The Bell Tolls - TBT Act 3 - Ensorcellment

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Description: Weeks after Jezebel Faiblesse's murder, the Scarlet Dahlia brings Bulleta in for a meeting to task her with tracking down the 'missing' actress. One strained debriefing/confession later, two colleagues/friends try to set their feelings about the former Lightning Spangles aside in favor of learning more about each other-- and themselves.

Not every Akatsuki meeting takes place in a facility armed to the teeth and heavily fortified with deathtraps galore. Some, like this one, just take place in a hotel room. This hotel's in Nagoya -- a good distance from Southtown, but a nice and leisurely train ride, made moreso by an all-expenses-paid ticket. The hotel's decorum earned it three stars on the travel guides. The staff's sharp attention to detail, though, wins them high marks in at least one high-profiled executive's book.

As soon as the honored guest arrives on the sixth floor, two men in black blazers with red button-down shirts would arrive to greet her. A cigarette would be offered, as well as a lighter if needed. And the two would be delighted to escort their guest to the door of an executive suite, where two more guards stand guard.

The door would be opened -- though the escorts and the guards would remain outside the suite. "Dahlia, your guest is here..." will serve as their announcement. A long boardroom table is positioned in the center of the room -- a number of folders are laid out neatly along the table's length. And the Scarlet Dahlia sits at the far end of the table, a tablet computer propped up on the armrest of her motorized wheelchair.

There's an ashtray on the table, positioned at an empty seat fairly close to the Dahlia's.

The Akatsuki leader's eyes light up in stark contrast to her scarred face. "Glad you could make it. Please, come on in -- make yourself at home. Would you like anything to drink?"

Dahlia's generosity more than afforded Bulleta the means to find a temporary apartment outside of Southtown once the ryokan was no more. With the threat of Dragon-aligned visitors in the night lingering in her blood, home still isn't an option and there's no cause beyond simple, frivolous want to continue endangering the Akatsuki's properties with her mere presence. Visits with Harry and/or her uncles have been fleeting at best; the last one ended with her digging a grave in the Arizona desert.

Dahlia or Dahlia's voicemail would've gotten a brief call sometime after that one, in the evening. Nothing important; just a couple of idle, evenly voiced questions about investment options for someone she badly wanted to speak to.

Given that her potential source inside of Shadaloo is dead and she has no reasonable excuse for calling on the crimelord that doesn't boil down to burdening her, Bulleta was relieved when the woman reached out for a meeting; strolling down the sixth floor hallway, she carries that relief close to her chest, beneath the sunny smile she reflexively puts on for the Akatsuki personnel. She's wearing a white button-down blouse with black trimming, a high-waisted aubergine skirt, and black flats. A single black braid gently bounces between her shoulder blades with each step.

The cigarette's at her lips and rapidly vanishing as the door opens. When she gets a glimpse of the Dahlia, she loosens up on that tightly held relief, broadens her smile, and quickens her pace, leaving a big puff of smoke in her wake. A casual flick along the way sends the cigarette into the ashtray so her hands are free to offer a-- handshake-- once she's in range.

A hug would be unprofessional, right? Right.

"Any time," she offers. "I thought about maybe checking in, once or twice, but you're a busy woman; I figured you'd let me know if you actually /needed/ me. So." After a brisk exhale, she turns the smile-wattage down a little. It wouldn't do to be /too/ eager.

"What can I do for you?" she wonders.

"I'll take a scotch," she adds. "One rock."

It's true that Dahlia has been busy. It's also true that Dahlia had listened to the voicemail messages with an idle sense of curiosity -- wondering just what Bulleta -wasn't- able to say over the open line. Some things just demand a face-to-face -- but the time was not right.

And now, it is.

The psion certainly notices -- or at least, -believes- she notices -- a lingering sense of affection from her contractor-slash-friend. It's not enough to give her pause, though, as she clasps her hand over Bulleta's for a firm handshake. Western customs are so quaint! Her skin is a -bit- more chilly than one might expect, though if Dahlia'd had a drink to herself, it's nowhere to be found now. The drink order is met with a smile and a nod -- with a glance to the closed door of a side room. Almost instantly, the door swings open and a man hops out -- trotting dutifully over to a small wet bar. Scotch is pretty much a given, there, as he starts to prepare the drink.

"Nonsense, I'm happy to hear from you. I do regret that... I wasn't able to get an answer to you on the last. Our... financial expert has left the company, you see."

She's only nominally trying to repress the anger she feels, as she looks down at her lap for a moment. Her lips smack, as she casts off the emotion for later, gaze rising back to Bulleta. "Conversely, I assumed that if you needed -me- in any sort of capacity, you'd call as well. Our mutual awkwardness aside, do feel free to call. I've seen how you operate -- and I have to say, I'm pleased."

A brief smile flickers across the Ainu woman's scarred face. Laying it on too thick can be seen as insincere, after all -- and that's not her intent.

The impromptu bartender brings in the prepared glass of scotch, with one icecube rocking gently back and forth. He sets it down atop a square cocktail napkin.

"I'm used to keeping tabs on people," she states. Dahlia's information network has cast a wide net over the globe -- but even an information network as sophisticated as hers has limits. Political movements, large financial transactions, shipping traffic -- if it's in Japan and worth mentioning, it's probably going to find its way to one of Dahlia's tablet computers. But if it were to happen in America... well, her information will be secondhand by necessity.

And Dahlia gestures towards the nearest folder. She'd reach for it, but, well, she'd have to get out of her wheelchair for that. "Two people have fallen off my radar recently. And I need to know where they are." Inside the folder are newspaper clippings about a certain star. Printout copies of crime scene photos. Bulleta would know the place: Boothill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona. Satellite imagery of the same, taken well after the grisly murder suggested there.

Dahlia's face shows no particular emotion at all as she continues, her amber-flecked eyes focused upon Bulleta's baby blues.

"The first, is Jezebel Faiblesse."

"O-oh, that's alright," Bonnie briskly offers with a dismissive wave. "It wasn't-- I was just finishing something up, and, well. There were questions, and I didn't wanna forget 'em." Her brow's wrinkled due to the explanation, curious and sympathetic. Whatever happened, it certainly /seems/ like the advisor's parting may have been less than ideal. "Not important." She offers a silent condolence with pursed lips and somber eyes as drops into her seat.

She can't help but let a smile flicker after the assurances and compliments, regardless of sympathy. Dahlia's her friend-- her /only/ friend. Possibly the best one she's ever had, if one measures friendships in degrees of willingness to risk midnight raids. Warm, sincere affection indeed glows beneath her best efforts at presenting a more reserved, professional form of appreciation.

"Okay," she murmurs into Dahlia's lead-up while lifting the glass. "No problem..." Her eyes flick towards the images.

The glass freezes near her lips.


Swallowing gently, Bonnie sets her eyes on Dahlia's.

(why would she care about jezebel /why/)


She hesitates, not because she's trying to decide what to say - Dahlia would know rather well that /that/ rarely takes her much time at all - but because the name summons a molten flood of self-loathing disgust, tension, and wet, screaming memories redolent with copper and rot. 'What to say' isn't even a question: Dahlia's her friend and Dahlia only cares if she hunts circus snakes.

One way or another, she'd have told the woman eventually.

"I had to kill her, Dahlia," she softly says as her gaze falls. Slowly, the glass lowers until it's on its coaster. "I-- it started off as, just, a bounty thing, but it-- she-- she was gonna get a bunch of kids killed. At /best/. To feed her /ego/." Her voice is even throughout, low and increasingly hollow as emotion flees. Once her eyes are down, they won't be coming back up unless they absolutely must; there are no furtive glances to see how her words are hitting. Dahlia's her friend; acting is for everyone else.

"I'm sorry if I--" A brief grimace, then she squirms uncomfortably in her seat for a moment. "I mean, why were /you/...?"

Saying 'It's not important' is a sure way to ensure that the point you brought up -is- remembered. "It's important. Why bring it up otherwise?" Dahlia shakes her head dismissively -- even if Bulleta wants to drop the matter, it's clear that the Ainu won't. Particularly when she states, for the record: "I won't forget." Calm, reassuring -- more like a big sister, perhaps, than a mere employer.

It's important to look after those in your charge, after all.

And yet, there is a lingering doubt. Palpable anxiety wells up within Bulleta -- anxiety that seems completely at odds with the confident persona presented to Dahlia in past meetings. Widened eyes make it clear that Dahlia is reading her clearly -- And lying would be most inadvisable.

The truth may not have been much of an improvement, though, considering the way her eyebrows lower once the six brutally direct words are uttered. There's no artifice in Bulleta's expression -- none of the actress' charm. There is no way in Hell that the teenager would embellish this for her benefit -- or make light of it.

Why is Dahlia so -angry-, then? Why is she gripping the armrest so tightly that her knuckles are turning white? Why is her jaw pulled so tense that her muscles can be seen growing taut, even through folds of scarred flesh?

There is a bright spot.
And it comes when she mentions the risk of kids.
Being killed.
To feed an -ego-.

Dahlia's intense glare breaks off, as she casts her eyes elsewhere. A thought blurts out in a raspy mumble, before she can throttle it.
'Of fuckin' course...'

It's hard to miss the fact that it's grown a few degrees warmer in the room. Or that the pressure has grown. Even if Bulleta's eyes -are- downcast. Dahlia draws in her breath -- the kind that would go along with someone closing their eyes in tacit apology.

And yet, she doesn't answer the question. The obvious one -- why is -Dahlia- upset?

"Takeru," she starts, her voice resonant and clear, "will be upset to hear this. But he deserves to hear this from me. Please excuse me for a moment."

Without further ado, the wheelchair pivots. And she starts to head to the suite's second room. Sound and light from a TV broadcast bathe the wall of the room, for the brief moment in which the door is open.

The scream starts as soon as the door clicks shut. Not Dahlia's -- but the -man's-.
And then there is a good deal of sobbing. Wracked, and embarassingly loud.

When the door pivots open again, Dahlia's wheelchair rolls out with almost no hesitation. Her long raven forelocks are matted with moisture. Her forehead looks damp, as well. And a pen in her right hand flicks around one finger and then the next, swinging around as if possessing a mind of its own.

She starts to open her mouth--
The pen stops.
With a terse, overly forced smile, she pivots her head toward the sound of the voice.
And then there is a giant *WHUMP*, as if a body were just slammed against the wall.

The pen whirls into motion again, picking up right where it left off.
"He's not taking it well. I'm sorry for the disturbance."

The wheelchair whines, as Dahlia crosses the room, returning to the table. Her expression? Mute, and save for a light tic around her left eye, restrained.

"You mentioned a bounty, Bulleta. And I know how this sort of thing goes -- you wouldn't have put yourself in that situation if you weren't already going to do it."

Her breath catches in her throat.

Breathlessly, she rasps, "So how much? What was the number that made you decide to go for it?"

Why /is/ her friend so angry?

Normally, Bonnie has confidence to spare: she's spent nearly a decade honing a specific skillset and while she's a ways off from mastery, she's seen plenty of success thus far. The past few months, however, have brought blow after shuddering blow against the wall of her ego, leaving cracks for clever invaders to slip through and uncertainty to leak from. On a different day, she might've been bold enough, confident enough to take some initiative in trying to soothe the ruffled Dahlia, to offer hugs and apologies and solemn explanations for why the woman she's-- a fan of? /Had/ to die.

Normally, she wouldn't shrink and briskly shiver beneath the heat of her glare. She wouldn't sweat as gears struggle to turn-- to parse the meaning of palpably mounting rage from a woman who can say everything that needs saying with a blank face and a toggling brush.


She swallows the rest between deep, barely controlled breaths.

How can she fix it if she doesn't know what's broken?
How can she ask when a better employee - friend - wouldn't have driven her to such fury to begin with?

"-- I-- Dahlia, I'm-- I didn't--" She grimaces as war rages within.
"I'm sorry," she whispers while lifting her eyes just enough to look for Dahlia's, "if I-- if I /hurt/ you, I--"


"... alright." Bonnie follows the pivot and wrings her hands in her lap.

What follows widens her eyes and forces a sharp breath from her lungs. The sheer /intensity/ of it... it's surprising more than it's truly painful, conjuring a pang of regret. Normally, she's not got such a soft heart, but she normally doesn't rack up human collateral while working, either. The wheelchair rolls in.


Bonnie stiffens, the color flees her knuckles...

... and then she's sitting up a little straighter than she was roughly one *WHUMP* ago.

"... yeah," she mumbles of Takeru as her eyes return to the crimelord. "Dahlia," she whispers--

How much?

Bonnie sags and lowers her eyes.

"She had a $28,000 bounty from the NOL. Wanted alive for questioning due to Shadaloo affiliation," she softly begins, "and a million dollar bounty from Pepper Green, an actress who was mad at her because her parents died; wanted dead. So I did my homework, learned as much as I could about her... and I decided, okay, I'll just bag her for the NOL. She was a trainwreck, but not..."

