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The road to Sanctuary had been a long one; they’d carved a bloody bath through the Southern Shelf and sped through Three Horns Divide in a couple of outrunners. All in all, an eventful day.

“We killed so many bandits,” Axton says reverently as they make their way through the town to the Crimson Raiders Headquarters. Maybe a more appropriate tone would be horrified or guilt-ridden, but, well, they’d all clearly enjoyed themselves. Even Zer0, the quietest among them had offered a haiku or two about their combat prowess. “Fired a lot of rounds,” he adds. What can he say? They’re an impressive group.

“Some more than others,” Salvador says, then laughs loudly in the same way he sometimes does when he pulls up a second gun and goes wild.

Zer0 tells them exactly how many rounds they each fired from most to least, which adds another point to the ‘Zer0 is actually an android’ column, and then Gaige sparks a discussion over whether or not Deathtrap’s rounds fired counts towards hers or if he’s a contender all on his own. Maya leaves them to it and actually heads upstairs to their current objective and grabs the Echo recorder from the huge safe.

By the time Scooter makes it clear that they shouldn’t underestimate the so-called Firehawk, everyone has followed her upstairs. “Man, I was hoping we could actually enjoy a civilised city for a bit before we had to head out again,” she mutters as she sets the Echo recorder down on a desk nearby.

“Hey, if this Roland guy is the leader of the resistance, I think he can hold his own for a bit,” Axton says, shrugging as he drops down onto a dirty couch. The cushions sink deep under his weight, springs creaking. Just like most things Maya has seen on Pandora so far, it’s old and ratty.

“Eat the silence!” Krieg declares from the doorway. He’s rolling his massive shoulders back as if working out kinks he acquired on their journey into town. Maya is a little sore too.

“All in favour of taking a damn nap before we launch a rescue mission?”

They decide to take a few minutes for themselves. Most of them are still new to this planet, they barely know each other, and it has been one hell of a day already. Axton turns on his couch, swinging his legs up onto the other side and gets relaxed. The way he bends one of his knees tightens his pants against his toned thighs, and Maya can’t help but notice. He’s a good looking guy and has the attitude to go with it; it hadn’t taken long to see that.

She moves into the next room over and claims another couch for herself. The others end up going back downstairs where the bunkbeds are, and for a little while, things are fairly quiet. Maya closes her eyes and lets her body go slack. Somewhere she can hear someone tinkering, either cleaning a gun or doing maintenance on a bot and she thinks she hears Salvador humming to himself down below. Through the balcony, she can still hear the noise of Sanctuary, a bit distant, probably at the bar they spotted on the other side of town.

It’s nothing like the planet Maya came from, and she likes it that way. She might even come to feel at home here, she thinks, with people who don’t lie to her and manipulate her. Here, her opponents aren’t terrified citizens, they’re bandits. She’s already expanding her powers now that she gets to use them frequently and practically and no one treats her much different.

None of them are alike, after all. They all come from different walks of life and fight in their own unique ways and none of them treat her like an other because all of them are others. They’re a weird mismatched group of people and somehow that works out to their benefit. Having nothing in common might mean they won’t all become the best of buddies, but it does mean they have all the bases covered on the battlefield.

Maya falls asleep thinking about their upcoming adventure.

 

“Damn, girl, you’re tight as hell,” Axton mutters under his breath. “Bit too tight.”

“Gross,” Gaige says as she comes into the room, heading for the safe to stow away a gun for later.

“Cover your ears, kid,” Axton throws back with a chuckle, and then returns to his turret. He continues to talk to it gently in a soft voice that Gaige has to strain to hear properly, a mixture of flattering compliments and desperate pleas. After the amount of time they’ve spent fighting side by side now, she has noticed the affectionate way he speaks to his turret, in a personal way, just like she is with Deathtrap. She gets it.

After another moment of watching him fiddle with finicky parts to no avail, Gaige plops down on the floor beside the turret, glancing over the area he’s working on. “Is she jammed up?”

