This is something I wrote a while back, but never posted. However, it's a little vignette in a series of vignettes… I never got around to writing. O.o  Whoops? Anyway, I may one day pick up these little 'aftermath' stories, and squeeze things out of my brain, but for now… here's this little number.

Nightow owns Trigun, I don't. This writing exercise is not for profit. Blah blah blah. Don't sue.

His Brother's Keeper

He awoke to the familiar scent of cigarette smoke and dust, heavy in the air; dust coming in off the dry plains from the open window, smoke from whoever had a lit cigarette in the small room.

The bed, however, was unfamiliar. It smelled of booze, blood, and sweat, with this bizarre after scent he could have sworn was soup broth. The pillow was flat, the bed narrow, and the blankets thin; it was more of a cot then a real bed; if anything, the mattress had been lifted from the local jail.

It was the straps around his wrists, however, that really surprised him. There was the experimental tug at both wrists. Secured, tightly. Twitching both legs, he found them similarly bound. For the first time since waking up, the plant frowned, a crease appearing between his brows.

"Do you really think you can hold me like this?" he asked to the man he knew was in the room.

"Did you really think you'd convert me with mass murder?" was the soft reply. It came from near the window; Knives turned his head toward the source of the reply, eyes narrowing as he discerned the familiar shape.

Slightly more lanky then himself; Knives' twin was his same height, but hard living had worn away his frame, rendering him thinner, corded musculature stretched tight against the bone. To Knives' more wolfish build, Vash was a slender wolfhound, it seemed; all gawky seeming length and legs and bright eyes.

The 'younger' twin rose from his seat, a cigarette secured between his fingers, which he casually stubbed out in the ashtray on the window. A beaten pack rested next to it; from the cloying scent that Vash now smelled of, he'd apparently been sitting there and smoking for quite some time.

"Picking up Nicholas's bad habits, Vash?" It came out mockingly, Knives' eyes glittering in the dim light.

"Why not? Isn't going to hurt at all," Vash replied with disturbing merriment. The barb had not struck home at all. "Though I think you should have been more concerned about the other things he left me."

Knives' blinked quietly, considering his brother's words. Yes. He should have been more concerned with the Cross Punisher, indeed. He wanted to reach out, touch his wounds. He knew they were real, but still – the desire to verify his condition was suddenly in his hands. But they were bound, twitching ineffectually against his sides.

Crossing the room, Vash reached for an object at the nightstand beside the bed, turning on the lamp at the bedside. Knives winced as the light lanced his eyes, and made a small noise of displeasure.

"Sorry. You've been out a few days," Vash explained, tone ever gentle. Not once yet had he gotten angry, been displeased. He still remained soft in touch; sentimental in the sad smile he wore when he gazed down at his brother.

Scarred hands—one real, one synthetic—peeled back the blankets, rustling them down to Knives waist. The touch of cool night air made the wounded plant shiver violently once, but he froze his body, demanding it not respond to the stimulus that taunted his weary, unhappy muscles.

Vash simply checked his bindings, his green eyes intent on his work.

"What's the prognosis, doctor?" Knives finally sneered, jerking again in his bindings. He wanted to smack those hands away from his skin. "Am I salvageable?"

"That will be for you to decide, I think," Vash said, looking at his brother with guileless eyes. The differences stuck Knives violently then; warm green to ice blue, his golden blonde to the pale flax of Knives' shorter mop.

The imperfect mirror froze between them as they looked at one another, and for one brief, mad moment, Knives wondered if Vash abhorred that imperfect reflection as much as he did.

And then it was over; Vash broke from his gaze, and tucked everything back into place. Then, he turned his sights south on Knives' body. The blanket was flipped back from the opposite direction, and Knives abruptly stiffened as the draft he felt left him with the realization that Vash had apparently not seen fit to leave him with a single stitch of clothing.

The grinding of Knives' teeth was sharply audible in the quiet of the bedroom. Vash only smiled.

"You're healing well," Vash commented as he replaced the blanket. "You'll be up and around in no time, I'm sure."

Knives looked at him for a long moment, the profile of his brother lit by the lamp at his bedside. He studied the thin lines across his cheeks; received in the battles with Midvalley and Legato, Knives was sure of it.

