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the truth about me (and the truth about you)

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Hermann didn’t mean to send Newton to the hospital.

It was purely an accident, he kept telling himself, a natural reflex. It could have happened to any repressed mathematician buckling under the pressure of keeping both an alien army at bay and swallowing ten years of fervent, itching desire for his infuriating co-worker/rival/ex-pen-pal/only friend.

It wasn’t often that their verbal spats would escalate to a physical altercation, but being suffocated with such close proximity day after hopeless day made (the occasional pen flying across the lab) an inevitability. Though they never made direct physical contact while arguing, Hermann made absolutely sure of that.

Hermann could not be held responsible for how his body might physically react to Newton’s touch, even during a heated argument (maybe especially during a heated argument). The last time he touched the man was three months ago, when Newton handed him a styrofoam cup of coffee and their fingertips brushed and the resulting shock that rippled through Hermann’s body was so intense he very nearly spilled the hot liquid all over himself, spending the rest of the work day hiding a persistent erection straining the fabric of his pants.

Admittedly, it had been quite some time since Hermann had, as Newton would say, “gotten any,” and sharing a lab with the longtime object of his lust and affection was palpable torture.

Hermann was sure that if, mid-argument, Newton so much as raised a hand to strike him across the face, the promise of physical contact from him would prompt Hermann to orgasm instantaneously like some kind of uber-repressed teenager. He can only imagine the disgusted looks Newton would give him in this scenario. (He does imagine them. He thinks of them often.)

Which was why, truly he could not be blamed for his adverse reaction when, in the middle of screaming themselves hoarse, Newton took a deliberate step across the taped line.

“I swear to god if you don’t keep your fucking opinions to yourself, Hermann, I’ll -”

“You - Don’t you dare, Newton!” Hermann jumped up from his desk chair, hand tightly clenched around the handle of his cane, “I will thank you to keep yourself to your side of the lab!”

“What are you going to do about it, Herms? Huh?” Newt took another step forward, prompting Hermann to stutter backwards a step, clanging into the filing cabinet now at his back. “You make a lot of empty threats for someone within spitting distance of biological samples. What’s gonna happen if I get Kaiju Blue all over your shit?” Newton dangled his gloved hand, still smeared with the sample Kaiju goo, dangerously above Hermann’s desk. His eyes glinted with something dangerous, his mouth pulled into a manic grin.

“Stop that,” Hermann sneered at him.

“What if I smeared this all over your precious suit. What the fuck would you even do?” It wasn’t often Newt got worked up to the point of menacing his lab partner, but apparently spending the last three days alternating naps on the lab couch and the floor had taken its toll on the man.

Stop it, Newton, or I’ll - I’ll -”

“Or you’ll what?” Another step closer. “You’ll hit me? Slap me? Bite me?”

Hermann felt himself shudder. They were only a few feet apart, now. Close enough for Hermann to worry that Newton could hear how loud his heart was beating. The handle of the filing cabinet was pressing into his lower back.

Newton was shaking, Looking equal parts angry and deranged, his gloved hand still outstretched, “Or you’ll what, Hermann?”

Please,” escaped from Hermann’s mouth before he could stop it.

Newton startled. And then he stopped. 

His eyebrows furrowed, he studied Hermann’s face like he was searching for something. His eyes shifted dark. The manic expression was gone, now replaced by something different, but just as desperate and just as intense.

Hermann could feel his own body tremble against the cool metal at his back, cane still gripped like a lifeline in his shaking grasp. He didn’t dare breathe.

“Hermann,” Newton spoke with a sigh, reaching his hands out with intent to touch Hermann

He took one more unfortunate step forward as Hermann, with a startled yelp, swung his cane as hard as he could, connecting with the side of Newton’s head with a loud crack.

Newton crumpled to the floor.

“Fuck,” said Hermann.

///

“I’m sorry, sir, but as I told you before, we have a strict family-only policy that -”

“I understand the bloody policy, but if you would just listen to me - it is imperative that I see him. I was the one who brought him in, for Christ’s sake!” 

Hermann could feel unwelcome eyes turned towards him at the raising of his voice. It was fair, he was making a bit of a scene in this hospital waiting room, but so be it. The necessity of seeing Newton was vastly more important than the opinions of strangers.

The woman behind the desk let out a sharp exhale, her tolerance for Hermann’s rudeness obviously waning. “Visiting hours are tomorrow from 10 to 2, you will have to wait to see Mister Geiszler until then. In the meantime I suggest you let your friend get some rest and you let the rest of us do our jobs.”

With that, she rose from her chair behind the Guest Services desk and primly walked away, promptly ending the conversation.

“It’s Doctor Geiszler!” He yelled to her as she left, “The man has six doctorates, show some respect!”

She was already long gone. He looked down at the linoleum floor, aware he sounded like a petulant child, but not ready to admit defeat.

“And - And he’s not my friend,” he said more to himself than anyone else, “He’s my - “

That gave him pause. What was Newton to him? 

It amazed him to think there was once a time where his future with Newton was something he mused on often. He would pore over his letters, that messy unpredictable scrawl, and dream of a life worth living. One far from his father’s house. One where he got to wake up to Newton’s sleepy face every day. Where they could make each other tea and sit on the porch together and chat the day away. He flushed red at the memories of lying in his bed, tracing Newton’s signature and wondering if a hyphen between their names would be too complicated or if he should surrender himself to the implicit tenderness of going by ‘Dr. Hermann Geiszler.’ 

The worst part is, if Newton asked him to change his name tomorrow, he would say yes.

“I...“ He sucked in a difficult breath, “I was going to marry him.”

He let his face fall to his hands.

Fuck.

“Excuse me,” came a gentle voice from his periphery, “I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation. You said you’re here to see Dr. Geiszler?”

He turned to see a tall, older woman dressed in blue scrubs and holding a clipboard. The hospital ID pinned to her front pocket read Doctor Mendoza. Her eyes were tilted up in concern, and she had a sympathetic, but distinctly professional smile.

Hermann hurried to compose himself, “Yes, that’s him, Doctor Newton Geiszler. I brought him in a few hours ago, but he was still unconscious. I just need-”

“He’s in this sector, just down the hall. He’s my next stop actually, if you wouldn’t mind following me.”

The woman turned and pushed through a pair of doors without waiting for a response.

“Finally, some respect around here.” He muttered under his breath as he followed her into the patient quarters.

Newt was asleep when they arrived. 

He looked a bit better than he had immediately following the incident, crumpled on the floor in a lifeless heap. Hermann shuddered at the memory.

But now, Newt had a bit more color in his cheeks (as well as the start of what Newton would call a ‘wicked bruise’ forming on the side of his face). But he still looked so fragile. They changed him into the thin hospital gown and trussed him up with enough pillows and blankets for small army, which only served to make him look even smaller.