“Yeah, my fair lady is ailing,” Axton grunts as he tries yet again to loosen a part that just doesn’t want to budge.

“Here, let me…” Gaige shoos him back so she can take over but Axton stays put, shooting her an incredulous look as if she’s declared herself queen of Pandora and means to appropriate the turret for her up-and-coming robot army.

“Don’t shoo me away from my girl,” he says, in a serious voice she’s never heard him use before.

“Relax, I’m not going to break her, come on!”

“I know you’re not going to break her, I’ve seen your murder machine. That’s not the point.”

Zer0 appears in the doorway, helmet turned towards them but otherwise unreadable like usual. “Someone’s possessive / your skill is not in question / look but do not touch.”

Axton groans and drags a hand down his face. “Whatever, alien dude, thanks.”

But Gaige bursts into laughter. A winking emoticon flashes up over Zer0’s helmet which just makes her laugh harder while Axton rolls his eyes. Seeming satisfied with their short interjection, Zer0 steps away into the other room, leaving them alone again.

Once she gets her giggles under control, Gaige tries to appeal to Axton, with a little more tact this time. “If someone broke Deathtrap, I’d be so freaking pissed. Murderous levels of pissed.”

Axton snorts but doesn’t disagree; she knows they’re on the same page. Gaige continues, speaking the language she figures Axton would get. “I’d treat your lady right, show her a good time. Her pleasure is the most important thing, of course.”

It works like a charm, making Axton smirk. “And the last thing I want to do is deny her pleasure. Fine, if you think you can unjam her, give it a go, kid.” He raises his hands in the air and moves out of the way.

Gaige makes an excited noise and scoots closer, reaching with her robot arm to adjust the piece Axton has been trying to move for ten minutes. It moves immediately as if it isn’t jammed at all and judging by Gaige’s face, it wasn’t much trouble for her at all.

“Well, we can’t all have robot arms,” Axton complains. “But thanks.”

Gaige beams at him. “You got it. You can help me out with Deathtrap sometime to make it up to me, if you want. He’s kinda high maintenance.”

“Aren’t they all,” Axton agrees, patting his beloved turret fondly. “Wouldn’t have it any other way. You’re not too bad, kid.”

“Okay can you seriously stop calling me kid? You’ve seen me kill, like, so many people, we’re past nicknames like ‘kid’.”

“Whatever you say, kid.”

 

Zer0 doesn’t sleep, not the way the others do. They all tire eventually, and even if they’ve been on a mission all night and the sun is high in the sky by the time they return to Sanctuary, most of the group crashes at headquarters within half an hour. Maya spends a few minutes sorting through her guns and finding ones she’s ready to sell and Axton usually leans over the balcony for a bit before he retires, eyes glazed over and lost in thought. Gaige and Salvador are always out immediately, able to fall asleep amidst anything. Zer0 rarely sees Krieg. They think maybe he avoids coming back to Sanctuary with them, just lets them all use the fast travel station first so they don’t notice.

After the long fight through Bloodshots and Hyperion loaderbots, everyone is sleeping soundly. It had been a good fight. Zer0 had enjoyed finding all the critical points on a loaderbot, crippling them until they were little more than a heap of scrap metal. While the others settle in to sleep off the excitement, Zer0 jumps and climbs their way to the top of a building facing the middle of town and perches on the slope of the roof.

They can see most of Sanctuary from this spot. The headquarters to the left, Marcus’ gun shop and the fast travel station ahead, and the little passage to the back street that leads to Moxxi’s on the right. Zer0 pulls their sniper rifle off their back and lifts it to eye level. They watch Claptrap zoom by the circle of the scope, follow him to where he stops to chat with Johnny Waffles. Moving on, they follow the movements of some Crimson Raiders patrolling through the streets. Right below, the Echo cast vendor advertises This Just In to a passerby and makes a sale. Zer0 had picked up a copy themselves when they first returned to town. Roland’s escape is already news.

