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King of Hearts

Chapter Text

When Gon signed his scholarship, he didn’t read it all that thoroughly. All that registered to him were a few simple facts: That his entire schooling would be paid for if and only if Gon maintained a certain GPA, attended Yorknew University for four years, and lived in university housing for the first of those four years. All of this was pretty straight forward to him so he signed his name on the dotted line and called it good.

But Yorknew University wasn’t just any university. It was Gon’s dream university. Positioned north of Boston, Yorknew was a private establishment built in the 1800s with a rich history, historic buildings, and an unchallengeable reputation in division sports. It wasn’t a state school, by any means, but Gon was more than grateful to know that his talents were being recognized.

Especially after bombing the Olympic Trials.

After a stressful senior year of high school, Gon had participated in the Olympic Trials at the age of seventeen. He was just barely over the threshold of eighteen as it was, and triathlons were his specialty. Well, running was his specialty, and the rest came naturally to him—along with years of training. He was thrilled to be able to train through university and get paid for it .

“My baby boy’s all grown up—!”

Gon laughed, his cheek squished up against his aunt’s chest. He squeezed her around the torso as she shook him back and forth before reeling back, hands clasped to his shoulders. She beamed down at him, all fair skin and fiery orange hair.

She pressed a kiss to his forehead as Gon rolled his eyes and said, “I’ll see you for Thanksgiving…”

“Oh, I know, but that’s so far away!” she said.

They turned back to look at Gon’s dorm building. It wasn’t monstrous, by any means, but the eclectic architecture gave it a slightly haunted feeling. Gon loved every last chipped brick of it, all the way up to his fourth-story single dorm room. Perks of the scholarship , he thought, thinking about how he had spent all of senior year wondering about his nonexistent roommates. He’d just have to make friends with the neighbors, and that was simple enough for him.

Aunt Mito swung her arm around Gon’s shoulders, her other hand resting on her hip. She sighed at the sight of the building and looked down at Gon, saying, “Tell me if you see any ghosts?”

“I won’t see any ghosts, but on the off chance that I do … I’ll definitely tell you,” Gon promised. He smiled as his aunt kissed his hair, clapped him on the shoulder, and called it a day.

He promised to text her first thing every day. She’d hold him to it, he was certain. She waved from the driver’s side of the rental car before taking off in the direction of Boston—far from Yorknew, and even farther from the place Gon called home all the way in California.

Other students were just moving in as well, and through the throngs of parents moving boxes, Gon snuck his way back into the building. The dorm doors were tucked away in a wide, stone tunnel that cut through the building and towards the center courtyard that connected the south-half of campus. Gon’s dorm faced it, so he ran up the stairs flight-by-flight before swinging around onto the fourth floor. He jogged down the hallway over patterned, deep red carpets. His door was open a crack—he had put a wedge against the floor to stop it from closing. The doors were made of solid wood and were impossible to hold open without a wedge. 

He nudged his half-open door all the way open and immediately shrieked. The door hit him in the shoulder, likely leaving a bruise.

The person in his room startled, spun around, and offered an apologetic smile. “Oh, sorry, I was just wondering who moved into the fourth floor,” she said, curly hair spun into two massive buns. She waved guiltly as she sidled past Gon and said, “I won’t intrude again—but if you don’t mind me asking, you’re a scholarship kid, right?”

“Uh, y-yeah. And I don’t mind the intrusion, honestly,” Gon confessed, but it certainly gave me a fright . “I honestly thought you were a ghost—that’s why I screamed.”

The girl stared at him and let out a startled laugh. She waved her hand and said, “Ghosts don’t look like humans. I should be offended that you confused me for one.”

“I take it you’ve seen ghosts here, then,” Gon said, amused. Her smile was contagious, and soon, they were both laughing over the fact that yes , she had seen ghosts, and no , she couldn’t talk about it with him.

When she walked off, Gon glanced back in his lonely room before turning to look down the hall. She was unlocking a door just past the stairwell—three rooms over from Gon. He moved the wedge back into place and hurried off to follow her.

“How did you know I’m here on a scholarship?” he asked, hands clasped behind his back.

The girl tipped her head at him and smiled. “Easy. Fourth floor dorms are reserved for scholarship kids. Since it’s technically the attic of the dorm building, the rooms are too small to be shared.”

That explains the slanted ceiling , Gon thought, lips pursed.

“So what scholarship got you here?” she asked.

“Oh, um… it was called the Zoldyck Scholarship , I think. I sure hope I’m pronouncing it right,” he said, tapping a finger to his chin. He stilled at the shocked look the girl gave him. He dropped his hand and said, “What is it? Did you get one too?”

“Uh, no, not exactly,” she said. She looked him up and down, her hand still on the handle of her dorm room. “Well, it was nice meeting you,” she said, slipping inside. She shut the door before Gon could even take a peek inside.

“Wait—what’s your name?” Gon asked.

He didn’t expect the door to open, or for the girl to look in his direction. Her eyes were down as she whispered, “You can call me Canary.”

Gon leant forward, a hand out for her to shake. “Canary, I’m Gon. Gon Freecss.”

She reached out a hand. She gave him one firm shake and immediately let go. She shut the door again.

Gon stretched his arms back with a sigh and thought, Weird , as he wandered back to his dorm room.

His dorm room was quiet all except for the telltale murmur of students floors below him passing beneath his window. He left his door slightly propped as he wandered to the sill. His suit case and bedding were still strewn across the bare dorm mattress along with every box of supplies Aunt Mito thought necessary for a dorm room—a desk lamp, a cross, extra clothes they bought on their meandering adventure up from Boston.

He crawled up onto his bed and sat with his arms folded over the windowsill. He peered down at the courtyard and sighed, a light, gentle smile on his lips. This is it , he thought, his insides warm and seeped with contentment, my new home .

 


 

Behind Canary’s closed door, Gon’s name was spoken without his knowledge. “ Gon Freecss ,” Canary repeated, a note of curiosity in her tone. She glanced back at the closed door, fully aware that her new neighbor Gon was long gone and back in his own room. She triple-checked to ensure that the door was secure before pulling her phone from her pocket.

She didn’t hesitate to press the call button and put her phone to her ear. Within one ring, she was through. “Amane?” she said.

What do you want .”

Canary bit her lip, glancing out towards the courtyard. She pulled the curtain just before saying, “I met a Zoldyck scholarship kid.”

A beat of silence. Canary paced the floor, her heart a solid weight in her chest. She could hope for the best, but it seemed no one in the Zoldyck family was exempt from this game—if she could even call it a game. Still, she couldn’t help but worry over a complete stranger—for the scholarship kid.

When Amane’s voice came back, Canary expected the answer. “ Ignore them ,” she said.

Canary swallowed hard, her fist clenched at her side. “Understood, ma’am.”

After a brief pause, Canary pulled the phone away, expecting that Amane hung up. Instead, she looked down at the muffled sound of Amane saying, “ Thank you for informing me. I’ll see you tomorrow .”

“Yes, ma’am. Sorry to bother you.”

Not at all .”

The call cut.

 


 

The athletics facility was near the dorms where Gon could be spotted hopping out into the entry tunnel. He followed the trail marked on his phone’s map that guided him down the hill from the dorms and beneath tall, dark evergreens with their canopies stretched high overhead. Fall birds were chirping into the early evening with the nearby toads and crickets.

Gon marveled at it all, completely overjoyed by the sight of conifers so far up north. It was the farthest north he had ever traveled outside of his high school triathlon training. He never had a chance to revel in it until now.

He tugged on the strap of his duffle as he turned down a fork in the road that brought him through the thick of a horde of freshmen heading towards the dorms. They were impossibly tall for guys straight out of high school, and Gon stilled on the side of the path to make room for them. He smiled as he met one of their eyes but received no response back.

Gon covered up his half-wave by passing a hand through his hair. I guess I shouldn’t have expected to make friends with everyone , he thought, hurrying along.

He jogged to the gym door so he could have an excuse to hold it open for someone just approaching it.

“Oh, uh, thanks,” the guy said.

Gon gave a half-bow and said, “My pleasure.”

The guy gave a short laugh and, as Gon followed after him, asked, “So I’m guessing you’re a freshmen. You look like a freshmen.”

“I didn’t know people could look like freshmen,” Gon confessed, though he had just assumed as much from the group of guys outside. He grimaced a little. They all just seemed to travel in packs… besides him … “Anyway—you’d be correct. Calling me a freshmen, I mean.”

The guy smiled a sort of sheepish grin that showed off his rounded cheeks. He put a hand out to Gon, who took hold of it and gave it a firm shake. “Zushi. Sophomore but… perpetually on campus, it seems.”

“Nice to meet you. Gon,” he said.

Zushi nodded, his heavy brow furrowed. He turned away, putting his hand to his buzzcut before turning with a bit of skepticism. “Did… Did you say Gon? Like, ‘gong’ without the second ‘g’?”

Gon couldn’t help it. He let out a burst of laughter and said, “Uh, yeah, I don’t think I’ve gotten that one before. Why do you ask?”

“Nothing. I just—a bit surprised. I was on the fourth floor so I know most of the scholarship kids,” he explained.

“Not to seem narcissistic but… you’ve heard of me, then.”

“In a way.”

At the end of the foyer, Zushi scanned his card on the wall where a sensor was mounted. The door clicked and he slipped in, but not without turning to Gon to add, “Welcome to Hell, Freecss. I’ll see you around.”

“Yeah, see you,” Gon said. He stared after Zushi’s receding form through the gym door windows. After a moment, he looked down at his student ID card with a sigh and thought, Shit, when did I lose all of my social skills?

As Gon went to the front desk to get access to the gym, Zushi glanced over his shoulder at the door where Gon no longer stood. He turned to the stairs and took them down a flight to the locker rooms where he just narrowly caught sight of a familiar, curly-haired girl opening the women’s locker room door.

“Canary!” Zushi called out. She paused, letting the door swing shut. When she turned, Zushi was already there, taking her by the elbow and leading her to the side away from foot traffic. All of the words shriveled up and died in Zushi’s mouth the moment the women’s locker room door opened and a familiar face stepped out.

He and Canary watched as a pink-haired girl emerged, throwing her hair up into a high, fluffy ponytail. Zushi never did like the look of her, ever since freshmen year when Machi Komacine was a year above him and already a formidable opponent. She never did like him, either.

Machi glanced at them out of the corner of her eyes as she strode past, an apathetic expression on her face. “Careful—if you stick together like that, I might actually think you’re planning something,” she said, tossing her ponytail back.

“I’d watch your tone. Wouldn’t want the headmaster to hear,” Canary snapped, and Zushi just about died.

Machi stopped. She turned. Zushi’s heart stuttered to a halt. He gripped tighter to Canary’s elbow, but it did nothing to hinder the threat in Canary’s glare.

“I’ll happily put you in your place, little bird,” Machi hissed, a sneer on her lips. She took a step towards them, a black, manicured nail pointed directly at Canary’s heart. “Let’s get something straight, shall we? You may be a Zoldyck’s bitch, but newbies are nothing but an inconvenience for me. So don’t act like the Zoldycks give you authority here. They don’t.”

“Who shit in your cereal this morning?” Canary said.

Canary ,” Zushi hissed.

Machi pointed to him as she backed off and said, “You could learn something from this guy.”

They watched Machi walk off, but not before Canary tried to go after her. Zushi dragged her to a halt, hanging on for dear life. Canary seethed, shaking him off of her. After Machi left up the stairwell, Canary spun around to glare at Zushi. “We can’t just let her walk all over the Zoldyck name.”

“You don’t understand—Machi is—” he paused, mouth dry like cotton. He licked his lips and looked down at his feet with a sigh. “It doesn’t matter. Early on my master told me not to talk to Machi’s group. For good reason, too. We shouldn’t even be talking.”

“Then what is it? You’re the one who stopped me,” she said. She folded her arms over her chest, her glare deepening into a harsh line across her brow.

Zushi glanced back the way he came. “I… I met the new kid. The scholarship kid.”

Canary’s shoulders slumped. “Same here. I’ve been told not to interact.”

“I didn’t realize he even—I didn’t think he wanted to…”

“Me neither. I’m just as shocked as you.”

“Classes start soon.”

“I know.”

They both fell quiet. Zushi rubbed his hands through his hair and sighed, looking out at a group of students leaving the women’s locker room. He folded his arms self-consciously over his chest, shoulders bunched up into a tense line beneath his ears. “When do you think…?”

“Soon,” she said. She took a step away, towards the door. “We’ll… We’ll talk then. Don’t make this harder for him, alright?”

“Okay. Same goes for you,” he said. “I’ll see you when the Zoldycks get here tomorrow.”

Canary nodded stiffly before pushing open the locker room door and disappearing inside.

Chapter Text

Gon noticed them from across the courtyard early the next morning.

He was slipping his arms through the sleeves of a plain white button up. He shrugged it up onto his shoulders and adjusted the collar as he wandered to the window. The quad was loosely populated with freshmen groups wandering the grounds in packs. The university uniform was a broad topic with looser segments—just the button ups and slacks were the main, go-to outfit on campus. It was rare to see people in the full vest and tie combination, so Gon was surprised to see a group of students wearing the full uniform on a walk down the center, brick path cutting through the courtyard.

That was part of the reason they stood out. Another being the fact that they were partially synchronized in their steps. Same speed, same posture, same unamused affect on their faces that unnerved Gon. He buttoned up his shirt halfway before realizing that he was distracted enough to miss the bottom button. He undid his work and started over again with a curse. By the time he finished, the group of students had left the premises.

He searched the quad for them and came up empty.

He left his dorm shortly after dressing. He kept his tie loose as he locked his dorm door and started for the stairs, only to pause at the curious state of the dorm hallway.

Everyone was out of their rooms, facing the stairwell, and lingering at their doors. Gon lowered his keys to his pockets and looked down the hall to where Canary stood. She met his eyes, and the look on her face told him she was less than eager to chat.

He searched the faces in the hallway, and with each one, he caught them all looking away. Except for— Zushi .

Gon made his way down the hallway to where Zushi was standing, hands behind his back. Zushi stared at him, startled, and looked away the second Gon came to stand beside him and whisper, “What is everyone doing? I didn’t get a stand-outside-your-room-and-say-nothing memo.”

“It’s—uh…” Zushi started, floundering. He cleared his throat awkwardly.

Just then, the guy in the dorm next door to Zushi leant over, strawberry-red hair slicked back. “It’s the Zoldycks.”

Hisoka ,” Canary hissed from across the hall.

The red-haired guy— Hisoka , it seemed—straightened up with a shrug and pocketed his hands. He was wearing a half-unbuttoned white shirt and a loose blazer, as if he had just rolled out of bed, threw his clothes on, and called it a day. “I’m not too concerned,” he said with a crooked smile. He glanced in Gon’s direction, and it felt oddly like Gon was being flirted with .

He swallowed hard and looked away, hoping the heat in his cheeks wasn’t visible. He went over the name again, Zoldycks , and never realized that there were kids from that same family attending Yorknew.

They must be stupid rich , he thought, glancing at all five of the scholarship kids in this section of the fourth floor. Were all of them recipients of the Zoldyck scholarship? He wanted to ask, but before he could, the stairwell became occupied by that same group of properly-dressed, uniformed students he had seen walking through the courtyard.

At the head of the group was a lanky, raven-haired man that had to be several years above Gon. His hair was braided down his back, long and silky. Gon had never seen a guy with such long hair before, or eyes that dark. His irises reminded Gon of a cat’s—wide, engulfing the whites of his eyes into black pits. Gon openly stared and thought, This guy’s family is responsible for my education .

Gon turned to stand alongside Zushi, his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and arms crossed over his chest. Gon had been so absorbed by the leader of the pack that he nearly missed the shock of white hair directly behind him.

Gon was struck instantaneously by a pair of sharp blue eyes on the group staring directly at him . Gon swallowed hard, his fingers digging into his biceps. He wondered if Zushi knew that guy, since everyone but him seemed to be aware that Zoldyck kids attended Yorknew.

Gon stared at him, eyes wide and stuck on those ghostly blue eyes against his pale skin and even paler hair. Blonde hair that color had to be from a bottle, Gon thought, as the guy narrowed his eyes and looked ahead, assimilating with the guy ahead of him and the stout girl in a long, black circle skirt that synched at her waist. The girl behind her was clad in a pair of high-waisted slacks and sharply trimmed, thin, black hair with low-cut bangs.

Their demeanor was solemn.

It feels like a funeral march , Gon thought, grimacing as the group paused briefly at the door after Zushi—Hisoka’s door.

Hisoka pushed off of the doorframe and stepped forward. He glanced over his shoulder as he trailed after the group, gesturing to them—to Zushi, it seemed, and then Canary, and a girl across the hall from Gon’s room. Gon hadn’t noticed her yet until that moment she walked by. He straightened, intent on following, but the girl put a hand out to him and said, “Not you,” and kept moving.

Gon’s hands swung limply to his sides. He stared after the march of students heading around the corner of the fourth floor dormitory corridor. As they went, he caught sight of those eerie blue eyes again beneath a fringe of snow-white hair. His heart leapt to his throat and pulsed thickly against his windpipe. He realized quickly that, had he never left his dorm room, he would have no reason to know that every one of his neighbors had left without him.

He was an outsider, and that was oh-so abundantly clear now.

This is fine , he told himself, turning back to his room. He didn’t leave his dorm for this charade anyway—he did it to explore the campus! He wasn’t about to mope about his dorm room over the fact that he had no friends, was thousands of miles away from Aunt Mito, and indifferent to the dining hall food. That was no reason to be upset, because every last one of those could be corrected. He’d make friends, he’d visit Aunt Mito as soon as he could, and he’d leave campus one of these days for some stellar Maine seafood.

Thoroughly pleased with his newfound plan, Gon took to the stairs and bounded off at a gallop, swinging around every flight of stairs with more energy than the last. He skidded out into the entry tunnel and into the great open courtyard.

The instant he slid out across the brick walkway, out from the shadows of the tunnel, he turned and—

—slammed straight into an oncoming student.

“Oh, fuck—my bad,” the guy said, his books scattering across the bricks.

Gon startled with a gasp, saying, “Oh, no, that was completely my fault! I never look where I’m going. Here, let me help you—” He ducked down to pick up the books and knocked his head straight into the stranger’s forehead.

They both winced. Gon clasped a hand to his bruised temple with a groan and moaned, “I’m so sorry…”

“It’s okay—I’ve got a thick skull. You on the other hand…” he said, laughing. Gon knelt on the bricks and looked up at the guy.

His smile had to be the most stunning smile Gon had ever witnessed in his eighteen years of existence—Taylor Lautner excluded. And, by God, he had the sharpest canines on the planet. His bright white smile contrasted against his dark skin and even darker hair. The book in Gon’s hand slipped.

The guy caught it. “Thanks. What’s your name?”

“You’re gorgeous,” Gon said.

The guy’s smile slipped for half a second before he ducked his head, laughing sheepishly. He rubbed a hand over the back of his neck and said, “Uh, thanks. I’m not gay, though. I mean, who knows? Guess ya don’t know unless you try, I mean.”

