Meryl lay in the bed, stirring slightly every few minutes. Vash sat patiently by her, wanting his face to be what she saw when she woke up. Finally her eyes opened.
"What happened?" she said hesitantly. "My side really hurts."
"Bernardelli sent you after the Cactus Men," Vash replied.
"Right," said Meryl in a soft voice. She looked down, where her entire chest was bound with bandages. "I remember now. That rich guy with the wooden mansion had a policy and they sent us out there. And that leader, he shot me. They had some kind of… energy guns."
"It was lost technology," said Vash. "Maybe you should rest some more."
"Is Milly all right?" Meryl asked.
"Milly's fine. Bernardelli made her come back to the city. She refused to leave you, but they said they'd arrest both of you if she didn't. They're their own law these days so finally she left, as long as I promised to take care of you."
"How long ago was this?" Meryl asked.
"Only yesterday," Vash reassured her. "You haven't been out long."
Meryl looked down at her heavily bandaged torso, covered by a light gown. "Who bandaged me and got me dressed?" she asked.
Vash held his hands up. "Don't get any funny ideas," he said. "A woman did that, Marceline over in the restaurant."
"I need to thank her then," Meryl said. "And you."
She brushed her hand over her right side. "How bad is it?" she asked.
"You're going to be fine," said Vash. "It was mostly a surface wound. The charge in the gun just knocked you out for a while."
"I'm hungry," Meryl said finally.
"I'll bring you some vegetable soup," said Vash.
When he came back with it, she accepted it with a smile, but she still looked troubled.
"Look," she began, "I know this is stupid, but you said it was a surface wound."
"How bad does it look?"
"You'll be fine, like I said."
"That's not what I mean," said Meryl. "I know it doesn't really matter, but, just tell me."
"Well, you'll probably have a big scar there," Vash muttered.
Meryl put her spoon down. "That's what I thought," she said. "I have a few little ones, and I know I should just feel lucky to be alive, but--"
Vash laughed to himself slightly.
"What the hell is funny right now?" said Meryl furiously.
"You. You're an amateur. One scar the size of your fist on your side!" Vash unbuttoned his shirt and threw it aside. "I know you've seen this before, but take a look at me again."
He picked up her hand and put it on the scars that covered his chest. "I have more scars than I have skin, and you've never wanted me to be ashamed."
Meryl stroked his chest gently, letting her hand explore the many uneven textures of his devastated skin.
"So what you're trying to say is that men won't mind this," she said, pointing to her side.
"Well, I won't."
"It's true! Slide over in bed and I'll prove it."
"How about you go get me a cup of water instead, you pervert."
Vash grinned his goofy grin. "At least you didn't throw the soup at me," he pointed out.
She did lift the bowl, but he was out of the room before she could aim it at him.