A/N: cowritten with the fantastic wxll-graham on tumblr. Happy Valentine's Day!

Newt isn't an assassin—well, not yet. For now, he's just the dude in the lab who mixes poisons. And, honestly, when he first got his PhD in chemistry, he'd thought he'd wind up working for a pharmaceutical company, not a big-time assassins-for-rent company like the Pan-Pacific Decommission Corps. But, hey, he was a broke post-grad with a fuckton of student debt and six doctorates, and the size of the figure on the check wasn't something he was going to argue with. So here he is, five years later, making poisons for the actual assassins.

"I'm sorry, but you want me to what ?" he demands, staring at his superior officer. "There's no one else who can possibly do this? Like, dude, thanks for the vote of confidence, but you do realise I'm just a chemist, right? I don't even know how to load a gun, let alone shoot a mark !"

Chuck stares right back. "It's an easy op, Geiszler—you won't have to shoot anyone. Just get in, spike the drink, and get out, and half-a-million euros will be wired to your personal account."

"I don't even know anything about this dude," Newt grumbles.

Chuck hands him a piece of paper. "That's what this is for. It's the contact info of your partner. Code name "Emissary". He's going to help you gather intel."

Newt rolls his eyes, "C'mon, dude, you know I don't work well with other people—"

"This or bust," Chuck says firmly. "Half a mil, Geiszler. You've got ten seconds to make your choice."

"Fine, fine, I'll do it, you fascist!" Newt yells, throwing his hands up in the air. "Jesus H. Christ dude, give me a sec, won't you?"

"Good," Chuck growls, "due date is two months."

Newt rolls his eyes at the other's retreating form, but the instant he's out of earshot, he shrieks, "Oh my god, yes !" Okay, maybe it's morbid of him to be happy about assassinating—well, poisoning—someone, but everyone's wanted to kill someone at one point, right? He just happens to have the opportunity to do so, and get paid for it.

He checks his cubby in the mailroom after finishing up his experiments for the day, placing the Blue-filled test-tubes into the cooler, giddiness multiplying tenfold when he finds a mauve folder beneath a few order receipts.

Mauve folders contain op instructions.

After taking a few moments to be excited—oh hell, who's he kidding, he spends three minutes screaming into his hands—he tucks the folder under his arm and grabs his bag, taking the elevator to the ground floor and makes his way to the parking lot. His car is—well, she's an "eyesore", supposedly. Newt argues that just because she's a red and white Chevy Impala doesn't make her an eyesore, even if she is a bit large. And a bit loud. But, hey, that gives her character .

The Godzilla bobblehead bounces up and down as he sticks the key in the ignition, the engine rumbling to life—and no, no matter what Mako says, that's a purr, goddamnit, his baby does not sound like a chainsaw . She has character .

He spends fifteen minutes fighting with the lock on his apartment door, which seems to be extra sticky today, and eventually tries to ram it open with his shoulder. It doesn't work, and he lets out a whine of pain at the sharp throb of his shoulder. Then he checks the keychain, and—

"Well fuck me," he groans. He's been trying to ram the key for the cellar into the door.


When he finally gets inside, he throws the rest of his stuff in a pile onto the sofa and sticks a piece of toast in the jerry-rigged toaster and sets the mauve folder on the bar, clambering onto the stool. The toaster dings, and he sticks the golden-brown bread on a napkin, spreading butter on it, and munches away as he opens the file.

Mark: Hannibal Chau

Known aliases: Chau, Hannibal, Hannibal Chau, the Great Red Dragon

Real name: unknown

Occupation: head of Kaiju Inc. subsidiary Anteverse

Other: Chau is known to be a sadist, cruel and opportunistic. Minimal contact is advised.

And that's it. One sheet, blank, save for those five lines. Behind it, paperclipped together, are photographs—both from public appearances and other methods—but other than that, he's running blind. Well, he supposes, that's why they've got him a partner.

Their designated meet-up point is a small café, hidden between a large tourist-slash-kitschy-souvenir shop and a shopping mall; the interior is dark, and the few patrons within are scattered at tables hidden in shadows. Newt marches up to the college-student-looking kid at the counter and says, "Hey, I'm here to meet a…acquaintance. One Mr. E Mann?"

The kid stares at him blankly, and Newt drums his fingers against his leg, unsuitably nervous. The kid scans the room and turns back to him.

"Table four. By back. Tall foreign man. He has cane," she says shortly, making a shooing motion, and Newt huffs indignantly but thanks her and makes his way towards the back.

He finally spots him, sitting at one of the tables. He's facing the opposite direction, so the only parts of him Newt sees are his shoulders and the back of his head, but he's still able to get a quick impression: a short, almost military undercut, an oversized parka that he's still keeping on despite the temperature of the café being pretty warm, and ramrod-straight posture.

"Hi, mystery man! I mean..." he takes a second to recall the code name. "Emissary!" he joyfully exclaims, maybe a bit too loud for a secret encounter between assassination-bound partners.

"You must be Precursor. You're late." Newton processes the sound of his voice—the way his tongue rolls the r when he says Precursor so it's more like Prrrecursor—and then the man stands up. He grabs his cane and turns around, holding out his hand towards him. Even with his slightly bent posture from where he has to lean his weight against the cane, he's taller than Newt, and extremely slim, the old-style professor clothes he's engulfed unable to conceal his long, lean legs and his dainty frame completely.

Newt studies his face, and the way this shitty café's lightning seems to compliment his dark eyes, his fair complexion, his thin, graceful lips, and, especially, his cheekbones. They could literally cut glass.

Dude, what the fuck are you thinking?!

Yeah, Newt has to admit, he looks like a completely old-school, stuck-up bastard, but he's hot. Disturbingly so.

Finally, Newt snaps out of it and shakes his hand. His grip is firm and his skin is dry and lightly calloused and cold and—

"Call me Newt, please," he chirps as he sits down, trying to cut his stupid thoughts off. They study each other for a moment, exchanging a tense look. "Anyway, sorry for being late, but it took me half an hour to translate your email from stuck-up to English," he finally blurts out.

Emissary straightens his back and flashes him a look. Oh, if only eyes could kill. This must be the sexual tension people always talk about, Newt thinks.

"It's called being professional, Precursor. Perhaps you should try it some time," Emissary snips, scans his combat boots, cuffed skinny jeans, plaid shirt over a Fall Out Boy tie-dye t-shirt, and messy hair. "However, you don't seem to care much about professionalism. My sincerest apologies if my words were too refined to be gripped by your simple brain."

"Hey, dude, it's not that I'm stupid—it's just that, you know, you could have said "good morning" instead of "I hope the beginning of your day is enjoyable'," Newt shoots back, defensive.

Emissary opens his mouth to fight back, but he's interrupted by the arrival of the same waiter, who looks at them with a slight hint of curiosity under the boredom she seems to be drowning into. "You order?" she lazily asks, flipping her notepad, pen at the ready.

"A double espresso with whipped cream, and a donut. A chocolate donut," Newt immediately answers with a smile.

"Just a black tea for me, please," Emissary grits from between his teeth, marking the "please" with a hostile look at Newt and a twitch of his lips that seems to betray a "holier-than-thou" attitude that, Newt suspects from what he's seen in the last five minutes, is quite typical of him.

"Of course." The waitress leaves their table and disappears behind the counter. She comes back in a few minutes, handing to Newt his plate and his overflowing cup, and leaving Emissary's hot teacup next to it.

Newt slides the teacup over to the other man, and Emissary lets out a disdainful sniff, eyeing Newt disapprovingly. "Have you any idea how much sugar there is in that kind of factory-made... food ?" he questions.

Newt relaxes on his chair, letting himself go against the backrest and spreading his legs. "You know, you seem like the kind of guy who could use a bit more sugar. To fight all that bitterness, you know?" he returns, smirking.

"I'm not here to receive remarks from someone who seems to take delight in behaving like a middle-schooler," Emissary says quietly, fishing the filter out of the cup and leaving it on the side plate.

"But—you started it!" Newt practically screams. The other man doesn't even answer; he pierces him with his eyes—fuck, he has to stop looking at Newt like that, he can't take it—and sips on his tea.

"Let's just keep it professional, alright?" Emissary eventually sighs, looking put-upon.

Professional? Hell, no, professional my ass—"Or we could—uh—we could—" Newt desperately wracks his mind for the word. "Socialise! Socialise, you know, like adults," he lets out a nervous laugh, fingers tapping a rapid staccato against the wood of the table. "God forbid we become friendly."

Emissary's lips curl in a joyless smile. "We should focus on the mission." Newt nods, accepting his defeat—for now. After all, they're going to spend two months working together.

Fuck, two months working together. I'm going to die.

"Fine, then, can I at least know your name?" he hazards.

Emissary considers it for a second. "I suppose it isn't confidential, is it?" he shrugs. "Hermann. My name is Hermann."

"Hermann," Newt repeats, rolling the name around in his mouth. "Are your parents German, by any chance?"

"I'd rather not disclose this information. Besides, we should focus on the original reason for this meeting. Do you have the file with you?" So apparently Hermann is obsessed with his own privacy and has no intention to talk about anything that isn't the operation. Newt sighs, disappointed, but he also takes note of the flash that passes across Herman's eyes when Newt asks about his parents.

Newt nods. "Yeah, I've got it." He extracts the file from his briefcase—a fucking briefcase, like he's in a shitty spy movie—trying to not let Hermann see the mess inside, littered as it is with energy bar wrappers, a shirt with a mysterious blue stain and various magazines he thought he'd never see again—and slides it on the table.

Hermann takes it in his hands—his long, ethereal hands shut the fuck up, brain, focus—and briefly reads it, flipping through the pages.

"Well, this is useless," he states, adjusting his glasses, and Newt lets out a huff.

"Don't I know it, dude," he whines, "I can't find anything on the dude, even though he's a public figure."

Hermann smiles at him, sharp, and says, "Well, then, it's a good thing you've been paired with one of the best hackers this side of the Pacific, isn't it?"

