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Gladiator's powder

Chapter Text

The Arena was a feature in everyone’s life.

Less like the sun, more like a black hole.

It pulled in everyone, slowly tugging them from what they were used to.

At no point in anyone’s life were they totally disentangled from the Arena, and this effect only served to reinforce itself.

Food stands fought to get closer, transportation circled round it and every road was built with post-fight traffic in mind.

But it’s pull was still more than physical.

It tugged the web of trade and commerce close, and with it, the tangled wires of politics and religion.

Priests and holy men fought for your immortal soul in the streets, while in private high box men with shark-teeth necklaces shook hands and smiled.

Given the barren, sandy landscape surrounding the Arena and it's city, the only export available was blood.

The Arena itself was a massive chain of circular amphitheaters, varying wildly in size and quality, encircling the largest and blandest arena, with a floor of simple sand and chairs of stone, it seemed ugly and yellowed.

Only the grandest of fights took place inside of it.

Killua was more used to one particular arena, with it’s expensive clients and unarmed fights.

It was one of the only arenas with most of its seat in boxes, and the only building with velvet floor.

Red drapings lay across the gap between the seats and the arena, and the draping blended seamlessly with the red of the circular arena

It was known to the fighters as the “red circle”.

He stared into the mirror, inspecting to make sure no marks were apparent.

The trick to surviving the red circle was artfulness.

One not only needed to fight well, but fight beautifully.

Checking once again that his pale skin was untouched, he slipped into loose pants of the same flavourless shade.

He again inspecting himself, double checking no marks to be present.

He rolled his shoulders once, his bones convulsing and slithering under his skin.

He then extended his arms, fingers intertwined, cracking both his fingers and back.

Afterwards he swung his arms backwards and forwards, kicking up his legs into a small backflip.

He nodded to himself in satisfaction and stepped back through the door.

Among the many oddities of the red circle was the audience. Though similar in size to most arenas, it sounded closer to a formal banquet than anything, and when a fighter entered the arena, the room grew quieter.

The chandelier shimmered downward, and Killua tried to make his walk more graceful.

Wearing nothing but a pair of thin, pale pants and hand wrappings, anxiety gnawed through Killua’s practiced confidence.

His pace didn’t slow though, and he finally stopped at the edge of arena, the bridge retracting silently behind him.

His opponent's bridge clicked into place across from him, and Ikalgo stepped into the ring.

Ikalgo’s outfit was a loose, cool blue cape of tattered strands, with shirt and pants of darker blue shades.

His sunburned face and arms contrasted nearly perfectly.

The polite, commanding sound of fine silver on crystal glass turned the rooms attention to the closest box to the arena.

“Presenting Ivory Calmar.”

Killua had remained focused on Ikalgo, trying to convey apology without using his words or changing his expression.

This was destined to fail however, as Ikalgo's attention was firmly planted on the speaker for the duration of his short speech.

Killua lead with an impassive face, struck up a stance more akin to a dancers, and kept completely still.

Ikalgo drew semicircles on his half of the arena, then grew impatient and began at a low to the ground sprint at Killua.

Killua waited to the last moment, then immediately arced his foot upward, bringing it into his opponent's jaw.

Ikalgo let out an involuntary sound of pain, blood flung from his mouth, and a small reaction shivered up the audience.

Pure, unaltered bloodlust.

Barely masked by expressions of idle interest.

Ikalgo, sensing the wolves at his heels, snapped his head back down.

Killua spun in a small pirouette, re-using his leg on Ikalgo’s jaw.

Ikalgo stumbled to the side, nearing the edge.

He smeared the blood leaking from his mouth across his face, and charged again.

Truth be told, fights like these are more shows than death matches.

So you act, and play to each other’s strengths for the best show.

In accordance with this philosophy, Killua leaned precariously backwards over the void between arena and crowd to slip past a bone shattering punch of Ikalgo’s.

He then kicked a leg up onto Ikalgo’s shoulder, and snapped his knee back into his enemies chin.

He felt a distinct crack, and Ikalgo let out a scream from between gritted teeth.

The audience let loose a ripple of quiet mumbles.

The room was devoid of the clink of silverware.

The eyes of the pack were square on the weak link.

Ikalgo fell back to the floor and Killua wasted no time tying him into an armbar.

Playing to his strengths, Ikalgo wasted no time breaking his own arm to get free.

With the sound of that horrendous crack, someone in the audience gasped.

It must have been an amazing display.

Killua rolled off the ground to avoid the punch from Ikalgo.

Now that they stood apart, Ikalgo stood full height (A solid inch shorter than Killua), full breadth (Sizably larger than Killua), and with his broken arm dead at his side.

Killua was nearly center ring at this point, so he stayed perfectly still as Ikalgo ran to him, trying to plant a fistful of agony on his chest.

Ikalgo’s fist chased Killua’s stomach as he jumped swiftly backwards, Ikalgo a half inch from destroying Killua’s intestines.

The punch was close enough that as he was sliding back on velvet ground, Killua decided to bite into his own tongue, drawing blood and spitting it out as he stopped.

A pair of gasps, overlapping slightly, floated up from the darkened crowd.

Killua hardened his face, still emotionless, but oozing fury from behind his mask.

And he did something he’d never done in an arena fight.

He made the first move.

He made a slow, steady walk to his friend (But there were no friends in the Arena were there?) and then leaped onto him.

Killua only stopped punching when he was worried his knuckles would break.

And looking down at the mangled form in front of him, Killua realized he should’ve held back.

The putter of polite clapping continued and Killua stepped out.

Chapter Text

Killua, back in the tiny two door room with a mirror, lets out shuttering breath.

His body is quivering with his adrenaline still exploding down his bloodstream.

But something is wrong.

A pair of blood-hungry eyes were still near.

It's not quiet time to break character.

"An excellent fight. Beautiful even."

Killua took his clothes from the floor and folded them over his arm.

"An artist always strives to create beauty. To hear of his success is bliss."

He turned to face the oddly dressed pale slaughter house of the arena.

"But to hear from a more talented artist of your success is ecstasy."

He hated every word coming out of his mouth so much he wanted to throw up.

but the mile wide, shit eater grin on his face was workable coping mechanism.

Hisoka smiled back, and his pants smiled wider.

"Oh my... Would you care to hear more of your success in private?"

The trick with these artsy types was to be coy.

About everything.

"Is this the brutal clown gladiator or the owner of the arena asking?"

Hisoka's smile stayed in the same insidious shape.

"In either case, I'd prefer to get changed in private"

Hisoka laughed.

It was mildly uncomfortable.

"Very well I'll leave you be."

As soon as his steps had muffled into silence, a new patter of feet picked up.

"Killua. What happened?"

Killua stepped behind his mirror and slipped off his thin, pale pants then slid on his shark-tooth necklace.

It featured a single tooth, pure white, with saw-like ridges along the edges.

"You're going to have to be a little more specific."

He poked his head out from behind the slim mirror to look at the blue garbed blonde haired man looking back.

His face was a brew of concerned and angry.

"You just ruined Ikalgo's career."

Killua slipped on a red t-shirt, then popped his head back out to the side.

"No I didn't, he'll heal."

"He might. But his time in the Red Circle is done."

Killua slid on underwear, then blue shorts.

He finally stepped out from behind the mirror.

"Maybe, maybe not. I can never tell with these artsy types."

"That why you hired me. Ikalgo has had no ark. He hasn't developed any, he's still just someone wishing he's someone he's not. On top that he keeps losing, and that's unpopular in any arena."

Kurapika paused his rant to step forward and tug up Killua's shirt.

"And you clearly do know what they want. You faked the entire fight."

He prodded Killua's utterly un-bruised chest.

Despite the fact the Kurapika was inspecting him with all the vigor of a bored toaster, Killua still blushed and tugged down his shirt.

"I- it was obvious. Idiot."

Kurapika chuckled behind a polite palm.

He stepped back, the humor draining from his body

"You have a fight next week, plan accordingly. I won't push you to help Ikalgo, but I'm worried."

Killua sighed.

"I want to. I really do."

