Gon was still asleep next to him when Killua woke up to sun rays shining through the window, warming up his face. Blinking as he adjusted to the lighting, he sat up, eyes drifting around the room. For a moment, he forgot where he was, his body tensed as he listened for any sounds of immediate danger. Suddenly, Gon snored and twitched from his spot on Killua’s right. Memories from the day before suddenly came back to him as he snapped out of his trance. The two of them had arrived at Whale Island yesterday afternoon, and after eating a delicious dinner cooked by Aunt Mito, had dragged themselves to Gon’s room and collapsed. Now, trying to calm his nerves, the only thing he could hear was the small, rhythmic breathing of his boyfriend, and the soft breeze outside making a tree branch hit the window
Killua let out a breath and looked over at the sleeping boy. In his (very unbiased, thank you very much) opinion, Gon looked beautiful. Despite everything that had happened to both of them in the past years. Despite the messy hair and drool and scars littering his skin. Gon looked peaceful. The slight furrow between his eyebrows had smoothed down. The way the early morning sunlight shone on his skin and caught in his hair made Killua’s breath catch. It always did. Killua smiled as he slipped out of the covers, quietly opening the door and making his way to the kitchen. He had figured Mito was already up and making breakfast, based on the sweet smell, and he was correct. She turned around at the sound of feet padding into the room.
“Oh! Good morning Killua!” She smiled, spatula in hand from where she was making what looked like blueberry pancakes. “I'm guessing Gon is still asleep?”
The white-haired boy nodded, making a noise of confirmation as he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and walked towards where Mito was cooking. “I figured I would let him catch up on the needed sleep, so I came down here instead. I didn't want to wake him up.” Killua’s eyes drifted back over to the stove. “Do you need any help?”
Mito shook her head. “I don't think so. The pancakes are just about finished so that's the last of the cooking, thank you for the offer though hun!”
Killua nodded again, shifting his balance back and forth between his feet before turning back to the doorway. What exactly were you supposed to do when you’re at your boyfriend's house and you wake up before him? “I guess I'll go wake up Gon for breakfast then.” He started back to the room when he had an idea. “Actually… Aunt Mito? Do you think we could go on a picnic later? I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been on one, and I’m sure Gon would like it too-”
Mito smiled wider as she took in his nervous face. “That's a wonderful idea Killua. Oh, let's make it a surprise! I don't know if I have enough food for a picnic though, so you and I may need to go down to the market later to get some stuff. Does that sound ok?” She stumbled a bit as she got her answer, the grinning blur of silver hair looking up at her as Killua hugged her confirming her suspicions instantly. She laughed softly and ran a hand over his hair. “I’m happy you decided to come to visit again. It’s been a while Killua. This’ll be good for both of you.”
“I sure hope so Mito-san! I think we need it.” Killua pulled away from the hug and grinned wider, the way he only could when he was with the Freecs’. “I’ll go wake up Gon now.” He bounded up the stairs, whipping open Gon’s door as soon as he was in front of it. He had expected the green-haired boy to still be wrapped in blankets and sprawled over the entire bed. What he got instead was very much awake. As well as fully dressed and ready for the day.
“Good morning, Kill!” Gon said with way too much enthusiasm for that early in the morning. The somber months on end in the NGL dealing with the Chimera Ants had practically wiped Killua’s memory of how energetic Gon used to be when the sun rose. Killua laughed, bracing himself for the tight hug he was about to receive.
“Good morning to you too, Gon!” Killua said, wrapping his arms around Gon’s waist. “Breakfast is ready, Mito-san made blueberry pancakes.” Gon grinned up from Killua’s chest, a blinding sight that never failed to make Killua feel the urge to put sunglasses on.
“So THAT’S what I was smelling! C’mon let’s go eat, I’m hungry!”
Killua laughed as he was dragged back down the stairs. Maybe today would work out in his favor after all.
“You’re sure you don’t want to come with us?” Mito asked as she and Killua put their shoes on to go to the market. Gon nodded.
“Mhmm! I’m sure! I wanted to go out back to the forest anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve been home, and I’m sure some of the animals have probably missed me.” He grinned as he rocked back on his heels. “You guys can go get the stuff you need to alright? You know where to find me if you get back before I do!”
