Chapter 1: Make Me Feel
First phone calls after ten years generally don't go like this. Usually, someone at least says hello first.
Chapter title from "Make Me Feel" by Janelle Monáe
"Hey, babe, I'm not going to be able to make our date tonight," Kurapika says, voice too casual.
Leorio pulls the phone away from his ear, double-checking that yes, it is, in fact, Kurapika calling, which is an event enough as it is without the addition of the words he's saying. "Uh," he starts, listening to the noise of indistinct conversation past Kurapika's breathing. Assuming that it is, actually, Kurapika and not some elaborate stress-born fever dream, which is entirely too possible. "Not that I don't appreciate you calling me, since it's been, like five years since we've spoken, but you might have the wrong number? Also, if you hang up on me right now, I will hunt you unto the ends of the earth, don't think I won't."
There's a staticky gust of air as Kurapika sighs. "I know, I'm disappointed too. Work is keeping me over."
"Oooh, am I your illicit cover phone call for whatever shady business your mafia connections are having you do?" Leorio leans back in his chair, moving the piles of homework on the crowded table to one side so he can prop his feet up on the wood instead because fuck studying any more, this is immediately way more fun. He pitches his voice low and comically suggestive. "Tell me, Kurapika, what are you wearing?"
“Don't say that,” Kurapika says, and it's just this side of too tense to be playful the way he probably needs it to sound. Leorio muffles a laugh in his hand. “I'll make it up to you.”
And because there is, and always has been, a disconnect from Leorio's brain and mouth that kicks in after the fifth hour of studying medical texts, he thinks it's a good idea to coo, “Aw, babe, you promise? I can think of several ways you can make it up to me. We'll can start with you on your knees and work our way up from there.”
Whoops. Leorio claps a hand over his mouth so Kurapika can't hear him laugh, but it's a lost cause.
The clamoring in the background of Kurapika's phone goes completely silent. Then, Leorio hears an indistinct question, though the words are too far away to make out, before Kurapika sighs again. Definitely more irate this time. "Leorio, I'll call you back."
Leorio snorts before he can stop himself, but it comes out too fond when he says, "That'll be a first. Save my number Kurapika!"
There's a gentle snort right before Kurapika hangs up on him.
He tosses his phone onto the pile of papers on the table and leans back, popping his back with a groan. Well, no matter if Kurapika calls him back or not, this has already fatally distracted him from studying tonight, and honestly, he can use the break.
A knock on the kitchen counter heralds Gon's arrival, and his little cousin (hardly little anymore, at twenty-two and almost fully grown into his limbs. In the right light, he looks like a grown person instead of a bean sprout) pokes his head into Leorio's little study corner. “Leorio, did I hear your phone go off?”
“Yeah.” Leorio balances a pen on his upper lip. “Would you believe me if I said it was Kurapika?”
Gon stares at him. Then leans back so he can yell around the cabinets. “Killua! You were right! He's gone crazy from all the studying!”
“I have not-”
It's a moot point anyway, no matter what he argues with the boys. Sure, Kurapika called. A rare event even when they were speaking. When they existed in similar orbits, and before-
But that was before. With all the heavy emphasis he can place. And things change because there's no way for them to remain the same. The closeness could not last. As much as he wants Kurapika to call more frequently, he knows better by now, since Kurapika never bothers answering any of the long messages Leorio's left for him in the past. It's too much to expect. But who knows. Maybe Leorio will hear from him again five more years down the line. Maybe in five more years, it won't hurt as much, and instead of space, there will be closeness.
Maybe in five more years, he'll have moved on and it won't matter.
All things are possible, but Leorio has learned to hedge his bets where they count. A single, strange phone call that will never be explained, he expects, will be the end of it, no matter how much he wishes that won’t be the case.
Leorio's phone goes off as he's pushing Alluka out the door for her ten a.m. class. He pulls it out of his pocket, waves at her, still yawning and scrubbing her face as she heads towards the campus, before actually taking a look at the still-vibrating phone. He blinks at the display screen. Lowers his teashade glasses to stare some more.
Damn, he thinks, a little faint. It's a good thing he didn't put money down on this.
Wait, shit, he should answer it before Kurapika hangs up on him. Fumbling a little, Leorio swipes in the appropriate pattern to appease the technology gods. “Kurapika? That you?”
“Are you saving someone else's number over mine?” Kurapika's voice is dry and, Leorio likes to think, a little fond. “Leorio, I'm hurt. Are you free today? I was thinking we could get dinner later and talk.”
The way Kurapika picks his words seems careful, the words precise and measured. “An idea I had. Plus, it's... been a while. Since we've spoken properly, that is. Perhaps I want to catch up.”
“I- I mean, yeah, alright? Sounds good to me.”
Kurapika apparently wants to meet him in a hotel restaurant later that night. The weather's nice enough that Leorio can make the walk without any trouble, since it isn't far from his and the kids' apartment. He'll just leave some sandwiches out for when Gon and Killua come back from Gon's shift and it'll be fine.
“Oh, and Leorio?” Kurapika adds before he hangs up.
“Wear something nice.”
Leorio looks at the piece of paper in his hand, then up (and up and up, Jesus Christ) at the hotel in front of him, and is glad for the first time that he followed Kurapika's advice on anything and wore something nice.
Not that it’ll make too big of a difference, he thinks, looking through the glass at some of the people in the glittering, slick, well-lit lobby. They’ll probably smell the broke-as-fuck on him the moment he steps in there. Like sharks smelling blood from miles away. A less-ratty-than-usual button up and the nicest pair of slacks he could find from Goodwill won’t be enough to fool anyone who can afford to stay in this place. Passersby are already giving him odd looks, nostrils flared like they’re too good to wrinkle them instead. Like they smell shit.
(The shit, in this case, being him, and it’s self-preservation alone that keeps Leorio from flipping them off. Damn bougie pieces of garbage.)
Fuck, he’s so screwed. He hasn’t even gotten in there yet.
A bubble of semi-hysterical laughter catches in his throat, and Leorio folds the piece of paper into the nerve-damp creases of his palm, digging in his back pocket for his cigarette and lighter. The familiar motions of lighting it already starts to soothe his nerves. When he goes to inhale, his hands are steady. Leorio determinedly puffs his way through the cigarette, whiling away the minutes until eight twenty-five hits and he puts out the cigarette and prays to a god he doesn't believe in that no one is going to accost him and ask for his bloodline registration papers before he gets to the restaurant.
He doesn't want to think about what Kurapika is doing now, if he's able to afford a place like this.
Shoulders back, head tall, and walk with enough purpose that’ll make enough people think Leorio has to at least be a member of staff, and he’ll get through this fine. The lobby is intimidatingly spacious, but Leorio doesn’t let himself second guess too much. There's an escalator up to the open second floor, opening into an indoor water garden (seriously what) that he picks through, and the smell of food mixes oddly with the scent of water as Leorio nears the restaurant. He clears his throat but manages to give the wait staff his name without fucking up too bad and he's being escorted back to the private tables. Leorio keeps his eyes dead ahead. If he can't see anyone looking at him askance, then no one is doing it, right?
(His heartbeat swells, staggered and off-kilter and dizzying.)
The door opens.
Leorio wishes he was prepared, but honestly, in the secret, tender corners of his heart, he knows he never, ever is. Not for Kurapika.
This time is no different.
Elbows braced against the table, ankles crossed over each other, a slender, suited man sits at the table to Leorio's right. Soft light from the lamps colors him gently, highlighting the impossible blond of his hair, the smoothness of his skin, and glints off a single earring. A teardrop of red. A shock of color amidst the rest. Wide, grey eyes regard Leorio, and Leorio can hardly breathe through the immediate shock of recognition. Ten years have diminished none of Leorio's memory, not when it comes to him. He’s slight, but his presence is undeniable.
It always has been.
His mouth hangs open, uncertain for all of two seconds. Leorio can't think- not of what to say, not of what to do, Leorio can't think.
"Hello, Leorio,” Kurapika says, and Leorio can’t suppress his twitch at the sound of his voice, familiar and unfamiliar at once, the hidden pieces of the person he used to know surfacing in unexpected syllables. He takes a half-step forward before he remembers himself. Remembers where he is and remembers why. Leorio darts a curious glance around the private room before his attention gravitates, like a comet helplessly curved by a planet, back to Kurapika. "How have you been?"
"So let me get this straight," Leorio says for the fifth time in almost as many minutes, discounting the time he's taking to scarf down some absurdly expensive food. "You want me to-"
With an exasperated sigh, Kurapika leans back in his chair. "Leorio, of all your many faults, difficulty hearing has never been one of them. We've been over this. Believe me," and here he crosses his arms across his chest, the first sign of discomfort Leorio's seen out of him so far, "this isn't how I intended to get back in touch with you either."
"Just humor me, okay? You disappear after high school, ghost me off and on for like ten years, and now you're here, again, and you need me to pretend to be your boyfriend so your mafia coworkers-"
"I'm just a bodyguard, Leorio, please, don't be so dramatic."
"Mafia coworkers, because you're a bodyguard for the Nostrade family, get off your back about your lack of sex life?" Leorio scoffs, trying to not find this a little silly, trying to not wonder why this is what it takes for Kurapika to call him when Leorio has tried so many times- "Are you planning on paying me for this?"
Kurapika's lip juts out at that, considering. "How much?"
Leorio tells him a number.
"I can double that,” he says easily.
"You can what?" Leorio asks. It's not a small number, conservatively near the amount he needs to pay rent for the rest of the month, and double that is-
Kurapika huffs, cutting off his train of thought. "If you need it spelled out for you that much, I suppose, but yes. Are you up for it or not?”
"You don't mean we're actually gonna-"
"Why Leorio, I thought you'd be jumping at the opportunity. You do find new ways to surprise me." Kurapika holds up a hand, his eyes dancing with delight at Leorio's sputtering. “We don't have to actually do anything explicit. Nothing beyond what we're both comfortable with. You're someone I know I can trust. Besides, I can offer you any kind of compensation you need.”
Leorio tries not to read into that too much. He drags a hand through his hair. “So wait, you are hiring me to-“
“You know exactly what I’m hiring you for,” Kurapika says, short and to the point. Leorio politely refrains from opening his mouth, even though it’s probably the second time he’s been polite in his whole life, especially around Kurapika. “You are sexually experienced. My team knows you, and I am tired of my competence being questioned for something I have little interest in, so this is the best way I can think of to handle it. You didn't need to get so involved, but when I was trying to rendezvous with you over the phone, you were so aggravating that I dropped your name.”
Handling it by hiring him to be his escort? Leorio opens his mouth, closes it, unsure of how or even why he’s trying to argue. As long as Leorio gets paid, what does he care? That's what he's here for, right now. But the familiar beats of conversations between him and Kurapika stretch between them, and Leorio-
Leorio has never been good at letting things go and he feels his heart stutter and soften, the traitorous bastard.
And then, clearly unimpressed with Leorio’s silence, Kurapika raises an eyebrow. Fuck, Leorio is done for. He’s a goner. The familiar condescension alone could cut glass, even when Leorio can tell that Kurapika's ears are traitorously pink. It’s ten years all over again, and Leorio’s heart aches with it, fond and tender. “Is it a yes or a no, Leorio? Don't make me waste more time-”
“It's a yes, Kurapika,” Leorio says gently, and he doesn't mention the way Kurapika's shoulders immediately relax, tension easing from his frame. "And I don't mean to be so surprised, but I guess I just never figured you'd be the kind of person who cares about that kind of thing. You know it doesn't matter."
"I know, but-" and Kurapika's gaze drops to the floor. He scowls at the hotel carpet like it's personally offended him. "I want to."
“Don't make me repeat myself so many times, Leorio," Kurapika says. "Are you done here?"
Leorio thinks for a second, then shrugs. “Yeah, done enough. When are we starting?”
The rooms in this place are no less ritzy than the rest of the place. It shouldn't be a surprise, maybe, and Leorio tries to keep his gawking at least to times where Kurapika isn't actively looking at him, but jesus fucking christ, there is no reason for a solid half of this shit. He's pretty sure there's jewels embedded in the ceiling fan.
And also, as it turns out, there is no good way to start a conversation when the first time two people meet in ten years is because one of them is hiring the other as an escort. Fake boyfriend. Whatever. Kurapika loses his tie and jacket as soon as they get into the room while Leorio tries to pick between "Hey, how've you been" and "So how genuine is the job, because I've sucked your dick before and I've only gotten better at it" to break the ice and stares at the sleek, burnished metal sink visible in the room’s bathroom.
When Kurapika finally turns around to meet his eyes, proud and red-faced and biting the inside of his lip the way he used to do when he didn't want someone to know he's embarrassed, Leorio snorts. Claps his hand over his mouth, but it's too late by that point.
Kurapika's mouth twitches, and that's it. Laughter bursts out of Leorio.
"Hi, Kurapika, fancy seeing you here."
“Leorio,” Kurapika says, and Leorio still like the way his name sounds in Kurapika's mouth. “Do be serious, please.”
"Generally, I like it when my partners actually enjoy themselves, but y'know," Leorio grouses quietly, but he doesn't mean it. Not really. If he teases too much, there's the very real possibility that Kurapika will kick him out and then Leorio will have wasted one of the only chances he's gotten to talk to Kurapika in years. His smile fades. Biting back everything he wants to say, Leorio lets out a sigh. “You’re the customer. What are we doing here?”
That gets Kurapika to look up, his hands faltering for just a moment as he fusses with his buttons. He visibly steadies himself, lifting his chin exactly how he did when he copped an attitude with one of their teachers. "Well, for starters, if you're my boyfriend, perhaps you should tell me how things are going to play out here. What would you do, Leorio, if we met up for the first time in a while?" He looks up at Leorio, eyes half-lidded, dangerous in his intensity. "What would you do to me?"
Leorio wants to ask him what exactly he means, he really does because lack of clarity has been his undoing in the past, but his tongue is suddenly too thick, tied to the roof of his mouth as Kurapika's shirt parts and reveals the skin underneath. It's not new- except that it is. It's nothing Leorio hasn't seen when Kurapika wore t-shirts and tank tops and was seventeen and his, not twenty-seven with every inch of him covered by a tailored suit, unfamiliar and familiar all at once.
It's new, though. Kurapika has only gotten leaner, grown into the awkward length of his body, and whatever work he's doing, it's treating him well. There are pale lines crisscrossing his torso in places. Old, healed wounds. They weren't there last time Leorio saw him like this, and questions crowd his mouth before Leorio swallows them back. He doesn't know if he should, if he can ask.
"Well," he starts, thick-tongued and clumsy with it, because this feels illicit, even if it isn't. "I definitely wouldn't leave you looking the same as you did when you got here."
Kurapika, his shirt hanging open, raises an eyebrow at him, cheeks darkening with a flush. "No, I don't suppose you would. You need to provide visible evidence, then, obviously. You've left hickeys on people before, Leorio. I know you know how to go about that much, at least."
Oh Kurapika sure as hell knows. Just like how Leorio knows the taste of his mouth, still lingering behind his teeth.
Kurapika tilts his head to the side, a challenge and an invitation all in one, and, a low heat starting under his skin, Leorio goes. Kurapika is still so much shorter than he is. He has to bend over to reach the offered skin and Kurapika makes no move to make this any easier on Leorio. Leorio lowers his mouth to Kurapika's neck. Warm skin brushes against his lips. This close, it's impossible to not breathe in the scent of Kurapika's skin, mixed with the cologne he must have worn all day, a heady punch of nostalgia and allure, and Leorio is achingly aware of the steady, measured tempo of Kurapika's breaths. He reaches up, cradles the other side of Kurapika's neck.
They hover there, a moment, suspended in time. Like this, Leorio can feel the thrum of Kurapika's pulse against his palm.
Then, Leorio closes the last distance.
Kurapika twitches as he drags his teeth over his skin and again when Leorio sets his mouth, sucking and biting until he tastes iron in his mouth. When he lifts his mouth, there is a single red line, dark and inviting him to leave more, to reduce Kurapika to the half-hitched breaths he makes when he's overwhelmed. Leorio wonders if he still goes trembling and wanting with heat when someone has their mouth on his neck and a leg between his thighs before he forcibly shuts the thought away.
"There," he says, voice low and rumbling. "Is that-"
Kurapika cuts him off. "Again."
His heartbeat stutters. Kurapika isn't meeting his eyes when Leorio pulls back to check with him, and Leorio feels- feels like he's nineteen and pressing Kurapika into the hallway behind the gym, laughing into his mouth; like he's leaving hickeys on a stranger for money, only that stranger has his estranged friend's face; like he has no fucking idea what he's doing.
Because he has no sense of self-preservation (because this is Kurapika, and Leorio's always been stupid when it comes to Kurapika, and because Leorio doesn't want to stop either), Leorio asks, "You're sure?"
"I will tell you," Kurapika says, weighing out each of his words deliberately as his fingers curl in the front of Leorio's shirt, "when I want you to stop."
