Disclaimer: I do not own Trigun. I do not own Meryl, or Milly, or Wolfwood, or Vash, or Knives or even the cute little black kitty. I simply write fanfiction in my spare time. Though sometimes I really, really, really wish I owned Vash. (hehe)

Author's Notes: Well folks, it's been really, really fun. Thank you for riding out my roller-coaster of procrastination, for traveling through the mind of Vash, and for indulging me in my travels through the mind of Vash. The New Year's come, the old one's gone, time to start and renew and end the old. So with that in mind, here is the last chapter of "Hunger and Need" at your fingertips. As per tradition, find yourself before going on!

Inkydoo: But my dear, Vash does have donuts for brains sometimes! Though sometimes he has Meryl on the brain.

Vashluver1: Updated. Sooner than I thought. Man, I must be depressed.

Divinya9: Unfortunately, no Vash in my stocking. Maybe next year.

cjflutterbye: (Author consulting Magic 8 Ball ™) Chances are good.

Ajd262: I plan it out you know. Because I'm an evil author, I plan it so that you will have to re-read all the chapters again. Bwahahahahaha!

Buddi-chan: Awww. But it's quite alright to be evil sometimes. And "fwah" to you too. Whatever that means.

Gradolphin: I don't quit writing. I just go into very, very, very long hiatus.

snwbnny: As you wish dear bunny.

evil squeede: (Goggling at reviewer.) I – I'm speechless. I didn't know Vash had all these psychological problems. My goodness! I never should have had that brain transplant no matter how momentary!

Valk: I would. But things must come to an end on their own.

Crystal Twilight: (smirk) You'll see.

kagomeandinuyasha4ever: Thank you for saying I rock. I needed that. Badly.

pat : (Takes chocolate and gains massive amounts of weight from it.) Crap! I mean. . .thanks!

SapphireWhiteTigress: (Grin) See my review for AJD.

Author's Notes: And relentlessly forward we go!

Chapter 14

It has been hours since I've been at Meryl's door and still I cannot sleep. I keep replaying the scenes in my head, wondering what could have been avoided, what could have been changed: If Knives and I hadn't argued then Meryl would never had heard.

If Meryl and Milly hadn't switched places then Meryl would have never heard.

If Knives wasn't such a psychotic, baiting bastard then Meryl would never have come to the door and . . . heard.

If, if, if, if.

That last "if" was of course the most impossible one. There was nothing in the whole day that had not been planned out by Fate, the gods, or whatever else deities there might exist in the universe to make my life a complete and miserable hell. It was so perfectly miserable, in fact, that Knives would have been jealous that he had not been the one responsible for it. It always happens that way: My life gets all great (Rem) and then boom! Destruction! (Crash, flame, burn.) Things are better (me and Knives, two against the world) and then bang! (Just me. Alone. Psychotic brother. Alone.) Things for the worst always seemed to follow me. Sadly, that was part of the reason to the only solution that I could possibly think of now. My old standby. My faithful companion. My angst. Leaving.

Yup. I really should leave.

Heh. Not a surprise, huh? Yes, people should expect that of me by now. Don't they know that I'm an angsty bastard who leaves when any sort of whiff of emotional fulfillment or dear-me-oh-my-gasp LOVE comes into even touching distance? Don't they know this of me now? People should really, really realize that I will never think of myself as deserving of someone as perfect and pure as Meryl! Or that her, most of all, will probably come to the same end as all the others.

But then again, why not? Why can't I have Meryl? Why can't this time, this time, be different?

Because it can't. Meryl would never turn to me. The way she flinched from me had been indication enough of her feelings. Meryl, could never love me. It would be too much to ask. I mean, how could she? Broken and imperfect man (Plant, Vash! Plant! Get it right!) that I am, how could I ever expect her to love me? And even if she had heard me, how much more would it be utterly unfair to ask her to love me?

"Stupid," I snort softly into the darkness. Sigh. "Well, Vash the Stampede, time to get a move on again."

I'm so sorry, Meryl, I say silently. I'm so sorry for putting you in this position. I'm so sorry that one morning not long from now, you will not find me nor Knives. I'm so sorry that I'm so in love with you and you can never return those feelings. I'm sorry for what I've put you through in so many ways. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

I could feel myself getting sleepier and sleepier. The phrase "I'm so sorry, Meryl" running over and over in my head like a sadistic mantra to put me to sleep, jumping past me like sheep with the words printed on their sides (Though hell knows where I got my picture of sheep; must've been from Rem because I've never seen sheep on Gunsmoke.). And I fall asleep, the loss of Meryl already palpable in my gut and stealing little nips of pain at my heart.

