By the hands of the Gods, you have been plucked from your time and from your world, dropped into the box.
Only the box is a world of its own.
We are a mass crossover based on the concept of Pandora's Box. Characters from nearly any fandom can be played here. Because of the endless character possibilities, we are canon only here at Pandora. Take a peek at our rules and plot information before starting your new life in Pandora.
The thought came uselessly and a little too late, because Hanzo had already swiped her feet right out from under her and knocked her to the ground. Villanelle hit the mat gracelessly, her eyes wide in a momentary betrayal of genuine surprise as she stared up at the darkening sky.
That had been... embarrassing.
And 'embarrassing' probably should have been all it was, her own over-eager mistake and underestimation of Hanzo's skill coming back to bite her in the ass. As talented as people had always told Villanelle she was, Hanzo had years' more experience than she did. It would've been smart to remember that.
But she wasn't thinking about her loss in such rational terms, because she was too busy thinking about how much it stung. If this had been a training session with the Twelve, she probably would have sustained much worse injuries as the price for her sloppiness, or at the very least a round of biting derision from Dasha meant to push her harder, make her better. There were no such stakes now, but the muscle memory of pain and anger and fear clung to her, more difficult to shake off than she would have ever admitted to anyone aloud.
She sat up smoothly despite her inward frustration. Penny's smile was a touch more crooked now, as if she'd been knocked ever so slightly off-kilter. "Uh oh spaghettios! Looks like you got me that time. Knocking someone on their butt is how you win these things, right? 'Cause I see on TV all the time those big muscley guys having to pin each other, but that kinda intimacy makes me nervous." The way her nails bit into her palms or the telltale angry tension in her shoulders might counted as red flags, if even she'd stopped to notice them.
Bucky settled himself where he was sitting, putting the box of chocolate next to him, apparently to offer it as available for the others if they liked...it wasn't anything expensive, but there was a great deal of small pieces available. He didn't seem particularly bothered by Edgar when the man arrived, simply arranging the box to make it more obvious it was available if wanted.
"It...will be interesting to observe this," was all he said, when Eve asked about the winner. "Having not seen much of either of them in action, it is difficult to say. Ideally both would engage in a series of matches to determine skill levels..."
He paused, watching as Hanzo moved. "Though it does not appear that Hanzo intends to hold back."
Cizko let off a little whistle as stumble came and blow went. Both parties had something to admire even if he would never tell Hanzo that. He responded to Eve's question with a dreary tone, "I want her to win, just to show up that man-bun bastard. Tell me she's got more in the bag than this, Eve."
Despite his voice betraying the obvious disappointment that she didn't immediately sweep the guy, he saw that little rage. If she dove into that red feeling, ohoho this was gonna get good and awful! Especially if it meant V would stop acting all cutesy because that for sure was going to kill the man by the end of this.
A satisfying thud filled the air when Villanelle landed clumsily on the mat, a direct result from the finessed sweep of Hanzo's leg. A content huff slipped from his clenched teeth as he stood tall, the rewarding thrill of triumph rolling over him in waves. That win had seemed almost too easy, not that he would dare to say as much. For a mere second, Villanelle's facade was seemingly knocked free, her eyes widened in shock. Then she sat up and verbally brushed her loss off, that manufactured cheerfulness sliding back into place like a well-assembled mask.
Though the unnatural pitch to her tone was grating, Hanzo opted to overlook it, riding the high of his accomplishment. "We do not have to go that far," he affirmed, stepping back and gesturing for Villanelle to rise to her feet. "I would definitely say that knocking someone down counts as subduing," he added, shrugging and then promptly rolling his shoulders, working to loosen his muscles back up. "Thus, I have won that round."
He tried to tone down his preening, knowing it would not do him good to get a big head so early into the game. That didn't mean he couldn't relish in his achievement a little, though.
There was a perceptible stiffness to Villanelle's shoulders now, her eyebrows furrowed ever so slightly. Hanzo knew frustration when he saw it; had been on the receiving end of its razor sharp claws more times than he could count, suffering within its searing vice grip during sparring matches with his father or one of the clan elders, who never went easy on him in spite of his lesser experience. It didn't inspire pity, per-say, but something like it budded in his chest, small enough to be negligible but noticeable enough to not go completely undetected.
