Nothing put Xanxus into a fury like a botched mission, which was only right and proper, and Carlo's squad had botched the Mariani mission but good. Squalo'd had to step in himself to keep the whole thing from turning into a clusterfuck of epic proportions when Carlo's new guy tripped over a sentry. The only thing that had saved the mission at all was that the sentry had been so shocked to see a Varia uniform that he hadn't had the time to raise an alarm before Squalo'd cut him down.
It was weird how something like that could set the tone for an entire goddamned mission: first Mariani wasn't where he was supposed to have been, and then the new guy knocked over a bookcase and alerted the bodyguards who were supposed to have come in to find a dead body in the morning. And, as if that weren't enough, after they'd been silenced, then the same luckless fool had tripped an alarm on the way out.
On the ride back, it was almost funny how the poor bastard's own squad mates did their level best to distance themselves from him. The man himself knew the trouble he was in; he sat with hunched shoulders, glancing nervously at Squalo and Carlo both from time to time. Carlo wasn't looking too good, either; it had been his man to screw things up so thoroughly, and he'd been the one to select the idiot for promotion. Carlo scowled out the window like he was angry, but his hands gave him away as they picked incessantly at a strap on his jacket.
Served them both right, Squalo thought, while Xanxus continued to brood like a thunderstorm gathering on the horizon—no indication when it would break, but plenty of signs that it was going to be bad when it did. Until then, all a body could do was brace for it, and hope it wouldn't leave too much destruction in its wake.
They were back on Vongola ground, piling out of the SUVs and stretching out their legs, when Xanxus finally let loose. He went from standing to motion so fast that even Squalo didn't quite catch the instant Xanxus decided to move, despite watching for it, and whirled around to plant a gun in the middle of their little fuckup's forehead. "What the hell was that?"
"I—I'm sorry, Boss," the guy faltered, and Squalo had to struggle to keep from rolling his eyes. So a fuckup and mealy-mouthed to boot. "I don't know—I'll do better, I promise."
"Like hell," Xanxus grunted, and pulled the trigger.
So much for that one, Squalo thought, watching the dispassionate looks on the faces of Carlo's squad as the body toppled over.
Xanxus glared at the body for a moment, kind of like he was thinking about shooting it again just for good measure, before turning on Carlo. "Pick a better replacement," he growled. "Or next time it'll be you."
That seemed to be more mercy than Carlo had expected. "Yes, Boss!" he said, snapping to attention and damn near saluting. As Xanxus turned away, he yelled, "Someone get this mess cleaned up!"
Well, Carlo'd been with them for a long time; that earned him a measure of tolerance, Squalo mused, as Carlo's squad snapped into action. Still. Wasn't like Xanxus to let it go so easily.
Squalo fell in with Xanxus' long strides away from the bustle. "Boss?"
"Useless morons," Xanxus grunted at him, and turned aside from the path to the main house.
"Could kill 'em all and start from scratch," Squalo noted, as they kept going past the barracks, in the direction of the training grounds. So this was the kind of mood Xanxus was in. Squalo's pulse quickened in anticipation.
Xanxus seemed to consider it seriously, at least for a moment. "...more trouble than it's worth," he decided, and pushed through the door to the training hall. He raised his voice. "Everybody out."
His temper was still practically visible; the room cleared in a matter of heartbeats.
While it was true that none of the Varia's members had a particularly good grip on their sanity, Xanxus' grasp of what passed for his version of reality was especially loose. That was a generally acknowledged truth among the Varia's squad leaders and lower ranks alike, and if was clear that they had to tread around him carefully, well, he seemed to like that.
And if everyone, through mutual, tacit agreement, left Squalo to deal with Xanxus in his worst, most dangerous moods, well, Squalo didn't much mind that himself. It kept the fatalities in the lower ranks down, for one thing. Let him get up close to the man at his wildest, for another. Xanxus at his wildest was a hell of a thing indeed. Practically sublime, even.
Squalo supposed that thinking like that meant that he wasn't particularly sane, either, considering. But he was okay with that, really.
He was ready when Xanxus turned, guns already in his hands, and beckoned him with the barest jerk of his chin.
Missions could be interesting to plan and to execute, purely as an intellectual challenge, but they were rarely interesting enough to require Squalo to use all of his considerable skills. If he wanted to use those, he generally had to wait for moments like this, when Xanxus was spoiling for a fight, and he could throw himself into obliging his boss. There was no such thing as holding back with Xanxus, not when Xanxus was crazy strong in all senses of the phrase. It took everything Squalo had to meet that strength, to drive his sword screaming through the air against Xanxus and to dodge the fire of his guns, dancing right up to the edge of the possible and laughing over the brink.
