Actions

Work Header

To The Grave

Chapter Text

“A secret left unsaid is a knife left unsheathed.”

 

 

Simple.

Simple is what things were meant to be for Chrollo. Simple, easy, definent. He always came out on top, regardless of consequences, because he kept things simple. Hisoka wanted a fight? Then Hisoka found Chrollo’s Nen. Chrollo wanted money? Then Chrollo stole. Chrollo needed food? Then Chrollo ate. Chrollo needed sleep? Then Chrollo slept.

Simplicity was something his opponents underestimated again and again and again. They didn’t understand the power of simplicity. All of them were caught up in their own confusion, their revenge, their hunger for blood, their needs that surpassed their abilities. Chrollo kept things simple, and that was why his spiders were so, so very loyal. Because he cut through the confusion of their lives, the confusion of existence, and gave them a simple creed: If there is something to be stolen, you take. If there is power you lack, you gain it. If you die, then you embrace it.

Simple.

Perhaps it was that mantra that led him here now. In the months following his Nen restoration, Chrollo had become, well, bored. Simplicity was nice and all, but the recovery had taken longer than he anticipated. He had to relearn all of the basics, build himself up to be even stronger than before, and now he needed a true challenge to his abilities. A simple theft would not do. He needed someone to fight. So when Edwin Vanguard reached out, a previous client, with the promise of a rare artifact in exchange for the capture of some thorn in his side, Chrollo had accepted.

Next to nothing was known of his opponent, which he appreciated, and the details were unclear as to if it was one or two. Perhaps a copy ability. Edwin had informed him that whoever it was, they were stealing data off of the computers of “various colleagues”, whatever that meant, erasing any and all camera footage of their presence, and disappearing without a trace. Most men who saw them in the flesh were dead, and the two known survivors were both in comas, and unable to provide a description.

Edwin was likely more than up to the task of facing off with these hackers himself, but the man hated to get his hands dirty. Chrollo didn’t particularly appreciate that about him. In fact, there was a lot about the man that Chrollo didn’t appreciate. He was a creep, with a lot of rumors surrounding him, and Machi detested his very presence. Which is why, coincidentally, he brought her along. He liked to see lesser men squirm. It pleased him.

So, here they were, in a state of Zetsu, in an almost empty manor, lounging about in the office.

“If they manage to get the flash drive, destroy it,” Edwin had warned Chrollo. Chrollo didn’t much care for the drive, or whatever shady dealings Edwin was playing at that warranted this vigilante justice being leveled against him, so he had simply ignored his squirming. Whatever made him happy, he supposed. He just wanted the sarcophagus.

“I feel like whoever these guys are, they’re too good to walk into such an obvious trap,” Machi finally said, quietly, as quietly as she could manage.

“Or they’re the type that like to spring them,” Chrollo countered. So far, there had been not a single whiff of their presence. It almost had his feathers ruffled, but beneath that, he was almost … Excited wasn’t the word here. Bloodthirsty, perhaps. Yes, bloodthirsty. Had he not been in Zetsu, it would have been oozing off of him. It had been so long since he had a hunt, even if this was going to be so shortlived.

“Do you think so? They seem cautious.”

“Cautious men don’t go up against the mafia, Machi.”

“I suppose so. I wonder what information they’re gathering that the Hunter Association doesn’t already have. It seems off.”

“Maybe they like high stakes gambling.”

The two fell silent at that, watching the minutes count down on the clock above the desk. Almost midnight. Edwin had hired them out until three am. The supposed duo had three hours to show.

Chrollo felt it a few minutes after the clock struck twelve. A slight shift, almost imperceptible, a very good attempt to hide one’s presence. Slightly, he sat up, not letting his Zetsu drop just yet. If he did he could get a better read but …

It didn’t matter. The door to the study creaked open, and there was the distinct plop of a single drop of liquid falling to the ground. Blood. He had heard nothing. No screams, no fighting, then …

The door opened further, and there the elusive guests were. Possibly Machi’s height, maybe shorter, clad in black, identical stances, identical build, identical height. Their hair was covered by some sort of silk wrap that swung around to hide their lower faces, and the only discernible difference to be found was white and black lashes and brows. Other than that, nothing. Ice blue, nearly silver eyes fixed on him and Machi, and the two shifted into a defensive position in perfect unison.

Chrollo dropped the Zetsu just as their Nen flared. Black, twisted, swirling about the two in a figure eight. Shared Nen. So a copy ability? No? It didn’t look like a copy ability. Both were emanating Nen. One was not strictly going into the other. They were feeding each other. He hadn't seen that one before. He wanted to steal it.

“You’re late,” Chrollo said softly, and the room exploded.

Shadows took form and lashed out as one leapt over the desk, a flash drive in one bloody hand, sliding behind the computer. Not distracted from their goals, then.

Chrollo and Machi didn’t need to communicate. As one, they swept out in a pincher movement, Machi moving to slam the French doors shut as Chrollo made for the one behind the computer. Shadow … was it shadow? Were they Manipulators? Emitters? Lashed out from beneath the desk and knocked him back, Machi following soon after. Had it hit weaker Ko, his ribcage would have been crushed on impact. They weren’t showing their Ten yet. This was a problem. The one behind the computer already had the drive in, and was tapping away furiously, brows furrowed intently. The one in front of him stood stalwart, not even moving to attack.

Defense. They only cared about defense.

The French doors were shut. He just had to shut the office door, and then he could … Oh, who was he kidding? Machi was with him.

“That was a nice greeting,” Chrollo stated, low and cool. “How about a proper one. Our client would like to get to know you."

The one before the desk stared at him, their eyes devoid of any expression.

“Silent killers, then?" Machi’s thread started soaring about the room. Their aura grew, and shadowy tentacles lashed about, knocking the threads in every which way except behind the desk. Very brave of them, to leave just one to face them. It would seem they didn’t watch the news.

“It is very stupid of you to think just one of you can take us on,” Machi said sharply, and the one in front of the desk narrowed their eyes, only slightly. It was then that Chrollo caught it. The figure eight he had noticed before was tapering behind the desk, and swelling around the guard. Oh, very clever. Excellent Nen control. He almost wanted to recruit them.

“It doesn't matter either way,” Chrollo pointed out, watching Machi from the corner of his eye as she caught on. The hacker was virtually defenseless, putting all of their trust in the guard. A very foolish mistake to make.

Machi let her Nen swell significantly, choking the room out of any essence, and the guard shifted their foot into a stance, ready to attack. They still had yet to say anything. Intriguing. An attack was going to launch soon, but who would make the first move? Chrollo focused, his Gyo lighting up, as he scanned for gaps in their armor. If he was correct, whatever ability they had was a near perfect defense and offense. It could appear at any moment, drown out the room so you couldn’t see it coming, and if it was grabbed when acting as a defense, it could just dissipate and swing in for a counter attack. They had trained very hard. They must have had an excellent teacher.

Oh. Now that was a gap. And intense Nen control. The two seemed to have woven nen throughout their pelvises, inside of their bodies. Perhaps they had broken them? He couldn’t tell at first glance. Why were they identical?

“Machi. Aim for the pelvises.”

“Aim for the pelvises and it’ll be the last thing you do.”

A sharp, singsong voice cut through the heady haze, and if Chrollo had it in him to be surprised, he would have jerked back. But, no. Instead his head snapped to the tall, tall redhead leaning in the doorway, face done up in fresh paint and looking for all the world like he was ready for battle as his In dropped around them to display a bloodlust unlike Chrollo had ever seen him display previously.

He hadn’t seen the magician in a year. He wasn’t expecting to see him here, but isn’t that was what Hisoka was? A wrecking ball programmed to your most inopportune moments?

“Hisoka,” Machi snarled, but Chrollo held up a hand. This was getting interesting.

“Were you waiting for me to leave Meteor City?”

Hisoka laughed, a tinkling giggle, and his eyes gleamed bright in the low light.

“My, my, Chrollo. I never thought you would be the egotistical one.”

“So you’re after them.”

There was that telltale glint in his eye. He’s about to lie.

“Of course.”

“And if I kill them first?”

“You won’t get the chance.”

Now that wasn’t a lie. Something dangerous flickered in the jester’s eyes, murderous, a different kind than he normally displayed. Not unlike a mother protecting her cubs. Chrollo’s eyes flicked back to the two, just as the hacker reached forward and pulled out the drive. Blood was all over the pristine white keyboard now. It looked rather nice.

“Nox, Nyx,” Hisoka said softly, and Chrollo’s eyes snapped back to him. “Remember your promise. Go. I’ll slow them down.”

“They’re not going to just go,” Machi snapped and Hisoka’s gaze went back to her.

“You don’t have a say in the matter.”

Chrollo wasn’t sure he had never seen Hisoka speak to Machi in such a dismissive manner. Just what was going on here?

His thoughts had strayed too far from his target, and suddenly there was a burst of Nen, shadows swelling and exploding to throw him and Machi into the wall, crashing through into the hallway, where they were met with a trail of blood up the stairs.

Nox.

Nyx.

It would seem Hisoka had found himself a pair of murderous twins.

The twins he wasn’t certain he could beat without being forced to kill them, and their client had preferred them alive if at all possible, but Hisoka?

Hisoka he could subdue easily, and if he was right in his current assessment, they would come running for him.

There was the sound of glass breaking, and faintly, motorcycle engines being revved up, and he let it go in an instant as a lost cause.

Grimacing slightly, he climbed to his feet and finally, finally pulled out his book.

“Change of plans, Machi,” he said shortly to his subordinate as she climbed up, irritation rolling off of her in waves. “We’re capturing Hisoka. Alive.”

“Dear Chrollo, don’t you remember?” Hisoka stepped daintily through the wreckage, and Chrollo dimly noticed he had gone from kitten heels to stilettos at some point in the year long hiatus to their fight. “I intend to die in combat. Can you really stop me from pushing you to granting me that?”

“You want to die less than you let on, Hisoka. Don’t you remember? You can’t lie to me.”

A grin spread across Hisoka’s lips, but it didn’t reach his eyes.

“If me dying keeps you from killing them before they finish their task, I am gladly willing to accept that price.”

Chrollo let his lips quirk only just. The price he had for Hisoka and his betrayal was far, far higher than anything the jester could imagine. He couldn’t wait to collect his debts.

Chapter Text

“A beaten man has nothing left to lose.”

 

Chrollo was, admittedly, something of a sadist. But even a blind man would know Hisoka looked better when he was beaten black and blue and blissfully, thankfully, silent. At that precise moment, Hisoka was silent because he was completely unconscious, slumped against his bonds tethering him to a pillar. Recently, Chrollo had acquired a set of handcuffs that forced the wearer into Zetsu, and wasn’t this a momentous occasion to use them.

 

All of Hisoka’s hair products had sweated out, making brilliant red hair fall flat and greasy around his face. He’d been stripped to the waist so Machi could stop the bleeding, long enough to keep him alive, and Chrollo took the brief moment of victory to thoroughly study the irritating, endless creature.

 

Torturing secrets out of him wouldn’t work. Hisoka was more twisted and vile than anyone in the troupe, and pain only served to bring him closer to ecstasy. Chrollo could, of course, opt for the long way. Keeping him awake for days on end, with little food or water, but he had a feeling that wouldn’t work as well as it did on others. Pleasure, perhaps, but Chrollo wasn’t really inclined to give him such niceties. He would have to find some kind of Specialist like Pakunoda, who could draw out the memories and get his information that way. Even if Hisoka wasn’t allied with the twins, (he had decided they were twins), he likely knew something of importance.

 

They could strike a deal, but … He wasn’t so sure. Hisoka had seemed awfully protective of the two. 

 

“I am gladly willing to accept that price.”

 

What had that meant? Hisoka had some form of stake in the game, to the point of willing self sacrifice. Chrollo wasn’t sure how to use that to his advantage. Previously, Hisoka had been … complicated, sure, but easy to understand, and easy to use. He wanted nothing but battle, was driven by this insane sort of lust, want, need. It was easy to toy with people that were obsessed. Hisoka wanted to die in battle, in a blaze of glory, probably orgasming as he did, the sick fuck.

 

Hisoka, from his previous understanding, was not the type to die for someone else. It simply wasn’t in his nature. So who were these twins?

 

“Shalnark,” Chrollo called from his seat on his chair, which he had stretched across like a cat, his eyes not wavering from the slumped figure before him. Shalnark peeked in from the other room, where he had been left on standby, in the event of Hisoka waking up and proving troublesome.

 

“Yes, Danchou?”

 

“Research mission. Find me a nen user who has some form of ability similar to Pakunoda.”

 

Chrollo barely heard Shalnark’s reply and scarcely noticed how hurriedly Shalnark had exited. He was starting to get into a mood, and it seemed as though the entire troupe had noticed, because their nen presence was far, far away from the ballroom.

 

Simple. This was all meant to be simple, and yet here Hisoka was, betraying that simple understanding Chrollo had of him, and now Chrollo was going to have to understand him all over again. Find his ticks all over again. Figure out how to use him all over again. Decide if he’s worth killing all. Over. Again.

 

Hisoka, once again, was functioning as a wrench thrown into Chrollo’s cogs, and Chrollo was quite frankly, almost furious.

 

Almost.

 

People were predictable until they weren’t, and now Hisoka was no longer predictable, all from a fight that lasted scarcely longer than ten minutes. Actually, not even five. Had Hisoka been fighting to, well, get off, it would have drug out for who knows how long, but instead he had …

 

Done something unpredictable, the second Chrollo summoned up hounds to go after the twins. He’d let himself get skewered by threads and incapacitated so he could turn for five seconds to blow the pursuing hounds sky high with no less than two decks of cards. He hadn’t even known if Chrollo could simply bring the nen hounds back. He’d simply acted on instinct. Chrollo wasn’t sure what to make of that. He still wasn’t sure, twelve hours, a concussion, and heavy sedatives later.

 

“Chrollo, dinner for the troupe is going to be ready soon,” Machi said from behind him, and Chrollo looked down at the book he’d been pretending to read for the last hour. Ah, Machi, the only one that had stayed by while Chrollo worked himself up into a mood, passively typing away on her phone.

 

“Let me know when he wakes up. I’m going to shower,” Chrollo replied shortly and stood swiftly, stalking towards the stairs. He could almost feel Machi’s disapproval wafting off of her. Machi. Damn the woman, she always knew when he was getting obsessed. Hisoka was probably not a healthy obsession, but she knew, of all people, that it could be worse.

 

A cold shower did nothing to quell the questions swirling in the thief’s mind. He had never really been fond of puzzles, personally, mainly because the majority of them were too easy to solve, so when he was confronted with a truly difficult one, it only served to irritate him. Perhaps that was hubris. He liked to think he had none, but his year in solitude had taught him that yes, he did have hubris. He refused any perspective that demanded that his loss. When faced with an opponent he couldn’t beat, like the Chain User, rather than get up when he got knocked down, he simply changed the rules, decided himself expendable, his existence pointless in the grand scheme of the troupe. Even his own troupe, the only people he truly cared for, couldn’t accept that, and rewrote his ending.

 

He couldn’t win on his own.

 

Hisoka’s obsession was his salvation.

 

And now his faith, because, yes, it was faith, in that obsession, in that understanding of who Hisoka was, was in question.

 

It shouldn’t have bothered him. He shouldn’t have to care. Outside of restoring his nen, Hisoka had always been of little consequence to Chrollo. Hisoka, he thought, had seen Chrollo as a toy, but to Chrollo he had been little more than an annoying gnat, and now suddenly that understanding of Hisoka was being challenged. Chrollo wasn’t sure he liked that, or hated it. Either way, he didn’t want to embrace it, and yet he wanted to unravel the secret.

 

Or, primarily, he wanted to get his hands on the sarcophagus. He had lied to Edwin, told him the twins, he was sure they were twins, hadn’t accomplished the download, but had escaped. He had also told them he had a lead on them, a third party who knew them, and would extract the information himself. Edwin had raged over being left in the dark, but eventually agreed to allow Chrollo to handle it. So long as he got his results. The man only ever cared about results.

 

Chrollo was content with that.

 

He was not content with the basket case in the ballroom, waiting to wake up, and not even the frigid water could chase away the cloud that was descending on his mind. Shalnark would find someone soon, he was sure of it. Realistically, Chrollo could just sit back, relax, and not worry about it. Hisoka wasn’t going anywhere. He himself had very meticulously inspected him for tracking devices. The twins wouldn’t be able to track him down before Shalnark got him a telepath or some equivalent. No one was that good, anyways, and even if they did manage it, they would be going up against the full force of the phantom troupe. He could take them alive easily, and wrest the answers out of them himself, even if he had to break their hands to do it.

 

“Aim for their pelvises and that’ll be the last thing you do.”

 

They were just fruit, right? Fruit was what he called the ones with potential. The declaration had seemed … off. Off and wrong in every way. Hisoka didn’t care if his “fruit” had grievous bodily harm, so long as they could get up, eventually. Incapacitating some broken pelvises should allow them to get back up, right? Unless, for whatever reason, that was a kill shot. It was unlikely. He just didn’t know what to make of this entire situation.

 

Hisoka actually caring about someone was simply inconceivable, in any universe. That much Chrollo knew. It wasn’t even an option to consider.

 

He was just wasting water now. A long, tired groan escaped his lips and he shut it off. Dinner would be ready soon. If he was correct, Phinks was cooking, so it wasn’t going to be utterly awful. Hopefully he wasn’t just making burgers for the 247th time.

 

A hoodie and pair of sweats had been carelessly tossed on the bed for his clothing for the day. Hisoka was going to be waking up soon. He would have to have a 24 hour watch on the man. Even in forced zetsu, he was still a threat. Hopefully they hadn’t concussed and drugged him into amnesia. That would be unfortunate for his plans.

 

Barefoot, Chrollo slipped out of the en suite and made his way to the ballroom first, to check on Hisoka. As predicted, the man was finally awake and looking worse for wear, blinking hazily against the glare of the lights. His makeup was completely fucked, and Chrollo realized for just the briefest of moments that he had never seen Hisoka without a face. At some point they’d have to toss him into a shower. He was filthy and dried blood would start reeking eventually.

 

“You’re awake.”

 

“And not dead. I presume you kept me alive to either torture me, or use me as bait, or both, yes?”

 

So the concussion hadn’t rattled too many brain cells. Some degree of cunning was leaking back into his yellow eyes, which left Chrollo almost relieved. Hisoka without any brain power seemed like a recipe for disaster. He’d seen him drunk approximately once, and never wanted to see anything similar again. Drunks that cried were the worst.

 

“You are not in a position to be asking questions, Hisoka.”

 

“Am I?” Hisoka stretched, wincing as he realized his shoulder had been dislocated and reset. “Any position is a position to be asking questions, mm?” And then he smirked, that damnable smirk that haunted Chrollo on late nights where he would rather think about anyone that was actually important and worthy enough to preoccupy his mind.

 

“Edwin has promised me the Sarcophagus of Mimsai if I deliver answers and a set of bodies to him. So regardless of your questions, you will be giving me answers. One way or another. Or they will, when they inevitably get here.”

 

“Don’t think you can catch them so easily.” Hisoka leered up at him, but now that Chrollo had seen him in a different light, he was beginning to notice little things. The way his leers didn’t reach his eyes. That tiny strain in his singsong, mocking tone that seemed just slightly off, slightly forced. How his eyes never stopped calculating, noticing, observing. Hisoka was a stage magician. Chrollo knew this, and had always just immediately accepted how outrageous and outlandish and almost rehearsed his behavior was in stride. Everyone did. Hisoka was carefully designed to get the optimal amount of discomfort out of anyone he crossed. It was a beautifully done act, and one that made perfect sense. Almost too much sense.

 

“Are they what you call ‘fruit’?”

 

“My, my, Chrollo, how forward you are.”

 

A non answer. Hisoka consistently gave non answers. He was an expert at controlling the conversation. It was just like his bungee gum. Even if you saw through it, knew how it worked, you couldn’t conquer it without hitting a sore spot, catching him off guard. Like how he and Machi had managed to capture him.

 

Chrollo had already threatened the twins, and therefore he knew that wouldn’t work. Hisoka had only clammed shut. He’d like to at least get some information out of him before the telepath arrived. That, however, was unlikely. And the knowledge that it was unlikely rankled Chrollo.

 

“You’re very good at not giving answers, Hisoka. I’ll just have to make sure you don’t have a choice.”

 

Hisoka grinned up at him, filthy and radiating … Chrollo wasn’t sure. Was he bucking up to the challenge? It was likely.

 

“I would love to see you try, Chrollo.”

 

“You should stop picking fights you won’t win.”

 

Something flickered across Hisoka’s eyes. It was very brief, very fleeting, but for a moment he almost looked … sad?

 

“And you should stop asking questions you don’t want to know the answers to.”

 

“The answer, for me, is a very nice ancient and cursed sarcophagus I won’t have to spend a month or two trying to steal. Anything else is immaterial.”

 

What did Hisoka mean?

 

“It won’t be worth the cost to get it.”

 

“I think I am capable of deciding that for myself, but your concern is noted.”

 

Hisoka had dropped the singsong tease in his tone for a moment. Chrollo noticed. Just what was his secret?

 

The familiar tilt to his jaw came back just as the door to the ballroom opened and Shizuku stuck her head in.

 

“Danchou! Food’s ready!”

 

The woman stopped and blinked at the jester tied to a pillar.

 

“Who’s that?”

 

“Hello, Shizuku,” Hisoka called warmly. “It’s lovely to see you again. I see your memory is still wonderful.”

 

Shizuku merely blinked once more and Chrollo sighed quietly to himself.

 

“I’ll be there in a moment, Shizuku. Go eat.”

 

“Okay!”

 

And, with that, the door slammed shut, leaving Chrollo alone with his prey. It was starting to feel like he was the prey at this point. Something in him wanted to teach Hisoka a lesson, but how could a teacher discipline an unruly student without understanding the reason for the misbehavior? No, it was best to leave alone for now.

 

“It would be redundant to tell you to stay. I’ll leave you here to entertain yourself,” Chrollo said shortly and turned on his heel. Shalnark better dig up a lead soon, before Chrollo’s endless patience started to fray.

Chapter Text

“Just once is all it takes to save a soul.”

 

It had taken Shalnark three days to find an obscure tribe known for their strange ritual of “sharing memories”. It had taken Phinks and Kalluto two days to reach the tribe, hidden high up in frigid mountains, where normal humans would die of oxygen deprivation before they could reach the summit, and two days to bring the stolen “receiver”, as they were called, back down and to the hideout.

 

So, one week. One week and a few hours since the troupe had brought Hisoka to the hideout, one frustrating, torturous week. Half of the troupe wanted to kill him. The other half just wanted him gone, and Chrollo could scarcely blame them. One week with a beast like Hisoka would drive anyone to extremes. At this point, he was having to play babysitter not just to their unwilling guest, but every murderous creature in the house.

 

The sooner they got information on the hideout, or just anything about the twins beyond their names, the better. Chrollo himself wanted to stab Hisoka through the chest. Somehow, the man’s habit of controlling the conversation only got more irritating when he was tied up to a pillar and grinning through blood after Feitan had lost his temper and split his lip. What was even more frustrating was that, after a bath and a face wiped clean of grime, clad in Chrollo’s spare joggers that bunched up around his calves, Hisoka was even more attractive. Wild, untamed, wavy hair and a sharp face left Chrollo’s mind spinning. He had never stopped to consider that Hisoka’s makeup, already designed to throw off facial recognition, was also designed to not highlight, but shield a very pretty face. Like he was deliberately trying to make himself into someone that was ugly attempting to be attractive.

 

Irritating. Hisoka was irritating. Chrollo wanted him out of his house.

 

Chrollo was interrupted from his aggravated musings by the doors slamming open to reveal Phinks and Kalluto dragging in a wriggling … person? Clad in thick furs and wrapped boots, they were dressed for the mountains they came from. Their hair was long and fixed in an elaborate, falling apart hairstyle, black as night, and their eyes were wild and panicked. Chrollo couldn’t tell if they were male or female. Not that it really mattered, of course.

 

“Aw, Chrollo, you didn’t tell me you were bringing me a gift.” Hisoka spoke up, his voice raw and grating from the water denial of several days after he had slipped out of the cuffs, tried to escape, and was henceforth captured and slammed back into them. The wall he took out was going to take weeks to fix. Chrollo had been irritated. Chrollo’s legendary irritation could last days, if not weeks, and therefore Hisoka did not need water until he was just about ready to die.

 

Perhaps he had been too harsh.

 

“Let go!” The person roared, a fist solidly connecting with Kalluto’s chin.

 

“I think that’s enough.” Chrollo’s voice cut through the chaos and everyone in the room froze, with the exception of Hisoka, who couldn’t move anyways. “You are the receiver?”

 

They couldn’t have been more than seventeen. A veritable child, but, then again, so was Kalluto.

 

The person glared up at him, blowing a strand of straight black hair from their eyes, and Phinks tightened his grip on their arm.

 

“Yes.”

 

“You will retrieve information from this man.” Chrollo gestured to Hisoka, still bound to the pillar. “In exchange, I let your village and its inhabitants live. Fair trade?”

 

Straight to the point. There was no point in mincing words. From the sharp cuts on their cheeks and bruises all across their body, even if they didn’t have knowledge of the phantom troupe, they knew Chrollo would follow through.

 

“He is not a giver,” the person replied, jutting a chin at Hisoka. They were all sharp edges wrapped in soft furs. Chrollo could appreciate that. He liked it when people he would inevitably kill had a little fight in them. “He is untrained. It would kill him before you got any information.”

 

“And what is a giver?”

 

“Retired receivers who pass on the memories of our ancestors. Training takes years to be a giver. Taking any memories by force, which is exactly what this looks like, could kill someone without spirit, or, as you call it, Nen.” The person was looking at Chrollo like he was an idiot, but Chrollo was fine with that. Lack of knowledge only meant there was more to learn.

 

“He does have Nen. It’s just locked. Besides, he’s willing to die.”

 

“I’m not killing a man. You can burn down my village, but not a single receiver there would do what you ask. The ancestors would frown on us.”

 

Ah, superstition. That strange little thing people were willing to die for. Chrollo never quite understood it. Then again, he didn’t really want to. The only people who did understand it, who weren’t superstitious themselves, were people forcibly raised in it. Chrollo was content to let them keep that knowledge to themselves. He didn’t need it.

 

Even so. It would be a pain to go get someone else, not when they had a deadline that no one had seen fit to tell them about. The twins could show up at any time. He’d rather not let this place get wrecked. He’d spent an inordinate amount of money on it, after all.

 

“Does he need to be conscious?”

 

The person blinked, almost in surprise. Apparently, they had not expected him to be reasonable. Which was to be expected, of course. They had kidnapped them.

 

“Well, probably not, but…”

 

“Can you at least have the decency to discuss me like a sack of meat outside of my hearing range?”

 

Ah, there he was. Chrollo had been waiting for him to pop into the conversation.

 

“Danchou…”

 

“Phinks, Kalluto, you may leave. Bring me Machi, if you will. Tell her to bring the tranquilizers.”

 

It was a simple fix. If he didn’t cooperate with the receiver, or whatever they were, they may just fudge the whole thing, or withhold information. And even if they were lying about not being able to get the information in time, there was no point in testing that. All he needed was an unconscious Hisoka, or at least a Hisoka drugged up enough to be a non threat. He could just kill the receiver later, or perhaps steal their ability. It seemed handy. He just needed to know how it worked. All of Shalnark’s research pointed to it being a group project, needing multiple people, but the specifics were hazy. They did not seem to appreciate anthropologists or hunters coming to study them.

 

Chrollo glanced at Hisoka from the corner of his eye. The jester was ramrod still, like a predator waiting to strike. He wouldn’t get that chance.

 

“You.” He focused his attention back onto the receiver. “What is your name?”

 

The person was quiet, studying Hisoka with a contemplative expression. They seemed to adjust well under pressure. That was good. Probably saved their life, for now. After all, if Chrollo was going to have someone do an important task, he didn’t want them jittery.

 

“Ky’ia.”

 

“What do you need for the ritual? It is a ritual, yes?”

 

“It depends. How much information do you need from him?”

 

“I need information on a set of twins and their location and goal.”

 

“Do you know how long he’s known them, and how much time he’s spent with them?”

 

“No. Hisoka, do you have any information you’d like to share with the class?”

 

Hisoka’s face distorted into an unsettling grin, and he tilted his head back to rest on the pillar, his throat bared. Chrollo, briefly, had an urge to rip it out with his teeth.

 

“No.”

 

Chrollo raised an eyebrow at Ky’ia, who only pursed their lips and looked troubled.

 

“If that’s the case, then I can pluck select memories of them that are at the forefront of his mind. Ones that generate the most emotional response. If I do a deep dive, it could take hours, or days, sometimes weeks. A surface skim would be preferable to what you need. It would be what we consider to be a training exercise. It’s very intimate. The receivers will be able to hear his thoughts from that moment, feel everything he felt in that moment. It can be disorientating. I would need three people to properly execute the flow, positioned in a sacred triangle, letting the memories pass through the flow of nen and back into him. If the flow is broken, then all the memories are gone, and neither he nor us will have any recollection. They cannot be regained once they’re lost.” Ky’ia looked youthful and serious. This was something their people took very seriously, Chrollo could tell. He was asking them to perform a religious ceremony on a bunch of thieves and murderers. Hopefully this wouldn’t blow up in his face.

 

Hopefully.

 

“Chrollo,” Hisoka said lowly and Chrollo glanced back. His body language was minute, but he looked for all the world like a man marching to the gallows. “If you do this, you can’t go back.” Golden eyes raised to lock directly with Chrollo’s. “You cannot. Go. Back.”

 

“Knowledge doesn’t kill people, Hisoka darling. I kill people,” Chrollo replied mildly. It took him about two nanoseconds to realize he had called Hisoka darling, and another three to realize he needed to get this degrading influence out of his house immediately. The sooner the better.

 

Hisoka fell silent and slumped ever so slightly against his bonds. Ky’ia looked at him with something akin to pity.

 

“It will be painful.”

 

Hisoka looked up at the young nen user, as if he was memorizing their face.

 

“Yes. It will be.”

 

That was the moment Machi chose to enter, her medical bag in hand, and survey the scene.

 

“Ah. There you are. Please drug Hisoka. I don’t care if you get him high or unconscious. And text …”

 

Which troupe member would be most open to having their minds potentially invaded? Nobunaga was possibly too paranoid. They would follow him without question, of course, but he didn’t want those biases affecting the process. Phinks was … That was most certainly a no. Shizuku, perhaps, but he was decently sure she was off on a mission with Kortopi. Feitan would balk at the idea of seeing directly into Hisoka’s mind. Kalluto, well. While they were a capable troupe member, they were still a child. Hisoka had likely done some nasty things, and Chrollo had some principles, though he had a sneaking suspicion Kalluto knew a lot more about adult things than they let on. They were quite secretive.

 

Shalnark it was, then.

 

“Text Shalnark. Tell him I need him.”

 

He’d do it himself, but his phone was left somewhere. He didn’t really care as to where. He’d find it eventually.

 

Machi sent the text in a matter of moments before she knelt before Hisoka, tapping lightly on the syringe in her hand.

 

“This is a very, very strong painkiller. Even with your stamina, you will be high for at least twelve hours,” she warned him before injecting it directly into his neck. Hisoka tensed, eyes bulging at the flood of chemicals into his stream, and Machi sat back on her haunches to inspect the busted lip.

 

“Ky’ia is going to perform a memory sharing ritual that requires three conduits with nen,” Chrollo said and Machi looked back at him, her brows furrowing.

 

“Do you …”

 

“Yes, I need you. And Hisoka will have to have access to his nen so he doesn’t die in the middle of it.”

 

Machi frowned at that and stood up.

 

“I’m not sure I …”

 

“I can trust you with this. You’re more adaptable than what I have on hand, less likely to break concentration, and it sounds like this requires intense control over Nen, more suited to a Manipulator or Transmuter. So. You will be helping.”

 

Machi fell silent, her lips pursed almost angrily at Chrollo’s declaration. He didn’t blame her. Hisoka had always been particularly interested in her, so who knew what kind of fucked up nonsense they’d find about her in his brain. If they remained focused on the twins, however, they shouldn’t find anything too obscene in regards to her.

 

Shalnark peeked in through the door and Chrollo gestured for him to closer.

 

“The ritual Ky’ia is to perform only works with three other people,” Chrollo explained briefly. “I need you to act as a conduit.”

 

Shalnark lit up slightly at that. He did like to see new Nen. At least someone here was willing.

 

A low groan escaped Hisoka’s lips and Machi dropped to one knee to inspect his eyes for dilation.

 

“He’s ready.”

 

Chrollo paced behind the drugged up jester and knelt to unlock the handcuffs. Hisoka completely pitched forward, and was barely caught by Machi before he managed to knock himself out on the hardwood floors. The woman positioned him so he was laying down and stood up, surveying him with something akin to disdain as his eyes rolled back into his sockets and his mouth parted only just. He was already starting to sweat.

 

“It was Nen infused, designed to react with the user’s Nen,” Machi said with a shrug. “I didn’t know he would be out of Zetsu, so it’s probably hitting harder than expected.”

 

Chrollo sighed as dull gold eyes found his, searching for answers to why he was feeling like this. He was probably sky high right about now, and not happy about it.

 

“You said a triangle, yes?”

 

“Yes.” Ky’ia was looking down at Hisoka with something akin to concern as the man fidgeted uncomfortably. “I stand at the foot, I need two on either side of me, and one at the head.”

 

The three spiders shuffled around into position and looked at Ky’ia expectantly. The threat of the loss of their village looming over their head, the young practitioner swallowed and lifted their arms.

 

“This is likely not something you all have done before, but you need to activate, I believe you call it Ten, and use it to reach out to touch each other. A sort of handshake with Nen. Like how you sense the presence of another, but visualize it as acknowledging one another.”

 

Chrollo’s mind went back to the twins’ strange Nen. Was that how they did it? Were they from a similar tribe? Ky’ia was very brown, and they were very pale, so it was unlikely they were from their tribe. Maybe there was another tribe that shared Nen.

 

It was no matter. The three activated their Ten, and Ky’ia physically balked at the overwhelming presence of it, the malicious bloodlust that accompanied it. Blood drained from their face for just a moment, but in an instant they reclaimed themselves and activated their own. It washed over Chrollo like a cool river, calm, untainted, cooling, and his eyebrows shot up. It was significantly smaller compared to the spiders, but it was rather … different. He forgot other people actually reflected their own personalities, not their goals, with their Ten.

 

Ky’ia reached out to Machi and Shalnark on either side of them, gentle and coaxing, showing them how to bind their Nen to theirs. It was … different, but Chrollo sucked in the knowledge as he watched the Ten bleed into each other like a gradient. Following suit, he reached out to Machi and Shalnark, and then it was his turn to balk as he took hold. He hadn’t realized you could empathize, literally, with Nen. Machi was cold and irritated with the whole debacle, while Shalnark was overflowing with excitement because he had never got to actually look into someone’s head before. Pakunoda could show them, but now he was a part of the process, and oh, boy he was excited.

 

His attention shifted back to Ky’ia, who was studying the dazed and confused Hisoka carefully.

 

“I’m going to reach into Hisoka, I think his name was, now. Please give me the names of the twins.”

 

“Nox and Nyx.”

 

“We’re going to have to go through the first barrier, so please brace yourselves.”

 

And then Ky’ia reached out, and it was like someone had slammed Chrollo through a brick wall.

 

Rage, hate, fear, protectiveness, and an emotion Chrollo only felt for his troupe on rare occasions, was that … Love? There was a pause, only for a moment, a feeling similar to hearing something crack, and then more swept in. Bitterness. Regret. Resolve, resolve, resolve, a bone deep tiredness that only came from a broken soul, and there Hisoka was, on the ground, drooling, somehow the result of all of this cacophony.

 

What was going on here?

 

Where was the bloodlust? His understanding of what Hisoka was? The desire to win or die trying? Was that the resolve?

 

“Stay focused. I am now speaking through the link. We are through the first two barriers. In a moment, we will go to the first chronological memory he ranks as important.”

 

Ky’ia’s voice cut through the gloom and Chrollo briefly realized they were still in the ballroom. It felt like they weren’t. It felt like he was in another land, another world, even. It was not unsimilar to reading a book, he supposed.

 

It was at that moment that he realized they it was most certainly not like a book, because the ballroom faded around them, and suddenly he was slightly taller, walking through a haze of smoke and dust. Fire crackled in the distance and his eyes were watering from the strain. Instinctively, Chrollo reached up to wipe at his eyes, only to come back with smeared face paint.

 

Oh. Oh, he was Hisoka.

 

Did someone get here before me?

 

A thought, a feeling, a sense of caution and worry was clutching at Chrollo-Hisoka’s heart. As the memory became more clear, a broken and destroyed building formed around them. It looked like a manor. Or, had been a manor, tucked away in the woods. Broken, burnt, and eviscerated bodies were scattered around them, some burnt by the fire, some torn limb from limb. A head was sitting, smashed and leaking on the ground, and a sense of pain twisted in his gut.

 

“How very inelegant,” Hisoka murmured. “Someone was angrier than even me.”

 

There was a cough, to the right, and Hisoka swung, only now just noticing the trembling, new, hurting Nen presence. Left prone on the ground were two very, very small bodies, just shy of being teenagers. Something akin to a worry wariness rose in his throat, and Hisoka started to approach them with no small degree of trepidation.

 

“Your temper fit drained your Nen,” he said casually as he stood over them. Twin ice blue, almost silver eyes met his gaze, and Chrollo realized, through Hisoka’s eyes, that they were children. Covered in blood and soot and ash from head to toe, scantily clothed, but still children.

 

I should leave them.

 

I can’t start saving kids now. It’s not time.

 

Still, he knelt in front of them and extended a hand to them.

 

“Looks like you saved yourselves. Can you walk?”

 

In unison, they shook their heads no, tears brimming. If Chrollo had to guess, he’d place them at about twelve, maybe thirteen.

 

Children.

 

What had made them so mad?

 

He felt his lips, Hisoka’s lips, pull into a frown.

 

“What are your names?”

 

At that, the set of twins started crying, genuinely crying, and opened their mouths to reveal severed, cauterized stumps in place of tongues. Hisoka pursed his lips.

 

“We can figure that out later. May I carry you?”

 

What am I doing?

 

I’m not going to be able to stop now.

 

I should leave.

 

There’s no survivors. No one will ever know.

 

Just this once.

 

I can’t keep going if I don’t have just this once …

 

Just this once.

 

The twins nodded in unison and Hisoka stood, spinning a wad of bungee gum to prepare to fix them to his back and chest. A scream of pain ripped out of their throats in unison as he lifted one, and he immediately set them back down.

 

“Where does it hurt?”

 

Eyes brimming with tears, they pointed to their pelvises and Hisoka frowned.

 

“I can stabilize them for now, but it will still hurt. You two need to be quiet until I can get you to a doctor. Okay?”

 

The twins nodded. Their tears had left tracks through the drying blood. Chrollo, not Hisoka, felt sick, because there was knowledge blooming in his chest that he didn’t want to have.

 

So this is what Hisoka meant.

 

“Do you know if you’re torn?”

 

Ky’ia realized a moment after Chrollo, and their shock jerked the four from the dream. The concentration wavered for a moment, and anxiety spiked in Chrollo for just a moment before Ky’ia refocused before it could all come crashing down. It was like riding a rollercoaster. For the briefest of seconds, the ballroom and Hisoka screaming in pain materialized, and then it was gone as they were catapulted into the next dream. Tendrils of Machi’s shock and Shalnark’s confusion touched Chrollo, and they were gone in a moment as the new dream, it felt like a dream, formed around them.

 

It looked like they were in an apartment. A man in a white lab coat, Doctor Brentson, Hisoka’s mind helpfully supplied, was standing there, explaining something to two silent figures in wheelchairs.

 

“With your genetic disposition to … How does your tribe call it? Sharing pain, yes? It’s unlikely that your pelvises will ever heal. Perhaps some Nen healing ability that can be performed in unison, but … Unless you two figure something out, you’re going to be stuck in these wheelchairs.”

 

Chrollo could feel the counter press into his back. His arms were crossed over his chest, and he felt pensive, worried, unsettled. Quiet thoughts only Hisoka could catch were swirling around the back of his mind, and his eyes were fixed on the twins’ faces. They were refusing to look the doctor in the eye. They could only nod, it seemed.

 

Brentson sent a helpless look back at Hisoka, and Hisoka sighed softly.

 

“That’s enough, Brentson. Just send their prescriptions to the pharmacy. I’ll pick them up later. Thank you for coming by.”

 

Chrollo belatedly realized Hisoka’s tone was different. It lacked that singsong quality, that impish glee. He sounded … serious? Chrollo supposed? Like he was off the stage.

 

Doctor Brentson drifted closer to Hisoka and looked up at him seriously. A hand circled around Hisoka’s arm, and confusion surfaced as Chrollo realized Hisoka was fine with it.

 

“Don’t give them the same choice he gave you,” Doctor Brentson murmured. “They’ll die.”

 

Hisoka’s gaze fell on the two and Chrollo felt the slightest prick of pride.

 

“They’re tougher than you think. They’ll survive.”

 

Doctor Brentson frowned at that and looked back at the two.

 

“How would you know?”

 

“I know a fighter when I see one, Brentson. You of all people would know that. Besides, you've known them for a few months now. You should know better."

 

Brentson let out a sigh and made for the door.

 

“Be careful.”

 

Hisoka snorted.

 

“Don’t insult me, Klaus.”

 

The door slammed and the three were left alone together. Hisoka was feeling contemplative. Assured of whatever he was about to do was right.

 

“Right then,” he said suddenly and dragged a chair over, spinning it around so he could straddle it and face the twins. “A long time ago, someone found me, and they gave me a choice.”

 

The twins looked at that and their Nen started to leak off of them in waves of murderous bloodlust and pain. Hisoka was amused at the reaction, and treated them to a rare not crazed smile.

 

“The choice he gave me was this: he would help me start a new home, far away from all of this hell. Get a new life. Let me place my trust in him to avenge me and everyone else. And I did trust him to get it done, of course. But the other choice was for me to take matters into my own hands. Let him direct me, show me the way. He let me choose to bring it all down, one brick at a time, put sugar in the concrete, what have you, and I decided that, yes, that’s what I wanted to do. And so I let him teach me. Train me. I put on a mask, and I never took it off to breathe. It’s been literal hell. I have nothing but regrets. It will drain you. Completely. You have to destroy your sense of self, abandon any hope of being normal and wanted and loved until you’re done. And it will take years.”

 

There was resolve written across their body now. Hisoka had grabbed their attention and commanded it, and in the back of his mind, Chrollo was starting to piece together the puzzle that was Hisoka the Magician.

 

“So I’m offering you this. Do you want me to give you peace, or do you want me to give you war?”

 

The twins’ hands started moving and Chrollo realized, dimly, that he could almost understand, as they signed “war”.

 

Pride and satisfaction rushed him and a smile split Hisoka’s face.

 

“Right. Then your first task is this: learn to fight in your wheelchairs, or learn to get out of them. You have three months.”

 

The memory warped, and, distantly, Chrollo could hear Hisoka screaming in pain. His voice was flushed away by a wave, and then they dropped into a new dream. Hisoka was in a car, the only apparent occupant, trundling down a bumpy road deep in the forest. The sun was going down above the leaves, sending light sparkling and dancing, and with the windows down, it smelled like it had just rained. He felt tired, haggard, but as he turned down a final bend to find a bungalow, joy simply leapt in his throat at the sight of two figures, one with white hair, one with black, standing on the porch, waiting for him. Chrollo felt tears prick, but the memory was gone as fast as it came. He wanted to catch it and hold on, for some reason. Perhaps that was Hisoka.

 

It faded and instead the smell of sweat and pain assaulted his nose. Before him were the twins, covered in blood, just like the first time, shaking in their place. In front of them was a corpse, a large, muscular man, who Chrollo felt like he knew, his head decapitated. His face was permanently captured in a gruesome scream. Chrollo had almost forgotten how fear didn’t fade from the eyes in death.

 

Plop.

 

The sound of blood hitting the ground seemed to shake Hisoka from his frozen state. A million emotions welled up; anger, disappointment, pain, regret, self hatred.

 

“Do you feel better?” He asked quietly.

 

In unison, did they ever not do anything in unison, the twins shook their heads no. Their backs were to Hisoka. They didn’t want him to see their faces.

 

“Did you mean to?”

 

And then one nodded yes, Nyx, his brain supplied, the one with white hair, while Nox, the one with black hair, shook their head no.

 

Hisoka felt … Sad. That was not an emotion Chrollo had associated with Hisoka previously. Rage, anger, hatred he could understand. Not this melancholy sense of failure. He had failed them , Chrollo realized.

 

“Look at me.”

 

Nox and Nyx were frozen in place, and Hisoka seemed to realize that, as he circled back around to see them. In their hands were twin necklaces with moon pendants, and realization hit Hisoka as he realized why they had broken.

 

“She’s not here, is she?”

 

The two didn’t have to look up for Hisoka to see that they were crying.

 

Nox’s hands moved slowly, signing out one definite sentence.

 

“She was dead for a long time.”

 

They knew, Hisoka thought. They just couldn’t believe until …

 

His gaze fell back to the corpse on the ground and Hisoka’s brain supplied the answer Chrollo was looking for.

 

Trask Gorgon. The man who kept the trinkets of the children who aged out.

 

Chrollo felt like he was going to be sick again.

 

“This is my fault,” Hisoka said softly. “I taught you to use your strength. I neglected to teach you to control it.”

 

Nyx and Nox were shaking and Hisoka held out his arms. Two warm bodies pressed against him as guttural sobs started to fill the room. Blood soaked through Hisoka’s layers almost instantly, but he didn’t seem to care.

 

The scene started to shift again, and in the back of Chrollo’s mind he could hear Hisoka’s grating voice.

 

“If you do this, you cannot go back.”

 

“This will be painful.”

 

“Yes. It will be.”

 

It wasn’t often that anyone, really, wished they had listened to Hisoka Morrow.

 

The sun was shining, beating down on Hisoka as he lounged on the steps of the porch of the bungalow. There were still no clues as to where he was. Of course he picked a hideout in the middle of nowhere. It was smart, actually. And irritating. Though, at this point, Chrollo was finding himself questioning if the sarcophagus was really that important.

 

The twins were sparring in front of him, and Chrollo briefly realized Hisoka was actually in … jean shorts and a crop top. That wasn’t weird at all.

 

They were good, fast, in some sort of modified Zetsu designed to keep them from destroying everything but still allow them on their feet. Zipping across the sand sparring ring, their movements were nearly impossible to follow, but Hisoka had good eyes. Nox was dropping their guard, and just like that, a solid fist connected with their jaw, sending them flying, and both yelping in pain as Nyx hopped back to rub at their own jaw.

 

“Ah. You get it now,” Hisoka drawled as he reached to take a sip of his lemonade. Nox and Nyx both turned to glare at him, and Chrollo had a feeling that if they had tongues, they would be sticking them out. They looked about fifteen now. Still children, really.

 

“Control. If you hit the other too hard, you hurt yourself.”

 

Nox’s hands were a flurry of movement, their face distorting to accompany the … grammar? Yes, the face and body language were a part of the grammar.

 

This is stupid.

 

“No, it is not. If you don’t know how to hold back from killing someone, you will forever find yourself losing your tempers in the heat of the moment and killing the wrong people.”

 

Nyx laughed. It sounded strange, without a tongue, but it was fairly pure. Still childish.

 

He’s right.

 

Don’t side with him!

 

Don’t be stupid then, stupid!

 

You’re the genius that just hit yourself!

 

Hisoka simply laughed and tilted back his head to look up at the sky, watching the clouds float on by. It took Chrollo a moment to realize why this memory was so important.

 

He was happy, and they were growing. It was a strange emotion.

 

Chrollo was unfamiliar with it.

 

The memory started to shift, and then dissolve, leaving them roaming through bits and pieces of his brain dedicated to Nyx and Nox. Chrollo saw flashes of the twins, chopping fruit for smoothies, hunched over laptops, complaining about schoolwork that Hisoka was hellbent on making them finish, training, getting their first motorcycles and immediately crashing, swimming at some tranquil beach, coming home bloodied and bruised from a mission as Hisoka fussed over their injuries.

 

It all finally settled with Hisoka leaning on a door, watching them turn fitfully in their sleep, little moans and groans of pain threatening to wake them up.

 

“You don’t have to do this.” It was that Doctor Brentson again. Hisoka felt worried, pensive, upset.

 

“They will just keep building up tolerances to the medications. They need to sleep.”

 

“You don’t even know if it will work. Have you even asked them?”

 

“No.”

 

“They won’t want it.”

 

“If I can’t get the card, I can return Chrollo to the troupe. Maybe then I can get back in her good graces.”

 

“She can’t operate on them simultaneously. You know that.”

 

“What else am I supposed to do?” Hisoka turned on Klaus, Brentson, whichever it was, in a fury. There were tears in his eyes.

 

The twins stirred slightly, starting to blink, and Hisoka seized Brentson by the collar to drag him away.

 

“Hisoka, stop. You’re going to get yourself killed, and then they won’t have anyone. Just like you.”

 

Hisoka froze in the kitchen and turned to look at Klaus. Bloodlust was beginning to seep, but it was dampened by the pained look in Klaus’s honest brown eyes.

 

“If I can’t give them a better life, then there’s no point to any of this.”

 

“They won’t even accept it from her and you know that. They won’t accept help from any of them, even if by some miracle you managed to convince them. And how are you going to convince them, anyways, short of blowing your cover? And what are you going to say when they inevitably catch on that they hate them?”

 

A secondary memory flashed across the peripheries, of Nox angrily signing with tears on their face.

 

They didn’t have to give him permission! They just had to give him the power!

 

Who was him? Chrollo tried to dig, but the knowledge danced away like a frightened rabbit.

 

“They’ll accept the help whether they like it or not!” Hisoka snarled, snapping Chrollo back into the memory.

 

Klaus was silent, looking at Hisoka with sad, sad eyes.

 

“Be careful that your protectiveness doesn’t make you a tyrant. I have to be at Hyban in three hours. I need to go.”

 

And with that, Klaus left, mercifully. A part of Hisoka thanked him for sparing him the indignity of witnessing his tears.

 

They both knew Klaus would always spare him that.

 

Hyban. Hyban Hospital, known for its specialty in rare genetic disorders.

 

Three hours. They had a location.

 

“Pull out.”

 

Chrollo, for some reason, didn’t want to see anymore. There was the slightest sense of acknowledgement from Ky’ia, and the four were yanked from the stream at the tailend of Hisoka’s scream.

 

Reemerging in the ballroom was a trip, to put it lightly. It took more than a second to disentangle himself from the joined Nen, and another second to force himself to look down at Hisoka. He was a wreck, drenched in sweat, shaking horribly, high out of his mind and listless on the floor.

 

Chrollo didn’t know what to do with any of this new information. For once in his life, he was at a loss. Ky’ia looked shaken, traumatized, in fact. They were just a kid.

 

“Machi.”

 

Machi looked even more shaken as the realization dawned on them all that it had never been about Chrollo. It had always been about her. Shalnark, even, looked a little ruffled, like he had too many tabs open and nowhere to start.

 

“Take our guest to the kitchen and get them some food,” Chrollo said quietly as he crouched next to a recovering Hisoka. He would be incoherent for quite some time. “I’m going to get Hisoka cleaned up. Unless anyone hears a fight, no one bother me.”

 

Machi nodded, shaken, unable to form words. It would seem no one was expecting this. Shalnark looked a little loss, in need of direction, and Chrollo relented.

 

“Shalnark, you have a good idea of the bungalow. See if you can get satellite images of the area surrounding Hyban Hospital. Or information on Klaus Brentson.”

 

The spiders left for their respective tasks as Chrollo surveyed a panting, borderline comatose Hisoka. He was hot. Too hot. Too much of a system shock? Did he have a fever now?

 

“Don’t expect this treatment often,” Chrollo grumbled and lifted the solid bulk of muscle, grimacing at the weight.

 

For once in his life, he had no idea what to do. If he helped Edwin, would he be endorsing what he thought he was endorsing? Or, worse, enabling it? But if he backed out, how would he explain this to the troupe? Worse, how would they react? What if some of them were fine with it? Could he even …

 

For once in his life, Chrollo felt cowardly.

 

“If you do this, there’s no going back.”

 

Hisoka, unexpectedly, curled into his warmth, craving some kind of comfort, and Chrollo felt his heart sink as he looked down at the thoroughly broken man, trying desperately to keep it all together.

 

How long?

 

How long had he been doing this?

 

How long was he alone?


Chapter Text

Hisoka was a mess, feverish, his lips dry and chapped, dehydrated, though that could be blamed on Chrollo. Mostly. After all, had Hisoka not tried to escape, he wouldn’t have been punished.

 

Guilt was not an emotion Chrollo possessed. To make amends, one had to feel guilty, and, really, how was he supposed to feel guilty when he didn’t even know ? Acting, not acting, whichever it was, Hisoka was very, very good. One could feasibly say all of Hisoka’s  problems could be definitively pinned on Hisoka. If anything, the lack of Chrollo’s knowledge, of all people, was a clear testament to Hisoka’s abilities, and Chrollo almost … respected him, in a way, for that.

 

Hisoka had carefully designed himself to not garner any respect whatsoever. His very personality overshadowed any respect he could have gained for his abilities. He was excellent, superb, even.

 

He didn’t look superb, half conscious and in a bath while Chrollo simply stared at him, unwilling to move to wash him. Really, it was a silly thing to fret over, intimacy. Chrollo had invaded the one part of his memories, his life, that Hisoka actually cherished enough to keep secret from the world. Part of Chrollo wanted to believe Hisoka saw the twins as nothing more than a weapon, but every single one of Hisoka’s emotions he had experienced firsthand pointed otherwise.

 

They were his baby siblings, if anything. He wasn’t really a parent to them. There wasn’t enough of an age gap. Based on the fleeting memories he caught glimpses of, Chrollo could estimate them to be around 18, and Hisoka himself was only 26, or perhaps 28. He must have found them when they were 12 or 13.

 

Not much older than those brats Hisoka was obsessed with. Gon and Killua, he was certain they were called. Or Kalluto.

 

The burning question on his mind at the moment was how much of an act any of this was. 

 

Hisoka was strong. He could be used, like he was always used, Chrollo insisted. They just had to find the right leverage.

 

Guilt was not an emotion Chrollo associated himself with, so perhaps this stone in his gut was just leftover tendrils of Hisoka’s own emotions. That was likely it.

 

Hisoka would be out of it for several hours.

 

“Rag,” Hisoka mumbled and Chrollo raised his eyebrows, surprised he could even speak. He sounded like he had cotton shoved down his throat.

 

“Pardon?”

 

“Rag,” Hisoka repeated. Now he just sounded like a cheese grater against a chalkboard. “Soap.”

 

Ah. He wanted to wash himself. Fastidious as always, Chrollo supposed.

 

“To your left.”

 

“Left?”

 

Whatever Machi gave Hisoka, Chrollo had to make sure it never went near a troupe member. With a sigh, he reached over Hisoka and grabbed the rag. Hisoka lunged forward and Chrollo almost moved to block, before he realized Hisoka was actually just leaning in to … sniff.

 

Hisoka was sniffing him.

 

Stranger things have happened.

 

Chrollo pushed him back and water splashed all over the tub, soaking his pants, and a deep sigh escaped his lips. This was so tiresome.

 

“Here.”

 

He shoved the rag into Hisoka’s hands and grabbed the soap to drizzle it down onto the cloth. Hisoka watched, mesmerized, and reached out to run his fingers through the pool of gel. Chrollo vaguely wondered if he had simply not seen correctly and Machi had actually fed him a pot brownie.

 

“Wash,” he commanded, figuring any sentence longer than a word was too much for Hisoka to process right now. He looked dazed, tired, almost … No, Chrollo was not going to go with that word.

 

“Wash,” Hisoka repeated, his voice trembling slightly. He looked like he could cry. “I can’t wash it away.”

 

“Wash what away?”

 

“The graves.”

 

Chrollo paused, frowning.

 

“Well, no, you can’t wash graves away with anything short of a flood.”

 

“I keep records.”

 

“Of what?”

 

“The bodies. I want to give them back, one day.”

 

Realization dawned and Chrollo felt his heart sinking again. When had Hisoka gained the power to make his heart hurt like this?

 

“How long?” Chrollo asked, softly, and dull yellow eyes shifted to look at him. “How long have you been hunting?”

 

“Ten.”

 

“Ten what?”

 

“Years.”

 

There it was again. The weight, pulling his chest down.

 

Chrollo had always respected resolve. He liked that in an opponent. He did not respect justice. Life had dealt him a shit hand, and so he had resolved to give a shittier hand to everyone else. Murder, mayhem, destroyed lives, they all blurred together. Justice was a foreign concept to him. Justice had never been given in his name, and so he had accepted that there was no reason for him to receive it. To him, justice was just codespeak for those in power deciding who was expendable and who was rich enough to get away with their crimes. That was how it had always been. And so he had decided to always be rich enough.

 

Harsh worlds made harsh people.

 

Death was inevitable.

 

Death was the punishment dealt. There was no such thing as change, repentance for your crimes, and anyone that offered it was weak and foolish.

 

The Chain User had threatened that simple understanding of the world. In his time in solitude, Chrollo had realized one world shattering thing:

 

The Chain User had chosen to bind the ones who had done him wrong, to give them a chance at a new life, a new peace, a new passion, a new family. He was the strongest person Chrollo had ever fought. His chains were unbreakable, limitless in their power.

 

And he had chosen to use that power, on Chrollo, the cause of his agony, to heal, if Chrollo chose to accept.

 

Once he returned to his spiders, those thoughts and revelations were banished from his mind. He didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to consider what may have happened if he had simply took what the Kurta offered.

 

But then … If the Kurta had designed his chains to give them a chance of redemption, why had he killed Uvogin? A change of heart?

 

His thoughts were interrupted by the realization that Hisoka was trying to obsessively scrub his hands clean.

 

“Stop that,” Chrollo commanded, snatching the rag away. Hisoka’s hands were raw now. How hard had he scrubbed?

 

“They’re dirty.”

 

“No dirtier than mine, but you don’t see me making a mess out of my hands, do you?”

 

Hisoka fell silent and stared down at the water. He was starting to get wrinkly. Chrollo sighed and relented.

 

“Bend your head forward,” he ordered, and just like that, Hisoka actually complied. It would have been a nice change of pace had the circumstances been different.

 

“You know, Hisoka, if I didn’t have to get you high just to get you to listen to instructions for once, you might actually be tolerable.”

 

Hisoka hummed, not really hearing Chrollo as Chrollo scrubbed his neck clean, where the sweat was the worst. He would have to at least dunk Hisoka’s head in the water. His hair was crispy and reeked.

 

Just this once. I can’t keep going if I don’t have just this once …

 

Ten years. Chrollo reckoned he was anywhere from sixteen to eighteen when he began.

 

Children grew up fast in this world. There were exceptional ones at young ages, of course. Zoldyck children, in particular, were rather terrifying. Children of hunters generally grew faster. Teenagers often lived alone, managed their own bills, paid their own way, followed their own dreams.

 

He still wasn’t certain that teenagers should be on the level of blacklist hunters, or entrusted with that much responsibility. Then again, he had a literal child in the troupe. Very often, with kids with traumatizing pasts, adults took them under their wing and guided them to do what they were going to do anyways, to keep them from getting killed.

 

He had a feeling Hisoka knew this about those twins of his. That they would do it anyways. He’d offered them hope, and in return, they’d offered him resolve.

 

He wondered if they knew just what they had given him.

 

Hisoka was still hot to the touch. He’d have to get him some medicine. And water, probably.

 

He didn’t know what to do, still.

 

Everything was being challenged, and he had to reevaluate.

 

Justice had no place in this world. There was only vengeance. Destruction. What Hisoka was doing wasn’t just vengeance.

 

The graves … The bodies.

 

He wanted to fix what was broken.

 

Chrollo wasn’t sure that was what counted as justice. He was, admittedly, a simple man. Very often, he killed the children of the parents he killed. They were mercy killings, in a way. Otherwise, the children would simply grow up to be consumed with vengeance and misery until they tried to take on what they could not beat, and then it would simply be another senseless, pointless death that should have happened a senseless, pointless, long time ago.

 

He didn’t have “fruits”. He didn’t lay the seeds of his own destruction. He put them down. Like you would put down an old dog.

 

Kurapika … Yes, that was his name. He had beaten him. He had not been inconsequential, or senseless. He had showed him that there could be grace in vengeance.

 

Hisoka was showing him that the ugliest and most vile of vengeance could still be justified.

 

Two things could be true at once, Chrollo supposed, as he thought back to the head on the floor.

 

Who was the girl they were referring to?

 

Someone who had shown the twins kindness?

 

And what was that sharing pain thing about?

 

The only question he wanted answered was answered. He should be content with that, and yet more were rising, unbidden, to the surface. Questions, questions, and a reluctant interviewee who would not answer them.

 

The reluctant interviewee in question was about to get himself drowned with how much he had slumped forward into the water.

 

“Up,” Chrollo commanded and Hisoka shot up, smacked his head on the tile of the shower wall, and yelped. Dear gods, this was the stuff of his worst nightmare. Hisoka, naked, wet, high out of his mind, and horrifically sympathetic.

 

Chrollo wasn’t even capable of sympathy.

 

What on earth was going on?

 

Chrollo banished those thoughts from his mind as he ran a rough rag under Hisoka’s arms, wincing at the stench.

 

“Here. Dunk your head,” Chrollo said as he set the rag aside and slid a hand behind Hisoka’s neck, not trusting him to not slip and drown himself.

 

Hisoka obeyed, once again, and Chrollo almost wished he would just hurry up and sober up and give him a cryptic reply sprinkled with substantial attitude. Red hair splayed out in the tub and Chrollo reached over to shake it out in the water, breaking up the clumps and mess it had become. It wasn’t a shampoo, but something told him Hisoka only used the highest brand products on his hair and the headache of Hisoka discovering a two in one dandruff shampoo had been put on his scalp was not worth the effort it would take to wash it. Machi had dry shampoo somewhere. He was fairly certain that’s what you used if your hair became greasy.

 

“Alright, up,” he ordered and hefted Hisoka to his knees, and then his feet. Hisoka staggered, nearly pitching forward, and Chrollo very obviously ignored his now very obvious crotch.

 

Carefully, he led Hisoka out of the tub and scrubbed him down with a towel as Hisoka gripped the counter for support. A vigorous hair dry later, and Chrollo was half carrying, half dragging Hisoka into the bedroom to throw on a fresh pair of sweats and wrestle him onto the bed and back into handcuffs. Hisoka giggled and rolled around on the bed, nearly falling off before Chrollo lashed out and grabbed him by the back of his pants. These mood swings were too much for him. He couldn’t keep up.

 

“Chroll-oooo,” Hisoka crooned. “Why am I in your bed?”

 

“Because I do not have the patience to drag you down the hall.”

 

“Why am I handcuffed in your beeed?”

 

There was some god, somewhere, cackling down at Chrollo right then, as he realized that, like Hisoka, he was, in fact, the cause of his own problems.

 

“Because you cannot behave even when high as fuck and running a fever, apparently.” The explicative slipped out of his mouth unbidden, and Chrollo almost cursed how much Hisoka made him lose his composure. Almost. It wasn’t like Hisoka would remember, anyways.

 

A bottle of acetaminophen was on the side table, and Chrollo shook out two tablets and affixed a straw in the glass of water waiting for the end of the bath.

 

“Sit up.” He had never given Hisoka so many orders in all of the two, maybe three years he had known him, and yet this was seemingly the only time he had ever managed to make Hisoka obey even the simplest of commands. Hisoka struggled to sit up and lean against the headboard as Chrollo wrested his mouth open to toss in the two tablets and shove the straw between his lips.

 

“It’s acetaminophen. It’s safe to take. It’s just to get the fever down,” Chrollo explained and Hisoka gulped the water down, eyes almost rolling back in his head as water finally, finally got into his system.

 

Chrollo took the water away once Hisoka had drained the glass and wondered, vaguely, if he should have put a shirt on him before he slapped on the handcuffs. Probably. There was no denying Hisoka’s build, and the last thing Chrollo needed was yet another Hisoka-centered distraction. Oh, well. What was done was done.

 

Hisoka was agreeable to answering questions right now. They probably should have gotten him high sooner, but he was likely only open to it because they already knew now.

 

Chrollo should leave it be. He knew he should leave it be. Hisoka had told him not to ask questions he didn’t want the answers to.

 

“Hisoka.”

 

Stupid.

 

“Who did we give power to?”

 

Chrollo was being stupid.

 

Hisoka paused, tilted his head, trying to read Chrollo with what few functioning brain cells he had at the moment. And, then, he reached forward and placed a single finger on Chrollo’s lips.

 

“It’s not my secret.”

 

Chrollo had never in his life had his brain short circuit. He jerked away as if he’d been burned. Hisoka was high. He had even fewer inhibitions than normal. He was also moving more slowly than normal.

 

If he’s moving so slow, if he can easily be dodged, then why did Chrollo just let him touch him?

 

“I see.” His mouth was moving, practicing being cool and calm. His brain was not catching up with it. “You should sleep off that fever. Don’t try to escape. You know what happens.”

 

And just like that, Chrollo was out the door, powering towards the library to get a book to distract him during his vigil. Just before the door shut, he almost caught the sound of a long, lonely, very drug induced whine at his absence.

 

It’s not my secret.

 

So he still was protecting them, even drugged out and fucked up. Noted.

 

Notes. Chrollo needed to observe. Be a dispassionate onlooker. A spider with a fly in his web. Waiting for the kill.

 

Why was he the fly, then?

Chapter Text

Hisoka had a lot of regrets in his life. He absolutely had a lot of regrets.

 

At the moment, however, all of them were overshadowed by his regret of even letting the twins go to Edwin’s at all.

 

The three of them had argued about it. The whole thing had “trap” written all over it. Edwin gone, and taking three quarters of his guard and staff with him? It was, most assuredly, a trap, but the twins steadfastly believed that, given his profile, he couldn’t wipe a computer properly, and he was also too paranoid to hire someone to do it for him. They all knew he was the finance man of the ring. Every transaction, every hush payment, every buyout, everything went through him, and if they could get his financial records, they could follow the trail to the top. 

 

It was worth the risk, and Hisoka had begrudgingly allowed them to go. The twins were risk takers. He knew that. He had encouraged it, in fact, and that encouragement was coming back to bite him in the ass. Well, it was partially the encouragement, and partly his overprotective tendencies that had blossomed in the months following the revival of Chrollo’s Nen. It hadn’t gone the way he wanted it to. Well, it had. He had correctly predicted Chrollo would avoid a fight and go right back to the troupe. What he had not predicted was the troupe not coming to kill either him or Kurapika. He couldn’t draw them out, and when he couldn’t draw people out, he couldn’t make them dance to his tune.

 

He had been expecting them to hold a grudge, and he wanted to use that, but he had overestimated Chrollo’s capacity for any emotional attachment whatsoever. Chrollo wanted things, not people.

 

But Hisoka was still paranoid. Paranoid they were watching him, paranoid they knew about the twins, paranoid because he had built up a stack of enemies over the years, and no matter how hard the twins trained, no matter how powerful they became, they couldn’t defeat all of them.

 

They were all he had left, and the thought of losing them was enough to drive him to lose himself.

 

If they knew the truth of him restoring Chrollo’s Nen, if they knew that it was more than Hisoka simply maintaining his carefully constructed mask, his perfected disguise, they would be furious. They may even leave him for awhile, and while he was accustomed to people eventually becoming too disgusted with his persona to stick around, he couldn’t even handle the concept of them being disgusted with … Him. Hisoka, Hisoka, the fake and the other fake. He wasn’t sure which was real, anymore, really. Both? Neither?

 

And now here he was. Handcuffed in a bed, in borrowed clothes, gradually sobering up as Machi stared at him expressionlessly from the corner of the room. Hisoka didn’t want to look at her. He just stared up at the ceiling, in silence. Everything, ten years of tireless, thankless work was unraveling around him.

 

For all he pretended to not care, for as disgusting as he claimed to be, Hisoka felt a little violated. The twins were something he actually cared for. They were their own people, of course, but they were close to his heart. Special. His home. They were his home.

 

Machi had invaded his home. He supposed he deserved it. He couldn’t erase his responsibility of his disguise. He was responsible, and uninvolved people frequently had to be caught in the crossfire. Hisoka had to accept that, had to accept the consequences, but these particular consequences were not easy to accept.

 

“Was it all an act? All of it?” She was finally speaking. Hisoka almost preferred the foreboding silence.

 

“If you could never leave the stage, would you be able to tell the difference?”

 

Machi didn’t respond. She just kept staring at him, like she wanted to pick him apart, bit by bit, understand just what he was. Hisoka would love for her to do it. Maybe then he could understand himself.

 

“You seemed to be able to, with the twins.”

 

It stung. It stung, because he had never once lied to them, and yet here he was, caught in a lie.

 

“Did I?”

 

A non answer. He always fell back on non answers when he couldn’t bring himself to spout off another lie.

 

Machi moved closer to the bed, like a predator stalking her prey. Hisoka, for once in his life, felt vulnerable.

 

“How do you do it?”

 

Hisoka was quiet for a moment. There was water damage on the ceiling. If he stared at it enough, maybe it would go away.

 

“If you convince people that everything you say is a lie, then it’s easy to convince them to not look past the first truth. You have to … Take truths about yourself, exaggerate them, and then exaggerate the lies about yourself to convince them that the first exaggeration is what lies underneath. Only then you can throw in little falsehoods to build everything else up.”

 

He didn’t know why he was telling her this. He felt sick, in a way. He was being truthful, for once in his life, he was able to confide in someone not in his absolute immediate circle, that being the twins, Klaus, and once, only once, Kurapika. His handler had been dead for years, and that had been in a hole in his chest that no one else could quite fill.

 

He wasn’t ready for this. Being honest with people who had no intentions of appreciating that honesty.

 

“So are you really a creep?”

 

Hisoka finally laughed, letting his eyes slip shut in an effort to bid off tears.

 

“Yes and no. I am a very sexual person. But no, I have no sexual feelings towards children. It honestly sickens me. That’s why I … Formed the illusion of only being attracted towards people that can hold up against me in a fight. It narrowed it down, so my performance wasn’t found, well, wooden, and so I didn’t have to torment myself as much.”

 

Machi was quiet again.

 

“So are you attracted towards people that can kill you?”

 

“Yes. Isn’t everyone, secretly?”

 

Machi screwed her face up in distaste.

 

“No.”

 

“Lying is unbecoming for you, Machi. I was there when you fought that Hunter … Mmm, what was her name? Bisky, yes?”

 

“You’re locked in Zetsu. One punch from me could kill you.”

 

“My, my, Machi, don’t get me excited now, these pants leave little to the imagination. I would hate to be embarrassed.”

 

“You know, now that I know you aren’t such a creep, the leering falls a little flat.”

 

Hisoka frowned and finally sat up.

 

“It does? I thought that was fairly convincing.”

 

If he didn’t know better, he would have thought Machi almost smiled.

 

“What are they like?”

 

“Who?”

 

“The twins. The ones you chased me down over, and had everyone convinced you were going after Chrollo over. Nearly died over.”

 

Hisoka went silent at that. He knew this was Machi trying to lure him into divulging further information about them. He knew this was a game to her, and yet … He had forgotten how much he wanted to brag about them, talk about how amazing they were, how much progress they’ve made, how much progress they continue to make, how easily they surpassed him in terms of raw power and determination.

 

How much they saved his life.

 

“They are … Hard to describe in one sentence. If I had to condense it, I would say …” And here he went, letting the dam break, showing his soft side, like an idiot. They were already in danger, anyways, and that was partially their own fault. Hisoka still felt responsible. It was only intuition that prompted him to follow them and get himself into this mess, after all. “They’re brash. Impulsive. A wicked sense of humor, witty, sharp on the uptake. Nyx is excellent at math, and Nox can write sonnets that’ll make you feel like you’re riding a cloud. They’re deceptive, too. You think they’re bullheaded teenagers, with their bodies moving before their brains, but then you turn around and they’ve suddenly found every single spot that makes you human, and you’re … powerless.”

 

Powerless was a good word to describe it for someone like Hisoka, who told the world he lived on power alone, senselessly chasing it and waiting for the day that it killed him. Perspective. It was perspective. If you told the world you didn’t fear death, that it was welcome, then you had already won.

 

When someone gave him a reason to fear it, to fear leaving the two things he cherished behind, then his only power was stripped away.

 

He didn’t fear leaving them behind in his death. He didn’t fear losing them like that.

 

He feared them being alone, robbed of any chance they had to build relationships in their youth, of what little family they had managed to gain being stripped from them. Sometimes, he had worried he made a mistake in giving them the choice. He should have carted them away somewhere safe, left them to build peace.

 

He didn’t want to abandon them like his handler. His handler had been all he had, and Hisoka had lost him, in a shockingly similar way to how the twins had misplaced Hisoka. Except his handler had died swiftly, and Hisoka had been aimless, until the twins. Ready to give up, go die when his work was done.

 

Would fortune smile on them when Chrollo inevitably killed Hisoka? Would fortune give them the family they had lost?

 

Machi still hadn’t replied. She was staring at Hisoka still, like she was trying to work out a puzzle.

 

“Why do they hate us?”

 

Hisoka just let that trademark smirk twitch at his lips, but, once again, it failed to reach his eyes.

 

“Not my secret to tell.”

 

Machi was still silent. 

 

“Staring at me won’t answer your questions, Machi.”

 

“No, but it will make you uncomfortable, and it’s high time someone did it.”

 

Hisoka snorted and looked down at the handcuffs. His hands were raw. He wasn’t sure when that had happened.

 

“Your doctor friend. In the memory. He said me fixing their pelvises wouldn’t work. Why? Does it have something to do with their sharing pain thing, whatever that is?”

 

Hisoka pursed his lips. He shouldn’t tell her. But they would eventually figure it out, anyways. Even so, he shouldn’t.

 

“I can’t tell you that. You can ask them, when they inevitably come blow a hole in the manor to collect my dead body.”

 

“Why do you think you’ll be dead?”

 

Hisoka blinked at her, surprised she hadn’t caught on.

 

“You got the information you needed, didn’t you? Shalnark will find the bungalow eventually, and from there he can easily figure out where we’ve hidden all of the evidence. I am no longer necessary. Of course Chrollo will kill me. I’m a nuisance, and a damn good one at that.”

 

Machi quirked a brow at that.

 

“Don’t be so sure. He’s not in a murder mood lately. He hasn’t even ordered Ky’ia to be killed yet.”

 

“Yes, because he can steal their Nen. I have never outwardly explained my hatsu to his face, despite his knowledge of how it works, so he can’t steal mine, so I am useless.”

 

Machi seemed amused. Hisoka wasn’t sure why.

 

“Whatever you say, Hisoka.” Without warning, she reached forward to place a cool hand on his still hot forehead. “You’re still running a fever. I’m going to go get you some food and more medicine. You should sleep it off. Don’t try to escape. I still don’t like you, and would be more than happy to skewer you with some threads.”

 

And with that, she was gone, leaving Hisoka with a strange feeling of hope. She had tolerated his presence before. But now it almost seemed like she liked him.

 

It wasn’t his feelings she had to win over. As far as she was concerned, she owed nothing to the twins, so she didn’t have to fight to gain their understanding and forgiveness. If they killed him, that was it, it was sealed, there was no forgiveness to be had. If the twins were good at anything, it was holding a grudge.

 

He hoped this wouldn’t ruin their chances at happiness. He couldn’t help but feel like he had ruined enough for them. He didn’t want the final gift he bestowed to them to be just another grudge, another enemy to kill, another chance at peace dancing out of their grasp.

 

He shouldn’t have given them a choice.

 

Now that Machi was gone, he let one single tear well up and track a trail down his cheek.

 

“One tear, Soka,” the man said, looking down at the bruised and panting seventeen year old, covered in blood and viscera. “You get one tear. Otherwise they won’t stop, and breaking can never be an option.”

 

Hisoka looked up at him as one single tear slipped down his cheek.

 

“One tear,” he echoed, and just like that, it was a mantra.

 

The memory faded as soon as it began and Hisoka reached up to push it away before climbing off the bed to go stand and stare out the window. The sun was setting over the mountains. It was beautiful.

 

He’d forgotten that he once loved beautiful things, before they just became a means to an end.

 

He was going to die in this manor. He knew he could never go up against the troupe at their full strength, and as far as he knew, every last one was accounted for. He could barely survive going up against Chrollo. Feitan alone could obliterate him and everything around him.

 

“I hope you two can forgive,” Hisoka whispered.

 

That was the one thing he never taught them to do. He regretted it now. But, he also knew that forgiveness was something to learn to do on your own.

 

If anything, he hoped they kept their promise. They did take promises seriously, after all. 

 

Finishing the job was first priority. Rescuing him was always, always second. Avenging him was third.

 

They were maybe six months away from completion. It was simply too close for the twins to falter now. They knew what they had to do.

 

He hoped he had taught them enough resolve to see it through.

 

Hisoka didn’t realize he had been standing at the window so long until the door opened again. This time, though, it wasn’t Machi walking through. It was Chrollo. Hisoka glanced over his shoulder, red hair spilling behind, and looked him up and down.


“Come to finish the job, then?”

Chapter Text

Chrollo was unsure of how to respond. He had avoided Hisoka for a good twelve hours, leaving him in Machi’s capable hands while he sobered up. In that time he had napped in the parlour, read a book, oversaw an arm wrestling battle with Franklin and Nobunaga, helped Shizuku find her glasses at least three times, and checked on Kalluto, who, as per usual, was being secretive, and not as per usual, making a friend. Ky’ia, to be precise. Now Chrollo really couldn’t kill them, which was aggravating.

 

So, effectively, he had acted entirely out of character, and just about every troupe member was suspicious that Hisoka had somehow managed to drug him when he was high out of his mind.

 

Realistically, he could kill Hisoka. He no longer needed him. They had gleaned enough information from him that torturing out more would only be more effort than it was worth. Hisoka could die, right here, right now, and Chrollo shouldn’t care at all.

 

But Hisoka was a new puzzle.

 

That was what Chrollo told himself. Hisoka was a puzzle, begging to be solved, and unraveling him would be a delight.

 

Unraveling was probably not the best word choice.

 

“No,” Chrollo finally replied. Hisoka’s cheeks were still ruddy with fever. Was it ever going to break? “You should be in bed. Lay back down.”

 

Hisoka let out a soft puff of air. Amusement.

 

“Well. Now that I know you’re not going to kill me. No.”

 

What on earth had possessed Chrollo to want this attitude back?

 

Hisoka turned back to the window to look at the setting sun, deliberately ignoring Chrollo, so Chrollo simply slipped up beside him to watch.

 

“Why aren’t you going to kill me?” Hisoka finally asked. Chrollo watched the rays hit pale skin from the corner of his eye. Non answers. He could pick up a few things from Hisoka, too.

 

“I do what amuses me.”

 

That was probably a bad attempt.

 

“So it does not amuse you to kill me?”

 

“Not at the moment.”

 

“Ah. So I exist purely for your own whim.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And I bit off my tongue, right here, right now, would that interrupt your whim?”

 

“Machi would sew it back on before you could bleed out.”

 

“Should we test that?”

 

Hisoka and Chrollo turned at once to face each other, and the tension in the room turned electric. Barely, just barely, Hisoka stuck out the tip of his tongue, just daring Chrollo to make a move. Chrollo didn’t budge an inch. Hisoka was deranged, unhinged, and one thing you never did in the face of derangement was react. A pin could drop. Dimly, Chrollo could pick up the sound of Hisoka’s heartbeat, smooth, cool under pressure, the exact beats per minute of a collected man.

 

He was toying with him.

 

Chrollo was not one to be toyed with, but what Hisoka wanted was a reaction, a punishment for his crimes, a harsh hand, to prove him right. He wouldn’t be rewarded the satisfaction.

 

The door creaked open and, just like that, the tension broke, like waves crashing on a beach as they both turned to face Machi, who regarded them with no small degree of suspicion, a glass of water in one hand and a bowl of broth in the other.

 

“What are you two doing?”

 

“Testing a theory,” Hisoka said airily. “I thought if I bit my tongue off, you wouldn’t get here in time to save me from bleeding out.”

 

Machi took that in stride, closing the door with her heel. The bowl and glass were set on the nightstand and she gestured to the bed.

 

“You wouldn’t. Sit.”

 

And just like that, Hisoka obeyed, meekly taking his seat before her. Machi pulled out some ointment to dab on his raw hands, the scabs having been picked off at some point or another. Chrollo deliberately hid his irritation. Of course Hisoka listened to Machi and challenged him.

 

He detested being challenged. In his own house, no less.

 

“How is that little darling Ky’ia?” Hisoka asked casually as Machi wrapped bandages around his hands and secured them a little too tightly.

 

“They are fine. Kalluto seems to like them. They’re both holed up in the library, bonding over books on gender theory or whatever. Stop picking.”

 

Hisoka frowned at the admonishment and Chrollo just hung back, watching the two of them with dark eyes.

 

“Here.” Machi put two pills in one hand and the glass in another. “You need to actually sleep. Drink this, drink the broth, and go to bed. The fever will break if you actually let it.”

 

“I scarcely notice it, really,” Hisoka said calmly as he obediently swallowed the pills. “Using a spoon will be a bit difficult, you know.”

 

“Then Chrollo can feed you. I need to go make sure Shalnark isn’t going to start another electrical fire.”

 

Machi cast Chrollo a meaningful gaze. He knew that look. It was the ‘act like an actual person, and he might listen to you’ look. Chrollo did not like that look. Charm was exclusively reserved for jobs, and he hated it. Hisoka could see through him in a moment. It was pointless.

 

And with that, Machi left, leaving the two and their tension alone in a dark room.

 

Chrollo went to turn on the floor lamps. Hisoka sat in silence. Neither one, apparently, could figure out how Machi could chastise them for acting like children without even actually chastising them.

 

“So you haven’t killed Ky’ia,” Hisoka finally said. He looked like he was faced with a complex algebraic equation he couldn’t solve.

 

“Kalluto likes them,” Chrollo replied. “If my troupe members like someone, even new ones, I like to indulge them.”

 

“They punched Kalluto in the jaw.”

 

“I don’t think that sort of thing bothers Kalluto.”

 

Hisoka fell silent again, staring at the bowl of soup. He wasn’t up to the task of teasing Chrollo, really. So he wasn’t really up to the task of eating, despite having gone without food for days.

 

“We have two options here. Either you let me feed you without complaint, or I force feed you with much complaint.”

 

Hisoka almost let himself falter enough to glare. He was tired. He was bruised. His lip was nastily split. He felt like shit. He had a headache. He did not want to be force fed, and Chrollo was very, very capable of force feeding.

 

“You don’t need to make it sound so erotic.” His voice fell flat. He was too tired for this shit.

 

“Do you really have the energy for games, Hisoka?” Chrollo was like an unending tropical storm, and Hisoka was a hapless palm tree, clinging to his roots for dear life, unable to stave off the inevitable defeat that was to come.

 

“No.” Hisoka finally relented. He was tired, down to his bones. Fighting over such an immaterial thing, was, quite frankly, beyond him at the moment.

 

With that final concession, a final victory on Chrollo’s part, Hisoka let himself be nudged and moved to the center of the bed so Chrollo could sit and spoon hot soup into his mouth.

 

Machi really was perfect at everything. The soup was just the right temperature. It was disgusting, really, how perfect she was.

 

It was also disgusting how domestic this was. Take away the kidnapping and the handcuffs, and Chrollo could be playing the doting husband. Hisoka loathed it. To think the one idea that kept him going through the rough patches, the one promise of a life away from it all, was to be parodied in such a way in his final days.

 

Still, Hisoka let him feed him, down to the last drops. Silence ticked on in time with the clock on the wall while Chrollo sat there, looking at the empty bowl like it was going to give him some answers.

 

“Why by yourself?” Chrollo finally asked. “You told me. Ten years. The twins aren’t that old.”

 

Hisoka sighed. More information. More interrogations. More stuff they could just apparently rip from his head if they felt like it. He was such a traitor. A coward, really.

 

“I don’t think information on them will get you the sarcophagus. They just want the information destroyed, so I fail to see how this helps you.”

 

“It doesn’t.” That was surprisingly honest. “I just want to know.”

 

“And why should I tell you?”

 

“Your answers may determine how I choose to have my troupe react when the twins come.”

 

“They won’t be coming anytime soon. By then, you’ll have forgotten about it.”

 

“I rarely forget.”

 

Hisoka finally dragged up his eyes to look at Chrollo.

 

“It won’t matter how you have them react. If I’m dead, you’ll be forced to kill them.”

 

He hated it. He hated saying it out loud, admitting it.

 

They didn’t have to give him permission. They just had to give him power.

 

And here Hisoka was, giving them the power to get themselves killed. He had failed them. He had failed them in so many ways.

 

“And if you aren’t dead?”