A flash in the fast travel station grabs Zer0’s attention and they return to the center of town in time to see Krieg finally appearing. Zer0 doesn’t know what Krieg does when he separates from the group or hangs back. They suppose it makes sense if he doesn’t feel like part of the group proper. He and Maya share looks sometimes; Krieg’s expression gives away nothing from under a mask of both cloth and madness while Maya looks curious and thoughtful. Zer0 has seen them cover each other in combat through their scope while providing fire from the back. Other than that, though, most are still weary of him and keep a certain distance. Gaige tries to be friendly because that’s the kind of person she is but it has little effect.

Krieg lopes out of the fast travel station and Zer0 keeps him in their scope as he moves towards the headquarters, but something makes him stop before he goes inside. He moves his arms a lot, stretching them out and curling them back in, then twists from one side to the other, cracking his back. He looks agitated, uncertain. He ends up pacing around the entranceway instead of going in, looking like a pot about to boil over. Zer0 trains their scope on a Crimson Raider where he stands on guard and sees him looking nervous. The courteous thing might be to free him from his predicament.

Zer0 stands, replacing their sniper rifle on their back. Such a tall individual standing up on the roof is a tough sight to miss, even without the magnification of a scope. They notice quite a few citizens looking up at them. Krieg doesn’t notice until his pacing brings him back around to face in Zer0’s direction, but once it does, Zer0 raises a hand to get his attention.

Krieg stops and gazes up at them, shifting weight from one foot to the other, always moving even when standing still. It isn’t until Zer0 gestures for him to join them that he uproots himself and starts looking for the best way to climb.

The jump can be tricky, and Krieg is heavy. Zer0 steps along the roof and reaches out to grasp Krieg’s forearm when he jumps close and pulls him the rest of the way onto the rooftop. Krieg lets out a startled grunt.

“I hope you like heights / while the others sleep I watch / it’s peaceful up here.”

“A carnival of colours paints the sea!” Krieg replies.

Zer0 has no idea what it means, if anything, but Krieg seems calmer and not so fidgety. They turn back to their previous perch and sit down again. After a few silent minutes, Krieg finally follows and sits a couple feet away from them.

The silence stretches on. Krieg bounces his knees a bit, working the balls of his feet, but the motion feels more relaxed than anxious. Zer0 foregoes the sniper rifle scope this time, instead watching the streets with unaided eyes.

Minutes turn into hours and they sit quietly. Zer0 hadn’t thought any of the humans could be still much longer than half an hour before complaining of boredom or stiffness but Krieg remains unbothered.

Sneaking a glance to the side, Zer0 notices his eyes are closed. His shoulders are slumped forward a little and for once, he is completely still save for the slow rise and fall of his chest. Asleep.

Zer0 turns back to the street.

 

“Home sweet home,” Salvador says as they finally reappear in Sanctuary, “we’ve returned to you at last.”

The group collectively lets out a tense breath. Gaige wavers and Salvador steps close to her, reaching up to steady her with a hand on her back. She leans into his side gratefully. Her clothes are singed and she smells of smoke.

Maya is instantly in front of them, worry plain on her face. Salvador waves her off. “I’ll get the girl patched up.”

Ever since bringing back the new power core, they’ve been thrown from one big fight to another, constructors and giant threshers and more constructors. The last battle while awaiting the Overlook fast travel station had been fun, in Salvador’s opinion, with so many enemies to shoot at once. They had come in wave after wave just lining up to get blown apart with dual wielded rocket launchers.

A ton of Hot loaders showed up at the end though, when they had already begun to grow tired from their long, tumultuous day, running low on ammo and burnt out from the most recent constructor. Even Deathtrap had run his course and dematerialized.

Salvador takes Gaige to Zed’s, half carrying her weight on the shoulder she’s collapsing into. “You fought well,” he says proudly, then chuckles as he thinks back to the two of them unleashing a smattering of bullets, back to back and knocking out any bot that got too close. “Raised almost as much Hell as me.”

“Fun times,” Gaige agrees. “Suck on that, you Hyperion jackhole!” She laughs, but it turns quickly into coughing. Luckily, they’ve arrived at the medical clinic.

