Xanxus would be hard pressed to admit any affection he felt for Squalo, his right hand man and lover, even under the influence of alcohol, but he knew he knew that he did. It was not that he felt it as much as he knew it. Knowing it was bad enough, he was sure, but never let himself feel it if he could help himself.

He hadn't always thought of it that way. He had never thought he might have cared for him at all until the day he was pretty sure he had just watched him falling into hell (read: shark's stomach) – watched him fall out of his, Xanxus' life.

Later in the privacy of his room, he'd convinced himself and his tequila it was what he wanted because he would never find out he had been following a fake all his life. His tequila seemed to glare at him in silent protest as if his answer was unsatisfactory. Or maybe he was just drunk as hell.

He woke up the next morning still sprawled out on his chair with the worst fucking hangover imaginable. He could not recall when he had drunk himself sillier or had a worse hangover. He sulked in his room all day and only stalked out to go to the Mist Battle.

The plan for the Sky Battle was to simply kill the brats and be done. And apparently, it was too difficult for these grown, elite assassins who were all trained to avoid fifty bullets at a time and more etc. They'd all killed a full mansion of men but couldn't handle a bunch of half dead brats. He sometimes doubted their commitment to sparkle motion. Xanxus found himself bitterly wishing Squalo was there.

And the ring fucking rejected him, and to make things worse, his worthless excuse for a right hand man came back. For a moment he thought the supposed Vongola Decimo had really killed him after all and he'd gone to hell, or maybe heaven, because there weren't any angels in hell.

He had meant to call him 'trash', really, but somehow, the '-zame' had attached itself to the word. And the shark knew – he knew – all along he was a fake, that he couldn't be the Tenth Vongola, and had never left him. He said he couldunderstand.

In a moment Xanxus felt a swirl of emotion. He felt angry(-ier), hurt, betrayed… If he had any strength left he would have liked to march over to where Squalo was, seize him by the neck and strangle him. And another part of him needed to know why.

Squalo would never have a satisfactory answer to this question.

When they were all unhospitalised and sent back to Italy, Xanxus fucked Squalo so hard he opened all his stitches and was a bloody mess long before Xanxus was done. When he fainted, his boss sighed and, picking him up, threw him onto the bed. He slipped underneath the sheets as well and wrapped his arms around him. He had never hugged him before, but he felt the need for closeness, just once. He looked at his subordinate for a moment before brushing his lips against his cheek, and perhaps felt a little glad he wasn't dead after all.

That was ten years ago. And now they were sort of in the same situation. He could still blame the katana brat and Squalo's own weakness too.

In that ten years, Xanxus had learnt to understand what anxiety when Squalo was late in returning from a mission was. He understood why he felt the slight pangs that he did when he glimpsed his subordinate's many scars on his body. He knew what the racing of his pulse when he tried to kiss him meant. He had long learnt to accept it, though albeit grudgingly, and now here was that slight of sense of panic he had not felt for more than ten years returning.

He laughed, as usual.

But at least this time he was more prepared for the relief that flooded through him when he appeared right in front of him again, in much the same sorry state as during the Sky Battle too. Xanxus sincerely hoped the relief was not showing in his eyes, which he was afraid they might be, from the way the Bucking Horse kept glancing at him.

When it was over and the fucking Vongola Decimo was busy running around trying to get everyone healed all at once, Xanxus shoved his guns into his pockets, stalked over to Squalo and crushed their bodies and lips together, consequently hushing the entire party. After an eternity he broke the kiss, but didn't release him. He bent his head to hiss in his ear 'I am never – never – going to let you go ever again if every time I do, you try to die.'

He felt Squalo smile against his shoulder, wrap an arm around him and say 'I'm fine with that.'