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WARNING: If you haven't read the warning on the index page, go back and read it. If you don't, and you don't like what you find here, don't come crying to me.
Title: Playing the Odds

Author: Eleanor K.

Fandom: Trigun

Pairing: Vash/Nicholas D. Wolfwood

Rating: PG-13 at most. Well, maybe R for language.

Spoilers: For Murder Machine, plus references to later episodes that reveal a pretty major plot point. Might want to skip it if you haven't seen at least up to Paradise.

Email: emungere@gmail.com

Disclaimer: They're not mine. Just as well; Vash would probably spend my entire salary on donuts.

..___..

Legato said it would be Vash who spotted me. I didn't believe him. A whole bus full of people, and the guy to spot me is the very one I'm waiting for? I didn't see how he could be so sure. Of course, that was before. Now I understand.

He tried to prepare me, in his own way. I didn't believe a word of it, but to be fair, who would have? Consider the source. Legato was never what you might call stable. Definitely a few rounds short of a full clip. So when he started talking about this guy defying death and dodging bullets and doing everything but walking on water, it didn't strike me as a good idea to take every word as gospel.

In the first few hours of our acquaintance, Vash the Stampede saved my life-- three times. At least. I might be forgetting one or two. And yeah, I took out that one mechanical sand snail or whatever it was that snuck up on him, but did I save his life? At the time, I would have said yes.

I remember congratulating myself on getting into his good graces so easily and so permanently. Nothing forges a bond like fighting back to back. But afterwards... When it was all over, I knew. He would have gotten that one, too. He needed my help like this planet needs another sun. I thought about it while I dozed on Milly's shoulder. I was thinking, among other things, that I'd never failed so badly before.

As soon as he handed me the gun, I knew I'd fucked it up. I gave him the spiel anyway-- never fired a gun before and all that crap. Arguably the biggest lie I've ever told.

As innocent as he seemed, as he still seems, I knew he was testing me. Entirely innocent that man is not. He is certainly not the fool that Legato told me he was, and that was the only thing he said that I believed.

The stars are bright tonight. Brighter than usual, seems like. We won't make May City until tomorrow, thanks to the detour to save the little girl. Tonight, she and her sister are asleep in their mother's arms, the driver is asleep with his feet on the steering wheel, and the insurance girls are asleep with their legs in the aisle. I almost tripped over them on my way out. Everyone but me stayed packed into the bus, despite the slightly manky smell we were all starting to generate. Safety in numbers I guess.

I've got more to fear than all of them put together, but here I am, out on the sand, under the stars. Alone, which doesn't surprise me. Not wanting to be alone, which does surprise me.

"Wolfwood?"

At the sound of his voice, I jump about a foot like the wussy, non-firearm-wielding innocent I was supposed to be. At least I can drop that act. It never sat well on me. The voice is close. I never heard him get off the bus.

"Here," I tell him.

He comes around the end of the bus and looks down at me. "You're still awake."

"Yeah. You too."

"Yeah... you want to go for a walk?"

"Because we didn't get enough exercise today?"

He smiles at me. "Just a short one. Come on."

I'm on my feet before I think about it, following his gentle request as fast as I ever obeyed an order from Legato. Exactly what I should be doing, of course, according to my job description. Make him want to keep me around. Stay with him. Protect him. I'm lucky he still wants anything to do with me after today; it'll make my job that much easier.

Only that's not why I'm following him, and I know it.

We skid down the back of the dune on our heels. At the bottom we're out of sight of the bus. I dust off my suit and turn to look at him. His eyes are so serious.

"Who are you, Nicholas D. Wolfwood?"

I shrug. "Just a priest. That's all. Nothing special."

"Where did a priest learn to shoot like that?"

The thing that gets me is that his questions aren't accusatory. Nothing in his voice or bearing suggests that I've been lying to him and he knows it... although I have, and he surely does.

"Self defense." Does the fact that we both know it's a lie make it any less of a lie?

