A/N: First stab at HxH fanfic, and also fluffier than I normally write, so I'm particularly soliciting any feedback you have for this one. There will be two sections to this story, and the second section is chock full of shounen ai, so you bave been warned.
'What a great day to be with old friends.'
Nobody said it; it was just the mood that wrapped around their group as they strolled through the city, relaxed and aimless for once, no one having come here for any purpose but to see the other three. What a beautiful day--what good company--what a terrific time I'm having. Nobody had to say it out loud.
There was a level of comfort between them that was rare to find; but it had been four years now, since they had all met, and even if they hadn't been together for that whole length of time it was still long enough to inspire ease with one other. They did their best to meet up at least twice a year, all four together, and this week had proved a perfect time for it. Gon and Killua were between adventures, Leorio had graduated from one school and not yet started the next, and Kurapika seemed to be in a lull in his ongoing battle with the Ryodan. A long and disgustingly cold winter had just finally broken, and when the idea came up each of them had been keen to flock to this city and spend some time together.
It was late afternoon, and they were walking rather aimlessly, casually sightseeing. Gon and Killua were eating enormous ice cream cones--four years having made no improvement on either of their attitudes towards sweets--and Kurapika and Leorio were walking a few steps behind them to avoid the sticky splatters that usually accompanied Killua's enthusiastic approach to ice cream. So neither Gon nor Killua noticed that they had lost someone until Leorio said curiously, "Kurapika? Why'd you stop?"
The younger two turned around to see Leorio standing a few feet behind them, looking at Kurapika who was a few more feet behind and staring at something on the ground. "Kurahpisha?" Gon queried as best he could with his mouth full of ice cream.
Kurapika didn't look at any of them. He moved slightly off the road and dropped to his knees, touching a flower that was growing in an untended patch of land. His face was incredulous, surprised in a good way--but then as he gently stroked one of the petals, the joy faded from his face and was replaced with an unreadable expression.
Leorio walked back a few feet to crouch next to him and studied the flower. "Eh? What is it?"
"This flower--it--it grows every spring in the fields outside my village." Kurapika had that look in his eyes, the one that said he was suddenly caught up in memories he didn't want to experience. "But it was never tricked into blooming early; it only came after the last winter storm. The children used to run around the fields looking for it, and whoever found it was--well, there's really no translation for the word but they were called the bringer of spring."
Kurapika's fingers hovered over the small purple bloom, like he was thinking about plucking it. "If you rub this across your skin, the color and scent will linger. The first child to find it would rub the flowers across the backs of their hands to prove they found it, and then the other children would carry them back to the village to tell everyone spring had... and there would be a... celebration." Kurapika was nearly whispering now, and each of the three silently reacted to the ache in his voice, and eyes.
After a brief silence, Kurapika pulled his hand back from the flower. "I am the first of my tribe to find it this year," he observed in a flat tone. "But there is no one to bring spring to."
There was another silence. Gon and Killua looked mutely down at the other two--Gon mute because he could imagine Kurapika's pain so deeply he didn't have words for it, and Killua mute because while he regretted Kurapika's pain he had no comprehension of it, and so didn't know what to say.
The silence was broken by the surprisingly loud snap of a resilient flower's stem breaking in half. Kurapika started from his reverie to find Leorio kneeling next to him, holding Kurapika's hand in one of his own and the flower in the other. "Damned idiot," he muttered as he began briskly rubbing the color and scent onto the back of Kurapika's hand. "Doesn't have a soul in the world to celebrate with. Nobody to bring spring to, hah. Gon, Killua, are you hearing this? We're nobody."
Gon suppressed a giggle. The expression on Kurapika's face was difficult not to laugh at. He was staring at Leorio in astonishment, apparently struck dumb by his audacity in so nonchalantly plucking the flower Kurapika had been agonizing over. Limply, Kurapika let Leorio begin rubbing color onto his other hand. Leorio was still muttering in high pique. "Most unbearable idiot in the world. Who does he think we are, anyway? Clearly not worth celebrating with."
Leorio cut Kurapika off with a Look. Brushing the remains of the plant off his hands, he stood and asked, "Okay, what happened after that?"
Kurapika still looked off-guard. "There would be a celebration," he answered rather pointlessly, also rising.
Leorio tapped his foot impatiently. "What sort of celebration?"
"The other children carried the bringer of spring to the center of the village, and the elder would make a speech about the end of winter," Kurapika replied. "And then there would be feasting and dancing. It's not much, really, but it was... nice."
"Okay." Without further preamble, Leorio grabbed Kurapika and lifted him into his arms.
Kurapika's paralysis finally broke, and broke spectacularly. "Leorio!!" A few furious scuffles later Kurapika was kneeling on the ground and Leorio was bent over wheezing, apparently in pain. "What are doing?!" Kurapika's voice was a lesson in outrage.
"Carrying you--to the center of town," Leorio managed to pant. "You're the first--Kuruta to--find the flowers."
"I'm the only Kuruta," Kurapika pointed out angrily.
Leorio straightened up again, and Kurapika also stood, watching him warily. "That makes me pretty sure that you're the first." Leorio gave Kurapika his most rakish grin. "Now--do you go quietly or do I have to truss you up?"
