The Final Confrontation
Vash treaded slowly away from the town and towards the canyon. He knew Knives and Yume were waiting for him in the cavern-like structure that they had been living in for the past decade and they wouldn't be leaving anytime soon so he was taking his time in getting there. After Legato's death, he found he suddenly had a lot to think about.
Legato's death… Was it really possible that he was dead? After dodging death the last time, a part of Vash felt Legato Bluesummers could never die. That he had somehow become immortal. But his mind told him Legato was truly dead this time. Vash had even buried him, laying his cold body to rest in the warm desert sands. He felt his brother's servant deserved at least a proper burial. Why? Vash didn't know. Perhaps it was because everyone deserved that dignity. Maybe he was apologizing for treating Legato without that basic human respect ten years ago.
Whatever the reason was, he had buried Legato Bluesummers as he would have buried any of his dear friends had they rather been the ones who died.
With a wistful air, Vash wondered how Knives would react to seeing him. It had been a little over ten years since they had last seen each other. Had he changed? Had Yume? Vash couldn't help but smile at the thought of the girl. He doubted she had changed much since the day they first met. She struck him as the kind of child whose enthusiasm would carry on into her adult life without losing much steam along the way.
But how would her developing mind react to growing up around Knives? Had he shaped her into his own image? Was he still convinced that the child was a Plant? Vash remembered when he had overheard Knives instructing Yume on the evils of humanity and he hoped that she had not adopted Knives' views as her own.
Too soon, Vash found himself standing on the edge of the canyon, just mere feet away from where his brother was located. The blonde Plant looked down to the ground far below and took a deep breath, steeling himself for what was to come.
The moons of Gunsmoke were rising, one after the other, like shiny coins floating in a black sea. This caused the canyon to be lit with an ethereal light and Vash let the beauty of the moment cleanse him of the earlier horror he had been subjected to. He was so withdrawn into himself and his thoughts that he did not hear the approaching footsteps until it was too late.
"Attack!" he heard a suspiciously familiar voice cry out and someone lunged onto him, scrambling on his back for purchase before they looped their arms around his neck, effectively cutting off his air. He teetered on the edge of the canyon, thrown off-balance by his assailant, and he windmilled his arms wildly as he attempted to bring himself back onto solid ground. The person clinging to his back seemed to sense the danger that they were both in and so they leaned back, creating a counterweight while, at the same time, intensifying Vash's level of suffocation.
He clawed at the small arms' chokehold while fighting to dislodge the attacker, at the same time desperately trying to breathe. The small person brought their knee sharply into his kidney area and Vash nearly doubled over in pain. He wasn't exactly sure about his species' anatomy but whatever he had in that area, kidney or not, getting hit there hurt just as much for him as it would for a human.
He felt the attacker lean forward and, breathing heavily into his ear, a quiet, determined voice whispered sinisterly with a slight singsong quality to its tone, "Guess who!"
Vash felt the pieces click together in his oxygen-starved brain and he gasped out, "Yume?"
"Awh, you guessed…" The girl released her grip around Vash's throat and slid off his back. The Plant collapsed to his knees; gratefully sucking in long breaths of the air he had been denied. Yume watched him recover for a moment and stepped closer to him. "You okay?"
"Barely." Vash straightened and turned to face the girl. "Why the hell did you try to kill me like that?"
"Kill you?" Yume cocked her head to the side. "What're you talking about? I was just giving you a hug!!"
"That's some hug…" Vash rubbed his sore throat and glared at the girl.
"Wait… you're not Rance…" Yume stood up on her tiptoes and turned his face. "I know you though… you're… Donut-san?"
"Yeah, that's me. You thought I was Rance?" Vash was incredulous. "Do you how much older than him I am?" Damn, I look good for my age!
"Donut-san!" Yume jumped onto Vash again, this time hugging him tightly around his waist so hard that he would have sworn he could hear his ribs cracking.
"Watch out!" he called out as he teetered on the edge of the canyon once more. "You're gonna push us off!"
"Oops." Yume let go of Vash and helped him balance himself out. She grinned up at him. "Sorry. I'm just so happy to see you! It's been forever!"
"Actually, it's been closer to ten years."
"Time doesn't matter!" Yume waved her hands in the air in defiance. "Now that we're here is all that counts! Speaking of which, what are you doing out here, Donut-san?" She looked at him questioningly.
