DISCLAIMER: All featured Tekken characters are the property of Namco and not the authors.

Notes: Three parts of a Jinless Hwoarang. Say hi to the Boxin' Brit, and keep an eye out for his role in the next major Jin / Hwoarang series. ^_^

Credits: Thanks to Charlie for the Steve characterization.


Part 3

By Orfik

There was something burning in Tokyo, but a lot of people who mattered weren't going to smell it until too late, and they weren't going to see the fire until their skin screamed escape. Even a fire needed oxygen to sustain itself though, and so the arsonist walked alone on the streets he once walked with riffraff numbers; paused in the parks he once loitered in with illegal designs; and presently sat in a club whose constituency the Yurei -- this fire's defunct gang -- used to terrorize.

Most of the people still recognized Hwoarang under that short, slicked head of wine-red hair, in spite of that harder figure, those unfamiliar lines in an uncommon frown on his face. He told them: yeah, he was Ranga. No, keep your cash to yourself. He didn't do that shit anymore. He still played the guitar, though, and so he was sitting at a table in the rear, ignoring those cavorting around him as he listened to an industrial group's set.

Steve never was one to make an entrance. Oh no. He just liked to greet the people he knew ... and they made an entrance for him. Some attention was unavoidable, of course, what with that loud shirt -- navy blue silk tonight, baggy around a tautly muscled frame, paler blue tropical vines running up hardened sides and chest -- but a little attention was never a bad thing.

"'Ey!" he called to the bartender, making a mock-gun with his forefinger and thumb, winking at the man, who grinned cheerily in return. Some of the men at the bar slapped Steve on the back. One of them thrust a mug of some sort of beer into his hand, which was still wrapped in bandages across the knuckles. With a familiar wave to all of them, the blonde retreated to the back of the tavern ... only there, away from the press of the crowd, did he allow himself a small sigh of relief. His tensed frame folded into a chair as blue eyes tilted to watch the band.

Japan wasn't as globally metropolitan as some media would have the world believe. Steve would have caught a couple of eyes -- most of them approving in an artsy context like this one -- just because his skin, his eyes, his hair color: more than a few Japanese coveted and fetished these things. Whores in Japan had blond hair; that was Hwoarang's thought as the man caught his attention.

In Korea, delinquents dyed their hair outlandish colors and in Japan, whores went blond. He would have chuckled if he were in a lighter mood, because his suffocating black jeans and worn leather coat, capped off in trademark silver spurs, should have drawn more attention than the white man was getting. But it didn't, and the man was only vaguely familiar to Hwoarang, and so he returned his attention to the band on the stage.

In the dim light, Steve's beer looked red ... like a thick glass tankard filled with blood. He eyed it somewhat suspiciously, hesitant to drink, and actually sniffed the liquid before laughing at his own fears and tipping back the mug to swallow. Thick glass hit wood with an audible thunk and Steve's shoes propped against the edge of the table as he leaned back in his chair, rocking it up onto two legs, swiping the back of his palm against his lips. Blue eyes scanned the crowd again, meeting a slew of brown ones, pausing briefly on the young man with the dyed hair, also watching the band play.

They sucked. They were cooing on like Dir en grey, and Hwoarang hated those pretty ass pussies. His expression reflect his unvoiced judgments, and so Steve found the ex-soldier's brow screwed in a manner implicative of some building outburst. As the lead of the cross-dressing rockers gargled the last stanzas of an intelligible and mawkish song, Hwoarang grabbed a glass of something clear and slammed it back -- something considerably stronger than water inferring from a grimace. And he had the bottle ready in his other hand to pour another, even though he paused to yell "You suck cock!" over the scattered applause before he filled the glass. It was an excuse to ignore viperous glares he got.

The Beatles had been a great band ... the British Invasion of the early eighties had produced some pretty decent stuff. But Steve never could understand this whole Japanese music scene. He would dance to it, if sufficiently tanked, but being forced to sit and listen to it was quite another matter. It would take something a lot stronger than beer to enable him to tolerate the cacophony which the girl ... men ... on the stage were producing, though he worked his way through the tankard as though the sound of swallowing could drown out the lackluster instrumentals. He continued crowd-watching, for something marginally more productive to do with his time, but chuckled loudly as the Korean-type uttered his vehement approbation. His glass lifted in a salute, he called, "Amen!" before finishing off the last of the beer.

Well -- they really weren't that bad, hence the glares that Steve had now too called down upon himself. Hwoarang was raised on Queen and Kiss, worshipped Hendrix, idolized Dave Navarro. He wasn't with the Japanese stuff either -- which worked, because he hated those fucks as much as the lot of them hated Koreans [only problem on his end being that nasty world power balance]. The red head still appreciated the vote, though, and gave the English guy [because that accent wasn't American] and amused, demure little smirk while the next group readied the stage for their set.

"Most of them are like that. If you hated it, maybe you shouldn't be here." Being questioned on the hypocrisy of this suggestion didn't even enter the Korean's mind.

Apparently the question didn't enter Steve's mind either, as he merely arched a rakish golden brow and tipped his chair farther back, golden leg hairs gleaming fine and curly on shins left bare by baggy cargo shorts.

