Rating: Teen and Up Audiences
Pairing: Newton Geiszler/Hermann Gottlieb
Summary: "Hermann nods and then hisses at the pain the movement causes. Fuck, Newt thinks, I—I did that to him. I tried to—I tried to kill him. The claustrophobic feeling is back again, pressing in on him from all sides as his gaze remains fixed on the purple fingerprints on the other's pale skin—
How Hermann and Newt deal with the events of the dinner the previous night, and the truths it reveals."
Note: This is a sequel to six feet under; I suggest you read that, or it may not make sense.
Newt quits Shao Industries as soon as his voice no longer cracks and breaks. He's holding tightly to Hermann—too tight? Am I holding him too tight? Am I hurting him? he thinks, trying to focus on the sluggish tap of Hermann's fingers against his skin. He's barely sitting up, and Hermann is half sprawled across his lap, the toe of his shoe in the puddle of green fluid.
Newt shudders as he catches a glimpse of it, whimpering, and curling closer against Hermann. The other starts, slightly— Oh no, did I wake him? Is he hurt? race through Newt's mind. He's about ready to bolt, mind screaming at him that if he doesn't leave, he'll hurt Hermann again—
As if sensing his inner turmoil, Hermann moves a hand to weakly card through his hair. Newt exhales shakily, basking in the embrace.
The phone vibrates in his pocket, and with Newt almost throws up at the sound. It's Darth Vader's theme—Shao's calling. He remembers setting it as her ringtone six years ago—remembers the sickening knowledge that it was the last thing he would ever be able to do of his own accord. Once, it was one of his favourite musical pieces.
Now, it makes him feel sick.
He doesn't even realise he's trembling against Hermann like a leaf in the wind until Hermann's face is level with his, eyes wide and worried. Everything seems too— too much . Like everything's been amplified and he's trapped in a straight jacket.
Hermann's hand on his cheek is grounding, and he shudders violently, sniffling, tears blurring his vision, but he no longer feels in freefall. "...thanks," he croaks. "I—I should probably get that."
Hermann nods and then hisses at the pain the movement causes. Fuck, Newt thinks, I—I did that to him. I tried to—I tried to kill him . The claustrophobic feeling is back again, pressing in on him from all sides as his gaze remains fixed on the purple fingerprints on the other's pale skin—
Hermann pulls him back into a hug, letting his breath rasp across the soft of the sweater-vest. The phone's still ringing, but it's background noise as Hermann rubs calming circles on his back.
Finally, his breathing evens out again. The phone's silent, for a second, before it rings again, and, a sour taste in his mouth, he pulls it out and answers the call. "Yes—?"
"Where are you?" Shao snaps, "you were supposed to be in the lab an hour ago—did you not see my text?"
"No," Newt replies duly, focusing on keeping his tone level. "No, sorry—"
"Well? Get here—now!"
He suddenly realises, in a bolt of clarity, that he cannot continue to work for her—she's power-hungry and couldn't care less about her employees. And everything there—all of the scientists and engineers will continue to treat him as before; they'll treat him the way the Precursors demanded they did.
He'll end up throwing up for an hour in the bathroom if that happens. Right now, he can't—he can't handle the reminder.
"Geiszler?" she barks, "answer me—"
Newt swallows. "No," he says quietly. "No."
"What do you mean, 'no' ?"
"I mean," he stops, swallows. Draws in a deep breath. Hermann shoots him a comforting look, and he continues. "I mean I'm done. I quit."
She sputters. "You—you cannot simply—!"
"Goodby, Shao," he says, suddenly exhausted. "I'm out. Goodbye, and never talk to me again." He ends the call just as she begins yelling at him in rapid Mandarin, tosses the phone away.
Hermann's still holding onto him, but his grasp is slackening—he's drifted off into sleep, Newt realises. I just tried to kill him and he still trusts me enough to fall asleep in my presence.
The unspoken trust of the action sends him reeling. Six years and a near death experience later, and Hermann still trusts him. You fool , he thinks, bitter and sad at the same time. He's not sure who it's directed at—Hermann, for his trust, or himself, for hurting Hermann, both physically and emotionally.
