Maya wouldn't have considered herself the maternal type, but after she'd seen how Tina was living, she made a point to stop by. She'd bring food or clothes or other basics, and of course she'd make sure to throw something explosive in so they could both pretend the rest of the stuff was incidental. So Tina wouldn't have to address that she was a little girl living in a cave, surrounded by high yield explosives. She was a strong little girl, and she was a survivor, but she was very, very broken. Pandora had a lot of those types, but seeing it so young squeezed at Maya's heart in a way it wasn't designed to be squeezed.
She didn't think she was the only one who made little stops at Tina's, but there was one person she never expected to see: Krieg. Krieg had his own problems. A lot of his own problems. Maya had been the first one to meet him of their group, and she still didn't entirely know what was going on there. On one hand, he was a psycho. He was unstable and violent and the things that came out of his mouth generally made no sense. They ranged from borderline comedic to complete gibberish.
But sometimes, he had a moments of stillness. She would see clarity in his eye, and he would stop twitching and fidgeting, and she could swear he was lucid in those moments. Maya could actually see the wheels turning. They were gunked up with blood and some of the gears were missing, but they could still turn sometimes. She knew the others noticed it, otherwise they wouldn't have let him hang around. Axton in particular still grumbled about it, not trusting him as far as he could throw him (and he was a very large man – Axton wouldn't be able to throw him very far), but he'd seen it to. How sometimes, at the exact right moment, Krieg would pull back and not bury his buzz axe into a teammates skull. It was like watching a skrag walk into an electrified fence.
And then there was this. Tina was having a tea party, and Krieg was a guest. She had placed a top hat on him, and he was pretending to sip tea from a chipped plastic tea cup. It was so tiny in his hand, he could only grasp the delicate handle with a thumb and index finger. But he was playing along, sitting there while Tina rambled on and did the voices for the other attendees. He wasn't talking, and Maya supposed Tina knew that talking wasn't Krieg's strong suit, but he wasn't screaming incomprehensible things, either. Sometimes he would stiffen and twitch a little, but he was forcing it down. Caging the beast so he could be a good tea party guest.
Maya didn't even know where to begin reacting to it, so she just set down the crate of groceries she'd brought and gawked.
"How is your tea, Sir Kriegington?" Tina asked in a put-on voice. She was so small next to Krieg, even when he was sitting. And Maya was very impressed the folding chair he was using hadn't given out yet, "More?"
Krieg nodded stiffly and held out his empty teacup, which Tina pretended to pour more tea into.
"Splendid," Tina chirped, pretending to fill her own teacup, "I say Sir Kriegington you look quite dapper in that hat!"
Krieg nodded again, and though she had never known Tina to have any sort of patience, she seemed to understand that she couldn't invest too much expectation into Krieg's conversation skills. Were they both just so broken in a very specific way, they had an innate understanding of each other? Krieg couldn't even sit still at Moxxi's, though now that she thought about it, Moxxi's was loud and boisterous, bursting with stimulus to overwhelm the senses. Here it was silent except for Tina's voice.
Krieg and Tina were both looking her way and Krieg started to reach down to the floor – probably where his buzz axe was sitting. Maya quickly grabbed the crate and stepped into view.
"Just me," Maya said, "I hope I'm not interrupting."
Krieg's eye widened slightly and he flicked what she swore was a nervous, guilty look at Tina. He didn't remove his hat or put down his teacup, but he didn't move either.
"Yo holmes, stand up when a lady enters the room!" Tina kicked his shin and Krieg stood abruptly, knocking his chair over and bumping the card table. Maya had no idea where Tina had even learned manners, but she had to force herself not to smile at the display, "Whattup girl? Why you creepin'?"
"Just brought some supplies," Maya said. It was mostly protein and some new clothes, but she'd laid some sticks of dynamite and a new pair of goggles over the top of it.
"Suhweeeet," Tina said, "Just put it over there. Thanks honeychild."
