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The Long Kiss Goodnight

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    It was Mitsuhide who suggested sleeping together, naturally. Like, what one would expect from the company's certified pervert, and Her Highness was Her Highness, and the disciple Muku carried a veritable armory of blunt instruments, which left Goemon as sort of the only option... Well, Goemon laughed, hard and loud. Mitsuhide, embarrassed, all but swore he meant exactly as he said: sleeping and no more. Goemon the merry said all right, he was willing even to sing a lullaby if that would make Mitsuhide shut up and leave be. Mitsuhide, flustered, from the depths of his monk's cloak mumbled something about another living soul. Goemon looked at his unruly hair, at his left hand clenched in a tight fist, and considered Mitsuhide, though a good man, a complete and utter mess.
    "Oh," said Mitsuhide, raising his head, and he was blushing – blushing, would you believe that. "You're not alone tonight. I – I beg your pardon."
    And Goemon said, "Wha..?"
    "I mean. Er. So many fine girls wanted to accompany you."
    Goemon laughed again.
    "Girls? Who needs them when I got you and a pile of money – that is the new price on my head? What girls..."
    Mitsuhide, himself a victim of passions and abstention, apologized again – for ruining another's joy.
    "I – I will go then," he said.
    And Goemon sighed, "Where ever would you go," and grabbed the wayward monk by the shoulder.
    The monk froze.
    They say there are these special moments when one's entire life passes before his eyes. Goemon had not seen his entire life, but he did recall that this here before him was former Oda's first general, and a nobleman, and, well, someone who stopped cannonballs one-handed.
    Mitsuhide stared at him with those huge guilty black eyes and whispered a "thank you". The world's greatest thief swore.

    And it was Goemon who had nearly spoiled just about everything. Mitsuhide, comfortably settled between Garuda and the thief, fell asleep – as promised. But the thief had trouble sleeping. He was not nervous: he was excited. He was not afraid: he had just stepped into something bigger than usual and needed to think about it, better late than never... And, all right, he had rather hoped to spend the night with a fine girl or two.
    Mitsuhide was warm – almost hot – against his side. Mitsuhide's hair tickled his face. Couldn't the man shave his head, like monks do? thought Goemon... and Mitsuhide nuzzled his shoulder.
    Well, what do you call it when a man – most definitely a man – presses himself flush against your side, wraps an arm around you, breathes humidly and happily down your... and then wakes up? Just when you've found some skin beneath all those clothes, bandages and armor, too. Goemon felt like a thief caught red-handed, which was stupid, 'cause he was a thief, he was the thief, and it was all Mitsuhide's fault anyway!
    "It's just carnal desire, is it not?" asked Mitsuhide, and so great was his talent to confound the obvious that Goemon had actually stopped to check.
    "Yep. Seems like the thing."
    "Oh," said Mitsuhide. "I am sorry. Then we shouldn't..."
    "Right. You like girls, and I like girls, and normally I wouldn't, but... why?"
    "This," said Mitsuhide and raised his right arm. "Do you know what it is?"
    "A mood killer? Oops. Yes, yes, I guess. An awesome weapon, that." And – I don't want it, Goemon realized, surprising himself, and not just 'cause it comes with one loopy monk attached...
    "Yes... But it's just firepower. To wield its real might one must have spirit true and heart pure, otherwise it's just firepower, and there always is a greater one. I'm seeking it –"
    "A greater firepower?"
    "Enlightenment," sighed Mitsuhide. "It proves rather hard, though. I – I wish we had a better founded hope. You know."
    "Yeah." Haunted was the word. The man looked haunted, and Goemon had to tread carefully here lest he caught it too – provided they lived to be haunted. "Well, my word's not much, being word of a thief and all that –"
    "The thief."
    "Right!" beamed Goemon. "So I think you can do it."
    "You do?"
    And because sudden sheepish relief in Mitsuhide's face was somehow worse than misery, Goemon just had to hug him – skinny frame, bandages, cables and all. And Mitsuhide, being Mitsuhide, just had to kiss him. On the forehead. More of a blessing than a kiss, really... And then he licked Goemon's lips, very gently.
    To his credit, answering that, Goemon felt no carnal desire whatsoever. A kind of elation, yes. Lust, no.
    "You taste like honey and clear water," he whispered, bewildered. "And... blood?"
    "Yes, blood. Sleep well, Ishikawa Goemon."
    So he slept in Mitsuhide's weird but welcome embrace, at peace with the world and with himself, till human voices woke them at dawn.