"Wow, and modest too," Newt snipes, but without heat. The smile on Hermann's face shrinks, lips pressing together, but it seems genuine. Damn it, Newt thinks, I want to make him smile like that at me.

They agree to meet at Newt's flat a few days later, so Newt is expecting the knock on his door at ten am, sharp. Still, the noise makes him jump and knock over the cup at his elbow. "I'm coming, I'm coming!" he calls, scrambling to clean up the spilt coffee.

He makes his way to the door, attempting to wrench it open, only for it to stop, cracked a few inches. Hermann stares at him through the crack, then trails his gaze upwards. Newt follows it, and then feels the urge to kick himself for forgetting to undo the door chain. With fumbling fingers, he pulls the chain out and opens the door, gesturing to the other. "Come in, come in," he says, then spots the heavy-looking suitcase the other has the by his side. "Uh, do you want me to…?"

"No, I can get it fine myself," Hermann snaps. Newt shrinks back, letting the other in. Hermann makes a beeline for his table, and unzips his suitcase, pulling out a tangle of wires, a computer, and a few other devices, and goes about plugging them in. Newt moves to help, but Hermann tsks at him, and Newt falls back into a chair, watching.

The devices let out soft beeps as they power on, variously-coloured lights blinking on. Hermann cracks his fingers, the sound making Newt wince, and pushes open the lid of the computer, hitting the power button and is soon immersed, occasionally making humming sounds. Newt taps away at his phone, scrolling through his tumblr feed as he waits.

"I've secured us an invitation to Chau's next benefit; we'll be posing as a married couple—I'm a physicist at TU Berlin, and you're working on independent research, but you give biochemistry lectures," Hermann says, finally, peering at Newt from over the top of his computer. "Our flight leaves for Seoul in a week. Once we arrive, I shall require you to attach a bug to one of Chau's personal devices in order to track his movements and find his routine."

"Okay," Newt interrupts, throwing back the last of his coffee, having gotten up for another cup, "but how am I supposed to kill him?"

Hermann grins, a too-wide grin, filled with too many teeth. "You have a secret cocktail, correct?"

"Blue, yeah. Why?" Newt questions. He's not surprised Hermann's heard of it—it's fairly well-known in their business for its multi-purpose use and flexibility, and having the bonus of being untraceable by authorities—but no one's ever connected the creation of the formula with him.

"I will be meeting with Chau in his penthouse here in Hong Kong a week after the benefit in order to distract him; you will accompany me, and while we are busy negotiating the terms of my employment, you will slip some powdered Blue into his glass of wine, a bottle of which we will have so graciously brought as a housewarming gift," Hermann reveals. Newt's fingers still from where they're picking at the hem of his sleeve.

"Dude," he breathes, "that's genius! You're a genius!"

"Mister Chau is very interested in the possible applications of theoretical physics to Kaiju tech," Hermann says, shrugging, but Newt catches the smug smile on his lips. He bites his tongue to stop himself from saying something embarrassing, but regardless, it slips out.

"You're kinda cute when you smile, you know, right?" he asks, then feels the overwhelming urge to go back in time and smack himself. Hermann sniffs, ignoring him, but the smirk is now a pronounced grimace.

Newt deflates, remaining quiet for the rest of the meeting.

"Messrs Gottlieb and Geiszler?" Newt says to the attendant, who checks his list, and waves them in. Hermann grips Newt's arm, trying to keep his face neutral. Newt leans in, pressing his lips behind the other's ear, looking to all the world as if he's pressing a soft kiss to the man's skin, and whispers, "You see Chau anywhere?"

Hermann stills, breaths a quiet, "No. I'll slip off and cover the left side. You take the right."

"Of course, schatzi," Newt says with a grin as he pulls away, slipping easily into his cover. Hermann lets out a hum and squeezes his hand, frigid fingers grounding. Concentrate, Geiszler, he scolds himself, this isn't real. He's just pretending. Get your head back in the game.

He moves over towards the right side of the room, Hermann breaking off in the opposite direction. A waiter offers him a tray of champagne flutes, and he grabs one, downing it to settle his nerves. Newt gets drawn into a conversation with a few other academic types, but he only keeps one ear to it, focusing most of his attention on discreetly scanning the room for Chau.

Suddenly, he catches sight of Hermann, the man's posture tense and screaming discomfort. "Excuse me, I have to go," he says to the professor he's speaking with, and practically races over to Hermann's side. He's with a tall blonde woman, her red dress cut low, exceedingly—purposefully—revealing as she leans against Hermann, giggling, practically undressing him with her eyes. Hermann looks panicked.

"Hello, darling," he purrs, slipping a possessive arm around the other's waist, pressing a kiss to his cheek, glowering at the blonde. "You must excuse my husband ," he says, voice saccharinely sweet, "I do hope that his talk of advanced mathematics isn't boringyou. Though," he winks, "beneath the stuffiness, he's quite an attentive lover."

By his side, Hermann's face is unreadable. The blonde sniffs, looking mortified, though Newt doubts it's at Hermann's farcical marriage. "No, of course not," she says, voice strangled. "I—I must be going."

As she hurries off, Hermann slides out from under his grip. "I can handle myself fine," he hisses, fingers white-knuckled on his cane. "I don't need you swooping in to—to saveme, like some sort of damsel in distress."

"Woah, woah, woah, Herms, chill," Newt says, lifting his palms in surrender. "I never said you couldn't, I just figured you might appreciate the excuse to get rid of her."

"Well I don't," Hermann snaps coldly, "we have things to do—you're going to miss your window of opportunity with Chau." He nods behind Newt, and Newt whips around, catching sight of the unmistakable form of Hannibal Chau, clothed in red, black shoes with golden plating glinting under the light.

"Shit ," he hisses, "fine, I'll drop it—for now."

The actual bugging goes off without a hitch. Newt manages to bump into Chau, knocking his phone to the floor in the process, and slipping the microscopic bug onto it as he picks it up, handing it to Chau while apologising profusely.

After that, they mingle for a bit before taking a taxi back to the hotel. Hermann ignores him the entire ride, either giving monosyllabic answers to not speaking at all. Newt tries not to feel hurt.

Once they get back to their room, Hermann pulls out his laptop, typing away at the keyboard, the computer propped up against his legs as he sits on the bed. He's still not speaking to Newt more than absolutely necessary, and Newt tries not to feel like a kicked puppy because of it.

The next day—and the plane ride back to Hong Kong—pass in a similar fashion, and after they part ways, Newt tries to push the thought of Hermann back as far as possible. As the day they're scheduled to meet with Chau draws closer, however, it becomes increasingly more difficult.

The night before, Newt is practically vibrating with nerves, alert and twitching at even the slightest noise, so when his phone buzzes, he hears it immediately. He unlocks the phone, tapping the messages app.

[unknown number]: Newton, I'm afraid I can't join you tomorrow—I'm come down with something wretched and I've been heaving into the toilet bowl for the last hour—Hermann

Even without adding his name at the end, Newt would've more than likely recognised the sender—after all, he doesn't know many people who have—or could obtain—his number, and there are even fewer who would speak, let alone text, this formally.

no problem dude, he types back, we already know chau's movements—i can handle it

A second later, it buzzes again. Be safe.

Newt smiles and adds the number to his contacts.

It goes wrong, because of course it does—their previous luck was suspiciously good. But it's still a surprise when Newt creeps into Chau's penthouse, poisons his drink, and waits for the man to no avail, before finding the man dead face-down in a ditch, almost sending Newt to his own death when he trips on him on the way out the back (because apparently, having a swanky penthouse isn't enough—the dude also owns the gardens behind the apartment). Lips pursed, he pulls out a syringe and carefully draws a vial of blood from Chau's arm for analysis later. If someone else managed to get to Chau without them knowing about their existence…

Well, it's not good, to say the least.

Chuck's fingers tighten around the trigger of the gun, peering at Geiszler through the scope. "Should I take him out, Doc?" he hisses into the radio, itching to put a bullet through the chemistry rat's head.

"No," the Doc growls, "he's a vital part if our plan is to succeed. We can't afford for him to die."

"Fine," Chuck grunts, "but don't say I didn't warn you—that man is like a cockroach."

There's no reply, and Chuck grudgingly disassembles the sniper rifle.

Hermann is woken by a knock at his door.

At first, he's tempted to let whoever is depriving him of his hard-earned sleep keep knocking until they find something better to do; it hasn't been easy to finally find a comfortable position to fall asleep in after an evening spent throwing up and trying to find anything that could soothe his stomach, and eventually, he managed to drift to unconsciousness, skin covered in a cold sweat and a burning sensation; the idea of leaving his bed again seems less and less appealing with each passing second.

But as soon as he sees the numbers on his bedside table clock, he scrambles out of the bed.


Fighting against his shaky legs—he hasn't been able to keep down anything he ate in the last 24 hours at least, and it's starting to show—he grabs his bathrobe and his glasses.

He's tormented by thoughts about the operation going wrong, about Newton being dead, because of him, because he has changed their plans—but he tries to shove them into the back of his mind, grabbing his cane to walk to the door as fast as possible.

And there he is, Newton, standing on the doorway, looking like someone who has just survived a shipwreck. His hair is completely soaked, half plastered against his head, the remainder sticking up every-which-way, clothes sheer against his skin, the bright ink on his skin easily visible. There's blood dripping from his nose and he's shaky, and, behind his glasses, askew, his eyes are terrified.

"Geiszler, you better have a good reason for this," his bites, trying to tamp down the worry in his tone, and manages a nasaly irritation, but he opens the door, motioning for the other to enter. Newton rushes in, closing the door behind himself and leaning heavily against it, shaking, eyes darting side to side.

Hermann reaches out, and Newton grasps his arm and completely lets himself go. He lets out a series of wheezing sounds, and startles, grabbing his shoulder to steady him as his body wracked with shudders. Hermann helps to the sofa, where he lets him go, bad leg twinging painfully at the added weight as Newton doesn't seem to be able to stand by himself.

Hermann watches this absolute wreck of a man who is turning his sofa into a trash pile, and his only thought is, Newton is alive. Thank god, he's alive. But is he hurt? Is everything alright? Is he in danger?

