The Quality of the Sword (is Determined by the Wielder of the Flame)

Chapter One - The Disquiet of the Forge

By M. Mishima

Jin knocked quietly on the door of the suite reserved for one of the King of Iron Fist 3 Tournament competitors, namely, his only former rival. The occupant, he doubted would be home, but he had to try... he could not spend another night at the Mishima Estate... not after the coarse words his grandfather had uttered coupled with the firm backhand, all derived from a simple request... to learn about Jin Kazama's deceased Father, Kazuya Mishima.

Heihachi refused to yield to the inquisitive mind of the 19yr old prodigy..the child of Kazuya Mishima and Jun Kazama, borne from wedlock... and orphaned now that Jun had been taken by the thing... Toshin. Although Jin had been living with Heihachi for two years now, had been granted the gift of learning the ancestral art of his Mishima bloodline, Grandfather had been cold, austere... negligent... and completely refusing to discuss the life and death of Kazuya Mishima. Was it not natural for Jin to ask this? Was it disrespectful to wish to honor Kazuya with more than just the striking appearance that made those who knew Jin's Father gasp to see the boy, believing it to be the deceased Mishima returned from the grave?

That is what led Jin to Hwoarangs door this night. That is what led Jin to have his eye blackened by the hand of Heihachi Mishima... knocking on the door, this night.

The teenaged, feisty martial artist had been a rival and only recently a respectful bond of near friendship had formed. And in this hour of need, Jin came knocking softly to Hwoarang's chamber door. All other rooms in Hotel were shored up for the remaining King of Iron Fist competitors, and should one have been available, Jin kept no money on his person. Although wealthy, Jin was not privileged to have a hand hold on more than a few yen at a time. The wealth, the home, the terms of all things, the rules of every game... belonged only to Heihachi Mishima.

The knock came more intense now as Jin felt himself ready to break down, to sob or scream, for the loss of all things... of all comforts..

"What in the hell!" Hwoarang answered to the incessant knock, the Korean youth's pants half undone, barefoot, no shirt clinging to his lithe, muscular form. Brushing a hand back through his unnatural deep coppery red, unkempt mane his eyes widened to see Jin there, one arm braced on the door frame, the other poised to knock... again. "Kazama?"

Jin looked up beneath thick black tendrils, his almond eyes holding Hwoarangs amber orbs. "Forgive me... I... needed a place to go and I did not know where else... to go." He said in a soft broken breath, averting his eyes from Hwoarang's. Had Heihachi been there to see it, a swift backhand would have followed. You never avert your eyes from another man, Jin, lest you show who is the weaker of the two. No cub of mine will show weakness... weakness is too closely linked with defeat.

Hwoarang grasped Jin by the hand poised to knock. "No, man. No forgiveness needed, come in." The Korean drew Jin into the lavish suite, granted to the martial artists of the Tournament at no charge. One of the nicest places Hwoarang had been in, ever. "Damn Kazama, you look like shit.. What happened to your face?" Hwoarang asked, quirking a brow. Jin's distress was deeper than the bruise that showed, it was palpable, almost... tangible. "I thought you were as good as me, well enough to fight me to a draw anyway... someone get a sucker punch on you or are you just going soft?" He tried to break the tension with a snicker, banter Jin had grown used to from the upstart.

Jin closed the door behind him, brushing a hand through his mane as he looked up to see a trail of clothing leading to the bedroom. Hwoarang had a guest, a trendy female by the look of the discarded western style clothing. "I... wasn't sure you would be here." Jin said despondently, "But I can see I have interrupted... "

Hwoarang shook his head, grasping his pack of menthols and tapping it till one long white cylinder was released from the soft pack. "It's nothing, man." He said with a smile and a twinkle in his eye as he cupped his hand before his face, sparking the cigarette to life. "Make yourself comfortable, give me a minute to square things away with my 'guest'."

Jin nodded, feeling horribly out of place. He could have gone to Ling's suite but he knew she would not understand as a ward of the Mishima Zaibatsu, and certainly not the way another male friend could. Or so Jin hypothesized. The Young Kazama had no friends, only acquaintances.

