Apples, the metal grid, and a dose of pain to make the pleasure better. Slash, Squick, Incest.
Author Notes: This is my attempt to explain Vash's nipples (or lack thereof). It takes place after Vash leaves Knives in the desert ("My leg, it hurts!" Duh, Knives. You got shot.), but sometime before the July incident. Many thanks to Yrael, the best darn Beta-reader this side of the Mason-Dixon. Honestly, how cool are you? The answer? Very cool. Very, very cool, indeed. Thanks again!
Here, inside the lumbering ship, Knives was surrounded by greenery, lush trees and fertile plains. A little miniature paradise constructed on lies and half-truths. Among all that artificial life, he felt as if he were dying inside.
High above him, a surreally perfect apple dangled from a branch, simply waiting to be plucked and eaten. Vash said it was strong and smart, that it focused all its energy on growth. Vash didn't seem to understand.
A faint breeze danced through the boughs of the thriving tree, sending the apple into a gentle swing. It was teetering on the edge, wasn't it?
No matter what Vash said, the apple wasn't strong, it wasn't some noble thing. It was weak. Food and nothing more.
The apple fell towards his outstretched hand and he watched its descent, wondering; wondering if he was strong enough to go through life without being eaten by the stronger, like the apple would be eaten. For nothing, it seemed, was stronger than death.
He raised it to his face, saw himself as a blood-red reflection in the skin of the apple, and took a bite, contemplating. Someday, perhaps, someone else would destroy him. There was a cycle, and it made sense, no matter how brutal.
It terrified him to think about it, but Vash was with him, and even if his brother didn't understand how weak the apple truly was, he seemed to understand Knives' fear; he was there for him when it all became too much. And that was enough.
His tears blurred the world and kept his brother in warped focus. Shaking hands hovered over a mangled collection of flesh, fabric and muscle, unsure of what to do, how to help, how to make the bleeding stop. From a gaping, red cavern in the other man's chest, he could just see the movement of a beating heart; the organ worked still, though it was exposed to the night air beneath shattered bones and ripped skin. He felt his face twist in disgust and his insides lurched, making him cover his mouth.
He couldn't breathe, couldn't think...
Knives was shaking as if the angry wound was his own, his fingers curling into claws, and his face dripping sweat. He felt a hatred as raw as his brother's wounds. Hatred for the humans who did this and anger that they were, no doubt, still alive because of his stupid, stupid philosophy. Hatred for the man who let them sully him and ruin him till he was as wretched and flawed as they were, all of them
Suddenly, he was ashamed of his reaction, of the insult he had made and the displaced anger. Of course, he didn't hate Vash, just the wretched humans who put foolish ideas in his head. Of course. It took considerable effort to relax his features until he wore an expression of calm appraisal. Underneath all those gashes and cuts, his brother was still perfect.
He stood so suddenly that his feet lost their balance in the sand. A quick look down confirmed that the other man was still breathing. He hoisted him onto his back, ignoring the wet sound of muscle and organs sliding together and blood pouring. And then he was running, pressing on despite the tears obscuring the way and the weight on his back.
His mind worked furiously during the long trek, like the chattering of a million dissenting voices inside his skull. He had been in pain once, too, so he knew a man nearby who could fix things, a man who had helped him once. Now Knives ran with legs that were as good as new, carrying the man who had once made it so he couldn't run at all, made it so he had to crawl for assistance. But now he carried this same man to the doctor who had once fixed Knives' legs, not so long ago.
Knives saw the irony in the situation, but he didn't really appreciate it.
Once, lifetimes ago, Knives and Vash had crumpled together atop a hastily made bedreally just a blanket laid on the sand. The kisses didn't taste clean, but rather far from civilization and windblown, their lips coated in dust and dirt just like their bodies. When Vash's tears spilled down his cheek, they left streaks through the grime.
There had been no sweet words, no promises and apologies and forgiveness. There had been, simply, Vash and Knives, and a bit of desperate need shared between the two.