He looked… cute.

Hermann felt that telltale flush of attraction just before the guilt hit him. His stomach dropped to his knees. How dare he. What kind of horrible person took pleasure in seeing their loved one out cold in a hospital bed? What kind of person put their loved one in the hospital bed in the first place? A Hermann kind of person, apparently.

He had been so preoccupied with repressing his desires, he sacrificed the safety and well being of the man he loved. He was a miserable excuse for a human being. 

And now, Newton would never speak to him again.

The doctor cleared her throat. Hermann startled. “He definitely has a concussion,” she told him, “but we won’t be sure of the severity until we run some more tests. He’s also on some pretty strong pain medication right now, so he might not be in his right mind when he wakes up.”

“Oh, he hardly ever is anyway,” Hermann paused. “I don’t believe I’ve thanked you yet. I can’t tell you how much this means to me. Thank you.”

She waved her hand dismissively, “That’s not necessary, I’m just doing my job.”

“I know it’s not hospital policy, but -”

“I won’t tell if you won’t.” She smiled at him knowingly. “Lord knows I’ve been in the same situation with my partner enough times. People like us, we’ve got to stick together.” She winked at him.

Hermann blanched. “People like us?” he tried to say, though it came out as more of a mumble.

Apparently she hadn’t heard him, because she looked down at her clipboard and continued, “You’re Doctor Gottlieb, I take it? I see you’re already listed as his emergency contact.”

“I - Uh, yes. Yes, that is me.” He said absently, the cogs in his brain still turning.

“I’ll just put you down under ‘spouse’ so we can avoid future issues of this nature.” She glanced up at him, “Unless that’s a problem?”

Hermann squeaked, “No, no. That’s -,” He cleared his throat, “That’s perfectly fine. Thank you, thank you for all your help.”

He tried to tell himself it was purely for Good and Platonic reasons, to avoid this kind of debacle in the future, but it was difficult to rationalize when one was suddenly and extremely short of breath.

Perhaps he should clarify the situation before anything bad happened.

“Actually, Doctor -”

It was at this moment Newton decided to wake up.

He tossed in bed, pushing the excess blankets off of his body with a huff.

“Good afternoon, Doctor Geiszler,” said Dr. Mendoza, rifling through the papers on her clipboard. “How are you feeling?”

Hermann stood up and took a generous step backwards to give Newton and the doctor some space. Still in the process of waking up, Newton looked affronted and groggy, wiping drool from the side of his mouth with a wobbly hand. He was pouting.

“You talking to me?” he asked, voice still scratchy with sleep. When she nodded, he responded, “Yeah I’m fine I guess. A little dizzy, though.”

“Well, that’s perfectly normal, considering -”

“What did you say my name was again?”

Hermann went still. He looked to Doctor Mendoza, who seemed thrown for only a moment before returning to an impeccable bedside manner.

“According to your file, your name is Doctor Newton Geiszler.” She glanced over to Hermann, “That is, if I’m pronouncing that correctly.”

Hermann felt himself nod, but it was hard to tell from the screaming echoing in his head. He was distantly aware of his hands shaking, but what else was new.

Newton, on the other hand, was taking this bit of information very well. He smacked his lips, “Cool.”

“Do you remember what happened to you?”

Newt raised his eyebrows, “What happened to me? No.”

“Do you remember speaking with me when you first woke up here?”

“No.”

“Do you remember anything?”

“Oh! Umm…” He screwed up his face in thought, now fully awake, “Nope!”

Hermann sat down before his legs gave out. 

“Well,” the doctor said carefully, “You do have a moderate concussion, and memory loss is not out of the question, for a brain injury. But since you were fairly lucid earlier this afternoon, with no apparent memory problems, I’d say this is perhaps an effect of the pain medication you’re on now.”

“Cool!” Newt said brightly.

The next part she delivered mainly to Hermann. “Temporary memory loss is extremely common in cases like these, and if it’s a reaction with the medicine, his memories should come back naturally before the day is over. But, just to err on the side of caution, I’ll order some more tests and see if we can’t switch his medication over.” She made to leave, jotting down a few quick notes before opening the door.

“Wait -” Hermann tried to stand, but he was too woozy to commit to the action, “What should I…?”

She smiled politely at Hermann, “Both of you should sit tight and rest. I’ll be back within the hour when his blood work results come in, but for now, just spend some quality time with your fiancé.”

His face felt warm. “My -?”

My fiancé?! ” Newton beat him to the punch with wide eyes and a huge smile. “No way!”

Hermann looked at Newton like he was an impending car rushing towards him, and the sheer joy of Newt’s gaze felt like an impact. It crushed him, and he fell even deeper in love.

Doctor Mendoza gave them a knowing smile and left without so much as a goodbye.

“You gotta tell me everything dude, how long have we been dating? Where did we go on our first date? Who popped the question? What kind of music do you listen to? Wait wait wait - What’s your name?”

“Newton, I -”

Newton,” he said reverently, “What a beautiful name.”

Hermann sputtered, “No, you utter - “ He was blushing, he knew it, “ You are Newton, my name is Hermann. Doctor Hermann Gottlieb.”

“Even better.” Newt’s eyes were still as wide and he was smiling.

“Yes.” Hermann said absently, he had to say something, didn’t he? Clarify the situation? It wasn’t fair to Newton, who would presumably regain his memories in the near future and be absolutely mortified. Not to mention the fact that Hermann was teetering on the edge of absolutely mortified himself. “Listen, Newton. I should tell you, we - we aren't actually - “

“You’re hot as fuck.” 

That tipped him over. He started sputtering like a stalled engine. (Absently, he thought it was quite possible Newt would win him out on the “making a fool of himself” front, and it might even be a damn shame not to see how long this goes. )

“Sorry, is that weird to say?” Newt kept going, “I mean, I guess not, since you're my fiancé and everything. But you do seem pretty surprised. Oh my god, Hermann, do I not tell you that enough?” He looked absolutely heartbroken at the thought, “I should tell you every day, man. I hit the fucking jackpot of hot boyfriends here.”

“Newton!” he hissed.

“The whole ‘European Supermodel crossed with a Wealthy Victorian Scholar and wrapped in Elderly Librarian’ thing is not something I thought would work, but damn is it really doing it for me right now.” Newt looked at him appraisingly, “I bet I jump your bones all the time, man.”

“Newton, please!” Hermann felt hysterical, he could feel his heart beating in his ears, “You - you can’t just say things like that.”

“Sorry, dude.” Newt said, not looking remotely sorry. “Not a compliments man?”

Hermann put a hand over his heart in an attempt to calm down, “I suppose you could say that.” He slumped back in his seat, desperate to gain any kind of distance between him and Newton.

