Oh...my God. It's over. Finally, my Wolfwood muse has been appeased. *grins* This story wound up so much longer than I wanted it too - but what the hell. I had so much fun mucking around in Wolfwood's head for a few months, and I hope you all enjoyed the ride. I hope I changed how you see Trigun, even just a little bit, and I hope you'll remember this story next time you watch the show~! That would be the ultimate victory for me as an author. ^^; Thanks to everyone who commented, helped with the ending, and encouraged me in any way... this chapter is for all of you, and I sure as hell hope the ending satisfies all of you.
~~Tomo, who's gonna take a loooong break from writing and enjoy the freedom. XD~!
To Love a Lie
Chapter 20 - Finale
No sound, no light, no breathing, nor was there the opposite of such things (it was not quiet or really dark at all) - they were simply not there, a void, an absence. There was no ground, no gravity, no air, and no thought.
What there *was*....a body. A creature here and there, dripping blood that disappeared when it fell, because there was no place to fall to and nothing to fall from. Stationary, suspended... a desolate crossroads, this Nothingness.
A pair of hands groped through the darkness-un-darkness, polluting the plain lack of thought with curiosity, seeking something that it had not the eyes to see. When it chanced upon it's target, fingers catching on the black tails of a tattered suit, they moved quickly, gestured, were joined by others. Moments passed as more poured into the Nothingness and began pulling at the disjointed, unconscious body. They were black things, dismal and melted as if by acid, tipped with broken claws and glass-like lumps of cold, dead flesh.
They could feel it on his skin, and they liked it. Blood. Suffering. More hate than any one being should be forced to endure - and yet, below that, a kindling of warmth. The hands shied from that but would not be pushed away, rather, they pulled harder, for they sensed that he had within him something worth winning, redeeming.
In the nothingness, something began to take shape. First it was no bigger than a pebble, this splotch of less-dark against the empty black background, then it grew, shimmering into something about the size of a cave mouth, completely with massive stone teeth and coal-colored stalagmites. The body they carried caught there, limbs tangled in the uprisings of not-stone columns, and the hands tugged harder.
"What? What's this?"
They pawed at the prize a moment longer before the speaker delivered a swift kick in their midst, and they scattered like raindrops, not so much running as ceasing to exist before the light of her paltry lantern that cast a glow so brilliant and solid that it was almost physical - the flowing light seemed to give the ghostly illuminator substance - and when the matter-lamp neared the body below it, that too gained stability.
"Oh, I see. I should have known you would come looking for what I sought!" Something chittered at the trespasser, but she did not so much as look up in response, instead shook her head and stretched out her arms. "I'm glad I found you though, Nicholas. There would be quite an unhappy ending if you hadn't gotten yourself hung up here." Gently the woman unwound the limp body of a once-priest from the stone he had pressed against, with strength that belied her appearance. "Not that I can promise you much," a soft smile as she paused in her motions and pushed his bangs out of his eyes, thoughtfully. "Oh, I see. Too much warmth in you yet to damn you to that eternal suffuring, hmm? That must be what he saw in you, too, however close to dying that hope may be."
In the light of the matter-lamp, Nicholas D. Wolfwood stirred, lips fluttering. The woman knew the signs - she had seen it before. His body was dead, but his heart? "No.... dn....dun...t...."
"That's right. You stay with him, until we get out of here."
She picked up the lamp and continued walking.
Vash's breath escaped his body, puffing into the atmosphere and hovering white-hot for a moment before dissipating into nothingness. His blood, eerily red-orange, sometimes magenta as he moved, was splattered across the coat that seemed to hold volumes of images in it's seams, images of geraniums and brown-eyed women and Vash and sand and ships....
Knives was standing, powerful, resonating in a massive aura of blue-black, inky and dark, but filled with something terribly strong at the core. Words wove tiny undulating wreaths above his head, thoughts and hopes all woven into something that look almost like Vash - Knives' thoughts. The words he felt. Love.... jealousy, terror, power, adoration.
And Wolfwood stood, watching through eyes no longer confined by three dimensions. He stood - and could see the others standing, circling the crater that had formed around the combatants, recognized some, not others.
He could see a figure barely recognizable as Legato Bluesummers, behind his master, eyes empty sockets, a bullet hole in his forehead. He was smiling toothily like a dog, naked and gender-less, hair long down his back. Behind him were others, Wolfwood saw Chapel, saw Caine unmasked at last, saw Dominique with her naked breasts and single glowing red eye... Zazie, tiny and riddled with bullets, dripping black blood. Beyond them he fancied he could see millions of others, some whole, some mere pieces and shadows of what they once were, filling the crater and holding their collective breath - wraiths of souls, all that was left of millions of pieces.
