Introduction: Grittings to all and sundry! As people may have noticed, the story Blackfire and Gunsmoke by Susan(Dwellin) has become a main attraction on Ricki’s website. And I must confess, the story is reaching epic length, and I have been caught up in its deadly maw! Rarely before have I been so entertained by a fan story. And so I wrote this as a gift for Susan, a sort of kudos to her for her very hard work on that beast. Thank you so very much for creating such a fun story, Susan, and for letting my favorite Trigun gal Milly have a prominent part in it (and thanks to Ricki, owner of the site and Susan’s—and my—editor!)
Be warned, though, this is no action story—I leave that stuff to Susan. No, this takes place in between bullet holes, and is little more than a short dialogue between the two female leads, with the main focus on Milly. It basically describes what I think are her motivations in the story, how she reconciled herself to the rather traumatic events of Double Helix to get to be how she is in Susan’s story, and a mushy, hashed look on the nature of forgiveness in general.
One last thing, this story draws quite a bit on what happened in Double Helix. If you have not read it, you will perhaps be a bit confused, but it shouldn’t be too much of a hindrance. Besides, why the heck would people read Blackfire and Gunsmoke without reading deleria’s story first?
Milly loved being a girl. It was the highest blessing that God Almighty could ever bestow on a person in her eyes. Being female meant that people generally were less hard on you; you alone knew the true extent of the joys of chocolate and pudding; and it also meant clean bathrooms. When she had been rooming with just Mr. Priest and Mr. Vash alone, the only real hygiene complaint she had about them—they being cleaner than most men she encountered and much less likely to make disgusting noises—was the bathroom. They never rinsed their shaving stubble out of the sink, like some magic fairy was going to come and clean it up, they threw their underwear on the floor where she could step in it, and of course that goddammed toilet seat. She never could understand why Mr. Priest and Mr. Vash, as intelligent and sharp as they were, could never get that concept that toilet seats were ruled by the laws of gravity and were meant by God to stay down. Yes, clean bathrooms were the sign of culture and femininity. And she was doubly lucky in that she got the best of both worlds since she was tall and strong and had the freedom to do what those traits brought; she could do men’s jobs, wear men’s clothes, and do things they could do while still getting better treatment. At least that’s how it was before she’d been traveling with just the men.
Indeed, being a girl was nice. And it was very nice to finally have another girl to share the perks with, now that Meryl was gone. Clean bathrooms were the least of it. The past few days of hustling from hotel to hotel and rooming with a fellow female had been such a welcome change that it nearly brought tears to her eyes when she would lie in bed and let her thoughts wander, like always, to the present and past.
There were other nice things about being a girl too, Milly thought, and fingered the silver chain hidden underneath the collar of her pajamas.
“Hey there,” Rinnah’s voice called out, making her release the chain in a start. “You look kinda spacey, more so than usual. What’s up?” She stepped out in her own PJs, fresh from the shower and rubbing her black hair vigorously with a towel.
“Looks hard. Does it hurt?”
“Well, not my head.”
Rinnah flopped down on the opposite bed and regarded her new close friend in a solemn gaze. “Thinking about old times?”
“I try not to most of the time. . .my Big Middle Brother said that living in the past never did anyone any good. But you know, Miss Rinnah, ever since you joined up with us it’s almost felt like when it used to just be the four of us, so I can’t help but think. And I don’t want to forget either. She was my bestest friend in the whole world, after all.”
“She must have been something.”
“She was. She was very kind, but she didn’t take anyone’s guff either. She kept Mr. Vash in line better than anyone I could think of—she had this leaping slap move that could knock him off his socks if she needed to. I guess you’ve kind of taken over that job, though.” Rinnah snorted at that and would have launched into her usual anti-Vash tirade, but other things were on her mind.
“If you don’t mind my prying,” Rinnah asked, voice unusually soft, “what exactly happened to Meryl?”
Milly licked her lips and blinked a few times. “I still don’t know all the exact little details of what happened, but she was kidnapped one day, a little more than a year ago. She was set up—she thought she was just being reassigned somewhere. We both thought it was fishy, because the insurance company we worked for never broke up teams in the field, but we both ignored the danger. I should have stopped her. . .but she was my superior and since she had no objections I didn’t either. Then she was gone. I never saw her after that. We tried to get her back, we really tried—but it wasn’t enough.” Her voice wavered in the middle of the explanation and finally broke, but she did not cry. One or two tears seeped out, that was all. “I was told that she was being used a. . .some kind of incubator for one of Knives’ experiments. It killed her in the end, since Meryl was so small and the baby would take too much out of her.”
Rinnah was surprised at the lack of tears; Milly had struck her as a very emotional person, and the tight look on her face did not suit her. Unsure of what to do, Rinnah moved and sat down at the edge of Milly’s thin bed, trying not to squish her friend’s toes. Stupid hotels and their stupid skinny, short beds. She wasn’t getting her money’s worth.
“And that’s why you’ve put up with the boys and their almighty pissing contest for so long, huh?”
Milly grinned at that, but then her eyes grew distant once more. “Partly. But it’s more than that. I’m not a very vengeful person, Rinnah, I just don’t see the point in it. And Meryl, I’m certain, wouldn’t want me to kill anybody, no matter how evil, just for her sake. It doesn’t really fix anything except your own ego, I think. I could have just gone home and cried for Meryl, that would have been more satisfying and—um—healthier for my mind, I guess. This lifestyle isn’t the best outlet for grief.”
“For the guys, then?”
She laughed. “Wow, you got me pegged! But I guess there’s not very many other people. But yes. You know how I said Knives trounced our butts? That was kind of an understatement. Mr. Priest almost died. Mr. Vash was really weak. They needed me, even if Meryl didn’t anymore. And when they both got better, I decided that Knives couldn’t just go around doing what he wanted anymore. It wasn’t right. And I didn’t want anyone else being as hurt as us four were. I’d never wish it even on the person who stole my pudding.”
