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No One Gets Hurt

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"I don't know, Wolfwood," said Vash, groping through the creases of the Punisher's cloth cover. "I still don't see a toothbrush. What's this plastic—? Whoa."

The plastic strip he'd automatically unfolded was an extremely disturbing inflatable sex doll, complete with multiple orifices and tear-strained eyes.

From the other side of the hotel room, Wolfwood glared at him. "That's my girlfriend. Dora. You're touching my girlfriend."

"Sorry." Vash folded her up and shoved her back into the crevices of the Punisher.

A few nights later, they were sitting by the campfire, nursing a couple cans of beans and half-full canteens. The lick of the flames and the clinks of their spoons were the only life in the moons' light. Vash watched Wolfwood gaze across the flat expanse of desert into nothing.

"I like Dora," said Vash.

"Don't get any ideas. She's taken."

"I mean I think she's good for you. Me, I'm already in a relationship. This is my girlfriend." He held up his right hand. "We're very attached."

"Yeah? How about the other one? She jealous?" Wolfwood nodded at Vash's prosthetic left.

Vash shrugged. "Our attachment's a bit more superficial."

That won him a genuine laugh. But the smile fell quickly and Wolfwood eyes drifted back to the desert, and Vash contemplated the moonlight tumbling over him.

Dora bothered Vash, tricked out as she was like an ode to violence. Where had (why had) Wolfwood picked her up? Something random probably: found her, won her, decided why not. One of the things Vash admired about Wolfwood that he knew how to unwind. He smoked, he drank, he was a connoisseur of noodles. A man as brutal with himself as Wolfwood needed those outlets. And for a man—a boy—a man flung so fast into life, without a real childhood, without a real youth, he might have never had the chance to—no, he might well have refused himself the solace of sleeping with a real person. Like Vash, he saw himself as a danger zone and, in his way, he did his best to minimize the damage.

"It's the ideal relationship, isn't it?" Vash said.

Wolfwood's eyes snapped onto him.

"No complications. No hard decisions. It's not like being with a real person, but it's cleaner. No one else gets hurt. And you don't have to—"

In one even motion, Wolfwood came to his side, took his face in those big hands, and kissed him. It startled Vash only slightly less than the way he kissed Wolfwood back, his fingers digging into the black jacket as if he had been waiting all his life. How many years had it been since he'd felt this way for anyone? How long since he had dared to?

Close to his ear, Wolfwood said, "But if the only people involved are the people who are going to get hurt anyway, then it's almost like no one gets hurt."

Vash kissed his ear, his jowl, his neck. "Yeah," he breathed. "Almost."