Disclaimer: KHR? Not mine, unfortunately.

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Do you remember Yamamoto?

When you let me in your team in P.E. class back when we were in middle school. I was nobody, but you - who had everything that I could ever ask for, accepted me. Even when I let our team lose you still came to help, shouldering half of the work I should have taken alone.

Do you still remember that time when you were about to jump off the rooftops? I was so scared and filled with guilt, because I foolishly told you things that held no meaning. I never sensed anything in your words back then – silly, thick-headed me. I never thought that you felt alone and conflicted. I was no-good but at least, I figured, I should be honest to someone who had treated me with such kindness.

One thing led to another and somehow I managed to save you – you who were smiling again and thanking me when I should be the one thanking you. I remember really feeling happy because somehow I ended up being friends with you.

And oh, how quickly time passed by.

In a peculiar twist of fate I ended up wielding a ring that commanded power in the underworld, taking you and everyone I held dear with me as companions. Many times I wished that this was all a dream – a long-lasting nightmare that I would soon wake up from. A foolish wish; that was all it was, and I always woke up to nothing but reality, urging me to just accept things already. But I cannot. I just can't.

Do you remember, Yamamoto?

It was the Storm who first fell.

I was so close to destroying everything – so desperate for escape. We offered vengeance for the loss of one – soaking our hands with the blood of our enemies to settle the score. But victory brought not an ounce of comfort, for the both of us. I remember you getting on your knees, begging me to take the barrel of the pistol out of my mouth. I tasted the traces of gunpowder on my tongue, and to me it was sweeter than anything I've ever tasted in my life. But you were in tears, whispering words that made the honey in my mouth taste like poison.

Please, Tsuna. Please… You're all that I've got.

I have seen you cry once in my life, and it was when your father had passed away. And now you were weeping more than I have ever seen you do as I dropped the pistol on the carpeted floor, and pulled you into my arms as I apologized, muttering a promise that I won't ever do that again.

Do you remember, Yamamoto?

They all started dropping like flies.

Not that I couldn't see it coming. But witnessing everything with my own eyes felt even more painful than seeing it in my dreams.

Little by little the spots in that hand-crafted case that housed the rings we once fought to possess got filled. Lightning came home after the Storm, two of them awaiting the rest of us to join them. I told you I couldn't wait for that moment. You told me we still got a long way to go.

And then there was betrayal; the great rebellion that cost me a ring, and countless of lives.

In a flash of chaos everything seemed like a blur – with fire dancing in front of my eyes I thought I was in hell, only to realize Mukuro had stood by his word of destroying everything, starting with us. And you were there, standing beside me as I held Chrome in my arms – beautiful, gentle Nagi, the illusionist who killed Rokudo Mukuro. I remember her smile – her pale lips letting out one last breath along with the words of love and gratitude, cold fingers twined into mine, that one mist ring caged between our palms.

Do you remember, Yamamoto?

I died that day.

My world had frozen still when the two, bright suns I used to circle around was gone. There was nothing to hold me down anymore – no gravity to keep me moving.

But you held on to me – you revolved around me; gave me back that force to keep on living.

Do you remember, Yamamoto?

The Cloud drifted away one day and never came back.

For a long, long time it has always been the three of us; not that Hibari-san lingered long enough to get comfortable and establish bonds as deep as friendship; but either way, we considered his presence, albeit distant, as company.

But now he was no more – even if we gained not one trace of his death. And when I told you I just knew it, you believed me and passed the liquor, just like before, when someone else that's in the family passed away.

And before I knew it we were laughing, telling jokes about our cranky Skylark, because liquor always reminded everyone of Hibari-san (since he couldn't drink two full glasses of wine without passing out) and that maybe he got drunk and passed out on the road and died –

And then our laughter faded away.

Somehow our conversation wandered toward those times when we were young and naïve: when Lambo would blast himself ten years into the future and Bianchi would chase him down with a plate of poison; when Reborn would shoot me with a dying will bullet and I would go running down the streets with nothing on but my boxers; when Gokudera-kun would get really noisy and unreasonably pissed and Hibari-san would chase us down the hallways; and, those few times when Dino-san dropped by and accidentally let Enzio lose and before we knew it the turtle had grown to the size of Godzilla.

And then you smiled when you told me you never regretted taking the half Vonogla ring with you when the Battle for it was set. You told me that it was better than getting a scholarship in a university; as good as getting the chance to play baseball for life.

I started crying.

Because I could never thank you enough for that smile. For those words. For that choice.

I could never tell you how much that smile helped my younger self to sleep at night, how much it brought me comfort and assurance. I could never tell you how heartbroken and equally grateful I was when I figured that most of them were not real, that you did so because you didn't want to add up to the tension we were all experiencing. I knew how lonely and conflicted you were, how messed up things were behind your cheerful disposition, and the least thing I could do was listen to you when you opened up in those few, rare times; support you in the name of friendship.

But I knew that wasn't enough. Everything that I could do for you would never be enough.

And even when five of us left, one turning his back to us – you were still there; still holding your sword, still vowing your name to me and still strong and deadly as ever.

Oh how I wish I could turn back time.

How I wish I could have been braver and decisive back then, so that I could have refused the offer of the being the heir. I wish I could have spared you from all of this, because in the end all this suffering is because of me. I wish I could have given you a better choice, so that right now you would be holding a bat instead of a sword. The baseball field is where you belonged – where you should be wearing that familiar uniform smudged with dirt as you move in for the homerun, and not in the battlefield where your crisp suit is tainted with the blood of the people who dared to oppose the Vongola.

"I am so, so sorry, Yamamoto."

And then you smiled again. It was one of your true smiles.

"There's no need to be."

There was understanding in your voice, and to me it was salvation.

Do you remember, Takeshi?

That one time we got to see the fireworks again.

"Hey Tsuna,"

On your lips were the slightest traces of that smile that made everyone else at ease.

"Yeah?"

"…Thank you."

Back then I never knew why I felt like crying when you said those simple words to me.

I understand now.

Thank you.

==Fin==

Happy Birthday, Yamamoto Takeshi.

-Lulu