It’s nice, being back on Whale Island.
A lot has changed since Killua was here the first time, five years ago. He and Gon have grown and shifted, apart and then back together again. They’ve suffered and mourned, healed and reconciled. But although they’re not the same people who first visited the island, not by far, being back in Gon’s hometown is still so wonderfully familiar. Visiting Kon in the forest, eating Mito’s seemingly endless stacks of pancakes for breakfast, diving into the ocean and racing to swim to shore. It feels far more like coming home than visiting the Zoldyck estate ever has.
Some things are different, of course. The two of them can no longer comfortably share Gon’s twin bed, so Killua sleeps on a futon on the floor. And they no longer take their baths together. No, Killua is alone in the bathroom, relaxing in the hot water, scrubbing the grime and dirt from his skin and hair. Taking a bath with Gon would be too big of a risk--even largely concealed by bubbles, Killua can’t imagine he could see that much of Gon’s skin without doing something rash. Like try to trace down the bones of his spine, a vertebra at a time, or press a kiss to Gon’s shoulder, or take Gon’s hand and rest it over Killua’s frantically beating heart. No, that would be playing with fire, that would burn the whole damn thing to the ground. So despite Gon’s cajoling that they really could share the bathtub, and they’ve done it before, haven’t they, Killua had insisted that Gon go first and that Killua had no qualms about waiting until he was done.
Killua splashes some of the water from the bathtub onto his face, attempting to clear his mind. He doesn’t need to let himself think like this, not when he and Gon are going to have to share a bedroom tonight, not when Killua will listen to him breathe, slow and even, beside him in the dark. He doesn’t need to allow himself to indulge in these ridiculous fantasies of things that will never be, not if he wants to have even half a chance of keeping his impulses in check.
Killua pulls up the plug to drain the bath, standing and wrapping a towel around himself. He dries himself, and then gathers his pajamas that he had rested beside the sink. He slips on the sweatpants, perfectly soft and dry after the bath, and squeezes the last of the water from his hair, only to realize he left his t-shirt in Gon’s room.
With a sigh, Killua hangs up the towel and heads back down the hall to Gon’s bedroom. He doesn’t mind spending a few moments rummaging around in his suitcase in only his sweatpants; it’s not like Gon makes that sort of thing uncomfortable. No, when they go swimming or get dressed in the morning, Gon hardly gives him a second glance. Killua can’t help but wish Gon’s eyes would linger on him just a bit longer, that he’d look Killua over with a hungry, half-desperate expression, that he’d feel for Killua even a fraction of what Killua feels for him.
But it’s no use dwelling on things that will never be, Killua tells himself, as he heads into Gon’s room. No use mourning the way Gon looks up at him from his bed, with a bright, friendly smile and not a hint of longing. No use wishing he felt the force of Gon’s gaze scorching down his spine as he kneels in front of his suitcase and rummages for his pajama shirt.
“Killua, wait,” Gon says, pulling Killua from his rumination.
“Wait?” Killua replies.
“Yeah, don’t get dressed right away. Come here.”
Killua furrows his brow.
“Why?” he asks, but he joins Gon on the bed nonetheless. He’s never been good at refusing Gon anything.
“I hadn’t really seen them before,” Gon murmurs.
Immediately, Killua grows hot with shame. He knows how unsightly he is, so much of his body covered in silvery-pink scars, some thin as a sharpened blade, some thick and knotted and raised, but all of them criss-crossing in endless patterns across nearly every inch of his visible skin. He’d appreciated that up until now, Gon had been polite enough not to mention it, but it was bound to come up eventually. Something as glaring and obvious as his marred skin couldn’t go unspoken forever.
“So?” Killua asks, folding his arms in front of his chest.
“So what if you’ve never seen them before?” Killua’s voice is defensive and annoyed even to his own ears.
Gon sighs, the sound strangely mournful.
“You were hurt. A lot.”
He says it so simply, and Killua doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to it, Gon’s tendency to speak whatever is on his mind, with no pretense or preamble. It always feels so strangely disarming, as if Gon could see right down to Killua’s core and wouldn’t hesitate to tell Killua what he finds there.
“So?” Killua says again, voice growing edgier by the moment.
“So I don’t like you being hurt. It’s not right.”
Killua shrugs, but he finds he can’t get his shoulders to relax all the way back down again.
“It’s not a matter of right or wrong. It just happened. It’s just a fact.”
Gon shakes his head.
“Not when it’s you. It’s not just a fact then.”
