He pulled himself out of the bed and staggered his way past the doorway on his way to the kitchen.
He halted when he saw that the side room door was ajar. "What..?"
He opened the door and was surprised by the sight of Nova standing in front of the dresser. "Nova what are you...?" A sudden wave of anger washed over him and he growled.
Nova whirled around, clutching a duster to her chest. "B-Blaze...! I-"
"I told you! You just can't follow rules, can you?!"
"You little whore! You think there's something worth stealing in here?!"
"N-no! I just..."
"Get out! Get out of my sight!"
With a sob, Nova hurried from the room, squeezing past the angry Viral.
Once she was out of sight, Blaze walked into the room, placing a hand on his head. His outburst had worsened his headache. He walked up to the desk and opened the box to check its contents: a strange white device with red outlines on it and a stack of photographs. He was relieved to see that nothing was missing.
Having checked that, he went to the kitchen.
He could practically hear Nova shaking under the table. "Nova, I know you're in here."
There was a small sniffle in response.
He carefully knelt down beside the table to look under it.
Nova pressed herself against the wall as much as she could, her entire body shaking.
Blaze's expression softened and he sighed. Seeing her so terrified brought up a feeling of guilt in his stomach, leaving the throbbing pain in his brain forgotten.
"I...I'm really sorry, Blaze...please...just get it over with..."
"Hit me..." she whispered in a cracked voice.
The guilt grew into a heavy pit in his stomach. "Nova, I would never..."
"I deserve it, though. I broke your number one rule."
Blaze eased himself under the table, reaching a hand out towards Nova.
The young woman cringed and shut her eyes.
He took hold of her wrist and pulled it towards him. "Come on out."
Nova whimpered but allowed him to pull her from under the table. She stood in front of him, her eyes shut tight.
Blaze did something even he had not expected himself to do: he took Nova into a tight embrace. "I won't hurt you, I swear."
"I don't...I don't understand..."
"I care too much about you to physically hurt you."
She pressed her face against his chest, her body finally relaxing.
"I'm sorry for my outburst. I just had a really bad headache and...I did tell you not to go in there."
She looked up at him, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears.
"I'm really sorry...I just...the door was open. I thought I would help you clean up..." She paused for a moment before speaking with a saddened tone, "You...called me a whore..."
Blaze bit his lip. Seeing the sorrow in her eyes tore at his heart. "I say nasty things when I'm angry. I don't really mean what I say..."
"I am a whore." she said softly, a tear rolling down her cheek.
"No, no you aren't."
"But I am! I screw people for money. I'm disgusting. You don't deserve a friend like me."
Blaze wiped the tear away with his thumb. "I'll be the judge of who I think deserves to be my friend. Okay?"
"Hush. Now, tell me something."
"Why did you come back? After what happened at the mall?"
"I don't care what that woman says, Blaze. I...I think you're a good person. Seeing how you reacted to what she said...you do really love her. So, to me that means you can care about others. And...I still have no where else to go. But that wasn't really why I came back."
Blaze tilted his head to one side. "What would the reason be?"
Nova smiled. "You need me."
Blaze cracked a half-smile. "And what makes you think that?"
"Who else are you going to boss around?"
"Oh, I'd find somebody, I suppose."
"Face it, you're stuck with me."
"Hm...I can't say that I feel bad about it."
Nova giggled and hugged him.
He placed a hand on the top of her head. "Yeah, yeah, I'll let you hug me."
"Good. You needed one."
"I haven't really had any physical attention since she left."
"I'd have given you any that you wanted if you'd have let me."
Blaze blushed. "I know. Just couldn't bring myself to...I could have had several women after Rena. But I couldn't bear the thought. I still missed her, I still do."
"I can't say that I understand how you feel. I've never had anyone call me theirs before. Like being a girlfriend. With what I do...no guy has ever stomached the thought, I suppose."
"Well. It really is unsettling. A significant other normally doesn't want to know you've been sleeping around, cheating-wise, let alone knowing it's a job."
"Yeah..." she sighed. "I don't think I ever will get to have someone as my own as long as I screw people for a living."
"You could always try to get a different job."
"And do what? I don't have any skills or education."
"Neither do I-"
"But you're a Bounty Hunter for a different world altogether. That is completely different."
Blaze shrugged. "I tried."
"It was a nice effort." She rested her cheek against his chest.
Blaze shuddered. All the pressure was making him uneasy.
"Is...is it all right if we just stay like this a little longer?"
"I ah...guess so. But not much."
Nova gave him a gentle squeeze. "It's just nice."
He smoothed the top of her head. "It isn't too bad, I suppose."
"Skin feels better. But this leather is smoother than I figured it would be."
Blaze shut his eyes. The throbbing had returned stronger than before.
"Is something wrong?"
"Just a headache."
"Oh, let me get you something." She pulled back from him and went to a nearby cabinet.
Blaze gratefully took the cup of water she presented to him a few moments later and gulped it down.
"Just a little. I drank too much last night."
Nova looked to the trash can. "I would say so." She grabbed his hand and pulled him around towards the living room.
