Author's notes: Not my first fic, but the first one published (go me!). First, a quick note on spelling – yeah, I know, it's probably Milly, but my spellchecker liked me better when I wrote Millie. I don't like to get my spellchecker angry – it gets mean. And starts beeping a lot. And second, this is a bit experimental – there is a definite lack of fics where Millie and Vash actually interact one on one. And I don't think I've read *any* serious fics told from Millie's POV. This would be an attempt to remedy that. Probably OOC, but like I said, it's an experiment. Constructive criticism encouraged, please!
Millie woke up to a loud crash, followed by muttered cursing. She yawned and sat up, checking briefly on Meryl but her partner was still dead to the world. The older woman was usually the lighter sleeper of the two, but the last few days of non-stop travel had finally taken its toll on her.
Millie, though, was now wide-awake and curious as to what could be making all that racket in Vash's room.
She slipped quietly out of bed and tiptoed across the room, wincing slightly as the door creaked. Meryl remained asleep and Millie breathed a sigh of relief as she slipped out and into the hall. She hesitated outside the outlaw's room but finally took a deep breath and knocked on his door.
"Mister Vash? Is everything alright?"
Silence greeted her and she frowned, wondering if someone could have attacked him. She debated going back and getting her stungun but decided that it was unlikely any bounty hunter had slipped in. If they had, the crash would have been followed by the sound of furniture breaking and possibly an explosion or two. Vash was awfully nice but he did have a rather bad habit of demolishing things.
She knocked again and when he didn't answer, she slowly opened the door, sticking her head partially inside. "Mister Vash?"
A chair had been turned over and a shattered pitcher lay on the floor. Vash sat on the floor sans coat, back against the wall and arms resting on bent knees. He looked down, not focusing on anything in particular and didn't seem to notice her presence.
She walked all the way in and stood in front of him. "Um, hello?"
His head jerked up and for a moment she caught a glimpse of that same, eerie light in his eyes that had appeared when he fought Monev. But it quickly vanished as his eyes softened and he smiled tiredly. "Oh. Hey, Millie. What're you doing up?"
"Um, well, I was just about to ask…" she gasped as she saw the red dripping on the floor. "You're bleeding!"
"Huh?" He looked down at his hand, as if noticing the injury for the first time. "Oh. Guess I am."
She tsked and brought him to his feet, guiding him to his bed and making him sit down on it. She retrieved a towel and bandages from the bathroom, shaking her head as she righted the chair and sat down on it. "Honestly, Mister Vash, you need to watch what you're doing. Gloves."
He obediently took them off, allowing her to get a better look at the wound on his hand. She winced then proceeded to expertly clean and bandage the deep cut. He looked on with a wry smile as she worked. "Where'd you learn to do all this?"
"Oh, my brothers used to fight all the time. Actually, they still fight all the time. Some of my sisters, too. I learned how to patch them up afterwards, 'cause I was the smallest and they thought I could tie better knots with the linens." She frowned. "How did you get hurt? You weren't fighting, were you?"
"No. I just tripped over the chair and I tried to balance myself on the table, but the pitcher slipped and I didn't think when I began to clean it up and…" he shook his head. "This sounds very stupid when I say it out loud."
"No, it's not stupid." She paused, then admitted timidly, "Well, it was a little silly to just sit and bleed all over the floor. Not to mention messy."
"Yeah, I guess so." He sounded sad for some reason and she looked at him curiously. He continued to smile at her so she supposed she must have imagined it. She wrapped his hand and taped it together with a small flourish.
"Don't move it too much or you'll just reopen the cut," she warned him before heading back to the bathroom and throwing away the soiled towel. She looked around for a broom and dustpan, but seeing none, found that morning's paper instead. She separated it into two sections, bending both so that they stiffened, then used one section to brush the broken glass into the other.
"Hey, you don't have to worry about that," Vash protested, rising. She waved him back down.
"It's no problem. I had a lot of smashed things to clean up at home. It's very easy."
She continued to use her makeshift sweeper until the floor was cleared to her satisfaction. She dumped everything into the waste bin, then filled two glasses of water from the sink in the bathroom. She handed one to Vash and sat at the table with the other, taking dainty sips.
The silence stretched out. Vash finally shed most of his accessories, including gun and holster, shaking out his hair from its spikes. Millie rather liked him with his hair down; it made him look younger, less harsh.
"What's you family like?"
Millie blinked out of her thoughts. "Hmm?"
He smiled shyly, settling down across the table from her. "Your brothers and sisters. I'd like to hear about them."
He chuckled. "Yeah, really."
"Well, Daddy was an accountant before he retired and Mama always had all of us to look after. Then, hmm, Johnny, my oldest brother, he works on the rigs along with George, my fourth brother. Betty and Sue – they're twins – they're both married. Well, not to the same person, of course, different people, and they stay at home with their kids. Robbie, my second brother, writes for the newspaper and he just had the most darling little boy last June. I mean, his wife did, with the actual birth bit. If my brother had, he'd be my sister, I guess."
