A/N: Such a delay on this story! With work and the holiday season already in full swing I found myself with little time to write. Oh, well! Here it is, the edited version! For those of you who wish to read any mature material, you can go to my website, which can be found through my profile page. And maybe if you're a fanfic author or simply want to you can join? (I know, shameless plug)
But a word of warning, if the link doesn't work it's because my provider is having difficulties. Hopefully, though, it will be fixed soon...
Chapter 2: His Solution
Meryl gaped at him as he hovered above her. The breadth of his wide shoulders completely blocked her view of everything else, making her feel small and defenseless. "What?" she squeaked, even as her mind scrambled for the meaning behind his words.
One eyebrow rose mockingly. "You may be human, but you are not dense, Stryfe."
Her jaw tightened as anger flared and she jabbed him in the ribs. Hard. Fear forgotten, fury ruling her, she told him the first, the most hurtful words, that came to mind.
"You're no Vash, that's for sure."
Anger glowed in his eyes, making them spit showers of ice. His hand gripped her chin tightly as the features on his face hardened. "I never said I was, Spider." Knives sneered. "Not that it seemed to matter to you before."
She gasped and jerked back in his hold, feeling physically slapped by his harsh words.
Oh why did she always end up alone?! The bed beneath her shook with the force of her sobs. Why was she the one left with nothing while others lived fulfilling lives? Sure, her practical and precise ways didn't exactly attract the opposite sex, but wasn't there one guy out there for her?
She clenched her teeth and squeezed her eyes closed, hoping that maybe this pain, this deep ache in her chest, would dwindle away. Or she could get lucky and it would break entirely, leaving her an empty hole where her heart had once been. Anything would be preferable to this.
Knives watched as her eyes clenched shut, blocking him and her pain out. The woman was hurting, and he was deriving no pleasure from that fact.
His plan had been so foolproof, so perfect. What had gone wrong?
She was vulnerable. The moment of action had come and now was the time to take advantage of the situation.
He'd been monitoring her condition of late, her agitation noticeable even without his powers. The dark shadows under her eyes, her constant staring at Vash when he wasn't looking, were all signs that the woman was losing the ability to keep her emotions in check.
As the outcome was not going to be a relationship between her and his brother, Knives knew that eventually she would fall prey to an emotional depression.
Which, from what he could read in her mind, had finally occurred.
He lay on his bed looking up at the ceiling, hands crossed behind his head. The plant was naked bar a pair of drawstring pants which hung low on his hips. A sliver of moonlight shafted through the window and fell across the bed with its white sheets and its occupant, accentuating the muscled upper torso, liberally doused with fine golden hairs.
He sat up and, using his mind, scanned for the other two roommates with whom they resided with. Millie he found was asleep in her room. With his powers he prodded her mind into a deeper slumber, surprised when it worked. He'd have to remember that she was vulnerable when unconscious.
Vash took a little while longer to find, as he was clear across the town. From the fogginess clouding his brother's mind he deduced that the outlaw was well into his cups and wouldn't be in for a few more hours yet. Plenty of time for what he wanted to do.
Knives placed his feet on the wood floor, rose, and walked to his door. On quiet feet, he didn't want his prey to gain the chance to run, the plant walked the short distance to Meryl's room, which was across and a little down the narrow hall.
The door was slightly ajar, left open after her hasty retreat to her room earlier. He'd heard the noise of quick footsteps and the front door slamming, both of which had caught his undivided attention. The emotional anguish pouring off of the women had the confirmed his suspicions. She and Vash must have finally had the confrontation that had been mounting for weeks.
Whatever had happened he neither knew nor cared. All that mattered was that he reach his goal.
Though the door was old and cracked the hinges were well oiled and made not a sound as he gently pushed the portal open, just enough for him to slip in. The room was organized, with a chest of drawers on the wall across from him and the bed and a small bedside table to his left. A few mementos and knickknacks dotted here and there on the walls in the form of pictures to add a sense of comfort, openness. Much like the woman herself.