Maya walked past the tea party and set the crate in the garage Tina slept in. She grabbed the empty crate she'd brought last time, and she liked to think Tina actually made use of the deliveries. Maybe she just threw everything away when Maya wasn't there, but she didn't think Tina was that far gone. She appreciated the attention, even if she didn't know how to say thank you.
She turned and started a little – Tina was right there, holding up a battered fancy ladie's hat.
"Yo," Tina said, "Tea party it up."
Maya grimaced, pretty sure the last thing she wanted to do was have a tea party with a crazy little girl, and she was a little worried her presence was agitating Krieg, which was a surefire way to ruin any otherwise civil occasion. But did she want to see the brief flash of hurt in Tina's pale blue eyes when she said no? She'd brush it off like it was no big deal, but Tina wasn't an adult. Maya wondered if she'd ever be an adult, sometimes.
She took the hat and put it on her head, and followed Tina to the teaparty. Krieg was still standing there awkwardly, staring at her. With his ridiculous top hat that didn't even fit.
"Sir Kriegington," Tina put on her fancy voice and took her place at the table, "Please pull out a chair for Lady Maya."
Maya opened her mouth to protest – no way was he going to do that – but he moved to Maya's side of the table and pulled the chair out, the metal scraping on the concrete.
"Thanks, um," Maya tried to offer Krieg a sympathetic look, "Sir Kriegington."
He wouldn't even make eye contact and hastily took his own seat, the metal chair groaning unhappily when his weight returned. Maya had been in uncomfortable situations before, but this was probably in her top five.
"Fine weather we're having, isn't it Lady Maya?" Tina said, pretending to pour Maya tea. Her snooty put-on voice had excellent diction. It made Maya wonder what her family had been like before they'd been murdered. While Maya didn't think Tina's behaviour was an act, exactly, she did think that whoever she had been before the trauma was still in there.
"Uh yeah, very fine," Maya said, "Chilly, though."
Tina poured Krieg more imaginary tea and he pretended to sip it, his eye fixed on the table, his posture rigid. Maya knew that he had some kind of super weird crush on her, but as much as she might sympathize with what he was going through, she wasn't that nurturing. He was too broken to even try and fix.
"Sir Kriegington would beg to differ!" Tina said after a pause, tilting her head like she'd been listening. At least she wasn't doing his voice like she did for her inanimate tea party guests, "He doesn't even need a shirt. Perhaps you just need to eat a sammich, Lady Maya. Get some meat on them bones."
Her posh voice faltered, but she kept her prim mannerisms, sipping her tea with a pinky up. Krieg mimicked her, and if he was bothered that Tina was speaking for him, he wasn't showing it. He wasn't showing much of anything. His head twitched a little, the muscles in his neck straining for a moment, but he managed to clamp down on whatever had tried to crawl out.
"I have a really high metabolism," Maya said, "Part of being a Siren, I guess."
"I guess you gotta find other ways to keep warm," Tina waggled her eyebrows suggestively, and Krieg made a weird, strangled noise.
"Tina," Maya said, "That's not funny, okay?"
Tina's face scrunched up, but whatever retort she had been formulating, she let it die on her tongue when she glanced at Krieg. Maya didn't know how the two of them even agreed to meet for a tea party – Krieg never answered his ECHO device, and she wasn't even sure he knew how to – but clearly Tina thought she was helping, somehow. She was a smart little girl, so she'd probably noticed how he acted around Maya, but adorable tea party antics weren't going to form a magical bond between them.
"Lord Kriegington, what's that?" Tina said, raising her voice in an effort to plow through the awkward tension, "Oh yes, I agree! We should show Lady Maya our latest project."
She stood again and grabbed one of Krieg's fingers (it wasn't like she could grab his whole hand), and Maya felt her heart skip a beat. Krieg didn't like being touched. She had watched him grab a man by the throat and slam him into a wall for tapping him on the shoulder. It had taken all of them to pull him off, and the poor bastard didn't have any front teeth left when they finally managed to pry Krieg away. Luckily Moxxi wasn't bothered by that kind of behaviour in her place, but still. It had been such an explosively violent reaction, Maya wasn't expecting anything good to come of it.
