Faith and Donuts
/// Spoilers abound for info learned up to episode 1-23 of the anime, even though this takes place chronologically before episode 23. Corrections of fact welcome; I'm mostly going by the anime which is what I've seen more of, but there may be facts from the manga. Note, I'm not translating "Tongari" -- Wolfwood's nickname for Vash-- since I really couldn't find a good English equivalent, but the literal trans. is something along the lines of "Pointy" or "Pointed", I'm told.. Trigun of course, doesn't belong to me ^_^ so don't sue me. Please do not take this fic or archiveit or copy it without written permission from firstname.lastname@example.org. Constructive criticism and comments always wanted, as we are always in the process of rewriting here ;) //
They were sober in an instant, sensible men and not drunken idiots half-sprawled in their own liquor- soaked drool like they'd been moments before. Even if the high-pitched wail hadn't cut through the thick alcoholic fog lying heavy on their minds, Nicholas D. Wolfwood was sure the man he'd been drinking with -- one Vash the Stampede, $$60,000,000,000 man -- would have known someone next door needed their help. He'd seemed wary all night, his typical goofy behavior always mildly restrained by something that he wasn't talking about. His green eyes had gone to the far wall more than once. Nicholas had been paying attention, even after they finished off their third fifth of vodka.
Another cry cut the air, easily breaching the thin walls. They were in the hallway by then, dim yellow lamplight lighting the dingy brown walls, and other people were fearfully peering from behind their barely cracked doors. Wolfwood felt his blood rushing, familiar adrenaline bringing a heady peace, and he felt for the Grader handgun concealed in his clothing, sorry he didn't have the Cross Punisher at easy access. He kicked in the door, his long, gangly legs deceitfully hiding the strength it required. Vash rushed in ahead of him, apparently unarmed. Cursing under his breath he followed, but Vash blocked him, standing full in the doorway. The tower of Vash's spiky yellow broom-hair and the relative darkness of the room concealed any view Wolfwood might have gotten.
"Tongari, move your ass," he scowled. Someone was practically being murdered in there . . .
"Ah, Wolfwood." Vash didn't turn, but his voice was cheerfully disarming, "Could you go see if Meryl and Milly are ok?"
"NOW?? What's going on, pinhead?"
There was another scream from inside the room, and Wolfwood felt his guts freeze when he realized it was a child's voice. The noise was abruptly muffled, and a man hollered, "Get the fuck outta here, or I'll kill the kid!"
Still frozen, Wolfwood watched Vash put his hands up, and he was sure he was smiling, even though he couldn't see the goofy blonde's face. "Well you see, Mister, it's a bit difficult for us to sleep with all this noise . . . ah . . . so . . ."
God damn! Always trying to talk his way out of things. Thought he could solve things with just words. "CRIPES, Vash!" Nicholas shoved past roughly, tangling up only momentarily with Vash, then knocking him aside.
He had his gun against the man's head before he knew exactly what had happened. He only saw the kid, bruises all over her face, underwear halfway down, and then all the alcohol rushed back through his veins, fury blinding him. He had been there once, and he had only had one way out.
"Don't interfere, pinhead!" Nicholas's finger twitched in the trigger. Why was he hesitating? What did Vash know about anything? He was idealistic, like a child-- as if he had not seen the blood and suffering, the sin and inescapability of sin, as if he had not suffered by other's hands. He wanted some world of peace that couldn't possibly exist! Wolfwood had known the way of the gun since seven. It was simplicity. It was justice. It would defend him and protect him and send away the cruel world the way no parent had.
But then Vash was at his side, an uncharacteristic line between his brows. "Listen to me, Wolfwood. You don't need to kill him."
"Like hell I don't . . . Men like this garbage . . .!" He scowled at the shaking man who had sweat on his fat upper lip and dirty clothes stained with sweat-yellow. His eyes flickered to the girl, who had curled up and was crying. "Yo, Tongari, get her out of here."
The blonde balked, lingering at Wolfwood's heel. "Don't do it. Don't do it, Wolfwood."
"Dammit, Tongari! Just get her out!"
