Coupling: Mild VashxWolf
Warnings: Original characters, majorly OOC Vash, majorly uke-fied Wolfwood....
Notes: AAAAAH! PLOT BUNNY ATTACK! Okay, reasons? Because I like angst, and because I've never written VxW before and want to try. Because I listened to Mrs. Robinson too many times, and somehow that inspired this fic (the hell?)... Because.....cause.
Now that this is out of my head, maybe 'To Love a Lie' can come along.
"Why are we stopping here? We have to make twenty more iles before sundown," Wolfwood frowned from behind his sunglasses, staring around the small town Vash had selected. They had been traveling non-stop since morning, and the priest had been none too pleased when Vash had announced a very necessary detour.
Vash glanced over the side car's rim, his form lank and relaxed as the wind wafted by, slower than usual. The steamy heat of the day was at it's peak, and the town seemed almost deserted, shades drawn and fans humming in the afternoon air - their whirling blades were the only sign of life on the quiet streets.
His expression was thoughtful, and he didn't respond. "One....two....three. Park in front of the third house."
Wolfwood grimaced, but obeyed. "Bah. I need a smoke."
He did, too, and as soon as the bike was parked broad fingers were picking their way through his coat and selecting a cigarette -
"His lungs aren't so good. Smoking'll make him cough. Please?" Vash said, eyes hidden behind the orange of his sunglasses. He looked so damned miasmatic (and sexy) that Wolfwood immediately fumbled the cigarette and had to brush the sand off of it before returning it to his pocket.
"Whatever," he muttered, and looked away. Sulking, yes, but Vash had no right to deprive him of cigarettes!
Vash was on the doorstep then, peering down at the mat - embroidered with a smiling cat face, black with luminous eyes. For a moment he seemed to catch his breath and round up his courage, then knocked twice on the door and stepped back.
Nobody answered for a few moments, as Wolfwood shifted nervously and again suppressed the urge for a smoke, then - "Yes....oh! Oh! Vash?!"
The woman who opened the door was young, with dirty brown-blonde hair pinned up at the nape of her neck. Strands of it fell in her eyes, which were a wide, brilliant green. "You're back!"
Wolfwood had seen Vash get tackle-hugged by enthusiastic admirers before, but this seemed different. The blonde opened his arms, and the girl melted into them, her face pressed gently against the front of his overbearing red coat as if he was the only bastion of strength she had ever known. They stayed for a few moments, then Vash smiled into her hair and pushed her back, hands on each of her shoulders. "Rayia, you're growing up.... Look at you, as beautiful as your mother. May I come in?"
"Yes, yes, of course. Dad's in the living room, why don't you go see him?" There was a long pause, thick with unspoken fears. "He's.....a lot worse."
"I figured, that's why I came."
Rayia nodded, looking blatantly relieved, then shook her head helplessly. "Since mom died, he's just been so sad... you'll cheer him up, though. He's been talking about you, lately, it's odd that you should show up! I'll put some tea on - oh, but who's your friend?"
"This is Wolfwood, a traveling priest," Vash murmured, and Wolfwood raised one hand in a half-wave of greeting. The woman nodded warmly to him, her eyes reading quite plainly that if he was a friend of Vash's, Wolfwood would always be welcome.
The inside of the house was dark and not much cooler than the outdoors, but the breeze was a good deal stronger, thanks to the fans stacked in all quarters, placed anywhere they would fit to drive away the deadly heat. Vash followed Rayia in and took an immediate right, poking his head into the room, then glancing at Wolfwood over his shoulder. "Nick, could I have a moment alone?"
"Er....yeah. I'll go flirt with that nice lady," Wolfwood grinned unabashedly, and Vash flashed him what might have been a look of annoyance. Vash, annoyed? What was going on?
The room was dark, a fan was humming, and static, occasionally bursting into soft music, spilled forth from a radio in the corner. Bright green eyes gazed at Vash through the shadows, and when the outlaw stepped in the room, they were filled with something somewhere between anger and excitement.
A frail body, far too old for the brilliant eyes that blinked twice. "Vash? Is that really you?"
"Sure is. May I come in, Holt?"
The man nodded reluctantly, and Vash walked in, the area seeming lighter and happier with the simple presence of his long, flowing coat. "Still in red?" He asked.
A nod. "Of course."
Silence. "Mei is dead."
"Rayia told me," Vash ran his fingers through his hair and settled down in the sagging chair next to Holt, his coat rustling softly. "When?"
