Title : Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken

Author : lynlyn

Warnings : Implied sexytiems between two men embedded somewhere in the summaries of the latter chapters.

Rating : PG-13 for adult themes

Disclaimer : I do not own Hunter X Hunter, its characters, or anything associated with it. Any resemblance of the characters or the story itself to actual people and situations is entirely unintentional and accidental.

A/N : As I mentioned when I posted Pest Control, WH has been discontinued. This is the last update you'll ever get for it, and contains the first part of chapter 23 I managed to write, plus a summary of all the scenes and chapters I'd originally planned to write, collated from my rather disorganized notes. It's been one hell of a journey, bringing my imagined reworking of the canon to life and receiving your reactions to my writing, and I'd like to thank you all for your support and encouragement, and apologize once again for failing to follow through in the end. I hope you'll find these notes to be a satisfactory finish—if I had managed to write them all out, anyway—I actually don't. Find them very satisfactory, I mean, at my current level of experience. If I ever push through with that rewrite I mentioned, I'd probably change a lot of things.


WILD HEARTS CAN'T BE BROKEN

Chapter 23 – Best-Laid Plans

Only sheer self-control kept Kuroro from going after Kurapika and grilling the blond for clues to his strange behavior – self-control, and because he knew that the younger man wouldn't like him hanging about the door while he bathed. The point of this whole exercise – and that meant almost the entirety of the past two months – was to gain and keep the boy's trust, so he shouldn't do anything to threaten the strange quasi-relationship they had.

… Not that he hadn't already gone and antagonized the blond, however. Kuroro sat staring at the bedroom door where Kurapika had disappeared through just minutes before, mind carefully recalling the conversation they had word for word. Given the fact that it had already happened, reconstructing the confrontation was an exercise in futility, but he had to understand why it had happened in the first place.

He allowed himself a few mental replays before giving up in favor of muttering a very quiet oath. And out of sight of his companion's too-astute eyes, he was free to castigate himself as many times as he wanted after realizing that he'd been acting like a certain fake Ryodan member with a penchant for clown makeup and inappropriate metaphors to ripe fruits.

Because that was what had happened, no matter how he looked at it: he'd wanted to tease the blond, and he was still harboring this foreign and very sudden urge to see if there were any buttons to push – and he'd found them successfully, it seemed. He'd gotten a rise. Kurapika had challenged him, and those defiant blue eyes had invoked a rush of predatory thrill so powerful that it had driven all of his caution away.

Kurapika was lovely when angry – he already knew as much, so that same base part of his mind was now obstinately, resentfully insisting that he hadn't done anything wrong; indeed, it kept pointing out that he was in the perfect position to take advantage of their situation if he chose to do so. Of course, there could only be one possible outcome if he ever listened to that part of his mind, and if it ever came to pass, then it would be as if he'd killed the boy with his own hands when they first encountered each other back in York Shin.

So Kuroro dismissed all further thoughts on that issue and turned his attention to damage control. Or maybe he could just act like nothing happened and have things go back to normal, as it seemed that sudden changes in their routine and actions that made Kurapika feel that he was being bought tended to bring out the blond's more unpredictable side…

The blast of the ship's horn announcing their departure made him blink and look around for a clock – he also had to shake off the disconcerting feeling that he was waking up from a trance. It meant that he'd been thinking hard enough to lose his awareness of his surroundings.

Kuroro sighed and shook his head. First things first – he reached out and snagged the room service booklet from one of the side tables. It already felt like he was courting his companion – better do things all the way, especially with the pretense they had to keep up. He settled on a course after a few minutes of flipping through the glossy pages, dialed one of the numbers and rattled off his orders for a light lunch. Then he spent the next few minutes inspecting the rooms that he'd booked on the fly.

Kurapika took an inordinate amount of time with his bath; their food had already been delivered by an attendant by the time the blond came out, wet hair toweled into disarray and fingers wrinkled from soaking in water for too long. Kuroro looked up from inspecting the silverware and caught the bemused glance Kurapika threw at the food that hadn't been there when he marched off into the bathroom.

