Jin clutched the brown paper bags to his chest as he walked brusquely through the crowded streets in downtown Osaka. He pulled his coat tighter around his frame to keep out the chill winter air and his scarf flew out behind him in the wind, like a green and cream flag waving his colours. He’d nearly finished his shopping and rushed down the busy streets to his final destination. He had no idea how he’d hitchhike back to his cabin on the outskirts of the city with all his baggage and groceries. Though he had no plans of staying in the crowded city, or even returning until well after the Christmas rush and he’d do what it took to get out of there. If worse came to worse he would just take a cab or walk. He sighed as he dodged around a crowd of people walking past him, he could deal with cities well enough, but there was something about surging crowds of Christmas shoppers that just rubbed him the wrong way. If he had to walk the entire way to get out of there, just to get to a safe haven, he would do it; the cold didn’t bother him anyways, and he enjoyed the fresh air.
He paused a moment, something inside him (that was not Devil) telling him to pause for a moment. He had gained control of that black beast that lived in his mind and could barely hear its grumblings as he went about his life. It was a relief to regain that control after his father had given the creature strength. No, Devil was asleep, and this was something more intuitive that made him pause, and he adjusted the bags in his arms just as a man tumbled out in front of him. The dark-haired fighter stood, dumbly watching as the man climbed to his feet, drunkenly swaying as he turned to face another man who’d come out of the bar after him.
Jin’s eyes widened with recognition as he took in the new arrival; red-brown hair long about his ears, reaching his jaw, a pair of worn goggles perched on his forehead, and the only thing keeping the locks out of his face. Jin felt his stomach clench as his Korean rival-turned-friend-and-more stepped from the bar, letting the door slam shut behind him. He cracked his knuckles as he stared down the drunken man before him.
“Hwoarang?” Jin asked, taking a step forward. He had no idea what was happening, but knew that the Korean would in all likelihood hospitalize the other man if he got in a couple good kicks.
The name seemed to draw the redhead’s attention for a moment and he blinked. “Kazama…”
The distraction was all the man needed to make his escape and he fled into a throng of people, disappearing from view as the holiday shoppers surrounded him.
Jin winced as he watched the man flee, but the Korean seemed unfazed. “Long time no see,” he sniffed, putting his hands on his hips and seeming to deter the shoppers from walking close to him through his aura alone.
A portly woman pushed into Jin, shoving him towards his rival and he caught himself at the last minute. Hwoarang was quick to catch a bag that fell from Jin’s arms. “Damnit, I hate it when this place gets so crowded. Let’s go back to my place.” He turned and began to walk away, still holding Jin’s groceries in his arms.
“No, Hwoarang, I can’t… hey, come back with that!”
Jin had no choice but to follow the other man to his hotel room. His eyes went wide as he looked over the furnishings and the door clicked shut behind him. The plush carpeting lined the floor around the bed and the door, but ended where the entrance to the faux hot springs began with its rock flooring. He had never been in one of these ‘love’ hotels before; somehow the fake atmosphere and onsen had never appealed to him, not when he’d sat in the real thing so many times in Yakushima. He stood by the door, staring at the carpeting and wondering if he would be there long enough to take off his shoes.
“Don’t just stand there like an idiot, Kazama. Come on in!” Hwoarang called out from the bathroom, making the decision for the dark-haired fighter. Jin toed his boots off, leaving them to sit in a slushy heap as he stepped up onto the carpeting. His jacket found a home over the back of a chair, as did his hat, scarf and mitts.
The act of removing his winter clothing seemed to cement his accepting the invitation, at least in his mind, and he left his bags on a table and ventured further into the room. The fake hot spring was actually done up well, nothing dirty or shoddy like he had imagined. The fake rocks were as close to the real thing as fiberglass could get and the water seemed to have been piped up behind several trees that were affixed to the wall, splashing out at the right points to cascade down the fake boulders and into the pool below. For someone who had never seen a real hot spring outside the city, it would have been impressive.
