Merci (etchedindigital) wrote,
Merci
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[TEKKEN] Unlikely Angel - Chapter 24

Title: Unlikely Angel
Chapter:  24
Author: Merci
Summary:  Hwoarang follows Jin along the trail through Yakushima. He knew he was prepared to tackle the excursion and any discomforts that would arise, though he was unprepared for the unexpected thoughts about his rival

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 and making me some awesome fanart that always brightens my day!! <3 <3
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:  Right, so this chapter is a bit late becuse of an electrical storm that's damaged my computer. It's rather difficult to update from my dad's comp, but I've managed to carry the file over and update (what a pain in the ass.) I wanted to get this up because I hate taking too long between updates. Enjoy!

"Angel/Devil's words inside Hwoarang/Jin's head"
'Hwoarang/Jin's thoughts'

Please see the Index for more details, chapter links and fanart.

+++

Chapter 24

Jin Kazama woke after a particularly restful sleep. He sighed happily, fragments of a pleasant dream flittering away as he brushed the sleep from his eyes and stretched, sinking his head into the pillow. He let his arms flop out around him, luxuriating in the size of the bed that he had all to himself. He paused, turning that thought over in his mind, as if the weight of it wasn’t quite right. ‘Oh, that’s right, Hwoarang used to be here… he mused, rolling over to fully spread himself across the king-sized mattress. A second later he bolted upright in bed, fully realizing where they were and the things Hwoarang had done the last time he’d been left alone. He looked around the empty room for his companion. “Hwoarang?” he asked a little louder than he’d intended, but there was no reply. “Shit,” he muttered, slinging his feet over the edge of the bed and padding over to the door, the stolen pants hung loosely on his hips and he tightened the drawstring as he glanced out the window and his annoyance melted away.

The brightness of the sun was piercing the sky, lighting everything beneath its influence. The sea-front view that the bed & breakfast had boasted of was well-claimed. The yard petered down towards a private beach, the dark sand mingling with the bamboo grass before it raced out to meet the lapping shoreline. He could barely contain his excitement and resolved to look for his friend to share the moment. He spun around, his excited energy colliding with that of Hwoarang as the redhead picked that moment to throw the door open with a bang and march in.

The man was a whirlwind of activity, kicking the door shut with his foot as he hopped over to the bed to throw a new pile of things down onto the sheets. More clothes, Jin saw, as well as a few bottles of water and… things. “Hwoarang, where…?” he began, not really wanting to know the answer.

“Alright,” the redhead started once he’d spread the items out to his satisfaction so that they could see them. “I know that you don’t like me stealing from poor tourists-”

“I don’t like you stealing at all,” Jin cut him off.

“-So I went for a walk down the beach and I found this five-star resort,” Hwoarang continued as if Jin hadn’t said anything at all. “It was really swanky, the type of place where you go into the bar, get a beer and they don’t ask for money. Something about charging it to my room,” he waggled his eyebrows and Jin felt his resolve to stay mad waver. “So I was sitting there, enjoying my free beer and I was talking to this couple from Argentina. Their Japanese sucked, but I managed to figure out that there’s this store right up the road that sells supplies, so I stocked us up with some new shit. I needed new underwear, anyways, and that is something I don’t wear second-hand!”

“Hwoarang!” Jin frowned before he realized what he’d said. “Wait, you bought this?” he looked again at the heap of stuff on the bed. Everything had tags and he felt his shoulders relax once he realized that Hwoarang had bought it legitimately. “Oh,” he muttered, reaching out to look through the things. He had to admit that Hwoarang seemed to know what to buy as he eyed two of everything; water bottles, backpacks, sweatshirts, shorts, shirts, tin cups and even a small, portable stove.

“Everything we need,” the Korean continued, sitting on the bed in a way that radiated how proud he was of himself. “I know all about survival training and the shit that goes into it, so I prepared us. I’ll prove that I can handle your little island, Kazama!” he chimed, his eyes taking on the familiar competitive glint.

“Maybe not so little,” Jin reached out to grab at a pair of red shorts with a black design up the side. “I hope you saved some money for food…”

That caused the Korean to deflate a bit and Jin grinned, rolling his eyes. “Good thing I didn’t give you all the money, then,” he reached into the bedside table to withdraw the last of the money that he’d managed to take from Hwoarang the previous evening, showing it before tucking it into his pocket.

