“I’m not going to lie to you Vash and tell you I’ll wait for you forever. Tell me how you really feel.”
There was something solid beneath Vash as he tried to block out the memory that woke him and slowly he realized that he was slumped over the table in his hotel room. He reached out to grab a whiskey and shook it. There was no sloshing sound so he tossed it aside and grabbed another, again empty. It took him three more tries before he found one that still had a few swigs left. He sat up in his chair and finished the bottle off in one go. He grabbed another bottle; he was surrounded by them, swimming in them.
And yet it still hurt. Why, why did it still hurt? He had been drinking for two days straight and it still hurt. Wasn’t drinking supposed to dull the pain, to make you forget, if only for a little while? So why, why wasn’t it working this time? He threw the bottle against the wall and it shattered, the liquid inside dripping down the wallpaper darkening it. It was almost like how he was feeling now. His heart had shattered, and the pain was dripping down darkening what was left. Unlike the alcohol though, the pain in his heart would never dry up, never fade away. It would stay there, a constantly reminding him he couldn’t just forget her.
Briefly he thought about dying. Not suicide no, he would never be able to bring himself to that no matter how much pain he was in. Maybe the next time he got into a fight though. When people shot at him they usually meant to kill him so why not just let them? He leaned forward, arms on the table, shaking his head which made the room spin. No, that wouldn’t work either because that would be the same as suicide. It would just be someone else pulling the trigger instead of him. Perhaps if he drank himself to death… But that would take a while and in the mean time he’d still be in pain. Not to mention it would cost money, which he was quickly running out of.
He reached out for another whiskey bottle, this one definitely unopened and stopped. Next to it was the newspaper that he had been reading two days ago. It was still open to that page, to that picture. That picture… it was the last thing he had seen before his world ended. He swept it off the table and watched as the pages scattered across the floor. Is that why he was still hurting, because he could still see her? He tried not to think about that morning, God did he try. But it was the only thing he had been able to think about for two days.
The face in the picture appeared in his mind smiling brightly. That damn smile. He thought about all the times that he had seen it. How happy it had made him whenever he saw it. Even on his darkest days just seeing it would bring him peace. He suddenly thought about the last time he saw it in person. About all the times had could have seen it, should have seen it. All the times he would never see it again… He let out a sob and then another, it was an uncontrollable cascade.
“I don’t love you, I never will.”
He gasped in pain clutching his head. It had been a lie, a big fat one. He honestly loved her with everything he had but she didn’t deserve him. Sure she had stuck with him this long but she was still young. Eventually she would want to settle down and now matter how hard he tried he was never able to stay in one place for more than a couple years. She needed someone who could stay with her, who she knew would come back night after night. He disappeared on her enough as it was, and it killed him to see how much it hurt her.
On top of that there were people still after the bounty on his head. True she had proven time and again that she was able to take care of herself but there had also been so many near misses. Many of those near misses she didn’t even know about. He wouldn’t be able to always be able to protect her there was bound to be something that went wrong eventually. She deserved someone who could be by her side no matter what.
She had been crying in his arms when he told her. She had told him quite some time before how she had felt for all those years. He had thought about it his answer long and hard, taking his time to make sure he made the right choice. But he had kept her waiting for too long and now she was there demanding an answer. He gave her an answer and watched her die inside. Right there in his arms she died.
He wanted to scream at the top of his lungs.
The cemetery groundskeepers had worked hard to keep their patch of ground green. While it was no Geo Plant, it was still a nice respite from all that tan. Despite the situation that brought him here, Vash couldn’t help but admire their work. Though he did think it could use a few more trees. He had a hell of a time trying to find a place close enough for him to hear everything, yet still allowed him to be out of sight of everyone. Then again, he had no idea she had been this popular either, there had to be at least a hundred people probably more.
He looked over the crowd and his eyes landed on the portrait that was sitting on top of the coffin. She was older, mid thirties if he had to guess, and wearing a wedding dress. It was a simple white dress and honestly if it hadn’t been for the bouquet in her hand he probably never would have guessed.