The whole conversation is making Killua’s stomach tighten into a sick knot. Gon so rarely talks like this, so rarely brings up Killua’s childhood. Killua had thought they’d tacitly agreed that his past would go unspoken between the two of them. He’d thought Gon knew what Killua does--that Killua had suffered something monstrous, and that the longer he dwells on it, the closer he comes to developing an equal and opposite reaction. To becoming himself a monster.
“Can I put a shirt on now?” Killua asks. “It’s cold.”
It’s not, actually. The room is warm in the humid summer heat, and this conversation is making Killua feel even hotter, but Gon doesn’t need to know that.
“Wait. Can I?”
Gon holds his hand out and the question is clear. Killua wants to say no. He wants to snap that he doesn’t need Gon fussing over him, grazing his hands over old wounds and soothing away the memory of the hurt. But Killua knows himself, and he knows he’ll never refuse Gon touching him. Killua is touched so rarely, and the craving for it sometimes washes over him as powerfully as hunger. He hates how desperate he is for the warmth of Gon’s skin against his own, hates how Gon will pull him into a brief embrace and Killua will be unable to think of anything else for a week. It’s childish and pathetic, this yearning and desperation, and yet he’s powerless to fight against it.
“Fine,” Killua says, his voice hardly above a whisper.
Slowly, so slowly, Gon reaches out his hand towards Killua. Somehow, Killua can feel the warmth and softness of his skin before Gon even touches him, and as Gon draws nearer, it only becomes more potent. The tenderness, the gentleness, the bliss--they grow and grow as Gon reaches out towards Killua, until at last his hand meets the skin of Killua’s shoulder and Killua can’t help but gasp and the impossible intensity of his touch. Killua swears he can feel the every ridge of Gon’s fingerprints, can feel the beating of Gon’s heart through his hand.
And gently, so gently Killua almost can’t stand it, Gon strokes down a thick scar that wraps around the upper part of Killua’s arm, from the back to the front. Killua swallows, his heart thundering in his chest.
“Why are you doing this?” he murmurs.
Gon traces the scar again, from front to back this time. Goosebumps rise along Killua’s skin.
“It’s not right, people only touching you to hurt you. To be cruel to you. You should be touched gently. So someone has to do that.”
Were Killua’s head not spinning, he’s sure he’d be able to ponder the strangeness of Gon’s logic, but he finds he’s incapable of that in his current state. His whole world has narrowed down to two of Gon’s fingers stroking along the scar on Killua’s upper arm--any other thought, any other sensation, they’ve all disappeared. There’s nothing but Gon’s skin against his.
And then, before Killua knows what’s happening, Gon presses his lips--soft and chaste--to the scar on Killua’s arm.
Illumi drags a knife along Killua’s arm, the sharp blade searing the flesh in a slow, steady line. Killua whimpers, just barely audible, in spite of himself.
“That’s no good, Kill,” Illumi says, twisting the blade slightly. “What if this were a mission? What if you were hiding and couldn’t afford to get caught? A sound like that would give you away in an instant. So let’s try again, shall we?”
It’s intimate but not romantic, the way Gon kisses the scar on Killua’s shoulder. It’s like how a mother might kiss a child’s skinned knee, that same sort soothing, comforting affection. Killua can’t but sigh, shaky and weak, at the gentle press of Gon’s lips against his skin. His whole body relaxes, his eyelids drooping despite his best efforts.
Gon takes Killua’s hand and rotates his arm so that his palm faces upward, before he presses a kiss to a burn mark on the sensitive skin of Killua’s inner arm.
In a flash, Milluki grabs Killua’s wrist in his hand hard enough to bruise, exposes his inner forearm, and presses the end of his cigarette to the skin. Killua sucks in a sharp breath, his whole world narrowing down to nothing but the small, agonizing patch of burning skin.
“Don’t talk to Mama like that,” Milluki hisses, grinding the cigarette in just a bit harder before he finally releases Killua. Killua has the good sense not to cradle his burnt arm to his chest, however strong the impulse might be.
“Is this okay?” Gon murmurs, lowering Killua’s arm.
Killua feels like he’s floating, as light and airy and warm as a cloud stained pink by the sunset. He can’t remember ever being touched so gently, being showered in chaste, gentle kisses like this, but it’s the best feeling he can recall by far He wants nothing more than for Gon to keep going, to kiss every scar he has. Surely they’d be here for hours, but Killua wouldn’t mind. As long as Gon was willing to continue, Killua would take every kiss, every kiss and then some.
Killua knows it’s wrong--Gon is merely trying to comfort him, merely trying to soothe past hurts. It’s wholly innocent, what he’s doing. But Killua, of course, longs for more. He wants Gon to reach up and cradle his face, stroke his cheekbone with his thumb before kissing him properly, pressing their mouths together for just a single, perfect moment. Killua knows he should be satisfied with this, with the tenderness and care Gon is showing to him now, but he can’t help but want more. It’s all Killua seems to know how to do these days. Want.