"A very good reason," he adds, sighing.

He perches on the edge of the sofa, waiting patiently, until Newton is finally able to speak. "Someone—someone killed Chau. They killed him before I could. I got in his office and—" Newton has to stop again, words slurring, to draw in a rattling breath. "—and I found him already dead, on his chair. No visible injuries. But I got—I got a vial of his blood. This can't be a coincidence, right? Can it? Can it?" he implores, finally sitting up, and grips Hermann's arms again, shaking him and forcing him to lock eyes with the shorter man, to give him the answer he's fearing, or to soothe his terror.

"It can be," Hermann finally speaks, gently detaching Newton's hands, their grip vice-like, from his arms and trying to remain calm. "But it's unlikely. Either way, we'll have to wait for tomorrow morning to report to Chuck, and analyse the blood."

"But what if—what if they're following me? What if they want to kill me—Hermann, Hermann, I'm scared, I'm—" Newton starts sobbing again, shaking like a leaf in the wind, and grips Hermann.

Hermann stands up, this intimacy unbearable, his partner's cry tugging at his heart in a way that hurts, and thinks of his egotism, oh, his egotism—

"Then why the hell did you come to my flat?" he questions.

Newton seems to realise the weight of what he's done from the coldness in Hermann's voice. "I—I didn't think about it, I'm sorry, I—"

"You're sorry? Sorry ?" Hermann lets out a bitter laugh. "I do my best to hide my fucking address, and you somehow manage to find it out, and then come to my house when you could supposedly be followed by someone who has already killed a man, and the best thing you can say is that you're sorry ?" he shouts, letting go of everything that's bothering him; he shouts because of the way Newton makes fun of him with his stupid jokes and because of his annoying smile and his beautiful eyes and his ridiculous, amazing interests and because of the way he can just pretend to flirt with him, because of how he thinks it's a funny joke, to mock the cripple, that he would ever like someone like Hermann. Finally, his shoulders slump, and he lowers himself into the desk chair.

And Newton, since he is, of course, Newton, finds nothing better to say than, "You swore! You said "fucking ", Hermann. You really said that! Oh my god, I made you swear, I—at least I have accomplished something, tonight."

Hermann lets out a hopeless whine. Then, his head between his hands, he starts laughing, hysterical.

Because, yes, Newton Geiszler is the most annoying man he's ever met, and yes, his stupidity is probably going to get both of them killed—but, really, Hermann hasn't met someone so absurdly genuine in years.

Newton starts laughing, too, likely without knowing why—and even more likely, because he's already hysterical. He pulls himself up off of the sofa and puts an arm around Hermann's shoulders, holds him like an old friend, and Hermann lets him do it. Newton buries his face in the curve of his neck, still laughing, breath tickling the short hairs at the nape of his neck, and his hands slide down to Hermann's waist and—

Hermann abruptly shoves him away, pulling back in on himself. "You still haven't told me why you came here."

Newton suppresses a last burst of laughter, staring at him oddly and fidgeting with his sleeves. Then, he finally talks. "I needed to tell someone. So, you know, even if—" he stops, but they both know what he means. "So I started running. I got in my car and at first, I just tried to go as fast as I could, but then I decided to come to your house—you know, so maybe we could work out something...together."

"That's a terrible plan, Newton. I'm probably the worst person you could come to. And I don't remember giving you my address." Hermann stands up, goes to the kitchen counter and opens a drawer.

"I read your file. You know, when we were paired up—I was able to sneak into the archive. I was just curious." Newton confesses, and—is it Hermann's imagination?—he blushes a bit. He doesn't let himself think too much about the way Newton looks like, sitting on his sofa, red-cheeked and hair tousled, or about his hands holding him, or about the way he said "together"; those are dangerous thoughts. He focuses, instead, on the gun he's fished out of the drawer. He checks the magazine, then tugs the trigger experimentally without actually pulling it.

Then, he raises it to the light, studying it.

"You were extremely rude," he drawls, rubbing the barrel with the hand-towel.

Newton shrieks. "You're going to shoot me? For that? Are you—did you—"

Hermann chuckles and puts the gun down. "No, Newton, I'm not going to shoot you. I'm going to try and make your terrible plan work—and protect the both of us."

"Really?" Newton giggles. "Oh my god, you have a gun. You want to protect us. Me. You—" He stops talking, draws in and closes his eyes, apparently trying to make sense of his situation. "You know, I'm the assassin there. I'm the tough guy who can use a gun and kill people and—"

Hermann is barely listening. "How did you get that nosebleed?" he questions, making his way back towards the other to examine his face, looking for other injuries.

"Uh...I...I got punched," Newton blurts out.

"Oh? By who? Chau's corpse?" Hermann teases.

"Okay, okay," Newton huffs, "I tripped while I was running away and fell down."

Hermann chuckles. "Okay, Mr. Tough-Guy-Who-Can-Use-A-Gun-And-Kill-People."

"Stop! I just—I had a very shit day, or night, or whatever, okay, Hermann? And now you're making it worse!" Newton shoots back, but lacking the heat it would if he truly meant to hurt Hermann.

"Oh, I'm really sorry, but maybe if you didn't really want me to bother you so much you should have gone somewhere that wasn't my house!" Here they are, back to their old bickering. It feels almost comforting, to have something so normal in the middle of this wreck of a situation.

Newton starts gesturing wildly, his voice pitching up and down, out of control. "Yeah, maybe I should have done so. You know what, I'm going home now. I'm going to get my car and go home and you can just stick your gun up your—"

Hermann stops him, a firm hand on his shoulder. "You're not going anywhere. Now, just go to the bathroom and clean yourself a bit, alright? Can you manage on your own or do you need me to assist you?"

"Yes, yes, I need you, I need your assistance, please—" Newton says, something unfamiliar in his tone. He's mocking you, the dark voice in the back of Hermann's mind whispers.

Hermann has already disappeared through the door to the bedroom. He comes back shortly after, carrying some folded clothes. He shoves them in Newton's hands and then gestures vaguely to behind him. "First door, on the left. The clothes should fit." he just says, stone-cold.

Newton gives him a last look, and then follows his instructions towards the bathroom. "Thank you, Hermann," he mutters as he closes the door behind himself.

Newton emerges from the bathroom in Hermann's t-shirt, which looks a bit tighter on him, as well as longer. "This thing is both too big and too small, dude," he complains, fidgeting with the bottom of it, which reaches his mid-thigh.

Hermann, busy reading the contradictory expiration dates on a suspicious medicine bottle that has probably been sitting in his cupboard for too long, just hums in reply. Then, he finishes and turns his head to Newton. Newton is exploring the kitchen, observing and touching everything like a curious child. He has recovered well from the shock, apparently.

"I gave you a pair of sweatpants, too, if I recall properly." Hermann does his best to keep his voice steady, and concentrates on the medicine's label again, trying to ignore the heat rushing to his cheeks.

"Oh, yeah, those. Nah, I'm definitely not going to wear them. Who the hell sleeps with pants anyway?" Newton adjusts his glasses and picks up a photo of six-year-old Hermann posing together with his sister, Karla, on his first day of school, proudly showing a gaped smile.

"What a cutie!" he gushes, "is that your sister?"

Hermann rushes to him, removing the photo from his grasps and immediately lays it on the shelf where it belongs, face drawn. "Please stop pawing at my belongings, Precursor," he bites.

Newton raises his eyebrows. "Okay, okay, dude, there's no need to get defensive," he says harshly, like he's the one who should be offended. Then he continues on, as if nothing happened."Where am I going to sleep, by the way? I mean, I don't want you to leave me your bed. It's not necessary. But like, I understand if you don't want to leave a guest sleeping on the couch. You know, we could share—"

"Absolutely not. You sleep on the floor," Hermann cuts him off sharply.

Newton laughs, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Come on, is that because of the picture? Or maybe—maybe you're too embarrassed to share the bed because you like me, and you don't want to admit it," he teases.

How the hell does he have the audacity to go around Hermann's house half-naked and look at his things and say things like that while Hermann—Hermann can barely talk in his presence, and this is just unfair.

Hermann steps back, twitching his lips in annoyance. "There's a cupboard in the corridor. On top of it, there's a rolled-up camping mattress. Go get it while I take my—my medication," he orders curtly, going back to the box and looking for a glass to dilute the powdered substance in.

Newton nods. "Take your time, dude. I'll be waiting for you." He winks as he turns away.

As Hermann is sipping on his medicine, fighting the urge to throw up—bastard pharmacists, they can't even produce a drug to dull chronic pain that doesn't make you sick with its awful taste. Chemistry must cause permanent damage to common-sense—he hears a thud from the next room. A second later, Newton yells, in a particularly high pitch, "It's fine! It's no longer on top of the cupboard, so it's a success! It's all fine!"

Hermann downs the rest of the medicine with a grimace, and heads to the corridor, thinking that there definitely isn't anything fine about Newton Geiszler being in his house.

Once Newton's head hits the mattress—that, not without some bickering and annoying remarks from Newton, they decided to lay right next to Hermann's bed—and he finds the right position—which takes a good ten minutes of Newton wriggling and complaining in a loud whisper, and Hermann telling him to cut it out and just sleep, Newton, for mercy's sake —he falls asleep incredibly quickly.

One second, he's rambling about some spy movie that has a plot incredibly similar to what they're living—"It's so mental, dude. Think about it, when we tell Chuck tomorrow we could find out that there's a huge conspiracy and we would be the ones to uncover it! We'll be rockstars! I mean, if we survive. But really, Hermann, I know you're scared now, but think about how cool this is!" "Newton, I don't think you're in the right place to reassure my fears, since you knocked at my door shaking less than an hour ago."—and then he gets quiet, mumbling more and more incoherently for a second before he falls silent.

Hermann barely notices the difference at first, tired as he is, and by now used to Newt's twisted rambles; he simply continues looking at the wall, giving the other the cold shoulder. Then, the lack of sound registers, and Hermann slowly turns around, curious about this miracle he's never witnessed before: Newton Geiszler actually shutting up.

