A/N: i think i wrote this when i was especially craving cheesecake- i was super pissed i couldn't get any. lawl.
A/N: opening lines from fiona apple's "paper bag"
I got to fold, 'cause these hands are too shaky to hold
Hunger hurts, but starving works, when it costs too much to love
She really hadn't thought she'd find herself in this situation. Mugen was always the one to run off on ridiculous expeditions, to brawl in the streets with random thugs, or to chop down some estate holder's forest just because he felt like it—and she always bandaged Mugen at the end of the day, as Jin looked on, shaking his head in the corner.
("What?" Mugen would glare defensively at the samurai, just begging for another fight—until Fu pulled on his ear like an irritated mother.
"Calm the fuck down, you dumbass," she'd growl over an empty stomach.)
But not today.
Nope, today was the third day Fu had gone without food, and she felt it down in her bones. She'd been walking these last three days from the last bedraggled village to here—another bedraggled village with little to offer, and no lodgings to be had.
Could anyone blame her if she got a little testy? For goodness' sake, it was her turn.
And she was so damned tired of keeping her cool.
("Cool?" Mugen would say. "That whiner complains more than a pregnant wife.")
So when Fu had gone inside a rickety teahouse and spoken to its big-bellied owner, asking for some food in exchange for work, and she'd been denied, she was already at the end of her rope.
A group of men, drunk as hell, and rowdy, and feeling big and bad because they were the biggest fish in the cramped little town, were sitting in the corner of the little teahouse, and they were laughing at her as she was leaving.
"Ha! Lookit the little bitch," they sniggered.
"Wouldn't even pay that scrawny thing for sex," another teased.
"I dunno," a third sneered, "maybe if she'd take it up the ass like a boy. Only way someone would go for it."
She stopped in her tracks.
A couple of seconds ticked by, and one of the drunks dared to laugh, "What? You think she heard us? Think she'll cry?"
(And Fu couldn't deny, she had memories of big boys in her neighborhood, dirty little boys, little boys with big grins and bigger hands and feet than hers, little boys who liked to kick her to the dusty ground and laugh, laugh at her hunger and her loneliness—where's your father? Isn't he going to save you? Huh? Little orphan girl?)
None of them saw it coming.
Suddenly, in a blur of pink and the screech of a banshee, Fu was upon them, kicking, screaming, throwing dishes to the floor; she overturned the table, ripped hair out of one of the guy's heads, dumped sake in their faces—all with the speed of a cat in the night.
(The teahouse owner had retreated to the back of the store, too big a coward to stop the ensuing fight.)
"Whothehelldoyouthinkyouare!" she hollered, her face white with rage, her eyes shining with tears that did not fall. "I'm sick of people like you, everywhere!"
And that's when one of them stood, "What the hell is with you Missy? We'll teach you a lesson!" or some such threat like that.
Fu wasn't listening.
She was still operating on exhaustion and hunger and rage; too far gone to stop until she hit a wall.
But the one who had spoken cracked his knuckles and drew a dagger. His companions grabbed her arms. She was beat in the stomach, her lip broken, her hair tugged. She felt the sharp sting of the dagger in various places.
Fu screamed until she was hoarse—then all went black.
"'Bout fuckin' time," he was growling when her eyelids opened.
Mugen was sitting across from her in some cheap motel room, legs crossed and his thumb nervously tapping his knee.
"What happened?" she croaked out. Ugh. Her eyelids hurt, and her stomach was turning. She felt the giant pad of a bandage on her cheek.
"You lost your fucking mind, that's what," he ground out. "Decided you could take on four armed guys in a teahouse just because we're having a bad day."
She blinked slowly, but she didn't really want to remember. Her chest tightened in response when she thought of that blinding rage. "Did you save me?"
"Hell yeah I saved you," he said. "Who else? Fish face? Naw, he went looking for the local law enforcement. That's where he is now," Mugen added. "Not that it's gonna do a damn thing."
She was quiet a moment, then sat up from the bed roll, feeling sore all over. After a moment, with neither of them speaking, she tried her legs and stood, making for the door to look around.
"Hey! Where are you going? Get back here. I need to check your injuries."