 

“You won’t be able to stand me enough to keep me alive that long.”

 

“How long? Does the length depend on the promise you mentioned before they got away?”

 

Shit. There it was again. When had Hisoka started making so many mistakes?

 

When he started caring, he supposed. The twins were his Achilles heel.

 

He pursed his lips and looked away, out the window, at the dusk, just out of grasp. It was their time of the day, Nyx and Nox. They loved dusk.

 

“So that’s a yes, then.”

 

Hisoka still didn’t reply.

 

He had to at least give them a chance. If that meant complying in the hopes of not being killed, so be it.

 

“I was approached when I was sixteen,” he finally said. “By a blacklist hunter. At the time I was … coping with the best way I knew how.”

 

“Coping with that?”

 

Hisoka didn’t like this. Baring his darkest secrets to the darkest man he knew.

 

“I didn’t run away to join the circus. I was sold. When I was five, by my parents, for drug money. The circus was a front for the operation.”

 

He still remembered how the blood of his parents dripped from his fingers. They hadn’t recognized him. He didn’t care. He didn’t feel better. Much like the twins. It seemed like a moment that was doomed to repeat itself.

 

Chrollo was silent, listening.

 

“Most kids are culled at the age of twelve. If they were especially expensive, or rare, like the twins, they’re put on puberty blockers.” He could see the dam in his mind, starting to crack. “I escaped the cull, which is funny, because the reason I could was because one of my … clients … had taught me Nen in secret. My hatsu it was … Originally a fetish. We weren’t supposed to learn.”

 

The water was beginning to spill.

 

“I guess killing him with it was in a way reclaiming it for myself. I used it. I used the weapon they gave me to … Take them down.”

 

It hurt to say. The one thing that defined him was something that had been built for the pleasure of others.

 

“I was aimless, without direction when he found me. At that time, I had killed maybe half of the clients I could actually remember. He gave me a choice. The same choice I gave to them, if you recall.”

 

If he recalled when he invaded Hisoka’s mind, defiled his most prized possession, his memories of a family he never thought he’d have. The word recall came out a little more bitter than he meant it to.

 

“I chose war, and he … started training me. I was an unofficial blacklist hunter. A Zodiac, I don’t know which one, had assigned him to the task. The ring has even infiltrated the hunter association. After ten years, I know of at least seventy five hunters involved. That’s why I had to do it alone. Anyone could talk, anyone could have even the slightest slip up, a tip off.”

 

“And your handler?”

 

“He died. Maybe three years in. I was nineteen, I think. It's hazy. I try to forget about the details. I found the twins a year later.”

 

Chrollo was quiet again, soaking in the information. Hisoka hated himself.

 

Chrollo, meanwhile, was having a realization.

 

Edwin did not deserve to simply give away the sarcophagus. He deserved to have everything taken from him. Right down to his heart, ripped from his chest.

 

It was an odd realization, to discover that he wanted vengeance for a crime that had not been done to him. It was an even odder realization to discover that he wanted to be judge, jury, and executioner, and not a realization he particularly wanted to explain to the troupe.

 

“Hisoka.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Do they take children from Meteor City?”

 

“... Well, I mean, obviously. No one is exactly going to go looking, no offense.”

 

There. That would be easier to explain.

 

Hisoka watched Chrollo. As always, the man was unreadable. Hisoka wasn’t sure what was going through his brain. Was he angry? Contemplative? Mildly irritated? Hisoka wasn’t sure. Previously, he had adored that Chrollo was so unreadable. It made things easy for him, to poke and prod at glacial people. It helped.

 

He did not like it now.

 

“What is it like?”

 

“What is what like?”

 

“To pretend to be the thing you hate.”

 

Hisoka smirked, like he always did, and it seemed that he was still struggling to make it meet his eyes. He’d gone from an enigma, an eternal trickster, to a man just barely holding it together, clinging to this facade he had built over a decade while it all crashed down around him.

 

He was in remarkably better shape than Chrollo anticipated, fever and headache and all.

 

“I’m afraid I don’t have a script ready for that one.”

 

Chrollo finally shifted, looming over Hisoka, acting on nothing but pure instinct.

 

“What are you going to do, Hisoka, when that mask of yours finally dissolves?”

 

He was close, too close, his breath ghosting across Hisoka’s lips, which were slowly parting in shock.

 

“I don’t know.”

 

It was unbearably honest. Hisoka could feel himself dissolving, dissolving right in front of Chrollo.

 

Just one tear. Only one.

 

Chrollo seemed to realize what he was doing and pulled back.

 

“You need to sleep. I will sedate you if I have to.”

 

“And what about you? This is your bed.”

 

Business. Back to business. Hisoka didn’t understand anything that was going on, what was happening to him, why Chrollo was doing this to him. Is this what he was aiming for?

 

“I will be sleeping in the chair.”

 

“You can’t break me,” Hisoka blurted. Chrollo stopped, almost looking confused. It seemed like he was picking up acting from Hisoka.

 

“I know what you’re doing,” Hisoka babbled, reaching out for control, control that was dancing away from him.

 

Just one tear.

 

“You aren’t killing me because you like it when they’re broken. Defeated. But you can’t break me. You lost before you began.”

 

“What do you mean?” Chrollo wasn’t sure what Hisoka was on about. He didn’t even know what the fuck he was doing.

 

Hisoka looked up at him, all of that rage and hurt in his glistening eyes.

 

“You lost before you began,” he repeated. “I broke myself long before you came around. I broke myself the moment I chose war, and I failed the twins when I let them make that choice, too. So you’ve already lost. I’ve won. You might as well get on with it and kill me.”

 

Chrollo stared back, speechless for a moment as he tried to reason with the emotions that were welling up in his chest.

 

“I’ll get a sedative,” he replied bluntly and made for the door, desperately trying to escape Hisoka and the room where all of these feelings were blossoming.

 

Chrollo broke everything. Families, hearts, people, lives. He broke and he broke and he broke and he carved a path of destruction wherever he went.

 

The feeling of wanting to fix something was foreign to him.

 

He wanted to fix something.

 

And he didn’t know why.

Chapter Text

Shalnark and Machi and Ky’ia, who was miraculously still around, were on a gag order. The other troupe members had turned it into a guessing game, with the antics steadily rising to get Hisoka’s secret out, and three days after the ritual, it had dissolved into a full scale war. Literally no one was taking Chrollo seriously, and it was starting to rankle him, because while he knew Machi at least wouldn’t slip up, Shalnark was questionable at best, and Ky’ia was an entirely unknown factor he couldn’t control. Really, he should have killed them and dumped them into a ditch somewhere, but gods, he was starting to develop a soft spot for Kalluto and their little secretive self. It was amusing that they thought their status as a Zoldyck was a secret. Everyone just knew not to bring it up. It likely upset them.

 

They were very good at hiding their Nen ability. That was, until they lost their temper with Phinks, who was badgering their newfound “friend”, or whatever was going on there, and sent him flying through a wall with a shower of origami birds.

 

Shalnark had been appropriately enthralled, Phinks was unamused, Nobunaga could not stop laughing, and Chrollo was either going to kill everyone or send everyone away on a mission before he did so.

 

It was then that Shalnark literally solved his problem for him.

 

“You know, Danchou, if Edwin is any indicator of what this ring looks like, I bet they have a lot of rare stuff worth stealing.”

 

Shalnark had tried to mention it offhand, casual and cool, but Shalnark was utterly shit at lying or even remotely hiding his intentions. He looked hopeful. Whether he just wanted an end to the literal chaos destroying the manor, or he actually wanted to join in on Hisoka’s crusade, or both, Chrollo didn’t know, nor did he care. Shalnark, despite being an idiot, was, as usual, the smartest one in the room.

 

Chrollo looked over at Hisoka’s dead phone, laying on the desk in Shalnark’s little hideaway. Shalnark hadn’t gotten any information out of it, but he had gotten the twins’ numbers.

 

Brain whirring, Chrollo picked up the phone and the charger.

 

“I’ll take that into consideration.”

 

Half an hour later, he had yet to send a message. He’d typed the same thing about seven times, but he wasn’t sure what to do, or how to offer the deal. Or what he could even offer them that wouldn’t send them onto a murderous rampage.

 

He needed to stop the rampage in his house first.

 

With a sigh, he accepted whatever consequences would come of his actions, and started typing.

 

This is Chrollo. I have a proposition for you.

 

It took less than five minutes for an expectedly heated reply.

 

What the fuk do u want dipshit

 

Apparently, Hisoka had taught them everything but class. Well. It was to be expected.

 

First of all, I would like to state that beyond some bruising following an escape attempt, Hisoka is unharmed.

 

Pics or it didn’t happen.

 

This was by far the strangest hostage negotiation Chrollo had ever participated in.

 

I’m not taking a picture of someone while they’re sleeping.

 

I’m sure he’ll forgive you.

 

Oh, for fucks sake …

 

With a growl, Chrollo exited the sanctuary of his study and stalked for the bedroom, where Hisoka was completely passed out, recovering after the fever finally breaking less than twelve hours previously. Feeling weirdly dirty, he snapped a quick picture and sent it.

 

Wow you really are a creep

 

Do you want to keep being difficult or do you want to actually hear what I have to say?

 

Gods it must suck to get old and lose your sense of humor. Fine. What do you want?

 

Chrollo was really at a loss. Had they made Hisoka or had he made them? Part of him wanted to threaten them, terrify them, give them something to fear, but that would be completely unproductive. He could play nice with some rowdy playmates. He just hoped it wouldn’t end in a fiery cataclysm with the rest of the troupe. They would either love them or hate them.

 

My proposition is this. I know what your goals are, how long you’ve worked for them, and what you hope to accomplish. I understand you are reaching some sort of deadline that Hisoka has, as per usual, been noncommunicative about. I will release Hisoka to you, unharmed beyond the current injuries. This will happen irregardless of your answer. I have no reason to impede him, as I am aware one of their sources is Meteor City, and I have a stake there, which overrides my current contract with Edwin.

 

Here he paused, waiting for a reply.

 

Sounds neat. You must be a carrot guy. When is the stick coming?

 

Machi had mentioned something about the twins being witty. This was too much. He didn’t even know which one he was talking to. Presumably Nox, as it was their phone, but it could easily be Nyx. They seemed to be the type to share everything. Including pain, apparently.

 

No stick. The real proposition is this: I have Machi take fixing your pelvises at no charge into consideration. I understand you have some reason to hate us, though the reason is unclear. I am aware that we have given many people reason to hate us. This is not an attempt at amends. I wouldn’t insult you like that. In return for Machi’s consideration, I would request that you allow us to assist you in your final stages. If I am correct, you will likely need a lot of brawn, and are not interested in going down traditional routes. Ordinary hunters and muscle can’t provide the sort of carnage my people can give you.

 

The reply didn’t come for thirty minutes. Thirty minutes spent checking the phone every thirty seconds.

 

Sounds sweet. How do you intend on convincing your people to kill hundreds of people and perform such a laborious task for free?

 

Ah. So they were more than quick comebacks.

 

Well, to be quite honest, I was going to tempt them with the fact that these are all rich people preying on their home city, with lots of items that can be stolen, sold, and the money distributed back to the city.

 

He really, really hoped that was a good enough reply.

 

Not good enough. In the aftermath, we’re setting up an anonymous non profit for the victims. They aren’t all from Meteor City. 25% must be donated to the non profit or no deal.

 

Business minded. Was that Hisoka’s idea, or theirs?

 

Hisoka mentioned he wanted to give the bodies back to the families. I assume there are mass graves somewhere. I’ll donate 25, and I’ll cover as many of the funerals as I can out of pocket. Deal?

 

We’ll agree when we see Hisoka. Your location has already been tracked. We’re on our way.

 

Less than five seconds later, his phone dinged again.

 

Also, you can let Hisoka know we know EXACTLY why he gave you your Nen back, and we’ll consider us even, considering we got him into this mess, so he can stop stressing. We will be there in one day.

 

What even were these two? How had they managed to irritate him more than Hisoka had ever even managed with nothing but a mere text chat?

 

He needed to talk to Machi. Then Hisoka. Then the troupe.

 

Shalnark was an excellent problem solver, until his answers created more problems. This was going to be a disaster, and Chrollo knew it. They had managed to lay low for awhile, stay off the Hunter Association radar, and now Chrollo had gone and thrown them into a literal espionage warzone which was going to build up into a massacre.

 

The troupe had been dying for a good battle for awhile now, but Chrollo wasn’t sure this is what they wanted.

 

The die had been cast. The twins were on their way, anyways. He had about twenty four hours to convince all interested parties to get on board.

 

It was going to be entirely voluntary, anyways. They may miss a few team members, but they should be able to pull it off.

 

The text was sent summoning Machi, and up to the study she came, looking frazzled and tired.

 

“Who was bothering you?”

 

“All of them.”

 

With a long, heavy sigh, she collapsed into the armchair across from Chrollo.

 

“I really hope you called me in here to tell me the gag order is off.”

 

“Not yet,” he replied and pushed Hisoka’s phone across the desk to her. Her brows furrowed, she scrolled through the chat log.

 

“So, you’ve decided to free up even more Nen for two obnoxiously powerful people with a grudge against us, in particular,” she finally stated flatly.

 

“Yes.”

 

“And you see no way that this will backfire.”

 

“It’s a gamble. You don’t gamble unless you have sufficiently high stakes.”

 

“And so we’re helping them take down a literal continent wide ring of pedophiles out of the goodness of our hearts and some money that may or may not get destroyed in the mayhem.”

 

Ah, Machi. She never questioned him in front of the others, but was always willing to flat out argue with him in private.

 

Chrollo shrugged and locked the phone again.

 

“They’re targeting Meteor City. I’m sure they’ll have evidence that corroborates.”

 

“And you didn’t think to tell them to bring it with them so we can at least have something to go off of before we decide to ignite another continent wide manhunt?”

 

“Kids go missing all the time in the city. You know this. Not even we can track it.”

 

“Yeah, we can’t track it, so what makes you think they can?”

 

“Because that’s what their entire life revolves around. They’ve trained for five years to be able to do this. Hisoka has trained for ten. That much we can be certain of. I’m not so much of a small man that I can’t admit when someone is better at something than me.”

 

Machi looked frustrated. Irritated, even. He needed her on his side.

 

“Do you not want to?”

 

“Of course I want to,” Machi snapped. “I’m always on your side. This is about convincing the troupe that you’re on their side.”

 

“They seem sharp. The twins. I’m sure they thought to bring evidence before they left.”

 

“Why don’t you text and ask before they get too far away?”

 

Ah. Right.

 

If it isn’t too much trouble, please bring some evidence of the targets on Meteor City for the troupe.

 

He set down the phone and looked back at Machi passively.

 

“Happy?”

 

“Why can’t you just admit it?”

 

“Admit what?”

 

Machi sighed, as if she was stuck with the world’s biggest idiot in an escape room.

 

“You’ll figure it out eventually. Never mind. Yes, I will happily take a look to see what I can do, but if my guesses are right, it’s out of the range of what I can do.”

 

“Your guesses?”

 

“Sharing pain. I did some digging, and there’s a tribe that I am pretty sure is extinct now, some massacre or something, called the Gemini. Twins of the tribe are considered ‘blessed by gods’. If damage is inflicted on one, half of the damage is dispersed to the other. It can save their lives, but also kill them. If one dies, so does the other. If my guesses are correct, that means that if, say, something as delicate and hard to heal as pelvises are shattered, like theirs were, then any minute fractures would show up on the other. So they would be impossible to heal short of major surgery, and even then it would be difficult, because every single move would have to be simultaneous, and with as many fractures as they have, surgery would be, effectively, impossible, and make everything worse. Dr. Klaus Brentson is a geneticist. He’s famous in the medical realm for being a genius with curing and treating genetic diseases. If even he thought it was a hopeless case, it’s probably hopeless. Or, he was able to quote unquote cure them, but they likely didn’t want it, due to their religious affiliations and the fact that it would, quite frankly, in their minds, be a desecration to what’s left of their clan.” Machi sat back in her chair after her lengthy diatribe and rubbed at her eyes. Chrollo realized, halfway through her monologue, that she had already been considering it, and doing the research into it. “I would have to literally have a double. I couldn’t do it myself. It would have to be an exact copy of me, with my exact Nen abilities, tuned to my exact frequency. Even the slightest changes in hand positions could fuck it all up. And there is no one that can create a double like that. It just isn’t possible. So, no. I can’t do it.”

 

Chrollo took a breath to respond, but then the phone chirped at him with a text.

 

Of course we already got it. You act like we're amateurs.

 

Chrollo barely resisted the urge to inform that by literal definition, as they were doing the jobs of blacklist hunters, they were, in fact, amateurs.

 

It was just like Hisoka.

 

He was not going to rise to the bait.

 

"Well. At least examine them, please. I need to go speak to Hisoka."

 

A traitorous voice whispered in the back of Chrollo's mind, reminding him that instead of Hisoka's world crashing, it was Chrollo's, but he ignored that, too.

 

Machi said something, he didn't catch it, and then she was out the door, leaving him to drum his fingers on the desk pensively.

 

He could have just set up his own trap. They could be coming here with enough firepower and manpower to blow the place skyhigh. He didn't know why they had a grudge. Grudges were silly, inconsequential, and he knew that. He had opened himself up to a game without knowing any of the pieces on the board, and for the life of him, he didn't know why or how. He just. Did it. Without a thought, really. Not an actually critical one.

 

Shalnark wanted to, he supposed. That was a decent reason. Machi, too. He rarely denied his spiders anything, even if he didn't understand it. You didn't have to understand people to make them happy. If Shalnark wanted to go on a murderous rampage, who was he to tell him no?

 

He was the danchou, of course, and he could absolutely tell any of them no, whenever he wanted, but maybe the group could do well with a little actual justified murder for once, in the eyes of general morality. In general terms, it could be called a team building exercise. Their biggest and bloodiest heist yet.

 

It would be fun.

 

It might be a bit of a stain on their reputation, but hey, that was what the theft was for.

 

They weren't a band of marauding robin hoods.

 

He knew he was sitting here thinking to avoid seeing Hisoka. He had actually been quite successful at avoiding him for the past few days, as soon as he gave him the sedative. He'd been sleeping in a guest room, in fact, and left the management of the soon to be not prisoner to Machi, who had immediately informed him she was not a babysitter for whatever deranged clownish strays he picked up.

 

He just couldn't wrap his brain around this new puzzle, but he didn't want to wreck it either. Maybe that's why he texted the twins. To get it off of his hands.

 

And then he had immediately volunteered himself and the troupe to be even closer to the colorful puzzle and signed up for a caped crusade.

 

It was no wonder he couldn't understand Hisoka.

 

He couldn't even understand himself.

 

He just couldn't understand how a man who had sacrificed everything, given up everything, suffered through everything, and come out on top with gritted teeth and firmer resolve, could consider himself broken.

 

How had such a degenerate who had gained so much, dare he say it, respect, from Chrollo, against all the odds, even against Chrollo's own principles, be broken?

 

It simply didn't make sense.

 

Chrollo didn't respect broken things. But he'd seen it in Hisoka's eyes. He wasn't lying. He was telling the truth.

 

Broken things didn't prevail.

 

But Hisoka had.

 

He was beaten. He was beaten and he was still going.

 

Chrollo had broken many people, many times.

 

They never got back up.

 

Could it be that Hisoka wasn't broken enough ?

 

Chrollo liked simplicity.

 

Broken things stayed down.

 

Simple. Easy.

 

Hisoka wasn't down.

 

He just could not understand.

 

But he had 24 hours to talk to Hisoka, so he was just going to have to shelve that for the moment, suck it up, and go see him.

Chapter Text

Hisoka was still silent. Chrollo had been waiting for ten minutes now, watching the clock over the bed tick down each agonizing second.

 

The cuffs had been removed. Hisoka seemed angry enough that he could lash out at any second. Chrollo almost regretted taking them off. He had promised Hisoka unharmed, after all. Hisoka had been so concerned about the twins getting themselves killed with their temper, and Chrollo was starting to understand that fear from his own perspective.

 

He didn't like fear.

 

"Why?"

 

Thank gods, he finally spoke.

 

"Do I need a reason? I never did before."

 

"Yes." Hisoka was finally looking at him, and Chrollo felt like he was being stabbed through the chest. "Yes, you do need a reason."

 

"Because I want to."

 

"Because it amuses you," Hisoka supplied, and Chrollo could see the rage turn from a smoulder to a flame. "Because my life's work amuses you. Because someone subverted your expectations, and now they're slightly more interesting than a fly to you."

 

"You seem to have a low opinion of me." Why did Chrollo's throat feel so dry?

 

Hisoka let out a bitter laugh and finally rose from the bed to stalk towards Chrollo, his Nen beginning to flare.

 

"Do you have any idea what it's like?" Hisoka hissed. "Do you?"

 

Chrollo subtly shifted back one foot, expecting Hisoka to fly at him.

 

"Hisoka. You know you can't win this. Calm down."

 

" No ," Hisoka snarled. "Do you have any fucking clue? Do you? To live for a fucking decade , carefully becoming the thing that you hate more than anything else in the fucking world, pretending to be a monster, a fiend, a fucking rapist , to convince the whole motherfucking world it should hate you, to never take off the mask even for a second to breathe, to the point where you realize you don't even know what you are anymore ?"

 

Hisoka was close now. His Nen was furious, angry, reeking of pain and loss. Chrollo knew that it was best to say silent, to not give him a reason to strike.

 

"Do you have any idea, how much it kills you, every fucking time you have to walk away from a child you know you could save, you know you could give a chance, just one goddamn chance, but you know the second you start, it won't end, and your cover will be blown, and then it would have all been for nothing ?" He was shaking. Chrollo had a desire to grab his hand. For just a moment, his own twitched, wanting to reach out and touch, and he realized in a split second that Hisoka was beautiful when he wanted to cry.

 

"You have no fucking clue." The rage ebbed, and turned, like the tide, and Chrollo found that there were words he didn't know stuck in his throat. "You couldn't begin to understand, because you could never begin to care. I see now. I'm just an experiment to you. A new thing you want to study for awhile and throw away. That’s all anything I have ever done is to you. A petri dish. So, no. I do not agree. You will not be helping us. You can sit on the fucking sidelines for all I care, but this is mine, and it isn’t a fucking toy to amuse yourself with."

 

Knives. There were knives in Chrollo's chest, and he realized any word he could come up with would be useless. He wanted to be angry, to lash back out, tell Hisoka he had it all wrong, he didn't know him, how could he know Chrollo when he barely knew himself? But, for some reason, Chrollo couldn't find it in him to hurt him more. He didn't want to.

 

Even so, his defense mechanisms kicked in, and he went cold.

 

"Put aside your feelings," he said, and a part of him broke to say it, because putting aside his feelings was the last thing Hisoka should do, "and realize you can use us. You don't know who you are? Then be the person you made until you can figure it out. Don't let that effort go to waste."

 

With that, he turned on his heel and walked to the door, remembering how Hisoka had once quietly thanked Klaus for being merciful.

 

He hoped Hisoka could see that was what he was doing here.

 

It felt like the conversation had lasted for an eternity as the door clicked shut. There was a sob on the other side. Chrollo couldn't dwell on that for now.

 

Two minutes. It had taken two minutes for Hisoka to let Chrollo catch a glimpse of a decade, no, more, of trauma, and Chrollo felt as though time had stopped in motion.

 

Hisoka would snap out of it and realize he was being given an incredible tool, just as his twins had. He would know not to throw it away. Of that, Chrollo was certain. It was only a matter of waiting it out.

 

Chrollo could wait. He had all the patience in the world.

 

Now, it was only a matter of discussing it with the troupe. Before they utterly destroyed his house. He was going to have them on cleanup duty for months at this rate.

 

Chrollo couldn't remember a time when he ever felt so uncertain.

 

Hisoka had done a number on him.

 

You could never begin to care.

 

He was right. Chrollo didn't know what it was to care, so why did he feel like he was? Like he had something on the line? What even was on the line?

 

Here he was, thinking he could break any man, woman, or person before them. Tread on them, like ants, and yet right now, it felt like he was the one being broken. By Hisoka Morrow, of all the fucking people, and he wasn’t even trying.

 

He didn't know what to do. He set a plan in motion, like he always did, when he wanted something, but he didn't know why he wanted it. Why had never mattered before, but now it did.

 

He didn't know what the fuck he was doing.

 

The troupe was waiting for him in the ballroom, and he didn’t even know what to say. He wasn’t one for speeches, and explanations before this had been succinct, to the point, only as long as they were necessary. He didn’t know how to break all of this down for them, to explain why he wanted. Because he did have to explain, this time. He had to, because no one else was going to get it if he didn’t. After all, this was essentially violent philanthropy. The items they would inevitably steal weren’t the main goal, and his spiders would know it.

 

It was at least in part about Meteor City. That his founding members could understand. Even the new members could understand, at least a little. The troupe controlled the city. No one took from the city without permission, and none of this had been done with theirs. In all actuality, this could be about them defending their reputation, and letting the world know: you didn’t take from them without permission. Because this had, conceivably, been going on for decades. Chrollo could even recall friends from his own childhood disappearing in the night. In all actuality, the troupe were the newcomers here, the upstarts, shaking up the power balance all over again.

 

It almost felt good to be an upstart again.

 

This was about making an example of those who thought they could get away with challenging them.

 

It wasn’t about Hisoka.

 

It wasn’t about how he was destroying the entire understanding Chrollo had of the world without so much as a lift of the finger.

 

It. Was. About. The. Spider.

 

Two things can be true at once.

 

Traitorous thoughts he couldn’t entertain as he pushed open the doors to the ballroom. Every spider collectively looked up, and Chrollo made a mental note to not let Kalluto in on this one.

 

Everyone was waiting for him to say something.

 

“We’re going to war.”

 

Silence reigned for a second, and then the room exploded in chatter.

 

“Over what?”

 

“Who are we killing?”

 

“Why are we doing that ?”

 

“I’m confused. There’s no wars going on? Like, on the news?”

 

“That sounds like effort.”

 

“What does Hisoka have to do with war ?”

 

“Can you all just shut up and let him talk?”

 

Chrollo held up a hand and the room fell into silence, all eyes on him. Right. Now for the sales pitch. Should he frame this about pride? Disrespect? Money? Which should he start with?

 

The carrot. Of course, the carrot.

 

“The reason for the gag order on Machi, Shalnark, and Ky’ia,” who was, miraculously, still alive and in the corner with Kalluto, “was because the ritual dive we made into Hisoka’s memories revealed some heavily unexpected information, information that I was unsure of how to act on.”

 

The troupe was quiet still, waiting for him to get to the point.

 

“It would seem that Hisoka is not actually who he says he is. In a way. He is Hisoka Morrow, but it would appear that his personality and … disagreeable nature were a cover that he has held for the past ten years, while investigating a, I assume, thirty year old sex trafficking ring. Child. Sex trafficking ring.”

 

And, then there was the explosion again.

 

“Wait, what?”

 

“Hisoka is a pedophile, how was he planning on investigating pedophiles? He’d have to turn himself in while he was at it!”

 

“Did you miss the part where he said cover, Phinks?”

 

No cover is that convincing!”

 

“It is when you’ve been doing it for ten years!”

 

“I highly doubt that!”

 

“I don’t think that’s the point here. Wasn’t danchou supposed to be investigating some random twins? How did all of this pop into that equation?”

 

“If you all would shut up,” and here Machi’s voice cut through the cacophony, “I’m sure the danchou will explain.”

 

Dependable Machi.

 

Chrollo waited patiently as the din subsided. Kalluto was silent in the corner, seemingly unmoved by this revelation. Distantly, Chrollo wondered if their family knew about the ring. Likely. They shielded their children from very little.

 

“Two additional things have come to my attention,” Chrollo continued once he finally received silence. “The first being that these are very rich people, with a lot of valuable items to be stolen. The second being that it would seem that Meteor City has been a long term hunting ground for them, and they have continued to use it as such since we have taken command of the city.”

 

Nobunaga got it. Shizuku was unsure as to what was going on. Kotorpi, as usual, was unreadable, as was Feitan. Phinks was a little slow on the uptake, and, as per custom, Franklin was coming in last. And, of course, Bono was still covered in bandages, so of course no information could be gleaned from some linen wraps.

 

“We aren’t the type to march to someone else’s drum. You all know that. However, I see an opportunity here. First of all, the opportunity to make an example of someone. It’s been some time since we were considered upstarts. I think we could all do with a refresher course. I don’t much like my territory being disrespected. Meteor City is ours, but they seem to have ignored that.” Likely because they knew Chrollo would have slaughtered them on the spot had they gone to him for their blessing, but that was beside the point. “Secondly, Hisoka was going to destroy them irregardless, and I hate to be wasteful. Think of all of the rare artifacts he would have wrecked in his rampage. Honestly, it’s too good of an opportunity to go to waste.”

 

“Er, danchou, question.” Phinks was looking a little lost. “I thought you were drawing out information on the twins. How do they factor into all of this?”

 

Ah. Right. This would be a little difficult to explain. He couldn’t very well tell them one of them had cussed him out, called him a pervert, and tracked their location in a matter of minutes.

 

“The twins are Hisoka’s partners in this. I recently contacted them and offered Hisoka’s release, among other things, in return for their cooperation.”

 

“And why do we need Hisoka and these twins at all? Can’t we just pull off the heist ourselves?”

 

“They have ten years worth of research and data under their belts.” Machi was speaking up, possibly to save Chrollo from the awkwardness of lying. “Why should we expend energy stealing that information, or gathering it ourselves, when we can just ask for it?”

 

“That kind of robs the fun out of it, doesn’t it?” Franklin frowned. Of course not even the idea of an actual justified bloodbath could content him.

 

“Given their capabilities,” Chrollo interjected, remembering how they had actually put Machi and him on the defensive while maintaining a defense themselves, even for how brief the fight was, and their immediate tactical decision to hold their ground only for as long as they needed, “I would rather not be dealing with enemies on two fronts. From what I can gather, there are high classed hunters in this ring. Hisoka has not provided full details. There could be hundreds of Nen users we may be going up against. This is a large scale operation. There is no sense in wasting time and energy where we don’t need to. Besides, I’m sure, even on our side, they’ll provide you with plenty of fun , Franklin.”

 

Franklin grumbled, but he seemed satiated.

 

“Anyone who doesn’t want in on this heist,” bloodbath , “raise your hand.”

 

Surprisingly, no hands went up. It seemed as though Chrollo had actually managed to convince them. Not that there were any doubts (there were). They’d follow him to hell.

 

“Kalluto, you’re benched for this one.”

 

At that, Kalluto looked up.

 

“Why?”

 

“While I am sure you can easily murder anyone you want to,” and here came the unwanted reminder that Kalluto was a child, “I am not sending a twelve year old into a den of pedophiles.”

 

“I’m thirteen!” Liar.

 

“That in no way proves me wrong.”

 

“I’ve seen worse!”

 

“I’m sure.”

 

“A couple of fifteen year olds just helped take down a Chimera Ant invasion!” 

 

You can literally just say your brother.

 

“That’s just shorthand for Ging Freecs is a terrible father who thinks he needs to traumatize his abandoned kid into adulthood,” Phinks pointed out.

 

Shalnark snickered in the corner, and a glare from Chrollo shut him up.

 

“Actually, I fought the Ants, too!” Kalluto was a master at selective hearing. Chrollo was not looking forward to dealing with them as a teen. He’d have to ask Hisoka for pointers.

 

“Kalluto, the Ants didn’t want to fuck you.” 

 

“Franklin!” A thread soared across the room and pierced through Franklin’s arm, and, fearing more walls getting knocked out, Chrollo spoke up again.

 

“It’s all settled. Someone go work on dinner, I don’t care who, and no one, I mean no one, try to instigate a fight with the twins when they get here. This house was expensive. You all are replacing my walls.”

 

With that, he was fleeing the room. Hopefully, this time tomorrow Hisoka would come around, and the house wouldn’t be blown sky high. Chrollo needed a nap. It was a pity he still hadn’t moved Hisoka from his room.

 

He liked that bed.

Chapter Text

Dusk. Nox and their sibling adored dusk. It smelled different, just shy of the night, and nothing looked like itself. Some would argue that the sly two hours before dawn was the perfect time to strike an unsuspecting victim, but Nox disagreed. Sure, they were tired, confused, disoriented in that middle time, but dusk was the perfect time to strike because it was right at the cusp of night ascending, and night covered a multitude of sins. Dusk was the time when you could ask the gods for forgiveness.

 

It was appropriate, then, that they arrived at the sprawling manor with several walls missing at dusk. The two quietly purring motorcycles cut their engines, and Nox looked up at the massive structure.

 

It had been a long time since Hisoka had found them. In that time, Nox and Nyx had accepted that they had to become just as monstrous as the monsters they faced to defeat them. They couldn’t hold on to purity. Purity could be found when they were done.

 

However, they hadn’t imagined it going this way, teaming up with a troupe of literal genocidal mass murderers to achieve their goals.

 

Nox and Nyx had argued about it. Extensively. Nyx saw value in the move. This way, they could actually achieve a simultaneous strike, instead of planned ones across the country, which would have given their prey a heads up and time to run. The info dump would have gone as planned, however. Let them be judged in the court of public opinion before they ever made it to the law. They had estimated roughly half of the ones that got the chance run would be killed before they ever got safety by blacklist hunters looking to exact revenge. Or even by angry mobs.

 

This was going to lower survival rates, and ensure more releases of the victims, rather than the “evidence” being destroyed before they could testify in court.

 

The main goal, they had to stress, would be to kill the wealthiest ones, who could buy their freedom through lawyers or bribes. The middle men, the ones with less connections, less mobility, less power, were a lower priority. The goal was to ensure no one, or at least very few, could escape either justice or death. Whichever was fine.

 

Nox had been against joining forces with the troupe. Logic was fine and all, but this was about morality. Nyx had reminded them multiple times that literally everything they were doing was amoral, as justified as it was, but Nox had a lot of heart. They weren’t a glacier like their twin. They didn’t like it. The troupe could easily stab them in the back. It would be second nature to them to put them down.

 

Like dogs.

 

If Hisoka had considered them important enough to integrate himself, they were most certainly the lowest of the low.

 

So Nox didn’t like it.

 

Nyx had won, in the end, and once again they were tied for arguments won and lost. It seemed Nyx had been winning the more important ones lately. They needed to redo the rating system.

 

Nox would pester them about it later.

 

Even so, here they were, staring up at the manor which was utterly reeking of death. Possibly staring at their own death.

 

Should we knock? ” Nyx asked and Nox shrugged.

 

If we’re going to make an impression, it might as well be a rude one.

 

Before they could move, however, the door swung open to reveal a tall man, hair in a high ponytail, dressed in a way reminiscent of a samurai.

 

“Well. You two are definitely twins,” he grunted.

 

Nobunaga. The swordsman.

 

Nox and Nyx stared at him wordlessly before moving forward, pushing past him. Two firm hands landed on their shoulders, and Nox crinkled their nose. He needed a manicure.

 

“Aren’t you two going to say hello?”

 

Eyes rolled as one and the two waved a brief hello. What a stupid question. How were they going to say anything?

 

“Silent types?” Nobunaga tilted his head back and barked out a laugh. “Guess Hisoka hasn’t rubbed off on you too much.”

 

Their shoulders were released and the two ventured into an entry hall that was apparently under construction, with the one with the vacuum sucking up debris from a wall that had completely been blown out. Apparently, the spiders were rowdy. That, or they had come under attack and were either too cocky or too stupid to move the hideout. Possibly both.

 

The two turned back to Nobunaga, who was staring at them like they were the strangest thing he had ever seen. He probably just used his Gyo. Oh, well.

 

Where’s Hisoka? ” Nox signed, and Nobunaga looked even more confused.

 

“Chrollo didn’t say you were deaf.”

 

Nyx sighed, long and loud, as Nox lost their patience with the dull man and pulled out their notepad.

 

We don’t have half of our tongues, jackass. Where. Is. Hisoka.

 

Thrusting the notepad at him, Nox made sure to accompany it with a withering, seething glare. Nobunaga blinked and was, blissfully saved from losing his temper by Hisoka’s own appearance at the top of the staircase. 

 

“Nox? Nyx?”

 

The twins turned and lit up at the sight of him before barreling up the stairs in unison. Other troupe members started to filter in, alerted to the presence of new Nen as the two circled Hisoka, pushing up his shirt to inspect for bruising, pressing on his spine, his throat, arms, with gentle fingers.

 

Did they hurt you?

 

Are you okay?

 

You didn’t text. Did they not give your phone back?

 

We brought some of your stuff.

 

We did NOT bring your hair gel.

 

You can have hair ties.

 

“Nox, you know I can’t hear you when you sign under my arm like that,” Hisoka snapped and Nox pulled back, pulling a face.

 

Then get better eyes.

 

“What did you say about hair ties?”

 

Nyx said we didn’t bring your gel, and I said you can have hair ties.

 

“Did you bring my paint?”

 

We have two backpacks and four saddlebags, Hisoka. ” Nyx shot out and darted around to inspect his neck to make sure nothing was out of place.

 

“Would you stop that, Nyx?” Hisoka pulled away, but Nyx followed dodgely.

 

Did they drug you?

 

“You are signing behind my back.”

 

Nyx asked if they drugged you.

 

“Couple of times.”

 

At the bottom of the staircase, Machi cleared her throat, and the twins froze before sending withering glares at the spiders assembled at the base.

 

Why did they drug you?

 

“I’m obnoxious. We have a troupe of spiders staring at us. Can you two please focus?”

 

We’re focused on what matters, ” Nox replied stubbornly and Hisoka sighed.

 

“Nox and Nyx say hello.”

 

We say they’re a bunch of dicks.

 

Nyx, don’t be rude. They’re cunts at best.

 

“They say hello very warmly.”

 

“You didn’t tell us they were deaf,” Franklin piped up, and Hisoka sighed.

 

“If they were deaf, why would I be audibly speaking to them?”

 

Brain cells ,” Nyx signed to Franklin, not caring in the least that he had no idea what they were saying.

 

Find them, ” Nox finished and Hisoka wondered, for perhaps the hundredth time, why either of them thought any of this would be a good idea, and why he hadn’t texted them then and there when Chrollo showed him the chat to tell them to put the brakes on and find better insults than a boring “dipshit”.

 

Nox, and he knew it was Nox texting, was more creative than that.

 

What a disappointment.

 

“Nox, say hello.”

 

Nox begrudgingly raised their hand and waved, glowering down at the audience gathered.

 

“Nyx.”

 

Nyx sighed, as if they were immensely put upon, and waved as well.

 

“Lovely. Greetings are out of the way. I believe Nox and Nyx brought me clothes, so I’m going to go change. Nox, Nyx, play nice with the other kids, now.”

 

And, just like that, Hisoka was sweeping off. Punishment, clearly, for making such brash decision in joining up with the troupe without consulting with him first. They probably deserved it.

 

Tense silence fell as the twins stared down the troupe, and the troupe stared down them.

 

Can anyone here at all sign? ” Nyx finally asked, and the two were met with blank silence. Nox sighed quietly to themselves, and pulled out the notepad as they started to descend the stairs.

 

Machi, they knew. Hisoka was convinced she could help them, but Nox doubted that immensely, unless she had a second Machi stashed somewhere. Franklin, the idiot emitter, with a weird body horror fetish, or whatever it was going on with those fingers. Phinks, the slightly less of an idiot, who had a temper from hell. Nox had no patience for other temperamental people. Shalnark, the weirdo, who was staring at Nox like Nox was ascending from the steps of heaven. Nox made a note to avoid whatever weird shit was going to come out of that. Kotorpi, the copier, was notably missing. Shizuku, the airhead, who was likely going to be the only one Nox could stand, was leaning on her vacuum and staring at them like she was trying to remember them. Endearing. She thought they had met before. And Nobunaga, the other weirdo old man.

 

Chrollo was absent. And Bono, along with Kalluto and Feitan. Nox didn’t like that. They wanted everyone where they could see. If they reached out with En, maybe, but honestly, it was such a bother.

 

Machi was the only one with any sense here. A disappointment, sure, but she had sense. Nox walked up to her and started scribbling.

 

Where is your boss? We need to give him the stuff he asked for.

 

Machi frowned at the message.

 

“You mean the evidence?”

 

Nox nodded once.

 

“I can take it.”

 

And there Nox shook their head no.

 

We’ve only spoken to him. We’re passing it to him.

 

“Oh, so you were both texting.”

 

No, that was me.

 

Machi raised her eyebrows, and the slightest hint of a smirk hovered at her lips.

 

“And who was it that set Hisoka’s phone to do that data wipe thing with a text from you?”

 

Nox shoved a hand over their shoulder, pointing a thumb up at Nyx, who was still at the top of the stairs, just waiting to pounce.

 

“How does your aura do that?” It seemed that Phinks could no longer contain himself and Nox shot him a withering glare.

 

Save your excitement for the zoo.

 

They were already running out of paper space. Gods, this was exhausting.

 

“Chrollo will be down when he’s down,” Machi finally said, and Nox regarded her with no small degree of suspicion. He’d better not be selling them out. “Then you can talk business. Would you like to wait in the library?”

 

Does the library have its walls intact?

 

Machi pursed her lips, but it looked like she was trying to not laugh.

 

“Yes. I can get you some tea.”

 

Hospitable, but we’re fine.

 

They had only packed the metal straws in their backpacks. The silicone ones were in their saddlebags, and in any case, they didn’t exactly have a Zoldyck’s poison resistance. Machi gestured with their head, and Nox followed her up the stairs, hating the eyes boring holes into their backs as Nobunaga and Phinks followed behind.

 

Everyone was on edge. That was fine. Nox and Nyx were accustomed to it. They could play nice, at least for a little while.

 

Hisoka was, surprisingly fine, if looking emotionally drained. They could see it all over him. Letting out a decade’s worth of secrets would do that, they supposed. It was different for them. They couldn’t slip into a mask, couldn’t go out and pretend to be someone they weren’t. Their uniqueness singled them out, and they were supposed to be dead. Hisoka had always been the one to get the information on where a target was, and they were the ones that retrieved the intel, or dealt with the person they needed to kill. Hisoka had more of a mask to wear, more of an identity crisis. He’d protected them from having to do so by doing it himself.

 

Sometimes they wish he hadn’t. It would make it easier to help him bear the load, if they knew exactly what it was like.

 

He just had never allowed it, no matter how much they pushed and prodded him to let them. It was the one thing he never compromised on them with.

 

As a result, they had no idea how he was feeling, or how to help him. It grated at them. Both of them, though Nyx showed it less.

 

Even so, he was in good enough shape that they could relent enough to share the intel. They would have to talk to him, though, before they fully decided on banding up. Nox and Nyx were set on it, but just looking at Hisoka, even for a moment, they could see how fragile he was. They needed to be careful, to not trample when they needed to tread softly.

 

Nox was pleasantly surprised at how large the library was. Rare books lined the walls, and they could scarcely resist the urge to go look for first edition poetry collections. Cool. They needed to be cool.

 

Machi set them down in a pair of plush armchairs and surveyed them critically as they immediately pulled out their tablets, apparently determined to ignore the looming presence of their guards.

 

“Nobunaga, Phinks, could you give us some privacy?” Machi asked and the two shared glances.

 

“Machi…”

 

“I need to talk to them.”

 

Nox didn’t look up. They had a new high score to beat.

 

Two sets of footsteps retreated from the library, and the door shut, leaving the twins alone with the seamstress.

 

“I assume you didn’t bring your medical charts.”

 

As one, the two shook their heads no.

 

“Alright then. You’re Gemini twins, right?”

 

Nox locked the screen, leaving the game, on startup, and looked up at her. Someone had done their research.

 

She had apparently commanded Nyx’s attention, as well. Outside the window, an owl hooted, and Machi tilted her head to survey them.

 

“Your control is impressive, but I’m willing to bet even with the Nen you’re using to stabilize your pelvises, you’re in constant pain.”

 

Nox sighed and finally relented, pulling out the notebook.

 

We’re on painkillers.

 

“I figured. But you’ve been on them for years, yes?”

 

The two nodded as Nyx pulled out their own little notebook.

 

Before you ask, Nyx scribbled, yes we keep building up tolerances. Not much else to do.

 

“Your doctor, Klaus, was it? I assume he found a cure, and you refused.”

 

You don’t cure something that isn’t wrong , Nox replied. Machi nodded, somehow understanding. Maybe they would like her.

 

“I’m not someone that likes to be told I can’t do something. Even if it’s me telling myself,” she said bluntly. “I don’t know why you two hate us. We never targeted the Gemini clan, to my knowledge. And, like Chrollo said, we aren’t looking to ever make amends. That’s stupid, and pointless, because we are what we are. We’ll just do it again. However.” Machi’s eyes swept over them. “We are very loyal to each other, and to Chrollo. We would follow him into hell. What interests him, interests me. He has offered this, and while he only said my consideration, I have decided that if something is impossible for me, that just means I need to make it possible. We previously thought no one could share Nen. That has been proven wrong twice in a week. So it’s possible. So, if it isn’t possible that there is a Nen user out there that can make an exact replica of me, with my abilities, that can move precisely as I can move, that means that it is, quite possibly possible. So I’m going to ask you two. When all of this is over. Will you allow me to try?”

 

Nyx and Nox looked at each other. Nox knew Nyx like they knew themselves. Even as twins, when you knew every pain the other felt, from a stubbed toe to a shattered pelvis, you knew them in a way that sometimes, you didn’t even have to bother with an argument, or a discussion, or anything, really, to reach the same earth shattering conclusion.

 

When all of this is over, if we even get that far, we will take it into consideration , Nyx scrawled out on their notebook, as Nox followed up on theirs.

 

It’s better to just have one hope at a time, after all. No need to have more distractions.

 

Machi read the notebooks and almost smiled, once again.

 

“Hm. Hisoka really did raise you two, didn’t he?”

 

Nox and Nyx mirrored each other’s confusion.

 

“Someone will give you a manifesto of their determination, and you respond with a ‘maybe’.”

 

Nyx shrugged as Nox grinned.

 

We just officially met you. Don’t blame us for being cautious, Nox warned and Machi raised her brow.

 

“And yet you’ve both known about me for years, while I had no idea you existed, so, if anything, you two should be the familiar ones here.”

 

Maybe.

 

It was that moment that the door swung open and in strode Hisoka. Perfect timing.

Chapter Text

There was something oddly surreal about seeing Hisoka in jeans and a ratty t-shirt, with his hair thrown into a messy ponytail with too many strays. It was a bit like getting out of the elevator on the wrong floor in a hotel you've never been to, and realizing a good ten minutes later your room number starts with 3, not 4.

 

It had been different when Hisoka was in his clothes. They were borrowed, necessary for the moment, and made logical sense.

 

None of this made logical sense.

 

Chrollo was staring. Really, he should be staring at the twins and trying to figure out how on earth they had won Machi over in the thirty minutes he'd left them unsupervised. But, there she was, sitting in the middle of them, writing back and forth on the app they had pulled up on their tablets when they got sick of writing with a pen.

 

The last time he had seen them, he was trying to kill or capture them, and so was Machi, but they seemed to be taking all of it in stride.

 

They were 18, he knew, but dear gods, they seemed younger.

 

So did Hisoka, without a face full of makeup and with the dressed down, casual look he was sporting.

 

"You two could have brought my actual clothes," Hisoka bemoaned, and the black haired one, Nox, fired a rapid quick sentence at him Chrollo couldn't quite catch.

 

He had learned sign language at one point, and given the circumstances, had brushed up on it since the ritual, but he was a novice at best. This simply wasn't going to do. Their only translator was Hisoka, and while decidedly more … noble, he supposed was the word, he was still Hisoka, and honestly, was even a better liar than Chrollo previously thought. So he wasn't sure how well this was going to work.

 

They could write, of course, but that seemed to irritate them.

 

He could empathize. What was the point in having to only truly use one language if you couldn't use it?

 

He would just have to relearn sign.

 

"Nox. Nyx." He had been sitting here for several moments, observing the ease in which they conducted themselves, but the wariness in the way their bodies never truly relaxed. Ready at any moment to cut and run. "Would you prefer to write, or have Hisoka translate?"

 

Nox and Nyx finally, finally acknowledged him. They had ignored him ever since he set foot in the room, seemingly daring him to make the first move. And so he had waited until their childish game was annoying, and that was the end of that. They won. They could count whatever that passive aggressive display of dominance was as a victory.

 

Aggravating Hisoka spawn.

 

Nox and Nyx studied him, like they were picking him apart, determining which soft spot was best for the killing blow. Machi didn't seem to care, so he trusted her intuition on their self control.

 

They signed something, and Hisoka shifted in his chair so he could watch them both.

 

"I will be translating," Hisoka said, and that was that. More games, it seemed, though he doubted Hisoka would lie.

 

"Right. Have you considered my proposition?"

 

"We have," Hisoka intoned, a few moments after their signing started. "We will give you the information, but we need to talk to Hisoka first before we decide on teaming up with you. After all, you are … Nox, I'm not saying that."

 

"Saying what?" Chrollo asked.

 

"Never you mind, it doesn't matter. You understand the gist, yes?"

 

Yes, Chrollo understood the gist. He also understood, from the exasperated looks Nox was receiving from both Hisoka and Nyx, that Nox was almost certainly the one he had been texting earlier.

 

Nyx sighed and reached into their bag to pull out a flash drive and push it across the coffee table to Chrollo before sitting back to sign.

 

"This is a quarter of the information we have on operations in Meteor City," Hisoka translated. "Some video files, some photos, some reports and our tracking information, a couple of names on their inside men, pictures we've obtained of some of the kids in the last few years. We cannot give you all of it. Yet. You understand."

 

Yes, Chrollo understood. This was a peace offering, not a bargaining chip. It would seem that Nox was the hot headed one, and Nyx was the collected one. If he recalled correctly, though, Nox had been the one that fended him and Machi off by themselves, so perhaps they could also remain cool under pressure.

 

He had not been expecting these sorts of personalities from them. It would be easier to read more into them if he could actually talk to them.

 

Deal or no deal, they were likely going to be coming back around at some point or another. He'd have to relearn sign.

 

"Well, if that is the case." Chrollo picked up the flash drive and rolled it around between his fingers. "You're welcome to stay here until you come to an agreement. Given how far you two were, I assume you rode the full day without sleep to get here. There's a number of guest bedrooms, and food. You can rest. This won't work if we can't manage under the same roof, anyways."

 

"Of course it will," Hisoka replied, translating for Nox. "The internet exists, doesn't it?"

 

Chrollo simply ignored the reply.

 

"Also," Hisoka added, for himself, not them, "they can't actually eat. Do you have a blender or protein shakes?"

 

Nox aimed a fierce kick at Hisoka's leg, which he drew up and out of the way fluidly, not even sparing the kid a glance.

 

Oh. Right. No tongues would make chewing and swallowing solids difficult.

 

"Machi can take care of that," Chrollo replied. He wondered if enough was left of their tongues that they could taste things. It would be an awful thing to lose. Granted, if they were stuck with protein shakes, maybe it was a blessing in disguise.

 

"Yes, we have a blender," Machi supplied. "Some of us do cook."

 

"My, Machi, you always seem to have the answer to all of my problems," Hisoka drawled. Machi just stared at him.

 

Chrollo was getting a headache. He wanted to study the twins, learn their ticks and tells, but he also did not want to appear too eager. It was a bad look, overall. All of this playing nice without the usual threatening and killing and maiming was grating, to put it lightly. Had Hisoka even told them how they had obtained the information? Chrollo supposed it was safest to assume he had not, and for everyone to pretend that they had obtained it through ordinary means.

 

He should have brought this up in the meeting. He had no idea what their temperaments were, what they would find unforgivable. He'd have to kill Ky'ia, too.

 

Kalluto would get over it.

 

He was fairly certain Kalluto would get over it. Really, it was strange to see Kalluto find interest in anything that wasn’t their goals. If he was right, Kalluto was here to get stronger, so they could drag Killua kicking and screaming back to the Zoldyck estate. And if that was the case, then they most certainly shared Illumi’s outlook on friendships outside of the family and how they were pointless, ultimately ending in the outsider’s demise.

 

Kalluto had probably never spent any amount of time with someone that wasn’t a killer before. Ky’ia interested them. Or perhaps it was the fact that the family had some degree of transphobia, as he had only ever heard Kalluto being referred to as a brother by Illumi, and Ky’ia was challenging that weird kind of internalized thing Kalluto had going on that demanded two contradictory things be true at once: Kalluto be nonbinary, but Kalluto also be cis. He still could not figure out how Kalluto balanced it, which was rather amusing, because compared to his confusion towards Hisoka, he was actually rather apathetic towards Kalluto’s plight, and in his year being back, had never considered caring about it.

 

With the presence of the twins, who Hisoka’s brain had registered as nonbinary from the start, he was beginning to wonder if he should look into it.

 

Hisoka’s presence and secret was doing strange things to Chrollo. He did not want to embrace it.

 

“Not my secret.”

 

Should he ask? There was too much tension. The troupe and the … band of Hisoka, whatever was going on there, was already treading on thin ice. Secrets, always, revealed themselves in time, after all.

 

Hisoka’s did.

 

He still had yet to move him out of his bedroom. Hisoka smelled like his soap.

 

Chrollo stood abruptly and made for the door. His mind had strayed far enough.

 

“Make yourselves comfortable. I don’t care what you do. Just don’t pick a fight and destroy my house.”

 

His house, which was already wrecked, by proxy thanks to them.

 

Chrollo, once again, was the cause of his own problems.

Chapter Text

In the Ji’Tak clan, Ky’ia was considered kissed by the ancestors, a blessing to their people. To be more precise, Ky’ia was a lyiana, a “spirited one”. Lyianai were those that did not move with either gender, who existed outside of the bounds of expectations. They were considered to be separate because ancestors had given to them bits and pieces of their own spirit, gifts, to share with the living. Some lyiana left the mountain, to travel and give aide where they chose, but the majority chose to stay home, to continue to bless their own clan.

 

With a population of six hundred, there were only ever twenty five receivers at a time, and five givers. Lyianai were considered to be the best for the role, but, very often, only two or three were born to a new generation. Ky’ia was the only one from theirs, and the two generations previously had none. The Ji’Tak had fallen upon hard times in those two generations. Crops were failing, a sickness had claimed many of the elders and the young, the prey they relied on for food at the base of the mountain had been driven away by deforestation. The three lyianai who came before Ky’ia had left, seeking to establish tribal sovereignty with the local government and put an end to the deforestation so their people wouldn’t starve. They never returned, and so the Ji’Tak waited, sent more emissaries, who also never returned. The anxious silence that greeted the tribe had been deafening.

 

No one thought the ancestors were frowning on them. No, the outside world was changing, and it was affecting the tribe along with it. Having lived sustainably for generations, in relative peace for nearly fifty years previous, they were growing anxious.

 

When Ky’ia began to present as a lyiana, when things started to fall into place for them, it had been seen as a celebration, a ray of hope, that the memories they guarded were not in vain. Ky’ia hadn’t liked the pressure. The pressure to figure it out, to just know what to do, what to say, what path to walk down. No one told them they were the tribe’s salvation, and yet eyes still watched them.

 

They had chosen the spiritual route for answers. Not answers for the clan. Not really. Answers for Ky’ia.

 

They did believe the ancestors had blessed them. Their gender was not really a blessing, but no one could deny how easily Ky’ia took to receiving. It almost made the fable feel real, how easy it was for them. Their mother had likened it to how Ky’ia had made the perfect shot on their very first hunt. The memories flowed through them like water, and Ky’ia had seen a lot.

 

The reason for the group ritual was because no one could remember it all by themselves. The clan had stood tall for a thousand years, independent of the world around them, reliant on no one. One single person could not possess all of those memories. They were simply too vast.

 

So, Ky’ia had seen war. Their clan had been warriors, once upon a time. Generals, mercenaries, even. Death, to the Ji’Tak, was not finite. They lived on, through their descendants. Their stories were never forgotten, and so their souls were able to live in the afterworld, flourish, even. Death was merely a transformation from the physical to the infinite. It was a celebration.

 

And so they had no qualms, for a time, about killing. Ky’ia was sure they themselves knew how to do it. They had retained enough information for it to become muscle memory. Quick, swift, merciless.

 

Ky’ia also knew how it felt. To kill. To mourn, for a little while, as some of their ancestors did, who had not bought into the cultish ideology their clansmen had retained.

 

And, finally, Ky’ia knew what it felt like, to sit and watch the clock count down to your death, except you didn’t know what time it would strike.

 

Ky’ia knew a lot.

 

They also knew that even Kalluto’s strange obsession with them would not save them.

 

Their clan was likely searching for them now, in the aftermath of the avalanche, looking for their body so they could release their memories into the collective, to give them peace.

 

Ky’ia regretted that they would never find their body, that Ky’ia themselves would never be released to join their ancestors, to give back their memories of this strange and wild journey they had been thrown into. It would be wise to not tell the troupe that once they were killed, if their body was returned for the final passage, their secret would be known to 600 people.

 

Ky’ia knew they could lie. Sifting through Hisoka’s memories, and with the memories they retained from their own clan’s history, they knew that the best lie was one with a strong foundation of truth. It would be so easy to tell the troupe that should they die, their memories of this event would immediately flee to the collective, and then the secret they wanted to keep would be known to 600 people, and they couldn’t track them all down and kill them. They would, after all, have a two day head start.

 

But to lie about what was sacred felt wrong. The ancestors would most assuredly frown, and in any case, that would only prompt the troupe to kill as many as they could. Ky’ia wasn’t stupid. They couldn’t bring that level of devastation onto their people. In the days that they had been here, they had learned a lot, and knew that their captors had committed genocide a number of times. In all likelihood, they rarely waited for a reason to do it. They did it because they could.

 

Ky’ia had never before wondered what it was like to fear for their life. They had felt it, a number of times. It was why they didn’t fully ascribe to the Ji’Tak beliefs on death, and why they felt like such a disappointment as a result.

 

As the first lyiana in decades, Ky’ia was meant to have unwavering faith. Nothing was ever meant to make them question. They were supposed to absorb, and move on, blazing the trail that the Ji’Tak had always followed, even if it was a trail towards a cliff.

 

Ky’ia just couldn’t do it. They agreed with almost all of the teachings, except the ones on death. After all, if death was meant to be a blessing, after a long life lived, a next level, a step up to the next goal, then why could it also function as a punishment? They had seen glimpses of it, in their ancestors’ memories, glimpses of horrible men put down to atone for their sins. And now with their knowledge of Hisoka’s task, it became even more clear: it could be a punishment. A definite end, with no chance at redemption.

 

They were also beginning to understand that in the outside world, men could run from their sins for as long as it took, provided they had the connections and power and money to do so. That’s why Hisoka wished to put them down. The ringleaders, that was. So they couldn’t escape justice any longer.

 

There was no faith in Hisoka for the justice the people in power bestowed.

 

For the Ji’Tak, punishment for a heinous crime meant isolation. Very rarely did they have a murderer, or abuser in their midst. Even more rarely did they have a rapist, and Ky’ia had not even heard of a pedophile until Hisoka and the twins. When they did have such horrible crimes happen, the punishment was swift. Criminals were locked away, refused any worthwhile memory to impart onto their fellows. If it was a murder made in passion, or could be seen as self defense, if you squinted, they were eventually released and granted their rites and rights. If it was not, then they were permitted to die over the course of several years, and the last rites were never performed, dooming their souls to wander and never come home for all eternity. Once a year, offenders were granted a hearing, where their memories were investigated by inquisitors, who specialized in painless extraction, who honestly the troupe should have stolen instead, to find instances of genuine repentance for their sins.

 

Ky’ia knew of only one offender in their lifetime, and he died early in Ky’ia’s childhood.

 

Crimes simply did not happen in the Ji’Tak, so Ky’ia could not grasp the concept of crime on this scale. At one time, they had considered leaving the Ji’Tak, and traveling to the Hunter Association to ask for help, but now they weren’t so sure. The outside world truly was a dark place.

 

They had met one good person so far, and even he had been fashioned into a murderer, been forced to don a mask to convince the world that he was as ugly as it was. It would seem that one simply could not exist here without becoming ugly and twisted and vile.

 

Ky’ia was not certain there was help to be had from anyone in this strange land.

 

The doctor from the memories had seemed kind, if brash, so perhaps Ky’ia was wrong.

 

They possessed no memories of the outside world from the present except the very few they had taken from Hisoka.

 

It still felt wrong, to have taken them.

 

They had not even been in the outside world for a week, and already they were taking things by force.

 

They wished they could go home. Their actions would be utterly justified to the clan, when their memories were inevitably revealed in training. In fact, they would be seen as everything the clan had expected them to be: a protector.

 

A protector.

 

Ky’ia didn’t just want to protect the tribe anymore.

 

They also just wanted to talk to their mother.

 

The receiver was finally, finally interrupted from their musings by rapping on the wooden table in the kitchen. Kalluto was gone, off on some mission or another. Ky’ia was decently certain they were robbing a bank and the safety deposit boxes within. Messy, and a little beneath Kalluto, but Chrollo hadn’t wanted them underfoot, given their recent outburst.

 

Before them stood the twins, and Ky’ia studied them critically. In the flesh, they looked different. They had seen them before, of course, in Hisoka’s memories, but they hadn’t realized how dainty and elfish they looked in person. Heavy brows were the only thing about their faces that weren’t sharp and clean cut. Short, perhaps 5’1, with slightly curly hair pulled up into horrendously disastrous buns, probably messy from the ride. They were dressed in black cropped hoodies and high waisted black skinny jeans, filthy combat boots on their feet. Ky’ia wasn’t certain if this was a normal style, or if only the most angsty, dramatic people in the outside world wore all black. There was a glint of chain at their collars, and Ky’ia realized they still wore the necklaces they had seen before.

 

“You’re Nox and Nyx.”

 

Nox, they were certain it was Nox, pulled out their notepad and scrawled a message.

 

You must be a new member. Where’s the blender?

 

“Oh, I’m not one of … Never mind, I’m Ky’ia. I don’t know where the blender is.”

 

In unison, and yes, Ky’ia had been right, they definitely did everything in unison, the twins’ brows furrowed.

 

If you aren’t a member why are you here? This time it was Nyx holding out the notepad.

 

“Oh, I was kidnapped for a pet project of the leader’s.” They clearly didn’t know who Ky’ia was, or why they were here, and Ky’ia was in no hurry to rush their own death along. If Hisoka or Chrollo hadn’t told them, that likely meant Chrollo would most certainly kill Ky’ia for doing so.

 

Do you want us to bust you out? Nox was the brash one, then. Made sense.

 

“I’m going to die. I’m not in a rush to make it faster.”

 

Looks like you have more sense than Nox does.

 

Nox signed something at Nyx, and Ky’ia could pick up, just barely, “I”, “not”, or perhaps it was “no”, and “stupid”. That was self explanatory. The grammar was strange. Directly translated, it looked like Nox was saying “me/I stupid not”. Ky’ia liked strange grammar. It felt familiar. Knowing common tongue and their own ancestral tongue, they liked other languages that held grammatical structures that would be considered “uncivilized” by the assholes who had just decided that they were the experts, but apparently built a society that allowed a literal continent wide pedophile ring to run unchecked for decades. Sure. The outlying tribes that wanted nothing to do with them were the uncivilized ones.

 

“Do you want me to help you find the blender?”

 

No, it’ll just take us a few seconds.

 

Nox and Nyx closed their eyes for a moment and reached out their hands, as if feeling for something. Nyx made an odd choking sound first, reminiscent of someone of someone clicking their tongue in an “I got it” way, and scurried to one of the cabinets to withdraw the blender.

 

“How did you do that?” Ky’ia blurted.

 

There was one bonus to being outside for once. Spirit users that weren’t exclusively givers, receivers, and inquisitors only existed in memories now, as the Ji’Tak had given up war a long time ago, and therefore had no need for spirit outside of the given parameters. Everyone was content with that. People could learn, if they wanted, it was just that no one felt the need. Even so, Ky’ia was young, and liked new things still. And the twins were only a year older than them, and yet had all of this amazing power and experience. Ky’ia had a bit of a spirit crush, if they were going to be honest.

 

The twins observed them critically, as if they were trying to get a read on them. Ky’ia realized, belatedly, that the two could potentially see them as a threat, or lying about not being in the troupe.

 

It’s a recon thing we do , Nyx finally replied. Helps with our missions.

 

Nox was too busy scrubbing out the blender to write, so Ky’ia settled with Nyx.

 

“We call Nen spirit where I’m from,” Ky’ia explained. “To us, spirit is strengthened by the wills of our ancestors. The stronger you are, the more blessing you have from them. It’s kind of cool to see people strengthen it through resolve, too. We still train and everything, of course. You can have gifts, but they’re a bit pointless if you don’t do anything with them, and kind of offensive to the giver.”

 

That’s kind of neat. Nen is a little spiritual to us, too, just different from your look on it.

 

Ky’ia knew enough to know that the outside world would mock their faith. Kalluto hadn’t, when they asked about it, but Kalluto was very clearly an atheist, and Ky’ia had known they looked at it as if it were silly, though they hadn’t said it to Ky’ia’s face. Franklin, however, had overheard it, and mocked Ky’ia mercilessly until Kalluto got mad at him. If Ky’ia wanted to be “silly”, Ky’ia was going to be silly.

 

Being defended by a 12 year old had not felt great.

 

It was nice to meet someone who didn’t mock.

 

“What’s your outlook?”

 

Nyx sat at the table across from Ky’ia, evidently deciding Ky’ia would be decent enough conversation, even if they were a spy, and tapped the pen on the wood thoughtfully for a moment before they began to write.

 

Our people once believed power resided in ourselves to change the world around them. Power is inherent to the living. At one point, we called it magic, and then it became Nen. Manifestation of your own will and desire. Some of us called on our ancestors and gods, but in our clan there were two faiths, meant to walk side by side. The faith in self, and faith in gods, and the departed. Everything was about duality existing side by side. Nox and I picked self.

 

Ky’ia read it with a tilt of the head, their brain whirring to process this information.

 

“So the concept is two things can be true at once, and neither has to overpower the other.”

 

Nyx nodded and wrote one word on their paper.

 

Balance.

 

“And sharing power.”

 

Again, Nyx nodded, and Ky’ia hummed. It was a pity they were going to die, right after they had just started to learn. Disappointing, really, that their memories and all of this new information would never reach their clan.

 

“So we both come from places that put sharing above everything.”

 

Ky’ia had taken by force. They had desecrated their gifts.

 

Perhaps it was only right that they perish.

 

What kind of sharing do you do?

 

Ah. Right. Ky’ia had to lie. They had no idea how to lie.

 

“I … Well. I can’t tell you.”

 

Why not?

 

Suspicion was flickering across Nyx’s eyes and Ky’ia realized they had no experience, whatsoever, next to these two. The only thing that had saved them from utterly losing it when they were first dragged into this manor was generations of wisdom, the same wisdom that had gotten them into this mess. They had kept their cool, kept their calm, and went through the steps of the memories of past receivers that had been taken against their will and lived. It was all they had.

 

Ky’ia, really, could only function under life threatening pressure, and they did not feel threatened enough.

 

Besides, Nox and Nyx had practically been raised by what was quite possibly the best liar on this planet.

 

“Part of that answer relates to Chrollo’s pet project, and I have not been given permission to share outside of the troupe.”

 

A truth. A truth that should satiate them both, because Nox was now regarding them with just as much suspicion.

 

The twins glanced at each other, an unspoken conversation, and then Nyx focused back on Ky’ia.

 

Acceptable.

 

Short one word answers. Ky’ia had been raised in the blistering cold, had trudged even higher, to the temple at the summit, where only the trained could breathe, the most blessed could survive, at the age of ten. They knew the cold, the ice, and yet, when met with Nyx’s withering stare and stony face, they felt like they needed to relearn.

 

Nox went back to the blender, throwing it into gear to process what was some kind of shake. Ky’ia had never seen a blender before. They had never seen a lot of things before, and the constant barrage was a bit of a shock.

 

They weren’t entirely sure why they had offered to help look. Instincts, they supposed. The tribe got supplies from the base of the mountain. Medicines, food, occasional books Ky’ia had devoured relentlessly.

 

They still had never seen a phone up until this point. They were a fish out of water.

 

As the blender pulsed, Ky’ia realized it was like a motorized mortar and pestle, except it worked on a lot more things. That was nifty.

 

“I will, uh, admit my clan is a bit removed from the rest of the world. I don’t know a lot. About anything, actually.”

 

Nox and Nyx studied them before Nyx wrote a message.

 

What are you getting at?

 

“Uh. What was that white powder you just put in the blender?”

 

Nyx stared at Ky’ia for a long moment before starting to make a guttural choking sound.

 

Laughing. They were laughing.

 

That was protein powder. For nutrition.

 

Ah. Protein. Ky’ia had read about that in a medical textbook. They had also read about drugs in that same medical textbook, so they had to make sure. Sue them.

 

Yes, they also knew about lawsuits.

 

“Oh. Sorry. I know what drugs are.”

 

That was not helping their case. Nyx just laughed louder, and Nox joined in, and a smile, the first smile in days, almost, almost parted Ky’ia’s lips.

 

Doll, we don’t have time for drugs.

 

“I read that they were great stress relievers.” Doll. Ky’ia liked being called doll. At least by Nyx. Nox, they had no idea.

 

They are also wonderful distractions. If you’re going to be out here for long, don’t try some. Except maybe weed. Weed isn’t so bad.

 

“We have weed. Or a variant. I know what it’s like.” They weren’t all monks, sheesh.

 

Well that’s good. I hate to be a corrupting influence , Nox wrote, finally actually getting into the conversation.

 

You are way too young to be smoking , Nyx scrawled out, and then glared at Nox as they caught sight of their paper.

 

“... I am eighteen in two weeks. Aren’t you two eighteen?”

 

Yes, and we are too young and BUSY , and BUSY was underlined, three times, possibly for Nox’s benefit, to be smoking weed.  

 

Ky’ia realized, belatedly, that they were also going to be dying before they turned eighteen, and wasn’t that a little sad?

 

If they thought critically about it, which they didn’t want to do, they would realize that the only reason they were so calm about it was because of generations of deaths they had already seen, witnessed, experienced. Subconsciously, they had already selected the option of calm, accepting it as it came, viewing it as a soft creek carrying them down to the sea. Others saw it as a raging torrent, rapids bashing them against rocks, and it honestly just made the inevitable uncomfortable. There was no sense in making the inevitable uncomfortable.

 

“When do you turn nineteen?”

 

Nox and Nyx crinkled their noses vaguely at that.

 

We don’t know. We just celebrate on the day we were found by Hisoka.

 

Ky’ia frowned at that.

 

“Do you have any clues?”

 

Not really, no, aside from the eclipse. It doesn’t bother us, really.

 

“Eclipse?”

 

Nox, now, nodded, and scribbled on a paper.

 

We don’t remember the date of our birthday, but we do know we were born on an eclipse. It was a big event, I think.

 

“Nineteen years ago? Then October 12th.”

 

Nox and Nyx stared at Ky’ia blankly, and color rose to their cheeks.

 

“Uh, date keeping is important in our tribe. Especially natural events. It was my job when I was there to memorize these things. It’s a religious thing. There was a lunar eclipse nineteen years ago, on a special holiday for us, which is why I remember it.”

 

It was also the night, everyone loved to remind Ky’ia, that they were conceived. Ky’ia would rather not be reminded of that, and the twins probably did not need to know that.

 

Nox and Nyx almost looked upset at this new knowledge.

 

“Should I not have told you that?”

 

No, it’s fine , Nyx wrote quickly.

 

We don’t need two birthdays , Nox stated, just as quickly, and Ky’ia winced.

 

“I’m sorry. You don’t have to celebrate it. Though, there isn’t anything wrong with two birthdays, I don’t think. There should be a reason to celebrate every new birth, right?”

 

Nox and Nyx just stared at them. Ky’ia could feel their foot in their intestines at this point.

 

Just then the door opened to reveal Hisoka, and Ky’ia looked away instinctively, ashamed. Hisoka’s own eyes fell on Ky’ia and nothing was said, so nothing could be acknowledged.

 

“Grab your shakes, darlings. We need to talk.”

 

And, just like that, Nox and Nyx were gone, shakes in hand, and Ky’ia was left alone in a strange land again, without a friend in sight.

Chapter Text

They were all sat on the bed. The empty glasses had been set aside, and Nox and Nyx were simply staring at Hisoka, evaluating, watching, waiting.

 

Hisoka was quiet. He was an excellent liar. Too good, in fact. It had taken a long time for him to learn how to turn off the defense mechanism with his twins and just exist in place with them. No lies, no tears, no pain. Just a simple understanding.

 

It was hard to resist the urge to lie, to tell them he was just fine, that this was the right choice. Because, really, Chrollo had been right. Hisoka didn’t know who he was, and he couldn’t get caught up on that right now, either. It wasn’t the time. Identity crises could be saved for after they were done. He might even get a therapist. Who knew?

 

“We should talk logically first,” he finally said.

 

You really want that one first? ” Nox signed, looking a tad concerned. They could see the break incoming.

 

“Yes. Logic first. Feelings second. That’s the rule.”

 

All three of them were in a position where feelings could destroy everything they worked for in a moment. One wrong person killed in a fit of temper could spell their destruction. The rule was always logic first, feelings second. No matter how much it killed them. They had to abide by that code, or all three of them could wind up dead, and the ring more firmly entrenched than ever.

 

If you say so ,” Nox said, and from the look on their face, Hisoka knew he was being laid bare. He’d been laid bare for days now. It scarcely mattered.

 

“Logistically, we are at a completion rate of six months. With the assistance of the troupe, more resources at our disposable, we can possibly cut it to four, if not in half. However, now that they have knowledge of the workings of Meteor City, left unattended and with no reason to wait other than mutual cooperation and our further intelligence, they could just decide to deal with their own problems, and a strike of that level would send the ring back into hiding.”

 

The ring had existed for three decades on one thing: organization. Anytime they were tipped off to someone busting them wide open, they scattered like cockroaches. Evidence was thoroughly destroyed, bodies never found, whole operations left bare, and then the money started flowing for the cover up. It worked, every time, without fail. The investigators, every last one, always ended up disappearing or dying in ordinary accidents that shouldn’t have happened. Drunk drivers, a gas leak, insurance snafus that resulted in them missing doses of life saving maintenance medications, anything you could think of: it happened.

 

If there was another scatter, any chance at all of them winning would be blown.

 

There was just too much at stake.

 

“They are motivated,” Hisoka continued, “and will remain motivated. As you mentioned, Nox,” and here he gave Nox a withering glare, “Chrollo is the carrot type. He is the carrot type because when he swings the stick, the kind of devastation he can do can level cities. He’s offering the carrot right now, and I am not willing to pass that up.”

 

Emotionally speaking, he was very, very willing to pass that up.

 

“In addition, he now sees that you two can be a threat.” Hisoka hated to say it. It felt like sand on his tongue, that he had given them the power to get killed. What he wouldn’t give to go back and make them inconsequential. “Should we not be allied with him, he could very well decide that you are a big enough threat that you need to be dispatched. And we do not need the troupe on our tail while we are trying to finish this up. I want our energy completely directed at our goal.”

 

Hisoka had a number of enemies out to kill him. None of those enemies knew of his surrogate siblings. He had never had to consider, had to think, until now, about the kind of fear that would overtake him should one know.

 

Chrollo was still an enemy, in his eyes. An enemy with a carrot. He’d rather keep him close.

 

“So, logistically speaking, joining forces with the troupe is our best option.”

 

The twins were still silent. It was worrying him. And they were still staring at him, the way they always stared at him when he needed a hot bath and a facemask.

 

Finally, Nyx’s hands started moving.

 

How did they find out?

 

And here came the temper train.

 

“The kid you were talking to in the kitchen, Ky’ia? They are from the Ji’Tak tribe, something called a receiver. They can go through people’s memories.”

 

So they literally mind fucked you. ” Nox supplied, and Hisoka didn’t care enough to hide the wince.

 

“Yes, Nox, they mind fucked me.”

 

Hisoka. ” Nyx looked deadly serious. “ We can forgive for ourselves. We do not have to forgive for you.

 

Hisoka sighed and thought back to his conversation with Machi, on the tailend of him sobering up.

 

“There are a lot of irrational people in this world, darlings. I would have thought I raised you better than to be like them,” he drawled. “Lest you forget, up until that moment, to them I was a murderous rapist who got off on being beaten up by literal children. Irregardless of intentions, I still do, in fact, bear responsibility for my choices and the image I have chosen to portray. If anything, how they have treated me so far is a compliment to how good I am at being who I am. I have been a creep. Without the knowledge of why I am what I am, I have made a lot of people uncomfortable. I have killed uninvolved people in that had nothing to do with it in the name of holding that image. I’ve done what I have done, and we cannot hold other people responsible for the consequences of that.”

 

He had endangered them, after all, and had no one to hold responsible for such except him.

 

It wasn’t that he regretted letting them chase their revenge. They were going to do it anyways. They deserved it, just as much as he did. They had deserved a choice.

 

It was the fact that being who he was, he had given them more enemies than they had ever signed up for, and they didn’t even realize it yet. And he hated himself, especially because he knew they would just shrug and say they knew what they were getting into. They would always forgive him, as was evidenced by their immediate dismissal of his intentions towards Machi. And he hated himself for it, because he had done nothing to deserve it.

 

They had only punished him for the fact that he put himself in needless danger to do it.

 

Chrollo could have killed him, multiple times, in the name of his pursuit of their happiness and safety, and he knew it. They knew it. And without saying it, because they were treating him with kid gloves, they were furious with him for it.

 

This is all fine, Hisoka ,” and here Nox was cutting in, “ but are you even capable of holding it together while working with them?

 

“I’m not sure what you mean.” Hisoka was lying through his teeth.

 

What I mean is, as you know ,” and know was signed quite viciously, “ are you capable of holding it together and not having a literal identity crisis because a group of murderous thugs have to become your safe zone and be accepted into your truth?

 

“Oh, don’t be so cruel. Machi isn’t so bad, and Shizuku is quite a darling.”

 

A decade of your secondary personality is literally falling to pieces, against your will, Hisoka. ” Now here was Nyx to harp on him. “ You are not holding it together. Your body language is shifting every five seconds like you’re trying to decide who to be. This is the first time we’ve seen you relaxed, and you’ve literally barricaded us in Chrollo’s bedroom.

 

Actually why are we even in Chrollo’s bedroom?

 

“He hasn’t moved me out. He’s sleeping in a guest room.”

 

He really, really hoped they weren’t about to force him to read into that.

 

And you aren’t even making an innuendo about it.

 

And there came in Nyx for the bat to the face, making him read into it.

 

“Don’t make me read into it.”

 

If we are going to be teaming up with them for the next three or four months, you will actually have to read into it.

 

“I will absolutely not have to.”

 

Nyx, don’t be rude. He told us to keep his hands off his love life.

 

“My what ?”

 

His love life may affect the outcome of this entire operation if he loses it.

 

“Okay, that is enough !” Hisoka’s voice went up, just borderline of a shout, and he took a deep breath while they stared at him, entirely unphased. “I will hold it together. I have held it together for ten years, and a couple of months are not going to kill me. And you two, will never, ever bring this up again. Am I quite clear?”

 

If that makes you comfortable. ” Still unfazed, and as assholish as ever, that Nox. Hisoka almost regretted teaching them to be fearless.

 

“Wonderful.” The word slipped out of his teeth like the hiss of a snake. “Are we in agreement?”

 

Nox and Nyx exchanged a glance, coming to some silent conclusion, before turning back to Hisoka. He didn’t like the looks on their faces.

 

We are in agreement on one condition ,” Nyx signed.

 

If you start having a break, we reserve the right to pull you out and continue operations with them by ourselves until you recover.

 

Hisoka wasn’t sure when the dynamic between he and them had shifted, to where they were watching him, protecting him, monitoring him.

 

They really had grown, and he didn’t know if he should be proud, frustrated, or heartbroken.

 

Dimly, he heard himself repeat those exact same words to them, on the porch of their bungalow in the woods, as they stood on wobbly legs and looked at him with all the defiance in the world.

 

Promises. He hadn’t realized, when they agreed, all those years ago, that they were making a promise.

 

“Fine. Fine, you two win. You can be the nurses this time.”

 

The tension broke. Hisoka was an emotional person. He couldn’t really help it. So when he saw the twins staring at him with such worry, such love , he found himself holding out his arms. He knew exactly what they needed, what they always needed, when they were worried about him. They needed to feel that he was real, he was safe, he got home just fine, in one piece.

 

And they flung themselves at him, tackling him into the bed. He could feel Nox’s tears, and he realized this time, they had really, honestly believed that he was dead. He had scared them.

 

“I told you,” he murmured. “I’m not going anywhere. Not till I’m done.”

 

His hands moved to smooth down their messy curls, and Nox shook slightly. They always cried for the three of them, that little emotional wreck.

 

“Though I may be going to rob a pharmacy if I found out you two left your meds at home again,” he added as an afterthought. Nyx snorted into his shoulder and Hisoka just laid with them for a minute.

 

His handler had never done this for him. Granted, he had found Hisoka at 16, not 12, and at that point Hisoka was too hard to fall apart. Hisoka hadn’t wanted that for the twins, so he let them hug him when they wanted, feel that he was real, that this all wasn’t a dream.

 

In a way, he had come to understand that in many ways, they surpassed him because he had given them that affection, that taste of what they could gain after it was all said and done.

 

Being himself, he hadn’t realized yet that they were content with what they had gained in the meantime, and considered it just as important as what was to come.

 

Silence passed for a moment before he realized they had not actually replied.

 

“... Who forgot their meds, and which ones did you forget?”

Chapter Text

Hisoka had honestly thought it would be Nox. But, no. Nyx had been so preoccupied with making sure Nox wasn't forgetting anything, they had forgotten the oxycodone.

 

The non transferable oxycodone.

 

The oxycodone they had both neglected to refill before they left, despite having Klaus's actual cell phone number on speed dial, not that anyone used speed dial, which Nox only had three days worth left of, one now that they had to share with Nyx.

 

At least the new sleeping meds were working.

 

But Klaus couldn't send a prescription for a controlled substance this far, so now it was on Hisoka to go actually rob a pharmacy, which he had initially half been joking about, and deal with the fallout if Klaus ever found out.

 

Grumbling to himself as he left the twins sleeping in their new guest bedroom, Hisoka trudged down the hall, the keys to Nyx's bike in hand as he wondered why, why he had ever thought them responsible enough to take down a literal sex trafficking ring when they could not even keep track of their medications. Honestly, they were going to be the death of him.

 

"Where are you going?"

 

It had been several hours since Hisoka heard that unwanted voice and he stopped and sighed. Crickets were chirping all around him. It smelled like rain. Honestly, this might have been a peaceful night, despite his irritation.

 

"I'm going to go rob a pharmacy," Hisoka stated flatly and refused to look over his shoulder at Chrollo standing in the shadow of the doorway.

 

"You're going to rob a pharmacy," Chrollo repeated.

 

"Yes. That is, in fact, what I just said." Hisoka would rather be in bed. A bed that wasn't Chrollo's.

 

"Do you even know where the next town is?"

 

"I have a phone. Which has gps, like every other phone on the planet. Are you going to stop me from robbing a pharmacy?"

 

"Why are you robbing a pharmacy?"

 

Hisoka could not find it in him to dance right now. He was emotionally drained. His shirt was still wet from Nox. The twins had come to rescue him and yet he was still having to sweep in and play big brother.

 

Secretly, he was a little pleased they had forgotten.

 

For one, it was an excuse to get away from everyone and finally find some time to breathe.

 

For two, it made him feel a little less helpless to fix something for them.

 

For three, it gave him a chance to actually let loose some of this pent up frustration.

 

"Nox and Nyx neglected to refill a medication that cannot be transferred, and their doctor cannot write a prescription for it from where he's licensed."

 

"So it's a controlled substance. Painkillers?"

 

"I fail to see how that matters."

 

"... Hisoka, you realize you are about to rob a pharmacy, and yet you are doing it by yourself despite being in a manor that is full of professional thieves."

 

"I am capable of robbing a pharmacy by myself."

 

"I'm sure."

 

Silence passed for a few minutes and Hisoka finally, finally turned to face Chrollo.

 

"I am not trying to run away and leave them with all of you."

 

"I didn't say you were."

 

"Then why are you standing there interrogating me when you know I'll be back, hm?"

 

There was no emotion in Chrollo's eyes, nothing to be read. Hisoka didn't know what he was thinking, and while that had previously been fun and a thrill, it was now simply aggravating.

 

"Come," Chrollo finally said, shortly, and started to walk to the garage.

 

"Pardon?"

 

"If you really aren't taking off, then me coming with shouldn't be a problem, yes?"

 

Hisoka froze, and then recalled his conversation with the twins.

 

Carrot. Stick.

 

"You are Chrollo Lucilfer, and you want to rob a pharmacy?"

 

"It's good to stretch your legs."

 

Hisoka sighed and abandoned his hopes of getting some actual space for once before trailing along behind Chrollo to get into the awaiting Jeep.

 

"I didn't take you for the sort to dole out petty punishment, Chrollo," he finally said, slipping back into the mindset of a tease.

