A/N: I need to finish Roommates, but while I was working on it this idea popped up. Might as well get it out of the way.
Chapter 1: Her Mistake
She wondered if he'd ever forgive her. Then she wondered if she'd ever be able to forgive herself.
What she'd done . . . and with whom . . . it was unforgivable. Completely and utterly lacking of any morals.
And why had she done it? Simple. She couldn't wait. All this time, all these years, and she couldn't wait for the idiot to finally make his move, that first step when they would finally have a relationship.
Oh, she'd been patient. For so long she'd stood by his side through the good times and the bad, though they'd tended to lean more toward the latter than the former.
Being with an infamous man tended to do that, create a lot of hard times.
But she'd survived, even managed to give him some moral support every now and then, just when he looked like he couldn't live with himself another minute.
And what had it gotten her? Nothing.
Sure they had their friendship, and it was nice to be a companion to such a kind, gentle man, but it wasn't enough. Not for her.
She'd felt starved for affection, the kind between a couple, that fire that kindled between them, announcing to the world that here was two people that belonged together.
Too bad there hadn't even been a spark.
Not through lack of trying on her side, though. She'd wracked her brain for any way to move their relationship (or lack of one) to the next level.
She'd started small, little things here and there. The clasping of hands hadn't worked so well. He hadn't wanted to let go of a donut long enough for her to even grasp a finger. She tried creating romantic moments, like a room lit only by a multitude of candles. She dumped that idea when he almost caught the house on fire after knocking into a table and tipping one of them over.
Then came her grandest plan of all. What she thought was a surefire way to grab his attention.
She'd asked him out.
Well, not in so many words . . . But she'd inquired if he'd wanted to have dinner with her at a local fine cuisine restaurant.
And what had been his answer? "Oh, Meryl, I'd love to?" No! The pig had said that he already had plans . . . to visit the local tavern with some buddies of his!
And she'd had perfect poise at that news. She'd calmly lied to him that that was fine, she'd gotten them free from a coworker anyway and that maybe Millie would want them. Then she'd immediately but slowly walked out of the room and gone to her bedroom.
She'd been proud of herself . . . She'd made it all the way to the second floor before the tears started. Following that was a horrid night filled with a wet pillow and dry throat.
So there went a reservation for two that she'd practically thrown at her partner. The big girl had lately gotten favorable attention from a young man in town and Meryl couldn't bear to see them go to waste.
Vash had actually picked up that she was angry with him after that. He hadn't a clue what had ticked her off, but he'd tried to cheer her up. But this made her even more angry because what dufus couldn't figure out how much a woman wanted him when she was giving oh-so-obvious signs?
Maybe that was the last straw, the stick that broke the camel's back, the point at which she raised her white flag and surrendered to whatever fate had in store for her. And boy did it have a doosy.
Which was why she found herself in this position, feeling like the biggest traitor that had ever walked No Man's Land. And that was saying something with all of the cutthroats and back-stabbers that had been born on this world.
Maybe if she ran away, far away, she could learn to live with the guilt.
The body beside her shifted, disturbing her morbid and self-depreciating thoughts. She lay still, keeping as quiet as possible in the hope that the being beside her would not wake up.
It seemed like her prayers were answered when the movement stopped. Making as little motion as possible herself, she scooted to the edge of the large bed, away from her bedmate, and began scouting the floor for her clothing.
Nothing but an empty floor . . . wait. There! Something white peaked out from under the bed and she leaned over to reach for it.
Moving with the swiftness and ease of a sand-snake the other occupant rolled until he was right behind her, his long arms wrapped around her torso, right below her breasts which were hidden by the sheet.
She gasped and squirmed, accidently falling further off the bed until only his hold kept her from hitting the floor. Which was probably what he'd planned in the first place.
She felt his larger body slide over hers till his mouth was level her ear. She felt his breath and shivered, unbidden memories of the last few hours surfacing in her mind.