Pushing past it, he returned to his initial spot on the mat and about-faced, then bowed low, ready for the next round.
Eve felt the air knocked out of her as Villanelle's back hit the ground, her mouth falling open in surprise. Jesus. Eve's eyes flicked to Hanzo, sizing him up again with this new context-- she'd known he was capable ever since he scaled her building, but this was still... unsettling. The awkward gait and tentativeness that Eve ascribed to Penny were definitely part of this turn of events, but it wasn't... Villanelle wasn't throwing the match, Eve didn't think. Which was worrying, because it was starting to look like she might genuinely be up against someone who could outplay her.
The last time Eve had seen Villanelle lose a fight had ended... poorly. Eve clutched the spray nozzle in two hands. "No, I don't think he will," Eve mused, somewhat absently, in response to Bucky's comment.
Penny's rambling set off more alarm bells than Eve would have liked. It was unlike Villanelle in the way everything Penny did was, but there was a glint in her eye that Eve recognized. A smoothness to her actions that was at odds with her prior fumbling. It set something off in Eve that she tastefully ignored, but it was also what she was here for: Preventing bloodlust from becoming bloodshed. As long as it stayed bloodlust, Eve was completely within her right to enjoy the show. "She's got plenty," Eve replied, not bothering to look Cizko's way. That much she was confident of. "She's just... not used to nonlethality." Eve sounded slightly less comfortable with the second bit.
Hanzo wasn't a sore winner, at least. That was a relief. She really didn't want to come out of this disliking anybody more than she went into it. "Well won," Eve congratulated, excitement somewhat tempered by whatever about Villanelle's posturing was raising the hair on the back of her neck.
Hanzo wasn't gloating about it (at least not openly), wasn't mocking her or even crowding her space, stepping back instead and allowing her a moment to right herself. Despite all of that, it didn't quite take the edge of Villanelle's agitation, and when she rose to her feet again some of Penny's demeanor had noticeably slipped. Not so much in her face or her voice, but in the way she carried herself, suddenly tightly coiled as if wound to spring.
"It's okay!" she called to the audience of literally three people, if nothing else being able to revel in her ability to spin complete bullshit even while emotionally compromised. "In my family we had a saying: 'When they attack, you bounce back, like water off Donald Duck's back! RIP Goofy.' " But the facade dropped again almost jarringly quickly as she spun to face Hanzo. Villanelle took a step backwards to resume her position on her side of the mat, and this time, she barely responded to his bow with just a slight jerk of her head.
As their second round began, she didn't wait to see if he'd make the first move. She didn't circle. She just lunged, her movements swift and calculated and much less clumsy this time as she advanced directly into Hanzo's space with a series of quick, seemingly routine strikes -- except that by the third one, she was suddenly and aggressively aiming to hit him square in the throat.
Villanelle pounced, and Hanzo held fast, standing his ground with his feet splayed and his wrists raised. She came at him like a hurricane, assaulting him with a flurry of fist jabs, and Hanzo just barely kept up, deflecting her blows with harried movements reminiscent of a frenzied man swatting away a swarm of hornets. In his dogged resolve to stay on top of Villanelle's unerring onslaught, he made a massive error in lifting his chin from its preservative position, leaving his neck exposed.
He paid for it greatly.
A brutal strike to the throat sent Hanzo stumbling back a few unsteady paces, miniature stars popping and dancing behind his eyes. Blinking hard, he physically shook it off with sharp back-and-forth jerking motions of his head, though his vision swam momentarily and he struggled to regain his composure. It hurt like hell, the angry stinging of his neck making his face feel a touch too hot and his focus a tad too blurry.
Yet he persevered, frustration mounting at the foul play and driving him forward. His fists were poised protectively in front of his neck, refusing to leave the area open again. It was a foolish mistake on his part, even if it was an illegal move on Villanelle's. Strictly on the defensive now, he tried to keep some distance between them as he edged around her, scouting out a potential blind spot that he could maybe take a swift lunge for while primarily bracing for another harsh attack from his opponent.
