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 Beatles song “Blackbird” (yes, I have an obsession with bird songs)
Tattered Wings - Part 6
"Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise"
Act II: Scene I
I’m awake… right? This is real? I’m not going to wake up now and…
I glanced over my shoulder, back at the doors of the restroom; an involuntary smile crept across my lips. I couldn’t believe it; but this was… real. Hwoarang really....
My euphoria drained as I heard slow, heavy footsteps and I looked up the hall. Several tall men in black suits stood there, instantly I recognized the Mishima insignia on the sleeve of their jackets; my grandfather had sent them. They stood with their backs to me, blocking the entrance and exit to this section of the building; I frowned, certain that they weren’t there when I first entered.
I turned at my name and found three men were approaching me, a brunette at their lead. He wasn’t much taller than myself, but I could see that he was a foreigner. He looked around thirty, maybe thirty-five. His brown eyes narrowed as he found his observation correct, even though I had not answered. I glanced suspiciously between them and back over my shoulder, the other men hadn’t moved.
“What is this?” I demanded, feeling my hand clench. Cold anxiety was pooling in my stomach as the man stepped closer, his gaze flickered over my shoulder for a moment and then he looked hard at me.
“Come with us please, Kazama-san.” Although a request, the look in his eyes brooked no room for refusal. My jaw clenched and I had to resist the urge to look back beyond that human barrier, the others... Steve and Xiaoyu were so close… My heart constricted as Xiaoyu’s laugh rang out clear for a moment above the general murmur of conversation.
“Quietly,” the man added.
I returned the icy look. “I have no further business with Mishima Heihachi, you tell him this-“
“I’m afraid that will have to wait, Kazama-san,” the man interrupted; his voice possessed that deceiving calm of a conditioned mercenary. My curiosity got the better of me as I wondered what he would barter for me to go with him freely.
“Why is that?” I asked, wondering dimly what would happen if Hwoarang were to exit the restroom at that very moment. In fact, I almost wish he would…
The man didn’t twitch a muscle, didn’t even blink. “Don’t waste our time, Kazama-san. Or that of your friends… “ He raised a strange device to my eye, it looked like a remote control, only silver with a small monitor. He pressed a button and the screen flashed to life, I could see in clear sepia the moving image that looked like it had been taken from surveillance. It showed the banquet hall, the image halting on a certain table; when it zoomed in, I saw Steve glancing between Xiaoyu, Christie and Julia. They looked as though they were listening intently to him, I suppose that he was telling a story. Something he said made them erupt in laughter, simultaneously, I heard them from somewhere behind me. The image flickered then faded, before he lowered the device.
“We don’t have to bring them into this, do we?”
The same old threat. It works every time. I would never chance to put any of them in danger, if I could help it. I won’t tempt fate this time either.
“Where are we going?” I said finally, the words felt cold in my throat and I chanced a look at the restroom doors, suddenly hoping that they remained closed. Hwoarang... stay there.
The man’s expression shifted, only slightly. He was pleased. He moved to the side and motioned with one hand down the empty hallway. “We’ll ask the questions, Kazama-san. This way, please. There are some who are very eager to see you.” His hand settled firmly, but lightly on my shoulder and I had to fight the instinct to jerk away, instead allowing myself to be led down the bend to another corridor that was slightly dimmer. I could hear the many footsteps behind me, those men must have also been following; I was trapped on both sides. We stopped halfway down another hall and the lead man reached forth to brush something against the wall, a switch, a handle; I couldn’t see. They blocked my view but there was a gentle click followed by a subtle whirring noise that seemed to come from inside the wall. One of the tapestries slid up as a section of the wall moved back and to the side. All that lay on the other side was shadow; my breathing fell short as I stared into it.
There was no way I wanted to go in there.
Someone tapped me lightly on the shoulder, another man motioned for me to go first. I stared into the emptiness for a moment and felt myself swallow. I could do this, it wasn’t as though I had a fear of the dark... only what was under its veil, but I tried not to think that far ahead.
After a few steps the darkness engulfed me on all sides; I turned back sharply to the fading light of the hall. It was immediately blocked by a tall profile of one of the men and then the light disappeared altogether as the wall slid back into place, leaving us alone in the darkness. The brunette spoke and I shivered as a familiar chill wisped tendrils from within.
“Welcome to your new home, Kazama-san.”
Please... someone... help me... Hwoarang....
I fell to my knees, panting. I don’t know how long I’d been running, but it felt like miles; it felt like years. I’d been running up an endless flight of stone steps until now. Looking around, I could see I was at Baek’s dojo. A slightly younger version of myself was talking to Baek, probably actually back-talking, and was being scolded across from me. “You idiot,” Baek chided, “How many times do I have to tell you that you need to listen toall of the instructions carefully before you start?” I could see myself roll my eyes. “When my father was teaching me....”
My younger self sighed deeply, settling in for the long haul. A fond smile met my lips.
// You loved him, Hwoarang. // The voice was as clear and beautiful church bells cutting through the morning air. I didn’t know the voice, but it felt familiar... safe, almost.Jin...
Only, it wasn’t Jin. The voice was distinctly female. I tore my eyes away from the fond memory playing out in front of me and turned to examine the nearby columns where I’d heard the voice. A woman who couldn’t have been much older than I stood there, smiling at me kindly. She was petite as they come, and had kind almond eyes. Those eyes were slightly distorted by spindly bangs. “Jin... you’re Jin’s....”
// Do you love my son enough to save him? // Kazama Jun’s lips never moved as she spoke. // He calls for you, Hwoarang. Can you hear him? //
“I don’t understand....” I think that has become my favorite phrase in the world to say to a Kazama. They’re both so damn confusing. Wait... but Jun is....
Cold realization hit me, and I turned away from Jun abruptly to look to my younger self and Baek, only to see the dojo was in flames, and Baek was nowhere to be seen. It was from that time... when Toshin.... “Baek!” I heard my younger self cry, searching, though futile, for his fallen master. Cold filled me, watching the scene, remembering the pure fury that built within me. I could see on my younger features that I was already past the mourning stage, and far into revenge.
