Disclaimer – I don't own Tekken.
Old, old stuff. I started this a while back as just practice drabbles, but lo and behold, it started to form a narrative. It was actually meant to be the original Vertigo, before that twirled off in a different direction. However, it may still retain aspects of that fic. :P
This fiction shall be in three parts. All three parts are nearly completed, so expect quick updates.
Note - I know the new canon name for TT2!Forrest is spelt "Forest." However, I was three quarters/ practically finished this fic when it was confirmed, and so "Forest" shall be "Forrest" for this fic only. Also in this fic he is younger than his canon counterpart. For years I thought Forrest was nineteen when he debuted. I wrote this fic with that and his old characterization in mind. So bear with me; a couple of AU features.
He'd noted the gathering crowds of young men slinking from the cover of shadow, sidling from behind dustbins and half rotted billboards, dressed in torn t-shirts and holey jeans and scuffed sneakers. One of the young men has a white scar slitting down his left cheek, and upon catching Forrest's eye, his smirk is full of broken teeth.
In a blur of movement, he attempts to shower down a barrage of kicks from above. Forrest ducks, pulls down his hand, curls his fist and strikes the man up in a vicious uppercut. The thug crashes to the floor and lays belly up; starfish style.
A silence creeps around the surrounding bystanders. Forrest straightens up, eyeing each and every one, until a string of mock clapping shatters the silence like lazy gunshots.
This boy is different from the others. His wild red hair is tamed by a pair of biker goggles, his boots are hob nailed and the look in his eyes has a slow burning, brutal intensity. He hooks his fingers through the loops of his jeans and imitates the smirk of his fallen lackey. His teeth are white and sharkish.
"Awww..." He dishes out a parade of lightening fast kicks, narrowly missing the end of Forrest's nose. "Is Daddy's baby finally come out to play with the big boys?"
Forrest doesn't blink. He picks up his bag, slings it over his shoulder, and begins to walk away. The spectators explode into jeers. The man behind him swears and spits.
"Well, well," he drawls, drawing up his leg in a warning stance. "Wouldn't expect any less from the golden boy, would we?"
"Wouldn't expect anymore from you," Forrest murmurs as the distance between them grows with each stride. "A thug trained by a coward. No surprise there."
The grins on the circling faces fade and some of them step back, behind the dustbins and billboards. Forrest fights to stop himself from pausing, for now it seems the very air is stung with ice.
A swerved kick blows the bag from Forrest's shoulder, sending groceries and plastic flying. Another deflects off his waist, almost winding him, but Forrest catches his arm under the crook of Hwoarang's knee and sends him spinning back. He hadn't even seen him move.
"C'mon then," Hwoarang juggles on his feet, his eyes black from fury. "If you have the balls to insult my master, then you can face me and I'll break your balls."
"Your master was a criminal who trashed dojos merely for the fun of it," Forrest gets to his knees; gathers the ingredients and piles them back in the remains of the bag. Heat is beginning to scuttle through his blood; his skin is flushing and his heart pounds raw and loud in his head. "My father trashed him at the second king of Iron fist. Returned the favour, so to speak."
"See that's funny. Cos' I'm about to trash you."
They trash the alley, the nearby recycling bins, tearing down posters with mislaid kicks and sprawling fists. In turn, they trash each other, and Forrest is deaf to the hustlers crowding them in sweaty droves and their baying cries of encouragement. He's never had a fight like this before, never felt the sticky mingle of blood and sweat on his brow, never felt the wiring of his limbs untangle in clear, barbarous jabs or how his veins sing with how alive he feels.
Hwoarang is an infernal hurricane, his kicks craning and closing in blurs of swiping lines. His hair is a flaming glisten beneath the summer sun, matched only by the blood trickling from the corner of his mouth, but his eyes are hungry and vibrant and burn through Forrest's head.
When Baek Doo San and Marshall Law find them, there is a brief tousle to break them apart. It's only when they have their particular student panting in their arms, do they recognise each other and the bad blood from years back begins to boil.
As Forrest is dragged away, feverish with a new, dangerous heat settling into his bones, does Hwoarang catch his eye and smirk.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The night is a warm wrap around him. His dreams fuzz and blur at the edges as once again, something hard and small bounces off the frame to his bedroom window.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Forrest growls. He pulls his legs free of the duvet, leaving it a crumpled mass on his frayed old mattress. He struggles to open his eyes, rubbing away sleep with the backs of his fists. He shambles towards the window frame, cursing as he stubs his toe on the dresser. The night has laid its hands on his bedroom and in doing so, morphs his furniture into dark, shapeless blocks.
He pulls the window up and jumps at a creeping whisper.
The glares of the street lamps reflect off a pair of battered biking goggles. The boy who sports them fastens a cigarette to his smirking lips and supplies Forrest with a steadfast wink.
Forrest slams the window down.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
When he finally opens the front door, Hwoarang ducks inside and in passing, taps his ashes inside his mother's best vase.
"What do you want?"