“Yeah…” Gon breathed, completely smitten. He watched as the guy stood up and followed shortly after. He put his hand out and said, “Gon. My name’s Gon—sorry, I just got super distracted there for a hot second.”

“No apology required. Ikalgo,” he said. They shook on it. “What’re you here for?”

“You mean Yorknew or the quad?”

“Either. Anything really.”

Gon laughed and Ikalgo’s smile struck him right in the heart again. “I, um, I’m here for track but on paper I’m here for general studies.”

Ikalgo’s eyes brightened as he hummed, “Ah, an athlete. You know our track team is one of the best. Might actually end up in the Olympics—we seem to have a track record for that. No pun intended.”

“Yeah, I know. I was actually in the trials last spring. Didn’t make the cut, but… maybe another time.”

“Third time’s the charm, or something like that,” Ikalgo said, and Gon laughed. “Where were you heading anyway?”

“Oh! Uh, no strict destination. I just want to know my way around before classes start,” he confessed. Classes would start the following day, so that gave Gon less than twenty-four hours to figure out exactly where his classes were.

Ikalgo hummed, thought for a moment, and at last said, “Tell ya what: I’ve got some time on my hands. I could help show you around for an hour or two?”

Gon gasped. He couldn’t believe it. At long last he had found someone willing to talk to him after two days of otherwise uneventful friendlessness. “Really? You’d do that?”

Ikalgo laughed and said, “Yeah, of course. What’s your schedule looking like?”

They started walking as Gon pulled up his course numbers and showed them to Ikalgo on his phone. Ikalgo studied them for a moment as they strode into one of the lecture halls, a stiff look on his face. He pointed to the number as they stood in the foyer and asked, “So, uh… you’re just… here for general studies?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Like, no bullshitting? Just general studies?”

“Yeah. I mean, I’ve got track practice every day so I don’t want to stress too much with my classes,” Gon explained, and after a moment, Ikalgo nodded and gestured for Gon to follow.

They climbed a short set of stairs to the lecture hall doors. Upon opening them, they stepped into a pitch-black room with only small, distant lights near the exit and the smoke detectors overhead. Ikalgo flipped a switch on a nearby wall, and flourescent lights blinked on. A narrow lecture hall came into focus with seats that climbed up high with red upholstry and wooden, attached tables for note taking. The podium at the front of the room was empty.

“I had classes in the lecture hall next door last year,” Ikalgo explained to Gon, who nodded from where he stood at the edge of the stairs.

They went through each of the buildings and walked the stairs to each of Gon’s classes for that semester all while Ikalgo talked about the facilities like they were on some grand, university tour. Gon marveled at the architecture, the portraits mounted on the walls, the size of the lecture halls, and the laboratories for his biology and horticulture classes. After all was said and done, they regrouped outside of the dorm building, overlooking the hill spotted with evergreens and the tops of the buildings down below. The athletics facility was in view, along with students coming to and from the freshmen events on campus.

“Thanks for showing me around,” Gon said with a bright smile.

Ikalgo gave him a soft look as he said, “Anytime. Call me sometime if you ever want to hang out.”

“Yes! Absolutely—here, put your number in my phone,” Gon said, hurrying to hold out his phone. Ikalgo took it and tapped in his number. In the midst of doing so, he paused, his thumb hovering over the keypad. He looked up and Gon followed his line of sight down the walkway that circumnavigated the main dormitory complex.

The fourth floor students from the dormitory were walking towards them, along with the entire Zoldyck pack. They looked like a formidable group, synchronized, and fully dressed in the Yorknew uniform. Gon stilled at the sight of them before glancing at Ikalgo, whose eyes narrowed in their direction, a tick at the corner of his jaw.

“What do you know about them?” Gon asked.

Ikalgo blinked. He glanced down at Gon, who stared up at him, curious. He could understand why everyone seemed to turn their heads at the sight of the Zoldyck pack, but he didn’t know much else aside from the fact that their family must be wealthy if they were able to afford the private education of eight entire students.

“The Zoldycks?” Ikalgo asked. Gon nodded. “Well, for one, I wouldn’t mess with them if I were you. Soul-sucking demons, if you ask me.”

Gon laughed. “Really?”

“No, not really,” he said. Gon smiled. “Probably the wealthiest kids you’ll ever be in spitting-distance from. Their kids’ kids won’t have a care in the world. Everything’s paid for with those ones.”

“You’re kidding,” Gon whispered, eyes wide. He never could wrap his mind around such wealth. Those numbers didn’t exist in his book of ideals. “Are they nice though?”

“Couldn’t tell ya. I’m biased,” Ikalgo said. He held the phone out to Gon.

A shadow passed beside them and, a second later, a hand took the phone before Gon could accept it. He looked up and stilled at the sight of that white-haired kid from the Zoldyck pack standing with his back to Gon, his sharp eyes pinned to Ikalgo.

The Zoldyck kid held the phone back to Gon. After a split second, Gon took it and almost immediately dropped it.

“You’ve got some nerve, Ikalgo,” he said, his voice low and resonating in Gon’s chest where his heart ceased motion all over again.

Ikalgo stepped back with his hands raised in surrender, a half-smile on his lips. “Only just figured it out. And you know me, Killua—not getting involved. Thought you’d understand.”

“People change,” the guy said. Gon looked up at him—at Killua , it seemed. Killua half turned to Gon, his hands pressed to his pockets. From this angle, Gon could see the glint of metal from his septum piercing. “I’ll believe it when you graduate.”

“Whatever. See you around, dude. Nice meeting you, Gon,” Ikalgo said.

“Nice meeting you,” Gon echoed back, because all of his own words evaporated the instant he met Killua’s eyes.

It was one thing to stare at him in passing, and a completely other matter to be standing in Killua’s shadow, his sharp, steely eyes a mere foot away from Gon’s.

There wasn’t much Gon could do aside from stare in fear of saying something horribly stupid. He seemed to have a knack for ruining potential friendships—first Canary, then Zushi, and now Ikalgo. He had been so close to making progress then, but just with every other interaction he had, the Zoldycks came into the picture.

Only this time, a Zoldyck was there to actually ruin it.

When Killua spoke, Gon wasn’t expecting the words to come out low and calm. “Come with me,” he said, and it sent a shudder up Gon’s spine.

“Why?” It wasn’t what he meant to say, but it was true nonetheless. He wanted to know why the Zoldycks came as such a consequence to his potential friendships.

But he could feel people staring at them—not only from the lingering group of Zoldycks that he knew hadn’t left the scene, but also from people passing in and out of the entry tunnel. Gon swallowed hard as he met the eyes of students passing them in throngs, turning to their friends, and whispering . What about, he couldn’t be certain.

Killua sighed, and it brought Gon’s attention back to him. He leant back and said, “Do you like coffee?”

Gon blinked. Coffee? Why the hell were they talking about coffee? “Uh, yeah, sure. I’m kind of sensitive to caffeine, though.”

“Okay. Come with me then,” he said, and started walking, away from the dormitory and every place Gon knew of on campus that even had coffee. Gon glanced over at his dorm neighbors, the ones lingering at the opposite side of the entry tunnel. Among their quiet facades, he caught sight of the girl in the long skirt—one of the Zoldycks—offering a thumbs up and a small, barely-noticeable smile.

It weirded Gon out enough to follow after Killua.

It felt like a fever dream and in hindsight, Gon thought it was. But there was evidence of this exchange that couldn’t be ignored, especially when, the following morning, Gon used the communal restroom and looked at himself in the mirror.

But before Gon ever woke up from this “fever dream”, he followed Killua Zoldyck down the main road that cut through Yorknew and took them to the northern campus. Student housing there was posh, prestine, and consisted of apartment buildings. It felt more like a small, calmer city out there in the country, and Gon kept the concept of a coffee shop in his head even as they entered one of the older brick buildings and climbed the creaky stairs up to the second floor. Gon paused at the landing where a tall, narrow, stainglass window sent shimmery rainbow lights across the wood flooring.

He turned and followed Killua up the steps, only to hesitate when he found Killua unlocking a door with a set of keys.

This wasn’t Starbucks.

“Wait—where are we?” Gon asked, eyes wide, clutching at the stair railing.

Killua merely looked at him before stepping inside. It felt like Gon had just spent the entire time following Killua unannounced only to wind up at the guy’s flat, uninvited. He had to mentally remind himself that Killua had asked him here and that he hadn’t, in fact, come on his own.

He took a hesitant step towards the door. Killua held it open, slipping his shoes off as he did. Gon crossed the threshold and peered inside.

It was indeed an apartment. They stepped directly into the living room where a couch sat beneath a tall, arching lamp enshrouded in an iron casing. The deep, nearly black-stained wood bordered every window frame and every archway past the dining room and the kitchen just across the way. Gon stood to the left of the door mat, completely petrified.

What the hell am I doing in a stranger’s apartment? he thought, desperate for an escape route.

The door shut.

Gon jumped.

“I, uh, have some stuff to do before classes start, so maybe I should—” Gon started, reaching for the door handle.

Killua put his hand out, blocking his path. Gon looked up at him and found Killua’s sharp eyes already staring him down. “Shoes off,” he said.

“‘Kay,” Gon squeaked, voice a mere whistle.

He slipped his shoes off and left them on the door mat. Once that was said and done, Killua waited until Gon had vacated the door area. He hesitated to venture further than the living room—it wasn’t his place, after all. Eventually, Killua passed him and guided him to the kitchen.

The kitchen was a peculiar addition to the apartment. The ceiling was impossibly high and the kitchen itself impossibly long. He walked down the length of it as Killua put the coffee maker on the stovetop and filled the bottom up with water. He screwed on the metal attachment as Gon watched silently from afar. A glass jar of coffee grounds sat off to the side and from it, Killua scooped two heaping tablespoons of grounds into the coffee maker. Shortly after, the stove lit the underside of it, and Killua leant back against the countertop. He checked his watch.

“You’re…” Gon started, slowly. Killua glanced at him, his cold eyes piercing Gon’s beating heart. He cleared his throat and rasped, “I hear your family is pretty… well known around campus.”

“You could say that,” Killua said, voice dull but just as captivating as when he essentially told Ikalgo to fuck off.

“How many siblings do you have?”

A ghost of a smile touched Killua’s lips. He rolled his eyes and said, “Does it really matter?” Gon was stuck on Killua’s smile lines. He couldn’t make up his mind. Was he supposed to be pissed at this guy? All he really felt was hot just looking at him. Gon plucked at the collar of his shirt and turned away, glancing across the flat back to the entrance.

The place hardly looked lived-in. The furniture that did exist seemed to be for show. Ikea stuff, the sort of furniture that looked too clean and perfect to sit on, let alone live with . The apartment felt staged, from the color-coded books on the TV stand to the plain, modern artwork framed and adjusted just so on the walls.

He went to investigate one such painting as he heard Killua take two mugs down from the cabinet. As he wandered into the living room, Killua said, “Don’t touch anything,” to which Gon replied, “I won’t, I won’t,” and immediately picked up a book from the shelf. He flipped open the front cover, shut it, and stuck it back on the shelf. He went for the movie collection next, at which point Killua’s shadow appeared from behind just before the disk was swiped out of Gon’s hand.

“What the fuck did I just say?” Killua said.

Sorry , geez,” Gon said, hands raised in surrender. He pushed up to his feet and watched Killua stick the disk back into the jacket and put it back on the shelf. “I never did understand movies. I have the attention span of a gnat.”

“There are movies that cater to that.”

“Yeah, kids movies,” Gon huffed, hands on his hips. “The last movie I watched in theatres was Finding Nemo. Shit gave me anxiety about the ocean and the dentist until I was twelve.”

“Oh.”

Oh? ” Gon laughed. When he turned around, Killua was offering him a mug of freshly brewed coffee. “Oh, uh, thanks.”

Gon took a sip of it and immediately burnt his tongue. He yelped and Killua jumped.

“Shit, are you okay—”

“Yeah, God , I just burnt my tongue,” Gon said. Killua stared at him as he went in again for another sip. This time, the coffee burnt just as much. “Oh, God!”

“Stop—Wait for it to cool down—”

“No, no, it’s fine, really,” Gon said, putting the mug to his lips again. Killua took it from him and set it on the coffee table.

“It’s not gonna fucking cool down in two seconds, Jesus,” Killua said, eyes the size of saucers.

Gon clasped his hands behind him innocently and watched as Killua studied him like he expected Gon’s tongue to fall off. Gon stuck his tongue out a bit and touched it with the tip of his finger. He clicked it on the roof of his mouth and concluded, “I just really like coffee.”

“Uh, yeah, sounds like it,” Killua said. “How are you… feeling?”

“Fine. My tongue’s just a bit numb,” Gon said, and as soon as he said it, not only was his tongue feeling numb, but so did the rest of him. He looked down at his extended hand—the one he had used to touch his tongue. The edges of his vision turned fuzzy from the motion, twisting like a You Died animation in a video game.

He took a step back and hit the TV stand, a hand out against the wall. He probably said something, like, “ Whoa ,” and tried to shake the sensation out of his head. Instead, his brain became enshrouded in something indescribable.

And then, he was waking up in his dorm bed, groggy, and unaware that something had woken him.

He blinked, squinting and bleary-eyed, at the ceiling. He recognized that wood paneling from the previous morning, and after a split second of bewilderment, came to the realization that someone was knocking on his door .

“C-Coming,” he said, voice hoarse. He tipped to his side and missed the edge of the bed. His elbow found air and an instant later, he was toppling on the ground in a knot of his blankets. He cursed and immediately groaned because God , there sure was a kink in his neck. It felt like he slept with his neck off the side of the bed all night—that would certainly explain the headache.

He pushed himself up, staggering and swaying like a drunken mess. He went for the door and fumbled with the handle until at last cracking it open. There stood Zushi and, slightly behind him, Canary. Canary leaned over into view as Gon startled at the sight of them.

“Zushi! What’re you…?” Gon started, rubbing at his hair.

“Uh… class. Like, right now,” Zushi said, tapping his nonexistent watch. Gon looked at his wrist like he expected to find the time there. He glanced at the window.

It was bright as shit outside, and by God, he hadn’t set his alarm.

“Fuck,” Gon said, panic seizing control.

He ran across the dorm to the mirror. He nearly slammed into the wall as he went to it, startled by the sight of himself still clad in his uniform from the day before. That wasn’t what was odd, though.

The massive, aggravated wound on his neck was the oddest part about him.

Chapter Text

Gon slapped a hand to the wound on his neck and immediately regretted it. He crumpled with a yelp, ducking down. He cursed at the sting that pierced his trapezoid like a goddamn needle through his muscle. Gingerly, he peeled his hand from the sticky, hot skin around the wound. No wonder it felt like he slept odd the night before.

Zushi leant into the dorm room. He glanced back at Canary, who tapped the time on her phone. “You go ahead,” Zushi said.

“You sure? Alluka should be here soon—”

“I know, I was just talking with her,” he said. Canary nodded, but still hesitated to turn away. They both looked back into Gon’s room where Gon was frantically touching the wound and looking at his hand, as if expecting it to be soaked with fresh blood. Zushi crossed the hall to his room with every intent of fetching his first aid kit. By the time he got back, Canary was gone, and Gon had his nose up against the mirror, squinting at the mark.

“Quit touching it—it’ll make it worse,” Zushi said, swatting Gon’s hand away.

“It stings, though—”

“Yeah, because you’re touching it,” Zushi said.

“What is it? I don’t remember having a run-in with Jack the Ripper,” Gon said, turning to Zushi. He watched Zushi’s brow furrow as he popped open the first aid kit and set it on the edge of Gon’s bed. He sprayed disinfectant on the wound, and the instant Gon sighed in relief at the chill that coated his feverish skin, he hissed at the sting of alcohol in the open cut.

“You’re more likely to have a run-in with the spiders around here,” Zushi said, and when Gon raised an eyebrow, Zushi shrugged. Gon had experienced a few spider bites in his day, and this certainly wasn’t the case.

He stuck a squarish bandaid over the freshly cleaned wound. Gon grimaced at the tacky adhesive, but he was eternally grateful for Zushi’s quick response. He wasn’t sure what he would have done or said to anyone giving the wound weird looks.

“Thanks for waiting for me and stuff,” Gon said.

Zushi snapped the first aid kit shut, grabbed Gon’s discarded tie, and tossed it to him as he said, “Don’t mention it. We’ve gotta move, though, so hurry up.”

“Right, right,” Gon said, already looping the tie beneath his collar. He grabbed his backpack, stuffed his water bottle into the side pocket, and raced out of the door after Zushi.

They all but ran down the stairs to the first floor where Gon jumped the last few steps to the bottom. He was the first to skid out into the tunnel where he recalled the route he and Ikalgo took the day before—

“Alluka!” Zushi cried, startled. Gon screeched to a halt, turned, and caught sight of a familiar Zoldyck standing against the tunnel wall, hands clasped in front of her black skirt. Zushi straightened the front of his shirt as Alluka studied them both. Gon tensed as he put a hand to the bandaid, fully aware that Alluka had stared at it for a second too long. “Sorry I’m late—I can walk you to your class now.”

“That would be lovely, thank you,” she said.

Zushi nodded, clearly out of breath from having run down four flights of stairs in a panic. Gon was no better, but it was purely from the adrenaline suffocating his chest and throbbing in his throat where he could feel the wound pulsating underneath his hand. He watched as Alluka turned towards the courtyard and started off.

Zushi shrugged at Gon. “I’ll see you around?” he said.

“Yeah, see you,” Gon said.

With that, Zushi turned on his heels and jogged after Alluka. He took her book bag and carried it on his shoulder as they walked calmly across the brick path away from Gon and where Gon was certain he and Zushi had class.

But perhaps we aren’t even in the same class , Gon rationalized as he started down the hill. Zushi was a sophomore, from what Gon understood, and Gon would be attending introductory lessons.

The building was posted on the edge of the hillside, surrounded by dense, brick walls that made it appear as if it hovered over the forest, peppered with evergreens. Gon hurried down the brick walkway where students lingered about at eyelevel with the treetops. He and Ikalgo had spent a good few minutes just simply looking at it all, and the foggy horizon line where the sky met the deep blue Atlantic.

“Gon?”

Speak of the devil , Gon thought, catching sight of Ikalgo standing not far off near the entryway. Gon jogged up to him, breathless, and said, “Hey—I’m super late. Overslept.”

“Looks like it. Your tie is barely done,” he said. Gon stilled when Ikalgo reached for it and started to unloop it.

Heat flared up to his ears as he watched Ikalgo intently fix his tie. The guy’s eyes were the color of warm leather—reddish, but clearly brown. Gon stared at them until Ikalgo’s smile broke him out of his reveries. “There. Now you look somewhat presentable.”

Gon put a hand to the tie and stammered, “Th-Thanks. And also thanks again—for showing me around. I’m sure I would have been ten times more late had you not walked me around.”

“Anytime, Freecss,” Ikalgo said. He offered a light wave before walking off. “Gotta go see a man about a horse, so I’ll—”

Gon burst into laughter. “What does that mean?”