Salvador helps her sit down on the counter and then buys a couple health vials for her. She takes them with a grateful sigh and sticks one into her arm without preamble or even a flinch. She looks much less haggard within seconds.

“Other than being set on fire at the end there, that was pretty awesome, huh?”

“For such a tiny thing, you pack a punch,” Salvador says.

Gaige smirks. “I could say the same to you. What we lack in height we make up for in chaotic destruction.”

She raises a hand to him, and Salvador, seeing the joyous look on her face as the healing brings colour back into her cheeks, can’t help but indulge her. He raises a hand too and gives her a high five, cracking a grin as she whoops happily.

“Alright, enough creepy doctor’s office,” Gaige says and she hops down off the counter. “Uh, no offense, Zed.”

The doctor shrugs. “None taken, blood splatter isn’t everyone’s first decoration choice.”

“Speaking of which,” Gaige mutters, looking down at her outfit. No amount of healing solution can fix the burnt edges of her skirt. Her top is still in one piece but it’s been blackened from the flames, her shield hadn’t been strong enough to stop it from getting that far. “I think I need to digistruct myself something new, what do you think?”

Salvador has never bothered much with the quick change station like some of the others, but he’s also never been unfortunate enough to get burnt so bad his shield went down. “Probably for the best.”

“Alright, you can help me pick something out.”

She skips out into the Sanctuary streets before Salvador can reply and tell her he’ll leave her to it on her own. All he can do is follow her out across the centre of town. She’s looking much better now, he could easily head back for the Crimson Raiders Headquarters and let her figure out her new outfit on her own, but she’d made her desire known and she’s a difficult one to deny. None of them are what anyone would call sensitive beings, but they all have a soft spot for Gaige. It’s unavoidable.

So he leans up against the outer wall of the fast travel station and watches as she goes through all the outfits she’s found around Pandora, considering colour palettes and asking for his opinion. Mostly he tells her each one looks good because he doesn’t know what else to say, but she doesn’t complain.

Eventually she settles on one she likes best and strikes a dramatic pose. Salvador gives her two thumbs up. “Don’t let this one get singed, eh?” he tells her.

She grins as they turn back towards headquarters. “I’ll keep that advice in mind.”

 

The Wildlife Exploitation Preserve had been rough on all of them, but none more than Krieg. They’d all returned home with a sombre air sitting heavily around them, like a tangible weight on their chests and shoulders. They have their Claptrap upgrade now, but they lost Bloodwing to get it and so much about the mission continues to eat at them. The Echo recorders play over and over in Krieg’s mind, the screams of terror and pain, Handsome Jack’s uncaring voice…

Alright, buddy, that was rough, but you have got to chill out.

Krieg can’t chill out. He can’t. He should have gone somewhere else, somewhere quiet, somewhere with less people. Sanctuary is full of people, good people, five people who have somehow learned to accept him the way he is, or at least have gotten used to his loud and nonsensical interruptions. Even Axton has warmed up to him enough to not be suspicious or consider him a liability anymore. He shouldn’t have come back with them.

He’d taken the upgrade to Claptrap for the rest of the group, hadn’t left it up to discussion. He grabbed the thing and separated from them without a word, leaving them to continue on with their downtime. Now Krieg remains by Claptrap’s place, in the back corner of Sanctuary, facing the pile of refuse that blocks the way to the edge of the floating city.

Krieg pulls up his buzzaxe and hacks at some fence grating.

Stop that, this town has seen enough destruction already. It’s not going to make you feel any better.

“A slice of remedy for all the meat sacks!”

I mean it, this isn’t going to help. You’re just going to scare people and then they’ll stop trusting you. Remember what it was like at first? All suspicious glares and muttered conversations not meant for your ears.

“Shut up shut up shut up!” Krieg yells at himself and continues to flail his axe at the garbage in front of him.

He hears footsteps coming up behind him and hopes some innocent citizen hasn’t decided to check out the racket.

“Hey, Krieg?”

It isn’t just a nameless citizen.

Maya.

