Gon watches as Killua paces the floor, impatient and irritated and clearly not up for listening to reason. All the same, Gon tries to calm him down. “Killua…”
“We don’t know if we can trust Kalluto! What if- What if Kalluto is just a distraction and-”
“Illumi isn’t above trying to trick us. Maybe he was acting so crazy so we’d have our guard down once someone else approached pretending to be more-”
“Killua!” Gon steps into his path, grabbing him by the shoulders. “This isn’t helping things. You have to calm down.”
“But Gon, Alluka-”
“Can’t be under your protection all the time.”
“Like hell she can’t! If Illumi is really going to start this again then-”
“Then what? Your whole life goes on hold? Alluka’s too? Killua, be reasonable.”
Killua’s mouth works soundlessly for a moment. Gon can practically see the whirlwind of thoughts filling up Killua’s head, can see the panic in his eyes. Killua pulls away, moving to sink heavily down onto the couch-
-which kicks up a frankly embarrassing amount of dust.
“Wh-” Killua coughs. “Gon, shit-”
Gon moves to Killua, reaching for his hands and pulling him up. “Sorry. It’s- I meant it when I said I’m usually at the apartment.”
“Fuck, I can tell.” Killua lets Gon turn him to brush some of the dust off of the back of his clothes.
“You wanna sit outside?” Gon asks. He watches Killua’s eyes slide over to the mirror on the wall. “We can take that with us.”
Killua takes a breath and nods. “Okay, yeah.”
Gon leads him out and part way down the grassy slope that lets out to the beach, they sit. It’s quiet for a few moments. Gon lets Killua gather himself, and in the meantime tries to calm his own nerves. He takes a deep breath. The smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves - it relaxes him.
“It’s beautiful out here.”
Gon looks over at Killua, who is looking out towards the horizon. Then, glancing at Gon, he turns to look over his shoulder. “How long have you had this place?”
“A while,” Gon answers. “I built it maybe… Five or so years ago, I think.” When Killua lifts his brows, Gon corrects, “Not on my own. I had help.”
“Any reason you chose here?”
Gon rolls his shoulders. “I just wanted some place of my own, I guess. And I wanted to be by the ocean. It’s not far from my family, but…”
“But not too close?” Killua fills in, understanding in his voice.
Gon nods, drawing his knees up. “Yeah.”
Killua sits with his legs folded in front of him, chin resting in his hand. “Mmm… Yeah, I think Alluka felt the same when she and Nanika moved out. I tried to convince her to stay in York New, but I think she didn’t want big brother to be so near.”
“She still loves you, Killua.” Then, after a pause. “And… she’s good at taking care of herself. Her and Nanika both.”
Killua takes in a shaky breath. “I know,” he murmurs and goes silent for a few beats. Then, he asks, “Why do you spend all of your time in that tiny apartment if you could just come here after closing up shop? I mean, given a good dusting this house of yours seems like it’d be really beautiful and comfortable.”
Gon bites his lip. That’s not something that’s easy to explain. Killua is looking at him, though, and Gon can tell that he needs this distraction while they wait.. “It’s… It’s too quiet.”
Killua’s brow furrows. “I thought you liked quiet places? You said when you go places…”
Gon takes a breath. “Yeah, I mean. When I’m off traveling somewhere, it’s… Being someplace quiet is nice. Away from people. Just me and the land and it’s natural inhabitants. But when I come back…” Gon rolls his shoulder. He glances towards Killua. “Sometimes it’s too much. I’m too… alone here.”
Killua’s eyes soften. Gon looks away. “There’s a town on the other side of the island, so I’m not actually alone here, but… I didn’t think I wanted to be in town all the time when I chose here. It’s just a little town, too. With how I come and go, I dunno…”
Killua hums and nods. “Hard to blend in while in a smaller town?”
Gon watches as Killua glances down at the mirror laying in the grass at his other side, then leans back onto his hands. “Shame, though… To let this place go to waste.”
Gon shifts, crossing his legs. “Well…” Gon’s fingers knit together, thumbs twiddling. “I thought… I mean, I was planning on bringing you here soon. I thought it would make for a nice little getaway.”
When he feels Killua turn to him, Gon looks up. “Really?”
Killua smiles warmly. He leans in and nudges Gon’s shoulder. “And here I thought you’d never take me anywhere.”
Gon rolls his shoulders again. “I mean… Maybe this isn’t as exotic as where you were picturing, but it’s nice here. And safe.”
Killua hums, and leans in, laying his head on Gon’s shoulder. Gon wraps his arm around Killua’s back, pressing his cheek into Killua’s hair.
