Gon sat in a sea of friends and strangers, specifically beside a reddened, boisterous Knuckle—and up until five minutes ago, beside Killua. He couldn’t hear his barstool creaking over the deafening crowd, but his legs shook with a maddening energy. The only thing keeping him from flinging himself across the room was the fact that he was supposed to have changed. He was supposed to have grown.
But what is this feeling?
The man ruffled his hair with clenched hands, a frustrated noise leaving his lips.
It just didn’t make sense. He knew anger, was all too familiar with loss, with separation, but this—this heat that clawed at his chest and drowned his ears with his heartbeat, this force that tensed his muscles and tendons to stone, that grit his teeth, that drained sound from the room. This was something new.
Just minutes ago, Killua had been beside Gon. He was leaning against the bar, elbows propped with a mischievous smile.
“C’mon, old man, every guy uses lines. Be a weirdo. It won’t be hard for you,” he gibed, nudging Knuckle.
“But, arm wrestling?” Knuckle was intrigued, yet not entirely convinced. He gripped at the edge of the bar, sparing a dreamy-eyed glance at the waitress twittering about, taking orders at the other end of the counter.
“Arm wrestling.” Killua was firm, resolute. “You really wanna date a chick who wouldn’t take you up on a challenge? A normal, basic chick that you won’t be able to adopt a million dogs with and support your strange fighter-nerd lifestyle?”
Knuckle couldn’t deny the validity of that statement, but still was too anxious to make the move, pressing his thumbs together and mumbling excuses to no one in particular. Killua gave him a scheme-y grin and a look that said “I got this”, and the next fifteen minutes flew right by.
Killua waved down the waitress. She was flustered by the challenge, but flushed from her toes to her ears when she saw Knuckle was the one interested. She grinned and nodded.
Their friend group and the other bartenders erupted in raucous support. Knuckle let her win. She offered her number as consolation. It was cute, eccentric, sweet. They were soon coupled up by the bar, talking with wide grins and their heads huddled close.
Now was the part where Killua was supposed to come back to him, supposed to take up their conversation where they left off.
Instead, Killua had only taken a couple of smug steps backward into the crowd, hands shoved in his pockets, before he crashed into her. And at that, the night shifted.
The air was sucked from Gon’s lungs as Killua’s arm outstretched to someone else, pulling her to her fairy feet. She fake-stumbled into his arms. It was forced, Gon could tell. If Killua noticed, he didn’t give it away. He didn’t embarrass her.
The Killua he knew would have embarrassed her. He would have shrugged and said something like “eh, not interested” or “watch it, hag” and run back to him. But this Killua was noticeably different. He was softer around the edges, calmer.
It’s been seven years. What did you expect?
This Killua didn’t run back to him, and this girl just kept talking. Before long she was guiding him to another bar across the dance floor, too far to read their lips but close enough for Gon to lose his mind.
He glowered, straining his ears. He suddenly hated the overbearing noisiness of the bar for the sole fact that it kept him from hearing Killua’s words. The clinking of glasses, the DJ whose base shook the room in explosive heartbeats, his friends’ laughter as they reunited after years of separation. He hated it all.
The girl was small and soft-looking, her lips a deep red and curving in response to whatever smart comment Killua made. Killua was always quick with a response—something teasing, intelligent. Gon spent the next half hour watching them shoot casual banter back and forth. His beer glass somehow remained unshattered beneath his vice grip.
“Hey Knuckie, is your friend all right?” the waitress.
The worst thing of all was Killua hadn’t looked back at him once. Not once. Not even a flicker of sharp blue, showing even a blip of curiosity for the friend he left behind.
Gon had spent the last seven years seeking out those eyes in every country, every town, every room he stepped into. And now they were so close—but they wouldn’t even spare him a moment.
“Woah, kid, you should really loosen your hand on that glass there.” He vaguely felt Knuckle attempt to tug the glass away by the rim.
