Summary: After the biggest fight of their lives Jin needs to come to terms with the fact that his secret it out and his mixed feelings of anger and humilation. There are more important things to worry about, however, as the two men are badly injured after their fight and they still have to figure out where the hell they are.
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: Well, I'm a little under a month with this update. I'm sorry for the delay, I was set back after some smut for a challenge on y!g completely zapped all my will to write and create... luckily that didn't last long and I'm back FULL FORCE!! The updates will come hard and fast so yay for a productive muse!! XD Remember how fast they were when I first started this project? One every week or two? Yeah, that fast.
Thank you for all the warm compliments I've received on this. Every one of them makes me smile and makes me want to write faster. I hope you enjoy where this is going! <3<3
Oh, notes about the chapter? Well, let's see... I really like this chapter in that they open up a bit more to each other. Their latent feelings for each other are starting to surface, of course, there's more drama to get in the way before any confessions are mad XDXD
"Angel/Devil's words inside Hwoarang/Jin's head"
Please see the Index for more details, chapter links and fanart.
When Hwoarang opened his eyes the first thing he felt was pain. Not quite blinding agony, but more like a dull ache that spread through one’s body after they’d spent the previous day doing the most extraneous exercises possible. He seemed to remember feeling similar discomfort the morning after a really good marathon of fucking, although that pleasant memory left him as he tried to get up and the blinding pain rushed upon him. It had been waiting to make its presence known as he climbed to his feet, drawing attention to his ribs – which had no-doubt met with a few tree branches on his way down – and his leg, which became the centre of his focus when he tried to stand. He cursed, switching to his native Korean as his hands shot down to try and ease the pain. It was so dark he could barely see his arms, and his heart thudded loudly in his chest as he felt the telltale moisture covering his fingers as he felt along his leg. He groaned, externalizing the pain that was throbbing through his entire body.
He shivered and his eyes were drawn to the prone body of his rival that was sprawled out at his feet. He could barely see the other man save for his pale skin that contrasted with the darkness. Hwoarang crouched down, biting back a moan as his leg protested being used at all, and reached out to touch Jin’s shoulder. The darker man had taken the brunt of the fall, being on the bottom and Hwoarang looked him over; well, more feeling than looking. He could see the dark shapes of his hands running along the Japanese’s back, leaving a dark trail behind as his fingers brushed over cuts and scrapes. A wave of relief washed over him as he realized that he could feel warmth emanating from Jin’s body and knew he was still alive. He exhaled a breath of relief, wanting to say something but the words really weren’t working for him. Nothing he wanted to say would fit the situation and anything that fit the situation wasn’t his style to utter. It was just as well, since Jin wouldn't have heard him anyways. He reached across to grab Jin’s shoulder to roll him over when he noticed something strange; Jin’s wings had vanished. His hand brushed along his rival’s back to where he knew the black protrusions had sprung and he was suddenly aware that his own white wings had vanished as well, as had Angel. Through mixed feelings he tried to sort through his thoughts, seeing if he could feel her presence, but if she was there, she wasn’t replying… or wasn’t able.
“Great,” he bit out, feeling frustrated. How long had they been lying there? It was pitch-dark in that area of the forest, so it couldn’t have been for very long… or they’d been lying out there for longer than a day and it had become night again. He shook his head and reached back to Jin’s shoulder to shake the other man. “Kaza-?” He stopped short as the unconscious man made a noise, more like a grunt of pain. "Shit," Hwoarang groaned, realizing he was probably in really bad shape. His mind buzzed with thoughts of what he should do. He was already chilled to the bone and even without his military training it was obvious they had to find shelter. Moving Jin was equally dangerous if he'd hurt his neck or head in the fall, but it was a risk he'd have to take, and Hwoarang swore that he'd use every last bit of his strength to heal him if something went wrong. For the first time in a while his thoughts returned to Dr. Yon and he wished that she could be there with him if only to tell him what to do.
He bit his tongue to keep from crying out as he hoisted Jin up to lean against him. He couldn't decide if it was his ribs or leg that felt worse, but a groan and subsequent cursing expressed the feeling as he blindly stumbled along the trail, a prayer mixed amid the swearing asking that someone, preferably divine, guide him to shelter soon.
One foot... in front of the other... Hwoarang pushed himself along, oblivious to everything else except for the added weight on his back and the warning his ribs were giving that they were not happy. The redhead shifted the weight on his back and Jin moaned in protest. It was easier to carry the Japanese man than drag him, Hwoarang had reasoned. However, easier did not mean easy and no matter how he shifted Jin weighed heavily on him, making him drag his feet and trip over tree roots.
