Warnings: Yaoi, 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 Elton John song “Birds” off of his album “Songs from the West Coast”.
Tattered Wings - Part 10
“There's consequences I'm scared to taste
Cold hard truths I can't face
These days are different than the past
Reflections change in the looking glass
“And everywhere I look there's something to learn
A sliver of truth from every bridge we burn
A hatful of quarters and a naked song
Don't answer the question of where we belong”
Act III: Scene II
Suddenly, this didn’t seem like a good idea. I swallowed the thick feeling in my throat, consciously told my heart to slow down and wondered why Lee had to desert me here. I couldn’t… I didn’t know what to say. All of the things that Lee had suggested to me disappeared the moment I stepped into this room; my blood ran cold as I sensed the familiar presence… But it was more than that. Something was different. I wasn’t just sensing that it was Hwoarang in this room with me; I knew. I knew because the hairs on the back of my neck prickled, a strange feeling worked its way up my throat to tantalize my tongue.
I could still taste him.
Blinking rapidly, I reached out for something to steady myself with, relieved when I felt cold, but smooth cement. I stepped closer to the window, taking some time to just breathe.
Too many thoughts were going through my head, and I didn’t know which one to voice first. I still hadn’t said anything in reply. In the steadiest voice I could manage, I looked back in the direction from where he called to me. “Hwoarang,” I acknowledged, finding it easier to murmur lest my voice betray me. There was sick feeling pooling in my stomach, it took everything to keep my expression calm.
“I’m so glad to see you are okay. I was really worried about you,” Hwoarang admitted, his voice holding something akin to defeat. When he continued, it was as if his thoughts were too scattered to be in one constant string. “Jin, I guess you’re the reason why I’m alive. Thanks,” Hwoarang sounded genuinely thankful, and his smile could be heard through his words.
I knew that I was staring, but I was too shocked to care. He was thanking me? For what? Did he even realize what he was saying? “I’m only sorry that I didn’t do better,” I muttered. This was too strange. There was this odd quality to Hwoarang’s voice that was confusing… it didn’t make any sense to me, given the situation. He was speaking as though I was the one bed-ridden, or that I had somehow saved him.
“I’ve been worried about you too,” I said, hesitantly. “How are you feeling?” Saying those words felt distinctly wrong, and I almost bit them back; but I was still worried. Being with him then made me somewhat glad for the first time that I couldn’t see. I don’t think I would have been able to bear my own handiwork.
Hwoarang laughed, boisterous, but sounding oddly restrained. It may have been too painful for him to laugh. “Well,” he explained, “I was feeling pretty sore earlier, but then they gave me this super powerful drug, so now I just feel a little light headed. I think my back is pretty bruised around the stitches, though. It is still sore when I lie on my back.” There was the sound of shifting on the bed as Hwoarang moved the blanket. “I’ve been comfortable, though, if not a little bored. How ‘bout you?”
My eyes narrowed as I registered the familiar flare on my upper left arm; this time I ignored it. Nothing I wasn’t accustomed to by now. I had been through worse; but it wasn’t enough that the demon had me. It had to take Hwoarang as well, and he had nothing to do with this. My hand balled into a fist behind my back where it propped against the sill, I could feel my jaw grinding as I glared hard at nothing. It was so frustrating having nothing to focus on, but the darkness brought a strange, deceiving calm with it.
I was fine. My wellbeing was the last thing he should have been concerned with.
There was a leaden weight on my chest when I tried to reply, the first time failing. My throat was too dry and I had forgotten to breathe. I never thought that could actually happen. “Hwoarang, I… um…” Again, my mind blanked out on me; I knew I had more eloquence than this. Eventually, I could only think of one thing. “I’m…” Swallow that lump again, Jin. Where did it keep coming from? “I’m sorry.”
Hwoarang was silent for a long time. “Don’t apologize,” he said finally, his voice shaking. “I don’t blame you for anything that happened. I knew what I was getting into when I got in the building. And anyway, without you, we never would have made it past all those guards.” There was another long pause as Hwoarang collected his thoughts. “I love you, Jin.” His voice got quieter before he spoke again. “It feels like too long since I’ve been able to really tell you that.”