With a small push he closed the door behind him until he felt the latch click shut, his gaze never straying from the figure on the bed.
The woman, lost in her misery as she sat on her bed, her back to him, didn't notice his arrival.
Strong and pale arms surrounded her. A weight on the bed and then a warm body was mere inches from her own. Meryl tensed and began thrashing against the unknown person. A smooth voice rumbled from behind her. He was so close she could actually feel the words.
She stilled, her hands resting on his, but only because she was so tired. Not because his body so close to hers was making her feel...strange.
It wasn't physical fatigue that plagued her, but the mental kind. Meryl felt as if she'd pulled two all-nighters in a row, like that time she'd finished a major project that had taken months of intense work...only this was so much worse.
But she was lucid enough to notice that Knives was definitely not acting like himself. She didn't like this one bit...but neither did she try to pull away.
"What are you doing?" Her voice was tired, the weariness of a battle lost making her words soft.
His answer was simple. "You need this."
Irritation flared at his highhandedness. As if he knew was she needed. The man was a walking ice cube, devoid of any feelings of compassion and kindness. The best emotion she'd ever evoked in him was indifference. Suspicion swaggered in its wake.
Her head tilted until she could see the sharp features of his face out of the corner of her eye. "What do you want?"
He chuckled and she subtly tried to sway herself away from him, much too aware of his chest against her back.
"Does it matter?" He leaned forward, his arms tightening around her, causing the woman to feel completely surrounded, enveloped in his much larger form.
Warning signs were going off in her mind, telling her that something wasn't right, that she should escape from this situation while she could. She restlessly shifted against his hold, testing to see if she could break away. Meryl was surprised when his arms gave away and he moved away from her, the sheets rustling beneath his weight.
Brushing at the tears staining her cheeks, she turned on the bed and looked at the man sitting in the middle of the mattress.
She was unsurprised by his attire, she'd seen him plenty of times at night dressed as such. What she wasn't ready for the was the overall effect of having him so close, his pale skin visible in the darkness. His eyes were intently staring at her. She was his sole focus and that knowledge both thrilled and terrified her.
The insurance lady knew that for the most part, to him she was nothing more than another human, albeit one who spent an inordinate amount of time around his person. That still classified her as no more than a bug in his book.
Meryl sighed deeply and closed her eyes. "What are you doing here, Knives?"
"Maybe I've just come to offer a little...solace."
The look she gave him was incredulous. "I've never heard such a pathetic excuse. As if you would ever offer anyone anything." She speared him with a hard glance. "Not without a price."
There was a flicker in his eyes that she couldn't quite read before it vanished.
Warily she stood, not letting him out of her sight. "I think," she spoke slowly, "that it's time for you to leave."
He didn't budge, not a muscle. If anything his form seemed to root itself to the bed. Knives was so still, reminding her of a snake readying itself for the strike.
"I believe, Miss Stryfe," he stated as slowly as her, "that I will have to decline."
Meryl had only enough time to gape at him before she felt him worm his way into her mind, a touch like warm honey sliding over her thoughts. Her body froze, as if she'd been placed in an ice cube. But rather than cold she felt a warmth rise within her, starting from her core and rising upward like a volcano.
She gasped and stared in shock as Knives slowly smiled. One hand lifted from where it rested on the coverlet and came to rest on her bare arm.
Sensations like she'd never felt streaked through her at his touch. Meryl shook as he gripped her more firmly. Like the most intimate of caresses where he touched her a fire ignited, a burning passion. Her flesh became pliant and soft beneath his hard fingers.
She stared into his blue eyes, utterly helpless to stop her reaction.
His smile had turned smug. "Comfort comes in many ways, Miss Stryfe."
"You are not leaving," he boldly stated. Whatever had occurred between them before was not enough to satisfy him, Knives had realized. That meant another course was in order. A wolfish grin spread across his face.