Well, that's clear enough. Leorio starts again, laving his tongue across the smooth junction of Kurapika's neck and shoulder again, working the wet skin between his teeth in hungry, biting motions. He's not gentle, but every scrap of teeth has Kurapika's body hitching against his in aborted little movements, rolls of his hips that he can't, won't, let himself complete, and the steady pace of his breathing grows more and more uneven. Leorio lets Kurapika go, lets him breathe in a solid inhale while Leorio noses further up, finding Kurapika's soft lobe and biting it before he sets in again, determinedly sucking a dark mark behind Kurapika's ear until, finally, he lets out a groan, shuddering. Leorio recedes in waves, surging forward to worry the skin sensitive, hoarding the choked noises Kurapika makes with a greed that twists in his stomach until he pulls free.
Neither of them can seem to catch their breath. Leorio tries not to read into it too much, but it's hard when he has Kurapika pressed against him like this.
"Kurapika," he murmurs, "What are you doing?"
There is a moment. A pause. Kurapika's gaze drops to Leorio's mouth, heavy-lidded. "Getting my money's worth."
Right. Leorio swallows once, then again. Fuck it. In for a penny, in for a pound. If this is how Kurapika is going to play it, then Leorio will just take what he can get.
"Hey," Leorio whispers, a breath against Kurapika's lips, and he can't ignore the gentle shiver he feels, hand cupped almost tenderly around the back of Kurapika's head. "Kurapika, relax."
"I am -" Kurapika starts but Leorio swallows his words, shifting forward. He keeps the kiss steady, not pushing Kurapika too far too fast, the slide of their mouths a rhythmic press and release. It seems like Kurapika doesn't quite know what to do with himself, always a half-beat behind Leorio. He shudders when Leorio drags his teeth across the swell of his lower lip.
God, it's good. Leorio loses track of time in the taste of Kurapika's mouth, in the soft, wet press and slide of their lips and the easy, almost eager way Kurapika opens for the inquisitive brush of his tongue. He shifts to kiss the curve of his jaw and ear, nosing aside his hair to leave a dark, blooming mark where there will be almost no shirt collar high enough to cover it.
And Kurapika just lets him do it. Encourages him, almost, with his hands gripped tightly in Leorio's shirt and the way his exhales are tinged with moans he won't let himself fully vocalize, panting Leorio's ear. He pulls Leorio along when Leorio presses him backwards, one step after the other.
The edge of the bed seems to catch him by surprise. He falls and Leorio falls after him, barely catching himself on his elbow above Kurapika and.
-too close, almost.
The way Kurapika's hair looks, spread across white bedsheets, is not a memory Leorio needed to relive.
The sound of their breathing fills Leorio's ears, drowning the spaces between each pound of his overeager heart, and he licks his lips once, twice when he sees the way Kurapika's gaze darkens and drops to his mouth when he does, gratified by the attention.
And then Leorio staggers back.
It feels like the air is clearer a few feet away from the bed. Leorio's mouth buzzes with the phantom press of Kurapika's skin, and he can't help but lick it again. “Is that,” he starts, rough, then tries again. “Is that going to be good enough?”
“I-” Kurapika pushes himself up onto one elbow. “Yes. I think so, yes.”
“Alright, because I. Uh. I have to get home. The kids are expecting me and-”
“Gon and Killua still live with you?”
Leorio scrubs at the back of his neck. He feels so large inside his own skin, pulse centered in his mouth, between his legs. He has to leave. He can't stay here any longer, but he can't just run off. Fuck the money, at this point. Doesn't matter that rent is due soon and Leorio is still short. He'll find another way, something other than this, because this is a slow death in human form. “Y-yeah. Them and Alluka. They'll worry if I'm not home soon.”
“That's alright. What are good times to call you? I don't want things to interfere with your classes,” Kurapika says.
Leorio clenches his jaw. “There are no classes to interfere with, so don't worry about that.”
“There aren't-” Kurapika sits upright, grey eyes boring into him. “Leorio, what-”
“Don't worry about it, Kurapika.”
Kurapika clicks his tongue, a sharp noise against his teeth. “Well of course I'm going to worry now, asshole. Just tell me. What's the problem? Aren't you in medical school?”
“Med school takes money, Kurapika,” Leorio says tightly. “You know that. And with everything-” He cuts himself off, biting the inside of his cheek until he tastes iron. “Just. Know that my schedule is open, most times. I'll let you know if it's not.”
Kurapika's fingers brush his arm, brief, before settling again but firmer this time. Five points of solid, warm contact that have Leorio's heart stuttering. Strange and unnecessary, since he just had his tongue in Kurapika's mouth, but somehow this feels more intimate. Kurapika hardly ever reaches out first. Leorio steels himself. He's not going to get used to it. It's just Kurapika, trying to serve his own ends, and Leorio will be left to pick up the pieces he leaves behind when he disappears again.
And then he lets it go.
Leorio stares after Kurapika as he steps away and starts fussing with his buttons, covering himself back up, a little cast adrift. He breathes in, fills himself with hot air the way he wishes he could fill himself through with confidence.
Kurapika looks up at him once he's more put together, his shirttails hanging out of his pants and collar sloppily buttoned, the marks of Leorio's mouth clearly visible on his neck and jaw. “Come on, I'll at least walk you to the door.”
It's all of ten feet away, but Leorio can't find it in himself to argue too much. Kurapika stops him from going out with a finger in his back pocket, tugging ungently.
“By the way, are you still smoking?” Kurapika says, nose wrinkling. “You really should quit. It makes you smell like a sewer.”
“I- Well, fuck, yeah I guess I’ll just get – Leorio waves a hand in the air, trying to wrap up his stress and anxiety and the way the oxygen deprivation makes him calm down and the whole nicotine addiction thing into a word and failing. “Get right on that.”
“See that you do. It'll be nicer to kiss you that way, next time.”
And with that, Kurapika closes the door.
Leorio stares after him, wants to go in, wants to never have come here, and wants an incomprehensible number of things that well up inside him.
“Next time?” he whispers.
When he gets home, there's a message on his phone that reads, bafflingly, “Let me know if you need more.”
Even more bafflingly, it's from Kurapika.
“What the-” Leorio mutters, sending back a string of question marks that hopefully gets all that confusion across. Checking in on the kids takes a matter of moments. They're all helpfully passed on semi-on top of each other in a pile in Gon’s room, Gon's head on Killua's shoulder, Alluka resting in his lap, and if Leorio's seeing things right, there's a pair of hands, pale and dark, clasped together, stark in the blue light from the laptop screen. He wades into the mess of food wrappers and discarded napkins, picking his steps carefully, and pulls a couple of blankets over them.
Killua stirs. Blearily opens one eye.
“Go back to sleep. I'm home safe,” Leorio says, sotto voce, and Killua makes a vague noise of agreement before seemingly falling right back asleep.
An incredible superpower, that one.
It's time for bed, though, the middle of the night settling in hard, and Leorio decides to forgo his usual ritual of nightly studying while the kids are asleep. He's too distracted, the low curl of arousal still stalking through his veins around the exhaustion. Better to save himself the headache and head to sleep. When he takes off his pants, though, he feels a bulge in his back pocket that isn't supposed to be there.
Leorio makes a curious sound as he pulls it out. Freezes. He laughs incredulously. “Son of a bitch.”
Because there, folded up neatly, is a stack of hundred dollar bills. Leorio really, really doesn't want to know when Kurapika snuck them into his pocket or why he was wandering around apparently carrying this much money. But this is, also, enough for his rent and then some, and fuck it. Fuck it. He'll take whatever contact he can get at this point.
(His lips are still swollen and sensitive, and he feels the touch of Kurapika's hands on him like a brand.
Hopefully, this, too, will pass.)
Chapter 2: small stacks of trust
Once is coincidence. Twice is lucky. Three times... something's up.
This is one of the chapters with gratuitous porn in it. If you're here for that, enjoy; if you're not, mind the ratings and you should probably skip once they go back to kp's hotel room.
Title from "Kakattekoiyo" by Nakamura Emi
Kurapika doesn't call him for three days
Leorio's not overthinking this, okay? He's not. He's just. Disappointed, he supposes. Some part of him that hasn't changed appreciably from the nineteen year old he used to be wanted things to be different this time. It shouldn't surprise him that he can wake up, make sure the kids get to class and to work, try to study, find himself another odd job that'll give him money for a few hours work here and there, come home, and exist and just not hear anything from Kurapika. It's how he's been living since high school, since everything with Gon happened and Kurapika never called him back. It isn't new. It isn't even unexpected.
Three days is nothing.
(Except, this time, again, his lips remember how Kurapika feels. He knows again. And that changes everything.)
“Are you free right now?”
Leorio stares at his phone. The notification, beneath Kurapika's name, doesn't disappear. “Will wonders never cease?” he mutters.
He sends back an affirmative and puts the book he was paging through back on the shelf. With that coming through from Kurapika, he definitely doesn't have the concentration required to study anymore. It'll be a bit of a waste of his time in the library, but it's closing soon and anyway, if Leorio's being unusually honest with himself, he wasn't doing much other than thinking about Kurapika.
Continuing his trend of being succinct and impossible to understand, Kurapika just drops his location into the message. “Meet me here whenever you can make it. Room 813."
It's the same damn hotel.
Leorio's thinking this is going to be a trend.
At least he's not intimidated this time by the fancy elevator and its separate floor-call screen, and he walks in with enough confidence that he can ignore other people.
The elevator moves, so smoothly that Leorio almost wonders if it's working. But the shaft falls away, revealing the world outside, and he steps away from the door to take a look. Glittering lights pepper the valley beneath like a field of fireflies, blinking here and there and so far away as Leorio is transported ever upwards. It looks welcomingly quiet and dark out there. If only he, too, could be out there. Lord knows he has enough tests to study for. Lord knows he has the kids to look after.
Augh, this is a terrible mood to bring to a meeting with Kurapika. It isn't his fault that Leorio has a deep-seated, visceral, teeth-baring reaction to wealth. With a long sigh, he straightens up, rolling his shoulders back. Leorio resettles his shirt and slacks, patting them down to make sure they fall correctly. There. Good. Now, a careful adjustment of the cuffs of his sleeves, and-
The doors ping open.
Leorio looks at the hallway, clocking the gold-trim and crystals in the lights, mouth twisting to the side. Bet none of these people ever had to worry about shit like paying for college and making sure there's enough food for them to eat. Assholes. Rich, fucking wasteful, ungrateful assholes.
“Oh, you should be grateful, Leorio,” he simpers, tone a mocking falsetto. “People like these are making jobs like the ones paying your rent and bills, Leorio. Well, they can suck these nuts for all I give a shit.” Pausing, Leorio squints up at the ceiling, directing his next comment to the incorporeal magical deity in the sky. “Listen here, please don’t actually take that as a challenge, alright? I'm doing bad enough as it is.”
In his pocket, his phone vibrates. He pulls it out, thumbs the display on, spotting the message from Gon immediately. It’s a picture that he has to tap to load. A selfie of Gon with Killua and Alluka in the background. Alluka’s tongue sticks out of her mouth as she plays some video game with Killua, both of them with green face masks on and their hair carefully pinned away from their faces. Just from the picture alone, Leorio can’t tell if she’s winning or not, but she has been threatening Killua’s Mario Kart title recently, so this might be the moment of triumph.
Gon, too, has a face mask on, but he’s giving the camera a peace sign, wisely choosing to stay out of the sibling rivalry. He wrote, “Having a good night in! I feel fine now, I think the weird dizziness from earlier was just my blood sugar crashing, so don't you dare leave now. Doors are locked and everything and we have a pizza in the oven. Make sure you stay safe too and stop worrying! Wake me up when you get home from the bar! Love you lots, Leorio!!!!”
Leorio rolls his eyes, knowing Gon only put in the digs about the doors and food because Leorio spent a good ten minutes hounding him about it earlier. Still, seeing the kids, knowing that they’re safe and home and that Gon is feeling better than he was earlier, unknots Leorio’s spine just enough for him to straighten, take a deep breath. Continue on. Sure, he lied about seeing Kurapika, but. Kurapika's just going to leave again. It's protection, he reasons.
He reaches the right number, and Leorio raises an eyebrow at the “Executive Suite” engraved on the plaque, miming a silent whistle. A suite? Just for the two of them? How fancy.
Leorio steps forward. Raising his hand, he knocks twice, sharply and loud.
(He wishes he knew what to expect. Leorio plays very well at being baselessly confident, but there’s still an edge of uncertainty here that cuts into Leorio just enough to make him nervous.)
He becomes aware of the noise within the room only when it stops. Several voices quiet, then start again, questioning tones clear even though the words are indistinct.
A tall man, his shirt completely open to reveal his muscular torso, answers the door. His hair is a neatly kept pompadour, even if he looks like he’s missing the bottom half of his beard, and Leorio scrubs his hand across his chin to banish the phantom itch that crawls there. Unease sparks across his skin. Leorio shoves it down
The man blinks. “Who are you?”
“Leorio,” he says, firm. “I was told to come to this room. This is 813, right?”
“Oho,” one of them says, a lithe gentleman with burnished red hair further in the room. He leans around the other man’s body, resting a little woozily against his firm arm, to get a better look. “So this is Kurapika's Leorio?”
Leorio decides that he doesn't like his tone, even as part of him thrills at the possessive.
“Yup,” Leorio says, popping the ‘p’. A line about party rates is right on his tongue when there’s movement from further in the room, a quiet voice, and the man who opened the door steps back, allowing Leorio to look into the room.
In at Kurapika, whose hair is brushed and pinned to the side, allowing everyone a generous view of the yellowing marks in the shape of Leorio's mouth, high on his neck. Kurapika, who is smiling faintly. Like he's actually pleased to see Leorio, who can't help but smile back even as his stomach twists.
“Sorry, Leorio,” Kurapika's saying as Leorio turns his attention back to the matter at hand. “Things got a bit hectic. Kidnapping threats, you know how it goes.”
Pointedly raising an eyebrow, Leorio shakes his head. “I really, really don't, actually.”
“That's alright. Let's go.”
The guy with the pompadour shifts in Leorio's peripheral. “What, leaving already, Kurapika?”
He snorts indelicately. “Like I'd stay around here any longer with Leorio as an option, Basho. Are you supposed to be a better option somehow?”
Warmth blossoms in Leorio's chest.
The shorter woman in the room stops Kurapika with a hand on his arm, and he bends towards her to listen when she speaks. A brief smile cuts across his face, fond and soft in a way not many people get to see directed at them. Leorio watches as he straightens, patting her hand comfortingly, but her gaze, guarded, stays locked on him as he moves away, towards Leorio.
Then past Leorio.
He’s a brush of heat against Leorio’s skin, stunningly warm even through his clothes. A faint cologne, something warm and honeyed, fills Leorio’s lungs, and he follows after Kurapika, like a pin aligning itself to a magnet.
"Hey, take care of Kurapika!" one of them hollers after them.
"Oh he'll take care of him alright," another man yells with a rude gesture, to raucous noise while Kurapika waves them off, rolling his eyes the entire way.
The door closes behind him, cutting off all the raucous noise and jeering and leaving Leorio in a ringing silence, broken only by the low hum of the hotel's unobtrusive air conditioning. Kurapika seems to steel himself, shoulders straightening before he nods and walks down the hallway without saying a word. Leorio bites back half a dozen comments. There's too much to say, and the hallway of a hotel can't hope to hold it all.
(But when it all comes down to it, Kurapika barely has to look at him over his shoulder, one eyebrow raised before Leorio scuffs his shoe on the carpet like an uncertain kid and follows him to the elevators.)
Kurapika sags against the wall of the elevator with a sigh, and Leorio, concerned, steps closer. He's waved off, Kurapika pushing himself more upright. “Sorry. They mean well, but they consider themselves … protective of me. I haven't quite figured out why. They wanted to know more about my mystery boyfriend, since I finally told them it was you.”
“Wait, so, they know me?”
“Of course they know you,” Kurapika says, slightly distracted as he tugs at his tie. “They keep telling me I talk about you all the time.”
Nodding, Kurapika catches himself on the railing as he lists to the side. Frowning down at his hand, he says, very clearly, “I also might be slightly tipsy.”
Leorio muffles a laugh. Then, too-casually, his eyes catch on the marks still there on Kurapika’s skin, proof that Leorio has touched Kurapika and that it isn't just some weird dream he hasn't woken up from yet. Leorio licks his lips. Something like bravery, like stupidity, like every harebrained idea he's ever had, pushes the tangle of words in his lungs past the lump in his throat. "Seems like they bought it, didn't they? Our... arrangement."
Kurapika looks at him curiously. Then, understanding lights his eyes. "Ah, they seem to have."
He trails off and doesn't continue. Leorio doesn't know what madness grabs him by the base of his spine and convinces him to speak, but he's going for it before he can convince himself to stop. “So I need to do it again, right? I mean, we did just leave them to come up to your room.”
Grey eyes regard him very seriously. Then Kurapika nods, slowly. “Yes. I suppose so.”
“What was the party for?” Leorio asks as the doors open and they step out, curious. “Must’ve been important if it got you drinking.”
