This is how it begins. She tries to distance herself, but it always comes back again.
Lilith stares vacantly ahead, lying on her right side, her arm dangling over the side of her bed. Getting herself out from under the covers to get dressed and face the morning seems like an impossible chore. But she must. They have to rebuild. Jack's death was only the beginning in ridding Pandora of the Hyperion scourge.
She slowly casts the blanket off and sluggishly gets out of bed. She trudges to the bathroom, turns on the shower, and brushes her teeth.
The shower is one of the few places she can be alone with her thoughts. Since she's been back, there's been so much to do. Eradicating Hyperion, relocating Sanctuary back to its original location, Roland and Bloodwing's memorials...
She breathes in the steam, letting it fill her lungs before she slowly exhales. The temperature would be unbearable for most, but the Firehawk barely notices the heat. The water cleanses her, refreshes her, purifies her, disguises the tears in the only moment she dares let them fall.
She bows her head, her wet hair hanging down in her face, her left hand trembling against the cool glass of the shower door.
She spends longer in the shower than she knows she should. There's so much that needs to be done. And she can't shake the nagging feeling that she has forgotten something.
The faucet squeaks as she twists it off, and the distinct sound of water droplets slapping against the shower tiles are the only sound as she towels herself off, puts on her clothes, and fixes her hair and makeup.
She lets out a tired groan and rubs her forehead. She just wants to get back into the shower and sit under the water for another twenty minutes. She doesn't want to go outside and face the day, face her friends. But she must.
She cracks open a strongbox and takes a small nugget of eridium out. With some effort, she manages to get the door on the small safe closed again.
Lilith sits on the edge of her bed, studying the small nugget in her hands, rotating it in her fingers, tracing her fingertips over its jagged edges. She sighs as her tattoos begin to glow; the eridium slowly dissolves in her hands. She watches her light skin as it begins to glow a deep purple.
For a while, for a fleeting, solitary moment, she feels whole again.
But the rush isn't as intense, and it doesn't last as long as it used to, before Jack captured her. She thinks back to the control core, and the almost guilty look Maya cast towards her when Angel died. With just a glance, she had somehow managed to say more than words ever could convey.
She curses Jack's name. The rush she feels from the eridium, the flooding energy pulsing through her veins, the warming embrace from the top of her head to the tips of her toes... as well as the agony of coming down, the clawing pit at the bottom of her stomach, the pounding headaches, the tremors, the cold sweats in the middle of the long sleepless nights, the hollow void she could sometimes feel in her chest... they are all testaments to Jack's final act of retribution. He didn't kill her like he would've liked, but the small taste of the years of torture Angel went through are a constant reminder to Lilith that even though he's dead, Jack is still torturing her.
She's tried to quit, but the guilt and self-loathing after she uses are nothing compared to the withdrawal. Even though she knows every time she uses Jack is still beating her, it's easier for her than detoxing. It also helps keep her focused. If she stays busy, she doesn't have to think about Roland, about Angel, about anything.
Her ECHO communicator beeps from across the room. With a sigh, she stands up and puts it on. "Yeah?"
"Hey, where are you?" It's Maya's voice on the other end.
Lilith frowns. Was she expecting her somewhere?
Fuck. Their training session. She had completely forgotten.
"Right. Sorry. I'm on my way."
Lilith shuts her eyes, and the familiar tingling sensation starts tickling her skin as it begins to glow a bright purple. With a snap of her fingers, her vision is washed out in white light.
Maya startles as she hears a loud crack behind her. She looks over her shoulder and sees Lilith smirking down at her, arms folded over her chest.
"I really wish you'd tell me when you're about to do that," Maya says, not bothering to hide the annoyance in her voice. "You ready to go?"
"I was born ready," she says, a grin playing across her lips.
Their training session, as luck would have it, actually doubled towards their efforts at rebuilding some of what Jack had taken from them. First on the list of things to do was getting Sanctuary back on the ground. To do that, they had to clear out its old resting place.
The bandits had made a home in the Sanctuary hole surprisingly quickly, even constructing a few ramshackle huts alongside the catwalks. It wasn't Lilith and Maya's job to worry about that: they just had to wipe out the Bloodshots living there. The Crimson Raiders would take care of the logistical aspect of landing the flying city.
