Homecoming IV

by Laura Bryannan

This is all your fault, you know,” he said, speaking quietly so she couldn't hear.

My fault?!?” I asked. “How is this my fault, Mugen?”

You've been screwing around in there for weeks now and I know you ain't fucked her yet. What the hell do you do with her every night? And you were together for six goddamn months before that. If you were fucking her, she wouldn't be mooning over some bitch.”

He was quite upset. I was amazed how upset.

Has it ever occurred to you that if Fuu and I had become lovers before you returned we might not even be speaking by now...that we might not even be living together anymore?” I challenged.

Don't have much regard for your skills, I see,” he snorted. “Guess I shouldn't be surprised, given your lack of experience.”

Low blow, and I began to get angry myself. “Mugen, even you aren't stupid enough to believe that sex makes everything work in a relationship. Sometimes it permanently damages an otherwise workable friendship. I didn't want to risk that happening.”

Well, it looks to me like she's gonna go off and get it somewhere else,” he argued. “That's a risk too. What the hell are you waiting for, man?”

I don't believe she's ready for that yet,” I told him. “It's only been a few weeks since we've even spoken about becoming lovers and she needs time to get used to the idea. It's an important step and I want to handle it honorably.”

He was pacing and muttering under his breath. Finally he stopped and turned to me. “Look, Jin. Fuu ain't gonna give you some kinda fancy invitation. Girls ain't like that. Well...bad ones are, but Fuu ain't a bad girl. You're gonna have to make the first move.”

I know that, Mugen,” I sputtered.

No, you don't,” he said forcefully. “If you did, you'd be lovers already. Fuu doesn't need to get used to the idea. She's so into you, it hurts me to see it. And I can't fucking believe I just said that. But because you've been sitting on your ass doing nothing all these weeks she might be gone. It pisses me off!”

Well, well. I needed to breathe a bit before I trusted myself to respond. “Would it be so terrible if Fuu found someone who wanted her more than anyone?”

Hell yeah!” he exclaimed.

Come now, Mugen. Is it fair to expect her to stay with us when she'll always be second best?”

Who says she's second best?”

I arched an eyebrow, staring, and watched him wordlessly concede my point.

Well, I don't give a shit what's fair,” he continued angrily. “Do you think the two of us could make it without her? Fat chance. We'd end up hating each other without her in the middle.”

His words shook me deeply, for the moment he said them I knew he was right. I wasn't about to admit that to him, though. “I will have her in my own time, Mugen, and I won't be goaded into acting the fool by your insecure rantings.”

Well, maybe it's already too late,” he spat. “So you can take your honorable intentions and shove 'em up your ass, for all the good they'll do!” And with that, he stomped out the door.

I sat down, trying to understand what had just happened. Fuu's treatment of Mugen since he returned had concerned me a great deal. It was as though he were invisible, for all the attention she paid him.

They'd had some sort of mutual masturbation scene early on. I woke up toward the conclusion and felt pleased...and so aroused it was hard to fall asleep again. But after that, she essentially ignored him and I could tell he was hurt by it. He didn't try very hard to hide how he felt, but she never noticed, and I stood by watching helplessly. I enjoyed making it up to him, but knew it wasn't going to be enough to keep him happy. Ironically, for all her interest in me, Mugen was the one who had a true passion for her, not I. And if I had any doubts about it, his anger this evening proved it.

I can look back in hindsight and see that I was moved to tell her about the captain of the Brightness to wake her up. She was playing a dangerous game with Mugen and obviously didn't realize it. The conversation helped matters, and she began to take him a little less for granted, but it appeared that Yunta made her move before either of us could take the next step with her. Was he right? Was it too late? I hoped it wasn't true.

I went to bed with a heavy heart. I hated it when he and I fought like this, with words, not swords. It was something we rarely did, which was strange considering how different we were, so when it happened it always felt painful. His observations about my behavior brought me up short, and I found that galling. He'd asked what I was waiting for, and I realized I didn't know.

