[Misc] Secrets of the Heart Final

Chapter Thirteen – The Reason

[Jin’s POV]

I tightened my hold around Mugen before I could whisper anything. “I’m sorry, Mugen,” I said softly. “I’m grateful that you would tell me something such as this.”

The Ryukyuian had to stifle the small laughter that bubbled up in his throat. “It doesn’t bother you that I had such a secret?”

I raised a brow as I pulled back to look my lover in the eye. “Does the fact that I killed my own brother make you never want to touch me again?”

Mugen shrugged, eyes darkening. “If you hadn’t, I would have. That bastard deserved to die.” His voice nearly hissed the last, anger erupting over his face.

I resisted the urge to laugh, knowing the time was not proper. But to see such righteous anger on his face over a wrong done to me… well, it made me happy. I instead chose to kiss him, pressing my lips to his own and devouring him as well I could. It was a far better reaction.

I nipped at his lips, traced my tongue around the contours of his mouth as I slowly pushed us to the floor, not that I was harboring lascivious thoughts. For once, I just wanted to hold him, the secret that he had told me warming a part of my heart that had once been frozen, the compassion that had been driven out of me in the dojo.

“Tell me,” I said softly, breaking the kiss as I pulled him into my embrace as well I could, so that we lay nearly aligned perfectly on our nest of blanket and clothing. “Tell me of them.”

He sighed, a motion that was not a common occurrence for him before he took one of my hands in his own, a rough thumb idly rubbing over the back of my own. It was a sign of vulnerability, and I was touched that he would allow me to see it.

“It’s the reason for the prison tattoos,” he explained by way of beginning his tale. Somehow, it didn’t surprise me that he would start in the middle and work his way around. “When I found out who had killed them, I went berserk, slaughtering whoever got in my way until I reached the guys and killed them, too.”

I had to fight down the shiver that wanted to race through my body as I pictured a grief-stricken and furious Mugen hunting down the cause of his pain. I imagined a wolf with blood in his eyes, a fearsome creature that I would not want to encounter on any day. I could understand what those men would have seen on the day of their deaths, and I hoped I never got to witness that look.

“It was nothing less than they deserved,” I commented, keeping my voice even.

“Yeah, well, the guys in charge didn’t think so. They shoved me in prison for two years until another riot destroyed the place, and I managed to escape.”

We were going to be chased after for the rest of our lives because I had fallen in love with an escaped convict. Somehow… that did not bother quite so much as it would have before. I only knew him as Mugen, the man that I loved, not Mugen the convict because he had killed the men who slaughtered his family.

“Fuu reminds me a lot of Kohana,” he continued softly. “That’s probably why I was so mean to her at first. It was painful. I didn’t want to be with her either, though I knew she had a crush or something on me. I wasn’t blind. I just didn’t want her to end up being a replacement.”

His hand tightened on mine but before I could speak he had something else to add. “Besides, I fell in love you so that doesn’t matter anymore.” I could almost see the irrepressible Mugen-grin on his face, though his back was to me.

“I am so glad you clarified that,” I said, somewhat teasing. He chuckled lightly before falling silent.

“And your child?” I prompted, insanely curious. I wanted to know of this other life that I knew nothing about. I did not feel at all jealous that he had loved someone other than me in his life. I only wanted to know, I wanted to hear of who he was before the Sunflower Journey.

“I had a daughter,” he explained. “We named her Sora.”

I ran the name through my mind, for some reason it sounding familiar. “Singing bird soars,” I mused aloud. “It is a pretty name.”

“It was her mother’s. She was always smiling, so her name fit. Didn’t cry much…” He sighed softly, again an uncharacteristic action. “I loved her a lot.”

It was then that the thought hit me. Mugen clearly enjoyed being a father for that short amount of time. Did he want to do so again? Would I lose him for the simple fact that I was not a woman, that I could not bear children? I had to know though I feared the answer.

I hesitantly began, trying to choose the right words so he would not me in the wrong manner. “Would you ever… like to have children again?”

He shook his head, brown mane flopping against my nose and tickling my nostrils. I was overwhelmed by the very scent of him and took a small measure of comfort in that, despite the apprehension that was building in me.

“No,” he replied finally. “I don’t think I was even ready for it then. It would feel too much like I was trying to substitute new memories for the old.”

I relaxed with his admission, knowing that I had never considered having children of my own, nor did I even want to think about it. I never had much of a family to go by, my own father I despised. So I didn’t think I even knew how to raise a child in a proper fashion. Besides, we would both be fighting for our lives until our pursuers either gave up or lost interest. That was not a suitable environment for a child.

“What about you? Have you ever thought about it?” he asked, breaking into my mental considerations.

That was an easy question.

“I can honestly say that I have not,” I responded. “Children frighten me.”

He laughed, a deep honest Mugen laugh that made me feel better about the entire situation. His ability to take anything and make it less tense was something I admired and loved him for.

“We make quite the pair, don’t we?” he asked, finally settling down from his brief bout of laughter.

“That we do,” I confirmed quietly. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way, either.”

He was quiet for a moment, absorbing my words as he tightened his grip on my hand before bringing it to his mouth, kissing the skin softly. His stubble grazed along my skin and sent goosebumps along my body, but I did not pull away.

“I do not think,” he began slowly, “that there is anything you could do, short of trying to kill me, that would make me leave you.”

I wanted to choke with surprise, so blatantly honest that confession had been. It seemed he was always the first to take such steps. The first to say I love you. The first to say that I was his and now the first to say that he would not leave me. It was time I returned the gesture.

I bent down my head and laid a kiss on his shoulder, just at the nape of his neck. He shivered at the touch, though I knew it was not one of cold. My arms tightened around his body, one hand gripping his strongly as I formed the perfect words.

“I searched for you from the moment we parted ways, and I realized I could not function without you,” I spoke softly, what were possibly the most sweet and sappiest things I had ever said in my life. But by the gods, he deserved to hear every word of it. For what we both had been through, for what we both revealed, they needed to be said.

“I never gave up and would not have, possibly until my dying day because I knew there was something in you I needed, something you gave me that told me I had to live. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I think I do now. It is intangible and confusing… a mystery, but it is there and that is enough for me. There is nothing you could have said which would have driven me away.” I exhaled slowly at the declaration. “I know you, Mugen, and that is all that is necessary. I love you, and my life is nothing without you in it.”

I was feeling choked up at my own words, and even as they left my mouth, I felt what I said stronger than I had ever felt it before. It was as if the words came alive to form true emotion that fluttered through my body and raced upon my veins. That by the very act of speaking my heart, I had set it free.

He was quiet not saying anything for a moment before he began to tremble just slightly in my arms. If I had not have been feeling the very same way, I might have been worried.

“That was quite possibly the sweetest… and longest thing I have ever heard you say,” he murmured, swallowing thickly.

I gulped down my own lump and kissed him on the neck again, biting gently as his skin causing him to purr in my arms. “I meant every word.”

He arched into the touch of my lips, his hips moving in an erotic way against my groin and causing me to groan thickly. “And if you keep doing that, I will be forced to show you just how much.”

Mugen laughed. “Do you see me arguing?” he asked.

No, in fact I did not. Which only made things that much more interesting.

I rubbed a bare leg over his as I began to nibble on the back of his neck and shoulders, enjoying how he sucked in a breath and arched against my body. His every reaction was intensely arousing and only served to further my desire to fuck him… or make love… whichever came first. I was intending both.

“Mmm.” He purred at my touch. “You know I love you, right?”

I smiled against his skin. “Hai. Now if you don’t shut up, I’m going to stop what I’m doing.”

I was through saying sweet words.

He chuckled lightly but didn’t say anything further.

Smart man.

* * *

(Fuu’s POV)

We spent the night in separate rooms, though I spent most of it tossing and turning as I thought about him. Every little thing kept popping into my mind, his hair, his eyes, his self-assured yet calm nature. It was almost amazing to me how he was both Jin and Mugen in that regards, both defining aspects of their personality all rolled into one sexy package.

I wanted him and that very thought made me blush.

Not to mention all the noise Jin and Mugen were making in the next room, though I didn’t call them out on it. I didn’t want to think about how sexy it sounded so I tried to not listen… not that it was easy.

So in an attempt to block them out, I found myself lying there thinking more and more about Toshiro. How he was such a gentleman and how kind he was. I had some of the same worries about him that my bodyguards did.

What if he was like Kenji?

Then again, Toshiro acted in an entirely different manner than the now deceased Iyatokan. For one thing, Kenji never once made a move on me, ever. It was like I was a sexless creature in his eyes. Plus, he was broody, and he treated me like a little kid all the times when he wasn’t calling me “Miss Fuu”. I hated that name. Made me feel like a mother or something, and boy was I far from it.

Still, I had the feeling that Toshiro was a good guy. I might be somewhat naïve and unlearned about the real world, even after my journey to find my father there are some things that I still don’t know. There was just a gut instinct that I have about the proclaimed blacksmith.
Either that or I was just so smitten I couldn’t see anything beyond those beautiful dark eyes.

Mugen and Jin did not seem overly concerned either. As if they knew he either wasn’t a threat or they could handle him if he was. I’m inclined to agree. The three of us together are enough to handle any challenge that comes our way. Even thinking of fighting Kenji, both of them injured and me hardly able to do anything but throw things at him, we managed to survive.

That was how it was even then.

Beaten, broken, bloody, injured beyond reason, but we survived; we lived to see another day. We ran; we hid; we fought, but we kept going. I missed those days, but now I can look forward to new ones.

It would probably be safer for me in the long run if I never had anything to do with Jin and Mugen again. Both of them have prices on their heads, but they were my friends no matter what they had done. They were my family, all that I had now that my father and mother were dead. I made a mistake when I allowed us to separate and go our own ways without words.

I won’t again.

It was that thought that spurred me into action this morning, gathering up my things and getting ready for our journey, though our destination was a mystery. They had rubbed off on me; I could no longer find joy in settling down and staying in one place. And I think that as much as they were looking for each other, I was searching for them, too.

And now I have found Toshiro, who if he turns out to be who he claims to be, I might have a future with. He certainly seems to enjoy being with me as much as I enjoy being with him. I can see the four of us traveling the world, helping him increase his knowledge in the arts even as we struggle to earn food and money.

Just like the old days.

Eventually, I was certain we would tire of it. Sooner or later, we would settle down and create a home, or something similar to it. But for now, traveling together would be just fine.

I packed up everything I owned, albeit it wasn’t much as I had been wandering for a long time and left the inn, heading for the small tea shop that we had all promised to meet at the night before.

I wondered as I walked through the crisp morning air: what would happen in the future? How things were going to play out?

I wasn’t quite so much the worrier anymore, a little older, a little wiser, and definitely a lot braver. But it never hurt to consider the possibilities.

I stepped into the warm and dimly lit tea shop, not surprised to find I was one of their first customers. It was pretty early. I was glad to finally have money though. Weren’t we always out of it before? Still, it made getting it all the more interesting. We encountered such strange people.

I looked around the tea shop, surprised to find that Toshiro had in fact, beat me here. I figured he would be like the other two… well, actually just Mugen, sleeping in as last as possible. Then again, he had been traveling on his own for quite some time. I supposed it wouldn’t be wise to be that lazy and still keep everything you owned.

“Ohayou,” I said as I slid into a seat beside him.

A waitress hurried over, setting down a cup and filling it with tea before I could even ask. I had barely got settled into my seat before the steaming mug was before me. She smiled at Toshiro, bowed slightly, then scampered away all in the space of a few seconds.

“Heh,” I commented. “I did not know this place had such great service.”

He chuckled slightly, sipping at his own cup. I supposed on any other man that might have looked a bit well odd, for a man such as him to be holding so dainty a cup, but on Toshiro it looked proper. I began to suspect that he was from a line of nobility, much like Jin, and that he was just trying to hide it.

Now that I think about it, I’m not even sure that his name really is Jin. I shall have to ask him about when I don’t think I’m only going to get a harsh glare in return.

“It is only in the early morning times,” he responded. “They have not yet gotten tired by the rigors of the day.”

I giggled as I took a sip of my own tea, again surprised by how tasty it was. If we ever visited this town again, I would have to return to this tea shop. Speaking of which.

“Where are we heading?”

His gaze regarded me thoughtfully as a smile curled up at the corner of his lips. It made me shiver what I saw there, and I had to fight down a blush.

“Wherever the wind takes us, I suppose.”

I knew that he did not mean that breath of air on a warm august day.

I blushed; I couldn’t help it, and I hid behind my tea cup. It was easier that way. Toshiro wasn’t being pushy or anything, letting me take my time and make my own decisions, but sometimes in the face of him I just felt so warm and achy inside that I wanted to push him to the ground and have my way with him.

“I think we should go west,” I mumbled into my drink, lowering my eyes. “Maybe we should take a boat to other countries.”

He laughed, and I had to raise my head to shoot him an indignant look. “I’m not laughing at you,” he said, seeing my harsh glare. “I just think its endearing how you are hiding behind your cup there. As if I could not see that cute blush…”

“Hey,” I retorted angrily. “I am not blushing.” Never mind the fact that my face felt bright red and aflame with embarrassment.

He chuckled again and waved down a waitress, calmly ordering some food before ushering off. “I think going west is a good idea. I’ve yet to learn the blacksmith art from other countries.”

I raised a brow at this. “Really? I would have thought you had been everywhere by now.”

“As far as the wind’s taken me…”

I blushed again. His words were as flowery as a scribe’s, though far more understandable. We fell into a companionable silence for the moment until what few people there were in the tea shop started mumbling a bit louder than usual.

I furrowed my brow in confusion as I looked up to find out the source of their murmurings… and my jaw nearly dropped in surprise. My eyes darted to Toshiro, and he had the same look to his face, even as his eyes twinkled in understanding.

Jin and Mugen had just entered and were searching the tea house for us. Not that the stranger’s could have known how utterly unusual that was for them, not as well as I did. But the both of them looked alert and ready for the day. Nothing unusual about their appearance, except perhaps Mugen was a bit cleaner than usual. Jin must have dragged him off to a bath first thing this morning because his hair was still wet.

It wasn’t even anything tangible, though the happiness coming from the two of them seemed to be radiating in every direction. Mugen was smiling, even broader than usual, and a grin was even tugging at the corners of Jin’s habitually stoic expression.

Their eyes finally fell on us, and they sauntered in our direction, continuously exchanging glances and almost playful nudges. I knew that they cared for each other, but this was an entirely different way than I had seen them act before. Love was practically coming off of them in waves.

I leaned over to Toshiro, wondering if he saw the same thing. “They have stars in their eyes. What the hell happened last night?”

He laughed and shot me an amused look. “You must sleep like a rock because if you heard what I heard, you would understand.” He turned his attentions from me and onto the love birds that were plopping down into the two empty seats at our table, looking in confusion at our wary glances.

“Gentlemen, I am assuming you slept well?” he asked with a raised brow.

I gasped and covered my mouth, trying not to laugh out loud at that. I sincerely hope they did because I know no one else around them managed to get a wink, me included.

“As well as can be expected,” answered Jin with a small inclination of his head. “Good morning to you, Fuu.”

“Ohayou, Jin, Mugen,” I responded in return. “You guys are up early.”

Mugen rolled his eyes and elbowed Jin. “He dragged me out of bed and said I had to bathe…”

I knew it. “Is that such a terrible thing?” I questioned, shaking my head.

“I made it worth his while,” said Jin, shooting the Ryukyuian a meaningful look. I believe my mouth dropped open in surprise. This… coming from quiet Jin?

“Okay,” I demanded, pointing a finger at both of them. “What the hell happened last night?”

I heard a startled gasp and knew that Toshiro was trying to rein in his own laughter. I ignored him. Something was up, I knew it.

Mugen laughed, loud and full, nearly drawing everyone in the tea house’s attention. “Don’t worry, Fuu. Everything is fine. Where we going?”

“West,” answered Toshiro smoothly as I narrowed my eyes. I was about to ask again because I was not satisfied with that answer. “Fuu suggested getting a boat and going somewhere else.”

“Away from Japan?” questioned Jin with a raise of his eyebrows. “Can anyone here even speak any other language?”

Mugen shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. We can find a way to get by.”

“I think it is an intriguing idea,” commented Toshiro. “If anything, it might throw off the trail of your pursuers.”

“Heh.” Mugen ran a hand through his hair and ruffled it up so that it would return to its normal messy state. I thought he looked rather cute with it all down and flat, but I suppose it wasn’t my place to say so. “It might work.”

And then, to my astonishment, Jin shrugged and leaned back in his chair. “Whatever you chose is fine with me.”

Laid-back? Jin?

Aye-aye… my head was going to hurt from all this non-understanding.

“Good. Might as well go then. It is early; we won’t run into quite so many people,” suggested Toshiro, taking out the small bag of coins we had received yesterday and throwing some money down onto the table.

The four of us stood up, in complete agreement with his suggestion and started to head towards the door. Mugen and Jin were doing that playful nudge game again and exchanging glances. It was sweet, but also made me insanely curious.

What could have happened to make them act all different to each other? As if they had finally decided to give in to something and just live…

The thought made me stop in my tracks.

“Hey,” I repeated as the guys started to move away from me. “You never answered my questions.”

“Hurry up, Fuu, or you’ll get left behind,” Toshiro called back.

I frowned, stomped my feet, then hurried to catch up to them.

Then it occurred to me. It did not really matter, did it?

[Misc] Secrets of the Heart 12

Chapter Twelve – Dirty Little Secret

I frowned. “The one that tried to kill you?” I asked, fingering the blood-stained cloth.

Jin shook his head, leaning back against the wall as he sighed. “No, the one that I killed…”

I swore my mouth dropped open as I looked at him in shock. I knew he had killed his master, but considering that it was self-defense, that didn’t really surprise me. But for him to say he killed his brother, I was momentarily surprised.

“You what?” I questioned, checking his expression to be sure that he wasn’t playing a trick on me, not that I actually believed he would do something like that. Jin wasn’t the type to waste words.

He sighed and glanced once more at the tattered piece of fabric, painted with crimson. He turned from me and moved further into the room, sitting down as if he could no longer stand.

“That mon,” he began quietly, eyes flickering between it and me. “Is from the kimono my brother was wearing the night I killed him.”

He said it so simply, almost mechanically, as if he had just informed me that the food stand had run out of rice balls. I kind of stared at him for a moment before I plopped down next to him.

“Why did you kill your brother?” I asked, knowing him, he had a damn good reason. I mean, we were both somewhat killers. It didn’t bother me that he had done such a thing.

He answered me quietly, without looking at me. “It doesn’t matter.”

I exploded; I’m not really sure why. I guess because it seemed like he didn’t trust me. Secrets… would our secrets drive us apart. Did I even want us together? Did he?

“Fuck that, Jin! I’m tired of not knowing anything. We can’t keep these secrets anymore! Not if you care for me!”

“What are you saying?” he asked as he turned to look at me, narrowing his eyes.

I growled and slammed my fist into the floor, pinning him down with my stare. “I’m saying that I’m tired of dancing around this! If we’re going to do this, we can’t keep these things to ourselves. We both have things we’ve been hiding…” I trailed off, not sure I wanted to think about my secret. I had been pushing it down for three years, still not ready to deal with the truth of the matter.

He sighed and closed his eyes. “I’m not going to make the same mistake as before, Mugen. I’m not letting you go this time.”

I heartily agreed to this so without warning, I pounced, tackling him from the side. His eyes snapped open in surprise as I landed on top of him, and we crashed to the floor. I wasted no time in claiming his lips with my own and enveloping him in a searing kiss. He moaned beneath my touch, hands coming up and around my back as he clutched at my clothes.

I slipped a leg between his and ground down into him, pulling out another moan. I nipped at his lower lip with my teeth before drawing back to look him in the eyes. Kami, he was beautiful! His face was flushed with arousal, pale skin tinted to a bright pink, and his lips had swollen from being kissed. I wanted to devour him then and there.

