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Green and Tender Magic

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Killua hovers on the sidewalk for a moment, looking at the glowing, inviting storefront across the street. Lights float in the broad bow window with trinkets on display inside, and part of the store’s floor is visible beyond. Inside, Killua knows the shelves are stocked with a wide array of magical knick knacks, potions, charms, and more. Wish Upon a Star caters both to those who are interested in buying the odd item or potion for casual or professional magical uses and to those who want to commission the store owner to cast more complex spellwork for them.

It’s been a while since he’s been here. Too long. Has Alluka changed the floor plan? Is warding being maintained? If he’d been visiting more regularly, he’d know. He should have visited much sooner than this. What kind of brother is he to neglect visiting his sisters for seven whole months?

Bisky’s stern face appears in his mind, frowning at him. He can see her wagging her finger, telling him that’s exactly why she unceremoniously booted him out Facets’ home offices for two weeks.

‘Your vacation starts now,’ she’d told him, accepting neither arguments nor protests about how he needed to be there to see through the end of their latest project. It had honestly stung a little when she’d insisted they could get along just fine without him for a few weeks, but he’d known deep down she was doing him a favor by twisting his arm like this. It’s not like he’s been much use at work lately, anyway. Probably better not to have him around when he’s been so distracted and useless.

As Killua watches a patron exit Wish Upon a Star, the bell above the door chiming, he fancies he hears his sister call out cheerfully behind them. Taking a breath, he adjusts the duffle he’s carrying on his shoulder, and pulls his small suitcase across the pavement.

At the doorway, he pauses just long enough to reach out and touch the subtle runes etched into its frame - the protective spell they’d put here together when Alluka first bought this place. He remembers her bright smile, her excitement, and his own unease at leaving her on her own. His hand drops and pulls the handle open.

A smoky, herbal smell hits him as he steps in. Almost immediately he hears Alluka call out from somewhere among the shelves -“Be with you in just a minute!” Her voice then softens, but she continues to speak. Killua can’t quite make out the words, but assumes she’s with a client.

“No rush,” Killua says, softly enough she won’t be disturbed. He can wait until she’s done. He moves to the front counter, setting his duffle down on its hardwood top and letting his suitcase stand by his legs. His hands slip into his pockets and he looks around, comforted by the soft sound of Alluka’s voice nearby.

He doesn’t notice the shadow that peeks around from behind another shelf at him, not until she’s rushing at him, humming his name loud into his mind -

‘KILLUA!’

Nanika engulfs him as a swirling mist, spiraling around him, kicking up a wind all her own as her joyful refrain repeats in his mind - ‘Killua, Killua, Killua! You’re here!’

“Na-haha- Nanika!” Killua laughs, his own arms half raising to feel her, running through his fingers and hair until she stills and becomes something semi-solid, curling against the front of him, the shadow-image of a person that somewhat resembles Alluka, wrapping her dark arms around him. Killua holds her as well as he can, his heart overflowing with affection.

‘You didn’t say you were coming! But you’re here! Killua’s here! You didn’t tell Alluka! I’d know if she knew so she doesn’t know and you’re here!’

The rush of words to his mind almost drowns out the soft call of his name from within the shelves from where he’d heard Alluka earlier - “Brother?”

He hears her excuse herself, then turns his head in time to see her come around the shelf’s end. “Brother!” She cries, and then she’s rushing at him too.

Soon his arms are full of both his sisters, and he forgets he ever felt hesitant to come inside.

“I wasn’t expecting you!” Alluka pulls back to look up at him after giving him a tight squeeze. Then, blue eyes searching his, she asks softly, “Is everything alright?”

“Everything’s fine,” Killua assures with a smile, dropping a kiss to her forehead. “I’m just here to visit my favorite little sisters, is all.”

In return, Killua gets the bright beam of Alluka’s smile and her face pressing against his chest as she squeezes him again. Then, reluctantly, she pulls back and sends him a sheepish look. “Sorry, I just-” She starts, barely tipping her head back towards the shelves.

Killua pulls an arm back to wave away her apology. “You’ve got a customer - go on, take care of them. I’ll be here.”

Alluka’s smile returns as she nods and steps back. Killua watches as Alluka instructs Nanika to fetch a charm she needs. It takes mere moments for Nanika to fly away and carry back the requested item. After depositing it in what looks to be some sort of medicine bag, Alluka disappears around the shelf to help her client.

Soon enough, Alluka emerges again, customer trailing behind. She pauses to clasp their hand and say something kind and encouraging. Finally, they turn and leave through the door.

When the customer is gone, Nanika speaks up, ‘You’re staying for a while, Killua?’

Killua turns and notes that she is hovering near his bags. Her tone is curious, hopeful. Killua smiles. “As long as that’s okay with you two.”

“That’s more than okay!” Alluka cries, throwing her arms around him. Nanika rushes in, curling around both of their shoulders affectionately.

“Oh, but the guest room is such a mess!” Alluka pulls back, her eyebrows rumpled. “I can close a little early, though, and we can go home! I’ll fix up everything and cook dinner and-”

‘Alluka,’ Nanika’s voice cuts in. ‘First, you have a prior commitment.’

Alluka seems confused for a moment, but Killua watches realization dawn on her face.

“Oh, stars! I’ve got to feed Kon!”

*

Kon, who Killua shortly learns is a cat, doesn’t live far away.

“I’ve told you before,” Alluka reminds him. “My friend Gon, he goes out of town sometimes. I watch his store and his cat while he’s away.”

Alluka leads the way, walking down the street past other various storefronts, all colorful and eye-catching. Though Killua isn’t interested in shopping, it’s hard not to glance inside the windows as they pass.

Finally, they reach a green storefront that reads ‘Kon’s Forest’ across the top in simple lettering. As Killua takes it in while Alluka pulls a key out of her pocket, he finds himself disappointed. Now that she’s said, Killua remembers that Alluka has mentioned this place before - several times, in fact. This has been her one-stop shop for herbs and flowers and any other plant-based material she needs for her casting for years now.

Killua hadn’t known what to expect, but he’d hoped for a more imaginative store front. Everyone knows that when you run a business on a street like this - where pretty much every building front around you is another store competing for attention - you have to make the outside eye-catching, have to give people a reason to want to come inside. Alluka’s storefront is glowing and inviting, painted purple with yellow stars that she’s enchanted to move and let off a soft, welcoming light. You can see enough of her wares from the front window that it makes you curious to come in.

Killua has enough experience in marketing from his time at Facets that he knows when someone has put in the effort to really draw people in. And this store? The thing that draws his attention the most is that it’s really green. The paint job is simple, no decoration aside from the occasional line of pale yellow paint along the fixtures of the door and windows to break up all the green. To be fair, the lights are off inside so it’s hard to tell what lies deeper into the store, but all Killua can see at the windows is curls of green plants sprawling over the window shelf, limbs and leaves climbing up the glass. It seems messy and poorly thought out.

He’s well aware that he has a bias to Alluka, but as he listens to her unlock the door he can’t help but think that even the name of this place seems poorly chosen. ‘Wish Upon a Star’ is creative and attention-grabbing. But ‘Kon’s Forest’? What does that even mean? Who names their store after their cat? Why should he, the hypothetical customer, care about Kon?

Besides, it seems like a recipe for confusion. Kon and Gon? Really?

Killua is snapped out of his thoughts by Alluka calling his name and hurrying him to come inside. When he steps in, Killua is met by one of the most chaotic floor plans he has ever seen. The lights come on (Alluka must have found a switch somewhere in all this mess) and there is greenery absolutely everywhere.

Potted plants sit on an arrangement of waist-high shelves while tall shelves are pushed back against the store’s walls. Every surface is covered with potted plants. At least, Killua assumes they’re all potted. The contents of many spill out and over, tangling and winding along anything that will give purchase. Some of the plants along the walls reach up high to the ceiling, and hanging plants from above reach down or grow along the tops of shelves. Killua can’t find any sense of order. Can the guy who owns this place really be that successful? Does he even know what he’s doing?

“You have to check on all of this?” Killua asks, turning with a rumpled brow towards his sister, who is already halfway across the floor. How long does this take her?

“Mmmhm,” Alluka hums, not noticing Killua’s doubtful expression. “Kon gets fed first, though, or he’ll get grumpy. Kitty, kitty, kitty~” She calls as she sets her purse and keys down on the front counter. Then, looking over her shoulder, “Brother, close the door behind you.”

Killua is starting to wonder if Alluka is getting the short end of this arrangement she has with the owner of Kon’s Forest.

It’s not long before he hears the easily identifiable sounds of a very bored, very hungry, very vocal cat approaching from somewhere in the back of the store.

“There you are~” Alluka coos as a large, long-haired brown cat toddles up to them, looking directly up at her as he lets out a loud ‘ mmMRROoow’. Alluka laughs to herself and bends over to scritch the cat behind the ears. Kon - because this must be Kon - starts purring immediately, pressing it’s head up into her hand. “Handsome boooyy, are you hungry?”

Killua can’t help but smile when the cat lets out another loud meow in affirmation, then trots off, presumably leading Alluka to where the food is. He follows Alluka back into an area that is obviously not for customers. The floor space here is smaller than up front, and is mostly hidden from view, tucked away on the other side of a short hallway and a staircase that leads up to somewhere. In this small back room there’s a mud sink, stacks of pots, gardening tools, and bags of what is either soil or fertilizer. And, of course - two little bowls clearly meant for this cat.

The cat walks right past them though and pounces up onto a low cabinet where it paces and meows impatiently. “Just a minute, Kon,” Alluka is laughing as she opens a cabinet door and pulls down a container of cat food.

At least Alluka seems to be enjoying doing this, he guesses. Maybe it’s nice for her to be able to step away from the shop now and then.

“So, is there anything I can do to help?” Killua asks, and Alluka lets out a thoughtful hum. “I guess you could take care of the stuff in the storefront while I go out back to check on the garden. Gimme a minute and I’ll show you what to do.”

Killua nods and watches Kon dance around her ankles as she moves to pour food in his bowl, only to completely ignore her in favor of his food bowl as she picks up his water bowl and dumps the old water in the mud sink.

They’re both surprised when they hear the bell above the front door chime, and the heavy footfalls of someone entering. Even Kon notices, distracted from his food enough to pick up his head and let out an almost inquisitive ‘mrrp.’

“Oh, shit,” Killua breathes, leaning to look around the corner. He can’t be a clear view to the doorway from here. “I didn’t lock the door behind me.”

Alluka sighs heavily. “Uugghh, there’s a sign on the front door - I swear people just don’t read!” Then, raising her voice so whoever has wandered in thinking the store is open can hear, “We’re clooosed!”

“Hey, lemme handle it. You finish what you need to here.” Alluka looks relieved at the offer, flipping on the faucet to fill Kon’s water bowl.

Killua walks down the little hallway - if it can even be called that - past the staircase back to the floor. The clueless would-be customer is still standing in the doorway, door wide open while he considers one of the plants nearby. The early evening sunlight from outside makes him into a silhouette, but Killua can make him out well enough. A broad-shouldered man, shorter than him, with pack on his shoulder reaches for a plant and draws a thumb across one of its leaves. His lips are moving, and Killua can hear him murmuring something but can’t quite make it out.

“Hey,” Killua calls, sharply, demanding his attention. The man looks up and has the audacity to look surprised to see Killua standing there watching him. “Look, I know the door was open but the store’s not actually open right now.”

“Uh…” The man furrows his brows, glancing around at the green, green plants around him - how had Killua not noticed how green those just by the doorway are? - and even over Killua’s shoulders. Killua feels his patience start to ebb. What’s so hard to understand about ‘the store’s not open’? When the stranger steps forward, Killua can see he looks a bit rough - like maybe he’s been sleeping in the dirt for a few nights. His clothes are dusted with earth and his spiky hair is disarrayed.

“Look, did you read the sign on the door? The owner’s out now, and we’re not open. You’ll have to go somewhere else to find-”

A loud yowl from behind him and then Killua is nearly knocked over by Kon bowling past his feet and straight at the stranger. “Wh-!”

As he regains his balance, for a moment Killua wonders if Kon intends to chase of the stranger himself. This is his home, after all, and it he’s protective of his territory he might not take kindly to strangers stepping in while his owner is away. Killua, at least, had a familiar face with him when he came in.

But then the stranger’s face brightens when he sees Kon, a wide and warm smile stretching his mouth as he steps forward and opens his arms just in time for Kon to pounce up onto his half-bent knee and spring up to his chest.

“Kon, hey buddy!” The stranger hugs Kon to his chest, one hand rubbing behind his ears while the large cat headbutts his chin. Kon’s loud, enthusiastic purring is only interrupted by him meowing needily up at the man. In turn, the man laughs and returns the nuzzle with one of his own. “Hahaha, I missed you too, Kon. Sorry I was away for so long…”

Killua stares. Just as he’s starting to be two and two together, he hears Alluka approaching behind him.

“Oh Gon! It’s you!”

Gon - the owner of the store. Not a stranger. Gon looks up from his whining cat. He turns his smile on Alluka, managing somehow to look charming even if he also looks like he could use a shower. “Oh, hey! Were you just feeding this whiney boy?” Kon meows loudly and twists in Gon’s arms as if to rub on any part of him he can reach, and Gon only laughs more as he steps back to nudge the door shut with his heel.

“Yeah, I only just got here. You didn’t send a message to say you’d be back!”

When Gon turns around, he looks sheepish. “Yeah, sorry... I think I fried my scroll.”

Alluka sighs her friend’s name in such a way that leaves Killua with the impression that this isn’t an infrequent thing. Killua glances down to catch her rolling her eyes before she looks up at him. “Brother,” she says, patting his arm then gesturing towards the shop owner. “This is Gon. Gon, my brother just got in town, so he walked with me when I came over.”

Killua pulls a hand out of his pocket and offers it to shake in an almost automatic motion. “Nice to meet you,” he says.

When Gon shifts Kon into his left arm to reach out with his right, Killua realizes for the first time that it’s no arm at all - at least, not one made from flesh and bone. Killua tries not to stare at the frankly impressive work of Gon’s prosthetic woodwork limb. It looks like something living - like the limb of a tree. He grips Killua’s hand with notable dexterity and force, and gives him a firm handshake.

“Brother?” Gon repeats, glancing towards Alluka then back up at Killua with warm, brown eyes. “You must be Killua, then.” Killua’s brows lift, but before he has a chance to ask how Gon knew, the other man just chuckles. “She talks a lot about you.”

For a moment, Killua wonders if Alluka is the only reason Gon has heard his name. It’s been years, but his stomach twists at the thought that he might have heard about him from-

Killua shoves the thought away.

His family doesn’t define him anymore.

Best foot forward, always, Killua thinks, putting on a smile and nodding his understanding. “Ah. Well, maybe don’t believe everything she says about me.”

“Hey!” Alluka interjects, offended.

Gon’s smile brightens. “Oh, she has only the best to say about you, I promise. She really admires you.”

At that, Killua feels his heart soften. He looks back at his sister and finds her cheeks flushed, so he wraps an arm around her shoulders and pulls her close into his side. “Not as much as I admire her.”

Alluka scoffs and pushes into his side while Killua enjoys a rare moment of not being the easily embarrassed one.

Gon smiles warmly. “Anyway, thanks again, Alluka, for doing this for me.” Gon reaches out to idly touch the plant nearest him, and the leaf of it seems to curl towards his finger. “I feel better leaving knowing this place is in good hands.” Kon purrs louder from the crook of Gon’s arm, as if to bring attention to himself. Killua laughs along with his sister and Gon. “And knowing my needy cat is in good hands.”

Alluka waves him off. “Oh, Gon, you know you don’t need to-”

They’re interrupted a distinct gurgling noise-- the sound of hunger. By the way Gon flushes, Killua has to guess it had come from him. “Ah, sorry,” he says, lifting his free hand to the back of his neck in a sheepish motion while Kon finally jumps down from his arms, as if reminded about the food waiting for him.

Killua doesn’t know what to say. In an attempt to save his sister’s friend some embarrassment, he glances down towards Alluka rather than staring at him. She’s narrowing her blue eyes on him - a look Killua doesn’t envy Gon being the subject of.

Gon,” she begins, her tone lightly scolding and so familiar to Killua it almost makes him laugh. “Have you eaten recently?”

“Aaahhh…” Gon, with a deer-in-the-headlights look that indicates he has faced Alluka’s particular brand of you-better-take-care-of-yourself-or-else nagging, is obviously trying to come up with an acceptable answer. “I’ve eaten… today,” he offers.

Oooh, wrong choice, Killua thinks, part of him sympathizing while the other part is suddenly wondering just how close this man is to his sister.

Alluka clicks her tongue, and with one glance at her, Killua already knows where this is going. He slides his hands in his pockets and waits.

“And you don’t have anything edible left in your kitchen, I bet.”

Gon flounders. “I mean, well, I just got home so I haven’t checked yet…”

Killua listens to them go back and forth for a moment, Alluka frustrated because she obviously cares about this man - again, Killua has to wonder about the nature of that care. Gon tells her he intends to get something quick tonight and go grocery shopping in the morning, but again he’s betrayed by the grumbling of his own stomach and he drops his head. When Alluka turns her gaze up to him, silently questioning, Killua really wants to say no. He really wants to have his sisters to himself for the evening. He’s just gotten here, and he doesn’t know this man, and he wants to catch up with his favorite people in the world.

But since when has he ever been able to deny those big blue eyes?

So he just nods, and watches as she turns back to Gon. “You’re coming over for dinner tonight. Get something to tide you over, clean up, and we’ll see you in a few hours.”

Gon looks up, his eyes wide. He’s waving his hands in front of him. “Oh, no, no, no! Alluka, your brother-” Brown eyes look towards Killua, and Killua appreciates his attempt to be polite, but if this man has known his sister for any length of time surely he knows she rarely takes no for an answer. “Didn’t you say he just got here? I don’t want to intrude.”

“Gon, you’re coming to dinner,” Alluka insists pointing her finger at him.

He seems to realize that he’s not arguing her down. Although he casts a doubtful look towards Killua, he nods. “...Okay. If you insist”

Alluka nods, satisfied with herself. “I do. See you later then, Gon.” She grabs her stuff from the front desk and pats Gon on the back as they walk past. Gon gives Killua a little wave which Killua returns with a nod, and then he and Alluka are back out on the sidewalk outside Kon’s Forest.

Killua can’t help but notice that Alluka did not give Gon directions to her apartment.

“Soo… This guy knows where you live?” Killua asks, keeping his tone casual as he can as they walk back towards Alluka’s shop.

Alluka sends him a quick sideways glance that says that reads clearly as ‘stop that’ before she answers. “Yeah.” Then, turning to Killua with a knit brow and walking backwards as they go, she apologizes. “I’m so sorry. I know this is your first night it but just-”

Killua laughs. “Oh, cut that out. I know, you’ve got a big bleeding heart and you can’t resist helping every stray you come across.”

Alluka huffs. “Hey! First, don’t call my friend a stay animal because he’s not, and second - I don’t have a bleeding heart.”

Killua levels her with a look. “You pick worms up off the sidewalk and go out of your way to find some grass to set them in.”

“They burn up on pavement if it’s hot out!” Alluka protests immediately, as if picking up those gross wiggling things is a perfectly natural thing to do. “And they can get stepped on more easily there, too!”

Killua laughs again, louder, and reaches out to pull her in against his side, making her face forward again. “I’m not criticizing. You care a lot. That’s part of what makes me love you so much, you dweeb.”

You’re a dweeb,” Alluka retorts, pouting, shoving into his side. They walk in companionable silence for a few moments before she looks up at him and smiles. “Thanks for being cool about it, though.”

Killua nods. “Just don’t make a habit of it! I know you must be super popular with all the men around these parts but I want some quality time with my baby sister!” He lifts a hand to ruffle her hair, knowing she hates that.

She’s too quick for him this time, though, ducking while lifitng her hands protectively around her head. “Hey, hey! You don’t know what you’re talking about, brother.” She spins to walk backwards again, her hands folded behind her back as she lifts her chin proudly. “I’m popular with everyone around these parts because I’m a catch~”

“Ooooh, well excuse me!” Killua chuckles, lifting his hands up in mock surrender. “It was never my intention to underestimate the thrall you hold over the locals, dearest sister.” He gives a mocking bow while Alluka plays at preening. Straightening, he figures now is as good a time as any to ask. “Speaking of how utterly enchanting everyone for miles must find you, are you uh…?”

Alluka turns eyes to him, curious, but when Killua just looks at her, then nods back over his shoulder, she shakes her head. “Am I… What?”

“You know, are you and that guy-”

What?” Alluka comes back, louder this time. “Ew! Me and Gon you mean? No way, gross!”

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” Killua replies with a grin.

Alluka crosses her arms and turns on a heel to face forward. “There is nothing going on between me and Gon.”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing.”

“Hmm… But he knows where you live.”

When Killua catches up to walk alongside her, Alluka cuts him a sideways glance. “And?”

“You didn’t give him directions, and his scroll is broken…?”

“He has a mirror at home, stupid,” Alluka as if he’s an idiot for not thinking of that. “He could get in contact if he wanted, but for your information, yes, he does know where I live. Friends sometimes do, you know.”

Killua shoots her a skeptical look. “You were doing your nagging thing, though. Does he regularly come over for dinner?”

“It’s not nagging!” Alluka throws her hands up in frustration. “And no, not really. Just sometimes when he’s stupid and forgets he needs to make sure he has something to eat when he comes home like this. He’s just...” Alluka looks over her shoulder as if she might find him there. “He’s just a big dummy who needs to be reminded to look after himself now and then.” Glancing up at him, she leans in to bump her shoulder into his. “Like someone else I know.”

“Hey!” It’s Killua’s turn to be offended. “I take care of myself just fine, thank you.”

“Sure you do,” comes Alluka’s doubtful reply.

The walk back to Wish Upon a Star takes no time at all. As they enter and excited Nanika envelopes them both again in her whirlwind of an embrace. Killua laughs, hugging them both again, glad to have been forced on vacation if only for this.

Chapter Text

He has to argue her down, but eventually Alluka allows Killua to step in and help prepare dinner. Making dinner for herself and two unexpected guests is no easy task, and Killua can’t in good conscience leave her to it even when she insists he relax on his vacation.

Rolling his sleeves up, Killua sets to whatever task Alluka will allow him - chopping vegetables, putting rolls in the oven, taste testing, stirring the pot when she needs to step away from the stove.

This feels good. The two of them moving around the kitchen in a long-out-of-practice but never forgotten synchronicity. Alluka waves her hand and Killua ducks as a nearby cabinet door opens and a line of spices marches out in mid-air to hover around Alluka’s head as she adds a bit from each to the pot. Killua lifts his arms for Alluka to duck under as he moves to deposit his freshly chopped veggies into the saucepan. They work together, and Killua finds himself feeling more at home here in his sister’s apartment than he has anywhere else in the last several months.

Maybe this vacation isn’t such a bad idea after all.

There’s a chiming sound, but Alluka is still fussing over the saucepan, bouncing on the balls of her feet impatiently. “Aaaah, that’ll be Gon,” she says, and makes a shooing motion with her hand as she stirs the pot again. “Go and let him in, tell him it’ll just be a few more minutes.”

Killua hesitates, reaching for a paper towel to wipe his hands off. “Uuuh… You sure you don’t want to let me do that while you go let him in?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Alluka answers, affording him a brief glance. “If I leave you alone with this you’ll burn it. Just - go, go. Entertain Gon for me.”

“I’m not exactly great at playing host,” Killua says, his lips tugging into a frown.

“Sure you are. Just turn that famous Killua Zoldyck charm on.”

A second chime sounds and Killua doesn’t have time to protest that his so-called ‘famous charm’ is mostly used for business purposes these days. He’s rather out of practice using it for anything like this.

Still, she’s right about the sauce. Better that he leave her to the cooking.

Killua makes his way to the front door, waving a hand over the mirror near the entrance hallway to make sure that it is indeed Gon. His own reflection ripples in the mirror’s surface, and then it’s Gon standing there, as expected.

Only - damn. He cleans up well.

He’s not dressed up, but he’s clearly showered and changed into a fresh set of clothes. His green shirt fits him well and shows his shape much better than the looser, travel clothes he’d been wearing earlier. His hair stills stands spiked up but is arranged into a much better shape.

Killua looks a moment longer than he needs to, but is quick enough to wave a hand over the mirror again to return it to its natural state before he turns to pull the door open. “Hey,” he greets.

Gon looks up, seeming a little surprised that Killua’s opening the door, but he offers an easy smile. “Oh, hey.” He offers his hand again in greeting - the prosthetic.

Must be his dominant side, Killua thinks to himself, reaching to shake his hand politely. Killua returns his smile, then gestures him inside. “Alluka shouldn’t be much longer. She’s just finishing up.”

“Oh.” Gon looks almost puppyish as he turns big, brown, concerned eyes on Killua. “I hope I’m not too early?”

Killua shakes his head. “Nah, don’t worry about it. Really, food’s almost done.” A beat after, he’s not sure what to do. They haven’t set the table yet, so… “Uuuh, living room?” he suggests, feeling awkward, but Gon just smiles and nods, turning to lead the way.

Again Killua finds himself wondering at the level of familiarity this man has with his sister.

Gon takes a seat at one end of the couch so Killua opts for the armchair, leaning back and propping one ankle up on his knee. “So…” Killua begins. “You look refreshed.”

Gon chuckles and rubs the back of his head in a motion that Killua is beginning to recognize as a nervous tick. “Ah, yeah. Sorry you had to see me like that. The plumbing was all sorts of messed up in the hotel I stayed at last before heading back here. Something about some local kids pissing off a water spirit in the area?”

Killua smiles. “Ah. Yeah, that’d do it. Alluka’s mentioned you travel a lot?”

Gon nods. “Yeah. S’good for business if I can find something more exotic for the shop every now and then.”

Killua tips his head. “Wouldn’t it be easier to order in more exotic pieces?”

“Maybe.” Gon rolls his shoulders. “I trust my own senses better than the word of someone trying to make a sale, though. I can find a wider variety and better quality flora if I go looking on my own.”

It’s not long after that Alluka calls them into the dining room, places already set and food served.

“Oh, it smells delicious,” Gon breathes as he steps in. Nanika floats out of the kitchen and pauses to curl affectionately around Gon’s shoulders. “Hey, Nanika,” Gon greets, reaching a hand up to touch her misty form. “I missed you when I came in.”

Killua watches them. Sometimes, it’s still odd to see Nanika interact so freely with others. It doesn’t seem that long ago that she didn’t have that sort of freedom.

‘Was helping Alluka set the table,’ Nanika answers, moving to curl about Killua’s shoulders briefly before she backs off to hover nearby.

Alluka sits at one end of the table and Gon and Killua sit on either side of her. Nanika spirals around the empty chair and settles there for the moment. She doesn’t need to eat in the way they do, but she’s always liked staying close to Killua and Alluka while they share a meal.

Once they’re all comfortable, Gon turns his grin towards Alluka. “This looks great. Thanks so much for inviting me.” Then, to Killua, “And I’m so sorry for intruding on your family time.”

Less because he feels it and more for his sister’s sake, Killua shakes his head. “It’s alright. I have a whole two weeks to spend with them.” Alluka reaches out to squeeze his hand briefly, and a dark tendril extends from Nanika to curl up his arm.

As they eat, Killua is surprised to find conversation flows easily enough. He’d thought it would be more awkward with Gon here, but the man has a certain amount of charm. He’s all warm smiles and politeness, eager to converse when invited but not chatty in a way that’s annoying. The work he does is more interesting than Killua would have guessed.

“Yeah, I was just in Aizan for my latest trip,” Gon tells them when prompted.

“Aizan?” Killua echos. “Do most people in your line of business travel so far for their stock?

Gon laughs good naturedly. “I suspect not. I have trouble sitting still, though. It’s nice to get away sometimes.”

“Gon has some serious wanderlust,” Alluka comments, smiling at him.

“Guilty,” Gon admits.

“So, were you in Kakin then?” Killua asks.

“No, no. Just south of their border. There are some beautiful rainforests there,” Gon tells him, eyes sparkling.

“I’ve seen that forest, but only briefly,” Killua says, laying his fork down. “I was in Kakin for business and on the way out we detoured briefly to see it. It was beautiful, even just looking at it from afar.”

“You should go back - see it proper sometime. If you thought it was beautiful from outside-” Gon’s face glows as he describes his time there. The greenery, the way the light shone down from the canopies, the wild and interesting flora and fauna. Gon talks of waterfalls and sweet-smelling curtains of flowers hanging from above, of beasts both natural and magical. He tells them of the six-armed spider monkeys he watched for a day from a respectful distance, of the larger-than life fire lizard that slinked below him as he set up camp in a tree, and of the nest of lizard-like fairies that he accidentally disturbed one morning. “I couldn’t speak their language, so I offered all the nuts and berries I had on me to appease them, and that seemed to do the trick.”

Killua finds himself leaning forward with both elbows on the table, absolutely fascinated by the tales Gon weaves. “Incredible.”

Gon nods. “It was.” Then, sighing, “I’m just sorry there wasn’t much there I could take back with me. Wrong climate here to maintain most of what is native to those parts.”

Killua nods his understanding. “Shame. But, hey - sounds like an amazing experience. Maybe if I do go back, I’ll take you as my guide.”

Gon seems to become shy all of the sudden - quite the change from his animated demeanor as he told them about his time in the rainforest. His eyes drop, and he’s picking up his fork to push about the food on his plate. “Ha.. .Maybe,” he says.

Killua wonders if he’s said something wrong. Probably best not to push.

Alluka apparently thinks otherwise. “Oh, Gon, having a traveling companion might be fun for you though. And my brother could use a reason to get out more often.”

Gon’s shoulders tense and he doesn't quite look up. “Mmm. Maybe. A trip to Aizan’s rainforests isn’t really a casual outing, though.”

Alluka eases off a little after that, saying it’s something that he should give some thought.

When dinner wraps up, Killua insists on handling the dishes. As he’s finished cleaning them, he begins to exit the kitchen, but he hears soft voices - a conversation he’s not meant to overhear. Killua almost pulls away, but he catches their reflection in a small mirror on the wall. Alluka stands close to Gon, clasping both his hands in hers.

“Are you sure you don’t need me to-?”

Gon shakes his head. “No, I’m fine.”

A pause, and Alluka’s voice is doubtful when it starts again. “...How have you been sleeping?”

“Really, Alluka, I’m fine.”

Alluka nods, then wraps her arms around Gon’s neck, who returns her embrace.

“Thank you, though,” he says, chin propped on her shoulder.

“Just let me know if you need anything, okay?”

They separate, and Killua waits a beat, then two, before emerging.

Gon looks up at Killua and offers a smile. “It’s been good to finally meet you,” he says.

Killua nods in acknowledgement. “Nice getting to know you, too.”

Soon after, Gon is excusing himself for the evening. He says goodbye to each of them, and then Nanika accompanies him to the front door.

When the door clicks shut behind him, Killua speaks up. “So you’re… sure you’re not dating him?”

Alluka swings to face him quickly, arms crossed. “I knew you were watching. Eavesdropping is unbecoming of you, brother.”

Killua lifts his hands in a placating motion. “Listen, can you blame a guy for being suspicious when he sees some handsome man getting handsy with his little sis? I think as your big brother I have a right to know if you’re getting involved with someone.”

Alluka rolls her eyes. “He wasn’t getting handsy. And no, in fact, you don’t.” Hands on her hips, she sticks out her tongue.

“Look, look -” Killua begins, smiling, but putting aside his previously playful tone to talk seriously to her. “All I’m saying is I wouldn’t blame you. He’s pretty cute, he’s more interesting than I thought, and even Nanika seems to like him.” He walks over, putting both hands on her shoulders and looking her in the eye. “I just want you to be happy.”

That earns a soft smile. “I am happy,” she says, reaching out to mock punch him in his stomach. “Just not- not happy because Gon and I are secretly dating. I’m good, I swear.”

Killua nods. That’s good to hear.

He doesn’t like the way Alluka’s smile turns a little wicked as she looks up at him with glimmering eyes, though.

“But… you know that’s the second time you said Gon was attractive in the span of just a few minutes.” Her eyebrows lift. “Are you sure you don’t… have an ulterior motive in asking me about the nature of my relationship with him?” Her tone is mocking, almost mimicking his form his earlier question.

Killua’s cheeks flush instantly and his hands drop from her shoulders. “Don’t be stupid.”

“I’m not the one who’s stupid, stupid,” Alluka counters, jabbing him in the chest. Then, grinning wide - nearly manic, “You like him! You think he’s cute!” She leans in to elbow his side and continues in sing-song, “I could set yooou uuuuup~”

Killua shoves her arm away, hating the way his face overheats so easily. “No- No! I don’t need you to set me up.”

Alluka pouts playfully at him. “What, you don’t need a wing woman? Oooo, do you have a plan already on how to approach him?”

“We- he- No! No, I don’t plan to- to approach him, whatever that means. Alluka, I just met him.”

She considers him for a moment, then nods slowly. “Right… Right. Better play it cool at first. You don’t wanna run him off.”

“ALLUKA!”

She bursts into laughter, bent double and slapping her knee - which Killua can’t help but think is a little overkill. “Okay, okay! I’ll stop teasing. Sorry, you’re just so fun to pick on!”

While she’s distracted, Killua takes the opportunity to snatch her up in a headlock, and by the time she knows what’s coming it’s too late. Killua viciously digs his knuckles into the top of her scalp while she hollers and struggles. “How’d I wind up with such a brat for a little sister, huh?”

“Killuaaa!” Alluka’s hands scramble at the arm holding around her neck, trying to free herself. “You’re the brat! Nanika, get him!”

Before Killua can pull away, a black semi-solid shape bowls into him with enough force to knock him over. Only, he still has his grip on Alluka.

Alluka shrieks as they both topple to the floor, Nanika atop them, swirling rapidly as though to make sure they’re okay.

“Naniiikaaa,” Killua groans, extracting his tangled limbs from Alluka, who is cradling her abused head.

“Nanika! You were supposed to get him not me! What gives?”

Nanika hovers silent for a moment, as if considering her answer. She shapes herself into her human image, resting her chin on the backs of her hands, fingers laced together, while she looks down on the two of them. ‘You two started it, I ended it. You’re both brats.’

She’s met with indignation in equal parts from both Alluka and Killua, and then they look towards each other and reach up. Nanika allows herself to be pulled in and tussles with them for a moment until they’re all lying on the floor and laughing at themselves.

Chapter Text

He doesn’t always wake with a start.

It’s been eleven years, but the nightmares still plague him. They’ve never gone away, really - at least not for any significant length of time. More nights than not, when Gon closes his eyes, he sees the golden glowing ones of that creature. Hears Kite screaming at him. Then a blur, then blood. He’s thrown back and Kite is gone.

It goes like it always goes. Hunting. A body, no longer Kite. The creature. Blood on his hands. Rage- sorrow- pain- despair- vengeance- surrender- blackout.

He opens his eyes.

Back then, he’d opened them to the bright, confusing white of a hospital room. Kite, miraculously reborn, had dragged him there. Now, it’s just the ceiling of his bedroom above him, and a familiar weight on his chest.

Kon’s paws knead a soothing pattern into his chest, reminding Gon to breathe, to center himself here, now. Gon lifts his hand to stroke along Kon’s head and down his back. “Hey, buddy,” he greets, groggily. “Thanks,” he breathes.

Kon purrs and leans into Gon’s touch, then looks down at him and gives a pointed and loud ‘mrrRROWww’ which Gon knows means ‘feed me NOW.’ Then, without further warning, he launches off Gon’s chest and onto the floor. Gon lets out an ‘oof’ and lays a his hand over the place where he’s just been used as a springboard, rubbing. “A little more warning next time?” he calls, but receives no answer.

The ache in his chest, though, isn’t as bad as the ache that starts in his arm shortly after. Or - where his arm used to be, anyway. Gon sighs and lays his hand on his stump - thumb sliding over the unevenness of the scars there. He closes his eyes, imagines that he’s curling the fist he doesn’t have tight as he can, then lets it go. He repeats this a few more times, and the pain begins to subside.

Then he’s ready to get up for the day. He can brush his teeth and feed Kon easily enough one-handed, but by the time he’s ready to make himself breakfast Gon trots back to the bedroom for his other arm. He hoists it up from its usual resting place atop his dresser and fits his stump into the divet. That’s pretty much all it takes for the woodwork limb to respond. His magic bleeds into the magic of the limb, winding together to act as one. Gon feels it wrapping around him - thin limbs growing and gripping his stump like a system of roots. Magic helps to seal it to him more tightly. With the prosthetic properly attached, Gon flexes its fingers a few times as he mentally goes over today’s to-do list.

Yesterday, he’d stocked up on food like he promised Alluka he would. The first day back at the shop was always slow, so he closed early and went for a grocery run in time to have something to fix for dinner. Today he wants to unpack some of the specimens he’s managed to bring home with them, clear off some shelves in the mudroom, and set up the necessary heating elements for them to thrive.

As he cracks an egg into the frying pan, Gon thinks back to the dinner he’d intruded on the night before last - a kindness Alluka didn’t have to offer, and her brother didn’t have to agree to. Truth is, part of him had been glad for the company. The first night back after a long trip away could be rough at times. Still, he’d been worried the whole time that Killua had been hiding how upset he was to have to deal with a stranger intruding on his first night in town. He seemed so well put together, and his face was often hard to read. Even when he smiled - at first it had seemed like a polite gesture. It didn’t really reach his eyes.

So it was a relief when, over dinner, Killua had responded so well to Gon’s stories. His sharp blue eyes lit with interest and he’d leaned forward in a way that made Gon all the more eager to tell him about all he’d seen.

I should return the favor… Gon muses, moving his over-medium fried eggs to the plate he has waiting. I could bring lunch over for them on my break.

Today is almost as slow as yesterday was. Gon’s own fault for keeping such erratic business hours, but it’s nice to ease himself back into it sometimes.

Other times, he finds he’s eager for the store to feel less empty. Either way, business will pick up - it always does.

This gives him time to wander through the floor, reaching out and touching leaves, vines, branches, blooms. Sometimes they shift, reaching back for him, curling appendages around his fingers. The plants are always happy when he comes back. It makes Gon smile, eases the buried ache in his chest.

“What do you need, friend?” he asks as he goes, and listens. Each tells him exactly what they need.

‘Turn me, please. I need more sun on this side.’

‘I’m thirsty!’

‘Lift me higher! Kon’s been chewing on my leaves…’

“Kon!” Gon immediately calls out, turning to find his cat stretched out in a sunny patch on the floor. “You know better than that!”

