Picking up the pieces out, they left you in again

Love is all you want but you're never gonna feel the same

It's hard to be yourself when everyone around is changing

Open up your eyes and you'll never lose yourself again

~"Over and Over," Goo Goo Dolls


"Whose life are you off to ruin?" groused Phinks as Hisoka bounded down the stairs. Wearing a sweat-stained shirt and his ever-present track pants, Phinks looked as boring as ever. He chugged a protein drink. Phinks's miniature sidekick—whose habit was ironically what Phinks had just accused Hisoka of—scowling in the corner of the room as he bickered with Nobunaga over utility bills or something else boring.

"My own," Hisoka responded with a wink.

"That's the truest thing you've ever said," Machi groused.

"What, you aren't coming to the party tonight?" Hisoka crooned.

"Classes start tomorrow and I've got an eight am." Machi flipped him off. "Plus, you'll be there."

"Shizuku said she was going," said Nobunaga. "Uvo and Shalnark, too."

"Well, at least some people know how to have some fun in this house." Hisoka sauntered towards the door. "You coming, Illumi?"

"Sure," said Illumi.

Truthfully, Hisoka hadn't been expecting Illumi to move into this house when he'd suggested it. But Illumi surprised him, saying it was probably a good idea to venture out more on his own and pay his own bills, that it would help him prepare to lead his family business or some bullshit like that.

You are just as fucked up as I am, but in a different way, and I can't understand you and yet I can, and I don't like thinking.

He wondered what it would be like to kiss Illumi. The man's long hair was certainly appealing, sleek and glossy, even if his fashion was too similar to Hisoka's own for someone who wanted to be taken seriously instead of seen as a literal clown for lols.

But Illumi was useful to him, just as Hisoka was useful to Illumi. They'd met at a party, really, before they even had a class together. Hisoka's sophomore year, Illumi's freshman year. The thrower of the party was none other than Chrollo, and Hisoka was annoyed that the stupid man who was an honor student and had good looks to boot kept getting distracted by his other friends whenever Hisoka tried to flirt with him. So when Chrollo was asleep and the party was over, Hisoka decided to break into the house and get some petty revenge.

"I believe that's called breaking and entering," said a voice behind him as Hisoka smashed one of the windows.

Hisoka squinted. The sun was starting to rise above the trees. "And?"

A boy with long hair pried himself away from the wall. He didn't answer.

"And what would you be doing here?" Hisoka challenged.

"My ride is drunk. I'm stuck."

"Tell you what," Hisoka said. "You create a distraction so no one else will notice me, and I'll sneak in and get what I need, and then I'll give you a ride back to campus. Okay?"

"Seems a bit hasty when I don't even know your name." He sighed. "Fine. I need to study later and don't have time to waste."

Illumi dropped a lit cigarette on a dead bush in the front lawn, terrifying Pakunoda, and Hisoka snuck in to draw a dick on Chrollo's face and then escape.

"You are ridiculously petty," Illumi said when Hisoka told him what he'd done.

"And you are ridiculously extra."

But he seldom saw Illumi after that, since he was too focused on studying. Whenever they needed a favor—rare—though, Illumi would be there. Though in truth Illumi sought Hisoka out far more than Hisoka sought him out, but he needed an ally inside this stupid house for his last year. Or, really, he needed a way to get revenge, and Illumi was the perfect tool for it, and he wouldn't make it easy for Hisoka or for Chrollo.

"What do you plan to do when you graduate?" Illumi asked.

"I don't plan. I just do."

Illumi arched his eyebrows.

"Probably move to a city," said Hisoka, yawning.

"And what, exotic dance?"

"It could be interesting but I'd hate getting regulars; that'd just bore me." Hisoka winked. The pulsating bass music echoed from inside Cheetu's house.

"You—"

"I don't wanna talk about dumb stuff. I want to have fun before I have to subject myself to a schedule again." Hisoka ducked inside the door, heading straight for the beer. He didn't even like the taste, but he definitely did not want to be thinking of what Illumi kept trying to bring up.

He surveyed the crowd. The best way to start this game would be to find someone worth irritating Illumi when Hisoka started kissing them. Except everyone looked fucking boring tonight.

A hand tapped him on the shoulder. Hisoka whirled around, grabbing the offender's wrist. "I don't like being touched without permission."

The man's eyes narrowed. "Don't you remember me?"

"No?"

"You said you would call and—"

"Oh." He'd probably slept with him. "Sorry, you didn't make an impression." Hisoka turned.