Years of wandering this planet, years of arguing and trying to convince. Years of finding the only thing worth having was the taste of his brother, whether he understood him or not. How time changed things...
The sky was forming its familiar patterns above the pair, but Knives was looking down. Vash lay beneath him, quiet and thoughtful, and he could study the patterns of his skin in the silence. He was as smooth as a desert dune appears to be, not a mark, not a scar, and though Vash didn't look into his brother's face with deep love, he did mirror Knives' own perfection, and that was enough. They had survived so much; Knives wondered, just for a moment, what could damage them, what could carve into them and make them bleed? What would it take to hurt them for good? The thought scampered away into nothingness, leaving him to stare down at his mirror and savor what he saw of himself in Vash.
Perhaps a playful mood struck him, for he lowered himself close to the planes of Vash's body and his face looked as if he was studying, even when he closed his lips over a nipple and tasted. The wet slide of tongue and the play of teeth over his skin made Vash whisper urgings and mutter approval. Knives enjoyed the sounds and the way Vash twisted beneath him with his head tossed back and his fingers scratching into the sand and his tongue sliding across his lip through all the tastes of dirt and Knives and even himself. Liked these things enough to bite a bit harder, to pull at the nub and even torture it. What would it take, what would it take...
Couldn't he almost hear the sound of his teeth snapping closed, teeth coming together with the speed of a sprung trap? What would it feel like to have this delicious little nipple in his mouth, no longer part of Vash, but part of him? And would he bleed, and would he scream? And in the end, perhaps it wouldn't be people after all who ate them away like that apple was eaten. They could destroy each other, devour themselves until they were One and Nothing and finally whole and the wind could blow the crumbs away. Just to eat and keep and even just to relish. To bite. Harder...
"Knives," Vash whispered. "That hurts." But his voice sounded heavy and wanting, close to the edge. "Hurts...Knives...It hurts..."
Knives' eyes widened at first. It was not his intention to hurt Vash, never that. But there was no need to apologize, really. He returned to sucking, gently, gently, and let his lips apologize for him.
"No, wait," he heard again. Vash panting breathless and still that twist and here and there hips crashing against his own and grinding and asking and begging and taking.
Vash paused and swallowed. "I didn't say 'stop.'"
Knives smiled around the battered skin near his mouth and let his teeth crash down.
The sheets weren't white anymore.
When he had first entered the room with his burden, the bed and the walls had been so clean, antiseptic. Now they were painted with bloody streaks from flying hands slapping against them and a stained back crashing into them. Splatters and drips were already dried and flaking off the ceiling.
There had been...so much blood.
Too much to even begin operating, the terrified doctor had explained. The little human had had a difficult time controlling his reaction to the spectacle of a familiar man storming into his clinic from the dark night, laden down with what used to be a man. He'd wanted nothing to do with this, nothing at all.
But Knives was very, very good at persuading reluctant humans.
It took the doctor a moment to arrange a room and gather supplies before he could begin working on the man who was gaining consciousness with violent results.
Vash flailed and cried out for what seemed interminable minutes to Knives while the doctor prepared anesthesia. His body finally went limp and the unusual pair settled him onto the operating table without further incident, though the damage to the room had been done. Knives still had his doubts and suspicions about the human, but his prior experience assured him. The human's methods were unorthodox, he told himself. Unorthodox, but effective.
Once the doctor completed his preparations, he leaned over the miraculously still-living man to begin cleaning and searching for tissue to reconnect, muscles to repair. There hardly seemed skin enough left above the weakly beating heart. Yet, the doctor's methodical handling soon revealed that indeed the man still had a chest, despite appearances to the contrary. Knives felt the sickening feeling again and swallowed hard to contain the vomit that threatened. With a mixture of captivation and revulsion, he watched the doctor work on what should never have been visible, sculpting a body back together again from the inside, out.
Knives watched the gruesome surgery, and had he seen himself, he would have known that he looked like a madman; his pale eyes were eerie and too wide, darting with every movement of the doctor's hands, while his mouth worked constantly with silent words.