The old man looked away. "Two months ago. Today."
"I..." Vash paused a moment, then folded his sunglasses and slipped them into a pocket. "I'm sorry I couldn't be here. I loved her very much."
"Not as much as I did."
"You....you look good," Holt whispered at last, seeming to devour Vash's figure with his eyes. "Real young-like."
Vash almost seemed sad. "I know. Have you been well?"
"I want to die," the man answered, throwing his head back as Vash started to protest. A creaky, wheezing sound scraped forth, leaving the blonde speechless at what could only be a laugh. "No, no, don't protest. I know every life is valuable, and I know better than anyone that our ticket to the future is blank. I know more about her than I do about my own mother."
A flash of hurt. "But Holt-"
"I've lived my life, Vash! I've been married, lived longer than I should, and now... Now I'm ready," Wrinkles lifted up into a heavy smile, and the creases around Holt's eyes seemed to double in depth.
"If you're going to ask me to let you die, I won't," Vash's voice was fierce. "You should live for years an year to come, Holt-"
"In this failing body? I was given a mind that would never age,
but my skin and bones? Surely you wouldn't live like this if you
had a choice. I'm just waiting for my heart to give out, and the
anticipation is - killing me," more dry laughter. "Who's your friend?"
Vash glanced up as the door gave a telltale creak, and Wolfwood's sheepish eyes could be seen from the hallway - his expression remained neutral. "That's Wolfwood. Come on in, Nick."
Wolfwood did enter, looking around with blank eyes, then nodded respectfully to the old one in the corner. "Holt, I presume? Pleased to meet you." Holt met the greeting with an incline of his snow-crowned head and smiled weakly.
"You always had good taste in 'friends', Vash."
The outlaw replied stiffly before breaking into a smile, "I like to think so, too."
It had been five hours, and the suns were starting to set. One was halfway down and the other was closing the gap quickly - the discussions that had been battled back and forth during the day were given up, and Rayia washed the teacups out in favor of whiskey that made her father wheeze with delight.
The moons rose. "You know," Holt murmured, "that hole in the Fifth one - was it really you? We heard rumors, but I didn't know what to believe."
"Yes," Vash bowed his head. "It was me."
Holt seemed pleased with the answer. "I knew it. You leave your mark everywhere, don't you?" Wolfwood looked a little confused, while Rayia smiled knowingly. "What a legacy."
"That's Mister Vash for you - but he does it with such style, who can blame him?"
"Style? This big lug?" Wolfwood thumped Vash on the back, and the blonde choked on his drink, spewing a bit out of his nose. For a moment they were a ball of wrestling red-and-black, then Rayia spattered both of them with sand and grinned as Wolfwood began frantically dusting it out of his hair.
"Hey, easy on the threads, pretty lady," he laughed. It was comfortable here, with Vash and these people - how come when he was with the outlaw, places could seem like home? It was mind boggling.
"I'll thank you kindly not to flirt with my daughter," Holt's voice was scratchy, but his humor good. "Especially not in front of your boyfriend!"
As Wolfwood spluttered, Vash slung an arm around his neck and kissed him above the ear. "You know you love it," he teased, and Wolfwood relented, still shocked by the second guessing.
"How'd you know?" he asked, plaintively.
Holt just smiled, satisfied with himself as he glanced from one gunman to the other. The moons rose a bit more and they drank in silence. "It's late, don't you think? Dad, you ought to turn in. It's getting cool out here."
"Feels good," Holt murmured, closing his eyes. "Feels like it always felt when I was young. Some things never change."
His eyes raked across Vash's face, and the blonde smiled almost apologetically, his response a bit forced. "No, some things never do."
It took a collective effort on the parts of Rayia and Vash to get Holt safely to his feet, and when the old man had tottered into the house, Vash followed closely. In the hallway he embraced both the man and his daughter, kissing each on the forehead. "Take your usual room, Rayia whispered, "I changed the sheets and swept."
"You're a dear," Vash smiled, and Wolfwood sidled up next to him, nodding a goodnight to each in turn. "Sweet dreams, Holt."
Holt smiled, eyes a bit far-off. "Goodnight, Vash. Thank you for coming tonight. I only wish Mei could have seen you one more time.... She missed you, a lot." he trailed off as Rayia kissed him again and started down the musty hallway. Once she was safely gone, he stared challengingly up at Vash with the air of someone who was once as tall, proud, and selfless as the gunman himself. "I missed you, you know."