"I've been looking for you, actually. You and Knives."
"Well, we should go see him now then!" She grabbed his hand and tugged him toward the path that lead toward where Knives was waiting. "You see, there's this horrible outlaw who's coming this way, Vash the Stampede, and he'll kill us if he finds us! He's probably already killed Uncle Legs…" she sniffled loudly. "But Knives wants to see Vash the Stampede for some reason…"
"Yume, if, uh, Vash the Stampede is out and around here, then why did Knives let you out here? Isn't it dangerous because of this Vash the Stampede?" He felt strange and awkward talking about himself as if he were another person. He hadn't had to do that in a while, as most people believed he was dead and so he had lost the natural feel of the words.
"Well, you see… Knives-sama kinda, well, he fell asleep… so I snuck out!" She grinned up at him shyly, seeking approval for her small act of rebellion. Vash's brow creased. He doubted that. Knives probably was just pretending to be sleeping so Yume would leave to go meet up with Vash so she wouldn't have to learn that he was Vash the Stampede right away.
"Are you mad that I snuck out?" Yume asked hesitantly, letting go of Vash's hand. She had mistaken his expression as a reflection of disapproval. "I'm sorry… I just… I felt you near. And I thought you were someone else… and I wanted to say 'hello' and warn you about Vash the Stampede… I'm sorry if you're mad."
"I'm not mad, Yume, it's just-"
"You aren't? Yay!" She interrupted him, grabbing his hand and bounding forward, dragging him along after her.
Vash started rethinking his decision to go see his brother. It seemed he and Yume were doing well… maybe he could wait another decade…
"Knives-sama! I'm back!" Yume called out happily and Vash was startled to find they were at the entrance of the cavern that Yume had called 'home' for the past ten years. He had no idea what Knives and Legato had called it, probably 'headquarters' or some such nonsense.
"Who do you have with you, girl?" Vash heard a distinctive, familiar voice ask sharply, the tone as cutting as the ice blue eyes of the Plant who it belonged to.
"Guess!" Yume crowed, her excitement making her face glow in the combined moonlight and light from a gas lantern burning inside of the cave on a table.
"Vash the Stampede," Knives hissed, stepping out of the shadows beyond the reach of the gas lantern's light.
"Nope! You're wrong!"
"What?" Knives looked taken aback. "I'm never wrong, girl!"
"Well, you are this time! It's Donut-san!" Yume let go of Vash's hand and ran forward, triumphantly leaping up onto the table to do a victory dance around the gas lantern. "I win, I win!"
Knives shook his head. "Foolish child. How do I tell you this? Newsflash!" Vash stared at his brother in shock as the other Plant made twin starbursts on the side of his face with his hands to accentuate what he was saying. "The man you call 'Donut-san' is in actuality, Vash the Stampede!"
"What?" Yume was shocked.
"Knives? Is that really you?" Vash never could have believed his brother to stoop so low as to used the word 'newsflash.' The green-eyed Plant half-expected to see a pig fly by the cavern's entrance any moment. Or walk by, for that matter. Although the phrase 'when pigs fly' existed on Gunsmoke, the animals themselves did not.
"Of course it's me, Vash. Who else could it be?" Knives rolled his eyes. "Has ten more years among the human scum rubbed off on you this much? I never would have believed stupidity to be contagious..."
"Sounds like I'm not the only one whose been affected by living among humans," Vash countered. "Since when did the word 'newsflash' enter into your vocabulary?" Knives glared at Vash indignantly, not willing to admit his brother was right.
Yume jumped off the table. "Donut-san? Is that true? Are you really Vash the Stampede?"
A guilty look took over his features and he glanced apologetically at the teenage girl. "Yeah, I'm sorry, Yume. I thought you knew…"
"You lied to me!" Tears sprang into the girl's eyes and she rubbed at them furiously. "I trusted you!"
Vash laughed nervously. "Well, technically, I didn't deliberately lie to you... Did you ever ask me directly if I was Vash the Stampede?"
"Well, no… but that's still not fair!" She glared at him icily with an expression to match some of Knives' best.
"I haven't seen you in ten years! Give me a break!" Vash held up his hands in defense.
"Children!" Knives barked, "Settle down!"