I plucked those annoying glasses off of his face – I didn’t know how he managed to find another pair – and looked him straight in the eye.

“You think I’m going to let this go either?” I challenged, brushing my hand across his face. Yeah, I was being sappy, but I didn’t care. I had a soft side that I didn’t always show, just as Jin could be rough and brash when the occasion called for it.

He opened his mouth to speak, but I didn’t give him a chance to get the words out. I covered his lips with my own and slipped my tongue inside. He needed no coaxing and eagerly returned the kiss, running his hands across my back and bucking up against me. I could feel his hardened cock against me as I’m sure he could feel mine. No matter what it seemed, I was always hot for him.

But I was more or less trying to say that I wanted him and by then I’d realized, only him. I didn’t want to be without him anymore. It would be boring if I didn’t have him to spar with, and I’ll admit there was something in him that I needed. I loved the bastard, and there was no one else who could turn me on like he could. Yeah, I was going monogamous.

I trailed along his jaw, nipping and sucking as I did so, and ran my hands along his chest, pushing away his clothes so that I could get to his bare skin. His hands were no less busy, pushing off my garments and pulling off my shirt.

I leaned down and latched onto the skin of his neck, right beneath his jaw and sucked hard, marking my territory as I flicked my tongue against his skin. I could feel his pulse pounding against my lips. It was decidedly erotic. He moaned, the sound reverberating across my lips. I released his skin with a satisfied pop and looked at my work. An angry bright red blotch stood out on his pale skin.

Heh, heh, with any luck it would be days before that went away.

He grabbed onto my pants and gave them a hard yank. “I want you now,” Jin practically purred as he rubbed his groin against me.

I growled an answer and quickly divested him and myself of all clothes. They were highly overrated anyways. With that done, I traced a finger down the planes of his unscarred chest, avoiding all bandages and followed that line with tongue until it led to one rose-colored nipple. I traced my tongue around it until it hardened into a nub and teased said nub with my teeth, causing him to gasp and wiggle beneath me.

“Mine,” I growled as I nibbled on his skin and reached down to grab his weeping cock, giving it a few short but strong strokes.

“Mmm,” he commented when he reached up and tweaked one of my nipples. I rubbed my thumb over the crown of his erection, smearing the precum that had already begun to dribble.

“Yes,” he hissed, “all yours.”

I grinned and released his nipple, kissing my way down his body, as I ran calloused fingers over his skin. He shivered with the feeling and moaned at my touch. Long-fingered hands entangled themselves in my hair as I hovered over his erection, breathing puffs of warm air but not yet touching his aching shaft. It always affected me how responsive Jin was he writhed beneath me and tried to direct my head with his hands.

“Hey,” I warned, nipping gently on his inner thigh at the same moment that I flicked a finger on his hand. “Stop that!”

“Quit teasing then and do something!” he snapped back, but he did stop.

I resisted the urge to grin triumphantly and got back to the task at hand. My own cock I know was already dripping and begging to take my ronin. Every little gasp and moan, every brush of his body against mine was making my blood run hot and fast. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could hold back.

I complied and immediately took him into my mouth, sliding my tongue along the crown and tracing the underside. I was rewarded with one of the most erotic sounds as his fingers tightened in my hair, and he bucked up against me.

I grabbed his hips with my hands and rubbed my fingers over his skin massaging as I moved my touch downwards. He spread his legs further for me, which was my intention, as he whimpered softly.

One hand slipped between his legs and fondled his sacs as I slid his cock back and forth between my lips for a moment. I couldn’t help the moan that escaped me, I was so turned on. A moment later, I released his erection with a satisfied pop and ignored his protests.

I slid my hands beneath his ass and lifted it slightly as I tongued his balls, slowly licking my way downwards. I wanted to prepare him without my fingers for once. He moaned and wiggled in my grasp, my name falling from his lips.

“Mugen…” He pushed his legs as far as they would go, and I could see that seemingly tiny puckered entrance that I knew was just waiting for me to touch it. I pushed his legs towards his chest and pressed the tip of my tongue to trace around the ring of muscle.

He gasped and squirmed, hand moving to his own arousal as he began to methodically stroke himself. I licked him, spreading saliva all across his hole, even as I used my tongue to stretch him, getting him all nice and slick. His other hand released my hair, and I could hear him grasping for my pants. He knew I always kept the oil on me, force of habit I believe.

His hips started to move of their own accord as he pushed himself down on my invading tongue, wanting more of the feeling. I reached up and smacked away his hand from his cock. I didn’t want him to come just yet. He huffed in protest as the small bottle of oil landed right near my head.

“Enough Mugen…” he moaned. “Fuck me now!”

I smirked and sat up, moving his legs to fall around my hips as I grasped for the oil and poured the sweet smelling liquid onto my hand. “What happened to patience?” I asked as I rubbed the oil over my own cock, hissing with the wonderful friction.

“Just shut up and fuck me!” he growled, tightening his legs around my hips.

Well, I wasn’t one to ignore an order such as that. I leaned down and latched onto his hips with my hands, even as I slowly pressed into him, the head of my cock pushing past that tight ring of muscle with very little resistance. I moaned against his mouth as my aching shaft was enveloped within his tight wet heat.

He tightened his grip on my side and tried to draw me in further, eager for that feeling of fullness. I buried myself deeply until I was fully seated within him, biting my lip, while his inner walls contracted around me.

“You’re always so tight for me,” I moaned, nipping at the skin at the base of his throat.

“And you drive me crazy with want,” he replied, reaching up to tweak on my nipple. I sucked in a breath with the sensation as it seemed to connect directly with my groin. “But I do not want anyone else.”

I paused in my movements and moved so that I could look him in the eye. He had them closed but opened them when he felt me still. “You wanna make us… well… ‘us’?” I asked him, hoping he was serious.
He cocked an eyebrow at me. “Unless I read you wrong? You’d rather not?”

I moved just a little, making the smallest of thrusts. He mmm’d and shifted his hips.

“You’re all mine,” I purred by way of answer. “And I can be pretty possessive about things that belong to me.”

I started to move within him slowly, pulling out nearly all the way before I thrust back in, setting up a nice, steady pace. Damn, he felt so good.

He leaned up on his elbows and licked along my collarbone. His teeth scraped across my skin and that was the only warning I got before he latched on with his mouth and started to give me several marks, pay back for the one on his neck. I whined with the erotic sensations coursing through me and picked up the pace. The sound of flesh smacking flesh gently began to reverberate around the room.

I shifted my hips, changing the angle of my movements and received a gasp in response. I had found his prostate. Smiling at that, I gently pushed him back down to the bed so that I could kiss him, trapping his leaking cock between our bodies. I balanced myself on one hand and reached between us to stroke him slowly, while I invaded his mouth with my tongue. His hips bucked up against me, meeting me thrust for stroke.

He moaned, silently urging me to go faster as he pushed himself down on my cock and tightened his grip on my back, short nails digging into my skin. I complied as well as I could in that position, speeding up my thrusts and caressing his leaking cock with quick strong strokes.

I could feel him making noises against my lips and tongues as I kissed him senseless. It was a heady feeling. Fire began to race through my veins, rapidly coursing and pooling in my belly until I knew nothing but the man below me and the good feelings he was producing within me. Every little cry and whine he was making only spurred me on. I relished each noise, as if they were declarations of my skill.

I released his lips only to bend down and nibble on his neck, where the collarbone meets the shoulder. He bucked up into my strokes, one hand snaking between us to tweak one of my nipples. I couldn’t help but moan at the feeling. It was the last that I needed to push me over the edge. I bit down hard on his shoulder, hearing him gasp with both pain and pleasure, also sending him into orgasmic bliss.

I groaned with my release, sparks dancing behind my lids as he convulsed around me, the both of us cumming at the same time. His back arched, and my toes curled as I screamed wordless nothings.

I collapsed on top of him, perfectly spent as his legs relaxed around my hips and his arms slowly let go from their tight hold. I struggled to control my breathing as I tiredly rolled most of my weight off his body before pulling him into my arms. For a moment, we were both silent as we waited for our bodies to cool and our heart rates to slow down. I hadn’t expected him to talk, so I was even more surprised when he spoke.

“I hated him.”

I certainly wasn’t expecting him to say something like that either. However, instead of saying something that would make him shut up again, I opted to shift and pull him closer. He laid his head on my chest, displaying a surprising amount of vulnerability.

“Who?”

“My brother, Ichigo. I hated him and that was why I killed him. I couldn’t stand the thought of him alive anymore. I knew that the assassins would be coming after me because of what happened to Enshirou, so I decided I couldn’t do myself any worse and followed through on my secret desire to see Ichigo pay.”

“Why did you hate him?”

He kind of froze against me when I asked that and fell silent. I wasn’t sure if he was going to respond, so I just waited patiently. I had a feeling that the answer was the real reason that this was a secret to him.

I wasn’t afraid of whatever it was. And I knew there wasn’t anything he could say that would make me hate him. I mean, it’s not like he killed my mother or anything, and if Ichigo had done something that pissed Jin off enough to kill him… well, the bastard probably deserved it. My Jin doesn’t strike me as the type to randomly kill people. That’s more my job.

“Ichigo was older than me by ten years, although Shuu was older than him by two. I had two other brothers, but I didn’t mind them so much. But Ichigo… he… was a sick bastard and had a thing for little boys. It didn’t matter that they were his younger brothers.”

It all became clear then, without him having to say anything further. I knew where he was going and suddenly felt a surge of hatred rise within me. I wanted to kill him, Urahara Ichigo, no matter that Jin had already done it. He deserved no less. I hadn’t ever experienced such an intense and fierce protective desire before, and for a moment it was frightening. But I had to push it down because just then, Jin began to speak again.

“He used to have his fun with Kazuma, my third brother, until he got too old for him. By then, it was my turn. Father didn’t seem to care. After all, he had his heir and so long as what happened stayed within the house, he turned a blind eye towards what was going on. I remember he told me ‘to suck it up’ after backhanding me.”

Jin had already started going cold, remembering those days. His voice had gone hard, and I could tell by the look in his eyes that none of what he was recalling was pleasant. I was beginning to be grateful for growing up on an island of criminals. At least there you KNEW everyone was a criminal.

“Fucking bastard…” I hissed angrily, eyes narrowing. I was thinking of both Ichigo and Jin’s father. No wonder he had turned into such a cold man. I would, too, given the situation, or maybe I wouldn’t. I would have probably just killed ‘em on sight.

He shrugged against me. “He was only doing as he thought best. You know nothing of the way nobility works in Japan. You wouldn’t understand.”

“Fuck that!” I retorted. “What is there to understand about rape? There isn’t no excuse for it!”

He stiffened against me. I suppose he was surprised by my outburst. I kind of surprised myself. Usually its all, Mugen-this, and Mugen-that; I am a pretty selfish guy. But for once, I was thinking of someone other than myself, and that didn’t seem to bother me one bit.

I continued in my tirade, so long as I had an audience. “You had every right to kill that bastard,” I hissed angrily. “Never mind that he was your brother. If that’s what I have to look forward to in nobility, I would rather stay a criminal from Ryukyu.”

He was silent for a moment, gradually absorbing my words. I could feel my blood boiling with rage, wanting to kill those for the damage they had done. This type of righteous anger was new to me.

“Perhaps you are right,” he finally said quietly, on the tail of a sigh. “Nevertheless, with both these deaths hanging over me, I will forever be a wanted man, continuously haunted by assassins.”

I shrugged in response. If the assassins weren’t after him than they would be after me. We made quite a pair, he and I. It was a good thing that we were such good swordsmen.

“Mugen,” he called my name, and instantly I felt warm inside.

It was kind of startling because he so rarely called me by my name. I liked the way it sounded coming out of his mouth. I can’t explain, but it made me feel all happy inside.

Hmph, like I would say that aloud.

“Yeah?” I questioned, burying my nose into his hair and breathing deep. I was perfectly content to go to sleep now. I knew I should have reciprocated, told him my secret as well, but I didn’t want to spoil the moment.

He shifted restlessly. “Was it… difficult to kill Inoue? Was she at all skilled?”

I frowned in thought, the name not at all familiar to me. I wondered who the hell ‘Inoue’ was and when I had killed her. I usually don’t go around slaying females. Hmm, wait a moment… wasn’t that a woman samurai I killed in the forest? The one that tried to kill Jin.

“So that was her name,” I mused aloud.

He sighed and nodded. “I think that you should know, before I killed Enshirou and Ichigo, she was slated to be my wife. I trained in the dojo of her father’s closest friend. She was, of course, taught by her own kin, one of the best swordsmen I have ever known.”

“Damn!” I exclaimed, completely surprised. “You might as well have killed her kin, then. She must have been pissed, samurai honor and all that shit.”

He shifted in his position, sitting up and looking me eye to eye, with the strangest look on his face. I sat up as well; I figured it was time for deep talk, and there wasn’t a need to go lying about anymore. He frowned as he idly chewed on his lip in thought before responding.

“Somehow, I do not think that was her reaction. I can only assume that she joined an assassin team as soon as her father allowed her because she had wanted to face me in a duel, and before her father would not allow her. She always claimed she wouldn’t marry a man who could not best her in swords.”

I listened quietly, until a sudden thought entered my mind. It hit me so quickly, I was barely able to absorb it. I wondered… did he care for this woman at one point? Was that why he was telling me so much about her?

“Did you… care for her?” I questioned him, almost stilting.

I don’t know why it hurt to think of him liking someone else, but green jealousy struck me with great force, nearly making me reel with its intensity. For a moment, I was glad that I had killed the bitch.

His eyes narrowed. “I admired her skill, but she was an annoying little twit,” he responded quite coldly.

I resisted the urge to sigh in relief.

“It was a difficult duel,” I admitted. “But she only got me once. She wasn’t at all like you. She couldn’t think quickly enough on her feet to handle my moves.” I grinned at the thought, glad I could best the woman who had been trained by one of the greatest samurais. Never mind that I hadn’t managed to best Jin… yet.

He nodded in understanding before his eyes trailed down to the floor, and he got that far away look again. “There was one person that I have cared for, before you…”

I may act stupid, but I am far from it. I knew instantly who he was speaking about. I was not with Fuu and him when they encountered the man, but I had heard the story from her and judging from her explanation, some of Jin’s behavior was very uncharacteristic.

“It was… Yukimaru… wasn’t it?”

A shadow crossed over his face as he nodded his answer. “It is custom among those in a dojo to have an apprentice of sorts, a younger student that you take under your wing. Yukimaru was mine.”

I had to fight down the smirk that was threatening to break out on my face. “Was it usual to take the apprentice as a lover?”

He flushed. “It depended. Some of the men refused to take a male lover. But, yes, Yukimaru and I did have that type of relationship. I suppose technically, we were still together when Enshirou tried to kill me. But now, he is dead as well, and my time in the dojo might as well be forgotten.”

I sighed and looked down at the floor. I could tell by what I caught in his eyes that he had really cared for the younger boy. Whether or not he still harbored any feelings or missed him, I couldn’t say, but I knew that with him sharing that with me, I needed to tell him what I had been harboring inside.

I didn’t think that what I had to say would separate us. Of course, I can’t say how strong his feelings are, I only know how deep mine wells. I moved closer to him, and grabbed him before he could say anything. I pressed his lips to mine and claimed his mouth, letting him feel everything in me through that one kiss.

I slipped my tongue into his mouth, tasting more of that flavor. He eagerly accepted my advance, one of his hands tangling into my hair as he pushed my head more towards him. I let myself get carried away by his touch for another moment, nearly pushing him back down to the bed. I guess the emotion in the room was riding on high levels.

With great reluctance, I pulled away from the kiss and looked him in the eyes. “I was married once,” I said softly, “and I had a child.”

The shocked widening of his eyes didn’t make me feel any better. That was one of those wounds that hadn’t quite healed in me. Sora and Kohana still held special places in my heart, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to let them go, no matter how long ago that had taken place.

“But they are gone now,” I added in a quieter voice, my eyes dropping on their own accord. “They were killed in a rebellion at Ryukyu… an example of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I hate myself every day for not being there to save them.”

Jin had yet to say anything, just absorbing the words that I had state. His hand dropped from my hair to my shoulder, tightening in its grip. I didn’t speak another word, not sure what else I had to say. I wanted to know what he thought first. I heard him shift moments before I was jerked forward, straight into his arms.

His quiet and calm presence wrapped around me, the scent of him filling my senses. We were skin to skin, and it felt right, like I knew where I was supposed to be. It was a startling revelation.

So here we were, the two of us, both of our dirty secrets out in the open. The wounds of our hearts exposed for the other to see, the both of us vulnerable. I wondered if we could handle each other’s pain, and I wondered if we were strong enough to stay together.

[Misc] Secrets of the Heart 11

Chapter Eleven – Boulevard of Broken Dreams

A week passed since the incident. Mugen and I spent most of the time in a blur of sleep and eating. We were both still sore, but we were tired of staying in the inn, despite the vast amount of time we spent in bed with each other. But Mugen, wanderer that he was, was going stir-crazy staring at the same four walls each day.

It didn’t help that Fuu was acting strange as well, humming each day as she came in and left, surprisingly more bright and cheerful as usual. She took Mugen’s teasings good-naturedly and even managed to tease back. She simply took care of us without complaint and didn’t once make mention of the fact that we were nearly out of money and only she was bringing any in. I suspected something was up… and a couple days later Mugen did as well.

We would have to get to the bottom of this mystery soon otherwise we might once again find ourselves chasing down a kidnapped Fuu, no matter the state of our health.

I rolled over, mindful of my semi-healed injuries and found Mugen lying on his back, mouth slightly agape as he slept on, a small amount of drool had gathered in the corner of his lips. I chuckled to myself, his innate vulnerability in that very moment so unusual that I couldn’t help myself. He was sleeping hard, my Mugen.

I still couldn’t believe that after only seven days, Mugen was mostly healed. He had a unique tolerance for pain, keeping him on his feet and fighting when other men would have fallen. He also had this amazing ability to heal quite rapidly. If man could heal by force of will alone, then Mugen was the prime example.

I darted an eye towards the window, trying to gauge the time. It was early yet, not but an hour or so after sunrise. The air would still be crisp and fresh were I to go outside. I had become lazy in the past week… I had no intention of wanting to rise.

Yet, I knew that I had to. I hadn’t stretched or practiced in many days. Despite the fact that my sword was broken, I mourned the once-again loss, I still could not afford to get behind in my skills. They were the reason I still managed to cling to life. I sighed, Mugen was looking incredibly inviting as he twitched in his sleep, while stepping out and getting dressed was looking more and more like torture.

I couldn’t help but wonder if he dreamed. He didn’t really seem the sort to place much truth in dreams. Neither was I. I had once told Enshirou about a dream and he had coldly informed me that I “should learn to sleep lighter before I wake up with an enemy sword in my gut.” Ironic that years later, he should attempt to be that enemy. However, that was a memory I cared not to relive or remember.

With that thought firmly pushed from my mind, I made my decision. I quietly moved over to Mugen’s side and cuddled next to his warmth, placing a hand on his bare and half-bandaged chest, idly tracing his scars with my finger.

He was rough and tumble, grown up in a life that I could never comprehend. He cursed more often than not, devoured his food in a matter similar to that of feral pigs, spoke rudely in every instance and had no respect or regard for rules or authority… and yet, I wouldn’t have him any other way. He was MY uncouth criminal pirate and on many levels, I needed and wanted him.

I laid my head on his chest, careful not to wake him as I listened to him breathe and his heart beat, strong and independent. He shifted and snorted unattractively but did not wake, unconsciously wrapping an arm around me. He was so warm, always his internal temperature like a fire to my ice.