My hands came up to rub at my tired eyes and I repressed the urge to groan. How could he just do that? How could he say all of this so easily? Forget about breathing, everything in me felt so heavy and I had to lean back against the wall. Weak. Still so weak. Of course, I still loved him too. I had loved him for so long; it had become a second nature to me. But, Hwoarang… how could he not give me at least a shred of the blame for what was done to him?
Belatedly, I realized that a part of me wanted him to; because there was another buried urge to do it all again. Something in me wanted to destroy him, taste that bittersweet wine, whilst the other side would do anything to stop it. Why did I keep thinking about it? It was so frustrating, I could barely think straight and I needed my thoughts in order right now.
“I love you, too,” I whispered, still not trusting my voice. “But now it’s beside the point.”
“Beside the... what do you mean, Jin?” Hwoarang’s head hit the pillow, and there was a rustling of the blankets again. “Jin, is there something wrong?” Hwoarang’s voice was confident as ever, a stark contrast for the melancholy atmosphere of the room.
I couldn’t help but shake my head, staring down before me. “You don’t have the vaguest idea, do you?” I wasn’t sure where this anger was coming from, it was a calm sort that simmered beneath my skin; I could feel it at my fingertips. It slithered over the sick feeling in my gut, giving me that little bit more strength. “You think it’s so simple? That you can forgive me and everything is then cured? Have you forgotten why you’re here in this hospital?” My voice rose a bare pitch without my intention, but I needed him to see. He had to understand.
“No, I haven’t, I couldn’t. But, we’re both tired. We can deal with it later.” There was a certain finality about Hwoarang’s voice as if he had every intention of ending the conversation there. He may have even wanted me to leave. At that point, I was almost willing to oblige him. I think the oxygen in this room was quickly burning out. I couldn’t stand here. I couldn’t face him without seeing him and needing to tell him so much. It was too disconcerting.
“If that is the case then I’ll be seeing you when that times comes.” Lord, what was I doing? I think our roles had somehow been reversed and now I was the one fleeing. Feeling my way along the wall towards the door, I could only hope that I didn’t crash into anything along the way.
From behind me, there was the complaint of the springs in the bed, and I was aware that Hwoarang had probably stood. My hand had just found the doorknob when arms folded around me from behind. “Jin, don’t.” Hwoarang hid his face against my shoulder. “Don’t leave yet.” I could feel his warm breath through my sweater. “You were dead... I thought I had died, too... but we’re both here by some strange twist of fate... so can’t we enjoy the moment...?”
I knew what it was like to be betrayed be the ones you loved most; the ones you thought you could trust. I couldn’t handle that sort of deceit. I had nearly killed him and he was asking me to stay? I refused to acknowledge my grandfather as my own blood and Hwoarang was still assuring me that he loved me? I knew pain and I knew fear. I never realized my heart could hurt this much and still let me live; my hand tightened on the cold doorknob and I noticed it was shaking.
No, I couldn’t risk hurting him again…
“I love you too much.” I didn’t realize I’d spoken aloud until my voice choked on the last word; I hated this.
Was that possible?
I had grown up in a world with little love. Friendships were the basis of any non-negative emotion I’d been subjected to with the rare exception of a couple of people. Baek had loved me... and several ex-relationships thought they loved me. But, for the most part, I was the street punk that couldn’t even get the time of day from anyone.
I couldn’t be loved too much.... I could hardly be loved enough.
My heart betrayed me, twisting in a knot as I silently cursed myself for letting all of my defenses down. Not that I really had the choice, all things considered, but I felt somewhat foolish, holding to Jin from behind like grasping my sanity that was trying to slip out the door. I have been doing just that, too. I had drawn the conclusion when I thought Jin was dead that I couldn’t live without him, even if only for a short while.
I disgusted myself with my dependency, but at the same time, I could feel Jin responding in my grasp. He wasn’t trying to flee. He had, instead, settled into my awkward embrace. Again, my heart twisted with this revelation, and I was suddenly glad he couldn’t see me.
That’s right; even if he was facing me... he would be....
My throat caught, and I was glad I had nothing to say, else I would most likely have dropped off mid-sentence, if not mid-word. But, I had to say something. I was just standing there, clutching to him, and being mute like an idiot. It wasn’t until I felt him begin to shift again that I found my voice. But, even then, I had no idea what to say, so I let whatever wanted to be said come out.
“Jin... I missed you too much... too much for you to suddenly be so cold.”
