"Gunsmoke & Feathers" series, Story 2. This is a delightful continuation to "Meeting Mom" - enjoy!! --Ricki
This is dedicated to Ricky, Master Jedi of all things anime, and patient explainer of Trigun truth to this unskilled padawan. Thank you. --Susan
"I'm telling you plain is best!"
"I've always liked the pudding filled ones myself; they're yummy!"
"You're both nuts. There's only one kind of donut that wins the top of the line, all around best donut of the year award."
Milly gave Wolfwood her complete attention, even Vash broke off from ogling the donut display.
"And what kind is that Mr. Priest."
"The free kind."
She giggled and Wolfwood smiled. He loved making her laugh and seeing her eyes light up like that.
It was the start of a beautiful day and what made it so great was that Meryl was buying them all donuts for breakfast. Wolfwood grinned, God bless the postal service for delivering Milly and Meryl's lost checks! Life was good. He watched as Milly and Vash continued their discussion on the pros and cons, virtues and flaws of the different varieties of donuts and rolled his eyes. The trio had been waiting for Meryl to mail her letters and reports while they waited outside the donut shop gazing in at the display case. Meryl told them to go ahead and go on in she shouldn't be too long. Taking her at her word, Vash and Wolfwood had headed for the door before Milly stopped them. They were going to do the right thing and wait for Meryl, besides, she was paying. After all, Meryl had let Vash pick the morning's breakfast site, and let Wolfwood choose the bar for lunch, and Milly had chosen to make dinner that evening. There were limited places for fine dining in this little town they had happened to stop at.
"I wish she'd hurry, I'm starved!" Grumbled Wolfwood turning to look down the street in hopes he would see her figure coming toward them. No such luck. He sighed and reached for a cigarette.
"Me too!" Echoed Vash and spared a glance at the post office door in the distance.
"Well, at least we..." Wolfwood stopped as he caught both donut addicts gazing back through the window. Good God, was Vash actually drooling?!
"You two really need to find a support group, nobody should get this worked up over a donut!" Vash gave him a highly offended look that only a fanatical believer in a religious cult could achieve.
"Unbeliever, get behind me!"
"Gladly." And stepped back a pace from the two donut worshippers.
"Oooooh, I think I will take that one and that one and that...."
"HEY! Don't be pointing at my donut, it's rude! And taken!"
Wolfwood shook his head and puffed on his cigarette, and tilted his head back to watch the smoke rise to dissipate on the slight morning breeze.
"Hmph! I don't think some people should be making noises about other people's interests, especially when a certain someone sucks on cigarettes like kids suck on candy." He scowled and swung his huge cross in front of him. Leaning on it with his free hand dangling over it, he said, "Sweetheart, it helps with stress and with you people, stress is a daily occupation." She smiled back at him before joining Vash again at the window. And they call him addicted! Yet, he was growing quite fond of them all, especially Milly, for reasons that eluded him.
Milly watched him out of the corner of her eye when she thought he wasn't watching. What a strange contradiction he was a preacher with a cross that turned into a gun. He portrayed himself as a stern dispenser of mercy or a killer with a heart. The corners of her mouth lifted. She had already decided what she thought.
"Honey," He said as he carried his wrapped cross on his back as if it were a knapsack instead of a heavy implement of destruction and mercy, "I like to keep mercy under wraps until someone deserves it."
She shook her head, coming back to the present and turned back to look at the display case. She shifted her feet, suddenly feeling a sense of unease but couldn't decide why. She glanced around and didn't see anything out of order. Yet, there it was again, that nagging feeling that something was out of kilter when all of a sudden her heart squeezed with fear. She peeked at Mr. Vash out of the side of her eye, he didn't seem worried or in commando mode, so things had to be okay, didn't they? After all it was usually Mr. Vash that could be counted upon to sense trouble before it happened. Now, it felt like the breath was being squeezed out of her lungs. THERE! It happened again, that creepy feeling like someone had walked over her grave. Her head snapped up and her eyes narrowed and she again scanned the street.
She turned and started sprinting to the post office door and heard behind her a shouted question, "Wait, Milly, what's wrong?!"
