"Ahhh! That hit the spot!"

Meryl watched with ill concealed irritation as her charge, the dangerous outlaw, Vash the Stampede, slammed back yet another glass of amber colored liquor. He wasn't drunk yet…just tipsy, but she was not looking forward to dragging his six foot plus frame down the street and up the three flights of stairs to their hotel room. She sighed and resigned herself to the inevitable. When he wanted to tie one on, nothing she could do would stop him.

"Miss…I'll have another!"

She closed her eyes for a moment and chewed her lip in irritation.

I don't want to sit here and watch him get smashed! She thought unhappily.

I guess I'll just leave him here and go back to the hotel.Her mind made up, she rose from the table and, not stopping to say a word to her companion, made her way to the door.

"Hey, Meryl? Where are you going? Meryl?" Vash's voice followed her as she stormed outside. She ignored him and stepped onto the street. Inside, Vash threw a couple of double dollars onto the table and rushed outside to see why his girlfriend was so upset.

"Meryl?" His voice was soft and she was sure that if she turned around, he would use those damned puppy dog eyes on her. She was always helpless in the face of those big, watery green eyes. He could destroy a building, blow up a town, and just when she would get winded up to deliver a truly massive punishment, he would give her those big gooey eyes and she would melt. First rule of insurance: Never fraternize with the enemy. She never was good at following rules. Knowing she was doomed, she turned around to confront him. He was, of course, giving her the eyes.

"You're not mad, are you Meryl? Please don't be mad at me." He looked as though he were going to cry. "I don't know what I did, but whatever it is…I'm sorry."

She sighed. Damn you, Vash!

"I just hate to watch you drink so much. It's not healthy."

I hated to watch my father drink, too.

He nodded. "I'm sorry, Meryl. I didn't know it bothered you so much."

I never knew it bothered me, either.

She shrugged and looped her arm through his. "Don't worry about it. Let's go back to the hotel."

Beside her, Vash stood up straight. "Are you tired?" He asked, trying to sound innocent and failing.

She gave him a slightly amused glance. "Not really…" The rest of her reply ended in a gasp of surprise as he grabbed her and tossed her small body easily over his shoulder.

"I'm not tired, either!" He said gleefully and ran, full tilt, back to their hotel, ignoring Meryl's feeble protests.

She hit the mattress with a muffled whump and giggled. "Honestly…!" She tried to sound annoyed, but she couldn't hide the twinkle in her eye as she looked up at her boyfriend who was busily undressing himself.

"Need any help?" She asked coyly as she sat up.

"I got it." He said, hopping on one foot as he tried to pull off his left boot. He managed to get that one off with little trouble, but the right boot proved to be more stubborn and he ended his struggle on his butt on the floor.

Meryl laughed out loud and kicked off her boots, narrowly missing his head. "You're hopeless!" She exclaimed merrily. He stuck his tongue out at her and Meryl rewarded his effort by throwing her pantyhose at him. He caught it easily and gave her a wicked look.

God, he's sexy!Meryl couldn't help the thought as she watched him take off the rest of his clothes. If he could feel her appreciative eyes on him, he did not say. But, he stripped his gloves off with deliberate slowness and took his time unbuttoning his shirt. She no longer saw the scars that adorned his body, all she saw was him and it was wonderful. Broad, muscular shoulders, defined arms, a flat stomach with a rippling of muscles, those narrow, narrow hips and strong thighs…I am the luckiest girl alive! Meryl had stars in her eyes and was grinning from ear to ear.

Vash looked over his shoulder and caught her unguarded fangirl moment. He blushed and wasn't sure if he should be flattered or scared. Flattered, he decided.

He turned around fully and approached the bed, clad only in his pants. "Not fair!" He said, pouting slightly at Meryl. She looked up at him, confused. "What?"

"You're still dressed!" He exclaimed, sounding wounded. Meryl looked down and realized that she had been so absorbed in admiring him that all she had gotten off was her boots and panty hose.

"Whoops." She said and then stood up. "I guess I have to play catch-up." She unbuttoned her top and dropped it on the floor near the foot of the bed. Next, she wiggled out of her skirt, stepped out of it and kicked it aside. She probably wouldn't be able to find it in the morning, but she really didn't care. He watched her performance with the same appreciative look she had been giving him a moment earlier. Grinning wickedly at him, she put her hands on his shoulders and pushed him down into a sitting position on the side of the bed. Clad only in her bra and panties, she straddled his lap. "Better?" She asked.

He smiled sweetly and nodded. "Much better." Wrapping his arms around her tiny waist, he lowered his head to dust kisses across her forehead, the tip of her nose and finally, her mouth. His kisses were wonderfully intense and completely overwhelming. Meryl would forget everything, nothing would matter, nothing existed except him.

She was surprised, and a little disappointed, too when he ended the kiss.

"Meryl? Can I ask you something?" His voice was low and sounded strangely…vulnerable. She looked up at him and detected an intense longing and sadness in his green eyes.

She nodded and pulled back a little so she could see his entire face.

"Do you love me, Meryl?" He asked, sounding like a child.

She let out a breath she hadn't been aware of holding and swatted him lightly on his tousled blonde head. "Of course, stupid." She said and moved in to kiss him again. He moved back.

"Why?" Shadowed green eyes held hers, waiting for an answer.

"Why?" She echoed stupidly.

He nodded.

"I don't know, Vash…that's kind of a hard question to answer without thinking about it first." She said uncertainly.

"Oh." It was the most disappointed sounding "oh" she had ever heard.

She sighed. "Idiot."

Vash looked hurt, and the wounded expression on his face broke her heart. She hated hurting him, even a little bit. Hoping to dispel his unhappiness, she wrapped her arms around his neck and touched foreheads with him.

"If you really want to know…" She whispered.

"I do." He replied.

"Well…you're sweet and kind. You can be kind of an idiot sometimes, but most of the time, you're irresistible. You worry too much about everyone and everything…you have the sweetest smile, you're cute, good with children, slightly mysterious, even tempered, sentimental…but, you know what I love best?"

He shook his head.

She grinned. "That would have to be your big…"

Vash blushed.

"Heart." She finished with a laugh. He relaxed and laughed, too.

"I love you because you're you, if that makes any sense." She kissed him and he returned it with interest.

Later that night, with Meryl cuddled against him, her head resting on his chest, Vash smiled. Wolfwood would have been proud of the porcupine head, it was a real smile, the kind that crinkled around his eyes and made Meryl melt. His hand absently stroking her back, he whispered, "thank you," before closing his eyes and going to sleep.