Authors' Notes: "Mocking Bird" is a side-story to the series "Tattered Wings" and is set some time after the epilogue. It's not entirely essential to have read that before continuing here, but it offers some context, particularly when inside references are made.
Warning/s: This story contains strong language (on occasion), incessant fluff, and some character bashing, but it does not necessarily reflect our opinions of the characters. Any derogatory remarks containing something about being British are plainly out of anger for Steve Fox, and are in no way intended as discrimination.
DISCLAIMER: The Tekken Tournament/ King of Iron Fist and it's competitors are not ours, they are property of NAMCO.
I woke like most other mornings, without cue. The thick veil of sleep lifted itself and I was met with dim light. It had taken something beyond six months for my sight to fully restore itself as the Doctor assured it would; the day I realized I could properly see was another morning, just like this one. I had always imagined that I would be eager to see the skies, trees and outdoors. The last thing I had witnessed before my sight was destroyed was a metal door, and then bright lights, before it was all taken. Ironic that it would return the same way, with the random flashes that were later added to by blurs of color.
When I woke that morning almost a year ago, it didn't quite set in that anything had changed. The curtains were drawn, everything was dark and a glance at the red digital clock told me that it was bordering on six in the morning. I'd been about ready to lie back down for a few more minutes when what I had seen really hit me. I could see - in full color and focus.
A few slivers of light were shining through the gap between the curtains, and my first instinct was to throw them open, hungry for all that I had missed. I was just rising again when there was a mumble at my side and an arm snaked across my abdomen, curling round firmly. Hwoarang murmured something unintelligible, pulling me down again before burying his face in my neck. He stilled almost immediately, his steady breaths were deep, and I was sure that he was still sleeping. All thought of anything outside this bedroom vanished as his lips moved against my neck in that slurred sleepy talk of his. Turning my head to the side, I was met with the sea of flames and copper that fell over his face; this I had missed. One hand reached up to push the fallen locks back and I took my first good look at him in a long while.
I didn't remember him ever looking as peaceful as he did then. I had often seen him sleeping, of course, but there had always been a degree of tension in his expression. Often I had wanted to somehow brush it away, learn what troubled him, but knowing that he would never tell me. Not then, anyway. I hoped that now he would be more willing to talk as I was always willing to hear anything he had to say.
His eyes remained closed and his sleep talk had ceased, I leaned down to kiss him - unwittingly waking him at the same time. He didn't mind; especially when he realized I was looking straight at him. We didn't gain much sleep after that.
Here we were again; I was always the first to wake. I needed no alarm, my internal clock saw to that and today I was especially pleased to find him still in slumber. The sheets had been kicked off sometime during the night; I wasn't surprised, for Hwoarang had often complained of the summer heat. I often reminded him that he was the one who had later insisted on moving to Kyoto, and its weather was beyond my control. Thus, one of his terms of selecting a house was that it needed central air-system; he had wanted air conditioning, I insisted on heating.
The former was currently at full blast and had been going throughout the entire night; I repressed a shiver and pulled the sheets over myself. Turning to look at my partner, I had to wonder how much sleep he had managed the night before.
Smiling to myself, I leaned over and placed a kiss to the back of his neck while my hand played over the spray of copper hair on the pillow. Hwoarang didn't respond and I was a little disappointed, but glad at the same time. He seemed to be sleeping easier these days. Propping up on my elbow, my attention was captured by the long streaks that ran along the pale skin of his back. It was sobering, though I found myself tracing the scars with the hand that put them there. I stopped when he grunted softly, the muscles in his back twitching then cording gently as he turned on his side, blinking sleepily at me.
It's a commonly held belief that everyone looks their worst first thing in the morning, but this never held true to Hwoarang. It was almost uncanny how he could always manage to look beautiful without even trying. I took back my hand and smiled.
The heel of one hand came up to rub at his eyes. "What time is it?" His voice was still thick with sleep and it looked as though he was making the conscious effort to keep his eyes open.
I glanced back at the clock on the nightstand. "It's almost six-thirty."
Hwoarang groaned and turned into the pillow. "Fuck that, I'm going back to sleep."
I grinned, hunching over him and slipping my arms between his torso and the bed to hold him gently. "Ne, Hwo-chan, don't go back to sleep yet."
This time he positively growled, grabbing another pillow to cover the back of his head and ears. "Go 'way," was all I caught. Undeterred, I removed the pillow and hugged myself to him before straightening and bringing him to rest against me as I sat up. He didn't protest, leaning his head back against my shoulder and I was somewhat relieved. This meant he wasn't really annoyed, for there were some mornings when Hwoarang could be utterly uncooperative and grumpy. I usually left him be on those days, keeping in mind that he usually needed more sleep than I did.
I hid my smile in his hair as he burrowed back into my embrace as though to get more comfortable and I had a sneaking suspicion he intended to resume sleep there. Feeling myself sigh, I admitted defeat. If he was really so tired I supposed I would have to accede. Looking down at the bared shoulder and the mark impressed upon it, I raised the hand that wrapped around his torso to touch the scar gingerly. Finally I lowered my head to kiss it and just held Hwoarang to me.
"Happy birthday," I told him.
"It's not my birthday," he murmured sounding like he intended to go back to sleep. I had to repress a smile. The man was right. We didn't know when his birthday was, but today was the date we had found etched into the locket interior the day I regained sight. Baek had placed a picture of himself and Hwoarang in the locket over that date, for some reason. Plus, it simply made sense that his birthday was in the summer. A year ago, he told me I gave him the best birthday present of anyone for finally seeing again.
That is, when he finally admitted that the date in the locket was when he had always celebrated his birthday. That development didn't even come about until the nice delivery man brought us a good ten packages from Korea. I could never forget the look on his face when he got to the third or fourth one, and had yet another birthday present. He just looked at me indignantly for a moment before muttering some nonsense about his gang and admitting that it was the day Baek had designated to be his birthday, since he lacked the knowledge of any such day.
Looking at his slightly down-turned face now, he looked mostly just tired, and there was almost no sign of the other side of him that had such an attitude. Eventually, Hwoarang looked at me, looking a little cross. As if he'd just noticed, he grumbled, "And don't call me 'Hwo-chan'."
I rolled my eyes heavenward, feeling the corner of my mouth tugging upwards. It would be pointless to ask him if he was tired. He would probably take that as an open invitation to go back to sleep, which was actually the last thing I wanted, but... Instead, I shifted back and planted a kiss at the base of his neck. Gently kneading his shoulders, I noticed the muscles were like slabs of rock beneath my palms and I frowned. All the work with the new dojo must have been taking more out of him than I thought.
I smiled as Hwoarang's head drifted down and I heard him sigh softly. I rose to my knees and moved the massage further down his back, along the spine; he arched into my touch and I would have smiled if he hadn't made the strange sound that had me wondering if I'd done something right or wrong. "Too hard?" I bent over to try and catch a glimpse of his face but it was shrouded by his hair.
