HUNTER X HUNTER (is totally Togashi's. I totally know his name!)
Title: Running Away
Pairing: KilluaGon, light teenaged!shonen ai
30_kisses theme: #9 dash
Summary: One runs, the other chases. Also, this is why pop culture is bad for you.
Warnings:Crack that takes itself much too seriously. More-than-borderline meta, where by meta I mean shameless fangirl self-insertion. Cultural insensitivity and probable incoherency, bad pacing.
The door to the Lusty Lady swung open with a clatter. Two men with shoulders broader than the barstools looked up from their beers to scowl at the sudden blast of cold air and snow, only to quickly look back down again. Rough hands were examined, the counter studiously buffed until the layer of grime covering it had almost disappeared. The man sitting behind them scratched his head in confusion: two over-muscled ne’er-do-wells, belligerently drunk in the sort of bar you didn’t wander into unless you were suicidal or an idiot, scarred off by that? It had to be a trick of the lighting (dim) or the smoke (thick). Maybe he’d had one too many beers himself.
The boy was skinny! And pale! Nothing but a brat with an inappropriate fashion sense and (no doubt) a death wish, in the man’s own opinion.
Killua--the brat in question--cursed and tried not to stand out any more than he already had. He turned off his killing glare and pushed his way to a table in the back. He had to blend in. Yeah. He ordered a beer from a woman in a curly wig and low-cut yellow dress. He took a sip out of curiosity, but it was the sort of beer best used as a prop and nothing else – bitter, thin, and disgustingly like the scum on the tables. Leaning back, he surveyed the crowd from behind his glass.
Places like this drew two types of people. The nervous sort sat huddled over their beer, ragged winter cloaks pulled high over their ears and threadbare caps slung low over their eyes. Idiots—if covering up your face were all it took to go unnoticed, every moron with a dirty overcoat and a ski mask would make a first-rate assassin. Their eyes skittered from face to leering face without ever making direct contact; their fingers shook. Killua thought they looked like targets; judging from the looks a few were getting, and the way certain hands were drifting to certain concealing folds of clothing, a few of the other patrons thought the same.
The rest looked like movie-scene toughs. Killua noted a few common themes: bald heads; tattoos of skulls or snakes or bloody daggers; concealed weapons and scowls; gaudy jewelry. Killua stared at the next table, fascinated; it’d be a miracle if the men there had a full set of teeth between them. Gold-tipped smiles gleamed through the smoke and darkness; silver glinted over dice or cards or, occasionally, the hilt of a knife drawn after one too many losing hands. The place rocked with raucous laughter.
I’m trying to fit into this? It’s impossible! Some of them have only one eye! And they’re all so, so…low-class! The problem with being the best, Killua reflected, was that it left one with a certain aloof casualness. He didn’t fit in, he disappeared. Unfortunately for him, everyone in this place was putting on some kind of act—the tough men blustery aggression, the women waitresses exaggerated flirtation. The meek ones were all performing, to various degrees, the same bad disappearing act. There was no place here for casual innocence, and Killua refused to compromise his image by acting like a dirty idiot.
This, Killua thought darkly, is all those damn Naylians’ fault. If it hadn’t been for them, he wouldn’t have had to leave Gon; if he hadn’t had to leave Gon, he wouldn’t have had to comehere. And he wouldn’t have been in such an awful mood. He gulped mournfully at his beer before he remembered what he was doing; sadly, the four scarred gentlemen at the next table didn’t appreciate the taste quite as much when it was sprayed all over their faces. He wiped his mouth with his hand and eyed them as they stood, reaching behind their backs with sinister intent.
So much for low profile. Damn it, why did it have to be Naylia!
****FIVE MONTHS EARLIER****
“I am sorry, young sir, but there is no porn in this country.”
“None? Are you sure?”
“Quite sure, sir. The Naylian government forbids it.”
“Oh, I see, you mean there’s no porn here,” Killua said. He smiled innocently, pretending not to see the embarrassment coloring Gon’s face. Killua, let’s just go, the other boy was mouthing.
As if. Gon was cute when he was flustered. “In that case, do you know any good underground suppliers? I can give you some money, if you’d like.” He made a show of pulling out his Hunter’s License, which doubled as a credit card.
The woman’s back stiffened in disapproval. Everything about her was stiff, from her hair—conical, like a party hat—to her pointed shoes. The women on the street had all worn sandals; this one apparently took her job too seriously to unbend for a little thing like a crippling heat wave.