It was unlike Jin to show emotion, leaving him often considered to be sullen and withdrawn when in truth, he felt he did not fit in anywhere anymore. Slowly lowering himself to the couch, Jin let his elbows hold to his knees, head falling into his hands.

Hwoarang walked into the bedroom after gathering clothing and tossing them into the confines of the suite. "Something's come up." He said flatly before closing the door behind them.

A moment later he returned, crushing his cigarette into the receptacle by Jin, picking up his mesh shirt and sliding it over his lithe, muscular form. "Situation taken care of. Now, what the hell is going on?" He said, flopping down into the chair opposite of the couch, legs parted, pants still half hanging open. Hwoarang dripped his head back for a moment to gather his baring.

Jin averted his eyes, feeling a blush come to his features. He hadn't noticed how tone and firm his former rival had been and it felt... inappropriate to stare at Hwoarangs physique. The guest who had been occupying the Blood Talon, as Hwoarang was disaffectionately nicknamed, strode silently from the confines of the bedroom, pausing to slide her feet into sling back shoes before walking out, without another word.

"Don't call me, I'll call you." Hwoarang said with a snicker that still oozed charm, eliciting a sideways smile from the female as she left, closing the door behind her. "Now, back to you. What's going on, Jin?"

Hwoarang listened as Jin paced, one hand in his hair as he moved. This was the most animated the young Kazama had ever been in his presence, a moment when the veil of self control seemed torn and a glimpse of the maelstrom within Jin flowed freely, easily. "So you were asking all these questions to gramps after you spoke to Wulong? Do you think super cop is telling the truth, about your father and all?" He asked with innocence, his long toned legs pulled beneath him Indian style, a tray braced between his thighs as he rolled a slim, unfiltered cigarette. Hwoarang had no love for the police. No criminals ever did.

Jin looked over to Hwoarang and shook his head. "I don't know, Hwoarang. I don't know what to believe anymore. The more questions I have, the less the potential to answer them becomes." Jin removed his hand from his already taloused, thick obsidian mane, brushing off his slacks and straightening the tapered white shirt that hung loose from his form, a single button undone to break the severity of his look.

"Well, Jin, you are welcomed to stay with me for as long as you want before the Tournament ends and I become the new rich bitch in town." The Blood Talon smiled with his usual arrogance before realizing it had not hit its mark with Jin. "I mean your gramps is paying for this lovely suite, so it's no skin off my back. Besides, the longer you stay away from gramps the better, right?" Hwoarang said with that feisty, charming, half cocked smile, looking up beneath errant copper tendrils, drawing the newly rolled cigarette to his lips to seal the white paper around the contents.

"I can't hide from him... there is no honor in that, yanno?" Jin said, uncharacteristically. "I mean, I owe him so much of my life. Can I really blame him for not wanting to speak about a son that lives no more?" Jin halted his pacing, coming to a standstill has he looked into Hwoarangs amber eyes with such intense sincerity it made the Blood Talon's heart wretch. "I lost a father I never knew, but he lost a son he raised all of his life. He must have loved my father... he had to have. You wouldn't have a child if you didn't?" Jin was voicing his thoughts out loud. "I can't even imagine what pain grandfather must be in... to know my father died during that match in the last King of Iron Fist tournament... even if it was an accident. But from what Wulong tells me, it was no accident... but that cant be so."

Hwoarang shook his head. "Man, you need to come here and sit down, take a few hits off of this and stop your rambling. I guarantee a few hours of inner peace. And maybe some massive munchies." The young Korean laughed softly, but warmly. "Come on, lets get unwound! Its a wonder you ever survived without me in your life, man. It just so happens I have the ability to help get that stick out of your ass and not leave ya too many splinters."

Jin shook his head and found himself breaking a smile. Hwoarang did have this way about him that just oozed comfort, charm even in his more rugged street tough manner. Hwoarang was a leader... something to be observed, envied... since Jin himself had been a quiet follower up until this very moment where disobedience rang from his lips like an arrow from a bow. Slowly, the young Kazama drew alongside the couch, crossing his legs toward Hwoarang who had not moved from the reclining chair opposite of him. "I don't smoke." He said simply, letting his head tip back.