“Safe,” Killua repeats, softly. “...Yeah…. I’m glad you have this place. So if Illumi shows up again, you could… You know. If you need to.”
“If we need to. Killua, you’re welcome here anytime. If you want to … stay here when you visit, just to be extra safe. I could even invite Alluka and Nanika over.”
Killua hums and nods. “Mmm. Maybe…” He shifts, turning to look up at Gon. “And maybe if… While we figure out if he’s staying close to town, maybe you could just… stay here for a while, too.”
“What do you mean?”
Killua looks up at him. “Just, you know… While I make sure Illumi’s not skulking around, you could stay here. Just for a few days, maybe come here in the evenings when you close shop.”
Gon wrinkles his nose. “I’m… fine in the apartment, Killua.”
Killua frowns at Gon. “Well, I mean… It’s just safer here than there. He doesn’t even know this place exists, you know? It sounds like he’s more determined than ever to interfere with our lives, and now that he knows you’re part of mine… I want to keep you and Alluka and Nanika safe if something happens. Until I figure out what to do about it.”
Gon’s brow wrinkles. He pulls his arm back. “So you... Just want me to hide while you ‘figure out’ what to do to keep Illumi away?”
Killua doesn’t answer, but the way he looks at Gon, he doesn’t need to.
Gon scoffs. “No way.”
“I’m sorry, Killua, but I’m not just gonna put my life on hold because Illumi might stop by. I mean… If he comes here, and especially if you’re here with me, and we need to- to regroup, or whatever, that’s fine. But I’m not gonna let him just run me out of my store any time he decides to stop by.”
“Gon! Just, just- I don’t want you facing him, okay? If Illumi figures out how important you are to me, he might…”
“Killua, if he tries to do anything to me, I’ll be able to handle myself.”
“You will not!” Killua insists, reaching to grab Gon’s arms. “You’re not going to try to do anything to Illumi, okay? If he shows up, you find a way to get away. That’s it.”
The tone Killua takes with him doesn’t sit right. Gon doesn’t need to be told what to do. Frowning, he pulls back from Killua’s hold and moves to stand, trying to calm the churning in his gut. He paces away a few steps, then turns back. “What about you?” Gon asks.
Killua rises to his feet as well. “I’m…” He looks off to the horizon and takes a breath. “I’m going to figure out how to keep everyone safe.”
Killua nods. “I have to. I won’t let Illumi toy with the lives of the people I care about.”
Gon’s mouth falls open. Is Killua for real? Does he really expect him to just stand on the sidelines, like… like…
Gon shakes his head, clearing away the memory of that dark night and glowing, gold eyes.
“Killua, if you think I’m going to leave you to deal with this on your own, you’re out of it.”
Killua blinks, his gaze hardening. “Gon, this isn’t something you need to prove yourself on. I just need you to stay away from Illumi if he comes around again, okay?”
“I’m not trying to prove anything, Killua. But if Illumi comes after you and I’m there? I’m not going anywhere.”
“Gon- You’re not gonna engage with Illumi on my behalf. That’s stupid.”
“Well then I’m stupid!” Gon cries out. He hadn’t meant to raise his voice, but by the time he hears his voice echoing back off the trees to him, he finds he can’t stop. It all comes out in a rush. “I’m stupid, okay?! You don’t talk much about him, or your family, and I get that. You don’t have to tell me what he did to you. But I can tell you’re terrified of him! I can tell it still hangs over you, even when he’s not around - so now that he’s back? Now that he might be trying to mess up your life again? I’m not leaving you alone to deal with it. I’m not gonna run and leave someone important to me to get hurt - I’m not doing that again!”
Words spilled, Gon stands with his fists curled in his sides. It takes those blue eyes staring at him, Killua’s slack and confused expression, for Gon to realize what he’s just said aloud. A pit opens in his stomach, and he bites down hard on his lip.
“Gon…” Killua begins, and he sounds like he’s at a loss. His tone is softer. He goes on, “Gon, please just…” He moves towards Gon. He presses his lips together in a firm line, and Gon is still while Killua’s hands touch him gently - one at his jaw, the other resting at his collar. “Illumi is… He’s not going to stand down easy. If he thinks he can get at me through you, he’ll- I can’t let him hurt you.”
Gon reaches to take one of Killua’s hands in his own. “And I can’t stand back and let him hurt you.” Can’t Killua see that?
“Gon,” Killua takes a breath, his voice lowering to a softer but serious tone. “You can’t try to face down Illumi.”
Gon stiffens. He pulls back. “You can’t tell me what I can and can’t do.”
“Gon! I just want you safe. Why are you being like this?”
