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[personal profile] selenias
Title: Trails
Author: [personal profile] lavendre
Fandom: Hunter x Hunter
Pairing: Gon/Killua
Rating: T
Word Count: 4532

[A/N]: Written for the 2015 HxH Summer Exchange on Tumblr. Was a pinch hit that was definitely not written in a pinch! It's over the top fluff and embarrassing schmoopiness. Archiving for the sake of archiving.

-

Be advised that flash foods happen regularly. In the event of heavy rains, please plan accordingly.

The very large sign that stood in the middle of the trail might have been a more effective warning if it simply read, 'don't.' Brevity would have been partial to Gon, of course. Killua just couldn't be bothered.

“Well,” Gon began. “Ready?”

“No. Relax, navigator. We got all day. How far up are we going? Ten miles out? Ten miles back?” How far can you even go? was what he wanted to ask, but Killua swallowed that thought down hard. The Nen business was a tricky thing, and this was supposed to be fun. A day to themselves, wandering around, playing catchup on rocky shores. He'd had the day circled on his calendar for three months.

Gon rocked back on his heels, lanyard bouncing against his chest like a clunky necklace, fingers rising to tuck it away. He had the decency to stop stomping about while Killua tied his shoelaces into twenty different kinds of knots. “Uh, I was actually planning to take Killua up the whole trail, if he's up for it...”

Killua craned his head in his direction, hair falling into his eyes. “Wait, isn't that like, fifty something miles?” It was fifty three and three-eighths according to the maps that had decorated the walls of the information kiosk, but who was counting?

“Yeah. But we won't be walking or staying on the trail the whole time, I'd guess. And the beach is at opposite side of the island, Killua. That's the prettiest part!”

Of course it would be. Fifty three miles of Gon's legs eating up the slope in front of him. Not unreasonable.

He shuffled to his feet, grinned. “Lead the way, island boy.”

...

Gon seemed to move like a battering ram, cutting through the overgrown parts of the path like an ox, and Killua wondered if he hiked this all the time. Training. Meditating. Or something. It was hard to ever know for sure what Gon was up to besides a haphazard guess—and the occasional, hopeful thought, that whatever he was doing might be classified as 'within limits.'

“Hey, Gon.”

“Yeah?”

“Are you gonna come back with me after this?”

A cheery laugh. Gon's boots splashed in a puddle full of leaves. “I don't know! We haven't even made it to one place, and you're trying to pull me into another?”

Killua side stepped a large and sharp looking rock, slid around a narrow, thorny looking tree. Vague, as usual—and this trail in his head could have been the arrant metaphor for a conversation. “Are you still waiting for that perfect moment?” he tossed back. “You're gonna be waiting a while, you know.”

Gon paused mid-stride to consider this, and Killua dodged around him so he could fully scorn him. A Gon left to his own devices was typically left to nothing at all. He hadn't seen him in three months. Not a big deal. “Not sure. I'm still trying to figure out what that is!”

“Well, think harder,” Killua muttered. And consider that maybe I want more than a day at a time with you, you idiot.

.

When they left the wet damp of the trail for rocks and slick, narrow walkways along the bluffs, Killua let Gon take the lead. Light edged along the mossy rocks and thick vines like warm golden slices of fruit. The sun was strongest here where the equator was closest.

Gon looked soft and real in this environment, and Killua was struck with contentment. Gon's lazy shoulders moved in tune with his feet, footholds sure and smart along the carnivorous rocks. A whole history ran this trail, supposedly. Mostly, about pirates, and trafficking of human labor. It sounded like a whole lot of the rest of the world, to Killua.

Gon must have sensed him staring, because he stopped suddenly to look at him, hands dragging his backpack further up his shoulders, fingers curling around the straps like he did when he was looking for something to grasp. He looked shiny in the light, chest rising and falling quick and flighty like a bird, and then Killua realized that that was sweat.

His face alternated between several expressions before he settled on pretending like he hadn't noticed, warm brown eyes staring at the glassy water far bellow, flickering back to his and settling there. “Do you want to stop for lunch soon?”

“Maybe,” Killua replied evenly. “Or you could just toss me a sandwich. You only made fifty of them. How much further do we have?” Fifty squash and tun sandwiches. The squash was crunchy and sweet, the fish a complimentary cheery pink with a salty taste. He'd eaten two standing in Gon's bachelor styled kitchen that morning, whining about public transportation while he unsympathetically fished towels and sunscreen and a radio from his coat closet.

