Actions

Work Header

And All the Heroes Die

Chapter Text

“I shall die here. Every last inch of me shall perish. Every inch, but one. An inch; it is small and it is fragile, but it is the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it or give it away. We must never let them take it from us.” – Valerie, V for Vendetta.

Recently this particular quote has been turning around and around in the head of one Vanessa Smith (AKA Nessa). You see, she is dying. She’s been dying for a very long time now, yet no one seems to notice.

Her death is not a normal death, like that seen in the movies. There is no melancholic piano in the background. No one is crying. No one is screaming her name in heart-wrenching agony. Family, friends, lovers, there are none who would weep for her. The thing is… Nessa is dying a death that’s not even acknowledged.

It's like a slow disease; it takes over your mind piece by piece, until your life becomes nothing more than a dull, consistent routine. You cannot even think anymore, because what is there to think about? It’s always the same… always the white walls, white bed, white clothes, pale faces of the patients, the white uniforms of the nurses, the white hair on the doctor’s head… A white world, void of all feeling…

When you’re an insane criminal, your life is worth nothing more than a few measly words inscribed on a piece of paper… Yet they just don't understand that she is not a criminal! She's isn't insane either; she just likes fire.

Is that really so wrong? Apparently so, according to the doctors and specialists... Damn them and their fucking opinions…

Now, in this white hell she’s now trapped in, she’s dying and trying so hard not to think anymore. Yet she still remembers… She remembers those flames; those beautiful, beautiful flames that swallowed up her house along with her father! (Alcoholism is a terrible habit, especially if your daughter happens to be a pyromaniac and despises every fibre of your being...)

But lately, she remembers Valerie… and she remembers the inch of herself she must never give up no matter what.

V for Vendetta had always been one of Nessa’s favourite movies. But it was Valerie’s Letter that left the biggest impact on her. Truthfully she never really understood the meaning of her words. Yet somehow, in some way, she felt these words held great meaning for her now. And even though she doesn’t really know what that last inch is, she vowed never to let it go.

And so she tries to hold on a little longer. But she’s been dying for such a long time now, and it’s just so hard to try…

Time is a funny thing. It seems to move slowly when you want it to speed up, but it seems to go too fast when you want it to slow down. Yet in reality it is always consistent…

For Nessa, however, time holds no meaning. It's not day, month, year, birthday, Halloween, Christmas… it's fast forward, fast forward, fast fucking forward. Always going to be the white white white, the nurse’s needles, if not the needles then the drugs, the silence, the bland food, the patient’s blank faces, and doctors with their goddamn pity. It never ends. Always the same thing over and over and over…

Her mind is breaking. Piece by piece, it fades away into the white nothingness. Day by day, she feels herself slip further away. Inch by Inch, her hope dies.

But she can’t let that last inch go… can’t let it get taken away…

Especially now when she feels she almost understands it. It is only a few hours each day that she can spend alone in the library, but it is the only time she can escape her prison, the only place she can feel human again. All she does is sit by herself in the corner and read manga (which would once have been considered beneath her intellectual standards).

Nessa would get lost for hours on end in these fantastical illogical worlds. It gives her a moment to dream of something better. But then the moment ends and she has to wake up. Back to the white walls, pale faces, tasteless food, drugs and needles, blank faced nurses, useless doctors, the whitewhitewhitewhite… And it’s fast forward, fast forward, fast forward again…

...............................................

The door was open.

A blizzard rages outside, it blocks all the roads, forces all nurses to linger near the heaters, keeps the patients in their rooms, the doctors in their offices, and the windows to be blocked and shuttered down. But the back door to the garden was open… and no one was around.

Vanessa stood clinging to the doorframe (no one realises she’s left the library). It was snowing. The world has become white. So white, so blindingly white that Nessa cannot bear to look. She turns her nose up to the sky and keeps her eyes trained on the dark grey clouds. She shivers; it feels so cold. It feels good to feel again…

Slowly, carefully, she lowers her gaze back down to the snowy landscape. It’s a bit bearable now. Her hands cautiously leave the doorframe. She lets go. She steps out from her prison, and lets go of everything holding her back.

Step by step, she ventures out into the white world (which isn’t that different from the sterile walls of the Asylum, if not for the feeling of free will). The wind tosses her around as she walks, pushing and pulling her every which way. But still she keeps on going.

Inch by inch, she moves further and further away from the white walls, the nurses, the needles, and the useless doctors. She looks down at her white gown and pasty skin and thinks about how it blends in with the pure white snow around her. She wonders if anyone can see a young girl, who is not as much dying as already dead, wandering through the blizzard. She thinks not.

If she doesn’t make it through the blizzard, then she will die. The thought doesn’t bother her at all.

She grows tired. She decides to rest for a while and scurries under a nearby tree.

Time passes; fast forward, fast forward, hurry up, fast forward. She wonders how long it’s been. Hours perhaps; it’s gotten quite dark now… It’s cold. So cold. Nessa is freezing. She’s freezing and she’s dying. Only this time it’s literally…

She's dying because she ventured from her hell. But she feels that, maybe, she managed to hold onto it; her very last inch, her free will. Her vision is turning black at the edges, and it's funny but she feels sort of safe, sort of relieved, and sort of sad.

And so Vanessa Smith falls asleep watching the world freeze along with her, never wake again. She was sixteen years old. But she died long ago so it doesn't matter anymore...

 


 

*Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee—*

Vanessa didn’t really know what to expect when she died. Maybe there really would be a God-like being to greet her on the other side. Part of her thought there’d be a dark tunnel with a bright light at the end, to which she would be greeted with fluffy white clouds, naked winged babies dancing and singing around her.

And as ridiculous as that thought was, this right here was by far the funniest shit ever… God or whoever must be laughing his holy ass off right now.

Here she was, staring up at a freaking white ceiling of all things, with this terrible buzzing noise in her head. She wants to scream in frustration, but she can’t move; she’s not even able to clench the sterile white sheets beneath her hands. Of course she can’t, she’s dead. Again…

Rather, she’s a living soul inside a dead body; a body that probably isn’t her own. Fuck. Does this make her a zombie now?

*—Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee—*

Goddammit, that noise was fucking annoying. Someone shut off that damn thing off already!

Aside from that irritating background noise, she could also hear a female voice crying and wailing curses (and a few death threats) at some unfortunate man. The woman was most likely trying to strangle the man in the process.

“Sawada-san, he’s gone. There’s nothing more we can do.”

“No, no, no, no, NO! My son isn’t gone! He can’t die! He can’t… He… he’s all I have!”

“Ma-am please, I’ll have to get the police to detain you if—”

“Shut up! Why aren’t you saving him? HURRY UP AND SAVE MY SON!”

“Officer—”

“I can’t lose him! I can’t! Not now… not after—”

“Sawada-san, I’m afraid you’ll have to come with me now.”

“This doctor is full of shit! Go die you bastard—”

“Sawada-san! You’re still a suspect! Now come with me.”

“NO! I can’t leave my baby! Let me see him, let me see my son!”

*—Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee—*

Nessa could still hear them struggling down the corridor, the woman crying hysterically all the while. A small part of her felt pity for the woman, but she was pretty heartless and honestly couldn’t care less about other people’s problems. So mostly, she was glad the disturbance finally left.

Now if only that irritating noise would just stop.

Damn it all, just let her sleep already… She was so tired, so very tired. Would it be so bad to just fade away into the blackness?

It wasn’t fair. She’d already died once, why should she have to go through this shit again? She honestly didn’t think she deserved kind of bullshit, thank you very much.

*—Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.*

It’s funny… After everything that’s happened, Vanessa found herself regretting. She regretted burning down her house. She regretted letting herself get imprisoned in the Asylum. She regretted never truly figuring out what her last inch was.

But the thing she regretted most of all was dying.

No. I don’t want this.

*Beeeeeeeeeep. Beep. Beep.*

“D-doctor come quickly!”

“What the—! How can this be?”

Fuck this bullshit. I’m not going to die!

“Impossible! It’s simply impossible!”

“Begin operating! Now!”

*Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.*

Ah, I want to see it again…

“Holy—”

*Beep. Beeeeeep.*

Those beautiful…

“Doctor?”

“I-I just thought… no, it’s nothing.”

…Flames.

*Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep…*

Chapter Text

Several days had passed since Vanessa’s apparent reincarnation, and frankly she was quite disturbed.

If dying wasn’t disturbing enough, waking up in a stranger’s body was a whole lot worse. Yep, she definitely wasn’t Nessa anymore; now she’s an eight-year-old child by the name of Sawada Tsunayoshi. And little Tsunayoshi’s parent’s names happen to be Sawada Nana and Sawada Iemitsu… All of which were characters from one of her favourite anime/manga Katekyo Hitman Reborn.

At first she refused to believe it. It was all either a dream or some omniscient bastard was playing a bad prank on her.

But one can only stay in denial for so long, particularly given how blaringly realistic everything was… Besides, the fact she was now in an anime world wasn’t even the most disturbing thing about all this…

As she had suspected, Sawada Tsunayoshi turned out to be one hundred percent male. Nessa on the other hand, was one hundred percent female. So now her soul was stuck in a body of the opposite gender. Isn’t that just freaking hilarious? Who would have thought, right? Right? Ahahahaha!

No.

Just no.

This was so fucking wrong.

Hell, Nessa didn’t even know if she was still technically a “she” or a “he” now…

The simple act of going to the bathroom was now one of the most awkward experiences of her/his life (both of them). (S)He started laughing hysterically the first time (s)he went to the toilet, which earned her the attention of a rather nosy nurse. Said nurse now throws her/him odd looks every now and then.

This also begged the question as to whether or not it would be considered homosexual if (s)he dated a girl… or a guy for that matter… Fuck, it was all too damn confusing…

It’s virtually impossible to think clearly with all this shit suddenly happening to her!

It might have been a little easier to organise her/his thoughts if the bloody nurses weren’t jabbing his (her) arm with needles every few hours, “You need rest” they’d say. Fuck them; figuring out what the hell’s going on around here is far more important than getting rest in the form of drug-induced comas! Goddamn nurses. No matter where you go they’re all the same…

Nessa was seriously getting fucking sick of hospitals; mental or otherwise…

.............................................................

Nessa always believed that knowledge is power. Hence why she hates not knowing what’s going on around her. She just won’t be able to settle down until she finds every little piece of the puzzle and wraps up every loose end.

It’s rather embarrassing to admit that it took her several days before she realised she was in Japan and, therefore, everyone was speaking Japanese.

Why did it take her so long? Well, aside from the fact she still hasn’t gotten over her “reincarnation”, she could perfectly understand what everyone was saying as if they were speaking to her in English.

Strange is it not?

Really, she only realised it wasn’t English when she was sneaking a peak at Tsuna’s medical charts, only to find she could only read about half of it, whereas the rest merely looked like a bunch of scribbles she vaguely recognised as being kanji. Naturally, that got the gears in her head turning as she tried to solve this highly unusual conundrum.

At first she contemplated simply filing it under “anime logic” (in which the laws of nature and common sense are completely ignored). But then she had to wonder why she could understand some kanji but not others…

After mulling it over for a time she remembered something else she’s read in another manga… something along the lines of there being memories of the heart/soul and memories of the body. As weird as it might sound, she was technically using Tsunayoshi’s brain (God, that’s a creepy thought) and, therefore, would have access to his knowledge of the language and such…

Given Tsunayoshi’s age and the fact he was known for being “dame”, it makes sense that he would have difficulty remembering the more complicated kanji; hence why Nessa couldn’t understand some of them.

She supposed it was kinda like how an amnesiac person can remember general information about the world, but not anything about themselves or the people that’ve met.

Her theory also fit in together with “anime logic”, thus she felt quite pleased with the resulting solution. It felt so good to finally have one mystery solved. She felt somewhat accomplished with the small amount of progress she’d made. Now, she just had to work out the answers to the remaining conundrums and she’d be golden.

Which then leads her to the question of why she (or rather he) was currently stuck in this freaking hospital room?

She couldn’t recall anything from the manga or anime that said Tsuna had been hospitalised when he was younger… And then there was the healing wound on his stomach that seemed like it had been made by a bullet… Though the wound itself had already closed and was healing nicely, it still left her feeling stiff and sore. There would definitely be a scar too…

So, what did this do to the plotline?

Heck, what about her? Surely simply her being here would royally screwed things up, right?

And what the hell happened to the real Sawada Tsunayoshi?

She could only guess at that… and her guess was that he had already moved on… Just like she should have instead of ending up here…

And while she’s on the subject, where the heck is Nana? She had half expected to see the air-headed women dozing in a chair next to the bed, refusing to leave her son’s side. Yet she was nowhere to be seen… and that was odd. From her understanding of Nana’s character, she was the type to worry herself sick over her child’s health…

So where was she?

Out of obligation (and also out of curiosity), she was inclined to ask the nurses where Tsuna’s mama was. (Isn’t it funny how in Japan no one questions it when a child refers to his or her self in third person?)

No matter which nurse was asked the reaction was basically the same…

They’d clam up, shift around uncomfortably, and pitifully attempt to change the subject. One happened to have a newspaper in her hand, which she then proceeded to try and hide behind her back. (Could you be any more obvious? Do these idiots seriously think they can lie so blatantly to her/him just because he/she’s a kid? That’s an insult to her/his intelligence.)

.........................................................

A woman came to see Tsunayoshi; her strong mixed floral perfume made his-her-his-her-his-her-fuck-his nose itch. She reached out and took hold of his/her hands in a comforting manner and spoke in tender, careful tone, as if she were afraid a single word out of place would break the child in front of her.

Nessa stared down indignantly at the large warm hands for a time, before silently shaking them off and hiding her (his) own beneath the sheets. She kept her tone flat, answering only in monosyllables, or simply ignoring the women altogether.

