Here it is! Totally revised, updated, edited, ILLUSTRATED, and generally better than it was. Thank you everyone for all your reviews and encouragment. You writters know how much that helps when it's 1am, you're zinging on caffine and you've got a case of writters block the size of Australia. But I digress.
This is a continuation of the Trigun series by Yasuhiro Nightow. He owns all the characters and preplot, and this is as it should be. I own nothing. Nothing I say!
ILLUSTRATIONS!!!! Ok, tried posting the web address on the pages, but that didn't seem to please the almighty donut gods. So...Just do a word search for Ricki's Trigun Anime Page and look under Mabel's Fan-tastic Fan-art. All the pictures for the story are there and I'll just plug in the title of the picture in the story so you know which one to look at and when to look at it. Besides...I worked real hard on them so I might have to come to your house and use all your toothpaste if you don't. (evil laugh) uh...yeah...
Horrah to Ricki-chan who has posted all my artwork on her Trigun web site. Go check it out!
..... means characters are thinking...or at least trying to.
And now please enjoy, The Edge of the Sea. (Bows low and hands you a complementary donut)
CHAPTER 1: WAITING and AWAKENING
Hot wind blew over the parched ground causing tiny dust tornados to swirl up to the white blue sky over the city. The cracked earth on the empty streets of the town blazed under the rays from the two suns. Most everyone was inside during this hottest part of the day, trying desperately to keep cool or find a welcoming breath of a breeze.
A small black cat with bright green eyes made its way half-heartedly across the street to the town's local Saloon, the Rusty Trigger, only to collapse in exhaustion under the shade of a rocking chair on the porch directly outside the establishment. In the chair sat a woman who was fanning herself and occasionally dabbing a wet cloth across her neck and forehead. To the random passerby, the woman would seem to be simply concentrating on cooling off, but on closer examination, one could see that her eyes were intently focused on the distant shimmering horizon on the outskirts of the city. Everyday at this time she sat on the porch and stared to this point at the edge of town.
She thought that no one noticed.
Meryl jumped out of her meditation and looked up at Milly, her best friend, who was leaning against the doorframe.
"Meryl, he'll be back soon, don't worry." Milly smiled brightly at her friend and walked back into the shade of the saloon. "He promised you," she said over her shoulder.
Meryl sighed and leaned back against the rocking chair, closing her eyes.
Promised... She turned the word over in her mind and wondered if he had meant it when he said he would come back, or if it was just another way to shake the insurance girls off his tail. He'd given them the slip way too many times for her to keep track of, but somehow she'd always found him again.
But this time was different, this time she was waiting for him to find her.
She knew it was a long shot. He'd never once shown her anything but basic friendship, so there didn't seem like she had much to expect from him. Meryl kept telling herself that she shouldn't get her hopes up, that it was better for him to be out of her life, and even if he did come back, he'd just leave her again anyway. That was just the way it had always been...the way it would always be.
Then why am I still waiting for him? She sighed.
She knew why.
She could still see him in her mind, walking away, towards...
She shook herself again. Meryl did not want to think about what Vash the Stampede was walking into that day he left town. He went off to find his brother, Knives, a sadistic murderer and self-proclaimed destroyer of the human race. Vash marched off to meet this man, and he had not looked back. Meryl put her head in her hands and her elbows on her knees. She wanted him to look back so much, to give her one last wave or smile or.... something... And now he was really gone. There weren't any rumors of him in over three weeks, and she was slowly losing her mind! Not to mention pissing off Milly with her moods, which, on all accounts, was a hard thing to do. Milly was generally so easy going.
Meryl really crossed the line when she casually mentioned going back to the Bernardelli Insurance Company a week after Vash left.
"No way, Meryl!" Milly scolded her, "I won't let you leave, not when Mr. Vash is expecting you to be here when you get back!" Milly was red in the face she was so angry. "When someone asks you to wait for them and tells you they will be back, you have to wait for them as...as long as it takes." Milly slammed the door to her room and didn't come out for an hour afterwards, but when she did, she was her old cheery self again.
It hadn't been a serious suggestion, but after Milly's reaction Meryl knew she could do nothing but wait now.
So, now she was waiting. For three weeks. Meryl knew three weeks was not all that long, but when you wanted to see someone so badly, the minutes crawled by, slowed by the oppressive heat.
She wondered to herself. When had Vash become that important to her? When she first met him, she hadn't believed that he was really The Vash the Stampede, and not some wandering idiot. And then, after she was convinced he was Vash, she still thought he was an idiot. Until.....well, she really couldn't say when her perception of him changed. It happened slowly, mostly when he got serious about something. Then she saw the age in his eyes. She wondered what else happened to him during the last hundred years that he hadn't told her about. All she knew was, when he was hurt, really hurt, be it physically or emotionally, her heart ached as well. And she didn't know what that meant for the longest time.