The glint returned to Hwoarang’s eye as he looked from Jin to the window and then back again. “Wanna train?” he asked, his voice belying his excitement.

Jin looked over, a jolt of anticipation rushing through his body. “Sure,” he nodded.

They quickly changed and headed down to the beach. It was still fairly early in the morning and there was nobody else to bother them. It had been several days since their first morning training back in the clearing by Jin’s home, though after the events that had transpired between them, it felt more like weeks than days separated them and it was refreshing to return to something simple and familiar. The two men faced off in the soft sand, their stances more relaxed somehow, less tense. Both men were truly fighting on their own without any external influences and it translated to an easygoing training session, neither man truly focused on coming out on top, but rather working their own moves to perfection against the other.

Jin observed that Hwoarang didn’t hold anything back. He focused mostly on his kicks, swinging his foot as high as he could and Jin took the opportunity to duck down and lash out with his own foot, catching him off guard. The brunette smiled as his foot impacted against the redhead’s thigh, causing his leg to buckle and Hwoarang dropped to one knee. Jin laughingly rolled to the side, intending to spring up and launch himself forward, although he miscalculated the softness of the sand and he ended up falling on his face instead.

Hwoarang stopped struggling to climb to his feet when he saw his opponent floundering on the beach and all seriousness he’d held during their short session seemed to leave him. He smiled widely and threw himself forward, landing in the sand beside Jin. He shifted his position so that he was lying parallel to the other man and lazily propped his head up, waiting for him to stop struggling.

Jin grunted in annoyance as he found his foot had caught in the sand and was bracing himself for Hwoarang’s attack as he saw from the corner of his eye as the other man launched himself through the air. He turned to face him as that irritatingly-endearing Korean landed beside him and proceeded to shuffle about until he was staring right at him. Jin frowned, “What?”

“I’m done,” Hwoarang announced, rolling into his back.

“But I’ve barely worked up a sweat,” Jin complained, sitting up and casually wrapping an arm around his knee. “You know, if you get lazy with your training you won’t last long at the tournam- ow!” his taunt was cut short as Hwoarang reached out to pinch the underside of his thigh. “What was that for?!” Jin cried, a bright flush rising to his cheeks and he tried to repay the attack, but found it difficult to worm his way under Hwoarang’s legs and settled for pinching the redhead’s side. “You can be so childish sometimes, you know that?”

“Hey!” Hwoarang flinched. “That’s all part of my style,” he said, rolling out of the way of another pinching attack. “Besides, who is the one trying to tickle me right now? Damn, and you call me childish?”

Jin frowned, he was having fun! Why’d Hwoarang have to ruin it by calling it childish? Then he grinned, “You’re ticklish?”

Hwoarang’s eyes grew wide as Jin tried to poke him again and he leapt to his feet and sprang several metres down the beach with the grace of a man running for his life. The two fighters raced around in the sand for a bit, venturing into the water to cool down before returning to their room to shower and pack for the trip. Hwoarang mentioned something about not seeing a proper shower again until he bugged Inoue at the hot springs again, which was a few days off. Jin brought up the idea of just taking the bus and navigating the complicated schedule, but the other man seemed to have his mind set on proving that he could trek through the island interior and wouldn’t hear any change to those plans. As if to cement his stance on the issue he insisted on dragging Jin back to the supply store once they’d finished checking out of the bed and breakfast.

“The name implies free food and I’m not leaving without some!” the redhead exclaimed once they’d showered and dressed in some of Hwoarang’s pilfered apparel. The breakfast room was cozy with a few other groups of people sitting about. There was an open balcony that overlooked the beach with several tables – already occupied – set up for guests to eat their meal while enjoying the view.

Damn, we must have given them a show…’ Jin thought back to their training but then dismissed the tinge of embarrassment. They hadn’t done anything worth being embarrassed over, but he still bristled at the idea that someone was watching their time together.