“Only a couple miles. It's all downhill from here.” Gon shrugged off his bag, plopped down on the closest rock. Tossed him three, because Killua always ate more than he said he would. “I'm hungry, too. Just a quick stop though.”

“Alright.” Killua grinned, mirrored his stooped posture.

Gon didn't slow unless he was stumped.

.

He heard and smelled the water before he saw it, salty and cool.

Gon turned back to grin at him, hair drooping to one side like a wilted bloom, sweat drying along the side of his face.

They emerged into a cove. The water looked green where the trees shaded it, but was a clear blue along the shallow sandy floor, where it washed out between the rocks, out to the real ocean still and glittering just beyond.

Killua had seen a lot of places by now, saw mountain peaks drowning in snow, walked through jungles, explored undiscovered countries, but it was the vastness that always drove a feeling of freedom under his ribs. And maybe, in no small part, that was due to Gon, who could engage with any kind of atmosphere under any pretense and make it something worthwhile.

“Wow,” Killua whispered. The rocks glittered lazily in the afternoon sun. He wanted to sprawl out on one.

“Told you,” Gon said smugly, moving off toward the outcropping, lanyard swinging free around his neck. “Now let's go!”

.

“Are you serious.”

“I'm a serious person, Killua. You should know this by now.”

Killua was standing at the edge of a fifty foot cliff, peering down at the water, pattering and hissing against the dark edges below, splashing up in great white bursts. It looked like a great place to get slammed into a wall was what he wanted to say. What he had done to make Gon think he deserved a watery death was beyond him.

He bit his lip and gave Gon a sharp look.

It was the best idea ever.

“This is insane. I'm going first. Promise you'll scrape me off the bottom.”

“Wait—but Killua! You need to let lunch sit for a while! Your legs will cramp!”

He scoffed, and walked backward ten yards, bouncing on the balls of his feet, grin stretching across his entire face. Gon stood there in his shorts and dropped his bag on the rock when he realized Killua wasn't waiting. “You'll jump in after me. I'm not worried.”

“Well, you're not wrong—but. I actually wanted to jump with you. You know.”

“Oh. No. I didn't. But okay.”

Killua held out his hand lamely. Gon took it, and that seemed to satisfy him. It was dry and warm in his, and Killua felt himself sink further down into comfort, into that hazy, impenetrable state of snugness. The water roared below.

Gon looked at him, bumped their shoulders. “In three?”

“Two.”

They rushed out into the air and hung there, suspended on the breeze. Killua turned his head just enough to see the delight stretching across Gon's face before they hit, water bowling Gon over Killua's head like an unlucky leaf and toward the wall soon after. He laughed soundlessly into the surf.

It wouldn't have been such a bad way to go.

.

Seagulls had flown in close and were flocking around Gon, circling him and squawking, pecking at his toes curiously. It was his own fault. He'd fed one bird, and suddenly the flock thought he was one of their own.

"Shoo!" Gon waved his arms laughing and they took off cawing, sweeping off in wide crests, the crows of the sea. Gon had ditched his sandals and shirt again after a wave knocked him over on his butt, and Killua didn't care about how obvious he was being with his staring, he needed to do that more often.

.

Killua marched barefoot up the sharp rocks, enjoying the way they caught and scraped at his toes, like catching an itch. Angry crabs floated among the small tide pools, and Gon systematically scooped up trapped colorful fish and deposited them back amongst the gentle waters lapping at the reefs, caretaker of small aquatic vertebrate and smaller crustaceans.

“You don't have to do that, Gon.” He was trying very hard to capture the fish on his phone without dropping it, Alluka's boring day at school ringing in his head. He'd promised photos, and he'd chastise himself for a million years if he missed a single opportunity.

Gon shrugged. “I know. But I want to! Being a fish is a hard life.”

The moment Killua saw a jellyfish he gravitated toward it, the purple and blue drawing him in like a coined treasure, whispering.

"Don't get stung," Gon warned, just near enough to touch. "It won't feel like a power outlet."

“Idiot, of course I know that.”

Killua watched it bob down into the dark, out of reach, floating parallel to the shore, out of sight.

Sand dollars dotted the beach like debris. And the ones that the seagulls hadn't caught Gon returned to the shallow waters.

"Is this one dead? It looks dead. How the hell do you even tell with these things?"

Gon lifted it from his hands and held it to the sun, squinting. He couldn't feel the life without his Nen anymore, but like with all obstacles, he'd learn other ways. Killua only saw the rapid panic from which they could be extinguished, but he was learning, slowly, to engage. And as he had known it was dead, he'd known Gon would investigate.

