Epilogue – Van and Wendy

Van woke up with a crick in his neck and Wendy in his arms. Looking down at her, he decided that it was worth a stiff neck to wake up this way, with Wendy's head still resting on his shoulder. Her eyes were closed, but as he shifted a little in an attempt to get comfortable, she blinked, then sat up, looking confused.

"What time is it?" she asked, looking around.

"About dawn, I think," Van told her. The windows in the living room were all covered and sealed shut, but from where he sat, he could see morning light starting to filter in through the kitchen windows.

Wendy gasped. "We were asleep all night, then?"

"Looks like it," he told her. "Guess we'd better wake up now. The sheriff is going to want me to report in this morning, just in case there's been anything new happening." But he made no move to get up. It couldn't be much later than six A.M., and there was no real hurry. Besides, he had been putting off his courtship in order to deal with Evergreen's crisis for far too long. It was time to give Wendy some of the attention she deserved. Let the sheriff be the one to wait for once.

Wendy's thoughts seemed to have gone in a similar direction. "I hope the sheriff is properly grateful for all the work you've done for him," she said, stretching a little. The way she shifted her neck from side to side suggested that she, too, was suffering a little from having slept so awkwardly on the couch. "I mean, you did more or less save the whole town."

"You're right," he said, "I've saved Evergreen twice now, haven't I?" He thought back to that first rescue, when he had been reluctantly drawn to fight Lucky Roulette on Wendy's behalf. Wendy had been little more than a child then. Looking at her now, Van was amazed at how much she'd changed—and how much he had changed. Fond as he had grown of her during their travels, he had never dreamed that he would someday love her the way he did now. He had thought that that part of his heart was simply gone: dead from grief. He had never been so happy to be proven wrong.

"Yes, I guess you have saved the town twice," Wendy acknowledged. "What about it?" He eyed her thoughtfully, trying to decide whether he should say what he had on his mind. He had intended to wait a little longer before having this conversation. But the subject of their first meeting had come up, and when else would he get a better lead-in?

"I was just wondering when I was going to get my reward," he told her. Wendy frowned, narrowing her eyes ever so slightly.

"What reward?" she asked. "Hasn't the sheriff been paying you?"

"Uhhh, that's not what I meant," Van said, feeling increasingly nervous. He wasn't at all sure that he should be saying this, but he had already started, and it might be impossible to backtrack now. Wendy was looking up at him with puzzlement on her face, the corners of her mouth turned down slightly in thoughtfulness. She was adorable, and what he wanted most in the world was to take her in his arms and never, ever let go. That gave him the motivation to keep speaking, even though this was one of the most daunting conversations he'd ever had—even worse than his conversation with Kameo the other night. "When we first met," he said hesitantly, "you promised me something if I saved Evergreen. Don't you remember?"

Wendy's frown deepened, as she tried to figure out what he meant. Then her green eyes widened with shock as comprehension flashed across her face. She pulled away from him, moving out from under the arm that had he had draped across her shoulders. It wasn't exactly the reaction he'd been hoping for. "What do you mean?" she asked, although he was sure that by now she knew what he meant.

"You said that you would be my bride," he reminded her, speaking calmly despite his own anxiety. He was going about this the wrong way, he could tell. Why was it always so hard for him to say what he meant? "Don't you remember?"

"Of course I remember," Wendy said, with some of her customary spirit returning to her voice. "I couldn't forget a thing like that!" She stared at Van intently. "Van, are you asking me to marry you?"

"Not really," he told her. Her face fell a little. He hastened to clarify: "I mean, YOU'RE the one who said that you would marry me. I'm just asking if the offer still stands."

She smiled up at him. "Idiot," she said, somehow making it sound more like an endearment than an insult. "Don't you know how long I've loved you? Don't you know how long I've hoped that you would change your answer?"

"Then you will marry me?" he pushed, wanting to hear her acceptance in the clearest words possible. He was almost afraid to believe that he could be so blessed.

"Of course I will," she said.

"Sweet!" he said. He bent his head down to kiss her. At first he merely brushed his lips against hers, wanting to remember that first, tentative kiss of theirs, but she drew closer to him, as if wanting more, so he returned to kiss her again and again, ending in one long kiss that threatened to take his breathe away. Damn, that was good, he thought. When he reluctantly drew back, it was to ask: "Do you think we'll be able to find a justice of the peace at the courthouse today?"

"Not today," Wendy told him. "Monday, maybe. Why?"

