The windows are dark when Hermann gets back, the black pressing against his senses. He gnaws on his lip; what if Newt doesn't want to see him? After all, he was quite short with the man—Hermann wouldn't blame him if he doesn't want him around at the moment.

The instant he passes the threshold, however, something in him screams wrong , sets off warning klaxons in his head. There's a faint, quiet rasping sound, and, apprehension rising, Hermann follows it.

Newt's curled on the bed, knees drawn up to his chest, body shuddering as he draws in rasping breaths, murmuring rapidly under his breath, tone fearful. His eyes are closed, but beneath his eyelids, his eyes flicker frantically, and sweat beads his brow.

"Newton?" Hermann says, shocked, rushes to his side. "Newton— Newt! " he exclaims, but the other is unresponsive.

It reminds him an awful lot of finding Newt seizing on the floor in their lab, all those years ago, blood trickling from his nose, strapped into a pons set made of salvaged parts, jerking against Hermann as he grips him tightly. "Newton, please ," he begs, "Newt, please, wake up—wake up! "

The other's speaking frantically now, words slurred together, and he suddenly grasps Hermann's arms, bruisingly tight even through all the layers of clothing. "Please," Hermann pleads, voice breaking, "please, Newton, please. "

He doesn't waken, but the shaking begins to abate, words slowing until they stop, and he finally falls against Hermann, tear-wet face against his chest. Hermann breathes a sigh of relief and lowers the other down. His expression is still one of pain, though, and that makes Hermann swallow tightly.

With a hesitant hand, he reaches out to brush the sweat-slicked hair away from Newt's clammy forehead. The other murmurs something, too quiet to be heard, still asleep, and Hermann draws back instantly, startled.

He sighs. There's nothing to be done other than get into bed—he doesn't want to risk disturbing the biologist, and Hermann is exhausted as well. He blindly fumbles through the dresser, pulling out a pair of sweatpants, and drags with it the hoodie from earlier.

For a moment, he freezes—what if he's overstepping an invisible line?

Oh, sod it , he thinks; he's too tired at this point, and his leg is ready to give out under him. They can deal with this in the morning—he's not about to wake Newt just to talk about...whatever this is. They're both too exhausted.

With that thought, he unceremoniously strips out of his clothing and pulls on the sweatpants and hoodie, switching his cane from one hand to the other in order to get his arms into the sleeves. Finally, he's dressed, eyes threatening to slip shut, and he pulls back the covers, crawling beneath. Newt is still curled tightly on top of the covers, and Hermann turns towards him.

He wants to reach out to the other, but he's not sure how Newt will respond, so he doesn't, simply opting to gaze at the other until sleep drags him under.

When he wakens, the other side of the bed is empty and cold—Newt got up and left at least half an hour ago. Hermann tries not to let the thought sting, but it does ; before, they would lay in bed together for at least an hour after waking—something they haven't done in almost a week.

Hermann bites his tongue, blinking rapidly to clear the mistiness from his eyes. He moves to pull back the covers, but his leg protests immediately, and he lets out a hiss of pain.

There's a commotion, and a second later, Newt appears in the doorway. When he sees that it's just Hermann's leg acting up, his expression melts from one of concern to relief, but he's left hovering awkwardly. "Is—is there anything I can do?" he asks tentatively.

"The—tylenol, please," Hermann grits through clenched teeth, levering himself up to dig his fingers into the scarred flesh, trying to work out the knot to no avail. Newt nods, disappearing back into the living room.

He reappears a few minutes later, bottle of tylenol in one hand and a glass of water in the other, sets them on the bedside table. "Do you—?" he gestures to the pillows, and Hermann nods wordlessly. Newt props the pillows up, and Hermann falls back onto them, holds out a hand.

Newt unscrews the lid and hands him two tylenol. Hermann throws then back with a grimace. Newt purses his lips. "Water?"

"Yes, please."

There's a moment of silence, and then Newt says, "Um, so, about last night—"

"It's—forget it," Hermann cuts it; obviously, the other is about to mention his voicemail. Newt nods, face unreadable.

"Yeah," he says, "yeah, you're—you're right. I'll just—I'd better leave, then."

Before he can rethink it, Hermann blurts, "Wait—don't go, please!"

Newt turns around, surprised. "But I thought—I thought you wanted me gone."

Hermann blinks. Oh. "Newton, no," he says softly. "I was—I was stressed about other things last night—I didn't mean to snap at you. I'm—I'm sorry."

"Sure," Newt scoffs, and Hermann frowns at him.

"Well, then, what do you think it was?" he asks, and something like panic flickers through Newt's eyes before it's gone.

