This is how it begins. With a confession that floods her with pangs of guilt.
Lilith opens her eyes and locks gazes with Maya. She's not sure what she expected, but Maya's silver eyes just stare back at her, honest and vulnerable.
"More. Like... together?" Lilith says slowly.
To be honest, Maya isn't quite sure what to call it. She certainly never had occasion to say something like this to anybody on Athenas. All she knows is that she doesn't wants more nights like the last one, and maybe even more importantly, she wants more mornings like this one.
"I..." Lilith stammers, pinching the bridge of her nose. "I don't know... I have to think this over."
Lilith starts to roll to the edge of the bed, but Maya grabs onto her arm and pulls her closer. "Don't go. That eridium has you all messed up, Lil... I mean... I love the times we've had together, but... I can't let you keep using me like you use that stuff."
Lilith clenches her jaw and blinks quickly as her eyes threaten to water.
"I want you to answer now," she whispers, grabbing Lilith's wrist gently in her right hand and placing Lilith's hand to her chest. "While that purple shit isn't screwing with your emotions."
Lilith stares at the back of her hand and concentrates on the soft thumping of Maya's heartbeat against her palm. Now seems an appropriate time as ever to abandon all discretion. "I... I'm just so afraid that I'm going to drag you down into hell with me..."
"What do you think it feels like to watch you do this to yourself every day, over and over again?"
Lilith watches a tear fall down Maya's cheek, and she casts her eyes downward again.
"I don't mean to make you feel bad about it, but... it kills me to see that, Lilith. I care about you. Deeply."
"I care about you too, but... I don't want to destroy you like I do with everything else I care about..."
"That's the eridium talking. That's not you. You can get better. I can help you get better."
Lilith groans in frustration. "It just... fucks with me so much... but there's always that part of me... that just wonders..." She wants to say if you can complete me, but her throat seizes up before she can push the words past her lips.
Maya falls silent and places her hand gently on top of Lilith's. Lilith lies flat on her back and stares up at the ceiling.
"I need help," Lilith whispers after a long silence. "Oh, God, I need help..."
The smallest of smiles creeps across Maya's face. Progress. As she watches Lilith's eyes, she swears she can see the neurons in Lilith's brain firing off behind them.
Eventually, those eyes refocus on Maya, and Lilith asks, "So this is basically an ultimatum... you or the eridium."
"If it helps you to think of it that way, then yes."
Lilith glances back up to the ceiling, then back again at Maya. "And you'll help me? You'd really... you'd really do this with me?"
"Every step of the way."
Lilith remains silent for a moment before taking Maya's hand in her own. "Then... I want to do this. With you. The right way."
A joyful tear slips out of Maya's eye as she leans in to plant a kiss on Lilith's lips.
"Well... as sad as I am to hear that I won't be able to observe the effects of eridium on you much longer, I do suppose this is in your best interests."
Lilith and Maya exchange a look. Was Tannis just trying to be compassionate?
"Was there... anything I could help you with?" she asks, sounding mildly perturbed.
And just like that, she's back to her usual self.
"Tannis," Maya explains, "we came to you because you're supposed to be the expert on eridium."
"Oh, so you came to me for advice! Most agreeable. What would you like to know?"
"Well, I mean..." Lilith rubs the back of her neck and clears her throat. "What do I do? Should I just dump it all and stop using it altogether?"
"I certainly can't recommend quitting cold turkey," Tannis says, her ECHO recorder sitting in its usual spot on the table, recording their conversation. "We know that in extremely high doses, eridium withdrawal can be fatal, but I don't think it is a stretch to call Angel a fringe case. Someone using as much as you, though, I'm not sure. You are, after all, the only subject I have been able to witness first-hand when it comes to eridium use."
"Can you not call her a 'subject'?" Maya asks. "Maybe try something that, you know, reflects that she's human?"
"It's alright," Lilith interrupts the two with a raised hand. "Human interaction isn't exactly her strong suit, I understand. So, Tannis... you're saying I need to get, what, weaned off of this shit?"
"Precisely. You'll need to gradually ingest it less often, and in smaller doses, until you can stop using entirely. This is less likely to kill you."
"Wh- less likely?!" Maya shouts. "What do you mean, 'less likely'?"
"One cannot be sure if Lilith's body has already become dependent on eridium. But I would remain cautiously optimistic: it took Angel years to develop a lethal dependence. And she ingested it by the liter!"
Maya shakes her head and mutters the phrase "cautiously optimistic" to herself in a disbelieving tone.
