There are moments when Kurapika pauses, lifts his gaze from whatever he is doing, and reflects. In the past, he would sometimes lose himself in a memory of Rukuso; of a home long gone, a father's warm laugh, or a mother's lips on his forehead. It was hard not to dwell during long, silent trips, or during a sleepless night. Sometimes Kurapika thinks that memories ate at him because he hadn't ever truly spoken of his family and friends to anyone else. It isn't that he hasn't trusted others with the knowledge. It's simply that he's never been certain he could handle sharing it.
It used to be that remembering how happy they had been was more painful than reliving the raid that had taken them from him. He remembers being there during the raid, watching the events unfold with his own two eyes -- eyes he still had because he was never found. He recalls seeing friends and family cut down, raiders (Genei Ryodan) making certain their eyes will always glow Kuruta Red, ignoring or laughing at cries for help or mercy. It wasn't that the Kuruta were weak, it was simply that the Spiders, in the end, were too strong. The memories will never leave, but strangely, what hurts more is remembering the afternoon before the raid.
He always recalls bits and pieces, but there are times when he closes his eyes and watches the entire memory from beginning to end. There is laughter, a picnic, a festival aimed at the children of the tribe. He is with his friends, and they laugh and play and he gives a flower to a girl because he knocks her down during a game of cat-and-mouse.
When he thinks about how old they would be now, what they might have been doing... and when he thinks that he would still be enjoying life in Rukuso were it not for the raid, it makes his chest ache and his right hand quiver, as though it wishes to do something violent -- either on its own, or with the aid of the chains he has fashioned with his Nen.
Or rather, it used to.
Now, as he sits up in bed, wide-awake despite the late hour, he is confused -- worried. He remembers that sunny afternoon -- friends' laughter and the forming of new friendships ("I'm sorry! Are you all right?") -- and then he remembers what came after that: blood and screams and death.
And he feels... solemn.
He blinks once, twice, making sure his emotions aren't playing tricks on him. His vision does not change; he is not seeing red. When he raises his right hand and studies it, he swallows. Even in the darkness, he can tell -- feel -- that it is not shaking.
Kurapika wonders if it *is* possible to forget. The notion frightens him, makes him believe to have committed an act of betrayal. When he thinks about the Genei Ryodan (Spiders!) he *does* begin to shake, but not for the right reasons. He feels a fierce dislike, bitter hatred, and... nothing else. There is no rage, no uncontrollable urge to *fight*.
The room is suddenly very cold.
He jumps when the door to the bathroom opens, warm yellow light flooding into the bedroom before it suddenly winks out. When the apartment's other occupant pauses for a long moment, Kurapika knows that *Leorio* knows that something isn't right. Still, the older man says nothing, merely adjusts the towel around his waist and moves to his dresser.
Kurapika drops his gaze to his folded arms, wonders if he should say something -- how he should say it. He is still wondering when the other side of the bed dips, announcing Leorio's arrival.
Leorio makes the decision for him. "Something wrong?" The other's voice is soft and probing, concerned.
It takes but a second for him to speak. "I was thinking," he begins, relieved that he is no longer shaking and that his voice isn't wavering. "About Rukuso. The Spiders."
There is a brief moment of silence from Leorio. Kurapika knows it is because he rarely speaks of Rukuso and the topic makes Leorio uncertain how to react, how to comfort, how to know if he *can* comfort.
Finally, the doctor asks, "And?"
It is an opening Kurapika doesn't waste, because he has the words and isn't sure if he'll be able to say them if he spends too much time dwelling. "And I can't... *hate*." Now it frustrates him.
Leorio moves over so that they're closer together, but not touching. "What do you mean, you can't hate?"
It isn't easy to explain, but somehow the fact that it's *Leorio* makes it easier. Leorio was with him when he returned to the forgotten Rukuso Valley to bring his people home, like he'd promised. Leorio had helped him dig a new, smaller graveyard in which to bury pairs of crimson eyes -- had moved the cold earth with his bare hands even though Kurapika hadn't asked for his aid, had remained quiet and watched Kurapika pray afterwards.