The man slapped the beer cup out of his hand.

"Well, now you've just wasted good beer," Hisoka said. Through he was irritated. His fist curled. A smile played with his lips. This, at least, was exciting. He felt something like a bundle of nerves in his abdomen, sizzling. He could feel the air flooding his lungs, smell the pungent drink. His nails dug into his palms. This—this was—

The man lunged, and Hisoka's high-heeled shoe rose off the ground. A kick in the balls with—

An elbow jabbed the man in the neck, knocking him to the floor. The man gagged. A designer shoe landed on the man's hand, pressing down. "Don't create a fuss."

Oh. This was new. Hisoka smirked at Illumi, who pulled his hair off his neck. The man cursed, scrambling to his feet and shaking out his hand. Hisoka wondered if it'd been broken. "That was hot."

Illumi rolled his eyes. His nose wrinkled as he studied the crowd of students, most grinding against each other, gulping beer, and smoking weed without a single glance in their direction. They certainly didn't notice the man he'd hurt running away, or even getting hurt. Then again, Hisoka kind of liked having that secret knowledge that Illumi was capable of being protective and assertive. He never would have guessed from looking at him. His face was always blank.

"I'm going home," Illumi said. "I'm bored."

"Already?" Hisoka was crushed.

Illumi rolled his eyes, slipping through the crowd. Hisoka scowled. Fine. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up. He jogged after him.

"I'm surprised you didn't find someone to copulate with," Illumi remarked as they strode back down the street to the house.

"I'm surprised people still use that word," Hisoka said. "Bang would be more, I don't know, the common vernacular. Or—"

"Shall we consider this a contest then, for who can use the most impressive words?"

"I doth believe that thou art—"

"Dumbass," said Illumi.

Hisoka shrugged. They made it back to the house and headed up the stairs. Machi stuck her middle finger up at him and he returned the gesture.

"I can't believe you haven't guessed why I didn't find someone to copulate with," Hisoka said finally, as they reached the third floor.

"I haven't put too much thought into it." Illumi reached for his doorknob.

It was now or never. Hisoka noticed no light under Chrollo's door, but there was no way their insomniac leader was asleep now. Instead, he'd be in the attic, where he could hear everything for sure.

Hisoka pressed his palms against the door frame, staring at Illumi. At his lips, really, full and pressed together.

"Nice try," said Illumi. "But I'm afraid I'm not up for banging tonight." He opened the door behind him, ducked inside, and slammed the door in Hisoka's face.

Well, Hisoka thought, staring at the door. That was not how this was supposed to go.

But hey, what was wrong with a little extra challenge?


Illumi woke early, even though he did not have class until ten. He brewed himself a cup of steaming, bitter coffee.

"You'll be late, Machi!" hollered Paku's voice. She nodded at Illumi as she grabbed a bagel from the fridge before ducking out the door.

Machi staggered into the kitchen, rolling her eyes as if to say she'd never be late. She took in Illumi. "You're up early for someone out late."

"We didn't stay long," Illumi replied, sipping the coffee. It scalded his tongue. He remembered once, during those sessions where he stayed up all night, he was caught sneaking coffee. Dad made Mom hold his mouth open, forcing him to drink the coffee before it was cool enough. He couldn't eat for a whole day, not even when Grandpa brought him ice cream.

"Mr. Party decided not to stay long? Must be good with you," Machi remarked sarcastically. She grabbed a mug and filled it with what remained of the coffee.

Illumi hadn't offered. He scowled. "It's not like that."

"You aren't fucking?" Machi arched her eyebrows.

Illumi remembered Hisoka's attempt to kiss him. He was intoxicated. And Hisoka was a huge flirt. "That's crude."

"It's Hisoka."

Illumi frowned. "Why does everyone think that we're together?"

"Because Hisoka would do anything and everything," Machi said as if it was obvious.

Illumi started out at the twisted forest behind the house. "Including everyone in this house?"

"Well, Hisoka's fucked Chrollo, as you know, and we fucked once too," Machi said. "Alcohol was involved, but it wasn't that great."

"The alcohol or the sex?" asked Illumi.

Machi looked at him like he'd sprouted a second head. "Have a good day."

Illumi finished his coffee and washed the mug. The water was cold. He wondered if that was indeed why Hisoka suggested he move into the vacancy. Well, if it was, Hisoka was in for a surprise. Illumi did not sleep around and he did not have time to waste on such carnal activities, not when he was to be earning top honors and nagging Milluki in the meantime.