"Damn, Kazama," he muttered when Jin groaned again. "If you're gonna... complain, then... guh, maybe we should switch... fuck, you're heavy... fuck... damnit!" He stumbled again and his legs failed him, sending him sprawling into the dirt with Jin on top of him. He lied there for a blissful moment, the pain thrumming through his body, a mix of his leg and ribs and aching muscles that had had enough and refused to listen to him anymore. The darkness was all around him and as Hwoarang fought to push himself up, he felt the unfamiliar tug of despair at the back of his conscious. 'Give up,' it whispered, and he wanted to comply. 'You're so warm,' it pressed, 'So warm... you don't need a shelter, just close your eyes and you'll be fine...' He let out a deep sigh, the words seducing him, lulling his eyelids to ease shut and he began to lower himself to the ground, forgetting the struggle to climb to his feet again. The forest was as good as any shelter and Angel wasn't objecting... but something didn't sit right with him and he shook his head. The desire to simply lie down and sleep was so strong, but something at the back of his mind wouldn't let him completely give in.
The weight on his back was heavy, pushing him into the earth, covering him like a blanket. "Damn it, Kazama..." he muttered and pushed himself over so that the heavy, unconscious man rolled off of him. He couldn't give in... he’d done so much to get there... and things were just starting to get interesting. He steeled his resolve to stand; noticing the feel of the ground under his hands. It was solid and firm, almost like... wood? He couldn't see, but he could feel the wooden slat that was lightly covered in earth. He reached out, his fingers spread, feeling along the ground until they brushed over another piece of wood that was set into the earth. It wasn't a coincidence and Hwoarang's excitement grew as he found another and another. It seemed that somebody had set pieces of wood into the ground along an incline in the path. Hwoarang crawled further along, eager to see if it led to help, but he stopped suddenly. He couldn't just leave Jin behind; he'd never be able to find him in that absolute darkness. Crawling back, Hwoarang almost missed Jin before stopping to listen for the other man's laboured breathing.
The redhead found it easier to stand with the hope of shelter lightening his heart and he lifted the unconscious man to his back. He followed the trail up the path, double and triple checked that the slats were still there by kicking them with his boots. His leg was protesting and he could feel the sickly-cold blood soaking through his jeans with every step, but those troublesome thoughts were pushed aside as Hwoarang's toe caught on something projecting higher from the ground. He lifted his leg and tapped higher with his boot; a thick, hollow noise sounded in the blackness. He reached his hand out and laughed when his fingers connected with a wall. A man-made wall in the middle of fucking-nowhere. It was just as dark as the rest of the forest, but it was almost as if heaven was shining down upon it with the angels and the trumpets and all the shit that signaled a safe haven. He reached out to run his hand along the wall, walking along its length until he felt the end where it formed a corner and he followed, still carrying Jin, feeling out the perimeter of the building before his fingers bumped into the frame of a door. He stopped his path, his heart beating loudly in his ears as he felt along the cold wooden frame. He could hear his laboured breathing, the lighter breathing of his rival as the unconscious man was still resting heavily over his shoulder and he reached out to push the barrier aside.
It was just as dark inside, but it was a bit warmer and Hwoarang barely stepped through the door before closing it behind him and setting Jin down against the wall. From his walk around the outside perimeter he knew that it was a small building with only enough room to lie down in. After fumbling about to feel what the small cabin had to offer, Hwoarang dragged Jin to the centre and sat down beside him, satisfied that they'd survive the night from the cold. In the morning he'd see how bad Jin’s injuries really were. As for himself... he reached down to feel his injured leg. He was cut, but the blood had started to coagulate around the edges, tearing away where his nails carelessly dragged. Putting pressure on it would be a good step before settling down to sleep, but he didn't have anything to tie it off with. He was wearing his jeans and... he fumbled with Jin's waistband, removing the thick tie from his training pants and wrapping it around his injured leg. He hoped Jin didn't mind that he was borrowing clothing from him – he was already wearing so little. His body was utterly spent from the fight that Angel had put it through and then from the effort of carrying his rival to some way post along the trails of Yakushima. Hwoarang would have thought that sleep would take him immediately as he lied back on the hard, wooden floorboards. Instead, his subconscious continued replaying the fight again and again in his mind's eye, pointing out his errors and focusing on the brief connection he'd made with Jin while their consciousnesses had been joined. He couldn't explain it, but it was just something he knew was important. His imagination drew things towards the more dramatic and it wasn't until a good half-hour later that he finally succumbed to sleep, his body seeking out Jin's for warmth.
