Title: Enemies of the Heart
Fandom: Samurai Champloo
Warnings: yaoi (and the tiniest hint of yuri), naughty language, liberties taken with the show's timeline, PWP-ish, ANGST
Disclaimer: I own nothing. It all belongs to those who created Samurai Champloo ... and made it so delightfully slashy. The only person I own is Kumiko, and her story is mine as well.
Summary: Mugen tries, once more, to get into Kumiko's head. Jin tries to get into Mugen's pants. Kumiko gets in Fuu's bed.
Author's note: I bet you guys thought I had abandoned this, huh? I haven't posted a new chapter since … ouch, April. I'm sorry about that. But here I am again. I hope you enjoy this chapter! And for anyone who has forgotten what the hell this is about ... I've tagged all of the EotH entries in my livejournal (the homepage link on my info page) with "enemies of the heart," so they're easy for you to find.
"Hey, girls!" Mugen shouted as he splashed into the pool, intruding on the quiet that had surrounded Kumiko and Fuu.
"Mugen!" Fuu shrieked, her eyes shooting wide as she clutched her hands across her chest and drew her knees up. "What are you doing in here, you jerk!"
"Takin' a bath, what's it look like?" he replied snappily. He grinned mischievously and glanced over at Kumiko, who had her dark eyes narrowed disapprovingly.
Mugen knew he was taking a big chance by crashing in on them like this. Normally, he wouldn't have bothered, not even to catch a glimpse of Fuu naked – though he might have attempted it to get to see Kumiko. But he had other reasons for wanting to get into their bath; Jin's sister was turning out to be difficult to crack. He knew that she hadn't told the whole story on that night by the river, and since then she had been even more stubborn than usual. With Jin, and even with the inscrutable Sara, there had been tiny cracks in their armor that he had peeled away until he could see them for what they were … for Kumiko, he was just drawing blanks. And judging by the glare in her eyes, she wasn't at all pleased that he was in the bath. He just smiled and continued bathing. This could be just what he needed to crack that armor of hers just because she was utterly defenseless and vulnerable, without even the comfort of clothes to hide her from his gaze.
"You're a pervert," Fuu muttered, her face bright pink and her eyes averted from him. "And you're so rude!"
"Yeah, yeah," Mugen grunted, dunking his head once more and drifting over to sit next to Kumiko. "Hey, you gonna scream or anything? Would've thought the sight of my beautiful body would've had you screechin' all over the place like Fuu."
She looked him straight in the eyes, pinning him with her Jin-like stare, but he just stared right back. She wouldn't scare him that way.
"Your body does not impress me, if that was your intention," she said with a small sniff. "I find you vulgar and offensive in all respects. But I am grateful that you are washing away some of that stench that has been following you for days."
He smiled as sweetly as he could manage and began splashing at himself. "I didn't know you cared enough to notice," he retorted.
Kumiko colored and looked away, self-consciously folding her arms over her chest. Mugen rolled his eyes. The girl didn't even know when she was being peeped at. He stood up to go and shook himself like a dog, noting with smug pleasure that Fuu's face got even redder and she looked away again.
"Well, I'm outta here," he announced as he stepped out of the pool and grabbed a towel to wrap around his waist. "You girls have fun!"
"Jerk!" he heard Fuu his under her breath, and grinned to himself. He whistled quietly as he walked down the halls of the inn, coming to a stop in front of the room that Kumiko shared with Fuu. He slid inside, carefully angling himself so his shadow wouldn't appear through the thin rice-paper walls. He cracked his knuckles quietly and licked his lips in anticipation, praying silently to whoever was listening that tonight was like every other night and Kumiko got done first with her bath.
He went quiet and still as he heard footsteps on the tatami and the slide of wood against wood as the door opened. He held his breath, waiting with calculating eyes as Kumiko slid the door shut behind her and entered the room. In the instant that she saw him hidden in the shadows, he leapt at her. The fight was a quick and silent scramble, but by the end Mugen was on top once more, albeit with a bleeding scratch on his arm. He had her bony wrists in his hand again, and pulled his tanto from where it had been hiding beneath his towel to place it at her throat. She looked mad enough to spit at him, and worse, but he could care less.