And Vash said, "Huuhhh?" But she could tell even with her back turned that his knowing, suspicious eyes were darting about ,alert and searching for danger. Wolfwood closed his eyes for a fraction of a second and Vash and Milly were gone in different directions. He opted to follow Milly and muttered a "Here we go again." into thin air. "And no damn breakfast either!"
Milly raced to the counter, frantically looked around but didn't see Meryl. She peered over the counter and there was the clerk, his head bent at an unnatural angle and eyes staring. Milly groaned and clutched her head with both hands, and stepped back from the counter so the view of the dead man was blocked. No, don't panic, use your head, that's what Meryl would say if she were here, which she wasn't, which is why she had to use her head, to get Meryl here and if Meryl were where she was supposed to be, then she wouldn't be having this conversation with herself. Right. She had just confused herself and that was no mean feat.
She closed her eyes and let her knowing place rise up. So much quicker and stronger than in the past. A tug, there! In that direction. She nearly knocked Wolfwood over as she ran out the door.
"Whoa there girl, now what's going on?" As he put a hand out on her forearm to stall her.
"It's Meryl Mr. Priest. Someone really bad has taken her and she's scared!"
Wolfwood narrowed his eyes; he liked the feisty little insurance gal. His eyes darted quickly around the room and said, "Clerk's dead, nothing's disturbed. This is bad, let's go!" and with a hand on her elbow guided her back out into the bright sun.
"Where's Mr. Vash?" Asked Milly looking around.
"I don't know, he took off in the opposite direction. He must have a reason for it though."
They peered down the street that Wolfwood had indicated and both jumped, startled by a car honking as it came up behind them with Vash driving. He had his sunglasses on.
"This is real bad." Muttered Wolfwood as he helped Milly into the passenger's seat and climbed into the back. Vash didn't look at them, his focus was elsewhere, outward toward the dunes and ridges past the edge of town. Milly pointed in a direction slightly to the right of where the vehicle, a Sand Dancer, was pointed. "There!" In a voice that brooked no argument.
Vash nodded and gunned the engine. Wolfwood wasn't quite seated and flew backwards against the seat, arms flailing for purchase as his cross crashed into him.
"Typical." He muttered as he righted himself and positioned his cross gun.
But even as he was speaking he did a mental inventory of weapons he had on his person and patted his cross pleased. Today he had left the room dressed for success feeling confident they could handle a little adversity. These people, they just couldn't keep themselves out of trouble for very long at all. He sighed, it really did try the patience of a saint, which he wasn't, but it certainly tried his.
They tore out of town at the Sand Dancer's top speed. It was one of the fastest desert vehicles there was. Wolfwood briefly wondered how and where Vash had obtained the vehicle and then decided he didn't want to know.
Vash looked over at Milly asking, "You felt her being taken didn't you?" She returned his look with a calm one of her own, "Yes, I did and I know you did too."
"Okay, okay, stop patting each other on the back. I didn't feel her at all. Happy?" Wolfwood grumbled. He was feeling like an odd man out and it wasn't a feeling he was used to having but he decided that he didn't care for it much.
Wait a minute. It just dawned on him that Milly was having some reactions that were similar to Vash's and now that he thought about it, he realized it had been going on for some time. He narrowed his eyes at the woman he loved. She was an enigma to him. He studied her. Against his better judgment he had fallen in love with her. She was not the kind of woman he was usually attracted to or hung around with. He gave a wry half-smile, this time he couldn't help himself, he was drawn to her like the orphan star to the great mother sun.
"You don't understand Mr. Priest, Mr. Vash is saying that I shouldn't be able to do what I am doing unless I am like him but I am not. I am just like myself, all the time!" She stated with a happy smile. Vash raised both eyebrows, pretty much what he had been thinking only translated into Milly-speak.
"Oh." Replied Wolfwood and thought a bit sadly to himself, I understand more than you think sweetheart.
Milly turned and pointed to the right again and Vash corrected his course when Milly let out a scream of pure rage, startling Vash and Wolfwood to the point that both had guns in their hands without conscious thought, glaring wildly around for an enemy. Wolfwood was growling deep in his throat, he would kill the bastard that made Milly scream like that!
