not your typical annihilatrix (furiosity) wrote,
not your typical annihilatrix
furiosity

Fic: [KHR] Second Best [Hard R; 5980, S80] [4]

Title: Second Best [4/4]
Author: furiosity
Fandom: Katekyo Hitman Reborn!
Genre: Drama
Rating: Hard R
Pairings: Gokudera/Yamamoto, side Squalo/Yamamoto
Warnings: Character death, angst
Spoilers: Through Target 227
Disclaimer: Amano owns. I only play. You do not sue.
Length: 6100 [this part; 13800 overall]
Summary: Gokudera wakes up in a world that by rights shouldn't exist anymore, but the world just won't quit. Neither will the Varia.
Previous Parts: [ 1 ] | [ 2 ] | [ 3 ]
Beta: None.
Concrit: Always welcome and appreciated.

"The hell," Hayato muttered, staring at the letter. The flame in the signature just glowed at him. It made no sense. Where was the Ninth getting his information? Xanxus barely left the mansion -- when was he supposed to have met with these drug dealers? Something about this stank all the way to Japan.

"Let's see," Hayato mumbled, carrying the letter into his office. He pulled open the Sistema C.A.I. drawer and pulled out his narrow lens case. A memory surfaced with it, unbidden.

"Look, Tenth-- can you see the flame analysis?"

"Oh! Oh, wow, yeah! It's all in Italian though..."

"Latin. It's the chemical composition of the flames, and if you look at seven flames in sequence, it'll remember and cycle between them until you reset the memory..."

Hayato winced, shutting his eyes tightly. Memories were all he had now, but the Tenth's voice still rang so clear in his mind. He took a deep breath and forced himself to focus. He had come here to have a better look at the signature flame, not to reminisce. He popped the lens case open and lifted the flame-analysing one out of the solution. It took a few minutes for his vision to adjust as the initial data scrolled across his left eye. He then inserted the lens with a record of the Tenth's flame still in memory into his right eye-- it wasn't quite the same as the Ninth's, but they were close enough for a line-by-line comparison.

As it turned out, he hadn't even needed the Tenth's flame record. After fifteen minutes of intense concentration, a thin red streak flashed inside the signature seal, and the corresponding line of text identified it as the Flame of Wrath, chemical composition still incompletely known.

Xanxus. He had probably used the Vongola Sky ring to produce that flame -- the greater legacy rings retained a limited memory of their wielders' flame characteristics for months, sometimes years. Hayato had suspected something like this -- during his work on the Sistema C.A.I., he had developed a sixth sense when it came to Dying Will flames, and he had recognised the flame in the signature seal as the Tenth's -- the original Tenth's.

Was Xanxus trying to test him? Why? Did he think these past few weeks of now-and-again meetings, of crawling through stacks of ancient paper were enough to earn Hayato's loyalty? Or was he just playing some kind of game? The Latin words kept flashing in his eyes, but Hayato didn't see them; he stared down at the polished wood of his desk, analysing scenario after possible scenario and discarding most of them as useless. He was expected to do something now, he was sure, but what? What kind of move would the Tenth have made?

"The Tenth would..." Hayato whispered, frowning. "He would have..."

In his imagination, the Tenth read the letter, furrowed his brow, and scratched the back of his head. What do you think, Reborn?, he asked.

Reborn's dead, Hayato reminded him.

Ahh, I'm no good at guessing games, the Tenth said, gesturing with the letter. All I can do is ask Xanxus, isn't that right?

"Thanks," Hayato said with a sigh. He was having conversations with dead people in his imagination. Things couldn't get any worse, could they?

He removed the lenses carefully and put the case back into the drawer. Imaginary or not, the Tenth's advice could never be wrong. Still, it seemed a long walk towards Xanxus's wing of the mansion. He would be in his office, Hayato decided. He would be waiting.

And so he was. Hayato could see light filtering through the door. He didn't bother to knock.

"What do you want?" Xanxus snarled as he entered.

Hayato walked across the carpet and, without a word, deposited the letter on the desk in front of Xanxus.

