Wanderings, IV
by Laura Bryannan

Life at sea is pretty dull. At least, you hope it will be if you’re a sailor. You want good weather, good crewmates and a good captain, and I had all that aboard the Brightness. It was the first time I had ever been part of a crew that got paid in money instead of in stolen loot, so it was the first time I had crewmates who were mostly normal. They were from all over the damn place—China and the Ryukyus, although a few were Japanese and a few were these amazing looking dudes from the islands south of China.

Captain Nunes was from a place called Portugal, and so was his Number One, who turned out to be his younger brother. His cousin was also part of the crew, but wasn’t on this part of the journey. He was in Canton, which was the captain’s home base, and we were gonna pick him up on the way to Saigon.

Because of my health, I got stuck with a lot of shit jobs, and spent most of my time the first few months in the galley helping Shii, the cook. It wasn’t exciting, but I wasn’t up to hoisting and lugging and most of the other jobs that needed doing. I got to know the other men over time, and even made a few friends. We would sail and there’d be nothing but sky and water for days, and then we’d put to port and have a little fun before the boredom would begin again.

The captain and his brother were easygoing men who didn’t put on airs, but still kept discipline on the ship tight. When things are good with the brass, things are good with the crew and that was the case here. The men obviously liked the captain and he obviously liked them. Most had been with him for over a decade, so I figured that was a good sign.

So a lot of the time things were pretty dull and I won’t talk about that. What I will talk about is that I had the captain’s eye. Right from the start I could tell he was into me, so that was really cool. And since I thought he was the most amazing hunk of a man I’d laid eyes on in a long time, I was very flattered by his attention. He would make his rounds and come talk a bit while we were chopping and peeling and stuff, so I learned a little more about him.

He was thirty-eight, so my guess about his age wasn’t too far off. He said he left his country—which was way the fuck away in Europe somewhere—when he was ten years old. His older cousin had a position on a trading ship and got him and his brother on board as cabin boys, and they never looked back. Eventually they settled in Canton and set up their own business, which became a successful import and export venture. He had a Chinese wife and six children there.

Seems I spend just enough time with her to make another baby, and then I set sail again,” he laughed. “So, how about you, Mugen? Do you have a woman waiting for you at home somewhere?”

Uh…something like that.” It was what I hoped anyway, so it wasn’t really a lie. OK, so it was a lie, but the situation with me and Jin and Fuu was way too complicated to start talking about it with someone like him, so I didn’t. He nodded with one eyebrow raised, complimented Shii on dinner the night before and took off. It was good I was always busy when he showed up, cuz otherwise I would have just stood there staring with my mouth hanging open in awe. He was so fucking perfect it scared me to death.

I asked the guys I knew what was up with him. Everybody was pretty sure he was fucking Cristo, one of the cabin boys. Now if that was the case, I couldn’t fault him on his taste. Cristo was like no other human I had ever seen before. His hair was gold. It was really gold colored. In the sun it looked almost white. And he was really pretty too, just like a girl, but a little young to my mind. He was eleven, they said, and had been with the captain for many years. So I didn’t know what to make of that, if it was true. It didn’t really fit with what I could tell about him, but hey, whatever….

And there was no denying that Cristo followed him around like a puppy. It was pretty funny to see. I never saw Captain Nunes do anything even remotely lewd to him, though. Not one grope or grab. And he was a hands-on man with his crew, so it wasn’t like he kept himself apart. He’d thump you on the back when he was happy with you, and smack you upside the head when he wasn’t. He treated Cristo the same way he treated everyone, so I wasn’t ready to believe the rumors yet.

And as for his attention to me, well it was about as subtle as you could get, and I really liked that. The first time I noticed I hadn’t been on board too long. We were in port and he had given everyone but a skeleton crew shore leave. I wasn’t in shape to go whoring, and I didn’t feel like drinking, so I was just sitting on the deck staring out at the ocean. After a few hours he came back. I noticed he did his share of drinking and whoring, but I never saw him drunk or out of control. Anyway, he sat down next to me and offered the bottle he was holding. I reached for it, and saw his eyes widen as he noticed the scar on my arm.

Well Mugen, of all the seven virtues, I’m very surprised that’s the one you chose to carve into your arm.” He smiled.