A monster. Not yet.

"I wrote a letter," admits Bonnie, "and pretended to be her biggest fan, and begged her for a title shot, because I just needed to meet her that /bad/. It was supposed to just... I'd get her to drop her guard, get into her head a little. Then I'd stick her with a sedative and just... /take/ her.

"But I-- I miscalculated, Dahlia, I completely-- I learned everything I could about her, and I /still/ wasn't ready when she just... she got-- she /wanted/ me, I-- I could /tell/."

Her fingers unknit. Melting ice sloshes as she finally raises her scotch all the way; a couple seconds later, it rattles around the emptiness as she sets the glass aside.

"So I played the hand she dealt me," she deliberately confesses after swallowing, "and I tried to make her want me /more/. And it /worked/, she-- she dropped her guard, for a second, long enough for me to inject her... and then she tried to kiss me.

"And instead of just-- letting her, I broke character, just a little-- I /stopped/ her. I tried to keep fighting-- I almost /won/.
"Then she kicked me-- hh. /Right/ in the crotch, so hard I went through the roof.
"Then she yelled at the crew filming us for judging her, just because she had a chance to be /happy/ with a girl who could take a smacking."

Bonnie rolls the hem of her blouse up enough to reveal a pouch sewn into the skirt's waist. She tugs a draw string, scoops something out to *tap* down on the table, then slowly slides it towards Dahlia.

"After I woke up and saw the footage... I started looking for Green, to make sure she wasn't bullshitting."

The Huntress pulls her hand away after a deep breath, revealing a neatly severed cybernetic eye worth exactly one million dollars.

The offer is unspoken but likely not unheard.

"The second time I saw her, she... she told me about herself, and I-- I almost decided on the spot to just... /tell/ her, try to help her. Pop out the eye, stage some pictures..."

Self-loathing and shame mount as she drops her eyes again and remembers how close she came to making a mockery of herself and her reputation.

"Right afterwards, she told me she wanted to kidnap - /re/-kidnap - the kids she'd been watching for Shadaloo, then brainwash them all into loving her."

She finally dares to reach for one of Dahlia's hands, seeking to fold hers around it, driven by desperate, regretful need rather than boldness.

"I didn't... know she mattered to /you/, Dahlia..."

None of Bulleta's half-formed thoughts will gain answers. They were barely heard from all the blood pumping through the Dahlia's ears. It's not until she returns from the side room that she even -appears- to be listening to the pretty young brunette sitting bolt upright in her chair.

Unbeknownst to Bulleta, Dahlia was a... 'fan' of all things Jezebel. She'd watched the title fight. She'd known about the million dollar bounty -- having been tethered by a telephone to the very broadcast of the announcement. But what she didn't know was whether Bulleta was driven by malice, or a simple paycheck.

Not that Dahlia would give up her deepest, innermost thoughts willingly. If they happen to slip out in the subconscious affectations of her facial expressions, well... Perhaps the psychic manipulator wouldn't be as strong as she wants Bulleta to -think- that she is.

But that's why Dahlia has the pen spinning about in her hand. Thrumming, in a constant, reassuring rhythm. Reminding her that every single thought betrayed could be a tell seized upon by an actress as skilled as Bulleta. Instilling her the need to stick to a script -- to stay in -full- control of the situation.

And the tale of the title match -- and the circumstances therein -- is retold. From the angle of the woman receiving the blows. The crushing humiliation that put the young starlet on the Akatsuki's map to begin with. Spangles -- it just tastes better, -indeed-.

The pen slows, long enough for the manipulator to pinch it to a halt, balancing it between both her armrest-supported hands. Her eyes narrow into little more than slits as she nods in agreement with the narrative. "Par for the course. It's always... about -her-, isn't it...?"

But then... she sees the hem of a blouse pulled up. Some... wound? Something that escaped the camera's purview? A pink tinge crosses her cheeks for just a fleeting instant, before the revelation is made obvious.

The truth hurts. Dahlia's left eye pinches shut with thinly veiled disgust. She knows -exactly- what that is.

But then her gaze snaps back upward, her expression softening. She realizes then, that Bulleta was in a similar position as -she- was, so many moons ago. The choice -- to support a selfish, egotistical maniac... or to join her in the destruction of countless other lives.

Dahlia seems more than ready to speak again. But with her guard lowered -- with the pen no longer flicking about...? She finds herself adrift. Trapped by Bulleta's sudden proximity. And the pressure of hands clamping down upon one of hers.

That tic returns to her left eye. And, for an instant, there is resistance pressing back against Bulleta's reassurance.

Her skin is -cold-. Ice cold.
"She doesn't. Matter. To me."
The response snaps out, stacatto. Without conviction.

Her glance darts away from Bulleta, her gaze fixating on that mechanical abomination, the yoke that once held Jezebel fast to Shadaloo.

"Duke. Burkoff. =Adored= her. And serving her head on a platter might have... been some extra icing on his fuck-you-very-much cake, his added bonus for participating in the blood-drenched ball. His reminder that every fucking action has a consequence."

And as Dahlia seethes, the pressure in her immediate vicinity begins to grow. The round object on the table trembles back and forth, seeming very much as if it might fly off the table in any instant.

And Dahlia breathes in, closing her eyes. The pen is pulled out from under Bulleta's enclasping hands. Thrummed side to side, toggled between thumb and pinky in her hand.

"That's... that's all, really."

Dahlia smiles, her eyes cracking open, veined in amber. Bulleta is still here -- seemingly hanging on every word. Which is enough of a reason to make sure the older Ainu can offer up some -good- words for a change.

"You got a payday out of it, -and- you scrubbed a terrible person out of existence. She's dead -- Duke won't have to wonder -why- to feel the loss. It's a net gain, right? Don't... don't worry, you haven't... -upset- me."

And what was that about saying something's not important?

Dahlia's head rocks towards the folder on the table. "So, that was easy. Guess we don't need to find her now. Where're the kids now, did you save them?"

The deflated Huntress isn't much warmer. This doesn't stop her from gently, tentatively rubbing a frigid hand in the hopes of sharing while she can. Jezebel doesn't matter to Dahlia and Dahlia is icy and ticking, constructing control rather than simply possessing it. Getting even that much of a peek behind the mask, enough to leave her questioning while settling precisely none of her nerves was a small victory, one that's over far too soon. She withdraws her hands with a deep breath, barely nodding along--

"She-- was manic that night," Bonnie whispers after a beat while wrapping her arms tightly around her ribcage. "Even for /her/, she was... she stole a bus and a thermosful of sarin from Shadaloo. She wanted us to crash into a base in Tijuana during an Interpol raid, then use the fucking sarin to fucking /bluff/ our way through everyone, or die trying. I told her why that wouldn't fucking /work/, what'd /happen/... and she didn't /care/. I tried to get her to call the NOL and tell her what she'd /done/, and she... she told me she didn't wanna go to /jail/, Dahlia. And /I/... I already knew Shadaloo knew that I was working her. They saw me with her; one of them talked to me, tried to warn me off of going through with it. I-- I didn't wanna deal with them trying to conscript me, and I didn't wanna risk 'em coming after /you/ because I happened to be /associated/ with you. And I was there, with their bus, their gas, their transponder telling 'em where to go..."

Bonnie swallows and shudders through a breath. Blue eyes rise. Dahlia's her friend; she deserves nothing less than the whole truth, no matter how awful.

"I was so, /so/ pissed off, and sad, and confused, and everyone around me was about to be fucked, and-- I ran, Dahlia. Interpol was... I trusted that the kids were gonna be okay, and I /ran/ to bury her and lay low."

The whole truth. Bonnie buries her face in her hands and scrubs it for a moment as another shudder wracks her shoulders.

"That'd be about when I called you," she slowly murmurs, "because I--" She makes a quiet noise and gives a small, fleeting smile. "-- well. Just-- wanted to talk to you, right then, I guess. About /anything/. But I didn't wanna impose on you, and you, well, you weren't /there/, so..."

Investment advice.

"I fucked up. I-- I fucked /everything/ up, every step of the fucking way," Bonnie bitterly whispers.

But at least Jezebel's gone, right? She presses her teeth to her bottom lip; cold comfort is barely even that amidst the Dahlia's arctic demeanor.

Thump, thump. The pen toggles back and forth.

All things considered... Dahlia really needed the time with Bulleta, too. Listening to -her- story may not be as useful as actually letting the mask slip, as -revealing- Honoka's hidden past with Jezebel outright... But it's something. A much-needed catharsis.

And it shows, in the way that the battle-scarred crime boss lets some of her warmer emotion shine through. Bulleta is vulnerable -- emotive and expressive, and possibly even rattled. Dahlia assumes it must be a replay of the emotions flashing through her head at the time of her encounter in Tombstone ... but is it? In Dahlia's own state... is she even -able- to probe beneath the surface?

Thump, thump. The reassuring rhythm, combining with the ability to remain blissfully passive for a few moments. She seems almost beatifically content, as if Bulleta were telling a bedtime story and not the collapsing house of cards that is Miss Faiblesse. A scatterbrained friend with whom Honoka has shared the stage. A friend she'll never get to see again. An actress, following the same script she's acted out any number of times before.

Ha, ha. That's Jezebel for ya. Right?

Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Because without rhythm, you're not performing, you're just -pretending- to know the score. Without rhythm, you can't focus on what's happening right in front of you, because you're having to reconstruct the dance one motion at a time.

-With- rhythm...? She can see the chasms erupting throughout Bonnie's psyche, right before her. That one question -- the sardonic wit, the need to ground herself in Bulleta's frame of reference... like a slap to the face. All so she could get 'the whole truth.'

It's enough that Dahlia realizes, something has to give -- in order for the center to hold. The show, as it is, must go on. And Dahlia... allows the tears to stream down her face. Because she knows it was hard for Bulleta to carry on, to focus on her own -survival- rather than those of kids, of complete strangers. Discretion is the better part of valor, someone with a higher sense of honor and obligation might say.

Her chin lifts. And so does her free hand, reaching out to place her hand lightly upon Bonnie's hand -- or, failing that, her knee.

"You didn't. You did the right thing, for all the right reasons. And listening to you tell it, I'm honestly not sure if I wouldn't make the same choices."

It's not hard for Dahlia to discharge her rage, as long as another vessel is willing. But Bulleta... is different. More delicate -- and more valuable to her operation. She's tough -- but right now, delicacy is required. And that's what Dahlia gives her -- the reassuring smile of a big sister, stained with tears of concern.

The wheelchair motors whine, as she twists sideways in a sign of what's to come. "I would like to make an unusual request, Bulleta." Her head tilts towards the couch, off to the side.

"You've... been through a lot. And these chairs are not half as comfortable as the couch over there."

The pen stops thumping, as Dahlia curls her pen hand around her middle, giving herself a half-hug.

"Shall we set business aside for a moment, and let the dam loose?"


Smile, then slice. Happiness, then missiles. Shyness, then strike. Attract, then murder. Bonnie's had plenty of time to develop a rhythm all her own, to learn how to lead anyone, any/thing/ through its final dance. Underpinning the terrible strength, tactical basket, and weaponized emotions she brings to an engagement is an all-important sense of when and where to push another's buttons for maximum effect. As long as she has that, the rest is just a matter of doing what she's grown up doing: just words, just practiced violence. Anyone can tell lies and pull triggers; an artist can make her audience feel more than just rage, just agony in the process.


So when did her art get to be so /difficult/?


Was it when she met a werewolf and it left her bleeding out because she underestimated its intelligence?


Was it the dragon who thought to add Bonnie to her horde because she overestimated her affect?


The sad, lonely zombie she flirted with saving before she showed Bonnie just how deep, how dark her hunger ran?

Grimacing in the wake of her final admission, Bonnie finally allows herself to clamp a hand over the hammer in her chest, as if that'll settle its rattling beat. Deep, carefully measured breaths fill the silence between them until ice brushes the hand lying limp upon the table and steals a couple away. Her eyes flick--

-- linger--
-- quiver, well--
-- then begin to flow in lugubrious, shuddering harmony.

Immediately afterwards, her attention is screwed to the hand on hers, briefly warmed by embarrassment. "God/damn/it," she whispers beneath Dahlia's reassurance as her free hand quickly swipes at blue eyss. "F-fuck... /fuck/..." It's a losing battle which she nonetheless fights for a brief spell before just letting her hand fall on Dahlia's and offering a few small nods of assent. As she turns the one on the table to let Dahlia's rest /in/ rather than /on/ it, the motors whine; Dahlia has a request.

As soon as her eyes shift back from couch to woman, the nodding hastens, she leaves her seat and reaches to start helping Dahlia from hers. It's probably not the first time she's done this, or even the third; she angles to give Dahlia as much support as she can without encroaching on pride, whether that means offering a hand up or guiding the crimelord to lean on her shoulders.