Hwoarang had made a beeline towards the buffet table and Jin quickly chose a quaint table at the corner of the room where they could talk privately. People started gathering as he waited, and by the time Hwoarang returned, Jin was a little perturbed. “Took you long enough, now all the good stuff is taken.”

“Sorry,” Hwoarang scratched his head and set his plate down. “I guess this place caters to a lot of foreigners, so they’ve got a bit of everything to eat from all over. I didn’t know what I wanted…”

“So you took a bit of everything?” Jin offered with a knowing grin. “Well, I know what I want, so I’ll be quick.” With that the Japanese fighter stood and walked purposefully towards the buffet, ignoring the looks he was receiving from some guests at one particular table. By the time he returned, the youngest of a family of three was outright staring back at his table where Hwoarang was seated. The child was trying to get his mother’s attention, though the woman appeared to be engrossed in whatever magazine she was reading. “Mommy, that man over there is wearing daddy’s shirt that you hate so much, and that one is wearing your pants!”

Jin saw the child pointing at him and he cursed as he rushed as calmly as he could to grab Hwoarang by the arm and casually make it seem as if they’d decided to eat their meal in their room. By the time they were in the hallway, they’d collapsed into peals of laughter. “Damnit, Hwoarang, see what your stealing has done!” His reprimand was belied by the mirth in his eyes as he tried to look straight at the other man but failed.

The redhead couldn’t reply for the laughter he was trying to hold in. “Shit, Kazama, I didn’t even think that someone would recognize this stuff!”

“Well, they did and now I may have an angry woman trying to get her pants back from me!” Jin gestured to his comfortable linen slacks that somehow didn’t feel as nice since he knew they were a woman’s.

“You don’t have to stop wearing them; they probably look better on you anyways!” Hwoarang chuckled, smacking the other man on the ass.

Jin turned bright red, “Hey!” he spun around. “What was that for?”

Hwoarang scratched the back of his head, still laughing. “Girly pants,” he explained and began walking away, his Japanese rival hot on his trail.

Needless to say, Jin stripped out of his borrowed pants and threw on some of the new clothes that Hwoarang had bought. Guaranteed to be men’s clothing and not attract any attention from its previous owners. He stood in the middle of the room, eyeing the garment before he stepped into it, wondering if Hwoarang would be the type to buy him ladies’ clothing… no, the cut and colours were definitely made for a man. Shaking his head he pulled them on before sitting to finish his breakfast with Hwoarang who had taken it outside. They wasted little time packing their remaining clothing into their bags, stopping by the breakfast room to stock up on some food for their journey and then checking out and proceeding to the supply store.

Hwoarang tried to get in on helping select the food to bring. A four-day trek would require some food that was easy to carry and wouldn’t spoil. Their pilfered breakfast bagels would last them for their first day, but after that a little dried meat would work nicely. He tried telling Jin this, but the darker man ignored him and trusted the store owner’s recommendation for foods to bring. If they’d had more time, Jin would have better prepared by visiting the market to buy his own selection of food, but they didn’t have the luxury of several days’ preparation and instead selected some pre-packaged goods.

They were already a little over an hour of traveling into town, the extra minutes taken up by Hwoarang who insisted on visiting a convenience store to buy something other than water to drink. He argued his case and eventually won Jin over, if only to get the show on the road and finally start their hike. A couple canned coffees later and they were trudging down the main road towards the trail that led through the island.

Hwoarang was eyeing the last of their money, grumbling that it wasn’t enough and wondering aloud if maybe they should hustle a couple of fights to replenish their funds.

Jin shot him a glare, the thought of hustling anybody on his island incredibly distasteful to him. “Don’t even think about it,” he warned.

“Aww, c’mon, Kazama… alright, fine, not here – there aren’t any good marks around this place anyways – but if we get back to one of the cities…”

“No,” Jin shook his head, hoping that the length of their trip wouldn’t entertain the conversation.

“But, you and me… working together…”

“No hustling,” Jin put his foot down. They’d met through Hwoarang’s hustling, although the darker fighter despised the deception involved. He just didn’t like tricking other people that way…

“Aw, forget it, then,” Hwoarang laughed, pausing so that the other man could catch up before casually slinging an arm around him. “I know that’s not your thing… especially since most of the marks I manage to find are so weak. We’ve got the tournament to look forward to for some real fights!”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Jin looked over at him, showing that he wasn’t bothered by the close-contact even though his heart skipped the moment the Korean touched him. “First you’ve gotta show me how tough you are by getting through this hike.”