Hwoarang's eyes drifted open hours later and he had that same terrible headache that followed him whenever he'd only managed to sleep for a handful of hours. It wasn't throbbing, but more like an incessant nagging that made thinking straight painful and annoying. It was days like that that he preferred to stay home in bed with a beer and the TV remote.
Unfortunately, he realized, forcing his vision to focus, he wasn't home. He was lying on the hard wood of a Yakushima trail cabin with his arms wrapped around the muscular and very warm body of Jin Kazama. "Kazama..." he muttered, grinding his teeth. The other man said nothing and the Korean remained in the comfortable embrace as the events of the previous evening returned to him. The fight, carrying Jin through the darkness... the both of them were damn lucky to be alive, although it would have been even luckier if they’d found a place with a proper bed. He tried stretching out his legs; the pain that suddenly shot up his thigh halted his movement. "Shit..." he rested his forehead against Jin's back, savouring the comfort of their position before pulling his arms from around the brunette's waist and moving away. He was still so tired, he squinted his eyes to see his injuries. The sunlight streaming through the cabin was sparse and it took him a moment to realize he couldn’t see shit before he hobbled over to the door to throw it open and bring in as much light as he could.
The wooden barrier swung free without a sound and the Blood Talon was left staring out past the frame at the weathered, ancient cedars that filled his view. The canopy broke in a couple places above and the sun fought to illuminate that area of the forest floor. If he’d had the luxury of appreciating the view, he might have enjoyed a rare moment of peace, perhaps even a moment of clarity where the world suddenly made sense. Other people visited Yakushima to enjoy just that type of moment, although it was wasted on the Korean who was not that type of person and, at that moment, had more pressing matters on his mind, like the injuries that he and Jin had sustained.
He hobbled back to Jin’s side, hoping that the hours they’d spent asleep hadn’t cost them more than they could afford. Jin's pallor was very pale – more so than usual – and Hwoarang grew concerned at the number of deep gashes that lined his back. He ran his fingers along the clotted and dried wounds, noting that there was nothing deep enough to be truly damaging and Jin would just have a few more scars to add to his collection. He rolled the unconscious man onto his back and inspected his chest, being sure to thoroughly search for any critical injuries. He felt along the muscular torso and thighs of his Japanese rival for anything that was obviously wrong. The darker man remained unconscious as his hands returned without any fresh blood and he double checked to make sure he hadn’t overlooked any broken bones that were jutting free. Nothing so far… he eyed the man again, suddenly noticing something troubling about Jin’s arm. Hwoarang tried to be gentle as he grabbed the other man’s wrist to pull his arm out, noting how it was difficult to push past a certain point and immediately stopped as a pained moan broke from Jin’s unconscious lips. "Probably dislocated," he muttered, grimacing as he swiveled the limb around before snapping it back into place with a loud crack. He returned the arm to a more comfortable position, feeling the anxiety churning in his guts as he couldn’t find anything else wrong and worried about his rival’s unconsciousness. “He should have woken up by now…” What he needed was some smelling salts… even cool water would work, but Hwoarang had neither and, shaking his head, he turned his attention towards his own battered body, inspecting the tie around his leg. The tear in his pants was long with dried blood caking the edges in a thick mess. He unwrapped the bandage and found a gash underneath that was swollen and red, caked with a dark, red scab. He'd have gotten stitches if he'd been anywhere else, but for the time being, the tie would suffice and he wrapped it around the wound once more to focus on his other injuries.
Bruises and scrapes covered his arms, his knee hurt but once he’d decided it wasn’t broken he ignored it. Aside from those and the cold that had seeped into his limbs, Hwoarang decided there was nothing worth worrying over. Really, Jin was the one who was still unconscious… and Jin was the one he was there to help and he’d fucked it all up. Well, not completely, although he couldn’t be sure since Angel had grown quiet. Why wasn’t she showing up to berate him? Or even tell him that – ha! – he’d done well? If he closed his eyes and concentrated on it, he could still feel a wisp of her presence deep within him, although it was so faint, almost as if she wasn’t strong enough to come up to meet him. Sighing he resigned himself to the knowledge that he was on his own for a while, with only an unconscious rival for company. He shifted, leaning over his the other man to look over his features. He’d been so different the night before, as if he’d been possessed. The angry words and even angrier expression had been etched into Hwoarang’s memory as something he’d never expected to see or hear. Devil… Hwoarang had gotten his first full taste of the entity that had a hold of Jin’s body and it had almost been too much. At the time he’d taken each move in stride, reacting and predicting every attack to keep the Devil from landing any fatal blows, but in the end Angel had needed to step in. She’d taken over his body to evenly match the dark beast in a fight that Hwoarang could only watch.