I had to admit that I, not Fuu, needed to get used to the idea of our becoming lovers. In my past relationships, I was always the one who lost interest first, and I feared history would repeat itself. I still desired her, but with Mugen home my focus returned to him and my resolve to have her wavered. It didn't seem right to become intimate with her when I was so unsure about my feelings. As deeply as I cared for Fuu, she would never be the primary passion in my life as Mugen was.

But, he was correct, Fuu was absolutely necessary. Life without her seemed unthinkable. Any future I could imagine included the three of us, so I resolved to take that next step with her, hoping Mugen's worries about it being too late were unfounded.

He woke me up in the middle of the night, reeking of sake and something he'd been smoking, although I couldn't tell what. I suffered the pawing and the strange-tasting kisses because I didn't want us to be angry with each other any more. I suppose it was a way of apologizing without actually apologizing. He didn't start talking until he was fully seated, stroking me into oblivion.

Don' let her get 'way, Jin,” he whispered huskily, panting into my ear. “Maybe you can live without her. I can't.”

After we came back to earth, snuggled together so tight he was soft but still inside me, he whispered again, “Promise you'll try, Jin. Don' wanna lose her. Gotta promise.”

I hugged the arms wrapped around my chest and promised. He sighed and soon began snoring, and I fell asleep enjoying the warmth of his body behind me, grateful I didn't feel upset any longer.

The next day, Fuu eyed me anxiously when I came in from practicing my kata, but she made small talk instead. We never had to worry about waking Mugen as we chatted and got ready for work in the morning. He slept like the dead, and I imagined it was because he had usually just returned home a few hours earlier.

I found it fascinating how different his life patterns were now that we were settled somewhere and not continually traveling. He didn't sleep with me anymore, which I discovered I missed. When we were on the road, we would land somewhere for the night, and Fuu and I would generally go to bed a few hours after sundown. Mugen would stay up longer―I never knew how long―then attack me later when he came to bed. After our loving, I'd always fall asleep with him spooned against my back, and it was so very nice. The pattern continued throughout the weeks we spent recovering at Fuu's father's house, even though we were too hurt to have each other.

But now we made love before he went out for the night. The first few evenings he stayed with me until I fell asleep, then left after that. But soon his pattern became to snuggle with me until I was nodding off, and then get ready to go out.

Where are you going?” I'd asked him, the first time I realized what was happening.

Working,” he replied. I decided it was best to leave it be and take him at his word. He was contributing provisions and his share of the rent, so there was no reason to question his behavior. Sometimes I'd lay there and watch him get dressed, enjoying my good fortune at having such a stunning lover to look at. If he saw I was awake I'd get a lusty goodbye kiss, but most of the time I would simply fall asleep after sex.

I always heard him come in every morning, but it took a few days to dawn on me that he was sleeping in The Box, not joining me on the floor as he used to. It made me somewhat sad, but I hadn't yet decided whether or not to bring the matter up. And I suppose it was nice not having to step around him getting ready for work.

In any event, Fuu seemed upset, but didn't say anything about it until we were out the door and headed to work. “Are you angry at me for not spending time with you last night, Jin?” she asked in a tiny voice.

I smiled. “No, Fuu, I'm not angry,” I replied. “I can understand why you might need time to think things through. I imagine Yunta surprised you yesterday.”

She sure did!” she exclaimed. “What should I do?”

What do you want to do?”

I don't know. It was nice but.... She still thinks I'm a boy, so we can't...you know.” I nodded. “She'd probably freak out if she learned the truth,” she continued. She was blushing and smiling as she spoke, however, so it was clear she had feelings for Yunta.

I decided to be as straightforward as possible. “Fuu, would you like me to back away?”

She turned to me, eyes wide. “Oh no!” she said, with absolutely no hesitation. “Please don't do that. I'm so sorry about last night, I don't know what got into my head. It was very rude, please forgive me.”

There's nothing to forgive, Fuu-chan,” I said sincerely, happy to learn we may not have lost her after all.

Well, that's a relief,” she said. “I'm kind of nervous to face her today. Wish me luck!” She flashed me a big smile before disappearing into The White Lotus, and I smiled back.

