Summary: Hwoarang is hiding out with his friend Doyon, who runs his own "business". He settles into his old life a little too easily while laying low to avoid being picked up by the military. Still, at the end of the day, thoughts of helping Jin course through his mind.
Feedback: Comments are welcome; constructive or positive. Flames are nice too because they make for something to laugh at and keep my feet toasty.
Special Thanks: To my beta Kat for betaing everything I send her, and listening to me talk her ear off about this thing.
Disclaimer: The characters found here *do not* belong to me. The story itself *does* belong to me. I am making no profit from this endeavour.
Notes: Hwoarang still isn’t quite ready to run to Jin quite yet. I feel kinda bad drawing out their reunion over the next few chapters, but I hope it entertains rather than irritates. Hwoarang is more of a reluctant knight in shining armour than an eager one so it’ll take a bit longer, but he’ll get there ^_^
While visiting his friends Hwoarang smokes. Not a whole lot, but more of a social thing. Based off my own experience I know it can be done like this without an addiction starting. While cigarettes might be detrimental to a regular human’s health at this point, I’m sure Angel is in the background, angrily healing his lungs with every puff of his cancer stick.
"Angel/Devil's words inside Hwoarang/Jin's head"
Please see the Index for more details and chapter links.
Hwoarang spent his first night at Doyon’s on the couch. After waking sometime close to three in the afternoon the next day he was shown to a room in the building that Doyon promised he could use for his entirety stay. The building was his and he could do what he liked with it, which involved letting his gang live there, rent out rooms to regular people and run his business. The casino took up the two levels under the penthouse; his gang guarded the mid-section, staying close in case their services were needed with any unhappy customers in the gambling hall. The levels below that were rented to regular people that Doyon approved personally; the only obvious evidence that he still cared about anything, although it did make a nice cover to deflect the cops when they came sniffing around. When Hwoarang saw this he was strongly reminded of Doyon’s family when they’d taken him in off the streets and the sanctuary he’d felt then. He was offering it to others, although in not as kindly a way. Regardless, beneath his harsh exterior, Doyon still mourned their deaths, even if it was only Hwoarang who could see it.
Of course, business came first and by the second day Doyon had Hwoarang accompany Hitch to collect on debts owed to him. Hitch was a large, stoic man with a broad chest and dark brown hair. He said little very little, or if he did it was with an annoyed lilt in his voice, as if talking was an inconvenience.
He was in an even fouler mood than usual as they sped along in the Neon. Doyon had insisted that they visit a shop on the outskirts of town to pay a visit to the owners there, and neither Hitch nor Hwoarang could say anything on the matter. The blonde had been quite adamant that Hwoarang go, and he’d almost had a smirk as he’d waved them off that morning. “Tell Ma Parker hello for me, ya?”
Hwoarang had never liked long car rides, and the drive out to the shop was taking longer than he could bear. He didn’t even think before he reached over to poke Hitch in the ear just for something to do.
“What the fuck?” the larger man yelled, swerving on the road as he hunched his shoulders and tried to avoid the redhead’s finger. “Fucking stop or I’ll kill you!”
Hwoarang laughed. “Why couldn’t we take the Ferarri? Just once I wanna ride in the Enzo! That was a sweet ride.”
“That’s Doyon’s car. We get the Neon …” he trailed off as a disgruntled frown tilted his mouth downwards. Behind his glasses his eyes narrowed as he peered over the steering wheel of the small car.
Hwoarang frowned too, although he couldn’t repress his laughter. “Well, can’t you ask for something else?”
“They never see us coming in this,” Hitch said, gunning the engine. “Doyon’s got a fucked-up sense of humour.”
Hwoarang was surprised that he’d gotten something of a conversation out of his partner, although it didn’t last long as the older man fell into silence again as they turned off the road and parked the car. “We’re here… you ready?”