Forrest eyes the dark incline of the stairs as Hwoarang, ignoring his question, heads straight for the kitchen.
"You cook, right? Good. I'm starving."
"Not at two o'clock in the goddamn morning..."
"Yeah, well, now you do."
Forrest has a habit of surprising himself. This comes in full force as he heats up the wok in the tiny kitchen, glowering at the grinning punk with the hobnailed boots. It's not like he knows a great many people his age, and well, as long as it doesn't become a habit, once doesn't hurt, does it?
A week later Forrest will admire all the pebble dents, old and recent, in the frame of his window and wonder how he could have ever been so naive.
The old Korean recipe book is laid between them on the table. Forrest, fighting to hide his excitement at the prospect of new recipes, wets his lips and tries to test the man who's dabbing at a particular page with a grubby finger.
"Why are you in America, anyway?"
"Master wants you to try this recipe. Somethin' about what his mom used to make."
Forrest sighs, and finally giving in, reaches for the book. He squints at the recipe, noting each detail, each ingredient and the like, before he grins and shakes his head.
"Seriously? You can't make this yourself? It's easy."
"I can't cook," His voice is a mewling drawl as he props his feet up on the opposite chair. "That's woman's work."
"You know we could fall out."
"Heh. Can you do it or not?"
Forrest raises an eyebrow. Any new dish is a new challenge, even if it is a deceptively simple one. He gets to his feet and rips a sticky note off the fridge.
"Fine. Just let me write down the ingredients."
As Forrest scribbles, Hwoarang leans over the book. Darkness seems to dent his brow.
"Somethin' his mom used to make." And then, a pause. The chair groans as he rocks back on it, lifting the front legs off the floor. The next words he utters are a whisper, more to himself than anything, but Forrest hears them anyway. "Never had a mom to make me anything."
Forrest is suddenly conscious of Hwoarang eyeing each and every family portrait, each beach holiday and wedding and Christmas, splayed across each table surface and mantel like the messy length of a personal timeline. Forrest swallows, feeling suddenly guilty for a reason he can't pinpoint, and tries his first question again.
"Are you here for a martial arts tournament?"
"No. Master Baek had business in America. Wanted me to come, so I did."
Suspicious as always, he lights another cigarette, and dangling it over his forearm, hovers it a little close to Forrest's wrist.
"Yo, is that a problem Daddy's boy?"
Forrest doesn't even budge.
"No," he replies calmly. "I just need to know how much stock I need if I'm going to be cooking so much."
As Forrest washes up an uncharacteristic quiet settles between them, clouding the air like a fine dust. Its midday, his parents are out and he's started lying, of all things, started devising plans to try to cater to this new, secret friendship that downright baffles him.
"You cook, right?"
"Yeah." Forrest places the dishes on the rack. Behind him, Hwoarang clicks his tongue, as if in thought. The tips of Forrest's ears are reddening, for some unfathomable reason. "What else did you think I did?"
"Heh. But you fight too, right?"
Forrest turns slowly back to Hwoarang, wiping his hands on the dishcloth.
He expects a response seated in aggression, but instead Hwoarang delivers his usual smirk and rocks back on the dining chair.
"We'll see," is all he says.
Jin Kazama is wired into Hwoarang's skin, drawn tight inside of him, bucked up against his lungs and liver and heart. Locked in his ribcage, curled around the stomach with his head to the base of Hwoarang's spine. Forrest can see Jin, pressed up against the scalding furies of Hwoarang's dark, angry eyes, can feel the gusts of Jin's breath slipping between his friend's lips as he reduces the punching bag to fabric and sand.
Forrest doesn't train when Hwoarang is like…well, like this, with Jin pumping off his core in angry, sweaty waves. Hwoarang trains relentlessly, and even if every kick and thrust and arch is pure perfection, dissatisfaction rips through his face as he examines each technique, each method new and old, with all the vigour of a starving man.
Jin is the centre of Hwoarang's world. He dictates, with silent and unknown authority, every choice and action for his friend's life and goals. Jin is Hwoarang's world.
Forrest wonders how long he can cater to Hwoarang's needs, whether this fragile little friendship they've strung up is enough to appease the man's inner fire; whether the midnight training sessions and the heckling chats and the cooking can steady him, if only for a while.
But he isn't Jin Kazama.
"What are you looking at?"
If Hwoarang perceives even the tiniest flaw in his training, then as a result his temper is as black and as unpredictable as thunder.
"Nothing," Forrest doesn't dare go near the mat, save the panting, scary Korean plastered all over it. "I was just y'know…observing."
Hwoarang's eyes illuminate. There's nothing fresh about it. It's overly bright, dulled, a little nasty. Forrest inwardly groans. Whatever tiny crimes Hwoarang can concoct from thin air, he's about to be tried for. It's an outlet. Forrest knows this. He grimaces and gets to his feet, reaching for his drawstring bag.
"I'm not in the mood, Hwoarang."
