“You again.” Like they see each other every day now the way they used to however long ago it was. Three years, he thinks. She ain’t the same scrawny little bitch she used to be. The part of him that appreciates form and beauty – it’s there, it’s just he ain’t gonna show it to just anyone – thinks the curves look good on her. Good thing she didn’t have ‘em three years ago or he would’ve been the horniest bastard walkin’ behind her all the way to Nagasaki.
Wait, he was the horniest bastard all the way to Nagasaki. That ain’t changed. Some things never do.
Her eyes widen in recognition and just for a frickin’ second he sees crazy-ass weird determined fifteen-year-old Fuu reflected in her face. Her arms open wide and before he knows it (only not really, ‘cause he never lets shit happen without knowing it) she throws herself at him in a hug. “Mugen!”
“Shit, girl, down.” He don’t make a single damn attempt at unwrapping her from around him. Why should he? It feels good: she’s soft where she needs to be, big where she used to be small. She kinda reminds him in real life of that painting that son of a bitch did of her, and that ain’t a bad thing at all. He wraps one steely arm around her back – all he can spare for a hug, he ain’t the huggin’ type – before Fuu finally steps back and hits him with her purse.
“Hey. What the hell was that for?”
Fuu rolls those big eyes of hers. “For being gone so long!” She straightens her kimono and her spine, in that order, and just about flashes him in the process.
“Nice.” He scratches his chin, raises one eyebrow. “So what the hell are you doin’ here?” Everyone knows he ain’t much for conversation, but he’s survived three more years and that don’t happen without learnin’ a little bit. He could read. He could write now.
“Looking for a samurai who smells of sunflowers,” she tells him in her prettiest voice before she drops the lie for a more convenient truth. “No. Just wandering.”
Huh. “Me too.” He runs a rough scarred hand over his stomach.
“Come on,” Fuu offers. She ain’t dumb, at least not most of the time as far as he could remember. “I’ll buy us some tea and dumplings, and you can tell me all about it.”
That’s all right. “Now you’re talkin’ my language, girl. I hope you got a lot of coin, ‘cause I ain’t had dumplings in a long damn time.”
“You sure can eat.” Fuu wipes her lips and the way she does it almost looks dainty. Pretty. He slouches back against the wall, stomach full for once.
“Like that’s news. Or did somethin’ happen these past three years that made you forget?”
When she laughs, it’s a good laugh. “A lot’s happened these past three years. Have you seen Jin?”
Jin. Always Jin with her: what the hell’s up with that? He nods toward the door like the guy’s standing right out there. “Yeah, saw him a while ago. He was lookin’ for that chick Shino. Said her three years were up, and he wanted to be there waiting when she got out of lockup at that temple.”
Fuu nods, and looks a little mental. Sentimental, anyway. “Was he happy about it?”
“Hell, yeah. You know that guy. Stubborn as a damn ox. Once he gets an idea in his head, he ain’t gonna let go of it no matter how good the distractions are.”
“Like killing you,” Fuu reminds him like he could ever forget it anyway. “I’m glad he didn’t. I hope he finds her. What have you been up to?”
It ain’t like it’s been all fun and games, but he shrugs that off ‘cause after you been dead a couple times, it ain’t like the little things matter a whole lot. “Remember that chick Yatsuha?”
Fuu’s eyes narrow as she nods just the one time, her fingertips busy with the edge of her kimono.
Time for a good stretch, arms up over his head and everything. “She found me, maybe a year after the three of us split up. Told me she was gonna marry me.”
“Did you?” She sits forward now, looks over with those big brown eyes.
“Do I look like the marryin’ type?” His shrug’s easy, dismissive. “We played around together a little, but I got thrown in the slammer and that pissed her off, and when it happened again, it pissed her off for good.” He sits forward now, a spark of honesty in his eyes. “I’m who I am. You know that. I ain’t gonna change for no one, not now, not in three more years, not in a hundred, not that I’m gonna live that long.”
“I know.” Fuu’s voice is quiet and steady. “I know exactly who you are, Mugen. I knew back then, too. I haven’t forgotten.”
“Yeah.” He lets out a good belch, pours a little more tea for ‘em both, since she’s buyin’. “Glad I ain’t got to teach you that lesson again, girl.” He runs a hand through his shock of hair, ‘cause it’s as good a way as any to clean his palm. “How about you? Where you been?”
A smile creeps onto Fuu’s face. “I’ve been everywhere. And done everything.”
“Everything a guy like you can think of.” She holds his gaze real steady. “Try me.”
A guessin’ game, he likes those. “You waitressed again.”
“You… threw the dice again.”
“Yes.” She reaches in her purse, pulls out a fan.
“You posed for another artist.”
“More than once. That painting put me in demand for a while.”
He nods, all smug and everything. “That picture was kinda hot, you gotta admit.”
“Kind of.” Her grin gets a little more sly.
“Here’s one you’re gonna say you never did. You worked in a whorehouse.”
She raises the fan to her lips, then flicks it once so a waft of air floats across the table, carryin’ whatever she wears for perfume with it. “You’d be amazed,” she says, “at what a girl can learn in a place like that.” One more time, she waves the fan and one more time he gets a scent of something impossibly sweet and spicy at the same time, and it sets his imagination on edge.
“You crazy chick, there ain’t nothin’ in this world left that could amaze me.” His argument’s more half-hearted than he intends, but he don’t care.
“Oh, you couldn’t be more wrong.” With a grin, Fuu takes out a golden ryō and leaves it on the table. “Well, time for me to be going. It’s been a pleasure seeing you again.”
“Wait.” Reaching across the table, he grabs her wrist. A long moment of silence passes between them, but when they stand, they stand together and when they leave, they leave together.
“You were right,” he tells her, drawing aimless invisible tattoos along the soft curves of her waist, her hips, her thighs.
“About what?” She’s sleepy and sated, but looks like she ain’t quite ready to give it up and close her eyes.
“About what a chick like you could learn in a place like that, that a guy like me ain’t seen before.”
“I know.” She nestles up against him and he ain’t stupid. This time, his arm closes around her and he thinks that now, at least for a little while, he ain’t gonna let her go. Not so easy like he did last time.
He knows a good thing when he sees it.