And then his finger twitched, even though he was always in control, even though he did not want to suffer the child to witness anyone's death, even though he did not want Vash to suffer that sight. He jerked back as the bullet tore through the man, splattering the room with red. "Christ!" It took him a moment to realize the man was not dead, just in shock from the bullet through his shoulder, and that Vash's hand was on his elbow. "Shit. . . Shit." It was hard to make himself look into that overly-expressive face, but he did it. He was surprised to see understanding there.
The little girl was wailing harder than ever, and Vash looked over at her and smiled.
"Hey, little princess, want a donut?" He was crouched down, and from out of nowhere in his red jacket, produced a slightly crushed French cruller. She shushed up, blinking at him through thick dark lashes. "I was saving it for myself, but . . ." He held the donut out towards her, but she jerked away from him, and Wolfwood felt his heart sink as he watched that rare, genuine smile fade from Vash's face.
"Told ya you have no touch with kids," he said lamely. He was surprised at the guilt that tightened his chest. He blamed it on the emotional liberator of three bottles of vodka -- drinking was a no good dirty habit anyways. He had a lot of those.
Vash gave a false laugh and rubbed the back of his head. "I guess not." He rested his hands on his hips, a cheerful, if concerned, expression hiding his less positive thoughts.
Nicholas glanced at the man fallen in the corner. He should have killed him, and he shouldn't have been feeling bad about it. What kind of a weak-willed shit was he becoming, hanging around this "Humanoid Typhoon"? "Humanoid Buffoon" was more like it. He looked to the kid, and she cringed back into the wall. Anger flared up again. Not even he would be able to coax her to come with him. Maybe the insurance girls; maybe she'd feel better around a woman who wouldn't . . .
He tore himself away from those thoughts. "I'll get the girls."
Vash nodded, and he escaped, not looking back into the room. He didn't have far to go; the commotion had reached Milly and Meryl in their room down the hall, and they were rushing towards him.
"What's going on?" demanded Meryl. "Why can't we go anywhere and sleep through the entire night?! Vash is a trouble magnet!!"
Wolfwood shoved his hands in his pockets, making himself appear casual. "Vash needs your help with some kid back there . . . "
Milly looked at him, wonder on her childish face. "But I thought you liked kids, Mr. Priest?"
"Yeah. So?" He found a crumpled cigarette in his pocket, a stray from a pack he'd left on the room table, and put it between his lips. Watching the flame dance on the tip of his match was a good distraction, if only for a few breaths; it gave him time to think. "Well? Vash is waiting," he snapped, a little harsher than he meant to.
He watched them go in, silent.
It took some time to gain the child's trust, even with the girls. She came out sobbing in Milly's arms, face buried in straight honey-brown hair. Vash followed behind, still trying at cheering the girl up, making odd faces and jokes. Wolfwood managed a smile for their odd little procession, and fell in step with them. "Is she--?"
Vash shook his head. "He lured her away from her parents when their backs were turned with he promise of candy."
Wolfwood let out a long breath. He wouldn't have to take another kid back to his orphanage. "Sounds like you and your damned donuts."
A stilted laugh passed between the two of them, and Vash glanced back, tearing his attention away from the girl. "You okay?"
Wolfwood only shrugged in reply.
"Thanks for not--"
"Don't mention it." He cocked his half-smoked cigarette at Vash, and quirked a somber smile. "I mean it. You know what it'll do to my reputation with the girls."
He let himself into his room after that, where he and a bottle of Whiskey made friends and dreamed away the bad times of the past.
He woke up cold, his sheets tangled around his feet, his half-open shirt caught over one shoulder. The moons were still high in the dark sky, and the bad aftertaste of nightmares clung to his sleep. Light glinted off the empty liquor bottles left from earlier that night.
He couldn't remember his dreams, only that they were of the first man he'd ever shot.
A bad man, bent over him. A bad man who made a miserable existence twice as intolerable. A trigger that had been as easy to pull as breathing: no hesitation, no worries.
