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See You Upside Down

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Gon needs him. It’s a fundamental fact, a gemstone glowing at the center of Killua’s mind. His body has been built around it.

That’s why he walks.

The dark is clinging at him like damp fabric, it stings like Killua’s own electrified Hatsu. There’s nothing new in the sensation, it’s just another one of million things that aren’t going to kill him; it will hurt and then it will become bearable and then it will become a weapon, another one in the walking arsenal that he himself is.

He can still be a weapon if it’s to help Gon.

Pain doesn’t really scare him, but the stench is unsettling. It’s the frozen atmosphere that clusters around freshly killed bodies – not rotten already, but unequivocally dead after every trace of warmness has sunk down, to stain the neck and the soft skin behind the ears with bluish webs of lumpy blood.

The ground is as soft as sand beneath his feet and every step is like going backwards, his soles sinking in crumpled dirt. There’s something dangerous waiting, something that makes his bones tremble. He’s ready to shatter and to recompose himself with spit and spite, though. He’s ready to fight, grinding teeth and clenched fists.

That aura, it’s Illumi’s and the En of Neferpitou and everything evil. It’s dreadful and scary and blank, like the stare of the eyes that are watching him until they’re not.

They don’t see him, they’re looking at something far behind him as if Killua’s body was made of glass – like it doesn’t exist.

He squints in the black – shouldn’t he be supposed to use Gyo, to be useful? – to give a proper look at the face in the epicenter of all that darkness.

It isn’t Pitou, nor Illumi. It’s Gon.

Killua falls so fast that when he’s down he can’t remember where the up was supposed to be.

“Fuck,” he says. His lungs are shattered, eyes divided by a pain sharp as a knife, as a- “Fucking needle.”

“Killua?”

He blinks behind his own hand. Squarish bands of light slide over the bed and reach Gon’s face.

“I fell,” Killua says.

“Yeah,” says Gon, eyes wide. “Are you okay?”

Killua blinks in the sudden orange. Gon has switched the table-lamp on and he’s looking down at him like he’s ready to fight a horde of chimera ants.

“Of course,” says Killua. He just needs to free his foot from the spires of his own blanket, piece of cake. “I just… A dream, you know.”

Gon blinks. Killua can’t really remember anything but the overwhelming sense of something awful coming. And Gon’s eyes.

“A bad one?” he asks.

Maybe. He needs something like the pain scale, which is also completely useless in his case – just like the painkillers that he’d like to get for that killer headache.

Gon materializes himself on the floor and pries Killua’s fingers away from his own forehead. Then, being Gon, he takes his time in sniffing out the band-aid.

“It’s bleeding again. Did you really get hurt at the gym?”

“It’s what I said,” says Killua, to his chin. Have they ever been this close? Probably. Killua pokes Gon’s face away, but he’s already on the verge of an untimely spontaneous combustion. “Leave it alone, it’s just a hole. Tomorrow is going to be fine… Do you even know what personal space is? How did you even manage to survive entire dates with actual women?”

“Oh, actually, in my experience women appreciate when you…”

That succeeds where thousands of volts failed and Killua’s brain melts.

“Okay, my bad! Let’s just don’t talk about this ever again!”

Gon shushes him, unimpressed.

“It’s really late, we can’t be loud… You are acting strange today, are you feeling alright? Your head is warm, you can’t get sick right now, Killua!”

Killua gapes and for that one split second he remains there, paralyzed under Gon’s scrutiny and Gon’s palm pressed behind his fringe.

Something way warmer than his head threatens to creep up from his throat. He slaps Gon’s hand away and starts fussing about standing up.

“Don’t be an idiot, of course I’m not getting sick, I don’t get sick,” he says, and tries really hard to retrieve his blanket without shaking. He can still feel Gon’s eyes staring at him.

“Are you really sure that nothing happened when I was with Palm? You would tell me if something did,” he says. He sounds so certain, as if there were no other options.

Killua looks at his own hands.

“Yeah,” he blurts, and there’s sandpaper on his tongue. He can’t get sick, but he feels sick, in a way that’s completely disproportioned regarding the situation. He shrugs. “Forget it, it was just a dumb dream. Dreaming is dumb, that’s why I never do it.”

