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Smoke curled from his lips. It spilled, milky white and heavy in the air, and sank in his lungs like the warm, heavy blanket he craved. He sighed into it, enveloping the chatter in his brain in a thick fog. His anxieties dissipated. Now… he could think.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said, eyes trailing up to the ceiling. He dipped back into the couch he had picked up from the side of the road several months prior to the current shit show that became of his life. “I don’t get paid for another week and rent’s due in three days. I can’t ask for another extended grace period.”

“How much are you light on?”

He rubbed a hand through his thick black hair, coughing a little. “Like, two hundred,” he said. “My next check’s… fuck, I can’t math. Kurapika, help.”

Beside him, the couch shifted. Kurapika leant over his knees and reached for another hit. When he spoke next, it was through the fog. “You said you average around three hundred per check? I keep telling you to get a better paying job or ask for a raise.”

“I can’t,” he insisted, devastated. He didn’t want to put his boss through that—what if business wasn’t as good as he thought it was? What if his boss was one excuse away from firing him?

“Then I don’t know what to tell you, Gon. Get another job?”

“That won’t pay for my next rent.”

“Do something quick then. Like… I could hook you up?”

Gon sighed. He really didn’t want to tread into that category. He was already treading that line, and he couldn’t ask more from Kurapika without feeling guilty about it. One day, he’d pay the guy back. “No, I couldn’t ask that of you.”

“It’s not a big deal.”

“Yeah, well, it is to me,” Gon said. He sat up a bit straighter and flopped his hands on his lap. “I can’t keep living like this!”

“Like what,” he said, head tipped back against the cushions. His blonde braid was pulling apart at the seams.

“From paycheck to paycheck! I want a cushion. And I’d blame it on my mathematical stupidity, but I don’t think that’s it anymore,” he said. He was, quite literally, taking an economics course to correct his issues with paying rent. No matter how he budgeted it, his rent was always short and his food cupboard scarce.

Kurapika had a few bright ideas—if by bright, he meant blindingly idiotic. He chuckled a little at the thought, eyes back on Gon’s pouting profile. Gon, who couldn’t, not for the life of him, fathom the reasons why everyone in his classes wanted to bone him—guys and girls included. He was a sweetheart, sure, but that was just the cherry on top of an already perfect sundae. Kurapika couldn’t blame them one bit. The guy was fit as all Hell, had hair suitable for any magazine cover, and a light, open face that screamed, “Talk to me! I’ll make your day 100% better!”

So yeah, Kurapika had a few bright ideas.

“Dude, just become a porn star,” Kurapika said.

Gon’s eyes snapped to his in an instant. “A what?

“You know. Make money from getting off, or whatever,” Kurapika said with a little wiggle of his shoulders. He turned his cheeky grin up to the ceiling. He blamed the idea on the high, but he’d be lying if he hadn’t thought about it before. Gon had the body build of a porn star, but what was underneath that waistband was beyond Kurapika’s current knowledge of his best friend.

“You can… make money off of it? Just like that?” Gon whispered.

“Well, it isn’t just like that,” Kurapika said. He settled in for a real talking-to, and in a matter of hours, Gon had his game plan for living a comfortable life in a shitty apartment that really wasn’t worth any of their time.

Gon needed to expand his initial audience from nothing, which meant he needed a presence on every social media available to him for this sort of business. He’d need to start an online brand—he’d need a name, photos to establish his presence—since it was more difficult, than anything, to start wholly from scratch. To top it off, Kurapika built out a game plan that required another hit to clear the dignity from their brains.

“So what you’re gonna have to do to make the dough is 1) make a sacrifice to the devil and hope to go viral and then 2) sell your hair online.”

Gon put a hand to his man bun. It wasn’t particularly attached to it, but haircuts were expensive and he didn’t trust himself or Kurapika with a pair of scissors. But at this point, it was such a prominent part of his daily routine that he couldn’t imagine parting with it.

“Why my hair?” he asked, worried.