"Geez, Meryl," she muttered to herself, "for someone as smart as you are suppose to be, you can really be stupid at times."
What's more important to you? Your job or your life? He asked her that once when she tried to follow him.
She never answered him out loud.
But she'd been dreaming lately, and always she'd wake up more frustrated than before. Ever since he'd hugged her that day, Meryl wanted to touch him again. His skin, his body fascinated her into detailed fantasies about being close to the humanoid typhoon. Before it was just been a need to protect him, to keep him safe, but now...
Meryl slowly stood up and smoothed her clothes down, making herself presentable. With sad eyes, she looked toward the same spot on the horizon where Vash disappeared to the day he left, and the same spot she watched every day after.
"I promise," she whispered, "I'll wait for you...."
Walking through the swinging doors of the saloon she paused before she went in, catching one more glance out to the desert.
"...as long as it takes."
Now the town looked truly deserted. The heat blew through the empty streets. No one was there to see the distant specks of movement on the horizon. No one watched as the specks came closer and closer to the edge of town. Three men. One tall and blonde, one dark and lanky, and a third slung over the shoulder of the first man. The only one who greeted them was the black cat under the chair, which mewed, stretched, and went back to sleep.
Illustration: Waiting for You (Go to Ricki's Trigun Anime Page)
Angus McCray had a sudden desire to go to church, which was quite odd since he hadn't attended church in nearly a decade. But still, there it was, and he felt he had to go.
His teams of workers were on a foraging mission to a nearby town called Tonam, which mysteriously became deserted. However, they had to take temporary cover when they heard the sound of gunshots late in the morning. It didn't last very long.
Probably just some wandering bandits or stragglers, he thought, nothing his team couldn't handle. So, during his lunch break that afternoon, Angus walked through the doors to the modest little town church.
The sun shone through the stained glass windows, illuminating the dust particles in the air so that the beams of light looked like odd angled pillars, fitted to prop up the walls of the building. The rest of the large room was in musty darkness. Not too many people must have used this old place, and it seemed that fewer people took the time to clean it.
Angus remembered coming here as a child, and staring at the colorful window panels, awed that anything so beautiful could survive there. Compared to the rest of the town, the windows were beautiful.
Something clattered in the distance.
He froze in mid-step. Through the dusty light pillars he could just make out a dark crouched shape at the end of the aisle. It looked like a machine of some sort. Little glints of light came from it.
Angus held his breath for as long as he could and stepped foreword. His father did not raise him to be a coward. He passed the last pillar of light and realized that it was a man, hunched over, in front of the alter.
His first thought was that it looked like Jesus with his cross leaned up against him. But, Angus quickly dismissed that. He could see the cross was loosely wrapped in dingy cloth, but underneath glinted metal. A weapon of some sort. The man was dressed in a black suit.
Hot for the desert, Angus thought. He knelt down besides the man and reached for his wrist, which lie out, palm up on the carpet. He paused again, seeing the blood for the first time. It pooled around the "Jesus man," making a trail from the doors of the church to the alter. He must have walked straight through it. Angus checked his shoes, and sure enough, the soles were stained with red, like ink.
Quickly now, he reached for the man's wrist and checked for a pulse. The flesh was still slightly warm. For over five minutes, he listened, but there was nothing.
No pulse. The man was dead.
Angus sat down heavily on the stone floor next to the dead "Jesus man".
"Was this why I came here, to this church, to find a dead man?" He rested his tired head in his hands.
Was God really that cruel? If he hadn't stopped along the way to grab a bite to eat, would he have been in time to save this man? Angus put his head in his hands.
This was too much; too much like...father.
If Angus hadn't dawdled on his way home years ago, his father might still be alive today, and not under the ground. He felt the tears prick on the edge of his eyes as he sat by the stranger who was growing colder by the minute.
The next twenty-four hours happened quickly. To Angus' surprise, a man claiming to be Vash the Stampede had come in and checked for the dead man's pulse. After finding none, he lay the man down in front of the alter, said a few weak and shaky words over him and took his mechanical cross. Vash did not look back, but he did give Angus a few coins and asked that he give the man a proper burial. Angus nodded without looking up. When he did, Vash was gone, with the cross.
Angus went to the local physician to get some help in moving the body. When he came back with the doctor and a wheelbarrow, he remembered what Vash told him.
"The man was a priest," he whispered sadly, "his name was Nicholas D. Wolfwood, and he saved my life once." Vash swallowed hard. "He was my friend."