Kon cracks one eye open to regard Gon, clearly unimpressed with his scolding, then stretches where he lays and rolls so his back is to Gon. Gon clicks his tongue and shifts the plant to a higher vantage, apologizing on Kon’s behalf.

He gives a little water here, shifts a couple of plants there, and where needed he presses the tips of his fingers - flesh and wood - into soil, and pours a little of his energy into it. He smiles to see each plant perk and gain more color for each little task he does for them.

By the time lunch rolls around, Gon’s managed to check on everything in the fenced-in back end of his property and clean off the shelves in the mudroom (although he needs to find a new place for everything that had previously been on those shelves). He checks the time and locks the front door a little early, hanging up his ‘out on break’ sign before heading back upstairs.

The kitchenette in the apartment above his store is small, but there’s enough room for Gon to move about, and that’s all he needs. If he’d thought of this sooner, he could have done some prep to make them a warm meal, but he has what he needs to make a satisfying lunch for three regardless.

He quickly puts together some spiral sandwiches - some ham, some turkey, hoping Killua will like at least one of those since he has no idea about his eating preferences. He pulls down some tupperware containers and neatly packs in grapes, baby carrots, and cucumber slices with the sandwiches. He pulls a tote out of the thin pantry that he usually uses for grocery shopping, and packs them all in.

“I’ll be back later,” he tells Kon as he passes the front desk, where Kon has relocated. He gives him a pat then points a finger meaningfully at him. “No chewing on plants while I’m gone, alright?”

It only occurs to Gon on the way over that he has no reason to assume Killua would be with Alluka at work. He’s supposed to be on vacation, after all. For that matter, what if Alluka’s closed shop for the day? It would make sense that she might take a couple of days off to spend time with her brother. What if he gets to Wish Upon a Star and neither of them are there?

Damn, I really gotta replace my scroll

When he finally reaches Wish Upon a Star, Gon finds he was half-right in his worry that neither of them would be there. Only, to his surprise, it’s not Alluka’s smiling face he finds waiting for him inside. Rather, Killua’s there - chin in hand and elbow propped up on the counter he sits behind, looking rather bored. He looks up quickly enough when the bell over the front door chimes, opening his mouth to speak only to halt when he sees Gon there.

“Oh.” He blinks. “It’s you.”

Gon blinks, then shuffles on his feet. “Uhhh… sorry to disappoint?”

Killua winces. “Ah, no, sorry. I was just expecting-”

“A customer?” Gon fills in, and when Killua nods, he laughs softly. “Slow day here too?”

Killua’s arms flop a little dramatically over the counter top. “Stars, yes! Alluka left me to hold down the fort while she and Nanika went to run errands.”

Gon glances around. “Oh, so she’s not here then?”

Killua sighs and shakes his head. “No, and I’m not sure when she’ll be back. A couple of people came in looking to commission her for spellwork so I just had to take down their information for her. If you need something from her, I can take a message.”

“Ah, well, actually…” Gon lifts the bag he’s carrying. “I was hoping to catch you two before you had anything for lunch. I brought food with me.”

Killua perks at the mention of that. “Food?”

Gon grins and nods, crossing the floor. He sets his tote bag down on the countertop, and Killua is trying to peer in over the top of it even as Gon reaches in to pull out the three stacked tupperwares. He offers the one on top to Killua. “It’s nothing compared to the amazing dinner y’all made the other night, but…”

“Oh, no, this looks great,” Killua says as he peels off the lid. “Yum.” Blue eyes dart over to the other two dishes, then to his own, before slowly lifting to regard Gon. “”There’s… three?”

Gon looks down at the dishes, confused by the question. But then his cheeks warm. “Oh… Oh, yeah. Alluka and I sometimes have lunch together, and I…” He hadn’t been planning on finding Killua alone. “Since she’s not… Um, I can just leave hers here for when she gets back.” Gon reaches to take one of the meals back for himself, ready to put it back in his bag when Killua speaks up.

“You haven’t eaten yet?” he asks, blue eyes peering up at Gon.

“Umm.. No, not yet.”

“You should stay, then,” Killua offers.

Gon allows a hesitant smile to curl his lips. “You’re sure?” He’s not particularly eager to go back to his store on such a slow day, and if Killua really doesn’t mind...

“Yeah. You came all this way. Besides,” Killua offers a little smile of his own. “I’m kinda dying for some company.”

Gon laughs. “Yeah, okay. Um, you wanna…”

Killua looks down, as if uncertain about whether or not he should be eating at the front counter.. “Oh… Does she usually eat here?”

“Sometimes. It should be fine.” Instead of putting his meal back in the bag, Gon sets in on the counter, closer to Killua’s side. “Let me just…” There’s an extra fold-up stool just around the corner, so he goes to grab it. He sets it up on Killua’s side of the counter, who scoots his own chair over to make room. “So, I guess you’ve been pretty bored, huh?”

Killua groans, reaching in to pull out a baby carrot. “So bored. This is torture.”

Gon laughs. “Well, it’s not slow all the time, you know.”

Killua crunches into his carrot. “You said it was slow over at your place too?”

Gon hums and nods.

“Stars, how do you do it? Just sitting here all day is- is-”

“Well, it’s usually not just sitting there all day, for one,” he offers, amused. “Even when it’s slow, there’s things to do. I don’t know what Alluka does to fill the day, but I have to check on my stock, keep Kon from using the plants as his chew toy, work in the garden.” Gon rolls his shoulders, picking up one of the spiral sandwiches and putting it in his mouth. After swallowing, he continues. “I’m sure Alluka has similar things she does when she gets a spare moment from customers.”

Killua scoffs lightly. “No offense, but that all still sounds pretty boring.”

Gon laughs. “None taken.” Then, after popping a grape in his mouth. “Not many slow days at your job, I take it.”

“No, not really,” Killua says.

“Alluka says you work for like… some big business?”

Killua turns to him, and gives him an odd look that he can’t quite read. “‘Some big business’?” he echos, picking up a grape and eating it. “Is that how Alluka put it?”

“Ah, no,” Gon admits, giving a smile that’s more of a wince. “Sorry, I forgot the name. It’s uhh…” Gon knows he should remember. He’s heard Alluka say it dozens of times, he’s sure. It’s something short, he thinks. Something that sounds like sense? He can almost ear Alluka saying something with an ‘s’ sound. Or a ‘t’ sound?

Killua keeps looking at him expectantly, and just when Gon thinks the silence couldn’t get anymore award Killua takes pity on him. “Facets,” he says. “I work at Facets.”

“Facets,” Gon echoes, testing the word in his mouth. Yeah, he can definitely remember Alluka saying that now.

Killua’s still looking at him like he’s waiting for something, though. When Gon doesn’t say anything else, Killua’s eyes narrow almost imperceptibly and his chin tips a certain way. Gon can tell he’s supposed to be reacting to that name, so he racks his brain, trying to remember where else he might have seen-

“Oh!” Gon perks up. “Facets! Like the company that makes those living storybooks?” He remembers books like that from his own childhood.

Killua’s brows pinch together, and he actually laughs at Gon, “What? No. That’s Fables.”

“Oh…” Gon’s shoulders drop, and his cheeks warm a little. Killua chuckles to himself, apparently amused by Gon’s mistake. His mouth falls into a frown, and he can’t help but think it rather rude of Killua to make fun of him for not knowing anything about his work. Killua probably doesn’t know much about his work either!

Killua picks his head up, still smiling, his eyes - a really pretty color blue, much like Alluka’s - glimmering with mirth. “You really haven’t heard of it? Facets?” He repeats again, as if that alone will imbue Gon with the knowledge he expects him to have.

Gon rolls his shoulders. “I don’t know.” He frowns down at his lunch, suddenly wondering if sharing a meal without Alluka around was a good idea after all. “Maybe I have, just nothing comes to mind right now.” Gon picks up a cucumber slice and bites into is slowly, enjoying the texture and rush of moisture, trying to ignore the feeling he’s being made into an idiot.

Killua must realize how he’s coming across, because the next words out of his mouth are, “I’m sorry.”

Gon looks up, and Killua’s expression has dropped into something more sincere, more apologetic. The tight feeling in Gon’s chest dissipates a bit. Killua goes on.

“It’s just, I’m not used to being around people who don’t know.”

“I can tell,” Gon delivers, a little dryly.

Killua laughs softly. “Okay, fair. It’s just, when I meet most people, they already know…” Killua’s eyes drop for a moment, and he reaches towards his lunch, only to push around some of his carrots. “I mean, they know who I am, where I work, my…” Killua shakes his head, looking up at Gon. “All that stuff, really.” Leaning his chin in his hand, Killua looks at Gon again, considering him.

Gon considers Killua too, the wheels in his head turning. For a moment there, when Killua had looked down… Gon can’t quite place the emotion he’d seen there, but for a moment Killua seemed far away. Curiosity tugs at his mind. “Mmm… And you like that?” Gon asks, trying to gauge how Killua feels at not being recognized. “Because it sounds kind of bothersome if you ask me.”

“Ha!” Killua bows his head. “No, you’re right… It’s. It’s not always great, but,” Killua shrugs. “It’s just the way it is.” He rubs a hand along the side of his neck. “It’s actually sorta… refreshing, I guess. Not to be known.”

When Killua looks at him again Gon smiles. He leans his elbows on the desk. “So… Since I don’t know, why don’t you tell me about what you do?”

Killua tips his head. “Uh… You sure you wanna hear?” He asks, as if doubtful of Gon’s interest.

Gon nods, smiling still. “Yeah, sure. Go on, tell me about Facets. What does it… What does Facets do?”

“Well, uh…” Killua hesitates for a moment, as if thinking, then leans forward with both elbows on the table, fingers steepled together. “Facets is,” he begins, a noticeable shift in his demeanor, “a multi-faceted organization looking to improve the lives of casters of all types by researching, developing, and manifesting various tools, products, and services. It is our hope to make various -magies, -mancies, and other forms of the craft more easily accessible to the public at large.”

Gon blinks, feeling as though he has unwillingly stepped into a very important business meeting. “You know, for someone who expects people to already know what Facets is, you sure sound like you give that pitch a lot.”

It’s Killua’s turn to blink, and then his shoulders drop and the corners of his mouth turn up. Just like that, his business persona is fading away. He laughs at himself. “Ah, you could say that… Sorry, I didn’t mean to do my work-voice at you. Just a habit. … It’s uh. It’s been a while since I took a break.”

Gon shakes his head, smiling. “It’s alright, I get it. … I’m still not sure I know what it is you actually do, though.”

Killua furrows his brows for a moment. “Well, I’m Facets’ Chief Operating Officer.”

Those words don’t mean a lot to Gon, but they leave him feeling as though he should be impressed. “That sounds really important. Chief-something - isn’t that always reserved for, like, the bigwigs?”

That makes Killua laugh too. “Something like that.” He has pity on Gon, though, as he elaborates. “As the Chief Operating Officer, I work directly under Facet’s CEO and founder, Bis-” a near imperceptible pause, and then Killua continues, “cuit Krueger.”

Gon’s eyes widen as just how important Killua’s job must be becomes clearer in his mind. “Oh … wow! So you just help run the whole thing?”

Something about the way Killua’s eyes sharpen as he smiles makes Gon think he’s satisfied with Gon’s response. “Basically, I go where I’m needed. I’ve helped with research and development, marketing and sales, production.” Killua waves his hand in a small circular motion to indicate to Gon there’s more than what he’s saying. “I help make sure everything’s running smoothly, that everything is in place, and everyone has what they need to do their jobs.”

“Wow,” Gon breathes again. “You work with every department in your-”

“Facet,” Killua interrupts.

“No, I get it, Facets is the name of the company but I was asking if you work with every department-”

“No, ah,” Killua says, passing a hand over his eyes and pushing it back into his hair. His expression looks almost pained, his brows knit and his cheeks colored “I mean, yes, I do work with them all, and- sorry, I interrupted, it’s a habit to correct, uh…” He closes his eyes briefly, then cracks one open to look at Gon. “We call them facets. Uh… We don’t have ‘departments,’ we have ‘facets.’”

“...Really?”

Killua winces again. “Yeah, cheesy, I know. But Bisky- I mean, Ms. Krueger has this thing with gemstones and…” Killua trails off, punctuating the end of his sentence with a shrug.

Gon snorts. “No offense, but that sounds kinda dumb.”

Killua rolls his shoulders, but he’s smiling, so probably not offended. “You get used to it. Seems normal when you’re there.” Killua’s eyes narrow. “I don’t know if you have room to criticize, though.”

Gon looks up from his lunch. “Huh? What makes you say that?”

“You named your store after your cat.”

Gon frowns. “Yeah, so?”

Killua tips his head to look at Gon from under his eyebrows. “Kon’s Forest? Really? I mean, it’s not the most creative name.”

Gon crosses his arms against himself, his frown deepening. “Well, I like it fine. And none of my customers have never complained.”

Killua looks like he might press on for a moment, but then backs off. “Hey, look, sorry. I don’t mean to keep sounding like such an asshole. ...I think I may have mentioned it’s been a while since I did the whole… trying to be a person outside of a work environment thing?”

Killua looks genuinely abashed, so Gon can’t really stay angry. Besides, Killua is proving to be fun to talk to - and his job seems is genuinely interesting.

“Technically,” Gon begins, feigning a very serious tone. “You are still in a work environment. And if you don’t play nice I’m tellin’ the boss-lady.”

Killua’s eyebrows lift high. “Oh? Well, I’ll have you know that the boss-lady and I are thick as thieves, and when it comes down to your word against mine I don’t think she’ll be letting me go.”

Gon heaves a heavy sigh and shakes his head. “I guess I can’t fight against nepotism.”

Killua laughs. “Right. Sorry - that’s just the way of the world.”

Gon laughs in turn. The conversation turns elsewhere. When Killua compliments the small lunch he’s put together, Gon waves it off but that leads the conversation to when he’d grown some of his own vegetables. It’s not something he’d been able to keep up with, but he’d enjoyed it while he did. Killua asks about what he grew, but wrinkles his nose when Gon mentions red peppers. Gon probes and finds out that Killua is somewhat of a picky eater. He lets Gon tease him about it but maintains his stance that certain foods just aren’t for him.

Time gets away from Gon as they talk. He doesn’t even realize they’re sitting there with both of their tupperware dishes empty but still talking until he hears the dinging of the bell above the front door. They both turn to look, expecting a customer - but it’s Alluka who comes in, followed shortly by Nanika floating above her head.

She looks up, arms full of paper bags, and seems to be surprised by what she finds. “Oh. Gon, hey.” When both Killua and Gon start to rise to their feet to help Alluka and Nanika with their load, Alluka shakes her head. “Oh, sit down I’ve got it.” She crosses the floor and sets down what she’s carrying on the counter while Nanika takes her bags somewhere further back into the store. “Gon, do you need something? Sorry if I kept you waiting.”

Gon shakes his head. “Ah, no, I don’t- I just brought some lunch over for you two.” Gon taps the lid of the unopened container. The food inside is still fresh, as it will continue to be unless the lid is opened, breaking the magicked seal that keeps it cool and fresh. “Killua invited me to stay and eat with him”

Alluka turns to look at her brother, her lips quirking up in a slow smile. “Did he?”

Killua lifts his chin as he replies. “You left me deserted and alone. I had to fend in the wild for myself, and Gon was kind enough to bring me much needed sustenance and keep me from going mad in my solitude.”

Alluka rolls her eyes at her brother’s dramatics. “Haha,” she intones, humorlessly. “Thank you, Gon,” she says, turning a softer smile on him. “Late lunch, though. Has the store been busy?”

Gon’s brow rumples. Late lunch? “Um, no… I started lunch when I usually do. Uh, a little earlier, even… What time is it?”

Alluka sets her scroll on the counter, drawing a symbol against the clear glass before it glows and reveals the image of a clock. “Uh… A little after three?”

Gon’s eyes go wide and he stands so quick he almost knocks his chair over. It’s only Killua’s quick reflexes that save the chair from clattering to the floor as he reaches behind Gon and catches it. “Oh… Oh, damn… I’ve gotta go!”

Killua is leaning over the desk now, peering at the time on Alluka’s scroll, then pulling out his own to double check. “Oh, shit. Wow, we’ve been talking a long time.”

He’s been here with Killua for just shy of three hours which means he’s been away from the shop even longer and - How had time passed so quickly?

Killua looks up, grimacing and looking apologetic. “Shit, Gon, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to keep you so long.”

Gon shakes his head. “No, it’s fine. It was nice,” he says. Then, glancing to Alluka then back to Killua, “Getting to know you, I mean.”

Killua blinks, then offers him a smile. “Yeah. You too.”

Gon can’t stop his own smile from widening a little, but then Killua is handing him back his empty container, and Gon puts it along with his own back into the bag. To Alluka, he says, “I’ll get yours back later. I hope you like it.”

“I’m sure I will. You’re the best, Gon.”

“Yeah, Gon,” Killua agrees, drawing Gon’s attention back. “I appreciate it. It was great.”

Gon takes satisfaction in knowing his meal, however simple, was liked. Before he knows it, he’s saying, “Yeah. Maybe I’ll bring lunch by again before you leave.” It’s only after the words have left his mouth that he realizes that might not be welcome. Killua had happened to be alone today, and he probably doesn’t want Gon to interfere with his time with Alluka, so-

But Killua smiles at him, nodding. “Yeah, that’d be… that’d be nice. I’d like that.” Then, looking up at Alluka, he quickly adds on, “We’d- We’d like that. Right, Alluka?”

Alluka’s smiling, and for a moment she just looks at Killua. Long enough for Gon to worry that she’s hesitant to take him up on the offer because she wants more time with just her brother. Soon, though, she’s agreeing. “Yeah, Gon, we’d really like that,” she tells him.

Gon feels a cool relief at her reassurance. While he doesn’t know Killua well enough to know if he’d agree to something for the sake of politeness, he knows Alluka well enough to trust that if he were really getting on her nerves she’d let him know. Hopefully, at least.

So Gon nods and smiles and promises to make them lunch another time, and soon he’s heading towards the door. The bell chimes again as he opens it, and Gon gives on last look over her shoulder, waving back and both of them.

They wave back.

The last thing Gon sees before the door closes behind him is Killua smiling at him.

Chapter Text

The two weeks Killua is here to visit pass quickly.

Gon doesn’t see either of the Zoldyck siblings every day that week, but he sees them enough. Business picks back up for him, but he keeps his promise and brings them lunch one day - something more prepared and warm and, Gon is happy to find, that they both find delicious.

Alluka is there too when Gon brings lunch the second time. They all sit together and enjoy the meal, and though the conversation - even the bits where Alluka and Killua are just sniping back and forth in that affectionate way siblings bicker - is really engaging, Gon keeps better track of the time and leaves at a more reasonable hour to go back to his shop.

A couple of times, Alluka needs something from Gon midday and she walks over with Killua in tow, and it’s nice to stop and chat with them as a break from work. He has a chance to show Killua a little of what he does when he and Alluka walk in and Gon’s got both his hands sunk deep into one of the larger pots he has on the floor.

“Hey!” Gon greets them brightly. “Be with you in a minute, Alluka.”

Alluka chirps an acknowledgement and goes over the counter where she picks up a pen and starts waving it at Kon to get his attention.

Killua doesn’t follow her, though. Instead, he comes over to Gon. Gon feels him approach and looks up, finding blue eyes peering down at him.

Killua blinks. “Am I bothering you?” he asks, considerate.

“Uh… No,” Gon answers. He’s had customers hover over him while he works before, so it’s nothing new. “What’s up?”

Killua’s eyes dart back from Gon’s hands to meet his gaze. He blinks, shakes his head, then lowers himself into a crouch next to Gon. “Oh, no, nothing, just… Are you… You’re pouring your energy directly into this thing, aren’t you?”

“It’s not a thing,” Gon corrects, unable to keep his tone from becoming a little snappy. It’s just - his attention is divided and he always gets tired of people referring to plants as things. “It’s a Glowthorn Tree. And yeah, I am.”

“Are you like… helping the… the Glowthorn Tree to grow?”

Gon nods, glancing sideways at Killua. “It’s a customer’s. They let it get in bad health and I’m enhancing the healing process as much as I can.”

Killua’s blue eyes skim up the tree, observing it. “It looks pretty healthy to me.”

“I’ve been working with it for two days,” Gon admits.

“Hmm... “ Killua looks pensive, his eyes shifting over to Gon’s briefly. “I’ll leave you to it, then,” he says, and Gon is grateful for the chance to focus properly for a few more moments before he gets up to see what Alluka needs.

He wipes both hands off on his pants legs moves to the front counter to rummage through his dried herbs to find the ingredients Alluka has listed.

He feels eyes on him and looks up to find Killua’s gaze glued to his arm.

That arm.

Gon feels his stomach twist a little. He’d noticed Killua looking when they first met, but he hasn’t asked Gon about it. Does he mean to? Does he want to know how Gon lost his arm? Is he going to-

Killua’s eyes flicker to his, and he flushes when he realizes he’s been caught staring. “Uh, sorry. It’s just, you…” Killua motions with his hand. “You grew some…”

Gon looks down at his arm, and is relieved to find the reason Killua was staring is the new twig-like sprouts that have branched off his arm, a few of them sporting bright green leaves. “Oh.” With a moment’s concentration, Gon has those twigs fold back against his prosthetic so it retains its armlike shape, if now sporting a little foliage. “That happens sometimes when I’m magicking a plant like that,” he explains, smiling and hoping that eases Killua’s embarrassment. He’s just glad that’s all Killua was curious about.

“Oh.” Killua watches Gon sort various dried herbs onto sheets of thin plastic, which he folds and runs a finger over to seal tight. “Some of your energy gets diverted into the structure of your arm?”

Gon looks up. “Right.” It’s only natural, given that he’s already diverting magic into the arm to operate it. “Not much, though.”

Killua tips his head, looking at Gon’s prosthetic and then back up at him. “That bleedover must make the spellwork hard,” he comments. “How do you prevent too much of it diverting? Pouring your energy directly into the soil like that - is it really cost efficient? Wouldn’t too much of your magic bleed out to where it’s not needed, like into your arm?”

Gon shakes his head. “No if you direct it right.”

“But…” Killua’s brows pinch together. “That level of precision would take…”

“A lot of practice?” Gon fills in. He laughs, and nods. “More than you know. I’ve been working with plants like this for a long time.”

“Yeah?” Killua asks, interest coloring his voice.

“Mm-hmm,” Gon nods. “My Aunt Mito starting teaching me when I was pretty young. A little kid.” He doesn’t mention how he’d had to reteach himself after the accident, how different and tiring it was casting with a prosthetic for the first time.

Killua smiles. “So your aunt is in the same line of work?”

“Oh, no. She just has a garden she keeps out back of the house. She spends part of the year helping the fishermen and women with their hauls and when the fishing’s slow she helps at the inn.”

“Your aunt sounds like an amazing woman.”

Gon grins wide, easily picturing his fierce, stern, loving aunt in his mind’s eye. “Yeah, she is.”

“You care a lot about her,” Killua observes.

“Yeah. We’re close… She’s like a mom to me. She raised me.”

Killua’s smile widens, and his eyes are warm and soft and Gon knows he understands what it’s like to have someone you care about that much.

Gon finishes bagging up what Alluka needs, and calls for her.

Alluka’s on the floor, playing with Kon still. “Oh, cool!” She unfolds her long legs and stands, her glance darting between Gon and Killua a few times before she accepts what Gon’s bag.

*

On another day, Killua stops by on his own on an errand from Alluka.

Gon has a few customers who need his attention, but he notices when Killua slides in and tucks himself out of the way. While Gon talks to his customer about the best way to start a garden in a limited amount of space, he glances over to find Killua quietly perusing the shelves along the wall. When he comes to a pot that Gon realizes he’s left sitting too close to the edge after rearranging a bit, Killua pauses to carefully edge it back, making room for it among the other plants where it won’t be at risk at tipping over the edge. Killua probably doesn’t even notice the way the plant reaches for him with one green tendril in thanks, but it makes Gon smile nonetheless.

When he steps away from his customer to grab something near the front desk, he hears Killua let out a quiet but firm, “Hey,” before stooping down, briefly out of sight among all the foliage and greenery. When he comes back, Kon is in his arms, something suspiciously green poking out from his mouth, which Killua pulls free. “You know you’re not supposed to be doing that,” he’s telling Kon softly. Kon lets out a grumpy protest, but his tune changes quickly enough when Killua begins scratching under his chin.

Shortly after, Gon’s finished with hise customers, and although two linger looking around at his stock, he’s free to turn his attention to Killua. “Hey,” Gon greets as he approaches. “You need something?”

“Oh, yeah.” Killua takes a moment to set Kon down. He trots off to go lay on the windowsill and soak in some sun. Killua reaches into his pocket and pulls out a folded sheet of paper. “For Alluka. She’s consulting a client so she couldn’t come herself.”

Gon unfolds the list, eyes darting quickly over it before he releases it, sending it to hover by the series of cubby holes and drawers he has tucked behind his front desk. She needs more dried herbs. “Yeah, I’ve got all this.” Gon walks over to pull out what he needs, sending a glance over his shoulder as he does, finding Killua following him to lean against the counter while he waits. “So I see you’ve been promoted from sales to errand boy?”

Killua laughs. “I had to talk her into letting me help, really. She doesn’t want me to work on my vacation. Says I do enough of that on my own.”

Gon can imagine. “She’s looking out for you.”

As he brings out containers to pull out the herbs Alluka’s asked for, Gon looks over Killua’s shoulder to watch the other two customers head towards the front door, only pausing long enough to tell Kon bye and give him a pat before they leave.

Killua watches, laughing as Kon stretches and rolls over, leaving one leg sticking up straight into the air. “Hey, doesn’t that get confusing?”

“What do you mean?” Gon asks, already sealing the herbs in individual packs with a touch and a spell he hardly has to even think about anymore.

“You know.” Killua says. “Gon and Kon, Kon and Gon. It’s practically the same name. Don’t your customers get it confused?”

“Oh. Well, not the regulars,” Gon admits. “But.. yeah. Sometimes new people come in and ask for Kon.”

“I can imagine that,” Killua says, sounding amused. Then, his voice lilting in a question, “Why’d you name the store after him then? Why not Gon’s Forest?”

Gon looks at Killua, then Kon, then back to Killua. He leans over the counter, and in a stage whisper, answers, “That’s because Kon runs the show. I just get to work here.”

His joke as the effect he’d hoped for - it makes Killua smile bright and laugh again. His eyes sort of shimmer when he laughs. Gon likes watching that. “Well, if it’s his store, then why do you stop him from chewing on the leaves?” Killua challenges, raising his brows.

Gon laughs. “That’s in his best interest. And the interest of my stock.”

Killua hums, and then takes the little packs Gon’s done up for Alluka. “Well, I’ll see you around.” He pushes back off the counter, and Gon feels unexpectedly… warm at the words.

“Uh, yeah. See you later.” Gon waves as Killua leaves. Hopefully, Alluka will have reason to send him back.

*

The fairies are mad at him. Not only has he been gone too long, but for days after he’s home he forgets to leave out a dish of milk for them.

When they bombard him in the middle of helping customers, Gon knows he can only blame himself. The customers quickly back away as the tiny, glowering creatures swirl around his head, speaking at him almost too rapidly for him to understand.

He excuses himself to dig something out of the kitchen for them immediately. He’s got berries and milk for now - and he promises them something better later. After seeing to his customers, he taps on the mirror downstairs to call Alluka. She answers quickly.

“Do you have any champagne left over from New Year’s?” he asks.

“Maybe? It’s probably not much, though. Why?”

“Could you bring some? I… may have neglected the local fairies for too long.”

Immediate laughter from the other side of the call. “Okay, sure! I’ll get it to you later.”

It’s around closing that Alluka swings by, Killua in tow, and hands him the bottle of champagne, which is empty but for just a few swallows lingering in the bottom. That’s fine, though. This should work.

“Whoa, that’s a lot,” Killua comments when he sees the rose petals Gon has laid out on his front counter in a ring. Gon pours tiny bits of champagne into half walnut shells - the perfect size for fae drinking. He’s set out more berries, too.

“I just hope it’s enough,” Gon tells them. It’s entirely his fault for forgetting. The fairies here have been good to him, especially when he’s been unable to keep up with cleaning chores himself.

“Gon, this looks like a great offering,” Alluka assures him.

“Are fairies around these parts so picky?” Killua asks, as if he’s never seen so much offered at once.

Gon tenses, ready to tell Killua to watch what he says when suddenly a rain of small debris pours onto Killua’s head.

Killua flinches. “Hey!” And looks up in time to see two fairies holding an empty bag of birdseed - another offering from Gon - over his head. They giggle and fly away.

Gon winces, but Alluka laughs. “Serves you right, dummy!”

*

He makes it ten whole days without calling Alluka for help. Roughly one and a half weeks since he got home, and Gon wakes in the wee hours drenched in sweat and falls off his bed as he wrestles himself back to the waking world. He lays there, panting, hearing Kon pace near him and let out concerned noises while he comes back to himself.

Gon groans and pulls himself up off the floor, reaching for the new scroll that lies on the bedside table. He sits, cross legged, and balances the scroll on his knee, tracing out a message with one hand on the glassy surface before he hits send.

‘Sorry to bother you so late. Bad night. Could use a sleep potion. No pressure, just when you can.’

Gon climbs back in bed and lays on his back, trying to calm himself. Only his heart rate won’t go down and every time he blinks scenes of violence and gold eyes appear behind his eyelids. In the quiet of his room, he whimpers. Kon, sensing his pending panic attack, jumps onto the bed beside him. Purring loud, Kon approaches slowly and butts his head against Gon’s temple.

“H-hey, Kon,” Gon breathes, reaching over himself so he can pet along Kon’s head. “I-it’s alright…. It’s alright…,” he whispers, and repeats until he almost believes it.

An hour and some change after he sent his message, at 4:05 AM, Gon hears a musical chime from his scroll. He rolls over, turning his scroll on the bedside table where he can see it.

‘No problem. Can have something made tomorrow or next day for sure.’

Then, just as he finishes reading the first message, a second comes in.

‘Breathe. And you’re not bothering me, you big dummy.’

Gon laughs, practically hearing her voice, and blinks the moisture away from his eyes.

He doesn’t get back to sleep that night.

*

The next day drags. He doesn’t text Alluka again because he hates being a bother. At least the store isn’t too busy, though. Nine nights home and most of them nightmare ridden has left Gon with fewer cumulative hours of sleep than he even wants to think about.

A couple of customers comment on how tired he seems, but he just gives them his best smile and tells them he’ll be fine. He spends most of the morning sitting at the counter instead of trying to complete his chores. When he gets some messages through on his scroll, Gon glances through them but doesn’t bother replying, feeling too out of sorts. Mostly it’s a couple of friends responding to the message he sent out about having a new scroll. There’s another from Zushi asking how his trip went, and one from Kite telling him about an expedition he and all the usual gang are planning. He’s inviting Gon along.

Gon’s head throbs. He’ll respond to them later.

The hours seem endless, and around lunchtime Gon is thinking about making the walk down to the coffeeshop a few blocks from here. The coffee is overpriced, especially for how simple Gon likes his, but it’s nearer than the grocery store and he’s run out of his own coffee mix. He should probably get something to eat, too. Even if he doesn’t feel like it.

He feels more like putting his head down. On this desk. Just a few minutes should be fine, right? When he folds his arms on the countertop and rests his head in them it even blocks out some of the too-bright sunlight. Just a few minutes, then he’ll sit and look alert for potential customers.

The ringing of a bell brings Gon back to himself, and for a moment he closes his eyes tighter and groans.

Then he remembers where he is. He sits quickly, realizing it must be a customer who’s come in and needs him-

But it’s not. Killua’s standing by the front door, looking at him like he’s not sure he should approach. “Hey. Did I catch you at a bad time?”

“Uh… No, no.” Gon resists the urge to rub his eyes. “I’m… You’re fine.” His voice sounds rough even to his ears, but Killua has the decency not to say anything about it. “D’ya need something? Or… Alluka, I guess, needs something?”

“Um, no, actually,” Killua says, stepping forward, and now Gon notices the bag dangling from his hand. A small paper bag with a familiar logo on it that reads Wish Upon a Star. Gon feels his cheeks warm. “Alluka sent me with this, is all.” He sets it on the counter, and Gon hesitates for a moment before grabbing it and promptly setting it aside.

“...Thanks,” he says, slowly.

Killua stands there, and Gon sourly wonders why he doesn’t just turn and leave now that he’s given Gon the bag. His job is over now, isn’t it?

“So, um…” Killua slides his hands into his pockets. “Rough night?”

Gon’s shoulders stiffen. “Who told you?” he asks, snappily. “Alluka?” What else has she told him? What has Killua asked about that Alluka gave him answers to?

“Uuuh… No,” Killua says. Then, speaking slowly, “But the bags under your eyes did. And the fact that you were napping on the front counter when I walked in.”

“I wasn’t napping,” Gon protests, reaching to rub as his eyes as if that will make the bags go away. “I was just putting my head down.”

“Sure,” Killua answers, his tone doubtful. “Look, I’m not trying to pry into your business. Alluka hasn’t said anything to me, whatever it is you’re worried about me knowing. She’s busy with the shop and I offered to run this down for her because…” Killua trails off, then shakes his head. “Just… I only asked because you look kinda rough. Are you alright?”

Gon frowns. He supposes that makes sense. Alluka’s busy. She took the time to make a potion to help him sleep more easily and without the bad dreams. She didn’t have the chance to run it to him herself, but he should be grateful she took the time to make it at all. “I’m… fine. Just… rough night, like you said.”

“That sucks,” Killua says, sympathetically. “Hope it gets better for you.” Aside from the well wishes, Killua doesn’t try to be nosy, which is nice. There’s a pause, then Killua looks at the door, then back to Gon. “Hey, uh… I don’t know if you’ve had lunch yet but since you’re not feeling well I could try to pick something up for you? I mean, I don’t know the area well, but…” He lifts his hand, rubbing the back of his hair and looking unsure of himself.

The thought of food isn’t exactly welcoming. His stomach actually feels a little nauseated, even more so than before his accidental nap. All the same, he knows he should eat. Gon squints out the window, remembering how he’d been thinking about going down to the coffee shop not so long ago. “I want… some coffee,” he admits.

Killua chuckles. “You’re speaking my language. I live on the stuff.” He nods to the front door. “You want to go get some?”

Gon stares at him. Is he offering to go together? “Um… If you’re… okay with…?”

Killua nods. “Yeah, sure. Alluka won’t mind if I’m gone a little while longer. I’m not much use to her while she’s doing the work thing.”

Gon nods, standing slowly and trudging around the counter.

Killua’s smiling, and as Gon comes around the side of him Killua reaches out to pat him on the back. “Maybe you’ll feel better once you get some food in you too, huh?”

Gon half-laughs, half-groans. “You sound like your sister.”

Killua laughs, too. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

When they get to the cafe, Killua points out the glass display where the sample plates of the dishes they offer sit, meant to entice customers. “You want something?”

Gon frowns. “Mmmm… I dunno. I feel, like, gross.”

Killua hums. “Well… I know a thing or two about missing out on sleep. Sometimes eating helps the gross feeling go away.”

“I know,” Gon sighs.

They step forward in the line a space, then Killua asks, “What do you recommend here? I haven’t eaten yet.”

Gon looks to Killua, then turns his eyes to the glass display with new consideration. He points out a few of the sandwiches, trying to decide if he wants one himself, but it almost sounds like too much to try to get through. Then he notices the soup of the day is the one he likes best here - the one with the lentils that has a really good flavor. So Gon mentions it as well. “I might try that,” he admits.

They move through the line, and Gon rubs his eyes again, sleepily. Killua asks how he takes his coffee as they near the front.

“Oh, uh… Just regular, black.” He doesn’t feel much like any cream today, and he almost never takes sugar.

When they get to the front, Killua orders for them both, which Gon appreciates. He’s not up to talking to people. He hears Killua order a black coffee and a soup of the day, then he glances back at Gon. Gon nods, and hears Killua go on to add one of the sandwiches he’d mentioned and some complicated sounding drink that Gon was certain, just by the name, was something tooth-rottingly sweet.

As the cashier rings up their total, together, Gon realizes the mistake that’s been made. He opens his mouth to say that, no, they intended that as two separate orders, when Killua turns back to him.

“My treat,” he says, and smiles.

Gon stumbles through trying to protest, but Killua is already making the exchange.

They sit at a small table to wait for their order to come out.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Gon murmurs, a little embarrassed.

“I wanted to.”

The words pull Gon’s eyes and attention up, to see blue eyes looking back at him, soft with an understanding he hadn’t expected. Gon flushes.

Their food and drinks come out shortly, and Gon is relieved when after a few sips of coffee and spoonfuls of soup, he finds himself feeling a little better.

“This is good,” Killua comments as he bites into his sandwich. Then, he picks up his drink.

Gon frowns at the heap of whipped cream and chocolate drizzle on top. “That looks like it could rot all your teeth out of your head.”

“Well, excuse me, but not all of us like the bitter bean juice, Mister Freecss,” Killua says, but he smiles as he says it, lowering his mouth to drink some.

Gon smiles a little, and when Killua pulls back he smiles a little more, gesturing to Killua’s lip. “You got a.... You’ve got as little mustache going on, there.”

Killua looks up, and raises his eyebrows. Then, intentionally, he dips his upper lip into the whipped cream, coming back with a thicker layer of it sticking to his lip. “Don’t you like my sweet ‘stache?”

Gon bursts out laughing. He has to set down his own drink for fear of spilling it and clutch his stomach as he’s wracked with the giggles.

It hadn’t been that funny, really. It was kind of a horrible joke, but Gon finds himself having trouble breathing. It’s like all at once he’s pushed through the gray cloud that has been hanging over him all day. Something in him feels lighter, warmer. Like a sprout pushing through the earth for its first taste of sunlight.

Killua laughs too, and licks the whipped cream away.

Gon catches his breath, and thinks he was lucky to meet Killua a little more than a week ago. He hopes they can be friends.

Chapter Text

His vacation passes more quickly that he’d thought it would.

He’d expected it to be slow, honestly. Even though Killua had known he would have fun with Alluka and Nanika and enjoy every moment the three of them had together, he also reasoned that there would be days they’d be busy with the shop. Alluka and Nanika run Wish Upon a Star on their own, which is how they both like it. But it means that they don’t often have a chance to slow down.

It was for this reason that Killua, when packing for his trip, had included a pop-up work station he could easily set up to do a little work here and there at Alluka’s apartment.

Only, when Alluka catches him folding it out of his suitcase, she starts scolding him immediately.

“Oh, I knew something was up when I saw you had two bags!”

