by Mina Lightstar

"Oh, no," Kurapika says, and pauses, one hand raised as if to reach out. It remains so for several moments until slowly, slowly, it lowers, and its fingers curl, ever so slightly, as he covers his mouth. Now what?

Kurapika is a Blacklist Hunter by profession, job-hops according to his mood and motivation, and is currently employed as a bodyguard for a well-to-do family. Admittedly, his current job is more-so for the sake of professional appearance, and by extension, much safer than many previous employments. However, given his choice of career -- and not to mention the life he led before it -- a split second decision can mean the difference between life and death, victory and defeat.

And he still can't decide between EverSoft and GotFluff.

And they're both on sale. What's the catch? Kurapika reaches up and picks up a bottle of each to examine. GotFluff's bottle is blue, which earns it points because blue is Kurapika's favorite color. On the other hand, he's never seen GotFluff before and EverSoft is the standard in their apartment. He is torn between brand loyalty and a potential new favorite. If it does something to our dress shirts....

He train of thought stops short and he blinks once, twice, caught up in the strange feeling that bubbles up inside him whenever he thinks things like "our" lately. It confuses him; saying things like "we," "our," and "us" never had an effect on him before. Even before, Kurapika tended to think of most things inclusive of Leorio. It's just that now there are more things to think about.

Love makes people strange, he thinks. Not that he knows -- because he isn't in love, or anything. But if he was, it would make him strange. Probably.

He hears a shopping cart roll up behind him an instant before the familiar sigh reaches his ears. "I can't believe I've already caught up to you." Before Kurapika can open his mouth, Leorio goes on, "No, wait, I can believe it. I'm surprised you haven't broken out the circular yet."

Kurapika turns, distracted from his comparisons, and frowns. Leorio has been busy; the cart is almost half-full. "What did you buy?" He takes a step forward, curious.

"No!" Leorio leans over, making a half-hearted attempt to cover the top of the cart with his body. Kurapika does not point out that the he can see very well whether Leorio does this or not. "Don't look! Because if you look, you will compare and contrast and trace everything as far back as to when it was still growing in the field. And we will be here all day."

"Oh, I would not," Kurapika pouts, but he spins around, anyway.

"And really," Leorio continues, "you are thinking too hard. Like I always tell you, even though you never listen to me. But anyway, you are thinking too long and too hard over things like cream cheese. It does not take ten minutes to pick a brand of cream cheese."

He glares at the other over his shoulder. "I was looking for the better deal!"

Leorio makes a helpless gesture with his hands. "The better deal was the one with the red tag. The one marked as 'the better deal.'"

Kurapika turns back around. "You better not have picked up the most expensive items here."

"Don't look, I said!" Leorio moves around the cart and takes him by the shoulders, turns him back to the shelf. "Concentrate on the mystery of fabric softener. I like the one we already have, though. It's soft."

Kurapika has a sarcastic comment to make, but he keeps it to himself and just says, "Fine, we'll get EverSoft." He hands it to Leorio to put in the cart.

Leorio does so, but he looks puzzled. "Why did you listen to me?"

Kurapika blinks. "What?"

Leorio points to the yellow bottle that is now next to the juice. "You. I said get that one and you said okay."

"... You have a problem with this?" Kurapika is confused.

"Yes! Because you never do that. We stand here and we argue for five minutes before we agree on any product -- except, well, for things we've been buying since we moved in together. But we never -- you never -- just say sure and do whatever I say."

"I do listen to you--"

"You do not, you liar."

"--when you're right." Kurapika turns his nose up. "Anyway, you're wrong. We agree on a lot of things. Eventually. It's just that I look for the best and you look for the quickest."

"You focus on price too much," Leorio grumbles. "It's not like you're hurting for money."

"Price versus advantage," Kurapika clarifies. "This is why I do the budgeting." He frowns. "I'm careful with money. For a long time, I hardly had any."

Leorio's expression softens. "I know." Suddenly, the taller man lightens the mood by pointing to the top shelf of the aisle, to the Spring Breeze brand. "Or we could compromise and get that one. It's the color of your eyes."

Kurapika winces. "You did not just say that."

Leorio looks perplexed. "Why? What's wrong with what I said?"

"You compared my eyes to fabric softener."

"I was trying to be romantic!"

"Fabric softener is not romantic."

Leorio draws himself up. "Well, you don't have to lose your temper over my apparent lack of romance -- which, if I may add, is wrong, because I am romantic. And you know I am. You said so last night, so there."

Kurapika folds his arms and turns on his heel. "Come on. Let's finish the grocery shopping before we kill each other."

"Oh, did I hit a nerve?"

Kurapika doesn't look back, but raises a fist. "Are you testing my reflexes?"

Leorio raises his voice an octave. "Maybe I should tell the whole store what happens when I bite your--"

"Leorio, I will put you through those shelves, I swear I will."

Leorio doesn't retort, but for some reason, Kurapika feels like he's lost this round.


When Leorio mentions he's going to do the ironing, Kurapika realizes something.

"Oh," he says, in a tone that suggests he's come to some personal revelation.

"Oh?" Leorio echoes, cocking his head. He frowns. "Oh, what? Oh, you forgot to do the laundry? Oh, you have nothing that needs ironing? What?"

Kurapika lifts his gaze from the spreadsheet on his computer to stare at the best friend who has become something more. "... You did the ironing before," he murmurs to himself.