“Retirement and bravery,” Kurapika replies vaguely before he looks up at Leorio, flushed and wide-eyed. “You’re still here.”
Leorio’s smile softens a little. “Of course I am.”
It's a little more obvious now that they're alone, but Kurapika is swaying just slightly, a flush to his cheeks and darkness to his eyes that Leorio attributes to the scent of alcohol lingering around him. He fumbles a little with his keycard but gets the room open just fine.
This room is one Leorio recognizes. Kurapika's few belongings are scattered around the room, personal touches that he didn't expect to see. As he enters, Kurapika undoes his tie, drapes the deep red fabric across the nearest horizontal surface, before letting himself collapse into a chair in a loose tangle of limbs.
“So, about making them all believe it.” Leorio squares his shoulders, scuffing his toe on the carpet. The air between them sharpens the moment he meets Kurapika's eyes, a thick, heady kind of anticipation drowning out the misgiving burn in Leorio's heart. He takes a measured step, then another, deliberate and slow. Kurapika watches, lips slightly parted. “Should be fun, right?”
Kurapika leans back in his chair. He tilts his face up, lazy and just a little drunk.
Leorio stops when his feet bracket Kurapika's. He's so much taller than Kurapika is, and it's never more obvious than moments like these. Still, Leorio doesn't feel in control of this situation at all. He barely knows what Kurapika is even doing here, much less what he's doing with Leorio. But he does like the attention, the focused way Kurapika's eyes drag down his torso, catching on the places his dress shirt clings to him, the curve of his belt around his hips.
“This is a little ridiculous, isn’t it?” Kurapika asks, already a little breathless. “You’re already so…”
Leorio only hums, noncommittal, before he leans over, hands braced on the arms of the chair behind Kurapika. He doesn’t do anything aside from be there, in Kurapika’s space. Even that, though, affects Kurapika, his breathing steadily getting heavier. Quietly, he rumbles, “This whole situation is a little ridiculous, isn’t it?”
The tilt of Kurapika's mouth is soft and fond and a number of things that make Leorio's stomach curl, pleased. His voice, a breath of air against Leorio's lips. “A little.”
And, with a sound that might be agreement, Leorio kisses him.
It's no less delightful than the first time, the tenth, the countless times it has been, and the wonder of it hasn't dimmed over the span of three days, nor ten years. Everything makes sense here, in the push and press of their mouths. Kurapika opens for him, tasting faintly of alcohol and mostly like himself, and the dart of his tongue into Leorio's mouth, chasing him, is welcome and delightful. Tilting his head, Leorio kisses Kurapika again, adding a drag of teeth along Kurapika's full lower lip.
Nails dig into the nape of his neck, and Leorio breaks contact to gasp. Kurapika swallows the sound hungrily, pulling him forward into another devouring kiss, and he's desperate and glad that he's still holding himself up, though he wants to press forward and cover Kurapika with himself.
Leorio shifts, running his hand down Kurapika's chest. Kurapika arches to follow the touch, stopping his wordless discontent murmuring only when Leorio starts unbuttoning his shirt. Without breaking their rhythm, Leorio kneels. Like this, Kurapika's knees are on either side of Leorio's shoulders, an inviting spread.
“Are you okay? With this?” Kurapika asks suddenly. His fingers tighten on Leorio's shoulder.
“You're not the first person to pay me for sex, you know,” Leorio says, kind of jovial, kind of to put Kurapika at ease. “I've had a lot of jobs. Besides, what’s a little sex between friends, right?”
Kurapika looks at him, something understanding in his eyes, and Leorio darts down, presses the flat of his tongue to Kurapika's stomach along the sensitive dip of his hip to avoid it.
It's easier, down here, like this. Like this, all he has to focus on is the beat of the body below him. All he has to do is make Kurapika feel good. The thought settles in the back of Leorio's mind, a directive he can follow to a plain and easy conclusion, because skating his hands across Kurapika's hips, dragging down the backs of his thighs as he takes Kurapika's underwear and pants off, is so much simpler than thinking. There's a brush of hands across his head, Kurapika's fingers winding into his hair. Tense and then relaxing as Leorio sucks marks along his path.
"Leorio," Kurapika gasps, breaking his concentration. "Take me to bed."
Fuck, that bypasses Leorio's higher thought processes, a lightning strike of arousal that turns Leorio's breath heavy. He rocks to his feet, Kurapika already reaching for him. Leorio locks his hands together in the small of Kurapika's back as Kurapika hooks his knees over Leorio's arms, and when Leorio lifts him, Kurapika pulls himself close enough to kiss. Heat flashes through Leorio as Kurapika bites his lower lip, the sharpness soothed by the hungry press of his tongue.
It's only a few steps and a short, exhilarating drop to the bed, and this time, Leorio doesn't let the sight of Kurapika splayed out on the sheets distract him. He's here to do a job. He's here for that. Not for anything else.
Curious and questing, he presses dry fingers to Kurapika's entrance. Not trying to enter, just. There. Kurapika tilts towards it, not away, and Leorio makes an interested noise. “Kurapika, where's-”
A small container hits him in the shoulder.
Kurapika steadfastly does not meet Leorio's eyes when he takes it.
This is a bad idea.
It’s terrible, honestly, one of the worst he’s had, which is an impressive record for someone who once lit a firework in his hand for fun and a second time so someone could tape it; someone who apparently didn’t learn the dangers of handing his heart out the first time and is coming back for seconds. But Leorio curves towards Kurapika anyway.
His fingers return to Kurapika’s entrance, slick this time. Kurapika bears down on the first as Leorio eases it in, the muscle contracting around the intruding digit in an enticing squeeze. Leorio’s other hand rests low on Kurapika’s stomach, above the swollen head of Kurapika’s dick. Holding him in place for the smooth slide of first one finger, and then another, testing the stretch with easy rolls of his hand and wrist to the little gasps coming out of Kurapika.
Kurapika, who has an odd little furrow between his eyes.
Whose hands are flexing, uncertain, against the sheets.
A thought occurs to Leorio. He lifts his mouth from Kurapika’s hip with a wet noise of release from the skin, his hand slowing its eager press inside of Kurapika. “Hey,” he starts, “when you said you weren’t experienced, how… how inexperienced are we talking here?”
For a moment, there is no response. Then Kurapika arches himself up just enough to level Leorio a gimlet fucking cold ass stare, gray rim around blown pupils startling and bold in his flushed face. With a voice that is excessively even for how heavily he’s breathing, he says, “You are two fingers in my ass and ten years too late to be asking me that, aren’t you?”
Leorio shouldn’t laugh. He also shouldn’t still find the sarcastic cant of Kurapika’s mouth attractive, but fuck, that's a thing that's never going to stop apparently, a bolt of arousal curling around his sternum even as he snickers and slowly rolls his fingers, bringing their momentum down a bit. “Yeah, fair. But I wanted to know: am I going too fast for you?”
“I will give you a three hundred dollar bonus right now if you never ask me that question again.” Leorio starts pulling his fingers out and Kurapika grabs him by the shoulder, grip tight and expression turned on and desperate. “I’m serious. I wouldn’t let you do anything I didn’t want you to. Keep going.”
That’ll have to do. Leorio sighs and pushes his misgivings down, promising himself that he’ll go slower and be a bit more careful from here on out, no matter what Kurapika says. He settles back into place, returning his mouth to the curve of Kurapika’s hip as he presses in. Kurapika makes a punched out noise as Leorio sucks another mark into his hip, as Leorio curls his fingers up to nudge against his prostate.
“Leorio,” he gasps. “Come on.”
But, determined, Leorio fingers him a little longer, adding a third finger and going until Kurapika’s body is eagerly rolling down into the next thrust and his grey eyes have gone hazy and unfocused. Leorio-
Leorio can’t fucking breathe.
Kurapika is covered in pink and red and purple-dark marks, his skin scratched raw from the stubble on Leorio’s cheeks, a flush of arousal covering every other inch between. It makes the scars, new and unfamiliar, stand out even starker, pale and dotted here and there with sweat. Kurapika’s chest heaves for breath. His hips move in a sinuous, needy wave.
(Leorio thinks, nonsensically, that he has to have died and gone to heaven. It’s the only possible explanation.)
He pauses to pull on a condom, retrieved from Kurapika’s bedside table, and to gather himself, keep himself together and maybe fight this fire a little bit. A lost cause because when Leorio looks back up at Kurapika, he’s caught in the undertow all over again. It feels like too much. It feels like it's not enough. Kurapika's shaking hand around his cock steadies him, lines him up with Kurapika's entrance. He’s too huge for his skin. Kurapika’s knees are hooked over Leorio’s shoulders, and-
For the first time since starting this, they are face to face.
Kurapika reaches up, fingers soft as he caresses Leorio’s chin and mouth. “Hello, Leorio,” he says, warm and husky.
“Hi there, Kurapika,” Leorio replies, because he can’t not answer when it's Kurapika. And then, “Okay?”
A deep, steadying inhale, and Kurapika nods.
It’s not new or unusual. He's fucked people before The heavens themselves don’t open up, and Leorio doesn’t hear a chorus of angels or anything beyond the pounding of his own heart. But the slow, steady roll inside Kurapika doesn’t cease to be overwhelming as Leorio enters him in degrees. Like a wave. Retreating and returning further, deeper and deeper with Kurapika’s knees around his shoulders and his hands around Leorio’s neck and his breath, hot in Leorio’s ear.
(It’s better than he ever let himself imagine, either ten years ago or in the mourning moments afterward when Leorio’s heart and libido got ahead of his brain.)
Gasping, Leorio scrapes enough brain cells to ask, “Alright?”
“Ff- yes, yes, I’m fine, just-” And Kurapika quivers around Leorio, tightening in a blinding rush of sensation. “Please, Leorio.”
Leorio lets out a breath, lowering his mouth to the exposed line of Kurapika’s neck. He kisses it, following its curve to the sweet junction of his shoulder, opens his mouth and sets his teeth and bites. Beneath him, Kurapika jolts before groaning, going limp and liquid loose, trembling under the onslaught of Leorio’s teeth and tongue and mouth and the rolling press of his hips.
The noises he pulls from Kurapika’s throat hit a desperate pitch as Leorio drives him on and on and on. He loses track of how many times he hears “Yes,” and his own name, as Kurapika’s nails dig frantically down his shoulders, as Leorio leaves marks of his presence here to Kurapika’s eager enthusiasm.
Focus settles on Leorio like a knife coming to its point. He wraps a hand around Kurapika’s dick, too overcome to pump it with any semblance of rhythm. “Yeah, dearheart. Come on, I’ve got you.”
And that’s it.
Kurapika comes with a muffled cry, tightening in spasms around Leorio, who lasts only a few more thrusts before orgasm hits him like a freight train.
The hotel air is cold against his sweat-sticky skin as Leorio slowly rights himself, gently lowering Kurapika’s legs from around his shoulders, and looking his fill at Kurapika’s glistening skin, marked here and there with purpling imprints of Leorio’s mouth and hands, the cum that streaks his belly and the soft thatch of gold curls at the base of his cock. Kurapika’s chest heaves for breath. He doesn’t look at Leorio. He isn’t really looking anywhere at all, one arm flung across his eyes, but the distance chills something in Leorio.
He stands to cover this, moving on shaky legs to the bathroom. Taking off the condom, he ties it and tosses it in the trash before wetting a washcloth.
By the time he gets back, though, Kurapika has shifted to lay on his side, away from Leorio, and that unease is back, stronger than ever.
Leorio returns to the bed and leans over, his hand hovering over the shaking curve of Kurapika's shoulder. He doesn't know if he can move closer or further away, uncertain of his welcome but unwilling to just leave Kurapika alone. Finally, he bridges that gap, the touch seeming so much more intimate than what just came before. His thumb moves in a soothing sweep. "Kurapika? You okay?"
Bonelessly, Kurapika rolls over. His face is flushed, hair sticking damply to his forehead and cheeks, His mouth opens, closes, a few times, as though he can't quite figure out what to say, until he finally swallows. Voice wrecked and cracking around the edges, he says, "I see why you sometimes get paid for that."
It startles a laugh out of him, and Leorio leans over to brush a gentle kiss across the upturn of Kurapika's cheek. “Good?”
“Very.” Kurapika's lips twitch, a shaky attempt at a smile that he can't sustain because the muscles are too weak, jittery with remnant stimulation. He looks beautiful, fucked out and trembling in the aftermath, and there's something heady and dangerous about the knowledge that Leorio is the one who undid him like this. Pleasure sours in Leorio's gut, leaving him empty and shaken. “It's late, Leorio. You should-”
“Go, yeah, I know,” Leorio finishes. He can't stay. Can't hear whatever suggestion Kurapika has, because whatever happened to protecting himself?
Kurapika looks at him. A little divot appears between his eyebrows. “I was going to say-”
Leorio drops the washcloth on the floor where Kurapika hopefully won’t see it. He can’t do this anymore. The carpet is plush beneath his feet as he stands, searching for his clothes in the discarded casualties of their terrible decisions. “I'll see you whenever you text me next, right?”
There's silence behind him. Then the whisper of sheets as Kurapika shifts. “Yes, I suppose I will.”
“Good.” Leorio hastily pulls on his shirt, doing up a few buttons and struggling into his pants.
“Leorio,” Kurapika calls out, one last time.
Hand on the doorknob, Leorio freezes. Don't ask me to come back, he thinks, hopeful and torn up despite himself. If Kurapika asks for him back now.... Leorio knows he'll go. He just doesn't know if that's what he wants to happen and his distance right now is just an act.
Then, quieter, “Be safe.”
“Yeah,” Leorio forces out through a tight throat. “I will be.”
He gets down to the lobby before the buzzing in his head calms down. He’s filled with- so much, right now. The low ache of an orgasm, the pull of his muscles as Leorio walks out the doors, avoiding the gazes of passersby. That was a terrible idea. Meeting up with Kurapika is already pushing at the walls Leorio built up with ten years of calcified feelings, and giving in to his stupid libido is-
Honestly, Leorio thinks wryly, he should have expected it. When has he ever not been ruled by his dick, after all? He's the one who fucking suggested it, even. It's his own fucking fault.
It’ll be okay, he tells himself, shoving his hands in his pockets. He’ll just. Not do it again. It was once, he can pass that off as trying to help Kurapika (warm and willing and here) and make sure he doesn’t do it again.
His fingers brush against something.
He pulls the lump out.
With a muttered curse (and wondering when Kurapika would have slipped this in here because he never saw him with any money at all), Leorio shoves the money that Kurapika has managed to slip in back into his pocket. He doesn’t want to tempt fate by counting it out in public, but he’s almost positive, as he runs a thumb over the soft, worn edges of the bills, that it’ll be the exact amount he asked for before, plus three hundred dollars for no more questions.
Leorio’s stomach twists, lurches, hot and sick. Leorio shakily retrieves his phone, typing out, “you don’t have to keep paying me, you know. I was joking” and hitting send before he can rethink it.
Leorio pockets his phone, looking past the tall buildings to the black sky beyond. It’s just past midnight, so the streets haven’t died completely yet. He isn’t the only person out this late, and Leorio joins the occasional passersby, head tucked to his chest as he thinks. The kids will probably be asleep by the time he gets home. Or maybe they won’t, awake and rowdy and overflowing with vim and vigor and a million other things that will make Leorio just as tired as ever. Never mind the fact that Alluka needs to study for a test, or that Gon’s shelter job has him working early hours and one wrong move could land him back in the hospital, and Killua’s never-ending search for a place he won’t quit three weeks in. Never mind that Leorio will be exhausted from the walk.
But now he’s just that much closer to his goal, and the money folded in his pocket means Leorio can get another set of groceries before they run out. Nothing fancy, just the essentials. But it’s food, and that will keep them going for another couple of weeks while Leorio finds something else to cover rent. Something that isn’t Kurapika, because he knows the dangers of relying on someone who can disappear that easily. Leorio shakes his head, shakes the thought right out, and pulls a cigarette out to set between his lips, patting himself down for his lighter.
His phone buzzes while he’s searching. Leorio doesn’t look at it, busy with figuring out which pocket his lighter has disappeared into, but that doesn’t stop his mind from supplying a voice, dry and caustic and slightly hoarse from all the noises it had just been making and new and old all at once. “Don’t you think it’s about time..?”
Leorio’s hand pauses in its quest for his lighter. Drops. He lets out a long sigh and heads home, unlit cigarette dangling from his lips, a fold of cash pressing against his skin, the weight of ten years on his heart as the stars continue their easy journey overhead.
“Let me do at least this much.”
The text, enigmatic as its sender, doesn’t reveal any more secrets, no matter how many times Leorio squints at it, the darkness of three A.M. pressing in around him.
That, he's convinced, will be the end of it. He means it this time.
It still doesn't make any more sense the next morning, Leorio decides, crunching on his cereal. His thumb hovers over the short string of texts between him and Kurapika, scrolling up and down like it'll reveal something. But his texts aren't some kind of Magic Eye puzzle, and Leorio doesn't see a sailboat in the static. Across the table, he can feel Killua examining him, but he doesn't pay that any attention until:
“Are you having sex with someone?”