With careful movements, he picks Hermann up, freezing when he shifts against Newt. They're going to need to talk, eventually, but right now, Hermann needs to sleep, and Newt's exhaustion is making him stumble.
He manages to situate Hermann under the sheets on the king-sized bed, mindful to not jolt his leg, lingers for a moment to gaze at the serenity of his expression. In sleep, the lines dug deep by stress smooth out so he no longer looks a decade older than he is, and something deep in Newt, the foolish part of himself, aches to climb under the covers with him, curl up against his chest.
He clenches his jaw. No. He doesn't trust himself, not after—after almost ending Hermann's life. The sofa is large enough, and it's not as if his body's unused to sleeping in far more uncomfortable positions. He catches sight of the handcuffs still around Hermann's pale, bony wrist, and swallows.
The key's around here somewhere, he knows—the drawers are a mess, but he needs to get that—that thing off of Hermann.
So he riffles through the drawers as quietly as he can until he finds the key, resting at the bottom of the drawer, unassuming. It weighs heavily in his hand as he crosses the room and inserts it into the cuffs, breathing a near-silent sigh of relief when the mechanism clicks and the cuffs open, allowing him to remove them.
He throws them into the garbage the instant he gets out of the bedroom. The green fluid has partially soaked into the carpet, the brain half-squashed beneath the broken tank, much less intimidating than usual, but it still makes him quake with fear, memories of them forcing him to Drift with it, wresting away any modicum of control he could have possibly gained.
The screen hiding it earlier is in a heap on the ground, also half-soaked with the liquid, but Newt still attempts to use it to cover the brain and the broken tank. By the time all of this is done, he's shaking again, both from exhaustion and minor panic—what if Hermann wakes up and decides to call the cops on him? Or the PPDC?
Newt wouldn't blame him—he deserves it, honestly, but the thought of being imprisoned and unable to be around Hermann makes him want to cry; he's seen Hermann for the first time in years, and the knowledge that it's one hundred percent possible that it'll be the last time he sees Hermann as well.
Hermann—oh, he realises. His throat's going to hurt like hell when he wakes up. He drags himself into the kitchen proper, fills a glass of water with shaky hands and digs out a bottle of painkillers and sets them on the bedside table before collapsing onto the sofa, uncertain of his future.
A soft, hesitant set of footsteps jolts him to wakefulness; for a second, he expects to be pushed back by another presence, forced behind a blue film, before the events of earlier—the previous day?—come crashing back to him.
It's Hermann, of course—there's no one else in the penthouse. He hovers a foot away from the sofa, a scared, uncertain look on his face. "N—Newton?" he rasps, "is—is that really you?"
The tone of his voice brings tears to Newt's eyes—it's sad and longing all in one, and he gets up from the sofa. "It—yeah, it's me," Newt says, barely above a whisper. "No P—P—" he stutters on the word precursors for a moment, disgusted at his inability to say it, and swallows. "It's not them, Hermann, I swear."
Hermann looks startled for a moment. "I—I thought I had dreamt it all up," he admits. "I thought you were still— gone . That you didn't want to talk to me."
"Oh, Hermann." Newt's tears are flowing freely now. "I—I'd never leave you of my own free will, okay? I swear. Cross my heart and—" he cuts himself off. Too dark.
Hermann's silent for a moment before, tentatively, he asks, "Will you—would you mind sleeping with me? I—I've been having...nightmares," he admits, twisting at the fabric of his shirt. "...and I miss you."
The last part is said quietly, so quietly Newt realises he's not intended to hear, but he does. His heart aches. "Of course," he replies, quietly, voice half-choked by tears. "But are you sure—?"
"Positive," Hermann confirms. "Please, Newton, I—I need you."
There's only a foot between them, and Newt crosses it easily, wrapping Hermann in a gentle embrace. "Let's get to bed," he murmurs.
The bed is large, but they gravitate towards each other, ending up twisted together in the middle. Newt thinks that their clothes must be disgusting—his have blood on them, and Hermann's have flecks of the green fluid, and blood is dried under both of their noses—but he can't bring himself to care.
