He'd never actually planned on following a Hunter for two months straight, but it happened.

Hisoka hadn't actually been looking for-anything, really. A fight, eventually-that was a given-but nothing in particular.

He found Bisky.

~::~

He'd intended to guage her strength. He knew she hid-what, he didn't know-just that she was stronger than she appeared, and he hadn't had a chance to size her up properly. He'd expected to to make chase, make a determination, and then-if he felt like it-make the kill.

What he found instead was... fascination.

~::~

She made a habit of taking in strays- much more often than she would ever admit.

It never lasted long. She shipped them out and off, or simply disappeared. Some of them wanted her to stay longer; some of them didn't care. Either way, she never stuck around for more than a few months.

(Most of them didn't make it as long as Gon and Killua had.)

She didn't always treat them like Gon and Killua, either. If they showed promise, sure-but she was always right there, ready to cut the strings, to let her puppet slump down to keep her pupils safe.

Hm. Maybe he was reading her wrong. She certainly didn't seem merciful, in spite of everything.

Still, she guarded the weaker ones more closely-and the ones who didn't want to become hunters were always sent home in one piece.

...mostly.

~::~

He didn't intend to run into her, it just kept happening.

He found her while looking to blow off some steam. He ran across her in the middle of nowhere. He glimpsed her golden ponytails when he was just trying to get groceries, and he knew it was her-he'd been fooled before, but she never really tried to hide from him.

She never tried to fight him either-and for the first time, he wasn't sure how he felt about that.

~::~

"You know I'm aware of your presence, right?"

Well. This was unexpected.

He'd expected her to call him out when they were alone, to conserve on collateral damage. She wasn't the tidiest of fighters, but she did her best to contain things, most of the time.

Apparently, he was to be an object lesson for two of the greener students she'd picked up a grand total of two weeks ago.

This should be fun.

~::~

Fun. The word was... changing, somehow.

He knew what he loved, and he pursued it avidly. It wasn't often that those feelings changed-he'd spent a lifetime catering to them.

So the first night he didn't pulsate with the joy and satisfaction of the kill-of picking a choice fruit, right at its peak, it had been so perfect, so juicy, so ripe-he did something he hadn't done in a long time.

He went to a bar.

That in and of itself wasn't unusual at all, but he'd built up quite a balance-and a bank account-over the years.

When the authorities finally arrived, all the hard liquor was gone-and everyone was dead.

Everyone.

On the entire block.

~::~

She knew.

He was surprised he didn't feel elated.

He only killed the entire bar that night.

~::~

She confronted him, finally, in a desert region.

He'd expected her to find a quiet area, but he had ALSO expected that quiet area to be within walking distance of at least one town.

(Incidentally, the walk to the closest outpost-not town, but outpost-would take three.

He only had one day's worth left of rations.

He'd planned on hunting for his food.)

She showed him her true form.

It. Was. GLORIOUS.

~::~

The next time he found her with a new protegé, it was to the tune of a small army bearing down on top of them. She had her serious face on and was half-shielding the otherwise capable child with her body-assuming stance after stance that placed her between her student and the brunt of the violence.

It wasn't a very long fight, or a very skilled fight, or a very complicated one-and yet he came away more satisfied than he'd felt in years.

~::~

He tried to avoid her after that. Tried to get back to his roots. The killing sprees had been ungrettable lapses in his usual self-control, and it was more fun to choose his targets carefully and flay or fillet at will.

He wasn't sure if it was as fulfilling as it used to be or not.

~::~

They were thrown together by accident, this time by a threat to the hunter organization that Hisoka simply found amusing to play with.

Bisky was unimpressed.

She also stuck close. It was a battlefield. Strategy was more important than emotions.

Hisoka understood, and he also didn't.

~::~

"Wouldn't it be more fun to keep them alive?"

Hisoka only slightly turns his head.

"Why?"

"Killing is easier, if you think about it. There's no chance for them to come back."

Hisoka would have snorted, if he were the sort of person to snort.

"I only pick the fruit that's ripe. Leave it any longer, and it decays."

Bisky shakes her head almost imperceptibly, shifting her face further into the shadows.