"You do now, Kazama. Besides its not a cigarette, its better." Hwoarang said with a laugh that captivated Jins curiosity and at the same time made him feel..comfortable. Hwoarang sparked the slim rolled cigarette to life, the smoke instantly cloy and strongly herbed, a fragrance Jin had never before scented and it filled him, instantly. He watched how his counterpart drew in a deep but puckered breath, holding the smoke in his lungs for a long moment before releasing and repeating. On the second inhalation, Hwoarang handed the slim cigarette to Jin, who looked at it quizzically, finding his throat going cottony and dry.

"I have never done this before." Jin said, watching the embers before looking back to Hwoarang, who exhaled slowly with a soft, contented sigh.

"You're safe, you're with me. What could possibly go wrong?" Hwoarang said with dazzling charm, a smile that could melt the ice from the Antarctic.

"Famous last words." Jin said with a snicker and drew the whet paper to his lips, tasting the sweet herbal flavor mixed with Hwoarangs moist kiss to the cylinder. Hesitantly, he inhaled, drawing the cigarette from his lips as he fought to keep the burning smoke in his lungs, his shoulders wracked and heaving. Jin finally let out the smoke with a sharp exhale, trying to pass off the cigarette to Hwoarang, who was laughing as he watched Jin cough and spasm. "Oh, god damn." He finally made out.

Hwoarang refused to accept the cigarette. "The rotation is puff, puff, pass. You got another hit coming. This time don't try to hold back the cough, let it out, it brings your head up." He said with a wriggle of his sculpted eyebrows. Had Jin never known Hwoarang to have street credibility, he would have sworn the Korean was pure trendy pretty boy... a club rat or raver with cash to burn. Hwoarang was all of those, in reality, but that cash to burn came from hustling, fighting, gangs. The Blood Talon was passionate to a fault, to a deadly fault if underestimated.

Jin tried to wave off the cigarette once more as his breathing returned to normal. His system was nothing but pure and this intrusive smoke burned and stung all the way to his gut. "I don't think I can... everything burns."

"Sure you can, oh god damn it don't be a pussy." Hwoarang said as he shook his head side to side, setting the tray of herbs on the floor beside the chair. With his hand he took the cigarette and rolled to a stand. "Alright, I will help you out with this but just this one time, since you're a newbie."

Jin looked up through glassy eyes as Hwoarang sat down beside him, facing him and he turned instinctively as though instructed to do so. "What do I have to do?" He said with a swimmy sensation in his head. Jin tried to shake the cobwebs away and found he was on the verge of laughter when he swore he felt his head was light enough to fall from his shoulders.

"Alright, this is called Shotgun. Now, listen up. Close your eyes and open your mouth. I will take a hit and blow it into your lips, but you have to suck it in while I blow, got it?" Hwoarang said, tapping the ash from the bone.

"You're going to... blow the smoke into my lips. Why do I have to close my eyes, it's not a kiss or anything... " Jin said with little abandon, not realizing just how ludicrous that sounded until it left his lips.

"Well you can keep your eyes open, but that means seeing my ugly mug coming at ya. Your choice, man." Hwoarang said with a snicker, his voice edged in guttural Korean..and yet..still pleasant. "Don't go getting all queer on me. I have heard about you rich boys."

Jin laughed, visibly, his body relaxing. "Not my style. Not that I have ever kissed anyone unless it was my mother's cheek." He shrugged, trying to hold a straight face as Hwoarang drew the smoke into his lips, the embers flaring at the edge of the slim cigarette.

Hwoarang moved in slowly, drawing his body closer to Jin's with such sensual, leonine movements. Purely captivating.

Instinctively, Jin leaned in and kept his eyes open, even as Hwoarang drew nearer, his lips parting as slow rolls of smoke slid from the depth of the Korean's mouth. Lips parted, Jin felt the nearness as Hwoarangs lower lip scantly touched his own... eyes open... connected... Hwoarang let gentle trails of smoke into Jins which he sucked back slowly... more languidly... transfixed on both the taste entering his senses... and the awareness that came with being so close to his former rival.

Hwoarang held himself still with practiced ease, his lower lip against Jin's... for stability he told himself... his amber eyes taking in the heat of Jin's abysmal depths, finding them doe like... beautiful... sad but beautiful. There was heat in that small space between them and Hwoarang was in no great race to withdraw the closeness... as if Jin's being in such close proximity felt... good, almost right.