Mugen had said he wanted to go snoop on Yunta at lunch that afternoon, but he never showed up and I was relieved. The last thing we needed was him making a scene of some kind. But, strangely enough, he didn't show up for dinner either, although there was food left on the table to prepare. I was surprised because I'd thought we'd made up last night.

So, Fuu and I spent our first evening alone together in weeks, and it was quite nice. From her conversation, it appeared that Yunta had not approached her today, which brought my own agenda back into sharp focus. Should I? Tonight? Should I wait? The more I thought about what to do, the more confused I got. My head said one thing, my feelings another. My head argued I was toying with her heart, that it wasn't right to take her when I desired Mugen more. My feelings echoed Mugen's own sentiments—who cares what's right? Just do it! Lost in thought, I realized she was watching me and I looked up, hoping I wasn't blushing.

Deciding to listen to my heart and damn the consequences, I scooped her into my arms and sat down on The Box with her in my lap. She giggled, turning her face up to me. We began to kiss and my worries abated. Kissing Fuu is always sweet, and my body basically took over from there. I stroked her the way we both like for a long while, then untied myself. Since I had gotten into the habit of taking off my hakama when I got home in the evenings, there were fewer layers to work through.

Her breath caught as I untied the belt of her kimono, so I broke our kiss to make sure she wanted to go forward. “Yes?” I asked.

She smiled and giggled, throwing her arms around my shoulders and hugging me close. “Oh yes, yes!” I sought her mouth again, while my hand reached inside her kimono. Her breasts were really so lovely. Mugen goes on and on about big ones, but I could never understand that. To be honest, women's breasts were not something I ever spent time thinking about until I met Mugen. I decided the sweet curves of Fuu's body were much more alluring than the grotesque images Mugen's desires brought to mind.

Touching her brought back fond memories of our encounter near the spring long ago, but that's where the comparison ended. That night she had been innocent and pliant, passive in my arms as I aroused her. Tonight she was an active participant, which I found both enticing and disconcerting. Her hands were busy, stroking my back, my chest―reaching for a nipple and teasing, giggling as my body jerked. Growling, I grabbed her hand, forcing her to stop, then retaliated against her own nipple. Her body was so wonderfully responsive, she cooed and moaned in a way that made me smile, arousing me to no end.

In between our kisses she would nibble on whatever she could reach in the most pleasing way. I was taken aback at how much I was enjoying myself. She was just so fresh and tender and young. Making love with a woman...I forgot how wonderful it can be. And the contrast between Fuu and Shino was like night and day. Making love with Shino hurt my heart. It was pleasurable, and I'll always be glad we shared a night together, but Shino was a broken woman. Life had hurt her so much, my memories of her will always be tinged with that darkness.

But Fuu was untainted, even though life had hurt her as well. Being with her felt uplifting and inspiring. Adorable Fuu, after all these long months, mine at last! She was squirming in my lap, so I trailed my hand lower, sliding a few fingers inside her while resting my thumb...there. I claimed her mouth again, holding her, delighted to feel her body clenching my fingers inside. Her hips took up a gentle rhythm and I flowed with her, following her lead. She moaned as I stroked that special place inside her, and ground herself into my hand. I decided I didn't want her to cum yet, however, so eventually I withdrew, smiling as she moaned her protest.

I lay back on the futon and stretched out, positioning her on top of me. She straddled my hips and I held onto hers, sliding her wetness along my length, then settled her on me. I wasn't ready to enter her yet. It felt too nice to feel her weight, the lovely sensations as she ground herself into me. She had the dreamiest smile on her face, I was charmed.

Ummmm, so hard and warm,” she whispered.

I pulled her down to my chest and hugged her. “Oh yes,” I whispered back, “so wet and warm.” She giggled, dancing quite a suggestive dance along me, riding me, using me to tease herself. My hands caressed her bottom, appreciating the soft weight of each cheek. Marveling that they were quite the satisfying handful, considering how tiny she was, I wondered how I managed to find not one, but two lovers with delicious asses.

