Life goes on, despite the buzzing anxiety that hasn’t left Killua since the day Illumi showed up. He’s worried - he can’t help it. He’s worried for Alluka and Nanika, worried for Gon, worried for himself. Part of him expects Illumi to come around any corner and rip up the roots of the life he’s worked so hard for and-
He has to try to stay calm. Focus on the good. They’re all doing what they can to protect themselves.
He and Alluka have strengthened their wards, and Gon has promised that he’s going to get some protective warding up his own store and apartment. Killua wishes it was done already, but thorough warding takes time.
Being scared of Illumi isn’t something new. With Gon around this time, though… Killua’s mind won’t stop jumping ahead to the worst possible scenarios. Still, there’s a part of him that’s grateful for Gon’s stubbornness. Gon has heard the worst of what Illumi can do and he’s not running the other way. He wants to stay with Killua.
Killua’s not sure what he’s done to deserve such unwavering loyalty, but he loves Gon all the more for it.
He tells Bisky what’s happened because he has to. She was with him when the shit got real bad before. Her company was put under fire for a time, too, although they all came out the stronger for it.
Everything she tells him Killua already knows, of course, but he lets her urge him to be careful. He kindly refuses her offers to stay with her or to have some of Facets’ security sent to his apartment. “I’ve… already got people helping me look out for things,” he admits, though he doesn't go into detail. He’s not sure he could make her believe his sources.
Bisky nods. “Well… If you need to be with your sisters now, you know a lot of your duties can be performed off-site.”
“Bisky…” True, some of his work can technically be done from home (or elsewhere), but he knows how much she values having him on hand.
“Really, Killua. If you need that, take it. I know… what he’s like. If you need a break…”
Killua takes a breath. “Maybe,” he says, not ready to commit to that. “Maybe… I might take a few days just to go touch base with them and…” He hesitates.
Bisky smiles softly. “And your boyfriend?”
Killua flushes. He had to fess up about that a while back. There was only so much smiling at his scroll he could do that Bisky would tolerate without an explanation. Her teasing wasn’t as bad as his sisters’ - but maybe that was because there were more of them. “Yeah. He’s caught up in this too, now, so…”
Bisky nods. “I understand.”
Killua leans back in his seat, crossing his legs with his ankle on his knee. “When this is handled, though, I’m gonna be here as long as I need to be to save up days for a good, long vacation.”
“Yeah,” Killua laughs. “Go someplace new. I think Gon knows a few places he could show me.”
Slowly she nods. Killua watches as she turns to look out the floor-to-ceiling wall of windows in her offices. “Well… When the time comes that you’re ready to go, let me know.”
When Alluka shows up in his doorway with one of her own store bags hooked on her arm, Gon has a feeling he knows what she’s bringing him. Nanika hovers on her other arm as they both move out of the way to wait for him. Gon hasn’t seen them part from each other since the unexpected visit from Illumi.
After politely excusing himself from his customer, Gon moves to them. “Hey,” he greets and hugs them each. “How are things?”
Alluka sighs. “Okay. Killua is thinking about coming into town week after next and staying a few days. Says he can take care of work from here.”
Gon feels something relax inside. “Oh, good… It’ll be nice to have him-”
“-close,” Alluka agrees, nodding.
“I have some friends coming into town next week, too. They’re gonna help me get some wards up.”
“Good, good- I’ll come by to help. Killua too, if he’s here at the same time.”
“That’d be good,” Gon says. Killua’s been pushing him to get it done as quickly as possible. He understands his worry, but Gon also has a shop to run. Besides, it’s not something he can just stop and do. Even if Alluka and Nanika stopped to help him right this instant, the three of them combined wouldn’t likely be able to get it done, not with them needing to ward both the apartment and his store. The more casters they have to start with, the better.
Not for the first time, Gon wishes for the casting capabilities he had when he was younger. It’s his own fault, though, that the casting’s not the same as it used to be. He’s lucky he still has innate, inborn magic to work with after his accident, let alone both enough to operate his arm and still cast extra magic regularly.