"He's hurting her! I can feel it!" and both men turned to look at her, except that Vash had to keep an eye on the terrain ahead of them at the same time. She uttered in a guttural voice that made their hair stand on end; "I WILL hurt him for this!" Her lips pulled back from her teeth.
Without warning and in a blur of motion, she turned; Wolfwood had never seen her move so fast, but she ejected Vash and Wolfwood followed right behind him . She was in the driver's seat before either man hit the ground, speeding away without a backward glance.
Good Lord the girl was strong and heartily gave thanks to Almighty God that he wasn't the one she was targeting her rage at.
He sat up rubbing the back of his head. It was a little bump, for the most part Vash had cushioned him from any serious injury. He looked down, "Thanks!" Vash waved a hand and said with a grunt, "Not a problem." Within seconds they were on their feet and Wolfwood exclaimed, "What the hell... What was THAT all about?!"
"Apparently," Vash theorized, staring after the vanishing dust on the horizon, "We were slowing her down." His brow knotted with concern and frustration.
No one, except Knives would have been able to pull off a move like that on him. It was causing him no little concern for the tall girl with the gentle summer blue eyes. If Knives found out about her abilities he would turn her into a human lab rat. But right now, his main concern was to find and save his insurance girl.
Wolfwood was frowning in thought. What was that girl thinking? She would need their help! And damn, he had lost his cigarette. He peered around at the ground for a moment before giving it up as a lost cause.
He slapped Vash on the shoulder, "C'mon Vash, let's get going." And turned back towards town.
"Where are you going?" Vash asked.
"We're still near the outskirts of town and I know a place where we can get a motorcycle or vehicle. It will be faster than trying to walk or run after her."
Vash fumed with frustration. Meryl was in danger and hurting. Everything inside of him wanted to go straight to her, despite the argument they had had that morning. In fact, he found his eyes stinging with vexation at the thwarting of his plans. He clenched his fists until the tendons of his right hand burned up his fist and wrist until he had to force his fingers to unclench and relax. He could feel his false arm grinding and relaxed that one as well. Wolfwood was right. They needed a ride and they needed it as soon as possible. Walking after her was not going to be the way to get it. He turned to follow Wolfwood back to town.
| Milly felt bad about throwing the priest and the ace gunman out of the car but knew it was the right thing to do. She followed her instinct on this, it had always turned out to be right in the past. She pressed down on the accelerator, besides, Mr. Vash was going much too slow, he was driving like an old granny on her way to church. Meryl needed them RIGHT now. What could he have been thinking? Anyway, he always got into trouble, no to be fair, trouble seemed to find him and land on him with both feet doing the two-step. With Meryl gone, that made Milly the Acting Senior Risk Prevention Agent and she had made a command decision: ditch the guys, they were a liability.
She looked up at the suns. She had driven the morning away and a good part of the afternoon. She hoped she wouldn't be forced to drive in the dark, but she would if she had to. Ah, they were turning again, that way! Milly adjusted the wheel. And now, they were slowing down. She would catch up with them soon! She could feel it.
She flew over the desert floor leaving a dust trail in her wake. She knew she had driven between several gangs of outlaw gunman on their way to stop Mr. Vash and Mr. Priest. It turned out to be a good decision to lose the menfolk. They always wanted to shoot first and apologize later. Must be all that testosterone in their systems. Boys just can't help wanting to blow things up. Poor things. She grinned.
She felt her grin level out, evidently a person or the persons up ahead were concentrating on the men. Oh yes, don't worry about the helpless little female who is about to beat the crap out of all of you. A grim line began to form between her brows and her eyes became as hard as stone. They had dared to hurt Meryl. Her countenance promised all manner of ill for them.
She also felt that Meryl was slowing even more, that meant whoever had her was slowing giving Milly a chance to gain on them even more. Obviously they were not worried about being followed anymore. The Merylnappers had let down their guard and she was going to take full advantage of it.
She had to dodge a few more large groups of desperados. She had finally realized that they had not been with the group she was following as they had been camping out just for the purpose of dealing with Vash. But she wasn't worried about the boys at all. She knew they could and would handle themselves, she should feel sorry for the ones who would run into them. Oh well, they were helping the Merylnappers so she decided she didn't care what happened to them.