Images of the types of fire ignited a reaction in my body. I had to admit, he could arouse me like no other. Just thinking about him taking me or I pounding into him was enough to make me squirm restlessly. My wandering fingers started to travel lower, dipping beneath the edge of the covering and underneath his pants, heading for the prize. A mischievous thought entered my mind.

My fingers trailed through coarse hair before I found his shaft, nearly gasping when I realized that he was more than semi-hard already. I smirked and wrapped my fingers around his cock, squeezing once before stroking slowly and teasingly. I heard a rumble in his chest, a lot similar to that of a purr, and I knew he had awakened, if in face he had ever been asleep… sneaky Mugen.

The hand on my back started to move, caressing my skin as it slowly made its way down my back towards my hidden entrance. I could already feel my own cock beginning to harden and lengthen in anticipation as I increased the pace of my stroking and tightening my grip. I rubbed my length against his hip. A small moan escaped his mouth in response.

I smirked to myself and turned my head, sliding my tongue across the planes of his muscled chest, occasionally nipping and biting as I slowly pushed my body down, wanting to taste him. He moved restlessly beneath me, eagerly kicking off the blanket and trying to reach down and push off his pants.

I chuckled lightly. “Pretending to be asleep again?” I questioned softly, spoken mostly against his skin as I nibbled over a hip bone.

A hand settled on my head, tangling fingers in the loose strands. His voice was hoarse and raw with sleep, ultimately sexy. “It worked, didn’t it?” he teased.

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and responded by nipping at him again before moving more towards my goal. His erection was bobbing up proudly between his legs, already seeping precum. He must have been up for longer than I had realized.

I decided to tease him just for a moment. I leaned over and breathed hot air over his cock. He moaned in response, arched his hips towards my mouth and tangled his fingers further into my hair. I smirked to myself before lapping up the precum dribbling from the head with just the tip of my tongue, savoring the musky flavor.

Then I moved away, leaving his straining arousal neglected as I kissed and licked at his inner thigh. He groaned in frustration, bucking his hips again but I ignored him. I latched onto a portion of his soft skin and sucked… HARD… I wanted to leave a mark I suppose.

He hissed in response but didn’t ask me to stop. His hips moved of their own accord and I knew he had enjoyed it, that masochist. I moved back towards his arousal, licking my lips before I traced the underside with my tongue. I let him have one or two licks before I moved down and mouthed his balls, taking the sacs one by one into my mouth and soaking them with my saliva.

“Damn,” he moaned, panting. “Quit teasing…”

I ignored him, rolling them around in my mouth before I released them and moved on towards my true goal. The hand in my hair urged me onwards, and he whimpered softly, the sound shooting straight to my groin.

I bit back a moan before I took him in my mouth, encasing that hardness with wet heat. He bucked up into my mouth and opened his legs instinctively, causing me to smile around a mouthful of him.

I put all my skills to the task as I reached up with a free hand and traced my fingers across his chest. I pinched a nipple along the way before I placed the tip of my finger against his lips. No need to get lube for just this.

He flicked out his tongue against my fingertip before drawing it in fully. I groaned when my sensitive finger was sucked and nibbled on by his skilled tongue. I was looking forward to me getting my just rewards.

Moments later and very reluctantly, I removed my sufficiently spit-soaked finger from his mouth and brought my hand down, seeking that small puckered entrance. I traced a finger teasingly before I pressed the lone finger in at the same moment that I gave a good hard suck on his cock.

He moaned, nearly pulling out my hair as hips thrust up and down at the same time, his body unsure of which pleasure to take in first.

Again, I smirked as I pushed my finger completely in and curled it, searching for his pleasure center. I could hear him breathing heavily above me, and I could taste him on my tongue. My senses were completely filled by the presence of Mugen, and I couldn’t have been happier.

A sharp hiss of pleasure and I knew I found what I had sought. I pressed again, applying more pressure, and I embraced his arousal with my tongue.

“Jin,” he moaned my name from between clenched teeth, the sound making me moan in return, the sound reverberating on his shaft and causing his hips to buck.

I started to bob my head, increasing my pace as I pulled in my cheeks to increase the suction. I could already feel him getting harder in my mouth and knew that he was getting close. More precum slicked my mouth and throat as I curled my finger, brushing it again and again over that spot that made him moan so deliciously.

With a loud and guttural groan, he jerked and bucked upwards spilling his seed into my mouth. I milked him hungrily swallowing every last drop so that he would feel the pleasure as long as possible.

After a moment his body relaxed, and I removed my finger, releasing his now softening member from my mouth. I crawled up his body until I got to his head, claiming his lips with my own. I felt his arms come around me as his tongue slipped into my mouth for a taste.

“Mmm,” he commented. “I`m ready to go back to bed now.” He closed his eyes and made as if to go to sleep.

I wiggled in his grasp, my very hard erection digging into him. “I think I deserve a little compensation,” I murmured, nibbling on his chin.

He yawned. “Nope. I’m too tired.”

“Hmph,” I responded, sliding out of his hold. “I suppose I will have to handle this myself then.” I moved to lie beside him on my back. He pretended to ignore me, but I believe I detected his eyelids slitted.

I reached down and took a hold of my own arousal, biting my lip at the much needed stimulation. I ran the pad of my thumb over the head before I began to stroke myself slowly.

With my free hand, I pinched my nipple, closing my eyes to savor the pleasure that raced through my body as I moaned aloud. I could feel warmth spreading across my face and knew that I must have been flushed.

“Unh,” I moaned once more. “Mugen…”

“Damn, that’s so fucking hot,” I heard him say moments before a weight pounced on me. My eyes snapped open, and I saw Mugen leering down at me right as he absorbed my mouth in a kiss.

“I thought you were tired…”

He cocked an eyebrow at me before rolling himself against my cock. “You think I’m going to ignore that hot display you were putting out for me?”

I pushed up against him, anxious for more contact. “I had hoped you would not…”

He laughed and leaned down for another kiss when a knock on the door disturbed us. He collapsed on top of me tiredly and heaved a sigh.

“Come in,” he called, not caring about his nudity. Meanwhile, I was frantically trying to find something to cover my body with.

The door creaked open and Fuu popped her head in, bright and cheerful as always. She shook her head when she saw Mugen leering up at her and stepped into the room.

Scowling, she closed the door behind her and put her hands on her hips. She had grown up some, not screaming at the sight of his naked body.

“My god, Mugen, put on some clothes,” she demanded, turning her back and huffing angrily.

“Nope,” he declared stubbornly, ignoring her as he reached down and stroked my stomach. I batted his hand away and grabbed onto a blanket, yanking it down over the both of us; an exhibitionist I am not.

She shook her head at his antics and braced herself as she turned around. “You’re such a slut, you know that?” she questioned, raising an eyebrow. Yes indeed, time had changed our dear Fuu.

“Shut up!” he responded angrily.

I gave him a nudge with my elbow before glancing up at Fuu. “What did you need?” I asked her in a much softer tone. If I didn’t stop the two of them then, they might have started bickering like siblings.

She smirked as she stood with her hands on her hips. “It’s time you two met Toshiro.”

“You mean, that guy you’ve been all googly eyed over?” questioned Mugen with a snort. I was surprised that he had noticed at all. Sometimes he could be so completely oblivious.

She blushed, the red flush spreading quickly across her cheeks as her eyes cast towards the floor. “I’ve not been googly eyed…” she mumbled beneath her breath.

It was cute how she blushed like that. She may have changed in some ways, but Fuu was still a young girl. And because of that, I didn’t trust that Toshiro person in any way. If anything, he could be exactly like Kenji, using her to get to either Mugen or I, though I doubt Shuu would be that underhanded…

Mugen snorted rather unattractively. “Why would we want to meet that loser… ow!” I reached up and slapped him upside the head, just for being a bastard. He snuck a hand down and pinched me and just like that we began to wrestle across the floor, blanket slipping dangerously around our bodies.

“Children…” remarked Fuu, shaking her head in dismay. “You’re going to open your wounds again if you don’t stop that!” she admonished, stomping her foot.

“Go away,” mumbled Mugen, breathing a little heavy as he looked up from a position straddling me. “I have to do my boyfriendly duties.”

I could feel my cheeks flush with embarrassment as his blatant display and wiggled beneath him. “Shut up!” I snapped, punching his thigh lightly.

“We will meet him tomorrow,” I told Fuu whilst glaring at Mugen. “For lunch,” I quickly added.

“Whatever,” she answered, rolling her eyes. She bounded out the door, flouncing with every step. “Bye. See you after work.”

With that she was gone, leaving the both of us alone. It was all of two seconds before Mugen pounced on me, a hungry gleam in his eyes.

* * *

The next day found Mugen and I awake early, dressed, and leaving the inn for the first time in more than a week. I was glad for the fresh air, and Mugen was glad that he was no longer all cooped up.

Fuu talked on needlessly to us as we walked. I tuned her out as usual while Mugen teased her incessantly. I was concerned about this Toshiro, wondering how I was going to tell if he was a fake or not.

Fuu, however, seemed really happy. I wasn’t sure if I had ever seen her smile like that. My hand automatically tightened on the remainder of my swords. I would kill whoever hurt one of my friends, that was what I had vowed to myself. This time I was far more alert. I would not be caught off guard again.

A weight bumped into my shoulder and I looked over to see Mugen peering at me. “What you thinking?” he asked, frowning.

I shrugged. “Nothing of importance.”

“Tch.” He sighed at my non-answer and folded his arms behind his head. “You had such a serious look to your face,” he commented off-handedly.

I frowned and nodded slightly. “I am not taking any chances this time,” I responded beneath my breath. “Kenji was the first and last mistake.”

He didn’t say anything in return but I knew he was agreeing with me. We walked the rest of the way in silence, bodies already tensing in anticipation of another battle. I suppose we should be used to that, as much as the both of us have had to fight for our lives the past few months or so. Even I was shaken by Kenji’s betrayal. If I hadn’t awakened… hmm… it was better not to dwell on that.

Moments later we were walking in the doors of the teahouse that Fuu worked in and taking our seats across from the man that she had fallen in love with. It was my belief that she wouldn’t want to come anywhere near this place considering it was her place of employment, but according to her, it was the cleanest out of what was offered. I was more inclined to believe her.

Mugen sat beside me, and for a moment, we merely started at Toshiro, taking in every bit of him and trying to discern whether or not he was a threat. I couldn’t decide which region he was from, not that I was well-learned in that aspect, but he was easily taller than me but not by much. The way he held himself it was obvious he was of some nobility, but he wore his clothing strangely, an odd mismatch much like the way Mugen preferred to dress. He had a sword, in a sheath across his back, and I could tell from a distance that his hands were calloused as if he spent many an hour practicing with the weapon.

He regarded Mugen and I with a calm, if not somewhat bemused air as Fuu looked between us anxiously. He didn’t appear to be a threat, but one could never be too careful. I snuck a glance at Mugen to see what he was thinking but his face was unreadable. He seemed curious but not on edge. He had a good instinct about people. Remember, he was the one to go pale when we first met Kenji. Perhaps it was a shiver of dread that had struck his spine then. Regardless, he didn’t seem to have that same reaction when faced with Toshiro.

I peered again at the mysterious man. He was well-traveled and had the look of someone used to watching his own back. He held himself with an air of assuredness, even when he glanced over at Fuu and offered her a small smile of encouragement. Something flashed between the two that I just barely caught… a thinly disguised emotion blanketed with heat. That was something that Kenji had never emitted… a desire for Fuu. Hmm… intriguing.

“What can I get for you today?” A cheerful waitress appeared at our table and smiled, oblivious to the obvious tension that was settled over our interesting, if not eclectic group. “Oh, hello, Fuu.”

“Ohayou, Arisa,” responded our friend with a slight bob of her head. “Can you bring us four cups of tea, please?”

Arisa, the dark-haired buxom female, who was to be our unlucky waitress, nodded and bounced off. Now there went a woman that actually enjoyed her job. Unlike Fuu, who complained everyday.

With her gone, the tension level returned to its state, and we all four looked at each other, wondering who would be the first to speak. I should have known it would have been Fuu.

“Men!” she snorted, shaking her head. “Is it that darn difficult to talk?” she questioned, glaring at the three of us.

“Gomen, Fuu,” said Toshiro, nodding his head slightly at her. “I was expecting you to say something first.” That would be another point that I noticed. His voice was deep and rich, definitely not that of the underfed and poor.

She huffed and smiled at him sweetly. “I didn’t mean you…” Fuu turned her death glare that had absolutely no effect on Mugen and I. “Well? Does he pass the test?”

Mugen snorted. “How the hell do we know? Kenji seemed alright at first, too, idiot.” He slouched in his seat and crossed his arms over his chest and glared. Well, that was to be expected. No one ever accused Mugen of having decent matters.

I sighed and resisted the urge to rub my forehead with my fingertips. “What do you do, Toshiro?”

“I’m a wandering blacksmith,” he said with the barest hint of a smile, taking in my speculative look with an easy-going attitude. “I’m traveling Japan to learn all the best methods to forge the perfect sword.”

I raised an eyebrow at that. “A wandering blacksmith? How is that possible?” Meanwhile, in the inner workings of my mind, I was pondering the idea that he might be able to fix my sword.

He laughed at that, something full-bodied. There was nothing fake in him, it seemed. “I carry most of my wares with me, and I’ve discovered a way to make fires burn hotter so that I can work out in the open. I’m hoping to build up a customer base before I set up shop somewhere.” He shook his head. “To be honest, I should have left town long before now, but I can’t seem to find it in me to leave.” At those words he snuck a glance at Fuu, and she blushed.

Cute.

Mugen sighed and stretched. “Sounds like a load of bullshit to me,” he responded, yawning as if bored. “What’s your true intentions?”

“Mugen!” admonished Fuu, frowning at him. He ignored her, choosing instead to glare at Toshiro.

Just then, Arisa returned, bouncing happily as she carried a tray laden with wooden cups filled with our tea. She smiled as she set the cups down in front of us, trying her best, I noticed, to get Mugen to notice her. I could barely contain my smile when he hardly spared her a glance.

“Anik says these are on the house today,” she explained to Fuu. “But any others aren’t. Will that be all?”

I nodded the answer this time. “Yes, thank you.”

She flashed me a winning smile that did absolutely nothing for my libido and flounced away. How does one manage to be that energetic? It was a complete mystery.

The entrance to the teahouse was suddenly shadowed as four rough looking men came in. They didn’t look around, simply made their way to a seat and started rudely and loudly joking around with each other. I made it a point to keep an eye on them as they seemed the type to start trouble. None of my other companions seemed to notice their entrance as they were sitting with their backs to the door. However, Mugen and Toshiro’s conversation brought my attention back towards them.

“My intentions?” questioned Toshiro with a raised eyebrow. “I had thought they were obvious.”

Mugen shrugged. “Maybe. I just want to hear you say it. He looked down at his hands and picked at his fingers nonchalantly as if he didn’t particularly care what the blacksmith had to say. “I’m not above killing those that threaten my friends.” His tone was an absolute warning.

Toshiro smiled. “Ah, Fuu, you have some wonderfully loyal friends,” he commented, glancing over at her. Her face practically lit up with a smile.

“I know. Aren’t they the best?” She sighed and grabbed her tea, sipping it gently. “I hoped that we could all get along…”

The sound of raucous laughter filled the air and immediately our attention was drawn to the four thugs that I had noticed earlier. Four pairs of eyes turned in their direction as we noticed them knocking back sake, even this early in the day. Fuu sucked in a breath, and Toshiro frowned; I didn’t fail to notice these responses.

“Let’s get out of here,” suggested Fuu, putting down her cup. Toshiro nodded in agreement, reaching down beside him to pick up a couple swords he had been carrying.

I frowned, brow furrowing in confusion. “Why?” I asked, even as I rose to my feet as well. Mugen followed suit.

Toshiro jerked a thumb towards the four men as he answered in a low voice. “They tried to attack Fuu the other day, and I taught them a lesson. There is more this time, however, and knowing their type, they’ll want to cause trouble.”

“You didn’t say anything about getting almost attacked,” muttered Mugen, shooting her a glance.

She shrugged. “Nothing happened. Toshiro showed up before they could do anything.”

With that said the four of us moved towards the door, hoping that the four men wouldn’t notice. Not that we were afraid, but it was better not to start trouble where Fuu worked. We still needed her job as we had a bit of a bill left to pay.

We had just made it to the door when our plan failed. The hooligans had noticed us and as thugs are known to do, immediately recognized the man that had beaten up one of their friends a few days prior. The four that seemed to share the same degenerate characteristics and dress stood up from their table and hurried to the door, one moving to block the way as the others crowded around him.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t the tease,” commented one of the men, leering at Fuu as he reached out to stroke her arm. She smacked his hand and took a step back glaring at him.

I don’t know why the men thought they should be so brave. Perhaps because they believed they had us outnumbered. Four to three if they excluded Fuu. Hmph.

“Step out of the way,” demanded Toshiro. “I’ve no desire to kick your ass again. It was boring last time and will be much the same once more.”

The man standing in front of the door, really it was hard to tell them apart, shook his head and ground his feet down, to show that he was not going to move. “No. You’re going to pay for what you did to Lester.”

Mugen growled from his position beside me. “Move it, fuckers, before I tear you apart.”

Another one laughed, but it came from directly behind us. I didn’t even realize there were more than the four. Maybe they had been meeting the rest of their sorry gang, but that was only a guess. A hand shoved into my back and I hurriedly whirled around, grabbing the offending appendage and twisting it violently causing the man to bend nearly sideways and scream in pain.

”Do not touch me,” I hissed at him, squeezing as tightly as I could and grinding the bones against one another.

I heard the sound of blades being drawn and knew that we weren’t about to get out of the teahouse without a fight.

“Ano… please don’t fight in here,” Arisa pleaded timidly as she approached us. One of the men growled at her, and she flinched, retreating into the relative safety of the inner parts of the teahouse.

Toshiro sighed loudly. “There’s no reasoning with scum. Fuck this!” With that said, he drew his sword and kicked out high and hard all in the same motion, catching the hooligan in front of the door with his foot and knocking him out of the opening.

There was a moment of stunned silence before an all out brawl ensued. I grabbed Fuu and shoved her towards the gaping crowd and out of the way of danger as I pulled out my remaining sword to quickly block a clumsy attack from one of the dumb gang members.

It was a fight that didn’t take long. It seemed Toshiro could not only make weapons but use them as well. He had had some type of formal training somewhere, but from the limited time and views I received, I couldn’t identify it. I didn’t really have the time to inspect his skills as I was trying to take down the two thugs that had in their mind that it would be easy to defeat me.

I blocked one clumsy swing with my sword and turned expertly to grab the wrist of the second guy. I really missed my second sword at the time so that it wouldn’t have resorted to hand to hand. I gave a great yank and tossed him in the direction of his companion before a third leapt at me. I slashed at him, effectively cutting into his stomach. He went down easily, and the other two from before rushed at me again.

Mugen ran by in a red-coat blur and rushed the one on the left, while I upper-slashed the other who fell backwards into a table and crushed it into splinters. I looked around, prepared to have to fight again but found that all seven… seven? of our attackers were lying on their ground either bleeding or unconscious. What happened to there only being four?

“What the hell?” Fuu’s employer Anik came rushing out of the kitchen, face reddened with anger. He looked at the sprawled bodies and the few destroyed tables scattered around the entrance to his teahouse.

Toshiro chuckled and knelt down, digging into the pockets of one of the thieves, pulling out a money purse. He weighed it in his hands thoughtfully before tossing it to Anik.

“That should cover the damage,” he said, shrugging. “After all, these lousy punks started it.”

Anik opened the bag and raised an eyebrow, regarding the four of us with a bemused air. “Hai, this will more than cover it.”

Mugen wasted no time in following Toshiro’s example, going through the pockets of the others until he came up with five small money pouches. The sixth it seemed hadn’t had any. Perhaps there would be enough that we could pay off the inn and be on our way finally. I was getting a little fed up with this town. It seemed nothing good had happened since we arrived, discounting Fuu’s chance encounter with Toshiro.

