Disclaimer: Disclaimers, disclaimers, everywhere I look, disclaimers. If I'd written the story for profit, I'd be in violation of everything that makes fanfiction so awesome. Since I'm not in violation of any of these rules, than I guess I'd better give credit to IG Productions and Shiniji Obara for their creations and respective licenses.
"Hey Jin!" The squeaky yell of a girl barely out of childhood broke Jin's stringent concentration. Pretending not to notice, he continued to sit with his eyes closed. He was in his meditation form, a basic lotus position modified by the addition of his wakizachi across his lap while his katana leaned against a tree within easy reach. He carefully gauged her distance from him by the clacking of her geta as she approached his position. When she froze just in front of him, it was all he could do not to peak.
They'd been on the road together for weeks, and she was still a complete enigma to him. The rooster, Mugen, as he supposed the man would want to be called, was not so hard to figure out. He was someone with a mysterious past, but then all of them held that claim. However, past aside, Mugen was easy to predict. He was a simple case of 'wind up and let loose,' and Jin had to concentrate hard to keep that slight tightening of the cheek from giving away that his meditative state was long over.
"Come on Jin! I'm SOOOO hungry, don't you have anything in that over-kimono of yours?" She was close enough that he felt her breath stir the hair across his temples, which meant his meditation was over whether he pretended or not.
Sighing, he leaned his head forward so his hair made a very effective curtain. "I'm meditating Fuu. Why don't you and Mugen go look for berries or edible greens."
She plopped down in front of him, reminding him again that she was still just a child in a woman's body. "But Jin!" She gave him pitiful puppy dog eyes.
"If you have any food on you, give it up man, she's driving me nuts!" Mugen was sprawled out near the edge of the bank, expertly tending the edge of his sword with a wet stone.
"Why would I have food?" He raised his head to look at his sworn adversary before glancing back at the girl.
Fuu smiled. "Momo says you have food."
Jin and Mugen both turned to her at the same time. "Momo?" Then they turned to glare at each other for daring to share the same though process.
"Momo. You know, Momo." She held up the sleeve of her kimono and peered inside. "Hi Momo."
Jin had always harbored a suspicion that the girl was crazy, but she was confirming it rather quickly.
Mugen smiled nastily. "I've heard of them called hooters, knockers, and bongos; although tits is my favorite. I've never heard them called 'Momo' before." Tickled by his own wit, he laughed until he snorted, then he laughed because he snorted.
Fuu clasp both hands over her chest and glared at the man. "Pervert!"
"Indeed." Jin looked at the girl. "What is Momo?"
She peeked in her kimono again. "Are you going to come out? Jin wants to meet you."
Mugen stood and ambled over, leaning almost drunkenly over the girl, gazing down at her mostly unexposed cleavage. "Yeah Momo, come on out, I want to meet you too!" He caught Jin's glare and turned back to the fire. "Not that I haven't seen bigger ones before."
At Fuu's outraged protest, Jin sighed again. "Mugen has the personality of a child who just discovered girls are for more than teasing, ignore him." Looking over at the girl, expecting her to be crying, he was shocked to find she'd stuck her head down the front of her kimono, her right hand moving wildly around her torso. If he didn't know better…
"Gotcha. Momo, Ouch! Don't bite me!" Pulling a ball of fuzz out of the top of her outfit, she looked up at Jin and blushed. "Excuse me. Meet Momo!" Holding out her clamped fists, she slowly opened her fingers to reveal a small flying squirrel.
Jin just looked at it. Mugen had crawled up behind her while she'd been chasing Momo. "You mean that flying rat was actually TRAINED to attack us?"
Fuu glared at him. "Momo is NOT a rat!" Momo furred in reaction to Mugen's voice, having no true understanding of the insult of the words. She turned back to Jin. "And Momo's hungry."
"Looks like a rat to me." Momo squeaked in protest and Fuu again glared at the idiot of their little wandering tribe.
Closing his eyes, and beginning to understand why he'd been unable to find a true Zen moment since joining these two misfits, he shook his head in resignation. "You won't like it."
