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Beautiful Death

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Hakuryuu wheezes as a cool breeze blows through his apartment. The single window is cracked open to let in fresh air, but the late spring air has dropped to an unseasonably low temperature. He fumbles in the dim light of his room, searching for his pack of asthmatic cigarettes.

He hates the mess on his bedside table. Maybe this week he’ll feel up to straightening up his room, to finding a better way of storing the various pill bottles and vials he needs to keep his health in check.

A strong cough wracks his frame, and his fingers find a lighter. His cigarettes are helpfully laying next to it, and Hakuryuu enjoys the brief relief from his asthma that they bring.

After his breathing returns to normal, Hakuryuu pushes himself out of bed. He needs food, and to close his window before the cold upsets his health anymore. The kitchen, for all its usefulness, upsets him more than his bedroom. At the least some of the mess in his room feels real, unlike the sterile bland neutrality of the rest of his small apartment.

Hakuryuu busies himself with the one bit of color in his kitchen: the multitude of plants in his windowsill. It’s gloomy inside, gray and urban outside, but he has his oasis of greenery and life. It’s nice. Comforting.

He coughs again, hard enough to nearly drop his watering pail, and he resigns himself to a day in bed. The cold must have upset his lungs overnight.

He does manage to get a light breakfast together and some tea to sooth his throat, before shuffling back to bed with a fresh pack of cigarettes. He’ll have to see his doctor again soon, or he’ll run the risk of running out when he needs them.

Hakuryuu crawls back into bed, settling in as comfortably as possible, and grips a cigarette so tight he nearly snaps it before lighting it.

x・x・x

It’s hours later, lungs and throat feeling so much better from the tea and cigarettes, that Hakuryuu even begins to think that something might be wrong. Something feels…off. His brain feels foggy and slow, and the room seems confusing for some reason.

Huh.

There’s a hazy figure in the gloom, just out of the corner of his vision. Why can’t he quite see him? Is he dreaming, or is someone really in his apartment?

Hakuryuu takes a drag of his cigarette to steady himself, to pull himself back to reality, and the figure seems all the more real for it.

“Hello?” Hakuryuu calls out, and he hates the crack in his voice.

No response. Did they not hear him?

Another soothing puff, to quell his nerves before his breath gets dangerously quick. “Can you hear me?”

A twitch, and the figure moves like liquid, with a fluid turn so that they’re properly looking at Hakuryuu. The low light in the room hits something on them when they move and they practically glitter from it.

“You talking to me?” The voice sounds hazy, feels soft and unreal, and it reminds Hakuryuu of his cigarette smoke.

Hakuryuu stares for a moment before answering. “Ah. Yes.”

The stranger laughs, cackling and sweet, and strides closer. Hakuryuu hears metal softly jangling as he moves further into the light, and he’s got a wide grin threatening to split his face in two. Hakuryuu can’t tell if it’s the lighting in the room or something else, but this stranger doesn’t look normal. Deathly pale skin, unnaturally wide, bright red eyes, and pitch black markings across his pretty face. Once he’s close, Hakuryuu can smell the faintest hint of berries, sweet and familiar.

“Neat. You sure?”

Hakuryuu nods, and his intruder plucks the cigarette from his fingers to take a long drag from it. He breathes the smoke out slow, and a look of 'Ah ha' crosses his face.

“Oh, that’s why you can see me!” He cackles.

He stares some more at this stranger, transfixed by how he moves, and his glossy black nails. Everything is going so slowly, like he’s moving through thick fog, and Hakuryuu almost thinks he sees wispy black wings unfurling from his back, but that can’t be right. “Who are you?” he finally manages.

His grin widens. “I’m the Black Fairy,” he answers with a flourish, and Hakuryuu watches the light hit his jewelry. “Ever heard of chasing the green fairy?” he asks, and continues without waiting for a response. “You could say I’m like that, but without the absinthe.”

Hakuryuu clumsily takes the cigarette back from this supposed fairy. “So you’re...a hallucination?”

“Nah, I’m real,” he says, crawling further into the bed. “You just can’t see me without some help.”

“That sounds, um.” He pauses, and looks the Black Fairy over. “It sounds unrealistic. There’s no such thing as fairies.”

He laughs again. “If you say so. I guess you can just call me Judal, then.” A breath, far too close for comfort, and long nails trailing lightly down his cheek. “Cause you’re so cute.”

“Judal,” he says softly. “I’m Hakuryuu.”

Judal leans in and lips brush his ear. “Pretty name. What’s a nice boy like you playing with something like this?”