He smiles sadly and turns my world upside down. There's a second there when I would do anything, say anything, *be* anything to put that other smile back on his face. The real one. The one that made him look happy. It's just a second, and it passes, but it was enough. It was too much.

He touches some part of me that I thought I'd killed and buried long ago. The need to sit down comes over me and gets through to my legs without asking my brain for permission. I slump against the dune, heels dug into the sand.

He sits beside me, so close his leg presses against mine. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine."

"Do you want to go back to the bus?"

Such concern for me. Me, a stranger who he knows has lied to him. Is still lying to him. I don't understand it at all.

"No." I don't want to go back to the bus. This is what I want; the two of us alone under a black sky with no innocents for him to protect and all my fears far away.

His hand rests on my thigh. I cover it with my own and lean toward him, giving him time to back off and giving myself time to come to my senses. He doesn't, and neither do I. He tilts his head, and our lips meet and part again.

"I don't know--" Quiet words spoken an inch from my mouth.

"I do know. It's all right." I take his hand and kiss the palm, then the back. "Trust me," I tell him. More lies. He can't trust me, and it's not all right. I don't know what I'm thinking. This is as bad an idea for me as it is for him, but I can't seem to stop.

I see his eyes waver, but at last he nods and leans closer. I put an arm around him and draw him to me, sliding my free hand up his inner thigh. His body's stiff, and though he's not trying to get away, he won't relax.

"What is it?"

He shakes his head and smiles down at the sand. "I don't think this is a good idea."

I cup his face and turn his head so he's looking at me, preparing to lie to him again.

"I think it's a fantastic idea," I say with a grin. He laughs, tries to look away again. I won't let him. "What's wrong?"

"Friends last longer than lovers. Especially one night stands." Again, there is nothing accusatory in his voice.

There is nothing to suggest the thought behind that statement, which must be that I was going to fuck him and strike out for parts unknown, never to be seen again. Which means, I suppose, that he wants to see me again. That should have me singing hallelujahs. I've succeeded after all. Legato isn't going to carve me into little pieces, or make me do it while he watches me and laughs.

I am relieved, but... he wants to see me again. And somehow that means a lot more than it should. A lot more than just success in this first part of my job.

I have to give him some kind of answer. I'd like it to be the truth. Already I'm tired of lying to him.

"That's not always true," I say finally.

"Not always. But often enough."

I can't kill Legato. I don't know what crazy, masochistic part of my brain threw up that idea, but I can't. He'd have me rip my own heart out before I got within ten feet of him. If by some incredible luck I managed it, there would still be Knives to deal with, and there's a thought to make any sane person run screaming.

"So... I suppose if we're going to be friends, then we'd better quit while we're ahead, eh?"

He nods, and he's smiling at me like when I gave those meal bars to the kids. Like I've done something that gets me a little gold star pasted on my forehead, and he's just glad to be on the same planet with someone like me. No one in my life has ever looked at me like that. Which isn't so very surprising when you consider my life.

"So, back to the bus, then?"

Now he leans into me, lets his body relax against mine, and the fit is so perfect it's frightening.

"Can we stay here a little while? I like the stars." He lays his head down on my shoulder.

Right now I could still betray Vash. It might put me beyond salvage as far as my basic humanity is concerned, but I could do it.

I've known him less than a day. Legato said to stay with him as long as it takes. Weeks, he said. Months. Maybe longer. I wonder if one night of sex wouldn't have been safer than letting him creep under my skin a little at a time. A sort of inoculation against him.

I don't understand what's happening to me, but I'd believe Legato's most impossible claims about this man now.

I could lose myself to him. I can feel it happening already. Yesterday, I would have said it was impossible for anyone to get to me so quickly. I would have said I'd do my job no matter what it took.

Today I'm not so sure.

And tomorrow?

The odds are not in my favor.

I let my hand come to rest on Vash's hair and lean back against the sand. "Sure. We can stay as long as you want."

-------
..end..
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