Killua stands frozen at the thin stand-up desk, one leg of which is still perched inside his suitcase. He feels very much like he’s just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

“I’ve seen you pack two month’s worth of clothes and all sorts of stuff in your duffle!” Alluka goes on, gesturing to the small, but enchanted, duffle that Killua usually relies on for travel. “I knew it was weird for you to bring your suitcase too. You’re supposed to be taking a break!”

“I am!” Killua insists. When Nanika, floating near the doorway, shakes her head at him, he repeats, “No, really, I am! I just- I know you have the shop to run, and I thought I’d just check on a few things when you were busy, you know. Nothing intensive, I swear. Just- You know. Checking in with stuff.”

Alluka crosses her arms. “You never ‘just check in’ when it comes to work, Killua.”

‘You always get caught up!’ Nanika agrees, floating over to him and wrapping a tendril of herself around his wrist, pulling him away. ‘You promised to spend time with us.’

Killua lets himself be pulled away. He reaches out to run his fingers along the edge of Nanika’s form - a comforting touch. “And I’m not breaking that promise. I’m here to see my sisters. Not to work.”

Nanika and Alluka exchange glances, quiet for just long enough that Killua suspects they’re having a conversation of their own that Nanika is intentionally leaving Killua out of. But they both turn back to him and seem satisfied.

Later that evening finds them all curled up on the couch with loads of snacks and picking apart a truly awful movie. Alluka and Killua both laugh when Nanika condenses herself down to a small person-shape, floating along the screen like an additional shadow-character, pretending to interact with the other characters.

Killua had missed this. He’d missed this a lot. As much as he hates to admit it, Bisky had been right. He needed this break. He promises himself he’s going to make a point to visit his sisters more often.

It’s only later that Killua finds out all of his sisters’ worries, and all his reassurances, were for naught. Bisky’s made sure of that.

When Alluka and Nanika retire for the night, Killua creeps back to the guest room. He pulls his work-computer from the duffle, where it’s tucked in among his clothes. He just wants to see if R&D has gotten any further on their latest project. He’s forwarded all the most important news, so if he can just look at his inbox…

He sets the laptop down and flips it open.

Rather, he tries to flip it open.

“What?”

No matter how he tries, Killua can’t open the laptop. He tries with his hands, with a spoken command. Nothing works. It’s like the thing’s been welded shut!

Or…

Magicked shut.

Frowning, Killua lays his palm over the surface and speaks a command - not to open, but to reveal. He pulls his hand back.

A message in glowing letters and a familiar hand slowly writes itself across the top of the laptop:

‘Naughty, naughty!

Since I know you can’t be trusted not to ‘check in’ on what’s going on in the office, I’m helping you resist temptation. I’ve put a time-sensitive little hex on your laptop to prevent you from working while you’re supposed to be on vacation. Don’t test me unless you want to face the consequences, Killua Zoldyck.

Tata!

-Bisky’

Killua clicks his tongue, knowing by the handwriting just who left the message even before it finishes signing itself. Her warning is unnecessary. He knows better than to try to undo a hex left by Bisky, however small. The information on his laptop is too important to risk.

Killua glares at the message, which slowly disappears. Then, something new beings to write itself.

‘P.S. Give your sisters all my love! Tell them they must come to Facets to visit soon.’

With a shake of his head, and unable to help his smile, Killua picks up the laptop and pushes it back into his pack - deep, reaching his arm all the way in. No need for Alluka or Nanika to know about Bisky’s little trick.

*

She must have had someone in the technomagy facet help her, Killua realizes later. That sort of casting isn’t her forte, but when he tries to check his inbox from his scroll, he finds that he’s locked out of his work account. Another message from Bisky scrolls across his screen, along with an animating of a hand waving one finger at him.

‘All work and no play makes Killua a pain in the ass to deal with! <3 BK’

Bisky has effectively locked him out of hearing what’s going on inside Facets, which is pretty fucking annoying. They have big projects going on right now! What if an emergency happens? What if they need him? Killua has been working closely and personally with at least a handful of those projects - things that could mean something big for them if they take off right. How could she? How dare she!

It takes a while, and being distracted by his sisters, but Killua manages to calm himself down. He understands why Bisky is doing this, even if he doesn’t agree with her methods. He has to admit to himself that for the last month or… few months… he hasn’t been doing his best work, no matter how much he’s tried to bury himself in it. And he’s sure that if there really were an emergency she’d let him know. She could call him. She wouldn’t have blocked him out that completely.

Really, the worst part of this is that it leaves him with nothing to do when Alluka and Nanika are busy. They make time for him - they make more than enough time for him, closing up early and even shutting down completely for a few days to spend quality time with him. But it’s inevitable that there are times when they can’t keep him occupied.

Like when the store is slow, but they need to go run an errand, and leave him behind to man the counter.

Gon coming in that day had been something of a god-send. Killua hadn’t known what to expect from him, but Gon was genuinely interesting and thoughtful. Killua was pleasantly surprised to find himself drawn in, wanting to know more about this friend of his sisters’. The food has been good, too. It’d been nice talking with someone casually for once - not a coworker, employee, business partner, potential client. Someone completely unconnected with his work life.

Way unconnected. Had it been conceited of him to expect Gon to know who he was, even if only in a distant sort of way? Just, with the way the press has been all over his life since the day he and Alluka left the Zoldyck family estate...

Surely, it’d been reasonable to expect he’s heard of Facets, at least?

But Gon still seems genuinely clueless. He’s keen to listen to Killua, though, as he explains what he does. His interest is almost child-like. Or maybe Killua just doesn’t find himself around enough people who don’t put on pretenses.

So, sure. Killua enjoys talking with him. It doesn’t hurt that he’s cute, either. Not that he’ll be saying that around Alluka anytime soon - or that he needs to, apparently, based on the way she teases him.

And he doesn’t have to tell her either if Gon’s cuteness has a teeny, tiny something to do with why he follows her on her errands over to his store.

*

If Alluka weren’t genuinely busy with her store, Killua would suspect that she was scheming something by sending him over on his own to Gon’s whenever she needs something. It’s only a few times, though, and he sees how occupied she is each time it happens, so perhaps it isn’t fair to be suspicious.

The chance to snatch a few moments alone with Gon is nice. The second trip to Kon’s Forest on his own, Killua asks about the aunt Gon had mentioned a few days back.

“So, do you see her often? Does she live nearby?”

“Ah, no, she doesn’t. She’s still back on the island.”

“The island?” Killua asks.

Gon smiles at him from where he’s kneeling on the floor, repotting plants. “Yeah. Whale Island. It’s where I grew up.”

“Whale Island,” Killua echos. “Never heard of it.”

“That doesn’t surprise me,” Gon replies as he carefully pulls the green, leafy shrub-thing out with both his hands, roots and all, only to gently settle it in a larger pot. “It’s a little island. Not a whole lot of people actually live there. It’s mostly a stopping point for fishing crews to pull in and rest and sell their catch.” Gon shovels more soil into the pot with his hands, patting it down gently. “I make a point to visit, though. My grandma’s there too.”

“Hmmm… So, you come from a small town then?” Killua asks. “Is it a… everyone knows everyone sort of thing?”

Something flickers across Gon’s features that Killua recognizes and he knows the answer before Gon speaks it. “Uh. Yeah. It is.”

“Not always a great thing,” Killua offers, empathy clear in his tone. Gon looks up at him then, blinking, surprised. Killua smiles. He knows Gon must wonder what he means, how he knows. Alluka must really not have told him much about when they left home. Killua would wonder that Gon didn’t read about it in the news somewhere but it’s clear that not all current events make great waves in Gon’s life. Besides, he doesn’t know where Gon was ten or eleven years ago.

Gon stands up, brushing his hands against his jeans, like he must have a habit of doing if the brown stains along his thighs and knees are anything to go by. “Not always,” he admits. “Let me go wash my hands and I’ll look for what Alluka needs.”

“Sure,” Killua says, watching as Gon walks back along the short hallway he knows leads to the mudroom.

Seems like running a plant shop is a pretty dirty job. Gon’s got some dirt lingering on the backside of his pants, too. No one else is in the store, at least - no pesky sisters to catch him looking.

“You know,” Gon calls out over the sound of running water. “I still haven’t been able to figure it out.”

“Figure what out?” Killua asks, leaning a little to see if he can angle himself to catch a glimpse of Gon through the hallway. It seems there’s no clear line of sight from the front to where the sink is, though.

The water shuts off and heavy footfalls come back up the hall. Killua leans himself casually against the front desk, looking expectantly at Gon.

“What you do,” Gon answers, coming to the other side of the desk, laying his hands atop it.

Killua pinches his brows together. “What I do? Gon, I’m pretty sure we’ve had this discussion.”

“Yeah, but I still don’t know what it is you do. Your company.”

“It’s not my company,” Killua corrects, watching Gon turn to shuffle through tiny drawers and cubby holes which Killua is now aware are full of various seeds and dried herbs. “And I don’t know how I can explain it any clearer.”

Gon laughs. “But you weren’t clear at all.” Gon glances his way, as he continues to go through his stock. “You told me that Facets like… makes stuff for a lot of magic practices, right?”

“Right. Among other things.”

“That’s what I mean,” Gon tells him, humor coloring his tone. Then, softer and to himself, “Shoot, none here.” He moves away from the desk, talking as he goes to a small shelf he has tucked in the opposite corner along the back wall, which instead of holding more plants has a lot of small glass containers and more drawers for him to search through. “I mean - you never told me what exactly it is you make. Like, give me an example of something! Because I can’t remember seeing anything.”

Killua crosses his arms over his chest. Can he really be blamed for looking when Gon bends over at the waist like that? “You could have looked this up, you know. It’s not like it’s difficult information to find.”

He has to snap his eyes up quickly when Gon looks back at him, still half bent. “Maybe I just want to hear it from you.”

Hear it from him, huh? Killua hums in thought, tipping his head to look up at the ceiling as he runs through a mental list of Facets’ services that Gon may have heard of. “Mmnn… We… designed the spellwork for the Living Embroidery for Nostrade Fashion?”

Gon’s brow pinches and his lips purse, so Killua tries again.

“We’ve… helped develop the newest inks for enchanted tattoos used by Sengi Body Art?”

Again, Gon doesn’t seem to recognize what Killua’s talking about. Even when he says, “I think I’ve heard of that,” Killua can tell he’s just trying to be polite. Killua frowns, and has to admit he’s a little frustrated. Both of those names are pretty big - some of the biggest clients they have.

Maybe that’s not the way to go about it, though. Gon doesn’t seem like the type who’s into big names, after all.

Killua taps his foot, thinking harder. What’s something Gon might have heard of? What’s something that would be relevant to his life?

“Oh!” Killua snaps his finger and points as Gon, who turns to consider another shelf. “We produce Briolette Biomes!”

Gon pauses what he’s doing and looks at Killua. “That sounds… familiar…” Gon’s eyes lift upward towards the ceiling and he curls a finger against his chin as he searches his memory.

“I thought you might have heard of them,” Killua says, smirking. “We developed them originally to help large-scale farmers or people who practice flora magicks. It’s weather phenomena and certain climate samples caught in gemstones. It makes it easier for people who need certain conditions for their crops to grow right.”

Gon turns to him slow, eyes wide and lighting up with recognition. “Oh! Oooh! Those little tear-drop shaped quartz things?” When Killua grins and nods Gon breaks out in a smile of his own. “No joke! I’ve used those before!”

“Really?” Killua asks, sliding his hands into his pockets just as cool as he can. “What’d you think?”

“They’re great!” Gon says, genuinely. “The- the sunshower one is really good. And I’ve used the- the- one of the warming ones. It really helped my plants to thrive when the weather got cooler.”

Killua’s satisfaction grows at least tenfold knowing that Gon’s gotten personal use out of Briolette Biomes. “Great. I’m glad you’re happy with the product.”

“Oh, they’re amazing! Whoever came up with that- you must have some brilliant people over at Facets.”

Killua ducks his head, hiding the way his smile grows. Things like this make the work he does for Facets worth everything, worth every bit of hard work it’s taken to climb his way to the top.

Gon’s sigh draws his attention, making him lift his head again. “I’m sorry… It looks like I’m out of what Alluka needs this time. I can order some in?”

Killua smiles at him and nods. “That should be fine. I’ll let her know.”

Gon rubs the back of his head, pulling his scroll - he must have finally replaced it - out of his pocket and thumbing at the glassy surface for a moment, as if checking something.. “I guess I really need to go over inventory. I wonder what else I’m out of…”

Gon whirls his finger and a pad of paper and a pencil lift from his desk to float over to him. He starts writing on the floating pad abscently with his right hand, and Killua watches quietly for a few moments as a couple of leaves sprout up from Gon’s woodwork arm, like he’s seen before. Gon seems to almost forget Killua a moment, talking softly to himself and wandering closer over to where some plants sit. As Killua watches, the flora nearest to Gon seem to flush with a brighter, livelier color, their leaves and branches subtly reaching towards him, like the hands of a child to their loving parent.

Gon flushes with embarrassment and gives and sheepish smile when his attention returns to Killua, but Killua only smiles and shakes off his apologies.

“I’ll let you to you work. Have a good day.”

“You too!” Gon says as he moves to the door. “Have a good one.”

As Killua steps outside, he thinks it might be something to be able to sit quiet and watch Gon work in his store - to watch this small time shopkeep who seems to make things grow without even trying. Gon Freecss is an interesting person. Killua wants to know more about him.

*

When Killua wakes up on the morning two days before he’s meant to go back to work, he spends several minutes starting at his scroll as if the date has to be wrong. Has it really almost been two weeks? Is he really supposed to leave the day after tomorrow? He can hardly believe it.

Alluka seems to be well aware, though, because she and Nanika have taken the day off from work. Wish Upon a Star is closed, and he has the attention of both of his sisters all day long.

They walk down to the boardwalk along the river and shop and eat out. The restaurant owner recognizes him and comes over to tell him what an honor it is to have Killua Zoldyck, once-heir to the Zoldyck family line and right-hand-man of Facets choose his establishment to dine in, but that’s the only bad part of their day. Killua manages to shoo the man off politely before he can eat up too much time with his sisters. At least he doesn’t say anything about Killua’s sisters, which is usually for the best. After their meal, they’re sent over desserts that the owner insists are on the house.

Killua pays for them anyway and leaves the waitress a big tip.

When they’re on their way back to Alluka’s, walking arm in arm with Nanika curled around their shoulders, Alluka’s scroll chimes. “Aw,” she says, smiling at the screen. “Gon’s asking if we ate yet.”

Killua glances over, seeing that she’s already writing a reply back.

Sliding her scroll in her pocket, Alluka explains, “He was gonna bring us something if we hadn’t.”

Killua hums. All at once it hits him that he might have missed his last chance to see Gon before he leaves. The last time he’d seen him was when he’d dropped off that package for Alluka.

Gon had been so out of sorts then. He doesn’t know what made it so hard for Gon to sleep, and he didn’t ask, but he hopes whatever Alluka sent him was something to help.

There’s a nudge at his arm as Alluka leans her shoulder into him. “Maybe we should have invited him along,” she suggests with a smile in her eyes.

“Nah,” Killua responds, nudging her back. “And miss out on quality time with my two best girls? Never.”

Nanika laughs. ‘Killua is sweet. But we wouldn’t have minded Gon coming along, too.’

When Alluka hums her agreement, Killua shakes his head. “What makes you think I wanted him to tag along?”

“The fact that you’re sweet on him,” Alluka replies.

Killua rolls his eyes. “I am not-”

“Oh, whatever. You admitted yourself he’s cute, and you seemed perfectly content to go run errands over to his shop when I asked.”

“Because you needed me too!” Killua turns to her, narrowing his eyes. “You did need me too, didn’t you?”

“I did,” Alluka assures him, although something in her voice makes him think that she may have had an ulterior motive after all. “And I appreciate you being such a good brig brother while you’re on vacation. But also, you never complained.”

‘Killua agreed very easily, Nanika chimes in. ‘You always complain for errands. But not this time. Practically ran out the door.

“Not you too,” Killua mumbles, his cheeks going warm in spite of himself. “And I don’t always. And! You- You both know I never mean it when I do.”

Alluka squeezes his arm. “We know you don’t,” she says, laughing. “But, I mean- Come on, brother. I could tell you were interested in seeing him again. Are you really gonna be mad if part of why I sent you over is because I knew you wanted to check him out?”

Killua huffs. “But.. you were busy. You were actually busy when you sent me.”

Alluka laughs. “And who do you think normally goes to run errands if I need to stay with a client?”

Killua turns his attention to Nanika, who floats backwards in front of them, her black, misty form practically grinning at him.

‘I enjoyed the break, she tells him, smug.

Killua groans. “Have I told you both lately that you’re the worst?”

‘I think you forgot how to pronounce ‘best,’ Killua.’

*

On his last day in town, Alluka only opens the store for half a day. They spend the afternoon and early evening back at her apartment, watching more awful movies. When Killua moves into the kitchen to get more popcorn he notices a lone empty container sitting on the countertop.

“Hey Alluka,” he calls out. “Do you need me to put this up?”

Soon, he hears the sound of socked feet approaching. “Do I need you to put wh-” Alluka is asking as she comes around the corner, but when she spots the dish in question she interrupts herself with a soft, “Oh.” Then, shaking her head. “No, I meant to leave that out. It’s Gon’s tupperware, and I keep forgetting to give it back to him.”

“Oh.” Killua breathes, looking at the tupperware for a moment. “I could,” he begins, then realizes what’s about to come out of his mouth. That’s silly, isn’t it? For him to run out now to bring Gon a dish back that Alluka could give to him later.

“You could…?” Alluka prompts, her voice carefully devoid of any tone that would imply anything at all.

“I mean… Nevermind.” Killua sets down the empty popcorn bowl and opens a cabinet to get another bag.

“Well…” Alluka begins, leaning against the entryway. “You know… If you wouldn’t mind… I did leave a charm at the shop I meant to take home to begin and enchantment on. And if you ran down to pick that up and wouldn’t mind going on down to Gon’s before heading back…”

Killua bites his lip as he sets down the popcorn bag. He knows Alluka probably doesn’t desperately need whatever it is she intends to send him for. This is just an excuse to give him the chance to… He glances at Alluka, who carefully avoids eye contact.

He’ll probably never live it down if he takes her up on this offer.

“So…” Killua turns towards her, looking off to the side. “What exactly did you leave back at the shop?”

*

By the time he runs in and out of Alluka’s shop, the sun has already started to go down. Gon is going to be closing up soon. At least, Killua’s pretty sure he is. Most shops on this street don’t stay open terribly late.

So he half-runs, half-jogs down the short distance to Kon’s Forest. When he gets there, the lights are still on. Through the windows, though, there’s no one in sight. No last minute customers, and no Gon.

Killua feels his stomach drop a little. He tests the handle, uncertain, and finds it still open. It feels weird to go in without Gon right there to greet him, but he tentatively opens it, sticking just his head in as he calls out. “Hello?”

A beat of silence. Then two, then three.

Killua’s about ready to give in and return back to his sisters’ apartment when he hears heavy booted footsteps that must be Gon’s. He comes out from the hallway leading to the mudroom wiping his hands on a towel. “Oh… Killua,” he breathes, sounding surprised. “Hey, come on in.”

Killua’s brows knit together as he steps just inside, closing the door behind him. “You’re not… I haven’t caught you closing, have I?”

Gon gives him a smile. “Mmm, I’m still open for a few. What do you need?”

Just minutes, then? Killua feels guilt creeping up on him. He remembers what it was like working a retail job and having a customer meander in minutes before he’s supposed to get off. “Oh, uh… I won’t take up much of your time,” he promises as Gon moves over to him since he’s not stepping any further into the store. “I just stopped by to return this.”

Killua awkwardly sticks his arm out, offering Gon back the dish he’d brought lunch for Alluka in last week.

“Oh…” Gon’s lips tug into a frown. “You didn’t have to rush over here just for that.” Killua feels foolish. He’d known that, of course. This was something that could have waited. Nevertheless, Gon takes the tupperware. “Thanks, though. Is there…” Gon looks up at him, brown eyes thoughtful. He bites his lip in a way that is just not fair because he is too cute. “Um. Could I help you with… anything else?”

Either his tone sounds oddly hopeful or Killua’s ears are.

“Well…” Killua glances around, wishing he could think of something to lengthen this conversation, a reason to ask Gon for his contact information. “No, actually… I mean. I guess I wanted to tell you bye.”

“Oh.. oh! You’re leaving soon?” Gon asks.

“Yeah… Tomorrow, actually.”

“Oh,” Gon repeats, and his gaze drops to the floor - but only for a moment before he picks it back up again. “Well, it’s been really nice to get to know you over the past few weeks.”

“Yeah,” Killua agrees. “You too.”

This is the part of the conversation where he should say goodbye and leave. His sisters are waiting on him.

But he waits a beat, then two, then three.

“Hey, if-” Gon starts, sudden, then hesitates. Then, again, “If… If you don’t have to run off right this moment, I could show you something cool. Uhh… If you wanna see.”

Killua lifts his eyebrows. Something cool? “Yeah! I mean, no, I don’t have to leave right away and… Yeah, show me. What is it?”

Gon’s smile widens and he motions Killua to come further in the store. “It’s out back.” He quickly slips around Killua to lock the door and flip the sign to closed, then leads Killua back through the back room.

There’s a back door standing open through which Killua can see a tall wooden fence and what looks like the edge of a garden. As they pass through the door frame, Killua can’t help but notice the marks of some obvious spellwork on it. Something about it seems familiar, but he doesn’t have time to investigate.

Gon has paused and is beckoning for him to follow. As he steps through the door, Killua can see that Gon has fenced in the back end of the property, leaving him with a comfortable area to garden in. In addition to the garden itself there is a small shed tucked off in one corner and a greenhouse in another. When he looks at the greenhouse, Killua sees a soft light glowing from inside.

“This way,” Gon says, and sure enough he’s walking him over to the greenhouse.

“Are you.. Planning on harvesting something soon?” Killua asks, looking around and noticing quite a few pots with nothing but soil in them.

Gon chuckles. “You’ll see.” He opens the door to the greenhouse and steps in, telling Killua that he can leave the door open when he follows. “You actually have amazing timing, you know.”

“Do I?” Killua says, and follows Gon to the center of the greenhouse. There, a plant with tall green shoots covered in thick leaves sits. Among the leaves, small buds sit, folded against themselves and glowing with a gentle white light. “Is something about to happen?” Killua asks, unconsciously dropping his voice to a whisper.

“Yeah,” Gon answers, whispering as well. “Any moment now.”

Killua watches as Gon lifts his prosthetic arm, reaching for but not quite touching the plant. Almost instantly, his hand shifts, creaking, little sprouts lifting from it, unfurling green leaves of its own. Gon laughs and pulls his hand back, but holds it up to show Killua. “It’s so close to blooming its energy is bleeding out, see?”

Killua looks at Gon, his face and eyes lit with the soft glow of the plant, and reaches out carefully to the hand Gon holds out for him. Gon lets him carefully touch the newly grown leaves there. Killua glances down and realizes that all the plants closest to this one seem to be lusher.

Killua takes back his hand. “What’s this called?” He asks.

Gon seems pleased to have the chance to tell him. “Where it’s from it’s called ‘Fluer del Hada’.”

Killua repeats the name. Then, he asks, “Fairy Flower?”

Gon nods. “Yeah. That’s one translation.” Gon turns back to the plant, and whispers, “Look!”

Killua looks, and watches as the buds unfurl in an unexpected way. They uncurl, but then they sit flat. Not very much like a flower at all. Nor like fairy, except for the glow. Just when Killua is about to ask if that’s all, one by one, they open.

Each bud parts, fluttering open like a pair of blue wings - like blue butterfly wings, tinting the light they give off. Killua gapes as he watches each of them sit like a butterfly lounging, wings flexing. If he hadn’t seen them bloom himself Killua really would think this some form of fairy and not part of the plant itself.

“That’s,” Killua whispers, somehow worried that speaking too loudly will ruin the moment. “That’s amazing, Gon… It’s so beautiful…”

“Yeah. Beautiful,” Gon agrees. When Killua glances over at him their eyes connect just for a moment before Gon returns his attention back to the plant. “Now, we just need a little wind to shake them loose…”

Gon speaks a soft word, breathes in deep, then blows. A wind gusts through the leaves of the Fairy Flower. Killua can see how careful he’s being not to blow too hard, to direct the wind to where it needs to be. It’s not a strong wind at all, but it shakes the leaves of the Fairy Flower plant and encourages the flowers to detach themselves.

They flutter up, hovering around the green house, flying this way and that, touching down on walls and other plants before fluttering some more. They’re everywhere, filling the greenhouse with their beautiful light. Killua is awestruck.

When he turns to Gon, Gon is smiling, watching the Fairy Flowers as they move along according to some will of their own. The light from the Fairy Flowers surrounds him, making Gon look soft. His brown skin seems to glow at the edges, and his dark eyes have drops of gold in them.

Gon turns to him, smiling still, and Killua can’t deny the little flutter in his stomach - like he’s got a magical butterfly flower growing inside him somehow.

Gon’s not just cute. He’s gorgeous.

“C’mon,” Gon tells him. “I gotta get these things potted.”

“Oh.” Killua’s eyes flutter as he takes a moment to regroup. “So, that’s what those pots are for!”

“Yep,” Gon tells him, and leads him out of the greenhouse.

Gon calls up another wind spell, carefully bending this one inside of the greenhouse and then out again, carrying the fluttering flowers with it. Gon manipulates the spell around his garden, the flowers dancing in a line as Gon carefully deposits one in each available pot. There, the flowers sit, glowing for a moment, then they sink into the soil with a soft sparkle. One by one, Gon goes to each plant, feeding it a little of his energy until the smallest of green sprouts unfurls.

When Gon finishes, Killua claps. “That was amazing,” he says, grinning, stepping close to the other.

“Yeah,” Gon breathes out, seeming a little winded. A little sweat dots his brow, too.

Killua pinches his brow. Had something gone wrong? Gon’s spellweaving had been very good, but it’s not the type of spellwork that usually tires one out so fast. At least, not that Killua’s aware. “You alright?” Killua asks, looking down to see Gon reach over to grip the forearm of his prosthetic. Killua notices then that more little leaves and twigs have sprung up along it. As he watches, the twigs fold themselves in to mesh better with the shape of his arm.

“Fine,” Gon says, and Killua might doubt him except Gon perks up quickly enough. “I was hoping I’d get a chance to show you that,” he admits.

“Show me?” Killua asks, sounding doubtful. “Like… me specifically?”

“Sure,” Gon says, as if that were obvious.

“Why me?” Killua prods.

Gon tips his head to the side, pausing. “...You’re the one who reminded me it would be in bloom soon.”

Okay. How could he have reminded Gon of something he hadn’t known about? “How?”

Gon’s smile grows. “Your eyes,” he answers. “They’re like the color of the Fairy Flower when it opens up.”

Killua’s cheeks heat. He’s grateful for the low light of the late evening. “I never pegged you for a flatterer,” Killua responds, unable to keep the amusement completely out of his voice.

“Well,” Gon answers, his eyes dipping down ever so briefly before pulling back up Killua’s form. “You’ve only just begun to get to know me.”

Killua’s stomach flips and he’s left speechless.

I swear I could have swallowed one of those damn things, Killua thinks to himself. Before he can gather his words, Gon turns back to the doorway and leads him through to the front of the store.

“You know,” Killua begins as they come back out onto the floor. “There’s a couple of projects at Facets… More, uh… flora-based magic products.”

“Yeah?” Gon turns to him as they make it to the front counter, which he leans against.

“Yeah.” Killua keeps his hands in his pockets, and since Gon hadn’t tried to hide his little look outside Killua allows himself a quick up and down. “As COO, I have access to pretty much everything. Even before it hits stores.”

“I see,” Gon says, looking at him very patiently.

Killua glances around the store. God, his sisters are never going to let him live this down if they hear about it. Nor Bisky, for that matter. “If I think there’s something that could be of use to you…” Killua finds Gon’s face again. “I could send you some samples.”

Gon blinks, shifting, leaning one hand back on his desk. “I… That’s very generous, but… I wouldn’t want to take advantage.”

Killua shakes his head. “You wouldn’t be. You help out my sister. I’d like to help you out, too.”

“Oh.” Gon still doesn’t seem convinced. Killua guesses he’s not the type to usually take handouts. Still, this is Killua’s foot in the door.

“You could think about it,” he offers. “But, in case you are interested, it’d be good if I knew how to get in contact with you. Directly.”

“Oh,” Gon says again, but the tone is different. A slow smile spreads across his lips. “Well… That wouldn’t hurt,” he says. As Killua is pulling his scroll out of his pocket, Gon reaches for his own and hands it to Killua. “You could put your information in mine, too,” he says.

Killua grins. “Yeah.”

They exchange scrolls, each drawing a symbol on the screen to transfer their relevant information.

“Good,” Killua says, taking back his scroll.

“Yeah, good.” Gon smiles down at his own, then slips it back into his pocket. “We’ll keep in touch, then.”

Killua nods. “Absolutely.” A little reluctant still, Killua steps back and gives a wave. “Alluka and Nanika are… waiting. So, I should…”

“Oh, yeah,” Gon nods. “I understand.”

When Killua makes it to the front door, he turns back to give Gon another wave.

Gon returns it, and calls out, “I’ll see you later.”

Stars. Killua really hopes so.

Chapter Text

It turns out that exchanging contact information “just in case” is much easier than actually working up the nerve to use said contact information.

At least, it is now. It wasn’t always this way. Killua can remember plenty of times when stepping into the dance that is flirting was easy. He knows all the steps, remembers the give and take of it. Even between raising his two sisters, working to support them, and dodging all his family’s underhanded attempts to sabotage the life he’s built for himself, Killua had found the time to do a little dating, maybe even break a few hearts. Admittedly, it’s been a while. But he remembers.

He remembers enough to be pretty sure Gon had been flirting with him that night. At least a little. Part of him is hoping that Gon might initiate a conversation. He anticipates the soft buzz of his scroll in his pocket, hoping he’ll pull it out and see a message from a certain charming and interesting caster.

But it’s not. He’s getting work-related notifications again, since Bisky’s little hex has run its course. That’s a relief. Even occupied as he was while on vacation, Killua has been dying to know all the latest from Facets. He gets a few messages from Alluka, who wants to check in with him, and Ikalgo, who wants to hang out sometime now that he’s back in town. He’s glad to hear from them both, but he can’t help but be disappointed when none of the messages are from Gon.

Killua just needs to think of something to send first, then. But what? Should he try to be funny? Should he ask Gon how business is going? How his cat is?

That all sounds so stupid, though. Something good had better come to him soon, before it’s been too long since they spoke last.

There’ve been no new messages since the meeting started -- Killua hasn’t felt any notification go through to his scroll. Still, when the meeting ends, he can’t stop himself from pulling his scroll out and thumbing across the screen while everyone else files out of the room.

“Killua.”

A familiar voice breaks him out of his thoughts, and he looks up to see Bisky standing there, looking at him.

“You got a minute?”

“Anything for you, boss lady,” Killua answers with an easy smile, sliding his scroll back into his pocket. He approaches, meeting her at the end of the long table and leaning back against it. “What’s up?”

Bisky looks up at him, her expression passive. Killua knows her well enough, though, to know she’s carefully taking him in. Then, she smiles. “You made it the whole two weeks without trying to break back into your office.” She sounds rather pleased. “Seems almost newsworthy. Perhaps I should call the presses.”

Killua rolls his eyes. “Please. I wouldn’t try to break back in.” He crosses his arms over his chest. “You and I both oversaw the latest update to our security spellwork and systems. I know I wouldn’t make it far into the building without you knowing.”

Bisky laughs. “Just the way I like it around here.” She adjusts her jacket a little, then crosses her arms back at him. “But seriously, you didn’t even tamper with the spellwork I left on your computer or your inbox. I’m impressed.”

Killua rolls his eyes. “I know better than to tamper with your spellwork, too. Or spellwork you have someone else do for you.”

That earns him a bit of a pout - something that most would think out of place on one of the most successful CEOs this side of the world, but Killua has known Bisky long enough that he knows this is very her. “I was just making sure you utilized your time off to the fullest.”

“Well, I did,” Killua admits, and then allows himself a smile. “I had a nice vacation and I was glad to spend time with my sisters.”

Bisky looks positively smug, but she manages not to be too unbearable. “Good. You seem… more focused. Less restless.”

Killua cuts his eyes away. “I am,” he says, feeling a twist in his gut. He knows why Bisky sent him on vacation. Before, maybe he hadn’t wanted to admit it, but now…

Yeah, he’d been feeling restless, and he’d let that bleed into his work. He’d been short with his coworkers, impatient to find the solutions they need for their current projects, and all around probably not much of a joy to be around.

It hadn’t even just been that they have a lot on their plate now. That’s not new, not really. Killua himself, though…

His head just wasn’t in the game. Every idea he had seemed to dead end, every small problem with such-and-such project or such-and-such investor seemed just impossible to deal with. Everything seemed to wilt under his touch, no matter how much effort he put it, no matter how badly he wanted to see their work bloom and succeed. Problems built on top of problems, and Killua would go home, exhausted and dispirited, proceed to worry instead of sleep, and come back to work worse than the day before.

Looking back now, it seems silly, how upset he’d been. Of course he just needed to step back for a while. Of course his brain had just needed a break. He’d been too wrapped up in his own thoughts to see that, and it’s embarrassing to realize in hindsight.

Bisky touches his arm briefly to draw his attention. “I’m glad you’re back,” she tells him, sincerity in her tone. “You know I value having you here. I just don’t want you burning yourself out. You don’t always have to run at full tilt, you know?”

Killua nods. He knows that, he does. It’s just… there was a long time when he couldn’t afford not to be pushing forward as hard and as fast as he could. Everything depended on him being the best, being better than the best, proving to himself and anyone looking that he could do this.

He pushes those thoughts away.

His gaze shifts over to Bisk. He smiles. “... Not many bosses are so keen to stick their noses into the personal lives of their senior staff, you know.”

“Not many bosses have known their senior staff since they were a snot-nosed brat of a kid,” Bisky shoots back immediately, and Killua laughs.

“I swear I’m not going to burn out, Bisky,” he tells her, and means it. “I’ve got this.”

She looks him hard in his eyes for a moment, then nods. “Okay.”

*

“Oooh, Gon, this is so good!” Alluka hums and takes another bite of the Korean beef he’s put into the lunch he’s made for both of them.

He smiles, plastic fork poised over his own dish. “I’m glad you like it.” Just as he’s ready to dig into his, Alluka stops him.

“No, wait wait! Let me take a picture before we eat too much.”

“A picture?”

“Yeah! It looks so good. I love the way you package the lunches you bring over. It looks pretty!”

Gon rubs at the back of his neck with his hand. Her praise is undue. “It’s nothing, really.” Just beef and greens and rice side-by-side, with two halves of a boiled egg tucked in at the edge.

“Oh, shush,” she says, smiling down at her scroll as she lines up her shot, clear glass framing their lunches and Gon’s arms just at the edge of the table.

Gon waits a few moments as she continues to play with her scroll. Sending a message now, it looks like. “Can I eat now?”

“Yeah, yeah,” she says, placing her scroll down on the table. “Just had to send the picture to Killua to make him jealous.”

Gon lifts his head. “To Killua?” he asks, trying not to sound too interested. He hasn’t heard from the other Zoldyck since he left in the middle of last month. He had expected Killua to contact him by now, but he’s gotten nothing. It’s been more than a week since then. Had he really only wanted his info in case he felt like sending him something?

“Yeah.” Alluka says, then her scrolls dings. She looks at the screen and laughs.

“That him?” Gon asks, spearing his fork into some rice.

“Yeah. He says, ‘That looks delicious. I’m so mad at you, how dare.’”

“Mad?” Gon asks, his brows knitting.

Alluka looks up, noticing his concern and waves her hand. “Oh, not seriously. He’s just play-mad, you know?”

“Oh… Okay.” Gon doesn’t want Killua to be mad at him. If he’s mad he might not ever send Gon a message. “But… is he play-mad at you or play-mad at us?”

Alluka hums, leaning over to send another message, her index finger tapping and tracing, voicing it aloud as she goes. “Mad… at… Gon too?” They don’t have to wait long for a reply, which Alluka reads aloud as well.

“Yes, terribly. I don’t know how I’ll forgive either of you.”

“Aw! Tell him I’m sorry!”

“You don’t have to apologize,” Alluka tells him laughingly, but sends the message anyway.

There’s no response. Two minutes pass, then five, then ten. “He must have gotten caught up at work,” Alluka tells him. “But really, he’s not mad. We just joke like this.”

Gon understands. All the same, if Killua were here, he’d love to share this meal with him. A couple of minutes later, there’s a buzzing in his pocket.

He pulls out his scroll, then stares at the screen, which illuminates with Killua’s name. “Oh.”

Alluka looks up from her meal, curious. “What is it?”

“It’s Killua…” Gon answers, distracted as he opens the message.

He misses the way Alluka’s eyebrows creep up towards her hairline as he reads Killua’s message.

‘’Sorry’ only goes so far, Mr. Freecss’

“Killua has your scroll..? Since when?” Alluka asks from across the table.

“Oh, uh…” Gon looks up, blinking as he processes her words. “We exchanged info right before he left.”

“Huh,” Alluka breathes. Then, smiling, and looking back down at her lunch. “I see.”

Gon’s cheeks warm. But she doesn’t say anything further, so neither does he. He sends back a quick message.

‘Awww. How long will you be mad at me for?’

Killua doesn’t make him wait long for a reply. ‘Maybe forever. Maybe less than.’

‘Oh, I like the ‘less than’ option more.’

‘Do you?’

Gon glances up at Alluka. He doesn’t want to be rude and carry on a whole conversation with someone else while they’re having lunch together, but she’s busy eating and idly tapping at her scroll. He messages Killua back. ‘Yes, very much. Can I tip the scales in favor of the ‘not forever’ side of things?’

A small swirly animation at the bottom of his screen lets him know that Killua is already writing him back. ‘Hmmm. Send me the recipe for whatever that is?’

‘Done,’ Gon tells him, smiling to himself. ‘And to sweeten the pot I promise to make something good the next time you’re in town.’

Gon bites his lip. Is that too forward - to assume that Killua would want to see him if he comes into town again?

‘I’ll hold you to that,’ Killua replies.

Gon grins wide at his screen, biting his lip. It’s then he notices that Alluka has gone still across the table from him. He looks up to find her smiling, blue eyes sparkling and a little too knowing. “I’m gonna send him the recipe later,” Gon tells her, as if that’s an explanation for the grin he still can’t quite wipe from his face.

Alluka arches an eyebrow. “Oh, really? Well, good for him.”

