so I originally wrote this for a fandom event, but I had to withdraw cause of some shady shit with the mods :/ and I've been so wrapped up in working on my magi big bang fic since that I haven't had a chance to post it. whoops!
the theme was fantasy/fairy tales, so I went with the idea that Judal & Hakuryuu are both fairy tale "villains" in their own worlds, and it sort of became its own weird thing from there. I hope you enjoy cause I'm really proud of it ;D
Shattered pieces of the world he knows collide with another, similar and different all at once, and Hakuryuu takes a step forward, tentatively walking towards the unknown, leaves crunching under his boots, and the trees are right but the path is wrong, twisting in ways he doesn't recognize. There are unfamiliar flowers sprouting from a vine he knows shouldn't have any and when he looks up, the stars are wrong. He's nervous but he can't just stand by and let this happen around him, and-
There's someone else on the other side, almost mirroring his actions but not quite, and Hakuryuu can't decide if he's excited or nervous to see them step out of the shadows.
The air sizzles with magic and wrongness and when the stranger is finally close enough to see, Hakuryuu feels an odd sense of comradery. Silence stretches, but not for long.
"So who are you?"
Hakuryuu jolts, thrown from eyeing up the stranger, and considers his answer. Giving up his name to a potential enemy isn't a good idea, but-
"What, you can't hear me or something? I'm Judal, the Grand Sorcerer of Creation, so who are you?"
"I'm Hakuryuu," he says, and then everything falls apart.
"We have to stop meeting like this," Judal says, picking his way through cracked shards of sunshine and sparkling bright seas. Hakuryuu doesn't recognize the sky or the water but at least he knows Judal, and that's somewhat grounding.
"I'm not the one planning these incidents," Hakuryuu tells him, and Judal laughs, his eyes sparkling; Hakuryuu has no doubt that he's some world changing magician. He's dangerously beautiful: someone terrible and powerful.
He stops in front of Hakuryuu and grins. "Oh, I know. But it's pretty weird, don't you think?"
Hakuryuu nods. "It is. This world doesn't feel right."
Judal waves a hand and everything shifts, leaves falling from trees until they cover the ground, hiding the bits of ocean and sun. With another wave, frost coats the branches and the ground freezes, and he hops into the air with a flourish. "Now this is more my liking, don't you think?"
Are they showing off? Is this Judal's game? In that case...Hakuryuu pulls on the life magic in the air, getting a feel for it. It's familiar and yet so foreign, but it still listens to him, willing to twist to his needs. Fresh vines burst forth from the frozen earth and wrap around Judal's ankles, pulling him back to the ground. Spluttering and confused, Judal stares up at Hakuryuu's smug face.
"Oh, that's even better," he says, and takes Hakuryuu's hand.
He can never predict when they'll next see each other. Sometimes he'll be at home and the world will shift and change around him, throwing him into the strange forest made of bits and pieces of their memories. Other times he'll be out walking and a single turn will take him somewhere new and different and yet familiar. But every time there's a man with bright red eyes and cunning smile there too, waiting to keep him company, and there are much worse ways to pass the time.
"Can you grow peaches?" Judal asks one day, idly balanced in mid air as he watches Hakuryuu urge the plants around him to form into something more dangerous. Maybe this will help his cause.
"Probably," Hakuryuu answers. "Why?"
"They're my favorites, but they don't grow well where I've been living. I kinda miss them."
Hakuryuu files that bit of knowledge away for later. If he ever needs some sort of favor from Judal, now he knows how to get him to agree. "I'll keep that in mind."
Judal whines. "You're not gonna do it right now?"
Hakuryuu shrugs and Judal leans back, annoyed but not angry. He's a fickle man. A beat of silence, and-
"Do you ever feel like you're stuck doing the same stupid shit over and over, even when you don't want to?"
"That's a deep thought," Hakuryuu answers, trying to give himself more time to think. "What brought this on?"
Judal sighs loudly, and Hakuryuu isn't sure if he's going to answer. But he finally does, even if he won't meet his eyes while explaining himself.
"I got my ass kicked again, by the same stupid kids that did it last time. And the time before that. And maybe even more, but it all becomes a mess because my memory is a fucking joke," Judal answers with such raw honesty that Hakuryuu isn't sure how to respond. Judal waves a hand and tries to laugh it off. "No big deal though, right? I'll just do better next time."
Hakuryuu thinks of the sickening crunch of bones and rotting flesh, every failure burned into his skin forever, and there's the frustration, the disappointment, the all consuming need to do better next time, and Judal's anger feels far too similar, like no one he's ever met.
Judal punches him next time, angry and passionate and Hakuryuu gives as good as he's getting, until it turns to something...different, a shift in the mood, and neither is sure who started the kiss. It's all sharp edges and somehow still a fight, and Hakuryuu isn't complaining. Judal tastes like raw power bursting at the seams, threatening to destroy everything, but it's sweet and good and he doesn't want to stop.
It's Judal who finally shoves him away, panting and off kilter, and he glares at Hakuryuu like he's somehow all to blame.
They stand in almost silence, ragged breathing the only sound, until Hakuryuu can't take it anymore. "That was...unexpected," he says, since Judal has somehow been rendered speechless.
"All of it."
Judal finally cracks a smile. "Guess you're not used to people greeting you with a fight."
"That's not- no, that happens to me. I just didn't expect it from you."
There's an unfamiliar look on Judal's face, something that leaves him looking younger than Hakuryuu expected, but it's gone quickly. "What, are we friends now?"
"Well, I would hope we're not enemies," Hakuryuu says, and it feels like something has changed between them, something more than just the kiss, and he's apprehensive but oddly hopeful.
It's surprisingly easy to talk to Judal, he finds. It's still jarring, any time they're thrust together, but it's comforting to finally, finally, have someone he can relate to.
