Author's note: My first Trigun story as a tie-in to the end of "Live Through" I just thought that the way Vash and Meryl acted as he was leaving at the end told me that something significant happened in their relationship after he hugged and swung her around and the anime had a huge gaping hole that just cried to be filled. But I want to thank Aine of Knockaine for it was her story "Forever Mine" that stoked the fires for me to write a Trigun story but I wanted to see the end of the series before I did. I don't own Trigun its storyline or characters they belong to Yasuhiro Nightow and JVC.
The double suns that brought daylight to the desolate desert planet known as Gunsmoke were hanging just above the horizon, ready to dip down and give way to the night. The hot and dusty terrain, caused by the arid climate permeated everything with clouds of dust blowing across the center of the deserted main street of the village near LR where the most recent slaughter had taken place. The head of the notorious group of assassins known as the Gung-ho Guns Legato Bluesummers was the last of the killers to fall, finally sent to hell courtesy of the Humanoid Typhoon known as Vash the Stampede. But the moniker assigned to the gunman known widely as the first human disaster was misleading as the person in question right now looked like anything but the fierce killer of his reputation. Sprawled in the rocking chair on the porch of the house he was staying with the insurance girls, Vash was a sight. And this afternoon added to those wounds he had suffered in the aforementioned ordeal, he had been tied up and dragged behind the truck of a livid man who had lost his family at that time. He was in a pensive mood, brooding about all that had happened and as usual, missing Rem.
Battered was an apt description of Vash as he had been nearly dead after finally putting a hole in the head of Legato who had been the faithful lackey of his brother Knives in his desire to wipe out all humans. In carrying out that task, Legato had sent psychic killing waves to the crowd of innocent townspeople to force Vash into a showdown forcing Vash to end his life. After the deed was done Vash had left LR with his two companions, the Bernardelli Insurance Society girls who intrepidly tailed him all over the planet and had over time become close friends. And he was realizing that his feelings for the petite dynamo known as Meryl Stryfe were decidedly deeper than friendship. He had seen the short girl's meticulously hidden soft side when they had sheltered themselves with the orphaned children and his feelings for her had deepened further when she risked her life to protect him from vengeful townsfolks just this afternoon. Although he felt strongly that he did not deserve it, he admitted he was blessed.
Vash sighed deeply as the dull aches of his wounds momentarily showed themselves, prompting him to stretch his long, lean frame. He had just awakened from a long 10 day nap as his body sought to recuperate from the trauma under the watchful nurturing from both Meryl and Milly. But it was Meryl who had gladly taken on the role of nursemaid to him, changing his bandages, feeding him, and when he had risen to look for his crimson coat, he noticed she had mended the garment so it looked like new. Her brave yet foolhardy action scant hours ago toward the grief stricken man determined to snuff out his life had shed new light on his feelings of grudging admiration and his growing affection for the fiery but lovely insurance girl. Prior to the different encounters with the 11 Gung-ho Guns, he had kept his heart free from emotional attachments to members of the opposite sex, limited to the light flirtations of comely strangers or damsels in distress. But as the struggles and battles that were the precursors to his inevitable confrontation with his brother continued, he had seen the truth, that anyone associated with him was destined to lose their lives. So with that fact in mind he left the insurance girls telling the short girl that she could no longer stay with him, his desire to protect her and Milly from harm as his reason.
Vash closed his sea foam green eyes and remembered Meryl's plea to tell her everything and he had complied, opening up to the first person he confided in since Rem's death. Before he went to meet Legato he had told her everything, from his birth to the times with Rem on the Project SEEDs spaceship as he and Knives grew from the abandoned twin infants they were. He told her about the bigoted Steve and his relentless cruelty toward them because they were Plants. And having been embittered by the many beatings Knives had manipulated the rest of the crew into killing each other, all save Rem who remained on the plummeting vessel and tried to save the hundreds of people cryogenically frozen. As he again relived that horrific experience when Rem pushed him on the escape pod, tears flowed once more as they did when he realized the woman he loved as if she were his own mother was leaving him. The sheer anguish that gripped him when he saw the ship explode as it crashed ripped through him like an earthquake and then turned to fury as he saw Knives cackling maniacally in triumph. He had fought him when they landed and then they went their separate ways. So there on the porch as the suns set, he cried out to his beloved Rem.