"Not always."

He fixes his eyes on her, curious. He doesn't respond.

When she finally meets his gaze, she says, "Each fighter has different strengths and strategy. Every living thing can be killed in similar ways. Not everyone is crippled by the same thing.

That's why it's more interesting. To cripple. Rather than kill."

She gets up, lies down, and sends a message clearer than her words: I'm sleeping now.

Hisoka doesn't sleep that night. And although he thinks them silly, sometimes her words burn more than the flames do.

~::~

They've fought side by side for a while now. Bisky, because it was more practical; Hisoka, because it was more interesting.

They never really intended to part ways after the main threat ended.

They just did.

~::~

Several months later, Hisoka doesn't finish off his victim-a runner with prosthetics, who'd used that passion to form their nen ability.

Instead-since they'd found a way to continue to run, in spite of the loss of their legs-he uses a special technique.

His victim is still alive, but paralyzed with a special move-starting in the neck.

As an afterthought, Hisoka carves an H into the now-numb flesh.

~::~

He fights it. He doesn't go on any more killing sprees-but almost. Instead of one life, maybe two. Maybe three lives.

Lives that he never would have taken before Bisky's words.

He fights that just as much as the urge to let them live intensifies.

~::~

Hisoka's always been a man of his passions-but his passions have always belonged to him. If another person was connected to that passion, they were either on the list or dead within a short period of time.

He wasn't used to... whatever this was.

~::~

Somewhere along the way, he just stops killing.

He doesn't stop spilling blood in copious amounts, and maybe he doesn't intend to leave them alive, at least at first... but they are.

Some of them even make it to the hospital.

Within the year, a few of them even make it home.

~::~

He's started carving H's, now, to go along with his crippling disfigurements.

Illumi doesn't understand the "not killing," but he admires Hisoka's technique.

~::~

Somewhere along the way-and this change was the most gradual of them all, so gradual that one day, he wakes up and wonders when he started doing it-he no longer cripples his victims. (Not... all the time, at least.)

He leaves an H instead.

When the first victim comes back to find him, fire in his eyes and bloodlust on his tongue-Hisoka smiles.

Hisoka smiles in a way he hasn't smiled in a very, very long time.

~::~

She's not used to being desired.

Not in the way she clearly desires other men-she's a healthy woman with a strong will and a healthy set of raging hormones, after all.

(It took her a while to regulate those-changing into the form of a ten-year-old tended to wreak havoc, at first.

She learned to conquer her hormones with an iron fist.

The only reason they still exist is that she decided that she liked them.)

It's not something she thinks about often. She can be whatever she wants-but only pedophiles (and certain knowing colleagues) look at her girlish form, and the number of people alive who've clapped eyes on her true form is miniscule.

She likes it that way. She likes being in control. Having a lack of admirers facilitates that. And when she does want to initiate contact, she does everything in her way, in her time.

Which is why it's supremely frustrating that even when she tries to turn her emotions completely off, she still wants to climb Hisoka like a tree.

~::~

She doesn't let on, of course.

Or, well, she doesn't let on to many people. They're hunters, after all. Some people are too nosy and too knowing for their own good.

Still, no one questions her. If Gon and Killua hadn't been with her at Greed Island, sometimes they wouldn't know that she felt anything towards Hisoka at all.

See, she enjoys sex. She enjoys sexy bodies. And she enjoys the feeling of lust immensely.

She just wants to be in control of that lust.

And in this case... she isn't.

Her armor's been built thick, with the practice and care of a warrior who's been training for 50 years.

She still isn't sure how this happened.

~::~

When they finally encounter each other at a mutually favorite sweet shop, something finally breaks for both of them.

Neither of them acknowledge this.

They do, however, take to sitting at the same booth.

Neither one of them says a word.

~::~

(Author's note: this could probably be considered complete right now. I'd be happy if all those two managed was a companionable silence. If you'd like, you can imagine that the status quo continues, for as long as they can keep it up. They meet every Saturday at the same place at 5 pm, and never tell each other that they look forward to the next visit. They never tell each other they're happy to see the other, and they never verbalize any sort of intent to come back.