"I hope you don't mind; I went ahead and ordered room service. I figured that you'd prefer staying here for now," Kuroro explained.

The confusion on Kurapika's face changed into something odd, unidentifiable, and Kuroro found, to his slight surprise, that he couldn't tell if it was annoyance, disgust, dismay, or any of a host of other emotions, all of them probably negative. It lasted for only a second before the boy schooled his features back to a mask of blank confusion.

Well, a fine confused pair they made for a lunch date; Kuroro had no idea what to make of Kurapika's disapproval, and he was still wondering why the boy had blown up on him and then made that abrupt about-face—

"Room service on the get-go?" Kurapika asked a bit tartly. "You really aren't planning on holding back, are you?"

Kuroro shrugged, the very picture of innocence and normalcy, while inside he was reevaluating Kurapika's responses as soon as he got them and wondering how to best respond without triggering another temper tantrum. So the blond was still displeased with him, but for whatever reason had decided that it was okay to continue talking to the person who had pissed him off.

The older man marked that willingness to respond as a positive sign, and spared a moment to wonder, just a bit sourly, why he felt like a husband trying to placate a wife with a bad case of PMS. Maybe he should just go for the honesty route in this case.

"I did tell you that I plan on spoiling the both of us rotten," he said, and—okay, so he couldn't help trying to inject an apologetic tone into his voice, and he couldn't stop his lips from curving into a small but charming grin, and his body automatically moved to pull one of the chairs out, arm making an inviting motion like a gentleman ushering a lady into her seat, and with any luck Kurapika would think that he was merely joking, playacting as a way to poke fun at the lavish rooms he himself had chosen.

The blond rolled his eyes, though, flicking them to the side in a well-practiced gesture of exasperation, and instead of going along and taking the proffered seat he pulled the other chair out and plopped down on it with a huff. Kuroro chuckled in amusement and moved to sit down on the chair he'd meant for the younger man.

At least Kurapika didn't reject the food outright, and Kuroro imagined that he might have seen something that looked like approval in the boy's eyes after he took his first bite of the entrée. Then after a couple of minutes of him trying to think of a conversation topic and Kurapika quietly and systematically demolishing his plate of salad, the older man realized that he was going to have to take the lead again – which was just as well. He just thought of a bizarre series of activities he was having a hard time imagining Kurapika doing – which followed that he had to get the blond into those mental landscapes somehow.

"Do you have anything you want to do for the rest of the day?"

Kurapika looked up from his meal and regarded the question for a moment. "Not really. I'll be perfectly fine staying here for the rest of the trip," the blond replied.

A lie; Kuroro didn't know if he said it out of courtesy, or because he was refusing to play along with the engaged-couple-out-on-a-pleasure-cruise act. He knew Kurapika's type, and he knew that the boy would be jumping at the bit to explore the ship right about now – if only he didn't keep disapproving of the way they got on it.

"Would you mind keeping me company, then?" he asked with the most casual tone of voice he could manage.

Kurapika didn't react to his efforts to keep his question innocent. The boy lowered his eyes to his plate and pensively pushed a caper around with his fork. "You make it sound like I have a choice," he said eventually.

"You do," Kuroro reassured, and he wasn't lying, but—"but I'd look stupid shopping on my own."

Kurapika raised an eyebrow and gave him a look of disbelief.

"And I really do want your company," the older man added, and fortunately managed to sound like he'd timed his statements intentionally instead of just hastily adding the second reason to amend his first one.