They had barely talked today too! Well, technically, they talked all day, but they weaved through meaningless topics, silly jokes. Killua wasn’t really talking to him. It was all surface level. Vague, teasing, guarded. When they got to the bar and were crowded by adoring friends, he dropped his guard a little. He just started to open up. He just started to keep eye contact for more than a couple seconds at a time; they were getting somewhere!
“Gon, you in there? I know it’s loud in here, but I’m right next to you, kid.”
He heard nothing, saw nothing—except Killua scratching the back of his head, blowing unruly waves from his eyes. Red Lips probably thought he was nervous, maybe even excited to talk to her. Maybe he was.
The glass trembled dangerously in his grip.
“I think we need to get Kurapika. He’s the sensible one, yeah? Yo, Kurapika!”
What could they possibly be talking about for this long? Killua was now ordering a drink for her, shooting her a look with teasing eyes.
“What’s going on?” a soft, powerful voice. Kurapika.
Then, alas, Red Lips looked disappointed for a moment. She dropped her gaze to her toes. Killua looked uncomfortable, like he might be looking for an escape route.
Hope swelled in Gon’s chest, his hand and jaw relaxed, the heartbeat fading from his ears—maybe Killua was just being nice after all. Surely he’s more mature now, and wanted to get her a drink as an apology for toppling her over in the middle of the dance floor. That was probably embarrassing for Red Lips, and Killua must have felt bad. He was always a kind, caring person beneath everything else.
Then she grasped his arm and dragged his face to hers.
“HOLY SHIT!” Knuckle boomed, arms flailing out. “Bro!”
His hand felt warm. Wet. There was an annoying prickling across his palm. Annoying enough for him to break his dogged gaze and glance at his hand.
Oh. It broke.
“Leorio, get over here now!” Kurapika called, meanwhile Knuckle was wigging out, waving down his lady love for a first aid kit. When she couldn’t find it, he lunged over the counter to help her search.
“He really fucked up his palm, bro!” spewed a random college kid.
“What?” Palm called out from across the dance floor.
Gon didn’t make any moves to disembody his hand from where it was impaled around the shards. It was as if he had reached equilibrium—the pain in his hand now mirrored the feeling that ripped through his chest. He was weirdly at peace, meanwhile everyone else around him was running and flustered, now trying to buy alcohol to pour on his hand.
Blood pooled across the counter, spreading to the drinks of his neighbors and their neighbors. They screeched and gasped at the dark liquid circling the bottoms of their glasses, jumping back from the bar.
To avoid any more trouble, Gon tugged his hand to his chest. Shards fell to the table, some tumbling to the ground to shatter into more pieces. Oddly symbolic.
He looked up and across the room.
Now blue eyes flashed towards him, to the commotion their friends were causing, Gon’s hand, the blood. Red Lips looked distressed as he all but shoved her aside to weave through the crowed—worried, flustered, furious.
Gon almost smiled; Red Lips was pouting and Killua was running back to him.
But he knew this wasn’t right. This wasn’t the right way to get Killua’s attention, not the way he wanted to get Killua’s attention. His stomach curled in his chest at the manipulative implications, the selfishness, the things he’d worked so hard to change in himself.
He needed to leave.
Arm pulled tight against his torso, surely bloodying his new green sweater, Gon hauled his body into the dark streets of Yorknew.
Yes, he was drunk. Yes, he was overwhelmed with emotion, and a level of desperation that was peaking as he stumbled over wet brick. No, it wasn’t safe in Yorknew this late at night.
His ears were ringing, hand pulsing. If Killua caught up to him (which he would)—well, actually, Gon had no idea what he’d do. He had no idea who Killua was anymore. He certainly knew all the ways in which he himself had changed. He tirelessly worked on the flaws that tore him and his best friend apart.
Less demanding. More thoughtful. Less self-endangering. More perceptive of those around him. Less expectant that Killua would follow his every whim. More acceptant that he couldn’t change the laws of nature and that the world was not always fair.
But even though he knew in theory the world wasn’t fair, tonight was just too much.
