Author's Note: >> << are for Devil Jin's telepathy / / - slashes denote inner thoughts.

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In the Skin of a Lion

Chapter Eight

By Aaronica and Orfik

Visibly overcast, the night's sky rumbled above with a threat of spilling, thread-like streaks beginning to race across the expanse. At the roof of the Mishima building, Hwoarang and Jin were extended like sacrifices to the muted roaring which gusting breezes carried, strengthening from moment to moment with a force that whipped Hwoarang's hair back and forth. After tracing the 'calling card' with his fingertips, the Korean brought his hand to his face, wiped the hate from his lips with the back of it, and fell silent, his brown eyes fixing on his broken fingers. Good question. He should run ... but ...

".. then it's not your fault." / I never run from anything, Jin-kun. / Hwoarang's gaze angled toward the Japanese, yet clouded and inscrutable.

Jin leveled a heavy stare at the sky until rain fell cruelly in his wounded eyes. He closed them, loosening his clutch on Hwoarang to wipe blood from the corner of his mouth with a wrist he noticed without caring that the bleeding was beginning to slow. Jin took the redhead's injured hand tenderly between his own, holding it against his chest. It was a meager show of his gratitude and relief and care, things he didn't think he would be able to properly express in words.

"It looks like we're going to have a hard night."

" .. sa .. " Hwoarang whispered, only to keep the pain in his voice undetectable as Jin took his hand it would need to be splinted and possibly cast. Hwoarang pressed his forehead to the other's, keeping the light downpour from his eyes. / I won't let it take you away from me. /

" .. we'd better get out of here." The Korean was surprised no Mishima retainers had appeared yet, his calm after the venting replaced by anxiety. He placed a palm on Jin's broad shoulder, using it as aid to push himself to his feet, and tossed slickening strands of orange from his face with a jerk of his neck.

Perhaps the only benefit of Jin's prolonged prostration on the pavement was that it had renewed most of his strength. With a quiet grunt he made himself sit up, and from there, pushed against the pavement so that he could stand. He shared the shame concerns as Hwoarang.

"I don't know where I was when it all happened.. So I don't know if anyone saw me who could help us." Jin would leave his fast- dampening hair alone until it started hanging into his eyes. "Maybe we can get through that door." It was worth a shot, at least. He tried not to curl his toes against the freezing concrete as he went towards it. Hooking the tips of his fingers about the edges and pulling didn't help on any of the several times he attempted it. He cursed under his breath.

"Yurei-district .. " Hwoarang'd answered, recalling a part of the city so decayed most termed it a place of the dead -- of ghosts. He now figured it fitting that a demon would have assailed his renju there, his upper lip curling at the irony. The Korean followed in Jin's footsteps, however, keeping a wary eye on him as he tried the door, water beating at them both now. When the Japanese's endeavors came to no fruition, Hwoarang murmured slowly, approaching.

" .. stand back." Assessing the structure of the door, Hwoarang took a step back himself after forming a conclusion of the material it consisted of, immediately thrusting forward with a violent, right kick which threw the door from its hinges.

Jin rubbed the back of his soggy head, chuckling quietly even as he shuddered from the cold. / Let's not linger out here any longer than we have to. /

"That was a good kick," he complimented honestly. Jin moved forward to pull the thick fallen door out of their way, and once they were both on its opposite side, leant it against the frame as best he could to keep out the rain. The provisional lights were on in the narrow stairway, which, being crafted of some metal, was downright freezing on Jin's feet. He sucked in a breath as he headed down, saying over his shoulder, "I'll get us out of here as soon as I see something familiar."

A minute probably passed before Hwoarang was moving again at Jin's wake -- mobility announced by his spurs on steps. He'd been staring at the Japanese's back. Jin was so innocent. He was more innocent than the Korean without question, and Hwoarang found himself wondering, how can he carry something like that in him? Such evil ... it must be ... Hell. " .. daijobu."

As much as he tried to expel the specter of that diabolic angel crouching over him, stroking his face, grasping his neck, violating his mind .. from his thoughts, Hwoarang still found himself hesitating, pausing, giving Jin clouded looks.

