Homecoming VI

by Laura Bryannan

Man, being sick like that was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I don't like to admit it, but I was scared shitless. At times I felt so awful, I wished I would die. To be honest, at one point I figured no one could feel that horrible and not be dying. I've been hurt bad before, but the times it happened—getting knifed when I was little, once when I got beat up years later, and after that asshole shot me—I was unconscious for the worst of it.

Fuu told me how her father's healer put us back together, and how we drank our medicine and let them change our bandages and all that. I guess my gut was infected, and it took three days of poulticing before a glob of gunpowder got pulled out and the wound finally started to heal. I don't remember any of it. I was just out. Dead to the world until I woke up and found Jin laying there too. I felt like shit for a long time after, but it was something I could handle. I can deal with pain. I don't like it but I know how to work around it.

But this yellow sickness thing...man it was killer. I wasn't out, I was just fucking sick. I had no strength. Every muscle in my body ached. Even my fucking skin hurt. Sometimes it felt like my brain was gonna burst outta my head, it was paining me so bad. I went back and forth between burning up, and such awful chills I couldn't stop shaking no matter how many blankets were on top of me.

I slept a lot, thank god, but I was awake for way too much, just too weak to even open my eyes. Jin and Fuu said I was stuck there flat on my back for over two weeks. I couldn't fucking believe it! That Mother Au bitch told us I could relapse any time for the next few years...not great news. I never want to go through something like that ever again.

Jin was totally there for me, and I was really grateful. Every time I woke up, I heard him in the room or out back, and it helped me not feel so scared. No one's ever given a shit for me like that since my ma, so it mushed me out something awful. Lot's of times I'd wake up in his arms, and that was always nice. He'd pull me onto his chest and hold me for hours, just being quiet the way he does. It was sweet to feel him breathe and listen to his heartbeat, and it really helped me when I was freaking out.

I loved that he would sing at night. It helped the time go by and made it easier to ignore how shitty I felt. One night he sang kid's songs. I didn't know most of them, but he sang a few I actually remembered, and I'm sure that's why I had the dream. I dreamed of my ma that night and it totally blew me away. In the dream she was busy doing something. I came up behind her and pulled on her shirt to get her attention. She turned around to look at me and I saw her face. I had forgotten what she looked like, but there she was in my dream. She was pretty, with brown hair, green eyes and skin darker than mine.

Then a whole bunch of other things I'd forgotten about rushed into my head. I remembered that we lived somewhere nice. I don't think she was a servant, but maybe a concubine for some bigwig. I remembered being teased because she wasn't Ryukyuian, and the other kids calling me a bastard. I'm only guessing though cuz of what they said to me when she died. I don't know what happened. I don't remember her being sick or anything. She'd always disappear at night, but she'd show up every morning and make me something to eat. One morning, some old woman showed up instead.

Your mother's dead, kid. Master's sending you off to his sister on the other side of town. Get your stuff together. We're leaving this afternoon.” I was only five, and didn't get it at first, so I kept bugging her until she lashed out at me. “Look, ya brat. I don't know what happened. Word is she got on the wrong side of Master's wife, and when I look at what'cha got goin' here maybe I believe it. Guess Master don't want no more by-blows hangin' around, specially half-breed brats of brown shits like her.”

I remember attacking her after that and getting beaten for it. They sent me off to live with a family that treated me like shit and I took off within a few months. It was a good thing Jin was out back practicing his kata when I remembered cuz it made me cry, even though I was glad to have my ma's face back in my head again. I've been thinking about it ever since, and I guess she was prolly nabbed and sold into slavery like Cristo. It makes me wonder where she was from and how she got to Ryukyu. Guess I'll never know.

When Jin came in he prolly noticed my red eyes but didn't say anything. He sat next to me and asked what he always asked when he saw me awake. “What can I do for you, Mugen?”

For the longest time, the only answers I had the strength to give him were, “Water,” or “Piss.” Liquid in or out. But that dream did something for me, so I had to ask, cuz he told us his ma died when he was little too.

You remember what your ma looked like, Jin?” I asked. His eyebrows raised, and he looked thoughtful for a little bit.

