It was a cloudy and unseasonably warm day, hot in the sun and even more stifling near a cooking stove. It had been six months since they had separated and left Ikitsuki Island behind. Jin was wandering from place to place without a destination in mind and attempting to keep a low profile as word had spread that he'd killed Kagetoki Kariya. This week Jin was working at an outside food stall to earn money for his meals and lodgings. In short, he was cooking fish and driving away the stall's regular clientele.
It had been six months, and with a bored expression and a flick of his hand in greeting, Mugen simply bellied up to the counter and said, "Yo."
He looked much the same, the scars on his hand and right cheek no longer an angry red, healed and fading with time. He had a new shirt made of hemp. It only had three suspicious stains on it.
The fondness Jin felt bloom in his chest wasn't entirely unexpected.
Wordlessly, Jin slid a plate in front of Mugen and put some fish on it that had been on the stove too long. Mugen, unsurprisingly, tried to eat it. He spit it back out immediately. Jin side-stepped to avoid the splatter.
Mugen glared at the blackened fish on his plate. "This is the worst thing that I've ever put in my mouth."
"Hmm." Jin's eyebrow twitched, because he knew what things Mugen was willing to put in his mouth.
Mugen picked up the fish by the tail and waggled it. Black bits fell off.
"I know how to make eel," Jin said resentfully, because he didn't like being given tasks that he could not perform to his usual standard.
"You're really terrible at this," Mugen said with his hand on his chin.
Jin wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. Sweat slipped down his sides. "Do you want to help?"
Mugen stared at him. "Why the fuck would I do that?"
"Of course. You don't know how to cook," Jin said, because he'd missed riling up Mugen like this. It was strangely satisfying despite being so easy to do.
"I know how to cook!" Mugen shouted, getting spittle everywhere. He slammed his palms on the counter. "I'm better at it than you are, asshole!"
Jin narrowed his eyes. "Prove it."
Mugen launched himself over the counter feet first.
He made a mess of the entire food stall and briefly set the roof on fire, but his cooking was indeed better than Jin's. Jin ate three servings when he wasn't helping customers. He deliberately lost count of how many fish Mugen ate.
Jin closed up the food stall when it was too late in the evening to expect any more hungry customers. He cleaned up as best he could, but given the mess, Jin assumed that his employment would be terminated when the owner arrived the next day.
With a shared glance, Jin and Mugen headed for the closest bar.
Jin was on his second cup of sake when Mugen poked him between the eyes with a dirty finger.
"You haven't replaced your glasses," Mugen said accusingly.
"They're very expensive," Jin said as Mugen shifted his weight on his barstool to kick at him.
"Do you even need them? Did I kill all those four-eyed assholes for nothing?"
Mugen tossed a rag bundle onto the bar. Jin picked it up and slowly unwrapped the cloth, unsure of what he would find. Inside were several pairs of eyeglasses. One pair had a cracked lens and dried blood on the frame. Jin found himself smiling, and tried on the eyeglasses one by one until he found a pair that put the world back in focus.
He could see the bar menus clearly now, although he'd heard most of it when they arrived because Mugen still had a habit of sounding out words while he was reading.
"Thank you," Jin said. "You shouldn't have gone to the trouble."
Mugen grumbled and rubbed his neck. "I woulda killed 'em anyway."
Other than that, they didn't speak about what they'd been doing with their lives since they'd separated. Fuu always was the one who asked those questions and got them to fill in the silence. With a past that pained him, Jin deliberately stifled his curiosity because asking questions invited scrutiny. He was clumsy at it now and out of practice.
Instead of catching up, they drank silently until Jin ran out of money, which didn't take long. The only things Mugen had in his pockets were lint, a handful of acorns, and a piece of string he used to train fighting beetles. Mugen followed Jin back to his room. Jin could feel Mugen watching him, a prickle of awareness between his shoulders.
It was something Mugen had done to him all along. Mugen watched Jin constantly, still and silent like a pit viper waiting for prey. Jin could only guess at why. Perhaps it had started as studying the enemy, but at some point, it felt less like lurking danger and more like interest. Jin couldn't understand why he'd be so fixated on Jin's sexual proclivities otherwise.
