Disclaimer: Trigun doesn't belong to me. . .yadda yadda yadda. . .and all that cheese. The men belong to me only in my wildest fantasies, and, for the next few minutes of your life, to this fanfic. Okay, so maybe they don't, but still. . . I actually put some effort into this one, so enjoy.
It was eight o'clock. The last of the
double suns had just set below the horizon, and the air was already beginning
to cool. The small clay house which sheltered them was no shelter
from the cold, and Meryl knew it. It wouldn't be long before she
would have to bundle up. She didn't handle cold extremely well.
The children were all nestled serenely in their beds. She watched them for one more moment before she left the room. The blonde she'd been comforting just a few minutes earlier had finally quieted down. For the life of her, she couldn't understand why he'd suddenly been seized with such a terrible nightmare, intense enough that it would make him cry in his sleep. And all the other children seemed more happy than ever tonight. After all, they'd had a good meal, and some more adult company for the day. He should have been just as happy as his friends.
But something had obviously upset him. Maybe she'd never know what it was. . .but it didn't feel right, for some reason.
"Ready to turn in, ma'am?"
Meryl looked up, and saw the smiling face of her best friend. Her smile never held the utterly bizarre goofiness that one particular blonde airhead's expressions did, but they always managed to look sincere, even though Meryl knew all too well that her friend was not always as deliriously happy as she let on.
"I think so." She replied, looking back in the room once more, then giving a long sigh, and joining her friend in the hallway. "I feel almost tempted to stay with them." She admitted, glancing briefly back again. Of course, everything was the same as before. No manic gunslingers had come and taken any of them away.
At least not at the moment.
"Don't be silly, ma'am." Milly put a hand on her shoulder, still retaining that wonderful smile. "There's plenty of room in the kitchen for us to sleep. Especially since the men decided to take the hall."
Meryl blinked. "They gave up the kitchen? I was sure Vash would. . ." she stammered, "I mean, with the leftovers from dinner right there on the counter-"
"They both insisted." Milly said. "Isn't that nice?"
"Y-yes." Meryl admitted somewhat ruefully, then clenched her fist and added in a low tone, "though I suppose broom boy already cleaned out all of the leftover donuts before they gave up the room."
Milly laughed. "There weren't any leftovers, ma'am, remember?" She suddenly snapped her fingers. "Oh, almost forgot. Mr. Priest told me that he had some kind of activity planned for tonight. He said we should come to the table right after we'd finished putting the kids to sleep."
"'Activity'?" Meryl turned down a corner of her mouth. "That doesn't sound too promising."
"He said it would be fun!" Milly clapped her hands together. "And it's only eight. We don't have much to do until bed-time anyway." She blinked expectantly at Meryl. "Don't you want to know what he has planned?"
"Aw, c'mon ma'am!" Milly grabbed Meryl's arm and pulled her down the hallway, Meryl resisting all the way. "Let's have a little fun!"
Meryl tried to wrench her friend's grip from her arm, but to no avail. "Nothing. . ." she grunted, ". . .fun. . .ever. . ." she tried to push away with her white-booted heel, ". . .came. . .from that. . .man."
"Good evening, ladies."
Meryl turned towards the direction of the speaker. Sitting at the table, actually on the table, she corrected herself, with one leg up on his knee and a bottle of some kind of liquor in his right hand, was the man himself. Black, unkempt hair, shaded blue eyes, a somewhat wrinkled black suit, and a long burnt out cigarette butt dangling from his lips. Certainly not the image befitting a priest, but there he was.
And of course, next to him, straddling a chair, long elbows and legs looking ridiculously awkward as he rested his head on his hands folded on the front of the chair, was the spiky-headed, googly-eyed, pathetic, womanizing, donut-scarfing fophead who had plagued her life for nearly the past half year, dragged her halfway across the planet, embarrassed her at every turn, and amazed her to no end with his strange, bewildering brilliance. . . . .
"Mr. Vash!" Milly's face lit up. Meryl couldn't believe it could have gotten any more perky than it had been a moment ago, but Milly, once again, surprised her. "I didn't know you were going to play, too!" She continued, then adopted a confused look and scratched her head. "But. . .come to think of it, I don't really know what we're playing, anyway."
"Y-you dragged me in here and you don't even know what this hypocritical maniac has planned?" Meryl glared at her friend. "Where is your sense?"