After a long silence, Xanxus balled up the letter and lobbed it into the corner. "Let's say you pass," he said. "Even though you knew it was a test."

Hayato's eyes widened, and Xanxus smirked, reaching under his desk.

There was a loud click, and the desk's top board slid off to the right. Several dozen small monitors emerged from within the desk, all linked together with multicoloured wires. They obscured Hayato's view, but Xanxus rose to his feet a moment later.

"You went inside your quarters at five fifty-one," he said, tapping one of the monitors. "The sensor in the signature flame told me you picked up the letter at five fifty-nine, but you didn't come out until six-thirty." Xanxus stepped out from behind the desk. "I don't put cameras inside my men's quarters, but I know enough about you to understand you didn't just sit there making up your mind for thirty-one minutes. You must have analysed the flame and found out it wasn't the Ninth's."

Hayato shrugged. "And what if I did?"

Xanxus approached him and stopped just a hair too near for comfort. He stared Hayato down, his scarred face unreadable, for several long moments. He was so close Hayato could smell the liquor on his breath. "Hibari Kyouya," he said finally, eyes boring into Hayato's.

Hayato's mouth twisted. "What about him?" Why was Xanxus changing the subject?

"I want him as my Cloud Guardian. Can you make it happen?"

"No," Hayato replied, wishing he could take a step back, knowing it would be his head if he did. It was enough that he had to be the bearer of bad news. Even for this, Xanxus might...

"Didn't think so," Xanxus murmured. He stalked back to his chair. "Who can?"

Hayato shook his head in disbelief. "No one. Reborn was the only one who could ever make Hibari listen." And the Tenth, too, he realised. The Tenth and Hibari had been closely enough matched in power for Hibari to consider the Tenth worthy of notice. But if he said that to Xanxus, he might still lose his head.

Since when are you so worried about losing your head? Weren't you going to lie down and die just a couple of months ago?

But something had changed, hadn't it? Hayato didn't want to die anymore, even though he still had nothing to live for. Did he? And why did his goddamn inner existentialist always come out at the worst fucking time? Xanxus was glaring at him.

"Hibari's on the hunt for Genkishi, did you know that?"

"No, but I'm not surprised," Hayato said. If it hadn't been for ten-years-ago Hayato's intervention, Genkishi would have defeated Hibari's past self, and there was no way present-day Hibari would let that slide.

"Once he finds Genkishi, Hibari will defeat him," Xanxus said. "And then he will possess the last Hell Ring."

Hayato glanced at him. "Is that what you're after?"

"I've decided that the Vongola family will possess all of the legacy rings," Xanxus said. "You'll be mobilising the Varia in a month or so to collect what we don't already have." He rolled backward a little and swung his feet up onto the desk. "But Vongola still needs a Cloud Guardian."

"Hibari doesn't join anyone," Hayato said. "He might agree to give you the Hell Ring if you manage to beat him in a fight, but he won't join any group. You're better off getting a Strau Mosca unit." Had Xanxus just said Hayato would be mobilising the Varia?

"We'll see about that," Xanxus said, staring up at the ceiling with a dark gleam in his eyes. "You're dismissed."

*

Deep underneath Namimori, a phone rang.

"Hello?"

"Hey sis, it's me."

"Hayato? Is everything all right?"

"Yeah. I called to see how you were doing."

"I'm sorry, didn't you just say you were Hayato?"

"Shut up. I want you to send my piano back."

"That's more like it. I'll send it to the Palermo warehouse, how's that?"

"That's fine."

"Hayato..."

"What?"

"Is it really a good idea for you to have it?"

"Stupid question. My mother played it and I want it."

"Well, all right."

Silence crackled across continents and time zones.

"Bianchi--"

"Hayato-- oops. Go ahead."

"No, what is it?"

"How is it, being part of the Varia?"

"Boring. Xanxus makes me read old documents all day. In a basement."

"A nice change of pace for you. How's Yamamoto Takeshi?"

"How should I know?"

"Didn't he join too?"

