Disclaimer: As a student of copyright law, I am completely aware that it is an act of infringement to prepare this derivative work involving the concepts and characters of Trigun. However, I would also like to point out that, as I have no intention of marketing this story for profit, to prosecute me would be a great waste of time and money. My contributions can only serve to increase the popularity of and demand for this already famous series.

Warnings: R for final chapter

Note from the author: Although I write quite a bit of fanfiction in my head, I very rarely am motivated to transfer it to a fixed media. Hence, this is my first Trigun story. It began as a vignette from Meryl's point of view, and ended up as something of a novella. I felt the need to split it into several parts in order to assist in reading. As of now these 'sequel' titles are "Reap the Whirlwind" and "Inherit the Wind", should you actually have any desire to continue after you're finished with this one. Additionally, there's a couple of other story ideas in the works tentatively entitled "Their Brothers' Keepers" and "Where Angels Fear to Tread". We'll have to see if I ever bother making them.

Inspiration Soundtrack: Let My Love Open the Door- Pete Townshend, One Night in Bangkok- Chess Soundtrack, Trigun end theme- Duh!

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- --------------------------------

"Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it enkindles the great."

-Comte DeBussy-Rabutin

Tame the Whirlwind

Needless to say, he had never returned.

He had walked off that day, a blurred shadow against the torturous sun, and had never come back. And she hadn't said a word. She had tried to get it out, to find the courage to speak what she'd been shouting silently for weeks. But she had failed. Again. So much for her perfectionist track record.

She had, at first, been shocked by her own cowardice. She hadn't needed to say anything, really. She could have hugged him or kissed him goodbye (near strangers had done as much and more). Instead she had stayed leaning nonchalantly by the doorway. Had opened her mouth to speak, and then recounted. Too afraid her words would make him change his mind. More afraid that they wouldn't. She and Millie had watched him amble off to who knows where in silence.

After the initial shock of her failure she had attempted to comfort herself. Surely he'd be back. Surely he couldn't stay away for long. Perhaps tomorrow. Perhaps this evening. Perhaps she should make some extra dinner just in case he materialized, limping, out of the sunset. But he didn't come, and the food got cold, and each night she fell asleep curled up on the porch rocking chair with a rough blanket wrapped around her knees. And he didn't come. And, of course, it all lead to the eventual conclusion of what she had known all along. Had known as she stood leaning by the doorway so that she couldn't miss him as he left. Had known as she blessed Millie inwardly for interrupting her just at the critical moment of admittance. Had known as she watched him walk away, already consoling herself with thoughts of his return. He was never coming back. He had never intended to return. And she had never told him how she felt.

Not that it likely would have made any difference. It was, and this was a thought that truly scared her, probable that he had already known. She had been taught that men were usually blind to such things, that emotions and all the baggage that accompanied them were as foreign to them as oceans were to her. And nothing she had experienced in her youth had made her think otherwise. Men were boorish, rude, inconsiderate, sex fiends. But then, Vash wasn't like other men.

He certainly wasn't stupid. It had taken her while, but eventually she had come to the conclusion that it took a real genius to get away with acting that idiotic. And he wasn't unaware of people's feelings. Point in fact, he'd shown considerable insight into emotions that others didn't even know they had. He also certainly wasn't afraid to vent his own emotions. Although she was pretty sure his crying like a baby at the slightest thing was an act, she was certain she had seen him at times truly sad, and happy, and, on one or two occasions, murderous. No, it was a good bet he had known about her feelings for him all along, perhaps even before she herself did. And it hadn't changed a thing.

Later, when life had returned to a semblance of normalcy, her mind would wander back to the time they had spent together and wonder where on earth she had gotten the idea that he would even care. She was not sure exactly when she had come to the realization that there was room in their clutter of a friendship for more, but as soon as she did she had found herself unaccountably hopeful that their relationship would change. Hopeful against any logic or sense of understanding. Her memory of those times was painfully clear. How she would try to talk to him, maybe draw him into a conversation that didn't involve the weather, or their destination, or death and destruction. How he would look at her with open eyes that didn't judge her when she found herself unable to speak and had to mumble "nothing" and turn away. Those tense moments had seemed like hours to her, short as they had been in actual time. How short for him who had been young when the ships first fell out of the sky? How insignificant the sharp, fast beating of her heart to him who had held the love of so many? How stupid and petty were her hopes and dreams and desires to one who had seen the dreams of millions burnt to dust in the atmosphere, who had given hope to those with no more reason to live, who watched people's lives like the unreal, two dimensional scenes on a movie screen? What had she expected in those brief breathless moments? Did she even know herself? He was older than her, way older. Did she think he had never had a woman before? That he had never known girls smarter than her, or prettier? What, in those instants of conceited stupidity had she ever thought she could offer to him?

