His eyes, somewhere between a light cyan and a pale turquoise. Their depths were filled with a sorrow that no one person could truly understand. Though he would put on a smile, and help those around him with his entire heart, mind, body and soul, paying little mind to his own physical and mental being. She'd seen his body, his left arm that was gone from halfway up his forearm.
She'd seen the scars, and she committed them to memory. She could not imagine what he'd gone through to obtain each and every deep scar, most looked unprofessionally stitched, some which were deep gashes of missing flesh, and one or two that were even covered by metal. Everyone knew the rumors, knew what he'd done, but she couldn't imagine him having done the things he was accused of.
He was a man who would protect everyone at all costs, except at the cost of a life. That was how he'd obtained those scars. Whatever situation he found himself in, no matter how close it got, he refused to kill. Even when an adversary killed others, and even when he lost it, even if it came close to him finally planting a bullet just right, he would still find himself and spare any life in his way.
After all, she supposed his thinking must be, 'who am I to judge who lives and who dies?' All she knew about him was what he showed her and the rumors of his misdeeds. There was no real way for her to approach him, to ask about his past, to learn what made him the way he was. Often, she'd go to his room to invite him to get food, most times, she'd find him lost in thought, or crying while he slept. Her curiosity often got the better of her, and she would sometimes take a step into his room, planning to wake him up and ask, 'what could bring a grown man such as Vash the Stampede, to tears?'
However, she'd stop herself mid-step, who was she to pry into his past? Meryl knew it had to be something horrible, traumatic, so who was she to demand answers? If he really wanted anyone to know, to understand, he would seek her out, pull her ear in close and tell her about the images of the past that haunted him.
After all, in the beginning, she was the one that wouldn't believe he was who she and Milly had been searching for. He had been the complete opposite of the image she had of him; an evil gunman who'd destroyed entire cities in a single day. This man wasn't evil, he was lucky as hell, as well as unlucky at the same time. Every situation he was involved in, every person he'd met, something good came out of it. Whether he saved a life or freed a town from debt from an unfair official, all he did was good. Yet trouble followed him everywhere.
Meryl hunched over her mug, sighing into its lukewarm depths. She wanted to understand, but there was no way for her to initiate such a conversation.
"Couldn't sleep?" shooting to a straight position, Meryl's eyes shot over to the doorway that connected the café to the hotel part of the establishment.
Standing there in his pants and white t-shirt, was Vash, smiling that ever present smile, rubbing his eyes. Breathing in and relaxing back against her seat, Meryl shrugged. She couldn't ask him, she couldn't because he didn't trust them, he didn't trust her. Sure, he did have faith in them, maybe an inch of trust, at least enough to know that they wouldn't turn against him or try to hurt him, but then again, he had that extra sense that allowed him to perceive people's true intentions.
He allowed them to follow him because he knew there was no real harm to himself from them, and because danger followed him. If anything, he let them follow for their own benefit.
"Not really, I'm used to burning the midnight oil so I'm usually up at this time anyways." It was part truth, part lie, she knew he knew this but he said nothing, only smiled.
"I see, doing what?" His curiosity was genuine.
A sarcastic smile curled her lips, "oh you know, I'm busy writing reports for all the trouble you cause us during the day." She'd only meant it as a joke, but the slight sadness that entered his eyes, that gaze that asked for forgiveness tore at her, "I'm only joking." She told him, "I do write a lot of reports though, and recently, I've begun writing to my family back home again."
The last statement brought a measure of warmth to his smile, erasing that look that begged her to forgive his sins, "oh? Do you have a large family?"
A warm smile found its way to her lips, "not nearly as big as Milly's family. I have my parents, a younger brother, a few aunts and uncles on both sides. From the last letter I got from them, my grandparents are still doing fairly well too." She remembered vividly how nervous she'd been as she waited for a return letter after she'd sent her first in quite a long time.
She'd sent them a short note, telling them she was sorry she hadn't contacted them, and if they were mad at her for her silence, she'd understand if they didn't reply or told her to mind her own business. Of course she shouldn't have worried. Her mother was ecstatic to hear from her, asking a plethora of questions to which she had the attention span to answer only half. Even her father and brother had put notes in with her mother's, asking her what she's been up to.
The memory made Meryl wonder about Vash's family. Where were they at? Were they alive? Did he have a big family, or was it a smaller one, did he get along with them or did he come from one of those families that unfortunately didn't stick together?
"That's always good news to hear. I bet you miss them."
"I do," sighing, Meryl frowned. She couldn't keep from wondering about his past, it slightly depressed her, knowing that he wouldn't let her be privy of that information.
"Is something the matter?"
"No, it's nothing." Another lie, he knew it and again said nothing.
A smile that Wolfwood had often called a false smile, (and she understood that it was true,) was again plastered on his face, "oh, I get it, you're bored! We should go out and have some fun then!"
Her pale gray eyes looked on incredulously at the blond man, "are you kidding me? It's two in the morning!"
