Get Out Alive

Disclaimer/Notes: Still don't own Trigun. I love to write it, though! This is a story about Vash when he was little, after the ships had crashed on the planet but before July...before he became Vash the Stampede. I guess it's in my nature to whump the poor guy. (hugs him)


He hadn't meant to scare them. He hadn't meant to make them look at him with that horrible judgement in their eyes. They feared him; that's what the looks said. And more than that, they hated him. He'd gotten those looks before, and he'd promised himself that he wouldn't care anymore. He'd thought he'd hardened himself to the fact that those who were different were not welcome.

But it hurt, just like it always did.

He would leave in the morning. If to be here was to cause them to be uneasy, then he would find another place. Or...perhaps he wouldn't. Maybe he'd just wander as long and as far as he could in the desert where his presence wouldn't bother anyone at all.

He ignored the sadness that grew in him, ignored the stinging tears that filled his eyes.

At times like this, it was hard not to wonder if Knives was right. To be accepted by these humans...was it truly impossible?

No. If it was impossible, he would make it possible.

The streets looked the same as they always did, dusty and worn. Vash stumbled on a step and slipped into an alleyway, where no one could hear his sobs. He pulled his knees to his chest, suddenly cold. He thought he'd helped them. He'd really done his best, just like Rem would have wanted him to. Hadn't he?

This town's plant had been malfunctioning. As soon as he'd entered the town, he could feel his sister's pain, like a throbbing in his skull—in his bones; a sudden lack of oxygen in the air. He'd asked the lady at the bar about it as she kicked him out for being too young.

She'd told him of the city's problems.

It seemed this place had been founded recently, its Plant salvaged from the ruins of the ship the small settlement was built around. The Plant had not been running well since its discovery, but that was to be expected, the woman had explained, because it was obviously not in the best of shape from the Fall. Lately, though, it had been acting strangely. Its power output was unstable; dangerous.

Aware she'd said too much, the woman had handed him a candy and shooed him away, telling him not to worry.

He'd known he would not be accepted into the city's power Plant because of the dangerous conditions and fragile equipment, so he sneaked in when the twin suns set. The pain had intensified as he got closer to her, and he could tell that his abilities were manifesting on his skin. A white feather dripped to the ground. He reached out and touched the thick bulb, inviting the Plant Angel forward. She had moved, ever so slowly, hands spreading to meet his. He shared his power with her. He could tell just from touching her what the engineers could not pinpoint. She had been injured in the crash, and keeping a steady power output was becoming more and more taxing.

Vash could not save her from this captivity, but the least he could do was give her rest. He helped her, and her angel form retreated into the bulb. Until next time, she would not be in so much pain.

He stepped back when he heard hard breathing from behind him. A man who looked like he might have been in his forties, with a thick gray and brown mustache, stumbled backward at Vash's questioning gaze. He consciously relinquished all trace of his abilities from his body, taking a deep breath that didn't seem to fill his lungs. It wasn't her pain, but his, this time. He stumbled against the bulb as a hollow pain pounded behind his eyes.

It always felt horribly uncomfortable when he did things like this.

He wiped sweat away from his face and offered the stammering worker a wan smile. "She won't be in any pain anymore," he told the man. "She's okay now."

The man shook his head, his confusion turning to a frightening mixture of fear and disgust. "You—what are you?"

He'd heard the question a billion times before. "I'm Vash," he said softly.

"G—get out of here!" The man's voice gained strength as he stepped forward.

It was the fear that did it, Vash tried to remind himself. He could not blame them for fearing him. He was different.

The man pulled a gun out when Vash didn't move.

Didn't the man understand? He'd go if they wanted. It was just hard. He felt so dizzy, like he was going to be sick or like he was going to fall or something. He staggered when he took a step, and the man loosed a round.

"Stop, you'll hurt her!" Vash cried. The man was firing so close to the Plant...

Because Vash was close to the Plant. So he ran as best as he could until he exited into the moonlit night. After several steps into the sands that seemed to pull his body downward, he couldn't walk anymore. He fell in a patch of darkness and put his head between his knees and waited for the world to stop spinning. He rocked back and forth, letting his bare feet dig a burial ground in the cold sand.