He shivered, absently brushing an errant hair from across Jin’s brow. He didn’t want to think about what could have happened. It was a rare moment where Hwoarang realized how close he’d come to death, as much as he didn’t want to admit it. He projected ultimate confidence when he picked his fights, but he wasn't stupid either and was glad to have come away from the encounter with his life… This was a new opponent and that required a new strategy. He would deal with Devil again and win, even if the only thing he could do was help Jin become stronger…
He frowned when his fingers brushed against something beneath Jin’s hairline. He felt for it again, cringing as he felt along the edges, mapping the sizeable lump from where Jin had no-doubt hit his head, causing his current state. Hwoarang cautiously inspected the rest of Jin’s head, searching for anything else that was hidden behind his black mane. The strands of hair slid through his fingers as he felt along every inch of his scalp, grunting in relief when he didn’t find anything more. “You’re fucking lucky, Kazama,” he muttered, tracing the lump before absently moving up to finger the long, soft mane of black hair. “A few hours and a bag of ice will fix things. Baek knocked me out good a few times too, so… you’ll be fine,” he muttered, his mind wandering back to his master. He’d been so busy focusing on Jin that thoughts of Baek had drifted to the back of his mind; still important, but not of immediate concern. He spun several strands of hair between his fingers as he thought of the letter that Baek had written. It had definitely been his master's writing. He had no doubt that Baek would be able to find another way out of the service he’d been pressed into… but Hwoarang couldn’t stop feeling guilty for… he didn't know what. Letting that girl die? Baek had probably been told a lie to explain his student's absence and to keep him tied to his duties with the military. The lie would be unflattering at best, disgracing at worst... he just hoped the older man didn't believe it.
He sat back on his heels, ignoring the pain in his leg as he tried to come up with an idea of what to do next. Just walking out the door and onto the trail would be foolhardy and he knew it; their fight high above the island had skewed any chances of them landing even close to where they’d started. For all he knew they were on the other side of the island, and he didn’t have a map… “Fucking great,” Hwoarang muttered, withdrawing his hand from Jin’s head to finger the bandage around his own leg. They weren’t dead yet, but that could change quickly if they just sat around doing nothing. It was up to Hwoarang and he was injured. “Fuck it, I’ll be back,” he cursed and rose to his feet. “Just... wait here, Kazama. I’m going out to scout around and see if I can find help.” He chuckled to himself when Jin said nothing. “If I’m not back soon, then wait longer …” he reached up to remove the goggles from his forehead, holding them in his hand for a moment before laying them across Jin’s chest. He hoped that it would be enough to let Jin know he’d return. He hoped the other man didn’t wake up to wander off before he got back, and he hoped that he found a way out of their situation soon. “Don’t leave, Kazama,” he turned to walk out the door into the encroaching foliage of Yakushima.
Hwoarang felt his body warming as the sun peeked through the trees to touch his skin. He’d been walking for five minutes and had already lost sight of the cabin amid the trees. It was a beautiful day, although the Korean’s mind was too preoccupied to care. He didn’t know where he was and he couldn’t see any buildings around to find help. The forest, though beautiful, was closing in on him and he bit back the unfamiliar feeling of anxiety that churned at the back of his throat. He pressed onward, committing the trail to memory so he could find his way back. The pain in his leg became a dull ache as he moved quickly along the path and his growling stomach voiced its irritation. He ignored them both in favour of the feeling of dread at what would happen if he didn’t get back to Jin soon. All he could think of was Jin.
He didn’t know how long he’d walked for, although he could see it was early morning as he looked up to see the sun breaking through the trees and smiled tiredly at the sound of rushing water that filtered through the woods. He doubled his pace, coming to the river's edge before falling to his knees and dipping his hands into the rushing currents to bring the cold, clean water to his lips. He'd had a beer the night before and didn't realize how good plain, 'boring' water could taste. He gulped down the crystal liquid, only stopping when his throat felt like ice from the cold and he sat back on his haunches, sated. He didn't even care if his jeans were getting soaked, it was too fucking good.