The gig wasn’t brutal as most of theirs usually were. The elderly couple that owned the shop had been friends of Doyon’s family and Hwoarang and Hitch’s only job was to check on them and ask if their earlier problems with a rival gang had been resolved. What was unexpected about the visit was their immediate recognition of who Hwoarang was. It had been so long since Hwoarang had been around his old neighbourhood, and while he’d lived with Doyon’s family for a few years, he barely remembered the couple that seemed to have a very intimate history of past events involving him when he was a child.
“Oh, dear sweet Gi!” mother Park cooed once the proper introductions had been made and the two men had been invited into the back room for tea. “I can remember visiting and you’d always be covered in bruises! You were always such a fighter!”
“Now, dear,” her husband said, taking sympathy on the redhead. “I don’t think he wants to be called Gi anymore. Don’t embarrass the boy!”
“Nonsense,” she brushed her husband away and gleefully sipped her tea. “It’s so nice to see you’ve come back, Gi-Gi!”
If it had been anybody else Hwoarang wouldn’t have tolerated the treatment, or the resurrection of his nickname. He could sense Hitch’s eyes on him and could feel the amusement there. As it was, he kept his teeth together and listened as the old woman recounted story after story involving him and Doyon. She slurped her tea and gleefully recalled a turf war that Hwoarang and Doyon had had with a group of other kids, but the way she recalled it, one would have thought it was a simple make-believe war.
Hwoarang remembered losing a few teeth when a kid had hit him in the face with a rock during that ‘make-believe war’. It wasn’t just pretend; it was for their honour and to keep the new gang away from their area. He’d led their group against the others with Doyon’s help. At the end of it, there were more than a few trips to the hospital, although he’d been proud that the only thing he’d broken was teeth, and for him he’d just spat them out and gone home.
All this he didn’t tell her, of course. Mother and father Park were sickly sweet – almost eccentrically so. Mr. Park seemed to have some sympathy for his ego, but by the time that Hwoarang and Hitch left, the redhead was thoroughly frustrated, annoyed and embarrassed.
“Well, that was fun,” Hitch said as he climbed into the driver’s seat. “I didn’t know you were such a dork when you were a kid, Gi-Gi.”
Hwoarang shot his hand out and grabbed the other man by the throat. “Call me that again, man! C’mon, I dare ya! I need to blow off some steam so let’s go!” He tried to pull Hitch forwards, but the other man was just too big to manipulate like that. He grabbed Hwoarang’s hand instead and twisted it around. It was difficult to move in the car, but he managed to pry the enraged Blood Talon’s hand from his neck. “Relax, Gi. I’ll introduce you to Rora. Take your frustrations out on him”
Hwoarang growled loudly but didn’t say anything else. He glared for a bit at the other man while they drove back into the city, but gave up when Hitch didn’t look back at him. He lit a cigarette.
Rora was a thin, greasy man who tried to live up to the North American-pimp stereotype with every ounce of energy he had – even though he didn’t have any prostitutes to care for. He did love to gamble and usually borrowed more money than he could afford. He occasionally fed Doyon a tip on places that had valuable merchandise that needed to be relocated to Doyon’s safe, or even the names of other gamblers who were planning on skipping out on their debt. It earned him a bit of leniency on his debt, but it wasn’t much and Hitch was usually banging down his door each month looking for money. When he opened the door, a strange odour poured out of his apartment into the hall and hit both Hwoarang and Hitch in the face; a strange combination of almonds and earth with an acidic undertone. The pimp wore a bright blue jumpsuit with gold stripes up the side and what appeared to be a cigarette tucked in behind his ear. His brown eyes lit up when he saw the pair standing there and his mouth broke into a smile that showed his yellowing teeth. “Hitch! I got Doyon’s money!” The lanky man opened the door to his apartment and let the pair of thugs inside although blocked them from walking any further in than the foyer. He bustled off further into the apartment and Hwoarang leaned in to see where he’d headed off to before he returned with an envelope. “I’ve got a hot tip for him too, but this time I want a bigger cut. Could you tell him-”
“Tell him yourself, I’m no here to negotiate for him,” Hitch said, snatching the envelope from Rora’s bony fingers.