Newt seemingly had other plans, as he leaned off the side of the bed, as close to Hermann as his IV drip would allow. He looked close to bursting, “Tell me everything about you. About us. Please?”

They were so close. If Hermann leaned forward in his seat he could kiss that dumbstruck look off of his face. And god did he want to. The air he was breathing smelled like Newton, and he could feel himself getting drunk on it.

“Alright.” Hermann was hopelessly locked onto those deep green eyes, “What would you like to know?”

“What's your name again?”

Hermann huffed a laugh and rolled his eyes, finally breathing in, “Just call me Hermann, I suppose.” Before he could stop himself, he continued, “I’ve tried fruitlessly to get you to call me Doctor Gottlieb in the lab, but you have no sense of professionalism in the workplace.”

“Kinky.” Newt gave a smirk so wide it threatened to turn into a smile. “We work together, then?”

“Yes, we…” It occurred to Hermann that he might have to explain the ‘end of the world’ thing to his best friend and closest compatriot. He suddenly yearned to return to the embarrassing compliments Newton had showered him with earlier.

“We’re men of science. We do... important research.” He said delicately. “I'm a mathematician and you are a biologist.”

Newton's brows furrowed, “Huh.”

“Is something wrong?”

“I guess I just… I could've sworn I was like… I dunno. A rock star?” He pouted.

Hermann laughed. He supposed some things remain deeply embedded in the subconscious.  “You do believe you are. And you make sure to tell me so once a day, at least.”

Newton smiled at that, “You’re gorgeous when you laugh.”

Hermann stopped abruptly. Good lord, does this man have an off switch? “Thank you, Newton.” He cleared his throat and chanced a look at the man. He was beautiful. Somehow demure and roguish at once. His eyes are dancing and he’s looking at Hermann and Hermann really just might die.

It finally occurred to him how oddly right this all felt. Like meeting Newton for the first time, all over again. Only, getting it right this time. Newton smiled at him. He smiled back.

But Newton reached his hand out to cover Herman's own on his knee and his brain short-circuited again. “Can I kiss you?”

Hermann was dead. He could feel his mouth go wobbly as he melted into a puddle of quivering goo. The electricity from Newt’s palm was crawling all over his skin, gathering in the pit of his stomach.

“Kiss?! I - Why, Newton!” He landed on something similar to scandalized, “I - That’s far too - We don’t kiss!”

“We don't kiss?” he said blankly.

“In public, I mean,” Hermann rushed to add. “Never, never in public. It's far too….” He can’t think, he can’t think, “public.”

Newton nodded, as though this was a reasonable thing to say. “What about in private?”

“In private, ah,” Hermann was looking anywhere but at him, “Then uh - You understand, it’s - it's simply a private, ah - “

Newton threw his head back and laughed. “Oh man,” he grinned, “You’re so cute when you're flustered. I bet I pull shit with you all the time! I can’t believe you're not used to it by now.”

“You - You will show me some respect, you evil little man!” Hermann could feel his full-body blush, but he pursed his lips in an attempt to look commanding. “I am not your plaything to be fooled around with. No matter what your mental state is at the moment, I do not appreciate being the target of ridicule!”

Newt had the decency to pretend to be ashamed. “Sorry, Herms. If it makes a difference, I think that just jogged my memory a bit.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, I totally remember you now!”

Hermann went very, very still. “Oh?” he said again, more carefully this time.

But Newt was grinning from ear to ear, “You’re Hermann - we wrote each other letters, right? For like, a really long time. And -” He melted a little, “And I’m crazy about you, Herms. I’ve been in love with you since we were seventeen.”

Hermann didn't dare breathe.

“Well?” Newt prodded, “I’m right, aren’t I?”

“Uh,” Hermann said intelligently, “...Yes.”

///

Hermann was in hell.

Delicious, incredible hell that taunted him with every sweet moment dangled in front of him as if to say ‘try to enjoy it while it lasts.’

While you still have him. 

Because that was the ticket, wasn't it? Once Newton found out Hermann hospitalized him in a gay touch-starved panic, he’d stop talking to him. But once he realized Hermann took advantage of his amnesia to - what, play out some love-struck fantasy? - all bets were off. Newton would get Hermann fired, or kill him in cold blood if that didn’t work.

Hermann might as well go all in. In for a penny, in for a pound, isn't that right?

If Newton’s suggestible subconscious was willing to aid him along in this little charade, who was he to deny himself the last moments of bliss he might ever have?

At least, that was the conclusion Hermann had reached by the time Newton was dismissed from the hospital the next morning.

“Adriana!” Newt shouted from his wheelchair in the lobby of the Shatterdome, “Hey girl! How’s communications going?” He was louder than usual, which was saying something.

The woman in question gave an uncomfortable smile and a wave before she quickly hurried away. Newt did not seem perturbed in the slightest. Giddy with newly refreshed memories, he wheeled himself further down the hall to greet more victims as Hermann kept a vice grip on the handles, trying to keep pace behind him.

“This is amazing! It’s like every time I see a new person, their information gets jolted right out of my subconscious and into my working memory!” Newt whipped his head around to aim that bright grin right at him and Hermann almost couldn’t bear it.

“Yes, that’s wonderful, Newton.” His stomach was churning. He smiled anyway.

Newt rolled his eyes, “I told you, dude. We’re gonna get married, you can’t keep calling me ‘Newton’ - even my Grandpa calls me Newt.

Hermann felt his good knee go a little weak at the mention of their future marriage, but he continued walking. “And yet, you insist on referring to me as ‘dude.’”

“Oh shit.” Newt stopped rolling. “You’re right, man. I should be calling you ‘babe’ or ‘honey’ or ‘sweet cheeks!’”

“You absolutely will not do anything of the sort,” Hermann said, taking the handles of borrowed wheelchair and pushing him towards Newton’s quarters.

He slumped back in the chair, “Whatever, sweet cheeks.”

Hermann flushed. They quickly reached Newton’s room, where Hermann pulled out his spare key and began to unlock the door.

“And for the record,” Hermann was careful not to look at him as he turned the lock, “I call you ‘Newton’ because it is your name, and I happen to like it very much.”

Newton put a hand over his heart, “You’re so soft, Hermann.” And then, as casual as a comment on the weather, “I love you.”

Hermann choked on his own spit.

///

Newton was curled up and snoring on top of his bed in ten minutes flat. Neither of them had slept very well last night, Hermann supposed. Best to get a nap in before lunchtime. Besides, he looked so harmless when he was sleeping. Gentle, even.

Hermann retrieved the pills Newton had been instructed to take after lunch and placed them on the bedside table, just so Newton wouldn’t forget. After a thought, he also poured a glass of water to put beside the pills.

It was all very practical and not at all sweet or domestic, thank you very much.