 

Chrollo glanced over at Hisoka, silent, as usual, while the Jeep rumbled to life.

 

Explaining a joke ruined the joke. Adding the punchline didn't, though.

 

"I didn't realize my incessant hovering irritated you so. I would have amped it up."

 

Chrollo focused back on the windshield and world beyond it as the garage doors opened.

 

"You accuse me of being egotistical, and yet you think you were skilled enough to get a rise out of me at all."

 

"Then why are you here?"

 

"It amuses me."

 

"I don't believe you've ever once smiled in your life. You should find a better word than amuse. I'm sure your books have one somewhere."

 

Chrollo ignored him and pulled out, his right hand resting easily on the clutch. Of course Chrollo could drive a manual. Hisoka filed it away as another irritating facet of the enigma that sat next to him.

 

With a dramatic sigh, Hisoka looked out the window, trying to pretend like he was hiding his pout.

 

"What did you three decide?"

 

Ah, there it was. For once, Chrollo was impatient.

 

"Chrollo, you didn't need to get me alone in a dark car in the middle of the night to ask me that ."

 

Chrollo didn't reply, yet again. He was getting better at keeping Hisoka from dominating the conversation it seemed. Good for him.

 

"We decided we will. After all, if you were left to your own devices, they would scatter again, and we'd have to start from scratch. It'd be a pain."

 

"Scatter?"

 

"Yes. Scatter. They have been around for roughly three decades. Can you name any sex ring that has managed the same?"

 

"... No. They generally only last a few years."

 

"Mmm. Yes, that's correct. This one is so long lived because in order to take it out, a simultaneous strike is needed, and the head, which we still haven't found who, needs to be cut off. Whenever anyone got close before, they'd scatter. Efficiently. Evidence was destroyed, bodies never found, records scrubbed, and then when it was a clean slate, the money would pour in from everywhere from the cover up. That's why it's taken me a decade. They've done it twice, before I had enough information to track in the aftermath."

 

Chrollo was silent, processing, as they rumbled down the dirt road.

 

"If we left you to your own devices, I'm sure you'd take the ‘me and mine’ route and just purge them from Meteor City."

 

"No," Chrollo finally said shortly. Hisoka lifted a brow.

 

"No?"

 

"Purging them would only make half the point. We need to make an example. You can't do that without the full equation."

 

Hisoka had not been expecting that. He wasn't sure what to say.

 

"What example are you wanting to make?"

 

"A bloody one."

 

As always, Chrollo was to the point and deliberately vague. Hisoka decided not to push. Why didn't matter. Just how.

 

"Edwin is the finance man," Hisoka finally said. "He couldn't properly wipe the hard drive, so we got a little information from his automated backup. It wasn't much, from what the twins told me, but it was enough to get a trail to more information to where the money goes. It's a very elaborate laundering operation."

 

"If they work with Shalnark, they should be able to track it down."

 

"It can only go so far. Electronic trails disappear. We'll need to have actual physical recon."

 

"The troupe can handle that."

 

"So can I."

 

"No," Chrollo said sharply and once again, Hisoka found himself surprised at the emotion that just barely, barely leaked into his voice.

 

"No?"

 

"You have us. You don't need to go in again."

 

"Do you have an inside man?"

 

"I can have any inside man. I have Shalnark."

 

"His antenna are a little visible, if you didn't notice."

 

"You don't need to go in again."

 

"Why not?"

 

"I said so."

 

"This is a team operation. I'm not one of your spiders."

 

Chrollo slammed on the brakes, pitching Hisoka forward towards the windshield, and a hand caught his t-shirt and yanked him back before he made an impact.

 

"I made conditions with the twins. My conditions with you are that you don't go in again."

 

Silence fell on the Jeep as Hisoka stared at Chrollo, the man's hand still fisted in his shirt. He was warm.

 

The crickets were still chirping.

 

"Why?"

 

"Because I said so. Agree, and we stay. Don't, or I handle this my way. Without you or the twins. Choose."

 

".... Fine."

 

Chrollo released the back of Hisoka's shirt, letting him fall back into the seat, and put the Jeep back into gear.

 

"Put your seatbelt on."

 

Hisoka very often did not understand people. Maybe it was the trauma, maybe it was just the way he was wired, but on a surface level he simply did not understand them. Sure, he could make quick conclusions as to why they were the way they were, he could understand their goals, their aspirations, and how to use those against them. But he didn’t understand them in a way that required empathy. The only people he really, really, truly understood were the twins, and that’s because one, he had cared enough to want to try and two, he had the same story as them, with different players.

 

That’s why he had so much resolve to see this through.

 

He had the same story as every kid out there in the same situation as him.

 

His lack of empathy towards those without his story made his disguise more real. He had taken that apathy and built on it, crafted it, used it as a weapon to forge his monstrous face.

 

So Chrollo’s behavior was a mystery to him. Hisoka wasn’t sure why he wasn’t using a perfectly good tool at his disposal, or why he wouldn’t give an answer as to why that tool was benched. Because, when it was all said and done, Hisoka was a tool. Past the identity crisis, past the grudge, past his drive, he was a handler’s wet dream. The man that could retain his cover the second he stepped foot outside of his house, and hold it for ten years with only marginal breaks, could operate without direction, get the job done without any support at all. Hisoka didn’t need resources, or money thrown at him, or other people beyond maybe two, and even those two had been a blessing. He could have finished on his own.

 

Hisoka was a tool.

 

He knew Chrollo knew that.

 

Perhaps it was a pride thing, though Hisoka was unsure Chrollo knew what that was beyond the protection and control of Meteor City. Perhaps Chrollo didn’t want Hisoka to show his spiders up.

 

Hisoka could be flattered, but he needed a definite answer, and he wasn’t going to get it out of Chrollo.

 

“So if you’re not going to use me as I am actually meant to be used, how are you going to employ my skills? Or do you just want to oust me of my own operation and steal my victory as punishment for my betrayal?”

 

“It’s not a betrayal if you were never loyal to us to begin with,” Chrollo replied shortly. “And you will be directing.”

 

“Directing?”

 

“I’m not so small that I can’t admit when someone is better at something than me, Hisoka. I am an excellent thief. I can get information pertaining to what I need to steal, when I need to steal it. I can connect the threads on something like this, but you would do it better, and faster. So you will direct.”

 

Hisoka’s lips twitched, but it was a false smile. Inside, he was a churning wreck.

 

“My, Chrollo, was that a compliment? For me ?”

 

“Don’t expect it again.”

 

Chrollo was still expressionless. It felt like Illumi again. Hisoka had always liked the expressionless ones. He liked to senselessly tail them to get a rise out of them. He liked Illumi, too. At one point, he had almost considered letting Illumi know his secret, but ultimately decided that it was too much of a risk. Had Illumi ever decided Hisoka was no longer needed, he had no way of knowing if that regard would extend to the twins.

 

So, he had kept his secret from the closest thing outside of his cobbled together family that he could consider a friend. It was almost ironic that Chrollo had learned first. He had been in a race with Illumi and hadn’t even known.

 

They were reaching paved road now.

 

“So how far is this town?”

 

“About thirty minutes.”

 

“Mmm.”

 

Hisoka wondered if the twins had told Klaus to water the plants. Probably not. Had they texted him, he would have reminded them to refill their meds. Pulling out his phone, he shot Klaus a quick text. He didn’t need to know the specifics.

 

“The doctor. Brentson. What is his relationship to you?”

 

Hisoka blinked, almost in surprise.

 

“I kidnapped him when I found the twins, and we somehow managed to become friends.”

 

“So you two are friends?”

 

“Of sorts. He keeps their medical records under lock and key, and I don’t let anything untoward happen to him.”

 

“Untoward?”

 

“He’s the top scientist in a field that is simply begging to have money thrown at it for more insidious things. In the time I have known him, there have been about seventeen kidnapping attempts. I stop those, or rescue him, and he continues to function as primary care for the twins.”

 

“So you aren’t romantically involved.”

 

“With Klaus?” Hisoka laughed. The question had actually surprised him. “Absolutely not. I’m too dangerous for him, he’s too kind for me. I would only feel guilty, all the time.”

 

“So being interested in men wasn’t an act.”

 

Hisoka wasn’t sure why these questions were being asked of him.

 

“It’s like I told Machi. You take truths, and exaggerate them to lay the foundation for a lie. So. No. It’s not an act. Why, are you interested in men?”

 

“Occasionally.”

 

“I thought so. No straight man would put himself in leather skinny jeans to make an impression.”

 

“Plenty of straight men would.”

 

“Maybe if they paired it with a guitar.”

 

Chrollo was silent again. Hisoka wondered if he had irritated him.

 

“Well. It’s good to know that my flirting wasn’t utterly hopeless, like it was with Machi.”

 

“It was.”

 

“Oh, you break my heart.”

 

“I know enough to know you would only be serious if you dropped the act. I don’t chase things that are beyond my reach.”

 

Hisoka was unsure of how to take that. Did Chrollo have … sexual interest in him?

 

“I’ve slept with plenty of people who have been prey to my act.”

 

Chrollo was silent again, and Hisoka had the vague impression that he was walking on eggshells.

 

“When you found the twins, how had their Nen been awakened? It was new.”

 

Hisoka shrugged and turned his attention to the window. It was finally raining.

 

“I don’t know. I have theories, but they have never spoken of that night, so I don’t ask.”

 

“What are your theories?”

 

“In my time doing this, I have learned specialists like the twins can have Nen activated as a defense mechanism when forced through significant trauma. I’ve only seen it evidenced in children, though I believe they were born with it activated to some degree, as genetics can only explain some pieces of their condition.”

 

“Have you seen evidence of that from birth Nen activation before?”

 

“On occasion, yes. From reclusive tribes like the Gemini, mostly. Children like that are considered valuable rarities, and fetch a high price. They very often aren’t killed at the typical aging out and are just put on puberty blockers until they’re about fifteen or so.”

 

“So they’re specialists.”

 

Hisoka considered telling him. They were all officially working together now. Chrollo, despite deferring to Hisoka, would need to understand all of their abilities if he was going to properly use them. And, if Hisoka told him, the twins wouldn’t have to, so Chrollo wouldn’t be able to steal their abilities. If he could. Hisoka wasn’t certain he could use it.

 

“Yes and no.”

 

Chrollo glanced over at him with dark eyes and Hisoka sighed softly.

 

“Separately, no, they are not specialists. If you put them far enough apart, they have ordinary abilities. I made them hone those abilities, of course, in the event that they are separated. Nox is a conjurer, with some control over emission, due to the nature of their hatsu. Nyx is a transmuter. They are able to amplify their abilities enough together to master manipulation and fully control emission. Their shadows and control over them are a result over that control. Together, they have the power to actually bring shadows to life, infuse them with Nen, enhance them to make them move and shift, grasp things, what have you. My abilities are a little useless against them, as the second I grab something, they can make it disperse. They call it Shadow Strike. They also have a secondary ability, Shadow Sight, which allows them to see through shadows and pinpoint hidden objects through a search. Their primary conjoined abilities are useless without a second player, so they would be difficult for you to steal without figuring out how to share Nen on the scale that they can naturally, which is the only reason I am telling you.”

 

“And their abilities independent of each other?”

 

That I will not be telling you just yet, as it is only necessary to know in given situations.”

 

“Situations where one gets kidnapped, but not the other.”

 

“Yes. You know now that should you decide they are a threat, you need to separate them far enough to break the link. So, no, I am not telling you what their independent abilities are.”

 

Chrollo was silent again, before he spoke.

 

“You must be a very good teacher. You would have to completely change your understanding of Nen to direct them.”

 

“I did.”

 

They fell silent again, the conversation tapering off, and Hisoka leaned over to switch on the radio.

 

“It’s a gamble,” Chrollo finally added. “Their abilities.”

 

“Life is nothing but a gamble, Chrollo. They’ve never not done anything together.”

 

“Do you love them?”

 

Hisoka blinked and stared at Chrollo, unsure as to why he was asking this question.

 

“Why?”

 

“I know when you’re lying. I want to know if you’re capable of love.”

 

“Isn’t everyone?”

 

“No.”

 

“Do you think you aren’t?”

 

“We aren’t talking about me.”

 

“I’d like to talk about you. It’s only fair. You invaded my most intimate memories, decided to take over my life’s work, and have done nothing but ask me questions despite offering nothing in return. We need trust, and this is beginning to feel rather one sided, darling danchou.”

 

Chrollo he didn’t understand. Even on a surface level. The signs were pointing everywhere, in all directions, and Hisoka could not understand why.

 

Chrollo didn’t reply to Hisoka’s declaration. Hisoka wondered what was going through his head.

 

“No. I think I have the capacity for it.”

 

“Why?” For once, Hisoka wanted to understand. He didn’t know where this feeling was coming from.

 

“I find love has to have a degree of faith. Not trust. Faith. And I’ve put my faith in others before.”

 

“The troupe, you mean. You put your faith in the troupe.”

 

Chrollo was refusing to look at him. Hisoka could tell it was a refusal, because there was tension in the line of his throat.

 

“Among others.”

 

“So you’re of the belief that love requires a level of commitment.”

 

“I don’t believe to be in love, you have to have commitment. I believe to love someone, even when you aren’t in love, which happens even in the oldest relationships, you have to have commitment. And faith that it’s worth waiting for it to come back.”

 

“My, my, Chrollo, I didn’t realize you were such a romantic,” Hisoka teased, but inside, his heart was pounding, and he didn’t know why.

 

“I have a love of beautiful things, Hisoka. It’s the one thing that has driven me, beyond anything else. Of course I’m a romantic.”

 

There were lights on the horizon, and Hisoka realized that soon they were going to be reaching their destination.

 

“Well. What’s more beautiful than stealing some oxycodone for a pair of idiotic twins?”

Chapter Text

It had been some time since Hisoka had to pull on some gloves and don one of the twin’s wraps to cover his shock of red hair. He felt giddy, like he was a teenager again, all push and pull and no brakes to speak of. Petty crime was not something he often indulged in. He rarely robbed something as inane as a pharmacy. When he did actually have to not rely on the twins, his burglary was limited to the parameters of their task, and the occasional side gig to maintain his cover.

 

So this was exciting for him. It would have been more exciting had he not had the silent presence next to him, picking the lock on the backdoor with expert hands. No, the presence next to him dampened the excitement significantly, pulled him into a state of nerve wracking anxiety, because, try as he might, he could not understand why Chrollo was here . Their conversation could have been had at any other time, and yet here was Chrollo, doing something that was decidedly beneath him, for literally no reason whatsoever.

 

The door clicked open and Chrollo stood fluidly, pushing it open for Hisoka to enter before him. How gentlemanly.

 

Hisoka slipped inside and surveyed the room as Chrollo went to disarm the alarm. Shelves upon shelves of medications, a wall of waiting prescriptions for their patients, packaged into neat little bags, arranged in alphabetical order.

 

“I don’t want to get anyone fired. The twins and Klaus would never let me hear the end of it, so make sure the cameras can get a glimpse of us,” Hisoka said as he made his way for the safe, very clearly getting caught in view of the camera on the other side of the pharmacy counter. “We’ll just have to steal all of the controlled substances.”

 

“Someone may go without their medications,” Chrollo warned and Hisoka shrugged.

 

“For a day. Pharmacies get shipments daily. It’ll be fine. We can leave the ones that keep people’s actual life functions going.”

 

“And you know which those are?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Research purposes.” In fact, Hisoka had memorized every medication that kept essential life systems going, in the event they were caught and someone wanted to quietly hush them up. It was unlikely any of them would develop diabetes or something, but Hisoka was paranoid.

 

Standing opposite the safe, away from the cameras, Hisoka reached out and placed his hands on the metal doors.

 

“Hisoka.”

 

“Mmm?”

 

“What are you doing.”

 

“Opening the safe.”

 

“... Get out of the way.”

 

Hisoka raised his brow and looked at Chrollo, who almost looked frustrated with him. Obligingly, Hisoka stepped aside and Chrollo made a beeline for the safe, placing his ear on the metal as he cracked it open.

 

“You move to wreck stuff way too quickly,” Chrollo chastised as he pulled open the doors. “Get the bag.”

 

Hisoka huffed in irritation, but opened the empty backpack and let Chrollo dump in medications.

 

“Not that one. Put that back,” Hisoka snapped, pointing with his free hand to the bottle of alurate in Chrollo’s hand. “It’s for epilepsy.”

 

Chrollo raised his brows only slightly, as if surprised Hisoka hadn’t lied, and slid it back onto the shelf.

 

They had basically devastated the safe. Hisoka zipped the bag shut and slung it onto his back.

 

“See? I can be decent, sometimes,” he purred, and Chrollo ignored him, heading for the door.

 

Chrollo held the door for Hisoka, yet again, and Hisoka filed that away as proof that no, Chrollo still didn’t trust him. Good. Hisoka had only been caught slipping once.

 

The drive back to the manor was silent. It being Chrollo, they had actually talked about a lot, and Hisoka was still processing just what was going on here. He didn’t know. Chrollo knew, surely, but he wasn’t about to ask. He could be patient. This was a tightrope situation, and Hisoka had been raised in a circus. He was excellent at a tightrope.

 

Hisoka still couldn’t get over how easily Chrollo managed a manual transmission. It was honestly offensive, how good Chrollo was at things.

 

They pulled up to the manor in silence and Hisoka made to get out.

 

A hand grabbed his wrist and he stopped, looking at Chrollo in something akin to confusion.

 

“What?”

 

Chrollo studied him for a minute, and Hisoka had a petri dish moment again.

 

Without a word, Hisoka was released, feeling more confused than he had when Nox cried for thirty minutes over trigonometry.

 

Rushing to escape him, Hisoka made a beeline for the twins’ room, leaving the two bottles of oxycodone on the nightstand. That should last them a few months. They were still sleeping soundly. Hisoka reckoned with this new medication, they’d build a tolerance in a month or two. He’d have to deal with that when it came time to deal with it.

 

Unable to stand being in the same room as them, even while they were sleeping, Hisoka stole out of the bedroom and made for the kitchen. He needed a hot toddy. Or some straight liquor. Either would be just fine. It was barely midnight, but it felt like he had spent a century in that Jeep. Outside, it was still drizzling down, and he was sieged by the urge to go stand in it.

 

No, that wouldn’t do. If his time with the troupe had taught him anything, it was that spiders slept sparingly at best, and he couldn’t risk looking so vulnerable right when they had joined forces. Maybe a mug of cocoa was in order.

 

The kitchen was bare of any presence. Hisoka hadn’t been allowed out of Chrollo’s bedroom long enough to know where everything was, but he had seen Machi make a cup of tea at one point. If he was correct, there had been a container of cocoa mix shoved in with the boxes and canisters. Rifling through the cabinets, he found it, and made for the fridge. No milk. Wonderful. With a sigh, he acquiesced to shoddy cocoa, and put the kettle on to boil.

 

There was the faintest alarm as the kettle started to heat up, and he turned at the presence of Nen in the kitchen doorway. Feitan.

 

Feitan Hisoka had never really liked. It wasn’t that Feitan wasn’t fun to toy with. He was. It was just that he was, well, boring. A devoted fanatic to Chrollo and the troupe, with no degree of depth to swim in. Simple. Single minded. While seeing him work to break someone down was fascinating, Hisoka didn’t know why he would want to dip his toes in a kiddie pool when he could swim in an ocean. Feitan’s chief obsession was the troupe, and beyond that he could only manage to care about one thing at a time. He was incredibly perceptive, of course, and he could play at being complex, could slip into a role like a dress, but it was … boring. False complexity was boring. Everything was black and white to Feitan, simple, definite. And Hisoka just could not abide that for extended amounts of time.

 

For a moment, the two just stared at each other. Hisoka didn’t know why Chrollo had insisted on a clock in every room. It was too on the nose dramatic for tense situations like these. Hisoka preferred a little more subtlety.

 

“Feitan.”

 

“Hisoka.”

 

“Can I assist you in some way?”

 

Feitan’s eyes shifted to the kettle and then he was moving.

 

“Make another.”

 

“You want cocoa?”

 

Feitan opened a door to what should have been the pantry, but in reality was maybe the sixth alcohol cabinet the troupe had.

 

“Rum?”

 

“Are you trying to get me drunk, Feitan?”

 

Feitan snorted briefly and turned to Hisoka, rum in hand. Hisoka had never tried to get close enough to the troupe to be around them when they were all gathered in a hideout. It was strange seeing Feitan in casual clothes.

 

“If you get drunk off of splash of rum, you should not be here.”

 

Hisoka sighed and simply moved to get a second mug out of the cabinet.

 

“So long as we don’t start really drinking, I suppose.”

 

Feitan sat the rum on the counter and stared at the kettle, as though he was willing it to boil faster. Hisoka dearly hoped he wouldn’t bring out a miniature rising sun and blow it up. He didn’t want to have to microwave the next batch. There were some principles to be had.

 

“No milk, or are you gross?”

 

“No milk,” Hisoka confirmed, once again finding himself irritated by someone’s presence. He wanted to be alone with his thoughts , dammit. It seemed all of his stalking was catching up to him.

 

“They never do grocery runs right.”

 

“Why are you here?” Hisoka asked bluntly, and Feitan’s eyes shifted to look at him. “You don’t like me.”

 

“Want cocoa.”

 

Right. Feitan was simple. Painfully, obtusely simple. Hisoka was tired. He wanted a bath and a facemask. The twins, bless their little hearts, had thought to not only pack his regular routine, but his sheet masks as well. He wanted to get to them.

 

But, he was still set up in Chrollo’s bedroom. The thought of taking a bath in his tub was uncomfortable, to say the least.

 

Not that company with Feitan was much better.

 

“Where did you and danchou go?” Feitan asked and Hisoka, remembered, briefly, that yes, he and Chrollo had gone to rob a pharmacy together, and he had actually been trying to forget that.

 

“We were robbing a pharmacy.”

 

“Why?”

 

“The twins forgot a medication.”

 

“Which medication?”

 

“I don’t see how that’s relevant.”

 

“Machi has a room of medications.”

 

“... Does she have oxycodone?”

 

“Yes. All painkillers and antibiotics. For injuries.”

 

Then why on earth

 

“I see.”

 

He did not see. Was Chrollo toying with him?

 

“Machi is a doctor.”

 

“I know.” Licensed, in fact. Hisoka was not sure why Feitan was telling him this.

 

“Twins have a lot of medicines?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Machi can get them.”

 

“They have a doctor.”

 

“In different country, yes? At Hyban Hospital?”

 

“He almost has international licensing for his patients.”

 

“Bah.”

 

The kettle started whistling and Hisoka moved to take it off the heat.

 

“Let it sit. Boiling water burns the taste.”

 

“You take cocoa seriously?”

 

“Of course I do, Feitan. I take all sweets seriously.” Hisoka couldn’t help but throw in a cloying smile.

 

“Is Chrollo sweet?”

 

Had there been cocoa in his mouth, Hisoka would have choked. Instead, he flicked off the cap of the rum and took a long swig before he responded.

 

“What?”

 

Feitan stared at Hisoka for a moment as the steam curled up and towards the silent fan above the stove.

 

“Machi is right. You are both stupid.”

 

“There was a time you would have killed someone for saying Chrollo was stupid.”

 

“Yes. Because he was not being stupid. Now he is.”

 

Hisoka could poke and prod Feitan for an explanation of that statement, but, for one, he did not want to know. For two, poking and prodding Feitan was useless, and therefore a waste of time. Feitan was a resolute being, more stone than man, and therefore any information to be gleaned from him was what he said, when he said it, and no more.

 

Hisoka did not feel like doing a pointless task.

 

Feitan leveled out the cocoa mix, several heaping spoonfuls, past the recommended amount, and Hisoka realized that, of all the odd things about him, Feitan had a sweet tooth. He seemed more to like his coffee black.

 

“Mmm. Didn’t have you fixed as having a sweet tooth, Feitan. What other sweet things do you like?”

 

Feitan glanced at him as he poured the water.

 

“Blood is sweet.”

 

Hisoka smiled, his split lip pulling painfully. He soaked in that pain.

 

“Did you like mine?”

 

“You should not flirt with those you do not want, Hisoka. Is bad form.”

 

“When have I ever not had bad form, hm?”

 

“You have good form for fighting,” Feitan stated simply. “Always seemed off to me. Now we know.”

 

“Whatever do you mean?”

 

“Your form. Is inconsistent with your story before. It should have been more untrained. Self taught. It was not. You hid it well, yes, yes. But when you are stressed, have to focus on not dying, you have the kordai form. You cannot teach yourself kordai. They do not write it down. Someone taught you, and it was important enough to hide.” Feitan threw in a splash of rum to both mugs and handed Hisoka his. “Your handler, yes? The dead one, Shalnark said. He taught you. So he was from where I am from.”

 

Hisoka knew Feitan was smart. He had always avoided fighting him simply because his accent was so similar to Daiten, his form so like his handler, his stance and his hair. Hisoka knew they weren’t related, of course. Daiten had no children, no wife, no family, no brothers or sisters. He left Kordo when an illness claimed his village, when he was fifteen, and never returned. Feitan was not old enough to be related.

 

Even so. He was enough like Daiten in some ways, just like Gon and Killua were like the twins, in others. Gon and Killua he could hold back from killing. They were easy to put down. Feitan, however, if it came down to it, would kill Hisoka, or Hisoka would kill him to stay alive.

 

So, he had never fought him. Never instigated him enough for Feitan to want to, just let it hover on the edge of boiling.

 

“Yes, he was from Kordo,” Hisoka finally said. “He didn’t teach me everything . I already knew how to fight when he found me.”

 

“Kordai is not about fighting. Is about discipline. Is why I did not like you.”

 

“You wound me. I thought my shining personality was enough.”

 

“Also why I do not like you.”

 

Ah. There it was. Hisoka caught the did not and do not, and Feitan’s grammar was not so bad that that was a mistake. So this was a peace offering. Feitan respected him. Sort of.

 

At least someone in this damn manor did.

 

Hisoka sipped at the cocoa, ignoring the burn of heat and liquor as it slid down his throat.

 

“Do you agree with Chrollo on this … operation?”

 

“Yes. Is smart, and will be fun.”

 

Fun. Right. This was all fun to them. Something ugly twisted in Hisoka’s gut.

 

“There’s easier targets.”

 

“Yes. But honor is important.”

 

“Is it?”

 

Feitan studied Hisoka critically. Hisoka hated it when he was not the one studying.

 

“You think you are honorless.”

 

Ah, Feitan. Even without the knife, he always aimed right for where it hurt the most. A skilled interrogator, in or out of the room.

 

“Perhaps.”

 

“I did not see what they saw,” Feitan stated. “I do not know. So I cannot tell you, from that, that you are wrong.”

 

“Wrong in thinking I am honorless, or wrong in thinking I’m not?”

 

“You have honor. It is just different.”

 

“Feitan, I thought the word games were my forte. Have I been teaching you something?”

 

“Ten years is very long time to lose your resolve. Lots of temptation, more than most, too. You did not. So I think you have honor.”

 

“I don’t think honor matters much in a den of thieves, so you shouldn’t think too much into mine,” Hisoka said smoothly, taking another sip of cocoa.

 

“Honor matters to me.”

 

“Mmm.” Non committal. Hisoka didn’t want to pursue this conversation. There had been a lot of deep conversations, a lot of deep thoughts in the past few days. If he kept pursuing these talks, they would never get a chance to die down.

 

“You know, Feitan, now that we possibly won’t kill each other,” and here a hint of a smirk twitched at Hisoka’s lips, “we should fight sometime.”

 

“Why do you think I won’t?”

 

“Call it intuition.”

 

“You have bad intuition.”

 

“I’m alive, aren’t I?”

 

Feitan snorted at that.

 

“I think twins saved you enough that you cannot use that as excuse.”

 

“They have a total of four rescues under the belt. I have seven. I think I’m winning.”

 

“Can twins save you from me?”

 

Hisoka thought back to the one time he had seen Feitan’s Rising Sun, blotting out the true sun on the precipice of the horizon of Meteor City, the devastating impact. He thought back to his own fears for the twins, that constant worry that he would get them killed, that he had led them into a den of people who could kill them in a moment, if they so choose. That doubt, in himself, more than in them. How he had sacrificed, and sacrificed, and sacrificed to give them a shot. How they had been beating him in sparring for two years now, now without even breaking a sweat.

 

“Without a doubt.”

 

“You have faith.”

 

Hisoka thought back to that conversation, scarcely two hours ago now, in the Jeep, while they drove through the rain. Faith and love.

 

“Yes. Of course I do.”

 

In hindsight, he realized Feitan’s own abilities were a direct contradiction to the twins’ own. Sun versus shadow. Perhaps they wouldn’t be a good match. But, damn the twins, if they didn’t always beat the odds. Not that they would ever get a chance to fight him. Hisoka would knock them out himself if he had to. That was an absolute no fly zone, so help him.

 

“Of course, if you do try to fight them, I will kill you myself,” Hisoka added as an afterthought. “Just because they can doesn’t mean they should.

 

Feitan snorted.

 

“You were more fun before twins. You are not fun as big brother.”

 

“No, I am not.”

 

Hisoka would be damned if his concept of fun influenced the twins, because heaven help him, he was not prepared to deal with that mess.

 

“You should finish cocoa and go to bed.”

 

“I’m not that tired.”

 

“You lie.”

 

Ah, good old Feitan. Dependable. Irritating.

 

Hisoka would just have to brave Chrollo’s bed one more night before requesting a room of his own. They seriously needed to figure out where they were going to be basing operations. The thought of moving all of their hard drives was a terrifying one. He almost wanted to just force the troupe to set up camp outside the bungalow.

Chapter Text

Shalnark was rarely ever frustrated. It wasn’t really in his wiring to get irritated with a difficult task. He generally just smiled and kept going, because that was just what he did. He was frustrated now, though.

 

They were having to work with people outside of the troupe. That was fine. They had, on occasion, done it before. However, this time they weren’t the ones with the clear power. Of course, all of the troupe combined could easily take out Hisoka and the twins. It would be easy. Simple, even. Hisoka could probably take on two to three of them at a time and survive. The twins together, he wasn’t sure what they were capable of separately, could take on any troupe member easily enough, so long as it was only one troupe member, two with some degree of difficulty, possibly survive three and get away. He knew this because they had been here a week while negotiations were being hashed out over how much information Hisoka would give willingly. The two had remained separate from it all, unwilling to speak to anyone except Ky’ia and Machi, and Ky’ia wasn’t even a troupe member. They primarily just went out in the forest to train, and it had become a game of which troupe member could observe them the longest without getting caught and the twins leaving.

 

Nobunaga had the record so far, but Shalnark had gotten close enough to see what they were like with light training, and he knew they’d be an even opponent. They could probably even take on Feitan together, if they were really trying hard enough. Might survive. It was about 70/30.

 

So, no, he wasn’t frustrated because they had power. Their power was decently matched to the troupe, they just fell short in numbers. And so, in the sense of sheer strength, the troupe had the upper hand.

 

No, he was frustrated because they held the power of information. Years of information, scattered all over the continent, without a trail, that the troupe would never manage to track down. In that aspect, the troupe was virtually helpless. In fact, the only reason Ky’ia was still alive was because they held that power,  and Shalnark wondered if they knew that their saving grace was the twins and Hisoka.

 

Probably.

 

What was even more frustrating was the contents of the flash drive. The data was all over the place. When he had tried to arrange it all chronologically, he was only set for more frustration, because it would seem after the events of York New auction, Hisoka had really stopped trying with Meteor City, or the twins had stopped, or something had happened, because there were only a couple of cases of kidnappings, three or four instances of money exchanging hands, one instance of a circus, possibly even Hisoka’s, picking up a few children from desperate parents, lulled by the promise that they would give their children a chance in the outside world.

 

After the Chimera Ant invasion, data stopped entirely, which Shalnark could at least understand. There was no way of knowing, with limited information available, if any of the children were infected, and even if they had been snatched, it would be impossible to tell in all of the chaos.

 

Even so, he was frustrated. First of all, there was no way the troupe could have not known about this. All of it was too deliberate to go unnoticed. It made no sense. Secondly, he felt like this data package was a deliberate set of clues left by the twins, and the longer he stared at it, the more he felt like he was being toyed with.

 

Shalnark was the one who made people toys. People did not make him a toy.

 

And, therefore, he was frustrated.

 

He had avoided admitting defeat. Avoided losing his temper, but he was aggravated enough now because there was this sense that the twins were waiting. And Hisoka was stalling because he was waiting for a sign from them. It felt like the three of them had some kind of push and pull relationship, where Hisoka took the lead sometimes, most times, and deferred to them other times. Shalnark was certain the only reason they had teamed up in the first place was because they needed his consent. It was like a specialist ability. Some form of contract existed between the three of them, and conditions they didn’t feel the need to inform the troupe of needed to be met before they proceeded.

 

The troupe was being tested. Of that, Shalnark was certain, and it rankled him. They were the Phantom Troupe. They could do anything, anything they wanted. Nothing was beyond their power, and yet there was this sense of them needing to prove themselves. Or, more specifically, Shalnark needing to prove that they were worthy.

 

The very gall of it almost offended him.

 

Almost.

 

Because he was Shalnark. And if they wanted him to prove that the troupe could be capable, so be it.

 

Most other members would have tried to kill them for the slight. And they likely would succeed.

 

But Shalnark knew better than that. After all, they were clever enough to do this. They were clever enough to send him on a hunt without even having to say it. So perhaps they were worthy of a game. And worthy enough to be true allies, not toys the troupe collected and then tossed aside when it was all said and done.

 

And so he found himself outside of the library, where Nyx could be found alone, away from Nox every so often. Nox themselves preferred to sketch on the rooftop. He thought they wrote poetry, from the flashes in Hisoka's memories, but it seemed like they had outgrown that.

 

Nyx, he knew, was the tech one, the hacker. Shalnark liked to study difficult toys. It had been clear that Nyx was the one that handled all of the organizing, the planning, the hacking, the intelligence they gathered. And so Nyx was the one to talk to.

 

“Nyx,” he said, and Nyx finally looked up from their laptop. Shalnark was sure they knew he was there before. The two were wonderful at ignoring people. Probably a defense mechanism from living with Hisoka.

 

“You’re the tech one, aren’t you?”

 

Nyx studied Shalnark with very, very dangerous eyes before nodding once. Just once. Shalnark moved to sit across from them so they could write and pass the notepad more easily.

 

“The data you gave us. Did you just get bored with Meteor City after Yorkshin Auction?”

 

Shalnark liked picking people apart, learning their tells, studying them like an insect. Human body language fascinated him, because while he couldn’t understand humans, didn’t care to, it was intriguing that most humans that actually cared to understand one another never thought to learn to read every tell.

 

Nyx had very rigid body language, except for when they were signing. The second anyone came around that wasn’t in their accepted circle, their body language turned ice cold and rigid. It was fascinating how it contrasted Nox, because Nox became even more open, like they were daring the stranger to make a move.

 

Shalnark preferred Nyx’s, though Nox was fascinating in their own right.

 

We don’t get bored with any supply points, Nyx wrote and Shalnark tilted his head.

 

“Then are you withholding information on current movements?”

 

We’re withholding a lot of information, if you didn’t notice.

 

“Oh, I see. You will not answer a question if it isn’t specific. Are you withholding information on current movements in Meteor City?”

 

No. You have all of the information you need.

 

“Then why does the information taper off so drastically?”

 

Two reasons. One I will tell you. The ring randomly leaves major supply points every few years, to make it harder to pinpoint. Meteor City was a main supplier for three years, and they left it before it caught notice.

 

“And why won’t you tell me the other reason?”

 

If I told you, then you’d know.

 

Enigmatic was a good word to describe Nyx. Extremely enigmatic. Shalnark wasn’t as frustrated before, though. Being able to talk to a wall was surprisingly therapeutic.

 

“Okay, then I will reframe the question. Why are you playing a game?”

 

Nyx tapped their pen on the table thoughtfully. Shalnark had noticed that habit, when he snuck out of his room to observe them on occasion. It was the one break in their ice queen persona.

 

We have done this work for five years. Hisoka has done it for ten, fourteen if you count the years before his handler. We can’t just give you our life’s work without knowing if you can do the work, too.

 

It was fair, even if it was insulting. Danchou had been right, though. They were skilled thieves and killers. That didn’t make them spies.

 

“Okay then. Another question. All of this information is too obvious. There is just no conceivable way they could have done this under our noses, even with our long absences. Is this information false?”

 

It depends on your perspective. One could say, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you could accuse me of it being false. But, no, it isn’t false.

 

Ah. There it was again, that foreign emotion he had come to understand the past few days. Frustration.

 

“Then how?”

 

If you aren’t good enough to figure out how you let this happen, you don’t need to be doing this, and need to hand it back to us. You’ll only slow us down.

 

“You are a very confident person.” Phinks would be pissed at this point. Good thing he was not Phinks.

 

You’re thieves. You aren’t spies.

 

They were correct. A lot of the skills were the same, being a thief and being a spy, but it ultimately came down to how those skills were applied, and how big you could get the picture.

 

Shalnark could get a very, very big picture, if he chose to apply himself.

 

He wondered if anyone had asked them yet, of the three, no, four of them that had seen. Perhaps Ky’ia knew. He doubted it. If anything, they seemed genuinely at ease around Ky’ia. He wondered how often they got to be around people their own age. He knew they were homeschooled, possibly graduated now. Again, he didn’t understand why. Hisoka was strange.

 

“You hate us, don’t you?”

 

Hate is a strong word to use. If we hated you, we wouldn’t be here.

 

“You dislike us then.”

 

That is too weak of a word.

 

“Do you hold a grudge against us?”

 

No. Too many grudges would make things too complicated and expend needless energy.

 

Shalnark realized Nyx was a lot like him, in a lot of ways, except they were quite different. Capable of emotion, perhaps even strong ones, but they almost seemed to view them as a tool. He had a feeling Nox had other views towards emotions.

 

Interesting toys. Too interesting for antennae.

 

“You are very interesting. I like you.”

 

I do not like you.

 

“That’s okay.”

 

So long as you understand.

 

Shalnark stood and stretched.

 

“Well, I guess I gotta go solve this now, before someone goes and loses their temper with how long this is taking. After all, Hisoka is waiting on you two.”

 

Nyx’s head jerked up at that, and their eyes narrowed, but Shalnark was already out the door. He didn’t care. He was certain Nyx knew he was onto them and their dynamic, anyways.

 

Now, he knew Nyx was not lying about the information. Nyx did actually want him to figure it out, and by proxy, so did Hisoka and Nox. So how did this happen under their noses? He felt like Nyx had given him hints, but none of them were obvious enough for him to pick them out. Polite of them, really.

 

Reaching his room, he sat at his desk and stared at the folder on his desktop. The flash drive had long since been copied, left next to his mousepad, and he studied it for a moment.

 

They wouldn’t tell him the other reason.

 

Sitting back, he stared up at the ceiling as his brain whirred with the information he had been presented. There were a lot of emotional people in the troupe. They were all, collectively, a dangerous, deadly, powerful mess. Most members had hair triggers. They would kill at the mildest of insults, and there was no way the twins didn’t know that, and yet they had simply swaggered in, very clearly insulting everyone left and right, despite no one having any idea of what they were saying. And, yet, they also were willing to play their games. When they caught members spying, they didn’t get angry, or irritated. They had good humor about it. They were playful, in a way. Even with deadly opponents, they liked a good game.

 

That was the only reason the troupe had accepted them staying at the manor without much complaint. The troupe wanted to play, and the twins were willing to square up and game without bothering to pretend they liked anyone they didn’t like. Honesty.

 

Understanding that of them, Shalnark also understood they had left clues for him to find. It was a game. They knew to speak the language of the troupe. He supposed they have to find other ways to communicate. You couldn’t write on a notepad all the time.

 

They were in charge. Hisoka was deferring to them, for some unknown reason, but he also wasn’t entirely divorced from the equation. He had trained them, raised them, in a way. There was his influence, and because he knew Hisoka longer, he had to go off what he knew of him. Hisoka was scheming, insidious, layers of lies upon lies.

 

Layers. Like Texture Surprise. He recalled that Hisoka had fooled the full troupe in York New with Texture Surprise. And York New was when the kidnappings had trickled off.

 

Texture Surprise. Falsifying information. Nyx hadn’t said the information was false. They said if you don't look at it correctly, you could claim it was.

 

The attack on York New had been leveled at the mafia. The mafia had long had dealings with Meteor City, and the troupe. The elders handled the negotiations, but everything had to be approved by the troupe.

 

Shalnark leaned back forward to stare at the folder again. Humming to himself, he plugged in the flash drive and opened up the folder of the copied information that existed on his hard drive. Within, he opened the folder of the pictures. All jpeg files. Something was off at that, but he couldn’t quite recall. Sucking on his lip, he opened up his program that ran a sweep on any inserted media for viruses or programs he didn’t want on his computer. It was the standard encryption software, almost too standard for the level of paranoia the team evidently operated on. Perhaps Nyx hadn’t wanted to inconvenience him. But …

 

There it was. A line of code that converted files once they were transferred over to another source. It only activated when the files were copied. Opening a search engine, he went over to a hunter site dedicated to coder hunters. Typing the code commands into the search bar, he waited for it to load. A forum popped up, and he scrolled through the comments.

 

Figured out a nifty way to convert .gyo to .jpeg when the file moves locations. Kinda simple. Could be useful. Lemme know if it works for you. It works on some systems, but I can’t make it work for apple. Any suggestions?

 

It was so simple, Shalnark was almost irritated. A gyo file enabled the maker to essentially “photoshop” a photo so objects in the image that were “edited” out could be seen through Gyo. It was developed a few years after Greed Island, and it had become fairly commonplace. It was common practice to create a gyo file, convert it to jpeg, and then convert it back to gyo when it reached the people it was meant to reach. Generally, it had to be done manually. Shalnark didn’t know you could automate the process. Looks like Nyx had just taught him something. He rarely used them, so it was to be expected, but he saw them enough that his eyes had glazed over the files when he switched them to the hard drive on instinct.

 

Clever. Relying on how mundane a thing could be.

 

If Shalnark cared to acknowledge them, he would be impressed. 

 

Opening the flash drive folder, he brought up all gyo files. There were only seven pictures.

 

Clicking open the first, he activated his Gyo.

 

It felt like he’d been shot in the chest.

 

Standing in a group of men loading a group of children into a black van was a mountain of a man, with long red hair and bushy brows, a bundle of money in his hand.

 

Uvogin.

 

So that was how. It made sense. It really did. It also made sense as to why the Chain User had killed him, but not Chrollo. He had been allied with Hisoka. Hisoka must have told him.

 

It would likely irritate Chrollo, that Hisoka trusted the Chain User so easily, but they had to literally force their way in, back the twins and Hisoka into a wall, to make it happen.

 

They didn’t have to give him permission, they just had to give him power.

 

Uvogin must have procured them for the ring. It all made sense, really, how often Uvogin went on solo missions and never told anyone what he was doing, how he rarely left Meteor City in the meantime. It was his cash flow.

 

Shalnark knew how the troupe would react.

 

As he had noted before, they were collectively a constantly boiling pool of emotions and disasters waiting to happen.

 

He’d need evidence independent of Hisoka and the twins to keep everyone calm, before he told Chrollo. He liked to do things before Chrollo had to ask.

 

If Chrollo really wanted to do this, Shalnark would make it happen. What danchou wanted, danchou got, even if they had to lose spiders to do it. Chrollo hadn’t lost his temper with Hisoka yet. He hadn’t killed him, bore the brunt of the twins’ scathing attitude and dismissive tones, let Hisoka hole up in his room until Hisoka demanded a new one. And then he had just given it to Hisoka. He actually just gave Hisoka everything. Chrollo, therefore, liked Hisoka. And an explosion of rage that would come with the troupe accusing the twins of lying, of desecrating the dead, would upset danchou.

 

Shalnark made what the danchou want real. He found the information Chrollo needed before he needed it, before he had to ask.

 

He had very little emotional attachment to Uvogin. So this didn’t really bother him. Some would consider Uvogin a monster. Shalnark didn’t really care. The dead were dead. Uvogin had been dead for years, and his reputation was of little import.

 

What mattered was what Chrollo wanted. What mattered was the living, he supposed, if it was a rather odd thought. Living, dead, only one was slightly less unimportant than the other.

 

The troupe made Chrollo happy, and Hisoka, weirdly enough, also made him happy. Choosing between the two would not make him happy.

 

So Shalnark would fix it.

Chapter Text

It had been one week. One week, and Nox was still patiently waiting for Shalnark to get into gear and figure out the riddle. Nyx had mentioned, before bed, that Shalnark had finally come talk to them and Nox had snorted in something akin to amusement, asked if he was smart enough to get some independent evidence before he brought it up.

 

They had, in a way, almost played him like a fiddle. Their nightmares of Uvogin had gone away years ago. For a long time, it was a raw wound to Nox, until they decided to follow Nyx’s example and forgive where it benefited them. Forgiving the troupe benefited them. That didn’t mean they forgot , but there was no sense in going against what they couldn’t beat, or expecting an apology that would never come. They would take what they got, and make it work.

 

Uvogin had acquired specialties for the ring. He also allowed them free access to Meteor City, and hid their presence from the troupe for a substantial payoff.

 

Shalnark was very good. He was the one that set up all of their finances, hid all of the trails. And he was good, too good for Nyx to unravel his threads. That was to be expected. Uvogin’s finances had a good chance of unlocking something for them. Shalnark would have to pull up those finances to provide proof to the troupe. And when it was revealed to the troupe, then it would join their evidence pile. His money may not lead them to the head, but it would get them close.

 

Nyx didn’t want to go to bed yet. They were finishing up another virus, and Nox had to acquiesce to their wants. Part of the annoyance of their condition was that drugs were registered as damage, which was fair, and so in order to go to bed, they had to take their medications at once. They could go to bed separately, of course, but it was generally infinitely more difficult to sleep, and threw off their med doses, and interfered with whatever the other was doing.

 

Klaus was fairly sure that once they were under less constant stress and their bodies calmed down, they would react to medications differently, and their bodies would stop viewing them as a threat.

 

Maybe when they were done.

 

Stress, apparently, affected a lot of things.

 

And so, here Nox was, sitting on the roof, a charcoal stick in their fingers as they sketched. It was dark out, not very good light for drawing, but they liked the chill of the night that stretched through their thin hoodie. They could feel Nyx down below, dragging away some of Nox’s Nen. They always pulled at Nox’s Nen when they were irritated. Greedy.

 

Frowning, when it got too draining, Nox yanked it back and a little more flowed through from Nyx, a small “sorry”.

 

They’d better chill the fuck out. Nox frowned and went back to sketching. A Nen presence was approaching. The two of them were still getting used to how murderous these people were all the time. There was no real time to breathe.

 

Footsteps, now, as the person climbed up onto the roof from the library balcony behind them. Nox ignored them, the tree on their paper taking shape. They didn’t like to be interrupted while they were sketching. They also just didn’t like the troupe in general, and they knew Hisoka’s Nen by heart, and Ky’ia’s was much different than anyone else they had ever met.

 

“I like how you talk.”

 

Oh, so it was Feitan. The hyper creepy one. And that was a really creepy way to open up the conversation.

 

Nox did not respond. They just kept sketching. Feitan finally came up next to them, looking out over the forest.

 

Silence passed for a few moments as the wind rustled through Nox’s hair, actually loose for once.

 

Feitan crouched next to them, elbows on his knees, and peered over at Nox’s drawing.

 

“You do not draw faces?”

 

Nox finally looked over him, and then obviously scooted to the side, away from him. It was too dark to write, and their fingers were covered in charcoal, so they couldn’t type. What Feitan was trying to accomplish, they didn’t know.

 

Feitan seemed unperturbed. He just kept staring at them, and Nox just kept ignoring him, focusing instead on their drawing.

 

“Oh. I see. I cannot sign. You cannot write. It is dark.”

 

Slow on the uptake, then.

 

“Why are you drawing?”

 

Very slow, since he literally just said they cannot actually speak.

 

This one had yet to participate in the game. He wasn’t the playful type, Nox thought. That, or he just changed the rules for himself.

 

Nox sighed and finally looked away from their work to stare at Feitan, trying to communicate through expression alone that this was not going to work and he should leave. Feitan just stared back, like he was trying to memorize their face.

 

“You and Nyx. You have a mole by your left eye. Nyx has one by their right. That is your only difference except for your hair.”

 

Nox’s expression shifted to incredulous, communicating through nothing but facial muscles that Feitan was weird and creepy.

 

Feitan seemed to remember that he had forgotten something, and unbuttoned his coat to pull out a tablet. He unlocked it, revealing some kind of drawing app, and held it and a stylus out to Nox. Nox looked like this physically pained them.

 

“I clean stylus when you are done. You write.”

 

Their temper rising, Nox snatched the tablet and very viciously scrawled across the screen.

 

I am drawing. Stop interrupting me.

 

“But I wish to speak with you.”

 

There was a button at the top of the app that wiped the “slate”, and Nox tapped it so they could answer.

 

Then ask your question and leave me alone.

 

“I do not have just one question.”

 

Then pick one. ONE.

 

Feitan almost looked crestfallen, but Nox literally was so far from caring.

 

“But they are all important.”

 

Why?

 

“Because they are.”

 

What are your questions about?

 

“You.”

 

Nox felt frustration rising up again, and there was a tug at their Nen. Ah. They were pulling from Nyx now. Whoops.

 

I’m not answering questions about Nen, Nyx, Hisoka, the operation, or anything, until Hisoka decides we can start sharing.

 

“Do you dance?”

 

What?

 

No.

 

“The way you two speak. It is like dancing. I thought you danced.”

 

I don’t have time for dancing.

 

“You have time now, no? You are waiting.”

 

What, do you like to dance?

 

“Yes.”

 

You’re kidding.

 

“No.”

 

Nox stared at Feitan, brows furrowed. He was the second strongest member of the troupe, second only to Chrollo. He was also the head interrogator, and known for torture. He was deadly, and rather simple minded. Not because of his language barrier, no. He literally just only cared about one thing at a time, and, previously, had only been known as having little to no emotional depth whatsoever.

 

You like to dance.

 

“I like art. Dance is art. You like art, too.”

 

There’s a difference in making art and stealing it.

 

“I do both.”

 

If you say something about how making someone bleed is art, I will punch you, truce be damned.

 

“You would not. And it is. Ugly things are art. Pretty things are art. You are pretty when you are mad.”

 

You are a creep.

 

“You kill.”

 

Yeah, but I don’t LIKE it.

 

“Not even sometimes?”

 

You can like something in the moment and hate it in the aftermath.

 

“So you do not think what you do is right?”

 

Nox really did not want to think about these things right now.

 

Sometimes you gotta not think about what’s right or wrong and just do it.

 

“But then how do you justify?”

 

You don’t.

 

“So why do you do it?”

 

Why are you asking me this stuff?

 

Feitan tilted his head, black hair spilling out of his eyes. He was kind of ugly, Nox realized, in a sort of bulldog cute way.

 

“I have not met someone that kills for reasons.”

 

Sure you have. You guys kill because you want things.

 

“Not those reasons. Everyone kills for those reasons. To take. Why do you?”

 

Nox tapped the stylus on the side of the tablet, thinking about how best to phrase this.

 

I do kill to take.

 

“Take what?”

 

Myself back.

 

“Do you have to take yourself back that way?”

 

Maybe not. I don’t really think about it.

 

“Why not?”

 

Because it’s what I chose. No turning back now.

 

“So is it not about honor?”

 

Nox shrugged.

 

Honor is relative. I just think sometimes, you gotta do the wrong thing to get the right result. So it isn’t about right, wrong, moral, immoral. It’s about doing what needs to be done. Sometimes there’s so much wrong you can’t do the right thing to make it ok. May be different for Hisoka and Nyx tho. We don’t talk about it.

 

“Why not?”

 

We kind of have a creed. Logic first, emotions second. So if we really get down and start questioning what we’re doing, we could fall off the wagon. If even one of us falls off, it all falls apart.

 

“So you do not talk about feelings? I was not expecting that.”

 

No, we do. Just some things we don’t.

 

“I see.”

 

Can I get back to drawing now?

 

“Can I teach you another art?”

 

If you’re asking to dance with me on a rooftop, no.

 

Feitan looked like a kicked puppy again. Nox knew what it was like when someone had a crush. Nyx and them weren’t completely sequestered from the rest of the world. They went to town often, since they had to go to the hospital, anyways. And in the six years since meeting Hisoka, the two of them had broken a fair amount of hearts, through no fault of their own. They just didn’t have time. Boys and girls followed them around like puppies more often than not, and while it was nice to be reminded they could be desirous to age appropriate people, despite all the damage that had been done, again, they didn’t have the time.

 

Poor Feitan. He probably rarely met someone outside of the troupe who he didn’t have to kill, or didn’t want to kill him, who was close(ish) to his power level. Had Nox not been so very, very close to holding a grudge, they would almost pity him on another level for the information Shalnark was going to reveal. It would take a day or two at most.

 

Then again, this was Feitan, and Nox was well aware of his reputation. His idea of a crush likely ended in him killing the person being crushed on and using their organs to make a sculpture. No, thanks.

 

I told you. I don’t dance.

 

“You should,” Feitan replied. “You have spirit.”

 

Sighing, questioning their actions deeply, Nox gave in, just a little.

 

Tell you what. Tomorrow, jump in on the game. I’ll dance with you the way I , and "I" was underlined quite viciously, dance. Zetsu only.

 

“I do not want to fight you. Hisoka would be upset, and he is aggravating when upset.”

 

It’s not fighting. It’s sparring. In Zetsu. You keep up, maybe I’ll consider a dance. IF you leave me alone to draw. Like. Right now.

 

Feitan took that as a win, and took back the tablet and stylus before standing. For a moment, he rolled the charcoal covered stylus around in his fingers, before moving it to the other hand and reaching out to brush the charcoal onto the back of Nox’s hand, making a dot with a circle ringing it. That accomplished, he left Nox in a state of confusion. What on earth?

Chapter Text

Shalnark and Chrollo had been in conference for an hour now. The twins had warned Ky’ia. Of course they had. Nox hadn’t wanted to accept it, was willing to fight the troupe. Nyx had been silent, watching Ky’ia with this unreadable expression on their face. Ky’ia couldn’t figure out how the twins had taken to them so easily. It was a bit of a mystery, but they weren’t in a position to reject friendship so close to their death. Nox had left a little while later, and Nyx had handed Ky’ia a folded up piece of paper and followed their twin out the door, and, what Ky’ia first thought, out of Ky’ia’s short lived life.

 

Ky’ia was still holding that paper, sitting on the back porch. They could run, but they wouldn’t get far. They were expendable, and now a liability. The Morrows, Ky’ia had just started calling them Morrows, were on their side. Hisoka simply wanted what the twins wanted, and he was certainly scheming and plotting to keep them alive. It wouldn’t go far.

 

They opened it another time, and read what Nyx had written there.

 

We can’t save you. Nox and Hisoka will try, but we have no reasons they will understand to keep you around. Sentimentality for someone who can’t even fight is not something they understand. So you have to fight and save yourself. I hope you figure it out.

 

They folded it up again and stared out at the garden and forest beyond. Far off in the distance, they imagined could see the mountain, their home, just peeking over the tops of the trees. They couldn't, but it was a nice thought.

 

Receivers and givers did not fight. Their gifts were special, specific to the ancestors, and always created as a non combat ability. Ky’ia could argue that they could be used for information retrieval, but that felt wrong, and sick, using that specific hatsu, as they called it, meant only for compassion, to violently rip memories from the minds of the unwilling. If they ever made it home, the memories they tore from their victims would be consecrated with them and live on in the collective.

 

Little pieces of these … rapists … child rapists … souls would live on with their people. It would be a desecration. Ky’ia would refuse to be consecrated before they allowed that to happen.

 

It would be wrong.

 

The troupe would not understand that faith. That belief. To the outside world, their belief system was silly, uncivilized . They could understand the memories living on, because that was Nen. The concept of the souls living on, in a collective, far above, in the heavens, was not substantial to others. They couldn’t appreciate that.

 

Ky’ia’s refusal would only cement their death, and yet, despite knowledge of how it went, they didn’t fear it.

 

They were simply not ready.

 

One could not simply devise a hatsu that existed independently of one’s abilities. Most people had two, three at the most.

 

Ky’ia had one. It was performed in various ways, of course, and had other names for each way performed, but ultimately they only had one.

 

They could not consecrate a body. That was done differently. Only givers had that ability.

 

If they did this, they would never be a giver. There was only so much they could do. They weren’t like the twins. They both had two together, and separately they each had two. They couldn’t perform their separate abilities while sharing spirit, and vice versa. Even they had their rules.

 

Ky’ia would rather give away their chance to be a giver than be dead.

 

Sending a prayer to their ancestors for forgiveness, they concentrated again, their spirit flickering and shaping into a point. They had been at it for an hour, and with every break, they asked for forgiveness again, for deviating from their path, for turning their gifts into a weapon.

 

They would not bring others’ memories into the afterlife. But that didn’t mean they couldn’t use the foundation blocks of their training and turn it into something else.

 

There was a presence approaching them from behind. Ky’ia was very perceptive. It was Chrollo. The hatsu died, and they remained sitting, waiting patiently for the back door to open into the garden. A long, long breath escaped their lips as the door creaked open, and then they unleashed this new, weak, quivering hatsu, praying that it would be enough.

 

Everything was white. Ky’ia faced Chrollo, their heart thudding in their chest as the two stood in a sea of white mist that smelt faintly of evergreen.

 

“The first thing they teach us is how to reach into someone’s mind,” Ky’ia said softly. Chrollo just stared at them, sizing them up, watching, waiting. This was a gamble. A risk. Ky’ia couldn’t not take it. “What you are seeing right now isn’t real. What you’re smelling, feeling, hearing. You are experiencing what I want you to experience. It isn’t very strong yet. It’s just the building block of what I learned when I was ten.”

 

Ky’ia steeled themselves, knowing that in an instant, if they did this wrong, Chrollo could steal this half baked ability for himself. Even so, they walked forward, and took Chrollo’s hand.

 

“The second thing they teach us is how to share what you call Nen, we call spirit. If you can share, you can take.”

 

And then, Ky’ia pulled . Through Gyo eyes, one could see Chrollo’s spirit drain away, into Ky’ia’s own, and Ky’ia stared up at him, communicating clearly through their dark brown eyes that they knew Chrollo could still strike them down in an instant, kill them like an insect.

 

“What you are feeling is very real,” Ky’ia continued, softly, their heart pounding so hard they were sure Chrollo could feel it. At the least, he could feel how clammy their hand was. This was a child, performing a trick for an adult who had been doing the same thing for decades. They both knew it. “I know I am very young to you. And I am. But I am a receiver. That means I have lived a thousand lives. You know exactly how it feels, and you know what it means. I have killed through other people’s eyes, died through other people’s eyes. I could show you, if you wanted. What it feels like to die.”

 

They couldn’t waver, they couldn’t break, but their mouth was painfully dry.

 

“I am at peace with death. I have done it a thousand times. But I’m not ready to die yet. I’ve lived other people’s lives. I have never lived my own.” They could taste imaginary blood in their mouth. “So don’t kill me. Teach me.”

 

They shifted their grip, and Chrollo’s spirit flowed back to him. The mist cleared, and they were back on the porch. Ky’ia stared up at Chrollo, his wrist still trapped in their hand, searching for a sign in soulless black eyes. Chrollo stared back down at them, and silence stretched out, oppressive, murderous, weighing Ky’ia down.

 

They had never been so close to the earth since Phinks and Kalluto stole them and covered it up with an avalanche. And, in this moment, with their breath stuck somewhere between their lungs and throat, mortality had never felt so present.

 

The moment broke the second something akin to approval flickered in Chrollo’s eyes.

 

“You’re not cut out for my troupe. You can ask the twins to train you.” He broke the grip on his wrist easily, and breath finally escaped Ky’ia’s lips. “If my spiders want to join in, that is their concern, not mine.”

 

And with that, Chrollo walked away, and Ky’ia waited until they couldn’t feel him at all before they broke. Their back hit the wall of the manor and they slid down, shaking, unable to breathe, as the reality crashed in on them.

 

They had left the mountain and immediately signed themselves up for a war that didn’t even exist. They had almost died. Right then. And, dear gods, the fact that they almost died didn’t scare them.

 

It was the fact that all they could feel was relief that they had finally got to experience it for themselves. Not even relief that they were alive. Relief that they wouldn’t be doomed to a life of living through the eyes of others.

 

It was terrifying. They had gotten a taste, and now they didn’t know what they would do. They were exclusively surrounded by murderers and thieves, and would be for months. What would they become?

 

Who they were meant to be was always clearly lined out. It was unbendable, unmoving. Ky’ia would be the only lyiana of their generation, would be a receiver, and then a giver, and then the spiritual leader of their clan. That was what it was meant to be.

 

That path was dancing away from them with every step they took, and they didn’t know what to do about it.

 

In the distance, a tree fell, and Ky’ia looked up, broken only for a moment from their impending identity crisis.

 

Who was fighting?

 

The who in question was Nox, letting Feitan know they had found him, with a single shadowy slice chopping down the tree next to his perch.

 

Feitan was almost disappointed. He had only lasted seventeen minutes. Nobunaga still had the hour and two minute record.

 

The man fluidly half fell, half leapt out of the tree and faced the two, who were, for once, not running to continue the game. They were both sweaty, their hair pulled into high ponytails, clad in spandex shorts and loose tees. They had probably caught him because his brain had short circuited for a moment when Nyx had managed to form a literal lance of shadow and send it hurtling towards Nox, who caught it like it was nothing and flung it back in the smoothest motion he had ever witnessed.

 

Or they had noticed him before and Nox was showing off.

 

He could tell from the lack of tension that they weren’t training all that hard. They were decent, he would allow that. On a combat level, they were fast, faster than most opponents, perhaps on the level of Zazan. Were they fighting with Nen, they could probably land a blow on him. Two, if they were lucky. Hisoka’s pride overshadowed their abilities. Perhaps they simply performed better when in an emotional rage. But, then again, this was a warm up.

 

Tolerating his presence, they both moved to their bag and withdrew some water bottles to take long swigs. They were paying attention to the manor. Chrollo had been talking with Shalnark for some time. Perhaps the discussion determined the fate of their friend, the little mountain one. Feitan had forgotten their name and had been calling them “little mountain” the second they walked through the door. He still hadn’t spoken to them.

 

Nyx checked their phone and bumped Nox’s arm with their elbow. They both smiled. They had yet to actually acknowledge Feitan. That was alright. They hadn’t run yet, so he assumed they would.

 

And just like that, Nox was approaching him, scrawling on their notepad.

 

You caught me in a good mood. We can dance.

 

“Is not really dance,” Feitan pointed out.

 

Close enough. Take off your coat. Only weapons allowed are ours.

 

Fair enough.

 

Feitan wasn’t certain why he was interested in Nox specifically. The twins seemed to function as a central unit, and the real gold mine to be found was how they worked together. He supposed it was called a crush. He did want to teach them to dance.

 

Interrogation was an art, but art could be found in many forms. He liked to get information out of people, and in the current absence of any people to violently extract it from, it seemed as though it had fallen to employ his interest by other means. However, too much effort was too much effort, and Nyx seemed to be a wall. The Morrows would ultimately give up all of the information they had on the operation to the troupe. There were secretive dealings going on left and right. One moment it was Chrollo, Hisoka, Machi, Shalnark, and the little mountain with the secrets. Then it was the Morrows, Chrollo, and Shalnark. Machi and the little mountain existed on the peripheral of that, as the twins seemed to like them enough to confide, but even Machi wasn’t certain entirely of why they were stalling.

 

Spies. Feitan had tortured plenty of them, and most cracked under pressure. These spies, however, could not be tortured, and it was interesting to see the threads going in every direction, to observe from a distance. From this, he could learn new ways to torture. It was ultimately about seeing through his victims’ eyes, after all.

 

Nox was the obvious choice to speak to. Hisoka knew Feitan too well, Nyx was too cold, the spiders were under gag orders, and the twins seemed likely to kill anyone who so much as bruised little mountain until Chrollo ordered them killed. He liked that they had enough sense to at least bow to Chrollo’s seniority and accept that little mountain would be a necessary casualty.

 

Feitan had many odd quirks. He liked that Nox had some, too. From his career as a thief, he could tell they had some skill as an artist. He could also tell that, while Nyx was more perceptive, Nox had a harder time seeing through his mask.

 

It wasn't that he didn't have a crush. It was just that crushes were more akin to predator and prey to Feitan. If someone caught his eye, he didn't pursue them as a mate, though he supposed most would. He caught them in his web. Lucky for Nox, they clearly did not like him enough to form a romantic attachment, and therefore they would not get their heart broken in Feitan's game. He typically just entertained his "crushes" until he understood enough to be bored.

 

And so Nox would be the object of his "affections" for the moment. It would be fun to see how his feelings would play out in the absence of mutual ones, because if he was certain of one thing, it was that the twins had too much baggage to even be capable of forming distracting romantic feelings. And even if they were, they had enough control and resolve to kill it before it started. That he knew for sure. Nox was indeed worthy prey.

 

Their formation of feelings for little mountain were also an interesting study. He was fairly certain Nox was in a good mood because Chrollo had chosen to spare them. Lucky Feitan.

 

He wondered if the two liked little mountain because they had never had someone their own age to confide in. Kalluto was a bit too young for them to bond with, and everyone else in the troupe was in their mid to late twenties, with the exception of Nobunaga and Franklin. Feitan himself was 23, clocking in at third youngest, tied with Shalnark. No one had any clue how old Kotorpi was.

 

Friendship was strange to see outside of the troupe. Bonds were forged in so many strange ways.

 

A notepad was being thrusted at him again as he carefully leaned his umbrella against a tree.

 

Did you specifically come without a shirt?

 

“I never wear a shirt under my coat. There is no need.”

 

I do not believe you. You read torture porn in public.

 

“I do many things in public I should not. What of it?”

 

Nox sighed dramatically and gave up, backing up and clearing a spot with the point of their toe. They gestured at him once, and Feitan realized they were waiting for him to go into Zetsu. He could tell they weren’t really in Zetsu. They seemed to use a modified version of it to allow whatever was going on with their pelvis to keep going. They probably couldn’t use In, so they likely could never completely cloak their presence. There would always be a telltale sign.

 

Useful knowledge to tuck away.

 

Nyx approached him now, holding out their own notepad for him to read.

 

I will tell you one thing Machi and Shalnark have not told the troupe yet. Nox and I share pain, meaning half of whatever damage you inflict comes down on me. I don’t know why they want to do this dumb shit, and I don’t care, I’m just letting them do it anyway. But I will be pissed if you hit them too hard, because they are my sibling, and because it fucking hurts. Friendly sparring. If you break our arms, expect to deal with collective annoyance, because Machi can’t fix it.

 

Look at that. He was already getting more knowledge before the rest of the troupe. This was a race, and he was going to win it, even if no one else knew they were running.

 

“Understood.”

 

He didn’t even really know why Nyx thought he’d level any substantial damage on Nox. Well, he knew why, but still. They were danchou’s guests. Why would he injure danchou’s guests?

 

He and Nox backed up to a reasonable distance and he let his air fall out, just watching them. Even, cool breathing. He wondered if they took after Hisoka, with tricks and games to keep their opponent distracted. Actually, how did Hisoka even train people? The thought was rather foreign. Hard, he supposed. Cruelly, maybe. Hisoka was preparing them for a cruel world.

 

He couldn’t focus on that. Instead, he waited for Nox to spring.

 

And Nox did. Their body tensed for even the briefest of moments, too fast to track, and then they flew at him.

 

As predicted, they were fast. In Zetsu, he couldn’t call on his full speed, and gods, he had forgotten what it felt like to spar in such a fashion. It actually came down to body, and body alone. He let them put him on the defensive, noting briefly Hisoka had not trained them in the same style he had been trained in. This was an unfamiliar one, deceptively fluid, but designed purely for punishment. Brutal, one could possibly call it, designed to get results fast, with no time for enjoyment or games. Made sense, given their task. Knees, elbows, flat handed punches designed to drive the cartilage of the bone directly into the brain. Feitan blocked them all easily, and then the game shifted as he went on the offensive.

 

It took only a few moments to realize Nox was testing the waters, seeing how much energy to put out, and the style they had been taught relied heavily on counter attacks. Defensive offense. Smart. For every blow Feitan attempted to deliver, his energy and weight was redirected and another attack was sent in, to be quickly parried. It was different, certainly, but he recognized the art in it, the dance Nox had alluded to. Their stance was continuously shifting, their footwork unpredictable, and Feitan realized that he was going to have to get serious.

 

He threw a punch. Nox’s arm rose, the hit glancing off, and their free hand came for the uppercut. Feitan moved fluidly, grabbing their wrist and twisting, spinning them around to put them in a hold. For a moment, his free hand grabbed Nox’s other wrist, forcing their arms to cross against their chest, but in an instant his mistake became relevant. Nox’s hips shifted, and they took control of their conjoined momentum to flip him over their shoulder. Feitan was too fast for that. He felt their arms tense, in a bid to escape, and before they got a chance to break the hold as his feet left the ground, he pushed their arms down with the very force Nox was exuding. So, instead of Feitan being flung onto his back by himself, he somehow managed to land on his back with Nox still pinned against his chest.

 

And there was the second mistake. Gravity yanked Nox’s head down with the impact, colliding solidly with Feitan’s nose, and immediately a river of blood gushed out.

 

The two froze and Feitan, belatedly, realized Nox didn’t weigh much at all, pinned there between his legs. His blood kept flowing, soaking Nox’s hair and the back of their neck. Their shampoo smelled nice, under all the sweat and blood, even if their hair was all up in his nose and mouth.

 

A guttural laugh broke the two from their moment and he released Nox, scrambling to his feet to pinch his nose shut.

 

Nyx approached them, ruefully rubbing the back of their head with one hand, the notepad offered in the other.

 

You know, not sure who won that one.

 

Nox snatched the notepad from their twin, wincing from the pain on their skull.

 

I got first blood.

 

“I gave myself first blood. With your head. It does not count,” Feitan grumbled.

 

Another laugh came out from the trees, and dear gods, of course Phinks snuck out here.

 

“You alright, buddy?” He asked jovially as he withdrew a small packet of Kleenex from his pocket and offered one to Feitan. 

 

“I am fine,” Feitan muttered darkly as he wiped at the blood with the gifted tissue and then ripped it in half to stuff up his nose.

 

“Never seen someone outside the troupe keep up with you like that,” Phinks teased, and Feitan frowned.

 

“I was in Zetsu. I have not fought in Zetsu for some time. They train in Zetsu daily. Of course I could not keep up.”

 

Phinks whistled lowly as he looked the twins up and down, and offered Nox another Kleenex to get the blood off their neck.

 

“Bet they could keep up with you with Nen, too.”

 

“They could not,” Feitan muttered darkly. Nox and Nyx both cocked a brow at the same time.

 

“Anyways, got sent out here to collect you. Danchou called a meeting. And you two have been ordered by Hisoka to get back, get showered, and get ready, cause y’all are going to town with Ky’ia. Meeting is spiders only.”

 

Oh. Little mountain was Ky’ia. Good to know. He liked little mountain better.

 

Nox and Nyx exchanged glances, seeming to have some private conversation with each other without a sign in site. Feitan needed to learn sign. There was only so much paper in the world. Nyx shrugged and headed to the duffle, easily hefting it up. Feitan finally gave it a glance before they zipped it up. They would have to spar with bokken next time, to avoid further humiliation.

 

In any case, he couldn’t wait to find out what Shalnark had learned, and he really could not wait for all these secrets to stop flying around. Then this strange obsession with the one who had just busted his nose in front of Phinks would end, like all of his obsessions, and he would move on to the next prey.

Chapter Text

“What happened to you?”

 

Feitan still had blood all down his chest and neck. The twins swept past him and Phinks, making for the stairs, blood still all down the back of Nox’s shirt. Nobunaga’s head swiveled to follow their ascent and then he went to examine Feitan again.

 

“Feitan broke his nose with the back of Nox’s head,” Phinks supplied with a sly smile. “You wanna see?”

 

“Did you record it?” Feitan asked, alarmed.

 

“Yes. I came up maybe halfway through you sparring. Thought it’d be good to look back at how they fight someone that isn’t each other.” Phinks shrugged.

 

“Delete that footage.”

 

“Oh no. You humiliated yourself, and I’m gonna show everyone. I’m posting it in the group chat.” Phinks pulled out his phone and Feitan lunged for it, but Phinks danced out of reach, laughing loudly.

 

“Feitan, it’s good for them to know how they fight!”

 

“Then take new video!”

 

Phinks held the phone up, out of reach, his finger on the send button, and Feitan leapt to reach it. Too late. Phinks clicked send and dashed up the stairs, screaming in laughter as Feitan chased him. Chaos already.

 

Eventually, the video fully sent before Feitan got his hands on the phone, and he satisfied himself with a punch to Phinks’ gut before he left to go get cleaned up. Blood everywhere. He didn’t mind blood so much, but it was aggravating when it was his own.

 

He hadn’t even managed to draw Nox’s blood. Nyx and Nox’s blood, he corrected.

 

It was a good thing he did not intend for this blossoming obsession to last long. The sharing pain thing would be awkward. He didn’t have an incest kink, and generally found those that did were rather disgusting. That was saying something, coming from him, but his interests could also not be denied. In any case, given the fact that they were … used at some point in such a way, he knew for a fact that even though they claimed to put emotions over logic, they absolutely were more gratuitous in their murders when it came to people who were invested in twincest. Feitan was not someone capable of sympathy, but he could almost get there in regards to their victims.

 

He knew they came from a tribe, too. With a little digging, or asking Machi, he could probably find out which, and he was willing to bet that due to the name, which read like a fact of life, not a condition, it probably had some cultural significance. He could appreciate cultural significance. It was one of the reasons he did not like Hisoka, at first. Well, he also did not like Hisoka because he was Hisoka. The man should have gotten trigger warning tattooed on his forehead. But, no, when he caught small signs of his cultural martial art being used by someone so lacking in discipline, he just tacked that onto the list of reasons to hate him. Now, it had become apparent that Hisoka was likely the most disciplined person on this planet, so the hate was lessened significantly.

 

Hating Hisoka now was confusing. He supposed Hisoka had earned his respect. While the troupe had no need for “honor”, he could appreciate someone who did. Feitan knew exactly how Hisoka viewed him. Single minded, which was true, fanatically devoted to Chrollo, which was also true, could really only feel one thing at once, also true. That was why his “obsessions” never developed further than a passing fancy. For real feelings to blossom, there needed to be some level of complexity.

 

Feitan didn’t care much for that. So, Nox was only mildly interesting. He played it up, of course. The doe eyed puppy type he knew would make Nox pity him enough to let him stick around until he could come to a conclusion about them and then leave. If he played himself, Nox would have no time for him, and this would drag out longer than necessary. That much he was certain of. Nox very likely rarely ran into people that knew who and what they were that were genuinely smitten. After all, even if it was for good reasons, Nox was a killer. Nox was probably hesitant to indulge Feitan because of that fact, that they were a killer, and that was probably what Feitan liked about them. They likely planned on stopping the killing when they finally finished the job. Something with Feitan would never go anywhere, and it likely made them uncomfortable, that this was all that was interesting about them. That was alright, though.

 

Just because Feitan was single minded and rather simple, didn’t mean he was stupid.

 

He knew how to work people to get what he wanted.

 

He just could only typically focus on one thing at a time, and maybe spare time for things existing on the peripheral.

 

Perhaps that was why he was intrigued by the twins, and slightly intrigued by Hisoka. They didn’t get information like he did, mostly. They had to be focusing on all of the threads equally at once. If one was dropped, the tension dropped, and it all fell to pieces. They had the main goal, and were completely focused on that, but they saw it in a way Feitan had never had to see things before.

 

Perhaps he could learn something from them.

 

The shower water was going cold. The blood was all gone, so he stepped out and dried off. His nose was swollen. Grimacing to himself, he faced the mirror and make a V with his fingers to vigorously straighten it out. Multiple cracks and blossoming pain later, it was straight, and bleeding again. Toilet paper was stuffed before it became a problem. Nosebleeds always lasted hours with Feitan. Aggravating.

 

He had technically done it to himself. It being self inflicted was an easier thought than Nox actually managing to draw blood. He wouldn’t want to get angry, or trigger Pain Packer. Chrollo would be pissed if he wrecked the house.

 

Perhaps that was why they had insisted on Zetsu. They likely had done a lot of research, ever since Hisoka had joined the troupe.

 

His room was right above the garage. There was the noise of an engine being started, and there went the Morrows with their little friend.

 

The meeting would be starting soon.

 

Feitan pulled on fresh pants and a shirt and made for the door. In the group chat they were already voting on who had won the sparring match. Aggravating. Phinks shouldn’t have taken that video. Now he would have to deal with teasing.

 

Everyone was gathered in the drawing room. Feitan was the last to arrive, hair still wet and cringing at the giggles that erupted at his presence.

 

“How’s your nose, Fei?” Franklin asked loudly.

 

“My nose is fine.”

 

“Looks pretty swollen to me.”

 

“Pain is accepted.”

 

“What I wanna know,” Nobunaga butted in, “is why you didn’t just let them throw you.”

 

“They aimed for ground directly in front of them. Would not have had space to land on my feet.” Feitan shrugged. “They fight in way to end fight as quick as possible. Had to pretend it was real fight. In real fight, would have been in position for them to crush my skull.”

 

“But they weren’t going to do that,” Machi pointed out, and Feitan shrugged again.

 

“Practice is to instill discipline for real fights. So it was best to act like they would.”

 

“You’re trying to save face, but you still broke your own nose with someone else’s head.”

 

Feitan scowled darkly.

 

“Should we not start meeting?”

 

Phinks snickered from his corner and Feitan ignored him in favor of climbing into the window seat to crouch.

 

Chrollo was still silent. Shalnark was quiet, too. There was almost a cloud hanging on them. Feitan wondered what happened, why Hisoka had stalled for so long, what Shalnark had to do with it.

 

Shalnark opened his mouth and shut it before looking to Chrollo for help. Chrollo just stared back at him impassively, waiting for him to take the lead.

 

“What I am about to tell you all is going to be difficult,” Shalnark started to say. “I’m going to preface it with stating that before anyone gets angry, or defensive, I did my own independent research to make sure this information I was given wasn’t a lie. My research is airtight. I made sure of that. There is no room for error.”

 

The tension in the room shifted and Shalnark cleared his throat.

 

“When we were given some of the information on Meteor City that danchou requested, I could tell something was off about it. A lot of it was too easy. Like, I mean, we should have known it was all happening. From some of the image files, it was clear they were operating in broad daylight, sometimes when multiple spiders were in the city. They barely even tried to hide it. It didn’t make much sense. At first I thought the images were false, the information was wrong, and I made sure to run the images I had copied into my computer through software that let me see if any editing had been done. It came up blank. In addition, their movements basically tapered off after York New and the auction. I thought maybe Hisoka was attempting to stay away from the city, but then he could have sent the twins instead to gather intel.”

 

Feitan watched Shalnark critically. Shalnark was rarely ever nervous, but he looked like he was going to explode with tension. Chrollo was just watching him silently.

 

“I knew the Morrows had either very cleverly falsified information, or they were waiting for me to figure something out, which was why Hisoka was stalling. Either they were testing us to see if we could function on their level and not hinder them, or they had information that they could not tell us and we had to figure out independently. So I talked to Nyx, and they gave me enough clues that I was able to figure out that they had taken a page from Hisoka’s book in terms of Texture Surprise. They had written a code into the encryption on the software that made it so gyo files converted to jpeg when they were transferred to another memory core. I didn’t notice it first, and a file conversion can’t be picked up on the software I ran. Some of the files had been saved as gyo files.”

 

Feitan had never heard of a gyo file, but he was quick enough on the uptake to understand that it was clearly a file that hid something with Nen.

 

“It was actually pretty simple, simple enough to be overlooked. So I used Gyo and uh.”

 

Shalnark trailed off and looked again to danchou for help. Chrollo relented.

 

“Uvogin had been working with them,” Chrollo said shortly. There was a pregnant pause, and he seemed to decide to keep going before the room exploded. “Before Shalnark told me, he did independent research to back up the claims, make sure they weren’t false, into the bank accounts he had set up for Uvogin. I spoke to Hisoka before he left, and he confirmed that he knew we wouldn’t take the words at face value, and it seemed that the twins understood this as well without him having to communicate it, so they devised a way to show one person, Shalnark, knowing he would remain somewhat composed, and fact check them as a result. It would also seem that Uvogin procured rarities for the ring, and received payment directly from Edwin, which Shalnark confirmed with the routing numbers we have also received funds from. The Morrows had been trying to get his information for years in the hopes that some of his money would lead them to the leader, but thanks to Shalnark, were unable to. They took it as a two birds, one stone scenario. I overlooked the information. It isn’t false. Uvogin had been allowing the ring access to Meteor City for years.”

 

Everyone in the room looked as though they had been shot. Nobunaga looked almost close to heartbreak. He and Uvogin had been close, closer than most of the troupe, Feitan knew.

 

The troupe had changed things for Meteor City. The originals rarely formed emotional bonds, but the city mattered to them more than anything else. People were no longer stolen in the night. They had opened negotiations with the mafia to continue their supply with willing volunteers, adults and sometimes teenagers, who wanted to get out of town. The troupe protected very little, but they protected the city and each other, to a certain extent. To betray the city was to betray the troupe. And if danchou was saying Uvogin had betrayed the city, then …

 

“Rarities,” Feitan muttered, accidentally breaking the pause. “You said rarities. Like twins.”

 

Shalnark pursed his lips.

 

“That’s how I confirmed it. Uvogin had a large payout, double the normal amount, three days after the recorded massacre of the Gemini tribe. The twins hadn’t stated it, except to maybe Machi, after she had already figured out due to an agreement Chrollo struck with them, but they have the same genetic condition that runs in twins from that tribe.”

 

The troupe had massacred tribes before. That didn’t weigh very heavily on Feitan’s conscience. But, like Chrollo’s mantra, they always killed the children. Mercy killings, he supposed. They didn’t mercifully kill adults. No, they made them stand up and fight and go out in a blaze of glory. Children were different. There was no sense in forcing children to grow up and never have a chance at a normal life. It was the one rule the troupe lived by: always kill the children.

 

And here Uvogin was, not only not killing the children, but sending them off to pedophiles.

 

“Wait, what condition?” Phinks blurted. “That hip thing they have?”

 

“Pelvises,” Machi corrected. “It’s this condition they call sharing pain. Doctors call it damnum duas partes. If damage is dealt to one, it’s split in two so it’s shared equally with the other. That’s why their pelvises can’t heal. Any tiny shift causes more breakage. Hisoka taught them to walk and stabilize them using Nen. He’s actually rather intelligent, medically speaking. Surprisingly.”

 

Feitan could understand it now. Given his own proclivities, he could grasp how such a thing would be attractive to anyone with those certain fetishes. It was no wonder Hisoka was almost embarrassingly protective. He also understood that it was a double edged sword. It could save their lives, but also kill them both at once. It was likely that if one died, so did the other. A kind of bond like that really transcended just being siblings. He’d put his life in other troupe members’ hands before. Put it in Uvogin’s before, actually. Living with that sort of tension every day had to be nerve wracking.

 

“So, it is true?” Nobunaga asked, his eyes locked with danchou’s. Chrollo nodded once, just once. “If it’s all true, how can we trust them to not turn on us?”

 

“They will not,” Feitan piped up and all eyes shifted to him. “Uvogin is dead. They do not care. I talked to Nox. And Hisoka. They are focused. So long as we let them get close to what they want, they have no need for multiple grudges. Is waste of energy, and they do not waste energy.”

 

Feitan ended his statement with a shrug. He personally had no use for grudges, but he could understand how they were born, and why someone would hold onto them. Some people could only find peace through completion. He could respect that.

 

“Fact of the matter is, if it’s all true, then we ourselves broke our promise to our city, and we should probably use the resources we’re being offered to fix that. If they’re good enough to send Shalnark on a hunt for a week, to the point where he actually needed a hint, they’re good enough for me.” Franklin was speaking up now. Feitan had almost forgotten how smart he was in his simplicity.

 

“We didn’t give Uvogin permission to do what he did,” Nobunaga stated, his feathers ruffling a bit at the concept that this was a collective failure on their part.

 

“We didn’t have to,” Machi suddenly said, and her voice sounded robotic, as if she was repeating something someone had told her. “We gave him the power.”

 

The room fell silent at that, and Feitan returned his observations to danchou. He wasn’t saying anything, but there was the slightest hint of some ugly emotion on his face.

 

“Machi is right,” Chrollo said lowly. “We did fail the city, so we have to fix it.”

 

And that was that. Danchou had spoken, there was no need for coin tosses, everyone was in agreement. Feitan hoped Machi would check on Nobunaga. He was woefully unequipped for the task.

 

He wondered what the Morrows and Ky’ia were doing in town. To his knowledge, little mountain had never been shopping. Maybe they were getting them a phone.

