We all know I don't own Trigun—really, now.

Chapter 1

Her eyes.

He would never forget her eyes.

He was used to seeing them an angry violet or leached gray by sorrow or fatigue. They were staring at him now, blank with pain.

He could do nothing in the seconds that followed but support her as her weight dragged them both to the ground, her hands clutching at his shirt. He vaguely heard voices in the background; the other insurance girl's cry of anguish and the answering sound of her stungun as she took down her friend's assailant.

And his brother…his brother. Their little group had finally gotten into a sort of pattern that seemed to be doing him some good. This kind of disaster just might send him over the edge.

A movement from the woman in his arms dragged his attention back to the situation at hand.

"Why did you do that? Why would you take a bullet for someone you despise?" He demanded, as her body grew heavier.

His heart lurched as she struggled to answer. Finally, her voiced scratched out a response, "Don't get any ideas, you're still worthless." She coughed, spraying flecks of blood onto his once pristine shirt. He worried that the bullet may have hit her lungs. But when she licked her lips, the blood disappeared before welling up once again. Good--just a split lip, then.

His next random thought was that Meryl had just pressed that shirt yesterday and would be pissed as all hell to see it ruined.

He had to strain to hear the rest of what she said. "I don't expect you to understand, jackass. I'll do whatever I can to keep him happy. Even if it means," she drew in a shuddering breath, "saving a useless, immature, unemployable sociopath." That last speech seemed to drain her remaining strength and she passed out.

Millie ran over, screaming her friend's name, tossing the stungun to the side.

She felt for Meryl's pulse and lifted her head, tears streaming. "Knives! You have to go get Mr. Vash. He's still at work." She laid Meryl on the ground and began ripping strips of cloth from her own shirt. When she saw him still staring at her, her face transformed, displaying a ferocity that would not have looked out of place on Knives' own face. "Now! We don't have much time!"

Stunned into obeying, Knives stumbled to his feet and began to run to his brother. His body was still recovering from their battle two months earlier, so he knew he wouldn't make good time. Instead, he allowed his need to go out mentally, broadcasting his urgency to the other plant.

He could see others running in the opposite direction, including the town doctor, who he recognized from the man's visits to their own house. As a twinge in his legs turned into a stab of pain, he wondered irritably why he was running at all. Vash could track him by the mental summons. He let those idiot humans infect him with their sense of urgency. The small woman meant nothing to him, she was a necessary evil in order to be with his brother again. They had not stopped arguing since the day he began to speak again.

The other one…hmm. Her childlike persona concealed razor-sharp intuition and perception. Also, his careful probes showed that she really was as nice as she seemed, as pure a person as one could hope to find on this desolate planet. Needless to say, she disturbed him most of all.

He finally stopped, chest heaving, legs burning, waiting for his brother to come into sight.

Just as he was ready to start looking for him again, Vash came running around the corner, arms and legs flailing. His puppy-like rush might have been amusing at any other time. His look of worry turned into a look of horror when he caught sight of his brother. Knives was confused for a moment before looking down at himself.

His once pristine white shirt, that Meryl spent her time washing, pressing and folding for him was now soaked in her blood.

Vash almost plowed into his brother with the force of his worry, demanding to know what happened, what went wrong and where are the girls?

"They're in front of the store." Knives finally cut him off. "The small one was shot."

If possible, Vash went even paler. "This is…this is her blood?" He unconsciously dug his hands into his brother's shoulders, causing him to wince in pain.

"Go ahead without me. I don't want that hellion thinking I didn't get you." Knives peeled his brother's hand off of him and gave him a shove in the right direction.

Vash looked as though he wanted to argue, but one look at his brother's exhausted form and he simply nodded and took off again.

When he got to the town's main street, he had to push people out of the way. Once they realized who it was, they were a bit more sympathetic, and began to let him through. He fell to the ground next to Millie, who had given way to the town doctor. She looked up at him, failing miserably to hold back her tears.

"Mr. Vash." She sobbed. "I'm so glad you're here."

He craned his neck, trying to get a better view of his friend around the doctor working feverishly to save her. "Millie, Millie what happened?"