"It's empty," Gon gently placed it back in his open hands. "For Alluka? We can find her a nicer one, easily. There are lots of the little conch shells in the evening. The spiral ones.” He twirled his finger in the air for emphasis. “They're at the smaller island, though.”

Killua blanched. “Eugh, no. She has tons of those. I wanted to bring her back something more personal... I don't know why I picked this up now.” He glared down at his feet, the wet sand peaking up between his toes.

Gon smiled and waited pleasantly, then he craned his head toward the water. “...You want me to find something?”

“That would be ideal, yes.”

.

Gon tapped on his wrist gently, and Killua let his arm drop into his lap, let his message flash to sent! and watched Gon pull a small beaded bracelet from his pocket and carefully string it along the narrowest part of his wrist. Simple silver beads, cool and winding like a snake.

He gave Gon a sideways glance, startled. Twisted it around once, twice. “You make this?” And he was awed, maybe a little. Just a little. Nothing like a little thoughtfulness to ruin his whole guard.

Gon sunk down beside him on his butt, legs tucked sideways beside him. “Mm, kind of? Mito-san used to do a lot of beading when I was younger. It's been a, uh, long time, since I last have though. This is actually Abe's work. They're good luck bracelets.”

“Huh.” Killua ran his fingers along it and dragged it up his arm, let it slide down to his wrist, settle against the back of his palm. “I always need luck. It's pretty. Thank you,” he said sincerely.

“I also have one for Alluka! Hers is a little different though,” Gon tacked on shyly. Killua expected this one to come from his pocket too, but he dragged his backpack over and from a small case pulled forth the smallest opal he'd ever seen, strung along a tiny, thin gold chain.

He gave Gon a small smile and slipped his phone back into his bag completely. “Is this the 'I'll find something!' from earlier?”

“Oh, no. I've actually had both of these for a while...”

“Too chicken to share?”

“A little. I also haven't seen you in a couple months, sooooo.”

“Fair enough, you can relax. I missed you a ton, by the way. Just so you know.” He coughed into his hand. He didn't spontaneously combust.

Gon laughed nervously and sunk back down, slung an arm over Killua's waist as heavy as the weight pressing on the back of his palm. He'd stay there until he got bored or Killua sloughed him off into the sand. “Yeah, missed you too, Killua.”

Case in point, he didn't.

...

When the water started cooling along the cliffs, and other hikers from days before made their way to the water as well, collapsing like beached whales with too much gear, Gon and Killua called it quits and retreated to the small inlet they'd emerged from. They wrapped themselves up in half dry beach towels and kicked stray particles of sand at each other with their toes, stacked up against warm west facing rocks, whispering stories back and forth on slow breezes.

The way Killua told stories made him like a troubadour. Dramatics, flourishing hands, exaggeration. He was inclined toward scathing, sarcastic remarks that made Gon's toes curl in laughter, cringe or flush in shame. “Killua,” he hissed.

Gon's on the other hand resulted in second hand embarrassment and awkward shuffling, and Killua, making weird, pinched faces.

“God, I can't believe you fell for that! Actually, I can believe it. You're too goddamn nice.”

“Shut up, Killua!” Gon's face turned as red as the cheery pink at the bottom of his feet. “I didn't know! No one had asked me for my number before, I didn't realize that they were—that they were, well—”

Killua raised a single silver eyebrow, “—Interested? Intrigued? Deeply concerned?”

“Ha ha,” Gon laughed, narrowing his eyes, “no—a-and, I mean, had I realized what he was doing, I wouldn't have gone along with it. You know.”

“Maybe,” Killua snickered. He rolled up onto his side, smile curling at the corner of his mouth. “But I do feel kind of bad for the guy. You're kind of slow on the uptake, sometimes.”

Gon's voice dripped sarcasm. “Thanks, Killua.” But he didn't look mad.

And later:

“Would you have been mad? If our situation was different?”

Killua's laughter had ebbed away, and he stared at the calves he'd tossed carelessly over Gon's thighs, not remembering when he'd placed them there. “...Nah. I'm used to your whacked up perceptions of people.” Not to mention, this was your choice, not mine.

Somehow, that was reassuring to the part of Gon's brain that circled around Killua. His finger tips curled against his ankle. “Was—is it ever endearing?”

“No,” he replied honestly. Killua craned his head to share in a secret grin. “I just really like trying to keep up with you.”

.

