we'll find out on the other side
who we are, who we are
wish me love and give me hope
we'll take these broken souls
make them as good as new
put them together into something we will never lose


Judal has nightmares, of empty black and the infinite abyss of space, of faceless figures touching and guiding every aspect of his life. He wakes up with broken pieces of a life he should know intimately, but his memory has never been very good.

No one ever understands what he's saying; he's the youngest child and 'why-oh-why did you have to be so difficult,' but he doesn't know any other way to be. He's a mess, unnaturally red eyes and pale skin with a shock of black hair; the kids in his elementary school call him a demon freak. Judal laughs and laughs like a broken record – this is nothing compared to the whispers he's heard in his nightmares.

When he leaves his hometown, he doesn't say a word. Days bleed into weeks and months and now the crushing feeling of disappointment keeps him from reaching back. He should have been grateful for everything he'd never had before and yet it stifled him every day.

xxx

Hakuryuu is like coming home after a long journey. Every inch of him is familiar in different ways and Judal wants to spend his life exploring it. Some parts aren't quite the same – large and small scars alike – but Judal loves his same-not-same calloused fingers. They create beautiful art instead of destruction and death this time, clay caked under his short, rough nails and in the creases of his prosthetic.

Judal watches how his body moves as Hakuryuu cares for the multitude of plants in their apartment. Watering, gentle pruning...Judal doesn't understand nearly any of it and yet Hakuryuu can keep the specific care for each in his head. It's impressive.

He watches, too, as Hakuryuu dusts Belial delicately, mindful of his joints and weak points. For all his complaining, Judal thinks Hakuryuu likes their cat.

"You're sweet!" he calls out, and delights in Hakuryuu's little jump of surprise.

"I'm just cleaning," he answers, brushing potting soil off a shelf. "How is that sweet?"

Judal flashes him a grin. "I watched you with Belial. You're finally accepting him into our family!"

"I-I mean. I was just- dusting him-it- oh. Stop teasing me!" The tips of Hakuryuu's ears are pink as he goes back to cleaning and Judal leans into the couch.

Hakuryuu continues his daily cleaning tasks, straightening and dusting his quickly growing collection of ceramics. He makes order out of mess, in the apartment and Judal's life, and he's not sure how he got through the chaos before Hakuryuu straightened it out for him.

xxx

Judal has never been on a plane, but he yearns for the sky like a second home. He dreams of flying, free of everything and soaring high above the problems of the world. The wind is everywhere, his hair is whipping around him, and mountains fall away behind him, a familiar city coming up to greet him. He feels weightless as he drops down to join – someone – on the ground.

When he wakes up, his heart aches and he wants to fling himself out his window in hopes of reaching the sky. Instead, he lays awake the rest of the night, thinking of mismatched blue and white eyes.

xxx

Hakuryuu worships his tattoos, when they have time, when sex isn't just fumbling and laughing as they learn each other's limits and pleasures and how to fill the spaces between them. When Hakuryuu's more sure of himself and wants to learn every inch of Judal's body, it frequently starts and ends with his tattoos.

Judal is overcome with a mess of emotions, so overwhelmed that he had to stop Hakuryuu the first time. It's still almost too much, too sweet and too reverent, and he'll never be redeemed enough to deserve this much devotion. But he loves Hakuryuu's touch, and he's never claimed to be a selfless man.

Instead, he lays there as Hakuryuu kisses them softly, all along the edges across his chest and down his legs. Judal feels so precious he may break. It speaks of déjà vu, but from the other side – 'Is this how Hakuryuu always felt? Soft touches putting the broken pieces of him at ease?' – but Hakuryuu's not the one covered in a permanent mark this time, Judal is, and Hakuryuu's breath puffs against his inner thigh. Judal shudders, pulled from his thoughts by the Hakuryuu that is here and now and looking at him like he's deserving of every reverent touch.

"Hi," he says softly, leaving the barest of a kiss on Judal's thigh.

"Hi," he responds, equally soft, unwilling to break the delicate bubble of joy he's in.

"You alright? You look lost in your thoughts." Hakuryuu's gaze is nonjudgmental, slightly worried but mostly curious.

"No- of course not! I'm not you." He ducks his head, embarrassed, and in the shadows of his bangs and their room, it almost looks like Hakuryuu's face is slashed across with a dark burn.

Hakuryuu shifts as he laughs and the illusion vanishes. "Sure, sure. I just wanted to be sure you were enjoying yourself."