"I was just wondering how soon we could get married," he explained. This time Wendy nearly jumped with surprise, her eyes widening again.

"What are you talking about?" she demanded.

"What do you mean, what am I talking about? You just said that you would marry me!"

"I know I did, but I didn't mean today!"

"Monday, then?"

"But, Van. . . " Wendy began to protest.

"What's wrong with that?" he asked, dismayed. He couldn't wait to be Wendy's husband, and he felt a little hurt that she didn't feel the same way. "You do WANT to be married to me, don't you?"

"Of course I do, but we can't just get married on the spur of the moment like that!"

Ah, so maybe she thought this was something that only just now occurred to him. "It's not like that," he reassured her. "I've been thinking about this for months!" Pretty much since the day he came back to Evergreen, though he didn't see any need to tell her that. Admittedly, at that point it had only been a sudden, unexpected hope, rather than a definite plan.

"Well, this is the first I've heard of it!"

"Come on," he said. "Didn't the thought that we might get married ever once cross your mind this summer?" Though they hadn't really spoken about things, he had thought that they were on the same page about where their courtship was headed. Had he been wrong?

"Of course it crossed my mind," she replied. "If you want to know the truth, I've been looking at wedding dress patterns for weeks! But it never occurred to me that you would expect me to marry you at the drop of a hat. These things take time, Van." She frowned at him.

"Why?" he asked bluntly. "All we have to do is go to the justice of the peace, say a few vows, sign a paper, and we're done, right?" Her glare did not abate one bit. In fact, if anything, the frown on her face deepened.

"Is that really how you want to do it? Don't you want to celebrate? Don't you want our friends to be there when we get married?" she asked.

"What friends?" Van asked, honestly puzzled. He might like to invite Sheriff Cooper to serve as one of the witnesses, but there was no need to wait for that. He had no objection to Wendy inviting some of her coworkers, either, as long as he wasn't expected to make polite chit chat with them for very long.

"You know . . . Joshua and Yukiko, for instance. Wouldn't it be nice to see them again? They might even bring their baby!"

"No," he said flatly, remembering how annoying Joshua had been. Maybe he'd grown out of his annoyingness—but then again, maybe he hadn't. Van didn't really want to find out. Besides, he was sure that any child that Joshua had fathered would be just as obnoxious as he had been.

"What about the old timers from Gloria?"

"Trust me, you don't want them at our wedding," Van said. He was even more certain about this. "They would just get drunk at the reception and humiliate themselves somehow."

"What about Carmen . . . and Pricilla?" Wendy said the last of the names so tentatively that he wondered if she had somehow known about Pricilla's crush on him. But how could she know that? He had never mentioned it. He certainly never intended to mention it, if he could help it.

"I don't think that either of them would appreciate an invitation to our wedding," Van said. Maybe Carmen wouldn't have minded. She had a level head on her shoulders. Pricilla, on the other hand . . . he couldn't trust her not to make a scene. A couple of years ago, he had finally given Pricilla his answer to her question, and she had not taken it very well.

"Look, can't we just keep things simple?" Van suggested. "I don't want to make a big production out of this. I just . . . " He paused, finding it hard to say these kinds of things to her, even as close as they had grown. "I just want to have you as my wife." He couldn't prevent his voice from breaking a little on the last word. There was nothing which mattered more to him than this. Nothing.

Wendy sighed. She reached up to stroke his cheek. "Look, love," she said, a little more gently, "Even if I wanted a simple wedding, without the cake and the dress and the flowers—even if I were willing to give all that up—there would be still be a lot of other things we would need to work out first. There's a reason for having a period of just being engaged, isn't there? We can't just plunge straight into married life."

"Why not? It's not like our lives are going to change much. I mean, I practically live here anyway."

"Some things would change," Wendy muttered. She blushed and looked away as she added: "Like our sleeping arrangements."

Well, yeah, Van thought. That was kind of the point! He was looking forward to not having to part from her at night. Wasn't she looking forward to that, too? He opened his mouth to ask that, then paused. How could he possibly ask her about that? She was already embarrassed enough; there was no need to make her blush more.

That was when it first began to dawn on him that maybe Wendy had a point. Maybe there were things that they would have to work out before they were married. If she was uncomfortable merely talking about sharing a bed with him, how was she going to handle the adjustment to married life? Maybe they did need more time. There were, after all, some things too important to rush.

