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Shifting Grounds

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There were still parts of Squalo that felt scraped raw, like he'd been taken apart and examined and put back together in not quite the same order as he'd started out, so that everything felt slightly off-kilter. Everything was off-kilter; everything had changed. God help them both, Squalo thought, when he remembered (halfway through the afternoon) that they still had dinner to get through, despite the fact that neither of them was fit to be around other people. God help them both, because they were both a mess. He kept finding himself staring at Xanxus, caught between disbelief and wonder and fear that he'd managed to dream the whole thing. For her part, the boss seemed restless, like she couldn't stay still; she kept looking up from her papers like she was checking to make sure he was still there.

He should have realized that after what it had taken to get them to a place where he could follow Xanxus back up to the main house, standing at her shoulder where he belonged and wearing a suit and tie instead of his uniform, there was no way that dinner would turn out to be anything but anticlimactic. Maybe Federico had told his brothers and their wives that Xanxus was going to be bringing him to dinner, or maybe they were just smart enough to tell that the boss was in no mood to deal with their usual bullshit, because they left well enough alone—there were other things to occupy their attention, like Massimo's contingent of brats and the gossip about how the Falco kid had up and left home and changed his name to go hitman—and the Ninth sat at the head of the table, playing sage patriarch and doting grandfather like everything was perfectly normal.

It was all painfully domestic and Squalo didn't stop feeling like a man caught behind enemy lines till it was over and Enrico was escorting his wife out while Massimo rounded up his horde of brats and Federico—

Federico turned up at Xanxus' elbow wearing a smile that Squalo distrusted on principle. "That wasn't so bad, was it?"

He sounded like he was talking to Xanxus, but Squalo got the distinct impression that the question had been aimed at him.

Xanxus answered for him anyway. She gave her brother a dark look and said, "You're a meddler."

Federico's smile stretched wider; he didn't deny it. "Sometimes it's the only way to be sure something gets done."

Xanxus growled, low, in response. Squalo turned to her, ready to back her against whatever threat it was she thought Federico represented, before he realized that she'd put herself between them. "Don't you fucking do that again."

Federico didn't seem particularly fazed; Squalo couldn't decide whether that meant he had balls of steel or brains of mush. "Can't imagine that I'd need to." He glanced from Xanxus to Squalo, his smile going practically gooey. "Looks to me like the two of you have things pretty straight between you now. That's good. I was starting to worry." He eeled around Xanxus and extended his hand to Squalo while she was still growling. "I'm glad you came tonight. I hope you'll come back."

Squalo found himself shaking Federico's hand more or less on autopilot while he looked to Xanxus to see how she was taking that. She looked more exasperated by her brother than anything else, so Squalo cleared his throat. "If the boss wants me to come with her, I will."

"That's all settled, then!" Federico grinned at the two of them. "You two have a good night." He tipped his head to his sister and sauntered away.

Squalo watched him go and then raised his eyebrows at Xanxus. "What the hell just happened there?"

Xanxus raked a hand through her hair, pushing it back from her face. "Federico." She pronounced her brother's name like it ought to have explained everything. Hell, maybe it did.

Massimo's brats were still collecting their goodbyes from their grandfather, so Squalo jerked his chin at the door. "Ready to go home, Boss?" God knew he was; it had been a long and exhausting day and he was ready to see it done.

Xanxus opened her mouth and hesitated. "...yeah. Come with me."

He huffed, amused. Wasn't like he was going to go anywhere else, after all. He followed after as she set off, her strides long and purposeful, and saw that she wasn't heading for home—she was taking him deeper into the house itself, instead of out and back to Varia headquarters. They left the public parts of the house and crossed into the private wing, where the Vongola family had their quarters and where Squalo had never been.

The morning they'd had meant that he probably could have asked her where they were going—probably, though Squalo wasn't quite sure he dared to test the new understanding they'd reached, not yet, not without giving it some time and waiting to see whether it was going to hold. He kept his peace instead, trusting that what she was doing would come clear eventually. Things generally did, with Xanxus.

Xanxus brought them up a flight of stairs and then down a windowless corridor that had half a dozen doors ranging down its length. She stopped in front of a door halfway down the corridor and opened it without hesitation, letting him in after her. She flipped the light switch and Squalo saw that they were in some kind of antechamber, the kind that came attached to a suite of rooms. There was another door across from the one they'd come in by, some low furniture, and no windows; the furniture was old and heavy, maybe antique for all he knew or cared, and the air was still and quiet and smelled dusty, like no one ever came to this room but the cleaning staff.