"Oh." The blond frowned, delicately speared the caper with one of the tines on his fork and slipped it into his mouth, and then slowly repeated, "Like I said, I don't have any particular plans…"

-ooOOOoo-

The second time he said that he didn't have any particular plans, Kurapika had phrased it more deliberately than the first time so there was no doubting that he did have things he wanted to do and see, but he was deferring to Kuroro's greater experience in these matters since it was obvious that the man already had his own plans for the two of them. It wasn't as if they could go their separate ways, in any case, what with him needing to stay within Kuroro's line of sight at all times and them having to act like they were engaged—

All right, so it was more of the first. The second didn't really weigh that heavily as long as he didn't think about it or let the infrequent stares get to him, and he fully understood that the need to stay close wasn't anything as simple as an act. Heck, there was no telling what the Judgment Chain might do if he lagged behind and found himself separated from Kuroro by a crowd of passengers big enough to cut off their lines of sight to each other.

So it wasn't at all difficult, telling himself that this close contact was required, but by the end of their second day on the ship Kurapika was beginning to think that maybe he shouldn't have agreed to let Kuroro take the lead so readily. He had no idea what the man was trying to do, but to him it felt like Kuroro was making him run the full gamut of experiences possible on the vessel in the three days that they had before they were due to get off at New Port.

Sure, he enjoyed the personal tour of the ship's command center, and he definitely didn't mind the three hours in total that they spent in different bookstores on the first day. He was more bewildered than anything when Kuroro insisted on watching at least one classical play in the theater's lineup of performances, and—all right, fine, their very comfortable stateroom made it ridiculously easy to fall asleep even though he'd normally object to the single bed arrangement.

But the rest of it—!

Ice skating was a strange, strange activity to drag him to, especially considering the fact that neither of them knew how to skate on ice. They were more likely to just use nen to keep their footing on any slippery iced-over surface rather than rely on the bulky footwear. Kurapika had considered the possibility that Kuroro might have been lying just to get him to agree to skate with him, ("It's something new to try out, right? Come on, it'll be fun! We can learn together!") but the sight of the man slipping and falling flat on his ass the second he stepped out on the rink had destroyed any such suspicions. He didn't do any better (most embarrassing ten minutes of his life), but since they both had preternatural grace and reflexes honed from extensive combat experience, it didn't take them more than the few handful of minutes to figure out the basics before they were both effortlessly gliding around the rink like seasoned pros.

Unfortunately, ice skating was also an uncomfortably public activity, and several families with impressionable, inquisitive kids were treated to the sight of two grown men gingerly leading each other around on the ice—and when Kuroro laughingly suggested hitting the pool and the sports deck next, ("They have a rock-climbing wall! And sparring mats and bench-pressing equipment! Hey, maybe we can hustle the gym instructors—") Kurapika very bluntly refused.

Kuroro relented after and didn't attempt to drag him into any more of the ship's fun-filled family-themed activities, although it could very well have been a calculated move on his part, because their first dinner was outside their rooms, in one of the many restaurants scattered around the ship, and very much in public. Given how horrified he'd been upon hearing and realizing that part of the ship's crew and staff now considered them to be a happily engaged couple, Kuroro must have known that he'd be leery about placing himself in a situation where they'd be scrutinized or perhaps judged by a largely conservative passenger pool.

Not that it mattered from a practical viewpoint. Nobody knew them here. This wasn't supposed to be one of those situations where he'd be ashamed to be seen traveling with someone. What was important was that they'd lost their pursuers, and there were no other nen wielders on the ship, unless one had managed to sneak in under zetsu. Kuroro's general demeanor did seem more relaxed to him, though, which led Kurapika to believe that they really were in the clear, despite being stuck on a floating chunk of metal in the middle of the ocean.

-ooOOOoo-

This is where my will to continue writing kind of… sputtered and died out completely. I suspect that my trying to churn out paragraphs upon paragraphs of descriptive fun-filled family-themed activities might have doomed it to a lingering death. But there was supposed to be something about Kuroro hustling blackjack tables at the casino, and wine tasting, Kurapika spending a few hours at the library, and both of them just exploring the ship while pretending to be happily engaged.