He's sleeping on his back, an arm thrown across his stomach; he's still got his glasses on, and Hermann reaches for them, taking them off gently, careful not to wake him up, and restrains himself from stroking his cheek. He puts the glasses away on his nightstand, then goes back to watching Newton.

It's upsetting, watching him lay there, sleeping, peaceful, in his house. It feels too intimate, too domestic—like an ill-fitting suit. That's not something Hermann is used to feeling, or something he wants to feel ever again. He tries to remind himself of Newton's jokes, of the way he mocks him every time he has the chance to, pretending to flirt.

But he can't help looking at his full, pink lips, slightly parted; his lashes fanned across his cheeks, light from street lamps outside drawing figures on his cheeks, the colourful lines of ink marking his neck and his arms and legs, visible even in the dim lighting; he can't help synchronising his breath to Newton's, to feel completely natural doing so, to feel home.

"Hermann..." Newton calls softly, still asleep, and moves his hand slightly, like he's searching for something.

Hermann listens, stunned, an odd weight in his stomach—and this time, it's not because he's sick—, and, almost involuntary, moves his hand too, lets his arm hang off the bed.

There are a few centimetres between their hands; what if he could close the distance, what if he could just hold Newton's hand without feeling like it's impossible? What if Newton wasn't pretending?

Herman doesn't even know who makes the move; he just knows that one second, there's only the draft of the wind at his fingertips, and the next, their fingers are brushing together, and Newton's skin is warm and soft, and he doesn't move, just stays there, staring at this man that makes him look for things he's never believed in before.

It takes him far too long to fall asleep, though his head feels heavy and he's tired and dizzy; it's just too unbelievable to see Newt this close, and he can't—doesn't want to—break the spell by closing his eyes. But eventually, his body gives out for the exhaustion, he falls asleep holding his hand.

The next morning, Newt wakes early, determined to get to his lab and get the mystery of Chau's death solved. Hermann, of course, insists on accompanying him—"For your own safety," he claims—and Newt winds up running the tests with Hermann hanging over his shoulder,

Finally, he cracks and goes to inform Chuck of how the mission's gone. When he returns, fifteen minutes later, the tests are done and Newt's munching on a bag of chips.

"What do you mean you didn't kill him?" Chuck demands, getting right up in his face.

Newt pushes him away. "Woah, dude, personal space—"

"You let someone else get to Chau before you?" Chuck practically shouts, livid.

"It's not my fault!" Newt snaps. "And whoever it was, they used my Blue—maybe you should be interrogating the other agents, sir ."

Chuck stares at him for a moment before he says, grudgingly, "Fine, I'll look into it—but rest assured, Pentecost will be hearing of this," and sweeps out of the room, leaving behind a slack-jawed Newt.

Hermann makes his way to his side. "Perhaps it would be best," he says suggests, "if you were to, ah, explain this yourself to Pentecost after Hansen does so—to set the record straight, so to speak."

"Yeah—yeah, you're right," Newt says. "I'll go tomorrow."

The next day, however, when he enters Pentecost's office, he's greeted with a, "Congratulations on your first operation, Geiszler."

"I—what, sir?" Newt questions, confused.

"Chau—you took him out like a piece of cake," Pentecost says. "Congratulations. You may even be on your way to becoming a proper agent."

"Thank you?" Newt says, confused and unsteady, more like a question, and Pentecost waves him out.

His first order of business, of course, is to tell Hermann. "There's something fishy going on here," he insists, "it's not like Chuck to threaten something and not follow through."

"Or perhaps," Hermann drawls, "he's simply busy at the moment."

"C'mon, Hermann, please," he begs, "I have a really, really bad feeling about this, like, what if Chuck's planning my murder or something? Please, just do it, man, if only to prove me wrong."

"Have mercy, Geiszler, and stop pestering me. We'll check on it and see who's right. But this," Hermann points his index finger at Newt, threateningly, "doesn't mean that I believe in your—your absurd conspiracy theory." He makes his way to the spot where he's left the laptop, and quickly types in his passcode, and then proceeds to the other things that, to Newt, excitedly looking at the screen over the hacker's shoulder, look like a mystical language.

Hermann, obviously, notices his attentions. "Out of the way, Geiszler, go get me a coffee," he orders, waving his cane in Newt's direction to shoo him off.

Newt nods and rushes to the coffee machine, still looking at Hermann as he picks out a random filter, barely paying attention to what he's doing—he doesn't want to miss any of Hermann's moves, and the coffee is shitty anyway—, dedicating his the whole of his focus to the hacker.

"I'm in," Hermann says, before Newt can even finish making his coffee.

"Oh my god, dude! What have you found?" Newt urges him.

"Give me a moment, Geiszler!" Hermann snaps, tapping away at his computer. Suddenly, his eyes narrow. "I'm just in Chuck's computer—oh, that's odd. There's a lot to unpack here."

Finally, Newt is done making his coffee. "What do you mean?" he questions, making his way back to Hermann, almost running, and, predictably, ends up emptying half of Hermann's coffee on the floor. He settles the cup on the desk, next to Hermann's hand, but the other immediately moves it further. "Away from my laptop!" He yells, his eyes still fixed on the screen.

"You literally asked me to bring you a coffee! What the fuck!" Newt shoots back, and downs the cup of coffee himself, feeling petty. Then, when Hermann reaches for it with his hand, still looking at the computer, he just gives him the empty cup.

"Geiszler! What the—"

"Come on, just tell me what you're seeing," Newt begs again, fidgeting his legs.

"Nothing interesting so far. Some risque pictures, but nothing of interest. A folder of reports that, from the sample I've examined, don't exactly have the strongest grasp of grammar I've seen. But—" Hermann finally exchanges a look with him, before focusing again on the screen, his face lit up by the smirk Newt has learnt to associate with something that Hermann finds challenging, but interesting, "there's a hidden folder, and it has a stronger protection than the rest. I'm trying to work it out, but you keep distracting me!"

"Okay, okay, I know my beauty is a distraction, sorry!" Newt retorts, hiding his face into his hands with over-exaggerated dramaticity.

Hermann just ignores him, his hands flying on the keyboard, until eventually he lets out a triumphant "Ha!" Newt immediately jumps up from the wall he's leaning on and rushes to him. "Gotcha," Hermann says as soon as he sees the icons in front of him.

"You didn't do anything, actually," Hermann points out, clicking on the first icon. "Hansen didn't even bother to put a complex password on the account. He was confident that just hiding the folder would be enough," he states, something similar to a sadistic joy in his voice. Newt just looks at him making a face, and grabs the nearest chair to settle himself in front of the computer, too.

"What's that?"

"An e-mail account, it seems," Hermann explains.

"Thank you, genius, I already saw this myself. I mean what—or who—is Kaiju?" Newt points to the sender of all the most recent e-mails.

Hermann shrugs. "It rings a bell, but I can't quite place it exactly. We'll have to find out."
Then, he clicks on the e-mail. It opens an exchange of short messages:

Sender: larsL
Recipient: pilot .
Subject: Operation #3741

The agreed mission, with details that are already known to you, is confirmed.
We strongly remind you to not make any casualties unless necessary, and especially, to not eliminate Precursor yet, as he is necessary for the plan.
Doctor L.

Sender: pilot .
Recipient: larsL
Subject: RE: Operation #3741

Information received.

I strongly advise elimination of Precursor, as he is likely to interfere with my mission, and, even if our plans are going to work out, he's probably not the best fit for the job, considering his unpredictable reactions.

Sender: larsL
Recipient: pilot .
Subject: RE: RE: Operation #3741

Precursor is needed and we already worked out a way to deal with the possible interferences.

Please confirm if the order is clear, or if we should proceed to make it clearer.
Doctor L.

Sender: pilot .
Recipient: larsL
Object: RE: RE: RE: Operation #3741

The order is clear.

There must be a modification for the plan, as Broken Bird is involved; I'll have to slightly modify the time and place.

Precursor is going to be alone, should I take advantage of it?

Sender: larsL
Recipient: pilot .
Object: RE: RE: RE: RE: Operation #3741

The order regarding Precursor doesn't change.

Execute your mission in the most discreet way you can.
Doctor L

When they finish reading the exchange, they both go silent.

The codenames and euphemisms can't conceal the clearness of what they've read; the only mystery remains is who L is. It's Newt, of course, who breaks the silence, with an irritated exclamation: "How—how dare he say that about you? 'Cause it was about you, right? Like, okay, he can call me someone who has "unpredictable reactions" all he wants but making jokes about...about..." he gestures to Hermann's leg.

"I think that Chuck—or, as he calls himself, Pilot—mocking me is the least of our problems, Newton. And he's honestly not even the worst." Hermann's eyes study him attentively, like he's seeing him for the first time. It's just a moment, and then Hermann shrugs. "That's the least of our problems, really," he repeats.

"So...I was right." Newt sighs, not looking as excited as expected. "And he—he wanted to kill me. Man..." He shakes his head, dazed. "I never liked that fascist either, but this is going a bit too far."

Hermann chuckles. "I have to admit that you indeed were right. I'm going to try and get some more information about the sender."

The check into the sender's account reveals some important information; this larsL goes by the name the Doctor, and, despite being well-known to various criminal organisations, he's suspiciously non-existent according to the PPDC. He is also a member of a certain Kaiju—a name that, Hermann recalls, is the exact same as that of the corporation that was Anteverse's parent company.

As he digs deeper, whispers tug at his mind, pointing out the similarities between this Lars and Hermann's own father—no, it isn't possible. Is it? Somehow, this Lars has knowledge of him—knowledge he couldn't possibly have without having met Hermann, because nowhere in his application does it mention his disability, and Chuck has never met him, so—

He shivers as a cold feeling slides down his spine. No, no. He's just being paranoid, that's all.

"Newton," Hermann finally calls, "come here's—it's important."

"What'd you find?" Newt questions, apprehensive.

"We're dealing with something much larger here," Hermann says, gravely. "Kaiju Inc., Chau's death—it's linked. Kaiju Inc. is a facade for a ghost organisation calling itself Kaiju. They have control of the PPDC—and this operation of theirs…" he trails off.