The presence of Meryl was becoming stronger and stronger so that meant she was gaining on them. They had been moving quickly but she was guessing they were most likely in a larger vehicle that wasn't built for rough desert driving. As far as Milly was concerned It didn't matter where they went or how fast she knew she could trail the path of the mind bleeding. It was such a noticeable track it could have been dribbled on the ground behind the perpetrators in neon paint.
What was driving her nearly insane with rage was the fact she could feel Meryl being mind tortured. They were looking for something. But what? Why would Meryl be important to them? Milly didn't know the scope or depth of the probe but she did know it was bad, real bad. And when she caught up with them, they were going to hurt bad, real bad themselves, she thought grimly. No mercy today. She wasn't sure how she was going to confront this evil, but knew it would come to her when she had need of it; she had perfect faith about that.
She felt them come to a stop and the torture stopped. Meryl was near passing out. She came to a stop at the bottom of the rise of a hill and contemplated it for a moment. She turned off the Sand Dancer and turned to look at the weapons that were in the car. She dismissed them as inconsequential to this battle and began climbing the hill. They were on the other side.
Normally, she would wonder where this confidence came from but today, she didn't care. She was dipping into an inheritance here and she was in a sharing the wealth mood, a painful wealth. She smiled without mirth and her eyes were alight with a flame of rage.
She started up the hill when she heard Meryl scream mentally and through vocal chords made hoarse from overuse.
Milly ran so fast she would have wondered at it another time. She was a blurred streak as she sped up the hill and launched herself over the top into the air where the hill cut off sharply.
She fell into their midst in their temporary camp, an avenging angel, moving much too fast for any one to shoot at. She stopped and threw out her arm straight in front of her with the palm up and outwards. The flunkeys and gophers fell like sandbags to the ground, out like a broken bulb. She didn't even spare them a glance but sped to a sobbing Meryl writhing on the ground.
"Meryl!" And slid to her side on her knees. She pulled her up in a hug when she felt a grip like iron descending on them. She snapped her head up and stared at the dark blue-haired man with the cat eyes. She did shudder, they were creepy but she sent him a thought, "You have made a very serious error!" And laid Meryl back down gently. She stood up and pointed her arm in his direction with the same palm gesture and "fired." He clutched his head and screamed, she didn't feel the least bit guilty as he fell to the ground groaning. Another man stepped out from behind a van. He took in the unmoving men on the ground and the dark-haired man with a sneer. Milly could hear his thoughts from where she stood, watching him without fear, without emotion. "Humans! So fallible, wretched in their weaknesses! They sicken me!" He turned to look at Milly with the most angry and hate-filled eyes she had ever seen. Eyes that promised her a long and pain-filled death. She lifted an eyebrow at him. Promises, promises. His jaw went slack. No one, ever, had that reaction to him! She MUST die!
"You and who else pretty pants!" She sneered back at him. She definitely was not feeling very loving today. She watched him lift a hand as if to wave away an offending insect. Her lip curled down at one corner. This insect stings! She thought at him and saw his jaw drop again. Again, the same arm and hand gesture. Any other day, it would have been comical to watch the standing man's face as the dropped-jaw and bugged-eyed look were definitely at odds with the inherent belief of his superiority billowing off him in an stench. "Not today!" And threw her arm out at him. He dropped like a rock and curled into a fetal position.
She turned her attention back to Meryl and knelt down next to her. She heard her whimpering, "Don'tlookatme,don'tlookatme, don'tlookat me!" and tried to curl up in a ball with her back to Milly. Milly's heart was breaking. Milly dropped a silken gauze of protection around Meryl and made her invisible to these creeps' eyes. She felt where a lance had been driven in Meryl's mind. Slowly and gently she pulled it out, murmuring soft words of comfort to her, sliding a protective cover over the place where the spike had been. She felt Meryl relax as her head became her property again.
Milly stood to her feet. Her eyes were incandescent, lit with holy rage and a desire for justice. And she was just the person for the job. She started for the violators. The dark-haired one was on his feet, swaying slightly though. The leader was staggering to his feet too. He looked up at her with loathing. She smiled; she was going to make his day.