I stepped up into the stone center of the dojo, ignoring my former self, and walking toward the only place I hadn’t thought to search that night that I revisited the next day to find a sign of struggle. I had a feeling Toshin might still be there. I slowly peeked around the corner, looking into Baek’s office, and I could see a dark shadow of a figure there. The entire window glowed orange with flames, framing the figure perfectly. And the outline was one I knew too well.
“Jin?” I barely managed, my voice dry and cracking. My small call made him turn, and there was something wrong with his face. His bangs were longer, and there was some sort of marking on his forehead, and I could swear his eyes glowed slightly red. I could see one slightly extended canine pushing against his lower lip on the right side. He was beautiful, eerie, and looked at me coldly as if there was no heart left in him.
// He cannot love you, boy. Surrender him to me. What can you really do to help? You are worthless to him.... // The new voice was dark, chilling... evil.
Then, there was a sick ripping sound. Blood from his back splattered against Baek’s desk, and two massive raven wings spread from near his shoulder blades. He turned from me, crashing through the window and out of sight.
It wasn’t Jin. It wasnot Jin! Jin didn’t kill my master; it was Toshin! Jin wouldn’t....
“Hwoarang! What’s wrong, Hwoarang?!”
My eyes opened groggily to look at Xiaoyu, not really registering why she was here with me. Since Jin disappeared two days before, we’d both moved into his room in the Mishima complex awaiting his return. “I’m fine,” I insisted, carefully lifting myself out of Jin’s bed. Xiaoyu was right beside me, looking terrified. “What? What’d I miss?”
"You were screaming his name like bloody murder,” Xiaoyu explained, her tone very hushed. “I didn’t know what was wrong, but I guess it was just a nightmare. Are you really okay?” I nodded, though I knew it was at least a little false. That dream... Jin with wings... I’d seen it before.
Never had I seen it in person, so I didn’t even know if that is what he looked like. Though, I know he could not have killed Baek.
He cannot love you, boy. Surrender him to me. What can you really do to help? You are worthless to him....
I shook my head. “I need coffee or something, Xiaoyu. Can you make me coffee?” The little girl nodded to me as if my request were very important, and was gone in a flash to fulfill my request. I stared blankly at my hands. Where the hell was Jin? If he’d just come back, I could know for sure what these dreams meant.
Help me... Hwoarang...
Can you hear him?
I gritted my teeth, my fists closing painfully tight. “Jin....”
“There you go again,” Xiaoyu commented, returning to the room with a smile. “I still don’t get why it took you guys so long to realize that you loved eachother. I mean, I think you would want to have eachother’s babies, if that were possible, and it is really obvious. It still amazes me that you two were the ones who couldn’t see it at all.”
“Does everyone know?” I found myself asking quietly.
“If they didn’t before, your wild search complete with flying accusations toward anyone who showed even slight resent toward Jin might have keyed them in.” Xiaoyu’s tone matched mine, respectfully quiet. She put a hand over mine, and that was the first time I knew I was trembling. “Hwoarang... You shouldn’t have to do this on your own....”
"But I’m trying to tell you, Kazama, you shouldn’t have to face your problems alone.”
Had I really said that? It felt like a lifetime ago....
"Has Steve-fucking-Fox finally stopped accusing me of harming Jin?” I knew my tone was cold, harsh, maybe even slightly crazed, but I really didn’t think that Steve Fox had any right to accuse me of anything. He didn’t know what love was.... If he had, he would have shut-the-fuck-up and not interfered with my relationship with Jin.
“Well... no, not at all, actually. He’s only gotten louder about it.” Xiaoyu’s hand moved away from mine. “Hwoarang, he is getting more convincing, too.” I could hear the girl swallow, and my heart plummeted. What had she just said?
“Xiaoyu... what do you mean? Are people actually listening to him?” Her silence following the question brought my world crashing down around me. Why would Iever intentionally harm Jin?
Oh yeah, he’s my rival in the world’s eyes. Of course.
“Chaolan-san and I have been defending you as much as possible but...” Xiaoyu finally met my eyes, and I could see she had been crying. “Hwoarang... youwere the last person seen with him... and you weren’t exactly happy with eachother....”
I felt betrayed. Maybe for the first time in my life, I felt double-crossed.
“Xiaoyu, I already told you what happened!” I managed in utter surprise. I told her (almost) everything about what happened before Jin left. He’d vanished sometime between when he walked out the door and when I rejoined the banquet. He never made it back to the table. “Why don’t you believe me?”
“Jin’s safety is all that matters now, Hwoarang,” Xiaoyu whispered, her eyes looking anywhere but at me. She was afraid of me. It was the first time I’d noticed, but I was positive Xiaoyu was afraid of me... afraid of what I was capable of.
Yet she loves Jin? Explain.
I suddenly felt dizzy. Xiaoyu, the girl that had faith in the idea that world peace was coming sometime soon, had none in me. The only person who would stand up for me was some guy I met under the worst circumstances and don’t even know. Where thehellwas Jin when I needed him?
Oh yeah, he’s the problem. Damnit. Damn him.
Some people like to spew that crap about how “you never know what you had until you’ve lost it” until their death. Me, I always thought it was a bunch of crap. I know what I had, and I know what it means to have lost it. The only thing I couldn’t have anticipated were the sequence of losses to follow Jin.
I think my soul drifted away somewhere along the line.
“Get out, Xiaoyu,” I suggested quietly, pleased with my level tone.
“Hwoarang, you shouldn’t....”
“Get the fuckout, for Christ’s sake, Ling!” I barked, pointing to the door across the room. I knew I’d raised my voice, and started to lift myself out of bed to make the point clear to Xiaoyu. What I hadn’t noticed was that I was pulling height on the small girl, and looming over her like some sort of predator ready to strike.
Xiaoyu moved away from me, looking stricken. I would never raise a hand on her outside of an organized fight, but she looked at me as if she feared for her life. She really did believe that I did this. She opened her mouth to say something, but a knocking at the door filled the room before she could say anything.
“Xiaoyu? Hwoarang? It’s Christie. Steve found him!”