Xanxus gave him a moment to conduct his survey and seemed to be waiting for his reaction. Squalo shrugged at her. "What am I looking at, Boss?"

Xanxus looked away from him, running her eyes over the room. "I thought we could sleep here tonight."

Squalo felt his eyes go wide. "Boss..." He stopped when he realized he didn't know what else to say or how to deal with the fact that she was practically asking, instead of ordering. God.

Xanxus looked at him, sidelong. "Probably means facing them at breakfast."

No question who them meant, but if the Ninth were going to take exception to the fact that he was Xanxus'—that he was Xanxus', then he would have done it by now, surely. Squalo took a breath and squared his shoulders. "I don't mind if you don't, Boss."

", you wouldn't, would you?" There was a faint edge to the question, one he didn't know what to make of, but she shook her head and crossed the room, opening the other door and turning on the lamp there—the bedroom. Squalo followed her and saw that this room had actual signs of habitation in it: the plaster on one wall was marked and pitted, probably from the knife that was still stuck in it, and there was a clutter of items lying on the bedside table—another knife, a hairbrush, and a single feather that glowed red under the lamplight.

Oh. This was Xanxus' room. Squalo immediately felt ridiculous—of course it was her room. Where else would she sleep, if she were going to sleep at the main house and not the Varia headquarters where she belonged?

"He has them keep it ready for me." Xanxus' voice was quiet when it broke into his thoughts. "Says it's so I'll know I'll always have a place to come home to, no matter what." She ran her hand over the top of the dresser, which was just as bright and polished as if it had just been dusted. Squalo didn't know what he ought to make of her expression—the tightness of her mouth and the grim set of her eyes, like there was something here that hurt her, though he didn't know what.

But he could guess. "Guess it's nice to have a backup in case someone in the Varia finally burns headquarters down. Or something. Wouldn't put it past third squad." Bunch of pyromaniacs, all of them. Crazy fuckers.

He'd guessed right, or close enough; Xanxus' mouth eased a little. "Maybe. Show you something." She left the dresser and crossed over to the armoire to throw it open and wave a hand at the contents. "Look at this."

Squalo looked and felt his eyebrows climb his forehead. "That's... a lot of pastels you got there, Boss." This was more in the way of Lussuria's line than his, but the stuff hanging in that armoire didn't look much like the stuff Xanxus wore whenever she wasn't kitted out for a mission. It was a jarring riot of color, dresses in pale blues and pinks and greens and yellows all jumbled together, stark contrast to the usual black and white and occasional red that she normally wore.

Xanxus gave the dresses a scowl and shut the armoire again, not with a slam but a careful click that was somehow worse for how resigned it sounded. "That's what he buys. What he thinks would be appropriate for me to wear."

Squalo whistled through his teeth. "That would be funny if it weren't so damn sad. Has he met you, Boss?"

"I wonder sometimes." Xanxus stared at the armoire. Maybe she was willing it to explain her father's apparent inability to stay in touch with reality. Was it denial? Or was it wishful thinking on his part?

Didn't matter much either way. "Can't blame you for that." Squalo took a breath and came close enough to touch her shoulder and feel the rigid set of her muscles. "Bet he'd get the point if you set that stuff on the fire. Maybe on the front lawn."

Xanxus' shoulder rose and fell under his palm as she took a breath. She let it out on a half laugh. "Hah. Don't tempt me." She turned away from the armoire, turning into him and spreading her hands against his chest. Her eyes were dark and fierce enough to still his breath in his throat. "Fuck 'em, anyway."

Squalo set his hands on her hips, careful, which she seemed to approve of. "Maybe you could pile all that stuff up on his desk instead of the lawn, just so he gets the point when you set it on fire."

She stepped closer, fitting herself against him. "Yeah." But it sounded absent, like she'd forgotten what they were talking about and was thinking about other things instead. "Maybe later." Xanxus slid her hands up his chest and tangled them in his hair, pulling his face to hers and kissing him.

Squalo leaned into it, opening himself up to her and her demand, answering her the way he always had, because no matter what else had changed between them, this wouldn't. Couldn't. Xanxus pressed against him, slipping an arm around his shoulders and cradling his head as she kissed him again and again, until Squalo thought he might drown in her. "Boss," he breathed when she let him. "Boss..."

"Mine." Xanxus shaped the word against his lips, breathing it into his mouth, and Squalo shivered at all the layers one word could carry.