There's a grand ball for the ship's passengers on the evening of the second day, a tie-and-gown affair that Kuroro can't resist wanting to attend. All his dragging Kurapika around the shops isn't just because he was being an ass, either—he manages to procure tuxedos for the both of them. Kurapika sees the fine clothing and goes very quiet, very contemplative, thinks back to the activities of the past two days and realizes that under the flair and outlandish gestures, Kuroro truly was trying to get him to relax and enjoy their trip. The day's getting late, it's time to get dressed and go to dinner, and he suddenly asks Kuroro about the Kuruta massacre. At any other time Kuroro would have attempted to deflect, but he realizes that he can't now, mostly because of the solemn look on Kurapika's face—no anger, just grief and longing, and the backdrop of a truly lovely sunset from the balcony behind them. So he answers seriously, but not completely; he still thinks that Kurapika won't be able to accept his reasons until he's standing on Ryuuseigai soil.

Whatever his answer, it's his sincerity that soothes Kurapika's agitation, and his previous dissatisfaction with Kuroro's actions visibly melts away. He regretfully tells Kuroro that he's not in the mood to keep up their pretense in public, though, and Kuroro surprisingly relents and agrees that they can just skip the dinner. An explosion somewhere nearby and then the ship-wide alarm getting triggered derail their plans for a quiet, companionable evening in their rooms, and minutes later they find out that their behemoth of a cruise ship is being attacked by pirates. A stupendous stroke of (mis)fortune. Activity is just the thing they need to work off this weird mood and get things back to normal between them, Kurapika figures, and moves to get dressed. Kuroro follows suit, because of course the kid wants them to fight off the pirates and save everyone. They creep out of their suite, pick off the small boarding parties scouring the corridors for stray guests who might be late going to the grand ball, and eventually make their way to the ballroom, where they make short, sweet work of the pirates terrorizing the ship's richest and most glamorous passengers.

They're hailed and treated as heroes, and there would have been a few hilarious scenes of Kuroro lapping up the attention (and the irony of him being called a hero) and Kurapika being quite uncomfortable with the increased scrutiny. The ship's crew even try to persuade them to stay the full length of the journey (What an honor, having two pro Hunters using their much-vaunted skills on behalf of their own ship!), but they're adamant about getting off at their destination. They do manage to disembark at their port of call without making too much noise, to Kurapika's great relief, and from there begin to make their way to Ryuuseigai via land.

(Where was Mizuken in all this? Watching from the galleys like the creeper!babysitter he no doubt felt like for the duration of the whole thing, and itching to help knock some pirate heads together, but it was obviously not the kind of situation which would have needed his intervention. He would have submitted a report to Netero grudgingly detailing Kuroro's oddly protective actions during their fight against the marauding pirates. The old man would have approved with great delight.)

From there to Ryuuseigai would have needed a couple of transitional chapters, and would have meant more of that in-between bridging, one the hardest kinds of chapters to write for me, because I would need to come up with seemingly mundane but meaningful scenes and situations. The way I wrote WH was that I had several key milestones, or scenarios I really wanted to see happening planned out until the end, and then I had to find a way to bridge the gaps between those milestones while writing chapter after chapter in order, and in a rigidly linear fashion. Suffice it to say, this method became problematic whenever I had trouble with those bridges-which was most of the time. Chapter 23 was one such chapter—I just lost the motivation to work on the transition and months and then years started slipping by until one day I tried to pick up where I left off and realized that I couldn't continue anymore.

Incidentally, I'm trying a different approach for Pest Control; rather than restrict myself to a linear timeline, I've been writing whatever I wanted to write. I actually already have the bulk of maybe… four more chapters written. There's still the problem of writing the transition scenes, but since Pest Control isn't meant to be linear, or even bound to a set timeline, I can resort to time skips and write what are technically drabbles to pad the transitions, rather than force myself to narrate what's happening day by day, week after week, in a timeline that's supposed to span several months.

