Disclaimer: I do not own anything from Katekyo Hitman Reborn.


General Warnings: AU, GEN, language, violence, Nana!bashing, twin!fic, genius-but-hopefully-not-over-the-top!Tsuna


Full Summary: Tsuna's never craved the spotlight like Ienari does, preferring to keep quiet and stay on the sidelines, so it's only natural for his brother to stand out so much more. But being different – being himself – means a mother who calls him useless and a brother who bullies him without remorse, and Tsuna doesn't have enough tolerance to overlook either for very long. He won't change who he is just to make them like him though so he takes the only option left – he leaves. Three years later, Reborn arrives to train Nari, only to discover that there's one Sawada missing.


Author's Notes:

Look at the warnings. In most fics (including my own), it's always Iemitsu who's the bad guy when it comes to Tsuna's parents so I thought I'd switch it around this time. I've never particularly liked or disliked Nana but the way she always calls Tsuna useless, whether it's true or not, and coupled with her airheaded nature (nobody can be that clueless) has always irritated me. In this fic, I'll just be taking that several steps further.

I chose Ienari because it's both a Tokugawa Shogun name as well as the only name that can be shortened by Nana and others without sounding awkward (ie. 'Na-kun' and 'Nari'). I just can't see him being Yoshimune or something and being called 'Yoshi-kun'. All I think of then is cute dinosaurs.

Please don't come to me with complaints about how Tsuna is too smart or perfect. I will try to balance it out so that he won't give off that feel but it's in the warnings as well so don't like, don't read.

That's about it... yuck, this note's practically taken up two-thirds of a page, so on with the story now.


Chapter 1


~5 Years Old~

Sawada Tsunayoshi was five years old when he climbed his first tree. More importantly, he was five years old when he lost his grip on the branch he was sitting on and fell five feet towards unforgiving ground, only for a burst of flames to erupt from his hands, pushing back against the grass and stopping him from breaking his neck.

No one saw. Tsuna had been outside in the backyard, trying to alleviate his boredom because Nari had kicked up a fuss again when Tsuna had asked to be taken to the bookstore, so their mother had ushered Tsuna out the door and told him to 'go play' before bustling back inside and coaxing Nari's tears away with the offer of ice-cream.

A dull spark of pain had welled up in Tsuna's chest at the sight but he was used to it so he hadn't complained, choosing instead to find something new to entertain himself with. The tree had seemed like a good idea – he hadn't ever been that high up before.

Now though, now he had something even better. The fall had been scary, and the flames he had emitted had only been enough to slow his fall so he had ended up scraping his knees and elbows anyway.

But sitting on the ground, Tsuna was more than a little fascinated by the glow of orange cradled in his palms, the flame fluttering gently against his skin as if it might go out if the wind blew too hard. Strangely enough, Tsuna could feel a warmth in his heart as well, as if the flame was somehow connected, and everything around him seemed so much clearer. Not sharper as if his vision had gotten even better, but... brighter, as if the world had suddenly been dipped in light.

And then everything began to dim. His head became fuzzy, his limbs felt heavy, and a wave of exhaustion washed over him. The last thought he had before he dozed off was that now he wouldn't have to go to the bookstore anymore to find something that would interest him.

~6 Years Old~

"Na-kun! Tsu-kun! Breakfast is ready!"

"Coming!" Nari called from the next room before a door banged open and rapid footsteps thundered by.

In his own room, Tsuna carefully folded his hands together and extinguished the dancing flames he had summoned before grabbing his schoolbag and heading downstairs as well.

"Good morning, Mom," Tsuna said quietly as he took his seat at the table.

Their mother smiled distractedly as she ran a comb through Nari's blond hair. "Good morning, Tsu-kun. Now Na-kun, do try not to get too dirty playing soccer at school today, okay?"

Nari grinned cheekily up at her. "Aw Mom, I can't avoid that. How can I get good if I don't play my best?"

Nana sighed but an indulgent smile made its way onto her face. "Alright, just make sure you don't trip from running too hard."

Nari laughed and shot a mocking look at Tsuna. "I'm not Tsuna, Mom!"

Nana giggled, glancing at Tsuna in amusement. "I suppose not. You be careful too, okay Tsu-kun?"

Tsuna scowled a little in return but nodded anyway. It wasn't his fault he was so clumsy. He sometimes got lost in his head, thinking too deeply about a book or the latest shape he had been able to mould his flames into or even the school computer system's firewalls that he had been thinking of trying to bypass lately, and he would end up tripping over his feet.

"You know, Mom," Nari was saying. "The other kids at school gave Tsuna a nickname. They call him Dame-Tsuna, because he can't even walk down the street without tripping at least once!"

Nari sniggered and Nana shook her head at Tsuna, a good-natured smile lighting her features. "Mou, Tsu-kun, you really should work on your clumsiness. Maybe Na-kun could help you – he's a little prodigy at sports!"

Tsuna made a face when Nana turned away to give Nari a hug before sitting down and starting on her own breakfast.

He didn't want to be like Nari. Sure, two years in school and his brother was already very popular, but what was so great about being surrounded by so many people all the time? Tsuna certainly preferred walking home without other kids chattering in his ear every minute.

Of course, this also brought along the side-effect of not having many friends, or any if Tsuna was honest. He had a few people he could partner up with if the teachers wanted them in groups for an activity but most tended to stay away from him because Tsuna was notorious for getting at least half his homework wrong or not completing his finger-painting assignments.

