A/N: Written as a birthday-gift for supergeekytoon on tumblr. For fic reasons, Hermann's born in '96 and Newt's born in '97 and they're 28/29 when the war ends (mostly bc I wanted them to be younger when they first start writing each other lol)
Possible trigger warnings: semi-graphic descriptions of blood and death
Owen Harper dies in front of the Pharm, the bullet ripping through his chest as he stands in front of Martha, blood pounding loudly in his ears and he—
(falls falls falls surrounded by blue, tosh's frightened, grieving, shocked expression fading into white-blue)
As the last of his life-force ebbs away, blue encroaches on his vision. Distantly, he can feel the warmth of liquid, red—blood, his blood, running out and over his skin, and he feels tired, so tired. The blue beckons to him, promising relief from the painful, exhausting effort it takes to live, to put one foot in front of another, a relief from the way his lungs burn with each breath drawn.
He closes his eyes and lets the blue wash over his mind.
In another universe, Hermann Gottlieb is delivered into the world, eyes snapping open, a choked cry of pain trapped in his throat. His father regards him with a cold disinterest as the midwife swaddles him in blankets and passes him to his mother.
Hermann is not neglected. His parents provide for him, but there is no close familial bond. They see him as a duty—his mother—or an unwanted burden with little hope of ever being useful—Lars. Their interest in him does not extend much further than making sure he has sufficient amounts of food to eat and providing him with clothes and a roof over his head. His siblings, all much older, are rarely around. He does not blame them.
Hermann is a quiet child, sometimes so much so that his existence is forgotten. His eyes are piercing, and when he does speak, it is to ask questions on topics that those ten years his senior barely grasp, in vocabulary more common amongst university professors than five-year-olds. When he sleeps at night, he sees flashes of faces in a sea of blue and feels the sticky warmth of blood staining his skin.
Throughout his grade-school years, he is a bit of an outcast. He dresses like an Oxford professor and asks questions that make others uncomfortable at the complexity of. Half of the specialists his parents take him to—a genius in the family is an idea they leap at; mother because it will give her something to brag about, Lars because he fancies the idea of mentoring (controlling, Hermann knows by now) his son—mark him down as "highly gifted" while the other half label him a freak, though not in as few words.
In the entire ordeal, numbers are his only constant. They do not lie to him—like Alex in eighth year, who pretended to be his friend to kiss him for a dare before running off to collect the money promised––and they are never, never wrong.
(snippets of dreams in blue tell him that a woman named "tosh" loved numbers as well)
In his mind, they are as close to the handwriting of God—if such an entity exists—as Hermann can get.
When he turns seventeen, a professor of quantum mechanics and applied sciences at Cambridge University, the Kaiju, as they will later become known, attack San Francisco. At first, the world moves on, though mourning, believing it to be an isolated incident. Blue-white dreams swirling in his head of impossible creatures, Hermann is—terrified. And sceptical. Something tells him this is not an isolated incident.
He is right, much as he wishes he wasn't. After the third attack—this time on Mexico—the world seems to realize that it isn't an isolated event. Earth is under attack from monsters from another dimension that stream out of a rift—the Breach—in the Pacific.
Governments ally to try and get a lock on the situation. Around this time, Hermann submits the first draft of what will eventually become a paper on the mechanics of creating neural links between humans to a few peers. A few weeks later, his mailbox contains an overstuffed envelope from what Doctor Newton Geiszler, PhD. Between lines of self-deprecation and manic enthusiasm, genius peaks through. Interest piqued, Hermann does a quick background check on the man, expecting, as most, a few hits.
His expectations are blown out of the water; Doctor Geiszler is just a year his junior and has three doctorates. Intrigued, Hermann clicks on one of his papers, curious to see what it might hold, and is stunned at what he reads. Geiszler's theories are years—if not decades—ahead of anything he's ever come across.
Flipping over the envelope, he copies down the return address and pulls out a pen and a piece of paper, forming the start of a later.
Your enthusiasm and understanding of the mathematics and principals behind the subject of my paper are surprising.
I find your inquiries remarkable and succinct and of a calibre rarely encountered. If you are interested, I am more than willing to assume a written correspondence with you to further discuss the topic.
Doctor Hermann Gottlieb."
After he sends the letter off, he thinks little of it—at least, for the next five days. On the sixth day another envelope, almost as bulky as the first one, occupies his mailbox once again. The letter within takes up eight sheets, double-sided, and is on college-ruled lined paper, taped together to form one long sheet, the words written on it squeezed into the margins. From anyone else, Hermann would huff and deem it unprofessional, but for an unknown reason, it makes a smile twitch at his lips.
(when he dreams of blood and alien faces with beast-like teeth ripping into his skin, he reads the letters and the frantic beat of his heart slows)
They continue this way for three years, formal academics partially forgotten as the letters become more like the exchanges between close friends rather than colleagues half an ocean apart. Hermann complains to Newton of the stress from working on the coding for the Mark I Jaegers and in return, Newton mails him a box of his favourite tea blend and tells him of his youth spent as a member of various bands while balancing teaching and getting his degrees—now six in number—and if Hermann's eyes are slightly wet when he opens the box to find the tea, unaware that Newton had remembered the off-hand comment, well, that's between him and the four walls of the apartment he's renting.
It occurs to him, somewhere along the line, that his feelings are more than platonic. It is—well, surprising to realize that he is gay. Human connection in general is something he's fairly apathetic to, and he had previously assumed that it was simply a matter of not having met the right woman yet. Now that he thinks about it though, the revelation clears up a few (multiple, actually) confusing moments as a young adult. He files the information away in a box in the corner of his mind and moves on.
Eventually, the matter of meeting in person comes up. They bounce the idea back and forth for a while as Hermann recovers from a motor accident and eventually decide to meet at a convention in Berlin. For the weeks leading up to it, Hermann is a forgetful wreck of nerves, so much so that he misses two lectures and gives a third on advanced applied physics—which would be fine, if not for the fact that the lecture he was supposed to be giving was on the mechanics behind the neural interfacing of the Drift technology.
Finally, the day of, he drags himself out of bed, digging through items in his travel bag—he's staying in a hotel over the three-day period of the convention—and spends an hour overthinking, in excruciating detail, every single possible way their meeting could go wrong.
They've agreed to meet in a small café in the afternoon. Hermann arrives ten minutes early and orders a cup of black tea in an attempt to calm his nerves as he waits. And waits. And waits.
Then, twenty minutes past the agreed time, just as Hermann is preparing to leave, disappointment settling heavily in his stomach, a short, wild-haired man bursts into the café and makes a bee-line for him.
"Sorry I'm late, dude," the man—Newton—huffs, dropping into the chair opposite him, thumb and fore-finger pressing the bridge of his nose, pushing his glasses up slightly, the rolled-up sleeves of his button-up revealing ink snaking his arms in vibrant hues. "My Q&A session tool longer than expected and when I finally got out and caught a bus, well." He gestures helplessly, somehow conveying the situation wordlessly.
"Quite alright," Hermann reassures, relief washing over him. "The bussing is unpredictable at the best of times."
Newton's eyes snap to his and he exclaims, "You sound like a stuck-up rich kid!"
Herman bristles, previous amicability disappearing, and retorts coldly, "Well, I doubt that the opinion of a manic kaiju groupie matters in any way."
Newton recoils, eyes becoming flinty, and, viciously, Hermann thinks, good.
"Well that's rich coming from you, Doctor Gottlieb; all you do is dally over equations—at least my work actually us understand the kaiju and save lives!"
The words are a blow, deep and sharp into his mind, rattling against his skull, and he hisses, "I have better things to waste my time on," and storms out of the café.
He shuts himself in after that for a while, only emerging when absolutely necessary. When the longing for new letters and the pain of Newton's words becomes too great, Hermann goes to one of the bars in town and orders enough drinks that the bartender has to cut him off, citing alcohol poisoning.
(the nights, when he finally does collapse into his bed, are filled with blue-tinged nightmares of watching a woman board a plane and locust-like bugs stream out of a dead woman's mouth and it ends, like always, with the sticky warmth of blood on his skin and the knowledge that he's lost his chance to do what he'd meant to do, a lost opportunity he'll never get back)
When he wakes the next morning, head pounding, he catches sight of the box of tea Newton had sent to him, and hot, angry tears prick at his eyes. Hermann spends the next hour collecting every reminder of Newton—every letter and tea packet and photo and miscellaneous item he's ever sent Hermann—and stuffing them into a box that he shoves underneath his kitchen sink, after which he throws himself into his work, finally accepting the PPDC's offer of a position in K-Sciences in the Anchorage Shatterdome.