He tilted his head back, red-tipped locks falling over his neck and the sun shone down with its full force, heating his body and imbuing it with new strength. He could have sat there all day, but he wanted to get back to Jin. Removing his shirt, Hwoarang dipped the garment in the cold water, soaking the fabric as a makeshift compress. What he wouldn’t give for a bottle or something to carry some water back. The cabin wasn’t too far of a trip from the stream, but he’d prefer a container to bring water to his rival, rather than carrying Jin out to the river. He sighed, looking up the stream to see if he could find anything useful. It was one of the rare times that Yakushima’s pristine nature that was so well kept by the locals and visitors alike worked against him; not a bit of garbage could be seen along the trickling waters. He looked back to the stream that churned around his legs before continuing along its path. He watched the water go onwards to disappear behind a bend of trees and rocks. The green giants filled his vision as he looked upwards and got an idea. He sloshed over to the water’s edge, grabbing the trunk of the first tree he saw and hoisted himself into the air. He pulled himself up, finding footholds on bending branches and made it a few metres up before he lost his footing and crashed to the mossy ground. “Shit!” he swore, looking up at the tree that was young by comparison to its brothers. He wandered back up the path until a large cedar caught his eye. It was wide and ancient, the branches growing out thickly like a multi-armed beast. He tested its strength, climbing onto the lower branches before continuing upwards. He made it higher the second time around and was soon perched on a thick branch high above the forest floor. Through the branches he could see that he hadn’t even reached the halfway mark for many of the trees, but didn’t need to climb higher because he could already see the blue of the ocean breaking through the greenery in several places. They were close to the perimeter of the island, and he remembered flying over the island days before when he’d first arrived. There had been a single road wrapping around the island, close to the water, as if afraid to move any further inland. Once they reached the road, they could find their way back, and it was with that happy thought in mind that he scrambled down the cedar to the forest floor and rushed off to the cabin, stopping only to visit the stream again to take another drink and dip his shirt in the water again.
Hwoarang pushed against the wooden door to the trail cabin with some trepidation at what he’d find inside. He didn’t know if he expected to find Jin dead or up and walking around, but he breathed a sigh of relief when he found that his goggles hadn’t moved and the darker Japanese man still lay prone on the ground. He walked up to his side, shirt-turned-cold compress in hand and knelt close to his head. He reached out to run a hand along the nasty lump that was hiding beneath Jin’s hairline before pressing the cold cloth to his scalp.
Hwoarang pressed a hand to Jin’s chest, holding him in place as he made a low grumbling in the back of his throat and tried to roll away. “Don’t be that way, Kazama,” he chided, keeping his hand firm until Jin stopped struggling. He withdrew his hand and stretched out on the floor, yawning and propping his head under his arms, wondering if there was anything else he could do while he waited for Jin to wake.
He closed his eyes to rest but was woken from fitful dreams a short while later as images of Dr. Yon at the mercy of that damned Chin bombarded his subconscious. He decided he’d really have to try and contact her when he got back. There were lots of things that he needed to do, but quickly added them to the backburner in his mind as he turned to his rival once again. The darker man was breathing steadily, arms relaxed at his side, Hwoarang’s goggles rising and falling with the motions of his chest. “Think I’ll take those back, sleeping beauty,” the Korean said, reaching out to grab them when Jin’s hand snapped up to grab his wrist. The Korean paused, eyes darting up to look into Jin’s eyes. They were dark and unfocused. “H-hey, that was quick,” the redhead breathed a sigh of relief while trying to extract his hand from the darker man.
Jin held his wrist in a steely grip, his onyx eyes hazy as they searched the redhead’s face for something familiar. Hwoarang met his look, trying to hold back from wrenching his hand free and calmly let Jin fully rouse. The waking state Jin was in passed quickly and those hazy, dark eyes snapped to immediate recognition before he released Hwoarang’s wrist and looked away from him.
“Kazama?” Hwoarang asked, unsure of what was going on. “Are you alright? You don’t have amnesia or anything, do you?”
“No, that won’t be a problem…” he ground out, reaching up to pull the damp cloth from his forehead. “I remember everything.” He tried to roll onto his side, but winced as he felt the pain in his shoulder. “Damnit…”
“What’s the matter with you, Kazama?” Hwoarang asked, all immediate worries for his rival fleeing his mind as he brought his leg up to inspect his thigh. “Here,” he said as he unwrapped the tie from his leg and handed it to Jin. “The bleeding has pretty much stopped and you’ll probably want the tie back for your pants if you don’t want them to fall down when you walk around.”
Jin looked over at the strip of cloth that was dangled beside his head, splotches of dried blood showing in a few spots on the weathered cloth before he looked past it towards Hwoarang. His eyes were hard and closed off; the uncertainty they’d held since Hwoarang’s arrival had vanished and was replaced with a cold anger.
