Belling the Cat

by Talya Firedancer

The Celestial Tower thrust up into the clouds high above, a massive structure that stretched up unmeasured. It contained hundreds of floors. It glittered, in places, looking as if it had been added onto in slipshod bits and pieces over the years. At a glance it seemed derelict, but thriving businesses thronged around its base, catering to the crowd of hardened men and fit, trained people who came to the Tower to fight, and to gamble on matches as well as their lives.

"Whee! Won the match!" A green-clad body went flying through the air.

More than men came to fight at Celestial Tower too, of course.

After passing the Hunter exam, after being reunited with his friend Killua Zaoldyeck, Gon Freaks had determined that he needed to match up against Hisoka once more, the enigmatic, frighteningly good fighter who had arguably been the best in the Hunter exam. Killua, being an obliging friend, had brought up the prospect of using the Celestial Tower for a training ground. There, it was possible not only to train but to earn money from winning matches. Since Gon needed both, and Killua wanted to follow Gon and was broke anyhow, they'd seized on the idea as a good one.

Killua lounged against the doorframe in a relaxed pose, smiling slightly as Gon somersaulted onto the bed of the room they'd earned with their wins. "Well. I think I'm next door, Gon." He jerked a thumb over his shoulder.

"Huh...?" Gon paused in his bouncing, ending up on hands and knees near the end of the bed. "Why go? This room's way too big for one person." He beamed.

"Hmm..." Killua looked around, hands in his pockets. He was used to the dimensions of the Zaoldyeck estate, but he knew Gon came from a tiny place -- Whale Island, just about as big as his family's entire grounds. "Heeeh. I suppose I could take this room, too!" He broke for the bed, moving as fast as his legs would take him -- a considerable speed.

"Waah!" Gon tumbled back as Killua leaped on him. "No, stop, that's not what I meant!" He squalled as they went down in a tangle of limbs.

"King of the mountain," Killua announced, sitting on Gon. He sniffed. "Even though you're no mountain."

Gon squirmed. "Get off me!"

Casually Killua plucked Gon's credit-book out of the boy's back pocket, seeing as it was jabbing him in the arse anyhow. "Ooh, not bad for a day's work."

"KI-llu-A!" Gon protested, squirming even more violently, but though he could press four tons to open the door of challenge, it was no even match.

Killua could open three doors -- sixteen tons' worth of stone.

"Let's see, I think I want room service...yes...and two orders of steak and potato...choco mousse for dessert...five orders should be enough...well, and ice cream too...nnn and plenty of whipped cream...and...cherries!" Killua punched the order in, giving Gon a maliciously cheerful grin as the boy tried to heave him off and succeeded only in flailing at the bedspread. "Ooh, careful, we might get fined for damages...great, now what do you want to eat, Gon?"

He rolled off the petite dark-haired boy, generously offering him his own credit-book.

"Mean, Killua!" Gon complained, rubbing his back and snatching it from him. "You should pay for my dinner if I'm paying for yours, anyhow."

Killua gave him a catlike fanged grin. "Sure, why not; you don't eat as much as I do."

"Hmmph." Gon turned up his nose and looked into his credit-book. He collapsed to the bedspread. "WAAAH! You really did order all that! The numbers went down!"

Killua idly flicked one of Gon's feet away from his face. "'Course, stupid. Think I'd say it if I wasn't doing it?"

Gon heaved himself up into sitting position with a sigh. "Hoped," he said morosely. Then he brightened, looking at Killua with his usual cheerful demeanor. "Killua, how'd you get so heavy?"

THUD. Killua fell prone to the spread. "He-heavy..." He twitched. He scrambled up, shaking a fist in his friend's face. "Idiot, I'm not that much heavier than you!"

"I see..." Gon said thoughtfully, rubbing his head. He lifted a finger. "Why'd it hurt so much when you sat on me, then? It felt like you were putting a lot of weight on me!"