"...thank you," Hermann says, quietly, tucked against his chest. "For the—the water and the medication."
"Of course," Newt replies, just as quietly. It feels fragile, what's between them—like anything could snap it. The thought makes Newt cling to it even harder. "I—" he flounders, swallows thickly. "...I don't know what...what to do next," he says, weakly. "I tried—god, I tried to—"
"No," Hermann says, fiercely. " No , Newton, that was not you."
"But it was." Newt's voice is edging on hysterical. "That was my body, my hands strangling you, Hermann, I—you should leave, get away from me—"
" No ," Hermann snaps, grasping the fabric of his shirt tightly, as if he'll disappear if he doesn't. "No. I spent six years without you, Newton—I'm not going anywhere now that I finally have you back." He looks—terrified, Newt realizes. Terrified Newt will leave him again.
Newt swallows. "Okay," he breathes, shakily. "Okay. I—okay. I'm not—I'm not going anywhere."
Hermann lets out a shuddering sigh, and nuzzles into Newt's chest, clinging to him tightly. Newt clings back, listening as his breathing evens out and becomes shallow and lets his mind drift—even though he can't sleep, just the act of being close to Hermann is soothing.
The next morning—or, at least, when they wake up again—Newt makes breakfast. It's an underwhelming affair—just a cup of water and some eggs and toast, but the smile Hermann bestows him is like basking in the sun.
They eat in bed, because they can, and also because Newt knows, instinctively, that Hermann's leg will give out if he tries to stand. "I think I'm gonna sell this place," he says, quietly. "I—it's full of bad memories, you know?"
The ability to choose his own words, to formulate them as he wishes, makes him feel slightly giddy—he hasn't been able to truly say what he wishes in years. Hermann pauses, fork halfway to his mouth. "...that would probably be for the best," he agrees. "No need to re-traumatize yourself."
Newt swallows. Hesitantly, he asks, "And—and what about us?"
The question hangs in the air, the silence stifling, and he stammers, "I—forget I said anything—"
Hermann places a hand over his own. "Darling, please," he murmurs, "don't worry—that's something we can discuss further at a later point. But I—I still love you, alright?"
"You shouldn't," Newt croaks. "You shouldn't."
"Well, I do ," Hermann snaps, "and nothing you say is going to change my feelings for you, Newton. You can't control with respect to whom you fall in love."
"I—" there's a lump in Newt's throat, and he says, helplessly, "why?"
Hermann fixes him with an indiscernible look, and says, simply, "I don't know."
Newt mulls over his words, and then says, falsely lighthearted, "That's me, Newton Geiszler, human cryptid." It works, and Hermann's lips twitch. Newt turns his hands over and squeezes Hermann's, relishing the moment.
Despite his newfound freedom, Newt still remains skittish and easy to startle. He seems to swing wildly between euphoria and depression at the smallest thing the entire day. Eventually, Hermann places a hand on his shoulder and says, "Newton, would you like to return with me to my quarters? This apartment seems to be, understandably, causing you stress."
There's a flash of panic in the other's eyes, and he jerks away from Hermann's touch. "N—no, I'm fine," he stammers. "You don't have to—"
"Newton," Hermann says firmly. "Please, calm down. It's alright. You're not weak. You've been through a traumatic incident, and I'm trying to help. Let me help you, darling. Please?"
Newt slumps. "Alright," he says quietly. "Yeah. Thank you, Hermann, I—I don't deserve this."
Hermann bites back a scathing retort; in his state, it'll only do more damage. "This isn't about what you deserve, Newton," he replies. "This is about what I want to do for you—I am a selfish creature, Newton, and my wish is, above all, to help you."
It takes a second for Hermann to realize that Newton's eyes are glassy with tears. "...thank you," he says, voice choked, and Hermann feels a sudden flash of rage—how dare the Precursors hurt Newton like this?
Before he registers it, he's drawn the other into an embrace, Newton momentarily slack against him before he clings back, shaking slightly as he cries. Hermann murmurs calmingly, rubbing circles against his back.