They always do.

So this could be considered a full story, in and of itself.

But I'm going to continue. If you'd like, consider this an epilogue.)

~::~

Hisoka's the first one to break the silence.

Bisky is caught off guard when he quietly says, "I haven't killed anyone in 2 years, 3 months, 4 days, 3 hours and 22 seconds."

They resume their silence after that-but Bisky now has a slight, stubborn smile on her face that she can't quite force to leave.

~::~

Hisoka and Bisky start randomly encountering each other outside of the sweet shop again.

The reason they haven't said up anything, up until this point, is because they have both established that the other person is a liar.

They communicate in body language, though, and Hisoka is very interested in Bisky's.

Not even in a lewd way-Bisky is an enigma, but she seems straightforward at first glance.

When she notices his attention she has a myriad of responses-avoidance. Consternation. Evil glee. Annoyance. Withering stares, and sometimes even a long-suffering sigh.

Some of these, she gives freely. She's very expressive, and lets everything show.

It's the subtle nuance that he has to look for. Not just the hidden smiles that she doesn't want the other to see-the tiny hints that this is a bit of acting, that is a bit of drama, this smile is genuine, that one is a cover-up for something she'd rather not touch.

He feels that every discovery is a tiny victory-and for the life of him, he can't understand why.

~::~

It's not that Hisoka isn't used to studying. people. It's a hobby of his. He loves doing it. He lives to do it. It's precisely because he studies people that he's ever been able to truly feel alive.

He's just... not used to this... intensity is the wrong word. He's dealt with intense before.

(Gon was in the intense top five.)

No, this was- this was...

Hisoka blinks.

This was... soft.

...huh.

~::~

Bisky looks at him one day and says, "I'll be blunt."

He straightens. Bisky is always blunt, except for when she's lying, and regardless of either the fact that she feels the need to preface her statement with her intent of bluntness is worth paying attention to.

...especially since she seems almost... nervous.

No.

Not nervous.

He's not sure there are enough words-in any language-to describe this.

Bisky is calm, and confident, and also... something.

Something that neither of them have been able to define, and they're ok with that. They've learned to live with that. They'd never intended to do so, but they'd developed a status quo.

So... ah, that was it. Bisky was about to break it. This should be good.

And it was.

She looks him straight in the eye and says, "I want to have sex with you, and I know you want to have sex with me, but I can't trust you right now. I don't know that you can trust me either, and I don't expect you to. So until you earn my trust, you are no longer allowed to speak to me."

Hisoka stares at the spot where Bisky used to be, wondering why it was that she was not required to earn his trust.

He cuts his arm open at the thought.

~::~

He soon discovers that if he ever wants to see Bisky again, he's going to have to hunt her down.

A short time later, he discovers that yes-he does want to.

It takes him at least a year to follow through on that thought.

~::~

When he finally catches up with her, he hasn't killed an innocent man in 6 years, 3 months, 8 days, 10 hours and 28 seconds.

Bisky knows this.

Even if he hadn't known that beforehand, Hisoka might have guessed.

~::~

He'd found her safehouse. A cabin in a woods, on what was supposed to be an impassible mountain.

As a hunter, it made a lot of sense to make camp in a gorgeous place that was shielded from the outside by the formidable opponents known as "ice" and "snow"-and he was pleasantly surprised at the beauty that awaited him, once he'd passed through the natural gauntlet.

Bisky was not entirely happy to see him.

He gave her space.

~::~

When they came back together, it was for dinner. He'd killed a deer. She... took over as head chef of the kitchen as they both prepared dinner.

He smiled and acquiesced.

~::~

One thing he hadn't told her-he hadn't touched another person in a long, long time. He wasn't sure how long, but the touching probably stopped even before the killing did.

(He still killed criminals on occassion, but those 'didn't count.'

Not everyone in the Hunters' Association was convinced.)

So when they finally, finally touched each other, it was like a goddamn waterfall of a desert rain.

If they hadn't been Hunters, they might have lived on in blissful peace.

As it was, their lives were still full of shit.

Good thing they both had shit-eating grins.