My heart stopped. Jin... was found?
Xiaoyu’s jaw dropped. “Hwoarang, I...”
“Shut the hell up and move it!” I ordered, grabbing her arm, and bolting for the door. Christie led us down the halls to the place where Steve had found him. The whole way there, I couldn’t think, couldn’t react.
Jin... they found him.
I rounded a sharp corner and was faced with a fight taking place between the wrestler I recognized as King, and none other than Jin Kazama. I was there just in time to watch a few very familiar kicks and punches before Jin threw one last move that was the ultimate demise of his opponent. The lightning-screw uppercut; I would recognize that move from a kilometer away.
At the same time, was that Mishima Style Karate?
“Jin!” Steve Fox’s voice said with relief, and I watched the British boxer approach the victorious fighter. Jin glanced at him, blinked twice, shrugged, and walked out of the ring. Steve’s mouth fell open, as did Xiaoyu’s and Christie’s. Jin was being so cold... but that was nothing new, right?
Well, except we had every right to be pissed off seeing as he was gone without a trace for two days. Fuck that. After all, I always was the confrontational type.
“The fuck was that, Kazama?” I demanded, stepping forward, and quickly moving to catch up with Jin. As soon as I did, I grabbed his arm, and spun him to face me. “Damnit, Jin, you had us all so worried! Where the fuck were you? And what the fuck did you think you were doing?” I paused after this. Jin was looking at me in the most familiar way. It was the look he used to give me when he didn’t feel like putting up with my insistent rival shit.
Almost like we were back to square one.
“Hwoarang, if you want your rematch, now is not the time,” Jin insisted, drawing out of my grasp. He then looked just a little hurt, or perhaps shy. “And you never said my name like that before.” The latter was added almost too quietly for me to hear. What the hell was he...?
“Let’s get you back to your room,” I insisted, letting my anger drain from my voice. Jin must have suffered some sort of trauma. Maybe he’d encountered his father again? I just didn’t know.
Jin looked at me, as if confused, but followed me anyway obligingly. As soon as he’d had some rest, I had every intention of finding out what the hell happened. I wouldn’t sit back and watch someone fuck with my Kazama Jin.
That’s right, mine.
And if anyone threatened us at that point, they had a death wish.
There are two extremes in this place. The light or the darkness; there is never a medium. Sometimes, I can hear voices and I think they say my name… I can’t be sure. And sometimes I think that I see things… people. Sometimes, I seeher. My mother speaks to me now, dark eyes searching mine and I don’t think to wonder how I can see her in this vacuum of shadow; she glows.
Fingers trace the hard links of chain that coil over my wrists. They feel lighter, somehow, when she touches them. Her voice is silent, and unlike all other times before, it does not resonate in my mind. But I know she speaks. Her eyes tell me so much and it makes me bow my head in shame. She shouldn’t have to speak to me; it’s devastating to think that she knows what I have become. Her words become muffled and fear seeps into me as another’s voice bleeds into my mind, cracked with age.
"… Subject in stasis… Body temperature sustained… “
She looks over her shoulder hurriedly, as though she has been alerted to something. I know she tries to hide it, but I see the twinge of fear in her expression, and her fingers tighten very slightly on my wrist. Something shifts in the air around us and she hugs me suddenly.
Don’t let it wake…
Light exploded before me and I instantly recoiled, twisting my head to the side and my cheek met cold metal. Blinking slowly, my eyes adjusted to the glaring light from the overhang, though I couldn’t be sure that my eyes were really open. Everything was blurred; darkened. I could feel burning heat from an outward source but when I tried to get up, something held me down.
Why… Why couldn’t I move? What was this?
"… Subject is responding well to experimental drugs… “
// Tell them to release me. //
My blood ran cold at the sharp rasp in my mind, though I was soon distracted by a sharp pain in my wrist, but then it was gone and I couldn’t be sure if it had truly been there initially. Hallucinating? Maybe. A shudder stole my next thought, moments later needles of ice were creeping up my arm, before it quickly to my shoulder and chest. Choking gasps numb silence; I couldn’t breathe…
What do they want?
// I don’t care. Tell them, Mishima. //
I couldn’t move my lips, I couldn’t even draw breath. The cold had moved to my throat, constricting the airway.
“… Last recorded time until response was 2 minutes and… “
// If you do not… then I will. //
Don’t let it wake…
No! No, I can… I can do it. In response, I could almost feel the bark of derisive laughter rolling over my chilled flesh from within. All air escaped me as the demon snarled, unfolding, stretching into my form.
// Are you strong enough, little Mishima? //
My lips moved, but I couldn’t summon the strength for speech. So cold…
Help me… Hwoarang…
Unseen claws raked invisible wounds over my flesh; someone was screaming... was it me?
// Can’t you do anything by yourself? //
A split second before my world became blessedly black, there was a surge of fire and I thought I saw red lightning…
I really couldn’t understand what was wrong with Jin.
"I loved you, you know. I think I still do....”
Had that all been just some crazy dream? I would like to think my imagination was not that insane. Well... I guess it wouldn’t really surprise me all that much if I was so excited that I made it up... no, I couldn’t lose faith in Jin.
"Why were you in my room? Don’t you have your own, Hwoarang?”
I sat up in my bed, my teeth clenching. Of course I had my own room, but I wanted to share a room with him. God damnit, what was his damage? I was under the impression that two people in love with one another who had been sleeping together anyway wouldn’t hesitate to share a room after living together for over a month. I mean, correct me if I’m wrong or seem presumptuous, but I was apparently so misled as to think Jin and I were to a certain point where sharing a room was normal.
I glanced along the line of my body, a small smile meeting my lips. I wore a pair of his warm-ups along with one of the hooded jackets he was so fond of over my favorite navy shirt. My feet were clad in socks, and my tennis shoes had been tossed down at the end of the bed. These clothes I’d taken from Jin not long after we started living together because they were several sizes too big for me, and therefore very nice for just lounging in. I ran a hand over the pants, my thoughts wandering. The material was like terry cloth, only much softer.