And then she would laugh. A high pitched false sounding laugh that would cause everyone in the crowded office to look up with alarm. And when she stopped her fierce giggling before it could turn into sobs, they would shake their heads and turn respectfully away from the poor girl whose brains had clearly been addled by the scorching sun of the outer territories.

There was, of course, the possibility that he had been killed. In fact, the idea was not all that farfetched considering the circumstances. But during their time together she had come to find that he was extremely resilient, and, after she had learned a little more about his past, had found herself questioning whether he really could be killed at all. The most telling factor for her, though, was that she just felt, deep down in her soul, that he was alive. She knew she was being a foolish girl for thinking, like the heroine in some fairy tale, that if he had died she would "just know". But then, it wasn't the most foolish thing she'd done because of Vash. And besides, if there were anyone who was a knight straight out of a children's story, he was it.

And so that was her life. She had had her legendary tale, her taste of adventure, her chance for the castle and the white horse and the happily ever after, and she had missed it. She had been the proverbial little girl who has just found out that magic was real, but that monsters were real too, and fearing the latter rejected both for the warm comforts of home and a stable, normal, life. And in the way of all logical adults, she found reassurance in the world of bankbooks and deadlines, and eventually could forget what her life in the wilds had been like.

That was, most of the time.

Millie had eventually gotten married. The groom was stoic and sarcastic with dark hair and Meryl had politely refrained from mentioning who he reminded her of. And when Millie's whole family came and made such a fuss over their favorite little sister, she couldn't help but be happy for her friend. Within the year Millie was producing a brood of her own. The first had been a little girl named Meryl. "After her godmother," Millie had said, smiling. And not two years later, a dark haired little boy named for his dad. His father was so pleased and proud, he didn't mind at all that, to avoid confusion, his son went commonly by his middle name. Around the house he was Nicholas, Nicky for short, and Meryl politely never commented about that either. Both grew up spoiled by their "aunt" who would tell them stories about how, when she and their mother had been younger, they had gone on adventures and known the famous outlaw, Vash the Stampede.

Not unsurprisingly, Millie's husband never believed the stories. It was beyond comprehension to him that his sweet little naïve bride had ever been the acquaintance of outlaws. He laughed at the stories and even went so far once as to question whether or not they were appropriate material for children of impressionable age. But it was always those stories that they asked for when she was over. "Please, Aunt Meryl, please tell the one about the little boy and the sand steamer." "Tell us the one about you and mommy and the typhoon." And so she would lift each one to a knee and tell them, leaving out the gory parts and the sad parts and making their eyes sparkle with all the crystal belief of childhood. And every time she would cry inside thinking, 'He would have loved this.'

It was after just one of these visits that Meryl found herself in one of the worst sections of town, with absolutely no idea how she'd gotten there. Well, that's not entirely true, she thought to herself, obviously I walked here. Obviously I left Millie's after helping with the dishes and wasn't paying attention to where I was going. Obviously, I was thinking of something else entirely and my feet kept moving and I just made a wrong turn and ended up here. Meryl sighed. Obviously she had been thinking about him. The kids had brought it out of her with their questions until all the memories welled up inside her against her will. Until she had almost drowned in them. And, in a haze, caught somewhere between now and 10 years ago, she had let her legs take her wherever the sidewalk lead.

Apparently, it lead to the 'Outlands Bar'.

Light streamed through the doorway into the trash filled street (when did it get so dark out?). The windows were dirty but she could hear the sounds of revelers within. Someone was singing (already? little early for that isn't it?), badly, and someone else was apparently angry at how a card game had come out. It was probably too much to ask that they had a working phone inside but, glancing up and down the empty street, it didn't look as if she had much of a choice. Meryl slipped her hand surreptitiously into her pocket and wrapped her fingers around the little Deringer she always kept "just in case". It felt strangely warm against her palm and suddenly, she really was back 10 years ago, outside just another rowdy bar in another law starved territory town.