Gon trails his fingertips down Killua’s shoulder to his wrist and back up again. Killua inhales, weak and suddery, and his eyes fall closed. It’s better this way, not being able to see. It allows him to focus on nothing more than the sensation, the feeling of Gon’s skin on his own.
Gon traces across Killua’s shoulder and onto his back, reaching a thick, raised scar just to the left of his spine.
Gon presses his lips to it, dragging his thumb down Killua’s back. Killua shivers--Gon is so warm, and so close, and touching him so kindly, and he can hardly bear it all.
Killua doesn’t know how many times they’ve hit him--it’s difficult to keep track of much when he’s struggling to cling to consciousness--but he’s grateful for each one. He’d been trying to protect Canary--it was Killua’s fault, after all, and she shouldn’t be punished for his mistakes--and each time they hit him is a blow that she’s spared. So he’s happy, truly, as the sharp leather bites into his back yet again and the whole world swims before his eyes. It’s better for him to suffer this pain than a friend.
Gon pulls his lips back from the scar on Killua’s back and then strokes over it gently with his thumb.
It’s so odd--Gon should be disgusted. The scars are unpleasant to look at and worse to touch, each with its own repulsive topography of peaks and valleys. But Gon doesn’t seem to mind. He seems to look at Killua’s body with care and affection, rather than a rightful horror. But Gon, Killua supposes, has always managed to defy logic in these sorts of ways.
Gon gently turns Killua’s body so that they’re facing one another. Killua still hasn’t opened his eyes, and his breath comes in rapid, loud stutters in the silent bedroom. Gon smooths his hands over Killua’s collarbones and down his arms and Killua does his utmost to memorize the feeling, to lock away this warmth and bliss and pleasure somewhere safe and quiet, somewhere he can call upon it when he needs, can envelop himself once more in the soft embrace of Gon’s affection.
Gon reaches up and strokes Killua’s cheek with his thumb, cradling his face in his hand. Killua can’t help but lean into the touch, pressing his face harder against Gon, chasing more kindness, more gentle touch.
Gon caresses Killua’s face slowly, tenderly, dragging his fingers over his forehead, the thin skin of his eyelids, the divot above his mouth, the sensitive area just beneath his jawline. In Killua’s mind’s eye, the touch leaves shimmering, flickering trails in its wake--it’s how it feels, at least. Like his skin is left sparkling and shining from Gon’s fingertips.
“There aren’t any scars on your face,” Gon murmurs, his thumb stroking Killua’s jaw.
Killua keeps his eyes closed.
“No,” he says, his voice uncharacteristically breathy. “They were smart like that. I was only really hurt in places that could be hidden.”
“I wish there were.”
Gon’s quiet for a moment.
“Then I’d have a reason to kiss you.”
Killua is vaguely aware that under normal circumstances, that admission would set his heart racing, would flood his body with sharp, pulsing adrenaline. He’d tremble or gasp, his eyes would fly open and his skin would flush. But he’s so perfectly relaxed and blissful from Gon’s ministrations that he can’t find it within himself to be shocked or bewildered or terrified. He’s so pliant and content from the touch that all he feels is a pleasant, satisfied sort of warmth.
“You don’t need a reason.”
That must be all the permission Gon really needs, because he presses his lips to Killua’s forehead, then his cheek, just an inch away from the corner of his mouth, before finally kissing Killua properly.
While the previous kisses were wholly innocent, just tender and soothing and kind, this kiss has an edge of desperation. It’s every bit as gentle, every bit as soft and warm and good, but there’s a hint of fever, a hint of true desire. Gon threads his hands through Killua’s hair and presses his mouth just a bit more insistently and Killua is grateful to be sitting on Gon’s bed, because surely his knees would go weak if he were standing. His whole body is so impossibly warm and alive, and he feels as if he’s unlocked a hidden sense, a new way of perceiving touch that’s infinitely more intense than before.
At last, Gon pulls back, and he cradles Killua’s face in his hand, using the other to brush his hair back from his forehead. Killua finally opens his eyes. Gon’s cheeks are flushed and his pupils are wide and Killua can bear how beautiful he looks. And while Killua’s thoughts are hazy and far away, one comes through startlingly clear.
“From now on, you don’t ever need a reason.”
Gon smiles and then--thank God, because Killua was already longing for it, because Killua now can’t imagine ever going even a minute without--leans forward and kisses him again.