Mito’s response was a quick “Be safe,” paired with a kiss to his forehead as she walked out of the door, trusting her company would soon follow.
Killua narrowed his eyes. “You’re positive you’ll be ok?”
Gon laughed. “It’s not the first time I’ve been home alone here Kill. I’ll be fine, I promise. Besides, I practically grew up in the forests here. I know them like the back of my hand.”
The small assassin hummed in hesitant agreement. “Yeah, I know, but…” He paused for a second, biting his bottom lip. “Alright… but if anything happens or you need anything, you know I’ll be back here in less than 10 seconds flat.” He straightened up and gave Gon one last look, then leaned in to press a chaste kiss to his lips, before running after Aunt Mito.
Gon blinked. A small giggle bubbled out of his throat as he turned to lock the door before setting out to the woods. “Yeah,” he sighed, content. “I know.”
He guessed it had been roughly about 30 to 45 minutes since Killua and Aunt Mito had left to go buy whatever they had left to buy. If he was being honest, he didn’t even know if they had told him, and if they had, had he even been paying attention? His mind hadn’t been fully there since they left the N.G.L, not that he would ever admit it, especially not to Killua.
Gon sighed. ‘That’s not why you came out here. You don’t need to get caught up in what happened, not now of all times.’
He shook his head as if that would somehow shake the memories and thoughts out of his brain. Out of the corner of his eye, a bush moved. His body tensed, reacting on pure instinct as he instantly got into a defensive position, already pulling Nen into his fist. Sure, in his heart he knew it was probably an animal of some kind. The chances that it was just a lost foxbear cub were extremely high, after all, it was spring. But after dealing with the Chimera Ants, he could never be too careful. As much as he wanted to forget it all happened.
He let out a breath of relief and relaxed his stance as the small head of a fox-bear cub popped out of the bushes. ‘Just like I thought.’ The small cub faltered a bit before it walked up to the boy.
“Hey, there little guy!” Gon said as the cub wandered over to sniff his palm. “How’re you doing today?” The cub didn't respond, instead, letting out a little yip and tugging on Gon’s sleeve. It looked up at Gon, before tugging once more and walking back to the edge of the clearing, looking back at Gon, eyes wide. ‘Are you coming?’ It seemed to ask.
The hunter laughed. “Alright, alright! I'm coming, don't worry!” He straightened up and followed the cub to the edge of the clearing. With another small yip, it took off, darting under low branches and jumping over bushes. Gon grinned, quickly following the cub through the brush. The chase continued for another 5 minutes, though he had lost track of time. Eventually, though, the cub came to a stop in yet another clearing. The trees had formed a type of canopy, and while space inside was empty except for the patches of flowers scattered throughout, the leaves overhead intertwined, creating a bubble that blocked out the harshness of the sun, casting a gorgeous shadow over the clearing. A breath escaped Gon’s lungs.
“Woah…” He remembered the clearing well. The place he had often wandered to as a small child, barely over the age of six when he first found it. It was the same clearing that only years prior, at the age of about eight (or maybe nine, he couldn't remember,) Gon had found Konta, the now fully grown fox-bear cub he had practically adopted. He looked around. The scratches were still on the tree, albeit faint, and faded after time, but there was no doubt about it. It was the same place he had met Kite for the first time when the silver-haired man had protected him from the angry Kitsune-Guma mother. Sure, he had gotten slapped and told off for wandering into the animal’s territory without bothering to notice the markings, but still. Gon’s smile faded as he stilled, remembering exactly who had saved him back then. The fresh scab over that part of his memory peeled back. His breath hitched; his eyes watered. He stumbled back, almost tripping over his feet as blood suddenly pounded in his ears. His hands started shaking. He swallowed.
He didn’t know when he started to spiral, nor when he had started to run. All he knew was his surroundings turned fuzzy and watery as fat tears started to stream down his face. The memories flashed through his head, one after another, relentless in their harassment. He stumbled, his breath went ragged. He swallowed again. Had his throat been that dry since this morning? He tried to take another breath. His heart felt like it was going to erupt from how fast it was beating. ‘This hurts.’