Meryl shook the disturbing feeling of being in two places at once from her head. 'Stop letting your imagination get away with you,' she scolded. Raising her chin and setting her head in what she hoped looked like a confident manner, she pushed through the half doors and into the bright space within.

Inside the eerie sense of familiarity continued. The patrons, as a whole, were unkempt. The bartender was plump, aproned, and surly looking. Balls clinked from a pool table in the corner and the waitresses appeared to have been hired neither for their serving abilities nor their stimulating conversation. Most of the customers didn't even bother looking up to see who had come in, let alone show any interest. Meryl breathed a slight sigh of relief. Dodging a sashaying waitress, she made her way to the bar.

"Excuse me," she asked the bartender. His attention was focused on the card game argument so she raised her voice and stood on tiptoe to make herself more visible over the tall bar. "Excuse me, do you have a phone I could use?"

"Pay phone in the back," he grunted, jerking his head to indicate direction. Meryl mentally went over the contents of her pockets.

"Umm.would it be possible to get some change?"

"Yeah, if you buy something." Meryl despaired momentarily for the loss of chivalry then upbraided herself. She should just be happy she had found a real working phone in this place. Tossing a bill upon the counter, she watched as the bartender plunked down her change and a sweating bottle in front of her without taking his eyes off of the vociferous card game. Picking up both she strode around to the back and found a decrepit black pay phone with chewing gum plugging the return slot.

She deposited her coins and then paused, one hand poised over the numbers. Who could she call? Millie was likely in bed already and her other friends from work..oh, right.what other friends? None good enough to trust to coming down here this late in the evening. No, she had a better idea. Flipping through the torn phone book, she found a reputable looking cab company and dialed them. Thirty minutes, they said. That was fine. She hung up and returned to the common room. Perching herself on a barstool, she raised the cool bottle to her lips, determined to enjoy her unwanted beer.

While she had been in the back, the card game had apparently come to blows and the bouncer slumped languorously against the doorframe had eagerly introduced two of the players to the pavement. However, it didn't take long for the room to return to it's previous decibel level. Meryl let her eyelids slide closed momentarily and allowed the familiar sounds to wash over her. The singer was at it again, his friends egging him on and making laughing requests. The card players had switched games and were muttering angrily under their breaths in between silent, surreptitious glances towards the bouncer. Someone shouted a lewd comment at a serving girl and she gave a tittering laugh in return. The half doors squeaked as another patron strolled in.

Meryl smiled despite herself. This place was coarse. It was dirty. It was a little bit dangerous. It was everything she had loved about the territories but would never have admitted, even to herself. Opening her eyes she saw the bartender glancing suspiciously at her, his hands mechanically dry washing a bar glass. It occurred to her that women probably didn't usually spend this much time enjoying a drink in his establishment. She wondered, vaguely, if the proprietor thought that her phone call had been regarding "business" with one of his patrons. It was the only reason she could come up with for the disagreeable look he was giving her. She almost laughed aloud at the idea. As if she had the clothes, or the body for that matter. But all the same, it made her feel younger and prettier. Glancing at her watch she saw that 10 minutes had passed since her phone call and was almost disappointed that there wasn't a lot of time left. She had to admit it, she had missed the atmosphere.

Behind her the singer had thankfully abated and been replaced by one of his cohorts telling a long joke involving a duck with a gun. One of the pool players gave a short shout of triumph.

"Hey sweet thing," a waitress drawled somewhat seductively to the newcomer, "Can I get you anything."

A chair scraped against the floor as one of the card players rose to use the restroom. His chips clinked as he gathered them. Meryl lowered her half empty beer bottle from her lips and gazed at fat droplet sliding down its side.

"Scotch whiskey, straight."

The droplet froze. Time froze. Or rather, time merged. Past and present, then and now. A space between heartbeats which lasted forever. And, in that moment, had black become white and up down Meryl would not have been in the least surprised, for the impossible became possible.

She knew that voice.

'Ten years. Ten years, Meryl,' she thought to herself. 'Ten years and you still think you'd recognize his voice. Pick him out of a rowdy crowd of conversation, just like that. Silly girl, getting yourself all worked up over nothing.' She blushed with embarrassment as well as determination.

