A/N: Okay, here's my idea of what would happen immediately after the series ended. I'm trying to decide if it's a short fic or a long one-shot, but whatever. It is long for a one shot, but it wasn't really worth splitting into two chapters. So woohoo. This was inspired by Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, a really wonderful book. Title could be better, but it's not. So. . . deal. =P So yay, here we go! Reviews appreciated greatly!

The Lesser of Two Evils

Vash sat propped up against some pillows, staring at the sheets covering his lower torso. In the moonlight, wed the various nuances of the room, the sheets being standing out from most of the other objects in the sparse, yet comforting room. Meryl's left arm draped across his bare waist. He reached his right arm across and followed the loose sleeve of her oversized nightshirt up her arm and to her shoulder. She stirred a bit, and he took his hand off of her to avoid disturbing her further.

"You're a fool," Knives' voice jumped into his mind, catching him off guard. His whole body twitched, and Meryl stirred more and blinked her eyes open.

"Vash, you're awake," she said, slightly alarmed, as tired as she was.

"I didn't mean to wake you up. I'm sorry," he stroked her cheek gently.

"No, it's okay. Why aren't you asleep? You haven't slept well in days," she turned on her side and sat up a little. "Is something wrong?"

"It's nothing, I just couldn't sleep. Don't worry about it."

Of course something was wrong. Everything was wrong. For the past several weeks, Vash had gotten nowhere in his attempts to get through to Knives. Meryl was quiet for a minute as she carefully tried to read his face. "You're thinking about," -she paused for a minute- "him, aren't you?"

Vash sighed and looked down at the blanket again. Meryl sat up completely to listen more intently. "I've tried, Meryl. I've tried so hard to talk to him. He won't hear it. He doesn't realize what he's done. He needs to stop this. He's brought so many innocent people into this, and it's just about me and him. I don't think he's ever going to change. I'm beginning to think there's no way I can fix this."

"So. . . what are you going to do?"

Vash sighed again, more heavily this time. "I. . . I don't know. I have to do something. And whatever I do, I have to make the right choice. I care about him too much. I can't just walk away from this. No matter what he's done, he's my brother. I have to take care of him. I promised. . ." Vash's eyes began to sparkle against the moonlight coming in from the window as he trailed off. "It's my responsibility, and I don't know what to do about it. I'm not sure I ever did."

"Vash, please. You need some rest," Meryl insisted, putting a hand on his left shoulder. "Just sleep on it. Please? You just need to rest. You'll think better in the morning."

Vash nodded reluctantly as Meryl slid back down to bed. She laid down on her side with her back to Vash, and he pressed himself up against her. He put a single arm around her and held her frame close to his. He kissed her ear lightly and pressed his forehead into her shoulder, finally giving himself up to sleep.

- -

"My, is Mr. Vash still in bed?" Milly asked in her cheerful, sing- songy voice as she poured two mugs of coffee from the pot that had just finished brewing. "He must be tired." Sun shone through the kitchen window, forming a box of light, softened by the sheer white curtains, on the tabletop where Meryl sat.

"Vash. . . hasn't gotten much sleep lately," Meryl explained. "I think it's best to give him the time he needs to rest."

Milly sat across from Meryl and slid a coffee mug to her. She put several slices of toast in the center of the table on a plate. They took turns with the cream and sugar and buttered some of the toast. "How is Mr. Vash?" Milly asked a bit more gently.

"He's. . . I don't know. I'm inclined to say not good. I wish there was something more I could do," Meryl replied, shifting uncomfortably in her chair. "I'm not helping him at all."

Back in his room, Vash sat up in bed, slightly hunched over. His fist clenched a bit as he recalled a conversation he had recently with Knives.

"Knives, this whole thing is between us. You can't just bring innocent people into like you have. Do you know how many people have died because of you?"

"You don't understand, Vash. They take life for granted," Knives, still bedridden, turned from looking out the window to looking at Vash. "They simply don't deserve the lives they were given. You should feel no remorse for their deaths."

"For too long now, I've lived in the shadow of what you've done," Vash continued, almost as though Knives hadn't spoken in between his statements. "I've been blamed for the suffering you've caused. I've been attacked for your mindless killing, all because I tried to help."

"Do you see now how corrupt these humans actually are?"

"You're wrong."

"You're a fool, Vash. Your ideas are rather refreshing though, as sophomoric as they may be. Even so, they don't deserve to live."