Walking over to her, he grabbed her wrist and pulled her gently (for she did respond and get up at his tug) to her feet, then promptly started walking to the café's back door. "C'mon, you don't wanna be a stick in the mud, do ya?"
While not being a 'stick in the mud' wasn't her priority, she did agree with the fact that she needed to relax and have some kind of fun. It happened all the time. Milly was better able to forget her duties and enjoy her time while Meryl herself generally worried over her deadlines and whether or not Vash would inevitably get into trouble that day.
"No, I don't want to be the stick in the mud, but where are we going? Don't tell me we're going to find a saloon." She narrowed her eyes at him, but he only smiled.
"Nah, nothing like that." The answer was short and vague, giving nothing, hinting nothing. He fell into silence, dragging her along, humming a song she could only vaguely remember hearing before.
It seemed like they'd walked forever, but at the same time, it seemed only a minute or two as they found the outskirts of the town they were in. Being so dark out, she couldn't see much but the outlines of distant arid mountains, their shapes desperate to stand out against the inky blue-black sky. Vash stopped in front of her and she nearly crashed into him.
"Hey, what's the big deal, Vash—" she stopped when Vash hushed her, "what is it?" Was there someone nearby intending them harm?
"Wait for it…" she looked at him, he had his eyes toward the sky. They were watching as the clouds drifted away from the moons. "There, now, look at my feet."
"Look at your feet, Vash, I don't understand—" but then she did understand. There, standing defiantly in this dry wasteland, was a single, what looked to be blue, flower.
"It's a moonflower." He told her, "obviously, they only bloom at night, but to think it could survive in this kind of environment. It makes you wonder how something so fragile can be so strong."
Meryl agreed with this statement, and she supposed, the moonflower was symbolic of their little trip out. Humans, human nature, behavior, survival, it was all so tenuous, fragile and uncertain, yet they found a way to prevail and thrive. Humans grew strong through their trials and tribulations; as she was sure Vash had done as well.
A measure of understanding came over Meryl; though he couldn't talk about his past to her, he was letting her know that although he couldn't keep his past where it belonged, he still grew from it all. Smiling down at the flower, she silently thanked Vash for this iota of information, even if it was only a generalization, even if this lesson could be applied to anyone, she now knew that he was still living in the moment, even if he was sometimes stuck in the past.
"It's funny, such fragile things are usually protected, but sometimes, they are the ones who ultimately protect us." From the understanding smile that made his face seem so soft, she could tell that he definitely agreed.
He was a capable man, he was a man who could destroy a city in a single night. She'd never seen him do so, but she believed that if he so desired, he could. He was so strong, but she knew, that somewhere in his past, he was protected by someone, someone he felt that he should have been protecting.
The clouds covered the moon again, but the soft hue of the flowers petals still burned in her eyes. Vash tugged on the wrist that she hadn't realized he never let go of, and led her back into town. They walked for a while until they were in the middle of town where a giant, ornate fountain stood. The two sat on the fountains ledge, just enjoying the cool breeze of the night.
After a while, Vash stood in front of Meryl, "so, are you ready to tell me what's bothering you now?"
A small, guilty smile and a sheepish shrug told him she wasn't bothered anymore, but she decided to trust him with her thoughts. "Truth is, I'm not very bothered by it now, but…" taking a deep breath, she looked into his eyes, willing him to understand everything she said, "the truth is, I've been wondering a lot about what's happened in your past," a guarded look entered his eyes, but she pressed on, "I want to understand why you are the way you are, what made you into you, but the more I see of your actions, the more I understand that I don't need the complete story to understand you." He blinked rapidly a few times, taken aback, "you are who you are simply because that's just how you were made."
For a moment, he stared at her in shock, but then a small, relieved sigh escaped his lips as she witnessed the tension drain from his shoulders. "A friend of mine once told me something similar to that, a long, long, long time ago." A faint yet true smile crept across his lips, and Meryl couldn't help the tiny blush that crossed her cheeks at seeing it.
"This friend of yours must have been great."
"She was the best."
That statement threw Meryl off, but then she felt it, "you loved her."
A pained smile replaced the true one, "in some way, yeah, I did, but I know how she saw me. I was her little brother, or even like a son to her. I was someone she cherished, and I cherished her."
Though this conversation was but a drop in the bucket of his past, it was huge that he trusted her enough to tell her that. She felt special, but also like an intruder for coaxing such statements from him, especially when they hurt him so.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have been so bold about that statement."
Shaking his head, that bit of truth entered his saddened smile, "no, it's alright, I know I can trust you with that knowledge." He smiled wryly, "it's not like you could use the information against me anyways, she's been gone for a long time now." He said it in such a shrewd way that she couldn't be angry that the thought of her ever using information like that against him was ever a possibility in his mind.
However, as she looked up at the stars, she recalled her family, "I have those I love as well. I'd never use the memory of someone's loved ones as a way to hurt or blackmail them." She smiled to the stars, "those memories are precious, they should be respected and protected, just like when they were there physically."
The kind, gentle smile on Vash's face told her that he'd known she'd feel that way, and that was why he'd opened up to her. Even if it was only a little.