Title: The Storm's Eye, Part 6
Pairing: Gokudera/Haru, mention of Tsuna/Kyoko
Word Count: 2,575
Disclaimer: KHR and its fabulous inhabitants belong to their rightful owner. I'm only playing with them.
Summary: Haru has lost her eyesight in a certain attack, and Gokudera was the only person around to keep both of them alive at the moment. In this chapter, Gokudera and Haru settled into a relative peace, but more was weighing on their minds than ever.
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
“Dangerous” was one of the first words Haru learned when she was but a young child. It had since then become her favorite word to use, even though she hadn’t been in any real dangerous situations until a certain baby hitman came into her life. After that, she had gone through many things that couldn’t even be plotted on the dangerous chart.
Take her current condition, for example. No sooner had she found out that she had lost her eyesight than she was put on a motorcycle, going at 150 kilometers per hour, to be shot at by flying bullets. Gokudera told her to hold tight. She couldn’t tell if that was excitement in his voice, and squeezed his midriff a little harder than was necessary to tell him that she was not pleased with how things were going. Her warning apparently went unheard, however, as they were suddenly driving on some cursedly harsh ground. From the constant whiplashes she received to her face, she wouldn’t be surprised if they were going through a gigantic thorn bush.
She could no longer tell what was happening. The roar of the bike’s old engine had faded to a white background noise, and the only sound in her ears was Gokudera’s increasingly hurried heartbeats. While undoubtedly a highly intelligent man, Gokudera was not above making impulsive and questionable decisions in times of crisis. She remembered that during their training, his preferred solution to any of the tricky situations their teacher drew up for them was to “blow up the enemy’s arsenal,” or, if there was one nearby, to “blow up the gas station.”
Part of her thought his logic was funny; the rest of her was too nervous to laugh. She hoped he had matured in these past few years.
Perhaps because she was thinking along those lines, she sort of guessed what he was about to do when he held his breath, the lines of his back pulled taut. She was, therefore, not overly startled when he turned around to wrap an arm around her, pulling her off the still-moving motorbike, and they were in the air for a nauseating second, then landed none too gently in a shrub. The impact knocked the wind out of her, and she couldn’t make any sound. He allowed her no rest, and immediately tugged her waist. She was forced to roll a distance, before her head hit hard into a tree’s trunk—actually, she hit hard into his hand that was holding her head protectively, and his hand was slammed into the tree. He hissed in pain.
He quieted her by putting a hand over her mouth. Her nose was instantly filled with his scent, sweaty and smoking and his. She became hyper-aware of how close he was, the way he was half kneeling, half lying on top of her, his breath, hot and short, brushing on her skin. His one hand was big enough to cover both her nose and her mouth. She shook her head a little, but did not dare to make another sound.
He let go of her. She heard the sound of cloth being torn, and felt him adjusting his arm behind her so that he could wrap his injured hand. The movement unsettled her, and she wriggled to make both of them more comfortable, but again he held her still.
“Silent,” he whispered into her ear. “They’re not far away.”
Sure enough, two voices soon approached their hiding place. Haru estimated that they were only about ten paces away from the road—she did not have to strain her ears to hear the men’s angry Italian words—but hopefully well-hidden.
“Shit,” one of the men said, “did you see that?”
“Yeah, down the cliff,” said the other. “Boss’s not gonna be very happy.”
“Fuck no, he’s not gonna be happy,” the first man snapped. The two men paused to consider this prospect.
“Should we go down…?” asked the second man.
They proceeded to argue but Haru couldn’t understand it all. Finally, they seemed to have reached a conclusion, and with one last “Boss’s gonna kill us,” their voices disappeared.
She held her tongue until she was absolutely sure that the men were no longer around. Then she asked, “Where’d they go?”
“Where they thought we were,” Gokudera replied, still whispering. “We need to move; they’re on flying pads and they’ll be back in no time. Can you stand?”
She could. He helped her up, and they started to run. Or, more truthfully, Gokudera did the running—she was just being dragged along. Her slowness must have irritated him, because a few minutes into their escapade, he offered to piggyback her. She climbed onto his back gratefully.