It seems like the perfect escape—and it is, for nearly two years. Then the public—and by extent, the government—grow tired of the Jaeger program, choosing, instead, to throw their money into funding the "Wall of Life" proposed by none other than his father, Lars Gottlieb; though whether the intent of the wall is to keep Kaiju out or to keep the people in seems to be unclear. Regardless, funding for the PPDC dwindles, and Hermann is shuffled from 'Dome to 'Dome, the K-Science unit growing smaller and smaller and smaller until, finally, he's transferred to the Hong Kong Shatterdome—the last one still operating.
Hermann meets with Marshal Stacker Pentecost in his office. "Our K-Science unit may be lacking in personnel, but I assure you, you will find that we have all the equipment you require," the Marshal says, his face weary, and Hermann is familiar with the tiredness in his eyes, the kind that comes from seeing loved ones dies. "You'll be sharing a lab, I'm afraid," the Marshal continues, "we're a bit strapped for space."
"I'm certain it'll be just fine, sir," Hermann reassures, and the Marshal looks about ready to sigh in relief.
"Good, good—I'll have Mr. Hansen show you to your quarters and then to your lab," he says, and Hermann nods.
Mr. Hansen, as it turns out, is a grizzled man who looks older than he realistically is, accompanied by a bulldog whose name, as Hermann learns, is Max.
"Thank you for escorting me," Hermann says, still a tad intimidated, after depositing his suitcase in the small quarters he's been assigned. The slight draft in the air-conditioned corridor makes his leg ache more than usual, and he leans heavily on his cane.
Mr. Hansen grunts, seemingly unwilling to talk, and Hermann lets it lapse into a tense silence.
When they arrive at the lab, the doors are closed. A sign, tacked up with blue tape and slightly crooked, reads: Caution: materials within are biohazardous.
Hermann feels a tingle of fear worm up his spine, but Hansen seems immune, ignoring the sign to shove the door open, and—
"You," Hermann hisses when he catches sight of his lab partner.
Newton bloody Geiszler.
Because of course it is.
Newton whips around to face him at the sound, starring at Hermann uncomprehendingly for a few seconds. His hair is sticking up wildly and the far-too-skinny tie is loose around his neck, the top few—try four—buttons of his shirt are unbuttoned. From beneath, colourful ink spreads out over his collarbones and up his neck; Hermann supposes he must've gotten more done in the last three years—after all, there've been multiple Kaiju attacks since 2016.
Overall, it gives the impression of a manic, lopsided, and chronically sleep-deprived man, if the subtle shaking of his fingers and inability to stand still are anything to go by.
Finally, recognition sparks in Newton—in Geiszler's eyes, and he turns to Hansen, who's already half out the door. "Here, you can't leave me with—with him," he squeaks, "he'll throttle me! He'll poison me! He'll—"
"He's the last person in the K-Science division other than you, and you will be sharing a lab with him," Hansen interrupts, leaving Geiszler to stare at him in slack-jawed horror. "Now, you two play nice or you won't like the consequences." With that said, Hansen leaves, Max bounding after him, leaving the last two members of K-Science to stand awkwardly, neither sure what to do.
"Er," Geiszler says, "that's my side of the lab?" He indicates to the half filled with jars and test-tubes in a disarray, and Hermann, realizing that the blackboards and ladders (and computers) are on the other side of the room, gives a curt nod. "A—alright, then," Geiszler says with nervous laughter, "I'll just—yeah." He scuttles to "his" side of the lab, leaving Hermann to plug his thumb drive into the computer and begin working on his predictive model.
(if that night he sleeps more than he has in a long time and with fewer blue-white nightmares, it's because of the fact that he's getting closer and closer to perfecting his predictive model and preventing casualties)
The silence only lasts a week. He isn't sure why he expected anything else—he knows Newton—knows Geiszler prefers to work with loud background noises, but he had hoped that had passed. Apparently not, because eight days after he arrives, he enters the lab to Geiszler singing along—or, rather, screaming—the lyrics to something loud and guitar-riff filled.
At first, he sighs and tries to ignore it, but after he miscalculates an equation—four times—he finally snaps, descending from his precarious position perched at the precipice of the ladder, and grabs his cane, storming over towards Geiszler.
"Turn the music off," Hermann growls, voice brooking no argument, and Geiszler startles, almost spilling a test-tube of what appears to be Kaiju Blue on himself.
He catches it at the last moment, though, setting it carefully on the counter before turning to face Hermann. "Dude, no!" he protests, "it's Fall Out Boy—they're iconic!"
Hermann raises an unimpressed brow. "Either turn it off or procure a pair of Bluetooth earbuds—your "music"," the sarcasm in the phrase is heavy, and Geiszler looks insulted, ready to go on a tirade, but Hermann cuts him off. "As I was saying, your "music" is making it impossible for me to properly concentrate."
"My music isn't even that loud!" Geiszler shoots back, defensively. "And unlike your numbers, my experiments have actual, tangible results!"
The comment makes the ugly beast that resides in Hermann's chest rear its head, and before he can think twice, he snaps, "Well, at least unlike you, I'm not some sort of—of Kaiju groupie."
The instant the words leave his mouth, he wants to apologize, but instead, he holds his head up high and makes his way back to his side of the lab. Behind him, he can feel the indignation and anger radiating from Geiszler.
For the rest of the day, the music remains at record-high volumes. Hermann supposes he does deserve that in part, and he doesn't want Geiszler to change it to something worse, so he doesn't try and get the other to lower the volume.
And if he does make a mistake or needs to check his work for errors—well, that's what calculators were invented for.
(the dreams seem consistently stuck on dying now; there's less of a follow-up and more repetitions of blood gushing from a bullet wound in his heart and he briefly ponders if it's some sort of metaphor but dismisses the thought)
The first six or seven months of their lab-sharing go by in a similar fashion: on of them overstepping and going too far and then retreating to their side of the lab to wait out whatever retaliation the other has deemed fit. Eventually, however, it gets too much; the stress and anxiety build up until finally one day, Geiszler leaves Kaiju viscera on Hermann's side of the lab and they end up in a shouting match about how the lab should be divided.
"It's obviously there," Geiszler insists, pointing to one spot, "that's the middle. That's where we divide from."
"Most definitely not," Hermann snaps waspishly, because no matter what Geiszler insists, that is not the middle.
"Well then why don't you use your maths to solve this, since they're the "handwriting of God" or whatever," Geiszler says,—badly—imitating Hermann's voice. Hermann flushes with anger, but instead of saying anything, he stalks over to the computer, grip on his cane white-knuckled.
"Wait, what're you doing?" Geiszler questions as Hermann pulls up a tab. He ignores the other man, instead locating a copy of the Hong Kong Shatterdome blueprint. Clicking through a few pages, he finds what he's looking for: the floorplan of the lab.
Triumphant, Hermann grabs a meter-stick and roll of yellow hazmat tape, and measures carefully. "See!" he crows, "the actual middle is one point two meters off of where you were insisting!" Besides him, Geiszler lets out a frustrated sigh but doesn't protest when Hermann tapes a straight line right down the middle of the lab.
(The actual difference is one of only a tenth of a meter, but Hermann isn't about to admit it.)
By the time the one-year mark rolls around without one of them having injured the other—severely—HR has taken to ignoring the complaints Hermann files. By now, everyone else in the 'Dome either ignores the arguments or knows when to vacate the area.
This time, though, they're both on their third consecutive day without sleep, working around the clock to refine predictive models—Hermann—and figuring out how the Kaiju keep getting bigger and stronger than before—Geiszler—and Hermann just wants to crawl into a quiet hole and sleep for a year. Geiszler is worse than usual, fidgeting incessantly, and loud, so loud, pumped up on god-knows how much caffeine.
It's Geiszler who cracks first. "Dude, you're like, falling off of the ladder—you need to sleep," he says—well, yells, over the sound of the bone-saw he's operating to get a cross-section of Yamarashi's thigh-bone (...maybe. Hermann isn't sure) for examination.