Virtues?” I had no idea what he was talking about.

He gave me this confused, amused look. “Yes, the Seven Virtues of the Samurai. The Code of Bushido. Gi, honesty and justice; Yu, heroic courage; Rei, polite courtesy; Meyo, honor; Makoto, complete sincerity; Chugo, duty and loyalty; and…Jin, compassion. Somehow, you seem more of a Yu kind of man to me.”

He was still smiling, but looking at me in this way that made it clear he was going to find out about it so I might as well talk and get it over with. I took a swig, but only a small one. That brandy shit he liked to drink took some getting used to. “Um…well…it’s a name. A blood brother, I guess you could say.” That was true enough.

He nodded. “So he was samurai then?”

I couldn’t figure out how he knew so fucking much. It was kinda freaky. “Ronin by the time I met him,” I answered. “He was my partner on my last job, escorting a girl across Japan to go see her father.” He accepted that, and looked impressed. I was relieved.

And yet you’re here, sailing to Saigon on the Brightness,” he said quietly, looking at me in that way again. I couldn’t keep from answering.

It’s easy to look back now and see how I should’ve done things different. Things I should have said, but didn’t.” I looked him in the eye and shrugged my shoulders. “I haven’t figured out what happened yet.”

He smiled at me and nodded. “Well, I know what it’s like to miss someone you love.” He reached for the brandy, and I took one more swig before handing it back to him. He grabbed my shoulder and squeezed it for a second as he stood up, then let go as he turned to leave. “If you’re ever lonely, my friend, stop by my quarters and say hello.” He walked away, not waiting for any response from me...just so fucking cool I was totally impressed!

And so it began. This subtle flirting we did with each other. I loved it. I wanted him to like me. I needed him to be proud of me. I wanted all this good stuff from him but I didn’t want to put out to get it. It was so fucking weird, I couldn’t understand myself. I mean, normally I would have jumped the guy that night we talked about my cutting. I would have made it totally clear I was interested—which I was—and that I was available. So why didn’t I? I wasn’t sure. I just knew I didn’t want anything to change in my relationship with him. I didn’t want to wreck things by letting him have me.

It was all Jin’s fault. Whatever I was before he got hold of me, I wasn’t anymore. I wanted Captain Nunes, no doubt about it, but I didn’t want him too. I didn’t want him the way I used to want the men I was attracted to in the past, so I didn’t know what to do with my fucked up head. I definitely got off on how he was into me and didn’t want that attention to stop. It made me feel really good about myself.

But even though part of me believed if I didn’t start putting out soon he’d turn away, I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t just cuz it felt disloyal to Jin and Fuu. It was because I didn’t feel like a uke anymore. At least, not the kind of uke I had been raised to be before me and Jin had our big fight that night.

The first time I fucked Jin it felt like a fluke. I was so damn horny when he asked me to I didn’t put up a fight. Plus, I honestly didn’t think he’d manage it to get me inside him, so in my lustful haze I just lay back and figured he’d give up and life would go back to normal. Well, he did manage it, and that was the beginning of the end for my poor uke brain.

Fucking him was so amazingly good. It was really sweet. It made me feel stuff I never felt before and I think my heart broke. And if it wasn’t my heart that broke, something sure as hell did! That day I remember crashing with him after we were done and feeling on top of the world. When we woke up, we walked into town, picked up Fuu from her job and got something to eat. We all had a nice time together. I was happy.

But when I woke up the next morning I remembered my promise to him and started to feel scared. I spent the entire day freaking out about what happened. I couldn’t believe I cried in his arms, for one thing. How fucking humiliating! When Fuu left for dinner that evening there he was, wanting me to do it to him again and I just couldn’t. All I knew was that I felt terrified about it. It felt like something really, really bad would happen to me if I did—like a divine axe would come out of the sky and split my head open or something. It felt totally wrong. It was breaking rules I shouldn’t break.

Plus, on top of all that, I honestly couldn’t believe he really wanted me inside him again. I couldn’t believe any sane guy would want me inside him, so it felt like he was running this perverse head-trip on me, or something. So I refused, and I really meant it too. I just wasn’t gonna do it. If he hadn’t forced me, I would still be the same me I’ve always been, so I’m grateful now but I sure wasn’t at the time.