Beneath him Meryl was still fuming at his snide remark. "Not complaining" indeed. Not that she'd had a choice. Whatever he'd done, and just what that was she still had no clue, had made her ripe for the plucking.
Her every nerve had begged for more contact, more of his touch. She blushed at the memory of the intimate acts they'd done. That and her chest was completely exposed...again. Meryl channeled that embarrassment, creating it into a veil of anger.
"Will you get over yourself?!" She yelled, and gave him a hard push to prove her point that she wasn't impressed. "You tricked me anyway!"
He inclined his head in acknowledgment. "Coercion was necessary the first time."
She scoffed. "Coercion? Is that what you call forcing me to let you have your way? Because that's exactly what you did." The woman blinked, catching up with his last words. "And what do you mean "the first time"?"
It was at that point she noticed the gleam in his eyes, a particular shine which had been present during their earlier...activities.
Pressing farther back into the bed she shook her head vehemently in denial. "Oh no. Not again. Stay out of my head!"
He let her chin go when she moved, instead placing it on her shoulder. He began a slow caress down her arm, his gaze never leaving hers. Her eyes grew large. "There's no need for that."
On those words his head swooped down and his lips covered hers. She gasped, shocked by his move. Before he'd never tried to kiss her. Now, with his hard mouth against hers, the whole experience felt intensely intimate. Personal. Not just another feeding of their appetites.
Soon they both lost themselves in the other as passion and desire swamped their senses.
As common sense slowly returned she squirmed beneath Knives' greater weight, trying to shift from under him. Her earlier plan rose in her mind and she wondered how far she could get before he would try and stop her again. Or if he would even bother.
He mumbled a few unintelligible words and she stopped for a moment, hoping he would fall asleep. No such luck. His head turned, one blue eye staring at her unnervingly.
When she couldn't take his silence any longer she blurted out, "What?"
"You're trying to leave again," he stated simply.
She frowned. Didn't he want her gone? It's not like he wanted her for any reason other than to have sex with her...did he? Meryl mentally shook her head. Who was she kidding? The man was a walking human-hater, of which she was included. Surprisingly, that thought hurt, a sharp needle-like stab of pain on her already broken heart. All this intimacy between them must have raddled her mind, she decided. Though it was definitely time to go, before he decided to do more than ravish her.
Sliding along the bedding, she deftly removed herself from his warmth, almost sorry for the loss. A sheet lay on the floor and she grasped it and flush it about herself, toga style, in an attempt to save what little modesty she had left.
Without looking back at the bed she made for the door, making a mental note to come back for her clothing at a later date...much later. At least she had some extra clothes in Millie's room. She only hoped Knives wouldn't stay too long.
A large, pale figure blocked her path, appearing in the blink of an eye. Unlike her, he hadn't bothered to don anything, and was still as naked as the day he was born.
She valiantly tried to keep her gaze focused northward as she tugged the sheet closer to her body. "You can't keep me in here forever, you know."
One eyebrow rose as he folded his arms across his chest. "I don't intend to."
Frustration swelled. "Then why are you doing this?" She indicated him standing between her and the door.
"Because I need to make sure you'll come back."
She almost lost her grip and only just managed to regain her hold before she was completely exposed. "Excuse me?"
"If I let you leave this room now, you'll leave this room, this house, this town." He shrugged. "And that is something I will not tolerate."
"You won't tolerate..." she repeated. As if he had any say in the matter?! "How I live me life is no concern of yours," Meryl told him tersely.
"It is now." She opened her mouth to question him when he held up a hand. The insurance lady glared, but let him speak.
"You let me in this room," he unfolded his arms and took one step toward her, "You let me inside you," a smirk at her blush and another step. "You let me have you," she began backing away...right into the wall next to the bed. His eyes narrowed as he closed in. "And I don't let go of my possessions that easily."
He was right in front of her, caging her in. Meryl felt her heart jump at his possessive tone , the way his cold blue eyes focused solely on her, as if she was the only thing that mattered...