Newton made some kind of snuffling noise in his sleep and nuzzled closer into the pillow. Hermann sighed openly. He wasn’t fooling anyone at this point, not even himself.

Dear, sweet Newton. Always running, always reckless, always wild. This past day had been an exercise in quiet and gentle that Hermann had only seen before in fragments, stolen moments, and late nights. Never so open. Never laid out so bare.

To hear Newton say the words… He just hadn’t thought it possible.

Hermann took another long look at his sleeping body. One hand under his face, hair mussed up, faintly snoring. A little pudge of soft belly even stuck out from the constraint of his old fashioned skinny jeans.

He hadn’t even taken the time to kick his shoes off. Hermann smiled.

He grabbed a chair from the other side of the room and placed it beside the bed. Gently, he untied the tattered laces of Newton’s worn boot and eased it off his foot, fingertips holding the heel in place. Newton barely moved as Hermann offered the same careful ritual to the other boot, silently placing them both on the floor beside the bed.

Hermann stood. He removed his suit jacket and folded it over the back of the chair. He toed off his sensible shoes, and he leaned his cane on the wall opposite Newton. 

He made his peace with himself as he quietly slipped under the covers beside Newton. 

He was warm and soft and Hermann, God forgive him, was in love.

Hermann snuggled up next to him, as close as his heart could bear, and fell into a warm and dreamless sleep.

///

When Hermann woke, Newton was still asleep.

He had turned in his nap so that Hermann was no longer occupying the time honored position of Big Spoon, instead tucked under Newton’s chin. Not that he was complaining.

Newton was drooling gently on his pillow, and Hermann was displeased to find even that sloppy picture of Newton with his mouth open and his face slack sent a thrill up his spine. He was far too gone for his own good.

Maybe if he came clean to Newton now, apologized, and told him the truth about his feelings, Newton could find it in his big heart to forgive him? No, that only worked in movies. Besides, Newton’s pride would never allow him to undergo such a betrayal without enacting revenge on Hermann.

Perhaps if he left the bed quickly, he could convince Newton that the whole thing was a false memory planted by the drugs that made him an amnesiac in the first place. But that had too many potential holes if they ended up going back to the hospital - or if Hermann’s name showed up under ‘spouse’ on any of the official documents the doctor had given them.

There was no escaping this unscathed.

Hermann was so deep in thought, he didn’t know Newton was awake until his voice rumbled out:

“I can hear you thinking from here.” Hermann looked up at Newt, eyes hooded, he smiled sleepily, “What’s th’ matter?”

Hermann tried to smile, “Oh, nothing. Just thinking about getting your memories back, I suppose.” Which was true, in a sense.

Newt frowned. “Why do you keep looking at me like that?”

“Like what?”

“Like you just got caught stealing cookies from the cookie jar.”

Hermann snorted. “I beg your pardon?”

“You know what I mean,” his smile turned somber. “Like I’m something you don’t get to have.”

Hermann felt sick. “Oh.”

Newton nodded. “Oh is right.”

Slowly, Newton raised a hand to Hermann’s face and cradled the back of his neck, tickling the hairs at his nape. Hermann suppressed a shudder. He breathed in. He breathed out.

Newton leaned in until he was close enough that Hermann felt his breath soft on his cheek.

Hermann leaned in.

“How did I end up in the hospital?”

What?

“What?” Hermann floundered to put some distance between him and Newton, nearly falling off the bed in the attempt.

“Why - Uh, why do you ask? Did you remember something?”

Newt furrowed his brow, “No. But, that’s the thing. The memories I’ve gained back have all, for the most part, been a direct response to stimulus. But I don’t even know what would jog my memory for this. And it feels, I don’t know, important?”

He searched Newton’s face for a trace of deceit, but he didn’t see anger or suspicion. Just confusion. That really wasn’t what he was expecting.

“Well.” Hermann said, finally, “I know the… accident occurred in the lab, if you would like to go later, see if we can drum up some stimulus.”

Newt gave him a thousand-watt smile. “Thanks, Herms. You’re the best.”

“Of course,” Hermann practically leaped out of bed. He’d nearly kissed Newton! Or, perhaps Newton had nearly kissed him - but Hermann had been prepared to let him.

Such a moment of weakness would not occur again on Hermann’s watch. He may be taking Newton for a ride, but physical intimacy under false pretenses was something Hermann would never abide by. 

It was out of the question, no matter how much he wanted to.

Really, really wanted to.

Hermann cleared his throat, “What do you remember? Anything new?”

“About us?”

“About anything,” Hermann opted for casual.

Newt quirked an eyebrow. Maybe he wasn’t as good at this as he thought.

“Well, like I said, I remember being pen-pals, falling in love with you over your letters,” Hermann flushed but Newt kept going, “and the first time we met.”

“You remembered our first meeting? You never mentioned that.”

Newt smiled, “I think it came back to me this morning. Berlin, right? A little combination bookstore and coffee shop?”

Hermann nodded faintly.

“It would’ve been perfect if I hadn’t outed myself as a complete ass right from the get-go.” 

It had been years since Hermann had thought about their first meeting, as the memory dredged up so much pain and embarrassment, it was much easier to bury it down deep inside himself where no one would ever find it and he could pretend it didn’t exist.

Newt had acted like an ass, bitter and crudely flirtatious, but then, so had Hermann.

Hermann snorted, “Well. I’m sure my condescension didn’t help. Not to mention the ‘stick up my ass’ you mentioned at the time.”

Newt threw back his head and laughed. It was such a joyful noise Hermann nearly forgot where he was. And when he stopped, Newt was looking at him with such a fondness he couldn’t bear it, “Oh, c’mon Herms. Cut yourself some slack. We were kids, we were nervous, antisocial, and neurotic. I’m just glad we recovered.”

He laced his hand in Hermann’s. And for a moment, he believed him.

///

In all honesty, Hermann had planned to keep Newton away from the lab for as long as possible, but trying to stop Newton With A Plan was like trying to force a hurricane to change course.

So, of course, after lunch at the mess hall, Newton found his way right where Hermann did not want him.

“My lab!” he cried, running his hands over the stainless steel examination tables, “My beautiful, gorgeous lab! Oh, I missed you, baby.”

Hermann couldn’t help but feel a little slighted, even if their relationship was technically not real in the truest sense of the word. He settled for rolling his eyes as Newton fondled his samples.

He ran to the largest segment of Kaiju organ currently floating in a tank in the middle of the lab, “Fuck! How could I forget? Two thousand five hundred tons of awesome!

Like a kid in a candy store. No man, Hermann or otherwise, could ever match up to the Kaiju in Newton’s eyes. Hermann would simply have to make his peace with that.