She felt herself gasp again at his perfect guess . . . and at the way his tongue slid over the shell over her ear. Her mind took a few moments to catch up and she growled at him.
"Stay out of my head! You have no business being there!"
"Oh?" he chuckled. "And what makes you believe that any part of you is not mine to delve into?"
Meryl blushed at his double meaning and squirmed again, only to scream as she found herself being hauled onto the bed as he flipped them both over so that she lay on her back and he leaned over her.
The sheets around her had completely fallen off, leaving her bare to her waist and very aware of that fact. Not that he was in a much better state of dress. At least the blankets covered both of them down there.
Still she self-consciously crossed her arms over her chest, which only served to attract his attention to that spot.
His mocking smirk set off something inside of her as he stared at her condescendingly. Her pent up anger and frustration, most of which had been directed at herself, found a new outlet.
Physical abuse. So she slapped him, wiping off that stupid look.
Too bad he was so much bigger than herself, or she'd gotten another shot at it. As it was, he easily pinned down both her hands on either side of her head and leaned down until they were nose-to-nose.
"Don't attempt that again," he warned in that cool voice of his.
She took his words to heart. Wasn't a good idea to set off the mass-murderer, after all.
But she still wanted to leave. "Let go," she told him sternly. Though her tomato-red face ruined the effect.
He leaned back slightly so he could read her entire face, the determined tilt of her jaw, her clenched teeth.
"I never took you for a coward, Stryfe."
The woman sputtered. "A.. coward?!"
One pale eyebrow rose at her disbelieving tone. "Tell me then that you don't plan on running from this." He gestured between the two of them, naked and together in bed, with one hand.
She felt a bubble of frustrated laughter make its way past her lips. "And what exactly am I supposed to do? Hmm? I've betrayed the only man I've ever loved . . . and with his brother of all people!"
He let her go as she rolled away from him, presenting the plant with a view of her smooth back.
It was apparent she didn't expect an answer, but he spoke anyway. "He doesn't love you, you know."
Somewhere in the vicinity of her heart she felt a crack form. He said it so calmly, without a hint of inflection, as if it was an obvious fact she should have known.
And maybe she should have. Deep down she knew that Vash didn't, wouldn't, let anyone get that close to him. But hope was such a stubborn thing, even to the point of clinging to something that wasn't there.
So she could admit that maybe she'd never had a chance, that Vash had been, and would always be, out of her reach. That didn't mean she had to take the news lightly.
She turned to him angrily. "And what makes you so sure?! Have you been reading his mind, too?!"
His head was propped up by one hand, elbow on the soft mattress as he stared at her blandly. "My brother is incapable of deep commitment. That is clear through his dealings with humans, as you well know." The plant focused on her with his cold eyes. "His dealings with your mortality has ingrained in him the fact that those of your race quickly fade away."
Meryl gaped at him, shocked by how quickly and thoroughly he was able to dissect his brother's mind. "Have you been reading his mind?" she inquired seriously.
He gave her a disgusted look. "No."
She nodded, believing him, and again turned away, mulling over the new and altogether depressing realities she had to face. Vash would never love her, not in the way she wanted. So where did that leave her now?
Could she continue living in the same house, hell, in the same town knowing that her love, for she still loved him, would never be returned? Even in her own mind it sounded remarkably like self-inflicted torture.
This would definitely take some serious thought, she decided.
Not once did she think of the male beside her and what had recently occurred between them.
Knives glared at the back of her head as he monitored her frenetic thoughts. It wasn't a nice feeling, being summarily forgotten in the blink of an eye.
The woman was beginning to annoy him with her constant thoughts of "Vash this" and "Vash that". He supposed that she had blanked him out simply because she'd used him to comfort herself, just as he'd used her to . . . try an experiment . . . of sorts.
Humans were a persistent species, propagating and multiplying to continue their own existence. In his own way he'd wanted to find out what made them tick, what kept them going through this cycle generation after generation. Was he right and they were merely following animal instincts? Or was it something more?