There was the sound of metal rattling again and I realized that he must have been fumbling for the doorknob; my hold on him was restricting his efforts. Without a word, he turned in my embrace, but pulled back slightly to put some distance between us. His back at the door, he fumbled for something in his pocket until his fist reappeared. “I think… this belongs to you,” he said quietly, revealing my locket. His eyes remained downcast, fixed somewhere around my waist as he waited for me to take it.
My first instinct was to grab for it hungrily like a starving man. I stopped my hand just over his and clasped the hand instead; closing his fingers over the metal I knew was smooth and always cool against the flesh. My heart thundered, thinking of what I intended to do. I would finally get over it. I had to. “Hold on to it, for now, Jin. I can’t really call it ‘mine’ anymore anyway.” I smiled despite the fact that there was a physical pain in my chest—almost as if my heart would rip in two.
Jin blinked in surprise, if not a little confusion. His hand was still under mine and he looked like he was having trouble finding something to say. “But… it is yours. I can’t take this, when… “ he stopped mid-sentence and his head turned a bit to the side, dark eyes finding the floor. “It’s yours,” he stated in a firmer voice, though still quiet. “I don’t think it is safe in my hands.”
“Jin, I’m not gonna let you keep it,” I said with laughter staring to hint in my voice. I leaned a little closer, and I could tell that he somehow knew of the change in proximity because he also leaned away a little in what may have been surprise. “But, I want you to hold on to it for me. I don’t want it back until you can tell me what is inside.”
A stunned silence followed before Jin finally spoke. “Hwoarang, you must have noticed that I cannot see. Anything.” He voice held the slightest tremor in the last word, but he quickly swallowed, the motion directing my attention to the ball that rose in throat, the strong line of tense muscles in his neck. “What you’re saying is impossible.”
"I guess so," I replied, shrugging. "Looks like you'll have to keep it, then.” My hand found Jin’s cheek, strangely finding the motion more intimate than it was intended to be. I found a similar barrier in my throat as I gazed upon Jin. I’d missed him more than I thought. I couldn’t even think of the last time I’d kissed him....
“I’ll meet you in there, then,” Jin agreed. He kissed me again, in parting, before leaving the room without another word.
Jin hadn’t met me.... That’s when he was taken from me. Right after we were finally together....
He was already shaking his head, murmuring something that sounded suspiciously like a protest as he tried to push it back into my hand. “I can’t keep this; I know how much it means to you.”
“What about you, Jin?” For the first time, it really bugged me that I couldn’t grab his gaze. Without his eyes, I couldn’t show him just how much I needed his attention. So, I took him by the shoulders, a motion that generally would mean the same thing to a blind man... I hoped. “How ‘bout you, Jin? Do you know how much you mean to me?”
The action seemed to have the desired effect, he looked up and at my face, but his eyes still failed to focus. “You may love me… but I fear for you. I’m so afraid for you, Hwoarang.” He sounded so sincere as his eyes drifted over my lips, towards my own eyes, but never reaching. “Can’t you understand the danger you’re in as long as I am here?” His voice dropped off for a moment and when he finally found his voice, it sounded strained. “You may think otherwise, but I am not willing to risk your life.”
“What about everyone else, Jin? It’s no different. Xiaoyu, Steve, Chaolan-san... all of them are in the same danger as I am. It’s hardly fair to write someone off for caring about you.” I couldn’t quite tell, but I think I may have been angry. But, there was no reason for me to be angry, and I really didn’t feel angry, but my voice was harsh, and my hands were shaking against Jin’s sweater.
I hated it. I hated being so weak in front of him, but he just didn’t get it.
It didn’t matter. So what if I die? I wouldn’t be happy without him. I’d be better off dead.
“I nearly killed you,” he rasped in a pained voice. “Do you think that’s such an easy thing to reflect on?” A slight frown creased his brow as his hand closed into a fist over my locket. “Of course I’ve thought about the others! I was in isolation for two years and I only came back to destroy my family! I didn’t plan anything outside of that, and look where it’s taken me? There’s nothing to stop it from happening again because I’ll never be rid of it! It doesn’t discriminate, and soon, it may go after them as well.” He paused for a moment, head tilting to the side and his bangs shifted over his eyes. “But you… it knows you better than any of the rest, making you an easier target…” He opened his mouth to say something else, but then clamped it shut, seeming to think better of it.
