Homecoming II
by Laura Bryannan

Well, I guess this has probably been the second most intense week of my life. I’m still not sure what to make of everything. I’m happy, I’m scared, I’m confused, I’m one messed up girl. And it all began with my act of total retardation, coming onto Jin. To this day, I don’t know what I was thinking, to flash him the way I did. But I didn’t realize until it was too late what a horrible mistake it was.

When Jin walked out the door I didn’t know what to think. I felt humiliated and stupid, but it wasn’t until it got late and he still wasn’t home that I really started to freak out. I stayed up hour after hour, thinking, surely he’ll be home in just another minute. The later it got, the more I believed it had to be true. He just had to come home! Well, he didn’t. And then it dawned on me for the first time how much I 'd been taking him for granted. How I 'd been playing little games with him, not really getting that he was a free agent. There was nothing keeping him from walking away from me forever. He’d made no promises to stick around.

So those thoughts started making me feel really scared. What if he never came back? What if I’d made him so angry he just took off? What if he showed up saying he was going to move out? I was too shocked about the situation to even cry, and I stared into the fire for hours, telling myself the most horrible things were going to happen. I finally fell asleep out of pure exhaustion, right there in The Box.

When I woke up the next morning, I didn’t open my eyes right away. I was too afraid to look and see he was still gone. I listened and he was not in the room, I couldn’t hear him working out in the backyard, and my heart sank. Sure enough, I peeked and everything was exactly as I left it last night. He had not come home. I dashed around getting ready, hoping to see him on the street heading to work. I didn’t. What a horrible day it was, the time seemed to drag by. A terrifying unknown weighed on my heart—would he come home?

Finally work was over and I raced to the house. Nodding to the handful who'd gathered early, I went inside and positioned myself at the window to watch for him. When I finally saw him coming down the street I almost started crying. I prayed, please make him come inside, please let me be able to apologize to him before class. My prayers didn’t get answered though. I saw him notice me but he didn’t acknowledge me at all. His eyes moved on and he continued talking to whoever he was talking to. My guts were quaking and my knees were literally trembling, but I plastered a smile on my face and made myself go out there. I said hi to my classmates and Jin nodded to me, looking coolly polite.

“Shi-chan,” he said.

“Sensei,” I replied, and he looked away. I always called him Sensei in public. It seemed weird to call him Jin in front of other people, for some reason.

Anyway, I took my place and class began soon after. By the time training was over, I wasn’t feeling as bad. He was home. I kept telling myself he probably wouldn’t take off forever and disappoint his students. It would be hard to wait until he returned from the bathhouse to beg for his forgiveness, but it was going to feel so good when I could finally do it. The possibility of his not coming home after his bath was too horrifying to indulge, so I made myself stop thinking about it.

Class was finally over, and I was impatiently waiting for people to go away when I heard this voice. A voice that gave me chills up my back. “Who’s the shinshi of this candyass dojo anyway?” It couldn’t be! I turned and saw this man. Everything was wrong except the face, but the face was definitely Mugen’s, and my knees gave out. I was staring, open-mouthed, looking back and forth between the two of them, and watched Jin make the same cognition. When he realized it was Mugen he dropped his katana. Jin actually dropped his katana! I cringed to hear it clatter on the hard dirt of the yard. And then you could have knocked me over with a feather when Jin kissed him right in front of everybody!

I think that’s when I started losing it. The reality of the situation dawned on me. Oh just great. Jin’s angry with me and now there’s absolutely no reason why he’ll ever turn my way again. I heard him introduce Mugen as his partner and my heart sank. Yes, they’re partners. Yes, they have each other and I am nothing, nothing, nothing. I couldn’t bear it and the tears wouldn’t stop. Of all the days for Mugen to come home, it had to be that day. I cursed my stupidity and my fate. I was the most miserable girl in the world, I assure you. I collapsed there in a puddle and cried and cried.

Facing Mugen inside the house was too bizarre for words. It was really him! Even though his hair looked awful and he was dressed like a grown-up, it was his lap. It was his scent. It was his arms around me. All the memories of our journey rushed through me and they added to my feelings of unhappiness and confusion. I could cry in his arms, and that was about it. Later, when he kissed me, it was so strange. It was Mugen, all right! But even though it was very nice, I started getting scared. Was he going to expect us to pick up where we left off? As soon as I thought it I realized I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t there anymore. I didn’t want to be sexual with him. For all sorts of reasons, I decided I was not going to turn away from Jin just because Mugen was home again.

