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In the Skin of a Lion

Chapter Three

By Aaronica and Orfik

"Why won't you fight me?"

The question from that first pivotal meeting still rang in Jin's ears as they walked through Yurei Park. As an answer he had told Hwoarang he didn't know, to change the subject, because as soon as they started talking about fighting the Korean reverted to a defensive hostility which confused and saddened Jin. He knew for certain that the fire in the gang leader's eyes was misdirected, but the immense pain underneath - smoldering embers - that was what puzzled the Japanese. That, and Hwoarang's offer to walk Jin through the park "because the cutthroats don't give a shit about Ghandi," he said. He wouldn't be able to fight Jin if Jin was dead.

"I don't think you really know why you want to fight me, Hwoarang-san," Jin revised thoughtfully. "I think we're more alike than you want us to be."

"You stand for everything I hate," Hwoarang shot back immediately.

"I'm not my grandfather."

The statement froze words in the air. Jin realized after a moment that they were no longer walking, and that Hwoarang's half-gloved hands were straining to make fists. The Korean's eyes reassured him; they were wide and straining, too. "It's about pride."

Jin felt the only way to break through that distrust was to cross a line, but he fumbled with the words.

"Can ... " he started, but he lost his voice. His eyes fell on Hwoarang's mouth, as if he expected the statement to be finished there.

"Can you what?"

"I know what I want. For the bet." Jin had won the pool game, but asked for time to think about his prize. Now he knew for certain what he wanted.


"I want to kiss you." The resolve in his tone surprised Jin. He knew he would be resilient against any blows the request received. He had faith in this man.

"What did you say?" The Korean whispered.

"I said I wanted to kiss you."

Hwoarang lowered his face. Jin imagined that the shards of orange hair falling there curtained the anger in the Korean's gaze, an anger that he was prepared to receive if he had gone too far.

"I'm sorry .. I .."

"No. Do it." The face Hwoarang lifted was drawn with faint fear, glowing with innocence. He took Jin's hand, squeezing too tightly.

"You don't .. I know it's a weird thing to ask," Jin tried to reassure.

"Do it really quick, Jin."

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