Vash laughed, bringing his head up and grinning at the two of them. God, how she hated that damn smile. "What are you worried about?" He asked. "He's a priest, remember? He couldn't pull anything on you. . .he'd have to repent his sins in his confessional."
"Are you implying I don't repent, mophead?" Wolfwood demanded angrily.
"You wouldn't have the change to pay for it." Vash replied with the same grin he'd been wearing since the beginning of the conversation.
"Oh, no," Milly put a hand to her chin, "were you two gambling again?"
"He cheated!" The black-haired priest insisted. "There was no way he had three catfish! I SAW his hand! He only had one! He tricked me into thinking that those two trout were-"
"ENOUGH!" Meryl got in between the two of them. Vash was still grinning like an idiot, but Wolfwood looked like he was on the edge of whipping out his rocket launcher. She turned to him first. "You just admit that you lost fair and square, and be a good loser. No blowing up things." Then she turned to Vash. Still grinning, of course. "And you wipe that annoying smirk off of your face before I shove one of my derringers up you're a-"
"Um, Mr. Priest, what was this game you had planned?" Milly interrupted.
Almost reluctantly, it seemed, Wolfwood got back on the subject. "It's a drinking game." He said.
"Are you crazy?!" Meryl exploded before Milly could do a happy dance. "Alcohol? Game? VASH?! Do you not see the possible problems those combined elements could have?"
"It's not dangerous." Wolfwood insisted. "At least not that much." He added with a grin.
"Oh, that sounds reassuring." Meryl crossed her arms over her chest.
Wolfwood placed a hand on her shoulder. "That's why we need you here to overlook everything." He smiled. "After all, I'm sure you won't be getting drunk in this game."
Curious, Meryl quirked an eyebrow. "What do you mean?" She asked. She at least needed to know whether that had been an insult or a compliment. "What's this 'drinking game' about?"
"It's simple." Wolfwood leaned back against the table. "We sit in a circle, and one by one, we say things we've never done in our life. Y'know. . .anything weird that you can think of. Then, anyone who has done what you've said has to drink. I'm sure you won't have to drink for most of the questions."
Meryl narrowed her eyes at him. "I don't like the sound of this, or what you were implying about me through that last comment, but. . ." she put her hands on her hips, ". . .you're going to play this with or without me, aren't you?" Wolfwood, Milly and Vash all nodded, and she sighed. "Fine." She agreed, and Milly clapped her hands together happily. "But, I want to make it very clear that I oppose this on all fronts, and if things get out of line. . ." she tapped the back of her cloak, "don't think I won't use preventative measures to assure no one is hurt." She glared meaningfully at Vash. "Even if someone gets a new scar in the process."
"Understood." Wolfwood put his hand up. "I swear by the Bible and all the goodness and stuff that it stands for that I will not get in your way if you have to discipline someone."
"'Goodness and stuff'?" Milly blinked.
"Let's sit down." Wolfwood pushed the large table out of the way, and Vash got out of his seat, walking over to the cleared area where they'd begun to sit down. Meryl noticed, with a bit of apprehension, that he'd chosen to sit next to her.
He just doesn't want to sit next to Milly, she told herself. He knows how wild she gets when she's not sober.
But for some reason, that fabricated explanation actually made her feel worse.
Wolfwood passed out four bottles, one to each of them. Meryl didn't even care what she got. After all, like Wolfwood had said, she wouldn't be drinking much of it, anyway. As much as she hated the fact that he considered her a 'stiff' of sorts, it still felt good to know she would be the control of the group.
"We'll probably go through more than one bottle each," he looked meaningfully at Vash, "so I made sure we had some more in stock." He patted a crate behind him.
"So," Milly glanced at her bottle, "we can only drink when we've done something that someone's said?"
"You can have some now, if you want, Milly." Wolfwood smiled. Milly happily opened hers and began to dig in.
"Try not to get drunk before the game starts, though." Wolfwood added with a sigh, then looked back at Vash and Meryl. "Any questions?"
"How much should we drink if we have to?" Vash asked, raising his hand.
Wolfwood shrugged. "Depends on how well you fit the answer. Drink a little, drink a lot. It's up to you. But, say someone says. . .oh, I don't know. . .'I've never eaten a donut.'" He suddenly grimaced. "Come to think of it, maybe you should just drink the same amount every time."