Gon sprawled out on his towel and laid there dispassionately, eyes closed, then blinking hard, and it occurred to Killua that maybe Gon was less inexhaustible than he thought. At a time like this, Killua would find something to waste the rest of the day with, but Gon was slowly checking out, Alluka was on another continent, and there was just the water and the orange sky, drinking up his thoughts.

“Hey, Gon. Serious question time.”

“Shoot.”

He hesitated, then exhaled gently. “Why are you so hesitant to come back with me?”

Gon was quiet, then he ran his knuckle over the back of the hand Killua had settled on his chest, feather light. Trapped it there with both hands. “You're gonna be mad, but I don't want to tell you.”

“Well, just do it anyway,” he muttered. “Like ripping off a bandage.”

“It's a large bandage.”

“You seem to have a lot of those.”

Gon sighed, slouching back into his ribs. “You're gonna laugh, but um, I've learned that.. I'm not... very good at looking out for myself.” He twiddled with the thumb on Killua's hand anxiously, then looked at him under his eye lashes, plainly seeking disapproval.

Killua scoffed into his shoulder. “Is that what's been bothering you? You're plenty capable.”

“I know that, but it still bothers me. Because Killua takes care of people.” The way Gon said it was like a bad thing. And maybe, from his perspective, he'd see it that way.

“Gon,” he reasoned, detached his hand from that expanse of chest. He was almost tempted to laugh at the absurdity of such a claim. Gon wasn't wrong exactly, but still, of all the things to notice and cling to. “Have you considered that maybe I want more than a day at a time with you? It's not like you leaving is going to keep me from doing what I do. Banishing yourself out here—aren't you lonely?”

“But, Killua—”

“You could stand to leave a couple situations to me.” He turned over on his side, propped his arm under his head. The rock dug into his skin through the towel, but Gon was soft and warm where they touched. “'S not like I'm not unaware, you know? And, jeez—maybe I want to take care of you, so deal with it.”

Gon's frown deepened into one of concern. “But what about fighting? What if we get in a situation like that, huh? How is that fair?”

Killua groaned. “Gon,” he held up his wrist, “you said this thing was for good luck? Maybe you should get me more of these bracelets if you're so confident that you're going to get me in trouble.”

Gon sputtered on a quiet laugh, then sighed. “Jeez, Killua. You're so difficult.” But Gon inclined his head into his shoulder anyway, coarse black-green hair brushing close to his face like a promise. “I want to leave,” he mumbled. “But I'd rather we avoid trouble all-together, you know?”

.

At six, the shadows were starting to get long, and Killua began to feel tired.

Gon shifted his attention away from the water, and to the sky, and then to Killua, folding up a towel much slower than necessary, pulling on a gray t-shirt and soft, billowy pants. Only because it was Gon's and it wouldn't fit otherwise, Killua insisted. He had a sister, he knew what it was like when someone stole your clothes. It was kind of fun.

“Hey, Killua.”

“Yeah?”

“There's one more place I want to show you. We've gotta go back up the mountain though.”

Killua pretended like he was debating, then drew the zipper shut on his bag. Gon kept shifting his weight from foot to foot, like he was worried, but smiled reassuringly when Killa gave him a curious look. “I've got time. It's not like I've anywhere important to be.”

“Okay okay, but I want it to be a surprise! Close your eyes when I tell you to?”

Killua scrunched up his face, held out his palm. “Fine, but you better not let me trip on anything.”

Gon laughed softly. “I won't.”

.

Killua's bones felt so lax lying under the shade of an island pine that he was sure he slept. He could dissolve right into the cool glow of the lake, and the water would wash over him and saturate his bones with every kind of warm light. He would float in the cool, silky waves, and nothing would brush past him except the fish, and the foam, and the clouds when it rained.

"Killua? Killuaaaa." Gon's chin vibrated against his chest as he talked.

Killua wiped at his eyes and craned his neck. "What what what?"

"It's about to start! I don't want you miss it! C'mon, wake up!" Gon dashed off into the twilight, kicking up dirt and grass, light as air and punching at clouds like he was still twelve, and not double in everything, twice as terrible and glorious. He looked orange and red where the sun sculpted out his back, mouth a consistent flare of bright white teeth.

Killua sighed and forced himself to his feet. "Gon, we've already been everywhere, why didn't we just—”

A loon interrupted him. Actually, hundreds of them, flying high above the cliff they'd nestled themselves over. It sounded like a cacophony of anxious wing beats, the battering of air making the tree tops sway and smell rich and clean. Killua shut his mouth and hurried over.