Jin yawned and sat on the bed, so tempted to flop back, but knowing that would just invite his rival in ways he was not in the mood for. Sure, they had moved beyond the tired rivalry that Hwoarang alone had carried for years. Beyond rivalry to friendship into an amicable arrangement that had its benefits and Jin blushed to remember their previous meeting. They’d fooled around once or twice, though circumstances beyond their control always kept them from exploring anything beyond fleeting, fumbling encounters, though the memory of those trysts always remained fresh and hot at the forefront of Jin’s mind weeks after he’d said goodbye to the brash Korean. Those memories rushed to his imagination then, making his blood rush through his veins and he quickly shook his head of the images. Instead, he turned to questions of why he was even there. “I can’t stay long,” he called out to the other man, hoping against hope that Hwoarang would just let him go so he could find a way back to his cabin.
“Jeez, just wait a minute, would ya?” Hwoarang popped his head out of the bathroom and gave the dark-haired man a hard look. It somehow lost its severity when coupled with the plastic gloves stretched around his rough hands that held a strange-looking bottle. His hair was a mess, half-sticking to his head in places, and brushed forward in others.
Jin’s mind seemed to grind to a halt and he tilted his head questioningly.
Hwoarang seemed to realize his state a moment later and moved to cross his arms defensively, only stopping short when he realized he’d get dye all over himself. “I’ve just gotta touch up my roots, Kazama, and then we’ll have some fun.”
“Why did you invite me up?” Jin asked, placing his hands lightly on the bed.
“Why not?” Hwoarang kept his body half-in the bathroom as he continued applying the bottle of dye to his mane. He squeezed the final drops from the container and dropped it in the sink before he began massaging the remainder into his scalp and through the long strands of hair. He stepped from the bathroom, facing Jin. “What, am I keeping you from something important?”
“No, not really,” Jin stammered, trying to keep from staring at the other man’s bare chest. Why did he look so good in nothing but jeans? He turned his head, looking around the room before his gaze fell on his bags that he’d left on the table. “Well, I was just picking up some supplies. I’m staying in a cabin just outside of Osaka.”
“Yeah?” Hwoarang raised an eyebrow and continued rubbing the dye into his hair. “Heh, figures you’d find a nice place with trees to hole up in for Christmas.” He smoothed the wetted tresses to his scalp and a spark came to his eye. “You stayin’ there with anybody?”
“A-anybody?” Jin stammered, his breath catching in his throat under the intense look the Korean shot him.
“Yeah, Kazama, anybody special?”
“Uh, I don’t have anyone special…”
Hwoarang laughed, then and snapped the gloves off his hands, tossing them behind him into the bathroom before marching toward the Japanese man. “I figured you’d say that. Well, you’ve got me, Kazama.” He said it with some finality that set Jin’s nerves on edge and lit a flame of excitement somewhere just beneath his belly.
Jin stood as Hwoarang approached him, stopping just short of an inch from the other man’s face. From that close proximity, Jin could smell the hair dye; see the way it had smeared beyond the Korean’s hairline and onto his forehead. He kept his face neutral – an easy feat from years of experience – and tried to guess what Hwoarang would do next, what he hoped would happen next.
A few moments passed and Jin was ready to step forward and make the first move to kiss his rival, when Hwoarang seemed to snort and shake his head. He stepped back, looking around the room for a moment before turning his smouldering gaze back to Jin’s dark eyes. “I’d invite you to stay with me, but I have a feelin’ this place ain’t your style.”
Jin didn’t say anything, he could have put up with the hotel, but it was true; it was so very much not his style it was insane. It somehow fit Hwoarang, though, and for that thought alone he knew he could put up with it for a night.
“You said you got a cabin?” Hwoarang asked, stepping around Jin to toss a knapsack on the bed and turned to stuff some articles from the nightstand inside.
“Uh, yeah…” Jin watched as the other man seemed to pack up everything that wasn’t bolted down into the knapsack. “Why?”
“It’s Christmas, Kazama. I’m going out with you to this cabin.”
“O-oh, no, that’s alright. I really…” Jin began to protest, his hands flying up in defense. Hwoarang seemed to anticipate the refusal, because he dropped his packing and moved in close again. Jin pressed his hands into Hwoarang’s chest, but the Korean ignored the protest and continued to press forward with his intentions. Jin barely had a moment to register a complaint before the redhead’s mouth was on his, pressing, insistent and he parted his lips at the onslaught. His tongue raised to meet the Korean’s in earnest passion. Hot, fast kisses peppered his mouth and ended far too soon; too early for Jin to thoroughly enjoy before Hwoarang was back to packing up again.