“And you! ” he wheeled around to face Hermann from where his face had been pressing up against the glass, “I remember now!” He was practically screaming.

“You do?!” Hermann’s voice cracked.

“I do!”

He was grinning, and he hadn’t hit Hermann yet, so that was a good sign. 

“All of our - our arguments, our late night research sessions, our -” he broke off, gesturing wildly at the line of tape bisecting their laboratory:

“Our tape!” he said fondly, “Fuck, Hermann, we’re so cute!”

Hermann sputtered, looking anywhere but directly at Newton, “Cute? I can assure you, Newton, there is nothing cute about our laboratory squabbles.”

“No, no, I know dude, I just…” Newton crossed the room to run his hands down Hermann’s side, resting them on Hermann’s hips. “We’re like an old married couple already, it’s cute - we’re cute. That’s all.”

He was smiling up at him so soft and Hermann had never been so confused. How could he remember all these times and not round on Hermann with a shout and a slap?

“You - you aren’t remembering everything, then,” he said, in a desperate bid to keep himself from drowning.

Newton blew a raspberry at him, “So what if I don’t know the specifics right now? I don’t need memories to know how I feel about you right now.” He gave him a long, steadying glance. “I love you, Hermann.”

There it was again. The only variable Hermann had not been able to account for.

Newton was so persistent, Hermann was almost starting to believe him.

But that was dangerous.

“While that is a touching sentiment,” Hermann thought about his words carefully, “It will carry more weight once you have regained full access to your mental faculties.”

Newton visibly deflated. “What, you don’t think I’m for real right now? Is that why you’ve been putting distance between us this whole time? You’ve hardly let me touch you at all.”

With that, he pulled Hermann’s chest flush to his own, and Hermann scrambled out of his grasp, inadvertently proving his point.

Newton kept going, “Come on, man! What am I even missing here? I remember being pen pals, I remember working together - Just because I can’t recall, like, our first date doesn’t mean I don’t know how I feel. I’ve loved you for much longer than that, man.”

“It’s not -” He took a deep, shuddering breath. “It’s not that simple, Newton.”

Newton laughed, empty and sad, “Then help me out here, man. It’s not like I asked for this. Help me fill in the gaps.”

His hands were bunched up at his sides, obviously trying to restrain himself, hold back his frustration. Hermann couldn’t think of the last time he saw Newton show restraint, and his heart broke for him.

Hermann could come clean now. It would be easier than trying to conjure up fake memories out of thin air. Maybe even less painful.

“What would you like to know?” his own voice sounded strange in his ears, like ringing.

But Newton smiled again, and Hermann melted. “How long have we been together?”

“Two and a half years,” he said quickly.

“Who proposed?”

“You did. It was spontaneous, you didn’t even have a ring.”

Newton narrowed his eyes, “When and where are we getting married?”

It was like someone else took possession of Hermann’s body. He didn’t know where these answers were coming from. “In March. The local courthouse.”

“And how did it happen? How’d we get together in the first place?”

Hermann paused. “I -” he took a deep breath, “I finally worked up the courage to ask you out on a date, and… and you said yes.”

At least, that was how it always happened in Hermann’s mind.

Newton was obviously not impressed with the lack of pizzazz. “Okay… Where’d you take me?”

“We went to the little ramen place around the corner.”

Newton huffed, “But we go there all the time anyways! You couldn’t have sprung for somewhere a little more special?”

“But it’s your favorite.”

Newton flushed red. “Alright, maybe you know what you’re doing.” He sized Hermann up with another look, “Did we get in a huge fight in front of the waiter and get kicked out?”

Hermann chuckled, “No, no, we had a . . . A very pleasant evening together, actually. No yelling, no explosions. We agreed not to talk about work -”

Newt honked a short laugh.

“- And then we did it anyway.” Hermann smiled at him fondly.

Newt returned the smile easily, “Who paid?”

“Me, of course. I asked you out in the first place.”

“Oh, of course,” Newt mocked, hooking his pinky around Hermann’s, “I trust I took you back to my room and ravished you in exchange for your generosity?”

Hermann flushed, “Absolutely not! We were perfect gentlemen. I, uh - I walked you to your door, gave you a quick kiss on the cheek, and we said goodnight.”

Newton hummed, his face dangerously close to Hermann’s own. “Any chance I could get another one of those? Just to jog my memory, you know.”

They were grinning like loons, only inches away from each other.

A simple kiss on the cheek seemed harmless enough to Hermann, juvenile even. He supposed he was willing to indulge him in this little dalliance. Purely for Newton’s sake.

Hermann tilted his head gently and leaned down with the intent to press a chaste kiss to Newton’s cheek.

But at the last moment, Newt turned his head - connecting their lips in a warm, dry kiss that made something in Hermann’s chest roar.

He squawked in protest against Newton’s mouth, but he did not pull away. Newton was soft and gentle as he kissed him, tentatively mouthing against Hermann like one wrong move might scare him away.

Newton carefully brought one hand up to cup his jaw, deepening the kiss and driving all rational thoughts from Hermann’s mind as he felt his heart float up in his chest. 

Hermann’s shaking hands came up to press tenderly against Newt’s waist, fireworks exploding under his palms.

Newt pulled away for breath and Hermann tried to follow him, eyes still closed, mind drunk on the heady scent of Newton on him and with him and all around him.

When Hermann finally opened his eyes, Newton was looking at him like he was something new entirely.

Hermann straightened out his coat jacket quickly and fixed his hair self-consciously, “What is it? Do I have something on me?” He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, as loathe as he was to disturb the tactile memory of Newton’s mouth on his.

Newt shook his head, and the look was gone just as fast as it had appeared, quickly replaced by a soft smile.

“No, no. You’re fine.” he laughed, pulling Hermann forward to press their foreheads together, “But - do you believe me now? That I love you?”

Hermann smiled at the contact and - very cautiously - returned his hands to their spot on Newton’s waist.

“I do.”

///

Newt was alone, finally.

Hermann had stayed in the lab to catch up on a few late reports, so Newt took the long trek back to his quarters alone - assuring Hermann over and over he remembered how to get there. He’d kept it together in front of him, but once he stepped into his room, closed and locked the door, Newt released.

He screamed. No words in particular, just open sounds, as if putting noise out into the air would anchor him to reality.

“What the fuck!” he shouted eventually. He began to laugh, high and tight in his throat.

He touched his own mouth, still tingling with the sensation of Hermann.

“...What the fuck.”

That was their first kiss. It had to be, it just had to.

The action had dislodged the something - memories, common sense, instinct - in his brain that told him this is new this is strange this is wonderful. And with it came the empty spots in his memory - every time he yearned and pined for his lab-mate, up to the moment when he woke in the hospital. They were, without a doubt, not together. Not really.

But then why did Hermann let him think they were?

