I decided that I just couldn't leave it un-spellchecked and unedited (the reason i was in such a hurry to post it that first time was that I was on a school computer and I had forgotten my flash drive that day so I couldn't save it... leaving me the choice of either posting it up as is or loosing all my work). So here it is, spell-checked, edited and reposted for your reading pleasure.

She watched the shadowy corner warily with one hand holding a shoe upraised, poised to strike at the first sign of movement.

"Wha'cha doing Short Girl?" Vash questioned from where he sat at the counter devouring the small bag of donuts that had become ubiquitous in the time since he'd gotten back.

"I saw a bug scuttle under here just a moment ago and I'm waiting for it to creep back out again so I can kill it," she answered without turning her head.

Hey!" Vash protested, looking at her aghast. "That bug's never done anything to you, you can't just kill it!"

"Ha!" Meryl shouted in triumph, bringing down the sole of her shoe to the surface of the kitchen floor with extreme prejudice. A second later she muttered

"Dammit, I missed."

Vash looked over to see the multiple-limbed form of a spider scuttle away from the woman hunting it as fast as its long legs could carry it.

"Come back here!" she cursed at it in frustration as she tried again and missed once more.

"Meryl," Vash chided gently. "You shouldn't kill spiders, they eat household pests."

"They are household pests," she replied, looking around with eagle eyes for the one that had gotten away. "Besides, they could be poisonous."

"I doubt it, most spiders are harmless."

"Most," she agreed. "But I don't know enough about them to spot a poisonous one when I see it, so I just kill them all to be safe."

Vash looked appalled at her logic, and it was on the tip of his tongue to inform her that it had sounded like something his brother would say, but he held his peace. After all, he was immune to things like sickness and poisons, even dehydration held little danger for the man that had lived for over a century, and he'd never had to worry about things like these. Could he really get into an argument with her over wanting to make her home environment a little safer? Still...

"Leave the bug alone Meryl, it's not hurting anything. Come have some breakfast." He waved a donut enticingly at her. She took the bait and joined him at the table.

Why get into a fight with her when she could more easily be distracted into doing what he wanted?

"If it crawls up on me in the middle of the night and bites me, I'm blaming you," she informed him, reflexively needing to have the last word.

Vash rolled his eyes a little at a woman's tendency to worry about silly little things, but let it go.

& & &

"Mister Vash could you go get Meryl up? It's almost time for dinner," Millie said. It was Sunday, so there was no-where else the two of them needed to be.

"She's napping?" he questioned, surprised. "That's unusual."

Meryl Stryfe was like a machine when she settled into her routines, get up at a certain time, do a specific number of things that day (on Sundays, she usually did laundry and cleaned the bathroom) cook dinner, go to bed. She almost never deviated from that set schedule, especially not to do something so inclined to slothfulness as take a nap.

"She said that she wasn't feeling well an hour ago so she decided to lie down," Milli replied, already starting on dinner.

Vash went into the living room, quiet and painted golden as the last rays of sunset crept their way across the wall. She lay there on the couch one arm draped down over the side, looking so peaceful he was almost loathe to wake her. It was rare when she ever looked peaceful, most of the time her expressive face was busy chiding him for whatever he had done to get himself into trouble this time. He shook her gently so that he wouldn't startle her.

She didn't stir.

Vash frowned a little, knowing that she was a light sleeper (not from personal experience unfortunately). He tried again, shaking her a little harder and murmuring her name. Still no response, not even a growl to leave her alone. He shook her shoulder some more and spoke her name a little louder with a flutter of unease tightening to real fear in his stomach. Still nothing. Half-telling himself that he was being stupid for doing so, he checked her pulse. The world froze.


"What the-?!"

He felt for breath, for the faintest pulse, for anything that could give him that so important sign of life. He shook her harder, now frantic to get her to wake up.

"Meryl. Meryl wake-up!" he looked around in a panic, desperate to find some way to rouse her from what had to be a deep sleep. She couldn't just suddenly-- and with no warning! She couldn't be--

"Oh god, please wake up," he pleaded with a hope that faded every second she didn't respond. In the course of his long life he'd seen sleeping and he'd seen dead and about every state in between. There was a stillness and calm that the dead enjoyed that even the deepest sleeper could not feign. No movement, no breath of life, no peaceful dreams or troubling nightmares disturbed whatever realm their minds went on that final journey, and unlike the dreamers they never returned.

His eye fell to the arm hanging limply out over the edge of the sofa, cold and still. There was a large red mark on the side of her wrist, just near the wrist-bone. It was a swollen and livid pinkish-red, with a white center.

Spider bite.