Suddenly, Angus heard a choking sound, and he whipped his head up. It came from the direction of the dead priest. Angus ran up to the front of the church, but stopped before he got to the priest. "Wait," he muttered, "it couldn't have been him, he's dead. Yes, he's dead." Angus thought as he stared at Wolfwood's prostrate form on the steps of the alter. He was just about to turn around when his eyes caught something strange. Blankly, he stared at the priest's hand.
"Vash and I laid the priest's hands on his chest," Angus slowly said to himself, trying to remember their exact position, "but now his right hand is stretched out toward the doors of the church!" Death tremors? He thought to himself...and was just about to approach Wolfwood again, when the hand jerked upwards. Angus jumped back, lost his footing, and landed with a thud on the cold floor. A harsh cough came from the priest as his hand fell again, smacking the stone as his face turned. The coughed up blood trickled down the steps. Astonished, Angus saw one dark gray eye open slightly, then close as the priest passed out again.
It had been a little over a week.
During that time the priest, Nicholas D. Wolfwood, made great progress. They'd almost lost him, twice since he was brought in, and everyone in the McCray household was on pins and needles until he was in the clear.
The first time, right after Nicholas was brought into the physician's house, he was so weak, his heart undetectable to the naked ear, and he almost passed away during the night. But in the morning, he was breathing a little steadier and they were able to stop the bleeding.
For the next few days, Angus and his wife, Lucia had taken turns staying by his bedside. Angus wasn't sure why he put so much stock into saving this stranger, but he felt that if he did save him, it would make up for slightly for the guilt he felt towards his father's death. Twisted logic, which made it no less true.
The second time was a few days after that, during the early afternoon. The priest started to have palpitations of the heart, and began muttering in his sleep. The doctor came quickly, but moments before Wolfwood lapsed into what seemed like a coma. After finding no pulse, not even with the equipment, the doctor immediately tried to resuscitate him.
During this time Angus was sure he heard the dying man whisper something that sounded a lot like "...needle noggin! ...It's right next to you...." and "Use it!"
Finally, the doctor said he located the pulse again. Angus and Lucia sighed in relief and thanked the doctor.
Nicholas had not woken fully since he was brought into the McCray home, but he talked in his sleep a little. Mostly indecipherable muttering, but now and then Lucia was sure he was talking to a woman, and then Angus thought he picked out the name...
He had tried to contact Vash after Wolfwood was found to be alive, but he left town hours before, and no one knew in what direction he went. The two insurance girls that came to town with him left within that very hour as well, but word had not reached them either.
"Poor stiffs..." Angus said to himself, and got up to get a drink.
"...Vash..." Angus whipped around as he heard the priest, "...wait...don't want...t-to die..."
Angus crept closer to the delusional man's side as he jerked his head from side to said as he dreamed.
"...stay...Mi-....milly...stay with...m-me...I...I...haaauh!" Wolfwood suddenly sat up with a guttural yell, his eyes wide and staring, but incontrovertibly, alive.
"Wh...where...am I..." he breathed as he slowly took in his surroundings.
Angus smiled with relief. He'll be all right now.
He's going to be just fine...father.
Wolfwood's recovery went surprisingly fast after he fully awakened, and before long, he was up and about, helping with the household chores and playing with the neighborhood children.
"He seems so happy at times," said Lucia to her husband one day as she sat down next to him at the breakfast table, "but at other times he just looks heartsick."
Angus nodded in agreement, "Yeah, Hon," he said, " I reckon he just needs to get back to the people he cares for."
One day, about two weeks after Angus first found Wolfwood, he came downstairs in the morning to find a small note and a pile of double dollars on the kitchen table. The note was addressed to him and Lucia from Nicholas, saying how much he appreciated their care and hospitality, but that he had to move on now and find the ones he thought he lost.
Angus read the note a couple of times, then laid it down again for Lucia.
He understood. The priest was not too good with goodbyes, and he smiled to himself looking out across the reddening desert, "Neither am I. So long priest."
Off in the distance, the growl of a motorcycle hovered over the still desert air, and Nicholas D. Wolfwood smiled to himself. He was back in the saddle again, and this time, he was going to do it right.
Actually, he thought it was a mirage at first, riding on a bike toward him, and he tried to shut his eyes to free himself from the visions of guilt at his friend's death, and from the weight of his twin brother, Knives, on his shoulder.
"Vash!" He heard the ghost Wolfwood call.
"That's it," he thought to himself, "I'm hearing things now." He sighed securing his hold on his brother, who was slung over his shoulder, "Maybe I really am going crazy out here. Well, better keep truckin'."
"Hey! Needle noggin!" He heard the specter shout, this time a lot closer to him, "Look out!"
"What the...!" Vash opened his eyes too late and saw Wolfwood and his motorcycle careening toward him, skidding across the densely packed sand. Right. At. Him!