So it takes Kuroro and Kurapika maybe one to two more weeks of low-key traveling before they reach the fringes of Shooting Star City, but first, they have to get through the border. Whether by accident or by design, Kuroro's chosen the route that will take them through a large town populated entirely by bounty hunters, all looking to get a lucky break. Right beside the world's trash dump is the perfect place to catch bounties before they slip into no-man's land, after all. Kuroro's recognized almost immediately, and a massive chase ensues. Even grandmothers and their lapdogs are wired to attack targets in this place. I had one scene planned where they crash a crochet party only to find half a dozen farsighted, rickety, mothball-y grannies pointing massive shotguns at them. And another scene where I would have tried to work in Kuroro pushing Kurapika into an alcove and kissing him—to throw off pursuers, he'll insist, because they'll look like a couple making out and not two dudes on the run.

Kuroro successfully pulls off that bit of seduction with his balls intact, but only because Kurapika's stressed at being treated like a criminal, and mightily confused at his initial reaction, which wasn't punching Kuroro's nose in. In fact, he doesn't know how to react, has no room to spare for thinking about it further because what feels like the entire town is bearing down on them, and while escaping should be ridiculously easy for them, he hasn't sunken so low as to hit the screeching grannies leading the pack baying for their heads.

They eventually make it out of that dreadful town and over the inviolate line marking Ryuuseigai on the map. There is, incongruously, an inn beside the highway leading into the city proper, and Kuroro throws discretion out the window and gets them a room. With a single bed, but they're exhausted from getting chased around and won't care about having to share a bed, except Kurapika wakes up the next morning to find Kuroro spooning him from behind.

Kurapika realizes, to his horror, that his first groggy thought upon waking up was how warm and comfortable he felt, before he remembered that there's only one other person in the room who could end up draped all over him. He lies frozen, unable to squirm out of Kuroro's embrace, and while he agonizes over his inner turmoil and a wholly-unexpected anticipation at wanting to see what might happen next, Kuroro starts waking up then, perhaps having unconsciously sensed Kurapika's distress. He's half-asleep, and finds himself with an armful of Kuruta; he cannot resist nuzzling the warm skin at the back of Kurapika's neck, or letting his hand splayed over Kurapika's belly wander, just a bit, but he wakes up completely after another moment and takes stock of their situation. Not an entirely unpleasant one, as far as he's concerned, but Kurapika's clearly uncomfortable—even though he's pretty sure he can fix that if he really tries. He decides—no—sighs and murmurs something nearly inaudible—an apology, or a curse?—and rolls off the bed and disappears into the tiny bathroom.

What follows is an awkward conversation over what passes for breakfast in that side of the world, as Kuroro admits to being attracted to Kurapika for a while now. He mostly lets the kid digest his confession while trying to look as unthreatening as possible, but he also stays quiet rather than do the noble thing and promise not to do anything in the future. I would have found this scene hard to write because up to now I still haven't figured out how Kurapika could have reacted. WH Kurapika is pretty inexperienced, but I'm actually quite tired of that portrayal now after years of having virginal Kurapika as my main muse, and if all goes according to plan, you will see me trying to write a less naïve Kurapika in Pest Control.

Whatever happens with that discussion, Kuroro takes them deeper into Ryuuseigai territory. There would have been more transitional chapters here, and I would have tried to world-build a bit to flesh out a setting that has precious little material in canon. I imagine Shooting Star City to be structured almost like a normal city, except instead of the city center being crowded with buildings, that's probably where they'll find a few vital installations struggling to keep clear of the higher mountains of trash. Deeper into the city center is also where the place is actually more inhospitable, with the air too foul and the ground too littered with unmentionables that it would be too dangerous for anyone to walk around without protective suits. The only people who would go about as they are, are the poor sods who've given up living, and nen-wielders like the Geneiryodan who are pretty much indestructible by normal means. There's also some sort of social structure, a few laws in place to prevent people from completely turning into primitive animals, and a dysfunctional sort of order meant to enforce it all.