So the warding will have to wait.
‘We have charms for you until warding can be properly done,’ Nanika tells him, confirming his suspicions.
Alluka lifts the bag she’s carrying. “I can put these up for you, if you like.”
Gon smiles. “If you could just get some in on the door, that’d be great. I can handle the rest later.”
Soon, his customer is calling for him again. He has to step away, but he sees Alluka carefully lining his door with temporary paper charms and wards. She and Nanika touch them and whisper soft spells. When they’re done, Alluka moves to put the bag on his front counter. Gon finishes with his customer and comes over in time for her to explain the few different charms she’s leaving him with and how they work.
‘There’s this, too.’ Nanika reaches into the bag and pulls out a small metal charm on a clip.
“Oh, yeah.” Alluka picks up Kon, who is rubbing against her leg. While she holds him, Nanika carefully attaches the charm to his collar. “For our brave boy.” Alluka kisses his head and then sets him down on the counter, where Nanika reaches to pet along his back. Kon purrs appreciatively, arching his back into the misty touch.
Gon smiles. “You thought of everything. Really, I’m…”
Alluka nods. “Yeah, I know.”
After another round of hugs, they go on their way. Gon peeks into the bag they left and sighs. It’s enough for upstairs as well as down. He’ll have to get it put up soon, but not this very moment. Part of him hates the necessity of this. He never imagined needing to put any spellwork on his store aside from what’s etched into the back door frame.
He’s grateful that Kurapika and Leorio are going to come by to help him with this. Of course, when he’d wondered who to call for help, Kite had been one of the first names to come to mind. Kite along with Mito and some others had been here to lay the spell work that’s still on the back door now.
But Gon hasn’t talked to Kite since he saw Spinner, nor has he heard from him. He could say that the reason he hasn’t contacted Kite himself is because he’s been busy with other things, and he has. Gon knows in truth, however, that part of him is avoiding that conversation. He doesn’t know what he’s done to let Kite down this time, and the thought of finding out makes his gut churn.
Soon, he tells himself. He’ll make sure to call Kite soon.
When Alluka mentions to Gon that she and Killua are planning a three-way call with Milluki and Kalluto, she can tell he’s interested. She invites him to come along since he deserves to know as much as anyone what’s going on.
Maybe she should have cleared it with the others first, though - or at least mentioned it to Kalluto beforehand. Milluki seems irritated when an unfamiliar face comes into view through the mirror.
His tone is short when he asks who Gon is, which sets Killua on a defensive edge. They snip at each other before the other two Zoldycks manage to calm them down. It starts the call on a sour note.
Milluki is dismissive when Gon asks if they can’t just go to the authorities with it.
“I mean, surely, a restraining order is reasonable? What he’s doing is harassment, and he has a history of-”
“Unless you want to be tied up in litigation for the rest of your natural life, I suggest you drop that plan of action,” Milluki says.
Everyone pauses for a moment, then Alluka looks up at Gon and frowns. “He’s right. Some of the finest lawyers this half of the world are under the employment of the Zoldyck family.”
“Not to mention their more underhanded back-door connections,” Milluki says.
“Killua and I tried getting official restraints against them, but it never went anywhere. And even if we did manage to get something against Illumi, he’s…”
“...skilled in disguise,” Gon fills in, looking somber. He glances towards the mirror. “Killua’s said.”
Which means that Milluki’s system for keeping an eye on Illumi is their best means of protection at the moment.
“What makes you so sure that your tracking system is working?” Killua asks after Milluki explains that he’s been tracking Illumi’s dealings through some advanced techno-based magicks.“What if he detects it?”
Milluki snorts. “He won’t. Illumi’s good at playing spy when he wants, but he’s overconfident. He’s never had a reason to believe anyone would try doing the same with him.”
“And technomagy has never been his strong point,” Kalluto says.
“But he knows that Milluki’s is,” counters Killua. “You really don’t think he’ll suspect?”