“Let’s get out of here,” mumbled Fuu, moving past Mugen and I and heading for the door. Toshiro nodded in agreement and followed after her. She glanced at Mugen before ducking out the door. “Is it enough?”

He nodded and tossed one of the bags in the air, grinning at the weight when it smacked back into his palm.

Fuu couldn’t help but smile. She paused in the doorway, bowed slightly to Anik and in her sweetest voice, kindly informed him she was quitting before ducking out the door. Chuckling, Mugen and I followed after her.

We stepped out into the bright sunshine and blinked, allowing our eyes to get used to the sudden intrusion of light. We stood outside the teahouse, shifting where we stood as if we weren’t sure what to do next.

“Well, I’m hungry,” announced Mugen suddenly, folding his arms behind his head as he started moving towards the area of town where all the food stands were. Trust him to be one to quickly diffuse a situation that wasn’t going anywhere fast. The three of us fell in step behind him.

“Hey, Mugen,” said Fuu. “How much was it?”

He shrugged off-handedly, reaching into his pockets to toss a bag at each of us, one even at Toshiro. I noticed the sneaky bugger kept two for himself, no surprise there.

“We can leave tomorrow,” he responded. Already I could smell the fried dumplings and rice balls, and suddenly, I found myself hungry.

I frowned as I opened the sack and peered inside. There was quite a bit of money inside, which surprised me. “Why would such ruffians have this amount on them?”

“Who cares?” announced Fuu, clutching her bag greedily. I could just see her licking her lips in anticipation of all the food she could buy.

Toshiro chuckled as he walked beside her. “Your appetite never ceases to amaze me.”

“What are you going to do then?” I questioned of Toshiro. “We are leaving tomorrow.”

He looked up at me, dark eyes still somewhat dancing with his amusement. “Why go with you, of course. It seems to me that you three can’t seem to stay away from trouble. It might be fun.”

I didn’t miss him subtlety grabbing Fuu’s hand. I don’t think Mugen did either. My scruffy criminal merely shrugged his shoulders and continued on, the smell of food drawing him in just as it did Fuu.

“I don’t care,” he drawled before shooting Toshiro a glare. “But I won’t hesitate in kicking your ass should I suddenly decide I don’t like you.”

“Mugen!” huffed Fuu angrily, stomping her foot.

“You’re welcome to try,” responded Toshiro dryly as he walked, never missing a beat. “But I don’t think you will have an easy time of it.” Funny how little of a threat that sounded. Mugen, however, seemed unconcerned. It seemed his instincts weren’t telling him to kill Toshiro know, so I relaxed. Perhaps he was a good guy… only time would tell. I would still be on my guard.

I shook my head. Things were definitely going to get interesting.

* * *

I was sitting on the bed, cross-legged, preparing to meditate, when Mugen came in from his bath. My mind had been in turmoil lately with all the events, and all I wanted was to relax and hopefully calm my spirit. I believed Mugen would recognize my position and just leave me alone. That would have occurred… had he not found the brown satchel that had been thrown at me in the fight of several days earlier.

It had been buried beneath a pile of clothes and items that he was picking through while I tried to concentrate on meditating. However, just his very nearness was distracting me and I was just about to ask him politely but firmly to leave and go out or something. My body kept reacting, especially when my mind reminded me that he was /clean/.

“What’s this?” he questioned frowning as he held up the small brown satchel. The strings binding the top had been drawn tightly. I cracked open one eye and glanced at what he was holding. I dimly recognized the item but didn’t know what significance it held.

“I do not know,” responded, unfurling my legs and walking to his side. “Where did it come from?” I took the bag from his hand and held it out, examining it. The satchel was rather nondescript, albeit a little blood-stained.

He eyed me disbelievingly. “Heh, well, you were pretty out of it. But that guy from the forest tossed it at you. I don’t know why I grabbed it but I did.” He ran a hand through his hair, messing it up into its usually haphazard style. “I suppose we forgot about it after that deal with Kenji.”

“Hm,” I commented as I picked at the knot in the strings and tried to get it open. Distractedly, I walked back over to the bed and sat down on the rather soft mattress on the floor and concentrated on getting the leather bag open.

“Any idea what it is?” he questioned, coming to sit beside me.

I shrugged noncommittally. I was more interested in what was in the bag. What would Fujisaki have to give me? I dimly recalled that brief instant somewhere in my memory, when the older man had smirked and tossed the item at me before passing out. I only assumed that he had died.

With a tiny pop and sigh of frustration, the strings finally gave and I was able to open the bag. I peered inside but couldn’t see anything and resorted to sticking in a few fingers. I felt something soft and fabric-like. Frowning in confusion, I pulled it out, bringing the item into the light.

The moment my eyes fell onto the cloth, I stiffened, my face going pale. I stared and stared at it, as if expecting, maybe hoping it would disappear.

Mugen frowned and snatched the dark blue cloth from my hands. He turned it over and over in his hands, examining it thoroughly. “What is it?” he asked, turning to look at me, brow furrowing in confusion when he noticed how exceedingly pale I was.

“It’s a mon…” I answered softly. “And not just any, but that of my brother’s…” I trailed off. I would recognize that one anywhere. It was similar to that on my own clothes but marked with a special symbol so that people could know which Urahara the brother was.

He frowned. “The one that tried to kill you?” he asked, fingering the blood-stained cloth.

I shook my head, leaning back against the wall as I sighed. It was a truth that I had hoped to avoid for a little while longer, a secret that it seemed I could no longer hide. “No… the one that I killed…”

 

[Misc] Secrets of the Heart 10

Chapter Ten – If You Could Only See

[Mugen’s POV]

I was dreaming. There were flashes of memories, things I was beginning to recall now that I knew why they had gone in the first place. I remembered Kenji, and how he had betrayed me then, the same way he did now.

Most assassins come right after you, just try and kill you in the first few moments of meeting them. But Kenji was always different. He liked to mess with your mind and fuck with your emotions, attacking when you’re most vulnerable.

I remembered him now, of how he had convinced me we were something special. Seems strange now, almost surreal. He was the first male lover I had that made me think of being a one-lover man. Kenji was a great actor, knew exactly what to say and when to say it. He was different from everyone I had ever known, and, hell, I was young then, even younger than I am now. Being raised by an island of criminals doesn’t mean I knew all about the tricksters. Even the smartest of us could fall for pretty words.

He attacked late one night, same as he did with me and Jin, bashing my head in with a thick heavy vase. I don’t remember much of that afterwards, fists striking my gut and legs, one more striking me in the head that eventually rendered me unconscious. I was still numb from the feeling of outright betrayal. It was one of the worst feelings in the world.

I also dreamed of life back on the island, growing up surrounded by criminals, the scum of the world, or so I had been told from day one. I was a criminal because I was born one… that was my life. It was a far cry from Jin’s upbringing. I knew he was a wealthy boy, he couldn’t hide that fact. It was in every inch of his being from the way he walked, talked, dressed; everything screamed aristocrat. Whereas it was obvious what all I had done. From my tattoos and shaggy hair and attitude, I was far from ever knowing that life.

I didn’t hate him for it nor was I envious. From what I could tell, it didn’t seem his life was that much better than mine. Why else would his family be trying to kill him? That’s what I heard Kenji say anyways. Jin hadn’t told me anything yet, just like I hadn’t told him the truth of Kenji and other memories that were now crashing back with a vengeance.

I didn’t want to think about the past… I wasn’t that type to dwell. Why worry about what had happened then when all that mattered was the here and now? All that meant anything to me was lying in the bed with me… well, excluding Fuu. I have to admit, the little annoying girl kinda grows on ya after awhile.

I awoke slowly, to the comforting feeling of him wrapped around my back with his arms around my waist. I could feel his even breathing across the back of my neck and couldn’t help the smile that broke out on my face. My body was aching slightly from the pounding I had taken, so sex was the furthest thing from my mind. But it was still nice to wake up with him next to me.

Then I made the mistake of trying to move my injured arm. Bad move. I hissed with the pain and succeeded in waking him up, as well. He twitched behind me before his arms automatically tightened.

“Morning…” his voice came to me all sleepy and quiet like. If I weren’t so injured, I would turn over and jump him.

I rolled over and looked him in the face. He had his eyes closed like he was going to fall back asleep any moment. But the most amazing thing was the look of peace on his face. It was completely relaxed; no frown-lines or thought marks or anything. I almost made him seem… younger, you know?

“I don’t think it’s morning,” I guessed, teasing him just a little. It was then that I saw it, just the tiniest bit of a smile creeping on the corners of his lips. Well, that did it. I just had to kiss him. And so I did.

He moaned lightly when I pressed my lips to him but gladly parted his lips. I dragged my tongue along the outside of his lips teasingly before I delved deep inside to get that familiar taste that I had grown to love. It was hard to describe what it was exactly but it was something that was completely and wholly him.

I moaned softly as he sucked on my tongue and awakened dormant parts of me. I ran an unbandaged hand across his mostly bare chest… bare except for the bandages of course. He felt warm to my fingertips, unusual for him. I trailed my touch over the planes of his chest and just delighted in him being there with me, alive and whole.

I broke away from the kiss with much reluctance, the need for air becoming a pressing matter. He sighed softly and finally opened his eyes. For one of the first times I could ever recall, they looked like open windows rather than carefully guarded walls.

“I love you,” he said to me in a soft whisper.

I couldn’t help the shit-eating grin that appeared on my face. It was usually me that was the first to come out and say it, but this time it had been him. And in that moment he said that, I felt a bit of some of the fear and trepidation that had been building in me ease. So what if all the secrets weren’t yet known?

“Mmmm, thanks,” I responded, running a finger over his chest.

He chuckled and pinched me lightly on the ass with one of his hands. “You’re supposed to say it back.”

I yelped with the pinch but smiled nonetheless. “You already know I do. But I will say it anyways. I love… your hair,” I teased, reaching up and grabbing a piece of hair and running it through my fingers. It always surprised me how unbelievably soft his hair was compared to mine.

He shook his head at my words. “What am I going to do with you?”

I groaned. “If I wasn’t in such pain, I could think of a few things.” The meaning to my words was obvious.

“Aw, aren’t you two so cute?” Fuu’s voice startled me for a moment, causing me to look up. She was standing in the doorway with a big grin on her face as she looked down on us. And in her arms was a most welcome sight, a plate laden with food.

“How’s the head?” I asked, as I slowly extricated myself from Jin’s grasp and sat up. My own head pounded in protest, and I felt dizzy for a moment, but I ignored the pain as I tried to stretch out the kinks in my body.

Jin groaned and pulled the blanket up over his head as if he didn’t want to be seen. I don’t blame him. He had a hefty looking shiner going on his face there, though given the time it had faded some.

She smiled as she walked in, kicking the door shut behind her. “Nothing major. Hard as a rock, you know. How are you feeling? You, too, Jin.”

“My body is in pain, but I will survive,” came the muffled reply from beneath the covers.

I glanced at him and shook my head before slyly reaching over and grasping the blanket, yanking it off of him. He was lucky that he wasn’t sleeping naked otherwise Fuu would have gotten an eyeful.

“Mugen!” he protested, grasping at the blanket. “It’s cold!”

I chuckled and held the blanket hostage, refusing to let him get a hold of it. That was when it occurred to me that I might not have been in as much pain as I had originally thought. My body had a remarkable high threshold I guess. Perhaps I was up for a little action… provided I pick a position that didn’t put any strain on my arm.

Fuu just shook her head at our playfulness before setting down the tray she was carrying at the foot of the bed. I peeked and saw that it had food and drink on it. As if on cue, my stomach growled hungrily. She smiled before handing me some of the fried dumpling. Jin gave up on trying to get the blanket and sat up, looking all around for something to tie back his messy hair with. It was a pity really; I would have liked to see it down.

“You never answered me, Mugen,” Fuu continued, eyeing me as she handed Jin a tie so that he could pull back his hair.

What had she asked again? Oh, right. I waved a hand of dismissal at her. “Nothing I can’t handle.”

She nodded and accepted my answer. “Good. I have to go to work. You two stay here and get better. I’ll be back later.” She turned towards the door. “I may even bring more food. Bye.” And with that the door was opened, and she was gone.

I chuckled at her cheerful attitude and hungrily dove into the food, making sure to leave enough that Jin would be able to eat. But he had slipped into brood mode again and was staring right through the food as if it wasn’t there. I wiped the back of my mouth with my hand and scooted closer to him.

“Hey.” I nudged his uninjured side with my good shoulder. “You okay?”

He sighed and laid his head on my shoulder. “I am feeling relatively all right.”

I was sympathetic to his thoughts and reached out to trail a small finger down the side of his face. He closed his eyes and accepted the tender movement. “It was a close one… closer than before,” I commented, my mind thinking of the many other battles before.

That appeared to wake up something inside of him. He lifted his head off my shoulder and turned to look at me, dark eyes searching. Jin leaned in and kissed me, gently this time. Something soft and fluttery, which left feelings of strong love and tenderness in my heart. I couldn’t help myself when I placed a palm against the side of his face and gently rubbed my thumb across my cheek.

“Mugen…” he breathed, pulling back just a little and placing his forehead against mine. “I want you… inside of me.”

Needless to say I was a bit shocked. I was sure he was in just as much pain as I was, possibly even more. “Are you sure?” I questioned. “I mean I don’t want to hurt you…” Yet, already my mind was devising the best possible way for the both of us to be together and comfortable.

He pulled back and looked in me in the eyes again. “I need you. I need to be reminded that I still live.”

I nodded in understanding, the same worries having filled my heart before. That was something that you have to understand about dueling and battles and fighting for your life. Sometimes in the end, when you find you have won, and the enemy has fallen there was still this inherent disbelief that victory was yours, and the fear that it could have been you lying broken and battered on the floor. I comprehended him because I wanted the same.

I wanted to feel that I still lived.

To answer his unvoiced question, I leaned in and kissed him again, licking gently at his lips before I slowly probed my way inside. This was not going to be a fuck session for me, not this time. No, I planned to make love to my broody ronin.

Jin reached out with needy hands and pushed off my clothing. I complied by helping him get out of his. The need to feel skin on skin impressed itself upon me.

He shifted his body to face me more comfortable but I took it one step further, altering his position so that he straddled my lap. I wrapped an arm around him as best I could, attempting to not move my shoulder too much. I moved my legs just a bit for a better place and accidentally kicked the serving tray.

My eyes snapped open as I checked to make sure that I hadn’t spilled anything that would cost us more money. It was then that I noticed why sneaky little Fuu had smirked as she left the room. Apparently she wasn’t as innocent as we thought… the little devil.

Jin was busy running his hands over my chest and back, any part of my body that he could get hold of. I moaned and shivered with sensation as he pinched a nipple to hardness, inciting other parts of me to stiffen as well.

My lips left the tender warmth of his mouth and trailed along his chin as I leaned over and grabbed for the bottle of oil that was left sitting on the tray. I had just reached it when Jin leaned down and wrapped his tongue around a nipple. I moaned at his touch and ground my hips upward into him. He arched backwards at the touch, moaning gently. I felt his arousal poking through his clothes to brush against my belly.

Placing the bottle on the floor next to us, I rewrapped my arm around him and devoted my lips to placing tender kisses on his neck and nipping him gently. Jin whimpered at the feel of my lips, and it was the sexiest sound in the world. He ground himself down on my cock, and I groaned aloud.

I traced a finger down the curve of his spine, wishing that I could move my left arm as well. But Fuu had bound it far too tightly, which was probably for the best. He shivered at the touch, the tip of his arousal weeping slightly and leaving little trails across my stomach.

He was so beautiful, my Jin. All of that porcelain like skin, faintly glowing in the dim light of the room. I tried to ignore the ugly purplish bruises and concentrate on the soft, pristine nature of his skin. It still surprised me how untouched he seemed to be… so few scars… so few marks.

“I’m beginning to think,” he began, murmuring softly. “That only you are the one capable of doing this to me.” He reached down with a slim-fingered hand and wrapped it around my aching need. He stroked me once or twice very firmly before running the pad of his thumb over the head.

I moaned at the touch and buried my face in his neck, licking and tasting, sampling every bit that was his flavor. He smelled so natural… so very much him, that it was driving me crazy.

“Gods… I want to be inside of you so badly,” I muttered as I nipped at his throat, leaving my own little love bite on his neck. “You make me crazy.” I let go of his back and slipped my arm in between our bodies.

I grabbed his weeping hardness lightly, stroked him once before slipping down below and cradling his balls with my hands. He gasped at the touch and arched his back… so responsive as always. I moved just enough, so that I could touch him and traced a finger over his puckered entrance.

He ground down on that finger, searching for more stimulation. His reaction sent hot fire racing throughout my body. It was so much more than lust that I felt for this man, this seemingly cold ronin, who had stolen my heart.

“Make love to me, Mugen,” he gasped out before finding my lips again. He greedily devoured my mouth, running a hand through my hair with one hand as he groped for the oil with the other.

“Every time,” I responded as I shifted my hand so that he could pour the oil out on to my fingers. The slippery substance easily coated my digits, and I again reached between us to slip beneath his body and find that small puckered entrance. I circled it once with one fingertip before pressing gently inside.

He felt unbelievably warm around my finger and his inner walls clenched on me tightly. I waited a moment for his body to adjust before I began to stretch him. I was determined for him to feel the least bit of pain possible. I wanted him to feel my love… not my lust.

Jin whimpered at my touch, which only spurred me on. I added a second and then a third. As much as we’d been together, it didn’t take quite so much to stretch him as it would normally. While I worked my magic, I kissed him, deep and sure. I pressed my lips to his and swiped my tongue along the inside of his mouth. I traced the contours of his cavern with the wet muscle and moaned in delight when he returned with an eager swipe of his own tongue.

I groaned heartily when I felt oil-slicked fingers grasp my cock and start to stroke. We were beginning to develop an urgency that I hadn’t intended, but I wasn’t about to stop. We both needed it. I curled my fingers inside of him until I brushed his pleasure center. He literally melted in my arms; it was the greatest thing in the world.

Jin was moaning, too, and making these little needy noises in the back of his throat as he pressed his body to mine. He was the sexiest thing, I swear. I decided he was stretched enough and put a hand on his hip to guide him to where I wanted. He knew what was coming and helped me.

With the head of my hardness poised at his entrance, I gently released his lips long enough to whisper at him. “I love you,” I said before reclaiming his mouth and slowly pressing myself inside.

Gods! He was so hot and tight like always. I moaned long and low until I was finally completely inside him. He nipped at my lips with his teeth and wrapped his arms around me until we were as close as we could be.

I set a slow and steady pace. Jin moved with me so that we were one in our coupling. Since his arms were wrapped around my back, I let go of his hip, so that I could grasp his cock with my hand. There was still oil on my fingers, and my hand glided smoothly over his erection.

“Ummm,” he moaned as I tightened my grip and stroked him to the beat of our movements. I kissed him intently, sucking on his lips or tongue whatever was in reach at the time.

He was squeezing me tightly from the inside. It was almost more than I could take. That hot fire racing through my body was threatening to explode. I shifted my body slightly and was satisfied with the whimper of satisfaction that came from his throat. I thrust up into him a little harder now as I continued to stroke his heavily weeping cock, rubbing a thumb over the head for added pleasure.

That was all it took. Jin’s entire body seemed to shudder violently before it stopped moving entirely, the rush of sensation and pleasure all corresponding to that one spot as he came in a spurt, coating both of our chests with his seed, words unintelligible erupting from his mouth.

The rhythmic pulsing of being inside him, coupled with the breathy moans that he was emitting and the closeness of our skin and all restraint flew out of the window. I moaned my release long and loud, his name the only word to pass through my lips.