“Because I don’t need you to protect me!” Gon throws his hands wide. He remembers how quick Killua was to step in front of him, to hold him back. It’s… It’s too familiar. He won’t do that again. “I can handle myself. I’m not going to run away, especially not if it means leaving you behind.”
“Gon, you don’t understand-”
“Don’t I? Because it sounds like given the chance you’re going to make everyone else go sit down while you try to handle this on your own.”
“That’s how it has to be! Alluka and Nanika-”
“Are strong! They’re some of the most talented casters I’ve met, and last I checked their magic held against Illumi.”
“Because he was distracted, he was looking for me.”
“All the more reason you need to be focused on keeping yourself safe instead of jumping in front of anyone else. Myself included.”
“Gon, you don’t know- You can’t- I have to-” Killua just shakes his head.
“Killua-” Gon steps forward. “Let me- Let me help you.”
“Gon, you can’t help,” Killua insists. “You just can’t.”
Gon’s arms, outstretched towards Killua, drop. “You don’t think I’m capable enough?”
“That's not what this is about, Gon. You’re an amazing caster, but Illumi is-”
“You don’t know what he’s capable of!” Killua shouts, spinning back towards Gon. “You have no idea! The lengths he’ll go to, Gon, if he’s desperate enough- You have no idea what he’ll do!”
There’s a wildness in Killua’s eyes that Gon isn’t familiar with. It scares him. Not for his own sake, but for Killua’s.
Gently, slowly, he approaches Killua. He reaches to touch Killua’s arm. At first Killua tenses, but bit by bit, Gon’s hand slides up to Killua’s shoulder. Killua lets him. He lets Gon take his chin in hand, turning to face him. Gon’s other hand lifts, cupping his cheek. “Killua… Killua, it’s okay… It’s okay…”
As Gon reaches for him like that, Killua feels like he could shake himself apart. Gon draws him down until their foreheads are pressed together, and all at once the energy to argue goes out of Killua. He leans heavily against Gon and finds relief in knowing Gon is strong enough to hold him up.
There’s quiet for a moment as Killua closes his eyes. Gon’s thumb strokes the side of his face and doesn’t say anything about the tremors running through him. It’s just, Illumi had been so close - to Alluka, to Nanika, to Gon. To all the dearest parts of his world. Killua’s mind can’t seem to stop racing from all the ways it could have gone wrong, all the things Illumi could have done. They got lucky this time.
“Killua,” Gon begins at last. “I… I want to help. So, can you talk to me?” Killua pulls back enough to look into Gon’s eyes. He can see how worried Gon is as he continues, “You’re right, I don’t know what Illumi can do, and I’d never ask… You don’t have to say if you don’t want to. But if I know, I can be better prepared.”
Killua takes in a deep breath. His hand finds Gon’s and he winds their fingers together. Gently tugging on Gon’s hand, Killua leads them both to sit on the grass again.
Killua needs a moment to figure out where to even start. He listens to the wind in the trees and the distant crash of waves. Gon doesn’t let go of his hand. He just waits, quiet and patient.
“My family… was… abusive. In just about every way a family can be.”
Killua looks down to his lap. There’s so much he could say - so many examples he could give. “My parents and grandfather, they… Well, they’re … they’re bad. And they abused us physically and mentally in an attempt to make us just like them.”
It’s been so long since he’s spoken about this to anyone other than Alluka and Nanika. Gon will be only the third person outside of them he’s talked about it with. Bisky knows a lot of it, and he’s told his friend Ikalgo enough that he can grasp the larger picture.
“They used their magic, too. On us. I guess on all of my siblings? By the time I was old enough to remember, though, my eldest brothers were included in passing on the abuse. Illumi especially. He… he helped my parents a lot.” If Killua thinks really, really hard he can remember a time when it wasn’t like that. He can remember playing with Illumi and Milluki, or at least playing with them nearby, and they weren’t being told to hurt him. It’s the faintest memory, and sometimes Killua can’t tell if it’s true or just wishful thinking. “It was like…” Killua moves his hand in a gesture as he searched for the words. “Like, training, I guess? The Zoldycks are involved in a lot of shady dealings and they thought they were preparing us, I guess…”
It’s weird how normal is still seems when it’s all locked up in his head. Of course he knows what his family did to them was messed up, but for so long it was all he knew. It’s the only childhood he had. “I mean, that’s the excuse they used, at least.”
When he looks over at Gon, he’s relieved to find that Gon doesn’t look outright horrified. He’s doing a very good job schooling his expressions. When Gon sees he has Killua’s attention, though, he squeezes his hand.