A large part of her railed at him for raising her hopes, for letting her even believe for a moment that he might care.
"So what," she sneered, "I've now been promoted to an object in your eyes? No longer the 'lowly human'"?
He didn't take the bait, didn't prove her right. Rather, his answer rocked her to her core.
The words, clipped and strong, left her in no doubt that he meant them. She was too tired to deal with this, Meryl decided. Everything was happening too fast. There was too much for her poor mind to absorb.
She closed her eyes and sighed, leaning heavily against the white wall behind her. "What do you want?"
Meryl could feel the wall shift slightly as he pressed his hands to it on either side of her head.
"Does it matter?"
He sounded so cold, so calm about this entire thing, while her heart lay in a broken mass on the floor. Vash would never love her, but did his brother have to torture her so? It felt as if he was offering her a second chance at having her dream, but never quite committing all the way, leaving her lost and even more alone than before.
Opening her eyes slightly, she stared at the chest in front of her face, refusing to meet his eyes, which always saw more than they should.
"Maybe it doesn't," she mumbled, mostly speaking to herself.
She felt the delicate touch of fingertips on her jaw. He gripped her chin lightly, a hint of a touch, and lifted her gaze to his. Eyes as blue as a cloudless sky, as ancient as the human civilization on this planet stared at her, searching her face.
Meryl didn't flinch, didn't look away, but neither did she open herself up to him, tell him what she was feeling. She'd already tried opening her feelings to another and that had ended up in heartache.
When he spoke he did so slowly. "What would you say if I told you that I wanted you?"
A small, bitter laugh escaped her before she could cage it. "I just don't see why that would be. You forget. I know your record with humans."
"Hmm. Humans, yes, but what about you?"
She gave him a confused look. "What about me?"
"Have I ever treated you as I do other humans?"
Meryl frowned. Hadn't he? I mean, besides the fact that she was still alive, was there any difference? She supposed the plant had been a little more...open. He hadn't spilled his guts about the terrible things he'd done (and she was of the opinion that he ever wasn't going to), but whenever they'd gone out as a group he hadn't left their side.
Whenever there was a crowd to ford he chose to violate his personal space with their persons, hers and Millie included, rather than a stranger's. And he had been spending more time around them, choosing to eat at the table rather than in his room. Oh, and he'd had sex with her, but what did that prove? She still had no idea what his motives were, but she doubted that he was that desperate for human contact.
She looked, finally looked at him. His features were the same as always, that aristocratic nose and sharp cheek bones, but his blue orbs were...different. Not so frosty, perhaps? Meryl desperately wanted to believe it, that he had a heart under the cold exterior he exuded.
The insurance lady shook her head. "I just don't know anymore..."
"Then give me the chance to prove it."
"A chance to prove it?"
He tilted his head to the side, looking almost...adorable. "Isn't that what you gave my brother? You watched him, made sure that he was what you wished for in a suitable partner?"
"Well, yeah, but..." This was just too weird. Was he actually asking her to allow him to court her?!
He slid away from her, taking all of his warmth away and she realized for the first time how cold the room was without him. He looked completely affronted, and she realized how much this had taken him to say. Knives had as much pride as she and to ask for such a thing from a human had to have taken a great deal of humility. He probably didn't have any left.
The plant turned to leave, not even bothering to grab his clothes. She stood against the wall, her mind whirling, trying to quickly find a decision that she would not regret.
His hand touched the knob...
"Wait!" Her arm was outstretched, as if to stop him.
He didn't turn around, but she knew he was waiting and that her next words would make all the difference. She hugged her hand to herself.
"I...That is, I don't want you to leave."
"Then what do you want?"
Oh, boy. He wasn't going to make this easy on her.
"I want you to stay...with me. I don't know if any of this is real," she told him, stating exactly how she felt, "but I want it to be..."
He turned to her as his hand slid away from the door. They stared at each from across the room. Something had formed between them this night, a spark that Meryl knew she had to give a chance.
"Then that will have to do..for now."