“Means I gotta take a piss,” Ikalgo said. Gon just laughed harder. “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Yeah, definitely. Have fun with that horse-business,” Gon said.

It took a second for Gon to get a handle on his rapidly beating heart. When he did, the clock struck well after nine in the morning, and class was due to start five minutes ago. He cursed and shoved into the building in an absolute tizzy. He leapt the stairs to the laboratory doors and burst in without a second thought.

Class was already in session.

Gon stared at the entire class while the entire class stared back. At the front of the room, the professor was standing casually in front of the whiteboard, the syllabus in hand, mouth ajar as if Gon had cut him off mid-sentence.

“Uh, sorry,” Gon sputtered uselessly, hands clutching at the straps of his backpack.

“We were just getting started. Take a seat with your lab partner,” he said.

Lab partner? As if Gon wasn’t panicking enough. He must have missed the email—who was he partnered with? How was he supposed to know?

He looked around the room as the professor cleared his throat and started up again with the syllabus. The lab tables were each taken by two students each, and near the back of the room, one table had an open spot right next to—

Gon’s hand went to his throat without meaning to. The morning had been too hectic for him to even recall what had happened the day before. His grogginess that morning had chalked everything up as a fever dream, but seeing Killua Zoldyck sitting there made the dream feel impossibly real.

Gon skirted around the side of the classroom, out of the way of everyones’ view of the professor. He recognized Canary among the students sitting alongside the Zoldyck girl with the sharp, black bob and even sharper, annoyed eyes that caught Gon staring. Gon hurried ahead and circled around to the last empty seat.

He glanced sideways at Killua. The guy looked seriously constipated and Gon wondered if his fever dream had some repercussions besides a hickey the size of Gon’s unavoidable ADHD. Maybe Zushi was right, though—the dormitory was an old building and therefore was likely infested with spiders. It could just be a spider bite, couldn’t it?

Still, Gon held a hand to his stinging neck and put his elbow to the table. He looked away from Killua’s tense profile and to the front of the classroom where their professor’s name was written in bold letters on the whiteboard. Professor Wing.

Gon tapped his foot on the rungs of his lab stool. He couldn’t stand to sit still, not when he was still looking to uncover the mystery of his mutilated neck. He glanced at Killua, only to find those eerie blue eyes already locked on him. He looked away with a barely restrained yelp. He had gone to Killua’s apartment, hadn’t he? Killua would know what happened, but something about the way Killua looked at him—or, rather, tried not to look at him—gave Gon the impression that Killua knew exactly where the wound came from.

Professor Wing set the syllabus aside and said, “Many of you may have already identified your suits, but to ensure that everyone is up to speed, I’ve arranged for a divination exam. It’s fair that everyone is privy to their classmates’ suits. Or if you prefer the old-fashioned way, your tarot cards.”

A general groan went around the class. Gon’s brain hung on the word ‘exam’ and thought, Oh, God, I didn’t study at all . All of the other context followed shortly after, but by then, it was too late for Gon to question it.

“This class is about trusting your intuition,” Professor Wing said as the students across the classroom pulled forward the bins on their tables filled with supplies. “There are many ways to perform divination—select your method and only afterward we’ll go over what each divination method entails.”

Gon reached for the bin. His hand stilled on the edge of it, his fingers grazing Killua’s. His skin was just as cold as it looked—translucent, faintly blue where Gon could see his veins on the underside of his wrists.

Killua pulled his hand back and said, “You try it.”

“No, after you.”

“If you two bicker over courtesy,” the professor’s voice sounded. Gon flinched, grimacing as he looked up at Professor Wing’s unamused expression. “You’ll never decide on a method.”

“Right, sorry, professor,” Gon said. He took the bin, and Professor Wing started back to the front of the classroom.

The contents of the bin blurred together. It almost looked as if Professor Wing had divided up his pile of horded boardgames and tossed them in. Gon went for a pack of cards.

“Really?” Killua droned.

“What? I love card games,” Gon said with a shrug.

“Those aren’t playing cards ,” he said, reaching for the box. He opened the flap and shook out a stack of massive cards full of color and detailed illustrations. Each one as different, aside from the back where gold foil was printed in diagonal stripes. An eye fell at the middle of the card with a rectangular, horizontal pupil at the center. “They’re tarot cards,” Killua explained.

“I thought this was biology,” Gon moaned, dumbfounded. He put a hand to his forehead, eyes wide. “Maybe I’m in the wrong classroom…”

“It’s too late now,” Killua said, already shuffling the deck. “Every tarot card is paired with a playing card suit. Back in the day, only tarot cards were used, but around the eleventh century, they were categorized into the four basic suits. Only one tarot card was never categorized.”

“What do you mean?” Gon said, voice dropping to a whisper. Professor Wing was talking again, this time pertaining to something about water divination. Gon already decided that he’d have to Sparknote this entire lecture when he returned to the dorms.

Killua set the cards on the table in front of Gon and, likewise, lowered his voice. “Tap the stack three times.”

Gon did. He felt like a school kid in the basement of Aunt Mito’s house playing with a Ouija board.

Killua divided the deck into three piles and stacked them once more before sliding them out into one long row in front of Gon. Gon clasped his hands between his knees. He could smell Killua’s cologne like the evergreens outside. Killua settled back into his seat, facing forward as he whispered, “Pick two cards,” and pretended to listen to the lecture.

Gon glanced up at Professor Wing. He was drawing diagrams on the whiteboard, unaware that Gon and Killua had been talking. Gon reached a hand out over the row of cards, only to hesitate.

He did say pick two, but not which two, he thought, tapping a finger to his chin. He went for the two end cards on the row and flipped them over.

The card from the end of the row depicted a elaborately-drawn tree. Its canopy stretched over a pair of people holding an apple—Adam and Eve, by the looks of it. The card itself was painted with watercolor and was worn around the edges from use. The second card was no better in regards to its current state.

Killua picked it up without looking. He held it in front of himself and studied it for a moment. “The Lovers. Same exact card I get during divination.”

“What does it mean?”

“Its associated with the heart suit.” He passed the card back and swapped it for Gon’s second card. “It means you’ll be adept at close-range—”

He paused. Gon turned away from the whiteboard to find Killua studying the second card with a tense look on his face—not much different from before, but his silence struck Gon as odd. He leant towards Killua, peering at the card.

The card illustrated what appeared to be a crumbling building engulfed in orange flames.

“The Tower,” Killua said. He dropped the card into the deck. “Doesn’t mean anything.”

Gon sat through the rest of the shortened lecture in a haze of confusion. Weren’t they supposed to be learning about cell division rather than divination? Wasn’t Gon supposed to peer into a microscope instead of sit there and play card games? He wanted something that made sense, like the gym where he knew every damn piece of equipment and could run for miles without a care in the world.

Lecture ended early that day, however, as soon as everyone completed their respective divinations and wrote their results down for Professor Wing to collect. As everyone packed up their things and zipped up their backpacks, Professor Wing called out, “Next class we’ll be testing your suits! Take the divination index on the front table and study for next class. You’ll be assessing your classmates’ suits for this next portion of the divination exam.”

Someone raised their hand at the front of the classroom. “Do we have to use all methods of divination or can we use our preferred method?”

“All methods!”

The class groaned again.

Gon stacked the cards and stuffed them back into their designated box. As he set it in the bin, he looked to Killua with every intent of possibly, maybe asking for help. If he was going to be performing divination on other people, he figured it best to practice on someone else.

But no one was there.

Gon blinked at Killua’s empty seat. He looked around the room and just barely caught the tail end of Killua escaping through the front door. Through the window, Gon watched Killua race down the stairs and out of view.

Well, there goes that plan , Gon mused, shoulders slumping.

Gon shouldered his backpack, feeling more or less subpar about his day. When he picked up the divination packet, his heart sunk. Five entire back-to-back pages of pure, dense content he couldn’t manage to wrap his head around. And he still didn’t know how any of this pertained to biology.

He studied the packet as he wandered out of the lecture hall and to the brick walkway overlooking the forest. There, he found a certain someone waiting for him, and his anxieties over Professor Wing’s class dissipated.

He hurried over to where Ikalgo was standing near the ledge, chatting up a guy wearing round, wire-frame glasses and a snapback that was definitely not a part of the uniform.

“Whoa, yikes,” the guy said the second he saw Gon. Ikalgo turned and smiled at him as the guy tapped a finger to his own neck and said, “Looks like you’ve, uh… fueled up.”

Gon frowned. Ikalgo cleared his throat and said, “Take it you’ve figured out that your biology class isn’t exactly ‘biology’.”

“I wouldn’t say that, exactly,” Gon sighed. He looked down at the packet with a frown and said, “I double-checked everything and I was definitely in the right classroom…”

“Wait—no one’s explained it to you?” Ikalgo said.

“Fresh meat,” the guy said. He pointed a finger to himself when Gon eyed him suspiciously. “Meleoron, friend of Ikalgo’s.”

“Ah,” Gon said. “Gon. Gon Freecss.”

“Yeah, I know. I’ve heard your name whispered around,” he said. He tapped a finger to Ikalgo’s arm and said, “You better watch your back.”

Ikalgo rolled his eyes. “You know I’m not here for that bullshit.”

“What bullshit?” Gon asked. Meleoron studied him curiously, head tipped to the side. He looked to Ikalgo, who sighed and rubbed a hand over the back of his neck.

Meleoron grimaced and took a step back. “I’ll… see you two losers around. Hopefully.”

“Lighten up,” Ikalgo said, but Meleoron was already walking off and waving his hand dismissively at the topic. Ikalgo cursed under his breath and turned to Gon. “They really haven’t explained anything to you? Looks like you were bit—no offense.”

“Yeah, maybe by a spider. I don’t really remember,” Gon confessed, resting a hand gingerly over the bandaid. The skin felt more inflamed than before, even after the disinfectant.

Ikalgo sighed, and Gon sensed the pity in it. Ikalgo gestured for Gon to follow, and he did. The two of them walked down the brick ledge away from the foot traffic heading towards the south side of campus. “It really isn’t my place to talk about it, but… I take it you figured out your suit?”

“Yeah, Killua called it a ‘heart’.”

Ikalgo nodded. He crossed his arms as they turned the corner of the building and slowed in the shadows. He turned to Gon and asked, “What, uh… What type exactly? What method did you use?”

“Tarot cards.”

“Okay. That’s a classic. What cards?”

“The Lovers and then The Towers. I don’t know anything about the second one, but I think it’s in the packet—” He trailed off, already flipping through the pages.

Ikalgo put a hand to the packet and said, “Don’t bother. The Towers makes sense—unexpected change. Out of anything you coulda grabbed, The Towers has… the most negative connotations to it. But I’m sure you can handle that fortune. It’s an insight into your full card.”

“Full card?”

“The type of card your suit is associated with. Jack, Queen, King, Ace. The Lovers tells us that you’re a heart, so you’re into melee action.”

Gon put a hand to his forehead and sighed, “This feels like a video game.”

Ikalgo smiled, and it softened the harsh edges of his anxiety, if only by a smidge. “It’ll probably feel more like a video game in your next class. You’ve got economics next, right?”

“Yeah, but considering what my first class was labeled, I’m second-guessing my entire schedule,” Gon confessed.

“Well, I wish you the best of luck. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of fun in econ today.”

Chapter Text

Econ, as it turned out, was a facade in the same way biology was. The first class was hosted in the athletic fields, which Gon wasn’t aware of until he arrived at the econ lecture hall and found a note posted on the door from the professor saying, “ Class will be held on Field C. Please come prepared .” As ominous as that last statement was, Gon didn’t question it. He wouldn’t be late for his second class like he was for his first.

Gon walked along the fences surrounding the soccer fields. Field C was the farthest one from campus and therefore, was quite the hike. Several students were on the same path as him, so his worries faded. He was supposed to be here and he hadn’t, in fact, been pranked by a student leaving a note like that on the lecture hall door.

A handful of familiar students were gathered on the field by the time Gon arrived. Their bags were all put aside near the fence, so Gon dropped his backpack off and went to join them. He recognized Canary standing clad in a pair of high-waisted slacks and a Yorknew blue sweater. She had her arms crossed and her hair strewn into a massive ponytail on top of her head.

When Gon approached her, she took a half-step to the side. Everyone seemed to be spread out, watching a woman who was not in the Yorknew uniform sit on the grass, patiently waiting for everyone to gather together. She was wearing a fluffy pink coat and a pink scrunchy that looked suspiciously like brain matter.

When approximately ten students were thoroughly gathered about, their professor stood, put her hands on her hips, and said, “Alright, seems like we’ve got everyone accounted for.”

Gon folded his arms tightly over his chest. The air was a bit nippy up in the fields from the Atlantic breeze. He regretted not bringing a coat. He tended to run hot back in California, but things changed the minute he moved north. Sixty degrees was nothing compared to Maine’s coastline.

As their professor listed off everyone’s name from her clipboard, people rose their hands to show that they were present. Gon recognized the other girl from their floor— Amane , it seemed, based off of the professor’s roll call.

After that was said and done, their professor put her hands on her hips and said, “Alright, class, please call me Professor Biscuit. I’ll be your introductory field instructor for the semester. By now you all should have your suits identified and by the looks of it, you all came prepared. You’re all positively volatile today.”

Gon tugged at the collar of his shirt and took a whiff. He smelled relatively clean, albeit wearing second-day clothes.

“Let’s lay down some ground rules, shall we?” she said, and ordered everyone to line up. Gon fell into the space beside Canary, despite the way Canary rolled her eyes at him. Amane took her place several people down, gloomy and stoic as ever. Professor Biscuit walked down the line, saying, “As you are all aware, there will be no fighting on campus. Use of your skills is forbidden outside of fields class. The contract you all signed prevents such things from happening. If anyone here breaks this rule, well, you’ll know immediately that you have.”

Gon rose an eyebrow at Canary. Canary clasped her hands behind her back like a proper toy soldier and eyed him sharply, as if to say, Don’t look at me .

“Many of you have been training prior to your time here at Yorknew, but for the sake of simplicity, the first week of classes will be strictly dedicated to manifesting your weapons.”

Weapons? Gon thought, eyes wide.

“We’ll spend today’s two hour timeslot meditating and sharpening your focus for the next class. And as homework, I expect you all to repeat this meditation session every day prior to sleeping. We have several new pupils in our ranks—it’s best not to strain your circuits at the start of the semester.”

Gon rose his hand. Canary immediately slapped it down, but it was too late.

“Yes, Freecss,” Professor Biscuit said.

Gon glanced at Canary, who seethed under her breath, “ Don’t .”

He turned back to their professor and said, “I… don’t know what’s going on.”

Down the line, Amane slapped her forehead. Someone snorted and immediately muffled their laugh behind their hand. Gon looked down the line and caught a girl with pink hair mouthing, “ Wow ,” at her friend, who hid a smile off to the side.

“Freecss,” Professor Biscuit said, and it brought Gon’s attention back to her, “are you aware you’re a magic-user?”

Magic? Gon’s brain short-circuited. “Like… Harry Potter?”

Canary ducked her head and closed her eyes.

Professor Biscuit rubbed a hand over her mouth and crossed her arms, her chin propped on the heel of her palm. “Who is your sponsor.”

Gon thought of the scholarship. “The Zoldycks, ma’am.”

 


 

“Deary me, this is a dilemma.”

Gon bit his lip. He felt like he was in the principle’s office, but instead of there being a principle, it was the headmaster of all of Yorknew University watching him squirm. Gon ducked his head and glanced to the side where Killua was sat on the sofa, his ankle crossed over the opposite knee, and his arms stretched across the back cushions. Killua glanced at him, and Gon looked away.

The headmaster of Yorknew University was a somewhat decrepit, elderly man with the longest beard known to mankind. He stroked at his beard, squinting at Killua, who stared back, unfazed and disinterested in the conversation. Eventually, Killua sighed and looked away with a shrug. “The more he knows the more danger he’s in.”

“You could say the opposite,” Headmaster Netero hummed, and at this, Killua glared at him. “Family dynamics are a fragile thing here. You of all people should know that.”

“Innocence makes him less likely to be a target.”

“Or more likely. They might see him as an easy target—something they should take out sooner rather than later.”

“I can find another,” Killua said.

“Well, now that’s no way to look at a mortal,” the headmaster said with a small smile in Gon’s direction. Gon stared between them, eyes wide. “Mr. Freecss, you are in quite the compromising position, it seems. I apologize on behalf of Young Killua here—”

“I know what I’m doing, grandpa,” Killua hissed. “He doesn’t need to know the specifics.”

“I’d… quite like to know the specifics,” Gon confessed. He hesitated to look at Killua because when he did, the guy was glaring at him with those piercing blue eyes that made Gon want to simultaneously throw up and pop a boner.

“What you do and don’t know is up to me , Freecss,” Killua hissed through clenched teeth, his perfect jaw line ticking. Gon swallowed hard and looked to the headmaster for backup. Headmaster Netero pursed his lips and looked comically appalled by Killua’s outburst.

He turned his buggy eyes onto Gon and said, “You’d be surprised by the temper on this one. I’ve known him since he was in diapers.”

“That’s enough,” Killua seethed. “I’ve had enough of your bullshit, Netero. Can we leave?”

“We? Oh, so suddenly you’re a team now?” Headmaster said, and Gon startled at the way the two of them bickered. It made him second-guess the insult Killua used— grandpa— and took to wondering whether or not Headmaster Netero was Killua’s grandfather. “Like it or not, the two of you are teammates in this. I’d hate to see you fail simply because your stubborn nature got the best of you.”

Killua laughed hollowly and snapped, “Did it ever occur to you that I’m failing on purpose ? I didn’t ask for this!”

“You’re wearing your proof on your sleeve. Or rather—”

Killua bolted to his feet. Gon flinched as Killua seethed, “ Don’t .”

The headmaster teasingly zipped his lips shut.

Killua left without a second to waste. Gon gripped the armrests on his chair, struck by the sudden urge to follow after him. He looked to the headmaster, though, who shooed him along with a little wink. Gon staggered to his feet and nearly tripped on the chair as he rounded it. He steadied the chair and apologized to it before grabbing his backpack and rushing to the door where Killua disappeared. He caught it before it could slam his fingers into the doorframe.

Before leaving, he looked back at the headmaster. He wasn’t sure why he expected some form of help here, but he was still stuck in the mindset of a high schooler—that his superiors were there to coach him along.

Headmaster Netero didn’t fail him.

“A little tip,” the headmaster said. He bared his teeth and pointed to his prominent canines before offering a thumbs up.

Gon squinted at him. Weird , he thought, but not entirely unhelpful.

He caught sight of Killua making a getaway down the stairs. Gon bolted after him, letting the headmaster’s door swing shut behind him. He leapt around the railing and careened down the stairs, taking them two at a time to keep up. All the while, he thought about Professor Biscuit’s comment about magic , and how Headmaster Netero did nothing to deter such an odd concept. To top it off, he was in a divination course, enrolled without his consent, and conducted with tarot cards and fortune telling.

To make matters even weirder , the state of Gon’s neck was something to account for. His mind went to the headmaster’s hint, or rather, tip of his canines.

