Yes, I swear, I can write an update.  Sorry about the long wait everyone, but living conditions over here have been unstable at best for the past month or so, and it's not easy to write and access files when you don't even know where you're sleeping.  Send all donations to the "Teresa Wants To Be Independent But Likely Won't Be Until After College Fund."  Money is appreciated, but all major credit cards are accepted gracefully and graciously.  Please include a photocopy of one form of photo ID with all personal checks…okay, let's just do this thing.


Take My Hand

Part 15


What is it that defines you?  That might seem like a deceptively simple question, but the fact of the matter is that everyone defines themselves on a different grouping of ideas.  I've learned over the years that those I am closest to define me in different ways, but in the end, they come out with the same person.  I know that to Vash, I am his happiness, as he is mine.  He told me once that when he thinks of me, of what makes me up, he sees all the little things I do that perhaps even I don't notice.

To Vash, I'm a lazy stumble out of bed in the middle of the night to get water for one of the kids.  I'm the soft crooning in the back of my throat that I make as I'm settling down to sleep next to him.  I'm sitting up with Rem and Nick each night when they were young, reading them stories and then eventually, letting them read to me before everyone went to sleep.  I'm that slight tilt of the head and the small smile that indicates I've just gotten some idea which I will share with him as soon as I've thought out how to explain it.  I'm lemonade on hot afternoons when Vash and the kids play exuberantly in the front lawn.  I'm the way that every time we kiss, I seem utterly amazed, as though I never knew I could feel this way.  I'm the look of contented bliss as he lazily kisses my shoulder after we've made love.  He told me that I am what makes the day go and then come again after the night.  I told him that I love him.

I see myself as a player in the great production of life.  Life is a series of images to me.  Those images evoke feelings which, in turn, inspire words.  The very words that you are reading right now.  Through my rambling discourse, with it's many starts and stops, I hope I gave you some idea of what love is to me.  Love is Vash.  Love is every second I spend with him, or even away from him, thinking of him.  But then, love is also Rem and Nick.  They were, of course, the only children I ever had.  I suppose I wasn't surprised when the years passed, they grew, and yet never again did I become pregnant.  It's somewhat hard to remember that I am a normal, aging woman when the man beside me is eternallly young.  Love is my mother and father, always watching out for me until the day they died.  I remember mother passing only a week after father, and thinking that it was terribly sad, and at the same time, understanding why she felt her life was done.  I wouldn't have wanted to go on for long without Vash.  Love is also my brothers, sweet boys that they are, deep in their hearts.  They spoiled and cared for Rem and Nick long after my parents were gone, and I know that my children were deeply saddened when Aaron passed on ten years ago.  I was.  Gavin is still around, older than I am, and yet somehow surviving as though he's still in his twenties.  Of course, this isn't meant as literally as it is with Rem and Nick, who like their father, seem incapable of aging after a certain point.  And at the same time, love is Millie, my very best friend and the one I miss probably more than any other as I lay in my bed, drawing deep breaths and taking in the sad faces around me.  She died in a claims accident when Rem and Nick were only ten, much to Aaron's heartbreak.  He fell in love with her, as I became aware of long before I realized that though she was still cheerful and full of life, Millie could never put Nicholas D. Wolfwood behind her.  Perhaps, if she hadn't died…but then, that's how life is.  What happens always happens without any real care for the happiness of those living through it, and as an old woman, I have long since learned not to try and stop the flow of life.

However, as I see the faces of my children, still looking as though they aren't a day over twenty-five, and my husband who is still as ageless as the day I met him, I know that if I could change anything, for them I would go on living.  It cannot be helped, though.  I am simply too old.  I have lived to see the legendary name of Vash the Stampede fade into nothing more than that, a legend.  Long ago, we stopped worrying that we might once more have to pick up and leave at the discord caused by some bounty hunter out to make a name and a fortune for themselves.  Long ago, Vash became simply the name of a legendary outlaw who must have, of course, by this time, have passed on, faded out, and moved on.  In a way, Vash was like that, although I knew that it would be many years still before the brilliant energy that kept him eternally young faded enough for him to move on to the next world where I was about to go.  I would wait forever, though.  And at least I knew I would have friends like Wolfwood and Millie, my parents, and at least one of my brothers, to keep me company on the other side as I did wait.


"Vash…I'm sorry." I smile weakly up at him.  It's so difficult to do anything now, and I'm grateful that he already has my hand in his own, as I likely couldn't have moved it of my own volition.  "I wanted to live with you forever."

"Meryl," he's been sobbing almost non-stop since the doctor told him there was really nothing more that could be done for me.  I am old, and it's just time for me to die I suppose.

"Don't be sad, Vash." I can see behind him Rem and Nick, all grown up, and crying just as freely as their father to watch their old, decrepit, human mother finally bow to the heavy winds of mortality.  "Don't be.  There's nothing to be sad about."

"You're…you're…" he can't bring himself to say it, and I'm not surprised.

