playing in the sandbox or napping under a tree. Today he was in the sandbox. Next to him was that same little brunette boy who had been quietly snubbing Tsuna's sandcastles since kindergarten. The name in my book next to the cutout from last year's class photo (courtesy of Hana, who had showed up to school one day with photos, scissors, and a rather manic look on her face) was Tachibana Kaien. After I had 'accidentally' spilled two bottles of grapejuice in his white tennis shoes and dropped a worm on his head for being nasty to my uber-cute little brother, he had become much friendlier towards Tsuna.

Well, I say friendly. It was closer to…neutral, I guess. Maybe a little scared.

While he still refused to talk to Tsuna and tried his hardest never to look directly at him, he was no longer glaring or sabotaging his sand structures. I would take what I could get. At any rate, Tachibana knew better than to call Tsuna names within earshot of anyone. He was still somewhat traumatized from the worm incident. I hadn't known his phobia was so bad, honest.

At any rate, once Tachibana had been neutralized I had thought it was safe enough to stop watching Tsuna so much and turn to other targets. Obviously I had been wrong, but there wasn't much I could do about the past at this point.

At the other end of the schoolyard, my secondary target, Sasagawa Kyoko, was trying to teach a group of giggling girls how to fold paper cranes. They were having limited amounts of success. It would have been somewhat amusing in a sad kind of way, but I couldn't do origami to save my life and was therefore impressed (and slightly envious) that their cranes were recognizable at all.

"Nami-chan," Hana said sharply, interrupting my thoughts. I turned, eyebrows raised.

"Hmm?"

"I think I figured out who's been bullying Tsuna-san." She motioned to the sandbox and my head snapped around.

Instead of being alone with Tachibana like he was supposed to be, Tsuna was being surrounded by two other boys at least four inches taller than him. And that little douchenugget Tachibana was standing with them, looking around warily.

They didn't look like they were in the mood for a friendly chat.

"…Crap." I sighed, frowning deeply. I flipped my book open and skimmed through the pages, trying to match their faces to my names. The tallest boy…was not in my book at all. He must have been an upperclassman or something- I knew for a fact I had everyone in my grade recorded in one way or another. The other one though, I knew him. Tatsuzo Ryoma. A very uninteresting subject, though he was prone to pissing off every girl he came in contact with. At some point, a girl had actually tried to uproot a tree to kill him with like she'd seen in the animes. It didn't work, but it made an impression.

"It is incredible how much trouble your brother manages to get into." Hana muttered. "Well, we should probably go get- Hey! Where do think you're-?!"

Before she could finish squawking at me, I had nudged her legs to the side and pushed myself down the slide. It may not be the most glamorous entrance, but it was definitely the fastest. As I made my way down, I cursed myself inwardly. I should have been keeping a much closer eye on him. How long had this been going on? They must have jumped him while I was watching Kyoko. Maybe Tachibana had been their lookout all along. I was only a second-grader, espionage was not a thing I should have had to expect yet. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

"Neh, sempai! Have you heard about what Dame-Tsuna did today? Idiot said he wants to grow up and be a robot." The shorter boy sneered. The way he kept his eyes firmly locked on Tsuna was a bit too close to something I'd seen a predator on the hunt do on the Nature Channel for comfort. His taller companion snorted and took a step closer to Tsuna, who was watching them with a guarded look, hands frozen on the beginnings of his newest sandcastle.

"A robot? Seriously? How stupid can you get? You can't grow up and be a robot, retard."

Instead of maybe punching him in the face and stomping on his balls like I desperately wanted to, I took the path less likely to get me suspended or grounded for life and snuck up behind the upperclassman, trying and failing to put a pleasant look on my face. I reached up (and up and up- shit, was this kid on steroids or something?) and tapped lightly on his shoulder.

"Hi!" I chirped as he turned around, my attempt at a smile turning into something more like an aggressive baring of teeth. I had seen a dog do this on the Nature Channel (I liked to think I could learn how to be a Hibari-grade carnivore or maybe just an omnivore via osmosis) and hopefully the similarities in IQ would cause the boy in front of me to be intimidated as well. "Is there a problem here?"

The tall boy stared down at me. I had forgotten because the aura of cute miniature little brother Tsuna and his stubby legs exuded, but he and I were twins and actually still the same height. That meant this guy was four inches taller than me, too. Yikes. But I couldn't focus on that- I had to keep a smile on my face and level head-

"What do you want, pumpkin eyes?" Either uncaring of or oblivious to my rumored reputation, he laughed and reached over to pat my head like a cat.