Gon caught up with Killua at the ground floor, hardly out of breath but just as anxious and jittery as before. He reached for Killua’s arm, only to jerk to a halt when Killua yanked it out of reach and turned a glare onto Gon. They studied one another for a moment, long enough for Gon to see every inch of frustration marked in Killua’s frown.

Killua turned on his heels and left the building. Gon followed after him.

Killua’s strides were fast and moved with stiff purpose. Gon didn’t have any other classes for the day and he was still looking for answers—answers that were clicking into place with every step he took after Killua Zoldyck off the beaten path and past the sports fields. He followed Killua past the metal stands and despite the fact that Killua never looked back, Gon knew he was fully aware of his follower trailing several paces behind.

Gon hopped from rock to rock down into the forest where the pine needles were abundant and smelled like oncoming rain. It was cooler underneath the evergreen canopy. Gon crossed his arms, his white, uniform button up hardly dense enough to fight off the Atlantic breeze. Killua’s head of white hair paused among a cluster of evergreens, and as Gon skirted around them, catching up, Killua was suddenly out of sight and nowhere to be found.

A branch snapped behind him.

Gon’s skeleton nearly performed a standing backwards handspring just to escape. Instead, he jerked around and came face-to-face with Killua’s chest. He looked up, his eyes catching on the silvery glint on Killua’s blue eyes.

“Why won’t you tell me anything?” Gon whispered, voice tight and knotted in his throat.

“It’s safer for you,” Killua said. Gon shuddered, his fingers leaving indents in his arms. “If you ask, I’ll answer.”

Gon ducked his head, eyes burning. He could feel Killua’s icy stare on him as he said, “Everyone seems to be terrified of your family. Every time I mention the Zoldycks, people just… clam up.”

Killua said nothing.

“What was in my drink?” Gon asked.

“Coffee.”

Gon rolled his eyes. “I know you put something in it. I woke up this morning… disoriented and it feels like an animal mauled my neck .”

Nearby, a crow cawed and it echoed through the canopy. The rustling branches became a symphony in Gon’s ears, and after a moment, he looked up to meet Killua’s eyes. “And your canines—they’re impossibly sharp. And your skin is ice cold.”

Killua’s eyes never wavered.

“H-How old are you?” Gon asked, trembling.

He watched Killua swallow his words, studying Gon’s wide, amber eyes. “Eighteen.”

“How long have you been eighteen?”

“Two months.”

Gon stared at him. Killua reached a hand back, combing it through his white hair as he said, “I turned eighteen in July, actually.”

This changes things , Gon thought, his theory rerouting. He looked to the ground and whispered, “I know what you are.”

Killua took a step towards him. He could feel the cold radiating from him like the Atlantic breeze through the trees. “Say it,” Killua whispered, and Gon wondered if he imagined it. If he imagined all of this. Maybe this was just another fever dream. “ Out loud .”

Gon sucked in a sharp, shaky breath. He held it, his heart pounding in his chest. How could he say something so impossible out loud ? It challenged everything he had been raised by—science, logic, human society. Within three days Gon’s assumptions about the world were shifting.

The image of The Tower reminded him of his conversation with Ikalgo. Unexpected change . He could feel the danger emanating from it the moment Killua held it in his hands and chalked it off as nothing. He could feel the danger stepping closer and closer to him, breathing in the same air he breathed, standing at arms’ distance from him.

Say it ,” Killua hissed.

Gon let the air out of his lungs. “Werewolf,” he said.

The beat of silence was deafening to Gon until Killua broke it with a strained, “Jesus Christ,” under his breath. Gon looked up. Killua had the bridge of his nose pinched between his fingers. He turned away just as Gon caught the hint of a smile on his lips, one that showed his pronounced canines and deep dimples.

Killua muffled a laugh behind his hand as Gon insisted, “B-But you’re too young to be a vampire!”

When he laughed harder, Gon thought his heart might give out. How could someone as offstandish as Killua have such an attractive laugh, and an even more charming smile? Gon wanted to strangle himself for slipping the way he did at the crack in Killua Zoldyck’s facade.

“Not all vampires are ancient,” Killua said, glancing sideways at Gon. They both paused, staring at one another until Killua cleared his throat, summoning back his stoic expression and stamping out every bit of evidence of his dimples.

He put a hand out to the tree behind Gon. Gon stepped away, his shoulder hitting the trunk as Killua leant in, his citrus cologne swarming Gon’s senses. “Tell me,” Killua said, voice dipping to a low, sultry tone, “the answer to the most basic question: What do vampires eat.”

Gon put a hand to his throat. Killua’s eyes dipped to it, and he didn’t miss the way Killua swallowed. He wondered if Killua could smell the sore wound, or sense the throbbing of his pulse under his skin.

“Y-You don’t scare me,” Gon said, but his stammer said otherwise.

When Killua smiled this time, all Gon felt was dread in the pit of his stomach. He was just taunting Killua, and he didn’t realize his comment was a challenge until Killua dipped his head down. Gon turned his head away, unintentionally baring his neck to Killua’s piercing canines.

Killua’s nose touched the sore skin around the bandaid. Gon’s breath hitched as Killua breathed in, his chilled finger grazing up the column of Gon’s neck. Gon clutched at his stomach, barely restraining himself from shoving Killua off of him. The logical part of his brain screamed at him to flee, but the spiteful part of him wanted to prove that he wasn’t afraid. That he could handle this. That he understood the consequences and would spit in the face of them.

He closed his eyes when the bandaid peeled away. And then came the hot, wet texture of Killua’s tongue licking over the wound.

“Wait,” Gon said when Killua’s tongue retracted. “Why is… Why is your tongue hot ? Shouldn’t it be, like, a cold wet worm?”

Killua pulled back to glare at Gon. Gon stared back, genuinely curious. “My skin’s cold because I have shitty circulation,” Killua said.

“O-Oh. But—”

“Vampires are still alive, dude. We just don’t age and therefore, don’t decompose,” Killua said.

All that came out of Gon’s mouth was a squeaky, “ Oh ,” because he could feel himself overheating like a goddamn furnace. To top it off, he felt a boner coming on and he blamed it on the fact that he felt existential fear blending with how turned on he was having Killua’s face within licking distance.

“You… bit me, though,” Gon rasped, feeling the cool air against his sweltering hot neck. The sting was starting to subside. “Don’t you, like, crave blood constantly?”

“Do you crave chocolate constantly?” Killua asked.

“Not… really…

Killua gestured as if to say, There you have it . Gon frowned, a hand over the mark. The swelling had gone down since the morning, but it didn’t stop him from worrying over it.

“Why did you spike my coffee?” Gon asked, quietly. He knew the reason had everything to do with the bite on his neck belonging to Killua.

Killua dropped his hand from the tree over his head. The tension in Gon’s shoulders faded, if only slightly, as he watched Killua pocket his hands and take a step out of Gon’s space. “Most vampires drug their humans beforehand. It makes the process easier—for both parties involved.”

“Why?”

Killua’s expression flatlined, and Gon could tell that his window for answers had closed. “We aren’t talking about this now. All you need to know is that the reason you’ll be using magic is because of me and that bite. If you plan on sticking around Yorknew, you’ll have to come to terms with being bit once in a while.”

There it is again—magic , Gon thought, following after Killua between the trees and among the pine needles. Killua passed behind a boulder where they had hopped down from the campus walkway. When Gon followed after him, he was met with a blank crevice and no sight of Killua—until he looked up at the sight of Killua’s hand reaching down for Gon’s.

Gon grabbed hold. Killua heaved him up, and his shoulders popped from the weight of his body being all but swung several feet into the air. Gon yelped as his feet touched the ground and he staggered back to balance.

He gathered several things from Killua statement: That vampire venom had magical qualities to it. He considered the other scholarship kids on his floor, all of whom were associated with Zoldyck members. They were all likely bitten for the sake of using magic—but why would humans need magic? Or, rather, why did vampires need to give magic to humans?

It was all too confusing, and Gon felt a headache coming on.

He stared ahead at Killua’s straight shoulders, his perfect, pale hair, and pale skin. His profile displayed an equally straight jawline and a curved nose that ended on a flat note that Gon just wanted to poke for no good reason at all. His mind went in circles all around the journey it took for Killua to drug him and, supposedly, drag him to his dorm room bed. How long had that taken, and when did it take place? Had Killua waited until the dead of night to walk his limp, sleeping body across campus in a body-bag? He almost laughed at the visual of it.

But then, the sensual visual of a dimly lit apartment came to view, with the moonlight capturing Killua’s profile and the glint of his pearl-white fangs against Gon’s dark neck—

No, stop that , Gon thought, hands over his hair. He just barely fought down a boner no more than five minutes ago, what the fuck was he thinking? Did he have a kidnapping-slash-drugging kink or something? That existential crisis should be stowed away for a future date, not now when a complete vampire was standing not far away giving in a weird look and—

“Oh, sorry,” Gon apologized for no good reason.

“I didn’t say anything,” Killua said. “Why are you following me?”

Gon realized then that he had followed Killua all the way to north campus.

“I… I don’t know,” he confessed, completely lost. He tugged at the strap of his backpack and glanced back at south campus, which was easily a half hour walk. “I’ll just—”

Killua sighed. Gon looked back and found Killua rubbing at his temple. “You don’t have any other classes, right? Just… stick around here. It’s not safe to be out past dark.”

Stick around here .

At Killua’s university apartment .

“No, I shouldn’t. I’ll see you later,” Gon said, panic pitching his voice a note higher.

He turned and started at a half-jog back to south campus. He didn’t look back until he was five minutes into the walk and certain that Killua hadn’t stuck around. Sure enough, Killua was gone, and Gon was left in the limbo between campuses, heart pounding, and head aching from a serious content overload.

 


 

Gon woke up the next morning in a cold sweat, caught halfway through saying, “The Zoldycks are vampires!” He stared at the ceiling for a second before realizing that his alarm was ringing, and he had practice to get to that morning. Groaning, he slapped his hands over his face and rolled onto his side. “ Fuck me… ” he groaned, fully annoyed with the world because:

The Zoldycks were vampires and he was enrolled in magic classes without his consent.

Not only that, but he was given magic without his consent.

He wasn’t sure which of these three truths was worse.

And, when it got to practice, he was frozen in place by the sight of Professor Biscuit on the track, barking warmup orders to his future teammates. Not only that, but the second she caught wind of Gon standing, frozen, in his track gear, she snapped her fingers at him and said, “Not a step closer, Freecss!”

Gon jolted and cried, “Wait, why?!”

“If your cleats so much as touch the track before you’ve manifested, I’ll personally kick your ass back to California!” Professor Biscuit roared, and his teammates giggled to themselves over it. She clapped her hands loudly and yelled, “Class comes first! Grades come first! Repeat it back to me!”

The circle groaned and begrudgingly repeated the chant back to her as Gon slumped and decided that, if he was barred from practice, he would at least use this time to catch up to his classmates in his divination and field conjuring courses. It seemed he had a long way to catch up as it was.

Perhaps I can find Ikalgo to help me , he thought, only to backtrack. He had the guy’s number!

“Score!” Gon screamed out loud, startling a nearby freshmen. After apologizing, Gon took off, phone in hand, searching for Ikalgo’s name in his contacts. The second he spotted it, he put his phone to his ear and listened to the line ring.

When the ringing cut and Ikalgo’s voice sounded on the other end, Gon said, “Hey! You said you had a class in the same lecture building as me, right?”

Uh, yeah, why—

“Does that mean you use magic?” Gon crossed his fingers, bitting his bottom lip as silence ensued from the other end of the line.

Several, painful seconds later, Ikalgo laughed and said, “ No, I can’t use magic. What’s this about?

Gon groaned and whined, “I don’t understand what’s happening. I can’t go to practice because I’m supposed to manifest or something and meditate and shit. I’ve got ADHD! Meditation is, like, my mortal enemy!”

Whoa, okay, slow down ,” he laughed, and Gon groaned miserably, slumping against the side of the field house. “ There’s something I might be able to help you with. Meet me by the courtyard?

And, so, Gon all but ran to fetch his duffle. He didn’t bother changing back into his uniform and instead took off at a jog across campus back to the dormitories where. Gon leapt through the tunnel and into the open grass. It was quiet for a weekday—the only foot traffic around the quad happened to be on the brick walkway that circumnavigated the courtyard. It made finding Ikalgo especially easy out in the grass.

Ikalgo stood up as Gon approached, energized and eager. Ikalgo put his hands on his hips, looked Gon up and down, and concluded, “Looks like Coach Biscuit gave you her two cents, huh?”

“Yeah, she did,” Gon sighed. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to manifest. They’re talking about weapons and fighting and—”

“Whoa, slow down,” Ikalgo said, waving his hands. Gon clamped his mouth shut. Ikalgo pointed to his lips, teeth bared, and said, “Vampire, not a sorcerer.”

Gon shook his head, brow furrowed. “What’s the difference? You can’t use magic or something?”

“Bingo. And I’m not a heart, either. I’m a spade.”

Gon’s brain scattered all over the nonexistent pages of the divination packet from class the previous day. “I… don’t remember what that is.”

“Artillery. You’re melee, I’m firearms, long-range shit,” Ikalgo explained. He passed a hand through his hair and sighed. “ God , this is really something Killua should be talking to you about…”

“He won’t tell me anything! He thinks it’s better if I don’t know. People will underestimate me or something.”

“Well, right now , they’re right to underestimate you,” Ikalgo said. “You don’t know shit. You’re an open target. But that’s not the point here—the point is that my magic isn’t compatible with you. The suits all manifest their magic differently. I’ve never had a human champion, so I don’t know—”

Champion? Like gladiators?” Gon gasped, and before Ikalgo could even answer, Gon threw his arms in the air and screamed, “That’s awesome!”

Ikalgo put a hand to his voice and muttered, “ Oy vey .” After a sharp intake, he looked down at Gon with a pitying edge to his warm eyes that had Gon’s heart in knots. His expression fell with it. “Let’s talk about this someplace more private. Perhaps somewhere we could… test out your magic?”

Gon couldn’t even begin to imagine what that all entailed. Would he start levitating? Maybe summoning demons or starting fires with his mind . How could he plan for such an occasion? They needed fireproof suits and goggles!

Ikalgo took him by the wrist and started walking them out of the courtyard. Gon followed, dizzy from the whirlwind of emotions spiraling in his stomach. His excitement stirred into a sticky concoction of fear from the unknown. Magic was an entirely new experience—one that he couldn’t prepare for in the slightest since it seemed meditation wasn’t up his alley. Still, the adrenaline from the pure thrill gave him hope.

Ikalgo walked them through a dormitory lobby, his hand disappearing from Gon’s wrist. Gon couldn’t miss the way people seemed to gravitate towards the guy—Ikalgo was a stunner, that was for sure, and he caught the eyes of everyone they passed. Gon glanced over his shoulder at a pair of freshmen girls whispering to each other with smiles, their eyes on Ikalgo.

Gon couldn’t deny how his chest swelled with warm pride because it was him walking across the lobby with Ikalgo and not them.

“Is everyone here a sorcerer—or vampire ?” Gon asked in a half-whisper, half-shout because he couldn’t whisper for the life of him.

Ikalgo shushed him, and that pretty much answered Gon’s question. He zipped his lips shut until Ikalgo pulled him into the safety of a study room with walls as thick as Gon’s skull. He shut the door as Gon  staggered and tripped into one of the armchairs. Ikalgo pulled a wooden chair out from the table, spun it around, and sat backwards on it, arms hooked over the backrest, and eyes on Gon.

“The reason your class schedule and assignments are linked with general studies is because no one is supposed to know that Yorknew is for sorcerers and the like,” Ikalgo said. “It’s probably why no one told you going into this that you’d be studying magic instead. I’ve heard of it happening but… didn’t expect…”

“To meet someone it happened to. I get it,” Gon said.

Ikalgo grimaced apologetically. “Right. But that isn’t to say it’s unheard of! Most champions are trained for this. Young vampires don’t generally ‘equip’ until university. It’s too much responsibility for a child to have and abuse.”

“Do you… equip?” Gon asked with an awkward wince. It sounded weird talking about humans as weapons, but that seemed to be the gist he was gathering.

“No. Strict personal preference,” Ikalgo said.

“Oh.”

Ikalgo grinned, and Gon turned hot under his dazzling smile. “You sound disappointed,” he commented.

“W-Well, I’m just saying! If you equip, whoever it is must be… special.”

Ikalgo laughed and said, “Right, just don’t let any other vampires around Yorknew hear you. Relationships aren’t exactly in the tradition of a master-and-champion pairing. Humans and vampires weren’t meant to mingle.”

“Why?”

“Imagine the combination,” Ikalgo said. Gon tipped his head curiously, and Ikalgo sighed. “Right, you don’t know anything. Think of it this way: Vampires can create magic, and humans have magic receptors that absorb it. Vampries don’t have those receptors. So imagine a half-vampire, half-human running amuck, constantly making themselves ill because they’re both equipped to create and absorb magic that isn’t compatible with their vampire genes.”

Gon stared wide-eyed. “Does it hurt? Where are my receptors? Is that why my neck hurt so much yesterday?”

Ikalgo burst into laughter, and Gon relaxed. So it wasn’t that serious. “It hurt because that sonuvabitch has never equipped a champion! Vampires like the Zoldycks—if they aren’t equipping, they’re draining their victims, for Chrissake.”

Gon vividly heard the adhesive on his bandaid pulling back from the day before. He imagined the heat from Killua’s breath dampening his skin. He felt Killua’s tongue on his neck all over again underneath the evergreen canopy.

“H-He won’t kill me, will he?” Gon asked, knees pulled up.

“God, no. You’re his defense and offense. If he’s equipped you, he’ll use you. Once you’re properly trained, I mean,” Ikalgo said. “Consider university onboarding for the shitstorm that’s outside campus. Fighting isn’t permitted on campus. All vampires sign a contract that forbids champion bloodshed in or outside of combat. Excluding bites, of course.”

“Oh. Okay,” Gon sighed, relieved. He slumped in his chair, his hands over his face. He groaned and pouted, huffing, “This is all so confusing. I expected university to be difficult, but not this steep of a learning curve.”

He met Ikalgo’s gentle eyes as a devious grin spread across his lips. “Trust me—you’re just getting started.”

 

Chapter Text

Gon and Ikalgo made plans to meet at the next available chance to further explore Gon’s magic. Of the methods Ikalgo was familiar with, none of them seemed to work. Gon’s magic was otherwise dormant until future notice, perhaps try again next time, or next year.

In the meantime, he spent an absurd amount of time sleeping that night to avoid his responsibilities. It all started with his designated one-hour meditation session for homework that never really ended, and then the next thing he knew, he was waking up to his morning alarm for practice. He shocked himself awake with a startled, disoriented gasp, his eyes bleary and his neck aching from having slept against the wall all night in an awkward position. If his neck hurt two days ago, it ached like a bitch now.

But he had to get to practice, if only to face Coach Biscuit and hear her bark in his face, “Off my field, Freecss! Come to me when you’ve—”

“Manifested. Got it,” Gon finished in a dull, tired voice. He turned on his heels and marched all the way back to the athletics complex. If he couldn’t practice, the least he could do was work out.