I told him he had to make me fuck him and he did, goddammit. I was so pissed when he cheated me out of that fight cuz I was sure I was gonna win. I was more pissed at him than I’d ever been—at least, until Sara came along, anyway.

I can see now, after having all this time to mull it over, that to fuck him was challenging everything I knew about myself. It didn’t fit anything I’d been shown about myself, or anything I believed about myself. It had been drummed into my head since I was a kid that it was my job to get fucked, not to do the fucking, and I accepted that. I learned how to be really good at it. I was proud of what I could do and knew I could wrap any guy I wanted around my little finger if I could only get my mouth on him. That Jin wanted something more from me felt like a rejection, I think. But at the time, all I knew was that I was scared to fucking death!

So that second time began really horrible. I’m still amazed I was hard considering how pissed and terrified I was. I’m glad my body knew better. He got me inside him while I lay there being totally freaked out. I’m sure he knew it. I didn’t try to hide how I felt, but it didn’t stop him. Once he started to move on me, though, the fear I was feeling began to ease. He was obviously getting off on what he was doing, I could tell. At first I just listened, blown away by how it felt to have him ride me like that, and by the quiet sighs he let out.

Then I got up the guts to peek at him and he looked so fucking hot. I’d never seen such a lusty expression on his face before. His eyes were closed, his mouth was open, and he was making these little moany, growly sounds as he slid me in and out. It was pretty hard to tell myself he wasn’t into it when I could see he really was. It was amazing! The longer he danced on me, the less scared I felt, and I was finally able to shove all that bullshit aside and be there with him. It was such a fucking relief.

And as for the rest of that night…well it was mind-blowingly awesome. Jin doesn’t think he’s intuitive, but he sure reads me like a book. If he had been too mushy, if he had been too soft, I couldn’t have dealt with it. I needed him to prove he wasn’t going uke on me, and he showed me that very well. So when I finally made him cum it felt so perfect I thought my heart was gonna burst. And, hey, I was still alive! I fucked him! I broke the rules and I was still there, and my love was kissing me and it was really good and really hot.

But the next morning I was freaking out again. Even though thinking about the night before made me totally horny, in the light of day it felt like I shouldn’t have done it. We didn’t have a chance to get together at all that day, so I was relieved. As usual, he and Fuu went to sleep before me so I thought he was gonna let me off the hook.

But when I came to bed and slid under the blanket I got the shock of my life. He was naked! Holy shit! He always wore his juban to bed, so that was just not playing fair at all. It’s a strange thing to feel horny and afraid at the same time, but I was getting lots of practice at it by that point. He stirred when he felt me next to him, turned on his back and pulled me into a kiss. We made out and groped each other until I kinda calmed down some, then he rolled over and got up on his knees with his head resting on his arms.

Do me like this tonight, all right?” he whispered. I just lay there, trying to get my shit together. It’s OK, it’s OK, I kept telling myself. He wants it, you can do it. “Please, Mugen.” He looked at me and reached for my hand, pulling me toward him. I sat up, slid out of my pants and shirt, and asked where the oil was. He had it on the other side of him and handed it to me. I slicked myself up and knelt behind him, still not really believing I was gonna do it again. I got in as far as I could, which wasn’t that far, and stopped.

Back into me, K? I’m afraid to push too hard,” I said. He did. In half the time it took him the night before I was inside him again. It made my head swim, it felt so good. I started to thrust, and almost immediately he was moaning in a way I’d never heard him before, so I got worried. The fear in my heart started lurking around the edges again. “Are you OK? Should I ease up?” I asked, slowing down my pace a bunch.

Gods no. Don’t stop,” he begged. I stepped things back up and he let out more of those deep, throaty moans. It sounded so hot! “It feels so different this way,” he sighed. “My guuhhhhh….”

I could see him biting his knuckle and that just did something for me. I stopped feeling scared and started to feel…powerful. The sense of strength I felt was really surprising and new to me, but I liked it. I liked that he put himself in my hands—that he trusted me enough to let me do this to him. Plus, it felt so goddamn good! He was pushing back into me so I knew he was doing OK. It felt amazing to be so deep inside him like that.