Killua's eyebrow was still twitching faintly at the weight crack. "Baaa~ka," he drawled, spreading his hands noncommitally. "I've been pushing open the doors of challenge since I was a kid. I could open the first pair by the time I was six."

"Oh." Gon pondered this. "We are still kids."

"Geh." Killua veinpopped. "I don't know about you, but I'm no brat." He grabbed Gon in a headlock, catching him by surprise, and began to ruffle his hair mercilessly.

"Ahhh! Stop, stop!"

They tussled back and forth, tumbling over the bed and beyond, rolling onto the floor with emphatic thuds and nearly yanking the spread along with them.

"Ow ow ow..." Gon rubbed his head. "I take it back. Whatever I said."

Killua set his back to the bed, stretching his legs out before him. "Besides," he added judiciously, "you're a Hunter, and I'm...well, I'm a Zaoldyeck. Neither of us are kids anymore. How old are you, Gon?"

"Twelve," Gon replied, holding out both hands splayed, closing them into fists, then holding up two fingers like a 'victory' sign. "Almost thirteen!"

Killua snickered. "Well, even though you're twelve you're a man. You know?"

"I don't get it at all!" Gon replied cheerfully, then noticed his credit-book teetering on the edge of the bed, having popped out in the tussle. He snatched it, looking at Killua suspiciously, who whistled and put his arms behind his head. "I guess I'd better order...but you really should pay for me."

"What are we, married?"

Gon blinked. "What does that have to do with it?" He shook his head. "No, no...never mind! I'll order otherwise you might get to eat before me."

Chuckling a little at Gon's competitive instinct, Killua hunted around for the remote control. Celestial Tower got lots of channels, but as he'd discovered last time he had stayed, none of them were adult. He sighed and balanced the remote on one kneecap. Maybe 'those' channels were blocked off when they lodged underaged fighters in the room.

"Hey, how old are you?" Gon asked, stowing away his credit-book with another suspicious look at him.

"Thirteen," Killua replied.

"Well, you're no adult, either!" Gon said triumphantly, as if proving a point.

Killua snorted. "I'm no kid."

"Then what are you?" Gon leaned forward, clasping his knees, peering at Killua as if expecting him to transform into some creature.

"I'm a teenager!" Killua said proudly, displaying fang.

"Heeeh..." Gon said dubiously. "That's not that much different from a kid."

"It means you have to call me 'senpai!'" Killua claimed. "Because I'm older and wiser than you!" And he pounced, fully intent on giving Gon another noogie.

"Waah!" They tumbled over and over again before coming to a halt on the carpet, wrestling madly. Killua was way stronger, and faster, and knew it but he liked to give Gon a sporting chance sometimes.

Gon caught him in the face with an elbow and Killua yelped, then grabbed him with both hands and slammed him to the carpet. "Pinned ya!" he cried triumphantly. "Whoa...Gon, you okay?"

Gon's eyes were swirling.

"Gon, are you all right? Gon!" Killua cried, shaking him, then realized that might not be the best course of action and released him, peering anxiously into his friend's face. Normally he was so careful about his strength, but when he was with Gon it was easy to forget himself.

He blinked and looked down into Gon's face. The boy's lips were slightly parted.

Eheh. It was easy to forget himself in more ways than one, with Gon.

Gon's eyes unswirled. "Ahh...ouch, ouch, ouch," he mumbled. "I'm okay, I'm okay."

"Heh, sorry." Killua sat up, still slung over Gon's hips, and rubbed at his head sheepishly.

Gon's eyes swirled again.

"Ahh! What did I do, what did I do?" Killua demanded, waving a hand in front of Gon's face.

Gon heaved himself up onto his elbows. "Well, if you're going to do that, you should know already, Killua," he said reproachfully.

Blink, blink. Killua stared. No way. "Gon...?" he ventured. His friend could not possibly mean what he thought he meant, because Killua had the mind of a pervert and, really, was occasionally prone to take things the wrong way. He'd allowed himself to get unselfconscious around Gon and it was too bad.

