Title: How Does A Man

Author: Matriaya

Disclaimer: I own nothing. If I did, this would be canon already.

A/N: Written for my lovely friend Luminara Selune, as a missing scene from the movie, Badlands Rumble. I just got back from an Anime convention, and very little sleep. Sorry for the incoherency. I did, however, get introduced to the wonderful world of yaoi! ^_^


Wolfwood took a long, slow drag of his cigarette and scanned the dusty room. It was exactly as everything was in his life of late; covered in dust, with remnants of blood and death between the cracks. If he'd had a different life, a better life, he may have felt discouraged, but blood, death, and dust were all he knew. The only thing different was the tall man in red, hovering near the desk, staring at him with uncertainty in his eyes.

Smoke slid from between his lips as his gaze landed on the man, this enigmatic figure who swept into his life like the typhoon he was christened, and never quite seemed to leave. Vash the Stampede. There was something different about the way he held himself today. The glint in eyes, normally bright enough to blind, had faded when Amelia had run from the room with accusations still burning on her tongue. If he looked close enough, Wolfwood could almost see the gears turning in Vash's head, see Amelia's words as they spun around and around in his brain.

"We all make choices." he commented quietly. "Sparing Gasback may have caused deaths, but that doesn't mean they're on your head."

His words wouldn't sink in. He could have outright told Vash it wasn't fault, but none of it would have made a damn bit of difference. All the people who died as a result of leaving Gasback alive twenty years ago were clouding where reality should have been. Amelia's mother, the two dead men bleeding out on the floor, the trail of destruction that followed in Gasback's wake... he took it all on himself. No words of comfort, no excuses, no apologies would ever make a difference. This was the curse of being Vash the Stampede; the haze of guilt that tainted everything. Vash shifted from one foot to another, kicking a chunk of cement. It skittered across the dusty floor and landed against the wall with a thunk.

"It's been a while." he said, keeping Wolfwood's gaze trapped in his own. Wolfwood, though never one to back down from a challenge, was itching to look away, but he stared back into his green eyes, tinted a murky yellow by the reflective surface of his sunglasses. Vash was no longer talking about Gasback, Amelia, or victims long gone and he damn well knew it. There was no accusation in Vash's tone, no bitterness, just the slight taste of rememberance.

It had been a while. A long while. Too long, since the two of them had joined forces to pick off all the evil Gunsmoke could produce. But it was more than that. As much as he'd hated to admit it, Wolfwood had gotten used to waking up in the next nameless hotel with Vash's warm body next to his. When the nightmares that haunted his past threatened to rip sanity from him as he slept, Wolfood had come to rely on Vash - his murmurs in the darkness, warm lips against his skin, cool fingers wrapped around his own - to bring him back to where a semblance of light resided.

Brilliant gunfights and frantic passions were hot enough to blister, but couldn't amount to anything - not for men like them. A job came along that Wolfwood needed and they went their seperate ways. It was an inevitability. With the line of work they both followed, death became a constant shadow, so who knew if they would see each other again? There were no goodbyes, no long embraces, just grab your gun and see you later. Maybe. Every new reunion came with fresh battle scars, new horrors witnessed, new nightmares to plague the darkness. He was able to fall back into his old habits of the life before Vash, before fear could be kissed away and darkness was no longer the enemy. But when Vash left, something was missing.

"It has." He replied, pushing himself off the doorframe.

"You took a job with Gasback."

It was a statement, with only a touch of judgement. Vash generally prefered to stop the bad guys rather than be hired by them, but money was money and Wolfwood didn't have the luxury of picking and chosing where his next meal came from.

"Needed the cash."

There was no point in mentioning half of it went to cigarettes and booze - anything to drown out the silence.

"You couldn't have turned him in for the reward?" Vash asked. His body tensed as Wolfwood took another slow step towards him.
"Gasback paid better than the authorities."

One more step, then two. The crunch of gravel under Wolfwood's boots rang like a gunshot in the quiet that blanketed Cain's office.
Vash racked his brain for something to say, anything to stop the screaming voices in his head; all the victims who died on account of him. Anything to stop the spike in bloodpressure that grew steadily higher with every step Wolfwood took closer to him.

"Stop blaming yourself, Tongari," Wolfwood murmured, his tone sharp, demanding, almost hostile. "Stop thinking too much."

How does a man who has witnessed the slaughter of the human race stop constantly thinking about it? It was a question Vash had once posed in the middle of the night, after an endless day of particularly bloody fighting. It had been a bit of a running joke ever since.

Vash closed his eyes briefly.
How does a man stop thinking?

He opened them again, to find Wolfwood standing in front of him. His cigarette was discarded, smouldering a few feet away next to the arm of a dead man. Vash stared up into the mirror of his sunglasses, close enough to see to his eyes behind, flashing hot and blue.

Wolfwood smirked then, just a tiny stretch that touched the corner of his lips, as his fingers slid across Vash's neck, threw the blonde silk of his hair to grip the back of his neck.

"You never listen," he murmured, and crushed his mouth down against his.

Smoke and whiskey. That's what Wolfwood tasted like. His lips were smoke and whiskey, and just as addicting as they moved over Vash's in a dance they'd perfected long ago. Vash gripped the side of his suit jacket for support. To stop the world from spinning? To keep his head from flying off? Did it matter? Those thoughts no longer pounded his brain. All he could hear now was the low moan caught in Wolfwood's throat, all he could feel were calloused fingers against his skin.

Wolfwood lifted his other hand to catch Vash's face, held it still as he drank in his familiar taste. Desire threaded through his veins, but with it a sense of peace, of completeness that he experienced only with him. Touching Vash was like touching pure sunlight, all fire and brilliance and beauty. He couldn't get enough. He would never get enough.

Gods help him, when he felt Vash's gloved hand slide across his waist, pulling him closer, daring him to give more, to take more. His mind judged the distance between their bodies and the desk. Just a few quick steps, and they could...

A deafening crash ripped through the quiet streets, and the ground jolted beneath their feet. Wolfwood released him reluctantly with a low growl of frustration.

Vash cast a glance out the window. Already, citizens were pouring out of their houses to the tune of panic and disbelief. Clearly, Gasback had wanted the last laugh.

Wolfwood's gaze shifted from desire to annoyance, and then to anger as the shouts of the townsfolk called them to arms once again. He took a deep breath, and a big step backwards, putting distance between him and his counterpart.
Now he could add hot and bothered to his already growing list of emotions.
Vash slipped a hand to the holster of his pistol, and nodded towards the balcony.

Wolfwood simply nodded.
There better be someone out there he could shoot.


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