“Ha! Piece of cake!” Hwoarang stepped around to face Jin, leaning in close before stepping backwards and taking the last few steps towards the trail that would start them on their journey. “C’mon, Jin! Show me your big, bad forest!”

Jin stepped up his pace and followed the boisterous redhead; ducking the foliage of the under-used path and leaving the sunlight behind as the canopy enclose the sky above him. He tried to repress a grin; he had a strong feeling that he would enjoy the next few days. He’d hiked through the island for week-long excursions with his mother. He was prepared and he still had no doubt that he’d he hurting by the end of their trip. He couldn’t help but feel a sense of growing excitement for what would come.

+++

By the end of the first day Hwoarang was still maintaining an air of confidence over their trip. He’d started the day as well as he could, picking up supplies so that Jin wouldn’t have to worry – even though the bastard had insisted on pointing out he’d forgotten food – and he may have gone a little overboard with the chitchat, but he was just so looking forward to their trip. More than he should have, but he supposed the chance to show the other man that he could survive in his home turf was almost as good as proving his worth in a fight. Almost. Really, he was starting to enjoy Jin’s company, even though the other man seemed to be intent on being a wet blanket for things like hustling and stealing. Despite the little drawbacks, he was enjoying the little quips the other man came out with. He’d say something he thought was so witty, and then Jin would come out with something that just cut him up in the most dead-pan tone that Hwoarang just wanted to punch him in the shoulder like he’d done with his buddies back in the day. Pull him in to muss his hair or something. He was craving contact with Jin and the more he thought on it, the more he grew to think that it might be more than it seemed.

No-no-no, he’d stop that train of thought right there.

He unfurled his bedroll on the floor of the cabin, noting how it appeared to be in better shape than the one they’d stayed in previously. His first instinct was to complain obnoxiously, but he held his tongue, determined to show Jin he could handle it. So instead he decided to play if off like it was nothing. “Hey, great first day, Kazama,” he declared, laying down on his bedding and propping his hands up under his head to look up at his companion. “If the rest of the trip is like this, then you might as well admit right now that I can handle it.” He watched the Japanese man as casually as he could, though trying to pick up any hints as to what the other man was thinking. Would it be easy, or were the first through kilometers just easy to inspire false hope?

Jin silently brewed his tea on the miniature stove staring intently at the gas flame that was the only sound in the cabin. That quiet hiss that filled the air between them and Hwoarang could feel the weight of Jin’s thoughts before they seemed to dissipate suddenly and those dark eyes flitted up to look over at him. “We’ve barely stepped through the entrance,” he smiled with a challenging tone and withdrew a map from his pack. “See, we’re taking this route here that takes us up along the perimeter of Mount Miyanoura-dake. The further we go the rainier it’ll get…”

“A little rain won’t kill us, Jin,” he smiled rolling onto his side to get comfortable.

“Heh, maybe the rain won’t, but it doesn’t mean that it’ll make it easier.”

“Yeah, we’ll see,” Hwoarang mumbled, closing his eyes and drifting to sleep.

+++

Hwoarang maintained that same bravado for the following day, all through the rain that started falling early morning and even after falling face-first in a puddle and catching Jin laughing at him, he still smiled and claimed he was having the time of his life.

And he was.

Well, it wasn’t something he’d ever dreamed that he’d do, but once he got in with it he had to admit that the time alone with the other man was refreshing. The night previous he’d lied awake, stricken with insomnia, open eyes staring blindly into the darkness and seeing Jin clearly in his mind’s eye. He thought back to his first impression of Jin, and the resentment he’d held for the other man after losing his match. He’d thought deeply on these issues before, but never with the same… excitement as he did then; and he couldn’t put his damn finger on why he felt so giddy being out there. Being able to see the progression of Jin’s demeanour, from when he’d first arrived – Jin being at the mercy of Devil’s whims and rants – to the revelation of his possession to their alone time where both their spirit-entities were dormant. He liked Jin by himself, he was more alive, quick to quip and poke fun at him. Hell, Hwoarang could fucking talk to the other guy when he was like this. It wasn’t painful like pulling teeth. Jin’s fear of Hwoarang finding out about his black beast was gone, and Hwoarang was starting to see the real Jin emerging. He liked it. All through the second day into the evening, even the rain that began to fall all around them couldn’t turn Hwoarang’s thoughts away.

