Title: Promises Made and Then Broken
Summary: Eight and one and five and three and two and one make twenty; that might be just enough.
Notes: Teen for smut in passing. For KHRfest, prompt II-11: Xanxus/Squalo – inevitable; Xanxus reacts when Squalo finally decides to chop it all off (his hair). 1564 words.
Promises Made and Then Broken
Squalo's hair was very nearly the first sight to greet Xanxus' eyes when his vision cleared and the cold retreated. Eight years on ice was enough time for a man to grow hair that spilled down his back like a ragged banner. It made him snarl, then, to see how much time had been stolen from him.
A year added some more length to Squalo's hair, though perhaps it didn't really matter when it was already nearly long enough for Squalo to sit on. Probably no one else noticed the difference. Xanxus did—each additional centimeter was a punch to the solar plexus, reminding him of the vow he'd made that he had yet to fulfill. It was almost a relief when the shark got Squalo and to know that whatever else happened, at least he wouldn't have to have that reminder waving in front of him anymore, goading him forward.
It was probably a sign of how much the universe hated him that Cavallone's people fished Squalo out of the water, hair and all, and dropped him back in Xanxus' lap.
Five years down the road, Squalo's hair was long enough to sit on and then some, unless he twitched it out of his way before dropping into his seat. It flicked around his thighs when he walked to the main house to see the Sawada brat take the ring and the Vongola, and it swished around the planes of his face when he cam ambling back afterwards to report what he'd seen to Xanxus. "Thought we were going to have time to catch up on the paperwork," he said, finally, "but it looks like the Cetrulli don't buy the brat any more than we do."
Xanxus just grunted at that; of course the Cetrulli didn't. They seized on any possibility to make trouble for the Vongola that presented itself.
"Rino Cetrulli was chatting me up at the reception." The remark was off-handed, but Squalo's eyes were keen behind the veiling fall of his hair. "Wanted me to let you know he missed you."
Xanxus absorbed that and spat over the balcony. "Rino Cetrulli would have pissed his pants if I'd been there."
"Probably." Squalo's smile was as sharp as his sword. "Do I string him along for now, or cut him off at the knees right away?" Both options seemed to please him.
Xanxus looked up towards the main house, mostly hidden as it was by the trees that surrounded the Varia's headquarters. "String him along," he said. When they went to the brat with the evidence, he'd be forced to do something. And if—when—he waffled, then Xanxus would be free to do something. Yeah.
"Sure thing, Boss," Squalo said, and moved on to the next part of his report.
Three years on from that, Squalo's hair hit his knees and pooled around him when he knelt over Xanxus' hips to suck his cock. Xanxus could wrap it around and around his fist and did, gripping it as Squalo's head bobbed over his lap, methodically slow. In the last moments before his orgasm slammed into him and scoured his mind clear of such concerns, Xanxus looked at the hair twined around his hands and wondered who was binding whom.
Two years on from that, he noticed that Squalo never bitched about his hair—Squalo, who complained loudly and at length about everything else, from shitty goof-off katana brats to Bel's wastefulness with new recruits, never breathed a word of complaint about his hair, not when he woke up with it half-unraveled from the braid he slept in and had to spend half an hour picking knots out of it, and not when he had to spend hours cleaning blood or worse out of it after missions. He never said anything when Xanxus growled at the inconvenience of it, pushing it out of his face or unwrapping it from his throat or yelling about having to call the plumber yet again to snake out the drain of the fucking shower. His face stayed neutral and he just shrugged and said, "Sorry, Boss," before flipping the mass of it over his shoulder and moving along.
A year on from that, Xanxus looked across the table at Sawada, who'd just given him a direct order, and only showed his teeth once before saying, "Yeah, sure. Whatever." They could try it Sawada's way first, and deal with the Cetrulli his way if that didn't fly.
It wasn't until he rose to walk out and saw Squalo's hair flicking around his calves that what he'd done—what he'd become—really sank in.