Hakuryuu shudders at the touch. It’s nerve-wracking and strange but also… It’s nice, to have company, even if it’s all in his head. Judal at least feels solid in front of him, breathing lightly against his cheek, dark lashes and glittering makeup framing his bright eyes.

Judal blows a smoke ring at him, and it smells familiar and soothing, enough that Hakuryuu finds himself curling up against him.

x・x・x

Hakuryuu wakes up clutching his blankets, the taste of sweet berries in his mouth, and disjointed memories of the evening before. It feels like the strangest dream he’s ever had.

His apartment feels cold again. Didn’t he close the window yesterday? His head feels fuzzy, and when he finds the window open, he writes it off as part of the dream. It means another day in bed, but he stays vertical long enough to water his plants and make tea.

Hakuryuu wonders what caused such a vivid hallucination yesterday. Something in the air, or perhaps something he ate? It was probably a dream, but...he almost hopes it will happen again. It was nice to have company.

A soft, sweet scent lingers in his room, mingling with the familiar smell from his cigarettes, and Hakuryuu loses himself in the relief.

“You really like those things, huh?” A voice whispers in his ear. Hakuryuu jerks a little, nearly coughing on the smoke, and slowly Judal shifts into focus.

“They’re for my health,” he explains, gesturing at the box next to the bed.

“Oh?” Judal picks up the box, turning it over in his hands to read every tiny bit of text, before tossing it on the bed. Hakuryuu can’t help but stare, watching the way his fingers move and the bright colors in his make up, different than yesterday’s.

Judal shifts, putting himself mostly in Hakuryuu’s lap. “I guess you could use them for...whatever that coughing is you keep doing. Seems pretty risky to me.”

“My doctor told me to use them. They’re medicine, like cocaine,” he says, and Judal laughs at the explanation.

“Cocaine? Man, that shit’ll fuck you up.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Judal. Cocaine is perfectly safe. They give it to babies.”

Judal barks out a harsh laugh, shaking his head and rolling his eyes. "Cocaine to babies, huh? I mean it'll shut 'em up one way or another." He runs a hand through Hakuryuu's hair, and Hakuryuu finds himself acutely aware of how close Judal is. Despite his best intentions, he can’t help himself from reaching out to touch Judal’s hair in return. There’s so much of it, inky black and spilling out of his long braid across his bed like slick oil, and it looks so soft. He runs his fingers through some, tucking a strand behind his ear, and Judal makes a quiet noise.

“It’s soft,” Hakuryuu tells him, feeling stupid for the simple statement, but Judal breaks out into a sweet smile.

“Yeah?” Judal leans into his touch, nuzzling his hand like an overgrown cat.

Hakuryuu skritches behind his ear. “Mmhm. I like it.”

Judal practically purrs, rolling the rest of the way into his lap. “You keep doing that.”

It’s nice, to have him in his lap, warm and solid and comforting, as he lazily pets Judal’s hair and smokes. His lungs feel better and it gives everything the most pleasant haze. Occasionally, Judal snatches the cigarette in his elegant fingers, sucking in the smoke and blowing it out in exciting shapes. Hakuryuu's eyes wander over the smoke, and Judal's fingers, and the perfect curve of Judal's grinning lips, idly enjoying every beautiful inch of him.

Hours or minutes or days slip by with Judal soaking up attention in his lap, silky hair flowing through Hakuryuu’s fingers, and the air sweet and warm with the ever present smoke.

Judal shifts, stretching, and sits up enough to nuzzle against Hakuryuu’s cheek. “You’re friendly,” he says, laughing.

“I guess.” And it’s all in the moment, but Hakuryuu looks at the pretty face and leans in, closing the small space between them, and Judal tastes sweeter than he could have imagined.

Fingers running through his own hair, gripping tight to hold him close, and he kisses Judal nearly long enough that he forgets to breathe. It’s messy and warm and enough that Hakuryuu almost believes it isn’t all a dream.

Judal pulls back slightly to pepper his scarred cheek with kisses. “I should spend more time here,” he says quietly.

Hakuryuu breathes out, a murmur of agreement, and pulls him back up for a proper kiss, fingers freeing the last of his hair from its braid, and Judal laughs through the kiss.

He remembers warmth, and closeness, and dozing off on a sea of soft black hair.

x・x・x

His head feels heavy and full of cotton, and the scents of cigarette smoke and berries linger in his nose. It’s strange, but his dream felt so real.

After days of being in bed, smoking and dreaming, Hakuryuu feels all the more sickly. It’s time for a shower, or at least some sort of cleaning ritual.