Kurapika started to say something obliterated to the closing door behind him.

Comfortably back to the sand scorched road, Killua began the familiar journey back to his home.

He was meditating quietly as the wind blew around him.

He turned off the main road and was encompassed into familiar dark quiet of cramped off-street alleys.

Little sound was left other than thrum of the street behind him, as his feet seemed to fall on muted ground.

There'd be one more light, one more druken mumbled greeting.

Tonpa's quiet and massively suspicious fruit stand was instead a small light and a deafening shouting match.

"I'm just saying you should get your stock checked!"

"And I'm saying that that is slander! I am respectable business man."

Killua was walking close enough to see Tonpa's earnest expression, and he almost bust a gut laughing.

"What are you-"

Tonpa paused.

"Ah, see here. This a trustworthy, upstanding citizen, gladiator, and merchant, Killua Zoldyck, buys my fresh produce every week, and he is as strong as an ox! My food is as safe as it is healthy."

Tonpa's fat, ugly lips were slithering into some shape like a crooked smile.

Killua gave his own sinister smile.

"Please Tonpa, you pump oranges so full of laxatives it sets my teeth on edge. You're lucky it's tasteless, or you would've lost your only customer months ago."

Judging only by expression, it would be a fair guess Tonpa was just struck by lightning.

Killua took a moment to capture that scene in his memory before turning to the other member of shouting duet.

"Oi, you"

Killua said addressing the black haired, tan boy in front of him.

"Y- yes?"

He said, seemingly startled.

"Don't you know only shady merchents have no shark teeth?""

Judging the mystified expression quickly added to the boys face, he had not.

His short shake of the head confirmed this.

Killua hummed, digesting this.

"You new to the Desert?"

"Mm-hm. I came to look for someone!"

Killua hummed again.

He should probably let the clueless dope be.

"Come on. You'll probably have to get a job, and I need to go to town hall anyway."

Gon reached forward with startling speed and clasped both Killua's hands

"Really?"

The way he looked into Killua left little room for an actual response.

He just nodded and pretended not to blush.

The boy made an excited noise that could be loosely defined as thanks and did some ridiculous dance

He tried to ask casually as they walked.

"What's your name?"

"I'm Gon!"

Chapter Text

The town hall was different from other buildings in the city.

Rather than a mud brick building with a coat of the same creamy white substance, it was veritable tipi of rusted iron girders fused together.

Gon cooed on sight of the massive landmark.

He'd probably never seen so much steel in one place.

He'd probably never see it anywhere else.

Perhaps if he ever visited meteor city.

From what Killua understood, it was a massive mess of molded iron, but no-one scrapped there because of the radiation.

"Come on slowpoke."

Killua said over his shoulder.

Gon got down off his tiptoes and pouted at Killua.

"I'm not slow!"

Gon sped up his walk to reach the other boy.

"The growing distance disagrees."

Said Killua, jogging ahead.

"Oh yeah?"

Shouted Gon, getting to a break-neck pace.

"YEAH!"

Killua shouted, turning to face Gon.

He then broke into an all-out sprint of his own and knocked aside a box of chickens behind him.

Gon slid to a stop just in time to avoid this menagerie of disgruntled poultry and feathers, then looked around for a shortcut, his eyes eventually resting on the nearby rooftops.

He ran to a nearby window, stepping to the hole cut in mud brick and tugging himself onto the window above that.

After finally finding a foothold on this top window, and apologizing, Gon tossed himself onto the roof, breaking back into a dash.

He'd only spent a second or so on his impromptu trespassing and respective apology, but Killua had already gained fifty feet or so.

Gon quickly came to the edge of this first house, leaping before he had any real idea of how far he'd have to jump.

He was rather lucky, as his fingers caught on the edge of the flat roof a street away.

He scrambled onto the roof, scraping his elbows and knees in his flailing climb.

Killua was only thirty feet in the lead now, entangled in traffic.

The houses were clustered in a row at this point, so Gon could merely run from roof top to roof top, only stepping down every house or so.

His lungs burned with fresh, cool desert air, and his limbs bleeding freely, but only slightly as he ran.

Neither of these bothered him, he was possessed by the thrill of the chase.

Gon looked out to his left, finding that fluff of white searching behind it as it ran, jumping over boxes and people.

He felt a massive, giddy grin on his face without knowing why it was there.

"Oi! Killua!"

Killua looked up at him in wide eye horror.

"Sl-oooo-w p-"

"Idiot! Get dow-"

Gon never heard the end of the sentence, he just felt the floor crumble from beneath him.

Chapter Text

Gon awoke to a mid-day sky.

No... No wait...

Gon awoke to a pale, paint peeled ceiling with a bare lightbulb in the center.

Gon tried to prop himself up, first craning his head up.

He was instantly sorry.

As the room's violent swirling started slowing, his head plopped back down onto the pillow.

"Leorio! He's awake."

Gon started to turn to turn his head.

"Hey hey, don't try to move."

A face leaned over him.

Wow.

It was pretty.

Killua felt himself blush.

Gon was looking at him in complete amazement.

It was the kind of face one would see from a man looking at star spread out on the sky for the first time.

The kind of face lax from total overwhelm.

Gon immediately realized he was embarrassing Killua.

"Ah! Sorr-"

Gon was part of the way through apologizing when he brought his casted arm up and slammed it to his forehead.

"Ah ow!"

Killua immediately burst into laughter, holding his stomach as he convulsed in cackles.

Gon pouted his face in reflex, but privately he thought Killua had a wonderful laugh.

"Oi, oi stop attacking my patients won't you?"

"Shut up old man!"

Gon turned with eyes to the foot of his bed to a find a man who looked as though he'd spent his childhood in a taffy machine.

He was tall enough his the tips of his black hair traced along the ceiling.

He scowled at Killua then turned his head and his expression to a smile at Gon.

"You took a nasty spill through a roof or two. It's lucky you only broke your arm, and it's a great sign you're awake. Hopefully, you'll be recovered in a week or so, otherwise I'd need to turn you over."

Gon was looking at Leorio then, but he still felt Killua's reaction.

"Why would it be a week? The next grand fight is in two."

His voice was quiet, calm, as if walking on ice.

Except he was the ice.

"Because we're cleaning out weekly leading up to it to minimize supply strain."

Leorio's voice started troubled, but soon untangled itself and was back to its brash standard.

Killua stood up and stepped deliberately forward.

For a split second, everyone in the roof was sure Killua was going to kill Leorio, and no one knew why.

Then he walked past Leorio and Gon heaved out a breath of stress.

Leorio turned to Killua just in time to see him lean out the door and shout.

"KURAPIKAAAA!"

Killua walked back and sat in the chair by Gon's bed, crossing his arms.

Gon felt himself mumble "Killua..."

A small palmful of minutes later, rushed footfalls approached the door.

Then, a new pair of shoes clanked on the tiled floor.

"What? What is it Killua? What could possibly be so important?"

Killua was looked in pointedly the opposite direction.

"I need you to convince your boyfriend."

Kurapika started an intake of breath, but Killua finally met his eye for a small moment.

"Please."

Kurapika let his lungs deflate.

The blonde placed an open palm on the pocketed arm of the older man and leaned up on tip-toes towards his ear.

Leorio leaned down, indulging the other in schoolyard secret sharing.

Except instead of bring his lips up to the tall man's ear, Kurapika brought his mouth to the others neck.

From there, he put a small, chaste bite just below his chin.

It was nothing gaudy, merely an open and close of teeth, with a tiny catch of skin.

Despite this, Leorio's face blossomed quickly into bright red.

"Well"

Kurapika gave a significant glance before tucking a small amount of hair behind his ear.

Leorio coughed slightly.

"I suppose an extra week won't hurt anyone."

Kurapika then tugged the taller man's hand from his pocket, and lead him through the door back out of the room.

Gon and Killua looked at each other, just before breaking into hysteric giggling fits.

Killua soon had to retire back home, and promised to return the next day, but even after Gon was alone, he couldn't wipe the smile from his face.

"Listen."

Someone croaked from the bed next to his.