He plops himself again on the mattress and sighs. Everything is fucking fine, he’s being a baby. Stupid Illumi always manages to mess his head up, it’s old news.

Gon looks at him from his own bed, roosted on the edge of the mattress like an owl.

“You don’t dream?” he asks, a bit of curiosity in his tone. He sounds way more like himself – he hasn’t really sound that much like himself lately, not unlike Killua.

“Yeah,” Killua says. He frowns, because it’s a truthful answer. Weird. “Never really thought about that, actually. I just don’t.”

Gon nods, thoughtful. Then he sighs, wishes a good night and turns the light off.

Killua listens to him ruffling his way under the covers as if he was bracing up for hibernation.

Killua too sighs, hard.

“I can hear you thinking from here, Gon.”

Sheets rustle again.

“You don’t dream, like, ever?”

Killua opens his eyes once again. A passing car casts sliding lights over the closed shutters.

“I don’t know,” he has to admit, after a brief reconnaissance of his own memories. “I guess I do, it’s just that I usually don’t remember. Is that weird?” He then asks, uncertain.

“I don’t know,” says Gon, every other bit unsure. “I mean, I just assumed that everyone dreamed. I do, a lot.”

“You also snore a lot,” Killua says. He doesn’t add that he thinks it’s the perfect background for a night of sound sleep. He ducks the flying pillow instead and yawns.

It’s been another long, stressful day after a very long stash of really long, stressful days. Killua falls asleep in the span of the next five minutes, listening to Gon snoring softly in the background.

Knov and Morel reappear the very next day right down their hotel. Their faces are dark and their shoulders tense and Killua feels again like he’s trying to breathe amidst a raising sand storm.

They’re going to see Kite and it’s like walking over scattered bones, like Killua is going to damage something with every step he takes beside Gon.

He can’t stop looking at Gon – Gon’s back – until they see him. It. Killua isn’t sure they could still call that Kite.

He has already forgotten everything about that dream – nightmare – but Gon’s blank stare.

He can’t forget it, because it’s there on Gon’s face the moments he realizes that Kite is now that thing and it’s their fault – and the chimera ants fault, Neferpitou’s fault.

Gon says he’s going to fix it, with a stare blank as a canvas, and Killua knows he means he’s going to kill. On Gon’s face, the most commonly used word in his life finally looks like something horrible.

 

**

 

Alluka loves girly things. Earrings and bracelets, without any concern for their actual value. She makes them herself with threads and beads and shells.

Killua has a pink-ish one around his wrist, now every time he feels the need to chew on his fingernails or scrap his palms he fidgets with the rounded beads instead.

“These ones are for Nanika actually,” Alluka says as she shakes her head, grinning. The hair beads clinks like wind chimes. “She likes the sound they make.”

Killua likes it too, so he hums accordingly. It’s pretty useful to have a jingling sister, it makes really difficult to lose her in a crowd.

Luckily, after the first enthusiasm about people in general, Alluka decided that she’s not that fond of crowds, much to Killua’s relief. Crowds are too loud and it’s too easy is to sneak needle people in and being tailed and become paranoid about being tailed.

Thinking about it, Alluka probably decided she didn’t like crowd just because Killua was starting to act like a nervous wreck.

To be impartial over their next destination, Killua played darts with some skewer over a flipped map while his sister cheered on him, which was in retrospect really morbid given that it was an accurate depiction of how one of his most recent nudges at death played out. He managed to miss every single city, so Alluka based their pick on how funny the toponomy sounded.

That’s exactly why they’re stuck on a cableway headed to the very ancient ruins of Gaggli Lal, in the region of Rsopurbalarul. They’ve got there two days ago and they still didn’t grasp the correct pronunciation despite the efforts of a very helpful local lady at their inn. She made them sit down and tried to educate them over tea and cubes of chewy rice cakes.

Killua still feels pretty uneducated, but at least he’s now full of rice cakes. That tea was also pretty strong, so he might actually be able to remain fully alert while they ride the most unsafe cable car he’s ever put a foot on.

“How many cable car have you ridden in your life, brother,” Alluka asks, because she’s a pesky kid and, anyway, that’s totally not the point.

“Enough,” he says, even if they were more things like spider eagles’ webs and other unsafe suspension devices.

“Wow, brother, look! It’s so green!”