A man turned and smiled at him - in one hand he held a gun, in the other, an apple. He was broad-chested and smiling, dark hair - and a 'Project Seeds' logo was tattooed in his upper arm. Beside him, Midvalley, missing large portions of his flesh but eerily beautiful with a ghostly musical instrument clutched to his breast - he smiled at Wolfwood with blank eyes.
They were waiting.
Knives' boot made close contact with Vash's face, and the blonde tumbled backwards, a mound of flesh far too injured to stand. Wolfwood could see his blood in his veins, could comprehend the inhuman substance of his bones and eyes, could see what he saw and what Knives saw and at the same time seemed to hover above and absorb everything...
Heavy breathing, and a blood-red sky. Knives slowly reloaded, as Vash's gun proved empty of bullets. A soft click, and the standing fighter had attained Vash's gun as well, lifted it up, grinned in exhaustion. Through Vash's eyes, Wolfwood could see terror. Through Knives' - victory. Through the sky, he could see the dust-choked light of the twin suns spark off something aching-ly familiar shining in the dirt.
In the dirt?
A low hum filled the night-day, and Wolfwood took a step forward, then another, then was running, staring as Knives threw his energy into the two massive guns sprouting from his arms, leaping and twisting into the sky like pulsating animals, ready to fire.
He didn't know what he was doing, but he threw himself into Vash's arms, and as he sank through, unable to touch those first three precious dimensions - words echoed from his lips.
"What are you doing, you idiot?! It's right next to you! Use it, dammit!"
As the gunshots rang out, Wolfwood heard the dead raise an ungodly cry of victory, and then someone began shaking him.
"Wake up, Nicholas, wake up..."
Vash? Where was Vash, had he won? There had been so much blood... "We're home, you don't need to sleep any longer. He's safe, don't worry. It's okay to open your eyes."
He did open them, then. Blinked back dry tears and sand, coughed once, and tried to focus his eyes as warm hands caught against his back. "Vash?"
"No, no. Vash is still down there, you're safe now." Wolfwood lapped thirstily at the cup pressed to his lips, gulping down liquid so cold it nearly scalded his throat. When he could think straight, he looked up - and balked.
The woman was sitting there, next to him, legs out in front of her, crossed at the ankles. They were sitting on a checkered blanket, beneath a tree studded with fruits rounder and redder than Wolfwood had ever seen before - and beside them was a thermos, a meal, a bundle of recently picked red flowers. For a moment he didn't know what to say - then met the woman's eyes.
She had haunted him in his dreams and - Wolfwood realized - had always haunted Vash's. There was really only one woman she could be, and...hadn't he known all along?
Wolfwood smiled faintly. "Rem... Saverem. You're...you're beautiful."
Long, black hair in shimmering waves, friendly, warm eyes - she was happy, untainted by humanity's fall onto Gunsmoke, given eternal light by her selfless sacrifice and guiltless name... Rem Saverem, an innocent, a martyr who Vash loved, whose cause he had devoted his life to. "You're Vash's saint, aren't you? Or are you a guardian angel?"
"I'm just an old woman," Rem tilted her head, and smiled. "But I must admit, Nicholas, you are not what I expected. I assumed Vash's soulmate would be...more like him."
"And by the way," she grinned teasingly, "you're dead."
"Yeah," Wolfwood sighed, turning his head and running a hand through his hair. "I am, aren't I? The grass gave it away - that and the apples. Never had that while I was alive, that was for sure. Where are we? Eden?"
"You could say that - my Eden, and Vash's Eden. Do you like it here?"
"I want to speak more with you, Nicholas, as I have been without company for quite some time. But first, won't you walk to the path, there? A man waits for you."
Wolfwood looked up, stood, and trotted down the hill. He was still clad in his dark suit, and mentally decided that was the first thing that would go, now that he was dead. Black was boring, dismal, and hot. He greeted Midvalley with a nod, and paused, unsure of what to say.
A slight smile. "Chapel?"
"They gave me a new saxophone. One without a gun. See?"
"S'nice." And it was, too. Brand new and damned expensive looking. "Blows your other one outta the water. Gotta light?"
They stood on the side of the road for a moment, cigarettes smoking in the brilliant afternoon, watching souls file by. Midvalley himself was the man Wolfwood had known long before Legato had touched him - the true musician, filled with hopes and dreams and songs to sing, before the blood. The saxophone around his next shone brilliantly, though Wolfwood could count the blades of grass through it's transparent shades.