"Whatever you need, Dahlia," she murmurs. "Whatever I can do to--"

She pauses a tick and bites her lip again. Dahlia-- doesn't-- care about Jezebel; there's nothing to make right, is there?

So why was Dahlia so mad that she could /feel/ it?

"You're my friend. You're-- god." A brief, shuddering pause as she glances floorwards. "You're... probably my /only/ friend," she softly admits. "The only person who isn't /related/ to me who won't just-- just recoil from /me/. You /get/ me, you understand me. You-- you /accept/ me..."

With the destination already chosen, it's easy enough for Bonnie to lead - or try to lead, anyway - the injured woman over to the couch at whatever pace Dahlia needs. Watery eyes remain glued to the crimelord the whole way.

"I don't have to /make/ you like me."

This was /so much/ easier when she was drunk.

"I just. I wanna be there for you like you have been for /me/."

Four people in the suite -- one injured, and the rest in various states of sobbing, or in Takeru's case, -wailing-. Jezebel Faiblesse left her mark, that much is sure.

To Dahlia, the details of Bulleta's past liaisons are mere bulletpoints in a document currently left aside. After all, the past is only relevant in bringing the person to the present. To the psion, a person's -feelings- are the only universal truth. And it's plain to see that Bulleta is just as vulnerable as anyone else once the layers of bravado and necessity are pulled away. Dahlia's hand squeezes gently, reassuringly. She listens, without judgment: profanity is absolutely warranted in this situation, as the Akatsuki leader demonstrated earlier.

The Huntress wastes no time, acting with near immediacy to Dahlia's circumspect request. The crime boss has gone to great pains to make herself seem formidable and unbeatable, but... as she gratefully allows Bulleta to shoulder weight, it becomes all the more apparent she's not that fortified after all, scarcely over 55kg, and at least -some- of that extra weight seems to be balanced in her coat pockets, swinging back as she is stood up. Cellphones? Or -weapons?-

"Thank you for going to the trouble..." she comments with gratitude. "It's... difficult to find someone to open up to, yes. I'm glad you've confided in me. Trust..."

Dahlia looks down. The pen toggles back between her fingers, thump-thump. She -is- vulnerable here -- is... Bulleta leading her into the same sense of false security that allowed her to take out Jezebel? How much of a paycheck would it take for the tiny assassin to take -her- out?

As Dahlia is limped toward the couch, her grip on Bulleta's shoulder tightens, almost imperceptibly. And her cold skin begins to warm.

Dahlia allows herself to be slid down into the cushions -- though as her arm slides down, she finds herself pulling Bulleta into a weak hug in the process. "Trust is important in our line of work, wouldn't you say?" She smiles faintly, distractedly. "On the job, we're required to make up stories, to mislead and deceive. But off the job... it's important to surround yourself with those you can truly -trust-."

With the pen still in her left hand, she reaches for her vest pocket.
Her eyes remain locked on Bulleta's.

And, with deliberate pace, not too fast or too slow, she pulls out something long and slender...

A cellphone, which she raises to her ear.
"Yes, Takeru and Shino are resting for the moment. Can you be a dear and top off our drinks, please?"

Her expression softens. "So, mm... no. You don't have to pretend right now, I like you just fine without any extra effort."

For a moment, she seems perfectly calm.
And then, after another beat...

The cellphone is slowly tucked back into its pocket. "Presuming no one's got a bounty on -my- head, hmm?"

"It's no trouble," and it really /isn't/. Dahlia's her friend; Dahlia's pretty light, weapons or no. Bonnie's barely burdened on the way to the couch but briefly loses balance when Dahlia decides to just-- opt out of being released. It's light pressure, though; a moment later, when the surprise is gone, she readily moves along with it and tucks herself into the crimelord's warming embrace. Her legs fold along the cushions while her arms wind tightly around Dahlia. She lets herself go slack save for squeezing and listens, nodding along. One of her hands lifts after a few seconds, freezes--

They aren't boss and employee, here. She's Dahlia's friend--

"I trust you," she promises while tentatively reaching to stroke the back of the woman's head for an added layer of comfort, "and you can trust /me/." There's a stiffness to the attempted gesture that goes beyond her base uncertainty in making it, like that of a muscle being flexed after years of disuse. Bonnie's eyes are fixed on Dahlia's minus a reflexively curious detour when she goes for her vest pocket. Her brow arches, barely perceptible--




Takeru's fader gets a bump. A Hunter's gotta learn how to focus on what's important if she wants to make it in her world and Dahlia was /definitely/ the most important of the Yakuza touched by her news.

"Is he...?" she murmurs with a glance in the door's direction. "It, uh. It kinda sounded like he threw himself into a /wall/, or the floor, or /something/..."

Her soft musing easily falls off in the face of further assurances, though. She even manages a small, self-conscious smile after them, and in that calm moment replies, "If I was pretending, I would /definitely/ play it--"

The beat finishes. Bonnie's brows rise and the smile twitches but doesn't slip just yet.

"-- cooler--"

But she wouldn't, would she?

The six most important words in a manipulator like hers' arsenal: 'I know what this looks like...'

If she was pretending, it'd probably look an awful lot like-- this, wouldn't it?

Dahlia's /smart/, and perceptive-- she'd practically /have/ to go the extra mile in playing honest and vulnerable if she wanted to wriggle past her guard, wouldn't she?

What would the Huntress who just wants to get rich -- the one who made a broken actress love her for a million dollars -- do for the kind of money the Syndicate's surely offering for Dahlia?

It doesn't take her long to answer, to recover from the physical recoil of a question-- a joke? That she should've seen coming: "It'd be someone else's to /try/ and fill," accompanied by a squeeze.

Just long enough to recognize how little any response she can offer may mean. Still, she tries; Grandma didn't raise a quitter.

"You saw me drunk, and pissed off, and sad, and /bugged/... and you let me crash with you anyway. You reminded me of how strong I can be, then you let me be weak with you /anyway/..." A brief, jittery chuckle escapes her. "God, Dahlia, you brushed my /hair/..." Her eyes finally fall from the crime boss', just for a moment.

"/You/... are worth way more than a bounty," follows once they return. "I promise."

The brush of fingertips along Dahlia's scalp does not go unnoticed. Nor was the gesture unwelcome: her eyebrows lift asymmetrically, while her eyelids droop. That faint smile grows a bit less so.

For now, at least, the idea of the two being friends is a credible one.

There is a slight flicker in that smile, as the welfare of the two stated men is raised. "Shino? Y... yeah. He'll be alright." The other guy in the room -- for, counting the four outside, Dahlia prefers to array her entourage in groups of six. But while her initial statement might not have been all that convincing, the warmth returns to her skin and cheeks as she continues. "It's surprising, really, how many grown men continued to follow that woman's career. How... viscerally they reacted to the news. But better here, in controlled circumstances, than out in the open."

Then her question is posed. And Bulleta's guarded response seems to have provided what Dahlia was searching for -- the honesty. The response of a loyal retainer to a somewhat discontiguous burst of paranoia.

Even more reason to consider the young Huntress a valued friend.

The scant signs of paranoia -- the tightening of her eyes, taut skin -- are brushed away with Bulleta's thoughtful words. The expression is replaced with hurt, with subdued shame, as Dahlia herself looks down, more at her own lap than anything else.

And that's when the electronic lock of the door outside beeps. The door clicks open, and the man summoned earlier enters the room, walking over to the wet bar. Dahlia scarcely pays him any mind -- he's doing exactly what she asked, why should she care?

Dahlia draws in her breath, small tracks of salt on her cheeks catching the light as she turns back to her treasured friend. "Thank you, Bonnie. It... means a lot to me, really. I was worried when we first met that... that it sounded like money was -everything-, and yet, your words, and more importantly, your -actions- show that there's far, far more than that with you."

Two fresh new glasses of scotch, each with one single ice cube, are placed down on the coffee table nearest the sofa. The man may be wearing eyeglasses, but his eyes remain averted the entire time, as one would expect from a doting servant. If Bulleta had finished her first glass, he'd cart it away; otherwise, he beelines for the door.

"It's... happened before. People turning on me, I mean. And I... apologize for my concerns tainting my words. It's -difficult- to trust. To believe that someone -wouldn't- pull a knife on me. To know that there are people who -wouldn't- sell me down the river for a small fortune. Everyone here...?"

The door shuts -- leaving the two young women alone again. Even the two men in the suite's other room are quieter, now.

With one hand still coiled lightly about Bulleta's waist, Dahlia sweeps her fingertips softly along the line of Bulleta's cheek.

"It's good to have someone in your corner, mm? And you'll always have me in yours."

She smiles -- not rushing the moment at all. But if the young woman is looking to her elder for guidance...?

"So we're here. Together. There's clearly -other- things troubling you, hmm? Things you... have had trouble letting go of...?"

Dahlia's pain is effective: Bonnie cinches tight around the crimelord's shoulders and draws a little nearer. Her eyes squeeze shut in a bid to keep the guilt growing within from showing: of /course/ Dahlia had to wonder. Of course she'd be /suspicious/, knowing what she knows.

She'd be stupid to not to.

The beep draws a brief glance before her eyes return to Dahlia's. Brushing fingers gradually shed their caution as Dahlia confides, conjuring winces, then frowns. Knowing full well what it's like to feel alone due to pursuing a goal, her sympathy runs deeper than that of a young woman caring for her friend: it isn't just Dahlia's pain, it's /theirs/.

And she made it worse. Accidentally, unknowingly... it happened.

"I /love/ money," she murmurs, contrite. The servant didn't merit an iota of attention as he retrieved old glasses and arranged new ones, but her eyes instinctively flick towards the sound of the door closing. "And there's... well. You, uh. I don't really have to tell you that I'd do a /lot/ for money, but some things, a few things... they're more important..." No sooner than her gaze is on Dahlia again does it fall in time with the gentle graze down a tear-stained cheek.

"Like my uncles, my parents..."
Blue eyes return to an amber-webbed gaze.
"... and my friend."

Who'll always be in her corner.

Bonnie basks in it for as long as Dahlia lets her, the sense of relief she entered with that seemed lost when the crime scene photos started coming out. A cheek comes to rest against the crime boss' shoulder and brushing fingertips settle into gently massaging her scalp. Her eyes lid--

"Like what?" She casts a curious squint upwards then straightens a little as she lets the question linger. Her smile shrinks into a thoughtful pucker and her gaze momentarily falls again. "I mean, well..." The massaging stops too, so she can ever so delicately brush a thumb across a salt track on the unmarked side of Dahlia's face as she hesitantly murmurs, "Like, I... heard you when you told me about Burkoff. Like-- /heard/ you. And /felt/ you... if it was just, y'know. Taking a missed opportunity real hard, then, y'know, I get that. Just-- I guess I wanna make sure you know that you can /talk/ to me. You can lean on /me/, too. I've /got/ you." Tear-swiping pauses in favor of pressing her palm to her elder's cheek and flashing the most reassuring smile she can manage without faking it.

"I-- missed you, even. Like, I know it's dumb -- you're mid-/war/, so, duh, of course you have a million things to do... but I'm glad you called. Even if it was to talk about... /her/, I'm glad you wanted to see me."


Conceptually it's not difficult to grasp. In reality, judging whether someone is telling the truth can be incredibly difficult. Body language has a number of nuances that are easy to miss. The psychic Dahlia has an easier time reading the signs of a person's mind -- but even her methods are not infallible.

She can't be 100% positive that Bulleta's telling the truth. As the Huntress said -- the lie would be told in the exact same manner as the truth. The doubt is obviously still there, as Dahlia's eye flicks down towards Bonnie's thumb, as it reaches to graze her cheek.

But then contact is made. Like the kneading on her scalp, it's not that bad after all -- with her eyebrows softening as her eyes lift back to meet Bonnie's.
Maybe 99.5% is ... good enough, for now.

"It... derailed my train of thought. Nothing more. But I must have looked like an absolute monster. And... it pains me that I came across like one, to you."

Dahlia's eyelids close to mere slits at the touch. Bulleta makes it so easy for her -- allaying each one of her fears, calmly and confidently. Honestly, sincerely. That's one reason that Dahlia enjoys having her around. A confidante -- someone like Elise, someone in her corner. Especially now when the rest of the world seems to be against her.

One can't live a life like Dahlia's without constantly looking over one's shoulder. But really -- if Bulleta -were- the one to end her life, maybe... maybe it wouldn't be that bad. It'd likely be quicker, and bloodless. Nothing like the macabre photos, no trails of blood dragged across a dusty graveyar--

-- Focus returns to Dahlia's eyes, as she focuses on Bulleta's expression. How much of Bulleta's conversation had she missed, entranced by the press of a palm to her cheek. Is this what it's like to be ensorcelled, swayed by another's calming words?

"Of... of course I do. We're friends now." One beat later, her lips contort into a faint smirk. "Like it or not, right?"

Dahlia rocks forward, pulling herself free from the calming embrace, at least for a moment. There's two full glasses on the table, and Dahlia reaches for both. One, of course, is offered to her companion.