He nods enthusiastically. "Yeah. It's nice. All of it, but I. I love watching you."

The bright pink that stains Hakuryuu's face makes him grin. He hides it in his other thigh, kissing the last trailing bits of Judal's tattoo. It's sweet and precious, and he wishes all his memories were this rose-tinted.

Hakuryuu blows a teasing breath of air across his crotch. "May I?"

Judal squirms. "Don't build me up and then not- oh." He sees the briefest glimpse of Hakuryuu's smile before he feels the flick of tongue on his clit. "-yes. That."

He pulls desperately at Hakuryuu's hair, dislodging the last few pins in it. It feels soft on his thighs, the strands falling between Hakuryuu's splayed out fingers, until his right hand shifts to tease him open. And then all Judal can focus on is the pressure of fingers curling inside him and the firm, wet tongue working his clit. He wants to clench his thighs tight but hard plastic fingers hold one of his legs open, and Judal screams for Hakuryuu when he comes.

Hakuryuu looks pleased and messy as he crawls further up their bed. His hair is sweaty and sticking to his cheeks, and Judal thinks he's beautiful. He relishes in the fact that this is his life and his wonderful, devoted partner.

xxx

He sees Aladdin once, in passing. He doesn't say a word, but Judal knows his face, his eyes, his trailing blue braid.

He's boarding a bus with a blond and a redhead, the three of them laughing together. Judal still has hours before his next bus arrives to take him him to his future home. He's following a hunch he can't define, and the trio of smiles fills him with ugly jealousy.

Judal barely catches his eyes, but Aladdin waves and mouths 'Good luck.' before vanishing onto the bus.

He clenches his bus ticket and leans back in the hard plastic seat. Someday, he hopes, his life will come together and start to make sense.

xxx

"Ah, Hakuryuu~! I want a snack!"

Hakuryuu looks up from his meticulously organized grocery list. "Yes? Go ahead."

He shrugs and leans on the cart more. "I dunno what I want. Like, I kind of want cosmic brownies, but I also like the ho-ho cupcakes..."

"Then get both, I'm sure you'll eat them." Hakuryuu's gone back to his list, leaving Judal to control the cart.

"Ehh, I don't know. Maybe. That sounds too easy, you know?" He gets a noncommittal sigh from Hakuryuu and continues on. Decisions haven't always been his strong point; Hakuryuu's much better to follow, but he doesn't have an opinion on which sugary snack Judal stuffs in his face.

They get briefly waylaid by shopping for actual household necessities, rolls of holiday print paper towels – 'Why, Judal?' - and a box of cute band-aids. Judal still hasn't reached an answer when they find the assorted snack cakes. Shitty cheap snack aisle, his favorite.

"Oh, look, Judal. Why don't you get those? They're both." He's pointing at a brightly colored box covered in stars and what might be a crime against nature. Judal stares in dull horror at the box.

"Are...are those..." He ventures closer, because this can't possibly be right. He touches the box hesitantly. "Cosmic cupcakes?" Judal recoils in horror, clutching at his hair. "My powers are too mighty! I'm a grand sorcerer of creation!"

"Don't be ridiculous. You can't will snack cakes into existence." Hakuryuu reaches for the box, but Judal grabs his wrist.

"No, no...I'll just get the cosmic brownies," he says shakily. "Those are just...too much."

Hakuryuu just shakes his head and laughs quietly as he walks down the aisle. Judal follows behind with the cart and catches him saying what should be the strangest thing under his breath.

"I hardly think he'd waste magic on snacks, and yet I really shouldn't be surprised."

xxx

The first sitting for his tattoo burns and aches, but it becomes the most satisfying feeling as the afternoon wears on. Pain ends in dark lines across his chest, jagged in places before curling vines soften them. Flowers spaced throughout, hidden in the curves of a rib and the dark empty socket of a skull, bursting forth from unexpected places.

For awhile, tattoo work keeps his weeks in order – one week on, one week off – each time the lines spread further until they start being filled with shadows and highlights and splashes of colors. It's a good ritual; he feels like he's finally got some sort of hold on his life. But, like so many other times, he has an off week and the next thing he knows it's been months since ink scarred his skin.

xxx

He spends an afternoon alone in their apartment, off from work while Hakuryuu is hard at work in class. Judal stretches across the living room floor, catching some of the sun on his bare chest, and dozes peacefully. And it settles into his very bones, the deeply contented feeling, the satisfaction of being in his home, of truly having somewhere he belongs.

