Summary: Hwoarang never thought he'd find himself kissing Jin like that, but he was, and fuck what anybody had to say about it. If someone was going to get through his defenses, they'd have to be strong, and as far as he knew, Jin was the only person worth letting in. It wasn't just a kiss. It wasn't gratuitous or carnal or anything like the other kisses he'd given and received before. It had been unlikely that he'd find someone worth kissing like that, but then again, he was an unlikely candidate to be there for Jin in the first place.
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: Ahem, yes, the summary is a dead tell-all for what happens. I think I'm happier about this installment than chapter 21 with the fight that I was also super-happy about. I agonized over this one. AGONIZED! XD Reading over it again and again to see if something could be said better. I think I'm done with tweaking now, and I hope you enjoy it. (Of course, this story isn't over yet! This is just the tip of the damn iceburg!)
I don't usually ask for feedback, but on this chapter I'd especially like to hear back from readers. How is it? Improvements? Parts that need fixing? Favourite parts? Overall impression? I'm so deep in this that I can't really see Yakushima for the trees. I just know that I'm not 100% happy with how it begins, but I've tweaked it as much as I can without going insane over it XD
"Angel/Devil's words inside Hwoarang/Jin's head"
Please see the Index for more details, chapter links and fanart.
The forest had its own living aura about it. Hwoarang had first noticed it when he’d stepped under its canopy; the rocks themselves seemed to have a life of their own on top of the obvious sounds of birds and monkeys that rang out every so often. The sounds were so familiar that they melded together as a hum in the background, leaving his own panting and grunting as the only noise in his ears. The forgotten trail that Jin was leading them along was becoming increasingly difficult, but like Hwoarang had assured Jin, it was something that he could handle. His training under Baek had put his body through such arduous strain that there was little that he wasn’t up to doing.
Hwoarang had promised himself that he’d keep his guard up and not get involved with the other man, but somehow he’d slipped up within the first five minutes of talking to Jin after his resolution had been made. He’d been drawn in like a moth to a flame, his defenses crumbled with just a look and he was left feeling as vulnerable as ever. Why was he having such trouble keeping Jin at arm’s length? He couldn’t do it. How could he? Aside from the other man’s vow to help him rescue his father and mentor from the military, Jin had said something that had cut right through to his heart. The fact that Jin’s first choice was him and nobody else… there was a strange, possessive glee that rose up in Hwoarang when he thought back on it. Jun and Angel had both said that he wasn’t good enough. He wasn’t their first choice. Hell, it wasn’t any different from everybody else who’d told him he was a loser, but that didn’t matter. None of it mattered when he knew that Jin didn’t think the same way. Only Jin’s opinion mattered. He couldn’t close himself off from the other man. No way. How could he, when he could feel how similar they were? No, he’d follow along wherever the friendship was leading, even if the excitement was tinged with a fear of the unknown.
Hwoarang trudged along, unable to keep the wide grin from his mouth as he stared at the ground before him. He continued planting one foot in front of the other, even as Jin stopped suddenly and he walked right into Jin’s back and nearly fell over. “Ah, Jin?” The other man didn’t say anything and he listened, noticing the sound that was echoing off from a distance. “What is that?”
Jin turned to look back at him, a boyish-grin on his face before he hurried off through the trees and it was all Hwoarang could do to keep up. “H-hey, Kazama!” he called out, his good mood wavering. “I’m fucking tired here, ya know!” Hwoarang followed along until the trees broke into a small clearing where Jin had thrown his backpack to the ground and was in the process of pulling his shoes off. Hwoarang could see the small waterfall at the side, fed by a stream that rolled down a steep incline which broke several feet above their heads. The water cascaded down into a pool at the centre of the clearing before continuing down along a smaller stream.
“This’ll be great!” Jin exclaimed, setting his shoes neatly beside his bag. “We needed a bath!”
“Uh, that’s great, Kazama…” Hwoarang eyed the water, not keen on the whole idea, no matter how relaxing it might have been. “Well, you have fun; I’m going to rest a bit more.” He watched as Jin peeled off all his clothes save his boxers and jumped into the pool.
