Vash and Meryl were finished with breakfast and Meryl had started on the dishes. Vash sat at the table with a cup of coffee reading the newspaper. Everything at that moment seemed to be completely correct.
And the next minute...something felt very wrong.
It was as if he'd suddenly remembered he'd forgotten to turn the oven off when he left the house, except that this feeling was a billion times worse. He started to panic. He stood up quickly, knocking the chair over, and ran up to Knives' room.
Meryl turned around at the sound of the chair hitting the floor to see Vash already halfway up the stairs. She was about to follow him up when she heard a knock on the door. She absentmindedly made her way to the door and opened it up to see one of Milly's co-workers. He looked like he'd run all the way there. He was doubled over and breathing hard, but when he saw Meryl, he tried as best he could to stand up straight. Meryl heard Vash charging down the stairs.
"Can...I help you?" she asked.
"...Milly...in town...shot..." the man huffed out.
Shot? What? Meryl felt like she was going to fall over, and she would have if Vash hadn't been standing behind her. He started asking all the questions she wanted answers to.
"Is she alright? Who did it? Was a tall blond there?"
The poor man looked like he was about to die. "Blond...yes...kinda like...you...she looked pretty bad...lots of blood..."
Wait...was a tall blond there? Why would he ask that? she wondered. Meryl looked at Vash. She was fighting back tears and the frightened look on Vash's face didn't help her at all. She wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer to her own question. "Where's...Knives?"
Vash's face just grew more frightened by the moment. All he could do was shake his head. Knives wasn't there.
Vash asked the man some more questions while Meryl went into action. She grabbed a few canteens and the keys to the jeep and pushed through the screen door. "Let's go!" she shouted at the worker as she basically threw a canteen at him. She stopped a moment to look at Vash. He looked like the entire weight of the world had been deposited directly on his shoulders. She knew what he was thinking about. She knew what he was going to have to do. She didn't know what to say to him except the obvious: "We're going to Milly."
Vash nodded silently as she left, aware of the promise he'd made to her, to Knives, to himself. He'd told himself things were different now and that he'd protect the ones he loved, even if that meant killing his own brother.
And now he had to prove it.
All levity drifted away from him as he solemnly pulled his gun from its holster. He checked the chamber: loaded. He counted out the six bullets. During the last fight, he'd run out of ammo, but that wouldn't be the case today. Knives was weak and his angel arms weren't working yet. Today, only one bullet would be needed.
He walked out of the house silently, hearing the sounds of the desert around him. There was no one to comfort him. Rem's voice didn't pipe up with any cheerful advice and the priest lent neither sarcasm nor encouragement. He saw the dirt trail the jeep had kicked up dissipate in the wind, leaving him completely alone. He hoped Milly was alright, but if he knew his brother at all, there was no chance for her survival.
Vash closed his eyes and turned his face toward the suns as he tried to locate where his brother was. His eyes snapped open as he felt a presence. It was moving away from town, but very slowly. He would have no trouble tracking him down.
As always, finding him would be the easy part.
With every step he took into the desert, he hated himself a little more, but this simply had to stop.
Meryl drove as fast as she could. She drove straight to the doctor's office in the center of town. The worker had regained his breath and had explained a little about the situation. It seemed that a shootout of some kind had occurred, but he wasn't sure who was involved. He had only seen Milly in the street with people surrounding her and a blond man walking away. He'd been with Mr. Jim. Jim had been the one to send the man to her house in the first place.
She practically jumped out of the jeep before it had come to a complete stop and ran up the steps of the doctor's office. The receptionist tried to greet her, but Meryl was way too panicked to exchange social niceties. She burst into the examination room to see two sets of curious eyes meet her frantic pair.
Before her, the doctor stood with a needle and thread in mid stitch. Milly was sitting up on the examination table with her arm on a towel. She was indeed covered with blood, but she was nowhere near dying. It must have been...someone else's blood. The doctor recognized Meryl and went on stitching up a painful looking, but absolutely non-lethal bullet wound in Milly's arm.
Meryl's head was spinning with relief. "What happened!"
"You wouldn't believe it!" Milly said, speaking as if she were dishing over coffee instead of over a bullet hole in her own body. "I was walking to work like normal when all of the sudden, I got a funny feeling like someone was watching me. I turned around to see Mr. Knives...and he had a gun. I thought I was done for -- "
Meryl interrupted. "Did he hurt you?" Meryl's eyes suddenly burned in anger.
Milly shook her head happily. "Nope! He didn't hurt me at all! In fact, I'm pretty sure...he protected me. He did shoot a man, and that man did die, but that man was after Mr. Vash and I have it on good authority that he and his gang were going to try to use me to lure Mr. Vash out. Can you imagine!" She looked down at the wound on her arm and then looked closely at Meryl. "I think...he saved my life. The man who shot me didn't look very friendly."
Meryl couldn't say anything. This was not the state of affairs she thought she'd be dealing with. She thought if she were lucky, she'd be holding her friend's hand as she took her lasts breaths. Now, instead of being relieved, she felt a strange sense of uneasiness.
Milly seemed to pick up on Meryl's emotions. "Believe me, I was pretty surprised when it happened, too, but I think Mr. Knives is changing. Mr. Vash will probably be really happy when he finds out!"
"Oh my god," was all Meryl could say. Vash had to be stopped. "Where's Knives right now?" she asked Milly.
Milly looked thoughtful. "I don't know, but Mr. Jim took off after him. I think he wants to thank him. I saw Jim running out into the desert to the east."
Meryl suddenly snapped impatiently at the doctor. "Sir, how long are these stitches going to take to finish?"