Hwoarang draped the tie over Jin’s chest when he didn’t move to grab it and fully stretched out beside the other man. “So-!”
“You knew,” Jin cut him off, sitting up to wrap the cloth around his waistband.
“Knew what?” Hwoarang asked, trying to be as nonchalant as possible. “What I don’t know is where we are-”
“I don’t care… where we are,” Jin said, wavering as he climbed to his feet. He gritted his teeth in annoyance, raising a hand to his head before balling it into a fist and looking down at the redhead who was still stretched out on the ground. “You knew about me… the whole time you knew about it…” His voice was calm, almost accusatory before he dropped his fist and walked to the door.
“Hey,” Hwoarang said, springing to his feet only to falter as he landed on his injured leg. “Damn, sure, I knew about Devil. I heard he was being a bit of a pain, so I thought you’d-”
“Thought you’d what, Hwoarang?” he spun around to look Hwoarang in the eye. “Get the fight of your life?” Jin sighed, shaking his head. “I hope he was worth it…” he narrowed his eyes, hurt flashing in those dark pools before he closed them. “I need some time alone…” he turned and walked through the open door, his long strides carrying him far as Hwoarang tried to follow on his injured leg.
“Damnit, Kazama! What the hell is your problem?” he tried calling after the Japanese man, but his voice was swallowed by the greenery around him and very soon he found himself completely alone. “Well, that went well… what the hell did I do wrong?” He patted his jeans, absently searching for the cigarettes that weren’t there before looking back at the cabin. He quickly hobbled back to grab his goggles and anything else they may have left and set to finding Jin. “Finding that ungrateful bastard?” he laughed to himself as he rounded another bend in the trail to find no sign of where he’d gone. “Shit, no, that won’t be too hard at all…”
Jin balled his fists as he half-ran along the winding mountain path. He felt like screaming and crying at the same time, but that raw emotion choked up in the back of his throat and he couldn’t even let it out. His mind was racing and he didn’t even look to see where the trail was leading him. He just moved, trying to get as far away from Hwoarang as he could. Alone was best right then. The thing was, he couldn’t even fathom why he’d reacted like that with Hwoarang, he’d just felt something inside of him snap and he couldn’t make it stop hurting. The feeling wasn’t something he was used to, it wasn’t from Devil. It was the embarrassment at losing control and letting Devil slip through. Hwoarang had seen him weakened and he just knew that the other man would never look at him the same way again. That was what tore him up; the one person he hadn’t wanted to see him like that had been left staring down his darker half. He was weak and humiliated and after the fight, when Hwoarang had saved him, he’d lashed out at him…
He shook his head, the images of their fight playing clear and vivid in his memory. Devil had been more and more aggravating and as soon as he found Hwoarang still at his cabin, the beast had gone ballistic. Hwoarang was so damn stubborn – more like Devil than that beast would like to admit – and then everything had exploded from there. He could remember snippets of pain from his transformation and the shock he’d felt when Hwoarang had grabbed him and held him close, telling him… to fight it.
Jin smirked sullenly, kicking a tree root as he hiked up an overgrown trail. After that he’d been unceremoniously shoved to the back of his mind, left to watch as Devil finished claiming his body. He’d been angry that Hwoarang hadn’t listened to his urging to leave and he remembered the paralyzing fear that the beast would use his body to kill the Korean. He’d begun screaming for Devil to stop, only calming when he realized that they weren’t moving. The beast was just standing still, glaring down the other man and when Jin looked, he could see the change that had taken over Hwoarang as well. The redhead was clad in white, mirroring Jin’s own black clothing; right down to the wings that spread out from his back… he’d been so confused all he could think of was how angelic Hwoarang had looked. Then Devil had moved and everything went into action. Jin cursed as the rest of the fight played out in his mind’s eye, fresh and inescapable. He needed time alone, away from the other man. Jin turned to look down the trail he’d come before sighing and hanging his head; Hwoarang was nowhere in sight and he was completely lost – in every possible way. “Probably for the best…” he said to himself and as if by instinct turned his attention to the trees, seeking out the perfect one with branches low to the ground that he could climb. Nothing helped clear his mind better than finding the tallest tree around and just scaling it to the top so he could look out over the island. From that high up everything was green and filled him with a sense of peace. It brought him back to his childhood when he’d climb the trees to see how far he could get. Back then he hadn’t been trying to get away from the ground so much as he’d been trying to reach the sky.
