“The Mechromancer and the Hound, Part 1”

Hell slipped his finger into the dismantled barrel, twisting it to feel the inside. Grit scratched his skin, and he frowned, wiping his finger on the oil rag. He picked up the ribbed borer brush and eased that into the barrel, stroking it three times up and down with measured precision before easing it into a quicker rhythm, almost slippery in its smoothness. He tried his finger again, more out of delight than any curiosity, and smiled.

Slick as lube, and just as sexy.

His focus was so involved in the revolver on the table, he failed to notice another set of hands before they’d made their way fully around his waist.

Bristly stubble scratched the base of his neck, and Axton mumbled there, “You smell good.”

“I’ve had a shower,” Hell said, keeping his head bent.

Axton’s rough growth of beard – from his cheek, this time – scratched again, and he rumbled a contrary hum.

“It’s that work smell,” he corrected, and drew a noisy breath. “That blue. It’s hot.” His arms bulged tight, and he rubbed his groin against the seat of Hell’s trousers. “What do you say, darlin’? You want to get nasty with me? I just fed the kids; they won’t bother us.”

“We made love two days ago,” Hell reminded, but Axton corrected him again, with another rub and hum.

“Three days. I shaved, remember? You said it felt nice.”

Hell did, and it had: just the memory of the whisper of Axton’s smooth cheek against the inside of his thigh brought a lazy smile to his lips, as he recalled the rest of that evening of pent-up passions released. They’d long had the rule of no fucking on the job – besides being highly unprofessional, it could lead to dangerous distraction – but ever since Axton had returned full-time to freelancing, he’d taken to shaving only at the start and completion of an assignment. He was fond of saying that when he couldn’t catch a job or a skip before his beard came in, it was time to hang up his holster and become a beer-guzzling, beach-bound layabout.

Hell figured they’d probably both be boots-up before that happened. But they needed a job, soon. Too much downtime made them restless…and horny. As if to give extra credence to that fact, Axton gripped Hell’s hips with both hands and gave another bump to his bum.

“And, I wasn’t talkin’ about ‘making love’.” The clench of his fingers turned groping, and he hissed a suck of air through his teeth. “I was talkin’ about bending you over this table and giving you a good, old-fashioned, bucking-bronco fuck.”

Hell sniggered. “I’d like to see you tr-”

His chest hit the table, scattering tools and gun parts. Axton held him down with an elbow on his shoulder, and leant over him in a full-body press.

“You like that?”

“Why would I like that?” Hell said, half into the table.

“Because you’re a masochist.”

Hell protested with a scoff. “I’m not a masochist!” he said, when Axton’s other hand slapped him firmly against the very top of his thigh. He let out an involuntary squeak, and a spike of pleasure rushed through him. “Maybe just a tad.”

“Yeah,” Axton drawled close to his ear. His spanking hand circled around to Hell’s front, finding his popped interest and rubbing it with intent. “I know you.”

Axton’s own interest moved hard against him, and he nipped at the back of Hell’s neck like the hounds did in the yard. Another sharp flash of arousal hardened both Hell’s nipples and his cock, and he groaned under his breath.

Axton dropped his voice to a husky basso. “You want what I got?” he asked, though Hell heard him already pulling at his belt; the metal buckle clinked, and the leather whispered loose.

“You want me like this?” Hell said.

“I’m thinkin’ yeah.” Axton changed his toothy nipping to a kiss, but only for one. “You need some prep, first, though,” he said, and reached around again.

The edges of his teeth returned to Hell’s neck as he opened his trousers with dexterous familiarity. Though, his hand didn’t pause over the flesh of Hell’s buttock the way it often did in an admiring grasp or knead. Instead, it shoved his pants down almost to his knees. There was no grip at all for a heartbeat, then the cool stroke of Axton’s wet hand along the cleft of his arse to his opening.

Axton’s finger slipped into him with the same easy deftness Hell’s own had done with that revolver barrel; it twisted with the same testing curiosity, too. His nerves sparked, and Hell rumbled a phlegmy moan. Axton drew his hand away, leaving the sensitive nerve endings wanting and wet. Hell knew what was coming, but the sudden, firm force of Axton’s cock still surprised, and he coughed a yelp. Axton answered with a clutch, a groan, and a swing of his hips, and their rough play became a grunting, spitting fucking.