What reason would Hermann have to lie to him like this?

Newt thought hard and played back the memory of waking up in the hospital, how Hermann had reacted. He seemed surprised, fumbling even. At the time, Newt was so excited he barely put any thought into his reaction, but it was all making sense now.

The doctor had mistaken them for a couple. It had happened a million times before, to their endless embarrassment, but Newt, in his hazy mental state, had been taken for a ride.

Oh God. He had confessed to being in love with Hermann since they were seventeen. He’d told Hermann everything.

Fuck.

Newt sank to the floor, beet red and put his head in his hands. His insides were squirming. This was, by far, the most embarrassed he’d ever been in his life. He threw his head back against the door behind him again and again.

He could hear his own voice mocking him like a damsel in distress, swooning in Hermann’s arms. Oh Hermann, you’re such a sexy Victorian man. Kiss me Hermann, I long for your gentle touch.

He’d made a fool of himself over and over again, and Hermann had just… 

Well. Hermann had kissed him.

Or technically, Hermann had kissed him back. But the evidence was just as relevant.

He had gone pliant and soft in Newt’s arms, making little mewling sounds when Newt cradled his face in his hands. He could still feel where Hermann’s hands had been pressed, feather-light, against his waist.

And when Newt had pulled back, Hermann’s eyes were still closed and he was smiling.

He thought Hermann hated him. Obviously, that wasn’t the case.

So, Hermann had feelings for him, that much was sure. But what kind of feelings?

(Part of him yearned for a neural handshake between them, separate from any Jaeger or altruistic motives. How simple would it be to wrap himself inside the expanse of Hermann’s soul and scream Do you want to fuck me Do you love me Do you want to marry me How much of this has been real? )

Man, this was some rom-com shit.

He supposed he ought to confront Hermann about it, tell him he remembered (mostly) everything and that the jig was up, but… he really didn’t want to.

After all, Newt had embarrassed himself enough for a lifetime while Hermann watched on, tight-lipped and red as he was repressed. It was Hermann’s turn to embarrass himself.

Why should Hermann have all the fun?

///

Hermann was getting used to Newton’s touches now.

Perhaps it was simply an aftereffect of The Kissing, Hermann thought with a blush, but he no longer felt his skin crawl uncomfortably and his stomach twist with the thought of being touched by Newton. In its place was a low hum that thrummed through every bone in his body.

No longer was he governed by the urge to put distance between them in any way he could. Quite the opposite actually. He found he was craving it now.

He’d always been hyper aware of Newton’s presence and the exact distance between their bodies, but now it felt like a gravitational force. Like they were two celestial bodies caught in each other’s orbit and he was hungry for their inevitable collision.

It didn’t help that Newton kept looking at him like that.

When he came back from the lab with two plates of food from the mess hall, Newt had been perched on the bed, eyes wild, hair mussed up. He had a look about him Hermann had never seen before, something confident and joyful.

He was the sexiest man Hermann had ever laid eyes on.

And he wouldn’t stop eyeing Hermann like he was a Christmas feast and Newton was very, very hungry.

Hermann forced down another spoonful of lukewarm mashed potato and made himself look Newton in the eye, “So, did you do anything in my absence?”

Newton fluttered his eyes at him from across the dinner table, “Oh, I just sat around and missed you, baby,” he purred. Newton was acting strange, but Hermann was too interested in the way Newton was licking his spoon to question it.

“Oh, that’s -” Hermann coughed, “Uh, that’s very sweet of you to say… darling.” 

Newt’s face darkened a tinge, but he kept on with the same low, seductive tone, “I touched myself today, you know. Thinking about you.”

Hermann’s brain broke clean in half. He could feel steam coming out of his ears. “Uh, that’s… nice.”

Newton blinked. “... Nice?” he raised his eyebrows.

“That’s very, uh - Th-thank you?” Hermann stuttered. “I’m uh, hm… I - okay.”

Newton sent a bitch-face his way, “Dude. Seriously?”

“What?”

“I tell you I masturbated to the thought of you, and that’s your response?”

Hermann’s face burned with shame and embarrassment, “Well, what am I meant to say?”

“I don’t know, maybe ‘that’s hot’?” Newt looked at him like he was an idiot, “Or ‘cor blimey I did the same thing last week, old chap’?”

“Well, do pardon me for not reading the handbook on dinner table sex conversation - and that is not what I sound like -”

“It’s not about, like, a correct response, Herms, it’s about being a fucking person - “

“In any case, this is hardly appropriate conversation for a mealtime!” They were nearly shouting.

Newt raised his hands in exasperation, “What, I can’t talk to my fiancé about sex? I’m just trying to be sexy for you and shit!”

“You’re already sexy!” Hermann yelled, “You’ve always been incredibly sexy, you don’t have to try! I -” Hermann closed his mouth with an audible click, and then put a hand over it just to be safe.

Newton’s demeanor changed completely, he shrugged off the argument like he’d done with Hermann a thousand times before. He looked up at Hermann through his lashes, “You really think so?”

Hermann let his hand drop from his mouth and nodded cautiously. He swallowed. “You… You are - The effect you have on me -” He cut himself off again, too flustered, hands shaking. “I mean, for God’s sake, Newton - we’re together, aren’t we? Must I spell it out for you?”

Newt stood up and moved his chair so that he could sit right beside Hermann, body turned towards him. “Could you? I mean - Would you spell it out for me? If I asked you to?”

He looked so beautiful, so open and vulnerable, and so close to Hermann’s face, they could kiss again if he leaned in.

“I would do anything for you.”

He meant it, too. Newton must have known he did, because his face melted into a smile, mischievous and sickly sweet.

He brought one hand up to Hermann’s face, stroking the pad of his thumb against Hermann’s parted lips. Hermann was utterly hypnotized.

“Have you ever thought of me while you -”

“Yes,” he croaked, like he couldn’t get the words out fast enough, “All the time. Constantly. I - I never stop thinking about you, Newton.”

Newton sucked in a breath, and when he finally kissed him, Hermann almost cried with relief.

///

This couldn’t go on any longer, Hermann decided that night. Newton was fast asleep beside him, head pillowed on his shoulder, one leg thrown around Hermann’s waist. He looked like an angel, and he deserved much better than this.

Tomorrow, during breakfast. That’s when Hermann would do it. He would apologize, confess his love, and come clean - in that order. Let the chips fall where they may. He couldn’t live with himself anymore, not for a single second.

///

He woke the next morning to the sound of Newton’s laughter, flipping pancakes and burning coffee.

Maybe he could wait a little bit longer. No use in spoiling a perfectly good morning.

///

“What would you think,” Newton asked him over his cup of coffee (the second attempt), “about recreating our first date tonight? Maybe help me remember some stuff from the first time around?”

