An Imperfect Circle

Chapter 7

By Orfik and Aaronica

As if their reunion had been in error, coldness had swept in once again to make things correct. After they left the site of a barely averted crisis, Hwoarang spoke little to nothing, and it might have been an understandable silence considering the night's events. Even when they arrived back at the hotel room with its fresh sheets and opened curtains, flooded with the plush glow of the midnight moon, and Hwoarang walked into the bathroom and locked the door, there was little alarm, hardly a reason to feel chill. But when he hadn't emerged fifteen minutes later and a loud, glassy crash pouring over tiles broke from behind the barrier, the air froze.

"Joon..." Jin pleaded, weary and desperate as he was met with a slammed door. He almost winced. Jin had reasons, many of them -- why else would he have made such an association?-- but he wouldn't force them on Hwoarang without consent. Jin's vital need to explain himself was partly for his own sake, but he was not quite callous enough to put that necessity before Hwoarang. He had tried to denounce Heihachi's epithets on the way home to be met with stony silence, and a part of Jin was terrified to have encountered a foe for which his strength was no match. He could not smash Hwoarang's pain with his fists and it almost seemed as though even his sheer adoration would prove futile. Wasn't love supposed to conquer all? Wasn't their love invincible? 

Jin slumped against the wall by the bathroom door, sinking to the floor with his hands on his raised knees. Jin's soul was aching through his soft, almost mewling pleas for Hwoarang to come out -- or at least to listen, to give some indication, even a single word that he would simply listen.

The treblic clatter was a hand that yanked him to his feet.

"Joon." Jin's eyes were suddenly wide and flat. "Joon." He tried the handle several times, and as he asked repeatedly if Hwoarang was all right, if he would open the door, please, the turning of the knob grew more violent with fear.

He felt the impersonal, cold metal of a barrel against his temple; it had never left him, and Hwoarang could not rationalize around that piece of metal against his head. He couldn't hear Jin explaining why he said those words, and he couldn't let himself understand those explanations, which would be rational and most efficient and good. Because he knew that -- whatever Mishima Heihachi and Mishima Kazuya were -- Jin was good. Jin would never hurt him, or take actions that might bring him harm. And since he had brought himself to believe in this again only within the last 48 hours, believing that Jin's working with the man under whose command his mother was raped was good was unpalatable. 

Too much. 

If it weren't for Mishima Kazuya, Hwoarang wouldn't have been born. He knew that, he'd gotten over that, and he wanted death. His thoughts were lethal mush, and the frantic movements and words beyond the bathroom door failed to register as he sat on the floor in glass, his back against the shower stall, staring at his bleeding hands.

Every second of Hwoarang's silence after that crash chipped away another piece of Jin's rationale. Soon, the door thundered when his shoulder met it. He backpedalled a pace and struck it again, grunting. When that didn't work, he retreated one extra step and tried again. The lock crumbled and Jin hastily braked to avoid flying into the bathroom, but succeeded only fairly. In the moment he burst in, his face was set but his eyes glassy with fear.

As if a vacuum of water prevented sound and sight from being transmitted immediately, Hwoarang's eyes moved to Jin seconds later; his wide gaze was hollowed out. 

"Jin." He raised one knee to support an elbow, his fingertips dappling the shards of mirrored mosaic and porcelain tiles with oxidizing red. " .. you don't know what he did, Jin." Each syllable was weak, hollowed out like his eyes as if he were making an excuse on Jin's part, using some thin logic to explain the alliance.

The stark horror lengthening Jin's face slowly ebbed, and in its place came a tide of something close to anger. Jin stooped to the floor aside Hwoarang, immune to the vicious shards of glass that bit his knee through his jeans, and took a hold of Hwoarang's arm. 

"So talk to me. Come out and talk to me. Please..." Turning back, he ripped a pristine, folded white towel from the rack and reached to tend to the Korean's bleeding hands.

"What can I possibly say to turn you against your own father? Your father." Just as his eyes became shells, he jerked his hands free of nurturing and shoved them both into Jin's hair, and then down the sides of his face, framing the countenance in smeared blood. His mother's blood, all over a Mishima. The hatred in his eyes as he looked into the Japanese's face was distant, his expression reflecting a thoughtfully bitter detachment.

"I am against him, I hate him! He isn't my father. I have no father and once Mishima Heihachi's dead, he'll be the very next soul to die." Jin was fighting to pull Hwoarang from his bitter waking dreams. He grabbed Hwoarang's wrists and pulled the hands from his face, not because of the blood, but to press them together and cover them with his own hands, holding them in a giant fist between them as he stared into Hwoarang's eyes. Hwoarang had to listen. "The only thing that relates us is that we both want Mishima Heihachi dead. But if I can keep him off my back until the tournament, the faster I'll be able to do it. "I don't want favors from him and I'm not doing him any."

Staring into Jin's eyes and seeing the soul there always reassured Hwoarang, endeared him to Jin's better judgment and infinite patience. He couldn't look there when he responded, and so he watched his cocooned hands. 

"I don't care about the tournament. I'm going to kill Mishima Kazuya."

What the Japanese started to feel through his hands -- an arrhythmic pulse -- spread to the Korean's broad, black covered shoulders, which were shaking.

The hot vehemence in Jin's face softened like paraffin. His hold on Hwoarang's wounded hands grew was less forceful now and more entreating. 

"Let's so sit out there," he said softly, not to discourage the conversation, but simply to get Hwoarang out of the mess in the bathroom. Seeing him in pain was bad enough, but Jin simply couldn't stand to see him in such wreckage. He started tentatively to rise.

