So cool! Can you teach me how to do that later?
That’s what Killua’s words say.
He doesn’t think about them often, if ever. No one has ever come close to saying them before, and he can’t picture the kind of person who would. After all, who was going to look at the kinds of things he's good at and call them cool? They are pretty cool, but when he’s showing off, his audience doesn’t tend to dole out compliments. He usually gets more “I’m afraid for my life!” than “That’s really neat!” which he typically sees as a kind of compliment, anyway.
So it’s not really that he’s never wanted a soulmate, like his family (and especially his mom) seem to think. It’s not just one more thing to chafe under because the world wants him to be a certain way—they’re wrong. He’s just never met a single person who he wished was his soulmate, and he can’t see that changing now or ever. And if he doesn’t want one, then he doesn’t need one. Simple as that.
Sometimes, though, that doesn’t stop him from wondering what they could be like. What kind of person is going to take one look at him and blurt out, “So cool!” like that? What would he do to make them say that? Would they mean it?
He doesn’t dwell on it often, but every now and then he’ll lay awake when he should be sleeping and try to imagine what he’ll be doing when it happens. It’s got to be during a fight of some kind, right? Maybe he’ll even be about to kill his soulmate before he realizes who they are. But that thought doesn’t sit right with him. Isn’t it too hard to picture someone who would say that to the person who’s going to end their life, and mean it? At least, Killua has never met anyone who would say that who didn’t completely tick him off, so…
But maybe it won’t be like that. Maybe it’ll be more like when he showed Rhythm Echo to Kanaria… his mind always seems to go back there when he thinks about this, anyway. The feeling is almost right, but Kanaria obviously isn’t—she’s not his soulmate, and he doesn’t wish that she were. He doesn’t wish anything when it comes to his soulmate, but he thinks he probably comes the closest when he thinks about this.
None of that speculation prepares him for what it’s actually like, of course, because none of it prepares him for how suddenly he ends up feeling that his soulmate is a person worth knowing, someone worthy of his curiosity.
He doesn’t join the Hunter Exam to find his soulmate, although many people do. He does it to find something he feels like pursuing and only realizes later that those two goals are one and the same thing for him.
He wouldn’t say that he’s drawn to the boy right off the bat in some deep, cosmic sense of the word, but he is interested immediately. How could he not be? There’s another kid his age taking the Exam! That alone is enough to catch Killua’s attention. He’s ready to introduce himself just based on that, but the chance kind of slips away from him—being unpredictable, as he’ll later learn, is kind of par for the course with this kid.
He’s skating his way down the tunnel when he catches sight of the other boy for the first time since the stage started. He was expecting to catch up with him eventually, but he also expected to find him running closer to the front of the pack. Not only is he decently far back--he’s not even running.
He’s standing in place, facing back where they’d come from. In the moment that Killua flies past, they make eye contact, extended for an extra second as he turns his head to keep the boy in view. It’s only because of this that he sees what happens next.
In one fluid motion, the boy raises the fishing rod that he was lugging around in his backpack and flings the line a good twenty feet down the tunnel. It snags on a briefcase lying on the ground before he yanks it back with just as much ease as when he cast it, catching the case in his free hand.
“Whoa!” Killua yells in awe. He doesn’t think twice before turning back around.
He does a jump off the wall to change directions sharply, flips off of his skateboard, and hits the ground running, mouth already open to proclaim how amazing that was. But before he can, the boy is talking first—and what he’s saying sounds a lot like the words that were about to come out of Killua’s mouth.
“Ah!” he exclaims with wide eyes and a wider smile. He’s practically leaping with excitement, fingers pressed to his cheeks unabashedly. “So cool! Can you teach me how to do that later?!”
Killua stumbles. He comes to an abrupt stop and feels a heat in his cheeks that wasn’t there before—that’s never been there before.
Oh, he thinks with startling clarity. I see.
He thrusts out his arm, pulling up the sleeve so that his words are proudly on display. “I’m Killua,” he says, stomach swooping even better than it had when he did the trick with his skateboard.
The boy audibly gasps. His eyes bug out of his face so hard that Killua has to stifle a snort as the boy grabs Killua’s arm with one hand and tries to roll up his own sleeve with the other. “It’s you! I just knew you were gonna be someone really, really cool! With a name like Killua, you had to be.”
“What?” Killua can’t stop himself from letting out an actual laugh at that. “Seriously? That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard! Just based off that?”
“Of course!” the boy says, beaming. “I’m Gon, by the way!”
Killua grins back. Gon’s brown eyes have a little bit of gold in them, when he looks.
“That thing you did with your fishing pole was awesome,” he offers.
He wants his soulmate now, and it’s easy.
“Wasn’t it?” Gon says excitedly, grip tightening on Killua’s arm. “I was serious about wanting to try your skateboard, though. I’ll teach you if you’ll teach me, too! Deal?”
