"Bastard. Didn't even put up a fight."

Mugen barely even registers the words coming out of his mouth as Fuu waves and waves and waves at the figures that have long since disappeared over the rise in the path. It's so natural to him to insult the ronin that he hardly pays any attention to the sentence that follows the typical name-calling. Before his mind can catch up, Fuu interrupts:

"I can't believe it."

The statement draws him out of his brief anti-Jin reverie. "Huh?" he asks.

Her voice trembles, girlish and frail. "We've come all this way together. How could he just turn around and leave like that?"

"Huh?" Mugen repeats, staring at her back.

Fuu turns, and her eyes quaver; her mouth stretches like a rubber band. "I thought for sure that Jin- was gonna say no!" This last note drags out, stutters.

"Huh?" Mugen gapes as she starts to sob.

"But he didn't!" she warbles, sniffing.

She's pissed him off before - hundreds of times, seemingly - but the feeling that constricts his chest as she mourns the ronin's departure is something altogether different, something more akin to physical pain. And yet, with her cries grating on his ears, he's quick to dismiss it as the newest level of exasperation she can drive him to.

He collects all his irritation and tosses his arm across his body and out as if to cast her off entirely. But his voice is dampened with resignation as he snaps, "No shit, I wouldn't've said no either." And, dismissing that emotion too, he turns and stomps ahead, growling, "Dumb broad," and feeling altogether more like himself as he curses and spits and leads the way.

But later, after they've made camp and after she's pointedly laid down with her back to him and after he's pointedly ignored the way her body shudders until sleep claims her, the argument bubbles forth from the back of his mind, and it is that sentence upon which he fixes:

"Didn't even put up a fight."

It had been meant as a final parting jab at the ronin, but as Mugen lies beside the dying fire, his own words finally register. Knotting his fingers behind his head, he eyes Fuu's back through the crook of his elbow.

It was true - if she had sent him with Sara, he wouldn't've said no. He would have fought. He would've flung that table and all its food across the room and gotten right in the stupid little bitch's face and demanded why the fuck he was never good enough for her. He would've grabbed her tight enough to bruise and demanded a final, definitive answer as to why, after all his goddamn rescues, fish-face was still her savior.

But she had kept him.

Mugen grunts. His stomach cramps as he sits up and twists to look at her fully, his eyes softened in the glow of the embers. He rests a forearm on his knee and studies her. Unbidden, her words come back:

"I thought for sure that Jin- was gonna say no!"

And somehow, he still feels like second best.

Rustling on her side of the campfire interrupts his train of thought. Mugen refocuses on Fuu as she rolls over in her sleep. Her skin is raw around the eyes. He can still make out a few droplets on her lashes, a few dirty tear tracks on her cheeks. And that feeling constricts his chest.

"You fucking dumbass," he whispers. "When has he ever really fought for you, huh?"

And he wonders briefly if, had she sent him with Sara, he would have been too hurt to do anything but pretend to be glad to be rid of her.

I wrote this back in October and just found it again. I'm not entirely sure why I never published it; I think I had intended to correct some minor issue but never followed through.

I used the lines from the English dub because, amazingly, I actually prefer it to the Japanese (there are a few select lines that reverse this, but they are a small few). I hope nobody minds.

This moment was one of the first that I fixed on in the series. Both the VAs give their lines such specific tones - dulled contempt with "Didn't even put up a fight," and that almost disappointed resignation with "No shit, I wouldn't've either." I love the way they expose Mugen, and although this is my (Fuugen) interpretation, I'm sure we can all agree that there's a lot more significance to the scene than what's shown on the surface.

Tell me what you think, and as always, thanks for reading.