Leorio lifts his head, stares at Killua. “First off, brat, that's none of your business. Second off-”
Killua cuts him off, figuring (correctly, damn him) that he's right, since Leorio is working himself up to a full bluster. “Gross,” he declares, going back to fussing with something in the fridge. “Don't bring someone over here to fuck, alright? The walls are thin and I don't need to hear your grunting.”
“If anyone here is gonna be complaining about thin walls and grunting, Killua, it'd be me,” Leorio retorts without hesitation. “Do you and Gon have a standing competition about who can be louder between the two of you or what, because if it's a third opinion you're looking for, I'm pretty sure you're the screamer here.”
Turning a brilliant red, Killua slams the door shut and beats a hasty retreat.
“Yeah that's what I thought!” Leorio hollers after him.
"I was gonna say that it's a good thing, you uptight worrywart, but fuck you, I guess!! Don't expose Gon to some weirdo's pathogens!"
Leorio's about to yell something back- he doesn't know what- when his phone clatters on the table, an unexpected vibration. He waffles between continuing to banter with Killua, but settles on sitting back down, lifting a spoonful of increasingly soggy cereal to his mouth, and checking his phone.
"Lunch? 12:30 pm, Moody Restaurant? "
Gon comes in and takes one look at him. "Please say you're using the soy milk."
Leorio huffs. "Of course I'm using soy milk. I don't wanna die today."
"Good! You had this weird look on your face and I was worried that you were gonna scare off your booty call with your deathfarts."
"That does it!" Leorio slams his bowl on the table, ignoring how the milk sloshes over the side. "You are beyond grounded."
Their argument continues as Leorio cleans up his mess and Gon gets breakfast for himself and lets himself be chivvied out the door and the phone in Leorio’s pocket burns a hole in Leorio’s awareness. Once was a pleasant surprise, twice was a miracle, and three times? It won't last, after all. It never does.
Leorio looks at the invitation and knows better and says "yeah sounds good" anyway.
Chapter 3: are you okay (with someone like me)
A gift is given. A trade is made.
Title from a loose translation of "Chikai" by Utada Hikaru
They meet. Kurapika is striking and beautiful and dry as he’s ever been, the fire in his eyes tempered with a weight that is new to Leorio, an understanding of his own sharp edges that Kurapika never cared about before. The food is good, even when Leorio makes a deliberate ass of himself mispronouncing everything. It’s worth it when Kurapika lights up with laughter and leans across the table to join the joke, smelling appealingly like himself and that cologne Leorio likes so much.
It’s a good time, if a strange one, because the hotel room doesn’t come back up. Kurapika does still, somehow, manage to sneak money into Leorio’s hoodie when he isn’t paying attention, but.
The fact sits oddly with Leorio. That he basically did nothing they said he should be paid for, and yet.
It bothers him more the second time, and even more the third, as Kurapika delightedly has Leorio trying Ethiopian food for the first time, curiously tasting different kinds of wat on injera and sputtering at the spice when it makes his eyes water before going back for seconds.
None of this makes sense.
(Sure, getting groceries that can actually keep up with Gon’s voracious appetite and still leave some for Leorio has never been easier and at this rate, Leorio will even be able to fix his car, but that doesn’t mean it makes sense.)
“So this is all it’s going to be, then?” Leorio asks the fourth time they’re getting dinner together. The low murmur of distant music and other diners fills the air of the little Italian bistro, and Leorio fists his hand in his napkin. “You calling me a couple of times a week to hang out and eat food?”
Kurapika pauses, fork halfway to his mouth. “What else did you think we were going to do?”
Leorio’s mouth opens and then closes as he tries to not feel like he’s missing something, navigating blind through somewhere unknown. “Well, I just…this isn’t going to convince anyone you have an active sex life, you know. It’s just… us.”
He doesn’t understand the expression Kurapika makes at that, something understanding and yet distant. It’s like noticing the warmth of the sun only because it disappears behind the clouds. “Right, well,” and Kurapika coughs. “If you would like to come back to the hotel with me after this, we may move onto that part as well.”
And, tongue thick in his mouth, Leorio goes.
It joins the rotation of the things they do when Kurapika calls him. At least once a week, Leorio ends up in a hotel room with Kurapika, and as much as he wants to be strong, Leorio's still pulled in by the unconquerable gravity of his own attraction to Kurapika and his lizard hindbrain that says putting his mouth and hands on the sensitive curves of Kurapika's body is a good idea. It's not an excuse. If Leorio really, truly didn't want anything to do with Kurapika, he wouldn't.
The problem is, he does.
But it's a bubble right now, too good to last. It's like the time he spends with Kurapika happens on a separate plane of reality from the rest of his daily life. He sleeps, takes care of the kids, making sure they get to the places they need to on time, studies, exists in one place, and when he gets a call, he is transported.
(Sometimes, he wakes up on his shitty little mattress, situated in the corner of the breakfast nook and wonders if he’s just dreaming up the smell of Kurapika in his sheets or if he’s going in too deep.)
“Have you said anything to the kids?” Kurapika asks, lazily stretching in the golden afternoon sunlight.
Leorio, lifting his head from where he's determinedly renewing the marks he left on Kurapika's thighs last time they met up, raises an eyebrow. He... hasn't. The topic hasn't come up, endlessly strangled by the uncertainty in Leorio's chest. He says, “If anyone is gonna say something to the kids, it's you." And then, hypocritically, "Also, they're not kids anymore. They're both twenty-two now, you know. Can we talk about something else while I'm about to eat you out?”
Kurapika's eyes go gratifyingly dark, and he hooks a heel behind Leorio's head and drags him closer in a mind-melting display of flexibility. “I like how you say that.”
Grinning, Leorio waggles his eyebrows. “Bet you'll like it even more when I do it.”
“You'll have to convince me. Come on, Leorio, put your mouth to good use.”
It's everything. It's everything every stolen moment between them on the steps of Leorio's dusty childhood apartment complex, behind the school, in the overhang of Kurapika's family garden where the perfume of flowers was sweet and heavy in the air, could never be. This is tentative and uncertain and too physical for all that, where Kurapika's gaze has weight as it drags across Leorio's skin, where the marks of his mouth rest. Before, Leorio had the brash certainty of youth. The heady invincibility that comes with being certain that your story will be suitably dramatic, that you will rise on top, that your best friend won't die in your arms, that your boyfriend who isn't your boyfriend won't disappear in the middle of the night and never speak to you for the next ten years, that your cousin won't get sick too, that the dominos of your life will fall and something worthwhile will appear out of the dust.
This arrangement between them has rules. It has boundaries. It has to, or else the steady knife’s edge of panic pressed right beneath Leorio’s sternum will cut him open and spill him, messily, over what little stability he does have. So they don't talk about it. Not really. Not in a way that matters, anyway. It’s normal. It’s fine. They meet and fuck and Leorio changes the subject every time Kurapika tries to pretend like it’s anything more than Leorio being Kurapika’s easy excuse.
(If it isn’t, if Leorio isn’t just here for a purpose, then he doesn’t know why Kurapika is bothering with all the pretense. He could have just passed through without tearing Leorio open again.
He could have just said something and renewed his claim that has never really left.)
"When are you going to leave?" he asks one day, watching the dust motes in the room trickle their meandering way down to Kurapika's sunlit skin.
Kurapika shifts. "It's my room, Leorio."
"The city, Kurapika, not the room."
That gets him silence. Then, softly, "That's not my decision."
Leorio snorts. Rolls over to bury his face in his arms. He shouldn't have said anything. He knows better than this. "Right, well, if you stop calling, I'll just assume you went ahead and left again and save myself a few months of worrying. Sound good?"
After a moment of silence, Kurapika kisses him, soft and open-mouthed on the shoulder. Leorio twitches. He doesn't know if it's towards or away from the touch. He doesn't know, he doesn't know, he doesn't know through any of the following kisses that trail up his shoulder to his neck and to his mouth, and he doesn't know when Kurapika rolls him onto his back and threads their fingers together and kisses his lips like it’s an answer, and he doesn’t think he’ll ever figure it out.
His head is no clearer when he makes it home to the apartment, slinging his keys into the bowl they have by the door.
“Hey! There’s my man,” a boisterous voice comes, and Leorio looks up, surprised. Zepile’s leaning against one of the kitchen counters, a wide grin on his handsome, affable face. “You’ve been so busy lately! Did you forget my texts?”
“Texts?” Leorio asks, right before his brain catches up. “Right, fuck, sorry, it’s been a long -” he rubs his face, cutting himself off, the drag of stubble and the remembered brush of Kurapika’s skin rough against his palms. “It’s been a long day.”
Zepile whistles lowly. “Seems like. It’s not like you to miss our standing drinking day. Unless it was for some special reason?”
Leorio drags his hands down his face. “Fuck, sorry, Zepile, I've...” He trails off, uncertain of how to continue. “I've been busy. With some stuff.”
“Yeah, you must be,” but there’s no bitterness about Zepile’s words, just an easy understanding. “Don’t worry about it too much. I just missed you and wanted a heart to heart, and that's why the kids are out at Biscuit's for the evening and your good buddy Zepile is here with your better buddy,” and he sets a bottle down on the table with a solid thud, “Mister Vodka.”
Leorio has never been so glad to see Mister Vodka in his life.
Five shots and a few mixed drinks later, Leorio's spilled almost all the situation to Zepile. So far, Kurapika’s name hasn’t come up even though Leorio, in his few moments of not avoiding Zepile’s eyes, knows that Zepile has almost certainly figured it out. There aren't many people that Leorio would get so worked up over like this, and only one that would have him forehead-to-the-table, talking at his knees instead of straight to Zepile's face.
“Sounds like you’re in a tough spot, bud,” Zepile says. “Have you tried talking about it with your hot friend-with-benefits?
Leorio groans. "Man, I see him and my blood is already at a low boil, okay? He's gorgeous and it's not fair, and he's the most attractive person I've ever gotten to sleep with, and I'm effectively just the guy he keeps hiring to convince his coworkers that he fucks people and isn't a total uptight dick. How the fuck am I supposed to just… talk about that? If I say something and scare him off..."
When Leorio trails off and doesn't continue, Zepile nudges him. "You’re still in love with him, aren’t you? It’s been years, Leorio. Thought you said you’d moved on.”
Threading his fingers together, Leorio remembers the gentle weight of Kurapika's hand in his own, calloused in unexpected places and delightful for that precise reason. His chest tightens, his lungs coming short for air, a heat suffusing his face that Leorio hopes to god isn't a flush, even as the ice-lightning rush of panic and something more pulses within his skin. Leorio gnaws on the inside of his cheek, then lets out a heavy sigh. "I'm in way over my head, Zep."
Zepile sighs, pushing another drink across the table. “You really, really are, my dude. Drink up. Try to talk to him about it, and if you can't, it’s a sign you should bail. Even sex-only relationships are relationships and you need to communicate. Your big damn heart is gonna get you in so much trouble.”
“If it hasn't already,” Leorio grouses, voice echoing around the cup, and drinks.
Leorio wakes to silence where there is supposed to be sound.
Staring up at the ceiling and the motionless fan up there, Leorio swears under his breath and levers himself up. It’s too quiet in the apartment now as Leorio makes his way from his mattress on the floor near the kitchen, the way things go oddly silent when there’s no electricity in them. He never really remembers how much noise electronics make just by virtue of being there until it stops and all that’s left is his choking anxiety, filling up the empty spaces.
Leorio tries not to chew his lip bloody as he knocks on the door to Gon and Killua’s room. Killua’s fluffy white mop of hair pokes out. He looks up at Leorio, understanding already coloring his features. “Electricity get cut off again?”
“Yeah,” Leorio says with a sigh. “I’ll call them and figure out what’s going on, but you guys will probably need to steer clear of here today until it gets fixed. It’s too hot to suffer indoors without AC.”
“I wanted to go hiking anyway,” Gon says, coming up behind Killua and resting his chin on Killua’s shoulder. “Wanna come with?”
Leorio wrinkles his nose. “Nah, you guys should get a head start on that before the sun gets too high, right? Besides, I need to call and I don’t want to waste your time.”
Gon and Killua both level him a look that Leorio doesn’t quite know how to categorize, evaluating and skeptical in turns, but Killua shrugs with the shoulder not under Gon’s head. “Suit yourself, old man. Sunlight can be good for you, you know.”
“Sunlight? Good? Impossible.” Leorio rubs at his eyes, too jittery to stay still. “While you’re at it, get Alluka out of here too.”
“We can find places to stay for the night, if things look like they’ll take a while,” Killua says as Gon ducks under his arm. It’s startling now, to see Killua stand straight and come up only a couple of inches shorter than Leorio himself. “Want us to let you know if we do?”
Leorio cocks his head. “Yeah. Why wouldn’t I?”
“Well,” Killua begins slowly, “your not-boyfriend that you see pretty regularly might be okay with you needing to stay a few nights with him? I mean, if you two aren’t ready for that, that’s one thing, but it’s been four months, Leorio. You haven’t even told us who he is.”
Leorio’s been trying to not think about that part. Keeping it all a secret hasn’t been exactly easy, but every time he thinks about bringing up Kurapika’s name, it gets stuck in his mouth. And Leorio, blinking rapidly as his brain fights between the urge to panic about the power being out and the urge to marvel that Kurapika’s been calling or texting him at least once a week for four months and frequently more often than that, makes a noise that sounds vaguely like air being let out a balloon and says, “Yeah, I’ll probably stay with him, you’re right, don’t worry about me,” and means, “I’m just going to sleep here instead of talking about it ever.”
Killua makes a skeptical face and opens his mouth to probably ask about it, when his boyfriend barrels into him, excitedly chattering about hiking, and Leorio takes the opportunity to escape back into the kitchen.
Leorio digs through the pile of blankets by his bed, finding the cool, smooth surface of his phone. Dropping into a chair, the sound of his blood in his veins too loud, Leorio turns the phone over and over in his hands. The bill’s about three hundred dollars if the letter he got is to be believed. Which is three hundred dollars that he definitely doesn’t have, after rent and car repairs.
A sick twist enters his stomach. He doesn’t need to ask Kurapika for money. It feels bad enough that he gets it sometimes anyway, he’s not about to stoop to the level of begging.
(But, his mind reasons, if he does something for it…)
Leorio taps out a message before he can think better of it, trying his best to somehow not see the words even as he writes them.
Theoretically, how hard would I have to suck your dick to get three hundred dollars?
Well, that’s officially the sleaziest text message he’s ever sent. He stares at his hands, at the blank screen of his phone, and tries to keep his breathing even, despite the eerie silence.
The screen lights up as the danger trio leave, waving behind them as Leorio tells them to make sure Gon doesn't end up in the Urgent Care center like he did the last time they went out en masse and to wear sunscreen damnit; Leorio swipes to answer the call before he even thinks about it, happy enough for noise.
“Why do you need three hundred dollars, Leorio?”
Hackles up, Leorio snaps, “I don’t need to explain it if I don’t want to, Kurapika. I just do. I thought- since we were doing this whole thing, that maybe I could ask. If it’s not okay, then-”
"Why?” Kurapika asks again, and Leorio swallows, looks up at the silent ceiling fan. “I know you, Leorio. Something must be wrong.”
Leorio snorts. “Yeah, okay.” But he isn’t wrong is the thing, and that's what loosens Leorio's tongue. “Our electricity just got shut off. I need to get it back online since it’s starting to get hot, and…”
Kurapika makes a sharp noise with his tongue. “Say so first, next time. Tell me the account number and I’ll take care of it.”
“Kurapika, you don’t-”
“Account number, Leorio. Or,” and his voice softens from its unforgiving irritation, “Let me give you my card number. Then you can-”
“I have the account right here, let me do it that way,” Leorio says, talking over Kurapika. He’s not about to give himself the temptation of Kurapika’s card number. Who knows what he’d want to use it on. Leorio knows himself, knows that he’s unforgivably weak in certain ways, and just… this is simpler.
There’s silence, awkward and unbearable, as Kurapika pays the bill and Leorio tries to will himself out of existence through sheer willpower and the burn of shame. “Alright, Leorio,” Kurapika says, light and easy. “Your power should be back on in a couple of hours.”
“Thanks. But yeah, uh, if you want to like… tell me when and where to meet you, I can get you back for this, I guess,” Leorio says.
Kurapika doesn’t say anything. Leorio hears a slow, steady inhale.
“You don’t need to pay me back for this,” Kurapika says, icy and precise. “Next time, call me before your power gets turned off, will you?”
Not the point, Leorio’s about to finish, but there’s the quiet beep of disconnect as Kurapika, the motherfucker, hangs up on him.
Son of a bitch.
Well damn. Leorio lets the rising tide of anger push out everything else, push out the wash of embarrassment that he’s twenty-fucking-nine and asking his friends for help with his bills when he should be finishing up medical school right about now and doing well and so much else that he isn’t going to think about right now, as he throws on a different shirt and storms out. He barely remembers to lock the door behind him. His hands shake on the keys.