 

Hopefully they weren’t getting into trouble.

Chapter Text

The twins were in the store with Ky’ia, trying to figure out clothing for them that were more than their single change of clothes and the mismatched pieces that had been lent to them from the twins. The twins were also figuring out more outfits for themselves, since they didn’t know when they’d be able to return to the bungalow, and picking out some pieces for Hisoka.

 

He wasn’t sure if he should be disturbed that they knew his sizes.

 

Hisoka was outside of the store, trying to figure out the particular problem he had been presented with.

 

The twins and him were gambling. So was Ky’ia, if their story of how Chrollo had decided not to kill them was any indication. Honestly that was rather impressive of them to do that. Perhaps Chrollo had spared them because he also found their ballsiness impressive. Had the circumstances been different, Hisoka would have considered them one of his fruit.

 

Hisoka was fairly certain the troupe would swing their way. The twins had acted in a way that was befitting of their training, reading the situation before it had even began. It was smart, to force them to come to their own conclusions, to isolate the variables to prevent an explosion. He didn’t even know they knew enough of Shalnark to know that he wouldn’t immediately react. Apparently, they actually had paid attention to his venting for once. He almost felt loved.

 

No, the main problem on his mind was one that had been hovering at the back for the past week: what was Kurapika doing, and would he show up to fuck it all up?

 

Kurapika and Hisoka had an understanding. Hisoka had recognized from the get go that Kurapika could in fact completely dismantle the troupe, and that threw a wrench in his plans. For one, Machi could be killed. For two, if the troupe was wiped out, he would never be able to get close enough to get a look at Uvogin’s finances. For three, again, if the troupe was wiped out, it would completely change the facet of a major supplier, and Hisoka did not want to start from scratch all over again.

 

Kurapika had not let him in on the plans. Hisoka had negotiated for a fight with Chrollo in the hopes that he could drive him off, or displace Chrollo enough to deter Kurapika at least until he got the information he needed. It had been a nightmare, really, balancing truths and falsities. He had to play that he was the Hisoka he presented and the Hisoka who he was when he was at home.

 

And then darling Kurapika had acted unpredictably and sealed Chrollo’s Nen. Hisoka still was unsure if he saw through him or not. Probably. Hisoka had been hilariously off his game, but Kurapika had also given him an out in a way. Chrollo wasn’t dead. Machi could forgive him. He hadn’t revealed the tidbit about Machi to Kurapika. No, Kurapika was unpredictable, and when Hisoka was dealing with unknown factors, those unknown factors did not need to know that he was not alone. The twins and him had to exist independently. They were the ace up his sleeve. Literally. He carried an ace on him at all times with a Texture Surprise picture hidden on the front of it. He had to, given Nyx’s habit of wiping his phone.

 

The problem was now that Chrollo’s Nen was back, and there was no way that Kurapika didn’t know that. For all he knew, Kurapika was hunting Chrollo now. And that was a nasty wrench he did not want to deal with in the slightest. If you could control a factor, you had to control it.

 

He had Kurapika’s number. He’d had it since York New auction. Kurapika hadn’t messaged him since that day, hadn’t spoken to him, and for that Hisoka was glad. He didn’t need an additional mess to deal with. He could sympathize with revenge. Really, he could. He just couldn’t have that revenge interrupt his plans. It was bad enough that Kurapika killed Uvogin. Hisoka had preferred him alive so he could do it himself, or the twins, but damn if Kurapika wasn’t a fireball of justice. He almost regretted speaking to him before Kurapika had met the troupe. Maybe in another universe it could have gone differently. (It did not.)

 

Kurapika, bless him, still believed in the justice system. Because of that naivete, Hisoka doubted that he would react well to Hisoka telling him that no, he could not hunt the troupe until Hisoka was done. Kurapika had asked him why he didn’t just take all of the evidence he had gathered to the relevant authorities, why he didn’t just work with the justice system, and Hisoka had laughed and laughed and asked Kurapika why he was working with the mafia if that was the case.

 

He hadn’t answered, because while Kurapika had seen death, had lost a lot, he hadn’t seen what Hisoka had. The twins had. That was why he put more faith in the troupe, why he had never brought Kurapika into the fold. They understood ugly in a way Kurapika simply couldn’t, and they understood the powers that be failing them in a way Kurapika couldn’t.

 

The troupe had survived so long because they were impossible to track, too powerful to catch, too mysterious to know.

 

Kurapika knew that. That’s why he took it upon himself to handle it, because everyone else was simply not good enough.

 

The ring was different. The ring had existed for so long because it had members in the highest echelons of society, who could simply buy their way to freedom. They were above the law, which was why Hisoka fully intended to dump every shred of evidence onto every hunter site the second the attacks launched. Once the people that had a license to kill knew, then the information would trickle down to the masses, scrubbed of any evidence of Nen.

 

They were above the law, but they weren’t above the people. They just thought it was one in the same.

 

Kurapika couldn’t understand that. He would have to see it, and Hisoka had already made enough people see. He didn’t want to ruin someone else.

 

And, so, he pulled out his phone to call.

 

It rang three times before Kurapika picked up.

 

“What do you want.”

 

“Darling, that was a rude opening. Should we start over?” Hisoka purred, activating every inch of charm he had.

 

“No. What do you want.”

 

“Well, to put it quite simply, I gave Chrollo back his Nen, as I’m sure you know.”

 

“Yes, I know.” Kurapika did not sound happy. Expected.

 

“I’m calling because I have a teeny favor to ask of you.”

 

“No.”

 

“Kurapika, I didn’t even ask yet,” Hisoka pouted, but on the other end, his face was deadpan.

 

“I know where favors go with you. No.”

 

Hisoka sighed and stretched, turning to put his back to the wall.

 

“Well, I’m going to ask anyways, before you hang up. Don’t hunt the troupe for a few months.”

 

Silence stretched across the line and Hisoka felt his heart hammer. He could not have this wrench right now. He was too close.

 

“Why?”

 

“Well, to put it frankly, remember that little operation I had going?” The one you killed Uvogin over and completely fucked my plans. “I have managed to negotiate their cooperation with it.”

 

“I don’t believe you.”

 

“Well, I promise you, I am not lying. We’re reaching completion in a few months, and I needed muscle to finish.”

 

“You could have gone to the Hunter Association.”

 

“I could not.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“They’re in the Hunter Association. Besides, Shalnark is a Hunter.”

 

“What do you mean, they’re in the Association?”

 

“Darling, did you really think everyone in that group was a good person?”

 

Silence stretched out for a moment, and Hisoka recalled that Kurapika was rather intelligent. Maybe he was starting to understand. That would be a relief. He would be less of a thorn in his side then.

 

“I want proof they’re helping.”

 

“I can’t give you that.”

 

“Then I want in. To make sure they are not going to act like themselves.”

 

“No.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“One, you took Chrollo’s Nen, and killed a member, which of course they are now aware of the reasons behind his death, but that’s irrelevant. Two, you are not cut out for this kind of work.”

 

“I am cut out for any kind of work.”

 

“No,” Hisoka said sharply. “You are not. This work will destroy you in a way you have never experienced. Your revenge is fine and all, but this requires a level of savagery you don’t possess, with no qualms about killing. You are not cut out for this, and when I’m done and you see the aftermath, you’re going to thank me.”

 

Ky’ia was also not cut out for this, but that was irrelevant. If they were lucky, Ky’ia wouldn’t be needed.

 

“What aftermath?”

 

“I’m going to dump everything. All of the evidence, to the public. It’s going to turn into a witch hunt for the stragglers. And when you see the evidence, you’re going to see the bigger picture. So, no, you’re not helping. The tension is thick enough as it is. I don’t need you in the midst. You’re like adding gasoline to a fire. So if you understand the importance of this, if you understand the gravity of the situation, you will stay away. When the evidence comes, then you can do as you please.”

 

Silence passed for a few minutes. Hisoka hoped he wouldn’t have to kill him. He was a good fruit, after all. A bit salty, but a good fruit.

 

“Fine.”

 

“Lovely. Thank you for your cooperation, Kurapika.”

 

And, with that, he hung up the phone, and turned to the biggest shock of his life.

 

Gon. Gon Freecs was staring at him like he had grown a third head. He apparently still did not have his Nen. Hisoka recalled, briefly, that he had ignored Illumi’s call to go interrupt Gon’s healing process. He wondered if Illumi was still mad at him. Probably.

 

“Why do you have Kurapika’s number?” Gon blurted. “What operation?”

 

A million and one scenarios rushed through Hisoka’s head, and about all of the easy ones ended with a Zodiac hunting down the troupe and Hisoka in the midst of all of this to kill them for murdering his son.

 

“And why are you dressed like that?”

 

What on earth was Gon doing in this town? They were a day’s ride away from the ferry to Whale Island. Wasn’t he supposed to be training? Was he traveling and training?

 

Just then, the door to the shop opened, and out came the twins, bags in hands, who stopped short at the sight of Hisoka staring at a bug eyed fifteen year old.

 

“Uh, Hisoka?” Ky’ia asked and Hisoka made a split second decision, seizing Gon with a hand clapped over his mouth to drag him off to the car.

 

“Get in the car!” He called over his shoulder. How on earth was he going to explain this? Here he was, kidnapping the son of a legendary Hunter in plain daylight and at this point Gon was a legendary Hunter himself.

 

Why was his entire life just averting one disaster just to steer directly into another?

Chapter Text

The front doors slammed open and Chrollo heard yelling, kicking, screaming from all the way in his study. A long sigh escaped his lips and he stood.

 

Of course Hisoka couldn’t come back from his first real excursion out with the twins without a commotion. He must have kidnapped someone.

 

This entire week had been a nightmare. Hisoka had been just fine for the two, three conversations maybe he had spoken with Chrollo before the twins arrived, but after the pharmacy he had completely clammed up once again, effortlessly keeping their negotiations moving in circles, agreeing on one thing, making progress, then changing his mind again. The only definitive agreement Chrollo could get out of him was the agreement to not participate in missions outside of a bird's eye perspective, and that was only because he had gotten Hisoka flustered.

 

Hisoka was not letting him fluster him again. In fact, he was making Chrollo flustered, with the constant flirtations and the nimble dancing back when Chrollo deigned to react to them. He was acting differently in the aspect that he was refusing to do anything but act the same.

 

Hopefully, Shalnark solving the twins’ puzzle put an end to that behavior. Pacing out of the study, and down the stairs to the second floor, he realized that, no, Shalnark’s unraveling of the puzzle had only escalated things. Hisoka had only just started making problems for him.

 

He recognized this kid, and, with the new knowledge of who his father was, he really was not sure of what to make of this chaotic scene.

 

“Hisoka,” he said quietly, from the top of the staircase, “why do you have Gon Freecs stuffed under your arm?”

 

Ky’ia looked extremely worried. Nyx, as always, was entirely impassive. Nox was thoroughly amused. At least someone was. Hisoka simply looked put upon.

 

“Well, you see, it’s a funny story. He still doesn’t have Nen, so I didn’t sense him when I called Kurapika and he overheard.” Hisoka was flustered. He probably deserved it.

 

“You called the Chain User.” Hadn’t the troupe just decided to trust him? It didn’t take long for him to bite.

 

“Well, yes, I did, to negotiate a cease fire for a few months while we finish up here.”

 

Gon opened up his mouth to yell, or something, and Hisoka reacted instantly, slapping his free hand over Gon’s mouth to seal it with Bungee Gum.

 

“Why didn’t you do that before?”

 

“It’s hard to breathe with Bungee Gum on your mouth. I’ve tested it.”

 

Chrollo thought to ask why, and then decided that perhaps it was best to not have answers to certain questions.

 

“And he overheard you.”

 

“Yes. I don’t know why he was in town.”

 

“So, we need to kill him.”

 

Hisoka stared at him like he had just said the stupidest thing on the planet.

 

“Didn’t you tell me not everything can be solved by wrecking it?”

 

“This is killing someone. Not wrecking them.”

 

Ky’ia looked horrified at how casually Chrollo discussed it. Ah, good people. He forgot how easy it was to both disturb and kill them. Really, he should have.

 

“To be clear,” and there that singsong voice was coming back, “I just got the Chain User off our your backs, you’re welcome, by the way, and now you want to bring down a Zodiac on us.”

 

Ah. Right. Other people trying to kill them would be a problem this time around. Chrollo had forgotten to consider that.

 

“Do you have any other options?”

 

“I was honestly hoping you would have them.”

 

Chrollo could have blinked. Hisoka actually wanting him to have the options. Who would have thought the day would come?

 

“Ky’ia, couldn’t you do a memory break?”

 

“Yes, but people generally tend to break after.”

 

He supposed forcefully erasing memories would do that.

 

“That’s fine.”

 

“Yes, because Ging would absolutely not catch onto that,” Hisoka drawled and Nyx nudged his arm. Gon was turning red. With a sigh, Hisoka released the gum and seemed to brace himself for the incoming yelling.

 

“I don’t know what’s going on here but no one is killing me!”

 

“You have no Nen and no defenses,” Hisoka pointed out diplomatically. “We could kill you fairly easily, but, yes, you are correct for once, we aren’t going to do that.”

 

“Put me down!”

 

“Either you stay here or I stick you to a wall.”

 

Chrollo could see in his mind's eye Hisoka handling the twins having a temper fit in the same manner. Not bothering to keep his mask on was honestly an almost cute look for him.

 

“Then stick me to the wall! You smell weird!”

 

“Now you’re just going to stay here.”

 

The twins cackled and Nox signed something to Nyx. He really needed to focus on learning sign again. Gon flushed as they seemed to have some sort of conversation with each other.

 

“I’m not weird!”

 

That was actually the first time Chrollo had seen someone other than Hisoka know what they were saying. The twins paused, looked back at Gon, and then signed something else.

 

“Yeah, I know sign. There’s this super nice deaf family on the island who taught me so I could play with their son!”

 

Why did he talk like that? Did everything in his life require yelling? It was painful.

 

The twins shared a look, and he had seen them around enough that he knew that look. They had just decided something and apparently did not care enough to actually check that it was okay with everyone else. Nox paced in front of Gon to sign something else, and his eyes followed the rapidfire words with an almost practiced ease.

 

“Er, I guess. I don’t like lying, though.”

 

Nox snorted and signed something else and Chrollo tried to figure out just when and how this situation had gotten out of his hands.

 

“Oh, like once a week, sometimes every two weeks. He’s busy.”

 

Nox signed something else and jerked a thumb at Ky’ia, who looked like they were understanding something of what was going on. Fast learner, then. That was expected.

 

“I’m not learning anything from them , though,” and here Gon jerked his chin at Chrollo, who was still trying to figure out just what was going on.

 

Nox signed something else and Hisoka cleared his throat loudly.

 

“Darlings, you can’t just go making decisions for everyone. Remember we have to work with everyone.”

 

Nox snorted and signed something else and Hisoka relented, letting Gon back down onto the ground.

 

“The twins have offered to help Gon regain his Nen and train with them, in return for his silence and the agreement that he stay here until they … give the go ahead for him to leave.” For the mission to end, he meant.

 

“So you want the son of Ging Freecs to know where my house is.” To be fair, all of it made sense. Chrollo understood convincing people to do what he wanted with sweets. Gon wanted to be stronger, the twins were running around with Hisoka, so even if he couldn’t see it, he knew they were strong, having a willing captive who was able to cover to Ging about his absence was preferred to the alternative, which would be the son Ging had just started speaking to dropping off of the face of the earth. Of course, knowing Ging, he really wouldn’t do much about that. He had just sat back during the Chimera Ant invasion and let his son take care of it, after all. And then refused to visit him in the hospital. But, on the off chance he got curious …

 

Chrollo had a feeling that through it all, he always knew exactly where Gon was, when Gon was there. Still shoddy parenting. Not that he was one to judge, of course.

 

“Well, Chrollo, I figured after all of this you would be moving, anyways. You always do, after an operation.” He had forgotten Hisoka was a stalkerish creep.

 

“It’s the principle of the thing.” How on earth was he going to explain this to the troupe? Nobunaga might be happy about it, he’d liked Gon, had practically hollered in laughter when it came out who Gon’s father was, but the rest of them? Coin tosses.

 

And Feitan was starting to like Nox, too. How ugly was it going to get when Nox found out he’d tried to break Gon’s arm and rip off his fingernails? That argument alone was not something he was certain his house would survive. The Morrows weren’t bound by troupe rules. He’d have to negotiate that with Hisoka.

 

“Do you not think this is a good solution?”

 

“I’m not keen on weaponizing a Hunter under my own roof.”

 

“Are you more keen on Ging paying you a visit?”

 

“Hey, my dad doesn’t help me with anything,” Gon piped up. “That would be rude. I gotta do it on my own.”

 

“Gon, we don’t have time to compare every person in this room’s fucked up normal meter,” Hisoka said mildly.

 

“What?”

 

“Never you mind. I’m sure you’ll discuss it with a therapist in ten years. Chrollo. Are we in agreement or no?”

 

It was a wonder the twins survived that scathing, subtle sarcasm. Chrollo could almost understand Nox’s attitude issue now.

 

“We are in agreement. If he steps a toe out of line, though, I kill him, and we all deal with the consequences, since you got us into this mess.” And with that, he turned to return to his study. “I have sent the troupe on missions to blow off steam before we get started. I’m sure that will give you all time to get all of your evidence back here.”

 

He could hear quiet footsteps up the stairs and Hisoka’s presence tailing him. That was new. Since Chrollo had taken him that night, Hisoka hadn’t followed him anywhere. Chrollo had to call for him, or go to him to summon him. For now, he ignored it, treading down the long hall to the second set of stairs and his waiting study.

 

“You know, Chrollo,” Hisoka finally said as Chrollo’s hand landed on the doorknob, “if I didn’t know better, I would say you’ve softened.”

 

Chrollo stilled, for just a split second, and his body reacted before his brain. Spinning, his coat flying behind him, he shoved Hisoka up against the wall, the jester’s hands pinned above his head. Hisoka looked down at him, unperturbed, waiting, and Chrollo realized this was in the interest of fairness. He had gotten rises out of Hisoka, possibly too many, and Hisoka needed that equivalence, that flash of emotion. It was no wonder he had been so distant this past week. Hisoka was, as he said, broken. A scared, hurting animal hissing at the world. A cat, really, if he was going to be specific.

 

Chrollo didn’t know how to show emotion. The closest he could get was power.

 

Hisoka was so warm.

 

Carefully, the minutes ticking past, Chrollo leaned up, close enough that if Hisoka just bent his head, he could kiss him.

 

“If I want something, Hisoka,” he breathed against his lips. They smelled faintly of papaya. A chapstick, likely. “I get it. How I get there doesn’t matter.”

 

Hisoka lived a life of denial. Chrollo wanted something to click. He wanted it desperately. But, it wouldn’t, and he knew that. Chrollo knew what Chrollo wanted in an instant most of the time. His focus didn’t waver. Hisoka had just accepted Chrollo into his truth, let Chrollo unravel ten years of secrets in the span of two weeks. Hisoka had let him take those secrets from him out of a sense of desperation, and Chrollo knew that. But he didn’t want Hisoka to turn to him in desperation, because he was there, because he was wanted.

 

He wanted Hisoka to turn to him because Hisoka knew he was wanted.

 

Odd revelations.

 

Hisoka would undoubtedly explain this away as Chrollo referring to vengeance for his city. That was fine. When he was ready to accept what he already knew, he would. Chrollo could wait.

 

He still hadn’t said anything. Chrollo waited, tightening his grip ever so slightly.

 

I’m softening because of you. Because this is what you have driven me to.

 

I’m powerless, and you don’t even realize it.

 

“My, my, Chrollo,” Hisoka said, and there was the mask again, slipping but still there, “I forgot you could play my game.”

 

Chrollo tightened his grip again, just so slightly, and then released Hisoka. Desire stirred, and he beat it back down. Time. It was just a matter of time. Chrollo could sustain the months it would take for them to finish, and then maybe Hisoka would allow himself to work past the live saving complex he had developed.

 

Chrollo would be waiting when he did. He rarely doubted himself, but Hisoka had caused enough doubt that Chrollo knew he would be coming back around.

 

“I have a pot of tea in the study,” he said as he pushed open the door. “Would you like some?”

 

He didn’t wait for the reply. He just left the door open and sat down to pour the tea into two cups. Hisoka had taken his time coming, time enough for Chrollo to prepare for the conversation that needed to happen. Feitan had let slip that Hisoka preferred milk hot chocolate, and it was a pity Nobunaga had forgotten the milk once again when he went for groceries. Chrollo would just have to go by himself.

 

In the meantime, Hisoka would have to be content with tea.

 

The Hisoka in question sat across the coffee table from him and proceeded to start dumping in sugar. An inordinate, almost sickening amount of sugar, actually.

 

“Jasmine. I pictured you as liking black,” Hisoka said smoothly as he stirred. Chrollo just watched his hands.

 

“I do. I assumed you would like jasmine.”

 

“I actually prefer herbal teas. Or coffee.”

 

“Which herbal teas?”

 

“Sleepytime. Tension tamer.”

 

That was almost a surprise. Chrollo himself preferred mint. He hadn’t thought Hisoka was the sort to like something from such a plain, accessible, cheap company. Hisoka was someone who liked expensive things.

 

Chrollo had never really developed feelings for someone before. In the grand scheme of things, he thought himself above them, and when feelings for Hisoka initially struck, he had been a little lost as to how to deal with them. He had even considered killing Hisoka that night in the car. He solved a lot of problems with murder, so he failed to see how it would be different then.

 

It was, in fact, he discovered, very different. It was the moment Hisoka said that he was going back in. Chrollo hadn’t actually considered it before that moment, that Hisoka would be going back in to don his mask, smile, preen for adoring eyes. And, something in Chrollo stirred, a resounding, roaring no. No, he could not stand by and watch.

 

Of course, he wasn’t going to just keep Hisoka locked away in the manor. That would be suicide. No, he would leave, he just wouldn’t go on more intelligence gathering missions. He just didn’t think Hisoka’s fragile mind needed to be put through more stress.

 

He was probably going to make everything worse, in hindsight. He was essentially depriving Hisoka of the one constant in the past ten years. It was like alcoholism, in a way. Yes, it was good to take it away, but once you did things got a lot worse before they got better. He was effectively taking away the alcohol right before a high stress period that would last several months.

 

On top of it, while Hisoka was being held from the fight, the twins would still be risking their lives. In the week following the declaration, Chrollo had tried to think of a way to ground them, too, but he had come up short. He couldn’t force anyone into anything in this situation. The Morrows had no loyalty to him as his spiders did, and the twins would most assuredly have a very different reaction than Hisoka if he tried to tell them what to do.

 

Hisoka would have to watch from the sidelines as the twins risked everything, while he stayed safe and sound behind Chrollo’s protections.

 

He would either adapt to the change on the cusp of his victory, or he would fall apart.

 

When he thought of how Hisoka had looked in that bath, lost, confused, close to tears, Chrollo couldn’t help but be willing to take that gamble.

 

And so he had reacted on instinct, when he heard Hisoka’s off hand remark. He’d never felt such a strong emotion when he slammed on the brakes. All he could think about was Hisoka’s declaration that he already won, and how devastated he looked to say it.

 

It was that moment that he realized he couldn’t kill him. That if he did, the emotions he was feeling would remain, would stay, nestled in his heart, aching, killing him in turn. He would simply run from committing to the living to committing to a ghost of what could have been.

 

So, he abandoned that thought process.

 

Killing truly didn’t solve everything. It could create more problems, problems Chrollo didn’t want to deal with, was unwilling to deal with for once.

 

So he would wait.

 

“Now that Shalnark has solved your puzzle, have you come to a decision?”

 

“Oh, yes. We came to that decision ages ago. It was just dependent on how the troupe reacted. I’m sure you sent them away so they could deal with whatever that revelation might have brought up.”

 

“I did. Feitan is still here. Somewhere. And Machi.”

 

“Because you trust them not to lose it with us?”

 

“They might lose it with you, but I think the twins and I are the appropriate buffer needed. What was the decision?”

 

Hisoka looked at him as if he was shocked Chrollo had to ask.

 

“Full disclosure, of course. We can’t complete this task if you all don’t know everything we do. Though, I doubt that you would memorize it all in time.”

 

“My members are fairly smart.”

 

“They don’t exactly have ededict memories. There is a lot of information. Though, with the addition of Gon, I worry the twins won’t be able to retrieve it all without leaving him here, and that would most certainly create some problems.”

 

“They’re all traveling right now. If you give us locations, they can get it.”

 

Hisoka cocked a brow.

 

“Very well. We have a bulk of the data at the bungalow, the primary amount we work with, as well as the work room where everything is spread out. Older data is in a storage unit in York New City, and the third location is the Royal Glam Hotel. There’s a vault underneath, which I really should not be telling you about, and they have been kind enough to allow me to store the remaining hard drives there.”

 

“So it’s all digitized?”

 

“Of course. If it was all on paper it would be a nightmare to move.”

 

“Aren’t you from Glam Gas Land?”

 

Hisoka took a long, rather obnoxious sip of tea and just stared at Chrollo. Ah. So that was not a question to be asked. Fine then.

 

He wanted to know, though. If Hisoka had been taken at five from Glam Gas Land, why was he so invested in stage magicians and the persona he exuded? It was unlikely he remembered anyone. Was he copying someone he knew from there, or from the circus? His abilities were based on … Well, Chrollo didn’t want to think about that, and some facets of his personality were explained, but the decision to be a murderous stage magician, specifically, was not.

 

“If you can give me the closest members’ numbers, I can have the twins text them with directions. Are you going to tell them now about Gon, or wait for them to find out?” So, back to the conversation at hand. Alright, then.

 

“They can find out when they get back,” Chrollo replied and finally took a sip of his own unsweetened tea.

 

“Then business is concluded for now, I suppose.”

 

“We still have a pot of tea to finish, do we not?”

 

Hisoka studied him, as if he was trying to figure him out. If it didn’t weigh so heavily on Chrollo, he would have found it amusing. Hisoka, being as smart as he was, so independent, so Hisoka , a master of toying with minds, could not get past his own. If he could, they wouldn’t be doing this dance.

 

Chrollo was not one for declarations. He was one for reading people, and, again, Hisoka was not ready. That was fine, of course, but he had never really been so frustrated over what he could not control before.

 

“Did you really call off the Chain User?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Why?”

 

Hisoka’s expression slipped into one that clearly said he thought he was looking at the stupidest person on the planet.

 

“Because his interference could endanger the entire structure of the plan.”

 

“So you are done playing games, then. Definitively.”

 

“Well, I’ll still have a little fun. You can’t begrudge me that.”

 

“Your fun gets people killed.”

 

“I will endeavor to ensure they are only critically injured.”

 

“How do you avoid keeping your … vices from injuring the twins?” It was a question Chrollo had been wanting to ask. He knew the answer, of course. He just wanted it confirmed. Hisoka stared at him, like he was trying to pick him to pieces.

 

“I care about them more than I care about myself and this mission. That’s how.”

 

So he was capable of love. The question he had avoided in the car, now answered for him.

 

“Then why do you let them do what they do?”

 

“Because, again, I care about them more than myself or this mission. They would do it anyways. They need closure, and I need to make everything happen to give them that.” Hisoka stopped, as if he was afraid he was going to say too much, like there was another thought on the tip of his tongue he didn’t want to spill out. Chrollo waited, waited for that trust to blossom in Hisoka, that trust Chrollo craved like he craved the belongings of others, that trust that could so easily evolve into faith.

 

Hisoka didn’t finish his thought, and Chrollo ignored the knife to his chest that came with that stop. Time. It would take time. He had three, perhaps four months to gain that faith he needed like air. Time.

 

“So you are.”

 

“Am what?”

 

“Capable of love. Like I asked you before.”

 

Hisoka looked a little stunned, and Chrollo indulged himself the thought he had refused himself, when Hisoka was high in his tub.

 

Hisoka was adorable.

 

No, beautiful.

 

Chrollo still loved beautiful things.

 

“Yes. I suppose I am.”

 

“Then we both are.”

 

Hisoka’s lips twitched and Chrollo found himself mesmerized.

 

“You know, I always feared that after all of this was over, I wouldn’t have anything left, because I didn’t know how.”

 

“And now?”

 

“If a man like you can understand what love is, whoever you hold it for, then I’m sure I can understand what a real life is.” Hisoka almost, almost smiled, and Chrollo’s eyes shone.

 

Soon, Hisoka would realize, soon he was going to show him what it was like.

Chapter Text

Gon really was not sure how to take any of this stuff going on. He was back, captured by the troupe. Ordinarily, he would have told them to screw off, but he had grown a lot in the past few years since he had seen the troupe. A lot. And he knew now, somewhat, not to plunge headlong into death.

 

He had also learned to pay attention when the unexpected happened. The twins, Nox and Nyx, were unexpected, and so was Ky’ia. Nox and Nyx smelled like Hisoka, stood like Hisoka, studied and gathered information like Hisoka. But they were not Hisoka, so he wondered how Hisoka had come to regard them with such … affection, he could tell.

 

Hisoka listened to them. Hisoka did not want to fight or kill them. Gon knew Hisoka was incapable of care, and so he wondered at what was going on here.

 

Ging had told him to enjoy the journey, and if the journey took him to Chrollo Lucilfer’s house, then so be it. Gon was someone that lived in the moment, listened to his gut even though everyone told him to not ignore his brain in favor of that, and his gut told him there was something to be learned here. So, when they offered, the answer was simple.

 

They could teach him Nen. He had no idea how powerful their Nen was, what they were capable of, but hey, they were capable of following around Hisoka. So they had to be good. And Hisoka had informed him, very aggressively, in the car that no, they were absolutely not Spiders, and never would be Spiders. And the twins had laughed at him. Actually laughed at Hisoka Morrow, and he did nothing about it. So Gon knew he wasn’t training under Spiders, which was acceptable.

 

And then there was Ky’ia. Gentle, sweet, in a way. Gon had good instincts. He had to, really, considering how dull his brain was. Ky’ia was a good person, he could tell. No, not just good. A better person, with a very old soul, despite their youthful face. They seemed to know every secret, understand Hisoka and the twins on a very deep level. He knew, he just knew, there was something to learn there, too.

 

And so here he was. The day after it all. Sitting on the porch steps with Ky’ia. Ky’ia was practicing some hatsu Gon couldn’t see or hear. He wasn’t sure what was going on there, but Nyx was giving them commands. Increase, decrease, you wouldn’t want to get caught, would you, Ky’ia? Gon wondered if the hatsu was being directed at the twins, because they would both wince in time and rub at their heads before Nyx corrected Ky’ia again. He’d asked what was going on, but Nox signed at Gon to shut up and keep focusing on his nodes.

 

Gon wasn’t sure why they were making him do this. He had been doing the same thing for months, trying to feel for the nodes and open them. He couldn’t feel the way the Nen moved through his body anymore. When they had first been opened, it had been this explosion. He felt everything in a second, all crashing in on him, and it stayed like that until he got used to it. Gon had always felt powerful, until he met someone who that power paled against.

 

Like Pitou.

 

Questioning his power, his ability nowadays felt traumatizing. In a way, he was scared to start from the bottom all over again, and that infuriated him in ways he couldn’t comprehend. Fear helped some people think, make deliberate combat decisions that helped them come out on top. Gon didn’t know how to do that. He could never do anything in halves. He couldn’t win in halves. Making a logical decision based on fear required someone to evaluate whether they could lose and still stay alive. It made them accept the fact that loss was an option, and in Gon’s eyes, his “do nothing by halves” method of living loss was never an option.

 

Perhaps that’s why he couldn’t unlock his Nen. He knew the choice he had made, the choice to give up all of his Nen, every inch of life energy that he had, to defeat Pitou, and the concept of really trying only to discover that it was all gone was not something he could handle.

 

A hand tapped his shoulder and he looked up.

 

You aren’t trying. Why are we teaching you if you won’t try? ” Nox asked, staring down at him with judgmental eyes.

 

“I’m trying! It’s just nothing is working!” Gon insisted.

 

Why isn’t it working if you’re trying? ” 

 

“If I knew that it would be working!”

 

Tell me how you lost your Nen.

 

“You already know, don’t you?” Everyone did. He was practically a war hero at this point, and Nen that was uncomfortable. A hero who couldn’t fight.

 

I want to hear it from you.

 

“I made a contract. All of my Nen in exchange for the ability to kill my opponent.”

 

Why did you want to die to kill them?

 

The question stuck Gon in the heart, and every feeling started to well up.

 

“Because that was the only way to do it!”

 

Nox looked like they were judging him, and something about it rankled Gon. How dare this person, this stranger, really, judge Gon and what he’d done? How dare they dismiss the horror Gon had gone through, the loss he had endured? Rage welled up in his chest, and not one for bothering to censor his thoughts, he sprang to his feet.

 

“Why are you looking at me like that, huh?”

 

I have very little patience for people who throw away their childhoods and get angry at the consequences of adulthoods they knew they’d be ill equipped to handle, ” Nox signed.

 

“And what do you know?” Gon shouted. “You’re a kid, too! You threw away your childhood, too, didn’t you, to go chasing Hisoka?”

 

No. We didn’t throw away any childhood. We can pick up tomorrow.”

 

Nox pushed right past Gon and made for the door, but Gon grabbed their wrist. What the hell were they talking about? Why were they judging him?

 

“How am I supposed to learn from you when you don’t even want to teach me?” Gon roared. Nox froze, and then broke his grip with effortless ease.

 

I do want to teach you. It is an easy solution to our problem. But I cannot teach you if you cannot learn. I suggest you think of a better answer.

 

The door slammed behind Nox, and Gon was left in the garden with Nyx and Ky’ia. Nyx was impassive and Ky’ia looked pained.

 

Nox has a temper. I apologize on their behalf. They’ll be fine tomorrow. ” Nyx signed.

 

“You apologizing for them isn’t a real apology!”

 

Yes it is. Any apology from Hisoka, me, or Nox on behalf of another acts as an apology. You skipped breakfast. You should go eat. You have run of the house. Just don’t try to leave. Feitan has extensive En, and you don’t want him to catch you before Nox or I do.

 

Gon hated this. He hated all of it. Last time he had encountered the troupe, he had Nen, and he was still terrified. This time, he had nothing, only the protection from Hisoka and his students and perhaps Chrollo. He didn’t like being protected, but his position put him in a place where he had to be. The Gon of a few years ago would have tried to run. The Gon of now knew better. Pride, though bitter, had to be swallowed.

 

The pride he could not swallow was the pride that prevented him from letting Ging know he was in trouble when they allowed him to call. He and Ging had fashioned an alert system. Gon just had to say he was eating a lot of something, and Ging would come. Gon had been shocked when Ging brought it forward, until Ging pointed out that Gon had no Nen, and it was clear from the election that very few people liked the infamous Hunter. And now everyone knew Gon was his son. Of course, it hadn’t been a secret before. It was just more widely known now, thanks to Leorio’s antics.

 

This was all so stupid. He didn’t even know what the “operation” was, or why Kurapika thought it so important that he was willing to leave the Spiders alone for a few months.

 

Maybe he could have Killua come get him. But, no, Killua had Alluka to care for. Gon didn’t want to infringe on that. He cared about Killua too much to put Alluka in danger. Who knew what the troupe would do with Something?

 

Granted, the troupe had to know about Something. Kalluto had joined. Killua had told him. But, then again, Kalluto probably prioritized their family and its secrets over the troupe. So they probably didn’t know.

 

Either way, Gon may have been an idiot, but he wasn’t enough of an idiot to risk it.

 

He just had to wait. If he felt really, really in danger, he would call Ging. In the meantime, he would just have to put up with his “teacher’s” attitude. It really was unfair that Ky’ia got Nyx. Nyx seemed calm, composed. They were probably an excellent teacher. Instead, Gon was stuck with the testy one who seemed to flip from a good mood to a raging one in a matter of moments.

 

Grumbling to himself, he realized Nyx did have a point. He’d missed breakfast. The twins had met him in the wee hours of dawn with protein shakes, but they had been too nasty for him to swallow down. Ky’ia seemed used to them. They had put almond meat in them, and Gon confessed that almonds in large quantities gave him an upset stomach, so they’d agreed on smoothies next time for the morning meal.

 

He didn’t know why they couldn’t just have eggs until Ky’ia whispered in his ear that they didn’t have tongues and the last time they tried to cook it had tasted terribly because they didn’t have many taste buds left, so it was best to just drink the shakes or get up even earlier to cook by yourself.

 

Why didn’t they have tongues, anyways? Hisoka seemed too fond of them for him to have taken them. Did it have to do with the operation?

 

Still in a bad mood, Gon banged into the kitchen, only to freeze at the sight of Feitan.

 

The two met eyes and Gon recalled, briefly, Feitan detailing how he would pull out his fingernails.

 

He also remembered bolting the last time he saw him. He couldn’t do that again. It would be embarrassing.

 

So, they both stood there, staring at each other with wide eyes. Feitan was holding a knife. How could he make a plain kitchen knife so deadly?

 

“Did not like their shakes?” Feitan finally asked.

 

“Almonds upset my stomach,” Gon blurted.

 

Feitan blinked.

 

“Why is Nox being loud and mad?”

 

“They don’t like me.”

 

“They do not like me either. I have not made them so mad.”

 

“You must not be trying,” Gon said, before he could stop himself, and Feitan’s grip tightened on the knife. Bad move, Gon.

 

“Were you trying?”

 

“No.”

 

“What they say? They chased me off roof.”

 

“I’m not telling you that!” Gon flushed bright red and Feitan studied him like a bug. Gon wondered if he was going to crush him.

 

“Like apples?”

 

“What?”

 

“Do you like apples?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Feitan reached with his free hand and Gon tensed before he realized he was reaching for the apples in the fruit basket hanging over the sink.

 

“Come wash them.”

 

“I … Okay.”

 

Gon crept over to Feitan, who handed him two apples, and turned back to chopping plums. Gon hadn’t realized that was what he was doing.

 

“Nox likes fruit water. I noticed,” Feitan said shortly. “We eat. Then you take fruit water to help them calm down.”

 

“Are you helping me?” Gon was genuinely confused. Feitan stared at him even as expert fingers chopped the plums, carving out the pits without a glance.

 

“Nox is no good for talking in bad moods. You go get them out of it,” Feitan replied. “Water must infuse for ten minutes. We figure out what you did wrong, I help you fix it, then Nox is not so angry.”

 

“Why don’t you want Nox angry?” Gon couldn’t imagine Feitan caring if anyone was angry.

 

“Because I do not.”

 

Gon stared at Feitan for a good ten seconds as the water ran over his hands, trying to figure out just what was going on there. Troupe members liked troupe members and sometimes prospective members. Feitan liked Nox. Nox was not a troupe member, nor a prospective one. Was this a…?

 

“Do you have a …” Gon’s head caught up to his mouth and he stopped himself right there. Feitan gave him a glare from the pits of hell and Gon realized he had not applied the brakes fast enough. “I’m sorry!”

 

Feitan turned his attention back to the plums, apparently satisfied with how terrified Gon had looked at that moment.

 

“Is Nox …” Gon trailed off, his brain trying to process this, because he had definitely been right, “violent?”

 

“What do you mean by violent?”

 

“Like you,” Gon blurted and then color rushed to his cheeks, knowing what he had implied.

 

Feitan was silent, the plums all without their pits as he readjusted to slicing them. Gon set the washed apples next to him and waited for the reply, hoping that it was coming.

 

“All people are violent in other ways,” Feitan finally said. “You, me, Nox.”

 

“I don’t get it.” He really didn’t. Feitan sighed.

 

“You worry you will learn under someone that kills for pleasure, yes? And that will influence you, hm?”

 

Yes. Yes that was exactly Gon’s worry. He would ask Nox himself, but he’d have to settle with Feitan. Feitan seemed to be the type to study and understand.

 

“Yes.”

 

“You have killed someone,” Feitan said shortly. “Why?”

 

“To avenge my friend,” Gon said, his temper starting to flare up, but fear of Feitan with a knife kept him in check.

 

“Vengeance, yes. Does the dead care once they are dead for vengeance?”

 

“I … I don’t know.”

 

“So why must we do it?”

 

“To honor their memory, of course!” Gon was not good at this.

 

“Does more death honor death?”

 

“I …”

 

“To many, no, it does not. So what is honor to the dead? Is it honor to ourselves, or them?”

 

Gon was single minded, much like Feitan. He could not feel many things at once. Right now, he felt something coming, an ugly emotion building, but he didn’t know what it was. It made him want to cry.

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“To kill to honor the dead is to give yourself closure.” The plum slices and juices were deftly brushed to the side with the flat of the blade. “To feel as though it is done, so they might move in peace, though you do not know if you will. It is to make yourself feel better. Is that not pleasure?”

 

Gon didn’t want to think about this. He had never wanted to think about this, and the fact that Feitan was forcing him to was horrific, because at the back of it all, Feitan scared him more than anyone, and he couldn’t just run away.

 

“I … I guess.”

 

“Then, yes. Nox does kill for pleasure. With Nyx. And Hisoka.”

 

“To honor the dead?” Gon was trying so, so hard to figure this all out.

 

“To have closure, and to avenge the living,” Feitan corrected and lifted a hand to point at the cabinet. “Nox’s bottle is blue one.”

 

Gon reached up to take down the strange looking bottle with some sort of compartment, and Feitan unscrewed the bottom to take out the compartment and fill it with fruit slices.

 

“You understand, yes?”

 

“No. What living? What closure?”

 

“So you understand enough,” Feitan clarified, and Gon let out a huff of air.

 

He knew what Feitan was saying. Judge all you want, but you’re no better than anyone else, so just calm down and accept it. That everyone kills for pleasure, one way or another.

 

“If you think everyone kills for pleasure, then how do you explain why so many people hate you more than anyone else that kills?”

 

Feitan sighed, as if he was explaining something to a child.

 

“Care. Nox is not like me. That is what you were really asking, yes? We are similar, but different, because Nox kills with care. I do not care.”

 

“You care enough to want Nox to not be upset,” Gon pointed out, and now he felt like he was explaining something to a child. “So you care about some things.”

 

Feitan gave him another glare from the depths of hell, and Gon sank back.

 

“I choose when to care. Nox cannot, like Nyx and Hisoka. That is why I care.” Feitan opened the fridge to pull out a pitcher of cold filtered water and fill the bottle to the top before screwing on the lid and setting it in the door to marinate.

 

“Why can you choose to care but not them?”

 

Feitan let the door swing shut and Gon realized he was making him actually think. That felt nice.

 

“Life is shitty. Everyone is wired different. I have lucky wiring. They have lucky wiring, but it is different wiring from me.”

 

“How is their wiring different?”

 

Feitan shrugged.

 

“I do not break. Hisoka is like them. They can break, and do break, but they do not stop moving anyways. They are indestructible in new way.”

 

“So that’s why you like Nox?”

 

“Is why I study Nox,” Feitan corrected with a glare. Yeah, okay. Gon realized, briefly, that Feitan was a human, just like him. A twisted and heavily fucked human, sure, but a human.

 

Fucked. Ha. Ging had hung up on him when he first said the word, and called him back ten minutes later to cuss him out.

 

“They said I ran into adulthood and didn’t want to accept the consequences,” Gon muttered, finally. Feitan had probably “studied” Nox enough to be able to fix Nox’s temper fit, at least.

 

“Ah. Yes. It would upset them,” Feitan said with a hum and washed a third apple, having only used one for the water. He handed Gon it and took a bite of his own. “They had hard life. It is hard for them to accept that someone had a choice.”

 

“I mean, I guessed they would. They run around with Hisoka. I just don’t get it.”

 

“Mmm. They had experience like Chain User, but with more things.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Their clan died and they were … taken somewhere bad when it happened. It took them years to get out of bad place. Is how Hisoka met them. He saved them. Sort of.”

 

“Hisoka saved them?”

 

“Hisoka is complicated person. Is why you’re alive. Danchou likes complicated, sometimes.”

 

Blissfully, the statement went right over Gon’s head, or he would’ve had a headache for days trying to figure out how that happened.

 

“You can’t tell me more?”

 

“No. I cannot.” Another crunch of the apple, and Feitan fixed his gaze out the window, to where Nyx and Ky’ia were still working on that invisible hatsu. “Mmm. Ky’ia is getting better at that.”

 

“What is Ky’ia doing? I can’t see it.”

 

“New hatsu based on their old one. Is a very sneaky one. They make people see … mmm, no …” Feitan muttered something in a foreign language, brows furrowed as if he was trying to find a word, “experience, yes. Experience what they want them to. Is a very delicate hatsu. Too much pressure will give victim headache, too little makes it easy to see through. If Nyx keeps training them, they will be able to do it on many people at once. Do not want to be involved in that training session, no.”

 

Gon’s eyes widened. Even as young and unexperienced still as he was, that was actually a very malicious hatsu.

 

“They … didn’t seem the type,” he said weakly. He thought he’d find comfort in Ky’ia. Apparently not.

 

Feitan glanced at him.

 

“What type?”

 

“The uh …”

 

“Sneaky?”

 

“Cruel.”

 

Feitan tilted his head, considering it.

 

“NGL must have been very hard if you immediately think that ,” he commented. “Most hatsu are not bad. Is just how you use them that is bad. Your hatsu, rock, paper, scissor, yes? With much power, could rip someone right in half. That could be bad.”

 

“Or beat their head in until it’s nothing but brain matter and blood all over your hands and body.”

 

Gon said it. He knew he had said it. Ging had danced around it, pried, pulled back. Gon hadn’t known if it was for his own benefit that he was being so cautious, or Ging’s. There was some degree of guilt in Ging, he knew. Everyone said Ging should have apologized to him. He didn’t see any of it as Ging’s fault, though.

 

Feitan hadn’t responded, and Gon realized he had told Feitan, the killer, the torturer, something he hadn’t even told his own father. His own best friend he couldn’t speak of it to, and Killua had been right there. He’d broken Killua’s heart that day, and he knew it. Killua needed Gon to be good so he could find good in himself, and Gon had failed him on a massive scale. The break had been needed. NGL had made them borderline codependent, Ging said. Breaks were good.

 

“Many times,” Feitan finally said, “adults help children because they know children will do it anyways, on their own, and die. Is why the twins are here. But sometimes, often, adults miscalculate, and make mistakes. Does not mean children are not responsible. Just means failure often is a domino, I think is called.”

 

“Domino effect,” Gon said softly. A gentle correction Feitan did not seem to mind.

 

“You are not very much child anymore,” Feitan said with a hum. “I remember you. I wanted to hurt you. To show you that you are child that needed to go home.”

 

“How old were you when you did that?”

 

“Mmm … Twenty, maybe. I think same age Hisoka was, when he found twins. Maybe twenty one. Not sure. When was York New auction?”

 

“Three years ago.”

 

“Then, yes, twenty. Maybe nineteen. I think feelings about it start at that age, when you want to stop children from being stupid.”

 

Gon had been pretty stupid, in retrospect. He wasn’t sure if it made Feitan more terrifying or less, knowing he’d been acting on some weird protective instinct.

 

It was hard to believe the twins were only three years older than him.

 

“Would you have?”

 

“Yes. Lessons are painful when you play with fire.”

 

More terrifying, then.

 

“You decided to play in wildfire, yes.”

 

“And you didn’t?” Gon hated patronizing.

 

“I decided to be fire instead.”

 

“Do you regret it?”

 

“No.”

 

“Why not?”

 

A weird, unsettling smile twisted Feitan’s lips.

 

“Heroes are not heroes without villain. They are just people, yes?”

 

That was a weird way to look at it. Gon could understand, but he didn’t like it. The thought that he needed these people to keep going, the fact that the life he had chosen wouldn’t exist without them. The fact that he himself would not exist without them. After all, who knew who Ging would have become if he never ran into adversity with a fist and some time to waste? Would he have ever met the woman who carried Gon whose name Gon still didn’t know?

 

Even after everything, Gon wouldn’t change his life for anything. He simply couldn’t imagine spending his days as a fisherman on Whale Island.

 

He really should have just become a Gourmet Hunter. It was a pity he could barely figure out how anything other than salt and pepper worked.

 

“You’re still fucked up,” Gon blurted. Feitan stared at him, as if he couldn’t believe he had the nerve.

 

“So are you.”

 

“Am not!”

 

Gon didn’t like this feeling. The feeling that he could understand someone so different than him, on some level. If you understood something, you could become it. He didn’t like it.

 

He just had to decide to not become the fire.

Chapter Text

Gon snuck out to the roof, cold water bottle in hand. Feitan had instructed him to go to the library and climb out onto the roof via the balcony, as the only other way to get onto the roof was through the window to Machi’s room, and no one wanted to do that.

 

Gon was very good at apologies. In fact, he excelled at them. Being self aware to the degree that he was, he had to be good at them. People make mistakes.

 

In this instance, though, he felt Nox owed him an apology. They seemed to have some kind of unresolved baggage, and Gon didn’t like it when that kind of baggage was taken out on him.

 

Nox was sketching furiously. Deep, dark strokes across the piece of paper before them, seeming to not know what they were drawing. It was some sort of ugly mass, red sharpie cut through dramatically as if Nox wanted to slash it out.

 

It was a long way down to the ground. Gon wasn’t sure he should have come up here.

 

The die was cast. No backing down now.

 

Making sure his steps were loud, Gon approached the black haired twin and sat down next to them. Their marks on the paper didn’t stop. As a peace offering, Gon slid over the water bottle to sit next to Nox, and they finally stilled.

 

Talked to Feitan?

 

“Yes,” Gon admitted and looked out across the forest. He liked the forest, picking out each bird and insect as they spoke. It provided him with a sense of accomplishment, in some ways, that he knew so much. “He was a mess to talk to, but he told me you have a hard life.”

 

Have, not had. Gon could see clearly that whatever had made the twins the way they were wasn’t over yet. He wondered if it had made Hisoka what he was, too.

 

Nox’s hands were silent, but they were also still. They didn’t move from the paper, charcoal stick grasped so tight it could break.

 

“I dunno what made you bitter,” Gon said. “I don’t care. But I don’t regret leaving Whale Island. There’s a lot of things I do regret, but I don’t regret leaving. If I did, it would have all been pointless.”

 

What would be pointless? ” Ah, so Nox was finally speaking. Gon turned to look at them, right in those sad, angry eyes.

 

“The journey,” he replied fiercely. “The friends I made along the way. I was in over my head. A lot of people tried to stop me, and I didn’t listen. But I don’t regret it. Because all of the trauma and pain and all of that bad stuff that happened was worth it. If Killua hadn’t met me, he would have stayed home. If Kurapika hadn’t met Leorio, he wouldn’t have thought he could have a life outside of the eyes. If I hadn’t met Bisky, I wouldn’t have realized that hard work doesn’t have to be about winning, just enjoying the process. And if I hadn’t met Ging, I wouldn’t have known after NGL that it was never about me and my pain, but my friends and their happiness. And that I can’t just throw my life away because my life is important to them , too. So I don’t regret it. You may be right, that I was rushing to adulthood and mad at the consequences, and I dunno what happened to you that made you so mad, but my life is mine and your life is yours, so if you don’t judge me without knowing me, I won’t judge you without knowing you. Deal?”

 

Nox stared at him like he had grown a third head and then tilted back their head to laugh, long and loud.

 

Gon, ” they signed, “ you just answered the question.

 

“Huh?”

 

The question. The reason I asked was because you need to know what drives you. What drives you is seeing other people happy.

 

“Yeah, so what?”

 

Gon, you idiot, Nen is life energy. You have been trying to force it, but to you the most important part is the journey, not the destination. That is a different kind of look on life. You can’t access your Nen because before you were just punching through to use it. You don’t know how to approach it gently.

 

“Gently?” Gon echoed and Nox sighed, finally setting down their sketchbook and charcoal to move to face Gon.

 

Give me your hands.

 

Hesitantly, Gon reached out his hands and Nox took them. Silence passed for a moment as Nox closed their eyes, and then Gon felt it.

 

He hadn’t felt Nen in months. It was a bit of a shock to the system, to feel Nox’s as Nox lent him theirs. It ebbed at the surface, just circulating in his hands. Gon was familiar enough to recognize it as moving in a circle, giving some to Gon before it went back to Nox to be replenished, and then back around again. Nox pulled back after they were sure Gon felt it.

 

Nen is a river in everyone’s bodies. Nyx and I share Nen, because water is meant to be shared. We feed each other. We can exist independently, but we choose to share. Mostly choose. Anyways. I just shared some with you. Could you feel the current?

 

“I … Yes.” It had felt like he dipped his hands in a cool creek. He hadn’t realized those that didn’t have Nen could feel anything but Ren. Wait. Was that Ren?

 

You are trying to break the dam with a tsunami. You need to sit and breathe and break it with cracks. Understand? Gentle, unyielding pressure over time, not a crash and boil. You already crashed. Your body won’t let you do it again.

 

Gon almost understood. Almost.

 

“How do I do that?”

 

The journey is the most important part, yes? No one else can tell you how it will go?

 

“Uh …”

 

Nox sighed again, as if they were beset upon by the world’s loudest fly.

 

I see you are not good with metaphors. I can’t tell you. You have to figure it out for yourself.

 

“But aren’t you supposed to teach me?” This was the worst teacher ever.

 

I am. I am teaching you to understand Nen in a way that is personal to you. I am not you. I can guide you to the door, I can’t open it. So you need to learn how to focus the Nen in your body to act as rivulets. It takes concentration. Careful execution. You need to know your own body better than you know every insect in this forest. I can’t tell you how to do that. No one can.

 

Nox stood up and shoved their art supplies back into their backpack.

 

I CAN tell you that for the foreseeable future you WILL be meditating with earplugs. You will only listen to your own heartbeat. No distractions. We begin the real training tomorrow. You’d best get a good night’s sleep.

 

And, with that, Nox slung their backpack over one shoulder and made their way back to the opposite edge of the roof to slip down to the balcony, leaving Gon alone and flabbergasted.

 

Screw that. He was going to start now.

Chapter Text

Hisoka didn’t know how to slow down. In the aftermath of him agreeing to Chrollo’s terms, he realized that he had a problem.

 

He had never not been doing this. The only times he took breaks was for the twins’ health and training. Chrollo demanding Hisoka remain in the manor off the front lines, off of recon, off of missions, was doomed to backfire.

 

Of course, he could leave. He could very well leave and go back to Heaven’s Arena to pass the time. He could also train the twins some more, though they didn’t need his guidance anymore, and wasn’t that revelation a knife to the chest? Realistically, they didn’t need him at all, and the thought hurt a little. He didn’t just want to be wanted. He needed to be needed. No one else in the world needed him, and no one else really wanted him, with the exception of perhaps …

 

No, that would not do to think about. He had promised himself not to think about it until it was all over, after all.

 

It was in part pride that was compelling him to stay at the manor. The twins had their first students after all, even if both had been kidnapped to get there. It was a big deal in Hisoka’s eyes, watching Nyx in the backyard with Ky’ia, making the little mountain stop and start over and over again. Nyx probably had a headache now.

 

He couldn’t understand why Chrollo wanted him to stay out of it. Hisoka felt like he was being toyed with, and the very concept was deeply unsettling. It was not so long ago, when Hisoka’s secrets were still Hisoka’s, that Hisoka was the one toying with Chrollo. The thought set a knot in his stomach. Chrollo was not one for retribution, he knew, but it felt like this was a lead up to something deeply sadistic.

 

The twins had faith the troupe would see them through, but Hisoka did not share that faith. He was entrusting his life’s work to Chrollo Lucilfer. It was simply inconceivable that Chrollo wouldn’t turn to bite. But what other choice did Hisoka have? Leave the troupe with his secrets, the twins’ secrets, without any way to monitor them, and pray they had enough honor to respect their task?

 

Honor?

 

The Phantom Troupe?

 

They didn’t know what it was.

 

Of course Hisoka liked them. There was no denying that he liked them. They were a mismatched band of misfits, stupidly overpowered and merciless to their core. In another life, he could have been like them. In another life, he and the twins could be just like them. Deciding to be the wildfire, not the tempered, controlled heat. He could see how very easily he and the twins could slip, could form into the very thing they ran from. Uncaring of those too weak to defend themselves, unwilling to do anything to protect anyone that wasn’t theirs. Viewing life as no more important than a stack of bills.

 

Perhaps part of the reason he stayed was because he didn’t want the twins to become too influenced. The twins rarely were able to bond with anyone, and that was something Hisoka deeply regretted. They only had Hisoka, and he knew how dangerously codependent they were. Hisoka leaned on them, they leaned back. As old as their souls were, they were still children to him. They lacked a lot of experience in anything that wasn’t immediately pertaining to their jobs. He could already see how Feitan followed Nox whenever he got the chance, watching, waiting.

 

Nox thought themselves wise in the ways of the heart, but Feitan would drop Nox like an old glove as soon as he got his fill. Nox could get hurt.

 

Or, worse, Feitan would not get bored, and Nox would let Feitan influence them in ways Hisoka didn’t want to deal with.

 

After this was all over, Hisoka knew what his path would become. It would be the one he had stepped onto. Death, destruction, mayhem. Damage sometimes was irreparable, and he would never become the good person he once thought he could be. Killing, manipulating, lying … That was who he was. The burden he bore. He knew what would happen when this all ended. The burden would become a relief. A familiarity, and that was not something he could change. He could play at it, of course. Put on another mask to temper the madness. But that would simply be another mask, a new one, and Hisoka was still Hisoka.

 

At his heart, he was still selfish.

 

He didn’t want to wear a mask anymore.

 

But he still hoped to do something to spare Nox and Nyx from that fate, and instead he had led them into a lion’s den.

 

Worse, he worried that as Feitan may influence Nox, Ky’ia would influence Nyx. He knew them better than he knew himself. Nyx’s eyes were always cold, heartless, but when they had looked at Ky’ia when they handed them that note, whatever it was that saved Ky’ia’s life, those cold eyes were burning with faith.

 

Faith, as Chrollo had noted, could very easily lead to love.

 

And if Ky’ia influenced Nyx as Feitan may influence Nox, the two polarizing personalities that grew could very well result in a schism.

 

Hisoka had never considered that before, that the twins could be separated. The twins could fight in a way that never saved their relationship. Could Nox do it again? Choose Nyx over themselves again? Could Nyx choose Nox over themselves?

 

The thought was unbearable. He couldn’t imagine a world where the twins weren’t together, where they may be separated by love for others.

 

Realistically, he knew he was being dramatic. First loves rarely made it to the finish line. They were held near and dear to your heart, and ultimately given up, because you rarely knew what you needed your first time around. Both relationships, that hadn’t even formed yet, would likely end in fire and brimstone and broken hearts. Feitan and Nox at the least.

 

He hoped Feitan grew bored with Nox.

 

Hisoka didn’t know how to advise them on this. He had once loved someone, but that love had ended in him choosing the mission over himself, and killing his lover when he learned his secret. It was that act that had cemented his fate in a way.

 

He had never spoken of it. And would never speak of it. He couldn’t advise them on this one. It would only lead to his path, and Hisoka had to walk that one alone. If the twins joined him, it would kill him. And them. But mostly him.

 

“I don’t think I’ve ever managed to sneak up on you before.”

 

Chrollo’s voice broke Hisoka’s internal monologue and Hisoka stiffened at the window.

 

“Relish it, because it won’t happen again,” Hisoka promised and Chrollo hummed as he took his place beside him.

 

“Watching them?”

 

“Ky’ia has good Nen control, but they can’t figure out how to properly apply it,” Hisoka stated.

 

“It is a delicate hatsu. Must be hard to make it elaborate.”

 

“Why did you not kill them?” Hisoka blurted. The question had weighed heavily on his mind, the why of it all. He didn’t like not understanding an ally that could so easily turn.

 

Chrollo didn’t reply. Hisoka knew he could have crushed Ky’ia like a bug, spared himself the additional distraction and potential enemy in his house. It would have been easy, just one blow.

 

“They reminded me of someone,” Chrollo finally admitted. “Someone I regretted killing. So I didn’t.”

 

“You don’t seem the type.”

 

“I suppose not. I rarely regret killing anyone.”

 

“Who was it?”

 

Chrollo didn’t reply again. Hisoka needed another angle.

 

“Why did they remind you of them?”

 

“It’s not often someone can stare in the face of death, know they’re powerless, and say no, anyways. I respect that in a person.”

 

“And what do you respect in me?” The question slipped out, unbidden, and Hisoka felt for a moment like a blushing schoolgirl trying to figure out if her crush liked her or not. What strange behavior.

 

“Who said I respected anything about you?” Ah, so now Chrollo was dodging answers. Interesting. Hisoka needed to stay away lest he learn anything else.

 

“You do respect me.” Hisoka didn’t know if that was true. Chrollo respected virtually nothing. But it felt right to say.

 

Chrollo seemed to be searching for an answer. Or waiting to see if Hisoka would squirm, Hisoka wasn’t sure. He would be waiting a long time if the latter was the case. Hisoka only squirmed in sexual glee, thank you kindly, and he looked damn good when he did it.

 

“You know by the world’s standards you’re a broken man, and you don’t care. You do what you want, when you want, regardless of the fact. I’m not sure anyone but a broken man could do what you’ve done. So I respect that.”

 

“So you respect that you can’t break me,” Hisoka supplied and something dangerously close to a smile quirked at the corners of Chrollo’s lips.

 

“I wouldn’t say that. I can break you. I would just have to do it in a way you can’t refuse.”

 

“Prove it, then,” Hisoka purred. Chrollo thought they could fight, then? Hisoka had always been a little suicidal.

 

“Maybe someday,” Chrollo promised, and looked at Hisoka in a strange way. It could almost be akin to how Hisoka looked at prey who could kill him. Predatory, hungry.

 

Something stirred in Hisoka and he licked his lips.

 

“Why not now?”

 

“You and I are both unprepared,” Chrollo said shortly and the moment broke. The strange expression on his face vanished and he made for the door.

 

Hisoka blinked for a moment. What on earth did that mean?

 

Chrollo, meanwhile, was stalking down the hallway, cursing himself for being too forward.

 

Break him? What had possessed him to threaten Hisoka so sexually?

 

It wasn’t that Chrollo didn’t want to, in part, break Hisoka. He had just planned to move slower than this. Hisoka was, as he had observed, an injured cat. The slightest sign would make him shy away from Chrollo, and Chrollo always got what he wanted. This time, though, he couldn’t get it through violence. 

 

It would be easy, he knew that. It would be so easy to break Hisoka, to overpower him, to mold him into a mindless plaything. It would really just take the slightest tap. Hisoka was a conglomeration of broken pieces haphazardly fit together, and if Chrollo found the pressure point to make it all come crashing down, he could make him his. Through force. Through violence.

 

The twins, likely. He could easily arrange and manipulate Hisoka into a situation where he killed the twins. It would be easy to crush him after that, to dominate his will, take over his mind. If Chrollo killed them, Hisoka would simply die himself trying to kill him. It wouldn’t do.

 

He knew how to do it.

 

He just didn’t want Hisoka that way. A broken plaything. Because he wouldn’t truly own Hisoka that way, body and soul. He would just hold the shell of what was left.

 

Chrollo wanted. He had never wanted like this before. Beautiful things had always attracted him, like a moth to flame, but Hisoka wasn’t beautiful. Hisoka was ugly, twisted, a farce of a man, a beast with a heart too large for his chest to hold. A confusing mismatched disaster of pieces and faces and gone beyond the point of recognition and Chrollo loved it.

 

He loved it.

 

He had scarcely come to know who Hisoka truly was for two weeks now and he adored every facet of him.

 

He didn’t want the shell.

 

That being said, he still wanted to make Hisoka dissolve into a quivering mess in his bed.

 

The question that was weighing heavily on his mind now was how did he make Hisoka love him? He understood how Hisoka had come to love the twins. He saw potential in them. In the end, everything about Hisoka was about potential. He saw potential in them, and he saw resolve, and in that he placed his faith. His faith that they wouldn’t die and leave him alone. That, Chrollo could tell, had evolved into Hisoka accepting that while they could die, he couldn’t, simply because he did not want them to live with the fear he did. The fear of loneliness. The fear that once you lost what you loved, you would become a beast.

 

Chrollo could give Hisoka the faith that he wouldn’t die and leave him alone, but ultimately the relationship he craved with Hisoka was very different from the relationship Hisoka had with the twins. Hisoka was selfless in a way with his love for his younger siblings. He needed someone to be selfless for him.

 

Chrollo didn’t have that in his programming.

 

Of course, he could accept his death without question, the idea that the Spider would live on. That wasn’t the issue. He would lay his life down for the Spider if it came to it, and had before. He knew he could do that, but on some level, he understood that that willingness to die was born out of an unwillingness to lose.

 

Death was the ultimate punishment. No punishment was a punishment if you refused to accept it as such. If you did not accept death as a punishment, but as a victory, then you never lost. You were, eternally, the victor.

 

It was a relatively simple way of understanding it.

 

But, even in death, he was selfish.

 

Even Chrollo knew it was selfish to never show remorse, to never make amends.

 

That was why he was doing this now, with the troupe. Taking back his city. Burning the ring down in a cataclysm.

 

But, ultimately, he was powerless in fully making amends, in washing the blood from his hands. So was Hisoka, in a way. Hisoka had killed indiscriminately to get where he wanted. Hundreds of innocent people had died at his hands in order to preserve his carefully crafted persona.

 

Chrollo froze at the door of the library as he realized the answer to the question he had been agonizing over for weeks.

 

Of course.

 

What Hisoka needed was someone who accepted him as the beast he had forged in blood and flame. In the end, he needed exactly what everyone else needed in love: understanding.

 

He likely hid a great many things from the twins. Chrollo was willing to bet there were a lot of horrid deeds Hisoka had done that he never told them about, things he wanted to protect them from, things he couldn’t tell that man Klaus. Because Klaus was a good man, a kind man, likely kept around to provide some sort of anchor to normalcy for the twins. He doubted Hisoka had revealed anything to anyone else.

 

He could reveal them to Chrollo because Chrollo was the beast Hisoka was likely hellbent on preventing the twins from becoming. Chrollo could see their potential, their quiet thirst for blood that not even Hisoka saw, or perhaps refused to. Hisoka had dialed his bloodlust back for the twins. Chrollo saw it the moment he saw the three of them in the library with Hisoka. The murderous intent in his aura was muted, visibly, intentionally. It wasn’t just that he was comfortable with them, or that they soothed his beast, because when he had been watching Nyx train Ky’ia, it was there, like it always was. When Nyx wasn’t watching.

 

Stupid man.

 

As if they didn’t know.

 

Silly, fanciful, self sacrificing man. He was lying to himself. The twins were already on their path to hell. He couldn’t save them.

 

Perhaps that was another way to break him. To show him that even though they only killed when necessary, only killed the lowest of the low, their path was set, and he had shown them the way, and he was deluding himself into thinking he hadn’t.

 

Perhaps Hisoka saw them as his redemption.

 

Chrollo wasn’t a man for redemption. He would show Hisoka that it wasn’t necessary. If Hisoka wanted to kill every villain in the world sans the Spider, Chrollo would show him the way. He would teach him to just let go and let himself enjoy it.

 

When the mission was over, certainly. Hisoka was too fragile right now to even attempt such a thing.

 

His plan forming, like strands of spider silk, Chrollo entered the library.

 

Yes, he would break Hisoka. Or, more accurately, he would break the cocoon Hisoka had cloaked himself in to avoid facing the reality of his situation, of his choices. He was going to set him free.

 

And he would do it gently, kindly, with compassion. Or whatever he could find in himself that was close. Because when Hisoka realized that his redemption was never going to be what he thought it was, he would spiral out of control, and Chrollo couldn’t trust him to find the hand that was outstretched to grasp. He would need a net, and Chrollo would need to secure it in place so he could find where he was meant to land.

 

With Chrollo.

Chapter Text

Nyx liked Ky’ia. In the week they had gotten to know them, they found Ky’ia to be interesting. Nyx was all hard edges, jaded against the world and willing to see the bad in everyone before they deigned to notice the good. That kind of thinking was in part due to the fact that because of the nature of their life, their existence, they couldn’t really grow close to anyone outside of their immediate circle: Klaus, Hisoka, and Nox.

 

Klaus was a good person. It took some pressure from him for Nyx to accept that. He was kind, driven, compassionate, obsessed with his work, compelled by a drive to make everything better for people. He didn’t like the kind of work the Morrows did. He viewed the three of them as something akin to traumatized child soldiers, and while he was right , it took a failed justice system for him to understand why what they did was necessary.

 

When Trask had all charges dropped, to be exact. The twins killed him a month later. Nyx had worried that Klaus would break when Trask walked out of the courtroom and the media exploded into a frenzy, trying to determine just how it had been decided there wasn’t sufficient evidence when it was all right there.

 

No amount of evidence would trump a boatload of money.

 

When Klaus had cried, frustrated and lost, because his proximity to the Morrows had made it so much more personal, Nyx had realized that perhaps genuinely good people did exist, and you didn’t always have to be a terrible person to get the job done.

 

After that, Nyx had found a strange urge to know more good people. Kind people. They liked the idea of someone not being forced into being a bad person because of the environment they found themselves in. Klaus had come from a good home, middle class, comfortable, with a lot of options available to him that the twins had never had. The twins had only ever had Hisoka. At first, Nyx had resented him for it, didn’t want to cooperate. And then Nox pointed out that there was no point to what they were doing if people wouldn’t have the options Klaus had. The end goal was to make an example so big the world would be shaken to the point where they were never able to let something like that happen again.

 

So children would have a chance to grow up and become people like Klaus.

 

Klaus had not seen horror like the twins, hadn’t experienced the worst in humanity like them. He had seen some of the aftermath, of course. That was unavoidable in his line of work. But he hadn’t ever experienced it, and that was why he was able to be so good. Because he was sheltered.

 

So, Ky’ia interested them as a result of that understanding of goodness.

 

Ky’ia had lived hundreds, perhaps thousands of life. It only took a day, they told Nyx once, to retain the memories of someone that lived to eighty five. A day. People that died young took even less time. They had started their training at age ten, so the scope of their understanding was colossal, even being seventeen almost eighteen. And they had most certainly seen the worst of humanity. Their people had a long history, and long histories were always fraught with bloodshed. The reason they were so reclusive was because they had come to the understanding that humanity would never learn, that violence would continue until it fell, and reasoning always fell flat because people were infinitely complex. Nyx had already started them on hand to hand combat training, and it was painfully clear that, yes, Ky’ia had lived the life of a warrior at one point or another. Perhaps multiple times, because any attempt to teach them a clear stance or martial art type resulted in confusion when Ky’ia got mixed up and mashed the wrong things together to end up on the ground again.

 

Ky’ia had seen bloodshed and pain and loss and death. They’d experienced it, in fact. Many, many times. Each life, they told Nyx, was received to the very end, the very last moments. To do otherwise would be a disrespect, even if the people died badly, honorless, terrified, and scared.

 

To be a receiver, they told Nyx, was to understand, to accept everything the dead had to give them, and to love them in spite of it. To be a receiver was to be a beacon of empathy and love and forgiveness.

 

Nyx wasn’t sure how to cope with that.

 

It had been a week since the troupe had left on their respective missions, and Nyx was still confused.

 

Ky’ia was training well, of course. They had the fundamentals of Nen down to a T, it was only a matter of getting them combat ready, for what, Nyx didn’t know. They weren’t sure Ky’ia was someone that could ever engage in real combat, kill someone. Of course, they knew how. There was no doubt that they knew how. But the reason they knew how was because they were meant to forgive killers in spite of it, to understand them, not be them.

 

Their hatsu was more suited to covert operations, anyways.

 

Nyx also was confused about their own reactions to Ky’ia, from even before they had taken them on to train. Something about Ky’ia’s gentle spirit had given Nyx such faith. Faith that gentleness could be a force to be reckoned with, that an easy acceptance that death was natural, normal, but a refusal to believe that it was their time could be the most powerful tool on the planet.

 

They envied Ky’ia, in a way. Nyx could very easily accept their own death, of course. But they could not accept Nox’s as a result, and Nox felt the same way. And neither could accept Hisoka’s spiral in the aftermath. They wanted peace with the duality of their existence. The fear and acceptance. Because death did terrify Nyx. Them accepting their own death would be accepting that as a result, they would effectively murder Nox. Death was very often out of the hands of those that passed. When it came, Nyx knew they could not control the outcome. And yet the two still had sworn they would die together, die in a blaze of glory, because that was how it was meant to be.

 

That didn’t erase the feeling that no matter what, they would not have tried hard enough, and so in effect, they would have murdered Nox. And yet they couldn’t let go, because ultimately if Nox was to be the one that died, which was far more likely, Nyx had every intention of dying with them.

 

Nyx very often did not entertain emotions. Dwelling on what you could not change only served to upset yourself, and when you were upset you were distracted. They couldn’t even recall the last time they had cried. Perhaps the day Hisoka picked them up from the rubble. Nox cried enough for both of them, of course.

 

And so Ky’ia confused them on that point, too. They were young, but so old. They had a mind of their own, a steady acceptance of themselves and their own capabilities, knowledgeable of their own limitations, but able to pace themselves appropriately to overcome them. In the week of their training, their steady nature had enabled them to only give Nyx and Nox headaches on rare occasions. They were methodical, mastering control of their ability at one power level entirely before they moved to the next. Nyx scarcely had to guide them for their unnamed hatsu. On a surface level, they appeared to be very much like Nyx. Dismissive of emotions in the face of adversity, capable of ignoring them to get the job done.

 

And yet …

 

And yet here they were, sitting next to Nyx on their bed, late at night while Nox was busy playing whatever weird game they had going on with Feitan, watching this movie with wide, compassionate eyes.

 

Nyx never turned themselves off. They rarely felt anything more than on the surface level, with the exception of emotions related to their immediate inner circle. This was how it was, to shut off your emotions. They understood that from the moment they put Trask down like a dog. You consolidated. Strong emotions could only be applied in specific situations, and anything else was off limits.

 

They thought that of Ky’ia, too. That Ky’ia simply switched it off, but had somehow managed to remain kind, unlike Nyx. They thought the kindness of Ky’ia was the only thing setting them apart from Nyx, and yet here they were.

 

Crying over an animated film they had never seen, bright tears with their hands clasped over their mouth. Nyx was honestly paying more attention to them than the actual movie. The spectacle was far more interesting.

 

There was a light on in the corner, enough for Ky’ia to read what they wrote. They were coming along in sign, but it had only been a week, and could understand basic training related commands at best. At least they didn’t have to re-understand grammar; they had already informed Nyx the grammar was very similar to their mother tongue.

 

Why are you crying? Nyx wasn’t actually sure what to do. When Nox cried, it was fairly simple. Go make some hot cocoa, throw in some rum Hisoka thought they didn’t drink and would yell at them for doing so if they got caught, and sit with them until they calmed down. Were you supposed to comfort someone over a movie?

 

Ky’ia looked down at the tablet with blurry eyes and smiled through their trembling lips.

 

“Because it’s beautiful,” they said earnestly.

 

Nyx was taken aback. Yes, the art in the movie was beautiful. It was a favorite of Nox’s, all soft pastels and warm undertones. Nox had once declared it to have a “top tier color palette”, whatever that meant.

 

The art?

 

Ky’ia laughed. Laughed right in Nyx’s face, but Nyx couldn’t find the time to be offended.

 

“No. Well. Yes. I’ve never seen a movie before, but I think it’s beautiful. I mean the story.”

 

Nyx blinked. It was a sad story, about a man with a dream of creating airships so people could experience the heavens, but his dream was cut short by a war, and his beautiful designs had to be reimagined for death and destruction. In the midst of it all, his wife, a woman he had rescued at the beginning of the bombs dropping, fell dreadfully ill, and at the end she died in his arms after the war ended, while he was flying with her in the sky. She had wanted to die in the heavens, and he designed the airship expressly to be as beautiful as she deserved.

 

Ky’ia had seen many sad endings, though, with real people. Real lives. Nyx was fairly certain they had seen many bittersweet endings to a lifelong love.

 

Haven’t you seen many endings like this?

 

“Of course,” Ky’ia said and wiped at the tears on their cheeks. “Why?”

 

If you have seen many endings like this, why do you cry?

 

Ky’ia tilted their head as they read it, and then smiled at Nyx. Nyx felt something flutter in their chest.

 

“True beauty is not something you ever get bored with. And besides. It’s nice to know in the outside world, some people do still understand death.”

 

I’m not sure I follow.

 

Ky’ia laughed again, and Nyx, for once, did not feel like the smartest person in the room.

 

“The people that made this movie. They understood that death can be sad, but that beautiful people deserve beautiful, peaceful deaths. And you don’t have to be sad when you go. She was happy, wasn’t she?”

 

I’m not sure a person’s physical attractiveness rates in how well they should die.

 

Ky’ia looked at Nyx like they were the loveliest thing in the world, and Nyx felt an odd sensation: warmth on their cheeks.

 

“I’m not talking about how attractive someone is. I’m talking about their soul, Nyx.”

 

I’m not sure a person can have a beautiful soul. Everyone is good and bad in their own ways.

 

“Just because art is art doesn’t mean it has to be pretty, right? It just has to be honest. Souls are who people are. Not all of them are ‘pretty’. Some of them are horrid. But even the most tormented ones can be beautiful, I think.” Ky’ia did not have a poker face except when under life threatening pressure, and Nyx kind of wished they were under life threatening pressure right then, because the way they were looking at Nyx was making color rise to their cheeks.

 

Nyx was not someone that got ruffled, or thrown off their guard.

 

They were certainly not someone that blushed.

 

Seconds stretched into centuries as Nyx stared into Ky’ia’s deep, compassionate brown eyes. Unbidden, their lips parted, and they were seized by this urge to see how soft Ky’ia’s were.

 

Nyx had never kissed anyone before. Not really. There were many forced ones, but since they were twelve, the thought had never occurred to them that they may enjoy it. Nox, being Nox, had loved the idea of one day kissing someone, just to see how it was, but Nox was always painfully aware of what the two had chosen to miss out on in favor of their own brand of justice. Nyx let them dream for the both of them.

 

It had honestly never occurred to them that they could, in fact, dream on their own.

 

Nyx leaned forward, only slightly, but a knock at the door broke the moment. Nyx sprang away, as if burned, and Ky’ia startled. They almost looked … disappointed?

 

Not waiting for a reply, Hisoka opened the door to survey the scene. He raised an eyebrow and Nyx looked away guiltily. They’d been caught, and Hisoka seemed amused at the fact.

 

“Nyx. Where is Nox?”

 

Don’t know. Avoiding Feitan, probably. Why is everyone here a stalker?

 

“... Are you watching Rising Wind again?”

 

I wanted to show it to Ky’ia. They’ve never seen a movie.

 

“Mmm. Well, start getting your bags together. Nobunaga caught wind of a laundering operation in Myoto on his job, but didn’t have time to chase them down while transporting the Glam Gas hard drives.”

 

Myoto? Nox won’t be happy.

 

“Nox is rarely happy with anything. You’re going with Phinks.”

 

What?

 

Nox and Nyx had never, never teamed up with someone for a mission. They operated perfectly on their own, and Nyx had been certain that even with the team up, that would continue.

 

Hisoka raised a brow at the brief flit of distaste across Nyx’s face.

 

“Nyx, darling, what have I told you?”

 

Actions have consequences ,” Nyx signed begrudgingly after a pregnant pause while Hisoka patiently waited for the reply.

 

“Do try to keep Nox from losing their temper with Phinks. It is a long drive, after all.”

 

A mission with a language barrier to boot will be virtually impossible.

 

“Then isn’t it lovely that you are my man that makes things possible?”

 

With that, Hisoka swept out of the room, leaving Nyx steaming.

 

First of all, they knew exactly what this was. Hisoka was forcing them into a team up to make sure the troupe understood they would all be operating together, and there needed to be a sense of camaraderie despite the barriers in place. After all, three to four months was an impossible amount of time for anyone to become more than a novice at a language. It had taken Hisoka a year alone to be proficient in sign, and that year was spent living with them and learning with them. For a good six months he had barred himself from speaking in anything but sign to become fluent. It had worked, of course, but that was after he had built a base from the ground up. They didn’t have that kind of time, and couldn’t always write on something.

 

Chrollo, perhaps, could become intermediate. He had revealed that he had a standard base for sign, but had left it unused for years. But Chrollo also had genius level intellect, Nyx was fairly sure. Everything he saw he soaked in, and Nyx was convinced he had an eidetic memory. Machi, of course, was trying, too, and Nox had caught Feitan on a number of occasions watching educational videos on it.

 

But the fact of the matter was, when handling delicate operations, a language barrier could throw everything into disarray. There shouldn’t be additional risks. Nox and Nyx wouldn’t have time to just go and write everything down when giving Phinks commands, or communicate with him, when in the middle of trying to not die. The two of them scarcely even signed when on missions. They had merely trained together to the point where they didn’t need to communicate.

 

Hisoka was trusting them to make a point here. That even with a massive language barrier that could not be overcome in the short time they had together, they could all work together seamlessly, or figure out a way to sidestep it.

 

It was a two day drive to Myoto. Whatever was going on with the laundering, they would have to examine the details and figure out how to solve this problem. Why they had to go with Phinks, Nyx had no clue. He was smart, yes, and dependable, perhaps the most dependable member of the troupe. And he was close with everyone, affectionate, knowledgeable of their likes and dislikes, able to read a situation and react fairly quickly.

 

He also carried Kleenex for Feitan’s apparently notorious nosebleeds. Nyx had learned after that the slightest pressure could trigger one, as well as stress, and anger.

 

Something about that knowledge made Nyx settle down. It would be fine.

 

“You’re going on a mission?”

 

Nyx had almost forgotten Ky’ia was here, sitting on their bed. Nyx turned and gave Ky’ia a rare, crooked smile.

 

Yeah. I should be back in a few days.

 

“... With Phinks?”

 

Nox and Nyx had very vigorously sequestered Ky’ia from the troupe the second they arrived. After all, Nyx had a soft spot for Ky’ia, and therefore Nox had a soft spot, and so it made sense to keep Ky’ia away from these legitimately terrible human beings. That also meant Ky’ia didn’t know much of them outside of their time with Kalluto, or their kidnapping from the mountain.

 

Yes, they scrawled on the tablet. It’ll be fine.

 

“...” Ky’ia looked like they wanted to say something. Nyx wasn’t sure they had the bravery to let them do it.

 

We do these all the time. It’ll likely just be observation and tracking where the money goes. No violence.

 

“You’re very good at this, aren’t you?” Ky’ia’s brows were furrowed. Nyx wanted to reach to smooth out that line. They’d get wrinkles.

 

At operations? Yes.

 

“No. At reassuring people that you’ll be fine.”

 

Nyx’s heart fell a little. Yes, yes they were good at it.

 

I do it every day. I’ve never been wrong. You should believe me.

 

“I should have faith you’ll be back to train me?”

 

Another crooked smile twitched at Nyx’s lips.

 

I’ve never not followed through on a mission. I think you’re a wonderful mission. The best one yet.

 

It was true. Ky’ia was a delight to share space with.

 

“The best one?” Ky’ia’s expressive eyes were swimming with emotion. Nyx wanted to drown in them, in a way.

 

Yes. The best.

Chapter Text

Phinks liked the twins. He still didn’t like Hisoka.

 

So, when Chrollo had told him the second he pulled up to the manor, fresh off a new burglary and still trying to come to terms with new revelations, that he was going to be going on a mission with the twins, he felt fairly certain that they could handle it.

 

It was just recon in Myoto. Myoto was a cesspool in his opinion. A luxury getaway for the rich and richer, there was no bigger monopoly on lies and deceit. It was worse than Glam Gas. It was a city set in the mountains, as close to the heavens as it could get, originally founded due to the hot springs there. Over time, it had evolved into a resort city, spreading down from the top to the ground. At the top it was a technological marvel, with floating buildings and bridges and roads suspended in the mist. He had been there many times. There were banks and brothels and hotels and casinos and “museums” with 1,000 jenny admittance fees. The people there collected the rare and awe inspiring.

 

Myoto was particularly well known for its gardens. Set at high elevations, they crossbred the plants that were brought in from across the world to make them hardier, more colorful, more vibrant. Rumor had it Zoldycks procured their poisons from some of these florists. Garden owners poured millions of jenny into universities and botany programs and selected their best and brightest to come work for them. It was a botanist’s dream come true to go work in Myoto.

 

Myoto was artistic, so Phinks could not understand for the life of him why Nox was simply bleeding off irritation and outrage at having to go there. They were driving the car, leaving Nyx in the backseat with Phinks, so it was easier for them to explain the details of the operation to him. Phinks had thought this would be a lovely opportunity for Nox, the little artist they were, to study the rarities Myoto collected. It was a pity they had a job to do. Phinks would have loved to rob a museum in the meantime. There was a rare piece, the emerald of Kazshyyk, a heavy medallion lost to time, being displayed at one of the more prominent museums. He wanted to get his hands on it, but alas, they had to be responsible.

 

“So what are we going to be doing?” He finally asked, finding it necessary to break the silence. He wouldn’t ask why the fuck Gon Freecs was at the manor. Not yet, anyways.

 

Nyx already had their tablet ready.

