Gokudera struggled to say something, anything, as he stood there next to Kyoko who was staring down in her own glass. He knew the dead would stay dead forever, and any words that popped in his head, should stay in his goddamn head and the last thing he wanted to do was to apologize, to say “I’m sorry I wasn’t be able to, to—” because fuck, you couldn’t say I’m sorry and mean it, not without losing every scrap of control that was left in you and he could barely hold onto his any longer. Feet shuffled against the shining tiles, some people were talking, most people were whispering, and Ryohei’s voice above it all, to his sister, said, everything will be all right, things will be all right— Gokudera almost flinched, bastard lied straight through his fucking teeth, but who was he kidding—
Certainly not himself, and certainly not Kyoko because when she smiled to her brother, Gokudera thought just for a second, thank God Tenth wasn’t there to see it because everything about the smile was so fucking broken, disjointed somehow, (but then he paused and pondered, and again, to himself, said this wasn’t the time to be ironic), so what was the fucking point of it all. He kept glancing at the door, half-hoping that Tsuna would burst through it and tell them it was a joke, see, and Gokudera would have laugh even it wasn’t remotely funny. Gokudera caught Ryohei staring at him and took the almost empty glass from Kyoko’s hand and offered a refill.
Yamamoto was still Yamamoto, always a glass half-full kind of idiot, or maybe just plain stupid but at least something was still relatively normal. “Gokudera, I know how hard it is for you—”
You don’t know shit, Gokudera didn’t say. How could you say that and smile that empty smile of yours and pretend like this whole shit isn’t breaking your world apart, Gokudera didn’t have to say.
When they got back to Gokudera’s room later, his hands were gripping Yamamoto’s shoulders, his back was pressing hard against the door, his thigh was rubbing against Yamamoto’s hardening cock and Gokudera’s voice muffled low against the material on Yamamoto’s chest, “We’ll forget about this tomorrow.” And that was probably the biggest lie of all.
Morning air turned his room into a fucking freezer.
Gokudera woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and with a huge chunky lump in his throat and pretended that the vacant space next to him (the whole elephantine regions of thirty-nine inches to be precise) didn’t bother him as much; not as much as his crumpled shirt on the floor (cleaning that shit would be a bitch), or running out of cigarettes. He threw the empty box against the wall and padded off to the bathroom. Looking at his own reflection made something twist in his gut. Yesterday’s feelings and the day before that, all came crushing back to him the moment he opened his eyes. The things he wanted to forget, the things he remembered, on good days this wouldn’t even worth the pain.
But then the past few days hadn’t been good days since that day and in less than forty-eight hours since the funeral Gokudera had got himself plastered, and then woken up middle of the night to the sound of Yamamoto tired-breathing next to his ear (Gokudera had started it, but it took two to tango) and when morning came he was all alone.
On good days Gokudera would have shove it aside and pretended like it didn’t hurt.
Haru came over, knocked on his door twice and didn’t even wait for response before opening it. Gokudera was too tired to be furious.
“Coffee?” she asked, like every other morning. Like before. Like she wanted to reconstruct the reality into something better so it would fit into her perfect little world in her perfect little head. She might as well have said, let’s play family and pretend that we’re all happy, because then life would be prettier that way.
“Yeah okay,” Gokudera said, and pinched the bridge of his nose while tried so hard not to choke.
“We need to start planning soon.”
“We need to talk.”
“Maybe we don’t.”
This made Gokudera halt. Just less in two weeks ago, in the same very room, on the same very chair Yamamoto was sitting right then, he had spent the most of the night with Tsuna devising a plan of resistance and, shit. It felt like a repeat performance except with a different actor and a different script; Tsuna had said, Gokudera-kun we should call it a night and then rubbed his eyes with the back of his hands, a gesture that had reminded Gokudera that they both were still not quite an adult, that they all were growing up too fast. But fuck, Gokudera didn’t need this, really, not right then.
“This isn’t the time, Yamamoto.”
“So when will it be?”
“I don’t fucking know, okay?”
And then the door suddenly opened, Ryohei burst in with Dino on tow, “I can’t get a hold of Mukuro, but Hibari will probably join us later.”
In front of him, Yamamoto’s expression was entirely too close to pain and Gokudera suppressed the urge to look away, opened and closed his mouth and tried again, and then decided to fuck it all, and goddamnit, if there was an elephant in the fucking room he would fucking ignore it.
Gokudera had it all figured out. In the case of fusion, it was like igniting a match into a bucket of fuel. All he needed was to find a source of energy powerful enough to stimulate the reactors, and he had swore on Tsuna’s grave he would protect all of them; he had swore to himself that he’d pull the trigger right in front of Byakuran’s goddamn face. It wouldn’t be his first kill, but it would be his first murder. But it didn’t matter.
“Look Hayato,” Bianchi said. Her fingertips were reaching for the sun-starved skin on back of Gokudera’s hand and he instinctively pulled away. “The world doesn’t come to a halt just because you’re feeling sorry for yourself.”