Hours later, he's awakened by Hakuryuu's voice, one side of a tense conversation with – a family member? Probably. Judal doesn't like it. He rolls back up until he's leaned against the couch and watches Hakuryuu hang up his phone with a sigh.

"So, who was it?"

Hakuryuu doesn't even flinch in surprise anymore. "Were you sleeping on the floor again?"

"Maybe! You didn't answer my question." Judal pats the floor next to him, but Hakuryuu is still unpacking from the day, hanging his light jacket and bag near the door.

"My mother. She wants to know when I'm coming home to visit next, but I've told her before that I really don't feel comfortable there."

Judal whines. "Don't go! Who will feed me if you go away?"

Hakuryuu finally sinks down on the floor next to Judal, handing him a packet of fruit snacks. "You took care of yourself before you found me."

He wiggles over and leans against Hakuryuu, shoulder to shoulder, and Judal loudly chews in his ear. "I'd miss you. Practically die of heartbreak. It would be a real tragedy!"

Hakuryuu shoots him an unreadable look. "I'd miss you too, if we were separated. I don't want to go either. Not by myself, at the very least."

Judal deposits his empty plastic wrapper in Hakuryuu's lap. "I'd never leave you to face your mother alone," he responds sincerely. It's important.

He sighs and leans around the couch to toss the wrapper in the trash. "My cousins, however..."

"Hmm?"

Hakuryuu turns his head and fidgets with a loose thread on his shirt. "Never mind. Don't worry about it."

Judal flops into his lap gracelessly and tugs on one of Hakuryuu's ears.

"Ouch! Judal, what the hell?"

"What, they still hurt?"

"You just pierced them a few weeks ago! Of course they do!"

"Did I?" He cocks his head. He's trying to recall anything he knows about Hakuryuu's cousins but his head is angry static and he wants a happier subject. There's an uncomfortable ache forming in his gut, of surprising loss and a lack of closure, and he doesn't like it.

Hakuryuu sighs and it distracts him. "Yes."

Judal grabs a wrist and kisses Hakuryuu's palm. "Sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you." He feels like he needs to apologize for every time Hakuryuu has been alone, forced to stand without proper support, but he doesn't have the words to get it across.

"I know. It's fine, just try not to do it again?"

He leans up to nuzzle Hakuryuu's face affectionately. He wants to see the stress and tension drain out of his body; he wants to see a smile instead of worried creases on his face. Judal licks at his mole and the frown finally leaves, replaced with exaggerated disgust.

"What was that for?"

He grins. "To get rid of your frown," he answers honestly.

"Maybe you should try kissing me properly next time, then." There's a challenge in his eyes and the shadow of a smile on Hakuryuu's face now, and Judal crawls the rest of the way into his lap to meet him.

Hakuryuu tastes like sticky fruit snacks and clay dust as Judal licks at the inside of his mouth, memorizing every bit all over again. He turns his head slightly to lick at Hakuryuu's lower lip instead. Judal goes to nibble at a corner and Hakuryuu winces, letting out an unhappy groan.

Judal pulls back. "Shit, I keep hurting you today! I'm sorry!"

Hakuryuu is holding a hand to his mouth. "Cold sore, sorry. I didn't realize I had one there."

"Why are you sorry? I'm the one who's messing up!"

He laughs and ruffles Judal's hair fondly. "It's not your fault. Come on, let's try again."

Judal pouts and Hakuryuu leans up to kiss him quickly. He whines at the briefness and goes back in for another, minding the sore side of Hakuryuu's mouth this time.

xxx

In between jobs, when he's on a brief respite from punching the general public full of metal, Judal responds to an ad for student figure drawing models. It's an easy sounding gig: get naked and pose for an hour. They want a variety of body types, and Judal can't help but grin at that. The beginning lines of his tattoo still itch, but it's nothing like the way his chest used to.

On day two, Judal spots a beautiful face with familiar eyes and a quiet voice that sends an ache straight to his heart. He wants to fling his arms around this remarkable stranger and stay by his side, but he manages to sit still and contain himself until class lets out.

When he introduces himself, Hakuryuu's name fills every missing part of his soul. His voice is comfortable, and when Judal's name crosses his lips it feels like coming home.

Judal slings an arm across his shoulders, and there's the briefest flash of recognition in his eyes. A few words later, and he's invited himself over for an indefinitely long stay.


maybe when I'm not so tired
maybe you could step inside
when I look for things that I can't replace
if I could be your first real heartache
I would do it over again