That Girl Don't Think Right:
"After Paradise"

By Ricki

Rated PG


        It hurt. It still hurt, days after, weeks after that, probably years later and Milly knew that it would still hurt. But she pushed the hurt to the back of her mind as she helped the little town digging the well. They'd hit water within a few weeks, she was pretty sure of that. There had been other jobs she could have taken, much like Senpai's job waitressing, but Milly had never been very good serving food. She could cook, she couldn't deny that, but to actually serve it, that was a different matter. Usually things wound up in the wrong places, and people got angry and it just wasn't a pleasant experience.

        So instead Milly took a job doing the most labor intensive thing she could find in town, and that was digging this well. With a pick ax and a shovel, she set to work every day, put her best coveralls on, the yellow hardhat shoved on her head, and she didn't hurt so much mentally any more but physically. She didn't mind coming home sore, that was okay, it was good for the body, meant that her muscles were being used, and when she went home to soak her feet and take a few aspirin, the last few moments of her day slipped away into sleep before she'd do it all again.

        It was only to forget, although she knew she never would. Mr. Priest... Wolfwood... Nicholas... He said so many sweet things to her, did so many things to her, and now he was gone... She closed her eyes again and tried not to think about it, but as she walked through the grocery store this evening to get the items Senpai said she wanted to splurge on, she saw the pudding cups in one corner and remembered him all over again. Milly put a hand to her face and someone bumped into her, "Oh sorry, excuse me," she hustled on, not wanting to be questioned why she was crying in the middle of the dry-goods aisle. She snorted, wiped her face and continued on with the rest of her chores.

        At least Senpai still had Mr. Vash. He was awake now, eating little, not happy at all, and she knew how he felt. Deaths always came in threes. Two had died recently, and Milly knew there was one more coming. She was worried that it might be him, Senpai, or even herself. Picking up the last of her supplies, Milly moved to the counter. She tried not to think sad thoughts, but for some reason, when she wasn't around her friends, that's all she managed to think of, unless she was working of course, and then she forced herself not to think of anything at all. "This all Miss?" The clerk asked and Milly nodded. He packaged the items in a paper bag and handed them back to her. "Have a nice day."

        She smiled back, "You too," but her smile faded as she left the store. Milly hoped that Mr. Vash would eat something today. He'd eat soup if Senpai shoved it down his throat, then he'd just slump back down in bed and go quiet again. Milly wondered if she ought to have bought him booze. Would he drink away his problems like he used to? No, she shook her head, he wasn't going to drink any more, she had a feeling he was over that stage of his life. He was a little older looking too, a bit more hagged. She wondered if he was thinking about Wolfwood too. They were such good friends...

        Milly swallowed another lump in her throat and went home. In the little house they rented, Senpai was already working on a salad. "It's about time you got here," she said, turning, "Oh honey, were you crying?"

        Wiping her face, Milly shook her head, "No, just got a bucket dumped on me on the way out of the store, that's all." She smiled, Senpai never doubted her, she normally didn't lie, but she wondered if Senpai would cry too if she knew. Her friend was so kind, so devoted to her friends... "So, how is Mr. Vash?"

        "He's sitting out on the back porch," Senpai said, her expression a bit solemn. "I think he's doing better but he had a nightmare this afternoon in his sleep." She shuddered and started unpacking the bag Milly brought, handing her the pudding as she did so. "Here, take one out to him, dinner should be ready in a half hour."

        Nodding, Milly fished in the drawer for a spoon for Mr. Vash and went out to the back porch. The gunman was sitting in the rocking chair, staring down at a little black cat. The cat nyaoed when she came out and wound itself in and out of Milly's legs, trying to trip her up, but it didn't work and she stuck the pudding cup and spoon in Mr. Vash's face. "Here, Senpai said dinner would be ready soon but that you should have something to snack on." She smiled, "We got paid today so I thought we should splurge on the good stuff." After a bit of coaxing, shaking the cup in front of his face for a few moments, Mr. Vash reluctantly took it without a word.

        Milly sat down on the porch next to his chair and the little black cat curled up in her lap. "This place is nice. I just wish..." She shook her head and petted the cat. It took up purring in her lap. "I just wish we could all be together again."

        "Me too," Mr. Vash said slowly. Milly looked up at him, he still wasn't eating his pudding, just staring at it blankly. "You and Meryl have been so good to me... After... After what I..." The cup and spoon fell from his hands as he buried his face. Milly reached for the lost items and wanted to cry herself, but she couldn't. She set a hand on Mr. Vash's knees, and he grabbed for it. "I'm sorry... I'm just so, so sorry... If it weren't for me, I'd... He'd have..."

        "Don't do this to yourself!" Milly squeezed Mr. Vash's hand until he looked up at her, startled. She had a good grip, even her big big brother admitted that when she beat him in arm-wrestling matches. "It was not your fault, Mr. Vash! You did what you had to do, and he did what he had to as well. He saved your life I don't know how many times, it was important to him. You can't just throw it away feeling sorry for yourself! That's not what he would have wanted. Besides, you saved Senpai's life and my own with what you did... We don't begrudge you for... For what you did to that man..." Milly lowered her head. "I don't understand killing. I don't know what it feels like. Mr. Wolfwood did what he had to do, it was part of his life, it was how he was raised... And you, I believe in you and what you believe is what I do most of the time... But sometimes... Sometimes we are forced to do things..."

        Mr. Vash stood, wobbled for a second, and pulled away from Milly to go to the porch railing. The black cat ran away, startled as Milly got to her feet as well. "I wasn't forced to do it Milly. I chose to kill Legato."

        "I have seen you do a lot of things in order not to kill people, Mr. Vash," Milly shot back. She hated seeing him like this, it wouldn't have been what Nicholas wanted at all. The priest gave his life for Vash and it wasn't right he should tear himself apart like this! "Have you even come up with one way you couldn't have killed him in that situation? I'm sure you've been thinking it over in your mind a hundred times... So, have you? Did you come up with a way everyone would have survived?"

        The gunman looked at her with those saddened eyes. "No."

        "Like I thought..." Milly turned away. "I'm sorry it happened too, Mr. Vash. But I'm also glad that you saved our lives. Because if you hadn't... I think it may have hurt you even more to have lost Senpai, don't you think?" She spun on her heal, and his eyes went wide, he was blushing, actually blushing. Milly giggled. "Just what I thought."

        "What did you think?" Vash blinked, his sadness totally forgotten for the time being.

        "That you like Senpai."

        Vash sputtered, "I... I..." He swallowed and sat back down in the chair. "No... Not really I..."

        Milly giggled, "Yeah right you don't. She likes you too you know."

        "No, I very much doubt that..." Vash went for the pudding and spoon on the ground and picked them up, opening the pudding and spooning heaping gulps into his mouth. "She hits me all the time and..."

        "'Cause she likes you silly!" Milly grinned as he polished off the pudding fast enough to make even her proud. "Haven't you ever seen little kids hit each other? It's not because they're being mean..."

        Mr. Vash turned about three shades of red and looked at the bottom of the pudding cup as if there were more there somewhere. Like he was longing for there to be more so he didn't have to face the conversation, and in the end he changed it altogether. "So, what's for dinner?" He stood suddenly and disappeared into the house.

        Milly couldn't stop giggling and sat down in the chair, her chest hurting. The little black cat came back and jumped up into her lap. She stroked his head and wiped away the tears. "It'll turn out okay... I really will."

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