"What if I'm forgetting?" he asks, and for the first time in many years he can hear fear in his voice. "I think of Rukuso, of my family and friends. Then I think of the raid, and I remember what was done." The words are coming easily, and the fact that no fierce anger accompanies them is telling. "It was a long time ago," ("Ten years, now...") "but I was there, and I remember everything. But it... I think about the slaughter and the Spiders and lately I can't...." He sighs, rubs his eyes, and feels foolish.
He tenses up when Leorio takes hold of his wrists and pulls them away from his face. It is dark, but Kuruta Red glows and Leorio knows this, so Kurapika is puzzled when the other leans very, very close to inspect.
"Your eyes aren't red."
"No," Kurapika manages, and pulls himself free. He looks away, can feel the weight of Leorio's studying gaze. They are quiet for what seems like a long time.
"I wondered," Leorio ventures, "if something like this would happen to you." Kurapika turns his head back a fraction, indicating that he is listening. "To -- to dedicate your life to vengeance and achieve your goal, but... then what? Right?"
Kurapika is stubborn in this one respect and he knows it. He has been cautioned numerous times that so actively pursuing revenge is unhealthy, would do him more harm than good in the end. Nevertheless, he believes his problem at hand is different. "That's not it."
He tries to explain as best he can. It's true that he feels something is *missing*, but it isn't a purpose in life. He has done what he set out to do: he has taken care of the Genei Ryodan, if not in the way he expected to; he has acquired any and all Kuruta eyes he could, and returned them to Rukuso; he has a career, is a Blacklist Hunter and takes the profession seriously.
But in coming this far, he fears the Kuruta have fallen too far behind him. In the past, merely the sight of a spider would ignite his anger, fill him with adrenaline and make his eyes turn red. Earlier this evening, there was a spider in the sink, and he had turned the faucet on and let the water wash it away without a second thought.
He hasn't forgotten -- it isn't something he can forget. Yet at the same time, he wonders if he can't remember *enough*.
"It's not a crime," Leorio says. "Being happy."
Kurapika tightens his fingers around folds of blankets. "That's..."
"I mean," Leorio struggles for what he thinks will be the right words, "it's been a long time, and you've done all you can do, really. I don't think they'd want you to be unhappy for the rest of your life."
Kurapika wants to say he hasn't been unhappy, but he knows it's a lie. He has been *quite* content over the years, most especially in the company of Leorio, Gon, and Killua. Still, it was always there, lurking beneath the surface. He remembers enjoying his friends' company early on, remembers how they made him forget, at least for a moment, about what weighed him down. He also remembers feeling guilty for smiling and laughing and *meaning* it.
"And I know you're happy now," Leorio continues, "because I pay attention to you, and I can see it."
"So why can't I hate them how I used to?" Kurapika asks. He isn't looking at Leorio, but feels him move when the other wraps an arm around him and pulls him close.
"Because it's *over*," Leorio replies. "That long, dark chapter is over, and," he pauses, as though a mite embarrassed, "and I think the Kuruta are proud of you. You... it's not like what you did was *simple*: dealing with the Spiders and hunting down all those eyes. But you did it, and that's what you wanted, so... so what else is there, other than to move on?
"So... you aren't going to forget what happened, but it isn't going to affect you the way it used to."
He can hear Leorio's heartbeat thumping against his ear. It's steady -- soothing. "Thank you," he says, and smiles just a bit, even though Leorio can't see it. The smile isn't really for Leorio, anyway.
"Besides, if anything, after everything that happened... isn't the fact that you *are* finally happy the best part?" Leorio sighs, but it's warm and content, and he rakes his hand through Kurapika's hair, holds Kurapika's head against his chest. "When Gon laughs and Killua grins and we're like this... isn't that the best revenge?"
Kurapika doesn't answer in words.
But later, he thinks, Maybe.