The birds moved in great sweeping arcs high above his head, mostly quiet. It reminded him of when he was thirteen and Gon had sent him the video of the white birds, all flying from the lake at once, bursting forth from the silky water like some alien sea creature, waiting for the sun to hit the lake to make their rise all the more striking. Birds who had rehearsed to be as beautiful as possible.

Oh, Killua mouthed, so softly it was just a breath. They splashed down, filling the water with their ghostly song. They were certainly lost, but it had been cold when Killua left the mainland behind.

(He was looking at the loons, but Gon was looking at him)

Killua slid him a sideways glance. "Did you plan all this?"

"Maybe?" Gon bumped their shoulders together playfully, then gently slipped his fingers along the edges of Killua's palm, let his hand unfold flat against it. "Birds are kind of hard to convince since they already have plans. I had to feed them a lot before they started trusting me. But since, Killua's here, and they were here, I thought you should see them... They also get mad when I go places without notice, though. Kind of clingy. Like someone I know.”

Killua snorted and dropped his cheek on Gon's shoulder, trembling at the implication. “You know, you could have just said something instead of pulling me along,” he mumbled. “I was really convinced that you were going to send me on my merry way for a while there. I had to be firm.”

Gon's smile wobbled a little. “I'm sorry. I really have missed you a lot though.”

“'S fine, Gon. I know how you work. You were just 'waiting for the right moment!'” And what a moment, collected into a handful of hours. Really, Killua had expected it to take a bit longer than a day to drag Gon back to action.

“You mean, 'slow on the uptake?'” Gon edged closer to the water.

“Ha, yeah. But it's okay.”

Okay, as in, the birds were singing promises of tomorrow. And Gon had never been one for missing an early departure.

...

Killua threw all his clothes into his bag, carefully divided up the cords and the coconut candy and the nice clothes and the not so nice ones. Yawned and made up his side of the bed, since Gon had crawled out long before him, and the sun was edging through the curtains, spangled splotches like water trailing across the cold wood flooring. Another soggy morning.

“I had kind of figured from the beginning that I would leave.” Gon closed the drawer to his desk, returned with a small handful of clothes, some keys, a wallet, worn and weathered along the edges. A forgotten cup of coffee sat by the window and Killua snagged it with enthusiasm. “Sorry for always keeping you waiting,” he tacked on sheepishly.

“You should be. I got a job I have to be at in a week and your taking your sweet time with packing. And this is a nice jacket, by the way. I like the buttons.” He ran his hand over the dark green fabric, the color of sprawling forests. He shivered. “You gonna wear it?”

“Sure. It's kinda cold out. And I think I finally have everything.” Gon stood in place and glanced around the room, as if something he'd forgotten would be remembered sooner than after the fact. This was certainly never the case.

Killua turned off the TV and closed up the windows.“Toothbrush? Phone charger? I'll wash this mug.” His bag was already conveniently waiting in the entry way.

“Thanks. And yeah, but uh, wait, one last thing. My Hunter license—would you carry it?”

Killua paused halfway out the door, blinked in confusion. Gon was waiting eagerly. “Wait—your Hunter license? Why?”

“Well, before, when you said you wanted to take care of me. I was trying to think about something that was important to me... And I thought you would like to carry that, I mean.” He was practically babbling.

Killua squinted hard. “And you came to the conclusion that you should trust me with that?

Gon squawked at him. “I trust you with everything else, don't I? Was that a bad idea?”

Killua sighed and slipped his hand into his pocket, removed his wallet and the thin, measly plastic card nestled in a hidden sleeve. Killua showed Gon all the full spots, trying not to laugh. It all made sense now, suddenly. Gon had been playing him.

“I can't take it,” he said softly, shuffling in close, too close. “—Because I'm an idiot. Sound familiar at all?”

Gon groaned suddenly, head finding purchase in his hands. “Ugh, I tried, Killua. I tried really hard to be more considerate. But I just can't do this, either. You make it too difficult.”

Killua pressed his lips together to keep the laughter at bay, but it still slipped free, made his shoulders shake with the force of it. Gon grinned sheepishly up at him, cheeks red, fingers warm and scratchy and settling at the back of his neck. “It's really not that funny, but you're always laughing at my expense anyway!”

“I know,” Killua snickered. He gave Gon a soft, sincere look. “But I think I'll be sticking around for a while yet. You can always make it up to me.”

Gon did. It was the sweetest and most enthusiastic kiss of his life.

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