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Our Inner Demons

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Lee liked to think of himself as a spontaneous man, full of last-minute surprises and evasive strategies to fool others however he pleased. One such example was canceling his evening dinner with another business associate, with whom he had no desire to meet, and rescheduling it for another time. It was nothing personal; his work had him running ragged with minute leisure time these days and he often found himself exhausted after a long day of paperwork, flights, and negotiations that had him frustrated and tired by the end of it all.

Instead of returning to the office like he had originally planned, Lee decided to humor himself and drop by one of the more popular spots in the city for the night off. It was a bar that hosted live performances on weekends and kept business flowing by maintaining their low alcohol prices and professional staff when it came to catering their customers.

It wasn’t particularly busy this early in the night, and weekdays didn’t often bring in the binge-drinkers that were looking to drown their stress away. Still, the place was occupied and Lee found himself taking an open seat at the bar table. The bartender on the other side was a woman, nearing her thirties and well-versed in her job. She managed multiple drink orders while offering Lee’s regular top shelf bourbon brand, serving him with a rehearsed wink.

He couldn’t find the effort to return the gesture this time around, taking a sip of his whiskey and letting it burn his throat with the familiar taste. One glass was all he needed to take the edge off before he retired for the night, wanting nothing more than a decent night’s rest for a change. While his chronic insomnia was a blessing when it came to his work habits and schedule, it was hell on his body and mind. He often found it easier to sleep after a drink, but it wasn’t always guaranteed.

He busied himself by watching the bartender pace behind the counter and mix drinks, occasionally looking out into the small crowd of customers by their tables in hopes of finding some amusement in their interactions. He hadn’t even finished his bourbon when he heard the woman address one of the other men at the bar, just a few seats away from him whose face was masked under his jacket hood.

He didn’t pay much attention to him at first, he was lumped in with the rest of the background from where he was sitting, and the other man between them hadn’t helped emphasize his presence. However, he seemed to be well into his fifth drink of the night and blatantly ignoring the bartender’s offer for a water instead.

Lee glanced over to see just who was giving her trouble when he recognized the patterns on the jacket, and the dark fringe of hair that peaked out from the hood at the right angle. He hadn’t noticed before, and part of him hoped it was just his fatigue that had allowed the detail to slip from his observations.

He remained in his seat for another few moments, watching the man in question turn down the water silently in favor of nursing his alcoholic drink. It was rather easy to tell that he wasn’t sober by the movement of his hand, which had waved her away with a relaxed, unsteady motion that was unnatural for Jin Kazama.

“Jin?”

If the boy had heard him, he didn’t bother showing it. His gaze was fixed on the liquid in the glass he was holding, staring down at his golden-brown reflection in silence until Lee had finally gotten up to approach him.

He placed his hand on his shoulder to pull him from the trance, bracing himself for the backlash he expected from the contact, but it never came. It seemed Jin was already aware of who he was and left himself unguarded enough to touch, which was no doubt intentional.

The boy had answered his call by drooping his shoulders and turning to face him, revealing his uninhibited drunken state just by the flush in his cheeks that appeared naturally unfitting with the once hardened gleam in his eyes that was now softened by one of the many drinks he’d consumed earlier that evening.

Lee had seen that look far too many times as it was commonplace in bars for those that drank to forget, brooding in the corner to lose themselves before they either passed out or were kicked out by morning. Jin wasn’t that irresponsible to make it a habit, as far as he was concerned, so the idea of his nephew so easily indulging himself in cheap liquor was difficult to process.

He didn’t need a verbal answer from him, already aware that he was asking for too much in that state. Jin wasn’t much for conversation and he had a feeling that alcohol didn’t loosen his lips the way it did others.

“I’ll pay for him,” Lee found himself saying. “Come on, I’m taking you home.” He gestured to Jin as he pulled out his wallet and threw a pile of notes on the table that no doubt covered both of their tabs and then some for a hefty tip. He then all but lifted Jin to his feet and guided him towards the door, his palm resting on his back to keep him moving but stable.

Jin’s balance was hardly affected, he could tell by the way he carried himself despite his condition, but his reflexes were slow and Lee had to swing the door open himself for the two of them to walk out. Jin was effortlessly influenced by his uncle’s hands that had pulled him away from his parked motorcycle. Instead, he shuffled towards the direction Lee had him going, his attention still focused on his bike before he met the passenger’s side door of Lee’s car.

“Get in,” Lee maneuvered around the front of his Mercedes, “And don’t puke in my car.”