"Let's get started!" Milly said impatiently from beside Wolfwood, flicking her eyes longingly at the opened bottle in front of her.
"One more thing!" Vash interrupted. "A resquest, actually." His expression became serious, and Meryl suddenly wondered if he had actually gathered some sense about him and was really going to stand against this whole idea.
But, once again, he disappointed her. Utterly.
"Can we please not have any sex-related questions?" He pleaded. "Please? I don't want to be completely plotzed tomorrow."
Meryl's trigger finger was itching already.
Wolfwood was chosen as the one to start off the game,
since he'd, after all, been the one who'd proposed the idea, and it only
made natural sense for him to give the first example.
He was grinning already. Meryl knew he'd probably been planning his first question for awhile. She wondered, idly, what in the world he could ask that would induce such a wicked smile over his features. Whatever it was, she was sure she wasn't going to drink to it.
"Here goes," Wolfwood cleared his throat, quite officiously. "I've never stripped naked and barked like a dog for an audience of gun-toting criminals."
"Ugh." Meryl's head dropped apathetically. "I was expecting something intelligent from your end at least, Mr. Priest." She sighed, looking back up. "Do you honestly think any of us-"
"DAMN YOU!" Vash suddenly wailed, interrupting her, and snatching up his glass. He forced down a quick gulp before slamming the glass down on the floor again and continuing to glare daggers at the currently grinning Wolfwood. "You made this whole thing up just to do that to me, didn't you?! That's not fair! It was for a worthy cause!"
Milly had fallen to the floor in a heap, seized with what looked to be life-threatening giggles. Meryl was too aghast to say a thing.
"MY TURN!" Vash yelled, pointedly yelling in Wolfwood's direction. "I've never dressed in womens' clothing and danced for a pack of cigarettes!"
Wolfwood's grin became an expression of rage. If he'd had his cross around, he probably would have thrown it. "You promised you'd never tell anyone about that!" He cursed madly and dove for his drink. Unlike Vash, though, he didn't bother to grab his glass. Instead, he roughly took the entire bottle and gulped from it.
Milly looked like she was about to die from laughter.
Meryl was seconds from passing out.
And they were only on the second turn.
"My turn! My turn!" Milly suddenly shouted between giggles, interrupting a two-way glare between the men.
For once, Meryl was glad for the interruption.
Milly stifled another laugh before she started her turn. "I've never been beaten up by a girl."
Both Vash and Wolfwood reluctantly reached for their drinks.
"Mr. Priest?" Milly blinked. "You, too?"
The black-haired priest dropped his glass from his lips thoughtfully. Then he gave a weak smile. "Just a word to the wise. Never assume you'll win an arm-wrestling match with a 400 pound woman just because she's a woman. Especially if she's a bartender, and you're drunk."
Vash looked hurt. "You didn't ask me a thing. Did you just assume-"
"You forget that we've seen you shot down, sometimes forcefully so, by a great amount of women already." Meryl muttered, then turned an angry eye on him. "Maybe if you didn't womanize so much, you wouldn't have those problems."
"Ah." Vash sat back sullenly. "Point taken."
The room was silent for the next few moments. Everyone seemed to be waiting for something.
"Ma'am?" Milly looked expectantly at her friend. "It's your turn."
Meryl blinked in surprise. "I didn't know we had to go."
"Well, you don't have to," Wolfwood said, "but-"
"Alright, alright." Meryl sighed, thinking. If she was going to say anything, she should at least make it count. Take out more than one bird with her stone. Preferrably all of them, if she could. In a few moments, she had an idea.
"I've never been drunk." She said, a small hint of triumph on her face as everyone else in the room simultaneously groaned and reached for their drinks. She smiled victoriously.
Maybe this game wasn't such a bad idea after all.
Five turns, and about seven drinks later, Vash
and Milly were not faring well. And Milly had only had to drink twice.
She'd taken hearty portions, though.
So far, other than during his own turns, Vash had drunk to everything.
And it was currently Meryl's turn again, which did not bode well for him.
Or for anyone else, for that matter.
"I've never gotten my tongue stuck to an ice cube."