He hadn't noticed them before due to the cloth hanging between them.

"You cannot trust him."

Gon was suddenly, unaccountably afraid of the groggy, dragged-through-mud-voice.

"Killua Zoldyck cannot be trusted!"

Chapter Text

The thing about deserts is that they are blistering hot in the day, then ice cold after nightfall.

So when the sickly pale pawl of frigid moon light was still stuck to the piss-colored sand when Killua took a single sleep drowned glance outside, he slumped back down into bed.

 

Leorio glanced out to the pale-yellow frostbitten exterior of his tiny home just before curling back to face the blonde haired mystery next to him.

Kurapika's face was cooed slightly, expression indescribably peaceful, and Leorio smiled that massive, stupid grin.

He still smiled as he tugged Kurapika close, resulting in vague, sleepy grunts.

 

Gon had no window to view the outside through, and he longed for a view despite the cold leaking in through the walls.

However, his wish for the familiar wind on his face was a minor tick in the massive meditative machinery devoted to fully dissecting what Ikalgo had told him.

Killua seemed to be a good person, but he did bad things to Ikalgo, and he won't help him now.

What's more, Ikalgo said they even used to be friends.

Gon befuzzled by this complex equations of morality, but more than that, he was worried.

He wanted someone to talk to, and Ikalgo passed out shortly after confusing him.

He wanted to find out what the truth was, but more than anything he wanted Killua to be a good person.

Gon wiggled restlessly before settling face down in his pillow.

 

Killua finally started to wake up proper when the sun rose in full (and it was too hot to stay in bed).

He rolled out and over, landing in a half slumped position leaning on the bed.

Then he stumbled forward and back, finally settling in a semi-balanced standing position.

He zombied forwards, mechanically sliding into clothes scattered across the room.

Loathed were the days when Killua shambled out the door to find no steaming cup of coffee awaiting him as he passed Tonpa's stand.

Today was not a loathed day.

No, today Killua scooped up the shallow mug and took one deep drink to find his tongue immediately assailed by the flavor of almonds.

Bitter almonds.

Killua weighed up the pros and cons of downing the other half of the otherwise flavorless drink, before shrugging and chugging the brown fluid.

As he marched his remarkably stiff body along the early morning road, he felt the heart-stopping pain of his cells being strangled one by one.

Killua debated stopping and leaning up against a wall, but he heard something.

Something like a footstep.

It seems as though his fight yesterday was interesting enough that one of the many bored rich snobs hiding in the audience had him tailed.

So he walked on, the massive Gordian knot formed up and down his spine combined with the deadly poison spreading the sensation of being melted alive over him in waves.

His tail was joined by another, less discreet one on the other side of the road, but Killua reached the town hall incidentless.

There he slid a substantial pile of coins and his necklace across a smoothed wooden table to a kindly woman with smiling features.

"Thank you very much Mr. Zoldyck, you know have the ability to trade in goods worth ten thousand jeni or more."

Killua nodded and waited for the stinger.

The result of years of work.

"Welcome to the slave trade."

Killua felt unexplainably, explainably ill when he left.

The truth was that Killua craved nothing more than to going home and curl up into semi-dressed ball and sulk.

But unfortunately, Killua had learned the hard way, even when not being tailed you have to maintain appearances.

So he left for the arena, and entered the training hall.

Weapons of hundreds of sizes gleamed on the massive weapon rack out before him.

He looked with glazed boredom, as the more discreet tail had given up on appearances and was simply watching from the door.

Killua walked to a weapons test dummy began his assault, avoid full strength attacks to keep from bruising.

That was it.

Killua peeled off his shirt, displaying his uninjured chest.

The man in the door leaned his head to get a better view.

Killua turned towards him and held his arms wide with a smirk.

The tail grimaced and left.

Killua resumed his assault with a smile.

 

Leorio rolled to work late that day, his face smeared with that goofy smile.

The security guard down the hall from sick bay stared down at him as leorio nearly skipped along the hall.

"Just get in, you're already late. One of your patients was asking for you."

Leorio look back and paused his massive step.

"Really? Which one?"

The guard shrugged

"I dunno. Funny lookin black haired one."

"huh."

Leorio resumed his walk and entered the mad bay.

"Hey Gon, what's up-"

"OHMYGOSHLEORIOWHATISHAPPENINGIKALGOSAIDTHATKILLUABEATHIMUPANDTHATHELLBESOLDATTHEENDOFTHEWEEKISTHATTRUE?"

"Woah, hold up their-"

"Where is Killua?"

Gon said, suddenly focused and unpanicked.

"I'm not sure..."

Leorio was rather taken aback, but Gon's face started to stretch into sheer pain.

"but I think he's in today, probably training. Listen though, Something is going on with Killua. He needs money for something, and I'm not sure what."

Gon considered this quietly, hand on chin, for a glorious ten seconds before running to the door Leorio'd left ajar.

"KILLLLLLLLLLLLLLLUUUUUUUUUUUUUUAAAAAAAAAA!"

Leorio brought his palm to his face.

 

Killua heard the shriek bouncing off the walls all the way to him.

He shivered once, involuntarily, then calmly loosened out of fighting position.

He picked up his belonging from the floor, then walked slowly over to med bay.

Secretly, quietly, in some tiny corner of his brain, Killua hoped the tail had left.

In the rest of his brain, he was working on damage control.

If the Red Circle thought for a moment he wasn't the flawless dancer he looked, it'd be over.

Kurapika hurried his pace the slowed to reach and walk in pace with Killua.

"What the hell?"

Killua shrugged, then made a discreet gesture to the man following them thirty feet back.

Kurapika lean back up, and they made their way in silence.

Upon reaching the only white room in the building, Killua shut the door behind him.

"What's going on?" Gon finally demanded.

Killua looked pointedly at the floor.

"Killua." Gon said, voice softer than silk.

"Is Ikalgo telling the truth?"

Killua looked up at last, and through those sapphire portals to the soul Gon could see a heart breaking and a strong man start to cry.

Then Killua bit his lip.

He look down at the floor and swallowed his emotions.

When Killua came back up, his face was a the steely mask he used in the fights.

But even then, there was still a sad undryness hung around the edges of his eyes.

"Ikalgo was weak. He lost. I can do nothing more for him."

The Killua turned to leave.

and it ground his heart into the dirt a little more every time Gon shouted his name.

But he kept going.

There was more at play then himself.

 

Killua went home, and curled into a ball, quietly crying on the floor as he listen to a recording of a happier time.

Of a happier person.

He shouldn't have.

He really shouldn't have.

But he needed it.

Chapter Text

The following week, thinking of Gon was only ever a tragic accident.

Killua tried his best.

But the little boy with sunlight in his eyes was not easily forgotten.

Killua is currently sliding coins from one side of the desk to the other.

He's about to cry.

And then he remembers the tape hidden behind the vault under his floor.

456... 457... 458... 459...

 

Gon was quiet.

Leorio hadn't known him for long but he knew that was odd.

The small boy would just lay there, staring into space.

Leorio'd asked him if he was ok.

"mm?"

He’d said.

"Oh yeah, I'm just..."

He trailed off, staring into space, then as if to comfort him, turned up and smiled.

Leorio had never felt so cheated in his entire life.

He'd seen that smile, he saw what it could do.

This is was pale cruelty of an imitation.

He would greet Leorio in the mornings, he’d say goodbye at night.

Save any treatmeant, thier situation was the same as before.

Except Gon was dead.

Possibly dramatic, but from what Leorio had seen, also the truth.

Next time he saw him, Leorio was going to give that pasty pip-squeek a piece of his mind.

 

Killua stared once again into that slender mirror in an empty room.

He slid out of his normal clothes and inspected himself again for any marks.

He took a damp cloth to some tiny spec on his left thigh finally reaching contentonion, slid on his thin pale pants.

Upon careful re-check of his bare back, Killua spotted a small bruise on his shoulder.

He puzzled at it for a moment, before realizing it was from carrying Gon on his back and running.

He smiled to the strangely overjoyed man in the mirror and quietly whispered “Idiot”.