Was it his fault that he had no interest in dipping his fingers into paint and trying to draw when he knew he had all the talent of a hippo when it came to art? And it was so much more fun to scramble the numbers on his math worksheets and write down each resulting answer's reciprocal than to just do what it said on the paper. Who cared what one plus one was? So long as he did enough to pass, it shouldn't matter, and his answers weren't necessarily incorrect, just... not right under those circumstances.

"Oh yes," Nana abruptly perked up, clapping her hands together as a wide smile stretched her mouth. "Remember to come home straight away today. There will be a surprise waiting for you when you get back!"

Nari instantly demanded to know what it was, all but bouncing in his seat as he quizzed their mother.

Tsuna eyed the genuine look of joy on Nana's face and allowed a small smile of his own to curve his lips. Their mother only ever looked that happy when their father was coming home.

The last time Iemitsu had visited was almost two years ago and Tsuna missed him terribly. He had been thinking of showing their dad his flames – he hadn't even told Nana or Nari yet so it could be a secret between the two of them.

"Time for school, boys! Quick, or you'll be late!"

Tsuna snagged a last piece of toast and put his plate in the sink before zooming out the door after Nari who had already bounded ahead.

"Have a good day, Mom," He called over his shoulder, receiving a wave right before the door closed behind him.

{1}

"Papa!" Nari cried the moment the door swung open to reveal a grinning blond.

Tsuna paused in the gateway as Nari took a flying leap into Iemitsu's arms, their father lifting him easily into their air.

"Oof, you've gotten heavier, Nari!" Iemitsu teased.

Nari pouted and flexed one of his arms. "That's muscle, Dad. My teacher says I'm one of the strongest in the class!"

"Really?" Iemitsu reached behind him, still supporting Nari with one arm, and produced a brightly-wrapped present, complete with a bow. "Well then, my super-strong son deserves a super-cool gift from Papa-"

Iemitsu didn't even get to finish before Nari released a whoop and all but tackled the gift, sliding back to the ground and beaming eagerly at the bright green wrapping paper. "Thanks, Dad! I'm gonna open it inside, 'kay?"

Iemitsu laughed and ruffled Nari's hair. "Go ahead then. Your brother's being all shy and quiet – we'll be along in a bit."

Nari ran inside, but not before shouting back flippantly, "Dame-Tsuna barely got a pass in today's spelling test! He shouldn't get a present for that!"

Tsuna mentally rolled his eyes at both his father's silliness and Nari's declaration. He had taken all the letters of the words on today's test and made new words in Italian, and the teacher had ended up giving him only fifty percent. It wasn't his fault he didn't care one way or another whether he could spell 'cat' or 'is' or 'at' correctly. He had found an Italian-English dictionary in the living room bookshelf a few weeks ago though, and coupled with the Japanese dictionary as well as the fundamental understanding of English that he already had, he had started teaching himself Italian. Today, he had wanted to see if he had some of the more basic words down.

A gentle hand landed on his head and Tsuna blinked before peering up at his father.

"Hello, Dad," He greeted, shifting a little from foot to foot. So maybe he was a little shy, but he hadn't seen his father in a long while – he could be forgiven. Should he say something more? Ask after the man's health? "How have you been- Ack!"

He yelped when strong arms scooped him up and he automatically latched on to his father's neck.

"What's with the stiff manners?" Iemitsu huffed with a ridiculously sulky expression on his face. "Your old man demands a hug, not a 'how have you been'!"

Tsuna bit back a snicker and carefully wrapped his arms as much as he could around his dad's broad shoulders instead, letting go after counting to two. That was usually how long Nana's shortest hugs for Nari were, and Tsuna normally didn't like being very touchy-feely anyway.

But Iemitsu pulled him back when Tsuna tried to wriggle away, giving him one of those big engulfing hugs that a tiny part of him just might've missed.

"Now how have you been, Tsuna?" Iemitsu asked when he finally drew back, brown eyes studying Tsuna intently. "Are you enjoying school?"

Tsuna hesitated, and then shrugged. "It's... boring. Just a little. But I find stuff to do."

Iemitsu stared thoughtfully at him, and it was times like this that reminded Tsuna that his dad wasn't really an idiot. Well, he was, but he wasn't a complete idiot.

"What's this I hear about your spelling test then?" Iemitsu raised a stern eyebrow at him, and then ruined it by assuring, "Of course, you'll still get your present! Papa's just curious."

Tsuna really did roll his eyes this time, but he obliged by twisting around and digging into his bag for the aforementioned test.

"I just made a few mistakes," Tsuna grumbled, handing it over. When no response came for several drawn-out seconds, he glanced up nervously. Fifty percent was nothing to boast about, even if he had been playing around and not taking it seriously.

Iemitsu was staring blankly at the test, motionless as he scanned the ten words Tsuna had written down. Five of them were in English – giving him an automatic five out of ten – but the rest were switched around to form simple Italian words instead.

"Dad?" Tsuna ventured tentatively when twenty seconds ticked by without a reaction.

Iemitsu blinked, and then calmly reached out and flicked Tsuna on the forehead. Tsuna jerked back, startled.

"Lying when it isn't necessary is a sin, Tsuna," Iemitsu lectured mildly.

Tsuna sweatdropped. Wasn't lying in general a sin?

"When'd you start learning Italian?" Iemitsu continued lightly, no censure in his voice.