We were kissing again, slowly grinding together, when I heard Mugen come inside. I opened my eyes and saw him staring, mouth open. A few different emotions crossed his face, ending in hesitation, so I crooked my finger, motioning for him to join us. He raised his eyebrows and considered for a moment, then quickly untied his hakama and strode over. He raised her kimono, running his hands up her thighs, where they met mine on her ass. She startled and tried to break our kiss, but I wouldn't allow it. I backed away just enough to whisper, “Shhhh,” then took her mouth again. She tensed for a few more moments, then relaxed, I was relieved to note. She was going to let us both continue.

I closed my eyes and put my attention back on Fuu when I heard his breath catch. Peeking at him once more, it appeared he was incredulous to discover we weren't actually fucking. I suppose it appeared as though we were, since her kimono hid our bodies from his view. He looked at me with an expression that said, So are you going to, or what? I pointed to him, then at her. His eyes went wide and he backed away. He shook his head, but it had become so obvious what needed to happen I wasn't going to take no for an answer. I repeated the gesture, a little more dramatically this time, then I took his hand and returned it to her behind.

The expression on his face was most wondrous. I hope I never forget how he looked at me, the hunger, lust and pride barely allowing the gratitude to show, but it did. She squeaked against my mouth as she felt him begin to attend to her. I didn't know exactly what he was doing, but every once and a while he'd tease me with his tongue as well, so I guessed he was making her feel very nice, considering her moans and squirming.

After a long while he knelt up and positioned himself at her door, sliding his head around the outside, lubing himself up. She didn't protest, and she was so wet, so ready, I knew it wasn't going to hurt when he entered her. I broke our kiss and she snuggled her face into my neck, making little mewing sounds as he continued to tease her with his cock. My hand was there as well, wet with her juices, stroking them both, guiding him. He and I shared the most intimate glance as he pressed himself inside, and I felt her weight shift on me. I shuddered at the intensity of it, her gasps of pleasure as he worked himself inside. Every gentle thrust pushed her body into mine, grinding her pubic bone into me in the most luscious way.

Mugen?” she finally whispered. “Is that really you?”

He curled himself over her back and kissed her neck. “It's me, babe,” he said. “Feel nice?”

Ummm, so good,” she moaned. “It doesn't hurt at all!”

He sighed and his hands reached to cup her breasts. “I'm glad, I'm glad,” he murmured. “Oh girl...so sweet, so tight.” And then, after seating himself to the hilt, there was just a hint of reproach, “I've missed you way too much.”

She turned her head and smiled at him, sighing as he leaned down to kiss her lazily, then giggling as he darted his tongue into her ear and tugged on her earlobe with his teeth. He began to move, getting a rhythm going. She took up the dance and soon became a little frantic. He flowed with her and she began to cum, grinding herself into me so erotically, my own moans matched hers.

Oh, oh, oh....” she sighed as the orgasm washed over her. He peered at me over her shoulder and grinned, looking happier than I'd seen him since he returned. I reached up and pulled him toward me, needing a kiss. She giggled again as we made out, squishing her between us, but he was far from through with her. Thrusting harder now, our eyes were locked together. He was pushing her into me, grinding her against my cock in tantalizing circles, and I could feel myself getting close. I could have held it off longer, but decided there was no reason to wait.

More,” I said to him, and he understood. He picked up his pace, pushing her harder and faster, and it was enough. I held onto her hips and guided her onto the exact right place and saw stars in my head. That she was singing once more only enhanced the experience. Her thighs clamped my hips, and she bucked against me as she came again. I was murmuring, “Good girl,” or “That's right,” or something similar when my own orgasm hit me, and I lost track of things for a while, it was so intensely sweet.

When I opened my eyes, they were both looking at me, smiling appreciatively, and I felt so disconcerted I had to kiss her to cover my embarrassment. Mugen was still moving and Fuu was still moaning, which made kissing difficult, so I let her go. I watched his face and saw the signs that he was very close. He looked beautiful. The most amazing, enticing creature in the world, I decided. He saw me watching after a few moments and smiled the smokiest, hottest smile, my heart skipped a beat. Then he leaned down, got a tighter grip around her waist and began to thrust faster.

Can I cum inside you, Fuu?” he whispered against the back of her neck.

