If Lilith has to be honest with herself, she has to admit that she really likes Bomberman. Really, really likes him.

It's more than a little baffling to her. After all, she's barely known him for even three weeks, and this is, what, the fourth time she's met up with him? But Bomberman is an easy person to like, exuding a boyish sort of maturity that coalesces into a pure trustworthiness that she rarely sees in the dark path she walks. Normally she'd scoff at the thought of such a shining paragon actually existing in this world, but there's a cynical streak in him that mars an otherwise polished surface of virtue and idealism, dulling the brightness so she can see him for who he is.

Things wouldn't be so complicated if he weren't also interested in her, Lilith thinks to herself as she tends to his battle injuries in the lavish hotel room they're camping out in at Tolbi Casino. Oh, yes, she knows about his crush: it's so painfully, endearingly obvious. But she humors his attempts to hide his affection, because it makes everything simpler to deal with. It makes it easier to pretend that there's no reason, none at all, to take their relationship further (barely a relationship, really, it's more like an acquaintanceship). She'd struck up a professional connection with the young man on Alcatraz because she thought he could be useful to her plans for taking down the BHB Army. She certainly hadn't been looking for anything more. Not when she already has Rukifellth.

But does she have Rukifellth, really? They've been apart for at least two years already, and now he's possessed on top of that. She hasn't had any experience with possessed people prior to this, but she can think of no other explanation for why he's assembled the BHB Army and brainwashed the Elemental Knights of legend into his own Astral Knights — actions that the Rukifellth she knew would never have thought of, let alone carried out. Could he even be saved at this point?

(And how does she know about the background of the Astral Knights, besides? Lilith is fairly certain that she hadn't been aware of such things before, but she can't remember ever having learned them while doing her reconnaissance. Things have been weird like that, lately.)

Lilith continues applying medicinal gel onto Bomberman's various wounds, sustained from his fight with Zhael. She traces a crimson line along one of his shoulder blades, and then another one running parallel to his spine, the motions leaving a trail of a translucent peach-tinted gel. As she takes a break to survey her work, she finds herself admiring the form of his back, the sinews and muscles that make it up. He has nice shoulders, too, not too broad and not too scrunched together. She feels the urge to give him a shoulder rub, like Rukifellth had taught her once. The poor guy could certainly use one. On the other hand, that might be way too intimate for their current level of interaction.

Well, you've already convinced him to get half-naked, a voice sniggers in her head. It sounds a lot like Rukifellth. Might as well take advantage of it, right?

I'm just concerned about him in a professional sense, Lilith insists.

Doesn't mean you can't also be interested in what he looks like without his clothes on.

Lilith is utterly thankful that Bomberman's got his back turned to her at the moment, because that way he can't see the blush that's starting to burn up her face. Pommy, too, is fortunately occupied by the TV, but she often suspects that the cute critter is more perceptive than anyone gives him credit for.

With a calming breath, she returns to her work, trying to focus on that and that alone. But Lilith can't help but notice the warmth of Bomberman's skin under her fingertips, the give of his body beneath her touch, and she feels a pang of loneliness. She hasn't had any significant physical contact with anyone ever since Rukifellth first disappeared. She hates admitting that she misses that kind of thing; she'd been just fine without it before Rukifellth waltzed into her life and completely ruined her on that. Or maybe that it was just that she'd never properly appreciated her sense of touch until he showed her how to. Either way, Lilith is finding the transition back to lone wolfhood rougher than she'd like.

So have a cuddle or two with Bomberman, her inner Rukifellth suggests. Nobody can blame you for that in a situation like this.

Least of all Rukifellth himself. As a member of Dalukah's upper class on Yretsym, he has a slightly different view from Lilith of what constitutes acceptable conduct in a romantic or intimate relationship. Even for couples engaged since birth, as he once had been, it is widely expected, even encouraged, for both members involved to have lovers outside of their relationship with each other. Lilith has never felt much inclined to muse about her ideal romance, having believed for the longest time that such things were not in the bones for her, but being with Rukifellth has taught her than her heart is only big enough for one person.