"Now," Tannis says, taking out a notepad and pen. "How many pieces of eridium do you use a day?"
Lilith glances up at Maya nervously, and Maya sits down beside her and grabs her hand, giving it a supportive squeeze.
"Uh... about uhm... nine...?"
Lilith has a hard time telling if Tannis is judging her. Tannis always looks like she's judging people. "And that's on a normal day?" the doctor asks.
"Nine doses, average say about 250... maybe 300 grams per dose, that's about two and a half kilos a day..."
Lilith hangs her head as Tannis keeps scribbling on her notepad and muttering to herself. Maya puts her arm around Lilith's shoulder.
"Hmm, you weigh, what, about 52 kilograms, give or take?"
Tannis ignores Lilith's objection to her question as she draws what appears to be a box-shaped grid, labeling each column with a single letter at the top. She fills each of the boxes in the first row with an 8, then the next row with a 7, then 6, all the way down to 1. "We'll try this. Reducing your dose by one usage per week, giving your body time to adjust to the reduced intake."
"Eight weeks..." Lilith mutters. Eight weeks? How long had it been since the first time she used? Years? How can she be expected to stop in eight weeks?
"Of course we can adjust the timeframe if your body is unable to handle the change, but I think this will be a good starting point, based on your daily consumption and body mass."
"You can do this," Maya reassures her, upon seeing the overwhelmed expression written all over Lilith's face. It's comforting to Lilith that at least one of them believes in her.
"But that's only part of the equation," Tannis says. "You will of course have to address your triggers. What makes you want to use eridium."
"So, like therapy." Lilith shakes her head and laughs. "I really am crazy."
"You're not crazy," Maya says, rubbing Lilith's shoulder. "It's a disease."
"So, who do I see about that, then?" Lilith asks, looking up at Tannis. "You?"
"My doctorate is in archeology, I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to give you any professional-"
"It was a joke, Tannis."
"Oh. Well, in any case, these are issues you'll have to work out with somebody. But I can offer assistance, if you so choose."
Lilith smirks. She thinks she'll pass on that offer.
Preliminary plans were in place to take out the Hyperion satellite. The newer group of Vault Hunters weren't being called away on any other treasure searches or fighting tournaments or hunting excursions. There was finally time for a memorial for Roland, Bloodwing, and the rest of their fallen friends and allies.
"I want to be sober for this," Lilith says, closing Maya's fingers around the eridium nugget and pushing her hand away.
"Are you sure?" Maya asks. Lilith nods, and Maya pockets it.
Lilith feels herself choking up as she stares at the inscription on the base of the statue. This memorial is much more fitting than the battlefield cross they made earlier: his beret resting upon his Scorpio rifle, the gun's bayonet stuck firmly in the ground. This bronzed statue is more fitting of a hero.
A single tear falls down her cheek as Mordecai says a few words in memory of Roland and Bloodwing, but it is all she will allow herself. She can't let herself break down in front of Tina, especially not after she nearly lost her temper with the poor girl earlier.
After Mordecai falls silent, Brick speaks next. Tina hugs Lilith and lets out a few quiet sobs, and Lilith pats the girl's head as she works on fighting back her own tears.
Lilith can't even pay attention to what anyone else is saying. She didn't expect to be so overwhelmed by what she assumed was just going to be a symbolic memorial. And it doesn't help that her body is crying out for her to pick up a piece of eridium and suck it into her system. But she owes it to Roland to be sober during this. She owes it to Bloodwing, and the rest of the Raiders. She'll deal with the shame of using later. Right now she needs to focus on steadying her jaw before she grinds her molars to dust.
Brick slowly steps back to his spot beside Salvador, and Lilith heaves a sigh. Her turn is up. Tina slowly lets go of her as she walks in front of the statue, turning to face the rest of the group. She looks out nervously at various pairs of eyes on her. She's grateful at least that it's only a small gathering of friends.
"What do I say?" she had asked Maya hours earlier. "They're gonna expect me to say something."
"You know I can't tell you that. Just say what you feel. The rest will come naturally."
"Uhm.. Rol-" Lilith coughs and clears her throat. "Roland and I... had our differences. And our arguments. In the time I knew him, he started as a rival, just more competition I'd have in finding the Vault. And then he was an ally. Then my friend. Then my- erm..."
She clears her throat again as her eyes fall on Tina.
"We were close. He was the only one I could talk to after I faked my death at New Haven... the only human connection I had. And even though that was after we broke up, I still cared for him... I still thought of him as one of my best friends.
