It's been quite some time since I've published (or even written) fanfiction, so here's my attempt to jump back into it. Funny how I pick to write about a show that I feel has some very strong characterizations that, in my opinion, can be pretty difficult to get right. Here's my attempt...

Chapter 1 / Aimless

"Are you sure this is the right way?" Fuu eyed the pair of samurai ambling ahead of her in suspicion. For the past four hours, they had been wandering east through a sizeable forest, following a path that was barely visible beyond the reaching arms of the shrubbery and patchy grass.

She didn't know why she continued to trust them when it came to navigating through the lush forests that surrounded the small towns of the countryside. It seemed that whenever they were in charge of directions, the group seemed to find their way into trouble. They seemed to find themselves in trouble regardless, but Fuu liked to blame it on them anyway. It was her way of getting back at them for not letting her lead the way because of something along the lines her being a woman and not having a sense of direction. Fuu wrinkled her nose at the memory. Jerks.

Realizing that neither man was going to answer her, Fuu's assumption that they were, once again, lost seemed to be confirmed. A sigh slipped past her lips before she could stop it, and her shoulders slumped in defeat.

"Really, you guys? I thought you were sure this was the right way to go…"

"Considering that we were able to bypass that checkpoint before we were spotted is well worth the risk of getting lost." Jin spoke up from in front of her, and Fuu straightened, glaring boldly at the back of his head.

"But you're not denying that we're lost." Her voice was deadpan as she began dragging her feet through the dirt, nonplussed by her bodyguard's nonchalant attitude. She didn't deny that they weren't in the best standings with the government. Not one of them could legally pass through a checkpoint with their heads still attached to their bodies, but that didn't mean that her two male counterparts could lead her aimlessly through the forest!

"Oh quit yer bitchin'." Mugen didn't even glance her way as he addressed her. "We're gettin' somewhere and that's all that matters."

Fuu furrowed her eyebrows and opened her mouth to protest, but before she could utter a word, Jin came to a sudden stop, bringing his companions to a halt.

"For once, I agree with him. Where exactly is it that we're supposed to be going?" He turned his inquisitive gaze on Fuu, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his slender nose. Fuu had been with him long enough to know that it was something he did only when mildly irritated. She couldn't help but squirm under his gaze, realizing that his question was a legitimate one.

It was one she'd actually been trying not to think about since they'd met back up only a few weeks after they'd split from each other. The reunification of their group only served to remind Fuu of something Mugen had once said: "No matter what we do, fate keeps throwing us right back together!" She couldn't deny the truth in that statement now after they'd split multiple times, only to be brought back together again. Even if they were somehow split up now, Fuu was sure they'd find each other again, even if it took a little while. It was something she had come to accept after their most recent reunion. Their time with each other wasn't meant to end quite yet.

Fuu let out another dejected sigh, realizing that she couldn't put off the question any longer. With Mugen, it'd be a simple task to redirect the conversation to a safer topic, but with Jin it would be nearly impossible.

"Well I haven't exactly thought about it…"

"Can't say that's somethin' new." Mugen tossed an irritated glare in her direction, scratching the back of his head idly. The girl couldn't help but feel her patience wither and die underneath his gaze.

"Look who's talking, jerk!" Crossing her arms, Fuu took a defiant stance in front of him. She could take Jin's probing questions, but Mugen's insults were a different thing entirely. She wasn't about to put up with offhand comments from someone who was constantly flying by the seat of their pants through life or death situations.

"Are ya tryin' to say somethin', ya little wench?!"

"Yeah, I'm trying to say that you're an idiot!" A scowled crossed the unkempt swordsman's face as he stared down the girl in front of him, refusing to be beaten by her in a game of insults.

"Whatever. If there's anyone around here who's an idiot, it's the one who traveled across the countryside looking for some smelly guy with no way to know where he was!" He lifted a hand from his side to point at her accusingly, adding, "It only took us weeks to find out anything on the guy!"

At the mention of the sunflower samurai, Fuu felt herself go rigid, still not completely at terms with the end of her journey. With something akin to frustration burning through her veins, she turned her back to the two men.

"For your information, you also chased after him! If I'm an idiot, that you're an even bigger one for following me!" With that, Fuu began to stomp back in the direction they had come from, kicking up dust and stray rocks along the way. There was no way she was going to hang around when the tattooed pirate was trying to antagonize her—especially when it was about the sunflower samurai.

A growl escaped from Mugen's throat as he watched the petite girl stroll down the pathway, unable to come up with anything convincing to shout at her retreating form.

"Walked straight into that one…"

"Shut it, four eyes." Mugen placed a calloused hand on his chin and rubbed at the stubble there in annoyance. He hated taking shit from anyone, let alone Jin. "If I'm an idiot for followin' her ass around, than so are you."

