Chapter One: An Unfamiliar Sky
AN: I don't own either Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Borderlands. Technically, I don't even own the keyboard I'm typing this on. They all belong to people with a much a higher income than me- since student loans suck.
Borderlands 2/BtVS Yahf. Buffy Season 2 is happening in 2012, instead of 1997, to make the game's release date match up conveniently.
Willow smiled fondly at her friends as they perused Ethan's, idly flipping through a rack of costumes that she would never wear. The constant clatter from metal hangers on spinning ball bearings rolling around covered her unease. This Halloween, she'd promised herself that she'd make Xander notice her, come heck or high water. She'd even made her resolve face in the mirror when she said it out loud in her empty house.
Buffy had guided them here, to Ethan's rather run-down little storefront, on a recommendation from her mother. Willow had tagged along, even though she already had a plain, white sheet picked out for her costume. It was fun, she admitted to herself, watching Buffy spin slowly in the mirrors and especially watching Xander… ogle costumes that he couldn't afford, from the way he kept counting the money in his ratty wallet every so often and frowning.
It could have been pity that ran down her spine, and ached like a cold hand. It was obvious, to Willow anyway, that Xander really wanted to go as something bad ass, but was getting chained by his price point- somewhere in the range of pocket lint and gum wrappers.
"Can I help you find anything, my dear?" a jovial British voice startled her. Willow jumped away, a reflex drilled into her simply by being around a Slayer, and nearly knocked over a rack of pirate costumes.
"Ah, no. I-" Out of the corner of her ear, she heard Xander say something about going out as a soldier. Something in her mighty brain went 'click!' and if she could have conjured an exclamation point over her head, she would have. "Wait. Do you carry any wigs? And goggles? And body paint? Oh! And earpieces?"
That night, when Buffy opened the door, she was greeted by Willow, dragging two bulging duffles and carrying a Resolve Face fit to stop a god in its tracks.
"Willow? Uh, what's up?" She said, icy dread sneaking in through the soles of her feet. "Why do you have two duffle bags?"
"I've got a plan," the red head replied, with grim and implacable purpose. Four words had never terrified Buffy so much or on such a visceral level. With great trepidation and floridly described emotion, she allowed her friend into her house. "Do you need help with those?"
"Oh yes!" Willow's eyes lit up with adorable, unholy glee. "I certainly do! Here, take this one."
Warily, Buffy led the way to her room. The tense climb up the carpet-covered stairs seemed to stretch out into eternity. Her duffle wasn't all that heavy, she noted, but it was full of things that clacked and rattled like plastic. This did nothing to ease her worries. Once the pair was inside Buffy's room, she quickly closed the door, and gave her friend a look.
"So, what's this plan you've got?" she asked.
"We're going as a themed group!" Willow burst out, as she rummaged around in her duffle bag. "Here's your costume: Lilith, the Firehawk! Isn't it awesome?"
Willow triumphantly held out a hangar in one hand, with tight, brown faux leather pants, a small vest, and a tank top that would leave Buffy's stomach exposed. In her other, she had a pair of combat boots.
"Uh, I'm going as a noble lady. I even bought the costume myself. With my own money," Buffy emphasized the last sentence, eyes narrowing at her friend. "Don't you think you should have at least run this by me before I spent so much on my costume?"
She sighed, and set the costume on Buffy's bed, still holding the boots.
"Look, Buffy- listen to me for sec. I know we don't talk about it much, but Jesse, Xander, and I were going to PAX, dressed as characters from the Borderlands games this year. Yeah, obviously we didn't do it- it would have been a little too weird without Jesse… but it would mean a lot to Xander and I if you joined in with us, like we joined in with you," Willow said, her eyes growing impossibly wide and shimmering with fervent emotion. Buffy shot Willow a look.
"You rehearsed that, didn't you?"
"Uh, yeah. A little," she smiled a small, sheepish grin. "In the bathroom mirror. Did it work?"
"I dunno…" Buffy bit her lip and looked away.
"Also, do you actually know that Angel likes the princess type? He seems kinda into you just for who you are. Maybe he likes the aggressive, badass type?" Willow added, without really thinking it through. Unable to contain herself any more, Buffy started cracking up, leaning against the wall to keep her balance. Each guffaw grew louder as her socially awkward friend realized what had come out of her mouth and blushed an ever deeper shade of red.
"Okay, okay, I'll do it. I'll wear the stupid costume," the slayer wheezed. " I can't take any more dating advice, blackmail, or puppy dog eyes from you. I'll get tooth decay."
"Thanks! Now let me get the body paint…"
When Commando Xander walked into the Summers' residence, he was expecting a princess and a ghost. Buffy dreamed of being cherished for her femininity, and Willow had always been most comfortable when she could go invisible. This did not take a genius to figure out.
