A/N: I don't think I've ever seen any stories that explore how Vash feels about guns, and one day I started thinking... the result was a gen fic! (Boy, it's been a while since I wrote one of those.) It takes place directly from Vash's perspective. This first part reflects a headcanon of mine – as in, something that didn't happen in the series but what I think could have happened, either between the scenes or in flashbacks – so I'll understand if that's not everyone's cup of tea.

Also, a disclaimer: I am not here trying to make any heavy-handed statements for or against the use of guns. My real interest is in examining one guy's personal philosophy on the subject. (The opinions expressed in this story do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the author, and so on and so forth.)

Reflections on a Peacemaker

I. Innocence

Guns kill.

It's as simple as that. They were not made to do anything other than what they do, which is to take life, or to grievously injure; and in the case of the latter, well, there's plenty of ways to hurt someone that don't involve bullets. Sure, you could buy yourself a gun and only ever take it to a shooting range, but just think about what those targets represent. Target practice is just that: practice for killing another living creature.

But even so... I believe guns can be peacemakers.

You see, I'm sort of an outlaw on my planet. That means guns are about as common a sight as donuts in my daily life (and a lot less tasty). Vash the Stampede's my name. Perhaps you've heard of me? I assure you, I'm much more handsome-looking than the guy on the wanted posters.

...all right, so I'm not much of a comedian. But if you have heard of me – enough that you can see past all the propaganda to who I really am – have you ever wondered how someone like me can believe the things I do and still use guns? (Another thing they don't get right on the posters: they keep misspelling pacifist as psychopath!) It's something that mystifies even me on occasion. But it's been long enough now, I think – long enough that I can finally tell you my story.

I guess I should start at the beginning... and I do mean the beginning, where things were still pure and unspoiled, and humanity was still capable of welcoming their future with open arms. It had been six months since my brother Knives and I were first birthed from a power plant on the mother ship for Project SEEDS. Because we're plants, we developed very quickly, and soon gained the awareness (if not the immaturity) of ten-year-olds. I have to credit the crew for resisting the temptation to subject us to endless experimentation – beyond running some initial tests on us to determine how we came to exist, they never had us contained in any creepy mechanical get-ups, or invaded the privacy of our bodies with scary knives. We were given an incredible amount of freedom. But freedom – as you probably already know, if you've lived long enough – tends to come with a price tag.

That was when I had my first run-in with a real gun. And if things hadn't turned out the way they did... well. I probably wouldn't even be sitting here talking to you. And eating this delicious salmon sandwich. (I digress.)

You see, we were playing in the Rec Room, waiting for Rem to come back from her room, where she was making us a "real home-cooked meal" (in her own words. Rem never took too kindly to the instant stuff that came out of the tubes. "We're not living like astronauts in the twenty-first century," she'd argue with Captain Joey, "we have things like artificial gravity now! Just because you're a man and you'd be content living on noodles for the rest of your life doesn't mean..." Once again, I digress). But anyway, that's where we were, and I was starving. Like, really hungry. I was about ready to start climbing the trees to get at the apples up there, even though they hadn't yet fully ripened. Knives was looking infuriatingly calm and chiding me for my lack of restraint – as per usual – when we both saw the gun.

We had no idea where it had come from. One minute there'd been nothing there on the grass, and the next there was this shiny new thing staring us in the face. My first impressions were of pearly light glinting off of its sleek exterior, as well as a certain... allure. Even from a distance, it looked like the most impressive toy I'd ever seen.

"What is it?" I asked. Remember, I was six months old. I was sort of naive. I sauntered up to take a closer look.

"I don't know," Knives replied, a little chagrined. I could tell that he didn't like that there was something he didn't already know the answer to. He joined me in inspecting the gun. Not wanting him to hog it, I suddenly picked it up by the grip – it was heavier than it looked – and slid the metal barrel against my eye.

"It's too dark," I complained. "I can't see anything."

Knives motioned to me. "Let me see it."

"In a minute," I said. I pulled the gun away from my face, turning it over and over in my palm. It was definitely too big for a kid like me to be handling, and yet I couldn't bring myself to surrender it. After a few seconds in which I fiddled with a strange switch on the side (I was unaware that this was the safety), I suddenly had an epiphany. A very stupid epiphany.

"It must be a food dispenser," I said, trying to sound like I knew exactly what I was talking about. As if to match my action to the tone of those words, I drew myself up to my full height and sort of puffed out my chest, like what I imagined a really smart guy must do when he's talking about chemical bonding or something equally boring. "You just pull this little lever here – " I gestured to the trigger – "and food pops out."

A brief silence passed, as my explanation sunk in. "How do you know that?" Knives finally asked, a bit peeved that he hadn't thought of this first.

"What other explanation is there? One of the crew members must have been using it and then left it here by accident."