Jin let out a sigh and rubbed the back of his head. How was it that Hwoarang had convinced him so thoroughly without uttering a word?
They stepped from the love hotel, Jin carrying his bags of groceries and Hwoarang with his knapsack slung over his shoulder. Jin adjusted his winter hat over his ears, having some difficulty with the task as his mittens prevented any useful articulation of his fingers. Hwoarang reached over to help, nimbly tucking the soft, polar fleece over the Japanese man’s ears and then helping zip his jacket up tightly against his scarf.
“There ya go, Kazama, all fucking toasty.” He pulled back, stuffing his hands into his jacket pockets again and hunching his shoulders against the cold.
“Where’s your scarf, Hwoarang?”
“I don’t have one,” he replied, his bright, freshly-dyed hair gleaming bright against the snowy background. “I’m fine, Kazama. Let’s just fucking go, alright?”
“I-in a minute, I wasn’t done shopping,” Jin tried laughing as Hwoarang shot him a sour look.
“Well, hurry up, then, it’ll get dark soon and I don’t feel like riding in this weather in the dark… not that I couldn’t do it, but I don’t want to.” He puffed his chest out and folded his arms.
Jin nodded brightly and handed his bags to the Korean before rushing across the street. He ran as fast as he could, not wanting to leave the other man in the cold for longer than he had to. He’d wanted to spend the end of the year in isolation and meditation, but whenever Hwoarang muscled his way into his life, he always felt a giddy surge of excitement and instead of pushing him away, he just needed to pull him in. Damnit, they weren’t different, they were just opposites that complimented each other, like yin and yang, and there was something that he wanted to get for his yang.
“I can’t believe you were going to spend Christmas alone, Kazama,” Hwoarang commented as he walked into the cabin and immediately began scrutinizing the single-room building. For a little cabin out in the middle of nowhere, it was well-furnished. A cast-iron stove sat stocked and ready for use along the back wall, flanked by a small kitchenette and couch on either side of the wall. Closer inspection revealed a bed hiding behind the couch and little else in the way of amenities; no television, no Jacuzzi, not even a shower, though there seemed to be an electric lamp beside the couch, which would help when reading anything from the double-shelved bookcase.
“Well, I don’t really celebrate that holiday much,” Jin mumbled, setting his bags on a table and setting his winter clothes to hang by the stove. “I’d just wanted to be alone for a little while…” He walked to the kitchenette where he punched a few buttons. The sound of a generator springing to life somewhere out of sight filled the silent air with a comfortably faint hum.
“Well, sorry to ruin your exciting plans, Kazama, but I’m more exciting and we’re going to do something festive, even if it means me beating the Christmas spirit into ya,” Hwoarang kept his coat on as he rifled through his own bag. “I even brought some supplies from town to make this place all Christmassy and shit.”
Jin paused in lighting the fireplace, looking queerly at the other man. “What do you mean?”
“Well, there are some table decorations or… something,” he withdrew some metallic angels and set them on the bookcase. “Uh, then some candles, booze, cake and some tree decorations, so we’ll need to get one of those.” He produced some coloured garland and tinsel from his bag and looked expectantly at the other man.
If it had been under any other circumstances, Jin would have laughed to see Hwoarang clutching tinsel between his fingers.
Hwoarang carrying Christmas decorations with him was unbelievable, but something didn’t sit right with him, especially the mention of ‘getting’ a tree.
“What more do we need than angels and booze?” he asked, indicating the paper bag from the liquor store.
“It’s tradition,” Hwoarang started in a tone that left little room for argument. “We’re in a forest, so it’ll be really easy. We find a tree to cut down, put on display here and then we decorate it with tinsel and get drunk.”
The thought of cutting down a tree sobered Jin enough from his amusement to argue the idea. “I won’t cut down a living tree just to put it on display,” he said flatly and with some finality.
“Well, Christmas ain’t Christmas without a tree,” Hwoarang tossed the tinsel on the counter.