The thin man looked from Hitch to Hwoarang, his eye twitching as the two men didn’t move after he’d handed over the money. Hitch tucked the envelope into his jacket and turned to Hwoarang who smiled brightly, oblivious.
“Well I hate to keep you two waiting,” Rora said, eyeing his watch.
Hitch growled and smacked Hwoarang on the shoulder. “We don’t have time to fuck around, Gi-Gi. We still have a few more stops to make…”
“Y-yeah, right…” Hwoarang trailed off. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he could sense that there was something very strange about Rora. He’d only just met the man, but he got a strange feeling when he saw him. He finally shrugged his shoulders and turned from Rora and left the apartment with Hitch at his side him.
“Bye, Hitch, Gi-Gi!” The pimp called after them before the door slammed shut and the deadbolts were shoved back into place.
“Who was that asshole?” Hwoarang asked once he and his co-thug had returned to their car.
“That thing is one of the guys who hang around the casino all day, and he’s also one of Doyon’s best informants. He’s the type of shit that can worm its way in with anybody to listen for good ‘business opportunities’. He might not look it, but he can talk. Doyon likes him because he could sell ice to Eskimos.”
“Why would Eskimos buy ice?”
“THAT,” Hitch said with a wry grin, “is the point! Guy can’t fight worth shit, but he can talk his way out of anything so try not to listen to him if and when you’re pounding his face into the dirt. We thought we’d caught him trying to skip out on his debts, but he always sweet talked his way out of it.”
“Hmmm,” Hwoarang acknowledged but didn’t say more. Rora sounded like the type of shit that he and Doy would beat up when they were kids, so he automatically didn’t like the guy, but there was something else. He had a bad feeling when it came to him, but he didn’t know enough to say more to Hitch.
The two men drove off to finish their rounds of collecting and intimidating before it was time to return to the Devil’s Cage. The two men traveled up to Doyon’s apartment and the blonde overlord greeted them warmly with beer before taking the money and putting it in his safe.
“So, how’d it go today? Any problems? How is mother Park?” He took a swig of beer before lighting a smoke.
“No problems; the Park’s are fine and everyone paid up,” Hitch said, his voice a controlled monotone. “Oh, you were right. Mother P recognized Gi-Gi the moment she saw him.”
Hwoarang bit back a remark and drank his beer, glaring daggers at his dark partner.
“Oh, Gi-Gi! I’d forgotten she called you that, ‘Rang!” Doyon laughed, pulling Bloom closer to him. The brunette girl didn’t seem to notice him; she was still glued to the TV set.
Hwoarang looked over and the man with the insanely long braid was glued to his videogames. It occurred to him that they probably weren’t even aware that he and Hitch had returned. Every time he visited his friend the woman was either glued to her kung-fu movies or sleeping. He’d caught her in the training area once or twice, but the TV screen had been turned towards her and she had barely been receptive to his presence even then. Mick usually nodded towards him and he’d caught the other man in a conversation or two, but his fingers never stopped moving on his hand-held console and it was like pulling teeth trying to get anything coherent from him when he was playing a difficult section of his game.
After reminding Doyon of Hwoarang’s nick-name, Hitch didn’t say much else. He almost seemed anxious to get out of there; edging his way towards the elevator.
“Oh, Hitch!” Doyon said, suddenly breaking the story he was in the middle of telling. “Take Gi down to the pit to show him around, will ya? I think Moon wanted to see you too.”
Hwoarang could sense Hitch’s demeanour darken at the request. The older man silently rose and walked to the private stairwell that led to the two levels below the penthouse. “Doy likes being able to check up on all his clients whenever he wants. He’s got guys keeping security, but he likes to have easy access anyways,” Hitch explained as they descended to the first level down and they opened the heavy, metal door to a dingy, yet richly furnished room. “Our two floors are below these so we can guard it and shit. Sometimes he opens up the basement-”
“Alright, alright. I got it. He likes making money from suckers, I gotcha.” Hwoarang looked around and whistled at the sight. It seemed that they’d done some renovating and several of the walls that normally would have separated the individual apartments had been taken out, creating a larger room for gambling machines and tables. A heavy layer of smoke hung in the air, barely moved by the windows that were open fully to try and circulate the air.
