Author's Note: Don't let the poem throw you off -- it's meant to be ambiguous!

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DISCLAIMER: Namco owns these bishounen.

In the Skin of a Lion

Chapter Four

By Aaronica and Orfik

I was afraid.

Afraid that your mouth felt too good.

Afraid that after your mouth, we were silent.

Afraid that you backed away from me, and I could see nothing in your eyes.

It'd been a week since they had last spoken, but as an early winter dusk set over the edifice of Mishima's Polytech prep school there was Hwoarang, loitering across the street on his motorcycle - loitering, if one looked past the cover of three delinquent students he was speaking with, as he casually smoked a cigarette.

On the Kazama side of things the week was filled with extra amounts of training, so much so that they left Jin sorer than usual on a majority of those days. Class was apparently dismissed because a steady flow of students began to leave the main entrance and proceed out the tall metal gate. Jin was among these, talking calmly with a male classmate until they reached the gate and subsequently had to part ways. Jin insisted on walking home like everyone else ... limos were obscene.

It looked at first as though he did not notice the small gathering across the street but in the end the Japanese turned, facing the road and what lay beyond it and not moving further.

Hwoarang's roving irises sighted the preternatural entrance before Jin returned the observation. The Korean made sure of that Jin was looking before he redistributed his attention among the teenagers gathered about his bike. He continued to straddle the vehicle. The charcoal grey leather jacket that hung from his shoulders culminated in lighter grey jeans which were stretched from the position, and his goggles were displaced by a headband which seemed to do an inferior job of restraining the red strands of his hair.

The tension or indecision of the Jin was palpable as he stood like a rock in the stream of similarly dressed students, for several long moments moving neither towards nor away. Jin was wearing a longer coat, plain and dark, that ended against his knees. The shoulder strap of a silver messenger back stretched over his chest, the pack itself laying ignored against his hip. Hwoarang was doing a good job of looking casual with other people but he couldn't have picked that location to do so without reason, Jin at last decided. He glanced for traffic and then stepped off the curb to cross the road.

Hwoarang gave the unruly trio surrounding him a loaded nod as the Mishima heir came upon them, some unheard words he executed with a smirk setting each of the students to fraternally clapping the Korean on his shoulder or casting Jin looks before drifting away. Taking one more drag of the cigarette he'd been smoking before casting it away, his lips expelled a stream of smoke as his eyes fixed on Kazama.

Forced to cross the moat between them, Jin stepped up onto the opposite curb. His hands were where they always were. For a moment he said nothing, simply watched Hwoarang, looked a little away, and then watched Hwoarang again.

"Friends of yours?" he asked simply enough.

"Yeah." The truth. " .. you go here too, huh?" The lie. He'd known the answer for some time. Sizing the other up with a diagonal look, and he grinned. " .. funny coincidence."

The Japanese mirrored the grin because it was a humorous lie. "Yeah." Jin's eyes weren't as tentative as they had been a week ago, lingering on the one to whom he spoke for longer periods of time and also breaking for shorter ones. Not that his eyes themselves were any easier to read.

"How've you been? Been a few days." A week, actually, and Jin knew it.

"Been keeping count, huh .. ?" Hwoarang covered up the anxiety in his tone by chuckling. He was resolved to hold each lingering look Jin gave him; never one to back down, even though this development still filled him with uncertainty. While the smile disappeared, he retained a pleasant expression, his fingers curving around the handles of his motorcycle. " .. kind of surprising - considering .. " Considering what? He wasn't about to answer that.

Jin would. He looked away now, scratching an itch behind his left ear.

"Yeah," he said again. "I uh... About.. what happened. I was pretty tired and I wasn't thinking. I realized after that it was pretty uncool of me." He'd thought about apologizing ... he'd thought about what he might say ... and in the moment of truth he sounded like a complete dumbass. A change of subject was in order. He lifted his chin as he returned to peering at the Korean, or more specifically, his bike. "Is that yours? Pretty cool."

Nah, the Korean had practiced saying, I was joking around, forget it. But he didn't have to, and he flashed Jin a riveting smile as he stretched an arm behind him to pat the short spanse of unoccupied seating.

" ... yeah, I've had her for about five years. Wanna take a ride?" Wanna take a chance? At least he'd managed to figure out over that week that Kazama kept him amused, and he hated boredom enough to tolerate his timidness on that .. other feeling he couldn't quite identify. Or was too afraid to.

A surprised gaze added a little extra height to those wild, Mishima brows. Jin's eyes went from the hand to the face of its owner and he tried to put his voice somewhere in that narrow spectrum between too eager and too indifferent.

"Yeah. Sure." That was the easy part. The hard part was admitting, "I've never done it before, so.. you'll have to tell me what to do." He shifted the strap on his shoulder as he stepped forward, grinning to himself at what his classmates would think. ... But then, maybe that was something he didn't want to know.

"Just climb behind me," he instructed. The grin tugging at Hwoarang's lips seemed to indicate some joke only he was getting. Raising his right knee, a strong, downward thrust given set the bike to shivering ignition, the reverberating rumble vying with his words for prominence.

" ... I don't have helmets - you're gonna have to hold on to my waist."

"Yokai," Jin said to the 'pilot.' At the side of the bike Jin put a leg over it and settled himself carefully down in the small space available. He swallowed. Large hands lifted, settling onto either side of the Korean's waist and applying enough pressure for him to be steady as he lifted his feet, looking down on either side to find the places on the bike to put them. Could've been worse. A lot worse.

"I think I'm ready," he said over the engine.

A fleeting quiver ran through Hwoarang. It could have been attributed to the quaking metal under them both, he reasoned, and he prayed it went unnoticed. Lingering was making him even more conscious of the intimate proximity to his former enemy, so he pressed down on the gas with a violence that propelled them down the street with a strident screech, his hair streaming back from his face as he sought to max the speed.

Jin squinted against the sudden rush of air (and hair) in his face, his hands clamping firmer to Hwoarang's waist with matching suddenness. 'Heir of Mishima Inc. Dies Thrown from Motorcycle'-- it'd make a great headline, don't you think? People and buildings and traffic were soon jetting past and Jin did the unthinkable.

He smiled broadly.

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