Author's Note: Last one! Probably came sooner than you all thought. ^^ For those of you that hung with us and offered feedback, you have our sincerest thanks and appreciation. Rest assured there's a sequel on the way.

FEEDBACK: Constructive criticism is welcome!

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

In the Skin of a Lion

Chapter Thirteen

By Aaronica and Orfik

"I love you, Joon."

The dry, soft fibers of a thick towel covered Jin's flesh before Hwoarang's arms did, superimposed above it. The kisses against his temple and ear were without shielding, however, their tactile softness so much fuller than any blanket or towel.

With a lover's tender force Hwoarang guided Jin from the tub, and once both their feet were planted firmly on the plush throw rug, Hwoarang used his hands to pat the moisture from the Japanese's skin.

"Our food should be here soon," he said in a serene, affectionate voice. " .. I won't have to eat you." The Korean infused the last phrase with a crestfallen note.

As he was being dried, he simultaneously lifted a corner of the towel to pat dry Hwoarang's nose and cheeks and chin and neck.

"That's okay. I can't compare to fresh fish anyway, I'm sure."

" .. you kidding?" Hwoarang ran his tongue over Jin's jaw to prove his preference, and unceremoniously jerked the towel away, wrapping it around himself and taking off. He paused to grab Jin's boxers and shirt and any other vestments that were visible, laughing all the while, and once he turned to look back at the nude Japanese he whistled. One thing was certain: those legs had recovered.

"Delivery girl's gonna love your sweet cheeks!"

Jin scrambled about in a circle for some means to cover up and eventually attacked the bed, pulling the sheet free to fashion himself a hasty toga/robe/shawl creation. And he was laughing as he ran at Hwoarang, but there sounded a pounding on the door and he stopped in his track, the mirth falling out of his face like a stone.

"Don't answer that."

The redhead pouted curiously, edging to the cage elevator. One buzz and the familiar girl would be able to enter the warehouse and ride up to them. Hwoarang didn't really worry about the circumstances she might find him in, because from what he knew of her she liked Gackt and Dir en Grey and other pansy rockers.

"Aren't you hungry, Jin-kun?" His fingers were on a one-way path to buzzville.

Jin said in a desperate rush "Yes but I don't think that's her!" He was all set to bolt back to the bathroom stall, like a housepet that runs to its cage for safety.

The door pounded again. Angrily.

Too bad there were zero divides on the floor. Only that flimsy, slightly translucent curtain would offer camouflage. Hwoarang waved away Jin's reservations dismissively, scoffing.

"Who else could it be?" It could be Taisho or Ryo or both, and that possibility was so dreadful it didn't even enter the Korean's mind as he pressed the buzzer and smirked at Jin.

"What are you raising a fuss about? You look good in my sheets." Jin looked good in anything, especially nothing, really.

A large portion of the life in Jin's face chipped and fell away like a chunk of iceberg into the sea. There were sounds as someone came into the building and onto the elevator, letting themselves up. Jin, meanwhile, sat on the edge of the bed, his elbows on his knees, that oddly lifeless, foreboding quality lingering on his features. When the elevator gate opened it was a trio of suited Mishima men, each of them with shoulders practically as wide as the door through which they had entered.

The one in front said, "We believe you have something of ours."

Hwoarang's face should have been wiped clean of its smirk, but now the curve was absolutely chesiric. He didn't budge from a position forward and center, and cocked his head to the right as he considered each one. He could take them.

"Midget porn? Nah, I'm not into that shit -- you got the wrong guy. Sorry 'bout the gas. Now how about you pile your asses out of my place?"

"Joon-kun--" Jin murmured behind him; a suffix was always added in the presence of others. He tried to infuse his eyes with a defiance that would make Hwoarang proud, but shame was what was written all across his burning face. He didn't want any of them to be injured... Things were already bad enough. He rose from the bed, holding the sheet very securely about himself as he went to the men.

"Jin .. " he gasped both in surprise and in anger, and Hwoarang grabbed the other teenager's thick forearm. "I don't want you to go." The edge of desperation lacing his voice suffused his eyes. " .. they can't treat you like this!"

The man in front, the obvious leader, continued to do the speaking. "You've already missed half a day of school," he said, thoroughly formal but not to the point of utter coldness. "We'll wait outside, and give you ten minutes to get dressed."