And in his mind there had been only one logical and foolproof way to find out, and that was to try it himself.
Not the propagating part, of course. The idea of having prodigy was not a part of his plans at this point in time. Maybe later . . . much later.
Once the decision had been made, he'd quickly moved forward with his scheme, of which the first step had been to choose a female to partner with. In and of itself the choice had been relatively easy to make. There were not very many humans he was acquainted with, and in his mind the experiment called for someone he at least had some prior knowledge of.
Isn't that what most humans did in permanent relationships, select a person they had gained sufficient enough information on, rather than a complete stranger?
He admitted (quiet grudgingly) that his expertise in the area of most things human, besides their faults, was limited, but he would make the most of what he had.
So he'd taken a long, hard look at his two remaining choices, the only two human females he had any form of contact with: his brother's "insurance girls".
Not a very big list, but it was what he'd had to work with. Knives had gone about making his selection scientifically. He had listed what he saw as their pros and cons. Such as Millie's prodigious strength being a con in this case. If it came down to forcing her to his will than he would have a difficult time of it. Mind control would have been a backup option, except that she had the uncanny ability to resist his powers. Not to mention that she was already taken by another male.
Needless to say, deciding between the two women had not been particularly difficult.
The smaller one, Meryl, was easily subdued and had limited resistance to his plant skills, though that in and of itself was strange.
Anyway, he'd immediately implemented the next phase of his plan: the gathering of information. While he knew little of humans, he did have enough of an idea not to simply walk up to the female and demand she submit to him. Somehow he doubted that that would work.
He'd been hoping to find something, a weakness he could exploit. What he had discovered pleased him greatly. The woman was hopelessly in love with his brother, a love he knew wasn't mutual.
Knives couldn't think of a better way to manipulate her than through her infatuation. He'd just have to wait for the perfect moment to spring his trap.
And that moment had indeed come, just as he'd surmised it would.
One major flaw, or a potential flaw that he'd overlooked until the last moment, was his ability to . . . perform, as it were. He knew his body had to feel desire for a female to function in the necessary way for his plan to work. Surprisingly, when the time had come for him to begin, it had easily and swiftly risen to the surface.
Everything from there had been carried out perfectly, without a hint of a mistake . . . except for this. This feeling. It was rage, that he recognized. But beneath it lay a deeper emotion which ate away at his self-control, stretching his patience until he felt ready to snap.
The more he listened to her thoughts, her plans, the more he felt like grabbing her slight form and dragging her back to him. He wanted to curve his body around hers, to imprint himself on her permanently so that there would be no more thoughts of his brother.
So there would only be thoughts of him in her mind.
At that moment he felt her come to a decision which had her rising yet again from the bed. Acting out of instinct his hand snapped out and grabbed her arm.
Meryl knew what she was going to do, what she needed to do. She would return to Bernardelli headquarters in December. The move smacked of cowardice, and Millie and Vash would undoubtedly ask questions, but she didn't much care at the moment.
The guilt of what she'd done overwhelmed all else. What kind of person was she, to throw away her morals for a one-night stand? Was she so desperate for affection of any kind, from anyone, that she would sink so low as to sleep with her loves brother?
It was in her best interest not to delay. Meryl was nothing if not efficient and when something needed to be done she was quick to finish it. So she made to slide out of bed, completely unheeding of the being beside her yet again, intent on carrying out her plan.
That is until a large and powerful hand found her bare forearm.
With only enough time to gasp she found herself on her back and pinned beneath his larger body, again.
She squirmed uncomfortably beneath his greater weight. "What are you doing?! Let me up!"
His answering chuckle, deep and threatening, froze her. In that one sound there was a clear message. Knives was angry. Why she had not a clue.
In the darkness of night the room was lit by the meager rays of the moons outside filtering through the blinds. The male's face was thrown in shadow, except for his eyes.
A brilliant blue, they stood out in the black like two bright stars. She couldn't take her eyes away from them.
In the stillness his words were all the more powerful.
"Who said I was through with you yet?"