I reached around to stroke him and he started to buck against me pretty wildly, which was not like him at all. I’d never seen him so out of control of his body before, and it sure was a turn-on. I’m doing this to him! I thought to myself. I’m making him feel this good. It was great, and I really loved it. Didn’t do shit for my staying power though. I thought I’d end up cumming before he did, but then he let go, his body writhing so much I had to hold him with my left arm so I didn’t lose him. It was so totally hot it made me cum too.

I couldn’t believe I took him like that, and it was all good and no bad. It looked like I got away with it again. Lightning didn’t strike me dead when I came inside him. I didn’t want to let him go that night, I was feeling too sweet. So we flopped over on our sides, still connected, and I crashed before his body pushed me out.

The next night the same thing happened. I got into bed and he was naked. I was kinda ready for it this time, so it didn’t freak me out so much, and was even naked myself. I snuggled up and hugged him and he pushed back against me with a sleepy sigh.

Mmmmuuugennnnnn,” he breathed, and I melted. There’s this way he says my name sometimes that sounds like the most lustful moan I’ve ever heard. When he calls me like that, I’m a goner. He turned to me, hooked his leg around my waist, and pulled me on top of him. I lay on his chest with my head on his shoulder. “This way tonight, all right?”

I froze and started to panic again. I could tell he knew because he started petting me, scratching my back in long strokes like he used to do when we first became lovers. It helped, but I was still freaking out. The creepy sense that something really bad was gonna happen came back. If I did that—if I fucked him face to face like a woman—it would mean certain doom. So I tried to pay attention to how sweet his petting felt, and ignore all the shit churning around in my chest, but it was hard.

I had just turned fifteen when Master Enshirou called me to him the first time,” he said quietly, still stroking me. All of a sudden he had my full attention. There was something about the tone of his voice that gave me chills. “I was so happy and flattered. I knew what to expect—what it meant when he asked if I would be ototo to him. Of course I said yes, and looked forward to our first time together with much excitement. Well, let’s just say I came away from that experience very confused. He didn’t want me the way he was supposed to want me. He only wanted my mouth. It was something certainly done, of course, but never spoken of. Something taboo.

At first I thought it was because of my age, and that he would want me properly as I got older, but he never did. He never loved me that way. No one at the dojo would ever have believed I walked out of there a virgin after being his for so many years. I had never even heard of another boy in my situation—with an onii-san who only wanted to take him orally—so that made my mortification and shame even worse. Of course, I felt it was my fault. I felt there was something wrong with me, and that’s what made him behave that way. And since he meant so much to me, it felt like the worst rejection you could imagine.

Practically every day I’d be faced with it, as he asked me to do that forbidden thing and never offrerd me anything in return. I would have given him my body any time he asked me to. I wanted him to want me that way, and was deeply hurt that he didn’t.” He took a deep breath and so did I. I knew why he was saying it to me, and it really did help. I wasn’t feeling anywhere near as scared anymore. I was feeling kinda sad for him. He stopped stroking and hugged me instead.

But now, you see, I’m so glad life contrived to keep him out of me. I’m glad I was a virgin when we met and proud you were the first man to take me. I want you to know how much I need you to do this. I need you to want me like this. I can tell you’re struggling with your own demons about it, and I want you to know how much I appreciate it. I’m grateful you’re willing to be so brave and face them for me.

All of this…it’s working for me because it’s you. I want to know it’s you. I want to see you do it to me.” He grabbed my shoulders and pushed me back so we could look at each other, and kinda ground himself into my belly a bit. I slid up so that we could grind into each other and kiss too. After a while I came up for air, and he smiled. “Fuck me like this tonight, all right?” I decided I would.

I kissed him again, then got a nice tight hold of his arms before I attacked his right nip. He groaned and thrashed, but he wasn’t going anywhere so I got to have some fun. He called me names in between his gasps and demanded that I stop, but I didn’t until I felt like it. Wandering lower, I tongued his belly button and he hollered and threatened me with immediate death. I just laughed. It was so much fun to tickle him.

But then I took him in my mouth and did my thing for a while. I didn’t have to hold him down anymore after that. He lay there moaning happily, and that made me feel great. I let him go after a while and wandered even lower, dipping my tongue in between his cheeks, waiting for the protest that always comes. He didn’t disappoint.