"I'll always hold a special place in my heart for him. But... I think he can rest in peace, knowing that his sacrifice wasn't in vain... that we were able to avenge his death. And that everyone on this planet is safer, thanks to him."
Lilith turns and kneels in front of the statue, placing a lone bladeflower on the ground and putting her hand to the plaque on the statue's base.
"I miss you, Roland," she says softly, before standing up and taking her place beside Maya. Maya offers her hand out, and barely stops herself from letting out a yelp when Lilith takes it with a grip like a vise clamping down on her fingers. She squeezes back, and Lilith rests her head on Maya's shoulder, the whole group watching in silence as Tina timidly shuffles towards the memorial.
The two Sirens, Gaige, and even Brick all shed a tear as Tina hugs Roland's statue and says goodbye to him for the last time.
"You did good today," Maya says, kneeling behind Lilith on the bed.
Lilith grunts noncommittally. She stares at the tattoos on the back of her hands, still glowing a dim purple from the eridium Maya had given her moments earlier.
"I know how hard that must have been for you... saying goodbye to a friend like that... to someone you loved. I just wanted to tell you how proud I am of you."
Lilith slowly looks over her shoulder. "You know? Have you ever had to go through the death of somebody you love?"
For just a fraction of a second, she can see the hurt in Maya's eyes, and Lilith instantly wishes she could take it back.
"I... I've never had anybody in my life to love before..." Maya admits, her voice soft and hesitant.
Lilith places her elbows on her lap and buries her face in her hands. Somehow, that answer hurts her more than any other she could have prepared herself for. "I'm sorry... I don't know why I said that..."
Lilith shakes her head, her palms still pressed against her cheeks. "It's not okay. I had no right to say something like that to you."
"I know, I know, I'm beating myself up again. But I deserve it. You were just trying to make me feel better and I lashed out at you."
"Please, don't. I forgive you. I know you didn't mean it."
A silence falls over the room, and Maya scoots a bit closer.
"I didn't want to break down in front of Tina," Lilith admits quietly as Maya rests her chin on Lilith's right shoulder and wraps her arms lightly around her.
"You were very strong," Maya whispers.
Lilith straightens up slightly, smiling as the words flow gently into her ear.
"You're so strong..."
For the time being, Lilith and Maya have moved in the Lair of the Firehawk. Lilith refuses to let the rest see her like this.
The first week wasn't too bad. Nothing Lilith couldn't handle. But once that first drop-off came... that's when her body really started crying out for the stuff. And from there, she knows it will only get harder.
Her eyes have grown almost permanent dark circles underneath them. She gets tremors after a dose wears off. Her hair is disheveled from her twitchy fingers being passed through it so often. She frequently breaks out in cold sweats. But the worst is the nausea. The God-awful nausea. The vomiting in the middle of the night. It doesn't disrupt her sleep much – she has trouble falling asleep now anyway. But she feels terrible waking Maya up.
Maya holds to her promise. She is there for Lilith, every step of the way. Every morning, every evening, every cold, restless night. She can handle Lilith becoming irritated at the slightest trigger. She can allay her anxieties. She can even deal with Lilith during her bouts of paranoia. Lilith is eternally grateful that she can deal with her problems by talking with Maya, though in her more lucid moments she wonders: Who does Maya turn to when Lilith lashes out at her? When she loses her temper? When she makes ridiculous claims of Maya's intentions during the spastic fits of paranoia that would be better suited to Dr. Tannis?
Lilith can see the drain in Maya's face. Not when they're together, though. They are private moments: sometimes at night, while Maya lies staring up at nothing in particular, not noticing Lilith is awake and watching her, she can see the exhaustion in those silver eyes.
Lilith wonders if an outsider was watching them, would they think Maya was the one who had a problem?
But those moments are rare enough to be anomalous. Maya is inconceivably disciplined. She never gets angry with Lilith. She never raises her voice. She never gets fed up and walks out.
"It's my upbringing, I guess," she had explained to a confused Lilith one day. "Meditation. Patience. Understanding. Discipline. They said if I master those four principles, I could defeat any demon. You know, not everything the monks told me was total bullshit."
"That's it? Meditation and discipline?"
"Well, I guess when you realize that the only people you thought you could trust have been lying to you for twenty-seven years, and that what you thought was your life's purpose turns out to be a farce, it might give you a little perspective. Your 'outbursts', as you call them, seem trivial compared to that."