I collapsed backwards on the bed with him landing gently on top of me. I winced when I bounded a little too hard on my shoulder, but it was well worth it. I wrapped my free arm around him and rolled a little to the side, so that I could lie on my uninjured shoulder.

He purred with satisfaction and clutched at me with his hands. I tangled my hands in his hair, it having come loose once more, and pulled his head towards mine where we shared another kiss. It didn’t last long because I could already feel exhaustion tugging at my body.

I snuggled into him and sighed contentedly. I didn’t miss the light chuckle that escaped from his mouth.

“What?” I asked sleepily.

“Nothing,” he answered with a little shake of his head. “I just like it when you say my name like that.”

“Shut up,” I grumbled in response. “Go to sleep…”

He didn’t say anything else but he did obey. I had to resist the urge to chuckle when he just settled down in the bed next to me. If he had been any more awake… he might have protested to the order. However, I didn’t take any more time to dwell on that before I quickly slipped into sleep myself. Battle, injuries, and sex with Jin… there was only so much a body can take.

* * *

[Fuu’s POV]

I couldn’t help the snicker of one who has made a great plan to escape from my lips as I closed the door behind me. I knew exactly what the two of them needed, even if they didn’t. They really were cute together, and I can’t believe that I never noticed before how exactly perfect they were for each other. The ideal balance of fire and ice was the two of them.

I walked out of the inn and headed for the small teashop, where I had found a job as a waitress. It seemed that was about the only thing I was suitable before. Not that the work was hard or anything. It was terribly boring.

And I will admit that I was jealous. I wanted so bad what Jin and Mugen had that special relationship where I truly cared for someone. I thought that I could find it in the two of them when we traveled together so long ago.

They both seemed to represent opposite sides of a spectra that I wanted. Jin, the seemingly quiet one but harboring an inherent kindness, and Mugen, the bad boy, the type of every woman’s fantasy. Too bad I didn’t realize that right under my nose they weren’t looking for someone like me, but someone like each other.

I didn’t hate them for that. How could I when it was obvious that it was meant to be. They are my friends… I have so few of those. And when Kenji had tried to kill them, what else would I do? Run away? After all the things that we’ve been through, I had far more courage than that. It was like second nature for me to run and try to stop the murderous Iyatokan. I only wish that I could have been the one to kill him for betraying me like that.

Grr! It still made me mad to think about it. I can’t believe I was so easily led astray by him. He had such pretty words, made me think all sorts of things that I am not sure whether to believe or not.

I trod into the teahouse, affectionately called the Sunflower, and immediately got to work. Coincidence in the name, even I was not sure. I didn’t stop to dwell on much else because it was a busy day.

For a few hours, I worked ceaselessly. I had my share of rude customers but for the most part, they were kind. And Anik, the man that I worked for, he was a good employer. The pay was decent for the work, and it’s not exactly like it was difficult. Take an order; fill a drink, what was there to concentrate on?

I think it was about three hours after I started that I first noticed him. He came in through the door with the same kind of presence as Mugen, but he also radiated a calm aura more like Jin. I was in the midst of serving this kind old lady some tea when I just happened to look up and see him come in.

What I saw made me drop my jaw in surprise.

He was gorgeous, and I mean it when I say gorgeous. His hair was mid-length though dark and thick. He wore it pulled back in a low ponytail so that much of his face was free to see. His face was sort of round-like, with soft angles rather than sharp ones, and he had dark, smoldering eyes that though kind hinted of something much fiercer, like those of a warrior. He was probably a good heads taller than me and built, not overtly so like Kenji, but with enough muscle that he could easily take care of himself.

This stranger was dressed in outlandish clothes that oddly enough were a combination of something Jin and Mugen would wear. He wore hakama like Jin, but a gi over it rather than a kimono or juban. He had a sheath strapped across his back that obviously contained a sword, though I could not tell what type.

He stepped into the Sunflower with an air of uncertainty as he gazed across the room searching for a decent place to sit. I was still entranced by his entrance and froze when his gaze settled on me. I swear, it was like my heart skipped a beat and I was trapped in that dark gaze. I nearly spilt the tea on the old lady!

I was the first to look away from the intent gaze and finished serving the one customer, so that I could hurry and help him. I walked up to his table a bit slowly and waited patiently as his attention moved from the entire room around him to center on me.

Again I felt trapped by those dark eyes… but it was a good kind of trapped. The kind where I wanted to throw myself into his arms and never move from that spot.

“Welcome to the Sunflower,” I said pleasantly, unhappy to note the slight tremble to my voice. “What can I get for you?”

“I will have tea to start,” he said quietly, his deep voice rich and easy on my ears. I shivered unintentionally at the sound. I could just imagine him speaking words of endearment as we lay together…

“Do I… know you?” he questioned, after peering at me thoughtfully.

I startled at the query and racked my brain. A man as beautiful as this… no, I would not remember. “I do not think so.”

“Are you sure?” he questioned, peering at me thoughtfully. “Because I feel I know you from somewhere…?”

I shook my head, that same eerie feeling beginning to creep up on me as well. “No… I would remember someone as handsome as you.” Eep! Did I say that aloud? I blushed furiously.

He smiled at me bemused. “You find me handsome?”

For some reason, I felt I could not lie to this man. I nodded slowly. “The most handsome I have ever met,” I whispered softly, color still staining my cheeks. I didn’t wait for him to respond as I turned and hurried into the kitchen to fetch a cup for him.

My heart was racing a mile a minute, and my breathing had quickened. Never before had I had such a reaction to someone. But already his very self was beginning to have effect on my mind. I wanted to know him, understand more about him. See who he was beneath the layers and be by his side. The sheer magnitude of my feelings was shocking.

I fought to push aside everything. He was a customer, and I the employee, in time he would be gone from this town, judging by his looks. He was a wanderer the same as Mugen, Jin, and I. I grabbed a cup and a fresh pot of tea and steeled myself to face him once more.

I placed the cup on the table and began to fill it, unable to meet his eyes for fear that I would not be able to look away. I bowed slightly as I turned to go.

”Would you care for anything else?”

“Perhaps… your name?” he asked. The very tone of his voice made me want to look at him. His eyes sparkled as he asked and there was no hint of mockery in his expression.

“It’s… Fuu,” I responded blushing again.

He smiled. “Wind… hmm? I like that. I am Toshiro [1]. Would you care to take a seat?”

The offer shocked me. “I… I can’t. I’m working.” I wanted to say yes. Gods, I wanted to scream it at the top of my lungs if only to see another one of those smiles.

“Perhaps later then, when you are no longer working?” he questioned with an eyebrow raise. That only succeeded in making me blush once more.

“At sunset,” I responded. “That is when I am no longer needed.”

Toshiro smiled at that, the corner of his mouths upturning in what can only be called a kind manner. “I will be waiting then.”

If my cheeks could have gone any redder I am sure they would have. I clumsily excused myself and went back to work, the whole time my mind centered on Toshiro. He stayed for quite a while in the teahouse, but I tried not to linger around him no matter as much as I wanted to. I could feel his eyes on me whenever I was not attending to him and that made me blush as I worked.

He left a few hours before my shift was to end, and I was disappointed to see him go. I thought that would be the last of him that I would see. I assumed that he was only jesting with me, trying to get the young naïve girl to blush.

Until I stepped out the door of the teahouse at sundown and looked right into his dark eyes. He was leaning against the building across the way and seemed to be waiting patiently. He smiled at the sight of me, and my heart quickened in my chest.

It had to have been… there was no way to explain this sudden attraction… this sudden trust. There was no other way to understand. I never really believed in love at first sight until the moment that I met Toshiro.

He offered to walk me back to the inn, and perhaps buy something along the way to eat. I, of course, accepted, unable to say no to the pounding of my heart.

I hoped that I could find something meaningful there. That Toshiro would ease the lonely ache in my heart. It was an interesting hope and one that I prayed fiercely for as we walked back towards the inn.

 

[Misc] Secrets of the Heart 09

Chapter Nine – Headstrong

I have never been one to sleep hard, easily awakening by the slightest sound or disturbance. Nevertheless. I did not move when our door opened, and a dark shadow crept in. Nor did I realize something was wrong until I was roughly grabbed and shoved off to the side, my injured shoulder scraping against the floor. The wound reopened, and, already, I felt the blood beginning to flow. I looked up in a daze to see a figure standing over Mugen, and though I couldn’t see who it was, I recognized the threatening way it was staring down at him. It couldn’t be mistaken for anything else.

I scrambled to my feet and scanned the room to find my daisho, but the assailant had known exactly what to do and had moved them across the room. Thankfully the sound of my movement had awakened Mugen. His eyes snapped open.

“Kenji,” he said simply, in a voice of whispered anger. My body automatically stiffened. Kenji? The Iyatokan? My emotions changed from surprise to intense rage. Someone we had trusted had turned against us, again. It was like Sara all over again.

“Traitor…” I couldn’t help but growl threateningly.

I saw Mugen tense his body, as if he were planning to attack, and I knew that I had to distract the blond massive man.

I dashed across the room for my daisho and grabbed them, shoving them into the light tie around my waist and not wasting any time as I spun around and made to attack Kenji. He heard me coming, the bastard, and easily blocked my blow. He moved remarkably fast for someone of his bulk. And due to our friendship, knew all of my injuries. He kicked me, hard in the thigh, striking the deep gash that had just healed.

I went down, gasping as the pain shot through my leg, and my knee went weak.

Kenji kicked again, throwing my slight body towards the far wall. I slammed into a table, and it crushed beneath the force of my body crashing into it. I slid down to the floor limply, my mind reeling and my head spinning from the contact. My swords clattered from my hands, and I struggled to maintain consciousness and focus my eyesight.

I was barely able to make out Kenji reaching down and grabbing Mugen, who tried to kick at him. It didn’t have much of an impact, after all, my lover was barefoot, and Kenji seemed to be made of solid muscle. The blue-eyed man had his arms wrapped around Mugen’s throat, and he clung to the offending arm with one hand while trying to scratch out those blue eyes with the other.

“I knew if I followed that brat, I would run into you some how. You should have died the first time I killed you,” hissed Kenji as he looked at Mugen with an intent glare.

“It was you,” Mugen managed to gasp out. “Fucking bastard! You’re the reason I can’t remember anything!”

Kenji tightened his grip, and Mugen choked, scratching his fingernails across the skin of the Iyatokan’s hand. He drew blood, but Kenji was relentless.

I was still seeing double of the scene and gasping for breath. It felt as if Kenji had broken one of my ribs, not to mention the blood dripping down my shoulder and my back. I think that wound had reopened, as well.

“I coud’ve killed you and your faggot lover while you were in the hot springs. But I thought it would be better if you died painfully with that memory on your mind as your blood mixed on the floor of this inn,” Kenji said in a voice cold with anger.

“You son of a bitch!” choked out Mugen. “I will kill you.”

Suddenly, my vision started to focus again, and the swirling in my mind began to calm down. I patted around the floor until I managed to get my hands on my sword. I tested getting to my feet and stumbled a bit, my legs feeling very unsteady.

“Let him go!” I demanded in a hoarse voice.

Kenji turned and looked at me, a smile on his face as he squeezed Mugen’s throat, and the Ryu-Kyuian gasped. “You are no threat to me!”

I glared and growled at him, anger fueling the flame and making it easier to stand. “It will be your blood staining this floor.”

It was then that Mugen tried to kick the Iyatokan. We had both underestimated him as quickly as Kenji caught the tattooed foot and shoved it away from his unprotected leg. The blond shook Mugen, as if he were nothing more than a doll, his head snapping back and forth, eyes fluttering. Kenji grinned feral in the next instant as he simply dropped my tattooed lover with no further encouragement. He fell hard and hit even harder, his head spinning from the shaking and the fall.

“This is going to be easier than I thought.” Kenji turned to face me, eyes laughing as he cracked his knuckles. “Don’t think I don’t recognize your face either, Urahara.”

I couldn’t help the cold feeling of trepidation that raced through my body. My hands unconsciously tightened in their grip of my sword as I glared at him. “You know nothing about me.”

“All I need to,” he replied smugly, licking his lips. “It’s a sad thing, especially in high families, when there is a black card out there against you.”

I knew what he meant. My family had issued what was basically a death warrant for my name. For as long as I lived, I would have assassins after my head, hoping to take it back and claim the reward. And knowing Shuu, the amount was high. What Kenji didn’t realize, was that it was a much sadder thing when a family didn’t even know the real truth of the matter. That bastard had to die. I would never sleep calmly until his blood was dripping on my sword… macabre, I know. However, I had had enough of Kenji.

I growled angrily and rushed at him, determined to wipe the superior smirk off of the bastard’s face. Except this time I had a plan. I was resolute that he would not defeat me as easily as the last time.

He prepared for my attack. I made as if to attack from the left when I suddenly changed course and swung at his right. He twisted his body to avoid my swing, easily seeing through my feint and reminded me very much of the way Mugen fought. I was swinging again at him before I even turned around, quick slashes that forced him backwards, blue eyes calmly watching each movement as if he were learning me.

What arrogance the man exuded! It was as if he didn’t even fear the sharp edge that I consistently kept on my blade. I vaguely heard Mugen moan and the shifting of the bed, but tried to block out the distracting sounds. I began to lose myself in the roar of battle.

Suddenly Kenji stopped backing up, his arm whipping out as I was in mid-swing. He didn’t even flinch as he stopped my sword with his hand, catching the sharp edge of the weapon on his palm. I pressed down with all my strength and tried to rip the sword from his hand, but it was as if it had been thrust into wood or something.

I smelled copper on the air, both from my blood and now his that was trailing down his arm from his arm in small rivulets. The bitter tang was on my tongue was one that I had come to hate over the years. The blade had sliced into the skin of his palm but the Iyatokan looked as if he was experiencing no pain at all.

It made me wonder just what kind of man had been sent after Mugen. What had he done to be chased after in such a way? Which only made me think about the secrets that I had, as well. We both had secrets hidden deep within our hearts that we were concealing from each other and slowly circumstance was drawing them out whether we wanted them to or not. The both of us were wanted men, destined to spend the rest of our lives fighting off assassin one right after the other. Yet, we still feared telling each other certain secrets. Ironic.

Kenji squeezed hard when he felt me give another tug and smiled condescendingly as he twisted his wrist and easily snapped the metal of my weapon. For the moment, I was in shock at the display of brute strength. Then reality struck, and I scrambled to reach for my other sword.

Kenji’s speed astounded me again as I had hardly placed my hand on the hilt when he darted forward and struck me in the face, massive fist catching me in the cheek and eyes. It would be black and purple tomorrow, provided that we both lived through this assassination attempt. I stumbled backwards, finding my footing vastly unsteady.

The reality that I, as well as Mugen, might die that night struck me with a vengeance. Not that I feared death, but now that I had met him, I felt like I wasn’t quite ready to give in.

I heard the sound of footsteps and looked up through teared eyes to see Mugen attempting to take out the brute. He executed one of his tricky maneuvers that I never in my life would be able to imitate and swept the feet out from under Kenji, getting a hard blow to the shoulder in the process.

My legs had stopped their violent trembling, and I raised my second and last sword to the fallen Kenji in the same moment that my tattooed lover stood over the blond with an angry and vengeful look on his face. I recognized the calm and decisive aura that had taken over him. It was the bitter realities of yet another betrayal.

It was then that the door opened and a head poked in, fear and worry shining in brown eyes. Fuu had come to see what all the commotion was about. She gasped, and the door flew wide as she stood there with her hands in front of her mouth.

”What is going on?” she demanded, her eyes darting from me and my bleeding wounds, to Mugen standing over Kenji with his reclaimed sword – I don’t even remember how he had gotten to it – and the Iyatokan on the floor, gazing up at the both of us murderous men.

“That fucking bastard is trying to kill us,” Mugen snarled, lowering his sword until it was aimed at the blond man, point headed for the artery in the neck.

Her eyes trailed towards me and found that same intent look of murder in my eyes as well before she looked down at her supposed body guard on the floor. His hand was twitching slightly and that motion both distracted and worried me.

“Is that true?” she questione, and I had to resist the urge to snort. Women and their `everyone deserves a chance’ nature.

But Kenji didn’t bother to answer. His wrist flicked and before I knew it, a dagger was flying towards the air at Fuu. I hadn’t even known that the Iyatokan carried one. Mugen’s eyes widene, and his protective instinct kicked in even as I dove forward.

He stepped towards Fuu, sword outstretched to block the dagger as she moved to get out of the way. Unfortunately for her Kenji had thought of that and had tossed another one just as quickly, grabbing Mugen’s foot in the same moment. My tattooed lover crashed to the floor, and I was too far away to prevent the dagger that implanted itself in our little sunflower’s shoulder. She screamed with the pain and clutched at the little knife, sinking to her knees as she struggled to pull it out.

Kenji and Mugen began to wrestle around on the floor, the blond easily overpowering my slimmer lover. He had drawn a third knife and was viciously slicing at Mugen who now had small cuts on his sides, back, and arms. Despite my wounds, I dove into the fray, knocking the dagger from the blond’s hands.

He growled angrily at me before kicking at Mugen. I heard the sickening sound of bone cracking and the Ryu-Kyuian howled with pain. I didn’t want to look and see what had happened for fear that I would lose my head. I concentrated on Kenji who was now free to deal entirely with me now that Mugen was rolling on the floor in agony.

“Mugen!” I heard Fuu scream as she scrambled up from the floor, bloody dagger in her hand and raced to his side.

I still had my sword and glared down at Kenji, who still seemed sure of his victorious. I darted forward before he had a chance to do anything, angling an attack that for once managed to strike before the blond grabbed my leg and pulled me down.

I had sliced a gash in his face, giving him another scar to add to the one already present. As I struck the ground hard, I managed to keep a hold on my sword. Kenji moved fast, jumping on top of my hips and pinning my slighter legs and figure beneath him. He was heavy.

I swung angrily at him with my sword as his foul blood dripped onto my body. He grabbed it with the uninjured hand and ripped it from my grasp, throwing it across the room where it clattered against the far wall. I was just glad that he didn’t break it like he had the other one.

I spat at him, my face curled into an angry growl. His eyes darkened, blue turning to misty grey as he grabbed my flailing limbs with both his hands. He was extremely heavy, and I didn’t like the feeling of him draped across my hips.

“What’s the matter?” he snarled. “I’m a man, aren’t I? I thought you liked our flavor?”

“Fucking bastard!” I screamed at him, fighting with all I had in me to get free. I’m not the largest or strongest man in the world; it is obvious by looking at me. It seemed inevitable that unless someone saved me, I was not breaking free from his clutches. Both my thin wrists fit into one of his huge hands! I had never hated my size more severely than I did in that one moment, and I felt completely useless.

“Let him go!” It was Fuu, perky little sunflower that never lacked for courage. She slammed her small body against the blond mountain.

He howled as she managed to skim the blade that she had pulled from her shoulder on his neck and bury it in his back. His arm flung outwards and struck her in the belly. All of the breath in her body escaped in one huge gust as she flew backwards into the delicately painted screen and crashed through the thin rice paper. She did not move when she landed.

I growled with anger and struggled to break free of his grasp. He thought this was amusing and looked down at me laughing. His hand had tightened in its hold on my wrists, and I could literally feel my bones grinding together, sending stabbing pains down my arms. I bared my teeth at Kenji, trying to move my legs to do something. But he had managed to sit in the perfect position.

He pulled out a knife and started grinning as he trailed little scratch marks with the blade over my exposed skin, carving letters and such into my chest and arms. I tried not to move not wanting to force the blade any deeper. He ran the tip of the dagger over one of my nipples, nicking the sensitive flesh. I grimaced.

“It’s so much fun to play with my prey before I kill it,” Kenji mocked. “I thought you would like it.” He was a sick bastard.

