I should not be writing another fanfic in the middle of finals season, but the idea literally wouldn't leave me alone! Here we go!

Hisoka's always been kind of an oddball. It wasn't his borderline-pedophillic tendencies or unsettling masochism that Chrollo was referring to, either. Behind his unpredictable behavior and dangerous, downright predatory smile, there was a brilliant mind. Paired with his penchant for mischief, anything he did was usually a recipe for utter disaster.

Whenever that grin stretched upon his face – the one where his pupils dilated, and his lips curled like a lion about to pounce on his prey – the rest of the Phantom Troupe knew something was about to go down. Years of being on the streets had honed Chrollo's instincts to a T, and right now they were ringing danger, danger, danger, what is he plotting—

But Chrollo was a man who willingly danced with peril on a daily basis, so no one was particularly surprised when he decided to humor Hisoka's request. He was wary of the lunatic, yes, but besides the time where he'd almost landed them in the middle of an FBI investigation last summer, the redhead could be trusted, given that one could bribe his interests with some sort of reward.

The fact that Hisoka wasn't asking for anything in return was worrisome in itself. Hisoka, who had left the gang stranded in the Secretary of State's pool house because 'every man for himself' was apparently a thing the moment they were surrounded, was tipping him off out of the goodness of his heart.

Granted, they had escaped scot-free because the Spiders were nothing if not seasoned professionals, but still. Chrollo wasn't the type to hold a grudge, yet he fervently believed he had a damn good reason to be cautious. If Hisoka thought this one act of kindness would automatically transform him into Mother Teresa, he had another thing coming.

"I have no reason to doubt your credibility, but you're not building a very good case for yourself." With the redhead, his intel was either creepily-accurate or complete bullshit. Chrollo's hunch told him that this was genuine. Why that was, he still couldn't tell – he'd have to be careful.

Hisoka hummed; the shit-eating smirk on his face doubled its size. "Words do hurt, you know," he purred, and if Chrollo were a lesser man, he would have allowed the ice-cold shudder to run down his spine. "But I have very trustworthy sources, and I have nothing to gain from lying to you."

"By 'trustworthy sources', I'm assuming you're talking about that Zoldyck," Chrollo deadpanned back, and the ominous glint in the redhead's eyes told him he was right. If there was anyone in this world who could come anywhere close to Hisoka's levels of fucked-up, it would, without a doubt, be Illumi. He hadn't had the chance to interact with the mysterious man recently, but one look into his hollow, dead stare was enough to leave quite the first impression.

Well, that, and the fact that Illumi kept a plethora of family photos in his wallet, which he had shown Chrollo with much enthusiasm. The clear majority of them depicted a scowling, silver-haired youth in various candid shots. Those pictures were clearly taken in secret, and if Hisoka had someone out there who completed him this wholly, maybe there really was a God after all.

Chrollo still hadn't looked up from the tome in his hands. "Our targets consist of society's elite, the best of the best. What makes you think I'm going to spare the effort to rob some college student's dingy apartment?"

"Correction: law student, a second year at that," Hisoka rebutted with a sing-song voice, finger wagging in the air. "And a cultured man like yourself should know that the most valuable treasures don't always appear as gold and jewels."

"Of course not, but it just so happens that gold and jewels are quite adept at reaping a profit," Chrollo found himself answering as he flipped to the next page.

"I swear on my mother's grave, you're going to get a kick out of this one." Chrollo bit back a laugh – perhaps he would have pitied the poor woman if he could bring himself to care.

Hisoka regarded the other man with a contemplative look. Chrollo could feel his amber eyes searching, analyzing his features keenly. It was definitely disconcerting, since that look was usually reserved for the things he desired. He wouldn't put it past the redhead to have some sort of weird infatuation with him, but something about this stare was… different? Hisoka wasn't sizing up his next meal; he was plotting something, gauging Chrollo's reactions.

He interrupted the tense silence by narrowing his eyes. "Well?"

The redhead's lips curled lasciviously. "My little birdie told me that someone owns one of the few advanced copies of 'D-Hunter'—"

"—The children's book?" To be fair, it was wildly prolific in its heyday, but dupes were everywhere, and its current worth was a measly fifteen-thousand jenny, at best.

"Yes, the children's book. But what makes this one delicious," Hisoka enunciated with a rapacious swipe of his tongue, "is the fact that it's the sole copy with an authentic autograph from the author, herself."

"…I see." Oh. Oh. Well, now, that was a game-changer. If it was truly the real deal, this authentic, autographed advanced copy could very well be the only one in existence. For a childhood classic like 'D-Hunter', there was surely a collector out there who would tear the earth to pieces for such a rare find.

Chrollo smiled inwardly. Maybe he might even keep it for himself. It would make an interesting statement piece in his personal library.

