Why do I do these things? It seems, looking back at my writings, that I have a knack for setting scenes and stories around the most unusual pairings. Romantic or otherwise – I wonder if I have a mental block that makes me cheer for the underdog. And it's worse if it's never been done before! So, when I see someone on Tumblr posting that they "unashamedly ship Axton x Gaige", I begin to think how is that possible? Then that vivid imagination kicks in, a possibility arises, and an idea develops. This was written this afternoon – possibly the first chapter in an ongoing story. Another thing I shy away from. The point? A series of scenes, events and conversations centred around the commando and the mechromancer. Not sure just where it will end between them, but as always, there's that golden rule: don't like it? Don't read it. Oh, but feel free to read the following: I don't make any money off this story.
Chapter 1 – Crawl before you walk
Mornings in Liar's Berg, the Vault Hunters had decided, was much the same as any other part of the day. Cold, wet, miserable and mind-numbingly boring. After two days of getting their bearings, rebuilding their supplies of equipment and hunting a midget riding a bullymong, the team were preparing themselves to kick Captain Flynt from his fiery throne. Before that, however, there was the little matter of their unique skills.
Although Maya and Salvador had been able to shake off the initial explosion of the train car days before, Zer0 had only just managed to get his stealth suit back in working order, albeit far less effective that it had once been. However, both Gaige and Axton were still at a disadvantage. In the late evening before, the mechromancer had opened her prosthetic arm to find that Deathtrap's digistruct battery looked like a lump of melted coal.
It took both Maya and Zer0 to remind her that she was lucky to be alive at all: hiding from authorities in the luggage compartment of the monorail had saved her from the initial explosion, but the carriages crashing against each other were enough to knock her out. It was luck, she mused, that Salvador had noticed her upside down in the snow, calling her striped socks "fleshy candy canes!" So Gaige was brought in from the cold, and the team had simply gone from there. But she couldn't stop herself from pouting when Maya would grip bandits in her force field, or watch Zer0 appear in two spots at once. Having Deathtrap incapacitated sucked.
And then there was Axton, who had carried on with a scavenged assault rifle and occasionally curse his lack of "the Missus." He hadn't gone into much detail about it – he would simply pull out a damaged digistruct storage deck and frown at it. It was Maya who filled the younger woman in on the train ride, and how the commando had pulled an automatic turret out of no-where. Dahl turrets, from what Gaige could remember, were damned awesome like that.
"Hey kid, you say you're an engineer?" he had asked later, and Gaige puffed her cheeks in frustration.
"I'm a woman of science and ass-kickery, not some kid." For good point, she'd punctuate this with pointing a steel claw up towards his face, and the commando would grin and shake his head.
"Of course you are." He would concede, before finally handing over the damaged plate. "And what ass-kicking science can you work on this?" Gaige inspected the plate like one would a crude drawing. It was sophisticated and large, for a digistruct device, but it was still broken.
"Need's a new battery." She supplied, before handing it back. After all, she'd designed and built devices similar from scratch. And it didn't cost her an arm and a leg – just an arm.
Later in the day, Axton had returned from the old lookout with a crate of old shield devices, and a smirk on his face. "Vendor broke – it was a good time to go shopping." He said, dropping the box into the snow and fishing out a salvaged battery from his pocket. Nobody said anything because really, for cheap, old shields, it was a stupid place for a vending machine.
Since then, Axton had torn off half a dozen blocks from the crumbling stone wall, stacking them into three neat pairs. The jury-rigged plate was now humming with life, the base of his precious Dahl turret was currently resting on the make-shift hoist, and the entire upper half was upside down in the snow beside it. Axton's legs were stretched out underneath the stand, and an inconsistent tinkering noise and muttered curses completed the scene. Naturally, Gaige was intrigued.
All in all, the turret was a mess. The barrel was bent, the ammo belt was torn and from the look of the melted edges there would be a lot of internals to be replaced. The only thing that had managed to survive was the magnetic coupling, and the lack of power still kept the gun in two halves.
"That's one of the saddest damned sight I've ever seen." Gaige muttered, affectionately patting the coupler with her metal hand. From underneath the tripod, Axton grunted.
"Try seeing it from the inside. Darling's tough, but Jack's little stunt abused her." A broken bolt was flicked out from underneath, narrowly missing a beat boxing Claptrap. Gaige scratched her cheek idly, trying not to say what she was thinking. 'This got more than just abused.' "Think you'll be able to fix it?" she asked instead, and Axton laughed.