Since he was already on campus by the time first period rolled around, he was quick to skedaddle to the divination lab as soon as he was showered, dressed, and packed up. He was so swift, in fact, that he beat Killua Zoldyck to their shared lab table.

Gon watched as students filed in. He tapped a pen to his chin and nibbled on the end of it as he caught Canary’s eyes as she went to sit alongside the other Zoldyck sibling. I’ll have to ask Killua what her name is , Gon thought as he offered Canary a wave she didn’t return. He dropped his hand to the desk with a frown and went back to people watching.

The clock ticked closer to class time. He chewed harder on his pen. A girl with vibrant pink hair wandered around to the lab table in front of him, looked at Killua’s empty seat, and said, “Excellent partner you’ve got there.”

Gon frowned at her and said, “He’ll be here.”

The girl rose an eyebrow at him before taking her seat and turning around. Her partner was an unassuming girl with black hair, glasses, and a turtleneck that made her look like Velma from Scooby Doo. “How could you know if you aren’t with him?” she said, taking a seat. She glanced at him from over the rim of her glasses just before turning around and sighing, “It’s hard to protect someone you’re never around.”

Protect? Gon mused, and continued to ponder over as class began, and he was forced to juggle his internal musings and the task at hand.

The class was ordered to stand and swap partners. Gon had his divination packet in hand until that moment, and immediately regretted not reading more of it. Before he could take so much as a step away from his table, however, someone claimed the seat beside him.

Professor Wing walked around the class with a checklist. Gon stared at it as it came to him and his new partner. He glanced over and found Canary staring at him like this was all some big coincidence and she hadn’t, in fact, chosen him as a partner.

“I, um…” Gon started, clearing his throat. “I’m not very good at this.”

“Which ones are you struggling with?” she asked.

He gestured to the entire sheet but eventually, landed on the astrological one. That piece of the checklist was accompanied with a blank space for Canary to write her birth date, time, and sign. “We can use our phones for this one,” she said, and so together, they looked at Gon’s phone to investigate the depth of Canary’s sign. It wasn’t as if they could search for suits on the internet, anyway.

“Astrology is the most difficult of the methods. Tarot interpretations are relatively standard, as is astrology, but even the smallest details can change the interpretation,” Canary explained. “Cancers have…”

“Heart tendencies, but with your moon it’s… a club?” Gon asked, and Canary nodded. Gon gasped, thrilled. “So have you manifested yet?”

“Most every human here has , Gon,” she whispered, and Gon immediately slumped. There it was again, evidence of Gon’s incompetencies. He wondered where Killua was. He was hoping Killua would have some insight to manifesting that day.

Canary checked off astrology on her chart. “Wait—you haven’t guessed mine yet,” Gon said.

“Easy. You’re a heart,” she said. When Gon startled, she stood and tapped her spot, the spot where Killua would normally sit. “Bye, Gon.”

Class went on and Gon slowly filled up his checklist. It appeared as though people were unwilling to pair with him simply because of the time it took for him to process each method. He watched, dreadfully, as people from across the lab handed in their filled-out checklists and left for the morning. Canary was among the first.

The girl who looked like Velma came to sit with him.

She stuck her hand out, and he shook it. “Shizuku.”

“Gon, but it sounds like everyone knows that,” Gon sighed, a faint smile on his lips.

Farther ahead, the pink haired girl rolled her eyes and said, “Zuku, hurry up.”

“In a sec!” she said. She turned back to Gon and said, “You haven’t done tarot yet, and I haven’t done tarot yet. Set up the cards for me?”

Gon reached for the pack of cards in the bin. He shuffled them, stacked them, and let her tap her knuckles on them. He divided the stack into three parts before assembling them and spreading them out. She plucked up two cards and handed the first to Gon, rightside up.

Gon gasped. He knew this one. “The Star—you must be a diamond, right?”

“Right,” she said, squinting when she smiled. She pushed her glasses up and asked, “What are diamonds?”

“Elemental magic. You’re… air specifically.”

“Correct. Wow, you’re good at this,” she praised, and Gon’s chest swelled with pride. “And you are a heart.”

“How do you know that?”

“Everyone knows that now. Killua’s a heart, too, you know,” she said, stacking the cards and sticking them back into the pack. “You better catch up, Freecss. I’ll see you around.”

The moment he could, he handed his checklist in and left, his feet carrying him to north campus where the university apartment housing was. A sensation akin to acid settled in his chest, burning away at his confidence. Every call with Aunt Mito ended in him lying—“ Classes are great! I’m having a lot of fun. Practice is good! ”—and to top it off, Shizuku’s backhanded comment had guilt seeping through him. Was he supposed to be at Killua’s side all the time? He was Killua’s champion, dammit! He was supposed to protect Killua.

From what?

He wasn’t sure.

At Killua’s apartment building, Gon waited for an oncoming student to unlock the initial door. He slipped inside after them and hurried past them, up the stairs to the second floor where Gon could thoroughly knock the shit out of Killua’s door until the locks came undone.

He stepped back from the door as it cracked open, and Killua peered out with a steely glare. Killua glanced down the stairwell and back again, saying, “What do you want.”

“I just… wanted to check up on you. You weren’t in class, so I…”

Killua went to close the door. Gon stopped it, holding it still with all his might. He pushed it open and, likewise, Killua stepped back with a roll of his eyes. Gon staggered in, saying, “And I need your help.”

“With what? What could you possibly need help with,” Killua droned.

As Gon shucked his sneakers off, he said, “I haven’t been able to use any magic. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Maybe I just need more ?”

“No, you don’t need more. Trust me,” Killua said with a low laugh.

“I feel like I’m going to fail all of my classes! I’m useless in manifestation, I can’t wrap my head around divination, and I need magic for next week’s alchemy lab. Every time I meditate I just fall asleep—”

“That sounds like a you problem. I don’t know what you want me to do,” Killua said, leaning a hip against the kitchen countertop.

Gon stepped up to him, the door closing behind him. It rattled in the frame as Gon gripped the edge of the counter, several paces from where Killua watched him cautiously, expression tight and jaw clenched even tighter.

“I want more magic. And I know that means you have to bite me. I want to know what it feels like—I don’t want you to drug me again.”

Killua stared at him, his fingers gripping the edge of the countertop. “You don’t know what you’re asking,” he hissed, canines far more prominent than Gon remembered them being. It was all he could do to keep from staring—not only at them, but at the rougher edges of Killua’s lips that were calloused from them.

“I do—

No , you don’t. You don’t understand what vampires are, Gon.”

“Then explain it to me. Please. I just want to understand,” Gon insisted, beyond frustrated. His eyes burned, seconds away from sobbing if another person blocked him out. How could they all ask him to try his best when no one was willing to help him .

Ikalgo was willing to help him.

Gon leant back and put a hand to his face. “Fine. Whatever. I’ll just ask Ikalgo—”

He really hadn’t expected a response to that, let alone the one Killua gave. Gon’s hand was ripped from his face, his hips shoved back into the countertop. Gon’s heart leapt to his throat at the venomous way Killua seethed, “ Don’t go to him. Ikalgo is off limits, do you understand?”

Gon nodded, eyes wide. Killua held his wrist tightly in his raised grasp. Killua’s eyes scanned Gon’s face before pushing away, eyes closed. He sucked in a sharp breath and said, lips barely moving, “Don’t talk about him.”

“O-Okay, I won’t,” Gon said. “I won’t go to Ikalgo if you explain to me what I’m missing about vampires.”

Killua stepped away. He looked towards the window, sighing, and rubbing at his hair. Gon’s eyes lingered on the shape of Killua’s arms underneath the tight, black turtleneck he was wearing. They were defined, though lean, and it was all Gon could do to keep from licking his lips.

After a long, dreadful moment of silence, Killua crossed his arms, took several steps back, and stilled his eyes on the tiles between them on the floor. Gon waited, eyes wide and patient.

“Vampires are the world’s most deadly predators, Gon,” Killua started, meeting Gon’s eyes before dropping them again. “When we hunt… we become the single most effective predator against mankind. Every part of me is built to draw people in—despite my shitty personalty, but that’s mostly my defense against it. What I mean to say is that this all includes the way our bites cause our victims to react. Drinking takes time . We work with the victim’s natural blood-pressure—there’s no sucking involved. To do that, vampires need to… keep the victim still. Or occupied, somehow.”

“Like a paralysis venom?” Gon asked.

Killua scratched at his neck awkwardly, partially curling into it as he grimaced and said, “No, definitely not paralysis. Ancient legends of vampires describe us as incubus and succubus ’. Do you know what that means?”

“Not really,” Gon confessed. When Killua rolled his eyes, he groaned, “I never paid attention in English class.”

“They’re sex demons, Gon,” he said.

Gon clamped his mouth shut. That reaction alone was enough to cause Killua to shut down, but not without adding, “Our venom is an aphrodisiac. And blood pressure rises during sex, so the two pair well together.”

“Y-You’re kidding,” Gon stammered without thinking. Killua didn’t look at him. Gon put his hand to his hair and whispered, “Of course you aren’t kidding. Christ, I didn’t—I didn’t realize—”

“I know. So if you want more magic, I can knock you out for it and—”

“No,” Gon started, louder than expected. His heart was beating impossibly fast in his chest, and he felt the blood rushing to his woozy head. He couldn’t believe this was happening. Killua had to be the hottest sonuvabitch Gon ever met—even first to Ikalgo—and Gon was just given the single best news of his life: That the hottest sonuvabitch he ever did meet was, in fact, a sex demon .

He spoke without thinking, his hand to his chest, his eyes stuck on Killua’s startled expression. “I want you to bite me.”

Killua blinked. “You… do realize what the word aphrodisiac means, right?”

Gon rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I heard you. If you’re straight, I’m fine being drugged. I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable, is what I mean. Oh, God, that came out weird—”

“Are you—” Killua started, and Gon clamped his mouth shut before he could make a bigger fool out of himself, “—asking to have sex with me?”

“That, uh… that seems to be the natural progression of the, um… the bite-thing. So… yes?” Gon put a finger to his chin and considered it. If he consented to both being drugged and having sex beforehand, was it problematic? He couldn’t be sure, especially when blood was involved. Gon was debatably never in the right state of mind to say yes or no to a single goddamn thing.

He didn’t have class for another hour and a half, anyway. Another reason being: His neck was fully healed without a single scab, dot, or scar.

He stepped up to Killua, hesitantly, and fully expecting Killua to back away. Instead, Killua’s grip on the countertop tightened, his blue eyes trained on Gon. He came mere inches from gripping the fabric of Killua’s shirt when Killua intercepted.

Killua caught Gon’s wrist in his hand, his fingers bitter cold against the heat throbbing beneath Gon’s skin.

Killua leant towards him, away from the counter, and closer to where Gon’s breath hitched at the sight of Killua’s fangs fully pronounced now against his lip. Gon could see the predator in the look Killua gave him—pupils dilated against a slim ring of blue, and gums sagging from the indents of his canines. Gon felt the metal from Killlua’s spetum piercing before he ever felt Killua’s teeth graze his throat.

Killua held Gon’s hands to the side, his grip tensing when his fangs pricked through Gon’s flesh like needles in butter. Gon hissed, though he expected it to feel worse. He didn’t expect it to feel like a mere pinch compared to the pain he felt the morning after the first time around. He realized now that the pain was probably a bad reaction to the aphrodisiac venom.

Wet heat dripped down the column of his neck. Killua dropped one of Gon’s wrists. His hand came to the base of Gon’s throat, his thumb catching the droplet of blood. Blood . Odd, it feels like water , Gon thought, dizzyingly as something hot started to boil in the pit of his gut that sent his heart racing.

It felt as though all of his nerves consolidated where Killua’s teeth sunk in. His knees grew weak under the tremble that coursed through him, a gasp escaping his mouth. He released it in a pant, a low whine slipping out with it. He clutched at Killua’s shoulders, his arm slipping around Killua’s neck.

And then, Killua’s tongue . God , Gon was going to lose his mind. He shivered at the touch of Killua’s tongue running along Gon’s throat, licking up every stray droplet of blood, and cleaning the smear of hot blood that had started to dry around the wound. Bubbles of red spilled out onto Killua’s tongue. He licked it up, laved the wound clean, and a moment later, the mark healed.

Killua panted, swallowing hard. He pulled back, a bloody thumb pressed to his lip. His fangs had retracted as he said, “I’ve never—I’m not used to stopping—”

“Don’t stop,” Gon said just before crushing his mouth to Killua’s.

Killua’s lips tasted like pennies on his tongue. He licked the iron up against Killua’s mouth, where it had smeared on his cheek, and kissed frantically at Killua’s perfect jawline. He shed his coat and started at the collar of his white button up where red had pooled on the collar, turning pink as it seeped from his neck.

Killua stared at him, arms raised uselessly had his sides, until the exact moment Gon thought he might die if Killua didn’t touch him. He reached for Killua’s hands, shaking with anticipation, as he put them hastily on his waist and said, “ Kiss me .”

And then, he met Gon halfway with a bruising, flustered kiss.

Gon held him fast against his front where his slacks fit too tightly and turned into sharp, unadulterated friction between them when he rolled his hips into Killua’s with every sharp breath he took between their sealed mouths. He reached between them and undid the buttons of his slacks and followed up with the zipper. He lost his mind all around the taste of iron on Killua’s tongue as Killua licked along his teeth.

So this is what it feels like it actually be horny , Gon thought to himself as he all but humped against the bulge at the front of Killua’s sweatpants.

Gon thought he might faint when Killua put his knee between Gon’s legs and spread him. A pathetic whimper slipped through his lips when Killua put his hands to the backs of his thighs and heaved him up to his hips, his fingers tight against Gon’s muscles.

Killua licked and sucked at the wound on Gon’s neck as he walked them across the apartment. Gon hooked his ankles together, knees squeezing Killua’s sides even as Killua tipped them both onto the bed.

Gon preened with a shuddered gasp, back arching as Killua’s lips traveled south, down the strip of exposed skin along Gon’s chest to his abdomen. Killua shed the buttons with a sharp tug, pushing the sleeves down from Gon’s shoulders as he went. Gon pushed on the hem of his slacks, his fingers not quite catching the belt loops, and within seconds, he was groaning in frustration, hips bucking, and heels skidding on the blankets as he tried to shove them off to no avail.

Killua sat up, and the cold that immediately washed in between them sent Gon into a tizzy. “Relax—I’ve got it—” Killua started as Gon flopped like a beached whale trying to get his damn pants off.

Oh fuck— ” The words came out in a low moan, his head thrown back as he weaseled his legs out of his worthless pants. He threw them aside, shucking his underwear with them without a care in the goddamn world aside from getting naked and feeling Killua’s eyes on him in a state of total shock. Gon panted, his muscles aching and every fiber of his being yearning so terribly he couldn’t move, let alone explain it coherently.

Later that night, Gon wouldn’t believe the following words came out of his mouth: “K-Killua, please, just—fuck me, please.

“Jesus Christ,” Killua breathed, hair askew across his forehead. He leant away, reaching across the bed, and Gon all but sobbed at the tight bundle of heat swelling like a fucking bomb inside of him. He wanted nothing more than for Killua to hold him and stroke him and kiss him until he came and cried bloody murder.

In the moment, though, none of that could be accurately exclaimed at the top of his lungs without it being drowned away in a desperate moan.

When Killua crawled back onto the bed, Gon couldn’t process anything aside from the length of his member fully errect and flushed pink against his thigh. Gon couldn’t control himself, fingers clawing at the sheets. Later, he’d barade himself for not touching Killua’s cock like he wanted to, but in the moment, the thought of moving so far felt more and more like running through hot tar.

Now I know what he means by ‘keeping victims occupied’ , Gon would later think. If this were any other situation, Killua had rendered him completely and inexplicably immobile and wanting of everything he was willing to give Gon—his dick included in that brilliant package now lathered with lube.

Killua looked down between them, his slicked finger leaking cool lube between Gon’s fingers. Anything else he could have said sunk into a gasp when Killua pushed inside and stretched him. Killua looked up as Gon stared at him.

“C-Condom,” Gon managed to rasped, grasping at Killua’s wrists as he leant over Gon, his hand beside Gon’s head.

“Don’t need one,” Killua said, his cock rubbing against Gon’s trembling thighs. “You forget that I’m the last person to be carrying or picking up an STD.”

Gon shivered, his nails gripping Killua’s wrist as Killua guided himself to Gon’s hole and pushed in, inch-by-inch. Gon lost every last remaining thread of control when Killua’s cock grazed his prostate. This was what he needed, and for an instant, an ounce of that tension in his gut dissipated. It was intoxicating and everything he was yearning for.

He fell back, trembling, his head thrown back with a moan of blissful contentment. He could have stayed in that position for ages but before he could even admit to that, Killua took him by the hips, blazing a hot trail over every inch of Gon’s skin that he touched with those long, cool fingers. He knew that anal sex was supposed to be painful, at least at the start, but it was all Gon could do to keep from riding Killua’s dick into eternity. He would worry about the ache he knew was seeping into his muscles and his hips as he pushed himself down to Killua’s ballsack and set a fast, rocking pace.

Killua rolled forward in shallow, fast circles, the instant he gathered that the motion was definitely scratching that itch against Gon’s prostate that needed milking. Gon’s fingernails left moon-shaped indents in Killua’s wrist where he held himself over Gon, the other firm and steady on Gon’s hips.

The stimulation sent Gon’s body’s sweltering body into a melty, gooey mess of pure, unadulterated relief . Was sex like this supposed to feel anything like this? Was he supposed to feel so goddamn grateful he existed for the soul purpose of getting fucked by a vampire in his first week of college?

Skin slick with sweat, and the sound of their hips slapping together, Gon felt the tension rearing to snap. He shut his eyes against Killua’s shoulder, pushed up onto his elbow. His dick bobbed between them, rubbing against Killua’s stomach and leaking cum across both of their abdomens. And then, he came with a curse, shouting it into Killua’s shoulder as Killua fucked him through it, abusing his prostate until he came a second later, his breath hot and fucking sexy in Gon’s ear.

Gon let out a gasp of relief. If that was what a vampire bite felt like, Gon had to admit that it felt a helluva lot like the adrenaline rush he got before a meet. Except, instead of the unbeatable urge to win , he had the unbeatable urge to cum .

And now that was done, he felt so goddamn happy he could cry.

“H-Holy shit,” he gasped, weary and borderline tearing-up. He rubbed a hand over his eyes as he flopped back. It felt like he was pissing out of his ass, though, and knew he had to get up to clean up before Killua’s bed was rendered filthy with cum and lube.

A bit too late for that.

Killua flopped off of him, rolling onto his back beside Gon’s useless, exhausted body. Gon slapped a hand onto his own stomach and regretted it. He grimaced and lifted it. “Can I…?” he started.

“Take a shower. I don’t give a shit,” Killua sighed. He slapped a hand onto the end table where his phone rattled. He caught it and checked the time. “You’ve got class in an hour.”