Jin was all I had thought about for the past few days while he was gone, and he didn’t even seem to recognize me. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but he sure was oblivious to our relationship. It hadn’t really bothered me until we got back to his room. I mean, I can understand the lack of emotions in front of other people, but the way he turned from me when we were alone... it was almost completely foreign to me. It hadn’t really bugged me that much until the one crucial thing happened—he let me cook dinner in the little kitchenette by myself. Granted, it was just some Ramen noodles, but Jin had never let me cook unsupervised before.
Not to mention, he didn’t want the chicken teriyaki flavor. Jin always ate the chicken teriyaki flavor.
The only reason I got the clothes I was wearing the next morning was because I reminded Jin that I needed to grab the locket from his room, and changed into those clothes at the same time. Though I was not scolded for stealing his clothes, I was instantly ushered out the door as soon as I was done. If I could only keep reminding myself that Jin was just flustered for some reason, and stop focusing on the fact that he didn’t even offer a goodbye kiss, everything would be fine.
Unfortunately for me....
I sighed heavily, forcing myself out of bed. The carpet was a little too plush under my feet, sinking in between my toes in an almost unpleasant fashion. As much as I really didn’t want to get out of bed, I had to face Jin again to find out what the hell was going on. And, after all, I missed him more than anything else in the world, so I wanted to see him as soon as I could. Stretching, I slipped into my pre-tied sneakers, grabbed my gloves, and glanced once in the mirror before leaving. I didn’t care how I looked, Jin was the only one who was going to see me, but it was nice to know for the record that I looked like hell.
The elevator ride up to the next floor was short, and pleasantly not accompanied by bad elevator music. That is one of my major pet-peeves, after all. Seriously, who the hell wants to listen to shitty music while in avery confined space, possibly with other people of very questionable backgrounds? Okay, I was looking too far into it, but I enjoyed my moment of blissful silence, mentally preparing for what I had to do next.
I knocked on Jin’s door, just as I reached it. I wasn’t even sure if he was awake. My hand subconsciously went to my neck, clasping my locket.
Ihad to see him.
I raised my hand again to knock, but the door swung away from my hand. Jin stood in the doorway, looking more than a little sleep deprived, and maybe a little surprised. “Yo,” I called softly, giving him the best smile I could manage, though weak. “Good morning,” I added, feeling my voice drop to a pathetic whisper.
This, Kazama Jin, this is what you’ve reduced me to.
Jin sighed, almost a little too wearily, and stared expectantly at me. "What do you want? If it's the rematch, you're going to have to wait until we get in the ring."
I blinked at Jin a couple times, confused as all hell, to say the least. “No, Jin, I don’t care about that, really. I was just angry when I said that... and, you know me, I’m like boiling water when I’m angry.” I laughed, not really noticing that Jin wasn’t laughing with me. “No, in reality, Jin, I came up here to see you. I was worried. After all, you vanished a few days ago without a trace... I didn’t really get a chance to check in on you last night....” I stopped myself, meeting Jin’s dark, tormented eyes. What could be troubling him? Why was he looking at me like that?
Jin folded his arms over his chest, brow creasing in a frown as he stared at me as though he was assessing my word. "Now you've seen me," he said finally, simply. "If you don't mind, Hwoarang, I have to get back to my training." Jin stepped back to close the door, one hand resting on the cool wooden frame.
It was my turn to frown. This cold side of Jin was a little too much like me. It was nothing like the warm, gentle Jin who I'd held only a few days before. Something must have happened to him-- something bad--for him to be so drastically changed so fast. I wasn’t sure if this should make me concerned, but my logical thinking mind wasn’t processing any of this. It was the illogical action mind that seemed to be in control of my movements.
And it thought, who thehelldoes this creep think he is?
I leaned forward, my arm resting akimbo against the door frame, using my elbow to support me, closing the space between us. I could see his irritation as I smirked at him from considerably closer than before. “What crawled up your ass to die, Jin? I was just worried about you.”
Jin's expression turned clearly skeptical. "Worried I'd get killed before you had the chance to do it yourself?" He shook his head. "Hwoarang, I am not in the mood for you at the moment. Go annoy someone else."
I was taken aback by the last. Sure, I was an annoyance for Jin, I’d always been an annoyance, but he hadn’t said anything about it in over two years. Not since... not since....
Not since the Third King of Iron Fist....
I leaned back, removing my arm from the doorway. Jin wanted to forget about the whole thing, as far as I could tell. Personally, I didn’t think I would be able to. Even if he hated every fiber of my being, I don’t think I’d be able to just dismiss him as yesterday’s news. “Whatever, Kazama,” I grumbled, unintentionally reverting to his more formal title. Something about the way he spoke brought it out of me, I guess.
I backed up another couple of steps, turning around in the process; then I was frozen in my tracks. I waited for a door slam or a plea to stay, or any indication that I really was there with Kazama Jin, and that it wasn’t really all just a bad dream.
" ... " Jin's frown deepened when I paused, back to him, hesitating. For a moment, I could feel his heavy stare on my back as he remained unmoving. There was silence, broken only when Jin finally closed the door with a soft click and the affirming beep of the lock.
I hung my head to the sound. Jin wasn’t... he wasn’t himself. I couldn’t really make my mind fit this Jin into the mold I expected of him. No matter how hard I tried, this was not my Jin.
Silently, I made my way back to my room. As soon as I was alone again, I threw off the jacket and flopped back on the couch. My ceiling was far more interesting than I would have imagined, were it not the only thing to keep me from crying. All the same, I could see that the faint lines of the white expanse blurred slightly.
A hand violently raised and wiped away any trace of tears roughly. It was stupid of me to get so worked up about it. No, that’s not right. What was stupid of me was to trust that Jin was really in love with me.
Shaking, I groped for the paper that I knew sat on the coffee table. I brought it before my face, tracing the lines of the tournament table until I got to Jin’s current standing. Later that very day, he would be fighting Bryan Fury. I was pretty sure that would be a bad thing. For whom, I could not be certain.
No, I trusted Jin. Jin would be victorious. Jin would eventually come around again.