“Because people buy hair. Unless you want to sell pictures of your feet,” he said. Gon shuddered. For one, hair was evidence. What if someone used it to plant his DNA at a crime scene? But feet… His toes looked ugly enough as it was from running. He was already self-conscious about his nonexistent pinkie toenail.

“No one would want a picture of my feet. Trust me,” Gon said, shaking his head. So it was decided: He’d sell his hair.

Gon expected it to take a lot more gusto for him to even strip in front of a camera, but before he could even get there, anxiety was already on his heels, climbing up, and gripping him by the throat that very next day when he and Kurapika picked up the camera equipment from a neighbor in their complex. Gon scratched awkwardly at his slicked back bun as Kurapika thanked the guy like they weren’t about to put porn on his SD card.

When the door was closed, Gon said, “You won’t tell anyone, right?”

“My lips are sealed,” Kurapika promised.

He helped Gon set up the camera. Seeing it—propped up on a box in his window sill—facing the bed had Gon’s insides spinning. They spun and spun and left him woozy in the head from the flask of courage Kurapika gave him. He was only twenty and therefore unable to provide such spirits for himself. If he did, it’d be yet another dangerous temptation. Dangerous obsession. He had an addictive personality as it was, and that buzzing sensation in his gut told him the spinning was good.

Kurapika was leant against Gon’s desk, crouched down, and tapping away on his computer. They had made his creator profile on a live-streaming service called HUNter the previous day. Gon busied himself in his closet, sifting through his shirts until Kurapika stomped in to assess the situation for himself.

He plucked out shirt after shirt before settling on Gon’s old lettermen jacket. It was black with gold sleeves and riddled with medallions and patches from his prime. Now, he was twenty, broke, and desperate after effectively shitting on his scholarship with one too many concussions.

Kurapika thrust it out to Gon and said, “Take off your shirt and unbutton your jeans. Just this.”

“Really?” Gon said, skeptical. He looked down at his plain green t-shirt and jeans and, after sharing another look with Kurapika, got to work. He shucked off his t-shirt and unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans. Kurapika tugged on the flap, to see what boxers he was wearing—plain black with a white waistband.

“Good,” Kurapika said. “We’re gonna monetize the fact that this is your first go of it. Play the innocent card. Like you don’t know what you’re doing, but in a cute way.”

“I don’t know how to do that,” Gon said, pouting.

Kurapika snapped his fingers. “See? That’s it—right there. You’ll do great. Just start with a few minutes of chatter, talk about your day and—oh, don’t talk about how desperate you are for cash. That’s a turn off.”

“Oh, okay,” Gon said, a finger to his lips. He pouted, frowned, and scowled at Kurapika when he realized that the guy was slowly backing towards the door. “You’re staying, aren’t you?”

“Hell no,” Kurapika said. “You’re gonna jerk off, aren’t you?”

Gon went bright red, wearing nothing but his undone jeans and a letterman jacket. “I-I don’t know! Can’t you, like, coach me?”

Kurapika put his arms out and said, “Do I look like I wanna watch you cum?”

“D-Don’t say that! This is different! This is purely for the benefit of moral support,” Gon insisted, gesturing to the desk chair. “You can, like… I dunno, manage the chat or something!”

Kurapika scowled at Gon, looked at the liquor supply on the counter, and gave in. He went for the vodka and took it with him to the desk. Halfway there, he paused, turned, and pointed a finger at Gon. “Just this one time, and then if you make it big, you better pay the fuck up, bub.”

Gon brightened. He clapped his hands and bounced, saying, “Yes! Okay, deal!”

And, so, thus was how Gon’s career began. It started with a perfectly art directed selfie (natural lighting and everything) and a link to the stream on every one of his profiles marked by his brand new username: Freakss. Meanwhile, Kurapika was signed into all of Gon’s accounts on his own phone, and as the camera started rolling, he was spamming peoples’ accounts with likes and follows just to get his face out there.

Gon frowned at Kurapika and said, “Don’t make it seem like I’m a sex bot or anything.”

“Honey, you already are,” Kurapika said as he tapped a finger on the screen with a flourish.