Leorio looks at him strangely. "The last time I did any ironing was last week, yeah."

"No, I mean," Kurapika turns back to his screen, "before." He sounds frustrated even though he isn't, not really, just confused.

"Before when? Kurapika, throw me a bone, here." Of his own accord, Leorio makes a round of Kurapika's bedroom, checking for any shirts that need ironing.

"Before..." Kurapika doesn't like using words like "we" or "us" outloud in such context, because it might suggest Things, but, "before we... before we started kissing." When Leorio doesn't answer, Kurapika twists around in his chair to look at the other.

Leorio looks frustrated. "What does ironing have to do with kissing?"

Satisfied, Kurapika goes back to work. "See, nothing's really changed."

"... You are so weird," Leorio tells him.


Nothing has changed. Everything they did before they became a couple, they are still doing now that they are a couple. Part of Kurapika is relieved, because change was not what he wanted. He liked what they had: The comfortable, deep friendship that takes years to perfect. He was afraid taking another step would ruin that. It hasn't.

The fact that it hasn't is confusing him on another level, though. He's puzzled because nothing has changed, because he was so sure things would change but they haven't even though they logically should have because before they were not in love and now they sort of are and typically, he's heard, love is supposed to change things and --

"Kurapika, you're doing it again. Stop it."

"What am I doing?"

"I don't know, but you were done chopping the carrots two minutes ago and the cutting board is wondering what it ever did to you."

Kurapika stops, eyes the abused plastic board, and frowns hard at it.

"Oh, god, you've got that look -- put the knife down right now."

He complies, and then scoops up the carrots and drops them into the pot. "What look?"

"The look that tells me you're thinking too hard." Leorio leans on the broom and peers at him. "You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to go to the pharmacy, ask for some pills to send you into orbit, and then sit you in the big chair in the living room and you can stay in a happy bubble of not-thinking for a whole day, and I will have peace and quiet."

Kurapika glares at him. "How does my thinking disturb your peace and quiet?" He adds some mild spices to the soup.

"It just does." Leorio keeps sweeping. "... Want to talk about it?"

"No," he replies, in a voice that doesn't sound certain to his own ears.

"Sounds like you do." Leorio finishes cleaning as Kurapika stirs the soup and turns the stove on.

"I cooked for us, too," he murmurs thoughtfully, staring at the swirling mass of ingredients that will become their supper when they heat up.

"We need to get a Kurapika-to-Leorio translating device, so I will at least have a clue what you're talking about."

"What did you tell Maya?" he asks suddenly. "She must have called for you at some point?"

"Maya? Oh, that fine lady." Leorio grins. "Told her my wife was jealous." Leorio's grin fades when Kurapika doesn't so much as crack a smile. "Hey, you're starting to worry me. What's wrong?"

"Nothing's changed," Kurapika huffs. He's trying to figure out if this really is a mistake. Kurapika is smart, he knows he is, and he's empathetic, sympathetic; he doesn't mind helping friends through emotional problems. It's his own that give him trouble. He finds it's different when it's about him.

"Changed...?" Leorio asks with a bewildered expression.

"We do everything we used to do. We take turns cleaning and cooking. We argue in the supermarket. I was afraid this would make us different but now that we aren't it's just more confusing." There is a reason why Kurapika hasn't had any serious relationship even after the Spiders: He simply hasn't ever been ready.

Leorio seems to consider it. "Well, I guess we really don't act any differently. Though, we do have sex a lot."

Kurapika rubs at his face.

"Well, we do."

"Leorio, do you love me?"

"What?" Leorio blinks, looks taken aback. "What's that supposed to mean?" He pauses, and then glares. "Does that mean you don't love me?"

"Well, I don't know, that's what I'm trying to figure out!"

"Why do you even need to figure?!"

"What am I supposed to think, then?" Kurapika glares at the soup because it can't defend itself. "When all that's changed is the fact that we sleep in one room, not two?"

"Well, there is the little bit where we are not just sleeping."

"Leorio, sex does not a relationship make."


"Quiet! Don't give me any technicalities; you know what I mean."

"Isn't it usually that when friends get together, they don't want anything to change between them?" Leorio shakes his head, comes closer. "Because it was perfect to begin with, and that's why they fell in love, right?"

Kurapika stops stirring, and sets the burner to simmer. "I always thought it would... feel different, though. Be different. That's what I always heard."

The taller man considers him. "What, do you want me to buy you an apron and put up a white picket fence?"

"Leorio, we live in an apartment."

He continues, undeterred, "And you do feel different, you just can't tell, because you're thinking too hard about it." Now he is right in front of Kurapika, reaching out, and Kurapika has found that he likes hugs so he rests his head against Leorio's chest and listens to the other's heartbeat.

"Do I really think too much?"

"Yes," Leorio replies without hesitation. "But it's okay, I guess. Usually. Though sometimes, you really need to just go with it."

"I do," Kurapika says, remembering Tuesday night. "Sometimes."

"Yeah, but that really didn't count, because I don't think anyone could have been thinking during that."

"Do you think we're in love, you womanizer?"

"Kurapika, you can cook, clean, budget, and pile-drive burglars into the ground. I should have married you years ago."

He laughs. Then he thinks, Maybe I am in love. But he doesn't think about it beyond that, fearful he'll ruin the feeling.