"Yeah, but we haven't really seen much of each other. He's busy training the squad."

"I see. What a strange man."

"What's so strange about training?"

"N-No, it's not the training."

"Then what? Bianchi?"

"It's just... Right before he left for Italy, he went to your room, and he must have sat there with you for an hour. I came in to change your IV bottle and he was just staring at you. I don't think he even noticed I was there."

"Did he say anything?"

"No. He... kept looking at you like he was hoping you'd wake up."

"Why didn't you tell me earlier?"

"I forgot. And then I thought he'd talk to you when you met -- I guess he didn't. A very strange man."

*

"Come on," Fran complained. "You're not even paying attention to the game."

Hayato stared at his cards. Two queens and a king. If he drew for the king, he might end up with mommas and poppas, but if he switched out a queen, he could get a flush. Fran's face was, as usual, the very definition of apathy. He could've been holding a pair of sixes or four aces.

But Fran was right, Hayato wasn't really paying attention.

Last night, he had dreamt of waking up in the Namimori base infirmary and seeing Yamamoto's face instead of Bianchi's goggles.

Hey, Yamamoto had said. Did you sleep well?

H-how long have I been out? Hayato had asked, struggling up. In the dream, he hadn't been thirsty at all.

Three years, another voice had said from the doorway. The Tenth stood there, barely recognisable for the flame scars all over his face and neck.

Tenth! Hayato had shouted hoarsely, trying to leap from the bed, wanting to run towards him and touch him, to make sure he was real. But he couldn't move.

And then he had woken up, sheets soaked with sweat as though after a nightmare. It hadn't been one, strictly speaking, except for those scars marring the Tenth's appearance. His in-dream shout had echoed in his ears -- had he cried out for real?

There were fingers snapping in front of his face. "Hello? Gokudera, do you copy?"

"Uh," Hayato said, blinking rapidly. "Spaced out. Um, I'll--"

A knock on the door interrupted him.

"It's open," Fran called, turning around.

Hayato stole a peek at his cards. Two tens. But if they drew, and Fran's damned luck let him have a six, he'd have two pair, and Hayato might still only have a pair of queens. Fuck.

Then he looked up and forgot all about poker hands. Yamamoto stood in the doorway, looking a bit perplexed and brandishing a bottle of Scotch as if it were a peace offering. "Um. Join you guys?"

Fran's eyes lit up like it was Christmas and he was the only child in the world. "Yeah, come on in. We'll just finish this round and then I'll deal for three."

"We're playing for money," Hayato said with a warning look at Fran. There was no way the little twerp was going to ask him any rude questions with Yamamoto in the room.

Yamamoto laughed. "Fine, fine. I haven't played in a while, so please go easy on me." He deposited the Scotch on the side table with the rest of the bottles and took a seat in the armchair next to Hayato's.

"Don't listen to him," Hayato warned Fran. "If a Japanese man tells you to go easy on him, it means he's about to cream you six ways from last Friday. By the way, I call."

"You looked at my cards just now so it doesn't count," Fran shot back.

"I did not," Hayato muttered, but he put his cards down anyway.

"Right, so. Whoever has the most chips at the end of twelve rounds gets a grand each from the other two," Fran said.

Hayato stared at him. "You're not talking lire, are you?"

"Of course not, and I don't mean yen either. Pounds sterling."

Yamamoto whistled. "I'd better do my best."

Hayato narrowed his eyes at Fran. No way he'd settle for a mere two thousand pounds if it were just him and Hayato. Fran gave him a level look. And then he winked.

What the hell are you up to? Hayato thought, but his telepathy skills were evidently not up to par, because Fran only adjusted his hat and began dividing up the poker chips.

After six rounds, Yamamoto was ahead by about fifty chips, and the Scotch he had brought was all gone. It wasn't even that he was any good at bluffing. He just looked so ecstatic over every hand that it completely threw off Hayato and Fran, who both came from the traditional school of poker faces.