It’s more than green, it’s lush. It spikes in verdant bulging mountains that carve curves in a sky so blue it’s like looking at the ocean from Whale Island.

Gaggli Lal is an interesting archeological site and Alluka gets to ride a llama frog, which is really worth the ten years Killua’s heart loses when she kinda face-plants onto the ground instead of dismount from the ride like a normal person.

And it’s funny. Killua laughs and makes her piggy-back ride him instead of an animal to get on the peak of the hill and look down at the serpentine of a very important river with a mouthful of a name.

They roll on the grass between sandy ancient ruins and they sneeze when the wind blows pollens and archeological dust.

Killua is there, he loves to be there, with her – he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

And, still.

Rsopurbalarul is too forest-y. Too many insects – flying around buzzing and twirling in their language like Flutter’s dragonflies. It’s too green – green like NGL. Green like Gon.

Killua looks at the site and sees something very old and ruined – majestic in his own way, but still dead. He’s pretty fucking tired of death by now.

“I love it here, everything is so big,” Alluka says that night, over her third helpers of rice cake. It’s just them seated on the front porch, every light in the inn already turned off. She had never seen fireflies and now they’re setting the whole meadow on fire, floating around in scattered patterns.

Killua had never seen fireflies too, before Gon pointed at them back when they were in the Rokario Republic and he was arranging that whole absurd date with Palm. It seems like a lifetime ago – when Palm was human and somehow way weirder that she is now as a chimera ant, now that they are friends.

“Where is your friend Gon now?”

Killua startles, it’s almost like his own brain made the question. It’s Alluka, though, her head a jiggling, swishing cloud of dark hair in the dark.

“I… I don’t know,” says Killua. The truth feels like sandpaper on the back of his throat. “I guess he’s still with Kite’s group. He sent us that cool video with the swans, remember?”

Hair beads nod, tingling.

“Yeah, that was beautiful. This too is beautiful,” she says, and it’s like her voice is smiling, her eyes gleam at the fireflies. “Thanks, brother.”

Killua coughs rice cake and shock.

“What?”

“I think I’m happy,” she says. “I wasn’t happy before, but I didn’t… I just read happy in the books, so I wasn’t really sure. I’m not even sure happy is the right word? I’ve always been happy when I was with you, but this is something even bigger, it’s big like I can do everything.”

Killua gapes and Alluka presses his nose between two fingers, giggling.

“You’re going to eat a firefly, brother.”

Killua opts to tickle her like when she was four. Then he picks her up when she yawns one time too many and jumps over the window of their room, wood creaking when he lands with the added weight – Illumi would be so disappointed. He will never know and that’s still such a relief inside Killua’s reptile brain.

“That thing, it sounds a lot like it, but I don’t think it’s happiness,” he says, when they’re plumped down on their respective beds. “I think it’s freedom.”

Alluka hums, blissful and already half asleep. Killua blinks at the ceiling and feels his body sink in the mattress, as if there was some kind of heavy core dragging him down.

Gon texts him that night, because he doesn’t know how time zones work. He’s finally returned to Whale Island, he thinks there’s something wrong with his Nen.

Killua stares at the little pixels on the message for so long that the phone slips through his finger and smashes on his forehead.

He’s got a headache again, an itching pain lingering between his eyebrows and Illumi’s voice is still louder than the cicadas, than his own thoughts – and that isn’t true, isn’t it? Those thoughts are his and no one else’s. Illumi isn’t inside his head anymore except when he is, there, in patterns lit like streetlights thatlead his thinking over the same mistakes, to the comfort of simple choices – dead or alive, useless and useful. Black and white, no middle ground.

Killua dreams of fireflies with Illumi’s eyes and an island so small you have to be there alone or you’ll drown into an ocean of blood.

 

*

 

It’s way too awkward at first and Killua can’t see it changing anytime soon.

He strengthens his grip on the phone and leans on the balustrade, looking every bit like a casual passerby.

He’s usually pretty good on the phone, or so he used to think. He used to think he was pretty good at anything – killing and fighting and being scary, that is the same thing as being strong – before he met Gon and found out that he had spent years being trained in all the wrong things.

He’s now an illiterate jerk who doesn’t know how to elaborate sentences anymore. Gon broke him.

“I’m sorry, I just… I needed- Sorry, Killua.”

