Well, first time I've forayed into this particular neck of the woods. I really wasn't expecting to do anything on Trigun anime, with other projects in the works, but this story just popped into my head one day. Luckily, the only way to get it out of active memory so I can go back to my 'official' projects was to type it out, and once I've got something I do like to share. Even if the people I see around this corner of FF.net may see that I suffer eternally for daring to touch "their preciousss..." :P Just remember what this world is made of!
The Purgatory of Nicholas D. Wolfwood

"I don't want to die like this!"

A bold statement. One fit for a hero's comeback, to gloriously triumph over adversity, shake off the binding chains of fate, and go on to beat the Bad Guy with newfound conviction. Except that the person making this statement wasn't a hero. Not in his own eyes, the eyes of those that knew him, or the eyes of those that just happened to glance his way. He was, in the end, just a man- and men can't change the Reaper's Will.

The spark of life was gone. All that remained was a slowly cooling husk, leaking out the vital fluids that once pumped so strongly through his form. The first to find the husk was a figure swathed in brilliant red, who carried a burden far heavier than the mercy the husk had born in life. He just stood at the entrance of this holy place for a moment, then walked down the aisle, the echoing thud-clicks of his boots the only noise. He reached down, felt for the rhythm of life in case he was wrong, then picked up what had been his mercy and turned to leave.

"Dammit needlenoggin, put that back!"

He walked on.

"Hey doofus! Didn't you hear me?! I said put it back! Aw jeeze, you let me just flop over on my face!"

The man in red just walked on, the thud-clicks again the only noise in the church. He was about to berate the red-coated one again, when he noticed that something didn't add up. He was shouting into the doughnut-fiend's face while his own face was about ten yarns off and kissing the stone alter. There were definitely some spatial relationships being violated here. He brought his hand up to scratch his head, as if to make the answer fall out like some dandruff, only to find he couldn't move his hand. Mostly because in order to have a hand, you needed an arm, and to have an arm you needed a body, and to have a body you needed to be... what?

"What the hell is going on here!?"

He glanced back and forth between where he was and his body, now sprawled out flat in front of the church's alter. He put two and two together, got three, and sent the whole mess of numbers spinning off into the void as they weren't telling him a bloody thing. The drops of red along the floor did tell him a bloody thing, with the answer laying right there at the alter.

"Huh, guess I'm dead."

† † †

Now he was pacing back and forth. Well, not exactly pacing as his mind corrected. To pace, one needed legs, and his old set were still sprawled out in front of the alter. Guess that meant he was floating back and forth, which seemed much more plausible for a ghost. Yeah, a ghost. That had to be what this was. There weren't many other explanations for what was going on that didn't involve bad hooch, and his profession was based on the existence of ethereal somethings that persisted after one died. Like he had just done.

"So, what now? Where are those pearly gates I read so much about? Hey, big guy! What's my fate?"

There was no answer to his query. It remained stubbornly quiet as the twin suns touched the horizon, continuing to sink down and lengthening all the shadows. He instinctively tried to reach into his coat for a cigarette, only to remember that he didn't have his coat anymore. Well, he did, but it was on his body which was remaining quite dead. A passing thought had him try and pull them out anyway- 'They are mine, after all. Can't rob your own grave.' However, they were very much corporeal while he was very much non, and his... whatever it was... just passed right through.

"Man, this bites. I wish needlenoggin would come back and at least give me a decent burial. One with lots of flowers, under a nice tree somewhere. He could write 'Here lies Wolfwood, I got his stuff' and some little doodle on the tombstone, then the small girl would belt him one good over the head while the big girl-"

The big girl.

"Oh shit! Milly!" Shooting one look up he yelled "Big guy, don't you dare let me forget something like that!" He had to get to her, tell her everything was going to be fine, that the Gung-Ho Guns were gone and it was safe to come out... He rushed out of the church and into the town, flying over the rooftops and into the house where he had made her promise to stay until the awful events of the day were done. He twisted and turned until he got to the door to the room where he had left her. He flung it open and burst in, or at least that was the idea. Instead, he sort of fell through the door and scuttled along half in, half out of the floor drifting like a dust bunny.

"Damn, keep forgetting that I'm dead... This may be tougher than I thought."

However, it seemed that he didn't have anything to do, since the small girl was already there and needlenoggin came in just a moment after he made his completely unnoticed entrance. Milly looked up hopefully.

"Mr. Vash?"

The small girl spoke up next when he didn't do a thing but stand there, spouting off with that spunk that made her so much fun to bait. "Well?! What the hell were you doing out there! Don't you know how worried we were? And tell me you didn't end up blowing up half the town! We're supposed to be keeping you from doing that you know. And get that priest in here, Milly absolutely will not budge because of some promise that crackpot got out of her, and I want some choice words with him about just what he did last-"

Vash just looked her in the eye and she stopped in mid-sentence, mouth ajar. He wasn't going to mess around this time. "I'm sorry, but I can't bring Wolfwood here."