The day is nice outside of the apartment, though, a nice breeze wicking all the heat from the sun. Walking to Kurapika’s hotel takes about twenty minutes, which is just enough time for Leorio to cool down and rile himself back up all over again. He comes to a halt outside of the doors, and looks up, eyes fixed firmly on the intricate carvings and moldings of the building. This… is kind of ridiculous, he has to admit to himself. Come on, Leorio, stomping all the way over here just because he paid your bills like you asked him to? What a thing to be so bent out of shape over.
He scuffs a shoe on the pavement with a loud drag of rubber and turns to go. Pathetic and useless. His time is better served trying (again) to find another job that’ll pay him well enough to keep the apartment since he's making such a mess of this one.
Kurapika stands behind him, sunglasses not quite obscuring the way he blinks, wide and surprised before he just accepts Leorio’s presence. Kurapika looks at him, even and steady, then sighs. “Come on, Leorio.” He steps forward, placing a hand on Leorio’s forearm, and it’s like all the anger and uncertainty still left in him drain out at that contact alone. “Let’s get lunch, alright?”
Once they’re done with lunch, Leorio ends up silently trailing after Kurapika, lungs filled with the gentle scent of his cologne as he follows Kurapika back to the hotel and up to his room. The atmosphere between them has been tense, conversation stifled aside from ordering. Leorio doesn’t know if Kurapika is still upset with him, if he’s even still upset with Kurapika, everything having numbed down to a low, sullen hurt.
“Are you alright?” Kurapika asks when they get to the room.
Startled, Leorio blinks at him. “I… yeah, I’m fine? Thanks for… checking, I guess?”
“I hadn’t asked earlier. You seemed upset and I- I’m sorry. For putting you in an awkward position earlier.”
“It’s fine,” Leorio says slowly. This isn’t how he expected this to go, and he feels wrong-footed, a beat behind their pattern. “Are… you okay?”
“I’m fine, I’m just… tense,” Kurapika says, irate. “I should just. You should go home.”
“I just got here, Peeks." Leorio feels a bit underhanded, pulling out the old nickname, but it helps him feel closer, keeps Kurapika's attention on him.
“Don't- Don't call me that. Leorio, just-” And Kurapika finally stops moving. He clenches his fist, and even with the distance between them, Leorio can see how the skin around the nails goes white. “I'm sorry, letting you come up here was a mistake. I'm not-. I shouldn't be around you right now.”
“Is there something I can do to help?”
Kurapika snorts, the closest he’ll let himself get to a derisive laugh. “No, Leorio, no one can ever help. Not when I’m like this. I’m. I shouldn’t have ever called you in the first place. Just- forget we spoke again, alright?”
Fury, or its colder cousin, lights up Leorio’s spine, and he very deliberately steps into Kurapika’s space. He doesn’t like using his height to his advantage like this, but sometimes it’s useful as Kurapika looks up at him, eyes widened just barely. “What are you-”
“You don’t get to tell me what to forget, Kurapika,” Leorio says. “So don’t you dare think you can tell me to forget about you.”
This close, Leorio can hear Kurapika’s breath skip.
“Let me help,” he continues, softer this time. Relaxing. Leaving the threat and anger behind. “What can I do?”
“Nothing,” Kurapika says. “I just. I can’t focus. It’s too much.”
Leorio reaches out, wrapping a hand around Kurapika’s wrist and pulling his hand to rest on Leorio’s chest against his heart. “I can be something to focus on.”
Kurapika’s gaze sharpens, drops to Leorio’s mouth with a sudden, fiery intensity. “If you do, you’ll have to make me.”
“You’re sure?” Leorio murmurs. “I have an idea, but I’m not going to do it if you’re not into it.”
Kurapika lets out a steady breath. “You’ll have to tell me what your idea is.”
Leorio’s hand raises, sliding up Kurapika’s warm front. The tie he's wearing is a deep red, picked through with brighter embroidery in the shapes of flowers and leaves, and it’s smooth under Leorio’s fingers as he slides them up and pulls the knot loose. Kurapika’s eyes don’t leave Leorio’s face once as he unties it, chin lifted and breath puffing warmly. “I thought that I could give you no option except to pay attention to me. I can give you focus, but it’ll take you giving me the power.”
“You’re going to tie me up with that?” Kurapika asks lowly.
“Good,” is the only warning Leorio gets. The grip Kurapika has on his shirt tightens and Leorio has his other hand around his wrist in an instant, a warning and a promise in one. Kurapika resists, a little at first and then in earnest. Leorio gets the slipknot of the tie around one hand, pulling it tight, and he traps that arm against the small of Kurapika’s back, pressing them together. Leorio shifts, guiding his leg between Kurapika’s, to press in a hot line against Kurapika’s half-hard dick.
“Enjoying this?” he murmurs, leaning down to bite Kurapika’s neck.
He feels the tremor of a shaking breath. “Not enough.”
That gets a snort. “When have you ever known me to be patient?”
Fair enough. Leorio shifts without warning, dipping his shoulder to bodily sling Kurapika over his shoulder. He ignores the way Kurapika squirms, trying to find his balance with only one arm free and failing as Leorio carries him across the room and drops him on the bed, climbing in over him.
Kurapika looks up as Leorio pins his hands together over his head. His knees spread. The fabric over his cock is strained, a mouth-watering outline.
“What, is that all?” Kurapika asks, a challenge.
Leorio swears and tightens his grip, yanking Kurapika up the bed to loop the red patterned tie through the slats on the headboard. Kurapika writhes the whole way and every exhale rounds into a gasp, but his wrists are curiously still as he bucks and grinds against Leorio’s thigh.
“Like that?” he asks, and Kurapika’s eyes flash. His teeth bare in a snarl as he tests the tightness of the bind, tests how little his shoulders can move.
And then, like the low rumble of thunder shuddering its way through a building, Kurapika relaxes. It’s in fits and starts, and the rolling motion of his hips where Leorio’s knee is hiked up hardly slows but the noises coming from Kurapika are more and more moans, less anguished, and Leorio can see the honey-smooth haze of arousal deep in his eyes. He smoothes one hand down Kurapika’s side, gets only a shiver and an arch in response.
“Anything else?” he asks softly.
Kurapika swallows. Once, then again, gathering his thoughts before he turns away from Leorio’s gaze. “Don’t be gentle.”
“If you need me to stop,” Leorio says, his thumb rubbing against the bird-quick thrum of Kurapika’s pulse, “Say so, and I will.”
“I know, Leorio,” Kurapika says. His fingers curl enough to brush the back of Leorio’s hand. “I know.”
Leorio takes Kurapika apart, piece by piece, breath by stuttering breath, his mouth and hands given over entirely to the increasingly desperate undulations of Kurapika’s body. He digs his nails into the curve of Kurapika’s thighs, spreading him wide. Kurapika tries to jerk towards him, but Leorio just shoves down harder, drawing a moan from Kurapika’s mouth. Swallowing him whole, Leorio sucks hard, Kurapika’s heels digging into his back as he subsumes his wants and desires and the tired, old, tangled knot of his and Kurapika’s shared history into this singular directive.
He is generous with his teeth, every twitch and gasp an encouragement, leaving behind a spread of rapidly purpling imprints on Kurapika’s thighs and stomach, darker than Leorio has ever dared before. Adrenaline and something simpler, a plain age-old desire, make it easy. Right here, right now, Leorio only has to care about Kurapika. About making Kurapika feel good.
Giving him focus.
Leorio feels his own arousal almost distantly. As though he is taking the fever inside his own skin and pouring it, bite by lick by stroke by the curl of his fingers inside Kurapika’s willing body, into Kurapika somehow. Driving him higher.
Kurapika yanks and twists against his bonds, against Leorio’s grip, but the words that drop from his lips are a constant refrain of “yes” and “more” and “Leorio, please,” when Leorio pulls off. He lets Kurapika drop back from the edge of orgasm. Thumbing gently across Kurapika’s nipples, Leorio watches, his own chest heaving, until Kurapika’s eyes flutter open, until his mouth tilts into a trembling, wanting scowl. Then Leorio dips his head again. Tonguing back this time, his hands pressing Kurapika’s knees to his chest, tilting him up so his weight rests on his shoulders, Leorio licks his way into the slick entrance of Kurapika’s body.
It’s wet and messy and Leorio’s head is buzzing with the noises he’s dragging from Kurapika’s throat. He cares about nothing else. Just increasing the pitch of those sounds, feeling the desperate, needy way Kurapika surges against him, the way they are both narrowed down to the points where they touch. Kurapika’s breath goes harsh and deep-
And again, he pulls back.
In a language Leorio doesn’t understand, Kurapika swears. He recognizes bits and pieces of it from when he used to come around Kurapika’s house after school, half-remembered conversations between Kurapika’s parents, the sounds familiar even if the words aren’t. Kurapika thrashes, hooking his legs around Leorio and pulling him close. He tries to lever himself up, helpless with his hands bound, until finally, he hisses, “Come here, Leorio.”
Easily, letting his weight keep Kurapika pinned down, Leorio goes. He doesn’t kiss Kurapika, just noses along his cheek, intimate and gentle, and Kurapika returns the gesture distractedly, trembling.
It’s too much.
Leorio’s heart beats rapidly against his chest, painful with all the tenderness he feels, the hard impact of seeing Kurapika again softening to allow him in like he never left. It’s easier to pretend this doesn’t mean anything other than physical release, when the truth is that Leorio doesn’t think he’d be here if Kurapika didn’t care about him.
It’s just that Kurapika’s care has never meant that he’ll stay.
Leorio sets his teeth to the curve of Kurapika’s neck and presses inside him and fucks him open until Kurapika’s lashes and cheeks are damp with overstimulated tears. He doesn’t tell Leorio to stop. He only rolls his hips deeper into the punishing thrusts, hand clenching on empty air. Kurapika’s voice fills Leorio’s ears, a mix of his family’s language and pleas, tangled around Leorio’s name, until he comes, with a shuddering, harsh burst, and Leorio, helpless, follows.
Shaking, chest heaving, Leorio slowly pulls out and ties off the condom. He doesn’t meet Kurapika’s gaze as he undoes the tie. Kurapika’s wrists are red, dappled in raised patterns, the mirror topography of the tie pressed into the skin there, and Kurapika rubs them with clumsy fingers.
“Here,” Leorio says, awkward now that they’re done. “Let me.”
With an agreeable murmur, Kurapika lets Leorio rub his wrists and arms until he pulls away. “Pins and needles,” he whispers, husky and fucked out. “Sorry.”
“Are you alright? I didn’t…”
Kurapika squeezes his forearm, gentle. Exhaustion pulls over him in waves, receding when his eyes flutter open and rushing forward when the lids inevitably close. “You did what you said you would. You did fine, Leorio.”
By the time Leorio comes back with a washcloth, Kurapika has fallen asleep. He’s gentle as he cleans Kurapika up, as he tucks him into a clean part of the blankets, and quiet as he pulls his clothes on over his jittery skin and leaves.
It follows him around the rest of the day. Of course it does, crawling and scratching at the back of his neck, a weight he can’t seem to let go of. Leorio checks his phone almost obsessively after he lets the kids know they can come back, toggling it off only to unlock it again, hoping beyond hope that there will be a message waiting for him and fearing that in the same breath.
There is nothing and nothing and still nothing.
He swears it won't happen again. That this time, he has actually pushed Kurapika too far, tying him up like that and staking a claim that doesn't belong to him. Leorio lets himself sag into a pathetic sprawl across the kitchen table, still poking at his phone every few seconds for lack of anything else better to do. This is where Gon, pausing as he comes in, finds him. He knows he makes quite the picture, and Gon’s silence only emphasizes that fact, the sounds of cereal being poured covering the spaces between them.
A bowl gets set on the table. Gon has, predictably, forgotten or outright ignored the milk in favor of eating it dry. The heathen. He gets that from Leorio.
“Are you alright, Leorio?”
Forcing himself upright, Leorio drags his hands down his face. “For a given value of “alright,” yeah, I guess. What's up, kid?”
Gon sits down across from Leorio, the chair creaking as he does. Leorio eyes it with trepidation. It holds up once he finishes shifting, so Leorio focuses on the concerned look on Gon's face. “I was gonna ask you that, actually. You've been avoiding all of us pretty hard these last few days, and we're all getting a little concerned.”
Leorio squints at him. “So you lost to Killua in a game of rock paper scissors while you were out hiking to see who'd get to talk to me about it?”
He gets kicked under the table for that, which he absolutely deserves.
“I talked to Zepile. He didn't tell me much, but.” Gon scuffs his foot against the floor. “I just wanted you to know you can talk to us. If you need to.”
Leorio grins, reaching out to ruffle Gon's wild hair. “I know, kid. Just. I don't know how much of my kinda for-benefits relationship you need to know about, really. What, do you want me to tell you that we got a bit physical today and I'm feeling a bit weird about it?”
Gon makes the most interesting face. He reaches across the table to grasp Leorio’s hand, which he allows hesitantly because Gon trying to be gentle is one of the most alarming things in the known universe, followed shortly by Killua refusing chocolate. Taking a deep breath, Gon says, “Okay, so you made sure you got his consent right?”
He tries to take his hand back, but Gon has latched onto it. “I am not having the safe, sane, and consensual talk with my baby cousin!”
“Someone has to have it with you! And I'm hardly a kid anymore, Leorio. I haven't been in the hospital for years and I can buy my own alcohol and everything.”
“I taught you about sex!”
“This is a valuable teach-back moment!”
“This is embarrassing and beyond inappropriate,” Leorio yelps, yanking his hand out of Gon’s grasp to cover his burning face. He hates his life and he double-hates his family. This is why he never talks to Gon about anything serious. “I know what I was doing. Neither of us was intoxicated, he repeatedly, vocally expressed enthusiastic consent, and if he hadn’t, I would have stopped, okay? Can we get that base covered now?”
“Sounds like you need to talk things through next time.”
“I don’t know if there’ll be a next time,” he mutters, mutinous and sullen with it, slouching deeper in his seat.
Gon pats him. “Don’t worry, I’m sure your mystery not-boyfriend will be back to booty call you again. Just make sure you guys talk, and maybe stick around to cuddle a little after. It’ll help with the dom-drop I think you’re experiencing.”
Leorio drags his hands down his face, looking up at the ceiling. This is his life. His fucking life, working part-time as a babysitter for an overgrown toddler and moonlighting as a sex worker. Contemplatively, he asks, “Gon, you know the Tide Pod challenge?”
“I hope you never wanted to taste anything that wasn’t soap ever again. C’mere!”
When he thinks to check his phone again later, worn out and freshly bathed (because wrestling with Gon in the confines of their tiny kitchen is such a bad idea as it turns out at the expense of one of Leorio’s few clean shirts), Leorio finds a message waiting for him.
“I can feel you overthinking things all the way across town. Stop that. I enjoyed myself very much. Coffee tomorrow? Or dinner?”
Leorio huffs, a quiet burst of laughter, before replying that dinner sounds great.
Apparently, he’s worried for nothing.
(He’s very, very good at that. The universe does, after all, like proving his caution right.)
But he's learning Kurapika's hotel room like a second apartment, and the door guards at night smile and greet him by name when he comes by. Kurapika lets him in, close and closer, and that tie makes an appearance anytime Kurapika has something to prove, though Leorio's not quite sure who exactly he's proving anything to.
“Did you get many men? When you did this before?” Kurapika asks another day, after food but before they’ve progressed any further than kissing, Kurapika choosing to take his time today. Leorio’s mouth is buzzing with sensation still, kiss-swollen and raw, something Leorio is aware of with every breath. Kurapika seems satisfied by that, trailing his fingers down Leorio’s chest, enjoying the way Leorio’s chest hair moves with his touch.
Leorio shrugs with the shoulder not currently under Kurapika. “More than you’d think. A lot of them like hiring me because I… well, I don’t look like how they expect a sex worker to look, y'know.”
Kurapika gives him a look, dragging his gaze over Leorio, down to his legs, where it lingers. Leorio shifts under the scrutiny. “In different jeans, maybe. Or with a shirt on. Like this, you look exactly like a sex worker.”
“Hey, they’re the only jeans I have. And you’re the reason I don’t have a shirt on, you know.”
“Hm.” Kurapika tilts his head and pushes his hand into one of the holes over Leorio’s thigh. The hole is large enough that he doesn't even brush the sides, finding the skin immediately underneath. He curls his hand almost pointedly around the swell of muscle there. Raising an eyebrow at Leorio, Kurapika says, “I think you wore these back in high school. You should get new ones.”
Leorio snorts. “Yeah, me and what paycheck?”
“I pay you plenty, don’t I?
“W-Well… I still have to upkeep rent and-” Killua and Alluka and Gon and the still lingering remnants of Gon's hospital bills that trickle in when they least expect it, he doesn’t say, not ready for that quite yet. He’s been holding them apart from Kurapika still, a huge unanswered question, and Leorio stands as a bulwark against Kurapika’s storm. “Save for college, you know.”