Gon jolted, struck back into motion. “Fuck, you’re right. Thanks for—”

“Don’t fucking thank me. Just—get in the shower,” Killua said, shoving Gon by the arm off of the bed and onto the floor. Gon yelped, staggering to his feet. He managed to catch himself before he could collapse entirely.

Gon hurried to the open bathroom door, his knees weak and thighs still quaking because holy shit , this wasn’t what he expected to do with his early afternoon before field arts class. He shut the door and with cum seeping down his legs, he stepped into the clawfoot tub and started the shower faucet. He adjusted the flow until it was at an appropriate temperature before sinking his hand between his legs to clean himself.

Once thoroughly clean, Gon stepped out of the showered, dried himself, and realized that he was stuck in the bathroom without clothes. He wondered if Killua was still out there, stark naked, on the bed.

Only one way to find out , he thought, and opened the bathroom door.

Unfortunately, Killua was fully clothed, and already throwing a fresh shirt in Gon’s direction. Gon caught it, startled, as Killua said, “Size too big, but should be fine.”

“What… What happened to my—” he started, and was cut off by Killua holding up his white button up. A dark splotch of brown blood was now thoroughly coloring the collar of it. “Oh. That,” he said, slumping. He really didn’t know how to get rid of that much blood.

“Yeah. So how are you feeling?” he asked, tossing the shirt into a hamper. He crossed his arms and watched as Gon stood there in the nude holding a white shirt and nothing else.

“Great. I feel fine,” he said.

“Really?” Killua said, and Gon thought to himself, Better than fine, actually . “I… did take nearly a pint of blood. And you’re… fine.”

“Oh! Um,” Gon slapped a hand to his neck. It was sore, but nothing like the first time. He couldn’t even tell. “Yeah, nothing out of the ordinary. I have to get to class, though, so…”

He went off in search of his pants, which he found half-on the floor along the messy bedsheets. He hiked his underwear up, and followed up with his uniform pants. He tucked the white shirt in after buttoning it up and started for the door, but not without meeting Killua’s eye from where Killua watched him like he was bound to trip and fall any second.

Gon pointed at him and said, “Thank you for… letting me come over.”

“I didn’t let you come over,” Killua deadpanned. “I didn’t even invite you.”

“But thanks anyway! And for the—the magic and the… sex. It was—It was great! Okay, bye! Oh, shit,” Gon ran straight into the kitchen countertop. He staggered, laughing and giddy like an idiot, and backed away to the door. He struggled with the door handle and smiled stupidly when Killua rose an eyebrow at him from the bedroom archway.

Gon spun out of the door and slammed it behind him with a deep inhale. He nearly collapsed against the door, but he had work to do.

Now… time for class .

Chapter Text

Class didn’t go as expected.

When Gon arrived, his shirt was still a mess around the hem and he was of the first to show up. He tried unsuccessfully to tuck it in, but with it tucked in, it caused bunches around his hips where the fabric was too abundant to hide. He pulled half of it out with a sigh as he watched his classmates arrive. He’d just have to come to terms with the fact that he was a walking disaster that day.

That Wednesday had passed so incredibly oddly that it felt as though days rather than hours had gone by since divination class that morning. It was because of this that he didn’t expect any comments on the fact that he had spent divination alone.

“Take it you didn’t walk your master to class,” Shizuku commented as she walked up nearly on the dot to the start of class.

Gon grimaced at the word ‘ master ’. He hadn’t heard that one before. “He’s not—Whatever,” he muttered. He was startled by how sour Shizuku’s comment made him. “He’s not in classes today.”

Why am I making excuses?

“I wonder if something’s wrong. Whenever Machi doesn’t make it to class, I usually skip to find her. It was like that in high school, too,” she said, a finger to her chin.

“How long have most… champions known their partners?” he asked.

“Most headhunting happens in middle school and high school, but we aren’t allowed to equip until university.”

Gon had, technically, been in high school. He wondered if Killua had seen his Olympic Trial disaster. “Oh,” was all he could say, because he couldn’t help but feel annoyed that he had been equipped so late in the game. He wished he had time before Yorknew to prepare for the moment when Coach Biscuit asked for two volunteers.

Shizuku put her hand up. She walked forward, glancing over her shoulder at Gon. A challenge, definitely a challenge. Gon followed after her, only to stop when Coach put a hand out to him.

“This is a manifestation demonstration, Freecss,” she said, and Gon bristled at the snickers behind him.

“I can do this,” he said, stupidly, idiotically, god-fucking-dammit—

Coach Biscuit shrugged and moved ahead to guide Gon and Shizuku to their places. It didn’t take long for Gon to recognize the situation as it unfolded between them with Coach Biscuit as their referee.

Gon faced Shizuku across a great expanse of grass as Coach explained what would happen and how he and Shizuku would go about manifesting their weapons. He saw Shizuku’s soft, ditzy smile from across the field and felt his hands clench at his sides, gripping at the fabric of his slacks. He thought about everything Ikalgo had told him, and what it meant to be a champion. He’d be fighting other champions just like this, and he couldn’t do that without manifesting some kind of weapon worthy of Killua’s magic.

Gon stilled the instant Coach shouted the command to begin.

Shizuku snapped her heels together her hands braced at her sides. She shut her eyes and in an instant, the first trickle of magic Gon had ever seen began to radiate from her hands like frost.

She crossed her hands in front of her and dragged her fingertips along the underside of either arm. The frost consolidated, swirling into a long, crystalline icicle. The sunlight refracted off of it in a myriad of colors glittering along in the Atlantic breeze that swirled and caught in her trimmed, black hair. It took Gon’s breath with it when she snapped her hands out and cut them down, sending the icicle spinning into the air before she caught it at the whicked end and sliced it to the side. Gon heard the whistle of the ice cutting through the breeze just before a half-hearted applause went around their classmates.

Gon was completely beside himself.

I need to do something like that ?! he panicked, catching Shizuku’s eye from across the field. She looked up at him with a small, taunting smile. She knew he couldn’t do it.

Shizuku swung her staff up and mounted it in the grass beside her. A trail of crystalline magic followed the sharp tip of it, smoking like fog on a lake.

“Now, Freecss, give it a try,” Coach Biscuit said, and it echoed in Gon’s empty skull. Try it? He could barely even process what it took to do that. “Your own personal energy is very different from your partner’s. Find that pocket of energy that makes you feel different . Harness it. Listen to what it whispers in your ear, Freecss.”

Different . He took one last look at Shizuku before closing his eyes to the sight of her smug look at even smugger manifested weapon. He wanted something just as cool— no, better . He’d blow her weapon out of the water with whatever the fuck Killua’s magic gave him.

He searched for what made him feel different that day, and landed on one very obvious fact: the afterglow he felt from cumming so hard he saw stars. Just thinking about it had that relief—the sweet subsiding tension—ooze through him and drip to his fingertips.

The seconds passed.

“He’s not gonna do it,” someone whispered in the group, and Gon’s forehead started to itch like mad with frustration. They were instantly shushed, but it was too late for Gon’s anger to fade.

He let out a shuddered breath as the sensation flooded around the frustration he felt about being so behind. The sheer anger from watching Shizuku succeed when everyone knew he didn’t know the first thing about magic. The sunlight that touched down from the open skies turned dark behind his eyelids as he clenched his fists.

Murmurs started through the group.

“Everyone, quiet please,” Coach shouted, clapping her hands just as that spark of anger erupted and silenced everyone.

It spread like oil in his veins set aflame. It erupted in a massive shockwave over his darkened eyelids and he heard it crackle like sparks along his rising hair folicles.

And then, it cracked— exactly like lightning directly overhead. A shriek startled from the group and it had Gon’s eyes opening.

The darkness that shadowed over his eyelids wasn’t imagined. In fact, the entire sky had grown dark and saturated with rainclouds. Not only that, but sheer, sparking light glowed across the grass and on the faces of everyone caught in the whirlwind that surrounded Gon’s raised fists. He felt them lifting, magnetized by a force high above him that came crashing in liquid gold.

He startled at the sensation of it dripping down his arms. It bubbled and popped metal between his knuckles, seeping through his clenched fists and where his fingers left indents in his palms. The weight of it started to sink, and it sent his fists crashing towards the ground in full, solid gold—

“Freecss! Freecss, that’s quite enough—” Coach started.

“I-I don’t know how to stop it!” Gon cried, panic surging. He flung his hands up. They weighed more than any strength training dumbbells he could have tried in the gym and, so, they came crashing back down. The instant he swung his hands down, his peers scattered, screaming.

It coated his arms in a shimmering, liquid gold covering that felt cool to the touch, like the cold shower he took just an hour before class that day. He screamed as it swallowed up his elbows despite how his fists were weighing towards the ground.

He dropped onto his knees, vision spiraling. The relief was long-gone and replaced entirely with pure panic because what the fuck was happening? Sparks pinged off of the metal and fried his hair stick-straight into the air.

And then, just as fast as it all started, it ended.

Black dots swamped his vision. An instant later, he tipped to the side, hyperventilating from the claustrophobia encroaching up his biceps and encasing his shoulders. He was too hyper-focused on the fact that he couldn’t get it off to realize that the gold casing seemed to layer itself in a breathable shell until it crawled up his neck where his breath suddenly caught, horrified, in his throat.

He staggered, tripped, and fell trying to get to his feet. An instant later, his head hit the ground, and he was certain, despite the mere second of blackness that passed, that he fainted.

 


 

Across campus, just outside of his apartment, Killua looked up at the darkening sky and frowned. As far as he was concerned, rain wasn’t in the forecast, and he hadn’t brought an umbrella. But, since it wasn’t like vampires melted when exposed to water, he didn’t bother retrieving one.

Not long after, his phone pinged and an email notification appeared—asking him to see Headmaster Netero. Immediately.

“Fuck,” he sighed, pocketing his hands in his coat. He let out a shuddered breath, clasped onto his bookbag strap, and headed off.

Shortly thereafter, Killua could be found approaching the student center at the forefront of Yorknew where the headmaster’s office was located. He marched up the steps and, at the front desk, was directed down the hall and to a room that certainly wasn’t Headmaster Netero’s office. Instead, he opened the door and stilled sharply at the sight of Gon Freecss lying mostly unconscious on a couch with a cold compress over his eyes, and Professor Biscuit standing, furiously, mere inches from Killua.

“Mister Zoldyck,” she snapped testily.

Killua narrowed his eyes. “Hello to you, too, hag.”

She bristled with a pout that Killua saw right through. “Would you mind explaining to me why your entry-level champion just manifested a full set of armor with atrophied receptors ?”

Killua stared at her before looking back at Gon, who seemed fully unconscious considering he hadn’t moved an inch from Biscuit’s exclamation. A second later, though, Gon groaned and put a hand to the compress, moving as if to sit up.

Killua startled at the sickly smell of Gon’s fried receptors. He could taste it on his tongue like the headcold now thoroughly kicking in. Killua figured plenty of champions started this late in the game, but he had never heard of a champion using that much magic straight out of the gate. Gon’s first use of magic was supposed to be miniscule—like summoning a magelight or creating a proper alchemic potion.

Outside, lightning struck and flashed across the room. It was followed by a clap of thunder that had Killua wincing, fully aware that Biscuit was glaring at him, waiting for him to put the pieces together.

“He’s never used magic before—he couldn’t have changed the weather patterns,” Killua said.

“He can and he did, Zoldyck,” she hissed at him. “We’re assigning him a tutor when his receptors are… receptive again. In the meantime, keep an eye on him and he’ll keep an eye on you. That’s how a partnership works.”

“I don’t need to be around him twenty-four-goddamn-seven,” Killua snapped as Biscuit started for the door. She passed him, gripping at the door handle as she turned a glare onto him. He sneered at her, fangs bared and all. “Don’t act like you can order me around.”

“Friendly advice from someone who knows what’s best ,” she snapped in the least friendly way possible. “He isn’t allowed to attend magic-intensive courses or practice for a week. Make sure this happens or we’ll have problems,” she added before shutting the door with a harsh slam .

Killua turned solemnly back to Gon, shoulders tense with annoyance. Still, he couldn’t deny the fact that he was thoroughly shocked by the news that Gon had manifested armor. While it wasn’t a weapon, armor tended to absorb more magic than anything else in the entire goddamn book—if there was a book for such endeavors. He was sure there was in the Yorknew library, but that was besides the fact.

He just hadn’t expected Gon to use an ounce of the magic he gave, let alone all of it . Something told him that Gon hadn’t used all that much, but he had no proof of it aside from the burnt-hair smell in his nose from Gon’s overworked magic receptors.

He pinched a hand over his nose and sighed as Gon tried sitting up. “Why the fuck did you use so much magic?” Killua asked.

“How much… how much did I use?” Gon asked, voice stuffy in the back of his throat. He sniffed a little, groaning, and Killua could have vomited at the sound if he was even capable of having a gag reflex. The thick sound of mucus made him nauseous. He was glad he wasn’t human.

“A fucking lot, that’s for sure,” Killua huffed. “ God , and they called me like I’m your parent or something. I’m sure as fuck not taking care of you.”

“I don’t need to be taken care of,” Gon groaned, rolling onto his side. He pushed himself up to his elbows with a grunt. The cold compress slid off, and Killua got a perfect look at Gon’s reddened, weary eyes. “I’m fine.”

“You’re down a pint of blood and just shocked your atrophied receptors. You’re not doing great, that’s for sure,” Killua said.

Gon put his feet somewhat steadily on the ground. When he pushed himself up, his vision spun and he staggered. An instant later, his arm came in contact with something cool—Killua’s arm, just before Killua’s hand grasped him by the forearm, the other steadying Gon’s shoulder. Gon stared up at him until the exact momen’t Killua’s nose wrinkled and he turned away with a cough.

“What? What is it?” Gon asked, sniffing his shirt.

“I can smell your receptors. Like fried hair,” he said.

Gon never pictures receptors as a physical thing on his body. He pictured them like the pores on his skin and felt abruptly self-conscious of the way they smelled. Was it like body odor? Did it always smell like this?

“S-Sorry,” Gon murmured, shaking. Was it just him, or was it freezing in that room? He went to reach for his jacket and slipped it on, shuddering as he did. Killua stepped back, arms tense, like he expected Gon to trip again. Gon didn’t blame him for thinking it in the slightest.

He could tell that this was the last place Killua wanted to be. He noted the book bag hooked over one of Killua’s shoulders and said, “Don’t you have class? You shouldn’t be here.”

“They treat me like your guardian—of course I’m supposed to be here,” Killua huffed, glaring at the door. He glanced back at Gon, who frowned at him.

“I don’t need a guardian,” Gon said.

“Fucking good for you, then. I didn’t exactly sign up for it . Watching over you isn’t exactly part of the equipment deal.”

“Good,” Gon huffed, straightening up.

Fine ,” Killua hissed, fangs bared.

They glared each other down before Killua turned and left. It wasn’t until Killua was out of view that Gon realized that he had no intention of fighting with Killua. The throbbing in his head, though, pushed him to the brink of frustration. It was nothing compared to what he felt in the field that day with everyone looking down on him for being an inadequate excuse of a sorcerer.

He grabbed his bag and hurried to the door, but by the time he skidded out into the hall and looked both ways, Killua was gone.

Gon slumped, his head sagging with the weight of mucus clogging his head. He resisted the urge to sniff, knowing that would just make matters worse. He went to the nearest restroom to gather a hefty supply of tissues which he carried in his pocket for the walk back to his dorm, since it seemed he had successfully cut field arts practice short thanks to that mishap with his magic.

He left the student center with his eyes on his hands. He closed his fists and pictured the liquid gold bubbling up and popping like hot tar in a Disney movie. He could still feel the ghost of it shimmering over his skin, but he wondered if that was just residue from his fried receptors. He rubbed the chill from his arms and turned towards his dormitory.

On his way there, he stumbled across the path of a familiar, welcome face smiling in his direction. Gon hesitated, thinking about what Killua had said. Ikalgo is off limits , he thought, as Ikalgo crossed the path with Meleoron at his heels.

“‘Sup lil’ dude,” Meleoron said, putting a hand up. Gon high-fived him in the exact instant both Meleoron and Ikalgo’s noses wrinkled up in disgust.

“Oh, God, what happened?” Ikalgo said, pinching his nose. Gon covered his armpits, though he had no real evidence of where the receptors were. “Smells like you used magic. Too much magic.”

Gon sighed, looking up at the heavy rainclouds. His two friends looked up at the sky and Meleoron was the first to put it together. “That was you? Jesus, I’m surprised you’re still standing.”

“How come the weather has something to do with magic?” Gon asked.

“It’s assumed that it’s a cover for magic usage. Large amounts of magic,” Ikalgo explained. “It also suggests that you’re leaning towards an elemental spectrum. The Lovers card is associated with air.”

“But my magic looked like liquid,” Gon insisted. “What does that mean?”

“I hear a kid exploded liquid pyrite on the fields today,” Meleoron said, and when Gon ducked his head and Ikalgo glared at him, Meleoron hummed, “Oh… That was you. Got it.”

“They’re assigning me a tutor next week when I’m able to use magic again,” Gon explained, hands over his face. “I’ve never felt so inadequate before. This is awful—

“If it makes you feel any better,” Ikalgo said, and Gon peered up over his hands. Ikalgo offered a light smile and said, “Beginners generally take months to exert that much magic. There’s a reason vampires equip in college—it takes several years to have a fully functioning champion. By the time we all graduate, champions are expected to be at their peak.”

“But so many of my classmates have been practicing for years before this,” Gon explained. Ikalgo shrugged, and Meleoron pursed his lips. “I guess you’re right, though. I got a little carried away.”

“Liquid pyrite though, huh?” Ikalgo said, glancing at his friend.

Meleoron shrugged. “Yeah dude. Better than straight-up gold. Shit’s harder to crack.”

“Fool’s gold,” Ikalgo commented.

“Probably because I have a thick skull,” Gon sighed. Meleoron laughed. Gon’s eyes started stinging again from the pulsing in his brain. He closed them, a hand over his forehead. “I should probably get going before I pass out again. I’ll talk to you guys later.”

He walked away, his hand still on his forehead. It felt like his skull was inflating with liquid and before long, it would explode.

From a distance a Zoldyck watched with a skeptical eye as Gon left Ikalgo and Meleoron, and that Zoldyck was Killua’s eldest sibling, Illumi Zoldyck. His long, black hair was plaited back and tied at his hips where a particular and familiar champion had his thumb hooked on Illumi’s belt loop.

Hisoka put a hand on his hip, tipped his head to the side, and determined, “My, those two seem like they’ll be making trouble again.”

“Seems so,” Illumi hummed, arms crossed.

They caught the eye of Ikalgo as he turned. Ikalgo paused, just long enough for Illumi to know that Ikalgo had seen them, definitely, if not long before Illumi and Hisoka had waited to see what became of the champion his dear little brother picked out of the haystack.

Ikalgo gave them the middle finger and kept walking. Hisoka raised a hand in a casual, cheeky wave as Meleoron gave them a dirty look as he followed after Ikalgo, tugging the hood of his jacket up.

“I wish Killua would tell his pet to stay away from that one,” Illumi said.

“Say the word and I’ll tell his pet myself,” Hisoka said.