I closed my eyes feeling tired all over again. The fight was scheduled for late in the evening, so I had a while to rest before I went to Jin’s next match. I’m sure he didn’t want me there, with the way he’d been acting, but I didn’t really care what the hell he didn’t want me to do. I smiled ironically to myself, feeling that sleep was coming over me faster than before.
// So cold... help me... Hwoarang.... //
My eyes flew open in an instant. “Jin?”
"Jin! God damnit, Jin, would you slow down?”
As per his request, my pace slowed, until after a few steps, I halted on the sidewalk and stared straight ahead at the bustling streets of tourists, business people and more. My gaze fell to the shifting shadows of the overhanging foliage, sakura lay scattered at my feet, fluttered on the wind past my eye. Running footsteps approached me, growing closer until Hwoarang stood at my side and had to pause to catch his breath. I watched and waited patiently until he straightened and fixed me with a look of mild irritation.
“What’s the rush? The least you could tell me is where we’re going!”
The wind intensified right then, blowing up a mini blizzard of rouge petals; my hand went to my hood to keep it down. Hwoarang cursed in the meanwhile, an arm coming up to shield his face from the strong gust. Instead, I tilted my head to one side before walking on, he followed with a grumble and sigh, but we hadn’t gone far before I led him through an arched gateway of weather-worn steel. Weaving my way through the standing trees, I passed various headstones before reaching my destination. There was the soft crunch of twigs and then Hwoarang stopped beside me, saying nothing as he stared at the marked grave. I couldn’t describe the expression on his face, but he looked confused, if not a little apprehensive. My hand took his elbow gently and I indicated the grave before us.
“Hwoarang, meet my mother. Kazama Jun....”
I started awake with a silent scream. While my head was drowned in blinding pain, I convulsed, before the shock of morbid electricity was abruptly severed and I collapsed, cold metal cooling my sweat-slick skin. Cold, too cold. On instinct, I tried to turn in on myself, but the motion was prevented when I couldn’t move my torso more than a few centimeters off the table.
What….? What was….?
Through the thick haze, I barely discerned voices, catching only disjointed fragments of speech.
“… Not accept excuses!” boomed a familiar voice, deep and powerful.
Another man replied, his tone meek and obviously fearful of his company. His voice was high and plagued with age. “Mishima-sama, all initial drugs are no longer effective… side-effects… built resistance.... “
“How hard… if don’t have Kazuya… extract from the boy....!”
An aftershock of current made me moan weakly, and the voices hushed for a moment. It took great effort to open my eyes, but it proved to no avail when I was met only with darkness. This instantly struck a chord of fear in my gut. What was going on?
“If it comes to it, simulate first successful encounter.... “
I didn’t want to be here....
I didn’t want....
It was almost too easy to slip back into the lazy, misted fog of memory. The sakura once again swirled around me, but something had indefinitely altered in the atmosphere. The air felt thicker, heavier. My attention was focused on the gravestone before me, the epitaph seemed to shift, the words bleeding together. I looked back at Hwoarang. He stood a small distance away, deathly still with his hands clenched into fists at his sides. His head was bowed, a curtain of red hair obscuring his eyes from view. His lips were pressed together thin; but I didn’t know what to make of it.
Something about all of this scared me terribly.
"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."
My lips moved, trying to form his name, but the moment my lips parted, the air fled from my lungs. The sky above had long darkened to an ominous canvas of glowing crimson, the wind sang mockingly in my ear as it deprived me of breath, bringing me to my knees. Hwoarang remained still. A hand clasped to my chest as I fought for air, eyelids growing heavy as the darkness once again began its descent. As the shadows slithered across the ground, I fell back; my body suddenly too heavy to move anymore.
Please… help me…
I fell on my back, staring up at the impassive sky of blood; my jaw clenched as a scream tried to rip itself from my throat and the shadows crept over me, precolating like liquid ice that went straight for the bone. Somewhere, someone…something laughed triumphantly, the sound wasn’t human. The moment I heard it, I wished for escape, for death and oblivion; anything to escape the source of that laughter. But I couldn’t move, I couldn’t....
S-So… cold… Hwoarang, it’s so cold....
I capitulated a long time ago. Maybe when I lost track of how long I had been on that dreaded table, or perhaps before that, when I lay in my hospital bed, believing Hwoarang wanted me dead. Or maybe it was even before that, when he left me that night in our apartment and I had felt something die in me when he said he wouldn’t return. But when Hwoarang came back....
"I love you, too."
I didn’t want to depend so much on him. I wasn’t finished yet. This is my fight. I should never have brought him into this, but how could I push him away when… when I knew that he loved me… ? I didn’t understand it, and for the most part, I didn’t care to.
I couldn’t think anymore… I couldn’t even keep my eyes open, the shadows struck somewhere deep within my chest and it burned. Scathing ice suddenly spread from the mark on my arm, and then crimson lightning struck down, dancing over me in crackling waves of power.
No, I don’t want this…
Screaming in my mind… is it me or the demon? I can’t tell the difference any more. But it stirs, it’s shifting again, waking again…
I don’t want this… !
And then it speaks to me, infernal growl of damnation and the cold suddenly dissipates.
// You cannot fight what you do not know. //
Withdrawal is a nasty, nasty word when you were experiencing it. What a nice way to describe such a shitty feeling.
I groaned, rolling over on the couch to look at the clock. It was just about time for the fight. I had to be there... otherwise... what if something went wrong and Jin got hurt? Then I could play doctor....
Like I said, withdrawal sucks. At first, I was just missing his kiss, his loving words, and his pleasant silence. Now, I was starting to simply miss HIM and everything that made him Kazama Jin. Okay, translation, I’m lonely and horny, and I had to go watch my should-have-been lover fighting, and getting sweaty and all-around edible while I could only sit on the side-lines and watch.
I stood, irritated that I had to get up, and sighed heavily. Jin wasn’t exactly encouraging any kind of loving behavior anytime soon. But there I was, about to go out of my mind from my optional solitary confinement, fantasizing lazily about Jin, when there was a knock on the door. Xiaoyu, maybe? She might have come by to tell me that I was “going to miss the fight”, or something. I went to the door, without further complaint, and opened the door to reveal... Steve Fox?