Rinnah had to consider the gravity of that last statement. “Sound like you’ve been through more than I thought.”
“Well, not physically. I never got badly shot. Mr. Priest always was looking out for me, even when--” Her little smile trailed off, leaving her face blank. Rinnah bit her lip, trying to think of all the avenues she could take without trampling all over Milly’s rawness like an elephant, which was very hard for her to do—she hadn’t been promoted on account of her talent with the red couch, after all. And when she had, she usually had been the one on the couch.
So she decided not to say anything, hoping her silence would be taken as sympathetic and cue to go on.
Milly sighed, resuming her fingering of the silver chain. “Did you know, Miss Rinnah—and you didn’t hear this from me—that Mr. Priest was actually working for Knives? They were a group called the Gung-Ho Guns.”
“You’re kidding.” The breath Rinnah sucked in parched her throat, and her heart skipped a beat in a familiar feeling of shocked dread she’d usually gotten when unknown ships popped up on the monitor screens. But for once she decided to hear out the full explanation—no sense in shooting clergymen without hearing the whole story. But it boggled her mind that Milly could stand even being in the same room with Wolfwood, knowing what he was, much less being sweethearts with him. Did Milly have some sort of weird emotional fetish she was unaware of? You think you know a girl. . .
“No, I’m not. But calm down, Rinnah, you know he’s on our side for real. I’m not so dumb that I can be fooled like this twice, you know! He hates Knives almost as much as Mr. Vash does.”
“But—you—you’re still okay with that? I mean, denial’s fun and all, but--” Milly held up a hand to stave off further sputtering; spit couldn’t have been good for the floor.
“Trust me, Rinnah, I’ve been through it already. I was so mad when I learned everything. Even then he wouldn’t say it outright to me; Mr. Vash was the one who told me what he was. For a time I thought I really hated him, for lying to us all, for letting Meryl get taken. He knew about it, Rinnah, he admitted he did! It hurt me so much. I could hardly stand to look at him, and I wouldn’t speak to him directly.” She lowered her head, her hair brushing against the sides of her face. “I was pretty mean to him. He tried to pretend he didn’t care, but I could see what was in his eyes, how much he regretted it. . .and I was happy he suffering. It was mean and it felt awful, but it felt good at the same time. I liked watching him dangle like that.” She ran a hand over her face to hide her grimace, recalling how that old resentment had scalded her insides, the fire branding over her own pain.
“But then I realized I couldn’t hate him. The more I thought about, the more I saw how much it hurt him, you know? I saw that he never meant to hurt Meryl or me, but that things that he couldn’t control got in his way. And he still protected me though I didn’t want him to. He still cared about him after all I’d said and done to him. Then we got separated from Mr. Vash and he still helped me and didn’t send me away. I couldn’t understand why he was doing that. But by that time I was tired of being angry. So I made a kinda truce with him. That was a big step.” She beamed at Rinnah, who returned it full force.
“But for a while after we escaped, I didn’t know what to think of him, not completely. I was still kinda suspicious about him, though I knew he wouldn’t hurt me. It was after he’d been patched up by a doctor and I had to nurse him all by myself—Mr. Vash had left us—that I really forgave him. He was so weak and in such pain, Rinnah, it was awful to see him. He nearly died a couple of times. The first time he almost died, I realized that I didn’t know what I would do if he died, I didn’t want him to die. I didn’t think that, after all he’d done and been through, that he deserved it. After that, I forgave him completely. Just the thought of losing him when he thought I hadn’t made peace with him made me sick. How can you hold anything against a man who’s been suffering for all the wrong things? He was miserable, I was miserable—what’s that saying? ‘The hand that once wounded you will heal you?’”
Rinnah looked up to the moons outside, their light cutting across her face. “He did his penance, huh?”
“For me, at least,” Milly sighed. “But I don’t think he’ll be at peace until Knives is brought down. I know what he’s done still weighs heavy on him.” She stiffened her shoulders in resolution. “And if I can help him achieve peace, then I’ll do whatever I can for him. And for Mr. Vash. And I think Meryl’s spirit would be more at ease to now that I’m trying to stop the same thing from ever happening to any other person. It’s just not fair or right, Miss Rinnah, and if I can do something to make it more fair then it’ll be all worth it.”
She couldn’t help but crook an eyebrow. “So not for revenge?”
Milly’s eyes were grave; she rested her chin on her pajama-clad knees, locking her fingers together. “Not for revenge—I said don’t believe in it. It’s not worth all the misery we’ve been through. At first I guess it was about revenge, but hiding away all the time, eating badly and sleeping worse has a way of tempering you, don’t you know? And here’s the thing, Miss Rinnah: no matter how much the boys, er, ‘piss’ as you call it, I know they feel the same way. So please try and remember that when you give Mr. Vash a hard time.”
Rinnah decided she’d believe that when she saw it; Mr. Congeniality next door had shown nothing noble about him. But why would a person go through all the things Milly said they’d had unless—No! Impossible! She wouldn’t believe it of him. But Milly never had led her astray in these kind of things before. “You’re not kidding, are you? You guys are that determined? This really isn’t just a huge-ass scale vendetta, isn’t it?”
Milly clutched at the cross around her neck once more and gave her an inscrutable smile. “You’ll just have to see for yourself, Miss Rinnah. Just wait and see.”
Trigun is copyright of Mr. Yasuhiro Nightow. Double Helix and its events are copyright of one deleria. Rinnah Blackfire and the story Blackfire and Gunsmoke are copyright of Susan/Dwellin. No infringement intended.