Jin couldn't raise his eyes to Hwoarang nor the men. "I want to stay here, Takeda-san. Hwoarang-san can give me a ride home, and you know I'll make up the school work immediately."

The men looked between each other. A tense silence.

And just let them make something of it. Hwoarang's glare was set from stun to kill, and it burned through expensive suit, hulking muscle and thick bone to the soul beneath. He never let go of Jin's arm, and drew closer so that their shoulders touched.

"You heard 'em. Now make like an amoeba and split." Something American he'd heard; it sounded badass at the time.

The man to the right of Takeda cracked a brief smirk.

"You know that if you stay here, Kazama-sama, it will be reported to Hayase," he said slowly, looking at Jin. He did not have to point out that the hostility on which the Korean was bordering would, if put into action, do nothing but bring them both more trouble; Jin would keep Hwoarang from making any sort of move. Now, though, he was the one who fell silent as he worried over his choices. If he left, Hwoarang would be furious with him ... He'd think him spineless. But if he stayed, not only would Hayase possibly crack down on their contact, but the lightness of the morning had already been effectively smashed.

Jin's eyes pulled limply on the floor, and he mumbled, "I'll be down in a minute."

Merely nodding, the elevator gate closed on the men again as one pushed the button to the first floor. Jin knew he'd made the right choice; they didn't have to tell him. The Mishima simply stood there, not daring to move, and certainly not to look at Hwoarang.

"Joon, I have to, it's the safest thing..." he began immediately.

Hwoarang had no doubts about whether Jin's thick body housed a spine; not like he used to imagine before their kiss, when he made up things to psyche himself for a confrontation. Doubt didn't cause the pain in his desperate eyes, that hue of vibrant agony. It was his helplessness. His fucking helplessness. And all his bravado couldn't make up for the one fact: that comparably, Hwoarang's strength in this matter equaled that of a fly. The Korean's handle on control threatened to break under that deluge of realization, and he ripped his eyes from Jin's downcast gaze before the dam broke. Words were anathema -- voice an enemy. Not explaining wasn't an option.

"Joon, I'm not choosing them over you.. They can cut my ties with you in a second if they choose to. They can do whatever they want. And I don't want that to happen. Takeda was the first man I ever met when I came to my grandfather's -- he looks out for me, and if he came here himself it means it's serious this time. I don't want to think about what would happen--." Jin silenced himself abruptly. "...Joon..." He reached to hold him, amazed that he had the strength himself to do it.

His voice -- his enemy -- came as stain glass, colored and fragile and veined in lead. Dead, like glass. "Tell the delivery girl to come up," he whispered. He let himself be held, but at that moment Hwoarang was a dead thing.

Jin wanted to scream how sorry he was; to shout and cry it at the top of his lungs so that Hwoarang would understand that he would give it all up in a heartbeat, if it was his choice, and stay here in the warehouse with Hwoarang and his hot-to-cold shower and his baking soda in the refrigerator and even Jin's own terror of warehouses themselves. But Jin said nothing. He squeezed Hwoarang, and put his forehead against the back of Hwoarang's warm, still-damp neck and for a short while he was quiet, before he had to pull away and gather his clothes.

Hwoarang sat on a crate and watched Jin scrounge and dress himself with mute obedience. How was such an impotence possible, and so capable of consuming them both, they who were strong and young and full of vigor? It shouldn't have been this way, and as the Korean wondered at how it could be so, his eyes were hollow. When Jin finished drawing on his clothing and approached the elevator, he stood and he apologized with his eyes, with his mouth.

"I'm sorry." He apologized for not being able to save Jin from this. "I love you."

Jin stopped and looked at Hwoarang with a smile that was utterly, heart-shatteringly tragic. "Those were the things I was going to say," he murmured thickly. He lingered there a moment longer, wanting to touch Hwoarang again but being far too filthy and tainted to try such a thing, and finally he bowed his head, his eyes sinking away as he got onto the elevator and lowered it, going out to meet the bodyguards.

The trio, one on either side and Takeda leading the way, were silent as they led Jin to the car and ushered him inside. The man shutting his door glanced back at the building as he did so, muttering under his breath: "Korean wretch." Jin had him fired before noon.

Return to Archive | previous | sequel