In the Previous Chapter: Gon and Killua go to the Cellar so Gon can get some practice sparring. Gon goes up against the reigning champion, who wears a mask. Gon pulls off that mask and discovers she is a girl. She storms out of the bar. When Gon asks her out to dinner, she declines and tells him that he's too nice to enter in the Tournament of Ruin.

xx

Their walk back to their hotel is silent. Killua is trying his best not to be hurt by Gon asking that pretty nen-user out earlier. Gon doesn't know Killua's feelings for him. They're feelings that Gon could never reciprocate. He know falling for his friend was a stupid decision-probably the worst decision he ever made-but he can't ignore his feelings. He realizes now he'd rather be awkward around Gon all the time than… this. Pained. Frustrated. Angry. Vulnerable.

"Are you all right, Killua?" Gon asks.

"Sure. Why wouldn't I be?" He hasn't been making any outward sign of his emotions. He's been keeping his poker face.

"I don't know. I just can sense it. You're angry or something. Did I do something wrong?"

"No. Of course not."

"Then what is it?" Gon asks.

"It's nothing. Really. Nothing."

They reach their hotel and climb up to the second floor. Their rooms are at the end of the hall. Before Killua can go into his for some time to be alone and think and build a big mental wall between him and his heartache, Gon says, "Do you mind coming into my room and talking? I'm trying to decide what we should do about this Tournament. And, well, you're better at making decisions than I am."

Is he? What about the decision to fall for Gon? To allow this idea of them together to hurt him like this?

"Yeah," Killua says. "Sure."

He follows Gon into his room. Unlike Killua's stuff, which is already flung around his floor. Gon's is neatly folded on his side table.

"Could you get your playing cards, Killua? I want to do something fun if we're talking about something serious."

"Uh, okay." Killua leaves and then returns with his pack of cards. He and Gon sit across from each other on Gon's bed. Killua deals out a round of poker.

"Do you think the Tournament is a bad idea?" Gon says as he eyes his hand. "That girl made it seem like it was dangerous. I don't want you to worry about protecting me out there-even though I think I'll be okay. I was okay with that girl earlier today."

"I'm worried there will be stronger nen-users in the Tournament."

"If I'm out of my league, you'll protect me, then. And we're not even properly competing. We're just going to the temples to train on sacred ground."

Killua has a shit hand. Still, he decides to play it and bluff. "Two hundred sit-ups," he says.

Gon meets his bet.

"You sound like you still want to enter," Killua says.

"I've been trying everything to get my nen back for four years. And this is my next, and my last, option. I need to try it. And the Tournament is the only way." Gon looks up from his hand and studies Killua's face. "You're bluffing, aren't you, Killua? You're bluffing."

"What? How can you tell?" He's mastered his poker face since he a child. His parents had made sure of it.

"I can't tell from your face at all. It's perfect. Uh, I mean, your blank expression is perfect. But, I don't know, I can just tell. The same way that I can tell you're angry with me."

Killua clicks his tongue. "I'm not angry with you."

"Right." Gon plays his hand-a full house. Killua shows his cards, which is absolutely worthless. "That's two hundred sit-ups. Better get started."

Killua gets on the floor and stars. He uses the underneath of the bed to support his feet.

"Do you think it was a mistake telling so much to that girl earlier?" Gon asks.

Killua forces a small laugh. "I don't know. She was pretty."

"Was she? I guess she was." Gon laughs. "Maybe you should've been the one talking to her, if you thought she was pretty."

Maybe he should tell Gon that he wasn't particularly attracted to girls. For a while, he thought maybe he just hadn't met the right girl, but lately he had thought otherwise. He simply preferred guys.

He preferred Gon.

But he definitely wasn't going to tell Gon that. He had zero idea how Gon would react. He didn't think Gon would judge him, but what if Gon thought that Killua would come on to him? Well, he would, but not if Gon isn't interested. And Killua doubts that he would be. Gon is incredibly good looking, sincere, and good. He knows how to treat a date, how to word his feelings. Killua cannot help but be aloof and anxiety-prone all the time.

"I'm, uh, not very good with girls," Killua says in between sit-ups.

"Why not? You're good looking. I'm surprised that girls don't fall all over you."

"Well, maybe they do," Killua says, faking a smile. Why is he saying this? It's true, to an extent. Girls certainly notice him. But he never cared. It never did anything for his ego. Is he trying to prove himself desirable to Gon?

"You just need to be a bit… smoother?" Gon says.

"What? Like you? What did you say to that girl earlier? Oh, you're tall."

Gon reddens. "I can be smooth. When I want to be. I wasn't thinking about that earlier."

"Then why did you ask that girl to dinner?" Killua asks.

"Because I thought she'd know about the Tournament. And I guess I'm kind of desperate to get my nen back. It was probably lousy of me to ask her out when I'm not really interested in her."

Killua relaxes. The tightness in his chest, in an instant, becomes lighter. Hopeful. But he shouldn't be getting ahead of himself.

"Killua, have you ever, uh, done anything with anyone?" Gon asks.

Killua bites his lip. He tries to concentrate more on his sit-ups than on Gon's cute, curious expression. "Like slept with anyone?"

"I mean, well, anything."

"I've kissed people before. But not really much. I've been travelling with Alluka." He tries to restrain himself. He tries to play coy. But he can't help but ask, "Have you?"

"I've kissed a few people, too. But, uh, nothing more than that."

Killua tries to imagine Gon kissing someone, but the image quickly morphs into Gon kissing him. He finishes his sit-ups and hopes that his face isn't red ask he climbs back on to the bed.

Gon deals another hand. "I bet a story about a time I kissed someone," he says.

Killua has a decent hand, and he's curious. "Sure, I'll bet that."

The round plays out and Gon loses. Killua tries to look only half-interested, that he isn't actually dying to know what Gon's taste in significant other is like.

"Well, my first time was on Whale Island with the daughter of a fisherman and I was eight," he says.

"Nah, that doesn't count," Killua says.

"Fine, uh, my last time was several months ago. A girl. Her name was Tia. She kind of kissed me. I was visiting Leorio and she goes to his medical school. I liked her but not in a romantic way, and I told her that. So we stayed friends."

That is pretty tame in comparison to Killua's most recent story. Alluka stayed home while he went to a bar, where he met a pretty, foreign boy and made out with him in the bathroom. That had been the first time he'd kissed a boy.

"Why weren't you that into her?" Killua asks.

"Eh, she wasn't my type," Gon says.

But what is your type? Killua thinks.

"We should register for the Tournament tomorrow," Gon says, clearly changing the subject. Even though he was the one who suggested sharing the kissing story. Maybe he'd gotten cocky and expected to win.

"Okay."

"And you still think it's a good idea?" Gon says. "I trust your judgment."

"I won't let anything happen to you," Killua says.

Gon beams, and Killua marvels at the innocence of his smile. Gon has gone through a lot in his time spent searching for his father, fighting the Chimera Ants, and losing his nen, yet his smile is the most cheerful and radiant Killua has ever seen.

"I know you won't," he says.

Next Chapter: The Tournament of Ruin begins and Gon and Killua run into a few familiar faces as well as trouble.