Jin slid shut the door to his room and then took his hair down. He felt the phantom weight of the ponytail in his scalp. Mugen made an approving noise, the same noise he made whenever he spotted a hot woman he wanted to fuck. It sent a thrill through Jin's body.
Maybe sake did reveal the true heart.
"If you want to have sex with me, you have to take a bath first," Jin said.
Mugen made a loud noise of disgust and reared back to posture defensively. "Who said I wanted to?"
Jin carefully took off his new eyeglasses and set them beside the tatami mat with his swords. "You'll have to clean it before I'll let you stick it in me."
"Ugh. He's just as bad as a woman," Mugen grumbled as he slapped open the sliding door and went searching for the bath. Jin followed him to the hot springs, stored his things, washed quickly, then went for a soak. Mugen used Jin's soap and produced a towel from somewhere, probably stolen from another bather. Mugen couldn't stay still in the bath, hopping in and out the pools, complaining about being bored, and lurking in the water around Jin.
Jin got out the pool and squeezed the water from his hair. It hung heavy over his shoulder. He dried himself off as best he could and put his clothes back on with his skin still damp. Mugen threw his clothes back on while he was still dripping and left a trail of water as he followed Jin to the room.
Mugen flung himself onto the room's single futon and put his arms behind his head. Jin remained standing while he took off his clothes and folded them.
"Take your pants off," Jin said.
Mugen huffed, his dick already hard and bouncing as he wrestled out of his clothes. He was lanky and brown, his tattoos familiar. Jin took out his sword oil and began preparing himself. Mugen watched him with narrowed eyes, his body falling still.
Jin had only had sex with a handful of people, but with each person, he'd paid attention and asked questions, asked them to show him how to best please them. He'd been assured the results had been mutually satisfying; he assumed they were telling the truth, because if they hadn't, they probably wouldn't have continued having sex with him.
He wanted to figure out how to make Mugen come undone.
"What are you waiting for?" Mugen asked. He slid his hand down his chest and stroked his dick.
Jin straddled Mugen's hips. He stared at Mugen and said, "Don't move until I tell you."
Mugen's eyes gleamed, but to Jin's surprise, he didn't protest. Jin slowly lowered himself onto Mugen's dick and breathed out as he willed his body to relax. The stretch slowly faded into pleasure, and Jin rolled his hips a few times.
"Yeah?" Mugen asked.
"You can move," Jin said.
Mugen moved like an eel, fucking up into Jin a few times and then rolling him onto his back so he could go to town. Mugen planted one hand on the floor and put his other fist in Jin's hair, pulling his head back so Mugen could bite at his throat. The fast, shallow thrusts weren't doing much for Jin, but Mugen was growling and cursing like he usually did during a fight.
Jin squirmed underneath him for leverage. Just as he was moving to topple Mugen onto his back again, Mugen got in a thrust at an angle that made Jin make the dirtiest noise he'd ever uttered in his life. His toes curled and his cock jumped.
Mugen wasn't stupid. He kept Jin in that position and nailed him, just a little bit slower but infinitely better. Jin wrapped his hand around his cock and started stroking.
"I knew you'd love it," Mugen said smugly.
"Hmm," Jin said just to cast a little doubt.
Mugen gripped Jin's hair more tightly and yanked at it. Jin couldn't tell if he liked that or not, but he could figure it out later.
It didn't take long before Mugen made a strangled noise and closed his eyes, thrusting into Jin a few more times before collapsing between his thighs. Jin brought himself off with his hand while Mugen lazily mouthed and licked at his throat and chest. After he came, Jin shoved Mugen off him and wiped himself off with Mugen's shirt.
Mugen dozed for a while, sprawled on his back and snoring in a way that was both obnoxious and dear. Jin had never had friends before. He hadn't been prepared for how much he'd miss them when they weren't around.
Rolling over with a snort, Mugen burrowed closer to Jin and flung his leg over Jin's thighs.
"Have you seen Fuu?" Jin asked quietly.
Mugen grunted into Jin's shoulder and shook his head.
"Hmm," Jin said.
"Whatever. Maybe if we hear any rumors about annoying girls who get themselves kidnapped, we could take a look," Mugen mumbled.