Why was she working at a video store, anyway? “Young sir! We are not that sort of country!”
Killua opened his mounth to argue--what kind of country didn’t have porn? It was a basic human requirement!—when he caught sight of a furtive-looking man in the back of the store. He looked a bit like Milluki, if Miluki’s eyebrows had been a bit thicker and his skin a bit darker. And if he’d ever left the house, of course.
Come to think of it, the man really didn’t resemble Miluki at all.
“Nevermind, ” Killua said, and dragged Gon with him to the back of the store.
The man was gone by the time they got there: the grab-and-run type. There were, however, several young girls in the aisle, pointing and giggling. The videos on the shelves were brightly colored and featured a progression of women in various states of undress and lots of men with really large swords.
“Are we in the right section?” Killua wondered. Gon’s closed expression showed that he was determined to ride this one out with as little interference as possible. “Hey,” Killua said, tapping a girl on the shoulder. “What’s in this aisle?”
“Buyntare,” she said. “it’s Naylia’s characteristic genre, very famous and artistic and, um, stylized I guess.”
“Ok,” Killua said. “But what’s it about?”
“Er, I can’t really describe it exactly…buyntare isn’t something you describe, it’s something you have to experience…”
“Love stories,” her friend interrupted. “Buyntare is about love overcoming all obstacles! About two people and their struggle to stay together; their depths of feeling, the passionate-“
“Passion,” Killua said. “Right.” Jackpot: he’d known there couldn’t really be a country without porn. How clever of them to hide it out in the open like this. He swept four or five titles from the closest shelf into a pile and carried it to the front desk, where the stiff woman was waiting with a sour smile.
“Will this be all?” she said, her eyebrows pulled down in disapproval.
“Yes,” Killua and Gon said together, the latter already cheering up.
It would, frustratingly, be several days before he would be able to watch it.
“Do you think he’s up in the northern caves somewhere? I heard a lot of aesgaaaaa-“
“Ascetics.” Killua said. He sipped at his drink—some kind of blended fruit tea with mangos. .
“Ascetics, right, go there to train themselves and, um… think about things.” Gon looked up from the papers spread out over their shaded café table—train schedules, bus schedules, tourist pamphlets—to incline his head at Killua. Asking his opinion. The morning sun shone brightly from just over the tops of the stands on the other side of the street. The street and café were mostly empty: this was a tourist town, and what self-respecting tourist was up before eight? But the stores were all already open and the vendors, who could expect to be up well after dark, were dozing in place in front of colorful bits of cloth, fruit, or pottery.
“Where’d you hear that?”
Gon looked back down, separating the northern busses from the southern ones. “From the fruit lady in the marketplace. You were arguing with her husband.”
Killua nodded. “I remember her—the one with the legs.”
“Yeah, the one with the… Killua!”
Definitely cute when flustered. “We should bring a map,” he said.
Second cave of the day, third week of the search, and if Killua had really cared about what they were doing he would have given up by now. They could always find another nen-master; anyone who went through this much trouble to hide themselves obviously didn’t want to be found; the man would probably refuse to teach them anything even if they did find him. Sometimes it paid to cut your losses early.
But he didn’t mind wasting time as long as he was with as with Gon. And Gon didn’t give up, ever. Temporarily concede, yes, but give up? The sun would explode first. The earth would stop turning.
“Back to the village?” Killua asked.
“Back to the village. If we run we can still make the last bus.” Gon didn’t even look disappointed. Which made a certain kind of sense: they’d only searched half of the caves in the country. When they’d been through all of them and still hadn’t found their mystic man, then he’d he disappointed. An eternal optimist, Gon.
It would be a shame to let him down. “Maybe we should go all the way back to the capital? We were only there for a day; if we ask around we might find someone with better information.”
“Hey, good idea!” Gon’s smile was dazzling. “We should hurry, though, or we’ll have to sleep outside again.”
They didn’t make the bus. Killua didn’t mind.
They were settling into their hotel room in the capital before Killua remembered the tapes. He rummaged through his bag for them. Gon looked over curiously from his seat on the bed.
“What-“ he paused to yank off a shoe –“are you looking…oh. You’re going to watch those? Now?”
“Why do you think I bought them?”
“I thought you were being…” Gon waved his hand in the air, “difficult.”