When the last of the smoke had passed from Hwoarang to Jin, the Korean youth slowly slid back, eyes transfixed on Jin, watching how beautiful his former rivals mouth bowed to accept the smoke and release it with slow control.

Jin swallowed, his mouth feeling dry and yet his gut feeling... jittery... as if the young Kazama had worked through a host of Katas on an empty stomach. The room seemed to spin and it was not from the cloy, heavy smoke. After a long moment of silence and connected eyes, Jin finally spoke, exhaling completely. "You are... not... you do not... have an ugly mug, up close anyway... " Jin tried to catch himself but the words spilled fast from his lips.

Hwoarang smiled, trying to laugh off the intensity and heat he felt slither between them, pressing back on the couch as he took another hit from the slim rolled cigarette. "That's just the herb talking, man." He had to stay cool, had to keep his head about him... he could fall into Jin too easily, fall beyond the limits of someone so confused and innocent.

"And if I said it... it wasn't the herb?" Jin said, biting the edge of his lip, brazen and suddenly chemically unafraid. Everything was moving in slow motion, everything felt calm, serene. The way Hwoarang laid back on the couch was the most provocative sight Jin Kazama had ever seen... and where sobriety might have discouraged him, disgusted him away from being so truthful... at the moment his courage was steadfast and blazingly innocent.

Hwoarang crushed what remained of the burnt down cylinder, tossing a pillow at Jin. "I would still say you're fucked up, Kazama. Enjoy the high, let it ride through you."

Jin looked away, feeling blazingly hot and ashamed at the same time. He let the pillow hit against him, sending him back against the arm of the couch, opposite of Hwoarang. "I am suddenly, really hungry... "

Hwoarang laughed. "You're going to be the death of me, Kazama. Come on, get yourself together, we will take a walk down the street for some food."

Jin looked horrified. "I can't go out like this! Everyone will know I just smoked... that stuff!"

"Paranoia is a bitch. Besides you're with me, what could possibly happen?" Hwoarang said with a smile, standing wobbly and buttoning his form fitting jeans.

"Famous last words. Wait, did I say that already?" Jin asked, laughing at himself and the odd sensations filling him.

Jin awoke on the couch, half undressed and face down. For a moment he had to reorient himself to where he was... what had happened... and as relaxed as his body felt, pangs of fear slid through the young Kazama. Shooting upward, Jin rubbed his eyes, his head clearing of smoke but still feeling somewhat... foggy. Standing and stretching, Jin walked toward the bathroom just outside of Hwoarang's bedroom in the suite. The door was closed most of the way, but enough to see movement from within... hear the movement of the mattress squeaking under strain...

Jin tried not to look but could not help himself, his control was not yet where it should have been, where it had been two nights ago. Through the break in the door where it did not meet the jamb, Jin could see Hwoarang... the redhead naked and uncovered... arching into the heat of a lover beneath him, face down as the Korean thrust between widely spread legs and slightly upraised hips. The mattress squealed in protest and recoiled to match the thrust, like a competitor going blow for blow to win the title and trophy.

Hwoarang's backside clenched as his head rolled back. "Sweet Jesus... Ahh god damn!" He groaned, stilling his movements as back muscles tensed. There was a long moment of silence and the redhead slowly slid out of his lovers core, disjoining them to carefully remove the spent condom that hung full at the tip. "I have to dispose of this... Don't go anywhere... " He said, standing shakily, one hand braced around the base of the prophylactic.

Jin's eyes widened as he realized Hwoarang intended to dispose of the latex in the bathroom... precisely where he was heading. With quick, catlike motions, Jin reversed his movements and came to lay face down on the couch, stilling his breaths, forcing his eyes to close as he heard Hwoarang's footsteps, heavy and unbalanced... his breath thick and heated... heading toward the bathroom.

After several long moments, Hwoarang emerged once more, peeking over the couch to see if Jin had moved since leaving him there the night before. Hungry as Jin was, he hadn't made it out of the suite, overcome and seduced into sleep by the calming herb he had smoked. Satisfied, Hwoarang returned to the bedroom as Jin perked up to listen as deftly as possible.