Despite the stormy weather, most of the bandits seem to be outside. Some are talking to each other, others are looking through a chest some of them stole from a rival clan.
"How do you wanna approach this?" Lilith asks, crouching down behind Maya and looking at the bandits from their vantage point above them.
"See that big guy down there?" Maya asks, pointing to an enormous bandit carrying around a steel riot shield, outfitted with spikes on the front. "He keeps patrolling the area. We take him out once he's out of sight of the rest, we can catch them off-guard."
"Have 'em running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Nice. How do you wanna take him out?"
Maya pulls a sniper rifle out of her digistruct holster, resting its bipod on the rock in front of her. She slides it back and forth a bit, ensuring it won't slip on the rain-soaked surface.
"Ah, the old-fashioned way. I think you're spending too much time with Zero."
Maya smirks, looking down her scope at her target, before glancing back up. A bright flash from a lightning bolt in the distance briefly illuminates the smirk on her face.
"They'll hear your shot, of course."
"Not if I time it with the thunder," Maya says, and almost as if on cue, a loud thunderclap sounds off. "That's where you come in. Wait for the next lighting strike. Give me the signal."
Lilith smirks, then starts scanning the horizon. Maya sighs, looking at a cloth hanging on a line through her scope to judge the wind before finding the nomad in her sights.
A bright flash to her left catches Lilith's attention. "Get ready..."
Maya breathes in, readying her trigger finger.
Maya exhales and fires just as the thunderclap goes off. The nomad drops to the ground, and none of the other bandits seem alerted.
"Let's go," Maya says, slinging her sniper rifle over her back and sliding down the steep rock face towards the bandit encampment. Lilith quickly follows suit.
They quickly approach the fallen nomad and Maya risks a peek around the corner of a dilapidated building. She turns to Lilith.
"I'll pull this group together, and you blast 'em apart."
Lilith nods and quickly phases out. Maya steps out from around the corner, catching the bandits' attention.
"It's that witch from those wanted posters!"
The bandits raise arms, but Maya raises her left arm quicker. A helpless psycho is lifted into the air, and several other bandits begin to get sucked in towards the rift.
"Shoot her, you dipshits!" shouts one of the bandits, hanging onto a handrail to avoid getting pulled any further towards the Phaselock.
A low rumbling sound comes from seemingly nowhere, followed by a small orb of light hovering over their heads. With a loud crack, Lilith phases in with a powerful blast right in the middle of the helpless bandits, killing them instantly, but at least with minimal pain. She slowly straightens up, her fiery wings spread out wide to either side.
"We're really good at this," Lilith says with a giggle. Maya grins back at her, jogging over to catch up.
"Get the hell out of here!" a voice cries out. A grenade plunks down between Lilith and Maya, and Lilith reacts quickly. She dives into Maya, knocking her off of her feet, and while they hang in mid-air, she teleports the both of them behind a building.
Maya lets out a grunt as they land on the ground, then looks around, trying to figure out what happened.
"Thank me later," Lilith says, pulling Maya to her feet. "These guys wanna do this the hard way."
"They always want to do it the hard way."
"Ain't that the truth."
"What's the plan?"
"The plan? Light 'em up," Lilith says, her wings spreading wide.
The marauder who threw the grenade seems satisfied for a while, before he notices the light-haired Siren emerge from behind a building thirty feet from where she was standing mere seconds before. "Dammit! They're still here!"
A psycho with a blue mohawk sprints up the stairs behind him, holding a grenade aloft in his hand and charging towards Maya with complete disregard for his own safety.
"Oh, this is gonna be fun," Maya says, watching as the suicide bomber advances on her. She lifts her hand, stares him down, and focuses her powers.
The marauder watches as the light-haired Siren's tattoos illuminate. The suicide psycho stops in his tracks, stares at her for a few seconds, then turns around, cackling maniacally.
"Hey... no... STOP, YOU IDIOT!"
Maya laughs as she watches the suicide psycho chase after the backpedaling marauder. The latter heads towards a staircase, his only escape route, but at that moment, two other bandits come up to investigate the commotion, blocking his path. The suicide bomber runs up to the three bandits, holds his grenade up high, and releases its handle.