“Come on, Hwoarang,” Jin called as he swam over to find a place to stand beneath the spray, letting the clear liquid shower him and press his hair down around his face.
“Naw, Kazama. That’s… not really my thing…” he dropped his bag beside Jin’s. He just wanted to lie down for a while, maybe catch up on some sleep or even snack on some of their un-delicious rations.
He really didn’t see it coming. He should have, but he didn’t. He’d never have expected Jin to pull him in. Not in a million years. He was still in denial as he sputtered and thrashed about in the water and tried to climb up the side. “What the hell?!” he bellowed, finding a rock to stand on as he spun around to glare daggers at Jin. “That wasn’t funny, asshole!” he yelled, pulling at his shirt that was sticking to him in uncomfortable ways. He didn’t even want to think about how his pants were clinging or the fact that he absolutely detested hiking in soaked shoes.
Jin’s laughter rang out and Hwoarang glared daggers as the other man clutched at his sides as he tried to catch his breath.
Hwoarang frowned and climbed up to the edge, peeling off his clothes to wring out and throw onto a rock to dry. He emptied his shoes of water and laid them out with his socks, hoping that the sun would dry them out quickly.
“It’s nice, isn’t it?” the brunette finally asked, swimming back to meet the redhead.
“No,” Hwoarang frowned, remembering his goggles and tossing those onto the pile before sliding into the water and diving down. It was really a lot larger than he’d first thought and a whole lot deeper. A few boulders rose high from the bottom to allow for great stepping-stones, and he navigated around those before surfacing several metres from where he was.
The two fighters bantered about in the spring, the soothing waters washing the tiredness from their bodies and rejuvenating their spirits over the whole trip. Hwoarang climbed from the pool to pick up his clothing, complaining again about his clothing and how he’d be freezing for the rest of the day until they found the next cabin.
“We’ve spent too much time in the spring, so we’ll be camping under the stars tonight,” Jin said wryly.
“Ah, fuck me, are you serious?” Hwoarang asked, toweling his hair dry before wrapping the terrycloth around his waist. “Damnit, what I wouldn’t give for a smoke right now…” he sat heavily on a boulder at the edge of the spring.
“Smoking is bad for you, you know,” Jin said, swimming to the edge to get closer to the redhead.
“So am I…” Hwoarang said with a wolfish grin, unable to hold back a wink as he looked down at the other man. He thought to say something more but bit his tongue and quickly stood to find a dry pair of shorts to wear. His guard was already so low; he didn’t want to go around blurting unnecessary things that would just make him look like a fool. ‘I already look like a fucking fool,’ he thought sourly as he glanced over at his wet clothes before noticing something was missing. “What the fuck?” he exclaimed, quickly pulling on his shorts and throwing the towel to the ground. “Where the hell are my goggles?” He stomped over to the pile of wet clothes where he distinctly remembered tossing his favourite eyewear. He’d watched them bounce off one of the rocks and fall behind, but when he stood over the place where they should have been, there was nothing there. He spun around to look at Jin, a brief thought of the other man hiding his goggles for fun flitting through his mind before he quickly dismissed it. They’d been swimming the whole time, and Hwoarang had been watching him the whole time – for reasons other than suspicion – and Jin had never set foot out of the spring.
Even still, Jin was holding his sides trying to keep in the laughter. He may not have taken the goggles, but he knew more than he was letting on…
“Ha-ha, I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself, Kazama,” Hwoarang sneered. “I need those to hold my hair back!”
“Ah, uh, it…” Jin tried between laughs. “It could have been the monkeys?”
Hwoarang deadpanned. “Monkeys?”
“I know that Momo was having similar trouble before they built some fences around her onsen. Some of the monkeys would sneak in and steal things while people were in the water.”