Wolfwood felt like he was intruding on matters far over his head and began to escape, though Vash caught his hand and snaked their fingers together, a silent and rare request for support. "I'm sorry. Holt..." Vash's voice was trembling, the old man was wiping something out of the corners of his eyes. "I... I'm just sorry."
Silence, until Vash's voice broke as he continued.
"If I could change...if I can change one thing, this would be it."
"I know that," the elderly man flashed Vash a weak grin, his teeth yellow and crooked. There was a scar on the left side of his neck, and his balding head sported other gashes, marks of a difficult life. "You love me, and you love Rayia, don't you? And..." A long pause, "....you loved....her?"
Wolfwood felt Vash shiver, and he edged closer, setting his chin on the blonde's shoulder. "I do."
Holt nodded, the corners of his lips turning up slightly as he regarded Vash's lithe form. "That's enough, then. We don't need any more than that, after all. You never did."
"No, I never did," Vash's voice was almost trembling, his eyes sad. "Will you sleep now?"
"I'll be there when you wake up," Holt murmured, and Vash nodded.
"Thank you. Goodnight, Holt."
The door closed with a click.
Wolfwood found himself rooming with Vash in an almost-bare upper floor of the house, with one bed and a futon spread out across the floor in the puddles formed by moonlight above. They took the bed, and when they were awoken the next morning from their comfortable tangle of limbs, Rayia was sobbing and crying, pressing her face into Vash's neck, Wolfwood didn't know what to think..
"Rayia? What's wrong?" Vash asked softly, although Wolfwood could read his expression, and realized his partner had already guessed.
They buried him in the hills above the house, where the sands were less likely to shift and bury the make-shift marker, a wooden cross that would be temporary, until a suitable stone one could be found. Wolfwood was called upon to say a prayer, which he did with some discomfort - though the small group that had collected assured him it was more than suitable, since he was Vash's friend, and Vash was such a close friend to the family.
They mentioned he had been dropping by for longer than anyone could remember, like a stray puppy occasionally wandering home, for so long that questions were no longer asked.
Surprisingly enough, Vash didn't want to stay another night, even when the villagers begged. He kissed Rayia firmly in apology and then elected to get away from the house as soon as possible, though by the time they left the suns were already going down.
Camp. A small fire. A large sleeping roll. Common, everyday things that seemed somehow strange that night to both members of the two man team. Wolfwood stared long and hard at Vash's expression, outlined and highlighted in the flickering firelight, trying to draw his thoughts into the open and discover what the encounter had been all about, searching with desperate hands for one more cigarette, though he seemed to have misplaced his pack.
When his staring proved fruitless, he asked. "Vash, who was Holt McCoy?"
A long pause.
"My son." Vash closed his eyes for a moment, and the priest crept closer to him in the dark - a moment later he was wrapped in Vash's arms, and the blonde gunman had securely nestled his chin against Wolfwood's shoulder - it felt good against the cool of the night.
"You.... You don't know what it's like," Vash whispered. "To live so long. To watch people you know and love wither and died. Holt died, yesterday he was a baby. You will die, and today will be a dream, and I'll be alone again.... Mortality is..."
"Necessary," Wolfwood whispered.
"I wanted something permanent, Wolfwood. I wanted a son to return to, so I forced my heart open, as if loving a woman would fix all of my problems. It didn't, and when I was found out, she was killed. That was...ninety years ago... Nothing is permanent, Holt was wrong. Things will always change."
Wolfwood stared at the being outside of time, and shook his head. "You're still you."
"No..." Vash's eyes closed, and he sighed softly, the breath tickling the crescent of Wolfwood's ear. "I ceased to be myself years ago. I can't go back - nor do I want to."
Stormy eyes cast skyward, seeking reassurance in such strange water. "The moons." he breathed. "Never change. Always move."
A gentle kiss, and a smile, despite the conversation. "Wolfwood, even the moons have scars."
"Then that will never change."
"The scars. Permanent and forever, scars."
"Take my knife."
Wolfwood did, and blinked as Vash began shucking his elaborate coat to the ground - he paused with it at his elbows, and tilted his head, hair falling lazily in his eyes. "Right there, on my collar bone."
The knife cut as deeply as Wolfwood could press without striking bone, and he dragged it up, then down, then left and right, leaving a semblance of a cross just above Vash's heart. Thin and perfect.
When the bleeding had stopped, Vash seemed satisfied to curl up and fall asleep, one more memory carved into the flesh of his soul.
Wolfwood stayed awake and finally smoked that cigarette.