Another little sidefic. I'm having problems with TEC right now, its like I know where the storyline is supposed to go, I'm just having problems getting there. The wondrous literary muse of Samurai Champloo fics seems to have taken a temporary leave of absence here. Maybe its on pregnant leave.

F i l t h y

I was never really the cleanest of kids. Ever since tou-san left when I was little I'd always have a problem keeping out of the mud. I remember when I was younger I would sneak out to play in the small mud hole next to our neighbor's rice patty field. That was the most fun any kid could have, I thought. I would splash in the dirty water and throw mud balls at grasshoppers. Kaa-san wouldn't notice I was gone until my yukata was sopping half off of my skinny body, soaked in polluted water, and my cheeks and hair were smeared with wet dirt. Although, as time went on and I kept doing the same things, she learned quickly where to find me, since that was the only place I ever snuck off to.

She would come behind our neighbor's home and catch me drenched up to my ears. She used to be a lot angrier about it but I guess she got used to it and instead of dragging me away she would just lecture me and take me back. I looked up to her, and she seemed so much taller when I was little. She had her hands poised gracefully in the sleeves of her spotless kimono and gazed at me exasperatedly. I giggled and showed her what I had been working on all afternoon. "Look, Kaa-san! I made mud-tea!" I exclaimed, thrusting up to her what I later found out was her favorite and most expensive cup, overflowing with muck, pebble specks, and the occasional worm or grub.

Her dark eyes skimmed over me hesitantly, wondering what to do with me, as though she didn't even want to touch me. Eventually she sighed and took me from under the arms, picking me up and standing me on the grass next to her. "Don't play in the dirt, Fuu." She scolded.

I honestly didn't understand what the big deal was. It wasn't like it was poison. It would wash off in the bath. But I let her lead me away back home to wash up. After that I started to get a little sneakier about where I went and how I got away. I was only seven! And I never got the chance to play at home. It was always 'drink your tea, Fuu', 'Don't fidget so, Fuu', 'Don't wrap your kimono like that, Fuu', 'Let me do your hair, Fuu', 'This feudal lord's son wants to meet you, Fuu.' That was something that started bothering me more than the others. Lately she started taking me to families with big houses. That wasn't' much fun either. She would just sit at the table and talk to two other women while I sat across from one older boy or another bored silly.

And they all looked the same. Whenever I would glance at them they all had the same dark hair pulled meticulously back from their pale and flawless face. They had the same cool and collected eyes and I couldn't help but wonder how they could stand it. How they could stand being in those priceless, stuffy robes of theirs with their hair pulled back so tight it had to hurt. I often wanted to just ask them if they wanted to go outside and race or play fujitsai with me. I think the look on my mother's face if I ever did that would've been to make me want to, but I never got the courage.

One day we were going out to market and for something to eat. I had to stretch to hold my mother's hand because I was so small, or maybe it was because she was too tall, it was so long ago I can't really remember anymore. But she walked over to examine some fruit and I sighed, she was always so picky about her food and I knew I'd be there forever. It was then that I noticed some boys playing with sticks, swiping and lunging at each other like real samurais. Their clothes were worn and tattered, hanging off their scrawny bodies. Their faces and knees were scuffed and covered in dirt. But they were sneering playfully and smiling, some were missing baby teeth and they looked funny when they laughed.

Kaa-san let go of my hand to turn some melon one way or the other and I took my chance to sneak off. When I was far enough away I broke off into a run, excited at being able to play with other kids. One of the boys noticed me as I raced up to them and stopped his play, the others seeing what he was doing and did the same thing. Soon they were all staring at me as I bent at my knees trying to catch my breath. "Let me play!" I demanded happily.

Instantly they all started sniggering and laughing at me the tallest boy looking like he was about to bust a rib. I frowned and glared back at them. Not many people laughed at me, but I knew I didn't like it. It made you feel stupid and embarrassed. "What're you laughing at!" I barked.

The tallest boy came up to me and poked me with the stick; I winced when it hit my tender shoulder. "Why don't you go play with your doll before you get your sandals dirty." He jeered.

I scowled harder at the little creep. There was nothing wrong with playing with dolls! But when that's the only thing you get to do, you learn to want a bit of variety in your life. "You can't tell me what to do!" I spat. "I'll do whatever I want!" I snapped haughtily. Who did he think he was? He wasn't my tou-san, he couldn't tell me what to do!

"Fine." He leered, yanking a pole out of another boy's hands and throwing it at me.