He chose to ignore Hisoka's beaming grin; a clear sign that he was pleased by Chrollo's response. "The occupant's usually gone from five in the evening to two in the morning," a rather smug Hisoka reported, and before Chrollo could dismiss him with his usual callous silence, he quickly added, "The window of opportunity's rather large, so it should be easy pickings for you, Boss."

Said 'Boss' froze. The redhead had said something similar last year, when he, Bonolenov, and Phinks were scrambling to squeeze a 70-inch plasma HD TV through a dense hedge. Hisoka had conveniently forgotten to warn them about the swarm of police officers currently surrounding the premises, and before Phinks could get another word in, the bastard had the balls to slip over the white picket fence, blowing a kiss to his shell-shocked accomplices. If Chrollo's hands hadn't been previously occupied, he would have grabbed the redhead's foot and forced him to stay as bait.

"Should be a piece of cake, right, Boss?" He had said before retreating, and Chrollo vividly remembered the piss-poor mood he was in afterwards.

All of these clues lit up like a humongous neon sign that screamed, 'Look! A trap!', but Chrollo couldn't shake off the deep-set curiosity that settled in his gut. If Hisoka, of all people, was suggesting a target, there must be something spectacular about the item or its owner, not to mention it was strange that your average 2L would possess a book easily worth millions. It was quite possible they weren't aware of its value, and that just made the job even simpler.

"…I'll consider it," he finally admitted after a minute. The narrow slits that were Hisoka's eyes brimmed with glee, and Chrollo wondered if he was going to regret this.

He exhaled. Nope, that was impossible. Regardless of the outcome, Chrollo made it a point to make every decision in his life with confidence. It was just in his nature.

With a cold quesadilla in one hand and a cup of coffee sandwiched between his elbow and chest, Kurapika cursed inwardly because he really had to use the bathroom, and where the hell were his keys? He patted down his pockets frantically before he heard the muted jingle of metal, and within seconds, the blond had stormed into his apartment, making a beeline for the toilet.

He loved school. He loved learning, he loved reading. But days like today made Kurapika wonder if he was better off giving his professors a giant "fuck you" before retreating to the countryside to start a humble farm.

With cows, and chickens.

And not a single privileged, perverted snob in sight.

As the blond washed his hands, he was immediately reminded of calloused, ice-cold fingers enveloping his own.

He cringed. What a creep. National recognition and award-winning papers be damned, Professor Hui Guo Rou was a deplorable man who probably ate rusty nails and children for breakfast. Beneath his pensive smiles and eloquent mannerisms, Kurapika was sure he was harboring some sort of deep, dark secret. Hell, he wouldn't be surprised if he was involved with the mafia or some sort of human trafficking ring. The way he observed his students – like a zealous curator appreciating a work of art, or maybe a butcher deciding which cut of meat was best – was completely dehumanizing.

Kurapika had spent weeks on his review. He was a few cups short of resorting to a coffee-filled IV as his main source of caffeine, while the sheer number of court files and books on his desk had somehow totaled its bottom-left leg, forcing the poor piece of furniture to sit crookedly. But the moment he handed it in, he winced as his stomach dropped at the sight of Hui Guo Rou's ravenous smile, and why was the man grabbing his hands instead of the paper—

Within that second, the hours spent on hundreds of footnotes and carefully thought-out research felt like it was all for naught. "There's no need to be so stiff," Tserriednich had murmured almost too quietly, as if they weren't the only two souls in the room and he was afraid of someone listening in. "Has anyone ever told you how scrumptious you look when you're afraid?"

Okay, what the actual fuck?

Kurapika had jerked himself away from his grasp, and his throat burned with bile that threatened to spill if he didn't get away now. Tserriednich's touch was overly-familiar, too much. A subtle man, he was not – it was nearly impossible to ignore how his detached, calculating gaze raked over the blond's figure—

He exhaled sharply. He was home now. He's safe, it's Friday, and he was not about to spend this time reimagining his encounter with the Devil himself.

Kurapika scarfed down the remnants of his lunch before peeling off his jeans and V-neck shirt. After shuffling through his drawer for a minute, he settled for a ratty pair of joggers and an old, worn Moomin tee, unapologetically throwing his previous outfit into the nearby laundry basket.

It felt odd to be home at this hour. Normally, he'd stumble in half-conscious at two-thirty in the morning, arms laden with textbooks and granola bars. If it wasn't for Pairo's insistence on having a video call that evening, chances are he'd still be holed up in the library reading and contemplating his life choices.

His laptop buzzed to life as he tapped on the mouse pad. No, library or not, Kurapika would still think about who he had pissed off in his past life, and how it was probably a king or a god because this turn of events was just cruel and unusual punishment. Maybe it wasn't too late to invest in a plot of land somewhere in the middle of bumfuck nowhere.