I heard Jin come in and immediately tried to pull myself together. I realized it might be my only chance to say anything to him, so I wanted to make it good. I blurted out my confession and then felt so embarrassed I started crying again. I was terrified to face him. I was too afraid he wasn’t going to forgive me, so when he thanked me I felt so relieved. I raised my head and looked at him and he was smiling at me! Maybe he didn’t hate me after all. When he talked about leaving Mugen and me alone, I almost laughed out loud. There was no way I wanted him to do that. I didn’t want to be with Mugen, and I didn’t want to get into any situation that might give him the impression I did. Thank goodness they both let me talk them into going out, and I bypassed that sticky situation for the time being.

The madness of our neighbor’s reaction at the teahouse continued at work the next day. I walked in and everyone jumped me, asking how I was doing, if I was all right. It took me a second before I realized folks thought I was devastated because Mugen showed up—that I’d been heartlessly tossed aside.

“Shinshi and that man…they’re really together?” Yunta asked. I nodded and she offered the typical response. “But I thought the two of you were…um….”

“Nope,” I replied. “Sensei and Mugen have been together forever. I know everyone thought we were lovers, but we’re not.” Unfortunately, I thought. She nodded and looked pleased, which I thought was kind of strange, but then Kanna showed up and told us all to get busy so we did, and that was that.

When I got home from work that evening, I got the shock of my life. First of all, the mess they'd left in the morning—clothes everywhere, Mugen’s stuff all over the floor—had been straightened up. And I smelled food! Something had been cooking. How could that be?

There was Mugen, snoring in The Box, and I could see two pots sitting near the hearth. I was totally mystified, compelled to peek inside them both to find rice in one and some kind of very yummy-smelling stew in the other. I stuck my finger in, tasted, and decided it was as yummy as it smelled! How did it get there? Did Mugen cook it? It had to be, but I honestly had a hard time believing it. In all our months together, he had never lifted a finger to do anything except fight and eat.

I put our biggest pot of water on the fire for my bath, shook my head in wonder and went outside to wait for Jin. When he showed up, I had to smile. It was so strange and wonderful to see him wearing his glasses again. The poor guy looked like he’d been up all night, which of course he had.

I took him aside. “Go in the house for a moment,” I said. He looked at me strangely, and I shoved him toward the door. “Go on. You won’t believe it!”

He did and then came out a few moments later, looking as mystified as me. “Did he cook that?” he asked.

“Well, I sure didn’t,” I replied.

“It smells good, even,” he said, smiling in this funny, surprised way.

“It tastes good, too. I checked.”

He harrumphed and shook his head. “Amazing,” was all he said.

So folks showed up for training like they usually did, in greater numbers than usual. I decided the gossip about Mugen had made its way around the neighborhood, and everyone wanted to check the situation out. People were still eyeing me strangely and watching Jin as well, hoping to find evidence of a lover’s quarrel or some other drama, I suppose. About halfway through class, Mugen came out of the house and sat by the door to watch. It was funny to see how he distracted people, and I could tell that Jin didn’t particularly like it. Finally, it was clear he’d had enough.

He looked over at Mugen, who gave him a mock salute. “Why don’t you come over here and show all the nice people what you can do, Mugen?” he called out. Mugen’s eyebrows raised, and he considered it. He nodded and went inside for a moment, then came out with his sword. He walked over to Jin with this most evil grin on his face, and I thought, uh oh, this is going to be something. I was right.

“What, you want me to kick your ass in front of all your students?” he challenged.

Jin’s eyes narrowed and he smiled the kind of smile I wouldn’t want to see directed at me. “Yes Mugen,” he said icily. “Kick my ass.”

And they began. I hadn’t seen them fight like that for so long it brought tears to my eyes, even though I used to hate it when they did it before. I realized I hadn’t seen Jin move like that since then, either. Wei-san was an amazing fighter, especially considering how old he was, but he sure wasn’t Mugen. It was fun to hear the gasps and murmurs of the people around me as they came after each other. The ring of every block or parry carried through the neighborhood, bringing more curiosity seekers.

Every time Mugen pulled one of his classic moves there were sounds of appreciation. Every time Jin blocked or countered him, there were more. Whether he’d done it on purpose or not, Jin was smart to challenge Mugen to a fight. It was impressive to see. The dance was so intricate, so lightning quick, I was ooh-ing and ahh-ing along with everyone else.

“I’ve never seen Shinshi move so fast,” said someone at my side.