Gon can tell she’s not saying something, but he’s glad for it. If she says something, he might think about this too hard. Right now he just wants to enjoy it. While he can, he lets himself.

*

Gon does send him the recipe later. It doesn’t seem terribly complicated, and it may even encourage Killua to use his stove for the first time in who knows how long.

Better even than the recipe, though, Killua gets messages regularly from Gon after that, and sends them back just as regular. He comes to expect them throughout the day.

Gon sends him a picture of Kon sitting atop one of his highest shelves.

‘I thought he’d gotten too fat to get up there any more, but apparently not.’

Killua smiles as he messages back, ‘He needs a good vantage point to survey his lands. King Kon, ruler of all he sees.’

Gon’s reply makes him laugh. ‘The mighty and noble ruler of the forest watches over his dominion with dignity and pride.’

There’s a pause of a few minutes and then Gon texts again.

‘Nvm, scratch that. He couldn’t get down by himself.’

‘He yowled at me until I stood under the shelf and caught him.’

*

‘Do you ever want to hex your coworkers,’ Killua sends after a bad day.

‘My only coworker is Kon,’ Gon answers, shortly following it up with, ‘But yeah, sometimes. I wonder if I could make leaves taste really bad to him or something. What happened?’

Already, Gon’s made him smile. ‘Coworker isn’t the exact right term here either, I guess. The head of one of the facets here - I’m technically his superior, but he’s also been here for ages, and he’s older than me. He’s more thick-headed than a troll.’

‘The trick w/ trolls is you lure them into a windowless room and shut the door. Then they go to sleep and aren’t a bother at all.’

‘Haha, too bad I don’t think that’ll work for this.’

‘What kind of hex were you thinking?’

‘Just a little one. Maybe I can make him feel like he’s stepping on legos for a week.’

‘Diabolical.’

*

‘Look I found you!’

An image appears on his screen of a shelf that is clearly part of an isle in the grocery store, focused on a brand of cleaning products that Killua recognizes.

‘Well, not you,’ Gon corrects himself. ‘But stuff you made.’

The next image is a close up of the Facets logo on one of the boxes.

‘Yup, that’s us.’ Killua sends back.

‘There’s so many.’ Gon sends a picture of a duster that promises to unobtrusively clean while you’re sleeping. ‘The fairies would be so mad if I brought something like this home.’

Killua shakes his head, knowing Gon can’t see. ‘Yeah, well, not everyone has it good with the local brownies, Gon. That’s what that’s for.’

‘I’m surprised you haven’t angered the fae folk for pushing in on their turf.’

‘Tell me about it. There were some close calls. Some fool in marketing wanted to attach a slogan to about our products working better and faster than... Well, you know.’

‘Oh, nooo… no, no, no. You didn’t!’

‘No, we didn’t. He was talked out of it.’

‘Good. I didn’t want to have to quit talking to you because of poor marketing strategy.’

‘You’d quit talking to me??’ Killua types back, perhaps a little too quickly.

‘Well, at least long enough to make sure they didn’t get mad at me for fraternizing. I’d have to convince them you were on the up and up with good old fashioned respect for their kind and such. They can do much worse than dump birdseed on your head, you know.’

Killua presses a hand over his mouth to hide his smile even though Gon’s not there to see it. He doesn’t even mind the joke at his expense. ‘I misspoke then,’ he admits. ‘I can assure you I have a healthy respect for fae kind. Facets has even worked alongside fae kind in an official capacity more than once. Each time they were duly compensated for their service and advice.’

A knock at the door to his office draws Killua’s attention. A young man - one of the interns, he thinks - stands there, waiting for his attention. “Umm, Mr. Zoldyck… Ms. Krueger wanted to see you?”

Killua feels his scroll buzz under his hand.

‘Good, I didn’t want to have to hide who I was talking to.’

Killua represses a smile. “Uh, yeah… Tell her I’ll be there in a minute,” Killua says with a wave of his hand.

“Yessir, right away sir,” the intern answers. But he stays where he is, drawing Killua’s attention again.

“Yes? Was there something else?”

“Just, uh… You already sent me with that message twenty minutes ago, so Ms. Krueger sent me back to, uh… She wants you to know she’s waiting.”

Killua lifts his brows. Twenty minutes, really? He’d just been finishing up some emails, and then…

And then Gon had messaged.

Killua stands, sliding his scroll in his pocket. “You can stop sweating, kid. I’m coming now.”

*

Their little talks always leave Killua smiling. Even though things are going much better at work now (at the very least, he feels better about how they’re going), it’s still nice to have something else to think about.

Gon makes a habit of sending Killua pictures whenever he notices something else from Facets.

‘Y’all really do make a lot of different stuff,’ Gon tells him, this time sending him a picture of Facets’ tea brands - all lightly magicked to help with sleep, energy, focus, and so on.

‘Yeah, Bisky likes to have her fingers in a lot of pies.’

‘I see that. I guess I can see why you were surprised when I didn’t recognize the name…’

‘Ha, yeah. But you don’t live your life ruled by brand names. That’s not a bad thing.’

‘I’m getting these too while I’m here.’ This time Gon sends an image of a couple of packs of small Briolette Biomes.

‘You still use those then?’ Killua asks, an idea forming in his head.

‘Sometimes! They’re really useful. I need a better heating element to keep those plants I brought back from my last trip healthy. The last one dried them up too much. But I read lots of reviews that recommended these.’

Killua looks back at what Gon’s getting. Sure enough, he sees what he’s pretty sure are the ‘Emerald Rainforest’ cut. He can’t see into the green stones well from the picture, but in person it should seem like there are moving leaves and sunshine under the gem’s surface. Not made of actual emerald, but a cheaper stone magicked to look deep green. It should also have a humidity element inside which should suit Gon’s plants just fine.

‘I’m glad you’re getting use out of them,’ he types back, making a mental note to try to figure out when other kinds of Briolettes he might like.

*

Now that he looks for it, Gon seems to find Facets brand almost everywhere. Enough that he is almost retrospectively embarrassed for not picking up on the name sooner. Killua had been right, though - brand names aren’t something he usually files away. It’s just that now seeing ‘Facets’ automatically makes him think of a certain handsome face.

‘Does Facets have some sort of goal to take over every aisle in the grocery store?’ Gon asks when he finds Facets’ brand cosmetics.

Then, with a snap of a line of lipsticks that all feature names like ‘ruby red,’ ‘glam garnet,’ and ‘glittering diamonds,’ Gon sends, ‘I’m starting to notice a pattern between all these products.’

‘Ha, yeah. Pretty sure I mentioned Bisky’s thing for gemstones?’

Then, a second message comes through.

‘What are you doing in the cosmetics anyway?’

‘Are you surprised? Maybe I want to glitter like a diamond, lol. But it looks like they rearranged this section. I was looking for hair products when I saw your logo.’

‘Lol ok. Fwiw, a warmer tone would favor you more. I’d stick with the garnet if I were you.’

Gon flushes, and is half tempted to throw the lick stick in his cart. He doesn’t, but he does text Killua, ‘I’ll keep that in mind.’

*

When he sees a billboard advertisement for a jeweled type of biome, at first Gon thinks someone is ripping off Killua’s company. But, upon closer inspection, it’s by Facets too.

These biomes aren’t called ‘briolette,’ though. They’re called Brilliant Biomes. Gon already knows that ‘briolette’ and ‘brilliant’ are both types of gemstone cuts. He’d looked it up ‘briolette’ on a whim after buying some biomes for his plants, and he remembers that ‘brilliant’ is that cut that he thinks of when he thinks of a stereotypical gem sort of cut.

After seeing the billboard, Gon searches for ‘Brillant Biomes’ on his scroll, and the results show him that they are, essentially, a really fancy version of what he uses for his work. It’s fancy polished gemstones - diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and such - with pretty weather phenomena caught inside. Some are used for jewelry, and others are simply decorative pieces in and of themselves.He messages Killua with a screenshot and a string of question marks.

‘Seriously though, what don’t y’all make?’

‘Lol, did you think Bisky would be so into gems and not actually get a foot in on the gem industry?’

‘Facets is too much,’ Gon messages back, smiling. ‘But seriously, this is the same thing, just fancier?’

‘Basically. Fancier and more expensive. People with the money will spend anything for a pretty bauble, you know.’

‘That’s crazy. ...But also kinda smart.’

‘Would you say it’s smart? Or… brilliant?’

‘You must be stopped,’ Gon messages back, grinning widely.

*

Killua tries to initiate just as often.

‘The meeting today was so boring.’

‘I think business meetings are genuinely boring.’

‘You’d be surprised. Sometimes things get really heated.’

‘Not today?’

‘No. None of the new project ideas are sticking. Some of the stockholders think they have good ideas and we basically have to find a polite way to tell them they’re stupid.’

‘Lol, I’m sorry. Anything I can do to help?’

‘Tell me about the latest with you?’

Gon sends a picture of himself laying back on what looks like a couch holding a very grumpy Kon. Killua doesn’t much notice Kon until Gon’s next message, though.

‘Kon’s mad at me for taking him to see the vet today. You wanna hear about that?’

Killua smiles and leans back in his seat. ‘Yeah.’

*

He finds a funny comic about a cat pestering its owner into waking up. He sends it to Gon.

‘Kon?’ he asks.

‘Yes! I wake up so often with his little paws batting my face.’

Killua can imagine, and the thought makes him feel warm inside.

*

‘Did you know there are other breeds of fairy flowers?’ Killua asks after doing some idle research while bored in his office.

‘Yeah! What’s crazy is some of those breeds developed entirely independent from one another.’

‘That is crazy,’ Killua agrees. He sends Gon a screenshot of one that has a pinkish hue, the edges of the bloom cut into odd triangular shapes. ‘They’re pretty, though.’

‘You should look up a video of the Flowers in Flight Festival. Kukanya has an area where a lot of different breeds of fairy flower grow, and once every five years they all bloom at once.’

Killua looks it up instantly. The video is beautiful.

‘That’s so amazing,’ he sends to Gon. ‘Have you ever been?’

‘No,’ says Gon. ‘But I’d love to go some day.’

‘Me too. Maybe I’ll try to make it to the next one or something.’

‘That’d be cool,’ Gon sends.

With a fluttering feeling in his stomach, Killua is reminded of the sight of Gon surrounded by the glow of fairy flowers in his greenhouse. How much more gorgeous would he look under the light of hundreds more?

*

‘Tell me about other cool plants you’ve seen,’ Killua sends him.

It takes encouragement. Gon asks if he’s sure he’s interested, like he’s not sure that Killua will want to listen to him talk at length about something that’s such a personal interest to him.

‘No, really, tell me,’ Killua insists.

Gon answers with an endearing enthusiasm. He informs Killua about some of the favorite flora he’s encountered on his travels - color changing, leaves shaped like stars, plants that mimic animals and animals that mimic plants, all found all over the world. Killua smiles at his scroll as he reads exclamations of ‘really cool!’ or ‘amazing and unique!’ - as much about the plants as the far off places Gon found them in.

Some of the more technical terms go over his head, but Gon stops to explain when he asks, and is so polite and informative that the conversation goes on for hours.

Alone in his apartment, Killua imagines Gon surrounded by greenery. He imagines not just the plants Gon describes, but the caster as he would tend to them, helping them to live and grow and bloom.

As he thinks, warmth blossoms in Killua’s stomach.

*

More than once Gon finds himself staying up late to send messages back and forth with Killua, who must be staying up late too. It feels nice, getting distracted like this.

This is easy, somehow. If Killua were here in person, with his handsome face and his sharp eyes and pretty mouth, Gon suspects he’d have more trouble keeping up with this casual back and forth, this testing of the waters. When Killua isn’t here to face him, he doesn't have to take it too seriously when Killua mentions that he also wants to see the festival where the fairy flowers all fly away by the hundreds. He doesn’t have to worry about what that would mean. Gon can just remember how beautiful Killua had looked in the greenhouse that night, how those blue eyes had sparkled, and how Killua was and is somehow interested in him enough to want to keep talking even after he left town. Gon can just enjoy the growing sense of fondness he has towards Killua without analyzing it too closely.

Right now, it’s just words and the glow of his scroll staring back at him, and Gon likes that. If, however, the future were to offer him just a little something more…

There’s a voice in the back of his head trying to caution him against wanting that - wanting more. He’s better on his own, when no one needs to rely on him, when he can’t let them down.

Killua, though - he seems to have his head on straight. He’s stable. He’s self-sufficient. And if Killua wants to give him a little attention, Gon thinks it’s okay to indulge a bit.

*

One evening Gon gets a picture of a dinner plate with some kind of meat, rice, greens, and eggs. He grins when he recognizes the dish he made for himself and Alluka for lunch not so long ago. ‘You did it! How do you like it?’

‘It came out pretty well, I think. It’s been a while since I actually cooked myself something.’

‘Yeah? Cooking is nice sometimes.’

‘I used to do it a lot more,’ Killua sends back, and Gon tries to imagine Killua in the kitchen. He knows he’d helped Alluka with that dinner when he was in town, but he’s also heard Alluka talk about Killua’s mishaps in the kitchen. As if Killua can hear his thoughts across the distance between them, another message appears on his screen. ‘I’m not always great at it, but I had to do it when we were younger.’

Oh. That’s right. He and Alluka had moved out when they were young. They started to support themselves while they were still teenagers.

‘You should cook more,’ Gon encourages. ‘That’s the only way, really, to get good at it.’

‘Maybe. I just fell off doing it for a while.’

‘I can get that.’

‘You can?’

‘Yeah…’ Gon types, then hesitates, figuring out how to word the next part. ‘I stopped cooking altogether for a while.’

‘Why?’

‘Just life and stuff. Didn’t feel motivated to do it, I guess..’

‘Oh. Yeah, I understand that.’

Gon finds himself wondering if Killua really does. Part of him hopes that Killua doesn’t have reason to understand how he really means that.

‘But anyway, being good at cooking is something that just takes practice. Helps if you have someone to show you how to do it, too. My aunt taught me.’

‘I mostly had to teach myself,’ Killua tells him. Gon bites his lip as he reads over the words. ‘My family wasn’t really big on doing stuff like that. Not a lot of hands-on stuff…’

Gon lays back, his head propped up on the arm on his loveseat. He doesn’t know a whole lot about Killua and Alluka’s family. He knows they’re supposed to be some sort of big-shots. He knows that Alluka and Killua left home when they were young because their family was bad to them. Alluka doesn’t like talking about it, though. She goes quiet, sometimes, when the subject of families come up - when people talk about their parents or grandparents. Gon knows the feeling - or something like it - so he’s never pushed. He’s pretty sure Killua doesn’t want to talk a lot about it either, so he hasn’t asked. ‘Sorry to hear that.’

‘Don’t be. Alluka and I are better off without them. Have been for a long time.’

‘That’s good. It’s their loss, anyway. You’re both amazing.’

‘Yeah,’ Killua sends back, and Gon feels a soft pressure against his heart.

‘Alluka told me those biome thingies were your idea, by the way. You should have said! That’s so cool!’

‘I just pitched the idea, Gon. A lot of people worked on them.’

‘Don’t be modest. She also said you spent a lot of time making them happen and testing it all out. You should be proud of yourself! You’re really amazing.’

‘I’m just lucky to have the resources to make projects like that into a reality. It’s not so amazing.’

‘It totally is! And you totally are. I’m starting to think there’s nothing Killua Zoldyck can’t do if his mind is set on it.’

‘I guess we’ll have to see,’ Killua sends back, and Gon’s not totally sure what he means by that.

‘Well, if you ever want anyone to help you with cooking, maybe I could show you some stuff sometime.’

‘I’d love that.’

*

Each time Gon’s scroll buzzes throughout the day, he hopes it’s Killua.

It isn’t always.

Sometimes it’s Alluka checking in or asking him about a certain plant. Sometimes he’s getting a message from Banana - a picture of her with Monta or Stick or Spinner while on their latest adventure. Palm texts him to let him know she’s thinking about coming into town soon.

‘Don’t forget we have dinner planned week after next!’ Leorio tells him, as if he needs a reminder of the regular dinners he has with Kurapika and Leorio.

‘Wouldn’t miss it for the world,’ Gon sends back, all the same.

Still, for every message he gets from just about anyone else, Gon can count on getting a couple more from Killua. He’s glad for it.

He’s gladder still when Killua tells him. ‘I’m thinking of coming back into town soon for a weekend or something.’

Gon’s stomach flutters, like it’s full of butterflies. ‘Yeah?’ He sends back.

‘I’d like to see you while I’m there.’ The fluttering grows in intensity.

‘I’d like that too.’

Chapter Text

The next time Killua comes in to town, Alluka gets some forewarning.

She’s glad for it. Not that she hadn’t been thrilled when he surprised her, but it’s nice to be able to plan ahead. She has time to set up the guestroom first and to plan to take a few days off. They know more or less what they want to do while he’s in town. This visit isn’t as long, but she’ll take whatever she can get. Killua coming over is an absolute treat.

She’s not the only one with forewarning, though. A couple of weeks before he’s even due in, she’s picking up an order at Kon’s Forest when Gon makes an off-hand comment about it.

“You must be excited that Killua’s gonna be back in town soon.”

“Yeah, I am,” she answers, automatically, warmth filling her voice. But something in her brain clicks to a halt.

Wait. She doesn’t remember mentioning…

“How did you..?” Alluka starts, and Gon must realize he’s spoken before she had a chance to break the news. His graze drops to the counter and he tries to seem very occupied with wrapping her purchase.

“Oh, he-... he mentioned it. Last time we were talking.”

Alluka smiles wide. “Oh, yeah. You two have been messaging a lot.”

It’s not a question. Gon can’t hide the way he smiles, even as he keeps his head bowed.

“Sometimes,” he answers.

Alluka lets out a thoughtful hum, which draws Gon’s attention.

“What?” he asks.

“Oh. Nothing, nothing,” she answers. “I’m just glad you two have made friends, is all.”

For a moment, he just blinks. Then a smile blooms on Gon’s face that’s bigger than before and practically glowing. “Yeah,” he says. “I am, too.”

Taking her small package, she just smiles back, just as wide. “I’ll see you later, Gon.”

If they still need pushing, she’s sure she can find a reason to send Killua down to Kon’s Forest.

*

Only a couple of hours before he closes shop, Gon gets a message.

‘Look outside.’

His heart leaps inside him, and he whirls to see Killua standing outside the window, smiling and waving. Gon feels an uncontrollable smile break out onto his face as Killua moves to step inside.

“Hey,” he greets as the bell rings above the door.

“Hey!” Gon returns. “Let me just-” He shifts a pot on one of the high shelves then carefully steps down off his stool. “You’re early - I thought you weren’t getting in until tomorrow?”

“Ah, slight schedule change. Sorry, I didn’t think to say…” Killua’s teeth sink into his lower lip, and Gon feels a fluttering inside as he walks over towards where Killua stands waiting.

“It’s alright. It’s good to see you again,” Gon tells him. His instinct is to reach and shake hands, but that seems awfully formal now. His hands don’t know what to do, so he just fiddles with the short green apron that hangs from his waist.

“You too,” Killua agrees, hands hidden in his pockets.

Gon looks at him, suddenly at a loss for words. They’ve been messaging each other so much. Why is it suddenly hard for Gon to think of anything to say? “Umm… Does Alluka need anything?”

Killua seems just as at a loss as he is. “Oh, uh… No, no. I just wanted to say hi.”

More fluttering. Gon can’t help but grin, and Killua seems flushed.

“Um... “ Killua ducks his head briefly, then looks back up. “Actually, Alluka and Nanika and I are going, um… Out tomorrow. Downtown, just to hang out. And we were wondering if you wanted to come with?”

Gon’s eyebrows lift a little at the offer. They both were wondering? “Oh… Umm…”

“I mean- if you can’t,” Killua interjects suddenly. “With the store and all, I understand.”

“Oh, no,” Gon shakes his head. “It’s not… Are you sure I won’t be intruding?”

“I’m sure,” Killua answers, smiling. “We won’t… I’d like for you to be there.”

He’d like for Gon to be there, he says… Gon’s smiling again. “Yeah, okay.”

*

With Killua back in town, however briefly, it becomes increasingly obvious that Gon isn’t going to be able to deny the attraction he feels. It was such a little thing at first - just the thought that Alluka’s brother was much more cute than he’d expected. The tiniest sprout inside of him. When Killua left, he hadn’t really thought there would be more to it than that.

After all of their messaging back and forth, though, it’s different. He’s gotten to know Killua better, bit by bit, and he likes what he’s learned.

Growing things can be a tricky practice, Gon knows. You can’t treat one plant like you would another. Each has its particular needs - type of soil, amount of sunlight and water, warm or cool or dry or humid climate.

Then why was nursing this so easy? This warm, fluttering feeling inside he bears for Killua - how had it grown so much with him hardly noticing?

The outing with Alluka, Nanika, and Killua is so much fun. They don’t do much more than walk down along main street, browsing shops before stopping for lunch. Still, it’s so refreshing. Gon acknowledges that this must be in part because of his own habit of burying himself in his work. Aside from those regular lunches with Kurapika and Leorio - one of which is coming up soon, he reminds himself - he doesn’t get out all that often. It’s easier to focus on his chores at Kon’s Forest, easier to focus on planning ahead for his next big solo-adventure.

As he walks down the sidewalk with Killua, Alluka, and Nanika, as he listens to them laugh and bicker and poke fun, as he lets himself be dragged in and submits to Alluka’s gentle teasing - Gon finds himself glad he’s come, and gladder still that they (or Killua?) thought to invite him.

But part of him is selfish.

When Killua turns to him, when he looks at him with those stunning blue eyes, when he smiles and drops back to walk alongside Gon close enough that he can feel the warmth of Killua’s arm near his own, Gon wishes that it were just the two of them. He wishes Killua would make time for him alone, maybe, if only for a little while.

It’s more than just a physical attraction, too. Gon feels surprisingly at ease with him around. Talking with Killua, being around him - it’s simple in the way that being around people sometimes isn’t. There are spaces inside Gon. Tucked away in his bones, in his gut, in his hands. Sometimes, when he’s around people, those spaces feel all the more vast, all the more cold. It’s different with Killua. There’s a warmth Killua brings with him. He makes those spaces seem smaller, less noticeable. Gon doesn’t want that feeling to go away.

He should say something. He knows he should say something. He should try to be smooth, and confident, and charming, but… Shit, it's been a long time. After his accident, the few times he’d tried hadn’t lasted long at all, and before he knew it, he'd been alone out of habit almost as much as design.

That first weekend passes by too quickly for him to get a chance to work up the gumption to try.

Killua leaves. Gon feels like a hollowed tree.

He should’ve said something.

*

Killua’s dug himself in deep.

It’s not what he intended to happen - flirting with Gon and messaging him was easy, fun. But now - now there’s a kernel of hope inside him for something more than just light flirting.

In any case, he isn’t going to be able to hide his attraction to Gon for long. Especially not if he’s going to visit more often, and see Gon at some point during those visits.

Seeing Gon isn’t something he wants to leave to chance, either.

Timing is difficult, though - in more ways than one. For a while things never seem to line up. For starters, it’s harder to get away from work these days. With several ongoing projects at Facets, he can’t snag more than a few days away at any time. Then, when he comes into town, his sisters take priority. The quality time he gets in with them makes him truly and deeply happy, but he can’t ignore the part of him that doesn’t feel settled until he’s seen Gon, too.

Gon has his own life as well. Sometimes he’s busy with work when Killua comes in on a weekend off. Once, he messages Gon to find out he already has a prior commitment with some old friends. Still worse, one weekend Killua comes into town to find out that Gon is going to be out of the county for two weeks, off on another trip to the wild somewhere - somewhere with poor reception, because Gon responds very late to his message and apologizes profusely for missing it.

They don’t always suffer these near misses. Several times, in fact, when Killua comes in town Gon makes sure to bring a meal over to him and Alluka. Several times more, Killua takes any excuse he can to stop by Kon’s Forest - even if it means suffering the knowing looks and teasing he gets from his sisters. He supposes he should be thankful even that they keep said teasing to a minimum. They seem quite content to leave him to enjoy the occasional flirt with Gon. Killua is even starting to feel that maybe there’s a chance for more than just flirting.

If he could just snag a couple of moments with Gon alone - truly alone, not with his sisters near or at Kon’s Forest when another customer might walk in - he could get a chance to make a proper move.

Or let Gon make a proper move, since Killua honestly isn’t sure what he’d do. It’s been too damn long. He’s buried his head in work, and he’s even managed to be a little more productive lately for it. It makes it all the harder, though, to figure this out. It’s not made any easier for the fact that Gon is more than just looks. He’s kind. He’s funny. He doesn’t have his head stuffed insufferably far up his own ass.

Killua swears this used to be easy. Flirting should naturally lead to something more when both parties are interested (stars, he hopes Gon is interested), but it hasn’t yet.

The one chance Killua has to be alone with Gon, he fumbles the ball. When he stops by Kon’s Forest after hours, Gon calls to him from the garden out back. Killua goes, thinking that this could be his chance.

He isn’t prepared for what he finds -

-which is Gon. A very shirtless Gon. Gon showing Killua more of Gon than he has heretofore had the pleasure of viewing. Bared brown skin, clusters and constellations of freckles that apparently dot more than just his handsome face. Skin beaded with sweat, stretched over the defined muscles of his abdomen, his arm, and his pecs. He’s incredibly, undeniably, unfairly attractive. Even Gon’s prosthetic, which Killua can now see attached at about the midpoint of his upper arm with root-like offshoots winding up to his shoulder, seems natural, meant to be a part of him - beautiful in its own right.

Killua stares, struck dumb. His fingers ache to touch. Heat creeps from his hairline to under his collar.

Oh, fuck, he thinks. And, It’s been too fucking long.

Killua pulls through without making a total fool of himself, but he leaves without having made any progress. The opportunity had been perfect, and he’d panicked over Gon showing him a little skin! Beautiful, brown, freckled skin that must be so warm and-

Fuck, it’s been too long.

*

Alluka is going to lose her mind.

She really, truly is! In all her life she’s never known two more oblivious idiots - and one of them her own flesh and blood! Despite her teasing, Alluka really doesn’t want to get involved in Killua’s lovelife. Teasing is her heavens-blessed right as a sibling, but thinking too seriously of Killua in a relationship is just… Blegh.

But if she doesn’t do something soon, if she doesn’t give one or both of them a little push, she might actually tear all her hair out - and not even Nanika can soothe her frustrations. Killua keeps coming into town, quietly vibrating with hope and barely disguising the reason behind his frequent visits to Kon’s Forest.. Every time he does she expects there to be some progress, some something.

But it’s always nothing. Killua dances around the subject, shier than a selkie coming ashore. Gon is no better, making eyes at Killua from across the room when he thinks no one is looking.

When one day Killua returns after a short trip to Kon’s Forest with a flush all over his face, Alluka thinks she’s been delivered from her suffering.

Only, Killua’s not smiling. He’s… practically scowling, in fact. He avoids eye contact and refuses to say anything about the visit.

Alluka sighs heavily. They need a shove, but Alluka knows how stubborn her big brother can be. Maybe she’ll have more success prodding from Gon’s side.

*

Gon wonders if he’s finally intruded too much on Killua’s time with his sisters. Alluka and Nanika have been awfully good sports when he goes along with him on outings. When Alluka and Killua stop by his store to browse his stock, though, she keeps shooting him looks.

They aren’t altogether nice looks.

Not that they’re particularly mean, either, though. Alluka’s never really mean - and Gon doesn’t want to give her reason to be. Whenever he looks up, though, she’s staring at him. Hard. He doesn't know what to make of it.

Maybe there isn’t anything to make of it, either. Gon hasn’t told Alluka yet, but he’s been restless the past few nights and he may in fact need something more to help him sleep. The way she’s looking at him makes him less eager to ask, but maybe he’s just being sensitive. Maybe it’s just that he already sort of feels like he’s walking through sludge, and he’s taking it the wrong way.

Maybe he’d also taken Killua leaving so abruptly the other day wrong, too. Killua had come by late just the other day, and he’d seemed agitated for some reason. He’d been red in the face, his brow pinched, a frown tugging at his lips. When Gon had asked him what was wrong, Killua only dodged the question and left soon after that.

Gon frowns down at his desk as he sorts through some herbs. Of course, Killua doesn’t have to tell him what had upset him if he doesn’t want to. It’s possible, likely even, that it has nothing to do with Gon at all. At least, that’s what the reasonable voice in his head says.

It doesn’t quite drown out the one that asks: What if it was me?

Once he’s sorted Alluka’s order, he walks over to her to hand over the little bag. “Here,” he offers, smiling.

“Thanks,” Alluka says, taking a quick peek inside. Seeming satisfied with it’s contents, she nods, then looks back up at him.

And keeps looking.

Gon blinks. Killua has occupied himself with browsing a shelf across the store, so he doesn’t notice Alluka just… standing there in front of Gon. Does she expect something more? Did he forget to put something in?

“Uuuhh… Is there… something else?”

Alluka lifts both brows. “I dunno, Gon. Is there anything else you think should be happening here?”

Gon frowns. “Ummm… I…” Is she really mad at him then? “I’m sorry? For whatever I did to make you angry?”

Alluka just sighs, heavily.

“I- Alluka, really, whatever I did…”

“This isn’t about me, you big dummy,” she tells him, her voice lifting just a fraction. She looks over her shoulder, and Gon follows her line of sight. She’s looking at Killua - as if to make sure he hadn’t overheard.

It’s Killua then? He really was mad the other day. “Oh! I…” Gon turns to Alluka. “I … I don’t know why he was upset with me the other day, but… I-I can go apologize. I’ll make it right, I promise,” he says.

Alluka slaps her hand over her face. “You two, I swear…” Then, looking up at Gon, she reaches for his hand and squeezes it. “Listen. Gon. I’m telling you this as your friend.” A pause, then, “For the love of all things green and growing - Figure. It. Out.”

Gon stares at her, lost.

Another sigh. Then, speaking slowly, as if to a child, “I love you… And I love Killua. But if I have to keep watching you two make goo goo eyes at each other without ever making a serious move I’m going to hex you both to feel like you have to sneeze for a month, got it?”

Gon’s face flames. “Wha- Who? Making- what? There’s no- no… eyes.” Gon can’t help but glance at Killua, his heart beating really fast. Killua so happens to glance over then, and Gon’s pulse drums in his ears. Quickly, he looks back to Alluka, who now as an oddly smug look on her face.

That doesn’t make this any better. She was mad only a moment ago! Hasn’t he taken enough of Killua’s time? Wouldn’t it be worse if he- if he actually... Suddenly he feels like he should be reassuring her of his intentions or something. “No one’s making … making any moves. No moves were considered. I’m- He’s your brother.”

Alluka groans. “Which is why talking about this is gross! So just do something already!”

Gon glances towards Killua, who looks curiously at the two of them, and then away again. Their voices are low enough that he likely can’t hear, but still. Gon doesn’t know if his face could possibly get warmer. “I’m… I’m not…” He bites his lip. Alluka waits, her face passive. “Does he...Did he say? Does he… want… a move to be made?”

Alluka gives him another hard look. “Ask. Him. Yourself.”

Then, turning on the ball of her foot, she heads directly for the door. Killua doesn’t seem to notice she’s leaving until the bell rings, and then he hurries to follow.

When Killua reaches the door, he looks over his shoulder, smiles that charming smile of his, and waves. “See you around, Gon.”

Gon stands for a beat, then two, then three. He knows Killua is scheduled to leave tomorrow evening to go back home. The thought of him going again makes Gon’s stomach feel sour. He’s been making frequent trips in for a while now, and they’ve just missed each other more often than Gon cares for. Mismatched times, one or both of them too busy, and they wind up not seeing each other when Killua’s in town. It bothers Gon. It bothers him more than it probably should. When he’d forgotten to mention he was going out of town and missed seeing Killua even more, he’d felt awful. It had practically spoiled his trip. Every time they message or call one another, Gon finds himself wishing they could spend more time together. He wants to be around Killua more. He wants Killua to stay, but knows he has to leave.

But maybe… Gon doesn’t have to let him leave before he…

The heavy thunk, thunk, thunk of Gon’s boots across the hardwood as he runs to the door startles Kon, but he has to hurry before they get too far down the street. Gon throws the door open and sees Alluka and Killua down the way, Killua trailing behind as they go.

No time for thinking, just - “WAIT!”

He walks down the pavement towards them, thinking that running would be too silly, make it seem too urgent. Killua’s brow is furrowed, but he walks to meet Gon part way.

“What is it?” he asks when they’re standing face to face. Blue eyes look down at him, and Gon can see a gentle concern in them. “Everything alright?”

Gon’s heart hammers in his chest. All of this… All of this between them has to have meant something, right? All the times Killua’s looked at him, all the times Gon thought he was flirting - it couldn’t have all just been in Gon’s head, right?

Stars, Killua is beautiful. Dear merciful stars, please let him be right about this.

“I’m sorry,” Gon says as a preface, which only seems to confuse Killua more. He charges ahead, though. “I should have said sooner. I wanted to say something sooner, I did, but... it’s just… It’s been a long time since I’ve done this.”

Killua’s eyes do something that makes Gon’s stomach flip. There’s a sparkle of something there that Gon doesn’t want to try to name. “Since you’ve… done what, Gon?”

“I like you a lot,” Gon says, the words at once feeling so big and not at all enough. “I… I like talking to you, and I like when we have a chance to spend time together. And I think I’m even sort of interested in you in a sort of … romantic... kind… of way?”

Oh, this is stupid. It’s so stupid. Gon wishes desperately he had better words.

Killua’s not running in the other direction, though, so that’s good, right? He’s staying where he is, and he’s not frowning, or looking angry, or trying to distance himself from Gon. His cheeks are flushed a charming pink, and when he bites his lip Gon can see a smile beginning.

“Me too,” Killua admits. “I like you in a romantic kind of way.”

Gon laughs, relieved. He lifts his hand to the back of his neck. “Good… I… I’m sorry that sounded so…”

Killua shakes his head. “It’s alright. It’s… It’s been a while since I’ve done this, too.”

Gon nods, glad he understands. Killua teeth sink into his lower lip again, and it’s incredibly distracting. Blurting out the first thing to come to mind seems to have worked so far, so...

“I’d like to kiss you,” Gon says, the words out of his mouth almost as soon as the thought has formed in his mind.

Killua stares at him, and Gon realizes that maybe now isn’t the best time for that. Just, Killua is leaving soon, and he doesn’t know if he’ll see Killua tomorrow, and he’s wanted to kiss him actually for a really long time.

But they’re on the sidewalk outside of some stores down main street. Killua’s sister is waiting for him. It’s not the most romantic setting for a first kiss.

Killua’s still not moving away, though.

“Yeah?” he asks, drawing one of his hands out of his pockets. Gon draws a breath in when that hand is placed on the side of his neck. Killua’s fingers feel a little cool against his skin. He leans into the touch. “I’d like for you to kiss me,” Killua tells him, smiling, the glint in his eyes mirthful and just a little mischievous.

That’s all the permission Gon needs. He reaches up to cup Killua’s jaw, guiding him down until their mouths meet.

As first kisses go, it’s simple. Soft, slow, a hint of heat when Killua’s tongue traces over his lips and Gon’s mouth parts so he can taste Killua so briefly in return.

They pull back, though, before either of them can become too lost in it. Killua’s smile makes Gon’s pulse rocket. He feels as though he could leap into the sky and soar.

“I’ll stop by tomorrow before I leave,” Killua tells him.

Gon, elated, only nods in response, grinning. He has the promise of seeing Killua once more before they have to part again, and that’s more than enough for him.

Chapter Text

Work is an incredible drag. R&D has stalled out on the latest line of make-up glamours they’re designing, and now their projections for production are all off. The prototype doesn’t do what it needed to. The spellwork’s just not holding the way they thought it would. On top of that, one of their backers has cut funding for the kitschy animated animal trinkets, grinding that project to a sudden halt as well.

It’s incredibly frustrating. Killua hates hitting snags like this, and it seems to be happening a lot lately. What makes it all worse - Killua doesn’t care for either of these projects to begin with. Sure, they’ll sell. It’s always easy to make the public at large want to buy something they feel will make them look better, and someone has already suggested marketing the animated trinkets as a replacement for a familiar - perfect for beginners and the rich and lazy alike, depending on how they make them. Killua is well aware that there’s a market for them, if they can ever get things up and running. But where’s the imagination behind it? Where’s the drive to make a unique product?

Bisky would tell him to get his head out of the clouds. Not everything they make at Facets can be the next big thing. Not every product is going to have the same creative impact as Killua’s jeweled biomes, or the affordable clothing they make for lower-income customers that’s charmed to be both durable and weather-resistant. Still, when Bisky calls him into her office for a one on one brainstorming session, he looks at the polished sapphire, a little smaller than his fist, that sits on her desk. He watches the storm raging inside it - rolling clouds and lightning strikes - and remembers the day he made it for her. When everyone else was arguing the what-ifs and hows, Killua had decided to go capture of piece of a storm just to prove it could be done. He’d found the storm, weaved a spell to cut off a piece of it, drew it down, wove a barrier around it until it was there, in his hands - all its rolling, flashing, thundering power.

It had been amazing and fulfilling. He’d felt a drive then that he doesn’t now. None of the current projects light a fire in him, fuel that drive he had when he and Bisky were really starting to put Facets on the map.

There’s got to be some fresh ideas out there that they’re just not tapping into.

Bisky’s right, though - they need to focus on where they’re at instead of wishing there was something better on the table. Facets is doing well, and even if Killua himself isn’t invested, plenty of their new products have great potential in certain markets. They all just need to put their noses to the grindstone.

After a particularly headache-inducing meeting, Killua moves quickly to his office to clear his head before anyone can draw him aside. If he has to listen to one more word about the pedantic, useless, petty infighting between the R&D facet and the financing facet about needing quality materials to make sure the spellwork holds on the blah blah- verses the impracticality of using high grade materials when such and such a company did something similar with such and such a blah blah BLAH BLAH

Killua couldn’t listen to half of it, and he needs a few moments to gather himself before he goes out there with his big-boy pants on to try to make the two work together to find a compromise.

Sitting at his desk, Killua feels a soft buzz in his pocket. He almost doesn’t want to check. It could be any one of the inner facets messaging him about where his attention is needed, or Bisky even, or-

He pulls his scroll out all the same, and smiles.

It’s Gon. He’s sent a picture of some potted hanging plant with small circular leaves and puffy, soft looking blooms on them. Gon’s happy that it’s flowering finally.

‘How are you?’ Gon asks after telling him about the plant.

‘You have really good timing. Wishing I were anywhere but work rn, tbh.’

‘Yeah? Everything ok?’

‘It’s fine. Just the regular kind of frustrating work stuff.’