'But I do know that voice. I do.'

'Nonsense,' said Sensible Meryl, 'It's just this bar and those pesky memories. Everything's been weirdly familiar tonight, that should go for voices as well. Listen, listen again, you'll see. It's just some guy, some random patron, come to drink his own memories away for a while'

The waitress leaned up against the bar, pressing her ample bosom against the top, and repeated what the customer had said. The bartender set down his now well buffed glass and proceeded to fill it with a rich amber liquid. He placed the glass on the girl's tray and she flounced back to the table behind her.

"Here you go sweet thing."

Meryl held her breath.

"Thanks."

It had to be! No. Yes. Come on, after 10 years he's just going to show up in a bar on the one random night you wander into it. Why not? He's done crazier things. That's not the point, you haven't even looked around to make sure. Oh, and someone who sounds exactly like Vash but isn't him showing up at the bar I randomly wander into isn't crazy? Just humor me with a casual glance around the room. I'm not sure I can make it look casual. Try.

Meryl set her bottle firmly down on the bar and turned around in her seat, looking as nonchalant as was humanly possible with her torso twisted 180 degrees from the front. Then calmly turned back and laid her hands flat, fingers spread wide, on either side of her beer bottle. It was a trick she had learned in grade school. It kept them from shaking.

It was him.

Sensible Meryl tried to raise her voice, tried in vain to be heard over the excited ramblings of Emotional Meryl, and was summarily knocked off the barstool. 'What should I do? Should I go up to him? What should I say? Didn't he see me when he came in? It's not like him to be so inattentive. What if I've changed so much he doesn't recognize me?' That thought made her grimace. She knew she wasn't ugly, but time had touched her in the last 10 years just as it touched everyone else. Well, except him apparently. 'What if he's not interested in me now? What if he never was in the first place?'

'Well, it's about time you found out.'

Nodding her head in silent assent she gripped her beer tightly and slipped carefully off of the barstool. She turned and faced the table behind her. His red coat had disappeared, replaced with one of brown leather, but equally long. As always his blonde hair spiked up above him, making him look even taller than he was, except for one unruly strand falling over his eyes. Those were staring at his drink, now, not looking her way at all. His hands, gloved and not, gripped the glass before him, dark and light fingers interlaced. Taking a deep breath, she sidled up to him and set her drink down next to his. The sound of glass hitting the table seemed to break his reverie and he glanced up at her.

Meryl panicked.

She wasn't sure what she had intended to do after walking over to him. Embracing him and kissing him within an inch of his life had come to mind (causing her to blush even more furiously than she already was). Also, smacking him about the head and demanding to know where the hell he'd been for the last 10 years. That option sounded more attractive, but she wasn't sure it would achieve the response she was hoping for. And there was another problem. She stood there, shivering, in the hot, smoky barroom and everything she had thought of saying to him over the past decade flew out of her head like dandelion seeds after a swift puff of air. As if ten years had never passed, as if all the time she had spent forgetting about him and moving on with her "real" life had never happened, she found herself drowning in his eyes.

"Huh-hi," she managed to stutter out. 'Oh, great, Meryl, dazzle him with your wit why don't you! It's been 10 years, can't you think of anything better to say?'

"Insurance girl," he replied, with a wry smile. "Long time, no see."

"Yeah," Meryl sighed, "Real long." And suddenly, without her control, she was smiling too. She blushed again and tried to duck her face away, but couldn't quite manage to break the gaze he now held her with. With the toe of his boot he pushed the chair next to him out from the table.

"Sit," he offered, and she obliged. For a moment the raucous bar seemed to go silent. The chair creaked beneath her. The buxom waitress glared a haughty challenge from across the bar, hands on her hips. The bouncer shifted his weight making the floorboards moan.

"So, where have you been the last 10 years?"

She stared at him in open-mouthed shock. Where had SHE been?!? And then she noticed the crinkles at the edges of his eyes, eyes that had turned a light and friendly sky blue. She recognized his look, he was teasing her. Then he was laughing openly at her, his head thrown back. In that moment, Meryl laughed too. She laughed at herself and at him. She laughed at all of the things she'd been doing since he had walked out of her life. She laughed without worrying what the other patrons would think, or the flouncing waitress, or the unpleasant bartender. She laughed, and it was neither high nor strained. And for the first time in a long time, it was real.