Because damn it, everyone ELSE did one of these. (I should be shot.)
Boys and Girls
(The Ficbyte Version)
by Mina Lightstar
It began with a phone call at two o'clock in the morning. Gon, who had taken to sleeping with his cellphone next to his ear, roused almost immediately once the ringing had started.
"Hello?" he croaked, voice hoarse with sleep.
"Gon?" a familiar voice whispered.
Gon was instantly more alert. "Kurapika?" he questioned in a low voice, concerned at the distress in his friend's tone.
"Mm." There was a pause, and then, "I need you to meet me."
"Why, what's wrong?" Gon's voice rose and Killua stirred. He clamped a hand over his mouth, felt guilty, and then continued more quietly. "Are you in trouble?"
Another pause. "A fair amount, I think."
"I'll be right there, then. Just lemme get Killua and we'll--"
"No, no!" Kurapika sounded momentarily frantic. "Not Killua, just you."
"Eh?" Gon paused in the act of pulling his boots on. "But why?"
There was more of that uncomfortable silence before Kurapika replied. "Because... because I don't want anyone else to know."
Gon considered it, and by the time he'd made his decision he'd written a short note to Killua. "Okay, I'll come. Where do you want to meet?"
Kurapika had selected a park not too far away from the hotel at which Gon and Killua were staying. Gon was beyond puzzled, and he'd spent the entire walk wondering what on earth Kurapika could want to discuss that he wasn't comfortable with Killua or Leorio knowing.
When he reached the designated meeting place, there was no one to be found. At first, Gon figured Kurapika was just late, but then the bushes to Gon's right rustled.
"Over here!" the person behind the bushes hissed.
Gon cocked his head. "Kurapika? What are you doing in the trees?" He walked over to the bush that had moved and peered through its leaves.
"I'm not coming out." Kurapika's voice was resolute. "Someone might see."
"Did you lose your clothes?" Gon looked harder. "I see some yellow. Or is that your hair?"
"Gon, I'm dressed," Kurapika said tiredly. "Just... come here and I'll tell -- show -- you."
"Okay, but," Gon pushed his way into the small forest, "why didn't you want me to bring Killua? And Leorio lives close by, too. If you needed help, why didn't you call him first? He knows the area better; he'd be able to help you best, no?"
"Because," Kurapika stressed, and when Gon turned to face him, he could see that the blonde's arms were wound tight around his body.
"Because why?" Gon pressed, worried despite the fact that Kurapika appeared to be perfectly fine.
"Because you're the only one who'll help me without laughing."
Gon frowned. "Laugh? Why would I laugh?" Whatever the problem was, it was funny, embarrassing, or both. "What happened? What's wrong?"
Kurapika stared at the ground for a few more moments. "...You have to swear you won't laugh."
"I won't, just tell me! You're driving me crazy!"
The Kuruta hesitated, but then undid the clasps that held his vest closed and let the garment drop to the ground. He averted his eyes, standing rigidly still as he waited for Gon's reaction -- and react, Gon did.
"You--!" Gon's jaw dropped and he took a step back, pointing frantically at the hybrid he'd thought was his friend. "Y-y-y-y-y-y-y-you're--!"
"You promised you wouldn't laugh," Kurapika reminded him quietly, sounding subdued.
Gon didn't laugh. Or if he did, he didn't remember -- because the laughter would have come after he'd lost his grip on reality as he knew it. And not long after that happened, he fainted.
"What do you mean there's no cure?!"
Killua spun around in his chair and immediately wished he hadn't. He liked to think himself able to handle almost anything, but this was enough to test his resolve.
Kurapika, in the end, was still Kurapika. The personality hadn't changed; the voice change, if there had been one, wasn't noticeable; and the basic physical features hadn't changed. But when he (she?) was sitting on a mattress in a bright room, without all those layers of tribal clothing, there were noticeable differences. Kurapika had always been thin, but now his form was shaped with curves, and there were things that had vanished and things that had not been there before.
"Stop staring at me like that," the Kuruta said, looking uncomfortable.
"Well, what do you expect?" Killua shot back with a shake of his head. "Look at you!" That provoked a sharp laugh from where Leorio was sitting.
Kurapika delivered the older man a mild glare, but then conceded to Killua, "Well, at least you didn't faint."
"I'm sorry," Gon piped up from the floor where he'd been watching Killua work. The green-clad boy twisted around to give the Kuruta an apologetic look. "I didn't mean to."
"It's okay, Gon." Kurapika rubbed his eyes. "Please explain to me why there is no cure." This was asked with obvious forced calm.
Killua glanced back at the computer screen. "Well, the 'condition' is permanent, but not exactly. So like I explained, if you want to be a boy again, you need hot water, and if you want to be a girl -- don't look at me like that -- you need cold water."
"That would mean that if I was outside and it rained, I would change, right?"
Killua double-checked. "Actually, yeah."
Kurapika sighed, the sound almost too feminine. "All right, then. I'm... going to take a shower now." He (Killua just couldn't think "she") stood up and folded his arms across his chest.
"You're taking this a lot better than I thought," Gon said, cocking his head.
"Am I?" Kurapika didn't look convinced. "I don't feel like I am."
"Well, it's not like it's that bad," Leorio put in, walking over to look Kurapika up and down up close -- as he had done at least five times since Gon had brought Killua and the Kuruta back to his apartment.
"Not that bad?" Killua echoed, blinking. Somehow, he figured Kurapika would disagree.
"Not that bad?" Kurapika parroted, body stiffening.
"Well I mean," Leorio explained, "it's not like you're really stuck one way or another. And," he added, "personally? I don't see that much of a difference."
"Is that so?" Kurapika mused darkly. His right hand twitched, as though he were contemplating doing something violent with it.
Leorio noticed the twitching, and drew himself up a little. "Like I said, it's not like you're trapped one way or another. And besides, think of it as some kind of learning experience, maybe? And, it's not like being a woman is a bad thing, right? In fact, I'm sure some guys would love to have breasts, because yeah, and--"
"Leorio, my eyes are up here."
This is choppy and unedited, but that's mostly because I a) haven't gone over it yet and b) wrote this at work in my Gmail.
Right! So! This is sort of like a combination of a birthday and a Christmas fic for Arishia, because she wrote me a birthday fic and I suck and haven't written one for her. But anyway. Mostly, it's 'cause I knew it would make her laugh, and because I was in a silly mood.
The actual fic version of this concept, currently six pages long, takes place after "Ranma 1/2," and for a while, I thought I was stuck because of problems presented by "Ranma" and its stupid canon. For a bit, I was contemplating saying "screw canon" and writing it anyway (because I hate "Ranma" XD) but then a comprehensive FAQ for the manga gave me the right to write (haha!) the fic as I'd originally intended.
But, uh, since that's probably going to take a while -- as I've been in a bit of a slump, writing-wise -- I figured I'd just post the teaser-snippet for now.
Um, Happy... Christmas, or something, Ari.