“What? Are you shitting me?” Hwoarang turned, the very idea setting his blood to race. Monkeys?! As if on cue the high-pitched shriek rang out through the clearing and the Korean looked up fast enough to see the culprit scampering up a tree, goggles in hand. “H-hey, you little fucker! Give those back!” Hwoarang ran up to the tree, but the primate had disappeared, its chattering laughter the only indicator that it was still up there hiding amongst the leaves.
“I can’t believe this!” Hwoarang grumbled as he sat down on the ground. “What the hell do I do now?” he asked his companion who was still chuckling as he laid out their sleeping arrangements. He glared up where he’d last seen the little thief. The squawking laughter had died away and he sighed, he’d probably have to pick up a new pair when they got to a city. “You could have warned me,” Hwoarang mumbled as he returned to Jin.
“Sorry,” the Japanese man said, bowing his head as if to apologize. “They can be very sneaky; if we keep our things tightly sealed in our bags we shouldn’t have any more problems… I don’t think…”
“Yeah, you don’t have anything nearly as cool as those to steal,” Hwoarang rifled through his bag to find something suitable to sleep in.
“I do,” Jin replied. “It’s back home where the monkeys can’t get it.”
Hwoarang shot him a dirty look; he’d had those goggles since long before he could remember. Of course, Jin wouldn’t understand how cool they were or what they meant to him. But instead of whining more, he kept the same sour expression going just to show how annoyed he was, even as they bedded down for the night. He couldn’t believe that it was a good idea to sleep out in the open with the amount of rain they’d been getting, although the sky appeared to have rained itself out and there was nothing but a clear sky over their heads, the bright stars winking down at them. He pulled his sweatshirt tight around his body and snuggled down into his sleeping bag, grateful that Jin had been thoughtful enough to buy a ground mat. He closed his eyes, his exhaustion catching up with him and he figured he’d complain more about his goggles in the morning. “Hey, Kazama?” he asked, yawning loudly. He waited a moment for a reply, but the other man had already fallen asleep. “Goodnight, then,” he murmured.
Hwoarang was a light sleeper. His subconscious was always urging him to be on alert in case he was attacked, robbed or worse. It was second nature for the Korean to sleep with one eye open, only finding comfort and safety in a few places where he could really, truly enjoy sleep. Unsurprisingly, there weren’t many. Though he might have been sleeping deeper than usual since he’d arrived in Yakushima, he found that after the theft of his goggles, he couldn’t really relax. Knowing he’d been ripped off by a damn monkey could do that to a person.
So, Hwoarang slept very lightly that night. So lightly that he could have heard a pin drop onto a pile of soft moss from across the clearing. He just couldn’t let go. The sound of a backpack being opened was like an alarm that caused him to sit bolt upright and glare towards the source of the noise. He was about to bark something unpleasant at the thief, but quickly snapped his mouth shut, swallowing up the shout of alarm when he saw who it was. What it was. The monkey was struggling to pull Jin’s pack open and hadn’t noticed that Hwoarang had woken up.
Hwoarang’s eyes were glued to the monkey, watching every move the creature made. The Blood Talon moved with feline grace as he moved forward, crawling on all fours towards the creature. He was moving on instinct, not entirely sure of what he’d do but knowing that getting as close as he could was the first step. He couldn’t take his focus off the goggles that were hanging loosely around the monkey’s hairy neck. Just a littler further. Hwoarang was so close. Almost close enough to… leap… The monkey seemed to perk up and Hwoarang sprang forward to close the gap between them, making a grab for the creature. The monkey sprang out of the way, its tail smacking the redhead in the face as he crashed to the ground, clutching at air.
“Shit!” he cursed as the little rascal scampered away to the tree line of the clearing before pausing and looking back at him. It made some sort of gesture that Hwoarang immediately took as a taunt and the chase was on! He was on his feet, diving through the trees, his amber eyes trained only on the creature that seemed to remain a few feet beyond his grasp, those goggles around its neck glinting in the dim light. “Damnit, come back here!” Wet branches smacked him in the face but were easily ignored. His goggles were so close; he wouldn’t let them away a second time!