"Some men tried to shoot Mr. Knives, but Meryl jumped in front of him and took the bullet. She was so brave, but, but…" and here she couldn't continue anymore. He absently put an arm around her shoulder as she continued to sob. The noise faded into the background as his brain tried to process the new bits of information.

"Why did they try to shoot Knives?" Vash felt a moment of panic. They couldn't possibly have known who he was, could they?

"They were trying to get Meryl to go somewhere with them." Millie looked momentarily confused. "They said something about a love tunnel." She shrugged, while Vash looked pained. He was surprised she hadn't shot them herself.

"Well, Meryl had taken out one of her derringers, and I was trying to calm her down, when Mr. Knives called them ignorant monkeys for chasing after a p-poison harpy like Meryl. Then they got mad and started shooting, and Meryl knew he wasn't strong enough to dodge any bullets yet, so she ran over to him, a-and…" Millie broke off before wailing, "She was so brave, Mr. Vash!"

Meryl? Had risked her life for Knives? He firmly wrapped his other arm around Millie to keep it from grabbing Meryl as it seemed to want to. The last thing he wanted was to disturb the doctor while he was working.

"Young man? Young man, young lady, we have her stabilized, but we'll need to get her to my office right now. It was a clean exit, but she's lost a lot of blood." The older man sat back before pushing himself to his feet.

Gently releasing Millie, Vash moved forward to pick up Meryl. He allowed himself the liberty of gently pushing some hair off her forehead. God, she was so pale. Working his arms underneath her, he tried to pick her up as gently as possible.

She whimpered in pain as he jolted her getting to his feet. Whispering a heartfelt apology, he began to follow the doctor, speaking to his friend the whole while. A nagging in the back of his head made his look over to where Knives was struggling his way towards them.

"Millie," Vash said urgently. "I'm going on ahead with the doctor. Can you help my brother? I think he's overdone it today."

Brushing away her tears, Millie immediately jumped at the chance to be of use. "Sure thing, Mr. Vash. I'll take care of your brother, and you take care of Meryl." With a faint smile, she walked off, long legs eating the ground, reaching Knives in seconds.

An hour later, the doctor came out of Meryl's room with a tired smile. Vash and Millie immediately jumped up from their seats. Knives tried to look disinterested, but he listened as intently as the other two.

"She's going to be alright. That lady in there is quite a fighter. As I said earlier, the bullet went right through her chest, missing all bones and vitals. She will, however, need to stay in bed for a number of weeks, until her body replenishes all that lost blood." He took a step forward and placed a hand on Vash's shoulder, who looked as though he was afraid to believe what he was hearing.

"She'll be alright, son." The older man smiled reassuringly. Vash let out his relief in a shuddering sigh, and sat back down, resting his head in his hands.

"Can we see her?" Millie asked.

"Yes, but one at a time, and no more than five minutes. She needs rest."

Vash turned to Millie. "Why don't you go on first? I'm not sure my legs can hold me yet." He smiled at her.

"Ok."

Lifting his head from his hands, he saw his brother watching him with an odd look on his face.

"What, Knives?"

"So you care for her that much?" He asked.

"She's my friend. We've been through a lot together."

Knives was silent again. When he spoke, it was hesitant. "They were trying to kill me. She…she jumped in front of me when they fired."

Vash nodded. He felt sick fury at not having been there when it happened. His brother and his best friends; the three people most important to him in the world…

He looked up as Millie exited Meryl's room and motioned to him. His gaze landed on Millie's slightly thickening middle and silently corrected himself. Make that four most important people. He wasn't able to save Wolfwood, but he would be damned if he let anything happen to the woman and child he left behind.

"You can go on in, Mr. Vash," she whispered.

He thanked her with a smile, and walked across the small hall into Meryl's recovery room. She looked so small lying there among the pile of sheets and blankets. He pulled up a chair and sat next to her bed, just gazing into her face. Her cheeks seemed to have a bit more color now, and her breathing was steadier then during his dash to the doctor's office earlier that day. He took her hand in his; it was deceptively small and delicate. One wouldn't think she would be able to get as much with it as she did.