Jin folded his arms and looked away from the other man. Sure, he’d cut down a tree or two for wood, but they’d already been dead. Growing up in Yakushima, he’d learned that only those that had fallen were fair game, but the thought of Hwoarang trying to drag him into the Christmas spirit… sharing something so cozy and happy together, he felt his resolve weaken. It melted even more when Hwoarang approached him and placed a hand on either of his shoulders.
“We’ll only cut down a sick one, okay?”
Jin rolled his eyes and snorted unhappily, keeping his face turned away.
Hwoarang leaned in to nuzzle his cheek. He lifted his hands behind Jin’s back and before the dark-haired man could say anything, a red and white Santa hat had been plopped onto his head. The Korean stepped back to eye him, and Jin felt his cheeks go red as he looked at him through a frown.
“C’mon, Santa,” Hwoarang purred. “I’ll do the cutting, and then you can give me some coal for being such a bad boy this year.”
“I’ll give you more than coal…” Jin muttered, turning back to gather his scarf and wrap the soft, woolen garment around his neck, hiding the blush he was certain had heated his cheeks to a deep rosy colour. He pulled the Santa hat off his head and replaced it with his proper winter hat.
Hwoarang grabbed the red and white hat from where Jin dropped it and pulled it over his own head, his red tresses still peeking out from under the white faux fur. He winked at Jin as he zipped his coat the rest of the way and opened the door, letting the dark-haired fighter walk through first, axe in hand.
Jin led the way to a section of forest that had experienced some drought that summer. He’d been cutting out the sickly and dead trees from the land, making mental notes of where he’d cut out the dead growth and tallying how many new trees he’d have to plant once the ground thawed. Hwoarang followed behind, oblivious to Jin’s tree-hugging ways and the dark-haired man swore he could hear the redhead whistling a tune, though he didn’t recognize it.
After a few moments, Jin had to ask, “So, why are you so big on Christmas, ‘Rang? I never thought you cared about this sort of thing.”
Hwoarang stopped whistling and trudged along quietly for a moment before responding. “It’s really stupid, but I can’t help it. When I was a kid I had nothing, and I mean nothing. I was only worried about finding my next meal and avoiding being harassed by the cops, or the gangs that were around my section of town,” he scrunched his face up at the memory and Jin softened to see him being so honest. “Anyways, there was this church that would always invite some of us in for Christmas…” he stopped walking and reached into his pocket to withdraw a battered pack of cigarettes.
“I wanted the free rice and turkey they were handing out. Meat was hard to find, and the bigger kids usually got into the garbage bins behind the restaurants before I could, so it was a special thing, yeah?” He lit the cigarette with a click of his lighter and inhaled deeply. “Well, the priest and nuns at this church would go on about the meaning behind Christmas, but the thing that I remembered was this huge tree they’d have in the sanctuary. The whole place was done up in all this green and gold and silver shit and it was just all fucking awesome stuff. I’d have this hot meal in my belly and sneak away from the others to explore this tree. It was huge, and there was this angel on the top of it that was looking down…” He held the cigarette between his frosty-red fingers, letting the smoke coil off and into the wind as he stared off into space.
Jin waited quietly for him to continue, but it seemed as if the Korean was remembering something private and he didn’t want to intrude. Finally, he cleared his throat and Hwoarang’s amber eyes shot up to him. “We should keep going…”
Hwoarang shook his head and his cocky smile instantly returned to his face. “Sure, Kazama, there’s a tree out there with my name on it, damnit.”
They continued along, passing an outcropping of rocks that reminded Jin of his grandfather for some reason, though he couldn’t decide if it was the jagged tops that looked like his hair, or if that really was a face scowling out from the formation. He turned to the redhead to comment on his realization, only to discover the other man was absent. “Hwoarang?”
“Over here!” came the reply and Jin followed the voice to where his friend had gone. “Hand me that axe, Kazama!”
Jin stepped into the clearing the other man had found and stopped short as he stared at the tree they’d found. It wasn’t the tallest in the forest, it was probably a little taller than Jin was and full with green needles. He looked down to his rival with a frown. “This one is too healthy…” he tightened his grip on the axe.