He was gaining on the little fuzzball, thoughts of how to grab the monkey without hurting it began to formulate in his mind. His mind could only focus on so much with so little sleep and a sudden shout from Jin distracted him and he looked back. “What?” he asked, mid-stride before the other man’s warning became perfectly clear and he crashed head-first into the trunk of a particularly thick tree. “Oof!” was all he could emit as the wind was knocked from his lungs and he slammed into the ground with equal force. Who’d put that tree there? He seemed to hear Jin calling him again, ringing in unison with the laughing monkey, growing foggy and fading as everything went dark.
Hwoarang moaned uncomfortably, things feeling like they were underwater and he could have sworn that there was a woman’s voice calling to him. She sounded familiar and very pissed off, but it was so far away that he couldn’t really understand. She sounded beautiful, maybe an ex girlfriend or someone he owed money to… for a magical moment Hwoarang was completely oblivious to everything but that sound that melded together. Her voice was like crystal, falling upon itself and he unfocused his mind and let the beautiful sound wash over his consciousness. It babbled and fell away until his mind cleared and the noise sounded less like a woman and more like the gentle babble of water falling. He tried to decide what it was, listening intently and realizing that he sucked at guessing games, opened his eyes to find out what the fuck had happened.
There were long blades of bamboo grass in front of his vision, though when he moved his eyes to look up he could see the sound was coming from the spring from the day before. “Hey, Ji-aahhhh,” he sat up, his greeting turning into a groan of agony as his head spun and he was overcome with a terrible feeling of nausea. He quickly lied back down and put a hand over his face, trying to stop that sickening feeling. Oh god, why was the world spinning suddenly? Why did he hurt so badly? It was worse than a hangover. He pulled his hand back and found his palm spattered with fresh blood. Blood? Forget the migraine, what happened? He was about to sit up and find out when he felt a pressure on his chest, pushing him back down and his hands were batted away from his face to be replaced by a cold compress.
“What happened?” he asked after a while of submitting to Jin’s care.
“You ran into a tree,” the darker man said matter-of-factly.
“Oh,” was Hwoarang’s response and he felt himself blush furiously. “That damn monkey…”
“You know,” Jin said, removing the compress to freshen it and inspect Hwoarang’s injuries. “You should just forget about getting your goggles back. You’re lucky you just gashed your forehead open and didn’t break your nose!”
“You know, he took some of your shit too,” Hwoarang tried grinning, but it turned into a wince. “My face is swollen, isn’t it?” he frowned. He could tell and he had a terrible feeling his eye would be swollen shut by the end of the day.
“Ah, yes, I know he grabbed some of our food,” Jin said slowly. “But I don’t see the point in chasing after it if we’re going to end up running into trees…” his voice cracked with a smile and Hwoarang pushed the compress out of the way so he could properly glare at the other man. “And no, your eye won’t swell up, if that’s what you’re thinking,” Jin added. “I’ve been taking care of you since you knocked yourself out twenty minutes ago.”
“Twenty minutes?” Hwoarang sat up again, this time the nausea didn’t bother him and he only felt a little dizzy. “Damnit, now that monkey is really gone with my shit.” He thought he felt a bell of laughter murmuring in his subconscious and realized that Angel was laughing at his situation too. “Fuck…” he cursed, looking sharply at Jin. “Uh, is he…? I mean… I’m starting to get a feeling from her…”
Jin nodded, his smile vanishing as he adopted a more stern look. “I can feel him; though he’s not strong enough to talk yet. He’s more like a shadow in a dim room. There, but not really bothersome…” he sighed deeply, shoulders heaving under the strain that he’d soon have to bear again.
Hwoarang watched him, a sudden pang shooting through him like an arrow. In a few days time and they’d have their own divine spirits bitching at them without a moment’s privacy or rest. He felt the weight of the hourglass bearing down on their time together and he looked up into Jin’s face. The other man was still hovering close to him. So close… Hwoarang felt a rush of anticipation wash over him and he looked away suddenly, feeling his cheeks burning and his heart racing. Any coherent thought seemed to abandon him. The air between them – the short distance – was suddenly charged and Hwoarang wanted to close it. Just wanted to bring Jin down onto him and remove that final distance.