“Easier target for what, Jin...?” I found myself asking, wishing I hadn’t. I knew the answer instantly. Death, destruction, and all that other good stuff. Jin was silent, still turning his blind eyes from me, and I could feel the air in the room go still. Jin was fighting the demon for himself, so why was he so concerned about me? It was almost like Kazuya, but really it reminded me of....
“Jin, does this have anything to do with what happened to your mother?”
His eyes narrowed, only slightly. The corner of his mouth twisted into the upset of a scowl; maybe that hadn’t been the right thing to say. “Don’t bring my mother into this.” Even if he couldn’t see, I could tell by the set of his expression that I had hit a chord. Somehow, I was right—a rare occasion.
I didn’t know what to do with my new-found advantage, though. My mind was racing, thinking of things to say. All the while, I was studying Jin’s intensely upset expression, and I briefly considered lightening the mood.
“Hey Jin, you realize I could be making faces at you right now, and you would never know?”
Har, har. Veto that.
I released his shoulders, folding my arms over my chest instead. Being me, the difficult asshole that says just what everyone doesn’t want to hear at just the wrong moment, I decided to poke at the wound. My voice was jaunty, and probably just what Jin didn’t need from me. “What’s the connection, Jin? I don’t understand. I mean, one minute, we’re talking about me, the next....” I stopped, awaiting the punch, spat words, or whatever would be there for me when Jin reacted.
“She’s dead! I was there when she died and I couldn’t stop it!” he snapped, the first time I had seen him genuinely angry in a long while. “She was the only one who had the slightest idea how to suppress this thing, when she was alive; I was fine.” He paused to breathe and I could only watch as he continued, obviously fighting to dampen his temper. “This time it’s so much worse. I was the one who cut into you, I should have been able to stop it but I couldn’t. I tried everything and nothing helped. I failed with her and I failed with you… only you could save yourself in the end.”
A bitter chuckle leaked from him, but he looked more cynical than anything. “You see what my love brings others? See how useless it is in the end?”
“Hardly,” I said after a moment, smiling. Even if it had to be anger, I was glad to see real, raw emotion in Jin. Sometimes he questioned his humanity in a way I never had; it was times like those when I would always want to draw on some memory of raw human emotion to prove him wrong.
I had to build up courage to do it, but after a moment, I put a hand to Jin’s chest, hearing him hiss in response. But, he did not pull away. “Jin, call me crazy, but a man who is already half-dead and has plummeted from a cliff does not take himself to the hospital. I didn’t save myself, Jin. I was aiming for quite the opposite. So, who could have flown down to get me before I died?”
He was staring at me again. “… How did you… How could you know that? You were… “ He stopped himself, frowning in a way that I knew meant he was thinking things over to himself. Finally, he looked at the hand on his chest with blind eyes, head tilting to the side in his version of a shrug.
“Gotcha,” I joked, grinning at him, though he would never know.
“… You shouldn’t have had to step off that cliff at all,” he said finally, sounding mildly annoyed.
“Ah, it was fun. I should take up skydiving, I think.” I looked to him for approval of the joke, but realized instantly my humor was, once again, lost on him. The hand against his chest loosened, slipping slightly to just lightly brush with the fingertips over his abdomen. I felt myself sober, standing there, staring at where my fingers rested on his sweater. “Anyway, Jin, you really should stop blaming yourself for everything. If you couldn’t save your mother, it was probably meant to be. As terrible as it is, without her death, you never would have become part of the Mishima family, and you never would have met me.”
I looked into the coffee eyes that I knew could not return my gaze. “I think it says something that I lived. I think someone’s trying to tell us something.”
“I want you to stay that way,” he said simply, face stern. “Julia told us to stay safe and I intend to honor her wish. I’m starting to think that I shouldn’t have come back… I want you alive, so don’t even joke about it.”
I could feel the grin threatening my lips. “Jin, if you hadn’t come back, and none of this had happened, it wouldn’t have made a difference, ‘cause you had no feelings for me, right?” I was terrible, but it was something that would buy me time while I thought of a way to deal with him. Or, at least it would give me a chance to see him blush, if I was right again.