Wolfwood cursed, took a gulp of his drink along with everyone else, and sat back against the table, looking somewhat angry. Somehow, Meryl seemed to simply know when all of them had done something she hadn't. But that was an utterly bizarre coincidence. It was a mystery to him how she'd pulled it off.
It was his turn again.
"Hmmm. . ." he searched the room, considering his options. He had about a thousand and one things he could peg Mr. Porcupine head with, but he'd save them for later on, when Vash was already drunk, so that the fool would openly spill all the embarrassing details about his idiotic exploits. For now, he had a better idea.
"I've never faked a pregnancy." He said.
Milly blushed slightly and took her glass. Meryl gave her a bemused expression.
Vash raised his hands and gave a triumphant shout of glee. "I'm CLEAN!" He streamed happy tears.
"I should certainly hope you are." Wolfwood muttered. "Otherwise I'd begin to worry."
"Aren't you happy, Mr. Vash?" Milly smiled. "You didn't have to drink to every question after all!"
"Now you're just rubbing it in." Vash grumbled.
"It's your turn, Mr. Vash." Milly said, still smiling.
Vash sat back in contemplation for a moment before speaking. "I've never had fantasies about a close friend." He finally said.
"Good for you, Mr. Vash!" Milly congratulated him. . .before grabbing her drink and taking a long swig.
Wolfwood did, too. "How did you manage that one?" he muttered afterwards.
Vash shrugged. "I've almost never had friends that stuck around me long enough."
"Easy to believe. . .with all the collateral damage you inflict on your acquaintances." Wolfwood laughed.
Meryl wasn't listening. She was too preoccupied trying not to swallow her tongue. The moment the words had come out of the spiky-headed blonde's mouth, she'd frozen up. She couldn't drink to this one. . .she just couldn't. There had to be a way around it. . . .
Well, he'd said 'fantasies'. He hadn't said anything about dreams. So they didn't count. That was that.
And besides which, it wasn't like he was a 'close' friend. He'd just saved her life a few times. That was all.
It didn't count.
It did not count.
"I've never eaten a lizard before!" Milly suddenly said.
And Vash was right back to drinking again.
"Hey, gimme a break!" Vash insisted when Milly and the priest started laughing again. "I was hungry, and it wasn't like there was anything else around to eat. . . ."
Wolfwood put a hand on his shoulder. "If it makes you feel any better, I've eaten shoe leather." He chuckled. "Those desert trips can be a bitch sometimes."
Milly looked amazed at the priests admittance. "Wow." She murmured. "You can actually do that? Isn't it a little too. . .chewy?"
"Trust me. . .when you're half delusional from heat stroke and starved beyond humanly imagination, anything looks good." He snorted. "I would have eaten a table cloth."
Milly blinked. "Really?"
"Well. . ." he stammered, rubbing his chin, ". . .maybe with ketchup. . . ."
"Ketchup is good." Vash mumbled, currently fixated on the many shiny bubbles which had congregated at the bottom of his glass. They were so pretty. . . .
"Uh-oh." Milly regarded Wolfwood with a concerned expression. "I think Mr. Vash has already had a bit too much. Look. . he's almost finished his bottle."
"We can fix that." Wolfwood said with a smirk, reaching behind him to grab another bottle for the intoxicated gunman. "Meryl?" He blinked sweetly at the black-haired woman. "I believe it's your turn."
Five minutes (and about twenty drinks for Vash) later
"I've never gotten any part of my body stuck
in a zipper."
"Yes. . .any. Why?"
"No reason. But now I have to drink. . . ."
Seven minutes (twenty-six drinks for Vash) later
"I've never gotten lost in the desert."
Meryl said. Once again, everyone else drank.
Wolfwood was beyond bemused now. "How in god's name are you doing that?"
"In any case, it's my turn again." Wolfwood said. "Let's see. . .I've never been beaten up over a loudspeaker before."
"Could you please not tease me about that?"
"If you were going to let yourself get creamed, you might as well have turned the damn speaker off. Save yourself at least some embarrassment."
"It wasn't currently the top priority on my mind."
"And while we're on the subject, you still haven't payed me back for that bill."
"I think we'll call it a draw after this."
Eight minutes (twenty-seven drinks for Vash) later
"I've never locked myself in the bathroom."
"HOW do you KNOW that?!" Vash and Wolfwood both exploded at once.
"Wow, ma'am. . .you're getting very good at this." Milly took a drink.