"Sometimes I feel a bit like the villain in my own story," Hakuryuu tells him one day, while staring at the strange swirling sky above.
Judal scoffs. "Jeez, you're so dramatic today," he says, but it's soft and fond in its own way.
"It's just a thought I've had before. Like what you brought up once, about being forced to go through the motions, it's hard to explain-"
"No, no," Judal cuts him off. "I understood you! It still sounds dramatic, you gotta admit."
"I suppose. But you're not one to talk."
Judal laughs. "Yeah, I get you. I mean...I feel like I wanted to do better once, years ago, before everything went...the way it did. But fate screwed me! I deserve to be happy, too."
"I deserve what's mine," Hakuryuu echoes. "To take back what was stolen from me, to regain it all and avenge-"
Judal can't meet his eyes, but Hakuryuu is grateful for it. He's not sure what to say next.
"Sorry," Judal begins, but shakes his head. "Whatever, it's just stupid shit. Who cares, you know? I'm above all that now."
Hakuryuu sits quietly, considering. Judal sounded openly upset, not his usual composed attitude, and… "Something always feels like it's out to get you, no matter how right your motives are?"
Judal shrugs. "How do you know so much?"
"I spend a lot of time thinking about my failures," he answers, and Judal laughs.
"Yeah, yeah, you're so pessimistic. It's cute." Judal leans over him and power thrums in the air, more than Hakuryuu would show but that's Judal: always a powerful show off with no fear. "Tell me your story."
"What do you mean?"
"I wanna know your life. All these failures and the life you're fighting for: it's tantalizing. You're more interesting than anyone I've met recently. So. Tell me more."
"Only if you'll do the same," Hakuryuu says, and Judal crawls into his lap to kiss him again.
Hakuryuu tells him in fragmented pieces, in this out of order jumble that he's afraid doesn't make sense. The words are coming out faster than he realizes, time nothing but a vague notion as Judal listens patiently, more patiently than he expected, until the shape of the story falls into place. He talks about the fire that started it all and how his mother treated him, more in detail than he's ever told anyone. He grits his teeth against the pain of friends and family turning on him, and how everyone acts like he's so much worse than his mother and her army of magicians.
Everyone is always fighting him when he's just trying to claw his way past every bright and shining hero that tries to stop him, and yet never quite succeeding, always thwarted at the last minute despite his meticulous plans.
And then Judal, completely casual and tactless, responds with, "That sucks, bro."
Hakuryuu stares, torn between being angry and amused, and finally decides on a smile. "It does," he agrees.
Judal grins, all teeth. "Want me to cheer you up?"
Judal doesn't want to share his life, not at first, and instead makes allusions to some sort of betrayal, talks around anything serious, and avoids conversations that touch too close to details, until-
"If you're afraid to share your failures, just admit it," Hakuryuu says, tired of Judal's games and evasions. Judal shoots an ice spear at him, and Hakuryuu barely jumps out of the way in time.
"I'm not scared!" Judal screeches, shooting more ice at Hakuryuu, though nothing quite hits its mark. Hakuryuu stares at him like he's lost his mind. "It's just stupid, and I don't need to- to care, or...anything. It's in the past!"
Hakuryuu dodges again, jumping and surrounding himself with thick vines and microbes until Judal stops screaming and tires himself out, slumping on the ground. He looks small and lost, and Hakuryuu doesn't know what to say to him for now. Hakuryuu knows that helplessness. He knows that anger. It's a bit much for him, but-
"I'm a fucking coward," Judal chokes out, harsh and angry and everything shatters apart again.
Time is weird and it's hard to track his meetings with Judal, but Hakuryuu can tell that it's too long between visits, and he's afraid - honestly, truly, fearful - that he'll never see Judal again.
It's terrifying to feel this strongly about someone.
And when all hope seems lost, there's a shift, a crack in the sky, and Judal is in front of him, grinning like nothing's wrong. "Yo, Hakuryuu."
"Maybe I should be asking you why we keep meeting like this," Hakuryuu says, and Judal shrugs.
"If it's my doing, I'm not aware of it," he admits. "My magic sometimes does what it wants. Unhinged dark sorcerer and all that, you know?"
Hakuryuu looks him over and he's softer than usual, makeup smeared and faded, and he looks less like a dangerous sorcerer and more like a sad, lost young man, as young as he looked the first time they kissed. It's almost comforting.
"It's whatever, though. I wanted to chat anyway. Make up for being a shit last time. I guess I kind of owe you."
Judal can't tell a story in order, so it takes Hakuryuu a moment to realize these bits and pieces are Judal's own story. There are the kings that terrified Judal, and memories of being kidnapped young, too young to remember anything but a life of fighting and hatred. Everyone who offered him freedom was just there to take advantage of his power, and every chance at joy was ripped from his hands until he became the angry, powerful man that Hakuryuu knows now, all sharp edges and ready to lash out at any provocation, and he's never met anyone he's understood so deeply as Judal.
"It's- well, it's fine, you know? No one cares that I was taken advantage of too, because I won't side with them. I don't want another cage," he bites out. "I just want to be me."
Hakuryuu hesitates, just for a moment, before he reaches out and takes Judal's hands.
It feels right, finally, like the last piece has slid into place, and Judal smiles back at him.
There's something wrong with this world, in the way that it's cracking at the edges, colliding with something different, but it's bringing Hakuryuu closer to someone than he's ever been. So he'll ignore the signs and enjoy his one bit of joy.
Judal wants to wrench the world in two and piece it back together so that they can exist in the same one, together always instead of relying on unpredictable meetings, and to twist fate so they can come out on top - finally, something more than vanquished villains.
And as Judal cackles, pulling magic around him to practice, Hakuryuu believes that maybe, just once, this time they can win.