It was hours before the doctor set his assortment of tools aside to study his handiwork and call Knives to his side. Before him on the table, his brother was pinned and tied in dozens of places, simply to hold his body together. The tissue and muscle above his heart had been reconnected and now, the doctor said, it was an issue of cosmetics.
Like pieces of a quilt, the skin of Vash's chest flapped down over his insides, covering what little they could like a torn blanket. Knives scowled.
And your silly ideals brought you to this.
Knives' eye caught on a piece of skin laying over his brother's heart. He was shocked by the odd site of a man's nipple displaced, laying inches away from where it should. It was still attached, but barelyclinging to a few bands of bloodstained skin that held it to Vash's body. Knives looked away only to be confronted with another disturbing sight. On the other side of Vash's chest, once obscured by the doctor and now in clear view, a deep, wedge of scar tissue covered where the other nipple used to be. Knives took a step backwards. How old was the scar? Not so long ago, blanketed by the night sky, he had toyed with that nipple, teased it, tormented it. But he had left it whole. And now...
Again he wanted the ones responsible to suffer. Again he felt the ever-present anger that came with knowing the damn humans lived and breathed, probably whole and healthy while Vash was a pathetic construct of a man.
The scarring was so deep, the doctor said, interrupting his thoughts, that there was no way to protect the wound. Over such a delicate organ as the heart, there was need for something more than stitches. Fear made the surgeon say the words with extreme regret so that this man with the crazed eyes would spare him.
And the solution? A frightening collection of metal and bolts arranged like the bars of a prison cell. With the same caution, the doctor demonstrated how the bolts would secure to plates underneath and how skin would eventually reform and hold, provided the wounds were cared for.
Knives felt himself nod dumbly. This wasn't real. The surgeon's words sounded far away, as if the man weren't in the room with him at all. Knives could almost imagine that he and Vash were off in the desert, lying on a simple blanket together for warmth and companionship. Vash would slide out of his clothing slowly, move towards Knives with a lanky grace. They would tumble together, bodies moving, hands seeking any comfort in the dark, loveless night. Vash called his name when he came, arching off the blanket like his body was being pulled upwards by some cord, his neck tilted far back and tears slipping past his eyelids. Knives could almost see it, almost...
It was a combination of things that made the world crash back into focus. He suddenly heard the doctor's voice loudly when he said the words, "no sensation." And then the doctor was touching Vash again, only now his deft fingers were not on muscles and tissue, they were on Vash's skin. Knives' skin.
The surgeon brought his strange-looking scissors closer to the loosened skin, closer to the nipple laying askew on Vash's chest, which he had lifted slightly to get a better angle. The doctor was leaning in close, squinting to see the lifeless piece of skin as he removed it
Not his hands, not him, not this human...never allowed to touch Vash like that, to touch him there...
The doctor cried out when Knives grabbed his wrist, cursed a bit when he felt his bones grind together. The scissors clattered to the ground loudly and the sound echoed off the walls and the high, blood-splattered ceiling.
"Don't. Touch. Him."
The man cowered and tried to explain again: it would never heal, it was impossible to reconnect and would hinder the growth of the still-living tissue, it would never have sensation again, never feel, never hurt...
"Leave us," Knives commanded tossing the man away from him and releasing the already-purpling wrist in one smooth motion.
Afraid enough to comply, but concerned for his patient nonetheless, the doctor nodded and headed out the door with a comment tossed over his shouldera promise to return shortly. The door closed softly behind the human and Knives was left alone with his brother, once a familiar feeling, now a bit strange.
Knives' head turned to take in the measure of the room. His eyes stopped in turn on the filthy walls and the dried blood on the floor and then his brother. They stayed there as he moved closer. His hand touched Vash's bruised cheek and cupped his face with something like reverence. He stroked his thumb over the small mole beneath his closed eye and frowned at how his brother sweated under the harsh lights aimed at him. His eyes moved lower.