Unfair didn’t even begin to describe what he’d been feeling when he saw Killua’s lips falling toward that girl.
He passed drunken clusters of friends, solo walkers, whispers drifting from alleys. Planes soared, flickering in the musky night sky. Lights blinked the streets to life in a weary, vibrant bloodline.
He could only assume all the ways in which Killua may have changed. One way he certainly became aware of tonight: Killua was not his. Not anymore. He had clearly given that right away when they’d parted.
He never knew the extent of comfort it brought him for Killua to be his.
Gon’s sneakers scuffed against the crosswalk. He gulped lukewarm air, squinting at the path ahead through his blaring headache. He didn’t care that he left his jacket at the coat check. He didn’t care that warm pools of red were seeping into the crevices of his shoes, dripping from his hand. He didn’t care that his friends were worried.
Maybe he didn’t change as much as he thought he did.
Suddenly he wanted to cry.
“Hey”—a grunt from his left.
Gon idly glanced toward the stranger leaning against the wall, but kept walking.
“Hey, hold up.” A hand pushed against his shoulder.
Gon swung around with stinging amber eyes. “Look, I really can’t talk right now—”
“I wasn’t looking to talk, kid.”
A fist flew at him, but Gon stumbled backwards in time, trying not to clench his glass-embedded wounds and cause more damage. He caught his footing in a gravelly, degraded sidewalk chunk to regain balance.
The stranger stepped forward, weight heavy in one leg as the other lifted to swing at Gon. It really wasn’t safe in Yorknew this late. He should have known. Gon flinched and braced himself, too disoriented and light-headed to prepare a defense.
Then lightning struck.
Gon felt it immediately—the unmistakable, rippling shockwaves of Killua. They sizzled on the surface of his skin, his senses springing alight. He saw fury in sharp blue eyes, the slam of a limp body into the building beside him.
The stranger almost comically slid down the wall to his butt, hood flopping over his dark hair. But before Gon had a chance to gather his thoughts, Killua was pushing him into the wall.
Killua was now closer than he had been the entire night, flush against him with a pale fist full of his bloody sweater. “What the hell is going on?”
A gasp caught in his throat. Wisps of electricity flickered around Killua, but they were no more powerful than static now. Now this was the Killua he remembered. The Killua who was overflowing with emotion, but only for him. The Killua who cared so much that it seemed to terrify him.
“I-I just . . .”
“You just what, Gon.” His soft white hair was disheveled, sneakers coated in fresh city grime, and he looked like he wanted to scream—in a way that only Gon could recognize. His stance was composed, cold, calculated; with Killua it was all in his eyes.
But for one of the record first times in his life, Gon had no words. For the first time, he didn’t want to be honest. He didn’t want to be straightforward. He was sick of telling everyone in the world exactly what he felt and wanted. Some things, some things were sacred. Some things Killua wouldn’t understand.
He wouldn’t understand that Gon wanted him to himself.
He would run, far. Again. Right after Gon had finally got him back.
“What was it, did they not refill your drink fast enough? Did you get shot down by a girl? What could have possibly made you Nen the shit out of a beer glass and run into a dark abandoned backstreet?” Killua shot, incredulous. The wind whipped at his shirt.
“Uh . . . yeah. Yeah, the girl thing.” The lie was hot on his tongue. It felt wrong.
Killua huffed out a breath, loosening his grip a little. Now he just looked confused. “Wait, but . . . you weren’t even talking to anyone. You were alone the whole time.”
“How would you know?” Gon spat. It wasn’t supposed to come out, especially not like that. Shit.
Realization dawned in Killua’s eyes, ignited them. He dropped his grip and stepped back, shaking his head. “That’s what this is about?”
This was not going well. Gon felt his mouth wobble. He’d made him angry, and he had one more excuse to leave him behind again. He was so close, almost had him back, and now everything was—
“God, you are unbelievable. This is because I wasn’t paying enough attention to you?” Killua ran both hands through his hair, elbows high and eyes peering up as if asking the gods to replenish his sanity.