A few minutes later found Gon and Killua standing as out of the way as they could manage, backs pressed against the wall, watching the fighting with wide eyes. "Maybe we should step in?" Killua wondered. "Leorio's going to get killed."
"No, he's making Kurapika smile," Gon replied. "This is a good thing." Killua shrugged.
Leorio managed a move that let him toss Kurapika over one shoulder, and furthermore made it about three steps before crumpling over in pain as the extremely indignant Kurapika escaped. "Oi, Gon, Killua, why aren't you helping me with this?" Leorio groused. "You should be carrying him into the city on your shoulders like a parade or something."
Gon's face showed immediately that he liked this idea. "Did the children do that, Kurapika?"
"Hah! They did!" Leorio was triumphant.
Kurapika looked from Leorio's renewed, extra-rakish grin, to Gon's genuine smile, to Killua's evil smirk, and took off running in the opposite direction.
They caught him quickly. Leorio then appointed himself grand marshal and led the other three onwards, Killua and Gon struggling the whole time to keep the madly squirming Kurapika from making contact with the ground. At one point Killua suggested, apparently in earnest, that they tie him to a pole and carry him between them, but Gon pointed out that it would hardly be celebratory. The parade lasted a long time, largely because the grand marshal kept getting lost and led them on a tour of the bay and two rather slummy districts before orienting himself. Gon and Killua were too busy containing their unwilling cargo to help navigate, and the cargo himself was routinely ignored when he pointed out they were going in circles.
Eventually Kurapika gave up on both directions and escape--Leorio had finally found the more populated areas and the more he squirmed, the harder people looked--and resigned himself. The parade finally ended a little while later at a city block-turned-garden that could count as roughly the center of the downtown area. Everyone but Leorio immediately collapsed at the base of a nearly statue, exhausted from either attempting or preventing escape. "Well, that was interesting," Kurapika commented, in a tone implying thank god it's over now.
Leorio looked down at him with a mischievous and almost predatory expression; Kurapika paled slightly. "Ah, but we've only just started," Leorio said grandly. "The speech came next, I believe?"
"You're determined to milk this for every drop of humiliation you--"
"Hey, hey, we're celebrating with you!"
"Give the speech, Kurapika," Killua advised. "I'll shut him up faster."
"Kurapika can't give the speech, he's the bringer of spring," Gon objected.
Killua gave him a shut up so we can get through this glare. "But he's the oldest member of his tribe, so he gives the speech!"
"But he's celebrating with us," Leorio cut in. "With our group. And I believe I am the eldest of this tribe."
Kurapika covered his face with his hands.
"Okay!" Leorio sprang to the base of the statue and struck a pose. Then he paused, apparently thinking. "Dearly beloved--"
"No, that's how you start a wedding!" Gon objected. Beneath his hands, Kurapika was quickly turning bright red.
"Okay, uh--hmm... friends, Romans, countrymen? No, that won't do. Assassins, boys with strange attachments to fishing rods, and cute yet seriously annoying blonds, lend me your ears! Today is the monumental occasion of the return of spring to the land. Never mind that it's been warm for nearly two weeks, today Kurapika found the flowers and if he hadn't found them we would all be wallowing in winter for months to come, I tell you!"
By this point, the other three were all laughing--even Kurapika couldn't help it. Leorio's tone was as loud and overbearing as the worst of all over actors, and he kept taking ridiculously pompous poses to match his voice. They were attracting a great many strange looks. "So--uh, Kurapika, we don't have to worship you or anything, do we?" Kurapika shook his head, still hiding behind his hands and laughing. "Okay. No worship." Leorio gave Killua and Gon a stern look, like it had been their suggestion. "But still, show some respect, you two! No more carting the bringer of spring around like a sack of potatoes!"
Gon and Killua both began protesting that it had been Leorio's suggestion, but he cut over their voices. "Now, now, don't argue with the village elder. Or I'll have you burned at the stake. Back to the business of celebrating spring! We have to..." Leorio's face fell comically as he tried to remember what was supposed to come next; he looked to Kurapika for a prompt, but Kurapika was innocently and resolutely mute. "We need to... uh... something about food--ah, feasting and dancing!" He grinned triumphantly. "Yes, we must have feasting and dancing to celebrate this joyous event. Come, all ye villagers, to--uh--to wherever it is we're going out to dinner tonight, and rejoice. There."
Leorio hopped down from the base of the statue, looking pleased with himself. Gon applauded, and Killua snorted. "That was more terrible than I thought you could make it."
But Leorio paid no attention to either of them; he was watching Kurapika. It took a few speech-free moments before Kurapika deemed it safe to peek out from behind his hands. "Are you done?"
"With my speech? Yeah. What did you think?"
"You hear that far off rustling, thumping noise? It's my people rolling over in their graves."
"It wasn't that bad."
"Yes, it was," Kurapika and Killua said in unison.
"No appreciation at all. I'll have the kids carry you around again," Leorio said warningly.
"But we already came to the center of the village," Kurapika pointed out suavely. "If you're trying to recreate my people's celebration, the feast comes next."
"Dinner?" Gon asked, perking up. Killua looked suddenly attentive too.
"Dinner," Leorio agreed. "And I'll even pay for you, Kurapika, so it's a celebration, but not for you two bottomless holes... hey, Kurapika, should we carry you to the restaurant, just for good measure?"
"Do you really want to die this badly?"