"Yours," he agreed. "All of me, Boss. Always."

Xanxus made a sound, something satisfied, and kissed him again, stroking her tongue into his mouth and curling her fingers in his hair. "Mine," she said again, when Squalo was dizzy and breathless against her, reeling with how good it felt to be claimed by her. She ran her hand down his throat, her fingers light against his skin, and set them over the knot in his tie. The expression in her eyes turned thoughtful, faintly speculative, which was the only warning Squalo got before she began pushing him backwards, her hands purposeful against his chest.

Squalo couldn't make himself be particularly surprised when he backed into the bed or that she kept pushing until he was sitting, but he did raise his eyebrows just a bit when Xanxus ran her hands down his chest and pushed the jacket off his shoulders. "Boss?"

"You're mine." She lifted the jacket away and dropped it onto the chair.

Which, yeah, of course he was, but Squalo wasn't quite sure what that had to do with the fact that she was doing the job of undressing him when she normally let him handle that himself—normally ordered him to, in fact, in impatient tones.

Then again, it wasn't like anything else about this day had been particularly normal.

Squalo felt his breath still at that thought, even as he tipped his chin back so Xanxus could slide the tie out of his collar. "Boss," he said, because he could, which drew her out of the intent way she was undoing his shirt and caused her to glance at him. Squalo swallowed, not quite knowing what to say against the way she looked at him or the fact that he'd never expected this from her, and reached for her hand. Part of him could hardly believe that he was daring to interrupt her or that she was allowing him to do it, and the rest of him didn't care, not when it was more important to lift her hand and press his lips against the tender skin inside her wrist.

Xanxus made a soft sound, no, said his name, and stepped between his knees. She settled her free hand in his hair, stroking her fingers through it. Squalo shivered at how gentle they were. "Boss," he whispered against her palm.

"Yeah." Her voice was pitched low, the way it got when she was feeling something particularly strongly. "Yeah. It's—you're—it's okay. You're mine."

Squalo nearly closed his eyes against that, overwhelmed, but what if he did and it turned out not to be real when he opened them again? "Boss." She was right there; he kissed her palm and looked up at her, the way her eyes burned down at him, dark with heat, and set his hands on her hips. Xanxus didn't object, just kept running her fingers through his hair, so Squalo took a breath and kept going, stroking his hands over her hips and rucking up her shirt and the camisole beneath until his fingers found her bare skin. Xanxus' stomach expanded and contracted under his palm as he touched her, stroking lightly, and again as he began undoing the buttons of her shirt. When it was hanging open from her shoulders, Squalo glanced up at her. Nothing in her eyes said no, so he slid his fingers under her camisole and pushed it up to show the solid plane of her stomach.

She made a soft sound when he leaned forward and brushed his lips over her skin and tightened her fingers in his hair, but not in a way that seemed like she was displeased. That was a good enough reason to keep going, to trace his lips over her stomach and to nuzzle the bottom curve of her rib cage while Xanxus flexed her fingers in his hair. "Boss," he murmured against the curve of her waist. "Boss."

He didn't quite realize he was asking for permission until she shrugged out of her shirt and let it fall before peeling out of the camisole. Squalo's breath caught, because she was bare beneath. "Yeah." Her voice was pitched low; she settled her hands in his hair again.

"Oh..." Squalo looked up at the slope of her breasts and the way her mouth was very nearly soft. Xanxus stroked her fingers through his hair, the gesture practically gentle, and dipped her chin, nodding at him to go ahead. When he caught his breath and set a hand at her hip, nudging her forward, she stepped closer and sighed as he leaned into her to kiss the hollow between her breasts. She sighed again, cradling his head against her, as he tracked soft kisses along her skin, breathing in the scent of her and tracing his mouth over the curve of her breast. She gasped as he did, tightening her fingers in his hair, and arched against his mouth. Squalo spread his fingers against her back to hold her steady, feeling the shift of her muscles under his palms, and traced his mouth over the shape of her, letting the way her breath hitched guide him.

She'd never been so patient with him before, so he luxuriated in the chance to run his mouth over every centimeter of her skin, murmuring her title against her breasts as she arched against his mouth and stroking his hand over the smooth sweep of her back. Xanxus made quiet sounds in reply, husky murmurs of pleasure that turned more and more breathless as he went on, until she curled her fingers in his hair and drew him away from her. Squalo swallowed the sound of disappointment his throat wanted to make and looked up at her face, which was flushed. "Boss?" He worried for a moment that he'd overstepped himself, but—no, she reached down to him, sliding her hands under the edges of his shirt, pushing it ahead of her hands. Squalo let her slide it off him; when she plucked at his undershirt he stripped it off, wondering why she didn't just go ahead and tell him to get naked, like she normally did.