He was a little surprised he’d missed it when he checked before he left.

He took from under the mirror a small circular container, and unscrewed the lid, revealing fine white powder.

He then took a brush of similar small grain and began to spread the powder over along the bruise on his back.

Within several seconds of diligent brush strokes, the bruise seemed to evaporate into an expanse of white skin.

Checking his back once again, he then proceeded once more in his ritual.

He emptied the air from his joints, then kicked into a backflip.

He stumbled backwards out from his landing position.

Leaning against the pale wall, Killua tried to knock his thoughts loose with a shake of the head.

It didn’t work.

Killua dragged his feet across the familiar bloodstained velvet.

Killua slipped comfortably back into his graceful walk just before entering view.

The familiar tangle of speech and silverware enveloped him.

His three opponents stood in triangle facing the center of the circle.

Killua stood respectfully in middle.

Normally, he wouldn’t give the courtesy, but these bastards were green.

“Presenting, Man and the Moon.”

All three squatted down and ran in unison, circling around him.

Killua kept a level eye on each as they circled in, closer and closer.

The oldest and largest aimed a hefty punch low to Killus’s leg.

KIllua sprang up, landing firmly on his arm.

“Addendum.”

Killua had been waiting for this, they’d never place him against amateurs like these and expect a pretty fight.

“The Moon may not strike down man. Man will fall to itself, or not at all.”

Ah. So he couldn’t attack.

Wonderful.

The next man, this one tall and skinny, brought a great wheelhouse of a kick to Killua.

He thought for a second, the younger man was going to smash the larger’s arm, but he’d swung, his fist back around coming into killua new location at an angle.

This is when the youngest, short and skinny, tried to cancel Killua’s ballotté of a backwards jump with an attack from behind.

Killua resigned to flip, on one hand, over this combatant’s shoulders.

He’d failed to act with appropriate force though, as his flight continued well beyond it’s intended point, landing him safely at the very edge of the platform.

He wobbled and flailed wildly to regain balance, barely stumbling away from the edge.

It was graceless, tactless and ugly.

A set of gasps were tugged from that darkened crowd.

Killua was distracted, and it was showing.

He’d mentally berate himself later, he had work.

They again, began that flurry of combined force.

As Killua slid cleanly between kicks from the largest and second largest of his opponents, he began to feel the pull of his murder’s instinct.

The tactful tug became and a brutal ripping at the corner of his mind.

As the youngest again crept from behind to plant a pair of intertwined fists near the base of Killua’s spine.

Killua delicately slid between the oncoming agony and his opponents legs, causing the man barely older than Killua to stumble and trip forward.

“Oi, come on bro, let’s get him!”

The oldest shouted after recovering.

The youngest nodded, clearly not convinced.

They again formed a triangle, and again in the same direction.

And as they swirled around him, Killua waited.

The oldest turned inward from the circle, coming finally to raise his fist in a punch behind Killua.

In the tiny space of thought he had was instantly consumed in an intense bloodlust.

He counted ways he kill could the large man.

Twenty seven or twenty nine depending if you count two different kinds of asphyxiation.

He’d finally settled on kicking his legs out from under him and tearing open his throat when something occurred to him.

Gon would be sad.

It shouldn’t have mattered. Someone he met a grand total of a week ago and had seen twice.

But it wasn’t his fear of Illumi being right, it wasn’t his promise to himself and it wasn’t the lost money.

It was the thought of someone he barely knew being sad.

Internally, he sighed.

He’d been too slow in acting to dodge, now he was committed.

He craned around, and caught his opponents massive hand in his, his fingers not even touching the edge of his fist.

The world stopped.

The middle brother stumbled out of his kick to Killua’s expected next location, apparently stunned.

The youngest looked on in utter horror as the eldest strained against Killua.

Killua merely passed his enemy’s fist to the side, stumbling him into the middle child.

After collapsing into the scrawny, stretched frame the eldest attempted to stand.

The groans of pain could be heard from beneath him.

“Bro! Hey! Can you hear me!?”

“I- is he ok?”

As much as Killua would’ve liked to help, his actions had not come without consequences.

His stopping of the oldest son’s fist had began bruises forming on his palm.

Imperfections were not a thing Killua could afford.

Not when he was so close.

The putter of clapping and discussion drowned out the pleas for help.

Killua stepped back across the bloodstained velvet into the dark comfort of his mirror room.

Chapter Text

“An imperfect work. A rarity, for you at least.”

The butcher clown Hisoka leaned on the wall in the far corner of his mirror room.

Killua felt a strange sickness welling up inside his stomach.

He wanted to shiver and scream and vomit and run away all in one fell swoop.

He settled for standing him as long as he could.

“Flawed creations are inevitable, but should never be tolerated nonetheless”

“Would care to be punished for your failures? I always available.”

Killua experienced the sudden urge to scream and snap his mirror over that dumbass clown’s head, so he wouldn’t have to hear him talk.

“Trust me, I’ve lined up torture aplenty. Should I ever require your aide though, you’ll be the first to know.”

Killua thought he could he feel his lies rotting through the front of his teeth.

The godamn maniac smiled back.

“Very well...”

He trailed off, eyes dragging up and down Killua.

Killua was incredibly uncomfortable.

Leorio walked in.

“THERE YOU ARE YOU BRAT!”

Killua was unsure when the situation had escalated into shouting, but he assumed it started with Leorio’s parents and lonely Saturday night.

Hisoka quietly disappeared through the only exit.

“Liorio!”

“IT’S LEORIO!”

“Whatever gramps.”

Leorio Was ready to explode at that, but Gon was hurt. He could always pummel the brat later

“Killua.”

The tall black haired man said, a sudden, razor sharp edge to his voice.

“It’s about Gon. I’m worried. He seems… different.”

Killua was glad he’d turned away to collect his things into a loose bundle, because he could at least hide emotion in his voice.

“I barely know Gon.”

“Killua. You’re an idiot.”

Killua turned to Leorio, partway through sliding on his bulky brown robe.

“I saw you. You were scared to hell he was going to die, covered in sweat and dirt. You ran to med bay in minute flat which was across the entire town.”

Killua wasn’t totally sure how to respond.

“How many bruises did have to cover from carrying Gon?”

Killua bit his lip.

“Kurapika told me it’s your livelihood. You risked-”

“Leorio.”

When Killua parted his lips, blood leaked from his bottom lip.

“Stop. Please.”

He pushed past Leorio.

Leorio caught his arm.

“Hey, I’m not-!”

Then he saw those little blue dots of shattered glass dripping tears down that perfectly pale face.

“Jesus. You can’t… lo-”

Killua ripped his arm from the grip of his companion.

He wasn’t ready for that word.

“Just leave me alone.

 

Kurapika heard the door slam open from the far end of his house.

Letting slip a small sigh, he turned from watering his cacti and back through the hall to the front room.

“Yes, hello Killua, no please stay. I’m doing well, and yourself? Well that’s great. What can I help you with?”

“You told Leorio.”

“No in fact, I did not.”

“Leorio knew about my style, and he wanted me to make it up with Gon. Meaning he knows something.”

“Yes. Just not the secrets you entrusted to me on pain of death in exchange for my own darkest secrets, under similar protections.”

That seemed to deflate Killua’s conviction some, but he wasn’t going to just give in.

“And you of course, told him nothing of your secret?”

Kurapika was visibly angered for the first time.

“I did. Meaning I trust him. Meaning you should to. Or am I poor judge of character?”

Killua nervously fidgeted with the hem of his brown coat.

“You know that’s not what I meant.”

Kurapika sighed again.

“I suppose you were right to ask at least.”

Killua peaked a curious eye up from his hem.

“So he doesn’t know about my sister?”

Kurapika felt sudden and infinite guilt for shouting at something so small and sweet.

He stretched out a palm and draped it loosely over Killua’s shoulder.

“No. Like I said, your secret is safe with me.”

Killua let out a nearly silent breath and then he did something odd.

He took a half step forward.

The action wasn’t odd for pure movement, but the intention he took in it was strange.