“What? C’mon, Kazama. What’s one little tree?”
Jin looked Hwoarang in the eye, feeling his resolve solidify and his back went rigid. “No.”
“Damnit, Kazama,” Hwoarang marched up to him, though Jin held his ground. “What’s the problem?”
“I don’t even celebrate Christmas and you’re asking me to kill a tree? Do you even know me at all?” He clenched his jaw as he said it, feeling stronger about it than he realized he would.
Hwoarang crossed his arms and stomped his feet for warmth, attempting to stare Jin down, but somehow only giving half an effort at it. After a few moments, Jin softened his expression and Hwoarang grunted. “Fine… fucking fine, Kazama. We’ll just look at the damn tree, then. Alright?”
Jin smiled, “Thanks, Hwoarang.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Hwoarang closed the distance between them and wrapped his arm around the dark-haired fighter. “We can go back to the cabin for a tree-less Christmas...” He pulled Jin close and turned so they could both look at the pine tree. “You’ll have to make it up to me, though…”
Jin shivered and threaded his arm around the Korean’s back to pull him closer. “I’m sure I’ll find a way… Santa…” he poked at the white puff that was hanging off the tip of the pointed hat.
“Damn right. You’ve been good this year, Kazama, but getting my hopes up like that was really naughty…”
The snow was coming down in thick, puffy flakes as they finally stumbled through the cabin door. Hwoarang had slipped on some ice a couple times, but Jin suspected it was just an excuse to grab a hold of him, as the redhead had kept holding onto Jin’s waist, even after he’d regained his footing. He kicked the door shut behind them and both men began struggling to climb out of their jackets and boots. The stove had been burning while they were out, and the radiant heat had filled the small room to a comfortable temperature.
Jin’s coat hit the ground and Hwoarang stepped in to press him back against the door.
“Ready to sit on Santa’s lap?” the Korean purred, grabbing hold of Jin’s wrists and holding them back against the wood.
“Y-yeah…” Jin swallowed thickly, feeling the other man’s arousal pressing into his thigh. “Whatever you want. It’s so ridiculous to cut down a tree… what’s the point?” He gasped as Hwoarang pressed harder against him, driving his hip into the Japanese man’s groin.
“Idiot, the tree has to come inside. How else are the presents going under it?”
Jin relaxed his struggles against Hwoarang’s body, letting the other man press into him with an intensity that rivaled their first encounter. Hwoarang leaned in, bringing his lips to rest lightly against Jin’s throat. “I’m happy we didn’t cut down that tree, Hwoarang.”
“Mmmm,” was the only reply, gruff and dismissive as the redhead’s hands became more insistent against Jin’s, releasing their hold and moving down to sneak under the dark-haired fighter’s shirt.
“Ah! Cold!” Jin squeaked, trying to squirm away from the redhead’s icy fingers.
“I just thought you could help warm them up…” Hwoarang drew back and gave him a coy smile.
Jin moved forward, pressing Hwoarang back a step as he ground into the other man through layers of clothing that were only getting in the way. He brought his hands down to cup Hwoarang’s face and pressed forward to kiss him properly, frosty lips warming and wet as they met, followed by a dance of tongues that coiled against one another between their teeth.
Hwoarang pressed a muscled thigh between Jin’s legs, driving forward until Jin could feel his own thighs clamping around the Korean’s leg. Clamping and grinding down against that hard, thick thigh. “F-fuck…” Jin broke away from the kiss and panted, trying to reclaim the breath that wouldn’t stay in his lungs.
Hwoarang looked over to the bed, Jin followed his gaze; the red and orange glow from the fire in the stove cast a warm glow across the quilt. “This time, nothing is gonna pull you away, Kazama,” he purred, turning back and Jin melted against him.
“We’re snowed in,” Jin pressed his hands against Hwoarang’s face, pushing the bright red locks away in some desperate movement. “I’m sure we’ll have a few days to ourselves…”
Hwoarang licked his lips and pulled Jin back, moving further into the room. “Hmmm, I’ll bet we can come up with a few ways to pass the time.” He skillfully maneuvered around the furniture, setting Jin’s senses on fire with each brush of his thigh against his groin. “Let’s get to know each other a bit better, Jin…” the redhead purred as he pressed Jin towards the bed.