Lilith isn't sure about the Order's Four Maxims. To her, they sound suspiciously of propagandist dogma used to keep Maya in line. Give a person something to believe in, something to really believe in, and they'll hold onto that belief until they draw their last breath. But she decides to say nothing. They seem important to Maya, and that should be all that matters.
Lilith has bad days.
Bad days, full of agitation and anxiety, days where she sometimes feels she's on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Her body constantly craves the poison she feeds on, begging for just one more hit, just one tiny, insignificant little nugget, because Maya will never know, and she needs it so badly, and it will help soothe her nerves...
But she refuses to disappoint herself like that. More importantly, she refuses to disappoint Maya like that. She can't, she won't let herself destroy Maya, especially not after Maya has tried so hard to fix her.
She has bad nights, too. Bad, long, nauseous, cold, agitated, restless nights...
Lilith lies in the fetal position, with Maya pressed up behind her, providing her with some much-needed warmth. Her feet are so cold she can barely feel them.
"You're sure you can't just... like, heal me of this?" Lilith asks, her voice quivering and desperate.
"You know I would if I could," Maya whispers, kissing Lilith on the neck and holding onto her a little tighter. "But it's not an illness of the body. It's an illness of the mind. I can't heal that."
"Well... can't you do anything?"
"Meditation? What, like... closing my eyes and repeating the same stupid meaningless sentence over and over again?"
"It's about self-awareness. Calming the mind. Reflecting on yourself. Shutting out everything from the outside world: all the noise, all the pain... every last distraction. Until you are all that exists in that moment."
"Well, it's definitely not something you'd be able to master overnight."
"So how does that help me now?"
"It's supposed to relax you. To put you at ease."
"Just sounds like a bunch of spiritual crap to me," Lilith mutters, tucking her right hand underneath her pillow.
Lilith feels Maya's shoulders shrugging behind her. "I guess it can't appeal to everybody. Maybe you had to grow up being taught that kind of thing to really believe in it."
"It helps me, though. I can even block out pain with enough concentration."
Lilith harrumphs and shifts back and forth uncomfortably.
Maya just hums softly and wraps her arm a little more tightly around Lilith's midsection.
"So what's the whole point of that, anyway?" Lilith asks after a short silence.
"Well, ultimately: liberation."
"Liberation? From what?"
"From hatred and hostility. From worry and anxiety. From apathy. From distrust and self-doubt."
"You expect me to believe you never worry about stuff or doubt yourself?"
"Of course not. It's not about not experiencing those emotions at all. But it's not about wallowing in them either. It's about reflecting on those feelings, accepting them as a temporary part of your life, and understanding that they're not a reflection on who you are as a person."
Lilith falls silent, shivering slightly.
"Once you do that, you start to learn how to handle those feelings. How to react to them. How to deal with them, positively."
Lilith replays what Maya just said a few times in her mind before letting out a small "Hunh..."
"Mmm. You gonna be okay?"
"Yeah... yeah I'll be fine..." Lilith whispers. "Just thinkin' about what you said... anyway. You should try to get some sleep..."
"So should you," Maya murmurs, cuddling up against Lilith.
Lilith hums softly and shuts her eyes, focusing on the distant howling of the night wind outside the cave entrance, the hint of spring waterfall-scented moisturizer still lingering on her hands, Maya's warm breath rhythmically tickling the back of her neck...
The next morning, after Maya gives her eridium for the morning and gets into the shower, Lilith stares at a crimson-colored blanket. Maya's words from last night drift through her head.
"This is stupid," she mutters to herself, but nonetheless, she folds the blanket up, sets it on the ground, and kneels on top of it.
Lilith closes her eyes and focuses on her breathing, trying to shut out anything and everything from the external world.
Lilith has bad days.
Lilith's fingernails scratch nervously at her forearm. She paces the room restlessly, eyes darting over at the clock every fifteen seconds.
"Lily, watching the clock isn't gonna make it go any faster."
"Oh come on, it's just fifteen minutes. What's fifteen minutes? You know how many minutes I've been alive? You know how many minutes this damn planet has existed? Fifteen minutes is tiny."
"You get it at six, and not a second before."
"Hnnngggghh I don't know if I'm gonna last until six. Look at me, I'm a wreck."
"You know I hate to see you like this, but this is all for your own good."
"If you were really worried about my own good you'd give me some eridium," she says, putting careful emphasis on the last seven syllables.
Lilith sighs and sits down on the foot of her bed. She grabs onto the railing at its edge and looks around her lair, her bottom lip twitching and her knuckles turning white.