Mugen, don’t! Not there. Ohhhhhhh….” I held on tight so he couldn’t squirm away and got off on the sounds he made. Every time I did that he turned to mush, it was always so yummy. By the time I reached for the oil he was pretty melted—eyes closed, looking all beautiful without a hint of a frown on his face. I took my time easing myself inside him, but it didn’t take too long.

About halfway there I could feel him watching, so I looked back and he smiled his damn-you’re-hot smile at me. I just shook my head in disbelief and amazement, as I felt his legs pulling me even closer. I started moving nice and slow, and it was feeling really good. We were still watching each other, so I could see the idea hit him when it flashed across his face.

Wait,” he whispered. “Let me put my legs over your shoulders.” I shuddered. He just kept pushing me and pushing me. I stopped thrusting for a moment and helped him readjust himself.

You know,” I warned. “I’ve never done this before, so don’t expect much in the way of technique here.” He smiled that smoky smile at me again and I stopped worrying. I guess that’s why they call it ‘doing what comes naturally.’ It was luscious to fuck him like that! I tried to last as long as I could, but when I felt myself getting close I started to stroke him. He moaned his approval and I really let him have it. It was so fucking hot I barely outlasted him, but luckily I did. I came within seconds of him and my heart just lost it. He lowered his legs, I collapsed on his chest and he hugged me close.

You’re so goddamn amazing, I don’t know how I can stand it,” I said after I got my breath back some. “Thanks for letting me do this. For showing me I’m more than I thought I was.”

Thank you for wanting me so much,” he replied. “It feels…healing for me. You’re the best lover I have ever known, and I care...” He cleared his throat. “…very much. I’m grateful you’ve been my teacher in this.” It was the biggest compliment he’d ever given me, so it sure mushed me out. I lifted my head and kissed him for a while, but I could tell we were both losing it.

I woke up the next morning still tangled up with him the way we fell asleep. Usually I move around so much at night I end up somewhere else, but not that night. He was already awake, of course, waiting for me. It was so sweet to wake up with him like that, we had to pull a quickie before we got out of bed. Good thing Fuu was already gone so we could.

And that’s how Jin walked me through my fears about letting go of my uke self. He had to force me that first time and seduce me into the rest, but thank god he did! Every night he came after me, and every night I got to fuck him and survive. Nothing bad happened. Lightening never split my head open. Every night it got a little easier, and I got over feeling scared sooner.

He made me see how much he really needed me to be that for him—to be onii-san in the way his master refused to be. I couldn’t have done it without his help, cuz the uke stuff went way too deep in me. Even with someone I wanted as much as Jin it was still really hard at first, and I put him through a lot before I finally got it into my thick skull that it was OK to fuck him. And, even better, I finally started to get it that he really wanted me to do it. I guess I hadn’t understood what being a virgin meant to him before he told me his story. It made me really glad Jin killed the bastard for what he put him through all those years.

So he pushed me and pushed me until it became no big deal to fuck him. Well, that didn’t sound right. It was always a big deal to fuck him, but it seemed natural to do it after a while. I didn’t get scared anymore. In fact, I felt the opposite, and thought about fucking him all the time. He let me go crazy, and never complained about all the weird positions I wanted to try…well, hardly complained, anyway. Right up until we left Aki I was fucking him more than he was fucking me. I kept asserting myself and he kept letting me and I guess I got used to it. And after we got things sorted out about Sara, he was still letting me do it, so I guess it became part of what I was about at that point.

So, the idea of letting Captain Nunes fuck me seemed like going backwards or something. He kept on paying attention to me, and even though I felt more and more flattered, it didn’t change my mind. It was just too cool to have this man I really looked up to being so persistent about his interest. By the time we got to Saigon, it was kindof obvious to everyone I guess, which didn’t bother me at all except for one problem. Cristo.

Cristo became the bane of my life. Everyone else thought it was as hilarious as hell, but it was a fucking pain in the ass, let me tell ya. The brat hated my guts and didn’t hesitate to show it. He was a creative little shit too. Practically every night before I went to sleep I’d find something in my hammock—dead fish, a rotten seagull egg, moldy old seaweed—you name it, he gifted me with it. Once I woke up screaming in pain cuz he’d put a goddamn crab in my pants while I was sleeping. It became a game with my crewmates, and they made bets on when it would happen and what it would be next. You’d think with a name like that—he was named after the Buddha guy the captain and his family believed in—he’d be less demonic, but it sure wasn’t the case.