Nessa disliked the sound of Tsuna’s voice. The young, high pitched, yet undoubtedly boyish tone just sounded so foreign. The words were surely hers but the voice was not… It was but another reminder of how she didn’t belong here…

Still, the irksome woman would not be deterred and continued gently pressing Tsunayoshi (Vanessa) to answer. Just as she was contemplating on whether or not to toss her untouched lunch in the woman’s heavily made up face, she was asked if he remembered what had occurred that day.

She opened his mouth only close it again with an audible click; pausing to consider the question again.

The cogs in his head begin turning as she begins to connect the constant presence of the police lurking the hallway, all the times when they’d pointlessly try to question him while in her semi-comatose state, the whispering of the nurses, the stares of pity and remote fear, the way they’d quickly change the channel whenever the news came on… Not that it mattered as (s)he had already seen the major news headline…

“Murder in Namimori.”

A picture formed in her mind as the pieces fell into place; and he didn’t like what she was seeing…

An “incident” had occurred in which resulted in Sawada Tsunayoshi’s hospitalisation and the death of a young male yakuza…

Sawada Nana is the prime suspect.

For a moment Nessa is conflicted... Part of her wants to curl up under the covers and ponder over why everything is so different from the manga. Another larger, more sensible part wonders how to deal with the woman currently tapping her pen lightly on her notepad as she waits for Tsunayoshi to answer.

This woman is with the police, most likely a psychotherapist. Her mind supplies helpfully. She understands; she’s been through this kind of bullshit before. The woman is trying to get evidence on the case from Tsunayoshi. She hopes to find something from him to prove whether Nana is guilty or innocent. (The verdict apparently lay with Tsuna.)

Now then, what shall she do?

She could lie; claim the mother she holds no connections to is innocent. They may believe him, but there’s no telling if her story would match Nana’s.

She could feign ignorance, perhaps claim amnesia, and leave Nana’s fate up to chance. The trauma from his injuries would be more than enough of an excuse.

Or, she could simply remain silent and let the therapist make her own conclusions; that he is a child far too afraid of telling the truth because of the punishment that may await him. (Foolish women, you honestly think I can’t see that suspicious gleam in your eyes? That giddy smirk on your face whenever you scrawl down something you think you can use? I can see exactly what you’re thinking bitch.)

“I don’t remember.” Nessa decides at last, speaking in a small voice, “I don’t know if I’m Tsuna or if she’s my mother… Everything’s just so messed up! I can’t even tell what’s real and what’s not anymore…”

The vulnerable, broken tone of his voice surprised even Nessa. She had not meant to say all that, but it just came pouring out like water from a broken tap. She pursed his lips tightly shut, lest anything else should slip past her guard (namely the hot, salty droplets forming in the corners of her eyes).

“Oh, Tsunayoshi.” The therapist coos sympathetically and holds him (her) closely. She doesn’t move, merely staring blankly at the pulse running through the veins on the woman’s neck.

Briefly, the notion of strangling the bitch then and there flits through his/her mind.

............................................................

It was not even a day later when another woman came to see Tsunayoshi; this time it’s an attorney, an Italian one in fact. (Nessa assumed she was hired by Tsuna’s father.) She had a confident stance, wore a creaseless, fashionable dress-suit, and her pretty dark red hair was clipped neatly back in a bun.

Her gaze was cold and lacked any form of false sympathy. She merely sat down, crossed her legs elegantly, and began questioning him/her in a professional manner. She was blunt and straight to the point, lacking the usual idle chatter or comforting words (s)he had come to expect from all adults.

Nessa decides she likes her.

She did not waste her breath trying to explain things in a roundabout, sugar-coated way for the sake of the child in front of her. She spoke to Tsuna on an equal plain, from one human being to another. Because in the dark world she was no doubt apart of, simply being a child is no excuse for ignorance…

It’s clear this woman has done this hundreds of times before, for fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, lovers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, and for children far younger and more fragile than Tsunayoshi or Vanessa. The experience and grim honesty in her clear eyes was almost comforting.

Naturally, the time comes for Tsunayoshi to present what (s)he knows about Nana and the case.

At this point, Nessa had to assume everything she knew about Nana from the manga was false, and thus went with her previous story; she knew nothing of what happened on that fateful day nor could she recall much about her “mother”. But she still felt somewhat obligated to at least attempt to defend Tsuna’s mama.

So she made a point of mentioning that from what he could recall, Nana did not strike her as the type of person who was capable of harming a living creature, intentional or otherwise (though, not in those exact words for obvious reasons).

His/her opinion was noted and (s)he was then given instructions to follow over the next few weeks. People would be coming to question him over the next few weeks, and no matter what is said to her, he just has to stick with her story. Since they cannot legally interrogate a child, they will be forced to give up eventually and she will be left alone.

Nessa simply nods as it had been her intention from the start.

Then the Italian woman saw fit to present him/her with a summarised version of the events that occurred that day. To which, Nessa was grateful to finally have some answers.

Nana and Tsunayoshi had been walking home quite late in the afternoon and had taken a shortcut through a quiet alley. It was there that they were assaulted by three unsavoury characters threatening Nana to hand over her son. Said assailants have been identified as low ranking yakuza members of an organisation widely known for its illegal drug network and for human trafficking.

Two shots were fired; the first was aimed at the mother who refused to comply with their demands, but it was intercepted by the small child in her arms. The second shot was fired during the resulting struggle between Nana and the armed man, ending in the man’s death. At this point Nana’s finger had yet to touch the trigger.Naturally, people were drawn to the scene by the noise and the remaining two men made to flee with the bleeding child.

It was then that Nana picked up the gun and fired blindly at the men, and the two were forced to abandon their endeavours and fled empty handed. Shortly thereafter the emergency services arrived and the rest is history.

It was a sound story and made sense as to why a civilian women with a spotless record would suddenly become a suspect for murder. It was only natural to see her as the victim not the villain in this case.

Whether or not the story was true would be a question for another day…

.......................................................

Night had fallen. The Children’s Ward was silent as the last of the energetic youths were tucked in and the lights all switched off. But in the dark private room belonging to one Sawada Tsunayoshi, there was movement…

Tsuna (or rather, Nessa) was still wide awake, slowly, carefully pacing around the room. She flexed his fingers and toes one by one, stretched and tested every little muscle of his body, felt every little movement and analysed it all carefully. She found this body was not as weak as everyone made it out to be.

“Sawada Tsunayoshi. Tsunayoshi… Tsu-kun… Tsuna…” She murmurs quietly, testing the name on his tongue. Tsunayoshi… it was a good name, a nice name, she quite liked it. “Tsuna.” She repeats the name a little louder, a little more confidently.

The sound of his voice is not so bad after all. Not so bad…

She catches the sight of his reflection in the window, clearer now in the darkness than during the day. Until now she had been avoiding his reflection, not wanting to see the face that was not her own reflecting back at her. But this time she stepped forward, staring at the face reflected back at her in mute contemplation.

Fluffy sienna brown hair, chubby childish face, pale-ish skin, small, scrawny body, Tsuna looked pretty much the way she remembered him from the manga… if not for his eyes…

They were not the wide, doe-like, chocolate brown eyes she was used to; they were a golden-orange and slightly more narrowed. They weren’t quite as sharp edged as they would be Hyper Dying Will mode, but not nearly as round as they were normally. It was like his eyes were somewhere between Hyper Mode and normal mode (or something like that).

Nessa briefly pondered if they were always like this, or if it had something to do with her being here. She supposed it didn’t matter, they were quite pretty eyes after all.

“Tsunayoshi.” She repeats again offering his (her) reflection a small smile. It’s not so bad. She thinks. It’s not bad at all…

She closes her eyes, bows her head slightly and bids one final goodbye to Vanessa Smith.

Vanessa died on that cold snowy day. And now it was Sawada Tsunayoshi’s turn to live.

She raises her chin proudly and opens her blazing golden eyes, “I am Sawada Tsunayoshi.” She announces firmly, proudly, resolutely…

Her breath leaves her lungs at the sight of the bright orange flames that suddenly burst to life in her hands. She raises her hands, admiring the way the flames dance over her palms and up her arms. It feels warm, comforting, and safe.

Her broad smirk and fit of maniacal giggles, did not suit that sweet childish face… or maybe it did, it was her face now… and the face of a future Mafia Don.

Screw the plot.

This was her story now.

Chapter Text

Tsunayoshi was discharged from hospital by the end of the month. At the same time, Sawada Nana was released as Not Guilty on the assumption of self-defence. The Italian attorney did her job thoroughly well, thus no one questioned the decision of the courts.

Of course, being backed by a powerful mafia organisation would help quite a bit. No doubt strings were pulled, bribes were made, witnesses weren’t entirely honest and as for the two remaining yakuza… well, their bodies will probably never be found. The Vongola were too smart, too thorough, to leave any trace of their involvement.

Things had changed in the hospital too during the last couple of weeks. What had previously been break-room gossip and idle chatter turned into hushed whispers behind closed doors. The doctors and nurses no longer met Tsuna’s eyes and their visits were brief and strictly professional. The major news channels and newspapers suddenly found more interesting stories to cover than the murder case and the impending trail.

All in all, Tsuna was couldn’t help but admire how swiftly and quietly the Vongola dealt with the situation.

But anyways, back to the topic at hand… Tsuna had finally been allowed to leave the damn hospital! Yes, she was finally free! (She not he, because it was hard enough adjusting to a world you previously thought was fictional, in a scrawny body half your age that lacks any female genitalia. Just because she was Sawada Tsunayoshi now, doesn’t mean she was suddenly going to become completely male overnight…

Besides, she wasn’t the real Tsunayoshi anyways…)

It felt good to finally be able to wear something other than a fucking hospital gown. Even though it appeared that most of the clothes Tsuna owned were brightly coloured with very childish designs… Personally she preferred darker colours, but she supposed her wardrobe could be adjusted at a later date, and made do with what she had.

The nurses that came to collect Tsuna looked relieved at the thought of not having to deal with her anymore. Frankly, the feeling was mutual. She never wanted to set foot into another goddamn hospital again… Even though she knew she’s have to come back for check-ups every few months…

If the bastard that put a hole in her stomach wasn’t already dead she’d be hunting him down herself to make him pay for putting her through this shit!

Still, now was not the time for such morbid thoughts. She had to prepare herself to meet her mother (at last).Tsuna wasn’t sure how she should act around Nana at this stage. By the time they reached the entrance, the only conclusion she could come up with was to simply use amnesia as an excuse for any differences between herself and Real Tsuna.

All thoughts flew out of her head the moment Nana came flying over to her, crying her name out joyously.

Next thing she knew, her small frame was being scooped up in a tight embrace, a hand running comfortingly through her hair, and a voice (hoarse and tear-filled) whispering soothingly into her ear.

Tsuna just froze, unable to comprehend this public show of affection from Nana. In her previous life, she hadn’t had a good relationship with her mother and thus simply didn’t know how to react. So she just numbly wrapped her arms around Nana’s neck and hoped it didn’t look like she was trying to strangle her…

Nana… er, her mother, just babbled on and on, “We’re okay. We’ll be okay now. Oh, my baby. My sweet little Tsuna. I missed you so much. Mama’s here now. It’s okay. It’s okay…” And Tsuna honestly couldn’t tell who she was trying to reassure…

…………………………………

Tsuna spent her first week in her new home aimlessly wandering around the house, comparing it to the one from the anime. It pretty much had the same general layout as she recalled, but she never paid much attention to that kind of thing anyways.

When she grew bored of that, she had taken the time to think over her predicament some more. Mostly she tried to comprehend her newfound masculinity (attempting to refer to herself as “he” had felt weird and just gave her a headache… perhaps it’ll be easier when she’s older and more accustomed to this body).

She’d also spent some time cooped up in her own room, trying to see if she could reproduce those flames once more (obviously they were Dying Will flames). It was a lot harder than she first thought, even when she pulled together all her knowledge on Dying Will from the manga and anime. At most she could only produce a tiny, weak flame that blew out within seconds.

“Tsu-kun, wake up.” Nana (mother) called, opening the door without knocking.

Surprised, Tsuna jolted upright, shifting her blank stare from the ceiling to her mother’s shadowy figure in the doorway. Puffy bloodshot eyes returned her gaze, along with a nervous ghost smile painting her pale face.

Now, Tsuna may not have been so surprised by her mother’s presence that morning if not for the fact that Nana had pretty much stayed locked up in her room this past week, crying her eyes out. As to be expected with everything that’s happened these past few months. Seeing her here, not crying in her room, and even trying to smile was odd to say the least.

Nana’s attempted smile faltered and she took a deep breath, “I-I think it’s time you went back to school.” She stated, no longer meeting her eyes.

Tsuna merely blinked. “Oh. Okay then.”

Nana opened her mouth then snapped it shut again, blinking repeatedly at Tsuna as if she expected an entirely different answer. “Right.” The word came out slowly and unsurely. “Can you get yourself ready?”

Tsuna gave a single mute nod.

“Right.” She repeated and lingered awkwardly in the doorway, occasionally fiddling with her hands. “Okay.” And with that she left the room a little too quickly, shutting the door a little too loudly.

Tsuna stared vacantly at the door for a few moments longer before sliding out of bed. School, huh? Well, perhaps it’ll be a bit more entertaining than just being stuck at home all day.

Sighing, she sifted through her closet in search of anything that resembled a uniform. She located it easily enough, slipped it on and headed out.

She paused in front of the bathroom, all but glaring at door as if it had done her a personal offence (the bathroom had very quickly become her most hated room in the entire house). Clicking her tongue she stepped inside, combed her fluffy bed hair til it look reasonably neater, and washed her face.

Idly, she wondered if Nana had noticed the way her son would now yell something or sing horribly off tune in an attempt to drown out the sound of water whenever he went to the bathroom.