"Really?" Knives said in his most annoying Mister Know-It-All voice. "I'd like to see some proof of this." He held out his hand, but I wasn't budging. Once something was in Knives's possession, you could pretty much count on never seeing it again until he had first taken it apart and put it back together – three times over.

"You can have it after I figure out what kind of food is in here," I returned. I started to raise the barrel – in my mind, a harmless tube – to my lips.

"At least aim it at something other than your mouth," Knives said, ever the sore loser. "You'll get germs!"

"I don't care if there's germs, I'm starving." And with that, I squeezed the trigger.

Or tried to. For some reason, the trigger was stuck – I couldn't complete the action. We both stood there, at a loss. I tried pulling the trigger a few more times, but the same thing kept happening. I pulled the gun away from my mouth.

"Nothing happened," I said, disappointed.

"Maybe it's empty," Knives said. He sounded disappointed too, like he'd wanted to know what was in it, even if he wouldn't admit it. "Try flipping that weird switch back. Maybe the food's locked in or something."

I was about to comply when we both suddenly heard a woman screaming. Our bodies immediately tensed, the same telepathic thought passing between us – did something happen to the ship? – and the gun tumbled to the grass, instantly forgotten.

Then I looked up, and I saw. The woman was Rem. The reason I didn't recognize her voice was because I'd never, ever heard her scream like that. She'd dropped the two bowls of chili that she'd been carrying as she walked into the Rec Room, and their guts splattered across the grass as though a very bloody accident had just taken place.

Everything that happened next sort of blurs in my mind now, even though I've got a photographic memory. I remember cutting sensations of air as she suddenly appeared at my side, fast as lightning; and then the sound of bone (her hand) striking flesh (my cheek). It was the first – and last – time she ever raised her hand against me. I actually didn't even feel it, but I placed trembling fingers over my cheek anyway, as though doing that would somehow summon the pain that was supposed to follow when you got slapped in the face, because nothing else was making any sense right now. Why had she done that? What had I done to make her angry? I felt like a pathetic mutt that rolls over and exposes its belly to its tormentors, wanting desperately to please them; and I would have done anything to take back the anger that Rem felt towards me now.

Then the feeling was gone, as Rem suddenly clutched me to her chest and buried her fingers in my hair, alternately stroking me and crying and thanking God and yelling at us what did we think we were doing, didn't we know that if the safety had been off Vash would have gotten himself killed? At first I couldn't follow any of it. It was like a foreign language, so instead I just sank into her clothes and breathed in her perfume and loved her, loved her so much for not hating me. After a few moments, I came back out of myself, enough that I could understand what she was screaming at my twin.

"How could you, Knives? How could you let him do it?"

"I... I'm sorry," Knives said, as humbled and as shocked as he had ever been in his life. "I didn't know..."

We later learned that the gun belonged to Steve. The matter was serious enough that it warranted convening all of the crew members together to severely reprimand him for his actions. The man looked pale and was shaking as he explained that he'd accidentally left it there while drinking off-duty. But – and he swore to this – he had left the safety on, as per the regulations for firearms use within the SEEDS crew.

Rem's eyes were cold and steely as Steve spoke, and after the meeting I heard her personally exchange words with him, to the effect that if he ever did something so reckless again, she would make sure he didn't return for duty. I could tell it would be a long time before she forgave him for his mistake. (And guess what: she eventually did. Rem is nothing if not indiscriminately kind.) Afterwards, she took me and Knives aside and explained exactly what guns were and what they did.

That day contained a lot of firsts for me... and for Knives, as well. It was the first time that either of us even had any conception of the idea that people hated each other, enough to manufacture – things – that could be used to hurt and kill one another. It was the first time we witnessed the darkness of mankind, a darkness that touched our hearts and just kind of stayed there, like a cancerous black lump. Steve had never liked us, we knew that much, but this – this was the product of hate, and nothing more.

Mankind made plants, but they also made Panzers.

I vowed that I would never even look at a firearm again.

Strangely, that whole episode strengthened my bond with Rem. Knowing that she loved me enough to put up such a fuss over my possible death was just... it was really something. But I don't think Knives ever really felt comfortable around her again. After all, he wasn't the one that Rem had been embracing, who knew beyond all doubt that she loved us more than words could say. Instead, he had gotten yelled at for something he couldn't possibly have known about. Even though Rem had apologized for her panicked reaction, I could tell that it still bothered him. For a long time I waited and hoped that he would warm up to her again, but then – well, then the Great Fall happened.

It probably didn't help that, in the weeks leading up to that terrible day, Knives's exceptional memory most likely called forth a moment that I had already chosen to forget.

I'd flipped the safety on the gun exactly three times. It hadn't been on when we started playing with it.

Whether Steve had been lying to the crew and hoping we'd accidentally kill each other, or had really just forgotten that the safety was off, I'll never know. And I don't want to know.

A/N: I hope Rem wasn't out of character here. I just always felt she had a tough-as-nails side to her that you didn't really get to see in the anime. The next part should be up soon. Thanks for reading!