He had been right; he was much taller than her, now.
His first thoughts upon seeing her again after so, so long, was how different she was.
In his memory Rem was a giant, striding, skipping, full of noise and light. She'd laugh and everywhere she went the room would light up, as if a thousand, million gentle suns had entered the room. She was tall and powerful and wonderful. She was a saint, a goddess, an angel.
But now… now she was just a woman. A dead body, caught in a crystal coffin like Snow White. Once Vash might have fancied that a kiss would wake her, but he didn't believe in fairy tales any more.
He wasn't sure how long he'd been crying for, five, six hours at least. Whispering endearments, vows, apologies. Sobbing over the woman he'd lost. Then, after a while, he sopped crying and started thinking, recalling the letter Meryl had given him just before she left.
"Rem is in her room back on the SEEDS ship. I know this will cause you pain, but I hope it helps you let go of the past. Forgive me."
Perhaps it was time to accept that loss. Perhaps it was time to set her free.
The combined weight of the sleep chamber and its occupant was far in excess of what most normal humans could have managed, but to Vash, who was by no means normal. His strength was bolstered by an iron will so it presented little difficulty. And it was nothing compared to the weight of grief in his heart. A weight he had been carrying for one hundred and thirty years now.
He lifted the chamber and Rem, carrying it upon his back as he slowly marched out of her meagre quarters and down the corridors of the ship.
Several areas of it had already been gutted by the salvaging crews from Sky City. The technology and information they'd salvaged would aid not only them, but all of Gun Smoke for years to come. A fine legacy, one befitting Rem and Alex.
The crews, however, on the Doctor's orders, had not entered the private quarters and they'd evacuated the area briefly whilst Vash underwent his sojourn. This he was grateful for, usually he loathed being truly alone but now… now he needed that solitude.
This was a private affair, one between him and the ghost of Rem Saverem.
As he strode down the corridors, her body born upon his back, he talked to her. He told her, all be it only briefly, of everything that had gone before, told her of Knives, The Doctor, Sky City, Millie, Wolfwood, the Gung Ho Guns, Legato, Alex and finally of Meryl.
Even as he spoke now tears ran down his face, leaving a trail of moisture where he had walked. He hardly felt the weight upon his spine, indeed if he felt anything it was of comfort, the warmth upon his back and, sometimes it seemed to him that the echoing corridors, that flung back his words to him, had a feminine lilt. As if Rem were replying to him, holding a strange conversation.
It was crazy, deranged, sentimental but it gave him comfort.
At last they arrived at the destination, the Shuttle Bay.
Carefully Vash laid her body down near the doors and sat by it, looking into her peaceful, all too human face.
'This is it, Rem,' he said, trying to keep his voice from breaking. 'This is the end.'
He paused, trying to discern if there was any emotion, any emotion at all upon her still, dead face. He could see none.
'I know,' he continued, 'that once, years ago, I promised I'd never leave you, because I love you. That hasn't changed, I still love you, and I'm not leaving you. But I think it's time you left me. I think… I'm setting you free now, Rem.'
He had to stop for a moment, to dry his eyes, to control his voice. For a second, for one, small, infinitesimal second, he was angry at Meryl for forcing this upon him.
But no; she didn't force this, this had been in the making for many years now, he should have done it before but it was only his own weakness which stopped him. Now he had to be strong, courageous, determined.
'Do you remember our old teddy bear, Rem?' whispered Vash, putting his face very close to the glass of the cabinet. 'Do you remember that argument me and Knives had about it? Do you remember what you said, about letting go and keeping hold of those you love? Its hard Rem, it really is, but I've made my choice. I've held onto you for many years, but I've got to let you go now. Because there's someone else I've got to hold onto. Do you understand? I do love you Rem, I always will, and I won't forget you. But it's time I let go, so I can be happy. So Meryl can be happy. You want me to be happy, right Rem?'
If from beyond the grave Rem heard him, she gave no audible reply.
'Good bye Rem,' he said gently, closing his eyes, desperately stopping the flow of tears.
Slowly, carefully, he got to his feet, not letting his eyes stray from her still form, trying to memorise every detail of her.
Then, swallowing his tears, he slowly stepped away from her, going one, two, three paces back before, summoning all his will power, he turned his back.
He walked towards the exit of the shuttle bay, trying not to look backwards, trying to resist the urge to turn around and run back to Rem, to cry, to scream to do anything but what he was doing now. What needed to be done now.
It was difficult, life time habits always are hard to resist, but he did it. He walked right through the exit of the shuttle bay and closed the door behind him.
He paused a second, leaning against the wall, taking in deep, shaking breaths, trying to clear his eyes from tears, it wasn't over yet. There was one more thing, the easiest, and the hardest thing to do.
Taking in one last, deep breath, he looked up towards one of the small controls upon the wall, the control that would open the space hatches of the Shuttle bay.
Then, his hand shaking, the world spinning, his stomach light with fear, heavy with grief, fluttering with a million butterflies of indecision, he pressed the button.
There was a whooshing sound as the doors opened and the air leaked out. Everything that wasn't held down with Magni-Locks would soon be blown away by the horrendous winds. Of course, the only thing that wasn't held down by Magni-Locks was Rem and her glass coffin.
Vash rushed along the corridor, seeking out a window to peep out from, hoping for one last glimpse of Rem before she was lost to the universe.
As luck would have it, just as he reached one of the ships gigantic windows, which gave excellent views of the infinite space and Gun Smoke, revolving laziy below, Rem's coffin went hurtling by.
As it did so Vash grabbed one final glimpse of the woman that had raised him, the woman that had meant everything to him. The woman he had loved with all his heart and soul.
She was sill and composed within her resting place, just as she had been before but… but…
Perhaps it was Vash's imagination, perhaps it was a trick of the light, or perhaps it was something even stranger, even grander, but it seemed to him that her soft lips were turned upwards into a serene, beautiful smile.
Still more tears fell from Vash's aqua marine eyes, but they were of a different sort. He felt like he had wings once more, like he was made of nothing so much but light and joy. He grinned through those ecstatic tears, knowing that he'd done the right thing.
'Fly on, my sweet angel,' he whispered euphorically.
And indeed Rem did. She soared into the eternal skies, twisting and turning, becoming smaller and smaller until, at last, she was swallowed up by the distance, returning to the stars that had birthed her.
Thanks once more to all those that have read and enjoyed Eden's Children and How Far is Eden. I do hope to write a third, but I make no promises. In the mean time try out some of my work or, better still, just keep an eye out for my later stuff. I've got lots of stories just waiting to jump out into the light. And don't forget to check out my journal. Not only does it contain your Reader's Replies, but it also has lots of other funky stuff.
Finally thank you all for being such excellent readers and leaving such wonderful reviews. I shall ever be grateful.
May your paths to Eden be smooth and sweet.