Something popped on screen, off to the side of the dark interface of the HUNter site. Both Gon and Kurapika stilled, and the instant they looked closer, it was followed up by another ping. Kurapika twisted around to look at Gon, who scooted to the edge of his bed and said, “What’re they saying?”

Kurapika squinted at the screen and said, “They say—” only to hesitate when more messages came in—three of them, exactly. “Oh, turn the mic up. Hang on.”

Kurapika switched screens and fiddled with the streaming program for a moment. Gon sat on the edge of the bed, clutching at the sheets to keep from vibrating with excitement. When Kurapika switched back, he read out a few of the messages, the first one being: “Get closer to the camera! I wanna see your face ;)”.

Gon hopped off of the bed and walked over. He beamed at Kurapika, who rolled his eyes and took a long swig of vodka before saying, “Do the frat boy, checking-yourself-out-in-the-mirror pose.”

Gon did just that. He passed one hand over his hair, angling his head to the side, eyes lidded. He turned his chin up and, with his other hand, ran his fingers past the side of his head. He smiled crookedly, and could see himself on the stream—the loose lettermen jacket and all.

I look good, he thought, running his hands over the zippered hem. He pulled the ends back, hands on his hips, and rose an eyebrow at Kurapika.

Kurapika was staring at him, a flush spread across his cheeks and ears.

Gon smirked. “Is that a sunburn or are you just happy to see me?” he said.

“Y-You’re ridiculous! I don’t know why I’m friends with you,” Kurapika blurted out, turning back to the screen.

An audible ping chimed. Gon startled at the sound and said, “What was that?”

“Someone—Someone donated five hundred—”

Dollars?!” Gon screamed. That was his entire rent! He might as well turn off the camera now and—

No, you idiot! HUNter has their own coin system. Five hundred gems is the equivalent of, like, five bucks,” Kurapika explained, and started typing away in the chat box as Gon sat back on the edge of the bed with a furrowed brow, a hand clasped to his chin.

Five dollars wasn’t enough, but he couldn’t be glum about it! That was his first tip, dammit! When he made his HUNter creator account, that was what the payment information was for. According to the terms and conditions, he’d be paid within two to three business days—just in the nick of time… if five dollars could cover the rest of his rent, that is.

Thus was how the stream commenced. It began with a little question and answer—it was his first stream, after all, and while the viewers weren’t necessarily there to learn about Freakss The Person, Gon needed to warm up. They’d get there—eventually—and knowing what was just around the corner had Gon jittery in his seat.

The stream had twenty-some viewers when it started to get rowdy. For the third time, Kurapika said, “They want you to take off your pants.”

“Maybe,” Gon teased with a half-hearted shrug. He grinned at the camera and said, “For twenty bucks.”

Now he’s getting the hang of this, Kurapika thought, fingers to his lips. He looked away from the video footage when another ping chimed.

“A promise is a promise,” Kurapika said, turning around in his seat. Gon stilled on the bed, eyes wide. “Off with the pants, bucko.”

“Geez, really?” Gon said with a huff.

Just as he stood up to pull his jeans down—not his underwear, he wasn’t that easy—something happened. Something… bizarre.

The chat had been a steady, periodic stream until that moment. A message here, a message there. Now, the conversation was flooded. Gon pointed to the screen, hurrying over, and Kurapika quickly twisted around to stare in shock at the notification that popped into the banner below the video footage.

“Someone’s hosting your stream on their account,” Kurapika said.

“Who?” Gon said, eyes wide. He could see himself in the video footage—off to the side, close to the lens, his collarbone the closest thing in focus.

Kurapika brought up the account in a different tab. Some guy with the username… Penniwise. He pointed to the follower count and looked back at Gon, saying, “Dude, you gotta thank him for hosting your stream.”

“How?” Gon said as Kurapika went back to the chat.

They tracked down the guy’s messages among the storm current ensuing on Gon’s stream. Gon leaned back into view of the camera again. The response to Gon’s question came through soon after—“You could start by taking off those clothes 😘 ”.

