An Imperfect Circle
Chapter 2 - A Reasserting of Claim
"But when they find you again," Hwoarang whispered in dread, into the bower of fragrant throat he could so vividly remember his lips kissing, sucking in for his tongue to slide over. " .. like they always do, are you going to have to die to everything again .. ?"
They were on the street, and Hwoarang conceded to the impropriety of the public display they were making, pulling away but pulling Jin with him. He didn't pause for an answer. Something about his grip on the Japanese's hand was frail, and the need so dire.
The hold threatened to give out soon, and perhaps that was the reality that lead the Korean to choose such a near, public space -- a building livid with people a half block down. It was easier to hide in people. Even once they entered, Hwoarang wasn't conscious of the elaborate screens, suitcases and bag racks that hinted at the building's vocation. It was just a place, and in the lobby of this hotel, he looked around with barely contained anxiety for a place they could talk. It took a family of dusty-haired, blue-eyed tourists for recognition, and when it came the Korean squeezed Jin's hand, let it go, and went to the reservations counter.
Inversely, Jin's grip on that hand was possessive and invincible, in fact just short of painful. After two years his body had suddenly grown allergic to separation and Jin was sure that to be pulled apart again, even for a moment, would mean sheer agony. He was blind to the walk, the street falling away like crude mirage and Hwoarang filling Jin's vision in its place; poring over the sight, leaving the question unanswered as he followed, assuming that he had even heard it. They were together again. There was nothing that could divide them now. When Hwoarang let go of his hand he blinked as though coming out of a lavish daze.
"Let me get it," he blurted habitually, starting after Hwoarang and almost tripping over a bagboy in his haste. There was no limitless wealth backing Jin now, simply his and Stacy's careful budget, but he knew she would understand. At the very least he would follow the Korean to the counter like a giant, loyal, eager puppy.
Hwoarang already had wallet in hand and was ready to tender. How he and Keiji were making their money was an interesting and nebulous thing, but from the crisp, large notes of yen the Korean handed over they seemed to have been making plenty of it. He cooled himself in Jin's words, though, comforted by that familiar etiquette embedded in the Japanese, and meeting his wayward treasure's eyes he regarded him silently as the clerk retrieved the key. He still didn't trust himself with the spoken word.
A hooded sentinel standing behind Hwoarang, Jin rested his hand in the nape of Hwoarang's outer hip; he thought it felt exactly as he remembered it. As they waited for the man to fetch the key, Jin mustered enough soundness of mind and strength of voice to murmur, "I love you."
He softly squeezed the flesh in his hold.
Only after the clerk murmured something terse, accented by a jangle, did Hwoarang realize his eyes had closed. It confused him, because he was still seeing in vibrant, variegated modes. The sound brought him from suspension, and he reached for the keys to wrap them carefully in the heat of his palm.
"We can talk," he rasped back; it was all he could say to fend of some sort of collapse -- emotional or physical. He made certain that his pace down the corridor did not displace Jin's hand, and when Hwoarang reached the door and unlocked it, he held the portal open for Jin to enter first.
After Jin ducked inside the room, he immediately set to wriggling out of his sweatshirt, drawing his arms out of their sleeves and pulling the garment over his head, dropping it limply. Jin's body, hugged by a white sleeveless t-shirt as uninteresting as its former covering, would to a simple glance seem the same. But Hwoarang would undoubtedly have the easiest time of anyone spotting the differences -- the subtle reduction of his waist, further rid of its already-meager bulk, and the added definition of his shoulders and arms. Rid of his concealment he felt suddenly free in soul as well as body, as though hooded clothing served as yet another barrier between he and Hwoarang that he refused to accept any longer. Jin took Hwoarang's shoulders in his hands and gazed into his face. He wanted to talk; he had a million questions and just as many stories and explanations and excuses, all of which he had been harboring for this very moment. But first there was one impulse more vital than all the rest.
"Can I kiss you?" he whispered.
Two years. And Hwoarang had never loved anyone in his life as much as he loved Kazama Jin; a mother hadn't fortified him against the world; his sensei had never given him more beyond the warmth of paternal respect, obliged pity -- it was a very different love. The shroud upon shroud of black that he wore on his body hid any immediate physical changes, but in Jin's hands Hwoarang's shoulders were thicker with strength. Questions bottled up, disavowals ready, means of learning to forget: all lacked the lucidity to be articulated as the Korean placed tentative hands on the sacrosanct sides of the Japanese. His response was immediate, the false hatred harder to summon now.
" .. you don't have to ask," Hwoarang's starved lips assured. "You don't ever have to ask."