A few folks turned to me as they heard. I nodded enthusiastically. “Only Mugen’s got the skills to fight him like that,” I said proudly.

I did feel proud of them, I realized. I could see that people were looking at Mugen differently. Yesterday he’d been cast as the home wrecker. Today he was turning into something else. The fight went on and on, the balance between them still intact, even after all these months. I felt so sorry for Jin, though. I knew how tired he was, and yet he held his ground and got in some of his own. It was so exhilarating to watch them!

And then…I can’t even remember exactly how it happened. But Jin feinted to the right and Mugen moved exactly into range, Jin pivoted and then…THWAP! The flat of Jin’s katana hit Mugen square across the butt and he yelped in surprise. The crowd roared in appreciation, clapping and laughing. I did too, I couldn’t help it. It was great!

“Loosing your edge, Mugen?” Jin teased. Mugen rubbed his butt and gave him this look…well, I saw its impact: Jin's knees got a little wobbly for a moment and then he steadied himself again. “You’ve been training with someone from the continent,” he observed.

Mugen’s eyebrows raised and he nodded. “So have you.”

They stood there, panting, looking at each other with such obvious appreciation it was almost embarrassing to watch. People gave them all of three seconds before they began crowding around, clapping Jin on the back and complimenting Mugen on his fighting prowess. There was a little gang of guys hanging on him already, begging him to teach them how he moved like that.

I stood apart watching it all, feeling happy, which was pretty amazing considering how awful I’d been feeling at this same time yesterday. It was really fun to listen to all the scattered bits of conversation around me.

“Can you believe that?” … “Wasn’t it something?” … “Never seen anything like it in my life!”

“Shinshi really holds back with Wei-sai, huh?” … “The guy seems like such an asshole, but maybe I can see what Shinshi sees in him.”

“So they weren’t lovers after all. I'm surprised.” … “Me too, considering they share a daisho. Isn’t that odd?” … “Oh, I think it’s adorable!”

The last one surprised me. I’d never thought about what it might look like, that Jin had the katana and I had the wakazashi of my father’s daisho. I guess Jin never cared what it looked like either. People are silly, I decided.

So finally all the excitement was over and the men headed off to the bathhouse. I snuck back inside and decided a little eensy bit of stew wouldn’t be missed, it smelled so good, so I had a little nibble and took my bath…finally! Mugen’s arrival had disrupted our routines yesterday and I didn’t get one, so it felt great. Eventually they made it home and it was so lovely to eat together with no one around to gawk and gossip. We poked Mugen about making dinner, considering how good it was. I think we were still having a hard time believing it.

“I spent most of the journey below decks prepping for the cook,” he told us. “My guts were too messed up to do anything more heavy duty. I learned how to make lots of shit.” He shrugged his sleeve up and showed us his left wrist and I saw a familiar sight. Covered in little scars from inevitable slips of the knife, his arm and hand bore the marks of the prep cook.

I nodded and did the same, and he laughed. “It’s what I do too,” I said, smiling, noting Jin’s wince. I knew it was something about my job he hated, and now to see the same marks on Mugen…. It touched me in this weird way, and I found myself unhappy about it. So we shared a mark after all. What did it mean that I shared a mark with Mugen but not with Jin? Well, I decided it didn’t mean anything, and shrugged it off.

We thanked him profusely for the wonderful dinner and then I saw the sign of my doom: Jin got up and lay down in The Box. Oh no! Sure enough, he was out practically the moment his head hit the futon. I got his blanket and covered him, just to have something to do. I didn’t want to be face to face with Mugen, but I didn’t have any choice. It kind of made me mad.

“So that’s interesting we’ve been in the same line of work,” he said. I nodded, but didn’t know what else to say. It got a little weird for a while and then he finally spoke again. “You mad I’m cutting in on your action?”

I looked at him and shook my head. “There was nothing happening between Jin and me. I wanted there to be, but there wasn’t. He was waiting for you and now you’re here. I’m glad for him. He missed you a lot.” I hoped I’d given him enough goodies that he’d leave me alone. He nodded slowly and looked thoughtful. I have to say, I found this new Mugen a little disconcerting. It made me realize a shameful thing: that part of his appeal for me was that I felt just a little bit better than him. Even though I was way younger than he was, I was more educated, I was more civilized. Oh, I don’t know. I guess I looked down on him a little.