"Truth now, girly, and no playing this time," he hissed, pressing the blade hard against her skin to show he meant business. "Why are you out here?"
Her lips thinned and her eyes flashed angrily. "I already told you, halfwit, I'm here to – ah!"
"You think I'm stupid enough to believe that?" Mugen asked, his eyes darting to the red drops of blood that welled from the thin cut in her neck – it would heal quickly. He narrowed his eyes, waiting for her to talk.
She swallowed thickly and turned her head, as though she needed to avoid looking at him. "Shoichi. That's why I'm following him, okay? Our brother wants Jin."
"He wants him dead." She shifted beneath him, and he suddenly became aware – damn, how had he not noticed! – that all she was wearing was a short juban. Mugen longed for more clothing. "Shoichi wants him dead. In his eyes, Jin should have committed seppuku as soon as Mariya-dono was dead, and in living he continues to shame the family. Shoichi intends to finish what Jin started that night he slit his wrists."
"So why are you here?" Mugen asked, frowning slightly.
She turned back to him and glared. "Like I've said all along," she said firmly, "I'm here to watch over him. Jin won't let Shoichi take him away like that, he'd rather die, so I'm here to keep them apart."
Mugen just frowned harder, trying to decide whether he trusted her or not. His thoughts were broken when he heard Fuu knock on the door.
"Hey, Kumiko, can I come in?" she asked, considerately and fortunately waiting outside until the go-ahead.
Mugen shook his head with frustration. "Tell her to stay out there," he whispered to Kumiko. He ran the tanto over the skin of her neck once more, just to remind her.
Kumiko rolled her eyes, but she called out, "Just a moment, Fuu." She looked back to Mugen, still frowning angrily. "Is there anything else?"
Mugen huffed and crawled off of her. He sheathed his tanto as she sat up and touched the slice on her neck and stared at the blood.
"Why didn't you tell me all that to begin with?" he asked, rearranging his towel at his waist. "Why'd you make me go through all this trouble?"
"You might have told him," she said shortly, wrapping her juban tighter across her chest. "He'd never let me stay with you otherwise."
Mugen shrugged and popped his neck. "Well, I don't mind if you stay," he said, quietly. "I don't want Jin dead any more than you. So, uh, I won't tell him the real reason you're here."
"Thank you." She reached up and twisted at her hair so it was off of her shoulders. "Are you going to leave now? I need to get dressed."
Mugen flushed and avoided her eyes. "Right. Uh, sleep well." He slid the door open to find a very surprised-looking Fuu staring at him. He glared daggers, and she kept her mouth shut as she entered the room, so he didn't feel the need to threaten her. Instead, he just made his way back to Jin, dropping his towel as soon as he entered the darkened room and flopping down on the futon. He heard Jin shift from his seat in the shadows and curl up behind him, felt the cool, dry press of lips on his shoulder, felt the long, callused fingers grip his arm and turn him to face the samurai. Jin's glasses glinted in the moonlight, obscuring his eyes.
Mugen wrapped his skinny arms around Jin's back and buried his face in the pale chest. Now that he knew the whole truth – and he knew that Kumiko had been telling the truth this time – he was more determined than ever not to let Jin from his side. Jin was his, in life and death, and he wouldn't let anybody, not even Jin's own brother, steal that death from him.
"I hope you weren't bothering Kumiko," Jin said at last, breathing the silence with his deep, smooth voice. "Though I suspect she would have hurt you worse than this if she had been truly offended." He touched the scratch on Mugen's arm, and Mugen startled. He had forgotten the minor wound.
Jin sighed as he accepted Mugen's silence and pulled him a little closer. "I don't know what it is you two talk about," he said quietly. "But I trust you, Mugen. So don't do anything stupid, okay?"