Since that was already the plan, Gon shed the letterman down to his elbows and stepped out of his jeans. He kicked them aside. The chat was a complete blur. The viewer count was nearing the two hundreds. It felt like every last viewer was trying to talk over one another, and it made Gon’s head dizzy with excitement.

“Dude, are you already hard?” Kurapika laughed, a hand over his mouth.

Gon looked down at is waist. “Yeah, I guess I am,” he said.

“Jesus Christ—I’m leaving,” he said, standing.

“Aw, come on! I need the moral support,” Gon insisted, gesturing to himself. “First time and all that.”

Kurapika jabbed a thumb in the direction of the chat as he took another sip of vodka and said, “Your moral support’s right there, bud. Tell me how it goes later.”

Gon couldn’t exactly chase after Kurapika without abandoning the stream. He stood there, eyes wide and lost for a moment before he moved to the camera, shifted it, and went to sit at the desk where he could see the chat. Quietly, to himself, he muttered in a sing-song voice, “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing…”

His comment was followed up with by Penniwise writing, “I’ll tell you what to do 😉 ”.

The guy was HUNter famous—it couldn’t hurt to learn from a seasoned streamer. Gon shifted uncomfortably in his seat, unable to sit still without shaking with energy. He licked his lips and grinned up at the camera as he said, “Yeah, okay. I’ll take you up on that offer, Penniwise.”

 


 

When Killua Zoldyck met Gon Freecss, he never knew Gon by his now-nonexistent bun. He never knew Gon from his shitty apartment. He never knew Gon before he owned a motorcycle. Yeah, a fucking motorcycle. The Gon Freecss Killua knew was preppy, generous, and ridiculous. He was all levels of ridiculous that Killua could get behind.

When Killua met Gon, it was just after memorial day on the first day of junior year. It was rainy, and Killua was positively drenched from being an absolute idiot and not bringing an umbrella. The guy had jogged up to him despite Killua looking like a serial killer in his baggie black sweatshirt, the hood soaked and pulled over his head. His eyes were bloodshot and hollowed out from lack of sleep when the rain stopped trickling over his head and instead pattered against the canvas of a wide, multicolored umbrella.

The guy leant over into Killua’s field of view and said, “Hey—looked like you could use some coverage.”

Killua stared for a moment and wondered if life was actually happening right now. Maybe he really did miss his alarm clock and this was all just some overly realistic dream. Except, it wasn’t realistic, because hot guys just didn’t do that to him.

“Uh, thanks…” he started.

The guy put a hand out. “Gon.”

Killua shook his hand despite every square inch of his hand being sopping wet. “Killua.”

Gon smiled wide then—so wide that Killua felt he was looking into the eyes of the young and (debatably) more attractive version of Heath Ledger. He had smile lines that didn’t and wouldn’t quit, and Killua thought he might die if he stood there any longer.

Gon inclined his head, just a touch, and said, “Well, Killua, mind if I walk you to your next class? I’m heading in this direction anyway.”

Killua couldn’t very well say no, not when his idiotic heart wanted him to strangle the guy for being so illegally gorgeous. Instead of saying something normal, like, “Sure,” or, “Okay,” he said instead, “Why, so you can stalk me later?”

Jesus fucking Christ. He wanted to shoot something.

Thankfully, though, the guy laughed, like Killua had just said the funniest fucking thing on the planet. “I would, but alas, I’m straight as a ruler.”

“Like, a tape measurer?”

“I was thinking more of a yardstick.”

“You mean rollup measuring tape.”

“No, I’m pretty sure I mean yardstick.”

“I think what you meant to say was ‘tape measurer’.”

“You know what,” Gon said, a hand on his hip and still leaning all up in Killua’s personal space bubble underneath that umbrella, “let’s just agree to disagree.”

Killua rolled his eyes away and followed after the guy. Gon kept the umbrella between them as the rain poured down and drowned out whatever words came out of their mouths. Killua couldn’t hear the guy above the constant drum of water on the canvas overhead, so they took to racing across concrete and puddles in the direction of Killua’s lecture hall. He pointed to it, and off they went.