Oooh, yes, oooh...ooooooh!” I was amazed to feel her cum again, and then he was too, cursing up a storm in the way he usually did during a particularly wonderful orgasm. It made me chuckle. I felt almost silly, I was so happy. Mugen was purring, Fuu was sighing, and all was right with the world. I floated for a while, until I felt movement above me. Mugen withdrew after planting a kiss on her cheek, and came to lay alongside me. Fuu stretched her legs out, but continued to lay on my chest with her head on my shoulder.

Man, oh man,” he said. “That was really something.”

Ummmhummm,” she replied.

Yes, it was wonderful,” I sighed. “Thank you both.”

Fuu snuggled closer and Mugen kissed my shoulder. My brain wanted me to stay awake and think about what had just happened, but my body had other plans. I woke up in the middle of the night needing to turn over, but unable to. The Box had barely enough room for two bodies, and all three of us were piled in there. I was amazed that Mugen had fallen asleep too, and hadn't gone out. Fuu and I were stuck together, literally, but she didn't stir as I slid out from under her and got up. Unrolling my futon, I fell asleep on the floor, comfortable at last. The next morning I was pleased to find them snuggled together, and sent up a prayer asking that Fuu continue to love Mugen this way, before going out back to practice my kata.

She was shy with me when I returned inside, so I knelt beside her, took her chin in my hand and tipped her face up to mine. We kissed for a little while and then I pulled away, smiling. “You're very sweet, my dear,” I said. She blushed and snuggled into my chest as I continued, “Thank you for last night.”

Thank you too,” she murmured against my kimono. “I'm really happy.”

Me too.” I hugged her and stroked her hair for a little while, then sighed.

She knew. “I'll make you some miso and let you get ready for work,” she said, and I nodded my thanks.

And thus life continued.

For several blissful weeks everything was perfect. I had trouble concentrating at work, for instead of listening to Ojiisan I would catch myself remembering some scene, some interaction, some gloriously erotic thing that had happened to me the night before. Most of the time, I was making love with one of them or the other. And thankfully, Fuu had accepted Mugen back into her bed, so I knew they were spending time together without me as well. The three of us were together perhaps a third of the time. I don't know how it worked. I'm amazed it seemed to work. I didn't feel jealous of their relationship and it didn't appear that either of them begrudged my relationship with the other.

It was too good to be true. Yes it was. Do we do these things to ourselves? Do the gods get jealous, as the old stories say? I have no answers to these questions. All I know is that Mugen is ill. Possibly deathly ill, the healer told us.

I woke up one morning and his breathing sounded odd, but I didn't do anything more than take note of it. When I headed home from work, Fuu came running from the direction of the house, clearly upset. He hadn't gotten up that day, she told me. He was burning with fever. I sent her home with instructions on how to help cool him down, and went to find the local healer, Mother Au. I had heard of her. Folks around our neighborhood swore by her skills but, thankfully, none of us had ever had cause to visit her...until now.

She was busy with someone when I arrived at her storefront, so I left our address and some money, begging that she come to see him as soon as possible. I was tempted to cancel the evening training session, but decided I needed the distraction. In any event, she didn't show up until long after it was over. Fuu and I ate dinner, but the waiting seemed endless. I paced while Fuu continued to lay cool towels on his forehead and chest to try and bring his fever down. When we finally heard a knock on the door, we both jumped, and I ran to open it.

Expecting to see a grandmotherly woman, I almost asked, “Can I help you?” when I saw the lovely Chinese lady waiting there holding a large bag. Thankfully, I gathered my wits in time and welcomed her in. “You must be Mother Au,” I said, bowing formally. “I am Wakana Jin and this is Wakana Fukashi.”

I am Au Ying,” she said, bowing in return. “Very nice to meet you.” She smiled, then went immediately to Mugen's side.

This is Mugen,” said Fuu quietly, clearly reluctant to give up her place next to him. She eyed Mother Au for a few moments, then stepped aside. With efficient movements, Mother Au took his pulses, peered into his eyes, smelled his breath and sounded his abdomen. Shaking her head, she finally looked at us.