"Eh ... where else is there to go? The music may be bad 'ere, but you can't beat the company." Steve grinned to the Asian faces around, many of whom were looking at him banefully after his casual dismissal of their little pop icons. That task completed, the Brit paused for the first time to study the Korean's face more closely ... finding it oddly familiar, striking some memory which could not quite be brought to the surface in the stale nicotine-saturated air of the bar.

"I'm Steve ... pleased to meet you, right?" He leaned over to offer a hand.

To shake or not to shake. Hwoarang gave the impression that that wasn't going to happen, from the way he stared at Steve with the small smile remaining on his even, full mouth. But he seemed to consider the bandages swathing the knuckles, and just wanted to squeeze to see what kind of reaction that'd get. So he did. Was it tender?

"Hwoarang. You're not here just sight-seeing, are you?"

"What, don't I look enough like a tourist, mate...?" Steve laughed, and plucked at the front of his shirt with his left hand, making those floral vines ripple across his chest. The right hand scrunched together a bit in Hwoarang's grip, then Steve returned the shake full-
force, squeezing the Korean's knuckles together and pumping his arm a few times. Obviously not sore, then.

"Hoarung." He butchered the name and tried it again. "Hwoarang. Better ... d'you have anything a little easier to say?"

That was the thing about most white people in the world, Hwoarang'd learned. They were offensive without even knowing it, always needing an easier way [meaning their way] or something. Not that he hated white people like he hated the Japanese. He was raised on the Queen and Kiss and the strawberry pop tarts and american pennies GIs in Seoul used to give him when he was a kid.

"You can call me Ranga. If you can handle that -- " he added, marvelling at the handle on his palm. " .. and .. most tourists don't walk around banded up for a fight." Narrowing his eyes -- two large brown irises banded in a lighter, reddish rust -- Hwoarang sized the man up through his face alone.

"You're here for the Ironfist."

Steve's solitary devilish eyebrow lifted further, as if endeavoring to make him look sincere.

"Oh, this? I scraped my knuckles painting a roof," he repled smoothly. A lie. "Ranga I can 'andle I do believe." Blue eyes gazed uncritically, almost-innocently into the reddish-brown ones...like dried blood, thought Steve, and wondered why everything came back to blood tonight.

"You aren't from around 'ere either. Did you come for the...tournament thing then?"

"Sorta. This place is like some case of herpes I can't shake," Hwoarang intimated, probably before he even knew he was speaking aloud, because he'd breathed the words in a sigh and settled back in the chair, dark brown lashes shifting to the stage. The slinky leather he wore rasped back just enough, revealing the curled muscles of the Korean's abdomen under thin, wife-beater threads and the set of dog tags sparkling from his throat -- both as concurrently flashy and nondescript as the insignia of black angel wings tattooed up the side of his throat. Hwoarang didn't let his hair grow long again for that reason.

Sky-colored gaze, not so innocent now, brushed down the line left by that open leather and across Hwoarang's stomach, as though attempting to brand a new tattoo there with looking alone. A pleased smile curled the corners of Steve's mouth. A consummate people watcher such as himself always thrilled at the prospect of interesting subjects ... and Hwoarang had proved interesting on so many levels.

"You're not going to clear up the infection by sticking your dick back in over an' over again. Maybe you should find a new place to 'ang out." Steve assumed, of course, that the Korean was talking about the bar. His eyes moved to seek out the bartender as he pondered getting another drink, shifting his weight from heel to toe against the table's edge, chair teetering precariously.

Tinctures of shadows flickered over Hwoarang's face as Steve spoke, but when he accompanied audial attentiveness with a visual one, he sought to wield a smile. It was a weak, convictionless thing.

"It might work. I gotta confront my problems some time, and the tournament's a prime opportunity." Lubricating his lips with a swipe of his tongue -- there were traces of liquor there, burning them -- Hwoarang gave the blond's hands a half nod. "How long you been training for this?"

"Ah, fuck." Steve rolled his eyes at the ceiling good-naturedly. "My mum always said I was a terrible liar." He clenched his wrapped hands into fists, one of which lashed out to catch Ranga playfully - and lightly - on the shoulder.

"A while. 'ow about you? Did you just now decide you 'ad some problems to deal with?"

"Nah. I've been dealing with the problem all my life. I was only able to act upon them four years ago, when I first entered one of these .. " Hwoarang explained. But then he seemed to ask himself, his gaze blurring thoughtfully, " .. why am I even telling you all this? Like it's psych 101. I'm sure you got your problems too. Fighters always do, right?" Hwoarang winked at Steve as he lifted his glass, soon tilting the contents to his mouth to swallow.

"O' course. We all need a reason to fight...something that makes us angry." Hooking a finger in the handle of his mug, he held it out to Hwoarang. "Would you mind giving me a spot of that? Unless you're planning to binge, then don't let me interrupt." He flashed his grin again, curiously disarming.

"We shouldn't be drinking this shit anyway. Not with prelims coming up -- " Hwoarang admonished as he reached for the bottle of vodka -- imported from Petersburg, claimed the label -- and handed it base first to the Brit. He could handle his liquor, but he wondered whether sharing was inadvertent sabotage to the other guy, and that made Hwoarang grin. Like he cared. [But he did sorta like the guy.]



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