That Hwoarang still chose to talk to or look at Jin at all was more than the cursed one had ever hoped for. Jin's injured eyes were now how they'd seemed before, a chestnut shade one lighter than black but softened and warmed whenever it was Hwoarang upon whom they glanced. He looked over his shoulder now with a small, optimistic smile.

"Yeah," he said quietly. "No sweat." / I'll wait until you can look at me again the way you used to, Joon-kun. / He continued padding quietly down the cold steps. He would wait as long as it takes. They came upon a small landing with a door. Jin tried the handle it didn't open and he simply continued on.

More attentive now that they'd left the relative safety of the roof, Hwoarang's scrutiny of the surroundings was both searching and appraising he was in the core of Mishima, and anything Mishima was everything he hated -- or had trained himself to hate.

And then there was Jin Kazama, trained in the Mishima way, whom he couldn't hate any more, and a demon, which he hated more virulently than anything Mishima. He should have expected the double- edged sword, shouldn't he?

" .. are there cameras around here?"

"Only the main floors not in maintenance halls like this. As far as I've noticed." A second door ... locked like the first. Jin's smile faded, replaced with an irritated frown. Were they going to go down the eighty-something floors in the building trying all the locked doors one by one? He turned back to the Korean.

"We can keep going, we can try to pick the lock or something, or we can break it down and probably set off an alarm." And then he grinned. What is this, Jin Kazama pondering vandalism? Hwoarang, you awful influence.

"My legs are fine." God bless his cocky Korean heart Hwoarang's mouth curved in his emblematic grin, returning Jin's perceivable notion. " .. pick one."

Jin sidestepped out of the way, bowing regally to Hwoarang with a graceful "by all means" gesture to the door.

A little smirk remained on the Korean's lips as he set a predacious glare on the door, his slender body twisting at an angle as he launched his foot near the handle. A spray of splintered wood fell from the ruins of the lock as it swung open, slamming against the wall, and Hwoarang stepped forward to peer through the portal.

That was when the alarm was triggered -- they were heat sensors. It was an opulently furnished office floor filled with perfect rows upon rows of deserted cubicles. It was no doubt a very comfortable place when there were bright electric lights instead of one flashing red alarm and the unified hum of dozens of computers instead of one steady and imperative electronic note. Jin passed through after Hwoarang.

"This should do the trick."

"Fuck." A curse of frustration which wasn't shared by his black-blooded colleague, Hwoarang noted. Hanging back in the frame of the door, he switched concern glances between the hall and Jin the Korean wouldn't mind odds like these if weren't so bruised and banged, but now he fended off a headache. " .. how long we got?"

"I'm sure they'll be here in a second," Jin said as he tried to slough some of the water off of himself with his flattened hands. He was watching Hwoarang instead of the room because, after all, Hwoarang was one of his favorite things to watch. "It's a good thing. They'll help us once they--"

"HANDS IN THE AIR!" The simultaneous cocking of three handguns wielded by the same number of uniformed guards who just burst through the main door.

"... ...know it's us." Jin grimaced, lifting his hands.

"Hey boys." Hwoarang smirked at Jin -- or at the officers, considering the Japanese's back was to them -- and raised one of his arms in the air. "I think I need a doctor."

It was a rather strange picture, and the Korean planned on manipulating it as much as possible scenes like this one now was nothing new to him. There was already a palpable ripple of surprise among the trio. Was that -- ? The waterlogged, half-dressed and beaten Jin looked at them over his shoulder with that chagrined little smile. It was! The man dropped instantly into a deep, deep bow.

"Kazama-san! We apologize for the confusion, please forgive us! We'll radio for help immediately!" They seemed almost terrified... So many years under the fist of Jin's grandfather had left the entire staff like beaten dogs.

"It's alright," Jin reassured. "Please bring us some blankets too, if possible." Jin was not his grandfather. Not at all.

A sigh filtered through Hwoarang's lips before he had a chance to curb it, invalidating that facade of undaunted nonchalance. Hwoarang expected to be rough housed, pushed to the floor and shackled around the wrists encouraged by Jin's clout, the Korean lowered his arm and turned to regard the retreating guards. He then looked back to the Japanese in wonderment.