So facing this quiet Mugen, who had cleaned up and cooked us dinner. Who was he? I didn’t know. I found him intriguing, but I didn’t want to find him intriguing, so that made me mad too. And, if I really wanted to be honest with myself, I felt intimidated by him. There was something really intense about him now, and it was almost scary.

“He said he took off on you the night before I showed up.” It was true, so I looked at him and nodded, wondering why he brought it up. “I was bummed to learn he’s still pulling that kinda shit. He always disappears when he’s pissed. He’s done it to me lots of times.”

You know, it really made me feel better to hear him say that! You mean, it’s not just me he takes off on? I smiled at him gratefully. “I was really scared when he didn’t come home,” I whispered. “I didn’t know what I’d do if he left.”

“Yeah, I been there,” he said and, again, it made me feel better. Poop. When did Mugen turn into a sane person? It was too weird. “So, you’re waiting for him, huh?”

It wasn’t a question and I was amazed. Was he going to make this easy for me? “Yes. Although I’m beginning to think I’ll wait forever, now that you’re home.”

He smiled ruefully. “Maybe now that I’m home it won’t be forever.”

My heart started beating faster. I waited for him to say more, but he didn’t. I peeked at him and he was looking at me strangely, in a way I’ve never seen him look at me before. If it hadn’t seemed like the most ridiculous thing in the world, I would have said he looked jealous. He was weighing something in his mind, I could tell.

“I’ve told him I’m OK with it,” he finally said, and I gasped.

“You did? You’re not hurt that’s what I want?” I asked incredulously.

He snorted. “That’s two different questions,” he replied. “I told him I was OK with it. How I feel about it is something else. I’m OK with it. Leave it at that.”

I was dying to know more, but I didn’t know how to ask him, so we just sat there for a while. I saw him look over at Jin and sigh. “So you don’t want to wake him up like we prolly did to you last night?” he asked.

I smiled. They had bothered me a few times last night, but I didn’t mind. I had forgotten how much it was a part of my life during our journey. I’d wake up in the middle of the night to the rhythmic slap of skin against skin, or hear them whispering to each other and feel like all was right with the world. I felt safe knowing they were in the room a few feet away doing their thing. Usually I’d barely wake up, hear them carrying on, roll over and immediately crash again. But last night Mugen had been laughing so loud and so long, I really woke up. It made me smile to hear him. I hadn’t heard him laugh so much since Jin tried to fish that one day.

“Um…what was so funny?” I asked.

His eyes got big and he shook his head. “Don’t think I should tell you. Sorry.” I made a face at him, but I knew there wasn’t any point in bothering him about it. They kept each other’s secrets too well. And as for what I heard after the laughing stopped…well, I had to admit that no matter how much I wanted Jin, I’d never be able to make him sound like that when we made love.

Mugen poked me with his toe and startled me out of my daydreams. “So, you really don’t want to get it on like we used to before?”

I shook my head and felt guilty because, even though I didn’t want to do that, there was something I wanted from him. “Would you snuggle with me? No one’s held me since you last did, so I’m kinda starved for it.” He smiled and held out his arm, so I came over and leaned against him. He pulled me onto his lap and it felt so nice. I couldn’t believe it, but it seemed like he was going to accept my not wanting to make love with him. “Thanks for being so understanding about how I feel,” I said.

He sighed. “Don’t got much choice, do I?” I was amazed that he seemed bummed. It had always felt like Jin was his primary interest and I was just an afterthought, so I hadn’t considered that he’d actually be unhappy about it. We sat there watching the fire together for a long time and then I felt his hand on my chin. He pulled my face up to his and kissed me, and some of my resolve started to crumble. Mugen’s such a good kisser, I felt myself responding to him even though I didn’t want to, so I pushed myself away and got up.

“I’m sorry, Mugen.”

He looked at me, clearly thinking about something. The expression on his face was impish enough to make me nervous. “Would you be with me while I do myself?” he finally asked.

“Uh…be with you?” I didn’t know what he meant. I didn’t know if I wanted to know.

“Yeah. Will you watch me?” He gestured with his hand and it became all too clear.

“I don’t think so, Mugen.”

“Oh come on! Don’t watch then. Just be here with me,” he insisted. It was weird, but I felt like he really needed me to say yes. He was hurt by my rejection and he was testing me. So I said yes, having no idea what I was saying yes to. He smiled and untied his hakama. When he stood up I was struck again by how amazing it was to see him looking like a proper Japanese man lounging around at home in the evening. His new kimono really looked great on him.