It always came to the same place in the end, with both of them breathing hard and the room in ruins, and Squalo acknowledging his defeat. This time he was on his knees, and the muzzle of the gun was still warm where it pressed against his forehead. Xanxus was looking down at him, and his eyes were still burning and dark, not entirely back from the places he went inside his head whenever he fought. Squalo waited to see if this was going to be the time that Xanxus forgot himself, or decided that he just plain didn't care who it was on his knees in front of him, or what kind of trouble getting a replacement second-in-command would be. Squalo couldn't make himself care whether Xanxus would, really, not after a fight like that. It would be fitting, if his death came like this, the way nothing else could be.
Xanxus blinked, once, and then something like sense began to creep back into his eyes. "Sometimes I think you'd let me do it," he said, echoing the train of Squalo's thoughts. The muzzle didn't move from its place, even by a fraction of a millimeter.
Only one thing to say to that. "You're the boss," Squalo told him, in perfect honesty.
Xanxus snorted, and the fire in his eyes changed a little. "Yeah," he said, as the muzzle left Squalo's forehead and began to trace the path down his profile, hot metal running over Squalo's skin and leaving a line that felt like it was on fire behind it. "I am."
Squalo heard the sound that he made as it came to rest against his lips, pressing against them, and couldn't make himself care much about it, not when there was heat and want twisting themselves tight in his belly, and Xanxus standing over him, watching and waiting to see what he was going to do.
He parted his lips and leaned forward, watching Xanxus' eyes flare as he tasted hot metal and oil, the residue of gun powder and something else altogether, something unidentifiable and wild, maybe the residue of Xanxus' Flame or maybe just his imagination. The metal of the gun's barrel was hard against his lips and his tongue, unyielding and still hot enough to almost burn his tongue as he traced it over the outlines of the barrel. Xanxus watched him do it, and Squalo's cock throbbed in his pants, achingly hard just from this. He couldn't help making another sound, low in his throat, yearning.
The sound of Xanxus thumbing the safety off was loud, even over the sound of their breathing, and that was all it took to snap the line of heat that was drawing Squalo taut. He groaned around the gun in his mouth as he came, entire body pulsing with the intensity of his pleasure, so fierce it nearly hurt. Xanxus held the gun on him, steady as a rock, until Squalo sagged again, wrung out and raw. He didn't speak until Squalo looked up at him again. "Freak," he said, thumbing the safety again and holstering the gun.
"Yeah, so?" Squalo managed, and didn't protest when Xanxus' hand descended, fisting itself in his hair and urging him forward.
Xanxus just grunted something that might have been acknowledgment or might have been just simple want as Squalo reached out and unfastened his pants. Then he hissed something low and blasphemous as Squalo drew his cock out, fingers sliding over the hard length of it. Xanxus' hand tightened in his hair, demanding. Squalo obeyed the silent command and leaned forward to wrap his mouth around Xanxus, tongue stroking over the contours of his head, playing over the softness of it and teasing up against the sensitive places.
Xanxus growled at him, impatient, and held him in place as his hips rolled forward to fuck Squalo's mouth. Squalo's breath caught at the feel of Xanxus sliding between his lips, heavy and solid against his tongue, taking him again just as surely as he had with the gun. It was enough to make his cock twitch in response, arousal curling through him again. He spread his knees wider, leaning into the grip on his hair and Xanxus' cock filling his mouth, and slid a hand down between his own legs, palming himself and moaning.
"Freak," Xanxus said again, voice hoarse, and stepped closer.
Well, he'd never made any particular claims to sanity, had he? Squalo opened his mouth wider, taking Xanxus all the way in, until he was breathing in the smell of Xanxus' skin, musk and heat and the tang of sweat. Xanxus groaned above him, hips moving in short erratic jerks, fucking his mouth and his throat. Squalo moaned, grinding against his own hand, chasing the wild edge of pleasure again. He found it as Xanxus growled over him, hips jerking hard as he came, and arched against the fist in his hair as the heat rushed through him, wringing down on him and leaving him feeling like every nerve had been scraped raw.
Squalo caught himself on one hand as Xanxus let go of him, both of them breathing hard. "You're crazy," Xanxus told him, after a moment of staring down at him, and began doing up his pants again.
"Look who's talking," Squalo managed, hearing the huskiness in his own voice. He considered his knees, and whether they were ready to hold him up yet. Probably, he decided, and chanced them, shaking his hair back from his face as he did.
Xanxus was giving him one of his indecipherable looks. It was one of the ones that Squalo figured meant that Xanxus didn't quite understand something that had just happened, and was trying to decide which of his favorite responses—yell, brood, or kill—was the most appropriate. Eventually he just snorted and turned away. "Get your report on my desk first thing in the morning."
Brooding it was, then. "Sure thing, Boss," Squalo said, stretching out the kinks in his back as Xanxus strode away, probably to try to figure out what the hell had just happened. That was all right, really; it meant Xanxus wasn't in any danger of getting bored of him.
And as far as Squalo was concerned, that was just fine. He wasn't done with Xanxus yet, either.