Author's Note: The story will rotate POV between Hwoarang and Jin. It will always be fairly simple to tell which is which, so you shouldn't get lost. Koorime wrote all of Jin's POV, actions, and dialogue, while Link621 wrote Hwoarang's actions, POV, and dialogue. Else than that, please enjoy.

Warnings: Yaoi, lemon, strong language, and that's about it. There is 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. Lyrics quoted in the beginning are from the Wallflower's "Baby Bird" off of their album "Breach".

Tattered Wings - Part 5

By Koorime and Link621

~ Babybird
Come back home
You were never really on your own ~


Act I: Scene V


I looked away from the painting on the wall where my grandfather smirked, chin lifted in pompous arrogance. The portrait failed to catch the malevolent gleam in his eyes that I had overlooked so often in my younger years; I turned back to the desk where the woman stared at me, holding out a small clipboard. When she knew she had my attention, she handed the form over to me with a pen.

"Just fill this out, sir. You have to read the terms of agreement on this coversheet first, stating that you enter the Fourth Iron Fist Tournament of your own free will and that you acknowledge the dangers. Thus, the Mishima Zaibatsu will not be held responsible for any injuries that you may obtain during the duration of the tournament," she explained. It sounded almost like a video recording and I had no doubt she'd run through this process with other entrants; I wondered who else was here.

I wondered if he was here.

"Is that in or out of the ring?" I asked wryly.

She blinked in confusion. "Pardon?"

I shook my head, and started for one of the chairs in the lounge. "Never mind."

"Oh, just a moment, sir!" I looked back and she was holding out a small card to me. "You almost forgot your key."

I took it without question, quickly stuffing it in the pocket of my jeans. It was actually something of a relief to be staying here, even though it was on my grandfather's land. I knew I was feeding myself to the wolves by taking up residence where I could be easily sought, but I couldn't stay in my old apartment. There were too many memories back there. For the first few nights after leaving the hospital, I hadn't slept. It was sweet torture waking every morning alone in that bed, forgetting each time the new circumstances; that Hwoarang was gone and not coming back. So I'd spent the last two weeks on the couch, forcing my mind to settle but each time it was drawn back to him. The way he'd grumble softly when I'd hold him in the morning as he feigned sleep. His playfully incessant teasing that would eventually make me laugh as we sparred. I honestly can't remember the last time I laughed. I remember that it was pleasant and it brought a certain warmth…

Too many memories.

Just forget about him....

I hated it. I hated myself because I couldn't forget, though in the back of my mind, I wasn't sure if I wanted to. I'd packed all my belongings the day before, clearing out the apartment as I prepared to move into the hotel for those participating in the Tournament.

It was during my final check when I saw it. A small, golden locket that I'd first thought was a pocket watch. It lay forgotten on the floor by the dresser, as I bent to pick it up, my stomach somersaulted. I knew instantly, without opening it, that it was his, for I couldn't remember ever owning such a locket. I stared at its unblemished surface nestled in my palm as I lay back on the bed for the first time in weeks. I don't know how I could have ever missed it; I had never seen the Korean wear it. Something strange overcame me, and I pocketed the small locket; not having opened it. I wouldn't betray whatever secrets he held inside. To this day, I still didn't know what lay beneath the golden seal.

Sitting back in my chair, I tapped the pen against my lower lip and realized I'd been doing so for the last ten minutes. The form on the clipboard in front of me remained blank.

I sighed softly under my breath and brought pen to paper, sifting through the various fields. I looked through the terms of agreement, almost expecting there to be a clause stating that the by signing, the Mishima Zaibatsu would own your soul. But no, there was none. The contract was straight forward enough and I signed at the bottom of the form in the designated space. I was just checking my details when someone called my name; I looked up and saw Xiaoyu bounding over to me.

"Oh, you're here!" she bubbled, a relieved smile gracing her young features. She leaned both hands on the arm of my chair, her traditional pigtails falling forward past her ears. Her dark eyes positively glittered as I looked on her. She was wearing her training gear, maneuverable grey pants with a matching zip-down sweater that was currently done up, I could see the orange trimmings of her shirt reach past her sleeves when she reached out to take my form.