"What is it?" Newt questions.

"They've been stealing your Blue for a while, but," he pauses, "they're doing something with it—some sort of attempt to morph it into something else, I don't know," he moves slightly to allow Newt a better view of the screen, and the lab notes displayed on the screen.

Newt's eyes flick across the words, and he gasps. "They're—they're trying to make a mind-control agent," he says faintly. By his side, Hermann pales. "Can you—do you know anything else?" Newt asks, shakily.

Hermann nods. "There's—"

Suddenly, the computer lets out a shrill whine, a red warning appearing on the screen, and Hermann pales even further, and slams the computer shut. "He's locked onto us," Hermann hisses, "we need to get out of here, now—"

They manage maybe four steps out of the apartment before they're surrounded by a group of armed thugs. Newt, who's been trying to load his gun, shoots wildly, missing every single one of his targets, but Hermann uses the distraction to his advantage, leaping at the thugs, and takes them out with startling—and scarily—efficiency. In the end, Newt only manages to actually hit one man, and it's mostly because he can hardlymiss when the man is pressing him to the wall, hands wrapped around his throat, a scant inch away from him.

Hermann helps him up, allowing him to lean against him as Newt regains this breath.

"That was—that was insane," Newt rasps. Hermann grimaces.

"It's going to get quite a bit more insane," he says. "We're going to go to the Kaiju meeting tonight."

"You're kidding, right?" Newt squeaks, before he realizes that Hermann is not, indeed, kidding. He swallows. "Right. We're going to go in disguise, right?"

Hermann shakes his head. "A properly fitting suit and a hairbrush will be all the disguise either of us require, though you should replace your glasses with contacts," he says.

"This isn't going to work," Newt warns. Hermann smiles grimly.

"We haven't got time for anything more."

"Alright." Newt draws in a breath. "Okay. Right. We're gonna do this."

The search reveals more—far more—than Hermann is comfortable revealing. After Hermann sends Newt off to procure their disguises, he pulls up a minimized window and types with shaking fingers: ("hello?")

A second later, a new line of text blinks blue onto the black background. Hello

("am I communicating with doctor l?") he types, holding his breath. Please just be paranoia.

yes. who is this?

Hermann's mind reels. No! Breath caught in his throat, he taps out a rapid command. ("lars gottlieb?")


("dr gottlieb is dead")


("what does that mean?")

what can you offer me?

("what can i offer?")

lars gottlieb is dead. from his ashes, doctor l was born. the masters will reward those who aid in the cleansing. if you can deliver to us the precursor, you will be handsomely rewarded

("precursor?") His fingers shake as he waits, heart beating fast in his chest.

precursor. agent geiszler. bring him to us. we can give you all you could ever want, hermann.

("i don't understand. how do you know me?")

kaiju knows all, hermann. bring us precursor or we will punish you and get our hands on him anyway...and it will not be pleasant for your FRIEND.

Hermann draws in a shuddering breath, closes the tab, and pushes the laptop as far away from him as he can. There's no turning back—they know. They know they knowthey knowtheyknow

"Hey man, you alright?" Newton's voice, his hand on Hermann's shoulder. "You look like you're gonna be sick—"

"I'm fine, Newton," Hermann says, trying to keep his voice level, drags a hand through his hair. "Just the stress." Newton shoots him a concerned look, but doesn't push.

"Alright. I'm gonna go get ready." Hermann nods, waiting for Newton to disappear into the bathroom. When he opens the laptop again, there's only one line of text on the screen.

bring us precursor, son.

No, Hermann thinks, no, you might think that I'll do what you want, father, but I am notthe man you tried to make me. You think that I'm helping you, but I'm not. I will help Newton on his mission the bring you down.

Newton slams the bathroom door as he exits, doing a dramatic twirl, and says, "So, how do I look?"

Hermann smiles faintly. "Not anything like yourself."

Newton huffs. "I don't know if that's a compliment or not, but I'm gonna take it as one."

"Newton, do you trust me?" Hermann asks abruptly, fingers tapping at the head of the cane. Newton shoots him a puzzled look.

"Uh, yeah? Why?"

Hermann shakes his head slightly. "Trust is important in such partnerships." Newton shrugs but brushes it off, and spirals off onto a tangent, and Hermann thinks, forgive me, Newton; forgive me for what will seem to be a betrayal. Trust me, please.

The meeting is at a hotel, and not too terribly hard to sneak into.

That should've been their first clue.

The first part of the meeting is just some old dudes and ladies, all dressed to the nines, discussing budgets, and Newt almost falls asleep. Thankfully, Herman possesses remarkable "discreetly-elbowing-your-partner-awake" skills.

Then, three people dressed in all black, with electric-blue paint on their faces in elaborate designs bring out a deep wooden chalice and an ornate knife. From their hiding spot, Newt watches in in morbid curiosity as each of the members murmurs, "Praise the Masters!" and presses the knife to their palm, letting a trickle of blood run into the chalice.

One of the figures at the head of the table, dressed in a pure white dress with long sleeves, the only person in the room not wearing black, stands. "Faithful subjects!" she calls, "I have gathered you here today to announce, with great joy, that the coming of the Prophet draws near! Our acolytes have, at last, managed to successfully morph the Blue poison into a device to control the mind of our chosen—the Kaiju Precursor! He will cleanse the world of its filth and bring the Prophet to Earth, and the Masters will reward us!"

The other members let out a cheer, and Newt shivers. "Okay, this is, like, super freaky," he whispers to Hermann. "But what Kaiju Precursor are they talking about? And how are they going to find him?"

"Oh, we don't need to find him." Chuck's voice rumbles beside him. "He came right to us."

Newt whips around. "Hermann?" he questions, but the other is standing by the side of a tall, grey-haired man, one hand the shiny chrome of cybernetic tech, who looks startlingly similar to him. "Hermann, what are you—"

Chucks shoves him against the wall with a crack, hands gripping at his wrists to restrain him. The grey-haired man smiles thinly. "My son," he says, "made the right choice and decided to join my cause."

Hermann nods. "Once I discovered what Lars was doing, I decided that it would be in my best interests to hand you over."

No . "No! Hermann! How could you—" he's cut off as Chuck motions to someone with his head, and his head snaps back as he's punched, eyes swimming with tears as he's dragged out of the room, Lars and Hermann following behind.

He's shoved into a room, the bright lights stinging his eyes, and the bodyguard—when did Chuck hand him over to a bodyguard?—manhandles him into a chair, strapping restraints around his wrists and ankles, his struggles useless.

Lars pulls a small box from a desk drawer and opens it, pulling out a dark blue bottle and a syringe. With a steady hand, he draws the blue liquid—the morphed Blue, Newt realizes with horror—into the syringe and holds it to the light, tapping the syringe with aclink of metal against glass it once to remove any air bubbles, and makes his way to Newt.

Newt struggles against the restraints, but it's no use.

The needle pierces his skin, and he gasps, the mutated Blue slipping under his skin, into his blood, like a cold, slimy amphibian. The guard grips his head as he begins to spasm, unable to control his own limbs. Lars leers at him, eyes cruel as he observes Newt. By his side, Hermann is stony and silent, refusing to meet Newt's gaze, and, finally, he gasps, vision going white, muscles locking for a moment, and when his eyes open, everything is tinged a white-blue.

"Good, good," Lars purrs, grinning maniacally, and pulls another box from the desk drawer. "Geiszler, you are to deliver a vial of the original Blue to our agents at the Water Bureau. Once they've distributed it into the water supply, kill them. Understand?"

No! Newt wants to scream, but the K-Blue is locked in, and all he can do is nod wordlessly, taking the black box from Lars. Suddenly, from his father's side, Hermann looks up, locks eyes with him. His hand tightens around his cane, and a sudden flash of clarity dawns on Newt.

Do you trust me?

He grits his teeth, pushes against the K-Blue as hard as he can, and slams the metal box against the guard's head with a sickening crack.

A millisecond later, with a grunt, Hermann whacks Lars' legs out from under him, landing a painful-sounding punch on his temples before he leans over the fallen man, teeth bared, and pulls a vial and syringe from his pocket. "Come on, Newton," he commands, "we have to get out of here—"

Newt follows him out of the room and down a hall, before, suddenly, he freezes, the blue-white returning. Shit! He tries to warn Hermann, but it's too late—the K-Blue's locked in, and he's striding up to Hermann, slamming him against the wall, hand gripping his throat.

Hermann lets out a choked gasp, one hand scrabbling at Newt's fingers, panicked, before dropping to his side, and Newt wants to scream, wants to do anything, anything, but the K-Blue is too strong, he can't, he can't do anything he can't do anything he's going to kill Hermann—

Hermann lets out a rasping grunt, and a second later, a needle stabs into his thigh. The pain makes Newt reel back, dropping Hermann, and the hacker stands shakily, empty vial dropping to the ground. He leans over, hauls Newt, still shaking, up from the ground, and says, "Newton! Newton, can you hear me? We have to go—now!"

Newt lets out a shaky gasp, bracing against the other, and they make their way down the hall as fast as possible. "Shit," Newt hisses, "shit shit shit, Herms, I almost killed you —"

"Shut up," Hermann hisses back, dragging him into an unmarked room right before a guard turns the corner, "we can deal with that later—right now I need you to get me to LOCCENT. From there, I can run a program that will shut temporarily down all Kaiju tech, and then we need to find Marshal Pentecost—he's the only one who has access to the entirety of Kaiju systems. After that, I need you to release an airborne antidote to the Blue, understood?" When he finishes, he's slightly breathless, and Newt stares at him.

"Wow," Newt says, and then, because he has no brain to mouth filter, "this is probably a bad time, but I think you're really fucking hot, and I really, really want to date you, like, take you out on dates and woo you."

Hermann huffs. "Newt, we are more than likely going to die," he hisses, peeking out the crack to check on the guard.

"Well, if we do survive—"

"Yes, if we survive, I will consider it, Newton," Hermann snaps, "now focus ."