Killua looks at the phone and doesn’t know what to do, what to say. Maybe he’s him, the one who broke Gon, really.

“It’s fine,” he decides then, because that’s really, really what he would have liked for someone to say when he felt like Gon is feeling right now. Drowning inside your own mind, thoughts swirling around like a bunch of slimy eels. “You’re fine. Everything is fine.”

“I know,” Gon answers, small and hoarse and troubled, like he’s been running for his life. He’s not: he isn’t in danger and Killua has no right to get all flustered about Gon’s dreams when he has his own to take care of. “I know it is and I’m so sorry…”

“Stop apologizing. You apologized already so you don’t have to do it anymore, okay?” Killua says, but he isn’t sure Gon’s really listening. He never really does.

“I didn’t want to call, really, I just… I was scared all of the sudden because, I mean, I don’t know why, but I was and… I’m really sorry, Killua.”

“It’s okay, Illumi isn’t going to track us just because of one phone call. I’ve got my methods.” He really doesn’t, but he’s sure they made a good job of obliterating themselves from the world in the last couple months, so even if Illumi has already bribed Milluki into helping him find Killua through a phone he changed last week, he and Alluka are going to be out of this region before the sun sets.

Maybe those are his methods, so he does have some. Good to know.

Apparently, his and Gon breathes have started to sync over the line, over a couple thousand kilometers and half a continent. That static rumble that’s threating to swallow them whole must be the ocean. Killua too looks at it from the bridge, blue, distant and on the diametrically opposite side from Whale Island. It’s hot over there and the air is a mass of salty humidity.

“It’s fine,” he repeats, useless. “It’s okay to get scared and it’s okay to feel…” what? He doesn’t really know, he should just shut his dumb mouth. He knows what it means to be powerless, he’s felt powerless over Illumi and over every single person who was slightly more powerful than him for such a long time that the sensation is simply engraved in his brain.

Gon, though. Gon’s been waiting for his Nen to return, thirty days under Knuckle’s Hakoware and they felt like half a century.

Now it’s unreported, impossible to gauge – potentially permanent and isn’t that the heaviest word of all. It must be like choking back in the safe, known wilderness of Whale Island, surrounded by familiar faces and quiet nights.

It’s like he went back in time. Like Gon – the Gon Killua’s stumbled on and learned to like, know, admire, need – hasn’t even existed in the first place. Like Nanika had to remodel what was left of him into something smaller, something less. Conservation of mass and all that jazz.

“What time is it there?” Killua asks, useless. He would be powerless even with Godspeed on when it comes about this kind of stuff – being a good friend. He still hasn’t really decided what that should mean apart from understanding that his first attempt wasn’t good enough.

“Early,” Gon says. “Or late. It’s night.”

“Let’s…” he doesn’t know. He starts looking for Alluka, she’s still seated with kids smaller than her, watching the marionette show. It’s pretty disturbing, those fractured woody skeletons that move at the tip of big fingers. He would have found some excuse to bail out even if Gon hadn’t called, to run away from the afterimage of Kite’s mangled body, of Pitou’s headless murderous intent. “Why don’t you try to get some sleep and I tell you all about how many new exciting candies I tried in the last month?” He says and waits. “You there, Gon?”

“Yeah. I’ll… I was trying to meditate, before calling you. I really, really try every day.”

“Did Biscuit tell you to?”

“Mister Wing,” Gon says and it does make sense. He’s always been more at ease with him than Killua ever felt. “And I’m trying. It’s just… I can’t really concentrate these days, I guess, and at night it’s like… The ocean is really loud,” he adds, like it’s an actual explanation as to why he’s performing an international call in the middle of the night.

“You shouldn’t meditate at night, you should sleep,” Killua says and he’s pretty surprised at his own patronizing tone. “I’m sure Wing said that too.”

Gon’s laugh is a breathy thing, soft and unsure, but it still glows like stars in Killua’s mind.

“He did say I shouldn’t overdo it,” he admits, small. It’s really difficult to tell breaths apart from the waves crashing on the cliff and from the buzzing sound of Killua’s own scattered thoughts.

“Anyway, I called just to hear your voice I guess… I don’t want to keep you from Alluka,” says Gon, like the concept isn’t embarrassing at all. “I’m… I’ll try and get some sleep now, you’re right. I’m okay, really, maybe I did eat too much at dinner, Abe made this giant quiche, you know… Thanks a lot, Killua.”