It was then that I saw it, the shattered pieces of my blade lying within a hands reach of me. If I could break my wrists free from the blond’s grasp then I could twist my body, grab the blade and drive it into his heart before he had a chance to do anything.

Sounded simple enough… but I still had the problem of breaking free from Kenji’s hold.

Kenji laughed again as he took the point of the dagger and pressed it into the wound on my shoulder, twisting it around. I gritted my teeth and groaned as fiery pain raced through my arm. The Iyatokan squeezed my wrists and twisted my arms. I could feel my shoulder threatening to pop.

Then the glint of metal caught my eye moments before the metal shod shoe flew through the air and struck Kenji on the forehead, slicing it open. Blood splashed down on me and I had to fight back the revulsion.

Kenji’s hand reflexively went to the wound on his head as blood fell into his eyes, clouding his vision. A body barreled into him from the side. A body that I recognized to be Mugen. He had fought past the pain of the broken bone to throw himself at Kenji.

The Iyatokan blocked the clumsy and obvious blow, pushing Mugen to the side. My tattooed lover landed hard and screamed in agony. But it was all the distraction I needed. In his pain, Kenji had released my hands. I didn’t even stop to think as I twisted my body and grasped the end of my broken blade. I ignored the pain in my hands as it sliced my palm and slashed at Kenji’s neck, no hesitation at all. He gurgled, coughed out blood bubbles, and began to slowly tip over, his body collapsing to the ground.

I was breathing heavily now, both from adrenaline and anger. The broken bit of sword clattered to the ground, stained with both my blood and that of Kenji’s. I heaved and pushed the body of the heavier man off of me. I scrambled out from beneath him and rushed to Mugen. He was conscious and breathing but his eyes were clouded with pain. It was then that I saw his arm, his sword arm at that, was swollen and bent at an odd angle that made my stomach churn.

“C-Check on Fuu first,” he mumbled to me as I turned him over. I left bloody handprints on his body but it was still me that felt dirty. I had Kenji’s betrayer blood on me, and I longed to wash it off.

“Don’t move,” I commanded softly. He nodded as his eyelids fluttered. Perhaps his arm was finally going numb. I moved from his side to where Fuu had crashed through the rice paper screen. She was just starting to move.

I heard her groan and hurried to pull the remains of the destroyed screen off of her. She rubbed her head and winced when she used the shoulder that had been stabbed.

“Dammit! I wanted to kill him!” Fuu declared fiercely when her eyes spotted Kenji’s dead body. “Betraying me like that…” she trailed off.

“How’s your head?” I asked her, concerned that she might have a concussion or something of the like.

She waved her hand at me. “Don’t worry about me,” Fuu muttered as she knocked gently on her skull. “It’s as hard as a rock. But I don’t think Mugen’s looking too good.”

I had to agree with her on that one. Looking over her once more and finding that she was probably the least injured of the three of us, I returned to Mugen’s side. I managed to kneel next to him when I sudden dizzy spell hit me, and I slumped. Perhaps the loss of blood had been too much to handle.

But, we were alive. That was all that mattered. We had survived one more day, the three of us, just like then. Narrowly scraping by, willing to give our lives to save the other, best friends the three of us.

Then an arm grabbed mine and pulled me downwards until I was mouth to mouth with Mugen, and he was kissing me as if he were hungry and I was the tastiest fried dumpling. His mouth devoured mine as his tongue delved into my mouth and swirled around.

Despite my pain, I couldn’t help but feel aroused at his touch. It was then that I understood his sudden desire to touch me and kiss me. It was to reaffirm that we lived. With that realization, I returned his passion with equal vigor, fighting past the dizziness and pain to grasp his face with my hands nip at his lips, swallowing his flavor and memorizing the feel of him pressed to me.

There was a clearing of throats at the doorway, and I broke away from the kiss to look. Ichi, the inn keeper, was standing in the doorway. There was a small crowd of other patrons gathered behind him.

I tried to imagine what it was they were seeing: a blond heavy man with his throat slashed, a girl picking herself up from the remains of a paper screen, blood everywhere, a shattered sword, and two guys kissing as if they world were about to end.

“I’m sorry, Ichi,” Mugen croaked out. “But he wouldn’t take no for an answer.” With that said, my lover promptly passed out.

The inn keeper looked at us, horrified. I didn’t blame him.

A wave of nausea struck me as my limbs suddenly started to tremble. It became incredibly difficult to even sit upwards. Then the world went dark.

* * *

I woke up with a heavy weight clinging to my side and no sense of how much time had passed. I shifted slightly, but the weight on my arm did not move. I knew by sense of smell that it was Mugen. He had one arm wrapped around my waist and one leg thrown across both of mine. It was his way of showing that I belonged to him.

We were lying on a bed in a darkened room. I would have guessed that we were still at the inn except for the look that I had seen on Ichi’s face. So in reality, I wasn’t sure where we were. Then the dull ache began to settle. My shoulder, my back, my thigh and my face felt swollen. That fight with Kenji had nearly destroyed my slowly healing body. To make matters worse, my right arm was starting to go numb from where Mugen was lying on top of my right shoulder.

I tried to shift to get in a more comfortable position but he just mumbled something incoherent and gripped tighter, nearly white-knuckled. It was kind of cute the way he did that. I felt a surge of love for this ruffian rise in my heart and an uncharacteristic goofy grin try to break through on my face.

Just then a door opened, letting in a thin sliver of light. I closed my eyes from the bright intrusion and listened as light footsteps padded their way inside. I recognized the gait. It was Fuu.

I cracked open one eye to see that she had closed the door and lit a soft light that wouldn’t hurt my vision. Her shoulder had been wrapped very lightly and her head didn’t even look at all injured. She was bustling about as quietly as possible, I suppose to try and not disturb us.

“Are we at the inn still?” I asked her, my voice slightly hoarse.

She jumped and emitted a small scream when she heard me. Fuu swiveled her head around from where she had been organizing some bandages and looked over at where Mugen and I laid.

“You’re awake,” she stated as she came to kneel at my side.

I nodded, my throat still feeling thick and dry. “How long… have we been asleep?”

Fuu jumped back up to get some water for me to drink as she answered my questions. “We are still at the inn. And you’ve been out for three days.”

Three days. It was hard to believe that it had been only a little less than three weeks since I had first finally found Mugen. Since then we had been laid up in the bed injured for the better half of it. Ha, nothing had changed.

Fuu appeared back at our side with a small bowl of water and helped me to sip the cool liquid. Nothing had tasted sweeter.

“How are your wounds?” I asked when she pulled the bowl away from my lips. Mugen chose that moment to twitch in his sleep and mumble something incoherently. My eyes were instantly drawn to his half-dressed body. That was when I noticed his wrapped arm, the one he had broken. I had nearly forgotten about that. The wolfish one was clinging to me with his broken arm and that didn’t surprise me in the least.

“Oh, I am fine. He didn’t hardly harm me.” She waved her hand in dismissal. “But we have a problem.”

I couldn’t resist the urge to snort. We always had problems. “What?”

“Well, Mugen only paid up until the day after Kenji attacked,” she began to wring her hands together as she continued. “And then we destroyed all that stuff and the clean up from the blood and then another room and all the bandages…”

“We have no money I can only assume?” I sighed. Back to square one. It seemed fate had a hand in all of us renewing our friendship.

“Nope, but I did get a job,” she answered surprisingly cheery. She patted my shoulder lightly, a comforting gesture that I really couldn’t feel given the bandages it was swaddled in. “Go back to sleep. You both need to heal so that we can get out of here and on the open road!”

I chuckled lightly at this, unsurprised by her sudden burst of cheer and energy. Fuu had always been like that, not letting the slightest events wear her down long. She stood up from the bed and humming quietly, snuffed out the low light and left the room. Fuu was insistent that I return to sleep.

I began to feel drowsy again so it didn’t seem like a bad idea. My body could only take so much damage and two battles back to back like that wasn’t really something quickly recovered from. But before I could slip into blissed unconsciousness, I had to rectify my sleeping situation and awaken my deadened shoulder.

I reached down and gently unattached the Ryu-kyuian’s grasp from my waist and shifted his legs off of my own. He was sleeping hard; I almost couldn’t believe it. He snorted and rolled over without further encouragement, and I was free. I sat up and stretched for a moment, working the kinks out of my shoulder before I laid back down and spooned up to his back.

I don’t know why, but I was starting to feel a bit of clinginess. This time it was my turn to wrap my arms around him and not let go as my eyelids began to droop heavily. He felt warm and alive beneath my touch; his scent, though a bit too ripe, was comforting.

I leaned forwards and pressed a gentle kiss to his neck before relaxing and dropping off into sleep.

 

[Misc] Secrets of the Heart 08

Chapter Eight – Going Under

He really scared me this time. Never mind that we had fought. Never mind that I was angry with him for treating me that way. He had come close to dying on me, and that I was not prepared for. It reminded me of many times before when I thought I had lost him, when I was harboring those secret lusts for him. That fight with Sara and then the time he told us about jumping off the cliff, it was as if he was looking for death. I couldn’t understand that.

I didn’t really love my life, but I was determined to live it to the end, whether it’s sooner or later doesn’t matter. I wanted to live as long as possible. But Jin seemed to go on with more of a reluctant acceptance. As if he knew he was still alive, and he would deal with that fact until someone came along, who was better than him and did him the honor of ending it all.

A week had passed since the incident. The festival in the town had ended, and Fuu and Kenji were still around. It seemed she wanted for us all to hang out again. I really didn’t care either way. I was just glad that another room had opened up, and Kenji no longer had to share with Jin and I.

Jin was healing nicely. He had lost so much blood. From his thigh to his shoulder and the really horrific gash on his back, not to mention the cut on his forehead from that bitch, they were all beginning to close up. I hoped that in another few days we could leave this town and the rumors of three bodies found in the woods. Luckily, Ichi owed me a few favors and spoke to no one about bringing in Jin all covered in blood as he was. It was obvious that something had happened, but the innkeeper knew enough to keep his mouth shut.

Jin still hadn’t told me everything, but, for the moment, I was just happy to have him alive. So yeah, this is me. I have settled for one, I think. I didn’t realize how much I wanted him in my life until I thought I had lost him. It was like reliving that day when we all walked away in different directions because I was too scared and too full of pride to make my peace then. We had cheated death so many times, he and I, you would think I would be used to it by now. But there was nothing more frightening then happening upon that scene in the forest.

One man already hacked up and dead on the leaf littered ground. Another, his leg cut to shreds, as he stumbled away from my lover. Then the third, preparing to end the life of MY ice prince. An unexplainable rage and concern built up in me and I just ran in without thinking. The girl didn’t scare me. But, man, was she tough. Bitch got me once, but I didn’t tell Jin that. I didn’t want to ruin his idea of me as the perfect fighter after all.

Fuu was worried of course, as she always was. Her face pale and fingers trembling when I brought in Jin all unconscious and bleeding. You would think she would be used to the two of us looking all sliced and diced. I guess no matter how many times something happens, it was something you never adapted to.

And then there was the bag, the little brown, drawstring satchel that I found near to Jin’s unconscious form. I don’t know why I knew I had to pick it up, but I did and tucked it into his clothing before I ran for the Inn with him in my arms. I hadn’t opened it yet. I wasn’t sure why. Maybe I was afraid it held secrets that I didn’t want to know. I had never seen Jin with such an object, so maybe it was a secret of his. Or perhaps one of the three assassins had given it to him. But I was insanely curious and maybe a bit apprehensive. But my biggest feeling?

Horny…

I was horny as hell!

It had been a week and no sex for Mugen. It was killing me. I tried to go to the red light district, but I couldn’t do it. None of those girls could do it for me. I couldn’t even get him up, poor guy. All I could think about was pale skin and dark hair accompanied by a disapproving scowl. So here I was, the great and horny Mugen, whipped by love for a man and his secrets… pathetic really. I couldn’t even pretend. We hadn’t even made any, `I’m yours’ promises to each other, and still I felt it would be a betrayal. So I sighed, determined I would wait for Jin to get better.

Hah! Little did I know but after that time he first woke up, he fell back into a sleep and didn’t hardly wake but to eat or go to the bathroom. He had been sleeping for nearly a week now.

Which came to me at this point, I was sitting by his bedside and noting how disheveled he looked. He needed a bath and a shave and probably a change of bed sheets and such.

He turned over in his sleep then, with a rustle of fabric, turning to face where I sat on the floor next to him. He had healed enough that he didn’t need any of the bulky bandages anymore, but his wounds probably still hurt like a bitch.

I then had the perfect idea. The reason I had chosen this inn in particular was for the presence of the hot springs in the back. Perfect for bathing and relaxing and other much more fun things…

Jin could get clean… and perhaps I could convince him to help me with a little problem. However… that meant he would have to wake up first. Dammit, foiled again!

And then a stroke of luck! Thank the gods!

As I watched, Jin opened those beautiful eyes and looked up at me with all the clarity of a fully awake man. He blinked once or twice then sat up.

“Mugen…” The way he said my name made me want to shiver. It sent spicy, chills of arousal straight to my groin.

I smiled broadly. Time to put my plan into action. “How you feeling?”

He grimaced but managed to stretch gently. “There are so many ways I could answer that.”

He must be feeling better. His answers didn’t make any sense. That’s was how I always knew he was sick. He managed to answer questions simply.

“You’ve been lying in this bed for a week,” I pointed out, trying not to be overenthusiastic.

He groaned. “Don’t remind me. I need to bathe.” He stretched out the last word to enunciate his point, and I knew I had him hooked. Mwahaha! Mugen struck again!

“This inn has a hot spring that we can use. I can make sure that Ichi has it clear,” I suggested.

He rubbed the scruff on his chin though there was hardly any there and contemplated on my idea. I waited hopefully. He should be well enough now, and the bath would soothe any aches and pains…

Finally, he nodded slowly. “Alright.” He moved to get up from the bed before eyeing me. Perhaps my joy had been too obvious. “Do not think I don’t know what you are trying to do.”

I rolled my eyes and handed him a robe to throw over his naked body. As much as I wanted to see that pale skin… I didn’t want anyone else to. Mine… he was mine.

“You want that bath or not?” I snorted at him, raising an eyebrow.

He eyed me then nodded slowly. “Let’s go.”

I took him to the hot springs and was glad to find that the place was deserted. While he was getting undressed and slipping beneath the still waters, I snuck away for a moment to make sure Ichi kept the area clear for at least an hour. Then I patted the bottle of oil that I had placed in my pocket and returned to the hot springs.

I wished that I hadn’t missed all that porcelain skin lowering slowly into the water, but there would be other chances. I quickly stripped off my clothes as I climbed into the warmth next to him. Jin had relaxed as well as he could even as I knew that his wounds stung. He had let his hair loose, and his eyes were closed. In the few minutes that I had been gone, he had even managed to shave.

I scooted closer to him and laid my head on his shoulder. It felt so good and so right. Time for seduction.

“I could help you wash your hair, you know,” I suggested quietly.

“Umm,” he murmured as he leaned his head to the side and nuzzled me gently. I loved it when he did that. “That would be nice.”

I smiled and slid off the ledge beneath the water and grabbed his hand. He allowed me to lead him to the deeper part of the spring. The cool air prickled at my warm, moist skin but it was a pleasant contrast. I mean, how much more romantic can you get? Moon all bright in the sky with the stars twinkling and the mist from the hot springs rising to join with the jewels above… gah! Listen to me… like some love crazed fool.

I rubbed his shoulders, and his head lolled back. He was relaxing… this was good. I laid his head and started to rub my fingers through his hair, working the water into it and getting out the tangles and dirt that had accumulated there. He moaned lightly.

“Problem?” I questioned him, knowing it was anything but.

“That feels damn good,” he murmured.

I didn’t reply but continued to run my fingers through his hair. I could literally feel the tension seeping away from his body. To be honest, mine was fading too. It was like there was nothing in the world but us two, and, as sappy as that sounds, I won’t deny the truth of how I felt.

I finished washing his hair then wrapped my arms around him from the back. I gently ground my hips against his ass as I nipped at the sensitive skin on his neck. I let him feel the effect he had on me. I licked at the area of skin directly behind his ear and heard him moan in response.

“Mugen…” I loved it when he said my name like that. It always felt like I was the only person in the world who could make him come undone.

I snaked my hand to his front and found a pinkish nipple. I rolled the slowly hardening nub between my fingertips and relished in the swift intake of breath I heard him take in.

“You are such a tease,” he murmured, suddenly turning around and throwing his arms around me as he kissed me. There was something about him being aggressive that was a major turn on for me. I guess because he’s normally stoic and quiet.

He pressed his lips to mine before he slipped his tongue inside. I hurriedly tried to take control. I wanted to be inside him this time, not the other way around. Don’t get me wrong, Jin can fuck me like no other, but this time I wanted to be the one in control. I pushed my own tongue back on his, deepening the kiss and using my intensity as a weapon. He backed down, and I won the battle.

I snaked my arms around him and grabbed his ass, kneading the flesh with my fingers. I could feel my own arousal deepening even as his rubbed against my belly. I slipped one hand between the two globes and traced circles around his entrance.

He moaned at my touch and broke free of the kiss, moving to nip lazily at my jawbone and neck. “Fuck me, Mugen,” he whispered in a voice too seductive to ignore against my throat right before he latched on and sucked at my skin, leaving a bright red mark behind him.

I whimpered then, and ground my hips against him even as I slipped the one finger inside, hoping the water was enough lubricant. Our cocks rubbed together, and I moaned with the delicious friction. I tried to be careful of his wounds as I ran my free hand over his skin while I continued to stretch and prepare him.

He reached down between our bodies and grasped my cock, and I nearly stopped thinking. To have him touching me was a sensation I had missed.

“Yes,” I moaned as I slipped in a second finger, trailing feather light kisses over his face. I skimmed over the wound in his forehead, unable to help the dark thoughts that briefly entered my mind. Any lower, any higher… I didn’t even want to contemplate that.

His teeth grazed over my jawbone then his hot breath whispered in my ear. He was so damn sexy. I pushed hard at him, reaching deep inside until I touched gold. He moaned low and throaty, even as he ground his hips into mine more forcefully, aching for my touch. He trembled in my arms from the pleasant sensations echoing through his body, and I couldn’t help but think I felt the same way.

I grabbed his hips with my hand and gave them a gentle squeeze. He took my meaning and wrapped his legs around my hips. He wasn’t that heavy in the water, and I took the opportunity to sort walk/wade him towards where our clothes and towels were waiting. There was the perfect ledge for screwing there.

He kissed me softly on the lips before tangling his hands in my hair and grinding himself down on my hot and heavy cock. I could feel myself sliding along the cleft of his ass… so close but yet so far. I groaned and buried my face in his shoulder as I hurried to the ledge.

“You drive me mad with want,” he said huskily in my ear. “I want you inside me, so deep I can feel you in my throat.” I moaned again. I was done for. Jin was talking dirty and there was nothing more arousing than hearing words like that coming out of his oh-so-refined mouth. “I want to moan so loud every one else can hear.” Oh, baby.

I laid him gently on the ledge atop a pile of my clothes I had so thoughtfully placed there before, careful of his back wound. His skin glistened in the moon light almost glowing as pale as he was and he shivered slightly as a cool wind ghosted over his water slicked skin. I leaned forwards over his body and between his legs to lock him in a sizzling kiss, determined to warm him up as I searched for my pants and the pocket where I had secreted the oil.

Just as I had wrapped my fingers around it, Jin put his legs about my waist and drew me close, grinding our cocks together and making me moan with desire. I hurriedly pulled back just enough and hurriedly uncapped the bottle, the smell of green herbs filling the air, jasmine or something. Hell, if I know. I poured the cool liquid out onto my fingers and affixed him with a grin. I could tell he was staring as I covered my length with the slippery substance. He watched hungrily and his own cock jumped in response. Precum glistened at the tip, and I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to lick it.