"Did she... succeed, in working her way into your head? In, quote-unquote, -making- you like her? Even a little?"

Dahlia offers a mirthless smile to soften the question's edge. "It can be tough, working out of that sort of mindset after the job is done." Dahlia takes a sip of her drink, but it becomes clear as she looks over the edge of the scotch glass that she's more interested in the Huntress' response.

How do you make someone trust you /without/ giving them the lie they want to believe most...?

Dahlia might catch the machinery behind those blue eyes working on that problem as Bonnie speaks her truth and she might not; either way, the moment when it jams is much more obvious:

'But I must have looked like an absolute...'

At first, it's just an uptick in sorcerous pressure against an unmarked cheek as blue eyes widen and hitches slip into warm assurances that would've been difficult enough to share /without/ those discordant notes. Those gears quietly realign to work on another problem, urgent and - perhaps - tied to the first. Her tongue presses against her teeth once she's done sharing; she listens, waits...

... and then as Dahlia rocks forward, Bonnie's other hand snakes around to seize the Akatsuki mistress' other cheek. With her palm firmly pressed to the margin between healthy skin and the rest, she shifts so they're eye to eye as hers narrow, determined. "You," she lowly utters, fierce in her certainty,

"Are /not/.

"A monster."

Hands capable of casually swinging heavy artillery and dragging dead weight through graveyards hold fast for a lingering beat, unwilling to let Dahlia go until she's sure the message has sunk in. Once it passes and they separate, she glances down for another, more apologetic beat, then offers, "I /do/ like it," quiet in her sincere response to what may or may not have been a rhetorical question. Those hands fold around her glass afterwards and she keeps herself upright, if still near Dahlia.

An idle sip soon becomes a half-empty glass once the questions start coming out.

Bonnie's attention wavers between draining scotch and amber webs throughout and a brief while afterwards. The glass rolls between her hands and her lips form a tightly writhing line as she's brought back to contending with feelings she's indeed still processing.






"It's complicated," the Huntress slowly murmurs. "I /had/ to like her. Part of me did-- the part I showed her, did. I had to sell it, you know? Yeah, she was a trainwreck-- and yeah, I was /pissed/ at the way she treated me--" A sharp breath escapes her nostrils and her eyes briefly flick towards the ceiling. "-- that /part/ of me," she corrects, distancing, "that naive /fangirl/ who just wanted her hero to love her. But that part kept right on liking her, because she was supposed to; she /had/ to. But for a while after that first match, it was easy to forget: just an adoring email, or DM, or whatever, here or there, just to touch base before she showed up in Mexico; I didn't have to think about her much otherwise. I already did my homework on her, so why bother?"

She starts to say something else but opts for a mouthful of scotch instead.

"The second time, though... that got weird," she softly admits once it's down. "I... was working real hard to make sure she was into me. Lots of closeness. Some kisses..."

Bonnie's eyes fall back into the glass.

"I'd never kissed anyone before, but why let /that/ stop me? And I-- I didn't like /her/, exactly - /I/ didn't, the 'I' pulling that other girl's strings - but I kinda... it was /nice/, for a little while. She was warm; scars don't bother me. She liked, well. Me, quote-unquote. It felt good.

"Then she told me her big plan to brainwash a bunch of kids, and Pepper Green, and that Australian girl from the Christmas special, and probably Honoka Kawamoto and Zach Glenn from the last KOF, so they'd all love her forever.

"And quote-unquote I had to keep right on quote-unquote liking her. Because I had to sell it," Bonnie punctuates with rolling eyes and idle gesturing with her glass. "Because she /was/ a monster... and my dumb ass almost let her go, or got killed, or /worse/ by her, all because I pitied her, and I could make her cuddle on demand."

The rest of the scotch is tossed back. A quick glance at the dregs earns a soft, humorless snort and a slight headshake; her eyes return to Dahlia's.

"She got under my skin without even /trying/, Dahlia. I felt so /stupid/, like some kinda amateur. I'm still... I try not to /dwell/, but I kinda... I have to, y'know? It's the only way I can get /better/." Ice sloshes around the glass for a second, then Bonnie leans to set the glass aside.

"Woulda been nice if she could've just-- just let me /save/ her, but she didn't. Maybe she /couldn't/. I don't know."

Only a select few people in the world have had the opportunity to grab Dahlia by the face, and steer her in a given direction. And, after her eyes flash open, and the amber veins in her eyes flare up... there is a good possibility that the Huntress will end up receiving a concentrated burst of her psycho power. And yet, the smaller woman's emotional fortitude sticks out just enough to remind the Dahlia of -exactly- who she's dealing with, here.

A friend.

The elder woman's taut expression slackens, supple flesh and scar tissue alike. Cheeks dimple, as Dahlia nods her chastened assent to the littlest Huntress, with a slight whisper of, "Okay. Message received."

When Bulleta lets go, and areas of Dahlia's face gradually return to their usual colors, the Ainu woman is able to offer her a sincere smile in reply. The scotch glass is curled in both her hands, rested upon one of her legs.

Dahlia never really imbibes more than a 'finger' of alcohol at a time. The glass looks practically as full as it was delivered for a good long while; if anything, she seems to be enjoying the 'clink' of ice colliding with the surface of the glass, a process that lacks the steady rhythm she tends to expect of her playthings.

When opportunity allows, Dahlia comments, "Fame... can encourage stars to treat their fans like shit. Because there will always be more. Not an apology for the behavior, but..." She shrugs faintly, not really wanting to -interrupt- the memory.

Which turns out to be a good thing. Because having -Jezebel- be a first kiss is downright horrifying to the Ainu woman, whose eyes have suddenly gone as wide as saucers. "... There's not enough scotch in the world to blot out -that- memory, is there?" Her upper lip curls back in mild disgust -- at least, she's playing the expression for humor value more than literal.

Mentions of brainwashing, though, are enough to snap her expression back to some modicum of soberness. Pepper, yes -- that's met with a wan frown. Christmas Special -- that accentuates the expression a bit more.

Hearing the names of Honoka and Zach, though, is enough to arch an intrigued eyebrow.
It's probably a good thing she wasn't drinking at the moment.
But she -definitely- takes a quick sip afterwards.

When Bulleta throws back the rest of the scotch, Dahlia finds her gaze fixating upon the now-empty scotch glass of her companion. As a good listener, the crime boss gives Bulleta time to finish her thought, as well as time enough to give a natural break in the rhythm, before offering her own contribution.

Her eyes lift up to Bulleta's. "Then again -- three strikes, you're out. Jezebel has had... -so- many chances to shape up. In the end... "

Dahlia bites her lip in consideration. Perhaps that was not the best turn of phrase.

"... I don't think 'doing the right thing' was doing it for her, you know? There was always -someone- enabling her to keep being a... terrible person. Maybe one of those others you'd mentioned... maybe one of them could have helped. She would've needed a real friend, instead of a quote-unquote friend. Someone willing to guide her through the good times, and kick her square in the ass when she needed it most."

Dahlia's eyes dart downward, to the rim of her own scotch glass. For the moment -- she can't really look into the eyes of Jezebel's killer.

Reluctantly, she takes another sip, allowing the warming sensation to sear into her palate.

With a punctuated smack of her lips, she meets Bulleta's gaze again, following up her statement once again. "But most likely, she'd have found a way to screw that up too. Let's not forget how many people this woman's obnoxious behavior drove to madness."

Now, though -- it's Dahlia's time to reach over and ruffle Bulleta's hair, just behind her ears. "No different than any other job, though, right?" Whereas before she was calm, introspective -- it seems the Ainu woman has adopted a more forward demeanor. "Except it -was-, because you were -invested- in her, hmm? How does it compare with your other hit jobs -- Did any -others- give you this much trouble?"

This time, Bonnie refuses to shrink from the possibility of her friend's wrath. There's a stiffening, a clear readiness for-- /something/-- thanks to an amber glare, but she's committed.

And why shouldn't she be? She's telling the truth. An /easy/ truth at that, unlike what comes after and leaves her slumped on the sofa.

Dahlia's empathy despite that dangerous spell of contact helps buoy Bonnie through that other truth, a little, but the cauldron of ugly, conflicted emotion conjured by the fallen actress still roils in her gut. Even without extra senses, the controlled, flattened tone is a tell in and of itself, a reflexive need to downplay vulnerability in favor of strength. She manages an exaggerated grimace and a brisk headshake for Dahlia's comical disgust, at least.

"Maybe... ... I don't know. That /could've/ been me," the Huntress quietly muses while Dahlia checks her glass. "If she hadn't just-- /told/ me what she told me, maybe. Maybe if she'd been a little healthier before we met."

Maybe then, Jezebel would've kicked Harry to death because he kept barking at night, or something, she silently considers as their eyes meet and the crimelord finds a less visceral way to make the point.

Braided as it is, Bonnie's hair is harder to ruffle than it normally might be. And longer, and jet blacker, too, though those are more ruffle-neutral qualities. She still leans into the contact and towards Dahlia herself while giving a slow shrug and shaking her head. Her shoulders sag a little once they settle back into place and even though they're still talking about the /job/, that inner boil settles somewhat. "I'd never /done/ a job like that before," she murmurs. "Most marks... they just have to think I'm-- you know. What I /look/ like: some sweet, stupid girl they can prey on. Now and again, I befriend 'em, but even then..."

The braid bobs a little with another, more vigorous round of headshaking, then she brings her head to Dahlia's shoulder with a slow sigh.

"They're just numbers, and strengths, and weaknesses, and risks," she quietly explains as an arm curls lightly around Dahlia's stomach, mindful of the drink. "They're just /monsters/; bounties, at best. I don't /have/ to care about 'em to hunt 'em, so I don't. Not worth the trouble."

"Clearly," Bonnie quietly tacks on after a beat as a mirthless smile flickers.

"She just needed to never meet me, but god... I mean, Green... 'nuff said. Bretherton, she was just /mean/ to, but she did it so /publicly/... and Glenn and Kawamoto..."

Blue eyes lid and sympathy flares within.

"She said she tried to /force/ herself on Kawamoto, and Glenn's her /boyfriend/, so..." Another, smaller shrug. "... maybe she had friends she /didn't/ screw over, though. Who knows?"

She certainly couldn't find much evidence of any during the research phase, but then... she only looked so hard, given her intentions to give Jezebel the last friend she'd ever need.

"At least Kawamoto made that Christmas thing watchable. Bretherton, too, but /Honoka/... Jezebel should've kept her damn hands to herself. She had such a pretty voice... she was /talented/." A wince pulls Bonnie's lips into a thin line, then she looks up at the other woman with a curiously arched brow.

"Do we /have/ to talk about /her/?" she wonders, trying to find a good balance between obvious displeasure and support for the woman who brought /her/ up again to begin with. "Here? ... now?"

There'll /always/ be time for business, but how often will Dahlia be able to set it aside and worry about spending time with her friend? It's a selfish thought at its core, beneath the altruism, but Bonnie's a selfish creature; a girl's gotta live /some/how.

Dahlia nods slowly. It -could- have been Bulleta who decided to stick it out as Jezebel's friend. And it -could- have been productive. But it would have required giving up a large chunk of her agency, and also putting her extended family and little defenseless Harry at the self-centered Faiblesse's mercy. Dahlia, being in similarly dire predicaments, didn't -really- see a solution that wouldn't put either of her organizations under considerable risk.

She was considering it anyway though. Which is one reason she resonates so strongly with the Huntress right now, and doesn't mind using her as a conduit to work vicariously through her -own- difficulties. And she certainly doesn't mind wrapping her arm about Bulleta's shoulders, stroking her fingertips along her companion's curious coiffure from the opposite side -- particularly given the response it elicits. She does eventually drift down along the scalp, just behind the ear... reserving comment for later, though.

"I suppose it's less of an occupational hazard for you, after all." Dahlia offers a somewhat bittersweet smile -- she's not sorry she brought up the topic, but it's clear that she assumed Bulleta had more -human- targets before now. "Many of the people I would want out of the way... won't really be fooled by simple appearances. They're more paranoid. ... Like me." There's still room for smiles of self-deprecation, here.

But then her forehead creases, as the discussion tracks back towards... people she shouldn't know so well. She's never -met- Hayley Bretherton or Pepper Green -- but, like Bulleta, she's done scores of research. Particularly in regards to her last public fight with the inaugural Lightning Spangles.

But to see Bulleta jump to the defense of her very own alter-ego...?

That turns Dahlia's cheeks pink, as she looks down at the rim of her scotch glass. Asians bring a weak alcohol game to the table, it's true, but there's... more on Dahlia's mind that she was -not- prepared to discuss. Fortunately for her, Bonnie seems quite content to do the speaking for her while she takes another sip of her alcohol. A loooong sip.

"I'm sure they'll be fine before long, if not already," she concludes, looking up into those blue wells of Bulleta's. "All of those you've mentioned have a long career of entertaining in front of them. She was not the first to exploit them, and sadly... won't be the last."