"No," he assured. "I'm just more tender there." His voice was slightly higher than normal, but it may have just been that he was still groggy, and that he couldn't quite speak normally yet. Or, he was trying to play tough. The latter, obviously, was far more likely.
I smiled and ran my knuckles along the ridge of muscles before returning to his neck and administering the same treatment, only my fingers dug deeper this time, earning an audible 'ow'. That was a good sign, despite the glare thrown back at me. Well, as long as he was waking up. I moved forward as Hwoarang leaned back into me, amber eyes slipping closed as I kneaded the tense fix of his shoulders, arms, and finally hands. Sighing, I brought one of his hands to my lips and kissed the inside of his wrist. "What have you been doing, Hwoarang?" I wrapped my arms around him and nuzzled his cheek. "I told you not to work too hard."
"Well, I was out of shape, for one," Hwoarang grumbled. I didn't dare ask what his definition of 'out of shape' was. "Since Lee is letting me use his own training area, he and I have been getting it prepared for students. That requires a lot of rather boring jobs like... moving wood and then moving more wood." Hwoarang sighed, turning slightly and opening his eyes so I could almost gauge the expression there. "It's tiring work, but I think the result will be worth it. I should be able to open the dojo by the end of the summer. Lee even expressed some interest in instructing there himself. But, you know him, he and your father are much better suited to the business world, so to speak." Hwoarang smiled pleasantly, and his countenance was mirrored on my face. He was finally awake.
I had to agree with him for the most part; although Lee seemed to have established a balance between his martial art and the office, my father had been preoccupied with the latter. I could only imagine half the matters Heihachi had left unresolved when he disappeared; how much my father had to reclaim. We both agreed that the Zaibatsu would remain his domain; I wanted nothing to do with it. He had Lee as his Vice-President and I believed that was more than enough, but if the worst came, they knew where to find me.
If I thought my father had enough on his plate, Lee was another case entirely. Not only had he agreed to hold the position in the Mishima Zaibatsu (begrudgingly, I had heard), but he still managed his own company and was helping Hwoarang with the dojo in his spare time. I didn't want to wait for the day when he would exhaust himself, and offered to help him if I could. It started small, checking accounts and details as a simple favour when I wasn't studying. Before I knew it we were discussing contracts and then, my own.
I don't think my father was displeased that I had refused the Zaibatsu and officially taken profession with Lee, even though I was in a higher position than I would have preferred. Ever since I had been accepted back into university I studied through correspondence and wanted to concentrate my efforts there; luckily, Lee was still in command of his company and made most of the decisions, though never without my approval. This allowed me time at home, time to study and most importantly, time with Hwoarang. There was the odd occasion that I had to meet with Lee in person for conferences with current or prospective clients. I'd only returned from one yesterday, but the latest contract with a company in America was still unresolved so I was due to return tomorrow.
Ugh. I didn't want to think about work right now. At least Hwoarang was doing what he loved and I was happy for him.
"Lee does too much. That silver hair of his will start to grey and he'll work himself into an early grave," I murmured, rubbing my forehead with the back of one hand.
"And you won't?" Hwoarang joked, throwing a lazy grin at me. "Jin, I think you need to relax more. All this running around for Lee and for school can't be good for your health." Hwoarang, suddenly turning completely solemn, looked down the length of the bed to his feet. Hwoarang wasn't "moping", per say. The Blood Talon would never "mope", but he was doing a pretty good impression of someone moping. "Jin, when do you have to leave for that meeting?"
I leaned my cheek against his hair and stared at the clock, trying to remember the exact details. "Well, it starts at ten, so... " Taking into account the flight time and when I had to be at the airport... "I'll probably have to be gone by seven tomorrow morning, I don't trust Tokyo traffic."
Hwoarang, this time, managed quite an upset look. There was a long silence. I almost didn't expect him to say anything in response. "You just got back," he complained miserably. I opened my mouth to say something - maybe an apology. I would never know, because, just as suddenly as he had become subdued, Hwoarang came to life, grinning wickedly at me. "So, then, what're we doin' tonight to make up for all that lost time?"
A little relieved, I laughed. I knew it wasn't very fair to him, leaving him alone at the time of his birthday, no less. At least Hwoarang could be reasonable about it. "You'll have to wait and see, won't you?" I started climbing off the bed and reached for the curtains while Hwoarang yawned and sat up. Throwing open the drapes, I smiled at the new morning that was still dark, a few shards of gold piercing the horizon. "But don't worry." On my way to the bathroom I stopped to kiss him briefly. "The meeting won't be too long."
"It had better not be, Kazama!" Hwoarang grumbled loudly enough for me to hear. He hardly sounded annoyed; if anything, he was amused. He only ever used my last name when he was giving idle threats that were always intended as jokes - more or less all at his expense for the way he had acted toward me after we first met.
I felt myself smiling again as I took down a towel from the linens compartment in the bathroom, beside the door. Glancing back in the bedroom, I saw that he was lying down again with the sheet half-drawn over his torso. "Are you going to take a shower?"
He yawned, stretching like a cat, almost, and nodded. Looking at me with half-lidded eyes he responded, "I'm gettin' there, Jin; one thing at a time. You know, some of us like sleep." He rolled on his side, propping himself on one elbow so he could take the clock in one hand and tilt it so that he could read the face. "Besides, it is still before seven in the morning. I have no reason to get out of bed." With that, he plopped back into the pillows, and yawned again, this time he actually bothered to cover his mouth with one hand in a motion that looked oddly polite when he did it.
Within seconds he was still, and I had to assume asleep. Hwoarang could fall asleep anywhere, anytime, if he had to; another wonder to behold. I gave myself a little time to watch him, enjoying the simple nature of things and their new freedom. This was the sort of thing I lived for.
Eventually, I closed the door and flicked on the various switches that brought light dancing on the cool blue tiles and the fan softly whirring to life overhead. For a few seconds I stood in the middle of the bathroom, staring at the sink, and then my reflection. In the mirror I caught sight of the tiny palm that resided in the corner of our bathroom. It was a house-warming gift from Miharu that had earned a lot of questions when Hwoarang asked why I put it in our bathroom and not on the balcony with the others, even though our bathroom had a skylight.
"Jin, I thought that you of all people would know that plants need sunlight."
Yes, I grew up in a forest and was familiar with the most basics of botany. Lucky for me, all he did was give me a funny look in conclusion and didn't prod further. Glancing once more at the closed door I pulled the palm forward slightly and reached behind it for the small package I had hidden there, taped to the back of the pot. Again I was lucky that Hwoarang was not the sort to houseclean.
Taking the small box out of the airtight plastic bag, I weighed it in my palm, silently praying that my luck would last past today. It was just a question of when to give it to him... before or after everyone arrived? Maybe I should wait until they left? Sighing inwardly, I hid it in the pocket of my robe hanging on the door as Xiaoyu's words came back to me. She was the only one who knew what I had bought for Hwoarang's birthday.