“I’m sorry about that, Killua,” he says with a frown. “You didn’t deserve that.”
Killua looks away again, feeling a swell of emotions trying to bubble up in him. It’s not fair. It’s been so long. Why does this still have to be so hard? “It was... Yeah.” He swallows. “They took Alluka away for a long time. They... they had her and Nanika locked up and alone because they were scared of Nanika and I-”
I let them. I let them take my sisters and leave them down there and-
Killua presses his hand to his face. His eyes sting. “Dunno if I can… say it all, Gon.”
Gon lets go of his hand only to scoot closer and begin rubbing at his back. His other hand takes up Killua’s again. “That’s okay.”
Killua takes in a breath. Okay, focus. He needs to warn Gon about Illumi, about what he can do. He turns where he sits, cross-legged, to face Gon. He looks down at the grass and lets Gon hold both of his hands. He looks up and continues.
“I guess I must have… I must have been giving them too much trouble. Rebelled a little too much. Because eventually they decided their… usual methods of motivation didn’t work.” Killua makes himself look Gon in the eyes as he tells him. “They used very strong coercion magicks on me, Gon.”
Now it’s there - the shock. He can tell by the way Gon’s eyes begin to go wide that that wasn’t what he was expecting.
“Illumi did it to me. He had my parents’ permission, but he…” Killua presses his lips together and drops his gaze as hazy memories come back to him - memories he’s tried to push away. That voice in his head that would drown out all else, that would whisper so soft and yet so loud to him. “He put something in my head. He cursed me. And it… it made me do what they wanted. Made me too afraid to do anything else.”
Gon’s hands hold his tighter. “But-” Gon begins, only to stop, and Killua glances up to see him struggling for words. “But that’s- Killua… There are laws-”
“Against using coercion magick on people, yes. But that matters very little with you’re rich and powerful enough to have police officers and lawyers and judges all tucked into your back pocket to use whenever you need them.”
Gon’s mouth snaps shut, but Killua can see the anger brewing in his eyes - and that scares him. Killua turns to take Gon’s face gently between his hands. “You see? That’s why I can’t… I can’t have you face Illumi. If he ever did anything to you, I’d… Gon…” His throat feels constricted and his eyes are hot, and all at once that heat turns to tears. Killua has just enough time to see Gon’s anger melt to open concern before they blur his vision.
“Killua,” Gon speaks, and his voice is soft and warm. Killua wants to lean in against him and let that voice take all his worries away. Warm hands cover his own, and Gon leans in to kiss at the corners of his eyes. It earns him a weary, watery smile. “C’mere…” Gon tugs him in, wrapping him in strong arms, and Killua melts.
For a while, Gon just holds him, stroking his hair as Killua quietly blinks away his tears.
“I care about you so much,” Gon says at last. “Killua, you’re… you’re so important to me, and I hate that you went through that.”
Killua feels Gon shift back and lifts from where he’s tucked his face into Gon’s shoulder. Gon cups his cheek, and Killua leans into the touch.
“But you understand why I can’t just step aside if something happens, right? I’m sure Alluka and Nanika wouldn’t accept that either. I wanna be with you… I want to support you any way I can. And that means staying by your side through this. You, me, Alluka, and Nanika… we can get through this together. We’ll all be there for each other.”
Killua takes in a shuddering breath and lifts a hand to blot away tears from his cheeks with the edge of his sleeve. Maybe he had been… a little irrational. Illumi is dangerous, but… Gon’s right. He can’t expect them to put their lives on hold in the meantime. “Yeah, I just… Gon, we have to be careful, okay? Like, really really careful.”
Gon nods. “I understand. We’ll do what we need to to be safe. Hey, maybe you could help me ward my shop, yeah?” Gon prompts with a smile.
A little of the tension inside Killua comes undone. “Yeah… Yeah, that’s a good idea.”
“We’ll be safe, Killua. Together.”
Killua nods, looking up into those warm brown eyes he loves so.
“Together,” he agrees.
Gon’s smile grows. “Hey… Why don’t we go down to the water while we wait on Alluka to call us back?”
“Yeah… Yeah, I’d like that.”
Gon stands and grabs the mirror, helping Killua to stand as well. As Gon leads him down the hill, all seeping green grass until it gives way to white sand and then deep blue rolling waves, Gon’s words from earlier come back to him. He’d said he didn’t want to leave someone behind to get hurt… Not again.
Killua wants to ask. The words are there on the tip of his tongue.
But so much has happened today, and when Gon looks back at him with his warm smile and his wild hair blowing in the wind, Killua doesn’t have the heart. Instead, he takes Gon’s hand and lets him show off the beautiful beach next to his island home.