"Sure, if push comes to shove. But it'll mean rebuilding her. Of course..." The commando began to ease himself out from underneath. "That's the fun part."
Gaige cocked her head, remembering the echo-net pages for parts and builds capable with Dahl turrets. Multiple chain guns, rocket pods, longbow technology: an assortment of installations and technology could turn a vanilla turret into a nuclear powered death machine. The younger woman almost felt turned on.
"Now you have to tell me more." She demanded.
"Well, the sexiest part of these babies is their versatility." He said, sitting up in the snow and wiping his hands on his legs. "I mean, we were... encouraged to build them up a certain way, y'know? A mix Dahl's survival parts and you can have a shield for protection. Throw in a few guerrilla specs and you'll have a turret so cheap, you can deploy a pair of them." Axton waved his hand in front of his face dismissively. "A battalion could have a whole perimeter set up with a few of those. So the higher up's liked it when we requested those parts – for the good of the outfit, and all that mess."
Gaige hummed and nodded, trying to picture a group of similar commando's using dozens of vanilla turrets for cover. She didn't notice as Maya had walked over between them and rapped her knuckle on the upside-down upper half.
"It sounds like a good idea." She commented, and flicked a cool gaze at the commando. "I remember you tossing this up on the ceiling back on the train. It's a pretty clever defence. Very..." The siren paused for a moment, looking thoughtful. "Versatile, didn't you say?" Axton stood up and began prying at the torn ammo belt in the tripod.
"Well, yeah, it's handy. But it's not what I meant. I can see the appeal and all..." he said, yanking the melted belt free of the drum. "But why have a shield when you can have a pair of rocket pods? Or a guided laser sight?" He grinned and tapped the bent barrel with his boot, and Gaige almost felt dizzy at how appealing the broken turret suddenly looked.
"That's... effing awesome." She finally said, which only made the commando grin wider and wink. "Hell yeah it is."
Maya rolled her eyes and began to stage whisper to Gaige. "Don't encourage him. I heard he was dishonourably discharged for not sticking to safe plans." The commando held his hands up in defence and began claiming that "it was still awesome. And don't go telling the kid that," he gestured towards the mechromancer, who again felt her cheeks puff up in anger. "I could use a science-kicking assery-engineer to help me out here."
Gaige huffed and tried not to stamp the ground, claiming again that she wasn't a kid. But by now Axton wasn't listening, having pried off the main cover and frowned, looking away and grumbling another swear. So Gaige hopped up beside him and peered inside: the mess of burnt, melted and fused wires proved that the entire turret was irreparable. It was enough to make her moan and swear herself, and she realised too late that the commando could hear her. His eyebrows shot upwards, and she looked away.
"Yeah, I can't fix that." She said lamely. He sighed heavily in the snow.
"Nothing for it then." He mumbled, and began stripping apart the broken turret. "Maya, could you gimme a hand with this?" He hefted the upside down gun onto its side, and the siren began to lift it with a phaselock.
"You're not making me take this to the graveyard, are you Axton?" she asked playfully, and for a moment he looked horrified that it had even been suggested.
"Hell no!" and he jerked his head towards a rickety bridge. "Clappie says there's a quick-change station over there. I can upload a request to Dahl to have the whole thing reset. Just means having to rebuild her again over time."
Gaige turned away from the pair, crossing her arms under her chest and walking back towards the bounty board. Soon enough, she mused, she would be the only one without a special skill available. Sure, she had already proved to be able to pepper a bullymong with fire or shoot a raving bandit, but she was beginning to feel more and more out of place. She had little to offer as a Vault Hunter, and her familiar robot from Eden-5 was out of reach. Alone, wanted and on the run, without a familiar face from before.
"Eff my life." She grumbled.
"Aw, cheer up, kid." Gaige looked up to see a collection of parts in a large hand. A spare, blackened digistruct battery and the magnetic couplings from the broken turret. Axton winked. "Might help you get that robot buddy of yours back in the fight." Gaige was quiet for a long moment, before reaching out and accepting the pieces.
"You won't be calling me kid when Deathtrap takes to the battlefield you know." She challenged, beginning to feel the familiar rise inside her – the promise of engineering and building, and Deathtrap sweeping behind her. Axton hooked his thumbs in his pockets and chuckled.
"I'll hold you to that." He said simply, and wandered off. A clean, unmodified, vanilla Dahl deck hanging from his belt. Gaige looked down at parts donated from the dead turret before popping open her metal bicep.
"Let's get to work."