Krieg turns his head to look at her over his shoulder, not wanting to face her directly and have her see the way he’s worked up. She’s easily the kindest of the group, the one who warmed up to him almost immediately compared to the others. He can’t betray her trust.

Just relax.

Krieg growls at the voice and it makes Maya flinch back, mistaking it to be directed at her.

She raises her hands to placate him, like she’s trying to fend off a feral animal by not making any sudden or threatening moves. It leaves Krieg feeling both frustrated and guilty; he’s not a wild beast, he wants to tell her he’s not going to attack her, could never attack someone like her, but the best he can do is tense silence.

“You didn’t come back after giving Claptrap the upgrade, I just thought I’d see if it went alright,” Maya explains, remaining still a few feet away.

Krieg glances to the side, towards where he’d spoken to Claptrap. The upgrade had startled the little robot at first but it went fine. The problem isn’t the upgrade, the problem is with Krieg himself. He doesn’t say anything, just trains his eyes back on Maya.

They stand in silence for a moment until Maya seems to decide it’s safe enough to lower her arms and step closer. She gains confidence when Krieg doesn’t react negatively to her closeness.

“So, you’re not afraid of heights, are you? Zer0 mentioned you joined them in their sniper perch on a rooftop a while ago,” she says.

Krieg cocks his head to the side at the random question, finally turning more to face her. She smiles at that, leaving Krieg to wonder why being close to him pleases her at all.

“I just mean, Sanctuary’s new position gives quite a view, you know? Sometimes I like to go stand out in front of Scooter’s garage, where the front gate was, and watch the horizon. Want to come see?”

Krieg shrugs his massive shoulders. He can’t seem to form any words at all, not even a jumbled mess of loud nonsense and expletives. Maybe the reminder of his experimentation has shocked him silent. Maybe the fear of scaring Maya off is actually strong enough to keep his usually unrepentant mouth in check.

“Come on,” Maya says, unperturbed by his lack of verbal response. She reaches out for his hand, with not a single shred of hesitation.

Her hand is so small compared to his own, so frail and delicate looking. Krieg knows she’s the opposite of both those things. She’s a stunning warrior, beautiful and determined. But he stops himself from closing his massive fingers around her hand anyway just in case he accidentally causes her pain, instead just leaving their hands pressed together as she directs him away from his dirty corner and down the path to the front of the city.

Their timing is impeccable. “Just in time to see the sunset, nice,” Maya says as they walk towards the crumbling edge. She retracts her hand, but Krieg can tell it’s just because they’ve reached their destination, not because she’s changed her mind about touching him casually.

She drops down to the ground, crossing her legs and settling in. They’re only a couple feet away from the edge, but she isn’t bothered. Krieg doesn’t mind either, there are worse things in the world than heights. He sits down beside her, mirroring her pose and trying not to fidget too much.

The sky is coloured orange on the horizon, fading up into purple as the sun sets behind the hills. It's a nice view, just as Maya said.

Almost as beautiful as she is.

“Pandora can be a harsh, dangerous place,” Maya says, still looking out at the setting sun. “But there can be good things, too. There will always be sunsets. I don’t think Handsome Jack’s crazy enough to try destroying the sun or something. I mean, I hope not.” She looks to be reconsidering Jack’s levels of insanity, if he’s really capable of thinking that blowing up a sun might be a good idea in the long run.

To Maya, Handsome Jack is the pinnacle of insanity. She’s expressed as much many times, usually after he contacts them over the echo, slandering them in one way or the other. He boils her blood unlike anything else, he’s the worse kind of person she can imagine.

It makes Krieg feel like he’s not so bad, compared to the corporate scum set to ruin an entire planet. If that’s what Maya finds truly despicable, maybe she doesn’t mind him so much, even with his incomprehensible statements and scary looking demeanour. If Maya doesn’t mind the way he looks and acts, then Krieg might learn to be okay with it too.

“Listen, I don’t know if you want to talk about it or not…”

Oh no. Keep calm, buddy.

“And actually I don’t even know what to say, either, but, I’m sorry for what you went through in any case.”