Shrugging the thought off, Tsuna made her way down stairs somewhat giddy at the prospect of a warm breakfast. She could only make so many different types sandwiches with what was available in the cupboards (and, right now, she didn’t trust herself with the stove or microwave). Her tastebuds were already demanding for a change in diet…

Half way down the stairs she tripped and crashed face first on the floor. Evidently it would take a hell of a lot longer for Tsuna to adjust to her new body. But hey, it was hard to judge distances when you’re used to a body more than twice as tall and with a completely different body structure…

The thing that really got her was the lack of weight on her chest. It completely threw off her sense of balance and, clearly, Real Tsuna never had much balance to begin with…

By the time she made it into the kitchen (nursing a sore nose), she found a rather dishevelled looking Nana, who for her part seemed not to know what to do with herself.

Stifling a sigh, Tsuna sat at the table and asked in the most childish voice she could muster, “Kaa-chan, can Tsu-kun have pancakes for breakfast?” Even though she preferred waffles over pancakes, and eggs over waffles.

Nana jumped and brushed a hand over her cheek (probably checking for tears). “O-Okay.” She smiled a little less forced than before, and Tsuna ignored the way her shoulders sagged in relief.

Referring to herself in third person was merely an act to help her in getting used to her name, but for some reason the childish act seemed to calm Nana. So Tsuna continued to refer to herself as ‘Tsu-kun’ while in her mother’s presence, but that didn’t mean she’d have to continue to do so once they were apart…

………………………………………………

Adapting to a new body is quite difficult. Adapting to a new home, new family, new life was on a different level altogether… But Tsuna found it easier to adjust if she focused solely on what was similar between her and Real Tsuna rather than the differences.

For instance, she had been quite pleased to find that Real Tsuna’s bookshelf (while somewhat sparse and lacking the more intellectual novels) contained many of the manga that she had been fond of in her previous life. It made her feel all warm inside to know she shared an interest with him~.

Another similarity between her new life and her previous one was the Sawada household itself. The house felt cold and empty with Iemitsu (still) absent and Nana leaving Tsuna to her own devices. Vanessa Smith had pretty much been left to fend for herself by both her parents, so she found it somewhat easy (even going as far to say nostalgic) to slide into old routines.

(Some small part of her, reasoned how Real Tsuna would probably have struggled emotionally during these times, particularly with being left all alone in the hospital…)

School was something Tsuna expected she would not particularly enjoy… Given that Real Tsuna’s nickname was “Dame Tsuna” (no good, hopeless, useless… doesn’t anyone realise just how emotionally scarring these words can be to a child?) she felt it safe to assume he had neither friends or allies among his peers, or even his teachers for that matter…

Funnily enough, Vanessa Smith had also been a victim of bullying during her time at school. But, for to entirely different reasons…

Nessa had been what is commonly referred to as a “Teacher’s Pet”, and she was damn proud of it. She had the highest IQ among her year group, and was top of the class in every subject. Nessa relished in the praise and attention given on to her by the teachers (as it had been the only time she was acknowledged), all the while aware of how it irked her peers.

Tsunayoshi’s bullies felt better about their own pathetic lives whenever he was around, so they would push him down further as it gave them a feeling of superiority. A rather disgusting and all round pitiful way to improve one’s self-esteem.

Vanessa’s bullies felt the only way to make pathetic lives better was to pull her down to their level. Isn’t it funny how it never occurred to them to study and word harder to become better than her?

Though the methods and motives were different, the concept was the same; wretched, pitiful individuals bringing down others to give themselves a moment to feel like the smarter, more superior one. Vanessa had seen right through them and they were very small people on the inside. She had spent her at school life ignoring the student populace. This time would be no different.

And frankly, Tsuna couldn’t be bothered wasting time or energy on giving a fuck about them.

……………………………………

Tsuna’s first day at Namimori Elementary had revealed how she had underestimated the level of ignorance and general stupidity of eight-year-olds… and of the Japanese Education System…

In the morning, Nana had dropped Tsuna off at the gates and then proceeded to make a hasty retreat. Not all that surprising considering all the fearful looks and gossip-filled murmurs that had followed them all the way to school. (Tsuna had actually been more surprised by her mother’s insistence on taking her to school herself.)

So, with a small measure of difficulty, she went about locating her classroom by herself. She shrugged off the whispered jeers of “Pathetic” and “No good” as she walked through the hallways. She was shoved harshly several times and almost knocked over entirely once or twice (curse this goddamn scrawny body), but otherwise made it unscathed.

Predictably, her desk was the one decorated with badly written, misspelled insults and some rather crude drawings. The most prominent one was the word “LOSER” which had been highlighted and underlined as if to make their point clearer. But the one that caught Tsuna’s attention was the small word scribbled in the corner in red ink: “Murderer”.

Now, ever since she had left the house that morning, a mysterious feeling of dread had begun to grow in the pit of her stomach. At first she had likened it to a feeling of nervousness and ignored it. But upon entering he school, she found her chest aching with a hurt and sadness she had long since learnt to simply push aside.

She never used to let their insults bother her, but with every condescending jeer the ache in her heart grew stronger and she struggled to squash it down.

What was wrong with her? Where did these feelings come from?

Well, she didn’t have much time to figure it out as the bell chimed, signalling the start of class. So she squashed the swirl of negative emotions down again, and instead thought about what the teachers here would be like.

Soon enough, the male teacher strolled in, eyed her with undisguised disgust (and something else… something bordering on suspicion) and Tsuna immediately decided she would not like the teachers here. He then proceeded to start the lesson, which Tsuna thought was for too advanced for their age group.

She had skimmed through all her textbooks just the other day, just to refresh her memory, and the complex equations written on the blackboard were not among the materials they were meant to cover this year. But as much as she would like to ponder over the actions of the so called teacher, she found herself unable to get a coherent thought out.

Out of nowhere she was bombarded with a string of emotions she could hardly make sense of!

Fuck… what the hell is this?

Why did she suddenly feel like running all the way home and hiding under the covers of her nice cosy warm bed? All alone, safe in her room, free to hide from the world… She wanted to cry. She wanted to scream. She wanted Mama to comfort her and tell her everything would be alright—

No. Tsuna didn’t want her “Mama”. That was the last thing she’d ever want. These feelings were not her own… they belonged to Real Tsuna!

As her moment of clarity came, suddenly the storm of emotions felt very far away. It was like they were a mere memory – or rather, the ghost of a memory – belonging to Real Tsuna. And she was left experiencing a deep sense of pity for the poor child who was forced to live through this nightmare in real life…

With pity came anger. Anger for the unheard pleas for help of a small child, and that he would never have the chance to experience a better life. Anger morphed rapidly into an ugly desire for revenge…

(“The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous.”)

If the people of Namimori only knew Sawada Tsunayoshi as a no good, clumsy child who would grow up to be a no good, clumsy deadbeat, then they were surely in for quite the surprise…

By the time she’s through, no one would dare to even think of the derogatory nickname “dame Tsuna” in her presence ever again…

Chapter Text

Tsuna’s teacher was an insufferable jackass, who got a kick out of mocking his students. She couldn’t help but wonder why this jerk became a teacher in the first place since he clearly loathed children with a passion.

For most of the morning, Tsuna had been ignored (which was a good thing since she had to sort through the chaotic storm of foreign emotions building up inside her). But, eventually, the man decided it was “Dame-Tsuna’s” turn for public humiliation. Unfortunately, she had been so wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn’t even hear the man calling her.

Not until the very loud, very annoyed shout of “SAWADA TSUNAYOSHI!” anyways.

She nearly jumped right out of her skin, earning more than a few snickers around the classroom, and desperately tried to figure out what the teacher had just said (to no avail).The man in question just sighed dramatically; “Don’t know again Sawada?” Cue more snickers. “And I suppose it would be too much to ask for a verbal answer?”

Tsuna merely continued to stare at the board silently, unable to fathom how he’d managed to butcher so many simple phrases. Aren’t teachers supposed to understand the subject they’re teaching? At least, that’s how it was in her previous life… Maybe they did things differently in Japan?

The teacher, mistaking the meaning her silence, directed his attention to some other unfortunate child. The rest of her classes went pretty much the same way; most of the time she would be ignored, and occasionally called up for another round of insults.

All in all, class was downright dull, and she spent most her time quietly plotting revenge, or studying kanji (which she hadn’t quite gotten a grasp on yet).

Lunch had proved to be far more exciting, though not in a good way...

“Dame-Tsuna,” a boy said, his shadow looming over her desk as she packed away her books. “You’re a murderer.”

Of the many things Tsuna had expected to be taunted with, that had not been one of them. She looked up at the rather unremarkable child, head tilted to the side, “Oh?” She replied in a voice of genuine curiosity.

It seemed to throw off the child and the little gang forming behind him, but he soon regained himself. “You Kaa-san’s a murderer. She killed and then she… uh, b-bragged police to get away with it!”

It’s ‘bribed’ nitwit. Tsuna thought dully. And Nana wasn’t the one who did the bribing…

Another kid joined in, “Yeah! Your Kaa-chan’s a monster! And you’re a monster too!” More kids joined in, quietly jeering words like ‘monster’, ‘killer’, and ‘evil’.

Tsuna stared blankly at the accusations, secretly marvelling at the how their childish minds worked. Judging from the looks in their eyes, none of them understood death the way she did. None of them understood the effect death had on people. It’s funny how easily they had been manipulated by their parent’s gossip.

From the corner of her eye, she could see the teacher watching the whole scene fold out from a distance. She resisted the urge to snort in disgust at the way the bastard seemed amused, as if he were watching some kind of sick reality show.

Now Tsuna could defend Nana, point out that she’d killed as an act of protection. But that explanation required words that contained more than two syllables, evidently far too complicated for these brat’s tiny minds to understand. Besides, they would no doubt stick to the notion of “killing is bad” even if they neither understood nor truly believed those words.

It’s a basic “I’m right, you’re wrong and nothing you say will change that fact!” mindset.

So, what reaction were they seeking from Tsunayoshi? Did they want to keep pushing him until he cried? Or perhaps they just wanted to watch him struggle in vain to defend Nana’s innocence.

But more importantly, what was the reaction they least expected from him?

Tsuna looked up at the sneering children and smirked, a bit too widely and a bit too evilly than she first intended. “Well, he deserved it didn’t he.” She stated pleased by the way the smiles fell from their faces, “One less criminal in the world.”

Slowly she stood up and turned to face the first boy that had spoken to her. He gaped, much like a goldfish, as he tried to find some kind of retort. But Tsuna was not done yet, “It’s a simple case of Karma.” She raised her finger and poked him square in the chest, lowering her voice dangerously, “Bad things happen to bad little boys~.”

The boy whimpered in sheer terror and scrambled backwards, knocking into several other kids in the process and sending them all sprawling onto the floor.

Tsuna merely watched the display in undisguised mirth before picking up her bag and walking calmly out of the classroom. She spent the rest of the lunch break hiding in the library, and avoiding people like the plaque. Naturally some idiots still found it funny to shove or try to trip her up in the hallways.

She’d have to fix that…

The teacher ignored her for the rest of class that day. But the kids didn’t even bother to hide their looks of fear, or morbid curiosity. She’d managed to avoid any major conflict today, but no doubt the bullying would start up again tomorrow with a vengeance. At least the words “No good”, “useless”, or “loser” weren’t on their minds anymore…

When school finally ended she saw her mother at the front gates, attempting to hide from the prying eyes of teachers and parents alike. Nana seized her hand the moment she approached her, without so much as a “how was your day?”, and began marching swiftly back home.

Tsuna had to scramble to keep up, lest her arm be yanked out of its socket.

…………………………………

Tsuna always thought of herself as more of a thinker than a fighter. Real Tsuna too, was severely lacking in physical capabilities.

This wouldn’t have bothered her much, if not for the fact her father was in the mafia and she was a legitimate heir to a bona-fide Mafia Throne… Whether she liked it or not, she was involved; that much had already been proven to be true. Therefore, learning self-defence would be a highly recommended activity.

That being said, it was not something she had placed high on her list of priorities. Well, she was technically only an eight year old… she had plenty of time to train herself (an estimated five years).

Anyway, the point is; Tsuna pretty much had no means of defending herself, and she generally avoided conflicts like that altogether. She made use of her quick wit and sharp tongue to get out of trouble. And right now, trouble was the last thing she needed…

She was in the middle of reinventing Dame-Tsuna’s image, attracting unnecessary attention to herself by getting in a fight would be counter-productive. She garnered enough unwanted attention from gossip-hungry fools, dying to get something on Nana and the murder case. And if Tsuna has to deal with this kind of bullshit, she can only imagine what poor Nana has to deal with every time she leaves the house…

It’s no wonder her mother never wants to leave her room…

But apparently, Nana has quite an over-protective streak and still insists on accompanying Tsuna to and from school (she won’t even leave Tsuna home alone when she has to go out grocery shopping and the like).

So, Tsuna does her best to avoid adding fuel to the fire (as the saying goes). Though, her best may not quite be good enough, if the three very large lumps of meat hovering over her are any indication…

One minute she’d been casually making her way back to class from lunch, the next she was shoved aside and pushed up against the wall, a plump hand tightly gripping the front of her shirt. Well, how was she to know this was a hallway were a lot of fifth and sixth graders hang out, collecting “tolls” from younger, weaker looking kids?

But, Tsuna had to admit, she may have had her priorities a little mixed up when it came to “people to avoid unless you want to get beaten up”… She was used to avoiding girls, not boys when it came to physical bullying.

While she had lived as Vanessa, she’d known that boys were less likely to harm her physically, otherwise they’d be known as “girl-bashers” and usually that meant they’d become rather unpopular. Girls however, were much crueler when it came to physical abuse… and much, much more vicious…

There was this one time she’d had to hide in the bathroom for over four hours, while the girls outside stalked around like vultures waiting for her to emerge… She’d been saved from a terrible beating by a grumpy janitor, who was not impressed at finding kids still on school grounds so late in the day…

Tsuna was a naturally observant person, and she had quite the knack for identifying the people who were more likely to attempt physical harm on her. So she was able to avoid letting their paths cross, and hence avoiding predicaments like the one she’s in now…

Of course, she had forgotten she was actually a boy now and simply wasn’t looking at the right people… Boys seemed to have to qualms in pulverising other boys…

Consequently here she was, held firmly against the wall, racking her brains in trying to figure out a way to dodge the fist flying at her face. Fortunately, it seemed, Lady Luck had not yet abandoned her as a teacher came strolling down the hallway with the most exceptional timing. “What are you kids doing!” she screeched, marching over in an angry huff.

