I do not own these characters or profit from them.
Trigun Episode 27: Family
By, Clayton Overstreet
Meryl smiled and reached out to brush the hair on top of Vash's head. They were lying in bed together, body's close enough that she could feel his scarred body brushing against hers. In his sleep Vash always held her like a child. As if he were afraid of the dark and she was the only thing that kept the monsters away. When they made love he was the same way. Hesitant and afraid of making the wrong move.
Smiling she kissed his forehead. It was so hard to believe that this man could scare anyone, let alone do anything to get a sixty billion double dollar bounty on his head. Of course now she knew that most of that damage had been caused by his brother Knives. The news had been spread since she and Millie had sent their latest report into their insurance company. Admittedly they had left out the details about Vash's origins and Knives entirely, at Vash's request. But the confirmation that he had been framed had been sent out and the reward on his head had been removed.
That news had been preempted by the news that a beacon had been picked up on several old communication devices and that within the next decade a rescue armada from Earth, brining back some of the technology originally meant to help colonize the planet, was being sent. And that they were even prepared to take people who wanted to leave back to Earth with them. Surprisingly few people intended to take them up on that offer, even the most destitute.
"Hey! Hey someone come in here and feed me!"
Vash's eyes opened and Meryl put her hand on his shoulder. "I'll get it. You stay here and rest."
"No, he's my…"
"Vash," she snapped angrily. "I said rest."
He smiled at her. "Yes ma'am." He closed his eyes.
Meryl got out of bed and put on her robe. The patient was still yelling for food. Walking across the cold wooden floor she made her way to the kitchen and found Millie standing there ladling soup into a bowl. "I'll get it Millie."
"I don't mind helping out," she said.
Meryl smiled at her. "I know. But you need to rest too." She reached out and touched her friend's swollen belly. Millie was only about three months along and until about two weeks before neither of them had even realized she was pregnant.
"I'm not an invalid," Millie said. "I can take care of things." From down the hall the demand for food rang louder. "Besides, I had better get used to it."
Meryl took the bowl. "No backtalk Millie. It's early and you need rest. Do it for the baby."
Millie puffed out her cheeks, obviously prepared to argue, but then she sighed. "Okay ma'am. But if you need anything just call."
Okay," she promised. Taking the food she went down to the other room.
Knives was just getting ready to yell again when she came through the door. "It's about time. I'm starving."
"That's the least you deserve," Meryl muttered and sat in the chair by his bed.
Knives smirked at her. "The reaction I would expect from a human. Tell me, how does my brother compare to making love with a human? What's it like going to bed with a monster?"
Meryl laughed. "Vash was right. You are pathetic." Knives's face twisted up in anger. "He knows there's a difference between not being human and being a monster. I thought you were supposed to be smarter than us. I would have thought you could have figured that much out."
Knives was going to say something else, but his stomach growled. Opening his mouth he waited until she began feeding the soup to him. Meryl did it slowly and with care, making sure not to let him choke. Neither of them said anything until she was done. Then she stood up and began to walk out of the room.
"You know if I still had my powers I would have killed you already. Or better yet, made you and that big girl strangle one another. After I had you cut that thing out of her stomach."
"I know," Meryl said.
"Do you think my brother would kill me then? TO protect the two of you? That's why he shot Legato you know."
Meryl said, "No, I don't think he would."
"What makes you so sure?"
"Because I know him," she said quietly. "Better than you ever could."
"The arrogance of human beings. As if you and yours could ever understand our kind."
"Vash isn't like you." She looked back at him. "You stayed hidden in the shadows committing terrible acts. Vash tried to live among the people he cared about and took the blame for everything you did. Every one of the scars on his body… all those injuries. You might as well have dealt every one of them." She smiled. "And you know, the only creature I've ever heard of doing that sort of thing to its own kind are humans. So tell me again, how much better you are than us."
Knives tried to rise, his teeth bared. "I'll kill you!"
"No. You really won't." She walked out of the room and shut the door.
Vash was waiting in the hallway, a gun pointed at the wall. If she traced it in her mind she was sure the trajectory of the bullet would take it right into his brother. Probably not a lethal shot. At least she hoped not. "Why?"
"We heal fast. It's already been a few weeks. I don't want to take any chances."
"But he can't do anything right?"
