Kurapica and Leorio gazed up at the crevice in the rock face, barely visible behind the green brush under the moonlight. "It's perfect," Leorio declared.
"Perfect for making us easy targets," Kurapica said.
"It's better than sleeping out in the open." Leorio started climbing. "Is there anyone watching us right now?"
"No," Kurapica said. The judge following them, evaluating their performance, didn't count.
"Then, no one will know that we're up there."
For anyone used to night tracking, they'd be easily spotted. But they faced that risk no matter where they slept, and Kurapica supposed they'd at least be protected from the animals.
Zebeile Island was the site of the fourth exam to become a Hunter. A game of predator and prey made up the test, each of the remaining candidates attempting to obtain another candidate's number badge for points. Six total points were needed to pass, with different badges being worth different points. Kurapica had already obtained his target's badge, earning all six of his points. Leorio only had the three points his own badge was worth and they'd joined together to search out three more points for him.
Shaking his hair out of his eyes, Kurapica adjusted his bag over his shoulder and climbed up the rocks behind Leorio. The crevice wasn't very deep or tall. Leorio seemed to fill most of the space by himself. Stretched out on his back, using his small briefcase for a pillow, he folded his hands on his stomach, crossed his feet at the ankles, and sighed exhaustedly. "I'm beat."
Kurapica crawled beside him. He curled on his side, back to Leorio, resting his head on his bag. He wouldn't admit it aloud, but he was tired, too. "Goodnight, Leorio."
Outside, the island teemed with the sounds of the night. The underbrush rustled as creatures hunted. Insects chirped songs to one another, lulling Kurapica to sleep.
He woke abruptly, instantly ready to strike when an arm slid around him. Between one heartbeat and the next he knew it was only Leorio. He didn't relax, however. It had only been a matter of days ago that Leorio had sauntered naked out of the bathroom after showering, ready for anything. He'd punched the lothario, deterring him from acting. He'd told himself he wanted to protect his virtue, though he knew it was actually because he was scared of how much he'd wanted what Leorio was offering.
Kurapica should drive his elbow back into Leorio's stomach right now, putting a proper distance between them. The feeling of safety invoked by the simple weight of Leorio's arm kept Kurapica still. He didn't understand it; Leorio couldn't protect him even from an overly friendly bunny. That didn't change the security Leorio's hold brought him.
Leorio snuffled against the back of Kurapica's neck, his soft snores ruffling Kurapica's hair. Kurapica's stomach fluttered. Attraction for his friend wasn't prudent, especially with the trials they faced and the divergent futures ahead. He needed to put a stop to it before it developed into something that would distract him from his goals.
Kurapica closed his eyes and focused on clearing his mind. He inhaled and exhaled slowly, bringing calmness to his pounding heart. His awareness of Leorio's arm drifted away as he slipped deeper into a meditative state.
Kurapica hadn't known he'd fallen asleep again until he was startled out of it by a touch to his face. He jerked upright and collided with Leorio's lips. Eyes wide, he froze, his mouth against Leorio's, their noses squashed together. Leorio hovered over him, braced on his hands on either side of Kurapica's shoulders, as if he'd been trying to climb over Kurapica to leave. His eyes were as wide as Kurapica's, slightly crossed from being so close.
Kurapica's heart thundered in his ears, blocking out the sounds of morning coming from outside the hiding spot. Heat pooled low in his belly. Fear mixed with a thrilled sensation sent a shiver down his spine. He was kissing Leorio.
Leorio wrenched away so forcefully, he tumbled right out of the rock crevice. The brush cover exploded in a flurry of leaves. His body bounced audibly against the rocks on his way down. "Ow, ow, ow, ow," Kurapica heard, as he pressed his fingertips against his tingling lips.
His heated face matched Leorio's when he climbed down from the crevice. Leorio sat on the ground, rubbing the lump on the back of his head, his shirtsleeves smudged with dirt. He avoided looking at Kurapica, taking his unbroken sunglasses from his shirt pocket and shoving them on his nose. Kurapica dropped Leorio's briefcase on the ground beside him.
"We should get going," Kurapica said, putting on a casual front, although inside he was a bundle of nerves. He'd liked the accidental kiss. He wanted to do it again, on purpose this time. The desire warred against his decision to bury his feelings that he'd made last night.