"Where are they going?" Wolfwood asked, at last.
"To heaven? To be reborn?" The musician shrugged. "I told them I didn't want to go to hell, so they told me to walk this road. You...you've still got a body. That means you're special, huh? You were always damned special."
Wolfwood looked down, oddly saddened by his own solid appearance, and nodded blankly. All the other souls were empty shells, without any substance to them - only he was different. "I think Vash won."
"I think he did to. What does that mean, to you?"
"I don't know," Wolfwood inhaled deeply, wondering if this would be his last cigarette. "I really don't know."
"I know what I'm up to," Midvalley turned, grinned impishly. "Reincarnation. Somewhere else, and nowhere with any sand. Maybe...a snow world. Good and cold, that is, is snow really even exists."
"It exists." Wolfwood was sure of it, for some reason. "You just gotta look really hard. So, reincarnation..."
"Yeah. Nothing can be worse than that lifetime was. But you know what?"
"I get the feeling I've done this before - stood on this road, talking to you. Smoking. Do you think that's possible?"
Wolfwood looked down and tried to remember ever being so happy - and could not. "Anything's possible, I guess. Say... Hornfreak, what happened to the others? Legato and his gang?"
"I think some went to Hell," Midvalley shrugged. "I was with a few, but lost them in the crowd - Zazie, Dominique, Rai-Dei. Legato didn't stand a chance, but the rest of us were given a choice. What will you pick? Will you come with me and be reborn?"
Wolfwood kicked at a stone, watched it bounce into the road, and smiled. "Not yet. I gotta talk to the angel up there on the hill first. You go on ahead, Midvalley."
The musician flicked his cigarette into the dust and smirked. "You know what's funny, Chapel?"
"I used to wonder if you were... well, my soulmate." The black haired man was almost blushing, looking younger than Wolfwood could ever remember him looking.. "But I don't think I really believe in soulmates - or at least, if you were mine, I wouldn't always be standing in your shadow. I do love you, though. I...just wanted to tell you that, you know."
"You're a damned fool, Midvalley, but...I... I guess I sort of love you too."
"Don't call me that."
The musician whispered something into his former lover's ear, and Wolfwood choked back his surprise. "*That's* you're real name?!"
"Yeah. Don't tell, I'll kill you."
"I'm already dead."
"I'll...hurt ya. A lot."
Wolfwood paused, grinned slightly, and whispered back.
"No way! Seriously? They named you that?"
"Hehehe. Cute. Real cute."
"Shut up." Midvalley looked up, hearing something Wolfwood couldn't quite sense.
"Hey, I think it's time for me to go," he told his partner, giving the priest a long look, then sticking out his hand, waiting for a shake.
"I...was jealous, to think that you loved Legato," the priest admitted as he took the not-quite-solid palm, and shook it gently. He shivered.
"I'm still jealous that you love Vash."
Nicholas D. Wolfwood shrugged and relinquished the grasp.
"But good luck...finding him and all. I'm sure you will. You never took no for an answer, anyway, did you, Chapel?"
"Nope, never did."
"I'll...remember you, Chapel - Nicholas D. Wolfwood. That's all I can say in the end, huh?"
For a moment the priest looked sad. "Nah," he admitted, at last, as Midvalley turned and began walking again, losing substance as he rejoined the slow march of souls, until he was indistinguishable, and gone. "I don't think you will."
"This is where I give you a choice, Nicholas."
"Yes, there are two roads that you may turn on, both are dangerous, neither is easy. Either might lead you back to Vash, though. You do want to be with him, don't you?"
"I love Vash."
"Then choose, and take my hand." Rem Saverem put out her left hand, which glimmered a strange, incandescent gold as she spoke. "Firstly, you may choose to be reborn into another body - I can't promise you'll be on Gunsmoke, of course. Finding Vash and learning to love him in a new body is all up to you..."
Another lifetime in hell... "And the other?"
She put out her right hand, edged in silver-blue, soft and gentle. "You can wait here, with me."
"For how long?"
"Who knows? A year, a century, forever, maybe. Maybe Vash will never die. Maybe Knives will stay with him and together they will escape the fingers of time...."
An eternity, never knowing where, or when, or what Vash was doing....
The choice oddly wasn't as hard as he had thought it would be.
"I know what I have to do," Nicholas D. Wolfwood said, smiling faintly. "It's what he would do, don't you think?"
Rem nodded, and looked pleased. "I expected no less of you, Nicholas."
He took her hand, and chose.
Maybe.... just maybe he did believe in happy endings, after all.