"Are you kidding, he'll love it!"
I rolled my eyes and pulled her back from the glass counter. "You love it, but that doesn't mean that he will." I frowned, doubt creeping in. "Maybe this was the wrong thing to get him now... "
She gave me an impatient look, putting hands on hips. "Well, if you're not giving it to him, I'll take it!"
I only had to hope that she was right and Hwoarang wasn't going to kill me for it at the end of the day.
"Why are you cooking dinner?" I asked pleasantly as I pulled the button-up dress shirt over my arms. I began to button it, as I watched Jin busying himself in the kitchen. He reminded me of a woman in the kitchen that was furiously preparing for a dinner party. Half of that statement was based on pure fact.
"It's your birthday," Jin answered slowly, his voice low and calm. He spared a moment to look back at me and smile. It wasn't one of those loving smiles he often gave me, maybe without even noticing, it was a "get out of the kitchen before something blows up just because you are within five feet of it" smile. I pouted a little.
"I didn't get to cook you anything on your birthday," I pointed out. I actually remembered that day clearly. I had been planning to make Jin dinner, so we could have a nice romantic evening alone together. But, he and Steve had teamed up against me. Steve took Jin out to dinner at his favorite restaurant. I think that was the move that had rekindled competition between Steve and myself. For a long time, we had been at peace; but now I made sure to flaunt in every way possible that I got Jin and he didn't.
Jin is going to kill one or both of us soon enough if we keep this up.
"Hwoarang...." The tone of Jin's voice was enough to tell me that he didn't want to start arguing about cooking. I can't cook. I know that, he knows that. Hell, everyone who has ever gotten even a little close to us knows that I can't cook to save my life. Of course, the time I set the stove on fire stays, for the most part, between Jin and myself. I'm a little suspicious that he might have told Xiaoyu.
Nonetheless, I had plenty of things that I could say to him about my reputation in the kitchen, all of which would be the truth bent over backwards, and I was about to say one such thing when the doorbell rang. Jin looked at me again, the smile still on his face, and I sighed, nodding without another word. I padded across the hardwood of the dining room and the carpet of the living room before reaching the door. Sure, I liked (almost) all of my guests for my birthday party, but I wasn't looking forward to how high class Jin wanted it to be. He was making me wear a nice shirt (I left it partially unbuttoned and untucked, just to spite him) and a pair of black slacks. Complete with my hair actually somewhat intentionally styled and the gold locket that hung around my neck, I felt pretty dressed up... well, for me, anyway.
Oh, right, door.
I opened the door, to reveal Lee and Kazuya. Kazuya was dressed in a nice dark blue suit, though I secretly always thought he didn't look good in blue, and looked as proper as ever. The package under one arm looked ridiculously out of place with the bright green wrapping and the gold ribbons. Lee was in what appeared to be a tuxedo with a light blue vest that turned a darker shade of blue depending on the angle of the light hitting it. Lee also wore white gloves and held a bottle of champagne in one hand with a bouquet of all white roses in the crook of his other arm. Suddenly, I didn't feel so dressed up.
"I told you he was going to think you were asking him out," Kazuya hissed to Lee, sounding quite put off. To that, Lee just laughed; it was a sound that I missed whenever I wasn't around him, because it was so light and soothing. I had to admit, though, Kazuya had a point. Lee looked like he was taking someone on a date. I had to try really hard in order to repress any commentary about Lee and Kazuya. I just kept reminding myself they were not a couple.... not a couple....
I remembered quite clearly when it became overly evident to me that Lee had it for Kazuya. Yeah, I know, I probably should have figured it out sometime when he was risking his ass for Kazuya, standing up for Kazuya, making big-uke-eyes at Kazuya.... okay, the last was going a bit far.
In any event, Lee had been assisting me with the dojo, this couldn't have been more than three weeks ago, and we were, naturally, dying in the Kyoto summer heat. Ironically, we were installing the air conditioning that day when we nearly died of the heat. What I remember best about that day, though, was simply one expression that crossed Lee's face. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before.
I grabbed my towel and wiped my face of sweat quickly, even more quick to reach for my water bottle. Lee, I saw out of the corner of my eye, was doing the same. "You look pretty beat, Lee. Is it just the heat, or is work getting to you?"
"Huh?" Lee looked up at me, confusion darting across his features before understanding settled in. "Oh, yeah. Jin's been really helpful with my company, but there's been a lot to take care of with the Zaibatsu recently. There's just been so much paperwork..." Lee groaned as he said the last word. A smile quirked on my lips. "It's been so busy, and Kazuya is really riding my ass to get the work done."
Lee returned to his water bottle. I, on the other hand, returned to making jokes. "Yeah, well, I figured you were the uke," I said with a small smile. Instantly, Lee spit out the water in his mouth, partially spraying me, and made a couple choking noises before fixing me with an indignant glare.
"Nah, I know Lee has his sights set elsewhere," I said quite decisively, though with a shrug. "C'mon in. I'll hang your coats." Lee transferred the gifts into Kazuya's hands so he could remove his jacket. Then, Kazuya did the same in return and both coats were handed to me. I hung them in the coat closet beside the doorway. "Lee, why don't you take those flowers and the champagne to the kitchen. Jin can deal with 'em."
"Alright." Lee took me into an one-armed hug, surprising me a little. "Happy birthday, Hwoarang. Twenty-three is a good age, you know." We shared a laugh at that, and Lee was suddenly gone, leaving me alone with Kazuya. For a long moment, we just stared at eachother.
Kazuya likes me better than the average person, but that doesn't say much. Personally, despite the fact that I haven't had a problem with him in the past, I still find him a bit creepy. It doesn't help that he always watches Jin and I very closely when we are together. On the one hand, it is nice to know that he really is concerned for his son. On the other hand....
"This is for you from Lee and myself," Kazuya explained, handing me the oddly shaped and brightly wrapped package he'd been carrying.
"Oh, thank you. Go ahead and set it on the coffee table in the living room. I could make some tea..." The sentiment was lost on my tongue because Kazuya immediately did as I asked. I looked after him for a moment, but the doorbell rang again, drawing my attention back to the door. "Already?" I looked at my watch. Normally, with our group of acquaintances, Jin and I didn't expect anyone but Kazuya to be on time.
With a slight shrug, I opened the door again. This time, it was Lei Wulong, the detective that was essentially responsible for Jin's safety. I owed him one for what he had done for me. Hell, I owed him a million and one. "Detective, good of you to come," I said politely, trying really hard to draw on what little good proper manners Baek had tried (failed) to drill into me. Jin had since been on my case for my hosting skills, or rather the lack there of, so I was trying to be better. Really.