The morning of the third day the two men woke early and set out along the trail. The rain from the night before had left the trail muddy and slippery as they scaled the side of Mount Miyanoura-dake that would lead them further south and closer home. Hwoarang was doing his best to keep from complaining, keeping up the appearance of having a grand old time when in reality the rain was starting to wear him a bit thin, and the impossible trail that Jin had found for them wasn’t brightening his mood any.

“Uh, Jin, are you sure this is a real trail?” he asked, cautiously holding onto a branch as he scaled down some jagged rocks. “I mean, this is at about a fifty five degree angle, here… if we fall; we’re dead.”

“Yes, I’m sure we’re still on the trail,” Jin huffed, climbing down ahead of the redhead. “What’s the matter? Too tough for-”

“Nope, not at all!” Hwoarang forced a laugh which turned into a curse as his foot slipped on a rock. “I just thought you might want me to have a look at that map to make sure that we’re not lost.”

“We’re not lost,” Jin assured him, although Hwoarang was sure he detected a bit of uncertainty in the other man’s voice.

The Korean looked down, watching his rival skillfully skipping down the path – which he was positive was a dried-out river bed – leaving him higher up. He cursed and hurried along as best he could, holding onto tree roots and boulders to keep from tumbling headfirst and taking Jin along with him. ‘It would serve that bastard right if I did, though,’ he thought. ‘…leading us down this damned trail that isn’t even a real path and I’m going to break my fucking neck here just to prove that I can take his shit… damnit, he would be leading me down the hardest trail… bastard… ’ His thoughts continued in that vein, a sort of mantra that helped him keep focused until they reached what seemed like the end. The land began to flatten out and a small path appeared to lead down on a different angle and what looked to be an easier decline. Hwoarang pushed onward; tired, but gripped by the greater need to not show weakness. It was an old habit he’d picked up somewhere back on the streets; the weaker he felt, the more he pushed himself to prove the opposite. That didn’t stop him from sighing happily when Jin suggested they sit down for a moment to catch their breath, and he quickly hurried to a large, flat boulder the size of a car to lie back and let the rain filter through the leaves to bathe his hot body.

Jin didn’t say anything to the Korean’s actions, although Hwoarang was sure that he sensed something akin to amusement in the way that Jin grunted before hopping up beside him. They lied across the boulder in silence; both men letting their gaze wander along the endless green of the leaves and moss-covered trees.

Hwoarang didn’t know about his friend, but his imagination chose that time to become contemplative and muse over the silliest things. Almost as if picking up from the imagery of a couple days previous, he immediately thought of Jin, comparing him to the forest that he’d fully and wholly become immersed in. The rain was heavy outside the canopy, the rain pelting the leaves and creating a far-away roar in the air to accompany the drops that finally made it through the green barrier. Hwoarang sighed and propped his hands behind his head. The whole place was just amazing; it was green and beautiful and all-Jin; and even though Hwoarang was gruff and crass, he could appreciate its beauty. Like Jin, Yakushima could be cold and deadly, but was still breathtaking in its own way, and if he was really honest with himself, Hwoarang knew that it wasn't the challenge of a fight he'd been chasing. Oh sure, his rematch still occupied some small place in his mind, but something else had pushed its way to the forefront. It was something more emotional; something about Jin drew him in and made him hang on for dear life. He didn't want anyone else in Jin's focus or on his mind but himself, and that included Devil. Instinctively he inched closer to the other man before casually turning his head to look over. Jin was soaked and flushed from their descent and he’d peeled his shirt off to bundle up as a pillow beneath his head. Hwoarang looked down from the other man’s face, tracing the outline of his muscled arms that were resting casually by his sides, hands brought up to thread fingers across his stomach. He was staring up at the treetops as well and Hwoarang wondered what he was thinking. Thinking about him? Worrying about Devil? Jin’s expression was relaxed, his brow resting neutral above his dark eyes. He felt a surge of adrenaline coursing through him then and Hwoarang was at a loss of what to do. His heart was pounding in his chest, but he was just lying there looking over at his rival. “Jin…” he started, trailing off as something beyond the other man caught his eye and he bolted upright to get a better look. “What the fuck is that?” he whispered hoarsely, shifting gears away from his fuzzy thoughts to address the more real and pressing concern.