“No problem,” he answers, on autopilot. “Gon,” he adds, in a whim, because that’s all he is. His whole personality in a word. “You’ll get it back, you know? Your Nen, if you want,” he says, at those thick clouds that are starting looming on his head. “You’re what, fourteen? Biscuit didn’t even know what the hell it was at our age and look at her now, she’s a beast.”

“Yeah,” he says, and the distance stretches through them like some long, unpaved road. “Thanks, Killua. I’ll go now.”

“Yeah. Goodnight. Call, if…”

“Yeah. Say hi to Alluka, and Nanika too.”

When Killua nods, useless in the damp air, Gon has already hung up.

 

*

 

It’s winter when Killua gets another really dumb job to keep their finances up and about.

He didn’t have the time to blow up the money from Greed Island, the one that Goreinu made sure made it to both his and Gon’s account, but now that he has Alluka to take care of, he feels reassured if he still got some income then or there.

He lies on the top of a tree under the blanket of a sky so blue and dry it looks like blown glass. There’s no signal, his last message is a gif from Alluka. She’s now starting to get a hang of memes and Killua’s life has become a continuous exercise in keeping up with whatever the internet throws at them – he’s failing hard.

It’s more accustomed to stuff like this. Waiting in the dark in a pretty uncomfortable position, ears perked for any sound and eyes peeled. He kills the time trying to expand his En – it’s pretty fucking hard, but everything about Nen was before he actually grasped it.

The cold is turning his claws into a stiff bundle of nerves. He’s so fucking relieved when finally the bushes start moving with growing rustles.

Killua sighs and lets himself fall down, he lands on all four in front of the other four-legged beast. It looks at him with big, yellow, scared eyes.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be quick,” says Killua, voice calm, because killing is not what he does anymore, but he’s still so fucking good at it. Like it or not, it’s just how things are. The blood warms his hands up.

He comes back at midnight sharp, a sound from his pocket notifies him that his phone is now again in working order the moment he steps on the concrete of the road, but he can’t reach for it while he’s carrying two tons of crocodile boar on his shoulder. He’s already leaving a big ass trail because he didn’t know where to put that enormous, scaled tail, so he just let it hang.

When he returns to the sprinkle of cottages that the locals call village, there’s a tingling shadow waiting on the inn’s porch.

“Brother!”

“Hey you,” he answers, and he’s happy up until he remembers that he should be scolding her. “It’s late, why are you still up!”

“So that you could ask dumb questions, brother,” Alluka says. She grins and swings her legs over the fence. “It’s so big! Was it difficult?”

Killua snorts.

“Of course not,” he says, and drops the poor bastard down. It makes a big, loud thud that frees Killua from the trouble of knocking on doors.

The locals display a lot of uncommon emotion as for Killua’s record with clients, like gratitude for saving their crops and livestock. Killua blinks appropriately and lets Alluka managing their reward, which ends up consisting of a weird variety of pickles and an entire, smelly wheel of cheese.

“We should eat everything together, we can’t really carry this thing with us,” she tries to explain, to the distraught family who seasoned it with love for over three years.

“I hoped they would pay us with money,” Killua dares to say the following day, when he’s seated down around a big campfire with his portion of roasted crocodile boar in hands.

“Gratitude and food are still pretty awesome,” says Alluka, and she seems oddly at ease, sitting crosslegged while she tries to dip her dinner in some kind of garlic-y sauce people are passing around. “And they’re paying you, not me. I didn’t do anything.”

Killua doesn’t really know what to answer to that, so he starts biting on his dinner.

“We’d like to come with you, the next time you have to do something like this? We could help,” she says – they say. Killua glances at her.

“Or you could end up dead. That would be pretty inconvenient?”

Alluka puffs her cheek.

“I would not. We’re not helpless and… You could teach us Nen, you know? Well, you could teach me, since Nanika already know how to do stuff… If I was stronger, I could protect her too.”

“I’m the one who’s supposed to protect the both of you,” Killua says. “You don’t need Nen.”

Alluka’s lips vanish in a thin line, and it’s once again like she’s a motionless doll seated among dolls.

