B-O-M-B

Honesty – realistic

B-O-M-B

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 the guy for even two or three weeks, and this is, what, the fourth time she's spent any significant amount of time in his presence? 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 darkness of the path she walks. Normally she'd scoff at the thought of such a paragon actually existing in this world, but there's also 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.

It wouldn't be such a big deal 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 him 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 want to take their relationship further (and it's 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 and its artificial black hole. She certainly hadn't been looking for anything more. Not when she already has Rukifellth.

But does she have Rukifellth, really? He's been gone for two years already, and possessed to boot. He must be possessed, to assemble this BHB Army and brainwash the Elemental Knights of legend into his own Astral Knights and do all sorts of weird things that the Rukifellth she knew would never have thought of. Could he even be saved?

(And how does she know that Rukifellth is possessed, anyway? How does she know about the background of the Astral Knights? Lilith is fairly certain she wasn't 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 slathering medicinal gel onto Bomberman's various wounds and cuts, pale caramel fingers gliding along vanilla-light skin. She traces a crimson line along one of his shoulder blades, 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 reach out and give him a shoulder rub, like Rukifellth had taught her once. The poor guy could certainly use one.

She almost goes through with it before she stops and wonders whether that would 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 eerily like Rukifellth. Might as well take advantage of it, right?

I'm just concerned about him professionally, Lilith counters.

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 suddenly burning up her face. Pommy, too, is distracted by something on 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 only that. But Lilith can't help but notice the warmth of his skin through 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 disappeared. She hates admitting that she sorely misses that sort of thing, since she was just fine without it before Rukifellth waltzed into her life and completely ruined that.

But she does miss it, a lot.

And really, both her and Bomberman could use some comfort right now, couldn't they?

Stop that! she chided herself. What would Rukifellth think? Pause. Actually, he'd probably be really amused, wouldn't he. I mean, the Scourge of the Spaceways falling for a goody two-shoes like Bomberman? Lilith exhales. More seriously...would Rukifellth want me to find someone while he's gone?

As a member of Dalukah's upper class on the planet Yretsym, Rukifellth has a slightly different view from Lilith of what constitutes acceptable conduct in a romantic/intimate relationship. He'd been engaged since birth to a girl from another aristocratic family, but it was widely expected, even encouraged, for both of them to have lovers outside of their relationship — and multiple ones at the same time, if they were so inclined. Rukifellth continually insisted that he and Nerutia had only ever been friends and nothing more, but upon realizing Lilith's discomfort with the arrangement, he risked complete disownment from the rest of his social class (well, more than he already had when he took up a life of piracy) by breaking off the engagement with her.

Do the standards of Dalukan aristocracy apply to an orphan from a nameless podunk town on Zelkova? she wonders.

Having finished the application of medicinal gel to the necessary places, 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 scoops up his sweatshirt and undershirt from the floor before heading for the bathroom.

A crazy idea occurs to Lilith then, and before she can think too hard about it, she says: "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, looking thoughtful. "Well," he says, "I can just wash them and let them dry overnight, and they should be all right for a while..."

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

Bomberman 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. "Th-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. "R-repayment? For what?"

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

He's clearly not convinced. "But...but that was just one — "

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

Thankfully, Bomberman seems to understand that there's no winning this one, and he enters the bathroom. Pommy scales the bed by clutching onto the comforter and heaving himself 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?"

"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, who the hell does she think she is, anyway, trying to buy off Bomberman's grief and pain with a shopping spree? Because that's what she's doing, essentially, even if Bomberman himself doesn't seem to realize it. She can't quite decide whether this is better or worse than trying to get into bed with him, but either way it's reprehensible on her part. 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. Any altruism here is a rare instance of a happy side effect for bitter medicine.

He chose this, remember, another voice argues in her head — not Rukifellth, but one of her "sisters" 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 the 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, wearing deep scars into her mind in the process. With an effort, she derails herself from that particular thoughtpath...only to fall into something worse.

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. Best to break his heart sooner than later.

She really should let him know about the tiny detail of being a half-demon space pirate with a background in massacres and assassinations, 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 partially because it's rare that she spends any significant amount 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 has admitted that he 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.