Hayato sat at the grand piano in the music room of his family's large estate, brow furrowed in concentration as he practiced playing the piece he had chosen for his first-ever public recital at one of his father's extravagant dinner parties. He had been told, time and again, that he was allowed to use the sheet music during his performance, but his stubborn nature wouldn't allow it. Either he would play the piece from memory or not at all.
One of his small fingers slipped and hit the wrong key, causing a stray note to sound in the middle of his performance, and Hayato grimaced at the unpleasant sound. He continued to persevere, however, recovering almost immediately from his slip-up and completing the rest of the song flawlessly.
Closing his eyes, he let out a weary sigh and placed his hands in his lap, thoroughly displeased at his own incompetence. He always managed to mess up at that one part. His hands were simply too small to make the transition between the proper keys. Perhaps he should have chosen a less complicated piece, but he knew it was one of his father's favorites and he wanted to make the old man proud on his big day.
The sound of someone clapping brought Hayato suddenly out of his thoughts. His eyes snapped open and he turned on the bench to see who had dared to walk into the middle of his private sanctuary during this crucial practice session. Before him stood a girl about his age, wearing a frilly blue dress. Her long black hair had been pulled into pigtails which were secured with matching ribbons, the ends styled into tight ringlets which framed either side of her face. Eyes the same startling shade of ice blue blinked rapidly as she stared back at him, her hands stilling immediately once he set his glare upon her.
"Who are you, and what are you doing in here?" Hayato demanded, his green eyes narrowing slightly at the intruder.
"I-I'm sorry," the girl apologized, her voice small and quiet as she clutched at the ruffled skirt of her dress. "I heard the music and it was just so pretty I wanted to see where it was coming from."
"I've never seen you around here before," Hayato remarked. He had been comparing the girl before him to the children of the servants and his father's men in the back of his mind, but none of their faces matched hers.
"I'm visiting with my Uncle Antonio," the girl told him, taking a cautious step toward him. "We're here for the party, but he had business with the master of the house so we came early."
"Antonio Macchiarolo is your uncle?" he asked, eying her a bit less suspiciously as she continued to move closer to the piano. He recalled his father mentioning that the man would be coming to discuss some sort of merger between their families, though he had no idea exactly what sort of deal would be taking place.
"Yes," she replied with a nod, causing the large curls of her hair to bounce like springs.
"What's your name?" Hayato asked her once she came to stand directly beside the bench he was seated upon.
"Gianna," the girl replied with a smile. Hayato blinked a few times, feeling his cheeks heat up when he saw her smiling at him, and he promptly turned his attention back to the black and white keys of the piano.
"Nice to meet you," he muttered, attempting to hide his embarrassment. "I'm Hayato, the Boss' son."
Gianna continued to smile at him and he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye briefly before staring once more at the piano.
"Will you play me another song, Hayato?" she asked hopefully, and he turned his head fully to look at her once more. No one had ever asked him to play for them before. No one except that woman who used to come to visit him when he was younger. Sure, his father had requested he play at the party but he merely wanted entertainment for his guests, not a private exhibition.
"I... Sure," Hayato replied after a moment, the blush returning to his cheeks. Gianna giggled happily as she climbed up onto the piano bench to sit next to him, and he looked at her nervously for a moment before he began to play another song he knew by heart – one which that mysterious woman had taught him long ago.
From the doorway of the music room, Hayato's father quietly watched the unfolding scene with another man about his age. The two of them exchanged a look before wordlessly turning away, closing the door silently behind them so as not to disturb the children.
"It appears we have much to discuss, Antonio," the master of the house said, turning to his old friend with a smile.
"It would seem so," Antonio Macchiarolo agreed with a hearty chuckle, and the two of them retreated to the parlor to discuss the future of their children over brandy and cigars.
Eight Years Later...
A black car pulled up to the front gate of Namimori Middle School, its tinted windows concealing the passengers within from the students who were filing into the school. Inside the car were three people, along with the driver, who sat in silence as they watched the students who were milling about.
"Are you sure about this?" asked the younger of the two men seated in the back of the car. He reached out a hand and placed it upon the small, slender hand of the girl sitting next to him. She turned her head and looked at him, giving him an unsure smile.
"There's not really any turning back now, is there?" she asked in reply. "I did run away from home, after all."
"I don't know why," the young man said with a small chuckle. "I'm sure your uncle would have gladly arranged for you to come out here to see him."
"I highly doubt that," the girl replied with a shake of her head, turning her gaze out the window once more. "He's heard about what's been happening here, lately. He'd probably be too afraid I'd get hurt."
"He's not the only one," the young man remarked. The girl turned to look at him, smiling.