“Killua requested we don’t interact, so we won’t,” he replied. It was one of a handful of favors Illumi could abide by, if only to keep his favorite little brother on the appropriate side. “We managed to get that idiot away from Killua, but now it’s just a matter of keeping him away from Freecss.”

“Ikalgo is already trying to weasle his way back in, it seems.”

It was precisely how Illumi saw it. “We’ll have to work harder this time. Freecss may not be his suit, but Ikalgo is still a vampire without a champion. Plenty of damning evidence to warrant our interference”

Hisoka hummed, intrigued, and said, “And tell me: What could a vampire without a champion do? Not a damn thing, if you ask me.”

Illumi knew this was true, but he couldn’t help but sour at the thought of Ikalgo doing anything to fog Killua’s impressionable mind again. Just when he had his little brother back, that twat was already playing with Killua’s toy. There was little Ikalgo could do aside from screw with Killua mentally. Physically, however… that required a touch of magic to break a vampire’s bones, but words would surely hurt Killua.

He was the softer branch to the Zoldyck family tree, excusing the one branch that already rotted off.

Thunder rolled in the distance, and a drop of water touched his cheek. He flicked it aside and started towards the lecture hall with Hisoka at his side, his thumb still hooked to Illumi’s belt loop beneath his jacket. Freecss was long gone, but still on Illumi’s mind when he looked at the sky and said, “At least we don’t have to worry about Killua’s champion falling short.”

“I know—it’s almost a shame I won’t be fighting him,” Hisoka sighed, and grinned when he caught Illumi’s eyes. “Unless you’ve changed your mind.”

“After all that work with Ikalgo, you’d throw it away just to battle Freecss?” Ikalgo said, but he really shouldn’t have been surprised.

Illumi was proud to say his champion was of a proper breed and tier. But by the looks of it, that kid Freecss had the makings of a proper champion—one that Hisoka would have fun playing with.

Chapter Text

“Thank you for bringing me your notes,” Gon said—or rather, mumbled through his congestedness.

Canary stepped back from his dorm door with a soft smile and said, “It’s no problem. Zushi’s got the history notes for you. He gets out of class later, though, and spends the afternoon with Alluka. You probably won’t see him until dinner time.”

“Okay, thanks for letting me know.”

She walked off and Gon watched after her as she descended the stairs from the fourth floor down to the third, the second, the first, and wondered if Canary was off to see her vampire counterpart, too. Gon’s shoulders slumped at the thought. Wasn’t he supposed to be watching over Killua right about now? Shouldn’t he be the one walking Killua to and from his classes?

Gon coughed into his elbow, the mucus still wet in his throat and lungs. As repulsive as it was to lie and fester in his own germs, it reminded him of the look of disgust Killua gave him when he assessed the damage on his magic receptors. He wished he could experience whatever it was that Killua could read off of his receptors—perhaps then he would have a better understanding of how to appropriately use his magic.

Gon spent the weekend reading through packets and pamphlets and books from every course on his schedule in hopes of coming up with an appropriate level of knowledge for the following week. He acted as though, come Monday, he’d be back to normal.

By Saturday, he couldn’t stand to sit in his bedroom one more day and could be found across the courtyard entering the library’s wide open archways for a change of scenery. At the front desk, he inquired about the magic resources department, which the librarian directed him to from the stairs. He thanked her and headed down to the basement of the library.

Gon’s muscles still ached for unknown reasons, as if he had just endured the most intense workout of his life the day before. It was entirely because of this that he missed the bottom step entirely and tripped, his hand scrambling for purchase on the stair railing.

His yelp and fall caught the attention of a passing student, who put out both hands in an attempt to stop Gon from smacking face-first into the tiles.

“Are you alright?” the student asked.

Gon’s heart pounded in his ribcage. He cleared his throat and rasped, “I’m fine. Thank you…?”

“Kurapika,” he said as he passed a hand over his short, blonde bun. Small baby hairs framed his pale complexion. Gon stopped short at the sight of his brown eyes sunk deep in sleepless shadows.

Gon nodded, rubbing at his sore throat as the student smiled at him in a way that made him giddy for more attention. He blamed it on the fact that he was thousands of miles away from home.

“Gon. What’re you doing down here, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Not at all. I’ve just been doing research for a paper in elemental histories,” Kurapika confessed, gesturing to his fully-stuffed backpack.

Gon startled at the course title. “I was just going to start on that paper,” he confessed. “Would you want to work together? I mean—not together , together. We’d each be working on our own papers, but—”

Kurapika laughed, and it soothed the stiff tension in Gon’s shoulders. “Sounds fun, but I think I’ll have to pass. I work better alone.”

“That’s okay! I’ll be super quiet, you won’t even know I’m there,” Gon insisted, and after a beat of silence, the wince on Kurapika’s expression faded.

He sighed and gave a short nod. “Yeah, okay. Silent work-time.”

“Silent work-time,” Gon repeated.

As they walked together down the hall to the magic resources department, Gon clasped his hands behind his back and studied his new friend’s uniform. It was crisp, clean-cut, and ticked all of the marks for full Yorknew apparel—he even topped it with a plaid, Yorknew scarf that was looped so that the tassels fell over his shoulders.

Kurapika glanced sideways at him and raised one, slim eyebrow as he asked, “What’re you looking at?”

“Nothing! Nothing at all,” Gon said.

“I take it you’re a sorcerer,” he commented.

“What makes you say that?”

“We’re both in the elemental histories lecture, for one,” Kurapika said, and Gon thought, Oh, duh, right . “And also, we’re in the magical resources department. And for another, you smell like burnt hair.”

Gon groaned, slapping his hands down. “I know . God! Everyone is commenting on it. I know I fucked up!”

“I didn’t know you fucked up. Sorcerers can shock their receptors at any time, it’s just a matter of the magical output ratio compared to your magical exercises,” Kurapika explained. He pointed to himself and said, “Take me, for example. Can you tell I’ve burnt out my receptors?”

Gon blinked, startled. He thought only idiots burnt their receptors (i.e. himself). “Uh, no, I didn’t know that. How did you do it?”

“It happened before I moved onto campus,” he explained.

“How are you… not sick?” Gon asked, squinting. From what he could tell, Kurapika merely looked exhausted .

“Who said I wasn’t sick?” When Gon said nothing, Kurapika sighed and explained, “There’s a trick I discovered a few years ago. I’ll write the receipe for you and you should be feeling better in a night. There’s just some residual effects. You might not sleep as well.”

“Deal! Done. I’m in,” Gon said, punching his fists in the air. He’d do anything to get back on track and stay on track this time. He wouldn’t disappoint Killua again.

The magic resources department began at a set of massive wooden doors that stretched up to the tall, overarching corridor ceiling. Gon pushed on the doors unsuccessfully and tried again to put his back into it, feet skidding against the tiles. “It’s locked ,” Gon groaned, thumping his head against the door.

Kurapika scanned his ID card on the panel beside the door. The door clicked unlocked and the force Gon put into his push sent the door swinging open. He jerked forward with a start, shrieking. Kurapika caught him by the backpack strap before he could soar straight off of the staircase.

The two of them stood at the top of the balcony overlooking a two-story atrium filled with books of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Warm, tungsten light flickered from the chandelier over their heads as Gon marveled at the scene and the finely carved wooden railings of the balcony that circumnavigated the room.

Kurapika started down the steps with Gon staggering after him. He was shocked that this was never on the university tour he took ages ago.

“So…” Gon started, quietly, since they were in a library, after all, “what’s your research paper on?”

Kurapika gave him a dull look at put a finger over his lips. Gon winced and zipped his lips shut as he plopped into a seat across from Kurapika. Kurapika sat down, leant over, and pulled out a book from his bag. He laid it out in front of Gon and said, “I’m studying Jokers.”

“Jokers?”

Kurapika nodded. He opened the book and said, “They’re incredibly uncommon—one in over two hundred sorcerers happen to fall under the Joker category. They have neither a suit nor a status and can manifest any number of suits at a time.”

Gon reeled back to the word ‘status’. “I haven’t heard of statuses. What does that mean?”

“It’s the type of card you fall under. King, Queen, Jack, Aces. But Jokers don’t fall under these statuses. Aces are versatile, sure, but Jokers …”

“I’m confused. Are you saying your… status can let you use different suits?” Gon asked, and Kurapika nodded.

He raised one finger and said, “Jacks are the most abundant. They are restricted to their master’s suit, but Queens are twice as likely to dabble in a second suit. Consider weapons that combine suits—a firearm that doubles as a melee weapons, a hammer that utilizes earth elemental magic. These all fall under Queens.”

“So… Kings are three times as likely to use three variant suits,” Gon said, and Kurapika nodded. “Then what about Aces?”

“Aces are a crapshoot. They can use two suits one day and use one the next. This means their weapons are prone to evolving quickly, which makes them unpredictable. Unstable magic circuits can cause artificial Aces, or a pairing with contradictory suits can cause an Ace. Say, a diamond vampire equipping a club champion. It’s both useful for the unpredictability in combat, but for the same reason, it hinders the champion. The champion goes into battle not knowing what their weapon will be. You see my point?”

“Yeah, I can see that. But what about Jokers?”

“They can control it. Their weapon may not be the same, but they know what it will be every time. They’ve become a staple among the vampire community as the most valuable champions. They can be equipped by any vampire at any given point in time. Breeding them is nearly impossible. A wild card.”

Kurapika opened up a page to a black-and-white portrait printed above a dense column of text. He pointed to it, moved on, and pointed again to a portrait of a champion in full armor on an oil canvas. “They’ve become an icon of victory. Once a Joker is identified, the civil war shifts to claim the Joker.”

Gon nodded, only to reel again at the mention of ‘the war’. He had never heard it classified as a civil war until that moment, nor did he realize the extent of Killua’s need for protection. “I didn’t realize there was a war amongst vampires,” he confessed.

Kurapika lowered his hands over the book, head tipped to the side. “You must be new to this—Gon, right?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I am,” he said.

“There are several crucial things you need to understand about vampires,” Kurapika said, rubbing a hand beneath his eyes. He flipped the pages of the textbook to the beginning where it pulled up an MRI scan of someone’s profile. Kurapika pointed to the head, or rather, the brain. “A vampire’s body doesn’t age.”

“That’s why they always look so young,” Gon said, and Kurapika nodded.

“Correct. Vampires stop aging shortly after puberty. Everything ceases. Their muscle mass levels, their height, everything . It’s why as teenagers, vampires spend their adolescence building up their strength since it will be the physique they’ll have for the rest of their lives. Except for something very important.”

He tapped the brain scan again.

“If everything ceases, then technically, vampires would be unable to learn. They’d be unable to store memories—they’d only be able to retrieve old memories. Anyone new they would meet—nothing. A form of Alzheimers, if you will, but at our age.”

“This happens to all vampires?” Gon thought, horrified. He couldn’t imagine having an undying body but being unable to experience the world.

“No, because the brain is the only part of a vampire that continues to decompose—if that’s what we’re calling aging,” Kurapika explained. “ However , elite vampire families inherited enchanted ore that slows the aging process of the brain. They can potentially live hundreds of years without losing their minds the way an average vampire would. The civil war is over the ore that keep a vampire’s mind intact.”

Gon stared, fascinated, at the MRI scan of a vampire’s mind. He reached forward to sift through a portfolio of scans following a catalogue of vampires from eighty to one-hundred-fifty. He shuddered at the final one.

Kurapika cleared his throat before whispering, “What is the purpose of being a vampire if you start to lose your mind by the age of one-hundred-ten, if that?”

“Does… your vampire have one of them? The enchanted ore?” Gon asked, eyes wide.

Kurapika licked his bottom lip and shook his head. “No, he doesn’t. He obtained one not long ago, but gave it to a member of his family.”

Gon nodded, solemnly. He thought about Killua and wondered if any of the Zoldycks had enchanted ore. If they did, how would Gon know? He pictured them as vibrant, red crystals. Red like fresh blood and iridescent in the sunlight.

“You’re… you’re a Zoldyck champion, aren’t you?” Kurapika commented. Gon nodded. He tapped his nose and said, “Zoldycks are known to wear their ore out in the open, close to the brain. Most elite vampires have their ore implanted in their skulls, but the Zoldycks believe that if they cannot defend it externally, they aren’t worthy to have it at all. But that’s just what I’ve heard.”

Gon put his hand over his own nose, like he was trying to cover up the septum piercing he didn’t have.

He couldn’t stop thinking of Killua’s septum piercing. Was that the ore that protected Killua’s mind from deteriorating?

Realizing this brought an odd sense of relief to Gon. They had the ore, but now what? Now Gon just needed to… protect it! Right, that’s it. He just needed to make sure Killua never took off or lost his septum piercing.

Easy.

Right?

It didn’t take long for Gon’s attention to scramble all around Killua’s septum piercing as he wandered around the magical resources department in search of a research topic. When he came back to the table, he threw down his books and threw his head back and groaned. He slumped down as Kurapika stared at him.

He slammed his head on top of the books and groaned, “I wish he wouldn’t wear it out in the open like that!”

He hadn’t meant to shout it, but he had, and it got them a lot of dirty looks from nearby tables and the librarian on duty. The librarian glared at them, and that was enough warning for Gon.

Gon pursed his lips, pouted, and glared at the table. “Why would he wear it out in the open? That’s so dangerous,” he whispered, frantic.

“It’s a dominance thing,” Kurapika said with a half-shrug. He calmly flipped a page in his textbook and said, “Showing it off, telling every vampire he sees that he’s better than them because he has the ore and they don’t. Simple.”

He didn’t like it, not one bit, and he had a new goal: Convince Killua not to be so incredibly forthcoming with the single most valuable item on his person. It was like walking around with a hundred dollar bill sticking out of his breast pocket in a school full of pickpockets. If he was going to protect Killua and his brain, he was going to do so to his fullest extent by any means necessary.

This was his duty now , logic be damned.

 


 

Kurapika felt the weight of meeting Gon Freecss— thee Gon Freecss—like a rock in his throat that he couldn’t swallow. That afternoon when the two of them left the library atrium, they went their separate waves, waving and smiling for the sake of Gon’s ignorance in this entire mess. A mess that Kurapika tried to avoid.

He swallowed hard, letting his hand sway to his side as Gon turned the corner and vanished from sight.

“Making friends with your victims?”

Shit .

Tension sprung to Kurapika’s shoulders. Jaw clenched tight, he turned, and from the shadows of the courtyard tunnel, his ‘ master ’ stepped away from the brick wall. Kurapika willed every fiber of his being to calm the fuck down , but he couldn’t, not when his master had made it abundantly clear that every Zoldyck was on their hitlist.

“He’s weak,” Kurapika determined, looking away. He clenched his arms around his textbook the instant he felt the man encroaching on his space. “I can subdue him without bloodshed.”

A beat of silence passed. He gathered enough from the first fight—the one that scored them the first Zoldyck piercing. It was all wishful thinking. If someone was bound to die, it wasn’t Freecss. A Zoldyck wouldn’t go down without a fight, with or without a champion.

It was idiotic of Killua to not only equip, but go back on his word , Kurapika thought as his master’s fingers skimmed beneath his chin.

He swallowed hard, throat tight, and turned to meet his dark eyes studying the discomfort leaking through every fiber of Kurapika’s being.

“You felt the magic as well as I did,” he said, reminding Kurapika of the story they all connected to that afternoon several days before. When Kurapika felt Freecss’ magic like lightning through his veins in the middle of lecture. Machi’s champion had seen it in person— prompted it, even. “He is far from weak. Considering where I found you, I’m surprised you’re underestimating a child.”

“He isn’t a child,” Kurapika said, pushing the hand away from his face. “And I’m surprised you’re getting intimidated by a newly equipped champion without a lick of training, Chrollo .”

“Far from intimidated.” Kurapika could hear the smile in Chrollo’s voice as his footsteps followed Kurapika to the courtyard, across the brick path, and in the direction of north campus. Chrollo strolled up alongside Kurapika, hands pocketed in his peacoat as he shrugged and looked calmly away. “I’m more… intrigued . That you gave away your Queen.”

Kurapika hissed at the mention of it. “He doesn’t know. He’ll hear about my weapon one way or another, anyway.”

“You grow too fond of your opponents.”

Kurapika felt his fury like acid in his chest. “Quite the opposite. Have you seen the way I interact with your ‘ family ’.”

He knew it would get a rise out of Chrollo, but he couldn’t help it. He narrowly flinched at the touch of Chrollo’s hand at his upper back, his fingers slipping up to the back of his neck. Kurapika grimaced as Chrollo pulled him to a halt, looking him dead in the eyes so he could make his point abundantly clear—and not for the first time.

“You are not to challenge them. Understood?” he said, voice chillingly calm.

Kurapika’s eye twitched. He pictured the scene of Chrollo taking the piercing from Kurapika’s bloodied hand, still dripping hot and wet over his clothes. He pictured Chrollo taking it and placing it in the hands of Machi—all of Kurapika’s bloody, fucked-up work being handed over. Chrollo could have taken it for himself. Kurapika never would have had to fight again, unless Chrollo’s status was challenged, that is.

But he gave it away.

He thought about slitting Machi’s throat in the middle of the night and prying the goddamn enchanted bullshit from her spine. He’d incinerate her skull, just for good measure.

“Understood,” he seethed.

They walked on without conflict, but with the same level of tension they always seemed to carry. Kurapika couldn’t believe the level of suspicion Chrollo held against him—approximately Level -10. He hadn’t asked any questions ever since equipping Kurapika, and whether that was for the best was to be determined. He continued not to ask questions when Kurapika’s magic progressed exponentially, almost as if Kurapika had years of practice prior to their meeting.

But it was an amount of magic Kurapika had never experienced before and would likely never experience again. He was used to the small dabblings he made on his own, without a full-fledged vampire to hinge his worth on.

Kurapika was just a half breed. A form of self-sabotage , vampires called it. Vampires weilding magic was a recipe for disaster and led to even shorter lifespans because of it. People like Kurapika became horror stories vampires told their children to scare them away from ever interacting with humans. Humans were lesser than them. Human and vampire blood wasn’t meant to mix.

Kurapika glanced at Chrollo, whose attention was off down the road, his hands in his pockets.

So yes, Chrollo never asked questions when it came to Kurapika’s proficiency in magic, or even Kurapika’s Queen status.

At the apartments, Chrollo paused, several steps ahead of Kurapika. Kurapika stilled at the shudder that rolled down his spine upon approaching the entrance. He waited until it passed, but it lingered, fading ever so slightly, over the two of them. He lowered his book to his side, gripping it tightly.

He watched as Chrollo scanned the side of the building, down either walk way, and back to Kurapika. He put his keys back and turned away, stepping back from the building. “We’re going to the others. Something isn’t right.”

Kurapika couldn’t argue with that. Something did feel off, he just wasn’t sure what . If anyone was planning to attack that night, it could go one of two ways: Revenge against Chrollo, or an attack on Machi to retrieve the ore.

The latter was more likely.