‘Sorry to hear it’s frustrating you, though.’

‘It’s alright. What are you up to?’

‘Aside from tending to my plants? Thinking of you.’

Killua’s smile grows into a grin. ‘Oh, really? Thinking of me how?’

‘Thinking about how I didn’t get to kiss you enough before you left.’

Killua chuckles, and types out an agreement. He had seen Gon a little that last day, but it wasn’t a lengthy visit. Just long enough to pull Gon away from the front floor and kiss him in the back room without the prying eyes of his sisters or customers. They’d talked a little, too - come clean about how they both meant to say something to the other sooner. To think Gon had been dancing around him because he was nervous too.

It’s sort of a relief, really. Killua can’t imagine why Gon hasn’t been on the dating scene lately, considering how incredibly hot he is. Still, if Gon’s as out of practice as him, they can get back into practice together. It takes some of the pressure off.

‘What’s something you’ve wanted to learn to cook?’ Gon asks him.

Killua has to think about it. When he answers, Gon invites him over. Next time he’s in town, Gon wants him to come over to his place and he’ll show him how to make it.

‘We can make an evening of it.’.

Killua smiles so wide his cheeks hurt. ‘I’d like that.’

*

The thought of actually having Killua over is nerve wracking. It seems a little backwards - inviting him over for such a private night in first, before they even go out somewhere. Killua insists he’s fine with that, though. He mentions to Gon that going out can be a bother at times, on account of people sometimes recognize him.

Gon wants to do whatever makes Killua most comfortable, so a night in it is. A night in his tiny apartment. He warns Kilua of the size - just enough to fit over the store. He supposes if he wanted to, he could take Killua back to the house, but… He’s avoided being there for so long. Especially after his long trips, it’s too isolated. Even if he prefers the sound of wind and waves, the hum of insects, and the creak of a house settling to the constant buzzing of the city - the city feels less lonely. Busier is sometimes what he needs. But because he hasn’t been to the house in so long, it’s not ready for company. He hasn’t had time to clean, and he’s not up to tackling that task just yet. Taking Killua to a dusty house seems like it’d be more embarrassing than into his clean but tiny apartment.

Killua comes in the early evening, meeting Gon downstairs after he’s closed up shop. Gon can see him waiting outside as he approaches the door, opening it for him since he’d locked up a few moments ago. “Hey,” he greets, smiling.

“Hey,” Killua returns, and then he’s leaning in, hand cupping Gon’s jaw as he draws him in for a soft kiss.

Gon sighs, leaning into it. When they break, Gon blinks slowly. “...Hey.”

Killua grins at him. “You already said that.” Gon flushes, but Killua just laughs. “You gonna let me in?”

“Oh!” Gon laughs at himself. He steps back and Killua follows. Once he has the door shut again, Gon leads Killua up the stairs.

Thankfully, he doesn’t say anything about the smallness of the space up here. Gon sees him looking around as Gon moves into the kitchenette. He gets all of the ingredients out, and begins to explain to Killua what he has in mind for their meal and what they’ll need to do. Killua is attentive, nodding along. When it comes time to get down to it, he rolls up his sleeves and goes to work doing whatever Gon instructs him to.

It goes well. It goes really well, actually. Gon had thought that the size of his kitchen would prove frustrating. It’s not really meant for two people to work in. Instead, though, the smallness of the area they have to work in just lends itself well to giving them an excuse to work closely. They stand side by side, close enough that they gently nudge into each other when they move. Hands brush, elbows and shoulders bump playfully, and they laugh softly at each other. Gon finds himself smiling, flush, all his worries melted away. Not to mention, he’s all the more eager to reach out and touch Killua. Killua, apparently, feels the same.

When they finish their meal - which turned out terrific - Gon doesn’t have to say anything as he takes Killua’s hand and leads him from the small two-person dining table to his couch. They sit close, and lose all sense of time talking.

“Bisky’s happy, I think, that I’m taking breaks more often,” Killua says with a roll of his shoulder, when Gon asks if he’s gotten any flak for taking off.

Gon hums. He turns towards Killua so their knees touch. Killua reaches to hook his fingers through Gon’s, pulling his hand into is grasp. “You seem close with her. You talk about her really... casually.”

Killua blinks, blue eyes dropping as he draws absent-minded patterns on the back of Gon’s hand. “We are close… A lot closer than people in our positions typically are, for sure.”

Gon watches as Killua pushes up the edge of his sleeve, those deft fingers tracing up his inner arm in a way that has Gon repressing a shiver. He’s quiet, though, as he waits for Killua to go on.

Killua’s eyes remain cast down. “She… She knew me, sort of, before I left home. Or, well, knew of me. I was… I was struggling to support us, working shitty retail jobs, and… Bisky took a chance on me. She hired me, even though I didn’t technically have the qualifications I needed. I mean… I’d trained, like… I’d seen how my family ran their business since I was young, but I didn’t have a formal business education and...” Killua rolls his shoulder.

“She gave you a better job,” Gon says, drawing those blue eyes up for a moment.

Killua nods, and smiles. “I think… I think maybe someone asked her. Um. Someone who worked for my family, but who basically helped raise me and Alluka. So Bisky gave me a chance, and I worked my ass off for her, starting from the bottom.”

“And then you made COO.”

Killua’s smile widens, and Gon can tell he’s proud of the fact. “One of the youngest. It was a pretty big deal when she promoted me into the position. I was… like only almost twenty-seven at the time.”

Gon’s brows raise. “That’s amazing, Killua,” he says, his voice soft and hushed but brimming with sincerity.

Killua’s cheeks flush, and he averts his eyes again. Then nudging Gon with his knee, he replies, “You’ve done pretty amazing things, yourself.” Then, he lifts Gon’s hand, and lets his lips ghost over the inside of Gon’s wrist. Looking up at Gon from under the dark sweep of his eyelashes, Killua asks, “Tell me more about your travels?”

Gon shivers and laughs softly, a noise born of the giddy feeling Killua arouses in him, and indulges him. It’s fun to watch Killua’s eyes shimmer and light up as he talks about it.

“All the places you’ve been sound amazing. It must be nice to get away sometimes.”

“Yeah,” Gon admits. “It’s nice to have to option. To not be too cooped up.”

Killua sighs. “Yeah. I get that - feeling too cooped up sometimes. I’d love to go off and… have an adventure or something.”

Gon smiles at him, shifting his hold on Killua’s hand. “Mmm… Sometimes you can find something adventurous closer to home than you expect,” he says, and lifts Killua’s hand to kiss slowly at his fingers.

Gon’s heart studders as Killua flushes a pretty color and smiles at him. “Flatterer,” he accuses, then lifts his free hand to Gon’s jaw. “Get over here,” he commands, and draws Gon into a kiss that quickly escalates from soft to heated.

They kiss like they haven’t really had the opportunity to before - truly on their own, not tucked around just out of sight for a few stolen moments. Now they can take their time, now they can touch in whatever ways they’re comfortable with.

Gon groans as Killua bites his lower lip, opening his mouth to let a curious tongue lick its way in. His own lifts to taste Killua. A strong hand at his waist pulls him closer and Gon curls his fingers a little tighter in Killua’s hair.

Knees touching, Gon’s leg hitches up a little, settling over Killua’s knee. He feels hot and flushed. Would it be too much too soon if he slid himself over Killua’s lap? If he were to press in close to feel the solid warmth of his body?

The buzz in his pocket makes Gon jump.

Killua stills, pulling back marginally. “Do you need to get that?”

Gon blinks for a moment, his mind coming back to him. “...Oh.” It’s his scroll.

When he pulls it out of his pocket, it’s a message from Kite. Shit. He still needs to tell him if he’s going to try to make it on that survey trip he has planned in a few months. Kite has said he might need extra hands, and asked Gon along.

Later, though. He’ll tell him later.

“Sorry about that,” Gon says. “Just a friend, I can get back to them later.” He sets his scroll on the arm of the couch.

Killua nods, and the way those blue eyes drop - looking at his mouth - makes Gon shiver. Killua’s thumb is at his lower lip, tracing over it in a way that does funny things to Gon’s insides. Killua blinks, then pulls back a margin.

Gon frowns. “What is it?” Is something wrong?

Killua’s lips turn in a frown, too. “Nothing, just… I realized I don’t know what time it is.”

“Oh.” Gon reaches to tilt his scroll towards him enough to look. “Oh. It’s late…” He already knows what Killua’s thinking.

“I should.. I should go. Get back to Alluka’s.”

Gon feels a soft sort of disappointment, but he understands. Much as he wants to keep doing this with Killua, he’s not sure if he’s ready for more yet. He turns to Killua, reaching to cup his face between both his hands. He nods. “Okay… Yeah.”

Killua bites his lip, which is practically foul play. Tempting Gon like that when he should be leaving! “I just don't want to wake her up, coming in too late.”

Gon nods. “No, I understand. You should…”

“I had a really good time, though,” Killua tells him. His hand falls to the leg Gon has hitched up over Killua’s. The warm touch to his knee is enough to ignite a few hot sparks in Gon’s stomach. “A really, really good time.”

“Me too,” Gon whispers. He wants so badly to lean in and take another kiss, but if he does that now, here, like this… Oh, he could get distracted so easily. So he pulls back. Killua follows his lead, and they both stand.

Gon packs some of the leftovers for Killua in a tupperware, leads him back downstairs.

They get stalled up twice, down in the dark of his store. Once, at the bottom of the stairs, Killua boxes him in against the wall and trails kisses from his mouth to his jaw. Then again, after they’ve stumbled closer to the door. Killua’s hair is lit like a halo in the moonlight, and Gon can’t resist reaching up to pull him into one last goodbye kiss that leaves them both flushed and panting.

The result is Killua leaving several minutes after they’d originally planned, but Gon thinks - can either of them really be blamed?

*

Dividing his time between his sisters and his … whatever Gon is to him, proves a little difficult. Killua often can’t afford to take off for a long break, leaving him with only a couple of days here or there to spend with either or all of them. Killua wishes there were more time, wishes work didn’t call for his attention so much.

Alluka and Nanika are understanding. They’re thrilled to see him when they can, and don’t give him any guff about wanting to go have some alone time with Gon. But then, that shouldn’t surprise him. They’ve always been the best sisters in the world.

And Gon…

He is always such a breath of fresh air. Aside from being incredibly handsome and an amazing kisser, he’s just - he’s good. He’s funny. He’s thoughtful, considerate. He’s amazing.

When Killua isn’t having a good day, Gon listens to him, offers distractions when needed. He tells him wonderous stories about all of the places he’s seen, or about the mischief he got up to growing up on Whale Island, or even just something Kon did the other day that was funny. He remembers the kinds of jokes Killua likes. He remembers with surprising detail the kinds of foods Killua doesn’t like. When they touch, when they kiss, when hands start to wander farther than they have before, Gon pauses sometimes, and Killua knows he’s gauging for a reaction. When Killua hesitates, Gon asks. He never presses.

By the stars, he’s such a fucking catch.

The more he gets to know Gon, though, the more he sees that there’s things packed under the surface that Gon isn’t comfortable bringing to the light.

When he notices Gon wearing a small leather pouch around his neck, Killua asks about it without thinking.

Gon lifts a hand to the touch,curling his fingers around it. He blinks, and hesitates a moment before answering. “Oh, it’s… Alluka put this together. Or… helped me.” Killua doesn’t want to pry, but he tips his head, curious, and Gon continues, “She thinks it might help me sleep.”

“Oh,” Killua’s brow furrows as he watches Gon tuck the bag back under the collar of his shirt. It seems like an odd choice for a sleep remedy. He’s familiar with that type of spell work - it’s more for personal protection, or to promote harmony.

“Have you been sleeping poorly again?” Killua asks, reaching over to take Gon’s hand.

Brown eyes lift to him quickly.

“Like when I visited the first time,” Killua adds, softly. Why is Gon so jumpy over this? “You had that night where you slept poor.”

“Oh… Yeah.” Gon turns his head away, lifting his hand to the back of his neck. “It happens sometimes.” A pause, then, “It’s been happening for a long time. I’m used to it.”

Killua’s lips pull into a frown. “Well… I’m not as good as Alluka at making potions and things for this sort of thing, but…” Killua lifts his free hand to slide alongside Gon’s cheek. “Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?” He drops a slow, soft kiss to Gon’s jaw, and he can feel it when Gon smiles in response.

“I think you’re already doing it.” Killua grins, letting his lips work up the hard line of Gon’s jaw until he can take Gon’s earlobe between his teeth, nipping gently.

Gon shifts under his touch, breathing out a half-smouldered moan. Killua grins and walks Gon back until his back is against the nearby wall, then reaches down between Gon’s legs.

*

Alluka isn’t very forthcoming when he questions her about her choice of spell later.

Not at first, at least.

“Look, I don’t mean to question your methods, it’s just, I never heard of that being used to…”

Alluka sighs. “No, it’s not specifically for sleep, but…. I think it may be closer to what Gon needs.”

Killua frowns, and waits for her to elaborate.

She frowns at him, crossing her arms. “I’m not in the habit of discussing what my customers have come to me for.”

“And I’m not-” Killua lets out a huff. “Look, I just want to make sure he’ll be alright. If you think this is what he needs to sleep, then I’ll trust you.”

With that, it’s his turn to cross arms stubbornly over himself as he looks back towards the TV. He understands why Alluka doesn’t want to over-share, but still. It’s hard to set aside his curiosity. More than that, he really is worried for Gon.

Another sigh. Alluka shifts, and out of the corner of his eye he can see her folding her long legs up on the couch to face him. “Gon’s had, I would say, chronic issues sleeping. He says it’s related to nightmares, but I suspect it’s more than just your average bad dream.”

Killua turns as well, leaning his shoulder into the back of the couch while he looks at her. “How long has he…?”

Alluka shrugs. “Long as I’ve known him? Longer, probably.”

Killua frowns. Gon’s never mentioned having that much trouble sleeping. Killua’s only heard about it the two times.

“This is all just... conjecture, since Gon himself hasn’t confirmed, but given his sleeping issues and… some other things, I suspect Gon has some sort of trauma that he’s never really gotten over.” Alluka leans back, turning her head off to the side. “I gave him that pouch because it’s supposed to promote inner harmony and peace. But if his issues are as deeply seated as I suspect they are…” Alluka looks at him again. “My spellwork won’t work. It can’t fix that sort of thing. He’ll have to get himself sorted out.”

Killua takes this all in, wondering what else he hasn’t noticed. “What other sort of things?”

Alluka lets out a big breath. “I don’t know… Just… He’s sad sometimes? Like… you know.” Alluka looks him in his eyes meaningfully, and Killua does know - he doesn’t need any further explanation. He and Alluka both dealt with their own brands of depression, even after finally leaving home. Sometimes when someone else is going through something similar you pick up on subtle signs. “He has a lot of friends, but he doesn’t see a lot of them it seems like. He goes through phases where he’s bad about eating regularly. I dunno, Killua. I’m really just guessing.”

Killua nods. “No, that’s… Alluka, that’s good to know. Now I know, I can…”

Killua doesn’t know what he can do, but he can at least look out for stuff.

Alluka nods in turn, knowing exactly what he means.

*

‘Don’t tell Alluka, but I stay up late working more often than I should.’

‘Oh? Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.’

‘Lol, good. I just wanted you to know that if you ever can’t sleep and want to send me a message, you could.’

‘Oh, I wouldn’t want to wake you up.’

‘Don’t worry about that, I’m a heavy sleeper. ;P

You’d more likely be distracting me from working too hard anyway.’

‘Okay. :)

Maybe I will sometime.’

*

What on earth he could have ever done to deserve the attention of someone like Killua Zoldyck, Gon will never know. The first night they met, Killua left the impression that he was somewhat reserved and serious - someone who you wouldn’t want to get in the way of. Killua had been polite to him when he’d had dinner with him and his sisters, but even after they managed to have a nice discussion over the dinner table, Gon had worried that Killua was annoyed with him.

Now Gon has a much clearer picture of just who Killua is.

Killua is incredibly kind. Gon feels pulled in by his warmth. When he looks at Gon with that smile of his - the one that reaches his eyes and makes them glimmer - Gon feels his heart stutter in his chest.

Killua hardly seems to notice how good he is. It’s evident, of course, in the way that Killua is with his sisters. It shows in other ways, too, though. When Killua vents to him about work related things, a lot of it admittedly goes over Gon’s head - but he quickly gathers that Killua isn’t out for blood like a lot of people at his level of business are. Whenever one of their investors wants to make an unnecessary price hike on one of their products that, in Killua’s words, ‘were specifically designed with the common caster in mind and need to be easily accessible’ Killua absolutely fumes. He talks often about how certain classes of casters want to go back to the dark ages of making magical resources only available to those with a certain background.

“Pretentious, privileged bastards,” Killua spits.

They’re speaking over their scrolls, but Gon can easily envision Killua’s frustrated face - his pinched brows, the unhappy twist of his mouth. Gon would kiss it away if he were here now, but he can’t.

“But Bisky agrees with you, right? She won’t let the prices be changed unfairly.”

Killua sighs. “No. At least, not like they’re wanting.”

Gon spends several moments talking him down.

“It’s just,” Killua sighs. “Stars… I got so lucky. Bisky brought me on young with no practical experience and I worked my ass off to prove myself to her. But before that… Fuck.”

“They don’t know what it’s like to need help,” Gon offers, his voice soft to keep Killua from getting too riled up.

“They don’t,” Killua agrees. “I worked anything I could get my hands on to support Alluka and Nanika and me before Bisky… It was hard. It was… And I’m lucky, Gon. I didn’t have to do that for long. I grew up not really wanting...”

“Killua…” Gon may not know a lot of the details, but he knows that Killua’s childhood wasn’t easy either. It was just hard in a different way.

“No, I know. I just… I don’t get how some people really don’t care for anyone other than themselves.”

It shouldn’t, but that makes Gon smile. Killua has such a big heart. “Me neither,” he agrees. “I’m sorry you had a bad day.”

Killua sighs. “Sorry I’ve been complaining so much lately.”

“Don’t be! I’m happy to listen. Just wish I was there… like, there-there for you.”

A hum on the other end of the line. “I wish you were here-here too. I’d rather be kissing you than thinking about work.”

“I’d rather be kissing you, too.” Then, with an exaggerated sigh, “I try kissing the picture I have of you on my scroll before bed every night, but it’s just not the same.”

There’s a predictable sputtering on Killua’s side, and Gon barely holds in his laughter as Killua regains his words. “You do not! Shut up!”

He starts laughing, though, and then Gon can’t hold is own in any longer.

*

It’s when that kindness is turned on him that he really doesn’t know what to do with himself.

The late-night-can’t-sleep messages - an offer Gon initially never intended to take Killua up on - quickly turn into late-night-can’t-sleep calls. It’s Killua’s suggestion on just the second time Gon messages, when Gon finds he can’t manage to send more than just a couple of words at a time because he’s spiraling so fast.

Killua asks, ‘Would it help to hear my voice?’

Gon answers, ‘Dunno. Maybe.’ He rolls onto his back, putting a hand over his eyes as he tries to make himself breath evenly.

Not even a minute later, his scroll is chiming to notify him of an incoming call. When he taps his scroll to accept, he answers in a small voice, “Hello?”

“Oooh, your voice is sexy when it’s all groggy like that.”

In spite of himself, Gon smiles. “Is not,” he returns.

“Oh, it definitely is. You sexy stud muffin, you.”

The pet name is so uncharacteristic that laughter barks out of Gon’s throat before he can stop it. He pulls his hand away from his eyes, pressing it to his chest instead as he tries to regain his breath. “Stud muffin? What kind of name even is that?”

“One that describes you. You wanna know what kind of muffin you are?”

“Aside from whatever a ‘stud’ muffin is?”

“Aside from stud, yes.”

“A banana nut.”

Gon blinks of up at his ceiling. “Banana… nut…”

“Yup. You wanna know why?”

“Mmm… I’m not sure… But tell me anyway.”

“Well, because it’s the sexiest kind of muffin.”

Another laugh. “How do you figure?”

“On account of the innuendo, obviously?”

“Oh stars,” Gon breathes, rolling on his side. He pins the scroll between his ear and the pillow. “What are you, like, twelve?”

“No, but I have been told I have the humor of a twelve-year-old.”

Gon hums, then grunts softly when Kon climbs over his side to curl against his front.

“You okay?” He hears Killua ask.

“Yeah. Kon just stepped over me is all.”

“Ah.” He pauses. “And are you… okay?”

Gon bites his lip, waiting to respond. “I think.” He still feels like he’s at the edge of a bad panic, like he’s just anticipating it getting worse. It’s definitely better than it was a moment ago, though.

“Mmm, well I can keep talking if you need me too. Or you could keep talking at me with that sexy, groggy voice of yours.”

Gon laughs. “You’re on something. ...It is nice hearing your voice, though. Makes it feel like you’re closer.”

“Yeah,” Killua replies, his voice going soft. “I know what you mean. But yeah, I can keep talking if it helps.”

“It does,” Gon admits. “Maybe… less about muffins, though.”

“Oh, darn,” Killua breathes, clearly playing up his disappointment. “I was just gonna tell you about the second sexiest type of muffin.”

“Oh, stars… I think I know where this is going, but go ahead.”

“The second sexiest type of muffin,” Killua says, then gives a long pause for effect. “Is red velvet.”

Red velvet?” Gon echos, wrinkling his nose.

“Yeah, absolutely!”

“But, how?”

“Cause red velvet is fucking delicious, that’s how.”

Gon makes a doubtful sound. “Wouldn’t that just… be a cupcake, though?”

“Nope,” Killua says. “No icing, not a cupcake. But wait, what did you think I was gonna say?”

“Ummm… strawberry, actually.”

“Strawberry?” Killua asks, his tone pitching with curiosity.

“Yeah. You know, ‘cause a strawberry looks like the tip of a-”

He doesn’t get the chance to finish before Killua bursts into laughter. “Oh, Gon Freecss! You’re dirty.” Killua sounds oddly satisfied.

Gon laughs too. “Wait, no! I’m just following your example with the banana nut- with the- the phallic thing.”

Killua snorts. “You said phallic.”

*

Gon doesn’t want to ask about the details regarding Killua’s family. There’s some stuff there, he knows - “stuff” generally boiling down to his family being shitty. But until Killua is ready to volunteer that information, Gon can wait. He can understand why it would be hard to bring up.

It comes up by chance when they’re walking down from Alluka’s shop to his one day. Killua stops in his tracks and grabs onto Gon’s forearm to get him to stop too, gripping much harder than necessary.

“Killua?” Gon turns to look at him. He looks up to find Killua’s expression pinched and tense, staring across the way to the opposite street corner. Gon follows his gaze, but can’t figure out where he’s looking. There are a few people out - a couple with a baby stroller waiting to cross the street, and someone with long dark hair who appears to be busy on their scroll, and a short woman staring into a shop’s window. After just a moment, he feels Killua’s grip relax marginally. “Killua, what is it?”

He only shakes his head. “Nothing,” he says, tense. “I thought… It’s nothing. We can go.”

Later, at Gon’s apartment, Killua admits what he thought he saw.

“I thought it was my brother,” he says.

They’re curled up on Gon’s couch - which is to say Gon is sitting on one end while Killua leans in against him, his long legs stretched out over the rest of the couch. Killua’s head is leaned back on Gon’s chest and shoulder. He keeps his attention on the TV as he speaks, and Gon thinks maybe it’s easier for him that way.

“Yeah?”

“Mmm. Well, one of them at least.” Killua’s quiet for a moment. “Illumi, he… His hair is long and black, and he’s tall. I thought…” Killua sighs.

Gon hums his understanding. “I’m sorry your family makes you feel this way.”

Killua rolls one of his shoulders in a shrug. “It’s stupid, you know? Getting startled seeing someone who looks like him.”

“It’s not stupid,” Gon tells him, leaning in to nose at Killua’s hair and giving him a gentle squeeze with the arm his has wrapped around Killua.

“No, I mean… Illumi’s skilled in disguise. Illusion magic is one of his things. He could look however he wanted if.... If he were to spy on me again, he’d be likely to, y’ know.... Or just hire someone else to do it.”

Gon bites his lip. ‘Again’ Killua said. “Has he done that before?”

Killua goes quiet. Gon can feel the tension gathering in his body. Eventually, he answers. “Yes.”

Gon frowns. What kind of family does that?

Killua shifts in his arms then, turning so he can sit up and look at Gon properly. “Gon… You should know, my family…” He opens his mouth, but for a moment no words come out. He lets out a sigh, then drops his gaze. “It’s been years since.. I mean, there’s not been anything recently, but…”

Gon reaches for one of Killua’s hands, gently holding it between his own. “It’s okay, Killua.”

When Killua looks up, his gaze has hardened in a way that makes Gon feel sad somehow. His jaw is set with a sort of resolve. “My family was not happy with me when I left with Alluka, and they… they tried to get a lot of people to… believe bad things about me and about her and Nanika.”

When Killua pauses, Gon nods to show he’s paying attention.

“And though it’s been a while since they last tried anything, they have tried to interfere with my life directly before.”

Gon frowns even deeper. “That’s awful.”

Killua gives him a humorless smile. “That’s not the half of it.” He doesn’t elaborate, but just presses on. “I… I just want you to know that. Just in case.”

Gon nods again, squeezing Killua’s hand. “Killua, it’s alright.”

“Just, if something happens, you don’t have to feel obligated to-”

“Killua,” Gon interrupts. “I’m not the type to believe hearsay. I know you, and I know Alluka and Nanika. I know they’re amazing, and I know you’re … Killua, you’re so good. So it’s… it’s good. We’re good.”

Killua looks like he wants to say more, but he doesn’t. He just nods. He takes a deep breath, and nods again. “Okay. … Alright. I mean, there might not even be a reason to say, but. I just wanted to, just in case.”

“Got it,” Gon says, and pulls Killua’s hand up to kiss the backs of his fingers.

Killua smiles at him, then turns his face away. Something seems to have caught his attention, though, because he tips his head to look at something on the windowsill behind them. His nose wrinkles cutely. “You know there’s a worm inside this plant here?”

“Oh,” Gon turns, lifting slightly to peer over the edge of the pot, where he can see the worm has briefly surfaced, but is burying itself once again. “Yeah. I found him on the sidewalk out front of the shop. Poor guy had thought he’d found a shady spot to rest, but I didn’t want to leave him there to get stepped on or burnt up when the sun moved. And I knew this plant’s spoil could use some aeration, so I- … What?”

Killua is giving him the strangest look. His eyes are a little wide, looking directly at Gon like he’s grown a second head. Then, a sudden smile breaks out over his face and Killua slaps his hands over his eyes.

Gon’s lips tug down into a pout. “Hey, don’t make fun! Worms are very useful for gardening and-”

“No,” Killua stops him, laughter coloring his voice. “I’m not- I don’t mean to-” But he’s laughing, and when he uncovers his eyes to see Gon pouting at him, he laughs harder still. “You’re too much, Gon Freecss.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Gon demands.

Killua just grins and leans in to kiss Gon - which is totally unfair because Gon doesn't have a chance at staying mad at him after that.

*

Killua whines and makes a show of pouting when Gon pulls away from his kisses and touches so they can have dinner, but dinner with Gon is enough of a treat that Killua knows he won’t regret pausing making out with Gon for just a little while.

After dinner, they’re back to the couch - the only comfortable place to sit close in Gon’s small apartment - and Killua finds himself dreading the moment where they have to say goodnight. And in a few days’ time, it’ll be goodbye. Who knows how long it’ll be before he can break away from Facets again? He misses this so much when he’s gone. His own apartment, though more spacious, couldn’t feel less comfortable or welcoming these days.

It’s almost on a whim that he speaks up when they part for breath.

“Gon, I wanna stay the night.”

Gon lingers close, no doubt anticipating another kiss. At Killua’s words, though, he pulls back. When their eyes meet, Killua can tell he’s nervous. “Killua…”

Killua waits, sure that he wants this. He understands this is a step beyond what they’ve done up to this point - a new kind of intimacy between them. But he’s ready for more than rubbing against each other and hands reaching, pushing under clothing, stroking, more than mouths kissing and licking and sucking - although he’s thoroughly enjoyed all of that as well.

But if Gon’s not ready, he won’t pressure him.. “I.. It’s okay if you’re not ready to…”

Gon bites his lip. “It’s not... “ Gon bows his head, but Killua can feel the hand at his knee slowly sliding up his thigh. “It’s not that I don’t want… I mean, I think you know I want…”

Killua smiles, catching Gon’s chin and tipping it up. He kisses the corner of his mouth sweetly. “I had guessed.” Kind of hard not to guess, when they get tangled up like this. Clothes only hide so much. “And I want to too.” Gon’s brown eyes are warm as they look up at him, and fuck does he want to kiss him again. Gon’s mouth is turning into a small smile and it’s so tempting, but they should talk this through - whatever this is. “Tell me, Gon. What’s the matter?”

Brown eyes drop again. Killua’s hand shifts to Gon’s cheek and he watches as the other sighs and turns to kiss at his palm. “I don’t… I don’t sleep well, Killua. Most nights.”

“I’m aware,” Killua replies, softly, patiently.

Gon huffs. “No, you’re…” Gon looks up at Killua. “I … I get bad dreams. I toss and turn. Violently, sometimes. And- and I’m pretty sure I cry out.”

Killua nods.

Gon peers up at him, clearly waiting for more of a response.

“Does it make it worse when someone’s in bed with you?”

Gon’s brow furrows. “No, not especially I don’t think…”

“Do you not enjoy having someone in your bed?”

“I… No, that’s not it…”

“Then I don’t see a problem.”

Gon’s frown deepens. “I’m- It’s not fun sharing a bed with me, Killua.”

Killua makes a show of waggling his eyebrows as he leans in to whisper, “I can think of a few fun things to do with you while sharing a bed with you.”

The over-the-top gesture does the trick because Gon can’t help but crack a smile, half a chuckle escaping him. “Ha- That’s not what I… Killua.”

“So you don’t sleep well,” Killua says, rolling his shoulders. “Not everyone does. Gon, if you’re really not comfortable sharing a bed with me, that’s fine. But if you’re just worried about me getting upset that you sleep rough, then… I’m not.”

Gon’s pinched brow is really cute. “But I could wake you up…”

Killua shrugs again. “If you do, it happens. And if you want, if i think you’re having a bad dream I can wake you from it too.” Gon sighs, leaning into the hand at his cheek. “Anything else?”

“...My bed is pretty small?”

Killua lets his smile turn wicked. “Plenty big enough if one of us is on top of the other, I bet.”

Gon laughs at that, and Killua takes the chance to shift where he’s sitting. “Here, let me show you,” he hums, and easy as anything, slides himself to sit on Gon’s lap. “See? We take up much less space this way.”

Gon’s laughing still, and Killua takes a moment to admire the curve of his freckled cheeks and the brilliance of his smile. Strong hands find his hips as those brown eyes look up at him. His laughter melts into a gasp, and then a soft moan, when Killua very intentionally moves his hips over him.

Gon’s eyes flutter, then lift to look at Killua. “I thought we were moving to the bed?”

Killua grins wide, and leans in to take another slow kiss.

“I thought you’d never ask.”

*

It’s Leorio’s turn to choose the restaurant for the monthly dinner this time.

The place he chooses doubles as a sports bar, so of course when they go it’s loud and lively with plenty of the patrons - Leorio himself included - hollering at the televisions positioned around the dining area. Gon finds himself enjoying the scene more than he normally would. Everyone is jovial and enjoying themselves, and their mood somehow seems to boost Gon’s own.

It also helps that Killua has been sending him messages about how much he misses Gon since he left last week.

When the game cuts to commercial, Leorio turns his attention to Gon, leaning an elbow on the table as he speaks. “So, what’s been going on with you lately?”

Gon rolls his shoulders. “More of the same.”

“Is that so?” Kurapika chimes in, sending him a look as he lifts the rim of his glass to his lips.

“Yeah, you know. Just watching the shop for the most part. The plants I brought back from Aizan are flowering now, so they’re doing really well.”

“Oh, that’s great.” Leorio says, nodding.”Aizan - that was some time ago. You’re due to go back out of town again aren’t you? You got anything planned?”

The first thing that springs to mind is the unanswered invitation that Kite had sent and Gon still hasn’t given a solid answer on. He feels guilty for not answering sooner, he just doesn’t want Kite to be upset when he says he can’t. “Ah, no… Business has been good lately, so I’m okay to stay in town for a while.”

Leorio just nods again, but Kurapika is giving him that look again. “That’s the only reason?” he asks, smiling.

Gon blinks. “Um… yeah?”

Leorio glances between the two of them. “What other reason would there be?”

Kurapika shrugs, but Gon feels a little uneasy. His friend is a little too observant sometimes, and he hasn’t told anyone yet about…

“Well, what I want to know is when Gon is going to tell us about his new partner.”

“Partner?” Leorio sits straighter, looking to Gon. “You got a girl?” he asks, lips stretching into a sly grin.

“No,” Gon answers instantly.

“A guy?” Leorio continues. “A friend who offers certain… benefits?” Here, he waggles his brows in an exaggerated fashion that leaves Kurapika rolling his eyes and Gon flushing deeply. That’s all the answer Leorio apparently needs. “You do!” he crows, slapping the table. “C’mon, man! Dish!”

“I don’t- We- I never said-”

“Oh, you don’t need to say,” Kurapika chuckles. “How long have we known you? You’re smiling at your scroll so often, that alone-”

“You have been on your scroll more when we meet up. Hey, how long you been keeping this from us?”

Gon lifts both hands in surrender. “Not long!” he defends. “Look, we haven’t… really put, like, words to what we’re… So I didn’t want to say unless…”

Kurapika gives him a soft smile. “Yes, yes, we know you don’t like to kiss and tell. But you are seeing someone, right?”

Gon ducks his head but nods. “Yeah, I guess.” When he looks up, both his friends are smiling widely at him. “What?”

“Nothing, Gon, just - good for you. You seem happy.” Leorio laughs.

“I… yeah. I guess I am.”

“So,” Leorio continues. “Are you gonna give us any details?”

“Does this mystery person have a name?” Kurapika asks.

“Yeah, and how’d you meet? You don’t have to give all of the hot goss, but you gotta give us something, Gon.”

Gon huffs. He supposed he can tell them a little. “Okay… Well… I met him through my friend Alluka.”

Kurapika is quick to pipe up, “Oh- the young woman who runs that- that wish store?”

“Yeah. Wish Upon a Star.”

Kurapika nods, and it’s Leorio’s turn to speak up. “So what, she set you up on a date?”

Gon shakes his head. “Ah, no… She uh… Her brother came into town to visit, and we sorta met by chance when Alluka was checking in on Kon and I came home…”

“Oooh, so Alluka has a hot brother?” Leorio teases.

Kurapika, though, is sitting with his brows furrowed. “Alluka’s brother?” he repeats.

Gon nods. “Yeah. His name is Killua.”

Kurapika and Leorio both go quiet at the name, Kurapika staring directly at him.

Leorio lifts a finger to his chin. “Why does that sound…?”

“You don’t mean…” Kurapika stops, look at Leorio, then back to Gon. “Killua Zoldyck?”

Gon frowns. “Uh, yeah. That’s him. How did you…?”

“What?!” Leorio hollers, and suddenly Gon is extra grateful for the noisy venue, because Leorio’s reaction doesn’t draw all that much attention.

Gon is reminded once more of Killua’s surprise when he didn’t initially know much about him.

“You mean…” Kurapika begins, but doesn’t finish.

“I… guess you guys have heard of him then?” Gon asks, smiling sheepishly.

Leorio snorts loudly. “Have we heard of the COO of one of the most successful businesses this side of the world?”

“Once heir to arguably the most successful business this side of the world,” Kurapika adds on, to which Leorio nods.

Leorio pauses then, turning to Kurapika. “Wait, that’s Alluka’s brother?”

Kurapika nods. “Yeah, her last name is Zoldyck, so...”

“Oh man, I forgot. She was caught in the middle of all that…”

“Yeah, she was. Poor girl.”

Gon blinks. They’ve lost him. “Caught up in what?”

Kurapika and Leorio both turn surprised looks on him. “Well…” Kurapika begins, as if unsure how to answer. “The scandal, when they broke ties with the Zoldyck family proper.”

Gon only blinks some more.

“Yeah, Gon, did you not read? It was all over the news at the time.”

Kurapika nods. “I didn’t catch it until after, closer to when Killua must have started working at Facets.”

Leorio nods. “Yeah, there as a resurgence of all the drama with the tabloids back then.”

“I…” Gon’s shakes his head. “How do you know so much about this?”

Leorio rolls his shoulders. “Like I said Gon, it was sort of all over the place for a while.”

Gon frowns. He truly has no memory of this. “When was it?”

Kurapika hums, and Leorio leans a chin in his hand as he thinks about it. “Well… I was still in college at the time, so it had to have all started about.. What? Ten, eleven years ago?”

Oh, Gon thinks, his shoulders drooping. His hands unconsciously curl into fists. Eleven years ago was when… His eyes are drawn to the right, looking down to where his prosthetic hand rests on the tabletop.

“Oh,” Kurapika breathes, and Gon can see as the realization hits both of his friends at once.

“Shit, Gon, I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking about that being about the time when you were…” Leorio trails off.

“Healing,” Kurapika fills in, gently.

Gon shakes his head. He puts on a smile. “Don’t worry about it, guys. It makes sense, though. I wouldn’t have been thinking about tabloids and stuff while I was… still in this hospital. Or after.”

Kurapika nods. “...You could probably still find the information if you wanted.”

Gon thinks about Killua freezing on the sidewalk last week. He remembers him hesitantly telling how his family has tried to interfere in his life before.

Gon shakes his head. “No. No… Killua’s a good guy, and if he wants me to know more about that time in his life, he’ll tell me.”

Leorio smiles at him. “Yeah. Good call.”

“You’ve always had a good feel for people, Gon,” Kurapika agrees. “I’m sure your judgement of his character is a fair one.”

Gon nods.

Later than night, after finally sending Kite his regrets that he won’t be able to join him on his next expedition, he messages Killua back.

‘I miss you too.

If you want to, I’d like to take you out next time you’re in town.’

Chapter Text

Word travels fast. Faster than Gon cares for, truthfully. After he tells Leorio and Kurapika his news - or as much as he wants to tell when he and Killua haven’t even officially declared themselves anything, anyway - the word seeps out to his other friends rapidly.

He gets messages about it from too many people. Zepile messages him congratulations on hooking such a big catch. Zushi says he hopes things go well for them. Senritsu even comes through town and, during her visit to his store, makes a comment on how contented his heartbeat seems when Killua is mentioned.

Before he even thinks to mention it to Mito, she brings it up over a call.