His breath hitched in his throat and time seemed to stand still. Like in a fight, the next move was being weighed out, only he had no idea how it would turn out. He felt Jin’s hand flinch as it was still pressed to his chest and Hwoarang fought the urge to grab it and hold it close. This was one of those rare moments without any distractions. None whatsoever. Jin’s eyes were trained on him, and not in a dismissive way. Jin had blown him off so many times before, but that moment there with his dark eyes staring endlessly down at him, fringed with dark lashes that seemed unnatural for a man to have and his strong-yet-attractively shaped face… Hwoarang was feeling exhilarated to have all the attention. He wanted more. He didn’t want it to end.
Inhaling a shaky breath, Hwoarang reached up to hold Jin’s hand against him. His fingertips encircled around the strong wrist, spreading out to feel along the back of his hand, slowly, oh-so slowly running down the soft skin there until his fingers were resting against Jin’s. His eyes never left that beautiful, brooding face and he held his breath.
Jin didn’t move for a moment. He allowed Hwoarang to press his hand close against his chest, seeming to become mesmerized by the action. It only lasted a moment before his eyes blinked realization and he none-too-subtly pulled his hand away as if he’d been burned.
Hwoarang watched open-mouthed as Jin pulled away from him, those dark eyes that had been so inviting were closing themselves away and he was left with the cold bite of rejection.
“Hey!” he exclaimed, sitting up and grabbing Jin’s arm to keep him from leaving. He knew there was something there between them. He might have denied it before, but… well, that was before. Now that he knew that his feelings weren’t one-sided? He knew Jin felt something for him too and he wouldn’t let the other man reject him so quickly. Not without an explanation. “What?” he asked, holding his tongue to keep from biting out something he’d regret later.
“N-nothing,” Jin said, sitting back on his haunches. “D-Devil would never forgive me…” he shook his head. “We should get going… I’m sorry for leading you on…”
“What?” Hwoarang asked, raising an eyebrow in annoyance. “Is that bastard still on your mind, even if he’s not really there?” He grabbed Jin by the arm. “Goddamnit, Jin. What the fuck do I have to do to make you forget about him?”
Jin wrenched his arm free. “You only want me to think about you!”
“Well…” Hwoarang trailed off, absently scratching the back of his head.
“You’re just like him!” Jin almost laughed. “I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. You think everything is about you!” He stood to pack their things up, turning his back to the Korean.
Hwoarang couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He climbed to his feet; the ache in his head was pushed aside as he pursued more important matters. “Hey, that’s not fair!” he exclaimed, following the other man.
“Yeah? Why did you accept my mother’s offer, then?” Jin spun around to face him. His expression was twisted, unpleasant and something that Hwoarang just wanted to smack off of him. He knew that look all-too well. He’d felt it before; it was pure defense. “Tell me the real reason. Did you accept just to get her power? Just so you could get your fight?! I thought you actually… cared, but it feels like all you want me to do is think about you. Fight you so you can leave!”
The words stung like a slap to the face, but Hwoarang wouldn’t back down. “Kaza- Jin,” he started, quieting his voice to little more than a whisper. “I think you know that’s not true.” He reached out to touch the other man’s face, his fingers aching for contact which was denied when Jin shied away at the last moment. The redhead reached out to the shrinking figure, roughly grabbing him and shoving him back against a tree until he stopped squirming. He peered down into still-resistant brown eyes that were locked with his, silently pleading him to stop. Please just stop before they crossed that line they couldn’t return to.
Hwoarang ignored the pleas and warnings and moved to close that final gap between them. That line which Jin was terrified of moving beyond had already been crossed. Sometime before that; when Hwoarang had realized what he really wanted, despite his resistance to feeling for anybody that could hurt him. When Jin had opened up and exposed his soul with the tender confessions and assurances they’d shared, despite his desire to protect his friend from his darker half. There was no turning back and Hwoarang’s mouth came to rest lightly against his former-rival’s.