Hayato was also being driven to distraction by the very fact of Yamamoto sitting next to him, grinning like he still thought he was in a mafia role-playing game, and getting steadily drunker. Not that Hayato was far behind; after the Scotch, they'd returned to the gin and tonics, and if the rounds kept going at this pace, they'd be drinking Bloody Marys next.

And the more Hayato drank, the longer his gaze lingered on Yamamoto. He had changed. When Yamamoto had left Namimori, he had already begun to develop a catlike grace about him; this nascent quality had attracted Hayato in the first place. Now that grace clung to Yamamoto like a second skin -- even after three Scotches and five gin-and-tonics, no movement was wasted. The way he leaned over the table to claim his winnings, the way he rolled his shoulders, the way he raised his smoke to his mouth...

Hayato was staring, but he didn't care. Alcohol had always made him reckless -- more reckless than usual, anyway -- and these long-suppressed feelings had been resurfacing for weeks now. When they'd been kids, Hayato had hated that a dumb jock like Yamamoto could look so cool with a sword, and he had grudgingly admired his skill. Hayato had wanted to destroy him. As they grew older, that admiration turned into physical attraction, and the instinctual hatred had mellowed to perpetual impatience. Hayato had wanted to subdue him. Now, the attraction had turned to full-on longing, and vague resentment replaced impatience -- and Hayato just wanted Yamamoto to look at him again.

One thing never changed between them: Hayato always wanted more than he could have.

"Gokudera?" Yamamoto's smile was uncertain.

Hayato looked at his cards. He'd held a jack high straight flush since the first draw and had been slow-playing, hoping to recoup what he'd lost in the first few rounds. He didn't have enough chips for extravagant bets, anyway. And if he didn't leave soon, he would do something stupid. Yamamoto's proximity had torn the floodgates of Hayato's memory right off their hinges, and he caught himself almost forgetting that three years had passed. There was a time when Hayato had only needed to stand close to Yamamoto to get him all excited, and Yamamoto could never hide it. Hayato wanted to lean over and pretend to look at Yamamoto's cards, to hear that tiny intake of breath, to see those bright eyes cloud over slightly. If he didn't stop thinking about this, he was going to embarrass himself. He had to get out of here, to get away from Yamamoto.

Hayato had twenty chips remaining; the current bet was six. Either way, he'd be forced to call or fold soon. He moved all of his chips to the middle of the table and slumped back in his chair in an attempt to put more distance between himself and Yamamoto. He lit a smoke.

"Interesting," Fran remarked. "Are you bored, Gokudera?"

"Tired," Hayato replied. He stifled the urge to fake a frown. If he acted too dejected, Fran might see through his play. "The boss wants us up at stupid o'clock tomorrow."

"He does?" Yamamoto asked.

"Yeah, didn't he tell you? The Cavallone boss is going to be here in the morning," Fran said.

"Dino-san is coming?" Yamamoto looked delighted. Hayato wanted to punch him. Or to punch the Cavallone boss, he wasn't really sure.

"He's going to be the Hibari consultant," Fran said, moving all of his chips towards the middle.

"How do you know about that?" Hayato asked. Xanxus hadn't announced that he'd chosen Hibari for Cloud Guardian; Hayato hadn't thought he would until there was some assurance that Hibari wouldn't refuse.

"Levi can't keep his mouth shut if he thinks he's the first to know something," Fran said after downing the rest of his drink. "But looks like Levi was wrong..."

Hayato smirked. "Maybe he was." He felt a tiny surge of pride at having been the first to know, and it made him feel like shit. Not even three months since the Tenth's death, and now this? He really was the eternal subordinate.

"What's this about Hibari-san?" Yamamoto asked, frowning at his cards. "Did he do something?"

"Not yet," Hayato said with a yawn. "Raise, call, or fold?"

Yamamoto glanced at the table. "But you guys are out of chips."

"So what?" Fran muttered. "You can still raise. Then Gokudera has to call or fold."

Yamamoto laughed. "Backing Gokudera into a corner, huh? When was the last time I had the chance?"

Hayato, who remembered that time all too well, choked on his drink. "What the fuck--?" he spluttered.

