Summary: Hwoarang's feelings become stronger the more time he spends with 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.
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: I have a feeling I'm going to be the recipient of some hate for this chapter. It is short (compared to other chapters,) I could have made it longer and included a few scenes that I have written out to beef it up and bring back some hope for the happy couple. However, I felt this chapter needed to be on its own to highlight the feelings Hwoarang is wrestling with and bring them to the centre of our focus.
"Angel/Devil's words inside Hwoarang/Jin's head"
Please see the Index for more details, chapter links and fanart.
The next thing Hwoarang knew was that he was lying on the hard ground of another trail cabin. He was surrounded by soft blankets and while he luxuriated in the comfortable feeling they provided, he lazily noticed that he was sleeping in his underwear. A quick glance over to the window showed that his clothes where hanging up to dry alongside Jin’s clothes. The thought of the other man jostled him into full consciousness and he turned his head over to see the still-sleeping form of his rival-turned-friend lying beside him.
The other man was twisted up in the blankets which he’d managed to stay under, despite the weird position he’d turned to in the night. Hwoarang could feel one leg was kicked out to his side, but the other was somewhere else and while Jin’s legs would indicate he was sleeping on his stomach, his torso was quite obviously resting on its side. Jin was facing him and from his position less than a foot from the other man, Hwoarang could see the details of the other man’s face that he’d never been able to see before. Small things like what looked like a faint scar down the side of the man’s temple. He never would have seen it before, but now that he had Jin all to himself, he looked. Reaching up to run a finger along the scar, finding several more the closer he got. ‘The life of a fighter, eh?’ Hwoarang thought, not daring to breathe a word, should it wake the other man. Most of the scars were from torn skin where he’d been hit, but the one down his temple bothered him, it was too precise and thick, almost like a bullet had caused the damage, and suddenly Hwoarang saw Jin differently. It was as if a new light had been lit to shine down upon the Japanese man and what had once seemed like the perfect lighting was blown away by this powerful spotlight. Everything that Jun had done to try and protect him hadn’t saved him from cruel reality. Hwoarang had a few bullet scars of his own and seeing that Jin had experienced something so brutal and real just like he had… his fingers ran along the length of the mark again with renewed interest, dropping down to the brunette’s cheek to seek out any other imperfections. Hwoarang started, his eyes going wide as he stilled his hand. Had he been… stroking Jin’s cheek? No, no, he hadn’t been doing that, no, he’d just been… but the excuses died in his mind and he dropped his hand from Jin’s face and pulled away. It was different to touch Jin’s face with an open hand rather than a closed fist.
He returned to lie on his back, staring up at the ceiling with his arms rigid at his sides. What had he been thinking?! He sifted back through his thoughts, feeling the giddy excitement that had crept up on him while his mind had been preoccupied with the Japanese fighter for the past few days.
He’d been obsessing over the other man ever since he’d come to the island and he had to stop it.
Even as he thought it, he knew it was a lie. He’d been obsessing ever since their first encounter, and even though it had snowballed since he’d first seen Jin from across that river – before falling into the river and making a fool of himself – it was still the same, original, pure obsession. He could pretend to boggle over the reasons and the who, what, when and where, but Hwoarang knew that it stemmed from the fact that Jin didn’t look down on him. He’d had people tell him he was shit his entire life. The cops, the rich fuckers that gambled at Doyon’s casino, hell, even a few of the fighters at the tournament seemed to look down their noses at him. Jun had said outright that he hadn’t been her first choice – even she thought there was someone better – but in the end she had still chosen him, which had to count for something.
No, the one person who’d never looked at him like that was Jin. Oh sure, the other man had blown him off a bunch of times, but it had never been because he was a ‘filthy street rat’ or any other degrading name he’d been called in his short life. Jin would look at him and see a man and Hwoarang looked back and saw the same. He didn’t have to fight it, he saw them as equals… and he just wanted to prove that he was a little bit more equal than Jin in their rematch.
He shifted closer to the other man, feeling the heat radiating from their bodies as he was suddenly reminded of how very close to being naked they both were. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt Jin shift against him and he quickly rolled over to his side, blushing furiously as Jin went through the motions of waking. No, he didn’t want to talk to Jin right then, as agreeable as the other man as most of the time, Hwoarang needed some time to think. Jin shifted again and the Korean gracelessly sprang from the makeshift bed, grabbed his still-wet pants from the line by the window and hurried out the door.
Hwoarang stomped down the path in a huff, not even caring that the rain had finally stopped, if only for the morning. No matter where he went, everything reminded him of Jin. Every aged cedar made him think of the other man, every rock, leaf, stream and blade of grass, even staring off into space after dunking his head in the water didn’t put the dark Japanese man from his mind. A familiar feeling began to grow inside him and he turned that anger towards everything. He was pissed off. Pissed at Jun and Angel for even suggesting he go there, pissed at Devil for just being an all-round prick and screwing with his and Jin’s lives. Every person whose name he could remember he cursed. He was doubly angry with himself for letting his defenses so far down that he’d started to feel so much for someone else. That somehow turned back to Devil and he spent a good moment remembering those terrible white eyes just so that he could mentally tear them out. Things were just so fucked and he didn’t know what to do about any of it. He was so confused, what was he doing there? He was supposed to help, but instead he was being friendly and getting closer to Jin.
“Jin…” he mumbled, the name diffusing the angry feelings and calming him somewhat. He was there for Jin. Every time Hwoarang started thinking about what he wanted he just felt worse, but things weren’t always about him. Jin was the one who needed his help… who needed him (he hoped.)
Hwoarang splashed water on his face again, sighing exhaustedly as he stared down into the crystalline depths of the tiny brook. It was as clear as glass and if he stared intently for a while he could see his face mirrored in the meandering current. They’d only been hiking a few days, but in that time Hwoarang had become someone he didn’t recognize. He’d always tried to be a tough guy, badass, even, but the only thing he saw in his reflection was weakness. He felt the doors on his heart opening to someone when he knew that, in the end, people always left him. Anybody he’d ever cared about had left him or grown corrupt, and here he was thinking sweet things about Jin when he knew damn-well that there was a good chance that Devil would take him away.
He grunted unhappily and wished for the first time in a while that he had a cigarette. Hwoarang forced his feelings down, past his heart and as low as he could until he was sure they were somewhere by his feet. As much as he’d like to grow closer to Jin he couldn’t let it happen. He was there to help, but not for anything more than helping another fighter whom he grudgingly respected – even if in truth it had blossomed into so much more than that.
He splashed water on his face again, the action distorting his reflection to nothing and he returned to the cabin to find Jin.
~End Chapter Twenty-Five~
| Index | Chapter Twenty-Six |