He stepped as though landing on a foreign, far distant planet for the first time. A step weighted with fear and uncertainty.

Killua had always acted with some strange, surreal confidence because he knew something you didn’t.

But as he stood there, foot resting on the ball of his heel, it seemed Killua sure of nothing.

Not his name, nor who person in front of him was.

Killua raised his arms steadily from his sides and loosely tied them around Kurapika.

Kurapika stood, stunned and oblivious for a moment.

The moment was short.

He then tied an arm around Killua’s back, high on the shoulders and planted the other on top of his fluffy mound of hair.

Killua’s head collapsed into Kurapika’s chest and quietly, oh so quietly, he cried.

The only sign he’d changed at all was the damp stain of Kurapika’s shirt and the gentle shaking of his shoulders.

Chapter Text

“Leorio what’s this tournament?”

Leorio nearly choked on his coffee when Gon finally spoke up.

Mopping up the boiling fluid from his shirt and mentally swearing, Leorio explained with one hand.

“Well, every year, there’s a massive tournament. The person who doesn’t drop out or die until the end is declared the winner.”

Leorio had been moving his available hand in an upward and right to signify climbing the bracket.

Once at the “top” Leorio shook his hand in wild excitement.

Gon giggled at this accompanying act.

Leorio smiled at amusing the boy.

Then they remembered what they were doing, and why Gon had asked.

“Anyway, why do you want to know?”

Leorio’s smile started cracking behind his teeth.

“I want to buy Ikalgo’s freedom.”

Gon eyes shimmered with a strange intensity and Leorio fumbled over words.

“I mean… You see...”

He finally just let a massive, defeated sigh leap from his chest.

 

 

“KURAPIKA!”

The shout came again, slamming down along the walls bouncing from surface to surface until it struck him him like a shock from heaven.

The blonde man let loose a great beast of a sigh.

He stood from up from his desk and wrapped that familiar chord with a single, thin bladed shark tooth dangling from it round his neck.

He let it swing loose and stared at it for a brief moment.

Another deep breath worked it’s way from his chest before he walked back down the hall to the infirmary.

 

 

Gon winced away from Leorio’s bellow.

The tall man turned back to him and shrugged, wearing that mile wide smile.

Gon smiled back, even though he didn’t feel too good.

Leorio was good for that.

Kurapika marched in, shoulders poised up in tension.

“Leorio, please the boys summon me that way was already too much, please don-”

Leorio had interrupted her with a tactful bob of the head to Gon.

“He wants to fight in the tournament to ‘pay off’ Ikalgo.”

Leorio’d said it in a whisper, but it fell on Gon’s ears in crisp, clean detail.

What was the problem?

He just wanted to help Ikalgo?

Why did no one want to help him?

“Gon”

What can he say? Why can’t I save anyone?

JUST LET ME SAVE HIM!

“You can’t die for Ikalgo.”

Kurapika’s voice sent a shimmering wave though his thoughts before they broke into a thousand pieces.

“WELL WHY NOT?”

Kurapika’s face had a pry bar of sheer, aghast horror snapped in half over it.

“Why can’t I just save one person?”

Gon took a breath to stop his own screaming.

“On the way here, I met tons of people and when they needed help… I couldn’t save any of them.”

Gon looked down to try stopping his sobs but he looked back up with tear tortured eyes.

“So I won’t let anyone else die!”

 

“Killua”

He’d heard it clear as bell, but pretended not to.

Instead he poured his uncertainty and pain into another full force execution of a punch.

The head of his target dummy took a skidding hop off it’s perch and slammed into a nearby wall.

“I know you heard me.”

Killua vented his black undershirt by grabbing and tugging the fabric back and forth.

“I know you know I know.”

Killua smiled his comfortable, coy smile at Kurapika.

The blond rolled his eyes.

“I need a favor.”

There must have been a catch in his voice, because Killua bristled.

“Really? What’ll that be, you owe me twenty? No thanks.”

Kurapika was familiar with this particular stew of sarcasm.

“Killua, I’m serious.”

Killua snorted.

“I know, that’s why I’m not.”

“Killua.” Kurapika put an extra push into the stern in his voice.

Killua rolled eyes, then pointed them to the blonde.

“It’s about Gon.”

Killua stood in space of deadened silence.

All he’d wanted was to crawl into a quiet, safe, warm box and hide from the typhoon of deadly, chaotic feelings.

And here Kurapika was, inviting the storm in for tea.

Fuck it’d been too long since he said something.

“And how much do you think I care?”

“Judging by that silence, a lot more than I’d thought.”

“Kurapika I can’t… do this anymore.”

Kurapika dragged both his hands down his face slowly, stretching his face wildly.

Now that Killua was looking, he seemed exhausted.

“I know. Killua, I know. It never ends.”

Kurapika stopped and sniffed back some imagined tears.

“But Gon is going to kill himself in the tournament.”

Killua rest his head on his hand and stood very still for a very long time.

“God damn it. Fine.”

The simple whisper came down as crash.

 

 

“Gon.”

Gon found his drooping eyelids snapping open.

“You can’t die for everyone else. Take it from me.”

Gon blinked once.

Twice.

Hard.

“Killua?”

They stared at each other for a long moment.

Those humble honey orbs could have stolen souls as they flooded into those balls of ocean.

Killua started drowning in that brown marble ocean.

He plummeted deeper and deeper, until the brown bore into pupils of black.

He’d sunk to the unfathomable bottom, so far he wasn’t sure which was up.

A million miles away, he scraped a chair up next to the bed.

He held onto his breath and his secrets, with all the strength he had.

He choked and gargled trying to keep his demons down, but they exploded out from his clenched teeth.

First, he told them of his sister before she was his sister. Then of they day they escaped, sun-burned and blissful. Then, of the day the slavers came. Of the pitiful weakness Killua felt as he ripped from the only family he loved. Of his bloody rage fueling his record in the pits. Of how his pittance of freedom was granted and how he turned it to slaughter again. He told them of his hare brained scheme to buy her freedom.

He told of them what it cost him. How much it hurt those around him.

And finally, in a collapsed heap, he told them how tired he was. How bone, dead, bloodless, god damn tired he was.

The surface he returned to with two tiny bubbles in his lungs was silent, save the wind wearing down on the walls around him.

“Killua...”

Killua turned to see the massive, sunburned man splayed on the bed behind him.

Ikalgo was crying.

“I want to help!”

Killua had been so taken aback, he choked on the small sob creeping up from his throat.

“W-what?”

Ikalgo got that massive smile back.

“I’d never leave a friend in need! You want to buy your sister's freedom? Then I’ll get my own and help you!”

Chapter Text

Leorio set about, once again in the early morning paled light, to changing Gon’s bandages.

He stared down at the exposed arm with stunned disbelief.

Goh was immediately concerned.

“Ahhh! Did it get worse? Is it infected? Am I gonna die?”

His words fell on deaf ear as Leorio began to roar.

“HOW ARE YOU HEALED ALREADY?”

“AHH! I’m healed?”

Leorio flailed his skull back and forth in wild excitement.

“Yeah, see for yourself!”

He tugged on the bundled bandages, the entire wrapping flying loose to reveal a mostly healed, previously brutally snapped forearm.

“Ahh! Can I compete in the tournament now?”

Gon’s eyes shimmered at the same moment Leorio’s mind sputtered out like a cheap light.

Leorio stood up, pushed his chair with the back of his legs and walked calmly from the room.

“No, you can’t!”

“But why?”

Gon, though trying to avoid it, still ended up whining.

“Because it’s still incredibly dangerous!”

Kurapika desperately tried to shield his brain from the oncoming barrage of simple, unbreakable logic with a pair of fingers set to each temple.

“Gon, these are the strongest competitors in the world. It took weeks for Killua to convince me to let him compete, and he does this for a living!”

Gon being up and about, jogging excitedly in place, did not help Kurapika’s conviction.

He paused his jog for a short moment at that.

“So, if I’m as strong as Killua, I can compete?”

“I… uh…”

There it was again.

That simple, irrefutable, glorified brick of logic tossed into the works.

The only option left was to put his faith in Killua.