"He's drunker than you are," Fran called. "Never thought I'd see the day."

But Yamamoto's eyes were clear and focussed on Hayato, as if they were still trapped in the pink fog and Yamamoto could sense his every thought. Or so it seemed to Hayato, anyway. His face felt hot, his shirt collar too restrictive, but he refused to look away. A man had to have his pride. So Hayato leaned forward and held Yamamoto's gaze. "Try it," he said.

Yamamoto looked down at his cards, and then, without a word, pushed all of his chips into the middle.

Fran whistled. "You'd better be holding a royal flush, being that cocky."

Yamamoto stared at Hayato. What are you going to do? he seemed to be asking, and the question had nothing to do with poker.

Hayato called. His jack-high straight beat Fran's full house, as expected. Yamamoto had nothing; not even a pair of twos.

"No offense," Fran said to Yamamoto, "But you're crazy."

Yamamoto laughed. "Yeah, I've heard that before. It was fun, though."

"Depends on your definition of fun," Fran replied. "Right, I'm going to bed. Gokudera, don't even think you're going to get away with this -- I want a rematch."

"Fine by me," Hayato replied, rising. Fran would always want a rematch if money was involved.

Yamamoto was on his feet, too, re-holstering his gun. On the table in front of him lay the contents of his pockets: flat black wallet, an unopened pack of L&Ms, small change, a stick of bubblegum. Hayato squinted at the label. Minty apple.

"Did you really think you could make me fold?" Hayato muttered.

"It was easy enough last time," Yamamoto said, not looking at him. "I didn't even have to try."

Hayato crossed his arms. "What's with you all of a sudden?" What the fuck had he come here for, anyway?

Yamamoto pressed a hand to his forehead, frowning. "Just drunk, I guess. I don't know, Gokudera. I thought--"

Something inside Hayato snapped. "What did you think?" he snarled. "Did you think we were going to be best friends now? No, I got a better one -- 'poor old Hayato's still in love with me after all this time, so I'd better be nice to him; maybe he'll blow me for old time's sake' -- that's what you were thinking, isn't it?" Yamamoto was looking at him like he'd gone crazy, but Hayato had held this in for too many days to care. "I don't need your pity. And I'm not interested in Squalo's sloppy seconds, either, so you can just go fuck yourself."

Yamamoto moved towards him, quick as foxes, and grabbed his shoulders."You chased me away once," he said, staring down at Hayato. "Do you think I'm going to let you do it again?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Hayato replied, too stunned to fight. Were they really going to have this conversation here and now? "I didn't chase you anywhere. You left."

"I left because I didn't think you gave a damn."

"Yeah, and then you tripped over Squalo's dick and thought hey, here's someone who gives a damn."

Yamamoto's mouth tightened. "What happened with Squalo was a mistake."

"Don't insult my intelligence," Hayato snapped. "Even you're not stupid enough to repeat the same mistake for three years running."

He knew he was leaving himself wide open -- after all, their... whatever it was had lasted close to six years. And Hayato had never thought of it as a mistake, but who knew, with Yamamoto...

But Yamamoto just looked confused. "Three years? Is that what you think... You think me and Squalo were--?" He blinked. "Is that what everyone thinks?"

Hayato's temples throbbed. "I'm drunk, not stupid. I saw it, Yamamoto! In Irie's machine, you--"

"Once," Yamamoto said, shutting his eyes. "It was just the once."

"Bullshit."

"It was stupid," Yamamoto whispered. "We were drinking, and I pretty much forced him into it. He didn't... sensei was amazing, but he lived to fight. He didn't care about anything else." He tightened his hold on Hayato's shoulders. "I tried to tell myself I was in love with him. And then in Irie's machine, you thought of that night, the last one. You have no idea what that did to me, to see that. I thought none of it mattered to you, just like you said that night."

Hayato began prying Yamamoto's hands away. "I never said it didn't matter. I told you we weren't--"

"--lovers, yeah, like I could forget." Yamamoto let go. "I thought you hated me."

Hayato took a step back, sizing him up.