Mugen chuckled quietly and leaned up to kiss at Jin's neck. "You know me," he said mischievously. "I don't know the meaning of restraint."
Jin gave a small smile and removed his glasses. "Right. Are you sleeping tonight?"
"Yeah," Mugen said with a small yawn. "Been a long day, and we're almost to Nagasaki, so Fuu'll want to walk all day tomorrow."
"Hmm," Jin agreed, closing his eyes and falling asleep promptly. Mugen stayed awake for a little while, just watching Jin sleep, before he felt his eyes close.
"What was that all about?" Fuu asked, her eyes wide as she entered the room that Mugen had just vacated. "Was he bothering you or something?"
"No, I'm fine," Kumiko replied as she pulled on her clothing, dabbing at the cut on her neck with the sleeve of her juban. "He was just being Mugen, as usual."
"Mugen as usual is annoying enough," Fuu commented, wringing out her damp hair. She sighed, mostly with frustration, and flung herself down on her futon. She didn't particularly like that Mugen had busted in on their bath, but he would never have done so without Kumiko there. And then, apparently, he had cornered the older girl in their room. When was Fuu going to get that sort of attention? She turned on her side away from Kumiko, trying her best to ignore her.
Kumiko stared at Fuu's back for a long moment. She wasn't stupid – she could tell that Fuu was annoyed with the attention she was getting from the boys, but she had no idea how to fix things. She had to stay near Jin, and to do that, she had to put up with Mugen questioning her every other day.
"Fuu," she said quietly, moving a little closer to Fuu's bed. "Hey … are you mad at me?"
Fuu sighed again and turned over to look at Kumiko. "Yes … no … I dunno. It's just … they've been acting so weird since you got here! I sort of wish things would go back to normal." She lowered her eyes and blushed. "They're always paying so much attention to you, and I get none at all. Mugen never barged in on my baths before you showed up!"
Fuu bit her lip. That wasn't completely true. There had been that time in the bath with Sara … but this was exactly the same! She pulled the blanket up over her face and curled around herself, feeling so very alone.
Kumiko stared guiltily at the lump in the blanket that was Fuu. She hadn't exactly considered how Fuu would feel to have her life so interrupted, and knew she was at fault. She reached over and touched Fuu's shoulder.
"I'm sorry I stole them away from you," she said quietly. "That was never my intention. But I … have the feeling that you won't need to worry about that anymore." She looked out the window. "I have a feeling I won't travel with you much longer."
Fuu pulled the blanket down a little bit. "I didn't mean to make you leave," she murmured. "It's been nice having a friend. I don't know if I've ever really had a girl as a friend before."
Kumiko smiled a little. "I don't think I have, either, and you have been a good friend, Fuu." She squeezed the younger girl's shoulder kindly. "I just think it's time for me to move on. The three of you … you look after each other. I hadn't realized how strong the bond between you was. There is no place for me in your trio." Her smile turned a little sad. "But I don't mind. Now I will be able to start a new life away from my husband."
"You really think there's a bond?" Fuu asked hopefully.
"Definitely. I think perhaps they have forgotten it with me here to distract them." Kumiko bent her head. "I must admit, I am a little jealous of you."
"There's no reason in that," Fuu said. "They've been ignoring me so much, even before you came along."
"Then you must remind them," Kumiko suggested. "You are what keeps them together, you and your quest. Don't forget that." She ran her hands once more through her hair and looked down at Fuu again. "You wouldn't mind, I hope … but I am lonely tonight as well. Do you think we might share a bed? Just for tonight."
"Okay," Fuu said, lifting the blanket. "I just hope you're right. Those two can be so stubborn."
"Keep them together, Fuu," Kumiko repeated, sliding beside Fuu in the futon and wrapping her arms tight around her. "And look after my brother for me. I know he won't do so himself."
"Okay," Fuu agreed again, yawning once more before sleep overcame her. Soon enough, Kumiko was asleep as well, nestled close in Fuu's warm and comfortable embrace.