This time he just wanted to escape from everything.
The sun had already started its descent to the tree line when Hwoarang finally found Jin. He’d had a hell of a time wandering through the forest and it was a mixture of luck and some latent army training that had led him to the tree that the dark Japanese man had climbed. He didn’t know how he’d even found the guy, just that one minute he was wandering around the trails and the next he looked over and was inspired to climb a particularly attractive tree. The branches had been low and inviting and before he knew it, he could see Jin’s leg slung over the side of a very thick branch.
Jin had heard him… he must have, but still Hwoarang paused in his ascent. The other man had been really pissed off earlier – something that Hwoarang knew had to be a rarity with Jin – and he wasn’t sure if it was the right time to bother the other man. He couldn’t feel Angel in his mind to push him on and he almost started climbing down just to wait at the foot of the tree. He looked down before something in his mind snapped. Did he need Angel to push him to do what he’d promised? He was there for Jin and it wasn’t in his nature to turn away just because things might be tough. Without another thought, Hwoarang climbed the rest of the way to find a place to sit just beside his Japanese rival.
“Hi,” he said when Jin didn’t look at him.
This seemed to startle the other man out of his thoughts and he looked down, a strange look gracing his features before he closed himself once more. “How did you find me?”
“How should I know? Probably the same way I did before,” he said cryptically and left it at that.
Jin didn’t say anything.
Hwoarang pressed his back to the ancient trunk and let one of his legs dangle over the side. He puffed out his chest, and looked out beyond the leaves of the tree to see what Jin was staring so intently at. “Nice view,” he said, feeling stupid that he was making observations to fill the air between them. The comment seemed to urge an agreeance from Jin. The raven-haired man made a low sound in his throat before he sighed and turned to Hwoarang.
“Your powers,” Jin started, speaking slowly, accentuating every word. “They’re familiar… where did you get them?”
Hwoarang looked right back at him, staring up into those brown eyes that he was happy weren’t that terrible white anymore. “It was a gift from your mother,” he said matter-of-factly. “I was in some trouble and she came up to me and gave me her powers. I promised her…” he trailed off, not really sure if he should tell Jin he’d agreed to help. How would he feel if Jin showed up to help him whenever the shit hit the fan in his life? He’d never had anybody there for him before, but he knew he’d hate for anybody – especially Jin – to see him in a compromising situation like the one Jin was in. He didn’t know if the other man felt the same way and decided to keep that bit to himself. He hadn’t shown up expecting to hold his hand, he thought too much of Jin for that and he was starting to realize that what Jin thought of him mattered as well.
“Why would she do something like that?” Jin asked when Hwoarang trailed off. “I-I don’t understand… so she told you all about me… about Devil?”
“She did it because she cares about you,” Hwoarang waved off Jin’s mounting concern. “Believe me, I wasn’t her first pick, but when she told me about Devil and the shit you were going through…” he trailed off, seeing Jin’s expression falter. “Well, I can completely understand how annoying it would be. I mean, I’ve had Angel in my head rattling off every time I did something she didn’t like. Damnit, that bitch can be so pushy.”
Jin just stared at him, mouth agape.
“I know you probably don’t want my help, but Jun followed me around until I said I’d come over and find you. But just so you know, Kazama,” he said, casually bringing a knee up to his chest before adjusting his goggles. “I’m not the hand-holding type, so I’m not going to fight him for you. That’s your job. I just wanted to be around in case you wanted someone… or…”
“Thanks, Hwoarang,” Jin said, breathing a sigh and smiling for the first time since he’d woken.
Hwoarang didn’t know why that little expression put him at ease, but it lightened his mood and he returned it with a lopsided grin of his own.
“I didn’t want you to go,” Jin said suddenly, as if he’d just thought of it and wanted to get it out. “I never did, it’s just that-”
“Hey, don’t worry about the details, Kazama,” Hwoarang said when Jin couldn’t find the words. “I don’t know about you, but Angel seems to be taking a little nap right now, and if Devil is too, then that means it’s just us so you don’t have to worry. I’m gonna stick around, but if you need some time alone to deal with that fucker, then just take it. Go off and meditate or whatever it is that helps you ignore him.”
Jin nodded, making a pleased sound in the back of his throat. “Yeah, I can’t feel him either. I think he’s sleeping… thanks…”
“Hey, don’t thank me; I haven’t done anything… yet! And don’t think that I’ve forgotten our rematch, Kazama,” Hwoarang reached out to poke Jin in the leg. “Let’s just put it on hold for now, eh? Yakushima is neutral ground so no real fighting, deal?”