"Happy birthday, Hwoarang!" Lei laughed, and I couldn't help but think that he was a sort of scary old man. He really had a good heart and was a wonderful person, but it was a bit odd. Very odd, really. Still, he made me feel better about dressing down. He wore a pair of khaki slacks, a white button-up shirt tucked in, and he had a nice black leather coat slung over his sleeve. Not to mention, the holster over his back. I let Lei stow the gun in the jacket, and then took it, hanging it with Kazuya's and Lee's.
"Thanks, Detective. If you want to go into the living room, Kazuya and Lee should already be there. Jin is still busy in the kitchen." Lei nodded, and went off in the direction Kazuya had gone. I leaned up against the closet door, deciding it would be counter productive to walk back to the kitchen because the next person would surely show up as soon as I got there. So, instead, I amused myself with looking around.
I was next to the hallway that, to the right, led up to the bedroom, bathroom, and the "weight room", which was really just a punching bag hanging from the ceiling in a room with wood floors. I, for the most part, would train at my new dojo, or what was ready to be used. Jin would use the punching bag from time to time, but it was only when he didn't have time to go to the dojo to see me, or it was "too cold outside". When he didn't have time to see me, he preferred to work out anywhere but inside, basically, which made sense, knowing nature boy. I smirked to myself as memories came back to me. We often sparred outside, even before Jin had his sight back, and it always ultimately resulted in something very unlike fighting.
To the left, I could barely see a light coming from the study. It was where Jin did a lot of his work. As was to be expected, he became the boring desk job type following right in the footsteps of his father, uncle, and grandfather, but Jin chose to do a lot of his work at home in the study. The room had a sliding glass door that led outside, and the curtains were always drawn back so that natural light pervaded the room. It was filled with books, a computer, paper in neat stacks, and the stereo that was mounted on one wall. Once, when Jin was still blind, I stole the remote and scared the bejesus out of him by suddenly blasting a song. I didn't do it on purpose, really....
The doorbell rang again, and I jumped. I hadn't been anticipating the sound, and I was lost in thought. Taking a moment to just breathe after being startled, I opened the door with a wide grin. It was Xiaoyu, Miharu, and the she-beast. Okay, okay, Xiaoyu, Miharu, and Julia. Julia was wearing a small red dress and had her hair done up in a bun. It looked like she had gotten a perm, and the glasses were once again on the arch of her nose. Admittedly, she looked very nice. "Happy birthday, Hwoarang!" the three girls chorused. I smiled at them, a real smile, even for Julia, and waved them in.
Xiaoyu was wearing a blue dress that met her at mid-thigh. It was a very nice blue, like the color of clear ocean water, and suited her well. I hardly noticed the package in her hand because it nearly matched the color of her dress. "We went shopping earlier today and got you this. When are you going to open it?" Xiaoyu shoved the gift in my face. I laughed, pushing it away gently.
"Later." I promised, turning my attention to Miharu. She was dressed in a conservative green Yutaka with a nice gold pattern on the sleeves. Considering her personality, I was a little surprised by the choice of clothing. Also, she looked a little uncomfortable, just standing in the foyer. I motioned to the living room. "Lei, Lee, and Kazuya are all already here, so please make yourselves at home. Jin's in the kitchen finishing with dinner." Xiaoyu perked at the sound of the name, and Julia blushed a little. I just frowned at them, but decided I didn't want to know, and turned back to the door, with the intention of closing it. But, there was someone standing there in the way.
"Good evening, Hwoarang," Steve Fox said with a sultry smile. I just blinked at him. I hope that expression wasn't meant for me. He had also done something different with his hair, I couldn't place it, but it looked nice. He, too, wore a simple blue suit, but it brought out the color in his eyes perfectly, and the dark red tie made the slight natural tint to his cheeks more obvious. Whatever the bastard had done, he looked good.
Steve extended a hand to hand me a small gift box that had been wrapped in what appeared to be British flag wrapping paper with a matching bow. In his other hand, he held a bouquet of mismatched tulips. "Thanks, Steve. Actually, Lee got me flowers, too. I don't know where we're going to put them all."
"The flowers are for Jin," Steve said with a wink. I think I actually disliked him more for just a moment before my feathers settled. I had become the master of control with him. All I had to do was put up with whatever he dished out until I had the chance to rub in his snooty little English nose that I won. Like I said before, though, Jin found it all more than a little exasperating.
It didn't take long for the night to be well underway. I joined the group in the living room, while Xiaoyu and Miharu bounded out to the kitchen to help Jin cook. Just when I thought the small talk was going to kill me, Miharu came back out with a smile. "Dinner is served," she announced with a bright smile.
Xiaoyu and Jin followed her out, the former getting drink orders from everyone while the latter was folding the apron that proudly declared "kiss the chef"... I bought it for him on a whim, mostly just to see his reaction, but he had nearly worn the damn thing to tatters, he loved it so well. Jin gave me a small smile, though I couldn't help but think he looked nervous. Shrugging it off, I took his elbow, and gently pulled him with me to the dining room.
" ... Those flowers are beautiful," Julia was saying, as she indicated the white roses set on the coffee table. "I didn't realize men bought each other flowers, or at least, I thought that it was more something that women do..... " She blushed and fell quiet, probably aware of the odd direction her words were taking.
She and Lei had already seated themselves at the dining table where they were being joined by the others. "Why not?" Lei laughed, motioning with one hand. "Plenty of people enjoy flowers, like me! But I think it's even more fun buying for others, such as a lovely lady like yourself."
At that, Julia laughed and I exchanged a look with Jin. I was about to insert some commentary when a certain blond approached us and presented the bouquet of tulips to Jin. Steve smiled at Jin's look of confusion and waited for him to take the offering, which the man eventually did.
"Steve... you know it's not my birthday," Jin said slowly, and I could see him glancing around for a place to put them.
The Brit smiled and cocked his head to one side. "I know, it's his." Then, surprising us both, he stepped forward and caught my hand before quickly yanking me to him. Before I knew it, the room's gravity tipped and I realized Steve had dipped me low enough that I was nearly touching the ground.
I blinked twice, then began to laugh. I don't know if that was the proper reaction, but it was somehow very funny. That seductive look had returned to Steve's face. "My, Steve Fox, this is quite unexpected," I said in a low voice, dripping with implications.
"I heard it was a surprise party," Steve whispered... before kissing me! My eyes flew open wide, as did those of everyone else in the room. I wasn't sure what to think of the situation, but I decided I might as well go with it. Jin wouldn't mind... much. Besides, a good kiss is a formidable birthday present. It made me wonder what in the hell was in the package he brought for me. It couldn't be more surprising than this.
Steve eventually returned me to my original position, smiling at me like we shared some secret no one else could ever know. If the secret was that he was an amazing kisser... ah, what am I thinking, anyway? "Steve, I can't believe you just did that." I said very plaintively. The rest of the room began to laugh, except for Jin who looked somewhat cross. To try to solve that problem, I asked quietly, "Why did you do that, anyway?"
