Chapter 35 Live Through

The six stood in the front yard, looking at Grace and Jack. "Come back and visit anytime, ok?" Grace said cheerily, although there were tears in her eyes.

"Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Stryfe, for everything." Vash said and Jack nodded.

"You are most welcome, Vash the Stampede."

The group stiffened and Vash's eyes widened in surprise. "You knew?"

Jack chuckled as he waved his hand up and down in a nonchalant gesture. "Oh, I saw your face on the TV a few nights ago. But I wasn't worried." The man winked and Vash smiled widely.

Meryl walked slowly up to her mom, eyes downcast as she stopped in front of her. Looking up, she locked gazes with the older woman, feeling her tears rise. "Mom…I…"

Grace reached out and pulled her daughter to her, smoothing her raven locks of hair down as she pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "I love you Meryl. I always have, and I always will. You are our daughter, no matter who you are, or where you came from. Remember that."

Meryl tightened her hold on her, eyes shut as a tear fell down her cheek. "Thank you so much…"

She pulled back and looked at Jack, noticing that he also had tears in his kind brown eyes. "Daddy…" she leaned into him and he embraced her back.

"Meryl…I'm so sorry for what you heard all those years ago. I…said it out of anger, but I never meant it."

"I know daddy…I should have come home sooner…"

"Don't make yourself scarce anymore, ok? Your mom is right. You are my daughter. Always have been…always will be."

Meryl stayed in his arms a moment more before pulling back to give her parents a last smile. "Thank you for being so kind to all of us, especially when we just showed up out of nowhere…"

"It's been nice having you all here. We'll miss you. It's going to get quiet again without you around." Grace said as she wiped her eyes.

"I'll come back and visit soon." Meryl promised.

"What about Shikio?" Knives asked suddenly.

"He'll be ok. It's like he…gets a second chance. And my parents are certainly qualified for the job, having a plant for a daughter already." Meryl answered.

"Do you think he'll remember anything once he gets older?" Knives asked more and Meryl shrugged.

"I don't know. But…even if he does, he won't have grown up hating humans…so, maybe things will be different…"

"Let's go you guys. We need to get Kiba back to May city." Vash interjected gently and they all nodded.

As they loaded up in the cars, Meryl shot one more look to her parents, who stood on the front porch, smiles on their faces. "I love you guys! I'll write soon!" She waved to them as they pulled out and onto the open road again.

Meryl watched as they waved until they fell out of sight, a small sadness hitting her stomach. "I'm really going to miss them." She said softly and Vash smiled from his place at the drivers seat.

"Don't worry Mer. We'll see them again."

She looked at him, smiling as she grabbed his hand and squeezed it. "I love you Vash."

"I love you too Meryl."

Knives and Blue drove in silence, both gaping at the beauty of the landscape around them.

"Look Knives, a lake!" Blue pointed out excitedly.

"How do you know that's what they're called?" he asked of the large body of water in the distance.

"I've read about them. There are many books about other planets and Earth is said to have had many of these, along with the mountains and hills we see here."

"Do you really think that this is what Gunsmoke used to look like?" Knives asked.

"Well…whether or not it did, it does now." She smiled brightly.

Knives saw her smile and felt his own grow. It faded when he thought back to when Shikio had taken him. She still hadn't brought it back up.

"Blue…" he said slowly and she blinked.

"What is it sunshine?"

He felt his heart leap at the pet name. "I'm sorry Blue. So sorry, for what happened…for…what I said…"

She looked down at her hands, the smile gone. "Knives, I know it wasn't you. He had control over you again. You…couldn't help it."

"I know…but, I can remember it…" he trailed off, feeling his guilt increase tenfold.

She reached out and grabbed his hand, squeezing it as she gave him a reassuring smile. "What matters is that I have you back. And, it's you, not the other Knives that I saw. I love you Knives. Don't ever forget that."

He went silent, staring at the land ahead.

"It looks like they're stopping for a break." Blue pointed out as the car in front of them pulled over. Knives pulled up behind them, remaining a little ways back. Blue went to open her door when his hand caught her by the arm.

"Wait…"

Blue sat back down, a curious look on her face as she stared at him.

"Blue…thank you. For everything. For believing in me, for helping me…for loving me."

Blue felt her heart twist in fear. This sounded hauntingly like the conversation they had had before he was captured.

"Knives-" she stared but he held up a hand, cutting her off.

"I'm not done yet…" he said gently, his eyes closed.