Maybe it was because she had other ideas. Xanxus looked down, smiling like what she saw pleased her, and gestured with her chin. "Lie down."

Squalo moved to obey, kicking off his shoes and stretching out. He suffered a moment's conscience when his bare skin hit the silky material of the coverlet. He spread his hand out, touching it. "Shouldn't we...?"

Xanxus glanced at it and shrugged. "Leave it." She stepped out of her shoes and slid a knee onto the bed to prowl over him. She knelt over his hips, her skirt riding up her thighs, and Squalo forgot about the bedclothes as he stared up at how beautiful she was. Her hair fell around her face, framing the hunger in her eyes, and his hands itched to reach for her.

She balanced herself over him, made a satisfied sound, and leaned down to kiss him, hot and deep, demanding everything from him. Squalo groaned against her mouth, offering up everything he had as she kissed him again and again, until he had to close his eyes against the heat swirling through him, called out by how hungry her mouth was against his. Xanxus set a hand against his chest and flattened it against his skin, stroking it down his body and Squalo arched into her touch as it ran over his chest and ribs and smoothed down his stomach before sweeping back up again, slow and deliberate. "Boss," he breathed against her mouth, a shiver curling in the pit of his stomach. "God, Boss..."

"Mine." Xanxus sounded immeasurably pleased as she pulled away from his mouth. When he opened his eyes, she was sitting up and surveying him. Her mouth quirked as she caught him looking at her, and she ran her hands over his chest, the touch possessive and sure. "All mine."

"Yes," he agreed, which made her smile stretch wider and her eyes glow. "All yours, Boss. Heart and body and soul."

He saw her draw a breath at that, her expression changing just a bit to something stranger, almost—soft. "All of you," she repeated. Her hands had gone still against his chest, spread over his heart. "Heart and body and soul."

Squalo wet his lips and nodded. "Yeah, Boss. That's right."

Xanxus drew another breath, her hands remaining still against his chest, and said, low, "Tell me what you want."

What he wanted...? Squalo blinked at the request, at the soft set of her mouth, and thought Why not? After the things they'd said to each other—either it was real, or it wasn't. And if it wasn't—but better to assume it was. "I want you, Boss," he said, watching her eyes. "I... want to be able to touch you. To give you pleasure. I... may I?"

Xanxus nodded. "What else?"

Squalo looked up at her. "Isn't that enough?"

Xanxus gave him a long look then. "Maybe not. Not anymore." She let out a breath through her teeth and reached down to him, tangling her fingers with his. "Keep thinking about it," she told him, right before she set his hand on her breast.

Well, she'd asked other impossible things from him; at least this one promised that it would be pleasant enough to do. He stroked his hand over her skin, watching the way her eyes went half-lidded and heavy and feeling the way her chest moved as her breathing turned faster and deeper. God, she was beautiful.

"You really think so?" Her voice was quiet and he realized he'd said that out loud.

Squalo let his fingers drift down the curve of her waist. "I really do, Boss. You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen." He'd never met anyone, man or woman, who burned for life the way she did.

"Mm." That was noncommittal enough to suggest that maybe she didn't believe him. So did the way she watched him from behind her eyelashes, her smile small and crooked. Well, if she didn't believe him, she didn't mind the sound of it.

Wasn't like he'd complain if he needed to keep telling her until it stuck, either.

Her skirt was already hiked most of the way up her legs, showing off the sleek muscles of her thighs. Squalo, feeling bold with the permission she'd given him to touch her, dropped his palm to her knee and stroked it up, following her skin up under the hem of her skirt. She drew a breath and let it out again on a sigh as he ran his fingers under the edge of her panties. She was slick and hot; Squalo slid his fingers against her, back and forth, and watched her wet her lips as he stroked her. She groaned when he circled his thumb over her clit; the sound of it ran through him, deeply satisfying. He kept going, setting his other hand at her waist to hold her steady as she began to move against the stroke of his fingers, her hips rolling in a slow rhythm as her breathing turned deeper. "Fuck," she sighed, voice turning rough and husky. "Fuck, Squalo..."

"Yeah, Boss," he said, pressing harder, just the way she liked it. "Yeah, I'm here. Right here where I belong."