She turned, offered him a lame smile. "No, don't worry about it, thanks—"
But Mugen was already up, with his impossible, lanky-but-fluid speed. He grabbed her dirty little ankle and dragged her across the floor. "You really think I'm just going to take this sitting down? Spread your legs."
"They nearly slashed your legs to ribbons. Let me see them."
"M-Mugen, I—I really don't think—"
"Quit yapping, more spreading. Let me see that leg of yours."
She winced when he pulled her flush against him, her right calf held firmly in his rough hand. And he studied the scrape on the inside of her thigh, carefully screwing his brows together in a line and poking his face toward the lower half of her body. He did not notice (or, maybe he didn't care) the way her face was turned to the side, or how red and blotchy her face, neck, and ears had become.
She only allowed part of herself to watch him, how intent and serious he looked—none of the foolish boy he was when drooling over prostitutes in the streets.
(The thought made her kind of sad—then furious with herself. Why should I lower myself to be like those women! She mentally harrumphed.)
Gosh, she flushed: she'd forgotten, though Mugen was thin as a grasshopper, that he was also big. Big and warm and heavy, a big and warm and heavy and strong man, and as he held her close to him, checking her legs, she could smell beneath the dirt on him, a scent like distant island trees. His skin, rough as coarse linen, looked so inviting in the dim light of the room, as comforting to her as a favorite sheet, with more allure.
Then he reached out with his free hand and gingerly probed the wound.
"A-ah, Mugen!" she winced, scrunching her toes between the pleasure of his touch on her skin, and the sensitivity of her abrasion.
He ignored her distress though, and only fingered the scratch a little more.
"Okay, so it doesn't look too deep," he finally said.
"Great," she grumped, "now will you get off of me? This is entirely too invasive."
"Entirely too invasive," he mocked her in a high pitched squeal. He scoffed. "Please, just wait till I'm screwing you in some tea house's back room—we'll see what's invasive then." He cast her an evil-looking leer and then reached for the bandages. "But I wouldn't screw a whiney little bitch like you anyway."
She went stiff, and he noticed immediately. Mugen turned to see her staring straight at him, no expression on her face, her eyes wide and clear—and horrified. You're just like them, they said.
"Is that what happened?" he suddenly burst. "They said you didn't have a nice ass and you got into a fight with them? You're the biggest fool I've ever fucking seen."
"It's not like that," she muttered weakly.
"Then what's it like?"
She whipped her head back to him, glared with as much force as she could muster. "Look! They said some really disrespectful things, and I get fucking sick of punks, too, Mugen!" Then she looked away, peeved. "I don't get to go brawling and whoring and wasting money night after night like you, I have to just sit and take that? No way in hell."
Although he'd been pretending he wasn't listening, picking his ear, scratching his chin, Mugen watched the way her whole face had turned red and white at turns while she spoke—evidence of her extreme anger—and hunger. He turned her back around, pulled the top of her kimono down to check the bruises on her back.
"Whatever, we all know you'd have let them talk dirty to you all day if they'd paid for your food," he tossed out. "I don't wanna hear it."
Fu ground her teeth in rage. "What, Mugen? This may be difficult for you to understand, but not every woman will throw it down in exchange for a little payment."
"Yeah maybe, but don't act all high and mighty—like you're some saint or something. I've seen you flirt around because you thought it'd buy you a meal."
She was quiet a moment, and he hoped she was done. Then she said, quietly: "Is that really what's happened to me?"
She paused again, longer this time. "I just didn't think I'd be the kind of girl who'd—who'd throw herself away like that."
As long as she could remember, Fu had been hungry. She went from home to home, from places of employment to other places of employment, begging, working her fingers to the bone, charming bosses to give her work or food. Fu was infinitely hungry, it seemed to be a part of her. The hunger never went away, ever; now, these days, traveling with these two, the hunger took hold of her, ruled her, made her irritable and quick to fight or argue. The hunger made itself her master.
Had she allowed it more sway over her soul than her conscience?
He scoffed. "Throw yourself away? And what's the point in saving it anyway? Just do what you can to get by, but don't bitch about others doing it."
"You're a funny one to moralize to me." She was still uncomfortable, and he could see it.
"Ha-ha, girlie, think whatever you want about me. Just don't bitch at me, that's all."