"'M fine," Hermann replies, stoically, betrayed by the giant yawn that makes his jaw crack. Geiszler stops the bone-saw and stares at him pointedly. "Alright, alright, perhaps I do need a bit of...rest," Hermann concedes, "but you've been awake for longer than—"
"Then we'll both take a nap," Geiszler interrupts, "the futon is large enough for two."
At any other time, Hermann would be vehemently opposed to the idea, but he's practically dead on his feet, so instead, he pauses and says, "...surprisingly not a horrible idea, Geiszler."
"Well, I am a genius," Geiszler grins. "And don't call me Geiszler—makes me feel like an old man." He strides over to the futon, pulling it out to the full capacity.
Hermann follows him. "Well then, what should I call you?"
"Newt'll do just fine," Geiszler says, and Hermann sighs, collapsing onto the futon.
"I'm not calling you that, it sounds ridiculous," Hermann says sleepily.
"Fine then, Hermann with two N's," Geiszler says, taking the other side of the futon, "you don't snore, do you?"
"No, I do not," Hermann says with only half of the usual vehemence. "Now kindly shut up and let me sleep, Newton." He thinks he hears a startled noise as he drifts off into sleep, but it could full-well be his imagination.
(his sleep is uninterrupted by blue-white flashes for the first time he can remember)
When he wakes, briefly, it's to the feel of another back against his, breathing in tandem. He lets his eyes flutter closed, pulled back to sleep.
Nine months later, when they don't die when Cermander attacks Hawaii, nearly making it to Hong Kong, Newton suggests they go out for drinks. Hermann pauses, chalk suspended a few centimetres from the chalkboard and asks, bluntly, "Why?"
"To celebrate the fact that we're still alive? Let off some stress?" Newton questions, as if it should be obvious. "C'mon, Hermigator, it'll be fun!"
"First of all, never call me that again unless you want to accidentally ingest Kaiju Blue," Hermann threatens, irritation darkening his tone. "And secondly, don't you have work to do?"
Newton waves a hand, as if trying to swat at a particularly bothersome fly, and whines, "Well, yeah, but that can wait—even Marshal Pentecost is out drinking. C'mon, man, it'll be fun!"
Hermann debates briefly before concluding that if he says no, the biologist will pester him until he agrees. Damage control, he reasons. "Fine."
Newton looks surprised for a moment before lighting up. "Awesome!" he enthuses, bouncing on his heels, "come on, come one, let's go!" Hermann sighs, clambers down the ladder, careful not to move his leg incorrectly and sets down the chalk, grabbing his cane.
"Well, lead the way," he says.
"We might want to make a stop by your room," Newton suggests, "it's a bit chilly outside and we wouldn't want you catching a cold."
"No, of course not," Hermann mumbles, feeling foolish at having forgotten the chill outside. "I'll just…go get a coat. I won't be gone long." He takes off down the hall, leaning heavily on his cane; the Hong Kong humidity is doing him no favours, but it is not nearly as bad as when he was in the Vladivostok Shatterdome. As an afterthought, he grabs a pair of gloves as well, pulling them over his icy fingers, and pulls on his parka.
When he gets back to Newton, the other looks about to say something, and, ribcage tightening, Hermann cuts him off. "Do not comment on my coat, Newton," he growls, and Newton, for once, complies.
The trip to the bar is almost silent without Newton's usual rambling in his ear. He wonders why the quiet makes his heart clench, and pushes the thought away.
"So, where exactly are we going?" Hermann questions, breaking the quiet, and Newton looks—surprised, perhaps, as if he hadn't expected Hermann to speak.
Of course, being Newton, he simply says, "Wait and see, man—telling would spoil the surprise." Hermann rolls his eyes but doesn't push.
The bar, as it turns out, is a small one with a neon sign in Mandarin and English proclaiming it to be the Crimson Typhoon. Hermann doubts that it's the only one named after the Chinese Jaeger. Newton enters enthusiastically, dragging Hermann behind him, and greets the bartender, obviously well-aquatinted, going by the response of, "Your regular, then, Doc?"
"Yes, please," Newton confirms, "and a—" he looks at Hermann questioningly.
"Bourbon on the rocks," Hermann fills in.
"And a bourbon on the rocks for my—colleague," Newton says the last part haltingly.
"Coming right up," the bartender says, leaving Hermann to ponder the tightness in his chests at Newton's hesitancy.
Newton's regular, as it turns out, is an electric-blue drink in a large glass, swirls of what look like bolts of lightning appearing through the semi-opaque blue intermittently. Hermann eyes it dubiously as he sips at his bourbon.
"…so, yeah, that's how I got mistaken for some famous actor," Newton chatters by his side, playing with the bendy straw in his drink.
"Only you would get mistaken for an actor and then proceed to find the actual actor and team up for an "epic" prank, Newton," Hermann says, smiling fondly. Newton takes another sip of his drink and turns to Hermann, poised to ask a question, before someone taps Hermann on the shoulder. "What?" he snaps, slightly irritated, turning around the face the person.
The tone of his voice seems to fly over the young man's head and he says, cockily, "What's a guy like you doing with him?" He gestures to Newton disdainfully.
"Excuse me?" Hermann asks, taken aback. The other ploughs onward, oblivious.
"Well, you're a good-looking dude, obviously out of his league—what're you doing with a Kaiju groupie like him?"
Hermann stands, anger turning his vision white, and draws himself to his full height. "Doctor Geiszler is an admirable man—worth ten times as much as the likes of you. He is the only reason imbeciles like you haven't died of Kaiju Blue poisoning," he hisses, "I'd advise you choose your next words carefully."
"Hermann—" Newton starts, only to fall silent when Hermann raises a finger, eyes still locked on the man in front of him.
Apparently, though, the man has no desire to end this confrontation peacefully. "How about you listen to your boyfriend and run off like the pathetic little queer you are, huh," he snarls, "go on, listen to the Kaiju bitch—"
The rest of his sentence is cut off as, with a growl, Hermann punches him in the jaw. Hard.
He whirls around, grabbing his cane and stalking through the people who've gathered. Behind him, he hears Newton apologizing to the bartender and following behind him.
Two blocks later, Newton catches up to him. "What'd you that for?" he asks, and from anyone else, it would make Hermann's hackles raise, but from Newton, it sounds soft. "You could've gotten hurt."
"He shouldn't've insulted you," Hermann shoots back. "Talk shit, get hit." The phrase is one Newton uses often.
"While I appreciate you defending my honour like that, Herms, the man isn't wrong," Newton reasons. "You're like…way out of my league."
The Shatterdome is visible ahead and Hermann snaps, anger tightening his tone, "That doesn't give him—or anyone else—the right to treat you like dirt! You have six PhDs, Newton, why do you let them step on you like a welcoming mat?" The last part is said more quietly, a swell of frustration, anger, and an indecipherable feeling churning in his lungs.
Beside him, Newton is silent. Finally, so quietly that, in his tired state, Hermann almost misses it, he whispers, Thank you. No one—no one's ever stood up for me like that."
Hermann's heart feels fit to burst and he wants to hug this manic, self-deprecating man and never let him go. Instead, he ignores the lump in his throat and pays Newton's arm with his free hand. They're in the Shatterdome, now, out of the cold, and Newton leans against him with a sigh, eyes fluttering, dark lashes fanning against freckled skin, making him look ethereal.
Normally, this observation would cause Hermann to do…something, but right now, lab partner pressed to his side and tired enough to collapse, Hermann lets it lie, instead electing to limp toward his quarters—the closest of the pairs' and thus, logically, the best choice—and nudges Newton lightly, fumbling to type in the security code for his door.
"Newton," he whispers, and the other raises his heads blinking blearily at Hermann.
"Wa's goin' on?" he slurs, half asleep and still a bit inebriated.
"You need to sleep," Hermann says quietly. Newton squints at his bed.
"You sure we'll both fit on there?" he asks, dubiously.
Hermann sighs, stripping off his winter clothing. "It's that or the floor, Newton—you can barely support yourself and I'm too tired to escort you to your quarters and make my way back."
"Oh." Newton considers this for a moment before he settles down on top of the bedsheets.
"Are you going to take your coat and scarf off or do you need me to assist you?" Hermann asks bluntly, pulling off his blazer and leaving it in a heap atop his parka.