"Auuughhh!" Vash yelled and threw his brother safely to the side before getting slammed by the bike and doing a sort of double pirouette in the air, before landing heavily on the driver of the motorcycle causing both of them to tumble onto the ground in an undignified heap.
After that, it was only a matter of shaking Vash the Stampede around until he was totally convinced that Nicholas was not a desert mirage and was, in fact, still alive. And after a few too many collapses and feints, Vash was able to embrace Wolfwood, shocked but thankful that his friend lived.
Vash apologized profusely for thinking that Wolfwood was dead in the church.
"That's ok, pal," Nicholas said lightly, "Now that you mention it, I actually think I might have really been dead at the time." He leaned back against his motorcycle and lit a cigarette.
Vash narrowed his eyes and looked questioningly at Wolfwood. "What do you mean?"
"Well," Nicholas took a long drag and let the smoke out slowly, his brow furrowed, "I don't remember much to tell you the truth. But, I do remember wanting to live. And then, I heard you say...something, I don't know what. But I thought of you, and the girls, and the life I had just begun to live. And," he narrowed his eyes and stared into the ground, "and I felt so angry, so cheated. I saw myself, against that damn cross, and I knew I was dead." He inhaled steadily on his cigarette and held the smoke, so it came out in gentle curls as he spoke. "I simply didn't...I couldn't accept it. That's all I remember."
Vash stared at Wolfwood, with a serene smile on his face. "That's it Wolfwood," he said happily, "I guess it just wasn't your time."
"Guess not," laughed Nick.
Vash smiled knowingly, "She'll be glad."
Wolfwood looked up. He knew exactly whom Vash was talking about, because he had been thinking about her ever since he woke up.
"Yeah." Was all he replied.
"You know, she really cried for you the day you died," Vash said softly, "and she waited for you, just like you asked her to. She's a really good girl."
"I just hope she's still waiting," Nicholas sighed, reaching into his pocket for a cigarette. "You know," he drawled, "I bet that other chick would go for you if you asked her. I think, she's got a thing for you, my friend." He winked slyly at Vash.
Vash stared wide-eyed at Wolfwood, then looked down at the ground as if it was extremely fascinating, "Maybe..." he said.
"She's a good girl too," Wolfwood said putting out his cigarette on a nearby rock.
"Mm-hmm," Vash agreed. "Hey, Wolfwood, why'd you put out your cigarette so fast? I thought you really liked them."
"Oh, I just remembered something somebody told me about second-hand smoke once...awwww, come one let's get going, huh, the suns are really hot!" He shouted.
Both men got up from the ground stretched their sore muscles.
"By the way," said Nicholas, "that guy..." he pointed at the figure of Knives who was still unconscious in the shade of a few large rocks, his head carefully propped up on Vash's geranium red coat.
"Oh," Vash grinned, "that's my brother, Knives"
Nicholas nearly jumped out of his skin, immediately putting as much distance as he could between himself and the man on the ground. "What!" he yelled, "that's Knives? That's your brother?! The one responsible for the hundreds of deaths we saw?!"
Vash smiled sheepishly and scratched the back of his head, "Yeah, that's him all right. Although he's pretty out of commission right now."
Wolfwood stared in disbelief at the man lying on the ground in front of him. Although he received orders from Knives when he was working for Chapel, he never actually saw Knives in person. He looked just like Vash, except for the hair, which was a little shorter.
So, this was the man who sent him his last mission. The mission from another time....another life.
Like another world. Thought Nicholas. He frowned at Vash's brother. Strange, he looked so peaceful as he lay there, still passed out from...well, whatever happened out there between the two of them. Vash had not said anything, and Nicholas had not asked.
"Vash," Nicholas said under his breath, "I know he's your brother and all, but are you so sure that keeping him around is a good idea, out of commission or not! He's dangerous!"
Vash's face darkened. "I've made my decision," he said, "and I won't go back on my choice. Knives just needs to see that there is some good in the world, and in its people, and that it doesn't do any good to hate them."
"And just how are you going to do that?" Wolfwood snorted. "How do you turn a complete psychopath, no offense, into a peace and love kind of guy?"
Vash put a hand on Nicholas' shoulder and smiled his 60 billion double dollar smile. "That, my friend, is where you come in!"
Wolfwood stared open-mouthed at Vash, then his shoulders slumped and he sighed wearily.
"Oh man, why me?" He muttered as Vash happily clapped him soundly on the back, nearly knocking him off his feet.
Then Vash stuck his free hand out to Nicholas. "For love..." he started.
"And peace." He finished, grabbing Vash's extended hand.
Next Time on Edge: Chapter 2 Arrivals and Mistakes