 

The ride had been a rather quiet one, the traffic on the road had reduced compared to Lee’s drive from earlier. He offered to put on music to keep themselves entertained, though Jin remained indifferent and merely grunted as he stared out at the passing cityscape with his head resting against the window.

It was only a matter of minutes before he fell asleep that way.

Lee had turned the radio off to not disturb him and drove the rest of the way to his condo in silence. It was a building he rented out to others willing to pay for their living arrangements, but he always kept a room open for himself during the nights he stayed in the city for business. It wasn’t his mansion in the Bahamas, but the studio design was large enough to suit his tastes and he did little more than sleep in it anyways.

He parked his car inside of the garage space on the second floor, getting out and walking around to the other side to unlock Jin’s door. He was careful opening it, keeping Jin from slumping out of his seat before the boy stirred awake from the sudden movement and shot a drowsy glare his way.

Lee ignored it and helped him to his feet, locking his car up and passing through the security door that led directly into his temporary home. He expected Jin to be knocked out cold from the way he had been sleeping earlier, but perhaps he had more of a tolerance towards his alcohol than he originally anticipated.

He dragged Jin towards the center of the room, dropping him on top of the bed with what grace he could manage and straightened himself. “You can sleep here for the night and we’ll pick up your motorcycle in the morning.” He failed to give the lecture he so desired to his nephew, feeling a sense of disappointment knowing Jin had gone to the bar to drink without a secure way home. He thought he was smart enough to at least limit himself, but that didn’t seem to be the case this time.

However, he knew all he’d be doing was wasting his breath on him. Besides, he wasn’t in the mood to be a hypocrite.

Jin did little more than continue to stare up at him, as if processing his instructions carefully, though the look of defiance crossed his features before Jin apparently caved to his exhaustion and, without even pulling the sheets away, turned on his side and promptly fell back asleep.

Lee stayed hovering over the bed a while longer, ensuring that he was indeed out cold before turning on his heel towards the bathroom. Inside the medicine cabinet was a bottle of aspirin he kept, alongside the sleeping pills he used for his persistent insomnia episodes. He took out the aspirin and filled up a glass of water to set on the bedside table for Jin to take when he woke up, knowing the boy would be grateful for it when the time came.

He prepared for sleep afterwards, propping up the throw pillow that was against the arm of the couch and taking out the spare blanket he kept in the closet for himself. It was cramped, but with the only other cushioned furniture being taken up by his drunken nephew, Lee didn’t bother voicing his complaint.


 

The view of the clock’s neon blue numbers was hidden behind the back of the couch where he had been resting, but the time on his phone was glaringly bright and reading well into three a.m. There wasn’t much room for Lee to adjust himself in a more comfortable position, but he knew there was more to his sleepless night than just his unusual predicament.

He had spent his time trying to block out any noise that would disrupt his rest, the sound of the air conditioning kicking on every half hour or of Jin moving on the bed as he tossed in his sleep. He tried for hours before deciding to cave, Lee swinging his legs over the side of the couch and standing to walk towards the bathroom for his pills.

He disliked resorting to them so often, but he knew when his habit was out of his control. It was also too late in the night for him to be consuming them on a regular schedule, but with no urgent meetings to attend in the morning, he found it safe enough. He’d wake up drowsy but in better shape than a night of no sleep at all.

Lee had almost made it when he heard Jin stir, calling out something incoherent between his fits of mumbles. It had deviated from his repetitive sleeping habits Lee discovered throughout the passing night, and caught his attention enough to halt his movement. It was easy to tell that Jin was simply having a dream, and his consumption of alcohol made him more likely to restless spasms and sleep talking compared to what was normal. With his body obviously awake but his mind unconscious, Lee wondered if Jin would wake up as tired as he was when the time came.

Then Jin spoke quietly, but the word uttered in nothing more than a whimper had struck Lee as if he’d spoken it clear as day.

His sleeping pills had pushed themselves in the back of his mind as he turned to stare down at his nephew, head tossed to the side facing him and limbs strewn across tousled sheets that laid as proof of his ongoing struggle.

Mother.

It was more than a dream, he realized.

Lee approached him until he was standing at his bedside, the room too dark to make out details but the sound of his voice was more than enough to betray what the night was trying to conceal.

He reached down and felt the unmistakable drop of tears that stained his nephew’s cheek and dropped onto the pillow below, a sudden rush of empathy overwhelming Lee as he moved to wipe them away gently.