"Hm? Oh, I figured you deserved the chance to make Jin jealous with me after all the trouble I've caused you." Steve's smile finally became normal, and he went to take his seat. Bewildered, I chuckled a little, shaking my head. Steve Fox - you either love him, or you hate him. Me... well, suddenly I can't decide.
I turned to Jin, a good-natured smile plastered to my face, and I was faced with a glare-o-death. I had a feeling I was in the doghouse for Steves actions. After a few apprehensive seconds passed, Jin seemed to set his jaw and simply looked past me, before he started for the dining table without a word. He took my arm a bit roughly and led me along until he released me into an empty seat. I gave him a mock pout and held my arm, but he ignored it and seated himself next to me at the head of the table. His expression was clearly annoyed, but when he looked across to the table's end, he faltered. I followed his line of sight as Miharu took the seat next to me and realized that Kazuya had Jin's eye; I swear I recognized the look he was giving his son, and it made me smile.
When I looked back at Jin, he still looked more or less put-out, but no longer as though he was going to make me sleep on the couch tonight. At least, that was what I hoped. The tinkling of glass made me look up again and that was when I realized Steve had seated himself across from me, he was currently engaged in some silent conversation with Jin. That charming smile had returned to his face, and even Jin's glare couldn't match up against it. With a defeated shake of the head, Jin sighed and smiled.
"Ahem, ahem!" Xiaoyu called for attention and waited until she had it from everybody. Oh yes, the obligatory speeches. Joy. Make it curt, shorty. "Well, Happy Birthday, Hwoarang. I would wish that your day treat you well, but I can see that you're already well set for that." She poked her tongue out at me and everyone else laughed, except Jin who shook his head with a small smile. "I wanted to say a few words, since it is your birthday... Hwoarang, I'm still mad that you took Jin from me!" Everyone gaped at her, except for Jin who just looked vaguely sick. "But... I am glad that you did! The idiot would probably still be moping all the time if it weren't for you. I don't know how being a complete bastard made you attractive to him, but now I can see that you have a good heart. You two will always be happy together, I'm sure!"
I decided not to comment on the fact that she was speaking of Jin and myself like some couple that was celebrating a tenth anniversary rather than really saying much about me.
"I hope you all aren't going to do this," I muttered, a little embarrassed to have people doing this for me. Unfortunately for me, everyone nodded except for Jin, who looked even more worried than he had before we entered the dining room. I blinked at him, shrugged, and smiled at Xiaoyu. "Well, then, who am I to fight against compliments?" When there was no response, I sank into my chair a little. "Insults?"
"I remember when I first met you, Hwoarang," Steve began, kicking off the teasing party. "I thought you were the most annoying, short-tempered, block-headed, arrogant, monkey I'd ever met. Then, it dawned on me...." Everyone leaned forward in anticipation. "You were hardly a monkey, Hwoarang! You're clearly human!" More laughter, at my expense, filled the air as I pointedly looked away. "But... unfortunately, I was most deceived, still." Steve's voice had gone serious. We all looked at him, waiting, and he gave me a sad smile. "You must have been some sort of an angel, a sorry excuse for an angel, mind you, but I can't think of anyone else I could ever trust with Jin as much as I trust you. Even if you are an insane sonnofabitch."
Lei brushed back the fringe of hair getting in his eyes and leaned his elbows on the table. He gave me an appraising look, much to my distress. My expression obviously amused him, because he broke out into a grin. "Hwoarang impressed me from the beginning because I have never seen someone so willing to sacrifice. I knew that he was the only one who could save Jin, because he was the only one insane enough, in-love enough, and just plain dumb enough to go waltzing into the Mishima compound." Lei shrugged. "I was once friends with Baek Doo San, and from what I know of him, and what I've seen of Hwoarang, I think he would be very proud of his 'son'."
Miharu patted my arm, smiling at me pleasantly. "Hwoarang, he is right. I was friends with Jin and Xiaoyu before I ever met you, and I have never seen Jin as happy as he is right now." We all looked to Jin, who hadn't been expecting it, and was caught leaning his face on his palm looking at me, and there was more laughter and a couple of side comments that made a faint blush rise to Jin's cheeks. "I'm really glad you're here. You're birthday is the perfect time for me to show my appreciation. Thanks for everything, Hwoarang."
"Uh... guys, you're making me blush," I muttered, blushing, as promised. I glanced away, staring into the depths of my wine glass. I had once told Jin that I could never be loved enough... that I had never been surrounded by love....
Julia, Steve, and Kazuya... they were all here, even if they didn't like me.
Miharu and Lei... they had helped me through my toughest moment with Jin.
Xiaoyu and Lee... who were friends and moral support whenever I needed them. They were my family.
And, of course, Jin....
"On the contrary to what Steve said, I liked Hwoarang when I met him. I also knew him before I knew my nephew." Lee gave me a crooked smile, his eyes warm. "I knew from the beginning that he was exactly what Jin needed." Lee's eyes narrowed evilly at me. "I was also the first one to see Hwoarang freak out when he realized he might love Jin. Not to mention, that Jin loved him." My jaw dropped as everyone began to laugh. Jin fixed me with a look that made me want to sink into my chair even further. Sometimes, I hated Lee so much. This was one of those times. "I'm glad you're here, though, Hwoarang. Without you, who knows where my idiotic brother and nephew would be? Not to mention, where would I be?" Lee looked to Kazuya, a pointed look, but he wore a warm smile. Kazuya looked at him coldly for a moment, and then sighed, shaking his head as a smile came to his lips.
Yep, nothing there at all.
Kazuya took his queue rather promptly - which was something of a surprise - his gaze still locked with Lee's. "I think I can safely say that I know Hwoarang the least out of anyone here." A dead silence filled the room as he slowly looked from Lee, to Jin who frowned, and finally to me. "I can count the number of times I've spoken to you on one hand... and the first time I met you, I was less than impressed. I found a blind fool guarding an image of what he loved." Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jin leaning his head in hands and simultaneously heard Lee groan slightly.
So I was getting a scolding for my birthday? Gee, thanks. The ironic quirk of Kazuya's lips caught me off guard. "The one thing that struck me was your enthusiasm to protect Jin, and I eventually came to realize why Jin seemed so co-dependent and subsequently weak."
An indignant cry drew my attention to Jin who looked incredibly offended; I couldn't stop the smile that crept to my lips. He muttered something quickly in Japanese that I didn't quite catch, but it made Xiaoyu burst out laughing; everyone who understood the language more or less joined in, Steve and I exchanged a look of question before Kazuya continued.
"Jin can be forgiven for falling for you..... " At this, Jin rolled his eyes and looked hard at the steaming food on the table; across from me, Steve was fighting to stifle his laughter. "You both remind me of her, and you've made it this far... which, I truly think is saying something." Lee looked at me with a raised eyebrow, but I only had a split second to catch it, because in the next moment Kazuya was fixing me with the most intense look; it beat Jin's hands down. I think 'her' had become the universal reference to Jin's mother; it seemed that they always failed to mention her name for one reason or another... at the same time, was that a compliment?