"Alright, be quiet and slip out of here before my friend wakes up. Don't give me that look, clean yourself up when you get to whereever the hell you live." Hwoarang said, sparking a cigarette to life, brushing his hand through his freshly washed hair.

Jin heard footsteps and closed his eyes until they were an imperceptible sliver to see the mysterious stranger Hwoarang brought to his bed, with odd and eager fascination. He kept still as Hwoarang's lover approached, sliding hand to the door to open it as soundlessly as possible... and in that moment, Jin bolted upright... shocked... that the lover who left his friends room... was male... a slight, lithe but raver style beauty... with long unkempt black hair... dressed in bright colors and form fitting clothing.

"What the hell?" Jin called out, startled, everything hazy and nonsensical.

Hwoarang emerged from the bedroom, dressed and drew along the side arm of the couch where Jin sat up, holding his head. "Sorry, I didn't want anyone waking you. Looks like you had the first good night's sleep in a long time, Kazama." The young Korean said with a cool steady smile.

"Who the hell is this?" was all Jin could make out without giving way to what he had seen and heard.

Hwoarang looked to the male that had been his lover through the last night. "Oh this is my friend,, what the fuck is your name again?"

The male turned, eyes shifty and unbalanced... like a cat caught in the garbage pile. "Miyiko," he said softly, blushingly.

"That's right, Miyiko, from the club... he was a little fucked up so I offered him the floor to sober it up a bit," Hwoarang countered with cool brilliance. It would have been convincing if Jin hadn't seen otherwise.

"When did we go to the club? I don't remember that?" Jin said, giving Hwoarang an innocent look.

"Well um, we didn't. I did. You crashed on the couch before we could even get some snacks... so, feeling feisty, I figured fuck it, let me hit the nightlife and let you get some sleep."

Hwoarang said, nodding to Miyiko to get moving... and he did, quickly.

"Nice to meet you, Miyiko!" Jin said rubbing his eyes and falling back against the couch. But Miyiko was long gone, door open behind him which Hwoarang closed quickly enough.

"So, how are you feeling this morning, man?" The Korean asked with a smile, flicking the ashes of his cigarette into the receptacle beside Jin.

Jin looked to Hwoarang with pure wonder, having never suspected his former rival to have enjoyed the pleasure of another man's company. Jin tried to recall the term, "Bisexual". He settled on it quickly enough... all of this going through his mind in the flash of an eye. "A little foggy. Definitely hungry. What time is it?"

"Its just after 6 in the morning." Hwoarang said, stretching his legs with side kicks till his hips cracked and warmed..holding it for impossibly long before switching to the next. "You have a match this morning?"

"No, not today..tomorrow morning. But you do, don't you?" Jin said, finding himself flushed and forced to look away as Hwoarang stretched away the nights..activities.

"Yup, taking on little Julia Chang. Cute stuff. I would hate to damage the goods." Hwoarang said with a smile, bringing his leg down and around, showing once more the exceptional control his own art form gave to him. Jin's muscles suddenly strained and screamed that he should be stretching as well. For what little Jin knew of Tae Kwon Do, he did understand it was as taxing as any other art, save for the extreme brutality of Mishima style Karate... his ancestral art mingled with Kazama Ryu defense that he had learned long ago from his mother.

"I wouldn't underestimate her. I understand her mother was one hell of a competitor," Jin said, stretching and realizing he was sans shirt. With wide eyes he reached for the garment discarded at some point during the night and sliding it on, though not yet buttoning it.

"One night with me and I already have you close to swearing." Hwoarang laughed. "Don't worry about Julia, I do know how to treat a lady... when she isn't standing in the way of me and a healthy sum of money, that is." He changed the subject with a smile, crushing his cigarette. "So, do you have any clothes or anything else with you? You can't exactly run through a match or a form without your dobuk, can you?"

"Form? You mean Kata. Yeah... I do need my Gi and equipment, some clothes. I guess I have to figure out when I can get into the estate and gather my stuff unnoticed. My bike is there too." Jin said, moistening his lips trying to fight off the cottonmouth... and the vivid realization that he had... made a pass at Hwoarang last night... how disgusting and uncharacteristic in his weakness!