 

Nobunaga got wind of a laundering operation while passing through. At a bar, specifically, where large cash payments can be matched to records easily. He didn’t have time to track down where it was going, but we think it’s a florist shop. The bar is called the Fleur Lux, and it’s more of a cocktail lounge. It’s known for having “organic art”, where basically the building is designed to be an independent ecosystem. A jungle garden, to be exact. If you pay a premium they can actually drug your drinks for you. They grow rare plants behind the counter that have very potent properties, including aphrodisiacs. There’s rooms above where you can basically have drugged up sex, and pay more to gas the room as a whole.

 

“Is that even legal?” Myoto was a strange place of pleasure and villainy, but this seemed extremely off to him.

 

Mostly. You have to sign consent forms, and you can’t just buy someone a drink and have it drugged. The rooms are a bit more tricky, so they pay a lot of money to keep people hushed up about it.

 

“Hm.” He wasn’t sure what to make of all of this. Of course, he’d done reconnaissance before. That was easy. He had never applied that kind of knowledge to breaking up a laundering operation before.

 

At some point it has to be digitized, though. That’s where we come in. We figure out which florist is receiving the money and how, so far we believe there are three of them, and figure out how to hack their accounts to determine where it’s going. It shouldn’t take more than a week.

 

“So where do I factor into all of this?”

 

Nox and I stand out in a crowd. Our disability brings more notice to us. Your job is to go into the bar and observe for a few days, at varying times. A lot of people pass through Myoto to meet someone, and the bar attracts, well, criminals. Known ones. Which is also why it has so many legitimate cash payments. Police in Myoto are extremely corrupt and easy to buy off, so no one will bother you. You’re going to play like you got stood up by a contact after a few days of waiting. By that time you should be able to observe which florist it is. The most telling sign is that they leave with bags they don’t come in with, or their bags are notably larger than before. If we can’t catch them after three days, our second option is going to be that we break in and examine their records to find contractor receipts with discrepancies, like noticeably larger payments for services rendered than with other florist shops, or specialty payments for services they don’t offer or plants they don’t have. Option two carries substantially more risk, so we are banking on you to not fuck up the first.

 

Phinks snorted. It wasn’t so long ago that he was waylaying people who were carrying obvious amounts of money. He could spot a duffle bag stuffed with cash a mile away.

 

“Yeah, I’m not going to be fucking it up. Spotting money is my superpower, kid.”

 

Nyx rolled their eyes.

 

And you have to actually dress like you don’t want to get caught. No pharaoh robes or tracksuit. Jeans and a t-shirt.

 

Well that was disappointing, but understandable. If he was playing at meeting a contact, he had to actually appear like he was meeting a contact. What contact would want to meet with a troupe member that was so obviously a troupe member?

 

Hisoka, probably.

 

He still didn’t like Hisoka, but the twins were pretty neat.

 

Even if Nox was still evidently pissed and taking turns way too sharp.

 

“Why is Nox so …” He was whispering. Nox had headphones in, and Phinks could hear the heavy metal blasting from the back seat, so he wasn’t sure why he was whispering.

 

Feitan.

 

Ah. Yes, Feitan having crushes resulted in some unpleasant feelings most of the time. It didn’t take rocket science for Phinks to tell Feitan was developing a crush on Nox, and Nox was likely irritated that Feitan was disrespectful enough to play at being a lovesick puppy. They were probably sharp enough to see through that eventually.

 

“Oh. Yeah. That would do it.”

 

He waited for them to get out of the shower to tell them he liked their shampoo.

 

“... Was he waiting in or out of the bathroom?”

 

Out. It would be much worse if he was in the bathroom.

 

Phinks had once tried to teach Feitan to not be so creepy when it came to any obsession, but Feitan was in a lot of ways like a stubborn child, willing to throw a fit at the slightest provocation. So it had not gone over well. In fact, Phinks had almost worked his way onto the receiving end of Pain Packer.

 

Feitan was very determined to remain creepy and single.

 

“I just thought they either didn’t like doing a mission with me, or they were mad they had to go to Myoto.”

 

Oh, no, I’M mad I have to do a mission with you. I think it’s stupid to have to run a delicate operation with someone who can’t even really speak to us, even if it’s to make a point. And they are also mad about Myoto.

 

Oh. Wow. Phinks had thought himself a perceptive sort, but he hadn’t even picked up on Nyx’s irritation. He would have to watch it, apparently.

 

“Why are they mad about Myoto?”

 

They have very strong opinions on art remaining inaccessible to the poor.

 

Oh, right. He’d forgotten they all had some kind of weird, fucked up white knight syndrome. Some people actually cared about that sort of thing.

 

We also dislike rich people , Nyx added as an afterthought. Phinks raised a brow, and then braced himself as Nox took a particularly vicious turn. He would have honestly preferred Nyx behind the wheel at this point.

 

“Hisoka racks in thousands, if not millions of jenny per job.”

 

Yes. Do you think running a ten year operation like this is cheap? We have no financial support. We don’t even know which Zodiac sanctioned it.

 

Not to mention their medical bills were likely astronomical, in hindsight. Rich was a matter of opinion, in a way. It was about how you spent it.

 

“So you don’t like greedy, immoral people,” he supplied, a hint of amusement tinting his tone because look who they agreed to lay in bed with.

 

Yes. But also because most rich people treat us like we’re contagious.

 

Ah. Right. The twins appeared to be middle class to the casual onlooker at best, devoid of any signifiers of wealth aside from the opal necklaces they wore that weren’t exactly expensive, either, from the casual glance. The necklaces being the last remaining Gemini craftsmanship may up the value, but literally no one could tell without knowledge of the twins’ history. If there was anything a rich person hated more than someone who wasn’t rich, it was a disabled non rich person. Though, in hindsight, given that they likely relied on Hisoka for income, looking middle class was a deliberate choice. If Phinks saw them on the street, he would assume they were some odd looking twins, not poor enough to be recognizable as being anywhere they didn’t “belong”, but not rich enough to even bother pickpocketing. Forgettable.

 

“Yeah, they can be dicks like that.” He wasn’t sure what else to say.

 

Nyx apparently decided the conversation was over, because they clicked off the tablet and slid it back into their bag. They leaned their head against the window, and Phinks had the feeling that it was time for him to make himself small.

 

Phinks enjoyed studying people. While some would say he wasn’t particularly bright, in all actuality he was quite smart, just a down to earth sort of guy. He had a temper, of course, and he knew that. Insults were not forgotten lightly, like with many troupe members. He very often killed without provocation, or reason, but he was a vital member of the troupe because he had some degree of empathy, and protective instincts from time to time. Strong young ones very often caused a mother bear feeling in his chest. He was brash, of course, and not precisely gentle, but he could be a roaring beast when it came to protect the troupe’s youngest. Feitan and Shalnark had to tell him many times to back off and leave them be.

 

It was a pity, really, for the twins. After all of this, the odds were very much stacked against them. They would likely never join the troupe. That much he could see. But they had been accepted in, for the most part, on Chrollo’s orders, and those orders would expire once it was all said and done.

 

He wouldn’t put it past some members to turn it into open season on the Morrows. Feitan’s crush would dissipate over time, so offending him in intervening with his prey wouldn’t be a problem. Hell, he may kill Nox, and therefore Nyx, himself. The spiders did as they pleased when there wasn’t a job to do. Hunting such fun prey would be a joyride to them.

 

They were so young, but he had a feeling that once this job was done, they would likely lose all purpose, anyways. He couldn’t really see a future option.

 

He still wouldn’t participate in the inevitable hunt.

 

He kind of liked them, and that empathy was coming back to bite him in the ass, because the troupe, while not directly responsible for the hell their life had become, still enabled Uvogin to do what he did.

 

Coming to terms with that over the eight days he had been gone had been rough. He hadn’t liked it in the slightest. The elders of the city were useless sycophants, but he loved his city, in his own way. They had failed the city, too, and the guilt of that revelation had bled over into his views of the Morrows. To think that Hisoka had been cleaning up their mess all these years, and the twins with him. To think Hisoka had in a way cleaned up their mess that was the twins.

 

There was no doubt in Phinks’ mind that without that grounding from Hisoka, the twins’ obsession would have turned to them and the ring at the same time. Perhaps he hadn’t guided them in the decision to view the troupe with apathy, but his influence was undeniable. He saw it all over them, in the way they balanced on this tightrope that was their life. The way they caught on the second anyone’s aura shifted, the way their bodies tensed just slightly and their eyes narrowed. The way Nyx approached anything with cold precision, like a viper prepared to strike, the way Hisoka looked just before he delivered the killing blow.

 

He didn’t know too much about them, of course. Not yet. This mission was likely going to reveal more to him.

 

But from what he saw so far, he liked.

 

And the guilt that Hisoka had been the one to clean up their mess and they hadn’t even known was enough to make Phinks dislike him even more.

 

Phinks liked people he could read, understand. Hisoka, in the time that he had been at the manor and not quarantined to Chrollo’s room, shifted so quickly and effortlessly between masks that Phinks couldn’t help but distrust him. He didn’t like to feel a debt to someone he couldn’t read. It was dangerous. One moment Hisoka was preening and prancing, sexual and lewd and oozing death and chaos, and the next he was calm and complacent and cool. And then when he first saw the twins, how he looked out of his depth, unable to cope with their presence while they examined him for injuries. How he couldn’t manage to bring up a mask, how Phinks could tell it wasn’t out of shock, but to really reassure them that he was okay.

 

Phinks caught a glimpse of that scathing sarcasm and eloquent tongue and that relaxed posture and those natural, unrehearsed movements, and he was sure that it wasn’t a mask. That it was as close as he could get to being normal. He hadn’t liked that, the thought that Hisoka could love something.

 

Hisoka was already deadly when he was selfish.

 

Phinks didn’t want to contemplate what he could be when he wasn’t.

 

If one troupe member stepped out of line with the twins, he wasn’t confident Hisoka couldn’t take down as many as he could before they managed to put him down.

 

So, no, he didn’t like Hisoka. The twins had experience, sure, but in the end it paled in comparison to the troupe. If they lost it, despite being able to draw Feitan’s blood, any of them, with the exception of maybe Kalluto could put them down.

 

Hisoka was different. Hisoka was a real threat.

 

It was a pity, really. They would make excellent Spiders, if the troupe could just learn to talk to them.

 

They would be reaching the hotel soon. Hisoka had insisted on it. Phinks was sure he didn’t like the idea of him sleeping in such close quarters to them. Hisoka had shoved a whole list of do’s and don’t’s at him before they left, with a thinly veiled warning that he would ignore the truce should Phinks choose to ignore the list. It was almost endearing.

 

 

  • Do not offer them food. They can only consume liquids, and sometimes soft foods.
  • If they vomit for any reason, make sure they don’t choke. It’s very difficult to vomit without a tongue.
  • They have to sleep at the same time, so you WILL be the only one on guard, should the need arise to have one.
  • Under no circumstances will you be the cause of them missing their medication doses. Attached is a schedule.

 

 

Phinks had read over the list and schedule, and had the feeling he was practically a parent taking someone else’s kids for a weekend getaway. It was a very uncomfortable feeling.

 

“You’re kidding,” he had said, and Hisoka gave him that trademark, hungry smile.

 

“Do you really want to find out if I am?” Hisoka had replied and ran a finger down Phinks’ cheek.

 

Uncomfortable. This entire thing was hilariously uncomfortable. Hisoka was having some kind of meltdown, and being away from that meltdown only made Phinks more uneasy.

 

Nyx had pulled out the tablet again.

 

Did he give you a list?

 

“Yes,” Phinks muttered.

 

Sorry. The “sorry” was accompanied with a fist on the chest, moving in circles, and Phinks realized they were taking this opportunity to teach him little things. We’ve never worked with someone else before. He’s losing it.

 

“That means you think he hasn’t already lost it.”

 

Nyx snorted a little at that.

 

He forgets we’re 18 sometimes. He’s kind of been our primary caregiver since he found us, so sometimes he forgets we can handle ourselves with another person.

 

“Would he really try to kill me if he thought I’d harmed you?”

 

Yes. He’s still selfish.

 

Odd, really, that they viewed that sort of behavior as selfish.

 

“Why do you say selfish?”

 

Nyx tapped the end of their stylus on the tablet as they thought of a reply.

 

If he tried to kill you, he would be putting us over the mission. But he knows all we care about is the mission. So it would be selfish, because he would ultimately be putting his feelings over our own. He tends to do it a lot.

 

“And you’re fine with that?”

 

We work stuff out in our own way.

 

“I’m in no position to judge, but it seems like you guys don’t actually work anything out, just let it lay.” This was what Phinks couldn’t figure out. At his core, Hisoka was deeply, irredeemably selfish and cruel. Continuing this quest for ten years was at odds with everything he understood of Hisoka. Hisoka would have abandoned it at some point or another. It was hopeless. He’d been briefed on the scatter effect by Chrollo, how a slip up would make it all fall apart. Hisoka had likely seen that scatter effect multiple times. Even now, a slip up would make this team up fall apart. And despite how close the Morrows claimed they were, it was all very far away.

 

It was like walking on a tightrope.

 

We can work stuff out when we’re done.

 

Phinks didn’t reply. He knew these kinds of people, the kind that were never really done. He wondered what was going to happen to their dynamic when they finished this mission and realized that it was never going to be enough . They would always need more, more, more. He had killed plenty of these people, the kind that defeated their own personal evil and went on a crusade to kill the rest in an effort to lay their own souls to rest. They always ended up back at the troupe, or the mafia, or someone else. It was never over. Phinks pitied them, when he put them down. They were the kind of people whose souls never rested.

 

He doubted therapy and psychiatrists would give the twins that kind of peace. And as for Hisoka … Hisoka was a restless soul, anyways. He probably thought the twins redeemable because he already accepted that he wasn’t. Perhaps that was why he was so obsessively protective of them. In their redemption he found his own.

 

It was a pity. The Morrows were lost before they began.

Chapter Text

Myoto smelled like heaven, of turned earth and evergreen and the slightest hints of wildflowers. It was built as a monument to the heavens, with glass bridges stretching over each other, towering above the heads of the people below. Over the centuries, it had devolved into sections. The uppermost section was where buildings floated, a pinnacle of technological achievement, attached by the glass bridges as they hummed in the sky. Museums, floating, literally floating gardens, mansions, casinos, resorts, and hotels, all balanced in a precarious tetris formation. The second section was the cafes and arcades and restaurants in the trees. Bars, art galleries, hostels, and the like, taking over the top half of the mountain. The planning had been precise, letting the buildings blend in seamlessly with their surroundings, to give the illusion that the ecosystem had not been irreparably changed by the advance of humanity. Most of it, nowadays, was artificial and controlled by humans. Environmental scientists were paid thousands of jenny to maintain the dreamlike illusion that Myoto claimed.

 

As the city grew down towards the ground, so did the people. At the base of the mountain were farmers and dreamers. Myoto attracted people with dreams of being the richest and seediest. The tricksters who kept the world running and reaped all of the benefits. Towards the base of the mountain were the criminals, the grunts who made everything work for their bosses at the top, waiting on jobs from the ethereal hosts.

 

The three of them wouldn’t be spending much time in the bottom half, nor in the top. The bar was in the second half, and the thought of approaching it had Phinks nervous.

 

He had procured a number of items for these museums, whose benefactors often cleaned up his mess. Most of the troupe had dealings with Myoto, and Phinks was known enough in this city that even three years after his “death”, he could be easily recognized.

 

Which didn’t really matter, of course. Most people in the underworld had knowledge of the troupe’s survival, even applauded their underhanded switch. Most. Others were still very mad, because the troupe didn’t “know its place”. The Spider stole for them, to them. Not from them. Part of the entire reason for the auction was to cement the understanding that no: the Spider did as the Spider pleased. You could not control the Spider.

 

In short, the mafia and the businessmen and the criminals of the world had gotten complacent. They didn’t know their place.

 

Normally, this would not have bothered Phinks, walking into the lion’s den like this.

 

But …

 

The twins were next to him, silent and observing. Tense. He wondered just how much experience they even had just existing in public. Likely not much. They were far too prepared for someone to spring out at any moment.

 

“We got here pretty late,” Phinks said, deciding to take charge of the situation. “We should go to the hotel.”

 

No, we should start now , Nyx wrote and shoved the pad up at his face, as if he couldn’t read from there.

 

“The bar will be too busy this time of night for any florists to work,” Phinks reminded them. “It would be pointless, and we all need sleep.”

 

The twins had gotten a bare two hours on their layover. He hadn’t realized how much their pelvises must pain them until they fell asleep, and started tossing and turning the second they slipped unconscious. He could practically smell the discomfort, and another presence that wasn’t their immediate inner circle only made it worse. They hadn’t risked taking the ambien with him around. He could understand. He wouldn’t take an ambien either.

 

Why they refused the cure, he couldn’t figure out. The concept of being so loyal to something that was dead was utterly pointless to him. Especially when they had to sacrifice something so basic to bodily functions as sleep for it. Not to mention how painful it had to be to walk around on shattered pelvises every day, stabilized or not. It was foolish, really.

 

Sentimentality was a strange thing indeed.

 

The twins seemed to agree with him without bothering to tell him they had agreed with him, because they changed directions back towards the hotel without a word.

 

Really, it was a pity Nox was too stuffy about morals to enjoy this lovely city. Phinks rather liked the hanging lights strung along the streets, the cute little ramen shops and street vendors hawking their wares. Myoto was a lovely city at night. He enjoyed the few excursions he had made here.

 

The hotel they were set up in was a rather high end one, to preserve Phinks’ cover as being Phinks. It was designed to emulate an aquarium effect, with each room filled with its own kinds of fish. Phinks being Phinks had picked a room with deep sea monsters. He liked their jagged teeth and sightless eyes and the overall ugly appeal.

 

The twins, once they entered the two bed suite, did not share his delight at the ugly things.

 

Did it have to be this room? Nox looked rather disgusted.

 

“Yes. I like them.”

 

They’re looking at me. Nox, of course, was the complainer. Of course it was Nox.

 

“Nonsense. They’re blind.”

 

They’re definitely looking at me.

 

Nyx signed something, rapid fire, at Nox, and Phinks guessed it was along the lines of “shut up and get your shake out”. They hadn’t eaten yet, despite Phinks offering to buy them a yogurt, which was met with “vocal” disdain from Nox and quiet disdain from Nyx. He still couldn’t figure out how they got the right amount of nutrients from a steady stream of disgusting shakes. Maybe that was why they were so tiny.

 

So the two sat on the bed with their blender bottles and shook up their dinner, leaving Phinks to his own devices while they sucked them down. The first thing he did while they ate was check for bugs, and then check the water pressure in the shower. Water pressure was very important.

 

“You know,” he called from the bathroom as he fiddled with the nozzle, “if you’re going to tell me I have to look ‘less like me’, you two have to look less conspicuous, too. Do you ever wear different clothes?”

 

Why he was talking to them when they couldn’t respond, he didn’t know, but Phinks was chatty. He knew what the response was going to be anyways. “We’re not the undercover ones, Phinks.” “People won’t even see us, Phinks.” As if people hadn’t already seen them. Next thing he knew there were going to be theories on the Hunter sites that he had a goddamn twincest kink. Really, they shouldn’t have all gone together. This was a bad idea.

 

“Actually, why do you even bother wearing the same outfits when you have different hair?” He continued without a care in the world. The water pressure was a tad too much, but it would do. Hotels always had the worst shower pressure. “Kinda weird. I guess it makes for good cinematics.”

 

There was an audible sigh from the other room. He was fairly sure that was Nyx. It had the “this idiot won’t stop banging his head against a brick wall” quality.

 

Wait until Nyx learned he actually could break a brick wall with his head.

 

Then they would understand.

 

“For the record, I know you’re both pissed to have to work with me, but I’m pretty bummed, too. Don’t they say misery loves company?”

 

He finally reentered the bedroom to find Nox taking careful inventory of their bag, and Jesus, did anyone need that many pocket knives? Nyx themselves were on their laptop, shake half consumed and sitting on the bedside table. Phinks opted to flop next to them, away from the plethora of sharp objects on his bed. Nyx had apparently already managed to hack the city’s CCTV network. Nice.

 

“You should finish your meal,” Phinks cautioned and Nyx gave them a stink eye to rival Feitan’s before pulling up a notebook app to take over a portion of the screen.

 

Or what, you’ll force feed me yogurt?

 

“Aw, see, you aren’t always an ice queen!”

 

Nyx sighed again and deliberately reached over to take another sip of the protein shake before setting it aside again to continue searching for optimal CCTV footage of the bar.

 

You have experience wearing a wire right?

 

“Yes.”

 

Good, because you’re wearing one tomorrow.

 

“So, since the whole reason we’re being forced to work together is to learn how to get along, tell me. What are you gonna do when you’re done?”

 

Nyx gave him a side eye and continued scrolling through footage until they finally, finally found the bar. Phinks didn’t understand why everyone insisted on a cloud network nowadays. It was so easy to hack. You didn’t even have to get to servers anymore. Such a security risk. Well. At least he was right. There was a steady stream of traffic in and out of the bar.

 

“Not talking then? Hm. Or do you just not know what you’ll do?”

 

Having too many hopes at once leads to distractions , Nyx finally responded.

 

“Mmm. Very single minded of you.”

 

Don’t patronize. It’s aggravating.

 

“I am a very aggravating person.”

 

… So who won?

 

“What?”

 

You sent the video of the sparring match to the group chat. There’s no way everyone didn’t start arguing about who won.

 

Phinks barked out a harsh laugh.

 

“A full week and you’re still dwelling on that? Nox did.”

 

Nyx snorted and a tiny self satisfied smile hit their lips.

 

I thought Feitan did. Nox got mad at me.

 

“Hm? Why’s that?”

 

Well, he beat himself and Nox in one go. That’s a win to me. And a difficult one.

 

Phinks laughed again.

 

“You know, if you weren’t the way you were, I’d say you should join the troupe.”

 

Nyx’s hands stilled on the keyboard. Whoops. Phinks had hit a nerve.

 

The way that I am?

 

“Yeah. Possibly codependent, twisted sense of morals, more of an antihero than a full on villain. People like you don’t change. Not in your wiring. It’s a pity, really. I bet the troupe would love you.”

 

Everyone has a twisted sense of morality.

 

“Yeah, but we don’t care.”

 

But you do. Otherwise you wouldn’t give a fuck about your city.

 

That was true, he supposed. They did rather selectively apply morality where it benefited them.

 

“Like I said. Wired differently. The only caring allowed is for each other and the city.”

 

Nox was listening, he could tell from the little cock of their head. He still hadn’t gotten a whole lot out of them, which was confusing, as they had initially presented themselves to the troupe as the one to talk to. Maybe Nyx took point on missions. It was likely. That or when they were in a mood they just didn’t talk to anyone, which was also likely.

 

We should go to bed , Nyx finally typed out. Phinks got the feeling that he was going to get ordered around a lot for these next few days by a teenager. Disappointing.

 

“You guys can take your ambien. I’m not going to murder you in your sleep,” he said casually and Nyx once again treated him to a side eye.

 

How do you know about the ambien?

 

“Hisoka gave me your medication schedule.”

 

A long, low groan came from the floor, where Nox had moved to continue their inventory. Was that embarrassment?

 

“He’d make a good mom,” Phinks joked and Nyx looked horrified for the briefest of moments.

 

He absolutely would not.

 

“Why do you say that?”

 

He once bungee gummed us to a tree and left us there for six hours.

 

Actually, that seemed on brand. Phinks shrugged.

 

“Tough love.”

 

He forgot he left us there.

 

“Mistakes happen.”

 

We were fourteen.

 

“So not young enough to die from it.”

 

You would also make a bad mom.

 

“I carry kleenex for Feitan.”

 

The point stands.

 

“Take your meds and go to bed.”

 

Nox signed something at him that seemed very close to “fuck you”, but Nyx glared at them and it seemed whatever argument they were about to have was settled. Phinks wondered, for perhaps the third time, if they were going to get out of this alive.

Chapter Text

With the absence of the twins for the foreseeable future, it fell to Hisoka to babysit their captives.

 

Ky’ia was easy to teach. Which was honestly a relief. Because Gon … Gon was a literal nightmare incarnate. It almost reminded Hisoka of how it had been to teach the twins, Nyx easy to correct and coach, with Nox stubbornly butting heads at every turn.

 

Which was why Gon was left upside down and bungee gummed to a tree while Ky’ia was left to work on their Ten. Hisoka was not a great teacher.

 

“He’s going to have blood pooling in his head at this rate.” There was Chrollo, Hisoka’s ever present shadow, speaking behind him.

 

“I’m watching him. He’ll survive,” Hisoka said mildly as Gon screamed out another expletive from the tree beneath the library. Hisoka passively switched to another tab. He needed to go back to Heaven’s Arena soon to resecure his spot. “Goodness, Ging gave him a filthy mouth.”

 

Chrollo stopped before him as Hisoka scrolled aimlessly through the page before him.

 

“I would have thought you to be a better teacher.”

 

“I don’t have the patience anymore. He’ll calm down.”

 

Hisoka couldn’t work out his feelings about Chrollo’s ever growing presence. The way he acted towards him, the way he spoke, the things he said … It all put Hisoka on his guard. Mainly because it made him want to drop his guard. He felt like Chrollo was this building pressure against him, steady, deceptively gentle, and he didn’t like it.

 

He understood Chrollo. Chrollo always got what he wanted, and it was his strength that ensured his confidence in that. He was always perfectly poised, unwavering, unbending against the force of the world.

 

Chrollo endured. He didn’t have to break to be reborn, didn’t have to shatter to survive. Hisoka hated him for it.

 

Realistically speaking, Chrollo was devoid of empathy, and that was partially by choice. He didn’t have to understand people, and therefore he didn’t want to. When you had the kind of strength Chrollo had, of mind and Nen, you didn’t need to empathize with other people, because, admittedly, without any conceit or arrogance factoring in, other people were beneath you. And when you did empathize, you had to expect them to strive to be like you.

 

That was why the troupe worked. Chrollo provided the example, and they all followed him into a blaze of glory.

 

Hisoka was not one that followed, nor was he one that led. Even with the twins, there was no real leader in their family. To the world, sure, their dynamic may be seen as Hisoka as the leader, but in reality they were their own little clock. Gears all clacking against each other. None of them led, none of them followed. They all operated independently, but as one. Of course, he had seniority. He could tell them what to do, and he did, but when it really mattered, they all worked as one. And they’d tell him what to do, too. It was all give and take. They all operated like Hisoka: free and ultimately only beholden to each other.

 

Chrollo simply couldn’t understand such a dynamic. Few people could.

 

To Chrollo, he was a man that allowed himself to be broken. And so Chrollo should look at him with contempt, because how could such a force of nature as Chrollo understand that in brokenness there was strength ? In allowing himself to be broken, Hisoka had allowed himself to have power , power as unstable and unpredictable as him. And he liked it that way. The chaos. The rush.

 

Chrollo was a man of order. Not chaos.

 

He could never respect Hisoka. So Hisoka couldn’t understand why he seemed to be trying.

 

“You haven’t left yet,” Hisoka said mildly, after it seemed that Chrollo would only continue to stand there. Gon had stopped screaming, at least. An improvement. Maybe he was meditating. Perhaps the blood rush would knock some sense into that hard head.

 

“This is my library.”

 

“I mean you haven’t left to go take a job or steal something,” Hisoka said. His voice was sharper than intended. A mistake. “It’s getting close to a month since you brought me here. Surely you must be restless, hm?”

 

“This is my manor.” Short answers. Hisoka detested how difficult it was to dance Chrollo into a revelation.

 

“I thought you were more free spirited than that,” Hisoka purred and finally tore his attention from his emails to look up at Chrollo. Passive. No emotion on his face, in his body language. The longer Hisoka was here, the more he was driven to kill.

 

“What I want is here. For now,” Chrollo replied shortly and took a seat in the armchair across from Hisoka to pull out a book. “Is there any new chatter?”

 

“Ah, yes. Business as always,” Hisoka teased and looked back down to his screen. There was an email there, an invitation he wanted to ignore. “I’ve been invited to a gala. Several bosses will be there.”

 

“I wasn’t aware you were so high up in the organization that you would be invited to these things.”

 

“I have my connections.” The admission twisted in his gut. He felt ugly for saying it.

 

“You know, it has concerned me lately.” Chrollo flipped a page of his book and Hisoka’s fingers tensed on the keyboard, ready to strike. “The twins are not allowed to do what you do for a variety of reasons, but the major one is that they will be recognized. You went on a killing spree, did you not? For four years, if I am correct.”

 

“I did,” Hisoka replied coolly. Chrollo looked up at him.

 

“I find it difficult to believe that you managed to hide that for ten years, and were welcomed back without a thought.”

 

Bile twisted in Hisoka’s throat. He didn’t want to talk about these things. Not yet. He was never ready to face the truth.

 

“I had my ways of ensuring their trust.”

 

“Did you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And it’s something you won’t speak about?”

 

“I will not.”

 

The book clapped shut and Chrollo leaned forward, eyes fixed with Hisoka’s. Soulless. Hisoka forgot this man didn’t have a soul.

 

“I am entrusting you with the lives of my troupe, Hisoka.” Hisoka couldn’t look away. Black eyes were sucking him in. “I would like to know the truth.”

 

Hisoka knew what this looked like. Earning the trust of the ring? To someone with Chrollo’s mind, his brain would automatically jump to Hisoka “proving” himself, or, worse, operating as a turncoat for some unknown reason. Hisoka had spun enough lies that took a literal telepath to break through to the truth. So it was possible that something was missing. And he would be right in some aspects. Hisoka had “proven” himself, though not in the way Chrollo likely suspected. He himself had killed a variety of Hunters clumsily pawing around in an effort to dismantle the ring. Hisoka didn’t regret the deaths. They were necessary, because the ring could never be dismantled by anyone who wasn’t willing to take the fall like he was. When the full truth came out, it would become very clear that Hisoka truly did belong in prison.

 

Hisoka had never raped a child, though.

 

“The truth is I had a protection, of some sort,” Hisoka finally said. “A boss in the ring is invested in me. I will not say anything more than that.”

 

For a brief moment, he realized his eyes were saying what he could not: please don’t make me say anything more. The mask slammed right back into place, in the hopes that Chrollo hadn’t noticed anything beyond the promise of death.

 

Chrollo noticed. Hisoka saw it in his body language, the way he saw it when Hisoka screamed at him, accused him of making a mockery of his life. It felt like ages ago. That discomfort, brief, fleeting, the way he shifted back, out of Hisoka’s face, like he was calming a scared cat. The mercy.

 

Hisoka wished he’d stop being merciful. He was sick of the games, but he wouldn’t say it.

 

“Is it bothering you?”

 

“Hm?”

 

“That the twins are out with Phinks.”

 

Yes, of course it was bothering Hisoka. He was still pissed Chrollo had insisted on it in the first place.

 

“If I answered that, it would cause yet another argument, and I honestly cannot be bothered.”

 

It was at that moment that Nox decided to text him, and his phone lit up with the message. They had found the florist. Hisoka had been right: it was a florist. The liquor vendors were majorly owned by corporations, not mom and pop stores, and it would be harder to launder with a corporation. It was lovely that he had put all his cards on the table with that one.

 

“And it seems they have found the florist.”

 

“I told you it would work.”

 

“It’s not over yet.”

 

“You should have faith in them.”

 

“Oh, I have faith in them. I just have none in Phinks.”

 

Chrollo sighed, as if he was arguing with a child, and scooted forward on the chair to rest his elbows on his knees.

 

“Why do you continually insist on being difficult?”

 

“If having any degree of sense is being difficult, I must be doing actual difficulty wrong,” Hisoka replied with a teasing smile. He was annoyed. There was no reason for him and Chrollo to be talking right now.

 

“It’s not sense. They need to have to figure out how to communicate effectively in the short amount of time we have.”

 

“That would be why they always carry their notepads, or something to write on. We don’t need to test it out in Myoto. There’s already rumors circulating of new troupe members online.”

 

“Shalnark took down any photos.”

 

“That’s not the point. They are needlessly in danger being seen with Phinks.”

 

“Have they not been in needless danger before?” Chrollo’s voice had gone soft, and Hisoka’s stomach twisted. Chrollo could have killed them that night. It may have taken him awhile, but he would have done it. The only reason they were spared was because the chaos was too much for anyone to land a killing blow. Hisoka stood abruptly, the laptop discarded onto the end table.

 

“I will be returning to Heaven’s Arena once the twins return.” He turned on his heel, stilettos clicking loudly on hardwood floors. “I need to keep up appearances.”

 

Chrollo didn’t reply. Hisoka wasn’t certain that it was a mercy or a punishment. He didn’t really care. This manor was getting to be too much for him to deal with.

Chapter Text

They had all surprisingly not killed each other yet. Nyx was actually shocked. Granted, Phinks was relatively easy to get along with, and Nox wasn’t comfortable enough to start their relentless teasing. Phinks was also mature enough to ignore Nox’s snide signs that he knew were insults Nyx wouldn’t repeat. Phinks, really, was a strategic choice. Shizuku was, well, effective, but likely to forget she was even supposed to be with the twins. Nox and Feitan had some kind of weird sexual pressure going on that left Nyx wanting to punt Feitan into outer space, and wouldn’t that be ironic. Kortopi was … Not exactly the best suited for undercover operations, Nobunaga was … Well, kind of like that weird older uncle that always brought the kids back with illegal fireworks. So, aneurysm inducing for Hisoka. Franklin would have been an easy second choice, Bono third, and Machi they already got along with, so there was no real point to be made there. Shalnark was best suited as the man behind the computer, no matter how much it rankled Nyx to admit. And Kalluto was evidently pouting since they had been literally banned entirely from the mission, though they would never, ever admit to pouting. Also, they were banned from the mission.

 

It was actually going rather decently. They had already figured out which florist it was, and it had only taken them three days. Now all that was needed to be done was for them to infiltrate the shop and plant a keylogger on the computer and relay it back to Shalnark. Normally, this could be done remotely, but the florist had proven to be tough on security and not clicking on random email links. So Nyx would have to get in, bypass the antivirus measures, and manually download the keylogger themselves. Even if it was found, the odds of the discovery happening before they had all of their information was slim to none.

 

The problem was that at night there was no way for them to break in that wouldn’t cause a scene. The backdoor had biosecurity locks, and the front door had metal rolling screens over all the windows and doors. Obtaining the needed information or program for a biosecurity lock would be relatively easy, but the problem was they used a corporate security network with firewalls so tight it would take weeks for Nyx to access the network and erase the unaccounted for entry. They had tried to ask Shalnark, but he would need two weeks at most, and they simply couldn’t hang around in town for that amount of time without raising even more suspicion.

 

As it was, Hunter websites were already theorizing the twins were Meteor City residents that had joined the troupe. Photos were taken down instantly thanks to Shalnark, but they were walking on thin ice. If the ring put two and two together, well. They would be dead in the water.

 

Nyx was already coming up with a contingency plan for that case. They would have to run it by Hisoka, but it may work. Kortopi had made dead bodies before. The only problem was if worse came to worse, they could not be seen in public at all, which would severely limit their mobility. The chessboard would be missing two bishops. That wasn’t an option. Then again, perhaps he could alter their appearance just enough that it would be an odd coincidence. They had to check.

 

This entire mission was a stupid, pointless gamble. Yes, it was becoming clear that it likely wouldn’t have worked without a third party, but that wasn’t the point. 

 

Nyx was irritated. It wasn’t even certain the gamble would pay off.

 

They were interrupted from their musings by Nox knocking their shoulders together.

 

What’s the plan, big shot? ” Nox signed and Nyx sighed. Phinks was at the store, getting some more food for them. They had run out of protein powder, and the two were getting substantially less reactive without a blender on hand for real nutrients. They really needed to get one of those little guys. Protein shakes could sustain them for weeks, but they still weren’t enough.

 

The plan involves us getting grievously injured.

 

Doesn’t sound like a good one.

 

Do you have a better one?

 

Well, no, but still. You’re the smart one. Do better.

 

You aren’t stupid.

 

Doesn’t make me the smart one, jackass. Continue.

 

Nyx sighed and slid to being flat on their back, staring up at the ceiling, and Nox slapped their shoulder.

 

Don’t mumble. Up.

 

Nyx sat up with a groan and rubbed their temple. Whoever caused this headache was an asshole. It was probably Nyx that caused it, but still. They’d blame Nox.

 

The plan is you enter with Phinks, who will be looking to buy apology flowers to hold up the image that he was waiting for someone who never showed. You have to wear the fake hearing aids, but that’s a given. Anyways. You enter with Phinks, and he will send someone over to collect you when he’s going to pay without telling them you can’t ‘hear’. They startle you, you knock over a flower vase and fall with it and cut open your hand or arm or something I can patch up in a few seconds. I will be standing by with bandages. We have to play on the fact that we know they’re growing ateneas surror roses, which, as we know, can kill someone if the pollen gets into an open wound. And YES we WILL be getting antidotes, before you say something. They’re likely going to flip out, since the roses are extremely illegal and in blooming season, so there’s the chance of pollen in the store. In the chaos, I’ll slip in. Phinks will have to play it up significantly and stall for as long as it takes me to get out. I will need two to four minutes. They keep the first aid kit under the counter, so there’s not a high risk of them going to the backroom to get it.

 

Nox nodded several times in a way that told Nyx they were about to say something scathingly sarcastic.

 

I like it, I like it, yes, but uhhh, ” they shook out their hand extensively to accentuate the drama and Nyx’s eyes suddenly felt very, very tired, “ you think you can redo that without the risk of death by pollen? Because no offense. That is a pretty embarrassing way to go. Pollen.

 

No.

 

Whatever happened to a blaze of glory?

 

Pollen is a blaze of something.

 

A blaze of pain in my ass.

 

Stop being difficult. It takes two weeks to kill you and we’ll have the antidote in an hour.

 

You can’t just tell me ‘oh yeah you might die from pollen’ and then expect me to not be a little dramatic about it.

 

I can expect you to be mature about it.

 

What about DYING BY POLLEN IS MATURE?

 

Just say yes or no.

 

Fine. Let’s go get some killed by some motherfucking pollen.

 

We aren’t going to die. Stop it.

 

We are absolutely going to die and I will be giving you shit about it all down the Path. I will never leave you alone.

 

This was hopeless. It was utterly hopeless. Nyx slid back down to the floor and hit their head with a loud thunk, making Nox wince. It served them right.

 

It was at that moment that Phinks’ encroaching presence reached the door and opened it to the sight of Nyx with an arm thrown over their eyes and Nox in some kind of knife polishing pout.

 

“Did I, uh, interrupt something?”

 

Nyx’s hand came up and they signed a definitive ‘no’. That Phinks understood. He moved to set the bags on the bed.

 

“Got your protein shakes. And I picked up some smoothies.”

 

That got Nox’s attention and they lifted their head from their throwing knife. Phinks rubbed the back of his neck and smiled awkwardly under Nox’s punishing gaze.

 

“You two didn’t seem interested in yogurt, so I thought maybe you’d like some smoothies.”

 

Nearly took his head off for suggesting yogurt, to be exact, but who was counting? Nox stood fluidly and pulled a strawberry banana smoothie out of the cupholder, sniffing delicately before retreating to their bed to sip at it. Apparently he had gotten through to that one somehow. Everyone could be reached through their intestines.

 

“Nyx, you want one?”

 

Nyx lifted their arm and studied him before sitting up and obligingly accepting the offered smoothie. Thank gods. He thought they were going to continue to hate him.

 

Phinks sat on his own bed, facing the twins, and sipped on his smoothie, waiting patiently. Talking to them when they were eating was a task not lightly attempted, he had discovered. One, they needed their hands. Two, they seemed to regard that time as “quiet time”, even if they could objectively write. Phinks could respect that, even if the silences had been a little uncomfortable at first.

 

They were still wary around him. But, over the past few days, they had started to warm up to his presence. He found himself liking them more and more. He couldn’t help it. When Nox did oblige to speak to him, they were delightfully mean, to the point where he couldn’t help but laugh, because goddamn they were funny. All mouth and snark and the bite to back it up. And Nyx was a cooling calm kind of presence. The kind of person you could hang out with for hours and not have to say anything at all and just be comfortable with. He could easily imagine the Morrows out in that bungalow they had in the woods, just living in quiet comfort. Nox painting Hisoka’s nails while Nyx tapped away at that laptop they were so invested in, or the three of them bundling up against the winter to watch a movie. He imagined they probably had a lot of plants that were hard to kill. Nyx had managed to name every plant in the bar he was in, typing out a list of what he was looking at when Phinks had been there for two hours with no florist in sight. He didn’t think they had to look them up.

 

Yeah, he liked the kids. To the point that when this all ended, he may just try to trip up whichever troupe members went out for sport. May.

 

The twins finished their smoothies and carefully, delicately set the empty cups aside.

 

“So. We got a plan?”

 

Nyx nodded and pulled out their tablet to open an actual typing application. Oh. Oh so it was like that.

 

It took them a good two minutes to finish and pass it over to him. Phinks read it critically. So that was why Nox was pouting. He could almost imagine what they’d have to say about it. Death by pollen? Ridiculous.

 

“I assume Nox has already pointed out the flaws here.”

 

Nyx groaned, very faintly, and Phinks bit back the urge to smile.

 

“The antidote, I guess, is gonna be at a hospital or somethin’? I don’t think that’s the kind of thing they stock at pharmacies.”

 

Nyx pulled out their notepad and scrawled their response.

 

Already have Shalnark looking into it to find the closest one. We don’t have the means for brewing it. I don’t even have a centrifuge machine on hand.

 

“... That implies you normally have a centrifuge machine on hand.”

 

Of course I do. Who do you think I am?

 

“An eighteen year old child with literally no reason to have a centrifuge machine.”

 

There’s always a reason for centrifuge machines. Poisons, for example.

 

“I can’t argue with that, but I really have the urge to do so.”

 

Markers going dry, for another example. Now Nox was chiming in, and Nyx set a glare on them and signed something. Phinks barely caught “you” and “broke” and the questioning (but still accusatory) expression.

 

Nox signed “no”, but they looked happily guilty. Phinks had the feeling that they broke a centrifuge machine with art supplies. Ah, siblings. He always wondered was it was like.

 

“So are we in agreement about the death pollen?”

 

Nox and Nyx were broken from their argument by Phinks’ swift intervention, and both signed yes.

 

“Great, so then we can agree that I will absolutely refuse to walk into that shop until I see two doses of it in a safe place.”

 

Nyx looked stubborn, but Nox happily signed yes with a big shit eating grin directed at Nyx.

 

And we’re in agreement that we are absolutely not telling Hisoka about the death pollen.” This time they both signed yes, rather quickly, and Phinks blew out a sigh of relief, because the last thing he needed was whatever qualified as a Hisoka temper fit. His life was already getting too complicated with the introduction of the Morrows.

 

“Well. Sun’s going down. We can get the antidote tomorrow morning, and hit up the shop around noon.” The hotel room had a DVD player, and Phinks rummaged around in the bags to pull out a case. “I dunno about you two, but I really don’t see the harm in watching a movie about street racers.”

 

Nox perked up at “racers”. He knew it. Nyx seemed vaguely uninterested, and instead climbed up off of the bed. The notepad was passed to Phinks with their last message as they made for the bathroom.

 

You two can watch. I’m gonna get a bath.

 

They were already twisting their mass of curls into a sloppy bun. That was fine. Phinks was cool with chilling out with Nox.

 

“Cool,” he said with a wave, and the bathroom door clicked shut. “Ready, Nox?” Nox nodded vigorously, and Phinks decided to count it as a win. He’d already partially won over Nyx. It was a matter of pride to get Nox on the same page now. If it had to be through gratuitous action and massively unrealistic car crashes, so be it. At the end, no matter how much shit the twins had been through and what they could do, they were still teenagers, after all. And he knew how to talk to teenagers.

 

The night passed rather quickly after that. Nox and Phinks stayed up rather late, watching a total of three films in silence, and before they knew it, sleep claimed them, Nox lulled to bed by Nyx and Nox’s conjoined medication dosages. Kids. They were still kids, Phinks thought, as he adjusted the blanket over Nox’s shoulder.

 

It was a pity, really. Uvogin shouldn’t have done what he did. They killed kids for a reason, but looking at them, and thinking about Hisoka, he couldn’t help but feel maybe it all turned out okay in the end. They were never going to be “normal”. Some scars were too deep. They may turn out to be murderous, marauding bandits like the troupe. But maybe they’d do some good, find a little happiness in the carnage.

 

Yeah. They were good kids.

 

The sun rose with Phinks’ blossoming realization that Chrollo and Hisoka’s plan was working. If they were all going to work together, they had to like each other, and as Nox and Nyx zombied through their morning skincare and carefully applied makeup, he realized that if the troupe spent some time with the twins, one on one, they’d probably like them, too.

 

The twins needed people that made them feel not so monstrous. The troupe could give them that. Phinks could give them that. Normal, good people would applaud their results, but judge them from their high ivory towers of morality on their means. Hisoka had killed plenty of innocent people to get here. The twins likely had, too, though not on the same level. And they probably liked it, no matter how much they didn’t want to admit it. There was a reason no one until now knew what they looked like, despite them being active for maybe three years. Bystanders got caught in the crossfire, too.

 

To reform would be to say the results weren’t worth it. Objectively speaking, they simply couldn’t do that. They were hurtling down their self imposed path, and no one but Hisoka had told them it was okay. And maybe it wasn’t, but who was Phinks to judge? The ring had survived for three decades. Every attempt to dismantle it had failed. Adults did have to die for the chance for children to have a life. Even “innocent” adults, adults who would crack under torture, crack under bribes, crack under pressure, end up dead anyways. Phinks had thought long and hard during those lonely three days in the bar, and every outcome he could think of involved complete and utter secrecy. It was a pity the world would never understand that.

 

Yes, Chrollo was very scheming indeed. Phinks could appreciate him for it. 

 

His only worry was this mission would end up splitting the troupe down the middle. It wasn’t the sort of thing people walked away from unchanged. Hisoka was a testament to that. A revolving door of masks, desperately clinging to his anchor. The twins were too old for their faces, toxic, driving each other to their own deaths. Good and bad, right and wrong, all mixed up in a mess. Phinks worried this whole … doing the right thing the wrong way was going to get to the troupe, this mass of seasoned killers, the most wanted individuals on the planet. If any of them started developing a conscience, it could break them.

 

It was a silly worry. The Spider would endure. It would always endure.

 

He was broken from his thoughts by Nox pulling up to the hospital. The twins, who were very clearly not morning people, looking tired and murderous under their makeup, started to unbuckle their seatbelts.

 

“Whoa, what are you two doing?”

 

Nox and Nyx stared at him tiredly, too exhausted to bother writing exactly what they were doing.

 

“... Out of the three of us, which ones are the spies, and which one of us is the professional thief?”

 

Nox blinked, as if that hadn’t occurred to them, and Nyx looked even more irritated because how dare Phinks tell them something they hadn’t considered already.

 

“Just keep the car warm, yeah?” Phinks slid out. “Be back in thirty minutes.”

 

And, with that, he was off. Two doses of the antidote. It was in a hypospray kind of format. Shalnark had provided images and a name, as well as a map of the hospital. It was lucky it was in Myoto. They were short on time, but it did make sense for a hospital in a city known for exotic plants to have an excess of antidotes for various natural poisons. They likely had a lot of cases, and the roses were particularly potent.

 

On the fourth floor of the hospital was the supply room. The problem was getting there, as it was behind four locked doors that required keycards from actual doctors, not just nurses. Pickpocketing would be fairly easy, but they couldn’t raise any alarms, nor alert anyone to their presence in the future. This was different than the things Phinks normally dealt with. It normally didn’t matter if someone eventually found out they’d been robbed. That was the fun of it.

 

He’d have to leave the keycard on a desk. Somewhere anyone could leave it and forget on a day without coffee. Nen, this was a pain.

 

It was no matter, he reminded himself as he shrugged on the medical mask. Just a few extra steps to something he could do in his sleep. He was already dressed the part, in slacks and a tucked in button down that felt unnatural on his body. All he needed now was a labcoat. 

 

First thing first, a keycard. The hospital smelled the way all hospitals did: sterile. He preferred stench. Hospitals made him antsy. He’d spent a lot of his younger years in them, poked and prodded and sedated when he acted out until he’d eventually been dumped in Meteor City by his parents to die when they couldn’t afford the cure for his ailment. Chrollo had stolen it for him. Brought back memories.

 

And now here he was, stealing for someone else, from a hospital. It was funny how things went full circle.

 

There was a doctor approaching him in the wide hall, coffee in hand, drained, tired. Phinks remembered how he’d see doctors for sixteen hours sometimes until they finally went home. He was on the last legs of his shift. A perfect candidate, distracted with his phone. Phinks shifted directions, set in a meandering beeline that ran him right into him.

 

Coffee splashed all over them and Phinks latched onto the keycard as the doctor yelped. He was young. Probably fresh out of college. The keycard disappeared up Phinks sleeve as he muttered apologies.

 

“It’s fine, it’s fine, I’m heading home anyways, my fault, I was looking at my phone,” the doctor said, almost too rapid for Phinks to follow. Phinks smiled, anyways.

 

“Nah, it was mine. You okay? It wasn’t too hot?”

 

“No, no, I’m fine, really. It was all my fault.” The doctor legitimately looked guilty. Poor thing.

 

“Well, if you say so. I can replace the shirt.”

 

“It’ll wash out. My ride’s waiting. So sorry.”

 

And then the doctor was slipping around him, in a rush to get down the hall and out of the hospital. Phinks could hardly blame him.

 

Keycard was acquired. Now for the coat …

 

Oh, Nen, was it that easy? He thought this place was supposed to be tight on security, but there it was, a coat lying on the back of a chair, not a soul in sight to watch it. Fluidly, he grabbed it and shrugged it on, attaching the keycard to it with the photo facing in against his chest. Back to the elevators and up to the fourth floor.

 

Hopefully he hadn’t just nabbed a resident’s keycard without full access to the building. He wasn’t sure what their position was on student residencies. The guy was young enough to be finishing his up, or just starting his first actual job.

 

It would be fine. The elevator doors slid open and Phinks strode through as if he belonged there. This hospital was infamous for keeping a rotating staff, probably because of the amount of criminals people had to treat here, and the threats when someone grew a conscience and started questioning their oaths. The police were ineffectual here. They only served to uphold the law of Myoto, not the land. So he could probably blend in seamlessly. People were constantly flying in their preferred doctors to operate, specialists, people they wanted to see without leaving the comfort of Myoto. Working here was a double edged sword, because the amount of funding the hospital had was immense. Breakthroughs in science were continuously being done here. To work at a hospital in Myoto was to secure your future for the next several decades. But to do so, you had to overlook the kind of crime that couldn’t be explained away by societal factors at play, like poverty. You knew who was on top, and who was getting hurt as a result. And, sometimes, you had to treat the people on top, too.

 

Yeah, being a medical professional in Myoto was rough.

 

No matter. He could use the resulting problems to his advantage.

 

It was a breeze getting through. He passed a few doctors who scarcely paid him a glance, a couple of nurses next to them, a pharmacist. No one even bothered to question when he returned with the hyposprays.

 

Easy. Simple. He didn’t know why he was worried. The coat was left back on the chair, the ID tag shoved back in an awkward place behind a landline, and Phinks was out and at the waiting car.

 

Nox and Nyx had woken up a little in his absence, sipping on the iced coffees he’d grabbed for them on the way here.

 

“Got them,” he said and pulled the hyposprays out of his pocket. “Should we give it a few hours to get to the florist, or go now?”

 

It would be opening in another ten minutes. There would be a bit of a rush around ten am.

 

Let’s go later, let a few more people get in there to help the confusion.

 

“Mmm. Smart. Back to the hotel, then?”

 

Nox and Nyx both nodded. He had a sinking suspicion they really just wanted to get a nap in. They looked like harpies.

 

“No naps then.”

 

A wadded up piece of paper was thrown directly at Phinks’ head from the driver’s seat, but he just grinned under the mask.

 

“Teenagers.”

Chapter Text

Hisoka was stressed. Hisoka was very, very stressed. He couldn’t leave the manor to deal with it with his usual vices because he had two brats (one significantly less bratty) to babysit in the twins’ absence, nor could he go do his normal thing because he needed to be available if something went wrong. He couldn’t exactly go picking fights, either, and there seemed to be a constant rotating door of troupe members going in and out, all avoiding him like the plague, except Feitan, who was literally the one person in the damn manor besides Chrollo he actually wanted to be avoiding him.

 

It was a blessing when Feitan got wind of a job and left, three days after the twins had taken off for Myoto.

 

Well, it was partially a blessing, because Hisoka soon realized it was only Feitan’s presence that kept Gon from pestering him about whatever the “operation” was, and why he couldn’t know about it considering he was stuck here anyways so it wasn’t like he could tell anyone.

 

Gon had predictably ended up gummed upside down to a tree a second time for his troubles. Hisoka normally had the patience to dance around continuous questions, but dealing with them for days on end was another matter entirely. Ky’ia pretty much needed very little instruction, anyways, so Hisoka left them to work it out on their own while he ran to a surprisingly bare basement.

 

He didn’t often do this for stress relief. Good memories always had ugly things attached, but for the life of him he could never let it go. Hisoka was someone that loved art, loved drama, loved his body and to use it like a weapon. There were many ways to weaponize a body. Memories of dead bodies cooling in bloodied white sheets served well to remind him of that. He liked to tell himself that he still did this because there was nothing more sexual and sensual than dance, and it was good to keep up that practice. It applied to a lot of things. Many of the things he had been taught in his youth pertaining to dance had carried him through these years. Deliberate movements. Deliberate poses that felt natural and refined. Where on the body you could draw attention in ways that wet the palate, but didn’t drown it. Thighs. Hips. Arms. Movement itself was sexual, and sexuality was a tool to be exploited.

 

That’s what he told himself, and it was true.

 

He could keep up this practice for days, these exercises that left him sweaty and gross. Pirouette, pirouette, pirouette, pirouette, pirouette, tour en l’air, the air rushing past his face and cooling his sweaty body, effortless landing, again, and again, and again, and then break for stretches, check your posture, then do your positions, one, two, three, four, five. He couldn’t do his choreography in this space, all the shows he remembered even now, but he could do the fundamentals, over and over again.

 

There was a time when practice for six hours made his body scream in protest, but the exhaustion afterwards had always made the nighttime work so much easier to cope with. Sometimes, he wondered if that was why he’d insisted on it … the ringmaster. When you were too tired to care, even though you knew it wasn’t normal, what was happening, it was easier to cope with. Officially, the reason had been he learned the fundamentals of balance through ballet, that it made easier for him on the rope. And it had. The concepts and muscle memories were the same for the most part.

 

It was the ballet that had saved him, in a way, when his Nen was discovered. There was more money to be made.

 

Hisoka was supposed to be destressing, but the memories were only making it worse. He almost didn’t land his grand jete, skidded to a halt on the floor. An imperfection. Disgusting. This wasn’t working. He needed to kill.

 

“Your form is excellent.” Chrollo had snuck up on him again. Hisoka hadn’t even heard the door open and shut. How very careless.

 

“And your basement is dusty.” It was true. Hisoka had cleaned it on impulse when he found it, but hadn’t bothered knocking down the cobwebs.

 

“You dance like you started young.” Chrollo began to walk down the rickety stairs. Observations. Hisoka was sick of Chrollo’s observations. Why couldn’t he leave well enough alone?

 

“We all need a hobby,” Hisoka replied. He wasn’t going to start letting Chrollo dominate the conversation now. 

 

“Why didn’t you continue?”

 

Hisoka’s patience was fraying far more quickly nowadays. He was tired. He was stressed. The unanswered gala invitation from dearest ringmaster was sitting in his email, taunting him. He probably needed to be doing this practice. Knowing Alexandre, dear, dear Alexandre, a performance would be sprung on Hisoka unprompted, should Hisoka accept the invitation. Alexandre did love to show off his toys, after all. Or it wouldn’t. He liked to keep Hisoka on his toes. The absence of the twins with someone else, someone that wasn’t him, was wearing at him, too. He didn’t need Chrollo prying at him right now. He might slip up and say something Chrollo didn’t need to know.

 

“I do what pleases me.” The words echoed, back to Chrollo’s declaration of “support”. It felt like it had been decades ago. Hisoka felt decades older. Even Nyx had noticed, quietly replaced his eye cream with something stronger for the bags that were starting to form. He was going to get wrinkles at such a young age.

 

“If it didn’t please you enough to continue, why do you do it now?” Chrollo had stopped halfway down the stairs, and there it was again. Like he was approaching Hisoka like a wounded animal. Hisoka wanted to rip his throat out with his teeth.

 

“There is a difference in having a hobby and making it a career, Chrollo. Danseurs don’t have licenses to kill, after all.”

 

Hisoka had a growing suspicion, a suspicion that had haunted the edges of his consciousness ever since Chrollo pinned him to the wall. The Chrollo in question was staring at him now, practically scalding him with that hunger Hisoka caught in moments when the soullessness faded. The hunger he kept trying to hide, for some reason or another. Hisoka was tired of being yanked around by Chrollo’s relentless, crushing pressure. It was time to start playing ball.

 

Hisoka moved to the table and grabbed the water bottle that was waiting for him. All the ice had melted. Pity. He’d have to get a better one. Deliberately, he tilted his head back, throat exposed for Chrollo to gaze at, and took a long swallow. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught that shift in Chrollo’s gaze. He thought so.

 

“Did you learn in the circus?” Chrollo asked. Hisoka wondered if he was just trying to break the tense silence.

 

Patience. Patience was cracking under Chrollo’s pressure. Hisoka set the bottle down on the table and stretched, stretched right out across the rough wood. His shirt rode up, baring pale skin, and his left leg lifted deliberately to land atop the table. Hisoka reached out, showing off his full flexibility as he touched his toes with his left hand, pointed his toes to follow his fingers. The strain in his hamstring felt good, the burn in his side.

 

“I learned a lot of things in the circus,” he purred. “Would you like me to show you?”

 

It worked. Briefly. Chrollo almost, almost looked unnerved at the sickening implications, the sickening reminder. Hisoka waited, patiently, a patronizing, teasing smile stretching his lips. Was it enough to make him run?

 

“I don’t think that’s necessary,” Chrollo finally said. Stubborn, stubborn man.

 

“A pity. I’m very talented.”

 

“I’m sure.” Chrollo was trying at patronizing. Cute, but he had wandered into Hisoka’s court now. Chrollo could be good at anything, everything, but he would never, never, be better than Hisoka at sex.

 

“You’re sure?” Hisoka echoed innocently. “If you’re so sure, do you not want a taste?”

 

“You wouldn’t survive my appetite.” There it was again. The flicker in Chrollo’s eyes. If Hisoka hadn’t been so concerned with running him off, he might have gotten excited.

 

Instead, he pushed it. He always pushed it. Hisoka couldn’t not push it. He just wasn’t programmed that way. His tongue stretched out, long, dripping with all the saliva he could muster, and lavished over his lips as his eyes lit up with his trademark craze.

 

“Bold of you to assume I care about survival.”

 

There was the flicker again. Hunger, replaced by a drip of frustration. Hisoka was getting to him.

 

“Why can you never just behave?”

 

Hisoka shifted, bringing his leg over his head, pulling, stretching, and then holding it.

 

“Behaving is for bores.

 

“I can assure you that I can make it very interesting.”

 

Chrollo looked about as surprised as Hisoka felt. Was Chrollo … reciprocating flirting? It was enough to leave Hisoka speechless, but, as it always was, that didn’t last long enough for a response time to expire.

 

“My, my, Chrollo. I didn’t think me your type.” Just for the hell of it, since Chrollo had seen him dancing anyways, Hisoka shifted his weight, lifted himself off the floor with his hands and landed firmly on the edge of the table, legs spread wide, pulling his pants tight across his crotch. He leaned back on his elbows, tilted his head, giving Chrollo a sight worth remembering. Strip of skin, bare neck, all leading down to a sizeable package. A tease leading to an open invitation.

 

“And what did you think my type was?” Chrollo’s eyes were stubbornly locked on Hisoka’s face. A pity. What a waste of a good pose.

 

“Blindly obedient, I suppose.” Hisoka held it for a moment more before standing to stretch out his back.

 

“You underestimate how much I enjoy a challenge.” Oh, now Chrollo was paying attention to Hisoka’s exposed hips. How incredibly rude of him. Hisoka hadn’t even planned that one.

 

It had been awhile since someone really wanted to fuck him. The last tryst he had was with Illumi, before he had ignored Illumi for once and pissed him off. Hisoka could relish the attention before the inevitable crisis hit. He still had his vices, after all.

 

“Am I a challenge to mount?” Mount left his lips in a purr, lecherous, filthy in the best of ways. Carnal, if you would. Hisoka wouldn’t be opposed to Chrollo mounting him in theory. At least, after Hisoka had hit an explainable amount of low points to justify it to himself without triggering a meltdown. After all, not even Illumi had known who Hisoka really was. This would be a first … Well, second for him, and the first hadn’t ended well.

 

Not really. It wasn’t like sex led to love.

 

“No,” Chrollo replied, throwing a wrench in that thought process. “No, you’re not a challenge. That would imply I see you as a conquest.”

 

Hisoka’s brain short circuited. Not a conquest … Then what?

 

Okay, make that a few more low points.

 

“My, my, Chrollo, you are delightfully good at hurting my feelings.”

 

To think Chrollo would be so bold as to tell Hisoka he wasn’t even worthy of being a conquest. It was truly apparent that Chrollo was most certainly an orphan. The lack of manners. 

 

Hisoka could have sworn Chrollo squinted at him for a moment.

 

“You’re a brick wall, Hisoka.” And then Chrollo was gone, right up the staircase and out of the basement, leaving Hisoka alone again.

 

Had Hisoka misread that?

 

Impossible. Hisoka never misread anything. Chrollo could say he respected him all he liked, but respect didn’t mean … No.

 

Chrollo merely saw him as a potential fling. That was all.

 

Damn the man, now Hisoka had even more to worry about. Ridiculous. This was all ridiculous. They didn’t even need the troupe. Why was he still here ?

 

Because it was what the twins had agreed on. And him. Because it made sense. Because logic, logic, logic. Why did the Spider head insist on being so illogical? 


Hisoka was going to kill him when this was all over. Just for the crime of confusing him. Why couldn’t he just be upfront about whatever the fuck it was he wanted? Was it so hard? Was it?

Chapter Text

It was not supposed to go this badly. Hisoka was going to kill him. Hisoka was going to kill him, Phinks was going to be dead, and no one was going to carry Kleenex for Feitan, or keep notes for Shizuku, or fetch fabric for Machi, or make sure Franklin wasn’t letting his chains rust, or make Kalluto laugh once in awhile and loosen up, because Phinks was going to be dead.

 

They had finished, of course. Nyx, being as prepared as Nyx was always prepared, had carried alcohol wipes to clean up the blood before they left. It was fine, really. There were no egregious gaps in security. The operation hadn’t been derailed. Nyx had broken Nox and him out of the hospital before they busted out the suture kit for Nox and realized something was really weird and now they were out of the city, sitting in awkward silence as the car rumbled along the road.

 

Nyx had confirmed the keylogger was working. That was about the only saving grace about this whole situation.

 

“So,” Phinks said awkwardly. “That went well.”

 

Nox and Nyx glared at him from the backseat, as if it was all his fault. At least he’d managed to properly administer the antidotes.

 

It was fine at first. Phinks was playing the bumbling scorned lover, asking for a bouquet of apology flowers because “he doesn’t like roses when I have to say sorry”. He’d kept the cashier appropriately distracted. He’d sent the other girl, a nice girl, really, over to Nox to collect them, but none of them had counted on the fact that the girl would be a klutz.

 

When she called twice to Nox as Phinks was absorbed in conversation with the cashier, she got flustered when Nox didn’t respond. It was her first day or something. So when she knocked on Nox’s shoulder, there was a little too much force, enough to make Nox actually jump and grab on instinct at their assailant, leading to the girl yelping, and Nox’s brain short circuiting to where they really overdid it when they knocked over the vase and slipped. The girl had panicked, reached to grab at Nox when they fell, and that resulted in her losing her own footing and landing on top of Nox. Nox got crunched pretty badly on the glass, slicing open their arm and lower back instead of just their arm alone, and when the girl found out Nox was “deaf” she had burst into tears.

 

It had been literal chaos. More than intended. People were freaking out. Nox had nearly been cut to the bone, would have been had they not had that little ability of theirs, and the crop top they had chosen to wear was shredded. The girl was terrified Nox had cut a tendon or something or had enough nerve damage they wouldn’t be able to sign anymore. Nox had tried to reassure her, but that only resulted in more tears because she didn’t know what Nox was saying.

 

It really was a perfect cover for Nyx to do everything, if Nyx hadn’t been bleeding from more areas than necessary. They had still managed it, and cleaned up every sign of their presence before they went to go bust them out of the hospital.

 

Really, if it was anyone’s fault, it was Nox’s for flustering the girl even more than necessary. A knee jerk reaction shouldn’t have happened, but Phinks couldn’t really fault Nox for doing so. The girl had really yanked on Nox.

 

Hisoka was still going to kill him. They couldn’t hide this.

 

The twins had already texted Klaus. Apparently he had some kind of plaster for this kind of thing. They had yet to text Hisoka. He could tell because they hadn’t winced yet.

 

It was going to be a long, silent ride home. He would advocate for the three of them to stop at a motel, but at the rate they were bleeding through bandages … No, it wouldn’t be safe. Instead, he was making them pile on the protein shakes and electrolytes. They were a mess. The blood hadn’t been washed out of Nox’s hair, heavy at their waist.

 

Two hours into the drive, he could tell they were flagging. He should have stolen some blood bags on the way out, but he had no idea what type they were. O would have been safe.

 

It was time for drastic measures.

 

Phinks turned up the music so the bass reverbed through the car and shook them away. Nyx blinked at him blearily and he grinned into the rearview mirror.

 

“You can sleep after a blood transfusion or at least getting patched up.”

 

It was a two day drive to the manor. He’d have to make it in one if he really didn’t want Hisoka to kill him.

 

Speak of the devil, Phinks’ phone started buzzing, and he tried to remember when he had given Hisoka his number, much less when he had actually saved Hisoka’s into his phone. Considering the emojis next to it, kissy face, kissy face, kissy face, knife, he probably wasn’t the one that saved it. Preparing for whatever constituted Hisoka losing his shit, he turned down the music and lifted the phone to his ear.

 

“Phinks.”

 

“Phinks, darling.”

 

“Hello, Hisoka.”

 

“Might there be a reason the twins’ doctor has messaged me asking where the manor is?”

 

“Well. There may be several reasons for that.”

 

“Mmm. I see. Lovely.”

 

Phinks pursed his lips and looked back in the mirror. Nyx looked marginally awake. Nox was drifting. He needed to pull over and tighten the bandages. Thank Nen for leather interiors.

 

“Are you going to tell me those reasons, Phinks?” Hisoka’s voice was laced with venom. Phinks wasn’t sure this was the best place to discuss this, but hey, better to give Hisoka a day to calm down.

 

“Well. Nyx had a plan. And it went a little overboard.”

 

“Hm. I see. And which plan was that?”

 

“... Well, the initial plan was that Nox would play deaf, I’d set someone up to startle them in the shop, knock over a vase, get cut, start a panic that would pull the manager out of the office, and Nyx would go into the office and do the keylogger.”

 

“I see. Very smart. Why did no one think to play a disgruntled customer that demanded to speak to a manager?”

 

Phinks blinked. Nyx heard and color rose to their cheeks. Nox was still a little out of it.

 

“Well, I guess Nyx picked up your flair for dramatics.” He couldn’t help it. He just had to say it. It was right there. Nyx choked in the backseat and Phinks crunched down on his bottom lip. He could practically see Hisoka rubbing between his brows on the other end.

 

“I should have known the three of you put together would be too much to remember to pack some brain cells for your trip,” Hisoka finally said after a long, long pause, and Phinks winced. He was correct. There had been some brain cells forgotten somewhere. “But, really, Phinks, I wouldn’t have thought you were so stupid to go along with this.”

 

“We were pressed for time.” It was a terrible excuse.

 

“So pressed you evidently chose to take literally the worst option when the obvious one was right there.” Yeah. Yeah, it was a bit of an obvious option. How many times had he seen small time con men get away with it?

 

“Listen, I’m more preoccupied with keeping them awake, so can we hurry it up already?”

 

Hisoka sighed, long, dramatic.

 

“I suppose. I expect two hour updates.”

 

“I’ll have them home in a day.”

 

“If you don’t, Phinks, I will kill you.”

 

“I’m sure.” Phinks had no doubt Hisoka would follow through on that threat. There was another sigh, irritated, and then Hisoka hung up.

 

Hisoka stared at the phone in his hand. Logic above all else, he reminded himself as bloodlust stirred. Logic, logic, logic. Logically, the twins were dumbasses and had literally done this to themselves. Literally. Logically, one could not expect Phinks to think of an out, as the twins were running point, or, more specifically, Nyx, and in such situations it was nature to defer when you weren’t an utter prick. Logically, he should not be killing Phinks, as there was a delicate political balance going on here and Hisoka brutally murdering a troupe member would most certainly upset that balance.

 

Emotionally, he very much wanted to kill Phinks. If he had fangs, he’d like to imagine himself sinking them into his throat. The very first time Hisoka had entrusted the twins to someone and they had been injured. And Phinks had been in a position to stop it.

 

It was hard to stop thinking of them as twelve year olds nowadays. The closer they got to victory, the more Hisoka frayed at the edges, because everything was going to get more and more dangerous. They would likely heal up in a week with proper treatment. This wouldn’t adversely affect them. They would be fine. Hypothetically. What was a few more scars? They had plenty.

 

And yet, this time they were going to have a fresh set definitively linked to someone that was not a corpse. Yes, yes, they were “adults”, but Hisoka at times refused to believe that. They were not. No.

 

He realized he was blaming Phinks so much to avoid blaming himself, like he always blamed himself, but goddamn he couldn’t care enough to stop.

 

He’d calm down by the time they got back. He’d be composed. Knowing Nox and Phinks, Nox had likely warmed up to him at some point or another. It was inevitable, really. Enhancers and Conjurers always melded well to each other, even if Nox barely counted as such when attached to Nyx at the hip like they were. Even so, the only thing better than an Enhancer and a Conjurer was an Enhancer and a Transmuter. Everyone knew that. Probably because Enhancers and Conjurers both tended to cause even more chaos than necessary together, while Transmuters actually managed to tone them down.

 

Really, the fact that Nyx had been the one to think of this hair brained plan and not Nox … He was almost disappointed.

 

In any case, he had bigger problems to deal with. Like the fact that Klaus was on his way.

 

Hisoka had texted him every day, deliberately keeping him in the dark about their location and who they were with. He had merely told him they’d been forced to go dark, and to please water Nyx’s plants, to which Klaus had replied that he had moved Nyx’s plants to his house because he did not have the time to be driving into the forest every other day to water them for them. Klaus loved to remind Hisoka that he was a busy man. He also loved to remind him that Hisoka was a bit of a burden. Hisoka was fine with that. Klaus still stuck around, after all.

 

But now he couldn’t keep him in the dark. He could already hear the lecture he would have to patiently endure about how this was stupid, dangerous, what about the twins, how Hisoka could possibly justify this to the “cause”, as Klaus called it. The headache was already starting to come in. It was a pain, really.

 

He wondered if he could convince the troupe members to clear out short notice so he could just lie to Klaus. Yes, that would certainly go well.

 

“I need a drink,” Hisoka muttered to himself before he just gave up and sent the coordinates. This place didn’t have an address.

 

Please don’t tell me you have the twins injured out in a field somewhere. Do you know how many infections they could get without access to clean running water?

 

Hisoka sighed and dropped his head onto the desk with a low thunk.

 

Don’t insult me. A field wouldn’t have nearly enough coverage.

 

Hisoka.

 

We are not out in the wilderness. It’s a manor. There’s no official address.

 

If there’s no official address how do you have electricity or water?

 

I don’t know. That was actually a good question, how Chrollo had managed that. Hisoka would have to ask, as soon as he was done being irritated with him and everyone else in the manor.

 

You’re lucky I’m important enough to have Pharmatix send me samples.

 

Yes, yes, I know, I’m a lucky man to have you. Don’t text and drive. You know what happens to doctors that text and drive.

 

Klaus didn’t respond to that and Hisoka reflected on how he’d met him all those years ago. At the time, Klaus had been a promising new doctor, finishing up his degree in genetics. Hisoka had kidnapped him, actually. He’d only known about him through … No, he didn’t even think about that name anymore. Hisoka’s charms hadn’t worked on him, nor had his efforts to unnerve. Probably because he was threatening to kill him if he didn’t help him fix two beaten up, obviously molested twins. Klaus had actually had the nerve to call him a puppy. And, just like that, a weird friendship had bloomed between the lost twenty year old (almost twenty one, thank you) and the doctor.

 

It had been Klaus that figured out on a medical scale, a regular cure wouldn’t work. Their genetics were, as Hisoka suspected, partially influenced by Nen. How that mutation had happened and sustained through generations, Hisoka didn’t know, but they were Specialists. And, just like that, Klaus had decided to learn Nen. Just a simple decision. No fretting about it, no questioning it. He just learned Nen so he could understand their ability and “fix it”.

 

It took him a mere six months. Hisoka had almost been jealous. His training had started at eight, he hadn’t mastered the fundamentals until nine, and his hatsu took another year. Klaus had figured it all out in six months, and just kept going, accepting how remarkable he was at everything and moving on. Everything was easy for him, and Hisoka had initially hated him for it, because he could never be a target.

 

Then again, it made sense, him being an Enhancer. If Hisoka had learned anything in his years, it was that everything was easy for Enhancers. Except, maybe, common sense. Because while Klaus was admittedly brilliant in almost everything, that came at a price, as he was in fact a box of rocks.

 

The amount of times Hisoka had to rescue him was totalling at about seventeen now. Probably the most frustrating occurrence had been when Klaus had literally just let someone talk him into a car. He just got in. No questioning. No doubt. Just climbed right in. Idiot.

 

And, honestly, what Enhancer refused to punch people? Literally all Klaus did with those abilities he had learned so easily was enhance his serums. Why he couldn’t be more like Leorio, who was very willing to punch people in front of cameras and everything? 

 

Klaus was aggravating, and when he arrived Hisoka had to be at least tipsy to deal with the morality. Morality. Disgusting. Morality was for the beasts. He was a bare few hours away now, so Hisoka resolved to get on it.

 

The kitchen held a promising stash of hard liquor. Hisoka could not give less of a fuck who he was stealing from, opting for flicking the top off a bourbon and downing half of the bottle in one go. It burned down his throat, coating it evenly, not expensive enough to go down easy, but he didn’t care.

 

“Hisoka.”

 

Hisoka sighed, long and hard, and tilted his head back.

 

“Not now, Machi.”

 

“At least get a glass.”

 

“Glasses are for men who are concerned with their image, Machi, darling.”

 

“Is that doctor on his way?”

 

Hisoka decided that it was best to just finish off the bottle entirely. It was harder to get drunk the more you grew in Nen ability. On the plus side, it also meant that it was harder to kill your liver, relatively speaking. Not that Hisoka particularly cared either way.

 

“Yes. He’s on his way.”

 

Machi finally came up behind him and snatched the bottle from his hand before he could finish the last swallow. Locking eyes with Hisoka, she finished it for him, and tossed the bottle in the trash.

 

“My, Machi,” Hisoka purred. “I didn’t take you for the type to express dominance.”

 

Machi scoffed and grabbed a second bottle. The entire troupe was a mess of alcoholics at this point.

 

“I don’t need to.”

 

“Mmm. I suppose not. I always thought you were a top.”

 

“Switch.”

 

Hisoka blinked. Twice, actually.

 

“Machi, are you sharing with me?”

 

“If you insist on getting drunk, I have to keep you away from Chrollo. I figure it’s the only way to get your attention.”

 

Hisoka’s bottom lip protruded rather dramatically and he slumped against the counter.

 

“You think I’m a violent drunk? You hurt my feelings.”

 

“No.”

 

“Oh, you think me too lecherous to be denied? I’m honored. Truly.”

 

“No, I think you’re an idiot.”

 

Laughter rolled off Hisoka’s lips like water off a rock and he pushed himself off the counter. Look at Machi. Willingly being around him. What a pleasant surprise.

 

“You are such a delight, darling.”

 

“I’m sure,” she replied, and why did everyone in the troupe say that in the same flat tone? Who had even started it? Machi offered him the bottle and Hisoka took it, swallowing it down like the champion he was.

 

“You know, I have never seen you drunk,” Hisoka commenting.

 

“I’ve seen you drunk. And high.”

 

“You’ve seen me high, not drunk. And forced highs are very different.”

 

Machi squinted at him briefly.

 

“You don’t remember, do you?”

 

Hisoka paused mid second swig. Remember what?

 

“Hm?”

 

Machi actually lifted her brows.

 

“When you first joined the troupe. We found you in a bar in Glam Gas Land like six months into it. Why did you think Chrollo let you just do whatever?”

 

Glam Gas Land … Hisoka squinted. He wouldn’t have had any reason to be there. When had he even joined the troupe?

 

“I assumed he just picked his battles wisely and didn’t think trying to yank me around was worth the effort.”

 

York New had been three years ago … He had been in the troupe for about a year at that point … So six months would have landed him at about four years ago. What had happened four years ago that drove him back to that hellhole? And why was he drunk?

 

Oh. Oh.

 

“So you really don’t remember.” Machi almost looked amused at the fact that she knew something he didn’t. He could allow her that. The alcohol was hitting to the point where he was a bit too lazy to care. Bourbon always did that to him. Hit fast, though draining a bottle and a half of the shit likely didn’t help, made him lazy and complacent and in the perfect mood to drown out Klaus’s needless prattling. He should probably start pacing himself.

 

“Mmm. Likely was unimportant enough to forget,” Hisoka replied dismissively. At least he wasn’t so tipsy he couldn’t lie. He had a habit of memory loss when illicit substances were involved.

 

“You were crying.”

 

Hisoka’s lips curled teasingly.

 

“I’m an emotional man.”

 

“You killed three people, one you were making out with, and started crying because they weren’t ‘him’.”

 

“I’ve been scorned by many a lover. You can’t expect me to control myself .”

 

“It’s a lot harder to lie when someone knows your secrets, Hisoka.” Machi pulled two glasses out of the cabinet and poured him a drink, the bourbon sloshing over the edges, and pushed it to him with one finger. Hisoka’s twisted smile he didn’t really feel only grew.

 

“Machi, are you suggesting that I expose myself?”

 

“I’m suggesting that contrary to your rather lewd suggestion, you are actually a master of self control and self containment, and the average scornful lover couldn’t possibly push you to such lengths, much less send you running home to get trashed.”

 

“Glam Gas isn’t my home.”

 

“Well, correction, then, sending you running away from home to get trashed to probably the most traumatizing place you could think of.”

 

“Second.” Hisoka’s mouth moved before his brain. He’d blame it on the bourbon.

 

“Second?” Machi echoed.

 

“Second most traumatizing. I had already come from the first,” he corrected again. Yeah, he’d remembered. He didn’t like that. Part of the reason they recorded everything was so he didn’t have to. Also, because, well, evidence. “We all make sacrifices. I just make more so the twins don’t have to.”

 

He didn’t know why he said it. Probably because at the end of the day, the twins were safe from the things he had to do, the lows he had to sink to. He’d done what he did so they didn’t have to. Instances that drove him back to Glam Gas Land, instances that bad, were the kinds of things they were shielded from, because they had to be done. They just didn’t have to be done by them.

 

Silence passed for a moment, and Hisoka flipped on the charm. All over again. Mainly because he didn’t know what else to do.

 

“Come, now, Machi. I do hate to talk about unpleasant things over subpar bourbon,” he purred. He wasn’t feeling it, but she could never tell how little he was feeling it, how much he needed to talk about unpleasant things, how much he couldn’t. He couldn’t. There was no time for it. He was a coward, really, because the thought of actually doing it was terrifying. Horrifying, even.

 

“You’ve gotten so big, Soka,” Papa purred as Hisoka and him danced in the dimly lit club. His hand rode up Hisoka’s back, pushing up Hisoka’s shirt, and Hisoka swallowed down the bile as he pushed back, forcing Papa to spin him and bring him back, tighter than ever. “I never thought it would be so gratifying to see you get so big.”

 

“Ah, ah, but then there’s the tradeoff, dear Papa,” Hisoka purred. He wanted to run. He wanted to flee. “It’s not nearly as satisfying when I say no.”

 

“Are you bargaining, Soka?”

 

“Of course. A kiss for every secret. I’m bored, Papa. I want to kill.”

 

“And you want me to name comrades I might be displeased with for you to hunt?”

 

Hisoka’s fingers traced up his arm.

 

“Mmm. You always know the best people to play with, Papa.” He had to do this. He had to. He had a vault of information to use, information attached to him, and the wall he’d hit wasn’t going to go away without Hisoka swallowing his bitter medicine.

 

“Just a kiss for such information?”

 

“Did you not teach me to tease?”

 

The memory faded and he was back in the kitchen with Machi. Shit. He’d frozen. She hadn’t even replied. She was just studying him, picking him apart bit by bit, and Hisoka hated it. Not even the twins knew where he got information from when they couldn’t get any further. And now it seemed Chrollo and Machi and who knew who else had stumbled on him in the aftermath of that information gathering, and Hisoka was vulnerable. Again. Always again.

 

“Would it take top shelf bourbon to get you to talk about unpleasant things?”

 

“No.” There was no use playing coy anymore. The realization that they had been there was enough to put him off his groove for hours. Irritating.

 

“Who is he?”

 

“It’s unimportant.” Hisoka drained the glass and pushed it out for another. “He’ll be a corpse like the rest of them in a few months, anyways. Just harder to put down. That’s all that makes him special.”

 

“Seems like a lot makes him special, considering the levels of depravity he can push you to.”

 

“He doesn’t need to push. He’s an information source. I just happen to know where to push him to get that information out.” Hisoka’s lips burned, and it wasn’t from the bourbon. Machi studied him and then took mercy, pouring another glass.

 

“Harder to put down?”

 

“He has a very difficult Nen ability to deal with. That’s all.”

 

“If he’s a high value threat, we should probably know about it.”

 

“You won’t need to. I’m killing him myself.”

 

“So is he just a source of information to you? Is that what upsets you?”

 

Hisoka felt a laugh bubbling up. It was the liquor that prompted that crazed, cracked giggle to spill out.

 

“We were all raised by someone, weren’t we?” It was a joke, really. It was a very good joke, that he hadn’t taken his head from his shoulders yet, because he was information. Valuable, valuable information, which made the mockery of an adoption so much more amusing to Hisoka, because now he understood what a real dysfunctional family looked like. He thought himself so important to Hisoka but he could never be what Hisoka had found. Twisted. Sick. He should be dead.

 

Machi was an enabler. She poured him another glass.

 

“And by pushing him, you mean …”

 

“Yes. That is exactly what I mean.” Hisoka wasn’t going to say it. He didn’t say it, nowadays. The words to describe it properly hurt, raked across his heart like a frayed violin bow. Discord, agony, what have you. He didn’t say the ugly words. He didn’t have a place for ugly in his world.

 

Machi as always was unperturbed by the unsaid declaration. That Hisoka had sunk to the lowest of lows to get what he wanted, crossed the boundaries that had been scrubbed away in his childhood over and over again, boundaries he had so carefully set back up and then trampled over again and again. She’d seen some shit. They both knew that. She’d done some shit. So her quiet acceptance of this other twisted aspect of Hisoka was just that: a quiet acceptance. It was a bit of a relief. To not see her react. Recoil. Treat him with pity, as if he needed pity. Pity was for those without a choice. Hisoka had one. He could walk away. And he didn’t. He could say he couldn’t all he wanted, but he could. He had all the power in the world, but it was worthless in his eyes if he didn’t finish. And he refused to accept that which was worthless.

 

“You probably need to get drunk.” The glass was filled, all the way to the top, and Hisoka slammed it back like a shot.

 

“Tipsy. Klaus is going to be here soon and I was initially preparing for the lecture on morality.”

 

“Is he a good person?”

 

“Unbearably so, yes.”

 

“Good people never get it.”

 

Hisoka sighed and finally slid down to take a seat at the table. He was starting to warm up, just a little.

 

“That’s what makes them good people. It’s not in their wiring.” He let Machi top him off again. “Not like us. They just can’t be like us unless their wires get crossed.”

 

“You probably had your wires crossed.” Machi sat across from him and took a long swig of bourbon, content with the pace Hisoka’s self destructive tendencies were setting.

 

“Why do you say that?” Hisoka didn’t see how they were. He was the way he was.

 

“Because you aren’t like us,” Machi said flatly and set down her glass. “If you were, you wouldn’t be doing this. You’d be doing precisely what we do.”

 

Hisoka mulled over that for a moment. He supposed so, but then again …

 

“Then your wires must be getting crossed.”

 

Machi looked up, almost a little shocked.

 

“After all,” he continued, “you’re helping me, aren’t you?”

