lysapadin: pen & ink painting of bamboo against a full moon (Default)
[personal profile] lysapadin
Title: Dying Will
Characters: Tsunako, Reborn
Summary: In which Tsunako experiences her own Dying Will for the first time.
Notes: Part of Choice: The Betrothal Arc. Series Index. General audiences. Contains bullying. 2455 words.

~~~~~~~~~~


Dying Will

Tsunako had hoped, wistfully, that going to bed and sleeping would have turned everything into a particularly bad dream, but that didn't pan out very well. When she came stumbling downstairs to breakfast, Tousan was there doting at length over Kaasan (ew ew ewww), Bianchi-san was making coffee, and Reborn was reading the paper.

So. Not a dream. Just insanity.

Tsunako ate her breakfast as quickly as she could, looking forward to school for perhaps the first time ever, and thought she was going to escape cleanly when she excused herself for the day. Then Reborn set down his coffee. "What are you doing?" she demanded when he jumped up and sat on her shoulder and stayed there when she tried to twitch out from beneath him.

"He's your bodyguard, princess." Tousan gave her another of those fake smiles. "He's going to have to stick close to you. It's his job."

"What?" Tsunako said, horrified, and then, "No, no!" Reborn was creepy and weird and he was not gong to school with her, not if she had anything to say about it.

She didn't, apparently.

Reborn stuck to her shoulder and Tousan overruled her protests and Kaasan was no help at all. In the end, Tsunako trudged to school with Reborn sitting on her shoulder like some kind of bizarre fedora-wearing parrot. Tsunako could just about imagine how well her classmates were going to take that.

Then, to make matters worse, Hibari-san saw her coming in. His lip curled and he started to say something to her—probably about how bringing babies to school was against Namimori rules—but a group of third-years came swaggering by before he did. Tsunako made her escape while he was distracted and squeaked when Reborn made an interested sound against her ear. "Who's that?" he asked, turning and craning his shoulder to watch the proceedings as Hibari-san vented his displeasure about the third-years' herbivorous tendencies.

"That was Hibari-san," Tsunako told him. "He's the head of the Disciplinary Committee." She glanced around, but no one was paying attention to her—just the way she liked it. She still lowered her voice before adding, "He's kind of crazy."

"He's strong," Reborn said, which—yeah, that was true, but totally beside the point because seriously, Hibari-san was nuts and also weirdly prejudiced against people in groups. Tsunako was trying to figure out how to explain that to Reborn when he hopped down from her shoulder. "Well, go on," he said, flapping a tiny hand at her. "I'm going to have a look around."

So much for sticking to her, Tsunako thought, torn between relief and concern. "You can't just go wandering around the school," she tried, but he was gone between one blink and the next, leaving her talking to thin air.

Great. Now what?

She passed the morning in a haze of paranoia, wondering where Reborn was and uncomfortably sure that he was watching her. Consequently she messed up her recitation in English and pretty much blew the science quiz, too. At least she remembered to eat lunch inside, which kept Sakura-chan and Yuuko-chan off her back. And really, what did English and science matter, anyway? she asked herself, a strange fluttering feeling in her chest and a tightness in her throat making it difficult to worry down her onigiri. What did any of it matter? Apparently she was going to be a mafia wife for the next head of the Vongola! Whatever that meant.

How could this possibly be her life?

The possibility of a full-blown panic attack was averted when Kyouko-chan came over to her desk and smiled at her. "There you are!" She sat down. "I was looking all over for you."

"Yeah, I." Tsunako waved a hand. "Thought I'd eat in here today. I was feeling too lazy to go outside."

It was a pathetic lie, but Kyouko-chan didn't call her on it. Kyouko-chan was nice like that—Kyouko-chan was nice to everybody, Tsunako didn't even know how. It had to be some kind of miracle, Tsunako decided as Kyouko-chan launched them into a conversation about something, a new patisserie or something, and how she wanted to go check it out soon. Kyouko-chan was nice and pretty and popular—she didn't need to be friendly to people like Tsunako, and yet, here they were.

Amazing.

"So you'll come with me?" Kyouko-chan asked, smiling at her, which was when Tsunako realized that she'd absentmindedly agreed to go out for cake with Kyouko-chan. "Oh, I'm so glad!"