When he opened them, Blue's jaw dropped lightly. He had a look in his eyes that she hadn't really seen before. Sure, he had gazed at her with affection before, but this…this look was one of pure love and she felt her mouth go dry. He reached out, placing a hand to her cheek as his thumb rubbed over it.

"Blue, what I'm trying to say…what I have been trying to say all along is…I love you. So much, Blue."

She closed her eyes, a small smile forming on her lips as she placed her hand over his. "Knives…"

"I'm sorry I couldn't say it before. I was scared. I knew I felt it, but was afraid of what you could do to me with it…afraid that I would give myself to you, only to be hurt. I realize now that I was just being a selfish coward, always taking from you, but not really giving back. You have taught me that Blue. Taught me how to love, how to forgive…and, how to live."

Blue felt a tear run down her cheek and he brushed his thumb over to catch it. She leaned into him, wrapping her arms about him and feeling as he did the same.

"Thank you Knives…for telling me these things…" she whispered and he tightened his hold on her.

"I love you Blue." He said it again, smiling as the words rolled freely from his mouth. It was easier than he had thought it would be…and, for the first time in his life, Millions Knives truly felt free.

Meryl sat upon the boulders on the outskirts of her hometown, near the ship. She smiled as she closed her eyes, feeling the late summer breeze whip through her dark locks of hair, carrying with it the scent of grass and flowers. She opened her eyes again to see the first of the twin suns had set, painting the sky with hues of orange and pink. She loved it here. She and Vash had decided to settle here and it seemed that her friends had thought it a good idea too. It was amazingly beautiful here. The trees and grass and flowers had indeed sprung up all over Gunsmoke. It was in December as well, she noticed, when they had gone there to retrieve their things and take care of Kiba's business. It turned out that he had a cousin that he never mentioned, who took over the hotel chain for the deceased owner.

The entire planet seemed to be singing with life now, and Meryl had realized that there was much more peace and love amongst the people.

"Hey Mer, can I come up?"

She turned behind her to gaze down at Vash, who wore a smile on his handsome features. "Of course love. I could always use your company."

He smiled widely as he leapt up and settled beside her. He placed a hand gently on her growing belly, smiling as his eyes widened. "She kicked!"

Meryl chuckled. It seemed that her husband would never tire of this wonder. "I thought you would still be having fun at the party." She observed and he shrugged.

"It's not a party if you're not there."

"Smooth talker." She grinned and leaned in for a kiss.

It had been two years since they had returned to the ship, two years since they had buried Kiba. Meryl still thought about him, thought how things were ultimately her fault…if she hadn't allowed for him to follow them, maybe things would have turned out differently. But then again, could she have really stopped him from following her?

She shook her head, remembering her and Vash's conversation after the burial.

"You should smile again Meryl. He would have wanted you to."

"I know…"

"It wasn't your fault…and he knows that. He didn't regret anything…"

She had seen the sadness in Vash's eyes that day, realizing that he wasn't just sad for Kiba. He was sad for her as well, and for himself.

What was the measure of true love and friendship? Was it in the little things you did for someone? Was in the big things? Maybe, it was both. Meryl had wished for so long to be in love with Kiba, but found that her heart was with Vash. She had thought that the green-eyed man would abandon her, stop being her friend. But, in the end, whatever the measure of a true friend was, Meryl had found one thing to be true: Kiba had measured up a thousand times over. Until the very end.

Meryl had thought long and hard about the situation. Kiba had loved her. In fact, he loved her so much, he let her go, even dying for her. It was at that moment, after the funeral, that Meryl came to a realization. Kiba gave her up so that she could be happy. Happy with Vash. So…she needed to be happy. Not only so he would not have died in vain, but also because she truly loved Vash, and wanted him to be happy as well. She knew she couldn't mope around forever…

Vash was a patient plant to say the least. He gave her time to grieve, grieving for a time himself. About six months later, they married, having a human ceremony so her parents and close friends could attend.

Tasuki and Milly married about five months ago and Meryl smiled at the thought. They had both lost someone dear to them, and had found refuge in each other. Tasuki came around eventually, regaining his former rambunctious personality over time. Although, he hadn't been quite the same ever since Kiba had died. Meryl couldn't blame him. Kiba's death had taken a toll upon them all, maybe to different degrees, but a toll nonetheless.