"She started it!" Vash pointed an incriminating finger at Yume. Knives turned his ice blue eyes onto Vash and his twin immediately flushed, embarrassed at how he was acting. "Well, she did…" Vash muttered, scuffing a booted foot against the ground.
Knives moved forward and took a seat at the table. He gestured to the chair on the opposite side and Vash walked forward and grudgingly sat down. Knives stared at his brother from across the table for a moment before saying, "Vash, why have you come here?"
The question seemed to catch Vash by surprise but he quickly replied. "I had to check up on you. Make sure you weren't hurting anyone." Vash glanced at Yume pointedly. She had retreated after Knives' command to what Vash guessed was a kitchen area and from what he could see, she was fixing some food, staying out of their way while the twins argued.
"You were worried I would corrupt the child?" Knives looked amused.
"Yeah, I was. You were a little insane when I last saw you, talking like she was a Plant and how you were going to raise her to help you destroy humanity. Forgive me if I was worried in just the slightest bit," Vash said sarcastically.
"I do admit, I was acting somewhat out of character at that point in time. I came to my senses however when some…" He seemed to search for the right word for a moment, "events transpired that confirmed the fact that she was indeed human."
"Such as?" Vash wondered.
"Female things…" Knives cleared his throat, obviously deeply uncomfortable with that subject. "Anyway, as you can see, we are doing just fine without you so you can go now."
"What?" Vash was surprised. "No! I can't leave."
"Why not?" Knives looked at Vash curiously. "It's really quite simple, brother. Merely retrace your earlier steps."
"No, it's not that-"
"Then what is it?" Knives snapped. "What's so pressing that you cannot leave?" When no reply came, Knives sighed in exasperation. "What were you expecting to happen when you got here, Vash? A rematch?"
"Yeah. Actually, I kind of was."
"Is that what you want?"
"No, no!" Vash shook his head vehemently. "You know that's never been what I want."
"Then why did you come?"
Vash was silent for a moment. "Why did you send Legato out to meet me?"
"It was what he wanted," Vash's brother answered coolly. "His dying wish, you might say."
"You knew he wouldn't have lived though," Vash growled accusingly. "But you sent him anyway!"
"Yes. Does that disturb you, brother?"
"Not as much as it once would have…" In fact, a great deal less, and I think that fact disturbs me even more.
"That's to be expected, Vash. You've had ten years to deal with the fact you killed him, even before you actually did. You've grown more accustomed to the darker side of people because you've been exposed to your own. It's natural that you don't oppose that idea as strongly as you would have when you first 'killed' him."
"But I killed him now, not then…"
"Vash, you managed to forgive yourself for it ten years ago. You can do that again now."
Vash changed the subject, uncomfortable with the side of himself he was being forced to face. "Knives, is this what you're going to do for the rest of… well, for a while?"
"What do you mean?" Knives looked slightly confused.
"Are you just going to live in this place with Yume for the next fifty years or more? You have to admit, it's kinda weird living in a cave." Vash grinned.
Knives fixed Vash with a frozen glare. "I did not choose our living accommodations, brother, and no, I am planning to relocate us soon."
Vash picked at the table with a fingernail. "Well, you want to, um, relocate to a location that's located, well, nearer to me?"
"You wish for me to live in a place closer to your own home? Why? So you can keep an eye on me?" Knives' tone was biting.
Vash winced. "Well, I'd be lying if I denied that, but I also miss you. I haven't seen you in ten years, Knives. We're brothers. We should stay in contact better than that."
Knives stared at Vash's fingers as he picked at the table, silent for a moment. Then he looked up and quietly said, "I'll consider it."
"Really?" Vash's eyes brightened as a grin lit up his face. "Meryl and Milly will be so happy to see you again!"
"Oh no! I will go nowhere near those two." Knives growled.
"But… Meryl…" Vash suddenly faltered.
"What about her?"
"We're, uh, kind of, uh…" Vash fell silent and looked back to the table as if he'd see the answer written there.
Knives' eyes narrowed. "Don't tell me that you two have entered into a relationship."
"Actually, no." Vash looked up at his brother. "We're past that point."
There was an awkward pause during which Vash became aware of Yume humming happily in the kitchen as she continued to prepare whatever food she was hungry for. Then, "What?"