"What do you want from me?" he demanded. "Why the hell didn't you just call me? Just once? Why didn't you ever come to visit us in Namimori? The Tenth missed you. He thought you didn't care about your old friends anymore -- it disappointed him so fucking much. We-- I-- What the fuck made you think I could ever hate you again?"

Words had fled him. He could still feel Yamamoto's hands on his shoulders, could still smell his aftershave or cologne or whatever the fuck it was. He wanted to close the distance between them and shove Yamamoto against the wall, to kiss him, to touch every part of him he could reach. He wanted to plant his fist in Yamamoto's face and then to punch every inch of him until he bled.

Yamamoto made a tiny move towards him, and Hayato took off. The intensity of what he felt -- guilt, love, grudge, longing -- frightened him so badly that he couldn't stand the thought of anyone else seeing him like this. He ran all the way to his quarters and fumbled, gulping air, for his key card. He found it, promptly dropped it, and sank to his knees in exasperation. "Fuck this," he breathed, slapping his palm down on the key card. "Fuck it sideways through a fucking wall. Twice." Everything in him was telling him to turn around, to go back -- he didn't need a time machine anymore. Yamamoto was here.

"Fuck him," Hayato growled, leaning on the door handle. "Fuck everything." He slid the key card through the reader, and the door swung inwards, sending him to the floor in an ugly sprawl. His head felt heavy as he struggled up, holding on to the wall to keep his balance.

No sooner had he shut the door behind him, than there came a knock. "Gokudera--"

"Yamamoto," Hayato whispered. He wasn't going to let him leave this time, was he?

He opened the door. Yamamoto looked completely miserable, and Hayato lost his words again. He jerked his head towards the living room, looking away. He shut the door again and followed Yamamoto inside. His heart was beating too fast, and the drinks he'd had earlier were starting a bar brawl in his stomach. Hayato sank down on the sofa and threw his head back. He felt Yamamoto sit down on the other end, and then there were hands on his shoulders, pulling him down and sideways so that he half-sat, half-lay on the sofa with his head in Yamamoto's lap.

Hayato toed off his shoes and lifted his legs, settling more comfortably, and looked up at Yamamoto. "Hi."

Yamamoto smiled and touched his cheek. His hand was warm and steady, unlike Hayato's, which would surely tremble if he tried to do the same right now. Pre-emptively, he blamed the smoking. And then he wondered why he was still looking for a way out of acknowledging what he felt. "I'm tired," he mumbled.

"Then sleep," Yamamoto replied, still smiling.

Hayato's chest felt tighter than ever. He closed his eyes for a moment, just to rest them briefly. Just a little bit...

*

His neck hurt. That was the first thought. His head hurt worse. Where was he? Hayato opened his eyes. He was facing a shirt. Yamamoto's shirt. Yamamoto had come halfway through the game with Fran, and they'd drunk a lot, and then Hayato and Yamamoto had argued. Well, Hayato had argued. Yamamoto had just looked like a kicked puppy dog. And then...

Yamamoto's breathing was steady, even. Hayato turned to face the other way, very slowly. He didn't want to wake Yamamoto and force an awkward scene. He would go back to sleep, and when he awoke again, Yamamoto would surely be gone. But for now, this was fine: Yamamoto's deep breaths right next to him; Yamamoto's hand dangling off the armrest, his other hand curled possessively around Hayato's waist.

Just then, that hand tightened its grip. "Gokudera?" Yamamoto whispered.

Hayato quickly shut his eyes. I'm asleep, so you can leave freely without losing face. Just go. He was afraid again.

Yamamoto let go of Hayato's waist, and then his hand was smoothing Hayato's hair, gentle as ever. "You'll have a sore neck if you stay like this."

And oh, it hurt to hear that voice, scratchy from sleep and mellow, as though years hadn't passed since the last time Hayato heard it like this. It made him feel as though they were still in Japan, as though the Tenth were still alive, as though they had a future. He makes me feel less alone. He always had.

"Bianchi told me you went to see me before you left the Namimori base," he said thickly.