The dome of branches and leaves that had been a thing of beauty only moments ago, had begun to close in on him, taking his breath away for entirely different reasons. He ran out of the clearing, taking off in whatever direction his legs decided to take him. His mind raced, trying to focus on something, anything other than his spiraling thoughts.
‘It’s too close. It’s too dark. Where am I? Why can’t I tell where I’m going?’
His vision had finally failed him, eyes so waterlogged that the forest around him was a complete blur of brown and green. His mind flashed to Neferpitou and Kite’s dead puppet body. The war, the pain, and overwhelming fear he was exposed to way too young. He tripped over a downed tree, landing hard and skidding on his hands and knees. He gagged as his stomach churned. ‘There goes my breakfast.’
He curled into a ball, hands clawing over his ears and through his hair. His face felt wet and sticky, though he couldn’t tell if it was because of sweat, tears, or both. His eyes squeezed tighter, and he pressed the palms of his hands into them until dots of lights swam across the dark abyss of his eyelids. As if that would help him not see his memories. A sob wracked through his body. He tried opening his eyes, only to find he had no idea where he was. He should’ve known this forest inside out, but in his shaken upstate he couldn’t even tell which direction he had come from, much less which direction was north. He stumbled back to his feet, only to dangerously sway on his feet, and fall back down. Giving up, he pulled his knees to his chest and hid his face. Another sob. His body shook with the force of it. His ears rang. His arms had started to sting from running his nails up and down them. He was trembling; he couldn’t breathe, as much as he tried. He tried looking up again. All he could see was the dark forest he had practically lived in in the N.G.L. Every rustle of bushes made him tense. He had no idea where he was. He hiccupped, shoving his head farther in between his knees. He made himself as small as possible, trains his hardest to conceal his Nen as well. Though given his state, he wasn’t sure if it was working, and that thought only caused him to spiral farther.
‘I don’t wanna see this anymore. Someone help me, please.’
Killua’s eyes widened. He knew that feeling, deep in his gut. It happened every time he had woken up in the middle of the night to help Gon out of a particularly bad nightmare. Every time he had eased the island boy out of oncoming anxiety or panic attacks. ‘Shit.’
He looked at Aunt Mito, a few stalls away, looking at apples. He didn’t want to just disappear, but he knew that if he told her what was happening she would probably try and head back instantly. This was something only he could help Gon with or vise versa. He knew that from experience. He didn’t remember, but Kurapika had told him that one night during the Trick Tower part of the hunter exam, when they were stuck in the room, he had had a night terror so bad the others were concerned for his well-being, including Tonpa, which was an honest shock. Leorio had tried to approach him to stop his thrashing, instead, getting razor-sharp nails to his throat. Kurapika had tried next, only to be met with the same fate, which Killua had felt bad about when he was told the story later. Gon went next, insisting he could do it. And he had been right. Somehow just his aura had calmed Killua down to the point where he could be soothed with soft touches, calm whispers, and could listen to their words. That had been the first out of many more occasions that they had been able to soothe the other with nothing more than their presence. Which was why he needed to find Gon, and soon.
Killua took off back towards Gon’s house. He didn’t know how he’d find him, but ‘God, fuck if I have to search every square inch of this island, I will.’ His heart pounded as he slid to a stop in front of a clearing with a dome of intertwining branches. Under any other circumstances it would’ve been gorgeous, but he was on a mission. His eyes drifted around, looking, or sensing he wasn’t sure, which direction Gon may have gone in. His eyes drifted to a small animal at the edge of the clearing. They seemed to make eye contact, then the animal stood up and walked off, pausing to look back.
‘Well, you want to find him, don’t you? Follow me then.’ It seemed to say. It then darted off, and Killua bolted after it, something in the back of his mind telling him to follow it.
Soon, the sound of crying and hyperventilating reached his ears. He picked up the pace, stumbling over roots, before jumping over a fallen log. Killua froze. His boyfriend was sitting with his back against a tree, curled tight with his face hidden, and very, very obviously having a panic attack. His arms and legs had red lines from where his fingernails had probably scratched at them before coming to grip his head. His knees were red and slightly bloody like he’d taken a hard fall. A sob rattled through him. Killua suddenly jerked back to attention. Right, priorities. Calming Gon down, having him focus on him and making sure they got back to the house safe. Killua slowly let his aura out, keeping it soft and welcoming as he approached the other boy.