He let her drag him to his feet, stooped over so she could keep an easy hold of him. Krieg removed his fancy hat, setting it on the card table before letting Tina lead him up and out of her cave. Maya removed her own hat, relieved she was not longer at a tea party, and followed. She really couldn't tell if this was sweet or just really fucked up. Was Tina getting something out of this? Was this some kind of wish fulfilment for her, having someone patiently indulge her? And what about Krieg – did this remind him of something he'd had? Is that why it made him so restrained? She wished she could just think it was cute, but neither Tina nor Krieg was, strictly speaking, cute.
Tina brought them to an overlook and released Krieg's finger, tugging on his pant leg. He picked her up under her arms and settled her on his shoulders, like it was something they did all the time. Maybe they did. Maya only came by a couple times a month – she had her own shit to do, like finding new vaults and then breaking into them.
"Check it," Tina said, pulling a remote from her pocket, "See alla dat bandit business over there? All up in my grizz-ill?"
Maya squinted and nodded. There was definitely a new settlement in view, smoke rising from many different fires. Tina grinned and Maya couldn't help but smirk, leaning on the rickety railing. She knew where this was going. Tina pressed the button, and a moment later, a series of explosions blossomed in front of them. Tina's eyes shone, half lidded, as she took in the destruction. Krieg was still, and Maya could see those wheels labouring to turn. What was he thinking about? Was it sane? Or was he just wondering how long it was before he could go on his next murderous rampage?
"Kaboom," Tina said cheerfully, resting one arm on top of Krieg's head. Her little fingers played with the leather straps that held his mask on, her legs kicking a little. She was happy. Happy that she'd blown up a bunch of people, but still. That counted. Maya certainly couldn't deny the sense of satisfaction that came from mowing down a ton of dudes with minimal effort.
"Thanks for the tea and the show," Maya said, "I should probably get going, though."
She felt like she was intruding.
"No probs," Tina said, "Catchya laterz Maya-gatorz."
Maya left before things could get too much weirder, pretty sure she needed a drink or five to process what she'd just witnessed.
When she was gone, Tina leaned over so she could look into Krieg's eye, "You got no game, son. Dayum. Dudes playin' tea party oughta have ovaries explodin' all over tha place. Nothin'."
Krieg's eye dropped down and he scuffed his boots on the ground.
"Whateva, yo," Tina said, exhaling a defeated sigh, "Ain't no thang. Set me down."
Krieg obediently grabbed Tina and set her back on her feet, and before he could straighten up she grabbed his mask with both hands, keeping him from standing up. Well, he could, the mask was on there pretty good, but he understood what she was asking.
He nodded at her and Tina smiled back, releasing him. He stayed crouched down, though, and she hugged his thick neck. Krieg didn't hug her back, but the fact that he didn't say something super weird and funny was hug enough.
"Get outta here," Tina said, "I gots tah see what loot Maya brought. You comin' back again next week?"
Krieg straightened and nodded at her.
"Coo," Tina said, "Buncha bandits moved into that old Hyperion train depot by-the-by. Saved 'em for yah."
She saw that unfocused glaze in his eye before he turned and stalked out, already muttering to himself in the deranged gibberish he usually spewed. He wasn't her dad or an older brother, he wasn't even vaguely related to her, but she still felt like he understood. Tina didn't know how, and she didn't ask him, but she could just feel it. Not even Roland would sit through a whole teaparty with her, not without gentle lectures or looking worried. Krieg just liked her being a kid, and she liked him being a patient, indulgent adult.
Their broken pieces fit together. Like two missing puzzle pieces, each from a different puzzle. Maybe they'd never be part of a whole again, but there was solace in finding a fit. However pointless it was in the long run.