One look at the scene before her and she just sighed in exasperation, as if it happened so often she just didn’t care anymore. She shooed the older kids away with a simple “Get back to class!” and gave Tsuna a single reprimanding look that said “can’t you just stay out of trouble for one day?” before continuing on her way.

Tsuna had the sudden urge to maim some small insignificant creature… Those brats weren’t even freaking scolded for their behaviour! What kind of shitty school are they running here!?

Maybe it was time to start thinking about those self-defence lessons…

…………………………………………………

“I didn’t cheat Sensei.” Tsuna repeated herself for what must have been the hundredth damn time.

The teacher, foot tapping impatiently, merely sighed irritably, “Tsunayoshi, it’s very bad to lie to teachers.”

It’s worse for adults to lie to kids. She thought inwardly rolling her eyes. “I’m not lying.” She stated simply.

The man clenched his fist, a motion that spoke of how he was resisting the urge to backhand the child before him. Yep, this bastard seriously needs to reconsider his career choice. The Principal, however, remained with his head down, fully concentrated on finishing his paperwork, never noticing the actions of the man beside him.

A few moments later, there was an almost inaudible, timid knock on the door. The Principal stifled a tired groan, obviously just wanting to deal with the problem quickly, rather than listening to what Tsuna had to say… (That doesn’t forebode well…) “Come in.” He called finally lifting his head up from his paperwork.

Nana’s hands trembled on the door; she looked pale and rather dishevelled, her shoulders slumped in defeat. Her eyes darted around the room and she fumbled her handbag. “G-good afternoon.” She stammered in a slightly hoarse voice, “What’s wrong with Tsuna?”

The principal folded his hands on his desk and offered a warm smile to Nana (well, it’s nice to see that not everyone in this Godforsaken town is so simpleminded), “Take a seat please, Sawada-san.”

Nana shakily dropped into the chair next Tsuna’s, her hand unconsciously reaching out for her son’s arm.

“Tsunayoshi,” The principal started bluntly, not bothering with pleasantries anymore, “He’s always been a below average student, hasn’t he?”

Hello, I’m right here. Tsuna resisted the urge to huff aloud.

“Yes.” Nana agreed quickly, sounding very disappointed. The way she slumped resignedly in her seat showed how this was an old conversation for her.

The principal provided her with a sympathetic smile, “It’s alright; he’s still young.” which was a lie, especially considering how everyone had it in their heads that Tsuna was a lost cause. But he was only trying to comfort Nana. “We have here his last few tests, and a recent one from just this morning. Sensei.”

He nodded to Tsuna’s teacher, who promptly held up the papers for everyone to see. All, save one, had bright red scores around thirty or less in the top corners and had so much red on them, it looked like someone had splattered them with red paint, or used them to stop a bloody nose.

(Tsuna was slowly beginning to hate the colour red. For various different reasons…)

“As you can see, he failed all his subjects with scores below forty, his worst being mathematics.” Nana was silent as the teacher spoke.

Tsuna wondered if anyone else noticed the underlying smugness in the bastard’s voice or the sadistic gleam in his eyes. She thinks not.

He then showed them the only test not smothered in blood red, “As for his most recent test, he got an almost perfect score. The top score in the class, in fact.” Tsuna felt slightly cheated at not getting full marks, but she could live with a ninety-six. “We think he cheated.” He said plainly (although Tsuna thought he looked rather giddy).
Nana neither denied nor complained.

Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence Mother dearest. Tsuna thought dryly.

“We hope this kind of bad behaviour doesn’t continue. For now we’re going to allow you to handle this. But if it happens again…” The balding principal trailed off, leaving the hanging threat unsaid.

“I under—” Nana began.

“I did not cheat.” Tsuna annunciate each word slowly and firmly, feeling very much like a broken record player.

The three adults looked at the child in the room (probably having forgotten she was there in the first place) with very different expressions marring their faces. The principal with withering patience, the teacher with pure annoyance, and Nana with… well… distress, sorrow, resentment even… She looked on the verge of tears.

“Tsuna!” The abrupt outburst made her jump and stare wide-eyed at her mother, “Please stop lying! It’s bad to lie! It’s bad to cheat! Please… even if it’s hard for you… You mustn’t take away the hard work of another child!”

So… That was it. That was all her mother thought of her. A liar. A cheater. A no good, useless son.

(Mothers are such disgusting creatures. Tsuna was glad she’d never have to one now.)

Real Tsuna’s hurt, loneliness and sadness bubbled to the surface, causing tears to prick the corners of her eyes. But Tsuna’s fury at Nana’s betrayal overpowered these emotions.

The sound of flesh hitting flesh echoed loudly around the room. All three adults froze at the sight of Tsuna violently slapping Nana’s hand from her arm. Nana herself flinched as though her son had full on punched her in the face.

"I. Don’t. Cheat.” Tsuna didn’t bother to hide the venom in her voice. She glared icily at the shock, guilt and slight shame swimming in Nana’s eyes. Yeah she was pissed, and she had every fucking right to be pissed!

She was not the forgiving, timid child Real Tsuna had been. Ok, she’ll admit it: she’s a vindictive bitch. And she probably has a heck of a lot more pride than he did.

Ignoring the more logical voice that said to simply let it go, devise a new plan, work your way up slowly instead (screw that, she’s not gonna let this go so easily), she stood up and stomped over to her jackass of a teacher. The man was still frozen in place and didn’t offer any resistance when she snatched the test out of his hands.

“If Sensei here had taken but a moment to make use of the seventeen muscles in his hand to simply flip the page over, he would not have wasted our precious time here on nothing!” She spat out in barely controlled rage and thrust the test in front of the principal’s face. “This is an hour of my life I’ll never have back now you know!”

The saying “Old habits die hard.” is apparently quite true. Despite having literally died, many of Tsuna’s old habits from her previous life remained. One of which was to write down all her working out.

The principal (being the most sensible adult in the room) took the test from her, and blinked in mild surprise.

Lo and behold, the back of Tsuna’s test was covered in the formulas and equations showing how she had found her answers. She’d even written out an attempt at deciphering some of the more difficult kanji (which had been slightly unsuccessful given she got a couple of questions wrong). Heck, there was even a few rather bad looking Hibirds scribbled in the corners when she’d gotten bored.

There was no way Tsuna could have written all this on the test beforehand. And the handwriting (although quite a bit neater than the almost illegible chicken scratch on the previous tests) was definitely his. If this wasn’t proof enough she hadn’t cheated, she didn’t know what is.

(Tsuna originally had very neat handwriting, but for some reason her hands refused to co-operate. So her writing came out quite legible, but still a bit messy. It was probably better this way though, since it would be bad if Tsuna’s writing suddenly changed too much...)

The principal examined the test closely for a time, before looking directly at Tsuna. She had her arms folded, her posture tight with anger, was glaring off to the side, frustrated tears visible in the corners of her eyes. Though most of her frustration and anger was real, she knew how to manipulate it.

She added a quiver to her lip, heavy breathing that looked like she was covering up a sob, she blinked repeatedly in a way that said she was trying to get rid of the tears forming in her eyes. And, oh, how she knew adults were weak to the tears of children.

A single defeated (and slightly embarrassed) sigh from the man was enough to know she had him, hook, line and sinker~.

“I can see you’ve worked hard this time Tsunayoshi-kun.” He said somewhat sheepishly, handing the test back to her. “See that you don’t fall behind again.”
Tsuna took the test and nodded mutely, lest a retort chockfull of sass slipped out. It wouldn’t do here any good to insult the man after all.

“B-but principal—” Her teacher started to protest, clearly quite enraged.

The principal merely raised a hand tiredly to silence him and turned to Nana, who was still in a state of shock. “You and your son may leave now Sawada-san.” He smiled apologetically.

Nana jumped, snapping back to reality, and stammered something unintelligible. A very awkward mood descended upon the room as she stumbled out the door, bowing politely as she went. It took all of Tsuna’s self-restraint not to smirk smugly in victory.

She did, however, allow herself a small smile at the muffled sound of that bastard teacher arguing with principal. It felt damn good to ruin that guy’s fun~.

Her smile dissipated when Nana reached out to take her hand.

Tsuna felt she had been very lenient, and very patient, with Nana these past few weeks. Okay, she was still very distressed about everything and needed to catch a break. She understood that. And hey, Nana wasn’t exactly “mother of the year” material, but she wasn’t that bad. She could do better but Tsuna has known worse. A lot worse…

But goddammit, this was the last straw!

She could feel the hurt and guilt practically radiating off her mother as she shook off her hand, refusing to look at her. Well suck it up princess! Nana has to learn there were some things that simply would not be tolerated! Sure, she’ll forgive her eventually, Tsuna wasn’t the type perpetually hold on to grudges. But she won’t forget.

And she sure as heck wasn’t gonna let Nana forget this betrayal so easily either!

Chapter Text

Sawada Nana was not the kind, trusting, airheaded woman she everyone saw her to be. No. She was a person who liked to hide behind a perfectly carved mask of obliviousness.

She hides and pretends to forget.

She smiles and pretends everything is alright.

All the while her wounds are left open and bleeding behind that mask; out of sight and out of mind…

Or at least, that’s the conclusion Tsuna had come to after having lived a short while under the same roof with her. And she can’t, for the life of her, understand why anyone would do that to themselves. Dying from blood loss seemed like a rather terrible way to go after all…

Things were probably made worse in that the only person Nana could lean on for support right now was Tsuna. Honestly, how can anyone expect an eight year old to take on the weight of a full grown adult? Particularly someone as small and emotionally fragile as little Tsunayoshi…

Not to mention the fact she had been really fucking pissed with Nana after her betrayal.

Tsuna’s revenge had been the quiet sort. She executes a well-practised passive-aggressive technique; one which jars her victims emotionally, strikes them dead on in their sensitive parts, or simply leaves them utterly mind-blown. And yet she does it so discreetly, they never know it’s happened until it’s far too late.

It’s like placing a bomb in someone’s mind, but then handing over the trigger that sets it off.

Oh, how she enjoys watching them unwittingly self-destruct~. It’s just fucking hilarious. And, not for the first time, she thinks about how sadistic her mind truly is. Heck, sometimes she even scares herself!

Anyways, Tsuna got her revenge on Nana in a most simple way.

Every day she would show her mother her finished homework, latest assignment, or newest test. No matter how trivial the work, she would thrust it under Nana’s nose with a “Kaa-san, here’s today test” or “I finished my homework”. The true message left unsaid, but heard all the same…

Look Mother. Look at what your “No-good” son, the son you gave up on, is capable of.

The vindictive side of her was filled with mirth as she watched Nana’s face twist and contort with guilt and shame, as well as relief and pride. There was also the ever blinding knowledge that Tsuna had not forgiven her. And that left her mother at an impasse, not knowing how to react or what to say.

Nana’s reactions grew hollower and more defeated by the day. It only took a couple of weeks for Tsuna’s thirst for revenge to be quenched. Yeah, she’d had her fun but now she was tired of looking at that desperate, emotionally crushed face of her mother’s. She’d been prepared to forgive and move on…

But when she went had come home that day, Nana looked at her with dead eyes, a hand held out expectantly and she found it hard to stop... (Maybe she had a bit too much pride…)

Apparently, Nana wanted this punishment to continue on forever… And if Tsuna hadn’t known better, she’s say that Nana actually wanted to stay in her depressed state for the rest of her life. But she did know better, because what kind of brainless idiot would want to be unhappy? It’s human nature to endlessly seek out happiness after all.

As time went on, it became clear that one of them had to raise the white flag… and it wasn’t going to be Nana. No, she seemed rather intent on just laying down in No Man’s Land and waiting for the end to come. Tsuna sure as heck wasn’t going to apologise, especially when Nana didn’t deserve an apology. But somethings gotta give eventually.

So Tsuna sucked up her pride, strolled up to where her mother was sitting, staring blankly at the table and slammed an unfinished worksheet in front of her. “Kaa-san, help me with my Kanji homework.” She demanded bluntly.

Yes, a demand not a request, because she was fucking tired of seeing a grown woman wallow in self-pity. (And then there’s fact her reading and writing scores were still dragging her overall performance down, which was really starting to irk her… Damn country and their damn language.)

Nana stared at her for a time, obviously unable to believe it wasn’t a dream. Tsuna stared back at her impassively, trying her hardest not to spout out a sarcastic comment like, “sometime this year would be nice.” Instead she raised an eyebrow and gestured to the paper with an unspoken “Well?”

Slowly, like an old machine that requires time to warm up, Nana came back to life. Her actions were wary and deliberate, her words careful and unsure. Perhaps she was afraid of shattering this moment of peace. Or perhaps she still believed it was a dream. Tsuna could only sigh inwardly at that.

As it turns out her mother did calligraphy in High School, and is a somewhat decent teacher. (Far better than any she has encountered in this country so far…)

………………………………………

The six week Summer Holidays were a welcome change from the ever increasing monotony of school life.

The nickname “Cheating-Tsuna” was becoming quite popular recently. Well, it was a change from “Dame-Tsuna” at least. The children had changed tactics with their teasing too; choosing to ignore her existence entirely and then making a show of how they’re pretend she’s not there, like interrupting her when she talks and such (which defeats the purpose of their actions entirely).

Not that Tsuna particularly gives a crap. It’s a hell of a lot more peaceful now, and she’s glad for it.