Yamamoto's hand froze. "I-- yeah. I didn't think I'd ever see you again. And I thought you would hate to see me when you woke up."

Hayato needed a smoke. Or maybe he just needed to get away before Yamamoto's honesty broke him. Either way, he got up and walked to the window, still staggering a bit, and threw it open. The pack had squashed in his back pocket, but the cigarettes were intact. He lit one and drew deep, shutting his eyes as a cool breeze streamed at him from the starless dark outside.

Yamamoto came up next to him and lit his own smoke. Hayato thought of strangers at a bus stop.

"I would have liked to see you," he said after a while. "I wish you'd stayed long enough."

He didn't just mean after Irie's machine. He wished Yamamoto had stayed long enough three years ago -- long enough to see Hayato couldn't hate him anymore. It didn't matter if Yamamoto understood this or not. It was enough that Hayato finally acknowledged it. The cigarette tasted awful, so he flicked it away. It flashed, ghostly white, one last time, and then vanished into the black. He turned around, leaned against the windowsill, and watched Yamamoto smoke.

"I should've called you," Yamamoto said after a few drags.

"No," Hayato said, shaking his head. "A man has to have his pride."

Yamamoto stepped towards the window and threw his own cigarette out. He didn't move away again.

Hayato reached forward and pulled Yamamoto's gun from its holster. He checked the safety and then deposited it on the windowsill.

"Gokudera--"

"Shut up," Hayato said, reaching up to touch Yamamoto's cheek. "Tell me later."

When their lips met, there were no swells of dramatic music, no explosive special effects. Hayato still felt like he was in a movie; it was one that had played inside his head so many times he sometimes thought he'd lived through it already. He flicked his tongue against Yamamoto's bottom lip and closed his eyes as Yamamoto's arms encircled his waist.

It turned out Yamamoto tasted like cigarettes and stale liquor, with only the faintest hint of minty apple. Hayato didn't love it any less. He pressed closer, kissed him deeper, held him tighter. Yamamoto's tongue was slick and pliant against his, and Hayato moaned, heedless of the open window and the ease with which sound carried on the island. He didn't care. He was kissing Yamamoto Takeshi for the first time in ten years; he would make his own damn special effects.

Suddenly, Yamamoto broke away, pulling him into an embrace so tight Hayato thought he heard something crack. "I'm sorry," Yamamoto whispered. "It's just... I just. I've wanted you to do that for so long."

Hayato's stomach flopped. "You don't like it?"

Yamamoto kissed the side of Hayato's face. "I like it a little too much," he breathed. "I felt like I would have a heart attack if I didn't stop you."

"Don't sound like an old man," Hayato murmured. "You'll improve with practice." His mouth found Yamamoto's again, and for a while there was nothing else but ragged breaths and disconnected moans and sweet surges of pleasure rippling through Hayato's belly. The coils of tension in him were unravelling so quickly that they might take his sanity. Let them, thought Hayato absently. Yamamoto's hands cradled his face, and his own hands were busy at Yamamoto's belt.

Hayato pulled away from the window and flipped Yamamoto around, backing him up against the windowsill.

"Goku-- dera," Yamamoto gasped, but Hayato kissed him with even more force, pushing his pants down.

As he wrapped his fingers around Yamamoto's cock, he broke the kiss and braced against the windowsill with his other hand, pulling away slightly so he could look at Yamamoto's face. He liked watching Yamamoto lose it; he especially loved making it happen. He wanted more than this, like it used to be, when he would tease Yamamoto until he begged, until he could almost make him come with just a word, and then fuck him slow and deep, the way Yamamoto liked it, make him writhe and moan and beg some more. But there would be time for that later. Hayato added a little twist to the upstroke.

"S-Stop," Yamamoto panted. "I'll--"

Hayato moved his hand faster. Yamamoto threw his head back and shuddered, and Hayato let him ride it out, relishing every little gasp and every shiver. Deep down, he was glad Yamamoto hadn't got hold of him first, because he probably wouldn't have lasted even this long.