I stuck out my tongue and very carefully lapped up the small drop of moisture even as I reached between his legs to coat his entrance with the oil. I had to balance on one hand as I leaned forward and gently ran my tongue over his aching member. He moaned as his hands scrabbled at the rock and scattered clothes, looking for a purchase. If we had been in a bed, he’d have been grabbing the sheets.

He tasted so good… and I couldn’t help wrapping my mouth around him, nearly swallowing him whole. I felt him arch up from the makeshift bed and buck gently into my mouth. I ran my tongue along the underside of his member and tightened the ring my lips made.

Jin whimpered then, a sound that I rather enjoyed hearing him make. I pulled back with a satisfied pop and grabbed his hips lightly. I slowly started to lower myself, aiming for that puckered entrance. He tightened his legs around me and I felt the head of my cock at the ring of muscle. I closed my eyes to savor the feeling as I slowly pushed myself inside of him, moaning low and long when I felt his tight warm heat wrap around me.

I could feel him squeezing me reflexively even as my cock pulsated in response.

“Damn, Jin…” I huffed as I fully ensheathed myself. “You feel so good.”

“As do you,” he responded. I opened my eyes and looked down at him, black hair fanning his face and pale skin all glowing and glistening. He was beautiful, and I don’t normally call men beautiful. But why deny the truth?

I began to move slowly in and out of him, setting a steady pace that was sure to bring him the ultimate pleasure. It took all of my concentration to hold back, as excited as I was feeling.

I leaned over him and pressed my lips to his, slipping my tongue inside his mouth and absorbing his flavor. I could feel his legs tighten around mine more even as I increased my movements and crushed his straining cock between our bodies, using the slick heat of my movement to give him the much needed friction.

His heavy breathing echoed in my ear as I breathed in the scent of him. He was alive that was all that mattered and the feel of him wriggling and moaning beneath me was all the proof that I needed. I knew I loved him… but I realized it more and more when I had thought he was gone.

His arms wrapped around me, and his fingers dug into my back as he urged me onwards, unaware of the emotional swirl that was going on inside me. I could hear him gasping with each thrust, and it only served as fuel for the fire.

I moved from his mouth to nibble on his ear and shifted position, hitting him at a different angle that stroked his pleasure center absolutely perfect. He whimpered and clutched at me with renewed vigor as he began to buck upwards, matching me thrust for thrust.

“Mine,” I whispered raggedly in his ear. I was staking my claim. “MINE.”

“Oh, gods, Mugen,” he answered in a voice just as rough. “Gods, harder!”

I picked up the pace and repeated my assertion. “Mine.”

He was getting louder now, and I smiled happily. Good. I wanted everyone to know. “Yes,” he moaned. “Yes, yours.” He was clinging to me now, as if I were a lifeline, as I drove into him.

He strained up against me, and I felt the impossible hot heat wrapped around my cock grow tighter. He was close, and I was struggling to hold on. He felt too damn good.

“Ah… Mugen!!” he roared before exploding between our bodies, covering the both of us in a spray of sticky cum. I couldn’t hold on any more and allowed myself to let go albeit a bit more quietly.

“Love you,” I moaned as I came, filling him inside with my seed and claiming him even more than with words. I had marked him as my own, and I would kill anyone else that dared lay a hand on him. I could be very selfish with my belongings.

I collapsed against him, rolling to the side just enough that he wasn’t crushed beneath my weight and breathed heavily. He tightened his hold on me and held me close.

“I love it when you do that,” he whispered softly.

“Eh?” I questioned, not really sure what he was talking about.

He nuzzled against my neck and sighed quietly. “When you say you love me as you cum. Its easier for me to believe then; don’t ask me to explain it.”

“You’re such an idiot,” I retorted. “It’s the truth no matter when I say it.” But that didn’t stop me from feeling all fuzzy inside and holding him even closer than he had gripped me. He was right though. There was something unbelievably romantic about that moment. Rough though I may have been, I was a hopeless romantic, which explained the hot springs and the mist and the moon and all that lovey dovey mess.

“Humph,” he answered in a voice dripping with sleep. “Love you, too.”

He blinked drowsily, and I realized that despite how much he had healed, he still needed some rest. So I quickly dipped us in the hot springs just long enough to get cleaned up and wrapped him in a towel. It was sort of cute how he stood there all sleepily and yawned widely.

There were no more words spoken as I gathered up our clothing and headed inside, straight for our room. There really hadn’t been a need for any.

Nor were any needed when we climbed into bed together dressed only in a light pair of pants each. He laid beside me and curled up, resting his head on my chest as I wrapped an arm around him. I mean really, what more could a guy ask for except perhaps world peace and happiness. Then again, I didn’t really care for the peace of others. Needless to say, I was content.

Two seconds later and he was asleep. I yawned and figured I would join him in slumber land. If only I had been more attentive like I was usually I would have noticed the things that were out of place. I would have noticed that Ichi was no where to be found as we trekked to our room.

And I would have awakened when our door opened quietly and a dark shadow crept inside.

[Misc] Secrets of the Heart 07

Chapter Seven – Holding Out for a Hero

I knew that I was being trailed from the very moment I left the relative safety of the festival crowds. I sought solitude and so headed for the surrounding forest. Somehow I should have known better. After all, enough time had passed since Yukimaru had come after me. However, I didn’t expect it to be them. I had assumed it would be someone else.

I was still silently seething over Mugen’s insensitivity. We had traveled together long enough that he knew my ways and how I am. He couldn’t expect me to change… I certainly didn’t ask it of him.

It was, of course, those musings that brought me back to my original line of thought. How different the two of us were… and, yet, thinking of his stubbornness, so much alike. What did I want out of this…? I did not even know what to call it. Tryst, affair, relationship… hardly.

It was the cracking of a twig that made me realize the close proximity of my attackers and just how deep in thought I had been.

I placed my hand on my swords cautiously as I turned slowly to face them, mouth already forming words. “So, you have found me. It seems Shuu has grown impatient.”

I faced the three men, neither shock nor recognition registering on my face despite the fact that both feelings were twisting around my insides.

“Lord Urahara is tired of chasing you, Jin,” the man in the middle spat. He was a squat, balding noble, who I knew to be named Fujisaki. Technically, he was lower in rank than me, but I threw out those privileges long ago.

“And so Shuu sent three,” I noted, hand never leaving my daisho. “He must think highly of me.”

“You killed Ryo, you bastard!” another man cursed at me. He stood to Fujisaki’s right, his shorn hair stirring in the faint breeze. Perhaps Ryo had been more than a friend.

“He tried to kill me first, Nakano,” I responded coldly. “Perhaps he should have possessed some skill before he attempted to become a part of an assassination squad.”

Nakano growled and reached for his sword, but Fujisaki stopped him with just a look. However, the third still intrigued me. He was heavily masked and hadn’t spoken yet.

“What do you hide under that mask?” I urged, “I would know the face of those I defeat.”

A low laugh echoed through the empty forest as a decidedly slim and elegantly fingered hand came out from beneath a set of dark-colored robes and headed for the mask. In one deft fluid motion, the mask was removed, and I could not help but gasp a name in surprise.

“Inoue…”

She smirked at me, eyes still displaying that inner brightness. “It’s been a long time, J-san.”

Fujisaki laughed before I had a chance to respond to Inoue. I cast him a cold glare.

“How does it feel?” Fujisaki sneered.

“Your own brother sends assassins after you, one of which is a former bride-to-be?” Nakano continued, joining in the other man’s taunting.

I narrowed my eyes at them. “You talk far too much.” I would kill Nakano and Fujisaki, but never in my right mind could I hurt Inoue. Shuu was counting on that, I am sure, but I still could not do it.

I drew my sword and leveled it at the three of them. They all mimicked my moves. There was no turning back now.

Nakano attacked first, rushing at me with a vengeance. I easily thwarted his attacks, blocking his clumsy blows and pushing him backwards. Until Fujisaki joined into the fray, coming at me from another side, then things were not so easy.

The two men were skilled in their own rights, though far less than me. Still, it was two to one, and it was all I could do to block their attacks. Fighting back was not much of an option.

Nakano slashed at me from the right, aiming for my mid-section. I pulled my sword to the side, quickly blocking his weapon even as I swung around swiftly and blocked Fujisaki’s downwards swing with a decided clang. Already Nakano was attacking me again. I fluidly moved my body out of the way as I continued to block Fujisaki’s attacks. The two men were relentless; they wanted blood.

Perhaps it was just my time to die… I had lived long enough for my transgressions I suppose. It did not matter that Ichigo deserved it… it did not matter what I thought because my life was on the line. These were the thoughts that went through my mind as I struggled to fight off both Nakano and Fujisaki as my one-time bride-to-be watched on, a tell-tale smirk on her face.

The ripping of fabric, and I finally managed to land a blow on Nakano, slicing up his forearm on his sword hand. He cursed audibly but ignored the pain as he came at me with even more vigor, surprising the hell out of me. I figured – coward that he was – Nakano would back off to nurse his wound. The searing pain in my upper left thigh reminded me of my other opponent as Fujisaki caught me off guard and managed to get in a blow, though non-fatal.

The slice was like fire spreading throughout my entire leg, making it incredibly difficult to walk. I could feel the warm sticky blood dripping down my leg and cold chills raced up and down my spine. Perhaps it really was my time to die…

I did not have any longer to think as both men rushed me again, giving me no time for rest. I blocked Fujisaki’s clumsy swing, though the force behind it sent reverberations up my arm and kicked out with my leg hoping to catch Nakano in the knee. I succeeded, and he went down howling.

I had no time to gloat over my one victory as Fujisaki bore down on me. It was at this point that Inoue decided to take part in the fight. I caught her movements out of the corner of my eye as she lazily reached for her sword and did a few stretches. A small shiver of fear raced through my body. I knew who her father was… I knew which dojo she had grown up in… and I knew that, being his only child, Inoue’s father had demanded that she learn to wield a sword. They were a rather liberal family being as no one else would even tolerate that sort of behavior… and from a female no less.

Nakano struggled to get to his feet, attempting to shift his weight onto his uninjured leg. I had struck his knee pretty hard. I would not be surprised if I had shattered his knee cap.

Fujisaki slashed mercilessly with quick, vicious strokes. I blocked them easily enough, but I was more worried about Inoue now approaching me from my left. Nakano had been pushed far out of my mind. That was a mistake that I should have realized sooner.

“I have been looking forward to this for so long…” purred Inoue in a voice that I well-recognized. Fujisaki pulled away from attacking me and the three of them stared me down. I got a moment’s reprieve and barely noticed the fact that I was breathing heavily. I longed to staunch the wound but did not want to show weakness in front of my assassins.

“To beat the famous Urahara Jin [1]… do you wonder why father never let me face you before?” Inoue asked, cocking her head to the side.

“He didn’t want me to kill you,” I managed to say without gasping or sounding short of breath. All hail the power of stoicisms and pride.

She frowned then snorted in a very unladylike fashion. “Hardly. He didn’t want me to kill his best friend’s favorite student.”

I shrugged, ignoring the blood dripping down my leg and soaking my footwear. I pretended as if I was not in such pain. “Then show me this skill that you boast so highly of… it has yet to be seen.”

She growled angrily and raised her sword. I did the same, prepared to fight to the death. I could hear Nakano gasping as he struggled to rise to his feet and then both Inoue and Fujisaki were attacking me at once.

She came at me with a series of vicious attacks, each one seemingly faster than the first. I had heard that she was quick with a blade, but it appeared she had grown even faster in the time since I had last seen her. I managed to block each one of her blows with grace but I couldn’t move from the barrage of their combined strikes. My leg was beginning to go numb.

Fujisaki had flanked her, going in for an attack when he thought I wasn’t looking or when I seemed too busy with her. He was dishonorable the way he aimed for my neck or stomach with diligent attempts.

Fighting Inoue was like trying to slice leaves as they fall out of the autumn tree. She was quick and flitted as if she danced on the wind. Dueling with Fujisaki was like trying to cut down a tree. His attacks were slow but powerful and more often than not made me take a step back on legs that were growing tired of supporting my weight.

A heavy, hot fire raced through my back, and I realized that in the midst of battle, I had forgotten one of the more important rules. Keep your eyes on your enemy. I had neglected to watch Nakano.

As more blood dripped down my back, and I could feel the wind creeping inside my clothing to blow across the wound, I just managed to push back Inoue and Fujisaki enough to pull out my other sword and slash at the backstabber with my weaker hand as I turned slightly. I caught him viciously across the chest and he went down, eyes rolling to the back of his head and blood pooling around his body. I had cut deep, and I doubted that he would survive.

The crunch of fallen leaves, and I turned just in time to block both Inoue and Fujisaki’s combined attack with my dominant hand. I hurriedly sheathed my sword, no time to clean it, and put all of my rapidly descending strength into pushing them off of me.

It occurred to me that I might not survive this time.

That thought made its presence known at the same time that I pushed back hard against the two and caused them to stumble backwards. I slashed at Fujisaki, catching him in the shoulder, albeit on his non-sword arm, but still it was a hit.

I hurriedly raised my sword to attack Inoue, but she had already regained her balance. She slashed downwards at me, putting much of her strength behind the blow. I brought up my sword to block, and my leg gave out beneath me. I dropped to a kneeling position, still managing to defend against her attack. She shifted her weight to attack again, and I felt the whoosh of air as Fujisaki attacked from the right. I hurriedly brought up my sword to block but looked him in the eye and knew it was over as Inoue angled her weapons downwards toward my defenseless left side. My eyes closed in silent defeat. My last thought was of Mugen… and how I had last seen him… and I was instantly filled with regret.

I felt the jarring strike of blade on blade as I blocked Fujisaki’s attack and waited for the searing pain that would accompany Inoue’s completed lunge. Instead, I heard the rustling of leaves on a bush and the familiar clang of blade meeting blade. I pushed up tiredly at Fujisaki even as I opened my eyes. It hardly registered that I was not yet dead as I slashed violently at the older man’s legs and succeeded in dealing him a deadly gash to his inner right thigh. With any luck I would have managed to slice his femoral artery.

Inoue kicked at me even as she battled her new opponent. I barely registered a bright red coat as her foot made contact with my head and her footwear sliced a gash in my forehead. I slumped forward and used my sword to prop me up as blood filled my vision.

Was that… Mugen? I observed the scene before me with surprise and a tired air.

Nakano still lay in a pile of his own blood, face down on the ground. I would not have to worry about swords to the back from that one any longer. Fujisaki had slumped to the ground and was frantically trying to staunch the continuously flowing blood from the wound in his leg. I was right… I had gotten the artery and he knew it too.

His skin was ashen and his fingers trembling as he continued to wrap the wound, knowing the entire time that it was futile. I looked at him impassively and we exchanged glances. He grinned then, something subtle and mysterious. I frowned at him, but I could not keep it as my world was beginning to go grey. I had wounds that needed to be treated.

Fujisaki stopped binding his wound and dug around in his pockets. In seconds he had pulled out a small pouch, hardly large enough to hold anything of worth, and tossed it to me. I watched through dim vision as the leather pouch landed near me, where my sword was currently buried in the ground to hold me up. I didn’t recognize the pouch nor did I reach to take it. That would have used up what little energy I didn’t have. When I next glanced at the older man… he had slumped completely to the ground, either passed out from blood loss or completely dead. I was not able to get up and check.

I briefly registered the clang of blade on blade yet again and looked through a vision of blood to see Mugen and Inoue still fighting. He was able to hold his own against her… I suppose I should have expected it. After all, the man was nearly a match for me. I could hear muttered curses… but they were going dim too. The battle lust that had kept me going… the rush of adrenaline was fading. I could feel my hands slipping from my sword as I began to slump forward, the blade toppling over without me to hold it up.

“Jin!” I heard him call out my name, but I could not respond.

So much blood… the air was full of it. I could taste it and smell it, that thick warm and coppery essence that ultimately made the bile want to rise up in my throat. It was not as if I hadn’t killed before, but still no matter how many times I had to, the very thought of it was sickening. Human lives were so short… our very existence seemed not to matter. There was a flash of red across my dim vision… I barely registered a voice… and then I knew no more.

* * *

I woke up sometime later; I could not be sure how much. I was lying back in a bed, I assumed back at the inn. I was undressed with my hair unbound and all my wounds were wrapped up tightly. Someone had done a good job on the bandages; they were clean and well done. I tried to move but only groaned with the pain. It felt as if a fire had ripped across my back. Apparently that one attack from Nakano had been worse than I had initially thought.

I turned my head to the side, trying to avoid the bright sunlight streaming in through the window and ignoring the sounds of merriment and happiness that drifted up from the celebrations still going on in the town.

I looked around the room and found that my assumptions were correct. It was our room at the inn. I saw my clothing draped across some sort of drying rack. Someone had been thoughtful enough to fix them for me. My swords and glasses were sitting near to my hands within easy reach on the floor next to me. They knew me well.

There was a red coat lying haphazardly in a chair with a sword slung across the back of it. I recognized the items immediately as belonging to Mugen. So it wasn’t my imagination then… it had been the Ryu-Kyuian that had `saved’ me.

The door to the room opened, and I looked up to see Mugen entering, Fuu and Kenji on his heels. The girl was carrying a small tray and the bodyguard had an armful of bandages. Mugen stopped in his tracks when he realized that I had awakened, causing both to nearly slam into his back.

I was quite amused by this. I instantly remembered the last conversation we had and felt just a bit of shame. We had argued… I had nearly died on a bad note such as that. I never thought that when I died there would be regret. However, to be honest, if I had died on that day… I would have regretted ending on such a sour note.

I shifted restlessly on the bed and looked up at him, opening my mouth to speak. My throat felt hoarse and dry but I still managed to croak something out. I had originally intended to say something witty and perhaps sarcastic, but that was not what came out.

“Arigato.“

He heaved a big sigh of relief and continued on entering the room, his early moment of hesitation forgotten. He plopped down near the bed and reached for my shoulder. I had not even realized that I had gotten hurt there. Most of the fight was a blur that I would have gladly forgotten.

“Baka,” he said softly as he unwrapped the wound. I winced slightly as the bandages pulled away from it. Fuu appeared at his side with the tray. I noticed it had a bowl of water I could only assume was warm, some type of washing cloth, and a bottle of salve. Kenji moved to his other side and laid the bandages down.

“You knew about them, didn’t you?”

I shook my head. “Not until after I had left you three. Yet, how did YOU get there so fast?”

“I told him about three men that I had noticed were asking about you,” Fuu said quietly. She set down the tray and stood back up. She and Kenji exchanged glances and the two left the room. They appeared to be wanting to give us privacy.

I followed their movements with my eyes. Mugen caught this.

“Yeah, they know. Kenji apparently was the one to figure it out.”

He began to clean my wound yet again, applying the salve and recovering it with bandages. Whatever he was using managed to not only dull the pain, but it seemed to be helping me to heal faster.

It was a subdued and abnormally quiet Mugen, who was tending to my wounds. He reached to pull the blanket down to get at a few other wounds, but I grabbed his arm. He had yet to really look at me and this forced his eyes to meet mine. I recognized the look that I saw there. I made my decision and gave him a yank, forcing him down on me. A look of surprise registered moments before our lips met, and I was hungrily devouring that mouth.

With only the slightest wince of pain, I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him closer. He shifted his weight so that he could rest more comfortably and returned the passion, holding most of his bulk up with one hand laid flat on the floor and burying the other in my hair.

I slipped my tongue into his mouth, reveling in his familiar taste and proving to myself that I was still alive, and he was still here with me.

For a moment in that battle, I had believed myself dead… and the last thought on my mind had been him. I had underestimated his importance to me… I truly loved the arrogant baka.

He nipped at my bottom lip playfully as he ran his hands through my hair and teased the back of my neck with a finger. I was never happier to be alive. Until him, I was plodding through life, just living for the sake of not wanting to end it.