"Tell you what, come out to the site with me and once I whoop Julia's ass, I'll ride you out to gramp's 'estate' and get your stuff. IF he is there, he can't take us both on at the same time, now can he? Safety in numbers, man." Hwoarang said with a smile.

"You don't know Heihachi Mishima." Jin said, unsurely, shaking his head once more. "I don't think even I know Heihachi Mishima."

Jin stood back in the Zen gardens, leaning against the wealth of perfectly pruned trees as he watched the local law enforcement inform other would be spectators that the match scheduled in this sacred place was off limits. The Young Kazama himself had no difficulty once the officers realized that he had infact been the main sponsor of the tournament even if backed by the Mishima Zaibatsu's endless coffers.

With steady eyes and folded hands against his chest, Jin watched as Hwoarang slowly paced before the vision of Julia Chang, the young Native American female offering prayers to the Spirits of her Tribe, asking for blessing and victory.

The Redhead showed his hotheaded nature in the very leonine pacing. His Tae Kwon Do uniform hung open, a dobuk Hwoarang had called it, his long pants trailing the floor, heavier than Jins own Gi... giving it a certain crackle and snap, akin to fire, as the Korean worked his forms. Jin could not help but admire Hwoarang and from a distance he was safe to do so without the fear of retribution... or rejection.

Jin recalled quite well, considering his mental state, his sudden desire for Hwoarang... the feel of his former rival's lower lip against his as the Korean blew slow billowing smoke into the heat of his mouth. The sensation was acute and eager, wanton and it tugged at his core... as much as it had to see Hwoarang with his male lover... a rather fortunate discovery... for Jin to have made.

Now, Jin stood stone still against the tree watching as the match began... as the thin trickles of sweat clung to the physique of the Tae Kwon Do artist... how perfectly poised and accentuated each kick had come, how completely magnificent every arrogant movement was made. The thought made Jin thicken in his slacks, shifting the hands in his pockets to hide the sudden large intrusion that jutted outward so eagerly. Hwoarang was everything Jin respected, a rogue yes... but one who lived in with his own code of honor, free and independent, arrogant and feisty in all the ways Jin was not.

Time lapsed quickly when Jin realized all of his heated musings were drawn to the single moment Hwoarang had completed the Falcon Dice Throw... and leveled his opponent, now declared in victory over Julia Chang.

Jin kept to the shadows even as Hwoarang turned his eyes in the direction where he had last left Jin, smiling with pure arrogance and radiant control as he rolled his neck side to side to release the tension. Slowly, the Korean made his way to Jin, a gleam in his eye. "This calls for celebration, Kazama. If you win that slot of yours tomorrow, seems we finally have that rematch on our hands after all."

"What an interesting prospect for the both of us," Jin said with a downward tilt to his chin. "So, are you going to be showering up or are we riding to the Mishima Estate as you are?"

Hwoarang licked his lips slowly, scenting something provocative about Jin, even as he stood, still and even wearing yesterday's clothing. "I can go like this, gives me some greater flexibility in the event gramps has some issues with what we are doing." He said with a smile, finding himself unable to keep his eyes from looking up and down Jins austere form. "Let's rock."

Jin held firm to Hwoarang's waist as the pair rode to the Mishima estate, feeling an odd, strangely powerful heat burning through his core. Never had Jin imagined he would be this close to his former rival in this way, the thick vibration of the motorcycle beneath his thighs. If Hwoarang felt the intense pressure on the small of his arched back, he said nothing... and Jin held tighter, closer... thankful the pressure and heat of the moment was taken in sharp moans from his lips by the wind...

Jin was astraddle his own motorcycle now, clad in the leather riding gear Heihachi had purchased for him, along with the bike for his 18th birthday. The attendants had given the young Master little problem when he came to collect his things, held in a duffle strapped to his bike. Once Jin found out that Grandfather had been at the Zaibatsu, it gave him much needed time to pack what he could, quickly. Only the essentials came with Jin. Namely, his gi and sparring equipment, the photo album he had taken from his mother long ago at the time of her death, the newspaper clipping of Kazuya Mishima... and clothing enough to last him for a few days. He also brought with him the yen he had saved up, secretly, over the past two years. It might well be all the money he would have left when things were said and done.