Not really,” he said. “She was a busy woman, and wasn't particularly interested in me. I remember being told I looked like her though. All my brothers looked like my father. In fact, I believe one of the reasons my father hated me so much was because he was unsure I was his. I overheard an argument before I was sent to the dojo and he said something to that effect. Of course, I had no idea what, 'The way he looks, she sure didn't get him by me,' meant at the time.”

She must've been really beautiful,” I said.

He looked amused. “Thank you, Mugen.”

Did you miss her when she died?” I asked.

His gaze softened, and he sighed. “No, not really. She wasn't a part of my life enough to miss her very much. Why do you ask? Are you thinking about your own mother?”

Had a dream about her last night,” I told him. “I saw her face, and remembered what she looked like. It was really bad when she died. She was a good ma.” I couldn't say any more cuz it felt like I was gonna cry again, so I shut up. He nodded, and didn't press further, but looked at me with the most tender face I've ever seen.

I'm glad you've remembered her,” he said softly. “You're fortunate she was a good mother.” Then he got up to get me something to eat, which let me choke back some more sobs unseen.

So finally I woke up one morning and I wasn't feeling as bad. What a fucking relief! And to make it even better, I got to see Jin and Fuu get it on that night, and even had enough life force in me to get horny. I'd never watched them together from start to finish before, so it was pretty interesting on top of being totally hot. It made me cringe to think of all the shit I gave Jin about being inexperienced with women, cuz he sure knew his way around Fuu.

His style with her is totally different from mine, so it was bizarre to watch thinking, Wow, I would never do that! Fuu is really responsive and I guess I make a game with myself to see how many times I can bring her off. And since what's going on with her is different every time we play, I can't count on what worked last time to work good this time, so it keeps me on my toes.

Jin...he brought her along sweet and slow, the same way he does me, taking her in a few different positions. It made me crazy to watch, cuz I could tell how horny she was getting. This voice in my head kept yelling, Come on, come on! Do it! But man, he didn't. Her body was practically screaming to cum by the time he let her. But, holy shit, she came all over the fucking place when he did. I was impressed. And to top it all off, I got a rare blowjob from him when they were through, and the pleasure of it just about fried my brain.

Maybe that's why I was feeling even better the next morning. When he sat down next to me after his kata, smelling all yummy, there was only one thing I wanted. “Fuck me,” I demanded.

He smiled indulgently, but looked doubtful. “I'll bet you can't even sit up yet.”

So what. I don' t need to sit up, do I?” He laughed a bit and leaned down to kiss me. I had just enough strength to wrap my arms around his shoulders, and pull him closer. He was being so gentle, it was getting on my nerves. “Come on Jin. Stop treating me like I'm gonna break.”

He pulled back and looked exasperated. “Mugen, you almost....” Then he sighed and smiled ruefully. He grabbed one of my hands and held it in front of my face. OK, so it looked pretty skeletal, but so what? “I'm sorry, Mugen,” he continued, “you feel fragile to me.”

But I ain't! Fuck me you lazyass shit,” I ordered. He shook his head, smiling, but stood up and untied himself. Then he took off his glasses and hung them on the side of The Box. There's something about Jin taking off his glasses. My body shudders in anticipation every time he does it. I can tell what's coming by the expression on his face when he turns to me. Sometimes it makes me quail, sometimes it makes me melt, sometimes I know he wants me to throw him down and make him shudder. That morning the look he gave me made my heart do flips.

I'm so grateful you're feeling better,” he said, kissing me as he guided himself inside. I couldn't do much more than lay there, but he fucked me real good. I was getting close, and I could tell he was too, when he leaned down and bit my shoulder. I moaned, afraid it was gonna make me cum. “Ah, Mugen,” he whispered, “I was so afraid I'd never do this again.”

Me too,” I admitted. He stopped thrusting and we just looked at each other for a few moments. His eyes smiled first, and then the rest of his face did. He growled and attacked my neck, sucking up a bruise as I squirmed and hollered, cuz he picked a tickly place. When he was through he nailed me just right, and I came and came. It was like, Hell yeah, I'm fucking alive! Man, it was good. He pounded me a few more times before cumming himself, collapsing on my chest—not putting his full weight on me, I noticed—but I was feeling too sweet and dozy to call him on it. I felt flattered he marked me again before I crashed, thanking whoever was listening for letting me get better...for giving me such good people in my life.