Vash stifled a sob as he conversed with her. Rem…forgive me please. I did what you said we should never do took a life, deliberately. I shot Legato and ended his life with my gun to his head. But believe me, Rem I tried not to. But he was going to kill Meryl he had ordered the man to put a bullet into her and nearly did so I had to do something. And then when he reviled your memories by mocking you I lost it and finally killed him. I'm so, so sorry!
Vash sniffled as the tears now flowed in earnest. Oh Rem I wish you hadn't died, that you had lived. I know being a human you would have died by now but at least I would have had more time with you, to savor geraniums and chase butterflies. But I know that you're watching from Heaven, as you once told me and I felt you before as Meryl saved my life. I saw you in her, Rem and as I looked at her pleading with that man with the same words you pled to Joey I swear I saw you.
Vash smiled gently through his tears as he thought of the petite insurance girl. I wish you could meet Meryl, Rem. She's so different from you yet at the same time she reminds me so much of you and not because she's so pretty and has black hair like you. She's got such compassion and love for others that she shows in little ways. At first she seemed so cold and well…bitchy I wondered if she had a heart at all. Then as I got to really know her, I started to see bits of you in her.
You should have seen her when we were with those orphan kids. She was so sweet and loving, showing them how to cook and then she tucked them in, just like you used to do with Knives and me. And when one little fellow was crying in his sleep, missing his mother, Meryl soothed him by laying beside him, wrapping her arm around him and allowing her presence to calm him down so he could fall asleep again. My heart felt so warm as I watched her. Vash sighed as he felt his heart pound and then he made a slight gasp in awe as he discovered something. . .
Rem, do you remember the day in the rec room on the ship when you and I had that talk about love? When I asked you about the man you loved who died? Was this the feeling you were talking about, this warm feeling in my heart that I've been feeling since that time whenever I see or think about Meryl? Is that the way you felt about Alex?
Vash sighed at the peace that overcame him as he acknowledged the revelation. It's true, Rem. I'm in love with Meryl, I guess I fell in love with her as I watched her comfort that kid, at that moment she just embodied everything I saw in you. And then last night under the stars as I was missing you again she came to me as I sang your song and when she began to sing it, I swear it was you. Her voice was so sweet, like I imagine the angels you told me about that you're with now sound.
Vash sighed again as he went on, completely smitten. I still can't believe the short girl risked her life for me. I mean since the day we first laid eyes on each other all she ever did was yell at me and hit me—boy she sure packs a wallop for such a tiny thing! When I hugged her before and picked her up to swing her around 'cause I was so happy, she popped me again and I can still feel the lump. But under that tough exterior beats the heart of a warm, gentle and loving lady, and if she ever lost her life because she's with me—I'd never forgive myself. And if anything ever happened to Milly I'm sure Wolfwood would haunt me from the grave.
The thought of both girls lying like they did when he and Legato had their standoff only bleeding their life out onto the sand chilled Vash to the bone and solidified his resolve. He knew it was just a matter of time before Knives found him, saw the girls were attached to him and killed them because they were human. It would not matter to him that he cared for and even loved them, in his vengeful eyes they were inferior life forms that deserved death for the ways of the entire race. So tomorrow to protect them, he would leave the girls…again and confront Knives once and for all.
His mind made up, Vash stood up to head into the house when he spotted two figures carrying sacks of groceries walking his way in the light of the rising moons; a tall girl with long chestnut locks blowing in the night wind and the short girl with the closely cropped tresses that shone shiny blue black. Vash chuckled as he realized that he'd been thinking a lot lately about Meryl's hair and eyes in comparison with the rest of her and came to the conclusion that the short insurance girl was quite beautiful. As she and Milly got closer he saw how the light from the moons gave the same effect to her hair as did the sunlight.
"Hi Mr. Vash!" Milly exclaimed delightedly, a big smile on her face, perpetually cheerful no matter what. Vash watched her and wondered if she still mourned Wolfwood's untimely passing under that façade.
They got to the steps of the porch and Vash gave them a cheery wave. "Hey there you two. I was wondering where you both disappeared to."
