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His Smile

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Yamamoto smiles.

By now, it's a reflex. Like throwing whatever he's caught back with ten times the force. Natural.

Curl lips upward. Crinkle Eyes. Raise brows slightly. Smile. Laugh.

And all is right.

But something seems off. Unnatural.

He doesn't know if he's imagining it.

He doesn't know if it's real anymore.

Yet Yamamoto smiles.

It appears without him knowing, sometimes. His smile.

Creeps across his face without his knowledge.

In the midst of talks of blood and murder and body counts and war, it appears. Unbeckoned.

He doesn't notice until he sees Tsuna or Gokudera eyeing him warily.

But even then, he can't seem to wipe it off his face.

It sits there, unmoved. A mind of its own.

It scares him sometimes, his smile.

When he looks in the mirror, he sees it. Sharp. Sharper than even Shigure Kintoki's edge.

No wonder people back away when he smiles.

There's something dark lurking beneath the surface.

Under those chapped lips and bright white teeth, a monster lies. Waiting to be let loose.

Yamamoto doesn't know what will happen if he lets it escape.

He doesn't know how it will escape. When it will run rampant.

He hopes never. But he doesn't know.

So he just keeps smiling.

It wasn't always like this. His smile.

Once upon a time, people smiled when he did.

Once upon a time, he smiled because he was happy. Content. Optimistic.

And he still is, he thinks. Happy. Content. Optimistic.

Or is he?

Tsuna is fine, so Yamamoto is happy.

Yamamoto himself is still alive, so he is content.

There will always be a tomorrow, so he is optimistic.

Or so he tells himself.

Honestly, he doesn't know what to think.

So he smiles instead.

He thinks Tsuna is scared of it now, his smile.

Whenever Tsuna sees it, his eyes widen ever so slightly and his mouth pulls into a frown.

Yamamoto used to dismiss it as concern. Now he's not sure.

At his smile, Tsuna flinches a bit. Draws into himself ever so slightly.

Even Hibari looks a bit disconcerted in the face of it.

Mukuro just grins back, chuckling like a madman.

Like he's found someone who shares his secret.

But Yamamoto doesn't know.

At least, he thinks he doesn't know.

Perhaps he does.

Or perhaps it's only his smile that knows.

The day after he finds out about his father's death, Yamamoto smiles.

The day of, he didn't. He tried to draw it out when Tsuna asked if he was okay.

But is seemed to have left. Disappeared along with his dad.

Even when Squalo barged into his room after the funeral demanding a fight, he couldn't smile.

He tried. Curl lips upward. Crinkle eyes. Raise brows slightly. Grimace. Choke.

Squalo snorted and proceeded to skewer him.

The next day, his smile was back.

His dad was not.

Last week, he saw Chrome. He smiled in greeting.

She looked at him, that clear violet eye locked on his clear (dull?) brown ones.

Then asked if he's okay. He laughed, said he's fine.

She shook her head, said to stop lying.

Yamamoto blinked. He's fine, he insisted. And smiled to prove it.

She looked at him, pity reflected in that clear violet eye.

It's clear she doesn't believe him.

Heck, he doesn't even believe himself. Why should she?

But Yamamoto can't wipe away the smile that mars his face.

Reborn is watching him now. Watching his smile from beneath the brim of his fedora.

Natural born hitman, he'd once said of Yamamoto. Yamamoto had laughed it off, good naturedly.

Perhaps the kid was right though. He's the go-to for assassinations and stealth.

Even more so than the Mists. They went for torture; he went to kill.

And kill he did. One man. Then another. And another.

The bodies kept piling up. Too many to keep track of.

Yet Yamamoto still keeps count. As of last night, exactly 174 impaled through the heart.

93 beheaded. 19 of blood loss. Another 68 by his sniping.

He's still 100s bodies less than Gokudera. 500 or so behind Mukuro. 1000s away from Hibari.

But Yamamoto doesn't kill in bulk.

Sometimes wishes he does, though.

At least then, they'd remain nameless. Faceless. Just another body.

With assassinations, Yamamoto spends a week researching and another tailing, until he knows his target inside and out.

Their scowls, their smiles. Their frowns, their laughs. And, of course, their Achilles heel.

Names, faces, souls. Their last moments branded in his memory.

354 deaths forever on replay.

The first few times, he turned to liquor to clear his memories. Think happy thoughts. Smile.

Gokudera told him that's how he used to cope, so Yamamoto tried it.

When he'd wander back to the Vongola Mansion those times, dead drunk, Tsuna would sigh and spend the night sitting vigil over him, brows furrowed in worry.

All the while, he'd mutter I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry over and over and over again.

At those times, Yamamoto wanted to reach over and iron out those creases, catch each apology and throw back an It's okay It's okay It's not your fault with ten times the force.

But his body didn't obey him. Only a smile danced across his lips.

Yamamoto decided after the third time that he's the worse type of drunkard.

His body moves in all the wrong ways, but his mind is still alert, remembering all.

So now he forgoes the drinking and skips straight to smiling.

It still doesn't help.

Reborn's eyes are cold obsidian. He feels them watching his every step. Every smile.

Right, natural born hitman. They share that bond. And what a bond it is. What a trio they make.

Yamamoto, Reborn, and Death, the third wheeler. It creeps into their every conversation.

How ya doing, kid? Yamamoto asks, even though Reborn isn't a kid anymore.

Reborn scoffs from his wheelchair. His gray sideburns bounce as they did when he was young.

The Arcobaleno Curse Part II, Verde dubbed it. Age five years for every one that passes.

No signs of slowing, not till Death demands a date.

Still, Reborn's gaze is steady as he studies him.

Piercing, those eyes. Even as his hands tremble too much to aim a gun. Bullets shot at his soul.

Yamamoto wonders if Reborn can see. If he knows.

That darkness in his smile.

Because Yamamoto doesn't.

He can't see the monster that dwells.

Maybe Reborn can, with that uncanny wisdom of his.

Maybe he can fix it, too.

Just look at how great Tsuna turned out.

Because if he can't, the only one left to turn to is that third wheeler.

Death.

It itches, that scar of his, when he smiles.

It was two months after his father's death when he got it.

Ambushed by the Scherno. Bound and blinded, hauled before their boss.

He wanted a spy. A rat. Of course he did. Everyone wanted a player in Vongola's field.

And of course Yamamoto refused. With a smile spread across his face, of course.

That smile, sharper than Shigure Kintoki, darker than obsidian.

Danger, it said.

Yamamoto saw the boss's eyes narrow. He saw the knife coming.

Mutilation's common in the mafia game.

Of course. Eventually someone would come to wipe that smile off his face.

It was natural.

Reborn is still watching him.

Yamamoto is still smiling.

No words are exchanged.

Reborn simply pushes the brim of his fedora down again and wheels away.

But Yamamoto swears he hears an I'm sorry, I've failed you.

He shrugs. It's probably too late now anyway.

He's broken. That's a fact.

He's crazy. That's also true.

He smiles. That's the axiom that defines his life.

Yamamoto smiles.

By now, it's a reflex. Like throwing whatever he's caught back with ten times the force. Natural.

(Or is it?)

Curl lips upward. Crinkle Eyes. Raise brows slightly. Smile. Laugh.

(Grimace. Choke.)

And all is right.

(Or so he thinks.)

But something seems off. Unnatural.

(Broken. Crazy.)

He doesn't know if he's imagining it.

(Who's to say this isn't all a dream?)

He doesn't know if it's real anymore.

(Isn't reality distorted by perceptions anyway?)

Yet Yamamoto smiles.