She was a frighteningly capable woman; no matter what situation she found herself in, she seemed to be able to handle it. Not calmly, and not happily, but when it counted she found a way through.

He leaned forward and lay his head on the bed next to her hip, their joined hands at eye level. Although the doctor said she would be fine, he preferred to see for himself. Closing his eyes, he slowed his breathing and heart rate, putting himself into a type of trance.

His awareness traveled up Meryl's arm to her shoulder and over to her chest where the bullet had entered. To his mind's eye, the wound glowed an angry purple, but thankfully the putrid green of infection was absent. He sent a little bit of his energy into Meryl's body, prodding her marrow to produce blood cells at an accelerated rate, and allowing her torn flesh to knit together a little more easily.

He frowned to himself; there was a frailness to her that had nothing to do with the injury, as if she hadn't been in the best of health to begin with. He vowed that he would make certain she took better care of herself from now on. Millie was about due to start cutting back working on the well, so he knew he could count on her to help see to that.

When he opened his eyes, the room was dark, and a blanket had been placed over him, thanks to a kind nurse who didn't have the heart to wake him from his apparent slumber. It would be all over town the next day that the handsome blond never let go of her hand, even in his sleep.

Physical contact was necessary for his gift to help the healing process, but her story was more romantic, he supposed. He heaved a rueful sigh; Meryl would probably give him a black eye for the rumor, but it was a small price to pay for her health. He just hoped Millie and Knives were all right.

***

At that moment, his brother was lying awake in his own bed, unable to sleep. He couldn't remember anyone risking their life for his. How strange that it would be that screaming harpy disguised as an elf. From what he knew of humans, he wouldn't put it past her to take advantage of a situation to get into his brother's good graces.

But there was no way she could have known that the shot wouldn't be fatal. She threw herself in front of a person she despised, knowing full well that she could die.

All to preserve the happiness of another person. His idiot brother.

It was the opposite of his approach. He killed humans because he considered them to be a bad influence on his brother. They hurt him, time and again, both physically and emotionally. He thought that without them around, Vash would give up his asinine views.

However, when faced with the same situation, Meryl chose to save the person hurting Vash, because she knew how much the blond cared for his brother regardless of the pain he caused. She was willing to save Knives to spare Vash any further pain.

He rolled over, fixing his eyes on the sliver of moonlight coming through the window. He did not like the new ideas coursing through his mind. After more than one hundred years, he was understandably resistant to new ideas, especially when they threatened his fundamental beliefs.

Somehow, this shrewish woman and her hippie friend (he remembered the term from historical files on the ship; it seemed to suit Millie somehow) were changing his views on humans where all his brother's pleadings and Rem's teachings could not.

Meryl could not stand Knives. At all. But she never gave less than a full effort when she cared for him. He never found crumpled sheets on his bed, or dirty bandages on his wounds, or half-raw food on his plate, or any of the hundreds of other passive-aggressive ways he envisioned she would make his life hell.

He originally dismissed her efforts as transparent attempts to curry Vash's favor…but then was unable to fit her nagging and abuse of the goofy blond into his theory. Even as she berated Vash for his accident-prone, donut devouring ways, Knives also noticed the way she cared for him. She always made sure the house had donuts for him, or that his clothes remained neat and clean, no matter what he managed to do to them.

On more than one occasion, Vash had fallen asleep sitting up late in the living room, or the kitchen-one time even on the porch. He often sat up late worrying over his choices and whether he would be able to take care of everything. Meryl always made sure he woke with a blanket over him and a pillow underneath his head. He caught her doing it once, as he hobbled to the restroom in the middle of the night.

Knives also noticed, when no one else seemed to, that whenever money was tight, she was always the first to go without food. She would make excuses, claiming that she had eaten earlier, or would eat later. But Knives knew. When he confronted her one day, she simply responded that she had the least need in the house.

Vash did physical labor all day. Millie also worked, and was pregnant besides. Knives was recovering. She could make the sacrifice.

She said it all calmly, with no posturing or self-pity. It affected him enough to keep his normal cutting comments to a minimum, and they managed not to argue for the rest of the day.

Knives rolled back over, grumbling. He would never be able to sleep with that light in his eyes.