Has he spent time in the tropics?” she asked. We both said yes. “He has the yellow sickness. I've seen it before, and always in sailors or travelers who have been further south.”

Is it bad?” Fuu asked.

Mother Au nodded. “Yes, very bad,” she said. “It attacks the liver and spleen. If it progresses unchecked, his skin will turn yellow with jaundice, his kidneys could fail and he may die.”

Fuu and I looked at each other, and I could see her trying not to cry.

Is there anything you can do?” I asked, almost fearing to hear the answer. The wash of relief I felt as she nodded was so strong, I needed to sit down.

The treatment is expensive, however, for the cinchon bark to treat it comes from far away. You are fortunate that I have a store of it on hand. Shall I prepare the decoction?”

Yes, please do,” I said. “We'll find a way to pay for it.”

Fine,” she replied. “Come by my shop tomorrow at midday. In the meantime, what you are doing is correct. Keep him cool when he is feverish. Keep him warm when he has chills. Expect him to go back and forth between the two states for many days. Force liquids.”

She stood up and bowed to both of us, and Fuu walked her to the door. “Thank you so much for coming,” she said. “Jin will stop by tomorrow to get the medicine.”

Fine. I'll have it ready for you. Good night.” And then, with a brief smile to both of us, she left.

Fuu did burst into tears the moment we were alone. She came into my lap and I held and rocked her, whispering assurances that he would be well again, as much to convince her as myself.

A moan from The Box startled us both, and she jumped up to attend to him. He was shuddering now, shaking with chills, so she pulled off the damp towels and covered him with a few blankets. I came over to watch.

He moaned again, then opened his eyes. “What t'hell's going on?” he asked in a feeble voice.

You're really sick,” Fuu told him.

No shit,” he replied with a rueful smile. “Gotta piss. Can't get up.”

She turned to me, and I reached for him. “Do you think you can walk, if I help you?” I asked. He nodded, so I supported him as we headed outside. I decided to forget about trying to get him to the privy. He just peed alongside the house. We didn't have anything that would work as a bedpan, so I made a mental note to hunt something down tomorrow, and settled him back in bed. Fuu brought him some water. He didn't want to drink it but we both made him, and thankfully he was soon asleep again, so we could both go to bed ourselves. He was restless during the night, and I got up a few times to see to him, but he didn't appear to be getting any worse, so I was relieved.

Mother Au was as good as her word. She had the decoction ready when I arrived at her shop the next day, and thankfully it looked as though we were going to be able to afford it. Giving me instructions about how to administer it, she told me she would stop by the house after she finished with her patients for the day. My employer was very understanding about my situation, and allowed me time off so I could take care of Mugen. Fuu wasn't in such an expendable position, so most of his care landed on my shoulders, not that I minded.

He hated the medicine he needed to drink. I empathized. I called such stuff Torture Tea when I had to drink it. Healers always managed to find the most foul smelling and tasting things to put in decoctions like this. So getting him to take his medicine was always an adventure, but thankfully he was weak and unable to fight back effectively. Mugen's health seemed to hang in the balance for a few weeks. Fuu and I prayed together every night, asking for his recovery. But finally the tide seemed to turn.

I gauged his wellbeing by the level of insults and cussing I endured when I brought him his tea. Unfortunately for me, he needed to drink it three times a day, but I was eternally grateful to note that his responses to my ministrations were getting worse, not better.

Stuff tastes like a sow's asshole. Fuck off! Don't need it,” was mild, but typical.

“Drink!” I would order, then wait until he had run out of curses before landing on his chest and forcing it down his throat. He'd sputter and call me more names, but it didn't bother me in the slightest. That morning he'd almost succeeded in knocking the cup out of my hand, and the insults were particularly crude. He was clearly better. Thank the gods!

I was so jubilant, I headed down to Mother Au's storefront to tell her the good news. Amazingly enough, the shop was quiet―normally there were at least a few people waiting for her attention―so I asked if she'd allow me to take her out to lunch.

Wakana-san, you don't need to do that,” she smiled. “You've paid for the herbs and my time, and owe me nothing.”

