Author: Elementary Magpie PM
After the series ends, Fuu has some loose ends to tie up. WARNING: General SPOILERS for entire series and specific spoilers for episodes 6, 11, and 2426.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Words: 2,017 - Reviews: 50 - Favs: 58 - Follows: 4 - Published: 05-17-05 - Status: Complete - id: 2397914
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: Not mine, not for profit, not larceny
Summary: After the series ends, Fuu has some loose ends to tie up. WARNING: general Spoilers for entire series and specific spoilers for 6, 11, & 24-26.
Author's Note: Did I mention Spoilers? This story is dedicated to the samurai goddess who has created the gorgeous Amalgam web site, a wonderful labor of love that allows the addicted to read ahead to the end of the story without having to wait for all of the DVDs to come out. Thank you!
by Elementary Magpie
As far as Fuu was concerned, the three of them parted at the crossroads because she still needed to see if she was strong enough to go on by herself. Sending them away on the dock that day in Nagasaki hadn't really counted, since she had only lived to see the end of it because they had both come after her anyway. And grateful as she was for that, she still had to know.
So she went back on the road by herself, and by herself discovered that she could get back to Edo (because you had to love a place that had an annual eating contest) without too much trouble. And by herself she got a job in a tearoom there without too much trouble. And she began to insert herself into the life of her new neighborhood.
So then she knew about going it alone.
o o o
A year after they had all parted, Mugen came through town. Their eyes met as he stood in the doorway, and she was not surprised when everything they had never done took instant fire. Without a word, he dragged her out of the tearoom, and into a cheap hotel. There they fucked, for hours. As she had expected, it was wild and uninhibited and totally great. Then--
"Good. That's over with," he said, rolling off of her for the last time.
Oddly, she agreed.
She bought him the largest meal she could afford and watched him wolf it down with something like complete contentment.
He was gone the next morning. That contented her too.
She hadn't seen him since.
o o o
Two years after that, she was considering a proposal by the teahouse owner's oldest son. It was a good offer. He wasn't a bad guy, and he seemed to really respect her. The business was thriving. She would be secure for life. But still…
The neighborhood sake-maker's wife bustled into the tearoom, interrupting her musings. "Fuu, there's a strange samurai around asking about you. Should we let him know where you are or divert him away?"
A stab of that ever-present fear. Have they come for me again? But a twinge of… "What does he look like?"
"Oh, tall, thin, long hair."
…hope? If she was wrong, she could die.
Take a chance. "You can tell him I am here, please."
It was Jin.
As she watched his tall form stoop to come through the teahouse door, she didn't know if her worst fears were being set to rest or realized at last.
But as he greeted her with his usual careful reserve and politely asked when she would have a free hour to visit with him, she thought -- or maybe just imagined -- that his face was somehow more relaxed, that he almost…smiled at her.
And there must have been something in her face as well, because Keiko, who wanted the teahouse owner's son for herself, interjected heartily and with complete inaccuracy: "How lucky! She was just going on break right now! Why don't you two go have a nice chat in the back room? I'll bring you some tea in a moment."
Once in the tiny room, they waited for the tea, sitting politely facing one another across a small table. She knew that now they were supposed to make formal conversation about the weather and their health. But it was still so odd to see him looking at her without his glasses in between. His unmediated eyes seemed to see too much. Which was completely stupid, so she raised her chin and stared right back. And it was his eyes that fell first, and it was Fuu, overwhelmed with curiosity and concern that he was actually here, who blurted out, "But Jin! Why have you come? Have you heard bad news? Is Mugen all right?"
At that, Jin's maybe-relaxed face stiffened into the definitely-icy calm she remembered from their early travels. "I have not spoken to him in quite a while. But as I've heard rumors of a wild pirate terrorizing the southern shipping, we can assume that he continues to survive."
She smiled, relieved, and more curious than ever, but Keiko brought the tea, just then. And when it was served and the girl had departed, Jin -- quiet, discrete, let-someone-else-talk-first Jin -- astonished her by embarking on a detailed interrogation about all of her doings since last they had met.
Eventually he arrived at the topic that she realized he had been aiming for all along. "I am surprised not to find you married by now."
Stung, she tossed her head and answered him defensively. "It's not like I haven't had plenty of offers, because I have. Why, just today I am considering a proposal from the teahouse owner's son."
"That round-faced young man with the cheerful smile who was outside the door soliciting customers?"
"Yes, that's him." For some reason she had to fight down an urge to apologize.
Jin's still face became, if possible, even more immobile, but he said with something approaching warmth in his even voice, "Congratulations, then. I am very happy for you."