Jin bowed his head, and I was more than a little disappointed that I couldn’t see what reaction my words had elicited. “I never said that.” What he said next, however, was much more satisfying. “Anyhow, that’s not the point.”
Some insane part of me had to resist a little giggle of pure entertainment. “Isn’t it though?” I asked, re-closing the space between us that Jin had been too quick to do away with, if you asked me. I leaned forward, lightly putting my uninjured cheek against his, not offended by his surprise at the touch. After all, I hadn’t forewarned him. “Jin, now that you’re safe again... I have no intention of dying anytime soon.” I smiled, and I knew he could feel it against his skin. “I may hate Julia more than anything else, but I have every intention of fulfilling that wish. To do that, I have to take care of you Jin. Even without the wish, I want to protect you.”
“And how… would you intend to do that?” His inquiry sounded nervous. I heard a jolt of metal and realized that he must have grabbed the door handle again. “If I can’t protect you?”
I was sick of his whining. I reached and arm around him, putting my chin on his shoulder, and clasped his hand over the doorknob. “I don’t know yet, but it’ll be a lot harder if you run.” My resolve began to melt away after I spoke, as I thought about my own words. “Running doesn’t help anything, Jin. Take it from the pro.”
“I’m not running,” he stated indignantly, shifting in our close proximity. “I’m gaining leverage.” His hand tightened under mine for a moment and he straightened, as if pulling himself up. It was only then that I realized how slumped he’d become against the door.
Was he really in so weak a state that I backed him into a corner? And he was worried about me? If it weren’t for the fact that I felt bad about it, I would have laughed. Instead, I smiled, hugging myself against him. “Sorry, Jin.”
His response was startling; Jin instantly scrambled back, so quickly, in fact, that his head hit the door with a soft thud. There was nowhere to go, and he knew it. “What are you doing?” he asked, warily.
I winced, realizing that in his flight he must have jarred my ribs, somehow. Still, I managed an indignant tone, a little irritated. “I was just hugging you, Jin. No need to get a concussion.”
He was rigidly still and for a long time, neither of us spoke. “Hwoarang… “ he said softly, tone cautious.
“Hm?” I looked up from where I had been intently studying my feet and gave him a tired look he would never see. He wasn’t... looking at me. Rather, his face was not toward me; but, his lack of time spent without sight made me think that it meant the same thing. “Yeah, Jin?”
“What do you want?” he asked, face painfully innocent in its curiosity. Something in his expression told me he was asking me a little more than the words, but what that was… ? “Ultimately, what do you want?”
“Well, I would say your happiness is most important to me, Jin, but when it all comes down to it, I’m selfish.” I found myself swallowing even though my mouth and throat were dry, and I was getting butterflies in my stomach for reasons left unannounced to me. “I want you, Jin. I know it’s selfish, but it’s important to me that I have you.” Now I was sounding sappy and possessive.
“… Oh.” The surprise was undisguised in his voice and when I looked at him, he had turned his face towards me. It was tilted down a bit, so he seemed to look behind me, but I knew his intention. “Is that all?”
“Well, now that Steve and I are sorta friend-ish-things... yeah, that’s all. I don’t know if you remember, but I came to Japan for you.... Maybe not in the same way as if would be now, but I really had no drive in life at all.” I was definitely starting to feel stupid and sheepish as I spoke. “Jin, I... I donno. You’re the most important thing to me right now... maybe the only important thing....”
Jin’s lips parted as he drew his corner of the lower one beneath his teeth, nibbling lightly. Not everyone would notice his subconscious habits, such as this where he was thinking seriously. At least I had his full attention. “What about your gang? Back in Korea?” he prompted.
I jumped at the question. Obviously, Jin had not seen the card, so what would make him think of that? I was honestly a little surprised he remembered I had a gang back in Korea. “They’re doing fine. The past two years, they’ve been without me, I’m sure they’re okay on their own.” I shrugged. “Anyway, I don’t plan on starting that up again. If I were to go to Korea for anything, it would be to try to track down other students from the dojo... I have to wonder where they all went.”
“Are you going back?” he asked tentatively, glancing at me again. Why did he have to keep looking away? What the hell else was there to look at in my room—especially for a blind man!
“I meant to, before everything happened. But now, I want to stay here... not the hospital, obviously. I want to avoid hospitals as much as possible for the rest of my life, but with you.” I was a little confused as I spoke. Jin was acting like he wanted to get rid of me the first chance he got. I found myself wondering if I should have simply answered “yes”.