Kazuya smiled then, or was that smirked? "Happy birthday, Hwoarang. May your days extend beyond a time where you don't have to protect my son."
"Otou-san!" Everyone seemed to be working to annoy Jin today.
I threw the smirk right back at him. It was an understanding between men, in a weird twisted we're-talking-about-Kazuya-for-chrissakes kind of way. I don't think he was terribly surprised that I chose to throw a sarcastic remark at him. "Thank you for you confidence, 'Tou-san." The portion of the table that was not gagging (Steve, Xiaoyu, and Lei) were laughing hysterically. The others, save Kazuya (who looked positively perplexed) were all suddenly finding it very difficult to breathe normally.
Lee finally cleared his throat and the general hysteria abated to a level where he could be heard without yelling. Well, at least the atmosphere had lightened. "I think there are still some who have their part to say," he declared and nodded at Ms. Chang who was seated by the detective.
Julia was playing with the rim of her plate and hung her head a little at suddenly being put on the spot. She finally looked up when the silence indicated that everyone was waiting for her and she smiled nervously at both Jin and myself. "Well, I think I could probably contest Mishima-sama's claim; I don't know Hwoarang very well, either. I... first met Jin and Hwoarang in the third tournament, but I only got to know Jin at all. We had a lot in common, and... I really liked Jin, probably more than I should have."
"Don't worry, you're just another statistic," Miharu piped up, and squeaked with giggles when Xiaoyu poked her in the side. Julia's smile grew a little and she sat up in her chair, maybe a little encouraged.
"I share Steve's first impression... Hwoarang was really rude... and obnoxious." She gave me a nervous little smile that was glazed over with the affirming "See?" from Steve. I sent the blond a droll look, but he just grinned and leaned his elbows on the table. "Plus, he was obsessed with finding Jin and defeating him... but that's not the point, I'm supposed to say good things about Hwoarang, right?"
"You can compliment his hair if you can't think of anything," Xiaoyu assured her, earning a soft rain of laughter around the table.
She finally looked at me and her smile grew genuine. "You're dedicated, I'll give you that. And of course, Jin loves you-"
"Please stop using that excuse," said man mumbled at my side.
Julia blushed and tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear before meeting my eye again. "Hwoarang, you and I don't know eachother very well at all, but one thing I'm rather good at is judging character." I felt myself smile, wondering just how good she was in practice, and she rose to meet the challenge. "You don't like many people, it's no secret. So... I really don't know what I'm doing here, but I'm glad and grateful that I am. I think those people who do know you are lucky because once you trust someone, you stay loyal." She shrugged, smiling sheepishly and looked again at her plate. "So, thanks for having me here, and I hope you have fun today."
A genuine smile touched my lips. It was possibly the most un-hateful thing I had ever done for Julia. "Thanks for being honest, Julia." Okay, now that I had said her name, and smiled, hell could go ahead and freeze over. I tilted my head to the side, still smiling, not understanding why, and continued, "Julia, I am glad you accepted my invitation, despite what you have deduced of my opinions. Your presence makes Jin and Xiaoyu happy, so I am glad to have you." Now, everyone was gaping. I glanced at Jin, half expecting those coffee-colored eyes to fall out of his head.
It was Lee, the mediator, who spoke up. "Hwoarang, you are incorrigible." Lee shook his head, displaying for everyone how lovely his silver locks were in the obscure light. I was beginning to think he did little motions like that to deliberately attract attention. "Anyway, we have one more person before we can eat. Jin?"
Everyone turned their attention to Jin. He looked like a deer caught in the headlights, his face twisted into a very small mock grimace. I nearly expected him to say in a whiny voice, "do I hafta?"
Finally, he looked at Xiaoyu, the one who had instigated this little bout of fun and said, "For the record, I don't like this tradition." The hand fell from his chin and he sat up a little in his chair, as though getting down to business. "But for the sake of convention I'll humor you all."
"Hurry up and get to the good part," Steve prompted, eliciting scattered laughter, but they were all waiting for Jin's words. He probably had the most significant piece to say, or so we thought. With measured patience, Jin returned Steve's smile.
"Firstly, I do appreciate it when people keep their hands to themselves and find their own partner." The last part came out between grit teeth, but there was little malice in it. The response was comic and I had to wonder if Jin realized that he was just drawing more attention to himself.
When the laughter died down, Jin was staring intensely at the table as though looking for something, or maybe he was just in deep thought. It was hard to tell with him at times. He turned his head to look at me before the silence could draw on to an uncomfortable length. "I believe some things can be left unspoken, but everyone here has said some truth, even if it didn't need reiteration." His lips gently curved in a smile that met his eyes, and I wondered in the next few moments if he had forgotten that we were with company.
"You know what you mean to me, or at least, I hope you would after all this time. You've literally saved me in the past and when I gave up, you still hung on until you made me understand why... You made me see again. 'Thank you' isn't enough."
That was the part when I forgot we had company. I think I must have looked a bit like a fish. My mouth hung ever-so-slightly ajar, my lips parted, and I felt my brow furrow. After a moment, that dissolved into a smile. It was the kind of smile that makes your heart hurt because you are putting so much emotion in it, even if you have no reason to. It wasn't the words that had made me like this...
Those eyes of his, the eyes that I loved so well, that were trained on me perfectly, as though nothing else in the world existed, much less mattered. I think conversation may have sparked again, but I was lost in Jin's eyes.
"Well, then. Happy Birthday, and let's eat!" That, was most certainly Steve. His voice jolted me back to reality soon enough that no one seemed to notice how I had been looking at Jin... except, of course, Jin. Unfortunately, I looked up to see Lee and Kazuya wearing disturbingly similar smirks. Ugh... in-laws....
A tug on my hand brought my attention back to Jin who leaned forward to say something; instinctively I did the same as the conversation swelled to a level where we would be unheard. "Happy birthday," he whispered with a smile, before he closed the small gap between us to kiss me briefly. He pulled back before I could really settle in to enjoy it, and I noticed the secret little smile that promised better things later; so, I wasn't too disappointed.
I settled back in my chair, surveying all the guests that had come to celebrate my birthday - something that had not been a big event in nearly four years, and smiled.
"Boss! We thought you could use the money to buy the new bike you were looking at...."
"We've been saving for months...."
"Hwoarang, I can't believe you are actually nineteen this year. I remember when you were just a little boy... when you put on your first doboko. I am so proud...."
Julia, Miharu, and Xiaoyu bought me a new personal CD player - like a discman, only it wasn't Sony. Somehow, they had managed to find what had to be the only CD player in the world that actually offended me (pink... with Hello Kitty... just don't try to get a visual) but that was exactly what made me love it. It had the personality of the three girls written all over it.