When he saw the townspeople gather together in the bar, when he saw the lights burn and saw the frantic pacing in front of the firelit windows, he knew he was in trouble. His welcome had worn out, just like those shoes he'd tossed when he'd arrived. Their soles had been patchy and bare from walking around so much. The fact that they were earth-made—with rubber soles—didn't help. The hot sand ate those up far too fast. He'd worn them as long as he could.

He couldn't walk barefoot during the day. The sand would make that impossible.

In fact, he couldn't walk very much at all. He felt like he was going to be sick again, but those people were outside now, looking. Looking for him. He stumbled upright and slipped and slid more than walked down a little hill until he fell into an alleyway. He sobbed.

He couldn't help the tears, couldn't help the same hurt that pierced him every time. He curled up, wrapping his arms around his knees and holding tightly. It was the only embrace he could remember in so, so long. Wasn't that funny?

He heard them coming closer but he could barely move his limbs, so he waited until the mustached man pointed him out.

"That's him! That's that monster I saw in the Plant!"

Another man's voice was full of hate. No fear, just hate. "What did you do to our Plant? It's all we have to live with, you know!"

He wanted to echo the question back at them. What have you done to the Plant? It's all it can do to live, you know.

But he couldn't.

"Not talkin' huh?" Another voice, just as caustic as the last. It was hard to distinguish the new ones from the old. They all sounded the same. So full of anger.

He heard a female voice. Surprise was a welcome sound after all this hate, so he looked up. There was the woman from the bar who'd given him the candy. He waved at her, smiling dully. She didn't wave back. Shock and warmth battled with fear. He didn't get to see which won out. The first angry voice grabbed him by the arm, pulling him upright, sending his head spinning all over again. He choked for breath and tried desperately to find his footing. It took a while to realize he was being moved.

Another angry voice pulled roughly on his sleeve. He didn't hear the words anymore. They got lost in a sickening swirl of colors and sounds and sensations. He vaguely felt his body being thrown to the dusty ground, felt cold manacles go around his wrists. A question was shouted at him.

"What did you do to our Plant?"

So angry.

"I helped it. I promise," he said. But no one heard his words. He didn't really hear them, either. The people were all screaming. Were they really wanting answers, or did they just want to stop being afraid for their lives?

More questions, all lost in the din of so many others. He felt something hard collide with his head, with his stomach. A boot? A rock? He couldn't tell. He coughed violently when another kick landed in his stomach. It wasn't like he'd eaten anything in the last couple of days, so he didn't have to worry about anything coming up.

They were all so mad. Even with his vision blurred, he could feel it.

They all screamed, "Answer me!" but they didn't give any time to let their questions be heard.

"Monster," the word swept around like the wind.

"I'm not," he said. "I'm not a monster..." But no one could hear him over their questions and he couldn't hear their questions over the screams of Answer me!

It all reminded him of on the SEEDs ship, except he couldn't cry this time. He'd seen it so much that it was easier to just wait until it was over. It hurt a lot worse when he stopped feeling dizzy, because he could hear the screams better and feel the pain a lot more. He wondered if Rem knew why these things happened, and he wondered, had he taken the time to ask her, would she have answered him or just rubbed his hair messy and smiled, telling him he was silly to think about such things?

While he was thinking, everything sort of faded to nothing and he didn't even notice until he woke up to blinding sunlight. It felt really funny because sand had dried into the blood on his face, but he didn't dare to take it off because it would all start bleeding again. He sat up very slowly, pausing when he thought he'd fall. He didn't dare pull up the bloodied sleeves of his shirt.

Once upright, he surveyed the tiny settlement from beneath half-closed eyes. Everything here seemed silent. No one walked past the little fountain they'd chained him to. He wondered if they would leave him here to die. They probably thought it would take only a couple days in the sunlight. He knew it would take longer.

A girl who looked about eighteen wandered past after a while, but when she saw him looking at her she ran in between a building. He didn't see anyone else until the suns had set. The bar was rowdy, but he couldn't hear any of the words that were spoken.

The woman from the night before came out around that time.

She looked at him for several moments. She had a bucket in her hands and a wet cloth hung out of it. Vash just stared at her and tried to smile so he didn't scare her away. From the expression on her face, he guessed he hadn't pulled the smile off very well.

Please don't go...

After a moment of thought she hurried forward and dropped to her knees in the dust. She took the cloth, and without meeting his eyes, dipped it and wrung it out in the bubbly water. He supposed the sorrowful things she murmured under her breath when she saw him were apologies, but they weren't loud enough to hear.