“Whatever you are selling, I don’t want it,” I grumbled, starting to close the door. One pale hand shot out and grabbed my locket, for lack of any better grip. After all, I was only wearing a pair of jeans. I growled, pushing Steve’s hand away, but giving him my full attention none the less.
“Well... um, anyway, Hwoarang, I came to remind you the fight starts soon. Xiaoyu went to find Jin before the match... I think you should, too.” Steve looked very displeased with the words he was saying. “I hate to admit it, but you are what Jin needs if he is going to live through this tournament. I don’t know what happened between you two that night when he disappeared, but I think you had better stop being an ass and get your act together!” Was I being lectured for Jin’s bitchy attitude? Hey, at least Steve was trying to be nice, finally.
“Thanks, Steve,” I grumbled, moving away from him, intentionally ignoring him, as I looked around for a shirt. I finally found a white T-shirt that would do just fine and pulled it over my head. Steve watched me the whole way, and I could feel that his eyes held jealousy. He didn’t like that I had Jin, but he now accepted it. “I’ll be going, then,” I said as I pulled on my shoes. This was when I met those bright blue eyes again.
“Don’t fuck up, Hwoarang. If you hurt him again, don’t think I won’t be fast to pummel you for it.” Steve was very serious, his accent feeling far more thick than usual. All the same, it wasn’t a threat; it was a request for a promise. Could it be, Steve and I were on the road to becoming friends?
I nodded. “You’d try,” I agreed, walking past him, out the door. “Close the door when you’re done staring into my room blankly. I need to go find Jin and Xiaoyu.” I was pretty sure I got some sort of grumbled response, but I didn’t listen for it. I headed straight for the arena. I could pretty safely bet dollars to doughnuts that Jin and Xiaoyu were there already. Spotting the distressed-looking teenage girl and her ever-stoic spike-hared companion, I stopped, listening a moment before jumping into the conversation.
“... Anyhow, I think he’s stalking me,” Jin said to her, shrugging simply.
Xiaoyu’s expression became one of disbelief, her eyes pleading with him. “Two days,Jin! We were all so worried about you! We didn’t know where you were and Hwoarang especially-”
“Is not being himself,” Jin muttered, arms weaving tightly over his gi. “It’s rather unnerving.”
Xiaoyu had never looked quite so dumbstruck. "Jin... did you and Hwoarang have a fight? I-I thought.... "
"Hm... if we had a fight, he never told me about it," I commented, plastering my best casual smirk on my face. I had to look like I absolutely did not care. Jin and Xiaoyu turned to look at me and I offered a mock wave. "Yo."
Jin started turning away, groaning low in his throat.
Xiaoyu looked between us suspiciously. "Something happened!" she declared, raising a finger. "Somethingbad happened between you guys and you're not even going to tell me?" she squeaked indignantly, almost looking hurt. "Jin, you said that I was your best friend!"
Jin sighed, placing a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "There's nothing, Xiaoyu. Don't worry about it." He turned to me then. "But I want a word with you."
“About damn time,” I grumbled, tilting my head to the side. “Normally, it seems, you won’t even give me the time of day.” I looked at the young female face that was staring at me in disbelief and I felt my smile grow warm and genuine. “Xiaoyu, we’ll be okay alone, if you’d give us a moment.”
“But... what if I miss something important?” Xiaoyu looked at me in a way that told me she was not referring to the fight, or anything like that, but rather a potential kiss-and-make-up scene between Jin and myself. For Jin’s sake, I assumed he didn’t catch that look, and chose to twist her words.
“I’ll make sure you don’t miss even a second of the fight,” I promised, glancing back at Jin. He was staring at me, hard and cold, like I was irritating him just by being there. He moved his gaze to look at Xiaoyu and I followed his eyes. She was also looking at Jin expectantly, as if waiting for his approval.
"I'll only be a minute," Jin told her gently and she hesitated for a moment, clearly looking as though she hoped one of us would change our minds, but we both waited until she sighed softly and wandered off to the side with a small wave. Jin watched her retreating form for a moment before looking back at me, his gaze turning cold once more.
"Alright, Hwoarang, I'm not in the mood for jokes, so just tell me now what game you're playing at. If you wanted me confused, you've succeeded beyond all doubt. If you were out to make me angry, I'm sorry; you're going to have to try much harder. But whatever it is, just tell me now because I can't fight with all of this hanging over my head."
“G... game?” I swallowed hard, finding the function suspiciously difficult. “What game, Jin?” When it became abundantly clear that I chose the wrong answer, I took a half step away from Jin. “Look, Jin, I’m not trying to confuse you... I mean, no more than you already were. But, hell, I’m confused too. All of this comes crashing down at once, after all... and then you go and disappear. Granted, I sorta vanished for a while there too, but....”
I was gaining confidence from his silence, so I closed in a step, putting us at an uncomfortable closeness had I never slept with him... on a nightly basis for that matter. “Jin, you know I don’t do these things to make you angry. Though, I often wonder why you haven’t completely given me the boot yet....” My shoulders felt heavy, weighing on my lungs and heart to the point where it hurt just to be standing there. “I thought we were ready to move past all that, though. But... ‘game’...?”
Jin couldn't help but stare at this side of me, more than a little disquieted by our sudden proximity. "What iswrong with you?" he asked in hushed disbelief. "Did... Did I miss something?"
A mighty crack of thunder cut him off, Jin glanced at the black night overhead just as the announcer's voice rang out, declaring the match about to start.
I bit my lip, barely able to think, breathe, act, or anything else that would require my body to function. Finally, feeling sadness take its hold, I turned from Jin, irritated that I brushed against him as I did so. “Good luck,” I somehow managed through tight vocal chords. “Don’t die on me,” I added, feeling my voice fail. If Jin had heard at all, he hadn’t heard much. Silently, unable to even whisper, I mouthed, “I love you.”
Suddenly, I was very happy Jin could no longer see my face. The first drop of rain to meet my skin hit my cheek, joining the tear that had fallen there.