In the middle of the night, my senses suddenly tingle. Something waking me from a disturbing dream about Grandma and Knives making bets over who could outdrink who and Knives threatening to make Spider Web Wine. Something that fills the room with. . .something.

I cannot describe the presence. Not danger, but there is something else. In my room. Incredibly. . .chaotic. Knives?

I sit up in bed and swing my legs over, aware that someone is watching me even before I am fully awake. My hand automatically reaches for my gun. I reach out my senses again but there is still no hint of danger. Thoughts flicker through my head. What could it be? No, not Knives. The chaos could be him but not this time. This one is different, laced with an undercurrent of sad regret. Knives would not regret so easily. Besides, he's asleep. I would have sensed anything from him. No sense of danger outside either. The whole moonlit world is at peace. Then what?

Everything happens in the few seconds it takes me to reach for my gun and my eyes go to the doorway and find her and my hand stops, the steel of the guns close enough to touch.

She stands there with her arms wrapped around her, the door closed behind her, wearing that white nightshirt that haunted my dreams, hinted at what was beneath. The faint light of the moons lit her with an otherworldly beauty. Maybe I'm dreaming again. Maybe when I blink she will be gone, another figment of my dreams. I close my eyes and open them again and she is still there. I try again, using my hand this time to run over my deceitful eyes. Didn't work. This was either a damned good dream or she was for real. I decide to chance speaking.

"Meryl? What's wrong?"

She jumped when I spoke. Wow! This was real. She was here. How long had she been there? How long did I just let her watch me sleep? My heart hurt at the realization that I trusted her enough even in my sleep. She was so close, so close. And so completely unreachable. "Meryl?"

"I didn't know you were still awake," she says. Her breath catches in her throat.

I laughed softly. Softly. Don't scare her away. "I sleep lightly," I say, smiling into the dark. And you don't seem to sleep at all, insurance-girl. "What's wrong?" I repeat. "Is something wrong?"

"I – " she says in a strangled voice. "I heard you at the door."

My stomach clenches. My beautiful Meryl. My second savior. "Oh? What did you hear?"

"I – I thought something was wrong."

"Wrong?" I ask gently. "What could be wrong?" Besides my psychotic brother, my confession which you probably heard and now despise me for, and my screwed-up miserable existence? Hah! What in the galaxy's name could possibly be wrong? "There's nothing wrong at all."



"Why did you apologize to me?"

Huh? I don't remember apologizing out loud. In fact, I don't remember apologizing at all for any particular thing. I remember apologies. Lots and lots of apologies.

"At the door," she continued, almost as if reading my silent thoughts. "Before – before you told me goodnight, you said that you were sorry. I just wondered – " she stopped abruptly, swallowing, her mouth seeming to have run out of questions.

"Vash?" she whispers now.

Oh Meryl. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry that I've put you in this position. I'm so sorry that you cannot love me back. I'm so sorry for everything. For Knives, for me, for everything we've put you through. "Yes?" I answer gently, my heartbeat seems to have caught itself somewhere below my adam's apple.

"I – "

It is then that I realize that she had simply called me Vash, not donut head or pervert or broom head or anything nasty. Just Vash. Twice in a row. I sit up straighter, looking at her quizzically. She licks her lips nervously and I wonder what she sees in my own eyes, here in the dim light.

"Vash," she begins again. (The third time she calls me by my name!)

"Yes, Meryl?"

"I heard you earlier today. With Knives. And I – I just – "

Oh no! My mouth opens to say something. An apology. An explanation. Anything! But nothing comes out. Curse this uncooperative tongue of mine! Curse it and may it never taste another donut for a week!

"Meryl," I try again. "I'm sor – "

But I never finish my sentence. She gulps audibly and in a rush of white cloth and a flurry of shadow she is at my bedside, trembling visibly.

So close. So close.

"I know you don't because of what you said to Knives. But I – I – "

Don't what? What did I say to Knives? What is she talking about? "What?"

"Don't make me say it," she whispers.

