Author's Notes: New attempt at epic from Miri-chan. *pouts at chorus of groans* Really, I /will/ finish this.
DISCLAIMER: Hum-de. Usual sort of disclaimer apply; Want them for the harem. Can't seem to get them. Poop. Lyrics stolen from Hole.
Usual Miri-fic warnings; angst, yaoi, angst, the occasional death, the occasional lemon, and lots of fun for the bishies to endure. -_-;; Miri's evil. This fic will go fun places, though. Here ya are. =^_^=
When the Rain Comes
when the rain comes
and I knew the fire and the ashes of his grace...
He admitted he was scared out of his mind. He couldn't stop smiling.
Hwoarang was racing along the alley, trying his best to follow the swift Japanese boy -- Kazama Jin, who seemed to flicker among the rooftops in a course that defied all he knew of gravity. He made no sound, no indication that he wanted the strange boy to stop: his fascination controlled the adrenaline rush that fueled him where his body should have collapsed from exhaustion minutes ago.
They were no longer in the same area. The city of warehouses had lost most of its density, giving way to wider, sprawling roads and alleyways and shallow water-channels that made up Tokyo's industrial waterfront.
It seemed that Kazama was heading for the docks. Hwoarang faltered but kept his footing, his heavy boots scrambling for purchase as his rival disappeared over yet another rooftop. The Korean's chest felt ready to burst, but he couldn't stop -- where else did Kazama have to go?
With that thought in mind, Hwoarang swung around the corner of the last building, close enough that the worn-out metal siding caught the meat of his arm, tearing the tender flesh and eliciting a yelp of pain from the surprised boy. He looked up quickly, just in time to see the Jin's attention focus on him: what returned his gaze, however, made him start in shock.
In the orange light of a streetlamp, a devil returned Hwoarang's stare, an unholy light of its own coming from the red glow in the center of Kazama's forehead. Dark, scrawling patterns spread across his face and down his broad chest -- now almost bare, save for the sparse tatters of what was once a dress shirt. (And had his hair grown?)
Fiercely beautiful, and so terrible . . .
Limned in light, eclipsed in the shadow of great dark wings, the creature began a slow path towards where Hwoarang stood fighting off the shock of what he was seeing. /It isn't Kazama/, he told himself firmly, /there's no fucking way. Those eyes . . ./
Jin's eyes never held the manic expression that these did. Hwoarang stood firm, staring intently into the demon's golden eyes as it made its way towards him. The Korean could hear the whispered scratching of feathers against the dirty concrete, a sound just barely louder than the rhythm of his heart pounding painfully in his ears.
"Dare ka. . ?" He managed to whisper, the words rough against his dry throat. "Who. . ?"
In one swift movement, Jin's (Hwoarang wondered what this . . . thing, was -- certainly not Jin, though it was Kazama's body before him) hand caught the Korean's wrist, raising the bleeding limb between them. Something akin to stark panic took hold of Hwoarang's mind, and all his skills in defense were lost: dumbly, he watched as the Jin-thing brought the wound to his mouth, lapping at the fresh blood almost tenderly.
For a moment, Hwoarang did not dare to breathe. He shut his eyes tightly, afraid to open them again -- what was it doing? He fought for fragments of his composure, and realized that he was against the side of the building, trapped in the crescent of ebony wings.
So slowly, he opened his eyes: Jin's deep golden gaze seemed almost mocking, daring the Korean to react as he continued to taste the boy's blood. Hwoarang shivered violently and called upon all his luck to get him out of this situation.
"Kazama." He spoke clearly, pleased to keep the shaking from his voice.
The demon paused, mouth still poised above the wound. Something passed swiftly beneath those golden glowing eyes. Maybe . . .
"Kazama," Hwoarang repeated, softer this time. "Wake up. You're acting strange."
Jin blinked suddenly, and Hwoarang watched in wonder as the strange, manic aura subsided in an instant, revealing a look of confused horror that he recognized as his rival. The Japanese boy gasped, sheer panic overcoming him as he realized his situation.
With a stark cry he pushed away from Hwoarang, launching himself up into the nght.