She looks awkward. She scratches her arm, fingers scrabbling at her blue tattoos. Krieg has noticed that she gets like that during more sensitive moments, that she’s most comfortable when firing a gun. That might be something they have in common. He doesn’t know what to say either, and even if he did he probably wouldn’t be able to phrase it in a way she could comprehend, but he doesn’t want to leave her hanging. She’s come out of her comfort zone to help him, it’s only fair he return the gesture.

The sun is almost hidden by the far off mountain now, leaving the sky mostly purple, blue, and black. The stars are starting to shine.

“It leaves with the sun!”

Maya smiles. “Yeah, it has a calming effect, doesn’t it?”

After that, neither of them bothers to struggle for words. They sit together for a while and it’s well into the night by the time they retire to headquarters.

 

Axton knocks back another shot, plunking the empty glass down on the bar top. The taste is bitter in his throat and he isn’t quite drunk enough yet to shrug off the way it burns all the way down. Pandoran alcohol is strong shit.

Beside him, Salvador follows suit and downs his own shot in one hearty gulp. He doesn’t seem too bothered by the taste, but then again the guy has probably never had a drink off planet.

“Think you’ll go somewhere else after we open the vault?” Axton asks. Pandora is unlike any other planet he’s visited and he can’t imagine what it would have been like to grow up in a place like this.

“I like it here,” Salvador answers. “Where else is there to go?”

“One of the Edens? Nice planets. Less murder.”

Less murder? Are you trying to convince me to go or stay?”

Axton laughs so hard his eyes start to water. Maybe the alcohol is already starting to take its effect. He should have known someone like Salvador would prefer this kind of life to something prim and proper, clean and moral. Pandora certainly has its merits and once they’ve wiped Hyperion off the map it can only get better.

“Do you remember what it was like before Hyperion?”

“Eh,” Salvador grunts. “I’d heard of ‘em, impossible not to with a couple of parents working for Dahl. But Jack becoming el presidente made it all different.”

“What an asshole,” Axton mutters as his thoughts return to why they’re drinking hard alcohol at Moxxi’s in the first place. Going up against Jack’s bunker with the plan to take back the vault key had started out pretty damn fun at first but ended much differently than they all expected, that’s for sure.

Right on time, Moxxi comes by to where they sit side by side and refills their shot glasses. Salvador lifts his towards Moxxi as a gesture of thanks before swallowing it down.

“What about you, then?” he asks.

“Hm?”

“Will you take your share of the loot and hit the road?”

Axton hadn’t thought much about it. He’d gone on quite the bender after his divorce, becoming the person he is now, killing for coin and hunting vaults with a rag tag group of people who are a little too proficient in the art of combat. He wonders if it's too late to go back to a normal life, to get a respectable job and settle down again with another wife or a husband. Could he even do that anymore, after all he’s done?

He doesn’t think of his ex-wife much anymore, not when there are so many other things to occupy himself with now. They’ve traveled through a good portion of Pandora now, met a lot of good people and killed a lot of bad people, picked up a lot of good weaponry.

And there are his fellow vault hunters, who’ve become important fixtures in his life, from covering his back and picking him up from the ground when the going gets rough to fighting with him over reign of the couch back in headquarters. It’s nothing like having a home with a spouse and surprisingly, he finds he’s glad for that.

“Y’know, the Pandoran life might be growing on me,” he admits. It’s hard to imagine going a day without fighting for survival, now.

Salvador cheers drunkenly, spreading his arms wide exuberantly. “Drink to that, amigo!”

So Axton does. He does his shot and tries to get used to that burning sensation in the back of his throat. A few more and maybe Pandoran drinks will start to grow on him, too.

 

Axton had never seen a Siren before coming to Pandora, and now he’s seen three. Only six can exist in the universe at once, Handsome Jack claimed in one of the echo recorders they found early in this journey, and now Axton has met and fought alongside three of them.

Lilith is the most powerful being Axton has ever seen, especially when she’s pumped full of eridium. Angel had been like a God, everywhere at once, able to phase objects in and out of existence.