“I suppose if you could beat Killua three falls out of five I might-”

Gon sprinting left a trail of “ok, thank you, goodbye!” far behind.

“Does he know where he’s-”

“No.”

“Oh.”

Leorio paused at that.

“Should we...?”

He trailed off.

“He’ll probably be back.”

A slow minute ticked by.

Gon kicked the door back open, shoulders rising and falling with his panting.

“Down the hall, take a right, take a left, next two rights and it’s the third door on the right.”

Gon nodded once, shoulders still rising and falling.

The door swung back and forth in his wake for a slow minute as his run echoed off the walls.

Kurapika leaked out a slow breath.

“Hey there bright eyes.”

Leorio tugged the blonde man’s over to him and hugged him close.

“You doing alright?”

Kurapika huffed out another exhausted breath.

“I’m tired.”

He said, muffled into Leorio’s shirt.

“That’s fine. Nobody blames you for being tired.”

Kurapika breathed in, then out. More even, less forced.

“I have work.”

Leorio had been preparing for weeks to use this one.

“And I have cat. There, now we have two things that can wait for an hour of two.”

Kurapika chuckled despite himself.

They rest there for a long moment.

Kurapika breath evened, then shallowed, and Leorio picked him up and gently lowered him onto the previously occupied bed.

He spent several odd moment swaying a strange dance and marvelling at how cute it was Kurapika had fallen asleep standing up, before quietly retreating to do inventory.

“Left then right then left down the stairs then…”

Gon smoked gently from both ears and tried to desperately to remember his way.

Gon shook his head, trying to restart his malfunctioning machinery via percussive maintenance.

His lame attempt at repairs failed to fix his lack of direction, but it did clear needed space for new thought.

With this un-cluttered head space, Gon fell back into old patterns.

He was lost, confused, stressed and just finished the most massive emotional rollercoaster of his life.

So he returned to instinct.

Not people instinct.

Brutal instincts.

Impolite instincts.

Primal instincts.

He squatted low and sniffed deep into the air.

Sweat, the faint stink of blood, old stone.

The crowd roared, far off and away.

It was held in the same regard as the footfalls, barely audible down those long corridors.

He sniffed again, two short breaths.

In the darkened hall, torches spaced generously apart, Gon smelling the hickory and ash.

He pinched the bridge of his nose, shifting it back and forth.

He breathed once more.

Dust. Grease. The smell of iron.

Gon walked slowly forward, nose raised and eyes closed.

Hunting for the smell of iron.

Nobunaga watched curiously from the corner

The boy in green walked forward almost robotically, like a string was tied to his nose and his nose controlled his entire body.

He began to follow but by taking his first step, he realized his mistake.

The boy paused, then immediately jumped up and clung to the wall above him.

Nobunaga was the first to speak.

“Ah, sorry to startle you. You seemed lost.”

Gon considered this stranger carefully.

He hadn’t noticed him before, which was truly amazing, on top of which he wore fine clothes and rest a hand on sword in his belt.

Gon came to the conclusion he was untrustworthy, but valuable.

“Do you know where I can find Killua?”

Nobunaga was intrigued by this question.

The spiders kept a steady eye on him, as he proved so adept in the pits and in the Red Circle.

Despite their interest, they could never find what made him tick.

But this was an interesting addition to the puzzle.

Nobunaga performed an expression loosely defined as a smile.

“You’re almost there. Head straight, then take your next two lefts. Fourth door on your right.”

Gon nodded once, then slowly slid down from the top of the wall.

He walked in the indicated direction, soon breaking back into his run.

Nobunaga watched him, the lights showing, then concealing him, until he disappeared around the corner entirely.

Chapter Text

Killua continued to wail on his wild unappreciated target dummy.

Not because it actually improved his skill, but more as a way to relax.

Killua still felt like hot, exhausted garbage.

But at least he was assaulting something.

Then he heard someone running down the halls, shouting his name.

“KILLLLUUUUUUUUUUUUAAAAAA!”

They were getting closer.

That idiot…

He wasn’t being tailed to day but that didn’t help with how loud Gon was.

“WHAT!?”

He stuck his door out of the training room and shouted.

“Oh, there you are.”

KIllua punched into the top of Gon’s skull.

“You can’t just run around shouting someone’s name and act so casual about it!”

Gon looked up and cradled his head.

“But why?”

He whined.

“Why? It…”

KiIlua resigned to sigh.

“What do you want?”

Gon looked immediately up, apparently no longer hung on his injury.

“Kurapika said that if I can beat you 3 falls out of five he’d let me into the tournament!”

Killua was somehow unsurprised Kurapika had folded.

That smile of his was deadly.

“Why would you even want to? To buy Ikalgo, you need way more money than even the highest prize.”

Gon smiled clumped into a disapproving pout before the words had finished crossing Killua’s lips, but Killua did not pause.

“Plus, how are you even healed? Healing a broken arm in week and a half? That sounds suspicious. Not to mention that you couldn’t beat me if you tried.”

Gon crossed his arms, pout still present.

Killua stared back with his own arms crossed.

“I won’t lose.”

Gon said finally.

KIllua opened his mouth to object.

Then closed it.

Then opened it once again.

Before finally settling to to just fork out a sigh.

“Come on, the tournament is a weapons competition, take your pick.”

Killua lead Gon to the massive rows of weapons towards the back of the room.

Gon wandered the rows aimlessly for little, before he noticed Killua playing no part in his search.

“Killua?”

“Mmm?”

“Are you going to pick one?”

KIllua looked a moment before shaking his head.

He produced a small silvery knife from somewhere in his clothing.

“I already have one.”

There seemed a strange weight was stuck in KIllua’s words, but Gon simply nodded before resuming his search.

“Can you help me look?”

Killua scoffed.

“Idiot, why would I be able to help you look? I don’t know how you fight.”

Gon pouted again, before turning back to the rows of weapons.

Eventually it seemed he settled on a spear a little taller than him, with a bronze tip firmly bolted to the end.

He spun it once in both hands, weight shifting pleasantly from one to the other.

KIllua was uncomfortable with how at home Gon was.

“You don’t have to-”

“Killua. I do.”

Gon voice took a familiar edge to it.

KIllua bit his lip.

“Ok then. To avoid injury, blows will be counted within an inch of skin. Any objections?”

Gon shook his head.

So Killua nodded his head to the side and they walked out into the sun.

The tiny overgrown courtyard where they took stances was blistering even as the sun began to crane towards the horizon.

Gon immediately charged with flurry of lunges from all directions.

They did, however, all have something in common.

They were all pulled, slowed attacks.

KIllua immediately bat the bronze head to the side and brought his knife a hair from Gons throat.

“If you don’t have the conviction to take me seriously, you won’t last a second in the tournament.”

Gon face seemed conflicted.

“I don’t want to kill anyone.”

KIllua nodded once, a secret relief flooding into him.

Gon looked totally confuzzled as Killua left to the weapons room.

He returned quickly though, and Gon gracelessly dropped his spear as Killua tossed him a stout wooden walking stick.

“Then don’t.”

Gon smiled that blinding smile again.

 

Gon stood three feet from Killua, staff pointed to the ground and angled back to him.

Killua snapped forward with a twisting lunge, the knife finding home just below his ribs.

Steel tapped gently into his cloth shirt.

“Focus.”

Killua taunted as he withdrew.

Once both normalized, Gon snapped his staff to just below Killua’s chin.

Gon said nothing, just smiled.

They returned to starting positions.

Gon again snapped up his staff, but this time found Killua’s knife catching his blow.

Gon attempted to break this by circling his hand in a quick twist, which resulted in a flicking, careful cut to Gon’s leg, which he tactfully stepped back from.

On the heels of Gon’s retreat, Killua again attacked, shifting Gon’s center of gravity backwards, sending him tumbling down.

Killua tapped just above Gon’s belly button with his knife, wearing that gentle, snarky cat’s smile.

Gon smiled back as Killua tugged him up.

Chapter Text

The Desert is an inherently dry place.

With little water, clouds are rare, and rain is mythical.