I frowned, reaching for it back. "I'm not done yet."

"Jin, I found him! He's here, Jin!"

My heart froze and I glanced around the lobby self-consciously. " … "

"No, not here." She pointed at the roof above us. "He's resting in his room right now. But, Jin, he's here!" Xiaoyu persisted, as though I hadn't heard her the first time. I snatched the clipboard back and started for the front desk without a word. The young Chinese girl appeared at my side as I handed the form over to the desk clerk; the woman smiled politely but I could detect the light curiosity in her gaze as she looked me over, peered closely at my face. She was looking over the form as I turned away and heard the soft murmur, "Kazama… ?"

"Jin, did you hear me?" Xiaoyu asked as I picked up my suitcase.


She pouted. "Why aren't you more excited? I thought that you wanted to see Hwoarang. We've been looking for him for weeks and I only found him the other day."

I threw her a look that was maybe a little too harsh. "Not here. If you want to talk, meet me later."

"The welcoming banquet is tonight, can we talk then?" The young martial artist walked me to the elevator as I glanced at my key card: 3B. So I was on the third floor. I looked at her.

"Where's your room?"

"I'm on the second floor, down the hall from Hwoarang. There's this really strange girl next to me, I've never seen her before in my life and she dresses so weirdly." Xiaoyu's hand held the doors open as I stepped inside without comment. "So I'll see you at the banquet then? How about I come get you?"

I shrugged. "Sure."

She grinned then, satisfied. "Good, is it okay if I bring Hwoarang?"

Eugh. I hoped that I wasn't visibly uncomfortable. As much as I was yearning to see the redhead, something in me just wasn't ready yet. "Why don't you bring that neighbor of yours?"

"I don't even know her!" Xiaoyu squeaked indignantly. "Besides, what if she's weird?"

"Weird?" I echoed. "Go on, make some new friends. It's what you do best."

She blushed, eyes falling to the ground for a moment. "Well, maybe. She did look sort of lonely. I'm meeting Julia when we get there, but what about Hwoarang?"

I punched the button for the third floor. "What about Hwoarang?"

"Jin!" her voice took on a soft whine, a small but strong hand pushing the doors back when they tried to close. "Do you mind if he joins us?"

"Doesn't matter."

"Then I'm bringing him."

I shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant, but my stomach was coiling in on itself. "Fine."

She poked her tongue out at me. "Fine."

"Fine." I inwardly cringed, finally seeing the trap she'd sprung for me. A triumphant grin brushed her lips before she leaped into the elevator, the doors finally hushing shut behind her with a soft chime.

"I knew it, you're still in love with him!" she accused, poking me in the chest.

I frowned, using my height to its full advantage. "I never said that."

She wasn't intimidated in the least. "You don't have to, I can see it! If you didn't care you wouldn't try to come off as so… not caring."

I inwardly rolled my eyes; she wasn't making any sense. "These elevators probably have surveillance, you know. Best to keep quiet."

"Don't change the subject," she patronized, hands settling on her hips. "I'm very serious."

I met the pouting glare with what I hoped was indifference. "What do you want me to say?"

She stomped her foot. "Jin! I'm worried about both of you right now! You're both so stubborn; did you know that I had to drag Hwoarang off to the doctor to get his ribs fixed? He wouldn't go otherwise, and you! You're just as bad!"

… Hwoarang was hurt? "What happened to him?" I asked quietly.

"He's been street-fighting to make ends meet, I'm just glad that I found him when I did." She held her hands up to stop any further question. "He's alright now. He's resting."

I was frowning again, looking at the elevator doors to avoid her eye. "He shouldn't be entering the tournament if he's not well."

"Hwoarang's tough; he'll bounce back in no time. But, Jin, you are stuck in a rut and-"

"It's over, end of discussion," I interrupted, stepping past her as the doors opened to the third floor.