"Say what?" Say that you want me to leave? Say that you hate me? Say, how dare you Vash? How dare you do this to me?

"That I love you," she chokes out.

There is profound and perfect stillness in the world; silence on the brink. Tears tighten my throat for a moment and I cannot speak. She just told me she loves me. Meryl has just told me that she loves me! I want to scream out my joy, shout to the whole of the galaxy that the woman I love has just told me she loves me back. "Meryl, I – ," I begin, breaking the silence into a million glorious shards of joy. My throat is still tight and my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth. I clear my throat and start again but cannot finish. It is too much. My chest wants to burst apart in happiness.

"I understand," she says softly. Then she nods, bitter tears glistening in her eyes, and turns away.

My hand reaches out to grasp her wrist, stopping her in midstride. She keeps her head turned away from me. "I love you, too, Meryl."

She turns to me then, her face tight and pained. The half-contained sobs waver into her voice. "You don't have to say it, Vash. I – I heard you and Knives. You – you don't have to pretend."

Heard me and Knives? But I as near confessed to Knives as I possibly could have unless – "Meryl? What did you hear?"

"You said that you didn't."

"Didn't what?"

"You're going to make me say it again?"

An annoyed, exasperated tone enters her voice. The hiccupy sobs are gone, replaced by what I recognize as warning signs of an impending headache on my part. I want to laugh.I almost laugh and stop myself in time. "You should have stayed for the whole show, Meryl," I whisper. "Then you would have heard the whole confession."

"What? That you hate me as well?" she asks bitterly.

"No. That I love you," I manage to say without my voice shaking too badly. "And – "


"And I need you." There. I can't believe I just said that. I can't breathe.

"Vash," she whispers gently in the warm darkness. My name is a wonderment in her mouth; a question and a caress. "Vash," she repeats. Then she sobs. "I thought it was all a joke. I thought Knives was being cruel again. And I heard you say you didn't love me and you were going to leave and – "

"Shh," I say to her. "I'm not, Meryl. I'm here." My throat tightens again, but I manage to say the words this time, clearly so that there won't be any more misunderstandings, "And I do love you. And – and I will never leave as long as you want me."

There is profound silence from her. She stands so still, almost as if she weren't breathing, and not knowing what else to say, I reach out for her at the same time she reaches for me, trembling and oh so real. We both release a breath we did not know we had been holding.

As she sighs and twines her arms around my neck, I do what I have been longing to do for so long, plotting to do for so long. I hug her. I slip her into my lap, gentle and small, and she curves into me, her face buried in my neck, her mouth warm and small against my skin and I wrap my arms around her tightly.

"I can feel your heartbeat," she says wonderingly against my chest.

"And I can feel yours," I say back. I'm not sure where one stops and where the other begins but my heart thunders in my chest. "Meryl, I – "

But I cannot speak anymore as she lays fingers against my mouth, silencing, gently stroking, encouraging. As in the dreams, I lean down to cover her mouth with mine. There is no desperation, no frantic movements. Just a tender passion that fills me and seems to expand outward until my heart is in danger of exploding. It is indescribable and better than what I could have dreamed or imagined and for a moment I feel panic that any moment I will wake up, alone once more. But Meryl's mouth opens under mine, welcoming and eager and she deepens the kiss before she has to pull away for breath.

"You're still here," I say softly.

She frowns in puzzlement for a moment before I reach for her again and the puzzlement disappears.

As I draw her into my arms and into my bed, I am unsurprised to see in her eyes what I knew had always been in my heart. Love. Hunger. Need. It was a love that I had no conscious thought of ever having a beginning, so deep and natural and instinctual as it had been. It was a hunger for her I knew had always been in my own eyes. It was a need for her that had traveled through the desert with me to settle in my soul and nag at my heart. And now in her eyes was an answering love and hunger and need. For me. For me!

At this point, the fleeting thought runs through my head that it hadn't been donuts she was staring at that one time, and a thrilling tingle runs through me even while tears threaten my eyes once more and my heart contracts painfully in happiness.

I kiss her again deepening the contact between us, telling her with my mouth and my hands and my body all the things I cannot say in words. She makes a noise in the back of her throat in answer.

"I love you," I say against her lips.

"Idiot," she laughs softly. "I know."

Author's Notes: That's all folks! Happy New Year!