While for most of the tussle he was feeling a little disappointed by the lack of bloodshed and tooth spitting, Cizko was very thrilled by the V's landed jab. He broke his judgy little glare and cheered with gusto about the sneaky move,
"Don't be too greedy, now! Make sure you save a piece for me!" Punctuated with an excited laugh. He knew that for every quip and cheer he made he would receive a kind of suffering right back from Hanzo at some point later, but it was worth it watching the man struggle. Good thing he bailed on the last one!
Getting into it, he was feeling a little nervous about Hanzo's posture now. Exciting!
Stunning Hanzo momentarily by landing the blow to his throat should have taken the edge off of some of Villanelle's mounting aggression, at least by someone's regular standards, she figured. But the rush of adrenaline didn't ebb, and her instincts only urged her to advance and take advantage of Hanzo's faltering. It was difficult to even remember that she was meant to be keeping up Penny's act anymore, as intensely focused as she suddenly felt.
So she turned with Hanzo, noting his defensive posture, the way his fists were held high to protect his throat. That meant that she was unlikely to get another blow in there, but if she really wanted to take him down (was that all she wanted?), it was better to have the opportunity to aim lower anyway. So with a sudden rush of force she lunged again, this time with the intent to try and grapple with him, then used her leg to try and kick his out from under him. It should have been a finishing move if it worked, similar to the one Hanzo had used on her the previous round -- except for the fact that her attempt to give him a hard shove backwards in the same moment suggested her intent to tackle him to the ground, not just knock him down.
As Villanelle approached with arms outstretched, Hanzo rooted his feet to the spot, fortifying himself in anticipation of a grapple. He was ill-prepared for the sweep of a leg, however, and combined with a vehement shove, he stood no chance at maintaining his balance.
Hanzo hit the ground so hard that it left him dazed, and Villanelle went with him, pinning him to the mat. Vexation with his own failure welled hotly in his chest, mingling uncomfortably with the heat that prickled at his neck injury. A reluctant growl of, "Good move," left his bared teeth, but it simmered into a hiss when a critical concern clicked into his brain.
Villanelle was still holding him down, and as he recalled a prior discussion regarding her potential ineptitude at calling a fight quits, the fire in her eyes sent a surge of panic through his system. He recognized that ferocity, knew too well the power that lurked behind it, and thus scrambled to dismount her, throwing a knee up with the intent to knock her in the abdomen. With luck, the abrupt impact would bring her back to her senses.
Throughout the spar, Bucky had apparently taken in the entire match with a keen eye, tilting his head here and there, frowning once or twice, but ultimately, he remained silent. It wasn't until this apparent "second round" had apparently ended, that he finally spoke again.
"It seems as though both of them would be more evenly matched, if both went at full strength," he said finally, reaching down to pick up one of the chocolates and unwrap it, putting it into his mouth and making a face for a moment.
"There are strengths and weaknesses to both...but I see nothing that would put one or the other over the top."
Villanelle barely registered Hanzo's hissed, reluctant praise, or even the eyes of their friends on them any longer. It was only a game. A game she had won this time around, but Villanelle had been taught that knocking someone to the ground was just a precursor to a fatal blow. It was fortunate for everyone that she really hadn't brought any weapons with her, despite her jokes -- all she really had to work with was her hands.
Unfortunately, in this situation, that was enough.
Hanzo's knee connected with her stomach, and the resulting impact might have been enough to shake her lose if she wasn't already running high on adrenaline and anger and bad memories. If she hadn't already shot out an arm to grab him by the throat. As it was, his blow only really served to spur her on, and even as she was half-knocked off of him, she instinctively shot out her other hand to join her first in an effort to wrap around his throat and... squeezed.
But it wasn't focused, deadly intent in Villanelle's eyes as they met Hanzo's. Instead they were strangely empty, perhaps somewhere far away, perhaps not even convinced anymore that it was Hanzo she was staring down at.
Of course, the thing about killing lately, the thing she'd been keeping secret, was that it wasn't so easy to detach herself from it anymore no matter who she was imagining. But if there was a fresh wave of realization and panic creeping up on her, it was probably going to come a second too late to avert what she'd already tried to do.