"Sounds about right."
"Let's see, Grace is in November City right now, working as an engineer. She's the youngest, 'cept for me. Donald's second oldest and he works Daddy's old job. Then Mark's teaching at the elementary school and Big Frank – his name isn't actually Big but he's the tallest, so we call him that – he's in construction." She mentally checked off her siblings again, then nodded her head. "That's all. Except for me, but you know what I do already."
He nodded, remaining quiet for a moment, then asked, "You're close to them?"
"Oh yes. I write home every week. It's a little hard to get messages back from them what with us moving around so much, but I usually have a big stack of letters waiting for me when I get mail from the main office. It's really exciting to open them all. Almost like Christmas." She tilted her head. "Do you have any family?"
He looked away and didn't answer. His hand tightened around his glass, enough to whiten his knuckles. She frowned. "Mister Vash, if you keep doing that, you're going to start bleeding again."
He looked down at his hand and blushed slightly, removing his fingers from their death grip on the glass. "Sorry," he mumbled.
"It's alright. I just don't want you to hurt yourself."
Silence again and Millie hoped she hadn't gotten him angry. She liked Vash, she really did, but sometimes he frightened her a little. There was something deep and hidden in him, something so very big and magnificent she didn't think her poor little head could ever really comprehend it all. She just hoped that when whatever was hidden in him finally came out, he wouldn't forget what really mattered.
"I have a brother."
It was a soft confession, almost too quiet for her to hear. She stared at him. "Really?"
"Yeah," he nodded, staring into his water, not daring to look at her. "I-I haven't seen him in years, though."
"Oh," she murmured. Again, he had that sad note in his voice, something hurting him deeply. "Were you very close?"
"When we were younger," he answered. "But he…changed and-and it just became too hurtful to be near him anymore."
His eyes were overly bright and Millie felt sympathetic tears welling up in her own eyes. "That's so sad."
He sniffed and gave her watery chuckle. "It's alright. You don't have to worry."
"But it's not alright," she shook her head. "That's your family and-and family's important. 'Cause they're always there for you and no matter what happens, they'll always, always love you."
"What if they do something you can't forgive?" he whispered and she didn't know if he was talking himself or his brother.
"Then I guess you love them anyway."
He nodded, voice cracking, as he tried not to cry and failed miserably. "Well, that's part of the problem, isn't it?"
It was painful to look at him like that, the legendary outlaw filled with far more grief than anyone could know. Millie wasn't entirely sure how to help him – she was just an insurance girl, after all, part of a pair he looked at with both amusement and exasperation. She didn't know how to make the hurt go away but she couldn't stand to see him like this either. So, she decided that maybe what she did to comfort her own family when they hurt was the best solution here.
She rose and gave him a hug.
He sagged into her arms and sobbed into her shoulder. She felt a wave of protectiveness wash over her and she had to smile at the thought of looking at Vash as some overgrown kid. Was this how her own mother felt when she held her, listening to her youngest daughter cry and knowing that if she just held on long enough, maybe she'd eventually smile again?
Maybe not. But it was a nice thought.
The tears subsided and Vash just held onto her for a while. She let him, gently smoothing back his hair, whispering nothing in particular, simply trying to sooth him.
Eventually he pulled away, sniffling and pulling himself back together. "Sorry about that."
She shrugged, giving him a reassuring smile. "It's okay. Sometimes you have to cry. Everything gets too built up, you know?"
He nodded, eyes still red-rimmed but he was able to return her smile with an exhausted one of his own. "Yeah, I know. I'll try not to do this too often, though." He yawned suddenly, causing Millie to giggle. His eyes widened slightly. "Wow. Takes a lot out of you, too."
She moved away and he rose, taking only a few steps before falling into bed. She sighed and shifted his legs under the blankets. He grinned at her insistence on tucking him in.
"There, that's better," she viewed her job with satisfaction as he sat looking at her. She threw a warning glance at him. "You're not going to go breaking things and cut yourself again, are you?"
"I promise to be good," he told her and she believed him. She ran her hand gently through his hair one more time, an act of motherly affection, then walked away, shutting the light off as she left.
Slipping back into her own dark room, she paused by Meryl's bed, contemplating her partner. The dark-haired woman slept on, blissfully unaware of any of the events that had just transpired next door. Millie smiled, touching her head gently before sliding back under the covers of her own bed.
She had always known that Meryl was completely hopeless. And this evening she discovered Vash was as well. Rather lucky for them she was there, she decided. They needed someone to look after them, to make sure they didn't get into too much trouble. Like her own family had always done for her. Family, after all, was the most important thing, and if you didn't have a family bonded by blood, then you just had to find one bonded by love.
Content with these conclusions, she drifted off to sleep.