All of the assurances in Jin's life had withered and died but this one, and it now housed the entirety of his faith. Swallowing Hwoarang's back within the grasp of his arms, reverent, blissful kisses sizzled up Hwoarang's neck -- on the side without ink -- slipped over his jaw and finally met the wealth of his mouth. The world about Jin dissolved on impact.
Abandoning his resolves in that grasp, Hwoarang's hands became reckless, scouring over and under Jin's thin shirt, across and between shoulderblades, and finally around neck. Already breathless, his mouth sought to suck air from the Japanese once they met, his tongue tumultuous and claiming as it pressed through lips. Soon there was no room for air, not in his locked arms or his consuming mouth; the pounding of his heart seemed a drum in his ears, something concrete between them.
Jin uttered a soft, throaty sound, his calloused hands kneading the warm, firm muscle below them; he gave his mouth willingly to Hwoarang's explorations and gladly forfeited his breath in favor of this eternal succulence. After several honeyed moments spent languishing in their embrace, Jin pulled back suddenly, though his hands remained firm in their grips (now pressed into Hwoarang's sides just below his arms). A quiet laughter bubbled out of his faint, flushed smile. He explained, overjoyed and embarrassed, his voice soft and rushed --
"It's really you. I finally have you again."
Breathing hard, Hwoarang returned Jin's ebullience with a remaining disbelief, a stark apprehension. And he pulled completely from that grasp, and because he thought it might alleviate the surge of heat he felt removed the overcoat that dangled from his shoulders. With its sharp lines outlined in black, his body had thickened only slightly, with that transformation that occurs between adolescence and manhood which seemed to add more breadth and authority to the physique (real or imagined). The shirt he wore was of a cotton blend, long-sleeved and neatly tight against his chest and waist in its continuity with slacks a silver belt of square chain links needlessly adorned. The Korean's coat dropped forgotten from his hand, and he leaned against the door until his head touched the hard surface; he said in a voice without a tone:
"Two years, Jin. Nothing, for two years."
Jin's soft smile was powerful and slow to shrink, but within, he sobered much more quickly. His eyes which themselves puddled momentarily on the fallen coat before wandering up Hwoarang's body to the back of his russet head. He nodded slowly, even though the other wouldn't see it. He said softly, "Two years that I couldn't talk to you. As soon as I vanished I knew they'd start tracking you. I was afraid of what would happen if I tried to get to you. Afraid for you, not for me -- I didn't care if they found me, but I didn't want to give them any reason to lay a hand on you. ... Joon ..." He reached tentatively to touch Hwoarang's back.
"I missed you so much. I thought you were dead. I thought he killed you." Fire. Fire. Fire. The smoking gun wasn't happy; Hwoarang was falling, descending with his accusations until he sat on the floor, his back plastered against the door, his knees drawn up and spread. He studied what lay in front of him: two solid, material legs, and he whispered in repetition.
"I thought you were dead, and I died."
"You're what kept me alive, Joon." Jin sank to his knees, folding his legs under himself and resting his hands on his thighs. He wanted to touch Hwoarang, to console him in his hold, but he found himself too fearful to attempt the gesture. "I didn't know anything anymore; I didn't even know myself. All I knew was I loved you, and that's what I lived for."
For countless seconds, Hwoarang's body rested in silence and his gaze rested in Jin's face. He might have been reloading. Moving before he said anything, he disbanded the distance between them, rising on his knees and shifting his legs so he could wrap his arms around Jin again, and push his face into the strong, warm neck.
"I needed you. I love you too much to care about what happens to me. I need you so bad, Jin."
Jin bowed his face, resting his chin against Hwoarang's shoulder and hugging the slightly smaller body against his own.
"I'm not running and hiding anymore. I'm here now and I'm never leaving you again." He canted his face to kiss the shell of Hwoarang's ear, squeezing closed his eyes as he burned this moment into his mind forever.
"Don't ever .. " Hwoarang commanded, turning his face to the site of that kiss, finding his lips cushioned against the corner of Jin's jaw as they moved, damp heat. " .. not even to protect me! I can't take that, Jin. I don't ever want to be apart from you."
Lowered hands went under the protection of shirt because Hwoarang always needed that bare, nude touch of the Japanese's skin to establish reality. His palms were clasping, desperately clutching.
"I love you so fucking much it hurts," Hwoarang seethed through grit teeth.
Jin's body was as warm and hard as it had been those years past, his flesh just as smooth, young, although the scars that danced lovingly down his shoulderblades were slow to fade, and their discolored reminders remained. The texture was not quite as severe as the sight.
"There's nothing to keep us apart anymore." Jin was too enthralled to react to the magnitude of his own bliss. He fell back against the floor, and squeezed Hwoarang's waist with renewed vigor as he covered his face and neck with a flurry of kisses. In this moment, they were utterly invincible.
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