Blaze allowed her to take him to the couch and have him sit down.
She pulled a bag from under the coffee table and pressed it to her chest, smiling broadly. "I have something for you."
Blaze stared at her. "For me?"
She handed the bag to him and sat down beside him. "Open it."
He opened the bag up. Inside was a case. He pulled it out to find it was the game he had been looking at the day before. "Oh. You shouldn't have."
"I thought maybe it would cheer you up."
"The money I gave you was just supposed to be for your use."
Nova's smile faded. "So you don't like it?"
"I appreciate the thought."
"Well, you already have it. Might as well keep it."
"I guess. It's always a hassle returning things. Next time, just use the money I give you for yourself."
"Well I did buy some make-up after you left."
"How long did you stay in the mall after I left?"
"Just an hour or so. I thought I'd give you time to calm down before coming back."
"But I was alone here for several hours."
"Well, I ended up paying a visit to Yuri."
Blaze rolled his eyes. "I'm sure he got a kick about hearing what happened."
"Actually he was rather mad about what she had said. He said she was lying."
"She was. Sort of."
"What did she lie about?"
"She didn't just go out partying with her friends. She went with this guy part of the time. Yuri saw them in the bar together. She cheated on me long before I started neglecting her. It just didn't help. I tried to pretend it wasn't happening."
"Oh, Blaze...that's terrible."
"I was just a bad boyfriend, I guess. I have a bad tenancy of not expressing how I feel about things. I guess I didn't show her I cared enough, pushed her away. It became worse after..." His voice trailed off
"Something happened to the boy." Nova finished.
Blaze clenched his fists. "He died. I couldn't protect him."
"Protect him from what?"
"He had a disease. Or cancer...I can't remember anymore. I spent so much of my time drunk that I've forgotten. He was my Tamer, my only friend. I left him in the hospital to rot. I couldn't...I couldn't handle it," his voice cracked and he pressed his hands to his face. "I was too weak."
Nova watched him for a few moments, uncertain as to what to do.
Blaze drew a shaky breath and let it out slowly. He let his hands fall to his lap. "I can't even really cry. I haven't for a long time, since it would mean I was weaker than I first thought."
"Crying doesn't mean you're weak, Blaze." Nova said quietly, placing her hand on his leg.
"Men aren't supposed to shed tears."
"But they still have the ability to. I don't think it makes you weak." She put her arm around his waist, resting her head against his arm.
"What are you doing?"
"Just kind of hugging you, it isn't working because I can't get my other arm around you. So it's a half-hug."
"You're a strange woman."
"And you're a Digimon."
"Touche." He lifted his arm to put it about her shoulders, pulling her closer.
"I thought you didn't like any touching."
"I'm allowing it, just for now."
She snuggled up against him. "Well then I'll just make the most of it."
Blaze went rigid. "Why, why do I do this to myself?" he muttered under his breath.
"With me around, you should get used to it."
"And why is that?"
"I think you would be happier if you did. I'll make you hug me every day until you do."
"It isn't that hard to keep you away, you know."
"Well, I won't give up then."
"Persistent, ain't ya?"
"Yes, I can be."
Blaze sighed, the corners of his lips lifting slightly. "I...I appreciate it."
"Being grumpy and unwilling to accept something as simple as a hug is not good for your health."
"Yes, it makes you mean and distant."
"I'll try harder to not be."
"Then you'll just have to let me hug you."
"Fiiine!" he said in a mock huffy tone, then chuckled quietly.
"We still need to go grocery shopping."
"That we do."
"We should do that later. I'm hungry."
"I thought you worked today?"
"I took the day off to take care of you."
"I'll just stay out longer tomorrow."
"You should have just gone to work today. Not that I like that idea either."
"Oh, but you're more important. I was worried that you might have been ill when you woke up."
"I felt pretty awful. I felt worse at having frightened you."
"That's okay. Like I said, I at least deserved to be yelled at, I knew better."
"Well, after I move a few things out of there and change the sheets, you can use that bed."
"Oh, really? I don't mind the couch. That room. It was his, wasn't it?"
"Yes, it was."
"Are you sure it will be okay if I stay in there?"
"It'll be fine...he wouldn't want a friend stuck on the couch."
"That sounds lovely. I really haven't slept in a bed just to sleep in it."
"Come on." He stood up, pulling her up with him with great ease.
"Are you going to put me down?" She asked after a few moments.
He grinned mischievously. "Nah."
She gasped. "Oh no! I won't be walking? Whatever shall I do?"
He slipped his free arm under her knees and picked her up. "Just gonna have to deal with it."
"Oh, you meanie. Put me down."
"You don't want a free ride?"
Nova burst into a fit of giggles, covering her mouth.
Realizing what he had said, he blushed. "I didn't mean it like that!"
"Just for that, you don't get down till we get to the store."
"Aww." She nestled down in his arms, folding her arms across her chest and pouting.
He made his way to the door. "Can pout all you want, I'm immune. Rena always pulled one of those cutesy pouts when she didn't get her way."
"Damn." She smiled.