"Hm. Patience, huh?" she asks, letting out a laugh that sounds more like a scoff.
"It's not just patience for things. It's patience with yourself. Being patient when working towards your goals. Finding a way to deal with the cravings."
"How am I supposed to be patient with myself if I can't be patient for fifteen fucking minutes?"
"You know how this works."
Lilith looks up at Maya from the bed, then bites her bottom lip. With a snap of her fingers, she appears standing in front of Maya, her left hand on Maya's throat.
"Unnh..." Maya lets out the smallest of gasps. She can feel the heat from Lilith's hand through the collar of her combat suit, a heat much too intense to be coming from blood, muscle, and skin.
"I know how it works. I don't give a shit how it works. Because if I don't get some of that crap in me right now, I am going to burst."
"You're angry," Maya squeaks out, grabbing Lilith's wrist with her right hand.
"You're god damn right I'm angry," Lilith growls through clenched teeth.
Maya struggles to swallow some saliva as she feels Lilith's fingers tighten around her throat. "You-... you're gonna hurt me..."
"I just might if you don't give me some of that shit right now."
"You're gonna hurt me..." Maya whispers.
Lilith narrows her eyes, analyzing Maya's face. There is no fear in her silver eyes. There is no shakiness to her voice. She isn't in the least bit worried that Lilith might hurt her. In fact, she almost sounds as if she's... challenging her.
"You want to hurt me."
Maya stares back into Lilith's eyes. Maya sees the anger and the frustration burning behind them, and she smiles. Her chest heaves with each short, shallow breath. Her lips part, and she whispers so quietly that Lilith has to lean her head forward and place her left ear next to Maya's lips just to hear her.
A sadistic smile slowly spreads across Lilith's face as she listens to Maya's hushed voice.
"What else do you wanna do to me?"
Lilith pulls her head back to look into Maya's eyes. Maya stares back and bites her bottom lip.
Lilith's hand still rests on Maya's neck. She squeezes.
"I wanna tear those clothes right off of you. I wanna lick every inch of your skin. And I wanna mark your body up and down so everybody knows you're mine..."
Lilith's grip on Maya's neck loosens. Maya takes in a deep breath, then lets it out in a low chuckle.
"I want to make you scream out my name so loud that they hear you all the way back in Sanctuary..."
Maya lets out a low moan. Even through her heat-resistant combat suit, she can feel the heat from Lilith's body building in intensity. Lilith's fingers are nearly hot enough to burn flesh, but Maya doesn't shy from their touch. Not now. Not ever.
Lilith leans in, slides her hand to the back of Maya's neck, and whispers into her ear. "I want to fuck you until the bed goes up in flames..."
A grin spreads over Maya's face as she leans her head back and closes her eyes.
And with her fiery wings unfurled, Lilith throws Maya onto the bed.
Excited fingers hastily slip off shoes and socks; clumsy hands fumble with a belt buckle; nails scratch skin as a shirt is pulled off its owner.
Lilith is in complete control. Exactly as she likes it. She is in complete control of her body, of the flames and the heat that shoot out of it, of the night, and of Maya.
A cloak of flame envelops the Sirens. The flames lick at their backs, at their feet, at their arms, but Lilith is able to control it, to keep it from burning Maya's delicate skin... unless she wants it to. Maya is able to heal her burns nearly instantaneously after they are formed, but the pain, the intense, horrible, wonderful, beautiful pain... Lilith is quick to learn Maya's tolerance for it, and she teases her skin with pulsing heat from her fingertips, her lips, her tongue.
If love is war, then sex is a battle.
She is not Lilith. Tonight, she is The Firehawk.
The seductive, alluring, all-powerful Firehawk. Temptress of the Tundra. Succubus of the Snow.
Lilith would be gentle with Maya. Lilith would melt as Maya whispers sweet nothings into her ear. Lilith would want nothing more than to prove to Maya that she is the only thing that matters.
But The Firehawk will dominate Maya, because The Firehawk is always in control. The Firehawk will make Maya submit to Her will, and The Firehawk make Maya scream Her name out in delirious ecstasy as the flames burn around them...
The Firehawk will hold true to Her promises...
If any of the bandits in Frostburn Canyon were still alive, they may well have been woken up by Maya's carnal, elated screams, or Lilith's lustful moans echoing through the cave, or even the scent of a burning mattress...
Lilith awakens the next morning in Maya's arms. There are no burns on Maya's skin, but the scratches along her back and her ass, the bite marks on her body... Maya lets those remain.