“You know,” she tells him, and Gon can hear her stern tone creeping into her voice even over his scroll. “Much as I love having any update at all on what’s going on with you, I prefer when it comes from you.”

It confuses him at first, but then he realizes what she must mean. “Oh, Mito,” he breathes. “Is this about me and…?”

“Killua, I believe is his name,” she fills in.

“I was going to tell you, honest. There… just isn’t much to tell right now.”

“Enough that everyone else seems to know. Was I last on your call list?”

“No!” Gon denies hastily. “No, I swear. I only mentioned it to Kurapika and Leorio when we met up a couple of weeks ago… It’s… I don’t even know how serious it is, Mito. We only just- He’s- I didn’t want to say anything before- I don’t know if he’s okay with-”

Gon hears her let out a soft laugh, and his face warms. “Alright, alright. I didn’t meant to induce a panic.”

Gon’s shoulders deflate.

“I only meant I want to be kept in the know, is all,” Mito tells him. “It’s good to know you’re seeing someone, though. It’s been a while since you-”

“I know,” Gon interrupts.

“Just, you don’t often go out of your way to meet new people.”

Gon frowns at the floor. He knows that. It’s just easier to keep to himself. “...Well, I didn’t really go out of my way to meet him, honestly.”

“Oh?” Mito asks, clearly wanting him to go on.

“You remember Alluka, right?” When he hears her confirming hum, he continues, “It’s her brother. He came into town some months ago and…” Gon bites his lip, feeling himself start to smile just thinking about it. “I dunno. He’s…”

“Handsome?” Mito fills in when he trails off for too long, humor coloring her voice.

Gon laughs nervously. “You could say. More than that, though.”

“Hmmm. Well, if he’s half as lovely and well put together as Alluka is I’d say you’ve found yourself quite the young man.”

“Mmm,” Gon hums, wondering what Mito would say if he revealed just how well put together Killua is. He’s sure she’d recognize the name Facets way sooner than he did. Maybe he’ll tell her later, though. “He’s nice,” Gon settles on, for now.

“Well. As long as he makes you happy,” she says.

“Yeah,” Gon confirms.

“Good,” she says, then pauses. “I’m… I’m glad you’re seeking that out now, Gon. Everyone deserves happiness.”

Gon doesn’t say anything to that. “I’ll… I’m gonna have to let you go, Mito. Gotta get back to work.”

Another pause. “Of course,” she says softly. “I love you, Gon. We should get together soon.”

“Yes ma’am. I love you too.”

*

It takes some convincing, but Killua finally agrees to let Gon take him out on the town. Gon wants to do something really nice for him - give him an evening more romantic than just time on the couch in his little apartment. Killua deserves it.

When the bell above his door rings, Gon’s heart leaps. He’s going to need a few minutes to clean up real quick before he and Killua can go out, but all the same, he’s excited for their date. It’s been so long since he’s had a chance to go out on the town with someone, and he really, really wants Killua to enjoy himself.

“Just a sec!” he calls from the mudroom, setting down a heavy bag of soil and then jogging up through the hall.

“Hey, I just need to close up and clean off the… dirt…”

Only, it’s not Killua standing in the middle of his store’s floor when he makes his way up front. It’s someone else entirely.

Gon can only stare for a moment, blinking.

She smiles at him, blue eyes glinting. “Well, this isn’t the warm welcome I expected.”

Gon shakes his head, coming back to himself. “Palm!” He steps over to her quickly, and when she offers both her hands, he takes them, squeezing with his own. “Palm, it’s so good to see you!”

Her smile grows, and Gon’s heart squeezes as she looks down, then back up to him. “You too,” she says.

Gon steps back to take a proper look at her, glancing her over before lifting his chin to look into her eyes again. “You look wonderful.”

Palm nods. “I’m feeling… I’m feeling really well, Gon. Really.” When she meets his gaze, Gon knows she means it.

“What are you doing here?” Gon asks, smiling wide.

Palm rolls her shoulders. “I was coming through town. Wanted to see how you’ve been.”

Gon knows there’s more to that question than lies on the surface. He bites his lip. “I’m…I’m better.” It’s not a lie. He’s not as bad as she’s seen him, not by a long shot.

Palm smiles, understanding in her eyes as she nods. “Good, good. ...Well, I know your store hours are ending soon. We should catch up! Are you busy tonight?”

Gon’s smile grows. He can’t help it. He ducks his head and lifts a hand to the back of his neck. “Well, actually…”

*

It’d be dishonest to say he wasn’t a little nervous. It’s been a long time since anyone has taken him out on a date. It’s been a long time since it was worth trying to go out on a date, what with how his family used to send the press to hound him at every corner.

Enough time has passed, though, since the worst of his entanglements with any form of paparazzi have caused him real trouble. And Gon had been too cute when he asked to turn down. After the initial message, Killua had still felt unsure. Gon pressed, though, in his warm and gentle way. Finally, Gon asked in person - reaching for his hand, fingers threading together as he looked up at him from under pleading eyebrows with dark, warm, inviting eyes. How could Killua not give in?

Killua can see the sign for Kon’s Forest up ahead, and it puts a little spring in his step to be so close. He knows Gon will still need to close the store and maybe change before they leave, but still. He just can’t wait!

What he sees through the front window when he reaches the store front slows him in his tracks.

Gon’s inside, back to him, with his arms wrapped around some… some woman. A rather pretty woman, he admits to himself, however reluctantly.

A sour feeling grows in Killua’s stomach as she leans into Gon, arms around his shoulders, squeezing him. To his embarrassment, she picks her head up and seems to notice him staring at them through the window. As she pulls back from Gon, saying something and beginning to gesture, Killua forces himself to go inside.

“Hey,” he greets as he comes in.

Gon turns to look, and his eyes light up. A grin breaks out across his face, and he’s pulling away from Palm entirely to walk over and grab both of Killua’s hands. “Killua! You’re here!”

Killua’s stomach swoops and he flushes, forgetting all at once that he’d been upset a moment ago. “Uh… Yeah. I said I’d be.”

Gon only grins wider. “I know! I’m just glad to see you.” Then, as if suddenly realizing he has company, he turns to Palm and waves her over. “Killua, this is my friend Palm. She was just dropping in to say hi. Palm, this is Killua.”

Palm is looking at him, and Killua can tell from her expression that she recognizes his name. “Killua Zoldyck?”

The sour feeling returns, and Killua is unable to help wondering where she heard of him first. “That’s right.” He extends his hand all the same, which she takes. He notes the scales on her arms absently. A strange feature that somehow enhances her beauty. Killua can’t help but wonder if Palm had ever been more to Gon that just ‘a friend’. “A pleasure to meet you,” he tells her, tone even.

“The pleasure’s all mine,” she replies, just as polite. When she releases his hand she smiles. “Gon was just telling me he had a date set up for the evening.” Then, grinning at him and shoving her shoulder into Gon’s arm in a very familiar way, she adds, “He neglected to mention who with. When did you land such a big catch?”

Killua fights off a frown. She definitely knows who he is then, somehow or other.

Gon flushes. “Palm!” he tells her, his tone half scolding in a way that has Killua biting back a smile. “Don’t be rude. I met Killua through Alluka.”

Palm lets out a soft, “Ooooh,” at the explanation, like she recognizes the name.

“You know Alluka, too?” Killua asks, putting his hands back in his pockets. How? Some of the press coverage on Alluka back when they left home had been… Not kind, to say the least. Worse than the rumours they allowed to circulate about him.

Palm looks towards him, nodding. “We’ve met a few times. I’ve been down to her shop occasionally.” Then, perhaps noticing something inquisitive in the way he looks at her, she adds on, “She’s a lovely young woman. And an incredibly talented witch.”

Killua feels something release inside him. He nods. He still doesn’t like how chummy this woman seems with Gon, but… “Yeah. Yeah she is.”

Palm turns to Gon then. “Well, I best let you two get going, then! Call me later, alright?”

Gon nods. “Of course. Later.”

Palm slides around Killua towards the door. “Have fun on your date!”

He turns to watch her walk away through the window and Gon slides around him to lock the door and flip his sign to closed.

Killua opens his mouth to speak as he turns towards Gon, only to be interrupted by Gon turning to cup his cheek and pull him down into a kiss. He makes a soft noise and leans into the kiss, extracting one hand from his pocket to hold Gon’s waist.

“Sorry,” Gon murmurs as he pulls back, as if he needs to apologize for this sort of thing. “I’m just so excited. I wanted to kiss you the moment you came in.”

Killua tips his head. “Why didn’t you?” Because Palm was here?

Gon drops his gaze, then lifts it again. “It’s rude to… I didn’t want to assume you’d be okay with it.”

Oh. Of course. Killua smiles. This is an extension of Gon’s odd politeness. “Well, for the record, I wouldn’t have minded.”

“Oh?” Gon looks up at him with a growing smile. “You wouldn’t?”

“Mm-mm.” Killua shakes his head. “In fact, I wouldn’t mind if… right now you…” He leans in, slowly.

“Oh?” Gon repeats, softer, looking directly up into Killua’s eyes as he takes a second kiss.

Killua smiles against his mouth as Gon lets out a deeply satisfying noise. His grip on Gon’s waist tightens, and he moves to pull him in close, but Gon catches his shoulders. Killua pulls back, worried he’s done something wrong.

But Gon is smiling. “Ah, wait. Your clothes…”

“My clothes?” Killua asks. Does Gon have some sort of issue with his simple jeans and button down?

“I don’t want to get them dirty,” Gon informs him. “You look so nice.”

“Oh,” Killua laughs. He looks down, and Gon’s shirt and the legs of his pants are a bit dirty.

“Let me go change. I’ll be right back!”

Killua nods, and watches as Gon rushes up the stairs.

*

By the time the sun is setting Gon takes him down by the riverfront, where they can walk and talk. Dinner was pleasant, and Killua is glad to spend the early evening wandering with Gon. It’s chilly here, with the breeze coming in off the water, and Killua finds himself wishing he’d brought a jacket along.

“It’s beautiful out here,” he comments. More buildings rise up high on the other side of the river, which seems to cut right through the middle of the most urban parts of the city. The lights across the way twinkle on the water like the stars they can’t see above due to the light pollution. There’s also not a whole lot of people out on this path, so it’s nice.

“Yeah,” Gon says. “I like it down by the water.”

“Does it remind you of home?”

“Maybe a little,” Gon admits. “It’s nothing like the ocean, but still…”

Gon slows his pace and Killua drops back to match, turning to ask if something is up. That’s when he notices Gon is shrugging off his denim jacket. “Here,” he offers, holding the jacket up by the shoulders.

Killua raises a hand to wave it off. “Oh, no, I couldn’t.”

“No, take it,” Gon insists, smiling. “I run hot anyway, and you’re cold.”

Killua would ask how he knows, but he supposes the way he’s kept his arms folded into himself is indication enough. Rather than argue, Killua turns his back to Gon and allows him to assist in putting the jacket on. Another couple walks around them as they’re stopped. The sleeves are a little short and it’s too wide for his shoulders, but it’s warm, instantly giving Killua some relief. If he folds his arms again he can tuck this hands and wrists into the jacket too.

“Well, aren’t you just the gentleman?” Killua says, smiling, and leaning into bump arms playfully with Gon.

Gon laughs softly. “I try.”

“So, is this a move you use often?” Gon looks up, his brow furrowed, but Killua’s not fooled. “Oh, come on. You never used the here’s-my-jacket thing on your high school sweetie or anything?”

“Well, I didn’t have a high school sweetie, so no,” Gon answers.

“No way! I hope you don’t expect me to believe that, Mr. Freecss.”

“What?” Gon asks, laughing. “Why not?”

“Because you’re too cute not to have had a high school sweetie, that’s why.”

Is it his imagination, or do Gon’s cheeks darken a little at that? “What makes you so sure I was cute back then?”

“I just know these things,” Killua says. Then, smiling, admits, “Plus you have pictures in your apartment, dummy. There’s one in the living room - you and a redheaded woman. You’re outdoors somewhere, lots of green trees behind you..”

“Oh. Me and Aunt Mito,” Gon says.

That’s your aunt?” Killua asks. Killua had guessed the woman in the photo might be related to Gon based on certain similarities, but he hadn’t been sure it was Aunt Mito.

“Yeah,” Gon tells him, smiling, his eyes bright and affectionate in a way that touches Killua’s heart “The one where she’s in that blue dress?” Killua nods. “That was taken when I was, oh… eighteen or so? Just a handful of months before I...” Suddenly, the light in Gon’s eyes changes. It doesn’t disappear, but… his eyes seem more muted, somehow. “Ah, I was planning to leave the island soon. That’s when that picture was taken.”

Killua nods, not pushing. Gon turns to look at the path ahead of them as they walk. “She’s a beautiful woman,” he comments, and that earns a smile from Gon. “So, go on. Tell me why everyone wasn’t jonesing to get you to take them to prom or whatever.”

Gon laughs. “Probably because there was no prom.” Then, turning to Killua, “Because there was no school. I was homeschooled.”

Killua’s eyebrows lift. “Really?”

“Yeah. I was… I was like the only kid my age? I told you, not a lot of people actually live on Whale Island, so there’s no school there. There’s one on the mainland, but the ferry didn’t even stop by often enough when I was a kid for me to go. And then we couldn’t really afford for me to… So, well.” Gon shrugs. “I did my lessons by correspondence.”

“Oh. … I never went to school, either,” Killua tells Gon. What are the chances they’d have that in common?

“Really?” It’s Gon’s turn to turn to him with surprise. He’s smiling too, though, like he’s somehow pleased to hear that.

“Really,” Killua answers.

“So were you homeschooled too?”

“Sorta, yeah. My parents brought in private tutors and stuff.”

“Oooh,” Gon breathes. “So many people I know went to like, a real school. It’s nice to know someone who didn’t.”

Killua nods. “Yeah. I would’ve killed not to be…”

“At home all the time?” Gon fills in.

Looking at Gon, Killua realizes Gon may be one of the few people he knows outside of Alluka who knows what it was like to be so isolated as a kid. “Yeah,” he answers. “...So… No other kids on the island at all?”

Gon shakes his head. “No. There was a girl, but she was significantly younger than me. Like, nearly a ten year gap. She was nice, but I really wanted someone my own age.”

Killua nods sympathetically. “It was just me and my siblings,” he tells Gon. “Alluka and I were really close, of course. But I still wanted…” He bites his lip.

“More,” Gon fills in again, his voice understanding.

“Not just for me,” Killua explains. “Her too, you know? I never had it as bad as she did.” The way they treated her… The way they locked her up. Killua would have gone crazy. Old, familiar guilt gnaws at his stomach, but he pushes it aside. “She got to finish up her education in a real school, though.”

Gon is smiling when he looks up. “You made sure of that,” Gon says, like he doesn’t need Killua to tell him.

Killua’s face warms and he nods, looking up ahead.

“I have given a date my jacket before,” Gon admits after a beat or two. He hastily adds on though, “Not because it’s a move, though! Because it’s polite if the person you’re with is cold.”

Killua grins. “Sure, sure. The person who happens to be your date. You charmer, you.”

“Actually, I specialize in plant care, Killua. Not charms. I thought you knew that.”

“Oh, ha-ha.” Killua intones sarcastically, rolling his eyes at Gon’s wide grin. “Charming and a wise-cracker. I’m surprised you’re not beating off potential dates daily.”

Gon laughs. “When I said it’s been a while since I dated...I meant it’s been...Um… Some… years?” Gon’s brow furrows clearly worried about what Killua will think about that.

“Oh.” Killua’s surprised, actually. He hadn’t been kidding when he said that Gon could be fending off potential dates on a regular basis. He’s really, really cute. So, if he’s not been dating for that long… It’s probably a choice. And a trend that Killua has somehow broken. He feels suddenly rather flattered. He can tell Gon is worrying still, though, so he lets him off the hook. “Don’t worry. It’s been some years for me too.”

“Oh?” Gon’s brows rise.

“Yeah.” Killua rolls his shoulders. “Just, uh… Busy with work and stuff, I guess.”

“Hmm.”

When he looks over, Gon is looking ahead, but smiling to himself. Killua smiles too.

“But, uh… You dated that girl right? Palm?”

Gon turns to him. “Dated? What gave you that idea?”

“Just… the way you were hugging on her.”

Gon laughs softly and shakes his head. “No, no. We’re friends.”

Killua bites his lip. “Just friends? That’s all she wants?”

Gon looks at him as they walk. Soft but firm, he answers, “Yes.” Then, After a pause, “Look, we met a long time ago. Before I moved here. And to be honest, we thought about it - about dating. But neither of us were in a good place.”

Killua frowns a little. “And now?”

“Now? I really value her friendship. She’s been through some things and I’m glad to have seen her come out the other end better, and she’s been someone I can rely on when I needed to.” Gon grins at him. “Were you worried about her?”

“No,” Killua says, sounding a touch defensive even to his own ears. “Just, you were… hugging and… I just wanted to be sure is all.”

“Killua,” Gon says, a slow smile spreading across his lips that makes Killua look away in embarrassment. Noting a couple ahead walking towards them, Killua gently steers them out of the way so the other two can walk past. “I have no prior romantic attachments you need to worry about.” Then, leaning in to nudge his shoulder into Killua’s arm. “Plus, if you want me to put my arms around you, you can just ask, you know. No need to get jealous.”

“I’m not jealous,” Killua says. “...But I wouldn’t mind having your arm.”

Gon grins wide as he offers his left elbow in a very gentleman like fashion. Killua wrapped his arms around it, appreciating how he can feel the thickness of his muscles and the warmth that seeps through their combined layers. It makes his stomach flip in an incredibly pleasant way.

“Mmm… Well, for what it’s worth, I’m sure I’d be not-jealous of your past romantic partners, too. Or almost partners”

Killua laughs. “Nothing much to be jealous of.” A lot of his forays have been casual in nature, especially when he was younger. A couple of attempts at serious dating were stifled by his work at the time. It hadn’t helped that he wasn’t deeply interested in either of them, either. “I’ve had no… grand loves or anything like that.”

“Me neither,” Gon says.

Killua nods. Gon doesn’t owe him the explanation he’s given for Palm, but he’s flattered that Gon would give it. Killua squeezes his arm in wordless thanks and acknowledgement. Behind them, Killua hears footsteps, so he glances over his shoulder to see if whoever is walking behind intends to overtake them so they can move to the side of the path again. He blinks..Is he imagining things? It’s been so long since anyone gave him significant bother, so why now? Is he just being paranoid?

A hand covers his own and he realizes suddenly he’s gone tense, gripping Gon’s arm tighter. Gon is reaching across himself with his right arm to lay his wooden hand atop Killua’s.

“You alright?” Gon looks at him sideways.

“Yeah…” Killua doesn’t want to make Gon worry unnecessarily, but shit. This is embarrassing. Why do people have to be like this? “Just… uh…”

Gon drops his voice. “You noticed them following us?”

Killua whips his head to look at Gon. “What?” Then, lowering his voice, looking forward again. “I mean, yeah… I… When did you?”

Gon hums. “Mmm… Well, they passed us up not so long ago, and I recognized them coming back. I thought they’d just walked as far as they wanted, but when they got a couple of yards behind us I heard them turn around again.”

“You… heard them?”

Gon nods, like that’s not unusual. “Mmm. The man is wearing a really strong cologne, too.” Gon frowns, his nostrils flaring like he smells it. Killua remembers smelling something when they passed, but he certainly can’t smell anything now.

“You are something else,” Killua murmurs, his frustration at the couple tailing them giving way to amusement at Gon’s apparently super human senses.

“I don’t think they mean us any harm,” Gon says.

“No, probably not,” Killua sighs. “They just want to get a look at the COO of Facets and previous Zoldyck heir with his hot new date.” As if to confirm his words, there’s the familiar clicking sound of someone capturing an image with their scroll behind them. Killua sighs again. “I’ll tell them to buzz off… Gon, I’m so…”

“No wait,” Gon says, his voice low. When Killua looks down at him, he has a mischievous glint in his eyes. “Let me.”

Killua blinks. “”I… Are you sure?” What does he have planned?

Gon slows as they come to the next tree in the row of smallish trees that are dotted along this path. They pause for just a moment, and Gon reaches out to touch the tree’s trunk with his prosthetic hand, acting as though he’s leaning on it for support while he smiles and makes some comment to Killua about feeling like he’s somehow got a rock in his shoe. He taps the toe of his boot on the ground, and Killua smiles and plays along.

The couple behind them, Killua can see out of the corner of his eye, are trying to look casual while loitering a little ways back and looking down at their scrolls. Gon tugs him on, and as they walk, Killua, listening for it now, can definitely hear the other couple start to walk again.

Gon’s smiling to himself as they walk, and Killua is ready to ask in a whisper what he’s going to do, when behind him he hears a sudden cry-

“Whoa!”

-and the impact of a body hitting the ground.

Killua turns to see what’s happened, and Gon turns with him. One of them - the man - is laid sprawled out on his stomach, looking surprised and winded. His scroll is on the ground in front of him just out of reach, presumably having slipped from his grasp as he fell.

His partner is busy asking if he is alright, and Killua has just enough time to look behind the man to see a root lifted suspiciously high off the ground, arched perfectly to catch someone’s foot. He’s sure that hadn’t been in their path moments ago. As he watches, the root shifts and settles back down against the ground, confirming his suspicions.

The man is reaching for his scroll when Gon extends his arm. The digits of his prosthetic extend out into thin, twisting tendrils. Without needing to move, Gon is able to pick up the man’s scroll and draw it back to him.

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you it was rude to take pictures of people without asking permission?” Gon shifts the scroll to his other hand. He thumbs at the screen. “Oh, not password protected either, huh?” Gon comments, then clicks his tongue.

“H-hey! Give that back!” The stranger is getting to his feet now, his face bright red.

“In just a moment,” Gon says, casually thumbing until he finds the image storage in the man’s scroll. “Oh, looks like you got a few, huh? Well, I’m deleting these.”

Killua watches as he does, satisfaction growing in his chest. He can’t stop himself from smiling.

Gon tosses the scroll back at the man, which he stumbles forward to catch. “There, and I better not catch you following us again, alright?”

“You damaged my property! I could call the authorities on you!”

“Oh, could you now?” Killua speaks up, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Cause it seems to me like it was damaged when your clumsy ass fell because you were more busy trying to play amateur paparazzi than looking where you were going.”

“That’s- That’s not- He- The tree!” The man turns to look for the root that suddenly tripped him, only to find it innocently laying on the ground again. “He did something to the tree!”

Gon tips his head. “How do you mean?”

“Don’t act stupid, asshole. I know you magicked it somehow.”

Killua speaks up again. “I’d say the same to you, but it’s becoming evident your stupidity isn’t an act. Do you really want to press this? You obviously know who I am, so you know I have connections. Call the authorities if you like. I have a really good lawyer, and I’m not worried. Do you?”

“Let’s go,” the woman speaks up, trying to pull her partner back by the arm.

Killua coolly stares them down, waiting as they talk quietly to one another.

Just as they seem to decide to cut their losses, Gon says, “Wait.”

The couple freezes. Gon points at the woman. “Do you have any pictures?”

Immediately, she lifts both hands in a surrendering motion. “No, none! I swear!”

Gon looks up at Killua, his eyes questioning. Killua just shakes his head. Gon nods in turn. “You wanna get out of here?” He asks.

Killua nods. “Did you have somewhere in mind?”

Gon smiles. “I think so … Have you ever done a waterwalk?”

Killua blinks. “Um, no… I haven’t.”

“Okay. I think I can get us both across. Will you be able to keep up if I lead?”

Killua’s heart flips in his chest. He nods. When Gon offers his hand, he takes it.

Then Gon turns them towards the river. “Alright, let’s go!” He breaks off into a run, pulling Killua along. There’s a moment when they’re coming to the short wall that separates their path and the edge of the river when Killua instinctively wants to pull back, knowing how cold the water must be. Gon’s grip on his hand is tight, though, and his stride sure.

Gon leaps over the edge. Killua follows. His brain tells him to expect a splash, cold water soaking through his clothes. Instead, though, as they near the water, their descent gradually slows. “Follow my steps!” Gon calls.

Gon aims one leg forward, and as his boot comes down it doesn’t slip through the water’s surface. The water dips under him, like it’s being pressed down by something with a wide surface, and then Gon’s step bounces off it. Killua follows, surprised by how bouyant his steps feel when they touch down.

He laughs, unable to help himself, and hears Gon answer with laughter of his own as they run across the river. Each stride is long, and each step dipping down under them just a little, just enough for Killua’s gut to flip as he feels as though he’s about to fall through. But he never does. The further out they go, the darker it is - the lights on either side of the river not strong enough to illuminate them out here. Killua can only see Gon as a dark shape ahead of him, the city lights on the other side getting bigger, closer, brighter, reflecting on the water they bounce across.

Killua’s eyes adjust enough to see they’re coming up on some docking area below the city. As they come to the end of a pier Gon hops up onto it, turning to catch Killua’s other hand and pull him up as well. Boats float silent along a few of the docks. A brick wall stretches up as they walk to where the pier begins. Judging by the sounds from above, they must be pretty close to the downtown area he’s viewed across the river all evening.

When Killua stops laughing long enough to catch his breath, he turns to look over his shoulder. “No one followed?”

“No,” Gon breathes, panting. Killua can see enough of him in the dark to see how he’s bent, his free hand braced on his knee while he catches his breath. “I mean, we did just break quite a few water traffic laws doing that, so… Most people aren’t eager to do this.”

That only makes Killua laugh more. “Making me an accomplice to crime on our date! How romantic!”

Gon is grinning at him. Killua can see him a little clearer now. “I know, right?”

Killua’s cheeks hurt from smiling. Gon’s eyes reflect the warm light bleeding off of the city above their heads. “What you did back there… You didn’t have to.”

Gon nods. “I know.” He squeezes Killua’s hand. “But I wanted to.”

When Gon doesn’t seem to catch his breath as fast as Killua, Killua’s brow furrows. “Are you okay?”

Gon waves a dismissive hand - his prosthetic, which, Killua notes, is covered in a few leaves. “I’m fine. It’s just a long ways across the river.”

Killua hums, frowning gently. Gon’s never said anything about it, but Killua has come to the slow realization that sometimes casting is just harder for Gon than he lets on. It takes more energy for him. After all, he always has the pull of magic that he has to direct to his arm. Casting on top of that must be... Killua tugs gently on Gon’s hand. “Well, let’s sit then.”

Gon leads them to sit down along the side of one dock, legs dangling off the edge but not touching the water. “Does that happen to you often?” he asks.

Killua sighs. He’s mentioned it before to Gon, but this is the first time anything like this has happened since they started seeing each other. “It… Not in a while, it hasn’t, but…” Killua bites his lip. “It’s always a possibility.” He pulls the borrowed jacket tighter around him to fend off the cold. “If that bothers you…”

“No,” Gon says, reaching over to take Killua’s hand again. “You warned me before, Killua. It’s fine, really. It doesn’t bother me. I just didn’t know people could be so...” Gon frowns.

Killua lets out a breath of relief. He squeezes Gon’s hand, and realizes he’s holding Gon’s prosthetic. Curious, he looks down at it. It’s not as though he hasn’t touched this hand before, but Killua has noticed a certain tendency that Gon has to keep Killua on his left. At least when he’s conscious of it.

Gon is quiet as Killua considers his hand. He doesn’t draw it back from Killua, which Killua takes as a good sign. When he looks up he can see Gon biting his lip. “Does this… bother you?” Gon asks, turning Killua’s words back on him. “I can… We can switch sides if you want. You can have my other hand.”

Killua smiles and shakes his head. “It doesn’t bother me.” To prove his point, he gives Gon’s hand a little squeeze. Killua rather likes this part of Gon, actually. To him, this is just another piece of the man he is increasingly fond of. He doesn’t want Gon to feel hesitant to allow him to see it or feel it. Not for Killua’s sake, anyway. “It’s beautifully made, you know. I thought so when we met.”

Gon drops his gaze, but smiles. “Thank you. I was fortunate… Uh. I knew some good people who helped me…”

“Get this?” Killua fills in when Gon’s silence stretches.

Gon nods.

“You..” Killua doesn’t know if it’s appropriate for him to bring up, but he can’t help but wonder. “You didn’t always... “ In the picture of Gon with his aunt, both of his arms had been flesh. No prosthetics.

Gon shakes his head. “Mmm, no. It was a long time ago, though.” Then, after a pause, “I was nineteen.”

Killua nods, and decides to leave it at that. He looks down at Gon’s hand in his. “Can you feel me?” Then, running his thumb over the back of Gon’s hand, “Can you feel this?”

Killua watches as Gon’s gaze drops, watching Killua touch him. “Not in the way you’re used to feeling things, but yes.” Brown eyes flick up briefly. Killua doesn’t look away. When Gon’s eyes dip again, he feels Gon’s other hand lay on top of his, warm and calloused. “It doesn't give the sensation of skin on skin,” Gon explains. “But I can feel a pressure. A weight. ...I can feel your energy, your aura, bumping up against mine.”

Killua’s cheeks warm. Slowly, he lifts Gon’s prosthetic hand and brushes his lips softly over the wooden surface - a little rough, kind of like tree bark. If he pays attention, though, he can feel the hum of energy through the limb - Gon’s innate magic winding with the magic enchanting the limb so it moves and behaves as he wants.

Gon’s other hand comes up to rest on Killua’s cheek. “...We shouldn’t be bothered here,” he says, low. Then, amusement coloring his voice, “I mean, technically we’re not supposed to be loitering down here, but…”

Killua smiles, understanding what Gon means. It’s not likely anyone will be try to spy on them here. “Mmm. That’s nice. It is much colder this close to the water, though.”

Gon leans in, whispering, “Well… I could help you stay warm…” Before Killua can answer Gon is taking his mouth. The kiss is warm and soft. Gon’s mouth gives in the best way when he presses back.

Killua chuckles as they break for air. “So we’re just gonna make out while hiding on the docks? What are we, teenagers?”

Gon’s thumb is brushing invitingly over his jaw. “Are you saying you don’t want to make out while hiding on the docks?”

“Mmm, no… I don’t believe I said that.”

“Because if you don’t want to we can just…” Gon leans back, his hand slipping away.

Killua reaches to grab it immediately. “Hey! Don’t be mean. You said you’d keep me warm, and I’m going to hold you to that.”

Gon’s chuckle sends a shiver through Killua’s smile, but then it’s all warmth - Gon kissing him, sliding close, Gon’s hand at his jaw and - yes, creeping up under the hem of his shirt.

“Ohhh,” Killua breathes, and doesn’t stop Gon as he pushes him down against the wooden pier so he can hover above, raining kisses and heated touches.

They leave for Gon’s apartment before things can get too heated, but not before rocking against each other in ways that would be completely inappropriate in the daylight. Even as they make their way through the dark of Gon’s store and up the stairs, it’s hard to keep their hands to themselves. When they finally make it into Gon’s apartment, Killua takes Gon’s hand and leads him eagerly back to his bed to give him a taste of his own medicine.

Later, as they lay in bed together, sated but still wakeful, Killua traces gently over Gon’s shoulder and down to where his arm ends. His fingers follow along the scarred tissue carefully. Killua has learned already that he doesn’t wear the prosthetic to bed - which makes perfect sense, really.

Gon hesitated the first time taking it off in front of Killua, clearly not used to having an audience. It had been odd seeing Gon without it for the first time, but also fascinating to watch as the roots-like appendages at the end simply unwrapped themselves from Gon’s upper arm and shoulder to detach easily. Gon had been surprised, too, when Killua had reached to touch what’s left of his left arm for the first time while they had laid in bed together, but after Killua questioned him he admitted that it wasn’t uncomfortable, just different than what he was used to.

“It must have been hard, having this happen… I didn’t know how young you were until you said tonight.”

In the low light, Killua watches as Gon’s eyes drift away. This isn’t easy for him to talk about. “I… It was. I had to… had to relearn everything, you know?” Gon’s hand finds one of Killua’s, taking it in his and then uncurling his fingers until their hands sit palm to palm, fingers splayed. “Casting was so different than what it was before.” Brown eyes lift, looking at him now. “Now I almost don’t remember what casting was like without it, though.”

Killua hums, and nods. “That makes sense.”

It’d be a lie to say he’s not curious. He’s known Gon for a while, but Gon still hasn’t offered up any information on what, exactly, happened. Even now, he can feel Gon shying away from the subject a little. It’s fine, though. Killua understands. Sometimes it’s hard to show your scars, no matter how old they are.

He doesn’t press.

Propped up on his elbow, Killua looks down at Gon. He’s painted a soft gold in the low lamplight. His brown eyes are dark and deep, and his hair is a mess, and just looking at him is enough to make Killua’s stomach flip.

“Stars, you’re handsome,” he whispers, almost before he realizes what he’s saying.

Gon’s cheeks flush dark, and Killua has a deep sense of satisfaction knowing his words can affect Gon so.

“I’m already in bed with you, you know,” Gon says. “You don’t have to woo me into it.”

Killua grins. “Oh… But I like wooing you…”

Then he leans in, and kisses along Gon’s neck, and revels in the sweet sounds he draws from him.

Chapter Text

Waking with Killua by his side is way nicer than Gon expected. He’d been nervous the first few times Killua stayed the night, worried about lashing out in his sleep, but it’s turned out well enough so far.

Even though his bed isn’t really meant for two people, the lack of space means they press close to each other - all skin on skin and warmth. When he blinks his eyes open, the first thing he sees is two blue ones looking back at him. “Mornin’,” Killua greets, a slow smile stretching his lips.

“Hey,” Gon returns in a whisper. As more of his mind comes back to him, he realizes what’s unusual about this. Given the opportunity, Killua usually sleeps in later than Gon tends to. Gon’s brow furrows. “I didn’t… I didn’t wake you up, did I?”

Killua shakes his head, and Gon can feel the warmth of Killua’s palm slide down from his shoulder to caress along his back. “Mmm, no. You had a good night.”

Gon relaxes as Killua presses a kiss to his forehead. That must mean he didn’t toss and turn too much. “Mmm… You usually aren’t up early if you don’t have to be, though.”

“I don’t think I would be up if Kon hadn’t pounced off my side earlier.”

Gon sucks in a breath. “Oh no! I’m sorry. He’s used to just sharing the bed with me.”

Killua laughs. “Yeah, I know. Better size if it’s just him and you here.”

Gon opens his mouth to apologize, but Killua interrupts him by taking a kiss. Gon can’t complain. Rather, he hums appreciatively against Killua’s lips. When they part, Gon asks, “You want breakfast?”

Killua wiggles closer. “Mmm… In a little while. I’m not through being lazy.”

Gon chuckles. “Alright.” He watches as Killua closes his eyes. He knows he’s still awake by the way his foot keeps idly rubbing up and down Gon’s calf.

“Hey, so… I wanted to ask you something,” Killua says without opening his eyes.

“Go ahead.”

Slowly, one blue eye peeks open to peer at him. Killua’s hand slides around to Gon’s front, laying against his chest. “Back when we first met... you’d really never heard of me?”

Where is this coming from? Gon shakes his head slowly. “No, I hadn’t.”

Killua frowns, his gaze dropping. Gon feels a finger start idly tracing shapes against his sternum. It feels good. “Mmm…”

“What is it?”

Killua takes a breath through his nose. “Just… If you had heard anything. Before. I guess I’d want to know.”

Oh. Gon remembers what Leorio and Kurapika had said when Killua’s name came up. There’d been a scandal. Maybe the press had some nasty things to say about Killua.

Gon shifts to extend his hand - a little awkward, since he needs to move the arm he’s laying on. Still, he manages to gently touch Killua’s chin. “Before we met, anything I knew about you came directly from Alluka and Nanika. You don’t have anything to worry about.”

That draws Killua’s gaze back up. He smiles and nods. Killua’s asked for Gon’s honesty on the matter, though, so he’ll tell him what he’s heard since.

“Since we met, though, I… I know something happened when you left home all those years ago.” Seeing worry seep into Killua’s gaze, Gon is quick to add, “I don’t know what - I just know it wasn’t good for you. I… I haven’t looked into it, and I’m not eager to. I’m not going to go snooping around.”

Killua’s still looking at him with furrowed brows. “How did you hear, then?”

Gon bites his lip. This he’s a little hesitant to share. “I uh… Well, your name came up when I was at dinner with two of my friends.”

“It came up?” Killua asks, sounding doubtful.

Gon’s cheeks warm. “They wanted to know who I’d been seeing.”

“Oh.” Killua stares up at him. Then, a twitch at the corner of his lips, and he’s smiling a little. “Oh.” When he bows his head, still smiling in a way that Gon can’t help but mirror, Gon shifts his hand, thumb reaching to trace over his lips. Killua kisses the digit and looks up again. “Your friends… was it, uh… Kurapika and.. Le… Lel... Lelio?”

Gon grins all the wider. Killua remembers him talking about them, then. “Kurapika and Leorio, yeah.”

“Leorio,” Killua repeats, as if trying to commit it to memory. “Okay, so… They recognized my name. Was it… a good recognize or a bad recognize?”

Gon gives that some thought. “Mmm… I don’t think it was bad. They just both remembered you and Alluka being caught up in the middle of some drama.”

Killua huffs. “That’s one way to put it.”

It’s Gon’s turn to lean in and kiss at his forehead. “I just want you to know I’m not asking you to tell me anything you’re not comfortable saying.”

Killua goes quiet, his face pensive. The finger on Gon’s chest resumes drawing shapes. “Mmm… Not sure how much there is to tell.” Killua rolls one shoulder. “My parents were shitty and they wanted me to take over the family business. But I didn’t like the way they treated me and I hated how they treated Alluka and Nanika so… When I got the chance, we left.”

“And … they didn’t take that well?”

“To say the least,” Killua deadpans. “They did everything they could to get me back, including selling lies to the press…” Killua’s voice goes softer as he admits, “Alluka and Nanika got the worst of it.”

Gon frowns. If all of this had been happening around the time he lost his arm, then Killua couldn’t have been older than nineteen - Alluka younger still. “It was really brave of you to leave.”

Killua shakes his head. “It was necessary.”

“It can be both,” Gon insists, though he keeps his tone gentle. “I’m glad you were able to find a way out.”

Killua nods but doesn't look at Gon.

Still, something nags at the back of Gon’s mind. Killua’s mentioned his parents, but not…

“Killua,” Gon begins, slowly. “The other day when… when you thought you saw your brother, you…”

“Freaked out?” Killua fills in when Gon hesitates to go on. Brown eyes meet blue, and then Killua continues. “Yeah. Illumi was… He was usually the one carrying out dear old mom and dad’s orders. So… yeah.”

So Killua probably has ample reason to be freaked out by him, Gon fills in. “And your other brothers?”