The door slammed shut behind them, the noise catching the attention of a large, burly man in a suit. He nodded to them, giving Hwoarang a questioning look before Hitch nodded that he was okay and the security guard leaned back against the doorframe at his post. His eyes were vigilant and Hwoarang was impressed by the skill the other man observed that entire section of room. If the other security that Doyon had hired was this good, then he really did have a good business going on there. He followed hitch along the long room, passing a large number of business men and sleazy men alike, each hunched over a card table or eagerly watching a dice thrower that practiced his skill. He whistled low as the heavily tattooed man spun the two spotted cubes in the air before catching them in a cup and slamming them down in front of him. The tension in the gamblers at that table mounted as the cup was lifted to reveal how the dice lad landed. Hwoarang couldn’t see what was rolled, but noticed the dismay on one man and the elation of two after seeming to have won. Hitch dragged him further along to groups of people smoking heavily as they sat around tables; their cards kept face-down in front of them or held tightly to their chest, fearful of anybody but them seeing their value. The dealers working the tables were fairly attractive women, which was surprising considering the usual dealers at the other illegal casinos that Hwoarang had seen. It seemed that Doyon was trying to recreate his own little Las Vegas right there in the Devil’s Cage. His eyes roamed over the people before settling on one woman that seemed to stand out against the gloom and smoke. It could have been the way her tight, revealing outfit accentuated her figure, the sparkles and sequins catching his eye and leading it along to the more private areas on her body. While she was attractive, he noted that it was in all likelihood the glare that she was directing his way that made her stand out. She narrowed her eyes further before she flipped her brown hair over her shoulder and turned back to her table. Hitch walked over towards her and Hwoarang followed, unsure of what was about to happen, but keeping an eye on the exit in case he had to leave fast.
“So, Chu. Nice to see you could come down to see me,” she said, dealing her cards but never looking away from him.
Hitch tensed. “Well, it’s not nice for me to have to come down here to see you, Moon. What did you need? Unless you were –”
“Don’t even start,” she cut him off, her face contorted with anger and the lone gambler at her table wisely grabbed his money and left the arguing couple. “Don’t you fucking start, Chu. Sun needs someone to take care of him. I gotta work late and the babysitter can only keep him until eleven.”
Hwoarang wasn’t even introduced and just stood dumbly as Hitch began to argue with Moon. It was a private argument that only the Blood Talon and the rest of the casino patrons were privy to, but Hwoarang was the only one who could be pulled in at any moment. He tensed, inching back towards the exit. He froze when she turned her angry eyes towards him. “Lady, don’t even start on me,” he put his hands up defensively before she could get a word out. “I just work here.”
“So do I,” she sniffed, looking the redhead up and down before turning back to Hitch. “My brother thinks I do more, which is a fucking lie and he knows it. Look, if you won’t watch Sun then you won’t. I’m sure Doy will understand when I leave early.”
“Fine!” Hitch yelled. “Fine, I’ll pick up your slack, Moon. Just like always!”
“Yeah, just like always, Chuong! Where would I be without you?” She didn’t wait for an answer and turned back to her table. “I gotta get back to work – that is if you haven’t scared off all my customers.”
“I could only hope,” Hitch mumbled under his breath. Moon ignored him, her sequined costume catching the light and leading Hwoarang’s eyes to places they shouldn’t have gone.
“I’ll get outta here around two. Don’t touch the juice in the fridge, but you can help yourself to the ice cream,” she saw someone behind them and her expression changed to a bright smile as she beckoned to new gamblers to come to her table.
“Hrumpf!” Hitch tugged on his jacket lapels and turned on his heel and walked away with Hwoarang on his tail.