Ouch. He’d forgotten how perceptive Gon was. “Of course I’m going to watch them,” Killua said. He pulled the first from its case without more than glancing at the description on the back, just to prove his point. On the front a bare-chested man stood proudly astride three swooning women, wielding a huge pike.
“But they’re porn!” Gon said. He’d only flushed a little on the last word.
“No, they’re buyntare,” Killua said. “Part of the native culture. Don’t you want to expand your cultural horizons?” He said the last with a completely straight face, already starting the video over Gon’s half-voiced objections.
“Let me see the box,” Gon said, after a few minutes of earnest…storytelling. Killua passed it to him silently.
“’Adapted from the classic tale of love and death by literary master Pan Dedrong, this the story of one man’s journey to win back the woman he loves. Headstrong and passionate, Gat Katrang won’t be stopped, even with might of an entire empire thrown against him…’ Hey, this is actually kind of interesting.”
“Too much plot,” Killua said. “I’m gonna fast-forward to the ac- hey!”
“If we watch it,” said Gon, “we watch all of it. Deal?”
Killua thought of the furtive Miluki non-clone back at the video store. He had obviously been there for a reason.
And Gon had said all of it.
It ended as a three-movie marathon, with three more the next day. Killua insisted that Gon watch even the most heated scenes; Gon wouldn’t let Killua skip the story. All buyntare had stupidly straightforward plotting: Killua wasn’t really a fan.
But then the weekend marathon turned into a week-long marathon turned into a weeks-long marathon (they must have interviewed half the city by now), and the dumb clichés and bad dialogue started to grow on him. There was something to be said for predictability, after all, and something else to be said for movies you didn’t have to pay attention to. Because Gon was right: it wasn’t about the porn, and never had been. It was about the company.
Killua was disturbed, however, to note one cliché in particular. It went something like this: the childhood friend leaves on a journey and returns as the love interest. The return was the important part, because there is no such thing as a gradual transition from friend to lover but only a period of separation and subsequent reconciliation. In short, his own case was hopeless.
He’d thought about it often. If he’d told Gon the way he was feeling now it would cast doubt on their entire friendship. Gon would think he’d always liked him, which was only partially true. He’d been curious at first and friendly afterwards, but they’d been eleven and he’d only watched dirty movies because it was something he wasn’t supposed to do. There was obviously no natural way to bridge this gap; he’d have to leave, this time for real. He’d have to wait a few years, although he wasn’t sure what he’d do to pass the time.
…He’d wait until they found their nen-man, though.
“Randall G. Kilhenny, Mystic,” Gon read from the front of an ornate iron gate. “Do you think we have the right address?”
“Maybe,” Killua said. “although..” he took in the freshly laid gravel, neatly cut grass, and evenly trimmed twenty-foot hedge, “it doesn’t look like an aesthetic lives here.”
“He could have stopped being one,” Gon said, ringing the bell. “Or that could have been a rumor. We won’t know until we ask, right? And if it is the right person we’ll know why it took us so long to find him--we were looking in the mountains for a hermit when we should have been looking in town for a recluse.”
“I guess.” Killua eyed the long driveway with something akin to dread. They’d found their man the day after his resolution.
A hidden speaker crackled from somewere to the left. “Who is it and what do you want?” the man on the other end asked.
“We’re here to see the nen-user ‘R-killer,’” Gon said. “Is this him?”
“Depends. Who’re you?”
Gon shrugged and answered for both of them: “Gon Freecs and Killua Zoldyck. We’re looking for a teacher because-”
The speaker butted in on ‘teacher.’ “Not possible, there’s a waiting list as long as…wait. What were those last names again?”
“Freecs and Zoldyck.”
There was a significant silence. Killua could feel his heart sink.
“…Come on in.”
He made his escape the next night, with R. Kilhenny’s blessing and assistance. “Not that I’m stopping you,” he’d said, turning off the security system with the aid of the company manual and a flashlight, “but are you sure you want to base such an important decision on those things? They’re just cheap entertainment.”
“It isn’t the movies,” Killua said. He stood in the shadows with his pack over one shoulder. On the other side of the house Gon was snoring. “This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time.” It wasn’t even a lie: Kilhenny could tell when you were lying to him. Killua had wanted to learn that one, at least; unfortunately he didn’t have the year (technically five) it would have taken.