Milluki is quick to come back. “Even if he does, he doesn’t have the know-how to detect this spell’s code. I wrote it myself.”
Killua’s face grows tense. “That doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. There are plenty of talented casters out there who are familiar with this type of spell, Milluki. What if Illumi has one in his employ?”
“None as good as me. Just because you’re some big shot over at some multi-practice corporation doesn’t mean you know anything about more specialized fields, Killua.”
“Tell me more about your system, and maybe I’ll trust it!”
“Tch. This isn’t the type of casting you’d understand, Kil.”
“Milluki,” Alluka interrupts. This isn’t going to go anywhere if they just let them butt heads. “Killua works directly with the technomagy division at Facets on the regular. He might not have your specialized knowledge, but between his level of knowledge and your expertise you could both reach an understanding.”
Milluki glowers. “Kalluto and I have been working together to keep ourselves safe from Illumi long enough without help from either of you. If you don’t want ours, then-”
Gon speaks up from beside her then. “You say you can track Illumi’s movements, that you know, among other things, when he decides to travel. But Illumi arrived at Alluka’s faster than either of you expected.”
Everyone falls quiet. Alluka watches as Milluki’s mouth works for a moment with no words. “I’ve improved the system since then. The spellwork is tighter.”
Killua leans forward in his seat, elbows on his knees. “Let me see if I can help you improve it further. Just, walk me through it? I have resources, colleagues… There might be an angle you’re missing on your own.”
Kalluto, standing next to where Milluki is seated, puts their hand on his shoulder. “Brother,” they say.
“Fine,” Milluki agrees. “Does everyone want to hear all of the technical details, then?”
Alluka and Killua look eyes through the mirror for a moment, then Alluka shakes her head. “No. I know this is over my head, so I’ll leave the two of you to work out the details.”
Beside her, Gon speaks his agreement. After a few more minutes, Killua and Milluki have agreed to arrange a call between the two of them on another day, when it’s not so late in the evening. When the call is ended, Alluka sends a quick message from her scroll.
Kalluto is staying with Milluki, and from the few talks they’ve had together Alluka can tell Kalluto is the more level-headed of the two.
‘Make sure they actually talk on that call?’
‘I’ll try my best,’ Kalluto agrees.
Alluka turns to Gon. “Do you need me to walk you back?”
Gon shakes his head. “I’m fine. I’ll send you a message when I get there.”
Killua doesn’t like this. He could have easily gone the rest of his life without hearing from Milluki and would have been none the worse for it.
Kalluto is one thing. Sure, they make Killua feel uneasy, but… The worst Kalluto had done when he and Alluka were still home was to have been too close to their mother. Kalluto was, as much as any of them were, fooled by the way their parents said things had to be.
Once, as a child, Kalluto opening their mouth at the wrong time made it harder for Alluka, Nanika, and him to leave. Killua had been angry with them for a long time over that, but it’s hard not to realize now that Kalluto was just a kid. They were just doing what they were told was best.
Milluki, though - Milluki was a much more active participant in the hell he and Alluka went through. He performed the jobs their parents gave to him, and he did it gleefully. Sure, Milluki could be bargained with in ways Illumi couldn’t. Milluki had desires outside of what he was told to do that Killua sometimes took advantage of. Where Illumi has always primarily been concerned with what he believes is good for the family, Milluki has tended more towards self-interest.
Which is why Killua can at least believe that he doesn’t want to deal with Illumi any more than the rest of them. If they can help each other avoid him, then all the better. Killua can tolerate talking to him and working through how to improve his systems for keeping a bell on Illumi. He can do this to protect the people he loves.
Kalluto comes into view of the mirror while Killua and Milluki are going through some of the more technical aspects of the system - how it pings Milluki for various things, like whenever Illumi decides to purchase any sort of transportation tickets.
“Jun is meditating,” Kalluto says softly to Milluki. “He says if he picks up anything with his divining he’ll let us know.”
“Who’s Jun?” Killua asks, curious.
Milluki, still looking at the array of screens in front of him rather than the mirror, frowns sourly. “None of your business.”