“Mind telling me what the fuck just happened?” Hwoarang asked the older man as he was led out to the hallway and away from the growing action as the night started up. Hitch’s stride was longer than usual and he only stopped once Hwoarang grabbed his shoulder and spun him around. “Hey, Hitch. What’s going on?”
Hitch had the same scowl on his face that he usually wore; only this time he was digging in his pockets for something. After a moment he pulled a cigarette case out and pressed the button that released the cover. Putting the tobacco stick between his teeth he angrily lit it before offering the tin to Hwoarang as an afterthought. The redhead shook his head and Hitch shrugged, putting the tin away. “That bitch is my sister. You can see what she does; only she usually gets friendlier with her clients the more money they bring to the table. Fucking idiot… Sun is her kid and when she’s busy working I usually get to baby-sit. Nice, eh?” He sucked on the smoke and inhaled deeply, a look of pain on his face but he said nothing else. “That Rora jerk is one of her clients, and… it’s just… aw, fuck! Forget the details, Gi. Forget I said anything.” They stepped into the elevator and Hitch punched in the button for his floor and crossed his arms, angrily tapping his foot while smoke coiled up from his cigarette, still clenched between his teeth.
Hwoarang reached out to punch his own level but paused. “Want some company?” he asked. He didn’t really like kids but he figured that Hitch could use a distraction while he was there, and Hwoarang wasn’t completely heartless to the situation the kid was in. He didn’t know the whole story, but he could certainly draw his on conclusions.
“If you want, man,” Hitch sighed, stepping through the doors into the hallway. The level down was decorated less warmly, with tile flooring lining the lobby in a simple pattern that matched the faded and chipped paint on the walls. It wasn’t as nice as Doyon had decorated the casino levels, but it was still nice. Hitch walked heavily down the hallway with Hwoarang right behind him. He stopped in front of one of the many doors that lined the passage and knocked. The door was opened, the chain preventing it from opening further while an elderly woman peered out.
“Oh, hello, Chuong!” she chimed and quickly closed to door to slide the chain out of the way. She opened the door wide this time and let Hitch and Hwoarang walk in.
“Hi, Nana. Moon asked me to take over. Thank you for watching Sun all this time.”
“Oh, you’re welcome. The little dear is just watching TV,” she chimed and went to gather her things. “It’s terrible that Doyon keeps her working for so long, but I suppose we all have our debts to pay to him, don’t we?” She didn’t seem sad while she said it and merrily left the two thugs in the apartment.
“She did that with entirely too much cheer,” Hwoarang commented. Hitch shrugged again and re-locked the door. The two men walked into the apartment and Hwoarang noticed how it was much nicer than his own. Probably because he’d only just arrived for all he knew Moon had years of accumulated bric-a-brac. Hitch pitched his spent-cigarette into the sink, the sound of water extinguishing the remaining heater was a brief hiss and Hitch turned and was leading the way down a hallway that led further into the apartment.
It wasn’t long before the sounds of a television met their ears and they opened a door to a large room that was mostly filled with a large couch along two walls, a coffee table and a young boy watching TV. He was already in his pajamas and was dozing on the cushions when he sat upright at their arrival. “Uncle Chu!” he cried and hopped off the couch to give Hitch a hug. It took him a moment to notice that Hwoarang was standing there and without missing a beat he greeted him as well. “Who are you?”
“That’s G-!” Hitch began but stopped at the look that the Blood Talon gave him. “Uh, it’s Hwoarang, Sun. He’s been working with me for the past few days.”
“Cool! I like your hair, Hwo!” he reached up to try and touch it but gave up when Hwoarang didn’t bend down to give him access. “When’s mom coming home?” he asked suddenly and Hitch twitched.
“She’ll be home late, but when you wake up she’ll be here. I thought you’d want some company.”
“I can take care of myself, Chu,” Sun said all-too easily and he smiled before climbing back on the couch, immediately entranced by a loud explosion coming from the speakers.
