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Title: Boarding Call
Fandom: Katekyo Hitman Reborn!
Pairing: BrOT3
Rating: G
Word Count: 950



So this, Gokudera thinks to himself in the frantic bustle of the airport, is what it's like to have friends.

In retrospect, these are friends that he's had for years, probably, if an objective understanding of friendship-as-people-who-can-spend-time-together-without-killing-each-other is to be trusted. He and the Tenth and Yamamoto, they go back long and deep.

Sasagawa is there, too, and some days he fits that definition. More often than not, he doesn't, but that's becoming increasingly OK in a way that makes Gokudera check his pockets like he's lost something important. Haru and Kyoko mill around, shimmering bells of their voices rising above the drone coming from this hive of hurried people, their hands on Yamamoto's wrists like they don't get the meaning of "going away."

There's a cigarette in the corner of Gokudera's mouth. He forgot to light it five minutes earlier. There's a boy inside of him that reminds him where his lighter is and his manners aren't. There's a man in there, too, who just scoffs and shoves his hands into the pockets of a tailored suit. Gokudera doesn't know who to listen to anymore.

Despite popular belief, he's good at blending into the background, just this trembling wire of potential energy waiting to spark. He's good at that, the silence, the watching. Good at watching Yamamoto hug Haru first, and then Kyoko, clap Sasagawa on the shoulder before succumbing to a hug with the bone-crushing force of boulders. There are tears. There is laughter.

In a sense, this all looks like it's happening far away--like maybe it's another family saying goodbye in the airport, or like something collapsed to the two-dimensional space of a TV screen--and not right here in front of him, three years of history constructed into something he could make sense of, something he could be OK with. Beside him, the Tenth shifts nervously. Another master of the background, to be sure.

"Do you think he'll be OK?" Tsuna's voice seems reluctant to break the weighted silence between them.

Gokudera feels a low, soft growl in his chest. He says, "He'll get mugged the minute he steps off the plane. And America will be so disappointed, they'll ship him back immediately." Which he hopes is properly interpreted as, He'll be fine. He's always fine.

From the corner of his eye, he sees the Tenth smile. "That's what I was hoping for, too."

Then, the gentle slip of two fingers into one of Gokudera's belt loops. Gokudera breathes out carefully and slowly.

A few feet away, Sasagawa has finally released Yamamoto from the tight embrace of brotherhood and camaraderie. Gokudera watches him catch his breath for a moment, and then he's jogging over.

"Hey," he says. It sounds like he's just gotten of the plane, rather than like he's preparing to board it. The disparity makes Gokudera roll his eyes.

"Exciting, huh," Yamamoto says, not really a question. He's got his duffel bag slung over one shoulder. It seems like so little take on an international journey that's going to last some interminable months. Then, Gokudera's never exactly been a light packer.

"You're going to be awesome," the Tenth says after a minute in that tone of his that is both certain and uncertain.

Another moment, bated breath and intercom announcements that sounded like warnings.

Yamamoto looks over his shoulder to where the girls are fawning over a baby in a stroller. Sasagawa has disappeared, his attention grasped by something else like it always is. They are, in this swirling pool of distracted humanity, something like alone.

Gokudera watches Yamamoto's hands: the first, he plants firmly on the side of the Tenth's neck, the other, he rests just barely on the jut of Gokudera's hip.

"You guys," he says.

And, yes, of course, Gokudera remembers now: this is why he doesn't want friends. This, the inevitable, the finite lifespan of friendships and human attention, this--

The Tenth's eyes dart from side to side, quickly, clandestine, and then he's up on his toes, planting his lips to the side of Yamamoto's mouth. Gokudera watches Yamamoto's eyes slide closed for a breath. When the Tenth pulls back--just an instant, but it felt longer, everything compressed--he smiles again. "I know," he says.

"I'll write," Yamamoto says.

Gokudera clears his throat. "You'd better. If I hear from the Tenth that you've been ignoring him--"

"I'll write to you, too," he says and Gokudera stops talking.

He can't quite picture postcards from Yamamoto; they seem too small. Letters would require too much thought and planning. And photos--Gokudera has the sense that Yamamoto's the sort of guy to send pictures of himself standing in front of the great landmarks of the world: his stupid tuft-y hair hiding the Eiffel Tower, his broad shoulders blocking the Parthenon.

"I will," he repeats, and leans his forehead against Gokudera's. "I'll miss you guys."

And Gokudera takes it in, the three of them standing connected like they'd always been, like they'd been even back when Gokudera was just a child and had first heard about the Vongola Family, like when he'd first come to face the Tenth, when he'd fought back the bitterness of jealousy, the fights, the understanding, the hands and mouths that followed. Just the three of them, versus the world.

"Yeah," he says.

The final boarding call breaks through and they break apart. There's a thudding in his orphan chest as he and the Tenth watch their friend walk through the corridor to the plane. He doesn't turn around or wave.

Sasagawa leaves first. Then the girls. And then it's just the two of them leaning against a wall, their hands blocked by their bodies, their fingers twined together.

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