Ten minutes (we've stopped counting drinks) after that
"I've never gotten sick from drinking."
"Damn you, Wolfwood!"
"I've never crashed a car."
"Will you two ever leave me alone?!"
"I've never eaten an entire can of whipped
cream in one spray."
Vash and Milly both drank.
"Is that even possible?!" Meryl gaped.
"Of course," Milly laughed, waving her hand like it was the stupidest question in the world. She hiccupped shortly afterwards. "You just have to make sure you don't inhale through your nose while you're doing it or-"
"ALL RIGHT! I BELIEVE YOU!"
Exactly one hour after the start of the game
Meryl watched Vash take his drink for the last question,
noting that he'd been drinking much less than he had during the first few
questions. Obviously, he knew as well as everyone else his limits.
And how far beyond them he had already gone.
It had always confused her as to how someone who drank as much as he did had such low tolerance. It had crossed her mind once or twice that it could be because he was so thin. But the moment she'd think that, she'd remember the image of him bare-chested. . .and dismiss her theory. He was thin. . .but he wasn't. . .thin. . . .
She pushed those thoughts out of her mind. That experience had been nothing short of disturbing. And not because of the countless scars he wore.
It disturbed her because of what he'd said, and how she'd responded.
I don't really like girls to see this. They'd run away.
No. . .no they wouldn't.
"Ma'am!" Milly piped up. "It's your turn again!" She was poised by her glass already.
Meryl sighed. Despite the fact that her friend had an equally low tolerance to alcohol as Vash, she always enjoyed herself. Even if she got stark raving drunk.
An epiphany suddenly hit her. It was stupid, and utterly illogical, but maybe. . .could it be they were both so weak to alcohol because they were both so childish? Maybe Vash simply let himself be taken the way he always was because he was trying to keep up that innocent façade. It was a thought. . . .
"Ma'am?" Milly blinked at her, hiccupping.
Beside her, she heard Vash shift uncomfortably. He was already reaching towards his drink, wavering a bit as he did so. His aquamarine eyes had taken on the ultra-ditzy sparkle they always got when he was either girl-crazy or drunk. She was surprised he hadn't whipped out his bandanna and tried to dance on a table yet.
He seemed rather sedate tonight.
Maybe I'll spare both of them this time. . . .
"I've never. . ." she fumbled for an idea, "never. . .sleepwalked to the bathroom."
Wolfwood and Milly both looked up in shock, then looked at each other.
"She spared us." Wolfwood said, blinking in confusion.
Meryl cracked a small smile. It disappeared when she saw Vash had taken a drink.
Wolfwood gave a short laugh, which died a few seconds after it hit air. "You. . ." he stammered, "you've actually done that?"
Vash gave a smile. "It's not so unbelievable. You've already caught me on much worse." He shrugged lightly, still smiling. "I have nightmares sometimes, that's all. I think I woke up in the tub." He chuckled. "One time, I actually jumped out of a window."
The conversation ended there. The game progressed soon after, but the tone was noticeably different. Even Milly seemed somewhat off. Almost like she'd suddenly become sober and tired all at once. Vash was pretty much the same.
And Meryl. . .felt like something cold and hard had settled in the bottom of her stomach, weighting her insides down and giving her a sick, heavy sensation in her chest. She couldn't take her eyes off of Vash.
That question had not been meant for anyone to answer. She'd prided herself in knowing her opponants well. When she'd wanted them to drink, they did. The same should have been true for the opposite. But Vash had always been a somewhat confusing person, she told herself. After all. . .he wouldn't tell them a thing about his past. . .wouldn't even tell them how old he was. Where he came from. Nothing.
But she'd always thought she knew enough, just from learning his character on her own. It had only occurred to her a few months ago, after the incident with Monev, how little about him she really knew. But she'd thought then that, with persistence, she might drive the whole story out, and write a decent, if not detailed, report.
But now it was becoming clear to her that there were things she might never understand, let alone know, about the sixty billion dollar man.
For one, she thought with a lump in her throat, why he always smiles like that. Sometimes, she felt like crying just watching him. Wolfwood had seen it, too. She'd seen the disapproving, often disturbed glances he gave Vash sometimes. Actually, he was regarding him with one right now.