They crossed the street, leaping over the river against the curb, and underneath the building overhang. Killua slowed, panting, and looked back to find Gon closing his umbrella and shaking it out, splattering the thin strip of dry concrete with water.

“Well, this is me,” Killua said, like they were on the front porch of Killua’s family’s estate and Gon was his date for the night, dropping him off at the door like the gentlemen he was.

“Coincidentally, same here,” Gon said as he folded the umbrella up and reached for the door. He held it for Killua and gestured inside. “After you.”

“No way, you go first. Chivalry is dead, haven’t you heard?” Killua said.

“Not in my book. Come on,” he said, and gestured again, like he was herding a difficult pup.

Killua wasn’t chivalrous and, therefore, wasn’t one to be put on a leash. He tugged. “I’ll go first when I’m dead.”

Gon stared at him. “Jesus, that’s morbid. I hope you don’t die first.”

“What, so you don’t grow old and die lonely?” he teased, hands on his hips.

The guy had the nerve to roll his eyes. “I don’t know about you, but I am not living past the age of forty. Not with how I’ve been living.”

“And how’s that?”

“Smoking too much, for one,” he laughed.

Damn, this guy keeps it real, Killua thought. “Guess it depends on what you’re smoking.”

“Either way my lungs are fucked. What about you?”

“If weed doesn’t catch up to me, anxiety will.” He did smoke, on occasion, during the previous year. He didn’t start until late freshmen year and kept up the habit through sophomore year. His grades somehow improved, but he imagined it was coincidental and not at all a fact of marijuana consumption.

Gon laughed with those cheeky smile lines bracketing that perfect goddamn smile. He put a fist out and Killua bumped it with his own. “Sweet. We should hang some time.”

Truth be told, Killua really didn’t expect his first friend of junior year to be made via a discussion on smoking, but there they were. And he certainly hadn’t expected to sit alongside Gon in the same lecture hall, either. They weren’t exactly in the same majors—Gon for business management and Killua for fine arts—and to top it off, the they were of two entirely different social species. Killua: the reclusive art student, and Gon: the buff, extroverted gym jock. Killua didn’t mind one bit.

The first time they hung out outside of class, though, was soon after the first day of classes: that following weekend. Killua wasn’t even startled by the speed of their friendship. It was full throttle, but natural. They bantered all through class (much to the annoyance of their classmates) and made it their life’s mission to watch as many movies and shows together as possible. Their to-be-watched lists were so similar it made Killua’s head spin.

So when Gon came buzzing at Killua’s apartment complex door, it felt somehow normal. As if inviting over the single hottest guy on campus was the natural next step to becoming friends with him. For brief interludes scattered amongst the day, Killua would pause and reconsider just how bizarre it was that Gon even took an interest in him. Killua, the weird albino kid from the art department with too much paint on his hands. Killua, the guy who couldn’t keep his mouth shut no matter how much he tried.

He felt weird enough about having a one-on-one movie session with the guy, so when he opened the door and found that they weren’t alone, he was relieved.

“Hey! I brought a friend,” Gon said, gesturing to some blonde-haired hooligan next to him. The guy had the hair of the gods—braided back and styled perfectly. All he was missing was an olive leaf branch and a toga.

“‘Sup,” the guy said. He reached a hand out, which Killua took, breathless. Were all of Gon’s friends attractive? he wondered. “Kurapika.”

“Killua,” he said.

Little did he know, Gon’s particular friend was, in fact, their supplier for the evening. And, as it turned out, he was also Gon’s closest companion.

“He’s jerked off in front of me before,” Kurapika said, pointing to Gon.

“Have not!” Gon cried, exasperated.

“Wow,” Killua said.

Gon slapped Kurapika in the arm and said, “You’ll make him uncomfortable. Why did I bring you again?”

“Because you love me,” Kurapika said with a cheeky grin.