Though she does miss the days when she could plug in her earbuds and drown out the rest of the world with music. It’s almost funny how much easier it is to think with loud music drumming in her ears compared to the insufferable buzzing of human voices in the background.

Tsuna pisses her teacher off every time she answered correctly. He has it in his head that she’s a bad student now. She finds this highly amusing.

Avoid physical abuse at school was proving a tad more troublesome than anticipated… But it’s nothing she can’t handle. Mistrustful gazes still followed her mother wherever she went, to which Tsuna usually sent scurrying away with a glare. (Apparently, her golden-orange irises were quite intimidating to an adult.)

But at least she can finally enjoy some peace and quiet at home during the holidays. And while she’s at it, she may as well make a start on getting better acquainted with her mother… if only because they’ll be living together for quite some time yet.

Of course, Tsuna doesn’t really know much about Mother-Child “bonding activities” (having never done such things with either parent in her previous life). And lately Nana has been somewhat uncooperative; becoming more and more reclusive by the day…

If not for her mother’s extreme over-protective tendencies, she’d hardly have known she was there at all…

They have been getting along reasonably well since Tsuna had made it clear she’d forgiven Nana, but still… Sometimes she had difficulty telling which one was the child and which was the adult here! Nana really needed to stop pretending everything was alright, that everything would just go back to how it was before, because it wasn’t going to. Ever.

The Real Tsunayoshi was gone forever. Nothing would bring him back... And as much as her mother wishes it, the past cannot be undone. Things were different now and that was that.

So in the end it’s all up to poor little Tsuna to look after and support his mother… Well, in the very least, Tsuna is stronger than real Tsuna was. Hopefully she’s strong enough…

In any case, summer melted away swifter than Tsuna would have liked and transformed into autumn. Even after six weeks absence, school still sucked balls…

She liked being at home with her heavily depressed (but pretending not to be) mother. The mother-son “bonding activities” included sitting together watching soap-operas, anime, and (surprisingly) Disney movies. Tsuna thought about getting Nana outside to do some gardening together (purely because she couldn’t think of anything else they could do and the garden was looking pretty miserable) but couldn’t come up with anything feasible to say.

Then there was the trip to the library. It had proven to be a mistake…

For no other reason than them having the unfortunate pleasure of running into this snobbish old woman who happened to be the number one gossip addict in town. She also happened to own a Chihuahua which Tsuna plans to maim sometime in the near future. (She’d bet all her money that Real Tsuna had a childhood trauma involving dogs…)

The rest of the holidays were spent indoors. At that point Tsuna settled for helping her mother in the kitchen and around the house as “bonding activities”. It sort of worked as Nana’s smiles became less strained around her now. Though she still cries herself to sleep almost every night…

Tsuna pretends not to hear…

………………………………………………

It’d been several months since Vanessa Smith died and woke up in the body of Sawada Tsunayoshi. By now, she figures, she’s really starting to get used to this strange new world.

Then one day the universe just decides to throw her into the loop once again…

It started off fairly normally; she woke up from a light sleep at around dawn-ish, stared at the ceiling for a time then got bored and went downstairs to see if Nana was awake and making breakfast yet… only to find a mother humming merrily and practically dancing around the kitchen.

Tsuna just stood there staring, and also musing over the idea that someone had swapped her Nana for the one in the anime.

Nana beamed brightly (seriously there were fucking flowers blooming in the background!) when she noticed Tsuna, “Ohayo Tsu-kun!” She swept over dragging her into a tight embrace, “Happy Birthday~!”

…Birthday?

Oh! Right… her Birthday… Tsuna’s birthday was in October. She’d just forgotten the date. Now that she thinks about, Nana had asked her if there was anything she wanted a little while back…

“A-arigatou.” She answered numbly, squeezing her mother back before being released.

When was the last time Tsuna had celebrated her Birthday? The Asylum just celebrated many birthdays at once every month. And her family… shit, she must have been about four or five when they last celebrated it together…

Though it kind of felt odd to celebrate her birthday on a different date, and being only eight- no, she’s nine now isn’t she? Ah well, better make the most of it anyways~.

“Kaa-san?” Tsuna began as she slid into a seat. “Can I stay home today?” She didn’t really feel like going to school on her birthday.

“Well…” Nana paused, somehow managing to look reluctant and hopeful at the same time.

“Please?” Tsuna tips her head to the side and blinks her adorably wide, watery eyes.

Nana melts, “Of course you can Tsu-kun!” (The puppy-dog eyes never fail~)

“Yay! Thank you Kaa-chan!” Tsuna squealed happily in her cutesy baby voice that always seemed to calm her mother down for some reason.

Her mother smiled brightly, placing a large stack of chocolate chip pancakes in front of her. Oh joy, looks like Real Tsuna had a sweet tooth… Even so, Tsuna smiled back a proceeded with the stomach churning, teeth rotting task of devouring her breakfast. She didn’t really hate sweets; she just preferred her coffee bitter and her chocolate dark.

With that chore out of the way came the much more enjoyable task of opening presents!

Briefly she wondered when Nana had gone to get her these presents, but then again… maybe she just ordered them online or something? They had received some packages a few days ago. Oh well, doesn’t matter.

Most of the brightly coloured parcels contained rather unimpressive, flimsy, boy-ish toys that Tsuna figured might have appealed to her if she actually was an eight-now-officially-nine year old boy. But she wasn’t. She also wasn’t a brat, so she smiled and politely pretended this heap of plastic wouldn’t end up collecting dust in the back of her closet.

She did, however, get a brand new 3DS and an IPod plus headphones. (She felt that headphones just fit Tsuna’s image much better than earbuds. Plus they looked cool~.)

Tsuna promptly scurried happily upstairs to deposit most her presents in her closet and start playing her new pokémon game. All the while, she had a very ominous feeling in the back of her mind as she registered that Nana was far too happy today. Happy to the point of it being creepy…

The feeling upset her so much that she ended up peeking downstairs every few hours just to check up on Nana.

The humming had progressed to singing as Nana waltzed around the kitchen apparently preparing lunch for about fifty odd people. Tsuna wondered if she was preparing dinner at the same time, or if she was to be expected to eat two seven course meals in one day…

………………………………………………

Three gym badges and a bona fide banquet later, Tsuna had noticed Nana’s good mood starting to dissipate. Oh, she tried to hide it, but when one is constantly glancing between the door, the phone and the clock, people tend to notice something is up.

Tsuna didn’t have to have known Nana long to know why she had been so happy, or why she was starting to spiral down into a frantic anxiety.

She decides she didn’t like the conclusion her mind had drawn. For the time being she ignored it and pretended she didn’t notice the strain in Nana’s smile. Instead, she opted to take her mother’s mind off it by volunteering to help bake the cake.

It helped for a time. But then the cake was made, iced and decorated and there was nothing much else to do go ahead and dive into the dinner banquet.

Nana barely touches the food.

For some reason Tsuna felt very tense. She imagines this is how a soldier would feel just before he or she is sent out into battle. She then wonders why her mind came up with such an image. It doesn’t forebode well. Not bothering to try finishing her food this time, she just pushes her plate away with a simple “I’m full.”

Nana nods vaguely, eyes glued on hallway and finger tapping the tabletop. The tension in the air is so thick Tsuna thinks she can almost touch it.

A shrill wail cuts through the uncomfortable silence and Nana instantly dives for the phone with all the grace of a fierce jungle cat. “Iemitsu!” She cries into the receiver.

Of course it was fucking Sawada Iemitsu. The father she had yet to meet despite everything. And the father she had very little respect for. What can she say? She’s very hard to please.

Maybe she’s watched too many soap operas, but Tsuna can easily predict how this whole tragic conversation is going to play out and aptly tunes it out. Besides, there was a piece of cake with her name on it (literally) and it would be a waste of all that hard work not to eat it.

She chews mechanically for several bites before her mother calls, “Tsuna! Your father’s on the phone!” A plastic smile evident in her voice…

“Hai.” She answers without much enthusiasm and strolls lazily over to her.

Once the receiver was safely placed in Tsuna’s hands, Nana excuses herself ad flees to the bathroom (probably to try and hide her tears).

Tsuna stares after her, the ominous feeling in the pit of her stomach beginning to build, and raises the phone to her ear. “…Hello Tou-san.”

“Haha! How’s my little Tuna fish!” An irritatingly goofy smile is evident in the voice on the other end.

Tsuna scrunches up her nose in distaste. He makes it sound like I’m a goddamn pet or something! “Don’t call me that. I’m a human being, not a fish.” She states plainly. There wasn’t even a hint of whining or childish embarrassment in her voice.

She smirks, despite herself, at the stifling silence on the other end of the line. The conversation with her father ended shortly thereafter.

Tsuna honestly had nothing she wanted to say to the man over the phone, only “When are you coming home?” Not because she wanted him home, but because Nana really needed him here.

All she got was a “Papa is very busy.” And some lousy cover story about construction sites in Antarctica. Did he seriously think anyone would actually buy that bullshit?

………………………………………

When Tsuna knocked on the bathroom door and received no reply she began to worry just a little bit. All of a sudden the house felt far too quiet for her liking…

When Tsuna went back upstairs to change into her pajamas and heard the bathroom door opening, she relaxed slightly. But still couldn’t bring herself to let her guard down.

When Tsuna walked into the kitchen looking for her mother she just froze. Her mind shrieking “Do something you twat!”

It’s a horrible thing to witness a person force half a bottle of drugs down their own throat.

Nana didn’t even notice her son was there until she flopped to her knees and the bottle of sleeping pills rolled up next to Tsuna’s foot. She merely offered a weak watery smile, her dead eyes all but screaming “I just give up…”

Clearly she had not expected her son to lunge forward and shove his fingers down her throat. And Tsuna was glad for it, if not remotely disgusted at having to watch Nana vomiting into the sink. It’s a good thing Nana hadn’t eaten much today, otherwise she might have had a little more difficulty making sure all the pills came up.

The retching continued for a while longer than Tsuna would have liked, but she didn’t feel safe until Nana was spewing up nothing but liquid. Exhausted both physically and mentally Nana just collapsed onto the kitchen floor, leaving Tsuna to clean up after her.

As she does so, she frantically goes over what she should do if someone overdoses. Don’t move them… But she should make sure her airway is clear… Is sleeping okay? She should have gotten all the pills but… Should she call an ambulance?

Common sense says yes. But a little voice in her head is telling her “no it’s okay. Everything will be alright. Going to the hospital will just make things worse.”

She’s inclined to believe the little voice.

Maybe she’s insane after all.

Nana shivers and lets out a choked sob jolting Tsuna out of her thoughts. She wipes her mother’s face with a wet cloth then quickly fetches a pillow and blanket for her.

The barf smell was quite horrible, but leaving the window open to air it out would probably make her paranoid mother very uncomfortable… (If sleeping on the kitchen floor can be considered comfortable at all.) Instead, she rummages through the cupboards for some kind of air freshener. The scented candles she finds almost make everything worthwhile.

Tsuna sets them up around the sink and on the floor away from Nana. For a time she just watches the wax melt, admiring the pretty faint orange glow in the dark room.

Reluctantly, she tears her gaze away and rushes upstairs for a blanket of her own, since she’ll clearly have to camp out in the kitchen tonight… She makes a couple of trips, constructing a snug little nest in the corner, near enough to the phone should the need arise. On the last trip she pauses as her eyes land on the scruffy old teddy bear sitting innocently on the end of her bed.

She had only touched it once before and hadn’t since. That teddy was probably Real Tsuna’s one true friend… She could practically taste the bitter, lonely tears just by looking at it.

But for some reason she felt like holding it again…

One can only marvel at the sheer amount of comfort one can find in squeezing an inanimate plush toy tightly to their chest. So much more than a pillow or cushion… which is odd considering they’re pretty much made of the same materials… Still in a state of mild wonder, Tsuna settles down into her makeshift bed.

The muted sobs and coughs that occasionally rack Nana’s prone form are enough to reassure her that her mother’s still breathing. Still, Tsuna doesn’t sleep. She just sits watches and waits for dawn to come.

The candles warm glow is comforting, but the silence is stiflingly loud. Her new IPod is very much appreciated. (Even though she’d only dumped a pile of random songs chosen from various playlists, both Japanese and English, and hadn’t had time to sort through them all.)

As the clock strikes twelve midnight she can’t help but whisper sardonically, “Well, a happy fucking birthday to me.”

Chapter Text

Tsuna had long since developed the belief that nine was the year in which one experiences several defining moments of their life.

Vanessa Smith had been nine when her parents finally went through with the divorce. She was nine when she lost all faith in justice, the law and the court system. At age nine, her heart had been shattered in knowing that her mother would rather pay her jackass of a father a huge alimony check each month than fight for custody of her only daughter. Left entirely alone, she’d been forced to grow up and become an adult at only nine…

But more importantly, nine had been the year she’d gotten her hands on her first lighter.

All of these events had been key factors in shaping the person known as Vanessa Smith. All the choices she made from then on had been influenced by these events… She firmly believes that nine was the year she’d started down the road to hell.

She walked the rest of the way herself though… It almost seems like a miracle that she was able to walk through hell and still come out the other side...

It makes her think she should’ve been reborn as Mukuro instead of Tsuna, as apparently he went through hell and came back too. Still, she doesn’t think she’d like being a psychotic pineapple head… (Also, fanfiction has made it so she can’t view Mukuro as anything other than a creepy pervert…)

She was quite happy being the most adorable badass motherfucker the mafia world will ever see, thank you very much.

Although she’d be a lot happier if she didn’t have to deal with her parent’s shit…

Rays of golden sunlight had made their way onto the kitchen floor by the time Nana had returned from the wonderful world of unconsciousness. With a haggard cough she rolled over, propping herself up on her elbows. Blearily, she ran a hand through her matted hair and eyed the room in utter confusion, groaning as she stretched her stiff, aching limbs.