He dug through Jin’s stuff for a moment and sat back down, leaning against The Box with a towel and a little jar of oil in his hand. “Might as well do it nice,” he said looking at me in this way that made me blush. I had to move along or I was going to do something dumb. I got up and went around the corner of The Box, so that we couldn’t see each other anymore, and I heard him laughing. “I’ll just have to be extra loud then.”

“Oh, shut up and get going,” I told him. The sooner we got through this the sooner I could escape to my room and take care of myself. All was quiet for a little while, and then he began to say things.

“You know…you’ve got the tastiest pussy of any gal I ever ate. I like to think about doing that to you when I do this.” There was a pause for a little while and then he continued. It made me squirm to hear him. “I always had to start deep inside, cuz if I went after your clit too fast you’d always get tickly and push me away. I’d pull you open with my thumbs and taste way in there. You always let me start like that. If I took my time there, you’d let me do anything.”

Oh yes, I remembered. His words were turning me on so much, I sat there transfixed, hoping he’d say more. It felt so strangely flattering! I could hear the sounds of his…activity, at that point—the rhythm of his oil-slicked hand.

“I like to think of the three of us together.” He did? All three of us?

“It would be nice to fuck Jin while he’s fucking you.” Oh my! I practically fainted when he said that. I reached for myself without even thinking about it. Such amazing images flashed through my head. Images I had never thought of before. Jin in the middle? Oh my!

“I know he wants to fuck you.” He does?!? I was feeling short of breath. Mugen said it, it must be so! They must have talked about it. I was ecstatic. Praying he’d say more, I untied my hakama to give my hands a little maneuvering room.

“I think we could make him really happy between the two of us.”

Oh, yes, it was a lovely thing to consider—to be with them while they played. The pictures in my mind were so erotic, something in my breathing must have given me away.

“You touching yourself, Fuu?”

I froze for a moment and turned my head. Nope, I couldn’t see him—the frame blocked my view—and he couldn’t see me. “Yes,” I whispered.

“Don’t stop. Are you all wet?”

Ooooh, such a question! I had to keep going. I was too horny not to. “Yes.”

He sighed, and I could hear his rhythm get a little faster. Mine did too.

“Sweet!” he sighed again. “So fucking sweet. Do you have a finger inside you?”

I felt my face get hot. How did he know? I felt strangely compelled to answer and was dying from horniness. “Yes.”

He growled and moaned a little bit. “Oh yeah! Put in another one, K? Or even two….” He sounded like he did when he was getting pretty close to cumming and that made me even closer too, so I thought I’d give him a present.

“I’ll put two, cuz you’re so thick.”

I heard him gasp, and then really start to purr. He was sounding so yummy over there, I couldn’t hold myself back anymore and started cumming, trying to stay as silent as I could. Don’t know how well I succeeded, though.

“Oh, girl,” he sang and then I heard the sounds I remembered so well—the rhythmic moans of a Mugen orgasm. I lay there gathering my wits, listening to his breathing come back to normal, wondering what in the world I’d just done. It felt really good, but I wasn’t sure if I should have done it or not. Oh well, it was too late now.

I realized I should beat a hasty exit to my room before he was ambulatory, so I pulled my kimono closed and stood up. Unfortunately, he did too. He walked over to me and I couldn’t look him in the eye. Grabbing my right wrist, he pulled my hand up to his face, inhaling.

“Mugen!” I shrieked, pulling it away once I realized what he was doing.

He leered at me, and I just know I blushed. “Mmmmm, smells nice,” he said. “Wanna sniff my hand?” he asked, chuckling, as he caught me up in a hug and nibbled on my neck.

“No, I don’t! Mugen, let me go!” I insisted, trying to push myself away.

“OK, OK,” he said, releasing me. “Thanks for playing, Fuu. I feel better now. Don’t you?”

I scowled, and he laughed at me as I stomped off to my room, refusing to look at him. “Good night, Mugen,” I said.

“Night.” He was still laughing. A little bit later I peeked out into the main room and saw him crawl into The Box with Jin, snuggling up to his back the way he always did. Thinking about it, I was cursing my fickle self for allowing him to pull me into his game like that. But I had to admit, it sure was hot, and I did feel better now that I’d let off a little steam, so to speak.

Yes, my life got crazier and crazier. I had to keep pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. The next night we were all sitting around after dinner and the air between them was so smoky and electric, I decided I’d wander off to bed and leave them to it. I consoled myself that it might be fun to listen if I didn’t fall asleep first. So I said my goodnights and wasn’t surprised that neither of them tried to talk me into sticking around. I had just snuggled into bed when I heard someone at the doorway.