Tsunako stuttered something confused as Kyouko-chan pulled out her planner—that was another thing, Kyouko-chan was organized, too—and wrote something down, cake w/Tsunako for later in the week.

At least this was something new to worry about.

It took its place with worrying about Reborn—where was he?—and her parents' descent into arranged-marriage madness, and preoccupied her for most of the afternoon, at least until phys ed. It was a disaster, as usual: today it was coed track relays. Tsunako suspected that their teachers liked to combine classes so often because it let them make googly eyes at each other (ew ew ewww), but as far as she was concerned, the practical result was that it provided her the delightful opportunity to be chosen last by both the girls and the boys. She ought to have been used to it now, she thought, staring into the middle distance while the team captains argued over her—"You take her this time, it's your turn!"—but somehow, she just couldn't manage it.

This time Yamamoto-kun broke the deadlock by grinning and saying, "Hey, she can be on our team, it's okay!" and grinning obliviously at the truly unhappy faces of his teammates. But Yamamoto-kun was the baseball team's starter and no one really wanted to say no to him, so that was that.

It wasn't like she wanted to be clumsy, Tsunako thought during the preparations for the relay race. She just couldn't help it, was all. And the more careful she tried to be, the worse it got. Kaasan said she just needed to relax and stop being so self-conscious, but she sure hadn't been able to explain how that was supposed to happen. It just would, or something. Magically. Yeah.

They won the relay race, but only barely and only because she didn't actually trip and go sprawling till the very end of her heat. Well, that and the fact that Yamamoto-kun really was just that good. He managed to scoop the baton out of her hand as she went down and was off like a shot. Tsunako rolled out of the way and watched him go, wondering what it was like to be a natural athlete. It had to be pretty nice.

Of course she wasn't surprised when Sakura-chan and Yuuko-chan caught up with her after school, falling in at her side as she turned down the street and headed homewards. They flanked her with poisonous smiles; Sakura-chan even draped an arm across her shoulders, which was downright eep-worthy. "Our little Tsunako-chan is growing up," she said brightly, pretty face practically beaming with benevolence. "When will you and Yamamoto-kun announce the wedding date?"

"Make sure you pick a lucky day," Yuuko-chan added sweetly. "You'll want as much luck as you can get your hands on, of course."

They giggled and Tsunako cringed. Was there any way she could speak to Yamamoto-kun to tell him to stop trying to be nice to her? His heart had to be in the right place, but it always seemed to come to this in the end. "Please," she said, miserable. "You know it's not like that. He just feels sorry for me or something, that's all."

"Oh, don't be so shy," Yuuko-chan cooed. "We all know it's so much more than that, don't we?" Her smile turned vicious. "Everyone knows that you can't hide true love."

"Yamamoto-kun isn't in love with anything but baseball." It was exactly the wrong thing to say, of course; Yuuko-chan lost her smile immediately. Huh, Tsunako thought, maybe it was true that Yamamoto-kun had turned her down because he wanted to stay focused on baseball.

"If that's true, just what are you doing to get his attention?" Sakura-chan squeezed her shoulders. "Hmm?"

"I bet I know." Yuuko-chan leaned in close, smiling. "Do you spread your legs for him? Do you let him put it in you? I bet you do. It's the only way someone as worthless as you could get any guy to look twice at you, isn't it?"

"No, no, Tsunako-chan's careful," Sakura-chan objected as Tsunako squirmed in humiliation. "I bet she uses her mouth instead. Don't you, Tsunako-chan?" She smiled. "I bet you like it."

Where was her so-called bodyguard now? Tsunako shook her head, denying the things they were saying. "Please," she said, "please, I don't even like Yamamoto-kun like that!"

"No?" Yuuko-chan's squeal was delighted; Tsunako couldn't imagine why she'd be so pleased over something that she'd said before, time and time again. "So you like girls instead, is that it? Maybe it's Kyouko-chan you like, hm? I know I've seen you watching her."

"That's disgusting," Sakura-chan said, clearly relishing every syllable. "Tsunako-chan, you're disgusting. You're filthy."

Tsunako cringed away from the looks on their faces. "I don't—I'm not—please, leave me alone," she said, not that it would do any good. "Please stop."