Now, Jin Kazama followed Hwoarang back to the hotel, his eyes fixed on the road and the backside of the one who rode ahead of him. Jin knew his thoughts were whirling and he fought hard to keep them on the road, lest he crash and burn then and there..and never live up to his potential.

Hwoarang stood before his bike, dragging from the cool menthol cigarette in his fingertips. The smoke was smooth, eager and familiar and all the blood talon needed at this moment to make peace with his victory. Amber eyes watched as Jin unstrapped his duffle, drawing the heavy contents up to his well muscled shoulders. Hwoarang could see the curve of Jins bicep as it flexed to stabilize the weight. It was possible that the Blood Talon had never before known one who could look so strong and be so... gentle. It had been fascinating to catch Jin in his moments of unguarded quiet and contemplation, the heat of deep brown eyes as they strained to find purpose to his path. Jin had never before seemed so beautiful... even if Hwoarang had felt the draw to him, the chemistry between them..from that very first fight on the streets of Korea. He never imagined he could have wanted more at that moment from Jin than the money Heihachi had laid on the line as the brawl ensued. Leave it to the Japanese to always put honor on the line with their yen. Honor was something much harder fought in the streets of Korea when all you had was your name and your ambitions.

They had fought then, to a draw... and that fight stayed with the blood talon like a sting on the roof of his mouth, tongue unable to stop flicking at the anguished flesh... it felt good, even if enjoying it was wrong. Jin had departed then, when all was said and done... and now, a year later they had come together again. At first, Hwoarang mused, there had been banter, slights, challenges... all from his own lips when he had encountered Jin at the kick off celebration for the King of Iron Fist Tournament 3. But Jin never rose to those, keeping himself disgustingly graceful and accommodating.

But Hwoarang liked that, secretly. He liked the way Jin kept himself under control, kept his boundaries, his guard... holding it sacred. It was rare to see that kind of tenacity when so many jaded accompaniments followed the Blood Talon in his day to day life.

If Baek Do San could see him now, Hwoarang thought as he flicked his ashes. When the TaeKwonDo master had found him, Hwoarang had been nothing but orphaned street trash, running with his gang... no ambition other than to swindle enough money for food and drink..and maybe a pack of smokes. But beneath Baek Do Sans tutelage, the Blood Talon started to blossom, to learn... to garner ambition with skill and desire. But, Hwoarang could not turn his back on his only family..his gang. And in the end felt he had turned his back on Baek Do San... whose whereabouts remained unknown, even if the rumor of his death was everywhere.

The fiery Korean shook his head to clear the thoughts as he looked to Jin, who was drawing closer now that the burden of the bag he carried was shouldered. "Come on, Kazama. I am sure you need a shower. I know I do." Hwoarang said with a smile.

Jin nodded softly, brushing his hand back through his mane. "Yeah, I really could use one." He said thoughtfully, following Hwoarang to the elevator. "Hey, I didn't get to say it before but that was an impressive victory. You really took it to Julia."

The Blood Talon laughed. "Don't go blowing smoke up my ass, Kazama, you might lose your heart for that rematch." Hwoarang gave a side smile, his amber eyes glistening. "Or I might like it."

Jin smirked, shaking his head slightly. "You don't know how to deal with a compliment." ... or..was that a proposition.

Jin wiped his hand across his brow, removing the glistening droplets of sweat before the cool trickle could make it to his eyes. His Katas were sharp, well practiced and the young Kazama moved with the fluidity of a dancer as his muscles breathed the thick warmth of such familiar motions.

Jin had decided to run through forms as Hwoarang showered, giving the young Kazama the privacy he needed to devote to his art. He moved the furniture far enough over to give him room for the most basic motions, for the rest a dojo or cleared room would be required. However, improvisation being the mother of invention, Jin found it better to activate the muscles even in a limited capacity... rather than forego the exercise all together and meet his opponent tomorrow unprepared.

Hwoarang stood against the door frame leading out of the bathroom. The heavy breathing and focusing Ki drawing the Blood Talons attention as he showered and dressed. The sound of Jin reached him even in those walls and heated his blood to imagine the beautiful Kazama soaked in sweat, heated and eager... for purposes completely unrelated to forms and Katas. Hwoarang watched the shirtless Jin closely, noting every developed muscle from the contraction of the Young Kazamas perfectly sculpted torso to the heated flexation of Jins glistening arms. He was hauntingly beautiful and the peak of physical perfection in the Blood Talons eyes.