“Your life,” R. Killeny said, but with a gleam in his eyes that said that underneath his rough façade he probably really did believe the buyntares. R-Kill was a secret romantic--Killua was willing to bet he’d learned to detect lies out of self-defense.
“Go well,” he said, “And make sure you come back astride a large white horse.”
Killua rolled his eyes, turned off his cell phone, and left.
That had been three months and seventeen days ago. It really wasn’t fair of Gon to keep tracking him down like this.
He was off the coast of Daofur, on last ferry of the day. Through a mostly teary crowd—half of them were immigrating and wouldn’t see their families for years, if ever again—Killua could just make out the people standing on the docks. Gon stared back at him from the shore; he was too far away for his expression to be visible but Killua knew what he’d look like. Determined. Because Gon? Never gave up. I’ll track you to the end of the earth, he was probably thinking. He’d said it before on the streets of Jakar, and again in Geoff City.
As reassuring as it was to know that Killua hadn’t burned his bridges yet, he found himself annoyed. He’d always been good at running away: why should this time (these times) be any different?
Back in the bar, all of the tables surrounding Killua and the table of men with missing teeth had been abandoned; their former occupants had formed jeering circle that encouraged and derrided by turns. The toothless men were advancing in a line, with identical knives and identical hiddeous grins. They looked like they were enjoying this, their best excuse to rob from a teenager all week. Killua wondered whether it would be alright to kill them, and then wondered why he’d bothered to wonder. Why should he care if they died? On the other hand, why shouldn’t he?
He was still wondering when man in the lead stopped with a confused expression. He turned to look at the teenager tugging on his sleeve-—Gon, of course. Gon gestured and the man bent down; there was a quickly whispered conference before the man turned ashen and gestured to his comrades.
“We’re leaving,” he said. “’Snot worth it.” There was an argument followed by another whispered exchange, and then...they left. The crowd, disappointed, settled back into their seats.
Killua watched the men go and wondered was he wasn’t running—Gon stood between him and the door, it was true, but there were other ways. Maybe he was only curious. Yeah, that had to be it. Still, he'd be damned before he'd ask Gon how he'd found him.
“You animal,” he said instead, resuming his seat. “You have the world’s best nose; it’s the only explanation. What did you tell them?”
“Who you were,” Gon said, taking the seat opposite. The rest of the bar took this as an indication to resume business and soon the beer was flowing and the dice rolling again. The curtain of noise and smoke picked up again, giving them a strange sort of privacy.
“I see,” Killua snorted. He reached for his beer, stopped, considered, and then moved it to the end of the table before he could make the same mistake again. His concentration was really shot today.
“I’m not an animal, you know,” Gon told him. “You left a lot of clues.”
Killua frowned. “I shouldn’t have—I’m a licensed Hunter and an ex-assasin; I know all about tracking people down.”
Gon smiled--the other smile, not the innocent one. The one preceding battles, challenges, dares, or other extremist stunts.
The one that even frightenned him sometimes. “Yes, but I’m a Hunter too. And a better one than one you.”
“You are not!”
“Am too!” They put their tongues back in their mouths. “You’re a better fighter than me, maybe. A better nen-user than me, possibly. And a better strategist than me, definately. But I’m better at finding things that don’t want to be found.”
“Bah,” Killua said, because Gon was right and they both knew it. He glared at a man at the bar he judged was paying too much attention to them. The man only met his gaze for instant before giving up and tuning to the bartender. Killua watched him shakily order another before turning back to Gon. His good mood vanished, replaced by grumpiness and grudging admiration. “It’s animal instinct, s'all.”
“You’re just a sore loser,” Gon said. He watched the crowd for a while. Killua watched him. 1:00am and there were more people than there'd been at midnight, and every sign that there'd be more than that at two in morning. There was a blast of cold air and a clatter as someone else entered the bar.
“Ne, Killua?” Gon asked.
“What were you running away from?”
Killua rolled his eyes. “You, dummy.”
“Because….” Killua could say it. He could, he just didn’t want to. Five months wasn’t long enough.
“No reason,” Killua said. “I just needed a break from you. You get really annoying after a while, and we’ve been together almost constantly for four years, and-”
“Liar,” Gon said, and leaned across the table to kiss him.
Author's note: The idea being, Gon learned to detect lies from Randall Kilhenney. Nen-skill. And he learned it really fast because he can practically do it already, instinctively.
...I should put this in the story somehow, shouldn't I.