"We got married." Vash couldn't suppress the idiotic grin that spread across his face and he took pleasure, though somewhat guiltily, from the shocked expression that was smeared across his brother's.
"You did no such thing!"
"Yes, we did."
"I won't allow it!"
"Knives. It's already happened."
"How dare that human female seduce you into such an act? I'm going to kill her."
"I won't let you."
Knives glared at him. "And who says you can stop me?"
"The fact that I've kicked your ass once before and I could do it again." Vash smiled smugly slightly.
"That doesn't count," Knives said sullenly. "You cheated."
"Oh, is that so?" Vash raised an eyebrow. "And who had both of the guns at the time? I think that could be considered cheating."
"I got yours away from you fair and square! The Cross Punisher, however, was never part of the fight until you brought it in!"
"Knives, just admit it. I beat you."
"I will not admit what's not true."
"Fine." Vash shrugged. "Suit yourself."
The two sat in uncomfortable silence for a few moments, Knives eyeing his brother with a sulky expression.
Vash cleared his throat. "So, you'll come live by me?"
"Fine, since it seems to mean so much to you, I will." Knives gave his brother a surly look. "Happy now?"
Vash grinned. "Yeah, actually. Very." He couldn't believe it was all about to end. Everything that had been set in motion since the day that Knives engineered Project SEEDS crash was about to come to a final point of closure.
Yume bounced up, setting a plate of sandwiches on the table. "I come bearing gifts!"
"You are not going to enjoy my living in close proximity to you," Knives warned as his brother picked up one of the sandwiches and took a bite.
"Oh, I think not." Vash swallowed the bite and smiled at Yume. "This is great!"
Yume looked faintly shocked. "We're moving?"
Knives looked over at her. "So it would seem."
"Oh…" her expression wilted.
"What's wrong?" Vash asked, concerned.
"Well, I was kind of hoping we could stick around for a bit…" she stood, shifting her weight from one foot to another nervously.
"And why is that?" Knives eyed the girl coolly.
"Well, there's this dance in town and Rance asked me to go with him." She grinned.
Knives stared at Yume quietly while Vash smiled, exclaiming, "That's so great, Yume! He's a nice guy. Isn't that great, Knives?"
Muscles in Knives' jaw flexed visibly as he gritted his teeth. He slowly asked in a testy tone, "Where does this 'Rance' live?"
Yume glanced at Knives suspiciously. "Why do you want to know, Knives-sama?"
"I'm going to go pay him a visit. I'd like to speak with this human."
Yume stared at Knives for a moment and then cracked up laughing. "Knives-sama! You're so silly!"
"I'm anything but that, girl, now tell me where he lives," Knives growled.
"Well, I don't care what you think, Knives-sama! You're still silly!" Yume poked his forehead with a finger and skipped off happily.
"Come back here, girl! I'm not done with you!" Knives roared, standing up from the table and storming after her. "I'm going to get that boy's location from you if I have to hang you up by your toes to persuade you to tell me it!"
Vash chuckled as he watched his brother go. Yeah, everything he knew might have just ended. But now it seemed that something much more interesting was finally beginning and Vash couldn't wait to see what the future held in store.
Final Rants, Raves, Thanks and Such:
It's over! XD It's finally over. Wow. Crazy. It all seems so surreal. But it's not! XD Crazy!! I hope you liked it though. I cross my fingers, hope to God you liked it…
So, now for some recognition… I'd like to thank everyone who read the story, double thanks to everyone who reviewed. And special thanks to some special people who I think are awesome. XD Kyoko-sama for one, for her wonderful beta-reading, suggestions and encouragement. Drogan whose one of the spiffiest people ever and whose artistic talents are god-like!! I adore her!! And last, but not least, S3, the demon godling who's really cool and always makes me feel really important and special when I talk to him. Thanks everyone!! Couldn't have done it without ya!
Lastly, and not very important, if you like my work and want to know what I'm coming out with next, check my livejournal. The link's on my profile here on FF.N and I keep the journal updated with all the latest developments and updates and everything. Go ahead and comment on it too if you feel there's something you'd like to tell me or suggest or whatever.
Well, that's all… so I guess this is good-bye. [sniffles] I hope to see you all again at another story or on my livejournal. But, for now, farewell and take care. After all, I don't want my precious reviewers to get hurt, now do I? ;p Heheh.