She smiled as she thought of her parents. They had been raising Shikio for the last two years and treated him as their own. The re-named him Jesse. The blonde boy looked to be about twenty-four in human years, but acted like a hormone driven teenager. He was a kind boy, always helping his mother and father out, and Meryl smiled. It seemed that he didn't have any memories of his previous life and she didn't care if he never did regain them. She hoped that he wouldn't…

Knives still had a hard time visiting the house in September. He would stiffen up and go quiet whenever in Jesse's presence. It seemed that it was just too soon for him to let it go…

Meryl didn't fault him. He had almost had his life ruined by the other plant. In fact, it was ruined for many years. Over time, he had softened up, although his dislike for most humans remained. Blue was very loving with him, slowly but surely continuing to bring him out of his hatred. Knives was lucky to have Blue in his life.

The two were married today, the festivities below in their honor.

"I don't know why they had a human ceremony. It's unlike Knives." Vash observed and Meryl smiled.

"Yeah, but it's important to Blue. I can understand that. In plant terms, we're mates. But, for plants like us who grew up amongst humans their whole lives, a ceremony means a lot. That's why I wanted one. I wanted to show you off, just as Blue wants to show Knives off to her close friends and family."

Vash nodded, standing and holding a hand out to her. "Will you come back down with me? I think they're about to cut the cake."

Meryl allowed Vash to help her stand before scooping her up gently in his arms and leaping down to the ground below.

He set her down and laced his fingers with hers, smiling softly as they walked back into the outdoor party. There were lights strung up everywhere, hanging in between the lush green foliage of the trees, tables and chairs set up everywhere.

They found the couple up front, next to the cake, getting ready to cut it. Blue looked beautiful, a gown of white adorning her slim figure, a long flowing veil on her head as it draped down her back. Knives was in a tuxedo of white, matching the bride, and Meryl smiled.

They both had large grins on their faces as they held the large knife in their hands, cutting down slowly. Knives picked up a small piece of cake, ready to feed it to Blue.

"Smash it in her face Knives!" Tasuki's obnoxious voice rang out, followed by chuckling as the crowd watched.

"Don't you dare!" Blue warned, her grin getting bigger.

Knives's smile turned wicked and he pushed the piece into her face, earning a small yelp of surprise from her.

"Yeah!" Tasuki called out again amongst the hollers of laughter.

"Millions Knives!" Blue stomped her foot, unable to stop the grin that was plastered to her face, along with her wedding cake.

"What woman? It looks good on you! It's your color." He laughed as she grabbed a piece, shoving it into his face.

"There! We're even!" She said in triumph as she licked a little piece of the confection from her lips. "This cake was a good choice. It tastes great!" she laughed as he picked up a napkin, beginning to wipe the cake off of her face.

He leaned into her, whispering in her ear. "You know, this might be a fun game that we could play later tonight when we're alone…"

Blue's face went red as she threw back her head and laughed. "You sure have become a pervert, you know that?" she said quietly to him and he winked.

"And you like I, don't you? Come on, you know you wouldn't have it any other way…"

Blue shook her head, smiling broadly as she began to wipe the cake off of his face too. "Yeah, I guess you're right."

"Well you two, congratulations."

The couple turned to see May and Earl standing nearby, broad smiles on their faces.

Blue rushed over to them, giving them both hugs. "Thank you so much for coming…"

"Of course! What, you think we would have missed out on our grand daughter's wedding? I think not!" May winked.

"We have a present for you. We've been working on it ever since you announced your engagement." Earl held out an envelope and Knives took it, smiling.

"Thank you."

"Go ahead and open it now, son."

Knives nodded, opening the white envelope and pulling out a brown folded piece of paper. He unfolded it and read it silently, his mouth dropping open slightly. Blue was reading over his shoulder and looked back to the older couple, a shocked look on her face.

"Gram, Gramps…it's a deed…to a house…"

Earl winked. "It's not to far from ours. Pretty good size too, a few bedrooms and such. Anyways, it's a good starter house."

Blue grabbed him into a hug. "Thank you…thank you so much…"

She let him go and went into May's waiting arms. "We love you Blue. I hope you'll be happy."

Blue pulled back, letting Knives lean into May for a hug. "Thank you May. It means a lot to us."

"Oh Knives, you're welcome my dear."

Blue looked at them, a twinkle in her eyes as she looped her arm through her husbands. "I know I'll be happy. I already am."

"Congratulations you two!"

Blue and Knives looked over the elderly couple's shoulders to see Grace and Jack sitting at a table, waving as they ate their food.

"Glad you could make it!" Blue called. "We'll come see you in a bit!"

"I hate to break up this party, but let's have some fun! It's dance time!" Tasuki came up and wrapped his arms around the couple's shoulders.

"Me? Dance? I think not." Knives raised an eyebrow, his old air of superiority returning briefly. He certainly had change, but something's just never did…

"Oh come on sunshine, how about a slow dance? Look…Meryl and Vash are out there, and there goes Milly and Tasuki…" she whined and he sighed.