Maya cackles as the grenade blows, blasting the other bandits down the stairs.
A few other bandits run screaming out of a nearby building, engulfed in flame. Lilith emerges shortly after them and gives chase. One flees down the length of the catwalk, while another just jumps over the railing, sailing into the city-sized hole in the ground and down into the Caustic Caverns. Lilith quickly chases the other down, and kills him with a quick psychic strike to the head.
"That's it for the punks up here. Meet ya at the bottom of the elevator," Lilith says to Maya, before disappearing in a purple flash of light. Maya dashes over to the elevator, then rides it down to the control room housing the city's power generator.
Lilith loudly phases in next to a computer console, knocking over one of the men unlucky enough to be caught too close to her. She quickly pulls out a cobalt incendiary pistol and shoots him before the rest of the bandits have a chance to react.
"You're gonna pay for that!"
She points the barrel of her gun at the bandit's head, but a sudden pain in her lower left leg throws off her aim as she pulls the trigger. She looks down and sees a young skag sinking its teeth into her skin and shaking its head vigorously. Angrily, she shouts out and shoots it in the head. The skag falls limp, but its teeth stay sunken into her leg.
"Bruno! No! You bitch!"
Enraged, the bandit lands a shot that clips Lilith's left side. He takes aim for center mass, but is lifted off his feet before he can take the shot, ensnared in Maya's Phaselock bubble.
Lilith sneers at him, then shoots a jet of flame from her palm that quickly swallows the bandit and kills him.
The room falls silent, and Lilith pries the dead skag from her leg before leaning on the rail, looking down at Maya, who stands beside a dead goliath. "You alright down there?" Lilith asks, trying to hide her wounds from Maya.
"Fine. Why don't you wait here for the Raiders to show up? I got stuff that needs doin' back at Sanctuary."
Maya starts to protest, but bites her tongue and nods. "You know you can..." she starts, but Lilith has already teleported away. "...talk to me about anything," she finishes to the empty room.
"Well, sure, I can patch ya up," Zed says, picking up a particularly sharp-looking needle. "But didn't ya say you were off fightin' with Maya? I'll take your money, but between you and me, she's probably a better medic than I am."
"Just fix it," Lilith says. Zed shrugs, and sets to work.
"That little feller got you pretty good, didn't he?"
"Yeah. Should've seen it comin'..."
"You're gonna need some shots to make sure you don't catch nothin' from that."
"Yeah, sure, great. Do whatever you need to."
"That means you're gonna have to pay an extra eight hunnerd," Zed adds in an undertone. Lilith rolls her eyes and slaps a large stack of bills on the tray holding his instruments.
She can't let Maya heal her. Not now. It may be pain, but it's the most vivid sensation she's felt since Jack kidnapped her. If she has to subject herself to Zed's questionable medical expertise, so be it.
The arrangements for landing Sanctuary back in its hole are final, but since it's so late at night, Scooter is too drunk to direct the city back to its resting place, and Lilith doesn't dare risk the lives of her friends and its citizens just so they can be on the ground a few hours earlier. So in the sky they stay.
She takes another hunk of eridium out of her strongbox, investigating the safe's contents to judge how much longer it will last her. A few weeks ago, the nearly-full strongbox could have lasted her weeks, maybe months, but she's using more than she did before and she doesn't know how long it'll be until she needs more.
She sighs and shuts the safe. She'll worry about getting more later. Right now she just needs to use. She needs to relax.
Before she can even start absorbing it, a knock on her door sounds. "Just a minute!" she says, quickly stuffing the purple nugget into a desk drawer.
"It's me," Maya says from the other side of the door. "You left the hole really suddenly, I just wanted to make sure you're okay."
Lilith looks at the door, then sighs before calling back. "Yeah, fine!"
"Can I come in?"
The door slowly opens and Maya steps inside, taking a long look at Lilith. "Are you avoiding me?" she asks after a short silence.
"Avoiding you? We're talking right now, aren't we?"
"You know what I mean. You were late showing up, and then as soon as we cleared everyone out, you couldn't leave fast enough."
"I told you, I had to do some stuff back here."
"We don't talk to each other anymore."
Lilith sighs and shakes her head. "Look, I don't know what to tell you... I'm not trying to avoid you, I've just been... keeping busy."