What a douche.

As I clenched my teeth, continued smiling up at the tall boy, and fought the urge to claw his arm off, I couldn't help but notice that this conversation felt familiar. A little too familiar. So familiar in fact, that I was having mental flashbacks.

Suddenly the upperclassman didn't seem so tall and imposing. In fact, the longer I stared, the more it seemed like he had shrunk down to my size. I could totally take him, he was weak and flimsy like an over-privileged rich girl. Just one punch-

"What, did you catch this pipsqueak's stupid or something, traffic cone?"

And for a moment, it wasn't an overgrown boy talking down to me at all. It was a little red-haired girl in a designer skirt with angry purple eyes, leaning over and sticking her tongue out like the child she was.

"Don't call me a leprechaun, you traffic cone! No, you- you pumpkin!"

Traffic cone.

That stupid ginger bitch was utterly intolerable.

"Do not call me that, you uneducated meatbag," I hissed, smile frozen on my face. Where did this…this freaking stop sign get off, calling me a traffic cone? Like she was one to talk! That stupid, hoighty-toighty, would-you-look-at-the-size-of-the-stick-up-my-ass little-

"Dude, what is your problem?"

-boy. The M.M. in front of me vanished and in her place was the hulking mass of grade-schooler, looking more than a little ticked off.

…Maybe I had a few more screws loose than I'd thought. As my budding mortal enemy, M.M. and all things related to her had the innate ability to piss me off simply by existing, but if it was causing me to hallucinate then I probably needed to take a break from her for a while. I definitely wasn't complaining.

"…Anyways," I coughed, loosening my smile into something that made me look a little less constipated and insane. "What's your name?"

While the three boys were distracted by my appearance, Hana was yanking Tsuna to his feet and shepherding him off to our slide like a good little secret agent. She sent me a concerned, calculating glance before scurrying off to higher ground with my little brother in tow. Now that Tsuna's attention was directed elsewhere, I could put my evil plan in motion.

I may have giggled a little to myself. Yeah, definitely going crazy.

"And why should I tell-?"

"Lost interest." I dismissed him with a wave of my hand and tried not to lose my nerve at the way he instantly puffed up. "Now you," I turned my attention to the shorter, sandy haired kid flanking his leader.

"I-me?" He spluttered, his mask of bravado momentarily slipping. He was hopeless without his leader speaking for him, then. That made this a little easier.

"Yes, you. I've heard some stories about you, you know. Tatsuzo Ryoma, right?"

"Do I know y-?"

"That was rhetorical, of course I already know your name." I cut him off. I knew all about this guy. "Oh, but doesn't that mean you were...that kid?" My voice dropped low and I flipped my book open to his name. Tatsuzo Ryoma, seven years old. Blood type AB, 121 cm tall, has an intense fear of heights and two older brothers who, thankfully for me, like to publically tease their youngest sibling way too much.

I could work with this. Hana was on to something when she made me keep this book after all.

"You know what I heard? So there's this kid, right? He's out with his mom and his brothers, shopping around for stuff for this cute new kitty they just bought. So they come across this little cat playground, totally normal. Thing is, the kid doesn't think that the cat will be able to fit inside all the little holes and stuff, so he gets the bright idea to try and stick his head-"

Tatsuzo blanched.

"D-Don't! I mean-!" The white in his face rapidly gave way to bright red. He made a weird and mildly concerning choking noise, lunging forward to cover my mouth. He thought better of it halfway through and flinched back, looking between me and the upperclassman nervously. "Just- It's not…how did you know about that?!"

"Doesn't matter." To be honest, I had heard his previously mentioned chatty older brothers teasing him about it affectionately after school one day. Making him think I was some sort of omnipotent stalker deity type-thing was much more fun, though. "And you!"

Tachibana actually flinched backwards. I bit back a snort and stared at him, trying not to blink so my eyes were more effective.

"…" He started backing up with cautious steps, but I just leaned forward with my predator-teeth. I wouldn't actually have hurt him- getting suspended in second grade would just be depressing. After the thing with the worms, though, I guess he had more than a little reason to be wary.