The kiss was quick and chaste but conveyed the unspoken things the he’d never be able to say to the other man. Just the feeling of his lips meeting Jin’s was enough to set Hwoarang gasping and sighing at the same time. His grip on Jin softened and it became more of an embrace than a thing of force. When Jin stopped struggling and began responding in kind, that was the moment that Hwoarang truly did need to break apart to draw a proper breath. He leaned back, still pressing Jin’s shoulders against the tree to hold him in place.
“You’re right,” he sighed after a moment, looking Jin square in the eyes. “I’m a selfish prick, so that kiss was all about me…” he leaned in closer until their mouths were an inch apart. “But this one is all for you… Jin…” he breathed the name as he descended once more, hot lips closing around Jin’s mouth, this time to a warm reception that welcomed him inside and their tongues met for that first delicious, electric moment.
Their bodies pressed together as the kiss progressed, soft, wet tongues explored each other as hands and fingers did the same. Hwoarang thought he’d explode with the sudden release that the kiss triggered. He’d wanted it so badly. He found Jin’s hand and laced their fingers in a crushing grip, holding onto each other as their tentative explorations continued.
Jin was kissing him. He was kissing Jin. It was really happening. Really. Hwoarang thought he could go on forever. Fuck the tournament and Doyon and the damn military. Did it really matter when he had Jin? His defenses mentally slammed down and embedded themselves in the dirt and Hwoarang truly opened up as their bodies met, speaking that divine language of affection and adoration in the softly aggressive kiss that said nothing of rivalry.
A sudden shriek above their heads caused Hwoarang to pull away in surprise, looking deeply into Jin’s eyes before arching an eyebrow as the two fighters looked up. There, swinging above their heads, the monkey had returned to bother them. He’d wrapped his tail around a branch and was swinging back and forth, dangling the Korean’s goggles just beyond their reach, interrupting their kiss with a playful shriek as he taunted them.
Hwoarang said nothing and looked back to Jin, intending to continue the kiss from where they’d left off.
“Ah, your… uh, don’t you want them back?” Jin pressed a hand to his chest.
Hwoarang smiled, his gaze never wavering from the Japanese. “Fuck ‘em, right now it’s all about you, Jin.” The look on the other’s face made Hwoarang want to eat him right up. It was a small, shy smile that made him seem more innocent than he really was. He tried to push in again to recapture those delectable lips in another kiss, but was stopped. He looked oddly at Jin, warning that if he was rejecting him because of Devil…
Jin simply smiled and looked back up at the monkey, gently reaching up and lightly asking for it to drop the goggles.
“Uh, I don’t think asking will…” Hwoarang was about say something against it working, but his words died off as the monkey chirped once and dropped the goggles into Jin’s outstretched hand. “What the fuck? How’d you do that?!” he asked, jumping back and reaching for his recovered eyewear.
“Well, sometimes the monkeys will return things if you ask nicely…”
“That little fucker wasn’t being nice! He was taunting me… and why the hell didn’t you call him down before?”
Jin opened his mouth to reply but closed it to smile mischievously and Hwoarang grumbled something about suffering for his entertainment as threw his goggles around his neck, though clearly beaming to have them back.
Their kiss had opened up a whole new path of possibilities for the two fighters, although neither man seemed to have enough courage to broach the topic after the event. The monkey had effectively ended their first real kiss. They packed their gear up in comfortable silence and continued on the trail to Onoaida. It was almost as if the kiss had never happened, though they seemed to touch more often, whether it was Hwoarang slinging an arm around Jin’s waist to pull him up the trail, or the darker fighter holding the boisterous Korean’s arm to show him something interesting. There was no uncomfortable moment between them, although neither man moved to start another kiss or even talk about it happening. Hwoarang would have just reached in to pull Jin close to start again, but the moment never felt right. Normally he wouldn’t have cared and just pushed for more, but Jin was special and he didn’t want to ruin something he felt so strongly for. He didn’t think too heavily on it, assuming that they’d follow up that evening when they were preparing for bed and had some quiet time to themselves. Images of what that could lead to flooded his mind, but were quickly batted away as Jin called back from further up the trail, urging him to hurry up.