They rush out of the hotel, flagging a taxi; thankfully, Hermann's Mandarin is better than Newt's, and he gives the cab-driver instructions and digs out a few bills. They're down to LOCCENT in no time—the cab-driver's probably breaking the speed-limit and has run multiple red lights, but Newt isn't about to complain—and Newt tumbles out of the taxi after Hermann.

"Out of our way, out of our way!" Newt shouts as they barrel into the building and down the halls. They get into the control room, panting, and Hermann pulls out his laptop—Newt has no idea how he can possibly still have it with him—and pushes Tendo aside, hooking it up to the main computer.

"Hey!" Tendo protests, "what are you—"

"Tendo, shut up," Newt advises, "this is a literal matter of life and death."

The second Hermann yells, "I got it! Go, Newt, go!" Newt jumps to action, racing to his lab to get the antidote; he only has enough to inoculate a small area, but hopefully, it'll be enough—hopefully, Hermann will get to Pentecost and get all of the Kaiju members apprehended.

He destroys the remaining vials of Blue, before works at a feverish pace, managing to double the antidote in less than half an hour, and races to the Water Bureau—thankfully only a short run away. The Bureau is mostly empty, thankfully, so he makes his way to the distributive area, praying that no one tries to stop him.

Thankfully, no one does, and he pours the antidote into a machine he vaguely recognizes as functioning to add various minerals and cleansers to the water, and crosses his fingers. Please, please, please work.

"You want to what?" Pentecost questions. Hermann takes a deep breath.

"I need access to your systems—all of them. Newton and I have reason to believe that I can access and shut down Kaiju tech—they're trying to end the world, Marshal, and if for no other reason than the potential loss of profit, I advise you help me."

Pentecost exchanges a glance with the woman by his side, who gives a small tip of her head. "Alright," he says, "do what you need to. Mako, go make sure we don't get any surprise visitors."

Hermann nods, grateful, and gets to work. As his fingers fly over the keyboard, he keeps track of the passing time, each minute adding to his anxiety for Newton. What if this doesn't work? the voice in his head asks, what if Newton dies?

No, he thinks firmly, forces himself to concentrate.

He's on the second to last command when there's a grunt. Startled, he jerks around to find Pentecost squaring up to Lars, his cyber-enhanced arm glinting malevolently in the light. Gripped in the hand is a syringe full of Blue.

"Gottlieb, quickly," Pentecost hisses, "concentrate. I'll handle—"

He's tackled by the other, and, despite Hermann's instincts shouting run run run as far as you can he forces himself back to the laptop, typing at a furious pace. The last command is typed in just a second before Lars and Pentecost, tangled together, crash into the cables, knocking them out, disconnecting him from the main systems.

His father's cybernetic arm is limp at his side, but he still attacks ferociously, lunging for Hermann, who scrambles back, falling to the floor, and the needle is getting closer, closer—

With a shout, Pentecost slams into him, the needle puncturing his clothing and plunging into his arm. With a gasp of pain, Pentecost falls backwards, fumbling with his gun, and empties the clip into Lars, spraying the room with blood, and then slumps over, the gun falling from his grip.

Hermann scrambles to his feet, limping over to Pentecost. With shaking hands, he checks for a pulse. Nothing. He checks again, but it's no use. The Marshal is dead.

Afterwards, someone tells him that they've done it—they've stopped a cult from committing genocide, they've done it, he's done it.

Newt just feels numb.

Hermann finds him slumped on a chair in his lab, and, without speaking, pulls up a chair beside him, allowing the chemist to lean against him, rubbing his back soothingly. The action releases the dam of shock that's holding back his emotions, and he clutches the other, sobbing into Hermann's sweater-vest.

Hermann's hand in his hair is grounding, and the other whispers to him soothingly, a mixture of English and German, and offers to let him crash at his flat. Newt accepts the offer gladly, voice still unsteady.

Hermann doesn't say anything when Newt crawls into his bed, clutching at him, halfway through the night, just draws him into a fierce embrace. He thinks that if he didn't, he'd be plagued by dreams of his hands crushing Hermann's windpipe until the light goes out of his eyes.

The next morning, they don't talk about it. It's partially a lack of opportunity, partly an unwillingness on both their parts. They're called into the PPDC for a meeting; Mako is acting Marshal, and though her eyes are slightly glassy, her shoulders are squared and her head is held high. "Thank you for coming," she says, addressing everyone gathered in the boardroom. "As you all know, recently it was revealed that one of our main go-betweens and business partners, Kaiju Inc., was an agent for a much more sinister doomsday cult called the Kaiju, headed by the now-deceased Doctor Lars Gottlieb. Members of the cult, disguised as Kaiju Inc. employees managed to the PPDC and steal Doctor Geiszler's Blue in an attempt to bring about a genocide. The head of Kaiju Inc., Liwen Shao, is claiming to have no knowledge." She pauses, as of gathering her thoughts, before continuing. "In light of these events, until a more thorough investigation has been conducted into the issue, the PPDC is under shutdown. All employees will be stationed at other jobs for the time being. Thank you."

People disperse quickly after, and Newt only just manages to catch up to Hermann before he's lost in the crowd. A thousand things pass through his mind, but he settles on, "Hey, we'll keep in touch, right?" Hopefully it doesn't come off as clingy.

Hermann stills. "Of course. I have your number and you have mine." He nods to himself, and Newt reaches out to hug him, and Hermann flinches. You idiot, you can't even remember that you tried to kill him. He drops his arm, awkward.

"I'll just...I gotta go. I'll...yeah, bye," he babbles, making his way away from the other. He doesn't look back.

As he waits for a reassignment notice, he reads over the document Mako emailed him; it's a transcript of Liwen Shao's interrogation.

[Raleigh]: ...Ms. Shao, you claim no knowledge of the actions of Mr.sorry, Dr. Gottlieb and his associates?

[Shao]: Correct. I had no knowledge of their actions.

[R]: Their actions didn't seem suspect at all?

[S]: No. They provided testing for my technology, and I gave Dr. Gottlieb funding for his independent studies; as you know, he was a close advisor of mine, as well as a colleague and a friend, and he appreciates—appreciated—his privacy. I felt that it would be prying to look in too deeply.

[R]: He never gave any indication of what he was truly doing?

[S]: No. Like I said, I had no knowledge of his actions, or the actions of the cult which he lead. Are you done interrogating me, agent?

[R]: Fine. You're free to go.

[S]: Thank you. This is the precursor to a new age, and you will find that I am perfectly capable of handling the company on my own.

Newt freezes. The emphasis... Precursor. No one else knows that codename except Hermann andChuck


He types in a quick google search for Liwen Shao and clicks the image search. His breath stops.

It's her. The woman in white.

He unlocks his phone opens the messages.

To: raleigh, mako

[newt] she's lying

[newt] that's hershe's the one who gave the address at the hotel meeting. dig a little deeperplease. it might be nothing, but...better safe than sorry.

A few minutes later, his phone buzzes.

[mako] thanks. we'll check it. you're rightit might be nothing, but we should make 100% certain

(Later, when it turns out that Newt was right, he texts Hermann to let him know.

There's no reply for a week, and, when there finally is, it's a formally-worded, stiff three sentences.

It feels like someone's tossed a bucket of ice-water on him.)

They transfer him to a research lab in Boston. It's probably for the better, really—Hermann obviously doesn't want to talk to him, his texts infrequent and terse. Newt wonders what happened to the way they were before. You went and ruined it, his thoughts snarl at him, pulling up the sensation of Hermann's trachea under his fingers.You tried to kill him and then you asked him out. You're a fucking moron who ruins everything he touches.

He whimpers quietly. "But—but he said—"

He said that to get you to focus. It was just part of the job. Nothing more, nothing less.

Newt drops his face into his hands and cries.

A week later, there's a knock on his door. He crawls out of bed, hastily pulling on a shirt, and thinks, who the fuck is waking me up at ten in the morning on a Saturday?

The answer, as it turns out when he jerks the door open with more force than necessary, is Hermann Gottlieb. Newt stares at him, his form hazy without glasses. "Hermann?" he asks, mind racing, "Hermann, what the hell are you doing in Boston? Did they transfer you to MIT?"

"Ah," Hermann says, "Newton." He clears his throat. "I am—I've come to see you, actually."

"Me?" Newt raises his brow. "Really?"

"Yes, actually. I've come to—er, inquire about your words from a month ago. And," he pauses, gaze fixed upon the ground. "...and apologize for my lack of contact. I was busy with working on a project—"

Newt holds up a hand. "Hang on, hold that thought, I need to go get my glasses. I'll be right back." He stumbles back to his bedroom, searching the top of the dresser for the glasses until he finds them, and makes his way back to the door. "Okay, I'm back. And you're going to have to be more specific, 'cause I say a lot of shit, man."

Hermann looks oddly hesitant. "Your...proposal. What I'm asking, Newton, is whether or not it was sincere, or if you were simply mocking me. I..." he trails off. "I beg of you, Newton, answer me truthfully; my feelings for you are of the intimate nature, and I must know if you were being genuine. If you were simply...jesting the entire time, I understand, and you'll never see me again. But...if by some miracle you were being sincere, then I owe you a date."

Newt stares at him, shocked, and Hermann's face falls, turning to leave. "Wait!" Newt calls, "Hermann, wait!"

Hermann turns back, expression cautiously hopeful in a way that makes Newt's heart clench. "I didn't say no," he says. "Hermann, I did not say no ."

Hermann gazes at him, and asks, haltingly, "Then—you—?"

"Yes, Hermann, That means that I was being sincere," he huffs. "Now are you going to come in, or what? 'Cause in case you hadn't noticed, I'm wearing shorts and it's maybe five degrees outside."

"Er," Hermann says, flushing. "Ah, no, it's—I have obligations, but...text me?"

"Yeah," Newt says, grinning like a loon, "Yeah, that sounds—that sounds great."

Hermann's phone buzzes with a text the next day, startling him out of his intense state of focus. As a favor to Ms. Mori, he's offered to shore up the PPDC's firewalls, a task that, though not simple by any means, does have a welcome flexibility to it.

I'll pick you up five fifty pm this friday, it says, dress nice.