As if Jin's grip had never attenuated, Hwoarang stood with him in a seeming acquiescent act, and let himself be chaperoned from the pit of his defacement complicitly. Despite his gaze's resolve to remain deflected, he took Jin with him in descent to the only chair in the room -- a utilitarian but spacious seat cut out for overbooked sleeping arrangements -- and he rested his profile against the hard ball of the Japanese's shoulder. 

" .. do you believe in me?" It was murmured and small, like a papercut.

Jin pulled Hwoarang's arms around his own waist and locked them there. 

"Yes," he answered soothingly but genuinely. "I do. Now more than ever... I always will." Jin hunched slightly and shifted enough to rest his cheek against the side of Hwoarang's head. For a long moment he was quiet. Then, he asked gingerly, "What is it he did that I don't know..?"

The affirmation cracked the barrier in his irises, one that had held up in the event his actions weren't endorsed by the only person he felt accountable to. He crushed the muscular trunk in his grasp, and angled his face just enough to regard Jin. 

" .. he gave the okay to raid my village. It was before I was born. One of his soldiers raped my mother." He took his time, swallowing to indemnify himself against a violent reaction to his own words. "Baek Doo San said .. she was thirteen years old."

The Japanese's eyes clouded as they drifted sightlessly away, looming at points through the floor. The silence crept in, lingered, and almost grew oppressive. Jin's face tensed suddenly, his eyes narrowing as he bowed his face, turning it away. He shuddered and whispered.

"I hate him."

"It hurt when .. I didn't know what to think." The belated apology, after the rampage: Hwoarang's habit. He fanned his hands across the Japanese's back and tucked his forehead against Jin's warm neck. "I couldn't see anything but my mother's face, on that warped old Polaroid Baek-sensei gave me, and she was four in the patty fields wearing a sack dress. Poor. But smiling so hard .."

Jin's heart wrenched into a knot, and he knew that he would have cried if his two years in the blazing sun in the heart of Australia, and all of the pain and misery he suffered there, had not dried up the salty pools of his tears. He wanted to cover his face but did not, and he wanted to tell Hwoarang to stop but would not. After so long, Jin had almost believed himself immune to the horrors of truth. His soulful eyes were tearless but they stung, too heavy for even Jin to lift them onto Hwoarang's face. Soon, though, Jin regained himself, and he asked softly -- almost timidly -- 

"Do you still have the picture?"

"No. I burned it a little after I got it, scattered the ashes .. " Hwoarang recalled, speaking in a deliberate cadence that evacuated his mouth expediently enough of words he never spoke, his mind of thoughts he often tried not to think. He had learned long ago that his self-given mandate could afford no tears to be fulfilled, and so he struggled against the encroaching emotions that Mishima Kazuya had brought back all his life. Emotions that he forgot when Jin was in his thoughts, and he was in Jin's arms. Yet he had never fully succeeded in purging the taste of his mother's blood from his memory. 

"I couldn't keep her. I didn't even know her. But .. " and Hwoarang's expression relaxed a bit, as he reflected on his actions, " .. she deserved a service, and so I gave her one."

Jin bowed his face, his hair hanging before it like fine, spidery drapery covering a window of cool and mirroring glass, as he pressed his temple against Hwoarangs. His hands delved gently between the Korean's neck and the wall so that his forearms could rest over Hwoarang's shoulders, which he barely stroked with the coarse tips of his fingers. He had asked about the past before but had never been rewarded with answers. Now that they were being offered, Jin wanted to keep them so that he too could honor them, as facets of the soul to which he pledged his undying love. 

"When did you meet Baek-san?" he murmured.

Elevating his chin as Hwoarang considered the question, the skin of his profile rubbed over the consolatory contours of Jin's chiseled face. 

"I was four, I think. Running around in Seoul. I don't remember much .. " Tucked so firmly and securely in Jin's empathetic cloak made Hwoarang's faithlessness immediately painful; the blindspots he had cultivated by choice to block out events which paralyzed him were the very things entitled to the being that legitimized his very existence now. "I'm sorry. I forgot a lot." 

The carmine smudge on the side of Hwoarang's face caught Jin's attention and summoned alarm. He pulled back just enough to tip his head to either side and hunch his shoulders, wiping the sides of his face, smeared by Hwoarang's hands, against his shoulders and the dark, absorbent cotton of his sweatshirt. He looked at the blood on Hwoarang's temple, rubbed off of one of those smears, and for a moment he had the urge to lick it clean. Logic narrowly won over impulse, however, and he smoothed the blood from the Korean's face with his fingers, before suddenly remembering the source of the stains in the first place. 

"Your hands," he said suddenly and quietly, twisting back in an attempt to see them.

"They've seen worse," Hwoarang dismissed. He'd taken to regarding the Japanese while the caring, paternal grooming took place, but now he elevated his hand for both their inspections. Only the right -- the one he shattered the bathroom mirror with -- was lashed from the shards. A laceration cut across his knuckles, veining in two thin, burning paths up the tendoned back of the hand. Not bad at all, considering. 

After contemplating his actions for a quiet, private moment, the Korean drew himself up from Jin and the chair, slinking to the floor to genuflect before both. He took one unharmed hand in his own aching one, and shielded his lips with it. His eyes were glazed and repentant, targeted at the kinder, saner gaze of the Japanese.

"I was really scared; my heart froze when I heard the sound..." Jin admitted quietly, not to chasten but simply to inform. The moment in which he thought that Hwoarang could be seriously hurt was one that pumped frigid oil into his veins to paralyze him; one that sent stars rocketing from behind his eyes in an explosion frigid with panic. Jin moved forward, closing the distance between them as he curled his free arm about Hwoarang's waist, pulling the slightly lighter form against his own. His other fingers wove with Hwoarang's, and he tenderly lifted the pair off of his mouth. They remained as one, twined and hovering in the air, as Jin dipped his face, the tips of ink hair skittering delicately over his nose as his mouth met its compliment.

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