Maya is something completely unlike both of them. She’s powerful, has gotten progressively stronger over the weeks to the point where one phaselock changes the entire tide of the battlefield, making their enemies so easy to finish off. She is both graceful and brash, elegant and dangerous, beautiful like an oncoming storm that can tear the world to pieces.

He doesn’t expect her to be awkward when it comes to sex. They’ve traded looks while killing bandits and Hyperion personnel since their arrival in the Southern Shelf, flirting when helping each other up and making it fairly well known that they’re interested in each other. And someone as beautiful as Maya... Axton expected she’d had plentiful suitors before that she might have liked in return, but either that isn’t the case or she’s just naturally skittish when starting a new relationship of this kind.

They sit together on the second floor balcony of a building close to the black market; the headquarters might have couches and beds that are more comfortable than the cement and brick of their other options, but even a balcony that’s exposed to the open air gives them way more privacy than the entire Crimson Raider’s resting place. Between the other vault hunters, old and new, it’s difficult to get a moment of peace and quiet anymore.

Maya doesn’t touch him at all except with her lips when they kiss for the first time, leaning in to meet him with her hands resolutely still curled together in her own lap. The kiss is slow and altogether more chaste than Axton expected after the way he’s noticed her looking his body up and down before. He doesn’t mind at all, he’s just surprised.

She reacts with a small jolt when he runs a hand up her arm, the one with all the tattoos, and a thought occurs to him.

“Are you worried about your powers or something? Is it a racing heart beat thing?”

Maya looks at him with pure confusion, blinking at him silently while formulating her response. “No, why would you ask that? Does it seem like I don’t have control of my powers?”

“What? No, nothing like that.” Axton feels like a bit of a jerk now, but he doesn’t regret starting the conversation one way or the other. If she’s uncomfortable, he needs to know and he’ll do whatever he can to make it better, even if that means backing off. “You just seem hesitant, or nervous?”

Blushing, Maya looks away. She looks a little frustrated, but more with herself than him, he’s relieved to see. At least he hasn’t done anything to upset her.

“Do we really have to talk about it?” Maya finally says, with apparent exasperation.

“I mean, no, if you don’t want to,” Axton replies, frowning, “but I do need to know if you’re actually into what we’re doing here.”

Maya looks up at him hurriedly, eyes a little wide. “Of course I am! It’s not that. Ugh, shit, fine. But don’t you dare laugh or I really won’t be into it anymore.”

Axton places a hand over his heart. “Scout’s honour.”

“As if you were a scout.”

“Are you stereotyping me? I could have been a scout as a strapping young lad on a good civilised planet.”

Maya laughs. “You’re full of it.”

“Maybe,” Axton allows. “I won’t laugh or tell your secrets, though.”

Her face goes flat again, no longer mirthful with laughter. As much as he hates her looking like that, Axton won’t let her deflect and distract him from something this important. “Go on,” he encourages.

With a quick sigh, she launches into it. “Remember when we were asking Zer0 a ton of questions to figure out if they’re really a robot or an alien or a human with matching missing fingers or something else? And their answer about love.”

Axton does, they’d all gotten close enough with each other now that in the down hours between missions when they were unwinding before getting some shut eye, they would all talk about themselves, talk about their lives before Pandora (or in Salvador’s case, before vault hunting) and everyone had been genuinely interested in finding out more about their combat companions. Zer0 had remained a mystery, mostly talking about past adventures that revealed little about the individual behind the helmet.

So one night they bombarded them with rapid fire questions, all of which Zer0 answered without a sweat as if they’d been expecting them and prepared to give responses that only revealed as much as they were willing to share.

“Has anyone seen you out of your uniform? A lover at least?” Axton had asked.

Zer0’s answer had come in the form of haiku, almost premeditated. Maybe they’d been asked a similar question before. “Love is not for me / a challenge is all I need / and the loot reward.”

But Axton wasn’t sure how any of that or anything else they asked might relate to Maya. “Sure, what about it?”