His eyes were so wide and his face so hopeful, Hermann was helpless to do anything but smile and nod like a lovesick fool.

Newton breathed, “Great.” He put his mug down to cover Hermann’s hand with his own, and Hermann felt every nerve in his body light up with satisfaction. “Do you think we could… really recreate it though? Like, I don’t mean word for word, I was just thinking - I don’t know…”

“Of course.” Hermann turned his hand over to lace their fingers together, “Of course we can, darling. I’ll… I’ll be a perfect gentlemen. Just like the first time.” He hoped Newton couldn’t feel his fingers jump.

But Newton didn’t seem to mind, because he was giving Hermann another one of those deep looks, another wistful smile. “I love you.”

Oh. This again. Hermann supposed he should say it back. 

He did love Newton, after all.

But after all the lies he’d told Newton, all the half-truths and misdirections, to share this truth with him felt far too open, far too naked for the early hour.

He could feel his good leg bouncing under the table. His voice shook, “I’ll get the dishes,” was as close as he could get. With inappropriate urgency, he stood up to clear their plates from the table.

And if Newton frowned into his coffee, Hermann didn’t notice.

///

That afternoon, once the work day was long meant to be over, Hermann strode up to Newton’s desk with trembling hands.

“Dr. Geiszler, I was wondering if you might like to accompany me to dinner tonight. Ah, it would be my treat,” he smiled down at him.

Newton glanced up for a moment before returning to work, “Yeah, dude. Sounds cool.”

Hermann startled. Perhaps Newton was more serious about the authenticity of this supposed recreation that he thought. Either that, or his memory problems were worse than they’d been led to believe.

He cleared his throat, “Uh, I should clarify. I mean to ask you out on a date tonight. Uh, romantically.”

Newt kept his head down, but Hermann saw that he was grinning, “Romantically?”

“That - That is, if the idea is amenable to you.” Why the devil he was so goddamn nervous for a date that Newton himself suggested, he did not know.

But Newton focused that wide grin on Hermann and all his fears were assuaged.  “Why, Hermann! I had no idea you felt that way about me. This is quite a surprise. I’ll have to think about it.” He rested his chin on his hand teasingly.

“Newton…” he said, fond but growing impatient.

Newt hummed. “I would love to.” 

A smile tugged at Hermann’s mouth. “Wonderful. I thought we could attend your favorite ramen - “

“Nah. That place is boring.” Newt grabbed his coat and started walking towards the door, “I’ve got just the spot!”

Hermann squawked indignantly, “I was under the impression that we would be -”

“We’re losing daylight hours dude, come on!” Newton called from the hallway.

Hermann settled for rolling his eyes and getting a move on. What he was getting himself into, he had no idea.

///

An hour later, they were snuggled up on the same side of a booth in a little hole in the wall café called “Stellar Coffee & Tea,” their sandwiches eaten and cups empty.

It was Open Mic Night and Newt had promised not to participate.

“I swear, I didn’t know this was happening tonight,” he’d insisted to a nervous Hermann, “I just like their tea.”

Hermann had to admit the jasmine he’d had was absolutely divine, but he still wasn’t entirely convinced.

“Well, in any case, you wouldn’t even make it up to the stage before I’d start running as fast as I could back to base.”

Newton laughed easily and put a hand around him, “Trust me, I know, babe.”

The first two acts were horrendous. Hermann came dangerously close to putting his fingers in his ears when one confident young man overshot the high notes of Sia’s Chandelier by about a mile, but settled for grinding his teeth instead. Newton buried his face as far as he could into Hermann’s sweater. 

“You know, we could always peel off in between acts. Head back to my quarters,” Hermann quietly reminded Newton as they clapped politely.

“So forward, Doctor Gottlieb,” Newton teased, “What kind of girl do you take me for?”

Hermann elbowed him gently and settled back in to watch the next hopeful young person take the stage.

The next act was a brash woman who read two poems out loud, one was a manifesto against capitalism and the other was a love story. Both were, in Hermann’s unprofessional opinion, beautifully written.

Finally, the show was proving itself somewhat bearable.

Hermann applauded in earnest this time. Newton placed a gentle kiss to the side of his face before sliding out of the booth suspiciously to “go to the bathroom.”

He didn’t quite believe him, but Newton walked in the direction opposite the stage, so he let it slide for the moment. Besides, an elderly man had stepped on stage with a saxophone, and Hermann was very inclined to see where that was going.

Newton came back after a few, more decent acts.

“I got you another cup,” he whispered to Hermann, placing a hot cup of tea in front of him.

He smiled and wrapped his cold hands around the hot mug gratefully, “Thank you, dear. It’s a shame, you missed a few talented individuals.”

Newton slid back into the booth, “Oh, I doubt they won’t hold a candle to the next one.”

Hermann furrowed his brow and turned towards the stage, “What do you - “

It was the woman from earlier, who performed those gorgeous poems. She was stepping on stage again, this time with a little white journal in her hands. A little white journal with what appeared to be a very colorful monster drawn on the front with a crude hand.

“Newton…” Hermann was suddenly very short of breath, “Please tell me this isn’t your doing.”

Newton put a warm hand on his knee and spoke softly, “Just trust me, Herms. Please.”

The woman on stage had cleared her throat and began to read from the journal that Hermann prayed to God did not belong to Newton.

“Dear Doctor Geiszler,” she began, voice deep:

“I was recently encouraged to examine your body of work and I must say, I am most impressed. The world needs a mind like yours, Doctor Geiszler, and I think an academic correspondence between us could benefit both of our fields.”

The woman changed her demeanor, now smiling wide and pitching her voice up so that it was almost shrill: 

“Dear Hermann,  Dude, you’re a total badass - I would love to work together. P.S. Call me Newt.”

His ears were ringing so loudly he could hardly hear the words at all. Mouth agape, he didn’t know whether to scream or cry or run as fast as he could to get himself anywhere but here - Had Newton asked this woman to read out lines from their letters? Had Newton kept copies of them all?

The woman continued, voice low again:

“Dear Doctor Geiszler, as per your last request I have enclosed a picture of myself, though I don’t know why you couldn’t simply find the photo on my academic profile online, I hope the photo does not disappoint.

“Dear Hermann, Please tell me how your face looks exactly like your gorgeous handwriting, and would you be willing to send a photo with every letter? P.S. Call me Newt.”

Somehow this might have been worse than Newton serenading him, he felt exposed in the worst way - like a wire stripped bare for all the world to see. Newton was holding him, and he felt known.

It was terrifying, but it was everything.

“Dear Newton, Have you ever come across a problem so new you don't know where to begin? Something so foreign and all-encompassing you have no frame of reference? Outside the realm of science entirely. Something personal, in all honesty.