"I'm not done here," she called to me. "I'm sitting next to you tonight and we'll continue this!"

I shook my head, wondering what benevolence had graced me with such friends as Xiaoyu.

"And I'm bringing him!"

I cringed inwardly at that last statement, hearing the doors shut with a pleasant chime that defied my own mood. I was not looking forward to tonight.

I was under the impression I'd made it perfectly clear that I was neither a) dressing up, nor b) going anywhere with Jin if I couldn't try to kick his ass. Xiaoyu wouldn't hear a word of it. She made me wear the gray suit we'd picked out earlier that afternoon, insisting that my "ass looks best" in that one. I had grunted at the time, insisting that I wasn't trying to get anyone to want my ass. Then, she had laughed evilly.

Trust me; it is the most frightening noise that could possibly be produced by a teenage girl.

So, the gray suit it was, even though she could not get me to wear a tie for any reason, and I also left the sport jacket in the closet. Over the white collar shirt all I wore was the vest of the suit, which was the same cloth as the suit in the front, but silky and lighter gray in the back where it was pulled tighter by a clasp in the center of my lower back. It was, amazingly, a perfect fit. Though, as Xiaoyu had pointed out, it was tight in certain areas, it was still stitched so I could move freely. I still hated dressing up.

Jin wouldn't mind. In fact, he might have even found it amusing.

Xiaoyu ushered me out the door by the arm with a huge smile. "You look great," she insisted, giggling like the school girl she was. The moment we crossed the threshold, we were met by a girl about our age who was so tan she had to be from somewhere tropical. She wore a festive green dress that emphasized her breasts, maybe too much. I mean, I am one to talk, seeing as I was told to wear the suit I was clad in just for the purpose of displaying my ass. "Oh, hey, Christie," Xiaoyu greeted.

"Christie?" I looked at her quizzically. I was sure I'd never seen her before. She just laughed.

"So, this is Hwoarang," she commented, as if it was some sort of achievement. Yeah, give me the fucking Nobel Prize for being me. "He's cute," she added approvingly, winking at Xiaoyu. The smaller girl laughed quietly, nodding her agreement.

"Thanks," I grumbled, not really complimented. "Can we get this over with?" To that, I got a round of laughter from the girls, which I am sure was at my expense. One of the many reasons why I am glad my past few relationships have been with men. Girls are so much harder to deal with.

Before I knew it, I was being swept away to the banquet by the two giggling girls. If that wasn't bad enough, the selectively lovely and ever-irritating Julia Chang joined us at the door. She and Christie, thankfully, struck up a conversation and were off in their own little world long enough for Xiaoyu and I to escape. She led me straight to a table where I was sure to face certain doom. Jin Kazama, in all his demonic glory, sat at the table looking vaguely irritated.

I needed to talk to him, really. I needed my locket back.

I wondered if he opened it.

"This is my father, Hwoarang. He was the most important person in my life. He is the one who taught me to be strong, and to be the man I am. I hope I will fill this role for you too, Hwoarang." Baek clutched the locket, closing it again. "When I am gone, put a picture of us inside so you may remember me as I remember him."


I growled, approaching Jin. Xiaoyu, a little shocked, hurried after me. I slammed the palms of my hands into the table in front of Jin, apparently surprising him, as he looked at me as if he didn't notice my approach. "Do you have it?" I growled, leaning forward a little toward his confused features.

Jin stared back in dumbfounded confusion. "… What?"

I knew it was irrational of me to feel so irritated, but I couldn't imagine that Jin wouldn't have thought the locket odd and instantly recognized it as something of mine. "You should know, Jin." I didn't like the taste of his name on my tongue, and my words sounded just as bitter.

The dark-haired martial artist frowned lightly until he realized just what I was referring to. "You mean your… locket?"

Xiaoyu had by now reached the table and she looped an arm over my shoulder, glancing between us. "What's this? What locket?"

Jin only gave her a glance before looking back at me. "… I don't have it with me. It's back in my room."