The dark-haired fighter could only moan as Hwoarang’s wet lips reclaimed his mouth and he was lowered to the mattress. His clothing quickly found its way to the floor and it was the first time in all their encounters that he felt truly safe and at peace. The beast in his mind was silent and all he knew were his own emotions and Hwoarang’s body moving against his. Moving inside and along and with his naked flesh until he couldn’t tell where he stopped and the other man began. He was too hazy with passion to think straight, though he didn’t confuse the act with love. As he clutched at Hwoarang’s back, digging his nails in for purchase as the Korean moved above him, he knew it was something else entirely. It didn’t have a name, but it was entirely theirs; unique to them and the bond they’d somehow formed between the streets of Korea and the moment their bodies had first moved against one another in something other than violence.
Jin possessed and allowed himself to be possessed, turning the other man over when his stamina had given way so that he could continue the passion that still burned brightly between them. Long into the night and well into the morning they moved together, slaking their lust for the other in a way they’d only dreamed, tireless and famished for more, as if neither had truly tasted the other until that moment, and it was their last opportunity for the rest of their lives. Neither man let go of the other until Morpheus finally pulled at their consciousness, their tired bodies relenting and collapsing against one another, finally allowing sleep to claim them.
It was sometime in the afternoon, Hwoarang knew this by the way his feet felt as he poked them out from under the blankets. He stretched, flexing his legs all the way down to his toes before relaxing them and exhaling a satisfied sigh. Fuck, Jin was a fucking machine. The night before had been nearly as challenging as a fight. He stretched an arm out, seeking his rival under the warm blankets, but finding that his bare arm poked out from under the covers before he found the other man.
“Kazama?” He threw the covers off his head and looked around the cabin. The stove was still burning, though it seemed to be dwindling in its light and the Korean idly thought that they should find more wood for it. That didn’t distract him from the fact that Jin wasn’t there, though. “Damnit, where’d he go?”
Hwoarang poked his feet out from the bed again, this time swinging them down to the floor and stepping from its warmth and into the cooler air of the cabin. “Ah, cold!” he cursed and dove for his clothes. He’d kicked everything out of bed the previous evening, and it was some time before he was tugging his underwear on over his freezing, bruised backside.
He’d finally tugged his jeans on when the door banged open and Jin stepped inside. The dark-haired fighter stomped his feet a couple times to loosen the snow from his boots and then moved in with a small armful of firewood.
Hwoarang abandoned his search for his shirt and walked up to the other fighter, gripping him tightly and pulling him close for a kiss. His chest recoiled from the cold jacket he’d pressed up against, but he wouldn’t let go until he’d properly and thoroughly violated Jin’s mouth. Once he was done he pulled back, “Kazama, what were you doing outside?”
“We’re running out of firewood,” Jin said, dropping his meager harvest into the box beside the stove. “It’s really coming down out there.”
Hwoarang grinned as he watched Jin’s movements, noticing how he hesitated before moving away from him. “Oh yeah?” he said, to acknowledge that he’d heard the other man, when he was busy inspecting his ass as he bent over. Jin stood and turned to face him, a small smirk on his lips as he reached out to grab the Korean’s hand and pull him back to the door. He opened the wooden barrier to reveal the wall of white snow that filled the air. The flakes were tiny, but falling in such a torrent that he couldn’t see more than a few metres beyond the door. “Shiiiiiit…”
“I couldn’t find much wood around here, so we’re going to have to go back to that dead section of forest to get more if we want to survive.”
“What’s the matter, don’t think I can keep you warm enough?” Hwoarang leered, feeling his blood rushing south for the other man again.
Jin’s cheeks, already rosy from the cold, outside air, seemed to darken a fraction more and he lowered his gaze. “That’s not the point, just… come out with me, Hwoarang.” He looked up, his eyes firm with determination and the Korean sensed something else there.
It wasn’t just for firewood, but Hwoarang couldn’t guess any ulterior motive Jin would have. “Alright, Kazama,” he stretched before reaching for his coat. “But I hope you appreciate this, I’m going to be freezing with just my coat.” He tried to manipulate Jin to feel a bit guilty, but if anything, the comment seemed to bring a smile to the other man’s face.
