3:34 am. The glaring red digits were mocking him, slowly counting away his precious sleep time. The 25 year old groaned, covering his head with his pillow in a futile attempt to reclaim sleep. It wouldn't have been so bad, but the cold pillow next to him was a reminder that all the Guardians had gone their own separate ways that night, unable or unwilling to share their pain with each other.

A minute later, the silver-haired Storm Guardian sat up with a soft cry of frustration. Those kids… he couldn't stop seeing them. Hayato drew his legs up and wrapped his arms around them with a soft sigh. His head wearily dropped so his forehead rested on his knees.

That mission had been brutal. The intel the Foundation had received had, for once, been woefully inaccurate. Tsuna had been incensed to hear of a child slavery ring being conducted not 50 miles from his home. The other Guardians, especially Mukuro, were all in agreement. The wrath of Vongola had descended swiftly and decisively; there was no more Amanucci family to speak of. The fighting was the least of their concerns, which they learned to their dismay.

Captive beneath the Amanucci complex were over 30 dirty, mistreated, underfed children. None of them were over the age of ten and most were covered with obvious signs of physical and sexual abuse.

Mukuro had frozen on the spot, and Hayato had to admit he had done the same – It was hard not to be assailed by memories. Dimly, he remembered Tsuna and Kyoya moving forward, and the children cringing away. Tsuna had waved the Cloud back and Lambo moved forward, a smaller, less imposing figure. It took both the Sky and the Lightning over ten minutes to convince the kids they were there to help.

Everything after that was a blur of movement with ambulances, the Cleaners, and some of the kids attaching themselves to Guardians and refusing to let go. It took some convincing, but they had all finally returned to the mansion, kid-free and emotionally exhausted.

And yet, here he was. It had been a long time, but looking at those kids had brought back every memory from his childhood. He had wanted to ask the male Mist if he was having similar issues, but couldn't bring himself to find that he was the only weak one.

He stood with a sigh, tossing a red tank top over his black sleep pants. He wandered out of his room and down the hall, not seeing anyone as he padded his way to the music room. Really, that was kind of a misnomer… the entire room was taken up along one wall with piano sheet music in binders, and in the middle of the room stood a beautiful baby grand… Tsuna's birthday present for Hayato on his 21 birthday. He walked over to the bench and sat, his fingers gliding over the keys softly. A soft, sad sigh slipped from his lips as he picked up a melody he'd been working on for the last couple months.


As the song's gentle strains wafted through the Mansion, a door opened silently. Bloodshot heterochromatic eyes peered down the hall while their owner bit his lip. He was far too old (and proud) to go running to Tsunayoshi-kun for comfort, but his mind wouldn't let him rest. The music that beckoned him was so gentle; he couldn't keep himself from following it, hoping for a bit of solace from memories.

Just as the blue-haired illusionist slipped silent and unseen into the music room, another door opened. Narrow grey eyes peered down the hall and a soft 'hn' was followed by the almost silent closing of the door. He wasn't sure what was going on, but soft music should not be heard this late at night… and it's not like he was sleeping. His natural curiosity peeked, the sleep-deprived skylark made his way towards the soft melody.

As Hibari was making himself silently comfortable against the far wall of the music room, adjusting his black yukata and ignoring the obviously strained pineapple-head's presence completely, two more doors opened. Yamamoto, still wearing his very rumpled suit, stepped out of his room as Ryohei, clad only in boxing shorts, walked out. They looked at each other silently, neither one willing to break the soft music with speech. With a nod, they made their way together to the music room where they sat on the floor near the door and listened.

The ornate wooden door at the far end of the Guardian's quarters opened and two young men walked out of it. Tsuna's long, unruly hair was, as usual, sticking up in all directions, and his young Lightning Guardian wasn't much better. Both sported red eyes and a haunted look that the soft song was slowly soothing away. Lambo had gone to his Tsuna-nii after the first round of nightmares; he may be 15 now, but he was still young enough to get away with crawling in bed with his protector after the traumatizing day he'd had. Tsuna wrapped an arm around the younger boy's shoulders and they made their way down the hall, hoping to find respite from their nightmares.

A purple-haired shadow glided up from the kitchen, a small smile on her normally impassive face. She carried a tray full of glasses and a snifter of brandy. She had been able to feel the distress of her mentor, and knew the other Guardians were equally troubled. She had been planning on making her rounds to each individual room, but watching from the end of the hall as one after another, they piled into the music room, she couldn't help but think they'd made her job that much easier. She hadn't seen the explosive Storm, so she made the assumption that the music was coming from him… he was the only one who had any real inclination towards that giant piano.

When she got into the room, she stopped and surveyed it, realizing that everyone was oblivious to her entrance at the moment. Lambo and Tsuna stood together near the center of the room, the little Lightning's arms wrapped around their Sky's waist with his head buried in his chest. Tsuna's eyes were red as he stared at the piano and its occupant, heedless of the tears slipping down his cheeks. Ryohei was, for once, silent and still, sitting on his rear with his legs pulled up and his forearms resting on his knees. Takeshi was sitting on his knees, hands loose on his lap and his eyes closed. His normally smiling face was calm, passive, and if she didn't know him better, she'd think he was sleeping. Kyoya leaned against the far wall, away from the rest of Guardians with his arms folded in front of his chest. His eyes were closed and his head bowed, but even from here, Chrome could see the frown on his lips and noted how his shoulders bowed… as if the stress from today had defeated even him. She bit her lip when her eyes fell on her mentor; Mukuro looked as if he'd dropped boneless where he was and stared at the pianist with open pain on his face.

The direction of his gaze drew her eyes finally to Hayato, who was so involved in his playing that he was still oblivious to anyone else in the room. He played with his eyes closed, totally from memory and emotion. His posture was perfect, not the typical slouch of his day to day life, but straight and proud. The only thing that marred his form was his open mouth, trying desperately to mask the sobs that slipped from him as tears poured down his cheeks.

The gentle Mist couldn't handle the looks of pain and sadness on her beloved friends' faces. She set her tray down on a side table and walked to Tsuna, touching his shoulder. He startled and looked down at her. With a silent nod, she took control of Lambo and sent their Sky to take care of the tortured Storm.

Tsuna sat next to Hayato and put an arm around his shoulders. The silveret gasped a bit, the melody of the song destroyed by his hands banging into the keys. He blinked, then turned and buried his head in his boss's shoulder, wracking them both with his tears.

As the poignant melody faded in cacophonous notes, the spell that held them still was broken. Suddenly they were all moving. Ryohei pulled Lambo against his chest, rubbing his back and murmuring softly in his ear. Chrome laid a hand on Hibari's arm, keeping him with them. Her silent plea was met with a soft huff, but he leaned back against the wall, allowing her to rest her head on his shoulder as he wrapped an arm around her waist. Mukuro put his arms around Tsuna's waist and cuddled into his back, unobtrusively wiping his eyes. Yamamoto wrapped his longer arms around Gokudera, gently brushing the tears from his cheeks as the silveret leaned into his chest. They passed the rest of the night in silence, tears abating slowly as they took heart in the fact that though they had dealt with something truly horrible, they hadn't dealt with it alone, and would never have to.