One nasty present left me with molasses in my hair, thank you so fucking much. The captain joined the small crowd around me on deck as I tried to wash it out, and laughed along with the rest of them. When they’d had their fun, he shooed them back to work and took me aside.

Cristo strikes again, eh?” He was trying not to smile but not succeeding very well. I just nodded. “I appreciate your forbearance with him, Mugen. He’s feeling a little threatened by you, I believe.”

Well what’s up with that?” I asked. It was time to get to the bottom of this little mystery. “Everyone thinks you’re fucking him. Are you?”

I understand that’s what the men believe, but if it matters to you, the answer is no,” he replied. “I found him on a slaver’s block when he was just five. He was attracting a lot of attention, as you might imagine, with his hair being the color it is and his beautiful face. It cost a lot to outbid the others who wanted him, but I couldn’t bear to let him suffer the fate that awaited him as a sexual slave to some indolent oriental lord. I was heartbroken to discover he had already been used, and he didn’t speak a word to anyone for months. It was a strange twist of fate to discover he was from my own country, although the northern part where many people are fair as he is. He could only tell me that he’d been living on the streets and was kidnapped. He didn’t even know his last name.

I’ve never been interested in children sexually in any event, and he feels too much like my own son to ever consider taking him that way. He’s very possessive of me, however, as you have unfortunately learned.” He hid his mouth behind his hand and chuckled a bit. “Homem do tigre, he calls you. Did you know? Tiger Man.” He chuckled a bit more, then cleared his throat. “Seriously Mugen, if he ever goes too far, you have my permission to give him a sound thrashing, so long as you only use your hand and do not strike him in anger. If you meet those criteria, I will not interfere, should you decide it is necessary.”

He paused for a few moments, looking thoughtful in this kindof seductive way, then began again. “I’m sorry you’re suffering his wrath when there’s no reason for him to treat you in this manner. Perhaps one day you’ll decide to give him cause.” Then he winked and took off. I was left there kinda reeling inside. It was the most obvious he’d ever been, and I was glad he left cuz I had to sit down to recover.

So what happened? Well I kept not approaching him and he kept not forcing the issue and I was happy with that. I got off on his regard and was glad to have it. I needed it from him like food. That’s really what it felt like. I didn’t want him to force the issue and kept practicing what I’d say if he tried to, but it never happened. He gave me his attention but he didn’t make me do anything to get it. It just seemed to be there. It seemed he was interested in me, not what I could do for his body, which was really mind-blowing! It was so amazing.

He kept reminding me of Okuru, who I was drawn to in the same way. I guess the dumbest way to say it would be that he felt fatherly to me, although I don’t know what the fuck that means because I never knew one. But if I had to pick one word, that would be it—father. I really loved how he let me be, that he didn’t dog me and bully me into giving in. It really felt like he was OK with the fact that I wasn’t returning his advances. That too, was mind-blowing, but I was really glad. So I got to get all these goodies from him and it really did something for me. First someone like Jin and then this guy. My luck with men was getting better and better!

I was finally feeling strong enough after a month or so to want to start training again, but it wasn’t easy on a small ship like the Brightness. There was no room to swing a sword around without hitting someone or something, so I always had to wait till we were in port somewhere, and then hit the beach or some local greensward to work out. It was prolly the only bad thing about the situation I was in—that I was slowly losing my edge because I could only train now and again.

And my new sword, as much as I loved it, was taking a lot of getting used to. It was longer than my old one and heavier too, so everything that had been second nature to me before was not anymore. There was only one other swordsman on board, a guy from China called Lee, and we would work out together when we had the chance. At first, he kicked my ass every damn time we fought, but as I got stronger we were pretty evenly matched. And as time went by, I got some of my own back and beat him often enough not to feel ashamed anymore.

Then one night the captain joined the gang of crewmates watching and shouting us on. Bets were always being laid, but Lee was still the odds-on favorite most of the time. I won the last fight of the day, though, and had to listen to most of the guys complain that they’d lost their money. But Captain Nunes was smiling, and nodded to me when he saw me looking at him. He tossed the coin in the air to show he’d bet on me and won, then came over.