"Yeah, we've talked already, right? You're Tachibana Kaien. Seven years old, 92 pounds, 133 centimeters. You're scared of sempai over here and being kissed by girls. Last week you tripped getting out of the sandbox and tried to dump the sand out of your pants when you thought no one was looking. When people drop worms on your head, you scream and run around like a little sissy. Do you understand where I'm going with this?"

Wordlessly, he nodded. My grin grew bigger and I think I might have cackled a little bit under my breath. In any other situation, I probably would have felt bad about calling him out like this. It was rather mean.

This wasn't any other situation, however. I was perfectly willing to play the bad guy for a little while if it meant he would leave my brother alone.

"Good. And you." I turned back to the tall upperclassman, my grin gone. My tuna-printed notebook snapped shut, its duty completed. Since I didn't actually have anything on this guy, I was going to have to go about this in the normal, non-stalkerish way- bitch at him until he fell over and died.

"I don't-"

"Leave her alone, Mochida-sempai!"

It took me a second to make the connection.

...Really? Really?

"I- what! No no no no no, Sasagawa-chan, you've got it all wrong! She's harassing us!"

Okay, yes, but he was leaving out some pretty freaking important information there.

"You were bullying my little brother, twerp!"

"Don't call me twerp! I'm older than you!" Mochida (why why why, of all the douches in the universe) took a threatening step towards me and actually started growling like some overgrown rabid dog. I half expected him to start foaming at the mouth. Maybe then I could shoot him to stop the plague that was his stupidity.

"I'll call you whatever I want, meat bag!" I stepped even closer, face red with irritation. His breath smelled horrible and it took a lot of willpower not to pull back and gag.

"…Hey, Sasagawa. You might want to call off your guard dog before Tsunami-chan tries to eat him or something." A familiar voice sighed. I could actually hear the eye roll in her voice. When had Hana come back?

"Sen-pai!" Kyoko pleaded. Whipped even at this young and tender age, Mochida (I was still trying to process that one) snarled low in his throat before finally backing off, hands stuffed in his pockets and face nearly as red as my own.

"This isn't over, traffic cone!"

"Call me traffic cone one more time, you insufferable buttmunch! I dare you!" Mochida was back in my face in an instant.

"Traffic. Co-!"

"Mochida-sempai!" Kyoko drowned him out with her scolding, reaching up to tug on the sleeve of his uniform with an almost angry expression.

"-Fine! Geez…" and with that, Mochida turned and stomped away like the petulant child he was. Hana came over and put her hand on my shoulder with a pinched expression. I couldn't tell if she was trying to convey a 'good job not punching anyone' or something closer to 'your stupidity knows no bounds'. Knowing Hana, it was probably both. Regardless, the gesture was appreciated.

"I'm sorry, Sawada-chan! Mochida-sempai isn't usually like that, I swear!" I turned, stifling the disbelieving snort that was begging to come out my nose. Kyoko was doubled over into a deep bow with her hands clasped together so tightly her knuckles were turning colors.

…Urgh.

Allow me to reiterate something: I did not want to like Sasagawa Kyoko. I got an inferiority complex just being in the same room as her and her damn bishoujo sparkles and her fanboys and I just- Cut me some slack, okay? She unconsciously seduced my brother into being even more of a dork than usual whenever she so much as looked at him and she was leagues more likable than I could ever hope to be. I just blackmailed a seven year old, for goodness sake. Forgive me for being a little envious.

All of that being said, she really wasn't a bad person. She was genuinely sweet and probably just saved me from having to punch out a third grader. Under different circumstances (like the ones where my brother gets over her and goes for someone less helpless like…Haru or Chrome, or hell even Hana, awkward as that would be), I might have actually tried to befriend her. As these were not different circumstances, however, I just avoided her as much as possible and tried not to feel too guilty about it.

But holy crap, my inability to hate her was irritating.

"…Uh, you don't have to apologize?" I finally managed to force out. Gone was my angry blustering and damn it was all her fault. Why couldn't she just be mean and bitchy like the typical alpha female so I could dislike her in peace? I felt like I was kicking a puppy.

"She means thank you, Sasagawa," Hana sighed, rolling her eyes. "Come on, let's go get Tsuna-san. You too, Sasagawa."

"Hana-chan-!" I protested quietly. She cut me off with a dismissive hand wave. Hana knew I didn't like Tsuna being around Kyoko. Even she could see that he acted weird around her, though she wasn't sure why I minded.

"Don't care. Come on." Kyoko looked between us nervously, her hands still clasped tightly.

