The first comes in the form of a plain white envelope.
Squalo says, “Heeey, what the hell is this, Cavallone?” and Dino rather dumbly replies, “What? Oh. It’s a letter. You – you open it. And then there is a note inside. For you.”
So he rips the envelope messily down the middle, and shreds the rest of the letter up when Dino falls off his chair in laughter.
Well. It’s his first letter. It shouldn't mean too much, anyways.
Squalo opens the second envelope neatly with the blunt edge of the plastic knife that comes with the lunch that the flight attendant serves. He casts a wary eye at Dino before reading the first line:
Dear Squalo –
He shreds and stuffs the remnants in the barf bag. Dino is trying to hold back his laughter, Squalo knows this, and adjusts the bandage on his nose rather self-consciously. It itches like a sour scab.
“He’s expecting a reply, you know.”
The third letter is slid under the door of his jail cell, already ripped opened and read. It’s the first human contact Squalo has received for the better part of three months, and although Squalo likes the sound of his own voice more than his own life, even he is tired of hearing it bounce off the stark walls of his isolation chamber.
It starts off the same: Dear Squalo –
and ends: Yamamoto Takeshi.
There is no postscript; Yamamoto’s not the kind of boy who makes second thoughts.
At least it was Yamamoto; if it was Tsuna, Squalo would have sliced him up just get him to stop.
At least Yamamoto fought with a sword.
“We’re letting you out now,” Dino says. He’s looking rather disheveled, yet Squalo is more intimidated by this man in the ridiculous fur jacket than the men in ominous black suits that surround him.
Dino hands him an envelope during the car ride out and looks at him expectantly.
Squalo shoves it in the sleeve of his orange jumpsuit. Dino is like something bitter in the back of his throat – like a delicacy he ate in haste only to regret its aftertaste – and Squalo just wants to –
“Heeey, where are we going?” Squalo barks.
“Where do you want to go?” Dino smiles; reassuring. Squalo knows he anticipated the question.
“Fucking away from you.”
Dino flinches. Squalo grins, looking out the window and away from Dino’s ass-kissing subordinate’s disparagement.
“It’s only temporary, but he really wanted to see you, and since he’s here to train for baseball anyways, we thought it’d be for the best,” Dino smiles tepidly, leading Squalo up the stairs. (Squalo has six more months of house arrest, and from the exterior, the location is pleasant enough.)
Yamamoto laughs when Squalo enters the room, his eyes lighting up in childish wonderment at an abomination, and Squalo can’t do anything but scowl.
“You’re putting me under the care of a child?”
“He’s almost as old as Belphegor was two years ago,” Dino says reasonably.
“He devotes his life to a fucking sport nobody cares about!”
Yamamoto sits at the odd end of the table and scratches his head. “It’s fun. Haha. Isn’t swordplay fun too?”
Squalo whips out his left arm, the blade gleaming. “Heeey, it’s not a game!”
“Squalo!” Dino admonishes like an old woman.
“No, no, it’s all right,” Yamamoto crinkles up his eyes, “I’m sort of used to this.”
“Gokudera?” Dino speaks a name Squalo can’t place a face to.
Yamamoto is developing a little crease in his forehead. Squalo spots it on the eight day of his arrival, and refuses to admit it runs chills down his spine that he can’t explain.
Squalo sees the crease during one of his diatribes, and all of a sudden Yamamoto has his hands on Squalo’s shoulders and is whispering rather breathily, “You’re really pretty.”
Yamamoto blushes. “You’re really pretty.”
Squalo rolls his eyes. “Playing too much with that baseball?”
“Haha, it’s professionals now though, so there’s less of that accidental hitting on the head.”
“Professionals!” Squalo scoffs. “The only professional is the professional hitman.”
“I really like you,” Yamamoto tries again. “Professionally.”
Squalo stares hard at Yamamoto, stares at the little crease between the eyes, and waits for it to disappear.
“Do you even know what that means, dumbass?”
“Heeey, what are – ” Squalo starts but doesn’t manage to finish because Yamamoto has his tongue down his throat. The kiss is rough, sloppy, but that’s all right because even though Squalo is eight years his senior, this is his first kiss too. Squalo loses himself to the moment, feels hands shoving up his shirt, before –
“Yamamoto,” Squalo forcibly pushes the boy off him, “Yamamoto, you are fifteen. You’re fucking underage. Fuck, what the hell are you doing?”
He’s slammed against the bathroom door again, abruptly remembering what strength professional baseball gave a boy, belatedly recalling he hasn’t been out of the house for almost six months, not counting the year in prison before, and fuck, the past always bites him on the ass.
He kicks Yamamoto squarely this time, and finally the little crease on the forehead is there again, and Yamamoto gets the hint.
“You don’t like it?”
“I’m not going to be fucking around with some child!”
Yamamoto leans close until Squalo can smell the clean musk of grass and dirt before putting his hands on Squalo’s shoulders. The crease deepens until Squalo feels as though he’s a ticking bomb, waiting for the cue to explode.
“I’ll wait,” Yamamoto says, and retreats with confidence.
Somehow, the wounded limbs of the monster that was once Varia rejoin. Bel is still annoying, Lussuria still flamboyant, and it’s as though nothing save for their uniforms have changed.
Yamamoto sends him more letters, except now they’re adorned lovingly in the professional letterhead of the World Baseball Classic’s Italian team.
Squalo sends back crude videos of his battles in retaliation.
It’s April 24th and Squalo is cornered against his apartment door, Yamamoto looming before him.
“Heey,” Squalo taunts, “Look who’s here. Still playing that fucking game?”
Yamamoto surges his body forward, his body covering Squalo’s, and it’s just too hot, too much. His voice is just a shade deeper, his jaw a bit stronger. “I quit.”
There is a knee between Squalo’s legs, too fast for him to react, too fast for him to stop the breathy moan. “H-heeey, stop it. What do you mean you quit?”
“I quit.” Yamamoto takes a step back to laugh. “Swordplay is more fun.”
Squalo eyes the heavy bamboo sword slung heavy on Yamamoto’s back. He reaches out to touch it; Yamamoto doesn’t stop him. And then Squalo leers back, hands crossed. “Really.”
“You were really convincing,” Yamamoto says sincerely and Squalo wants to kiss the reminiscences of childhood from his face. Except he doesn’t, of course. Not yet – too soon –
“Today’s my birthday,” Yamamoto smiles.
“Then why the hell are you here?”
“Because I’m legal now,” he says as though that would explain everything in the world.
There is that crease in between the eyes again that Squalo finds irresistible. There is that confidence masked in naivety that could bowl an army over, the ignorance that makes life so simple. It’s a reprieve from the complexities of life, an oasis in the desert of humanity.
Squalo opens the door.