The twelfth time he saw her, he found himself impaled with his own sword.

It was a nice change, he often thought, not having to deal with modern day struggles or the selfish English language.

Then again he was selfish and struggling, but that was beside the point.

He found himself a samurai in the earlier days of Japan, and he had to admit he was enjoying himself much more than usual. He preferred the countryside to the modern devices of America. He was English born and raised on a suffering farm, so it was no wonder he was so taken with the era of wooden swords and vast farmlands.

In particular, however, he had been won over by his small band of new friends: three younger samurai with a loyal streak no one else could challenge.

The four of them traveled the countryside of old Japan, taking down wily foes and helping fellow people in need.

The only problem they were beginning to face was the sudden increase in the military power of a neighboring country. That cause a lot of problems, not just for them but for everybody. That meant freelancers like them were in a bit of a bind.

Sort of like their current situation.

Half of their ragtag group of samurai was unconscious, and he had been impaled in the side by his own sword.

The winter sky was looking very pretty today.

The only other conscious man offered to patch him up. Together, after he was strong enough to walk, they carried their friends to the closest building they could find.

They happened upon a suspiciously welcoming building during their search – a cabaret.

Or as he more commonly knew it – a nightclub.

He tried to get them to keep moving, he really did, but alas, the four of them ended up entering the oh-so-horrible building.

They were greeted by the owner of the establishment, and seeing the awful state they were in, offered them a place to rest and regain their strength. They readily agreed, seeing as how the nice man let them stay the night for free. His two unconscious comrades were taken to a room to sleep, and his other friend disappeared barely ten minutes after they arrived, a bottle of alcohol in his hand.

He sighed, falling back onto one of the vacant booths. He ignored the other customers, tending to his wound by rubbing it slowly.

A saucer was placed on the table in front of him.

He rolled his eyes to his side and found a pretty brown-headed woman pouring him a drink.

"Hey," he mumbled, fully aware who she was. "I didn't ask for you to pour me a drink."

She smiled and shook her head, placing the bottle on the table with a muffled clink. "Don't worry, I'll pay," she assured him. "You look as if you need a drink."

He forced a grin; she beat him there. He heaved himself up and took the saucer, taking a sip as he eyed her from the side.

"So," he started, wiping his mouth with the backside of his hand. "You work here?"

"You couldn't tell?" She gestured to her kimono which matched the rest of the hostesses.

He looked at the ceiling, leaning his arms over the edge of the booth as he relaxed. She folded her hands in her lap and looked at him fondly, a smile overtaking her face.

"Might I ask why you're injured?"

He scratched the small stubble on his face he forgot to shave and replied in a quiet but playful tone, "Are you interested?"

"Why ask if I'm not?" Her eyes were bright and playful, much like her pretty brown hair he missed so much.

This caused him to laugh, a real and honest laugh he hadn't had in many, many years, and soon he found himself coughing from his injury. He waved her away as she worried she might have caused him harm, but he smiled charmingly at her.

"If you really want to know," he started, coyly, "then give me a kiss, would you?"

She raised an eyebrow and snorted in the most unladylike way. "And why would I do such a thing?"

He motioned to all the other booths around them. "It's your job to satisfy your customers, is it not?"

At this she huffed and drew him closer, a stern look on her face.

"First of all," she said, grabbing his arm and twisting it in a way one would not want their arm to be twisted. "There is a limit to what I am allowed and will do."

He bit his lip while grinning, trying to hold in the pain to let her finish.

"And secondly," she continued, letting go of his arm, only to jab at his wound. "That is not how you get a woman to kiss you."

He grimaced and clutched his side. "I give! I give! Ouch… I won't do it again."

She smirked and pecked him on the cheek. "Good."

His face flushed, and he nodded dumbly. How she still got him after all this time, he never knew.

"Well," she started, brushing her kimono as she stood. "I have to get back to work. Try not to hurt yourself, no?"

He smiled, hiding his blush behind a hand. "I make no promises."

Spring came and surprisingly they were both still alive.

He and his samurai friends had stayed at the cabaret for some time, resting their bones like the old men their grandfathers were and did a few odd jobs for the owner of the establishment. They grew to know the ladies at the place, although one of their samurai friends decided he was better off not staying around during those times, and found the nearby village a rather peaceful place.

But because they were samurai, their itch to get moving grew bigger each day, and eventually, they couldn't hold back anymore.

The ladies of the cabaret waved them goodbye as the four samurai left, wishing them well on their travels and to come back again someday.

He followed his brethren, his hand resting on his sword, when he felt a soft thump on his back. He turned around and found the girl standing there, breathing heavily.

"Here," she said at last, standing on her toes as she kissed him on the lips. "You never did tell me why you were injured."