Good people like Jin and Fuu, Fuu, Fuu! It's so great to be loving Fuu again. And even though she still seems stuck on Jin, making it with her is just the best. I hadn't fucked a woman in such a long time, I kinda forgot how much fun it is. Before I got sick I liked to grab her after she was done with training, when she'd come in to take her bath. We had lots of great times together, but the scene I kept thinking about when I was sick was one of the last times we got to play before the fever knocked me on my ass.

We were snuggled up together in the Box. She was on her back and I was on my side curled around her. I was in her, but we weren't fucking, just touching and stuff. I don't know how many times I tried to get her to play with herself while we were fucking and didn't get anywhere but, for some reason, she went there that night. She'd been getting all squirmy cuz I was taking my time, and her hand just wandered down there and it was really exciting to watch. Her face was snuggled into my neck, and I could feel her clenching me inside every time she did something her body liked. Man, it was hot!

Then all of a sudden I noticed Jin standing there. I hadn't heard him come in. It cracks me up how we've all learned to open the front door really slowly and quietly, to not disturb whatever might be happening inside. So he pulled that off, and stared at her with his mouth hanging open. I hoped he wouldn't do anything that might cut her action short, and he didn't. Smart guy. We both watched her fingers stroking and teasing herself, but it was getting really hard to just lay there and let her do it. I took a peek at him and he was kinda panting. He saw me looking and we shared Hot damn! smiles before he started taking his clothes off and foraging for the oil.

She heard him at that point, and turned to look, stopping her activity. He poured some oil in his hand and was standing there with his eyes closed, stroking himself harder. I thought I was gonna die of horniness. I'd seen him do that only a few times before, so I couldn't believe my good luck—first one lover getting herself off and then the other! I peeked down at her and she was watching him, looking as hungry as me. He seemed oblivious to us for a while and then he came back to himself, looked up, and blushed when he realized we were both staring.

He cleared his throat, smiling sheepishly, and knelt next to The Box to kiss her. His hand traced down her belly and I could only stare in wonder as his fingers danced on her clit and he brought her off just like that! God, the way it felt as she came, hugging me inside...it was so amazing. I was closer to cumming than I wanted to be, hanging right near the edge. It wasn't going to take much to push me over. After Fuu quieted, he broke their kiss and laid one on me, his hand grabbing my hair, making me all melted and useless. I pushed him away to catch my breath and steady myself, cuz I knew what was coming.

Sure enough, he climbed into The Box and snuggled behind me. I could feel him sliding up the crack of my ass, so I reached back and put him in place. He speared me neatly and began to slowly thrust, and I couldn't stop moaning.

Mu Shu Mugen,” Fuu giggled, and Jin laughed too.

Uhhhhhhh,” was all I could manage.

I turned her in my arms so all three of us were spooned together, and just blissed out. Man, it was so sweet! I had one hand at her breast and the other between her legs, sucking like a vampire on the back of her neck as Jin stroked me into heaven. I didn't have to do anything but lay there. He pushed me into her as he thrust into me, and it was so goddamn good I knew I was gonna cum way sooner than I wanted to. There was no way I could hold it back, specially after Fuu popped off another, and bucked against me so hot my body exploded. Jin took a little longer, his teeth embedded in my shoulder. I just held onto Fuu for dear life and got off on every growl and gasp till he came himself.

The three of us actually fell asleep that way, and I loved feeling so happy and warm and safe. It was one of the best sexual experiences of my life, and the memories of it will prolly make me hard till I keel over dead one day.

So yeah, once I started feeling better I had fun remembering all the hot stuff we'd done before I got sick. That was a really good thing, and helped the time go by faster while I was still stuck in bed. Jin and Fuu must've put the word out that I was through the worst of it, cuz folks started coming by to say hi and see how I was doing. I was surprised. I guess I never thought anyone would give a shit, 'specially since I hadn't been around that long.

Wei-san started first. He'd come in and keep an eye on me while Jin and Fuu were training. I knew he'd done it even while I was super sick, barely able to open my eyes and acknowledge him, and I was really grateful. I'm usually pretty sleepy in the morning and early afternoon but, night owl that I am, by the late afternoon and evening I was always awake even if I wished I wasn't.