Tsuna scrutinized him for a moment longer for any signs of disapproval – he should've known his dad would figure out what Tsuna had done; Nana didn't know Italian after all so the dictionary must belong to Iemitsu – before relaxing and scratching his head sheepishly. "I found an Italian-English dictionary on the bookshelf in the living room, and I know enough English to use my Japanese dictionary to help."

Iemitsu stared at him for a long second, looking almost stunned, and then Tsuna suddenly found himself being hugged again.

"Da-ad, you're strangling me!" Tsuna squirmed away and his dad finally let him back down onto the ground. He scowled when Iemitsu tousled his hair. It was gravity-defying enough without his father helping it along.

"MY TSUNA'S A GENIUS!" Iemitsu boomed out, not caring at all that several passersby on the street out front jumped and eyed him with alarm before giving their house a wide berth.

"Dad!" Tsuna flushed. "I'm not! I was just bored!"

Iemitsu grinned down at him as they headed into the house. "Whatever you say, Tsuna. Is it fun though? Wouldn't you rather move up a grade or two?"

Tsuna shook his head vigorously. "I'm fine where I am. I don't want to stand out."

His dad tilted his head. "Why not? What's wrong with being special? From what I hear, your brother's already a star at sports."

Tsuna frowned. He knew he was smarter than Nari but it didn't matter in the end. He had learned that much from their mom – over the last few years, Nari's ease at picking up soccer and basketball and baseball had always been more important than Tsuna's tinkering with paperclips and wires and making little – useless – contraptions to pass the time.

And Tsuna liked doing whatever he pleased with his intelligence, with no restrictions placed on him. He didn't think he could do that if he skipped a few grades where the teachers would probably hover over his shoulder and try to push him into doing work that didn't have any point to it.

"I don't want to be special," Tsuna told his father solemnly. "I just want to be me."

Iemitsu's eyes widened briefly before an odd smile fluttered at the edges of his mouth, gone as quickly as it had appeared. A goofy grin followed immediately after and Tsuna found himself being hoisted into the air once more, his father proclaiming exuberantly about the 'super-cool gift' he had gotten for him.

Tsuna sighed in exasperation but tangled his fingers in short blond locks as he was placed on Iemitsu's shoulders. Sometimes, he felt as if he was the adult and his dad the kid.

{1}

The next day was a Saturday. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and it was an overall disgustingly cheerful day.

Tsuna was sitting on the porch out back, immersed in the books his dad had gotten him on computers. They were basic enough, fit for children perhaps a few years older than Tsuna, but Iemitsu had guessed correctly when he had chosen them. Tsuna wouldn't have rejected picture books but he would've definitely been disappointed.

Nari was inside playing with the video games their dad had bought him. Actually, Iemitsu had bought a game and a book for each of them but Nari had shot Tsuna a sullen 'I'm going to throw a tantrum' look, and since Tsuna didn't really play video games in the first place and Nari's book looked just as interesting as his own, he had quickly suggested a trade. His brother had happily agreed.

Their mother was currently in the kitchen making lunch for five. Iemitsu had left half an hour ago – something about picking up a guest from the airport.

Fifteen minutes later, Tsuna heard a car pull up and he glanced up from his book when he heard the front door open. He heard his mother and brother's voices, as well as an unfamiliar one that spoke in indistinct but friendly tones.

Tsuna closed his book and made his way back into the house. Upon entering the living room, he found a grey-haired man, Italian and dressed in a light blue shirt, shaking Nana's hand. Nari was standing off to the side, shifting impatiently and shooting meaningful glances at the paused game.

Tsuna inwardly frowned. Stupid Nari – his brother should know better than that.

"And this is Tsunayoshi, my eldest by seven minutes!" Iemitsu was suddenly standing beside Tsuna, one hand resting on his shoulder. "Tsuna for short! Tsuna, this is my boss, Timoteo. He's decided to take a vacation with me this year. Say hello."

Tsuna swiftly found himself on the receiving end of a rather intense hazel gaze and he straightened instinctively as he took a step forward.

"Hello, Timoteo-san," Tsuna greeted politely, and then, just because he could – and really, how many Italians was he going to meet in his lifetime – he stumbled out in a thick accent, "Benvenuti a Namimori, Signore(1)."

Timoteo blinked, looking taken aback, and for one horrifying moment, Tsuna thought he had completely butchered the simple phrase, but then Timoteo broke out into a delighted, surprised smile while Iemitsu released a bark of delighted laughter.

"Grazie(2), Tsunayoshi-kun," Timoteo returned amiably the word rolling off his tongue in a way that Tsuna hoped he'd be able to imitate himself in a few years.

"That's my boy!" Iemitsu chuckled before informing Timoteo proudly, "Tsuna's excellent with languages."

Tsuna blushed but tossed back mischievously, "Dad, lying is a sin."

Iemitsu's eyebrows shot up in surprise but a fond smile quirked his lips a second later. "Brat. I'm not lying though so there's no problem."

Tsuna reddened even further and opened his mouth to protest because knowing Japanese, basic English, and a handful of Italian didn't exactly make him excellent.

"Don't show off, Dame-Tsuna."

Tsuna stopped, forgetting what he had been about to say for a fraction of a second before snapping his mouth shut and turning to throw a bewildered look in Nari's direction.

His twin was glaring petulantly at him and every vibe Tsuna got from Nari was a mix of anger and borderline jealousy.

"Nari," Iemitsu said from behind Tsuna, a note of reproach in his voice. "Don't call your brother that. And Tsuna was only testing out his Italian."