"In the mood for what?" Hwoarang crosses his arms. The tried smile is more a smirk and already he is beginning to jitter with creeping, undefinable energy. "I haven't done anything yet."
"Yeah, well," Forrest spies the door. It is, well of course it would be, wouldn't it, behind the mat and Hwoarang. "I've gotta get back before you do do anything. My turn to cook dinner, y'know."
"No," Hwoarang frowns. "I wanted a spar. A proper one on one."
"Ask your instructor," Forrest says gently. He stretches and sighs. "It's too late, Hwoarang. I sat here and watched you train for the past two hours. Why didn't you say?"
A white blur hurtles towards his chest. A foot halts, barely a centimetre from Forrest's stomach. Hwoarang is still smirking, but every muscle in his cheek seems to smart.
"I'm saying now," he says lowly, prodding Forrest hard with his big toe. "I want a fight."
"I can see that," Forrest's heart is thudding, but he keeps himself stiff and still. "I have to go. I don't think my fight is the kind of fight you're looking for."
Hwoarang's eyes tighten at the corners.
"What the hell does that mean?" He half hisses, pushing Forrest further back with his foot. It's a soft pressure, well, soft for Hwoarang, but Forrest can sense the power climbing within the muscles of Hwoarang's leg and he knows if Hwoarang so desired, he could shatter his ribcage like paper.
"For god sakes Hwoarang, I'm not a…" Forrest struggles not to stumble over his own feet. He visibly swallows. Hwoarang's lips begin to part at the sight, his teeth riding over onto his bottom lip. Forrest jumps as the cold press of the wall hits his back. "I-I'm not a damn outlet."
"Outlet?" Hwoarang finally swings his leg down. "Who the hell said anything about projecting, Daddy's Boy?"
It's the nickname he despises. It's a warning sign. Forrest can bite, or he can do what Hwoarang wants.
Hwoarang catches the end of his thumb with the flashing white of his square, blunt teeth. He sniggers as Forrest drops his bag to the floor.
Well, that had an easy answer.
Forrest has always had this fear of conflict, of situations striding madly out of hand and the window of life crashing through. His future has never been solid, never been mapped up in exact lines and so he follows routine right down to the knuckle.
Hwoarang, on the other hand, is turbulence personified.
He can't believe he's dumb enough, weak enough, emotional enough that if all it takes is to get him on that damn bike he hates so much is a cocky smirk and the barest implication that he might leave without him. That all the bastard has to do is rev the engine a certain way and there he is, tripping down the stairs and sneaking past the dojo and carrying Hwoarang's favourite meal in a Tupperware under his arm. That Hwoarang licks his lips when he sees him and it makes all the hair on his neck prickle and Hwoarang isn't looking at the Tupperware, he's looking at him and it drives him mad. He hates how he purrs hang on tight now and pushes his back further into Forrest's lap then he needs to. He hates how when they get there Hwoarang and Baek exchange glances as if this is part of some elaborate joke he's excluded from. He hates how his father would skin him alive if he found out about him being tutored by Baek Doo San of all people and his pupil with the bad dye job and just, well, this.
Forrest hates how he has this feeling, this knowledge that he'd follow Hwoarang anywhere and do everything he wanted because he doesn't even have to ask; he just smirks and nods and beckons, and Forrest is just lost.
Forrest hates how he's so dumb and weak and emotional and so, so lovesick.
"I'm too tame for you."
Hwoarang's bike is parked down the alleyway of Marshall's dojo; the air is rancid with filth and the stink of the gutters. If this bothers Hwoarang, he doesn't show it. He's down one knee, the crook of his jeans sodden with rain water, his fingers yanking at Forrest's zipper. The air is pressed with a grey, wintery drizzle. Moisture dribbles down Forrest's cheeks, down the arch of his chin, dripping in the curve of collar bone and chest and in the place where his heart beats.
Weeks have passed. A muggy summer with overcast skies, spent in stuffy dojos and kitchens slick with sweat. A sunny, crisply brisk September. And an October that drowns everything and everyone in slashes of wet, slushy lines.
He tries again. The movement of his lips are as small an action as the gentle shift in his breathing, and he's surprised when Hwoarang hears him this time.
"I'm too tame for you."
He feels the beginnings of short, jagged nails raking his lower stomach. Hwoarang hisses, pissed at being distracted, and slides up to his full height.
"You'll get bored eventually," Forrest says dully. He leans back against the bike, squinting at the cloudy hang of the sky. "You'll just move on to someone else."
"You're worse than a girl," Hwoarang catches the end of Forrest's chin. He clicks his tongue against his teeth, a common habit and one that spells nonchalance, but the moody monochrome of his eyes seem to intensify. The moment passes and he sniffs. "Anyway, you shouldn't say such stupid things."
A kiss. Hard, dry, demanding, on his lips.
Hwoarang catches Forrest's wrist, and guides it to his own belt. A lump rises in Forrest's throat and his breath comes out in quick, gasping gusts.
Hwoarang leans in closer. The bike creaks with their added weight.
"Cos' it ain't true."