The doctor looked up from his work. "Don't be so persnickety, young lady. This here is the last one." She held her tongue as he finished the repair and then practically dragged Milly out the door. The doctor snapped about monetary reimbursement for services rendered.
"We'll come right back. This is an emergency!" Meryl shouted over her shoulder as she dragged Milly towards the car and took the driver's seat.
Milly saw her coworker and smiled. "Hey, Mr. Ted! What are you doing here?"
Meryl took over with her business voice. "I'm sorry, Ted, is it? You're going to have to stay in town. We're heading into a potentially dangerous situation." Milly looked questioningly at her as the words left Meryl's mouth. "Get in! We don't have much time!"
Milly buckled her seatbelt gingerly with her uninjured arm and looked at her friend. "Meryl, what's going on?"
Meryl peeled out of the driveway and threw the jeep into gear. "Vash thought Knives killed you. He's going to, 'take care of Knives,' as he puts it. We've got to stop him before he does something he'll never forgive himself for!"
Vash made his way doggedly across the desert. He came to the top of a dune and looked out. He saw his brother not fifty yarz away. He took a deep breath and thought about what he was about to do. He was about to do the one thing he'd sworn he wouldn't. But if he left Knives to his own devices and Knives decided to kill the innocent again...well...Vash couldn't stand that, either. He let the breath out and continued down the dune, determined to face his brother one final time.
Knives sensed him approaching and stopped. He turned around and waited for Vash. He saw the killing intent in his brother's eyes.
"You found me pretty quickly."
Vash took a deep breath, trying to hold back tears. "Did you really think I'd let you get away...after what you've done?"
Knives shook his head and looked down at the gun in Vash's hand. "...I don't know..."
"Knives, I'm not a coward." He took another breath, then shouted. "I just wish you didn't have to MAKE ME PROVE IT!"
Knives looked into his brother's eyes. "Somehow, I felt like I was doing the right thing this time..."
Vash almost dropped his gun in disbelief. How could Knives say something like that? He tightened his grip on the gun and pointed it at his brother, his own twin. "Am I...am I supposed to say something before I do this?"
Knives almost laughed. "It's traditionally accepted that the executioner ask the sentenced party if there are any last requests."
Vash clenched his jaw, thinking of all the things he'd wished for his relationship with his brother. All of those things would soon be impossible forever. "Any...last...requests?"
"Just one," Knives answered quickly and surely. "Let me in...just one last time?"
Vash knew instantly what Knives was talking about...the telepathic link they'd shared since birth...the same telepathic link Knives had taken advantage of several times to make Vash's angel arm fire against his will.
Vash shook his head. "I'm sorry. I just can't allow that."
Knives looked to be closer to tears than Vash had seen him since he was a child. "Then, I guess this is it. Goodbye, Vash." Knives slumped down to his knees suddenly. "You're the only person I'd let take my life."
Vash tried to keep his cool, but he was close to losing it. Was this something he was actually going to do? Would he be able to forgive himself if he did? Would he be able to forgive himself if he didn't? He concentrated on the images of those he loved: Rem, Wolfwood, and now Milly.
He had to do this.
The two brothers were focused entirely on each other. Somehow Knives couldn't hear anything except for the gun cocking. Somehow the only thing Vash could see was the spot on his brother's forehead that would cause the quickest and most painless death.
Knives never closed his eyes. He watched as Vash clenched his jaw one more time and raised the gun level to his head. He heard the gun go off at the same time a darkness fell upon him.
That was that.
Except...now the darkness moved... It sat up and Knives realized he hadn't been shot in the head. He touched his forehead just to make sure. He looked in front of him and realized someone was standing in between his brother and him. He had his arms spread wide, seemingly begging for mercy. The man was bleeding from the shoulder, most likely where the bullet meant for him had struck. He was momentarily disgusted that a human had been that close to him, but didn't think about it too long. Knives finally looked up at Vash's face and saw something he hadn't expected.
He could handle condescension.
He could handle cowardice.
But horror? Absolute and unadulterated horror? Vash hadn't looked like that since...since the Great Fall.
Somehow, everything happened silently. He didn't hear the man speaking, but Knives knew the man was pleading his case. He watched Vash as he dropped the gun in the sand and covered his open mouth with his now-empty hand. He watched as his brother turned and simply began to slowly walk out into the desert. He watched as a jeep pulled up and two female spiders jumped out. The larger one had its arm in a sling and its way toward him. The shorter one took a quick inventory of the situation and then stared in the direction Vash had gone. It didn't go to him. It stayed by the car and covered its face with its hands. It seemed to be crying.
He didn't know what to do.
The larger one was talking at him. It had a smile on its face, but he still didn't comprehend what was being said. The whole situation was incomprehensible. His own brother was going to kill him, and he was saved...by a spider...
He couldn't compute this sudden change of events. He suddenly stood up and began to walk in the direction he'd started out in. The world was still strangely silent. Suddenly the small spider ran in front of him and blocked his way. Sound suddenly began to filter in.
"Where are you going?" it asked quietly, angrily.
"What do you care?" he answered curtly.
"Don't you hear that?" it demanded and pointed in Vash's direction.
He stopped for a moment and cocked his head to the side. That sound...his brother was...screaming... His heart cracked at the sound. Was this what he'd been blocking out? "Why don't you go to him, then?" he tried to cover with typical callousness.
It wiped at its eyes and took a deep breath. "I can't FIX that!" It stomped in the sand to emphasize its point.
He looked over at his brother again and saw him rocking back and forth. He was still screaming, in obvious agony.
"Please," it said quietly, this time without the anger, "he needs his brother. Please go be his brother."
He sighed. She was right. Well, at least his brother's pet knew her place.
He walked out towards his twin and sat down beside him.
This is the end of this story. I hope you guys liked it. I hope I have some readers left...