Nari pouted exaggeratedly and their mother hurried forward, placing her hands on Nari's shoulders. "Oh it's fine, Iemitsu. Na-kun's just feeling a bit left out. Shall we start lunch? Timoteo-san, I do hope you like Japanese foods."

Timoteo sent a last kind smile at Tsuna before focusing on Nana's rambling as she led the way to the kitchen.

Tsuna rubbed the back of his neck, feeling oddly like he had just been blindsided. He felt... uneasy, though for what reason he couldn't say. Nari got annoyed with him several times a week – it was nothing new.

"Tsuna, you alright?"

Tsuna glanced up and offered a small smile for his father, shoving his perturbed thoughts to the back of his mind. "I'm fine, Dad. Let's go eat."

{1}

Tsuna had planned to tell their dad about his flames on Sunday night before he went to bed but-

He sat at the top of the stairs and listened to Nari's sniffles downstairs. A surge of irritation welled up inside him before he could suppress it.

Stop crying! He fumed. There's nothing to cry about! They're just flames – I can do it too!

To be honest, Tsuna wasn't even sure why he was angry, or why he didn't simply march downstairs and show everyone that he had the same sort of flames as Nari.

But Nari had shown them first, a blaze of orange exploding around him when a cat had hissed at him (Nari disliked cats, Tsuna disliked dogs – go figure) and Nari had tripped and fallen backwards.

Iemitsu had all but tripped over himself to get outside, and Tsuna would have to be blind not to see the pride in their father's eyes at the sight of the fading flames.

And judging by the weighty look his father and Timoteo had exchanged, one that had made Tsuna wary, both were perfectly aware of just what those flames were.

So here he was, curled on the stairs and letting a tiny ball of fire hop from fingertip to fingertip as he tried to come up with an explanation as to how his father would know what these flames were. Maybe his father could do it too? And his father's boss as well?

It made him suspicious. He had tried burning a twig once with his flames and the piece of wood had crumbled into ash in mere seconds. He knew what he literally had in his hands was dangerous, so why would two men – obviously friends but also employer and employee and otherwise supposedly unrelated – who worked in the construction business know about them, and even looked like they had been expecting Nari (or possibly Tsuna) to produce them too?

One – construction workers producing flames at will was a common occurrence.

Two – they weren't construction workers.

The former didn't seem very likely. The latter begged another question: if not construction workers, then what were they?

Tsuna sighed soundlessly and extinguished the flame he was playing with before clambering to his feet.

Once more, he considered telling their father about his own flames. But the excitement he had felt before had died. Part of the reason he had wanted to show Iemitsu in the first place had been because Tsuna had wanted to share something exclusive with the man. Their father encouraged Tsuna's love of books but he also typically related more with Nari and his sports, playing catch with Tsuna's brother outside. Tsuna had been invited to join in a few times in the past but catching balls had never been his forte and he hadn't seen the point of it either.

And now that Nari had shown to have his own flames as well, it clearly wasn't something he could share between himself and their father.

He heaved another sigh and shrugged away his disappointment. Ah well. At least he could still say he had better control over the flames.

{1}

"Dad likes me better," Nari announced on their way home three days after the Flame Incident.

Tsuna hummed disinterestedly as he flipped a page in the book he was reading. A moment later, his head snapped up when said book was yanked away and dropped into a shallow puddle nearby.

"Nari-!" Tsuna snarled in a sudden burst of uncharacteristic anger.

Nari jumped, looking distinctly nervous, but when Tsuna only balled his fists and stalked forward to pluck the book off the ground, the blond squared his shoulders and jutted out his chin defiantly.

"Serves you right, always reading your books," Nari retorted. "I was talking. You should pay attention to me."

Tsuna stared at his brother in thorough disbelief. "What?"

Clearly mistaking Tsuna's question as a response for his previous statement, Nari elaborated confidently, "Dad likes me better 'cause I have those flames."

Tsuna's eyes narrowed. "I thought you said you couldn't remember what you did."

Nari flushed. "W- Well, I can't remember very well but I do know I have them. And Dad said I'll be able to do more when I get older. I'm just too young to control them right now."

Tsuna gazed woodenly at his twin before continuing on his way. Nari had to hurry a few steps to catch up.

"Didn't you hear me?" Nari demanded. "Dad likes me better!"

"'Dad likes me more'," Tsuna said flatly. "'Dad likes me better' is semantically incorrect."

Nari stomped his foot. "Oh shut it, Dame-Tsuna! Stop pretending to be smart. Everyone knows you're not. Your homework and tests are aro- atrocious."

Tsuna walked on, not rising to the bait. This only seemed to infuriate Nari even more.

"And we both know Mom likes me best," Nari said condescendingly.

Tsuna glanced sharply at his brother. "Nari, what exactly is your point here?"

Nari floundered for a second before he drew himself up and glared at Tsuna. "You're an embarrassment, you know. All my friends agree."

Tsuna rolled his eyes and looked away again, ignoring the unexpected ache twisting his gut. "Is that all?"

He made to turn the corner and then staggered sideways from a rough shove before thudding heavily onto the ground, wincing at the sting in his palms as much as for the book that flopped a few feet away.

"What is your problem, Nari?!" Tsuna snapped, patience fraying.

Nari loomed over him, teeth gritted and resentment burning in his eyes.

"Why can't you just act normal?!" He yelled. "Always reading and still getting everything wrong and then trying to impress strangers with languages. You sounded like an idiot; Timoteo-san didn't say anything only 'cause he felt sorry for you! God, why do I have such a loser for a brother? Everybody laughs at you at school! You're just an embarrassment! No wonder Mom and Dad likes me better!"