I sighed. It almost figured. "It's nothing, Xiaoyu," I said, waving away her curious look. I was relieved that the locket was found, but I couldn't help but wish that I had known sooner before nearly having a nervous break down over it. I met Jin's eyes, barely able to keep his gaze before my heart clenched. It wasn't supposed to do that. I was supposed to be angry. "I'm glad to see you're okay. You look much better than you did when I saw you in the hospital." My mouth slammed shut after that. I could only hope I hadn't said too much.

Jin's face had a subtle hint of pink, and he looked away.

Xiaoyu cooed. "AAAAAAAAAWE! How cute!" I ignored it, but the blush on Jin's face was far more visible after the girl's comment. Xiaoyu's loud exclaim had drawn the attention of the others; Julia and Christie appeared next to the small Chinese girl, looking around.

"What's cute?" Julia asked while Christie beheld the slight blush in Jin's cheeks.

"Very cute," the girl commented, winking at him. "I'm Christie Monteiro."

Jin looked at her, managing to quell his light embarrassment. "Kazama… " He bent his head forward in an elegant nod of greeting.

"Kazama Jin!" Xiaoyu beamed, taking me by the arm, she started to pull me around the circular table to Jin's side. "You sit by me!" She placed herself in the empty seat next to the Japanese martial artist and yanked me down next to her.

"Xiaoyu!" I protested, against the idea of having a girl yanking at my arm. "I can sit on my own, Xiaoyu," I said through gritted teeth. She just giggled at me. Something told me this was a pointless argument.

"You should really lighten up, Hwoarang," Julia insisted, sliding to a sit next to me. She elbowed me in the ribs jokingly, to which I hissed in pain. I shot my best death glare at her, and she just shrugged. "Sorry." Then, Julia looked away from me. "Hm? I didn't know you were coming, Mr. Fox."

The blonde had my full attention as he walked up wearing a blue suit with a tie that was the British flag. He smiled, exchanging introductions with Christie, and then helped himself to the seat right next to Jin. I was just about ready to snap. "Hwoarang, I'm a little surprised to see you here," he commented in a false pleasant tone. I managed to say nothing, catching the hint of worry that was on Jin's face.

Not that I care anymore, right?

Jin gave the blonde newcomer a subtle look. "Please don't start anything," he murmured discreetly.

"Lay back, Jin." Steve winked at him. "It's a party." The man then turned his attention to the woman from Arizona and the fighter next to her. Jin's brow furrowed only slightly, Xiaoyu smiled encouragingly and laid a hand on his under the table.

"Everything will be fine, Jin. Mishima Heihachi should be giving his speech soon and then the food comes," she explained merrily. Jin's hand tensed under her palm. He was understandably tense, knowing he was seeing his grandfather, the man who had betrayed him two years before.

How would he react?

Someone tapped his shoulder and he looked up to see a man clad entirely in purple attire with black leather pants. Sunglasses hid his eyes from view, but it was easy to recognize the man, even though the silver tresses had been dyed a striking violet.

Lee held a finger to his lips. "Good to see you're all doing well," he murmured, lips curving gently in a smile before he moved away.

Jin stared after him and Xiaoyu leaned in close, whispering in his ear, "Was that Chaolan-san? What did he do to his hair?"

"Chaolan Lee?" I mused, watching the man go. Though turned from Xiaoyu and Jin, I wondered with them the same things. Something told me he was hiding his identity for some reason. It was probably something to do with one of the elder two Mishimas. I swear, Jin came from the most fucked up family ever. It was like the "Brady Bunch" with guns, demons, vast financial empires, and conspiracies.

I felt a hand on mine, and looked back over at Xiaoyu. She had a small smile on her face. She raised herself out of the seat a little, drawing her lips near my ear. "It was nice of you to compliment Jin, Hwoarang. I know it didn't come easy." She drew back, smiling at me. I just nodded, trying to keep the sadness out of my eyes.

"Hey, he's cute!" Christie said suddenly, referring to the retreating Lee. She practically had stars in her eyes. "Wow, I had no idea so many cute guys would be in this tournament."