Killua lets out another delighted laugh. “Deal! Man, this really isn’t what I was expecting.”
“Me, too, me, too!” Gon says, eyes crinkling as he laughs, too. “Well, I don’t know what I was expecting, but I don’t think it could’ve been you.”
“Yeah,” Killua says, a little breathless. “Isn’t it perfect?”
Gon nods hard enough to knock his head loose from his shoulders, and Killua takes a step closer. “Of course! Now that we’re both here, we should—”
“Hey, Gon!” comes a wheezing voice from behind them. “You guys…!”
He and Gon both turn to look behind them. Suitcase Guy is still crawling his way along despite being unable to breathe—which is kind of sad in Killua’s opinion, given how long he and Gon have been standing here, completely stopped.
Killua rolls his eyes at him, but Gon waves frantically with his free hand.
“Leorio, I found my soulmate, too!” he calls. “We have to tell Kurapika!”
Now the old dude is glaring at them as he coughs out, “Save it… for after… the exam. Some of us… are taking it… seriously…!”
Killua shrugs, turning back to Gon. He doesn’t much care what this random loser thinks they should be doing, but—
Ah. He catches sight of Gon’s grin, his eyes shining as he returns Killua’s gaze. Killua can already feel his heart thumping with anticipation. It almost doesn’t matter what Gon says next.
“Race you to the finish?” he asks, somehow saying the right thing anyway.
Killua smirks. “Threetwoonego!” he says all in one breath. He’s not even done talking before he’s taken off at a dead sprint.
He hears Gon’s bright, startled laughter behind him, but not for long. It’s a neck-and-neck match up all the way to the end, and if Killua was interested before, he’s positively enamored now.
They can’t decide who won—but then they hold hands while they enter the swamp that will take them to the second stage, and he finds that he doesn’t mind so much, really.
They don’t talk about it again until they’re on the airship, headed for the third stage.
They’re sitting side by side in front of the windows, shoulders not quite brushing. An entire city is spread out twinkling before them like a quilt made of jewels, and Gon’s chin is resting on top of his folded arms as he takes it all in. Killua’s cheek is in his palm, face tilted toward him, eyes flicking his way whenever he speaks, and sometimes when he doesn’t, too. The reflection of the lights makes his pupils look big and glittery, and everything he says is surprising.
Killua has already told Gon about his family when he finds himself asking, “So taking the Exam had nothing to do with wanting to find your soulmate?”
Gon blinks at him, as if the thought actually hadn’t occurred to him before, and then shakes his head. “I’ve known for a while that my soulmate wasn’t back on the island, but that’s not why I’m becoming a Hunter.”
“Really?” Killua asks, brow furrowing a bit. Lots of people find their soulmates while taking the exam, after all, or traveling the world as a Hunter after they passed. “You weren’t looking for me at all?”
“Nope!” Gon chirps without missing a beat. “I wasn’t even thinking about it until you came up and said my words.”
Killua stares, drawing completely still. His “Me, too” is sitting on the tip of his tongue, unvoiced, because he’s never had a reason to say it before this moment. He watches Gon’s thoughtful eyes and leans forward, just slightly.
Then Gon says, “I’ve always known I was going to be a Hunter, so of course I would meet my soulmate because of it! I figured I didn’t need to go out of my way to find you if I was already going out of my way to take the Exam, you know?”
Killua pauses for another moment before he positively bursts into giggles, shoulders curling up towards his ears. “That’s too weird! It’s fate that you’re going to become a Hunter, so it must be fate that—”
“—that I was going to meet you, too!” Gon finishes, beaming.
Killua snorts, but it doesn’t sound so stupid when Gon says it, not when he’s smiling like that. “You’re kind of crazy, you know that?”
“I’m really glad we met so soon, too,” Gon declares, turning around to face him fully. The lights outside of the ship give the side of his face a mellow glow even as he bounces in his seat. “This definitely means that we’re gonna get a ton stronger together until we can beat everyone else here like it’s nothing!”
Killua leans back onto his palm, smiling indulgently at Gon. It might sound like he’s saying that destiny has everything sorted out for them, but that’s not what Killua hears. He can tell—Gon sees this as an opportunity, just like him. They could go anywhere together, once they beat this Exam into the ground. They’re going to turn it all into a great adventure, just by setting their sights on it.
“Hey,” he says, giving Gon a nudge with his knee, “tell me more about the stuff you want to do after we’re both Hunters.”
He watches Gon light up, settling back into his seat with a smile of his own. “Okay! Did you have something in mind?”
“Not really,” Killua sighs, content, “I just want to hear it. I can picture it really well when you talk.”
He watches Gon’s expressive face as he talks about his dreams, and he really can. Nothing has ever been easier for him to see.