Killua laughed before popping a chip in his mouth. He gestured vaguely to Kurapika and told Gon, “I like this guy. Where did you find him?”

“At an off brand Goodwill, probably,” Kurapika said.

“In the back of a Popeye’s parking lot,” Gon said, completely deadpanned. Killua slapped his hands to to his lap and laughed so hard he thought he might burst a lung. He fell back onto his mattress, a hand to his chest, and let a little sliver of his soul ascend out of existence.

Killua’s studio apartment was plain all except for luxury television his brother passed onto him along with his older gaming consoles. They used one such console to pull up the movie of the night, and the next thing Killua knew, he was full on staring at Gon, who sat on the floor off to the side, slightly in front of Killua, looking entirely too invested in the movie to notice. Killua ran his fingers over his lips and tried, once again, to focus on the screen, but nothing was more entertaining than watching Gon’s expression shift between scenes—confused, frustrated, laughing, happy. Fuck, if seeing Gon happy made Killua this blissed out, he wouldn’t need weed in his life.

Kurapika passed the glass pipe to Killua, who took a hit mostly out of habit than by anything else. He pulled his eyes away from Gon then and decided that he was right. He was grateful Gon brought Kurapika because if it were up to Killua, he’d be jumping Gon within the first five minutes of the movie. The guy was a looker, okay? He couldn’t deny how his hormones flew out of whack at the very thought of him.

His eyes then traveled sluggishly over to Kurapika, who was leant far back on Killua’s bed, his back propped up by a pillow against the wall. Kurapika crossed his arms and when Killua met his eyes, the guy had the audacity to smirk like he knew exactly what Killua was thinking. Honestly, he probably did. When Killua was this relaxed, he was an open book. An open, open, horny book. Wide open. All of Killua’s pages were to the wind.

Kurapika blew smoke between his teeth like some cartoon bull seething in a gladiator pit. Killua found it amusing. “So… what’re you majoring in, then?” Kurapika asked, tipping his head to the side.

“Art, I guess.”

“You guess?”

“Does anyone really major in art?” Killua said, rolling his eyes to the side. He coughed at the smell in the air as he passed the pipe to Gon, who reached back, eyes glued to the screen. He took it without looking. “I mean, if you’re looking for a job, they’re gonna be looking at your portfolio. You might as well just save yourself the suffering, you know what I mean?”

“Doesn’t change the fact that you’ve got Yorknew University on your resume,” Kurapika said. “That’s good for any job.”

“Yeah, but resumes don’t matter in my field,” Killua insisted. “It’s different for you guys because your employers actually read that shit.”

“My employers can’t read for shit,” Kurapika said.

“My employers can eat shit,” Gon said.

“All of the above,” Killua said. If they had drinks, they would have cheered to that, but alas, all Killua had was a Camelback on its last leg and some SunnyD. He had a SunnyD addiction.

At the end of the movie, the night faded without tension. It was, perhaps, the smoothest exit he had ever taken from a social excursion. They chatted, finished off their drinks, cleaned up, and Gon and Kurapika were out the door before ten o’ clock rolled around. For a night owl like Killua, it was impressive. Afterwards, with his back pressed to the closed front door, he stared into his apartment with what he expected to be a wave of relief. Instead, he just felt… calm.

That was nice, he thought, which he rarely ever thought when it came to social interactions. Conversing with people was hard, exhausting, and overwhelming. But with Kurapika and Gon (and the help of Kurapika’s stash), he made it through unscathed.

Killua put a hand to his hair before turning around and locking the door. He stepped into the room feeling fuzzy in his chest. He tried to put words to it, and after a moment of standing blankly in the middle of the room, he determined that it must be what it felt like to find a consistent friend. His three years of university had provided him with temporary friends here and there, and long term ones he only ever saw on occasion.

Gon and Kurapika felt different. Perhaps Killua was just curious, or perhaps he just had the hots for them both. He couldn’t be sure which interpretation better fit the fluffy, airy sensation in his chest.

He rubbed a hand over his chest and thought, Probably just heartburn.