"And do you mean to tell me, you're simply just going to let me get up and go my way?" Knives asked after a moment. "That after everything I've taken from you, everything I've done, you're just going to turn a blind eye to this, and let me go?"

"Oh, hell no. Do you think I'm a moron?" Vash turned a befuddled look to Knives.

"Do you want an honest answer?" Knives muttered darkly. "You've always been a fool, Vash."

"Says the man currently tied to my bed," Vash pointed out, and rose from the bedside, stretching out quietly. One arm didn't complete the motion, spasming at the shoulder. Knives knew why. The bullet wound in his shoulder aggravated by his motions.

Vash moved back over to the ashtray; he picked it up, moved over to the trashcan hidden in the corner of the room, and tapped it out into it. The casualness of it all—that he could just stand by and clean while Knives was a prisoner in his bed, like some common, filthy human whore—incensed the bound brother. He jerked at his bonds, till his head swam with pain.

He was not used to pain. Not in his flesh, not in his body. He knew how to inflict it, but no one but his only kin had ever given it to him. But now, it wouldn't leave. He was healing, yes, but the hurt still lingered.

A cool hand was on his brow, and quiet voice shushed him once, twice, even as it's mate found his chest and rested there, as he abruptly heaved for breath. As his vision cleared, he saw Vash hovering over his, green eyes empathetic; Knives' suffering was his suffering, and yet, he'd been the cause! He'd given these wounds, defending those locusts he called humanity!

And abruptly, Knives was furious.

"Don't touch me!" was the seething hisses that slid past his clenched teeth. "Fucking bastard."

"Now, hey. Don't you knock mom like that. I'm sure she was hitched. Some how." The lame joke was so out of place it only further enraged the wounded, rabid plant, as he struggled again, the pain fuelling his hate, his hate giving him the power to speak.

"You piece of shit! Why did you listen to her? Why didn't you just see sense? All I wanted was Eden for us, and now look at us!" He would have gestured if he could, but all he could manage was an angry toss of his head. "You just never learned sense! She filled your head with nonsense and lies!"

"Eden," Vash's voice was gentle through the pain, crystal clear despite everything else blurring together. "Where the lamb could lay with the lion, Knives. And there are no wars, nor stealing, nor killing..."

"Don't tell me your dreams in a place like this!"

"Nick said that too. Did you teach that to him? Teach him not to dream?" Vash's voice was soft and quiet and a steady drone despite it all. It wouldn't leave, wouldn't go away, buzzing like locusts in Knives' ears. "In the end, he died for the dream."

"You killed him," Knives spat.

"You killed him," Vash returned, features still set in inhuman calmness, the placid, imperfect mirror turning Knives' rage back at him as quiet peace. "But we could go on and on, over that for years, Knives. Midvalley. Legato. Zazie. Hopperd. Monev. Dominique. How many died?"

"Not enough."

Green eyes glistened only momentarily, before strong fingers pressed to the bridge of his nose, stopping tears before they started. Vash still brushed gently at Knives brow, smoothing away the perspiration that had sprung up in the wake of the enraged fit. But his brief spurt of energy seemed spent now; Knives' breathing was labored and erratic, but in time, he calmed under his brother's gentle hands.

"When will you learn?" Knives sighed softly. "They will destroy us."

"Knives, why was July destroyed?" Vash asked.

Knives blinked at the question, his eyes searching Vash's face. But his brother would not stay put to be glared at; he got up, to drag the chair over from window, bringing to the bed.

"Tell me," Vash said as he situated his seat. "Why was July destroyed."

"The Angel Arm. I activated it," Knives said, his brows furrowing. What was Vash trying to say now?

"And so, I became Vash the Stampede, destroyer of July," the other blonde said. "And you went away to heal, and I went on the run."

Knives nodded, brows still furrowed.

"And who made plants explode?"

Knives frowned.

"And who sent Hopperd after me? Leading to the death of one of our sisters?" Vash asked quietly.

And Knives finally realized just what he was trying to say.

"A slave!" he spat. "A plant that existed to serve humanity! They aren't like us, Vash!"

"That's a human excuse." Vash admonished, and Knives could almost hear Rem's voice in the plant's. "They aren't like us. They aren't rich like us, colored like us, mean like us, powerful like us."