“Am I inconvenient?” she asks, out of the blue. Killua chokes on his meat and one of the people dancing about comes to pat him on the back.

It’s proof of how much self-control he’s exercising these days if the poor guy preserves his hands and his smile intact.

“What are you talking about?” says Killua then, voice low.

Alluka fidgets with her skewer, half the meat already gone.

“I’m just… Am I boring?” she asks, to Killua dumb face. “I feel a little boring, because I know that you could be doing a lot more… exciting stuff if it wasn’t for me, that’s all.”

“You’re not boring,” Killua says.

Maybe he’s losing his mind, but suddenly he’s thinking about Gon’s face while he faced Hanzo. When Hanzo broke his arm and Gon was just so pure-and-forgiving and everyone was so relieved and everyone was laughing.

Gon is never been forgiving, he’s just always been plain crazy, but all that madness was encapsulated in the tiny body of a good-mannered twelve years old and no adult realized it. And Killua found it so fucking interesting that he didn’t think of the consequences, he thought he couldn’t judge – he’s never been good at judging, just at assessing and those are two completely different things. “Well, let’s say that you are, that is, boring,” he finds himself saying. He watches Alluka’s face crumple and it pinches something deep inside his stomach – maybe he ate some skewer piece? “I can do boring, you know? I want to do boring stuff with you. We should go to the beach,” he adds, in a sudden inspiration.

“The beach,” Alluka says, bewildered. “But, brother, it’s winter!”

Killua looks at her over the fire and beams.

“Yeah, of course it is, sister. In this hemisphere.”

Turns out he’ll have to teach her geography too. He can’t really think about anything less boring, honestly.

 

*

 

It’s stupid and disingenuous, two things that Killua could seriously ponder to write in his own curriculum under ‘other abilities’. Just right after his main abilities as an assassin, video gamer and exterminator of now classified magical beasts.

She wanted to do something together, she wanted to feel useful and accomplished and Killua wanted to make her – them – happy. It’s still really, really stupid.

“You can ask her,” Alluka says, and she’s almost pulsing. Vibrating. “She would do it for you.”

Maybe Killua’s brain is glitching instead, maybe… There’s no time. They have to decide. They have the power to decide, the both of them. The three of them. It’s kind of exhilarating – having someone’s life glued at the tip of your fingers usually is.

Killua looks at his hands, the blood is dripping too fast. It’s a bright scarlet, arterial for sure. It’s so weird, pressing on the wound instead of letting it flow. It would be so easy to just let it flow.

“Call Nanika,” he says instead. He can feel the pulse under his hands, fainter now than before. His knees hurt, he knows it’s because he’s pressing them into the concrete, but he can’t shake this feeling of hurting all over just because – like it’s some fundamental fact of life. God, he needs to sleep.

“Killua,” she’s already there. Creepy and weird, she smiles like a child – she still sounds like one too. “Pet me?”

“I would, but then I’d muck your hair up with all this blood. Alluka wouldn’t like that, wouldn’t she?”

“Would not,” Nanika says, still smiling. The wind makes her hair beads tingling onto each other. Killua is going to buy her some more when they hit the next city.

How much time would an ambulance need to come there? With Godspeed, it will take them less than ten minutes to disappear.

“Nanika, you know I don’t like giving you orders. But I need you to do something,” he says.

It’s virtually risk-free. They’re in the middle of nowhere and the man is almost dead. Hypovolemic shock will make pretty unlikely for him to remember much more than his questionable decision to climb a rock face alone and without proper equipment. What a lucky set of circumstances.

“I do!” Nanika says. She sounds pretty excited.

“Okay,” Killua says then. He looks at the man’s face. He has a pretty funny moustache. He’s probably an idiot, but Killua has killed way better people for so much less. “Okay. Heal this guy.”

“Aye! Hand, hand!” She takes it herself. Killua blinks away the afterimage of Gon’s mangled fingers, the shredded wrist like the skin had been torn off the bone.

It has to be Nen, that energy that explodes and release itself. It stomps from above and then crumbles in ripples until it’s dispersed, mixed softly in the air.

Killua’s ears are still ringing when she’s done.

He blinks, and the man is whole and maybe a bit younger, expression relaxed, bone mended and blood already drying. That will be odd to explain. And also none of Killua’s business, at least if he can have a say in the matter.