He takes the distinctive lack of an answer as a call for help and pulls Newton's gloves off before unzipping his leather jacket and loosening his scarf, depositing items at the end of the bed. Newton mumbles a thank you. Hermann hums in reply, toeing off his shoes and crawling under the duvet. "You should get under covers as well, Newton," he advises, a yawn splitting his face.
"Yeah, give me a minute," Newton replies groggily, and, just before Hermann drifts off, facing outwards on the edge of the bed, he feels the covers lift, letting in a draft, before Newton lets the duvet fall, radiating warmth.
Hermann falls asleep with a small smile on his face.
(the white-blue dreams stay at bay that night, leaving him to drift through the dark of unconsciousness)
The next morning when he wakes, Newton is curled in a fetal position. He whimpers slightly when Hermann crawls out of bed, a keening whine, and burrows his face in Hermann's now-vacated pillow. Hermann sighs fondly, going to fetch a glass of water and some aspirin, and the domesticity of the situation hits him like a ton of bricks.
He's—enjoying it. The thought shocks him, the fact that he would be more than happy to wake up to Newton in his bed—and not just as a casual fling to relieve tension. He wants a relationship. The thought scares him.
He returns to Newton, mind far away, but luckily, the other seem to notice, instead gratefully downing the offered pills with a gulp of water and falling back asleep. Hermann decides he needs it; quietly, he pulls out a few items of clothing, changing in the bathroom en suite, and makes his way out as quietly as possible.
Though it's Friday, the 'Dome is nearly silent; not unusual after an attack. Hermann's model doesn't predict another attack for three months.
Regardless, he ascends the ladder on his side of the lab, trying to focus on his equations to push back the creeping thoughts of domestic bliss away; acknowledging such thoughts is a slippery slope, and he's not sure he can bear having his heart broken.
The chalk skitters across the board with a god-awful scriiIITCH, like nails on a windowpane, and snaps in half, the other piece flying off into Newton's side of the lab. Hermann sighs, closing his eyes. Images of Newton, face half-smashed into the mattress, hair tousled, expression serene appear in his mind's eye, refusing to be banished despite his best efforts.
Two years pass in a similar fashion. Funding for the Jaeger program decreases daily, personnel dwindling until it's but a skeleton crew. The spacing between attacks drops from an average of three months to just above a month, leaving everyone on jittery and on edge. K-Science is the only research division left and soon it'll be just Newton and himself.
It becomes a common occurrence for them to simply crash on the futon for a few hours, dark rings under their eyes, fingers shaking slightly, to take a two-hour nap and then it's back to the grind. Hermann can barely remember what it feels like to eat a proper meal or get a full night's rest.
(what little sleep he gets is plagued by the feel of blood on his skin, and he wakes with bile in his mouth; newton casts him worried glances, uncertain of what to say)
One day he finds himself humming one of Newton's songs and doesn't notice until Newton points it out.
"Dude, are you—are you humming Radioactive?" Disbelief is painted across Newton's face, the scalpel in his hand frozen above a Kaiju eyeball, momentarily forgotten.
"No!" Hermann denies immediately, face heating up, and turns back to his writing to hide it.
From the corner of his eye, he sees Newton shoot him a strange look before he shrugs. "Alright, man, whatever you say." Hermann doesn't deign to reply, focusing instead on his writing.
New Year's is almost forgotten by Hermann, busy as he is with mapping out the Breach. The Kaiju are getting bigger and better at defence, better at taking Jaegers out with them when they go down. A third of the Earth is too irradiated to be able to support life—let alone human civilization—for at least a few centuries. People are losing hope.
Hermann is losing hope.
Just as he's about to throw down his chalk and call it a day, Newton appears at the base of the ladder, a box in each hand.
"C'mon, dude, have a drink with me—it's New Year's Eve!" he cajoles, "your equations will still be there in the morning." Hermann rubs his eyes, trying to come up with a suitable reason to decline, but finds none. He can feel the pout Newton's aiming at him. "Come on, Hermann, it'll be fun—actually, do you even know what fun is?"
Hermann rolls his eyes but begins to descend the ladder anyway. "I shall keep you company, if only to ensure you do not do something you regret," he says, adamantly refusing to look the other in the eye as he grabs his cane.
Newton lets out a cheer. "This is gonna be so fun—we can watch Star Trek; I have the entire Original Series on DVD," he chatters. Hermann lets out an indulgent laugh, following Newton to his quarters.
Once inside, Newton sets the boxes down next to his bed, chattering as he riffles through various drawers, searching for his laptop and DVDs. While he's occupied, Hermann surveys the room.
It isn't the first time he's been in Newton's quarters—collapsing in each others' beds after multiple all-nighters is almost a tradition for them at this point—but it's the first time he's been here with this much control of his faculties. It's not as messy as he's expecting—it's not Spartan and orderly like his own, but everything seems to have its place.
"Move over," Newton commands, laptop in hand, and Hermann obligingly shifts to allow the biologist room to sit. Without warning, Newton drops the computer onto Hermann's lap, leaning forward to grab two glasses and a bottle of wine off the ground. Thankfully, he doesn't seem to have heard Hermann's undignified squawk of surprise,
"What episode are we watching?" Hermann enquires, trying to regain his composure, and accepts the glass Newton hands to him.
Newton smirks at him, a fling of mischief in his eyes, and replies, "Amok Time."
The episode begins, the classic title rolling, theme music blasting from the pathetic excuse for speakers. "…space, the final frontier: these are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise," the voice-over intones. By the time they get to the point when Spock finally admits what's wrong with him, they've both ingested multiple cups of wine, and are pressed against each other, shoulder to shoulder, watching raptly. Hermann feels a tad bit lighter than usual, and the way Newton grips his arm at the more suspenseful moments does things to his heartbeat he'd prefer not to analyse.
The episode winds to a climax as Kirk and Spock lunge at each other in the dry, sandy Vulcan environment, lirpas gripped in their hands. Hermann finds himself holding his breath anxiously, gripping Newton's hand back in an equally vice-like grip as Spock pummels Kirk until the captain stops breathing.
He even sheds a tear—Newton is sobbing onto his shoulder at this point, though unlike Hermann, he's already seen this episode countless times—when the camera focuses on Spock's shocked and horrified face.
Of course, as it turns out, the captain isn't actually dead—a fact that Hermann had already parsed out, given that the series had continued for a bit longer, and 60s shows simply didn't continue with the main character dead—and the blinding smile on Spock's face when he discovers this, the rapturous exclamation of, "Jim!" makes both of them smile, watery, Newton's buried in his shoulder.
Suddenly, just as the end credits roll, Newton's phone rings, the loud chorus of one of the songs Newton insists on playing at deafening levels for hours on end, shatters the silence.
"Oh shit," Newton mutters, dragging his hand out of Hermann's, fumbling with the flimsy pockets of his jeans. The sound continues and Hermann reaches out, pulling the phone from where it's clearly visible in Newton's jacket pocket. The screen reads Five minutes until 20124! Remember to tell Hermann—
Newton snatches the phone out of his hands before he can read the rest of the title, flushed from the wine. It takes him a few tries to get the alarm to finally turn off.
"So," Hermann says, attempting to break the silence.
"So," Newton echoes back at him. His hair is tousled and when Hermann reaches to push a piece away from his face, he stills. It might be the light, his mind playing tricks on him, but Newton's eyes are dilated—
Two things happen at once; Newton's phone lets out a burst of sound, and barely half a second later, fireworks explode with a boom! Hermann startles, arm jerking away at the sound at the same time as Newton flinches at the noise, and he winds up elbowing Newton in the eye.
With a grunt of pain, Newton doubles over, clutching at his face, and Hermann's hand flies to his mouth in surprise.
"Are you—are you alright?" he asks, guilt tinging his tone.
Newton lifts his head, squinting at Hermann out of his good eye, and whines, "Ow, dude, you're way stronger than you look."
Hermann lets out a startled huff of amusement, laughter coming easily to him in his semi-inebriated state, and even more easily to Newton, till they're sprawled out on the bed, ribs aching from laughter.
"Happy New Year, Hermann," Newton says giddily, and Hermann returns the smile.
"Happy New Year, Newton."
Two-thousand-twenty-four is frenetic.
The Kaiju are coming faster, now, faster faster faster and both Newton and Hermann are running themselves to the ground, they're all running themselves into the ground trying to fend off the Kaiju, push off the end—inevitable, Hermann's mind whispers—because they're the literal last line of defence that the Earth's got, and fuck if that isn't terrifying and depressing and—
Sometimes Hermann just wants to turn off life for a bit and stop existing, come back when things are better.