Please,” I insisted. “You've been so kind. Fukashi and I are very grateful. Please come.”

She hesitated for a moment then nodded. There was a teahouse near her shop, so we went there. As we spoke together I noticed her looking at me strangely.

You're the sensei of the frontyard dojo, are you not?” she finally asked. I laughed inwardly, not knowing that's what people called it, then said yes. “I didn't realize it until the other day,” she continued. “It's pleased me to learn you train so many, no matter their backgrounds, age or even their gender. Wei-san is very fond of you.”

I smiled. I was very fond of Wei-san as well, and told her so. We chatted a bit, discussing Mugen's health. I was pestering her with questions, afraid that his turn for the better might not be permanent. She endured them, answering patiently, but the mystified look returned to her face.

Wakana-san, how do you know so much about the healing arts of my country?” she asked.

I was fortunate to study for several years with Master Zhang from the continent when I was a student at the dojo I grew up in,” I said.

Her eyes widened in surprise. “Zhang Fei?”

Yes, that was his name,” I replied.

My goodness!” she exclaimed. “Fortunate indeed! He's quite a renowned healer in our land. I heard he left for many years. What a small world that you knew him and trained under him. I would have given my right arm to be able to do so myself.”

I loved him very much,” I said, sincerely. “He was the best thing about my life at the dojo at the time. How did you come by your knowledge of healing?”

She smiled shyly and looked down. “My father knew herb lore and taught me much, as he had no sons. However, it was only after my husband passed on that I took up a practice. I needed to make a living.”

Your reputation in the area is impeccable,” I told her.

Thank you for saying that,” she said, smiling, then peered at me curiously. She looked as though she were debating something in her mind, so I waited. Finally she asked a question that completely surprised me. “Wakana-san, how old are you?”

I turned twenty-one this past winter,” I told her. “I suppose it would be rude to ask you the same question.”

She smiled. “Such a child,” she said with a sigh. “I am almost thirty. A widow these past five years.”

I settled our bill and we got up to leave. “Do you have any children?” I asked.

Two boys,” she replied proudly. “One is eight, the other is six. Perhaps it's time to send the oldest to your dojo.”

I'd be happy to have him,” I said truthfully. “Thank you again for all your help. I will always be grateful, and if there is anything I can do for you, please let me know.”

Thank you...Sensei,” she said with a wink, and I smiled back. We bowed to each other and said our goodbyes.

That night Fuu and I had a celebration of sorts, so happy Mugen's health had taken a turn for the better. He was sleeping in The Box, our battle over his medicine a few hours past.

After dinner she and I turned to each other and I reached for her. She came into my lap and we began to kiss and explore. We hadn't made love since Mugen became ill, so it was wonderful to hold her again and share some mutual, well-needed, comfort. We were laying together on my futon in front of the hearth, basking in the glow of the fire and the afterglow of our lovemaking when he stirred.

Hey,” he called. “Feeling left out over here.”

Fuu pulled her kimono around herself as we both got up to visit with him. I was feeling too lazy to put on my juban.

Mugen, you're too sick to play,” she admonished.

“Fuck that,” he argued. I chuckled. It had been weeks since he'd had enough life force to even think of such things, so my heart sang. I pulled the blanket off him. It hurt to see how much weight he'd lost, but he looked all right otherwise. The frightening hint of yellow we saw a week ago had mercifully left his skin.

She sat next to him and they kissed, while I took him in my mouth and worked him over, gently but thoroughly. He was either very horny or his lack of energy afforded him no staying power, for he came quickly, moaning into her mouth. When he settled, I came up and lay next to him, pulling the blanket over the both of us, him for warmth and me for modesty. She snuggled on his other side, and he sighed happily.

How long have I been on my ass?” he asked.

A few weeks,” Fuu told him.

Damn!” he exclaimed. “Really?” His eyelids fluttered, and he began to doze off. “I'm a lucky muh'fucker,” he whispered.

You got that right, mister,” she teased.

We saw a flicker of a smile cross his face, and then he was snoring. We smiled at each other and shared a kiss over him.

We're lucky too,” she said.

Yes, my dear. We are.”

to be continued