Tsuna frowned at the near-maniacal glint in his twin's eyes but said nothing as Nari abruptly spun on his heel and left, not looking back once.

Slowly, he pulled himself to his feet, not bothering to rub at the grass stains on his clothes. He was more concerned about his book – it was one of the new ones from Iemitsu.

Cradling the paperback, Tsuna hurried home. Nana's blow-dryer would help.

Unbidden, his mind slipped back to Nari's biting words.

So he was an embarrassment, was he?

His jaw tightened, and for a single, painful but wildly incensed moment, he was truly tempted to show his twin that he had absolutely nothing on Tsuna when it came to producing flames.

He took a deep breath and shook it off. Nari was his brother – maybe he had had a difficult day at school. Tsuna could forgive him for his outburst.

The thought didn't erase the hollow pang in his chest though.

{1}

Tsuna waved silently as Iemitsu and Timoteo pulled out of the driveway and sped off towards the airport. Their father had promised to call at least once a month, and though Tsuna knew that the man would eventually break that promise, he firmly reminded himself that Iemitsu had never failed to call at least once every three months, and always took the time to speak to all of them.

He turned back into the house, pausing to let Nari push past him before heading upstairs himself.

If anything, his brother had only gotten worse in the past two weeks. Tsuna wasn't even sure what it was he had done wrong. He had even tried to tone down his... creativity at school for the sake of getting along with his twin, completing his homework without mistakes and scoring a high mark in another test, but Nari only got angrier.

Tsuna was now known as a cheater to a large portion of his class. He had no proof but he knew it had been Nari who had spread that rumour.

So Tsuna had stopped trying. He had never cared what people thought of him, but if he was going to be alienated either way, he'd rather be Dame-Tsuna than Cheating-Tsuna.

He made a face when he heard Nari's request for eggplant at dinner and Nana's ready concession. Their mother was a great cook but it couldn't change the fact that Tsuna's least favourite food was eggplant.

With an aggravated sigh, he continued towards his room. Maybe Nana would remember that she had also agreed to make Salisbury steak tonight, Tsuna's favourite.

He wasn't surprised when he came down later and found no steak waiting for him.

~7 Years Old~

"What's wrong, Dame-Tsuna? Practicing your jumping jacks?"

Tsuna ignored his brother's jeers and the smatter of laughter that followed as he sprang upwards again, fingers just brushing the book stuck in one of the forked branches of the tree in front of him.

He blew out a frustrated breath. He should've been more careful – going to the bathroom and leaving his book bag behind in his classroom had been stupid. Of course Nari would snatch one of his books and toss it up a tree.

It wasn't even that high up but Nari was almost half a head taller than Tsuna now and had a longer reach, not to mention Tsuna had been cursed with below average height. Heck, half the kids in the vicinity could probably reach the book but all of them were also Nari's friends. They usually worked together to make Tsuna's life miserable.

"Why are you herbivores crowding?"

A hush fell over the courtyard. Tsuna didn't waste time turning around. He'd jump off a bridge before he'd willingly 'crowd' with Nari's friends, all of them bullies of some sort.

"We were just leaving, Hibari-san," Nari muttered grudgingly, and Tsuna heard the sound of rapid footsteps hastening away.

Tsuna paid it no mind, bending his knees and jumping again. His fingers didn't even touch the book this time and he almost stumbled when he landed, panting slightly from exertion.

Before he could start weighing the pros and cons of scaling the tree, a tonfa came flying over his head, smacking against one corner of the book with pinpoint accuracy and dislodging the paperback from the branches.

Tsuna yelped and lunged forward, instinctively snatching both book and tonfa out of the air before either could hit the ground. He struggled a little with the weight of the metal weapon, almost dropping it before firming his grasp.

And then he stopped and stared dumbly at the two items.

Had Hibari Kyouya – most feared student in the entire school, runner of a one-man disciplinary patrol, and punisher of those who committed even the smallest of infractions – just helped him out?

"Herbivore, my tonfa."

Tsuna quickly whirled around and passed the weapon back to the taller boy now standing beside him. He knew most kids were afraid of Hibari but Tsuna had swiftly figured out that so long as you didn't break any school rules – laid down by both Namimori Elementary and Hibari – then Hibari would leave you alone. In that aspect, he was very fair, keeping the peace by making sure everyone toed the line.

No one seemed to know how old Hibari was either – though many hoped that the fearsome boy would soon be old enough to graduate to junior high where he'd be their problem instead – but Tsuna had managed to bypass the school computer system's security half a year ago and knew for a fact that the self-appointed prefect was only about two years older than Tsuna with his birthday in May, not really due to graduate for another few years.

"Thank you very much, Hibari-senpai," Tsuna sketched a polite bow for good measure.

Hibari grunted noncommittally, his gaze falling briefly on the book in Tsuna's hands. One eyebrow rose but the prefect said nothing and turned away, stalking back across the courtyard without another backwards glance.

Tsuna shook his head in perplexity and glanced down himself. Sun Tzu's The Art of War stared back at him. It was a library book from the public library. It was slow going because he hadn't been able to find a Japanese translation for the whole thing, only a choice between English and Chinese, and the latter wasn't a language he had learned.

Yet.

Hmm. Maybe he'd start on that.

Examining the book and finding it none the worse for wear, Tsuna headed back into the school. He'd have to be more careful with his belongings from now on.