Illumi went back up the stairs and brushed his teeth. He scrubbed and scrubbed, but the feeling of stinging acid wouldn't go away. Why did he have to think of that unpleasant memory today? It wasn't a big deal, and he'd certainly learned not to do it again. Except when Killua needed coffee. Because that had been before Killua was forced to stay up all night.

For you, I'd break all the rules. And it hadn't hurt Killua. He was still the future CEO. And since Illumi had helped him, surely when he was, he would—

The phone rang, and Illumi reached for it. Mom. Again. "Hello?"

"Illumi!" sobbed Mom. He breaths cut in and out, sharp and hysterical.

"Mom?" Illumi asked. He dropped down onto his bed. Chrollo headed out of his own room, not glancing through Illumi's open door as he headed down the stairs.

"Killua's run away! He took—he took—that thing with him!"

"I'm afraid I don't understand," Illumi said.

"He left a note! He was being difficult yesterday, and I woke up this morning to see a note and that creature is not in the basement anymore!"

Illumi rose, heart pounding. "You should have sent him away." He'd suggested it long ago. But now—now wasn't the time. He had to find Killua, and Alluka, before Alluka hurt Killua as he inevitably would.

"Illumi—"

"I will find him," Illumi promised. To hell with his education. His family needed him. Killua needed him. He really needed him.

I don't want you to get hurt, Killua. He couldn't bear it if that were to happen. He needed to protect his brother.

"He looks just like Silva," stated Tsubone, one of the older employees in his father's company. Killua was a little baby, and Illumi was holding him. "The other two are so much like their mother. I have a lot more hope for the youngest one, then."

Killua let out a coo and turned around, reaching for Illumi's face. And he smiled.

And then Illumi knew that something was wrong with him, at four years old. He was defective. But as long as he had Killua to smile at him, he would be—

I'll find him.


Kurapika sat in the back corner of his Russian Lit classroom, books stacked on his desk and arms folded as he glared at each and every person who entered the door.

Chrollo Lucilfer was, of course, exactly on time. Still clad in his ugly coat, he sauntered in and dropped down in a seat as far away from Kurapika as he could get. Kurapika stiffened his shoulders. He checked his phone.

A text from Leorio. good luck facing satan.

Kurapika smirked. Professor Hill started the class, and Kurapika tried to pay attention. But halfway through, he became away that not only was Chrollo staring at him, but Tserriednich kept casting glances at him as well.

He did not like this. He did not want to feel like a fish in a glass bowl. Kurapika gritted his teeth. From what he could tell, the professor was an idiot. He actually had them all having to take a class during the semester and teach it, in pairs of course. How dumb.

When class ended, Kurapika scrambled to his feet, slinging his bag over his shoulder.

"Are you still taking my father's political science class?" called Tserriednich, appearing in front of Kurapika.

"It conflicted with Professor Freecss' history class," said Kurapika. He didn't even bother tinging his voice with a hint of apology. He wasn't sorry. Professor Freecss' class was apparently a must-take for a history minor such as himself.

"Shame." Tserriednich clucked his tongue. "See you around, Kurapika."

"Careful of Professor Freecss," intoned a voice behind Kurapika. He whirled around. "He's a careless fool, if an interesting one." Professor Hill smiled sweetly before pushing his own way out of his classroom.

"How unprofessional," commented a voice to Kurapika's side.

What is this, Asshole Literature? Kurapika resisted the urge to stomp his feet and turned to face Chrollo. "What do you want?"

Chrollo shrugged. "I wanted to warn you about your new best friend."

"Leorio?"

"Tserriednich."

"Check your facts, smart-ass. He's not my friend. He's a playboy whom I don't have time for." Kurapika weaved his way through the desks. Chrollo followed.

"Well, good," Chrollo said. "Because I've heard things from Pakunoda. He assaulted one of her friends in the psychology department."

Kurapika skidded to a stop in the hallway. Chrollo's voice was low. He turned to face him. "Excuse me?"

"Paku wasn't lying," said Chrollo, his eyes narrowed. "Consider my warning you an apology for last semester."

"That's not even related to what happened last semester," Kurapika pointed out. His heart hammered in his chest. "Did the friend go to campus police?" His eyes narrowed. "Or are you just trying to slander—"

Chrollo thrust his hands into the air. "What would I have to gain from that?"

"Using people seems to be your speciality," Kurapika informed him, stopping in front of the vending machine. He plugged in some coins. He wanted a can of coffee. "Who knows what goes on in your twisted mind?"

