Conflicted Lavender

By: Discord

A/N: The last time I visited the Trigun archive, there weren't nearly as many V/M/K stories, so when I started this beast (way back last summer) I figured I was being half original -_-;;. Oh well. Serves me right for taking my sweet time getting back to it =P.

Here's my spin on the overdone premise of a Vash/Meryl/Knives romantic conflict after the anime. Fic is written in first person and features shifting viewpoints from each of the three main characters. Enjoy!

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[PART 1 – WOUNDED PRIDE]

I was so glad she was here. Her smell filled the room and I couldn't stop myself from running a hand through her soft dark hair, breathing in the fragrance. Lavender.

We sat side by side on the couch – waiting – and as the hours ticked by her head grew heavy from lack of sleep and fell onto my chest. I could feel the gentle warmth of her breath through my shirt, a black affair far too small, and I leaned my face close to hers, listening to her quietly exhale. It felt so right, having her this close to me. My arms moved of their own accord and with a boldness that surprised me they encircled her small form, clasping together behind her back. I looked down at the sleeping woman, watched as her nose twitched, and had an unbelievable urge to kiss her.

"Don't you look comfortable… brother."

I jerked in surprise at the voice, loud and cold in the silence and stared at the man in front of me. He leaned against the doorframe with a hand to his bandaged chest and utter disgust on his face.

I was too startled and caught off guard to remember to be embarrassed. My mouth opened and closed once before I found my voice.

"Knives… you're… up…."

"Yes, and what a sight to wake to," he sneered, acting as if the revelation-filled shoot-out eight days ago had never happened. Same stance, same glare, same voice.

"Holding a human… honestly," his lip curled and his gaze fell to the object of his distaste in my arms. Knives' eyes narrowed at the way her shoulders lay slack and trusting against me, and the gentle rest of her fallen hands on my thigh. He inhaled sharply when his gaze rose to her sleeping face, long lashes and high cheekbones blissfully unaware of the scrutiny. She murmured softly in her sleep and shifted against me, her body pressing even close to mine. I couldn't help the blush that crept to my cheeks. I had never held her like this before.

"Swayed by a pretty face," Knives snorted and the redness in my face deepened at his scorn. I wasn't ashamed of her and it angered me that his lack of approval could illicit such a response.

"She has a name," I could almost taste the growl in my throat. "It's Meryl."

Knives' eyebrow imperceptibly rose at my warning tone but said nothing.

Emboldened, I tried to harden my gaze with sternness. "You should be resting. I almost killed you."

"Hardly brother," he said coldly, still leaning against the door. I gave him a closer look and noted the blood beginning to peek through the white gauze of his bandages. Frowning, I saw how he put most of his weight against the wall and for the first time noticed the pallid weak color of his skin.

"You can barely stand Knives."

Knives scowled and crossed his arms over his chest. The movement put pressure on his wounds and the barest hint of a grimace crossed his face before he quickly masked it with derision.

"Imbecile. You know nothing. And you give yourself far too much credit. Your aim was as slow and clumsy as your bandaging techniques."

"You're so predictable," I muttered. "Why don't you just admit that the effort it took to drag yourself up and limp over here wasn't worth the work, sweat and lost pride? Not to mention opened stitches…"

I had never been able to give Knives a verbal slap, but somehow, with Meryl's warm, reassuring presence against me I had the strength to surprise even myself.

If Knives were capable of something as revealing as sputtering, he would have. At least I'd like to think so. Instead his shoulders tensed and I could feel rather than see his jaw clench.

"You are in no position to claim *I'm* the predictable one, Vash," his scowl disappeared as he snidely threw on a mock of me. "Oh no! We must save humanity! They're worth it Knives! Just give them a chance!" His voice grew thick as he continued to taunt. "I don't care that they're cruel and spiteful and selfish… that they kill our sisters feeding their damn toasters and light bulbs. I don't care what they did to Tes—". He stumbled suddenly and stopped mid-name, realizing himself before crossing the line. But we both knew.

I bristled and grew hot with anger.

"We cannot condemn an entire people on the actions of a few! How can you continue to bring her into this?"

"Because she means everything!" He shot back, forgetting his composure.

"She is the past Knives!"

"Her death is un-avenged!"

"And what of The Fall?! Wasn't that vengeance enough for you!?" I asked savagely.

Knives switched tactics. "The trait for callous acquisition is in all of them brother."

"You're wrong." I could feel the vehemence deep in my voice and cursed in frustration as Knives shook his head with the same fervor.

"They don't care of costs, unless to themselves. They're weak and sick and twisted – nothing but corrupt worms. It's our job to stop them and fre—"

"Shut up! You're wrong! Wrong! Humanity has so much good—"

"SPARE me Vash," Knives put a hand out. It was the same argument. Every time. "You're a fool brother."

My body tightened and the anger in my arms and chest surprised me. Maybe it was because I'd been so sure he had changed, or that I had made a difference. But I was furious at him. And the bitter blow of truth was hard for me to take.

I swallowed and readied to burst forth with more defense for the people of Gunsmoke when one of them stirred in my arms and woke from sleep with a grumpy muffled curse.

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I could hear deep, angry voices. They both resonated with the same timbre and inflection – a husky mix of heated emotions. Each equally passionate and unyielding. And loud. Did I mention loud?

I felt myself being pulled from sleep, and while I tried to cling to the warmth encircling me, I could sense it begin to tense with the same anger of the voices.