Wei-san tells the best stories, and he really helped occupy my mind and kept me from noticing how shitty I felt. He had lots of great tales to share—some of them I remembered from when I was a kid, but most I'd never heard before. Stuff with warriors on quests, battling demons and fighting in wars, and other good shit like that. I really liked Wei-san, specially since he was one of the few who never copped any attitude when I first showed up. He told me, “If you're a friend of Wakana-kun's you're a friend of mine.” And he obviously meant it. As I got better and had enough strength to talk to him, we had some good conversations. He'd been a soldier when he was my age, and started telling me stories about his own life once he ran out of old tales to share. It was great.

Jin pried my nighttime routine outta me early on so he could go tell my various employers what was up with me. A few of them even stopped by, which blew me away. I always had fun joking around with them while I was hanging at their bar or whatever, but I never thought any of them would care enough to see how I was doing.

When ya gettin' off yer lazy ass and comin' back to work?” Yuan-san asked. He was the owner of one of the gambling dens I always stopped at. It was a rough place, with lots of sharks, so folks were always getting in fights.

I'm trying, man, I'm trying,” I said. “You still keeping an eye out for me? Anything I should know about?” I expected we'd be hunted, and had asked my little network of friends and employers to let me know if anyone came looking for Jin or me.

He shook his head. “Nope,” he told me. “No one I seen myself or heard of from anyone else. You gonna tell me one day what'cha so worried about?”

I smiled, but shook my head and pointed at my tattoos. “Nah,” I replied. “Whatever your imagination comes up with will be better anyway.” He laughed and told me he'd be glad to see me back whenever I showed up.

I got pestered by my posse too—the dudes who were always following me around trying to turn me into their shinshi. What a fucking joke! They were mostly a bunch of jerks, just like I was when I was their age. But, hey, they were always good company, so I didn't complain too much.

But then I got my ass in trouble. I was laying there one day, listening to folks start to gather for Jin's class, and someone knocked on the door. I couldn't believe it when Dohzu walked in. She came over and stood next to The Box, smiling. “Mugen-sai, I heard you were really sick,” she said. “I'm so glad you're feeling better. I've missed you all these months.”

You have?” I asked. I wondered if she meant she missed me or the money she got outta me, which was a lot. I'd had a fair number of girls around town when I first got back, but once I found her I stuck to her, which was unusual for me. She's the prettiest whore I ever met in my life. Whores are usually average-looking at best but mostly worse (which is why I shoulda known that Yatsuha bitch wasn't a whore, cuz she was way too pretty). Anyway, on top of being super beautiful—native Ryukyuian with really long dark brown hair and fair skin—Dohzu is also one of the best cocksuckers I've ever met, so I asked for her every night until I found Jin and Fuu.

We kinda got to know each other a bit, 'specially after I moved into the brothel she worked at. She'd stick her nose in my room in between tricks before I went out at night, and we'd chat some. She'd ended up whoring for the typical reasons, parents dead and no one else to take care of her. She coulda chosen anywhere to work, but she said she picked The Pink Pillow cuz Aya was nice and didn't take too big a cut of her income.

I have missed you,” she pouted. “Even after you moved out, I still thought I'd see you, but you never came by. Why not? Did I do something to piss you off?”

I was surprised. It actually sounded like she missed me and not the money! “Zu-chai, Jin never leaves me with enough juice to come play with you,” I told her. “What can I say? It's as simple as that.”

Her eyes got big and she looked surprised. “You mean you're really lovers with Shinshi?” she asked. I nodded and she looked even more surprised. “But how can that be when you're so...well...studly? You kinda made a name for yourself around town, you know. Some of the other girls were jealous you started seeing me exclusive-like.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “For me it's about the person inside the skin. I could care less about the sex of the body involved,” I told her.

She still didn't look convinced. “But you don't act like the men I've known who go for other men,” she protested. “You know, the ones who act...swishy.”

Jin doesn't act that way either, does he?” I asked, and she shook her head.

What about that time you...” she blushed and looked down, “...well you know....”

I knew. One night I'd been feeling so lonely, I jumped her after she got me off. She looked so pretty and smelled so good, I couldn't help myself. I went down on her, kinda imagining it was Fuu even though Dohzu was built different and her scent was wrong. It was still fun and she came really hard, which made me feel great. It was the first time I ever did that with a whore, and prolly the last, too, but I don't regret it.