"Woman, if I didn't love you so much…"

"Than you wouldn't have married me!" Blue chirped as she dragged him off. He shot a defeated glance to May and Earl, who chuckled as they waved to him.

Blue whirled around to face him, a smile in place as she showed him where to place his hands. "You see, you place your hand here, and then here…" she teased him, like she did so many times in the past.

"Woman…" Knives warned, his smile never leaving his face as he pulled her close. "I like it like this." He picked up her arms and placed them around his neck, wrapping his around her torso. She smiled as she leaned into him, laying her head on his chest.

"Hey guys…how's it going?" Meryl and Vash swayed up next to them, in about the same position as they were. Meryl's belly was bulging a little, so Vash had to maintain a bit more distance.

"Hey Mer, how are you feeling?" Blue asked of her condition.

"The doc says she's doing just fine."

"What's up love birds?" Tasuki and Milly waltzed up, joining them as the couples swayed back and forth to the beautiful melody.

"Thanks for giving Knives the bright idea, Tasuki." Blue said flatly, smiling all the same.

The redhead winked. "That's what I'm good for."

"That and making fun of…" Knives grinned evilly.

"Oh no you don't…"Tasuki warned.

"Come on, we have to let Kiba's legacy live on somehow, don't we?" Vash joked and Meryl giggled.

"So Milly, now that you're married, you can tell us. Is he a natural red head or what?" Knives smiled wickedly and Tasuki groaned.

"Well, yeah, of course! But, I knew that a long time before we were married." Milly chirped and the other's threw back their heads laughing as Tasuki just shook his head, grinning at his wife. "You know Milly, I really love you, you know that? You are just so damn honest, it's borderline brutal."

"I love you too sweetheart!" Milly laid her head back to his chest and he smiled as he ran hi fingers through his wife's long brown hair.

"So Mer, have you thought of a name for the baby?" Blue spoke up and all eyes stared at her and Vash.

Her silver eyes softened and she nodded, looking at Vash. "Hikari."

They went silent for a moment, soft smiled in place. "That's a good name Mer." Tasuki said and the rest of them nodded.

"Yeah…it seemed fitting." Vash spoke up.

"Thanks guys, for being here. It really means a lot to us to have you all here." Blue said.

"Of course Blue. You were at our weddings too, you know." Milly smiled.

"Besides, we wouldn't miss a party with free food anyways!" Tasuki grinned and Knives chuckled.

"Gluttonous human."

"Yeah, and you love me." Tasuki winked and Knives shook his head, still chuckling.

Meryl smiled as she gazed at her friends around her. They were all so happy…

Gunsmoke seemed over all to be a happier place, now that the land was so beautiful and lush. The phenomenon had come to be known as the Great Awakening. She smiled still at the name. It fit. After all, it was like the entire planet had awakened, bringing with it life and joy. The people living on it, human and plant alike, seemed to have come alive as well. She had never felt so content in her life, dancing in the arms of the man she loved, her most treasured friends around her…

"Hey Mer, are you coming to bed?" Vash poked his head out from their bedroom and she smiled.

"Yeah, in a bit. I want to try something for a moment." She answered and he nodded.

Meryl went to her office, flipping on the light and staring at her typewriter. She hadn't written in over two years…

She had severe writers block to tell the truth. Numerous times, she had sat down to type, but no inspiration could be found.Until tonight. It came to her, and she had berated herself for not thinking of it sooner.

Thoughts of Kiba and their adventures floated through her mind and she found herself smiling. She had cried in the past, whenever she thought of the green-eyed man. But, she had decided to remember Kiba…not his death. He gave her many good memories…treasured memories that she would never ever forget. It was time that she gave Gunsmoke another novel. It was time that she found her love for writing again. And, it was time for her to write out her emotions, so that she could finally have some closure to them.

She had her other friends, ones that were as dear to her as he was.

And of course, she had Vash. The love she had for him was indescribable, and she thanked the heavens above everyday for his presence in her life. He was everything…she may have had to wait for nearly ten years to be with him, but she had no regrets. Just like Kiba had none with her. She loved Vash. And that's what you did when you loved someone.

You waited for them…or, you let them go…

Meryl sighed as she sat down, staring at the blank page before her. Cracking her knuckles, she placed her fingers in the correct position, stopping briefly to take a deep breath and smile.

And then, after going through so much, after finding one kind of love and loosing another, after waiting for nearly two years, Meryl Stryfe Saverem began to write once again.

Owari.