"You're wrong," Vash said again in a more airy voice.

"Just stop here. Spare me. You think I'm that naïve? I know what you're trying to do. It's no use, my dear brother. You won't change me. You can't change me. You and I never agreed on this. Just give it up."

"I can't do that."

"And why not?"

"Because you're wrong."

And that was it. They agreed to disagree. Vash had tried convincing Knives that he was doing wrong on several occasions, but to no avail. Neither of them won, but Vash's answer was becoming a bit more clear. He had to save humanity. It was his debt to the humans. That, at least, was clear. He owed them that, in the least. Sighing, he swung his feet over the edge of the bed and threw his extra shirt on over his brown pants to go to breakfast.

"Well, good morning, Mr. Vash!" Milly greeted him with her usual friendly smile. He returned the gesture without words, putting his hands on Meryl's shoulders and giving them a gentle squeeze. He moved to the coffee pot and poured himself a cup, putting cream and sugar in it and taking a sip. He grabbed a slice of toast and leaned against a nearby counter.

"Did you sleep well?" Milly asked in continuation of her greeting.

"Better than I have been," Vash answered vaguely with a faint, polite smile.

"Why don't you have a seat?" Milly offered, motioning to a chair.

"Thanks, but I have something to take care of," Vash answered. Meryl looked up in realization. She smiled, hardly noticeably, and took another sip of coffee. Vash munched on his toast between sips of coffee. Once done, he leaned forward from the counter and started to walk out.

"Vash?" Meryl trailed off as he stopped and turned to face her.

"Yeah?"

"Umm. . . n-nothing. It's nothing," she stammered, standing up to wash some dishes. Vash watched her for a brief moment before walking out silently.

"M- Meryl?" Milly started cautiously. Meryl didn't respond and kept washing dishes. Milly looked out after Vash, unsure of what to say. Without saying so, both of them knew what it was Vash had to do, but neither of them knew what the outcome would be.

Vash walked into Knives' room and found it empty. The crutch that had been leaning against the wall was also missing, so Vash headed outside. He swallowed hard, hoping nothing bad had happened while he lost track of his brother. He scanned the streets quickly, not catching sight of him. He looked up the hill directly behind the building they were staying in, and sure enough, Knives stood against his crutch at the crest. Vash walked up behind his brother, stopping about three yards away from him.

"Feeling better?" he asked.

"Yes," came Knives' simple answer.

"You healed fast."

"You give me too much credit. It's been a few weeks."

"Knives, I-"Vash began, but Knives cut him off.

"Is it really necessary we have this conversation again? I'm quite certain we both know how it will end. It will be the same as it has been. The same it always is," Knives didn't turn to face his brother as he spoke to him. "This world is evil. Deep inside, you know that's true."

"Knives, don't be mad at me," Vash took out his gun as silently as possible. "I only wanted to save you."

"You just don't see. I'm not the one who needs saving."

"Please forgive me."

"What?" Knives turned, and before he had time to react, Vash armed the gun and extended his arm in Knives' direction.

Milly and Meryl jumped at the sound of a gunshot. Another. And another. "Oh God, Vash," she said in a soft, airy voice, dropping the dish and running out of the building.

"Meryl!" Milly called, following her out of the building. They glanced up and down the street, seeing no sign of him.

"Vash?!" Meryl called urgently. She turned and saw two figures on the ground on top of the hill. She and Millie immediately ran up the dusty hill, having to bend over occasionally to use their hands to keep themselves from sliding back down. They stopped in front of the two men. Vash sat in the dirt cradling Knives, tears flowing from his eyes.

"Vash?" she said softly. She looked down and saw three bullet holes in Knives' chest, and tears began to well up in her eyes involuntarily as well.

"I had to. I had to save him and everyone," he said in a choked voice. "It was for good."

"Save him?"

"It couldn't be anyone else. It had to be me. It was only fair to him," he said in his struggled voice. Meryl's tears spilled onto her face. She understood. Vash didn't do it for revenge. He did it out of respect.

END

A/N: Alright, yay, done and done. Sorry if it was too long for your liking, but yeah. It was going to be longer, since I got some random ideas while I was washing dishes, but I forced myself to not put them in. They were kind of superfluous, blah blah blah. So you lucked out. Thanks for reading ,and leave something behind! points to review button