You were yummy, Zu-chai,” I admitted. “But like I said, Jin's been number one for over a year now, and once I found him again...well....”

She sighed. “I can't say it makes me happy,” she said. “But I'm glad you didn't disappear cuz you were mad at me.”

Nah, never mad,” I assured her. “You were the greatest.” She smiled and walked over to peek out the front window. I could hear the class going strong outside and wondered why she wasn't training with the rest of them. But when she came back to The Box and sat down next to me, I kinda got a clue.

Mu-chai,” she whispered. “Let me do you again. For free even. Wouldn't you like that?”

Oh shit! I put up a protest, I swear to god I did, but she wouldn't take no for an answer. She leaned down and lay her head on my chest and I could smell her perfume. My body remembered, and I started waking up under the blanket...the blanket I was naked under, by the way. She started pulling it down, and even though I grabbed it and tried to stop her, she was stronger and won.

Oh, poor you!” she cried out. “You're nothing but skin and bones.” She kissed her way down my stomach and I didn't know what to do. I suppose I coulda slugged her or something, but a horny part of me kept saying, Just let her. She wants to. Who's gonna know? It was really flattering, which made it hard to think straight. I never had such a pretty woman chasing after me before, so how could I resist? I let her do her thing and it was all kinds of good...until she was done and I freaked out. She was so pleased with herself she didn't even notice.

You're so lucky,” she purred, snuggling into my belly as I got my senses back. “Some day you'll have to tell me what Shinshi's like to be with.” I remembered that's how I found Jin in the first place—following Dohzu to class cuz she could 'look at him all day.'

After a while she sighed and raised her head. “I guess I should sneak out the back door,” she whispered. “If I show up in class now, everyone will notice.”

No shit. I could only nod in agreement as she pulled the blanket back up to my chin and pecked me on the cheek. She breezed out leaving me there to kick myself in the ass, wondering what, if anything, I should say to Jin and Fuu. It was wasted energy to worry, as it turned out. Fuu came in after class was done and started getting things together for her bath. When she was through she sat next to me.

Is there anything I can do for you, Mugen?” she asked. “Are you hungry?” I opened my mouth to respond when she began to frown. Inhaling deeply, she gave me a sharp glance. “Why do I smell Dohzu?” she asked.

I stammered something, clutching the blanket at my neck like a shield. I swear, the girl has a better sense of smell than a goddamn dog. She flipped the other edge of the blanket up and stuck her nose right in my pubes. Raising her head, she gave me the iciest look I've ever seen. I kinda quailed under it, but before I could defend myself she smacked me across the face and stomped out the door. I just stared after her open-mouthed, rubbing my cheek. Damn! If Fuu knew so easily, so would Jin. Damn!

Waiting for him to come home from the bath house was the longest wait of my life. I didn't think he'd be as pissed as Fuu, but I wasn't sure. Of course, the first thing he did when he showed up was ask where she was.

I pissed her off, and she split,” I admitted.

His eyebrows arched and he came over and sat next to me. When he saw my face, his eyes got really big. “She hit you?” he asked, surprised. I nodded, waiting, and before long he laughed. “Ah! Dohzu has been here,” he noted. I nodded again, wondering how I could have been so stupid not to realize her perfume would stick all over me. She always wore too much. He laughed a bit more and then sighed. “Oh Mugen. Please don't tell me....”

She attacked me,” I interrupted. “I said no. I really did. Honest to god. What could I do, punch her out? I ain't too strong at the moment, you know.”

Fuu dislikes Dohzu,” he said. “Of all the women....” He trailed off, shaking his head.

Does Fuu know she's a whore?” I asked. “Maybe if she knew how me and Dohzu got together in the first place she wouldn't be so hurt. Will you tell her for me?”

I don't know, Mugen,” he replied. “I believe that's a conversation you should have with her, but I'll consider it. And I must ask, is this a relationship you intend to continue?”

It's like I said, Jin. She walked in and jumped me. I didn't fight her off too hard, I admit, but I ain't looking her way. There ain't no relationship. Honest!”

I was so fucking relieved he was listening to me and not stomping off like Fuu, it was almost too much to hope he'd believe me, but he seemed to. He leaned down and kissed me, and I grabbed his head and didn't let him go for a while.