"He's old!" Julia complained, laughing with Christie and Xiaoyu.

"Still cute, though," I agreed, drawing a weird look from everyone but Xiaoyu. Christie eventually just laughed, Julia shook her head, Steve rolled his eyes with a small smile on his face, and Jin sighed, turning from me.

Well, whatever. I thought I was funny.

Jin stiffened and I recognized the tale-tell shiver that said that something was pestering him metaphysically. Through their linked hands, Xiaoyu felt it and looked at him in concern. "Are you alright?" she asked softly, following his gaze to where it fixed in on a passing stranger.

The man wore a deep blue dress shirt and dark pants, an angry scowl set his scarred face; one of his eyes glowed with an iris of purple light. What caught my attention was the unmistakable hairstyle that was unique to the Mishima line; his long hair drew up in a proud spike, emphasizing his strong profile.

"Who is that?" Xiaoyu whispered, voice hushed.

Others turned to watch the man pass, Julia's smile faded as he passed the back of her chair and Christie suddenly shivered. They looked back as though searching for the source of a draft, and found only a dark stranger. It was some time before Jin responded, very slowly in a low murmur.

"My father."

Mishima Kazuya took up stance by the wall, crossing his arms over his chest and waited for the procession to begin. Xiaoyu stared at her friend's deathly cold expression, the light knit of his brow as though pained.

"… I thought you were an orphan."

Christie and Julia exchanged a strange look, before glancing back at the elder Mishima once more and then began whispering among themselves. Steve was frowning darkly, he met Jin's eyes and something passed unspoken between them, and I had to wonder what Steve Fox's connection to Kazuya was.

"I am," Jin replied gently. Abruptly, he stood and started for the door without another word.

I stood as well, scrambling half past, half over Julia before practically falling on my face trying to get away from the table, ignoring the protests of the others at the table. Steve looked like he was about to stand, so I shot him a firm glare, promising death if he tried to beat me to Jin's side again. He seemed to get the picture, for once. It wasn't until I was out of the room, in the adjacent hall, that I finally caught up to Jin. I caught his arm in my hand, feeling him jolt under my grasp. My hand was thrown away fiercely, and he turned to me, glaring. Then, his face softened upon looking at me, if only for a moment, before the glare fell back into place.

"Fuckin' A, Jin. You sure are jumpy," I muttered, clasping my hand to my chest, mocking pain.

Jin swallowed, turning away without a word. He never liked to just stand around to talk, and I'm sure I was one of the last people that he wanted to face if he was having any of the same doubts I was. There was still too much confusion. Still looking flustered, Jin left me alone without answering, and went for the bathroom.

The door swung shut behind him, and I opened it again, following him through. The young man gathered water in the cup of his hands and brought it to his lips, ignoring me, though I stood a safe distance away, yet close enough to let my presence be known.

"Fuck this, Kazama. You're obviously not gonna talk to me, but that doesn't mean you can't listen." I put my hands on my hips, trying to catch Jin's eyes in the mirror to no avail. "I came to see you, you know... twice, in fact. Were it not for Lee, I think I might have even been able to save you back there." Still getting no response, I pressed on. "I brought you flowers, but I think Steve crushed them. I spent a good portion of my money on those roses, too. I figured you wouldn't like lilies."

Finally, Jin looked up slowly, as if it were hard to finally acknowledge my presence. I took the chance to continue. "I'm sorry I left... it just... I think he was right about us... I can't do anythin' but hurt you, at this point. If I hadn't left that damn locket, I would be out of your life by now, you know. Believe me, Kazama, that is what I know would be for the best." Jin slowly turned to me now, facing me fully with a blank expression. "Leave it to me to leave behind my two most precious possessions..." A hand went to my mouth when I realized I'd said "two". I just had to hope Jin really was so dense that he wouldn't notice.