He smiled, proudly calling his defeat at being played. He rubbed her cheek with his thumb, causing her eye to close as she looked up at him confused.

"Nothing you have to worry about," he whispered softly. "Just be wary of any other samurai you see, alright?"

She nodded slowly, as if she had more to say but didn't. He let go of her cheek, both of them feeling the sudden absence of warmth, and he waved goodbye as he followed his friends down the road.

It was late summer now, the cherry blossoms from the trees now turned vibrant greens and soon yellows and reds.

The four samurai sat around their camp, tending to their swords and clothes.

He enjoyed this time the most. The quiet scene of the forest, the warm glow of the summer sun on their backs as they traveled in immersive countryside. How much he loved the freedom he felt, he could never explain in words.

He loved this time of year, but not as much as he loved her.

He hummed as he nicked away at his sword's blade, catching the attention of his fellow samurai friend, the one lucky enough to stay uninjured those few months ago.

"What's got you happy all of a sudden?" the samurai asked.

He smiled softly, thumbing the now sharp blade in his hands. "Nothing much, just the nice things in life."

The samurai stared at him, almost like he was contemplating something important in his mind.

"Say, onushi," he called to him.

He looked at the samurai in interest. "What is it?"

"Did you really not know?"

The bizarreness of the samurai's question caused him to put down his sword completely, and he treaded with caution with his next reply. "…Know what?"

The others around them filled the small silence with their snores.

A bear's growl in the distance could be heard.

The samurai looked up at him from the ground, innocently eating a piece of meat, and said in his ever so usual voice, "She was with child, you know."


His blood stopped cold, and he stared at the lazy samurai below him as if asking for him to repeat what he just said.

"Huh." The samurai blankly looked back at him. "I'm guessing you were the one who did her in?"

It was winter again. This time snow covered the ground.

The four samurai ran through the forest, not stopping for a second lest the angry wolves of their enemies catch them.

They heard the shouting behind them grow closer and closer, so they agreed to split up and meet once their trials had gone cold.

Unfortunately, the only building close enough to hide in was one he didn't want any harm to come to. The village was too far away. He desperately didn't want to, but he saw no other choice besides being served on a silver platter by the neighboring land.

He couldn't hear the shouting when he knocked on the door, but he didn't want to take any chances.

He was greeted with the face of the cabaret owner, but he refused to say anything until he was inside and the door was locked.

The owner was beyond surprised to see him again. They asked where he'd been, why he was so tired and injured, and the like.

He didn't have any time for formalities and asked where the brown-headed girl was.

There was a knock at the door.

"Who is it?" No answer. "I swear I finished cleaning the laundry hours ago," the girl griped as she heaved herself off her bed and went to open the door.

The air was knocked out of her when she saw him standing there.

"Uh, hi," he dumbly said, holding up a hand.

"You're back!"

She tackled him in a hug, squeezing him tight as he wheezed, asking for air.

"Oh!" She loosened her grip, still holding him in her arms. "I just can't believe it! You – you actually came back! I thought… I thought maybe you left for good…"

He brushed her brown hair from her eyes, soaking in the pretty sight he longed for every day for countless lives. There she was, safe and healthy, not a scratch on her. She even welcomed him with open arms.

She continued to hug him, breathing in his earthy scent reminiscent of wood and stone. She missed him dearly every day since he left, standing outside after the last customers left, wondering when he might ever return. And now, here he was.

He hugged her back tightly, like he was afraid he lose her one thousand times again.

"The things I've gone through for you," he whispered into her shoulder.

She smiled, rubbing his back as she felt the tears soak through her kimono.

"Do you want to see her?"

His breath hitched, and suddenly he felt another wave of tear fall, tears he never got to shed before.

He nodded softly, and she took his hand to guide him into the room.

There she was, his child, his little girl, sleeping quietly in the cradle.

He hesitantly went to pick her up but stopped when she started to squirm. Beside him, his partner squeezed his arm, and he found the sureness to gently cradle his daughter against his chest.

He started to panic when the tiny baby mewled and groped around with her hands, but the girl beside him rested her head on his shoulder. He finally relaxed.

Gray eyes and brown hair.

A spitting image of the two of them.

Then, the distant shouts broke the serene picture around them.

He frowned, handing over their daughter to the mother as he gently kissed her forehead. She watched him sadly as he laid a hand on his sword, his back now facing the both of them.

"Please come back alive," she whispered softly. "She still has no name."

He looked over his shoulder, a changed man with a broad stance and a real home. He grinned, the faces of many of his previous selves from the past and future taking one form.

"Promise me one thing."

She clutched their daughter to her chest. "Yes?"

He took one step out the door, his hat shielding his eyes as he smiled.

"Promise me. Promise me that you'll live."