Meryl, always practical replied, "We were running low on things so I went down to the saloon and picked up my wages so we could go shopping." She and Milly climbed onto the porch and Vash peeked inside the sacks like an impatient child while Meryl pushed him away.
"Did ya bring me some donuts?" he asked with his eyes bright and hopeful.
Meryl sighed in exasperation as Milly answered with a giggle, "Of course, Mr. Vash. We wouldn't forget your favorite. As a matter of fact, we were almost to the checkout counter and Meryl noticed that we did forget to get donuts so she ran back to the bakery and made sure to get them. She also made sure they were fresh."
Vash turned to the pixie insurance girl and gave her a fond smile, his eyes glowing like jewels. "Thank you, short girl," he murmured.
She blushed as she stammered, "N-no problem. I'm sure you're hungry so I'd better go and fix our supper." She made to pass him but he laid his hand gently on hers, the second close contact they had shared that day.
Vash and Meryl both seemed frozen, captive in each other's eyes as he said softly, "Let me help you with that."
"Y-you don't have to," she whispered shakily.
"I want to." He took the bag of groceries from her and headed to the kitchen where Milly was already unpacking her bundle and putting the food away. With a bemused expression Meryl had followed and joined in as the others were busy with the task. . . .
In about an hour, the meal was ready and Vash and the girls ate, the conversation mostly led by the garrulous Milly, who seemingly oblivious to the tense environment chattered on. Meryl and the Humanoid Typhoon however were a different story as both were preoccupied with feelings for each other that were making themselves known and so they ate quietly while sneaking surreptitious glances at each other throughout.
At the end of the meal Milly jumped up and announced, "Well, guess I'll do the dishes."
Meryl was shaken from her reverie as she offered, "I'll help, Milly." She got up and said almost offhandedly to the gunman. "Vash, why don't you go get some rest?"
Vash also rose as he said, "I'm really not tired Meryl, think I'll just go and sit on the porch for a while. Thanks for the great supper, guys." He turned and headed out.
Meryl sighed and began to clear the table off as Milly shook her head. "Oh no, Meryl I can handle this by myself." She filled the basin with soapy water and glanced out the window where three of the five full moons shone and suggested, "Why don't you and Mr. Vash go for a walk or something, it's such a beautiful night."
"Milly," Meryl said suspiciously. "What are you trying to do?"
The tall girl rinsed a dish and favored her friend with her smile. "Nothing Meryl. I just made a suggestion since Mr. Vash was going outside I figured---," she began but was abruptly cut off.
"Well you're wrong," the short girl snapped. At her friend's hurt expression she softened her manner and said, "Milly, I know what you're trying to do and I would appreciate it if you wouldn't."
"Wouldn't what?" The tall girl was all innocence but her friend was not buying it.
"Don't play dumb, Milly, I know a set up when I see one. You're trying to bring me and Vash together." Meryl skewered her with steely eyes.
"Well, what's wrong with that?" Milly said blithely. Before the short girl could answer she sighed in resignation as she responded, "Meryl, I know you care for Mr. Vash and with the way he hugged you this afternoon I think he feels the same way." She sighed dreamily and continued scrubbing the dishes.
Meryl bit her lip in trepidation as she pondered what happened this past afternoon when the crowd had left and she and Milly were left out in the desert outside of town with Vash who was still on the ground. He admonished them for their recklessness and she retorted jokingly that he was the last person she'd take advice from. She smiled briefly then went into her customary denial.
"You're mistaken, Milly. There's nothing between Vash and me," she insisted weakly but the tall girl laughed at her.
"Yeah, you can't hide it from me Meryl, you both care. Just like me and Nicholas," Milly said in a faraway voice, her mind on the lanky, chain-smoking preacher who had become so important to her and who she had shared a night just before his untimely demise. The tall girl brushed a tear from her zircon eyes.
"Oh Milly," Meryl whispered as she grasped her friend's shoulders.
Milly sniffled and then smiled tremulously as she said brightly, "Don't mind me, just go out to him, Meryl. He's waiting for you."
Meryl nodded as she again marveled at the simple wisdom that came from the girl who appeared ninety percent of the time to have her head in the clouds, giving the false impression that she was an airhead when the recent events and how she handled everything with quiet strength proved just the opposite. She too brushed away a stray tear.
