1- Into Chaos
Every day with the Juudaime was a joy. He wasn’t serving him out of a sense of responsibility, out of debt, or out of obligation. It was a loyalty that one Sawada Tsunayoshi had, against surprising odds, earned completely.
Gokudera Hayato allowed his jade-green eyes to flicker over his superior again. His superior… and his friend. They were friends as much as they were, in a word, coworkers. It still felt ticklish to think of him that way. His familiar way of addressing the young man would likely never change… but it wasn’t nearly as stiff and formal as it had been to begin with.
Because, in the beginning, being ‘friends’ with the Vongola Decimo… had seemed like a flight of fancy. And now, it was like a daydream come true.
Hayato shook his head, and even though they were still in the classroom, he lit up a cigarette and took a long drag. His heart was beginning to swell with so much pride and affection that he might suddenly do something strange. Calming himself down was the first order of business. Yes. It was what was most important.
A little curl of smoke drifted up to Tsuna, and he stifled a light cough.
There was no delay. The reaction was to instantly snuff out the cigarette and dispose of it in a small tin for ashes. He even went so far as to pop a mint in his mouth and (covertly) sprits a tiny bit of cologne in the air to cover the smell. The pause in his boss’s note-taking indicated that he was paying attention to the change, and after a moment, he was rewarded.
The young man sent him a glance over his shoulder, eyes crinkling lightly in a smile that was more than enough to make the mad bomber’s day. His actions had not just been approved- they had been appreciated.
Without making much noise at all, he stood up and made to leave the room.
“Gokudera, where are you going?”
“Home. You miswrote the problem—it’s 23^5, and the answer is -7.”
The park was filled with children; he sat on an empty bench and observed their playing, and remembered that not long ago, I-Pin and Lambo would’ve been here playing, also.
They were both nine now, and in grade school. Fuuta was, occasionally, attending Nami-Chu like a normal kid. Their lives had considerably settled since their second year of middle school, though the Juudaime wasn’t taking it for granted. His plotting and planning got more careful and thorough with every day that passed. He made early contact with Spanner and Irie Shouichi, pitted their genius together with Giannini, and was already planning the Namimori Underground Base from memory, with improvements. Not a day went by that he was not preparing for the worst possible future.
He was already beginning diplomatic negotiations with the Giglionero Family, speaking seriously with the interim Sky Arcobaleno, Aria.
These relaxing days he knew were something he’d grown far too accustomed to. He was mildly surprised that Reborn hadn’t already caused some uproar just to keep them on their toes. But He enjoyed it. No mob hits, no desperate battles of will, no high-tension matches that hung the world in their balance. Peace.
He had to admit he missed some of the action, but a fight with the baseball-idiot was enough to satisfy his occasional craving for combat.
The sound of something metallic rolling at his feet caught his attention, and he didn’t hesitate to move. The loud explosion that followed certainly wasn’t just for show. Hayato growled out a curse as he turned to examine the terrain, finding that most of the children had left for the day, and the few that hadn’t were now running for dear life, save two that were now fighting near the monkey bars. I-Pin aimed swiftly with her Gyoza-ken, but Lambo jumped out of the way and charged at her, sparks of electricity forming on his horns. He hadn’t exactly learned the Electricco Cornata yet, but it was still a good shocker when he got you. They were obviously fighting for fun, just to relieve their tension… but still.
In public. Really now?
“I-Pin! Stupid cow! What’re you thinking, fighting on a playground!” The little girl stopped, and she immediately turned red with shame when she saw him. Lambo clicked his tongue in annoyance.
“Shut up, Stupidera. It’s our fight.”
“It’s not a battleground, it’s a friggin’ playground. Don’t you think Juudaime would get angry with you for being so careless?” The cow-print wearing kid pouted. Hayato sighed, and went to stand in front of them. “You’re only supposed to fight in places where the katagi won’t get hurt; didn’t your old man ever tell you that?”
I-Pin was practically trembling as he kneeled down, she was so ashamed of herself. Gokudera knew that she knew better, and knew that she’d just let herself get swept away by her childhood friend. He laid a heavy hand on her head, patting her gently. He wasn’t angry, just worried. She needed to know that, too.
Lambo, however, wasn’t feeling apologetic at all.
Pulling out the 10-Year Bazooka, he laughed insanely as he took aim at himself. Of course, Hayato was having none of that. With one mini-bomb, he an I-Pin were on their ways, and the weapon of insanity was sent hurling into a tree. Both the tree and the child came out of it ten years older, and the bazooka itself looked decidedly more worn afterwards.