"Are you going to let that filthy human get away with that?!"
"No Master." Milly halted as the seething insane hatred erupted off of him striking her. "I will kill the filth that dares to approach the master without the proper respect."
"See to it and I will get the other little human to crawl over here..." He didn't get any farther. Milly had disappeared again and reappeared in front of him. If having her hand crushing his throat hadn't been the reason for his eyes nearly popping out of his head, the evidence of an ability that only he and Vash had was making his head spin. AND she had the audacity to THROW him!
Like a piece of garbage! She added smugly. "Master!" The dark-haired one yelled! What a girl, snorted Milly with contempt. And then an attack slammed into her, knocking her backwards several steps. She looked up at dark hair. He really has that evil smile down pat.
She extended her arm with the palm up pointed at him and quirked a smile at him, "Talk to this hand, mindraper!" She tossed him back several feet. He leaped back up instantly and began throwing mind bombs at her. She also noticed the blond and tossed dark hair at him, knocking him off of his feet. When she wasn't hitting at them with her inner strength, she was punching them and throwing them around.
"So you think its fun to pick on someone smaller and weaker than you are?" Each blow, mental or physical reminded them to NEVER, not EVER to touch Meryl Stryfe ever again. She grabbed a hold of their minds and shook. This was the promise of Milly if they caused Meryl to so much as stub her toe, she would do more than play "Toss the Villain Around."
She shook her head. She was feeling something gaining in force, something deep was being tapped, and raised to the surface. She looked over at the blond with a puzzled look, it was coming from him. And dark hair was pulled into the link for what, a living battery? She could hear his thoughts and the lust for her power emanating from him. He wanted her all right, but preferably behind a glass-walled cage with sleeping gas being pumped in. He would not forget this. Only the sacred species were allowed the gifts. One day, sand-hair, he promised with an intensity that made his eyes burn, you will be mine and your power will be mine as well. That is MY promise to you.
She stuck her tongue out at him and was rewarded to see his shocked look before rage descended on his brow. "Come back to MY sandbox anytime you want, little britches, (she didn't see how his eyes could widen any further, but the gagging noise he was making was really worthwhile to watch) and I'll make you eat sand! Nothing like flirting with danger.
Then it came, a combined bolt that she had not been expecting and certainly was not prepared for. It knocked her to her knees and grabbed her head. OW! That hurt! After that, the blond shot a lethal beam at her. She could tell even as she felt the edges of her mind darkening that it was a serious and dangerous drain on his energy reserves to do so. Still, it did knock her over to the ground with blinding pain. Her head rang and her vision was starting to fade but she looked up at him through the growing darkness. Yet, even as she was losing consciousness she could tell he was intrigued, curious, fascinated and a touch afraid, but right now, survival was more important. With another blow that sent her rolling sideways, she heard him order a retreat.
She came to in degrees with memory returning slowly and sat up. Oh yes. Leaning back on a hand she looked around while rubbing a temple with her free hand. How long had she been out anyway? All of the men were gone and a couple of the vans. The rest were unusable; she grimaced, from the results of their battle obviously. She noticed that dark would soon be approaching. She was unsure how long she had lost consciousness but was surprised that neither blond or dark-hair hadn't taken advantage of her weakness and killed either her or Meryl. Meryl! She struggled to her feet and looked over to see how Meryl was doing. Only Meryl wasn't there. Had they taken her again while Milly was out? She closed her eyes in concentration, no the men had taken off in that direction towards the east and north and Meryl had gone in the opposite direction. Opening them again, she walked to the top of the hill already knowing what she would find. The Sand Dancer was gone. She sighed; she hadn't seen this one coming. Meryl had lit out for parts unknown maybe even to herself. Milly closed her eyes for a moment before walking back down to the camp to the abandoned vehicles. She searched through them and found blankets, tents, food, water and a heater. She would be living in style until the men showed up. And she had no doubts they would.
Three days later found her tapping her foot anxiously. They were later than she would have thought when she heard the sound of a racing engine in the distance approaching rapidly.