- People always assume that the afterlife is a release. The bad guys get thrown in Hell for their just desserts, and the good guys get to spend the rest of eternity strumming harps atop fluffy little clouds and polishing their halos. Get real. It's just a continuation of the struggle. WxM, VxM–

Disclaimer: I do not own Trigun, any of it's characters, or it's plotlines. They are entirely the property of Yasuhiro Nightow-sama. However, I am currently scheming to acquire a pair of Vash sunglasses to wear with my Vash t-shirt (It has his wanted poster on the back!) in addition to my DVD box set and graphic novel collection. -

Chapter 1: In Which There Are Many Uncomfortable Pauses

Silence. It surrounded the small house, suffocating its inhabitants and resisting all attempts to maintain their usual facades and pretend that nothing had happened, that nothing had changed. As tangible as another person, as overbearing as a neat-freak mother-in-law, and as frightening as a stranger with a gun pressed to ones temple, it filled their days. Of the uncomfortable variety, more often than not. Its empty chasms terrified them, echoing of all that remained unsaid and that they were afraid to acknowledge. To admit was true. It followed their denial around like a mangy stray, unwanted and inescapable, and yet the inhabitants of the small house continued about their days, pretending it was not there and hoping it would go away on its own. It was a false hope.

The tall girl buried herself in manual labor, striving to forget the sense of loss that threatened to overwhelm her when she paused to think. She smiled too much. And when that failed to work, she left, seeking answers elsewhere. The short girl was all harsh words and bluster and business, the personification of brisk efficiency, refusing to stop and recognize what she was trying to ignore. The man put on a goofy grin and ate his donuts and wrestled with children when not picking up an odd job here or there, provoking his friends and joking. His façade was the most practiced of the three. And the remaining inhabitant slept upstairs, although they were all able to sense his presence bearing down on them. They felt uneasy for no real reason at all, their theoretical hackles rising at no discernable cause, every primal instinct telling them one thing. Run. But millions of years of ignoring those urges kept them resolutely going about their business, letting the silence do the talking.

It was the calm before the storm.

- - - - -

Meryl awoke to the smell of something wonderful. Still half asleep, she stumbled down the hallway of the one-story house from her bedroom, letting her nose lead her to the source of whatever was making her stomach growl so viciously. It turned out to be the source of all of the previous night's bad dreams. (Bloody dreams of death. Not pleasant fare at all.) Hence, the half-asleep-ed-ness. Who also happen to be cooking bacon and pancakes, as well as preparing coffee, his broad, bare back facing her as she clumsily took a seat on at the counter opposite him, atop on of the barstools. God, I love this man. If only he knew. Meryl then made the interesting discovery that she had balance issues this early in the morning as she was forced to grab the counter to prevent herself from falling right off of the other side of the rather unstable, narrow, butt-torturing slab of rotating wood and doweling.

Vash grinned widely as he set a plate in front of the short girl, her hair still mussed from sleep. Not that his was much better. For once his smile wasn't fake. He prepared his own food while she attacked her coffee, black, just the way she liked it. He really didn't see how she drank it that way, but hey, whatever worked. The man set his own plate down across from Meryl and looked on amused, until the short girl had become at least semi-comatose, which meant, of course, that her cup had been refilled 3 times in the past minute. He sipped his own mocha while she daintily started on her pancakes, in sharp contrast to the drinking frenzy that had taken place moments before. After a few moments he looked up from his mug, surprised to feel her gaze upon him.

"Is something wrong? Is the bacon too crispy, or something?"

She only looked at his bare chest intently, while the blond man turned a rather startling shade of red as he fought the urge to think too much about what was going through Meryl's head.

"I'm sorry. I should have put a shirt on or something-"

He despised those scars. Surely he was disgusting her. She finally met his eyes, a puzzled look on her face.

"How did you manage not to burn yourself? Surely that bacon splattered at least a little bit!"

While it ended, like many of their conversations, in awkward silence, at least this time it was punctuated by laughter. Neither could remember the last time they had laughed with one another.

- - - - -

The bus was quiet, all its passengers blissfully asleep, save for the occasional snore from the man in the 2nd to last row next to the window. But that wasn't even that bad. The poor lady that had had the misfortune of being assigned to sit next to him had sacrificed her handkerchief for a makeshift gag, much to everyone else's relief. And the man didn't really seem to notice. Except he drooled a bit more now.

At first glance, Millie was no exception. The tall girl luckily had her narrow bench to herself, and was sprawled across it, her dirty blonde hair spilling over her toiletry bag/pillow and her eyes closed. The bus rattled on, crossing the desert in its own slow way, its tire tracks stretching beyond the horizon behind it as the sun slowly crept into the sky, signaling the start of another day, setting the heavens afire.