Hwoarang kept silent as Jin slowly drew up from the long, imposing and apparently strenuous Kata. The motions were intricate and subtle to the untrained eye, but the Blood Talon could see every nuance of detail below the surface of repetitive motions. Once Jin exhaled sharply, signifying then motion was complete, Hwoarang withdrew a lighter from his pocket, sliding a menthol to his lips.

"Impressive." Hwoarang said with a smile, looking up through the flame to Jin.

"Thanks." Jin replied with an almost embarrassed tone as he reached for his button down shirt, sliding it over his glistening features... the silken material clinging to the perfect musculature of his whet skin. Brushing his hand through his hair he smiled shyly, wondering how long the Blood Talon had been watching him... finding that thought to be... a source of heat beneath his skin. "I thought a little meditation and form would help prepare me for tomorrow morning. I have fought against the 'jacks' before... during my training with Grandfather. I have a feeling this time, there will be no punches held when I step into the ring."

Hwoarang nodded, brushing back his coppery tendrils as he rolled his neck to the side to ease the tension from his earlier fight..the tension from seeing Jin standing before him like a glistening warrior. This has to stop. The Blood Talon whispered into his own thoughts. You can not keep looking at him this way..thinking about him in this way. We are friends, rivals... and that is what it is. "Well, I am sure the Ol' man will have some tricks up his sleeve, but don't worry, I will be there at the match tomorrow, just incase you need me there." The Blood Talon said with an arrogant smile.

"I have already drawn you into this far enough." Jin said sternly, dragging the furniture back to its rightful place on the carpet.

"Drawn me in? Come on, Kazama, I have taken tougher than Heihachi Mishima. And, if you think that me having you crash here while you get your head straight is 'drawing you in too far', then you don't know me... and what I do for my friends." Hwoarang said with a snicker, drawing over to the chair Jin had just moved, plopping down into the cushiony softness.

Jin looked up over his shoulder, his hands pausing the search through his hastily packed duffle for a fresh change of clothes. The young Kazama had never really had friends... class mates, yes, but the fierce resemblance to his father and the legend that still lingered in that school about Kazuya kept many away. With the exception of Ling Xiouyou, a Ward of the Mishima Zaibatsu and Martial Artist with incredible skill... who happened to have a resounding crush on Jin... there were no others.

Most of Jins classmates had one or both parents in that school so long ago when the Young Kazuya Mishima had been a solemn yet undeniable presence and now Jin was reaping the silence his father must have felt himself. But Hwoarang was right, through rivalry they had become friends and that bond was growing thicker and more intricate with each passing moment.

A confliction of emotion rose in Jins deep brown eyes as he met the Blood Talons amber orbs. He could feel his own breath hitch with the tension between them. Once, the tension was rivalry... or so Jin had thought... but now, the very same feeling in the pit of the young Kazamas stomach felt more important... almost aching. The feeling made Jin shiver so deeply that it echoed between his thighs with an almost agonizing but exquisite pain. If Hwoarang enjoys the... intimate..companu of others..why not me? Would I not be suitable to be..with him?

The silence was deafening and Jin snapped back to reality as Hwoarang drew in a thick, smoky breath. "You're right, Hwoarang." The young Kazama said softly, raising up from his haunches, clutching fresh clothing with an iron grip. "I really do thank you for all the help. No one has ever been so good to me before."

"Let's see if your still saying that at the rematch... when your pinned under me, pleading for mercy." Hwoarang said as he exhaled the blue tinged smoke, dripping with hidden innuendo, his words oozing pure charm and a sensuality that made Jin hold his fresh clothing tighter to his body... his slacks becoming uncomfortably snug.

"I... I should shower." Jin said quickly, walking toward the bathroom with a rigid spine, shielding his sudden arousal from the Blood Talons sight, afraid to be discovered and rejected... as he had been last night... My mind wasn't right then. Making an advance on him was wrong... on so many levels. Jin tried to reason with himself, futilely. But I am in the right frame of mind now... and I still... want him.

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