(blue-white fragments mock him, a constant chant of it'll never be over never ever ever ever ever not until we're all dead, radiation-filled husks. he wants to scream)
He copes by shouting at—with—Newton over the smallest things—professionality (Doctor Gottlieb), music tastes (when Newton's played the same album on repeat for the nth time on their second week of adrenaline, sugar, and caffeine-fueled working spree), everything and anything, anything to fill the hollowness in his chest, the knowledge that they'll most likely be dead next year, fighting a war they're losing on a chunk of rock spinning through space, wrecked by radiation, against a whole nother goddamn dimension.
It sounds like something out of a bad science fiction film.
It feels like Hell on Earth—if Hell were populated with innocents and hundred-thousand-ton beasts that poison anything their blood touches.
Hermann rubs his eyes, the white of the chalk dust on his sleeve, the equations on the board in front of him swimming before his eyes. On the other side of the lab—split by yellow hazmat tape down the middle years ago that feels more chasmic than the Atlantic that once separated them, though this one cannot be bridged by letters—Newton is quiet, and Hermann wonders if his body has finally given out, leaving him sleeping face-down on a microscope, dents on the bridge of his nose where his glasses have been pressed against his face by safety goggles.
He wonders, if they do survive this, somehow, if miraculously they win the war––where will it leave the two of them? Will they be able to go their separate ways, or have they grown too intertwined, too co-dependent?
Hermann thinks he knows which it is for him, and the answer terrifies him.
(when he collapses onto the futon next to newton, more used to sleeping on it rather than his own bed at this point, the white-blue that bursts into being the moment his eyes drift close is almost comforting)
When he wakes a few hours later, eyes sunken and fingers still shaking, Newton shoots him a sympathetic look and shoves a cup of shitty mess-hall Earl Grey into his hands, and Hermann thinks he's never wanted to survive until afterwards as much as he does now.
Maybe he's just never had a reason to want to live before.
This thing they do—this dance of theirs, aggravate, confront, repel, rinse and repeat, is a way to stay sane. Dig proverbial nails into skin and draw blood just to know they're alive.
Or maybe they're both going insane, trapped here in this concrete-insulated twenty-meter by twenty-meter lab, tearing each other apart in a desperate caricature of intimacy.
He thinks, perhaps, they've fallen to the ground and shattered into ugly things, less human than they should be, and they simply haven't realised it yet.
The minutes blur into hours into days into months, each day more manic than the last, his equations slanting upwards instead of going across the board in the orderly way they're meant to. Externally, he's collected—mostly—and professional, voice steady as he creates audio recordings of his predictions. Internally, he's spinning on a fiery carousel, unable to get off as it spirals downward, faster and faster.
Twenty-twenty-five dawns in a blaze of death, the only positive the viscous pleasure Hermann gets when the Category V Kaiju breaks through Lars' precious Wall of Life.
When the Marshal enters, Hermann doesn't even notice, so wrapped up in his work, until Newton says, "Nah, call me Newt—only my mom calls me Doctor." Hermann chambers down the ladder, making his way to the other's side, and Newton says, pointedly, "Say hello to the humans, Hermann."
"I asked you not to refer to me by my first name around others," he snaps, glaring. "I a doctor with over ten years of decorated experience—"
Newton cuts him off, shifting the sample jar in his arms. "He doesn't get out of his cage much."
The man beside Pentecost, who's been quiet so far, raises a brow at Newton's exposed tattoos. "Nice ink. Is that Yamarashi?"
Hermann tamps down a groan as Newton's eyes light up. "Good eye, though you'd have to be a moron not to recognise him."
"Well, my brother and I took him down in 2017," the ranger—his name's on the tip of Hermann's tongue—says, "cut his head off, if I remember right."
Ah. Raleigh Becket. By his side, Newton stills, eyes widening. "Woah."
Becket shoots a glance at Mako, seeming to tune out Newton's babbling, and Hermann considers elbowing his partner.
"—awesome! Newton ends.
"Awesome?" Becket questions, and Hermann winces at the biologist's lack of tact; Becket's brother—and Drift partner—was killed by a Kaiju.
For once, Newton seems to take a hint, backtracking. "I mean, awful! Or awesome in the old sense of the word. Awe-inspiring."
Desperate to minimise the damage, Hermann cuts in. "Do forgive him—he's a Kaiju groupie. He loves them."
Sadly, Newton misses the warning in his tone, steamrolling on. "I don't love them. I've just studied the things like, my whole life and never seen one up close."
It feels like watching a train wreck in slow motion, unable to do anything. "Trust me you don't want to." Becket's tone is tense.
"Well, they are the most immense, complex living entities to ever walk the Earth. Way I see it, if you wanna stop the Kaiju, you gotta understand them."
Hermann exchanges a glance with Pentecost.
"Or you could just blow 'em to chunks," Becker snaps, agitated, and Pentecost steps in.
"This way," he announces, turning to Hermann and Newton. "Debrief in ten, gentlemen."
Out of habit, Hermann snaps a salute. Newton turns to him with a disapproving huff. "What, are you an officer now, too?"
Hermann ignores him.
Pentecost returns later, the elder Hansen by his side, as Hermann is explaining his latest prediction to Newton. "In the beginning, the Jainism attacks were spaced by twelve months, then six, then three months, then six weeks, then three. Then every two weeks." He pauses to glance at the newcomers, standing at the base of his ladder. "The most recent attack, in Sydney, was a week."
He pauses again to let it sink in before continuing. "In four days, we could be seeing Kaiju every eight hours until they're coming every eight minutes." He leaves it there, but thy all know the implications.
"We should witness a double event within seven days—"
"Should?" Pentecost interrupts. "I need more than just a prediction."
Newton sees fit to say, smugly, "He can't give you anything better than that—"
It's then that, out of the corner of his eyes, Hermann spots it: a slime-covered, snaking was of Kaiju intestines. With a huff, he descends, stomping over to Newton, jabbing a finger at his chest. "No Kaiju entrails on my side of the room! You know the rules!" He gives the organ in question a shove with the tip of his cane, shifting it over the line with with a disgusting squealch. Newton opens his mouth to deliver a retort.
Hansen, wager to get back on track, interrupts. "On point, gents!"
Hermann taps the cane against the floor in a vain attempt to knock off the mucus-like slime clinging to it, and says, "Numbers do not lie, sir. Poetry, politics, promises…" he tries not to dwell on the last one lest his heart aches more. "Those are the lies. Numbers are as close as we get to the handwriting of God." Newton let's out a divisive snort and mutters something he doesn't catch, and he elects to ignore it, driving home his point with, "There will be a double event. Not might. Will. And then, shortly thereafter, three Kaiju, and then four, and then…"
Pentecost finishes his sentence. "And then we're dead."
Hermann nods, watching the Marshal. His expression remains stony. He's been expecting this.
Hermann taps the chalk against the board to refocus their attention, circling the number four he'd scrawled on the chalkboard. "This is where the good news comes in." He sets the chalk down and limps over to one of the holo-models he has tuning. "Here is our universe," he points to the top of the model before rotating it. "And here is theirs." He points to the other end. In between, a passage, narrow in the middle and widening at each end is highlighted in orange-red.
"This is what we call "The Throat". It's the passage between the Anteverse, as we've named it, and us. Every time a Kaiju—or two, or three, or however many—passes through, the Breach—the portal, if you will—remains open for a short amount of time before and after they have finished their journey. And there seems to be a correlation between the mass of the Kaiju and the length of time the Breach remains open after their transit." Newton shoots him a bored look and mouths, dumb it down so they know what the hell you're talking about. Hermann makes an annoyed noise at the back of his throat but continues. "Think of traffic lights at freeway on-ramps. They turn red and green at predictable intervals, but everyone has to stop for a moment. If the light just stayed green for just a little longer, two or three or four cars—or one long tractor-trailer truck—could go through with no blink of red in between. A crude comparison, but it suffices."
He pulls up the avatar of a missile, dragging it into the Breach. "I predict the increased traffic, and larger Kaiju, will force the Breach to remain open long enough to get a device through and break the structure."
On the holo-mod, the missile explodes, the blast wave shuddering through the Breach and into the Throat, the entire structure collapsing, spraying blue pinpricks across the projector, the two universes severed from each other.