Hwoarang was left alone in the alleyway, his flesh tingling from where the other had drunk of him. He shuddered, remembering the sensation; hot breath beating against his skin like the wings of a thousand tiny birds . He was staring at where Kazama had disappeared into the night sky, blinded to the darkness.
A single black feather drifted before the Korean's face. He held out his hand, caught it before it touched the ground.
It was soft.
He couldn't control the laughter that poured from him as his knees finally gave way, crumpling him to the cold concrete beneath.
It had been two years and counting since that night, but the memory was still as vivid as if he were there just yesterday. Despite his searches, Hwoarang hadn't heard anything relevant concerning the youngest heir to the Mishima family. He'd heard rumors, of course; some said that he'd been murdered by his grandfather Heihachi, the same as his father almost two decades before -- Hwoarang never believed that one at all. Maybe it was his own stubbornness, or even arrogance in believing that he was the only one who could defeat Kazama -- either way, he'd had no doubts Jin would survive whatever Heihachi would attempt.
He'd not really been surprised to see Kazama's name on the roster for the 4th Tournament -- it was, after all, the only reason he'd returned to the ring. He had no desire to own the Zaibatsu. He loved fighting, but even that was overshadowed by his new goal.
Hwoarang was determined to face Kazama again, demon or not. He was going to win. And he'd made it to the last semi-final, desperately pressing onward, past the ferocious Irish assassin woman and the powerful American with such odd hair; so far before being beaten past the point of unconsciousness by none other than Jin's estranged father, Mishima Kazuya.
This was a point of interest for Hwoarang, as well as a whole new wellspring of confusion and frustration. He'd held his own against Jin's fierce hybrid of Mishima and Kazama ryu karate, and recognized many of the moves he'd encountered during his fight with Kazuya . . . this fight, however, was more than Hwoarang had even begun to imagine. His fight with Jin had been long and strategic -- a balance of offense and defense that had led to each one of their ineffable draws. Kazuya had been the definition of brutality (not that Hwoarang had expected anything less) -- fast as quicksilver and unstoppable. The scarred man had cut through Hwoarang's scrambled defense like a hot knife through butter and left him bleeding and unconscious, thrown into a broken heap against the concrete.
The last thing he'd remembered was Kazuya's hate-filled expression, eyes wide open and coming fast. He'd passed out before the attack had connected.
He opened his eyes slowly, the sterile white of the room harsh on his vision. He'd tried to sleep, but the effort was futile -- his mind was occupied with a similar fight, years previous. Hwoarang had the worst feeling that Jin had held back during their battles, and the feeling made him sick to his stomach. He was sure that Kazuya's son was more powerful -- that fact was confirmed by the cheerful British boy beside him who'd spoke in grudging awe of Kazama's power -- he passed off his defeat with a shrug, saying that it didn't really matter anyway. At least he'd lost to the Champion.
The fact that Jin had won this tournament as well wasn't that big of a surprise to Hwoarang. The only thing he regretted was the fact that he hadn't gotten to face down his old rival again.
It had taken almost two weeks for Hwoarang to recover enough for the doctors to let him out of bed. He'd been impatient, but they had insisted -- his rib cage had taken quite a bit of damage, as well as the rest of his body. They said it was a miracle that bone fragments hadn't found their way to his internal organs.
So now he stood in the lobby, waiting to fill out the last bits of paperwork, testing his sore body against the forgotten strains of normal activity. The room was crowded almost to capacity, a menagerie of squalling children and apologetic mothers smattered with a cluster of the elderly. He tried not to pay too much attention -- Hwoarang had never really cared for children, and something about the older generations scared him. Growing old was the worst thing about living, he thought.
A plump nurse struggled with his name, and in a few minutes the last of his tasks were completed. He felt almost dizzy, a combination of his own exhaustion and the pain medication the doctor had provided him -- the only thing on his mind was the modest comfort a hotel bed could afford him.
The evening light was blinding, despite how close it was to dark -- he shielded his eyes from the last rays of sunlight and began to slowly make his way down the stairs.
"Oi." A gentle, too-familiar voice called to him -- he stopped dead in his tracks, turning to face the sound.