The touch did little to calm Jin, nor was it enough to stir him awake, but his hand remained there cradling his head as if Lee wanted to convey his presence; that he was there for him and Jin wasn’t alone.

He too could understand the loss of a loved one.

His time with his parents had been happy, albeit short-lived before they had passed away and left him to fend for himself in the streets of China. Those days had hardened him before he had even been a part of the Mishimas’ lives, giving him the resolve he needed to endure the hellish conditions he suffered through under the care of Heihachi.

Jin had grown from the love of his mother, and after her disappearance, had been thrown into their family turmoil soaked in deceit, hatred, and betrayal. What fondness he was once shown was ripped away from him and his new life forced him to adapt and survive just as Lee had all those years ago.

Jin was far too young to be taking on such burdening trials by himself, and with the sight of him unguarded and longing for the one he once held close, Lee was reminded that, no matter how hard Jin fought to steel himself, he was still human.

He was still a kid.

Lee sighed and removed his hand to retrieve the blanket he left on the couch, using it to cover Jin from the cold in hopes that he would rest easier. The sheets, now a tangled mess, were beyond their usefulness under his weight. It left Lee without cover for himself, but he found that he didn’t mind it as much.

He returned to the bathroom afterwards and took his sleeping pills, retiring to the couch once more and waiting for the sluggish feeling behind his eyes lull him, the sound of the air conditioning becoming distant as his vision blurred and the room remained chilled without his blanket.

He was nearing that blissful state in the matter of minutes until Lee finally succumbed to the fatigue that plagued his body and he drifted into sleep.


 

Jin had felt the heavy throb of his headache long before he opened his eyes, the pain slowly pulling him out of the restless sleep he’d gotten through the night and forcing him to confront the early morning sunlight that seeped through the curtains of the window.

His tongue was dry and bore the sensation of cotton that had him breathing from his mouth to relieve the feeling. It was not the first time he had woken from a hangover, but never had he discovered waking in a place that was not his own.

It didn’t take much for Jin to recover a recollection of the night’s events that led to his current predicament, and the sound of his uncle’s snores from across the room had proven his memory correct.

Jin finally brought himself to turn towards the sunlight that stung his eyes and bore into his sockets, squinting at the illuminated numbers on the clock to confirm the time.

It was barely seven in the morning.

Blinking his eyes to finally adjust to the brightness, Jin made a move to sit up, the blanket that was draped across his chest falling over his legs instead. The sudden exposure left him open to the rush of cold air that enveloped him, though Jin was too inattentive to let it bother him.

It was only after he had stood from the bed did he notice the bottle of aspirin and glass of water that was no doubt left out for him. He unscrewed the cap and took two, washing them down with the water before drinking the rest to ease the dryness of his mouth.

Lee was still asleep, out cold and legs bent awkwardly to fit on the couch. He was genuinely surprised to see that he hadn’t stirred since he had gotten up, knowing that the bed springs that squeaked from his weight was more than enough to alert someone like him from slumber.

The chance of meeting him at the bar last night had surprised Jin even more, unaware that Lee would be present to witness him in such a state. He refused to say anything to him the moment he approached to confirm his suspicions, Jin unsure whether it was the proper thing to do. He had been drinking a lot before he had even arrived, and with no necessary response ready to answer his rhetorical question, he found the safest option was to remain silent.

He looked down at his uncle a moment longer than what was appropriate, too preoccupied with his thoughts to realize he was staring. A part of him was frustrated that he was enjoying his sleep while Jin was forced awake by his hangover, but he knew it made things easier for him this way. There wasn’t anyone to keep him from leaving or forcing conversation that would grate on his nerves, and he knew that if Lee was awake, his charismatic and chatty nature would just make things worse.

It was best to leave now before it happened.

Jin made sure that he had everything on him from the night before: which was only his keys, cell phone, and wallet that were tucked safely in his pockets. He recalled leaving in Lee’s car, his motorcycle still parked at the bar they were drinking at, but the money he had on him was enough to hitch a ride on public transportation to avoid walking.

He made his way to the door and shut it behind him quietly before finding his way out, using the layout of the garage to walk his way down and onto the street below.

He didn’t bother leaving a note to explain his absence or to thank Lee for his hospitality, and his uncle would be a fool if he expected otherwise. A slip of paper would do little to qualify as much of anything, but Jin had his own ways of repaying his kindness through other means.

Whether Lee believed it was such was up to him to decide when the time came.