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The nerves of Hwoarang's neck were cords strummed by Jin's mouth, coaxing the reluctant note from his lips -- a pure and rare pitch.
" .. you ready to stay with me forever, Jin .. ?" Staring out into Jin's room now, sienna eyes noticing everything and nothing in the capacious spanse of it, Hwoarang felt his body anchored in the context of the warm one pressed against his back -- anchored but vulnerable to being flung into that impersonal vacuum at some point.
"Yeah. I'm ready," Jin affirmed with a kiss on the earlobe before settling his cheek against the Korean's soft crown and allowing his eyes to seep blissfully closed. He put his hand over Hwoarang's chest to feel the beat of his heart.
-- "Witness," Chapter 2.
"Hey Hwaa, ever drop the soap?" Keiji yelled from his height of bunk, waving a photo in the air.
"Wrong place," Hwoarang grumbled, snatching the Polaroid back. "You're thinking about your home for the last five years." Wiping it against his jeans to get the fingerprints off, the Korean tucked the picture back into his green duffel without a look. Nothing he hadn't seen before: a skinny, wild-eyed, and surprised Korean with a fuzz of orange-frosted brown hair, reclining on his bed in just his underwear. Nobuo had snapped that photo back in the barracks in Seoul, right after he decided to barnacle himself to Hwoarang. He didn't want friends back then, but there was an undertow of need in Hwoarang that weaker men like Nobuo and Hachi and Ryo sensed, a need to be the leader of something, no matter the degree of legitimacy. Even in the military, with his contentious attitude, Hwoarang garnered a cadre of followers in delinquency. Most of them didn't last out the first six months. Nobuo lasted the longest.
But Keiji. Keiji was one of the Yurei since before the Tekken, and with the death of Kim, he became Hwoarang's oldest contact. He wasn't sure that Keiji - with his stout, muscular frame and a nose healed crooked after his father broke it when he was eleven - could be called a friend. From the very beginning, he made sure Hwoarang knew their association was about the money, and back then Keiji was hungry-
eyed, taut and acidic, quick to start fights. A few misdemeanor charges - sticking up old ladies, hanging around suicide scenes and urging the CEO on the ledge to just jump, throwing stones at parked cars - stacked up over time and landed him in juvy for three years, the pen for about another three. When he got out, the Yurei weren't waiting for him.
"So what's the story with Taisho and Ryo?" was the first thing he asked Hwoarang when he let the Korean crash at his place. Hwoarang was stalling a return to the warehouse, the scene of disjuncture several years prior. Keiji seemed to have mellowed out since those years past but he still had a sharp mind, and would probably funnel out the meaning of the dog tags hanging against Hwoarang's chest with two or three questions.
At the rear of the smoky rathskellar, the soles of Hwoarang's boots stuck to the sticky floors where he stood, leaning a portion of his weight onto a pool stick. Being crowded on Saturday night, the staff hadn't had a chance to clean up Ryo's spilt colada, and he was yelling his consumer discontent every time a shoe crackled on the surface.
"Oi, someone call the inspector - this place is the worst!"
"Shut up, Ryo," Taisho barked, irritated as he steadied his stick. He had practically dragged Hwoarang from the warehouse to play a few rounds on the grounds that they never had fun anymore, and now he was suffering the consequences. Hwoarang was on his way to a fifth victory. He scoffed a missed shot just as five men in dark suits were crowding into the small space in the pub's back. All three teenagers narrowed their eyes.
"How do you guys see, wearing those shades at night?" Taisho quipped. Ignored, he joined Ryo in staring as the men surrounded Hwoarang, the tallest shoving the Korean into a chair. Taisho's defensive instincts, usually spontaneous in ambushes like this, went cold at the sight of Hwoarang's seeming acquiescence to brute force.
"What the hell -" Ryo began, startled when the flame-haired Korean raised a hand to check his approach.
"We're looking for Jin Kaz -"
"I know who you're looking for," Hwoarang cut, his tone abrasive. Struggling to keep the words subtle in front of his gang, he demanded irreverently, "What makes you think I know where he is? What makes you think I care?"
"Let's not be stupid about this situation, young man," the elected interrogator suggested, keeping his palm pasted against the breadth of Hwoarang's chest.
"Let's not. How about you start doing your job? You're the babysitters, not me. You must be slipping."
"We know how close to Kazama-sama you were." At the statement Taisho and Ryo exchanged glances, their expressions riddled with a confusion and budding anger that Hwoarang feared.
"You don't know shit, and I think this situation makes that fucking obvious."
"It's not much of a story," Hwoarang responded blankly, stacking his elaborate collection of gi on the bunk's lower mattress. "They had problems with the way I did things, so they split."
Keiji's hairy legs dangled beside him, and Hwoarang felt the older man's eyes cutting through his cool exterior. "I find that hard to imagine, Ranga. You were cash. Pure cash."
"I could'va told you beforehand boot camp was a bad idea. You know, before you wasted your time. Why'd you want to do that to yourself anyway, man?"
"Things change, Keiji," he answered indifferently.
"You sure have."
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