"I told you to stop," Yamamoto muttered after Hayato let go of him. "Why didn't you--?"

Next door, Hayato's alarm clock began to blare.

"That's why," Hayato said. "Cavallone arrives in half an hour."

"But--"

"If we show up still dressed like this, Fran will never stop snickering," Hayato said. "I won't give him the satisfaction." A man's pride sometimes called for aching balls. "Besides," he added, "Once Xanxus locks himself in his office with Cavallone after breakfast, we'll have time until dinner."

"Oh, I see," Yamamoto said with a grin. "Time to catch up on all the sleep we didn't get because of last night's poker game?"

Hayato grinned back. "Yeah."

Three years later.


Hayato stretched. He could think of ways to spend a Sunday afternoon other than lazing around, but he didn't feel like thinking. Instead, he watched Takeshi lace up his sneakers at the foot of the bed.

"I'm going out for a run," Takeshi announced, as if it weren't obvious already. "You want to come?"

"Freak," Hayato mumbled, pulling the duvet cover over his head.

Takeshi tugged it off him, leaning down for a quick kiss, which turned into a breathless one, as their kisses often did. Takeshi's fingers trailed down Hayato's side, hesitating at his hip and then gripping hard for a brief second, beginning a slow slide along Hayato's thigh only to dance away again. It was enough to drive anyone insane. Just as Hayato's dick began taking an active interest in the proceedings, Takeshi pulled away.

"I'll be back," he said, grinning like an overfed cat. "Don't go anywhere."

"Bastard," Hayato hissed, but Takeshi was bounding out the door already. His footfalls echoed in the corridor outside. Hayato got out of bed, pulled on his jeans, and padded over to the window. He lit a smoke and watched Takeshi sprint down the rocky path, skirting the cottage Xanxus had made the locals build for Hibari, and then disappearing into the woods.

Hibari was watching too, from the roof of his cottage, reclining lazily and looking just as comfortable beneath Sicily's sun as he did everywhere else. He hadn't precisely joined the Varia, just as he had never quite joined the Tenth's family, but apparently that he sometimes deigned to call this cottage home was good enough for Xanxus. Hibari was still Hibari.

Ironically, Hibari had made Hayato finally put to rest the idée fixe that the world was going to explode at any moment. Not that Hayato had ever discussed it with Hibari, who would have broken Hayato's jaw for wasting his time with ridiculous theories. But Hayato had been standing here at this very window about two years ago, smoking and trying to find Takeshi's soft snores annoying instead of cute. It had rained all day, and every breath of the night air had settled heavy in his lungs. Hibari had emerged onto the roof of his cottage, a proud dark shape in the grey dawn -- the never changing sentinel.

And it had struck Hayato then that there must have been other worlds out there, just like this one, drifting parallel to some master reality, or simply to one another. He'd read a science fiction story once where every choice spawned a new possible world, and each of those was but a stone on the gods' goban of infinite dimensions. And it wasn't that one reality was worth more than any other -- they were all part of an eternal balance: for every choice, a counterpart. Somewhere out there was a world where Hayato's mother never died, a world where Yamamoto Takeshi never wanted to kiss him, a world where Hayato never travelled to Japan to meet the Tenth Vongola.

Maybe just like in that book, a soul's existence spanned across the many worlds -- and every person had the chance to get one thing right in each reality. Just one thing. In this world, Hayato couldn't protect the Tenth, and he would never avenge his mother, but he had done one thing right. He knew it when he woke up, when he trained the lower-ranked boys in explosives, when he played poker with Fran, when he ate, when he and Levi butted heads at meetings, when he was dreaming...

He knew it now, as the door whooshed open, and, seconds later, Takeshi's hands fell onto his shoulders. "I told you not to leave the bed," he whispered against Hayato's neck.

"Pfft. Who would listen to you?" Hayato sniffed the air demonstratively. "You need a shower."

"You'll take one with me later," Takeshi declared, throwing his arms around Hayato. "Give me a kiss."

And Hayato did.

[end]
Tags: fic:khr:second best
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