Author notes: This is a Vash stream-of-consciousness fic taking place after episode 19, Hang Fire, so if you haven't seen that far, you may be mildly spoiled. All Trigun characters belong to Nightow-sama, and I mean no harm by using them. Please do not copy, fold, spindle, or mutilate my work.

Wait for Me

by Rachael Haring

Wait for me...please.

I'm more observant than I seem.

I know that I must seem utterly clueless to you. And why shouldn't I? Within the first few seconds of meeting me, you saw that I was a fool, an incompetent, a half-wit, a joke. I was just some dopey, red-coated buffoon bent on complicating your mission.

I really can't blame you for your assessments. Most people quickly come to the exact same conclusion. When I move, I am nothing but elbows and knees, all awkward and gangly and clumsy. When I talk, my words are an emotional, comical sing-song. I weep at nothing. I stumble heedlessly into danger. I cower and hide from conflict whenever I can, however I can.

I know quite well the image I present. But it's not real. None of it is.

My appearance is a defense, but it's also a strange form of offense. After all, being seen as harmless has its distinct advantages. When I act as a fool, enemies underestimate me. They ignore me. They are off-guard, relaxed, unprepared.

That's when I surprise them.

You've seen both sides of me, haven't you? You've had difficulties getting your mind around the duplicity. I'm truly sorry to confuse you. You, of all people, deserve to see the real inside of me. You have been loyal, and good, and supportive, even in the midst of all of this chaos and disorder. I've been glad for your presence, even if I haven't shown it.

But you wear a fašade, too, you know. It's the opposite of mine: a mask of stoic determination, of nonchalant confidence, of peevish discontent. It hides the parts of you which are first and foremost gentle, nurturing, and yes, even sweet. You try so hard to suppress it. You struggle to cover up your warmth with blustery self-reliance.

Still, I can see it. Deep, deep behind your sense of duty. Beyond your stubborn pride. Below the multitudes of responsibilities which weigh on your strong heart.

I recognize what's behind the violet of your eyes.

You care for me.

No, it's more than that, isn't it? It's more than care.

You're falling in love with me.

Heh. Love. If I said that aloud, you'd definitely clobber me. And I've felt enough of your fearsome backhands to risk that possibility. My head hurts just thinking about it.

Well, so, now what? We sit here on this sandy hill, silently watching the suns as they slowly sink below the red-tinged horizon. Everything is quiet except for the constant, soft wheezing of the wind. The handkerchief that you gave me is soothingly cool against my wounds, and it smells faintly of you.

Lavender, is it? It suits you.

But as good as the kerchief feels, I just can't seem to find the words to thank you for its comfort. Instead, I stare ahead, holding the coolness against my bruised and raw skin, my vision red and glowing with the dying suns. Your small hand rests on the ground between us, your fingers lifting the grains of sand and letting them slide through your fingers like some delicate hourglass.

It reminds me how old I am. How young you are. How old you'll be.

When you look in my eyes, do the years show? Can you tell how much I've seen? Is there any way around those years?

Words echo in my mind. Something Knives once said to me as I looked at him through grieving tears.

"The humans' lifespans are nothing to us, Vash. They are insects. They exist for a few seconds, spread their disease, and then die. None of them will ever know what it is to be like us. How can they matter to us? How can they ever do anything worthwhile with such a pitiful, short existence?"

But as I look at your profile, I can't see anything but life and youth. The softness of your skin, the firm rosiness of your lips, the dark satin of your hair...

You prove him wrong. Your strength, your determination, your compassion, and your bravery. You stand against that pointlessness. It's irrelevant how long you've lived, or how long you will live. You matter.

Still, despite your courage, I'm not sure if you understand where this is all headed. There's going to be death. There's going to be blood. It's not going to be pretty. Things, things will change. It has gone too far to come to a gentle conclusion.

I didn't want to involve you in all of this mess. My problems were not your creation, and it is not your job to fix what went wrong more than a hundred years ago. I certainly don't want you to get hurt. And so I've turned you away twice now, to no avail. Each time, I bore the barely-repressed pain in your voice...the disbelief on your features...the strain of your posture...

And I find that I can't turn you away again. Sigh. Even if I did, it wouldn't make a difference, would it? I just can't shake you. You're so damn frustratingly pragmatic and calm and determined and...and...

Wonderful. So wonderful.

I've been lonely and empty inside ever since....well, I suppose ever since she died. I still think of her, often. I still love her. And though it feels like some sort of betrayal, I'm starting to realize that there is room in my heart for more.

I gave her the love of a child, pure and new and innocent. But I am no longer a child. She would not want me to stay that way. She would never wish for me to be lonely. She gave up her life so that I could live. So that we could all live.

It's true; sometimes you remind me of her. Your nobility, your capability, your beauty. But she is not you. You are not her. I'm beginning to see that now, more and more. I love her no less. I love you no less. I And it feels good.

I'm glancing at you from the corner of my eyes, like some little kid trying to glimpse his crush without letting her know he's staring. It's silly, really. You're a grown woman, and I am certainly old enough to stop these senseless games. And even though it's my artificial hand that's facing you, it aches to grab hold of your fingers. I wish I could move closer to your side and hold you tight in my arms, metal and flesh alike. I wish I could breathe the scent of your dark hair and feel your warmth against my skin. Something urges me to tell you everything I feel before one of us fades away. Everything seems so fragile.

How can I explain it? I feel like I'm standing on the edge of a cliff. There's a beautiful abyss in front of me, and I know that if I fall into it, I'll never have the strength to climb back out. I'll want to stay there, forever. It would be fantastic and warm and amazing...

And unfair. It would be unfair to add complicated emotions to your worries. Unfair to show you love when I cannot promise you that we'll be together. Unfair to put my desires above a multitude of lives.

I will not be unfair: not to you, not to Rem's memory, not to this planet. There is so much to be done. There is so much to fight.

I want to be with you...beside you...of you. But I simply can't. Not yet. Not now. Not until everything is settled and all sins are redeemed. As it stands right now, I can't give you what you deserve. I care about you too much to give you anything less than all of me.

Even though I can't make my tongue say it, I'm pleading to you with every part of my being. I know you can see it in my eyes, if you look deeply enough. I know that you can read my thoughts, if you try. I need you to understand. I need you to be patient with me.

I need...

I need you to love me.

Please don't give up. Don't lock your heart any deeper. Believe in me. Believe that we can win. Just a little longer...until I can give you everything. Just one more battle before I deserve you.

Please, Meryl.

Wait for me.

© 2001 Rachael M. Haring