Long since having forsaken his apartment for a guest futon at the Sawada house, Gokudera had gotten used to the liveliness of it all. His sister had finally gotten the hint, and now always wore goggles. It was actually safe to be around her. Fuuta was staying at the moment, too. There was Reborn, as always, and since Iemitsu’s return, Nana had even had a new baby. The adorable Sawada Mizuyu looked just like her brother, and had every ounce of his charm. Even if she was just as clumsy, at least she didn’t lack courage. When Mukuro said that to Tsuna upon meeting the babe, they’d all had to laugh. Even if it was meant to be derogatory, they all had to admit (Gokudera never would, because he refused to remember such days) that Tsuna had, once upon a time, been a total wimp.
Currently, Mizuyu was sleeping very quietly in the young Italian’s lap, thumb-in-mouth, and a fistful of his shirt in place of a security blanket. He could feel himself softening towards her; even if he didn’t like children, she was a very quiet baby. Quiet he could do.
Those who hadn’t left school early like him (mainly Tsuna, accompanied by Yamamoto, Haru, Kyoko and surprisingly, Ryouhei) were just coming through the front door. The laughter that permeated the air… was joyful. The noise that surrounded him all sounded like that. Joy.
This was family. Every one of them, no matter how annoying, how infuriating, how irresponsible they could be. This was his family. His Familia.
“Gokudera-kun? You came here after school?” Tsuna’s head popped into his line of vision, making him turn a little red.
“I stopped by to pick up the brats first.” The thought of what ‘the brats’ had been doing mellowed his blush a little. “You’ll have to have a talk with the stupid cow. He was throwing grenades in public again.”
The Decimo frowned. This wasn’t his ‘oh dear, not again’ frown, it was his ‘this has got to stop’ frown, which meant that there wouldn’t be any yelling tonight. Yelling meant he was distraught about something. Serious meant that he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Meant that he would, if need be, take action.
Tsuna straightened himself, gave his subordinate a half-hearted smile, and then turned away to go to the dining room table where the ruckus was centered. Lambo was in the middle of declaring that all the meat was his when the Vongola approached him, voice so quiet it couldn’t even be heard above the natural din of the house. The Bovino seemed to instinctively know that his sometimes-caretaker had ratted on him, and shot the man a dirty look as he moved to follow.
Dinner came and went; Tsuna had returned, but Lambo had not. Nana showed some worry, but the rest seemed all-too-aware of what had likely happened. Tsuna didn’t look happy. In fact, his face was utterly solemn through the whole meal, and he left early. Just a little, Gokudera missed the chaos that always seemed to go hand-in-hand with that idiot Bovino.
After dinner, he felt the need to make sure everything was moving smoothly. Yamamoto and Fuuta were doing the dishes, and the girls were putting away the leftovers. His sister had gone out for a ‘romantic walk’ with Reborn. Iemitsu and Nana were cuddling on the porch. Ryouhei was outside, doing some ‘light’ exercises to help him digest the meal. Everyone was doing something.
So he went up stairs, like he’d wanted to do from the beginning.
The Juudaime’s door wasn’t locked; it wasn’t even closed all the way. He knocked anyway as he entered, and waited at the threshold to be answered. The young mafia boss rolled his shoulders a bit before looking up. The half-smile came back to him.
“Come in, Hayato.”
An old memory of him insisting he be addressed informally by his superior tickled at the back of his mind. Tsuna had agreed… but still only called him so in private. He doubted anyone else knew that he had finally broken this barrier between them.
“Juudaime, something happen? You’re in a foul mood.” A shallow, barking laugh.
“Ah, Lambo was just being rebellious. It’s nothing new. I sent him off to Giannini to get the 10-Year Bazooka repaired, since it looked like you damaged it.” The bomber blushed a little.
“I promise that no one was in the vicinity. And I only used a mini bomb.”
The laugh this time was a little lighter. It didn’t seem so wry, so raw. It was a good sign, and his heart lightened for it. Instead of sitting informally, he knelt at the young man’s side, and watched him as a more light-hearted smile inched its way across his face. This was what he loved.
This was all he ever wanted.
And it was at this moment that Lambo came bursting through the door, Bazooka in hand. Hayato barely had time to turn around and see Giannini chasing after him before he found himself being enveloped in pinkish-purple smoke.