He nearly howled right there in front of Sawada and his people, but didn't. He gritted his teeth instead and followed Squalo out, teeth clenched against his fury so hard his jaw ached. Squalo glanced at him once; his eyes flickered just a bit and he picked up his pace until they were out of the house and into the air. He grunted and stopped when Xanxus reached out to seize a fistful of his hair the moment they were out of sight of the main house. "Boss?"
Xanxus shook the fist clutching Squalo's hair, rage clotting in his throat. "Why?" he demanded. "I'm not—I'm never going to be—why the fuck haven't you cut this off?"
Squalo was grimacing at the grip on his hair, head tilted at an angle to ease the pressure on his scalp. He still answered readily. "I made a promise, Boss. Not gonna break it."
"Didn't you hear me?" Xanxus shook his fist again as his gut twisted. "You stupid fuck, I'm never going to be the Tenth!"
Squalo just grunted as Xanxus shook him and strands of hair parted from his scalp. "You're the boss," he said. His eyes were watering, but he made no move to free himself. "You decide these things. Not me." And somehow, despite the angle of his neck and the water standing in his eyes, he met Xanxus' eyes squarely.
Xanxus was the one who had to look away, letting go of Squalo's hair and stumbling back a step. There were strands of hair wrapped around his fingers even when he went, mute witness to a vow twenty years old, the stupidest thing he'd ever done, or one of them. "Fuck," he said, staring at the hair wound around his fingers. "Fuck."
Squalo let him be, standing straight and watching him as the breeze played with the ends of his hair, tossing it around the tops of his boots. When Xanxus met his eyes again, he lifted a shoulder. "You're the one I follow."
He said it like it was something simple. Something easy. Hell, for him, maybe it was.
Xanxus opened his fist and let the breeze take the strands of Squalo's hair from his fingers. "Come here," he said. Squalo did, not even faltering when Xanxus went for the knife in his boot.
He did grunt when Xanxus seized his hair again. "Boss—"
"Shut up." His voice didn't even sound like his own; he felt like he was watching someone else double up the fistful of Squalo's hair and saw through it. Squalo made a quiet, unidentifiable sound as the first fistful of his hair slithered down to lie in the dirt under their boots. Xanxus growled at him again and seized another fistful of hair, sawing it off and letting the ragged ends float in the breeze around the stunned expression on Squalo's face.
It had taken twenty years for Squalo's hair to grow out that long. It took less than a minute for Xanxus to hack it off as Squalo stood stock-still and let him. When Xanxus stepped back, he found he was breathing hard, like he'd just run ten kilometers, and he didn't entirely recognize the man staring at him from under the ragged corona of bone-pale hair, though he reminded Xanxus of a boy he'd known once. "I'm not who you thought I was." The words felt like they were coming from somewhere deep inside him, from some part of himself he'd never even realized was there. "Make up your own mind from now on."
The stranger with Squalo's face raised a hand and ran his fingers through the flyaway strands of his hair, once, and looked down at the pile of hair scattered around him. Then he looked up and snorted, a familiar half-smile touching his lips. "It's a damn good thing I didn't decide to follow you for your brains, Boss," he said, stepping away from the pile of hair. He caught Xanxus' wrist and went down on one knee, pressing his lips to the back of Xanxus' hand. Then he took the knife out of Xanxus' slack fingers and returned it to its sheath in his boot. "You're exactly the man I thought you were," he added, rising.
The world jolted back into motion, fitting itself into new patterns that didn't entirely make sense—and didn't not make sense, either. "Squalo," Xanxus said, hearing the hoarseness in his own voice.
Squalo smiled that wry half-smile again. "Yeah, Boss." He raked the hair back from his eyes. "Come on. Let's go home and figure out what we're going to do when Sawada's plan falls through."
"Yeah," Xanxus said, slowly, "okay," and fell into step with Squalo.
Neither of them looked back.
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