"Mr. Vash?" ventured Milly again.

Vash just started to speak, his voice low and his face a chiseled mask, showing not a trace of emotion behind those yellow spectacles. He told them what had happened that day, and why Milly would have to break her promise. The girls just sat on the bed, staring at Vash like twin gargoyles and he left out nothing. He watched Milly closely, having given up trying to get her attention. He was just a ghost, after all. The paths of the dead and the living were never known to cross. He just wanted to grab her, hold her close, and say goodbye- but such things couldn't be done now. They'd never be done. As Vash finished speaking, she just let her arms down onto the bed, the sheets still crumpled from when they had spent the night together, and said just four words, so softly that he didn't think anyone could hear it.

"That can't be true."

She rubbed the spot where he had lain last night. "He was right here this morning..."

A series of mechanical clanks brought her gaze up to the door, eyes lit up, smile forming. Then she saw that it wasn't him, but Vash again. He had brought in the Cross Punisher and set it against the wall, keeping one arm on it ever so gently.

"I'm sorry, but it is. I think he would have wanted you to have this."

The small girl got up and walked over, reaching out to almost touch it, stopping just short of the smooth silver surface before backing away against a wall. "No..."

He just watched Milly, and saw the light of hope just go out in her eyes. It hurt him, like a frozen hand just reached out and gripped his heart. He tried to hug her, put a hand on her shoulder, anything, but couldn't. He could only watch as she crumbled into a sobbing wreck. He didn't want to see her face scrunch up like this, he wanted to see that smile, that big smile she greeted everyone with, hear anything, any silly prattle but those massive sobs, and wanted to feel her warm touch... But that was not to be. Instead, every tear that fell from her face burned through his heart, the feeling like drops of molten metal eating into his flesh.

"Oh God, the pain!" He reeled back, but it did no good. Every tear that dropped found its way to his heart, no matter how he writhed. He finally knew the answer to his question in the church. There were no pearly gates, for those in Hell.

† † †

They had just finished packing to leave. He drifted above the two loaded Thomases, feeling a twinge of sympathy for the one Milly was riding. It was really loaded down between her and his Cross Punisher. He was glad in a way that she was keeping it. He had kept it with him so long it was practically a part of himself. Whenever she touched it, it was almost like he could really feel it. It was some small comfort for his dammed soul. They were after Vash yet again, though this time it wasn't for any insurance company. There was something between the small girl and needlenoggin, and Milly wasn't about to let either simply walk away- Even though she herself was left with only a giant cross-gun and a hole in her heart. How in the heavens he had ever managed to find such a saint was beyond him. He was so proud of her.

He watched them ride along, but it quickly grew torturous. He wanted to do so many little things to help her, but couldn't. It finally drove him off. Floating up high, he decided to zip on ahead and check up on the doughnut-fiend. He was usually good for a laugh. It didn't take long to find him- there was a town in the distance and he wasn't limited by actual weight anymore, so he just flew on in until he spotted the red-coated doofus in the flesh. His bets were right on the money, and the doughnut-fiend was gathering up more sugary victims to send to the black hole of a stomach he possessed.

"You know, one of these days those doughnuts are going to rise up against you. That'll be a sight to see!"

He gave it a good laugh, but when he looked back down it wasn't to the doughnut-fiend. The victims had found freedom on the ground as Vash held his head in his hands and quietly wept. "Oh, Vash..." He looked up and absently scanned the crowd, until his gaze locked onto one figure at a table in an outdoor serving area. He cursed and flew over to punch Midvalley in the nose, but once again was reminded of his state when his 'arm' passed right through his target's head.

"Dammit, why do you have to keep doing this to him?! Hasn't he suffered enough?" he screamed. Midvalley just sat there while he used every non-priestly word he knew and a few he made up on the spot. Then the Gung-Ho Gun got up and called out to Vash. He knew what was coming next. The fight was predictably fierce, needlenoggin was still trying to save everybody, and the Gung-Ho Gun was trying to exploit that. However, even with Legato's aid, from wherever that freak was at, didn't stop the winner from being Vash. Staring at Midvalley's corpse, he wondered if he'd get a chance at having a good spiritual throwdown to help with the stress. However, he was disappointed when Midvalley made no appearance at all aside from a barely defined dark cloud that dissolved the moment somebody walked through it. He sighed, and turned just in time to notice Vash run off at high speed.

"Damn, that kid needs a whole posse of guardian angels, and he could still probably lose them all. Slow down and wait for me!"