“What did you eat for breakfast, woman? A bag of coins?” he complained.
“I’ll have you know that I haven’t had a proper meal in three days,” she said, pulling on his hair like it was a horse’s mane. “Now, forward!”
He snorted but did not say anything more. She circled her arms around his neck and settled herself into the steady rhythm of his steps. His back was not wide but oddly comfortable. The peace in the air, the warmth of his body, all made her rather drowsy. Before she fell asleep, however, she noted how familiar his back felt to her, as if he had carried her before.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to look for the Tenth immediately, Gokudera persuaded himself as he stepped into the dusty attic. It was just that he didn’t want to be Miura’s personal taxi anymore. He seemed to be doing that a lot lately, and it wasn’t easy to walk two miles with her on his back. More difficult to bear than her weight, however, was how exposed and defenseless he felt on the road. So, upon reaching the town, he found and rented a small place located in the busiest district, where even a blind Asian girl and her Italian bodyguard wouldn’t be too noticeable. They would stay here until the Vongola sent assistance, or until he recovered enough to protect them both again. Luckily, this town was much bigger than the one they left. He could have quick access to food, money, and hopefully some explosives.
A yelp came from behind. He turned to see her struggling with a cobweb, and helped to get it off her face.
“What is this place?” she asked, sniffing the air and wrinkling her nose in distaste.
“A disused safehouse,” he said. “I just got a message from the family; it seems that the war is getting more serious that we thought. The command is to stay put and… not get in the way.”
He watched her turn around, hurt evident on her pale face, and felt the deathly grip of guilt constricting his throat. It was true what people said: one lie told requires ten more lies to cover it up; after the first one, the rest fell from his lips with alarming ease. But he couldn’t very well tell her that they had lost contact with the Tenth, or that currently he couldn’t ignite so much as a flickering spark from his ring.
“Well, since we’re not going anywhere anytime soon,” he said, clapping his hands together in mock merriment, “why don’t I show you your room?”
She smiled at him. “Sure. I’ll keep my eyes closed,” she said.
He was glad that she was playing along. Taking her hand, he led her to the door of her room. He pushed open the slightly ajar door and made a flamboyant gesture over the drab, miserable room, even though she couldn’t see.
“How do you like the white, laced curtains? They frame this beautiful French window, which faces the West and offers a spectacular view of the city’s sunset,” he said, doing his best realtor impression. “Or, take a look at this antique vanity desk, complete with handmade brass handles. Your bed, as well, is a work of art. Just look at the ornate iron frame.”
“Is it a four-poster?”
“With purple chiffon curtains?”
“Cascading from top to bottom.”
“And the bedspread is white, with tiny flora print?”
“Only of the best quality, fit for the most elegant and delicate lady.”
She burst out laughing. He felt the corner of his lips twitch.
“Now, ma’am, you mustn’t miss the centerpiece of this room,” he continued with as straight a voice as he could manage. “The all-time favorite of grandmothers and grandfathers alike—the creaky rocking chair!”
“A rocking chair?” she repeated, and her face lit up. “No kidding? There’s a rocking cha—oh!” she cried, astonished by the sudden movement of the chair she just sat on with his help. “Hey, there is a rocking chair in here! Wow, I’ve never been on a real one before!”
He stood by quietly as she rocked back and forth in the chair, giggling madly, and made a fool out of herself. Without knowing how, he just knew when he first set eyes on the rocking chair that she would love it. She had always been rather easily amused.
Well, whatever does the trick, he thought with a mental shrug. Confining her here wasn’t the best option, and he feared it was going to be a long and dreadful stay for both of them. Yet, he hadn’t forgotten the four chilling words of the men chasing after them.
“Boss wants her alive.”
He wasn’t taking any chances.
It took Haru a day and a half to know the house like the back of her hand. It wasn’t a big space by any means, but to be able to navigate herself around as if she could see still required a lot of effort on her part, much more than she had imagined. She was just thankful that he wasn’t in the house most of the day, and thus couldn’t hear her bumping into corners and other hard objects.
