"This place seems familiar," said Vincent sardonically as they hauled up to the crude gathering of huts where they had stayed what felt like a century ago. The memories that came flooding back were dreary, but right now his mind was too tired to be racked by anything.

Re-l pulled the ship to a halt. "We'll rest here for a bit, then salvage what we can before looking for a place a bit more...-" In the distance sounded a deep rumble, the once thriving city settling into its final resting place. The truth was, and they both knew it, there was nothing here to salvage. There were only stale corpses, the sickly sweet proof of which wafted on the breeze, and useless debris packed into an earthly grave that asked only to be left alone.

No, this was not the place to start picking up pieces. That would come later, somewhere far from this dead land.

"Look!" Pino chimed, pointing. The two others peered into the grey horizon, kidding themselves that they might actually see someting of interest.

"What is it, Pino?" Vincent humored her, just wanting to lay and rest somewhere comfortable.

"Right there, Vince!" Her finger jutted at a metal rod protruding from the wreckage about eight yards away. The little AutoReiv that was more of a girl bounded to the bow of the ship, as if to reach out and grab what looked like a piece of paper flapping from the tip of the metal. The wind liberated it from the rod's grip and swept it to where it landed in plain view on a wet, slimey rock face. Peering over the ship's rail, the three of them could tell it looked like a child's crayon drawing. Even though the polluted muck that caked everything around them had done its work of soiling the paper, they could discern the forms of a boy and a girl atop some sort of beast.

"Eeeef! Can't.. reach!" Pino whined, her tiny body flailing as she tried to grasp the drawing. Vincent reached out to help her, but the dark water lapped up and claimed the paper before he could grab it. Pino slumped. The other two glanced at each other bemused, but had learned that sometimes it was best not to ask the quirky little AutoReiv - instead, just to watch admirably as she, now inspired to draw, tottered off to look for her art set.

Okay, so maybe this was a start...

Re-l and Vincent stepped down to the galley to scrounge up some food.

"I never thought I'd be so happy to see a can of beans in my life," Re-l spoke while leaning up against the wall. She brushed away a few hairs that still stuck to her face, greasy as it was from sweating. Vincent rifled through the cabinets and, much to his frustration, turned up only half a can of pintos and some tabasco sauce.

Re-l watched him as he emptied the can into a bowl and stirred in a pinch of sauce for flavor. "Whatever's happened to you, you're still the same old Vincent."

He chuckled, handing Re-l the bowl. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing. Aren't you going to eat?"

"Nah... It turns out I'm not as hungry as I thought. Besides, it won't be long before we find civilization. Maybe they'll even have curly fries." His face gleamed with the same optimism Re-l had come to know throughout the journey. It was as if he really, truly was that same guy she met back in Romdo, and not- ..No, it didn't matter now. Not at all.

Re-l placed her untouched food down on the table. Spontaneously, she pulled Vincent into a quick hug. She pressed her lips fully and firmly to his before pulling away.

"Re-l..." Vincent sighed, running his fingers over her cheek as she drew back.

"In case I don't ever get to do that again." Her face flushed at having revealed just how much she'd grown attached to him.

"Nothing is going to take me away Re-l, not again. You can count on that," he replied, his arms wrapped around Re-l's waist, refusing to let her go.

"Damn you, Vincent Law." A grin broke out on her blushing face and, for the first time, she yielded utterly to him.

Re-l...

As she fell into a tight embrace with Vincent her cheek brushed against his. The restless days without a shave or peace of mind had left it rough, unwelcoming.

Vincent's stomach moaned.

Re-l pulled away from the moment. "If you're still going to refuse some food, you could at least use a shave," she teased.

"And you could use a comb." He patted her disheveled hair.

"What, would you like to do the honors?"

"For old time's sake? Why not." He sauntered over to the sleeping quarters nearby while Re-l sat down at the table and began stirring her food idly, no longer thinking about her empty stomach. Moments later, Vincent returned with Re-l's hairbrush in one hand. When he leaned in to begin work on Re-l's ebon locks, she reached up and plucked a hair from his chin.

"Ow!" On his astonished face a grin spread. "Really, what's with that?"

Re-l smirked. "Just brush."