"Nothing," he says, gaze dropping to the floor. "I—it's nothing, Hermann."

"It doesn't sound like nothing," Hermann counters.

"Just drop it! " Newt exclaims. "God, Hermann, you push and push and push —don't you know when to shut the fuck up and leave things alone? " His tone is ugly, harsh, and Hermann recoils.

"Newt, I—"

" No ," the other snaps hotly, "I don't—I don't want to hear it, Hermann, just—shut up, shut the fuck up ."

Hermann falls silent, stunned, and the other seems to realise what he's said suddenly. He looks—stricken, stumbles back a few paces. "I—" he swallows. "I have to—I have to go."

He's gone in seconds, the front door slamming behind him, ringing loudly in the silence. Hermann presses his lips together tightly, chokes back an ugly, wet sound.

The house is silent without him; pressing in on Hermann, and he longs for Newt to exclaim from the other side of the house, come running, eyes shining, words spilling from his lips as he strings his theories together like a master weaver, but the other's gone—and the nagging voice in his head says He won't be back, he's finally seen the truth.

Hermann swallows thickly, tears stinging his vision, and he finally lets them fall, wetting his cheeks. He presses his hand to his mouth and cries.


"Newton, I—I don't know what to say. You're—you're not picking up, and—and I—I don't—" a sob interrupts the words, and after a moment, he continues. "Please, dar—Newt, please, call me, I just—I want to speak to you." End recording. If you would like to—

A beat, then a sniffle. "Newton. You're still not picking up. Obviously. I—oh, damn it, I can't—" End recording. If you would like to call back, press—

"Newton, I'm sorry, darling, so sorry. Please, just—if not come speak to me, at least call me. I—Newton, I don't know what...what I did, but I can—I can make it right, I swear—" he breaks off, voice cracking, says, wetly, "just—if this is the end, at least—at least tell me. I—I love you still, even if you don't—" he cuts himself off, the sound of rustling fabric crackling through the speakers. "Sorry, I—sorry." End recording. If you would like to call back, press one. To delete this message, press two. For more options, press—

"...Newton." A pause. The words are slurring, slightly. "We should...talk." He's reluctant; fear, apprehension. "Newton," he says, again, "Newt...I suspect that this was going to happen eventually, wasn't it? I should have...known it was too good to be true." The sound of glass on wood, then, "I just didn't think you'd be so cowardly as to leave without cutting it off cleanly; that's the only thing I'm bitter about. It's...it is the end, isn't it?" he laughs hollowly. "Ah—I do suppose it is—" End—


Hermann stares at the phone laying on the arm of the chair. It's dark, the room lit only by a dim lamp. The glass in his hand is cold, the ice clinking against the sides every so often with a tinkling sound.

He almost misses the soft sound of the key turning in the lock, the mechanism releasing, door swinging open quietly, until the floorboard creaks. "...oh, it's you, then," he says, listlessly, staring at the wall. "I thought you'd gone for good—you should've, you know."

"Should've what?" Newt asks, tone indecipherable.

Hermann's laugh is hollow. "Gone," he replies, "you should've gone when you had the chance. Left me here and started a new life."

Something like hurt is in Newt's tone as he says, "You would have wanted me to?"

"No," Hermann shakes his head, fingers clumsily trailing the rim of the glass. He sighs. "No, but I would understand if you wanted to. If you did."

There's a moment of silence. "Why would I want to?" Newt asks, hesitantly, and the words suddenly spill forth from Hermann's lips, a quiet resignation to his tone.

"I'm too much. Too broken, too clingy. You know that, obviously—and you don't like it, either. I'm just trapping you here."

"Don't say that!" Newt snaps.

He shrugs. "It's true."

"Oh really?" The biologist challenges. "Well, then, Doctor Gottlieb , do share with the class."

His tone is scathing, and Hermann swallows. "You avoid my attempts at affection. Obviously, I'm making you uncomfortable, but you aren't—or weren't—willing to voice it," he rattles off, like he's reading off of a script. It feels that way a bit.

Newt's still hidden in the shadow, but Hermann imagines the frown in his face, the furries of his brow as he says, "What do you mean?"

"Would you like a drink?" Hermann asks instead of answering.

" No ," Newt snaps, striding forward. The scowl on his face is fierce—one Hermann hasn't seen in years. "No, you moron—how is it that you had all the evidence and still came to the wrong conclusion?"

"I'd stay my conclusion is quite rational," Hermann says, voice more mild than he expects. "You refuse physical contact, you've stopped talking at every moment, and—"

"Because that's what you wanted! " bursts the other.