How nice? Hermann types back, not questioning how the other knows his address. The ellipses appear, and he waits for Newt to finish typing.

benefit nice.

He debates between replying with "sounds good"—to casual?—and "understood"—to formal—and settles instead on I'll see you then. A second later, a smiley-face emoticon pops up on the screen. Hermann feels a smile tug at his lips.

The night of, he cycles through four different outfits, worrying his lip with anxiety. He has to look perfect—the whole point of a first date is making a good impression, and he desperately wants to make a good—no, wonderful impression on Newt.

Eventually, he settles for a matching grey and white flecked slacks and blazer with a black button-up and a charcoal waistcoat. He fidgets nervously with the cuffs as he waits, eying the clock as the minute hand approaches the fifty mark.

Finally, his phone buzzes with a text. i'm outside.

With a sigh of relief, he lets his shoulders fall, releasing some of the tension, and makes his way outside. For once, the sky is clear, even though the autumn winds sting his cheeks slightly, and the setting sun casts the clouds into various shades of purple and pink.

"Hermann!" Newt calls, "over here!"

Hermann turns, seeking out the source of the voice, and finds Newt standing beside a black Toyota. His hair has, for once, been tamed, his face clean-shaven and his usual clunky black glasses traded for sleek, thin frames. He's wearing all-black, each item perfectly tailored, and Hermann can't help the stunned intake of breath.

"Hi," Newt says, voice higher than usual. "You look—wow."

Hermann ducks his head, suddenly self-conscious, a faint heat on his cheeks. "We should—we should get going," he stammers. Newt shoots him a concerned look, but doesn't comment, getting into the car and waiting for Hermann to fasten his seatbelt before starting the car up.

The ride is silent, the nervous tension hanging heavy between them. When they finally arrive, fifteen minutes later, Newt parks on the road. Hermann refrains from comment, as it is the only actual open parking space. The exterior of the restaurant is an understated, faded white, the only exterior sign a fixture above the entrance that reads Deuxave in a sophisticated font.

Newt's fingers twitch, and he rubs at them absentmindedly. "Do you, um..." He offers his arm, and Hermann flinches slightly. "Oh. Um. Right." Newt stares ahead, and Hermann feels horrible.

When they enter, Newt makes his way to the front. "Reservation for Geiszler for 6:15, table for two?" he asks, and the woman nods.

"Right this way, sir," she says, grabbing two menus, and they follow her to a slightly more secluded area. "I'll send a garçon your way momentarily to take your order."

"Thank you," Hermann says, in an attempt to break the awkward silence. It doesn't work; when she leaves, they both stare resolutely at their menus without speaking. After a few minutes of silence, which makes Hermann's skin crawl.

"Newton, I don't mean to come off as tasteless, but is this place affordable?" Hermann has the time to whisper to him before the garçon arrives.

"Don't worry, Herm. I've thought about everything ." he assures with an exaggerated gesture. "Only the best for a man like you." He winks.

Hermann tries to suppress the heat flowing to his cheeks—and ignore the alarmed look coming from an old-looking lady in a mauve dress sitting in the nearest table with grey-haired husband. The garçon places himself behind his seat, and stands there, his hand crossed behind his back, patient.

Newt stares at him for a couple of seconds, confused. "You need anything, buddy?" he eventually asks hesitantly.

"Thank you, sir, but I'm just waiting for your orders. Please, take your time." He replies, vaguely offended.

"Oh." Newt nods. "Well, you know, it might be a bit awkward if you just stand there all the time, because, uh, it's our first date and—fuck ." Hermann cuts him off with an energetic poke of his cane under the table. Then, he makes an effort to save the situation.

"We appreciate your services. Could you please get us a serving of water as we—"

"Water? Man, water !" Newt cuts him off, then turns to the garçon again. "Bring us the best wine you have."

The garçon fearlessly tries to keep doing his work despite his clear disgust for them. "We have various kinds of delightful wine, and your choice should be based on your order. I'm here to assist in—"

"Okay, okay, bring us the most expensive one." Newt decides eventually.

"Newton, I don't think that it's necessary to—" Hermann tries to reason with him, but the waiter has already left and Newt isn't going to back off.

"As I said, Hermann: only the best for you." He repeats solemnly, looking him in the eyes. Their hands, laying close on top of the table, brush together—warm, soft skin and his stomach flipping and his heart fastening —and both of them flinch away.

"I will—I will call the waiter—" Hermann mutters, standing up so suddenly he has to lean on his chair to avoid falling.

"No, please, we just got rid of him!"

Newt tries to stop him, grabbing his sleeve. Hermann gets it out of his hand, and picks up his cane. "Yes—I know—I—I need the restroom," he hastily says, rushing away. Newt sighs and tries to exchange a sympathetic look with the next-table lady, but only gets a frown back. Well, bitch, you ain't special, that's the fucking story of my life.

When Hermann comes back, the waiter has already brought the wine—and Newton has been sipping on his glass, feeling like a decadent movie hero.

"Here you are. I've poured you one, too," he immediately justifies himself, putting down the glass.

"Thank you," Hermann says softly,

An hour later, Newt, a pile of broken toothpicks in front of him, is laughing hysterically about the German cuss word that Hermann used to define the waiter after he corrected his pronunciation of a complicated French dish (of course, Newt didn't have to shout the English translation loud enough to be heard by the entire restaurant, as Hermann pointed out, but it was so damn funny ), as Hermann keeps playing with the food left on his plate—basically, the whole dish.

"Do you want dessert, Hermann?" Newt finally asks. "Only the best for—for such a man," he repeats again, an half-drunk, anxious mantra.

"No, thank you, Newton," Hermann answers shyly, forcing himself to eat another forkful of the—the thing on his plate.

"You don't really like that, huh, man?"

"No, I—I'm not hungry," he mutters.

"How about we get the check and go somewhere else?" Newt eventually says, after another incredibly long silence.

Hermann immediately drops the fork and reaches for his cane. "This might actually be your first good idea since I've met you, Newton."

Newt insists that Hermann waits for him at the table, as showing him the check wouldn't be "classy at all".

"I still believe we should split. It's a conventional wooing practice that you don't need to engage into, and considering our conditions, those formalities are not usual neither are appropriate—" Hermann tries to convince him, but Newt is unconvinced.

"Chill, Herms, I know we're not a stuck-up straight couple in their 20s. I just want to do something nice, so just sit there watching your leftovers or whatever suits you and let me spoil you a bit."

He talks like it's one of their usual petty arguments, but eventually, he places a chaste kiss on Hermann's forehead, right before heading towards the nearest waiter.
Hermann can't do anything but stand there, struck, trying to resist the impulse to touch the point where Newt's lips touched him—that portion of his skin acting like the epicentre of an earthquake, like the point of origin where all lines meet.

A couple of minutes later, Newt comes back with a forced smile. "I may have left my wallet at home."


"You heard me, Hermann. And you're better have some cash on you or I'll have to leave you hostage while I drive back home, get my wallet and bring it here."

After being saved by Hermann's providential credit card—"It wasn't a lucky case, Geiszler, I actually am a responsible person who, unlike someone else, always makes sure to have enough money for emergencies"—, they are finally out of the restaurant.
"I'll pay you back," Newt repeats for the umpteenth time, mortified.

"I said it's not necessary."

"But it is! Really, we'll drive to my apartment and—hopefully—I'll find my wallet and I can pay you back," he insists. Then, when he sees Hermann's expression, he adds: "And then, of course, I'll drive you back to your own house."

He sighs. "I mean, fuck, you didn't even have fun! It was terrible!"

"It was—an experience ," Hermann tries to argue, but he's not actually able to find anything to say.

Newt sighs again. "It was shit from start to finish."

Hermann looks at him with a bitter smile. "Yes, it was terrible."

They both chuckle. "Man, the woman in the mauve dress. When she called the waiter and started pontificating about homosexuals and their agenda, god, I thought she was going to have a stroke here and there."

"I think the highlight of the night was when you almost fought with the waiter to pour me a glass of wine in his place and you eventually poured it on the cloth."

"What makes you think I didn't do it on purpose?"

"Oh, you did?"

They both stop in the middle of the sidewalk to laugh, Newt holding Hermann's arm and leaning against him slightly. "I'm sorry it was so awful, dude. I wanted to do something special and I failed miserably and—and I get it, if you don't want to go on a second date. Like, I'll probably cry for three days straight and feel horrible and unlovable but—but that's the norm, I guess," Newt rambles in a casual tone. Then, a second after having said it, he realises that it probably would have been better left unsaid, and lets go of Hermann's arm.

Hermann studies him, raising an eyebrow. Then, he looks at his watch.

"It's not even 8. We still have the whole night."

"Hell yeah, dude! That's the spirit!" Newt immediately exclaims. "Wait, did you only say that because of the crying thing? Because—because I don't want you to be influenced by that or—"

Hermann shakes his head and looks at him seriously. "I wasn't influenced by that." He's sincere, reassuring. Then his voice gets higher and he goes back to being the usual Hermann: "Actually, if you had let me speak instead of starting with your irrational ramble about me not wanting a second date—"

Newt immediately cuts him off. "Okay, listen, man, you looked like someone who would have preferred to be shot dead and you kept refusing all of my attempts at—"

"The problem wasn't you, you idiot. It was that you decided to try too hard, but you don't need to impress me." Hermann is speaking faster than usual, and his German accent gets thicker.

"Hey, don't call me that, I could start liking it. And yeah, of course I needed to impress you. You've impressed me and I feel like I have to make up for it since—"

"You have already impressed me, too. Idiot."


"Okay, so, do you have any idea for the rest of our night? Would you like to come to my place and have some drinks?" Newt finally proposes as they get in the car.

Hermann closes his door. "I think you've already had enough drinks for tonight," he points out. "Anyway, I have a better idea. I'll give you directions as we go."

There's an unusual shine in his eyes, the one that Newt saw while they were risking their life, when the adrenaline kicked in and Hermann started doing something that left him staring in awe, enchanted and slightly scared.

"Okay, man." he shrugs, turning the engine on.