Legs intertwined, naked bodies pressed together, they lie on top of a crimson blanket which covers a wide layer of ashes on the ground.
Lilith smiles. It's been hours since she last had any eridium in her system. And the yearning, the craving for more is still there, but part of her feels... strangely rejuvenated.
It's the first time Lilith has slept comfortably through the night since she began her detox.
Lilith has better days.
Some days just feel like she's living from one dose to the next, the spaces in between leaving her feeling like time is standing completely still. Times where she has nothing to do but sit and think.
"So... Understanding, then. That's the third one?"
"Yeah. Here." Maya sits down across from Lilith and hands her a large glass of water.
"Thanks." Lilith takes a long drink from the glass before setting it down and sighing softly.
"I thought you weren't interested in this stuff," Maya says, crossing her left leg over her right and giving Lilith an inquisitive look. "I seem to remember you calling it 'spiritual crap', in fact."
"Well... it seems important to you. Maybe there is something to it."
Maya smiles. "You're already making progress. Open-mindedness is an important part of understanding."
"Or maybe the monks were full of shit. Can't know until I learn about what they taught you, can I?"
"I suppose not," Maya says with a chuckle.
"So, then... what's that all about, loving your fellow man? Some sappy crap like that?"
"Understanding your enemy. Understanding their abilities."
"Hmm. Well, I've used enough eridium to know what it can do to me... and I've seen what it did to Angel... I'd say I've got a pretty good understanding of how dangerous it can be."
"It's also about understanding motivations. Weaknesses. Yours and your enemy's."
"Like... why I use it."
"Sure," Maya says, with a slight tilt of her head.
Lilith chuckles. "Feels like I'm in therapy..."
Maya smiles reassuringly. "We don't have to do this-"
Lilith shakes her head. She doesn't have to, she knows. She wants to. "I guess... I guess I first started using because I liked the power it gave me. Seeing that weird worshipper guy just-" Lilith sees Maya's lip twitching slightly, and decides to spare her the details. "Seeing the power it gave me just made me want more... and more, and... well..."
"I mean... like I said, Roland was really the only human interaction I had when I was living here before... and I've never really minded solitude, but the loneliness..."
Maya slowly uncrosses her legs and leans forward in her chair.
Lilith sighs. "If it weren't for the loneliness... at first, it started off as just using before I would go out to fight off some bandits that were planning to attack Sanctuary... and it just felt so good, that rush of fighting them off with that eridium flowing through me... and then I guess I just started thinking, hey, if it feels good then, maybe I can use some when I'm feeling really lonely... and it helped make that loneliness a little more bearable..."
Maya nods encouragingly; Lilith clears her throat and continues:
"And then it just got to the point where I just... I couldn't even start my day without it. I couldn't fall asleep without it. Before I even knew what happened it was invading every aspect of my life."
She shakes her head and takes a drink of water.
"Then after Roland died and Jack pumped all that shit into me... it... it changed, somehow... I still felt like I needed it to function, but... I don't know. The highs weren't as intense anymore. There was no..." Lilith sighs as she wracks her brain for the right word.
"Spark?" Maya suggests.
"Yeah... yeah, no spark. It was like... it was almost as if... before Jack captured me, I would take it to feel like I was really living... and then after, I would take it just so I could feel alive again..."
A silence falls between them as Lilith looks down at her feet.
"Heh. That was kind of heavy, wasn't it?" the redhead says, desperate to lighten the mood.
"How does it feel, getting that off your chest?"
Lilith slowly looks up into Maya's eyes and smiles. "Feels like the weight of the world just got lifted off my shoulders," she admits, rubbing the back of her neck.
Maya moves to sit beside Lilith on the bed. "Lilith...! Opening up to me like that? That was a really big step..."
Lilith offers a meager smile. "I dunno... I guess I just feel comfortable telling you something like that..."
"I'm glad you trust me with that," she says, putting her right arm around Lilith's shoulder and taking Lilith's left hand in her own.
"Who else would I tell?" Lilith asks with a dry chuckle.
"No, I know there's not really anyone else to talk to, but... still!"
She smiles and looks down at their tattooed hands joined together. She didn't mean it like that. She didn't tell her because she's the only one around.
I told you because... I think I'm falling in love with you...
The words float loud and clear through her head, but she won't allow them to pass her lips. Now isn't the time.
She needs to wait until she's clean. Then she'll know when it's time.
Lilith has good days. Days that gradually become more frequent.