“Neutral ground,” Jin rolled the words around, as if tasting them for the first time. “Sounds good,” he nodded and extended his hand to Hwoarang so the two could shake on it.
The two men sat there until the sun was nearly hidden behind the tree line. Jin had coaxed the story from the unusually quiet Korean, listening to how Angel’s powers had been given to him. He’d drawn the story out piece by agonizing piece until he realized just what type of situation his mother had found Hwoarang in. His heart had ached for his companion when he’d recounted the details of his last mission… he started to feel guilty for stirring the emotions in the otherwise gruff and laid-back man. He tried to backpedal, but it seemed he’d opened a floodgate and Hwoarang kept talking about how the girl, Min, had been shot by the other man on his team. Jin felt an instant dislike of the man, Chin, who’d pulled the trigger and then beat Hwoarang into a coma.
Well, Jin surmised that Hwoarang had been beaten into a coma. The other man glossed over how it had happened and Jin had to repress a smile at the thought of his rival-turned-companion losing to someone else. Not losing, actually, Chin probably fought dirty and Jin’s smile quickly turned into a sneer at the image of it happening.
Hwoarang continued on, faltering when he mentioned his mentor Baek Doo San. Jin hadn’t known, but Baek had been attacked by Ogre, just like his mother had. In that moment, Jin felt like he’d suddenly grown closer to Hwoarang, just knowing that their parents had been attacked by that monster. However he sliced it, Baek had been a father-figure to Hwoarang and Jin felt anxious just hearing about the situation the redhead had left him in. His anxiety intensified as he heard about the doctor that had helped him escape from the military hospital and that feeling melted once he heard the stories of Hwoarang’s old gang and the things he’d done there. He was sure that the redhead was holding back some information, glossing over the gory parts and omitting several pointless tales, but he stopped talking once he’d finally reached the part where he’d arrived in Yakushima and Jin knew how the rest went.
“I’m glad that Baek is still alive,” Jin started, his eyes wandering away from the other man. “I just wish that my mother had fared as well…”
“Hey, just because she’s out there in spirit form doesn’t mean she’s dead, Jin!” he reached out to put a hand on the other man’s knee. “She’s not some ghost; otherwise she wouldn’t be able to follow you around and bug the shit outta me. Hell, I was fucked up when I was in a coma, maybe something similar happened to her and she’s just outside her body!”
Jin tried to smile but failed, feeling depressed with the thought that Jun could be in any type of situation like that. He felt the other man squeeze his leg and he forced a smile. “I know. I just wish I could see her to ask… I haven’t spoken to her since I was fifteen and so much shit has happened since then…” he trailed off, his mind racing to his grandfather’s betrayal before he shook his head and pushed the thought from his mind. The fact that she’d approached Hwoarang was very comforting, if only to know that she was still with him. “I’m glad that she picked you, though,” he said, changing his mood in a flash before looking out to the sky again. “It’s getting late…”
“Good,” Hwoarang said, rolling off his branch to find a foothold on another beneath him. “Let’s climb down. While I was looking for your ass I found a path that leads to the main road.”
“Great, maybe we can find out where we are…” Jin said hopefully as he passed Hwoarang.
“I did see a sign that said something like Miyanoura Port being a few kilometers from here…” Hwoarang cursed as his foot slipped and he fought to hold onto a branch. He watched as Jin swiftly found the right footing and climbed down with the grace of a monkey.
“What?! Oh, crap,” Jin exclaimed as he hit the ground.
“What?” Hwoarang asked, jumping to land with a hollow thump beside him.
“Miyanoura is on the north side of the island,” Jin said with a heavy sigh. “We landed on the wrong side.”
Hwoarang watched the Japanese man hunch his shoulders in an almost comical way before following him down the trail. “Well, at least we’re still on the right island!” he piped up, trying to keep from laughing as he followed Jin down the trail to the main road. He could tell that Jin was feeling better, and he was glad that he’d been able to get past the awkward morning-after encounter without anything more than a few harsh words and hours wandering alone through the forest. He hoped that was the end of it too. He sighed happily as Jin led the way through the darkening woods. His first fight against Devil hadn’t gone exactly as he’d planned – Angel taking over and fighting for him definitely not being in his plan – and while he enjoyed a good brawl, he hoped there wouldn’t be anything like it in the near future. He was there to help Jin, and while he wasn’t sure how to do it, he had a good feeling he was on the right path.
~End Chapter Twenty-Two~
| Index | Chapter Twenty-Three |