A quick review of the Four Vows reminds Jin that desire is illusion - or maybe not. Jin x Mugen There's guys kissing in this. So don't read it if you don't like that kind of thing.
Jin, crouched in the shade of the shack roof's ragged overhang, squinted along the blade of his katana, then unwrapped the small bundle that held his whetstone and cleaning powder. The long sword didn't particularly need attention, but the process, so often repeated that it had become a set of ritual gestures, had the same soothing effect; the murmur of stone against blade its accompanying prayer.
What would a sword's prayer be, anyway? Maybe the first of the Four Vows: However numberless the beings, I vow to save them? Apt. But the second Vow? However inexhaustible desire, I vow to end it.
That's what Jin would have prayed for himself: the end of desire, its illusions and entanglements, the way it made you carry it all day then kept you awake at night, the way you could taste it. The end of one desire in particular...
If only he could kill it. The stone stroked down the length of the blade. Death was simple. It was living that was so damned complicated.
He hissed - his momentary loss of focus had cost him a cut finger; probably exactly what he deserved for his stupidity - as he wiped the blood off, he heard the familiar sound of Fuu hectoring Mugen in her customers-with-no-money-go-next-door tone.
"It's obvious, so what's the big deal?" she was saying; judging by the determined note in her voice, Mugen probably shouldn't be arguing with her.
But he would - he always did, one corner of his mouth turned up, goading her with insults until she exploded like a small handful of coloured firecrackers. Jin assumed that this was the Ryukyuan outlaw's somewhat unsophisticated idea of flirtation and usually paid as little attention as possible, but just now he was grateful for the distraction. He checked the katana's blade again and waited for the sparks.
Instead, Mugen's answer was barely audible, an odd, raw edge to his usual sulky growl. "It's not as easy as that."
Fuu reacted to this with a triumphant squeak, sounding, Jin thought, rather like her own pet squirrel. "A-HA! So you admit it! That's progress!"
"Just shut up and go away."
There was the usual ten or fifteen second pause that Fuu generally needed to prove she was going because she wanted to and not because Mugen told her to, then the door of the shack flew open and she rounded the corner, kimono sleeves flapping. Jin stepped back to get out of her way, but she ran into him all the same, knocking his glasses askew.
"AND YOU - " she hissed, poking him in the middle of the chest with a surprisingly hard small finger - "ARE JUST AS BAD. He doesn't think at all/, and /you think way too much!"
Then she seemed to relent, reached up and settled his glasses back on his nose for him. "You. You're as blind with those things on as without them." She gave him a shove towards the door. "Stupid, pigheaded ronin," she muttered, and disappeared around the side of the shack, heading for the road into the village.
Inside the derelict house, Mugen sighed, and Jin put the stone down. He couldn't pretend any longer that he didn't understand what the girl was suggesting or what the sigh might mean - or how much he wanted to believe it. He left the katana where it was, too. One way or another this would have to end, and it would be faster if he wasn't armed.
"What do you know, girl? Him and me - that's..."
An illusion? An impossibility? Jin looked at the man slumped in the shadows, saw the ferocity for once sheathed and still, and found his voice.
"Complicated," Jin said. Like living...
Mugen's head came up sharply; he knew he'd been caught. His eyes, wide and black with surprise, met Jin's. In them, Jin saw something he was probably never meant to see: desire, uncertainty, and a half-baffled need to surrender. There was, it seemed, a gate in the wall, and right at this moment it was unbarred and undefended; who knew if it would ever be again?
With a groan that sounded like /no/, Mugen began to beat his head against the wall behind him, closing his eyes before they gave away any more of his mind. Jin silently crossed the dim little room and sat down beside him; this struggle was between the outlaw and whatever was inside of him; there was little Jin could do to sway the outcome. He'd get nowhere trying to force his way in - hadn't they been testing each other's strength for weeks now?- but maybe, if he was there when the gate opened of its own accord-
"For fuck's sake, say /something!/"
However boundless the dharma gates, I vow to pass through them...
Jin hoped that the compassionate goddess was paying attention as he gave the only response that seemed even remotely possible - and it didn't involve words.
Mugen froze as Jin's mouth touched his and the ronin's fingers slid over his cheekbone and behind his neck, keeping him from pulling away. For a few seconds they were both completely still, then Mugen hesitantly leaned into the kiss as if somehow testing it.
Jin felt his own mouth opening in a silent answer - he had started this with no expectation of the result, with nothing but the nearly-perfect instinct for another's potential that had kept him alive so far - and that instinct told him that what Mugen needed now was to dominate, to forget in the pleasure of winning that this particular battle had begun with his surrender. Jin tilted his head back slightly and allowed the other man's tongue to explore his mouth as the strong, calloused fingers caught in his hair. It was a compromise he could live with - until the balance of power between them shifted again...
When the kiss ended, Mugen took a long, hard breath. "This is...this is...what is this?" Beneath the arrogance was a note of appeal, and it was this that had to be answered.
"Complicated," Jin said.
However incomprehensible the truth, I vow to attain it... The last of the Vows.