"We have one shot at this. We have to be sure," Pentecost says, grimly, eyes weary—the sort of weary that comes not from sleep-deficiency but from the stress of having devoted over a decade to the protection of humanity, only to get thrown aside and called a money-wasting fool.
Finally, the dam holding Newton back bursts. "It's not good enough to know when or for how long the portal will open," he says, waving a hand dismissively at Hermann's model. "Anyone can crunch numbers and figure that out. I mean, Hermann's maths are good," he allows. "They always are. But maths aren't going to win this fight. Understanding the Kaiju will. On that front, I have a theory."
With a sinking sense of dread, Hermann realises what he's going to say next. "Please don't embarrass yourself—"
Pentecost cuts him off, indicating for Newton to continue.
Delighted, Newton begins. "Why do we judge Kaiju on a category system? Because each of them is different from the next. It's almost like each of them is a whole new species. There doesn't appear to be any family relationships between individuals that could give us a classification system, so we go by size and mass instead."
"Get to the point, Geiszler," Pentecost snaps, impatient.
Newton walks—wades would be the more appropriate term here—across his side of the lab, holding up the piece of Kaiju he's been hacking at for the past half-hour. "Despite the highly individuated appearance of each Kaiju, there are certain fundamental structures that remain the same. This piece," he says, slapping it down on a tray next to another and shoving everything else to the sides of the table, "is one I collected from a gland harvested in Sydney."
He waves a gloved hand, sending bits of tissue flying, some splattering on Hermann's side of the lab—
Pentecost glares at him when he makes a move towards Newton.
"This piece," Newton indicates to the other one, "was harvested in Manila, six years ago."
Hansen and Pentecost step closer. Hermann hangs back, already knowing what they'll see.
The glands are identical.
"Same exact DNA," Newton says, shifting from foot to foot with nervous energy. "Two different specimens, two exact clones."
"And here he goes crazy," Hermann warns with a sigh. Newton barrels on.
"The DNA structures replicated in each of these organs serve two functions; one is, of course, to create this specific kind of tissue, just like in carbon-based life-forms. But with the Kaiju, it does something else—it encodes memories.." Newton's eyes are burning with passion, now, and he's gesticulating wildly. "I've identified structures within the silicate nucleotides that appear to exist purely for information storage. They don't program tissue formation or function—they're memory banks."
Understanding begins to dawn on the others' faces, and Newton pulls off his gloves, bouncing over to the tank with the Kaiju brain. "Cellular memory—this specimen's damaged, weak…but still alive. If we can tap into it by initiating a neural handshake, then we could, theoretically, learn where they came from…see inside the Breach and experience exactly how to get through ourselves."
Pentecost shoots Hansen a look and says, slowly, "Let me see if I understand—you are suggesting we initiate a Drift with a Kaiju?"
"A piece of its brain, yes. And a few pieces of equipment," Newton says, impatient.
"A few pieces?"
"Just enough to create a Pons," Newton assures, unaware of how utterly insane he sounds. "A neural bridge. There's—"
Pentecost shakes his head.
"It's too risky," Hansen cuts in, "the neural overload will leave you brain dead at best—we can barely handle each other, and you want to Drift with a goddamn alien?"
Newton begins to protest. "Bu—"
"I agree," Pentecost says, "Dr. Gottlieb, I want your data on my desk as soon as possible." He nods at them, turning to leave, and Hansen follows.
Newton's hands drop limply to his sides, a frustrated, crestfallen expression on his face, eyes glassy. Hermann isn't sure how to comfort him.
Instead, an antagonistic, "I know you wanted to be right so you've not wasted your life being a Kaiju groupie," jumps from him—an attempt to distract Newton.
The other doesn't take the bait, storming back to his side of the lab, a muttered, "Fortune favours the bold, dude," that Hermann almost misses.
"You heard them," Hermann retorts, "they won't give you the equipment, and even if they did, you'd kill yourself." He doesn't say, I'm not sure how I could live if you die.
Newton says something incomprehensible and hacks away at a Kaiju oesophagus, ignoring him.
Hermann pretends it doesn't make his heart clench.
The next day, when Hermann wakes, everything feels slightly off—like someone took his view of the world and shifted everything ever so slightly. At first, it starts as a faint hum but as the minutes pass, it goes sharper, setting his teeth on edge like the buzzing from standing under telephone poles for too long—
He races to the lab, heart pounding in his chest, a thousand prayers falling from his lips, please please please please—
Newton is laying on the floor, surrounded by various pieces of equipment cobbled together, seizing.
"Newt!" Hermann shouts, racing to his side, and collapses to his knees, shaking the biologist. Newton let's out a choked sound between spasms, and Hermann's mind stutters to a halt, no no no no no no you can't be dead please—"Newt!" he shouts, desperate, ripping off the Pons headset, and slaps him.
For a second, Newton's eyes flicker open, and he grins, delirious, and whispers, hoarse but triumphant, "I was right."
Then he slumps forward, unconscious, a trickle of blood dripping down from his nose.
The next—hour? Two hours? It feels both like a blink of an eye and an eternity in his panicked state—pass in a blur. Eventually, Newton wakes again, grinning at Hermann as he helps the biologist to a chair and hands him a glass of water.
It fades when Hermann remains stonily silently save for a fall to the Marshal.
Newton takes a sip of water, hands shaking, left eye red from a burst vein, and wipes at the blood under his nose. Smugly, he says, "As usual, I was right. Hermann, not so much."
Hermann turns away, pretending to get something out of the refrigerator. It's mostly to hide the shaking of his hands and the hollowness of his expression. He's not sure if he can stop himself from crying if he tries to speak.
"Specifics," Pentecost orders.
"Okay," Newton says. "So it was only a fragment of a brain. All I got was a series of images—impressions, like you get from blinking your eyes over and over again. All you see are, like, frames. It was like that but…emotional?" His voice rises at the end, as if unsure how to explain properly.
Hermann grips the refrigerator handle more tightly, knuckles white against the metal.
"Sorry, okay." Newton huffs. "What I mean is, I don't feel like they're…following some sort of animalistic urge to hunt and gather or whatever. They've been manufactured. Every cell…it holds the memory of the entire species."
"They're breeding?" Pentecost asks.
"Not as simple—no. I mean, yeah, they can breed, yes. Like, they have the equipment to do it, to create life through, um, the alien version of sex, but I think…" he trails off. "I think they have a—boss. They're attacking under orders. All this time, we thought we were fighting monsters, but we're fighting organic weapons. Silicate-based organic automata. They were created, designed, and built, just for this."
"That's impossible," Hermann whispers, but Newton catches it anyway.
"Hey, you know what, maybe you Drift with a cold cut, tell me what you see," Newton snaps.
Pentecost slams a hand down on the table, and Hermann flinches. "Enough! Gottlieb, shut up! Geiszler—talk!"
A few seconds pass before Newton begins again. "These beings, they're colonists…and this isn't the first time they've been here—the first time was with the dinosaurs. A trial run. But the atmosphere wasn't conducive, so they waited. What, a hundred million years? That's nothing to them. And now, with ozone depletion, carbon monoxide, polluted waters…hell, we practically terraformed it for them!" He lets out a bark of laughter at the irony.
"The Kaiju…the reason I found identical DNA in two separate samples is because they're grown. Fabricated, assembled. Made of spare parts. They are living weapons, Marshal. The first wave was just the hounds. Categories one to four. Their sole purpose is to clean out the vermin—that's us—by aiming for heavily populated areas, the next wave—" he stops, a horrified expression on his face.
Hermann and the Marshal both freeze at his next words.
"The next wave is the exterminators. They'll finish the job, leaving the Earth to their masters."
He lets it sink in. Then, apropos nothing, Newton says, "Hermann, quit feeling sorry for yourself just because I was right and now I'm Pentecost's favourite. Did you get a chance to look at the Drift recording?"
I don't give a fuck about you being Pentecost's favourite—I almost watched you die! Hermann wants to scream. Instead, he tersely replies, "I was otherwise occupied with saving your life, Doctor Geiszler." A flash of hurts gone as fast as it came, flits across Newton's expression.
"For God's sake," Newton huffs, "Hermann—"
Apparently sensing an argument brewing, Pentecost says, "What do you need, Geiszler?"
