1. the mage
One, two, three, and the world falls apart in a burst of light, the fluttering of wings and tinkling bells ringing in his ears as Judal watches the beginning and ending of this world, this lifetime. He feels like everything and nothing all at once, like stars and galaxies being remade in his core, and he reaches out, trying desperately to cling onto anything he knows and-
Hakuryuu, Hakuryuu, don't take Hakuryuu from me-
-and everything is dark and light and everything in between.
In bits and pieces Judal rebuilds himself, trying to reconcile the dreams and feelings of another time with the world around him now, technology and advancement from something different and foreign but still understood, and sometimes he feels like he's a stranger in his own body and family.
There's so much he's forgotten, he knows, he can feel it just out of his grasp but there's always a wall. His head aches, his vision swims, and he wants to scream.
He can't remember his name.
If he could remember it, Judal could find him. His own name is the same, he's sure of that, and he can find anything and anyone in a matter of moments. He's thankful for that difference, he supposes, even if he does still reach for a wand that hasn't existed this time around.
Judal misses the solid weight in his hand, the security it brought, and the soft warmth of rukh always around him and-
He shakes his head. He hates feeling like a sentimental moron. It's nothing, it's fine, he doesn't need anything like that to live.
2. the prince
Life slips through his fingers like sand in an hourglass and Hakuryuu watches everything dissolve, land and sea and sky and everything that makes them up.
This isn't how he wanted everything to end. Nothingness is so unsatisfying, so boring and cliche and sickeningly like what he used to crave.
There's something irresistible about watching yourself fall apart into rukh and emptiness, a gross satisfaction in how the pieces used to fit together, and he wants-
He's a very logical man. Dreams are dreams, made of bits and pieces of things his brain saw during the day, with no extra meanings. They're only worth as much as you believe, and Hakuryuu knows better than to believe in fantasy.
But he wants to.
His parents died in a fire and his dreams say his older brothers did. Hakuryuu can't argue with facts; there was nothing special about the fire - this time. It's his imagination, it's a coping mechanism, it's nothing to worry about, he repeats over and over in his mind.
There's nothing special ( this time this time this isn't the first time ) about him, and the only solution is to push further ahead, make himself into something more than the scared child he still feels like inside, and-
Hakuryuu dreams of magic and flying and someone who looks at him like he's the most important thing the universe has ever made, and he can't help but want to meet him.
3. missed connections
He doesn't recognize him, not at first. Judal hears something familiar, a voice from another time another life another- something, from across the store. He's picking through discount CDs, beaten and scratched but cheap enough that it's worth it, and there's someone asking for-
"No, that's not the version I'm looking for. It's a gift, for my brother- Yes, I know what I'm asking for. There was another edition."
Judal cocks his head, trying to place the voice, and wanders to the front of the store to check it out. There's a guy, maybe around his age, trying to explain himself to the underpaid clerk. He looks like he'd rather be taken out and shot than work here anymore, but the customer: that's who Judal wants to see, and he tries to surreptitiously see his face.
His head hurts, sharp and sudden, and there's a ringing in his ears, and he's missed-
Rukh, fluttering wings surrounding him, telling him he'll do better this time, they'll all do better-
Judal doesn't see him leave, and this time his heart aches for reasons he doesn't understand. It's frustrating, so fucking stupid and useless, and he wishes he'd gotten a better memory this time around.
Whatever. There's something different in the air now, something that pulls at his very being in ways that feel awkward but familiar, and he grins. This is something he can work with.
Judal feels ridiculous, standing in a costume store holding a shitty plastic wand. It feels more ridiculous to bring his dreams to actual physical reality. Maybe he should have just taken some chopsticks from the food court and hoped for the best.
He wants to know if he can do it. If not, eh. He already half believed he was crazy. This won't make it any worse.
Sinbad exists though. He looked him up and he's some business hotshot with a book deal, which fits. So he's gotta be at least somewhat right.
"Hey, do you do returns?" Judal asks, digging through his pockets for cash. Where the hell did he leave his wallet? He finally finds a wad a crumpled bills and hands it over.
"No," the clerk says shortly, nearly tossing Judal his change.
He groans but takes his bag, plastic wand safely inside. He's holding it more tightly than he should as he walks outside, thinking of the stupid wand and his stupid ideas and how he should maybe, someday, not do things on impulse.
A pause, and he shakes his head. Fuck that, he's only gonna be one way and maybe that way is crazy and hopeful and illogical but it's the way he knows best.
He grips the wand through the bag, thoughts lifting as his feet almost almost leave the ground.
There's an ache when Hakuryuu leaves the mall, a feeling of- not loss, but regret, like he missed something important, something he should have seen. It seems a bit excessive for not being able to find the album Hakuren is missing.
He shakes his head. He's got other places to be today; he can't let something small get to his head. But he sits in his car for longer than necessary, trying to pull his thoughts together, until he can finally leave.
You missed him.
Hakuryuu breathes in and pauses, on the edge of the parking lot, on the edge of something. It's just out of reach but he can't, he has to live in the now, not the what if, and he misses the man across the street, just out of the corner of his vision.
It's alright, it'll go better this time, repeats in his head, and he isn't sure why.