“Does he know what we or his mom do?” Hwoarang whispered harshly, making sure to not be heard by the kid.
“Not exactly,” Hitch said, lighting another smoke. “He knows Doyon runs the show…” he looked at his smoke before looking at Sun. “Uh, Hwoarang and I are going out for a smoke, okay, Sun?”
The boy nodded and Hitch dragged Hwoarang out onto the balcony. “What did Moon say we could take out of the fridge, Gi?” he asked once he’d made himself comfortable on one of the chairs.
“I don’t remember, Chu,” Hwoarang laughed.
“Shut up, Gi!” Hitch glared at him before sucking back a lungful of smoke and then laughing.
“I’ll only stop with the Chu, if you stop with the Gi,” Hwoarang tried bargaining.
“No-no, that’s not the way this works, ‘Rang. I’m older so I call you what I want and you respect me and don’t call me by my given name.”
“Chu is your given name?” Hwoarang asked with a grin. “Sounds kinda girly for an asshole like you.”
“Alright, it’s Chuong, but Moon keeps shortening it. It’s my off-work name, so don’t ever use it when we’re working! I don’t want anybody fucking targeting my sister, got it?”
Hwoarang forced his smile down and nodded. “Alright, alright. I’ll do it.”
“Good,” he snubbed his smoke out in the ashtray. “Ice cream?”
“Well,” Hwoarang thought for a moment. “Shouldn’t we get Sun in on that?”
“Well, it is too late to feed him that kinda junk… but alright. Nana can be too strict with him about that kinda stuff, just like a real grandmother! I’m supposed to be the cool uncle, after all.”
The two men went inside and found their way to the kitchen. The freezer wasn’t working too well and the ice cream was soft, yet edible. Hitch prepared three bowls and they returned to see what Sun was doing. When they got there, however, they found that he’d fallen asleep. Hitch carefully picked him up and took him to his room while Hwoarang changed the channels to see what else was on. It was the most bizarre scenario that he’d seen in a very long while; a man who worked for a casino owner/loan-shark while his sister worked the tables dressed like a whore (doing god-knew what else) and the two took care of a healthy-looking kid who seemed oblivious to their activities. Hell, if Hwoarang had met Sun first he’d have expected that the kid was living a normal life; his apartment was nice enough. It was far beyond what he’d had growing up, even though Doyon’s family taking him in had made things much better than living on the streets, at least better until Baek had taken him in. There had still been hard times; nothing like what Sun was living in now. The activity behind the scenes of Sun’s life wasn’t ideal, but the surface appeared to be the best possible for him. Well, for someone growing up in this neighbourhood it was almost perfect.
He felt his mind drifting as he absently changed the channels, not really focusing on what he was seeing, but letting his thoughts recap everything that had happened to him. He’d probably still be hurt it hadn’t been for Jun and that power she gave him. He was starting to understand how it worked, although he had a feeling that there was more to it than just focusing on energy and growing wings. He shifted uncomfortably at the thought of his feathery appendages. He was supposed to help Jin… it would probably make sense if he were to actually go to see his rival, although he couldn’t just say hello and goodbye to Doyon. He’d wait for a while until the heat from the army cooled down and he could move around easier. ‘Jin…’ his blood stirred whenever he thought of the Japanese fighter. The dark man had always blown Hwoarang off whenever he’d tried to get his rematch, and therefore blown him off from even having a real conversation… although now that Hwoarang knew there was something going on inside him, he wasn’t so angry. He’d have trouble fighting too if the voice in his head was working against him like the Devil inside Jin was. He was lucky that she’d been so patient with him to this point. He’d finish up later, but he just wanted to spend a bit more time at Doy’s place. Hwoarang yawned and shifted to a more comfortable position on the couch. Though he tried to keep his eyes open, he slowly drifted to sleep. His dreams were dominated with images of the man nicknamed Fatal Lightning, with flashes of white and black wings separating them and his resolution to find Jin strengthened.
~End Chapter Twelve~
| Index | Chapter Thirteen |