Delicate sweet nothings were for tenderer exchanges than this. Despite that, and the rocking table and rattling tools around him, the word love still hovered at the edge of Hell’s every sputtering wheeze. And, while their wild rhythm didn’t last long, they did push each other into the bright white together, afterward slumping into a gasping, sweating heap that chilled and warmed in the same moment.

“Oh,” Axton said, sliding free with a blow of air against Hell’s neck. “That was good.”

Hell pushed against the table, his arms shuddering, and turned halfway around. “Darling,” was all he got out before Axton clamped their mouths together, holding Hell close with a hand hooked behind his head. His fingers were still in clawing mode, but they relaxed in Hell’s hair. His kiss did, too, leaving them still breathing hard as they calmed into affectionate nuzzling.

A muffled buzzing made its way up from around their boots. Axton glanced down while Hell groaned.

“Don’t answer that.”

“Could be a job,” Axton said.

“Then they’ll try again.” Hell cupped Axton’s bristly cheek. “Later.” He craned his head for his partner’s lips, but Axton shifted away.

“I just wanna see who it is,” he said, and bent for both his pants and his ECHO. He rose again with his trousers in one hand and the receiver in the other, popping his chevroned brow as he looked at the readout.

“It’s Gaige,” he said, and Hell slumped and groaned again.

“What the fuck does she want?”

“Only one way to find out.” Axton tucked the dangling earpiece into place and thumbed the receiver, even as Hell pulled a silent face of warning. Axton made a show of a delay before speaking at the ECHO: “Hey, sweet-cheeks!”

Hell rolled his eyes.

Axton frowned at him. “Nah, I’m not doin’ anything.”

Hell flipped him his middle finger, and Axton snickered before frowning again, this time with concern.

“Whoa, whoa!” he said into the ECHO. “Slow down and tell me what happened….”

Hell left him to listen, yanking his trousers and shorts off over his boots in a messy stumble. He clomped out of the workshop and into the yard, ignoring the flop of his dangly bits as well as the slow leak of Axton’s lust down the inside of his leg.

The hounds broke across his path once, Sif hopping on her hind legs in front of him before Loki crashed into her in a tackle. They tussled into a cavorting tumbleweed of teeth and fur, growling and yapping at each other. Luna trotted after him for a half-dozen long strides, but Hell waved her off, so she returned to watching the younger pups play.

He yanked off his shirt and boots, tossed everything into a corner, and stepped under a hot shower. The steam and patter eased his irritation a bit, and cleared his head enough to wonder what had prompted Gaige to call Axton in the first place. She seemed more than happy with Aubrey Callahan these days – he’d seen them, himself, all gushy and giggly over each other in a corner booth at Moxxxi’s Bar no more than three days ago, when he and Axton had delivered Two-Fist to jail. So, it probably wasn’t a booty call….

He stepped out from the shower and met Axton’s gaze in the mirror. His partner was just finishing up a close, cleaning shave.

“You’re going,” Hell said, leaving his arms to hang at his sides.

Axton stroked his hand down his own cheek, leaving a trail of water over his skin. “She hasn’t been able to raise Callahan since yesterday. I offered to track her down.”

“So, it’s a job?”

“It’s a favor.” Axton wiped a short towel over his face and turned, with a look of hopeful opportunity. “You wanna come?”

“Work with Gaige?” Hell snorted, shook his head, and reached for a long towel. “Pass.”

Axton shrugged. “Fair enough. This shouldn’t take long.”

Hell ran the towel over his hair once before tying it around his waist, pausing to watch Axton examine his teeth and nose hairs.

“I’m almost done cleaning your revolver,” he said, half as apology for his snippiness and half to be genuinely helpful. “You want me to put it back together quick?”

“Nah.” Axton sniffed, fixed the hug of his trousers, and flashed a smirk. “I got Belle. And, I’ll take the Striker, just in case. Shouldn’t need it, though,” he assured. “The girls probably just had a spat, and Callahan’s smokin’ it off somewhere outta range.”