{1}

Tsuna smiled in satisfaction as he finished off his math homework with a flourish. There, that should give him a sixty percent. Although just thinking about how frustrated the teacher was going to be when she saw all the imaginary numbers he had surreptitiously worked into his homework was enough to make him smirk.

Not that she'd realize what they were. Tsuna had long ago come to the conclusion that elementary teachers must not have made it very far with their math degrees since none of them had seen what Tsuna had been doing since first grade. Granted, he was only in second grade now so maybe his future teachers might catch it. It was still great fun to test them and watch them scratch their heads and ask him how he could make so many mistakes.

"Herbivore, the roof is off-limits to students after school."

Tsuna started, twisting around to take in the newcomer. He had been too engrossed to hear anyone coming.

"Is it?" Tsuna hastily got to his feet. He'd never actually spent time on the roof before but going home was...

Sometimes, it didn't feel like home anymore.

"I'm sorry," He apologized. "I didn't know. I'll leave now."

Hibari watched him coolly as he packed up, tonfas held loosely at his side.

"Well, have a good night, Senpai," Tsuna said when it seemed as if Hibari wasn't going to attack him now that he was actively leaving.

"Herbivore."

Tsuna paused in the doorway that led back down into the school. "Yes?"

"You are the only student in Class 2-B to sign up for the upcoming summer remedial classes," Hibari said bluntly.

Tsuna blinked. Yeah, he'd planned that. An entire summer stuck with Nari who was becoming more and more unbearable with each passing day was not how he wanted to spend his vacation. Going to school where'd have six glorious hours to himself was far better.

"Er, yes," Tsuna nodded slowly, not seeing where this was going. It struck him as bizarre that he didn't even find it strange for Hibari to know he would be in remedial classes. Heck, the older boy probably had the entire summer schedule of every failing student memorized to the nth degree.

Hibari stared hard at him as if he thought Tsuna was being purposefully dense.

"You were reading The Art of War," The prefect finally pointed out after a long awkward silence. "In English."

Ah. So that was why-

Tsuna coughed, feeling heat creep up his face even as he shuffled his feet. "I- I'm good with languages, that's all."

He didn't even need to look up to see the skepticism in Hibari's face.

"Hn," Tsuna jerked up when Hibari swept past him. "Unfortunately, it is not against school rules to fail on purpose."

Tsuna blinked owlishly after the retreating prefect. So Hibari wasn't going to report him? Or nag at him? Then again, Hibari nagging would probably be a sign of the apocalypse.

Tsuna sighed. "What a weird guy."

{1}

"Remedial classes, Dame-Tsuna?" Nari guffawed at the dinner table as Tsuna silently handed the teacher's note to their mother. "Only you! You might as well redo a grade!"

Tsuna flicked a dismissive look in his twin's direction before focusing on their mom. Nana only smiled and patted Tsuna on the arm.

"It's alright, Tsu-kun," Nana assured. "Mama doesn't expect you to do very well."

Nari snorted. "More like he can't do well even if you expect him to, Mom. I got good marks in everything. And I'm a shoe-in as a regular on the school soccer team."

Nana brightened. "Really, Nari-kun? Oh, I'm so proud! Lucky for Mama to have a sports star son to balance out a useless son, ne?"

She giggled airily as she passed a plate of pork chops to Nari, and then proceeded to ask after Nari's newest soccer exploit.

Nari shot a triumphant, gloating look at Tsuna before boasting about the goal he had gotten earlier that day.

Tsuna mechanically finished the rest of his dinner before gathering up his bowl and chopsticks and leaving the dining room. As he placed them in the sink, he quietly cleared his throat, feeling as if his dinner had gotten stuck somewhere between his esophagus and stomach. Something painful burned in his chest, squeezing his heart in a vice grip.

He couldn't quite convince himself that it was just heartburn.

{1}

Remedial classes were about as interesting as normal classes – that is to say, not at all.

But there was no Nari to bully him, no other students attempting to scare him into giving up his lunch or money or trying to push him around. He spent the majority of class time reading one book or another behind his textbooks and largely avoided the other handful of students also taking remedial classes.

Lunchtimes during those weeks were perhaps the most astounding occurrences in Tsuna's entire life, and that summer was perhaps the most fortunate, simply for the fact that that was when he gained his very first friend, and with the most unexpected of people possible.

He had taken to spending the lunch hour on the roof, either doing his homework, reading, or just lazing about. On his third day at school, he had been joined by a certain prefect.

Tsuna had scrambled to snuff out the orange flame he had been shaping into a cat when he had sensed someone stepping out onto the roof behind him, and he had been slightly apprehensive when he had spotted Hibari making his way to the only other bench on the roof, completely ignoring Tsuna's existence as he lied down, closed his eyes, and promptly went to sleep.

He hadn't even been sure if the prefect had seen what Tsuna had been doing.

But after several minutes of no berating or threatening or you've-broken-some-obscure-school-rule-I'll-bite-you-to-death-ing, Tsuna had gradually relaxed again and picked up his latest reading material.

Lunch had passed without further disturbances, and when the bell had rung, Tsuna had packed up, Hibari had woken up, and both of them had headed back to class (or in Hibari's case, patrol, because Tsuna was fairly certain that the prefect would sooner give out free passes for breaking school rules than fail at anything) without really acknowledging each other at all.

It became a routine. Most of the time, Tsuna would arrive first and Hibari would appear later, and both of them would settle down on their respective benches, one reading, the other sleeping.