Now he looked more confused than anything. “You… Really?” A hesitant pause before he regurgitated my own words. “With me?”
“Damnit, Jin, you’re blind, not deaf!” I surprised even myself with the sudden yelling, and I think I might have surprised him, too. I silently calmed myself, like a bird’s feathers resettling. “Jin, I’m somewhat surprised that you could be dense enough to have not already drawn that conclusion on your own. And yes, I meant it.”
“I nearly killed you; considering your character, I’m just finding it a little hard to believe that you’re so ready to forgive me!” he retorted in defense, and I noticed that he was leaning a bit away. “Unless I missed something - you’re acting so differently, Hwoarang. I can’t say I dislike the change, but I feel as though I’m talking to someone else!”
“Fine, is that what you want?” There was a dangerous edge to my voice I had not intended to put there. “You want to hear how I feel, only more crudely? I can do that.” I leaned forward more, making sure to be in Jin’s face. “Jin, I am fucking sick of your shit. I don’t give a flying rat’s ass about what happened when you were a demon. In fact, I damn near expected it to happen. But, who the hell cares? It’s in the past. I’m over it. So what? So you’d better fucking shape up because this lame-ass pansy routine of yours is really fucking old, Jin.” I gave Jin a moment in his stunned silence to recuperate. “Better?” I asked in a semi-pleasant tone.
Very slowly, the corners of Jin’s lips quirked into a small smile. “That sounds more like the Hwoarang I know.”
“I went to so much trouble trying to be nice to you, too.” I put my hands on my hips. “Look, Jin, I don’t know where this whole damn conversation is even headed at this point, but I hope you feel somewhat better.” I closed my eyes, trying, for a moment, to put myself in his shoes, to find him with my senses other than my eyes. I waited for Jin to reply, not caring what he would say as long as it wasn’t another self-conviction. With my eyes closed, I heard the shift of cloth and thought that he might have been about to respond when a hard knock came at the door, impatient and loud.
“Jin! Hwoarang, are you in there?”
Jin quickly moved away from the door, forcing me back as he turned to open it. Lee stood there, looking a little ruffled and maybe a bit anxious. Just a bit. Okay, so he looked like a deer in the headlights—a very attractive deer in the headlights. He held a hand to his side and had to pause to calm his breathing; it looked as though he’d come running from somewhere.
“Long time no see, Lee. It’s been like... what? Five minutes?” I asked, annoyed at the interruption. Though, secretly, I was also somewhat relieved. I leaned an arm against the open door as Jin stood back and wordlessly faced his uncle, hands burying in the pockets of his sweater. I didn’t spare him a second glance as Lee brushed the hair from his eyes, looking between us.
“Look, I’m sorry if I interrupted something-“
“No, not really,” I interjected in a light tone, sounding a lot more nonchalant than I felt. In reality, my heart was still thundering, and I was just about to fall over from stress. Give my thanks to the powers that be for doorways.
Lee continued with a moment’s pause. “We have to leave. Right now.”
“Sounds good,” I vouched, almost missing the urgent note in his voice, but Jin took up on it before I recovered.
“Is something wrong?” Jin asked, and the look on Lee’s face confirmed that something was. Unfortunately, that wasn’t for Jin to see and I prompted Lee further.
“What is it? Wait—don’t tell me; I’m being kicked out of the hospital again!” The joke was lost on both of them as Jin focused only on Lee who ushered us back into the room. I pouted, apparently unseen to them, and folded my arms over my chest in indignation.
“Alright… Look, there are some cars outside and I recognized the license plates…” Lee began, trying for calm, but it didn’t help with the way he occasionally glanced over his shoulder. What, was he waiting to be attacked? By whom? For once, Jin seemed to be quicker than myself, apparently knowing whatever Lee was talking about.
“He’s here, isn’t he?” Jin asked, voice hushed with the barest hint of apprehension.
He… ? Oh, okay. Wait, he? He who?
“He who?” I repeated aloud, hoping for some clarification.
I was ignored as Lee again checked over his shoulder. “Jin, we have to get you out of here—both of you. Hwoarang, you’ve been exposed to them, and you did inflict a lot of damage when you went through…”
Heh, heh. That’s right. Wait... where did I inflict damage? Oh. OH....