Bright fall leaves turn into blustery winter winds and back to the crisp chill of early spring, before Judal can make sense of magic and the world and the jumble of thoughts and feelings in his head that masquerade around as a functioning memory.
Rukh exist, though. He gets that first, a small flock fluttering around the tip of his cheap costume store wand, and he screams.
He throws the wand in a drawer and ignores it for one, two, three days until he can't take it anymore, and he wants to try again. Judal breathes in deeply, breathes out, and grabs it confidently, putting his trust and power into it, and they're everywhere, the soft fluttering wings, tickling his cheeks and neck as they cluster around him.
He always hated the incessant noise they made.
But it's comforting and familiar and terrifying in equal parts, and Judal loves making bad decisions.
Time passes, he thinks, days and nights and days over again, as the rukh whisper to him, tell him secrets on the breeze, the cheat codes on how to unravel the universe and put it back together with a word, if only he learns to be patient and listen.
Patience has never been his strong point and so Judal takes each half learned lesson and does it twice over, bending it his own way, and sits curled up in blankets as snow falls in his apartment at the height of summer, his own personal air conditioning.
Hours later, he's swearing as he's cleaning up the puddles, patting moisture out of the carpeting, and he resolves to learn how to fix his messes this time around.
Plants bend and twist towards him in strange ways, flowers blooming at his hands, and Hakuryuu doesn't want to know why. In the back of his mind there's always the whisper of truth, trying to tell him the answers to questions he won't ask.
There's a name in there, somewhere, in between the hints of spells and magic and fantastic adventures from a different world. He thinks around it, thinks about the here and now and the people he actually knows, and not who his mind makes up.
Hakuryuu slams his book shut and gets up, pulling on shoes and leaving the house. He needs to clear his head.
The streets slip by as he walks, half jogging as distraction, and the sticky heat of summer beats down on him. It's a heavy heat and Hakuryuu almost regrets his decision to go out in it, but he stubbornly focuses on it, on the sweat running down his neck, and on-
Hakuryuu stops, frustrated and confused. He's not sure what he's supposed to do with this knowledge. It's not a common name, but he can't start calling up every Judal until he gets- an answer?
The name feels familiar, and Hakuryuu wishes for closure, not whatever this is giving him.
Judal is the beginning of a story, not the end, and he's terrified.
Judal sits outside a cafe, setting aside his meal to eat the pastries he totally got to take home for later. Everything has the wrong textures but he wants the peach filling anyway, and it's not like there's anyone outside to judge him. It's oppressively hot, summer's last hurrah before fall comes and relieves them with its mild chill, and Judal laughs to himself.
He loves the cool breeze around him, just for him and his comfort alone. The magic of the rukh makes him feel special, like maybe he's not completely crazy. Just a little bit.
It's almost enough to take the edge off of loneliness, the always present loss clawing at his heart, trying to pull him down, and Judal vindictively stabs a pastry. He's working on it. He's got a notebook of jumbled letters that someday, someday he's going to put together into what he's missing.
In another life, they fought and won and lost and nothing went right, but-
They had each other, in the end.
Judal, the rukh whispers, and Hakuryuu gives in to the mystery.
Something interrupts his breeze, and Judal looks up to see-
"Hakuryuu," falls from his lips, soft and surprised, and he's never felt so sure of something.
"Judal," he answers, and rests a hand on the chair across from him. "Can I join you?"
He grins. Alright. He likes this, this reunion, this uncomplicated meeting, and gets up. "Come with me instead," he says, offering Hakuryuu his hand.
Judal pulls him home, breeze on their heels pushing them along faster, and neither of them can stop smiling.
6. ever after
"You know, it seems unfair that you still have all your scars," Judal says, propped up on an elbow to look him over.
It's soft and warm in his bed, the late morning sun shining in through his thin curtains, and his room is such a familiar mess that Hakuryuu almost laughs. Instead he shifts to look at Judal, thinking over his response. "I suppose? It's just poor luck."
"Still unfair," he says. "I got to have my family this time around and you still lost some of yours."
Hakuryuu shrugs. "Like I said, bad luck. I don't mind as much."
"You better not! I still think they're sexy."
There's a comfortable breeze in the room, despite the closed windows, and Hakuryuu sighs. Leave it to Judal to decide that the laws of the universe didn't apply to him.
Silence stretches, and Judal yawns. "Mm. You know, I missed this most. This…." he gestures broadly, and it could mean the world or just them, and in Judal's case it probably means both. "The two of us. How quiet things can be when we're together, and not feel...bad. Just safe."
He nods. "I understand. It's- It's nice." Hakuryuu falters on continuing; he's never found it easy to untangle the mess of feelings in his heart.
"The best thing in the world is waking up beside you," Judal declares, and laughs. "You know. Something cheesy like that."
"Do you take anything seriously?"
"I could take you seriously," Judal says, grinning. "That's a double entendre you know, I'm talking about pounding you in the-"
Hakuryuu's cheeks flush. "I got the joke."
Judal curls into him and pecks his still warm cheek. "I figured, but I like to see you blush like that."
"You're impossible," he says, and the breeze ruffles his hair.
In another life they fought and the world was torn apart and yet-
They still have each other, in this new beginning.