"Um, if I'm being a bother-?" Hana made an irritated nose in the back of her throat, eyes narrowing.

"You're not. Nami-chan is just a little riled up right now. She'll get over it." I wanted to protest, to yell or pout or leave or something, but then Hana shot me this look that had me clamming up and trailing after her while seriously wondering if she was somehow related to Hibari. That in turn opened up a whole new train of thought that I really was not brave enough to explore quite yet.

Simply stated, Hana was really scary sometimes.

Besides, what was I so worried about? I was pretty sure the emotion I was feeling was worry, anyways. I usually don't get unreasonably pissy and bitchy like that unless I was worried or scared. I wasn't some snot-nosed brat that burst into tears at the slightest hint of things not going my way.

…Well, okay, I kind of was a snot-nosed brat, but not on the inside.

As I trailed behind Hana and Kyoko, I thought that maybe I found Kyoko more intimidating than I thought. She was nice. She was popular. Me? I was a temperamental midget who stalked people and blackmailed them into silence. No matter how you looked at it, she was just…better. Was I jealous? Maybe a little. But…no, jealous wasn't quite the right word for it. I was envious.

Jealousy implied that I wished Kyoko wasn't a good person so that I would feel better. It wasn't so much that as that I wished I could just be naturally nice, like her. I had to work at being a tolerable human being half the time.

…Figuring all of that out made me feel a little better, actually. At least I had a name for the emotion I felt towards Kyoko that wasn't 'unreasonable hatred'.

"Nee-chan!" A small, fuzzy brown projectile attached itself to my torso.

While I had been following after Hana and pondering my unfortunate case of emotional retardation, Tsuna had somehow managed to teleport from the safety of our playground slide to glomp me.

"Oh, hi," I said lamely, still half zoned out. I could feel Tsuna straining to pick me up and swing me in circles like he had seen guys do in the movies, but either he was too weak or I was too fat and my feet stayed firmly on the ground. I preferred to think it was the former.

"What happened to the big tall guys? Did you beat them up? Did they beat you up?!"

My eye twitched.

"Of course they didn't beat me up, I'm too awesome." Tsuna's shoulder sagged a little in relief and I cleared my throat, suddenly uncomfortable. "No, uh, Sasagawa-san put him back on his leash and made him go away." Kyoko's eyes widened and she shook her head rapidly, orange hair flying everywhere.

"I didn't do anything, really!" Tsuna detached himself from me to face her. He hesitated for one unsure moment before bowing deeply.

"Thank you for helping my sister, S-Sasagawa-san."

My eye twitched again. Why did he always assume I was weak and twiggy like him? I was his big sister, dammit, and I could totally beat up a snotty, clumsy third grader all by myself if I wanted to.

"I didn't need any-" I began in an undertone, but Hana swiftly reached over and slapped me in the back of the head. "-Ouch!" The girl was a demon and nothing was ever going to convince me otherwise. She wasn't supposed to be able to hit like that, jeez!

"It's my job as your best friend to tell you when you're being stupid. You're being stupid. Stop it."

"…Sorry. Thank you, Sasagawa-san." I sighed, rubbing my head and tracking Hana's hands from the corner of my eye. If anything, Kyoko looked even more panicked at the exchange. Not really the result I was aiming for.

"Um, but I-" Hana shot her the look, "- I mean, you're welcome. You don't need to be so formal, Sawada-chan, Sawada-kun!"

Why was she so nice this was physically painful.

"S-so, um, Sasagawa-san- I mean Sasagawa-chan," Tsuna began haltingly. Both Hana and I turned to look at him incredulously.

Tsuna was initiating conversation with a stranger.

…With a girl stranger.

With a girl stranger who happened to also be Kyoko Sasagawa.

I was caught somewhere between pride and abject horror. As pride was less likely to get me smacked again, I focused on it.

"Hana-chan, he's growing up!" I squealed quietly to Hana, turning so it was harder for Tsuna to hear. She snorted derisively, although the budding smirk on her face was decidedly satisfied. Even if she wasn't my favorite person, I had to admit that there wasn't much harm in them becoming friends.

"What are you, his mom?" She whispered back, watching Tsuna and Kyoko's stuttered introductions with a critical eye.

"Like you aren't proud of him too. I see you smiling, Kurokawa."

"Lies and slander."