(Then again, it's also taught her that her heart is bigger than she thinks it is.)

Having finished her first aid work, Lilith wipes off her hands on a towel and reaches for a roll of gauze bandages before thinking better of it. "Are you planning on taking a shower?" she asks Bomberman. "Because if you are, I'll hold off on putting these things on."

"Hmm? Oh, yeah, that'd probably be a good idea." Bomberman slides off the bed and picks up his sweatshirt and undershirt from the floor before heading for the bathroom.

An idea occurs to Lilith then. "You know...those clothes of yours look like they've been through hell and back in a handbasket."

Bomberman gazes down at the clothes in his arms and on his body. "Well," he says, "I can just wash them and let them dry overnight, and they should be all right for a while..."

"Like hell they will! They'll fall apart if someone so much as breathes on them. I'm taking you shopping tomorrow."

He gives her a flabbergasted look. "What? No way, you already paid for the hotel room! I'll be fine!"

Lilith rolls her eyes fondly as she begins to finally take care of her own wounds acquired from the unfortunate run-in with Zhael. "If I can afford two-fifty grand for one night in a hotel, I can afford to get you something decent to wear. No arguments! I know some good stores in Tolbi that you might like."

"I..." Bomberman bowed his head and closed his eyes. "Thank you."

She smiles. "Don't look so guilty! It's seriously no problem. Just think of this as a small repayment to you."

He blinks at her. "Repayment? For what?"

Oops. "Er...for saving my life, of course!"

"But...but that was just one — "

"I said no argument! Pommy, mind getting me the room phone! I'll get our dinner once I'm done here."

Thankfully, Bomberman seems to understand there's no winning this one, and he enters the bathroom. Pommy scales the bed by clutching onto the comforter and heaving his round body up to the top before taking the phone from its place on the bedside table and dragging it over to Lilith. "Does Lilith need anything else?" he asks.

"I'll be fine. You can go back to watching TV."

But Lilith doesn't know if she'll be fine. She doesn't know if any of this will be fine ever again. There's so much that has gone wrong in so short an amount of time, and with every second that passes it feels like the situation gets exponentially more unfixable. And speaking of unfixable things, what the hell is she even doing, trying to buy off Bomberman's grief? Because that's what's happening, even if Bomberman himself doesn't seem to realize it. At least it has more of a practical effect than trying to get cuddles from him, but in the end it's all about assuaging her own guilt at having dumped this burden on his shoulders, a burden that rightfully belongs to her as the Scourge of the Spaceways — and as the cause of this entire mess, really, as unpredictable as that had been. There's no true altruism here.

He chose this, remember, another voice argues in her head. Not Rukifellth, but one of the "mothers" from the Azurite Circle.

I shouldn't have given him that choice. Lilith presses a gel-covered hand a little too hard into a cut, and both the pressure and antiseptic quality of the gel produce a satisfying, chastising pain. I should have kicked him out of this as soon as the chance presented itself. But this is an argument she's walked herself through countless times already, the path of it wearing deep scars into her mind. With an effort, she derails herself from that train of thought...only to fall into something as equally distressing.

What makes you think Bomberman would want a monster like you, anyway? This time it's her own voice taunting her. He only likes you at the moment because he doesn't know how horrible you really are.

She really should let him know about being a half-demon space pirate and former assassin, shouldn't she? She hadn't mentioned anything about it before, partially because it hadn't seemed important in the larger scheme of trying to take down the BHB Army, but also because it's rare that she spends significant amounts of time with anyone who doesn't at least suspect that she's not as innocent as she looks. It's nice not to be feared, for once. Even Rukifellth gets scared of her sometimes, and if her own lover can't deal with that part of her, how much more so a white knight like Bomberman? There's no way this sham of an idyllic partnership can last forever.

But if she has to be honest with herself — again — she has to admit that she's going to drag this dream out for as long as she can anyway.