Title:The Drive Home
Timeline: Sandwiched somewhere between the end of chapter 3 and the middle of chapter 4 in After the Fall, which, for your edification, if you did not know, is a story I'm in the middle of writing.
Pairings: Vash/Meryl, Millie/Wolfwood
Genre: Deep Space Planet Future Gun Action
Rating: T- because it comes after 'S' but before 'U'
Archive: Please contact me for permission.
Disclaimer: Trigun, its characters and universe, are the intellectual property of their respective owners. I am merely borrowing for entertainment purposes. I make no claims of ownership, nor do I profit from my storytelling.
Summary: At the end of the third chapter of After the Fall, Wolfwood was 'resurrected' by Vash. In the middle of the fourth chapter they arrive back at the house previously shared by the insurance duo and the plant twins. What you're about to read is an excerpt from the drive home. Ever wonder what the boys talked about? Well, I did. So I wrote this one-shot.
A/N: After being a beta-reader for AbaddonNox's Do Young Priests Dream of Sacrificial Lambs, I have Wolfwood on the brain. So I suppose, this little one-shot is kind of a gift for her, 'cause I know how much she likes him. I don't know that she'll like how I've written him, but here's hoping! This story is un-beta-ed, so if it displeases you, you can blame me entirely. I probably should've at least had Sugar Pill take a look at it (her Vash/Wolfwood interactions being some of the best I've ever read), but both of my brilliant betas are already being crushed beneath the tenth chapter of After the Fall, which at last count was somewhere around 11,500 words. My poor girls!! I don't think they knew what they were getting into when they agreed to help me out. Reverently lights incense at beta shrine (the one next to the potato farm west of my sofa)
Additionally, I'm sorry that the title of this story is so lame. I couldn't come up with squat.
The Drive Home
They'd been driving for hours, and his companion had hardly said a word.
At first, Wolfwood had assumed it was because he'd finally managed to make Vash worry about what might be happening back at his temporary home, the possible consequences of leaving Knives alone with the girls wearing away at the gunman's confidence. But even after they'd found the site of the plant twins' latest battle and collected their respective weapons, Vash continued to stare off into space. He sat on the passenger side of the jeep, his elbow resting on the edge of the open window, cheek supported pensively on his knuckles. Wolfwood cleared his throat to get the broody gunman's attention.
"What is it?" Vash asked, turning towards the priest, his eyes unreadable behind the reflective glare of his gold and rose-toned glasses.
Wolfwood spared him an uncertain glance before turning back to the road. "You haven't said anything about..." he hesitated, unsure of how to say it. "You know I was lying to you that whole time? You know I was working for Knives."
"That?" Vash said, surprised. "I didn't really think it was worth mentioning."
"You didn't think it was worth mentioning!?" Wolfwood's voice rose to border a shout. Vash really was an expert at pissing him off. "I betrayed you, Spikey! Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
Vash grinned. That stupid, irritating half-smile. "No. Not really. I lied to you, as well. Don't you remember?"
Wolfwood turned to glare at Vash, his gaze leaving the road once more. With nothing but featureless sand for iles in every direction, it wasn't like he had to pay close attention to the path the jeep followed. With a scowl, he countered, "That's different. I purposely led you into danger."
Vash leaned back in the seat, interlocking his fingers and casually stretching his arm in front of him. "I was going there anyway. One way or another. We were both puppets."
Wolfwood shook his head. "I'll never understand how you think the way you do. How you just forgive everyone."
"Wolfwood!" Vash laughed. "You're my best friend. How am I gonna be mad at you?"
The priest stiffened slightly, surprised by the statement. "You're an idiot," he grumbled.
"You saved me," Vash continued, undaunted, "more than once. And you wanted to. And I... I nearly got you killed."
"Don't start that bullshit!" The jeep bounced as Wolfwood brought an accusing finger around to point in Vash's direction, the steering wheel jerking to the right as Wolfwood twisted in his seat. "This is not about you feeling guilty, alright? I made my own goddamn decisions! Don't cheapen that by making it about you!"
Vash blinked behind his sunglasses, gripping the dashboard with one hand as Wolfwood righted the jeep's course. He stared for a moment at the priest, who was frowning as he gripped the wheel with whitening knuckles.
"I'm sorry..." Vash extended cautiously into the silence between them.
"Would you just shut up!" Wolfwood shouted. "I swear to the Almighty, if you apologize for one more goddamn thing, I'm going to knock that needle noggin off your neck!"
"Sor..." Vash began, stopping himself as Wolfwood shot a warning glare over the top of his black shades. The gunman waved a hand between them, his other coming to rest reflexively at the back of his neck. He smiled broadly and Wolfwood responded with an ill-tempered grumble.
The men were silent once more, only this time Wolfwood could sense that is was Vash who was waiting for something to be said. Wolfwood decided to take the opportunity to broach a topic he'd so far been avoiding. "How's, uh," he started, clearing his throat before he continued, "How's the tall girl doing?"
Vash looked away. He'd known it was only a matter of time before the priest asked about Millie. Wolfwood's voice attempted an air of careful indifference, but even an objective listener would have seen straight through it. "Millie's been okay. She keeps herself busy. She..." Vash paused a moment, deciding to jump ahead to the part he knew Wolfwood both anticipated and dreaded hearing: "She's missed you."
Wolfwood cracked a humorless smile. "She never was very bright."