I wasn't really sure what I'd gotten myself into but it hurt like hell! Immediately the tall boy was on me, slashing that stick of his at mine and beating me down with it. Girls weren't supposed to wrestle or roughhouse, so I couldn't put up much of a fight when he tried to hit and slam my own stick out of my hands. Barely two minutes later the thin pole was sent flying and I was earnestly sucking my sore and reddening fingers. He was laughing at me again and so were the other boys and I wasn't going to let them this time. I growled and yanked off my sandal and threw it straight at his bushy head.

They all stopped howling as it hit his temple with a thud before falling to the ground. They were all quiet for a minute two as I waited for them to either hit me back or shove me away. I'll never understand what happened next, but before I knew what I'd done, one of the boys picked up my fallen pole and threw it back to me. I didn't catch it, I was bad at catching, but the taller one got to it before I could and handed it back. And just like that we were all playing. It hurt, they were rough, and I wanted to stop sometimes but then I would remember I probably wouldn't get another chance like this and forgot about it.

The tallest boy kicked my feet out from under me and I fell to the ground in a cloud of dirt. He steadied the end of the stick at my throat, smirking down at me with his grubby foot on my chest. I laughed and heaved to catch my breath; sure my face and clothes were as dirty as he was now.

Suddenly everyone stopped their games and stepped back a little, staring over my head, the tall boy getting away from me and leaving me to look at everyone confused. Did they not want to play with me again? My answer came in the form of a pair of delicate hands scooping me up and standing me on the ground. I turned to find my mother giving me a stern look, much harder than the ones she would give me when she found me in the mud puddle. "Don't play in the dirt, Fuu." She whispered harshly, glancing around critically at my new playmates. I didn't understand back than.

I groaned in disappointment but followed her back home anyway. Why couldn't I ever do anything? Why couldn't I have friends too? I was angry at kaa-san for the next few days, giving her the coldest shoulder I could muster.

Finally it was time to go to another family. We had been invited for tea with the family of a Samurai my father had been friends with. They had trained at the same dojo together and had only just found out about tou-san's death. It was after we got to their home that I found out she wanted me to meet another boy. I was getting really irritated with all these boys and their perfect faces and clothes.

We sat down for tea and it was just like all the other times. I looked over at the boy and he had to be at least four or five years older than I was. He was tall with ghostly skin and dark eyes. His hair was black that shined brown in the sun and was pulled back into a topknot. He did not speak and sipped his tea politely. I wondered if he was as bored as I was. When I glimpsed up I noticed my mother kept looking at him with something strange in her eyes.

It wasn't until evening that we left and she wouldn't talk to me, like her mind was elsewhere. "Are you okay, Kaa-san?" I asked, breaking my own spiteful vow of silence.

She seemed to pop out of where ever she was and looked down at me in surprise. "Hm? Oh, oh yes dear."

"What's wrong?" I guessed my cold shoulder days were over; I already started talking to her. I might as well find out what was wrong with her.

Kaa-san shook her head absentmindedly and sighed. "Its nothing darling." She looked away at the setting sun and got that sad shine in her eye again. "That boy, he just reminded me so much of your father, I suppose." She murmured as if that wasn't even something for me to hear.

And then I understood. After that I did my hair, I washed my kimono, I kept my face and knees clean. And I never played in my mud hole again. I'd turned over a new leaf and even managed to keep it up.

It wasn't until her deathbed that I found out my father's image wasn't as spotless as she'd always told me. It turned out the little liar was alive somewhere. Just like that my family wasn't as pristine as it used to be and I thought back to all the times my mother pulled me from the muck and ire and wondered 'what's the point?'

That was a long time ago though. Now I'm laying here on the grass watching the stars wondering if my good for nothing tou-san is watching them to. My new companions and I don't always have a town or a room to wash our clothes in so I can't stay clean all the time. I feel his callused hand move under my robes and tug at the obi and I know he doesn't care. He'll have me soaked in suds or covered in sludge. I could spend the rest of the day trying to get clean but I know he'll just make me dirty again.

For once Jin chose to sleep somewhere else tonight and I guess Mugen's not wasting any time. He's grinning at me with that perverted smirk of his as he rolls onto me, settling himself between my legs. I cross my ankles over his back, feeling my toes curl with that playful naughtiness they had when digging themselves in the old mud hole. He forces gasp for gasp from me with every thrust of his hips. My last thought oddly enough was what my mother would think if she knew I was still playing in the dirt.