Hell raised one eyebrow. “Is that from your experience with her?”

“I just know women.” He patted Hell’s towel as he passed him to the door. “Gotta go. Be good, darlin’.”

“Will you be back for supper?”

“As soon as I rescue the damsel.”

Hell followed him to the door, where he stopped for a lean. “Do I need to remind you to keep your pants on when you find her?”

“You know I don’t make promises I can’t keep,” Axton called back, sauntering away with that fine swagger that accentuated the shape of his arse.

Hell smiled to himself as he turned for a new set of clothes to get back to work.

The day passed without incident…but also without contact. By the time supper was ready, Hell’s bitter annoyance at being kept waiting had reached a point where he was ready to kick rather than kiss Axton when he finally came in the door.

The hounds had settled in the yard around him after gobbling down their own suppers and half of Axton’s, because Hell was feeling vindictive. Now, Loki slurped at his privates and Sif picked at her toes. Luna watched everything with her chin on her paws, including Hell swigging the last of his second beer and tossing the bottle into the dwindling spit-fire. The glass shattered against the cairn, and the flames flickered then leapt up again in an explosive burst.

Sif and Loki jumped, and Luna whined. Hell just glowered into the flames.

His ECHO buzzed, and he got up with a snarling scoff, tearing the receiver brick from his pocket. “About fucking time.” Axton was probably boozing it up with those teenybopper tarts, sipping shots from their bikini tops – or worse – all while Hell sat here waiting on his sorry arse like some helpless hausfrau.

He clawed the comm open on the ECHO and barked, “This had better be good!”

A harsh squawk of a voice blurted, “We got your partner, merc. You bring us the robot or you’ll never see him again!”

Hell frowned at the machine. “What-? Who the fuck is this? What are you doing with Axton’s ECHO?”

“Uh….” The voice on the other end stuttered a moment. “We got- We got your partner-”

“I’ve already heard that bit. Now, you answer mine. What are you doing with Axton’s ECHO?”

“Uh, we want… We want the robot!”

Robot? What was this idiot talking about?

“Put Axton on,” Hell demanded.

The voice went muffled, but Hell could hear him talking. “What should I do? He wants me to put the other guy on?”

“Gimme that,” another voice said through the haze. A second later, it came through the ECHO bridge, a raspy, scratchy man’s voice that sounded like it was swimming through smoke. “Listen, merc-”

“No, you listen. My name isn’t Merc. It’s Hell. Axton is my partner, and I want to talk to him. Now.”

The second voice faltered – like most dimwits did when faced with assertive authority – before mumbling to someone else, “Make it quick.”

“Hey, darlin’.” Axton’s dry drawl sounded relaxed, almost weary, but Hell knew better.

“What fucking calamity have you gotten yourself into, this time?”

“You make it sound like a shit-show. I found Callahan!”

“And someone else, obviously!”

“Yeah, well, a couple Sawteeth have a hard-on for Gaige’s ’bot. They thought if they snatched Callahan-”

“And you.”

“It was a lucky shot,” Axton said before continuing. “-they could ransom her for DeathTrap.”

Hell pressed a hand to his head; that wasn’t going to work. He knew very little about the tech of Gaige’s robot, but he did know its sequencer was attuned specifically to her cybernetic arm. One couldn’t simply separate the two of them. Not without severing that arm, at any rate.

“So,” Axton went on, “they want-”

“We want the robot!” the second Sawtooth shouted. “Bring us the robot or goggles and pretty boy both get it!”

The ECHO connection clicked off, leaving Hell staring at its blank face.

He couldn’t leave Axton and Aubrey Callahan in that mess. But he couldn’t go guns blazing into a hostage situation, either. He’d have to bring DeathTrap as a show of good faith, even if there was no intention of handing the robot over to the Sawteeth. And bringing DeathTrap meant bringing Gaige.

Hell hung his head. “Fuck.”

Author’s Note: An adventure story begun on a whim. Let me know if you’d like to see more?

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