"He can't use his powers," Vash confirmed. "In our bodies there were two special nerve clusters. In our left arms are the ones that let us control other organisms. In the right we could absorb and increase latent energy. It's how he designed the guns and how most of the other plants work. I shot him in both of those clusters. Now even when he heals he'll never be able to do either of those things again, even if he transforms his arms again." He put the gun away. "But that doesn't make him safe to be around. We're stronger and faster and smarter than humans." He smiled. "At least on some things. Like you were saying, my brother is an idiot."
Meryl smiled. "Yeah, he is." She reached up and put her hand on Vash's chest, her fingers brushing his skin and scars. "Vash, do you ever wonder if maybe Knives isn't right?" Vash didn't say anything. "If his plan had succeeded maybe this world would have been a place for you and him to begin a world just for plants. With some of the people we've met you have to wonder…"
"No," Vash said. "I never thought that."
"Because all life is sacred. And not just because of what Rem told me," he said. "Even some of the worst people we've met. Killers and thieves and everyone else. They all wanted to live. Some of them had people they cared about or a code of honor that they stuck to."
"That's true," Meryl said. "Even Wolfwood was one of Knives's people and he turned out to be pretty good."
"I've been around some of the other plants. I think that most of them feel like I do. That all life is important. That's why wherever you'll find a plant, even the ones that can't live in this dimension like me and Knives, they still use their power to make the world livable." Meryl hugged him and he put an arm around her. "What was that for?"
"For being you," she said. "You broom headed idiot." She looked up at him. "Do you want to go back to bed?"
"Nah, the sun will be up in an hour." He smiled. "And I can hear Millie in the kitchen. Let's make an early breakfast and then start the chores."
After Vash had come back carrying Knives across his shoulders, he had actually been greeted by the townspeople. The girls had explained that Vash was going to fight the man who had framed him, leaving out the bit about them not being human. The people had been quick to forgive Vash, but had been set on punishing Knives themselves. Vash had refused to let that happen, so he had protected his brother and Millie and Meryl had used the money they had made helping to dig the town's new well. They bought supplies and building material. Then Vash had led them back to the oasis Knives had made in the desert.
On the edge they had built a house. Then they began gardening. Using his own powers Vash had been able to make the plants grow at an astounding rate. Meryl and Millie had registered the land as theirs with the government. And they had been living for the last three weeks perfectly happy away from people. In fact since they were also doing their job of keeping Vash from causing trouble they had even gotten a huge bonus from the insurance company. They even had a cat.
Meryl was hoeing the garden while Millie fed the riding birds. Vash was still busy working on the plumbing since they were all getting pretty tired of using an outhouse and a bucket for everything.
Millie glanced over at Meryl. "You know, I grew up on a farm. I can do a lot more than just feeding the animals."
"Millie," Meryl said. "I know you can. But if you do I'll worry about you. You know sometimes you over extend yourself and I don't want you or the baby hurt."
"You mean by taking it easy I'm making you feel better?"
"Then I guess I'll just have to relax for a few months. Although that means I'll probably get really fat."
'So be it." Meryl added, "And as soon as we have enough crops to sell in town we can go on a trip and pick you up some pudding."
Millie giggled. "Now you're just playing dirty. Although… I could really use that pudding. And some pickles and ketchup!"
Meryl groaned and held her stomach. "I'd love to put that down to cravings, but I've seen you eat that combination before." They both laughed.
Vash stuck his head out from under the house. "Hey! Why am I the only one doing any work around here?"
"Because," Meryl and Millie both said at once. All three of them laughed but started moving on to their chores again.
That night in the dark Knives stood over Vash and Meryl's bed. He stared at them, watching them breathe. "So disgusting. I don't even know how my brother can stand letting you touch him." He flexed his arms and bent over Meryl. "I should strangle you now. Just reach out and…" He moved his hands towards her throat.
There was a tiny click in the dark and a cool circle of metal pressed against the side of his ribs. "Go back to bed Knives or I will shoot you. My gun is loaded with rubber bullets, but this close they'll still break your ribs."
"I could kill her before you pull the trigger."
"Either way, if you touch her I will pull the trigger."
Knives paused for a moment and then slowly backed away. "Very well."
"I have to wonder," Vash said, looking up at his brother, still tracing Knives's movements with the gun in his left arm. "If you can get up and walk, why are you still here?"
"Where else can I go brother dear?" Knives asked. "You've taken away most of my weapons for dealing with the humans. More are arriving soon." He closed his eyes. "I can feel our brothers and sisters, trapped on their ships. They're approaching this planets and brining more human filth with them. Surely you can feel it too."