So when little white tufts stuck to that massive hot blue sky, an oddly defined tension arose in the city.

That tension, like the clouds, was not dissipating.
Both situations only worsened.

Those white tufts of q-tip fluff eventually mashed into clouds of storming grey, each huddling in corners of the sky.

At this point, the unspoken tension was reaching nearly hysterical levels.

A dropped pot cause a whole street to freeze in apprehension.

And two days before the tournament began, those ominous grey clouds snapped.

The second largest arena, dubbed “The Bender”, was packed as another or its massive fights nearly came to a close.

Then, blinding light and a roar.

Women screamed. Men rushed from the seats and onto the dirt, filling their mouths with sand just to wash it back out again. Children froze, panic at unfamiliar sounds and sights.

The man named Chrollo watched on from his high box, taking no note of the mad monkeys as the only thing more important than steel rained from the sky.

He merely grunted at a sight only the oldest of citizens could remember.

“Chrollo.”

A familiar voice introduced himself with the others name.

Chrollo merely turned, acknowledging Nobunaga standing in the door.

“Yes?”

Chrollo’s voice matched his state with a patient, bored tone.

“Do you remember Killua, the boy we talked about recruiting?”

Chrollo looked back up, recalling Nobunaga’s excited expression as he rattled on about the freakish strong boy fighting in Red Circle.

Chrollo finally nodded, looking back to the arena.

“Yes?”

Nobunaga’s smile somehow annoyed him from the other side of the room.
“He had a friend, who’s only a little weaker.”

Chrollo finally saw his angle.

“Do you plan to leverage the boy against him?”

Nobunaga’s smile was significantly less irritating.

“Yes.”

Chrollo gave a short hum, and finally turned to face Nobunaga.

“Only if they survive the tournament.”

Nobunaga nodded, bowed, then left.

Chrollo turned back and scowled down on the citizens finally coming to their senses, laying out pots and pans out to collect rain.

What a troublesome week this was turning out to be.

Chapter Text

Just before what would come to be known as “Chrollo’s Storm” started the largest riot in the history of the city, Gon and Killua were walking.

More accurately, they were leaping, criss-crossed along the road, sliding past narrow swings traded back and forth and as they raced along the road.

The cloud choked, early morning gray sky somehow completely failed to exhaust the boys as they raced along the road.

Then, about halfway to the Arena, they stopped, dead center of the road.

Both panting with exhaustion, Gon’s staff a millimeter from Killua’s skull.

Gon kept panting, but smiled past the sweat.

Killua smiled his “Smarter than you” smile, and tapped his silvery blade into Gon’s thigh.

Gon groaned in frustration and held his head as he collapsed in an over-dramatic heap.

“Arg… this is so harrrrddd…”

Killua looked at Gon’s pitiful form on the dusty road.

He kneeled down to his crumpled heap of a friend and stared for a long, awkward moment before patting Gon stiffly on the shoulder.

“Come on, you’re being so embarrassing. You were doing really good!”

“Really?” Gon perked up, his arms supporting his chest but with his legs still stuck to the ground.

Killua nodded, blushing now.

Gon always felt these strangely warm butterflies in his stomach when Killua said something nice.

That blush was no help.

“Hey, Killu-”

The sky snapped in half.

The world drowned.

For the first time in a long time, Killua’s mind was treading on nothing.

His body was totally frozen, his mind was full of the word “Panic” repeating on a loop, and he looked to the outside world like a horrified statue.

“Killua?”

Gon tapped on Killua’s shoulder.

And then his face hurt.

And then he slammed into the wall, with his head cracking into it a second later.

Then black.

 

There was shaking.

“Gon!”

What the hell did that mean?

Oh.

Right.

When Gon opened his eyes, the world was brown and sludgy.

Killua was concerned.

Why?

Oh.

Yeah.

“Imfin”

“Gon? Hey, look at me, eyes open.”

Gon blinked groggily.

“There you go. You’re doing great.”

Gon felt like he’d stood up too fast every minute since he’d been born, and it finally caught up with him.

Killua touch was gentle and careful as he traced up and down his back and skull, looking for breaks or bruises.

“You seem to be mostly in one piece. How do you feel?”

“gurt”

Killua made a concerned noise.

There was loud noise in the distance.

“Stay here.”

Killua tone was somehow very concerned and scary enough to plant Gon there forever at the sametime.

He began standing up, but paused to add a final comment.

“Try to stay safe.”

And then Gon was alone.

 

Gon wasn’t sure how long he just stayed still, listening to the rolling thunder and steady rain.

But it was a long time.

The loud noise in the distance faded farther and farther away.

Until they didn’t.

The noise eventually became clear as a pack crowd of people.

Gon’s brain was only partially made of plaster at this point, so tried to stand.

It was a process of leaning on walls and slowly sliding up.

His first steps were wobbly, but he eventually returned to above toddler levels with the aid of his constant wooden companion.

It occurred to Gon that he wasn’t where he remembered, he was in an empty house now.

The shouting became louder and louder and Gon wibbled to the door faster.

He looked up and the down the flooded streets, finding at the far end a someone tall and pale standing in front of a mob.

Someone struck Killua.

Gon was unaware of his pain as he ran.

 

The small stone had dug its way a little into Killua’s forehead.

He was prepared to do something immensely stupid.

Then a shout came from behind.

Shit

Killua made the mistake of blinking and he missed it.

He was able to see the aftermath, Gon standing between him and the crowd, staff in hand, with the ringleader collapsed onto the ground nursing a shattered nose.

He was not lucky enough to miss Gon ruining the entire crowd, slamming back and forth violently between people.

“GON!”

As the shout left his lips, and Gon paused his assault and Killua realized he’d made a mistake.

The survivors fled.

Killua unsheathed his dagger and tossed it aside.

Gon paused a moment before doing the same with his weapon.

And then he was there, slamming a kick into Killua’s side.

He’d barely been fast enough to react at all, much less block.

Once free, he immediately submitted the constant, overbearing murder’s instinct.

Gon was just too fast to think about how to react.

 

In Gon’s head, there were five things.

Eat.

Drink.

Sleep.

Dominant.

Reproduce.

There was technically a sixth small voice screaming “Don’t hurt Killua!”

But he could’nt hear it.

So when this male challenged him, he accepted.

The first blow had been easy, but he seemed to be more dangerous now.

Gon attacked him again, only to find air.

Then radiating pain from his spine with stars in his eyes.

He wheeled around to find his enemy and threw his wild punches.

The other swayed and bent to fold away from his attacks.

His counter attack was swift and Gon’s capture of his limb was swifter.

His enemy only twisted around and caught him with his other leg.

Gon’s jaw made a small popping noise.

Gon then grabbed the other leg, and slammed his enemy to the ground

He quickly flipped over, but Gon collapsed atop him.

 

Killua’s brain contained one thing.

Kill.

So when his target had him pinned to ground and Killua did not find throat opened, he froze.

His assassin’s instinct found nothing to work from.

Gon was trembling with something.

His breath was short, his face was flush and his mouth was perched open.

Killua’s internal search for ways to dispose of his target sputtered out as Gon slowly lowered his head into his neck.

Warm, wet tongue traced up and down where blood pistoned through his veins.

Soft lips danced on his pulse.

Chapter Text

The tension stuck to them like thick, wet air as Gon slowly retracted his mouth from Killua’s pulse.

He wasn’t relenting, that much was clear to both of them, he’d just done all he wanted to.

He’d defended, then marked his territory.

He slowly leaned off Killua, shifting back onto a squat.

Killua slowly raised his hand to the spot of skin affected by Gon.

Over the years, Killua had grown keen to the signs of bruises forming, and this was clearly bruising.

Strangely, Killua was less concerned with the bruise and more concerned with what it represented.

“Ah! I hope I didn’t hurt Killua!”

Killua blushed as he awkwardly rubbed at the mark quickly blossoming on his skin.

“N-no…”

Gon sighed in relief.

“I’m glad.”

And so there they stayed, neither sure what to say or do, the sun slowly breaking through the sky of grey.