She is, surprised, though, in the way in which her Huntress asks for a change of topic. Could that be the scotch kicking in? If she weren't a criminal overlord, Dahlia might actually be concerned at how many times -she's- gotten the little Bulleta drunk, but, well.

"Of course we don't. Let's change the subject then. How long do you plan on keeping those darling little extensions in? It's a much... different look for you." She prods playfully at folds of raven-black hair. And while her -words- may carry a slight undercurrent of judgment, her tone does not -- they're friends, after all, and this is just good-natured ribbing. "Here in the land of straight black hair, you would -definitely- blend in better, hmmm?"

And then Dahlia tilts her head slightly to the side, amusement playing across her lips. Or is she legitimately impressed? "Aside from those fetching blue eyes, of course. I used to wear blue contacts, but they're -nothing- compared to the -real- deal."

"I just need to keep working on my acting, is all," Bonnie quietly assures, "and make sure the next one doesn't get under my skin."

Like Dahlia.

"Everyone wants a piece when you're good at what you do..." There's a mix of pensiveness and aspiration under that quiet musing. Her reputation is all she really has to separate her from hundreds of others willing to hunt people/things for money, but she's /seen/ where chasing recognition gets you if you aren't careful. She curls her arm a little tighter around her fellow criminal.

It's a curious and /costly/ coiffure that the crimelord's touching; Bonnie doesn't do much of anything halfway, including her incognito tape-ins. Those fingertips keep her from seeing Dahlia's flush until the burning need to leave Jezebel behind /requires/ her to disturb their gentle spell by opening her eyes and shifting her head.

The sudden splashes of color draw fleeting glances, then a small smile as she settles back into place; Bonnie's snuck into enough Southtown bars to know what she's seeing. Dahlia having drinks with her and showing /any/ sign of being affected is mildly gratifying given their sake-soaked bonding session in Kasukabe. This way, they're just a little bit more equal-- even if she /is/ waiting on #3 while Dahlia sips her way through #1. Dimly, vaguely waiting while Dahlia works her magic.

While she changes the subject, eliciting a quiet giggle from the now-brunette. Is Bonnie drunk? She's a heavier drinker than Dahlia, but she's definitely working on it; it only takes so much, experience or no. She sits up just enough to toss, then quickly bat the braid over a shoulder so it's better positioned for smirking, exaggerated preening. "C'mon, I got /nice/ ones," she lightly insists while twisting her head for Dahlia's judging eye. "Between Shadaloo," she lets go to give the end of the braid a little twirl, "and That--"

What'd Takeru scream at her?

"-- goddamn witch, Volkov, I wanted to change it up some. For a little while, anyway. Branding'n all." After a playful flick that stops well short of contact, Bonnie lets it drop with a small smile and a quiet, "I'll just remember you like blonde better, next time."

It's for the best that she's bringing her head back into place afterwards because at least /half/ of the blush spreading over her own cheeks is hidden, that way. "Yours are so /pretty/, though," she murmurs through a widening smile. "The way they catch the light, sometimes...? That weird little... twinkle? Even that... /glow/, from earlier," when she dared to stop Dahlia from moving as she pleased. Looking up at those bright ambers is a little harder than it was a few seconds ago, before her eyes were /fetching/(, maybe), but she perseveres as she shifts closer and lets Dahlia support a little more of her weight. It's only polite. "Where were /you/ trying to blend in, huh?"

Less polite: poking a criminal mastermind's midsection while subjecting her to friendly teasing, no matter how gently Bonnie does it.

"At least you came to your senses and got rid of 'em," she chirps afterwards while spreading her hand over the other woman's playfully assaulted side. "I like you like /this/." Without contacts.

And warm, and friendly, and maybe impressed with her fetching blue eyes.

Dahlia is keeping a number of topics churning away in the background. Bulleta's capture and imprisonment in Kira Volkov's odd little dungeon. The oddly parallel hotel room rendezvous between Honoka and Jezebel. And... the one troubling her most, her former(?) boyfriend, Zach Glenn.

Oh, how she -wishes- the circumstances would allow her to talk -that- one out.

These are things brought to the forefront of the Ainu woman's mind each and every time Bulleta prods against her. Sure, the sensations confer warmth and comfort now, but left unchecked, they could grow into a powerful and uncontrollable hydra -- and that would be most counterproductive to her goals.

"I can appreciate the value of branding," agrees Dahlia with a nearly-flat tone. "It looks good on you, regardless..."

But... to the charge that she likes blondes better? Dahlia's chin drops in a show of chastisement. "You're... you're not -wrong-, really." With a grin, she looks back up with a slight pivot to the side. "I suppose I do favor the... exotic. Which for -here- means blonde hair and blue eyes. Cultural shorthand, I suppose -- I've never been a huge fan of the way the Yamato hide their real selves behind veils of polite ritual. So anyone who stands apart from that norm tends to catch my eye."

Compliments on her eye color also do not go unnoticed -- though she does practice the typical Japanese deference she just professed to dislike, in shaking her head side-to-side. "The color's lightened up lately. They used to be much darker. Boring brown, just like everyone else on this damn island. I wanted to stand out, but... now I do?"

Dahlia does find herself having to stifle the reflexive laughter that accompanies Bonnie poking her midsection. "Mmm. I'd almost think you were hitting on me, Bonnie."

Dahlia flashes an enigmatic smile, as she takes a slow sip from her scotch.

Dahlia's not an easy read. The surface details, the big things, the ones she seems to /want/ to project... those aren't such a big deal: she's clever and ruthless, professional and patient, ambitious and stubborn. Past those, she's full of subtle tells and surprises: flattening tones and pressure spikes, distant masks and good night hugs. Bonnie often finds herself working to glean what meaning she can, racing to keep up with, if not ahead of the crimelord by reflex, and this particular meeting is putting her through her paces.

"Thank you," Bonnie murmurs after playful prodding gives way to a neutrally voiced compliment. Along with smiling and teasing about blonde and blushing, she knits her brow in idle consideration.

Then Dahlia grins, and trying to suss out the meaning of /that/ doesn't seem so important. The roses in Bonnie's cheeks are vivid as the mastermind seems to warm, again. She doesn't-- /need/ to read Dahlia, does she? Not really. Even /tonight/: the pressure, the boil, the incongruous cold that followed... all completely explicable if the Huntress thinks about it enough. If Dahlia would care for a virtual stranger as kindly as she did Bonnie, why /wouldn't/ she feel some measure of empathy for the men in her employ robbed of the... gift... of future Jezebel projects? If she'd join Bonnie in cursing and plotting against a mercenary who only /just/ butts up against the Akatsuki's domain, then sure, being annoyed at losing a chance to rub her /actual/ rival's face in a... regrettable? loss-- there's a logic, there.

Of course a woman who trades on an indomitable reputation would react a little sharply to having a scar like hers touched unexpectedly. At least she didn't pull /away/.

Dahlia's not an easy read, but does it matter? Dahlia's her friend who happens to like blonde hair and blue eyes; maybe she's /safe/. Safe enough to grin, to impolitely prod and insist,
"Well they're /beautiful/, and you're gonna have to /live/ with that, so /there/,"
after her friend demurs. Safe enough to keep piling on the compliments, until--


"... o-oh," Bonnie softly semi-chuckles while averting from amber webs. "Yyyeah, I can, uh. I can see why you'd..."

/Was/ she hitting on Dahlia...? On her clever, ruthless, professional, patient, ambitious, beautiful...

It takes a lingering beat before Bonnie's able to manage even a sidelong glance towards the other woman's eyes.

"... I mean," she murmurs. "Maybe... maybe I was, a little." Self-conscious bemusement wrinkles her brow as soon as that shot of honesty's harvested and forced out. She doesn't really budge, though-- hm. Is moving or not moving the weirder call, here? Her head and eyes shift for a better look up. The smile she finds does her few favors.

"Sorry," she quietly offers while deliberately fixing on Dahlia's eyes. "I, uh, I know that's... well, it's... kinda... weird." After another beat, pessimism clashes with its opposite as she adds, "Right...?"

It sure would be /nice/ if Dahlia was easier to read... but then, she wouldn't be Dahlia, would she?

"It just kinda, I guess, it just-- came out, like-- I mean, you're /so/ nice, and generous, and pretty, and I just-- -- god." Her gaze falls with a grimace as her explanation, such as it is, peters out.

"... sorry."

There are a number of people whom Dahlia considers to be highly irritating. People who have looked upon her works and judged her harshly. Chastised her for being a terrible person. A -monster-. And then there are the complete opposite -- people like Bonnie, who categorically deny the charge of 'monster.' Who can appreciate Dahlia's contributions to the world as -she- does. Bulleta is able to look past the shell of ambitious ruthlessness to see the vulnerable, terrified woman inside.

The compliments and the attention are far more intoxicating than the half-filled glass of scotch in her hand. And yet -- Honoka has experience with this feeling.

The Ainu woman leans away, just enough to rest the glass on the table. "Don't be sorry. It's not -weird- to express your feelings, Bonnie." Her smile is reassuring, speaking from experience. And despite her words, she doesn't seem to be in a rush to flee the couch or anything. In fact, as she leans back against Bulleta, her entire face resonates with appreciation -- and her fingertips even trace across the Huntress' temple, following the curve of her jawline. "I -like- this. I'm flattered -- really I am." Her tone makes it almost a certainty that a 'but' is about to follow, isn't it?

Once, so long ago, Honoka stood melting under the hot stage lights, clad in form-fitting fabric. She did it not for the high of physical exertion, or to best a physical challenge, but to bask in the love of a cheering audience. Hundreds of people screaming her name, in full appreciation of her hard work and determination. Hundreds of people smitten with her unique stage presence. Hundreds of people lusting for her perfect body. Hundreds of people wanting to learn more about the charming farm girl with the Hokkaido accent -- the persona that was hardly an act at all.

Dahlia never had to deal with an adoring public. Dahlia, the monster, was never in the public eye. Dahlia, the terror, never had -fans-.

And this time, it's Honoka's experience that guides Dahlia's actions, rather than the other way around. It's Honoka who notices that Bonnie... may just be a different kind of fan. There's such a thing as getting -too- close. There's such a thing as actually -becoming- a monster.

"I mean, don't get me wrong... with that blouse? That -skirt?-" Fingers clasp together, raking gently across the younger woman's cheek. Dahlia bites at her lower lip, bringing her face close enough to the Huntress' that the faint aroma of lavender wafts from her collar. "I'd be more than happy to take advantage of you. In... every way."

Then those knuckles, one moment so soft and tender, the next rap softly against Bonnie's temple. Her mood lightens, as she pulls back with a sardonic half-smile. "But I think the timing might be... a little sudden, all things considered."

It's /not/ weird.

Bonnie shifts herself closer to Dahlia after that last apology and tension bleeds from her frame. Her head tilts towards tracing fingers--

It's not /weird/, but there's-- about to be a but, isn't there?

It's coming, but it's buffered by compliments that make her stretch to answer gentle raking with fingertips lightly pressed near the criminal's scar. The crimson in her cheeks intensifies until they're nearly a match for her trademark hunting garb. Blue eyes dance between Dahlia's and-- Dahlia as her heart tries to leap into her throat. Anticipation - and surprise, and nerves - flutter in her stomach.

She forgets to breathe for a second, until lavender wafts over and reminds her. There's-- something coming, but there's some/one/ right here, and she's closer. And closer, and-- Dahlia doesn't like polite ritual, right? Bonnie's more than happy to lean in--


The Huntress' eyes get land mine-big as she jolts against Dahlia. The arm around the other woman's middle goes slack and slides free while her hand snaps back from a scarred cheek to curl near her own stomach. It doesn't take a psychic to see the confusion - or disappointment - as those eyes dart from a lightened gaze to a sardonic smile, but it might help to get the full breadth of them. Did she misunderstand...?

Did she do something wrong...?
Is Dahlia just messing with her...?

She's slow to pull back /entirely/ but she does, gradually drawing her eyes towards her empty glass as she goes. "I-- well. Y-yeah..."


"Pick up," Bonnie softly hisses at the phone clutched in lightly quaking hands. She squints through the red smeared across the screen; she remembered the number, right? "C'mon..."

Sweat and old tears are the only things that've moved the crimson mask painted over her features. Digging in the desert is hard work and burying failure is harder still.

"Please, Dahlia," she whispers, "just... just pick /up/--"


Bonnie waits for the beep. At least she was /right/.

"Hey, Dahlia," she starts afterwards as red lips are forced into a smile, voice scrubbed of the self-loathing roiling within. "It's Bulleta. I just wanted to call and see if maybe you had a second to talk about medium-to-long term investments...? I'm thinking real estate, but..."


"... yeah, you're... probably right."