“Mmm…” Killua half rolls onto his back, looking up at the ceiling. “Milluki was… Kinda like Illumi. I dunno, he was more manageable in some ways. Illumi is all about familial duty, you know? He was really pushy about doing what mom and dad said and trying to like… instill a sense of duty or whatever in me.” Killua rolls his eyes, as if exasperated by the memory. “Milluki is more self-motivated, and that worked for me sometimes.” He takes a deep breath. “And Kalluto…” As Gon watches, something flashes in Killua’s eyes. Gon can’t quite put his finger on it, but thinking about Kalluto makes Killua unhappy. “Kalluto was young. I mean, he’s the youngest. But he stuck to mother’s side like glue.”

Gon nods. He kisses Killua’s cheek. “Well, they can’t get you now, in any case. You’re grown, you can do what you want. You’re free of them.”

Killua rolls back on his side to look at Gon. “I think they missed the memo,” he says, but he’s smiling. The pensiveness is gone from his face.

Gon adopts a very serious look and his best guess of an official business-like voice as he says, “Do I need to resend out that very important memo, Mr. Zoldyck?” Killua’s smile cracks wider, like Gon had hoped for, so he continues. “I can draft a memo and have it on your desk first thing in the morning for your approval, Mr. Zoldyck sir.”

That earns him a light shove in the chest as Killua turns his face into the pillow to stifle his laughter. “Shut up!” he groans, the words muffled. Then, picking his face up to look at Killua. “What is that voice supposed to be?”

Gon blinks at Killua innocently, trying hard to keep a smile from his lips. “What voice, Mr. Zoldyck? I’m just making sure the boss-man gets what he needs, when he needs it.”

“Boss-man?” Killua snorts. “If I’m the boss, then what does that make you?”

“Umm… Like, a secretary I guess?”

Killua’s smile turns a little mean, and he wiggles in close to drape his arm around Gon, fingers trailing down his spine. “Oooh, is that so? Well… what if I told my secretary he could scratch having the memo on my desk?”

Gon lifts his eyebrows. “Oh?”

Killua nods. “I think I’d rather have you on my desk.”

Killua’s hand drifts lower, the touch full of implication. “O-oh…,” Gon breathes. “Well, in that case, I’d have to tell Mr. Zoldyck he was being very inappropriate… And that we should make sure his office doors are locked.”

Killua chuckles low in his chest and rolls Gon over onto his back.

They don’t have breakfast until much later.

*

After bringing up Kurapika and Leorio, Gon realizes there’s one more thing they need to clear up. His stomach twists as he thinks about it, though. While Killua is helping him move some things to the shed out back, he brings it up.

“Killua… I… I wanna ask you something.”

Blue eyes glance over at him. “That sounds ominous…”

“No, it’s….” Gon pauses, balancing a big bag of fertilizer on his hip while he unlocks the shed door and opens it. He places his on the floor, tucks it off to the side, then turns to take the bag Killua’s holding. “I just remembered it and…”

They move away from the door and back into the mudroom, where Killua bends to pick up some of the newly emptied terracotta pots Gon has stacked there. Gon pauses in the doorway, rubbing at the back of his neck.

“We never talked about… If we’d be open about.. .y’know, this.” He gestures between the two of them.

Killua’s brow furrows. “About… us?”

Gon nods. “I mean, I told you that I told Kurapika and Leorio, and…” Gon frowns. “Well, I found out they… They sorta…” Gon feels a sense of unease as Killua looks at him, waiting for him to continue. What if Killua wasn’t ready for them to be out about seeing each other? Will this have an effect on him? Will it interfere with his work somehow? Oh, he doesn’t want Killua to be upset with him.

“The thing is, apparently my friends are blabbermouths, because it got around to more folks than I intended. And… and my aunt even found out before I could tell her, and I didn’t know if that was okay and-”

“Gon… Gon!” Killua approaches, shifting the pots to one arm, reaching for Gon with the other. “Hey, calm down. It’s okay.”

“...It is?”

“Yeah,” Killua says. Then, flushing a little and offering a sheepish smile, Killua admits, “The truth is… Some of my friends already know, too. I, uh… I mentioned you, or they heard it from Alluka, and…” Killua rolls his shoulder. He bites his lip, looking away for a moment, then back at Gon. “Is that … Is that alright with you?”

Gon’s eyebrows lift. How can Killua even ask that? “Yes,” he answers in a rush. Then, smiling. “Yes, that’s- That’s good with me.”

Killua smiles wide, too, and laughs softly. “Good… good.”

“So, I guess we’re, like… dating? Officially?”

Killua laughs a little more, putting a hand over half his face, as though embarrassed. “I guess? Yeah? I mean… I guess we have been.”

Gon laughs, too. Killua’s right. They have been dating, basically. It’s probably silly to feel excited just to put words to it finally, but he does. It feels really good. He bites his lip. He reaches to take Killua’s hand between his own. “So… what do you want to call this? Us?”

“How do you mean?”

“Like…” Gon hesitates, though he feels giddy inside. He likes this new feeling in him. When he’s with Killua, he feels like he’s always got something new and exciting to look forward to. Being with him is like watching a new plant grow and bloom and become something he never expected. “Like, are you my…”

“Boyfriend?” Killua fills in, which prompts more giddy laughter from both of them.

“Oh… it sounds a little juvenile, doesn’t it?” Gon asks. Do men in their thirties call their partners boyfriends?

Killua hums. “I dunno. Maybe. ...But I’ll be your boyfriend, if you like.”

Gon grins. He nods. “I do like.”

He pulls Killua in for a kiss, slow and unhurried.

When he feels a slap to his ass, Gon jumps.

Killua grins down at him. “Let’s finish your chores, boyfriend, so we can go out.”

*

When it rolls around to Gon’s turn to choose their monthly meet-up venue, it just so happens to line up with the opening of a farmer’s market a little ways out of town. Kurapika agrees eagerly, but Leorio is less pleased. He’d rather sleep in on a weekend, but Gon and Kurapika both want to get there early.

They arrive with minimal complaint from Leorio, and Gon has a great time browsing the stalls and talking gardening with some of the local farmers. A lot of the people who set up here have experience far beyond Gon’s, and listening to them is always a treat. Not to mention - the choice of products is amazing. One particular halfling has a successful farm just a few hours out of town, and a plentiful array of foods for sale. He’s old and a bit ornery, but his advice has allowed Gon to utilize the space behind his store in ways he’d have never imagined.

While Kurapika and Leorio are waiting in line at one of the vendors selling hot foods, Gon spies a familiar pink-haired figure in the crowd.

He grins wide and calls, “Spinner!”

When she turns, Gon can definitely see it’s her - same plaid hat and all - but she must not see him, because she only moves further off. After quickly waving to Kurapika and Leorio to let them know he’ll be back, Gon rushes to follow, calling her name. It’s crowded, though, so he’s not surprised when he doesn’t get her attention until he’s close enough to tap her shoulder.

“Spinner,” he greets as she turns. “Hey! I didn’t know you were in town.”

“Oh, Gon…” Green eyes look him up and down briefly, and she crosses her arms. She doesn’t say anything more, though, looking off the to side almost as if she’s distracted.

Gon waits for her to say something, but several beats pass and she stays quiet. “Ummm. It’s been a while!”

She glances at him out of the corner of her eye. “It has.”

Again, no follow up.

“...How are you?” Gon tries.

“Fine,” she answers. Then, lifting an eyebrow at him. “Is that all?”

Gon’s brow furrows. “Um… Yeah, I guess. I’ll, um… let you get back to your shopping. It’s good to see you.”

Spinner snorts and turns to leave.

“Spinner?” Gon calls. When she turns back around, the look she gives him is clearly one of impatience. For a moment he doesn’t know what to say, only forming words after she snaps a ‘what’ at him. “Uh, is something wrong?”

Another snort. “Well, I guess you wouldn’t know if there was, would you?”

Gon can only stand there, mouth agape. He doesn’t understand what she means, or why she’s talking to him this way.”I…? That’s why I was asking?”

“Well ask someone else. I don’t have time for you, since you obviously don’t have time for us.”

Gon feels like he’s been slapped across the face. “No time for.. Spinner, what are you talking about?”

“Don’t play dumb!” When she raises her voice she draws the attention of several of the people surrounding them. Her arms swing wide with a dramatic gesture. “You know, I thought we were all friends, but I guess that doesn’t mean anything to you. And more than that- Kite! You should be ashamed. All he did for you, and you just- You won’t even-” Both her hands curl into fists at her sides, shaking. She struggles for words, but when they fail her, she settles for a wordless, “Rrrrgh!”

The crowd around them is giving them space, as if to watch the argument play out. Only, Gon doesn’t have anything to say. He’s struck dumb, standing with his mouth opening and closing uselessly. What has he done to make her think they aren’t friends? What has he done to Kite? Kite is so important to him- Kite is one of the most important people in his life. Sure, it’s been a while since he’d seen him last, but…

“You make me want to spit, just looking at you!” Spinner tells him, her mouth twisting.

It’s then that someone breaks from the crowd to grab Spinner’s arm.

“Spinner! What’s-”

Banana seems as surprised as Gon is when their gazes meet. Her eyes move quickly between the two of them, and she must know more than Gon about what’s going on here because she lets out a soft, “Oh.”

Maybe she can clue him in.

“Banana, I don’t kno-”

“You know what, Gon?” Spinner interrupts. “I don’t wanna hear it. I really don’t. You don’t know? You really don’t know? Well, guess what? Figure it out.” With that, she turns to Banana and says, more softly, “Let’s go.”

Gon doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t know what to do. Vaguely, he’s aware that Kurapika and Leorio are approaching him from behind. He can hear Leorio calling his name, voice increasing in volume when he doesn’t respond. He can feel them drawing near, but he only stares as the two women turn away from him. One last time he turns to Banana, knowing she has a cooler head, hoping she’ll stop this and tell him what’s going on.

She frowns as she looks over her shoulder at him, like she’s disappointed somehow. “You owe Kite an apology.”

With that, they’re gone.

“Gon - Gon?” Kurapika is at his shoulder now, placing a hand on it. “What’s wrong?”

“Who are they?” Leorio asks, jerking a chin towards Spinner and Banana’s retreating figures.

Kurapika follows his line of vision. “Aren’t they…. Some friends of yours?”

Gon’s stomach turns. He’d thought so, but now…

What has he done wrong? Why are they so mad at him?

The rest of the day passes in a haze, and though Kurapika and Leorio try to comfort him, try to help him enjoy their day out, Gon can’t stop thinking of Banana and Spinner. By the time he gets home, he’s all tied up in knots about it.

When they leave to return to town, an old, familiar guilt has settled over Gon, gnawing at him like a dog at an old bone. He doesn’t know what he’s done, but the one thing that’s clear is that he’s at fault, somehow.

When he gets back to the store, though, he’s distracted by the box he finds waiting out front. It must have been dropped off while he was gone. There’s a purple envelope taped to the top, with his name on it.

Gon recognizes the handwriting, and it’s enough to make him smile.

He unlocks the shop door and takes the box inside. Setting it down on the counter, he opens the envelope first, opening the card inside. A paper-folded origami-like sunflower unfurls from inside until it is bright and blooming and standing tall. The inside of the card reads:

‘I thought you’d like this more than a bouquet. I think I found a solution to the insulation problem you said you had in the greenhouse. That’s in the box, along with some biomes I knew you were running low on.

Your boyfriend,

Killua Zoldyck’

A little of the weight Gon has felt on him since this morning lifts. He pulls his scroll out of his pocket, hoping that Killua isn’t too busy to answer a call.

*

Some days being anywhere but at the office sounds preferable to Killua. After charming one of their patrons into picking up on funding one of the projects, and finding a workaround for the glamor work on their latest line of makeup, things seem to be running smoothly again. Nevertheless, Killua is frustrated. The part of his mind anticipating the next eventual snag in the road won’t shut off, and he can’t seem to focus in on any one particular thing.

He’s going through the motions and he knows it, but it’s the only way he gets through the long workday. There are times when he comes back into his body after speaking, unsure of what he’s said but certain that it’s something he’s repeated a million times - to the secretaries, the heads of different facets, to board members over messages and mirror calls. Killua feels only half awake. Then again, nothing that passes over his desk these days seems to need more than half his attention.

Even his big, mostly empty apartment seems welcoming after days like this. He wishes he were there now. At least if he were, he could call Gon and wind down while talking with him.

Killua leans back in his office chair, throwing the image on his computer screen up against the wall and blowing it up so he can more easily scroll through his inbox, replying to several messages that need his attention - but again, hardly half of it. His answers are quick - yes, no, no, obviously no, run the tests again, call the supplier, run the test twice, no, no, well, three times then, yes, well if the spell isn’t working then check the rune work obviously - honestly, if some of these answers can’t be found without his input then what are the other facet leads even doing?

A new message comes in. It’s from Bisky.

The subject line reads simply:

My office. Now.

Killua doesn’t need to open it. Heaving a heavy sigh, he takes the projection off the wall and walks over to Bisky’s office. The secretary outside acknowledges him politely, and he nods in turn, before pushing past the heavy door.

Bisky sits quietly at her desk, her head bowed, fingers steepled in front of her face. She doesn’t look up until Killua takes the seat across from her. Her glare doesn’t have much of an effect on him anymore - they’ve done this together for too long.

When she mutters a quiet spell for sound blocking, he knows she must be really ticked off about something. He leans back, waiting for her to start.

“Killua,” she begins, her voice even. “If you would be so kind as to tell me what the hell the problem is, I would be ever so appreciative.”

Her tone is bad enough, but her falsely sweet smile rankles something inside Killua that really doesn’t need rankling. Not today. Cool as he can manage, he replies, “With all due respect, Ms. Krueger,” mimicking her tone, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, so you’re going to have to actually talk to me instead of being passive aggressive.”

Bisky’s hands slap down on the table. “Okay then. Let’s skip to just plain aggressive. When are you planning on getting your shit together?”

“Excuse me?” Killua replies, incredulous.

“Do you have any idea how long I’ve been on a call for just now?” She waits for Killua’s response, as if he’s supposed to know something from that alone. “With Gido?”

Oh. Killua lets out a long sigh through his nose. He leans back in his seat. “No, I don’t know.”

“Three hours, Killua. Three hours! Gido has been one of our top investors for years, and he was threatening to pull out because of your smart mouth!”

Okay, so maybe Killua got a little snappy with him at their last meeting. It’s not his fault Gido doesn’t want to accept that he doesn’t, in fact, know everything - especially not how Killua should be doing his job.

“He was bluffing, Bisky. He’d never pull. Our contract is mutually beneficial!”

“That’s not a risk we can take, Killua! You can’t go smarting off to our investors just because they get under your skin.”

“I wasn’t even smarting off,” Killua defends.

Bisky narrows her eyes at him. She picks up a pair of reading glasses off of the desk, and turns to her screen, reading off what must be part of a message she got from Mr. Tightass. “Ms. Krueger, I am contacting you to let you know that I am beginning to feel that our business relationship must come to an end. After your young Mr. Zoldyck felt it appropriate to very rudely encourage me to take my business elsewhere when I offer some simple suggestions, I am inclined to follow his advice-”

Killua’s hands curl into fists. “That’s not what I said. He’s exaggerating our conversation. I just reminded him why he hired us and told him to trust us to do our jobs and-”

“Killua,” Bisky begins with a sigh, rubbing at her temples. “You and I both know this isn’t about what you said so much as how you said it. You know you have to be careful about how you address these people!”

“And you know that no matter how I address some of those old, ass-backwards stooges they’ll always take an issue with me, Bisky!” Why can’t Bisky give him the benefit of the doubt on this? Even after years working his ass off for Facets, some of their older business partners just plain don’t like him. Either they’re old connections with his family, or they bought all that nonsense in the news all those years ago, or they’re jealous that someone younger than them has so much power. “I don’t see why I should have to kiss ass if they don’t respect me.”

“Because this doesn’t just affect you, Killua!” Bisky throws her hands wide. “All of this depends on us having stable financial connections. We can’t snub our noses at everyone we don’t like.”

“Haven’t I worked hard for you, Bisky?” Killua asks, raising his voice a little. “Haven’t I helped way more than hindered this business? Fuck, Bisky. I’ll watch how I say things but did you really need to pull me in for a reaming over just this?”

Another heavy sigh. Bisky goes quiet. She takes off her readers, folds them, and sets them aside. “But it’s not just this, Killua.” The levels him with an even look. “You’re… Killua, you’re slipping. I can tell when you’re not really here, when you’re tuning things out.” Bisky lifts her hands as Killua opens his mouth to protest. “And that’s - every now and then, sure. That’s fine. But it’s happening more often, Killua. You’re doing it in meetings, in front of important people. You make our partners feel like you’re not interested. You make our people,” she emphasizes her words by tapping her index finger hard on her desk, “feel like you don’t want to be here. You can’t do that.”

Killua shrinks back in his seat, feeling thoroughly chastised. Bisky goes on, her voice quiet but firm.

“You’ve gotten into unnecessary arguments with facet leads, you’ve neglected to stay in the good graces of one of our investors, and your head’s just clearly not in the game. All of that adds up, Killua.” There’s a pause, and then, “You’re more than just a coworker to me. You know that. … Would you tell me if there was something wrong? Is there something... “ Killua watches as she presses her lips together. “Something you want to say?”

Killua looks down at the floor, then back up at her. He shakes his head. “No. There’s nothing… Nothing’s wrong.” She’s right. His head’s not in the game, but he doesn’t have any excuses. Her eyes shine at him with concern, though, so he feels like he has to say something. “Just. I guess I haven’t been sleeping well.”

Bisky’s expression softens. For some reason, though, Killua feels like that’s not the answer she was waiting for. “Is that all?”

“Yeah.”

Bisky nods. “ Okay. Why don’t you go home early tonight, Killua? Catch up on some rest. It’ll help you think clearer.”

“Yeah… Yeah, okay.”

*

When he’s back at his apartment, Killua dresses down quickly - kicking off shoes, leaving a trail of clothes on the floor that he’ll only have to pick up later. He slides into some pajama pants and flops down on the couch.

Scroll in hand, he quickly thumbs the symbol to send a call through to Gon.

He can hear when the call has been accepted - the sound of something moving and then Gon’s voice, not quite against his scroll yet. “ -no, Kon, down- I said n-” Then a sigh. “Hey, sorry about that.”

Killua chuckles. “Is Kon being bad?”

“He’s just got a case of the early-evening zoomies.”

Killua smiles all the wider, imagining Kon darting about under the stands in the store’s front while Gon tries to shoo him off before he gets tangled in anything. “He wants to play, huh?”

“Yeah,” Gon hums. “Where are you? At work still?”

“Mm-mm. I came home early.”

“Oh? Are you alright?”

“Bisky and I got into it.”

“Oh.” Killua can hear the concern creeping into Gon’s tone. “Is everything alright?”

“Yeah,” Killua sighs. “Things are just... dumb.”

“Are you still having trouble with the investors?” “No, that’s been sorted. I think. It’s... I dunno. It’s dumb. I wasn’t feeling it today and I think Bisky was just stressed and-” Another sigh.

“Anything I can do to make you feel better?”

“Talk to me? Tell me about one of your trips or something.” If he can’t go have a grand adventure himself, escaping vicariously through one of Gon’s stories for a little while will be nice.

Gon hums on the other end of the line, thinking. “Did I tell you about the time I was invited to stay in a halfling settlement?”

“No.” Killua rolls onto his side, nestling the scroll between his ear and shoulder. “Like, a … town? Just of halflings?”

“Mm-hmm.”

“How did you, like, fit?”

Gon laughs. “Barely.”

*

Gon has to prop the mirror up on the kitchen table, and he and Killua push their chairs close so Mito can see them both as they talk, but they make it work.

Introducing Mito to his boyfriend (it still makes Gon’s stomach flip to think of Killua that way - his boyfriend) over a call maybe isn’t the most ideal thing, but it works. Mito is happy, anyway, and Killua is every bit as charming and polite as Gon expected he would be.

When the call ends and Mito’s image in the mirror has rippled away, Killua lets out a breath.

Gon grins, and squeezes his hand as Killua looks up at him with those blue eyes he loves so much.

“Do you think she liked me?” Killua asks.

“What?” Gon returns, surprised. “Of course she did!”

“If you say so,” Killua replies, but Gon can tell he’s still nervous, so he puts both his hands on Killua’s shoulders.

“She adored you. I’m positive.” Then, he kisses his forehead, and each cheek, and finally his mouth.

It makes Killua laugh. Gon smiles. With a sigh, Killua leans in on is shoulder and Gon puts an arm around him. “Maybe now I won’t feel so nervous whenever I meet her in person…”

Killua talks about that with such certainty. Gon’s stomach flips, and he hides his grin by pressing his mouth into Killua’s hair. “...I’d like for you to meet her in person,” he says.

Killua pulls back enough to look up at Gon, and now Gon can see he’s smiling wide as well. “I’d like that, too.” Then, lowering his gaze and lifting a hand to smooth over Gon’s chest, he continues, “I’d… like to see where you grew up.”

“I can take you someday,” Gon offers, his voice soft. He feels as much as sees Killua’s nod, with Killua tucked into his shoulder like this.

“Yes, please.” Then, leaning onto Gon in a more dramatic fashion, letting his weight drop fully on him, he affects a whining tone. “Please take me awaaaayyy~ Away from all the emails and the paperwork and the-”

Gon laughs, wrapping his arms around Killua, pulling him closer. “Okay, okaaay!”

Killua goes on. “Take me away, you big strong man. Take me away to your wild, exotic locations- Take me off the map- Just take me, take me!” Here, he intentionally lets himself slip out of Gon’s arms, becoming complete dead weight, and throws himself across Gon’s lap.

Gon can’t stop laughing. He coaxes Killua up and over to the couch, where they watch movies while they have their dinner. Later, in bed, Gon does as he’s been asked - he takes Killua.

The thought, though, of taking Killua somewhere - really taking him somewhere - stays in the back of Gon’s head for the rest of the evening.

This is far from the first time Killua’s expressed interest in traveling with Gon if the opportunity arose. Though Gon won’t admit it aloud, the whole reason he hasn’t gone off on one of his adventures lately is because he doesn’t want to miss out on time with Killua.

What if he could have both, though? What if it could really work?

He’s avoided it all this time. The idea of traveling with someone, the possibility of failing someone he loves again… He’s more efficient on his own. It’s not the same if the only person he can fail is himself.

When Killua gets that look of excitement in his eye, though- it’s catching. Gon finds himself wanting to nurture that interest he sees, to help it grow and blossom, to show Killua how weird and wonderful the world can be.

Maybe… Maybe he can start small. One day he could take Killua to Whale Island, sure, but… He could also take Killua through that door. He could show Killua the house he built for himself, show him the wildlife surrounding, and the beach, and all of it.

Maybe now is the perfect time to finally make use of that house. If he can do that, then maybe the next steps would be easier.

What they have - what Killua’s given him, it’s so dear. Like a plant, like a garden, full of things Gon needs to handle with careful, skilled, tender hands. When you’re too rough with the things you grow, they can crumple under your touch. Leaves and stems and flowers are easily crushed. If you’re overeager, if you’re too confident in yourself, if you’re not mindful… you can…

People can get hurt.

It doesn’t have to be like that now, though. He can be careful. He can handle this thing growing between the two of them with all the care and affection he feels in his heart.

And then, maybe, he doesn’t have to go it alone. Maybe now he’s strong enough, smart enough to have someone by his side.

Gon looks at Killua, sleeping, edged by the soft light drifting in through the window. He’s filled with a yearning the winds through his chest, like so many vines wrapping around his ribs and heart and lungs.

He kisses Killua’s forehead and thinks how lucky he is to feel so much love.

Chapter Text

“Ooooh, Alluka! I’m so sorry!” Gon’s voice on the other end of the scroll is full of concern. “I should have told you that that species of fireroot doesn’t mix in well with Fangleaf thorns.”

Killua’s, on the other hand, is laughing at her. “Alluka, you’re supposed to be the one that’s good at potions.”

“Oh shush!” Alluka stands with the door to her potions room wide open, letting the smelly smoke still emitting from the copper cauldron waft out. She waves a hand in front of her face, nose wrinkling. “I don’t want to hear anything from you, big brother, until you figure out how to mix your own hair growth solution. Shall I tell Gon of the time you turned your hair bright orange by adding the wrong mixture to your shampoo?”

Gon’s voice again, softer, “Oh, Killua… That’s bad.”

Killua sputters and tries to defend himself, but Alluka talks over him to Gon. “Anyway, thanks Gon. I’m just glad to know what caused it is all. My customer wanted a vitality elixir and I thought the fireroot would give it some, y’know - oomph.”

Gon hums. “Maybe try Shrine Nettle instead? ...But only after you’ve given your cauldron a good cleaning, I’d say.”

Alluka peers around the doorway, and yes - the cauldron is still spitting smoke. “Yeah. Thanks again. Sorry for interrupting your evening.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Gon says instantly, but then Killua pipes back in.

“You are cutting into prime smooch time with my main squeeze, I’ll have you know!”

“Groooss!” Alluka cries while Gon gently scolds him. “Idon’tneedtoknowanymore -okaybye!” Alluka hurries to hang up before Killua can give her any more unwanted details.

Nanika laughs from above her. ‘He must be really comfortable if he can bring up smooching to gross you out without getting embarrassed over it.’

“Yeah, I guess. But still - gross!” Alluka sighs, noting that airing out her brewing room isn’t working well - it’s all just gathering in the main part of the store. “Nanika, go prop the front door open. I’m gonna open the back windows.”

With a little time and the air of a wind spell or two Alluka and Nanika manage to funnel the smoke out the front door and through the windows back in Alluka’s consulting area. Thankfully, the weather is nice out - not hot, but not too cold. The fresh air wafting through the store is actually really nice, so Alluka decides to leave the door open while she gives the cauldron a thorough scrubbing.

After pouring soapy water down the drain, Alluka hefts the cauldron up onto the front counter. She’s already wiped up the potion-gone-wrong that had bubbled over onto her brewing table, but she may as well clean up better while the cauldron is out of the way. She tells Nanika as much, and while Nanika goes to find her a wash rag, Alluka ducks down behind the counter to look for some incense to burn. The smell of her failed potion is nearly gone, but if she can mask what’s left of it then all the better.

She hears movement while she’s down there - someone by the door, probably a customer looking to come in. “Be with you in a minute!” she hollers, just to let them know that she’s here and they’re welcome. She turns her back briefly to the door as she sets the stick of incense into a burner on the small table by her brewing room where the smell lingers the most.

“There.” Putting on her best smile, she swings around the edge of the desk to help her hopeful customer. “Welcome to Wish Upon a Star! How can I… h-”

The breath goes out of her all at once.

Of all the people to darken her doorway-

Well, it wouldn’t be accurate to say she never expected this. On the contrary - she and Killua and Nanika made sure to prepare for it. The spell work etched into all the nooks and crannies of her storefront have only ever needed to turn away nosy would-be reporters and paparazzi hoping to make a quick buck off of “investigating” the infamous runaway Zoldyck. Part of her had hoped they would never need to be tested against anyone stronger.

Illumi hasn’t changed one bit. He is the picture image of how she remembers him. Tall and pale, long hair swept back from his passive, empty stare. It’s been a long time since she’s seen him in person. When Killua took her away, their parents, of course, had sent Illumi after them. But Killua was clever - Killua protected their tiny apartment. He chose a densely populated area, gave Illumi almost no chance to catch them alone where he’d be free to use the worst of his magics. The more they were surrounded by others, the less likely any of their family would be to use any of their more unsavory methods of control.

Alluka hates how she freezes at the sight of him, even despite how long it’s been. He takes his time looking around, hardly seeming interested in her at all.

“So this is the latest hole you’ve chosen to hide in…”

Alluka takes a breath through her nose. She lifts her chin. “Illumi,” she says, and her voice doesn’t even waver. She’s proud of that. “What are you doing here?”

Illumi’s head turns slowly, his eyes finally meeting her own. Alluka feels a cold dread rise in her gut. “Oh, don’t be stupid, brother,” he replies. “Unless being so long bonded with that wild fae thing has damaged your memory?”

Alluka tenses. Illumi’s eyes shift, and his lips curve in the barest hint of a cruel smile.

“Speak of the thing and it appears.”

Alluka whips her head to where he looks, and sees Nanika hovering, bristling in the air.

“A separate form - how interesting.” Illumi’s eyes gleam. “I wasn’t aware of this development.”

‘Nanika,’ Alluka reaches out with her mind, slowly sliding behind the desk and past the other end so she can stand between Illumi’s cold stare and Nanika.

“I should inform mother and father of this.” He’s talking to himself now, like they’re not even there.

‘You should LEAVE,’ Nanika speaks, and Alluka feels a surge of energy behind her.

Slowly, the passive look on Illumi’s face melts into something wilder - his large dark eyes opening impossibly wider while a grin spreads his lips. “It speaks.” Alluka represses a shiver but shifts half a step back into Nanika.

There’s a rumbling of energy behind her, and Alluka feels Nanika’s rolling anger as much as her own. ‘You are not welcome here. Go, NOW.’

Illumi’s head tips slowly to the side. His arms hang loose. “Make me,” he beckons, calling his magic to manifest in a dark aura around him. It clings to his skin, dripping up like water pulled in reverse to normal gravity. Strands of his hair lift, slithering slowly.

Another surge against her back as Nanika tries to press forward.

“No, stop! Look!” Alluka points to the door frame. Illumi’s feet remain outside the threshold. If anything letting his magic loose is only proving that their spell is holding because not one bit of his energy makes it past the door. It sways and moves and expands in a threatening manner, but when it drifts close to the door, it bounces away again. Switching to their other line of communication, she thinks, ‘He can’t make it in, Nanika. The wards are keeping him out.’ He’s only trying to goad them, to anger them and lure them.

Nanika shivers, stills, then wraps part of herself around Alluka.

As soon as Illumi is aware that they’re on to his game, he lets his aura drop. Once again, he is impassive, unaffected. “Hmm… Yes.” Illumi looks to the doorframe, examining the runic work there. He lifts his hand as if to touch, but there’s a crackle of energy that warns him away. The palm of his hand moves, hovering in the doorway, and when he presses it forward, the barrier that prevents him from entering becomes visible for a moment as a soft sort of distortion, shining with energy, making the runes light up briefly. “An… annoyingly effective obstacle you have here. It would take some time to unwind the threads of this barrier…”

Alluka’s heart drops down into her stomach. ‘He’s bluffing,’ she thinks, and feels Nanika hold her tighter still.

Illumi presses his hand harder for a moment, his mouth twisting briefly into a sour shape. The frown fades, though as he takes his hand back. “It matters not. I’m not here for you yet.”

Yet? What does that mean?

Illumi eyes the interior of her store, eyes sweeping from one corner to another. “Killu comes first… The rest will then follow. I can see he is not with you, though.”

“Why would he be?” For all Illumi knows, Killua wouldn’t be in the city just because she’s here. Why did he check here first? Why not Killua’s own apartment in York New?

Illumi emits a breath that sounds something like a laugh - or as close as he ever gets. “Dear Killu has grown complacent. It is not hard to follow where he goes.”

Alluka tries to keep her face carefully impassive. No need to give Illumi any clues, although her hand is itching to pick up her scroll and warn Killua. Then again, if Illumi is back up to his old tricks, he may very well know that Killua is in town after all.

“We will meet again,” Illumi tells her. “This foolishness you began with Killua will soon end.”

With that, he turns and leaves.

Alluka waits until he is well out of sight to rush to the door and hurriedly pull it closed. It makes little difference, really, but leaves her feeling less exposed, at least.

Then she picks up her scroll and calls Killua.

*

Outside, unnoticed, a car parks itself across the street from Wish Upon a Star.

The driver leans against his window, looking at the passenger, who is preoccupied with watching the storefront. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

A moment’s pause and they nod. “I want to … try.”

“What makes you so certain she’ll even listen to you?”

“I’m not certain,” is their answer. They look down to their lap, and he can tell that they’re nervous, try as they may to mask that with their impassive expression. “But I know that if Illumi gets what he wants, it’ll only be that much harder on all of us.”

The driver grunts, leaning back in his seat. “Man. I thought he was done being such a pain in the ass.”

The passenger turns to stare at him. “Alluka is our best in.”

“Are you sure about that?”

Their patience is growing thin. “If you think you would have more success approaching Killua first, then by all means-”

The driver sighs, “No. … But even if Alluka is open to talking, what about… that thing?”

They bite their lip, looking across the street again. A memory surfaces: a small, pale hand, outstretched - and a voice: ‘Come with us.’

They shake their head and open the door. “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”

Another grumble from the driver. “...I’m gonna circle the block. Call if you need me.”

*

“So, I’m your main squeeze, am I?” Gon asks once the call with Alluka disconnects. He lifts both his brows at Killua, who is smiling in spite of the warm color dusting his cheeks.

“You’re my only squeeze,” he reassures, sliding an arm around Gon’s waist.

Gon smiles, lifting both arms to drape around Killua’s neck. “Mmm… Only. I like that better.” When Killua’s free hand finds his chin and tips it up, Gon’s eyes flutter shut automatically.

Killua’s kiss is sweet and slow. Gon hums into it. He misses this so much when they’re apart. When Killua begins licking into his mouth, however, he pulls back. “Mmm. Wait.” He laughs when Killua whines and tries to lean in for another kiss. “Just a minute. I have to finish closing up shop, then I’m all yours, okay?”

Oh, he is just too cute when he pouts like that. Unfair. Gon wants to kiss the sour expression off his lips. Killua huffs, though and agrees. “Alright. Anything I can do to help?”

Gon kisses his cheek. “Mmm… could you move the pots I left in the mudroom out back? They need more sun, so I was gonna set them against the back edge of the fence.”

Killua nods. “Sure thing.”

With one more short kiss as thanks, Gon lets Killua go, and turns to the front counter, tidying up a few loose items before sitting down to count cash and update his books. Upstairs, he hears Killua’s scroll distantly dinging a few times. Must be work trying to contact him. Gon is reminded to reach for his own scroll, silencing it so he can concentrate for the next few minutes. Kon, his unhelpful assistant, stretches himself lazily over the counter top and meows at him.

“In a minute, buddy,” Gon tells him, reaching to give him just a few ear scritches. “Let me finish up here.”

Kon yowls softly, but when he doesn’t get Gon’s attention, he hops down off the counter and trots away. Gon chuckles to himself and shakes his head, writing a few notes down for himself.

As he busies himself with wrapping up shop, Gon can’t help but let his mind drift. Lately, he’s been fantasizing about really taking Killua away, just like Killua wants. They could see so many amazing things. Maybe Killua could even learn something useful for his job. That way, maybe it would be less of a big deal for him to take off.

Just the two of them, all alone. All the time in the world to kiss undisturbed. No work, no interrupting customers, no needy cats. No offense, Kon, he thinks to himself, smiling. The thought, though, genuinely excites Gon. What might he show Killua that he would enjoy the most? What would make him smile?

First, the house, though. Gon wants to share that place with him. It’s the first time he’s really wanted that - to share that place, that house, that home, with anyone in particular. Gon will start getting things in order for their visit soon. He hopes Killua likes it.

The click of the front door’s knob turning surprises Gon. He’s pretty sure he’d locked it earlier, but he lifts his head just as the bell dings and someone steps inside.

“Oh…” Gon puts on his best apologetic smile. “Sorry, we’re closed up for the evening. But we open tomorrow at 9AM sharp!”

“I won’t take much of your time,” the stranger tells him softly, stepping inside. He looks around, as though scanning for something in particular. “I just came to get what belongs to me.”

Gon’s blinks, standing, moving around the counter. “Ummm… Did you have an order?” This man doesn’t look at all familiar to Gon. Is he picking up for someone else?

The man doesn’t respond. Something about this doesn’t sit right with Gon. More than just the average customer stubbornly ignoring business hours, something about this man bothers Gon. He wants him to leave. Out of the corner of his eye, Gon notices Kon sit up on one of the slow counters between two plants. He lets out a low rumble, which only increases Gon’s apprehension.

“Sir, if you have an order to pick up that’s been paid for already, then I’ll gladly get it for you. But otherwise, I’m going to have to ask you to le-”

“Hey, Gon-”

Killua’s voice, coming from the back doorway. Still watching the stranger, Gon sees his dark eyes shift at the sound, and an altogether unsettling smile stretches his lips. Gon hears Killua’s voice growing closer and turns to watch him arrive at the end of the hallway.

“- There wasn’t enough room for everything along the back of the fence, so I had- .. to…”

He sees Killua freeze on the spot.

“Kil…” The stranger greets. “It’s been a long time.”

*

Killua doesn’t reply to any of her messages.

Alluka sends what must be over a dozen, but he never responds. Neither does Gon when she tries his scroll. A lump forms in her throat and she makes herself set her scroll down on the counter while she takes to pacing back and forth across the floor. Cold dread fills her stomach and there’s a hot pressure behind her eyes. She’d managed not to cry in front of him - she should be proud of that. But at the same time she’s so angry that the mere sight of Illumi can make her like this.

Only it wasn’t just the sight of him. He was here. He’d been close enough to share the same air as her. She could feel his energy just outside the shop’s entrance, butting against her protective spells. If she’d been outside when he came - what would he have done?

‘It’s okay now.’ Nanika tells her, hovering nearby. ‘He is gone. He could not get in.’

Her attempts to calm Alluka ring hollow when Alluka can feel in the air just how irritated she is, too. Papers and pens on her desk, merchandise on nearby shelves, pictures on the walls all shiver with Nanika’s barely contained nervous energy.

“But Killua-” Alluka says, and then finds she can’t speak anymore, nor can she stop pacing. All this energy inside has to come out some way.

For a moment, everything nearby shudders harder, but then Nanika seems to reel herself in.

‘Killua will be able to handle himself. Alluka, we have gotten through this before.’

Alluka doesn’t still until Nanika comes to drape around her shoulders, pressing into her cheek like a cat seeking affection. ‘Alluka,’ she says. Alluka makes herself take a deep breath. Then another, and another. Slowly, she regains herself.

Nanika is right. It’ll be okay. It has to be okay. She’s not a child anymore, and neither is Killua. Illumi can’t walk all over them. None of the family has tried the kind of casting they used to use on the two of them since only shortly after they left. It’d been easy enough to deny what had happened in their own home, but even Illumi wouldn’t want to try something risky where it’d be harder to hide the evidence.

She hopes.

Alluka gently dabs her eyes with the edge of her sleeve and leans back into Nanika. “I’m alright now,” she says in lieu of thanks. Then, turning back to the desk, she peers down at her scroll.

Still nothing. She sighs heavily, leaning hands on the desk with her head bowed. It would help the churning in her gut if Killua would just respond, but maybe he has other reasons for neglecting his scroll.