I'll try and help Fuu get over her snit,” he said, after he untangled himself from my arms. “But if it ever happens again, you're on your own.”

It won't. I promise,” I said sincerely.

He nodded and looked thoughtful, then he smiled. “By the way. Mother Au will be by later to check on you,” he said. “Perhaps you can stop taking the medicine, now that you're feeling better.”

I snorted. “I'm amazed she didn't poison me,” I declared.

He looked at me as if I was nuts. “Mugen, Mother Au saved your life!”

“Yeah, yeah,” I grumbled, realizing I should shut my mouth. Geez. How could I go from feeling all contrite and bad that I made Fuu jealous and then turn right around and feel the same way?

Mother Au, The Witch. I was hoping I was wrong about her, but when she showed up, I knew for sure. She was into Jin. She acted all professional, and poked me and did all those healer kinds of things, but I could tell by how she looked at him that she had the hots for him something bad. I sighed. I've been dealing with shit like this for a long time, and it sure gets tiresome.

Jin is the most beautiful man I've ever seen, let alone got together with. I've never been with anyone, male or female, as perfect-looking as him, so it's a good thing he's totally clueless about himself. Usually guys that handsome are stuck up, but he ain't at all. If anything, he's kinda down on himself.

He's got no sense of his impact on other people, thank god. I saw it almost from the beginning. We'd be trudging along and the heads would turn. Men. Women. He walked by and people stared and drooled. He never noticed or paid attention. It kinda blew me away, but once we became lovers I was really glad.

Being Jin's lover always makes me think of that old saying, If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife. I never understood what the hell that saying meant until we hooked up. Having a lover as beautiful as Jin means I've got a lover everyone gets horny for. Wherever we are, he's the one who gets all the attention. It really sucks sometimes. I'll bet that half his students show up every day just to look at him. He could prolly stand up there and do nothing but pick his nose and they'd still show up.

My last relationship with Ku was pretty nice. I was totally hot for him. He was mostly sane, a great fighter, and was always there for our captain. I looked up to him and felt flattered when he turned to me. He was a hunk of a guy, but he wasn't good looking by any means. I ain't nothing to write home about either, so I never expected someone like Jin would ever be interested in me. But since he was...well, let's just say I protect what's mine.

So watching The Witch sneak glances at him kinda pissed me off. One last straw and all. I felt threatened by her more than the others, maybe cuz she's really pretty, and older—which I know he has a thing for. I could tell he enjoyed her company and liked talking healer stuff with her. She was sending her oldest boy for training every evening, which was another connection they had that bugged the shit outta me. And, to top it off, I could tell she didn't like me too much.

I noticed it the first time she showed up after I started feeling better a week or so ago. It was the first time I really remember having any interaction with her. Even though I knew she'd been over to see me before, I'd been too wiped to open my eyes and check her out. So she came by and what I saw didn't make me happy. The way she talked to Jin...I just had this feeling. OK, she likes him, surprise, surprise. So does everyone.

Then, examining me, as she looked in my eyes and my mouth, her gaze swept downward I saw her notice the bite mark and the bruise Jin put on me the night before. Her eyes widened, and we looked at each other. I don't know what kind of face I had on, but I was thinking, That's right bitch, he did it. He's mine and you ain't getting any. Her eyes narrowed for a second—if looks could kill, don'cha know—and then she blushed and quickly looked away. My guess is that she heard me just fine.

Yeah, The Witch didn't like me too much, but she finally took me off the Torture Tea so I suppose I should be grateful for that. Although I'll miss my battles with Jin over it, and maybe he will too. It was the most fun I had all day there for a while.

So guess who ignored me for a whole week? Fuu. I finally got sick of it and cornered her. She was all huffy and didn't want to listen, but I made her. “I'm sorry Fuu,” I began. “Didn't Jin tell you? Dohzu's a whore I knew before I found you guys. She attacked me and I wasn't in a position to fight her off. Can't you forgive me? It won't happen again, I promise.”

She eyed me warily for a few moments, and then sighed. “I suppose I shouldn't be mad at you for getting attacked, considering it happened to me too,” she said.