Xiaoyu gasped when she saw me, and rushed forward. "Oh no, no, no! Hwoarang, what happened?" she asked quickly, glancing past, to Jin. The dark-haired martial artist was still, and met her eye for a moment before the dark gaze was averted and Jin moved into the arena. "... What did he say?"
I was silent, regarding my feet very carefully. Rain gently massaged my tense muscles, urging me to calm down, but it wasn’t working. Jin... my Jin... was really gone.
And there I was, thinking absolute nonsense again.
I closed my eyes tight against the voice that rang in my ears like a memory. That was Jin’s voice, for sure, so why did he sound like he was in so much pain?
I wanted to help him, but he wouldn’t even talk to me. I couldn’t even figure out what was wrong. It wasn’t like Jin was going out of his way to be helpful... I had to reach him somehow, though. To do that, I would just have to be there for him.
“Nothing, Xiaoyu. He never says anything,” I replied, turning from her to follow Jin’s apparition. I would at least be there for Jin from the sidelines, if he wouldn’t let me get any closer. I took my seat, accompanied by Xiaoyu, and sat forward slightly to look out on the empty arena. The fighters were spending the last of their time before the match focusing. Silently, I prayed I hadn’t really thrown Jin off as he had alluded to earlier.
"Hwoarang... I think Jin is sick," Xiaoyu said suddenly from where she sat in her seat. She looked up at me with wide, innocent eyes. "Are you sure that he didn't tell you anything?"
“Something isn’t right,” I agreed, gluing my eyes to the battlefield in front of me. I could hear the announcer in the background saying various things about Jin before watching the aforementioned fighter walk out onto the stage. He didn’t look right, even. He looked weak, confused, lost, cold, and nothing like the Jin I’d grown to love over the past two years.
“Sick”, she said? That might just be the perfect word for it. “He never told me anything about an illness. Just that he wouldn’t be able to fight if he was still confused about....” I stopped myself, my eyes widening. Jin... he was....
"What?" Xiaoyu prompted, when I didn't finish. "What is it?" she glanced between me and Jin in the arena, the latter brushed back his wet hair under the falling rain, hand shifting to press to his left arm through the sleeve of his gi as his opponent approached the ring.
I didn’t see or hear Xiaoyu in that moment. All of my attention was on Jin. The black and white gi I knew all too well. I’d been faced with it many a time when we sparred at home.
"It is like Yin and Yang,” Jin explained, smiling at me fondly. “The white is my mother’s part of me, and the black....” Jin averted his eyes, his smile melting instantly. “I may have been raised by my mother, but my father is also a part of me... if not too much a part of me. I was once at perfect balance, like Yin and Yang, when my mother was still alive....”
“Jin....” I lightly touched his face, pleased with the very small but real smile my fingers elicited.
"Jin....” I let out a heavy breath, returning to cold reality as I felt the insistent tug on my arm. I looked down at Xiaoyu, and she just frowned back. She wanted answers. “Me, Xiaoyu,” I explained, sounding too matter-of-fact for my ears. “I’m the source of it... as always.”
“What do you mean.... ?” Xiaoyu’s voice trailed off as she looked back to Jin and the man that now stood before him. The dusky glow of the surrounding lanterns cast a tarnished bronze on the waxen skin that was riddled with scars. The man flexed his gloved hands, falling back into a stance, his snake-skin pants shimmering with the movement; a dark tattoo gleamed under the rain that had started to come down harder. Dead eyes peered at Jin; the vicious glare only enhanced by the long scar that run vertical from above his brow, down over the left eye. There was no mistaking the zombie cop; Bryan Fury had returned to the Fourth Iron First.
"Source of what?" she asked quietly.
“All of Jin’s pain,” I muttered, shifting uncomfortably. Bryan Fury... there was a man better left forgotten. Dead, ageless... yet, dying... and farce. I looked at him, across from Jin, and it somehow worked. It had to be. One of these fighters would not live through this match. I had to hope it was Bryan who fell.
The man with short, white hair stretched his back, and I didn’t really enjoy the strange jut of his spine that simply was not normal. Jin, on the other hand, was beautiful, composed, smooth, tanned, and simply, quietly held out his hands. Talk about a sick, sick rendition of Beauty and the Beast.
“You can do it, Jin,” I found myself whispering. “I know you are strong enough to win this. Don’t be discouraged....” My hand gently fished out my locket, and I clasped the gold case “I’ll chase it away... just make it through one more match, and then I can help you....” I was aware Xiaoyu was hearing my every word, but it didn’t seem to matter.
Xiaoyu's hand snaked into mine and she met my eye with a hopefully encouraging smile. "He'll be alright," she said softly, clutching my hand. She looked back at them and a single word rang out over the arena, "FIGHT!" Both men fell back into their respective stances and Xiaoyu nodded, exhaling shakily.
"Jin will be alright."
His every move I had memorized, his every step should have been second nature, but Jin didn’t even get through one punch without confusing me. I felt my hand clamp slightly around Xiaoyu’s. Jin had forced himself to completely forget Mishima Karate, which had ironically once been one of the things I hated most. Traditional Karate was what I expected of Jin, but I recognized the moves he was using as ones previous to his grandfather releasing the demon within him. And Bryan must have seen right through it because he could easily block against Jin’s offensive.
“Fuck,” I whispered. “What the hell does he think he’s doing?” Xiaoyu’s hand tightened in mine. I could feel her gently rest her head against my shoulder briefly. It was very reassuring, and I knew that was what she was going for. Her silence was all that felt alien. “Why doesn’t he use Karate?” I wondered aloud, not really anticipating any response from Xiaoyu.
“He doesn’t remember.”
Xiaoyu’s head shot up from where it rested on my shoulder and she stared at the blond man who stood beside her, staring out through the rain at the match taking place. “Steve… I thought everyone else was back at the hotel….” His words finally seemed to hit her, for she quickly spoke again. “Wait, what do you mean that Jin doesn’t remember? Remember what?”