It was possible they should have picked someone less entranced by Villanelle's activities to call when she'd gone too far. Eve had watched with a mix of horror and awe as Hanzo fell, and a mounting urgency when Villanelle's hand wrapped around his throat. Despite that rising feeling inside her, like a second, more transparent version of Eve was standing to act while she sat and watched, it took Villanelle's other hand shooting out to grasp Hanzo's neck to break the spell and spur her into action. The feeling that she should be doing something snapped into actual panic, and Eve was pointing the hose like a gun before she could think about it.
If nothing else, the packaging had been accurate. The backspray from the force of the stream scattered droplets into Eve's hair, and she wondered faintly if she should have adjusted the settings before firing.
A hand grasped Hanzo's throat, quickly followed by another, but the surge of proper fear it incited was too delayed to be of use. His attempts to kick Villanelle off didn't seem to faze her, and the realization that her eyes had glazed over sent a frigid rush of fear through him that combated with the heat climbing up his clenched throat.
Though he continued to struggle to break free, Hanzo's vision blurred at the edges as Villanelle constricted his airways, her fingers digging into his neck like talons, agitating his wound on top of it all. Distantly, he fretted that this was how he was going to go—bested in a pathetic sparring match that somehow turned fatal. Compared to everything he had been through, it seemed so anticlimactic.
Perhaps, though, it was the perfect irony. For someone like him to survive through so many assassination attempts—both ones performed by himself and ones implemented on him by others—only to die at the hands of an ex-assassin who he had entrusted to participate in a friendly tussle. How pathetic.
Before he could succumb to the ebbing darkness of unconsciousness, a wave of water rushed over the pair, sending a shock through his suffocating system. Thankfully, the pressure around his neck lessened, but the incursion of water only worsened his lack of oxygen issue. In a haze and relying solely on instinct, Hanzo utilized Villanelle's slackening grip to his advantage and gave a mighty shove, with the intention of using the momentum in order to roll over onto his side and finally catch his breath.
Though a high-powered hose had technically been her idea in the first place, Villanelle evidently had not spent enough time imagining and preparing for what it would be like to actually be sprayed by one. Her grip on Hanzo's throat had already started to loosen marginally by the time the stream hit her in full force, at which point she released him immediately, spluttering and reeling backwards and shielding her face as best she could. Hanzo shoved her off of him easily at that point, and Villanelle scrambled backwards on the mat, instinctively trying to get out of the line of fire.
In the end, though, it had its intended effect. The shock of cold water and the force of the spray completely snapped Villanelle out of the state she'd sunk deep into. It was all she could do to sit there for a few seconds, hair dripping, staring wide-eyed at Eve as she came back to herself. She had to swallow back something that tasted oddly like shame. If there was one thing Villanelle detested, in most situations, it was not being in control of herself.
Wiping at her face, she looked over at Hanzo, who seemed to be struggling to catch his breath where he laid on the mat. The shame prickled at her throat again, but this time, it was less about herself.
They were supposed to be... friends. Or something. And she might have killed him, without intervention.
"Sorry," she mumbled under her breath, all but dropping Penny's accent and speaking so lowly that she wasn't positive anyone would even hear as she ran her hands over her face. "Just... just give me a moment. Are you..."
The kick successfully dislodged Villanelle from her position, and Hanzo was finally liberated enough room to roll onto his stomach, whereupon he scrambled out of the hose's line of fire, crawling away from the potent spray and promptly hacking his lungs up in a desperate grapple for air.
He felt half-drowned, soaked through to the bone from just a few seconds of the makeshift torrential downpour. His sodden clothes stuck uncomfortably to his skin, and his diaphragm felt like it was actively on fire, burning from the inside out. A meek apology was uttered from behind him, but in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't worth the physical pain that would surely be incited by grating out a response.
So he merely sat up and worked on regulating his breathing, scowling when the heat that had culminated in his cheeks refused to subside, lingering as a stubborn result of the humiliation from suffering such a devastating defeat.
And what a way it would have been to go. Throttled at the hands of an ally during a fake fight, figuratively back-stabbed when he had least expected it. What would my brother think? The sardonic rhetoric rises unbidden, lurching up like bile, the irony landing harder than any of the punches that had been pulled thus far.