Outside his window, the stars winked at him. He found a pack of cigarettes, put one in his mouth and sucked in the harsh smoke that it offered to him. His nerves crackled, and he sucked harder. "Why did you stop me, Tongari?" The empty room offered no answer, no consolation. He stood, pacing, restless. Was Vash sleepless, as he was? From what he'd seen, the pointy-haired blonde seemed to be able to sleep regardless of any guilt that seemed to weight so heavy behind his eyes. And the little girl? Was she like him? Would she remember that man with hate in her heart, with a need for security? Or had they come in time? Would her parents be able to hold her, soothe away the cruelty and offer her that safety that he'd never had?
He didn't know. In his entire life he'd been certain of only one thing. He must do what was right for the children.
Men like the one he'd let go today should not be allowed to continue their crimes. The little girl should never have to suffer nightmares of that scum coming after her. She should never have to want to live a life of the gun and sin to make herself feel secure in the world again. No child should have to!
He wanted -- he needed to find that man and make sure he would never repeat his sin.
Nicholas followed the path of moonlight to the always calming sight of his Cross Punisher, resting in a corner. His fingers twitched. A Grader would certainly be enough to take out such a pathetic man, but he found himself moving to take up the massive cloth-bound cross. A bitter little smile pulled at his downwards-curving mouth. At the very least, perhaps the sight of it would make the man pray for redemption before he met his death.
He dropped his cigarette, crushing it beneath the ball of his foot. Wolfwood felt a moment's hesitation as he hefted the Cross Punisher over his shoulder, but he shoved it away. He wouldn't let the face of that man haunt him. He wouldn't let Vash stop him this time; there was no reason to let this man live. Vash was wrong. There was only one choice, one path for his life. He had to do this. He had to protect the children, no matter the cost.
There was no choice. He shoved the door of his rented room open, and the sight of the table where he and Vash had sat drinking and talking paused him. He shook his head, and then stepped into the hallway.
He moved quietly down the corridor, a silent dark shape, lean and thin and rangy like some black cat. He was careful to avoid walking anywhere near the room Vash slept in. The man had the alertness necessary for any gunman. He could be certain Vash would hear him and follow him, if he hadn't been suspicious of it already. He'd have to keep an eye out for the damn do-gooder.
Wolfwood stepped out into the streets. They were empty, late enough in the night that no one of any scrupulous purpose would be out. The Cross Punisher weighted heavier than usual on his back. Heh. "Full of Mercy." He pulled it closer, adjusting its position, flexing his fingers against the straps.
"It's the right thing," he told himself. "I am right. HE is wrong."
It could be so simple, when he believed it. The canvas-wrapped weight against his left shoulder blade rubbed comfortingly. He pushed open the door to the sheriff's station, snorting with amusement when Vash's face stared pleasantly back at him when he stepped inside.
He tore down the wanted poster, shaking his head at the bad rendition of the blonde under the proffered $$60,000,000,000 sum. "Won't stop tryin' to stop me, will ya, eh Tongari?" He grinned briefly, stuffing the paper into his pocket.
He almost reached for his own weapon, but stopped himself. The speaker was bound to be an innocent after all; he might as well try to resolve this the way that idiot would -- try and talk his way in. He put on a smile, and stood up, turning around. Wolfwood looked up to see a sleepy, blinking constable trying to focus on him from behind a rusty old piece. From the condition of it, it didn't look like it would fire even after any amount of cleaning and repair.
The constable startled lightly as he focused. His voice was thick with sleepiness. "Preacher?"
Nicholas set down the weight of his cross, letting the base rest against the floor. He leaned against it lightly, giving the constable a friendly smile. "Pleasant night, isn't it?"
The constable lowered his gun, but didn't put it away. "Is there something I can help you with, preacher?"
Wolfwood shrugged casually. "I was asked for by a certain new prisoner here. Seems like he'd like to confess his sins?"
"It's awful late for that, inn't , preacher?" The constable rubbed at one stubbly cheek with the back of his hand, his eyes narrowing a bit. "Can't you come back for that tomorrow?"
Another lie came easily. "I'm only passing through. I'm due in the next town over by tomorrow morning. I meant to be here earlier, but a young widower kept me a bit longer after her husband's funeral rites than I'd intended." He favored the constable with an appropriately lecherous grin.
"I don't see why some confession's so important, Mr. Preacher. Can't he just go without then?"
Nicholas pretended to give it some thought. He honestly didn't want to cause more trouble than was needed or cause any more hurt to innocents. He extended his hand to the constable, as if in good faith. "Well, it is late. I'm sorry to have bothered you."