Steve got me some kind of cologne from Europe. It has a very nice scent, granted, but I was a little thrown by the gift. He was very pleased to know he surprised me...again.
Lei Wulong... ah, where to begin with him? He somehow managed to dig up an old picture of Jun and Baek from the second Iron Fist. Why he had it, and how he found it are both mysteries to me. However, it is one of my most prized possessions. He also went to great lengths to find a frame that went well with my locket.. At first, I had been alarmed. Then, I discovered that Baek was wearing the locket in the picture, and no longer felt the need to alienate myself from the detective forever.
Kazuya and Lee bought me a new business suit, and Lee handed over the deed to the dojo. The first gift had been amusing, despite the severe worry I'd felt when I realized they had known my dimensions perfectly. Normally, I would have just assumed Jin had told them my size, but he seemed as surprised and concerned as I was. Suddenly, I didn't really want to know. The second gift... well, it meant a lot. I would never own property, if it weren't for Lee. I was far too broke to buy my own property, and I would have had this guilt of using Lee's space for my classes hanging over my head forever....
As Kazuya and Lee bade farewell, only after Kazuya checked to make sure I hadn't meant the "'tou-san" thing, the party finally concluded. I closed the door behind them with a small wave and a tired smile on my face. Over all, it hadn't been a bad birthday. In fact, I think the party marked the conclusion of a few things... a new start, even. I glanced over my shoulder when I heard clanking. Jin was collecting dishes, his face pointed distinctly down.
I disregarded this odd behavior, padding across the floor toward him, all the while unworking the buttons of the stiff shirt I wore. I unbuttoned the buttons that held the sleeves closed, and absently pushed the sleeves up so that they bunched at my elbows. "Want help?" I asked, my smile growing as Jin simply shook his head, making his way to the kitchen quickly with a pile of dishes. I shrugged and undid my belt, pulling it out of the belt loops of my pants and discarding it over a chair back before picking up glasses, three in each hand when I held them by the stem. I nearly collided with Jin as I went in the kitchen and he came out.
"You don't have to help. This won't take long," Jin insisted, grabbing more plates and one of the serving bowls.
"Two heads are better than one," was all I responded, setting the glasses next to the sink where Jin had already created a pile for dishes that needed to be rinsed and put in the dishwasher.
Neither of us said anything as we silently cleared the table. He ran the water, rinsing every dish before handing it to me to be stowed in the dishwasher. With the two of us working, the whole process only took about fifteen minutes. When we were done, he rinsed the sink out once more, and sighed. I could see that his shoulders were tense - and I wondered at the way he stood, slightly slumped as if he was shouldering a huge burden. I wasn't surprised when he jumped at the hand that I set on his shoulder.
"Jin, what's up? Is something wrong?" He looked at me, as though he was surprised that I had said anything, and shook his head, looking away. Now, that was something I hadn't seen him do in over a year. Normally he would at least humor me with some sort of answer or excuse. I blinked at him, surprised. "If this is about the party, I had a great time. Dinner was wonderful... and I'm sorry that your dad and Steve caused you so much grief. You know, I had it just as bad. I thought Julia and Steve were about to...."
"That's not it," Jin said suddenly, cutting me off. Looking back to him, I raised an eyebrow.
"Huh?" I managed to murmur dumbly. Jin's eyes softened, and he looked up at me, a small blush on his face. In response, my expression also softened, and I tilted my head to the side, smiling very slightly. "What is it, then, Jin?"
One hand came up to rub the back of his neck, and I caught the hint of a wince in his expression. When he finally spoke, his apprehension was clear. "I... guess you want your present, don't you?" It wasn't what I had expected him to say.
In fact I was quite shocked. I put two fingers to my lips, and tapped twice as I pretended to think about it. Honestly, I thought that the evening together with our friends and the wonderful dinner had been his gift. Waking me up at an ungodly hour and making me dress up obviously had not been my present. So, with a lack of better response, I just told him what I was thinking. "I didn't realize that there was more to my present than the wonderful evening you coordinated." Then I motioned with the fingers that had been on my lips at nothing in particular. "Or maybe that you were in town on my birthday despite how busy you've been."
Jin gave me a funny look then, as though I'd said something pretty stupid. "I wouldn't miss your birthday, no matter how busy I was. I don't think Lee would let me get away with that sort of thing, anyway," he concluded with a warm smile. With that he turned from me and motioned that I should follow him. He led me into the bedroom and made me wait on the bed while he stepped into the bathroom. A few moments later he re-emerged with a small, but long blue box held easily in one palm. The only wrapping was a simple silver bow on its case, I somehow expected that sort of thing from Jin.
He paused for a moment before he sat next to me on the bed and held it out. "Here, happy birthday."
"What is it?" I joked, snuggling up against him. He was stiff as a board against me. It was weird - you would think he was proposing to me, the way he was acting. I gave him a worried look. "Jin, I get the feeling you're nervous about it...." My hands were playing with the bow, but I still left the package unopened.
And then he said perhaps one of the most random things for the moment. "Do you speak French?"
I blinked at him twice, and then laughed. "Jin, you know me, I hardly speak Japanese properly... much less French!" I swear, I was living with the most insane person I'd ever met. Somehow, it was cute, but he was, nonetheless, insane.
The relief on his face was weirder still, and he visibly relaxed, if only slightly. He glanced down at the box, and then at me. "Well, go ahead and open it."
I would have voiced more of an opinion over what he had said, but I think the clear amusement in my face told him exactly what I was thinking of his sanity right about then. I turned back to the box, opening it, and pondering over what a saw inside for a long time. It was a small metal plate, almost the size of two dog tags if they were put sided by side, and it shone as though it had been polished. It took me a moment to realize that it was actually a necklace, or at least something that went around the neck, and by that time I had removed it from the box to inspect it.
Something was carved on the underside of the plate. "Mienne," I said uncertainly, trying to pronounce the word in English, since I recognized the letters as Germanic or romantic in origin. "There's no way that's a word," I muttered to myself. Then, the pieces of the puzzle fell together. I glanced at Jin. "So, what does it mean in French?" I don't think he liked the conclusion I drew.
The smile that crossed his face was a little ambiguous, but I think that he was somehow proud of himself for something. He leaned over and rested his chin on my shoulder, nuzzling against my ear. "It means you're mine... if that's alright with you," he added as an afterthought. "Translated directly to English, it means 'mine'," he continued quickly as if to dampen the presumption. "It was Xiaoyu's idea... for the most part."
I laughed at that. "Why couldn't you be like a normal Japanese person and just say 'bokuno'?" I couldn't keep the smile off my face. "And who would have known that you have such a possessive streak in you, Jin!" I poked him, and he yelped, looking at me, as though betrayed. He swore he wasn't ticklish, but every now and again I would catch him off guard and he would produce the most bizarre and adorable sounds of protest. Not to mention, the adorable pouting face, that was likely his attempt at being mad at me despite the fact that he loved me, that always came with the noises.