That sits between them for a little bit, until Kurapika allows his deflection-that-isn’t-really-a-deflection pass. “By the time you’re done saving, you’re going to pay for it all at once, aren’t you? Aren’t there… scholarships? Or you could just continue to work?
“I really, really don’t want to have to work while I go to college. Lab hours are going to be tough enough already, and when I get to do my residency…” Leorio sighs, rubs at his face. “Plus, there’s still… rent and food and everything else I have to take care of. I have to save up more.”
Kurapika makes a soft noise, considering, before he pats Leorio on the chest. Swinging his legs off Leorio’s lap, he stands abruptly. “Stay here,” he orders as he pulls his phone out. “Don’t go anywhere.”
Spreading his hands accommodatingly, Leorio decides that he can just let the couch assimilate him if that’s the case. It’s one helluva way to go, but at least he’ll be comfortable. He drifts there, the hum of the hotel filling his ears, interspersed with Kurapika’s distant, soft voice.
He’s almost asleep by the time Kurapika comes back, taps Leorio on the exposed skin of his thigh. “Come on, get up,” he says.
“Get up, Leorio. Hurry, come on. We don’t have all day. The store closes soon.”
“Store? What store?”
But Kurapika, obtuse at the best of times, only smiles at him. He doesn't answer anything as they go down the elevator, entering a garage that Leorio never even knew was attached to this place, and Leorio comes to a stop when Kurapika pulls out the keys to a sedate grey sports car. Kurapika twirls the keys around his finger with a flourish. “What is it?”
“You drive yourself?”
“I don’t have a dedicated driver, Leorio. I’m a bodyguard, not someone important.”
“Could’ve fooled me” Leorio grumbles as he folds himself into the front seat. It's more spacious than he'd thought, but he still has to duck his head to get in.
“I’m sure you intend that as some very high praise, and I have some regrettable news for you if that’s the case. Fooling you isn’t difficult.”
Kurapika’s laugh is quicksilver as they peel out of the garage.
Leorio feels a bit overwhelmed when they enter a store Leorio’s passed a few times on his delivery drives, advertising a simple “Custom Tailoring” and very little else. The whole store smells like linen, pressed and clean. Like laundry in the best way. Kurapika leaves him by the door, greeting the store clerks by name.
After a few minutes of discussion, while Leorio hovers by the door and tries his best keep his elbows in check, Kurapika comes back.
“Satotz will take care of you, Leorio. Go ahead and go.” Kurapika tilts his head, considering. “You seem uncomfortable.”
Leorio scratches at his chin. “I kinda thought we were just going to like, Walmart or something. Not… here. Not somewhere so fancy, I guess.”
Kurapika’s nose wrinkles the tiniest bit. Adorable. “Mm. We can go there after this. But first, let me at least know what I’m working with. Shoo. Satotz. Now.”
“You never used to be a clothing snob,” Leorio bitches, but damn it he goes to face the music.
It’s a whirlwind of motion as the mustached man named Satotz whips out a measuring tape and advances on Leorio and starts putting his hands everywhere. Leorio’s far from body shy, but he can’t help but twitch at some of the places Satotz is putting his hands. “Your tailor's getting fresh with me!” Leorio yells as Satotz’s hand slides up his inseam.
“My tailor knows better and you're not his type anyway, Leorio!” he hears. “Relax and think of the suit you'll get to wear. I think blue, Satotz, for his shirt. He probably doesn’t need pinstripes, since he’s so tall already.”
What follows is a series of numbers and hemming and hawing that Leorio doesn’t fully follow, but he turns and holds his arms out and puts on the clothes he’s given to put on, even if his bargain bin underwear receives a critical look from Satotz and the tailors. One of them is about to tie his tie when Leorio brushes them off.
“I know how to do this much,” he jokes, feeling the silky material slide under his fingers as he fusses with it. It’s not the cleanest half-Winsor he’s ever done, but it’s acceptable.
Satotz harrumphs. “You clean up better than I thought. Go on, go show him.”
“Leorio, are you-“ Kurapika stops as he turns around. His grey eyes widen, darting up and down Leorio like they can’t find a good place to settle, lingering around his shoulders and chest, before he makes it all the way back up to Leorio’s face. Voice suddenly rough, he finishes, “-done?”
Tugging at the bottom of the jacket, Leorio fights the urge to preen. “More or less. Looks nice, doesn’t it?”
“Yes,” Kurapika says with an intensity that goes straight to Leorio’s dick.
But once he’s done getting pinned in and the clothes have come off, and Kurapika is over by the desk filling out paperwork to pick everything up when it’s done, Leorio just feels uncomfortable. As nice and smooth as the wool was, as nice as he looked and felt, he doesn’t… need any of this. Leorio just needs a new pair of jeans. Not a suit that costs nearly as much as his car.
“You don’t have to buy me clothes, you know,” Leorio says, his hand lingering under the lapel of the coat once he's done being shown off.
Kurapika shrugs. “I may not “have to,” but it’s what I’m doing, isn’t it? Consider them… a tip, if you will.”
Leorio swallows down the twist of embarrassed pleasure, shame that Kurapika is even doing this warring with the joy of receiving a gift. “Look, it just. Feels weird, okay? To have you buy me clothes.”
With a contemplative look at his own hands, Kurapika turns to Leorio. “I understand that. I don’t mean it to keep you indebted to me or anything like that. You’ve… You have actually done quite a lot for me, and I would like to repay you. Stop waggling your eyebrows at me; you know what I mean.”
“I…” and Leorio sighs roughly. “I can’t exactly stop you, can I? Can we… just do this, though? And then like, a department store or even Goodwill for the rest of it? This is already more than I can repay.”
Kurapika regards him in the serious, searching way he has, where it seems more like Leorio’s sternum cracks open and Kurapika reaches in to grasp his heart like a pretty thing to be examined.
“Alright, Leorio,” he says gently, and nothing more.
In Goodwill, Kurapika brings him increasingly garish shirts with a mischievous look in his eye. Leorio tries them all on, for fun, to see the look on Kurapika’s face as he poses like he imagines a model would, draping himself over various surfaces. Kurapika laughs and laughs and finds him even uglier clothes between some sensible button-downs, and it’s- good.
Kurapika doesn’t let him keep anything aside from a couple of t-shirts, though, citing something about tailoring that Leorio doesn’t quite catch and doesn’t care to as Kurapika pulls him into the hotel room.
Leorio sees the sweep and tender press of bruises on Kurapika’s skin and touches them gently even as he has Kurapika bent nearly in half, tilted back onto his shoulders as Leorio’s tongue presses into his ass, sloppy and wet and dragging bitten-back gasps out of Kurapika’s throat. He doesn’t ask questions. Not about that, not about how quickly Kurapika falls asleep after, exhausted. Not about how much he wants to stay, curled up against Kurapika’s warmth.
He pulls out the envelope and sets it on Kurapika's dresser.
(There are slower deaths, Leorio thinks as he hikes his jacket up and leaves the hotel in the early, twinkling morning, than the ones you expect. There are ones that rot you from the inside out. The ones that leave you alive afterward, but different.
Ten years is a long time to wait.)
It isn't until he gets home that he checks the pocket of his suit and swears, because tucked inside is a folded stack of bills, exactly the amount of his fee, waiting and ready and Leorio hates that this is, effectively, his job. Hates that he can never stay, buried in Kurapika’s hair, curled around him like a vine, because he knows that if he did once, he would never leave. And that’s. Too much. It’s always been too much.
And Leorio has never been good at letting things go.
Chapter 4: Another Place (a better time)
(Kurapika doesn't call. Kurapika doesn't call people, he texts them and leaves them on read and says nothing, and the fact that he's reaching out is... bad. Very bad.)
Title from "Next Year" by Two Door Cinema Club, the RAC mix of which is another reason this fic even exists.
My endless thanks to Eddy, who beta'd this and told me it wasn't nearly as much of a hot mess as I was constantly afraid it would be.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“You left. Is everything okay ?”
The text sits accusingly in Leorio’s inbox. Or, not accusingly, because that would mean that Kurapika intended it that way and not concerned because Leorio disappeared after they fucked and left the envelope that contains what is effectively a “we shouldn’t do this anymore” letter and Leorio buries his face in his hands and resolves to ignore his phone.
Until it buzzes again. And he grabs it, again, because he can’t not.
“Leorio, I hope everything is alright. Please let me know if you made it home safely.”
Leorio gnaws on his lip, passing over thinking about how his hands are shaking in favor of the trembling text on screen and how fucking tired he is this early in the morning.
He should just tell Kurapika to stop calling him.
He shouldn’t tell Kurapika anything and just let this whole situation die. That was the point of leaving. That was the point of leaving the letter behind. He lets out a long sigh. Thinking about it isn’t making it any easier, and honestly, Leorio is just tired and cut open and desperately wanting the comfort of a soft hotel bed with the smell of Kurapika all around him despite himself.
Pasting a grin on his face, Leorio looks up at Gon. “Ready to go?”
Gon wrinkles his nose. “Any hospital is still too much hospital. But yeah. Let’s get this done and over with.”
Hospitals are never pleasant. It's a fact of life. Leorio's been here enough that this particular one is mundane, and the impersonal walls and soft scent of antiseptic are familiar, settling in his skin like an old friend. His mouth twists to the side as he waits in the oncology lounge. One day soon hopefully, he'll be working here. Everything will become even more familiar and he won't have any reason to fear this place anymore.
(Unlikely, he admits to himself, but it's better than twitching every time there's so much as a beep from the room Gon is in.)
The testing goes by quickly enough, and Leorio finds himself guiding a tired Gon back to the car. He checks his phone idly, not expecting anything, but there's a new notification beneath the texts.
Leorio’s heart thunders hard in his chest as he stares at it. It’s probably nothing, he reasons. The thought calms his pulse down not at all, but Leorio tries it anyway. It's probably nothing and everything's fine.
Listen to it, just to be sure.
(Kurapika doesn't call. Kurapika doesn't call people, he texts them and leaves them on read and says nothing, and the fact that he's reaching out is... bad. Very bad.)
"Did I- Leorio, it's unlike you to leave without saying something. If I did something, I... I don't know. Never mind. I shouldn't be calling you like this. I'm very tired, and I wanted to see you, even though I really shouldn't." There's a sigh, a long staticky gust. Kurapika sounds tired, and Leorio's hand tightens around his phone. "Do you think you could come over and execute me? It would be less painful than all this paperwork. I... Sorry, I should go. Let me know if you're safe, please."
And that's all.
Leorio lowers the phone, gnawing on his lip. "Hey, Gon? I'm gonna... Is Killua at home to look after you?"
Curious, Gon looks away from the window, cocking his head. "Yeah, he is. Why?"
"I'm gonna just drop you off then. I have- I need to- I have somewhere I need to be."
Gon watches him with too-knowing eyes and Leorio avoids them as much as he can as he pulls into traffic, thoughts already pulled in the direction of a fancy hotel and a resident who doesn't quite fit in there.
“You’re working too hard,” Leorio says, surveying Kurapika’s cluttered hotel room. Paper coats every available surface, and casting a cursory glance over them doesn’t illuminate Leorio as to their contents whatsoever. “Did whoever retired really leave you with this much work to do?”
For a moment, Kurapika doesn’t answer. He blinks quickly, lashes fluttering as he pulls himself out of the documents like a diver pulling themself out of water. “Whoever retired? Leorio, I-“
“Seriously, what is some of this even about? You should take a break.” Leorio leans over, nabs one of the papers from Kurapika’s hands, ignoring the way he clutches after it, uncoordinated and determined. “Equity?”
“Put it down, Leorio.” Kurapika snatches the paper out of Leorio’s hand before he can even say anything. “Why are you here?”
Leorio brandishes his phone, thumbing at it to show the call log still on screen. “You asked for me, duh.”
An expression crosses Kurapika’s face, something a little sad and a little tired, and Leorio’s taken a step forward before Kurapika drags his walls back up and the surface of smooth placidity has fallen back into place. “Right, of course. I must have sent that before I got too far into this. Sorry.”
“What, you expected me to ignore a voicemail that asked if a mercy killing was preferable to death by paperwork?” Leorio snorts, but lowers himself carefully to sit on the couch beside Kurapika. His thigh is pressed in a long, hot line against Kurapika’s, a distracting physical presence.
A pity that Leorio kinda came here to break up with him.
Wait, no, break up isn’t the right term. That implies that they’re together. Which they sort of are, nominally at least. And aren’t at the same time, because Kurapika loves to play Schrodinger’s lover with Leorio’s heart. Not that he’s in love with him or anything. Leorio knew better this time. This is just. Leorio, pulling the ripcord before things get too bad. Before he wades into the swamp and mire of Kurapika’s life, where one wrong move could end up eating your horse.
(Possibly, staying up late to watch Neverending Story with the brats wasn’t the best idea, but it’s doing wonders for his metaphorical abilities.)
Beside him, Kurapika lets out a long, tired sigh. “No, that wasn’t-. I was being dramatic. I wasn’t expecting you to show up at all.”
“Well, here I am.”
Kurapika smiles, just slightly, at that and puts his hand on Leorio’s knee. “Here you are.”
A moment seems to pass where Leorio can almost feel Kurapika thinking, like a physical force as Leorio tries to dredge the words up to end this tentative balance between them. Then, Kurapika shifts, swings his leg over Leorio’s so he’s suddenly faced with a lapful of Kurapika, his hands settling on Kurapika’s upper thighs like they belong there. Kurapika winds cold fingers into Leorio’s hair, tilting his head back to give him a kiss, open-mouthed and wet and full of intent, which is great, and Leorio digs his fingers into the meat of Kurapika’s thighs to hear him gasp, because what better way to send this off except for a bang, except-
Kurapika pulls back to yawn. He covers it with the back of his hand, like that can hide the evidence.
“Am I boring you already?” Leorio jokes, running his thumb in a comforting line over the curve of Kurapika’s leg, unaccountably tender.
Kurapika shakes his head, yawning again. “No, no I’m fine. You should carry me to bed though. The couch isn’t comfortable enough for this right now.”
“If I take you to bed, you’re just going to fall asleep.”
Endearingly, the expression Kurapika has can be most accurately described as a pout. “No I won’t.”
“Let’s make a bet. If you don’t fall asleep by the time I’m done undressing you, you can get what you want, okay? If you do, then I win.”
Kurapika tilts his head, a fall of golden hair accompanying the motion in a sweep that temporarily stops Leorio’s heart. One day, Kurapika will stop being so attractive. Hasn’t happened in ten years, but one day. “Don’t you want something if you win?”
Humming, Leorio hooks his hands together under the distracting swell of Kurapika’s ass, planting his feet so he can lever them both up without stumbling and breaking the hotel’s coffee table. “Bragging rights.”
Kurapika doesn’t react to being lifted aside from crossing his arms behind Leorio’s neck and his ankles in the small of Leorio’s back, which is giving him… ideas. “Just bragging rights?” he asks archly, dropping a warm kiss to the upturn of Leorio’s cheek, trailing it down to the corner of his mouth. “You could ask for more, since you won’t be getting sex out of it. Could still pay you. You’d have my permission to use my bed.”
“How long has it been since you last slept?” Leorio asks to ignore the way his heart beats faster. “Besides, I use your bed all the time.”
“For sleeping, Leorio,” and Leorio notices the way he doesn’t quite answer the question.
“Yeah, well. I don’t… I think-”
‘-We shouldn’t do this anymore,’ is right there on his tongue, but Kurapika sags towards him, trusting and warm and present in a way that’s never going to stop confusing Leorio’s stupid heart. Breath ghosts against his neck, nothing but intimate, and Leorio swallows. Carefully carries Kurapika through the mess of his room and over to the bed, laying him down as gently as he’s able.
Kurapika lets out a quiet sigh, settling back on the sheets with a stretch that almost makes Leorio forget why he came here. “Undress me.”
“Demanding,” Leorio admonishes, but it’s soft and hardly true. Kurapika expects little aside from Leorio’s attention and asks for near nothing at all, so the appearance of a clear directive is welcome. By the time he’s done with the buttons on Kurapika’s absurdly expensive shirt (mother-of-pearl buttons; the extravagance), Leorio looks up and is absolutely unsurprised to see Kurapika’s eyes closed, mouth slightly parted. Hands hovering over the exposed skin by his hip, Leorio waits for a moment, just to see if Kurapika reacts at all.
How could he, when he’s fast asleep?
Leorio bites the inside of his mouth to pull his smile back down, to muffle the fond chuckle that escapes him. He murmurs, “Didn’t think you’d even last that long.”
Carefully, Leorio pulls Kurapika’s shirt off him, gentle and slow enough that Kurapika hardly even stirs. Without him in motion, the shadows beneath his eyes are even more obvious, deep sweeps of purple that Leorio wishes he could just brush away. It’s a matter of a few moments before Leorio gets his pants and shoes off too, leaving Kurapika clad only in his underwear. The sight makes Leorio’s mouth run dry. It’s dumb. He usually sees Kurapika completely nude, but this is. Different. Intimate. The presence of hickeys and bruises, remnants of Leorio’s mouth and hands, seems completely different when he’s not looking to add to the tapestry, when he isn’t marking where he’s been and where he’s going, the only way he remembers.