A pang of regret went through him. That could have been him, could have been them. There had been so much he wanted to tell her. When he explained Knives he had only told her the basic details. He could have told her everything, should have told her everything. Maybe then she would have left on her own. Maybe then this would have all been easier. Maybe then he wouldn’t have to be running from a ghost that he desperately didn’t want to catch up.
The service had started first thing that morning so that the air was still somewhat cool. By mid day it was finally over, she was finally laid to rest. At least for them. Vash watched through his tears as the crowd slowly started to scatter. Some left right away, unable to contain their grief or else take care of the small children with them. Other lingered, wanting to say goodbye one last time, to have just one more moment with her. How he wished he could have seen her alive one last time. But it was impossible now; she’d never be coming home.
By time the last mourner had gone the grave had long been filled in. The last one had just barely left when Vash made his way to the grave. The smell of the freshly dug dirt was almost comforting. Flowers had been placed on and around the grave marker. Seeing the birth and death dates carved into it, Vash could hardly believe how long it had been since he last saw her. But the years fly by quickly when you don’t age much, if the past seventy or so years were any indication.
Someone had propped up a bouquet of red geraniums and he fell to his knees sobbing. He hadn’t stopped crying for two weeks, the longest he had cried since Rem died. One could only wonder where the tears came from, surely he would have cried out all the water in his body by this point. Yet still they came, huge ugly tears that turned the dirt beneath him to mud. He couldn’t stop them, he didn’t want to.
The elderly woman couldn’t place what made her turn around. Had she wanted one last look at her best friend? Could she have heard the grieving sobs behind her? Or maybe it had simply been intuition. Whatever the case, she had turned to see a young man in black kneeling at the grave site. She recognized his posture first and foremost, having seen it so many times when she was younger as he mourned the loss of a stranger. His blonde hair was combed back instead of up, their now departed friend often complained how much he looked like a broom when he combed it up, but there was no mistaking the colour. She turned to her niece and instructed her to go on ahead. Her niece was hesitant to leave her elderly aunt with a stranger but the elderly woman simply smiled and told her that no one should mourn alone.
By the time Vash got his wits about him again it was dark. He was so emotionally drained that he was exhausted right down to the marrow of his bones. He found the strength to push himself to his feet, the sudden pins and needles feeling in his legs and feet a welcome relief from the pain in his chest. The cemetery was light up with little solar lights shining on each grave marker, bench and pathway.
Slowly he became aware that he was being watched. Looking around he spotted an old woman sitting on a bench nearby. Her long hair was white from age but her bright blue eyes, her smile, the way she held herself, it was all so familiar but he couldn’t quite place why. And then she called out to him. Vash kicked himself for not recognizing her. Her voice was rough with age and grief but there was no mistaking the happiness that filled it. Her voice was such a welcomed sound that for a brief moment he forgot about the pain, his heart actually felt light again. He felt the corners of his mouth pull up into a grin, grief stricken but genuine. For just one brief moment he was so happy he could cry. Again. And all because of three little words.
“Hi Mr. Vash!”
He moved to go hug her. It was slow going as the feeling in his legs and feet was still returning and his knees were stiff from kneeling so long. As he got closer he began to realize just how old his dear friend had gotten. Her skin was severely wrinkled and in the dim light he could the liver spots. He could see the veins in her hands and arms. She had always been of thin build but now it seemed almost unhealthy. It looked like she would snap under a strong wind.
This crashing realization made him fall back down to his knees at her feet. He was still happy to see her but now it did little to ease the pain in his heart. He wrapped his arms around her waist as if maybe if he held on to her she would be able to stay forever. Head in her lap he began to cry again. It was all he could do, all he had been able to do. He knew eventually that he’d be able to stop. That someday he’d be able to think about her and not turn into a puddle of tears. The pain would never go away of course. Even now, two hundred years later, his heart still hurt whenever he thought about Rem.
But of all the wounds that were going to scar him, he never thought this would be the worst one.