"They aren't like us," Knives insisted.

"The plants – or the humans, Knives?"


Vash quietly sighed, rubbing again at the bridge of his nose. Knives struggled in his bonds, till exhaustion took him again and he lay still, eyes closed.

"Where are you trying to go, Knives?" Vash asked after a moment, his tone strangely serious. "Your 'Eden' is gone. You have nowhere to go. No where I can't track you down and bring you back here, and keep you here." His eyes turned, briefly enough, hard; slivers of emerald instead of warm, green grass that this planet had never seen before humanity came. "And I will track you down, Knives."

"So it begins again," Knives laughed softly. "Will we always be at war, Vash?"

"Yes," was Vash's simple answer. "So long as you pursue this insanity, I will pursue you. Till you acknowledge that you cannot build an Eden for two people." Vash's lips curled into a smirk. "You're not handsome enough to be Adam, and I'm sure as hell ain't gonna be your Eve!"

Knives barked a laugh at the absurd comment, but regretted it after a moment. His laugh gave rise to Vash's own good natured chuckle, and then they simply shared a moment together, just laughing as they had once, hundreds of years ago. The tension faded to background noise, instead of a violent symphony between them. But they knew it would rise again.

But for just that moment, they were brothers again.

"Do you understand?" Vash asked after a moment.

"No," Knives said, sullenly.

"It'll take time," Vash said quietly.

"I don't want to understand," Knives repeated. Didn't Vash get it? He didn't want to know, to grasp, to even fathom the depths of these 'truths' that Vash held so dear.

"You don't want to see that you're like them, is what you mean," Vash said in the gentlest tones that Knives was sure he knew would enrage him again. But he wouldn't give in. Vash wanted him angry; to get angry, lose sight of his goals, his Eden!

"I will never be like them," he said, the calm in his voice steely and cool.

"You are now," Vash insisted, and pressed on. "You murder your own kind, slave or not, for your own purposes. You use people not like you to supply you with power, control, whatever you need. You are a human, Knives, and you made the Gung Ho Guns, and God only knows who else, into your Plants."

"I so what if I did?" Knives snapped, the tenuous control of his temper snapping like a much-abused tether. "They're beneath me! I am a plant! I am superior!"

"Superior," Vash repeated, frowning slightly. "Now there's a term I don't like."

Knives broke; his intelligence failed him, and he found himself sinking to profanity. "Fuck you."

"Tsk. Such language. What would mom say?" Vash lifted a finger, and waggled it at Knives, seeming to bait him into further obscenity.

And it came. It came in floods; Meryl's parentage, Millie's sexual orientation, Vash's own breeding, Wolfwood's kinks for big guns and little boys. Nothing was sacred and it was all smeared in a torrent of filth from the enraged plant's mouth.

He went on for fifteen minute of rasping, screaming, verbal diarrhea.

And finally, when he lay panting for breath, Vash arched a brow.

"Done yet?"

Knives silently glared.

"Guess so."

The silence lingered between them; the lines of stress now showed in that calm, imperfect reflection. Knives reveled in them. But in time, he found himself speaking again, despite his brief victory in his brother's suffering.

"Are you really going to sit here with me, till I change my mind?"

"No. I am going to sit here till you are healed. And then we'll go from there."

"I won't live with humans," Knives muttered.

"That's okay. They probably don't want to live with you either," Vash acknowledged. "But we don't always get what we want, do we?"

The peace-loving plant rose, and moved over to the window; the light from it had faded; the sun had set during the conversation, and now the lamplight was the only illumination in the bedroom.

"Would you really give them up, Vash?" Knives asked after a moment. "Come with me, and live peacefully? In Eden, somewhere, for us?"

"For the time it took you to learn you couldn't live apart?" Vash mused, and then nodded. "Yes."

"Give up the women? Give up that…Meryl?" Knives' eye's narrowed, studying Vash's expression as he spoke.

Vash's face was like a book. Turn to a page with a word, and read his heart with what appeared across his visage. The scars were the roughened, dog-eared corners, but the text was still quite legible; love was writ there.

"Yes," he said, softer then before.

"She's not Rem," Knives goaded.