When the man accepted the handshake, Wolfwood muttered, "Sorry," and knocked him hard across the back of the neck. He caught the constable as he went limp, settling him into a nearby chair. "But I have to do this."
He lifted the keys off of a hook in the back of the room, and slipped down the short corridor between the four holding cells. His dark suit blended easily with the shadows, and even with the heavy weight of the cross, he moved stealthily, so that the man in the cell did not wake even when he stood just before the door. The Cross Punisher made a soft thud as he let it slide to the ground, counterbalancing his weight against it. The man continued to snore, fleshy white face slack in rest. Wolfwood hated that he slept so peacefully. His mouth curled disdainfully, and he unlocked the door, quickly crossing the cell.
He stood over the man, suddenly feeling dimly foolish for bringing along his Cross Punisher. Firing it into this pathetic example of humanity would certainly have been overkill. He braced the heavy cross with one hand, and reached into his jacket for his Grader in its shoulder holster.
One bullet. One bullet would bring justice here. "Get up, you pig," he growled low. Shooting a man in his sleep was not something he'd do if he could help it. "Get up!"
The man startled, sitting up and jerking when he was pressed back into the hard prison bed with a gun to his forehead. His mouth opened, and the beginnings of a scream worked their way up his throat. Nicholas killed that by clicking the safety off of his gun. "Don't scream."
"A priest?" The man's eyes were filled with confusion. Wolfwood wondered if he even remembered him from earlier. He pressed his Grader harder against the man's forehead. He drew himself up, a dominating figure, tall and lanky and broad shouldered, supporting a cross as tall as he was and as thick as his leg. He knew it was an intimidating sight.
"May God have mercy on your soul."
He was startled by the man's struggling, and was knocked back, the weight of the Cross Punisher both sending him off balance and offering him support to recover. The Grader spun out of his grip, sliding across the cell, and something clattered from his pocket to the ground. Reflexively, he had the Cross Punisher freed of its binding straps and canvas in no time, machine-gun end open and pointed at the man. It was an unorthodox weapon, but Wolfwood knew everyone recognized it for what it was-- death. The man froze instantly. His eyes darted around for escape, and for a moment, rested on the keys and something else on the floor.
For some reason Nicholas glanced down at what it was, even though he should have simply pulled the trigger and ended the man's life.
Vash's ridiculous face stared back at him, too serious for himself under the row of zeros.
//Thanks for not--//
For not killing him. For restraining himself. For not taking a life.
Why was it so damned important, Vash? What was this miserable man worth to the world? If he was dead, he would be free to do more harm to children, and Wolfwood could not allow that. From that moment so many years ago, hadn't he sworn that no child should suffer as he had? Hadn't he been right to wield his gun as he had chosen it? He did what was right, even if methods had been forced questionable, he would do what was right for the children. Why did he suddenly care what some do-gooder thought of him?
Why couldn't he pull the goddamn trigger?
This had been so damn simple before he met that idiot Tongari.
//You sure are making a big effort over murdering some jerk.//
Murder. Funny, it sounded different in his head this time. Murder, not just justice.
But what choice did he have? After all this? How could he guarantee that this wouldn't be allowed to happen again? He didn't have that faith in words, the way Vash did.
He didn't have faith. Heh. Funny a man of the cloth-- or posing as one-- saying that. At this moment, he had more faith that Vash would have donuts for breakfast than he had in those things that had kept him going all his life. Vash had more faith in people -- in Nicholas himself-- than he did.
He didn't like thinking that Vash had faith in him. What did the old pinhead see to trust in him? And what would happen when he found out that Wolfwood himself was with the enemy - with Knives? That he was one of the Gung-Ho guns, a murderer, killing so that his orphanage would get money and that 2000 kids would have a place to live and would get to live at all.
The man in front of him suddenly doubled over, retching in fear, unable to keep still despite the massive weapon pointed at him. Nicholas glowered at the man with undisguised disgust.
"Why did you touch that little girl? Steal her from her family?"
"I know it's wrong," the man blubbered. "I just . . . she was so pretty in her little skirt . . ."