Chrollo glowered. "No, the friend did not go to the police. Why would she? Tserriednich's father's the head of the Poly Sci department. No one would believe her."

Kurapika blinked.

"Are you really that naive?" asked Chrollo.

"I wasn't—"

"Enjoy reading Demons," Chrollo said, tapping Kurapika's backpack. "See you later." He wandered away, almost as if he was offended Kurapika was suspicious of anything and everything that came from the man's mouth.

Can you really be that naive?

Kurapika shuddered. He made his way to Professor Freecss' classroom, a few minutes later and a few minutes before the professor arrived. His mind whirled.

"He's not like that, Pairo," Kurapika had insisted.

He was.

When Kurapika left Ging's class, he hadn't absorbed anything. Not that the professor was exactly sending a very strict image of himself.

Meet me at the campus coffee shop? Leorio texted.

Sure.

To his surprise, Leorio sat with three—kids. Well, high schoolers. One had dark, spiky hair, and one wild white hair. One was a girl, sandwiched between the two boys with a frightened look on her face.

"Um, hello," said Kurapika.

"Kurapika," Leorio greeted him. "This is Killua Zoldyck, Alluka Zoldyck, and Gon Freecss."

Kurapika's eyebrows lifted. Ging Freecss's son?

"Found them climbing the fence to get onto campus," Leorio said, as if that was something to be proud of them for. Kurapika gaped.

"My dad's not answering his phone," said Gon. "I don't live with him, anyways." He glanced at Killua and Alluka Zoldyck. "They just ran away from an abusive home, and I need to ask him to help them. He has friends in high places."

"What?" Kurapika sputtered.

"They locked her underground for years," said Killua. "I met Gon last summer at a camp—he said I could run away to his place, but I don't want his cousin to get in trouble—we can't go back there—they wouldn't let Alluka out of a basement."

Kurapika dropped down next to Leorio. His heart pounded. "Is that true?"

Alluka met his eyes for a second. She dropped them and nodded, kicking her legs up like she was a lot younger than she appeared to be.

"My parents are—well known," said Killua, swallowing. "I wanted to hold out until I was an adult next year, but I can't—do it anymore." His face crumpled.

"You have Ging as a professor," said Leorio. "When you have class—"

"I just had class with him," said Kurapika.

"Dammit."

"I have a list of his office hours," said Kurapika, digging through his backpack for the syllabus. He handed it over to Gon. "Oh, there's one in an hour."

"They need a student ID to get into the building," Leorio said. "I've got lab then."

Kurapika pressed his lips together. "Fine."

He made small talk with the kids until Leorio went to class. Tserriednich appeared but Kurapika ignored him.

"Is that a friend of yours?" inquired Killua.

"Not hardly." Kurapika turned away.

"Want to leave?" asked Killua.

Kurapika felt grateful. "Yes." Chrollo's words reverberated in his mind. He scuttled outside, exhaustion tugging down his bones. He just wanted to get home to his apartment.

"My brother goes to school here," said Killua. "Two of them. Illumi and Milluki Zoldyck."

"I don't know them," Kurapika admitted.

"Good," said Killua. "You don't want to. They'd send me back home if—" He stopped himself, curling his fists. Alluka looked scared. Killua's mannerisms towards her reminded Kurapika of how he was always protective over Pairo growing up.

It's my fault he hurt his eyes, anyways.

Is it your fault, too, in some way? Or do you just—genuinely want to take responsibility for her?

They went to Ging's office hours when the clock rolled around, and found it flooded with students. Kurapika winced. He should leave them here—surely they'd be all set—but—

Ging turned and looked straight at them. He saw his son—whom, Kurapika had to admit—was the spitting image of him.

And he turned back to the students in front of him. He picked up his phone. Gon's beeped.

Kurapika glanced down at it.

I don't have time today

Kurapika's jaw dropped. But he's your son!

Gon's face fell, and he looked to Killua and Alluka as if terrified. Of letting them down.

Kurapika's chest felt empty. His throat, parched, his eyes, stinging.

How did people continue to disappoint him?

You are…

This isn't how it's supposed to work!

He looked at Gon, his father just telling him he was too busy right here, right now, and Killua and Alluka, fleeing from abusive parents, and the black sensation consuming him was pure hatred. Killua's parents should be protecting him; Ging should shoo away all the other students, his parents should be alive.

Mom, Dad, where are you?