Maya's eyes bore into Lilith's so intensely that the redhead has to look away.
"It's just... hard to find time, I guess."
Maya's gaze turns to the strongbox on Lilith's desk. Its door is slightly opened. Her eyes turn back to Lilith: she's on edge, that much is obvious. "What's in that?" she asks, gesturing to the safe.
Lilith looks up and follows her line of sight to the desk. "That's nothing."
"Then open it."
"If it's nothing, then you don't have anything to hide."
"Maya, please don't do this to me."
"You can't keep using that stuff, Lilith. You saw what it did to Angel. We both did."
"That was different," Lilith says, hoping to convince herself of her words as much as Maya.
"It's just... to take the edge off, alright?"
Maya's tone becomes more concerned as her protective instincts flare up. "You're hurt?"
Lilith stifles her laugh to barely a snort as she shakes her head. Maya has no clue.
"Show me," she says, taking a step closer.
Lilith sighs and steps out from behind the bed, sitting on its edge and giving Maya a glimpse at her lower legs. Blood from the skag bite has soaked through the bandage, and forms a crimson-colored stain on her pant leg.
Maya has never even seen Lilith injured. She looks from the bloody pant leg up to Lilith's face. "What happened?"
"I was focusing too much on the bandits. Didn't notice they had pet skags."
Maya slowly walks over and kneels on the floor, rolling up her pant leg and lifting the bandage to investigate Lilith's leg more closely. It's already been worked on – clumsily. "Did you go to Zed about this?", she asks, looking up into Lilith's eyes.
She nods, thinking back to her visit to the doctor, remembering the burn from the rubbing alcohol, the sting of the needles.
"Well he did a really shitty job," Maya says, turning back to the messy bandage work. "I could heal this in two seconds."
"No, Maya, you don't need to do that," Lilith assures her, but she's already begun taking the bandages off.
As she undresses the wound, Maya looks up and asks "Why didn't you say anything?", but Lilith doesn't respond.
She sighs and sets to work, slowly mending Lilith's leg beneath her fingertips. The Firehawk closes her eyes and sighs.
The sensation is peculiar. Similar to the eridium high, but... different. She's not sure how. She can't help but compare Maya's delicate touch to Zed's much less refined approach. Her fingertips skillfully pass over each jagged wound from the skag's powerful bite, alleviating the pain as the injury is erased beneath them.
The warmth spreads from Maya's fingertips, channeling into Lilith's leg and rippling softly through her body, soothing her nerves, staying her jittery fingers. She watches Maya work, fascinated at how she controls her powers so precisely, so gracefully. Not a bit of psychic energy is wasted, and Lilith can feel it. She thinks back to the bandit camp, to her chaotic phase blasts, her frantic, disorganized attacks. Her powers are an emotional release, each battle, each fight offering a chance to unleash all of her fury, all of her frustration, all of her fear.
And then there's Maya, who always seems to remain at an emotional constant, at least as long as nobody mentions her past. Her battlefield is a canvas, her Phaselock and her sidearm each a paintbrush. Every movement is calm and calculated. If she kills a bandit trapped in her bubble, she breaks her grip instantly. Not one movement, not one second of concentration is wasted. Not in the heat of battle, and certainly not right now.
Lilith slinks back slightly on the bed, then lets out a gasp as a sharp pain stabs her in the side. Zed's work on the bullet wound in her side was no more effective than what he did with the bite.
Maya alerts to Lilith's pained gasp and quickly stands up, placing her right knee on the edge of the bed to Lilith's left side. "Here, let me-"
"No," Lilith says, a bit more forcefully than she intended. Maya leans back, eyes wide with surprise, and Lilith softens her tone. "It's... it's nothing."
"It doesn't look like nothing." Maya frowns as she watches Lilith wincing.
She won't let Maya heal her. The pain is the most alive she's felt in weeks. But it's not just the fact that it's the first vivid sensation she's felt since charging the Vault Key. She wants the pain. She needs the pain. Above all, she knows she deserves the pain. Maya extends a hand, but Lilith slinks away.
"You can't keep torturing yourself like this. It won't bring-... it won't change what's happened."