Hwoarang grumbled as he stepped out of the cabin, pulling the Santa hat tightly over his ears and plunging his hands into his coat pockets. The wind was eerily absent, the snow was free to fall in thick waves from the heavens, dusting everything in sparkling white and the two fighters walked along the path they’d taken the day before.
Their footsteps had been wiped clear of the path by the new fallen snow and the redhead had to lift his legs high to get over the hills of frosty white flakes. Once or twice he tripped over some unseen rock or stump, though he faked it the last time just to grab a hold of Jin’s arm. “Damnit, how can you be so warm out here?” he asked, holding onto the other man’s arm and attempting to absorb some of his body heat.
“You’ll be warm for the way back,” Jin said with a spark in his eye.
“Yeah… carrying your firewood…” Hwoarang muttered, turning his head away. The strange rock formation appeared to their side and the Korean felt Jin pulling him in a different direction. He warily followed and soon found he’d been lead to the clearing from the day before. Jin released his arm, and Hwoarang stood, staring at the tree that he’d been arguing to cut down.
The branches spread widely from the thick trunk at its centre, patches of green peeking through the thick layers of white that adorned its needles. Amid the thick wash of white on green, a bright splash of blue flitted about, drawing both fighters’ attentions to a little bird hopping about on the branches. It tipped its head towards them, pausing for a moment before continuing its dance, leaving little footprints in the snow.
“Shit, guess you were right, Kazama,” Hwoarang commented when the bird was joined by its mate. “It’s better that we left it where it is… but I still wish we had a tree, though…”
“For presents, right?” Jin hummed and stepped around to the other side of the clearing.
“Well… yeah! It’s tradition!” Hwoarang followed him, not too sure if he was starting a verbal fight or not, but irritated by how enigmatic the other fighter was behaving. He folded his arms and stared at the damn tree again, wondering when they’d go to get their firewood so he could get warm.
The bird’s chirping still echoed in the clearing every so often, shrill and piercing, drawing the redhead’s attention to another splash of colour on the branches. A hint of red caught his attention and he moved forward, reaching out once he realized it wasn’t another bird.
“What the hell?” he asked, touching the red and black material to brush the snow away. The needles were sharp as he reached in, but the item was soft as he pulled it away and the scarf unfurled in his hands, releasing a pair of mittens to the ground and Hwoarang spun around to look at the other man. “The hell is this, Kazama?” he held out the scarf in a mock-accusatory way.
Jin stepped forward, his eyes dancing with ill-concealed glee as he approached the stunned Korean. He moved close to the other man, taking the scarf from his hands and wrapping the soft, woolen material around Hwoarang’s neck. “I noticed you didn’t have anything warm aside from your jacket… and since you insist that presents are supposed to go with trees…”
“That’s only when they’re inside and decorated all pretty n’ shit, Kazama…” Hwoarang mumbled as Jin handed him the mittens. He quickly jammed his hands into the woolen clothing, which shielded them from the chill, and he shoved them in his pockets again to try to warm them further. He grinned wryly as Jin reached up to adjust his Santa hat. “Ya couldn’t get me a real winter hat, could ya?”
“I like you in that one, though. Kinda like a secret Santa.”
Hwoarang pulled his hands from his pockets and quickly pulled Jin in close to him, looking deeply into the other man’s dark eyes and fighting back a grin he could feel tugging at the edges of his mouth. “Damnit, Kazama… let’s just get back to the cabin. Forget the firewood right now; I’ll keep you warm…”
His smile broke through when he felt Jin shiver against him and he imagined it wasn’t entirely from the cold.
Jin was the one who pulled him back, reaching up to wrap his arms around Hwoarang’s neck to pull him in for a kiss before he playfully leapt back and pulled his Korean rival with him. “Well, we’d better hurry because I’m getting cold… so if you think you can warm me up…”
The challenge was issued and Hwoarang practically dragged Jin back to the cabin. They left the clearing behind, their footprints the only indicator to their visit, and even those began to fade as the dusting of snow became thicker and filled their imprints long after they’d left.