She said his name, hoarse, eyes opening wide, before a shudder rocked her and her eyes fell shut as her pleasure took her. Squalo drank in the way she groaned, watching the way she arched over him and how the line of her body softened after, the way her lips parted as she panted and her lashes fluttered over the color in her cheeks.

"So beautiful, Boss," he told her, moving his thumb against her, slow and easy, ready to gentle her back down or help her go again, whichever she preferred. "I love watching you."

Xanxus leaned over him, balancing herself with a hand spread against his chest. "Yeah?" Her eyes were dark behind her lashes, still hot, and she pressed her hips against his fingers. "Do you?"

"God, yes." He could feel the way his grin stretched his lips and didn't care since she didn't mind. "Can't get enough of it." She rolled her hips against him again and he stroked his fingers between the folds of her, finding the rhythm she seemed to want, slow and steady. She made a sound, urging him on, and he pressed his fingers into her, sliding them deep and driving them against the beat of her hips.

Xanxus groaned, lashes dropping over the glowing heat of her eyes. "Fuck, that's good." She rocked herself against his fingers, riding his hand, and Squalo could have purred with how good and right it was to do this for her, fucking her on his fingers until her breath caught in her throat and her body throbbed around his fingers as she came again with his name on her lips.

He murmured to her, stroking her until she stopped shaking. "Yeah, Boss. Yeah."

Her weight pressed against the hand she'd braced on his chest, heavy, as she caught her breath. "Fuck." He shifted his fingers against her, offering, and felt the way she shuddered as she opened her eyes to look at him. "So what do you want?"

Like there was anything he could want when she was leaning over him and he was still inside her. Well, maybe there were a couple of things: his cock ached where it was trapped in his slacks and... Squalo wet his lips. "I want to taste you." Wanted to bury his face between her thighs and fill his mouth with the taste and scent of her, to feel her hands in his hair, directing him to what she wanted. "Please, Boss?"

Her eyes flared hot, like she was thinking yes. But that wasn't what she said. "You're sure that's what you want?" She dropped a hand down between them, fumbling with his belt and fly. Squalo gasped, unable to stop his hips from bucking up when she got her hand on his cock. "You sure you don't want to do something about this?"

Squalo couldn't quite manage a reply, not when Xanxus had wrapped her hand around him and was fisting him slowly, rubbing her thumb back and forth over his head. He might have whined something as sensation drove up his spine like a spike, stealing his breath, and he gasped when she took her hand away again. "Boss," he whispered, disoriented, as she pulled herself away from him. He opened eyes he hadn't realized he'd closed just in time to see her wriggle out of the rest of her clothes and cast them aside. The sight of her all gloriously bare struck the breath back out of him, long enough for her to drag his pants and underwear down his legs. "God, Boss..."

Xanxus' smirk curled her lips as she threw her knee over his hip and slid her fingers around his cock again. "You mind?" she asked, guiding him against her and holding herself over him.

Squalo panted, feeling the heat rolling off her body, so close. "I'm yours, Boss, you can do whatever you want."

Her smirk softened. "Squalo..." She settled against him, sliding down around his cock, and draped herself against his chest as he groaned and shuddered with the sudden rush of sensation. She found his mouth again and kissed him, her lips moving slow against his. Squalo groaned again, dizzy from more than just the slick heat of her body and the grip of her thighs wrapped around him and the soft weight of her breasts against his chest. There was something in her eyes when she looked at him that he'd never seen, or maybe never recognized, before, something that led him to lift his arms and wrap them around Xanxus, holding her against him. She hummed against his mouth, the sound low and full of approve, and began to move. Squalo closed his eyes against the heat of it as she rocked herself against him, rolling her hips against his as he ran his hand up and down her back. Pleasure washed through him, rising steadily, and he could tell he wasn't going to last long, not when he could already feel his body drawing taut under hers. "Boss," he breathed, running his hand down the line of her spine.

Xanxus hummed against his mouth and ground against him, slow. Squalo bit his lip at the way pleasure tightened on him and ran his hand down to stroke over her hip, but she was pressed against him too tightly for him to be able to get his fingers between them.

"Boss, please, let me touch you," he whispered, begged, as she rolled her hips against him and another shudder of pleasure ran up his spine. "Please, I—I can't—"

Xanxus didn't hear him, or chose to ignore him, or something, because she just ran her mouth along his jaw and bit down on the spot just under his ear, her teeth scraping sharp against his skin. "Mine," she murmured there, her voice rich with satisfaction. "Mine."