Kyoko giggled. Whatever it was she and Tsuna were talking about was making my little brother slowly flush a bright red, which was about a billion different shades of not okay. Getting him to talk and be brave in the face of girls or whatever was great, but charming him was bad. Off-limits.

Thankfully for everyone involved, the end of recess bell rang just before I had the chance to do something necessary (read: stupid) like jump Kyoko for luring my brother in with her (nonexistent, prepubescent) womanly wiles.

"Oh, look at that, the bell rung! Bye, Sasagawa-chan!" I said quickly, grabbing Hana and Tsuna by the wrists and bolting for the school.

"You are incredibly rude sometimes," Hana noted dryly as soon as we stopped inside the classroom, rubbing her wrist gingerly. I huffed and crossed my arms, acting the part of the pouty second grader I was supposed to be. It wasn't terribly hard, which concerned me more than anything.

"She was seducing my brother!" Hana paused and looked at me incredulously.

"…Why do you know what that word means?"

"Nee-chan, what's 'seducing'?" I balked and clapped my hands over Tsuna's young, impressionable ears. Crap. I hadn't even thought about that before I'd said it and- wait.

"Why do you know what seducing means?!" I accused Hana, fighting against Tsuna's struggles for auditory freedom. Hana flushed and scratched at the collar of her uniform, looking rather guilty.

"Um."

"I knew it! You've been reading trashy romance in class again, haven't you?"

"Shoujou manga is not trashy!"

"Nee-chan?"

"If it involves the word 'seducing', it probably is!"

"You still haven't explained how you know it."

"Nee-chan!"

"…I don't wanna talk about it."

"Nee-chan, let go!"


That day after school, Tsuna, Hana, and I were loitering out by the gate, waiting for our respective rides to pick us up. I really couldn't wait until Tsuna and I were old enough to wander around by ourselves. After the…incident in the shopping center when I disappeared for half an hour and came back mildly traumatized, Momma was extra reluctant to let us go anywhere without supervision. It had taken me nearly two weeks to convince her that I was upset because I got lost, not because I'd been creeped on by a dirty old man or anything.

I didn't really like thinking about that day. I'd had extremely graphic nightmares about the Kozatos for weeks. I spent the month moodier than usual and embarrassingly clingy. This in turn made Tsuna rather paranoid, which made me think that he was sensing some crazy scientist creeping outside our door or something which set me even more on edge. It wasn't pretty.

"Nee-chan, what did you say to make Tachibana-san and Tatsuzo-san go away?" Tsuna asked curiously, playing with the straps of his backpack. I pasted on my most innocent face and looked up at the sky.

"Oh, you know. We just talked."

Technically not a lie. Still, no one was fooled.

"…You blackmailed them, didn't you?" Hana asked, looking at me like with a hint of pride.

"Um, maybe."

"Nami-nee, that's sorta mean." Tsuna deadpanned, openly frowning at me. I huffed and blew my bangs out of my eyes, still looking resolutely up at the clouds. His gaze of judgment made me highly uncomfortable and maybe a little guilty, which was not okay because I hadn't done anything they didn't already have coming.

"Well, picking on you is 'sorta mean', too. They shouldn't have done that if they didn't want to be confronted."

Tsuna sighed through his nose and looked as though he wanted to argue my skewed moral compass more, but wisely dropped the subject. My guilt was growing by the second, but I figured this was probably something I was going to have to get used to. Sometimes protecting Tsuna was going to involve some shady morals, especially once the mafia shit started up. I couldn't realistically be the good guy with the sparkling morals all the time if I wanted to get anything done.

Still though.

I was saved from continuing down that train of thought by the timely arrival of Momma, shopping bags in hand.

"There's our mother, I guess. See you tomorrow!" Hana watched us go with a small smile, though I noticed her eyes were trained on my notebook and not face.

Weird.


A/N: Yes hello friends it has been a while

uh

...Yeah I got nothin' other than that age old excuse called life. But really, I moved schools and discovered Homestuck so maybeotherHomestucksunderstand howIletmylifebeconsumed

In other news, holy mother of god r e vie ws. At this point there are waaaaay too many of you to thank individually without it ending up longer than the chapter itself, so a giant blanket thanks t e.

I'm off to go change most of the plot of this story. I decided not to do a rather massively important thing I was planning on tacking on to the end of this chapter, so I need to adjust accordingly. Mini-update with a (NOT CANON, REPEAT, NOT CANON) reviewer ficlet gift coming sometime tomorrow. Have a nice day/night!