Leorio stood and dusted off the back of his trousers. He fell into step behind Kurapica without a word, which was strange for him. He must've been as affected as Kurapica by the kiss, but whether positively or negatively Kurapica hadn't a clue.
They brushed their teeth and washed their faces in a stream they later crossed. They stopped to eat when Leorio's stomach growled loudly, sharing the apples Kurapica had in his bag. Kurapica watched Leorio out of the corner of his eye as they sat in the shade of a tree. Leorio opened his mouth as if to say something several times, but then bit into the apple instead. Kurapica couldn't think of anything to say, either. The surety of his path wavered, but could he afford to explore a deeper relationship than friendship? He shot another look at Leorio. Leorio also didn't seem too sure, even though Kurapica had thought Leorio had been coming onto him several days back. Had Leorio changed his mind? Or maybe he thought Kurapica would punch him again if he made a purposeful advance?
If Leorio had changed his mind, Kurapica's fretting over a decision would be a fruitless. He tossed his apple core for the animals and wiped his hands on a handkerchief. "Would you like to kiss me again, Leorio?"
"What? No!" Leorio sprang upright from his slouch against the tree trunk. "It was an accident! A traumatizing accident that we shall never speak of again!"
Kurapica lowered his head, so his hair would hide the pained expression he knew he wore. The answer solved his problem. It should have been a relief.
Rising to his feet, Kurapica hooked his bag crosswise over his shoulder. "I think we should attempt to collect three individual badges while we search for your assigned target."
"Perhaps we will run into Gon and Killua on our hunt, and we can combine our efforts." Kurapica choose a direction and began walking again. "I'm certain they will amass their points quickly—"
Leorio grabbed his elbow, halting him mid-step and mid-word. Kurapica schooled his features impassively and looked back at Leorio. Over the rims of his sunglasses, Leorio studied him. "You want me to kiss you again," he said, reading Kurapica accurately.
Kurapica felt his face flush and looked away. "We don't have time for this folly. The exam takes precedence. We must take things seriously."
"I can seriously say I can't stop thinking about you." Leorio cupped Kurapica's chin and tilted his face up. "I have to tell myself constantly that it's wrong to want to hold you and kiss you like the ladies."
Kurapica's heart jolted. "Leorio…"
"But it can't be wrong if we both want it, right?" Leorio said, searching Kurapica's gaze. "You've read somewhere that it's okay if-fmmmph!"
Kurapica squeezed his eyelids shut and pressed his mouth harder against Leorio's. Standing on his toes, he clung on with his hands behind Leorio's neck. Blood rushed in his ears, pumping furiously with his hammering heart. His breath caught when Leorio wrapped an arm around him and held him tighter.
The need to breathe broke the kiss. Leorio blinked multiple times, a glazed look in his eyes. Kurapica felt like his face was on fire. Leorio's hands fell away when Kurapica lowered his heels and stepped back. Kurapica smoothed his shirt fastidiously, ignoring the trembling of his hands.
A faint rustling drew Kurapica's head up and he focused in the direction of the sound. He spotted the judge tailing them and, immediately, his face flamed again. He'd completely forgotten that they weren't alone; that not only were there judges around, but also the rest of the examinees. He wouldn't be kissing Leorio again, unless they were in private!
Kurapica realized his decision had been made with his self-declaration. He glanced at Leorio, who was blushing furiously and making a big show of retrieving his briefcase. Exploring a relationship could be as dangerous as the remainder of the exam and what came afterwards. Leorio looked up, caught his gaze, and gave him a slightly lopsided smile. Kurapica knew it would be worth the risk.
"Hey, hey, hey, we can't stand around all day." Leorio poked his sunglasses up his nose and swung his briefcase over his shoulder. "I need three more points, or this is the end for me. I don't want that to happen."
"Nor do I." Kurapica made the truth of his feelings evident in his statement. He smiled at Leorio, hooked his hand over his bag, and chose a direction. "Shall we?"
Leorio fell into step beside him, and Kurapica suddenly had a feeling that's where he'd always be.
Kurapica wouldn't mind it, at all.