Newton's gaze focuses on him. "Hermann," he says, "Stegosaurus. They've done this before…"
"So you mentioned," Hermann responds, "however, your Drift recording is fragmented—practically useless. Perhaps an image here and there, but…nothing that can help."
"I need you to do it again," Pentecost says. "I need more."
Newton laughs, rasping, "I can't. Unless you happen to have a fresh Kaiju brain lying around, 'cause this one here s practically useless."
Pentecost gives a contemplative look.
"Wait," Newton says, all traces of humour gone. "Do you?"
"There are certain individuals whose business is the preservation and exploitation of Kaiju parts," Pentecost replies, avoiding the question."
"Black market dealers, you mean. Yeah, they're the best people to go to if you want a rare flipper or tusk or—" Hermann glares, and Newton hurriedly adds, "—or so I've heard. I mean, we're hardly getting great funding—we have to resort to extreme measures at some point. Someone said it was alright. I have a signed form. Actually, you probably signed it, Marshal," Newton babbles.
Hermann lets out a sigh, but Newton rambles on, fingers tapping a nervous staccato against his leg. "In fact, I'm sure you signed it. You said I could buy those organs and that was the only way to do it—"
"Dr. Geiszler," Pentecost cuts him off, holding a hand up to stop further babbling, "please, do a little less talking and a little more listening. I don't care who you buy Kaiju parts from. I don't care that you took a pair of wire cutters to the door of the old Shaolin Rogue repair bay," here, Newton has the presence of mind to look ashamed. Good, Hermann thinks, I almost watched you die. "What I care is that you understand what you are about to do," Pentecost continues, "so please return your attention to the monitor."
The monitor in question is Hermann's computer, tapped into CCTV footage. On screen, a team of people wearing hazmat suits flock around the body of a dead Kaiju.
"They go in and out, and in a matter of hours, they neutralize the Kaiju Blue and harvest what they need." Pentecost clicks the mouse, freezing the feed, and zooms in on one of the figures. "Hannibal Chau. He runs the Asian Kaiju black markets. When our funding ran out, I turned to him. In return, I granted him exclusive rights to all Kaiju remains in the region."
"You did that?" Hermann asks, shocked. By his side, peering at the Marshal instead of the monitor, Newton mirrors his shock.
"Last days of war, gentlemen," Pentecost says grimly, holding out a piece of paper to Newton. "Go to the corner of Fong and Tull. If anyone can help us, it's him."
The reality of the situation sinks in: Pentecost is going to send Newton to a situation where he will more than likely die, alone, just an hour after Hermann found him seizing on the ground. "Sir—" Hermann protests.
The Marshal cuts him off. "Word of advice, though: don't trust him."
"What am I supposed to do with this?" Newton asks, waving the orange paper.
"You have a luma lamp?" Pentecost shoots over his shoulder, leaving the two of them alone in the lab.
"You can't go!" Hermann protests, but Newton is already shrugging on a coat, and shoots him a blood-stained grin.
"Dude, I'm gonna be a rockstar!" he declares, hurrying out the door, leaving Hermann with the feeling that something is terribly, horribly wrong.
Half an hour later, the Breach alarms blare.
He hurries down to LOCCENT, trying to ignore the growing worry for Newton, and makes a bee-line for Tendo's station, the Hansens behind him. "I love being right," Hermann says, in an attempt to return to the normal rapport.
(To push aside fear for Newton.)
Tendo glares at him venomously, but the Marshal interrupts. "What size are they?"
"Both Cat. IV," Tendo says, brusquely, pulling up a visual approximation. "Codenames: Leatherback and Otachi. They'll reach Hong Kong with an hour."
Pentecost's face is steely. "Evacuate the city. I want every citizen in a refuge, right now. Ships in the harbour?"
"Coast Guard's evacing all crews," Tendo replies, tapping away at his keyboard, eyes flicking between holo-projections.
There's a pause, and Hermann debates what to say. Finally, he clears his throat. "Sir, you have to hold off. My parabola was right. We may lose the city, but we must preserve the Jaegers for the mission. We need to hold ground."
The mission—codename Operation Pitfall—is something Hermann loathes. It's their only chance of winning, but Newton is out there and—
He can't even finish the thought, banishing it from his mind.
The senior Hansen bristles. "Hey! It's a city of ten million people against numbers on a chalkboard!"
Hermann stiffens. "My numbers are correct. A city of ten million, or the whole of humanity? We cannot save everyone. If we do not have the Jaegers to deliver the device into the Breach, protecting the city will not matter."
There's a silence, before, nervously, Tendo breaks it. "Sir? Do you want to deploy?"
Another, tense, silence, before Pentecost says, "Crimson Typhoon, Cherno Alpha, frontline the harbour. Stay in the miracle mile. Striker Eureka," he turns to the Hansens. "Stay in the back and guard the coastline. We cannot afford to lose you—only engage as a final resort."
"Right, sir," the senior Hansen says, his son following by his side as the pilots move to suit up.
An indeterminate amount of time later, he's in some sort of helicopter, the blades beating a steady, thunderous rhythm above him, rain lashing against it, plastering Hermann's hair to his skin.
Finally—finally, they land, as close to Otachi's corpse as they can, and Hermann climbs out, all nerves, the wind blowing at the fur on the parka's hood into his face, a prayer to deities he's never believed in. Please, if I am only granted one miracle, let Newton be alive, please.
When he catches sight of the biologist—and he is a sight, hair sticking up at odd angles, ripped clothes, blood on his skin, glasses cracked—he lets out a sigh of relief.
Around them, PPDC techs rush in and out of vans, setting up a temporary cover. Newton directs a few others in hooking up Otachi's baby to the Pons.
"Hermann," Newton greets, "I think I've seen enough live Kaiju to last me a few lifetimes."
Hermann gives a strained smile. Now that his partner's—relative—safety has been assured, he needs to focus.
He pulls out the PPDC radio-monitor from his parka, one hand gripping his cane as he fiddles with it. He checks the signatures—there's only two. "They only have two signatures in the Breach," he mutters, brows furrowing. "Two of them."
"Hey, you want to help, give me a hand with this," Newton calls. "Neural interface is off the charts. This didn't happen when I drifted with the cold cut."
Hermann frowns. "This can't be right...there should be three Kaiju, not two."
Newton tosses him a devil-may-care grin, all teeth. "Hurts to be wrong, doesn't it?"
"I am not," Hermann shoots back. "But the only way to find out is to do this...together."
Newton gapes at him, shocked.
"I'll go with you," Hermann continues. "That's what the Jaeger pilots do—share the neural load." You won't survive this on your own.
"You're serious?" Newton squeaks, "you—you would do that for me? Or with me?"
Hermann smiles, so wide it hurts. Yes, a thousand times yes. "Well, with certain worldwide destruction as an alternative, do I really have a choice?"
A grin splits Newton's face. "Say it with me, then!" He slaps a Pons headset on, "We're gonna own this bad boy!"
Hermann grasps the outstretched hand. "By Jove, we're going to own this thing for sure!" He picks up a second headset, handing it, and a cable to Newton.
Within minutes, his headset is ready. Newton hands it to him, turning to the two flightily-looking techs by his side. "Well," he says, "I'm about to do a kind of hairy experiment here. Mind pulling the plug if it looks like things are going south?"
The techs exchange looks. "You kidding me? How the hell are we gonna know if things are going south?"
Newton shrugs, turning back to Hermann. "You ready?"
No. "Of course I'm ready," Hermann scoffs. His knuckles are white.
"Alright," Newton says, voice shaking slightly, and initiates the sequence. "Initiating neural handshake, in three...two...one—"
blue-white blood he's dying owen is dying who is owen numbers language of the universe they will hide me tosh is shaking him can't die so sorry so sorry numbers can hide behind numbers they are never angry never wrong choose no sides they will never betray me—
He gasps, choking and spluttering as Newton's memories, his entirety bombarding him
freak wrong smart-mouth queer teach him his place fuck them all I'm gonna be a rockstar hermann is my friend my only friend or is he he hates me I'm sorry I can fix it please he hates me it's all my fault I'm a fuck up he hates me why can't I hate him I can't hate him I love him—
The white-blue distorts, his mind bends, turning inside out.