“Done!” Nanika says, and she claps at herself with pure, childish satisfaction. “I’m good, Killua?”

“Yeah, you’re awesome,” he says, totally sincere. “I promise I’ll pet you, I just have to wash my hands before.”

“Okay. I’ve seen shooting stars,” Nanika says instead. She points at the peak of the mountain. “Fun!”

“Really?” Killua asks. “You had fun with that?”

“It’s fun with Killua,” she answers, like it’s the most obvious thing. “We go now?”

“Yeah, better go before this guy asks us what the hell is going on,” he decides. He stands up and picks him up. He’s also pretty heavy, so he makes a loud thump when he leaves him on the side of the road. There he hopefully won’t be run over by a car or eaten by a coyote. He feels like he’s done more than his fair share of good actions today, so the guy will have to figure the rest out for himself.

“I’m tired,” Nanika says then. She’s nodding already.

Killua catches her and picks her up way more carefully than how he treated the Very Lucky Dumb Guy.

“You can sleep, I’ll run. Sorry if it stings,” he adds, activating Godspeed.

They’ll be out of the way in less than three seconds. The mountains and the trees, the street down his feet and the night sky above, everything blurs in saturated lines of light and shadows.

No harm done, pretty much the contrary.

Killua strengthens his grip on Alluka’s body, they’re both sleeping already.

 

*

 

It’s the perfect crime up until it isn’t.

Killua stomps on a puddle and paints it red. He looks at the frightened lady with the stroller and smiles at her baby.

“We’re filming a movie. Horror. Kind of a big deal,” he says, Alluka still soundly asleep in his arms.

Those are covered in blood too, so are Alluka’s clothes.

The woman gapes, but she’s smart enough to stroll away really fast toward others, less bloody puddles.

It occurs to Killua that he can’t exactly show up in front of a receptionist while dripping blood all over with a seemingly dead sister in his arms, so he finds a pretty decent looking hotel and then secures Alluka on his back to climb on the wall.

This whole business is starting to get pretty inconvenient pretty fast.

The balcony on the fourth floor is where Killua decides to land. He peeks at the window twice, then jumps over the parapet to look at the bathroom too. It’s quite spacious and also empty, which was the essential requirement.

He’ll have to explain the broken window, maybe, but this kind of stuff is easily explained – and repaid – when you have a hunter license. And, anyway, no one would be impressed at the copious amount of blood on a person who is, in fact, not dead. Does it make sense? It probably doesn’t. Sometimes Killua hates his family for saddling him with a sorely warped sense of what’s normal and what’s not.

“Ehi, Alluka,” he tries, while he handles the knobs over the tub to get some hot water running.

She sniffs and hugs the carpet. In all fairness, it looks really fluffy.

“Allukaaa.”

“Brother,” she says, eyes squinted. “You are really pesky.”

“And you are really bloody. You have to wash yourself.”

“Mh. I’m sleeping,” she says, pretty reasonable. “Can’t wash sleeping.”

“Yeah, whatever,” says Killua, and picks her up. “Don’t make me wash you. It would be ridiculous and also probably a bad idea.”

Alluka nods and hugs him instead of the carpet. Killua is doomed.

“There are, like, a thousand potentially deadly diseases that you could catch through blood exposition. I can’t really think about any particular one right now, but…”

Alluka opens her eyes so fast that Killua almost lets her fall in the bathtub fully clothed for real.

“Brother,” she says, eyes clouded but awake. “He was climbing without gears. What if he wasn’t climbing at all?”

Killua frowns.

“Who?”

“Mustache Guy, brother, who else?” she says. “What if he wasn’t going up, but going down?”

“You lost me. What are you… Oh,” he says, at the bathroom tiles. What if he wasn’t climbing at all.

“What if he was falling down instead?” says Alluka. “Like. On purpose.”

Killua looks at her. Her eyes are huge.

“Suicide?” he says, slowly. He frowns. “Jumping down from a mountain, during the night of the shooting stars? That’s…” Quite poetic. Pretty dumb. Also worryingly probable.

“We heard the… splat. Not the climbing up part,” Alluka says.

“Climbing isn’t an especially loud activity.”