Further out from the city center is where I think most Shooting Star residents might live and eke out a semblance of living. I'd planned on describing a massive, sprawling marketplace, where one might find stalls bartering basic necessities right beside establishments selling black market pieces. This is where Kurapika fortuitously stumbles across a music sheet the seedy merchant claims was composed by the devil. Kuroro's mostly unlocked his nen by this point, and Kurapika's able to use gyou and determine that the sheets are saturated with nen—the notes look like they've been burned into the paper with a black, malicious aura. They've got to be the music sheets Senritsu's been looking for, and Kurapika wants to buy them and send them to her, but he doesn't have the money, and he's hesitant to ask Kuroro for help.

The market regulars know who Kuroro is, of course, but they have no idea who Kurapika might be. The stall owner recalls the rumors of Ubogin getting killed and infers that maybe the blond is the replacement Kuroro's brought back, and then carelessly issues a challenge that he wouldn't have thought of so recklessly if Kurapika didn't look so genteel and mild-mannered: Kurapika can have the music sheets for free if he's able to defeat his chosen representatives. If Kurapika's defeated, on the other hand, his slot within the Ryodan goes to the winner. Kuroro's surprised and pleased that Kurapika's already being identified as a Geneiryodan member, and amused as hell that the boy's good looks are once again making things easier for them. Kurapika, on the other hand, isn't so happy at being lumped together with the Ryodan, and eagerly, viciously beats thug after thug and walks away with the music sheets.

(Senritsu receives the music sheets in her mail one day. I won't say what she does with them, or what happens to her after, because this is one idea I'm hoping to reuse for Pest Control.)

Here is also where I would have tried to explore and establish what positions the Geneiryodan hold within the social strata of Ryuuseigai, or what roles they might play. Their brief reappearance during the Chimera Ant arc makes me think that they might be like what the Inju were to the mafia underground: elite units that can be called on if something threatens the stability and safety of Ryuuseigai as a whole, which was what the invading group of Chimera Ants did. Whether they'll answer the summons is another matter, however, but for the most part they can probably usually tell if they're really needed, and will act like the lovably sympathetic villains they've been portrayed to be. (See Phinx's reaction to the mutated Ryuuseigai resident's pleas for them to kill him rather than let him suffer the indignity of living on as a monster.)

So they probably hold this odd celebrity status, but how they got to that point, and how their backgrounds tie in with their criminal activities—and indeed, what they did to the Kuruta clan—would have been the next problem I'd have tried to untangle. For the next couple of weeks or so, Kurapika learns what life in Ryuuseigai is like, how woefully vague and inadequate the stories are, and how misleading, in some cases, because there is life, and it's doing its best to flourish, even while buried under the world's biggest trash dump. It's more of that sneaky humanizing that Kuroro's resorting to in order to change Kurapika's perceptions of the Ryodan, more interactions—a spar or two against Nobunaga, Phinx or Feitan, some bonding scenes with the women, geeking out with Shalnark, and of course more development of his relationship with Kuroro, but this time with the rest of the Ryodan around. It's a chance for them to start accepting that Kurapika's becoming a more permanent fixture of their group (and for Shalnark to start the betting pool on whether or not their dancho is sleeping with Kurapika), but my main objective was to get Kurapika to sympathize with them even more, and to learn why the Kuruta were attacked, and find out that there might be more appropriate targets for his revenge other than the Ryodan.

This is where I realized that I might have made a mistake, inventing that organization. I meant for it to be the ones pulling the strings in the place, and for them to be the ones who gave the original order to attack the Kuruta, and make the Ryodan out to be their hired hands at first who eventually grew strong enough to break free of their control. It's a very flimsy twist, and although I believe that I would have found a way to make it work, I now hate myself for coming up with it. It's also very likely one of the things that killed my motivation to continue WH, because I cannot make myself write it out now that I have better ideas on how to get Kurapika to learn to tolerate Kuroro without whitewashing or trying to shift the blame for the massacre.