The repetition of that claim and the lazy complacency of her tone, all the things that had shifted between them, flashed through him like the glint of sunlight off steel. Squalo heard himself cry out and bucked under her as heat seized him, shaking him open beneath her in spite of the fact that he knew he was coming too soon, that he'd left her hanging—

Oh, God, he'd left her hanging.

"Jesus, Boss," he gasped, almost before the heat had let go of him, as cold horror curled sick and heavy in his gut. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to—I'm sorry."

He braced himself as she raised her head to look at him, ready for anything (or trying to be), but Xanxus gave him a look that was more puzzled than anything else. "What for?" She was still pressed against him, breathing fast, and her voice was husky.

What for? Squalo swallowed. Best to just spit it out and get it over with. "You didn't—before I did. I'm sorry, I couldn't—I wasn't able to—"

He faltered to a stop as her expression shifted from puzzlement to something else. "You..." Xanxus stopped and took a breath before she started again. "It's okay." She touched his face, cradling his cheek in her palm. "I'm okay."

Squalo gazed at her, not entirely sure he understood. "But you—I left you hanging." And one of the first things he'd learned about her was that he never wanted to leave her unsatisfied. He'd sworn to himself that she wasn't ever going to find him wanting.

Xanxus' expression shifted again, flickering through a range of strange looks before it settled into something that was—careful. "So what? It's not the end of the world." She stroked his cheek, her fingers light on his skin, almost like she was handling something delicate. "Besides, if I know you, you'll make it up to me."

Relief washed through him, so intense he nearly groaned with it. "Yes, Boss. I will. I promise." He turned his face to kiss her fingertips. "Let me? Please?"

It took a moment before she said, "Yeah, if you want to. Sure." Her voice was very quiet and her eyes had gone dark, but she just stroked her fingers over his lips. "You still want to taste me?"

Squalo followed her fingers with his tongue. "Oh, yeah. Please, can I?"

Xanxus gave him another long look, something strange moving in her eyes. "If that's what you want." She cupped his cheek and kissed him again, slow and careful, before drawing away from him and stretching out against the pillows. "Come here."

There was something else new going on in her voice, something that he was going to have to puzzle out the meaning of. Squalo added it to the list of the new complexities in his life and obeyed her, turning to her and stroking his hands down her body and following them with his mouth. Xanxus sighed as he settled between her thighs and spread her knees wider for him. She groaned as he nuzzled against her, tasting himself on her skin as he lapped at her, and settled her fingers in his hair, cradling him against her, breathing turning fast and deep as he stroked his tongue over her. Squalo devoted himself to the sounds slipping out of her throat and the slow shift of her hips against his mouth, tracing his tongue over her until he could feel her body trembling with the tension that was drawing her taut. He pressed his fingers into her then, three of them to work against her body as he slid his tongue over her clit, and fucked her on his fingers as she groaned and came apart again. He kept going, mouthing her and driving his fingers against the tightness of her, listening to the gasping, breathless sounds each twist of his fingers coaxed out of her, until she groaned his name and pushed him away from her. "Enough," she panted, her eyes closed and her chest heaving. "Fuck..."

Squalo leaned his cheek against her knee, watching her as her breathing slowed, until she opened her eyes again. He smiled at her then, tentative. "Good, Boss?"

Xanxus wet her lips, looking down the bed at him, and finally nodded. "Of course." Though that didn't explain why she was biting her lip. She reached a hand down to him. "Come here."

"Anything you say, Boss." He scrambled up the bed and the next few minutes were a flurry of kicking the coverlet and half the pillows off the bed and turning off the lamp and arranging the blankets and sheets to their mutual satisfaction that ended with Xanxus settled against the remaining pillows, holding Squalo against her with his head pillowed on her shoulder. Which was not the kind of position he'd have expected to end up in, ever, really, but wasn't one he was going to complain about.

"Mine," she said to him again, when they were settled. She stroked her fingers through his hair. "You belong to me. Don't forget that."

Squalo turned his face to press a kiss against the bare skin of her shoulder. "No chance of that happening, Boss. Not ever."

Xanxus sighed; the sound of it was vaguely frustrated, but when he lifted his head to check on her, she only shook her head at him and told him to go to sleep.

Squalo, puzzled, returned his head to her shoulder and did his best to obey, though it took him a while to do it, since he was still wondering over the things that had changed and the new rules he was apparently going to have to learn.

Even though it took him a long time to settle his thoughts, Xanxus was still stroking his hair when he finally drifted into sleep.