"Thank you, Milly."
Out on the porch, Vash again sat in the rocking chair and eyes cast skyward gazed at the heavens at the sprinkling of countless stars, dusted around the shimmering moons. It truly was a beautiful night. Still introspective, he mused about his life and how much of a paradox it was. He wanted to live a life defined by his motto that he adopted from Rem of peace and love but saw that it was becoming a daunting endeavor. However, it was clear that wherever he went, violence and hate followed. Vash wondered with bitterness if there would ever be a time or place where he could live a life enjoying small everyday blessings like laughter, friendship, and love. He then remembered the other night when Meryl had suggested that he stay here in the little house with her and Milly living just that kind of life and he had accepted with gratitude hoping that his wish could become reality. But the events and near tragedy of this afternoon ended that hope. Vash sighed deeply in a state of melancholy then heard soft footsteps and the breeze blew the soft scent of lavender to his nostrils as he then saw that Meryl had come out to join him. Without a word, she walked to the stairs and perched on the top step.
Vash smiled as he saw her delicate profile while she looked up at the starry clime and again saw how really lovely she was. Her eyes closed, he noticed that she had long lashes that rested on high cheekbones above a pert nose and Cupid's bow mouth. Again he saw how she resembled Rem, who had the same delicate face. Another puff of wind blew Meryl's fragrance to him again and he felt his pulse quicken. He then rose out of the chair and sat down on the step with her, his mind teeming with things he wanted to say now that he knew he had to leave again.
Instead he commented, "It's really a beautiful night."
"Uh-huh," she replied hugging her knees to her chest, like a small girl.
Vash sighed as he said shyly, "I never thanked you for saving my life this afternoon."
She sniffed, "You called me reckless."
"That's only because that guy could've killed you, short girl." He pursed his lips as he murmured, "You really scared me."
Meryl turned to him and her eyes held uncertainty. "Really?"
Vash gazed directly at her. "Yeah." He then turned and looked skyward as he added forlornly, "I don't know what I would've done if he had killed you. I can't stand the thought of you dying."
Meryl's gentian eyes glistened with unshed tears at his confession. He turned and saw how her face showed the way she was moved by his words and his heart leapt as he saw evidence that she possibly had feelings for him that by some miracle matched his for her. Vash reached for her hand and squeezed it as he continued.
"I'm sorry I was so rough with you this afternoon, swinging you around like I did," he said quietly. "It's just that I was so happy that we made it through another battle and then you made my mission clear. I was so grateful."
Meryl's face showed puzzlement. "What did I do?"
Vash smiled enigmatically as he said, "Nothing." He got up and offered his hand as he urged, "Come with me to that cliff so we can enjoy the stars. Please?" His eyes were wide and hopeful.
Meryl smiled and then lowered her head as her cursed common sense kicked in. She demurred, "We probably should go to bed. You need to keep recuperating and I have to get up and go to work tomorrow."
But Vash would not be denied as he knelt beside her and pleaded with a boyish charm that was radiating from his amazing eyes using all his power of persuasion. "Please, Meryl? I just want to be with you tonight for a while before I turn in."
She bit her lip as she wavered and then gave in. "Okay." She accepted his hand and together they strolled to the cliff silouhetted against the star studded sky. . . .
Out on the cliff, Vash and Meryl perched on the edge, surrounded by the glitter dome of stars further illuminated by the light of the five moons. They both watched the clime in silence as the fifth moon moved directly over them.
Meryl noticed the large shadow that indicated the new crater Vash had blasted when he fought the Gung-ho Guns E.G. Mine and Rei Dei the Blade. His angel arm had emerged as the immense energy had crackled and as he fought to control it before it obliterated Augusta he managed to point it up as it discharged, traveling up and blasting the fifth moon. She saw how now he studied the moon with a look of vast regret at the damage done. She reached and placed her hand on his shoulder.
"It's okay, Vash. I know you didn't mean to do it."
He gave a bitter chuckle as he said, "I never mean to destroy but I always manage to do it. I destroy nature, towns, lives, you name it, I've destroyed it." He turned to her and added ruefully, "Isn't that the reason you started following me?"