A long ride later, with Hermann giving directions, they pull into an empty parking lot. Despite the darkness, Newt can make out a few familiar shapes. "Hang on, is this Clarksburg State Park?" he questions.

Hermann turns to him, a surprised smile at his lips. "You recognize it?"

Newt nods. "Yeah, I came here once when I was at MIT—why're we here?"

Hermann shoots him a mysterious look. "Wait and see, dear Newton, wait and see. Come along, now, follow me."

The endearment startles Newt, and he lets out a soft squeak. Thankfully, Hermann doesn't notice, already out of the car, and Newt climbs out to follow him. In the dark, he tries not to stumble on the cobblestone. There's a hand at his arm, and he tries not to shriek, before realizing it's Hermann.

"Come along, come along," Hermann urges, tugging at his arm like an excited child. It's charming. It's...it's more than charming, actually.

Hermann must be part cat or something, because even though there isn't much light—or, really, any at all—he navigates the terrain skillfully, leading Newt by his side. The park is nearly free of light pollution, and, at ten at night, there's no one else in the park.

"Here," Hermann says, when they reach a large, grassy area, hidden from the main path by a grove of trees. "Sit. No, lay back."

Puzzled, Newt does so anyway. Hermann lowers himself to the ground beside him. For a moment, Newt considers voicing his hesitation at sitting on the ground—they're both wearing formal wear, and it'll be hard to clean them—but, no. No, this is what Hermann wants. You already fucked up the last time.

Hermann's presence beside him is comforting, and when he raises his hand, he says, "Direct your gaze up there—to where I'm pointing. Ursa Major; see, there: Alkaid. And below it, the orange glow of Dubhe. Now, follow my finger, and you can see Rabastan—"

"Oh!" Newt exclaims, "Draco!"

"Very good," Hermann says, voice an approving rumble.

"So," Newt says, "you're into astronomy, then, I take it?"

"A...childhood delight of mine," Hermann admits.

"Well," Newt says, softly, "it's very fitting...stars, Hermann. Stars, like you...bright and beautiful. And I, merely a planet in your orbit." By his side, silence, and then Hermann shifts, propping himself up on one arm.

"You say such sweet things," he says, quietly, "but I feel that you undersell yourself; if I am a star, then you are the light of a thousand galaxies of stars and planets, a wonderful, colourful mystery, worthy of awe."

Newt draws in a sharp breath, eyes tearing up. "...never knew you were such a romantic, Hermann," he says, intending to sound teasing, but instead it comes out choked with emotion. The gap between them is minimal, and Newt reaches up to place a hand on Hermann's cheek.

Hermann lets out a semi-silent laugh. "Well, I do have my moments occasionally," he replies. "Now, it's starting to get cold, though, and as much as I would like to continue this, I suspect it would be more enjoyable to postpone it for a short while—after all, inside a house is a much more comfortable location to indulge in such activities."

Newt's heart is thumping in his chest. "Y—yeah, you're probably right. Your place or—or mine?"

"Whichever's closer," Hermann replies, "unless you've forgotten your house keys as well."

"Hey!" Newt exclaims, pushing himself up, and stands, helping Hermann up to his feet. "I only forgot my wallet 'cause I was nervous!"

Hermann chuckles. Newt becomes suddenly aware that they're pressed shoulder to shoulder, and he catches the faint scent of lavender and lemon when Hermann stays against him, momentarily unsteady.

He loops his arm through Hermann's in an offer of support, and, wordlessly, Hermann leans into him. The cold of Hermann's hand leeches through the blazer where he's rested it on Newt's lower back, and he tries to concentrate on anything else.

"Am I making you weak at the knees?" Newt teases, attempting to redirect his attention, and by his side, Hermann huffs.

"Car, Newton, concentrate," he commands, but his voice is higher-pitched than usual.

Newt does as told, and, within a short amount of time, they're in the car and on their way back to Boston. Newt tries to keep both his hands on the steering wheel, he really does, but somehow, their hands end up twined together on the divider between their seats. Regardless, neither of them are complaining.

As it turns out, Hermann's place is closer; he lives on a flat on the second floor—a nice, minimally decorated interior, the only truly messy part of the house that Newt can see is the tangle of wires from his laptop. Hermann toes off his shoes and pulls off his blazer and waistcoat, setting them down over the back of the sofa, and Newt moves to follow suit, but cold's stiffened his fingers too much to do more than fumble numbly with the shirt.

Hermann notices—of course he does—and he's across the room and in front of Newt within seconds, cane resting by the table. "Allow me," he breathes, and Newt lets his hands fall to his sides as Hermann carefully undoes each button.

The last button on the blazer is finally undone, and, agonisingly slowly, Hermann slides it off. Then he begins on the buttons on the vest. Newt's eyes track his long, slim fingers as they make short work of those as well, and pulls off the vest.

Throughout it all, Newt remains frozen in place, barely breathing. Hermann trails his fingers, feather-light, across the front of the shirt and undoes the top button, slipping a finger beneath his collar. Newt lets out a stifled gasp at the cold touch, and Hermann smiles and trails his fingers up Newt's neck.

"Ah—ah, that's cold," Newt gasps, eyes fluttering shut, because somehow, the touch is actually really nice. Hermann leans forward, as if to capture his lips, but instead presses a kiss to the side of his neck. Newt lets out a keening sound—not disappointed, no, never disappointed in Hermann, but the way he's scraping his teeth lightly against Newt's skin is going to kill him

"Just kiss me already, you bastard," Newt rasps, breath shallow. "Either that or kill me and put me out of my misery—"

"Mmm," Hermann breathes against his skin, the sound vibrating against his neck, "I think I'd much rather enjoy you like this, if you don't mind."

Newt doesn't comment—can't comment, actually, given he can barely breathe at this point, can barely stand, which, thankfully, Hermann does take issue with, and a second later, Newt's back is pressed against the wall, hands finding purchase in Hermann's usually neatly-styled hair.

"H—Hermann," he tries again, "please—"

This time, Hermann grants his request. His lips crash against Newt's, hot and heady, making Newt's head spin. He'd moan if he wasn't having his breath stolen away already.

Shortly thereafter, they're stumbling towards the bedroom—the wall is not a comfortable place to make out, despite what action movies would have you believe—falling onto the bed in a tangle of legs and arms. Newt manages to get the upper hand, pressing the hacker against the pillows, and pulling away just enough to admire him. His hair's a mess, shirt crinkled, glasses askew and a flush on his cheeks.

"Newton," he whines, "come back."

"Hm," Newt hums, pinning the wrist that moves to try and pull him back down to the mattress. "How'd you phrase it? I think I'd much rather enjoy you like this."

"Newton," Hermann whines, but Newt cuts him off.

"You really are a sight for sore eyes," he comments, "I mean, damn, you already have cheekbones that could cut glass, but you're really fucking awesome, and I wannna listen to you talk about stars and planets and say my name, and did I mention your voice..." he trails off, watching the pink spread across the other's face.

On impulse, he reaches for the other's hand, pulling it up to press a kiss to the back, and then each of the knuckles. Beneath him, Hermann is silent, and, when Newt looks, his eyes are wide and dark, mouth parted slightly.

Newt repeats the process, presses lingering kisses to Hermann's other hand, watches as his ears turn fiery red. "Beautiful..." He doesn't even realize he's spoken, the silence suddenly broken, and Hermann lets out a strangled sound.

" Newt—" the look on his face is one of full vulnerability, usual defences gone, and Newt crumbles instantly, leaning forward to lock lips. Hermann surges forward, hand flying to Newt's hair to tug him closer.

When they break apart, both breathing heavily, Newt eases his glasses off and places them onto the bedside table, doing the same with Hermann's, and brushes a reverent hand to the side of his face.

"I feel I should—apologise," Hermann says, and Newt blinks, puzzled.


"I...I originally thought you were simply flirting with me to—mock me," he admits. "It wouldn't be the first time."

The admission leaves a bitter taste on Newt's tongue. "I—no. I would never."

Hermann sighs. "I know you wouldn't, Newt, but others have. I felt I was simply being cautious."

"And me asking you on a date before we saved the world?"

"I attributed it to stress, honestly," Hermann says, "you were under an enormous amount of pressure at the time, and it wouldn't be the first time someone's said something to me that they didn't mean."

Newt reaches for Hermann's hand, cupping it between his own, and says, "Well, to be very, very crystal clear, I want you, Hermann, a lot, almost more than I can comprehend. I want this, and I want to bicker with you over my choice of coffee, and I want to hold you when you're sad, be the shoulder to lean on when your leg's acting up—I want you, Hermann, all of you."

Hermann's eyes are slightly wet, and he rubs them with his free hand. "I—I don't know what to say. But—but I feel the same towards you, Newt."

Newt smiles, and Hermann smiles back. "We probably should get to bed," Newt says, "it's almost one. I'll grab my stuff on my way out—"

"Stay? Please?" Hermann says, then adds hastily, "I—I mean, unless you'd rather not, which is fine, I understand—"

"Hermann," Newt interrupts, "I'd love to. Do you have an extra shirt and a pair of sweatpants I could borrow?"

"I—yes, of course," Hermann says, "if you'd get off of me, I can grab them for you."

"Oh, right," Newt says, blushing slightly. "Right, yeah. Um. Yeah."

He lets go of Hermann's hand, pushing himself off of the bed and to his feet. Hermann follows, brushing past him to pull out the sleepwear from the dresser, and hands the items to Newt. With a mumbled thanks, Newt undoes the shirt the rest of the way, pulling the t-shirt over his head, before slipping out of the slacks and into the sweatpants.

His body seems to finally remember the lateness of the hour, and by the time he's redressed, his eyes are heavy with sleep, movements slow. Hermann guides him back towards the bed, muttering sweet nothings in his ear, and Newt follows, slipping beneath the covers.

After a bit of shifting, they end up face to face, Newt's arm thrown over Hermann's torso, and Hermann's hand coming up to cup Newt's face before he leans forward to press a chaste kiss to Newt's lips. "Good night, darling."

"G'night, Herms."