In his cramped bathroom, Hakuryuu catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror. There’s something strange: small bruises on his neck, red and tender to the touch, like the love bites from Judal, nipping his neck, whispered words and soft kisses between them.

Hakuryuu thought it was just a dream.

He stares at the mirror, fingers softly resting against one, and breathes deeply. He is either imagining things, or he accidentally bruised himself in his sleep. That seems plausible. He breathes again, finishes cleaning himself up, and soldiers on with his day.

Feeling refreshed, Hakuryuu pushes himself to try to clean his apartment. His plants need some attention, and his room is a disgrace. But once he’s really gotten into it, he can feel his body complaining, and the harsh chemicals of the cleaners do nothing to remedy that. Hakuryuu ends up back in his bed with a slightly cleaner room and feeling worse than before.

Judal appears from a wisp of smoke, curling into his features and hair and familiar grin. Hakuryuu sucks in a breath, half afraid of how much this dream seems to bleed into reality, and Judal’s grin widens.

“Surprised to see me?”

“I don’t know,” Hakuryuu answers honestly. “I just had an odd morning, and I’ve been worrying myself.”

Judal cocks his head to the side. “Hm, about what?”

“Nothing, I’m sure.” The confusion and concern doesn’t leave Judal’s face, and Hakuryuu elaborates. “You’re just a very persistent dream, and I’m imagining silly things.”

“Oh, really?” Judal shifts closer, nipping at the marks on Hakuryuu’s neck as he does.

“Ah. Yes,” he gasps out. Judal always feels so nice, and a small, hidden part of him wishes it wasn’t all a dream.

Judal takes this an invitation for more, and time melts away into an afternoon of lazy kisses and soft touches; Hakuryuu feels like he’s living a life far better than his own. But it’s nice, with Judal warm and enthusiastic under his touch. Judal laughs in pleasure and moves his way down from Hakuryuu's neck to his collarbone, and when Hakuryuu's shirt stops his conquest, Judal just grins and begins to undo it.

Hakuryuu watches his long fingers work open buttons, slide along fabric, tug lightly at the waistband of his pants...Hakuryuu sucks in a breath when Judal’s fingers brush his cock through his pants.

Judal’s eyes light up at that, and he takes Hakuryuu’s pleased noises as a sign to continue. He slips his pants down, Hakuryuu wiggling his hips a bit to help him, and between Judal’s sweet look and the hazy air, any embarrassment he feels melts away.

And Judal shifts, running fingers along Hakuryuu’s thighs, until he’s resting a cheek on one of them. He stares up at Hakuryuu through his thick lashes, and grins. “I want to be comfortable,” he explains, before gently nipping at his inner thigh.

“I-” Hakuryuu gasps as Judal slowly licks up the length of his cock, and he looks all too pleased with himself. “I see,” Hakuryuu manages.

Judal is a gift to watch, eyes slipping shut in pleasure as he works Hakuryuu over, his tongue practically worshipping every bit of his length, before finally taking him into the decadent warmth of his mouth. Hakuryuu grips at his sheets, tries and fails to keep himself from making noise, but Judal seems all the more enthusiastic with every gasp and moan.

It’s so much, so real and unreal all at once, his brain foggy with pleasure and distant creeping confusion, and Hakuryuu can’t bring himself to worry. It’s only here and now, this moment between the two him, and Hakuryuu comes calling out Judal’s name.

A grin, and Judal wipes his mouth on Hakuryuu’s leg. It’s sticky and somewhat gross, but in the warm afterglow he can’t bring himself to care too much.

Judal tastes less like berries when he kisses him, instead vaguely salty, and Hakuryuu flushes red when he realizes why.

x・x・x

There’s a daily limit on asthmatic cigarettes, but Hakuryuu’s never thought about why. Side effects, probably. Today, with his lungs burning, head heavy and throbbing, he almost worries he may be exceeding the limit. But it’s a bad day. He’s had them before.

He’s never felt so confused and distant, though. Every bit of light feels like too much, the sliver of it under his bedroom door making his eyes ache, and he feels too unsteady to get out of bed.

Hakuryuu feels Judal’s arrival instead of trying to look for him in the hazy dark, and there’s something nice about their fingers twining together, of the sweet smell, and the light kiss Judal leaves on his cheek.

“Sitting in the dark today?” he asks as he starts to make himself comfortable.

Hakuryuu nods, and it makes his head ache even more. “Yes.”

Judal tilts his chin up and kisses him, and Hakuryuu tries to match his enthusiasm. But it’s hard, with his focus slipping, and it doesn’t take Judal long to realize that something is different today.