Meryl lowered her head as she nodded. "Yes." But then it shot up as she spoke with fierce conviction, "But you are not the killer and destroyer you and everybody else think you are. You're decent and kind and---,"
Vash silenced her with a finger laid gently on her lips. "Stop please Meryl. You're very sweet to say these things but it doesn't change the fact that I've done some horrible things, things I can never hope to repent for. And it's not over, Knives is still out there waiting for me."
She insisted stubbornly, "Let him wait, you're staying here with us."
"You don't know how much I wish I could." Vash smiled as he ran the back of his flesh hand down her silky cheek. "I'm afraid it's not that simple, sweetheart."
Meryl took a sharp breath at the gesture and endearment. Whoa, where is that coming from? She opened her mouth to speak but stopped as he went on in a nostalgic tone.
"You want to know when was the best time of my life, Meryl?" At her nod he continued, "When Rem, Knives, and I used to go to the rec room on the SEEDs ship. Rem had it created to resemble the beauty that once was on Earth and she named it Eden."
"It sounds lovely, Vash."
He smiled, "It was. Bright, blue sky with puffy white clouds and green fields as far as the eye could see. Flowers everywhere and especially red geraniums. They were Rem's favorite, she said they stood for determination and courage."
She sat listening raptly as he went on. "Rem would tell us all about life. She was the first to say that nobody ever has the right to take a life one day when we saw a butterfly get snagged in a spider web. Knives reached and crushed the spider before it could kill the butterfly."
Vash's tropic sea eyes clouded over as he pressed on. "That's when I saw that Knives had changed, that he was looking at mankind as a scourge and something to be eliminated. He said the spiders had to die to save the butterflies. And now he's going to do all he can to make sure mankind is wiped out." He shivered in dread.
Meryl's eyes were wide as saucers as she digested everything Vash had told her. She too shuddered as she imagined his brother wreaking havoc wherever he could, methodically carrying out his cause as all human life is exterminated like spiders. She gazed at the gunman who had an expression of both sadness and determination on his even features as the moons' light reflected in his eyes.
Like the time in New Oregon after everything that happened on the crashed sand steamer they sat for a while in companionable silence, side by side with few words spoken yet communicating much. But here the atmosphere was different, especially after what had happened during the day, unspoken feelings were intensely present. Meryl could feel the vibrations from both her and Vash and they filled her with ambivalence.
Then Vash rose and offered his hand to assist her. "C'mon it's late, we should be heading back."
"Yeah." Meryl gazed up and saw him grinning as he waited. She took it and he hoisted her up, taking both of her hands in his and then just one as he led her to the side to climb down. . . .
It was past midnight when under the moons Vash and Meryl walked silently down the deserted street, past buildings devoid of light as everyone in the village had apparently turned in. They came to the little house, which was also dark indicating that Milly had also gone to bed. They ascended to the porch and then he opened the door for her as he followed and closed the door.
Inside it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop, the lone night light left burning in the kitchen allowing for a dim amber glow keeping them from total darkness. Meryl turned and whispered to Vash.
"We'd better be quiet or we'll wake up Milly."
He nodded as he answered, "Yeah."
She said, "Go in your room and I'll get the things to change your bandages."
Vash rasped, "It's late, Meryl. You don't have to, I'll be fine."
But she had already gone into the cabinet to retrieve the first aid kit and fresh bandages. "Never mind, just go in your room and wait for me."
"Yes ma'am," he dutifully responded as he turned to do as she bade. He could not supress a grin as he thought You know I kind of like when she bosses me around. But still I have find a way to break the news that I'm leaving tomorrow. I'll tell her while she changes my bandages. He entered the room that had been designated to him and sat on the bed to wait for his short girl. A few moments later, she came in with bandage rolls and the first aid kit.
Meryl set the things down on the night table and she commanded, "Take your shirt off, Vash."
He looked up at her and said with an engaging smile as he began to unbutton his garment, "Remember the first time you saw my chest, I told you I don't like to show girls my body." He removed the shirt and exposed his marred flesh. "I'm afraid they'll run away."
Meryl said nothing as she sat behind him with the scissors and began to snip the old bandages to remove them. "And you remember that I said I wouldn't."
"Yeah." Vash closed his eyes as he felt the butterfly touch as she tended to his wounds with deft, but gentle fingers. He sighed and said softly, "You don't know how happy that made me."