Bonnie flashes a quick, taut smile Dahlia's way, then seizes her glass so she can drain its dregs. It's curled in against her belly as she sinks back into the couch afterwards and chews on her lip. The melting ice cube and scotch legs trickling towards the bottom give her /plenty/ to intently study besides the crimelord. The clinking helps to counterbalance the internal play-by-play and keeps lingering awkwardness from being truly /silent/.

"I... meant it, though," the younger actress quietly says. Assures. "You're... god, you're incredible, Dahlia..." Bonnie glances towards her with another, smaller smile, then it's back to the glass. "But you're-- right, it's-- there's a lot happening right now, isn't there?" There's even less there now than before, but she tips the glass to her mouth anyway; it's something to /do/, productive or not.

"I, just-- it's not gonna be awkward now, is it...?" Her eyes shift towards Dahlia again. "I, uh-- I didn't /mean/ to make it awkward..."

Dahlia remains quiet, her expression fading back to only a very slight smile as she listens. She doesn't want to -disturb- Bulleta in mid-thought, as the psion would rather experience every moment of the Huntress's changing emotions. But nor does she particularly want to crush the girl's hopes any more than she already has.

Still -- it becomes very obvious that Bonnie's compliments have a positive effect on Dahlia: self-conscious fingers rake through her long forelock, a satisfied smile supplanting nigh-ambivalence. If not for the need to allow Bulleta time to process the emotions, she might have reciprocated with another effusive compliment of her own, but... as it is?

"Thank you," she states calmly, bowing her eyes for a moment.
Orrrrrr maybe she's just a mite selfish, sometimes.

"There's quite a bit happening, yes. I... -want- to spend more time with you, but... as you may have gathered from the delay in responding, I'm stretched a little thin." Lips pinch together in a saccharine smile. "It wouldn't be -fair- to you."

Disappointment is a fairly common reaction to people talking with Dahlia. But at least there's free booze. Which is to say, once Bulleta begins to pull away, Dahlia glances towards the door again. There's no reaching for the cellphone -- but it would become clear that her attention is elsewhere for the moment.

The Ainu woman retrieves her glass, giving one quiet sip as she turns back to the Huntress. Another rake of fingertips through her forelock, and she answers, "I hope not -- we're just getting to know each other, after all. Setting boundaries and expectations. We're bound to hit a few speed bumps every now and again, hmm?"

A satisfying chirp and click signal the entrance of the man from before. Even as he trots along to pick up the bottle of scotch, he keeps his gaze averted. After all, Dahlia's staff are instructed to do so in such cases for reasons of privacy and for plausible deniability.

Dahlia seems hardly distracted at all. "Besides... it's not like either of us did anything -monstrous-, mm?" By the time her flunky can return to the coffee table and sofa, the Ainu's right ankle strikes the air cast about her left thigh with a gentle 'thunk' sound. With a bemused look, she waves off the yakuza member's request to fill her glass, and he proceeds to fill up Bulleta's for round three.

And as the Akatsuki flunky starts to head out, she leans back into the sofa cushions, partially reclining as she glances sidelong at Bulleta. "... Have you found a nice place to stay, lately?" Business awaits, and yet -- especially after a turn of conversation like that, the master manipulator feels the need for a more gradual tonal shift before resuming contract discussions regarding murder.

Soaking in the remnants of spilled guts, tapping out a nervous rhythm with her heels against the carpet, Bonnie offers a banquet of emotions, positive and otherwise. Self-consciousness and affection; hope and fear; contrition, confusion. /Lots/ of confusion. Dahlia was-- they were so...

It may be a while before the smell of lavender subsides to reasonable levels... not that Bonnie minds /much/, even now.

Her eyes flit to the older woman's satisfied smile and her own grows a bit with quiet relief. It's enough to hang a /little/ hope on, and a little goes a long way for a Hunter. "Yeah," she murmurs with a small nod, "It's-- well, it's kinda like you said at the ryokan," before the two new friends shared a good night hug, "isn't it? Feels like I've known you /forever/, but it's only been a few months. I just... I don't wanna screw things /up/ with you. I like working with you; I /like/ being your friend." Her eyes fall self-consciously as she softly begins to chuckle, "Nobody's ever called me exo"


Bonnie's not sure when the mastermind summoned refills - or if the drink guy's on a schedule, or a monitor, or /something/ - but in the time it takes her to reflexively glance at an opening door and return her attention to Dahlia, she's /quite/ that she appreciates his timing: just right to save her from joking the hole any deeper, she hopes.

"Not even a little monstrous," she instead murmurs while following the other woman's lead in ignoring the help-- save for thrusting the glass his way, of course. And pulling the bottle from his grip before he can go, so it can be nestled into the cushions between she and Dahlia. The glass' level begins to lower as he leaves and she watches her fellow manipulator over the rim, listening. Arching a brow.

"Just an apartment a few hours outside of Southtown," she says after a sip. "It's fine! It's... not really /home/, but it's fine. 'Home' is kinda temporary, anyway; insert some crap about where the heart is, y'know. We moved around a lot before we came over here, and even then... new apartments, every now and again. You get the right rep, and the wrong people - slash things - start getting real interested in /meeting/ you; bad for security. And deposits."

Another small sip as Bonnie shifts a bit nearer. She doesn't reach, or even lean, she just scoots in the hopes of maintaining /some/ kind of closeness. As brief as their association's been, the Huntress' affection runs deep - moreso than even /she/ realized, perhaps - and Dahlia's /still/ her only friend in the world who can offer something more thoughtful than 'arf!' when she speaks.

"I really miss Harry," she quietly admits. "He likes J-- Smith and Wesson's place fine, and they don't /mind/, but I don't get to see him enough. I think we can both imagine what that bitch'd do with a /dog/, though, so..."

"You?" follows a lengthier sip. She glances around, then returns to Dahlia as her arched brow rises farther. "Inn for a hotel, or...?"

"You haven't messed up anything, Bonnie." A simple refrain, offered quickly and without hesitation.

When the drinks arrive, it seems like it takes no effort at all for Bulleta to snatch the bottle right out of his hands -- earning the minion a dirty look from his boss. And she was -counting- on her guy to keep it away so the pint-sized lush wouldn't drink a whole fifth by herself again. So tough to find good help these days! ButBut at least there's only, like, one more glass worth of scotch in there -- that shouldn't be -too- bad.

... Of course, she can't help but explain further, once the guy who was worthless at holding onto the bottle departs. "-- I have peculiar tastes. To -me-, you're exotic. An anomaly, one-of-a-kind. Braving demons and fiends that would fill grown men with terror. To walk around like someone completely naive and innocent like you do is... fascinating, to be honest."

She raises her glass, clinking it along with Bulleta's. If there -was- any sign of awkwardness, she's more than willing to banish it to the other room where, thankfully, Takeru has stopped wailing quite so loudly.

Dahlia wrinkles her brow at the mention of an apartment a few -hours- from Southtown. "... Fair. Moving far is almost a necessity, until Duke starts to grow complacent again. Though, thanks to your arrangement with Miss Chaiket, we have -some- measures of protection."

Once again, the fingers rake through her forelock. It's a bit more personable than that pen thing she was thumping around in her fingertips, after all. And it goes more nicely with the single glass of scotch she's been sipping at this whole time. "As for me... I don't have a home. Haven't for about a year -- easier to stay on the move, keep my enemies guessing." She gestures around to the hotel room with her free hand, before making a mock bye-bye wave. "I'll sleep somewhere else tomorrow night. Unless you've figured out a way past that damn tracer, of course."

She leans back into the sofa, kicking her feet up onto the table. Because, really, why the hell not? "Ah, look at us, talking about work again...!" She shakes her head dismissively -- opting not to mention that Bulleta was talking about -her- again. "Hmm. Come to think of it, I should float Smith and Wesson a bonus too, for helping you out all this time. Your... -next- assignment might be a bit of a challenge for all three of you, really."

Between her refrain and explanation, Dahlia gets to reap more second-hand relief and appreciation. A little self-consciousness and resolve, too, as Bonnie mindfully keeps her response to to a quick smile, briefly averted eyes, and an evenly stated, "From the woman who who runs the Yakuza -- /all/ of 'em, sooner or later -- 'cuz she wants to save the world from itself... 'one-of-a-kind' means a lot. Thank you."

On their way back to Dahlia's face, they briefly seize on the bottle, sizing it up. Her nose wrinkles a little, but there's no comment; it was free scotch, after all. And /good/ scotch.


She quietly pats herself on the back for thinking to snag the bottle, this time.

Not long afterwards, she subtly sits up and squares her shoulders as the reference to she and Senna's covert arson mission sparks some pride. She winces a little, too - she /liked/ the ryokan - but having at least one unqualified success on the record is-- nice. Gratifying. Relieving; Dahlia's her friend, and her friend's a woman who expects results.

Idly, she starts playing the end of her braid between her fingers as she listens to the woman tell her about her living situation. "Damn, Dahlia..." she exhales, sympathetic and grimacing. She /hasn't/ found a way to deal with the tracer, yet; her face says it more succinctly and/or less profanely than she would. "But opsec is opsec, huh?" Shifting forward while the crimelord reclines, Bonnie halfway mirrors her casual gesture; why the hell not, indeed. "Didja have a /favorite/ place? The ryokan was real nice, but I bet you've got your pick'a nice places, huh?" She takes a sip, and-- oh.

Oh, they /are/ talking about work again.

Whatever the psychic equivalent of a sigh is, Dahlia might 'hear' one. A psigh? That.

At least the comment reminds her of something that's - dimly, barely - been on her mind since she wrapped on Jezebel's story:

"Who /is/ the other target, anyway?" she quietly wonders while folding her free arm over her stomach. "Jezebel's... handled, but there were two, right?"

A slight pause, considering. Last week, Arthur told her a twenty minute story about a couple that wouldn't stop talking through that movie about the guy who falls in love with a lamia, and that might actually be as close as either he or John have gotten to talking about work since Arizona.

"They'll appreciate the bonus," Bonnie decides. Grinning, she rolls her head towards the older woman and lightly adds, "And I'll /definitely/ appreciate them getting a bonus, 'cuz it means /I/ won't have to give 'em shares outta my purse, next time~"

Dahlia sees no reason to object to Bonnie mimicking her reclined posture, or for her getting closer. The boundaries and expectations have been set, after all. And now that the Huntress settles in, Dahlia can enjoy the fringe benefits of cheerful, energetic responses from her companion -- which helps the psychic Ainu as well.

"Opsec is opsec," repeats Dahlia, curling the fingers of both hands gently about the rim of the third-full glass. "I... tend to prefer the mountains to the cities, that much is true. Less of the urban sprawl, and it's quieter. But I suppose my favorite place to spend the night would be in east Hokkaido, with a view of the sea. I used to hate the scent of dead fish on the ocean breeze, but now that I'm older, I recognize it for what it is -- a sign that there's still places Humanity hasn't spoiled yet." Dahlia finds herself peering back at her reflection in the fluid, settling in her cupped hands. "Places just waiting for nature to reclaim them."

Dahlia stares blankly at the scotch for a moment, before swishing it back into motion again with a tilt of her hands. "It'd be nice... to just go back to a simpler time. If only it were that simple." Her gaze flicks back to Bonnie, at her side. "...It's good to have dreams, right?"

The architect of the Akatsuki's dreamlike plans nods in concert with Bonnie's assessment. "... Yes, they deserve a bit more, for keeping you safe. I imagine moving all the time is hard on all three of you. Particularly with the -questions- that would be raised on checking in with two much older gentlemen...?"

Dahlia raises one hand from her glass, gesturing toward the table. "There's a folder over there, second from the right -- inside are photos of a darkstalker I want answers from." The criminal mastermind isn't dead set on -having- the photos -- seems like she'd be equally fine with Bonnie picking up the photos as she would with Bonnie leaving them there. But if she -were- to pick them up, there'd be no small number of photos.

"She goes by the name Black Lotus. Color plus flower. Which just tweaks my nerves." The Ainu woman raises her glass, and arches an eyebrow. "You mind if I rant real quick?" She expels an irritated sigh. "Everyone trips up sooner or later, wants to call me 'Black Dahlia.' Like, you know of the story of Black Dahlia, right? She's famous, yeah? She's famous because she got -cut into pieces-, pulled apart like a damn flower."

Dahlia sips from her drink, rolling her eyes. "Anyway. Lotus has been as annoying as -fuck-, and she's been taking out assemblymen left and right. People I paid good money to put -in- those offices."

Dahlia cranes her neck back, glancing sidelong at Bulleta. "She's been hanging around that big-ass Spire in the middle of town. Probably part of the Majigen clown car. She's tough. Do what you gotta do, but I -need- her stopped. Just leave me with something to poke."

She wrinkles her forehead. "'bout the only thing in her favor was, she managed to kill Daniel Little once. Or somethin' like that. But it doesn't excuse what she's been doing -here-."