He liked the bubbles. They looked very cute, like they'd be fun to pop, but he didn't want to bother her so he stayed just as he had been before. The woman looked up and touched the rag to his cheek. It felt warm. She dabbed at the crusted blood and sand with gentle strokes, rinsing the cloth every once in a while. "Does it hurt?" she asked softly.

Her eyes were green. Vash didn't see green eyes very much. They looked like the trees in the SEEDs ship. He slowly shook his head, but then nodded. "A little. But not because of you," he said. He considered the wisdom of speaking anymore. "Thank you," he said softly.

The woman pulled the rag away.

"Did I say something wrong?" Vash asked, scrambling forward. Please don't go. Please don't go.

The woman stared at him incredulously. "How can you say thank you like that? You're really not stupid, are you? After what we did..."

Vash shrugged. He tried not to think about it too much. "But you're nice. So I said thank you. Is that wrong? Is there something else I should say?"

The woman sighed. She wordlessly moved forward, rinsing the cloth in the warm water than had become copper-tinted. "I didn't stop them."

Vash chewed his lip in thought. "But you're here now, right?"

Those were the only words spoken for several moments. The woman took a manacled hand into hers and ever so gently slid up the sleeves. It hurt a little when the cloth peeled away from the bloodied dried cuts and bruises, but he didn't wince.

"You're too merciful; too forgiving. You won't live another year if you keep acting like this, kid."

"But—"

"I've been hearing a lot from Grevase—the man who works in the Plant up there."

Vash winced. He looked away.

"I didn't see you so I don't know what happened. The plant is still working. Would I be right to put my trust in you?"

He thought for a moment. "Umm..." Both brows furrowed, then relaxed. "Yep. I think so, at least. I didn't do anything to it, I promise. I was just helping because she was in pain. It'll be okay now, I think."

The older woman sighed, tucking a strand of thick hair behind her ear. "She? Wait...I won't ask. Anyway, you definitely—" She frowned as the bonds around his wrist slipped down. Pushing with care, she tucked his thumb into his palm and eased the manacle down over his thin hand. "You could have gotten this off at any time, couldn't you?"

He shrugged.

She slipped the other one off carefully over the bruised fingers of his right hand. "I'm going to finish cleaning you up, okay? Will you be able to leave when I'm done? I don't like the way they're talking in there. You should probably get as far away as you can."

Vash clasped his hands together. "Not really. I..." He blushed. "I don't have shoes."

The woman shook her head. "I had a son. His shoes'll fit you, I think. Just a second. You hear anyone, scream and I'll come out, okay? You do it, because if you let anything happen while I'm gone, I'll be very mad, okay? I didn't clean you up for nothing."

Vash nodded mutely. Several minutes went by without incident. He gingerly stood to his feet and stretched his arms. He felt like roadkill trampled underneath a herd of stampeding thomases. It would be slow going for a while, but everything was in working order.

The woman returned with a pair of black boots. "Good for running. For traveling, I mean. These shouldn't wear out too quickly."

Vash grinned and tried them on. "Comfy," he told her, grinning. "Are you sure you want to give them to me?"

She rolled her eyes. "Get outta here, kid. Try not to get yourself killed." She reached into her pockets and pulled out a handful of wrapped peppermints. "You deserve 'em."

Vash grinned as he pocketed them. "I'll be careful!" he waved until he couldn't see her anymore.

It was like Rem said. No one had the right to take a life. If...if he'd been mad like Knives had been, he wouldn't have known that in all those people, that lady had been a good one. He wandered far away from that little settlement, until even the jagged ruins of the gutted ship could not be seen.

Years blew the sands around that little town, and it prospered. It gained many more Plants and expanded its borders, turning into one of the great settlements. Vash wandered back into the town years later, looking almost the same as when he'd left it, as if only a few years had passed in his life even though decades had gone by for these people. None of them recognized him.

It was funny where he found the woman. She'd told him living his way would kill him, but he was still alive, and he found her in a graveyard.


Author's Notes: Just a really rambly, whacky little story about what it might have been like for Vash when he was littler. I guess it could be animeverse or mangaverse—sorta kinda—but I'm not quite sure. Anyway, please review! Constructive criticism is my friend. I'd love to hear your thoughts even if they consist simply of, "It bored the snot outta me." Though I can only hope that's not the case.