"Hee." Suddenly Gon was grinning up at him. "I may be a kid, Killua, but I'm not stupid."

Killua leapt back both figuratively and literally, casting a wary eye over Gon from the elevation of the bed. He crouched, brow furrowed, thoughts pattering rapidly like startled mice going to ground. Did Gon know what he was talking about? He was so innocent, it was hard to say when he was being ingenuous or ignorant.

"Killua? What's wrong?" Gon exclaimed.

Killua continued to brood, ignoring the hurt look Gon gave him. "Gon? Why did you come looking for me after the Hunter Exam?"

"Because you LEFT!" Gon said somewhat shrilly. He jumped to his feet. "You were gone before I woke up, and I didn't even get a chance..." He trailed off, looking puzzled.

"Well?" Killua prompted. It wasn't that he didn't trust Gon. He did, more than anyone...more than his own family, that was for sure.

"I wanted you to know it wasn't your fault," Gon said steadily, dark eyes guileless on his. "And I wanted you to know we were still friends...I LIKE you, Killua."

Killua's heart thudded uneasily within him at that proclamation. "I like you too, Gon," he said shakily, tumbling from his heels backward onto the bed. He crossed his legs and examined Gon very, very closely. "But you could have done could have started searching for your father. Why...?"

Why me, he wanted to ask. He'd wanted to ask it back then, too, when he knew Gon and the others had come for him. But there hadn't been time or leisure for questions; getting off Zaoldyeck property had been at the top of his priority list. Why did you come looking for me?

Gon stood there just staring at him until Killua began to feel very uncomfortable. Then his brow furrowed. "Hmm..." he vocalized, sounding distressed. "Could it really don't get it?" He put his chin in his hand.

Killua got the peculiarly overlapping sensation that they were talking about the same thing. "Gon," he said, gathering handfuls of duvet.

"I mean," Gon said earnestly, approaching him, "that I really like you, Killua. And I don't want you to go away again. Wherever you go, whether it's the Hunter exam or whatever, I want to stay together with you. Okay?" Then he put his head to the side and gave him that brilliant, completely disarming smile.

Killua blinked. "I...I don't know..." he faltered, but he was unable to look away. What was it about Gon that had drawn him from the first? Effortlessly, they had fallen into friendship. Only he didn't want to spoil it, after all... "Gon, I...I feel..."

"It's okay," Gon said quickly, stepping to the edge of the bed. "Killua, I know the way your family wouldn't be easy to come right out and say what you mean sometimes...but I--"

Killua lifted two fingers and pressed them to Gon's mouth. Stop right there, he wanted to say, and couldn't. It would be so easy, a dark inner voice said, so easy to rid himself of complications and walk away without a backward glance, or shift his hand into killing configurations and take care of it that way... But with Gon, the killing impulses that had been wired into him were absent. Not buried, not submerged...when he looked at Gon he felt peace for the first time. He felt like he could be himself.

That makes him dangerous, the inner voice argued, and he recognized it. It was Irumi's voice, and he hated it. He'll lull you into complacency like an animal. He's good with animals...

No, that's not it, that's not why I want to be with Gon! He rebelled, both against the inner voice and the urgings of his upbringing.

"Gon," he began in a desperate sort of choke, not knowing where he would end up but even starting to say something was all that mattered.

"It's okay," Gon soothed. "I told you, right? You don't have to--"

Killua lunged up, grasping at Gon's shoulders and going for his mouth, though whether it was from pure desire or simply to stop Gon's speech he couldn't be sure, then or after. They bumped noses, hard, and reeled at the contact with soft exclamations of pain. Then Killua tilted his head and found a better fit.

When he opened his eyes and wrenched his mouth away, he found Gon had climbed onto the edge of the bed, kneeling before him, and he hadn't even noticed. Gon's arms were still stiff at his sides.

The boy opened his eyes one at a time and looked at him, steady, eyes unfathomable in their purity.

For a long heartbeat Killua wondered if he'd been wrong, and screwed up his friendship more thoroughly than cutting it short could do.