The cravings still come and go. She's not sure those will ever go away. But managing them has gotten easier for her. She has outlets now, other ways to channel that wanting, that yearning.
She and Maya visit Sanctuary a few times as Lilith gets better. She was anxious the first time, scared that Tina would be angry with her for leaving after she finally came to terms with Roland's death. But the young girl was as happy as ever to see her, like a domesticated skag pup would greet its owner when he came back home after a long day in the wastes. And Lilith smiled as the two of them hugged, and the young girl invited Lilith to join herself and Gaige so the three of them could "blow up some bitches in The Dust".
The only thing that bothers her is that people didn't seem to pay much attention to Maya. They greeted her, said they missed her, the usual pleasantries, but all the questions were always about how Lilith was doing, how Lilith was coming along. And she obviously understands why, but she can't help but get a little upset when she can't remember one person asking how Maya was handling the past several weeks, how well Maya has been sleeping, if Maya's feeling better...
"You're still thinking about that?" Maya asks, seeing Lilith gazing ahead at nothing in particular.
Lilith slowly looks over at Maya. She lies on her stomach on the bed, left hand placed flat on an open book, her silver eyes surveying Lilith's face. "Huh?"
"I can tell. You get that faraway look in your eyes when you're thinking about something. You're still hung up on our trip to Sanctuary, aren't you?"
"That doesn't bother you? That nobody seemed concerned about you?"
"What's there to be concerned about?"
Lilith laughs. "I dunno, dealing with my crazy ass for the past six weeks?"
"You're making it sound like I was forced into this."
"You're sure that doesn't bother you? Because it bothers the hell out of me."
"Isn't that a good thing?"
"What, that it bothers me?"
"Well, sure. People with drug problems don't tend to think about anyone but themselves, do they?"
"I... guess not?" Lilith answers uncertainly.
"So you're concerned about me. You thought other people should have been more concerned, too. It's sweet that you're thinking of me like that," Maya says, her eyes almost twinkling as her lips spread into a smile.
Lilith sighs as she feels a smile creeping over her own face.
"Trust me, Lily, the fact that you're concerned about this can only be a good thing."
"Yeah... yeah, I guess," she says, looking back down at the desk in front of her.
Maya slowly goes back to reading her book as Lilith grabs a pen and looks down at the piece of paper resting in the middle of the desk, at the few words written across it in neat script. She sits for a few minutes in silence before glancing over at Maya.
"What's the fourth one?"
Maya looks up from her book, then slips a ribbon between the pages of her book and closes it. "The fourth what?"
"The fourth Maxim," Lilith says, looking up from the paper sitting on her desk. She leans back in her chair, balancing on its back two legs, her left hand resting on the edge of the desk. "I've got Meditation, Patience, and Understanding. I can't remember the fourth one."
"Discipline..." Lilith echos, scribbling the word down on the list in neat, looping letters. "That's really what they taught you, huh?"
"Those were the cornerstones of my entire training."
"And you still buy into it? After all the things they lied about to you?"
Maya cups her chin in her palm and drums her fingertips against her cheek. "Well, if I abandon that, I'm not really left with much of anything."
Lilith nods slowly, looking from Maya back down to the paper on her desk.
"It's gotten me this far, anyway. It's got to be working to some degree."
Maya props herself onto her elbows and rolls her shoulders. Lilith takes notice and gets up from her chair, climbs onto the bed, and kneels astride Maya's waist.
"So what did they mean by Discipline?" Lilith asks, placing her hands on Maya's shoulders and kneading the tense muscles.
Maya lets out a sigh and folds her left hand on top of her right, then lies down flat and rests her cheek on the back of her left hand. "Discipline," she says slowly, "is being able to motivate yourself despite adversity."
"That sounds like you're reciting." Lilith works her thumbs slowly and firmly up the back of Maya's neck.
"That's because I am. They practically drilled this stuff into my head."
"Well, don't. Sell it to me in your own words. I probably wouldn't understand half of their faux-religious bullshit anyway."
Maya takes a moment, half concentrating on Lilith's advice, and half concentrating on Lilith's massage. "Discipline is... being able to see possibilities without your view getting distorted by your desires. Being able to do something even when you don't want to."
"So it's basically willpower."
"Yeah, kind of. Persistent willpower, anyway. It's like a muscle, basically. The more you exercise it, the more disciplined you become. And then you can push yourself even further."
"Is that why you're so tense? Too much discipline?" Lilith teases, working her knuckles along Maya's upper back.
