In the end, he never met Ging.
For Gon Freecs, everything ended that day. It ended with a phone call, an unfamiliar voice under a familiar contact. A voice that was crying, shaking, but it didn't matter. The words that carried over that line were knives that stabbed through his already-wounded heart, tearing him to shreds.
“Is this Gon? I'm... I'm sorry. Your friend is dead. I-I couldn't save him.”
He hadn't believed it, at first. There was no way Killua could die, after all. He wasn't that kind of person. But there was real, honest pain in the man speaking to him, and every word that spilled from the receiver hammered the point home. Every word crushed him smaller and smaller.
“He said to tell you he was sorry. I, I don't know, who Kite is, but he said he was sorry about not being able to help him. H-he, asked me, to tell you. And.”
The phone cracked under his fingers. Not enough to shatter it, barely. It clattered to the ground, unnoticed. Gon couldn't feel his hands. His heart pounded in his chest, the only thing he could hear, drowning out the distant voice of the man on the phone. Everything was numbing, his mind shutting off like it had run out of power. He hadn't been able to save Kite, and now Killua was... Killua was... Killua had...
His throat burned, and it was the only reason he knew he was screaming. He didn't know where he was anymore – what had he been doing? It didn't matter. Nothing mattered. Killua wasn't. He wasn't. There was no way. He'd find Killua, find the man on the phone and beat him bloody for saying something so awful, something so awful and wrong because it was, it was wrong, had to be wrong. It was Killua, after all, and they were going to meet up again and everything would be fine. They'd be fine and Kite would be fine, and they could all go home together. There was blood in his mouth. Everything felt cold except for the pain in his throat, hot and stinging.
Gon picked up the phone. There was no way, he told himself. Killua was fine, the man on the phone was wrong. His voice was hoarse when he spoke. “ Where. ”
He didn't remember what had happened after that. Didn't remember anything until he'd seen.
In his mind, he had repeated over and over, that's wrong, look. He's just asleep, that's how he's always looked when he's so tired he can't move. That's just how Killua is, how could you think that meant he was dead? Just look!
But Killua's chest didn't move, and the hand that Gon gripped was cold, and that skin that was normally pale was white as paper, and he knew he was lying to himself. The machinery was quiet. No pulse, no breathing. Nothing. Silence. Gone.
It didn't matter anymore. They'd taken everything. He didn't feel the floor cracking beneath his feet, the way dust exploded out in a radius from him. Didn't feel his aura spike, didn't feel the pain of his body screaming in resistance.
He'd find the ant. He'd find the ant and make them fix Kite, fix Killua, fix everything. And then he'd kill them. It didn't matter. It was all he could hold on to.
A cold rage, unbearable pain. The words “I can't fix them. They're already dead.”
That was how Gon Freecs died.
It was Knuckle who found him, lying in the wreckage of his rampage, a tiny body coated in blue blood, surrounded by corpses. Kite's gaunt body, covered in stitches. Killua, pale and beautiful. Gon had crawled back to them in the end, curled around Killua, one hand outstretched to hold Kite's. The crushed remains of what had to be hundreds of Chimera Ants littered the ground around them in a wide circle, like a bomb had gone off to blow the bodies away.
Three broken bodies, brought together by a broken child who was ready to die.
It was Morel who carried him to the hospital, never to awaken again. The regular hiss of a respirator and the beep of monitors were like a sick joke. Gon wasn't there anymore. He'd left, and all that was on that hospital bed was the shattered husk of a child's despair and fury, full of unrealized goals.
It was sunny and clear they day they buried Killua's body, a mockery of his death. Leorio had protested it, just as he had with Kite's funeral. “Just wait until Gon can be there,” he'd begged. “Gon would want to be there.” But Gon would never be there, and so Killua was buried without his presence, just as he had died. Buried alone by the family he'd fled, without any of the friends he had risked everything for.
It was Kurapika who pulled the plug, Leorio's hand falling from his arm after the words “At least let him see them again” had stopped his protests.
It was Mito who wept at the grave, despairing and broken. A mother's tears. A private funeral.
It was days later that their faces – young faces, bright faces, yet untouched by the horror that would end their lives – appeared in newspapers, on television screens. The words spoken by news anchors, “After a long struggle following the incident in East Gorteau, young Hunter Gon Freecs has passed away. He is remembered by his father, Ging Freecs, and his second cousin and guardian Mito Freecs.” They were empty words, as empty as the almost identical ones spoken for Killua had been. No one had heard from the Zoldyck family since word of Killua's death had reached them, since they had retrieved his body to be interred on the estate on Kukuroo mountain. Away from Gon, even then.
It was weeks later that Kite arrived at the grave site on Kujira island, standing solemn and silent, red hair blowing in the wind. A child, standing before their own grave marker.
It was weeks later that Leorio's fist collided with Ging's chin, knocking him senseless, a hollow rage with no other outlet. Fury at a father who hadn't even attended his own son's funeral.
None of that mattered, though. For Gon Freecs, it had all ended with a phone call. Everything else was just details.