The call rang twice before his webcam popped up on the screen, and- damn, have his eyebags always been this bad? Next to his image, Pairo's feed buffered for a moment before the loading bar quickly gave way to his beaming visage.

"Kurapika!" His cousin's hair was mussed on one side, and judging by his sheepish grin, he had probably just propped himself up from his bed only moments before. "It's been so long! How are you?"

Kurapika chucked good-heartedly, the day's stress quickly melting off his shoulders. "It's good to see you too, Pairo," he replied, and for once, the small smile on his face didn't feel like a fifty-pound weight. "And I'm feeling absolutely fantastic, now that you're here."

The edges of the brunet's lips drooped. "Bad day, huh?"

"You could say that."

"It's not your professor – the weird, creepy one – again, is it?" Pairo asked hesitantly, a deep-set frown on his face.

Chestnut brown bore into taupe, and although he was thousands of miles away, Kurapika could practically feel the worry rolling off his cousin in waves. Contrary to Pairo's sweet, gentle demeanor, the younger Kurta was actually staunchly protective of his loved ones. It didn't take an experienced psychologist to see that he was struggling with a myriad of emotions, which probably ranged from utter disgust to disappointment.

The worst part was how he couldn't discern if Pairo was disappointed in Tserriednich or his workaholic of a cousin. Kurapika hoped it was the former, but he knew the brunet well-enough to deduce that it was probably both.

The blond sighed as he leaned back into his pillows. "The one and only. But it's fine. I'm fine," he insisted, and Kurapika felt like kicking his own shins because it was painfully obvious he was trying to convince himself he was all right, too. Pairo raised his eyebrow skeptically. "The semester's almost over, so I only need to put up with him for a couple more weeks."

"Okay, but it doesn't change the fact that he's a sicko who's willing to break school protocol and, like, every common decency rule ever, just to get in your pants," Pairo warns, and Kurapika almost chokes on his own saliva.

"That was unnecessary—"

"But it's the truth!" The brunet crossed his arms and sent his flustered counterpart a disapproving glower. "Let's fast forward, okay? It's winter break, and you think, 'finally, he's gone, I'm free!' But then you remember that he's tenured, and there's nothing stopping him from stalking you the following spring."

Anyone who's met him could easily tell that Kurapika wasn't much of an optimist. He had considered the possibility, courtesy of his analytical (or as Leorio liked to say, "insufferably paranoid") mindset. But he was also banking on the chance that Tserriednich might lose interest over time, therefore avoiding any need to confront him or the administrative office. …So, yeah, it was kind of a long shot, and Kurapika couldn't decide whether he should be thankful or offended that Pairo was willing to call him out on his shit so readily.

In the end, Kurapika sighed in exasperation. "It's like patronizing me is your favorite hobby."

"I do it because I love you," Pairo echoed back sagely as he dramatically raised his hand over his heart, and Kurapika couldn't help but laugh.

"All right, Boss. I've got the cameras on an endless loop. Just give me the word, and I'll change them back," Shalnark's voice declared animatedly through Chrollo's earpiece.

Chrollo hummed. "Sounds good, Shal. Let us know if anyone comes our way."

"Aye-aye, captain!"

Behind him, Uvogin, Nobunaga, and Machi were on standby, patiently awaiting his orders. …Or rather, as patiently as they were physically capable of. Machi had taken to texting on her phone – possibly Pakunoda, if the speed of her fingers were any hint, while the two men were discussing the practicality of blades in a gun fight.

"Where's the honor? The pride?" Uvogin had questioned the shorter man imploringly, fists curling and uncurling with – excitement? Bloodlust? Chrollo supposed they were one and the same, in his eyes.

Nobunaga scoffed. "There's no pride in being dead, you idiot," he bit back scathingly, but if the larger of the two took any offense, it didn't show. If anything, Uvogin's grin had grown even larger. Had any of them been in the mood for a neurotic Nobunaga, they would have pointed out the minuscule smile on his lips.

When Chrollo cleared his throat, the three Spiders immediately straightened up, eyes glinting with anticipation. They stood at full attention with the discipline of well-trained soldiers — with the exception of Machi, of course, who gave him a mock salute.

"Remember what I told you," Chrollo began, face placid with the unshakable certainty of a man on a mission. "Act as casually as possible. If anyone looks at you suspiciously, do try your best to curb it."

Uvogin deflated visibly at this. He had always fared better at jobs that required more hands-on involvement, but the moment Chrollo had mentioned that tonight's target was recommended by none other than Hisoka himself, he practically jumped at the opportunity to come along. And if Uvogin was there, Nobunaga's involvement was practically inevitable. The rest of the Troupe sometimes wondered if they were secretly related. Machi was the only one he had asked, but unsurprisingly, she had exhibited the least amount of interest.