 

On the other side of town, in the wreckage of a bakery, stood a blonde man and a mass murderer.

Hisoka was the first to speak.

“Well this is a pleasant surprise. You were not one I expected to be an anarchist.”

“I’d prefer to avoid small talk.”

This quickly soured Hisoka’s mood, but he was cut off before he could complain.

“I’m here because I was promised information on the spiders. If you don’t have that, I’ll be leaving.”

Hisoka smiled.

“Alright, you caught me. I don’t have information, I have an opportunity to kill the head of the spider.”

Kurapika showed no reaction, but someone as experienced as Hisoka could nearly taste the murder behind calm words.

“And how do you plan to do that?”

“Simple. I challenge him to a death match.”

Kurapika said nothing, a tiny amount of unspeakable rage leaking into his eyes instead.

Oh please don’t look at me like that.

I might not be able to help myself…

“I hate to repeat myself but-”

“By having a foremost manager spearhead the idea that the winner be able to challenge who he wants.”

Kurapika’s controlled demeanor let no more emotion slip, but behind those angry eyes Hisoka could see the puzzle pieces start to fit.

Perhaps a little too well.

“And what’s in it for you?”

Hisoka smiled, and it was a horrible thing.

“Don’t you know my tastes?”

It was Kurapika instinct to run.

He wanted nothing more than to flee to the farthest corners and hide in the comfort of an insanely tall doctor.

But bandages and terrible jokes couldn’t solve everything.

At some point you needed to make a deal.

“Fine, but you need to win.”

“Not an issue.”

 

In a third corner of the city, in a clustered tiny slave house, the riot ripped open a wall and build was quickly emptied.

Except three people.

The janitor

The most unpopular slave.

And Ikalgo.

Who believed that to pay his friends back, he had to earn his freedom.

 

As sun set, the trio of unfortunate souls returned to each of their homes worse of wear.

And for the first time since he moved in, Gon slept on the floor.

Chapter Text

In the morning, neither Gon nor Killua knew what to do, so they did what they had before.

They cooked, ate, took turns washing, you know, all the morning things, but at no point did they fight.

It felt… wrong to do so.

Like they would be mocking yesterday.

Killua masked the bruise his neck always, but somehow, this time, it bothered Gon a tiny bit.

They also didn’t talk.

It was even more out of place.

Gon was many things, quiet was not usually one of them, and while Killua was a somewhat reserved person, around Gon he opened like a book.

Yet neither of them spoke in that quiet morning.

Until Killua looked up from his breakfast and shouted.

“Crap, we need to get registered!”

Gon looked up, suddenly startled.

“But Killua, I haven’t beaten you?”

Gon transformed his objection to a question partway through.

“Remember? Yesterday?”

Gon put his finger to his chin and thought.

“I suppose… But Killua, you don’t have to count that…”

Gon was trying (and failing) to avoid Killua’s throat.

Killua was having absolutely none of it.

“If you can find anyway to beat me, you can join the tournament. That was our deal.”

Gon grumbled, but there was no more discussion on the way to the arena.

 

Killua and Gon reached the arena, but quickly discovered they’d both already been registered.

Killua was suspicious, but he said it was probably Kurapika.

Gon was not immediately suspicious, but Killua was terrible at hiding things.

So when the tournament began, they were both on edge.

 

The day and night passed in a vague fuzz.

 

Killua and Gon arrived into their assigned waiting room.

The room was inside the largest of the arenas, was it featured the classic yellowed stone and strangely cold pillars.

Killua was propped up on one such pillar, smiling at Gon twitching.

“Don’t be so nervous Gon, you’re stronger than anyone here.”

“Killlluuuuaa! That’s not what I’m worried about!”

“Mmmm?”

Killua opened one eye in interest.

“I don’t really know how this works! I mean, Leorio told me about the big stuff but...”

“Mmmm.”

Killua said, this time to acknowledge.

“Idiot.”

Gon pouted but didn’t retort, Killua’s affectionate insult was only a pause as Killua put a finger on his lips to think.

Gon was noticing he did that a lot.

He thought it was adorable, but Killua would’ve blushed and attacked had he said anything.

Maybe he’d do it anyway.

“Ki-’

“Well I guess nobody’s explained it to you, so I will.”

Gon was a little stunned, but even still...

“Ah! I’d be happy to have Killua explain it to me.”

Killua hummed a third time.

“Well, when it starts out, you have these huge, hundred man fights for the first eight days. Because we were registered so early, we’ll probably be in the first round.”

Killua looked over and snickered a little at Gon’s entranced expression.

“Killlluuuuaaa!”

“Alright alright! After that, the eight people who won the first round enter a normal bracket with a loser bracket running every other day.”

Killua extended two fingers and flipped his hand back and forth to show his point.

“At the end, the winner of the loser’s bracket fights the winner of the normal bracket.”

Gon nodded again.

“But Gon.”

Killua suddenly spoke with deadly seriousness in his voice

“The loser bracket is dangerous. At that point, the crowd is only looking for blood. If you get there, you need to drop out.”

Gon nodded again.

“Lists have been posted! Please see a board to find your pairings!”

Both boys looked up, then to each other before nodding.

 

Round one

Killua and Gon joined the mass of people herded into the center of the arena, the moat surrounding the yellowed stone circle brimming with some strange predatory creatures.

“The match will begin shortly, please draw your weapons!”

The clattering of lots of wood on lots of steel could be heard by the contestants, the crowd deafening itself.

“Ready? GO!”

And it began, the scream of the crowd and the whirlwind of combat.

Those who were previously just chattering politely now turned to slaughter one another.

“KILLUA! TRY NOT TO KILL ANYONE!”

Killua turned to see Gon, dug-in between three maniacs with swords trying to hack one another to pieces.

He was twirling his simple oak stick in hands, prying weapons and feet from hands and ground as he turned.

“IDIOT!”

Was the only thing he could think to shout before a massive gorilla of a man descended upon him, pike in hand.

Killua just sprung up and kicked the man in the temple, now useless knife twirling behind his hand.

“Why do you have to make everything harder!”

Killua ran past his abundance of opponents tripping and slicing (more for show anything) as he went, trying to reach his black haired madman of a friend.

And reach him he did, in the most unfortunate of circumstances.

He arrived just in time to Gon get clubbed across the face with Hisoka’s pale fist.

The boy only a tiny bit shorter than him flew through the air before slamming down and grinding to a slow halt.

Even despite this, Gon began to stand.

Killua immediately stood in front of him.

“Hisoka.”

KIllua said, fearful of this insane man’s smile.

That smile was some parasite horrifically stitched to his face.

“Oh. Killua. It seems your ‘friend’ was unhappy with my approach.”

He stressed the operative word while subtly motioned to the corpse behind him.

At this point, Gon was standing and it was taking all Killua’s strength to keep him from jumping the crazy clown.

“He’s not my friend.”

As always, Killua hated the words he said to that man.

Gon relented slightly at that.

“Oh? But he seemed so sure he knows you…”

They stood there, saying nothing in that ocean of noise.

“Oh well. I’ll see you in next round.”

As he said this last comment, Hisoka looked meaningfully at Gon, and to punctuate his statements he killed the man sneaking up on them with the flick of a playing card.

The round ended quickly, Hisoka killing all he considered a waste of space quickly while Killua and Gon knocked out any unlucky enough to be close.

The eight stood alone soon enough, and the next day another fight began.

And that night, when they both lay in that bed Killua had decided was “Too big anyway, it’s fine I guess.”, Gon’s curiosity won out.

“Killua.”

“Mmm?”

Killua was clearly wide awake.

“Why did you say that to Hisoka?”

Killua was quiet for a long time.

“You should move out.”

“Huh?”

“I can’t look weak. Not when I’m so close.”

Gon was quiet.

“Gon, please try to understand, my sister…”

Killua trailed off.

“Killua, I understand. You want to help her.”

Gon could feel Killua nodding from the other side of the bed.

“Thank you.”

It was cold as they sat on opposite ends of the bed, and neither was sure when the other started crying, but both hoped the other couldn’t hear them.

They could.