“Is this about Heihachi?” I asked an open question to either of them. Neither of them even bothered to look my way, though Lee at least acknowledged the question with a slight nod. Jin didn’t even react.
“Where is he?” Jin demanded, and I was a little surprised by the confident tone he’d taken to. What happened to the cowering, love-sick and oh-so delicate Jin I’d confronted a moment ago?
Lee pulled off his gloves to push back the violet hair from his eyes again, shoving the outrageous sunglasses in the pocket of his jacket. “They’re already in the building, we have to move fast....”
Heihachi was here? Hadn’t he learned his lesson the first time we… where in the hell did Jin think he was going? And why in the hell was I suddenly being ignored?
I felt seriously out of the loop. Stupid Mishimas.
“Are Xiaoyu and the others still here?” Jin asked quickly, dark eyes darting over the floor as if searching for something.
“I’ve already told them to leave; I have a car waiting outside and – Jin! Where are you going?” Lee raced after the departing Japanese boy who was already out in the hall; I had no choice but to follow if I wanted to have any idea what was going on.
“I’m going to get my pants,” Jin threw over his shoulder and I was torn between the urge to laugh and ask what the fuck was going on. Giving up, I just looked helplessly at Lee. He sighed, stopping his chase.
“Hwoarang, get dressed. I’ll go get Jin and meet you back here,” Lee suggested. He ran his fingers through his violet hair and took off at a trot, heading after Jin. “Kazama Jin, slow down!” he insisted to the retreating form.
I blinked, heading back into my room, confusion sweeping over me in waves. Everything suddenly happening at once... and I was feeling very weak. I stumbled to my care package that sat by my bed and pulled out a pair of jeans. Discarding the hospital gown, I slipped into the jeans, wincing as I realized they were loose on me. I hadn’t realized just how much weight I’d lost. Frowning, I reached for my favorite cut off shirt, knowing that it too should have been skin-tight.
The shirt was skin tight, but only because my entire torso was covered in bandages from my belt line to my chest and over my right shoulder, also covering the wounds on my back. Over this, I slipped on my leather jacket that had been beaten to submission by countless motorcycle rides, and was now softer than down feathers, and grabbed my finger-less gloves, shoving them in a pocket. As an after thought, I also grabbed the card from my gang, putting it in the other pocket.
Slipping my feet into tennis shoes, I was ready to go... but I knew I wouldn’t be able to run. Hell, I could hardly walk. Just talking to Jin had taken more out of me than I cared to admit, even to myself. If Lee wanted us out of there quickly, I wouldn’t be of much help—if any at all.
I turned to the door again when I heard a light knock. It hadn’t been long... it was hard to believe that Jin and Lee had been able to return so quickly. I went to the door, opening it without second thought. It wasn’t until it opened that I realized that it could have been Heihachi at the door, or maybe his special forces. But, it was neither. Mishima Kazuya stood at my door, his usual dark expression tainted with just the slightest hint of worry. “Mishima-san,” I muttered in surprise. “Why ‘re you here?”
“We need to get you out of here—fast,” Kazuya explained, walking into the room, and closing the door behind him. He found the lock on the door and gently pressed it, locking us in together. “My father isn’t here for my son. He’s here for you.”
“M—me?” I blanched, suddenly unable to focus as I tried to watch what Kazuya was doing. He looked around the room quickly, as if checking all possible entry or escape routes. Finally he focused on the bathroom. “But... why?”
“The demon staked its claim on you,” Kazuya explained, as if it should have made things clearer to me. Instead, I was more confused as he grabbed my wrist, pulling me into the bathroom He then opened the door to the room next to mine and we slipped out into the darkness. I could faintly hear heavy breathing from the patient lying on the bed, and Kazuya’s quiet steps and we crept over to the door. Kazuya put his ear to the door, listening for commotion, and then we burst out into the hallway, him dragging me in a full sprint down the stairs.
My legs were running automatically; but I knew as soon as I stopped moving; I would collapse. We rounded a corner as we fled down the stairs, and I glanced over my shoulder at the hallway behind us as though it were the last time I would see a friend and I had to say goodbye. Just as the door of my room was leaving my field of vision, I saw someone flying down the stairs and come to an ungraceful halt as they searched blindly for the door.