"Tsunako-chan is a lesbian," Yuuko-chan sing-songed. "Tsunako-chan is a lesbian~!"

This was going to catch on, Tsunako thought, already able to see the graffiti in the bathrooms and hear the whispers that would follow her around. This was going to catch on and her life was going to be hell because of it.

That was when Reborn dropped out down from the wall over their heads. "Well, this is pathetic," he remarked, right before he drew a gun (!) and shot Tsunako between the eyes.

Time slowed and the world caught fire.

Tsunako felt her body falling backwards, but she was rising up out of it, suddenly buoyant, as if everything in her life that had ever weighed her down had been stripped away, like all of the brakes had been released and there was nothing left to hold her back. Sakura and Yuuko were just beginning to shriek and fall away from her when she rounded on them. That wasn't going to do at all; she had some things to say to the two of them. Tsunako reached out and closed her hands on their arms, holding onto them and not letting go when they tried to pull away. And then she began to tell them exactly what she thought of them. She left nothing out, not how much she despised them, not how she'd covered for Sakura's cheating in the sixth grade or how she knew Yuuko was the one who'd stolen Meiko's wallet and blamed it on Yousuke-kun and gotten him expelled, not what she thought of their cowardice or their jealousy or their pathetic obsession with Yamamoto-kun and sex when they knew perfectly well that he was never going to give them the time of day.

By the time she was through, both Yuuko and Sakura were the color of paper; Yuuko was actually crying when Tsunako let go of them and said, "Now leave me alone and don't ever bother me again."

They gave her one terrified pair of looks and fled. Tsunako watched them go, brimming with satisfaction and exhilaration. Then she came back down with a thump, blinking dazedly and wondering what had come over her, and then she realized that she was standing on the sidewalk and she was—she was—

She barely remembered to grab her clothes before diving for the cover in which to scramble back into them.

Reborn said, "That was less pathetic."

Tsunako squeaked, because she'd honestly forgotten about him. "What did you do to me?" she demanded. "You shot me!"

"Yes," he said, sounding perfectly tranquil about it. He was standing at the mouth of the alley, his back to her; the lizard on his hat was blinking at her. "With a Dying Will bullet," he added.

"You shot me," Tsunako said again, stuck on that point and not particularly interested in the kind of bullet he'd used to do it. "You little lunatic, what is wrong with you?"

He turned then and looked up at her; Tsunako squeaked and did up the buttons of her blouse more quickly. "A better question might be this: what's wrong with you, that you could have so many regrets when you died?"

Tsunako froze, staring down at him. What was wrong with her? She laughed at the question and then couldn't stop, not even when she had to lean against the wall because her legs wouldn't hold her up. She kept laughing till she was sitting on the ground and crying instead. "What's wrong with me?" she choked out. "What isn't wrong with me?"

Reborn watched her silently until she'd choked out the last hiccuping sob and scrubbed her sleeve across her face. "Are you done now?" he asked.

At least he sounded utterly indifferent; somehow that made it easier to stand knowing how much of a fool she'd just made of herself in front of him. "Sure," she said, leaning her head back against the wall. "I guess so."

"The Dying Will bullet takes a person's regrets and turns them into strength," Reborn said then. "Someone who's been shot with a Dying Will bullet can do anything, no matter how pathetic he is otherwise." He paused. "Or she, as the case may be."

Tsunako blinked at him, remembering that moment of exhilarating freedom. "You did that to me." He stared at her, unblinking. "Why?"

"To see what you're actually made of," he said. She waited, but he didn't elaborate. Eventually he adjusted his hat. "Come on," he told her. "This would be a terrible place to be ambushed."

"Ambushed," Tsunako said. "Sure." She pushed herself to her feet anyway, retrieved her bag, and continued the walk homewards.

Reborn didn't say anything else till they turned in at the front walk. "The Dying Will state is the first step," he said. "It can be learned. And controlled. Think on that." He hopped up onto the wall that circled the house and sauntered away with that.

Tsunako stared after him, baffled, and then shook her head, more concerned with slipping into the house and washing her face before she encountered either of her parents. Luck was with her in that much, at least.

And maybe one other thing: the next day at school, Sakura and Yuuko stayed well away from her. So maybe that was something, at any rate.

end

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