Steve shoved his hands in the pocket of his jacket, a pensive look crossing his features. “I spoke to Jin earlier and asked him to spar with me. It was really weird, though, he acted almost like he didn’t even know me. He knewwho I was, fairly enough… but everything else was…. “ He shook his head, looking down at the two of us. “He thought I was playing some sort of joke when I told him all the times we’d spent together, and at first, I thought thathe was trying to be funny, but after he sparred with me, I grew suspicious.” Steve nodded at the two fighting in the rain before us. “He had never used that art with me before, and when I asked him why he had, he said that it was what he always used. He seemed really confused by my question,” the kick-boxer paused, pursing his lips. “There’s something really wrong with him, but at least he remembers the two of you.” His eyes fixed with mine as he continued. “Which is why I think he needs you, now, more than ever.”
I shrugged, trying to hide the fact that Steve’s words concerned me deeply. I couldn’t hold Steve’s gaze because it was too honest... too pure. Like Jin, almost....
“Obviously he doesn’t,” I growled, feeling my temper rising. If Jin needed me, he sure was doing an excellent job of hiding it. He’d barely spoken a civil word to me the whole time since we’d found him. It wasn’t like I’d gone and gotten bitchy with him overnight... he didn’t have the right to do it to me!
Okay, I take that back. My average bitchiness is probably twice that of Jin.
"Hwoarang, it isn’t my fault... you’re the one who always leaves that damn door open!” Jin chided me as I complained that it was too cold in the apartment. “And anyway, if you are so cold, why don’t you just climb under the covers and sleep?” The fighter of darker complexion looked at me with a raised eyebrow then turned to Steve Fox who had kindly invited himself over for lunch.
“Can’t leave us alone, I guess,” Steve opted, shrugging.
“That’s not it at all,” I growled. I put one hand back on the bedroom door and pouted. “Jin, Steve, I hope you have fun!” I went through the door and shut it swiftly behind me. It wasn’t until I’d gone quiet again that I heard the two voices talking.
“So, what are you going to get Hwoarang for Christmas?” Steve asked, sounding disapproving.
“I donno... I’m sure he’ll forget about it anyway. But, nonetheless, I want to get him something special,” Jin insisted, sounding sincere.
I shook my head, unsure of why these memories plagued me in a critical moment such as that. “If what you say is true, Steve, shouldn’t he have forgotten Xiaoyu and me? I mean, he’s not being exactly amicable, and acts all confused when I’m nice to him. Though, he does respond to me in a way that is specific to our relationship and knowledge of one another.”
“Hm... I thought I was the only one that had really noticed....” Xiaoyu bit the tip of her thumb, looking worriedly upon the battlefield. I followed her gaze out just in time to see Bryan land a few lucky punches, taking away a great deal of Jin’s will to fight. I watched in mock-horror as my beloved took the full brunt of the zombie’s attack.
“Fuckin’ shit; he’s dying out there,” I pointed out, something between awe and fear in my voice. I looked to Steve, just to see deep lines of worry etched into his normally pleasant, sculpted features. He was worried for Jin, too. Maybe just as much as I was? “We should stop this fight, I think he will literally be killed.”
“We can’t, Hwoarang. He wouldn’t let us, anyway.” Steve crossed his arms over his chest looking like some sort of bouncer. I tried not to smile at such an inappropriate time, but a small smirk met my lips at the thought of Steve Fox working as a bouncer in England. For some reason, I got the image of him dressed as the traditional guard in one of those silly, tall, black hats. Shaking my head, I looked upon him seriously again.
“Jin... he won’t die, right?” A light voice asked. I knew it was Xiaoyu, but I sought her out with my eyes anyway. All of her usual positive energy was drained from her face, and she looked a few years older. The solemn look on her face was enough to break my heart.
“He won’t die as long as he still has you to come back to.” I promised, meaning every word. I glanced once more to the fight, where Jin had a slight advantage, just as the rain began to pummel the arena even harder than before. The slippery ground was throwing Bryan off, and at least temporarily allowing Jin under his defenses.
“You mean, as long as he has you,” Xiaoyu corrected. Her tone of voice surprised me. I had never heard that voice come out of the young, peppy, and generally happy-go-lucky teen. But she sounded almost... jealous, I guess.
“She’s got a point,” Steve agreed, nodding sagely. I rolled my eyes, trying to resist the urge to snap out some rude comment.
“You know what, Steve? I don’t give a fuck. For all I care, you can take your opinion and shove it up your ass,” I muttered violently. So much for restraining myself. Steve’s eyes went wide as if he didn’t expect the outburst. Well, I couldn’t really help him there, I didn’t like him.
Frankly, though, if he didn’t know that by now... dear god, what planet was he from?
“Hwoarang... why is it that you always get so protective of Jin when...?” I turned a cold stare on Xiaoyu and she shut up instantly. I knew what she was going to say, and I didn’t need to hear it. The one jealous here was me. I was jealous of Xiaoyu, I was jealous of Steve, hell, I was jealous of that old friend of Jin’s that he met for lunch on occasion to catch up on old times—though, I really can’t remember his name.
“That’s it, huh. I wonder if Jin feels the same?” Steve was smirking.
“You know what, Steve? Four words: fuck off and die.” I stood abruptly, getting some sort of mild complaint from Xiaoyu, and was fully prepared to leave when I saw it. On the stage, Jin had crumpled to his knees, breathing heavily and clutching his side. Bryan was looking down on him with the same sick, amused smile he always had on his face. I knew what would pass moments before it flashed before my eyes.
The zombie raised a leg to kick, and Jin tilted his head slightly up to try to view his attacker. With the evil laughter that would haunt my dreams for years to come, Bryan’s foot sped down before colliding with Jin’s head at the base of his skull. Jin fell to the ground like a rag doll.
My throat was dry, and I couldn’t seem to get any air into my lungs. “Jin,” I mouthed, managing a pathetic sounding hoarse whisper by the end of the name. “S—somebody help him!” Moments after the words left my mouth, medical staff were already on the scene. As rain fell mockingly on the deadly still body of my lover, all that mattered to me was seeing my Jin smile at me once again.
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