"I'll be fine, Dino," she assured him, giving his hand a squeeze.
Dino Cavallone, the tenth generation boss of the Cavallone Famiglia, returned her smile with one of his own as he tightened his grip on her hand.
"Besides," she added, looking over at the older man seated across from them in the back of the car, "Uncle Romario gave me his blessing by coming along with us."
"I am not your legal guardian, though, Gianna," Dino's right-hand man pointed out to her. "Antonio would be greatly incensed if he found out I had any hand in helping you leave home."
"Papa Tony only got full custody of me because of my mother's will," Gianna pointed out to him. "You have as much right to be a part of my life and my upbringing as he does."
"There he is," Dino interrupted their conversation, pointing across her line of vision. Ice blue eyes followed along his finger and lit up with recognition as they fell upon the figure of the silver-haired teenager walking to school with his friends.
"Hayato," she said his name under her breath, a smile spreading across her lips as she instinctively brought a hand up to her heart. Her other hand reached for the door handle, but Dino grabbed her shoulder and stopped her.
"Where are you going?" he asked her, brown eyes narrowed slightly.
"I'm going to talk to Hayato," she told him, her tone suggesting it should have been obvious what she had in mind.
"That wasn't the deal, Gianna," Dino argued, shaking his head slightly. "I agreed to fly you out here so you could see that he was alright. You've seen him, now it's time to go home."
"No," Gianna stated firmly, her grip on the door handle tightening. "I want to stay here with him."
"It's too dangerous, you know that," Dino reminded her, his voice taking on a softer tone, his concern for her well-being showing in his eyes.
"I'll be careful, I promise," Gianna assured him. "Please, Dino..."
Dino looked at her pleading eyes and felt himself beginning to cave. She'd always been a part of his life, from the day she was born, and ever since her parents had been killed he felt especially protective of her. She was as much a member of his Family as one of his men, and he did his best to look out for her the way he looked out for them. He knew that the incident with Mukuro Rokudo was likely to be just the first of many dangerous situations Tsuna and his Family would get themselves involved in, and the protective older-brother side of him wanted to keep her as far away from that as he possibly could. However, the side of him which wanted to do everything he could to make her smile was easily starting to win out in this argument.
"You promise you'll stay out of any fights he's involved in?" he asked her a bit begrudgingly.
"Of course," she told him, nodding slightly.
"If you get involved at all, Gianna," he told her sternly, "or the first time you get hurt in any way, I'm taking you back to Italy."
"Thank you, Dino!" Gianna exclaimed, letting go of the door handle in order to throw her arms around his neck. She hugged him tightly, and Dino laughed quietly and wrapped his own arms around her, reaching up with one hand to gently stroke her dark hair. He let his eyes fall closed as he continued to embrace her, a content smile gracing his lips. She was happy, and for that he was glad.
"Boss?" Romario said from his seat, clearing his throat a bit to get their attention. "We really should be heading back."
Dino sighed and released Gianna, placing his hands on her shoulders and holding her at arm's length as he looked at her.
"I expect you to call me every day to let me know how you're doing out here," he told her. "And don't worry about your Uncle Antonio. I'll take full responsibility for you leaving when I get back home."
"Okay," Gianna said, nodding. She leaned forward and gave him a quick kiss on his cheek, then smiled and opened the car door.
"Thanks again, Dino!" she called as she stepped out of the vehicle and closed the door behind her.
Dino watched her as she walked through the gates and made her way into the school, a small sigh escaping his lips. Romario watched him silently, choosing not to say anything despite his own reservations about leaving Gianna behind. He knew the tenth Vongla boss and his guardians would be able to protect her, but he was worried for the same reason Dino was: There was a serious threat that someone would find out about Gianna's lineage and try to exploit it if they left her here, where they wouldn't be able to protect her.
"Are you sure about this, Boss?" Romario asked, studying the young mafioso.
"Yeah," Dino replied, a wistful tone to his voice as he continued staring out the window after her. "Gokudera can take care of her."
"So can you," Romario pointed out rather knowingly.
Dino turned his head and looked at him for a moment, eyes a bit wide, then he smiled ruefully as he closed his eyes and let out another sigh. He should have known his right-hand man would be able to see through the facade and tell just how much he truly cared for Gianna. It was hopeless, though. She was far too much younger than him, and her heart already belonged to someone else. So he was content to remain in his 'big brother' role, just as long as he got to see her smile.
"Let's go," he called to the driver up front, opening his eyes in time to watch the school disappear from his view as the car pulled back out onto the road.
You had better keep her safe, Gokudera, he thought in the back of his mind. Or I will never forgive you.