"I don't believe that was the point of her insult." A rare smirk twisted its way on the pale samurai's face. Fed up with losing a war of words with both of his companions, Mugen turned from the other swordsman, facing back down the trail they had been following.

"Oh, shut the hell up."

Fuu trudged along the nearly hidden path until the anger burning in her chest began to dissipate with the dying light of the sun. Stopping underneath the shade of a leaning tree, she crouched down on the ground and put her arms around her knees, burying her face in the folds of her kimono.

Why does he have to be such an insensitive jerk?

The thought had been repeatedly running through her head during her trek away from the duo. Why do I put up with his crap even now that I don't have a reason to be around him?

Fuu rummaged around in her brain for any clues, but she failed to come up with a plausible explanation. When she thought of Mugen or Jin and why she still traveled with them, her brain utterly failed to come up with any sort of answer. Her heart however, was a different story altogether. She knew she had come to care for the two somewhere along their journey. They had taken care of her, albeit in their own way. Whenever she thought of the two, there was a warmth in her chest that told her that she had become attached to them.

But is that really any reason to stick together? If we all make each other miserable…

The thought came to the surface of her mind unbidden, and Fuu screwed her eyes shut to block it out. There had to be a reason they had all met up again. Fate had brought them together again for a reason. Or at least she hoped. Since the incident on Ikitsuki Island, nothing had seemed to be certain in her life—she had been living day to day in Nagasaki, trying to scrounge up enough money for food and housing. It hadn't been anything she hadn't done when she had sought out the sunflower samurai, but without her bodyguards, the times she had spent sleeping outside or going hungry had seemed somehow harder.

When a chance encounter reunited her with the only people she had ever considered close enough to be her friends, Fuu had felt like some sort of stability had returned to her life—or at least as stable as anything could be when Mugen was around. Jin wasn't as bad, but they both seemed to draw more mishaps into her life with their antics.

Despite herself, Fuu felt her lips tilt into a small smile as she thought about the ridiculous adventures she'd had with the two swordsmen. It had been a long journey to the western half of the country, but in the end…

"…over there…" A slight breeze tousled Fuu's dark hair, carrying along fragments of voices. Startled, she lifted her head from her knees and tried to discern where the voices were coming from. She almost wondered if it was Mugen and Jin trying to find her, but quickly dismissed the idea as more than highly unlikely. From past experiences, she knew they were more likely to leave her on her own when she got into what Mugen referred to as "one o' them bitchy moods," and sometimes she thanked him for having a sense of personal space, even if he probably didn't mean to do her any favors by it. And then there were the times when Fuu realized this was likely the reason that she seemed to be the victim of frequent kidnappings.

Regardless of the reasoning, Mugen and Jin would never come after her, at least not so soon after she had stormed off in a rage. With that in mind, Fuu knew that meeting people along the road usually meant disaster, and with their small group being so close to a checkpoint, it would be dangerous to be spotted off of the main road.

Not rising from her crouch, Fuu shuffled as quickly as she could behind the thin line of foliage that she had been squatting next to. Shifting onto her hands and knees, she took cover behind a tree barely wide enough to hide her slim frame, but with the voices coming closer, she couldn't risk making any more of a ruckus trying to find a better spot to hide. The soft padding of muted footsteps reached Fuu's ears and she stiffened against the tree, feeling her heart pound frantically against the inside of her chest.

"Here," a man's hushed voice rumbled from the direction that Fuu had crawled away from. "Look, there are the scuff marks. They definitely came this way."

A grunt of affirmation echoed the man's statement, and Fuu had to strain to hear the quiet footfalls as they began moving away from her.

"Are you really sure it's worth this much effort to track these guys down?" A man with a higher voice questioned, and the girl strained her ears further to catch the conversation as it moved on further down the path.

"Personally I'm unsure, but if this is what… shogunate wants… then…" The voices gradually moved out of earshot, and Fuu felt both relief and mild annoyance course through her. She had managed to escape detection, but at the same time, these men were looking for someone. And these were the shogun's men. Someone was in trouble. A sense of unease crept into her gut, and she gulped as she remembered the duo she had stomped away from earlier in the day.

And I can only guess who these men are after…

Gritting her teeth, Fuu silently cursed. They were almost more trouble then they were worth...

Feeling something warm squirm around in the front of her kimono, Fuu smiled down at Momo as his head appeared out of her collar.

"Well Momo, let's see if we can't help those two idiots out this time around." At her words, the animal merely looked at her and blinked. Thinking on her words, the girl couldn't help but laugh to herself uncertainly. "Or at least we can try..."

Let me know what you think.