In any case, Lyros is still there, watching and biding their time, but once they've seen enough, they send Sahide to grab Kurapika. No one could have expected a brazen kidnapping deep in the heart of Shooting Star territory, and the attempt succeeds; the seal forbidding Kurapika from leaving Kuroro's side triggers partially, constricting his heart and permanently turning his eyes red, and Sahide freezes the seals on his heart to stop them triggering further, effectively undoing all the progress Kuroro's made on his nen the past few weeks. That's the least of Kurapika's problems, however: he's in pain, unable to move or access his nen, and he can't turn his eyes back to normal. It doesn't take Sahide and the organization bigwigs long to realize that Kurapika is slowly dying, and probably will die in a matter of hours, but that's all right, they're only after his genetic information, anyway, (yes, genetic material to make genetically-engineered superior human beings was the reason I was going to use to explain why they went after the Kuruta in the first place) so they take samples and leave him with Sahide.

I should probably explain a bit of the history I'd thought up for big brother and the organization, despite how much I'd rather bury the idea where I can forget about it. Sahide was, in a nutshell, supposed to be the brilliant and progressive-thinking threat to the Kuruta's reclusive way of life. They feared discovery and persecution, while Sahide would have them open their borders and try to get the rest of the world to accept their tribe. He also believed that something in their eyes, their bloodline—is the key to curing a lot of diseases. After all, pure-blooded Kuruta were stronger and healthier than half-bloods and normal people, even without the benefit of nen. Of course, the village elders would never allow them to donate their eyes or their bodies for science, and the rift eventually grows too wide to mend—Sahide leaves the village, and the elders ban him from returning and erase Kurapika's memories of him. Sahide finds his way to Lyros, who offer him their resources and aid in attaining his goals, except it's help he didn't foresee or want. The Kuruta massacre is carried out, and something in Sahide breaks irrevocably at seeing his people getting slaughtered because of his actions. He possibly goes insane at this point, and lives on, driven by a singular wish to preserve his clan's memory by continuing his experiments on what remained of them after the massacre.

That all changes when Kurapika's existence is discovered. He is essentially the grail of that project: a nen-wielder capable of using all types of nen at one hundred percent. If they can figure out how his ability works they might be able to replicate the effect even for people without the capability for nen, and enhance the body to its most perfect, peak performance.

It's a pipe dream, one that shouldn't be worth sacrificing his baby brother over, Sahide realizes as he watches Kurapika struggle simply to breathe. His sudden moment of clarity—bittersweet and agonizing after years of being lost—happens just as the Geneiryodan show up to break Kurapika out and cause mass mayhem and destruction. I should probably also mention here that Lyros' headquarters is right next to Ryuuseigai, or maybe on a hidden island off its coast, and that the Geneiryodan have been waiting for a chance to destroy their shadowy hold on Ryuuseigai for years now and—yeeeaah, it's a lot of clichés piled on top of one another. Sahide makes the final, fatal decision to turn on his employers, and turns Kurapika over to Kuroro before heading back into the base. The Ryodan get away just in time to see the compound disappear in a giant conflagration. It's assumed that Kurapika's brother dies in the explosion he triggers to wipe Lyros out of existence and atone for his sins.

The Ryodan get back to Ryuuseigai, and Kuroro works out what's wrong with Kurapika. It's all very technical and I ended up twisting that thing known as artistic license to shameful levels, but the end result is that Kuroro takes Kurapika to a nen exorcist and has all the seals removed, even the original set, which is kind of symbolic of Kurapika being freed of his revenge-centric lifestyle. If I'd gotten this far, I would have agonized over whether to try writing them sleeping together, but either way, a really important conversation happens where Kurapika asks why Kuroro is letting him go, and Kuroro answers, simply, honestly, that he's fallen in love with Kurapika. It was inevitable, with everything they've been through, and it's just ironic that it's Kuroro who confesses first. But Kurapika looks at Kuroro sitting on the bed in front of him and looking sad and forlorn and like the world is about to end because Kurapika is sure to leave now that he can, and finally realizes that the feeling is very much mutual. Somewhere along the way, he's fallen in love with Kuroro, too. He steps forward, leans down, and tenderly gives Kuroro a kiss.