"I can," Vash admitted. "And I feel something else that you aren't admitting too." He smiled. "It's been a hundred years. You must have seen this coming."
Knives sneered. "Yes, I feel it too. More plants. Like us."
"With the humans," Vash said. Knives did not say anything. "They're coming together Knives. Which means…"
"I know what it means." He glared down at Meryl. "Either our brothers are still serving humans or working with them. In either case I lose."
Vash smirked. "Told you so." Knives glared at him. "You know, your hair is looking a bit long. Want me to cut it for you?"
"Touch me and I'll rip your other arm off," Knives said. He turned and walked slowly out of the room.
Vash waited until he heard the door to Knives's room close and then put his gun away. Then he turned and ran his fingers through Meryl's hair, tracing over her ear and jaw. In her sleep Meryl nuzzled up against him.
Trouble started another week later. Knives was still pretending he could not move and Vash did not tell the girls the truth. But hey had given him a chair on the porch where he sat and watched the desert. The oasis had continued to spread out since Vash arrived, doubling in size almost every other day.
"It's really neat," Millie told Vash. "You know I bet if you and Knives had just worked together from the beginning then this whole planet might have been really beautiful by now."
Vash nodded. "That was the original plan. Before…" He shook his head. "But there's always the future."
"Right," Millie said. She reached up and touched her stomach. "You know I still haven't told my family about the baby. We left the town before I even knew. I wrote them letters, but until we go back I can't send them."
Millie smiled and looked out at the oasis. "I can think of worse places to raise a baby." She smiled at him. "Hey Mr. Vash, do you think you and Meryl will ever have a baby?"
"I don't know," he admitted.
"Well then you'll just have to find out."
"I guess." Suddenly his head turned out towards the house.
Meryl came running around the house and said, "Vash, someone's coming." The three of them ran around the back of the house. Off in the distance of the desert they could see a cloud of dust rising up into the sky. They walked to the edge of the property until they stood right between the grass and the desert. They watched for the next hour until they saw an entire line of vehicles heading towards them. The cars stopped about a hundred yards away. There were about thirty of them all loaded down with people.
A woman stepped out of the lead car. She was almost eight feet tall and had enormous muscles. She wore tight blue leather clothes that showed them off. "You Vash the Stampede?"
"No," he said. "I heard that he lives about a hundred miles east of here."
The woman smiled. "Really?"
"Mr. Vash wouldn't lie about that," Millie said. Meryl slapped herself on the forehead and Vash groaned. "Oops."
"Millie," Meryl said. "Remind me to teach you how to lie."
The woman smiled. "I'm Lily Blackwater. Formerly a clerk and now owner of this land."
Meryl frowned. "That's not true. Vash is the registered owner. I filed the paperwork myself."
"I know. I worked in the filing office." She looked out at the oasis behind them. "When I saw that paperwork I asked myself why someone would want to own a barren stretch of land like this. Asking around I heard rumors that the place was run by only four people."
"So four people… seems kind of a waste if there is a lost plant somewhere out here. So I got some backers and we agreed to come take it for ourselves. On the paperwork it's already listed as mine."
"I don't mind sharing," Vash said.
The woman blinked. "So the rumors I've been hearing are true."
"What rumors?" Millie asked.
"They said that bounty on Vash the Stampede's head was a mistake. That he was really a gutless coward who would rather scarf down donuts than fight."
Millie looked at Meryl. "See? I told you they read our reports back at the office."
"So if all those stories about you were fake I'm betting your reputation is too," Lily said. "In that case I don't see why I shouldn't just take this place from you." She snapped her fingers. Around her the men and women got out of their cars and pointed weapons at them.
Vash sighed. "In that case I guess we had better leave."
"What?" Lily asked.
Millie nodded. "He's right."
Meryl shrugged. "Guess we had better go pack."
Lily blinked at them. "You're giving up just like that?" She looked around at the oasis. "This place has got to be worth at least a hundred billion. Why would you just give it up?"
"It's not worth killing over," Meryl said. "Nothing is."
"Do you mind if we pack first?" Vash asked. "My brother is inside. He's been injured for a while now and will need some help."
"Sure, why not?" She said. She looked over at the men with her. "See? I told you he was a coward."
Meryl and the others started walking towards the house. Suddenly behind them she heard the click of guns cocking. A man said, "I don't trust them. Even if he isn't as good as they say he's still Vash the Stampede. I say we kill them all now just to be sure."
