AN: This is what I get for rewatching all of Trigun in the space of two weeks, and then getting the urge to write at four in the morning. Also, when it comes to the survival rate of my favorite characters, I am cursed. Ah well. Reviews would be greatly appreciated.

Eden of Stone

Wolfwood leans on his cross for support, for salvation, and tries to think of anything but the mindless pain. It's riding through his bloodstream, drifting to the edges of his body, to his fingers and toes—a furious burning that's slowly-but-surely swallowing him up.

"Goddamn," he says, almost thoughtfully. Blasphemy in a church, from the world's worst priest. "Goddamn."

He wonders why it had to have happened now. All the bullets he's dodged, all the skilled gunmen he's taken down—and now is when he has to screw it up. Now, when there's finally a way that he can really do some good, really help people. Now, when all his death will do is give Needle Noggin a chance to stack more guilt onto his shoulders.

Now, when there is a woman in her pajamas sitting on his bed, waiting

"Damn it, there's no time for this," Wolfwood snarls out loud. "I've been traveling with them for months and months, and now that I finally realize…"

He sighs—sighs, and then curses as wet globs of pain find the sigh and ride it out of his throat. "I'm falling apart," he grumbles. "Boy oh boy, if the kids in the orphanage could see their hero now."

Wolfwood doesn't like being considered a hero, because he isn't one, and that's what's so damn irritating about all this. Turning his back on Chapel and the Gung-Ho Guns is the smartest choice he's ever managed to make, and of course the fact that it's that choice that's killing him will leave Vash in a tizzy.

"Stupid sap'll probably go on'n on about how…" (Pain is sticking to every word now.) "How he causes so much trouble…how everyone suh-suffers 'cause of him…"

Funny, he realizes dimly, how he's more concerned about Vash then about Millie. Vash just always looks so sad…he looks around at the humans he loves and hurts with that heartbroken smile plastered to his face, and Wolfwood feels like crying himself. There's so much misery buried in the heart of the Humanoid Typhoon. It's like God took humanity's burden and dumped it all on him. 'Repent and ye shall find salvation', according to the Good Book Nicholas pushes…but Vash is always repenting, and salvation is always being stolen away. It bakes away, on this hot hellhole of a planet.

Millie, on the other hand…

He's forgotten about the dried tears staining his face until she lifts a hand to them. "Please don't feel sad, Mister Wolfwood," she says softly. "I'm sure that everything will be a-ok! Mister Vash will save the day, and we'll help him! And then we'll…"

"And then we'll what?" He's amazed to find himself believing every word she says. "Then what happens?"

"Then we'll be happy." She smiles brightly, and it's so right, and Wolfwood takes her without-a-doubt faith and drowns in it.

Millie is made of stronger stuff. She has a heart a mile wide, and a smile brighter then all the suns put together, and somehow everything is enough when Wolfwood hears her speak. He knows she'll be alright, whatever happens to him. She'll take her pain and bury it, ignore it…she'll just go on smiling…

"Damn!" Wolfwood yells again. (A yell is a yell but this was a whisper because he has no strength but it was a yell, damn it, he meant to shout it loud enough for Vash, Chapel, God—loud enough for everyone to hear!) "Damn! Is this what I'm…supposed to do? Just die, and let her bear the bruh-…brunt of it?!"

Millie is strong and Vash is suffering and Nicholas D. Wolfwood is not ready to end it all with that.

"There's more I still need to do! I'm…nnh…not finished yet!"

There's more he still wants, out of this life. Really, Wolfwood knows that there's nothing he can do to keep Vash steady. Needle Noggin has to keep his head up or he'll suffocate, and if anyone can keep him steady it's Meryl, not the priest. Wolfwood knows that. It's hard to look Vash in the eyes; Wolfwood tried once, and what he saw there was almost maddening with sorrow…

But Wolfwood's seen Meryl meet Vash's eyes many times…just as Millie always manages to meet his. Even after he killed Zazie. Even when Vash and Meryl were both too busy recoiling in disgust. Not Millie. She was upset, and she yelled, and then she forgave him, simple as that. The soul of what Wolfwood preaches is in her sunny smile.

He might not be able to help Vash…he might not be worth much of anything at all, but he wants Millie's smile and he knows he won't be satisfied with any Eden she's not in.

Breathe in, breathe out, and all has come together. Nicholas wonders how it took him this long to find his way.

"Don't know why we're doing this," he comments, voice shivery, feeling cold-but-not-cold as he rests, limbs tangled with limbs (and it's nice to feel cold…the planet is so damned hot). "Seems awful presumptuous to be assuming we have this right."

"But of course we have the right! We're doing what Mister Vash always says," Millie laughs. "We're living with love and peace."

Wolfwood smirks, feeling rightrightright. He leans forward, leans into her, and she giggles in that endearing way. "Well, I'll give you love," he sighs. "I'll give you love, but honey, I don't know about peace."

Things are looking grim. The pain is growing fangs.

There's a puddle of blood under Wolfwood now, and all he can think of is how badly he wants a cigarette…smoking is bad for the baby, honey.

"This isn't fair," Wolfwood tries. He knows that it will be Vash who finds him, afterwards; Vash who will stagger towards him with every terrible emotion etched out across his face. Vash who will have to tell the girls…

Not fair, not fair, not fair—Nicholas D. Wolfwood wants none of it. He was the one who told Needle Noggin to get serious…life isn't fair, he'd snapped, and sometimes people have to die. You can't expect to follow that idealistic philosophy of yours and survive! He was the one who said that, so maybe it's stupid of him to want a fairer ending, but it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what's fair or not fair, all Wolfwood knows is that he doesn't want Vash to have to find him, he doesn't want Meryl to gasp and go pale, he doesn't Millie to get the news when she's dressed in her pajamas, on his bed, waiting!

"Is this your idea of righteousness, Lord?" the priest demands in the house of God. "Wait 'till…'till there are people who'll care before you dish out divine justice?" He coughs, wetly. Red and black splatter against the stone floor. Eden, he thinks distantly, will be filled with grass and snow, and not a single stone or grain of sand around. "Well, go ahead. It's not fair, and I don't want it, but I can—nngh…I can sure as hell…take it!"

Wolfwood grips the cross tighter. Its sharp metal points prick at his skin, and he remembers the gentle embrace of a woman.

"Damn," he hisses. "I am not ready."