Vash knew the priest didn't mean it, that the insult was at his own expense, rather than the gentle insurance agent's, but he couldn't help the frown that creased his expression. "You can start over now, Wolfwood."
"Spikey," Wolfwood sighed impatiently, "you don't really believe it's that simple, do you?"
"Yeah," Vash smirked, "actually, I do."
Wolfwood couldn't respond, didn't even know where to start. It would just end up with them locked in the same argument they always had: Vash playing the naïve idealist to his embittered realist. The tables were in serious need of a turn.
"So, Spikey..." Wolfwood allowed a long moment for his wickedly placed grin to take its effect on the gunman, causing Vash to squirm uneasily. "You ever make a move on short-stuff?"
Vash scooted a little closer to his side of the jeep, the pitch of his voice rising slightly as he responded, "Why do you think...?"
"C'mon now, buddy! I'm your best friend," Wolfwood interrupted, using Vash's own words against him, "and a man of the cloth. You don't have to keep things from me."
"I... the thing about Meryl... she's..."
"I'll take that as a 'no'," Wolfwood concluded.
"I tried," Vash pouted, crossing his arm, "... sort of."
"And how did that go?" the priest encouraged patiently, enjoying the new direction in which he'd steered the conversation.
"She hit me," Vash mumbled, his cheeks burning red.
Wolfwood laughed loudly, slapping Vash's back. "You're killing me, Tongari! You really are a hopeless cause."
"Wolfwood?" Vash sighed dejectedly. "Do you know anything about girls?"
Wolfwood quirked a curious brow at the shy question, a worry-inducing smirk plastered across his face. "Such as?"
"Never mind," Vash hastily responded, turning his eyes back to the passing landscape. "Forget I said anything."
"Oh no, you don't!" Wolfwood said, clapping a hand on Vash's shoulder. "You already asked, and you've come to the right source, my friend. I'm a veritable encyclopedia when it comes to the topic of women."
Vash glanced at the grinning priest apprehensively, regretting his question more with every word that came out of Wolfwood's mouth.
"Don't look at me like that, Spikey." Wolfwood affected an expression that suggested his feelings had been hurt. "I'm trying to help. Honest."
Vash would have been more inclined to believe the man if he'd told him there was an ocean on the other side of the planet. However, he decided there couldn't be too much harm in just hearing the priest out. "Okay. What do you think?"
"Well, first off," Wolfwood began, settling into an air of confident authority, "with a woman like Meryl, it's probably better to have to apologize than to try and ask permission."
"What!?" Vash's eyes went wide in disbelief. "I'm not going to assault her!"
"Goddamn it, needle noggin!" Wolfwood clocked the back of Vash's head. "I'm scandalized that you'd even think I'd suggest such a thing! I'm just saying that Meryl will turn you down only if you give her the chance. She's stubborn, so you gotta make her think that it was all your idea. That she was merely a victim of circumstance."
"That sounds awfully underhanded," Vash stated skeptically.
"Love is underhanded!" Wolfwood exclaimed. "It's the principle on which the whole thing was founded! Haven't you figured that out yet!?"
Vash frowned. "I don't think I like your advice."
"Fine," Wolfwood grumbled. "Don't listen to me. You can just stay a whiny, clueless, lonely bastard the rest of your days."
"That's cold, preacher-man," Vash pouted.
"That's the truth!" Wolfwood continued, the responsibility of driving apparently forgotten as his arms gesticulated wildly. "Are you a man, or aren't you!?"
"Actually," Vash said, reaching out to grab control of the steering wheel, "I'm technically a 'plant'."
"Semantics," Wolfwood shrugged dismissively. "The point is that Meryl is a pushy broad, and if you're gonna have a chance, you've got to push back."
"Oh," Vash replied, feeling even less certain than before.
Wolfwood sighed, placing his hands back on the steering wheel. "Tell me the truth, Spikey: You don't have any experience with the fairer sex, do you?"
Vash turned away, frowning deeply and pushing his sunglasses higher on the bridge of his nose as he contemplated the wisdom of throwing the driver from a moving vehicle.
Wolfwood smirked smugly. "I'll take your pointed silence as an admission of guilt. It seems we've got to cover more ground on this topic than I initially thought."
Vash covered his ears with both hands, shrinking down in his seat. "Stop it, Wolfwood! I don't want anymore of your 'advice', okay?"
"Just one more thing," Wolfwood continued sagely, ignoring the blond's plea for silence. "Let's say you had a car, and you wanted to go somewhere, but it was a really cold night... Would you just turn the ignition and slam on the gas?"
"No," Vash said, confused by the priest's apparently sudden change in topic. "I'd start the engine and let it warm up for a while."
"Exactly!" Wolfwood excitedly affirmed with an approving pat on Vash's back. "Understand?"
Vash's eyebrows knotted in deep confusion. "Um... no?"
Wolfwood sighed loudly, rolling his eyes. He tried again: "Okay, well, let's just say that if you don't take the time to pre-heat the oven, you can't complain when dinner's only half done. Got it?"
Vash frowned even more deeply, shaking his head. "I have no idea what you're talking about!"
Wolfwood let out a sound that might have been an exasperated huff, but could have been a threatening growl. "I give up, Spikey! Come and talk to me when your sensibilities are a little less delicate."
Vash turned away, bringing his scowling chin to rest on his hand. He was grateful that the awkward 'man-to-man' had finally ended, but was left frustrated and puzzled. What the hell could ovens and cars possibly have to do with girls?