 

This bourbon was probably turning him into an idiot. But, even so, they both sat there, steeping in these recent revelations.

 

Hisoka had worried about what would happen to the twins if they pursued this path with the troupe. He honestly had not considered up until this point that the troupe could change a little, too. Just a little.

 

Odd. It almost made him a little happy.

Chapter Text

The twins had been gone for a week and Gon had been stuck with Hisoka. He really could not believe that Hisoka had trained the twins, because he was an awful teacher. Legitimately. Gon had had many teachers of note, and none of them had been this terrible. All of Hisoka’s feedback was literally useless when he was actually engaged, and when he wasn’t he just sat around on his phone doing ultimately nothing. The other percentage of the time was left with Gon strung up in a tree trying to figure out if he had good teachers after all.

 

Nox was able to make him feel Nen. Not Ren. They were able to evidently share with their twin, and Gon didn’t know how much of that was natural or taught. Hisoka had indicated that he’d taught them, and Ky’ia had called them the Morrows.

 

They didn’t look like Hisoka. Gon couldn’t figure out how Hisoka had just decided to adopt a pair of twins, or how he’d found them, or any of the mess he’d been dropped in. Ky’ia, as kind and patient as they were, revealed no information to him. He didn’t mind training next to Ky’ia, despite them being lightyears ahead of him. Even his rock paper scissors almost paled in comparison to what they could do. After all, how could you hit someone if you didn’t even know they were there? Granted, he wasn’t even sure what would happen when his Nen came back. He may not even be an Enhancer anymore. Who knew where life was going to take you?

 

“You’re not meditating very well,” Ky’ia said, breaking Gon’s concentration on literally nothing. Who was he kidding? He wasn’t going to work any of this out until someone told him what the fuck was going on.

 

“I am not very good at that sort of stuff,” Gon admitted and Ky’ia rapped a knuckle against his head.

 

“Not thinking or actually clearing your mind?”

 

“I’m very good at not thinking.”

 

Ky’ia laughed at that and offered a hand to him to help him up from the porch step.

 

“You seem to be very bad at it, seeing as you can’t stop.”

 

“Well, wouldn’t you be thinking a lot if you were me?” Gon dusted off the back of his shorts. “I got kidnapped by Hisoka Morrow because I overheard a conversation with Kurapika of all people that I still don’t understand, he randomly has siblings and they’re some weird twins, I get dragged to Chrollo Lucilfer’s mansion and for some reason they actually trust him, and they’re just kidnapping people left and right for no actual reason I can actually see. Oh, and they apparently consider whatever they’re doing important enough that Hisoka actually doesn’t want to fight my dad. Hisoka wants to fight everyone. It makes no sense. Oh, and they want me to lie to my dad.”

 

This was all very, very frustrating. He wanted to confront someone, but confronting Hisoka had only left him upside down in a tree, and the troupe was … still terrifying. Not people he ever wanted to meet again. He wasn’t going to be confronting any of them. 

 

“You should relax and accept things are out of your control.”

 

“Weren’t you kidnapped, too? Why aren’t you trying to get away?” Gon demanded, because that was another mystery. Ky’ia looked up at the mansion behind them and sighed.

 

“I found a cause, I guess, and that cause asks that I stay.” That made even less sense. How could someone as nice as Ky’ia find a cause with these people?

 

“How? How did you find a cause? Do you know what these people are ?” Gon was so frustrated.

 

“Sometimes, the people and means don’t matter, just the result.”

 

“I don’t even know why I’m bothering with this! Nox makes no sense, Hisoka is an awful teacher, the twins just ran off and I am not learning anything!

 

“Are you a visual person, Gon?” Ky’ia asked suddenly. The question threw Gon off considerably. What did that have to do with anything?

 

“What does that matter?”

 

“Will you let me use my hatsu on you?”

 

Gon blinked. Rapidly.

 

“You want to make me hallucinate? No!”

 

“I won’t hurt you,” Ky’ia said softly. “The condition of this hatsu is that I do not reach into anyone’s memories simultaneously. Reaching into memories can be painful to the unwilling, and even more so to those without Nen. You won’t see anything awful. But it could be good for me and you. I could practice intensifying the realism on someone I haven’t practiced on yet, and you could see something you need to see.”

 

Gon knew Ky’ia had some kind of ability that allowed them to erase memories and see memories. He still couldn’t figure out why they had been kidnapped for that, if the troupe clearly wasn’t forcing them to use it. He didn’t really want to trust them, but Killua’s voice in the back of his head reminded Ky’ia could literally do it anyways, and this whole thing could possibly be a hallucination anyways, and wasn’t that a nice thought?

 

“Okay, fine,” he agreed and Ky’ia just tilted their head to focus.

 

In an instant, he realized he was now in a hallucination, because his body was now pitch black. Literally pitch black. Gon gasped at the sight.

 

“I’m going to tell you something from my culture,” Ky’ia said. They were still there, in front of him. “You call them ‘nodes’. To my people, they have two words: chejah and chejoh. Loosely translated, they mean buds and blooms. They are flowers. You have to feed them. I believe Nox told you that you could think of it like a dam, so I suppose I can tell you to think of it like an ecosystem.”

 

Lines lit up along Gon’s shadowy body, bright and vibrant, glowing and multicolored, connecting to the nodes in the shapes of buds.

 

“I think you are a visual person. I am told you are what they call Enhancers. Types mean very little in my modern culture, but I will attempt to explain from the history I have. Traditionally, Enhancers in my society, when people still learned to use their spirit, were seen as those that watered the flowers because you can collect your spirit so well and pour it out. Your chejah are untended to, unwatered, unfed. You have not fertilized their soil. They have been through a long winter, in a manner of speaking, and they want to see spring.”

 

The lines across Gon’s body that he could feel, feel so similarly to his Nen, felt alive, began to throb like hoses with water pouring through. The buds began to open.

 

“You need to be gentle with them. Show your body that you are sorry for what you did to it, that you will take better care of it,” Ky’ia continued. “I believe you are afraid that you don’t have spirit now, but that would simply be an impossible oxymoron. You have spirit because you are living, are you not?”

 

The flowers bloomed and Gon felt a rush of power, but it was not a power like he remembered. It was gentle, in a way, pulsing, ebbing, soothing, cool. He realized that Ky’ia couldn’t replicate his experiences, so they were showing him what it felt like for them.

 

Wild mountain flowers, he realized. The blooms he rarely saw on Whale Island, designed for the cold and snow. Something Ky’ia knew very well, he was willing to bet.

 

There was a subtle shift, and then Gon was Gon again. He felt lightheaded.

 

He didn’t need to break through. Not even gently. He just had to nourish himself.

 

“That was … so cool!” He gasped. It had felt so real! He could have believed for a second that his body had always been a mass of shadow. Ky’ia smiled at him.

 

“Yeah, it’s pretty cool, isn’t it? It scared me at first.”

 

“No way! Why?”

 

“I was worried I wouldn’t be myself when I learned it,” Ky’ia admitted. “Then I realized the … hatsu I had been taught as a child could be just as terrible, had been just as terrible as I thought this one could be. It’s all about what I choose to do with it.”

 

Gon tilted his head.

 

“The memory thing?”

 

“Yes. We retain the memories of our ancestors. It’s part of our culture.”

 

“Oh. That doesn’t sound terrible. Did the troupe make you take memories from someone?”

 

Gon was pretty sure that was the reason they were here. It made sense, after all.

 

“Yes. But even when I did that … terrible thing, something good came out of it, I think,” Ky’ia replied and turned for the porch. “After all, don’t the best things come out of adversity? It’s almost dinner. We should go in.”

 

Gon wasn’t looking forward to another silent, awkward meal with Machi, Chrollo, Hisoka, Feitan, and Nobunaga, who had just wandered in a few days ago and decided to stay to keep an eye on him.

 

“Hisoka’s friend Klaus will be here soon. I think the twins will be back tomorrow.” Ky’ia cast a glance over their shoulder. “You may like Klaus, I think. He’s like your friend … Leorio, I think you called him? The doctor?”

 

Gon hadn’t realized that Ky’ia was actually listening to him when he was filling the silence with talking about his friends while the twins were gone. It felt kind of nice.

 

“I don’t think Hisoka has any nice friends,” he said doubtfully, and Ky’ia laughed at that.

 

“I think Nyx once said every Transmuter needs an Enhancer.”

 

That hurt a little. He missed Killua. Keeping this secret from him was going to be hard. He couldn’t even text him; Hisoka had taken his phone. He was banned from any contact except thirty minutes after his call to Ging. The phone call that was supposed to take place tomorrow. He didn’t know what to do about that. He was awful at lying. Nox had attempted to coach him on it, emphasize telling half truths, but he knew he was going to fuck up.

 

He was ripped from his worries the second he entered the kitchen. It reeked of alcohol. Hisoka, who was normally cooking by now, and hadn’t that been a shock when he first saw it, was nowhere to be seen. It was empty.

 

There were four empty bourbon bottles in the trash. Was Hisoka getting trashed? Irritation rose in Gon again. Why weren’t the twins back already? This was hopeless. Hisoka was hopeless.

 

“Guess I’m cooking,” Ky’ia said after a long, awkward pause and moved for the fridge. “We only have … mm, Nobunaga left this morning, Kortopi doesn’t eat with other people, so Machi, Chrollo, me, you, Hisoka, and his friend to feed. How about a stir fry?”

 

“Hisoka is drunk,” Gon said flatly. Why had he thought any of this would work? The twins were gone, Hisoka was useless, and now he was getting trashed somewhere in the manor.

 

“Mmm, yes, that would make sense,” Ky’ia said calmly as they pulled out a large tupperware of marinated chicken. “Klaus is coming for a reason, after all.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Oh. You thought Klaus was a fighter?” Ky’ia looked over at Gon. “He’s a doctor, one of the top uhh … geneticists? I think… yes, geneticist, on the continent.” They were so well spoken, so deliberate with their phrasing, sometimes Gon forgot being bilingual was hard. “He’s the twins’ only doctor. I think they got hurt. Not sure. Nyx hasn’t messaged me.”

 

“Can’t Machi just stitch them up?’ Gon was confused. Machi was here. Machi reconnected Hisoka’s arm once. She could probably fix anything.

 

“They have a condition that prevents Machi from being able to do her stitching,” Ky’ia replied. “That’s why Hisoka and Klaus are friends. Klaus can uh … fix? No, fix isn’t the word … Hm. Get rid of it, I suppose. They just don’t want to give it up, because it has cultural value, so Klaus stuck around to help them when they get hurt. From my understanding, at least. Want to help me chop?”

 

A bundle of veggies was pushed at Gon and he automatically started moving to wash them. Ky’ia pulled out two cutting boards and two knives and set to slicing up the chicken breasts.

 

“What condition?” Gon asked.

 

“Their story, not mine,” Ky’ia replied passively. “I hope they have a wok… Hm.”

 

Gon supposed it would be rude to push. One didn’t ask questions about disability unless the person, or people, offered. Mito had made that quite clear. And asking other people about it was just rude. Gossipy, even. One should never gossip.

 

“Are you worried?” Gon asked on impulse.

 

“About them?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Ky’ia hummed and looked out the window at the fading sun.

 

“No. Nyx promised they’d be back. They’ll be back and be just fine. I can’t imagine anything happening on a simple … reconnaissance, yes, mission, that would result in mortal injuries.”

 

“You have a lot of faith in them.”

 

“Of course I do. So should you.”

 

“Why?”

 

Ky’ia laughed and reached up with a non chicken juices covered hand to brush hair out of their eyes.

 

“Because at the end of the day, love can really conquer anything. Even death. And they aren’t so easy to accept something as mediocre as death.”

 

Mediocre. Strange word choice. That implied that there was something worse. Gon wanted to be mad, but he was just confused.

 

Ky’ia tilted their head.

 

“Someone is pulling up. I think Klaus is here. Find a wok and start heating it up for me, please, while I go fetch him.”

 

And just like that, after a quick hand wash, Gon was left alone to reflect on everything Ky’ia had shown him and told him.

 

Wing had said he and Killua were one in a million. If that was true, with this new understanding, he could manage it in a few days.

 

In his mind’s eye, he pictured it, a flower on the back of his hand. The hand that had punched and punched, two times larger, flowing with power he never wanted to taste again. Flowing with pain, pain he had forced himself through, pain he refused to let go until he ultimately nearly killed himself.

 

“I’m sorry,” he murmured, because he was. He was sorry to Killua. He was sorry to Kite, to Knuckle, to Kurapika, to Leorio, to Ging, to Shoot, to everyone he had forgotten in his pain. And he was sorry to himself. Because Nox was right. He’d just tossed away his childhood and rushed into adulthood, unwilling to stop or back down, and he’d hurt himself deeply in the process.

 

He felt it. A murmur of resolve, a spark of power. Not like Ky’ia’s cooling presence at all, but warm, like the fireplace on a winter night.

 

And he smiled.

 

Yeah. It would take him a few days, but he’d manage it. He just had to be gentle.

Chapter Text

Hisoka was very, very drunk. He had not expected Machi to be so irresponsible. (It was, in fact, his own fault, but Machi was a convenient enabling scapegoat.) And now here they were, in the drawing room, draped over the furniture with another two empty bourbon bottles discarded on the floor.

 

“Mmm. Machi?” His voice sounded so slow. It made him want to giggle.

 

“Mmm. Yeah?”

 

Hisoka slid so his long legs were thrown over the back of the couch and his head was resting on the ground.

 

“Do you think the twins will be okay?” He felt tears coming on at the thought of them being hurt. “They’re so stupid sometimes …”

 

“They’ll be fine,” Machi mumbled from the armchair.

 

“That is a very impressive lesbian manspread.”

 

“You are very drunk.”

 

It was hilarious, Machi accusing him, and he started laughing. Actually laughing.

 

“So are you!”

 

“Not as drunk as you. You’re a lightweight.”

 

“Why are you so mean to me ?”

 

“You deserve it.”

 

“But you like me.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Aha! I knew it!” Hisoka’s arms flung out to flop onto the floor with a thud. He needed to find a good manicurist in town. “I need mani pedis. We should get mani pedis.”

 

“You’re so fucking gay,” Machi groaned and slumped even lower in the chair, bottle of bourbon dangling from her fingers.

 

“I am an artist. And I am not gay. I’m bisexual, you uncultured swine.”

 

“Bah.” Machi waved her free hand. “You’re obnoxious is what you are.”

 

“And you’re rude.

 

“S’fine.”

 

Hisoka, briefly, sensed someone approaching, and remembered all of a sudden that he was getting drunk for a reason, and Nen he had definitely gone overboard.

 

The door creaked over to reveal Ky’ia and Klaus standing there, and Hisoka considered getting up for a brief moment, and then realized his positioning and decided that was objectively not a good idea.

 

“Hello, Klaus,” he said cheerfully. “You came.”

 

“And you got drunk,” Klaus stated flatly and paced forward to stand over Hisoka, looking down at him with that very familiar expression. Hisoka crinkled his nose.

 

“You smell like the hospital.”

 

“I was in a rush. Why are you drunk with a literal Spider?”

 

“I was preparing myself for the lecture when you figured out we all decided to be murder friends.”

 

Klaus was very tall. He wasn’t all legs, like Hisoka, but very generously proportioned. A solid rock of muscle, with dark skin and carefully groomed curly hair, he was definitely a treat to look at. Hisoka had looked a lot. He had not looked from this position before. It was a pity, really, that Klaus knew all of his secrets. No romance existed between them, but he would have been fun for a fling. He was just too nice for Hisoka to even let any feelings blossom, too different from Hisoka.

 

Klaus looked over his shoulder at the slumped over Machi.

 

“You’re Machi,” he stated, as if it was fact. Well, it was. “Could you give us the room?”

 

Machi groaned and lurched to her feet. It took her just a moment to gather herself into a semblance of imitated sobriety.

 

“Have fun, Hisoka,” she said and swept for the door, Ky’ia on her heels.

 

“Bye, Ky’ia! I hope Nyx texts you!” Hisoka didn’t know why he said that. The only one here worried was him. There was a brief musical laugh, and the door shut.

 

“You’re a mess,” Klaus said after a long, awkward pause. Hisoka just smiled up at him, lazy, slow.

 

“Aren’t I always?”

 

“Was the bourbon necessary?”

 

“Is anything I do necessary?”

 

“Your blood is going to rush to your head like that. Get up.”

 

“No.”

 

Klaus sighed, long and low, and bowed to Hisoka’s whim, like he always did. The man sunk down next to him, lifting one of Hisoka’s arm and flopping it into his lap. Gentle fingers ran over his skin, inspecting on instinct, checking for injuries.

 

“You’ve got some fresh scars here,” Klaus commented as he prodded at the ring around Hisoka’s right wrist, where Hisoka had yanked a little too hard on the cuff.

 

“Mmm. I do,” Hisoka confirmed. He always scarred so easily, never really bothered with scar cream for it. The twins healed up far more easily than him.

 

“Want to explain about the murder friends thing, and why the twins are headed back here , which I assume is their hideout?”

 

Hisoka huffed out a sigh and grabbed Klaus’s hand, dragging it over to run through his loose hair. He hadn’t been styling it lately more than a ponytail. His scalp was crying at the release from his plethora of product.

 

“Edwin’s trap worked and didn’t.” Explaining this right now was hard. His brain was fuzzy. “He hired Chrollo and Machi to catch them. I couldn’t let be, so I got caught instead so they got away.”

 

“And that led to all of this … how?”

 

“I don’t know.” Hisoka practically purred as Klaus scratched right at that special spot that sent tingles up his spine. “I have no idea what I’m doing right now, or what they want, really want, or why Chrollo is so weird. But they have okay liquor, so, meh.”

 

“You say that like they offered to help.”

 

“They did !” Hisoka wanted to sit up, but he was so comfortable like this. “Chrollo did! After he dug around in my brain!”

 

Klaus’s fingers stopped scratching and he looked down at Hisoka in confusion.

 

“Dug around in your brain?”

 

“Ky’ia,” Hisoka said and ineffectually flapped his hand around. “Lover kid. Sweet on Nyx. Very sweet on Nyx, poor dear. Their birthday is tomorrow. They can do that. Got kidnapped for it.”

 

“By dig around in your brain, do you mean like telepathy or actual brain surgery?” Klaus’s fingers were moving with purpose now and Hisoka pouted. He was so stupid.

 

“No, no brain surgery, stupid. Telepathy. Sort of.”

 

Klaus’s fingers stopped and Hisoka reached up to poke, demanding he continue. It was so rude of Klaus to be so stupid and easily startled. Obligingly, he continued, and Hisoka let his eyes slide shut in contentment.

 

Really, he actually hated lying to Klaus. He would never admit that in any other circumstances. So this was a bit of a relief.

 

“So they ripped some memories out of you, kidnapped and probably beat the shit out of you, and then offered to help.”

 

“They are very protective of Meteor City.” It sounded unconvincing, now that Hisoka said it out loud. “Having us cooperate is more efficient than bumbling around trying to replicate our success.”

 

“Right.” Klaus also sounded unconvinced.

 

“I don’t know. Chrollo is weird and makes no sense. He won’t even let me go out in the field anymore. Can you imagine? How disrespectful is that?”

 

Klaus squinted down at him.

 

“And you’re letting him tell you what to do?”

 

“He threatened to pull out if I didn’t,” Hisoka explained and his bottom lip protruded. “It’s probably his own punishment for … me being me. But s’fine. I can handle it. I still get what I want.”

 

“I’m not sure that qualifies as punishment. Did he see your memories?”

 

“Yes. They’re all unbearably rude, Klaus. Really.”

 

“So is Nox.”

 

“Yes, and they’re making them worse. Honestly. You know what they said to me the other day?”

 

Klaus looked like he wanted to laugh at Hisoka. How very rude. But, he was scratching Hisoka’s scalp, so he could forgive it for now.

 

“What did they say?”

 

“They told me my skincare routine wasn’t working!”

 

“Is it rude if it’s an honest observation?”

 

“That is the worst kind of rude, Klaus, and you know it. I’m not getting wrinkles.”

 

Klaus’s hand disengaged from Hisoka’s hair to rub between his brows.

 

“Maybe a few stress lines.”

 

“Don’t you dare.

 

“You are too good at avoiding consequences, Hisoka. Did you get drunk so I couldn’t lecture you?”

 

“... No.”

 

“Liar.”

 

“Always.”

 

Klaus went back to scratching at his scalp and sighed quietly. Hisoka reached up to push up the glasses that were sliding down the bridge of his nose.

 

“Why are you always a mess?” Klaus asked quietly. “Is this really worth it? You know who they are better than anyone.”

 

“You know, Phinks carries Kleenex for Feitan,” Hisoka said on instinct. “He gets nosebleeds. Nyx told me.”

 

“They only care about each other, if that’s what you’re getting at.” Klaus was unimpressed. Hisoka, personally, thought it was rather sweet, but whatever.

 

“Bono has a wife in his tribe,” Hisoka insisted. “Machi doesn’t tell anyone, but we all know she knits blankets for the kids in the city.”

 

“Hisoka, I’ve never known you to feel like you have to justify something. You just do it, and expect everyone else to understand.”

 

“If they help, we have more bodies on the ground, more skilled people who just need a little training and reprogramming gathering information.” Hisoka didn’t know what he was leading up to. “We finish faster. We can finish faster.”

 

“Hisoka,” Klaus said quietly. “You need to stop cutting corners.”

 

Hisoka knew that Klaus knew. He knew that he knew because Klaus always knew when Hisoka returned from breaking down a wall. He knew him too well and it scared Hisoka sometimes.

 

“But if we finish they can …” Hisoka trailed off. Klaus was his best friend. His confidant. His trusted ally, knowledgeable enough, but removed enough that Hisoka could see him as an anchor for him and the twins. “I have to.”

 

Klaus’s fingers stilled again and he looked down at Hisoka. Waiting. He was always so patient, when he was disapproving. So kind to Hisoka, but so unbending. Hisoka shifted his arms, pulling himself up, struggling to his hands and knees so he could loom right in Klaus’s face, inches away.

 

“You know, Klaus,” Hisoka said, begging Klaus in his own way to acknowledge it, face it, so Hisoka didn’t have to say it. Klaus didn’t say anything. Quietly, under all of the liquor, a tiny voice of sobriety reminded Hisoka that he had to say it. That was how this worked. If he wanted Klaus to understand, and he did, he did so much, he didn’t want to lose him, he had to say it. “The faster we finish, the faster they can be finished. They can be happy, and I can be happy. Because you know.

 

“I know what?” Klaus asked quietly, pushing Hisoka to say it, and Hisoka briefly felt lightheaded. He drank too much.

 

“I was going to quit,” Hisoka said. He really could only say this when he was drunk, admit his shame, admit his love in one go. “I was going to quit when I found them. I was gonna just … give it all up. But I knew it. I knew them. They weren’t going to. So I had to help them finish.” He had told Klaus this once, in the six years he’d been yanking him around on his adventure, dragging this man into his chaos. Once, when he was blazed and drunk and crying after another wall breaking.

 

“Is this corner worth it to you, Hisoka?” Klaus was deadly serious, and Hisoka realized for the millionth time he’d follow him into hell. It was always a shock, every single time.

 

“They are all worth it,” Hisoka hissed, and his body failed him. He pitched forward, face buried in Klaus’s lap, and the hand returned to his hair to gently scratch at his scalp.

 

“Alright then,” Klaus said softly. “I don’t agree. But I’ll be on call.”

 

“Okay,” Hisoka mumbled into his lap. He wasn’t sure if he should cry or laugh. His body felt weird. Emotions always felt weird.

 

“You probably will barely remember, but I brought the TwoSkin. There’s enough to last for a few months if they don’t get really banged up. I don’t know if I can get more.”

 

“S’fine. Machi may figure it out by then,” Hisoka muttered.

 

“That kinda makes me feel stupid.”

 

“You are stupid. You’ll get in any car if the sob story is good enough.” Klaus could probably only hear about half of that, but whatever. 

 

“Sorry I care about people,” Klaus grumbled. So he heard enough.

 

“Someone’s gotta.”

 

The door creaked open again and Hisoka lifted his head with a groan. His vision was blurred at this point, but he was 99% certain that was Chrollo standing there. Yep. It was Chrollo. And he looked … Strange.

 

His hair was down. That was it. And he was looking at Hisoka like he could kill him.

 

“Dinner is almost ready,” Chrollo said shortly. “Are you going to introduce me to my guest?”

 

Hisoka groaned and dropped his head into Klaus’s lap again, who was looking between him and Chrollo like he was seeing something. Whatever. Klaus was always trying to go overboard trying to notice things. All his brain power seemed to be used up for dealing with Hisoka’s moods and genetic science nonsense.

 

“I’m Klaus. Hisoka is drunk. He gets clingy when he’s drunk,” Klaus offered and nudged Hisoka, trying to get him up. “Apologies. I went to see him first because Ky’ia said he’d been drinking.”

 

Hisoka groaned and reached forward to clamp down on Klaus’s leg, forcing it still. Klaus sighed, frustrated.

 

“Hisoka. You need water. Let me up.”

 

“Water is for flowers,” Hisoka muttered. Klaus always had the best quality jeans. They were always so soft.

 

“And drunks.”

 

“Hisoka,” Chrollo cut in, “I think you should let him get you some water.”

 

“Fuck you.” Hisoka tilted his head to glare up at Chrollo with one angry yellow eye. “You confusing, irritating little man.”

 

Chrollo’s brows slowly raised and he and Klaus seemed to exchange some sort of glance. Hisoka could barely care enough to try to figure out why Klaus was giving him that trademark warning glare he reserved for boys following Nox around at the movies.

 

“Watch your tone, Hisoka,” Chrollo said carefully and the liquor surged to Hisoka’s brain, forcing him to sit up and glare at him.

 

“Or what? You’ll make Ky’ia get in my head again?” Hisoka hissed. Klaus winced next to him, but Hisoka couldn’t be fucked to care. “Get me high? Get me more drunk so I can show you more secrets you won’t even tell me you saw? That it? Track me down to Glam Gas so you can see me fucking fucked up when no one else can? That it?”

 

Chrollo was silent and Hisoka was suddenly so pissed at him for never mentioning it, for always knowing, for letting him act up out of pity. 

 

“Is that it? Why you let me do what the fuck ever? Because you pitied me ?” Hisoka snarled and tried to struggle to his feet.

 

“Hisoka, you need to stop,” Klaus warned, reaching out to grab at him. Hisoka shrugged him off. All of those warm fuzzy feelings had dissipated in the face of Chrollo and he could not care to stop. It wasn’t like he’d remember, anyways. He was a notorious blackout drunk. Couldn’t remember shit the next day. It was in part a choice, probably. Alcohol removed your inhibitions, and none of his inhibitions allowed him to forget things. No, he remembered everything he could.

 

“Stop?” Hisoka choked on a laugh. “Why the fuck would I stop ? Huh?”

 

He couldn’t get to his feet, but whatever. Chrollo could hear him from right here, on his knees in Chrollo’s drawing room.

 

“Is that why you won’t let me leave? Because you pity me?” Hisoka didn’t know how to stop. “Pity is for people who can’t choose. I know exactly what the fuck I’m doing. I killed my parents in that fucked up city, you know.”

 

Klaus knew. Now Chrollo did, too.

 

“I may have another sibling somewhere,” Hisoka growled. “Had. Mom was pregnant with them when she fucking sold me and my useless ass. Nowhere to be seen when I went back to finish the fucking job.” He didn’t really care, honestly. How could he care about someone he had never met, buried in a mass grave somewhere if their records were anything to go off of? If she didn’t miscarry, that was. He didn’t know why he was telling Chrollo this.

 

“Two lives for two lives. Pretty fucking fitting for Twin Cities.” Gravity was trying to claim him, but he struggled against it.

 

“I knew what I was fucking doing. I knew it, always knew it, and I chose it. So fuck your pity.

 

Chrollo was just staring at him and Klaus on the floor. Klaus was silent. He was always silent when Hisoka got like this, let him go until he broke and gave in and got it all out of his system. The same way Hisoka handled the twins. Hisoka had probably learned it from him. He didn’t deserve Klaus, really. He didn’t know why he stuck around like this.

 

Oh, damn. There were the tears again. He remembered now. He cried when he was drunk. He was a crier. He wanted a hug.

 

“I couldn’t pity you,” Chrollo said softly. “You don’t pity a hurricane.”

 

“That makes no sense !” Hisoka was sick of it. Sick of Chrollo and his word games, his toying, his pressing, his secrets. The tears were really spilling now, tracking through facepaint and letting mascara run down his cheeks. “You never make any sense!”

 

“I don’t pity you,” Chrollo repeated. “I want to protect you.”

 

If Hisoka had looked, he would have seen the look of confirmation on Klaus’s face, but he missed it because he was too busy dealing with the emotional thunderbolt in his chest.

 

“I don’t need fucking protection !”

 

“No. You don’t,” Chrollo agreed. “But you’ll have it anyways. Whether you like it or not.”

 

“Well I don’t fucking like it! Why do you have to lie ?”

 

“I’m not.”

 

No one wants to protect me! ” Hisoka was nearly screaming now, and Klaus reached to grab his wrist. Warm. Hisoka let him ground him, like he always did, and the tears kept coming.

 

“I do,” Chrollo said shortly, and turned to walk out. “I can see you aren’t up for dinner. I’ll get you some water.”

 

Hisoka’s carefully crafted world was crashing down again, and a sob worked up as the door shut. Klaus pulled him close, half dragging Hisoka into his lap, and let him hide his face in his shoulder.

 

“Just calm down,” Klaus rumbled, his warm baritone soothing over Hisoka’s hurting soul. “Just calm down.”

 

A hurricane. Chrollo had called him a hurricane.

Chapter Text

Hisoka awoke with a groan. Bright sunlight was streaming in, hitting his eyes from between the slats of the blinds. His head ached with all of the fury of roughly three bottles of bourbon. His eyes blurred, and then refocused on the bottle of water on the nightstand. It took a moment for him to get his bearings, and even longer to realize there was a warm body in the bed next to him. He caught a good whiff of antiseptic and the tension that had built up bled out of his pores.

 

He was in Chrollo’s manor. Klaus had apparently stayed the night in the bed next to him. Hisoka almost felt bad. Klaus had to call in sick for this. Not that he really dealt with the regular hands on approach nowadays. Most of the time he was cooped up in a lab, seeing patients sparingly. Even so. He had important work.

 

Klaus was sleeping heavily, glasses left haphazardly on the nightstand, and Hisoka sat up. At some point or another his pants had gone missing. He must have been very, very drunk. Not that it was embarrassing to be half naked in bed with Klaus. Occasionally, Klaus had stayed over, and there wasn’t a guest bed. He had migrated to Hisoka’s bed as opposed to the couch over time. Probably after the fifth kidnapping attempt, actually, when they had actually had to stay in hotels while Hisoka was trying to get him home. It was natural now.

 

They had a very weird relationship.

 

How had he gotten so drunk? He was only supposed to be tipsy. He vaguely recalled Machi showing up and everything snowballing and …

 

“You don’t pity a hurricane.”

 

Hisoka nearly fell out of bed. Fuzzy, distant, but he could still feel the tears pouring down his face as he screamed at Chrollo.

 

Chrollo had been in Twin Cities four years ago. He had seen him in the very bar his biological mother used to work in. How had Hisoka forgotten?

 

Copious amounts of liquor with a smattering of cocaine, probably.

 

Hisoka’s gut twisted.

 

“You’ll have it anyways.”

 

Why couldn’t he forget this one?

 

Bare feet padded into the bathroom, where a used makeup wipe was still on the counter. Klaus was always so thoughtful. Knowing Hisoka, he had probably wanted to skip it.

 

Hisoka reeked of sweat and liquor. With a groan, he turned on the shower and grabbed his facewash to just take with him. Clothes were stripped, left in a mess on the ground, and he stumbled under boiling hot water. He didn’t even bother with tucking his hair into a cap.

 

How was he going to fix this one? How was he going to … How was he … 

 

“You move to wreck things way too quickly.”

 

Hisoka wanted to kill. He wanted to kill, and that was going to fix his problems, because he could not keep having meltdowns around Chrollo and expect this to work out. Chrollo was the problem here, and problems needed to be eliminated.

 

“No one wants to protect me!”

 

“I do.”

 

He was lying. He was lying right to Hisoka’s face, and it wasn’t funny when he did it. It wasn’t amusing. It wasn’t a precursor to some big game. He was lying, and Hisoka could not understand why. What was the benefit here? What was he going to gain from this game? Idle entertainment? A feeling of satisfaction at having once again mastered something that belonged to someone else? Was that it? Was he simply using Hisoka’s greatest strength against him? Insidious deceit?

 

Hisoka mechanically began to wash his face. One, two, three, four, all the way to sixty. He needed to control something. He needed to take control. How was he going to do that when Chrollo had already seen him losing his fucking shit? How had Hisoka broken control so violently? Hisoka didn’t break control like that. Even when he was pretending to lose it, even when he was sucked so deep in the character that it seemed impossible to get out, he did. Not. Lose. Control.

 

What was happening to him? Why could Chrollo do this to him?

 

Why was he losing?

 

Hisoka’s shoulders shook as he rinsed the wash from his face. It was fine. This was just another roadblock. He knew how to deal with roadblocks he couldn’t kill. Assert control. Slip back into character. Contain himself. Act out, move unpredictably, keep Chrollo guessing.

 

This was fine. Chrollo wanted to play? Fine. Hisoka was a fine playmate.

 

He set to washing his body, scrubbing away the alcohol scented sweat and grime. He should really be shaving and exfoliating, but whatever. He could do it later. His head hurt too badly right now to deal with it.

 

He probably stayed in the shower too long. He was getting wrinkly.

 

Just act like nothing was wrong. Hell, he could even pretend he had no recollection of the day before. Yes. He would do that. Just act like nothing was wrong, everything was fine.

 

His eyes still burned from crying.

 

He was hungry.

 

And he had Gon to deal with. He’d almost forgotten about the brat. There was no way he didn’t know Hisoka had made an ass of himself. He was going to be insufferable today. “Why did you get drunk, Hisoka.” “You suck at teaching, Hisoka.” “Bisky was better, Hisoka.”

 

Annoying little fuck. All of that potential, wasted. Hisoka hated that he could sympathize with him. He’d been willing to die once, too, and it was beyond aggravating that now he couldn’t figure out how to act around Gon.

 

He should probably check his phone, see where Phinks was. He had been faithful enough in text updates, cutting it close a few times when he lost service, but good enough. They would probably arrive in the evening.

 

Having the twins on so many medications was a gamble. They had trouble coagulating most of the time, so when they had deep injuries it had dire consequences. Phinks had caught on. Klaus would likely order them off everything but the oxycodone for a week. It was almost disconcerting how easily Hisoka could predict medical decisions nowadays.

 

Hisoka climbed out of the tub and dried off, moving to moisturize and run through his morning skincare routine. Toner, let dry and absorb, moisturizer, go get dressed while he waited for that to soak in so he could put on spf. Hisoka had very few real routines in life, so this was the one he clung to like he would dissolve if he didn’t have it.

 

Klaus was only beginning to wake up after Hisoka put on his spf. The poor man’s biological clock had never reset after his time on the floor as a resident in the ER. He sat up with a groan and rubbed at his head. His hair was completely fucked.

 

“Morning,” Hisoka said from the bathroom. Should he do makeup today, or would it look like he was trying too hard to cover up his dark circles? Klaus grunted briefly as he pushed on his glasses and looked around for his backpack on the floor. “I’m going to make breakfast. Can you get to the kitchen okay on your own?”

 

“Yeah,” Klaus muttered as he padded into the bathroom. Hisoka reached and absentmindedly pulled at a tight coil of hair.

 

“Spray bottle is under the sink if you need to fix that mess.”

 

“I forgot my shea butter…” Klaus muttered distantly.

 

“I’m sure you’ll survive for one day,” Hisoka replied dryly. “I have argan oil if you want to use that instead.”

 

Klaus sighed and rubbed at his eye. He was not a morning person. It was one of the reasons the twins had warmed up to him so quickly. There had been many mornings spent with Hisoka making the coffee and smoothies while the three of them sat in silence around the kitchen table, ready to start growling at a moment’s notice. Misery did love company.

 

“Thanks,” he mumbled and stumbled over to the shower before pausing. “You ok?”

 

Hisoka blinked.

 

“Of course. Why?”

 

Klaus turned and stared at him.

 

“I’d say you’re a bad liar, but you’re not. You’re just a bad liar with me.”

 

Hisoka let a puff of air escape his nostrils.

 

“I’ll survive. When have I not?”

 

“He loves you,” Klaus blurted, and Hisoka sighed.

 

“You’re still very naive, Klaus,” Hisoka warned. “He wants something. So, as far as anyone is concerned, I don’t remember a thing.”

 

“I’m not naive, Hisoka. You’re just paranoid.”

 

“He doesn’t love me,” Hisoka said sharply, sharper than he intended. “He doesn’t want to protect me, he doesn’t want to keep me safe, keep me bundled away from myself, he doesn’t want to help. He wants something. Men always want something.”

 

Klaus pursed his lips and then sighed. Hisoka hated that sigh. It was the “Hisoka is wrong but this is a losing battle so whatever” sigh.

 

“If you say so. I’m not too keen on you responding the same, anyways, so if you want to believe that, sure. He wants something.”

 

Klaus turned back and turned on the shower. For all Klaus’s acknowledgment of his own defeat, Hisoka felt like he had lost that one. Then again, it always felt like that.

 

“I’ll see you in the kitchen,” Hisoka said quietly and left Klaus to his shower.

 

It was still very early. No one else was up yet, so Hisoka had the kitchen to himself as he started to brew coffee and pull out eggs, bacon, and potatoes. Normally he’d make a smoothie and call it a day, but if he knew anything it was that hot grease cured all manners of hangovers.

 

The leftovers of the stirfry Ky’ia had made last night were still sitting in the fridge. He very consciously ignored them. It was a pity he hadn’t gotten to try their cooking while it was fresh. He had a feeling they were naturally a very good cook.

 

“You’re a very good cook.” Chrollo snuck up on him. Again. Why did he insist on doing that? “I was almost surprised.”

 

Three times now. Hadn’t Hisoka promised him after the first it wouldn’t happen again?

 

“Mmm?” Hisoka paid closer attention to his eggs. Eggs were always so delicate.

 

Chrollo moved closer in from the doorway. He was still in sleep pants and an oversized gray shirt. Hisoka remembered wearing that shirt. It was very soft. It had actually come down to his wrists, despite the size difference.

 

“I figured with the twins, you’d be good at smoothies, not solid foods.”

 

“I had to fend for myself for a very long time,” Hisoka said quietly. Why was it getting harder to lie to Chrollo? He was trying to work himself up to it, but it felt impossible. “Life is approximately ten times worse when you’re alone and can’t make good food. Also, they can eat solids. On special occasions. It’s just a choking hazard. So naturally I have to make it worth it.”

 

Chrollo’s eyes fell on the pans in front of Hisoka. Bacon already cooked and under a mound of paper towels to stay warm, potatoes sizzling in the leftover fat.

 

“How does he take his eggs?”

 

“Klaus?”

 

“Who else would I be referring to?”

 

“Over easy. He likes to mix the yolk with the starches.” There was a flicker in Chrollo’s aura, a taste of an ugly emotion pushed down and to the side.

 

“You two seemed very close.”

 

“Did we?” Hisoka didn’t glance over, balancing at the precipice. “I suppose we are.”

 

“You said there was nothing romantic.” He sounded accusatory. Hisoka ignored it.

 

“My, my, we didn’t seem that close, did we? How scandalous.” A jibe. A tease. Skirting around the topic. He could do this.

 

“You did.” Chrollo seemed dead serious. He was a lovely actor, really.

 

“Mmm. We are quite close,” Hisoka confirmed. How to play this off? If Chrollo saw Klaus as a roadblock, he could just kill him. If Hisoka revealed too much, though, that would mean he remembered the night before. “I am rather clingy with people I’m close to when I’m drunk. After all, I am what they like to call an ‘attention whore’. Or so I’m told.”

 

“You’re told that you’re an attention whore?” The slur sounded lovely coming from Chrollo’s lips. A pity Hisoka would never let himself hear it in the bedroom. Oh, well. It was Chrollo’s own fault for playing games.

 

“I’m told I’m clingy.”

 

“You don’t think you are?”

 

Hisoka hummed and shrugged and stirred up the potatoes. They were getting to be a nice golden brown, and his scrambled eggs were nearly done.

 

“I wouldn’t know, really. I’m what they call a ‘blackout drunk’. Just terrible , really. I’m sure I would have some lovely memories otherwise.”

 

Emotions flickered across Chrollo’s face. Relief, disappointment, then careful impassivity. My, my. What a lovely show for Hisoka. He was almost flattered at the attention to detail, all for his benefit.

 

“Does that mean you don’t remember last night?”

 

Hisoka raised an eyebrow and cast Chrollo a sidelong glance.

 

“Should I? Was I scandalous ?”

 

“In a manner of speaking. You were crying.”

 

Hisoka sighed, long, loud, just to drive home the point.

 

“Well, naturally. I am a dramatic beast, after all.”

 

“I wouldn’t call it dramatic.”

 

“Are you trying to hurt my feelings?” Hisoka expertly slid the eggs out onto a plate and scraped out the leftover bits so he could re oil the pan and start up Klaus’s eggs. He took fairly fast showers. He’d be down soon enough.

 

“No.”

 

“Mmm. Well then I would hate to see you actually try.”

 

Chrollo looked frustrated. Hisoka didn’t know how to interpret that. Did he not believe Hisoka? Was he playing it up? Very unlike him to let his prey know they were frustrating him if he was playing this sort of game with them. Then again, Hisoka was thinking as Hisoka, not Chrollo. Perhaps he had different methods. Hisoka would just have to trust his own.

 

“Why would I want to hurt your feelings?”

 

“Please, Chrollo. Sadist recognizes sadist. I’d try myself, if you had any.” That felt like too harsh of a lie. It tripped over his tongue as it slid out, and he cursed himself internally for the slip. Hopefully Chrollo didn’t catch it.

 

Chrollo did. Hisoka saw it, in the way his eyes barely narrowed.

 

“Hisoka,” Chrollo said and tilted his head. Hisoka felt the En expand over him, envelop him briefly, and he struggled to maintain his cool as he cracked in the first egg with one hand, then the second and third.

 

“Yes?”

 

“Are you from Glam Gas Land?”

 

“Of course. Are you running a lie detector test on me, hm?” It was smart. If you had enough control, En could pick up fluctuations in heartbeat, Nen, breath, sweat. It wasn’t perfect. Someone as highly trained as Hisoka couldn’t be beat out by heartbeat or sweat. Nen, however, rarely lied, so Hisoka strove to keep his as fluctuating and chaotic as possible as often as he could so it would be virtually impossible to pick up.

 

“Yes. Did the twins kill Trask?”

 

“Yes. It won’t work.”

 

“I can be the judge of that. Is your hair naturally red?”

 

“Yes. I am telling you. Plenty of people have tried. It doesn’t work.”

 

“I can tell. They weren’t me. Are you really a blackout drunk?”

 

“Yes. And you are far too confident in your abilities. You can beat me in anything else. You can’t beat me in this.”

 

“Do you really not remember last night?”

 

“Yes. I have no reason to lie.”

 

Hisoka felt the En thicken around him, intensifying, bordering close to Ren, and Chrollo tilted his head again.

 

“But you do,” Chrollo said softly. “Your aura. You keep it chaotic, don’t you?”

 

“I am chaotic.”

 

“It was synthetic.”

 

Time froze for Hisoka. His eyes fell on the eggs and he robotically turned them, his brain registering that they were ready. Chrollo kept staring at him. Hisoka didn’t know what to do. He legitimately didn’t know what to do.

 

“That doesn’t mean much of anything,” Hisoka said. Pathetic. He was pathetically clinging to what ? “Almost everything about me is synthetic. That doesn’t prove your theory.”

 

Chrollo was still winning. Hisoka was fraying.

 

“You are right. Ordinarily, I couldn’t beat you.” The praise was high, given who Chrollo was, but it fell flat. “I wouldn’t have caught that ordinarily, had you been the you I first met.”

 

Hisoka’s throat was dry. He needed coffee and some tylenol.

 

“But something you don’t realize is that I am very, very invested in seeing when you’re hurting.”

 

“I’m not hurting.” Last night hadn’t hurt him. He was fine. He was always, always fine.

 

“Then why did you lie?” Chrollo asked softly. Hisoka wanted to deck him. When had it turned into a simple punch? Had he not wanted to rip out his throat just a few days ago?

 

“Men always want something.” Why was he telling the truth ? Why was he letting Chrollo pull this out of him? “And you are nothing but a man.”

 

Chrollo studied him with painfully devoid eyes. Hisoka ignored them, pressed on the yolk with the tip of the spatula to test for give. They were ready. He slid them onto the second plate.

 

“Are you afraid?”

 

Hisoka wanted to laugh at him. He wanted to tease, to pull, to push.

 

“What could I possibly have to fear from you?”

 

“That someone could see you for what you are and love you for it.”

 

Hisoka snorted. It was a natural reflex, though his brain was spinning at how sadistic Chrollo really was. This was sadism. The alternative was simply not an option.

 

“I don’t need someone to love me for what I am. There’s enough for three. How do you take your eggs?” Serious, casual. Keep Chrollo on his toes.

 

“Just because you don’t need something doesn’t mean you can’t want it.”

 

Someone already tried, Hisoka wanted to say. Someone already died for it, he wanted to say.

 

“I don’t need anyone’s love,” Hisoka said shortly. “How do you take your eggs?”

 

Chrollo seemed to realize this was a losing battle and conceded. Relief hit Hisoka in the chest as Chrollo took a step back. He hadn’t realized he’d been so close.

 

“Scrambled.”

 

And just like that, the conversation was over. Hisoka didn’t feel better, but his mood managed to brighten when Klaus shuffled into the kitchen and immediately got coffee.

 

It soured almost immediately as he realized that he trusted Chrollo to not kill Klaus. And it only got worse the moment he saw Chrollo hand his doctor the creamer and realized the reason he trusted him to keep his hands off was because he believed him.

 

He really believed him.

 

How very irresponsible of him.

Chapter Text

The blood coagulated three hours ago, finally. They were approaching the manor now, and Nox was managing to come to a little bit. Phinks hadn’t let them sleep for more than thirty minutes at a time, and Nox was, quite frankly, exhausted. The blood loss was getting to them, and they wanted nothing more than a shower and bed. Nyx was probably in even worse shape than Nox. They never really reacted to blood loss well. Nox theorized that it was because they were a control freak. Nyx hadn’t reacted well to that assessment when Nox had initially made it, and it was never brought up again.

 

Nox was far more awake than them right now. Phinks was smoking. It was giving Nox a bit of a headache. They hadn’t even known he smoked. He was probably stressed, which was understandable. Hisoka had a nasty temper. Nox almost pitied him for what was about to happen. Even if Hisoka managed to contain himself, his scathing tongue had a habit of breaking down every inch of self esteem a person could possibly possess.

 

The manor was lit up with a porch light and the headlights. Relief flooded Nox as they caught sight of Klaus’s beat up pickup parked out front, and they struggled to sit up, their body screaming in pain. Glass was such a bitch sometimes. Hopefully all of it had been pulled out.

 

“Nyx,” Phinks said from the front and tossed the butt. Nyx stirred slightly, and Nox gave them a nudge. A low groan emanated from them, and Nox nudged again to get their eyes open.

 

“Nyx, wake up. We’re home.”

 

Nyx’s eyes fluttered open as Hisoka stepped out onto the porch, Klaus and Machi behind him as Phinks pulled to a halt in front of the garage. From the carefully controlled look on Hisoka’s face, he was not happy. That was fine.

 

He’d get over it.

 

Hisoka and Klaus strode over to the car and opened the back doors, Klaus crinkling his nose at the mess of blood in the backseat.

 

“You two are going to get infections,” he chastised as firm hands guided Nox out of the car.

 

Couldn’t pull over to change the bandages, ” Nox tried to sign, but it came out a garbled mess. Klaus sighed and just bent, sweeping his arm under Nox’s knees to lift them up.

 

“You’re a mess,” Klaus grumbled. “Dragging me away from work for this shit.”

 

He was happy to see them. Aw.

 

Nox couldn’t find the energy to say anything as Phinks pulled all of their bags from the trunk and carried them up the stairs.

 

They were so tired. Their phone was dead, too. Oh, well. Phinks needed the charger to keep the music going.

 

Nox let their head plop onto Klaus’s shoulder and eyes slide shut. He didn’t smell like the hospital. He must have used Hisoka’s shower. And the shea butter scent was gone. Silly Klaus, forgetting his moisturizer …

 

They felt rather high. They barely even noticed as Klaus and Hisoka dragged them through the house and into the kitchen to wash them up enough to squeeze out that neat little TwoSkin Klaus got his hands on a while ago. It was kind of neat, Nox thought distantly as they watched it attach to the skin and pull the edges together. It worked like a liquid bandage, just on bigger injuries. Klaus knew the biochemist that developed it. There was no need for stitches or staples, so there wasn’t a bigger mess when they needed to be patched up. It acted like a patch, and was formulated to finally wash off after five days or so.

 

Klaus and Hisoka had done this a million times, working in tangent to put the twins back together. Dimly, Nox was aware of Machi in the doorway, watching them work, but they couldn’t really be bothered to notice more than that. Klaus finished patching up the last cut on Nox’s back. He was always so gentle. It had barely even hurt. Nox tilted their head back, upside down, ignoring the blood rush, and gave him a lazy smile.

 

“Stop that,” Klaus said with an irritated frown and pushed Nox’s head back forward. “You didn’t even get all the glass out.”

 

They hadn’t? Hm. Nox hadn’t even noticed him pulling it out, but there it was, on the table in front of them, splattered in blood. Ew.

 

“You need a shower,” Klaus stated. “You stink.”

 

Nox stuck out their lower lip in a pout and poked at him. Signing was just too hard right now. Their arm hurt.

 

“They both need a shower,” Hisoka grumbled and caught Nyx before they pitched backwards off the chair, pushing them back into place easily without even a glance.

 

“Have you eaten?” Klaus asked with a sigh just as Phinks finally entered the kitchen.

 

“They’ve each had three half shakes today,” Phinks said. “Couldn’t get them to fully finish them.”

 

Hisoka glared at Phinks, and Nox lazily reached out to grab at his sleeve. They could handle this at least.

 

Don’t be mad at him. I like him. He’s a dumbass like us, ” Nox signed once his attention was sufficiently grabbed. “ I’m hungry.

 

They were very hungry.

 

Also we watched racing movies together, ” Nox added as an afterthought. “ Big explosions. I liked them.

 

Hisoka squinted at them.

 

“... Did you let him bribe you with cheap action movies?”

 

It was a very good bribe. Also smoothies. He got us smoothies.

 

“I can’t believe how easily you’re bought. Where is your sense of worth? You’re embarrassing me.”

 

Phinks cleared his throat briefly.

 

“I can get the shakes ready while they get cleaned up,” he offered. It was a shitty peace offering to Hisoka, but hey, they were all feeling pretty shitty. He didn’t even know what Nox was saying, poor thing.

 

Hisoka could never resist Nox when they were fucked up from blood loss and nicer than normal. Was Nox using this to their advantage and being manipulative as fuck? Absolutely. But, hey. Hisoka knew, and he appreciated Nox appropriately leveling manipulative behavior in their favor.

 

“You’re a brat,” Hisoka stated flatly, and Nyx groaned, muffled from the table they had rather aggressively thunked their head down on. “Not you, Nyx. You’re fine.”

 

Nyx groaned again and Nox let a sunny smile split their lips. Hisoka could not resist their sunny smile.

 

“Fine,” Hisoka said and turned his attention back to Phinks. “You make shakes or whatever, Klaus and I will clean them up. You might want to thank sunshine here later.”

 

“For what?”

 

Hisoka muttered something under his breath and hauled a protesting Nyx up.

 

“For convincing me to not eviscerate you,” he growled and dragged Nyx to the door.

 

Klaus looked down at Nox and Nox almost melted under the judgement.

 

“You need to stop doing that.”

 

No. ” Nox’s lower lip protruded and Klaus sighed, opting instead to pick Nox up rather than deal with what Hisoka was dealing with. Nox let him. Once upon a time, they had been quite offended when Klaus did literally anything to remind them that they were tiny, but whatever. There were benefits to having a personal chauffeur.

 

“I don’t know why everyone thinks Nyx is the one that takes after him,” Klaus muttered and pushed past Machi. Nox distantly heard Phinks asked Machi what just happened, but they found themselves unable to muster an ounce of a fuck to find it funny.

 

They drifted out of it again until they found them deposited on the bathroom floor of Hisoka’s bathroom, judging from the array of beauty products on the counter.

 

“You need to shower.” Klaus was staring down at them in that ‘fuck you for making me worry’ way he did. Nox was unsure as to why he stuck around their little family if he hated worrying so much. They were, after all, a literal disaster.

 

I’m tired.

 

“You’re covered in blood and can’t go to bed like that.”

 

Oh. That was true. Nox was a very fastidious person, with some things. They changed their sheets once a week. Blood in the sheets was cringeworthy at best.

 

Nox groaned and stumbled to their feet. Oh. When had Klaus taken their shirt off? They were just in a sports bra now.

 

I can do it myself.

 

“I’m going to turn around and let you get undressed, but I’m staying in this bathroom to make sure you don’t fall.”

 

You would hear it from the bedroom.

 

“Would you rather be stuck with Hisoka?”

 

Nox briefly recalled the last time they had been stuck with Hisoka in this scenario. They had blown out a window and nearly taken out his eye in irritation. After that it was firmly decided they went with Klaus, Hisoka got Nyx, despite their nasty temper.

 

No.

 

Klaus raised one eyebrow and then started up the shower for Nox and turned around. Internally pouting, Nox wriggled out of their pants and pulled off their undergarments before staring at the shower curtain.

 

Shower curtains were so difficult.

 

They opted to shove half of the thing aside and clumsily climb into the tub. It took less than five seconds of warm spray hitting them before they gave into their exhaustion and sunk down to the ground, knees drawn to their chin as watered down blood circulated around the drain. They forgot to take their hair down. Oh. Painfully, they reached up and pulled out the tangled up scrunchie, letting it fall onto the floor of the shower. It was stained now. Oh, well.

 

Water worked its way through their thick curtain of hair and they breathed out a tiny sigh. It was matted again. They’d have to steal Hisoka’s leave in conditioner to get it worked out. Really, why they and Nyx hadn’t cut their hair was such a mystery to them both. Mats were the worst, and blood could really mat up hair like nothing else.

 

Working it out seemed like a pain, but if they went to bed with it like this it would be even worse.

 

“You better be washing with soap , Nox,” Klaus called from the other side of the curtain and Nox irritably hit the curtain in a “shush” way.

 

Stumbling to their feet, they grabbed the spare washrag Klaus had slipped in at some point or another and drizzled down the soap to start scrubbing. They really were gross. They needed to exfoliate, but Hisoka’s body polish was too fruity, and they were tired. Later.

 

It did feel nice, they reflected as they rinsed off the soap and started on their hair. It was just too bad that they felt like shit and their back and arm hurt like a motherfucker. Gah, why was Hisoka’s shampoo so not lather-y? They had to reapply twice, and they were starting to flag. They were so tired. They didn’t even bother to let the conditioner sit for more than a minute before they got to work rinsing it out. Long thick hair was such a pain.

 

The water was finally shut off and they just stuck out a hand, demanding a towel. Klaus obligingly put one in their hand and they vigorously dried. The TwoSkin was lovely, really. They had learned early to not even worry about rubbing it off. Wrapping the towel around themselves, they stumbled out and blinked blearily at Klaus.

 

“Tilt your head down,” he commanded and Nox obliged, their hair falling in a curtain as Klaus wrapped it up with a towel and let them lift their head again.

 

“I’ll go grab you some clothes,” Klaus said and left them in the bathroom. Nox just stumbled into Hisoka’s bedroom and collapsed on the bed facedown.

 

It wasn’t exactly worth it, really. The injuries. It had actually been entirely unnecessary, but whatever. They got the keylogger done, and Shalnark would be back from the bungalow soon enough with the bulk of their information. At least there hadn’t been any fights. Nothing more than a miscalculation. They’d be decently healed up in a week. What was a little more nerve damage, anyways? There were only about two deep wounds in the back, and none of them had gotten close to the spine. They’d all be healed in a week, and this fuss would have been pointless.

 

Oh, well. Mistakes happen. It wasn’t like anyone died. And it would make for a hilarious memory.

 

They were still not going to tell Hisoka about the death pollen.

 

The door opened again and Nox rolled their head over to look at Klaus, who had a bundle of clothes in his hand.

 

“I’ll be outside,” Klaus said and set the clothes on the bed. “You should get dressed. Food then bed.”

 

Honestly, this was all so much effort. Nox didn’t necessarily mind being babied. They actually rather liked pampering. But Nen, they were exhausted. Even so, they dragged their clothes closer and checked the phone that Klaus had put on to charge. They had a text from Feitan.

 

You back? Machi said you have been hurt.

 

Nox dragged their clothes on, one limb at a time. Shirts were too much right now. They would content themselves with a sports bra and some joggers. If anyone wanted to complain, they could take it up with literally anyone else.

 

I’m back.

 

What had even possessed them to give Feitan their number? Honestly, he was aggravating enough as it was.

 

I am back, too. Phinks finished your dinner.

 

When did you get back?

 

Five minutes ago. You should come eat.

 

Nox sighed, long and low, and hauled themselves to the door. They felt like shit. They were hungry, yeah, but they really would prefer to not eat right now. They wanted to pass out.

 

Their hair was wrapped up again, just for the sake of not having to deal with getting in the conditioner and brushing it out, and they pulled open the door to face Klaus, who looked them up and down critically.

 

“Ready?”

 

I can walk, ” Nox signed. “ I’m fine. You don’t have to follow me.

 

“I haven’t seen you in weeks and I turn around to find you decided to shack up with the Phantom Troupe. I’m going to follow you,” Klaus replied stubbornly and Nox sighed again, resting their uninjured arm on the wall to guide themselves down the hall. Klaus always won. Might as well let him continue the streak. Nox was too tired to fight him.

 

It took more effort than expected to make it down the stairs and shuffle into the kitchen, where Feitan was, predictably, washing dishes. Nox stared at him with tired eyes. They had nothing to write on. Their phone was left upstairs, and their notepads had been soaked in blood and subsequently tossed out. Whoops.

 

Feitan glanced over at Nox and pushed them a tall glass of green goo with a straw stuck in. Apparently Phinks thought they weren’t getting all their nutrients.

 

Nox picked it up and shuffled over to the table to sit down and sip at the smoothie. It didn’t taste awful, at least, not that that bothered them nowadays. Klaus awkwardly cleared his throat.

 

“I’m Klaus,” he introduced himself to Feitan, and Nox barely cared to look over and catch Feitan’s body language.

 

“I am Feitan,” Feitan said shortly. “Nox has mentioned you.”

 

“Nox?” Nox waved a lazy hand in Klaus’s general direction. So they had obliged Feitan discussion when they were in a good mood and Feitan wasn’t being a creep. Sue them.

 

“Er. Well. They haven’t mentioned you.”

 

“Yes.”

 

This was painful to listen to, but Nox could only drink so fast. They would honestly rather see Hisoka try to seduce Chrollo than sit through this.

 

Feitan didn’t seem intent on pursuing further conversation. Nox could hear him continue scrubbing at the dishes, and Klaus took a seat across from Nox, pursing his lips before he started signing to Nox.

 

Can he sign?

 

No.

 

Do you want to finish in your room?

 

No. ” Hisoka and Nyx were still up there, and Nox did not want to deal with that mess. Hisoka was a good caregiver in the aspect that he could not give less of a fuck if he upset someone he was irritated with, and he was very irritated with Nyx right now. And Nyx got very, very testy when their faculties were impaired in any way whatsoever and very resistant to receiving any help. It was surprising they hadn’t heard anything get broken yet. Hisoka was more likely to strip Nyx himself and dump them in the shower.

 

Probably a good idea.

 

In all actuality, sharing a bedroom was going to be a nightmare with Nyx tonight. All of the guest bedrooms had been taken up, too. And where were Ky’ia and Gon?

 

Did you meet Ky’ia and Gon?

 

Yeah. Ky’ia seems lovely. ” They could laugh at the assessment. Nothing nice to say, huh? Klaus and his manners.

 

It’s okay. You can say Gon is obnoxious.

 

Nah. He’s spirited. Apparently the week with Hisoka hasn’t gone well.

 

Of course it hasn’t. Hisoka has only had two students before.

 

You two turned out pretty fine.

 

Yeah, but we don’t have Gon’s personality. Hisoka doesn’t mesh with that kind of personality.

 

Their smoothie was almost gone. Klaus’s phone pinged and he opened the message and sighed.

 

“I gotta go help Hisoka,” he said and stood. “You okay?” His eyes flitted over to Feitan, who was just standing there, watching them. Like a creep. Nox nodded and waved at him.

 

Feitan’s harmless. Go help Hisoka.

 

Klaus nodded once and made for the door, pausing once in worry before shaking it off and disappearing.

 

Nox finished their smoothie and stood, picking it up with their injured arm and turning for the sink.

 

Their hand failed on them and the condensation made it slip, crashing to the ground in a million broken pieces, and the exhaustion finally caught up with Nox. Tears welled up and they started crying.

 

Feitan startled, staring at Nox with wide eyes, but Nox couldn’t find it in them to be embarrassed. How had they fucked this all up so badly? How were they supposed to take down the entire fucking ring if they couldn’t even manage a simple recon mission without grevious injury? How the hell were they even alive ? The one time Hisoka went fully hands off and Nox had gone and injured Nyx horrifically when Nyx trusted them to not hurt them too badly. They had embarrassed Hisoka and themselves, in front of a bunch of seasoned veterans who had been killing and maiming and stealing and doing whatever the fuck they wanted for years.

 

And this was all Nox’s fault.

 

And now Nox was crying in front of probably the hardest one of all of them.

 

“Uh…” Feitan looked alarmed, like he didn’t know what to do, and Nox just started signing. They couldn’t help it.

 

I’m just tired and hurting and I fucked up the entire damn thing and I embarrassed Hisoka and I barely managed to keep Hisoka from taking it out on Phinks and I hurt Nyx and I am a fucking failure, ” Nox signed, their hands moving faster than their head.

 

“I do not understand what you are saying,” Feitan said. He looked desperate. Hilarious.

 

And there was the crux of the matter. Nox had signed up for this, but Nen they felt so alone in this house. No one could understand them. No one could really talk to them. They felt like a foreigner. It felt like culture shock, because for so long they had only had to deal with language barriers in limited doses, and now it was everywhere, all the time, crushing in on them, and Nen they were sick of writing. They wanted to talk. At home half of the time Hisoka was signing around them, and so was Klaus, and now it was all so different. It was different, and Nox felt so lost and alone because was this what it was going to be like when it was all over? When they finally went out on their own?

 

Nox was sobbing now, sobbing so badly it hurt their chest. They didn’t know what to do.

 

Feitan twitched, and then slowly reached out. Cold fingers wrapped around Nox’s hand, and they couldn’t find the energy to pull away.

 

“You are tired,” Feitan said shortly and Nox nodded, wiping their eyes with the back of their free hand. “I clean up. You go to your bed. It is late.”

 

Nox shook their head no just as somewhere something glass broke. There was a frustrated, guttural scream that drifted from the second floor, and Nox winced. Feitan blinked.

 

“Oh. Nyx is also tired.”

 

Nyx slipped in control, got mad, and screamed. Nox cried. It was kind of their thing. They were very dysfunctional.

 

“You can have my room,” Feitan offered carefully. “I will be up soon.”

 

Nox should say no. They should. But they took the out. They pulled their hand from Feitan’s grasp and made for the door. What were they even doing?

 

They were so tired. That’s what they were doing. They were tired, emotional, and still trying to pull it together and stop crying. If Feitan was going to offer an out while Nyx got their shit together, Nox was going to take it. They needed a break.

Chapter Text

Nox wasn’t sure how this had happened. They were sat on the bed, tablet in front of them, checking their social media in their week long absence while Feitan was sat behind them, brush in hand, deliberately working through Nox’s horrendous mats while Nox deliberately ignored the tugging. He wasn’t very good at it. He barely knew to start from the bottom. Nox had to coach him in grabbing above a cluster of hair before brushing it out so the tugging was not as bad. At least the leave-in was minimizing the damage. Their brain had not connected his hair being healthy and shiny with him actually taking care of it.

 

They really didn’t know how this had happened.

 

At least Nyx had stopped yanking on their Nen. They were really being very rude. An apology was in order.

 

Feitan had put some music on the TV to fill up the silence when he figured out Nox was too tired to bother with writing correctly. Nox was actually falling asleep, now that the majority of mats were worked out and the brushing was starting to feel nice.

 

Hisoka had once told them there were a lot of ways to talk to someone. Nox knew about love languages. They weren’t sure if this qualified, but here Feitan was, patiently working out the mats in their hair and playing music they liked.

 

“You can have my bed,” Feitan said quietly. Nox looked over their shoulder, some degree of shock setting in. “I can sleep on floor. Or couch, if you prefer.”

 

Nox pulled up a typing app and blinked through blurry vision as they tapped out their message.

 

You want me to kick you out of your bedroom?

 

“I do not mind. You must need space, if you came here.”

 

Well. That was true. Normally, the twins had separate bedrooms, but had been shuffled together without a thought when they arrived. They hadn’t shared a bedroom since they were in wheelchairs, before Hisoka had gotten the bungalow. It was turning into a bit of a strain. Nox tended to be too big to share space well. They liked to spread out. Nyx called it being a mess.

 

I can sleep on the floor.

 

Gentle fingers, accustomed to injuries, ghosted over the white TwoSkin plastered to their back.

 

“You are injured. You have bed.”

 

A shiver ran up Nox’s spine. They hadn’t been touched like that in … Well, never like that. Never when they might like it. Color rose to their cheeks.

 

I don’t think our world has a place for chivalry. Why did they always write their best shit when they were in no mood for poetry? They hadn’t written a line in weeks, months, actually.

 

Maybe a year.

 

“Then think it logical,” Feitan responded. “You are injured. Nyx is in fit. I have bed I do not need. You sleep in my bed.”

 

His bed was very comfortable. Nox could tell it was memory foam, and the dark blanket on top was incredibly soft. His room was spartan, but everything in it was the highest quality. It made sense.

 

Just tonight. They just didn’t have it in them to fight with anyone today, it seemed. They had already let him lure them here. Might as well follow through.

 

“Good.” Feitan’s fingers moved through their damp hair, starting at the crown of their head to start forming a loose braid. He hadn’t even asked, but whatever. If he wanted to play with Nox’s hair, so be it.

 

He was better at braiding than he was at brushing. Expert fingers weaved the thick locks together, quickly and efficiently in a fishtail. Nox hadn’t expected him to know how to do a regular French braid, much less that. It would seem Feitan was full of surprises.

 

“You have bad bedhead,” Feitan finally said, quietly. “Always going to bed with it wet.”

 

You notice way too much shit. It’s weird. And it takes too long to dry to care.

 

“Then get spray bottle to fix.”

 

Then Hisoka will win. No.

 

“So I am not the only one that notices.”

 

It’s weird when you do it.

 

“Is it?”

 

Yes. You’re a weirdo.

 

“Mmm.” That didn’t seem to bother Feitan. Probably because as hard as Nox was trying to insult him, they were still shirtless in his bed after having a crying meltdown in the kitchen. So the accusations of him being a weirdo were probably falling a little flat.

 

He was still a bit of a creep, but hey, so was the man that raised them, so. They weren’t in a position to judge.

 

Nox was falling asleep. They realized the second he tied off the braid and gingerly brushed it over their shoulder, the brush of his fingers almost electrifying. He had done a good job, even if there were still curly flyaways. Their eyes started to slip shut, and Feitan moved behind them to get up and shrug off his coat. He was wearing a shirt this time. That was an improvement.

 

“I need shower,” he said shortly and reached forward to take the tablet before they face planted into it. “You are sleepy. You go to bed.”

 

Nox nodded slowly, too tired to kick up a fuss, and pulled back the covers.

 

Really, they must be oversensitized from everything if Feitan barely touching them could make them so giddy. Hisoka was right. They had low standards.

 

His sheets were nice. Very soft, smooth. How nice.

 

The bathroom light clicked on and Nox let their eyes open briefly to take in the sight of him stripping off his shirt before he closed the door behind him.

 

They were being very silly. And tired.

 

Sleep claimed them then, without even a pill or a painkiller, and they crashed. Tomorrow was going to hurt like a bitch. Oh, well.

 

In the bathroom, Feitan was doing some questioning of his own as the water pelted him full force. Nox was passed out in his bed. In. His. Bed.

 

He wasn’t sure what to do about this impulsive desire that had led him to this point. It was rare a “crush” made it to his bed, and it was even more rare that it ended up like this. 

 

Feitan was not someone that reacted well to tears. When he drew them out of his victims he liked them, of course. How could he not? There was something powerful in torturing the tears out of someone. It gave him such a rush. But in day to day life, it was something he generally reacted to with disdain. No, even hatred. Tears were weak. Tears were a sign of vulnerability, and that was something he could not abide.

 

None of his “crushes” before Nox had been people that cried. They were almost always killers, like Nox, but not the kind of killers Nox was. A serial killer here, a Blacklist Hunter there, a mafioso somewhere in the midst, an assassin on occasion when he was feeling really frisky. He had a Type.

 

Nox was his first “spy”. He wasn’t actually sure what they qualified as. They weren’t an official Hunter, they could scarcely be considered an amatuer Blacklist Hunter, they weren’t like the Chain User, either. They were just. Nox. A Morrow. Spy was about the closest descriptor he could land on.

 

All of his crushes before had been emotional in one way or another. Bloodthirsty, giddy, high on death. A few had cried before, but those were tears of beauty. Asta, for example, had cried when he had killed someone because he got so overwhelmed with how good it felt. Asta had been a mess, though. That was Feitan’s single serial killer.

 

Nox had just burst into tears because they were tired and overwhelmed. Feitan was unsure of how to deal with that, because everything he understood about Nox until this point had pointed in the direction of them not being vulnerable. Or, rather, uncaring that they were, which made them invulnerable just on principle. It had taken him a minute to figure out, why Nox was so willing to piss him off even though they knew what he could do, that their abilities were inherently at a disadvantage against him. Well. Their twin abilities. He had no idea what they did on their own.

 

It was because Nox had a different understanding of strength. Feitan could overpower anyone, at any time, with his Nen. It wasn’t a question. If anyone hit him hard enough, he could kill them. So long as he survived the blow, they would die. And Nox could never hit him hard enough to kill him in one go in an all out fight. They just didn’t have that kind of power, even with Nyx at their side. Sure, the two could batter him up pretty badly, but that would only serve to put them at a disadvantage.

 

But when Feitan thought about killing, it was either taking out those weaker than him in one blow, or battling it out with people bigger than him until he eventually put them down. When Nox thought about killing, it was about lies and tricks and slips and slides to put someone down. Hitting when they didn’t expect, killing when they didn’t expect, putting someone down when they weren’t ready. Their intense Nen control was testament to that. Even when they were irritated with him, he could barely see it in their aura despite them openly displaying it all over their body. They had the kind of careful aura control that was similar to an assassin. They could easily hide that flash of bloodlust that would tip their victims off moments before a strike.

 

They were fast enough that Feitan could acknowledge that nine times out of ten, he couldn’t do a damn thing if they went after him while he was sleeping, or drinking, or eating. No one could keep up their guard twenty four seven. Not even Hisoka. To them, it didn’t matter if he could beat them in an all out fight. If they got even a whiff that he wanted to kill them, they just had to dance back, play their cards, and strike when he didn’t expect it.

 

It was a different kind of strength than Feitan was accustomed to.

 

Perhaps it was that realization of their own strength that made his brain short circuit when they started crying. He had known, of course, that they probably did cry. He knew enough to know that independently of Nyx, they were a Conjurer with control over Emission (Chrollo had been so kind as to inform him). Conjurers were always hilariously high strung. Even Kortopi had his moments where he just lost it. They tended to have tempers, which was also why he was surprised that Nyx was the one going on a rampage. Transmuters rarely were the ones that lost it, but then again they were all under a ridiculously high level of stress. According to Machi, Hisoka had lost it last night, too. It seemed to be going around.

 

He still didn’t know how to react. He wanted to be disdainful of their tears, dismissive of whatever was going through their head right then. But instead, the need to grab their hand had overpowered him, and so he did. He didn’t know why. They were just so warm.

 

He didn’t know what he was doing. Still didn’t know what he was doing, really. Machi had once called him and Phinks “such men” when their car broke down in the middle of the desert and the two of them fought over who would get to fix it. Men, she said, tended to want to fix shit they can’t actually fix.

 

She had then gone and fixed the car while they argued over who had the least mechanical experience. (It was in fact both of them. They could barely manage an oil change at that time, though Feitan had substantially improved.)

 

Feitan still remembered it. It felt like decades ago now. Maybe that was what possessed him to let Nox take over his bed, brush the mats out of their hair and braid it so it wasn’t fucked up in the morning. He had no idea what he was doing, but the solution seemed very apparent to him. Nox was upset and needed space from their ticking time bomb of a sibling, and Feitan had a space away from their ticking time bomb of a sibling. And Hisoka. Hisoka seemed like he would be a nightmare to deal with when he was stressed. Klaus seemed calm, at least, if a little frustrated with the whole thing.

 

Feitan hadn’t gotten a read on Klaus. It had been a bare few moments that he was in a room with the man, and he seemed more interested in having a sign conversation with Nox. Nox seemed calm around him, at least. They had only lost it when they dropped the glass.

 

The water was going cold. Feitan shut it off with a sigh and stepped out. His sleep pants and shirt were thrown on the counter, and he dressed mechanically after pulling his hair out of the cap. Nox hadn’t actually said whether he should sleep on the floor or the couch. Feitan opted for the floor, in case they needed anything.

 

They hadn’t taken their medication, he remembered briefly. That was going to be a problem. Hopefully they would sleep okay. They may be worn out enough to manage without painkillers.

 

Feitan turned off the bathroom light before he opened the door, his eyes adjusting to the gloom. The Nox in question was curled up on their side, facing him, their arms wound around the blanket like they were trying to hold something. Feitan waited for a second to count their breaths. Even, peaceful. They were managing just fine.

 

Silently, he slipped to the closet to pull out a spare blanket, and laid it on the ground before he carefully reached over Nox to grab the second pillow on the bed. They didn’t stir. He didn’t even have to go into Zetsu. They were really tired. That was good.

 

Feitan’s phone was fully charged. He checked it before settling down. There was a text from Hisoka.

 

Where is Nox

 

This might get ugly.

 

Sleeping. They said Nyx need space.

 

Where are they sleeping

 

Apparently Hisoka was in the mood to redirect his anger from Phinks to Feitan. That was fine. He could throw his fit.

 

In my room. I am not in the bed. Before you get pissy.

 

… 

 

I am going to sleep. Good night.

 

Feitan wasn’t in the mood to find out if Hisoka was in the mood for thinly veiled threats or blatant ones. Hisoka was a nightmare. He seemed to be obsessed with the idea that Nox and Nyx were not actually adults. If Feitan was thirty, he could understand some of the thin ire Hisoka leveled at him on a daily basis, but this was honestly pathetic of Hisoka. Feitan had no idea why he was convinced Feitan was a degrading influence. It was like he didn’t notice how their normal Nen was as bloodthirsty as the rest of them. That, or he consciously ignored it.

 

Hisoka was the only one getting hurt in this scenario, and he was doing it to himself.

 

Pulling the blanket up over his shoulders, Feitan locked his phone and prepared to fall asleep. This whole family was a mess. Why was he bothering?

 

Nox chose to answer the question the moment he asked it. A pale hand fell over the edge of the low bed and they snuffled as they rolled onto their back. Feitan could reach out and hold it.

 

They were honestly beautiful with the moon dancing on their skin, with the light playing across their long throat and aristocratic nose. He could see their dark lashes painfully well like this.

 

The loveliest things always looked even better in the moonlight.

 

Perhaps that was why.

Chapter Text

It had been a week since Nox and Nyx had returned to the manor. That week had been spent in veritable chaos. Klaus had left, Nobunaga had come in from Glam Gas, Shalnark had returned from the bungalow, Franklin had shuffled in for about thirty minutes to eat and drop off the drives from York New, and the Morrows had been in a state of constant work trying to get everything organized and their “room” set up. To top it off, Gon had conquered opening his nodes and Nobunaga was weirdly and uncomfortably delighted with that.

 

The room mentioned previously was actually Chrollo’s overtaken study. Apparently, Hisoka had taught them a thing or two about acrobatics, because every time Phinks spared a peek into the room Nox was actually standing on Nyx’s shoulders, or on a desk, or on the back of a chair, or actually on a shelf once pinning one picture or newspaper clipping or print out or something or another. Their little detective layout looked like a literal disaster to him. Colored threads went in every direction, pinned here and there, impossible to follow until Hisoka finally broke and explained the color coordination to him.

 

White was unknown, green was money, blue was “assets”, which Phinks assumed was the children, red was shared manpower, yellow was miscellaneous. Why they even had a miscellaneous option, he wasn’t sure, but hey, whatever works, right? From what he could tell, the entire thing was a disaster of gangs, the actual mafia, Hunters, reputable businesses which were looking far less reputable nowadays, small businesses, even mom and pop stores, less reputable businesses like casinos and brothels, and actual entertainment companies. The operation was massive. He wasn’t even sure how they had managed to even follow the mess.

 

Hisoka had tried to sit him, Shalnark, Machi, and Nobunaga down and explain it all while Nox was passed out on the couch and Nyx was hunched over the computer Hisoka had hauled in from town. He and Nobunaga had managed to follow approximately none of it. Hisoka had just about lost it when Nobunaga had just told him to “point me at who to punch and I’ll punch them, I don’t need to know this shit.”

 

Nobunaga had henceforth been put on Gon sitting duty, because the little fuck had tried to get a peek into the study four times. It was almost unfair how good his Zetsu was.

 

Gon had not been pleased. Phinks had heard enough of his shit today.

 

Phinks was also curious about whether or not the twins ever actually took a break, or if they just had to be forced into them, like they were previously. Because the second they got up, they dedicated their early pre breakfast mornings to hand to hand combat with Hisoka before the sun was even up, and then they had breakfast, and then they were off to train their kidnapped students. When lunch hit, the students were let loose to train independently, and the twins worked till dinner, and then once dinner was over they were back at it until bed. From what he could see, they had a decent system. When they weren’t organizing the mess Shalnark had made of their physical files, Nyx was tracking down new information on the deep web, and Nox took that information and did their own research to connect it together, or updated pre existing information they already had.

 

Shalnark had been dragged into the IP tracking effort. When he’d provided Uvogin’s finances to the twins, they had only seemed to get more frustrated. He wasn’t sure why. Neither was Shalnark, when Phinks had asked him about it. Something about “another vanishing act”.

 

Phinks resolved to get it out of Nox tonight. Nyx, he had learned very quickly, tended to be hyper focused and difficult to crack. Nox was a little easier to handle, and had that sort of “I’m lost and don’t know who to talk to” body language ever since they came back from Myoto.

 

Phinks had not missed that Nox spent the night with Feitan, nor did he miss that Feitan was more reticent than normal ever since. No sex, then, which was understandable. Nox had barely stopped bleeding when Phinks pulled up to the manor. It was a wonder they didn’t need a transfusion. While Feitan may be into that shit, it was unlikely Nox was. They already had enough unhealthy coping mechanisms they were well aware of, after all.

 

He could see why they felt like they couldn’t talk to Hisoka or Nyx about it. Nyx seemed to be developing a very healthy camaraderie with Ky’ia, the kind Phinks could easily see blossoming into love. Hisoka, meanwhile, seemed to be going out of his way to unnerve and disorientate Feitan whenever Feitan was in the same room as him. And when Feitan was in the same room as Hisoka and Nox? The bad behavior escalated to the point of childish pettiness. That was, until Chrollo entered and Hisoka vanished.

 

Phinks didn’t even want to know what was going on with that shit.

 

No, he just wanted to figure out what was going on with the money trail and this “vanishing act” before he left on Hisoka’s orders to nab a rare gem out of a bank vault and steal the CCTV footage from the last week. The gem, of course, was a cover, but hey, stealing was stealing. Hisoka had not been in a mood to tell him why this footage was needed, nor did Phinks really care, but he was pretty sure it all tied in.

 

If he knew anything from staring at that room, it was that everything tied together at some point or another.

 

Nox and Nyx were supposed to be splitting up after he left, too. Nox had a job to take out a gang that had been getting a little too chummy with lending people to the ring and make it look like another gang took them out. Part of this operation Phinks had learned was to rarely target big bosses like Trask until they exposed themselves, but instead to eliminate smaller pieces from the board. An assassination here, a massacre there, never enough proof to justify going to ground and scrapping all of that money and time. And always, always go dark after such circumstances. It was a long game, and a deadly one.

 

Nyx, meanwhile, had an easier job: take Ky’ia to infiltrate the ring’s favorite law firm to get the information they hadn’t managed to get from Edwin’s. Now that Edwin was convinced the twins were dead, thanks to photos of very convincing copies from Kortopi with different hair, different noses, close enough to make you do a double take and then pass off as nothing, they had more freedom to operate. Which meant he was getting a little lax with security, and the security he overlooked at the law firm.

 

Ky’ia was coming along remarkably fast with their hatsu. Nox had convinced Phinks and Nobunaga to let them test it on multiple people, and Phinks couldn’t even tell the difference. There hadn’t even been a headache afterwards.

 

They had started calling it “Neverland”, after Gon had told them about the movie. It was a good name. Hisoka had given them pointers on hypnotism, how you had to suggest the human brain fill in the blanks to create a more realistic picture, and Ky’ia had taken the suggestion. The only indication that you were in a hallucination was a ticking clock in the background, a touch they had added when they realized that if they wanted to be able to do it on multiple people at once, there had to be a condition.

 

Like the crocodile.

 

It was a nice touch. A small detail that could easily be missed if you didn’t really focus on it. Normal background noise no one noticed.

 

He did not like that hatsu.

 

In any case, he had to draw Nox away from Nyx before he left, and he decided to take the two birds one stone approach to get it done. He was meant to leave in the morning, which meant he had the perfect opportunity to lure them away from the study after dinner. Cheap action movies were the fastest way to their heart, he’d learned, and so here he and Nox and Feitan were, in the den. Nox was getting frighteningly comfortable with everyone. At some point into the second movie on the itinerary, they had decided to sprawl across the couch, head in Feitan’s lap, leg thrown haphazardly over Phinks’ thigh, sucking on a smoothie like it was their last meal.

 

It was about then that Phinks had figured out that it was not just Nyx that took after Hisoka. No, Nox was far worse.

 

The thing was, the three of them had action movies in common, except the difference was Nox and Phinks genuinely enjoyed them. Feitan, however, genuinely enjoyed critiquing every single error he could spot. Phinks hadn’t gone to the movies with him for years for this exact reason. Nox, however, was a manipulative fuck. Phinks pinpointed the exact moment they got fed up with Feitan’s nonsense, and the crash into his lap had happened about two minutes later.

 

Feitan had shut up immediately and had yet to say another word. It had been ten minutes.

 

Yeah, Nox was definitely the manipulative one. It made Phinks worry how much worse Nyx was in comparison.

 

They were hitting the credits now. Nox was relaxed, cool as a cucumber, comfortable in their presence. Now was the time to pop the question.

 

“Say, Nox,” Phinks said casually as he fiddled with his phone, trying to pick the next movie. “What did Nyx mean by vanishing act yesterday?”

 

Nox lifted their head lazily before reaching haphazardly to get their phone on Feitan’s semi free thigh to text out their reply.

 

The money we think is going to the leader keeps vanishing , they replied.

 

“I gathered that, but how?”

 

It gets put into accounts that belong to either low level bosses or just aliases that get drained randomly. We can’t figure out the pattern.

 

How hard was that to explain? The Morrows seriously did not know how to play with others. They all had tunnel vision from hell.

 

“Can’t you just get CCTV … Oh. That’s why I’m going to Vera, isn’t it?”

 

What, Hisoka didn’t tell you? Rude fuck. Gotta yell at him later. And yeah. We try to get CCTV footage, but it’s always either a random person draining it or the footage is gone.

 

So this wasn’t about keeping secrets from the troupe, then. They were just non communicative as fuck. Hopefully Chrollo would address that, because Phinks wasn’t about to wade into that mess.

 

“A random person?”

 

We’ve tracked them down before. They have no memory of the event, so whoever this guy is, he’s got a hypnotist or manipulator. No pattern so we can’t figure out WHERE they take the money because we can’t get there first.

 

“Couldn’t Ky’ia just …”

 

We got Ky’ia like a month ago. And they don’t want to use the memory thing. So.

 

Oh, right. Spiritual values. He couldn’t figure out why the Morrows so easily accepted that, and why they had to, too. Objectively speaking, forcing the person who could make you hallucinate for an indeterminate amount of time to do literally anything ever was probably a Bad Idea, but they could at least try.