"Do you know," Wolfwood snarled, "The nightmares she will have?" His fingers twitched in the skull- shaped trigger mechanism, but he held himself back, still. "Remembering what you've done for the rest of her life? Do you know how long those bruises you gave her will last, even when they're faded from her skin?"
The muzzle of his gigantic weapon pressed in closer to the man's face, and he cowered against the wall, still sniveling. But there was only fear in his demeanor, no real apology. Nicholas lowered the Cross Punisher, his eyes narrowing.
Thinking Wolfwood was going to let him live, the man babbled something incoherent, overwhelmed with relief.
"You wanna repeat that?"
"S-Said I knew you'd unn'erstand . . . Hard to resist . . . so hard to resist . . . so pretty . . ."
Wolfwood didn't blink as he raised the Cross Punisher and pulled the trigger.
* * *
He waited for them outside of the sheriff's station. Waited for Vash, specifically. He didn't bother returning the cross to its cloth trappings, just leaned it against the wall and leaned himself next to it. A cigarette helped soothe something that wouldn't quite settle inside of him. He didn't know if Milly or Meryl would understand why he did what he did, but he knew Vash wouldn't. The pointy-haired boy-scout would have to be his conscience, lecturing him, questioning his actions. Making him feel guilty.
Trouble was, he already felt guilty, without Vash's condemnations.
He wondered if he always had, if he'd just grown numb to it all over time and as the blood accumulated on his hands. Or maybe it'd been that before he met Vash, he'd had some faith that what he did was right, and now it was all screwed up. Dammit. Damn Tongari and his "Love and Peace" crap.
"Mr. Priest! Mr. Priest--!" Milly was breathless when she reached him, broad shoulders heaving. "Mr. Priest, what happened? Miss and I heard gunshots!"
Wolfwood dropped his cigarette to the dusty ground and crushed it under his heel. He treated her to a casual grin. "I exorcised a demon."
Her eyes went immediately wide, youngest-child gullibility overwhelming. He found it charming, in a way. She was a lot like Vash in that regards, easy innocence masking a keener mind underneath. Although with Milly, sometimes it was easy to miss her moments of enlightened observation.
"Miss" on the other hand, was another story. Meryl stormed up on Milly's heel, gathering herself up for anger like a storm cloud swelling with rain. "What's going on?" she demanded, coming to a stop just beside her towering partner. "Are you causing trouble again? Vash doesn't sleep enough without having to chase after you."
"But Miss, Mr. Priest said he got a demon!"
"Milly!" Meryl gave a disappointed sigh. "There's no such thing as demons!"
Wolfwood snorted. "You just don't see them cos you scare 'em all off."
"Whaa--! Why you--!"
Nicholas stopped listening at that point, because a certain broom-haired blonde arrived, looking slightly rumpled and newly-woken, but serious nonetheless. Wolfwood decided he didn't like Vash to look serious. It made him feel guilty, even if he hadn't done anything. He wanted that goofy smile, that genuine one that was hidden so often. When Vash smiled like that, it seemed like everyone else in the room lit up just to match that sunlight.
Wolfwood knew he wasn't going to get any smiles tonight. He met Vash's questioning look without repentance, mouth set firm, just the corners curled up in the faintest hint of a defiance.
"What happened?" Vash asked him, but Wolfwood knew by the tone of his voice that he knew anyways.
"Just like I said." He gave Milly another mischievous grin, and gestured melodramatically. "As a man of God must, I have exorcised a demon."
He was surprised when Vash grabbed him by the wide lapels of his shirt and shoved him back into the wall, twitching with barely restrained anger. Then just as suddenly, he was dropped, and Vash was looking at him with something close to resignation. Close, but not quite. "Do you feel better now?"
"No." Painful to admit, but honest. He felt irritation building up inside of him, but only because he knew Vash'd been right from the beginning. "No, so you should be happy."
"I'm not," Vash said softly. "But it still wasn't right. It's not right to take a life, for any reason. He had a family, friends, people who love him."
"So did that girl! And she has to live-- live with what that asshole did--"
Vash didn't reply, just looked at him straight, green eyes strangely piercing.