“Fuu?” Jin said quietly. I turned my head and could see him standing there in his kimono, no hakama. That, by itself, got my attention, and I think my breath caught. Even though hanging out in a kimono was totally proper for a man in a Japanese home, Jin always wore his hakama.

“May I come in?” I said yes and tried to keep my jaw from dropping as he walked over and knelt by my futon. “I would like to apologize for how I behaved the other night, not coming home the way I did. Mugen reminded me that I have a bad habit of withdrawing when I’m angry, and it’s a trait I promised to work on. I didn’t do very well by that promise the other night and I’m sorry for that. It must have worried you.”

To put it mildly, I thought. “Well, I’m sorry I was being so obnoxious. I don’t know what got into my head,” I said, cringing.

“I’m glad you were, Fuu, because we could both welcome him back with a clear conscience. And now that he’s home….” He paused and I held my breath. “Perhaps we can get to know each other better, as they say.”

So Mugen was telling the truth! I wanted to scream right then and there. I wanted to jump up and down and dance around the room. Thankfully, I was able to maintain my decorum. “I’d like that, Jin,” I whispered.

“Good,” he said, smiling, and he leaned down to kiss me—not on the forehead, either. It was gentle and chaste, but only at first. I practically swooned when he opened his mouth slightly and I felt his tongue trace my upper lip. I opened mine to let him in and it was so sweet. Kissing Jin is just the best thing in the world. At some point, I felt his hand cradle my head, and his thumb trace my ear a little bit but he didn’t touch me otherwise. All too soon, it seemed, he pulled back.

“I should let you go to sleep,” he said. “Good night, Fuu.”

“Good night,” I said. We smiled at each other, and then he stood up and left. I was so ecstatic, I’m amazed I was able to fall asleep.

And that’s how it’s been this past week. Every night after I go to bed, Jin comes in, I lay my head in his lap and we chat, often while he’s tracing my fingers with his own, or petting me in all the sweet ways he used to way back when. I love it! Then we’ll make out a bit, say our good nights and I go to sleep a happy girl. I know that at some point we’re going to actually do it, and the thought of it fills me with lust and fear and so much excitement I can think of nothing else sometimes.

But then, last night, he said something that hit me really strangely. We were talking about how different Mugen seemed, and how we both found him even more fascinating than we did before. Jin was so blissed out that Mugen was home, it was really endearing to watch. I loved seeing him so happy. Any time Mugen was the topic of conversation, he’d get this look on his face—this little smile that wouldn’t go away—and his skin would often flush. Not that he was blushing, but just alive, I guess. Anyway, this time he looked troubled so I was immediately curious.

“He’s in love with the captain of the ship he crewed for, you know,” he told me.

I felt my blood run cold. I couldn’t believe it! Knowing Mugen, I immediately thought the worst. “Were they lovers?” I asked. He shook his head and I felt relieved. “How do you know?”

He smiled in this rueful way and sighed. “The man’s presence is all over him. He can’t speak of his experiences on that ship without trying so hard not to speak of him, the hole in the story gapes like a wound. In many ways, I believe this man still has his heart.”

I was incredulous. I was indignant. “I can’t believe that, Jin!” I tried to reassure him, and myself too. “He’s here, isn’t he? He could have stayed with the guy but he didn’t. That means something, doesn’t it?” He shrugged his shoulders and looked so resigned, my heart sank. If Jin felt this man had Mugen’s heart, he probably did. “Well, what do you know about the guy?” I asked.

“Very little. Mugen described him as, ‘totally hot, totally my type and really good to me.’ I was too stunned at the time to press him further.”

“Are you afraid he’ll leave? Has he hinted he wants to?” The second those words came out of my mouth I became terrified he might. The importance of him in my life, in our lives, became so apparent to me in that moment I shuddered in fear.

Jin shook his head. “No, thankfully, he hasn’t. But you’re voicing my own fears as well. I don’t know why I felt moved to tell you. Perhaps it’s become enough of a burden on my heart, I didn’t want to carry it alone anymore. It was selfish of me, I suppose.”

“I’m glad to know,” I assured him. I was, too. I suddenly felt very protective of my little family, and decided to make Mugen feel as welcome as I could. “Why don’t you try to find out more about him? If you do, you have to promise to tell me everything, and then we’ll figure out what to do together, OK?”

“All right,” he said with a sly smile. “Two against one. The odds are in our favor.”

to be continued