 

Nox moved, grabbing Phinks’ attention again as they lazily lifted their now empty glass up. Feitan didn’t even glance at it as he grabbed the glass and set it on the end table. Phinks watched the interaction with a squint. They weren’t “dating”, neither really dated, but they sure as fuck were acting like a long time boyfriend and partner.

 

“I’m going to go get some more drinks,” he said abruptly. “Want some cola?”

 

Feitan managed a bare “ughn”, which Phinks took as a yes, and Nox nodded. Phinks stood up and Nox fully stretched out on the couch. One last movie, and then they could call it a night.

 

A few steps away from the kitchen, Phinks stopped and blanched at the aura emanating from behind the door. That was practically scandalous, and that was saying a lot, considering how often people had walked in on Machi with some girl she picked up from the bar. And was that…?

 

Phinks chuckled, low and slow, and opened the door. Yep. Just as he thought. Hisoka was on one end of the table, glaring at Chrollo as Chrollo dispassionately poured himself some coffee. Another late night reading, then.

 

“Am I interrupting something?” Phinks asked casually. Hisoka almost startled, and his face slipped into cool complacency, which was about as close as he could get to jumping.

 

“No. Why would you be?” Hisoka replied and Phinks let his brows lift.

 

“Your aura reeks, Hisoka.” Phinks shuffled over to the fridge and pulled out three cans of cola. Straw, straw, straw… Ah, right. Nobunaga had helpfully bought a plethora of disposable bendy straws on their last grocery run. He popped open a can and stuck the straw in before turning back for the door.

 

“My aura always smells delightful, I assure you. Who are those for?”

 

“Oh, Feitan, Nox, and I are binging Cold Road,” Phinks said and shifted the drinks to one large hand so he could grab a bag of chips.

 

“I see.” Hisoka’s voice had gone cold, and Chrollo’s attention had been commanded. Well. It wasn’t often someone got to fuck with Hisoka.

 

“You know, Hisoka,” Phinks added thoughtfully, “Nox really picked up your manipulative tactics. Kinda impressive. They got Feitan to shut up during a bad action movie.”

 

Chrollo coughed hoarsely and Phinks gave Hisoka a wicked grin.

 

“Who knew all it would take was using him as a pillow?”

 

Before the carnage could break loose, Phinks was out the door and back down the hall just as the air in the room dropped to sub zero. Chrollo could handle that one. Hisoka could use a little riling up every now and again.


With how tonight was going, Nox just may get their own team up for their solo mission. Hisoka was going to have an aneurysm and it was going to be great.

Chapter Text

Hisoka was on the verge of a meltdown, and the only thing holding him back from it was the twins’ promise that they would pull him out and go dark. Gon was a nightmare, Feitan was pursuing Nox and Nox was evidently actively encouraging it, the bond between Ky’ia and Nyx was growing, the troupe was an actual nightmare to live with, and Chrollo … Chrollo was a problem.

 

Chrollo was a massive problem, and that was only more evident the second Phinks dropped that bomb and Chrollo got to see Hisoka nearly lose his shit for the umpteenth time in live time. Hisoka was half tempted to march into that den and separate Nox and Feitan himself, and the only thing holding him back from the urge was that ever present “Nox is an adult, Nox is an adult, Nox is an adult, do not be that creepy big brother” mantra in the back of his mind.

 

This was a mess. It was a literal mess, and Hisoka was going to crawl out of his skin if he didn’t drag the twins out of this house and away from this nonsense so he could go to let off some steam.

 

It didn’t help that after ten years, he was actually having to explain things again. Obvious shit that was like breathing air to him. The twins, too. The amount of times Nyx had to stop, backtrack, and provide context to Shalnark was totaling in the hundreds now. It was exhausting, because there were eleven Spiders, and while Kalluto didn’t count because they a.) were not involved and b.) had been acting independently for weeks now, it was still a nightmare to explain the same shit over and over again. Yes, you idiots, Markap gives money to Julius for the muscle Julius lends to Utomo for taking kids from the NGL, kids that are sent to Frollo for processing and records so they could be tracked down if they manage to escape, and then Frollo receives money from Gordon for his efforts, and then the kids are split amongst their various distribution teams across the continent. They couldn’t even follow the most basic operations, and when it actually got complicated? Forget it. Machi was the only one there with any sense.

 

So, yes, Hisoka was frustrated. His family unit was dissolving before his eyes, his supposed allies were utterly fucking useless, and Chrollo was driving him insane ever since they had that conversation over breakfast. He wasn’t even doing anything and his presence was enough to drive Hisoka up the wall.

 

“You should calm down about Feitan and Nox,” Chrollo said. Hisoka was forcibly broken from his internal screaming to stare Chrollo down.

 

“I don’t believe your input is worth anything in this situation.”

 

“No?” Chrollo finished preparing his coffee and faced Hisoka.

 

“No,” Hisoka confirmed firmly.

 

“You’re worried he’s a corrupting influence.”

 

“You think he isn’t?”

 

“I think you have some delusions about the twins and they will never live up to your expectations for them.”

 

“So you think they’re mass murderers.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Pedophiles don’t count, Chrollo.” Hisoka rarely said the word.

 

“I didn’t say they did.” Chrollo took a long sip. Hisoka hated how his gaze alone could pin him to the spot.

 

“Then what are you saying?” Chrollo’s voice didn’t matter in this. It didn’t matter. This was Hisoka’s family, not his.

 

“I’m saying you blame yourself for the path they’ve been set on and you truly believe they can get out of it.”

 

“They have time.”

 

“And you don’t?”

 

Hisoka’s eyes darkened. He was twenty six now. No, he was a bit too old to trick himself into normalcy. He would know the difference, and that was the crux of the matter. He had never let them experience the sort of things that would cue them onto the difference.

 

“I don’t.”

 

“Why not?” Chrollo took another sip. Hisoka felt like he was being toyed with again.

 

“Because there is a big difference in what I have done, and what they have done.”

 

Chrollo kept watching him. Studying. Picking him apart, bit by agonizing bit. To tuck tail and run now would be admitting defeat, and Hisoka never admitted defeat.

 

“Every perspective is different.”

 

“They don’t have mine, and they aren’t going to.” Besides. Even if they were “corrupted”, that would be a non factor. Perhaps if Nyx didn’t have Ky’ia, they could accept the path Nox was being set on, but they did have Ky’ia. Chrollo didn’t know what that fear was like. Hisoka knew he was being a hypocrite.

 

“Do you think you can’t change if they can’t?”

 

It was like a thunderbolt to the chest. It left Hisoka a little breathless. No. How dare Chrollo suggest he was so selfish.

 

“I just don’t want my family torn apart.” Chrollo had caught him off guard. That was why he said it. Not because he needed to voice it, needed Chrollo to hear. Needed Chrollo to understand.

 

He was just caught off guard. Chrollo would not wring a single more confession from him.

 

Chrollo didn’t react to the admission. He just kept sipping at his coffee, watching, waiting. Hisoka didn’t know what more he wanted from him.

 

“I think you should have a little more faith,” Chrollo finally said. “After all. You and I can be friends, right?”

 

Hisoka blinked. Several times. Chrollo considered them … friends? He and Hisoka? Hisoka didn’t have friends. He barely had Klaus. Illumi scarcely counted. Illumi who had … Not messaged in several weeks, but whatever.

 

“Are we friends?”

 

“Yes.” Chrollo made it sound like the simplest thing in the world.

 

“I fail to see what friendship has to do with all of this.” Thank Nen Hisoka wasn’t someone that really blushed, because had he been any different he would be on cloud nine right now.

 

“I think the twins have a bond that goes beyond lovers and their influences. They know each other better than anyone will ever know them, and something like ideologies won’t separate them. Besides. For all you know, Nyx could affect Ky’ia more. Look at their hatsu.”

 

“A hatsu is no indication of what kind of person someone is. How someone chooses to control it is an indicator of what kind of person they are, and Ky’ia has chosen a deadly hatsu and chosen to use it in a nonviolent way,” Hisoka retorted. “If anything, their hatsu can be taken as a sign of moral strength.”

 

“Can it?” Chrollo hummed. “I suppose so, but I think they are also very well aware of the fact that they can use it for ‘evil’, and are willing to do so to get the job done. Otherwise they would have imposed more conditions.”

 

“What makes you think they didn’t just overlook it?” It was actually something that Hisoka had wondered about. Why they didn’t have more rules. “Or that they perhaps trust themselves?”

 

“I think they have seen far too many lives to overlook it,” Chrollo theorized. “After all, the Ji’Tak used to be a warrior clan. People are at their worst in war.”

 

“It’s said a bad man trying to be good is the one that needs rules. Good men don’t need them.”

 

“And Ky’ia knows any good man can become a devil.”

 

Hisoka was silent. He knew Chrollo was trying to console him, and he didn’t like it.

 

“You worry about too much, all the time,” Chrollo continued. “You should talk about it a little more.”

 

“I managed for ten years not talking about it,” Hisoka rebuffed.

 

“And how well has that gone?”

 

“I’m alive, aren’t I?”

 

Chrollo just stared at him in that way he stared at Hisoka. Hisoka was beginning to notice he didn’t stare at anyone else that way. It was wild, how the three weeks he had spent here had culminated into this. Him being able to read Chrollo’s face, read those tiny, tiny little tells. At one time, he had wanted to be able to read him. After all, at least a portion of Hisoka’s success had been reliant on being able to read people, and read them perfectly. When faced with a person like Chrollo, he was good practice to crack even the toughest nuts.

 

But now?

 

Now, his frustration with not being able to read him was being replaced with the frustration that he could , and he couldn’t turn it off. Because he didn’t like what he was reading, not at all.

 

“But doesn’t it feel good?” Chrollo set down his empty mug.

 

“Having a feel fest where I get out my deepest thoughts and bare my soul to a man that could kill me as soon as this is all over? No.”

 

“It’s easier to tell when you’re lying to me.”

 

“After you forced a lie detector test on me and literally mind fucked me?”

 

“Yes.” Chrollo didn’t even have the good manners to look ashamed. Asshole.

 

“You wouldn’t have been able to manage it without drastic measures.” That, at least, made Hisoka feel better. Chrollo hadn’t even been able to manage it with his own power, the first time around. Chrollo Lucilfer, reliant on a seventeen year old to subdue him. That was almost a point of pride now.

 

“Does that feel good?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“If having to drive me to my limits makes you feel so good, why are you so intent on trying to force me into not driving at all?” And there it was. Chrollo putting a different kind of thunderbolt in his chest. Why must he insist on making Hisoka read into things?

 

“Small pleasures.” Liar. Chrollo knew it, too.

 

Chrollo pushed himself off the counter and advanced on Hisoka. Hisoka refused to give ground, let Chrollo come within inches of him. His gel smelled nice, even if Hisoka hated how he did his hair.

 

“You’re going to break on me, Hisoka,” Chrollo promised. Hisoka didn’t move an inch as warm breath ghosted across his lips. “You’re going to break, and you’re going to realize it’s delicious.”

 

Hisoka resisted the urge to swallow.

 

“You won’t get the satisfaction.” The fact that he couldn’t find it in himself to play games was testament to the fact that Chrollo absolutely would.

 

“No,” Chrollo agreed. “You’ll get all of it. The way it’s supposed to be.”

 

Chrollo turned on his heel and made for the door.

 

“Coming?”

 

Hisoka, like a damn idiot, let Chrollo yank on his chain, drag him along, right to hell. He followed.

Chapter Text

How they had migrated here, Nox wasn’t sure, but they weren’t opposed. Over the past week, they had gotten a little comfortable with just sharing space with Feitan. He was very often just sitting in the study with Nox, Nyx, and Ky’ia, silently watching sign language videos on his phone as Nox went wild with the research. His presence didn’t rankle them as much anymore. It was almost surprising. Nox liked sharing space with him. It felt comfortable.

 

It would feel more comfortable if Hisoka wasn’t in some kind of fit over Nox actually liking being around Feitan. As if Hisoka had any room to judge. If Feitan was bad, what did that make Chrollo?

 

Whatever.

 

Though Nox had not expected that a night of watching movies would lead to the two sitting on Feitan’s bed. Nox had their laptop out, tablet in hand to bring a stingray to life on the screen. It wasn’t turning out how they liked. The edges were too hard, but whatever. They could just toss it in the “never see the light of day” bin later. Feitan was working on his own little project. Namely, watching the sign videos. Nox had been watching him out of the corner of their eye. They hadn’t given him any pointers yet. Every dialect on the planet was different from the Morrows’ dialect. They couldn’t help it; sign language was designed for deaf people. Nox and Nyx were resistant to making small noises, which often accompanied most sign. What was more, they weren’t in any deaf communities. Slang for most signing people was very different than slang for the Morrows, and there were gaps where they created their own words because they couldn’t find a definite translation online. Sometimes even the grammatical structure for them changed. After all, the Morrows were hearing people, and had always been hearing. They hadn’t lost their hearing. Sometimes English and sign just blurred together. They couldn’t help it. Sign was difficult at times. Some hearing people thought it was just another variety of English, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It was its own language, influenced by the disability that made it a necessity, and Nox and Nyx? They didn’t have that disability, that lived experience, to influence it.

 

Being trilingual didn’t help. The Gemini grammatical structure wiggled its way in, too. They spoke with a very thick accent.

 

Even so. At least Feitan was learning a fairly neutral central dialect. Nox still wasn’t about to help him.

 

It was sweet that he was learning. A nice gesture, even though it would be ultimately pointless when this was all said and done.

 

Whatever was growing between the two of them would undoubtedly die when this was all over.

 

Nox, as high strung and focused as they were, understood something that Hisoka wasn’t understanding: this was the first time since they had lost their tongue and started this wild ride that they were spending time with people outside of the family that actually knew what was going on. They were also a teenager, and while the puberty blockers they had insisted on remaining on tampered down their urges, they were still a teenager. It was only natural that they would be dazzled by new people, new experiences, new bonds. And it was only natural that they would form attachments.

 

And it was only natural that those bonds would fall apart, just as Nox wanted. Very few relationships in your youth were worth putting entire life experiences on hold for, and they weren’t about to get tied down to Feitan when this was all said and done. They had seen a lot of teen romance movies where they were just silly. Nox had never even had a consensual kiss, much less consensual sex. Why would they share all of that with one person for the rest of their life? Silly. Foolish. They may be an emotional dumpster fire, but they weren’t that bad. No, Feitan was a first time feeling, and nothing more than that. Why Hisoka was worried about it was beyond them. Maybe Nyx would be content with Ky’ia, but Nox was not Nyx. That seemed to be something everyone around here forgot.

 

And anyways, Feitan didn’t seem like the kind of guy that was invested in the long haul.

 

It was nice to spend some quiet time with him, though. Nox hadn’t realized how much they wanted to be separate from Nyx sometimes. Nyx was probably too busy with Ky’ia to notice that Nox was avoiding them when they could.

 

What would Nyx do, Nox wondered, when they realized what was going through Nox’s head?

 

They probably already knew.

 

They still couldn’t get over what Phinks had said to them.

 

“Hey. Don’t worry so much about family. Family always works its dumb shit out.”

 

Phinks was an idiot. Myoto was proof the three of them together were a mecha moron. But, like most Enhancers, he had a scary amount of emotional intelligence that made it hard to reconcile the fact that he was a killer. More of a killer than Hisoka, or Nox, or Nyx. Feitan was, too, but at this point the confusion at this team up was getting to the point where Nox was willing to shut up and roll with it.

 

“Your art is surprising,” Feitan finally said. The silence was broken and Nox was suddenly acutely aware of the building pain in their pelvis. Had Nyx gone to bed, or were they sitting up for too long? It was always so difficult to tell.

 

Why do you say that? Nox had been keeping a notepad extension up on the screen for that reason.

 

“It was very angry before.”

 

I was very angry. Still figuring out a cohesive style.

 

“Are you not angry now?”

 

Nah. I’m just chilling rn. A chilling stingray, if you will.

 

“You are the stingray?” Feitan wasn’t too good with vague humor. It felt nice to not be the only one around with a language barrier.

 

Yes.

 

“Okay. Then this is self portrait?”

 

If it was a self portrait then I would be eating some fish or something and not just chilling in watercolor. Not sure they actually are predators … Should check that … Hm.

 

“Oh. I see.” From the look on Feitan’s face, he did not see. Nox took pity on him.

 

It’s a joke. I don’t actually think I’m a stingray.

 

“I would not have judged you if you did.” Aw. How sweet of him.

 

Good to know. Nox shifted and winced slightly at the new flare of pain. The dull pain in the background was easy to ignore, but there was a reason they and Nyx generally went to bed together.

 

“Are you uncomfortable?”

 

Little bit. Nyx is in bed so they aren’t holding the strings. I think. Maybe it’s the angle. Who knows? Still. Hurts a tad.

 

“Do you need … ice?”

 

How is ice going to help?

 

“I do not know.”

 

Nox’s lips twitched just a little and they shifted back against the headboard and shoved a pillow under their hips.

 

I’ll be fine. I’m used to it.

 

“So … I was thinking.” Feitan slid to face them, cross legged, elbows on his knees. “You have mission soon, yes?”

 

Yeah, taking out some little guys. They’re in talks to become big boys.

 

“But you have to kill all, yes?”

 

Nox nodded.

 

“So you will have to hunt down outliers?”

 

Yeah, why?” Feitan was coming along enough that Nox could do these small signs. It wasn’t that big of a deal. It would take Nox three days, max.

 

“Would it not be easier to get them all in one place?”

 

Yes, but I can’t really do that, can I?

 

“The boss holds Pearls of Anastasia,” Feitan said bluntly. “Danchou has wanted them for some time.”

 

What are you saying?

 

“I say that if I steal them, all men will be out on the streets in full force looking for me. And I can lure many to come fight me while you deal with small fry.”

 

Fries, but sounds solid.

 

“What?”

 

Never mind. So you’re saying you want me to take you along.

 

“Yes.”

 

Nox tapped the stylus on the edge of the tablet in contemplation. Realistically, it could cut a three day job into a two day job at most, one night job at best. Which would be nice, so they could get back to the badly behaved Gon in less time. Also, no traveling by themselves, so they could just have Feitan communicate for them, though his grasp on sign was laughable at best.

 

But, there was one small problem.

 

One condition , they finally said. You may see my independent hatsu. Unless I am an active threat to the troupe, as in attempting to kill Spiders, you cannot reveal that ability to ANYONE.

 

Hisoka had been very insistent on this. The troupe’s ignorance of their independent abilities was the only thing that gave them an edge should shit go south. Nox wasn’t so arrogant they thought they had a chance without it. They knew their place.

 

“Deal,” Feitan agreed readily. He almost looked excited, and there was that stone in Nox’s gut again. He wanted to see them kill people.

 

Was that all anyone could love them for after all of this was over? Was it too much to ask that someone love them in spite of it?

 

Why couldn’t they be more like Nyx?

 

Nox looked aside, out the window. Feitan insisted on leaving the curtains open at night. He had a lot of weird little quirks. Nox couldn’t figure out how he slept so easily with the sun blasting in his face.

 

Feitan

 

“Yes?”

 

Are you excited to see me kill people?

 

“Yes. Why?” So honest, Feitan. He couldn’t lie if he tried. It was weird to think of him as a Transmuter.

 

Just asking.

 

“Do you not like that?”

 

No.

 

Feitan crept closer to Nox, his brows furrowed.

 

“Are you not proud of your work?”

 

I can be proud of my work and still not like certain aspects.

 

“Is that I have not seen you write poems? Hisoka says you are poet.”

 

Like you said, art comes in many forms. I’m just not in a poetry mood. Haven’t been in one for … A year. Makes him sad that I stopped.

 

“You are worried.”

 

Yes.

 

“For what?”

 

There’s a lot to worry about. Nox was determined to talk them in circles.

 

“Are you worried about me?”

 

Yes.

 

“Why?”

 

Do you think I’m like Nyx?

 

“No. I think you are like you.”

 

Nox just gave up and let their fingers fly over the keyboard.

 

We’ve never been around other people before, so a lot of changes are starting to come out. Everyone kinda just saw us as one unit, one person, and I think all of you did, too, when we first came. A two sided coin you couldn’t split if you tried without wrecking it. So like … I dunno. Nyx is someone you can love in spite of their bloodthirsty nature. I think I’m someone you love because of it. And I don’t want that.

 

“Why do you think of that of Nyx?”

 

Nyx is … Different from me. Perfect. I’m always the one that almost throws the mission, I’m the one that can’t do technical stuff, I’m the one that has most of the meltdowns, I’m the one that makes all the mistakes Nyx learns from. Nyx is just … more than their age. I guess. They don’t want more, they can just focus on the now and accept it, and I’m the one with my head in the clouds.

 

Nox had always dreamed of having that great summer romance. Now summer was almost on them, and all they had to show for it was Feitan Portor. Nyx was the one that didn’t want, and by proxy got everything Nox dreamed of. It wasn’t that they were jealous. They weren’t. It just hurt.

 

Sometimes Nox wondered if their life was nothing but a punishment for wanting. They had wanted to leave the tribe at one point, go out and explore the world, and boy had they gotten that. At a price. They had wanted a new family, and while they wouldn’t change it for the world, they loved their family more than anything, they were trapped seeing their family endlessly suffer. Nox wasn’t so naive as to believe they would all just be okay after this. They would never be okay. No matter how much Hisoka wanted to believe the twins would have a chance.

 

They wanted a lot of things, quiet desires they had never spoken out loud except to Nyx when they were feeling particularly adventurous. They wanted a cat that wandered in during a storm. A house with big windows and lots of books and plants from every corner of the continent. Maybe a large collection of tea, if they were feeling particularly greedy. But with the kind of life they lived now, they knew that if they had that, they would lose it in an instant, and they wouldn’t recover from that loss.

 

Silly dreams.

 

Nox was a silly, fanciful person.

 

Feitan was still watching them. Silent. Waiting. What for, Nox didn’t know, but it was almost a relief when he started moving. And then it was nothing but confusion, because he was grabbing his umbrella and unsheathing the blade. Nox stared at him.

 

What?

 

Feitan pulled a spider coin from his pocket and flicked it up. It spun in the air and Nox’s eyes tracked it, watching it flip over and over, tumbling, suspended in air. The sword swished, too fast for the human eye to track, and it split in two, smooth, right down the middle. Feitan lashed out with his hand and caught both sides.

 

Silence ticked on and then he opened his hand, offering up the prize to Nox. They were perfectly cut. There was not even a sign of marring. They could have been their own coins. Nox carefully picked up a piece. Feitan finally spoke.

 

“Not so impossible, is it?”

 

It was in that moment that Nox decided to say fuck it all, and stay the night once again.

 

It couldn’t hurt.

 

Feitan could maybe understand. Maybe.

Chapter Text

Working solo was something Nyx was used to. Working with Nox was also something Nyx was used to. Working with Nox and someone else was a bit of a headache, but working without Nox and with someone else?

 

Now this was a trip.

 

Six years and they were getting frighteningly new experiences in less than the span of two weeks.

 

Teaching Ky’ia to drive had been an adventure, at least, and a semi welcome one. Nyx had learned very quickly why Hisoka had screamed so much when Nox was behind the wheel aged fourteen, and had also learned that not having 50% of their tongue put them at more disadvantages than they had previously envisioned. After all, they couldn’t very well have Ky’ia take their eyes off the road to read. There was nothing quite like ignoring your previous all encompassing stresses in favor of intense adrenaline spikes not related to someone trying to kill you. Well. They were pretty sure Ky’ia wasn’t trying to kill them, but those turns had Nyx questioning that previous assessment of the situation.

 

“I thought I did pretty well,” Ky’ia said conversationally as Nyx paid for their frappuccinos.

 

You were bad.

 

“I couldn’t have been that bad.”

 

You were.

 

Having literally lived and breathed sign for the past three weeks, Ky’ia had caught on surprisingly quickly. They explained it away as an absorption technique: if they touched someone’s memories, things they needed to understand in order to grasp the memory tended to be more easily learned. Like a mushroom in Mario Kart, Nox, ever the eloquent Nox, supplied. Ky’ia could handle sentence fragments pretty well now, so Nyx was making a point to sign as much as possible around them.

 

“Well, I’ve only been in a car …” Ky’ia screwed up their face as they tried to internally count in their head, “four times now in my life. You can’t fault me for being bad at driving the fourth time I was even in the vehicle.”

 

Okay, fine. ” They had a point, and given that fact Nyx could actually say they did pretty well. Or, at least, they were mediocre. Nyx had picked up driving like a sea turtle to a current. Granted, watching Nox, they already knew about three fourths of the things you shouldn’t do behind the wheel.

 

Ky’ia sipped at their frappuccino and screwed up their face.

 

“Is this supposed to be this sweet? It tastes like Hisoka’s coffee.”

 

Nyx coughed up a laugh and pulled out their phone to type.

 

I’m probably the wrong person to ask about flavor, Ky’ia. I’ve only got half the tastebuds.

 

Ky’ia almost looked abashed.

 

“Sorry.”

 

Don’t be. It’s there. Might as well give me opportunity to joke about it.

 

Their destination was coming up. Nyx kept sucking on their straw. Technically they were doing a Crime, and this was Ky’ia’s first time, so it would be a bit like popping a cherry. They certainly looked the part of some delinquent punks. Or, rather, what people wished delinquent punks looked like. Ky’ia had discovered pastels and Nyx had bought as many shirts and rompers for them as they wanted. Today Ky’ia had settled on baby blue shorts, a white tee, and some white high tops with their hair pulled back in a long braid. It looked good on them. In fact, they looked adorable, and Nyx kind of wanted to kiss them. Nyx themselves were dressed in an oversized white tee tucked into high waisted skinny jeans with their hair loose and disastrous as always.

 

In short, the two of them looked like they were young and in love and on a coffee run. Nyx pushed up their sunglasses and let their free hand fly.

 

Ready? ” The office building was just in front of them. Ky’ia took a deep, steadying breath and then nodded.

 

It’s going to be draining. I’ll try to get you back to the hotel as soon as possible, k?

 

“I will be fine, Nyx.” Ky’ia gave Nyx that lethally soft smile and Nyx felt themselves go a little lightheaded. They forgot how familiar Ky’ia was with holding an incredibly powerful Hatsu for indefinite lengths of time. This was probably going to be a cakewalk for them.

 

Ky’ia tilted their head, once, twice as they neared the door and then nodded. They were in Neverland.

 

Nyx pushed open the door to the waiting room. People bustled about, chatting, sipping coffee, heading for the elevator. The day was just beginning. Nyx kept walking, striding forward. Intel pointed to a lack of cameras for security reasons, so hopefully they wouldn’t be seen.

 

This was a law firm, Knuck and Bolte, known for their high class criminal defense lawyers. It was also the firm that had kept Trask from going to prison, and retained several of Trask’s business associates. They were firmly tied in with the ring, even managed a great number of their estates. They had an excess of information, but until Ky’ia, the Morrows had never been able to get in. Hisoka made buckets of money for occasional assassinations, public appearances, legitimate Hunter jobs, but the majority of his money went back into the operation and the twins, since they couldn’t exactly make their own money. Well, they did do the odd job themselves, but the secrecy of their mission relied on them remaining secret. So, Nox did a commission here and there, Nyx did cybersecurity on occasion, but in the end Hisoka’s money got drained for their work. They couldn’t afford to start retaining a lawyer from Knuck and Bolte, and their security was too tight to slip through. But now they had Ky’ia. Brilliant, wonderful Ky’ia.

 

Nyx and Ky’ia opted for the stairs. The servers were on the second floor. Nyx kept sucking on their frappuccino and cast Ky’ia a glance. They didn’t look like they were straining, despite the amount of people in the lobby and open floor plan.

 

“I’m fine. I can feel you worrying from here,” Ky’ia said softly as they curved around to the balcony.

 

It isn’t too hard? Through Gyo eyes Nyx could see a plethora of strands connecting each person and an overarching dome. Ky’ia was having to maintain every single perspective from every single angle.

 

“Not at all. It’s easier when I think about it like the room, not the people in it,” Ky’ia replied as they turned down the hall. Rows of offices stretched out in front of them.

 

If you say so. I’m distracting you, sorry.

 

“If I can’t maintain this without distractions, I shouldn’t be here,” Ky’ia stated flatly. “I need to be able to maintain this even when getting hit. You’re good practice.”

 

We really shouldn’t consider this a place to practice.

 

“It’s like a … fire drill?” Ky’ia generally struggled to find words for concepts their tribe didn’t have. “It’s very real, but if I don’t do it perfectly now, I won’t later.”

 

Wait what do you mean by real?

 

Ky’ia squinted at them.

 

“Like it’s on fire but it’s a contained fire professionals are handling, right?”

 

I … That’s not how … Ok.

 

“Did I get the concept wrong?”

 

… I’ll explain that one later.

 

They were at the server room now. It took biometrics to get in, but that was easy enough to bypass. Nyx knelt down and shrugged off their backpack to get out their tablet and hook it up. The program started whirring to open the door, and they waited patiently as Ky’ia stood ready next to them. There were fewer people that could see them here, at least.

 

Really, Ky’ia made Nyx feel bad about their own ability. Comparing yourself to a Specialist was always a bad idea, but damn if Nyx didn’t pale in comparison. Then again, even Nox’s ability was more complex than Nyx’s, which was why Nox had their mission and Nyx had theirs. Nox wasn’t cooler than Nyx, not that it mattered, they could just take out more people at once with their wider range.

 

Nyx never thought they’d reach the day where they actually felt insecure about their abilities.

 

The tablet beeped and the palm pad lit up green. Nyx hurried to push it open and Ky’ia ducked in with them. There was a table to set up their laptop and plug in, and Nyx set to getting past the firewall. It wasn’t much to speak of. There were a variety of Nen users here, all dedicated to stopping someone before they could even get this far. Nyx had counted the two secretaries, four separate paralegals, and three security guards as having overwhelming amounts of Nen. They were probably hilariously expensive. Look at all that money whooshing down the drain thanks to a pair of eighteen year olds. It was a little satisfying.

 

But, in any case, the firm was overconfident, because this firewall was a joke. It tried to block Nyx’s access for a total of five minutes before Nyx was able to disable it, and the alarm it tried to send off was easily taken down. Ten minutes later and Nyx was bypassing the security questions and passwords to access one Lyla Harmun’s list of clients and every last one’s estate information. Really, she should have been more disorganized. It was all so neat and tidy. She should hire less excellent paralegals. And then they moved onto the next lawyer, and the next, and the next, until all five were ticked off the list and Nyx was moving on to erase the history of their access. As a last measure, they ran virus detection, and, satisfied, they unplugged their laptop and closed it.

 

“Ready?” Ky’ia asked, and Nyx nodded. They took the last sip of their frappuccino, draining the mix of coffee and whip cream with an obnoxious slurp, and stood.

 

Let’s go.

 

The two of them slipped out, arm in arm, and practically waltzed out the front door. Nyx wasn’t one for giddy satisfaction, but the sheer ballsiness of the fact that they just walked right in and hacked their network in broad daylight sent a shiver down their spine. So much that they almost didn’t notice eyes on them as they walked out the door and to the stop sign before Ky’ia dropped their hatsu.

 

Right there on the curb was one of the paralegals, squinting at them in thought. On impulse, Nyx pulled Ky’ia a little closer and pressed a kiss to their cheek. Ky’ia startled and looked at them with wide eyes. Nen, they were bad at this. And, then, a slow smile spread across their lips and they kissed Nyx’s cheek in return.

 

Now Nyx felt bad, but the eyes were off them.

 

One of the paralegals is watching us , Nyx typed. The light changed and they pulled Ky’ia into a leisurely pace to cross the street. Feel their Nen?

 

“Yes. The kiss was still nice,” Ky’ia said and hopped the last step to get to the curb. Nyx let themselves get pulled along. Well. At least their feelings weren’t hurt. Nyx would feel awful.

 

Sorry.

 

“For what? A kiss is a kiss, undercover or not. It’s kind of exciting, isn’t it? All this sneaking around, I mean. I feel bad.

 

Nyx felt like they could melt into a puddle on the ground. They felt silly, fanciful, but dear Nen, Ky’ia was so cute it hurt. Like actually hurt.

 

You can’t be a bad boy when you say it so cutely.

 

“You think I’m cute?”

 

I don’t have a tongue. I’m not missing my eyeballs.

 

It felt so natural saying all of this. Nyx had once entertained the thought that they never would be able to handle this stuff well, but going with the flow seemed to be working so far. It was odd, the thought of them just letting a romance mutually blossom. But hey, Nyx wasn’t going to dig in their heels and fight it, unlike their idiotic siblings. Then again, their idiotic siblings definitely had some baggage with those respective pairings. Mass murderers and all. Nyx had hit the jackpot here. They almost felt bad.

 

“You know, this was a pretty good first date,” Ky’ia commented. Nyx nearly choked. Ky’ia saw this as a date?

 

You think this is a date?

 

“Why not? We got drinks, did something we both found interesting, I got to show off to you instead of you being all cool, indulged in mutual interests, did a little trespassing and criminal activities. I’d say it was perfect.” Ky’ia detached their arm to reach down and take the hand not preoccupied with the phone. “Got out of the house … Yeah. It was a good first date.”

 

Who says it has to end? There was an amusement park in town, and Nyx had saved up as much money as they could from the odd jobs they had worked. They could really pay for a date with Ky’ia.

 

“I … Well what could we do?”

 

Have you read about roller coasters?

 

“Yes!” Ky’ia lit up and Nyx pulled them a little closer to avoid walking directly into a pole. How were they so cool and collected ninety percent of the time and minutes away from a disaster for the remaining ten? They didn’t even notice.

 

He might follow us. Might as well really play off the whole date thing , Nyx theorized. Also cotton candy. I can actually eat cotton candy pretty ok.

 

“What’s cotton candy?”

 

A special kind of sugary sweet that dissolves in your mouth. You might like it. If you’ve gotten over your hatred of sweet coffee.

 

“I like sweet things. I just don’t understand why you would take something so fundamentally bitter and make it sweet. Defeats the point.”

 

Caffeine.

 

“Why not have something else then?”

 

Stubbornness.

 

“Humans are so strange,” Ky’ia muttered and Nyx’s lips twitched as they reached the loaned car from Chrollo. It was a pity they couldn’t take the bike, but hey, Ky’ia needed to learn how to drive, they both needed backpacks, and Ky’ia didn’t even know how to ride a regular bike.

 

Maybe they could take them for a ride another day.

 

“Hey Nyx?”

 

Nyx paused in fishing out the keys and tilted their head.

 

“How does a fire alarm work?”

Chapter Text

Marcus Arel had lovely taste in home decor. Really. His desk chair was somehow an old fashioned leather armchair that was ergonomic. It must have cost him a fortune to commission, given that the leather was highly illegal.

 

He also had thoughtfully placed two table lamps on either end of the desk. Table lamps with stylized spikes on top.

 

Feitan loved to have a sense of ambience when he was working. The blood staining the lampshades from the grotesque heads mounted was certainly setting the mood. Caught in a perpetual scream, Marcus’s top two men provided the perfect macabre lighting. It was the only improvement Feitan could have possibly made that would better the space.

 

The pearls swung around his fingers for another rotation as he patiently waited with his feet up on the desk. The Pearls of Anastasia were famous for their iridescent qualities. They were also called the Bloody Pearls on account of how many men had supposedly died at Anastasia’s hand while she wore them. Anastasia had been a princess once upon a time, and the pressure of marrying had compounded until she snapped. It was theorized that she was a Genius, as the pearls were known for turning black and weeping blood under the full moon. She had killed approximately thirty suitors, and her position had protected her until her murder of a Crown Prince had sparked a war. She’d been beheaded. It was commonly believed that her last words were, “A man may have killed me, but no man chained me.”

 

Her death was a pity, but what a way to go. Feitan liked her.

 

Chrollo had coveted the pearls for some time, but they never got to get their hands on them. There was always something else to do, something else to steal, someone else to kill. Good thing Feitan had an excuse now.

 

He felt Marcus approaching before he heard the footsteps. Excitement spiked and the pearls spun around again, once, twice, three times, and the door opened.

 

Feitan’s dark eyes lifted and met Marcus’s. He was an older man, dressed in a three piece suit, respectable, expensive. Oh, how Feitan loved to bring that all crashing down. The pearls spun around again.

 

“You certainly have a flair for the macabre,” Marcus said slowly. “Was ruining the lampshades necessary?”

 

“I think is improvement.”

 

“Feitan Portor, of the Phantom Troupe, I presume.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Strange of you to wait around after taking what’s mine.”

 

“I have more to take.”

 

“Did someone hire you?”

 

The cool, smooth pearls were caught in his grasp and Feitan tucked them away as he stood, fluidly, tracked his fingers through the blood pooled on the desk.

 

“You could say that.”

 

“I didn’t think any of the gangs had the money to pull in a Spider.”

 

“They do not.” Feitan lifted his hand and rubbed the blood, inhaled that sweet, sweet scent that sent shivers down his spine. “You could say I am trying to impress someone.”

 

“They must be a very eccentric person to be impressed by this.”

 

“They are artist.” Marcus’s Nen was swelling and Feitan leaned one hip on the desk. “I thought I could take picture of your dead body when I finish. You mind?”

 

“A little.”

 

“Mmm. Too bad.”

 

The tension spelled out the danger between the two of them. There was a pause, and then the room exploded. Feitan’s umbrella blew up, left to the side as his sword flicked out delicately, and a cat o’ nine formed in Marcus’s own hand. A Transmuter, or perhaps a Conjurer, as suspected.

 

Marcus lashed out, the tails growing, and Feitan whacked them to the side. Shouts exploded below, and a smirk just touched Feitan’s lips. Yes. Good. Let them come running to master. Feitan would kill them all.

 

Marcus was experienced. He knew to stay back away from the shorter weapon, use the flail to his advantage. He still wasn’t Feitan. He was hardly a challenge, and it was foolish of him to think he had a chance. A wall blew out and the two were fighting in the hallway, Feitan on the defensive, easily blocking paltry attempts to hit him, dancing around the writhing tails, just out of reach. It seemed Marcus had a limit to how far the tails could go, about ten feet. In the close quarters, he didn’t have much of an advantage. At least he was smart enough to see how easily Feitan was evading him.

 

Poor man. It had to suck to get so old and sweat so easily. He shouldn’t wear all those layers.

 

They reached the stairs and Feitan launched himself up and back, flipping once and coming to a soft, crouched landing as the men began to run in, stopping in horror at the sight of him. Marcus stopped at the top of the stairs and Feitan grinned up at him.

 

“Well?”

 

“Who?” Marcus demanded.

 

“You are not in position to be making demands.”

 

“You’re surrounded by fifty men with assault weapons. Who?”

 

Feitan felt a cackle boil up and he gave in, let it out as he stood. As if that was a problem. Only half of them even had an ounce of Nen.

 

“You need more men,” he snarled and then moved in a blur. Blood sprayed as long fingernails ripped through flesh and arteries, spraying across his face and coat, necks snapped, men fell before they could even scream. The ten most powerful Nen users were left alone, and in a second Feitan was back in place at the center, now drenched in blood.

 

“You need many more men.”

 

Five were shaking in their boots as Feitan lazily flicked blood off of his hands, spraying it directly at them.

 

“Will someone not try to hit me?” His Nen ability was not well known. That was an advantage. It was rarely seen, and most people that did see enough of it to know how it worked didn’t live to tell the tale, with the exception of the troupe. Not even Nox had seen it, thankfully. It wouldn’t do to kill them when they were still so fascinating.

 

“Or are you all too busy pissing?” The manic grin on his lips grew, split his face in two, and the biggest, burliest, meanest fucker charged. He was as big as Franklin, and honestly shouldn’t have tried, because he was at an inherent disadvantage with how slow he was. Feitan evaded his punches easily, didn’t even have to block. It was a strange realization that sparring with Nox had taught him to focus more on how his body shifted and how that could be used against him. Looks like he could still learn things. He had never moved so fluidly.

 

His blade flicked up and an arm went flying, hitting the wall with a wet thump before it dropped. A screech reverberated in Feitan’s skull and he shifted before the second attacker landed a hit.

 

They had a scythe. Another long weapon inherently at a disadvantage against Feitan. At least the fluidity of the flail made it difficult to get inside its range.

 

“Is that the weapon you want to use, Conjurer?” He asked softly and his sword flicked again, taking off the panicked single armed man’s head. The young man stared him down, serious, unwavering, and Feitan tilted his head.

 

“Do you know why I am here, hm? Would be pity to kill you if you didn’t.” He had a childish face. A bit like Shalnark. They could have been related.

 

The scythe cut through the air and came to rest behind the man. They seemed to be going in order of strength, aware that they would only get in each others way otherwise. Smart. Not smart enough. Really, Feitan wasn’t sure he could quantify him as a man. He was anywhere from fifteen to eighteen. Blonde hair, green eyes, honest face. A killer, if Feitan ever saw one. He would be slightly more difficult.

 

More men were arriving to the bloodbath, and the witless survivors seemed to be rallying whatever they counted as courage. Feitan called it foolish arrogance. None of them moved to shoot. The young man was in the way.

 

“You’re arrogant,” he spat, and Feitan smiled, patronizing. Yeah, he didn’t know.

 

“You are child,” Feitan said, and charged.

 

The kid was fast, as fast as Feitan. The two smashed through the entrance hall, bouncing off walls, crashing through pillars as Feitan dodged and parried his blows. He could go on the defensive. He could hold the defensive all day long, if he felt the inclination, and the kid was good. Not nearly as good as Feitan, or Nox, or even Kalluto, but good. He handled the scythe like it was a fifth limb, and Feitan deigned to wonder if he had been a farm boy before this.

 

Even so, Feitan was dicking around, and while pride kept Marcus around to see this through, he could leave in a moment while Feitan was playing with his men.

 

Feitan shifted. The kid wasn’t good enough to realize yet that Feitan was toying with him, but the realization dawned the second Feitan hooked the handle of the sword through and sent the scythe flying. Feitan felt the scythe go soaring and then … It disappeared and reappeared in the kid’s grasp. Surprise etched across Feitan’s face and he froze just for a moment, primarily because he had never seen anyone at the kid’s combat level manage a conjuring and dispersal that fast. That second was all the kid needed to swing the handle up and smack Feitan across the face.

 

Pain blossomed. A lot of pain. Nothing to compare to his broken arm, but it was enough as his eye almost immediately began to swell. A cackle rose up again and the kid took a step back, wide eyed and confused at his reaction.

 

“You have made mistake,” Feitan said, and felt a flicker of rage. Not at the kid, no. At the people that had lured him in with false promises. He could read people. Very well. The kid had no idea what he was helping with, and something about that infuriated Feitan, because he was about to die for other people’s sins. He had such potential, too. Honest face.

 

Maybe Nox was rubbing off on him.

 

Maybe …

 

What would really impress Nox?

 

The kid looked terrified as Feitan’s Nen began to swell. He tried to lash out before Feitan let off what was coming, but Feitan grabbed him easily. There was a trick to his regalia. If someone was close enough, it would envelop them. 

 

The kid looked confused as Feitan pulled him close, and the handle of the umbrella crashed against his skull. He was out in a second. He had always been outclassed, poor thing.

 

Feitan’s regalia began to form and his eyes fluttered shut as pure power coursed through his veins.

 

“Pain Packer,” he said aloud. “First condition.”

 

The sun began to form and Feitan let his base fury feed into it, build it up, and screams echoed through the mansion.

 

It took a bare two minutes for the bodies to stop twitching. He had taken out the roof. They were so scorched no amount of DNA testing would ever determine their identities. The way it should be.

 

The regalia faded with his temper, his retribution, and he dropped the kid unceremoniously on the floor. He was going to have a nasty concussion when he woke up. It was a pity. Feitan had wanted to fight someone worthy of his talents, not some farm boy with a half decent reaction time.

 

A crackle reached his ears and he looked up. Oh. He forgot he was in a wood building. It was on fire. With a resigned sigh, he picked up the kid by the back of his shirt and dragged him out the doors to toss him on the ground a safe distance away. He was starting to stir. Good. Unconscious any longer and he would have some brain damage.

 

“Wha---?”

 

Feitan walked past him, hands in pockets. He needed to get in town and find Nox.

 

“Try not to lose your temper for few months,” Feitan said casually. “You lucky I like you.”

 

The kid tried to struggle to his feet and ended up flat on his face.

 

“What did you do ?”

 

“Pain Packer,” Feitan said as he reached a car haphazardly parked in the drive. They hadn’t even locked it. Amatuers. “Rising Sun. You hit me, I hit back much harder.”

 

“Did you just kill my uncle?”

 

“Probably. You will get over it. In few months, you will see.” Feitan slipped into the driver’s seat as the kid tried to stand again, drunkenly stumbled a few steps, and collapsed in a heap. “Keep to yourself. I hear you talked, I will not be so merciful.”

 

“Why did you let me live?” The kid demanded. “You’re Feitan Portor! You don’t let people live!”

 

Feitan reached over to start sparking wires together. The car roared to life and he slammed the door shut so he could roll down the window. Sparks started drifting up in the night sky. Pretty.

 

“Like I told Marcus. I would like to impress someone,” he said shortly and pulled away, leaving the shaking and crying kid to figure out how to deal with the smoke inhalation on his own.

 

Was he still Feitan? Odd. His fascinations rarely changed him . This was a new development.

 

This was a very new development.

 

If Nox asked, he realized, he would most certainly burn down the world for them. How very romantic of him.

Chapter Text

A storm was rolling in. Nox could smell it on the horizon, which was a pain. They hated getting wet. A cool wind rustled past them as they remained crouched on the edge of the roof, watching the chaos below them.

 

The entire gang had been mobilized. Cars had been heading out towards the mansion at the edge of the city for the past twenty minutes. Nox still watched, patient, waiting for the fire. Another deep breath, and a fifteenth crow materialized next to them. Over the years their crows had become more and more lifelike, to the point where they had their own personalities, their own names. There were a total of fifty, and as Nox grew, so did their number. They would never die. Even if they were vanquished in combat, each individual crow only needed a twelve hour regeneration period before Nox summoned them again. They would always come back, so long as Nox was alive, and that was a bit of a comfort.

 

Nox had always wanted pets. There had been days when they were left to wander barefoot in cold buildings that they watched birds fly outside the window. They had dreamed of joining them. Crows especially. They loved their intelligent beady eyes and croaking coughs of caws. Nox had related to them even more after they lost their tongue.

 

A hand reached out and stroked across soft feathers. Ri was their second in command, their first, adaptable, bold, impertinent, with a penchant for theft and nesting in Hisoka’s hair. He hopped up onto Nox’s shoulder and let out a mournful cry. Impatient as always.

 

Not yet. Two more formed, Kai and Uno, and the two shuddered against the cold, despite their inability to feel it.

 

Twenty seven should do it. The rest could be summoned in severe situations.

 

Aed joined the growing murder, and then Aodh. Nox breathed out, slowly, deliberately, and brought Tin into being. They could do all of this in an instant, but it wore them out. It was better to let their Nen flare back, then let it leak out again, and then flare back, again and again. Yin and Yang joined the fray, and then Asmo, Hitter, and finally Comet. Twenty five.

 

Nox stood, a tall silhouette despite their short stature, and watched the horizon. They could see the mansion from here.

 

They waited. Ri twitched on their shoulder, pulled at their hoodie strings, and Nox made a crooning noise in the back of their throat.

 

Not yet.

 

They felt it before it started. Feitan’s Nen was horrifying in its strength. His malevolence stretched out across the city in an explosion, and a bright light lit up the sky, turned night into day. Nox’s eyes widened. They knew about Rising Sun from reports, but they had never seen it in person.

 

And he wanted to tag along with Nox ?

 

Nox had practically been beating the shit out of him in sparring sessions the second they washed off the TwoSkin and he could do this? Sure, they knew he was on another level, but it was different to see it in person.

 

Stop it. You’re going to make the birds feel inadequate. Jackass.

 

They couldn’t dwell on this right now. Feitan had killed as many people as he could. Now they had to sweep out in their pincer movement and bottleneck the survivors.

 

Crows lifted off, and ten took off to head off any cars trying to escape the opposite way. Gin and Rum had been their eyes throughout this. About one hundred men had left for the mansion, and perhaps seventy five had made it. Feitan would reach the remaining twenty five, which left Nox with the other half of the gang.

 

Two hundred men. Ri took flight and Nox dropped off the roof. Wind whistled past them and they landed with a crunch. Their fourteen crows circled over their head as Ri swept down to land on their shoulder once more, their ever faithful companion. Nox stuck their hands in their pockets and strolled along the streets, their Nen growing and flickering as they breathed in the taste of rain.

 

The sun disappeared and the world was black again. Nox kept walking, eyes on the horizon. They couldn’t see the mansion now, but it was likely going to light up the sky in flames pretty soon.

 

Their senses pinged as men tumbled out of a nearby pub owned and operated by the gang. All members. Seven in total.

 

Their birds rotated one last time and then dove in. The men barely had any time to register that Nox was their attacker before they were ripped to bloody shreds. Blood shimmered on their crows’ feathers and then absorbed, giving Nox a rush of power.

 

Their birds were special. Being made of Nen, they were capable of ripping opponents to shreds, peeling their skin from their muscles, ripping holes through their bodies with nothing but momentum and razor sharp beaks. They also had an additional ability: they could absorb blood, which, given that it kept people alive, held some degree of Nen, and redirect it back to Nox. Nox had added this specific detail when they realized that while they could hold them for days, sometimes they would need to hold them for weeks. Shit happened, and without their ability, they were a sitting duck. So their prey could operate as how nature intended: food. If Nox had absorbed enough Nen, the regeneration period shortened as well. The record was currently three hours, but that had also been a very bad day they would rather not think about.

 

Nox kept walking. They were a very physical person. They liked their combat up close and personal. But small fries like these guys weren’t worth the time. The wind shifted, threatening to blow off their hood, and they hunched down, breathing slowly and deeply as they widened their En range.

 

They didn’t even need to be in range to tell Feitan was coming into the city. They could see him in a stolen car through Rum’s eyes. He was still bleeding Nen, keyed up, ready to kill more people. Nox knew what that felt like. It was never enough, sometimes.

 

Police sirens were starting to wail as they headed out to the fire that had flared up. Behind them, their ten vanguards had found their prey. Nox didn’t even need to look through them to feel the power surge through their body. Two, three, four, five men. All non users. They didn’t stand a chance. Their birds were too fast for a non user to shoot down. That was twelve out of one hundred, no, now fifteen.

 

Eighty five to go. Nox could keep this up all night. The small, competitive part of them didn’t want to be outdone by Feitan, though it was inevitable. From what they could see from Rum, he had already killed about seventeen on his way over. They wished they could have gotten Rum close enough to see the Rising Sun up close, but it was too much of a risk. Nox dimly wondered if anyone had managed to escape.

 

Twenty now. Nox’s own Nen was only growing with their anticipation, shaping, and with Feitan on their side they could afford to feed it back into the birds, amp them up, not worry about conserving their strength. They needed to be fast if they were going to catch up with the cars. This was going to knock them out later, but hey. You couldn’t have power without sacrifice.

 

Ahead of them men were shouting at each other. They seemed a little lost. Twelve of them, all in a state of panic, because word had filtered down now that for some reason a troupe member was hunting them for sport.

 

There was a silent woman in the midst of them, checking her texts. She seemed unperturbed at this development, but at Nox’s approach she looked up and locked eyes with them. Her Nen twisted and flared and the other men immediately shut up as she put her phone away.

 

“You’re not Feitan,” she said calmly.

 

Jewel, last name unknown, even to her. Marcus’s best woman. Feitan had already taken out his best men, but she was light years ahead of them. A decent challenge for Nox.

 

Nox stared at her in silence as the birds circled. She wouldn’t recognize them, the traitor that she was.

 

A victim of the ring who had learned Nen much like Hisoka had, but instead of actually recognizing the release to be had in dismantling it, she had recognized the power to be had in staying instead. She had joined Marcus’s gang not long after she had proven herself to be useful to the ring, and worked her way up to position herself in a point where she would take over and fully assimilate the gang into the ring as muscle.

 

Nox had met her once, when they were very young, right after Uvogin had tossed their drugged up body on the floor and accepted his payment. She was trying to get full release to join Marcus’s gang. She’d gotten it a year later, seven years ago now.

 

Nox remembered how she had commented that Nyx was very pretty.

 

She didn’t share the sexual interest their clients had. It still felt disgusting.

 

And here she was now, a full twenty seven years old, tall, leggy, pink haired, with ribbons wrapped around her wrists and palms.

 

“Don’t speak?” She asked, her voice as sweet and melodic as ever. “You have some lovely birds.”

 

Nox just stood and stared. They never signed to opponents, even on the off chance that they would understand them. It was better to be silent.

 

“If you aren’t Feitan, are you another troupe member, hm? Or just passing through?”

 

Seven, eight, nine. Their power was growing, and they filtered it into the birds circling over their head. Feitan had taken care of the full twenty five men heading to the mansion. Gin and Rum took off, miles away, and began to soar towards their parent. Always so reliable. Nox hadn’t even had to tell them.

 

“You really don’t talk, do you? Must I see you as a threat, darling?” The ribbons around her wrists came undone, spilling down into pretty piles on the concrete sidewalk. Two loops connected them to her, and the ribbons cut themselves in half to create four tails. The men cocked their guns and she tilted her head prettily. “I think I should. You seem to be feeling very frisky.”

 

Nox didn’t want to have to fight her with those guns in the equation. They knew those ribbons could slice through steel. If she cut their birds in half, they would have to draw on their reserves, and the further up the list they went, the more power they would expend.

 

That was the problem. Their fifty crows were organized in a list, and the further Nox went up the list, with the exception of number one, Ri, the higher base power their birds had. The last bird, Axis, could smash through a dam, reduce it to little more than wet dust in one blow. And when they activated their secondary ability, he hypothetically could break down a city. Hypothetically. It had never gotten that dire.

 

Ri, however, as number one, could take on the properties of any bird in their arsenal, and had a recuperative period of one hour. If need be, he could become a slightly underpowered Axis, if Nox was desperate to reserve Axis for the very end. But doing so was dangerous, and had left them unconscious for three days in the past to recuperate. However, Axis could retain a hit from those ribbons and still break through.

 

Nox ran through their options. The birds circled anxiously over their head. They needed to get the men out of Jewel’s range and let their murder pick them off.

 

Rum and Gin were close.

 

Not close enough. Nox couldn’t lose a single crow they currently had on hand. They weren’t supposed to find Jewel until the end. This was unlucky.

 

“I think you’re a threat,” Jewel said, cutting through Nox’s brain mechanics. “Are you with Feitan, or taking advantage of the chaos?”

 

Number forty, Angel, should do it.

 

Nox breathed in, breathed out, and Angel joined the murder circling over their head. Jewel’s head snapped up at the new Nen presence, trying to pick out which one had that surge of power in the lazily meandering stream of Nen, and Nox let Angel loose.

 

Sorry, baby. You get treats when you’re back , Nox promised. Angel was a glutton.

 

The crow swept down, too fast to follow, a blur of black on the black sky, and Nox leapt back as she slammed into the concrete.

 

The world exploded. Chunks flew in every direction and the ground shook. Men went flying as a crater opened the street, busting through the pipes, sending water spraying, and their crows swept in as Angel dissipated at the bottom of the pit.

 

Blood flew, before Nox even hit the ground. The twelve men exploded as the crows ripped holes in their chests, took their heads from their shoulders, tore their limbs from their torsos midair. It all happened in less than a second, and before Jewel could recover from the shock they were back in the air, out of range, circling overhead.

 

Broken asphalt crunched under combat boots as Nox slid back on their side of the pit, the skin on their fingers almost ripping. Blood dripped onto their leather fingerless gloves and Nox realized they’d been struck in the face with a piece of the road. Their eyebrow was cut. They hadn’t even felt it.

 

Angel had done her damage. The crater was thirty feet across, twenty feet deep. It reeked of sewer. She would get extra treats for the stench she had to endure. Poor baby. Torn limbs were left hanging on broken rebar, a corpse was laying across a broken and gushing pipe. Jewel stood on her side of the pit, woozy and coming to her senses.

 

The body dropped with a splash and Nox straightened up. Jewel looked up at the crows and then back down at the carnage in front of her. She had been hit with an arterial spray.

 

“Now wasn’t that something?” She looked giddy. Nox felt fairly giddy themselves with the amount of Nen flowing into them.

 

Ri landed back on their shoulder and nuzzled Nox’s cheek to wipe away the blood. Nox shifted their shoulder and he took off, high in the sky with the rest.

 

As a Conjurer of a certain power degree, even when grievously injured, Nox could maintain their birds. Even unconscious they could hang around and pull on their remaining Nen, so long as they had been previously summoned. Feitan was coming. He may already be here, cloaked in In to watch, knowing him. However, if Nox was grievously injured, they couldn’t conjure more. Losing any crows right now was out of the question. Higher numbers meant more damage they didn’t need to deal to the city. The ones here needed to finish the job, and they could, so long as Nox didn’t get killed. Nox and Nyx didn’t get killed, to be precise. Feitan would make sure that didn’t happen.

 

It was a good thing Nyx had finished the job earlier.

 

They couldn’t think about that right now.

 

What they needed to think about was the mission, and they would have to put their body on the line to get that done. The crows would finish the job. They always finished the job. Not once had they failed Nox, and the more they became real, the better they got.

 

Rum and Gin joined the murder, and Nox let Asmo, Kai, Yin, Yang, and Uno take flight to finish their work. Rum and Gin would make up for their loss should they need it. They were the only ones they had summoned that were in the thirties.

 

More Nen flowed through Nox. They had lost count of the bodies at this point. Ri was keeping track for them. They couldn’t focus on that right now.

 

Reaching under their short sleeve crop hoodie, encompassed by their crop jacket, they drew the two knives sheathed between their shoulder blades. Really, crop tops were superb for their preferred harness.

 

Two black knives gleamed in the dark, and the storm finally rolled in, drizzling down around them. Nox stared across the gap at Jewel, waiting, patient, reading her body language.

 

She was turned on. Nox could see it in her dilated pupils, in the slant of her lips, in the way she stood and let the ribbons sway in the wind as she inhaled the Nen pouring off of Nox. She looked intoxicated. Nox felt a little gross.

 

That ,” she breathed, “was the most impressive display of power I’ve seen in awhile. Look at the mess you made.”

 

Nox wasn’t one to be baited. Jewel licked her painted lips, and the petty side of Nox rose up, not wanting to give her the satisfaction of a fight.

 

They had to. And they were going to have to use the stolen Nen. Irritating. They’d need a nap after this.

 

Hisoka had done worse. They knew he had. In their gut, in their soul, they knew he had done worse for the twins, and they could give him this.

 

The knife in their right hand rotated to a backhand position, and they gathered their Nen to launch themselves across the gap.

 

Minimize damage. Don’t let Nyx get too hurt. Wrap it up quickly.

 

The ribbons lashed out as Jewel flew back, and the battle commenced.

 

The rain started really pouring down, and Nox used that to their advantage. They fought dirty. With the explosion, there was plenty of soil to get wet, and they kicked mud into her face to blind her. She dodged it, the ribbons soared through the air, but the water was slowing them down. Nox shifted, let them hit the wall of a building with a wet slap, slashed at her neck, and she leapt back as the ribbons on her left hand tried to catch Nox’s hand. Nox lunged back, just out of reach, and slammed their heel into the wall next to them. Nen from fresh kills poured through their body and they directed it into their Ko. The wall crumbled and the sign came down, almost catching Jewel over the head, but her ribbons soared to cut it in half. It still caught her shoulder, but that barely seemed to phase her.

 

Nox kicked up water into her face and powered in close. Her senses were too good, and her ribbons wrapped around the knife in Nox’s right hand to try and yank it from their grasp.

 

A bad move. Nox let it go slack, and then yanked, dragging her in an attempt to let the left knife drive in to her stomach. Jewel shifted, leaving Nox in a lunge with no target, and they let go of the trapped knife to roll forward and spin on one knee. With a free hand, they plucked a small throwing knife from their boot and threw it as hard as they could, a burst of Ko to up the momentum. That wouldn’t get her, but they took the distraction to power behind it and dive forward in another roll to sweep up the lost knife and come up fluidly.

 

The knife had caught her cheek. She was furious and in a sex crazed haze all at the same time. Nox took advantage of her hormones to power through with their attack. More men were approaching, and their crows swept down to rip them to shreds. More Nen coursed through them as they slashed, blocked, dodged, lunged, using Ko and Shu left and right to push her back, closer, closer to the hole.

 

Nox dropped down low, slashed at her kneecaps, and she nearly fell to escape the deadly blades as Nox’s leg kicked out to set her off balance, forcing her to skid back a mere three feet away from the hole.

 

They needed to dispatch the ribbons. She wasn’t a Conjurer, but those ribbons were crafted by a Specialist. One couldn’t just cut them, or get them off of her.

 

Jewel was in a haze. This was her failing. Her insatiable appetite was going to be the death of her.

 

Nox kept pushing her back, kicking up water, aiming for the cheap shots, and Jewel just kept screaming in laughter as she attempted to herd them away from the pit.

 

“Oh, aren’t you the little firecracker ?” She gasped. “You must be a switch.”

 

Yes, actually, but gross, really.

 

“I wonder what’s under all those clothes,” Jewel purred, and the ribbons lashed out as rage built in Nox’s chest.

 

The ribbons danced and slashed through their hoodie, splitting it open at the front to reveal their sports bra which was functionally useless given that they barely had anything there at all. A cut opened on Nox’s belly and the wound sizzled, half healing as the rest of the damage was redirected to Nyx. 

 

Too much. Nox did what they weren’t supposed to do: accessed the full amount of stolen Nen, and it was a lot . They moved in a blur, faster than Jewel could follow, and a boot planted right in the center of Jewel’s designer covered chest to pitch her over the edge of the pit.

 

It wouldn’t be enough to kill her. Nox was pissed. This fucking woman was going to drive them into another meltdown.

 

More Nen coursed through them as their irritation reached their birds and across the city men exploded in showers of blood. Nox was going to kill her. That would divert the oncoming meltdown. They could not risk a meltdown. Not now. Not again.

 

Ribbons launched Jewel out of the pit, sending her high in the air, a crazed grin on her lips, limp wet hair soaring behind her, and then she simply … exploded.

 

Not like the men.

 

She exploded in a spray of blood. No bones left, no chunks larger than a Spider coin, falling with the rain, a few shreds of ribbon drifting down in pieces. A tooth clattered at Nox’s feet and Ri circled around their head as a rush of heady power surged through Nox’s body, making them stagger slightly.

 

Did you borrow from Angel? She’s exhausted. Leave her alone.

 

There was the faintest hint of irritation from Ri. This was the problem with giving conjured animals some semblance of personality. They couldn’t behave.

 

Ri landed on their shoulder and Nox let out a long, staggering breath.

 

There were only fifteen men left. The birds above their head dispersed to the chop shop they were holed up in, and Ri stayed by Nox’s side, where he belonged.

 

“Crows?” A presence, cleverly shielded, emerged from the shadows of the alley. Feitan, watery and bloody, hands in pockets as he strode to Nox.

 

Nox nodded and buttoned up the jacket over their sliced top. They actually liked this hoodie. Maybe Machi could fix it.

 

They could feel Feitan’s aura. He was excited, as expected, and it almost made Nox feel sick until they realized he was consciously trying to mute it. That was … an actually sweet gesture.

 

“You name them?” Feitan asked as he tilted his head. “I watch. You give directions with Nen, they follow. You did not direct this one.”

 

Nox nodded. They needed to get out of here. Nox pitied the clean up it would take to fix that crater. Lots of taxpayer dollars in that mess.

 

“Who this one? His power flared a lot.”

 

R-i. Ri. ” Nox signed, first the finger spelling and then the actual name. “ Number one.

 

“Is very like you,” Feitan absorbed. “You draw animals like. And. Crow murder.”

 

With the rain, Nox had no way of correcting that slip up that was technically true. Oh, well. They knelt and picked up the discarded knives to slip them back into place. Feitan held out a hand. He’d gotten them their throwing knife back. Nox managed to let a smile slip through as they sheathed it.

 

“I already got bags from hotel. Should we go?”

 

Nox tilted their head. Gin let them know they were at the garage, and Nox took a deep breath, shaking as more Nen flowed into them.

 

They were all done. Feitan watched them carefully and Nox tucked the excess Nen back in their reserves. It would fade in a week, but it was good to hold it for as long as possible.

 

“They give you Nen?” He frowned slightly. They both knew that was dangerous.

 

Nox nodded and stood. The crows, their job done, faded away. Ri gave them a final nudge and Nox pulled out the treats to feed him before he vanished, too, a final feather floating down onto the ground. Feitan picked it up, spun it around in his fingers, felt the vibration of the remaining Nen, before he locked eyes with Nox.

 

Your hatsu is beautiful. ” His signing was shaky, a little uneven, but he was trying. Of course Feitan would consider a murderous murder of crows to be beautiful. Despite it all, despite how they felt like they were going to vibrate out of their skin with pure rage, they couldn’t help but smile. The meltdown was avoided. Their crows would like him. They loved being told they were beautiful.

 

Thank you.

Chapter Text

Night had fallen. There was a new split over Nyx’s brow and a long scratch on their stomach. Their fingers were burning, but in decent shape. They were honestly surprised they had any injuries at all. Either Nox was getting sloppy, or something had gone wrong. But there weren’t any other wounds, so it was safe to assume whatever had happened was taken care of.

 

The theme park was a 24 hour affair, but Ky’ia was worn out from the ordeal. They were contentedly sucking on a lollipop, hand tangled with Nyx’s, as the two walked through the parking lot. It had been a good day. It was a pity Nox had to go by themselves to take out the gang. This was rather nice. Not that Nyx was keen on them going anywhere with Feitan, but whatever. Hisoka was stressed enough.

 

Screams from rides echoed behind them as the two wove through cars.

 

“Hey, Nyx?” Nyx hummed in response. “This was nice. Thank you.”

 

You’re welcome.

 

“I liked the tower thingy.”

 

There was a flickering presence and Nyx tightened their grasp on Ky’ia’s hand as they froze in place. They had hoped their date had been enough to shake off any suspicions, but …

 

“Is something wrong?”

 

Nyx let go of Ky’ia’s hand and stepped forward, shrugging off their backpack to hand to their date. Theyfriend? Undetermined as of yet, but they didn’t have time to explain either way.

 

“Aw, you caught me.” The street lamps around them flickered and they waved Ky’ia back further. They weren’t ready for a fight like this.

 

A tall, lanky man stepped out from behind a van, hands tucked in his pockets, hair impeccably groomed. The paralegal from earlier today. Nyx wondered what had tipped him off so badly. Surely it wasn’t their auras. Ky’ia shifted behind them and Nyx shook their head no. No, Nyx could handle this one easily enough. He seemed to have changed into something befitting a theme park. Had he been following them long? Rude.

 

“You know, I almost ignored you two,” he said casually as he stepped out into the lane between the cars. A keyring whirred around his finger and he grasped it. “But, you know, yesterday we got a new person. With impeccable En. It covers the whole building and street. You see, when I mentioned something to her, she said she had felt something, but thought it was some kind of flare. When I pressed it, she said she just thought she should ignore it. Very out of character for her.”

 

Nyx didn’t look at Ky’ia. At least the hypnosis training worked? Point for Ky’ia.

 

“I thought it was a little enough thing that I should follow you around for a day or so. After all, it’s not often you see two users as young as you two.” The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a wallet. A very familiar wallet. Nyx felt like they could kick themselves for the slip up.

 

“Cute fake identity. Very realistic.” He tossed it, high up in the air, and Nyx caught it swiftly. “Why anyone would pretend to be Hisoka Morrow’s little sibling is beyond me. Fact is, I checked. You only appeared on paper about three years ago, to get this license. So who are you really ?”

 

His Nen swelled significantly and Nyx took a long, low breath to gather themselves. If their research checked out, this man would be useless against them. He might as well try to fight the tide.

 

Swords appeared in thin air, lances, javelins, and they all plummeted towards Nyx and Ky’ia, who looked a little panicked. They weren’t ready to use Neverland in actual combat. That was fine. Nyx could manage.

 

Their own aura swelled and the weapons screeched to a halt six feet from the two of them. Drifting, they fell in gentle spirals, turning, bumping into each other as Nyx tilted their head at the man. What was his name again? They couldn’t be bothered.

 

The Nen shifted and the weapons crumpled in on each other before clattering to the ground.

 

Nyx wasn’t anywhere near Nox’s level. The fact of the matter was, while Nyx excelled in many areas, if Nox had a way to turn something into art, they exceeded all expectations. As a bonus, as a Conjurer, Nox had a far wider range than Nyx could ever hope to achieve.

 

That didn’t mean Nyx wasn’t a force to be reckoned with, or inadequate compared to Nox’s complexity. They were a scientist at heart, and scientists always created the best Nen abilities. Gravity was the force that could kill anyone, at any time. You could try to beat gravity, but it would always win. It was difficult, but as long as you understood math and physics, the difficulty decreased drastically and it became what it was: ultimately a simple hatsu. They had practiced for hours, days, to mimic gravity, decrease it, increase, drop it to zero. And they had a very long range for being a Transmuter. If someone got caught in their microgravity, they could siphon off their aura and use it to increase it even further, among other things. Ky’ia would learn how to take aura from a distance without touching eventually. Perhaps even Gon, if he wanted to take the risk, though the ability was more suited to Conjurers, Manipulators, and Transmuters.

 

They watched his face change in the dark. Confusion, and then worry, and then exhilaration.

 

“So you’re a Transmuter.”

 

So you’re dead.

 

He thought he had a chance. Poor thing. Nyx just let a slow, hungry smile split their lips, and then they let him know their range.

 

Their aura flared dramatically. Like a tsunami, it stretched out across the parking lot, hitting the end of the street, reaching the ticket stands. Gravity kept the world turning, the planet alive. Without gravity, it would all fall apart, get sucked into the eternal void of space. Gravity kept them perfectly close enough to the sun to live. Gravity was the reason for the existence of the world.

 

If Nyx could take it away, that was as close as it got to being a god.

 

Cars began to float, bumping into each other gently as Ky’ia rose up behind them and latched onto their sweater to stay in place. Nyx watched as the man struggled to summon up his weapons, as if that would do him any good. His Nen flared in an attempt to conjure a blade, and Nyx lashed out. The Nen he mustered was ripped from his body, straight into Nyx’s, and they rolled their eyes back in pleasure. Delicious.

 

“Nyx, what are you…?”

 

Ah, right. They didn’t want Ky’ia to see this next bit. Nyx grabbed them, dragged them down, spun them in zero gravity so their face buried against their shoulder.

 

And then their eyes locked with the man’s and they smiled, bright, blazing like the sun. It was so interesting to see someone who knew they were about to die.

 

Nyx shifted the aura around him in an instant. The human heart can take at maximum 5g of gravity. For ruining a perfectly good date with Ky’ia and forcing them to show Ky’ia how nasty they could be? He would be receiving 9g. It was a pity he was so powerful on average. For such a powerful hatsu, there were conditions, though not as severe as Nox’s. To actually crush someone, Nyx had to use their stolen Nen on them. The more powerful someone was, the worse it got, if Nyx was so inclined. Of course, there were a variety of ways to kill someone with gravity. Even just increasing it to 5g, maybe 5.5g, they could make someone’s heart give out. If they crushed someone, the condition demanded that they lose as much Nen as used for the next sixty minutes.

 

This wasn’t going to take a lot of power from them. After all, their aura was immense. Nyx tilted their head and then crunched down.

 

There wasn’t much left of him to drop onto the pavement as Nyx released their aura and let it all suck back into themselves. Ky’ia’s feet hit the ground as cars crashed down around them. Alarms blared and Nyx stroked their hair. Ky’ia pulled back and their eyes widened at the grotesque mess. Nyx pulled them back to look at them.

 

I’m sorry.

 

Ky’ia looked marginally horrified. Nyx felt awful that they couldn’t really feel awful. This was business as usual for them.

 

They were from different worlds, them and Ky’ia. Nyx pursed their lips and pulled their phone out of their pocket.

 

This is what it looks like. To do what we do. You don’t have to get on the front lines if you don’t want to.

 

“I… I don’t think I want to.”

 

That’s fine. I wouldn’t want you to. Let’s get out of here before the cops come.

 

Hopefully, the man hadn’t told anyone they were “masquerading” as Hisoka’s younger sibling. Even if he did, Hisoka should be able to spin it, like he always did. There were fail safes. They had fail safes for everything

 

A stone sunk in Nyx’s gut as they realized that Ky’ia may see them in a different light now. There was a difference in watching people’s lives and actually living your own.

 

It was a pity. Nyx was actually developing a bit of a crush. But, all the same, they couldn’t deny the fact that they would probably go through a circuit of people who would eventually see them for what they were. Fact of the matter was, Nyx was willing to kill anyone so long as they reached their goals, good or bad. They lied sometimes and said it was only for this cause, but that wasn’t the sort of habit you shook. It would stay the same. It was always going to stay the same.

 

Hopefully when Ky’ia inevitably deservedly crushed their heart Nyx wouldn’t bounce back quickly. It was preferable that way, and logical.

 

They needed to get Ky’ia home. A hot bath or shower did wonders for seeing your first real death in person, and for realizing you were an accessory to murder. Even if the victim in question was trying to kill you. Not that he would have ever gotten close to Ky’ia. No, Nyx was too possessive to let that shit slide.

 

No one was going to lay a hand on Ky’ia unless Ky’ia asked them to fight on their own. Period.

Chapter Text

Nox was still passed out on the motel bed. Feitan literally didn’t know what to do. It was a day’s drive to get back to the manor, and Nox had been drifting off in the car on the way there. They had given him a brief explanation when they finally got to the motel, stumbled into the shower, and then immediately crawled into bed, wet hair and all. He hated that habit of theirs.

 

I have fifty crows. With the exception of Ri, two through fifty increase in power as the list goes up. You saw forty, using about half of her power when she made that hole, but the impact killed her, so I won’t be able to summon her for 12 hours. They feed me the aura from their prey, and my power increases. I can feed it back into them, use it myself, or put it in reserve for seven days before I lose it. If I use it, the condition is that it exhausts me. I am able to maintain them even when heavily injured, but unable to conjure more if I am injured to the point where I am out of it, as each one takes full concentration to manifest. Ri, the one you met, is able to take on the properties of any bird in the murder as a fail safe, only has a recharge period of one hour, and can be summoned automatically when I am unconscious. He can only take on their properties if they are “dead” or not summoned. If Ri takes on another bird’s properties, like Angel, the condition is that I am physically drained, but if he does that it’s likely that I have already used a shit ton of stolen Nen anyways. Ri took on Angel, and I used the stolen Nen to fight Jewel, so I’m gonna pass out for awhile. If I sleep too long, just stuff me in the car and call it a day. Night.

 

Feitan understood Conjurers as not being able to make things without limits. If you wanted to create a sword that could cut through anything, you had to make a condition. If you wanted to make chains that could not break, you had to make a condition. It was somewhat similar to his own ability, Pain Packer. He couldn’t create Rising Sun without being hit. While Nox’s birds weren’t limitless, per se, he could see that they were created with such loving care that they were effectively real living beings that could cheat death.

 

Unless they were limitless. If the impact from Angel was only at half strength, and she was not fifty, it was possible that fifty was limitless. He didn’t know how their power scale increased, as when they were circling their auras all blended together to hide which one was the highest threat. It was unlikely. They were highly advanced, but not limitless in power, unless there was another condition Nox wasn’t telling them about. The 12 hour refractory period was a condition set to allow death to be cheated, and he found it interesting that someone such as Nox cared enough to want to cheat it.

 

Very often, conditions and hatsus were indicative of what the user truly desired more than anything in the world. For Feitan, it was the desire to burn everything to the ground and leave his enemies as husks. It had always, always been about the desire to have the power to hit back harder, faster, more painfully, to throw aside limits and burn the people who had dared to hurt him. He had always been very small, even as a child. In his homeland, he had always been relentlessly bullied, picked on, shoved around, called a street rat until life and death threw him across the continent to Meteor City. His first real friends had been beaten and bloodied like him. When he first met Chrollo, he was being beaten senseless for stealing a can of beans. Chrollo had put a stop to that, pulled Feitan to his feet, and told him one day he would hit harder.

 

And so Feitan had hit harder.

 

He’d never cared to learn the why of someone’s hatsu outside of the troupe, but try as he might to ignore it, he always figured it out easily. Hisoka, now that he knew more of him, was simple: Hisoka wanted his life to be simpler. He had clung to Bungee Gum and how it was formed out of the memory of how things could be easier, simpler, more joyful. Simple pleasures. It was odd to think of Hisoka and his unbeatable hatsu as soft. Ky’ia’s hatsu had been formed out of desperation, but Feitan was certain they would come to understand their need to rewrite reality and envision things in their own understanding. Breaking out of one culture and into another was hard. You couldn’t simply understand the new culture without having to apply your own lense. Nox and Nyx’s hatsu was based on the concept of moving as one, weaponizing the shadows they had been forced into, using them as a redemption in complete unity. Phinks was also rather simple. Much like Feitan, it was a desire to hit harder than someone hit him. Life until the troupe had been nothing but a series of knocks for him, and he got sick of being a punching bag. He was so sickly when they first met. Feitan had almost worried he’d drop dead when Chrollo pulled him out of the trash. Machi was someone that fixed things. Whenever there was a problem in the troupe, one word from her would fix it. Something about Machi drew people in. The twins had trusted her in a matter of days because of that something.

 

Nox’s independent hatsu, therefore, was interesting to him. When they were with Nyx, they were one minded, powerful, driving forward. But they had feared they would never be separate from Nyx. Was that what spurned the idea behind a murder of crows? Separate from each other, but traveling together as one. As free as the skies. And then the additional condition that they have a regeneration period of 12 hours. Did Nox fear death? They had chosen to give their birds personalities, intelligence, sentience. Of that, Feitan was certain. Ri had acted independently, made a decision based on Nox’s distress. Was the concept of losing them too much to bear? If Nox died, so did Nyx, and vice versa. The fact that they had done nothing to change that spoke to a deep conviction he could never understand.

 

Part of the reason he couldn’t stop thinking about their hatsu was because he was worried they felt trapped in this dynamic with their sibling. Hisoka didn’t say anything about their decision to carry on with sharing pain. Then again, Feitan was likely the last person he would talk to about it. Did he condone it, or did he think it wasn’t his place to tell them were being idiots?

 

Because, ultimately, cultural value or not, they weren’t in their tribe anymore. They did not exist in a safe bubble. They were actively putting their lives on the line at least once a week, powering forward in the name of vengeance. They were killing each other. Feitan understood stringent cultural values, but he really couldn’t picture any ghost agreeing with their decision to effectively murder each other one day. Because that was what it was. Their decision to remain as they were, and continue to do what they did, meant they were actively choosing to kill each other. Feitan didn’t balk at murder. He embraced it, in fact. But even that seemed wrong to him.

 

It didn’t seem healthy. Perhaps knowledge of Nyx’s hatsu would provide a little light into the situation.

 

In any case, focusing on the why of Nox’s hatsu was a bit too much to deal with right now, because he was still swooning a little at the sheer amount of power they had displayed. And not only the power, but the tactical decisions made moments before combat. Nox was a very physical person. He knew that much. But the decision to not use the crows to attack Jewel was a tactical decision, not personal. Should they have been grievously injured, the crows would have finished the job. In a moment, they decided to fight someone with a decided tactical advantage in hand to hand Nen combat without wasting a single crow, and summoned one to sacrifice it a split second later to even the odds. It was clear they had been doing this for some time. They could read a combat scenario as quickly as Hisoka.

 

But the fact that they risked death and ultimately throwing the mission was … Or had they?

 

Feitan turned his attention back to Nox. They were still sleeping rather peacefully, having taken their medications before crawling into bed after shooting Nyx a text. The exhaustion was keeping the pain from flaring, kept them still on the bed. Perhaps that was why they had chosen that condition. It actually made sense. Sleeping fitfully after a fight was a certain kind of hell.

 

Their fist was curled around a gleam of gold and he drew near, carefully pried their fingers open.

 

It was the coin half.

 

About twenty seven feelings flared in Feitan’s chest as the full equation crashed in on him.

 

They hadn’t put their life on the line.

 

They had trusted Feitan to keep not only them from dying, but Nyx. They had taken something so fragile, something so close to their heart, and placed it in Feitan’s grasp. And he hadn’t even realized it.

 

The troupe had a mantra. Fights belong to the person battling. When he had fought the Chimera Ant queen, the odds of a troupe member jumping in if he was ever really in trouble was slim to none. They might, of course, but it depended on their whims. Unless there was an agreement beforehand, they simply relied on the gamble of how someone was feeling. There was trust, yes, but not like this.

 

Feitan thought he was going to faint. A long breath escaped his lips and he sat on the edge of the bed, coin grasped tightly between his fingers. He couldn’t take his eyes off of it.

 

Normally, this would have been a dealbreaker. Something to laugh at, something to kill them for. He had killed several previous fascinations for this sin. He could kill them. They were dead to the world. One blow would have been punishment for their mistake, Nyx be damned, and no one would know better. No one even knew he was here. Nox hadn’t told a soul, and neither had Feitan. It was a secret getaway of sorts. Even if anyone did know, it could have been passed off as death in combat. No one would know.

 

Feitan remembered blonde hair and green eyes and confusion and anger and pain.

 

“You’re Feitan Portor! You don’t let people live!”

 

He hadn’t just let the kid live. He had saved him from his inevitable hatsu, his hatsu that killed anything and everything, his hatsu he had never once controlled once released. His eye was still swollen shut from the blow.

 

He had saved his life, and he had done it because even if they didn’t know, would never know, it was what Nox would have wanted subconsciously, even if they were logically pissed there was a survivor. Someone else was being taken advantage of, and now he would have another chance, even if he didn’t even know he was being taken advantage of, even if he didn’t know that he had been given a chance.

 

He hadn’t been trying to impress Nox right then. He had no intentions of ever telling them there was a survivor, a survivor who may want to come back for vengeance.

 

He hadn’t been trying to impress them. He had been trying to be the man they deserved.

 

Feitan never cried. It wasn’t in his wiring. But he had the urge as he stared at that coin because he had a desire he had never known before. He wanted to be someone else. Still Feitan, still deadly, still dangerous, but someone worthy of this little pile on the bed. This tiny thing, so hardened against the world, with a venomous tongue and nasty temper, this tiny person intent on being bigger, stronger, on being the inevitable end to a legacy of pain and torment and perversion. This tiny thing had taken their fragile little life and trusted him to protect it without saying a word.

 

This tiny little thing, ultimately powerless against Feitan, weak in comparison, with their love of birds and the free air, lonely enough to make their own friends, had effortlessly stripped away all of his strength and power, because he couldn’t do it.

 

Feitan Portor, finally brought to his knees.

 

As he thought back to the fight, of how that woman gleamed with sexual interest, at how he had felt conflicted as he watched it, he knew they were right in making their gamble.

 

He had felt two things at once. He was feeling that a lot nowadays. When he fought that boy, he had been furious at the people that were grooming him to become the monsters they were. But he had also felt the need to protect him, even for a moment.

 

When he watched Nox fight, he had been turned on. Literally anyone with eyes would have been, and maybe even some without. They were deadly. Powerful. Unbearably smart and bold. They moved like a jungle cat, with all of their hard work bleeding out of them. Watching them move was erotic, how they fought dirty, took all the cheap shots, used their environment as a weapon. When they knocked that wall in to make the sign fall he thought he might faint. They connected the dots before the dots even formed and it was hot.

 

But he had also been furious. He wanted to rip Jewel’s head from her shoulders himself. The way she leered at Nox, made it clear she was getting off to this, how she clearly wanted to beat Nox without killing them so she could fuck them … Feitan had been angry for Nox. And for himself. He was possessive to a fault. He acted on instinct. Many a person had died for the crime of gazing at those he was fascinated with. The only thing that kept him from diving into the fray to kill her himself was the knowledge that Nox needed to kill her to avoid being worked up into a meltdown themselves. He knew the psychology of a CSA victim, and he knew Nox. It was amazing how much you can learn from just sitting in relative silence with someone. They needed that satisfaction. It was probably one of the things that kept them going. Even if she wasn’t one of the active pedophiles, her behavior was enough to drive them up the wall.

 

And instead of just ignoring that need in pursuit of his own satisfaction, he had let them finish. He didn’t childishly view them as his, and therefore not needing their own autonomy. He viewed them as Nox. His Nox. Not just his. His Nox. When had this progressed to him viewing them as his at all?

 

Holding this little piece of metal, he had to wonder if they would have been fine with him killing on their behalf.

 

Nox was doing something to him. A hardened killer’s hand, so close to snapping their neck in an effort to rid himself of the feelings in his chest, smoothed over messy, tangled curls instead.

 

He pressed the coin back into their grasp and stood abruptly. He was going to wake them up. They needed to sleep. They were going on four hours now. And he still had his hair matted with blood, though most of it had been washed out with the rain.