We met eyes, and I instantly sobered, noticing that his face did the same. "I love it, Jin." A relieved smile spread on his face, and I couldn't help but smile back. "And I love you." I leaned forward, catching his lips for a brief kiss, and then motioned to the necklace. "Would you help me put it on?" I held my hair and the chain of my locket out of the way while Jin worked to fasten the silver band over my neck. When he let go, the plate hung over my collarbone, almost perfectly covering the groove between the two bones that stuck out.
Jin sat back and looked at me with an appreciative smile. "I made a good guess; it fits you perfectly." Humming thoughtfully in the back of his throat, he traced two fingers over the face's rim, but stopped suddenly. For a moment or so, he frowned, and then glanced back at the clock on the night stand. "It's getting late," he said finally. "You've had a long day and probably want to get to sleep. I have to wake up early again too." The last was muttered with understandably less enthusiasm as he rolled his eyes and started to rise from the bed.
Go back two years, or maybe even two minutes, and I think I would have grabbed his hand and stopped him. I would have dragged him down onto the bed with me, undressed him, and made love to him in such a way that he would feel it on the plane ride from here to America. That was my possessive side speaking.
It didn't feel like it mattered, though, all of the sudden. I was Jin's. The fact that he gave me the necklace proved to me that I had nothing to worry about. Jin went about his nightly routine, and I eventually followed suit, though I tend to be more of a night owl than he is. By the time that Jin was in bed, reading something for school, I was just finishing getting changed into something appropriate for night wear. I got under the blanket, though I knew I would be too hot before morning came, and snuggled up next to Jin. He glanced at me briefly, but kept reading.
I assumed it was something boring. Most of the stuff he read for school would put me to sleep within the first few lines, so I didn't try to engage in any kind of conversation about the book or ask him to read it to me. Instead, I nestled my face in his shoulder and closed my eyes, letting my brain fade to a sort of dream state that wasn't really sleep. That's why I was so startled when Jin spoke.
"Should I wake you when I leave?" His voice was passive, almost, as though he continued to read while he was trying to spark a conversation. I adjusted my position so I could see his profile, flopping a lazy arm over his stomach. He moved his arm around my shoulders so that the position would be more comfortable. As I suspected, though, he was still reading.
"Just to say goodbye. Don't think I'm going to get up and have breakfast with you, or anything." We, of course, had both known that was an impossibility anyway. I had never, in the entire time we'd been together, actually intentionally woken up early just for Jin. In fact, there was only one time I had ever woken up early for Jin's sake, and that was to go AWOL and flee to Japan for the Tekken tournament.
When a few minutes in silence passed, I finally smiled at Jin, and put a hand over the page he was on in his book. He glanced at me, looking somewhat amused, and smiled. "Yes, Hwoarang?"
"Jin, I know that you came back to Japan to destroy your family... but... I've been thinking that maybe there is more to it." Jin shifted, looking away, and my smile grew. "Jin, why exactly did you fall in love with me?" Jin made a show of swallowing as I continued, "I mean, I wasn't exactly nice to you, and I certainly didn't do anything to provoke any such feelings, as far as I know...."
He frowned a little in his discomfort, and avoided my eye. "I don't like that question. Why do you have to ask me that?"
I got a wicked little grin on my face and poked him again. "Is it because I was so sexy?" I chuckled as he gave me an unappreciative groan in return. "Let me guess, you saw me and just couldn't resist me...." This got a vague warning noise that might have been in the form of my name, but he grumbled it very softly. "Who would have known that Japan's number one boy scout thought such things...?"
The book lowered slightly and he threw me a look of mild irritation. "Realise that you did say 'boy', I'm a guy just like you, Hwoarang," he muttered, though I did notice the vague tint in his cheeks. I moved to reply, but he interjected before I could; he almost sounded offended. "Contrary to what people think, I didn't fall in love with you overnight. You're right, you really weren't the nicest person around and the only thing you provoked was annoyance and exasperation for everyone."
I pouted. "You're so grumpy, Jin." I moved away from him, intentionally rolling over so I wasn't facing him. "Ask the guy a question and he yells at me," I grumbled, not really as put-off as I was acting. Though, I had actually wanted to know the answer. I wanted to know if I was part of the reason he came back, or.... I closed my eyes, snorting in irritation. It didn't really occur to me that Jin couldn't hear my thoughts, and any kind of reaction he would have would be based off of my actions alone, so I probably should have avoided making annoyed noises. I wasn't trying to piss him off... not really.
Behind me I heard Jin sigh in resignation, the sound was followed by a lengthy pause before he finally spoke. "It was the third tournament, a few days before it ended. Xiaoyu had called me out to meet her, but when I got there she was with you; and she had panda with her. You looked so annoyed with panda, I had no idea what you were all doing, but there was something else in your expression."
Something settled on the nightstand and I had to assume that it was the book; I felt the impression of weight on the mattress as Jin moved closer and leaned an elbow on my pillow. "I didn't realize what it was until Xiaoyu climbed on Panda and said something that was probably funny, because you burst out laughing," he murmured above my ear. "That was the first time I saw you really smile, and I liked it. It was nice seeing you happy, or the closest I had ever seen you to happy. I figured you couldn't be all bad." I could hear the ironic smile in his voice at the last, as I felt a hand settle on my arm.
I smiled, despite myself, and nestled back into Jin. "I'm sorry I didn't notice sooner. Or, that I wasn't nicer to you sooner." My smile twisted back into the earlier smirk. "I always thought you were very attractive.... maybe in need of a haircut. Too angsty and preppy for my likes, but...." Jin let out an indignant, "hey!" and I just started to laugh. I closed my eyes again, this time to actually relax, concentrating on the way Jin's breathing was rhythmic and smooth.... "Don't move, Jin," I muttered quietly.
For a while he was still, just as I'd asked. He settled a hand over my chest and stroked my skin through the shirt. He didn't say anything as he laid down behind me, kissed my hair and settled in to sleep.
I could hardly even keep my eyes open. Sleep was calling to me, wrapping around me, and I did everything I could to ignore it, with no avail. Jin's eyes were closed, his breath coming evenly. Slowly, carefully, I reached over Jin to turn off the light he had been using to read. Then, I settled back into his arms, my body finding his naturally in the dark.
It's funny, when I think about it. Four years ago, I was out for this man's blood. Now, here I am, in his bed, very nearly acting like I've married him. Sometimes, it almost feels like I have.
This time tomorrow, he would be gone again - on one of his many business trips. But, I don't mind, really I don't. Because, I know he had a place to come home to, and that he will be back here soon.
My hand went to the gift Jin had given me before I had a chance to second guess it. My eyes slid closed, my fingers slipping loose of the necklace, and I let sleep take me.
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