Maya shrugs, feigning nonchalance. “Love isn’t for me either. The romance part of love, I mean. Sex is all I’m interested in and…” her facial expression returns to one of frustration and she glares out into the street below, “every girl or guy I’ve ever been attracted to has always wanted more than that. They wanted to go on dates and tell me they loved me and take things slow because I deserved to be romanced like a lady.” By the time she’s finished she’s practically spitting the words out in anger, still looking away from Axton like she’s almost forgotten he’s still there listening.

“Now you’re the one who’s full of it,” Axton jokes, trying for a light tone to keep her at ease. “You’ve never met anyone who was fine with no strings attached?”

Maya finally looks at him again, expression softening a little. “You heard the echo recordings Jack and Angel had about me, you know where I grew up. Are you really surprised that everyone there thought they needed to court me and treat me like a fragile princess from an old fairy tale?”

When she puts it like that, Axton can see where she’s coming from. “It must’ve been shit to grow up with all those expectations.”

“Just a bit, yeah,” she agrees with a sad smile. “And it didn’t exactly provide me with many opportunities to get used to… this.” She gestures between them meaningfully.

Now Axton understands that she has little sexual experience, since all her past relationships would have meant putting up with romance she never felt or wanted before getting to the part she was actually interested in. He’d been completely wrong to assume she would have an easy time with relationships. He takes a moment to re-evaluate, wanting to approach their relationship with none of the expectations people on her home planet had for her.

“So,” Maya says, chuckling awkwardly, “have I ruined this?”

Axton scoffs, a little more dramatically than he usually would, but it has the desired effect of making Maya look more at ease. “Absolutely not. I promise to treat you right, sexually but not romantically.”

“You’re a dork,” Maya tells him, reaching out to shove his shoulder playfully. She’s grinning wider than he’s seen outside of combat. He wonders if she’s ever told anyone what she just confessed to him.

“A sexy as hell dork though, right?”

With much more confidence and enthusiasm, Maya kisses him full on the lips, wrapping her arms around him and lacing her fingers together on the nap of his neck. Her hands are pleasantly warm against his skin and hair. Axton kisses back with the same fervour, though he silently vows to keep paying close attention for the slightest change in her body language just in case she has second thoughts or becomes uncomfortable.

When they break apart, Maya shifts a little closer and Axton directs her onto his lap. “Is that answer enough for you?” she replies.

“Yeah, that’ll do,” he says, smirking as he leans in to kiss her again.

 

The first thing they do when they get back to Sanctuary after it all ends, is take a group picture. They digistruct themselves some Handsome Jack masks now that they have the customization code, and celebrate their victory over the corporate overlord by donning the masks and snapping a picture of them in front of the Crimson Raiders Headquarters. Zer0 picks Salvador up into a bridal carry and Gaige climbs up on Krieg’s shoulders, making them so tall she has to lean down to stay in the picture frame. Maya drapes an arm around Axton’s shoulders and when the flash goes off, they’re all laughing.

After that they take some time to inspect some of the new loot they got from the vault. Even if there had only been one legendary between the group of them, they all came away with something cool and high-powered.

The older vault hunters are on the balcony, discussing their next steps. Gaige listens in, feeling for them when Lilith brings up Roland. She can’t imagine how much it would hurt if one of her own companions were killed and they still haven’t known each other nearly as long as Lilith and the others. She thinks maybe they should give the three of them some time to themselves, now that Lilith is back and they don’t have to worry about the Warrior anymore.

“Hey,” Gaige says to the group at large. “What’s the point of having all these cool weapons if we don’t go test them out? Who’s up for a bit of needless violence?”

As expected, not a single one of them disagrees. They decide on Lynchwood, a place with a seemingly endless number of bandits and the sheriff’s henchmen to take out. A smile on her face, Gaige takes out her new electric submachine gun, and activates the fast travel station.

“We’re like a big murderous family,” she says happily as they head into the Lynchwood train station with guns blazing.

Next to her, Maya laughs while phaselocking a Bruiser and causing an elemental explosion. “Best kind of family there is.”