"Look, I'm sorry," he said hesitantly. "I guess if you want, we can wait" —he stopped here, wondering just how long of an engagement she might have been expecting—"a couple of months?" he suggested.

"What about a New Year's Day wedding?" she said, still looking away. He sighed. That was more than a couple of months away.

"Can we split the difference and say mid-November?" he offered. She turned her face back to him, looked up at him for a moment. Then she nodded. He relaxed a little, relieved to have that settled, even if November seemed a long time away.

"I guess that would give me enough time to plan. I wouldn't have much time to save, though,"

"Save? Save what?"

"Money, silly," she said, smiling a little at him. He was glad to see her smiling again, but he was still confused.

"Money for what?"

"The wedding! They do cost money, you know. Even if you do without invitations and favors and decorations, there's still the dress itself, and you have to feed your guests—"

"Wait a minute," he said. Not this again! "I thought we were going to keep things simple!"

"But there's no reason to do that if we've got time to plan," Wendy said, "and besides, people expect certain things form a wedding. You can't not have a bridal bouquet or cake, you know."

"Who cares what people expect!" He threw his hands up in the air in despair. Wendy gave him a skeptical look. She opened her mouth, no doubt intending to protest, but he cut her off, having suddenly had what was, for him, a stroke of genius. "Look, why don't we just elope?"

"Elope? I don't know, Van—"

"It's perfect," he insisted. "We can just find a wedding chapel somewhere where they'll handle all the details, so you won't have to worry about all that" (and he wouldn't have to think about it at all) "and we can just take a week or two off work to get married, do a little honeymooning—" he gave her a sideways glance as he said this, but this time, she didn't blush, so he continued: "and it'll all be as easy as taking a vacation." He had never really cared for vacations, but he was pretty sure that this would be different.

To his surprise, she didn't completely dismiss the idea. "Well, maybe," she said slowly. She looked down thoughtfully, idly playing with her necklace with one hand. Then she looked up at him and smiled. "I know! We could go to Harbor Parade!"

"Where?"

"You know, that port town we stopped in when we tracking the Claw," she explained. "The one where we met Bunny and Klatt."

"Who?" he asked, still feeling lost. Then he realized what she was talking about. "You mean those two idiots who tried to steal Dann?" He remembered them, all right. He had ended up rescuing them from the mafia just to keep Wendy from mourning over their deaths. He still wasn't sure that they had deserved such a rescue. They had been some of the most irritating opponents he'd ever faced.

"That's right! There was a wedding chapel there, remember? And it's a beautiful town. The ocean is wonderful, and I bet it would be nice even in winter—"

"Oh, hell no!" Van exploded. "That was a terrible town! How can you possibly want to get married there? And that wedding chapel was the kitschiest thing ever." The clergyman there had been a creep, too.

"Do you have a better idea?" Wendy snapped at him. "Because if so, I'd like to hear it."

"I still think we should go down to the courthouse and get married by the justice of the peace," Van muttered.

"Oh you do, do you?"

"Well, you asked what I thought," Van said, raising his voice a little in response to hers. "Why did you bother to ask what I wanted if you already knew you weren't going to do it?"

"I thought that you were going to be reasonable," Wendy retorted. Then she muttered: "I don't know why I thought that. I should know better by now."

Kameo, who had been resting in the open doorway between the kitchen and the dining room, was awoken by the rising volume of this argument. He blinked sleepily, yawned a little, and watched the two people who made up his family bicker with each other. He briefly considered whether he should intervene: he didn't like to see his people unhappy. But, he decided, they would need to work this out themselves.

Besides, as far as Kameo was concerned, the result of the argument was pretty much a foregone conclusion. As much as Van might bluster, snarl, or sulk, most of his arguments with Wendy ended the same way: Wendy usually got what she wanted in the end. Kameo was willing to bet that this argument would be no different than all the others. He yawned again, closed his eyes, and went back to sleep.

THE END.


Author's note: That's a wrap, folks! It was hard to figure out just where to end this, but I thought it would be nice to give Kameo the last word (so to speak). Thanks for reading, and thanks for all the reviews. I hope you enjoyed the story; I had a blast writing it.

It's possible that I'll be doing some more Gun X Sword fic in the future, as I do have more ideas, but I don't know if or when that will be, so I'm not making any promises. In the meantime, if anyone wants to discuss the original series, why not hop over to the discussion forums? It'd be nice to get some conversation going with Gun X Sword fans.