At least there's time for a few pretty thoughts before works rears its head again. Bonnie's brows arch sharply, at first: ryokan aside, she expected something a little more luxe from the gangster executive with advanced security drones on call. A smile grows in the wake of that initial surprise and her eyes roll towards Dahlia as she listens. Unpolluted air and unspoiled land strike familiar chords, even if mountains and dead fish themselves don't, exactly; it was the noise and crush of the city she had to grow to appreciate once she was out of time with Grandma.

"'s bad /not/ to have 'em," the Huntress sort-of agrees, wistful as her eyes briefly find Dahlia's, "'cuz then you're just draggin' yourself from day t' day, not really /doing/ anything, just... gettin' /by/. Survivin', not /livin'/. Gotta have something to live for, so... why /not/ a dream? And it's such a /nice/ dream..."

Psigh; work.

"Separate rooms," Bonnie murmurs of she and the guys, "and wedding bands." Her empty hand comes up with a wiggling ring finger. "And /that's/ only when we travel... 's all rentals, otherwise, every few months, maybe. There's a lotta Southtown..."

Eventually, there's a gesture towards the table that summons Bonnie's attention and-- not much else when Dahlia just keeps on prefacing the mission. /Ranting/... which earns a big grin and a raised glass to signal permission. Does she know the story of the young aspiring actress who was mysteriously, gruesomely murdered...?

As soon as the name's said, the Scarlet Dahlia gets a sympathetic grimace for the idea that /anyone/ would confuse her with that other one; /this/ Dahlia's way more worthy of fame. Or infamy; same diff. Bonnie even unscrews the scotch and pulls it from the cushions so she can offer the other woman a little extra rant fuel post-sip. A third-full is practically empty!

Once the more mission-critical details start coming out, the clever, devious machinery that's thus far been occupied with solving the riddle beside her makes a few snap adjustments, and--

"Why assemblymen?" she wonders once there's room to. "You think it's maybe a political thing, like--" She pauses for a tick, glances up and over, then quietly giggles.

"-- well, like a protection racket kinda thing? Wild'n crazy darkstalker offs some suits; Majigen squeezes the government for favors in return for keepin' a lid on their 'stalker problem; crazy bitch gets curbed, and everyone gets a little more okay with livin' next to a buncha fuckin' /monsters/?" She drains her glass a little further, grimacing. Storm clouds creep over a psychic horizon thanks to that last suggestion.

After a beat, she shakes her head and lowly wonders, "Is there a pattern?" The table earns another fleeting glance and - still - no movement. "Some lucky assemblyman could get himself a plucky new aide..." The possibilities abound, and-- after a night full of painful honesty, having some leave to /let/ them, to consider which angle might be the best to draw a vicious monster into her web brings its own kind of satisfaction.

"My folks really /did/ live in Metro City, y'know," she quietly offers after a contemplative spell. "I remember I did a little bit about, like, killing my mom 'cause she got turned into a monster or whatever, when I was showin' off after you assigned me to th' Den-- she's fine! So's my dad. They're just... boring, and livin' in AC, on account'a their house gettin' eaten by another, larger house. They were... /surprised/," she understates, with lidding eyes, "when their sweet l'il girl showed up and started dumpin' rockets into the cannibal house, /that's/ for sure." Her shoulders roll, then shake to slough the memory of getting caught in years of lies about archaeology trips with Uncle Arthur.

"I... always liked the woods way better, but the city was okay, too."

Simplicity is precious.

"You want her /head/, or is it Hunter's choice?" she asks while setting a small, taut smile and blue-eyed gaze on the mastermind.

"Nothing wrong with rentals. It's actually rather refreshing to be able to drop everything and move to a brand new town on the drop of a hat." Dahlia glances down to her glass, sloshing the liquid around for a moment, amusing herself with the occasional glimmer of her amber-lit eyes in the reflection. The glow -is- pretty, isn't it?

"A long time ago, it occurred to me that a violent takeover of the Japanese government would be the most direct and efficient way to institute the changes I'd love to make. But an insightful man reminded me of a core aspect of human nature -- resistance to change. A violent insurrection, you see, would inspire a violent and immediate resistance. If I shattered the glass -- I'd need to sweep up the shards."

Dahlia suddenly rocks it from one side to another -- splashing the liquid around for effect. The juggler's alter-ego knows what she's doing though -- the scotch -does- shoot over the level of the glass, but none splashes down outside of its confines. "The easier and safer method, though, is to upset the balance juuuuust enough. Do it the 'right' way, eliminating your foes one-by-one and building up your allies...?" She lifts the glass up, showing the surface of the liquid as it stabilizes back into a nearly-flat plane. "You can manage greater change, and never know anything happened at all."

Dahlia glances askance to her companion. "Assemblymen aren't that big a deal. But I managed to replace several of the old guard with more... progressive individuals. Assemblymen who favored =me=. And that's been... reset."

Dahlia raises one hand to her forehead, thumb and forefinger massaging her temples gently. "The worst part is -- my drones have caught surveillance of Duke making a -personal- visit to the Spire. The only theory that -fits- Lotus attacking is... one which has Duke cooperating with the maniacal demon lord who decided to steal Metro City for a week."

Dahlia throws back the rest of her drink in one gulp. Her eyes shoot open quickly afterward, as she lets loose a cough: she's not -great- with liquor.

Eyes squint shut again, as she shakes her head side to side. "... ugh. Anyway, that's my conclusion. He's working with Dohma, and he got this -Lotus- to take out my favorite assemblymen. No other connection really makes sense."

Setting the emptied glass back on the coffee table, Dahlia rests her folded hands upon crossed legs, listening quietly. She seems a bit puzzled at first about the 'AC' abbreviation, but the interpretation comes to her in context. "Mm. I -had- thought they were dead. That's impressive acting." A brief smile. "... When's the last time you visited them?"

A moment. Woods are brought up -- and in the context of mountains and cities, she nods in approval. "Woods are good, yeah. When the trees themselves aren't trying to eat you." Maybe she'd explain the background to that...

As for the pointed question, Dahlia grins with evasively. Though, she knows how to phrase her response in a way Bulleta can appreciate. "Let me put it this way. I'll pay more if I have someone I can interrogate."

A briefing becomes a lesson with a few tips of a glass. Bonnie properly turns her face towards the mastermind and leans a little nearer to better absorb her wisdom. She's (reasonably) sure she won't ever need to know how to disrupt a government, but a coven? A darkstalker court? A Syndicate crew?

A monster hunting Guild in bed with a Dragon?

Dahlia's sloshing made it tricky to find a good moment to refill her glass /anyway/, and once Bonnie's drawn into intently nodding and softly interjecting, 'uh-huh's and 'sure's here and there, the scotch is easily forgotten for a while. There are things to learn, schemes to ponder... she wears a light smile through most of it, until Dahlia returns to the problem at hand and prompts a grimace. The glance is answered by the backs of Bonnie's bottle-holding fingers briefly brushing the crimelord's arm. All that hard work, /spoiled/ by a rival boss twisted enough to invite /monsters/ into Southtown.

Between Duke, Dohma, and Metro City, there's a definite shadow over Bonnie's features that lifts somewhat when the mastermind throws a compliment her way. "Almost a year ago, now," she murmurs after returning that brief smile. "Busy schedules..." The bottle sloshes as that hand makes uneven little circles. "Holidays there; birthdays here, sometimes."

A few moments later, carnivorous trees put a high arch in her brows, but she lets the obvious question sit until the /important/ ones are out of the way. Dahlia want's a /live/ capture? Dahlia gets a live capture. Bonnie's smile broadens and begins to soften; the edge lingers. "No problem~" she chirps. "I'm... guessin' that a reset means I don't have to worry about watchin' someone's ass too, right?" She takes a long drink that leaves her glass nearly empty while waiting for the answer. A little bit of air's drawn through her teeth when she's done to help settle the burn and she casually tilts, looking to let her head rest lightly on Dahlia's shoulder.

"I'm preeeeetty good with a knife, y'know, just in case you need another set'a hands when I'm done." she confidently notes. "An' a razor, an' a baton, jumper cables..."

A slight pause after letting her special skills trail off. Her brows begin to rise again. "So," she utters as the scotch rises towards her lips. "Killer tree--" Another pause. Blue eyes flick towards Dahlia's empty glass.

"... hah, whoops," she murmurs while briskly leaning forward. After adding a splash to her own glass, she hovers over Dahlia's, bottle tipped but not /quite/ pouring as she glances over a shoulder. "/So/," she repeats with a crooked and self-conscious little smile. "Killer trees, huh? Granny went'n built her cabin in some /non/-murderous forest, but I bet she'd agree there was a li'l bit of a missed opportunity, there. Where were /you/ camping?"

Dahlia sure is happy to talk about herself, particularly when she has a glass of scotch in her. Her cheeks stained a light pink, her forehead a little damp. But... she's also a lot calmer than she might have been otherwise, so at least there's that.

Dahlia is also happy to muse about how good -other- people have it. She's happy, of course, when Bulleta mentions that she is able to spend time with her family. That she -chose- this life as a bounty hunter, as a destroyer of evil. Her lips pinch tight, as she nods in hearty approval. "That's great, that you're... keeping touch. It's probably something I should consider, as well -- I've got an aunt back home that I'm likely overdue for a visit with." Idly, she glances away -- as if committing that particular to-do list item to memory.

A reset? Dahlia's expression grows a bit more neutral, as she raises a hand. She gestures herself through the various threads: "... I wouldn't call it a -reset- per se. There's still a few leads that my foes weren't able to draw the lines to. And of course, if I deploy guards to protect them, then their suspicions will be confirmed and the targets will be eliminated as well. It's a tricky game of cat-and-mouse... but we'll just have to hold them accountable." She shrugs faintly. "So don't worry about the others. Just the darkstalker."

Dahlia's eyes light up at the suggestions of torture. "Oh, believe me -- I'm looking forward to it. It'd be good to have a bit of help there, but... we'll see how it goes, hmm?"

When the 'whoops' slips out, Dahlia breathes out a mix between a content sigh and a laugh. With her empty glass held out, she pinches her thumb and forefinger together -- suggesting just a splash of scotch, nothing more.

"... Camping there would get you killed for sure." She shrugs faintly -- hand flattening as she winds up for another mini-monologue. "Apologies. Needs a bit of preface. We live in Earthrealm -- but there are other realms: the Backyard, Majigen, and then there's Outworld. An island exists as a sort of halfway point between Earthrealm and Outworld. There, even the boundaries between life and death are not so absolute."

The Ainu's expression grows a bit darker, as she looks downward. Her eyes start to lose focus, as the amber veins glow a bit -brighter-. Her skin even starts to seem a bit brighter, glowing with a golden radiance.

"It was in that forest, on that island, that my eyes were opened to the true powers within. And I shared this knowledge with others -- imparting the -urgency- of winning the tournament held there, between our realm and Outworld. Without those lessons, we would have lost -- to Sergei Dragunov, to Agent Little. To the agents of Lord Dohma. And to the abominations of Outworld that make all of the rest seem harmless in comparison."

Her eyes regain focus as she draws back. Her hand flattens out, palm-up. Releasing the pressure with a sigh, she explains, "On the plus side, my eyes are 'pretty' now. And victory -- my victory, -our- victory -- spared Earthrealm from an invasion."

But then her hand inverts, palm-down. "On the minus side... my -pride- was a weakness, allowing Duke to shatter my leg."

Dahlia's hand curls back around the glass. "... So naturally, I wouldn't recommend camping there."

Luckily, Bonnie's happy to listen to Dahlia talk about herself; then again, she's had /several/ scotches by now. Less so to keep dwelling on visiting with /her/ family, though: the comment about keeping in touch gets a polite smile and a brief hit of conflicted emotion. It's... nice, sure; they're her /parents/, after all. But she wasn't super close with them even /before/ they found out about her career, and there's only so much that can be done to smooth things over after years of lying when they're on opposite sides of the world.

At least there are more /pleasant/ things to talk - and think - about, like screaming darkstalkers and ravenous trees. Learning a little more about her enigmatic friend's life while she gives the crimelord just a splash, and-- oh.

Settling back against the couch post-refill, Bonnie's eyes are wide in clear recognition after 'Outworld'. Briskly, she draws her legs onto the couch so she can sit -- kneel, almost - up straighter while turning to face her elder in full. Arched brows only grow moreso as astonishment adds to the curiosity already lifting them. "You--" is as far as her quiet marveling gets before Dahlia begins to glow and she has to squint. There was plenty of scuttlebutt about talented fighters and operators vanishing en masse last year, as well as a handful of far darker rumors from those who eventually turned up alive afterwards, but the Huntress never had a chance - or cause, beyond idle curiosity - to /meet/ any of them, to follow up on those rumors.

Earthrealm never had the opportunity to be invaded by the hordes of Outworld, after all, so why bother?