The air became still as he felt Meryl finish applying antibiotic and then she began to re-wrap his torso and up his back where the wounds were still in the early healing stage. She finished by taping the end in place and then he was disappointed to feel her hands withdraw from him. Vash sat there missing the soothing touch when he was surprised to find her two arms encircle his waist and her head laid against the unbandaged skin of his back. He was then further shocked by the feel of the warm wetness of her tears. His heart constricted as his own eyes welled up making it impossible to tell her his decision.
"Meryl," he barely murmured. "Please don't cry."
"I can't help it," came the muffled sob. "I just can't bear to see all the pain you've suffered throughout your life."
Vash blinked his own tears back as he removed her arms and turned to crush her to him, cradling her head and holding her close to his pounding heart. Words were unnecessary as he rhythmically caressed her and soothed both their souls.
After a while Meryl pushed away and rose to her feet. "I'd better go and let you get some rest. You're still on the mend." She made to leave but he detained her, still holding her hand.
"I forgot to thank you for taking care of me," Vash said huskily as he got to his feet. Although he towered over a foot over her he leaned in and cupped her face in his hands and then brought her lips to his softly in a tender kiss. She responded at first tentatively then with abandon as the fires of passion ignited, her arms snaking about his bandaged waist as his own caressed her cheeks as he drank in her sweetness, his tongue savoring her.
After several passionate moments Vash and Meryl drew apart in mutual awe at the breaking out of their most secret of desires and as reason once again reigned, she spoke in a whisper.
"You're welcome," she said then broke away and scurried to the door. "Good night, Vash." And she was gone.
After Meryl left Vash sat back down and then laid down with a sigh, running his hand through his golden locks as he tried to bring his raging hormones under control. His body, dormant for so long from stimulation by a feminine touch was on fire and he grinned as he thought of how exquisite Meryl's kiss was. With that playing over and over in his mind he wondered if he would ever get any sleep tonight but as he closed his eyes he could not help but feel even though he would be leaving tomorrow he was indeed blessed. . . .
Just outside of his door Meryl was breathless, holding a hand to her pounding heart, feeling like it would jump right out of her chest cavity. She took several deep breaths as she sought to compose herself before heading to the room she shared with Milly. But as she prepared for bed the short insurance girl relived the intense pleasure of her encounter with the Humanoid Typhoon and she arrived at the same conclusion that was reached across the hall…that night sleep would be elusive for her too.
The next day was hot and sunny, the double orbs just over the eastern horizon. Clad in his red coat Vash stepped out onto the porch, ready to head off to confront his wayward twin. He silently strode past the petite mini-skirted figure leaning against the house with her head down, avoiding eye contact. After last night words were sort of moot and both had in fact said their good-byes although neither admitted it.
"So you're leaving again," Meryl said in a neutral voice as inside her the emptiness was echoing like a cavern. Nonetheless, she managed a brave smile.
"Yeah." Vash replied as he turned halfway around. He flashed a half grin as he said, Thanks for everything." He slipped his sunglasses down and gave her a significant look.
She smiled at that and then the strident call of "Mr. Vash! Mr. Vash!" sounded and Milly rushed forward, lugging of all things, Wolfwood's cross punisher. She placed the object before Vash with a flourish.
At his inquiring look she laughed and said, "Take it, Mr. Vash. I know he would've wanted you to have it."
Vash looked uncertainly at the huge cross and then at Milly who urged him, "Take it please, Mr. Vash."
Vash kept staring at the canvas covered icon as he then grinned and said, "Okay." He lifted it and hoisted it onto his shoulder, gasping as he adjusted to the massive weight.
"Boy," he said with his face in a mixture of a grin and a grimace. "I had no idea how heavy this thing was."
"Of course," Milly said with the wisdom of the ages. "It's full of mercy."
Vash nodded in agreement as he thought Mercy and blessings. For some strange reason the two gifts from Heaven I seem to have an abundance of. He gave one last glance to the two insurance girls, one a trusted friend and the other the love of his life. He waved and turned to begin his journey.
Behind him Meryl said in assumed cheeriness, "See you later."
He waved in response. Don't worry, short girl. I promise you will.