Hermann blinks slowly. "No. Why would I want that? I want you, Newton—that is not you."

"The Drift!" the other exclaims desperately. "You were never tactile—it's the Drift bleed. That's the only explanation."

"More likely than the fact that it's been eight years and I'm a different person than I was then?" Hermann snaps. "That's ridiculous, Newton,and we both know it."

The other deflates. "Alright," he says, miserably, "yeah, you're—you're right."

I usually am , Hermann bites back, instead asks, "Are you going to tell me?"

"Well, I mean, you deserve better," he says, scuffing his toe on the carpet. "I dunno if you realized, but I tried to kill you like two months ago, so either you're more insane than I thought or all this is an accident. And—and the physical affection thing—well, you're obviously only doing it for my benefit. Plus, when have you not been annoyed by my talking?"

He pauses for a moment. "I mean, I get it—I annoy myself. So I figured, hey, why not do something about it and do as you asked and shut up for once?"

Hermann stares at him, and he fidgets under the gaze. "Newton," Hermann starts. "Newton, I hope that all of that was the product of my drunken mind, because you cannot, surely, be that idiotic, can you?"

"Yeah, I get it," Newt snaps, "you hate me. Join the—"

"No," Hermann cuts him off. "No, listen to me, for once. I love you, Newton, for who you are, just the way you are, flaws and all. The man I fell in love with is brash and loud and likes horrid American boxed breakfast cereal. He's the man who holds me in his arms at night when nightmares wake me and hums Ode to Joy until I fall asleep."

He glares at the biologist, chin raised, daring him to contradict it, but all that comes out of the other's mouth is a soft, "...oh."

Hermann crumbles. "Well," he says, snatching his cane and rising precariously to his feet, willing back tears and hoping that his face doesn't broadcast his pain. "I—"

"Hermann," the other says, "that is the most romantic thing I've heard."

Hermann stops, swaying slightly, and Newt continues. "I—I'm really insecure," he admits quietly. "And I'm sorry for jumping to conclusions instead of talking to you about it like I should have." He stops, then says, "I'm sorry Hermann."

"As am I," Hermann replies, and Newt gives him a confused look. "The blame doesn't fall solely on you," he explains. "At any point, I could have simply asked you directly what your intentions where, but instead, I chose to make—incorrect—assumptions that have lead to the both of us being hurt."

"I—" Newt swallows. "Maybe we should just agree that we're equally as bad at this, yeah?" He grins at Hermann weakly, and Hermann musters up a small smile in return.

"Perhaps that is best," he agrees, "although we should also be more open with each other."

"Yeah." Newt nods. "Yeah, dude, you're totally right. I am sorry, though."

"And I am as well." Hermann offers his hand, and Newt stares at it, puzzled. "It's quite late," he explains, "I am tipsy, and you've been crying, and I believe it would be best if we allow ourselves some time to rest. And," he adds, "I want you by my side. I get awfully cold my myself."

Newt's grin turns to a real one, eyes shining despite the dried tear-tracks on his cheeks. "Why, Hermann!" he gasps, "I thought you were an honourable man!"

"I am," Hermann replies. "When I said sleep, I meant it literally. I have neither the physical nor emotional energy required for anything more."

Newt waves him off. "Nah, dude, I was joking. Anyway, I really do wanna just sleep with you—I kinda missed the sound of your heartbeat, not to sound weird."

"Oh, no, quite normal," Hermann rolls his eyes, but they're slipping shut, and Newt comes to his side, lets Hermann lean against him. "Ah, I think I really am ready to sleep," Hermann murmurs.

"C'mon, let's get you to bed, Herms," Newt says softly, an arm around his waist, and they stumble back into the bedroom. Hermann realises, then, with a slight flicker of disappointment, that he hasn't changed out of his sleep clothes.

Newt notices as well. "Is that my hoodie?" he demands, "dude, you stole it? Not cool."

"It reminds me of you," Hermann replies, not as defensive as he would usually be. "I like it."

Newt expression softens. "That's fucking adorable."

"It's not ," Hermann says, but without any heat, and Newt grins, helping him infer the covers.

"It is," he counters, "you, Hermann Gottlieb, are cute—face it. It's true."

"Is not," Hermann shoots back, like they're both schoolchildren having a petty fight.

"We kind of are," Newt murmurs, and Hermann realises he's said it aloud in his half-asleep state.

"Good night," he says, instead of commenting on the softness of Newt's face and the way it makes him look younger—makes him look his age. "I love you, darling."

"I love you to," Newt mumbles into the crook of his neck.