The word freezes everything, the being's gaze flickering over them—we are one now not hermann or newt hermannandnewt
It sizes them up, knowing them for what they really are, nothing hidden because they are not worth the effort—
die all of you will die the brain is too far gone decaying dying we are coming for you you cannot stop us we have waited and now you will wait as we bring you death we bring you the end we bring you—
The world snaps and some is it Newt is it Herrmann is it rips the headset off of him.
"You alright?" Newt asks, voice muddied. Hermann thinks his eardrums may have burst.
He nods shakily. "I—I'm fine. But you saw it—you saw it, didn't you?" Then his stomach does a complicated figure eight, and he sprints to a conveniently discarded toilet, griping the rim as he heaves.
Once he's done, Newt hands him a handkerchief, waiting for him to wipe at his mouth. A thousand questions spark in his eyes. They both have questions. Instead, he simply says, "I did. We have to warn them. Their plan—"
"It's not going to work," Hermann finishes. They share a look and, bracing against each other, stumble out of the tent, shouting for someone to get them a helicopter.
One chopper ride later, they stumble into the Shatterdome, running as fast as they can, bracing against each other for support.
"Out of the way you fascists!" Newt shouts, as they make their way across LOCCENT to Tendo. "It's not gonna work, it's not gonna work!" he yells, screeching to a halt in front of Herc Hansen.
"What's not going to work?" he asks sharply.
"Blowing up the Breach!" Newt pants.
Hermann nods. "He's right."
The horrified silence is broken as Pentecost's voice crackles over the comm. "LOCCENT, Scrunner's broken off pursuit. We're less than a hundred miles from jump location to the Breach. What's the problem there?"
Newt releases Hermann, striding over to Tendo's station. "Sir, even though the Breach is open, you won't be able to get through—there was a reason DNA strands were repeated from Kaiju to Kaiju—" he doubles over, out of breath, and Hermann picks up.
"The Breach read the Kaiju like a barcode—it only lets them through if it scans positive."
"You have to fool the Breach into thinking you've got the same code," Newt cuts in.
Stunned silence. Finally, Chuck asks the question on everyone's mind. "How do we do that?"
Hermann and Newt glance at each other. "You have to lock up with the Kaiju," Hermann says sombrely. "Ride it into the Breach and detonate."
The proclamation is met with stunned horror as the implication sets in.
"You're sure?" Pentecost questions.
"Yes," newt nods, never mind that the Marshal can't see it.
Hermann hesitates. "Well…"
"We think," they conclude is synchrony.
"You learned this…?" Pentecost trails off, awaiting continuation.
"We Drifted with the brain of a fetal Kaiju," Newt says. "But never mind that. We know, that's what we learned. If you don't do this, the bomb will deflect off the Breach and…the mission will fail." We will all die is left unsaid.
"Sir," Tendo says, "I have a third signature from the Breach."
Hermann squeezes his eyes shut. "Oh God, I was right." Newt pats him on the shoulder.
"How big is it?" Pentecost asks, voice steady.
"Our first Category V," Tendo replies.
After that, it fades to a blur. He thinks Newt is saying something to him, perhaps, face hovering in front of his, haemorrhaging eye mirroring Hermann's own, but it all swims before him.
Striker Eureka detonates and the Breach flickers, once, twice, and—
"It's gone!" Newt shouts.
A moment later, through the haze, Hermann hears Herc Hansen say, "This is Marshal Hercules Hansen. Stop the clock."
LOCCENT bursts into cheers.
Newt slings an arm around his shoulders, helps him off the floor—when did he fall to the floor?—and they limp back to his quarters and collapse onto his tiny bed, a tangle of limbs, dead to the world.
When he wakes later, it's slow. Consciousness returns to him in a trickle, though warmth pressed against him, a soft breath against the hollow of his neck, puzzling but not unpleasant.
He doesn't remember bringing someone to his bed the previous night—doesn't remember much of anything—but given that he's still wearing all of his clothing, presumably nothing of an intimate nature occurred.
The person sighs, burrowing into his shoulder with a mumble, and Hermann cracks his eyes to peer at his bed partner—
Ah, yes. Newt.
Recollection floods him: Newt seizing on the floor. Drifting. The Breach getting destroyed—
"Holy shit," he whispers, "we cancelled the apocalypse!"
The statement illicit a grumble from Newt, who turns his head, blinking to wakefulness, hair adorably—oh no, oh, oh, oh.
"Yeah, we cancelled the apocalypse, Herms, can you let me get back to sleep?" Newt grumps, turning to burrow back into Hermann's shoulder, before—
"Holy shit, Herms!" he exclaims, "we cancelled the fucking apocalypse! And—and I'm in your bed, what am I doing in your bed? I mean, don't get me wrong I'm not averse to being in your bed, but like, why am I in your bed?" Newt babbles, sitting bolt upright, patting himself down. "Shirt, check, tie, check, pants, check—"
"Newt," Hermann interrupts, "we didn't have sex. We collapsed onto my bed last night after cancelling the apocalypse on two hours of sleep. My quarters were closer to LOCCENT."
"Ah," Newt says, blushing brightly, and ducks his head sheepishly. Then, "You called me Newt!"
"We Drifted," Hermann points out, "I figured that that level of informality was appropriate."
"It only takes me almost dying to get you to call me Newt," Newt huffs, "figures."
"You have questions, I assume?" Hermann asks. The curiosity in his partner's eyes after the Drift had been obvious, but they'd had more pressing matters at hand.
Hesitantly, Newt nods. "Yeah—that—who's Owen?"
Hermann shrugs. "I confess, I myself am not sure. I believe that it may have been memories from an…alternate version of myself—perhaps from the same universe as the Precursors."
"Wow," Newt breathes, "that's—wow."
"A bit, given that I remember his—my death," Hermann agrees drily. Then, softly, "I never hated you, Newt. I could never hate you."
"Newt freezes. "What are you—?" he chokes out.
"I am…immensely fond of you as well," Hermann says gently, "T'hy'la."
Newt's eyes are glassy, and he rubs at them. "You sentimental bastard," he gripes.
Hermann smiles. "Ich liebe dich, shatzi."
"Hermann!" Newt shrieks, flustered, "you—you—you!" He throws his hands up.
Hermann chuckles, beckoning to him, and Newt huffs, crawling over,
With a shy smile, Hermann reaches out, carding a hand through Newt's hair, watching as his breath stutters, eyes, dilating.
Experimentally, Hermann licks his lips, watching as Newt tracks the movement, cheeks flushed.
"Are you going to kiss me or what?" Newt demands, voice rough. "'Cause the suspense is killing me—"
Hermann surges forward, crashing their mouths together, messy and hurried, teeth clacking a bit, and they melt into each other, kiss turning languid. Newt's hand comes up to cup Hermann's cheek, and he pushes Hermann lightly, pressing him against the pillow. Hermann lets out a moan, eyes fluttering shut, gripping Newt tightly.
For a second, the other breaks away, proving himself up on his elbow, and Hermann lets out a protestant whine. "Newt—"
"God, Hermann," he whispers, "you're—you're fucking stunning. I can't believe—I can't believe you chose me."
"Newt, don't be silly," Hermann scolds, "of course it's you. It's always been you. Who else could it possibly be?"
Newt ducks his head, blushing to the tips of his ears. "I just—it seems too good to be true, you know?"
"Well," Hermann says, "if it is a dream, it's certainly my favourite."
Newt sighs. "Just…I don't know—I guess, like, I never said anything 'cause I thought you'd, um, hate me even more, and I—I didn't want to lose our friendship. I mean, the world was just ending, and then it wasn't and it seems—surreal, you know what I mean?"
"Newt," Hermann says, "look at me. Look at me, liebling. I can't promise we'll be perfect—we won't be. We're only human. But I can promise you, this is very real. And it might not last forever, but…it's real now. Let's enjoy it while it lasts, yes?"
A smile breaks across Newt's face, the sorrow lifting. "Yeah. Live in the present and shit, right?"
"Right," Hermann agrees. "Now get back to kissing me, you silly man."
They might not last, yes, and they'll fight—of course they will. They'll more than likely never be who they were before the war—that is gone, now, lost to the sands of time. And the burn-out will wear off, leaving them grieving for lost friends, leave them to piece themselves together from the pieces left, bind each other back together with gold, like kintsugi, stronger for their trials, the scars a part of them without defining them, but now, they deserve this break, this moment of serenity together.
The rest of the world waited twelve years for the war to end—it can wait a few more hours.
And after that—the apocalypse is over. They've got all the time in the world.