He scurried along after Vash as he climbed up a hill just outside of town. Doing a quick duck up, he saw the reason Vash was in a hurry. It was the head freak of the freakshow, none other than Legato Bluesummers. The bastard was watching the sun set with the slightest hint of a smile, as if he had actually enjoyed watching the last of his thugs get blown up. There was nothing but him and Knives left, but it didn't take a living person to know those fights would be a new level of intense. Vash arrived, and the standoff began.

"Well Vash, I hope you can do it," he muttered to nothing in particular, seeing as he was stuck in the role of observer. Surprisingly, it didn't erupt into the frantic mass of shooting and dodging he was expecting. Instead, it was much worse. It was a battle of wills, freak Vs plant, winner unknown. He was surprised that Vash managed to turn off his Angel Arm and not blow out the area, but Legato had a stacked deck in this fight, and played a black ace, two pair. Townsfolk lurched in, and began to shoot at Vash. Not very accurately, but Vash was boxed in. He sent a quick prayer for Vash's famous luck to kick in, and have a rouge satellite fall on Legato or something. However, the scream he heard reminded him that this was Hell, and his prayers couldn't reach God wherever he dwelled.

The girls!

Legato had captured them with his thrice-dammed mind zombies. He left Legato up to the broomhead and rushed over to help the girls when the men threw them down. He was in a blind rage now, using every move he knew to try and get the men off them. However, there was nothing he could do, he just swept through them without even making their clothes rustle. Out of options, he just shouted in vain for a miracle from the one person he knew could make them happen.


The townsfolk let loose a volley that kicked the dirt up over the girls. He could see the terror they felt.


The zombies closed in, placing their rifles right against the girls' heads, fingers twitching.


There was a gunshot. The zombies froze for a moment, then dropped like so many strings were cut. The girls got up to their knees, safe.

"Well, glad that's over with. I don't know what I'd do if you were hurt, Milly."

She hadn't heard him, of course. Instead, she was looking with mute horror behind him, which was echoed in the other's face. He got a horrible feeling that maybe Vash hadn't won, and turned around to see the doofus standing right there, gun in hand, taking big breaths. Sheesh. What's the big deal anyway? He was fine. Well, maybe not fine, he was bleeding a fair bit, but that crying needlenoggin had been through worse. He couldn't figure it out, until Vash dropped his gun. It bounced open on the ground, and one shell casing flew out to land by Legato. Who was also on the ground. Bleeding from a little hole in his forehead. That was just the right size for...

"Dammit, dammit, DAMMIT! Why him Lord? Why did it have to be him?! Why didn't you do it differently?! It should have been me, dammit, it should have been me..."

He never felt like crying so much as he did right then and there, but he couldn't. Again, he had no body, so he did the only thing he could. He cursed, and cursed, and cursed again the God that would let such a thing happen, and let him see the horrible visage of an innocent be innocent no more.

† † †

Vash was going to the final battle. His own Cross Punisher was strapped to his back, and between the red coat, cross, glasses, and expression, Vash looked every bit the part of an Angel of Death. He knew how ruthless Knives was, and this time Vash looked ready to be just as ruthless. He shook his head, that Meryl was a piece of work. Not only had she kept the mob off Vash, she had managed to restore something he had lost when he pulled that fateful trigger. This wasn't the same Vash as before, this one moved as if he was God himself, off to face the Devil in Armageddon. Which was really all too close to the truth of the next fight.

A small grove of trees was ahead, with a lone figure sipping tea at a table placed in the shade of one. It was repugnant to see someone so callous acting like they could enjoy anything that much. Vash stopped a few yarns off from Knives, and took the Cross Punisher and stuck it in the ground beside him, where he'd have been standing had he lived to be there. The two brothers exchanged pleasantries, then the fight began. And what a fight it was.

† † †

There was nothing left of the grove, the table, or the tea. There was just the brown dirt, blue sky, and a pair of brothers locked in mortal combat. Every trick in the book had been used, including a few chapters just added, as they fought over the future of every human that lived. The thought painfully reminded him that he wasn't in that group anymore. Then the unthinkable happened. It was so fast he didn't see how it happened, but Knives got both guns. He leveled them at Vash, transforming both his arms into those horrible weapons of heaven and hell. This couldn't happen... Vash couldn't... lose?

At that moment, time seemed to stop. He was beside Vash, looking up into those twin lights, and he saw. The future. Knives' future. Everyone, everywhere, just getting up and walking out. Walking out on and on, into the desert, until they could walk no more. He saw the children of his orphanage teeter over one by one, collapsing as the suns stole the moisture from their bodies. He saw all the people he had met, who knew him, lying motionless as sand began to be piled up against them by the wind. Then he saw her. She truged foreword, alone, as no one else had her fierce stamina, but not even she could last. Her skin blistered, her eyes couldn't see. She tipped a little to one side, then sprawled out on the next step. She heaved in one more breath down a dry throat, and squeaked out a thin "Why?" before she joined the rest of humanity in death.