Newt has changed out of his clothes from the night before, but Hermann hasn't yet—his leg is aching despite the painkillers, far too much to risk trying to return to his quarters, and he doesn't particularly want to wear any of the clothes in Newt's wardrobe; they all look like they three times as much as he makes annually, and, additionally, he doesn't want to wear anything picked by the Precursors.
"We can move out to the countryside and raise chickens and tend a garden," Hermann murmurs. "Like you always wanted to—does that sound good, Newton?"
"Mhm," Newt mumbles, voice muffled against. "That sounds...that sounds nice. But—" he pauses. "Hermann, what about your job?" There's a scared uncertainty in his tone, and it makes Hermann's heart threaten to burst.
He ponders it for a moment, then says, "They don't really need me anymore, Newton. And no one would begrudge me this—to live out the rest of my life with the man I love. And even if they don't want me to leave, it's not as if they can force me to stay."
It's true, he realises, with a sort of finality. He'd only stayed because it was familiar—truly, it feels like a last-ditch attempt on his part to cling to the past. Somehow, the war lended stability, as insane as it sounds; it gave him a purpose.
Newt's gone quiet, and finally, he says, "Okay. Alright. Let's—let's do that. Get a little place and some chickens and shit, that...that sounds great, actually." He pauses before continuing, quietly, "I...I don't know what to say, Hermann."
"Say yes," Hermann begs, "let me help you, love."
"Okay," Newt says, finally, softly. "Okay. Yes, Hermann."
Hermann's own eyes are watery, and he blinks rapidly, trying to clear his vision to no avail. The action startles Newt slightly, and he has to reorient himself. "What's—?" Newt asks, and Hermann sends him a questioning look.
The chain , he realises. It's hiked up over his collar, though still half-hidden beneath his shirt, and Newt reaches for it with hesitant fingers, pulling is out fully. For a moment, he inspects the ring with shock written across his face. "You—you kept it, after all these years?" he asks, voice cracking with emotion. "Hermann, I—"
"Of course I kept it—it...it felt like the only part of you I was allowed," he admits, the words painful. "After you left, I...it was the only part of you that remained with me."
Newt's hand flies to his mouth, and he lets out a choked noise, dropping the chain. "I—Hermann, I'm so, so sorry," he gasps, "I didn't—I don't have mine anymore, Hermann, I—"
"It's alright, Newton," Hermann comforts, "I understand—"
"No, Hermann, I—" Newt cuts himself off. "You don't understand—they threw it out, Hermann, they—they took it and threw it into the garbage , Hermann."
Hermann draws in a breath. "Oh."
"Yeah," Newt laughs, quiet and sad, and rests his head against Hermann's shoulder, slumping, the fight gone out of him.
Hermann swallows, drawing a his hand up to card through the other's hair. "We can—we can get it remade," he offers, "or—or we can get a new pair. If you want. A new start, if you will."
Newt's silent, the quiet interrupted only by his uneven breaths, and Hermann waits for him to speak. Finally, he says, "A new start. That sounds—hah, that sounds poetic , Herms." Hermann smiles at the amusement tinging his tone. "Dude, I'd forgotten how sentimental you are," he says, fondly. "I love you, okay?"
"I know," Hermann says, because he can, and Newt laughs, slightly wetly, lifting his head.
"Dude," he says, " dude , you can't just go Han Solo on me right now, we were having a moment , Herms."
Hermann smiles. "And we'll have many more," he says, partially to himself, and partially to Newt. "We'll have many more, love."
Newt's answering smile is soft, tentative, as if he's afraid that this'll all disappear if he blinks, but there's something in his expression, something like happiness and joy and freedom, something like hope.
Hermann presses a chaste kiss to his forehead, Newt's weight a comfort against him, and allows himself to imagine, for the first time in years, a possible future; imagines Newt, sitting at the table, bathed in light from the morning sun, a smile at his lips, eyes lit up.
"What're you thinking about?" Newt murmurs, eyes barely slits, gazing at Hermann.
"Us," Hermann replies, truthfully, and Newt rewards him with a small but genuine smile.
"Good," he says, quietly. "Me too."