At the very least, I would have had Kuroro give Kurapika a handjob, and it being Kurapika's first time with anyone, it would have been very fluffy. Or rather, I would have killed myself trying to make it the most beautiful first time ever. They fall asleep with Kuroro holding Kurapika like the kid's the most precious thing he's ever stolen or found, and the next morning, Kuroro wakes up to find Kurapika gone, and his earring on the bedside table, a promise that Kurapika will come back to him.

The epilogue is six months later, with Kuroro being lovesick and pining after Kurapika at a local bar. The Ryodan are exasperated—they're totally not used to seeing their dancho being whiny and pathetic. The girls are maybe just a tad bit amused because they've never seen him this sexually repressed, and the guys are sympathetic because Kurapika was indeed cruel to have left Kuroro not even a day after Kuroro tore open his heart for him. (Shalnark might also have figured out that Kurapika was the only one who got any, and that Kuroro didn't do anything to take care of his own needs out of consideration for Kurapika. What rudeness!)

But then they start smiling, because they can see Kurapika at the entrance. Kuroro turns around, and—oh, I just remembered that I did drabble a bit for this scene. Here, have one last bonus before I wrap things up.

32. Sorrow

"You're obsessed," Nobunaga tells him bluntly one morning, six months to the day when he woke up to find Kurapika gone, an earring softly glinting red on the nightstand, and the ghostly touch of lips on his forehead. He doesn't say anything to refute the accusation, only thinks that he's not really drunk, not quite yet – it's still eight in the morning, after all – and dolefully looks down at the glass of expensive whiskey he'd poured for himself.

33. Stupidity

On second thought, he must have been drunk, and stupidly so – he fails to spot his Ryodan breaking into silly, relieved grins, doesn't see the not-so-subtle nudges and head-jerking, and utterly misses the new nen signature entering the scope of his senses until the owner is standing right behind him.

34. Serenade

"Man, I could kiss you right now," he hears Phinx telling Kurapika, and Shalnark swearing how it's been a difficult six months with their dancho moping around and taking out his repressed frustrations on the handiest target (it's usually Nobunaga or the nearest rival gang, but after a while even the most persistent contenders for the title of most notorious gang in Shooting Star learn to stay away with Kuroro being in that perpetually peculiar mood after the Kuruta left). Normally he wouldn't stand for his subordinates saying those things about him (he's going to kill Phinx later) but today he doesn't care; today Kurapika is really standing before him, healthy and happy and smiling a shy, bemused half-smile, today all he can think of is how grateful he is that he hasn't drunk enough to pass out and miss the boy's return, that Kurapika is the most beautiful thing he's ever seen, that the depressing love song that's been playing in his mind since that morning has now changed into something that sounded more like a serenade.

Let me end things with a couple more notes. No summary offered in place of a full story can ever do justice to the work it's summarizing, and I might have cheapened things by laying down my ideas in this manner, but it can't be helped. Like I said, I wanted to offer closure for those who've spent time reading my writing, telling me what they think of it and supporting and encouraging me. I still get surprised—and really very guilty—whenever I get reviews for WH in my inbox. Sometimes I also get reviews telling me what they didn't like, which is appreciated, but not really necessary. I know what I did wrong, and I'm hardly going to repeat my mistakes. Telling me that Kuroro is out-of-character in a fic I've long decided to drop is just going to make me feel relieved that I've stopped writing it.

That said, I'd really love it if people would tell me what they thought of Pest Control. :)

Once again, thank you all so much for the support and feedback you've given me in the course of my writing Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken.

January 29, 2014.