Knives was crying by the time his eyes once again reached the mutilated chest beneath him. With a sigh he lowered his head until his forehead was resting on his brother's collarbone. He kissedright in the center of Vash's chestand when he licked his lips, he could taste blood, sweat, and the tang of some sharp cleanser.
He shifted sideways, and it was beneath him, just under his mouth. His eyelids squeezed together to protect his eyes from the pathetic sight below and he felt his stomach turn. He lowered his head towards it...
For a moment, pressing his lips into skin that was tattered and should have been whole, it was just the samethe same feel of his brother nipple his mouth like countless times before, sucking at the textured flesh, biting gently and licking the pain away. He could pretend this dirty room was the desert, pretend that the blood and cleanser on his tongue was dirt and sand instead. Pretend that he could hear that breathless pattern Vash made when he was begging. Pretend that he could feel himself moving around Vash and inside him and beneath him and almost a part of him. Pretend that Vash was awake and holding him just around the waist and maybe even looking at him, not staring off into the distance. Just like a mirror. Only now...
And would he bleed...
He thought of apples. He thought of pain.
The sound was a loud, porcelain snap that rattled his skull and made his jaw ache. Something, once warm and responsive, now lifeless and cold, sat just behind his teeth. Yes, there was blood and it coated his mouth, a thick red syrup that he could not swallow, would not
A sink was nearby and he stumbled to it, dizzy and confused. Finally giving in to the urging of his stomach, he hunched over, heaved violently, and closed his eyes tightly against the sight of something rolling in the blood to rest in the drain.
He kept his eyes closed and breathed so heavily his body moved with the steady rhythm. Knives waited for a moment in the darkness he had forced onto himself before standing and wiping at his mouth. He opened his eyes. Blood smeared across his cheek, a parody of the blood smeared on the walls. Without turning to the operating table to see what he had done, he walked quickly to the door, throwing it open and pushing past the returning doctor.
"My God!" he heard the man shout behind him. "What have you done?"
But he would hear none of it; he walked away from the little room with the walls that hadn't stayed white and the doctor who had dared touch his brother. He collapsed in some empty room and tried to sleep, tried to forget the feel of blood pooling against his tongue and flesh ripping beneath his teeth.
It was unnatural. Prison bars.
The doctor claimed the surgery was a great success, though he wouldn't look Knives in his eyes any longer, instead keeping his gaze trained on the anaesthetized patient, wondering at the arrangement of old and new scars on his body.
Knives walked slowly to where his brother rested on a now-clean bed with clean, white linen. The skin looked irritated where the bars pressed into it. He traced a finger down the cool metal, feeling the rounded edges and the little bolts. The gesture might have looked loving if not for the expression on his face.
"It'll have to stay dry," the doctor said hastily when he saw a tear fall onto the metal crisscrossing over the man's heart. "He'll need to keep it covered."
Knives frowned at the doctor, but somehow, it was a comical idea that the metal might corrode and rust. He could envision the sight of Vash covered in the browns and reds of decay. Knives almost wanted to laugh. Did nothing about his brother endure? Even his replacement body would wither and fail.
He took one last look at his brother, this broken mirror that once showed such perfection, and a flash of worry took him. Vash's patchwork body disgusted him. Would this be his fate as well?
He left the room and the pristine clinic and the battered little town; he wandered until he was in the quiet of the desert again. He felt a new resolve and it grew stronger as the wind whipped grit and sand against his face. This was no forced Utopia like that of the ship. This was harsh reality, the truth of the world. The weak will fall; the strong will survive.
He cringed again at the image of his once-perfect brother, etherized upon that table and sewn into some...thing.
The humans had carved away all the things he loved and left behind a monstrosityruined everything and even taken away the possibility of pleasure hiding playfully behind pain. No sensation. Nothing at all.
And Vash had let them because he still believed in a philosophy more flawed than his body.
So Knives would cut that disease away, take it from the world violently, bite it off and spit it out at Vash's feet and make him /see/.
Like a delicate surgery, he would remove the cause and then Vash would forget. Vash would understand again.