"Oh, I haven't decided yet that I am going to marry him." It seemed very important to clarify that.
"Why not? You would be secure at last."
She glared at him in exasperation. "Do you honestly think that if security was my priority I would have ever taken up with the likes of you two?"
He actually smiled at that, and she relaxed, depending on him to be too scared to ask the next question. But he surprised her. "If not security, then what do you want?"
And instead it was she who was too scared to answer, so she had to laugh and change the subject.
She asked about him. And slowly, but with much less reluctance than he'd given her in the past, she extracted the information that he had finally found a master he'd risk his life for. A wise and thoughtful lord who was willing to look beyond the troubled reputation to the honorable man and appoint him chief swordsmaster for the household guard. He had been serving there for a year and a half, and, since the heir was as good a man as his father, he thought that he might be able to remain for the rest of his life.
Fuu was genuinely pleased for him. But puzzled. "If you have such a good position, what are you doing away from it?"
"I asked for leave in order to attend to an obligation of honor."
Obligation? For a dizzying moment she tried to remember what obligation he could possibly have left towards her or anyone else in Edo, and then-- Oh. Three years. The woman at the Enkiri Dera on the road to Nagasaki, whom he'd saved -- with their help, thank you very much! -- from prostitution. Feeling oddly deflated, she asked, "So, are you going to fetch Shino from the temple now? The three years must be up pretty soon."
"I have already been there."
She remembered how much she hated that expressionless voice. But she asked, because she truly was confused: "So why isn't she with you now?"
"Shino was not interested in leaving. She has decided that she wishes to remain a priestess at the temple, helping other women in her situation."
"I'm sorry." But she wasn't sure that she was. Which made her feel guilty, and kind of irritated with him.
"I am not." He paused, and then said almost reluctantly, "Actually, I was a little relieved."
"Why? Not ready to get married yet?" Typical Jin.
"No. Just not ready to get married to her."
Suddenly it was hard to breathe. "I thought you loved her."
"I did too, at the time. In retrospect, it seems to have been just a romantic infatuation."
He sounded a little sad, which made her sad too. And afraid. And filled with an overwhelming need to reassure him around the sudden pain in her throat. "Don't worry, Jin, someday you will find someone to love who isn't just a romantic infatuation."
"That has already happened to me, I think," he said quietly.
At that, her heart quite unexpectedly broke, but you should always rejoice in a friend's good fortune. So: "Oh, that's wonderful! Tell me all about her!"
He gave her a strange look. "You know her."
And then she couldn't say anything at all, frozen, staring at him. Afraid to be right, afraid not to be.
He looked uncomfortable, then turned down his mouth and straightened his already straight spine the way he always did when he was about to walk into a duel. "Fuu, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
And that would have been complete happiness, except that she was so furiously insulted. "Why? You figure that Shino dumped you, so you'll just settle for the second best thing, since you're out and about looking for a wife anyway? And did you honestly think that I would settle for being your second choice?"
He looked confused, and a little hurt. "No. No. Fuu. You aren't second choice. I have thought about you every day for three years. It's just that I had promised Shino. But now…"
There was no help for it, then. "Of course!" And she burst into tears.
He looked taken aback, worried. Shifted a little closer to her, so that he could put a hesitant hand on her shoulder. "Fuu, what's wrong? You don't have to marry me…"
He really was an idiot when it came to women. " Pay attention! I'm not crying because I'm sad. I'm crying because I am happy."
"Oh." He looked nonplussed. Paused for thought. "Is there anything I should do?"
Hopelessly idiotic. "It will stop if you hold me," she had to suggest through her hiccups.
And, almost to her surprise, he immediately shifted over to sit right next to her, put a tentative arm around her waist, carefully drew her head in against his chest. And all of it was so perfect that she cried even harder than before.
"Fuu," he said into her hair, "I thought you said-"
"It was a very long time to wait," she explained.
He paused, then held her tighter, laid his cheek against her head. "I understand."
And, she realized, he really, really did. But it seemed too good to be true, so she said against the front of his gi, "You know I'm not some pure and innocent maiden. And…and I slept with Mugen!"
"I know," he said, still against her hair, still holding her. After a moment, he added wryly, conciliatory, his quiet voice gone even quieter, "So did I."
And even as she laughed she felt so grateful for such, such…generosity that the tears threatened to burst out again harder than ever.
But she didn't want to scare the poor man any more than she already had. So she looked up with bright eyes into his bewildered ones and answered his earlier question instead. "I want you," she said fiercely, and kissed him.
For a moment he went still, clearly surprised. But then he surprised her more, with how fiercely he kissed her back.