He didn’t know what to say next, but managed to grit out, “It’s okay, Killua. I get it, I know. I don’t own your attention.”
Gon pressed further into the wall, as if hoping to sink and disappear into the graffiti. He felt defeated before the fight could even begin. These years had worn him down more than he realized. He had changed in ways he didn’t like, too. The hopeless kind.
It definitely threw Killua off, who dropped his arms back to his sides. “Obviously, idiot. Nobody owns my attention but me.” He glanced to the side for a few moments, then stepped forward to poke Gon’s forehead and lift his gaze to his. “It’s rude to not look at someone when they’re talking to you, you know.” It was light, lacking the edge it required.
He sighed when Gon didn’t respond. Auburn eyes somberly stared back at him. “Look, you don’t own shit. But if you want to talk to me . . . talk to me. Don’t destroy innocent tableware,” Killua half-smirked. “And I don’t understand why you bothered running, I literally move as fast as lightning. Was it for dramatic effect, hah?” He poked Gon’s forehead, more teasingly this time.
Gon huffed a laugh, looking into Killua’s now slightly-sparkling eyes.
“I’m sorry, Killua. I just, I missed you.”
Killua gulped, eyes widening. A pink flush dusted his cheeks as he poked Gon’s head back further, “Embarrassing.”
His friend’s reactions were comforting, familiar. It made him want to say more. Honest is good, honest works with Killua. Duh. It’s what always made him believe in you most, you idiot.
“I have a lot I want to say!” he shouted, standing tall now. Killua’s finger dropped from his forehead, taken aback by the shift in energy.
“Hah?! Stop changing your moods! Make up your mind and stick to one!” he squeaked, albeit in a lower octave than seven years ago.
“Killua, I missed you.”
“You already said that!”
“And you left me at the bar with Knuckle and his new girlfriend.”
Killua raised an eyebrow. “You mean, I mowed over some poor girl in my moment of Cupid-like victory.”
“She kissed you.”
“On the cheek, Gon. After I turned her down,” he exasperated. “It was a little much though. She got her stupid lipstick all over me.”
Gon blinked. Relief flooded into his shredded heart, pounding head, bleeding arm. Then, with that relief came blinding realization and blinding pain. He’d been bleeding this whole time. This whole half hour. There were glass shards sticking out of his palm.
“Fuck, OW!” Gon howled, gripping his arm and jumping from the wall. “My hand!”
“YOU JUST NOW FEEL THAT?”
“I was too upset before! Holy shit, Killua, it hurts so bad!”
“Since when do you curse?!”
“Since I got stabbed in the hand, Killua!”
“Yeah, by yourself. You disowned the right to curse!”
Killua all but growled as he looked down at his own bloodied shirt, which had transferred from the wall-shoving incident. Then, after a brief moment of paying his respects to a once stylish piece of clothing, he stretched out his claws and shredded off a piece. He handed it to Gon with a quick “cover it for now”, grabbed his other hand, and dragged him to his car grumbling obscenities the whole way that were vaguely along the lines of “stupid Gon” and “so needy” and “how have you even been surviving without me”.
Gon, despite the roaring pain in his palm, managed a grin. Because for a moment, just a moment before he turned to drag him away, Killua really looked at him. It was the same look he’d treasured when they were kids, the same flash of blue eyes that—though only allowing him an embarrassed glance—saw him. The same flitting upward of his lips, the same flushed cheeks, the same fluffy white hair shaking with his head. It was all the same.
But something about the way it made Gon feel was just a little different.
“We’re going to my place, and you’re swallowing all the Advil I own.”
Gon whined, “I’m pretty sure that’s dangerous, Killua.”
“Oh, so now you’re worried about dangerous behavior, hah?”
And he laughed, bright and bubbling from his chest. He decided to worry about the strange feelings later. For now, he was just happy to have his fingers clasped around his best friend’s, following the boy who had always followed him.