Chapter Text

Gon woke up the following day to an email notification. He rolled over in bed, groaning and squinting at the bright screen of his phone. The blinds were drawn over his window, and he could see the sunlight underneath his dorm door and around the curtains. Class was in an hour, but upon opening the email, class simply… wasn’t happening that day.

Classes were cancelled due to a body found just off of campus. Gon sat up in bed, startled, and read over the report that was sent out to students. The details of the death weren’t released, of course, but the only information given mentioned that it all involved a student. A Yorknew student.

The dorm dining hall was solemn that day. Gon felt the silence resonate in his chest with every metal fork clanking against plates and bowls. He sat across from Zushi and Canary, who were already halfway done with their meals by the time Gon ever got to the dining hall. He put his tray down, hesitantly, and paused when both Zushi and Canary looked up at him. When neither of them turned him away, he sat down.

Canary left shortly after without saying a word. Gon picked absently at his food until Zushi said, hushed, “A champion killed a vampire last night.”

Gon stared up at him. Zushi twisted his fork around in his hand, eyes dipping to Gon’s untouched food. “The vampire wasn’t… a part of the war. They had a champion, but they didn’t have what everyone is looking for.”

“The ore,” Gon said, and Zushi met his eyes. “I know. A friend told me.”

“A friend,” Zushi bit out through clenched teeth. He looked away, at the cafeteria, and leant even closer to say, “ No one is a friend. I mean, Alluka and Killua are close but that could change! If one of them loses their piercings—”

“They’re siblings,” Gon said, as if that changed anything.

Zushi stared at him for a moment before scoffing and shaking his head. He went back to his food and said, “That doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that the body isn’t a Zoldyck.”

I feel like there’s more I need to know , Gon thought, watching Zushi shovel the remainder of his food into his mouth.

“I’ll be spending the day with Alluka—you should find Killua, if you can,” Zushi suggested, and that was that. Whoever was responsible for the killing was at large, so to speak, and Gon was petrified .

And, so, Gon’s first task after leaving the cafeteria was to drink tea from plants harvested from the magic resources greenhouse, and head over to Killua’s apartment. He drank from a travel mug as he walked, mostly because it distracted him from the bitter taste and the sharp note of peppermint on his tongue. It was earthy and pungent and he hoped his breath didn’t reek of it.

He checked his breath at the apartment building door. He breathed into his hand and sniffed it as a group of people left the building. It didn’t smell awful , by any means. Just a bit stale from breakfast, he presumed, so he reached for the closing door and caught it before it could shut.

He wandered up the steps, humming to himself, and cradling the travel mug against his chest where it warmed him through the fabric of his Yorknew sweater. In the midst of humming, he rounded the railing and looked up at the sight of Killua standing outside of his apartment door, key in hand, staring directly at Gon.

Gon’s eyes went straight to Killua’s septum piercing.

“The fuck?” Killua said, lowering his keys to his side. He pocketed his hand and turned, sharp eyes narrowing on Gon. “Who keeps letting you into the building? Seriously .”

“I just sorta slip in,” Gon said, sliding up the last few steps to Killua’s floor. He smiled at the way Killua rolled his eyes. Expressive, if not as bitter as Killua’s attitude. “I wanted to make sure you were okay—”

“I’m—I’m fine, fuck,” Killua hissed, jerking his hands down where they were fisted in the pockets of his jacket. Gon clamped his mouth shut.

A moment later, Killua’s shoulders relaxed and he sighed, brow furrowed. He looked down at his feet and back up again, gesturing to his door. “I was just—Doesn’t matter. Get inside.”

“Weren’t you just leaving? I can come with you, if you want,” Gon said, pointing to the stairs.

Killua shoved his apartment door open and said, “Get inside, you piece of shit. It doesn't matter.”

Gon startled forward. He hurried over the threshold as Killua waited, peering down at his phone. Killua typed away until they were both in the kitchen and the door was shut and locked behind them. Only then did Killua look up and seem to fully comprehend the fact that Gon was in his apartment once again.

Gon clasped his hands behind his back and looked away and around the apartment. The logical conclusion was Killua’s bed, where Gon had… spent his last visit.

“Your receptors don’t smell as putrid,” Killua commented.

“Thanks. A friend offered a remedy,” Gon said, raising his mug.

“A ‘ friend ’,” Killua repeated.

“A classmate.”

“You can’t trust your classmates. Sorcery school basics here, dude,” Killua said, and Gon frowned. He clasped both hands to his mug like Killua would take it from him, but Killua kept his distance. Killua put his eyes to the ceiling and sighed before glaring at Gon. “Right. Human mentality is to… make friends. Got it. Think of it this way: The more friends you make, the more people to mourn.”

“That’s a cynical way to look at life,” Gon said, nose wrinkled up. “And I’ve already made up my mind.”

“Then at least make friends with humans. Don’t talk to the other champions—I’m serious.”

“So am I!” he cried, throwing his arms out. “And I don’t need you to tell me who I can and can’t be friends with.”

Killua laughed and Gon thought he might throw up. No one had told him his friends weren’t good enough—not even Aunt Mito when he got into that weird, punk rock phase in middle school. It churned up that anger from several days prior until it boiled over and Gon reached out to shove Killua away from him.

His hands jerked to a halt an inch away from Killua’s shoulders. It was like he ran hands-first into a cement wall, and it struck ever joint in his arms. The jolt startled him, startled Killua, and Gon dropped his hands immediately, staring at them in shock. He was too bewildered to try again.

“What were you—?” Killua started, and it reminded Gon that right , he was mad .

“I don’t want to talk to you,” Gon said, unintentionally cold, and started for the door. He was staring at his hands as he went, wondering what the hell happened and why he couldn’t just shove Killua like he wanted. The more he thought about it, the less he wanted to actually shove Killua.

Just as he grabbed the doorhandle, Killua put an arm out, shoving the door into place and barring Gon from ever opening it.

“You can’t hurt me,” Killua said to Gon’s downcast face, “even if you tried, you couldn’t get a knife less than a centimeter away from my skin.”

“I don’t want to kill you. That wasn’t what I was going to do,” Gon hissed, horrified that Killua would even suggest it. “I don’t want to kill anyone.”

“You’ll have to.” Gon looked up at him. Killua blue eyes turned silver in the dark, and the shadows cast by the curtains over the windows.

“No, I don’t,” Gon said through gritted teeth. God , he just wanted to run. His feet itched to do it, to take him miles around campus and his thoughts until they were all thoroughly scattered to the wind. He clenched his fists and leant in, seething, “And you can’t make me .”

Killua scoffed. “What are we, five?”

Gon shut his mouth before he could say something stupid.

“Listen,” Killua said, sighing, “let’s make a deal, and we’ll see who’s philosophy holds up. Try to end a champion fight without killing them.”

Gon nodded. He clasped onto Killua’s hand and gave it a shake. “Okay. Deal.”

Killua lowered his hand from the door, and Gon didn’t reach for it again. Instead, he took another sip of his tea as Killua shed his jacket and tossed it onto a stool at the kitchen countertop. Gon lingered at the counter, studying the books that were lying open there. Killua started closing them until Gon took one and pointed to the open page.

“What’s this? A pentagram?” Gon asked, setting his mug aside. He flipped through the pages and gasped. “Are you summoning demons?!”

“Fuck no. They’re runes,” Killua said, taking the textbook. “I may not be able to use magic, but it’s still useful to know.”

“Runes—Like from architectural geometry class?” Gon asked.

Killua lowered the textbook with a frown and said, “You really think it’s an architecture class,d on’t you.”

“Yeah, that’s what it says on my sch—Oh, okay, I see your point,” Gon sighed, pouting. “This is so confusing. First biology is divination and now architectural geometry is runes. How am I supposed to keep track of these things?”

He took the textbook from Killua and went to perched himself against the armrest of Killua’s couch. He leant into it, the textbook open. He had the same one for his lecture and wondered if they were in the same class. The lecture hall was massive—it was easy to miss people in there.

“So it’s… magic ,” Gon concluded, looking up at Killua. Every class he had that was different on paper meant as much.

Killua sat across from him in an armchair, his feet pulled up onto the cushion. “Yes, it’s magic. They’re used to perform spells. Like what you might picture wizards performing with wands.”

“Oh. So I can use runes?” Gon asked.

“You can, when your receptors recover,” Killua said, opening a notebook to a fresh page. He started writing in it as Gon sifted through the runes on the textbook. Their lecture didn’t involve use of runes. They only ever covered the structure of them. What they meant rather than how to use them. Considering vampires were in the class, using runes was unfair. Only sorcerers would be able to perform those spells.

Gon found a simple spell in the index of beginners runes. He studied the application instructions and for starters, it recommended writing them down. He didn’t have a pen or paper, so he skipped that and read the instructions for intermediate sorcerers.

He crawled off of the couch and knelt in front of Killua’s coffee table. There, he put the textbook on his lap, open to the rune diagram, and started tracing his finger over the wood tabletop. He traced the rune once over and when nothing happened, he tried it again with a tense frown on his lips, brow furrowed.

Killua lowered his notebook and said, “Gon.”

“Hm?” Gon hummed.

“What are you doing.”

“I’m… making light,” Gon said.

He pressed his finger to the wood like he was pushing a button. A dollop of sunlight touched it, and he looked up at the closed window. It looked like a reflection from a mirror or something , but when he looked at Killua, Killua straightened in his seat.

“Follow through,” Killua said, and Gon dragged his finger down across the diameter of the nonexistent circle. The trail of sunlight followed it, illuminating the tabletop as he went.

He cut diagonally up, crossed through the diameter, and mimicked the triangle in the opposite hemisphere. Only then did he lift his finger to begin the second stroke, the third, and at last, the final ring that enveloped the circumference and drew the rune to a close.

The space between the lines filled in with glittering, golden sunlight. Gon nearly retracted his hand until Killua came forward, holding his wrist still over the rune. “Hold it—and pull the magic up, like strings on a puppet,” Killua said.

Gon did as he said. He relaxed his fingers and lulled them up. The glittering light bubbled and popped into delicate, fluffy dots that floated up from the table. It filled the room in a warm, golden glow in a matter of minutes as the bubbles drifted into the air over their heads.

It was the first display of actual , controlled magic that Gon had witnessed so close up—Shizuku’s demonstration be damned. He could see the particles as they shed from the bubbles and dissipated in small, shimmering flakes. He stared up at them in awe, a smile on his lips as he closed his eyes to the touch of one falling on his cheek like snow. He peeked open one eye to see Killua staring at the rune where more light continued to pop, bubble-by-bubble, from the tabletop.

Gon brought his hand over the rune again and dragged it up, this time faster, and with more momentum. The light purged upwards into a fountain that streamed golden snowflakes into the air and across the apartment. They bounced off of the ceiling overhead.

Gon laughed and did it again, rising to his feet. He shoved both hands into the air and it channeled a dense column of golden light up from the rune.

Killua tossed a textbook over the rune and it cut off the column of light short. The remaining bubbles bounced across the room.

“And how, exactly, are you planning on getting rid of these?” Killua asked, gesturing to the state of the apartment.

Gon put a finger to his lips. “I didn’t think that far ahead,” he confessed with a slight smile.

Killua sighed—he seemed to do that a lot around Gon. Gon grimaced as Killua went over to the window and pulled the blinds aside with every intent of opening the window and releasing the magic fluff balls to the wind.

“Wait!” Gon said, startling Killua when he closed his fist around the fabric. “Don’t you, like, burn up in the sunlight?”

“No,” Killua said, nose wrinkled up, like it was the oddest question he ever received.

He yanked the curtains aside and pushed the windowpane wide open. The two windows swung open like double-doors, and Killua started fanning the golden fluffs out with a blanket. They continued to float into the air like balloons as Gon leant out, ignoring the buffet of wind created from Killua’s blanket.

They spent the rest of the day poring over runes to build up the portfolio of rune creation that all of Gon’s classmates already had. As they went, Gon flipped through pages and used a paper from Killua’s notebook to sketch out runes as he said, “I feel like I need to take prerequisite courses before even attempting university level sorcery courses.”

Killua shook his head. “Waste of time. Aren’t you getting a tutor?”

Gon sighed and put his chin to the book as he muttered, “Yeah, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m completely new to this.”

He put his fingertip to the table and drew lines across the surface, looping them together, and curving them into the shape of celtic embroidery. They would be covering regional rune spells later on in the course, and each region of the world had their own basic structures that Gon could mimic and pull from the tabletop in bright, golden threads.

He caught the threads as they spilled forth towards his fingers. They felt warm , almost slippery , and it gave him the distinct impression of those heated seats in cars that made it feel like he wet himself. He laughed so hard at the thought that the threads cut off prematurely, and he was left with dangling, golden noodles.

He grabbed the golden threads by both sides and snapped them out, twisted them, and slapped them onto the table like freshly cut fettuccini made out of gold. Killua looked at it and then up at Gon, who said, “In class I learned that the physical qualities of magic is my own. So if you used your magic, it’d look different?”

“It might be a different color,” Killua said, slowly, his eyes lingering on the noodles. He pointed to them and said, “What the fuck is that doing on my table?”

Gon crouched back down and read off of the page, “Says that this spell is used by seamstresses. We can test the strength of it and it’ll show us how saturated my magic is right now.”

“Can’t imagine it’s too ‘saturated’ considering you used it all in field arts,” Killua commented as Gon ran off to find a knife in the kitchen drawer. He sifted through the drawers as Killua pretended he wasn’t interested, but based on the way his eyes kept drifting over to Gon and the magic threads, Gon figured Killua was more than okay that Gon had raided his knife drawer.

Gon came back and took the threads in one hand, looped them, and wedged the knife through the loop. He sliced upwards, only for the blade to hit a wall—or rather, the threads.

He looked over at Killua, who stared at the threads from over the sheaf of papers in his hand. Killua’s sharp blue eyes met Gon’s, so Gon tried to saw his way through the threads with the knife. When that didn’t work, he switched blades.

The book described weakened or less-saturated magic as easy to cut through—not like this. Not like Gon yanking at it with a butcher’s knife and then going for a cutting board to chop through it.

He shoved the blade down so hard, the metal creaked. He lifted the knife and found small, worn nicks in the edge where the threads resisted it.

“Does this mean I haven’t used up all the magic?” Gon asked as Killua got to his feet. He stepped over to the counter where Gon had the threads on a cutting board, the chipped butcher’s knife in hand.

“No, definitely not,” Killua said, taking the knife. He slid it off to the side and took the threads in both hands. He parsed through them and separated one thread from the bunch. He put it to his mouth, bit into it, and yanked the threads down. They split instantly into two, fine threads rather than one. “You know how some cars have more miles to the gallon?”

Gon was still staring at Killua’s teeth . “Y-Yeah, I know.”

“I’d say that’s an accurate allusion to how you use up magic,” he explained. “The expenditure from field arts was more than your receptors ever experienced, though. That explains the shock and fatigue.”

“So I could use more magic than I did in field arts?” Gon asked, amazed. When Killua nodded, he thrust his fists into the air and screamed, “ AWESOME! ” because he was already imagining everything he could do with that. He pictured the armor everyone kept talking about, enshrouded in gold. He wanted to look like a knight in shining armor, or some shit like that. Like a Greek demigod with Hephaestian armor.

He was so thrilled that he immediately wracked through his brain back to when liquid pyrite bubbled from his fingertips. How did it go again? Oh, right, he felt different because he had never had sex like that in all of his eighteen years of existence. He could barely remember the sensation, though, that came after sex with Killua. He scrambled for it, the sweet, sweet release and the relief of having it clawed out of his system where the raw, sexual tension had strung each of his muscles into tight knots.

And then, it started clawing up from his fingertips.

He opened his eyes to the sight of that golden sunlight glowing through his fingernails. It pulsed and stretched across his skin. The light, feathery touch of the liquid gold started to climb. He watched it bubble up from the underside of his arms and seep over his skin, rippling into a raw, liquid form across his arms—smooth and tight like a glove, but still just a hair’s breath away from his flesh.

It spilled up to his elbows and stopped in a sharp flare that curled up along his bicep. The metal rippled, and Gon felt it like the shiver coursing up his spine and sending goosebumps along his skin. It all cracked into place, splintering, and forming a neat chevron edge up his forearms. It bolted itself into place in armored plating over the back of his hand, and locked around the joints of his fingers to give him full range of motion.

And then, as it solidified, it weighed just as much as it had on the field, however contained in his palms. His arms dropped on their own like noodles until he steeled himself against the weight of solid, magical metal hardening into plated armor.

He pulled his fists up so the weight became manageable, carried in his shoulders and centered at his hips. When he clenched his fingers, the metal glided together and every touch sent a shimmery cloud of sparking, electrifying magic over the surface. It reflected nothing of the real world and seemed to exist on its own plane where there was nothing but sky and sunlight. Because of this, he couldn’t see Killua’s reflection staring at it until Gon looked up at Killua’s dazzled expression.

“Gauntlets,” Killua said, softly. He reached towards them, pulling Gon’s hands close and studying the magic. He ran his fingers along the sharper edges that marked each knuckle on Gon’s hands, and the clawed ends that reminded Gon of a lion. He felt positively fierce in them. “I don’t… I don’t think you were making armor at all. This might be your weapon. It makes sense, but gauntlets aren’t exactly my suit. They’re more of a club than a heart.”

Gon shivered again, this time because he could feel Killua’s fingers through the gauntlets, amplified like a voice echoing in a cave. He felt it resonate up his arm as Killua grazed his fingers over each plated cut in the metal and it sang like dampened fingers on the rim of a wine glass. The ringing was melodic and hollow, but Gon felt it filling up his brain and stuffing it full of fluff.

He’s so pretty , Gon thought, staring unabashedly at Killua’s attentive eyes as he inspected the gauntlets.

He thought about Killua’s lips on his neck, his teeth piercing into the delicate skin of his neck. Gon swallowed hard as he felt the weight of the gauntlets double. A crystalline shine trickled over the surface, building up on the layer beneath it.

Killua picked up another thread. With it, he hooked it along one of the metal plates of the gauntlet and tugged it until it frayed and severed. It dissolved into dust that faded in the air.

Gon licked his lips as he saw the faint touch of Killua’s canine against his lip. It was less pronounced that the last time Killua bit him and stained his neck pink with blood. Gon was sane, though, he wouldn’t ask Killua to do it again considering all that happened afterwards. What if something happened and Gon overworked himself again? Someone—a vampire— had just died off of campus, and Gon was supposed to protect Killua. He couldn’t do that if he was overcharged with magic.

But Killua doesn’t need to bite me , Gon thought, but it was too late. His brain had already linked everything he wanted Killua to do to him with the act of obtaining magic. He wanted Killua to fuck him against the kitchen counter, but something told him Killua would be less inclined to agree to the absurd image. Killua seemed like he was more inclined to make the excuse of fucking Gon in exchange for magic.

Gon swallowed hard and lowered his hands from where he was oh-so tempted to grab Killua by the face and kiss him.

He looked down and cleared his throat. “I, um, don’t know how to get them off,” Gon confessed, staring down at the gauntlets.

“Shit,” Killua sighed. “Me neither.”

Gon groaned and turned away. It seemed he had more important matters to think about than sex with Killua.