Summary: Emperor Matthew's world was dying. Jeff Hardy was the key to his survival.
A/N: I own no one and nothing recognizable in this fic. All honor goes to the great and powerful WWE.
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"Doppelganger: a ghostly double or counterpart of a living person."
Overlooking a world of fire and scorched earth, Emperor Matthew I surveyed his domain. Hot winds stirred his long, black hair, and blew sand into his eyes. Unblinking, his cold gaze roamed the barren lands.
"My liege", a clipped, accented voice sounded from behind him, "There is news from the north."
He turned slowly to face his trusted lieutenant, who stood waiting in respectful silence. Matthew quietly asked, "What is it, Regal?"
The domineering soldier, who was feared throughout the land as a result of his remorseless enforcement of Matthew's most terrible orders, bowed his head as his emperor's cold eyes fell upon him.
"Your wizard has sent word", Regal replied, "He has completed the task that you set for him. He will be here within the week."
The young monarch's pale lips twisted into a mirthless smile. "Excellent. Keep me informed of his every movement. If I am right," he said musingly, "he carries with him information that is most valuable to me."
The emperor turned his attentions back to the dead landscape before him then, letting his dark eyes roam its rock-strewn plains and blackened vegetation. Lieutenant Regal bowed and began to take his leave, knowing when his liege no longer required his presence.
The cruel mercenary had clawed his way to the comfort of his current position by openly destroying all who stood in his way. He was intelligent, manipulative, and deadly with the swords that were currently strapped to his back. And yet, despite all of this, he was the only one to his knowledge that Emperor Matthew would turn his back to in such a casual display of trust. Was this an acknowledgement of Regal's loyalty, or simple foolishness on the part of the young emperor? The lieutenant doubted it was the latter.
Matthew heard Lieutenant Regal slink away, back into the shadows of the fortress. He ran his long fingers back through his tangled locks, trying unsuccessfully to straighten them.
A well-built man in his mid-thirties, Matthew was both darkly handsome and keenly intelligent. He had cold brown eyes which never failed to catalogue every detail of every situation he was placed in, and thick pouting lips, perpetually pulled into a tight frown. A short, clipped goatee adorned his round chin.
An errant thought suddenly forced its way into his head. Matthew pictured his wizard, Marckus, and wished in an impatient and petulant manner that he would return. He smiled to himself as he thought about the havoc Marckus must be wreaking amongst the people. The emperor's mage was a monster of a man with long red hair and stark white eyes. Some whispered that the emperor's pet wizard had been made in the very fires of Hell itself, a demon in human form. Most who speculated openly about such things became ghosts very quickly, however. The emperor's dungeons were full of rebels and malcontents.
The young monarch turned to go inside, out of the wind and searing heat of the pit fires. Marckus would return soon, with information on the gateway. The gateway would be opened. His dark eyes flared as he thought of the glories that awaited him on the other side. The gateway would be his salvation.
* * * * * * *
The winter night was deepening in Cameron, North Carolina.
A frigid wind moved through the high evergreens, gusting strong enough to shake snow from the lowest branches onto the ground. A bright moon, half-full in the sky, illuminated the idyllic landscape that was Matt Hardy's property.
Suddenly, the front porch light went on, and the door was pulled open violently. Jeff Hardy stood in the doorway, his body tense, staring back into the front room.
"Yeah, well, fuck you too, Matt!", he yelled at the top of his voice, not caring that he was screaming obscenities in the front yard at 2:00 in the morning.
He began to slam the door shut, but Matt put a foot in it, effectively stopping him. "Come back inside, Jeff", Matt said in a low voice, his gaze dark and guarded.
Jeff glared at him. "Why don't you just fuck off?", he replied evenly.
Matt stared at his younger brother for a moment, searching for something to say to him. He shook his head and sighed, a hint of pain flashing across his otherwise stoic face. Matt mumbled something about coming back inside, then moved back into the now-silent house.
"God dammit", Jeff cursed under his breath as he sat down heavily on the front stoop. Reaching into the pocket of his leather jacket, he pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a metal lighter with the Hardy Boyz logo on it.
He lit up and took a deep inhale, pulling his coat closer around himself to keep out the biting cold. His eyes closed as he thought back to the fight he'd had with his brother. It wasn't often that Matt and Jeff Hardy fought, but lately, it seemed, they had been at each other's throats constantly. Jeff couldn't figure it.
Sighing and running a hand through his disheveled blue-green hair, he took another puff. He barely even remembered how tonight's clash had begun. They'd been talking over beers, discussing Matt's title and Jeff's recent matches.
Matt had done what he always did whenever he saw an opportunity for gold looming. He'd begun to tell Jeff which direction he should take, and how he should handle a possible title shot. Jeff had quickly grown annoyed with his brother's advice, which was, as usual, patronizing and overbearing, at least from his point of view. Jeff's annoyance had quickly escalated into anger. Matt had appeared unaffected by Jeff's outburst, and had tried to be the rational one. That was Matt, always the rational one. Just once, Jeff wanted to see him lose it. It would make him feel better about himself.
Jeff stood, trying to get some heat back into his limbs as he finished off his cigarette. The freezing air had cleared his head, and the tobacco had soothed his frazzled nerves. He took a deep breath, and turned towards the house. He would get up early and make breakfast for Matt tomorrow. Someone would have to apologize first, and he figured it would be easier to kiss Matt's ass over a table of steaming hot pancakes.
Suddenly, Jeff whirled around, his hair flying into his face. He'd heard something back there, he was sure of it. His wide eyes studied the trees lining the edge of Matt's property, seeking out any hint of movement in the blackness. Finally, after a drawn-out moment of frozen fear, Jeff roused himself and moved into the house, closing the door with a soft click behind him.
In the trees outside of Matt's house, he watched the blue-haired man go back inside. He smiled widely. His lord would lavish great fortune upon him, after this discovery. He rubbed his large hands together eagerly in anticipation, his milky white eyes trained unerringly on the red brick house.
The gateway had been shut for far too long. Now, at long last, he had found the key.
* * * * * * *
Two earths, two Matts. The way I see it, two Matts can never be a bad thing, right? R/R!!!