Tsuna imagined this is what it must be like for a person to wake up with a hangover and no recollection of what had occurred the previous night. Moaning with effort, her mother hauled herself up into a sitting position. There she sat hunched over, head in her hands and muttering something incoherent under her breath, all the while completely unaware of her son’s golden irises boring into her back.

Of course, she eventually noticed the line of hardened wax puddles trailing on the floor, under the table, ending in a neat semi-circle around a nest of pillows and blankets. At a dreadfully slow pace, those large chocolate brown eyes rose up to meet the half-lidded golden-orange eyes belonging to the only other occupant of the house.

Deer in the headlights” would perfectly describe the look on Nana face at that moment…

Time stretched on as the two just stared at each other, somewhat awkwardly on Nana’s part. Tsuna blinked lazily, and rose to her feet, the teddy still in her arms and music still playing from the headphones around her neck. Nana’s jaw dropped open as she attempted to conjure up… something (an excuse maybe?), but no noise came out.

“Kaa-san…” Tsuna started.

Nana’s mouth promptly clicked shut.

Now, there were many things she had planned on saying to her mother, none of them nice. Mostly it was just reiterations of the phrase: “If you’re going to kill yourself, please do it in your own time.”

But the weary shell of a woman before her just looked so defeated, so empty, so… pathetic, just sitting there like a puppet who’s strings had been cut… she just couldn’t bring herself to be angry at her anymore. Her mother was already broken enough as is.

They go back to staring at one another. Thankfully, the silence is filled by the soft hum of music from Tsuna’s headphones. A new song starts playing, one which she recognises from her previous life. Despite the low volume, she hears every lyric clearly… She thinks Nana does too given the way her eyes travel down to the source of the disturbance.

Perhaps it has something to do with the perfect stillness of the room…

An odd sense of nostalgia strikes her as she listens to the song. It’s plain fucking weird to even think she would ever feel anything akin to homesickness for that shitty kind of life… Maybe she just misses knowing who she was… not having to fight through phantom emotions, nearly losing herself altogether…

She doesn’t need to be reminded every fucking day about whose body this really is! She doesn’t need a mother who can’t even take care of herself, let alone a nine year old brat! She doesn’t need a shitty father that can’t even be there for his loved ones in their time of need! Why does she have to shoulder Tsunayoshi’s burdens?

She never fucking asked for this bullshit!

But the Real Tsuna is dead and there’s only her now. There’ no going back… One things for sure though… she’s going to live, both her share and his. And she’s going to have the fucking time of her life. And no one, not even her “mother”, is going to stop her!

It’s as the song says, she’ll never look away. Not from the truth, not from life, not from death, not from anything… She’ll face it all and still come out on top! Heh, bring it on motherfuckers~.

As the music fades away, she turns her gaze back to her mother’s, her eyes ignited with the flame of resolve, “Kaa-san, I’m going to become strong.” Her piece said, she spins on her heel and heads back up to her room, leaving Nana to gaze after her with a mystified look adorning her face.

……….………………………………

Six words. Six short words, was all it took for Nana to start turning her life around. Not some inspirational speech, or even some supportive therapeutical sessions; not even any of that romantic heart-to-heart bullshit you see in movies. Just six fucking insignificant words.

Well, shit.

Now all Tsuna needs to do is get a blue box and she can start calling herself the Lord of Time~.

Sure, things are far from being okay and Nana’s nowhere near as happy-go-lucky as she was in the anime... But, she’s finally starting to get her act together. Before it was like how in those old cartoons when there’s a dark raincloud only following one person… Except now the cloud is gone and the sun finally came out.

Maybe she’ll be seeing Sasagawa Ryohei soon… or his sparkly sister… (No. She does not want to meet and fall in love with fucking Miss Sunshine and Sparkles. Even if she was a guy, it ain’t fucking happening.)

Okay sure, her mother’s smiles may have become far less frequent (to the point of being rare), but they’re genuine now. Which is a good thing because it seemed like her face would surely break under the strain of those forced smiles.

And while Tsuna isn’t exactly an expert on parenting, she’s fairly certain it’s kids that sneak into their mum’s beds at night when they’ve woken from a nightmare, not the other way around… Well, she doesn’t particularly mind; it makes her feel like Nana trusts her more now. She never liked how her mother would try to hide her tears anyway…

Though it can be a bit of a pain sometimes; Tsuna’s single sized children’s bed wasn’t made to fit more than two small kids, much less an adult… Also, Tsuna is an incredibly light sleeper (often waking up from nightmares she can’t remember having) and is woken up at every little movement or sound. But Nana desperately needs comforting and, right now, her son is the only person who can offer her any.

So for the time being, she lets her weary-eyed mother slip into her room every other night and use her as a human teddy bear. She had always been fascinated by the concept of comfort through physical touch, as it was quite a foreign experience for her.

The one thing had not yet changed was Nana’s severe overprotective tendencies. In fact, one might even suggest it had gotten much worse.

Tsuna does not know whether or not to be worried.

……………………………………

She should have been worried… Or at least, paid a little more attention…

She gets into one little fight and everything just goes to hell.

Rather than ‘fight’ it was more or less just a bunch of idiot seniors trying to beat her up for her lunch money or some such shit, and failing. Because despite that fact she knows next to nothing about fighting, she’s not the wimpy weakling everyone pegged Tsunayoshi to be.

So when the fatass senior she had dubbed ‘Arrogant Fucktard’ and three of his goons had her surrounded, instead of trembling in fear like they expected she merely gave them a bored look (while resisting the urge to examine her nails). Clearly Fucktard wasn’t happy with her lack of fear and seized her harshly by the collar.

Naturally she bit Arrogant Fucktard’s hand and then proceeded to kick him in the nuts.

The original plan had been to knock one out and make a quick getaway while the others were still in shock. But looking at those dumbstruck faces while the ringleader sprawled out on the floor clutching his crotch, well, she just couldn’t resist giving one of the fatass followers a good punch in the face…

It all went downhill from there.

Yeah, she has way too much fucking pride than she needs… Why did she have to be so damn cocky?

Fortunately, no one believed Dame-Tsuna could possibly fight back, thus she got off scot-free. The Fucktard gang, however, all got suspended, making the black eye and the dozen or so bruises littering her scrawny ass body partially worth it.

At least until Nana found out…

No kidding here, she went fucking ballistic. Tsuna pretty much had to get down on her knees and beg not to be taken to hospital. Of course, she had to live with being under complete house arrest for the next few weeks, with her mother hovering over her shoulder all the fucking time…

The only good thing that came out of it was that Nana thought learning a martial art would teach her discipline as well as self-defence. Thus she was enrolled in a karate school.

The dojo was located on the other side of town and the instructor was very enthusiastic, and really strict… He made half the kids cry on the first lesson, and sent at least two thirds of them away because they weren’t serious enough about learning. He even outright said, “If you’re only here because you thought karate would make you cool, GTFO now.”

But apparently Tsuna was a serious student in his eyes, despite the fact she couldn’t hold a pose more than three seconds before falling over. (Fucking non-existent balance…)

Even when she accidentally (yes it actually was accidental… this time…) landed a kick to some annoying brat’s face, all he did was give her pointers on how to do it without falling on her butt next time. She also learned of several ways to break a person’s nose.

Best teacher she’s ever had?

Hell yeah.

……………………………………

Iemitsu did not come home for Christmas or New Years. He may have called, but Tsuna didn’t talk to him so she doesn’t really know.

Nana and Tsuna spent the Christmas holidays in the comfort of each other’s presence. It was a hell of a lot less awkward than the summer holidays had been, though they still spent most of their time snuggled up on the couch watching animated movies. (Goddammit, she’s going to have Frozen songs stuck in her head for fucking years now…)

For New Year’s she was dressed up in a manly winter kimono (dark blue with a white floral pattern) and dragged out to Namimori Shrine at the crack of dawn. She had wanted to do one of these shrine visits one day… just not so goddamn early in the freezing cold!

Aside from waiting out in the cold for god knows how fucking long, the whole thing was actually quite interesting.

She got “Moderately Lucky. Like a flower distressed by rain.” on her fortune slip (she thinks Real Tsuna would have considered that to be amazingly lucky). Hey, maybe she’ll get to meet Yamamoto Takeshi soon-ish? There have been several times when she’s spotted someone that might be him across the playground at school…

It also said her “expected person” will “be out of contact but arrive eventually” or some such shit like that.

Speaking of expected people, she swears she saw the Sasagawa siblings at the shrine. A white haired brat was shouting “EXTREME” at the top of his lungs as he ran around, and was being followed by a very worried, sparkly, pink (because of her kimono) little girl.

It had to be them. Had to be. …Is it bad that she really doesn’t want to meet Kyoko, purely because she feels like gagging at the thought of Real Tsuna ever falling in love with her?

Not that she disliked Kyoko or anything, the girl seemed nice enough… It’s just, come on, she a very substandard female lead… practically a minor character with the only she offers to the plot is simply being Tsuna’s love interest. There was so much more potential in the episode where the girls finally learn about the mafia properly, but it just didn’t deliver…

She had been expecting the girls to learn how to defend themselves, but nooo, they’re just fucking moral support… just there to cook and clean and kiss all their booboos better~.

Ugh, it makes her feel sick just thinking about it.

Hey, she still considers herself a woman and a feminist. Equal rights and all that shit.

All things considered, she’d rather not get to know Kyoko or Haru for that matter. They are civilians, and far too innocent for the mafia. Look what it did to Nana; imagine what it’d do to them. Real Tsuna always felt bad about involving them anyways, better to just avoid them altogether.

That being said, there’s no telling what they’ll actually be like in this world… Tsuna has long since decided she ended up in a parallel world to the Canon timeline, so shit’s going to be different no matter what.

She had the advantage of knowing how one alternate timeline will play out (it’s a good thing she has a very good memory and was really into KHR…), as well as the freedom to move as she pleases. Though, it’s still very strange seeing people act differently to how she remembers from the manga…

Strange, but nothing worth freaking out over… yet…

Anyways, the holidays ended and she was dumped back at school. She couldn’t wait for Saturday afternoons to roll around, so she can kill some stress by beating up wooden slabs. Although, the majority of the time, she ends up flat on her back or with very sore hands…

By the end of the school term, the nickname “Dame-Tsuna” was really losing its popularity (though “Cheating-Tsuna” was still going strong). At this rate, it’ll be history by the time she gets to middle school. Sometimes she wonders how this would affect things when Reborn shows up.

But most of the time, she doesn’t give a crap.

……………………………………………

It took all of Tsuna’s self-control to resist the urge to huff and roll her eyes as her mother fussed over her. The first day of school tended to be a big deal for parents and their children (or so she had observed), even though really she was only moving up a grade…

But she had to admit this year was already proving to be better.

The reason?

Well for one thing, the rumours about Nana had finally begun to die down. More importantly, she’s got a different teacher. Plus the classes have been shuffled around so she’ll have different classmates too. Hopefully she won’t be stuck with a bunch of mindless idiots again.

“Now you’re sure you have everything, Tsu?” Her mum asked. (Ever since her Birthday, Nana had dropped the ‘kun’ from her nickname. She sort of likes it better this way.)

“Yes.” Tsuna answered dully, readjusting the strap of her backpack.

“Okay. I’ll be here to pick you up after school then.” She bent down, leaving one last kiss on Tsuna’s cheek. “Bye sweetie, have fun~!”

“Bye mum.” She answered with a slight smile, while rubbing the lipstick stain off.

A little ways off, a kid was crying out indignantly, trying his hardest to avoid his mother’s smothering kisses. Another brat was wailing and clinging tightly to his mother, who looked desperate to get away. Tsuna rolled her eyes and made her way to her new classroom, following the stream of chattering kids.

Fortunately, it didn’t take long to find her room this time.

Tsuna settled into her seat and idly surveyed the other students scattered around the room. They stood in groups babbling away at whatever nine-year-olds talk about. Some faces she recognised from last year, though she never cared to learn any of their names.

Stifling a yawn, she put on her headphones and lazily draped her arms and head over her desk while she waited for the bell to ring.

The teacher arrived just before the bell. She was young looking, probably a newbie. “Ohayo! My name is Minami-sensei! Let’s all have fun together ne~!”

Oh god. She’s one of those types…

“How about we play a little game to get to know one another?” At the word ‘game’, pretty much all the kids cried out with joy.

Tsuna on the other hand inches away from banging her head on her desk. Kill me now…

The game was a standard ice-breaker. They had to write down three facts about themselves; two of them would be true, one a lie. Everyone would then try to guess which one was the lie.

Predictably, everyone came up with very simple childish facts. Simple to the point where you’d have to be blind and deaf not to know which was the lie… Things like “My name is Princess Bubblegum!” and then “I have a pet dinosaur!” made Tsuna want to question the IQ level of the room.

Eventually her turn came up. Trying not to look too bored she stood up and read aloud in a clear voice, “I am part Italian. I despise eggplant. My greatest fear is bats.”

Silence ensues. Head shook. Shoulders were shrugged.

Tsuna scoffed inwardly. She understood it really. No one knew Sawada Tsunayoshi. He was just the no good kid everyone picked on, a door mat for people to walk all over. No one bothered to get to know the kid, no matter how many years they had spent together.

Tsuna seethed inwardly, hiding her anger with a smirk, while someone made a guess, “The first one?”

“The second one?” Someone else shouted when Tsuna shook her head.

“No. The third one is a lie.” She drawled uninterestedly.

Minami-sensei gasped, apparently very impressed, “Ara! Tsunayoshi-kun, you’re not scared of bats?”

Tsuna gave her a flat look, “Sensei, in this world there a far more fitting things to fear than mere bats.”

The smile froze on her face, and Tsuna relished in the ominous atmosphere circling the room, sending shivers down everyone else’s spines.

As she sat down again, Minami-sensei encouraging the next kid to stand, she felt eyes burning holes in her back. Turning around in search of the culprit, she locked gazes with a girl who had wavy dark brown hair. Her expression clearly says “I’m onto you.” To which Tsuna shrugged at, as she wasn’t plotting anything… not yet anyway~.