Other times, when Hibari arrived first, Tsuna would occasionally find the prefect leaning against the side of his bench, a book in hand, and since they both knew that it was technically Tsuna's bench Hibari had chosen that day, Tsuna would take it as an invitation to join Hibari.

They'd usually sit back to back with a bench between them. Sometimes, Tsuna would say hi and Hibari would nod back, but more often than not, they'd simply settle down with their respective books and or lunches and spend the hour together in content peace.

Three times, only three, the two of them had even discussed one of their books, exchanging ideas and opinions for the entire hour before parting ways again. Tsuna had been pleasantly surprised when he had discovered that Hibari, while pulling perfect marks at school, was also smarter than his grade requirement.

It was an odd acquaintance overall but Tsuna didn't feel the need to push for more.

Until the last day of remedial classes.

{1}

Tsuna fiddled with his pencil as he glanced over at Hibari's slumbering form. The prefect reminded him of a cat with his naps.

Remedial classes ended today, which meant that the rest of the summer would have to be spent in the house with Nari and his mother or spend the day wandering the streets of Namimori. He couldn't even go to the library for very long because Nari and his friends would find him there and get them thrown out. Again. And then they'd try to take Tsuna's belongings if Tsuna couldn't run fast enough.

Not to mention... well, he could admit that he'd enjoyed his time on the roof with someone else's company. Hibari had become a solid presence in Tsuna's life, and Tsuna had gotten comfortable with having the prefect around.

It would be nice – and a novelty – to spend a bit of time with the older boy outside of school, maybe grab a snack or- or-

What exactly did one do when hanging out with other people?

Frankly, Tsuna hadn't the faintest clue.

"Herbivore, you're staring."

Tsuna jolted, zooming back into reality and finding a pair of slitted grey eyes observing him.

He blushed, ducking his head. "Sorry. I was just thinking."

Hibari surveyed him for a moment longer before leaning back and closing his eyes again. Tsuna thought that was the end of the issue so he was understandably stunned when the prefect spoke up a minute later, effectively stepping into personal territory.

"What about?"

Was the world coming to an end? He checked the sky for raining elephants.

"Um, our lunchtimes, mostly," Tsuna answered honestly.

They fell into a companionable silence for the next few minutes. Tsuna swallowed hard and drew on his courage.

"Hibari-senpai?" He prodded cautiously.

Hibari didn't make a sound but Tsuna got the feeling he was listening anyway.

"Remedial classes end today," Tsuna continued. "Do you- Do you want to hang out sometime? Over the rest of the holidays, I mean."

A thick silence ensued. Tsuna bit back an apology. He didn't regret asking.

"...I do not 'hang out' with anyone," Hibari intoned, rising to a sitting position and stretching languidly as he set his feet down on the ground.

Tsuna drooped in disappointment. "Oh. Well that's okay-"

"I will take lunch with you tomorrow at twelve," Hibari cut him off, already heading for the door. "At the teahouse one block from here."

Tsuna gaped after him for several dumbfounded seconds before he perked up and a silly grin spread over his face.

He wouldn't go so far as to call them friends. But Hibari clearly didn't mind spending time with him, and that was good enough for Tsuna.

{1}

"Mom, I'm going out for lunch," Tsuna announced as he hurriedly checked his bag. Wallet, key, brand-new phone (something that had come in the mail from their dad – one for him, one for Nari).

"Okay, Tsu-kun," Nana acknowledged without looking up from the newspaper she was reading. "Have fun!"

"Where'd you think you're going?" Nari called out when Tsuna rushed past his brother and three of Nari's friends who were also on their way out.

"Lunch!" Tsuna tossed back, too happy to pay much attention to Nari today.

He ignored the flurry of footsteps behind him that signaled yet another chase and instead focused on sprinting to the teahouse. Nari wouldn't be able to pick on him once he met up with Hibari. He didn't mean to use the prefect like that but if some form of protection came with the lunch invitation, Tsuna would take it. He didn't particularly feel like getting knocked to the ground today.

He rounded a corner and breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of the teahouse up ahead. Hibari was nowhere in sight though so Tsuna would just have to take refuge inside and hope his brother didn't cause a scene.

Three steps from the door, a harsh grip on his shoulder almost yanked him clean off his feet and he ended up staggering backwards before hitting the ground with a muted smack.

"No need to run, Dame-Tsuna," Nari taunted as his three friends gathered around. "It's almost time for me to eat. You should be nice and give your brother some money."

"You have your own money," Tsuna returned coldly. "Cut this out, Nari."

Nari laughed. "You say that every time. You'd think you'd have learned by now. Get a clue, Dame-Tsuna. Or were you just not listening? How many times have I told you to learn to listen to me?"

Tsuna's eyes narrowed even as his heart thumped against his ribcage. He wasn't scared, per se, but these confrontations always made him feel sick and tired.

"Get over yourself, Nari," Tsuna stared evenly up at his twin. "You're not as important as you think you are."

He hid a wince when a shoe prodded him none-too-gently in the back, really more a kick than a nudge.

Nari seemed to swell with outrage. "You can't talk to me like that! You're just a pathetic loser-"

Tsuna stared wide-eyed when Nari broke off into a shriek as a tonfa caught him in the side and tossed him to the ground like a ragdoll.

"Is there a problem, herbivores?" A frigid voice interrupted and Tsuna's death grip on his bag unconsciously loosened up.

"No problem, Hibari-san," Nari spat out from the ground, pressing a hand against his ribs even as his face twisted in rage. "We're just fooling around. Or is that against your rules too?"