He wasn't expecting to get hit with a nerf dart in the forehead.
"Wuhuh?" He said, eloquence bursting forth from his well of inspiration.
"Buffy! Do the thingy!" Willow said. Xander couldn't actually see her, but he was starting to get a niggling sense of... awesome.
"Do I have to?" Buffy whined.
"But you do it so epically! Do it!"
Buffy's sigh gusted audibly through the house. She jumped off the top of the stairs, landing inches in front of Xander, as though she was punching the ground with great force.
"Sup," Buffy said, standing up and bobbing her head at Xander. If he hadn't been quite so shocked, he would have noted what the whole motion had done for her anatomy.
"Buffy! Are you alright?" Her mother shouted from the kitchen. "I thought I heard something fall."
"I'm fine, mom. Just stumbled a bit," She called back.
Xander started cracking up. Tears were running down his face, he was having trouble standing, and his only recourse to lean against the doorway so he didn't fall flat on his ass. Buffy hurriedly stood up, and a mortified expression crossing her face- not quite the response she expected from her friend. Willow peeked out of the upstairs hallway,
"Not -quite- what I expected, Buffster," He wheezed. "Willow did it?"
"Uh, yeah," Buffy scratched at the blue body paint on her shoulder, which trailed down her arm in a sinuous tribal design. "All Willow."
"Xander! I've got your earpiece, and your turret, and a backpack for it!" Willow hopped out, waving around a spray-painted nerf gun roughly as large as she was, dressed like a goth loli's wet dream. Xander just shook his head, grinning ear to ear. She ran down the stairs to hand her friend the backpack she'd spent an hour or so making look close to right. He caught her in a hug, spinning her around in a cheerful little circle as he cackled with glee. Willow flushed bright red and fought for consciousness- though she did manage to tuck the hard, plastic earpiece into Xander's ear with her sculpted gauntlet she'd made to match Gaige's mechanical arm.
"I'm going as Axton?" He mused. He set his redheaded friend down, snickering. "So where's the Little Lady? Gotta make sure the Missus is in working condition."
Gaige cackled, her trusty Conference Call shredding and electrocuting the midgets in seconds. It was a pretty little massacre, made by her pretty little shotgun- the best thing Hyperion ever made. Blood spatters and chunks of little people everywhere. As it always did, the smell of dead people made her gag a little, but she washed it down with a grin. She heard gunfire off to her right, and the screams of dying midgets. She ran over the concrete sidewalks to find Axton and Lilith cleaning up a pack of mutant midgets- Oh, ew! That one had given himself horns with some crazy cosmetic implant! Fucking Psycho midgets.
"Hey guys! Get behind me!" She jumped in, shotgun blasting away. Again, the little people were left as sparking gobs of pulverized flesh.
"Dammit Gaige, You nearly hit me with the ricochet," Axton whined as his turret collapsed into digistruct pixels. She turned around, and two unfamiliar faces greeted her. She gasped, blood draining from her face.
"Looks like she noticed- we all look a little different," Lilith snorted. "These midgets were eating some lady in the not-fun Psycho kind of way, and she had a compact mirror in her purse."
Gaige could feel her eyes widen. She ran her hand over her face.
"Yep, you too, kiddo."
"Something a bit awesome is going on," Lilith shrugged. "So it probably has to do with Eridium. This place is giving me some weird feelings, like we're standing on a giant Eridium mine or something. Not gonna lie- I'm a little buzzed right now. Probably why I'm not screaming my head off and smashing holes in all the buildings."
For the first time that night, Gaige looked up. She just about fainted. It was a beautiful, clear night, the stars were shining. The Milky Way was running straight through the middle of it all, which damn near gave the Mechromancer a fit.
She gulped, looking back at her friends- that didn't look like the Axton and Lilith she remembered. Fear did the Hodunk Two-step in her gut, and she shivered a little.
"Uh, Gaige- you okay?" Axton looked mildly concerned. Lilith seemed preoccupied with scratching at her shoulder, peeling acrylic body paint off her faintly glowing Psyren birthmarks. "Why the fuck do I have body paint on me? How drunk did I get last night?" She asked.
"I don't think we're on Pandora anymore, guys," Gaige said in a small voice. The houses were all wrong, for one thing. Wooden, built in the old-earth style that hadn't been used in tens of centuries- the last place Gaige had seen the like was in a museum her dad had dragged her to when she was six. The air smelled rank, a faint touch of carbon monoxide detectable over the coppery tang of blood. The tree they stood near was not like anything that lived on Pandora.
"I think we're on Old Earth," She said softly.