You mean that Yunta girl?” I asked. She nodded, and got all blushy and weird, so I knew right away something was going on. “Hey...so what's up with you two anyway? You've been skipping training more than you used to.” Well, Fuu can't lie for shit. Her face said everything, and my heart kinda sank. Damn! There was something going on.

Nothing's up with us, Mugen,” she insisted. “And don't try to change the subject. I'm still mad at you. Am I supposed to forgive you every time a woman throws herself at you?”

You see a line of women anywhere waiting to do that, Fuu?” I asked. “You just hate Dohzu cuz she's got the hots for Jin, just like that Au bitch.”

Her eyes popped and her mouth opened. “Mother Au likes Jin?” she asked in a tiny voice.

Yup, she sure as hell does. And I think he likes her too, for what it's worth.” Maybe that wasn't totally true, but it came out of my mouth and I wasn't gonna take it back. I wasn't above doing what it took to get back in her good graces again.

He does?” she asked in a tinier voice.

Yup. He's got a thing for older women, you know,” I told her. She looked so deflated, I felt kinda bad, but it obviously took her mind off of how pissed she was at me, so I wasn't gonna worry about it too much.

So we gotta stick together, OK?” I insisted. “Dohzu ain't a threat. Jin doesn't think twice about her, I can tell. But The Witch....”

She actually giggled, I was relieved to see. “Mugen, Mother Au saved your life. You shouldn't call her names like that, but....” I took advantage of her turn of mood and kissed her. By the time I let her go, I knew we were gonna be OK again. Whew!

It was about a month from the time the fever knocked me down until I felt well enough to get back to my regular life again. It was September by then, and I wondered if anyone from the Brightness was gonna show up. I figured they'd put into Ryukyu some time in October, so I was pretty excited about it. Plus, it was really great to be out of the fucking house and back on my feet again.

But the first night I showed up at one of my usual haunts I got some bad news. Someone was shopping a wanted poster around that kinda looked like Jin. It took a few more nights of haunting where he'd shown up before we ended up in the same place and someone could point him out to me. He was a skinny, weaselly kinda guy, so I hated him right off.

I heard you're looking for someone,” I said, walking up to him. “Maybe I can help you out. There a reward?”

He eyed me suspiciously, but nodded. “Damn straight there is. What'cha know?”

I snorted. “I ain't saying nothing until you show me some proof,” I said. “How do I know you're not just chasing after the guy who screwed your wife?” He sputtered and reached inside his shirt, when I grabbed him and dragged him outside. “Not here, asshole. Show me somewhere private.” He bought that, and followed me to the alley out back.

He unrolled a piece of paper and I was glad I could read enough to know what it said. There was a rough sketch of Jin on it, not too accurately drawn and no glasses either, thank god. The poster said, Takeda Katsuyori, Wanted For Murder. The reward was 30 ryu! Wow, not bad. No wonder the bounty hunters were out.

Murder, huh? Who'd he kill?” I asked him.

He shrugged his shoulders. “Some poohbah in the Jap government is what I heard. Who cares? Ya know somethin' or what?”

Yeah, I know something,” I baited him. “But I don't think I'm gonna tell you after all. That's a nice reward. I think I'll turn him in myself.” He got really pissed, I was happy to see. Dudes who have no self-control are easier to fight. I wasn't feeling all that strong, but I was ready.

And then he pulled a fucking gun on me! Damn! I didn't expect it, so I reacted before I even had time to think, practically slicing his head off. Ooops. It had been a long time since I killed anyone, so it made me feel kinda sick and creepy. I rifled through his clothes, taking the money he had on him, as well as the poster and the gun. One less dude hunting for Jin, but I knew there'd be more. It wasn't like Jin was keeping a low profile around here, with his class and all.

I decided I'd worked enough for the night and headed back home. I needed time to think. It was clear Ryukyu wasn't gonna be safe for us much longer, and that made me sad. I liked our life here.

When I got home I walked into Fuu's room and watched her sleep for a little while. Then I knelt down by her bed and kissed her on the cheek. Jin was curled up on his futon in the main room, and I decided I needed to sleep with him, so I stripped and snuggled up behind him the way I always used to do. He settled back into me with a quiet sigh. It felt so sweet, I wondered why I stopped doing it.

The last thought I remember before I crashed was, You'll get him over my dead body.