He opened his mouth as if to respond, so I cut him off, saying the first thing that came to mind. "I do want that rematch, Jin. I plan to win this time. Of course, first I have to kick Steve Fox's ass all over the place... that shouldn't be too hard. I swear, you catch him off guard and..." I trailed off, seeing the look I was getting from Jin. I didn't even know what to think of it.

"… What happened while I was sleeping?" Jin asked finally, voice low.

At first, I was so surprised that he'd spoken; I almost didn't realize it at all. Then, blinking, I began to explain, "Well, I got to the hospital right after your surgery was over, and they let Steve see you. So, Chaolan argued my case while I fell asleep in the waiting room, and woke up to him arguing... and then Xiaoyu and that Chang girl came, and then left me alone again..." I paused, making sure I wasn't losing Jin. From the looks of things, he was more amused by my rushed explanation than anything else.

I thought about how to explain the next part carefully. "So, Steve and I had a nice little chat, and I triedtokillhim, and I have the broken bones to prove it. Then, I went and bought flowers from this overly-helpful florist. Um... after that, I got back and talked to Xiaoyu in your room... I guess the drugs had knocked you out, and I left the flowers there... Then Chaolan came and told me a half-hour later that I was banned from the hospital and shot me full of some sort of drug that put me out like a light."

Jin blinked slowly and looked away, the frown knitting deeper as he processed all this. "Lee drugged you?"

"It was the only way to get me to leave you there, I'm sure," I admitted, suddenly realizing how stupid I must have sounded.

Jin turned away completely and faced the mirror, the frown still in place as he stared at the sink, deep in thought. I wondered what could be going through the demon's mind. I guess I had just spilled out a lot of information out on him so abruptly... and I gave him my weakness in the process. Jin scowled, hands tightening on the faucets. He scoffed under his breath-- it sounded bitter-- and he shook his head.

" … "

I felt myself instantly go on the defensive at the sound Jin made, just by instinct. He wasn't going to buy into my story. Well, fuck him; I was there and he was comatose. Okay, not comatose, but he should have been, as far as I'm concerned. "I needed to get away from Steve Fox too, you know," I found myself commenting. "He really hates me. I mean, I did wish death upon him very openly at least three times in the hospital if you count attacking him..."

After a long, quiet pause I found my lips moving again. "I don't deserve you."

Jin froze, his frown fading. " ... " He slowly looked up in the mirror to where I stood; but I couldn't meet his eye, instead staring at his back. Had I really said that?

When it became obvious that I wasn't going to say anything more, Jin took it as it was his cue to speak. "... Why do you say that?" he asked, turning around to face me.

"Because he was right about everything," I replied, still not really knowing the origin of my words. They spilled from my mouth before I could even think of what to say. I don't think I even agreed with myself. Ah, yes, that makes sense, Hwoarang. I felt a deep sigh escape my lips. "I wasn't there for you, Jin. It should have been me, not some stupid British punk that was there to bring you to safety. I let him fuck it all up. And my stupid temper made me fuck things up more."

I realized, I really had no words for what I had to say next. "Jin... I know... how you feel about me. It shouldn't be me, though. I can't give you what you really need. I am a temporary cure for a permanent problem. I was thinking, maybe Xiaoyu..." my voice failed me, so I shut my mouth again, staring very heavily at my shoes now. I noticed the left one was untied, but decided it would be improper to tie it now. Plus, I think it almost was fitting of me to have one shoe tied and the other not.


"Xiaoyu?" The cry was past Jin's lips, though it looked as if he hadn't meant to say it aloud; or maybe not in that tone, at least. "You've come to tell me that I should… date Xiaoyu?" A premature laugh slipped past his lips and gave me an incredulous look. "You're kidding."

My heart froze. I had a split second to decide whether to be more angry or hurt, and I went for the former, just by instinct. "If that's what you want to call it, fine. But I'm trying to tell you, Kazama, you shouldn't have to face your problems alone. Now, you can take my advice, or you can be the stupid fuckface you always have been and decide that I'm always wrong just by default and you'll figure it out on your own anyway." I certainly hadn't meant to say all that aloud. Where was my control? What control? What did it matter, anyway?