“What?” Jin asked, lazily rolling over to look in the direction that Hwoarang was forcefully pointing to. The din of the rain seemed to go quiet then as a sharp sound pierced the air around them. It was a hollow, whining shriek that stopped abruptly, leaving its resonance to echo off the trees. The two men immediately went silent, their breaths falling to wisps of fog, their bodies freezing in place as they stared at the source of the sound.

There was the sound of a twig snapping as the thing moved towards them and the shriek pierced the air again, this time in shorter bursts and Hwoarang found himself inching even closer to Jin, putting a hand on his shoulder to pull him back. “What the fuck is it?” he breathed into the other man’s ear, worried that even that would trigger the beast to attack. He felt Jin’s body shaking under his touch, though it took a moment for him to realize that the other man was laughing. Laughing! Holding in the sound by clamping a hand over his mouth and turning towards the Korean with eyes full of mirth. “Shit!” Hwoarang struck out with his hand, pointing towards the dark creature that pushed its way through the trees, a crown of ivory sitting high upon its head like bleached tree branches and the stag stared right at him.

“Oh… shit…” Hwoarang breathed, the sound barely registering in the air as the impending danger was immediately diffused. The deer let out another high-pitched shriek and trotted off along the pathway, multi-coloured tail swishing as it went and Hwoarang tried to regain his composure.

Jin couldn’t hold back his laughter any more. “Oh god, Hwoarang, I can’t believe how scared you were over that little-”

“Scared?” Hwoarang blurted out, his voice a little higher than he’d intended as he swiveled around to look at his companion. “I wasn’t scared, Kazama! More like concerned! Who knows what kinds of… things are hiding out here!”

“Well, there are monkeys and deer and a few bugs…” Jin said slowly, trying to straighten out his expression but failing. “Nothing that I’d have to protect you from, though,” he finished as he hopped off the boulder and reached to retrieve his shirt.

That got Hwoarang’s mouth moving, though he couldn’t quite think of anything to say. Finally he sputtered, “P-protect me? I don’t think so, Kazama!” he hopped off the boulder, grabbing Jin’s shoulder to spin him around. “I just didn’t expect to see anything out here. It caught me by surprise!” Jin raised an eyebrow, still smiling widely and Hwoarang decided to switch from defense to offence. “So how much further do we have to go? Want me to have a look at that map so we don’t stumble down any more dried up stream beds?”

“Ugh,” Jin grabbed his bag to find the map. “Well,” he said, unfurling the chart and doing his best to keep it dry while he poured over it. “We should reach the sugi fields by today or… next,” he stopped to scratch his head before looking down the path. “Ah, uh, yeah, let’s keep following this trail.”

“Don’t tell me you’re not sure, Kazama,” Hwoarang exclaimed, pushing the attention away from his reaction to the deer. “You may love all this nature, but if I don’t breathe in some pollution or a cigarette soon, I think I’m going to die.” He paused as Jin’s expression faltered and hastened to add, “Not that this isn’t nice. Really, it’s fucking beautiful.” He tightened his grip on Jin’s shoulder before releasing it. “I like it well enough, but I don’t like being stuck out in it and have no idea where I’m going. We could die if we’re not careful…”

Jin smiled widely again and moved closer to Hwoarang, his expression bright as he pointed out where he thought they were. The redhead noticed how close Jin was to him. He fought the ingrained urge to lean back to show his dominance, they could share the space in front of the map and instead leaned so their shoulders were touching. He saw the markings where the mountains were laid out and the path that they’d been following. He put his hand across Jin’s back as he leaned in point at a landmark, asking a question he didn’t even care to know the answer to. He was feeling greedy and taking advantage of the opportunity for more contact. Jin was addictive, though at the last minute he regained his sanity and abandoned the path he was treading. “Ah, alright, Jin,” he muttered as he pulled away to look down the trail. “You’re the local so I’ll let you lead the way.”

