They were living in the fifth town in as many months, running ahead of the lynch mobs, when Vash discovered the abandoned plant. It had been built with actual SEEDS ship parts, but the plant herself was long-dead.
Knives was still barely capable of expressing interest in any such thing, but Vash was there every time his brother slept long enough, for reasons he revealed to no one.
After a few weeks Meryl followed him there, telling herself it was mere curiosity. He had never specifically said he wanted to be alone there, in any case.
She had to look around for him a bit, but found him in front of a complex console in the second room, slumped over in a large leather chair.
She thought perhaps he had fallen asleep. He had stayed up enough nights tending Knives. But when she got closer she saw that his eyes were open. He turned to look at her and she saw he had been crying.
She stopped, suddenly unsure what there was to be said.
Finally Vash spoke. "Is there something wrong? Do I need to come home?"
Meryl shook her head. "Everything's fine there, Vash. I just worry about you sometimes."
Vash moved the chair closer to the console, still not looking directly at her.
"I don't know what I'm hoping for when I come here. That somehow she won't be gone after all."
"The plant?" asked Meryl.
Vash shook his head. Meryl nodded then. "Rem. It's like a ship, and you think of Rem."
He finally turned to her. "It's the earth. The whole place. It was all alive, like a woman, or some kind of old goddess... and it's gone forever."
Meryl tilted her head to the side and looked at him for a moment. "No one can give you the earth back, Vash. It was almost gone when Rem left."
Vash nodded and stood, still facing the console.
"I used to have dreams that they could send me back."
"Put you on a ship you mean?"
"Send me back to the way it was: the trees, and the children playing outside on the grass, snow in the winter, all the stories Rem told me."
"Rem herself didn't know what most of that was like."
Meryl turned away suddenly then, wondering if had finally said too much. But Vash was nodding.
"She built a dream on the geoplants in the ship," said Vash. "And some flowers."
"And now you're in a desert..." Meryl began.
"We all are. Those of us who avoided death."
Meryl thought of all the level of death he could be referring to: the SEEDS ships, the ruins of July... and those Knives had personally killed to leave the blood on Vash's hands. Wolfwood, beyond mention, and Legato in a dark way beyond that.
"I used to think we would make this a place of life, for Rem's sake if nothing else," said Vash.
Meryl opened her mouth to tell him that a few people at least would make the best of it but she wasn't sure anymore.
"There's got to be something to believe in, Vash. Even though you can't go back to the..."
"To the damn geraniums?" asked Vash, with a tinge of what almost sounded like sarcasm.
She stared, slightly shocked, and watched as his face softened and he approached her.
"We all have dreams," Meryl said.
Vash walked toward her then and she tentatively reached out to put her arms around him.
"I do still have a few," he said. "And I seem to have you."
She put her head down on his shoulder, considering what had been spoken. "I'm a poor consolation prize for a lost Earth."
She didn't want to add it, but she did. "Or even a lost Rem."
Vash just kept holding her. "You're more than any of that."
"So are you."
They stood there, together in the ruins, and didn't move for a long time.