“Do you even hear yourself sometimes?
“Just look at you!”
“I’m looking at myself everyday in the mirror and hating it,” he snapped, “Tenth is dead, sis. God, really, have mercy— and I’m dealing with it in my own way. Just leave me the fuck alone.”
“Listen to me Hayato,” Bianchi sighed, stood up and turned slowly towards the door, “You’re not the only collateral damage here. And if you’re not careful, you’ll lose him too.”
“I’m not even gonna pretend like I care,” he muttered.
“You don’t have to,” Bianchi said. “It’s written all over your face.”
Yamamoto was a no-show during breakfast. He didn’t show up during lunch and dinner either, and Gokudera tried to ignore the possibility of whatever was behind it. But ignoring it wasn’t really working, and by close to midnight, he felt as if he was fighting a losing battle. He stormed out of his room and slammed the door behind him to seek refuge somewhere that didn’t make him feel like blowing something up.
Only to find Yamamoto all bruised and wounded and fending for himself with the painkillers in the infirmary where Gokudera was looking for Shamal.
“It didn’t work, Gokudera,” Yamamoto said. “I thought it would. God, I’m so sorr—”
“Oh shut up,” he said and grasped Yamamoto’s sleeve. It was damp.
Yamamoto caught him and dug his fingers deep into the soft skin of Gokudera’s inner wrist. They made it to the dispensary bed at the corner of the room, trying to fit themselves onto the small space. Gokudera managed to yank his pants halfway down before Yamamoto pushed him on his back and wormed his finger inside of Gokudera’s hole, rough and needy, all the while staring down at him and Gokudera thought, maybe this was the only way out, from whatever emotional shitstorm it they were in, maybe. And when Yamamoto pushed his cock inside him, Gokudera’s legs were trembling and he clenched hard and jerked his hips upwards to meet with every of Yamamoto’s thrusts, picking up the speed, and he couldn’t stop trembling until they both came. And later, as Gokudera watched Yamamoto’s sleeping face and stared at the brand new scar on Yamamoto’s chin, he reminisced on the old days, and it occurred to him that Tenth wasn’t the only one they had lost.
"You know— I could’ve, damn. Things could probably get worse after this, you know that right? A lot worse, but I. I—" Gokudera searched for the words that weren’t even there, because he was never good at this at all. His hands limped by his sides and his eyes fixed square on the pastel-colored wall, making his vision temporary blinded by small dancing black dots.
Gokudera thought about the last exchange he had with Tsuna. You worry too much, Tsuna had said. It was the last time they had sat together without being surrounded with paperwork and blueprints, and Tsuna’s eyes wrinkled slightly when his smile had gone too wide. Gokudera couldn’t remember how it felt like not to be shadowed by guilt on his every waking moment (but okay, when was the last time he had slept?), wondered how it felt to be fourteen again; back then life was simpler, when there was no tripping on dead bodies, no blood on their hands and no real sense of fear. Fear of losing the only family he ever had. He wasn’t a fool; he had always known how the mafia worked but the reality back then had seemed too far away. And now the rest of them were the next targets and Gokudera feared of failing again, of disappointing Tsuna.
It should have been him, Gokudera thought with rage. It wasn’t fair how one moment could perpetually change the eternity, he’d take the bullet for Tsuna, he definitely would, but hey, life wasn’t about being fair. This wasn’t about want he wanted (and he kept reminding himself: this wasn’t about him, this wasn’t about him).
“Gokudera-kun,” Kyoko said. “Tsuna once said when you find a reason to be happy, hold on to it before life gets in the way”. She placed her hand light on Gokudera’s shoulder. It was a little awkward, “—he was right.”
“Don’t let life gets in the way,” Gokudera repeated, suddenly felt incredibly tired.
And they both settled into something like a maladroit-hug and it didn’t matter who was comforting whom. It was the first time Gokudera cried since.
Gokudera stepped out from the bathroom, grabbed his cigarette on the nightstand and sat at the edge of the bed, his face halfway facing the window without curtains.
“We need to talk, Gokudera.”
“Yes we do,” he said, taking a deep breath. “Okay.” He then lit a cigarette.
Once on summer break, they had sat of the highest bleacher; Gokudera had smoked one stick after another, holding a can of lukewarm cola on the other hand. It had been too hot, Tsuna had rolled up both of his sleeves, and sheepishly had said, “You should tell him,” then nodded towards the field below, where Yamamoto was hitting the baseball.
Gokudera spurted, almost dropping the can in his hand, “Tenth! What do you—”
“You face Gokudera-kun, it shows clearly.”
“No tenth, I don’t, I’d never—”
“Remember how you persuaded me into telling Kyoko?” Tsuna had laughed, and then patted Gokudera twice on the knee, “Listen, you—”
Yamamoto yelled something incomprehensible to them.
“Promise me you’d tell him someday.”
Gokudera rubbed his knuckles hard on the railing, “I promise, Tenth.”
They were eighteen then.