"This way no other kid has to go through that shit-- That guy wasn't just going to go to jail and get better. He was a monster!" Wolfwood scowled. "Dammit, Tongari," he swore. His hand automatically found the central grip of the Cross Punisher. "If you're pissed you might as well say so. It pisses me off that you just won't say so."
He heard Milly make a startled noise, and only then he realized he was pointing the opened weapon at Vash.
"Don't you--" Meryl burst out, her face reddening as she ran to Vash's side. Wolfwood watched the other man calmly move her away.
"Are you going to kill me as well, Wolfwood," he asked softly, "Because I don't fit the way you look at things?"
"Tongari- Of course not." Nicholas lowered his weapon, but his eyes narrowed. He hadn't meant it at all, didn't know why he'd subconsciously wanted to threaten Vash. He let out an unfunny laugh. "Hell, *I* know I can't make the whole world what I believe." The flinch he drew with that deliberate barb didn't make him feel like any less of a shit.
"I should have stopped you. I knew . . . that you might go after that man anyways. But I hoped . . ." Vash reached towards him, grabbed his wrist. Wolfwood almost jerked back. "You dropped this." He put Wolfwood's fallen Grader into his hand, then released his wrist. Wolfwood watched him wordlessly as he turned and walked towards the girls, yawning as if everything was alright. He was suddenly cheerful again. "I need my beauty sleep!" he complained to them. "Let's get donuts tomorrow, OK?"
Wolfwood looked down at the Grader in his hand and felt his stomach lurch. Vash had been in there, at some point, been in there and seen the body, seen what he had done, his act of murder. His knees went weak under him, and he braced himself against Cross for support. "What did you hope, Tongari?" He tried to repeat it louder, but his voice seemed stifled by some lump in his throat. "What did you hope?"
Vash had tried to have faith in him, but he had proved himself not worth it. Somehow, that hurt him more than even the guilt that had taken gnawing residence in his guts.
When the sun rose, he had taken Angelina and gone.
* * *
Wolfwood woke up hung over, a ringing in his ears that he couldn't source. He sat up, then immediately wished he hadn't. His back cracked loudly and he swiped at a drying streak of drool on his cheek. He certainly wasn't any Prince Charming in the morning. He snorted at the thought, eyeing the empties strewn across the little table in one corner of the wretched rented room.
Among the varied colors of glass, there was a box of donuts. Nicholas grinned to himself. "Trust that Tongari to..."
Then he remembered that he'd drunk himself stupid alone, and he wasn't quite sure how he'd come by the donuts, because he'd left Vash far behind him. Queasiness swirled up from his stomach, and he stumbled towards the exit, hoping to make it outside before he made more of a mess of himself. His still-shoed feet managed to tangle in the sheets, though, and he crashed into the pounded dirt floor with a curse. He curled up around his protesting midsection, moaning a bit for good measure. This was good, real good, he told himself. Here he was, on the floor of a dirty room, almost as dirty himself, stinking hung over and miles away from the few people who might give a shit. Milly would be sympathetic, offering coffee and maybe a bite of something to settle his stomach. She was such a dear. He would even welcome Meryl's scolding. As for Vash... He'd be more shit-faced than Wolfwood was, but somehow still managing to be cheery even when his head was being used as church bells by a million invisible dwarves.
Wolfwood took a deep breath, running his hands once over the flatness of his own stomach. God... he felt shitty. He knew he had to go back; he had orders from Vash's own brother in that respect, and if he cared at all for those kids back in December City, in his own orphanage... he had better listen to Knives. But besides orders, he had to go back.
He owed as much to Vash. Face him, and apologize.
Did he really need to apologize? He had done the right thing, hadn't he?
He made a disgusted noise, rolling over, forcing himself to stand. Enough pointless angsting. He made a choice, and he had to stand by it. In the end, everyone would end up in the same damn place anyways. Vash may have been right, for himself. But Wolfwood knew what was good for Wolfwood. He just...
Nicholas smoothed out his rumpled clothes, found himself a cigarette, and put on his shades. He admired the Cross Punisher briefly before hoisting it up again. He would go back and hopefully everything would be forgotten, if not forgiven. Nothing was forgiven on this shitty planet. But they would go on, and he would swallow his guilt, and maybe some day Vash might trust him again, stupid as that was. And if it turned into some big confrontation, well, it may be that he'd be stuck keeping an eye on Vash from farther away.