Jin seemed to like the suggestion, oblivious to Hwoarang’s groping, and his expression brightened as they gathered their stuff to continue down the path. “I grew up here with my mother, so I’m used to it… I like it.”

“Uh-huh!” Hwoarang exclaimed, skillfully stepping around a tree root as the path took a sudden turn to the left before continuing along at a comfortable angle. “That would explain why everyone here seems to know you. I met another one of your mom’s friends. She gave me a ton of food – which will hopefully still be edible when we get back – and some special tea for you. Some old recipe-”

“Ah!” Jin exclaimed stopping and spinning around so that Hwoarang nearly crashed into him. “She gave you that… but-?” Jin’s mouth moved, though no sound came out.

Hwoarang put his hands on his hips, “What, is that important or something?”

Jin bowed his head, embarrassed. “That is a mix my mother used to give me to, ah, help with… you know…”

“Ah, that bastard can’t stand the stuff?”

Jin looked at him shocked. “He’d be pissed if he heard you.”

“Damnit, Kazama, when is he not pissed?” Hwoarang laughed. The sound seemed to bring a smile to Jin’s face and the redhead pushed his advantage. “Anyways, he’s not here right now so there’s not much he can do about it. Besides,” he continued before Jin could brood. “You don’t have to take his crap. He likes to talk, but he can’t do shit unless you let him. You worry too much-”

“And you don’t worry at all,” Jin cut him off.

“Nonsense,” Hwoarang looked at Jin in all seriousness. “I’m worried about getting lost and having to sleep under a tree.”

Jin shook his head as if he was disappointed and turned to continue down the trail. “That is the least of my worries.”

+

“Maybe you should have worried a bit more, Kazama,” Hwoarang said a few hours later as the rain beyond the canopy had increased, its force bypassing the leafy barrier and soaking him through and through.

“It’s… not much… further…” Jin said, clutching his sides for warmth. “It always… rains a lot on… the island…”

“I thought you lived here. How the hell can we get lost?” Hwoarang, as much as he’d grown to like Jin was losing his patience. He couldn’t help it, he got that way when his feet were sore and frozen.

“I don’t know the whole damn island, Hwoarang,” Jin bit back, clearly uninterested in entertaining the other man’s complaints.

“Oh, fuck, Kazama, you know how I get when you swear like that.”

“Damnit, would you shut up?” Jin spun around, looking into his companion’s amber eyes with tired yet challenging brown.

Hwoarang stopped short before he walked into Jin and the two men stood nose-to-nose in a short-fused standoff. He glared down, his previous warm and fuzzy feelings drenched and tired and he wasn’t ready to listen to anything other than directions to the closest place to sleep.

Jin’s eyes remained cold and exhausted. He opened his mouth to say something but closed it, leaving the only sound between them their heavy breathing and beating hearts.

Jin’s temporary anger was the first to subside and his face softened after a couple minutes. “You’re not helping, Hwoarang, so just be quiet, alright?”

Hwoarang breathed heavily through his nose and just shrugged, he was happy to back away from the man, though a wicked grin was pulling at the corners of his mouth. “Alright, Kazama, maybe I was being a pain in the ass…” he pushed his way past the Japanese man as a strange electricity sparked between them – which had nothing to do with their dormant inner-spirits. He paused for a moment before gently pushing Jin out of the way so he could continue down the trail. He took a few steps and paused, turning to face the other man. “You coming or what?” he asked quietly, keeping his tone light despite what he was feeling. “Let’s keep going. We can’t be that lost, right?”

Jin frowned and rushed to catch up and the two continued side-by-side along the widening trail. Their brief hostility seemed to have evaporated – or perhaps drenched and seeped into the ground under the downpour – and they continued along in strangely amicable silence, their cold discomfort the only thing on their minds.

The cabin was right around the next bend.

~End Chapter Twenty-Four~

| Index | Chapter Twenty-Five |
Tags: *series: unlikely angel (tekken)
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