She sighed, sat, let him perform his ministrations. He gently lifted the existing bandages from her right arm, where there were ugly bloody marks from the man's hands. They were tender to the touch, and she winced.
"Sorry," he grumbled.
It was strange, and she had to smile. Though she found the day in its entirety distasteful—hell, she was still so hungry she felt sick to the core—she found the tips of her lips rising upwards toward heaven as he studied the wounds on her soft body. It was strange indeed, yet sweet; she had not expected Mugen to tend to her in case of injury. She thought he took it for granted when she tended his wounds. But perhaps not.
And that made her smile—till suddenly he pushed her to the floor, pulling her kimono off her body.
"Mugen? What the—"
"Calm the fuck down, I'm looking at your stomach. Or don't you remember that they nearly punched your womb out?"
He opened her garment, and she noticed for the first time that she was already bandaged around her hips and ribcage, which suddenly felt incredibly sore. His skinny calloused hands flitted over her pale skin, causing her heart rate to race, faster, faster, and even—yes, faster, till she was gasping a little for breath, though he was barely touching her.
(And she thought, though she'd never, ever, ever, admit it to him: God, if he's doing this to me just checking my wounds, I don't think I'd make it through sex—)
(And an even smaller, sadder part of her cried, This is why you fool! This is why it's important to save it—)
"M-Mugen," she murmured, her face to the side. She felt, so warm inside. What was happening?
"W-would you rather that I—I wasn't one of those girls, girls who saved it? Would you think differently of me if I just threw it away?"
He stopped moving. She thought she saw him swallow slowly, but he wasn't looking at her, he wasn't doing anything now.
She turned redder than ever, "Oh, I o-only meant, I mean—what if I didn't care either, about it, the way you don't? What if I was one of those girls who did have sex for food, or money?" She paused. "What would you say to me then?"
She lay under him for several minutes, waiting, then he suddenly turned his head mechanically up to meet her eyes.
"What?" he croaked. He sounded as if he had not had a drop of water for days. The sound startled her.
Fu struggled to put her sudden painful conviction into words. "Love, it's expensive. And it takes time. Maybe, maybe it's not worth it." Tears sprang to her eyes, and she tried to wipe them away. "I, I can't be hungry all the time, Mugen, I can't do it."
The silence was long, a stretched, tense kind of silence, as if they were two samurai locked in combat, each waiting for the other to act first, to attempt the death strike—to speak, or to step away. She wasn't sure if her words had been her own bushido, but she did feel the way her stomach drooped a little lower with each passing second.
"I think you'll be okay," he said suddenly, pulling away from her. He tucked her kimono around her body, then threw himself down next to her. "God, I'm bushed," he admitted.
She blinked, mentally sighed. What had just happened? But, she supposed it was for the best that he had not answered her question. She turned her back to him. "Did you hurt yourself today?"
He frowned, but his eyes were already closed. "Against those punks? Hell no. Just haven't eaten in freaking years it seems. Need a nap."
When she woke again, he was leaning over her again, and the top of her kimono was open, but he wasn't touching her.
He was just looking. And the silence was tense again.
"Mugen?" she said, breaking the silence.
"I beat the shit outta those guys, I hope you know," he grumbled, looking away. "Because you couldn't fucking do it right, and I was hungry and pissed. I forgot to tell you."
She wanted to laugh, but she was afraid it would hurt.
"I don't think I would have done that, if you were one of those girls," he added, looking straight at her now. It was the same look as before, before she'd woken up, and she filled up with red and pink tingles.
(Not quite a stare; a stare was intense, even brooding, more contemplative. Mugen's eyes were wandering, more like—roving softly over her, lingering in certain places, skimming easily over the rifts and curves and mounds of her body was easily and naturally as clouds over the earth. Normally she would be embarrassed, she might even feel violated, if she woke under such circumstances, but today was different. He was observing as one who has studied this landscape many times before, with the familiarity of a husband to his wife, and she felt—oh, oh—she felt in one rushing moment of wind and rain and blood—she felt: loved.)
And she wasn't hungry anymore.
A/N: that damned cheesecake.
A/N: reviewreviewreview, I LOVE YOU.