 

Feitan ran into the bathroom, trying to put a door between him and his feelings, and slid down against the worn, splintered wood.

 

It was fine. It would fade. Nox likely didn’t have any feelings towards him beyond the base levels of attraction. They would fade before this was all over, and then he would be fine again. He would be himself again.

 

Right?

 

Feitan was not someone who questioned himself. He was always, definitively, Feitan. The merciless killer, the torturer, the bad person. He was never going to be a good person. He knew that. But something about Nox, no, something about all of the Morrows wanted him to try. Most specifically Nox, but the little family unit that had been forcibly assimilated into the troupe was special. He’d just seen Nox kill. He had seen Hisoka kill, many times, but Nox did it without a mask. There was bloodlust. There was no regret. There was pleasure. He flickered in and out of In enough to see it boiling up and off of them. They liked it.

 

There was still the fact that they were, objectively, a better person than Feitan. All of the Morrows were, and they were still a little ugly, a little twisted, a little off, and they accepted that wholeheartedly. There was no hypocrisy in that family. Sure, Hisoka was a little deluded, but at the end of the day all of them accepted the fact that they were killers. There was this aura of “yeah, ultimately, killing as many people as we have, some innocent, some ignorant, some bystanders, some definitely guilty, guilty as sin, operating as judge, jury, and executioner, warps us as people. But it has to be done, so we might as well enjoy ourselves. Whatever.”

 

It was intoxicating to see in live time.

 

He was never going to be like that.

 

The irony of this situation hit him and a deep cackle rose up, quiet, soft, so as not to wake Nox.

 

Hisoka had been so worried about Nox and no one had thought to worry about Feitan.

 

Objectively, Nox was incredibly powerful. Running with the troupe demanded they meet their standards, and they were about on even footing with most of them. But to handle such an incredibly complex hatsu, they had to make far too many sacrifices. That left them weak. Not that they seemed to care. Even so, they did not compare to Feitan’s raw strength. His very aura could encompass a city if he was pissed enough. And not a small city. A city of York New’s proportions. All the same, Conjurers had a different kind of strength anyways, and you couldn’t compare their auras to Transmuters.

 

His entire life revolved around strength. They shouldn’t be impacting him like this. They weren’t strong enough, and yet here he was, hiding from them in a bathroom. Fearing their power.

 

Pathetic. He couldn’t even be mad at them, no matter how much he tried. He was only mad at himself.

 

It made him wonder what Nyx’s aura looked like, compared to Nox’s complexity.

 

He wondered if they knew that they were actually better, more powerful, when they existed separately. Shadow Strike was the perfect offense and defense, of course. But no matter how powerful it was, it fell flat simply because they were better people as individuals. There was artistry that it lacked, no matter how breathtaking it was to witness. There was no amount of power they could pour into it that compared to how personal Nox’s was. The more personal the hatsu was, the more it increased in power. It was simply how it was.

 

Feitan’s phone lit up with a text from Kortopi, forcing him out of his reflections.

 

Where are you??

 

Does it matter?

 

Yes. Hisoka is in a fit. Nyx’s job went south. You should get back.

 

Why?

 

Because literally everyone noticed that Nox’s bike is here but your car isn’t.

 

Apparently everyone knew where he was. They forgot about the bike. Good thing Nox had somehow managed to kill him before he could kill them.

 

How Nyx’s job go south? Nox is not extra injured.

 

Well they took CARE of it. I think someone caught on and pickpocketed them.

 

Nox’s license read as Nox Morrow. Why they didn’t carry fake identification, Feitan didn’t know. It seemed like an egregious oversight.

 

Is Hisoka not doing damage control?

 

I mean he IS. I guess they play it off like the twins are in some kinda game with him, trying to make shit difficult for him, so it’s easier to cover up. He’s still pissed about Nox taking off with you.

 

Was logical. Made the purge easier.

 

Yeah, I’m sure that was the only reason you decided on a weekend murder retreat. Just get back. Please. He’s creepier than normal. Phinks has been hiding in the garage for like six hours now.

 

He is always creepy. Phinks is coward. I will be back when I am back.

 

I will let you take any job from me you want if you rush.

 

… any?

 

Any.

 

I want Korjo Casino.

 

… I can take you with.

 

Deal.

 

Nox wouldn’t like Hisoka to be unduly stressed. Well, they had gone with Feitan with full knowledge that he would be stressed, but they didn’t need to make it worse. Feitan stood up and studied the shower. He probably needed a quick rinse off. Stripping off his clothes, he stepped in and ran through the motions as quickly as he could. Rinse, scrub, wash the blood out of his hair with the shampoo they had decided to share. He liked this shampoo. It was Nox’s, and it smelled heavenly. Like peaches. Though he liked it better on them.

 

Phinks had told him he was being creepy about their hair, but it could be so pretty if they stopped falling asleep with it wet. That wasn’t creepy to think. It was a very fair assessment. They could at least braid it.

 

Shuffling back into the bedroom, he looked down at Nox with pursed lips. He didn’t want to disturb them. They were exhausted. But they would likely be more upset if Feitan didn’t. Carefully, he pried the coin from their grasp and picked them up, letting their head loll onto his shoulder. They had maybe an inch of height on him. They still seemed smaller. Probably because Feitan was built more solidly.

 

They barely winced in pain before they settled down. Feitan almost felt guilty as he carried them out to his car and slid them into the passenger seat. The trash bag full of bloody clothes was tossed into the narrow backseat and he slipped behind the wheel. The sports car purred to life and he reflected on the fact that they had been upset over the hoodie, picking at it relentlessly until they eventually passed out. Maybe Machi could fix it.

 

Funny. It was half the weight, but the coin felt heavy in his pocket.

Chapter Text

Had Hisoka not been carefully exercising his control, he would have killed Feitan the second the man rumbled up the drive. Ky’ia and Gon had already gone to spar, Nyx was brainstorming with Shalnark on how to fix this new problem should they need to do more damage control than Hisoka normally had to do, which left Hisoka alone to deal with Feitan and Nox.

 

Nox. They never thought before they jumped. What had possessed them to take Feitan with them? Were they jealous that Nyx got to go with Ky’ia? Was that it? Was Hisoka not spending enough time with them? Nyx rarely talked about what was going through their head, but then again Nyx was never troubled beyond the basic items. Nox was different. Either they were unpacking everything that was going through their head for the past three months in a tearful meltdown, or they were acting out until they got to that point. This, though? This was the biggest act out Hisoka had ever even seen. Revealing their individual hatsu to someone? Nox? His little sibling? And to Feitan? Was this because of … No. He wouldn’t entertain the reminder of why their meltdowns had been few and far in between this past year.

 

There was no way Feitan hadn’t seen Dance with Crows. What was next? Nox show him Black Symphony? The level of risk Nox was running was unbelievable. Had they been possessed? Was that it? That had to be it. Hisoka needed to call a priest.

 

Feitan pulled into the garage and Hisoka very nearly pursed his lips at the image before him. Nox, passed out, with their cheek pressed against the window. Feitan next to them while they were so vulnerable. He didn’t like it. Nox hadn’t seen him as a threat. If they had, even subconsciously, the coma wouldn’t have kicked in. Nyx said Ri borrowed Angel. That was six hours at minimum, with no absorbed and used Nen, and given that they had likely killed at minimum one hundred people and certainly used that Nen, because they had no self control?

 

Twenty four hours, and likely vomiting when they woke up. How long had they been sleeping?

 

Feitan stepped out of the car and Hisoka moved before he got the chance to retrieve Nox, hefting them up and ignoring the muffled cry of pain. He shifted them ever so slightly so their head rested on his shoulder and stared at Feitan.

 

“If you say anything, I’ll kill you.”

 

Feitan stared back at him, the threat hanging in the air, before he pulled the two duffles out of the back and the trash bag.

 

“You underestimate their impact,” Feitan replied shortly and Hisoka tilted his head.

 

Feitan’s aura was muted. That was normal. He kept it very close to his body, but … Its normal base state was bloodthirsty, hungry, craving more, more, more. It seemed more melancholy than anything right now.

 

What had happened?

 

Did they fight?

 

Feitan swept past Hisoka, and Hisoka’s brain short circuited.

 

They were sharing shampoo. That was a whole other level of intimacy.

 

The garage door slammed, leaving Hisoka with Nox, and he realized, rather belatedly, that Feitan had been so kind as to carry Nox’s bag. What the fuck …?

 

Nox stirred with a little moan and Hisoka remembered this position was going to put too much pressure on their pelvis. He needed to get them inside and in bed. Really, he should be doing damage control right now, but his obsessive nature just didn’t allow him to leave it be. And in any case, someone had to be there when they woke up and inevitably started vomiting. They were too stubborn about using a bucket. They had to use the toilet.

 

Hisoka carried them into the house and up the stairs.

 

He could never figure out why Nox was possessed with the urge to make things over complicated. Plenty of Conjurers had abilities that were just as powerful and didn’t have so many overlapping conditions. But, no, they had to give their crows sentience, had to add in multiple fail safes, had to bring them back from the dead instead of just make more because of their sentience, had to name all fifty of them. Hisoka had just accepted it as it was, even if it baffled him. Nyx was more like him. Sure, to mimic gravity properly, there had to be some degree of math to it, math they could calculate in their sleep, but it was ultimately simple. Gravity was simple.

 

Then again, Hisoka spent more time with fellow Transmuters and Manipulators. They tended to keep things simple, while Conjurers liked to push the boundaries of what could be done, surpass the limitations imposed on them. Conjurers were complicated.

 

Nox always made things more complicated than need be.

 

At the very least Feitan now understood that they could stand on equal footing with the troupe. Maybe not with him. Not even Bungee Gum could beat out Rising Sun. After all, what was Hisoka going to do, throw gum at the literal sun? But he was number 2 for a reason. Feitan wasn’t the sort to take Nox’s ability as a challenge. He couldn’t be bothered with challenges unless someone was egging him on.

 

What had that even meant, Hisoka wondered as a strand of Bungee Gum threw the blankets aside so he could slip Nox under the covers.

 

Their impact?

 

Hisoka fixed the covers back over them and preemptively pulled back their hair into a loose pony. Nox shivered and curled up into a ball and Hisoka remembered again how they looked up at him from the rubble.

 

How far they had come, to have Feitan Portor recognize them in such a way.

 

It was still hard to reconcile those damaged kids he’d saved out of desperation were the young adults he saw before him now.

 

He’d been warned by Klaus, the eldest of five siblings, that the teenage years were going to be hard. There was going to be a lot of fights, a lot of schisms, as they came into themselves. The pressure they lived under would only make it worse. Given that Hisoka both functioned as an older brother and a single parent, it was going to be even harder as he grappled with those two identities and the twins struggled to connect with him.

 

He knew there were going to be fights. They had plenty of them. But Nox had gone and gotten themselves Feitan for a boyfriend, for lack of better phrasing. It was practically the equivalent of them getting a bad boy in leather on a motorcycle. Normally, it was something that was resolved naturally as they learned Feitan really didn’t care about them. But that was a pain Hisoka wanted to protect them from.

 

He knew they were an adult now, though a young one. They were also incredibly sheltered, despite it all. Hisoka was well aware of the consequences of that sheltering. The hard knocks of a normal life were something they were unprepared for. He knew that he was supposed to be letting them make their own mistakes, but for the life of him he could not leave it be.

 

Feitan’s comment still made no sense.

 

What impact?

 

With a sigh, Hisoka fell into a chair in the corner of the room and unlocked his phone. He could not be worrying about this right now. Any moment now Alexandre would be texting him. He didn’t want to talk to him. He never wanted to talk to him.

 

And, like clockwork, his phone pinged with a text.

 

Soka, love. Your little game is coming into my territory again.

 

Hisoka took a deep breath, steeled himself, and slipped into character.

 

I thought I was your territory, mm…

 

Your little fan popped up at the law firm.

 

Oh? How frisky.

 

Did you lead them there?

 

No one said I couldn’t be playing two chessboards.

 

Careful, or someone will kill them before you do. I’d hate for you to lose the satisfaction.

 

How rude of you. …. I’m always careful, Papa ~

 

Alexandre didn’t text back, and Hisoka let out the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding.

 

He hated talking to him, but, really, he should be used to it by now. After all, he had known Alexandre long before this mission ever began. He was the first. Hisoka’s slave master, now the proud “adoptive” father of his chaotic and vicious “son”.

 

Hisoka let his head fall against the wall with a thunk. The stone in his gut was a familiar feeling by now. It would pass. He was just more keyed up than normal.

 

Crisis averted. He had been more upset that he would have to talk to Alexandre than anything else. This had happened three times before. It was the precise reason the twins took on his name, and why Nyx had about thirty seven different semi permanent dyes back at the bungalow. They switched off their identities often, and their hair could not hold dye for more than a week. As far as Alexandre and therefore his circle knew, they were one person with approximately three false identities: Sol, Nyx, and Nox. It was a simple solution, so simple it was foolproof. All of their scars were identical, and the last set of twins that shared pain were dead to the world, never to produce anymore. So Nox and Nyx were able to share an identity without anyone being the wiser.

 

It still freaked Hisoka out every time there was a slip up. They had circled through every identity now.

 

These twins were going to be the death of him. And Nox, the little manipulative fuck, was going to pull at his heartstrings the second they woke up so he would forgive them in an instant. They had probably planned to pass out. He hated it when they were sick. Never once had he caught the flu, so the first time the twins caught it he had been panicked for days. He thought they were going to die. Klaus had practically been kidnapped and locked away in the bungalow for a week.

 

The doctor thought it was hilarious. He’d gotten used to Hisoka’s kidnapping attempts at that point, and due to his position his work paid for the days he was missing anyways. With the money he raked in for them, they couldn’t afford not to. He was too valuable. It was a fact of life at Hyban; every so often Klaus got kidnapped, they called the cops, his unnamed and unseen bodyguard dragged him back, and business resumed as usual.

 

Hisoka’s eyes fell back on Nox and narrowed drastically. That was not their shirt. They were objectively not wearing their own shirt.

 

This was too much. They wouldn’t be waking up for awhile. Hisoka stood in a flourish and stalked out of the bedroom.

 

Nox was going to drive him into an aneurysm. Nox and Feitan both.

 

Why the fuck were they wearing Feitan’s shirt?

 

He reached the stairs and paused at the sight below. There was Gon, laying across the stairs, literally at the incline (how was that comfortable), eyes closed as he pulled his aura in and out with each breath. Was this some kind of meditation?

 

“Gon.”

 

Gon opened his eyes and tilted his head slightly to look up at Hisoka.

 

“What are you doing.”

 

Gon sat up and turned to look up at Hisoka.

 

“Ky’ia taught me a new meditation, but there’s no mountains to lay on, so I thought the stairs would work.” Ah, right. That meditation Ky’ia did before bed when they went outside and laid in the grass. Hisoka rubbed his temples irritably.

 

“You don’t need to actually be at an incline to do that. It works better when you lay on the ground. Actual ground. Outside.”

 

It was a control exercise, meant to heighten awareness of your aura and bring it fully in tune with your body. Over several weeks, one could eventually gain the kind of control Ky’ia needed for their hatsus so you had an ability to pour Nen into a smaller and smaller point. It was probably a good exercise for an Enhancer. He hadn’t thought of how that could apply that principle to Ko.

 

Gon looked surprised. Hisoka had no idea why.

 

“I trained with you for a week and that was the first time you actually tried to be helpful.”

 

Rude little fuck.

 

Hisoka advanced down the stairs and Gon stood, wary of his presence.

 

“I am not a helpful person.” In fact, Hisoka just had no idea how to direct Gon. The twins were different. Very different.

 

“I don’t understand,” Gon blurted and Hisoka resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

 

“Whatever it is, just go ahead and add it to the list of things not to ask me.”

 

“I saw the twins’ aura.” And there it was. Doing exactly what Hisoka had told him not to do. “It was compressed but it was huge. I don’t understand how you taught them when you suck at teaching.”

 

Had the twins been so obnoxiously bold and rude at Gon’s age? Hisoka scarcely remembered. Definitely Nox, maybe Nyx.

 

“The twins were different than you,” Hisoka replied as he made his way to the kitchen. He needed to eat. Gon followed him. He was such a pain.

 

“You used to say I was different.” Gon sounded a little insecure. Poor thing. Hisoka was not going to try to make him feel better.

 

“That doesn’t mean I wanted to teach you anything.”

 

Hisoka pulled open the fridge and selected his day old take out. He was not in the mood to cook right now. It was going to be his turn to get groceries next week, and wasn’t that obnoxious? The troupe evidently had an account they put a portion of their money from jobs in for basic household expenses. Hisoka had already put in some, but he needed to pick up a job pretty soon. Replacing wardrobes had made a dent in his savings.

 

“Then why did you want to teach them?”

 

Hisoka sighed as the microwave began to run. Gon was like a stubborn tick.

 

“I didn’t. I gave them the choice and stuck to their decision. And they’re very different than you.”

 

“What does that mean?”

 

“That means that you have an excess of natural ability, which is to be expected, given your father, but they do, too, and it was easier to apply my principles to theirs. I am better suited to teach students that have abilities more consistent with immaterial things, not physical.”

 

“You mean the shadow thingy,” Gon supplied and Hisoka rubbed his eyes. Questions, questions, questions.

 

“Yes, I mean the ‘shadow thingy’. You’re an Enhancer. If you weren’t so stubborn, you should be asking Phinks for pointers. He’s far more ‘helpful’ than me.”

 

“Feitan gave me some,” Gon muttered, as though he was ashamed to admit it, and irritation flared again.

 

“I would prefer to not discuss Feitan right now. He’s a rather pesky thorn at the moment.”

 

“Because he likes Nox?”

 

“Do you ever listen to directions?”

 

“No.”

 

How he had gotten so powerful was a wonder to Hisoka. He was the stubbornest fuck on the planet with the worst case of selective hearing he had ever seen. Hisoka could not believe that at one point he had considered adding his father into his persona. If he was anything like his kid, he would have just been too much of a bother.

 

“You study all kinds of Nen, though,” Gon pointed out. “I would think you’d understand all of them very well.”

 

“Yes. But again. The twins were different.”

 

Gon studied him. He was such a strange little thing. Intelligent and an idiot all at the same time. Then again, weren’t all teenagers? Look at Nox. They were having the worst possible rebellious phase they could possibly come up with. Though, really, Hisoka wasn’t in a position to judge. He just wanted to prevent them from making his mistakes. Was he being a bad example again? Probably. Nox never seemed to be able to learn from his mistakes. Not like Nyx.

 

“Because you love them?”

 

Hisoka pursed his lips. Silence stretched out. He hid them from the world so often it was hard to admit. It wasn’t that he thought they were something to be ashamed of, his feelings were something to be ashamed of. It was just that admitting it, in his mind, put them in danger. But, then again, Gon could see it regardless of Hisoka’s answer. There was no hiding it from anyone in this damn manor.

 

“Yes.”

 

Gon was silent again. He was probably thinking of Ging, how Ging never really helped him with anything, whereas Hisoka, one of the worst people he had ever met, had helped the twins with everything. He could see their pelvises clearly now. He knew they had incurred some damage in their time, and he knew Hisoka had not abandoned them anyways. Hisoka could see those kinds of questions rolling through Gon’s brain, and he sympathized. He knew what that felt like.

 

He knew Ging loved Gon. He also knew what generational trauma could do to people. What trauma in general did to people. If he ever met the man, he was certain his theories would be proven correct. Ging had started young, much like Gon. He likely had an experience similar to Gon’s experience in NGL. Why people considered Gon some kind of war hero was beyond him. He was a victim of circumstance, and he was traumatized. Ky’ia, miraculously, had been the one to teach him how to actually heal. He doubted anyone had taught Ging how to do that.

 

The reason there were so many rules, he was certain, was because Ging was terrified of the power Gon had. Not physical power, or Nen, or anything like that. He wanted Gon to be strong because he was terrified of what would happen if Gon couldn’t defend himself and he couldn’t be there to save him. Ging was likely well acquainted with loss. But with every loss, you didn’t get used to it. It just made you realize more and more which losses you would not be able to bear.

 

Hisoka sympathized with him, but he didn’t condone his actions. While Hisoka was a terrible person, who had weaponized a set of children, those children were never really children. He had known, in his heart, that they would figure shit out on their own, and they would power towards vengeance anyways, and get killed. He had the ability to make it harder for them to die. And so he shared that ability. They had had the choice from the beginning: die trying to do it on their own, or let Hisoka help them, because laying down was never an option for them. He saw it in their eyes the moment he found them.

 

Gon had never really had a choice. Gon didn’t know that, but Hisoka did. Once you got going, there were no such things as brakes. He worshipped his dad, and Ging had the power the whole time to show up and make him stop. He hadn’t. He just left Gon to figure it out on his own, put the responsibility on him, made Gon think he had to be strong enough to win his approval when it was really Ging who should have been trying to win his.

 

Maybe Gon was figuring it out. Maybe he was in denial. Maybe he wouldn’t connect the dots for several years to come. Hisoka wasn’t going to push that process along. It had to come naturally.

 

“Do you think I’m weak?” Gon asked softly and the microwave went off. Hisoka let out a deep sigh and reached forward. The world moved in slow motion as his hand landed on Gon’s head, gentle, soft, not trying to scare, only comfort.

 

“I don’t think it should matter,” Hisoka replied. There. He was being kind. Nox would be proud.

 

Gon’s eyes started to well up with tears and Hisoka prepared himself for the waterworks. Gon powered towards him and wrapped his arms around Hisoka in a hug, burying his face in Hisoka’s shirt, and Hisoka resisted the urge to sigh. This was how he was going to be spending his afternoon, apparently. Comforting another man’s kid because Ging can’t be fucked to do it himself. Honestly, the amount of toxic masculinity …

 

Hisoka lifted his head to the ceiling and gingerly patted Gon on the head as the kid sobbed and sobbed into his shirt. He’d have to make some cocoa. Nox had threatened Kortopi with physical violence if he didn’t bring milk back from the store, so they now had oat, soy, and dairy because Kortopi could only understand about half of what they were signing, and Feitan was not very good at translating.

 

Nox cried a lot. They had come to an understanding eventually; when Nox cried, Hisoka made hot cocoa, or at least ignored Nyx making it with a splash of rum, and everyone calmed down. It was practically foolproof. Even teenagers all puffed up on their own encroaching adulthood ignored their own importance in favor of cocoa.

 

Gon was soaking his shirt now. Hisoka wondered how life had taken them down this route. He was entirely prepared to ignore Gon’s existence post NGL. After all, his presence tended to stress people out, and Gon did not need that. Now they were here. Gon crying in Chrollo Lucilfer’s kitchen and seeking comfort from Hisoka after Hisoka had literally kidnapped him.

 

Damn kid.

 

Long fingernails scratched at Gon’s scalp, soothing, calming, and Hisoka belatedly realized that without his mask he was someone people felt like they could find comfort in. How odd. Maybe he was a half decent older brother, over protective instincts and all.

 

Gon had grown a little over the past year. He was taller than the twins now, perhaps 5’3. Honestly, why was it always the short people that were a thorn in his side? Feitan, Chrollo, though Chrollo was perhaps more on the shorter side of average, Gon, Nox, Nyx. The only ones he liked most days were maybe Machi and Ky’ia.

 

It was good that he had grown. Stress could stunt your growth. Perhaps that was why Ging was so short. Or genetics.

 

Gon’s sobs started to slow. He was shaking. Hisoka vaguely wondered how long that took to build up. A few months at minimum. Ky’ia was doing a good job. They should really look into becoming a therapist if they didn’t run back to the mountain when all of this was done. They’d mentioned awhile ago that the deforestation at the base of their mountain was fucking with the tribe’s food supply. Hisoka would have to look into that. He could manage that at least as a thank you for making Gon more manageable. Couple of dead bodies should clear up that misunderstanding fairly quickly. Unless he just relegated it to the Hunter Association to do it the “right way” or whatever.

 

Hisoka felt the urge to sigh again. He needed to check on Nox, but he knew taking off after Gon had just bawled his eyes off would objectively not help the situation, given the extreme case of abandonment syndrome he had going on.

 

Gon quieted. He still had his face buried in Hisoka’s chest. That was enough of that. Hisoka pulled back, disentangling his fingers from Gon’s hair, and finally sighed.

 

“Go sit at the table,” he ordered and Gon miraculously complied. The take out was forgotten in favor of Hisoka pulling frozen peas out of the fridge, the milk for cocoa, frozen corn, ground beef, instant mashed potatoes because he was not going to mess around with that right now, and some cream of chicken. A good old fashioned (sort of) shepherd’s pie would fix him right up. It was one of those few semi soft meals the twins liked to have on special occasions. Salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and an onion joined the array and Hisoka banged around in the cabinets to locate a casserole dish and large frying pan.

 

“Do you like shepherd’s pie?”

 

“Yes,” Gon croaked and Hisoka looked up to survey the mess. He was snot nosed, face all swollen, but the snot on Hisoka’s shirt barely perturbed him. He was used to it.

 

He pulled off a paper towel and handed it to him.

 

“Go wash your face and get back here,” Hisoka ordered and Gon blew his nose noisily before climbing to his feet and making for the door. Too tired to fight him, then. That was fine.

 

It was hard to remember how to act around a kid. Nox and Nyx seemed to grow up overnight. Hisoka felt like he had blinked and then they were adults. He still remembered them at thirteen, ecstatic at being able to walk after a year, dancing in the living room to that obnoxious opening theme song from that show. It felt like yesterday.

 

They were still kids in a way. But Gon wasn’t a kid in a way. The whole troupe saw him as grown, but they had a very different view on childhood than Hisoka. They had never really been seen as kids, by anyone. Hisoka and the twins had been seen as kids, but in a very twisted and perverted way. Gon, though?

 

He was a kid. Trauma made you grow up fast. It was inevitable. But he was still a kid, just with an old soul he hadn’t grown into yet. The troupe just saw the old soul, but Hisoka saw the mind of a kid who didn’t know how to fit into it. He set a saucepan full of oat milk on the stove and turned on the burner. Nyx would be pissed if he made cocoa and didn’t save any for them. And undoubtedly various troupe members would want some. Seven servings would do it.

 

A presence flickered into life behind the door and Hisoka sighed again. Of course Chrollo was playing stalker again. Were they going to have to have another deep heart to heart? Hisoka was busy.

 

Chrollo opened the door and sauntered in. Hisoka spared him the tiniest glance before he redirected his attention back to chopping onions.

 

“Before you start trying to get me to reexamine my entire existence, I would like you to know that I am clearly busy and would like to focus on Gon.”

 

“You’re good with kids,” Chrollo commented and slid to a halt next to Hisoka.

 

“Of course I am. Nox cries at least once a week.” Chrollo reached over Hisoka to grab the scraps from the onion and toss them into the compost bin.

 

“I haven’t seen them crying.”

 

“They’re still not completely comfortable. Of course they’re not crying.” Hisoka handled the knife expertly, cutting the onion down into tiny pieces. The pan was hot. He drizzled in vegetable oil and scraped the pieces into it. They sizzled as they hit down and he left them for the moment to start preheating the oven.

 

“He was quick to hug you.”

 

“I noticed,” Hisoka said dryly.

 

“The snot doesn’t seem to bother you.”

 

“Again. Nox cries at least once a week. They once had a breakdown over trigonometry.”

 

“I would, too.”

 

Hisoka pursed his lips to hold back a smile. It was a pointless effort. Chrollo would know he was smiling, anyways.

 

“Did you mean it?” Chrollo leaned on the counter and Hisoka moved to stir the onions. He just wanted them translucent.

 

“Open the ground beef, please.” They would get there fairly quickly. Garlic powder was sprinkled in so the flavor would infuse directly into the onions. Chrollo obediently cut open the tube. They were translucent now. Hisoka reached out his hand and Chrollo gave him the tube without a word. “And yes. I did. And it was what he needed to hear.”

 

“Why?” Hisoka belatedly realized Chrollo never really had parents. Of course, someone had to abandon him, even younger than Hisoka, but he didn’t have the memory of being with them to stress him out. He wouldn’t understand. Perhaps Hisoka could teach him something this time, but Gon was coming back.

 

As he squeezed out the beef the milk came to a boil and he turned it off. Chrollo helpfully poured in the cocoa mix and stirred it so Hisoka could focus on breaking up the meat. It felt almost domestic. How nice.

 

“Do you know why he asked?” Hisoka extended his En until he found Gon in the bathroom. Probably getting out the last of his tears before he came back, now that he remembered that he was fifteen and a grown man and therefore needed to be self conscious. Ridiculous.

 

“He cares about your opinion, I assume, or he’s comparing himself to the twins and thinks he’s not enough.” Chrollo replied. Cocoa always took so long to mix in.

 

“No. He wasn’t comparing himself to the twins. He cares about my opinion because he was comparing me to Ging.” The onions were smelling delicious, and now the scent of beef was making it intoxicating.

 

Chrollo was confused for just a moment.

 

“Why would he compare you to Ging?”

 

“He has Gyo now,” Hisoka supplied. “He can see the twins’ pelvises. And they likely told him at some point they were like that before I found them, which is partially true. I found them when it happened.”

 

“So?”

 

“So Ging sent him on this quest because he wanted Gon to be strong when he met him. Gon has likely interpreted that as him not being worthy of being Ging’s son when he’s weak, because Ging is too stupid and stubborn to admit the real problem.” He stopped pushing at the beef and let it sit and sizzle. He’d stir it in a moment. “Ging became a Hunter when he was as young as Gon. In this line of work, you will experience things similar to the NGL within a few years of joining. Perhaps not on the level of the Chimera Ants, but loss is loss. Gon thinks he can’t be loved if he isn’t strong, but the fact of the matter is Ging has likely experienced a lot of loss. He wanted Gon to be strong when he met him because he needed that reassurance that he could love him because Gon was strong enough to protect himself and he wouldn’t lose him.” Hisoka picked up the spatula and stirred again, flipping the browned bits and ignoring the oil popping onto his skin. “He stuck to his word when Gon found him, without Nen, which is commendable, but he ultimately put all of the responsibility on Gon and none on himself until that moment. He’s likely too afraid to admit the truth of the matter.”

 

Chrollo was silent. The troupe operated on their terms in love and life. Hisoka understood that. Sometimes he wondered if they had their rules so they could accept the death of each other better. Maybe Chrollo already understood this concept.

 

“All the power in the world can’t prepare you for the death of a child,” Hisoka added softly. Gon was still in the bathroom. Once he got this in the oven he’d go check on him.

 

“You understand people very well,” Chrollo finally said and Hisoka barely smiled.

 

“Someone has to.”

 

“Do you think Gon has figured it out yet?”

 

“Likely not. He may figure it out tomorrow, next week, next year. It takes time.”

 

“You were very kind. To say what you said.”

 

Hisoka knew. It was silly and out of character for him, but he was literally out of character in this manor. He might as well act like it.

 

“I said the truth, and it was what he needed to hear. He can stress about Ging all he wants, but at the end of the day, while he’s here, especially with learning Nen the way he’s learning it, he needs to have someone say it.” The meat was done. Hisoka turned off the burner and drained the oil before dumping in the vegetables and dumping the rest of it into the casserole dish. The cream of chicken was cracked open and poured on top. “Besides, as annoying as he is, he is charming.”

 

It was true. As aggravating as Gon could be, it had been that earnest nature and penchant for speaking out of turn that had endeared him to Hisoka. Gon and Killua were so like Nox and Nyx when they were young. Nox “yelling”, Nyx exasperated, following them along on their half cooked adventures. Hisoka had once found them missing and discovered them stuck on a cliff, tangled up in vines. He still hadn’t been able to figure out how that happened, but it had been Nox’s idea, and Nox that got initially stuck in the vines. Nyx had gotten tangled by trying to free them without dropping them.

 

He’d been so amused he couldn’t even be mad.

 

And then after they had to repaint the entire bungalow as punishment.

 

How their dynamic had changed so much, he didn’t know. He missed them, sometimes. They just grew up too fast.

 

“How did you know he needed to hear it?” Chrollo seemed to be fascinated with this whole thing. No, fascinated wasn’t the word. Confused. A little flustered, perhaps?

 

“I didn’t,” Hisoka replied flatly. “Sometimes you just don’t know. People are complicated. Teenagers are worse. But they know what the truth is, what it sounds like, and sometimes just hearing it is enough.”

 

Chrollo was staring at him. He was not staring at him the way he normally stared at him. There was some kind of uncertainty there. That was not a quality he associated with Chrollo, and Hisoka was seized by the urge to get out of this kitchen and Chrollo’s wavering, confused Nen.

 

“I’m going to check on Gon. Can you make the potatoes, pop this in the oven, and …” He shouldn’t. He shouldn’t trust Chrollo with them. “Check on Nox?”

 

“What’s wrong with Nox?” Ah. That’s right. No one had seen Hisoka carry them in, and Feitan had evidently not talked. Point for Feitan.

 

“They used a portion of their hatsu with a severe condition attached that forces them into a coma,” Hisoka explained. Chrollo almost looked shocked.

 

“You raised them and they made a condition like that?”

 

Hisoka could do without the judgement, thank you.

 

“They like to make things overly complicated. There’s fail safes. Too many fail safes, in my opinion. Just don’t show any bloodlust when you approach them, or…”

 

Hisoka cut himself off abruptly. Really, he trusted Chrollo entirely too much. Chrollo watched him with narrowed eyes.

 

“Or what?”

 

“Or you’ll trigger a fail safe, and you do not want that fail safe.” With Chrollo’s aura, Ri just might take on Axis, or #42, June, at the bare minimum. The house could very well get leveled, and that was not something Hisoka was keen on dealing with. He had just started dinner.

 

“My base aura is bloodlust. Why don’t I go check on Gon?” Chrollo said flatly and Hisoka sighed as he mixed up the mess of meat and cream of chicken.

 

“He is a sobbing mess and has a hair trigger on a good day. Just think about me in your bed.” It slipped out. Hisoka hadn’t even been trying. It just came out.

 

Finally, finally, for the first time, color rose to his cheeks as he met Chrollo’s eyes. He felt like his own were about to pop out of their sockets. Chrollo stared back and his gaze drifted to Hisoka’s pink lips.

 

“I don’t think I need to think about you in my bed when you’ve been so kind as to provide such a lovely image in the meantime,” Chrollo purred, and Hisoka felt actual jealousy rise up. How rude of Chrollo to manage flirting without even trying, and do it better than Hisoka with a mask.

 

Chrollo reached up and a hand landed on Hisoka’s cheek. A thumb brushed over his cheekbone. For a second, it seemed like Chrollo was going to kiss him.

 

“Don’t you have a hysterical teenager to check on?” Chrollo asked softly and the rising panic died down in a second.

 

Hisoka didn’t run out the door.

 

He preferred to imagine it as a brisk powerwalk.

Chapter Text

Chrollo did as Hisoka asked. He kept his aura muted, soft, as soothing as he could. It felt uncomfortable, but whatever. What was even more uncomfortable was the growing aura pressing down the closer he got to the bedroom.

 

The door to the twins’ bedroom swung open and there was Nox, passed out completely on the bed, curled up on their side with their arm thrown out casually. He wasn’t sure why he needed to check on someone that was sleeping, or why he had to stick around, but a single run with Gyo revealed far more.

 

Their Nen wasn’t connected with Nyx, though Nyx was in the house. Normally, their connection could stretch out across the manor and surrounding grounds when pulled tight enough. He’d been watching, though he kept his interactions with them to a minimum to avoid upsetting Hisoka more than Feitan had already been upsetting him.

 

It was completely independent, and it looked wrong. Wrong in the aspect that he could see the aura emanating from their body, black and fragile, likely due to the state they were in, but there was a second ring that was not from them at all. It was red, the color of blood, mimicking the properties of blood as it dripped and then pulled back. The secondary ring was massive. It spilled across the entire bedroom, pushing through the walls and window, whereas the first ring only encompassed the bed. From the door, he could see it almost reached halfway across the yard. They’d only been back for less than an hour, but it was a miracle no one noticed.

 

He’d seen this before from other people. People that had been difficult to put down. It was stolen Nen.

 

So that was why they had the sleeping condition. They seemed capable of storing it, but using stolen Nen exacted a hefty price. And even if you didn’t, there was still a price, though significantly lesser. He knew this. That was why he had chosen to steal abilities, not Nen. It was also why he rarely ever stole abilities that relied on stolen Nen.

 

It was smart of Hisoka. This ability would make it more difficult to steal. Chrollo wasn’t certain that Hisoka knew of him when the twins formed their hatsus. It was likely. They were active at the age of fifteen. That was only three years ago. Hisoka had joined the troupe four years ago, and that was only because both Machi and Chrollo were on his radar.

 

So both their ability together and their abilities separately were not something Chrollo could steal. Hisoka had always planned to lure Machi in to meet them, and that put them at a risk of Chrollo learning of their existence. It was amazing how paranoid the man was. They had to be overpowered. Being Hisoka’s siblings, doing what they did, it was a necessity. That would always put them at a risk of Chrollo finding them fascinating enough to steal from. With the addition of stealing Nen, however, the chances of him stealing were drastically reduced.

 

Paranoid.

 

He could appreciate it, because Hisoka was right. Looking at how much Nen had been stolen, he knew that whatever ability this was, he didn’t want it. He didn’t even know what it was, but he didn’t want it. Even with a fail safe Hisoka had considered nasty enough to warn him off of. Stealing this much Nen from a bloodbath was just not something he wanted to fuck around with.

 

They were likely going to be sick when they woke up. They had killed about one hundred men, according to Feitan. And judging from the aura, they had taken Nen from every single one. It was impressive that they had managed to kill as many people as him. Either Feitan had been fucking around and decided watching them was more important, or they were performing somewhere close to his level. He was willing to put money on the first option, as Feitan was an awful liar with Chrollo, and he had claimed he hadn’t seen their hatsu. And then to drive the point home, he had gone and started his laundry. His laundry with Nox’s bloodied clothes.

 

Even so. Killing one hundred people and stealing Nen from every last one and evidently using quite a lot of it was going to make them sick. At one time, Chrollo had been on decent terms with a Nen thief, and he was fairly aware of how this went. The first condition worked its way off, and then if they had stolen from enough people and used it, they got sick, and then they were fine. The amount of Nen stolen didn’t particularly matter, but the amount of people did. Most skilled Nen thieves were good enough to not get sick until about seventy five people, but after that? Headaches, fevers on occasion, vomiting. And Phinks had informed him in a state of irritation that vomiting was apparently a choking hazard. After he informed him that he needed to “chill” with Hisoka, because Hisoka apparently took out his frustrations by being aggravatingly overprotective of the twins.

 

Chrollo checked his phone. It was a day’s drive from Gorten to the manor. He didn’t know how long this coma would last, or if they would wake up and go back to sleep. They were twitching now, so it had lasted long enough that the pain was likely going to wake them up. Chrollo was incredibly good with En. He had spent many a night feeling the agony bleeding off of the twins as they tried to sleep. It was a wonder they could sleep at all. The dark circles were a permanent fixture.

 

He hoped, at least for Hisoka’s sake, that Machi would figure it out.

 

Actually, now that he thought about it, the condition made sense. A Nen condition like that could effectively knock someone out in a way that sedatives would never manage. Looking at them now, he realized their dark circles were significantly lighter.

 

He wondered if Nyx’s condition worked in the same way. It didn’t seem like it. He knew they had taken care of a “problem”. But with no knowledge of what their aura looked like separately except when they came in the door, he had no idea what their condition was like. Nen stealing generally worked on a principle of sacrifice, and it was less a hatsu and more of a technique. Ky’ia could do it naturally, with no negative effects, but Ky’ia was a Specialist. Specialists could shuffle around natural conditions. That’s what made them Specialists in part. Chrollo’s ability, for example. Nen could be stolen, but not abilities, really. Not naturally. That’s why there were more Nen thieves than ability thieves, because, again, ability versus technique. Most ability thieves could only use the ability once. Chrollo could ignore that natural condition and use his stolen abilities as many times as he wanted, with certain conditions, such as holding open his book when he didn’t use the bookmark. Ky’ia had incorporated Nen stealing into their Neverland; they could steal Nen without any negative effects within Neverland. They hadn’t really tried it outside of Neverland, and didn’t seem to want to.

 

The twins, however, were not Specialists when they were separate. Hence the comatose young adult in front of him who was starting to stir.

 

Chrollo stared down at them. Had he not known better, he would have sworn they were biologically related to Hisoka. They had those same kind of elfish features that had initially gotten Chrollo’s attention. Perhaps it was simply because they were around him so much. They had picked up the same deliberate body language, same way of talking in a way. The way they signed … He was picking up sign very quickly. The way they signed had this sort of teasing, showy lilt to it when they were in a good mood. It was kind of amazing, really, how things transferred over.

 

They also shared his same mischievous grin and that dangerous glint in their eyes when they were about to pull some shit they knew would piss someone off.

 

Hisoka had done a good job, all things considered. Sure, they were all rather fucked up, and Chrollo was not exactly the best person to decide on what constituted a “good kid”, but they had that quality to them that made everyone like them naturally, as mean and rude as Nox was, and as distant and judgemental as Nyx was. Phinks was enamored with both of them. Shalnark even liked Nyx, and Shalnark, as polite as he was, didn’t like anyone. Granted, he actually had someone around nowadays that understood his computer talk, so that was a factor in Nyx’s favor, but still.

 

They had all been shocked when the twins barged in. No one could understand what they were seeing when they circled around Hisoka like a pair of anxious sharks, tugging and yanking and inspecting him for injuries. They were all collectively baffled that anyone could like Hisoka so much, worry about him so much, and were even more baffled when it became clear that Hisoka actively had two disabled siblings he seemed to love dearly. Everyone could tell the second he started speaking to them. Why he even tried to play it off nonchalantly was beyond all of them.

 

It was odd, to say the least, to have such a strangely mismatched family in his home with his own family. It seemed to be affecting everyone as they grew to appreciate Hisoka and like the twins. The Morrows were very much not Spiders. That was beyond clear. They were the Morrows. But the more time everyone spent together, the more the Spiders were coming to understand that they could have empathy for someone outside of their collective tight knit circle.

 

They were almost a puzzle piece Chrollo didn’t know was missing.

 

He wasn’t sure what Hisoka was doing to his troupe, but he had put himself in for the long haul and was ready to roll with it.

 

Nox twitched again and awoke with a gasp and a groan. Chrollo’s Gyo activated on instinct, and for a moment he confused himself as to why until he realized he had subconsciously known that Nox would be disoriented enough that they couldn’t set up their pelvis.

 

Nox looked at him with wild, confused eyes and then those eyes went down as their chest heaved up and down. Chrollo decided that no, he was not going to explain why he was in their room watching them sleep, and simply reached down to haul them up and rush them into the bathroom.

 

Nox shuddered and resisted the urge to cry from the pain out of fear of vomiting all over him, and he set them down only for them to slowly slide down. Oh. Right. They couldn’t brace their legs very well. Tendrils were trying to come together and failing and he reached out to haul them up, but they batted his hand away and hefted themselves up with pure upper body strength to vomit into the toilet.

 

Chrollo winced and looked away as they heaved pitifully into the bowl. Had they tied their hair back or had Hisoka? Probably Hisoka.

 

The retching continued for several moments as their arms trembled from the strain on their likely aching body. They had overdone it. Why anyone would just decide on such a hatsu, he could never understand, paranoid Hisoka or not. Granted, so long as they didn’t use the stolen Nen, it was probably not a problem, but they clearly had, and used a lot of it.

 

“You’re being stubborn,” Chrollo finally said. “Let me hold you up.”

 

Nox shook their head no and started retching again. They were dry heaving now. They definitely felt like shit. Watching with Gyo, he could see that they still could not get their pelvis together. Nyx was likely aching by now.

 

“If I hold you up, Nyx won’t be in as much pain.” He needed to go in at another angle. Nox kept heaving. They were definitely going to need some Pedialyte.

 

There was a long pause, and then they nodded. The floor was putting too much pressure on their pelvis, and they couldn’t lift themselves enough to get off of it. Chrollo sat behind them and lifted them up and they managed a little spit up. How Hisoka had managed this so long, he had no idea. Teenagers were significantly more obnoxious now that Chrollo wasn’t one.

 

“You used too much stolen Nen,” Chrollo muttered. Nox seemed like the type to consistently overdo it. Someone in that family had to, he supposed.

 

Nox stiffened in his grasp. They were so light. Chrollo wondered, briefly, if they were getting enough nutrients in their diet. Probably, knowing Hisoka. Even so, for all their tight muscle, they were significantly lighter than Feitan, and they were taller than him. He was fairly sure they were taller than him, at least. It was hard to tell.

 

“Feitan didn’t tell me,” he reassured them. “He’s a terrible liar, though. Insisted he didn’t see it and then went to do your laundry. I can tell from your aura. I’m not a complete idiot.”

 

Nox’s hands moved, constricted by the toilet, and Chrollo could only catch “more” and “Hisoka”. He was not far enough along to catch the rest.

 

“I don’t know what you just said.” Nox sighed and then patted his hand. This was among the top ten awkwardest positions Chrollo had ever been in.

 

I done. Bed.

 

Chrollo stood and lifted Nox easily to carry them back into the bed. Their aura was all over the place. It was understandable why they couldn’t hold their pelvis together. It likely took a lot of concentration and pain to set up, perhaps minor subconscious concentration to maintain, and they were exhausted.

 

Nox let out a tiny whimper of pain and reached for their phone to text Nyx. Chrollo understood. They needed their oxycodone. There was no water in the bedroom. He’d have to go downstairs and get some Pedialyte and figure out what Feitan had done with their bag.

 

Nox reached out weakly and grabbed his sleeve. He paused and looked down. Exhausted like this, worn out, sick, they looked so young. It was strange to see. They normally seemed so much older.

 

Hisoka where?

 

Chrollo’s mind buzzed to flip the grammar around. Where’s Hisoka?

 

“Gon had a meltdown and he’s doing damage control with shepherd’s pie.”

 

Nox let out a long breath and then smiled. It was a tight, pained smile, but he knew exactly what they were thinking. It was about time. He needed to find their meds. Pulling out his phone, he shot Feitan a text to bring up their bag and some Pedialyte, rather than go hunting, and he redirected his attention back down to them.

 

“I asked Feitan to bring up your bag and some Pedialyte. Do you need anything else?”

 

Orange.

 

“What?”

 

Orange p-e-d-i-a-l-y-t-e. ” The fingerspelling was hard to follow. Even exhausted, they were fast, but he got the jist, and sent Feitan a correction.

 

They specifically want orange.

 

“Do you want me to stay up here?”

 

Nox nodded and Chrollo pulled up the chair. Hisoka was the one that told him to come up here, so he figured he could talk rather easily with Nox without him getting too worked up. Nox’s hand reached out and pulled open the nightstand drawer. It was full of small notebooks. It was strange, to consistently see evidence of how differently they lived their life. They didn’t seem to be ashamed to be in such a mess in front of him. It was just a fact of their existence.

 

Nox scrawled on the paper and held out the notebook.

 

Did Hisoka tell you to come up?

 

“Yes. He thought Gon was too touchy for me to handle.”

 

Meaning he thinks you have zero emotional intelligence. Zero was underlined rather viciously. How rude.

 

Chrollo thought back to Hisoka’s assessment of Gon and Ging’s relationship. Being Chrollo, he had never put much thought into it beyond a bare surface level thought. It hadn’t been important enough to think about, but with Gon, a rather powerful Enhancer with a very powerful lineage having meltdowns in his house, he probably needed to reapproach that assessment.

 

“He’s likely right.”

 

Of course he’s right. He may be an idiot, but he’s good at reading people when it doesn’t come to him.

 

“Why did you pick such a high condition?” Chrollo asked. He was not going to let them lead the conversation there. Sneaky little Hisoka spawn.

 

Nox raised their eyebrows.

 

Well, for one, I only use the stolen Nen when I absolutely have to, more or less, well, I mean I probably use it when I don’t need it, but anyways. For two, I don’t intend on killing hundreds of people at once for the rest of my life. When I’m done it won’t even really be a problem.

 

“You only killed one hundred,” Chrollo corrected and Nox shifted uncomfortably. He couldn’t tell if it was from emotional discomfort or physical. They were breathing very evenly.

 

Jun. One year ago.

 

Chrollo’s brain whirred for a moment as he tried to place the name. One year ago, he was without Nen, and fairly removed from current events, but …

 

“That was you?” He placed it. It had been a private, invite only festival, with four hundred attendees. He briefly recalled that it had been a sex festival of sorts. It was included in the Morrows’ research. There had been around one hundred members of the ring in attendance.

 

The public had thought it was a bomber, but on classified paper there had been no origin to the bomb. It had simply been set on fire afterwards.

 

Nox sighed and rolled slightly with a hiss so they could look at the ceiling. He could see it all over them. Regret. Pain, physical and emotional. As far as reports went, everyone had died in the span of five minutes, with the exception of about seven Nen users who had put up a fight. The most powerful one had died about thirty minutes in.

 

It was thought to be a bomb because the convention center had simply exploded, but the fire had been deliberately started about thirty minutes later. The bodies had holes ripped through their torsos, been torn to shreds, had their skin peeled off. There was no video footage of what happened. All the CCTV in the area had been turned off.

 

They never caught the perpetrator.

 

The story had interested Chrollo. Every Nen user knew it had been one of them, and the fact that there was an unknown user that had that level of sheer power had left a lot of people nervous. For awhile, the troupe had been blamed. If Chrollo had a dollar for every time the troupe was blamed for shit they didn’t do, he’d never have to steal a single thing again. At the time, however, he had considered the possibility of the troupe being blamed for it, because he wanted to recruit whoever had done it.

 

Wild how the very person who had done it had been living in his actual house for the past several weeks and he had no idea.

 

“Why are you telling me this?” Chrollo asked bluntly. Nox kept staring at the ceiling before they started writing.

 

It wasn’t supposed to go like that. Everything went wrong when one of the members tried to fight me in front of everyone, and I was having a pretty bad day already being in such a … familiar environment.

 

Triggering, they meant. Chrollo waited for them to finish. Nox gripped the pen more tightly.

 

Hisoka feels like it was his fault. Nyx pities me bc it could have just as easily been them losing their shit like I did. It brings up a lot of ugly feelings, so we don’t talk about it. Fact is, I regret it bc it wasn’t SUPPOSED to go like that. But if it was … If we planned for bystanders seeing the mess, if we were willing to kill everyone, I wouldn’t feel as bad. I wouldn’t regret anything. So I don’t regret them dying. I regret upsetting Hisoka like I did. I regret losing it bc I shouldn’t have lost it. I regret the fact that I liked it, from what I can… what I can remember. It was a blackout. And after last night … Idk. Brings up memories I think I deliberately forgot. I never talked about it, but I feel like you of all people would get it. As emotionally stupid as you are.

 

Chrollo had a lot of things to think about with that confession. After six years of this, technically three, it was understandable that there were a lot of civilian casualties. He was starting to understand Hisoka’s complex more. If he didn’t talk about Jun, it was likely he was pretending it never happened. He understood the twins on a very deep and complex level. So it was entirely possible that he knew Nox had liked releasing on that level. Chrollo knew what that kind of power did to you. It was intoxicating. It was addictive, the ability to just surpass any concept of human limitation and destroy anything and everything.

 

There was no mention of the twins, and he assumed both of them were there, being at Jun in their carefully catalogued evidence. Perhaps because of the memories, perhaps because they intended dropping all of the info one day. In fact, if he recalled, their research pointed to them being on the other side of the country, with evidence to back it up.

 

But the other thing he had to consider was that he had someone in his manor that was capable of killing 400 people in less than thirty minutes, and the majority of those people killed were, admittedly, non users, but had still been killed in five minutes. That didn’t just require strength. That required speed, unbelievable speed. And then, as the cherry on top, they had leveled an entire convention center. And he had no idea what their hatsu was. Granted, emotions fueled Nen. And putting a seventeen year old CSA victim in a sex festival, complete with at least one hundred pedophiles fucking among the actual decent people just trying to have fun, was going to result in some ugly emotions. He doubted the troupe could summon such an emotional response with anything short of a shrine to Uvogin. Or, perhaps, killing Hisoka, but like hell anyone was even going to consider doing that.

 

So perhaps he shouldn’t worry so much. Performing on a base level, they were capable of taking out one hundred men in an hour or so. Jewel was there, and he had studied her enough before Feitan had taken off with Nox to know that Nox likely expended so much stolen Nen fighting her. She was powerful as a Manipulator, and without knowledge of how Nox fought, he had to assume they engaged in physical combat to get rid of her. One simply could not go off of an extremely triggering scenario to judge a person’s Nen capabilities. They were one off chances that would only happen in very specific circumstances, and could rarely be repeated. You had to go off a controlled situation.

 

It was surprising that Hisoka had made a mistake like that. Did he overestimate them?

 

“Why didn’t you tell Feitan this?” Chrollo suddenly asked as the thought occurred to him. It was odd they chose to confide in him and not the man they’d been sharing a bed with. Nox sighed softly and turned back onto their side in a wince. The even breathing continued.

 

Because I kinda like him and don’t want to rush the whole intimacy thing.

 

Oh, right. He forgot. The whole family was ridiculous about romance. Nyx moved too fast, Nox moved at a glacial pace in all the wrong ways and ran like a cheetah in all the right places, and Hisoka was effectively like talking to a wall. There was literally no sense to any of it.

 

“You have shared a bed with him twice now.”

 

Are all the Spiders stalkers or just you?

 

“Feitan used to wait outside of your room to smell your hair after you washed it, so I would say it seems to be all of us.”

 

Nox grinned. Finally. Now only to get Nyx to smile. That may take a few years. The grin rapidly dissolved into a harsh cough, but, hey, progress.

 

There’s a difference in physical intimacy and actually having to talk to someone about your feelings.

 

Oh, Nen, what he wouldn’t give for Hisoka to do literally either of those things.

 

“So did you tell me that to ask for advice or just to say it?” Chrollo asked bluntly. Nox looked down at the pad, reading over what they wrote with pursed lips.

 

I don’t know.

 

Chrollo felt something akin to sympathy for Nox. When he slaughtered the Kurta, he never had a single second thought. It had felt good. But he hadn’t been surrounded by people he felt he needed to be good for. And the Kurta massacre had not been an accident. It had been a deliberate choice, planned out and executed. It had not been done in a fit of emotion. There had been no meltdowns, no staring at the results of a blackout in the aftermath. None of that had happened. He had just done what he did, and there was no section in his mind that allowed anything even remotely close to regret.

 

Nox had that section. At a time, Chrollo would have sneered at it, but having a cause, choosing to join a cause, had done some strange things to him. He wanted to understand Hisoka, and to do that, he needed to understand where he came from. That was, in part, his cause. Understanding the people that turned their weakness into their power.

 

“I used to believe that being able to regret was something to sneer at,” Chrollo said quietly. Nox looked up and their brows furrowed. He just continued. “That has changed significantly in this past month. Hisoka can do a lot of things that I can’t, and I find it to be something fascinating. Beautiful, perhaps. I’ve never met someone before that can take what makes them weak and turn it into what makes it strong like he does. Because, objectively, trauma does make you weak. Prone to outbursts. It can shut your brain down, render you irritable and depressed for weeks after the fact, even if the trauma happened years ago. Hisoka, you, Nyx, you’ve all taken that trauma and weaponized it. The reason you have been so driven for so many years is because of it. It’s what makes you focused. I’m not certain you would be even half as powerful if you didn’t have it. Most Nen users I have seen with their hatsus reliant on their trauma, or even formed in their trauma, like Hisoka, just cannot maintain consistent control. I found them weak for it. But you … You just told me being triggered enabled you to perform a massacre ten times as excessive as York New auction. And now I seem to be unable to find them weak for it.”

 

Chrollo was unsure of why he was admitting this.

 

“I don’t think it should matter.”

 

“Ultimately, the three of you, Hisoka most specifically, have redefined strength enough for me that I have been forced into questioning my entire outlook on it. Gon just asked Hisoka if he thought he was weak. You know what Hisoka said? He told him it didn’t matter if he was weak or not. I’m almost surprised at myself. Your confession left me wondering if I should ask you what your hatsu is. But I think … I can trust you. And Hisoka. And Nyx. And it’s rather odd, because I have very little reason to. But … You understand power. That’s why you liked it. That heady rush, how godlike you feel when people die all around you, that realization that you can do anything , and not a single soul can do a damn thing about it. When you did what you did in Jun, you were faced with a choice, even if you didn’t know it. You had the choice to follow where that rush was going to take you, to go become a god, to answer to no one, to never hurt, or cry, ever again, to have that power all of the time. Because you knew, you knew the moment you did it, that you could easily access it. When you unlock that kind of power, it’s there, it will always be there, so long as you find something to feed it. But if you turn your back on it, choose to walk away, you know it will likely never become something you can touch again without the circumstances that pushed you there. And you chose the more powerful option. You chose to stay home, with Nyx and Hisoka, to see your mission to the end, to not abandon them. The reason it was the more powerful option was because as much as you try to deny it, lie to yourself over the years, tell yourself you have complete control, it has control over you. You can’t stop once you start. You convince yourself you’re giving it all up because attachments are unnecessary, make you weak, make you vulnerable, but it is far more powerful to spit in the face of everyone who would try to take everything from you and tell them no. To choose to live in fear of loss is a powerful choice. It’s far more cowardly to run from that fear than to stand up and face it. I can tell you right now Hisoka had the option and refused it many times. Jewel, the woman you killed, had the option and took it, which is ultimately why she died. And I’m telling you this because I took that option, and only now, a decade later, am I starting to understand what regret is. Because while I was off stealing and murdering and killing, Hisoka was walking a path right beside me, becoming a monster just like me, but a benevolent one, with a cause, with a purpose, while my purpose was ultimately to function as the villain in someone else’s story.”

 

There was a sniffle from the bed. Nox was crying. Chrollo stood and got the box of Kleenex on the dresser and handed it to them.

 

He kind of wanted to cry, too. He didn’t know why he said it.

 

Hisoka had said they weren’t comfortable yet. Apparently they were now. All it took was a declaration of love for Hisoka, apparently. Well. A pseudo declaration. Chrollo wasn’t sure why he had just said literally any of it. He hadn’t even been mulling it over the past few days. It seemed to just … come out.

 

Hisoka comforting Gon had spurned it. Chrollo had caught the thought he’d been chasing, and it had been too big of a thought to keep in his chest. Every word of what he just said was true. He knew now exactly what drew him to Hisoka, what left him enamored and desperately trying to catch him and hold him.

 

It was the fact that they both came from horrible places, horrible upbringings, with trauma piled on top of trauma, and Hisoka had come out of it with more strength than Chrollo possessed. It was the fact that Hisoka said no while Chrollo had just opened his arms and demanded more, more, more. He wanted it all. And he took it all. Hisoka simply hadn’t. Hisoka had been the man Chrollo had wondered at being, on lonely nights as he stared up at the stars. Because the ultimate price of demanding more, more, more was that you could never have . And Hisoka had gained everything in spite of it. A family, a cause, a purpose, a resolve Chrollo could never begin to understand.

 

He wanted Hisoka because Chrollo was a coward, and Hisoka inspired him to be brave.

 

But now he understood. He could not have him unless he released him. Unless he told the universe that yes, he would let go, he would let him free, and trust the winds to carry him back.

 

If he wanted to have Hisoka, he had to embrace the fear Hisoka lived with every day. He had to be brave.

 

Not that he could ever hold him anyways. He had already accepted that. He would let him know that he was loved, yes, loved, but he would not use that to hold him down. If Hisoka wanted to be loved by him, he would come back. If he didn’t, Chrollo would take that as the final punishment no man could deal to him and accept it.

 

Nox was still crying. Chrollo sat down, unsure of what to do. Hisoka was better at this. He seemed to have a system down. Hot cocoa, a warm serving of shepherd’s pie if they could eat, a quiet acceptance of someone’s pain. It was no wonder Gon had rushed to him. Despite their animosity, Hisoka had a certain quality. A big brother quality.

 

Chrollo did not have a big brother quality.

 

So he just waited awkwardly while they wiped their eyes and blew their nose. He could see it again. How much of a kid they were. Shalnark and Feitan were showing that less and less nowadays, but he could catch it, when Feitan was tired and grumbly and shuffling around in a blanket, or when Shalnark lost it when a new set for that card game he liked was announced.

 

Nox was exhausted. He handed them another tissue and they blew their nose a second time. They probably needed to do that anyways. There were chunks in the first blow. He didn’t even know that was possible with a liquid diet.

 

“Hisoka said you cried a lot.”

 

Nox frowned through the tears and grabbed the pad.

 

Hisoka is a fuck.

 

Chrollo let his eyebrows raise slightly. The sniffles died down and they dropped their head back on the pillow. They looked so tired.

 

You should just tell him you love him.

 

“If I did that, I doubt I would ever see the three of you again.”

 

I think he likes you.

 

“He does. He is just a bit skittish. I can be patient.”

 

You aren’t providing me good soap opera material.

 

“Tragic. Why don’t you get it from Feitan?” Speaking of Feitan, he was taking a while.

 

I don’t think anyone would want to watch a soap opera about two short ass punks who go on murder sprees for weekend getaways. Ky’ia and Nyx are too not complicated. Nyx makes everything simple. Boring script material.

 

“I don’t know, they’ve seemed pretty complicated since they got back.” Despite the bad attitude, talking with Nox was refreshingly easy. Easier than talking to Hisoka, at least. Talking to Nyx was the verbal equivalent of banging your head against a brick wall.

 

Yes, I know. They have been texting me in a panic for hours.

 

“Did they not know you were sleeping?”

 

They did. Sometimes they just need to get their thoughts out and they hate talking to other human beings or people even breathing in their space. I don’t know why they’re so worried. It’s not like Ky’ia hasn’t seen people die before.

 

“There is likely a difference in seeing someone dying and being an active accessory to murder.”

 

Still. They aren’t even mad at Nyx. They just don’t want to do it themselves. Like. It’s fine. Nyx says I make shit complicated but they are way worse.

 

“I don’t think you make things complicated.”

 

Nox snorted and blew their nose a third time. It should clear up now.

 

If you knew our hatsus, you would rescind that statement. I have about … Uh … Nox trailed off and rolled their eyes to the ceiling to count. Technically five conditions, I think. It’s murky. Maybe six, depending on how you look at it. They have like one.

 

“I feel like Hisoka was not involved in the creations of these hatsus.” There was no way Hisoka was involved in this. Five conditions? That was too much, even for a Conjurer. On principle, Chrollo was almost offended. Their hatsu better be something special to justify that monstrosity.

 

No, he wasn’t, except for the condition that we steal Nen. So you don’t want to steal ours. I just made extra sure you wouldn’t want to steal mine. … Also so we have that Gemini power boost.

 

So his assessment was right. Hisoka was entirely too paranoid. And Nox was entirely too inclined to going overboard. And the Gemini sacrificial element was too good to pass up.

 

“Well, that would be effective. I have no interest in an ability with conditions the creator isn’t even certain of. How long does that take to explain?”

 

About ten minutes.

 

Absolutely not. Hisoka should be ashamed.

 

“And Nyx didn’t make theirs complicated why?”

 

They did. Just different than mine. I assume you wouldn’t want to do physics equations in your head in the middle of a fight.

 

“The more important question here is why would they?”

 

They’re pretentious.

 

It was almost hilarious how similar they were to Hisoka in the worst possible ways. He didn’t know what their hatsus were, but he could still completely imagine Hisoka doing the same exact nonsense. Actually, he did. Nine times out of ten you had to figure out the circumference of a circle to effectively battle him. Irritating.

 

Five conditions. Ridiculous. Even if it had the power to kill four hundred people in under thirty minutes, it was absolutely not worth it.

 

And physics equations? What was Nyx trying to do, crash them into another planet?

 

Chrollo was a bit of a snob about Nen abilities. He couldn’t help it. His hatsu was literally stealing them. Not much could pull an emotional reaction out of him, but when it came to hatsus, he would absolutely have a visceral response to bad ones. While he couldn’t say if these hatsus were bad or not, as he had no idea what they were, the very thought of these ridiculous conditions was painful.

 

Nox was starting to settle. They were awake enough to lace their pelvis back together, and the tight pinched pained face was beginning to fall back into natural comfort.

 

Of course, they added and Chrollo imagined himself banging his head into a wall, that doesn’t count the secondary hatsus. So I guess two for Nyx and six for me. Or seven.

 

“Right, of course,” Chrollo said flatly. “Six or possibly seven conditions is perfectly normal.”

 

Nox grinned up at him.

 

Hisoka said you were a hatsu snob. You should loosen up.

 

“You accuse my troupe of being stalkers, but your brother is objectively worse. He made you plan your hatsus around me.”

 

Mmm not just you.

 

“Then who else?”

 

Nox paused for a moment. They almost looked worried.

 

We don’t talk about that.

 

“You just talked about Jun.”

 

That wasn’t Hisoka specific. If you let him go to the gala I’m sure you’ll find out.

 

“Why would I let him go to the gala?” Nox narrowed their eyes at him. That was probably bad phrasing.

 

Because you’ve grounded him like he isn’t a whole 26 years old and he’s literally about to crawl out of his skin from the stress of being stuck at the manor.

 

“He can go anywhere else. Just not on missions.” Chrollo had just gotten them to trust him, but now he was fumbling the ball.

 

You’re being stupid. Actually. You’re being a jackass. We’re this close to completion, and you’re taking away his final days on this mission that has been ours from the start. I get that you care about him or whatever. But your month of carefully observing him doesn’t trump our six years of being raised by him. You need to chill.

 

“He’s breaking,” Chrollo stated. “You can see that.” They all could see it. It was there, imperceptible, but it was happening.

 

He’s always breaking. Always has been, always will be. You’re just making it worse. He needs to be working. It’s what keeps him sane. If he’s not working, he feels like he isn’t doing anything, and when we aren’t doing anything we feel like we’re failing.

 

“He is working. He’s directing.” Chrollo was grasping at straws here. Try as he might, when it came to possessive tendencies, he couldn’t fully turn off his caveman brain. The sacrifice of being a polymath. You had to be positively primitive about something.

 

That isn’t enough, because Nyx can do it just as well. He needs to do what we can’t. Nox looked a little sad at the confession, and Chrollo finally figured out what he was missing. A surprised jerk, a widening of his eyes, and Nox knew that he knew.

 

Hisoka had found them mere hours after everything happened. After they had their tongues cut out, after they had their pelvises crushed. The reason they never talked about that night was because Hisoka felt guilty. Even if he hadn’t known them in those few hours, even if he hadn’t cared about them in those few hours, he had been a few hours late to save the two people he loved more than anything in the world. And so the twins had never told him what happened. Not because of their own trauma, but because of his. Because while bad things happening to you is traumatizing, bad things happening to loved ones was even worse. Hisoka wasn’t just traumatized from his childhood. He was traumatized from theirs. He probably didn’t even realize.

 

After this, he would have his own burdens to bear, his own traumas to carry. But the twins carried those traumas all over their body, silently, without complaint. Chrollo, belatedly, realized that they must be in culture shock in this house. Constantly having to write, unable to speak their own language. Perhaps that was why Nox tolerated Feitan at first, because Feitan had gone through the same.

 

Hisoka put himself on the frontlines because of that guilt, that trauma. He was trying to make up for it.

 

“Why do you let him?” He asked softly and Nox’s eyes started to well up with tears.

 

We didn’t have a choice.

 

That was the crux of it. Hisoka was able to do it. The twins simply couldn’t. They didn’t have an “in” like Hisoka did, whoever that “in” was. They were supposed to be dead, and the language barrier alone would make things difficult. The pelvises would provide an additional barrier. Hisoka had probably been attacked in the night plenty, and from what he’d witnessed, it took several minutes to set up their pelvises for the day. In addition, it was highly likely Hisoka had to have sex for this mission. That alone twisted Chrollo’s gut, but they just couldn’t do that. Or, well, they could, but at what cost? The sharing pain alone would make things traumatizing, and they couldn’t afford more damage.

 

“You have a choice now,” he said quietly. Nox kept crying as they scribbled on the paper.

 

He doesn’t. He doesn’t know any other way to function.

 

“I’m sorry.” He meant it. He really did. He had previously known they were in an impossible situation, but he hadn’t realized it was this bad. The twins didn’t even seem to mind their disabilities, but he now understood; they did mind them, because they had to let Hisoka do what he does as a result of them. It was hard to grasp that two people as powerful as the twins had so many limitations. They carried on, pretending to not care, pretending to be unfazed, to protect Hisoka. He wasn’t used to being around so many limitations, so much that he had stupidly overlooked them.

 

So now he had to undo his previous assessment that Hisoka had never been protected before. He was protected, and fiercely. It was hard to understand love like that. Chrollo was learning a lot about love. He should have spoken to Nox sooner.

 

It occurred to him, rather belatedly. With Conjuration, very often the more conditions you had, the more power you could access. The more limitations, the more you became limitless. It often reflected in the people. Conjurers tended to be complex people, with a lot of secrets, and a lot of contradictory qualities.

 

“Nox,” he said softly and Nox rubbed at their eyes with the back of their hand. They were puffy and red now. He handed them another tissue and waited for them to blow their nose before he continued. “Do you have so many conditions to make it complicated, or to make it more limitless?”

 

Nox shifted so they were sitting up and Chrollo reached out in fear of them falling over. They steadied themselves and looked down at the pad. They were sad, unbearably sad.

 

Promise you won’t tell Hisoka.

 

“I promise.” He meant it. He wasn’t going to tell Hisoka any of this. Hearing it from him would be more of a knife in his chest than hearing it from the twins.

 

Nox lifted their hand, gently, delicately, and waited. Chrollo felt their Nen swell powerfully as they took a deep breath in, and as they breathed out a single bird materialized on their hand. A crow.

 

At first, Chrollo was confused. That much Nen shouldn’t have been needed for a small bird.

 

But then, the crow tilted its head, and Chrollo found himself captivated by its eyes. Most conjured animals had flat, dull eyes. Matte, almost. This one, though? His, Chrollo somehow knew it was male, eyes gleamed with intelligence and mischief.

 

He was sentient.

 

The crow hopped onto the headboard and Nox picked up their notepad.

 

You see?

 

“He’s sentient,” Chrollo breathed out. He never knew of any Conjurer that chose to make their animals sentient. There was no point. They would either die, or leave and objectively die anyways.

 

This is Ri. He’s my number one. He has a regeneration period of one hour. The rest of them have 12 hours.

 

Chrollo frowned at the notepad shoved at him. But …

 

They were lonely.

 

He wasn’t going to shame them with the observation.

 

“Why sentient? And why do you bring them back?”

 

Would you rather go to battle with real soldiers, or zombie soldiers?

 

He could see how sentience would give them an edge. They wouldn’t have to direct them, or pre program them. If a circumstance arose they had never seen before, they could react based on their intelligence level, which he assumed was fairly high, considering they chose one of the most intelligent birds. And forming sentience would take an excessive amount of time. There had to be personality to factor in, giving them room for growth, intelligence, the ability to learn. It wasn’t like snapping your fingers and summoning up a bag of flesh and feathers. There had to be thought and care put into it. So regeneration made sense.

 

His initial thought still stood. He hadn’t previously considered it. The twins seemed to suffer in silence on every level, it seemed. Nox had a lot of thoughts they couldn’t share. There were so many things that went unsaid, despite their love for each other, or perhaps because of their love for each other.

 

Nox had to be suffering.

 

The Jun massacre made even more sense. Giving them sentience allowed them to react not only to Nox’s thoughts like an ordinary conjured bird, but to their subconscious thoughts, and their emotions. That was the problem with sentience. They could act independently of Nox, out of a sense of protective rage, and even draw on Nox’s Nen without Nox giving it to them to power themselves up. There wasn’t as much control, and for some reason, he could understand why Nox would prefer that. It wasn’t his cup of tea, but it made sense for Nox.

 

“So there are multiples?” This was fascinating. He wanted to know how it worked. Though he would never admit to it, he was a bit of a Nen nerd. And the fact that Nox was trusting him, and by proxy the troupe, was a very good sign. If he could get the twins on board with him, he could win Hisoka over much more quickly.

 

Nox narrowed their eyes at him and Ri let out a soft caw, fluffing up his feathers threateningly. Fascinating. He seemed so lifelike. Chrollo wondered if he felt lifelike, too.

 

“I have a confession,” he finally stated and summoned his book. Nox didn’t move, but they tensed. A wild animal, much like Hisoka. Now that he had further understanding, he doubted he could ever steal their hatsu. For one, he may have to make all the birds from scratch, depending on how it transferred. For two, it would be rather cruel. Like stealing someone’s children. For three, the very limitations they silently endured from the start were the very barrier he couldn’t mount. Ironically.

 

To build trust, it had to be a two way street. Chrollo opened to the first page and held out the book for them to read.

 

There were four conditions. (Yes, he was being hypocritical, but Specialists could get away with a lot of conditions.) To steal an ability, he had to see it, the creator had to touch his book, and it had to be verbally explained by the creator. That particular condition existed because writing was too easy to fake. Anyone could hand him a piece of paper after witnessing a hatsu and claim that was how it worked, but the very nature of his book demanded that it be explained by the creator, and wasted time was not preferred. He had added in the verbal part because, quite simply, he had forgotten some people could not verbally speak. And then of course to use an ability he had to have the book open to that exact page, sans the bookmark, which had its own conditions and operated as its own hatsu.

 

Hisoka hadn’t known the verbal part, still didn’t know the verbal part, so he didn’t know that even without the ill preferred conditions, Chrollo could never steal their abilities unless they found someone who could grow back their tongues. It was likely they didn’t want their tongues back. He imagined that after six years without they would never be able to get used to them again.

 

Nox read it. And then read it again, and then read it a third time. And then they started laughing, rather hysterically. They really were tired if they were laughing like that. Chrollo slapped his book shut and waited.

 

Hisoka’s going to have a fit, they finally wrote. He now understood what Hisoka meant by them having wild mood swings. This conversation had been a roller coaster.

 

“Likely. But you trusted me with something of your hatsu, so I thought it would be good manners to show you mine.”

 

Nox shook their head once again in disbelief and reached to grab an actual full sized notebook to start writing. It took them quite some time, but they eventually finished and handed him the notebook. Chrollo’s eyes scanned over the explanation, and he steadily began to realize why five conditions was worth it, and why they had been able to perform that massacre.

 

Though they had initially gave them sentience out of a sense of loneliness, and he was positive that was what it was, in true Morrow form they had weaponized that sentimentality, that weakness. Even the most skilled Conjurer simply couldn’t make a bird with as much excessive strength as Axis without pouring an incredible volume of Nen into his initial construction. It would be a waste of time and energy. They would simply do something else. Nox had stepped over that little roadblock with giving them regeneration, which required about half the energy, as they were already technically created with a pre existing template. Due to their sentience, their form always existed, it just wasn’t materialized when Nox didn’t need them. And given that the birds required progressively more and more Nen to conjure as they moved up the list, the theft ability aided them in their summonings, and likely enabled them to retain them far longer.

 

The conditions were worth it, even if Chrollo was too stubborn to admit it. The additional Ri fail safe was the icing on the cake. They had simply ignored their own limitations and found a loophole. He almost mourned that he would never be able to steal it, but then again, he would likely have to create his own birds with it. That would take weeks. Chrollo simply did not have the patience to hyper fixate on a hatsu he already had.

 

He wanted to see it in action.

 

“You know,” he finally said as he read it over one last time, “I can almost forgive you for the excessive conditions.”

 

He almost wanted to ignore his Hisoka fixation to try and wiggle Nyx’s hatsu out of them. Some might say he had a problem. He just utterly loved fascinating hatsus. Hisoka’s was fascinating in its own way. It was game changing, actually. So deceptively simple and yet it could counter almost anything at any time, so long as Hisoka kept his body in top shape. Feitan doubted it, but Hisoka could likely take on Rising Sun by simply attacking Feitan while he was maintaining it.

 

It made sense that Nox would have such a quirky hatsu with so many fail safes.

 

There was a knock at the door and Nox nearly jumped out of their skin. With such a large aura, they should have felt Feitan coming. Chrollo had. They really were tired.

 

Ri shimmered out of existence and Chrollo lamented that he hadn’t gotten to pet him. He wanted to know just how much realism they had poured into the bird.

 

Feitan opened the door, a glass of Pedialyte in hand and Nox’s bag in the other with a … shirt? He wasn’t sure. Yes, that was a shirt. One of those crop tops Nox seemed to love, with a hood. Feitan kicked the door shut with his heel and came further into the room to set the bag next to the bed and hand Nox the glass of Pedialyte.

 

“You look sick,” Feitan stated. If Phinks was here, he would be burying his face in his hands. Chrollo barely resisted the urge to sigh himself.

 

Nox sucked at the straw for a moment before they signed with one hand.

 

I am.

 

That could have gone worse. Feitan held out the hoodie. There was a set of neat, perfectly placed stitches down the front, sealing a split, with a decorative zigzag pattern over it. Machi’s work, likely.

 

“You seem upset, so I ask Machi to fix it.”

 

This was both painful and almost cute to watch. Chrollo didn’t find much cute, but he had never seen Feitan act in such a way with a “fascination”.

 

Nox looked shocked. They rarely tried to hide any of their reactions. The glass was set down on the nightstand and they took the hoodie, letting their fingers run over the neat, bold stitches, stark white on a heather background. Chrollo wondered how it had gotten cut like that. They didn’t seem to have any severe injuries on their chest. They had been leaning too heavily on the toilet for that.

 

Thank you, ” they signed and Feitan fidgeted. Chrollo’s stare tended to do that.

 

“I will go now,” he muttered and slapped something down on the nightstand before taking off like he was being chased by rabid dogs.

 

Chrollo stared at it. He would know that shape anywhere. Why did Feitan have a Spider coin split in half? He had stopped doing that trick years ago.

 

Nox picked it up and rolled it over in their fingers. It meant something. There had been a hole drilled in the top. From the way it gleamed, Chrollo was certain it was fresh.

 

“When did he split that?” He asked. “He hasn’t done that trick in years.”

 

Nox seemed to have forgotten he was there. They looked up at him and fidgeted uncomfortably. That was definitely an emotional fidget. He could see it all over their body language: a young adult, a kid, really, with a crush. And Feitan, still a kid himself, was most certainly acting strangely, too. Chrollo had never seen him anywhere close to being flustered.

 

Now this was interesting to watch. Perhaps he could learn something that would get Hisoka to relax.

 

When I came back from Myoto. We were talking about something.

 

So they were approaching emotional intimacy, despite Nox’s protests. Good to know. Chrollo studied them, taking in their multitude of tells.

 

“Did he give you that then?”

 

Nox nodded and turned it over in their fingers again. They seemed embarrassed.

 

“Why did he have it now?”

 

I must have dropped it.

 

Hisoka had definitely not taught them to lie very well. That attempt was pitiful. He’d allow for the exhaustion. But, it did tell him that they were carrying it. A thought occurred to him.

 

“Nox, why did you take him with?”

 

It made the clean up easier than doing it myself. He could help me bottleneck them.

 

“I see. Haven’t you only gone on missions with Nyx?”

 

Yeah, but they generally handle the tech side. I do the physical part.

 

“I see. Taking someone you don’t trust like Nyx must have been a big jump.” He could lead a conversation to what he wanted very well. Nox was too tired to pick up on it like they normally would. Chrollo almost felt guilty. Almost.

 

I don’t trust him like Nyx, but that doesn’t mean I don’t trust him like Feitan.

 

That sentence was enough to push him into a headache. They were feeling their condition settle back in. They needed to sleep, but he couldn’t leave it be.

 

“What do you mean, like Feitan?”

 

I mean I knew that if it came down to it, he would kill to keep me alive. So he was fine to take.

 

Chrollo reached down to rifle through their bag and pull out their bottle of pills. Nox accepted them and shook out their dose after sending another text to Nyx to tell them it was time to take the medications. Then they took a big mouthful of Pedialyte and gulped down the pills. It was such a strange order to Chrollo, but it made sense. Liquid first to make the pills float. Almost everyone in his immediate circle swallowed them dry.

 

“So you trusted him to save your life.” Feitan had killed people for the offense before. Chrollo needed to talk to him. Did he know? Telling him may be the wrong move.

 

Nox nodded. Chrollo kept watching them.

 

Given how he was acting, he knew. Why he hadn’t killed them in the aftermath was the big question. Even with Ri, they had been incredibly vulnerable. Feitan simply did not have the self control to refrain. Chrollo knew that. He also knew that Nox’s death could have easily been passed off as happening in the battle. Feitan had the perfect cover. He wouldn’t have cared about the resulting death of Nyx. Why would he?

 

Instead of doing what he always did, he brought Nox home. He’d given back the coin he gifted them, even drilled a hole in the top so they could put it on a chain so they wouldn’t lose it again, and had Machi sew up a piece of torn clothing that had some form of sentimental value to Nox.

 

It seemed acting wildly out of character was going around like a viral infection.

 

“You should get some sleep,” he finally said and stood. “Finish your drink and go to bed.”

 

You’re not my dad. ” Chrollo knew enough words to piece it together.

 

He really had sounded like a dad. Was that all it took to embarrass himself? A heart to heart with a kid to win them over so he could weasel his way into Hisoka’s heart? It really was a viral infection.

 

“I may not be your dad, but I’m right, so keep the attitude to a minimum.” Nen, he really was acting like a dad. Horrifying.

 

Chrollo escaped through the door as Nox snorted. He needed to nip that right in the bud.

 

He had learned a lot. Quite a lot. Sure, he had to put up with relentless vomiting to get there, but everything required sacrifices. He could see why his troupe was warming up to them so quickly. They really were something else.

 

He couldn’t wait for an opportunity to wiggle under Nyx’s defenses. It had been some time since he had actually wanted to get along with people. This was shaping up to be a lot of fun. He got Hisoka and a bonus he got to get along with a set of rather remarkable twins. As far as he was concerned, this was a win win.

 

He could reflect on his lengthy confession later. Right now, he allowed himself a victory lap. It had taken an entire month, but he got to figure out one hatsu, and understand even more of the family dynamics that had formed Hisoka.

 

If he was certain of anything, it was that at some point the twins needed to stop protecting him. Their entire careful structure was going to collapse. No one on the outside had ever told them that. He just hoped he’d have an opportunity to do it gently before it all went to shit. For some reason, there was a nagging feeling at the back of his mind that something was going to go very wrong, very quickly.

Chapter Text

Things were tense.

 

Nyx wasn’t good at talking to people. It was uncomfortable enough not being able to share Nen with Nox for the next week. That was the problem with Nox’s storage method: it gave them an immense boost for the next week, but the price to pay was they really couldn’t share Nen for seven days. Nyx was not involved in the condition, so they couldn’t touch it. Sometimes they suspected Nox stored it as a way to get some space from them. It hurt a little. Felt like a rejection. Nyx hated it. Nox needed space, yeah, whatever, but did they really have to push Nyx away like that? They hadn’t even asked when they made it, all those years ago. It wasn’t like Nyx really cared how tainted their aura got after going on a killing spree. It wasn’t that different from how Nyx felt after their own killing sprees, it was just amplified.

 

Nox seemed to like to find comfort in those damned crows instead.

 

Nyx hated it.

 

They also hated that they really needed Nox right now, but they were still coming in and out of consciousness. Nyx didn’t know what to do about Ky’ia. Nox always knew what to do with people. They were so much better with people than Nyx was. It was frustrating. Sure, Nyx was smarter on a book level, cooler, more level headed, less prone to making mistakes. But they knew that came at a price. Being on top all the time came at a price, and that price was making them untouchable, and therefore unable to really connect.

 

Nox helped them with that.

 

Nyx wished they could help them with whatever shit they had going on, but Nox had gotten a little distant over the past month. No, scratch that, that put the blame on the troupe. It had been happening over the past six months. Nyx missed them. There were no more half cocked adventures, no sense of joy at discovering new things, no pranks on Hisoka, none of that playful energy that used to possess Nox and drew Nyx into their orbit.

 

Nyx didn’t know what to do about it.

 

There was no Nyx if there was no Nox, and Nox was a shell of a Nox right now. Nyx knew it was called “growing up”, but it didn’t feel like it. Nyx was growing up, too, and it didn’t turn them into that. Nox was always so sad nowadays, when they thought Nyx couldn’t catch it. Nyx caught everything. Maybe they were just tired, too tired to talk about it, and suffering in silence.

 

They needed Nox right now. Hisoka would be useless for advice. He always balked at the very idea of the twins having romantic attachments, and even while he liked Ky’ia, that was just too much for him right now. Nyx hadn’t expected there to be a bump so soon into this whole adventure.

 

It wasn’t that Ky’ia was angry with them. They weren’t. They had no idea how to shift their aura to hide their emotions. They were just confused right now. Nyx was at a loss of what to do. Nox would probably tell them to give Ky’ia some space, but Nyx wasn’t sure that they could do that. Control was always firmly in Nyx’s palm, and the thought that they couldn’t guide this situation along, that they had to rely on Ky’ia coming to their own conclusions without Nyx even having a chance to defend themselves was a bit too much to handle.

 

They probably didn’t have to crush him. They had just reacted on instinct. They co