Then he was back, staring up into those twin lights that would end all that he wanted to protect. He yelled at the images.

"If God exists, he would never allow that! So why is it there?!"

No answer aside from the growing lights of destruction.

"Then screw you you useless illusion!"

He turn to Vash, lying on the ground. The one being who could do something. He shouted at him, deciding that if the position was open, he'd become God and damn them himself.

"What are you doing needlenoggin!" he screamed. "It's right next to you! Use it, dammit!"

Vash just reached up, as if to plead with his brother, then his arm fell down and a miracle happened. He lifted the Cross Punisher out, and it spat divine justice at Knives.

† † †

Was it over? He couldn't be sure. Vash had certainly won, but Knives wasn't dead. Needlenoggin was, of all things, patching the bastard up. He finally finished, took off that red coat he always wore, and slung Knives over his shoulder. Then he looked up. Right. At. Him. His mouth gaped open.

"Thanks." And then Vash the Stampede, the sixty billion double dollar man, turned and walked off, leaving the twin guns of fate to be buried by the sand.

It took him a while to realize what just happened. "Did he just-"

"Yes, he did."

The voice from behind scared the bajeebees out of him. Turning around, he saw what had to be an angel. The voice, the wings, the brilliant light, yeah, it was 100% pure angel.

"Oh dear! I didn't mean to startle you."

"Uh, what's going on?"

"You did it. You realized the one truth."

"And that would be?"

"That we all have the power to make a difference, if we realize it. The ticket to the future is always open if we choose it to be."

"To make a difference... Huh. Guess I did make a difference. So, what now?"

"I heard you say that you wanted to go to a place with nothing but easy days. Do you still want to go there?"

"Yeah... But not just yet. I want to..."


"...keep making a difference."

† † †

"Damn, that was one hell of a bright flash."

He groaned and sat up. "Ugh, that feels nasty. I've got sand everywhere. Sand in my ears, in my nose, in my butt..." That's when he noticed. "I've got sand in my butt? I've got sand in my butt! Oh hallauah, I've got sand in my butt!"

He was practically dancing around out in the middle of the desert, buck naked, singing about sand in his butt. He was lucky that the only one in earshot had done much worse. As for that one, he dropped his load in disbelief at the sound, turned, and raced back to the naked singing ninny to damn near crush the newfound life out of him.


Vash dropped him from the bearhug and practically bubbled over with questions. "How'dyoulive?Wherewereyou?Whathappenedtoyou?Why'dyouwaitsolong?OOF!"

"I was dead for a while, but I got better. Can I borrow your coat?"

Vash picked himself off the ground, rubbing the already forming lump on his head. "That's some way to treat a friend. You come back from the dead, and the first things you do are hit me and ask to borrow my stuff?"

"Yep, and I know you're happy to have it happen needlenoggin. Oh, and you dropped your brother."

"My what...? AAAH!" Vash ran back the way he came to check on his brother, who was lying in a heap while Wolfwood tried on the coat. Bad fit, but he certainly wasn't about to complain. To anyone but Vash that is.

"Hey Vash, you coat fits like a tent!"

And so they went, all the way back to the town Vash had set out from, arriving towards the middle of night. There was quite a gusher in the middle of the town, and the water was practically digging a channel in the ground as it flowed out. The humanoid typhoon led the way to a little house on the outskirts, and he pushed open the door and flipped on the light. "Honey, I'm home!"

The small girl practically jumped out of the chair she had been dozing in. "What are you implying by that, you... you... YOU! M..M..MILLY!"

Milly ran in from the hall, stungun at the ready, but it fell to the ground when she saw him. Her mouth gaped open.

"Hey Milly. You can come out now."

She ran foreword and he was again nearly crushed. "You...can...ease...up...dear..."

"I'm sorry Wolfwood, it's just, I thought-" she stammered through her tears. Happy tears, that framed her smiling face and felt cool where her cheek touched his.

"Sssh. I've just been out of sight for a bit, but everything's going to be fine now."

He didn't know how, but he knew it would be. After all, he had that power. They all did. He had friends, someone who loved him, and the ability to make a difference. A thought struck him. "I choose to live in paradise."

"What, dear?"

"Oh, nothing. Say, think there's enough water out there for me to get a bath? I've got sand in the worst places."

Well, that was a good morning's work. About seven hours to type, with hardly a break. Heh, when I'm in the zone, nothing can pry me out. I really wasn't expecting it to turn out quite this way, it had originally been a somewhat less fluffy ending, but I was hijacked by my hands. Again. I really need to do something about these rebellions of my various body parts. Don't want my left arm to declare itself as an independent organism, because we know Bad Things™ happen if it does.