Hwoarang ran to catch up to his Japanese… friend. “What? What is it?” he stopped beside him, bracing his hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. He looked up at the brunette who was staring wide-eyed at a large tree before him. He looked up at the weathered cedar; aside from a strange feeling of incredible weight, he didn’t see much else about the tree. It was beautiful, although he couldn’t understand why. Couldn’t put his finger on it, and so he stood there beside Jin, just taking in the view until he leaned ever-so casually on his friend’s shoulder and asked what it was they were looking at.
“Jomon sugi,” Jin replied, shrugging and looking up at its outstretched branches. “It’s the oldest tree on the island. Some people say that it’s over seven thousand years old. I… well, since we were coming this way anyways, I thought you might want to see it. It’s one of my favourite trees.”
Normally that statement would have caused Hwoarang to burst out laughing, his earlier statement that the trees were Jin’s friends ringing in his mind, but for some reason the laughter didn’t even occur to him. The moment washed over him, the life of the forest seeming to take a stronger hold on him and Hwoarang could sense the vibrant hum of everything around him, including a strong feeling from the man he was leaning against. Glancing sideways he caught the dark, thoughtful look that had possessed Jin’s features and he grunted. Something was on the other man’s mind and he had a good idea of what it was; the same thing that had possessed his thoughts for the past few hours. He stayed quiet, the nervous energy building inside him until he couldn’t hold back anymore and he had to say something.
“Fine, so now you know I like you, Jin,” he said, breaking the silence between them. “Well, just because I really like you, don’t think that I’m going to get you flowers and write poetry or mushy shit like that.” He bit his tongue, the words feeling sharp in contrast to what he was feeling.
Jin only laughed, the sound breaking the tension between them. “What makes you think that I’d like to receive flowers? I’m a grown man, ‘Rang. I don’t need to be swept off my feet.”
“Kazama… you’re in awe over this tree and you don’t want flowers?”
“Hey, I like flowers, but I don’t need you to give me any…” he bowed his head and stepped forward before turning to face the Korean. “But… I have to say… I don’t know if I can do this…” He frowned and looked away. “Maybe we should stop now…”
Hwoarang tried to step forward and pull him close, but Jin brought his hand up to gently stop him. “It’s just… everything I do to try and stop Devil just makes him stronger. He’ll despise anything we have, and I’m afraid of what he’d do to you…”
“Kazama…” Hwoarang started in a warning tone, pushing the blocking-hand away and stepping closer to the other man.
“I know, Hwoarang, so don’t start. It’s just that you haven’t seen the kind of shit he can do. I mean… what if I’m just not strong enough? What if he’s stronger? What if-?”
“Shut up,” Hwoarang put an arm over Jin’s shoulder, leaning in so he could get as close as possible to Jin’s face. It would have been a casual gesture if the Korean hadn’t been so deadly serious. “Listen to me, Jin. I didn’t go to every one of those damn Iron Fist tournaments just for kicks. I went there for you. You know why? Cuz you held your own against me in a fight. Hell, I haven’t been able to break you down and neither has Devil. You’re giving that bastard too much credit, and I sure as hell didn’t follow you to those tournaments because you’re weak.” He brought his other arm up to sling over Jin’s other shoulder and he moved in even closer, bringing his mouth a breath away from Jin’s before whispering. “And don’t forget that I’m a big boy, Kazama. I know the dangers. You’re my choice too, so you’re stuck with me.”
Jin’s eyes were wide with shock, even as Hwoarang kissed him he was slow to respond. The kiss was stronger than before, less tentative and more assertive, as if to punctuate everything that Hwoarang had said and seal the deal that they really had stepped beyond the borders of friendship and far beyond those of their simple rivalry.
~End Chapter Twenty-Seven~
| Index | Chapter Twenty-Eight |