"You actually have food? Bastard! Been holding out on us huh?" Mugen leaned forward on his elbows, his face almost in Jin's lap.
Jin bopped him in the nose with the hilt of his wakizachi. "Do you mind?" Mugen scrambled back immediately when he realized how close he was to Jin's personal effects. Rubbing his nose and hiding a blush, he glared at Jin through his dark eyes. Putting a hand into his kimono, Jin pulled out two things.
Fuu leaned over, that confused look making her eyes all squinty. "What are they?"
Jin frowned. "I said you wouldn't like them." He started to put them away, but Fuu's stomach was more insistent.
An instant later, she was chewing on it. It made a crackly sound and tasted weird. "What, ouch, yuck!"
Jin put a hand over his left eye, the dull throbbing behind it beginning to become noticeable. "You have to unwrap it."
Mugen had walked behind Jin and yanked the other one out of his hand. "Yeah idiot, you have to unwrap it." He pulled at the waxed wrapping, it coming apart in three unequal pieces to litter the pristine wilderness.
"I'll explain everything if you will both just…"
"Hey, what's up with this side? Is this paper?"
"Are you trying to kill us? I just jabbed myself in the cheek. Who ever heard of food on a stick?"
"Um, Mugen, we eat food on a stick all the time."
"Yeah, but that's a wooden stick. Who ever heard of a stick made out of paper, used to put food on?"
"Put the round part in your mouth, not the stick." Jin stood and walked over to the river's edge, cool water being the only thing that would help him now. He bent over the edge, throwing water into his face with a restrained desperateness.
"I think I just broke a tooth, damned piece of food!"
"Mugen, you idiot! I don't think you're supposed to chew on it."
"What the hell?" He held up the half mangled piece of food on a stick and waved it in Jin's direction. "What is this?"
Jin looked up at the clouds, praying for divine patience. Closing his eyes and collecting his chi, he turned back to the rooster. "It's called a rariri popu."
"He he" Fuu took the 'saaka' out of mouth long enough to point it at Mugen. "I think he's calling you a Baaaka!"
"No, I'm not." Jin felt his chi dissipate into the winds. "Nevermind. It's a type of candy."
"What flavor is mine?" She held up the red sphere on a stick, waving it around.
"Sakura." She smiled happily, and put it back in her mouth. "Fuu, I was told it was better if you licked it."
"Huh? Reawwy?" She popped the 'saaka' back out and started licking it, her tongue making sensual forays over the sticky surface.
It took Jin two seconds to realize that bit of instruction was a mistake. "Uh, no, sorry, not that. It was something else you're supposed to lick. Put it back in your mouth and DON'T lick it." Sweat beginning to bead under his hairline, he chanted mantras, trying to remember that she was still a girl.
Mugen walked up behind him, chewing on the empty stick. "Spoilsport." He said it casually in passing, and the redhead missed it.
"She's just a child." Jin looked back over at the girl who was letting Momo try the treat.
"No more so than either of us at that age. Think about it." He turned to go, then stopped. "Hey, where'd you get these?"
"Isaac gave them to me just before he left, said it was a delicacy in his country." Jin shuddered lightly. "I did not find them to be a delicacy."
"Isaac huh? What did you have to do to earn them?"
Jin thought of fifty-six ways to kill the rooster before resorting to a crude gesture that he'd actually learned from Mugen.
Mugen laughed and walked off, waving the stick in his nimble fingers. "Saaka, gotta remember that. Pretty good."
Jin followed, Fuu could catch up when she was done.
Fuu looked up, noticing that they were again headed down the path. "Mmm, that was good. But, I'm STILL hungry!"
Both men groaned, but didn't stop to watch her run to catch up. If they had, they would have noticed her unnaturally red lips aged her by at least five years and that she would be breathtaking in her adult form.
A/N: What can I say? My employee's Christmas presents arrived today, and See's lollipops were included in the order (yum!). That put me in a completely mindless state, an area where I don't get to function often. I hope you enjoyed the fic, and I'd apologize for all the one-shots I've done lately; but they're fun and it's a nice distraction from the longer works.
PS, hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable Christmas! -TK