Kazama Jin sat at the top of the stairs, hugging his legs close to his chest; the posture seemed almost childlike in Hwoarang's drug-hazed mind. Without even trying, Hwoarang could remember the pattern of dark lines that spanned Jin's mournful-looking face, the way he was shadowed in the spread of great ebon wings . . . and the dark fringe of hair that had hidden so much of Jin's face was the same as it had been that night. He blinked. The Japanese boy was dressed casually, though he still retained the aura of someone trying their hardest to blend in.
"You . . ." Hwoarang muttered, and the word sounded harsh, even to himself. He watched as Jin stood, brushing himself off before making his way down the stairs to the red-haired boy.
"They said you would probably leave today," Jin said in the same soft tone. "They said you were stubborn." His eyes were scanning Hwoarang, probably searching for the tell-tale lumps of bandages and wrapping; eventually his gaze returned to the other boy's face. "How are you feeling?"
Hwoarang stared at Jin blankly. "Why are you here?"
His arm was tingling madly: he fought the urge to glance down at the scar.
The Japanese boy frowned, his honey-colored eyes lowering almost guiltily. "I heard about what happened. And I came to apologize. For my father. I --"
Hwoarang glared. "It had nothing to do with you, Kazama." He began to walk away, ignoring the throbbing pain in his legs -- he refused to so much as use the guard rail in front of his rival.
"Hwoarang!" Jin bounded down the stairs, overcoming the Korean boy and placing himself directly in his path. "Hwoarang, listen to me." Jin desperately searched the red-haired boy's eyes with his own. "Please. I--"
Angry now, Hwoarang lurched forward, his face inches away from Jin. "Look, Kazama. I'm not some girl in distress that you need to grace with your benevolence! You don't have any business going along behind people and covering for their own actions -- all you're going to do is piss them off. It was a fight." He caught a surge of raw pain that passed through Jin's honey gaze before roughly pushing the boy aside. "Now leave me the fuck alone." He had the worst headache of his life, and Kazama was doing nothing to help that.
He sighed and shoved his hands in his pockets, making his way down the sidewalk. Hopefully there was a hotel with vacancies somewhere nearby.
Without glancing behind himself, he didn't catch Jin's tragic gaze following him worriedly, or the way he stood, staggered back with trembling hands pressed to his mouth.
He felt like he'd been walking for hours, though he was barely blocks away from his starting point. There was a horrible ringing in his ears that he figured was brought on by the huge doses of pain medication. The particular perscription had always been a little much for the Korean to handle, and he pondered this as he continued his hunt for a place to stay.
He'd really been an asshole to Kazama -- he admitted this with a heavy sigh. The other fighter had looked truly concerned, and none of it had been his fault. Hwoarang knew that Jin was kindness incarnate despite his awful power, and he'd lashed out indiscriminately, taking the weight of his own frustration and discomfort out on the nearest person strong enough to take it. This time, it had been Jin. (The medication did nothing to close his mouth either, he realized glumly.)
The worst part about it was that he actually /felt/ like an asshole, and it was bothering him much more than he thought it should. He recalled what Baek once said on that issue, that one should never strike others in weakness because to do so would be to lose before the battle had begun. He said that it was dishonorable to do so.
//You beat me again,// Hwoarang thought gloomily at his rival. Jin had made no effort to defend himself against Hwoarang's verbal barrage. //Guess there's really only one thing to do about that.// Of all things, Hwoarang knew he wasn't a dishonorable person. Besides, he absolutely /loathed/ feeling guilty.
He turned around, a soft curse on his tongue. Hopefully, Kazama wouldn't be too far away from the hospital.
Hwoarang scoured the blocks opposite the direction he'd taken --Tokyo was huge and populated, but someone like Jin always stood out despite what he tried to do, especially in the early evening hours. The sun had gone down completely, but the glow of the streetlamps was all the light he needed. He talked to the street vendors and the transients and the whores, asked if they'd seen him pass by; eventually, the path of spectators led him to sprawling Ueno park.
Glancing around at the huge expanse of trees, Hwoarang felt no surprise. He should have known that Kazama would come here: the cool, peaceful atmosphere of the place felt so much like being in Jin's presence . . .
He passed through shadows, intent on his quarry, follwing the paths and bridges despite the mad hammering in his skull. //Where are you, Kazama?// he thought ruefully. This whole escapade was madness -- he should be looking for a room, and not a touchy boy with a penchant for late nights in the park.