Jin shrugged his shoulders to the redhead as he similarly lowered his arms.

"I guess they recognized me," he said simply. Things were no doubt going to get chaotic very soon, and these moments of solitude with Hwoarang would grow more rare. Kazama took advantage of it, closing the distance between them and draping his arms carefully around Hwoarang's waist, resting his forehead on the man's shoulder. For a few seconds he said nothing.

Then: "I guess we should wait by that door."

Losing a struggle to freeze under the Japanese's touch, Hwoarang wrapped wide shoulders in his good arm.

"But fuck .. you feel so good, Jin-koi." Leaning into Jin's weight, the Korean cushioned his lips in black strands, whispering. " .. yeah." / I'd better let go now, huh? / Soon the guards would be rushing through the door, and Hwoarang wouldn't want Jin caught in such a 'compromising' position.

Having to let go was undesired but nevertheless necessary. When Jin heard the clammer of returning footsteps he distanced himself again, so reluctantly that the process was barely completed when the men reappeared. One hurried forward to give each of them a blanket, delivering more than one curious look at Hwoarang. Wasn't that one of the men from the tournament..? They would, of course, say nothing regarding the matter in Jin's presence. There must have been a reason behind it if Kazama Jin chose to interact with the Tae Kwon Do star. Someone else came through the door and upon seeing this Jin froze halfway through the process of wrapping the blanket around his naked shoulders. Even the guards seemed to hesitate as the two figures momentarily watched each other.


She smiled faintly, her tone impossible to read. "You haven't been in this building since your grandfather died."

Jin looked away, slowly resuming the process of covering himself. "You're right." He didn't really want to think about that. "We're both injured, he worse than I. We need medical attention." Jin, be careful with your valiance towards Hwoarang... It's simply in your nature, yes, but people's curiosity may turn into suspicion.

" .. remind me never to challenge you on your turf again, Kazama." Reading the look in Jin's eyes, Hwoarang drew an insight that compelled him to pretense -- and such a farce was in line with his nature, wasn't it? " .. too many interruptions."

Hwoarang sliced the owner of the icy, feminine voice a haughty grin, giving a negligent wave of his right hand.

"I can take care of myself -- I'll just be on my way." At this moment, leaving Jin was the last thing the Korean wanted to do -- but the Japanese was with his people, in his element, and that translated into security. Besides, Hwoarang needed time to consider all of this, check on his renju, and discover whether Hachi and Kim were really dead -- despite a deep seated knowledge their deaths were instant. He attempted to make his way through the dense gathering, resolving not to look back at Jin.

Hayase stared at Jin, interested to see how he would react to this little charade. She knew better, but the guards did not, and that was more important. Jin knew at the very least that she had no urge to gossip about his private life.

Jin had to stop Hwoarang, he had to make sure he got proper care for his hand, and how would he pay for it?, and he didn't want to leave him alone, not after all of this--

"Saa, whatever," he shrugged flippantly at the Korean's back. "This isn't over." / I'll find you again soon, I promise. /

Hwoarang had been occupied with glaring down a particularly confrontational guard, but glanced back to Jin at last, once he'd reached the door. The Korean's words were suited to the act, but his tone wasn't -- only the Mishima heir and Hayase would realize its significance.

" .. you're damned right it isn't."

"Just let him out," Jin ordered disinterestedly with a wave of his hand. At least he could help Hwoarang leave without a hassle. Jin approached the head guardswoman, holding the blanket closed over his chest with his fingers. Wetting his lips with his tongue, the Korean disappeared.

"Why are you hurt?" she asked. It told him clearly enough that she understood what had happened: when the possession occurred, it was everyone else that was supposed to end up mangled.

"It's late and I'm wet and cold and injured," Jin pleaded tiredly. "Just take me back, please."

Hayase wasn't entirely hard-hearted. "Alright," she agreed, her confrontational manner relaxing only slightly with the agreement. Putting a hand on his back, she escorted him out the door. "We'll get you home." And then you will tell me everything that happened.

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