The rest of class was boring as hell.

Seconds after the bell for lunch finally rang someone cleared their throat, their shadow casting over my desk, “You realise IPods and phones aren’t allowed at school.”

She looked up to find the same dark haired girl from before standing there with her arms folded and tapping her foot impatiently.

She blinked innocently, idly playing with headphones around her neck, “Minami-sensei doesn’t mind.”

The girl scoffed, “Minami-sensei is an idiot.”

“True, but so is half the town.” Was her snarky response.

The girl scoffed again. “Well, aren’t you bold? You’ll get in serious trouble one day if you keep that attitude up.”

She smiled (though it probably looked pretty damn evil) and showed off her puppy-dog eyes, “No, I won’t. I’m the most adorable BAMF you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting.”

“Yeah, right.” She snorted dryly then flopped heavily into the seat in front of Tsuna, propped an elbow on her desk and pulled out a phone.

Tsuna titled her head to the side, “You realise phones aren’t allowed at school?”

“Sensei doesn’t mind.” She replied smoothly. They stared blankly at each other, before both cracked into smiles.

“Sawada Tsunayoshi.” She introduced herself.

The girl rolled her eyes, “I remember; the part Italian who hates eggplant, right?”

“Well, unfortunately I stopped listening after ‘Princess Bubblegum’ made her speech so I don’t know who are.”

“Oh god, don’t remind me.” She groaned (somebody doesn’t like Adventure Time) “It’s Kurokawa Hana. Try not to forget it.”

Tsuna opened her mouth to say something moderately rude in response, but then did a double take. Wasn’t that the name of Kyoko best friend? How the heck did Miss Sparkles get this sarcastic, indifferent and highly intelligent girl as a friend? They seem like polar opposites…

Well, it’s none of her business anyways. And it’s not like she’s going to not befriend her just because of Kyoko. It would be nice to be able to have an intelligent conversation once in a while. “Don’t worry yourself, Petal, I won’t forget.”

“Ooh, flower puns. How mature.” There’s enough sarcasm there to fill a bucket. “And here I thought you had some measure of intelligence…”

“Bitch.”

“Cunt.”

“How do you even know that word?” Tsuna stared incredulously at her.

“How do you know that word?” Hana countered lightly.

“I’m just amazing like that.” She answered without missing a beat.

“Of course you are.” Came the dry response.

“I’m glad you agree with me Hana.”

“I hate you.”

“Aw thanks, I love you too~.”

Hana rolled her eyes and huffed in exasperation, but it quickly morphed into a smile shared by Tsuna.

Thus was how Tsuna obtained her very first real friend (in both lives).

Chapter Text

“You look Japanese.” Hana randomly announced in the middle of PE class. They were currently playing soccer, ‘they’ meaning the rest of the class.

Hana had proven herself to be too uncooperative, either standing around aimlessly or half-heartedly walking after the ball. Thus was switched out by an annoyed coach. Tsuna, on the other hand, valiantly took a ball to the face less than two minutes into the game, and had actually blacked out for a few seconds there!

The coach was a ‘just walk it off’ kind of guy so she wasn’t sent to the infirmary. She has a major headache though (hopefully not a concussion…), hence why she was currently seated with her back against a tree, hands massaging her temples. Hana was sprawled out beside her, idly fiddling with her phone.

Tsuna lifted her head to stare at her friend, quirking an eyebrow as she did so, “Really? Wao, thanks for that! I never would have known that unless you told me.”

“That’s not what I meant, dumbass.” Hana huffed with an eye roll of her own, “You said you were part Italian, yet you look entirely Japanese, except for your eyes maybe.”

“The keyword there was ‘part’ Italian.” Tsuna reminded her plainly. “I have a distant ancestor on my father’s side that’s Italian. I just happen to take after my lovely, one hundred percent Japanese Mother.”

Hana gave her a look before rolling her eyes and sighing dramatically, “Ahh, and here I thought I’d get to meet some handsome Italian cousins or something.”

Tsuna’s artfully raised a single eyebrow, “I thought all boys were monkeys?”

“But they’d be Italian monkeys!” She insisted like that explained everything (but to her it probably did). Tsuna held the very serious gaze of her friend for a several minutes before they both burst into giggles.

While her Kurokawa Hana shared many traits with the one from the anime (her “all men are stupid monkeys” policy and hatred of small children being the same), she was pretty unique to this world.

Her Hana adored romance novels and was a rabid Harry Potter fan (which she denied vehemently). She deeply disliked Disney songs, utterly loathing songs from Frozen in particular, and hated flower puns with a passion. Naturally, Tsuna took every opportunity to hum or sing Frozen songs, as well as learning as many flower puns as possible~.

Hana had only moved to Namimori last year, thus only knew Tsuna through her (or rather, his) dame reputation. As it turns out, her father is a cop, meaning she knew more details behind Nana’s case and didn’t get swept up in any stupid rumours. Although, she did feel a tad concerned about how their father’s respective career choices may affect their friendship in the long term…

Well, she supposed she’d just have to cross that bridge when they get to it.

She did quite enjoy having a mutual friend at school and not just someone you could work relatively well together on group projects in class. Even if some of the idiots at this school thought a boy befriending a girl automatically made them a couple for some reason.

Sometimes Tsuna couldn’t help but wonder if Hana even saw her as a boy. And honestly, she had mixed feeling about that. After all, she didn’t think of herself as male despite being in a boy’s body for more than a year now. But still, she couldn’t help but feel a little miffed about it… Perhaps she’d begun to develop some masculine pride…?

Or maybe these were just Real Tsuna’s feelings slipping through her defences again…

Lately she was having trouble remembering things from her past life. She didn’t forget the KHR storyline or that it had been a manga/anime in her previous world. Nor did she forget who she had been and the kind of life she lead. No, it was other, smaller things; the finer details that made those memories more intimate.

She could not recall her parent’s names, or what had looked like all that clearly. Sometimes she even forgot what she had looked like, just recalling basic details.

Like the fact she’d been tall, skinny, and had long dark hair, which had lead to her developing a little habit of playing with her bangs. Said habit was still in effect now, even though Tsuna had short bangs; a fact which irked her whenever she reached up and missed her hair, her hand brushing skin instead.

She’d already decided to keep her hair short, it suited Tsuna better this way and she wanted to be different from her previous self anyways. But she was definitely working on growing out her fringe. She fancied it’d make her look more like Vongola Primo, and he was a damn sexy beast~.

Hey, if she was stuck in this body, then she was gonna look fucking good!

……………………………………………………

Tsuna had been letting her guard down around people lately. She wasn’t really blaming her new found friendship with Hana for that though. It was just that nothing particularly bad had happened to her recently. But the universe just couldn’t give her a break now, could it?

Actually, she had a little theory about that...

She spent a considerable amount of time thinking about Real Tsuna (which probably wasn’t particularly healthy, but who wouldn’t in her situation?) and came to realise that he had been a startlingly normal person. Sure, he had a reputation for being the worst at everything, but even then it wasn’t like that made him stand out as anything other than an easy target.

There were plenty of other kids that sucked at sports and/or academics, so really there was no reason for Sawada Tsunayoshi to stand out as much as he did. As a person in general, he was unassuming and ordinary in a way that made him blend into the background, yet people just couldn’t ignore him.

It had to be because of his Sky flame. People were drawn to him, would take notice of him, whether they wanted to or not. Even if he was ordinary or “dame”, they would at least notice he existed, even if no one actually bothered to know him.

Just like the trio of idiot boys that currently had Tsuna cornered behind the school. (This particular scenario is getting quite cliché and startlingly predictable though...)

It was Tsuna’s turn to help clean up the classroom. She didn’t mind being the one to take out the trash because it meant she got to use the incinerator. (She’ll never pass up a chance to burn things~) Unfortunately, she’d spent a little too long a time daydreaming as she watched wads of scrunched up paper dissolve into ash and didn’t notice the bullies until it was too late.

It was almost funny how similar the run in with these random punks was to that time with the Fucktard Gang. They sneered at her, the leader tried to loom over her threateningly and they clearly expected her to cower and/or whimper at the mere sight of them. And like before, Tsuna just stared boredly at them.

She had better things to be doing right now. Hana was waiting for her, and Nana was surely going to start her unnecessary worrying if she arrived late.

The scenario began to play out scarily similar to that time with Fucktard gang too. When the leader grew irritated by her lack of fear, he seized her by the front of her shirt. Except, this time instead of kicking the asshole in the nuts, Tsuna just reached into her pocket and pulled out a lighter she'd swiped from the teacher's smoking lounge.

Complete and utter chaos ensued as, clearly, no one had expected her to light the jerk's sleeve on fire.

The guy screamed and flailed around stupidly (which only served to help the flames spread), while his two lackeys shouted random nonsense joined him in flailing around like headless chickens.

Their panic gave Tsuna ample opportunity to rifle through their discarded bags. To be honest, she was kinda banking on the fact that most idiots like them thought smoking was cool, but her gamble paid off when dummy number two produced the goods. The pack of cigarettes was unopened, and the lighter new as well. It was a much nicer lighter than the one she had; no sense in wasting it on this.

She slipped the new lighter in her pocket and ripped open the packet, pulling out a few cigs and lighting them with the half empty lighter she'd stolen beforehand. She stared at the glowing ends in fascination for a brief moment before tossing them at the flailing trio. Most landed around their feet, but one bounced off flailing dummy number three's arm setting it alight remarkable quickly.

Tsuna frowned, wondering how his clothes managed to be so incredibly flammable, but then reasoned it was likely due to anime logic as things in anime tended to get wildly out of hand phenomenally quickly.

Discarding the cigarette packet and stolen lighter, she picked up the empty bin and headed back to her classroom. When she rounded the corner though, she broke out into a run, trying to look frantic. Because of this, she almost collided with a teacher in the hall. 

Tsuna didn't know this one by name, but she looked very annoyed and snapped at her for running in the halls. Perfect. She immediately turned on the watery puppy dog eyes and tried to sound scared, "Sensei! Sensei! Some boys were playing with a lighter outside near the incinerator! I think they set themselves on fire!"

The woman's face turned purple with fury. "Thank you for informing me Sawada." She ground out through her teeth and strode off, anger rolling off her with every step.

As soon as she was out of sight Tsuna face morphed into a pleased smirk. It was highly unlikely anyone would believe that Tsuna had been the one to set the fire. She was the one to report it, and the existence of the cigarettes was incriminating enough as is. Ah, deception worthy of a future Mafioso. Reborn would be so proud~.

Hana was waiting next to the door by the time she returned, holding Tsuna's bag and scrolling through her phone as usual. "What took you so long?" She drawled, her aura practically oozing with boredom.

"Oh, nothing much. Taking out the trash, setting some idiot monkeys on fire, you know, stuff like that." Tsuna replied with a shrug, as if it were an everyday occurrence.

Hana merely raised an eyebrow, "Uh huh, sure you did. Can we go now?"

Tsuna hummed, not particularly bothered on whether or not Hana believed her. They were just passing the front gate when a fire truck and ambulance came tearing down the street towards them. While Nana and Hana's parents looked on curiously with everyone else, Hana's head snapped around to look at her, eyes wide and mouth agape.

"Oh my fucking god! You actually set someone on fire!?" She hissed, having the sense to keep her voice down.

Tsuna just grinned. "The fools were asking for it."

Hana shook her head, looking caught between exasperated, amused and mildly horrified. "You're crazy, you know that right?"

"I'm not crazy, I'm special. And a pyromaniac." She added just to see the reaction.

"Of course you are." Came Hana's dry response, apparently far more amused now than anything else.

In the end the bullies were suspended, no one believing their flimsy story, and they got away with only minor burns. All in all, Tsuna was feeling pretty darn good about how the year was turning out so far.

...............................................

These idle days passed by in a blur of boring classes, tests, and homework. Between karate classes and her friendship with Hana though, things weren’t nearly as boring as they could be.

She got to experience all sorts of things she never would have hoped for, or even knew to hope for, in her previous life. Like having sleepovers (always at Tsuna’s house since Nana’s overprotective streak was still going strong), or meeting up to play outside of school time, or heck, just sitting around talking about all kinds of nonsense. It’s no wonder the Tsuna from the anime/manga cared so deeply about his friends, to the point that protecting them became the fuel for his resolve.

Tsuna still enjoyed her own company though, and it wasn’t like she was with Hana all the time. Hana had other friends too, namely one Sasagawa Kyoko (surprise, surprise), who had been in her class last year apparently. But it was a pretty great to be able to say Hana was her best friend and to know the feeling was mutual.

The real Sawada Tsunayoshi deserved to have had a friend like Hana too…

He deserved a lot of things he’ll never get the chance to have now…

Sometimes she felt guilty for all the good times and happy memories she’d made. Sometimes she felt like an outsider, a ghost, sneaking in to take things that didn’t belong to her; things that rightfully belonged to Real Tsuna.

She has to remind herself she never asked for this. She only ended up here by accident and she had every right to be happy, just like everyone else. Not to mention, she has to live out his portion too. Sawada Tsunayoshi will live a long happy life! The world, the mafia, they aren’t going to know what hit them!

She owes it to him after all, for having given her this second chance at life…

Chapter Text

It’s been a year since Tsuna arrived in this world; or roughly about that long, she didn’t exactly have an accurate date.

By now she’s really settled into her life as Sawada Tsunayoshi, and things were steadily getting better day by peaceful day. Though, she never thought she’d ever get used to being the wrong gender... It was so fucking bizarre, the sheer scale of things you can get used to.

It wasn’t like she hadn’t considered the issue of gender before. She still thought of herself as female in her mind, and the option of getting a sex change was always available. But, well, she had weird feelings about it... Her first and foremost issue being she simply could not imagine Sawada Tsunayoshi as female. It just felt wrong.