“Hey, Gon.” He spoke quietly. It reminded him of when he used to hold Alluka as a small baby, back when she was so scared of everything, courtesy of their family’s treatment of her. Killua let out a breath as he walked over and sat down in front of him. “I’m going to touch you, alright? It’s just me. I’m here, I love you. It’s gonna be alright.” Gon didn’t respond, react, or showed any signs that he’d even heard him, though his grip on his hair had relaxed slightly, the assassin assumed it was probably because of his presence. Someone he knew for a fact he trusted.
Killua tread carefully, knowing from first-hand experience how bad panic attacks could mess someone up. He slowly reached for Gon’s hands and untangled them from his hair, instead, bringing one down to his chest, where the other boy could feel his heartbeat and the rise and fall of his breathing. Slow and steady. Gon looked up, eyes bloodshot and puffy. His breath was still erratic. Killua kissed the palm he was still holding. Gon relaxed some more, recognizing Killua’s sapphire eyes.
“K-killua?” Gon whispered his voice hoarse from crying and hiccupping. “Wh-what are you doing here? Weren’t you supposed to be sh-” He paused as another hiccup ripped through him. “Weren’t you supposed to be shopping with Aunt Mito?” Killua smiled softly and shifted closer.
“Yeah, but I said I’d come back if anything happened to you right? So here I am. But that’s not important right now.” He took Gon’s face in his hands, running his thumbs under his eyes, wiping away tears. “What matters right now is what you need.” Gon shivered, breath hitching again.
“Hey hey, breathe with me alright? Can you do that for me love?” Gon nodded shakily. “Alright. In,” Killua made a small show of taking a huge breath and holding it. Gon smiled. “Out.”
They repeated the process a few more times until Killua was sure Gon had managed to even his heart rate out. “There we go. Feel a little better?”
Gon sniffed, then nodded. “Y-yeah. Thank you, Kill”
Killua hummed, pushing back Gon’s hair that had fallen out of its usual style, and planted a kiss on his forehead. “That’s why I’m here, knucklehead. Now come on, let’s get you back home. It was gonna be a surprise but there’s no point in hiding it now.” Gon tilted his head, confused, as Killua stood up.
“Mito-san and I were planning a surprise picnic. I came up with the idea this morning, I figured it would help us both. A lot, especially after where we just go-” Gon’s breath hitched again, and his grip on Killua’s hand tightened.
“Oh... so that’s what this is about, huh? Alright, I get it.” The white-haired boy turned. “Look at me Gon, hey.” His hand softly ushered Gon’s head up, meeting his eyes. “We made it out. We survived, and we helped, a lot of people. We were left with scars, sure. And a hell of a lot of them too. But that’s why we have each other ok?” Killua smiled. Gon smiled back, a bit weaker and softer, but it was still a smile. That was a win in Killua’s book.
“Good. Now come one, I ran off without a warning so I’m sure Mito-san’s probably wondering where I went off too. Let’s go, we’ve got a picnic to get to.”
That one day, on Whale Island, all those years ago, was how they learning that they couldn’t be far apart from each other, not for more than an hour. The presence and aura, that they had both come to memorize. Each hug, and each wave of calm that washed over them and brought their mind to a relaxed state, faster than any other prescribed medicine or therapy could. From that day onward, they had sworn to never separate and to always carry a part of the other with them.
Even now, years and years later, despite them both having professional Hunter jobs, that have always required distance from loved ones, they’re still together. When they had gotten married, they had engraved their rings, and embedded the others Nen into the engravings. It was just enough to always be a constant reminder. A protective shield, and a calming breath of fresh air when needed.
Sure, they both still suffered from nightmares. Flashbacks, panic attacks, and restless nights where no matter how hard they tried, they just could relax. But in those moments, especially when they weren't together, to curl around the other, shove their face into their neck, and breathe in the smell they've grown to love. In those moments, they looked down at their rings. Two simple phrases yet they meant the world to both of them.
"I’m here. I love you"