She had never been the type of girl to ask for help. When she was still very young, her father, loving as he was, would sometimes make it known that he wished she were a boy, and since then she had grown up determined to be everything her father could have wanted from a child: the gentleness and intuitiveness of a daughter, with the independence and rationality of a son.
The thought of her father sent an overwhelming wave of sadness through her. How peculiar. She must be getting lonely.
There wasn’t much to do in the house. No TV, no radio, and Gokudera was always gone, returning only for lunch and dinner. That was how she knew the time now: when Gokudera left, it was morning; when Gokudera came back the first time, it was noon; when Gokudera came back the second time, it was evening. She didn’t like the fact that her day revolved around him; it made her feel like a puppy waiting for its owner to return. He always came back before she felt hungry, and put whatever he managed to concoct that day on the table. He would also bring back a bag of snacks for her during the day, which, frankly, tasted better than his meals.
It wasn’t that she hadn’t tried to correct the situation. By the end of the first week of watered down curry, undercooked pasta and instant ramen, she decided to make lunch by herself. In the fridge she found two tomatoes (too squishy to the touch), a slice of cheese (could be molded), and a box of opened spaghetti. She put a pot of water to boil, and began chopping the tomatoes. They were too ripe and a hell to chop, and when she was finally done she was sure she had made a big mess. Then, turning, she lifted the lid from the boiling water, but she miscalculated the distance and her fingers brushed by the edge of the pot. “Aw!” She jumped and slipped onto the floor, knocking over everything on the counter.
That was when Gokudera came back.
She didn’t know what he had seen, but the image of her sitting on the floor with a knife in her hand and tomato juice dripping all over her body seemed to have given him the wrong idea. She was not allowed near the kitchen since then, and all objects deemed dangerous by him had been removed discreetly—or so he seemed to think—from the house.
And that was the way he took care of her, which he undoubtedly did, whether out of their friendship or, more probably, out of a sense of duty. It was hidden and indiscernible, and he would drink poison before he admitted that he cared, but she accepted it nonetheless. She never said thank you, because, like his thoughtfulness, her gratitude must not be seen.
There was a time when they allowed themselves to flaunt these emotions in each other’s face, like mothers spreading out dirty blankets in the sun for everyone to see. They were training closely at the time; the library was too small, there was too much beer on the table and too many inadvertent touches underneath, and they were both younger and much less tactless. It was crazy, the way she drew close to him. But when the day came that they graduated from their training, he left for Italy without so much as a goodbye. She, like all girls at that age, had over-thought things.
Well, that was that. She was a grown-up now, and would not make the same mistake again.
Time passes by quickly when one sits around waiting for back-up.
That didn’t sound quite right to Gokudera’s ears, but the fact was time did fly by. It was now three months since they lost contact with the family. A typical day for him went like this: woke up at five; stared at the tracking device that he had snatched off the motorcycle at the last minute, and tried to figure out where in the world the Tenth had gone; breakfast at seven; vigorous body training for the rest of the day, pausing only for lunch at one; after dinner at seven thirty, went out to carefully ask for information on the street, or to buy gunpowder from firearms dealers; went home at eleven, and meditate for an hour before sleep.
At the end of the day, sometimes, and only sometimes, he allowed himself to indulge in the thought of the girl sleeping in the next room. Just like back when they were training under the same roof, when she had been so warm, so bright, and so filled with energy and hope that he couldn’t help but become increasingly dependant on her, despite their constant bickering. He was alarmed, of course, because his mind shouldn’t be taken off the Tenth for even one second. He had escaped at that time, following the Tenth to Italy even though the boss had said he could stay in Japan, and looked troubled when Gokudera insisted on coming along. Now he had no where to go and no one to prove his loyalty to, and these moments of weakness appeared more and more frequently.
But just when he was starting to believe this peaceful life with her in this small forgotten town wasn’t entirely bad, things changed.
In the form of one Hibari Kyoya.