Maya lets out a noise that sounds somewhere between a chuckle and a moan. "If you're disciplined enough... there's nothing separating you from what you want but time and effort."
"Doesn't sound easy..."
"Mmm... That's kind of the point."
"Maybe I need you to discipline me..." Lilith says with a grin. Maya glances over her shoulder and smirks.
"You can't handle my kind of discipline," she teases.
Lilith glances down as she feels Maya's hand tapping her right knee. She lifts her right leg, scoots over to the side, and sits on the bed beside Maya. Maya smoothly rolls off the other side, then slowly walks down the stairs and opens a cabinet in the lower level of the Firehawk's lair.
"Almost lost track of time," she says, holding a small chunk of eridium between her fingers.
Lilith glances from the eridium to the clock, back to the eridium, and then up at Maya. Maya raises an eyebrow, and Lilith smirks as she reaches her hand out.
Maya places the purple ore in her hand, and Lilith turns it over in her fingers before tossing it over the railing, down into the canyon below. Maya glances over as it tumbles out of sight.
"Discipline," Lilith says with a playful grin. Maya smiles back, and slowly kneels astride Lilith's lap, draping her arms loosely around Lilith's shoulders.
"You really want my discipline, huh?"
"Don't want," Lilith says, her hands finding Maya's hips. "Need."
Maya chuckles, and leans in for a kiss.
Maya heaves a sigh and wipes the sweat from her brow with the back of her gloved hand. The heat of the lava floe is visibly getting to her, but Lilith seems unaffected.
"I thought your suit was heat-resistant," Lilith says, observing Maya's discomfort.
"Heat-resistant. Not heat-proof. This is an active volcano, after all. This seriously isn't bothering you?" Maya asks, her brow furrowed in disbelief.
Lilith shakes her head.
Out of the entire group of Vault Hunters, Salvador is the only one to have made the trek up the dangerous path along the river of lava flowing down the mountain's face.
"What was it like?" Gaige had asked him when he came back down, two new weapons in his hand (the others still haven't figured out where he found his "new toys", because surely nobody would leave weapons at the top of an active volcano).
"Hot!" he boomed with a loud laugh.
Lilith of course can feel the heat too. She just isn't bothered by it. Not even as she crosses a girder spanning the length of the lava river.
"How has this thing not melted?" Maya asks, giving the makeshift bridge an incredulous look as she doubles over to catch her breath.
Eventually, the two Sirens reach the peak of Mount Hellsfont – or more accurately, as close to the peak as any sane individual would ever stand.
Lilith stares down at the bubbling lava. With steady hands, she opens the door of the strongbox, and looks at the shimmering purple contents inside, sparkling, glowing, inviting her to just take one of them into her hands and channel them into her body.
She stares down at the nuggets, her stomach churning over. She didn't anticipate this symbolic gesture would be so difficult. But it does make sense, she supposes. She never would have gotten Sanctuary off the ground without them. Would she? She can't tell if that's the eridium telling her that, or if she might have had that power inside her all along with just a little more focus and training. A little more discipline.
But then she thinks of how she teleported the Vault Hunters away when the city lifted off. She was lucky that none of them were hurt by that mistake. If something terrible had happened, if Axton ended up like one of the fugitives he used to hunt down before joining the gang, or if poor Gaige had lost another limb thanks to her, she never would have been able to forgive herself.
Or Maya... above all else, she's grateful her powers didn't hurt Maya, that she's standing here beside her now.
She raises the strong box a bit closer to her face, and Maya cocks her head as she watches Lilith's lips move, her voice just loud enough so that Maya can hear her saying something, but can't make out the exact words.
After taking a deep breath, Lilith holds the strongbox out and drops it. She watches as it sails down past the jagged rocks and sinks slowly into the lava below.
It's been two weeks since Lilith last used.
"What did you say back there?" Maya asks curiously as they begin the trek back down to the Eridium Blight.
Lilith smiles to herself, waiting a moment before answering. "Just something that I used to think when I was using it... something I used to think about you. I was wrong."
Maya nods slowly, unsatisfied with the answer, but she respects Lilith's decision not to tell her, and promises herself she won't pry for an answer.
Lilith reaches her right hand out for Maya's left, and she sighs as their fingers intertwine, her thumb gently rubbing Maya's skin. "Let's go home, Maya. I wanna tell you something."
"Tell me what?" Maya asks, tilting her head curiously.
Lilith smiles at her and kisses her on the cheek. "Not here. When we get back. Then it'll be time."