"No," the other plant didn't rise to the bait, "she's not." But he smiled then, and added with the sweetness of one who'd never had his heart truly broken by a woman, "I didn't love Rem like this."

"You disgust me," Knives growled. "What is the point of this foolish sentimentality? What could you conceivably have with her?"

"If I could make you understand that, Knives, you'd never kill a living thing ever again," the other plant replied, utter conviction ringing true.

"A woman. A soft, weak willed," Knives ignored Vash's laughter at his chosen insult, "idiot human woman."

"A wonderful, dedicated, ambitious, warm, passionate woman."

There was a brief pause, as Knives attempted to fathom his meaning, the suggestive connotation of those chosen words.

His jaw sagged open as it finally struck him.

"You didn't!"

Vash's smug smile was answer enough.

"You didn't!" Knives shrieked. "Not with a filthy, stinking, human woman!"

"You see any female plants, Knives?" Vash asked, arching a brow. He leaned back in his chair, smiling at his brother's utterly aghast expression. "Funny, but I have a feeling they're not coming out to put personal ads in the paper. 'SPP--Single Psychotic Plant, that is--seeks other sentient plant for mass murder and personal Eden' just isn't going to bring in any replies, Knives." Despite his brother's disgusted noise, Vash continued. "And a guy gets lonely, you know? And here's this girl, and she's got that pretty dark hair, and those gray-blue eyes, and you realize that after a while, she ain't following you just for the job. After Augusta... I knew it wasn't the same. She wasn't the same."

A pause, and a breath, Vash's eyes focused on some unseen thing in the distance. "We weren't the same."

And then Knives destroyed the moment with a groan.

"Oh, kill me now before you put me through anymore of this utterly unbelievable drivel!" Knives rolled his eyes, and then grunted in disgust. "With a human. I cannot believe you… you… fornicated with a…" He shuddered. "The very thought of it is enough to make me violently ill."

"You have no idea what you're missing," Vash replied cheerily, his eyes focusing off somewhere in the distance; perhaps even now imagining his 'partner in sin'. "'Fornication' is pretty fun, when you get right down to it. Unless… You don't swing that way? Maybe guys are more your thing?" Ignoring the outraged noise, Vash continued. "Maybe Legato? He did have that, 'broody, intense whacko' thing going, I guess."

"Legato was a tool! Not—not—ugh!" The other plant just stared at his brother from the confines of the bed. "You're mad."

Chuckling, Vash said, "Bit rich coming from Mr. Bound and Tied there, eh?"

"You won't see sense!" Knives spat. "They will destroy us and everything else in this world!"

"No, Knives. They won't. How can they destroy us? They don't even know about us." Vash pointed toward the window, and the stretch of humanity that was sure to lie beyond. "The only humans who knew about us were on the Ship, and they loved me and accepted me and succored me after I fled with the magnums. And they taught me more and more about where we came from, Knives..."

Vash sighed, then, trailing off. "In time, when you're ready, I'll tell you everything."

"Lies," Knives denied. "Human propaganda."

"If you want to believe that, fine. But that won't change the truth." The other plant rose from his chair, running his hands through his hair.

"They're home," Vash said out of the blue. "I've got to go greet them. When dinner's finished, I'll bring something up to you."

"You don't mean, I'm…" Knives seemed, again, aghast at the simplest things. "In their home?"

"Our home, yes. This was my room. I'm sharing Meryl's now." He smiled at the suggestion it meant. "She… insisted."

He actually managed to blush at the insinuation that he hadn't been the relationship's initiator, and Knives just gave another sound of disgust.

"How will she feel, Vash, when you have to leave with me?" Knives asked, as Vash headed toward the door.

"She'll follow," Vash said with certainty. "Even if I told her not to, she'd be out there, watching and waiting. She'd find some place to camp out nearby, the closest town. Millie would likely stay here. She's happy here. But Meryl will follow."

Knives smirked. "You're an insipid romantic."

"And you're a small, sad, lonely little man. But we'll fix that, with enough time, right? Just remember, 'SPP' doesn't get you anywhere." Vash winked, then opened the door and left the former lord and master of a small but powerful army alone with the scent of booze, blood, and sweat.

And in the dim light of the lamp, Knives wondered just how the hell he'd get out of this with his sanity intact.