He barely resisted the urge to bury his face in his hands. Now was not the time for self-deprecation. Crumbling in the face of failure would be a spit in the face to every hardship he had endured in his life. There was still an opportunity to win. A chance to prove that he could overcome this misstep and make up for it with a triumphant final round.
Grimacing, he hauled himself to his feet and shifted into a battle stance. Then he nodded sternly at his opponent. I am ready.
Watching the two people spluttering on the sand, Eve attempted to catch her own breath. Her eyes darted between both now-soaked parties, hands lowering the hose back to her side.
"Sorry!" Eve called in apology, still very much on edge. At least it had worked. She dropped the faucet to the ground, uncertain whether to take a step towards the mat or not-- this was all part of it, right? So technically... What was the etiquette here? Was there any?
Usually, the sight of Villanelle and the most dignified member of the group looking something like drowned rats would be funny. Eve reminded herself to laugh when she was a little less nervous. For now, she tried to settle back down, uncertainty extremely apparent in the way she folded her legs. She might have asked if they were okay, but Hanzo seemed ready-- Eve attempted to shrug off her nerves and fixed her eyes back on Villanelle. This round is going to be weird.
Bucky shifted a bit where he was sitting, frowning a little at the goings-on of the spar. After a moment, he stood up, brushing himself off a bit from the beach sand. "Does anyone need to take a break before you start again?" he asked, sounding perfectly calm, but the way he was watching the both of them, it seemed clear enough there was a bit of tension in his posture. "This is a friendly spar. It would not be uncouth to catch one's breath, yes?"
It took Villanelle another second or two to pull herself together, running one hand over her face and then lifting it briefly in a half-hearted wave of reassurance in response to Eve's apology. She'd asked for this, after all, and if Eve hadn't intervened... well, it didn't matter. Worst hadn't come to worst. Surprisingly, Hanzo was already on his feet, ready to go for the third round. She wasn't sure what it was that motivated him -- maybe stubborn pride, or maybe he thought they'd all think less of him if he walked away now. Villanelle bit back any comment on it. Somehow, assuring him they could stop if he wanted to felt like it would only be insulting.
Instead, she forced herself back up to her feet and resumed her own position, glancing over at Bucky with what she hoped was a neutral expression. "I'm good if Hanzo is," she said, resuming Penny's voice and only faltering when it came out a fraction half-hearted. Bracing herself, Villanelle continued more confidently for everyone's sake, "Really, I'm good! Just got... caught up in my own head a 'lil. It won't happen again!"
And still her smile was slightly strained when she faced Hanzo again, but not in the way it had been before. Villanelle was... well, she was as confident as she could have been that she had a grip on herself now. She wasn't going to throw the match because of some stupid mistake - for one, that would have been admitting guilt, and for another, she doubted Hanzo would thank her for it - but if she could control herself? If she could prove that she could do this? That would count as a victory no matter the results of the fight.
This time, her advance was steady and measured, not aggressive. She aimed a couple of low hits at his ribs and then followed up quickly by trying to land a kick to his side.
Both Eve's apologetic exclamation and Bucky's concerned suggestion that they take a break sounded warbled, as though spoken from underwater. Everything around Hanzo had long since melted into the background. Villanelle stood before him, imposing in her stature and yet mildly timid in her expression. Like she had recognized where she had gone wrong and was battling her shame over it—an experience that Hanzo was all too familiar with. Normally, he might feel sympathetic for her plight, but as it was, he instead seethed with a determined rage that egged the dragons on, their hackles raised in the wake of the grave danger their master had faced. He could feel their energy raking like nails along the ligaments of his arm, boosting his vitality and stabilizing his resolve.
All that mattered was this match. Above all, he needed to come out on top. He needed to prove that he could overcome any obstacle—physical or otherwise.
Hanzo did not forget to bow before the match unceremoniously began. Villanelle approached him at a more reasonable pace, and this time, Hanzo managed to dodge with relative ease. She was aiming low, swinging a leg at him each time she got within striking distance, which made it facile to shuffle away from each kick.
Only when the lapses between movements stretched enough to allow a disruption did Hanzo lurch forward and throw a punch just above her chest. He was not expecting this one to land, but rather, was prepared to jab lower with his other hand, hoping to catch her in the ribs—an area he had noticed served as her weak point, given it had crippled her momentarily during their first round