"You need someone," I added in a dangerous tone, silently mocking myself for saying such a pansy-ass thing in such a gruff voice. I sounded completely retarded.

Jin leaned back against the sink, folding his arms over his chest and he met my eyes, though my gaze was malicious. "For a while, I had someone. He never told me much about himself, and I respected his privacy. Only now, I think there were times when we should have talked." He paused, and with a soft sigh, looked to the side. "Because even though he wants me dead, I never blamed him… I never… " The Japanese trailed off, as if unsure of what he was trying to say. After a long moment, he continued, though his voice was deathly low. "Why did you leave?"

At first, I had thought he was referring to me, until he said something about someone wanting him dead. I could feel just that little jealous twinge hit me, wondering whom it was that had Jin speaking so fondly. "I'm a burden," I said with more conviction than I'd planned for. "And I'm sick of it. I'm sick of being nothing but a burden. All I do is use up money and space... and burn your dinner." My lips quirked into a slight smile. "I still can't believe I almost caught the stove on fire," I added sheepishly.

Jin closed his eyes, shaking his head. "If you were a burden I would have told you to leave long ago… I don't waste my time because it's too precious." He had to pause to catch himself, eyes drifting open slowly and they fixed to the floor at his feet. "I returned to Tokyo to destroy the Mishima line. After the Third Iron Fist, that was my only reason for going on. I didn't have anything else… But that changed when I came back." Jin's voice failed and he sounded on the very brink of breaking down. There was also a sense of a critical weight falling on his words, as if by continuing, he wouldn't be able to take it back. I could tell he was fed up with where things were ending, so he pressed on, telling me what I needed to know.

"... I loved you, you know." Jin had to summon the final threads of his courage to meet my gaze. "I think I still do, and it doesn't matter to me that you don't feel anything even remotely the same... But it killed me when you left that night, and I realized that I only had one thing left. That is why I challenged my father; I didn't want to live without… " The dark-haired martial artist stopped suddenly, gaze sweeping away and he swallowed. I knew where this was headed. As Lee had explained to me, I think I was what Jin needed to keep from losing himself to the demon.

If I didn't know better, I'd say that was the way Lee really wanted things to be. I think he liked Jin, and saw more of Jun in him than Kazuya. Not to mention, we'd actually gotten along famously when we were talking at the hospital. We weren't that different, Lee and I.

Jin's expression turned painfully bitter, when he spoke, it was in an angry whisper, the only form that would keep his voice from shaking. "Do you have any idea how much this hurts?"

I swallowed hard, clenching one fist. I knew tears were starting to form in my eyes, but I pushed them back, swallowing again to try to get past the lump in my throat. "Jin..." I whispered, as if it were the only word I knew, and the only word I had ever known. It tasted sweet on my tongue and was basted with spices of fear, joy, love, and hope. Yes, hope. For the first time since this all began, I had real hope. "Yes, Jin, I think I do," I said, taking those two long strides that put us just close enough that it would have been awkward if we didn't know eachother so well. I could see Jin take in a sharp breath.

"Jin, I sat in the waiting room of the hospital for a good twelve hours, waiting to see you, and they wouldn't even make an exception for a guest family was ushering in. I was left to live, relive, and re-relive the past day over and over in my head." I had to pause, rebuilding the strength to speak again. With a deep breath exhaled, I began again. "I caused this. I know you deny that, but it all comes down to me. I know I must have caused the pain that made that scar of yours only burn hotter, and I sure didn't help by getting jealous and leaving you to stumble away to your certain doom. Christ, if you hadn't left that note, I wouldn't have even thought to go find you until the next day... and then you could have been dead."

I laughed bitterly. "God, who the hell am I kidding? If I had been the first one to get to you, you would be dead." Something akin to affirmation flashed in Jin's dark eyes as he continued to silently listen, wrapping himself in his arms. "And then... and then I don't think that I could make it anymore myself." I didn't have to look at Jin to know the look he was giving me. I'd turned his world upside down again. "Chaolan-san thinks that you are dependent on my care, but I think he has it backwards. I couldn't... I couldn't really leave you if I tried. Not if I didn't know you were surrounded by people who love you as much as I do, where you would be safe. Not unless I knew for a fact that it really was dangerous to you for me to be around."