"Well, if you think that's best…" Lily said playfully. "Ready, aim…"
Gunshots rang out. People fell clutching their hands and screamed. Meryl and Millie turned and saw every one of them writhing on the ground. Several had round marks on their faces and a few were grasping their hands in pain. Lily stood there blinking in shock. "You… you…" She glanced at her fallen allies.
Vash said, "I would have given you this place. I've arranged things so it'll keep growing even without us here. But you just couldn't leave it alone. Just be glad I am using rubber bullets. Now take your people and get out of here."
They picked themselves up quickly, abandoning their weapons where they were dropped. Piling back into the cars they turned and began driving away. Lily yelled behind them, "We'll be back!"
Vash watched them go and then glanced at the girls. "Sorry about that."
"It wasn'tyour fault."
"Yeah," Millie put in.
Vash said, "It just seems that everywhere I go things like this keep happening." He rubbed the back of his head nervously. "You girls would probably be better off without me."
"Forget it Vash," Meryl said. "You've walked out on us enough. Millie can do what she wants, but I'm not letting you get away again."
"And I'm staying with you too," Millie said. "A baby needs a family and you two are the best people who could help me raise it."
Another voice said, "You should have killed them." They turned and saw Knives standing against a tree. "They'll just come back with more people and take this place from you."
"He can move?" Meryl asked.
Vash looked at Knives. "You know I won't kill them."
"You're such a loser."
"He beat you," Millie said. "If Mr. Vash is a loser, what does that make you?"
Knives frowned and then laughed. "You're right. I'm worse than a loser." He shrugged. "So Vash, what exactly do you plan to do?"
"We can't travel," Meryl said. "Millie has a baby on the way. Besides it's like you said, this sort of thing seems to happen wherever you go."
Vash nodded. "You're right."
"I have an idea," Millie said. They all turned to look at her. "There's one thing that can always help out in situations like this. Family."
"You want to call your family?" Meryl asked.
"No silly. Our family." She smiled. "But I need you to help me write a lot more letters."
Lily Blackwater returned to the Oasis with many more fighters in tow. Several from her previous group had abandoned the idea and many more had refused to face Vash. Still the promise of a piece of land as good as a plant was too good to pass up. It took month but she eventually formed a decent sized army. Over two hundred people strong. Most of them cut throats and killers. They were certain they could beat Vash and the others by sheer numbers if nothing else.
What she had not expected was the find an entire town now built on the edge of the oasis. Several hundred people were there. All of them armed.
On top of that, just as she realized what was going on Lily felt the ground drop out from under her. As the cars crashed into the hole she realized they had dug a trap. Around her she could hear the other vehicles crashing too.
Climbing out of the pit she saw the people walking casually towards her. She reached for her weapon and raised it up, but a second later the gun was shot out of her hand and a rubber bullet smacked her in the face. "What is this?"
Vash stepped out of the crowd. "Some friends of mine decided to stop by."
Meryl was there too. She looked around at their friends. People Vash had met on his travels. The woman who had tried to kill him when she was hired to fix the plant at that one town. Several former crew members from the crashed sand steamer including the boy who had been hired by the thugs who robbed it and eventually saved it. The people who had come from the flying city that Vash's enemies had crashed into the ground. Even that girl and her grandmother who took Vash in for a while.
Off to the side stoof Knives, watching the whole thing. Vash could hear his brother's voice in his head. "I have to admit, these people have definitely surprised me."
"I always told you they would."
"But do they stay just because you're their friend? Or because they want to live here in this paradise we created?" He laughed in their minds. "And what happens later? When these people pass on and get old. When the ones who remember you are old, senile, and eventually die cursing you for your eternal youth. When they no longer need this place and don't even remember what you did for them?"
"Then I'll move on," he said. "Find a new place and make more friends."
"Yes." Vash touched Meryl's shoulder and she smiled up at him. Out loud he told Lily, "You can forget about taking this place. Personally I'd let you have it, but my friends all seem pretty attached to it."
Lily sighed and slid back down into the hole. "You bastard."
You know, until I bought the DVD set I had no clue that at the end of the series Vash went back the Meryl with Knives still alive. In the TV version they cut that out since it was at the end of the credits. I was re-watching it again so I just felt like writing this. Plus it seemed like a good chance to plug my new book.
You see if you go to Amazon right now and look me up you should find a book entitled "How to Be an Anime Character." It contains all the clichés and rules for anime, advice on how to live, fight, and date as an anime character, and even an original short story by yours truly. All at a very reasonable price. So buy a copy and when you're done reading itt tell me what you think.