“Hey. Hey, Hakuryuu, what’s wrong?” Judal raises a hand and bathes the room in murky light with a flick of his wrist. Hakuryuu tries to shy away from the mysterious glow. Judal looks him over, concern in his eyes, looking for anything that could be wrong, he supposes. But it’s far away, another room, another day, as Hakuryuu stares at patterns crawling across the walls, blurring together, and-

Judal snaps his fingers in front of his face. “I asked if something was wrong.”

“Oh…” Hakuryuu doesn’t know the right answer; his mind feels distant and fuzzy and every answer has flown away on the smoke of his cigarettes.

Judal makes a choked noise, and it pulls Hakuryuu somewhat out of the confused mess in his head. “Oh, Hakuryuu, shit.” Judal holds his hands tightly, clenching them until Hakuryuu wants to complain, and Judal swears loudly. “Fuck, I’m sorry.”

Why is he apologizing? He can’t put the pieces together because he can’t remember the pieces; they’re lost in the rest of his jumbled thoughts.

Everything is confusing, he thinks, except the solid iron of Judal's hands around his own.

“Look, I…” Judal begins, and swallows deeply before continuing. “This happens with everyone I get close to, humans at least, and some animals, and I never wanted this to happen to you. First it's fun and great, and then they get confused, and then they drop dead. Just from being near me, from breathing my air! They don't even see me unless they're already on the road to leaving me. It’s not fair, I just wanted a friend!”

“What’s happening?” Hakuryuu asks, tongue heavy in his mouth. He’s not sure he wants the answer.

A beat of silence.

“Nightshade is poisonous, Hakuryuu, it’s killing you,” Judal says, strained and rushed, and then words tumble out of his mouth. “It’s in what you’ve been smoking, and it’s me, it’s why you’ve been able to see me. I’m so much of it, and now you’re gonna die.”

Hakuryuu blinks, slowly trying to process Judal’s words. He can’t be dying, not from...this? His cigarettes? They’re medicine.

Judal shakes his head. “They, I dunno, have too much in them? More nightshade than what’s safe for you, that is.”

He said something aloud? Or did Judal read his thoughts? “It’s a dream,” Hakuryuu finally says. “Pretty fairy boys aren’t real, Judal-”

I am real,” he declares. “And you...death isn’t pretty, Hakuryuu, I don’t want to watch you suffer.”

“I can’t, I’m not dying,” he argues, but he can feel it now, the fight slipping away from him, the darkness pulling at the edges of his blurred vision, and he wishes he could cry but his body won’t listen.

“Let me-” Judal says, and Hakuryuu thinks there’s more but it’s lost to him. “Hakuryuu?”

“What?”

“I can help you,” Judal tells him. When his eyes light up hopefully, Judal shakes his head. “No, not like that. I can’t- you’re not gonna get better. You’re going to die.”

It’s the desperate, painful truth, and Judal looks hurt delivering the news.

“But. I can speed it up. No pain, just- you know. The end.”

Everything in his life feels heavy in his mind, every failed goal, the painful illnesses that keep him trapped inside this apartment, his sister’s smile and his mother’s domineering ways, plants spilling out a window into the dirty street below, the fire that started everything. He’s not done living, he wants to say. He’s got more to do, but-

“I see,” is all Hakuryuu says, and Judal cups his cheek, intimate and comforting, and Hakuryuu nods. Despite his confusion, his sadness and anger and frustration at this fate, he trusts Judal.

Judal kisses him like a man drowning, and everything tastes overwhelmingly of berries, sweet and tart, until darkness takes over.

x・x・x

The organ’s music reverberates through the church, mingling with the hushed tones of the mourners below, enough that even the rafters shake from the sorrowful song. Below, there’s nothing but a sea of black. The funeral drives home the stark reality of his situation, and Hakuryuu glances over at Judal.

Judal swings his legs from their perch in the rafters. He’s the image of careless beauty, and he pulls berries from seemingly nowhere.

“So, what now?” Hakuryuu asks, gesturing down at his own funeral. What an odd sentence, he thinks to himself, his mind clearer than it’s been in weeks.

“Well, I ain’t giving you over to some stupid reaper or psychopomp or whatever,” he says, popping a shiny berry into his mouth.

“Oh, is that a possibility?”

He shrugs. “Duh. But it’s fine, I can keep you. No one’s gonna complain too much.” And then his grin vanishes, his confidence drops, and there’s so much worry and humanity in his eyes Hakuryuu almost doesn’t recognize him. “Or you can move on, I guess, if you want.”

Hakuryuu plucks a berry from his hand. “I think I’ll stay here,” he says firmly, and the fruit tastes as sweet as Judal's poison lips.