"Well," the Priest stretched and stood up, pretty stable on his feet considering he'd downed about two and a half bottles already. "I think it's time we turn in. After all. . .we have children we need to watch, and you know how children are. They wake up at six in the morning, and they're immediately hungry. We'd better get some rest to work off all the-"
"Wait!" Milly spoke up. "I have one more!"
Wolfwood shrugged. "Go ahead, big girl." He sat back down with a smile. "No one's stopping you."
Milly grinned. "I've been waiting til' the end of the game s'pecially for this one." She leaned forward. "I've never been caught making out in an outhouse."
"You just had to finish me off, didn't you?" Vash grumbled, reaching for his drink. He brought it up to his lips and saw that Milly was still grinning from ear to ear, but not in his direction. "Hn?" He blinked. "I don't get it. . .what's so-" he nearly dropped his glass when he realized what had happened.
Meryl had taken a drink.
She was blushing furiously and looking at the floor as she did it, but nonetheless. . . .
Vash burst out laughing.
"It's not fair." Meryl mumbled. "She only knew because we were in the same school. . . ."
Vash was struggling to breathe.
"You GO, BIG GIRL!" Wolfwood laughed uproariously, "You got her! All right!" He and Milly exchanged high-fives.
"He was. . .just a silly boyfriend. . . ." Meryl muttered, trying to get over her embarrassment. Damn that Milly!
She realized abruptly that Vash had actually stopped laughing. She soon learned why.
He'd passed out.
Right in her lap.
Wolfwood sighed, "Guess the alcohol finally got him. He held out longer than I thought he would." He mused thoughtfully, then stood up turned to gather the rest of the bottles. Milly got up, too, nearly falling over as she did, but managing none the less. She swaggered out the doorway.
"G'night, ma'am!" She called back, hiccupping again. Wolfwood followed her.
"W-wait!" She called out. "Where are you going?"
"I'm gonna check on the kids, then I'm taking up my residence in the hallway and getting some shuteye." Wolfwood said. "Why?"
"Aren't you going to help me move Vash?" She demanded.
Wolfwood shrugged. "He's used to sleeping where he falls. Why move him?"
"Because he's in my LAP, that's why!"
"So punch him or something." Wolfwood yawned. "He'll wake up eventually."
Meryl watched him leave in utter disbelief. What was she supposed to do now? She could try and move Vash, but for all she knew, she might give him a concussion. Or something. And as much as she hated to admit it, she couldn't bring herself to punch him when he was down. At least not now, anyway. If he was conscious, it would be another matter. And that shouldn't happen for awhile.
But, as Vash sometimes had a tendency to do, he woke up prematurely.
Meryl's reaction was immediate. With all the might she could muster, she tipped her legs and threw him off. Vash hit the floor with a groan.
"Don't ever do that again, you broom-headed pervert!" Meryl growled at him.
"I'm sorry." Vash's voice was muffled by the floor. He pushed himself up, smiling again. "I can't always pre-determine where I pass out."
"You should!" Meryl said angrily. "It happens often enough."
Vash stood up, using the table for support, and walked towards the doorway.
Meryl felt like cursing herself. She'd done it again. Shut him out just when she might have had a moment to understand something. . .anything more about him. And she'd forced that damn smile back on his face again.
"Vash!" She called out, getting up and walking after him. He turned around, regarding her with a pair of very tired, dilated eyes. The room had gotten so dark. But for some reason, the greenish centers of his eyes always seemed to be visible, no matter how little light was provided for her to see them.
"Vash. . ." she stammered, ". . .I'm sorry."
He gave a short laugh, and they began to walk down the hallway. "For what? It was my fault for drinking too much to begin with."
"You wouldn't have had to if I hadn't said all those things."
He shrugged. "That's what the game was about."
She sighed. She didn't want Vash to take the blame for this one. But it was stupid to bring it up anymore. So instead, she just kept walking by his side. Maybe one day, under more ideal circumstances, she'd be able to prod a bit beneath his surface. For tonight, she'd already done enough
"You know," she muttered, "I lied."
"I lied during the game." She said. "There was something else I should have drunk to."
"Oh, really?" He paused for a moment. "Which one?"
"I'm not telling."
Vash was silent for a few moments. They continued to walk.
"I lied, too." He said after some time. "Something I shouldn't have said."
He grinned. "I'm not telling."