Bonnie hangs on every word from the woman responsible for keeping them at bay. Smiles are found for Dahlia's wisdom, for the implicit tactical acumen of gathering allies and arming them for the best possible chance of success; for Agent Little and - especially - Lord Dohma, there are scowls. Her attention only wavers from those eyes when Dahlia's palm turns and Duke's assault - on someone who very well might've earned herself a reputation that'll live on well beyond /either/ of them - brings her gaze to the injured limb. Once she's properly focused again, she tucks the bottle between her arm and chest so she can graze her fingers over the back of the crimelord's hand, then grip her shoulder.

As she squeezes, "You're a fuckin' /hero/, Dahlia," is her immediate, reverently whispered response following that final piece of advice. "Granny'd... she told me stories about Outworld, now and then. Just a couple-- stuff she learned from the oldheads in the Guild, I guess. About how even if there's, just, a /handful/'a people who can stand between all the dark, evil shit out there and everyone else... they'd /better/ suck it up and fight their goddamn hearts out. 'cuz nobody gives a shit about /fair/ when it's life or death; you gotta, just... you gotta fight, and fight, and /win/, whatever it takes. An' you /did/ that-- an' you did it /smart/..."

Her hand pulls away and snags the bottle for a quick pull, then:

"Fucking Burkoff... hh. I wish I coulda seen you fight, but... maybe one day, huh?" A beat as Bonnie glances aside from the other woman and swallows a comment about how 'beautiful' her eyes are, actually.

"Thank you," she says instead. A small smile forms; it doesn't quite reach her eyes as they turn back towards Dahlia. "I bet we coulda made a fuckin' /fortune/ killin' Outworlders, but, y'know. Probably we'da all died, or whatever, sooooo..."

Her empty hand rises and wobbles a bit.

There was once a time in which Dahlia would be more than happy to brag to a fan of her work. In her trophy room -- its location kept as one of many secrets -- sit the head of Goro and the skeletal hand of Daniel Little, both hard-won remnants of her time on the accursed island. Her recent reorganization of the room, though, places the sword of the long-dead Ainu general, Shakushain, front-and-center. To anyone else, it would be a simple reminder of the past. But to Dahlia, it stands as a grim reminder to temper her braggadocio with sober restraint.

Which is why her recounting of the island experiences lacks the enthusiasm she'd doled out for earlier topics. The expression of alarm is met with a simple nod: yes, -she- did that. -Dahlia- won Mortal Kombat -- not for glory, but simply because there was no acceptable alternative to complete victory. (Komplete viktory?)

After the tale is done, though, the grim expression gives way to a self-conscious half-smile, and a nod of her head. Is she a hero? Dahlia certainly sees herself as one. But how many people can know? How can she... -advertise- without inviting the same sort of vicious beatdown as the one she'd already received?

"Precisely. That was the exact message that I used to motivate people. Fairness? Honor? These are human concepts, meant for dealing with -humans-. Those from Outworld seek to exterminate all life on Earth. Honor is a sign of -weakness-, ripe for exploitation."

Dahlia laughs. Whatever dark place she -had- been in, it's more or less evaporated in the wake of Bonnie's gleeful turn towards contract killing. Particularly with an almost -musical- laugh. Always a mind on profit, that one. "Indeed. When your entire way of life is in the crosshairs, it's tough for the high rollers to be concerned about their bank balance."

Dahlia turns sideways, resting her arm on the cushion -- and pivoting her knees toward Bulleta with a grin. "So... tonight, then. I've got a few extra rooms on this hallway. Empty space, just waiting to be transformed into crash space for my favorite assassin." A smile broadens; shoulders shrug. And the silky white fabric of her jacket flutters. "... Regretfully, I don't have any clue what the night scene is like in this city. Work tends to keep me... busy."

Bonnie laughs along for a bit before opting to swallow a comment about Dahlia's musical laughter-- along with the rest of the bottle's contents.

"Some of 'em are aaaaall about the glorious death," she quietly says of her fellow Hunters after twisting to set the bottle behind herself. Her elbow gets propped up on the back of the couch so she can rest a flushed cheek upon her hand. "Whether they know it or not-- they get to a point where the money doesn't matter anymore 'cuz they're too busy /chasin'/. Diggin' for trouble buried too deep for contracts... an' I get it, kinda: they get so good at doin' somethin' almost nobody else knows how to do, it's like... what's the fuckin' point'a doin' it /small/, right? But... I dunno. I sure as hell don't wanna die in /bed/, or somethin'... but I wanna make /sure/ I get to live a good, long while, 'cause why work hard'n get rich as /fuck/ if you never get to /enjoy/ it?" Bonnie briefly grins big before settling into something smaller and more thoughtful. She pauses momentarily.

"Besides," she then decides to murmur, "I gotta make sure Granny'd be proud'a me before I go, and she deeeeefinitely didn't raise some suicidal dumbass."

The Huntress' grin /mostly/ returns afterwards as Dahlia faces her. Blue settles on amber as she listens and-- is quietly relieved to not have to fumble for a way to /ask/. "... it'd be super rude /not/ to take one of 'em, then." she lightly remarks as her eyes flick down.

Her /favorite/ assassin. Bonnie's deepens a little even as an internal hiss tells the Huntress to find some damn chill.

"You deserve t' relax a little," she says upon looking back up, "but a hero's work..." Her lips twist in a mild grimace, then she tosses the expression aside with a quick headshake. "Maybe I'll scout the night life a little, I dunno. Probably just gonna hang out here for a while, though. 's a nice place; you've got great taste in... ..." The hand curled across her lap snaps out for big, looping gestures around the nicely appointed room that only has a /moderate/ amount of a hardened criminal's wailing in it, now. She giggles when the hand eventually falls and she concludes, "... stuff." She then leans tablewards, briefly wobbly but not yet far gone enough to be at serious risk of tipping onto the floor. Her scotch glass with one last splash is snagged and drained before she retakes her spot against the cushion.

"Anyway! I'll be around if you need me for anything; that's the point. Or if you wanna, like... keep hangin' out; that's /also/ the point." Another, short-lived giggle, then:

"Thanks," she murmurs with a smile. "Like, /again/. For the hero stuff, obvi... and for /tellin'/ me about it; I could tell it wasn't /easy/. An' for, just. Bein'... like... /you/. /Thank/ you, Scarlet Dahlia."

All about the glorious death. Dahlia can't help but smirk and shake her head in disapproval. "Right before he broke my leg... Burkoff offered me a sword, thinking that, as a Yakuza, I'd take care of the dirty work -for- him. Out of -honor-."

The seated crime boss seems to have cheered up from whatever brief malaise she had been in. "I'm sure your Granny's already quite proud of you. Not that it's any reason to rest on your laurels, of course." Surely, her mind is still turning just as smoothly as ever -- aside from the color in her cheeks, her words haven't been slurred, and her motions have been as precise and crisp as earlier.

When her invitation is accepted, Dahlia calmly reaches into her jacket, withdrawing a card key. She extends it to her like one might pass over a poker card. "Room 608. There's another bottle of scotch there. But please, do be a dear and not give housekeeping a heart attack." A gentle, friendly smile -- and a wink.

But then the topic turns to her work being that of a -hero-. And how... it is never... done? Still an active participant in the conversation, she chimes in, "No, it's true -- I -do- need to relax, don't I?" The seed of doubt is clear in her voice -- as if it hadn't occurred to her for quite some time.

When was the last time she'd gone to a dance club? For fun, for -her-, not just for trying to convince her do-gooder boyfriend to lighten up a little? When was the last time she'd just gone -shopping- with a friend? When was the last time she'd gone to sing at a karaoke bar--

Compliments pass by her with only the briefest glimmers of recognition, as her mind works its way down the rabbit hole.

The last time was with Jezebel.
To calm her nerves, before a marathon practice session.
This is no time for another unwanted trip down memory lane, Dahlia.
Bulleta's perfect. Bright, blue eyes -- eager to finally have your attention.
And you're ruining i---

Snapping back into the moment, Dahlia offers a brief, appreciative nod to the mention of her 'great taste'. She raises the scotch to her lips, eagerly downing the rest of it. The liquid nips at her throat on the way down, one that forces her eyes closed, edging two globes of moisture out from their outer corners.

That infectious smile. That raw, unfiltered appreciation. That loyalty -- however temporary and transitory it might be.
But, she can't be worried about -her- now. Not again.

A self-effacing smile is offered in response. "It wasn't easy, no. And -- it's really no worries. I'm glad that you sought me out, honestly!" Her hands fold together on her lap, as the executive gives a proper, businesslady-like smile. "You've proven yourself invaluable, Bonnie. I can't imagine working -without- you, now."

She can't be worried about the sound of her voice, now. Not again.

After a moment of respectful admiration, her eyes grow glassy, amber veins pulsing.
The wheelchair's joystick flicks sideways, and then straightens out, while its wheels begin rolling towards Dahlia. Stick returns to center, and the chair stops just short of the Akatsuki leader.

As the wheelchair settles, sharpness returns to her vision. Facing Bulleta head-on, she demurs, "My apologies -- but I'll need to spend a few minutes with Takeru and Shino now. Feel free to take some time to relax -- we're not on a fixed schedule at the moment."

Her right leg bears the brunt of her weight, as she rises to her feet. She wouldn't object to Bonnie's help, of course, but she's intent on demonstrating that she can stand up on her own if need be, broken leg or not.
Not right now, is the thought drumming in her mind, as she plants her hand on her armrest, easing her weight into the cushion of her wheelchair. And yet, as soon as she settles, she finds herself looking once again into Bonnie's face, framed with the same sort of raven-black hair as that of her companion -- a fellow circus performer, from a time long ago. Someone who once looked up to her as Bonnie does now.

She's reminded of her friends. Of the simpler times. When she -didn't- feel the weight of the nation's problems, the -world's- problems, upon her shoulders.

"If you do go out, though..." she says, a beguiling smile re-establishing itself upon the scarred mastermind's face.

Maybe tonight wouldn't be a bad time to live the good life.

"Let me know if you come across a karaoke bar?"

Bonnie certainly isn't one to let her talents lie fallow: every day at the ryokan was, at /some/ point, scored by the distinct music of practice rounds a makeshift range; and the shouts and thuds of sparring. She learned the grounds like the back of her hand during early morning runs and kept Akemi busy with requests for parts and tools to facilitate regular tinkering sessions with her kit. The steady diet of tabloid publications /may/ have been cause for concern... but then again, opportunity often lies in improbable places for a young woman with a career like hers.

"Of course," The Huntress repeats, a fair distance from sober but definitely serious. "I'm only gonna get better~"

She snags the card between a couple of fingers and flicks it towards herself when it's offered. It does a few flips over her other fingers, and then-- gone, with barely a flutter of her sleeve. An open palm and wiggling fingers are offered up for Dahlia's inspection, accompanied by a small smile and a boozy giggle. An /extremely/ chill way of accepting a gracious invitation. "Don't drink myself t' death; got it." The wink is returned as the smile becomes a playful smirk.

Of course, she's back to smiling - beaming, really - and fighting the urge to avert her gaze from the executive's by the time Dahlia's done accepting that final salvo of compliments.

Be cool, Bonnie. Just-- be cool and don't fuck this up.
Your... friend's even more incredible than you /thought/ she was.
You don't have to fake anything, this time.
There's no /room/ to fake anything, this time.
You don't have to find the right buttons to push, this time.
Because she's /Dahlia/, and she's /nothing/ like Jezebel.

And her eyes are /so/ beautiful when they get glassy and glow like--


Bonnie slowly peels her attention from amber pulsations towards an engine's soft whine,
then sloooowly brings it back to Dahlia's face, squinting.

Back to the chair.

Back to Dahlia, this time with a glance towards-- okay, yes, her hands are-- still there. And there's no remote in them.

And there was so much pressure, earlier, when she realized her plans to wound Burkoff's morale would need scuttling. And the /heat/, as if the air was minutes away from being excited to the point of combustion. Telekinesis...?

... /just/ telekinesis...?


-- okay. Be cool, Bonnie. Fingers crossed.

"You're," she quietly chuckles as widened eyes return to Dahlia's, "a l'il psionic, on top of everything else, huh?" The astonishment settles considerably once she exhales, then her smile returns at full wattage. "You just keep on surprising me, damn..."

The Huntress' eyes fall to that injured leg as Dahlia rises. She leans in and reaches to set a supporting hand against the back of a silken jacket, ready to assist... but the mastermind seems to have it under control; enough to stand, at least. And to sit, surely-- but once Dahlia's all the way up, the raven-haired killer still gives her a shoulder to lean on and an arm loosely wound around her waist to help her into her chair, which she summoned, via the telekinetic powers which she apparently possesses.

It's a surprise, but so were the exotic, fetching qualities of her eyes; so was the intoxicating waft of lavender.

Maybe they can't be planned for... but surprises aren't /always/ bad.

"Deal," she promises before briskly leaning in to deliver a thankful peck to the mastermind's discolored cheek.

"I bet you've got a /great/ voice."

Log created on 15:35:54 11/11/2018 by Bulleta, and last modified on 14:54:46 11/19/2018.