Then Gon tipped his head and gave him a brilliant smile. "Good!" he said happily. "I'm glad you feel the same way, Killua." Now he reached out, and the simple motion enabled Killua to unthaw.

"Why, you," Killua growled, tackling him. They went sailing off the edge of the bed, tumbling to the floor. "How long have you been holding out on me?"

"Ow ow ow!" Gon complained, but he was wrestling back, though in the half-hearted manner that made it clear from the line of his body he knew he was going to lose. "Wasn't! There just wasn't time before!"

Killia sat on him. "Well, that's true enough," he said with renewed cheer. He contemplated the Gon helpless before him. Hmm...what should he do first? Now that he knew it was okay...well, this added an entirely new dimension to their friendliness.

Gon squirmed beneath him, and now it was Killua's eyes that swirled. So...all right, he wasn't as worldly as he liked to think, though he was definitely less innocent compared to Gon.

Then: "Are we going to have sex?" Gon inquired with interest.

"G-G-Gon!" Killua exclaimed, completely staggered. Every time he thought he had Gon pinned down...

The other boy reached up, seizing his arms and pulling Killua to him. "It's all right," he said easily, "you know I was joking, right...Killua? Killua?" He peered up worriedly.

"I think," Killua said, easing himself down until their bodies were in full-length contact, "we're going to take things slow. After all, Gon, if...if what you said is true..."

"Un!" Gon's arms locked around his neck like a vise. "There's plenty of time."

Killua closed his eyes, and held Gon tight. Maybe some day, he would be able to say it. Gon, I want to stay with you forever.


Gon twisted the cord of the phone around his finger. "Un! Un! We're doing really's good to hear from you, Leorio!" He looked over to where Killua sprawled on the floor, idly flipping through the hundreds of channels that came with the television service.

"The Celestial Tower sounds like an interesting place...I'll remember that if I need money," Leorio said. "All I'd have to do is punch a few guys out, huh?"

"Yeah, you're even stronger than I am," Gon agreed. "So how are your studies going?"

"Not bad," Leorio said noncommitally. Something in his tone was wistful.

That reminded him! "So..." Gon pitched his voice low, though it was likely Killua already knew or suspected what he was going to discuss. He asked brightly, "Did you...I mean, how did things go with Kurapika?"

"Wh-wh-what!?" Leorio sputtered. "How did you kno--I mean, what are you talking about, Gon?"

"Well, you wanted to BEEP with him, didn't you?" Gon inquired earnestly.


Gon winced and held the phone a good distance away from his ear. He kept it at arm's length as Leorio began to rant quite lyrically about how he couldn't possibly know anything about the facts of life, about how he was too young, and most vehemently about how any of that with regard to he and Kurapika was none of his business in the strongest possible terms. After the first blast Killua had looked up with raised brows; it didn't take him long to grin and turn his attention back to the broadcast.

"Are you done?" Gon inquired, once the earpiece fell silent, panting.

"No," Leorio said, "I'm out of breath."

"Eeep." Gon grimaced. "Okay I'm hanging up now!"

"Wait -- wait, Gon!" the earpiece snapped.

"Ye-es?" Gon replied warily.

Leorio was silent for a long time; so much so that Gon could feel the heaviness in his silence, and the shape of the words he weighed and did not say. At last he spoke, low and tentative. "If things were that way...I think I don't have a chance yet. Kurapika has other things he needs to do."

"I understand," Gon said with a nod, though the man couldn't see him. "Well, it's something to look forward to!"

"Gon," Leorio continued, voice gaining strength, "about that...tell me you and Killua aren't--"

"Whoops I really have to go now!" Gon said in a rush. "Talk to you later Leorio bye!" He slammed the phone down.

With a sigh of relief at escaping at such close quarters, Gon leaned back against the desk.

At length Killua looked up from the broadcast again. "Didn't score, huh?"

Gon gave him a grin and a thumb's up. "Nope. We're still ahead."