With a need for breath and to tell him, I broke from the kiss and looked him in the eyes. “I am sorry, Mugen.”

He grinned, that lopsided cocky grin that I had fallen in love with. “Took you long enough.” He gave me another quick kiss before pulling back and returning to his ministrations on my leg. That wound wasn’t very deep, but it was long and shallow, stinging more than hurting.

We didn’t speak as he redressed and rewrapped the wound. I was content to be near him, and I was glad that we were no longer fighting. Once he finished with the leg, we worked together so that I was lying on my stomach and he addressed the wound that was worse on my back.

Finally, Mugen spoke. I suppose he couldn’t stand the silence.

“They were more assassins, from your master’s dojo?” he questioned quietly.

I thought about how to answer that. It was true and yet it wasn’t. Inoue was, of course, as was Nakano, but Fujisaki… He was of my brother’s guard, a samurai in his own rights, but from a lesser family with a larger brood of children.

“You could say that,” I answered vaguely. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to completely explain to him my past.

“And… she was?”

Ah, now he came to the true question he wanted to ask. I propped myself up on my elbows and looked over my shoulders at him as he smoothed the salve over the wound. It was comforting and made me feel sleepy again.

“No one of importance,” I answered, looking him in the eye.

His jaw set firmly, unhappy with the answer I had given him. He wanted more… he wanted explanations, and well, I was not ready to speak of them just yet. He did not say anything else as he continued to wrap the wound, but I noticed his movements were just a bit jerky and coarse.

“Thank you for attending to my wounds,” I said quietly, easing into a more comfortable position as he tied the last knot in the bandages.

“I can’t have you dying on me just yet.” He smirked, a bit of that old fire beginning to creep in. “Only I get to kill you, remember?”

I huffed slightly and settled down, suddenly feeling very drowsy. He moved as if to get up from the floor, but I reached out quickly and snatched him back down. I pulled him towards me. I received a look of confusion in return.

“You can stay in here… with me,” I said softly, moving over just enough to give him some room to curl up in front of me.

He eyed me cautiously, noticing the state of my wounds and debating whether or not it would be alright. I sighed and gave him another pull. He took me up on my offer and lay down in front of me. I wrapped an arm around his waist and pulled him close, using his fire to warm my cooling body.

“I will tell you, Mugen, just… not yet,” I spoke quietly in his ear as I settled into sleep, feeling comfortable and satisfied. It felt like I was where I belonged, despite the bandages.

“Hmph,” I heard him respond as he settled himself more comfortably, worming around a bit before he found the exact perfect position. A hand clasped over mine, the one I had wrapped around his waist, and I smiled as I drifted off into slumber.

ve known better. After all, enough time had passed since Yukimaru had come after me. However, I didn’t expect it to be them. I had assumed it would be someone else.

I was still silently seething over Mugen’s insensitivity. We had traveled together long enough that he knew my ways and how I am. He couldn’t expect me to change… I certainly didn’t ask it of him.
It was, of course, those musings that brought me back to my original line of thought. How different the two of us were… and, yet, thinking of his stubbornness, so much alike. What did I want out of this…? I did not even know what to call it. Tryst, affair, relationship… hardly.
It was the cracking of a twig that made me realize the close proximity of my attackers and just how deep in thought I had been.
I placed my hand on my swords cautiously as I turned slowly to face them, mouth already forming words. “So, you have found me. It seems Shuu has grown impatient.”
I faced the three men, neither shock nor recognition registering on my face despite the fact that both feelings were twisting around my insides.
“Lord Urahara is tired of chasing you, Jin,” the man in the middle spat. He was a squat, balding noble, who I knew to be named Fujisaki. Technically, he was lower in rank than me, but I threw out those privileges long ago.
“And so Shuu sent three,” I noted, hand never leaving my daisho. “He must think highly of me.”
“You killed Ryo, you bastard!” another man cursed at me. He stood to Fujisaki’s right, his shorn hair stirring in the faint breeze. Perhaps Ryo had been more than a friend.
“He tried to kill me first, Nakano,” I responded coldly. “Perhaps he should have possessed some skill before he attempted to become a part of an assassination squad.”
Nakano growled and reached for his sword, but Fujisaki stopped him with just a look. However, the third still intrigued me. He was heavily masked and hadn’t spoken yet.
“What do you hide under that mask?” I urged, “I would know the face of those I defeat.”
A low laugh echoed through the empty forest as a decidedly slim and elegantly fingered hand came out from beneath a set of dark-colored robes and headed for the mask. In one deft fluid motion, the mask was removed, and I could not help but gasp a name in surprise.
“Inoue…”
She smirked at me, eyes still displaying that inner brightness. “It’s been a long time, J-san.”
Fujisaki laughed before I had a chance to respond to Inoue. I cast him a cold glare.
“How does it feel?” Fujisaki sneered.
“Your own brother sends assassins after you, one of which is a former bride-to-be?” Nakano continued, joining in the other man’s taunting.
I narrowed my eyes at them. “You talk far too much.” I would kill Nakano and Fujisaki, but never in my right mind could I hurt Inoue. Shuu was counting on that, I am sure, but I still could not do it.
I drew my sword and leveled it at the three of them. They all mimicked my moves. There was no turning back now.
Nakano attacked first, rushing at me with a vengeance. I easily thwarted his attacks, blocking his clumsy blows and pushing him backwards. Until Fujisaki joined into the fray, coming at me from another side, then things were not so easy.
The two men were skilled in their own rights, though far less than me. Still, it was two to one, and it was all I could do to block their attacks. Fighting back was not much of an option.
Nakano slashed at me from the right, aiming for my mid-section. I pulled my sword to the side, quickly blocking his weapon even as I swung around swiftly and blocked Fujisaki’s downwards swing with a decided clang. Already Nakano was attacking me again. I fluidly moved my body out of the way as I continued to block Fujisaki’s attacks. The two men were relentless; they wanted blood.
Perhaps it was just my time to die… I had lived long enough for my transgressions I suppose. It did not matter that Ichigo deserved it… it did not matter what I thought because my life was on the line. These were the thoughts that went through my mind as I struggled to fight off both Nakano and Fujisaki as my one-time bride-to-be watched on, a tell-tale smirk on her face.
The ripping of fabric, and I finally managed to land a blow on Nakano, slicing up his forearm on his sword hand. He cursed audibly but ignored the pain as he came at me with even more vigor, surprising the hell out of me. I figured – coward that he was – Nakano would back off to nurse his wound. The searing pain in my upper left thigh reminded me of my other opponent as Fujisaki caught me off guard and managed to get in a blow, though non-fatal.
The slice was like fire spreading throughout my entire leg, making it incredibly difficult to walk. I could feel the warm sticky blood dripping down my leg and cold chills raced up and down my spine. Perhaps it really was my time to die…
I did not have any longer to think as both men rushed me again, giving me no time for rest. I blocked Fujisaki’s clumsy swing, though the force behind it sent reverberations up my arm and kicked out with my leg hoping to catch Nakano in the knee. I succeeded, and he went down howling.
I had no time to gloat over my one victory as Fujisaki bore down on me. It was at this point that Inoue decided to take part in the fight. I caught her movements out of the corner of my eye as she lazily reached for her sword and did a few stretches. A small shiver of fear raced through my body. I knew who her father was… I knew which dojo she had grown up in… and I knew that, being his only child, Inoue’s father had demanded that she learn to wield a sword. They were a rather liberal family being as no one else would even tolerate that sort of behavior… and from a female no less.
Nakano struggled to get to his feet, attempting to shift his weight onto his uninjured leg. I had struck his knee pretty hard. I would not be surprised if I had shattered his knee cap.
Fujisaki slashed mercilessly with quick, vicious strokes. I blocked them easily enough, but I was more worried about Inoue now approaching me from my left. Nakano had been pushed far out of my mind. That was a mistake that I should have realized sooner.
“I have been looking forward to this for so long…” purred Inoue in a voice that I well-recognized. Fujisaki pulled away from attacking me and the three of them stared me down. I got a moment’s reprieve and barely noticed the fact that I was breathing heavily. I longed to staunch the wound but did not want to show weakness in front of my assassins.
“To beat the famous Urahara Jin [1]… do you wonder why father never let me face you before?” Inoue asked, cocking her head to the side.
“He didn’t want me to kill you,” I managed to say without gasping or sounding short of breath. All hail the power of stoicisms and pride.
She frowned then snorted in a very unladylike fashion. “Hardly. He didn’t want me to kill his best friend’s favorite student.”
I shrugged, ignoring the blood dripping down my leg and soaking my footwear. I pretended as if I was not in such pain. “Then show me this skill that you boast so highly of… it has yet to be seen.”
She growled angrily and raised her sword. I did the same, prepared to fight to the death. I could hear Nakano gasping as he struggled to rise to his feet and then both Inoue and Fujisaki were attacking me at once.
She came at me with a series of vicious attacks, each one seemingly faster than the first. I had heard that she was quick with a blade, but it appeared she had grown even faster in the time since I had last seen her. I managed to block each one of her blows with grace but I couldn’t move from the barrage of their combined strikes. My leg was beginning to go numb.
Fujisaki had flanked her, going in for an attack when he thought I wasn’t looking or when I seemed too busy with her. He was dishonorable the way he aimed for my neck or stomach with diligent attempts.
Fighting Inoue was like trying to slice leaves as they fall out of the autumn tree. She was quick and flitted as if she danced on the wind. Dueling with Fujisaki was like trying to cut down a tree. His attacks were slow but powerful and more often than not made me take a step back on legs that were growing tired of supporting my weight.
A heavy, hot fire raced through my back, and I realized that in the midst of battle, I had forgotten one of the more important rules. Keep your eyes on your enemy. I had neglected to watch Nakano.
As more blood dripped down my back, and I could feel the wind creeping inside my clothing to blow across the wound, I just managed to push back Inoue and Fujisaki enough to pull out my other sword and slash at the backstabber with my weaker hand as I turned slightly. I caught him viciously across the chest and he went down, eyes rolling to the back of his head and blood pooling around his body. I had cut deep, and I doubted that he would survive.
The crunch of fallen leaves, and I turned just in time to block both Inoue and Fujisaki’s combined attack with my dominant hand. I hurriedly sheathed my sword, no time to clean it, and put all of my rapidly descending strength into pushing them off of me.
It occurred to me that I might not survive this time.
That thought made its presence known at the same time that I pushed back hard against the two and caused them to stumble backwards. I slashed at Fujisaki, catching him in the shoulder, albeit on his non-sword arm, but still it was a hit.
I hurriedly raised my sword to attack Inoue, but she had already regained her balance. She slashed downwards at me, putting much of her strength behind the blow. I brought up my sword to block, and my leg gave out beneath me. I dropped to a kneeling position, still managing to defend against her attack. She shifted her weight to attack again, and I felt the whoosh of air as Fujisaki attacked from the right. I hurriedly brought up my sword to block but looked him in the eye and knew it was over as Inoue angled her weapons downwards toward my defenseless left side. My eyes closed in silent defeat. My last thought was of Mugen… and how I had last seen him… and I was instantly filled with regret.
I felt the jarring strike of blade on blade as I blocked Fujisaki’s attack and waited for the searing pain that would accompany Inoue’s completed lunge. Instead, I heard the rustling of leaves on a bush and the familiar clang of blade meeting blade. I pushed up tiredly at Fujisaki even as I opened my eyes. It hardly registered that I was not yet dead as I slashed violently at the older man’s legs and succeeded in dealing him a deadly gash to his inner right thigh. With any luck I would have managed to slice his femoral artery.
Inoue kicked at me even as she battled her new opponent. I barely registered a bright red coat as her foot made contact with my head and her footwear sliced a gash in my forehead. I slumped forward and used my sword to prop me up as blood filled my vision.
Was that… Mugen? I observed the scene before me with surprise and a tired air.
Nakano still lay in a pile of his own blood, face down on the ground. I would not have to worry about swords to the back from that one any longer. Fujisaki had slumped to the ground and was frantically trying to staunch the continuously flowing blood from the wound in his leg. I was right… I had gotten the artery and he knew it too.
His skin was ashen and his fingers trembling as he continued to wrap the wound, knowing the entire time that it was futile. I looked at him impassively and we exchanged glances. He grinned then, something subtle and mysterious. I frowned at him, but I could not keep it as my world was beginning to go grey. I had wounds that needed to be treated.
Fujisaki stopped binding his wound and dug around in his pockets. In seconds he had pulled out a small pouch, hardly large enough to hold anything of worth, and tossed it to me. I watched through dim vision as the leather pouch landed near me, where my sword was currently buried in the ground to hold me up. I didn’t recognize the pouch nor did I reach to take it. That would have used up what little energy I didn’t have. When I next glanced at the older man… he had slumped completely to the ground, either passed out from blood loss or completely dead. I was not able to get up and check.
I briefly registered the clang of blade on blade yet again and looked through a vision of blood to see Mugen and Inoue still fighting. He was able to hold his own against her… I suppose I should have expected it. After all, the man was nearly a match for me. I could hear muttered curses… but they were going dim too. The battle lust that had kept me going… the rush of adrenaline was fading. I could feel my hands slipping from my sword as I began to slump forward, the blade toppling over without me to hold it up.
“Jin!” I heard him call out my name, but I could not respond.
So much blood… the air was full of it. I could taste it and smell it, that thick warm and coppery essence that ultimately made the bile want to rise up in my throat. It was not as if I hadn’t killed before, but still no matter how many times I had to, the very thought of it was sickening. Human lives were so short… our very existence seemed not to matter. There was a flash of red across my dim vision… I barely registered a voice… and then I knew no more.
* * *
I woke up sometime later; I could not be sure how much. I was lying back in a bed, I assumed back at the inn. I was undressed with my hair unbound and all my wounds were wrapped up tightly. Someone had done a good job on the bandages; they were clean and well done. I tried to move but only groaned with the pain. It felt as if a fire had ripped across my back. Apparently that one attack from Nakano had been worse than I had initially thought.
I turned my head to the side, trying to avoid the bright sunlight streaming in through the window and ignoring the sounds of merriment and happiness that drifted up from the celebrations still going on in the town.
I looked around the room and found that my assumptions were correct. It was our room at the inn. I saw my clothing draped across some sort of drying rack. Someone had been thoughtful enough to fix them for me. My swords and glasses were sitting near to my hands within easy reach on the floor next to me. They knew me well.
There was a red coat lying haphazardly in a chair with a sword slung across the back of it. I recognized the items immediately as belonging to Mugen. So it wasn’t my imagination then… it had been the Ryu-Kyuian that had `saved’ me.
The door to the room opened, and I looked up to see Mugen entering, Fuu and Kenji on his heels. The girl was carrying a small tray and the bodyguard had an armful of bandages. Mugen stopped in his tracks when he realized that I had awakened, causing both to nearly slam into his back.
I was quite amused by this. I instantly remembered the last conversation we had and felt just a bit of shame. We had argued… I had nearly died on a bad note such as that. I never thought that when I died there would be regret. However, to be honest, if I had died on that day… I would have regretted ending on such a sour note.
I shifted restlessly on the bed and looked up at him, opening my mouth to speak. My throat felt hoarse and dry but I still managed to croak something out. I had originally intended to say something witty and perhaps sarcastic, but that was not what came out.
“Arigato.“
He heaved a big sigh of relief and continued on entering the room, his early moment of hesitation forgotten. He plopped down near the bed and reached for my shoulder. I had not even realized that I had gotten hurt there. Most of the fight was a blur that I would have gladly forgotten.
“Baka,” he said softly as he unwrapped the wound. I winced slightly as the bandages pulled away from it. Fuu appeared at his side with the tray. I noticed it had a bowl of water I could only assume was warm, some type of washing cloth, and a bottle of salve. Kenji moved to his other side and laid the bandages down.
“You knew about them, didn’t you?”
I shook my head. “Not until after I had left you three. Yet, how did YOU get there so fast?”
“I told him about three men that I had noticed were asking about you,” Fuu said quietly. She set down the tray and stood back up. She and Kenji exchanged glances and the two left the room. They appeared to be wanting to give us privacy.
I followed their movements with my eyes. Mugen caught this.
“Yeah, they know. Kenji apparently was the one to figure it out.”
He began to clean my wound yet again, applying the salve and recovering it with bandages. Whatever he was using managed to not only dull the pain, but it seemed to be helping me to heal faster.
It was a subdued and abnormally quiet Mugen, who was tending to my wounds. He reached to pull the blanket down to get at a few other wounds, but I grabbed his arm. He had yet to really look at me and this forced his eyes to meet mine. I recognized the look that I saw there. I made my decision and gave him a yank, forcing him down on me. A look of surprise registered moments before our lips met, and I was hungrily devouring that mouth.
With only the slightest wince of pain, I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him closer. He shifted his weight so that he could rest more comfortably and returned the passion, holding most of his bulk up with one hand laid flat on the floor and burying the other in my hair.
I slipped my tongue into his mouth, reveling in his familiar taste and proving to myself that I was still alive, and he was still here with me.
For a moment in that battle, I had believed myself dead… and the last thought on my mind had been him. I had underestimated his importance to me… I truly loved the arrogant baka.
He nipped at my bottom lip playfully as he ran his hands through my hair and teased the back of my neck with a finger. I was never happier to be alive. Until him, I was plodding through life, just living for the sake of not wanting to end it.
With a need for breath and to tell him, I broke from the kiss and looked him in the eyes. “I am sorry, Mugen.”
He grinned, that lopsided cocky grin that I had fallen in love with. “Took you long enough.” He gave me another quick kiss before pulling back and returning to his ministrations on my leg. That wound wasn’t very deep, but it was long and shallow, stinging more than hurting.
We didn’t speak as he redressed and rewrapped the wound. I was content to be near him, and I was glad that we were no longer fighting. Once he finished with the leg, we worked together so that I was lying on my stomach and he addressed the wound that was worse on my back.
Finally, Mugen spoke. I suppose he couldn’t stand the silence.
“They were more assassins, from your master’s dojo?” he questioned quietly.
I thought about how to answer that. It was true and yet it wasn’t. Inoue was, of course, as was Nakano, but Fujisaki… He was of my brother’s guard, a samurai in his own rights, but from a lesser family with a larger brood of children.
“You could say that,” I answered vaguely. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to completely explain to him my past.
“And… she was?”
Ah, now he came to the true question he wanted to ask. I propped myself up on my elbows and looked over my shoulders at him as he smoothed the salve over the wound. It was comforting and made me feel sleepy again.
“No one of importance,” I answered, looking him in the eye.
His jaw set firmly, unhappy with the answer I had given him. He wanted more… he wanted explanations, and well, I was not ready to speak of them just yet. He did not say anything else as he continued to wrap the wound, but I noticed his movements were just a bit jerky and coarse.
“Thank you for attending to my wounds,” I said quietly, easing into a more comfortable position as he tied the last knot in the bandages.
“I can’t have you dying on me just yet.” He smirked, a bit of that old fire beginning to creep in. “Only I get to kill you, remember?”
I huffed slightly and settled down, suddenly feeling very drowsy. He moved as if to get up from the floor, but I reached out quickly and snatched him back down. I pulled him towards me. I received a look of confusion in return.
“You can stay in here… with me,” I said softly, moving over just enough to give him some room to curl up in front of me.
He eyed me cautiously, noticing the state of my wounds and debating whether or not it would be alright. I sighed and gave him another pull. He took me up on my offer and lay down in front of me. I wrapped an arm around his waist and pulled him close, using his fire to warm my cooling body.
“I will tell you, Mugen, just… not yet,” I spoke quietly in his ear as I settled into sleep, feeling comfortable and satisfied. It felt like I was where I belonged, despite the bandages.
“Hmph,” I heard him respond as he settled himself more comfortably, worming around a bit before he found the exact perfect position. A hand clasped over mine, the one I had wrapped around his waist, and I smiled as I drifted off into slumber.