Nicholas, I wish you were here. That you could watch the sunrise too. With me.

The driver announced crackily over the intercom that the bus would be arriving in December in less than an hour.

I'll take care of your orphanage. Sempai and Mr. Vash just need some time alone. They still haven't admitted how they feel to one another. And Mr. Knives could probably adjust easier with less people in the house. Not that I didn't want to go. I just wish I could do more for you.

- - - - -

"Insurance girl! I'm making a run into town! Is there anything you need!" Vash hollered into confines of the house.

"We need more bread! And mustard! And cat food! And don't just buy donuts- okay, Vash! Two boxes, tops! If you have extra!" Came the distant answer.

The man glowered, particularly at the black cat twining itself around his legs. "If you hadn't have showed up, I could buy more donuts, because I would have more money. Because I wouldn't be spending it on you." He sent a death glare in the cat's general direction.

The cat was unperturbed. No one can really beat a cat at glaring. As far as it was concerned, Vash was a terrible novice. Nothing to be afraid of. The cat Nyaa-ed innocently at him while it sharpened its claws on his leg.

Vash resisted kicking it and grabbed his leather knapsack, dusting off his white shirt and jeans in the process. "I don't expect Knives to wake up today- he got his sedatives this morning, right!"

"Of course! You'd have to be stupid to forget something like that!"

Vash glowered once more before he set off for the long walk into town. She'll never let me live down that time after we took Kuroneko-sama (thought with particular disdain) to the vet. It's not my fault he woke up partway there! And who woulda thunk that he could have clawed his way out of that cage!

- - - - -

These groceries are heavy. Why do I always have to do all the shopping? The now rather sweaty and dust caked man set his knapsack on the porch, ignoring the frantic protests of the aging supports at such weight. He fumbled in his pockets for his keys, smiling slightly at his keychain, a hand-beaded lizard made by the 8 year old boy from down the street, as he opened the lock. "Short girl! Groceries are here!" He threw open the door, making a dramatic gesture for his audience, eyes closed, arms extended, gesturing at the toils of his hard work. The eyelids slowly opened, aqua orbs peering about, until finally resting on the wall opposite the doorway.

YOU WILL SEE THE ERROR OF YOUR WAYS. Slashed viciously in the drywall by something sharp. And bloody.

His breath left him in a gasp, eyes going wide. No. This can't be happening. Not again. This isn't how this is supposed to happen. Meryl, not Meryl, please-

Vash followed the random marks carved in the walls at a run, as though someone had been swinging a knife, a sharp knife, while they walked, like a young girl might swing a purse. Words appeared as random intervals, the cryptic messages crippling the gunslinger. He was sobbing, his heart ripped out, crushed, all hope lost before he even reached the final one, ripped in the wall of Knives' bedroom.








The final message was in Knives' own bedroom, where he had spent weeks sleeping after they had returned from their battle in the desert, drugged while they formulated a plan on what to do with him. The bed was neatly made, the white room (Knives had never like much color in his surroundings. Vash remembered this when decorating. Best to pick your battles.) completely in order. Except for the message, hacked into the wall like some garish decoration in bleak contrast to the order around it. Specks of plaster littered the wooden floor below it like snow. A petite white cloak lay neatly folded immediately in the center, the bow precisely retied.

It was covered in blood, dripping blood, as was the small handprint on the wall above it, the crimson fingerprints trailing along its surface, as though their owner had been dragged forcibly away. A single feather lay atop the cloak.

- - - - -

A/N: SOO! What do y'all think? This ones been rattling around my head for awhile, but I've given it a different beginning and rewritten it after my computer deleted it. I only had a chapter or two anyway. A Question of Incarnation will probably never be finished. I am terribly, terribly, terribly sorry about this, as it always bugs the hell out of me whenever an author stops in the middle of a story because they've lost interest in the original show or whatever. I am a hypocrite. Which I hate. But it's also not making me run out and watch Inuyasha again, as the show annoys me no end. And so I apologize profusely.

But. Eden Awry. Wolfwood (Ah! My favorite!) will be making an appearance next chapter, and playing an integral roll, as will Millie. And no, he is not coming back to life. Heh heh heh. Do you like the title? Review please! I cannot promise to update by a certain time, but I will as much as possible! Really, when taking classes a grade above your own you don't have much time. And 4-H. And horses. And friends. But my Trigun Otaku-dom will never flag, so no worries there! Is everyone in character? Is it clear that Meryl and Vash have really not had many easy conversations outside the one above, and are still quite uncomfortable with one another? Please tell me! Reviews make me more motivated! Review or die! Bwhahaha! Demonic pancakes with chocolate chips for good readers! -