Killua tenses. “If they’re helping you track Illumi I think it’s very much my business.”
Kalluto interrupts before they can start fighting, as they’ve already done a few times over this call. “Killua, Jun is a… friend.” Kalluto glances at Milluki, who doesn’t bother to look up. “He’s very talented at divination and has been able to tune in on Illumi’s possible plans a few times. He’s been helping us for a while.”
Killua doesn’t like the idea of someone he doesn’t know being in on this, but he supposes there’s nothing he can object to if this is someone Kalluto and Milluki have brought into their inner circle. Killua leans back in his chair, tapping fingers on the table near his laptop while he considers the two of them through the mirror. “Divination and technomagy don’t mix well as practices.”
“Obviously,” Milluki grumbles. “We’re covering our bases.”
Killua nods. “...That’s smart.”
Milluki doesn’t say anything.
Several minutes pass with Milluki giving Killua greater detail into what sort of spells he’s been using to track Illumi. He has to admit that it’s an impressive, subtle work around - something that Illumi isn’t too likely to catch onto. Milluki answers any questions he has, and when Killua suggests a few pieces of equipment he knows he’ll have access to through Facets, Milluki tells him what would make a useful addition to what he already has.
The technical talk is enough to give Killua a headache, but it feels at least like they’re getting somewhere.
There’s a few moments of silence while Milluki is inputting information into his computer and Killua is checking his messages to see if Bisky has responded to his inquiry about acquiring some of the equipment Facets developed last month for personal use. When he looks back to the mirror, he sees Milluki sitting back in his seat, rubbing wearily at his eyes.
Killua can’t hold in the question anymore. “So, what made you decide to leave?”
Milluki glances at him. He doesn’t ask for clarification before he answers. “Same reason as you, pretty much.” He rolls one shoulder. “I got tired of mom and dad’s bullshit.”
Killua snorts. “My luck that you only got tired after we’d already left.”
Milluki looks over at him, eyes narrowed. “Do you have something to say?”
Killua tenses, frowning. “I don’t know. Do you?”
He doesn’t know what he expects. For Milluki to apologize? To explain to him tearfully that he’d only done what he did in response to how poorly he was treated by mom, dad, and Illumi? To admit to perpetuating the cycle of abuse and tell Killua he’s so so sorry?
Milluki sits there, his face screwed up. Killua can’t tell if he’s mad or just thinking, but he can’t help but anticipate Milluki spitting something dismissive and pissy.
Instead, he says, “I’m not asking for your forgiveness for anything. I don’t expect it.”
“You don’t think you need to apologize?” Killua challenges, unable to keep some of the frustration out of his voice.
Milluki looks straight at him. “Would it help if I did? You want me to tell you I’m sorry?”
Yes, Killua wants to say. No, he wants to say. It would help - it wouldn’t. He wants to hear it - he doesn’t.
“Sorry’s just words, Kil,” Milluki goes on. “I could say it a million times, but you’d never really know if I meant it and I’d never know if it achieved anything other than wasting breath.” A pause, and Milluki is looking back at his screens. “Kalluto wanted us to team up. They’re right, we all have a better chance of not succumbing to Illumi if we plan together, but… This doesn’t have to be more than that. I’m not asking you for anything.”
Killua sits, letting what’s been said digest. It doesn’t feel right, but Killua supposes there are some things that will never feel right. In a way, Milluki is right. What they need to focus on is Illumi.
“I’m surprised you’re not focused on just staying out of the way yourself,” Killua comments.
“Yeah, well…” Milluki trails off, his fingers moving across the keyboard for a moment. “You’re not the only one with people you want to protect.”
He realizes all at once how much he doesn’t know this person who is supposed to be his brother. His face is familiar. He’s still the self-interested techie loner Killua remembers, but at the same time… He’s a stranger.
A voice Killua doesn’t recognize speaks up from somewhere he can’t see on Milluki’s end.
“Hey, babe, it’s getting late. You should get some rest.”