"You don't think I know that already?" Lilith half-shouts, on the verge of tears. "What do you think was going through my mind while Jack was pumping that shit through me? Huh? All I could do was think about Roland, and Angel, and what was going to happen to you after he used me up and tossed me aside!"
Maya steps back from the bed and falls silent, but Lilith stands up and continues, her emotions quickly ceding to anger.
"You have no idea. You've never even used the stuff. You can't possibly know what I went through. Every damn minute being hooked up to that damned Key was my own personal hell."
"So why don't you just stop telling me shit I've already gone over a thousand times and just leave?"
Maya stares into Lilith's eyes and opens her mouth to say something, but instead just shakes her head and storms out.
Lilith heaves a sigh and shuts her door before collapsing face-down on the bed in tears.
Eventually, she picks her head up and casts an angry glance towards the strongbox on her desk.
"This is all your fault," she growls at it, pushing herself off the bed and storming over to the desk. She grabs onto the small safe and heaves it through her closed window, shattering the glass.
Instantly, she regrets letting go, and watches helplessly as it sails down past the floating city's platform, hurtling out of sight to the ground below. Now of all times would be a good time to use, to get her nerves under control. She pinches the bridge of her nose, biting her lip so hard she draws blood.
"Son of a bitch!"
She heads to the bathroom, looking into the mirror as she raises a hand to her lip. She leans forward to get a closer look, but winces as the pain in her still tender side flares up again.
Her thoughts drift back to before Maya knocked on her door, and her eyes light up.
She hurries over to her desk, pulling the drawer open and taking out the lone eridium nugget inside.
"Hey," Lilith says, poking her head into the command center, seeing Axton, Salvador, and Mordecai playing a game of poker. "Where's Maya?"
"Hey, did you say somethin' to her?" Mordecai asks, before taking a sip of beer.
"This is between me and her," Lilith says curtly. "Where is she?"
"Well, she left lookin really pissed off. Said she was goin' to Moxxi's."
"Thanks," Lilith says, turning on her heel and walking briskly out.
"Really might not want to talk to her right now!" Axton calls out, but since she doesn't reply, he can't even be sure Lilith heard him.
Mordecai shakes his head and pushes a small stack of chips into the center of the table. "I swear. Only six of them can exist at a time, you'd think they'd wanna get along a little better."
"Nice to know even with those powers, Sirens aren't so different from other women!" Salvador booms with a laugh.
Lilith walks quickly down the street, each stride long and deliberate. From the street and through the side door, she sees Maya sitting at the bar, talking with Moxxi, who is bent over at the waist, leaning on the bar.
Maya doesn't notice Lilith until she feels a hand on her shoulder and is forcibly turned to face her.
"I need you," Lilith says, before closing her eyes and correcting herself. "I need to talk to you."
Maya shrugs out of her grip and turns back to the bar. "Well I don't have anything to say to you."
Lilith takes a deep breath. "You're not even going to talk to me now? Is that it?"
Moxxi opens her mouth to ask if there's any trouble, but Maya holds a finger up, quieting her before she can even say anything. "Lilith, I know you're hurting, and I know you miss Roland, and I know you hate Jack for what he did to Angel, but you can't just lash out and take it out on me like you did."
"If you'd just let me-"
"We'll talk about this later. When you're less on-edge."
"But that's what I-"
"Good night, Lilith." She slaps a few bills on the bar before standing up and heading to the side door.
Lilith shakes her head, then turns around and grabs Maya's left shoulder, turning her around and pressing her back against the slot machine by the door. Before Maya can say anything, Lilith leans in and kisses her fiercely on the lips.
Maya feels Lilith's right hand cupping her cheek, and she can detect the distinct metallic taste of blood on Lilith's lips and tongue. Before she even has an opportunity to push her away, Lilith pulls apart, breathing heavily, staring at Maya with her intense orange eyes.
The Firehawk puts her index finger over Maya's lips to silence her. She waits a few seconds, hoping Maya will just push her off and walk out the door, or at least that she'll slap her across the face. But Maya just stands there, staring back. She doesn't look angry, or upset... just surprised. But Lilith can't tell if it's a look of pleasant surprise or not.
Against her better judgment, she places her hands gently on Maya's cheeks, stares deep into her silver eyes, and whispers softly:
"I want to do terrible things to you..."