"Oh, thank the gods."
Shuga leans over the edge of the riverbank, pushing his sleeves up pale arms so they won't trail in the muddy grass when he reaches for Jin. The bodyguard is climbing back up the slope, drenched from head to toe, and the ground is so traitorous.
"Lord Shuga, please step back," Jin insists between clenched, chattering teeth as he claws his way up inch by inch. "The bank might break under your weight." 'Again,' he doesn't add, though really it was the combined weight of Shuga and his instruments that did it. Instruments that Jin dived to find before they were washed away, after he grabbed Shuga to shove him back to safer ground.
Shuga leans forward anyway, after he makes sure he has a solid grip on the young tree growing behind him. He can see how cold Jin is, and the warrior's light armor and thick waterlogged clothes are making his ascension difficult.
The ledge sags suddenly, pieces breaking off into the water below. Shuga's eyes widen, and he grabs for Jin instinctively when he sees the warrior drop a couple of feet. Jin tries to hand him the case with all its precious measuring instruments. Shuga lets it fall right there on the grass, and catches Jin's wrist instead.
"I can replace them," Shuga says, and stares at the other young man. He cannot replace Jin's life.
This time when he pulls, it goes too well. Jin managed to find a foothold, and suddenly he's propelled forward, and he knocks Shuga to the ground. Shuga's expensive layers of silk robes were already streaked with mud and grass; but now Jin drips on them as well, braced on his hands above Shuga. He radiates cold.
Shuga doesn't care. One of his arms is wrapped around the sapling's trunk, in case the ground goes again; the other arm is wrapped around Jin's neck. It won't let go.
He's shaking a little and he's not sure why. He isn't the one soaked through to the bone.
"Jin." He swallows, his throat dry. "Jin, are you --"
He thinks he might have pulled down, or pulled himself up, or maybe Jin fell on him. And then there's a body pressing down against his, leather and buckles he can feel through his long-sleeved robes, and their mouths together, breathing too fast. They could have died, either of them, both of them.
The kiss goes on, not deep but open-mouthed. They're still panting in shock, in nerves. Shuga's hand clenches on the back of Jin's neck, thumb rubbing against shorn hair; Jin's fingers tangle in long silver strands.
"I think," Jin says eventually. "We should... Move."
His usually cold, wary eyes are strangely soft, strangely confused as he moves to the side and sits, cautious. Shuga straightens up with his eyes on Jin's face, catching every nuance.
It's the first time he kisses a man. Or anyone, really. He wants to do it again. But he has no words for how improper such a tryst would be.
"Let's go home," he says. "You need to dry off."
Jin frowns a little, but underneath his eyes are still a little startled. "Your observations aren't complete."
"I can complete them later. Your health is important too."
Jin watches him in silence for a few seconds; and then he nods slightly, and he creeps to the case. He's back on safer ground in seconds, and he stands, wary like a tamed wolf once again. Shuga straightens up, brushes the grass off his clothes, head bowed, sorry that the moment is over already.
He cannot reach out first. His rank is far superior; he isn't sure Jin would feel that he can say no, thank you, I have no interest in such things, go away. But it seems Jin won't reach out either. Perhaps he is already writing it off -- a mistake; an accident; just nerves. Shuga already misses the solid weight of a man's body over his, hard and compact and callused.
They climb back on the road in silence. Their horses are still waiting off to the side; Shuga watches as Jin straps the case to the mule, forcing stiff fingers to work despite the cold, and eyes his own mount with tiredness. He's sore; he can't muster up the energy to climb on.
"Do you need assistance?"
Jin stands at his back. One of his hands rests on the saddle of Shuga's horse. He has taken off his shirt -- better to be without it than to be wet, in this cold.
Shuga is penned in. He breathes a little faster.
"... I... might. Yes."
Then he turns around and they're close, and Jin watches him for a few seconds before leaning into him and kissing him again.
The horse is well-trained; when Shuga's knees shake and he has to lean back against it, it doesn't shy away. He wraps his arms around the other man's shoulders, and he drapes his long sleeves over bare skin to shield him from the wind, and they kiss until they're warm again.