Something stirred in the darkness, and Hwoarang knew his search was over. He stumbled slightly as he made his way down the path, following the highlights of gravel until he came to a dilapidated bench. The lamp above it must have been broken, but he could see the outline of a person sitting, head bowed to their knees.
He studied Jin for a moment, watching the slight rise of his back as he breathed, marveling at the way those dark wings had spread from the same place. He wondered how such a paradox existed -- he'd seen the demon, the awesome brutality harbored within the boy, and yet . . . it seemed he was always hurt more by Kazama's kindness. He frowned at the figure before taking a seat on the other side of the bench.
Jin hadn't moved since he'd found him. Hwoarang wondered what the boy was thinking, even as he thought of different ways to begin his apology.
"It's chilly, tonight." He said after moments of deliberation. There. A neutral subject.
Jin flinched at the sound of Hwoarang's voice. Something resembling a grunt escaped him, but the boy didn't move considerably. //Brooding,// Hwoarang thought, and began to toe the gravel. //So he wants to play the martyr.//
Best to be straightforward, he thought. Just get it over with and go home, to whichever hotel that would be. "Look," he continued softly, letting his remorse seep into his tone, "I'm . . . sorry, that I yelled at you before. It was stupid of me, I admit, to be an asshole when you came all that way. It's just been a rough week."
"There's nothing to apologize for." Jin returned, in a voice muffled near indistinction behind his dark windbreaker.
"Bullshit. I was an ass."
Hwoarang watched Jin's head raise and turn to look at him. Something in Jin's reply irritated him -- he wasn't fond of apologizing, and Jin's brush-aside was not what he wanted.
There was something off, something wrong with the way Jin was acting tonight. Even if the boy was passive, he was never so careless as to let people come up on him without even at least a perfunctory glance.
Hwoarang settled back against the old bench and closed his eyes, leaning back to tilt his face to the sky. "I heard you won the tournament. Congratulations." He paused, and gave the other boy a smirk. "Of course, you didn't come up against me. I would have handed your ass back to you on a silver platter."
"Domo arigatou gozaimasu." He just barely saw the slight smile that crossed Jin's face. His eyes, though, still looked . . . fearful?
What was that about?
A wave of nausea hit him -- he stopped completely, squeezing his eyes shut, taking short, shallow breaths to let the sensation pass. //Stupid,// he thought morosely. The medicine was wearing off. He growled softly and fumbled in his pockets, searching for the small bottle of pills.
Jin sat up, concern taking over again. "Daijobu desu ka?" He breathed quietly, leaning over to watch Hwoarang. "Are you okay?"
Hwoarang nodded and instantly regretted it. The nausea took him again, and the bottle dropped from his shaking hands.
"You shouldn't be out here." Jin's face twisted and he knelt before the Korean, retrieving the fallen bottle. "You'll get sick for real. These are for pain?"
The Korean leaned forward. "Un."
"So ka." He stood again, his gaze never leaving Hwoarang. "I suppose you're going to take them on an empty stomach, too, ne?"
Hwoarang didn't bother dignifying /that/ with a response, but he sighed mentally at the thought of Kazama being right yet again. He was exhausted, and by all means, he just wanted to go sleep it off.
He heard Jin make a soft sound beside him, then felt warm, strong arms around his shoulders. "Come on," Jin murmured softly, "you can't stay out here."
"Leave it --" Hwoarang growled, but it was a weak sound. He hadn't been mothered in years, and the thought of Kazama trying to take care of him was laughable indeed. At least it would have been. Jin pulled him to his feet; he tried to move away to show he could move on his own, but to his own disgust he only succeeded in staggering heavily against his rival.
"Hwoarang," Jin reasoned, steadying the Korean against his side, "please just listen to me this once -- you can bitch at me later. You're not in a good position to do much of anything at the moment, and I'm not going to leave you out here all night. Just follow me this once . . ."
Hwoarang didn't have the strength to argue; now he was feeling guilty about giving Jin such a hard time. //Not normal//, he thought, and attributed the whole thing to Jin's recent fearful attitude. //Gods . . .//
"Fine." He tried not to lean against Kazama's shoulder too much as they slowly made their way through the park.
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