Leorio pulls away, unsteady. He’s been here often enough that he knows where Kurapika keeps his night clothes, and he digs through the dresser, taking care to not muss too many shirts on his quest for something soft enough for Kurapika to sleep in.
His hands brush something, time-worn and old, and Leorio draws it out with a triumph sound.
A sound that dies in his throat when he actually looks at the worn, blue shirt. Softened by age, with the stitching on the left sleeve coming loose, the hem rolling up, a worn logo from Leorio’s favorite band since middle school cracked and worn and going translucent across the chest, it is absolutely, undeniably, Leorio’s shirt. One he had resigned himself to losing before he left high school, but. Here it is.
In Kurapika’s dresser.
He looks at it, at Kurapika, helplessly. His heart pounds in his chest, overlarge and twisting and suffocating, and Leorio doesn’t know where he gets the strength to go back to Kurapika, lifting him up piece by piece to pull the shirt over his head and arms. The shirt swamps Kurapika, its hem teasing at the middle of his thighs when Leorio has it all the way on.
It makes him…
Leorio digs his knuckles into the skin beneath his sternum, hoping to steady his breath, the dizzying twist of his stomach, his beating heart, because it's too much and too sudden to bear. He wants to see Kurapika like this always. Loose and warm and comfortable, hair spread across the sheets like it was meant to be there.
Kurapika shifts with a murmur, something that sounds like, “I’m almost done, I promise.”
Leorio doesn’t know what to do with that. So he gathers a fistful of the blanket, drags the comforter higher on Kurapika, covering him up to his neck, and smooths down a few errant hairs. Then, taking care to not make any noise, he stands and heads for the door.
Leorio doesn't remember how he got all the way out here. He only remembers the dull roar of the highway, its rumble through the steering wheel, and the furious, echoing, suffocating silence. And that's too much. It's way, way too much. Fingers fumbling through familiar knobs, Leorio turns on his stereo, the old CD player whirring to life, and lowers the windows. And then, no mind on the lyrics to the mixtape that's almost certainly Killua's, Leorio just fucking belts it.
Hair flying and mussed by the wind, he yells his way through one song, two, three, and his lungs are full of all the words he strangles around Kurapika.
Killua nudges him with his foot, disturbing Leorio's forlorn slump over their secondhand couch. "What's the matter, old man?"
Leorio lowers his arm, wincing as the movement tugs at the salt-sensitive skin near his eyes. He has no idea how long he's been here, but it's been a while. Long enough that he's settled heavily into the cushions. "I unironically emo'd to Teenage Dream at five o'clock this morning."
Killua covers his mouth with his hand. He can't cover the first burst of laughter the same way he can his smile, but Leorio supposes he should appreciate the effort nevertheless. "Oh."
“Yeah, “oh.” Did you need something?”
“Nah, Zepile's just here. Thought you would want to know.” Then Killua's hand settles on Leorio's shoulder. “Hey, you know we're here for you, right?”
Leorio sighs. “I know. Thanks, brat.”
“You'll have to call us something that isn't “Brat” and “Kid eventually, you know.”
“Eh, maybe when you've earned it.”
Killua snorts and kicks him again, but leaves it at that.
Eventually, there are footsteps, the well of gravity as Zepile sits beside him, and Leorio uncovers his eyes again.
Zepile looks at him over the edge of his paperwork then sighs, setting the stack down. He leans forward, threading his fingers together as he meets Leorio’s eyes with a serious kind of intensity that makes it hard for Leorio to look away despite his nerves clamoring that it’s the only way to save himself from whatever Zepile is about to say. Silence passes between them, broken by the ticking of the clock.
“You know,” Zepile says finally, “that Kurapika's pretty much anything but your client right now, and a time is going to come where he either stops paying for you or you’re too emotionally compromised to keep doing this without hurting yourself, right?”
Too late, Leorio thinks but does not say, bitter and sick with it, his gaze finally dropping to rest somewhere to the right of Zepile’s elbow.
Across from him, Zepile sighs.
Then there’s a creak, a clink, and a hiss before a can of beer is pushed into Leorio’s line of sight. He takes it with nerveless hands, risking a glance up. Zepile has his own can in his hands and a wry twist to his mouth. When he notices he has Leorio’s attention, he makes a toasting motion. “To unavoidable situations courtesy of your big damn heart, you fucking romantic.”
Leorio mimics him and drinks. “There’s a size joke I could make here, but I’m too damn lazy to put it together myself.”
“May your heart be the second biggest thing he likes about you,” Zepile intones.
God, his face is on fucking fire. Leorio coughs, taking another sip in a play for time and also because he needs to be so drunk right now. The drunker, the better, because the drunker he is, the less likely he will be to remember the precise, overcome noise Kurapika made when he pressed inside of him earlier, the wrecked edges of Kurapika’s voice as he asked for a moment to adjust to the size before he greedily pressed back for more.
(The private, soft sight of him in Leorio's clothes, like he wants to be there.)
Fuck okay, drunker now. Right now.
Leorio wakes feeling like the dead. He shivers, immediately regretting it when his whole body aches. It’s not a hangover. He knows that much, even though his mouth does taste like a graveyard. The kids are slamming around in the kitchen, loud enough that Leorio’s honestly surprised he slept this long, even if they do at least manage to look appropriately sheepish when he hauls himself upright.
Gon grins. “Hey, Leorio. We were just making breakfast. Want some?”
“Mmm, not really.” He rubs his face, grumbling at the catch of stubble, sharp and unpleasant. His skin feels too-hot and stretched tight, pulsing with every beat of his heart, and Leorio quietly resigns himself to a low-stress day. He’ll have to stick to the indoors, he figures, morosely poking through the fridge and pantry. “Maybe just some cereal.”
“Okay, we’re heading off to the park to celebrate the good news! Gon’s tests came back clean so we’re five years in remission! Here’s the keys if you need to rescue us from the police!” Killua calls, grabbing the basket they’ve apparently been preparing. He throws the keys at Leorio, and-
Leorio stares at the keys in his cereal and decides that today is just… not going to be a good one.
It turns out to be a good call. The internet goes out in the middle of Leorio halfheartedly filling out the third of four applications, watching the money in his account dwindle piece by piece to the gods of collegiate greed, and Leorio has to call the company in charge of it only to find that it’s a local outage that won’t get fixed until the next day. He’s still feeling like shit, so he can’t go work as a delivery driver; standing makes him dizzy. He whiles away the hours in a blurred, unfeeling haze as time alternates between blazing by and crawling, the sun moving in a slow line across his apartment.
The buzz of his phone is almost a blessing.
“Are you free tonight? Dinner’s on me.”
Nothing more. Not that Kurapika frequently says anything to him now, but.
(But it settles, regardless, like water into a crack, waiting and gathering and freezing it wider and wider. Bit by bit.)
He doesn’t have to go. He should just say that he’s busy or that he needs to rest and continue the process of carefully extricating his heart from this briar of thorns it’s landed itself in again. Leorio breathes in and out. Pushes himself off the couch and towards his small set of drawers, because there’s walking into Kurapika’s fancy hotel feeling like a scrap of trash and then there’s actually looking like one. Gripping a new shirt between his teeth, he types, “yeah be there soon?”
“I look forward to seeing you.”
It lights something warm in Leorio’s chest, a traitorous burn of affection that he can’t stamp out.
Leorio feels even more like a piece of sentient sludge by the time he makes it to Kurapika’s hotel room. One arm braced against the door, Leorio leans most of his weight there, not trusting his own shaking legs to keep him up for longer than necessary. This is dumb. Coming here is dumb. It’s a bad choice. He should turn around-
The door opens.
Handsome and edged in gold, the low cut of his shirt dipping down enough that Leorio gets Victorian levels of vapors at the sight of his collar bones and sternum, Kurapika is there. His bowed mouth tilts in a smile and he looks almost genuinely pleased to have Leorio here. Leorio wavers, slowly transferring his weight from the frame to his feet, and steps inside.
Kurapika looks at him, tilting his head one way and then the other. “Leorio, are you feeling alright?”
“Peachy,” Leorio says. Then sneezes.
Kurapika covers his smile with his hand, a surprisingly thoughtful gesture if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s definitely laughing at Leorio. “Well, at least you know enough to cover your mouth.”
“’m gonna be a doctor.” Leorio’s head is fucking swimming, the whole room swaying like it’s underwater, and he’s only aware of Kurapika reaching out to touch him because of how cool his hand feels against Leorio’s overheated elbow. He blinks down at it, confused. “Sanitary.”
“Yes yes, you take sanitation very seriously.” Kurapika sighs. “Leorio, if you’re not feeling good, why did you come here?”
That’s a weird question. Leorio frowns, The answer’s obvious, isn’t it? Still, Kurapika has been known to be kinda obtuse when it comes to this kind of stuff, so Leorio just sniffs and says, “Well, you asked me to come. So of course I was going to.”
Kurapika’s cheeks turn red.
Leorio chuckles, pushing through the way the breath catches in his lungs a little, the rasp of a cough. “You don’t have to look so surprised. If you call, I’m always going to answer.”
His face is pushed sideways, a gentle deflection before Kurapika pulls him towards the bed with the hand still on Leorio’s elbow. “Don’t say things like that, Leorio.”
“Why not?” Leorio lands on the soft bed with a thump, bouncing just slightly. He turns his face towards the pillow. “And hey, if you want something sexy from me, I think you’ll have to do more work than you usually do. I’m a little fuzzy right now.”
“I do plenty of the work while we’re-“ Kurapika cuts himself off with a sharp little noise. “Not important. Hips up, please.”
“What’d I just say about you doing the work,” Leorio grumbles, but does as Kurapika asks, feeling him slide off his pants. The sheets feel cool against his skin, and he hums as he settles in a little further. A blanket is draped over him and the bed shifts as Kurapika climbs in, and this is a little slower than Leorio is used to their encounters going but he can roll with it. There’s a push against his shoulder, and Leorio goes with the motion agreeably, rolling onto his side and finding so much warmth there, as he nestles against Kurapika’s shoulder.
Hell yes, time for cuddles.
Leorio presses in greedily, flopping his free arm over Kurapika’s hips, fisting his hand in Kurapika’s shirt, and through it all, Kurapika doesn’t fight him. Just allows the movements, settling in, comfortable and close.
“Is this okay?” Leorio tries to say, half his mouth mashed against Kurapika’s skin.
And there's a brush of lips against his temple, the low scratch of fingers and nails through his hair. And there is Kurapika's heartbeat beneath his ear. "Just sleep, Leorio. Shhh, just sleep."
He shouldn't. He definitely shouldn't. Leorio came here for a reason, after all. Kurapika only calls him for one thing. But all his own warnings seem so small compared to Kurapika's warmth and Leorio's greedy heart, and he's never been good at making good decisions for himself. Leorio tightens his grip on Kurapika's waist, his fingers crumpling the fabric there, and Kurapika only shifts to allow it.
And Leorio does.
Something tickles at Leorio’s awareness. A weight sprawled across his hips and thighs, he tries to remember the last time his bed was this comfortable. He must’ve really gotten into the him-shaped groove to feel like this. But his feet aren’t hanging off the edge. He can’t hear the off-kilter rattle of the ceiling fan, slightly misaligned. The inevitable noise of the boys and Alluka isn't there.
A touch graces his cheek. Leorio opens his eyes.
Haloed in sunlight, Kurapika looks down at him, his thumb moving in gentle sweeps over the curve of Leorio’s cheekbone.
Leorio blinks slowly. The image becomes no clearer, nor does it dissipate. He rasps, “Morning.”
“Good morning, Leorio.” Kurapika, curiously, does not remove his hand. “Feeling better?”
“Less like death and more like I’ve tongued a tree out in the forest for a few hours, but yeah, better.”
Kurapika’s nose wrinkles. “Gross.”
Leorio laughs, a gravelly noise that centers more in his chest than in his vocal chords. “You asked, Peeks.”
A long sigh, and Kurapika’s eyes soften. “I thought I told you not to call me that.”
“Can’t call you Peeks, can’t call you sweetheart…” Leorio lets his head loll to the side. It traps Kurapika’s palm against his cheek, and Leorio has a suspicion that he’s not being nearly as subtle about nuzzling it as he wants to be. It feels nice, so Leorio isn’t going to argue. “What can I call you?”
“Just my name works.” Finally, Kurapika moves his hand. He doesn’t take it away, just pushes up into Leorio’s hair, which is also exceedingly nice. “Have you tried that recently, Leorio?”
“I say your name plenty, Kurapika,” Leorio says, just because he can and does.
Kurapika allows this, and Leorio allows the head-scritches he sees fit to bestow. Heavenly. If he didn’t know any better, he’d think he woke up ten years in the past. Kurapika’s next sentence knocks that delusion right out of him, dropping him uncomfortably back in their strained reality. “You haven’t been taking the money recently.”
Leorio shakes his head. “I'm not going to.”
Kurapika looks down at him and snorts. Leorio hates how much he wants to kiss the stubborn cant of his mouth. "How else are you supposed to pay for school?"
"I have other clients," he says, “and other jobs.”
Kurapika gives him a look.
".... I can get other clients and jobs again," Leorio amends, mullish. "I only dropped them because you started calling me so much."
"A fact for which I remain unapologetic," Kurapika says airily. “And you’re not hurting for it, money wise, are you? Or at least, you weren’t until your pride reared its head.”
Speaking of, that sparks some anger right in Leorio’s gut, and he pushes himself upright, dislodging Kurapika and Kurapika’s hand and this quiet, peaceful morning, because it was never going to last. Of course it wasn’t. “My pride? I’m not some project that you can just throw money at, Kurapika! I’m a person, and I can decide when and how I make some fucking money, you know.”
“That’s not-“ Kurapika cuts himself off with a sharp sound. “That’s not what I’m trying to say, Leorio. I’m here to help-“
“And I’m telling you to stop. I don’t need or want your help.”
Kurapika’s eyes flash, cold. “Your situation had me otherwise fooled.”
“Well, whose fucking fault is that? You’re the one who fucked off when Gon got sick!” Leorio yells, the sparks catching into an inferno that fills his lungs and flickers out in one, explosive burst.
“Sick? Gon? Is he-“ Kurapika starts, like he can’t figure out what question he wants to ask first.
Leorio rubs his face, hoping to brush off the last of sleep-numbness. “He’s fine. Or, as fine as he can be, I guess. It was a bit touch and go there for a bit, but remission’s a bitch and he’s doing alright for now. He and Killua are actually off celebrating his fifth year in remission right now."
Kurapika’s hand hovers near his knee. “I… I didn’t-“
“You didn’t know,” Leorio says, bitter, eyes closed. “How could you have known? It’s not like I tried to call you every day, multiple times a day, for months on end when shit first hit the fan. It’s not like you ever checked your voicemail or anything like that, because if you had, you would have heard. There were so many ways, Kurapika. You just. Didn’t care enough.”
Kurapika is quiet at this, long enough that Leorio cracks open an eye to glance at him. Kurapika's hand retracts, clenching white-knuckled against his own thigh. "I did- I do care, Leorio."
Leorio starts tiredly, "I know your family died, Kurapika-"
Kurapika's eyes are hard as glass. "My family was murdered, Leorio. They didn't just die, someone killed them."
That falls heavily between them, and Leorio looks away, uneasy and strangling every impulse to argue. He hadn't- He hadn't forgotten. Just like he hadn't forgotten the way Kurapika disappeared after that, getting in touch with Leorio only once to let him know he was part of the mafia, to stop calling, that he was alive for now and Leorio should move on and let go. Impossible requests, really, because Leorio only stopped calling once Gon started chemo, but.
"I'm sorry," Kurapika murmurs. He sounds exhausted, the purple sweep of bruises beneath his eyes stark. "This isn't how this was supposed to happen. You should go."
And, uncertain and uneasy, Leorio does.
Leorio wakes up a week later to a bored looking deliveryman knocking on the door, carrying a few garment bags full of the clothes Kurapika went mad buying for him and a soft black suit.
Kurapika, when questioned, only tells him to enjoy the gifts, and says nothing more.
“How are things going with your boyfriend?” Zepile asks, feet up on Leorio's table like it’s not 8 am and he should be in his own goddamned apartment.
Leorio, laden with bags filled to bursting with clothes, opens his mouth. Closes it. Makes a scrunched up face that hopefully conveys the strangeness of the whole situation. “I think he’s like my sugar daddy now?”
Zepile tips over in a clatter of limbs and almost chokes laughing.
Leorio’s days are endless and full. He has Gon, poking around his kitchen. He has Killua and Alluka taking up more and more space as they learn to be unconscious of their wants, as they ask for what they want and glow with pleasure as they receive it. Killua volunteers with Gon and comes back smelling like dogs and cats and contentment, while Alluka devotes herself to her college classes.