Killua looks to the clock on his laptop. It is pretty late - later still where Milluki is if he remembers right.
Milluki looks over his shoulder and nods. “Give me a few to wrap this up. I’ll turn in soon.” Then he turns back to Killua. “We can pick up on this later.”
“I’m so ready to be there with you.”
These days, few things make Gon happier than hearing Killua’s voice over his scroll. “Few things,” of course, including hearing Killua’s voice in the actual same room as him - but they’ll have that soon enough.
“Yeah,” Gon hums. “I can’t wait either. Glad your boss is being so chill about it.”
“Mmm. Yeah. I’m lucky with her. She kinda got caught in the crossfire, you know? Before, with my parents and Illumi. They spread all sorts of nasty rumors about her business after she hired me on. Tried to get us shut down and stuff. But she stuck with me.”
Laying back on his little couch, Gon smiles. It’s good to know Killua has people like that in his life - good, loyal people who look out for him. Killua deserves that. “She’s good people.”
“Yeah,” Killua sighs. “She is.”
There’s a beat where the only sound between them is the sound of them breathing, and Gon closes his eyes for a moment and imagines Killua is already here beside him - warm, breathing, safe.
“You know,” he says. “I think by the time you get here it’ll almost be time for the migration. If we’re lucky, we might could go watch it together.”
“The migration?” Killua asks.
“Yeah. Thunderbirds. There’s a couple of them that migrate past here, just outside the city, every few years. It’s really amazing - they bring a huge storm with them and everything.”
“Really?” Killua sounds excited - just like Gon had hoped. “Oh, I hope the timing works out. I’d love to see that.”
“Okay,” Gon says. “If it looks like they’ll come through when you’re here, we’ll plan for it.” This could be a great distraction for Killua. It’d be good to get his mind off of things for a while. “I know just the spot to watch them from where you can see real well.”
“That’s awesome, Gon!” Gon can practically hear the grin on Killua’s face. “You’re the best - I freakin’ love you.”
Gon opens his mouth to respond, but nothing comes out. Had he… Had he just heard correctly? Did Killua really mean…?
“Gon, I…” Killua’s voice hesitates on the other end. “Shit. That wasn’t really romantic, was it?” He chuckles weakly. “Uh. I meant to… tell you better than that. And you don’t have to say it back if you’re not ready, but… I… Yeah. I love you.”
All at once, Gon remembers how to make words. They come out in a rush, smushed together. “Iloveyoutoo.” When he realizes how fast and how silly he sounded, he laughs, putting a hand over his eyes. “Shit. Haha… No, I… Sorry, that was… I love you, too, Killua. I do.”
Killua laughs too, and Gon feels a rush of giddy warmth. “Yeah. Okay.”
“Yeah.” Gon swallows. “I’ll… I’ll see you soon?”
“Yeah. Definitely.” Killua’s voice is low and warm. Gon can’t stop smiling. “Night, Gon.”
After they hang up, Gon spends a long time laying on his back looking up at the ceiling.
He’s known about his own feelings for a while - known that the growing sense of belonging he feels at Killua’s side, the warmth and happiness Killua brings to him, the simple ease of being together with him, all added up into what he was pretty sure would be called love. It felt like love to him - more like love than anything else he’s known.
To know Killua feels the same, though… Stars, what a miracle that is.
It makes Gon feel all the more determined to keep Killua safe - from anything that might threaten him, whether that be Illumi or his parents or anything else.
Gon’s gaze shifts to the window, looking out at the night. Most nights he can just see the moon from here - not stars. Too much light pollution in the city for stars. That’s something that normally could spark his wanderlust - make him start planning his next trip, the next adventure.
His adventures will have to wait, though. As long as Illumi is a threat, Gon wants to stay close. And besides that, maybe he should continue sticking close to home anyway - close to Killua, and away from things that could go too wrong too easily.
People he loves have been hurt when he didn’t know when to stop, when he wasn’t prepared enough.
He loves Killua.
He can’t let that happen again.