He didn't want that. But if Vash didn't want a murderer like him around, he could keep his distance.
He paused before he left to grab a donut out of the box. Hell, he didn't even think his stomach could handle it this early, but he wanted one anyways. He didn't let himself care why.
He was halfway down the porch steps when he sensed someone watching. He looked up, one hand hovering casually within quick-draw distance. He wasn't fast enough though, to stop the dark-gloved hand that swiped the donut out of his mouth.
"Heyyy!" he managed, before he saw who took it. "Tongari. Shoulda known. You could smell a donut from a 50,000 iles away." Vash smiled warmly back at him, happily munching. Nicholas favored him with a full-on scowl. "Sure, steal a sick man's breakfast."
"Hey, *I* paid for them." Meryl's voice made him wince slightly. "Vash insisted we leave them for you since you didn't wake up no matter what we did. But he's been waiting out here for you all morning."
"For the donuts, you mean," Wolfwood said dryly.
"Why'd you come all the way out here, Mr. Priest?" Milly stood behind her partner, and he was surprised that all three of them could have been standing there and he hadn't noticed. He must be really damn hung over. He rubbed at the bridge of his nose.
"Couldn't sleep." He ignored Meryl's dismissive snort.
By then Vash had finished his donut, and was attempting to peer past Wolfwood for more. He stepped aside obligingly. "The whole box is still there." Vash was in and back out with the box in his arms faster than Wolfwood could blink. He couldn't help but let himself crack a bit of a grin at Vash's pricelessly pleased expression. "You look like an idiot, I hope you know."
Vash beamed back at him. Mouth still full of cake, he turned to the insurance girls. "Mff ffmf mmmmff mfmm mf?"
"Sure Mr. Vash!" Milly replied enthusiastically. Meryl and Wolfwood just stared. "Miss, let's go look in that pastries shop again while we do that, ok?"
Meryl groaned. "Do what? What did he say? Why do you want more food?" Milly dragged her off, happily debating what sort of pudding she might be able to get in town. It made Wolfwood forget, almost, the queasy feeling in his stomach that didn't come from the alchohol.
"Donut?" Vash offered. He looked more serious, but the smile wasn't gone.
Nicholas shrugged. "Sure, what the hell." He picked the donut out of Vash's fingers, stared at it a while. "Must have been a long walk out here," he said lamely. He took a bite out of the donut; it tasted stale. He never liked the damn things as much as Vash, anyways. Hell, no one could like them as much as Vash.
"Not really," Vash replied cheerily. "The sheriff drove us out here."
"What, he wasn't pissed to find a dead guy in his jail?"
". . . ."
Wolfwood glanced back at Vash, who looked at him, mouth full again. He snorted, found himself a cigarette, and lit up.
"It's sad," Vash said after he swallowed. "Sometimes people are glad when other people die. I don't really understand it."
"Come on Vash, the guy was a piece of shit."
Vash only shrugged. Wolfwood stared at the cigarette between his fingers, at the donut in his other hand. "You can't be that blind," he managed, but the venom had drained out of him. He didn't feel anything good thinking of that man. He was glad that the man was dead, that he wouldn't hurt any more kids, but dammit... He didn't like feeling awkward around Vash because of it. "I just couldn't stand the thought-- I mean-- even you have to --"
He was startled by Vash's hand resting on his shoulder. "It's O.K."
They exchanged a long look. Nicholas let his cigarette drop to the ground, absently grinding it under his heel, and briefly touched Vash's fingers.
Both men grinned. Wolfwood protested, "You're just saying that to get my donut."
He was tempted to shove the entire thing into his mouth at once, but instead, he handed it over. "So now you owe me."
"Now we're even," Vash managed, before doing a dissapearing act with the pastry.
Wolfwood's mouth quirked. "Yeah. Thanks Tongari."
They grinned at each other again, and then quietly sat together, watching the sun in the high noon sky and waiting for the insurance girls. If there was nothing else he could have faith in, Nicholas thought, he'd always have faith in Vash and his damn donuts.