Hibari's gaze sliced across the group and even Nari shrank back a little, looking like he might've wanted take some of his words back. The prefect strode forward and they hastily parted for him as he came to a stop in front of Tsuna.

"What are you doing on the floor, Sawada Tsunayoshi?" Hibari borderline-glared at him. "Our reservation is at twelve. It is twelve-oh-two. Get up."

Tsuna mentally gawked as he scrambled to his feet, adjusting his clothes as he stood. This was the first time Hibari had called him by name, and in front of other people too...

He glanced around, noting the dropped jaws and looks of disbelief.

"Come," The prefect all but commanded, and Tsuna trotted after the older boy, entering the teahouse without further incident.

"You are a weak herbivore," Hibari told him plainly once they had been seated and two cups of tea had come. At first, Tsuna wasn't sure why no one questioned two kids coming to eat at a restaurant alone, and then he remembered who he was with. "Twin or no, he is your younger brother."

Tsuna nodded, absently taking a gulp of his tea. He glanced at Hibari. The prefect looked irate.

"Why do you not put him in his place?" Hibari demanded.

"He's my brother, Senpai," Tsuna reminded him. "I'm not going to do anything drastic to him."

Hibari scoffed, evidently not thinking this to be a very good reason.

Tsuna tilted his head, scowling ever-so-slightly. "You're very talkative today, Senpai."

Hibari's gaze instantly narrowed, and as if to prove him wrong, the prefect clammed up for the rest of the meal.

Tsuna didn't mind long silences, but as he speared another takoyaki ball, he wondered somewhat guiltily if Hibari had just been trying to help him in his own roundabout, critical way.

"Please come again," The waitress said as they paid and got up to leave. The woman actually looked a bit nervous, especially when her gaze slid over to Hibari. The prefect's influence certainly extended quite far.

Once they were outside, it didn't take long for Tsuna to realize that they were heading back to his house. It probably should've bothered him more that Hibari knew where he lived. As it was, it just made him feel even guiltier when it occurred to him that the prefect was quite possibly walking him home so no bullies would approach him.

"Senpai?" Tsuna started tentatively. A flash of impassive grey. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to- to shut you down like that. But Nari's always a bit mean. I'm used to it."

Hibari frowned near the end but while he didn't look like he was at all pleased with Tsuna's assessment of Nari, the line of the older boy's shoulders did ease and Tsuna knew he'd been forgiven.

By the time they reached his house, Tsuna was happily describing the sushi restaurant he always walked past on his way to the Namimori Library.

"I've never actually eaten there before but everyone says it's really good, so maybe we could eat lunch there tomorrow?" Tsuna plastered on his best puppy-dog eyes.

Hibari twitched and looked away. Tsuna grinned impishly when the prefect capitulated anyway with a gruff, "There had better not be any crowding herbivores."

Tsuna's grin widened. "Don't worry. There'll probably be other adults around but most kids are out playing, even at lunchtime. It is summer vacation after all, and I heard that the owner's son is one of the boys in my class. He has a lot of friends but he'll definitely be out at the park playing baseball. He loves that sport."

"Oh? Tsu-kun, who is this?"

Tsuna froze, and then spun around to take in his mother. "Ah, Mom, um, this is Hibari Kyouya, a- a friend from school."

Tsuna took it as a good sign when Hibari didn't contradict him. An elated sort of giddiness expanded in his chest.

Nana gasped, staring wide-eyed at Hibari. "You're really friends with Tsu-kun? Oh I'm so relieved! I was starting to think no one would want to befriend my useless son!"

Any joy Tsuna had felt fled in the span of a heartbeat. His face seared with crimson humiliation even as his gaze involuntarily rose to catch Hibari's reaction.

The prefect's eyes had darted over to him, and for one suspended moment, Hibari's disbelief was blatantly apparent.

Somehow, it only made Tsuna feel even worse.

Nana was still babbling on obliviously. "You have no idea how grateful I am-"

"I do not spend time with useless people," Hibari interjected in a clipped tone of voice.

Tsuna's mother practically sagged in disappointment. Tsuna had to hold back a flinch. It was ridiculous how much more Hibari's words hurt compared to Nana's typical careless views of him.

"Oh, well," Nana sighed. "I suppose it was only a matter of time-"

Again, she was cut off as Hibari turned sharply to face Tsuna. "Sawada Tsunayoshi, I will meet you at Takesushi tomorrow at noon. Do not be late."

Tsuna stilled, not even managing a goodbye as Hibari gave Nana one last cursory glance before walking away.

"Isn't that great, Tsu-kun?" Nana chirped brightly. "You finally have a friend!"

Tsuna barely heard her as he continued staring after Hibari.

He'd never had a friend before, and he hadn't cared that he didn't. He had his books, he had his mind – that was really all he needed.

But now that he did have one, even if it was in the loosest sense of the word and took the form of the scariest kid in the entire school, he...

He didn't think he'd be able to give it up.


Please leave a review on your way out.


(1)Benvenuti a Namimori – Welcome to Namimori

(2)Grazie – Thank you


I like this version of Kyouya – he's close enough to his older self but is still influenced by Tsuna at a younger age. Not as hard around the edges.

Anyway, good news – originally this chapter was around sixty-five pages long and I was planning to post all of that at once since it covered all of Tsuna's years before he leaves, as is implied in the summary. But I thought about it and it really was too long, so I've cut it in half, which also means that the next chapter is done! I've never had that happen beforeXD So I'll post the second chapter later on and get started on the third.