When she looked at her face in the mirror all she could see was a boy, one who was meant to be a boy. And if she changed her gender she’d have to change her name too (Tsunayoshi was a very masculine name after all), which she really did not want to do. She already had to get used to having a new name once already, and frankly, she quite liked it.

There was also the fact that getting a sex change meant getting surgery. Tsuna still hated hospitals with a passion. She hated doctors, hated the idea of taking any sort of medication, hated the thought of having so called “experts” tell her they knew more about her own mind and body than she did...

Yeah, no more hospitals, fuck you very much.

The final point (which it all boiled down to really) was that, when all was said and done, she was actually, kind of, weirdly okay with everyone else seeing her as a boy.

Was there such a thing as being too adaptable?

It feels like she’s supposed to be really not okay with this. Yet, here she was, perfectly happy with leaving everything as is. As the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Her life is good right now, there’s no reason to change things.

Naturally, this is the point where the Universe decides it needs to fuck her up. Life is if nothing else, consistent in the way it brings about suffering…

Lately she’d been testing the limits of Nana’s tolerance in her overprotective streak; staying late at school, going out on her own or with Hana, walking to and from school on her own, you know, that sort of thing. It’d taken months, but they’d finally managed to convince Nana to let Tsuna stay the night at Hana’s place.

It helped that Hana’s parents were very understanding, and were always kind to Nana. They were probably very used to dealing with victims struggling with PTSD and the like.

There had been no major issues with school or bullies lately. She’d recently moved up to the orange belt in karate, and no one could understand why she was so gleeful about it, considering it meant she was still pretty low on the food chain (“orange is my colour” apparently wasn’t a good enough reason for them). It was a Saturday afternoon and the sky was clear as can be.

As one can expect, Tsuna was in a very good mood.

Really, she should have expected something to go horribly wrong…

Hana’s mum was a lot less restrictive and allowed them their independence, which was so freaking bizarre after living so long under the weight of Nana’s fears. Still, she wasn’t going to waste the opportunity to bask in freedom while it lasted.

Hana wanted to do “girly” things like painting their nails, but didn’t actually have any nail polish so had decided they needed to go get some. Tsuna had always assumed those kinds of “girly” things you saw people do on TV was just that, a stereotypical thing they show you girls do during sleepovers, but no one actually does it in real life. But, well, she didn’t really mind the idea. She’s going to have Hana paint her nails orange and it’s going to be amazing. (And no one will understand why, which is somehow even funnier.)

(She also may be contemplating how flammable nail polish is. Hmm, something to put to the test in the near future, she thinks.)

It happened on the way to the convenience store. All the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end, and a sickening sense of dread rose up from the pit of her stomach. It was like a scene from a horror movie, where the camera pans off to linger ominously on that one object, or door, or street, or house, or whatever, and you just know that’s where shit is going to go down.

Tsuna hadn’t even realised she’d stopped walking until a hand waved in front of her face, “Hello? Earth to Tsuna!”

“Ah! Oh, sorry, I— uh...” She stopped, trying to collect herself against the ominous feeling stirring up her insides. “I guess I just, uh, spaced out… What were you saying?”

Hana raised her eyebrows in annoyance, or exasperation, or possibly both. “Really, ‘spaced out’?” She sighed and rolled her eyes. “Ugh, whatever, you weirdo. I said, even I can’t make orange look good, so pick another colour.”

In that moment Tsuna couldn’t be more grateful for the subject change. She gasped in mock indignation, a hand raised to her chest, “Bitch, are you questioning my sense of fabulousity? Besides, orange doesn’t need you to look good. Orange is its own colour.”

“What the actual fuck is ‘fabulousity’ supposed to mean?”

What followed was an argument over colour theory, of all things, which devolved into light nudging and a bit of name calling and a lot of laughing. Sufficiently distracted, Tsuna was able shove the uneasy feelings into the back of her mind.

Though she couldn’t help but wonder... Was this hyper intuition? Was this her instincts warning her against danger? She couldn’t really remember the exact explanation behind how hyper intuition was supposed to work. Damn, she should’ve paid closer attention to all the exposition stuff.

Well, if this was a warning against danger, then it was probably best to avoid it. Whatever “it” was supposed to be...

.......................................

Tsuna got bright orange nail polish, complete with glitter. Hana was mortally offended by the mere sight of it. Tsuna feels accomplished already.

She is going to rock orange sparkly nails so hard, and Hana is going hate every second of it.

The only obstacle on her path to extreme fabulousness, is the fact that neither of them have ever painting their nails before. It can’t be that hard, Tsuna thinks. Though it should be noted that Tsuna does not have the best hand-eye coordination (she’s slowly getting better with those things), and lacks any form of talent in painting.

Hana is confident enough in her own steady hands, and if all else fails, there’s always the internet. There’s bound to be a tutorial somewhere out there.

“Have you ever noticed,” Tsuna mentions, a sudden memory interrupting her train of thought, “that when Sailor Moon transforms, she starts by getting pink nails, but then gets those gloves. What the heck is the point of doing up your nails if you’re just going to cover it up with gloves straight after?”

Hana squints a bit as she searches her own memories. “Oh my god, you’re right! How come I’ve never noticed that before?” She says and that hilarious slightly offended, yet slightly impressed, look is back.

“Do the rest of the Sailor Scouts get nail polish too? It’s been a while since I’ve watched Sailor Moon...” She hasn’t seen it since before she died, now that’s she’s thinking about it.

“They did a remake recently. I haven’t seen it yet though. We should watch it when we get back.”

“Indeed, we shou—” That horrible foreboding feeling came back moments before four teenage boys came sprinting around the corner, one nearly bowling Tsuna over.

“Hey! Watch it!” Hana yelled after them, puffed up like an indignant cat that had been forced to move from its comfy spot on the couch.

Normally Tsuna would have happily joined in on the snarking, but her eyes were drawn down as if pulled by magnetic force. There was something that looked a lot like blood on their hands and shoes. The one that had knocked into her was the worst off; his entire arm soaked in red and he was clutching an equally drenched object in his hand.

Was that a bloody butterfly knife...?

Tsuna look down at her clothes. There was a red stain where they had touched. She looks up and realises this is the exact spot where she was struck by that ominous feeling. Her heart leapt to her throat, and she took off down the street those boys had come from, before she could even register what she was doing.

She could hear Hana yelling after her but she paid it no mind. That ominous feeling had evolved into a sensation of raw urgency, pulling her along. Her mind blanked as she allowed it to lead her.

Every now and then she thought she saw the impression of a bloody footprint in the pavement, but it was hard to distinguish without stopping to check. And Tsuna sure as heck was not stopping.

She’s not sure she’s ever run so far and so fast in her life (either of them). Her lungs burned, her heart pounded ferociously against her ribcage, and the muscles in her legs screamed in protest. Her body was still not used to any strenuous form of exercise, and probably won’t be for a long while yet.

Which was beside the point, but the mind tends to focus on the strangest things when faced with bizarre and/or stressful situations.

...................................................

Fun fact about the fight or flight system: when your brain senses danger and the amygdala sets off the alarm, the logical thinking portion of your brain will completely shut down.

Yeah, doesn’t sound all that useful to not be able to think in a life or death situation, right?

Wrong!

When you’re in a life or death situation, you don’t have time to think! You have to already be acting! Survival is the priority here! So when the alarm goes off, you ability to think is shut off with it, and you have one of three options: fight, flight, or freeze.

You cannot consciously choose which response you will have. The subconscious portion of your brain, the place where all your memories are stored, will determine the best course of action for your survival. To put it simply, you will have very little input over your reaction once you’re in survival mode.

It’s a simple system, designed purely to ensure your survival and nothing else. Useful during a genuine life or death moment, not so useful during other times when it only seems like you life is in danger. Like during an awkward social situation, for instance. This is why people with anxiety have such a hard time.

When Tsuna rounds the final corner, her nerves already on high alert, and is met with the sight of a disturbingly familiar girl sobbing hysterically over the body of slightly older, also disturbingly familiar, boy. Well, she panics. The amygdala sets of the alarm, and she fucking freezes.

She realises this much later, when she is able to logically think through her reactions with the benefit of hindsight. However, in that moment all she can to stare wide eyed, feet stuck fast to the pavement while something inside her screams just fucking to do something you idiot!

It’s Hana, who has somehow managed to keep up, that manages to snap her out of her frozen state when she rushes passed with a shout of, “Oh god, KYOKO!”

She numbly follows Hana’s lead, stumbling over on shaking legs and all but collapsing beside what can only be Sasagawa Ryohei, laying bleeding on the grass. Hana has her arms wrapped tightly around Kyoko, and it takes several painful seconds for Tsuna’s brain to register that she needs be doing something instead of just sitting there like a useless idiot.

(Yeah, logical thinking part of the brain still has yet to be turned back on...)

She feels a lot like she’s trapped under water. It’s hard to breathe, and her limbs respond too slowly. But she does eventually manage to pull out her phone and dial for an ambulance at Hana’s insistence. (Tsuna’s not the only one in panic mode but, luckily, one of Hana’s first instincts is to call for help in these kinds of situations.)

She’s suddenly incredibly grateful for Nana’s paranoid insistence of putting all the emergency numbers as contacts in her phone. With part of her brain still shut off, she would never have remembered the right number.

She’s not sure what possesses her to put it on speaker, but her thumb moves there automatically, and she’s glad for it when the operator asks for their location and Hana is able answer, because Tsuna has no fucking clue where they even are right now.

The woman on the other end of the line reminds Tsuna of the lawyer that came to visit her in the hospital. She’s calm, succinct, and practical. She orders them to stay on the line, to put pressure on the wounds, and Tsuna’s phone ends up in Hana’s hands as she moves to obey.

They’re asked if they know what happened. Tsuna and Hana have no idea, only guesses, and Kyoko may have quieted from hysterical sobbing to hysterical whimpering, but she’s in no state to answer.

Ryohei stirs and grunts out pained groans and whimpers every now and then. Tsuna stares at his face and then to her hands over his bloody stomach – oh god, there’s so much blood – and whispers reassurances like a broken record. “It’s okay. The Ambulance is coming. Stay with me. You’re gonna be okay.”

It stays like this for a while. There’s nothing but the sound of Kyoko’s whimpers, Hana’s gentle hushing, Ryohei’s groaning, and Tsuna’s murmured encouragements, punctuated every now and then by the calm queries of the emergency service operator over the phone. The monotony is broken as sirens sound off in the distance.

Everything passes in a blur, and she follows along numbly where the adults take her, still feeling like her head is trapped underwater. The next conscious thought Tsuna has, is when she’s sitting next to Hana in the back of an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

What the fuck happened to my nail polish? She thinks, upon realising her hands are empty.

Funny what your mind chooses to focus on during stressful situations.

......................................................

Hours, or maybe minutes, later Tsuna sits outside the operating theatre with Hana, who sits pressed up against Kyoko, who sits clinging to Hana like she’s the only real thing left in the world.

Hana’s mum arrives first, Kyoko’s parents charging in only a few steps behind. The pair are scooped up in a flurry of limbs and frantic, worry fuelled queries. Tsuna is left to stare blankly in their general direction, stewing in her thoughts.

The unfortunate part of having her brain finally boot itself back up again, is all the unnecessary, horribly unhelpful thoughts it churns out. Like it has to make up for all that time it was off. The worst part is there’s nothing to distract herself with here.

There’s nothing to stop her from wondering what might have happened had she decided to investigate it, when she first felt that strange sense of foreboding. Would anything have changed? Or would that just have ended with more people ending up in surgery? Would she even have been led to the Sasagawa siblings, or would she just have wandered in circles?

She hadn’t known Sasagawa Ryohei. But at the same time, she did. She knew him intimately as a character from her favourite anime. Sure, he wasn’t her favourite, wasn’t even one she had liked all that much. But he was a main character, always present at the centre of the action. He was always there, like the sun that rises every morning without fail.

But she didn’t know this Ryohei. She hadn’t even particularly wanted to get to know him. He was nothing to her. She was nothing to him. Now they might never get the chance to know each other.

Tsuna sits on the uncomfortable plastic chairs outside the operating theatre and wonders about what ifs and what could have been.

Then all at once, there are hands on her face, and her entire field of vision is taken up by a borderline hysterical Sawada Nana. “Tsuna! What happened? Are you okay? Where does it hurt? Why aren’t you with a doctor!?”

“Huh?” is really all Tsuna can conjure up in response to the rapid-fire questions.

Why would she need a doctor? She’s not the one that got stabbed repeatedly by a bunch of rabid teens. She’s about to say as much when she catches sight of a dark clump of something in her hair as it shifts.

Slowly, as best she can in Nana’s hold, she turns her gaze down to her hands clutching the front of her shirt. Her grip is knuckle white, and she has this weird sensation like she watching someone else’s hands move as she peels them away from her shirt, still sticky with flakes of dried blood dropping off in some places.

Her shirt is ruined, unless Nana knows how to get bloodstains out of clothes. The thought pops into her head about the same time she realises she must have accidently smeared blood on her face too.

Which, yeah, gross. Why did no one think to do anything about the kid covered in blood? This is a fucking hospital for Christ’s sake! Someone should have approached her about this ages ago!

Nana is unusually quiet, her mouth pressed into thin line when Tsuna finally looks back up and announces in a surprisingly even voice, “It’s not my blood.”

This does very little to soothe Nana’s nerves, even as she tugs her up, presumably to take her to a bathroom where she can wash the worst of the blood off.

Tsuna’s knees are wet, her pants completely soaked through. It’s weird she took so long to notice. Glancing across at Hana, she notices the edges of her skirt and knees are also wet with blood.

Shit. Holy fucking shit. That whole time, they’d been kneeling in a pool of Ryohei’s blood.

Bile rises to her throat and Tsuna makes the mistake of putting her hand to her mouth as she gags. It’s lucky that they were already on their way the bathroom...