Fine I'll get up, I grumbled inwardly, swimming reluctantly to consciousness. Strong arms were around me, taut with edging rage, and had I been a wiser woman, I would have kept quiet and let the dispute settle. But I'm not well known for great amounts of the virtue.

I felt the protest in my throat and released it into the air, stirring against the hard chest I had contentedly slept on.

"Inconsiderate bastards," I muttered, my voice muted in the taste of black t-shirt. Vash's t-shirt. The one deliciously too small for him.

I could feel surprise in the frame that held me, and then regret. He was sorry he had woken me. He didn't have to say anything for me to know. I always knew.

With effort I pushed my face up and blinked the sleep from my eyes, meeting a contrite green gaze hedged by low, messy blonde bangs.

I 'hmphed' at the gaze and brushed the hair from his face, grudgingly forgiving him. Like I could ever stay irritated at the dolt for long.

His mouth broke into a smile and he lifted one of the hands at my waist to place it atop my head. I almost returned his smile at the sign of affection when I felt his fingers smoothing down a clump of my hair that had been sticking up.

My expression soured in embarrassment. Mentally I called him an ass and from my pointed look, he heard it. His fingers stopped and he mocked a hurt look. I was about to roll my eyes when the hand still on my waist tightened and drew me closer, till we were nose to nose. My breath caught in my throat and my heart sped up as I looked into his serious eyes. He kept me there for a moment until a glimmer of mischief shone in his face and he ruffled my hair mercilessly, splaying it out in every direction.

The ex-outlaw stuck his tongue out and I was tempted to grab it and pull. Ass!

"If you're going to call me a jerk, at least let me have deserved it," Vash said aloud, mirth in his eyes and words.

I 'hmphed' again and swatted his hand from my head. "I called you more than that," I said with a conceding half-smile, turning around swiftly when I heard someone shift their weight from across the room. I'd almost forgotten there had been two voices.

I looked up at the man standing by the door and read him as easily as his brother. I knew this was Knives. The man I had waited up for with Vash for over a week. And he was in pain.

His chest and shoulders and arms belied it and I could feel his legs almost shaking with the effort it took to stay upright. I raised my gaze to his face and almost gasped aloud at the hatred and malice I saw there. It was blatant. Hard. And aimed right at me.

Vash's hand at my waist pulled me closer, this time for real, when he felt me tighten. His other hand moved down to rest lightly on my thigh, and I let out a squeak of surprise. His fingers were warm and protective and the animosity pouring off the man by the door seemed to dissipate in power. Who was he to hate me?

Reassured I lifted myself up from Vash's embrace, and stood, eying the man in disdain.

"You should be in bed," I said simply, pleased by the strength in my words.

Knives made no move to respond, except glower more.

"Your injuries are far from healed. You'll cause permanent damage."

I could almost hear his snide protest as if he'd said it aloud.

No human.

"I wasn't asking," I reacted to the unsaid declaration, the beginnings of irritation in my voice. "Go back to your bed." I stepped away from Vash, sensing he was about to reach out and grab my hand. I knew it was his brother, but we were in this together and I had every right to deal with him too.

Knives' eyes widened in disbelief and then darkened dangerously.

You dare order me?

I knew the incredulous statement was on the verge of his lips, but he bit it back. Speaking to me would show that he acknowledged my existence more than just mere scowling. I was surprised at my ease in appraising what he said without words. So much of his body language was like Vash's.

I left the couch, walking almost without thinking, to stand before the man. He bristled at my proximity but held his ground. He wasn't yielding to the likes of *me*.

I eyed him once over, letting my disparaging gaze stop at his purpled calves, broken left arm, shattered ribs and bleeding chest wounds before settling on his face. My eyebrow rose of its own accord as I met his glower and I stepped closer. My smug look was his only warning.

The hand on my right side suddenly shot out, connected with his skin and began pushing on a place where I knew he had several cracked ribs.

Knives eyes widened as I deepened the push and he made a choking sound in the back of his throat before doubling over. Vash's cry of protest was muted in my ears as 160 pounds of angry, winded Plant crashed down on my chest.

My arms came up automatically, circling his broad shoulders and I braced my legs, holding his weight. His head fell past mine and the back of his chin dug into the ends of my collar bone painfully.

Breathing ragged and body shaking he tried to recover right away from my 'I told you so'. Grabbing at my waist roughly, he pushed down, using me like a damned post to right himself. I yelped and snaked one of hands from his shoulder, elbowing his left arm.

He hissed as his arm buckled and slammed his full weight into me again, this time I'm sure landing hard purposefully.

"You… human… bitch," his voice was raw and haggard and as Vash's thundering footsteps came towards us, he lifted his face enough to glare a baleful look at me. I saw his rage from the corner of my eye and couldn't help but swallow hard.

"I'll kill you," he gruffed out, his voice a whisper.

My eyebrow moved up again and with my arms around his back I hefted him forward, so his face surged away from mine to my shoulder blade.

"At least you're going back to bed before you do," I said in the same tone as his, un-phased.

I heard him choke again.

"You—!" before he could finish, Vash's arms came up to us and lifted Knives limp form from mine. Pulling his brother's good arm over his shoulder he looked over at me with disapproval and then turned with the other man to go.

"Let's get you back in bed," he said, echoing my prediction as if I'd fed him the words.

If I'd been a smarter woman I would have kept the knowing smile from creeping across my face until after they'd left. But I think we already covered my lack of wisdom thing.



How was I supposed to know that that smile, along with Knives' damaged pride would be the beginning of everything?

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A/N: First chapter over and done with. How was it? I'm trying so hard to keep the characters from being OOC =/.