"I'm dying, yes." I tell him, aware of the waver age has added to my once solid voice.  "But I'm happy.  Because I'm surrounded by love.  I love you Vash.  And Nick and Rem, and Gavin." I am able to tilt my head slightly to see the ancient looking man sitting in a seat on the other side of my bed.  He is smiling at me, but tears are in his eyes.  I know that he won't cry until I've gone.  Gavin always hated crying in front of me.

"Say hi to everyone for me, okay Merry?" Gavin's voice somehow has a slight lilt of teasing in it, and Nick manages a slight laugh through sniffling sobs.  "And tell Aaron he still owes me twenty bucks."

"I'll do that." I assure him, aware of how it seems so difficult just breathing.  I gave my life to the people I loved, and now I want to stay a little longer, to give them more, but I can't fight against the flow of life.  I must learn once again to let things happen as they will.  My eyes start to cloud, and I see a series of images that I recognize at once as my life.  It's a happy thing to see right before my vision fades to black.


"Mom!  Aaron took my best doll!" I cry out to my mother who is looking down at her children with a look of eternal patience on her serene face.

"I did not!  Gavin took it and blamed me!" my brother argues


"It's nice to meet you!  My name is Millie Thompson, and I'm sure we'll be great friends."  Millie holds out her hand, dark eyes swirling happily at the thought of a new friend.

"Welcome to Bernadelli Insurance, Millie, I'm sure we'll ge along just fine." I reply.


"Yes, it's so heavy because it's just so full of mercy." Wolfwood winks at us while patting the huge cross on his back.

"Wow!  Can I feel it?" Millie rushes toward him as I laugh at her excitement.


"He told us to wait here…but do you think…maybe he's not coming?" I ask Millie, not wanting to add to the flow of tears already staining her kindly face.

"I still…I still have to wait for him.  I promised him I'd wait." I see heartbreak in her eyes, and I know that she knows as well as I do that Wolfwood isn't coming back.


"Thanks." Vash offers me a smile that was somehow more true than any other smile I'd seen on his usually happy face.  "Thanks for everything.  I hope to see you again, once this is all over."

"I'll wait for you." I tell him, biting my lip nervously as I look at the red coat that to me, has come to mean the danger that Vash always places himself in.  And he'll do it once more for his brother.  I know I can't stop that.


"I'd feel a lot better knowing you were here than out there." I assure the grungy, broken looking man that I had once known as Vash the Stampede.

"Um…well if you really want, I guess I wouldn't mind spending the night…" Vash allows, looking embarrassed to be accepting my help.


"I wasn't really gonna make you." Vash laughs at me, mirth in his eyes as we lie together on my couch.

"Make me what?" I ask, utterly confused, heart pounding like a hammer against my chest.

"Say it twice." He tells me before leaning in to give me the first kiss that meant anything to me.  I love him so much.


"Two babies, Meryl.  There's two of them." Vash looks as amazed and happy as I feel.

"I know.  Rem and Nicholas, our babies." I cradle the child in my arms, letting tears spill freely down my face.


"Do you love Rem best?" Nicholas asks as I hold his toddler sister on my hip and look down at him.

"No, Nick." I assure him, bending down so I can pick him up with some difficulty as well.  "You're my babies and I love you both the same."

"I love you, mommy!" Rem answers happily.


"Why is Uncle Aaron crying, mama?" Rem asks me, her big eyes so much like mine full of questions.

"Cause, Rem, sweetie." I try to stem the flow of tears threatening in my own eyes.  "Cause baby, Auntie Millie had an accident."

"Is she okay?" her eyes are so innocent, I want to say yes, but I know I can't.

"No, baby, she's dead." and with that I start to cry as well.


"Mom, I have a question." Nicholas and Rem were darting glances at each other, and I know that what they have to say must be hard for them.  "Why don't we get old like you?  Why is dad still so young?"

"Because, honey." I reach up to pat my grown son's shoulder and then reach with my other hand to stroke my daughter's cheek.  "Because you're special."

"I don't want to be special." Rem asserts.  "Not if it means I have to watch everyone die."

"Neither does your father." I tell her, and that settles the matter.


"I'm getting married, mom!" Rem's eyes are nearly popping with excited glee.  "Dean finally asked me, and I said yes!"

"What's the point?" my son, who watched his young wife die bearing their dead child, has been moping for nearly three years now.  "You just have to watch him die."

"Because, you should be happy while you can." Vash speaks up from across the room, and Nick nods silently after a moment.


"When I die, what will you do?" I ask Vash, all too aware of my aged, wrinkling hand against his still young and taut cheek.

"What I've always done." Vash kisses me softly.  "Love you the best I can."


"Goodbye, love." I breathe heavily once more, aware vaguely of the keening cry of my husband as my life finally leaves the body that it has housed in for so long.  I'm moving on, now, but I know that on the other side, I'll wait for him.  We were meant to be together, and not even death can separate us.


The End