Perhaps catching a whiff of her thoughts, Nanika speaks,

‘He is with G-’

She stops suddenly. For a moment Alluka doesn’t think anything of it. She just presses a hand to her face and takes another deep breather. “Yeah, that might explain why he’s-”

The bell above the front door rings, and shortly after she hears the sound of footsteps on the hardwood. She’s really not in the mood to deal with customers, and if the time on her scroll is right, it's just another few minutes until she needs to close anyway. So she turns, intending to tell the would-be customer that sorry, she’s closing up, when suddenly Nanika is standing in front of her.

‘Stay behind me,’ she says, and Alluka’s heart drops. Is it Illumi? Has he been out there this whole time trying to find a hole in her warding?

She looks around Nanika, dread rising, but doesn’t find who she expects. It’s-

“Kalluto?”

*

“What are you doing here?”

The smile drops quickly from the stranger’s face. “Enough games. Kil, it’s time to come home.”

All at once, it hits Gon who this is, who is standing in front of them.

He recalls Killua stopping him in the middle of the sidewalk, grabbing his arm, grip tight enough to hurt.

This is Killua’s brother - this is Illumi.

Killua scoffs. “Home isn’t where you want to bring me.” His reply is flippant, but when Gon looks over at him he can tell just how uneasy he is. Slowly, he moves back from the edge of the counter to go stand beside Killua. Kon is still on a shelf nearer the front of the store, standing now on all fours, his fur standing on end.

“I think we have tolerated your childish antics long enough.”

Gon feels chills rise on his skin. Something about Illumi isn’t right. His eyes are dead - more empty than he’s known any living thing’s eyes to be.

“Childish-” He hears the moment Killua loses his temper, his voice rising. “I am not a child anymore, Illumi! I haven’t been in a long time.” Still, though, he doesn’t move forward, towards Illumi. Gon realizes how real Killua’s fear of this man is, and wonders what he could have done to Killua to make him so afraid.

“Wrong.” Illumi’s voice rises - not to match Killua’s, but into a firmer tone. “You never ceased being a child. You act on selfish impulse. You abandon your loyalty to the only thing that matters - family. Too long father and mother have waited for you to see reason. I will make you see reason.”

When Illumi steps forward, Gon shifts to put his shoulder in front of Killua. He feels Killua’s hand there shortly after. “You need to leave,” Gon tells him, standing firmly in place. “Killua doesn’t want you here, and you are not welcome. Leave. Now.”

Illumi tips his head again as his eyes move to consider Gon. He blinks, slow. “You… are simply the latest in a long line of distractions. Killu belongs with his family. I will bring him home, and you will not get in the way.”

“You’re delusional,” Killua snaps from behind him.

“You’re not taking Killua anywhere,” Gon insists.

Illumi smiles. “Am I not?” Another step forward. Killua’s grip on his shoulder tightens. “Will you stand in my way?” Illumi turns his gaze back to Killua. “Kil, will you come home sooner if I dispose of your little toy?”

Before Gon can think to move, Killua is yanking him back and stepping in front. “You stay away from him!”

Gon blinks. He tries to step past Killua, but Killua is pressing him back into the hallway, blocking Gon with an outstretched arm.

Gon’s gut twists. “Killua, don’t let him get to you. He can’t hurt me-” What will he do? It’s still light out. There are people passing by on the street outside. How much of a threat could Illumi really pose?

“Oh, I beg to differ…” Gon can feel Illumi call up his magic. It’s hard to see around Killua’s taller form, but he thinks Illumi steps forward.

Gon presses against Killua, trying to get past. “Killua, let me-”

“No! Gon, stay back!”

Reaching back, Killua shoves Gon to force him further back down the hallway.

Gon stumbles.

He blinks, the world tilting crooked for the barest of seconds.

            His back blocks Gon’s view of their opponent.

                      Gon surges forward- He can help- Just let him help-

          ‘Gon - get back!’

             A hand at his chest. A shove.

           When he turns to Gon, his arm is outstretched.

            An incantation falls from his lips.

      The beast, eyes golden and glowing, behind him

                               The spell he weaves throws Gon back, back, away-

              It makes contact. The blood-

Gon shakes his head, coming back to himself. Killua shakes in front of him, and Gon can feel a sickly magic in the air. He rushes back to Killua, snaking an arm around his middle. He looks over Killua’s arm and is stunned to see Illumi standing there, calling on what looks to be an incredibly forceful magic. Dark energy hangs off of him in inky strands, lifting, dripping.

“Have- Have you lost it? You’re going to-” Killua’s voice is uneven. “Our parents can’t approve of you assaulting me in broad daylight.”

Gon’s eyes dart around. What should they do? Call the authorities? But Killua’s scroll is upstairs, and his own is on the desk, beyond reach. Gon can see it light up as someone tries to call him. Escape, then. Gon looks back. The back door is closed, but near.

“Our family can’t wait to play nice anymore, Kil-” Illumi’s hand lifts. “You’re coming home, n-”

A fierce feline yowl sounds and Gon watches as Kon launches himself from the edge of one of the pots - which falls and shatters on the floor. He makes ad arch through the air, and Illumi only has time to half turn before Kon’s claws catch him in the face.

Kon swipes fiercely at Illumi’s face, giving them just the distraction Gon needs. He tightens his hold around Killua’s waist and pulls him back. “Killua, c’mon.” Then, louder- “KON, HOME!”

At his commanding tone, Kon jumps to the floor with one final kick to Illumi’s face, and darts past their feet to the mudroom.

Gon hears Killua let out a soft, surprised sound, but he doesn’t resist as Gon hurriedly pulls him to the back door.

“Gon- Gon we’re fenced in that way, we can’t-”

“Trust me,” he says.

Hand on the doorknob, Gon mutters a short spell. The runes etched into and around the doorframe glow. Kon paws at the door.

“Gon, what-”

Gon opens the door, watching as Kon runs eagerly through, then yanks Killua through as well.

They stumble out of his poorly kept shed and into the grass that Gon hasn’t managed to cut in quite some time. Gon lets go of Killua, pushing him back away from the door, and turns. The portal is still open to his shop, and he sees Illumi standing there in shock - but that only lasts a moment.

He stalks forward, picking up speed, and Gon has just enough time to slam the door shut and utter the command for the spell to close. Part of him expects to hear the impact of Illumi trying to barge through - but it never comes. He can’t. Illumi is at his store, and the door in front of Gon now just leads into the shed out back of his house.

He turns to Killua, who is staring at him with mouth agape and eyes wide. Gon’s heartbeat is still thundering, and he takes a moment to catch his breath while Killua looks around, taking in their surroundings. The shed behind Gon, the grass and the trees. He turns to find the large garden Gon has just recently begun to cultivate again, and beyond - his house. Kon is already several steps ahead of them, pawing at the back door. He meows, looking back at the two of them expectantly.

“Gon…”

Gon’s heart twists as he looks at Killua’s back. This isn’t how he wanted this to go. He was already planning on bringing Killua here, just not like this.

Blue eyes are bewildered as Killua turns to him again. “Where are we?”

Chapter Text

He looks so different from when last she saw him. Taller - tall as she is, at least. Maybe a little taller still. He’s let his hair grow and has it pulled in a high bun. His bangs, though, and the long locks of hair he’s left framing his face remind Alluka of how Kalluto used to wear his hair when they were young.

Nanika is a pulsing, shivering form in front of her - in her humanoid shape but with what would be her hair spread out like a wild fan, smoke-like mist spreading from her like a shield to protect Alluka.

“Kalluto?” she calls, her voice wavering. She hasn’t seen him except for once in passing since she left home. It’s been so long since she’s seen any of them, and now… “What are you doing here?”

Kalluto, for his part, seems almost disinterested in them. Cool as she remembers him, Kalluto glances around her shop, taking it all in slowly. “Quite the place you have here,” he answers. “Although, you should have been more specific with the ward work out front if you meant to keep us all out.”

Alluka can feel Nanika’s spike of anger a moment before she lunges forward, rising to tower above Kalluto and spread herself wide, tendrils poised and pointed at him but not touching. She stops just before she gets to him.

‘LEAVE!’ she roars, and Alluka leans back against the counter as the shelves rattle hard. ‘It matters not how you made it past! I will TEAR YOU APART if you dare try to harm us!”

Alluka hasn’t felt rage like this from Nanika in a long time. Kalluto has even stepped back, hand reaching back for the door as he stares up at her. She takes a little satisfaction in the terror she can see piercing his cool mask.

“There’s- There’s worse than me coming,” Kalluto retorts, short, curt. “That weak spell you have out there - do you think it’ll be enough?”

Nanika lets out a wordless sound that makes Alluka wince. Several items around the store shake themselves loose, falling to the floor. She hears glass shatter and whirls to find a picture frame has fallen to the floor. When she looks up again, her merchandise hangs in the air, and a heavy geode whizzes towards the door, where Kalluto ducks just in time to avoid it colliding with his skull. It bashes into the wood instead, splinters flying.

‘LET THEM COME! Any who come to harm us will find we are not so easily cowed! I will shatter them! I will cut to the deepest part! No matter how many wards you break, no matter what defenses you slip past, I will not rest until you are gone! Alluka and I will have peace! We will-’

“Nanika! STOP!”

Nanika’s form shutters, but her attention remains on Kalluto. Alluka stumbles a few steps from the counter and calls out again. “Stop!” She can see the various items hanging in the air, and she worries Nanika will throw another, so she speaks quickly, “Wait, Nanika - the ward! Don’t you feel? It’s not broken, it’s held.”

Alluka looks toward Kalluto, still pressed against the door. “You… You made it past. The wards let you in.”

Kalluto’s eyes dart between Nanika and her. “You wanna call off your attack dog now?” Kalluto asks her, tense.

Nanika, who had begun to still, tenses again, the objects floating in her hold shuddering, but when Alluka calls out again she droops. She lets the objects fall to the floor.

Alluka steps forward, reaching towards Nanika’s form. Nanika, perhaps too agitated for a comforting touch, pulls from her but doesn’t relinquish her post between Kalluto and Alluka. Alluka sighs, but doesn’t reach for her again.

“And you. If you call Nanika anything like that again I will remove you from my shop, no matter if you did make it past the wards.”

‘How?’ Nanika demands, still intently focused on Kalluto.

Kalluto’s mouth pressed into a thin line. His face pinches in, but he doesn’t answer.

“The wards are only meant to keep out those with ill intent,” Alluka answers instead. “Kalluto, why are you here?”

Kalluto shifts, standing up a little straighter now. He lifts his chin, dusts the debris from the door off of his shoulder. “I came to warn you,” he says. “Illumi. He intends to find you.”

Alluka’s brow furrows. “He’s already been here. You just missed him.”

Kalluto blinks - once, twice, then shakes his head and looks around. “I thought I felt… But… He’s not? Where is he?”

‘Our wards are not as weak as you think,’ Nanika sneers.

Kalluto frowns, then looks towards the ground. “No. I suppose not … You wove them yourself?” he asks, looking towards Alluka.

Alluka frowns, making a quick note of the way he’s avoiding speaking directly to Nanika. “We did,” she tells him. “Us, and Killua.”

Kalluto’s nose wrinkles briefly. “I see.”

Alluka bites her lip. Kalluto doesn’t look directly at her and goes to extra lengths to avoid looking at Nanika for too long. As much as she hates the way he must think of Nanika, part of her understands why he’s so uneasy. He doesn’t know any better, and Nanika did just…

Alluka carefully extracts herself from behind Nanika, looking at her and silently nudging her consciousness to let her know to just roll with what she’s trying to do. Nanika seems hesitant but lets her step in front.

“...Illumi’s sought us out before,” Alluka says, drawing Kalluto’s attention. “Why are you here now? What’s different?”

Again, Kalluto’s eyes drop. His hands curl and uncurl at his side. “A lot is different.”

“A lot?” Alluka prods, gently as she can.

Kalluto nods. “... Everything. Since…” His mouth presses together again. He doesn’t say any more, but Alluka can feel her heart twist. She thinks she knows what ‘since’ means.

“Do you wanna… Do want to come in?” she asks. “Properly, I mean. Not hovering by the door. I could make tea or something.”

When Kalluto looks up to her and nods, Alluka tries not to feel too hopeful. But still, he’s here. He was able to come inside. Maybe this means…

‘Alluka,’ Nanika calls, and Alluka turns to find her hovering close, concern and distrust dripping off of her aura.

‘It’ll be fine,’ Alluka assures, lifting her arms to touch her. Nanika forms into half her human form again, wrapping spectral arms around Alluka and pressing their foreheads together. After a few seconds of quiet conversation, Nanika agrees to let Alluka try to talk to him. She feels Kalluto staring, but she doesn’t care at the moment.

‘I will clean,’ Nanika says, in her voice she uses so everyone can hear her.

“Nanika, we can leave it for later,” Alluka offers.

Nanika shakes her head. ‘I will clean. But I will be close.’

The last part is for Kalluto, and going by the look on his face he knows that, too.

Nanika floats away, carrying some objects with her, and Alluka motions for Kalluto to follow. Eyeing Nanika as he goes, Kalluto carefully steps over what’s been left on the floor and follows behind as Alluka leads him to the area towards the back that she usually reserves for client consultations.

She brings down her teapot out of a nearby cabinet, asks Kalluto which tea he’d like, then leaves it to warm after casting a small heat spell on it.

When she turns, Kalluto is still standing. “Please, sit,” she says, gesturing to the couch. When he does, she takes the chair opposite, coffee table between them. As she settles in, Alluka has a surreal moment. Seeing Kalluto sit there where a client would normally be, asking her for help with this enchantment or that potion… The words she would normally speak here sit on the back of her tongue, like an old recording she’s memorized.

Those aren’t the words she needs now. She doesn’t know the words she needs now.

She swallows, going back to what Kalluto had said earlier. “You said everything was different. How do you mean?”

Kalluto leans back, shrugging his shoulders and avoiding eye contact in a show of defensiveness that reminds her just a little of Killua. “I mean just that. It’s been eleven years since you and Killua ran away and a lot changes in that time.”

Alluka curls a hand into her skirt. She finds herself wanting to defend herself, to say they had a reason for what they did. Kalluto should know that. But she doesn’t owe that to him or to anybody. Instead, she agrees. “You’re right. Eleven years is a long time. Things change.”

Kalluto glances in the direction they came from. “Not for you, it seems. Still thick as thieves with Killua. Still attached to… that thing.”

“Her name is Nanika,” Alliuka says, her tone firm and perhaps a little louder than necessary. “She’s not a thing, and while you’re here, you will be respectful of her.”

Kalluto glances at her, eyebrows lifting. “... Uh. Yeah. Sorry.”

The apology takes all the wind out of Alluka’s sails. She hadn’t been expecting that. “... And besides, some things have changed for me, too.”

“Like what?” Kalluto asks, picking at something on the knee of his dark pants.

Alluka blinks at him, considering her answer. “Mostly?” Alluka leans back in her chair, looking all around them. This is a good space. This space is hers. It’s Nanika’s. Alluka has a lot of good memories here. Her brother helping her move in furniture, friends stopping in to visit, people who needed help and trusted her enough to ask for it - so many people have sat across from her in the very spot Kalluto sits now. Maybe it’s foolish to hope, but something tells her that Kalluto sitting there now is a good thing. Kalluto wouldn’t be sitting there now if he had any bad intentions. She looks at him again and answers, “I’m happy now.”

Kalluto meets her gaze and holds it, then speaks his reply. “Good for you,” he says, soft. Not sarcastic, not mean. Like he means it.

“And you?” Alluka prompts, leaning forward with elbows on her knees.

Kalluto takes a breath. “I’m working on it. … Part way there, I think.”

Alluka smiles. “Good.”

Kalluto surprises her by smiling back - just a little smile, a barely-there curve of his lips, but it fills Alluka with a surprising amount of warmth. “... Seriously, though, you know you can name specific people on protection wards, right?”

Alluka nods. “Mm. Yeah.”

Kalluto’s brow pinches together. “Then why didn’t you? You could have made it specifically for Illumi, or our parents, Milluki, me…”

Alluka frowns. Does he really not understand? “Why would I do that? I never wanted…” Alluka’s throat feels thick suddenly, and it’s her turn to drop her gaze. Kalluto lets her take a moment to collect her words. “I never wanted to keep… my family out.” Swallowing, she lifts her gaze again. “In case you forgot, it was sort of the other way around.” She’s proud of how steady her voice is. “They wanted us out. Or… in. Away.”

Kalluto frowns but doesn’t break away from her gaze. “I remember. That’s why I don’t understand.”

Alluka looks down, watching her thumb smooth over the back of her opposite hand. “All Nanika and I want is to be able to live our lives as we choose. We don’t want to be controlled. We want peace. We want to stay away from anyone who would take that away. And Killua wanted that too. For himself for us.” Alluka looks up. “But if… If someone… wanted to be here… and if they were willing to respect the choices we’ve all made for ourselves… I didn’t want to shut that door totally. If something changed…. If someone changed their mind…” Alluka bites her lip. “If I had a chance at having parents or grandparents or… another brother…”

Kalluto frowns, and it seems like part of him maybe still doesn’t understand. But he looks down at his lap and nods. “I see.” Alluka watches him take a deep breath. He doesn’t look up as he says. “You should know, though… I’m not your brother.”

Alluka blinks, embarrassed by how fast her eyes grow hot. She’d thought… How silly of her to think. Kalluto’s been with them this whole time, and even if he doesn’t mean her harm he doesn’t have to want to have anything to do with her. Alluka keeps her face composed the best she can and nods. “Oh. Okay.”

Kalluto looks up quickly. “Oh, no… I mean. That is to say, I’m…” He hesitates.

Alluka doesn’t ask what he’s trying to say, for fear her voice might shake. But she looks up at him, waiting for the next slap to her face.

Kalluto’s nose wrinkles to match the wrinkle between his brow. His mouth works for a moment, but no sound comes out. “I’m not a… I can’t be anyone’s brother. Because I’m not…”

Alluka blinks, then her eyes go wide. “Oh… Oh.

Kalluto’s eyes dart quickly here and there - to her and away, again and again. Still, Kalluto goes on, “Uh. Yeah. You, um… I thought you’d understand, since…”

“Oh... “ Alluka is floored. “Are you, um…. Are you out, or?”

Kalluto rolls one shoulder in a shrug. “Not to most people. Uh. Milluki knows, but.”

“Milluki?” Alluka asks, her tone disbelieving. She doesn’t mean to, but she can’t help it.

Kalluto looks up at her and nods slowly. “I told you, a lot is different.”

“Oh.” Alluka’s beginning to feel like a broken record. “What should I call…?” Alluka hesitates. Maybe Kalluto doesn't want to say.

Kalluto seems uncertain, but answers. “I believe ‘sibling’ is the usual gender-neutral term. And uh, they/them pronouns are fine.”

This time, the emotion hits her too hard. The heat behind her eyes becomes tears and they slip down her face before she knows what to do with herself.

This alarms Kalluto. They sit up straight, practically rigid, staring at her. “Uh- if that’s okay I mean? I don’t mean to assume you want-”

“It’s more than okay,” Alluka interrupts, turning to press her face into her sleeve and wipe the tears away. She laughs, then presses a hand over her eyes. “You’re not assuming, I just-” A smile finds her lips and she manages to dry her face as well as she can.

She watches as the tension slowly drains out of Kalluto’s shoulders. They sit back in their seat again. “... You always were sentimental.”

Alluka laughs, “Shut up.”

Kalluto smiles but says nothing else.

Alluka leans forward. There are serious things they need to discuss. “You have other things you want to tell me about, though. Don’t you?”

Kalluto sighs and nods. “Like I said. Illumi’s here to cause trouble. He’s… It’s not like before.”

“Why isn’t it like before?”

“It’s… It’s kind of a long story.”

“I have time.”

*

Killua’s mind is spinning.

He can’t believe- Illumi was really going to- Right in Gon’s store, right in public-

He’s never been so reckless before!

What’s happened? Why now?

What does he want?

“Where are we?” The only question that comes out of his mouth as he looks at Gon.

Certainly not in the city anymore. When he looks around, all he can see is green. They’re in a semi-circle of trees, it seems, by the way the sky opens up on the opposite side of the house behind him. The air is warm and humid. The wind blows above, rustling the trees, and there’s a more distant sound - like maybe a heavier wind is moving in.

He looks around again, then eyes the door behind Gon. It’s just a small shed, but that’s the door they came through. Can Illumi…?

“We’re safe,” Gon answers, moving forward to gently take lay his hands on either of Killua’s arms. As if reading his mind, Gon quickly adds on. “Illumi can’t follow. I cut the spell off.”

Killua’s hands lift automatically to Gon’s shoulder and forearm. He stares at the door past Gon, pushing away the image his imagination provides of Illumi bursting through. He takes a deep breath, he nods, and he looks back at Gon. “But… But where…” Half turning to look over his shoulder, Killua blinks. “Whose house…?”

“... It’s mine.”

The answer has Killua turning back to Gon in surprise.

Gon’s frowning softly, brows furrowed. His hand lifts to cup Killua’s cheek. “I didn’t want to show you like this…”

“Yours?” Killua asks. “But, your apartment…”

“Is where I stay most of the time. But… this is home too, when I need it.”

A dozen questions spring to Killua’s mind, all fighting to be addressed first. Killua can only stare at Gon.

Gon is patient. When Killua can’t manage words, Gon gently takes his hand and nods towards the house. “Come this way. I wanna show you…”

Gon doesn’t lead him into the house, but instead around the side furthest from the closest line of trees. It doesn’t take Killua long to identify the sound he mistook for wind, because when they get just a few yards beyond the front corner of the house, he can see how the land sweeps down, revealing a wide beach where waves roll up onto the shore.

Killua’s mouth falls open. It’s beautiful - ocean stretching out as far as the eye can see. “We’re… on a coast?” Killua’s eyes sweep the horizon. “Or…?”

“An island. The nearest mainland is Ochima.”

“Is this-?” Killua turns to look at Gon.

Gon is already turned to him. He smiles and shakes his head. “Not Whale Island, no. Although, relative to everything else we’re not far off.”

Killua nods, slowly taking it all in. “That spellwork on your door… It’s to open a portal.”

“Yeah. Fixed location. I wove it when I first bought the store - so I could come and go as I pleased. And, I mean - I had help. It’s a big spell, so my aunt and some of my friends pitched in to hold it together. Alluka actually helped strengthen it not so long ago.”

“Oh…” That’s right. Killua had thought some of the runic work looked familiar. “Oh!” Killua jumps, squeezing Gon’s hand. “Gon! Alluka! She doesn’t - We have to tell her Illumi!” Killua releases Gon’s hand, patting his pockets down. “Shit - my scroll. It’s back at…”

“... the shop. Yeah, mine too.”

Just as Killua feels himself begin to panic again, Gon takes both of his hands. “Killua, it’s okay - I’ve got a mirror inside. Let’s go call her from here.”

Killua nods, and Gon quickly pulls him over to the front door. Gon speaks a spell to unlock it and then pulls him inside.

*

Things back home have apparently changed more than Alluka could have ever imagined. When she’d thought of home, when she’d thought of her family, she still thought of them as all together - a unit, united in their goals and beliefs. Even though she’d fantasized sometimes about her brothers or her parents or even her grandfather showing up and wanting to make amends, a larger part of her was sure that could never happen. They all stood against her and Nanika and Killua when they left. There was no kindness, no warmth, no allowance for anything outside of what the family said must be. The threat of one of their own straying was enough to encourage them to enact horrible, forbidden magics - enough for them to justify robbing someone of their autonomy.

Alluka remembers the day Killua pulled the needle from his head. She remembers how he came to her, how she cried in relief when he looked at her with eyes that were truly his own, not the dull, lightless gaze that reminded her too much of Illumi.

It was then they made their vows to escape. Their family didn’t treat them as they ought to, so the three of them would make a family of their own.

Even after they managed to leave, though, part of Alluka’s heart yearned for more. It’s only natural to want your family’s love, isn’t it? But no matter how much she yearned for it to be different, there was a hard line that divided her, Nanika, and Killua from the rest of them. They were the outliers - she and Nanika the black sheep who made the most beloved child stray.

Apparently, though, the rest of the family wasn’t half as united as she imagined. They fell apart at the seams after she and Killua left.

It didn’t happen all at once, of course. It was a gradual thing.

“The longer you were gone, the more unbearable mom and dad got,” Kalluto explains.

Their parents and grandfather convinced themselves, for a time, that the situation would resolve itself. Killua would see reason, he would come home. Kalluto is more vague about what they expected would happen with Alluka, but Alluka doesn’t need the details there. She knows what her parents would want to do with her - lock her away, as before, and try to think of a way to harness her and Nanika’s combined powers.

The more time passed, however, the less sure their parents were in their convictions. Their mother, in particular, urged them to take action. It was decided that their stray children needed to be properly motivated to come home.

As Kalluto tells her this, it is all too easy to remember what that motivation looked like from the other end of things. Lies spread through the right channels that she and Nanika were an unstable, unnatural pairing of witch and fae. Flooding the news and tabloids with fabrications and exaggerations of things they had done - things that, through their servants, the Zoldycks had bargained for Nanika to do to benefit the seedier, secret side of Zoldyck Incorporation’s dealings.

They accused Alluka and Nanika of things that were their own fault, and convinced many a source that the reason Killua - their darling heir - had strayed from his beloved family was because Nanika worked her fae magicks on his mind to seduce him.

It had made Alluka so angry - that particular lie. To accuse her of tampering with her brother’s mind, when he only left them after he forcibly dug out the cursed needle Illumi had sunk into his skull when they were still just little children.

Now, looking down at her hands, Alluka feels her stomach churn with the knowledge that, even though she and Nanika and Killua escaped, their family still got away with it - with what they did to them all. Most of the world will never know the horrible things the renowned Zoldyck family are capable of, the lengths they’re willing to go to for control. They have the wealth, the power, the prestige, to get away with almost anything.

They used that same wealth, power, and prestige to harass her, Nanika, and Killua in any way they could. People found where they lived and waited by the door. Killua kept a burner scroll he could change the number on after some journalist got ahold of his old number and spread it around. It never stopped ringing. People would recognize them. At best, there were stares and murmurs. At worst, people were openly hateful and confrontational.

Twice, people she didn’t know grabbed her on the street and tried to drag her off. Killua saved her both times. Alluka never knew if those were agents hired by her family to try to take her or if they were just random people who decided to take matters into their own hands.

Alluka has to shake herself from the memories as Kalluto tells her about how their parents looked to Milluki and Illumi for solutions. When they couldn’t deliver, their parents got angry.

“There was a lot of yelling. I guess since I was a kid still, I avoided some of the worst of it. But mother and father… weren’t kind to our eldest brothers. They told them that they were useless - that they didn’t set a good enough example. Milluki already had his own place, you know.”

Alluka nods. Both Illumi and Milluki moved out years before she and Killua left, though they were at the main estate often enough.

“Eventually, Milluki just stopped showing up. Got fed up with it all.”

It didn’t stop there. Their parents argued with each other, they argued with grandfather. There was a lot of yelling, a lot of accusations. Grandfather became more quiet, father spent more time at work, and mother was all the more emotional.

“For a while, she couldn’t look at me without crying.”

Kalluto dances around talking too much about how the family treated them. Aside from Kikyo taking to tears whenever she saw Kalltuo, apparently they, by turns, put more pressure on Kalluto to perform well - in their casting, their school work, anything - or else completely ignored them.

Alluka tries not to let the surprise show on her face when Kalluto admits that they ran off. She can see this isn’t something they’re easy talking about. Kalluto admits to purposely falling in with a crowd they knew their parents wouldn’t approve of. Eventually, their parents succeeded with Kalluto where they never did with Alluka and Killua - they forced Kalluto back home. Things got worse after that.

Alluka leans forward as she listens. “Where … where are you now? Not- not still?”

Kalluto shakes their head. “No. Um… I reached out to Milluki, eventually. I just wanted to get away from the house, and I guess our parents thought it was safe enough to let me stay with him. And then I wound up sort of just- staying with him.”

“Oh.”

Kalluto’s eyes lift. “I have my own place now, but…” Kalluto rolls their shoulder. “Milluki gave me a place to breathe.”

Alluka is maybe quiet for too long, or maybe there’s too much doubt on her face, because after a few moments, Kalluto continues.

“He’s different than you remember him.”

Alluka supposes that’s fair since Kalluto is different than she remembers, too. Milluki, though, had been crueler than Kalluto. Kalluto stuck close to mother, but they never participated in the worst of what their parents did, the worst of what they had Ilumi and Milluki do. “Okay,” she says, nonetheless.

Kalluto sighs. “I’m sure he wouldn’t want me speaking for him. And I don’t expect you to… to feel any way about him, after everything... Or for me, for that matter, but I wanted you to know.”

Alluka takes a breath and nods. “Okay.” She leans back in her chair. It’s a lot to take in - all Kalluto has told her. It paints quite a different portrait of how she’s always assumed things are. But then… knowing this could be useful. If it’s all true, their parents have fewer cards to work with than they used to. But still, what Kalluto’s told her doesn’t explain one thing- “What about Illumi? Why is he showing up now?”

Kalluto is quiet. Looking down at their lap, hands fidgeting with one another, Kalluto seems to need a minute to gather their words. “You know Illumi’s always taken family loyalty more seriously than anything else.”

Alluka nods. Illumi listens more closely to their parents than anyone. She can remember him droning on about family bonds, about how nothing matters more than family. She can also remember how he never included her in his idea of family.

“Well, he’s probably taken the family falling apart harder than anyone. He’s stayed close to mother and father, but I hear they still aren’t getting on like they used to. And grandfather…”

“Grandpa Zeno?”

“... He’s not doing well. He’s in poor health.”

Alluka blinks, surprised. “But... He always seemed so…”

“Sturdy?”

Alluka nods. More than that. Her memories of him are of a man far stronger than his looks betrayed.

“Well, he’s not so spry now. Last I heard, we can only expect his health to decline.”

Alluka feels a pinch of emotion in her that is hard to identify. When she was very very young, Zeno had shown her something like kindness. In a way, mother and father had been more cold to her than he had been. Looking back now, she can see how some of his treatment of her might not have been born of any love for her - but more of interest for her condition, and caution because of the powerful threat Nanika could potentially be. Still, to hear that he is doing poorly… Alluka isn’t glad for it.

And if she feels that way….

“Illumi… He must think…”

‘That he’s going to lose everything.’

Alluka and Kalluto both look up, seeing Nanika floating near. Her attention is turned to Kalluto, who seems uneasy at the sight of her, but doesn’t shrink back.

‘That is why Illumi is acting now. This is the last straw for him.’

Kalluto glances at Alluka, then back to Nanika. They nod. “Exactly. Everything is spiraling out of his control-”

“Control is important to him,” Alluka breathes.

“It is. I guess part of him thinks if he can get to Killua, or to you through Killua, then he can regain that control.”

Alluka sits straighter.

     When Killua comes into her room for the first time in longer than she can remember, she is overjoyed. Killua, her brother- Killua, who loves her, and loves Nanika- He’s here!

     He hasn’t forgotten-

     He’s here.

     But something is not right.

     Something is… wrong.

     When she pulls back from his tight embrace, something’s staining his hair. She pushes his hair out of the way, and sees blood - but no wound. Where is the wound? What has happened?

     When she tries to ask, Killua’s eyes fill with tears.

     “I’m so sorry- I’m so sorry I let them keep me from you-”

     Killua’s arms crush her into him, so hard it hurts. But she doesn’t complain, only holds him back. She tells him he doesn’t have to apologize, she’s not even sure what he’s apologizing for.

     “I’m sorry for being such a rotten big brother…”

“Killua!” Alluka jumps from her seat. “He never answered his scroll earlier!”

Kalluto’s eyes go wide and Alluka feels a shiver of nervous energy from Nanika. Her scroll is on the front counter, and Alluka runs for it.

She’ll call again, and if he doesn’t answer- Then- Then she’ll run down to Gon’s and-

She bounces nervously in place while she waits for the call to connect. Kalluto comes around the corner, looking at her intently.

“Do you know where he is now?” Kalluto asks.

Please pick up, please, please, please-

A chiming sounds in the store. Alluka looks up, around, then, realizing, to the mirror that hangs on the wall behind the counter. The image in it shivers. Someone is trying to contact her through it. It could be a customer, or-

She swings around the counter as fast as her feet will carry her. When she taps the cool surface there’s a ripple, and then -

Killua’s face staring at her. “Alluka!” Gon is standing behind him, hand on his shoulder.

“Killua, you’re alright!”

“Alluka, you need to be careful, Illumi-”

She shakes her head. “He’s already been here.”

Killua’s eyes widen. “Are you- ? Where’s Nanika?”

Nanika draws close, so Killua can see her as well. Killua relaxes, and Alluka explains, “Illumi was here, but he couldn’t get past the wards. I’ve been trying to call you!”

Killua frowns. “My scroll... It’s at Gon’s store.”

Alluka’s brow furrows, and suddenly she’s noticing the scene behind the two of them - what little she can see of it - doesn’t look like Kon’s Forest at all. “Where are you?”

“Are they in a safe location?” Kalluto asks softly from her side.

Killua’s expression becomes pinched. “Who’s that?”

Gon answers for them both, “Don’t worry, Alluka, we’re fine. Illumi showed up, but when he got too pushy we ran out the back door. We’re in my house.”

“Oh.” Alluka sighs in relief. “Good. You’re safe, then.”

Gon nods. “Killua and Kon and I can lay low here for a while. At least, until we’re sure Illumi’s not lurking in my store.”

“Good idea.”

“Out the back door? Alluka, how do they know that location is safe from-?”

“Alluka, who is that?” Killua demands, his voice rising.

Alluka glances sideways to Kalluto, who goes still and quiet, looking as uncertain as

Alluka feels. With Illumi having just made a move, how will Killua feel seeing another of their family? Not good, is Alluka’s guess.

She turns to look at the mirror, putting on a stern expression. “Someone who’s on our side.”

Alluka can see the frustration growing in Killua’s eyes. “Alluka, I really don’t think now is the time to play into the mystery of whoever it is-”

Brother,” she interrupts. “I need you to be cool, okay?” She looks over to Kalluto, tipping her head in a motion to encourage them to come over. Kalluto frowns, but nods.

Nanika floats back and Alluka shifts a little to the side to make room for them. When Kalluto comes into the frame of the mirror, Alluka sees Killua’s eyes grow wide, his shoulders tense.

Kalluto stands with shoulders squared, chin up. “Hello, big brother.”

“Kalluto.” Killua’s tone leans away from greeting and more towards suspicion. He turns to Alluka. “What does he want?”

Alluka frowns. “Killua! Kalluto came here to warn me about Illumi.” Glancing sideways, she sends Kalluto an apologetic look. Then, back to Killua, “They showed up a little after he left, but… They’ve been talking with me about what’s going on with the family. Why Illumi’s doing this now.”

Killua’s brow furrows. His eyes dart between the two of them. “How do you know you can trust what you’ve been told?”

“Brother…” Alluka gestures over her shoulder. “We’re in my store. Kalluto walked right in and Illumi couldn’t. You know what that means.”

Killua is clearly having a hard time letting go of his suspicion. “They could have- could have undone the wards- Illumi could have before he left.”

“I know when my wards are still holding, thank you very much. And it seems like Illumi made his way to you pretty quickly. I don’t think he lingered once he knew you weren’t here.”

“But… He-”

Kalluto cuts in. “No- You’re right. You have no reason to trust me. I understand.”

“But, Kalluto-” Alluka turns to them, her chest constricting. “I-”

“I’ll let you fill in Killua on what I’ve told you. If you need to contact me later, I’ll leave my information.”

Killua and Gon watch silently on the other end, Gon looking thoughtful while Killua is obviously still trying to figure out Kalluto.

Kalluto goes on. “I know you have your reasons for writing your wards the way you did, but I suggest you strengthen them and alter them to bar Illumi specifically from entering this place.”

Alluka’s shoulders drop. “I…. Yeah, okay. I will.”

Kalluto nods. “I’ll… Leave now.”

Alluka sighs and nods. She looks to Killua. “I’ll try calling the shops down by Gon’s, see if they happen to see anyone inside still. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to come back.”

Killua looks at her like he wants to say something, but can’t quite figure out what. Gon steps in. “That sounds like a plan. You know how to reach us.”

Alluka nods, tells her brother she loves him, and then disconnects the call.

Kalluto still lingers nearby, so Alluka turns to ask, “Where will you go?”

Kalluto offers a tense sort of smile. “Back home. My ride should be here soon.”

Alluka nods. “Are you… You’re sure you’ll be safe?”

“As safe as any of us are.” Kalluto levels her with a serious look. “Both of you need to watch your backs now more than ever. If Illumi can get to either of you, he’ll get to all of us. He wants everything like it was.”

After a moment’s hesitation, Alluka reaches out and delicately lays a hand on Kalluto’s shoulder. Kalluto blinks, obviously surprised, but doesn’t shrink back from her touch. “We won’t let that happen. Let me talk to Killua, and… We can all figure something out together.”

Kalluto nods. They exchange contact information, and then a car horn sounds outside. “That’s for me. … Strengthen your wards.”

“I will.”

Alluka walks Kalluto to the front door, opening it to find a dark car with tinted windows waiting outside across the street.

Nanika hovers over to the two of them. ‘Kalluto,’ she calls. Once she has their attention, she drops something. ‘Take these.’

Kalluto reaches to catch the two small drawstring bags.

‘Protective charms,’ Nanika explains. ‘Premade, for general use. But strong and easily carried with you.’

Kalluto looks up at Nanika and for a moment, seems speechless. Then, pressing their lips together, they nod. “Yes. I’ll… We’ll make use of these.”

Nanika moves in a way meant to acknowledge their words. ‘Do not say-’

“I won’t.” Kalluto agrees, shaking their head. “You’re- I know.” Kalluto looks between Alluka and Nanika. “Later, then.”

As Kalluto walks across the street, Alluka comments, “You gave them two.”

Nanika hovers close. “The other is for him. He didn’t come in, but the car passed by a few times while you were talking.”

Alluka sees a brief glimpse of the driver as Kalluto opens the passenger side door. Milluki turns to look at her briefly as Kalluto settles in their seat, and then the door is closed, barring her view of either of them.

As the car begins to pull away, Alluka waves goodbye.

Chapter Text

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-”

“Killua-”

“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?”

“Yeah.”

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?”

Gon nods.

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.”

Gon blinks.

“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.”

“Gon!”

“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.”

“By yourself?”

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-”

“What, better?”

“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.

Chapter Text

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.”

“Oh?”

“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.”

“Try me.”

“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.”

Killua blinks.

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.”

“G’night.”

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.