That’s quite a sword, Mugen,” he noted. “May I see it?” I handed it to him and he gave a low whistle. “Amazing. Where did you get this? I’m astounded it’s made its way so far around the world.”

It was a gift,” I replied. “From the girl I told you about. The one we escorted before I took this job.” He nodded slowly, still examining the workmanship. It was really well made and impressive-looking, so I felt proud of it.

That’s quite a gift,” he said, eyeing me curiously. “It’s called a Bastard Sword and….”

Huh?” It would just figure my cool new sword had a name like that.

Yes. It’s too short to be a Zweihander. This is most definitely a Bastard Sword, or a hand-and-a-half sword if you like, made by the Deutchlanders…either Swiss or German, I would imagine. That’s a land even farther away than my own country. And my guess is that it’s at least fifty years old, probably even older than that. She must have been very pleased with your service to have given you such a gift.”

It was fun to learn that Fuu’s little story about it wasn’t too far from reality. I could tell he was having a hard time trying to figure the situation out. A guy’s name carved into my arm and a strange European sword from a girl. He looked at me as if he was trying to find the truth in my face. I just shrugged my shoulders.

I almost died a few times getting her where she wanted to go, and my own broke in the last fight I fought, so it seemed like a fair exchange I guess,” I blustered. He didn’t need to know that last fight had been voluntary. He nodded solemnly.

Fair exchange indeed. It truly is amazing it’s found its way here. The Deutchlanders are quite a powerful race. The people are tall and often fair like Cristo. Capable of beautiful work, as you see.” He handed it back to me.

Thanks for telling me about it.” I was honestly happy to learn more. “All I know is that I’ve never seen another like it. It’s taken me a long time to get used to it. My old one was really different and I had it a long time. I still miss it.” I’d scored that sword when I was ten years old, and successfully fought off the handful who tried to take it from me over the years. And I did still miss it, even though I was really glad I had a new one that was so interesting.

Then I thought about Jin, and wondered how he was doing with his new sword. He wasn’t making as great a leap as me, cuz he was going from katana to katana. His new one would feel different, of course, but not as different as what I was dealing with. And then I wondered what he was doing right then, while I was standing there on the beach with my crewmates and captain thinking about him. And then I wondered if he missed me as much as I missed him.

The dance I was dancing with the captain only took the edge off of how much I wanted to be with Jin again—inside his stillness, his quiet strength. I just ached for it all the time. So I kinda stood there spacing out thinking about him until someone poked me and I woke up. Oh yeah, he’s here watching me. I forgot. He looked at me in this you-sure-are-an-interesting-bastard-dammit way and I shrugged my shoulders again. Then he smiled and nodded slowly.

I’m glad I could tell you a little bit about it,” he said. “Perhaps it makes the loss of your old one easier to bear, knowing how extraordinary this one is.” Then he turned and yelled for everyone to head back to the ship, so we all trudged off and that was that. I didn’t think I could admire the guy any more than I already did, but I found I could. It was pretty freaky.

So the weeks went by and things were cool, but there were times when I could feel my resolve crumbling. Once it was so damn hot, we were jumping into the ocean from the bow to cool off. He stripped and joined us. Oh my god! He was bigger than me, hung like a fucking bull. It made me drool, but my ass was glad I wasn’t playing uke with him. It helped my will power when I was feeling really lonely for Jin. I had good days and bad days, but most of the time I was content to fantasize and watch from a distance.

But then it happened. Someone asked me to bring him something and I agreed without thinking. It wasn’t until I knocked on his door that I started to sweat. I’d always kept myself far away from his quarters, and realized too late I should have asked someone else to take it to him.

Entre,” he called from inside, and I went in. He was sitting at the tiny desk he had in there. He looked surprised when he saw it was me, and motioned for me to sit. I handed him the package—I think it was a map—and tried to escape. “Please Mugen, do sit down.” Well what could I say to that? I sat down.

He eyed me in this thoughtful way, and I couldn’t help but fidget. Damn him! “Well, my friend,” he finally said, “we’ve been playing an interesting game for months now. What do you say we take some time to get to know each other better?” Oh no! I took a deep breath, and tried to figure out how to answer him.

to be continued