"I still think this is all completely unnecessary." Machi's piercing gaze eyed the complex, expression unreadable. "Four of us for a book? I daresay you're afraid."

Chrollo shrugged. "I already mentioned that you're free to take whatever you fancy," he chided lightly; Machi clicked her tongue. "But my only goal for tonight is the book. There's either going to be a priceless piece of literature in that apartment, or a death trap."

"Should I even bother asking you which one you'd prefer?" Machi asked suspiciously, crossing her arms. When Chrollo gave her an excited grin, it took nearly all of her willpower to stop her eyes from rolling to the back of her skull.

"…And when Bill went to the Dean's office to report the incident, they told him they would begin an investigation," Kurapika grumbled into his pillow. What he wouldn't give to smother Tserriednich's smug mug right now.

Pairo made a querying noise, soft features hardening with displeasure. "I'm guessing they didn't do anything about it, then?"

"Nope. Nothing. When I asked, they just said that it's up to the Board." Honestly, if he didn't run the risk of losing his scholarship, he would've given the Board a piece of his mind, and then some, by now. They were either complicit in Tserriednich's perverse behavior, or they were really just that incompetent.

"I'm sorry, Kura. But if it helps, Auntie just sent a care package your way. It should be there in a few weeks." Pairo gave his cousin the most dazzling please-cheer-up-or-I'll-be-sad smile, and Kurapika felt his heart melt a little.


…What was that? Kurapika paused mid-sentence, causing Pairo to tilt his head curiously.

"Kurapika? Everything okay over there?"

The blond remained silent. Maybe he was going nuts, but he could have sworn he heard shuffling near the front door. It was brief and nearly inaudible, but he heard it, and all of Kurapika's senses were telling him that something was wrong.

He blinked twice. It could have been Hanzo's cat – she liked to prowl the complex at night, and there had been occasions where she would scratch at his door for food. Kurapika forced himself to breathe. Yeah, it's probably the cat—

—Except that cats did not have the ability to grasp a doorknob, Kurapika noted with bone-chilling horror. His mind blanked as he watched the knob jiggle back and forth.

'Holy shit, what do I do? Is someone trying to break in? Are they armed?' His thoughts raced at a million miles per second as he subconsciously reached for a small, unassuming canister hidden behind his alarm clock.

"…Kurapika, why are you grabbing your pepper spray?" Pairo's face was as white as a sheet. "Kura—"

Without thinking, the blond had muted the call. Pairo gaped incredulously for a moment, but Kurapika didn't have the chance to see what he did next. His nerves were short-circuiting, and his mind was screaming, telling him to hide right this instant—

So, he did. Pepper spray and cell phone in hand, Kurapika ducked behind the opposite side of his bed, sandwiching himself between the mattress and the wall. Perhaps if he wasn't on the verge of shitting his pants, Kurapika would have shaken his fist in the air to curse the lures of cheaper rent for convincing him to live in a small studio.

But he couldn't do that right now. No, not when his front door opened with a soft 'click', and Kurapika's thoughts halted to an abrupt standstill.

Chapter 1 'Verse Notes:
-Whenever Kurapika and Pairo talk to each other, they speak Kurtan (pronounced "Kurutan", but literally no one save for Kura & Pairo even tries to say it correctly). Naturally, Kurapika has the slightest accent that grows more apparent when he's not paying attention
-Let's assume that Sheila is the author of D-Hunter in this AU
-Machi and Paku are tight girlfriends who text each other constantly
-Chrollo didn't want to take the TV, but Phinks had insisted because their hideout didn't have one
-The Spiders aren't nearly as /terrible/ in this AU, lol. Togashi will probably destroy me for reducing these bloodthirsty, merciless villains into a gang of misfits who rob rich people because they can (there's going to be a better reason for it, but that's later)
-BUT the PT definitely still kills in this AU. Some members are more open to the idea than others. Think Hisoka, Uvo, Nobu, and Feitan having a field day, whereas people like Franklin, Chrollo, Machi, and Paku see it as more of a necessary chore at times
-Kurapika's loved the Moomins since his early childhood, and I will take this headcanon to my grave
-Hanzo's his next-door neighbor (to the left). He has two cats, Tamago/"Tama" (male) and Niwatori/"Tori" (female). However, only Tori goes outside at night. Leorio's accused him of being a weeb, but Hanzo says that's impossible because he's actually from Jappon?
-Kurapika is 22, Pairo is 21, Gon & Killua are 17, Leorio is 24, Chrollo is 29, on the verge of 30

Thanks for reading! If you have any thoughts and/or opinions, feel free to leave a review!