I took a deep breath, having to manually remind myself to breathe; I was too tense. I closed my eyes for a moment. "I promised I would chase it away, Jin, and I intend to keep that promise. I think that really is for the best, at least for now." I looked into Jin's face, realizing that I wanted to touch him like some beautiful antique at a museum that was just out of reach. I imagined running a thumb over his lips in a comforting gesture before kissing him.

Unfortunately, that would probably be asking too much of Jin.

I lightly put a hand to Jin's shoulder, hoping not to scare the boy off the contact. To my surprise, that was his breaking point. He turned into the touch, wrapping around my chest with his face buried in my shoulder. He was quivering, and I couldn't be sure if it was from the earlier encounter with Kazuya or just raw emotion. The hand that had gone for his shoulder carefully wrapped around his broad shoulders, and I found myself whispering comforting words-- basically anything that came to mind. My heart was aching, caught between two extremes. I wasn't sure whether this was a good sign or not, but either way, it made the muscles in my chest contract almost painfully.

My lips were right above Jin's ear as I whispered, "I love you too."

At first, all I got in response was a whimper. Jin clutched to me tighter, and I could feel his strong hands wrinkling the vest I wore. It wasn't long before I could feel Jin convulsing with sobs, crying into my shoulder. A sad smile met my face and I gently ran my fingers through that spike of hair, whispering soothing words, though I knew he wasn't sad. I could tell, by the way he brokenly sobbed into my shoulder that he was just relieved. Maybe even in a bit of disbelief. To tell the truth, I was still trying to get over what had just passed.

Jin loved me. I had known before, but it sounded so good coming from him. It only made me love him more.

When the boy finally quieted, I raised his face to look at me, looking into reddened coffee eyes that were above his tear-stained and flushed cheeks. But, there was a trace of a smile on his slightly parted lips that mirrored my own. Without a word, I gently wiped away his tears before leaning in for a kiss.

The kiss was chaste, just the meeting of two pairs of lips, but that was all it had to be.

When we drew back, the humor of the situation started to set in. I glanced once around our surroundings, then gave Jin an impish smile. "Jin, I don't know if you've noticed, but we are standing here, in the middle of a public bathroom, confessing our love to one another." There was a pause while Jin processed. Then, his lip quivered a moment, and my heart lifted. I knew all too well what came next.

Jin laughed. Not just any laugh, either. He threw his head back and all but howled in amusement, his deep chuckles rumbling through my ears. I was quick to join, finding all of my tension slipping away as I did so. I held Jin tight, loving how he felt in my arms, even while laughing so hard my stomach was hurting. As we settled, wiping tears of mirth out of our eyes, Jin only had one thing to say.

"Thank you, Hwoarang."

"Anytime, Jin," I replied; too busy enjoying the smell of his shampoo to really think about saying anything witty.

"But, what about the party?" Jin wondered quietly, and I froze. "It has been quite a while," he pointed out, glancing back at me.

I blanched. Oh shit. I knew I was forgetting something.

"You go ahead," I urged Jin, straitening his tie almost jokingly. "Go back, and if they ask, I needed time to cool off. After all, we don't want to be seen leaving the bathroom together like this," I pointed out, which was met with a serious nod even to my good-natured joking.

"I'll meet you in there, then," Jin agreed. He kissed me again, in parting, before leaving the room without another word. Instantly, my calm dissolved.

I fell against the wall, shaking from head to toe. I ran a trembling hand through my hair and blew out a shaky breath. When I trusted my legs again, I went to the sink and splashed a couple of hand-fulls of water on my face. I met my eyes in the mirror, smiling as I was pleased with my calm visage.

No one could tell, just by looking, that I had just been broken my arch rival, Kazama Jin.

=== End Act I ===

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