He has his studies, conducted at the library between Gon and Killua’s jobs and classes, where he reads every book he can find, trying to get himself ready for what he knows is coming. It isn’t a replacement for the actual classes he’s going to take, but it’ll help him get ready. Leorio picks up a few shifts at a local restaurant here and there, fitting them carefully around the time he’s carved out for himself. Between that and a delivery job he’s gotten his car back in shape for, Leorio isn’t desperately hurting for money anymore.
And in the nights, and increasingly in the evenings, Kurapika has him.
He’s never sure what to expect when he gets there. Sometimes, it’s all he can do to keep up with Kurapika’s ever voracious hunger, the way he wraps his legs around Leorio’s hips and begs for more, the sounds he makes when Leorio pins him down and makes him hurt for it, burning fever-bright and wanting. Increasingly, though, Kurapika calls him when he's just tired, and those times, he bundles Kurapika under a blanket and sets him up with some terrible television on the couch. Leorio will make him food because Kurapika will have forgotten to eat all day, and they will sit and exist together gently, so gently, and-
Leorio doesn’t know what to do with it.
Or rather, he knows what he wants. He wants to bury himself deep within Kurapika, so he can’t leave again. He wants Kurapika to want to stay. Leorio just doesn’t know how to have either of those things without hurting or being hurt.
“Here,” Kurapika says, apropos of nothing, passing Leorio a small box before dinner one night. “You can’t just go out in a suit without this.”
Eyebrow raised, Leorio opens the box.
Inside is a pretty, red patterned tie. Embroidered into it in a strikingly subtle pattern are flowers and leaves, the thread slightly brighter than the background. Kurapika reaches in, grabs it, and loops it around Leorio’s neck. And Leorio smoothes it down his chest before his brain finishes catching up to him.
He knows this tie. He’s seen it only very rarely, but he can’t forget the experience of wrapping it around Kurapika’s wrists. Of putting him in his place and keeping him there. Kurapika wears this tie when he’s in a very specific mood, and now he’s putting it around Leorio’s neck and that’s-
Leorio raises an eyebrow, a flood of heat coming to his face.
Kurapika doesn’t meet his eye. Just looks away, a pretty red blush scrawling across his cheeks. “You can’t not wear a tie to a nice restaurant, Leorio. Keep it.”
Those words echo through his head, through the dinner and all through the night, when Kurapika has his ankles splayed wide, tied to the headboard with soft leather, but the red tie is wrapped tight across his eyes, when Leorio, fucked out and orgasm drunk, strokes the raised patterns in his pocket as he stumbles his way home.
Keep it sounds an awful lot like “Keep me.”
That’s dangerous. He can’t let himself think like that.
But he also can’t stop. Not that night, not the next few days. Leorio encounters the tie in spare moments, its vibrant red catching his eye as he turns through his carved out space in the corner of the kitchen. It sits there and worries at him, but unlike an oyster, there’s no pearl coming from this. Just a grain of sand stuck in his soft spots.
Maybe he’s getting a bit too morose with this. Honestly, he could probably stand to get out more. Maybe pick up a different job again. His hours as a delivery driver aren’t awful if he times them right, and they’ll slot into his eventual college plans better than... whatever this is, right? Which all depends on what college he even gets into, which means he has to apply and hear back from someone, and Leorio’s remembering why he doesn’t think about this all that often. He toggles his phone idly off and on, listening to Zepile ramble with half an ear, before tossing it over to the other side of the shitty couch in their living room. The sound gets Gon’s attention, and he pounces on it before Leorio can really stop him.
Of course, as soon as Gon picks it up, it vibrates.
Leorio jolts upright, trying to pretend like his heart isn’t excitedly clamoring for that to be a message from Kurapika. “Hey, give that here.”
Gon gives his phone a dubious look. Then he pats Leorio on the shoulder, handing it over. “I just… want you to know that I love you very much.”
“And I support your lifestyle no matter who you put in your phone as “Small Daddy,”” Gon chokes out through his laughter, and behind him, Leorio hears Killua just howl.
“You changed his name in my phone?” Leorio bellows at Zepile, who only cackles.
“You left it unlocked! What else was I supposed to do, just leave it alone?”
Leorio sputters. “Yes!”
“Well, that was your first mistake!”
“You could, you know,” Leorio says out of nowhere a few days later, as he's pulling on his clothes. Kurapika, gratifyingly and distractingly nude, is busy pretending he isn't hiding more money in one of Leorio's pockets and Leorio pretends that he doesn’t notice.
“Talk to the kids.”
Kurapika is quiet for a moment. “It's been so long. I don't know that I could.”
Leorio wants to ask him what's different between them and him. It wasn't like Leorio had more recent contact or anything, and Kurapika loves, loved, the boys when they were younger. He knows Alluka will be just as welcome into that strange little fold too. But there's something there that is keeping Kurapika back, and the longer it's there, the less Leorio wants it to be, afraid of why he's keeping his distance.
Leorio wakes, muzzy and uncertain of why he's even conscious. By his hand, the phone buzzes again, a low clatter on the floor, and Leorio drags his motor functions into line enough to hold it up and squint blearily at the screen.
Missed call: Kurapika
He sends back a text, just three question marks.
He gets nothing in return.
Hands shaking, the lingering pull of sleep deserting him, Leorio tries calling him. “Come on, Kurapika,” he mutters. “Pick up your damn phone.”
See, in the eight long months it's been since Kurapika first called him, Leorio has somehow managed to forget the exact taste of bitter panic that floods his mouth when Kurapika doesn't answer him back.
Swearing quietly, Leorio grabs his keys and locks the doors behind him, mind already in a high rise hotel room over a valley of lights.
"I thought you said you weren't gonna call me like this anymore," he says, falsely casual as he opens the door. Kurapika's hotel room is almost as familiar as his own apartment these days, and Leorio hardly pays his surroundings any attention as he shrugs out of his jacket, hanging it up on its hook near the door. His eyes scan the room. Empty. "Here I thought we had moved past the "calling Leorio in the wee hours of the morning because I'm a horny insomniac" stage. And for that matter, you could have left a voicemail. Or like, picked up your phone?"
There is no answer.
Leorio cocks his head, one eyebrow arching. "Kurapika?"
There's a light on in the bedroom, a sliver of gold. He tries the handle and it gives under his touch.
Any words he might have said die in his throat as his heart kicks into overdrive. He's been through enough dicey situations that he's uncomfortably familiar with the oil-slick look of wet blood, smeared against the pale wall near the entrance into the en suite kitchen
Kurapika is sitting on his bed, hands folded in his lap. Scarlet stains his white shirt collar. From where Leorio stands, horrified, in the doorway, there's no telling how far it goes beneath his suit jacket.
Stepping cautiously into the room, Leorio swallows down his immediate fear and lets the rational crisis-fired part of his personality take over. Nice and easy. As though this is nothing unusual. His voice steady and even, he says, “Kurapika, I’m going to take your jacket off, okay? I need you to tell me if it hurts anywhere. Can you do that?”
Kurapika only nods in answer instead of snipping back about how he’s perfectly capable and Leorio needs to stop fussing over him like he’s some kind of child. Mouth firm, afraid of what will happen if he lets it waver, Leorio undoes Kurapika’s buttons. He hisses as he pushes the jacket back. The shirt is a lost cause, but the actual damage seems to be coming from a gash on his shoulder. Kurapika doesn't even flinch when Leorio takes his shirt off, the fibers tacky and sticking to the wound.
“Wait right here,” Leorio murmurs.
Checking the bathroom brings to light exactly what Leorio thought it would: an extremely well-stocked first aid kit better suited for an emergency room. It makes sense, given Kurapika’s aversion to letting anyone help him do anything at all. Leorio returns with a length of surgical thread and a suture needle with a holder, ready to wipe the wound clean with a little antiseptic. After that, just some topical anesthetic and-
Leorio takes a deep breath.
Nice, easy stitches, pulling the jagged edges of the wound together.
Icy fingertips brush his cheek. Leorio flinches before he can think to not, but Kurapika isn’t dissuaded. “Leorio. You’re here. Why are you here?”
“You called me and didn’t answer when I called you back. I got worried, so I came over,” Leorio murmurs, turning his check into Kurapika’s hand. His own keep moving, carefully stitching the long wound closed. It’s hard, doing this without someone to assist, but hell, he can’t always count on nurses and other doctors being there all the time. He grabs the needle with the holder, manipulating it through the skin.
Kurapika makes a quiet noise. Leorio checks that it’s not out of pain and continues. “That makes no sense.”
“Yeah, I thought we had gotten to the point where you would keep answering my calls.”
“No, I called you to tell you that I was leaving here after all.”
Leorio’s hands still.
Oblivious, Kurapika mumbles, “Why did you come back if I’m just leaving again?”
Steady. Easy, Leorio. Breathe in and out and don’t let your hands shake. Not when you have a needle in him. “Well, because you’re hopeless and you clearly need my help.”
“I don’t need your help.”
“You’re bleeding all over your hotel room, and I’m the only reason it’s stopping. Clearly, you do.”
“Clearly,” Kurapika bites out, cold and focused for the first time since Leorio’s come in, “I don’t. What makes you think I needed you to stop the bleeding?”
“You’re a smart guy, Kurapika. I bet you know what happens when bleeding doesn’t stop.”
“I do. So again,” and Leorio’s wrist is grasped, pushing him away from the careful stitches he’s putting in the cut on Kurapika’s shoulder. “Why would I need your help?”
Leorio meets Kurapika’s eyes squarely, then looks between him and the wound. “Look, I’m sure you’re having a rough night, but a cut on your shoulder isn’t going to bleed enough for you to die. It’ll just get infected and painful.”
Kurapika laughs. It’s not a pleasant sound. “A rough night,” he repeats, incredulous. “Yes, I suppose ‘a rough night’ covers what happened. Don’t ask.”
Mouth closing with a click of teeth, Leorio snorts. "How many, Kurapika?"
Kurapika stills. "What are you asking?"
"How many of them have you killed?"
"All of them," and Kurapika lets out a shuddering sigh, looking worn out and empty. "Every one of the group that killed my family."
“So you can keep up with a bunch of murderers, but not your friends? I guess you never did care enough to stay in touch with anyone who ever gave a damn about you.”
“Didn’t care enough?” Kurapika repeats, incredulous. “Are you fucking serious? I was trying to make sure the people who killed my parents paid for it.”
“Well, I don’t know how else to explain it, then! What, you were ignoring me because you loved me and you thought it would be easier to leave your friends behind? Did you ever even listen to any of the messages I left?”
“I…” then Kurapika’s mouth clicks shut. “No. No, I didn’t. It. If I had, I would have just come back. I couldn’t afford that.”
“Oh, and I’m supposed to think that’s such a terrible fate? To return to your friends who loved and cared about you and needed you to be there with them. Where did you even go? The mafia? Because that was really a better option?”
“Leorio, what’s done is done. I can’t change what I did now. I can, however,” and Kurapika takes his hands carefully threading their fingers together, “do things differently. That’s all I’m trying to do. I came back to keep you safe.”
Leorio doesn’t know why he’s even bringing it up. Maybe the warmth of Kurapika’s hand beneath his palm makes him bold. He hasn’t said anything about it this whole time because Kurapika never asked, and Leorio’s so fucking tired of bridging that gap for him always. “I tried to call, you know. I tried so hard to let you know, because I needed you, and you never-“
“-I’m sorry,” Kurapika interjects, but Leorio’s moving on already.
“-and what do you mean that you’re trying to “do things differently? You’re just. Here. Paying for my dick whenever you get bored and lonely, and-“
“That’s not what I was doing!” Kurapika snaps, dragging a hand through his golden hair. “All I planned on was keeping you and the boys alive! The Troupe was trying to close in on you, and I couldn’t- I couldn’t lose you like that! What part of any of this makes you so certain I, of all people, am in this for the sex alone?”
Leorio gestures around them, like he can sum this up with their surroundings, in the impersonal trappings of Kurapika’s hotel room, where he and Kurapika have gotten nasty on almost every available surface. “Hey, maybe the fact that you kept hiring me to fuck you? That’s pretty-”
“I wanted to!” Admitting it sounds like a tear, like a sundering, like a collapse of a dam as Kurapika gestures, his movements sharp and shaking. “Why wouldn't I want to? Hiring you meant you would be there and it felt good and if I asked for you, you would actually come. You say you care about me but it's like you're afraid of me. You never let me ask about you. You never let me in. Why couldn’t you just-" and he cuts himself off, biting back the sudden flood of words with teeth set hard in his lip.
Leorio’s heartbeat thunders through the silence that follows. Leorio could’ve done so many things differently. He could’ve stopped himself from hoping, first of all. He could’ve kept the careful distance he does between the rest of his clients. He could have stopped when he had the money he needed. He could have never let Kurapika go, or kept him close.
He could have just stopped.
(But Leorio has never been good at letting go.)
“I wanted to stay, Leorio,” Kurapika says like saying it costs him something. “I kept calling you back because it was the only way I knew you would come. Did you think I didn’t know I had abandoned you?”
And maybe, he hasn't been as alone in this as he's thought.
“Fuck you,” Leorio says, and if he tries hard enough, he can ignore the way it shakes around the edges and all right down the middle. “Fuck you, I tried for years to forget how much I loved you. And you just come back in here and I guess I never learned the lesson well enough the first time, because I tried even harder to not do it again and guess what the fuck didn’t happen?”
“All I’ve wanted to do is make it up to you. I know I left. I did what I thought I needed to do at the time, but things are different now. I’m different now. I’m here, and I’m… I don’t want to leave again.”
Leorio shakes his head. “Then why have you still been- Why didn’t you just say so?”
“You were so angry when I left, Leorio. Was I supposed to assume you were just going to be glad to see me again? I thought… I thought that, as long as I was giving you something you needed, you would stay. I didn’t- I don’t want to lose you again.”
“Kurapika, we’re friends. We’ve always- Even when I was mad, you didn’t need to give me something-“
“You wanted nothing to do with me! If I had asked, you would have just told me to fuck off, and don’t pretend otherwise.”
“So wait, you… then why did you keep calling me?”
“I wanted you! I just wanted you and I wanted you any way I thought I could keep you.” Kurapika's mouth presses into a thin, firm line. “I thought- when you kept the tie, that you understood.”
Leorio looks down at himself, at the red patterned tie that he’s wearing right now (because of course he is, the universe lives for this kind of dramatic irony in Leorio’s life). As it is, he pulls it up, running his fingers across its familiar patterns. Softly, he asks, “Why did you give this to me?”
“Because it means something, to us.” Kurapika reaches out and wraps his hands around Leorio’s, incongruously cool. “Because it means I’ll stay.”
“What about the mafia? I thought you said you couldn’t stay, or that it wasn’t up to you.”
Kurapika’s hands flutter. “I retired.”
Leorio couldn’t have heard that right.
“I retired when I moved back to this city, Leorio,” Kurapika says gently, an older tenderness than Leorio’s used to seeing in his face. “I needed to stay here. I wasn’t ever planning on staying away once I was done, but if I lost, and I died, how could I do that to you? The mafia was only ever a means to an end.”
“But you said-“
“If you didn’t want me here, I wasn’t going to stay. That’s what I meant. I understand if it's impossible, but I want you. Do you think... it would be possible for you to allow me close again? To let me in?"
"Let you in?” Leorio shakes his head. This is a terrible idea. It’s terrible for both of them, but there’s a certain inevitability to it, every motion Leorio has ever made shaping him into the person who is going to make this choice today. For Leorio, there was never another option. “Kurapika, I've never been able to keep you out. I'll always - no matter how much of a bad idea it seems to be, I just can't ever manage to keep my distance from you. If I could, this-" and he waves between them, like a simple hand motion can encapsulate everything that they are. The wry look in Kurapika's eyes indicates that he, too, thinks it a slightly futile effort. "- would never have happened."
He drags in a shaking breath. And he slides his fingers between Kurapika’s.
And wryly, he says, “Maybe next time, just tell me you’re back for good, and we can get past the weird sugar daddy thing a lot faster.”
Kurapika grins. “You have permission to call me that once in bed.”
“Will you laugh at me?”
“Inevitably,” he says, the word swallowed by Leorio’s mouth as he’s kissed and kisses back and stays.
(“Oh, we’re moving into somewhere bigger,” Kurapika says, perching his sunglasses on top of his head. “Have you been sleeping in the kitchen? What a disaster.”
“I don’t wanna hear that coming from the kid who used to rotate sleeping in a 24-7 gym and the library depending on what days worked best for your class schedule,” Leorio retorts immediately. “Come on, I wasn’t gonna make Alluka share a room with anyone. She’s a girl. She needs her own space.”
“Very chivalrous of you,” Kurapika says in a tone of voice that means “I’m not very impressed.” “Still, a better place is definitely up in the future, somewhere close to your college – hello, Gon – and I was thinking-“
Whatever he’s thinking gets lost in Gon’s scream and subsequent tackle, and Killua piles on top of him like it’s nothing at all, and Leorio just laughs.)
Thank you all so, so much for reading.