“If you’re a Zoldyck ninja it isn’t, I guess. But if you are a climber…”

“Which climber climbs at night, anyway?” Killua adds, now openly frowning. He should have thought about it, shouldn’t he? This whole nightmare fueled insomnia business is making him each day dumber. Being dumb is fucking dangerous.

“Maybe he really wanted to see the shooting stars,” Alluka tries, because she’s the most supportive little sister ever.

Killua looks at her.

“Yeah, maybe,” he says. “No way to know now, am I right?”

The water is starting to overflow from the edge of the tub. Alluka groans and leans her forehead on the crook of his neck.

“Just drown me, brother.”

He doesn’t, but he helps her to get in the tub and then leaves the door open because he doesn’t trust her to remain awake enough to not actually drown herself by accident.

He scrubs his arms clean with too-white towels and then scrubs the pavement too because he left a lot of footprints. He’s never been that messy while dealing with blood, is that because this time it was for a – maybe – good cause? Was it a good cause? What the heck is a good cause, even? What did actually possess him to think it would have been a good idea using Nanika to fix something he hadn’t broken himself?

He needs to wash his hands. Needs to wash himself: he’s still dripping blood all over.

What was he thinking?

He’s still looking at his hands when bare feet appear in his line of vision, spilling clean water for a change.

He lifts his chin and Alluka is a soft blob bundled up in a bathrobe, hair wet and eyes sleepy.

“We sleep?”

“You sleep, sure,” Killua says. “I have to… I’ve made a bit of a mess.”

“You didn’t,” she says, between two consecutive yawns. “We didn’t know Mustache Guy was also Suicide Guy. Maybe he isn’t,” she adds, plopping onto the mattress. She bounces and sighs, exhausted and perhaps a bit satisfied. “Maybe we saved him.”

“Yeah,” Killua says. He can’t fall asleep. He has to clean himself and everything up and also go to the reception and convince the entire hotel that they want to rent that specific room until further notice – would asking for, like, three days straight of sleep be too much?

“Nanika was pretty happy to help,” Alluka says, her voice already hoarse with drowsiness.

Killua blinks. He’s still seated. His limbs weight sixty-four tons each, moving it’s like trying to open the Testing Gate and Killua is so fucking tired of tests, at this point.

“Was she?” he says, and shifts a bit on the bed. They got a double, how lucky.

Alluka nods in the pillows and yawns again.

“Yeah. She’s said that before she fell asleep… She was really tired, though. I’m tired too. Aren’t you, brother?”

Tired is, in fact, a world that Killua would use to describe himself.

“I think I am,” he says, and looks at the splotches of blood on the carpentry. He doesn’t know how to get rid of them without destroying the whole room. Maybe he will, tomorrow.

“Sleep, then,” Alluka says and she’s snoring already. Killua frowns at her face, but it’s almost like laughing because, what?

“I don’t need your permission, you know?” He says, smile creeping up. “Some sister I have, really”.

He breathes. What the hell? He’s going to turn the lights off and sleep, who cares about hotel arrangements – who cares about blood, really.

He leaves some of it on the light switch too, before falling face-first into the mattress.

It’s like floating. Maybe that’s what Mustache Guy felt while he was falling down to splat himself too close to a couple of megalomaniac siblings with a complicated agenda. Killua would like to get a peek at that too, since he isn’t really sure what his own agenda looks like right now. Maybe he should open up his own brain like Pitou did with Palm and that hunter guy who was a hunter because Killua forfeited their match that time during his first exam.

Shit. He was a hunter because of that, how fucked up is this shit, really?

“Brother?”

“Yeah, Alluka?”

“It was cool, wasn’t it? Can we do it again?” she asks, in the dark. She talks like she’s dreaming, or maybe Killua is. “On someone who wasn’t trying to kill himself, maybe.”

Killua should seriously scoot over the covers. He’s going to gain some funny crick in the neck if he falls asleep in this position.

“Maybe. I mean. Let’s hope we don’t need to.”

“Yeah,” she says, and the mattress sways under her weight. Not that much weight, but it’s soft and warm when it comes closer to Killua’s own. He’s so massively tired that he’s got his own gravity at this point. It was never like that with Gon – Gon has always been a gigantic star, always focused on burning up.

“Night, brother.”

It’s not like Gon – it’s not half bad.

They saved a life, kind of. They’re not half bad, are they?