“Jin,” I breathed in surprise and I was pulled into the emergency staircase. I was hushed by Kazuya as he stopped us just inside the door with my back to the door. I felt myself losing my energy, limply falling against the door, only being held up by Kazuya.
“He’ll be fine. No son of mine will fall so easily to Heihachi,” Kazuya promised.
My lips quirked into a smile. “And Lee is with him too, right?” I was very pleased with the response I got from Kazuya who nodded almost shyly, diverting his gaze. I knew it.
Kazuya was silent, attentively listening to the sounds within the staircase, thankfully hearing nothing. “Let’s keep going,” he instructed, pulling me again, off the door, and dragging me behind him as we began our flight down the stairs, hopefully to emerge without running into Heihachi.
Two flights later, he pulled me to a halt, nearly putting us in an unceremonious heap at the base of the stairs. “What the hell?” I hissed. Kazuya simply placed a hand out, over my chest, in a stopping motion. I quieted, standing dutifully behind him.
“Let’s hold it here for a while,” Kazuya suggested. I blinked at him, not understanding. Kazuya leaned against the wall, folding his hands over his chest. A bit sheepish, I put my hands in my pockets. “That love bite he gave you,” Kazuya muttered.
“Love bite?” I nearly missed the section of the wall I meant to lean on in surprise. Had I really just heard Kazuya right?
“That’s what I meant. The demon claimed you.” Kazuya looked at me. “It didn’t want you dead,” he added after a moment. I think my eyes were the size of dinner plates at Kazuya’s remark.
“Coulda damn well fooled me,” was my snarky reply. Seriously, though. Didn’t want to kill me? Yeah fuckin’ right.
“It hates and loves you,” Kazuya explained, his eyes fogging over. It was almost as if it was not he who had spoken. He turned to face me, and he looked almost sad. “My son... he loves you. The demon knows that you could mute it... or maybe even make it stronger. It fears your power over Jin, and is obsessed with it.” Kazuya diverted his gaze, looking to his feet.
I wasn’t sure how to properly respond, remaining silent for a long time. Finally, I asked a question that had been bugging me for a long time. “I’m not like Jun, Mishima-san. Why would it feel about me as the... devil in you felt? Jin... no matter what, Jin would put Jun before me.”
“You don’t get it,” Kazuya said, shaking his head even before I’d finished my question. “It doesn’t matter if you have some connection to Angel, or not.” Kazuya pushed off the wall. “Jin depends on you, now. So, I have to get you out of here alive. I trust Lee and Jin with father.” Kazuya began down the stairs again, and I had to scramble to catch up.
“I still don’t understand,” I complained as I all but face-planted trying to get down the stairs quickly enough to follow Kazuya. “Is it because Jun is....” I was cut off when I slammed into Kazuya’s back. He really needed to quit stopping every five feet. Oddly, though, I was feeling a little better after moving around so much.
“Kuma,” Kazuya uttered, steadying himself against a wall from my impact. I looked over his shoulder to see... a bear?
“What the hell?” I sighed, wishing I was will Jin instead of his father so I could hide my face in his shoulder and hope it would all go away. I sighed, feeling pathetic. I really missed Jin.
“Did father send you to find me?” Kazuya took a step forward, and I had to quickly bolt toward the wall for support. I weakly leaned against it, looking at the expression on Kazuya’s face from a diagonal. He looked utterly serious—though talking to a bear.
Man, don’t even get me started on that, though. Xiaoyu is convinced her Panda is in love.
“Dude, your dad didn’t send his dancing pet to kill me,” I insisted to Kazuya. “Let’s just forget we saw him and go.” I swear the bear glared at me. I know, that sounds crazy, but I know I saw it.
“Father does not want you dead,” Kazuya reminded impatiently. I quieted, pretending to ignore him. Kazuya returned his attention to the bear, folding his arms across his chest again. I saw Kuma wave an arm in challenge, and I rubbed my eyes in something between disbelief and concern for my own mental health. Kazuya took stance, and I nearly fell over. What the hell was going on?
“Fine, Kuma. But realize, I won’t hold back,” Kazuya promised, a darker tone in his voice than I’d heard before. I glanced between the two and a smile formed despite myself. No one had ever fought for me before, and I liked it.
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