“Dear Hermann, I know that feeling all too well. I’m still working on a personal problem of my own, actually. I kind of hope it’s the same. But, dude, you’re like the smartest person I know - if anyone can figure out how to approach a problem, it’s you. P.S. I’ll get you to call me Newt one day, but thanks for trying.”

Hermann was vaguely aware that Newton had been looking at him this entire time, but he couldn’t bring his mind back to the present, Not now, when he was swimming in memories that he had repressed for so long.

So many years he’d wasted, pining away.

People were applauding politely now, and the woman was thanking them as she walked offstage. But Hermann did not clap. He finally turned his head to meet Newton’s eyes, and he was crying. They were both crying.

“Hey, hey Hermann - Are you alright? I really thought you’d find that… sweet, I guess. I’m sorry if I - “

Hermann silenced him with a kiss.

“I love you,” he said when they pulled away, “and never do that again.”

Newt gave him a watery smile, “I promise.”

///

Newton insisted on walking Hermann back to his own quarters, “like a gentleman.”

Hermann had rolled his eyes, but felt his stomach twist with guilt all over again. Newton had really taken to this ruse with an enthusiasm Hermann would never have thought realistic. In fact, none of this had been anything like what he’d expected.

He’d allowed himself to be swept up in the joy of having Newton all to himself, but his public display at the café was simply too much for Hermann to bear.

He could not let this go on any further.

He would tell Newton the truth tonight. Newt deserved that much, at least. After everything Hermann had done.

“Hey, could we stop by the lab real quick? I just wanna grab something, I’ll be fast, I promise.” Newt said when they came up on the lab doors, tugging on Hermann’s hand without waiting for an answer.

He wouldn’t have protested, anyway. Anything to put off the inevitable.

Newt was digging through one of his desk drawers frantically, throwing garbage and clutter over his shoulders as he looked. Hermann watched him toss a Tech-deck across the room and winced.

“Aha! Gotcha!” Newt’s was blocking Hermann’s line of vision from whatever Newt was talking about.

“Ready to go, then?” he called wearily.

Newt maneuvered his hands behind his back as he turned back to face the other man. “Not quite,” he grinned.

Hermann stilled. He knew that smile too well and it always spelt trouble. “Newton…?” he asked with an edge in his voice.

Newt took a deep breath and rocked forward on the balls of his feet, worrying his lower lip between his teeth. He looked nervous. He looked sweet.

“I know you might find this a little forward, seeing as it’s our first date and all,” he was smiling up at Hermann so sweetly he feared a toothache, “But I think we’ve known each other for so long it won’t make a difference.”

Newton took a deliberate step across the taped line that separated their worlds, and Hermann was struck with an intense feeling of deja vú, remembering the circumstances that led to the accident that started this lie in the first place.

Something in the back of Hermann’s mind was screaming as he watched Newton sink to one knee in the middle of their laboratory, pulling a small black box out from behind his back. 

Hermann couldn’t move. He couldn’t breathe. This couldn’t be happening, not now. Not when they were so close and Hermann still couldn’t touch him, not really.

Newton was looking at him, eyes full of unshed tears and he was smiling - oh God he was smiling.

“I’m crazy about you, Herms.” Newt began, voice already thick with emotion, “You drive me absolutely wild in all the best and worst ways, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without you. So this -” He gestured to all of himself, “- is partly your fault.”

Something in between a laugh and a cry escaped from Hermann’s mouth before he could stop it. Why, why was this happening now?

Newt took a shaking breath and kept going, “You’re amazing. You set me on fire and douse me off every day, you push me to be a better scientist and a better man, you’re everything I know. I just…” two wet tears made their way down his beaming face, “I love you, Hermann. And you deserve a ring.” 

He flipped open the top of the box to reveal two identical white rings, with some kind of scale pattern etched into them.

Hermann staggered back, the back of his hand pressed to his open mouth. Hermann couldn’t think, he was shaking so hard. This should have been the happiest moment of his life but it was a lie. Newton would never want him like this, not really. Not after what he’d done

“I lied!” He blurted out, voice trembling, “I’ve been lying to you this whole time, I -”

“I know we’re not actually engaged,” Newt said, still smiling, “That’s why I’m proposing.”

But Hermann was much too deep in his mind to hear him, he was near tears, “I’ve lied to you terribly, my dear. We aren’t engaged - it started as an honest mistake, but it snowballed into -” Hermann stopped. “I’m sorry, what the hell did you just say?”

Newt laughed shakily, “I know everything, dude. When we kissed, my memories came back. Well, mostly.” He gestured wide, with as much bravado as he could muster while still mostly crying, “They say true love’s kiss conquers all.”

But Hermann was still reeling. He felt like his brain was being pushed through a strainer and dumped straight into the garbage, “ What? No,” Hermann was shaking his head, “No, no, but you… You didn’t say anything - ?”

Newt shrugged in a twitchy action, still down on one knee, “I bared my soul to you for like three days straight, dude. I had to get you back somehow.”

Shame and anger flared up in Hermann like fire, and finally he had an emotion he could hold onto, something as familiar and comfortable as rage, “So this - all of this, the date, this proposal - everything,” Hermann knew he had to be beet red at this point, sheerly from not breathing, “This was all simply a ploy to - to - to get back at me somehow?!”

Newt’s eyes went wide, “No, Herms - I -”

Hermann’s ears were ringing, he was shaking so badly he could hardly keep hold of his cane, “I see now, you’ve - you’ve been mocking me. Well, I daresay you’ve done a fine job. Consider us even, then.” He spit the words out and turned on a dime. He would go home as fast as he could, curl up into a little ball, and set himself on fire.

Newton scrambled up from the ground, finally, and hurried to grab hold of Hermann before he could get away. “Listen to me! For once in your life, Herms just… just shut up and listen to me.”

Hermann could feel all his pain and longing bubble up to the surface at Newt’s touch, but to his frustration, he couldn’t force himself out of Newt’s hold. He didn’t even want to try. It was too sweet to be held by him.

He gave in, as he had done countless times before, and nodded to Newton.

Newton, who looked so kind and vulnerable holding Hermann like this.

He took Hermann’s trembling face in his hands and tilted his head down to look at him, “Hermann, I love you. I’m in love with you.” 

Hermann tried to stay wound up, but the walls he’d put up for years were no longer present. He could feel their absence more solidly than he could feel Newt’s hand on his face and it was horrible and wonderful and terrifying all at once.

Newt was looking at him so earnestly, and Hermann could have kissed him on the spot, “I meant every single thing I said this week and more. I just wanted to hear you say it back.”

It was the innocence in his voice that did him in. Newton could tell him anything in that tone and Hermann would breathe it in like smoke and hold it in his lungs forever.

But something in Hermann’s brain wouldn’t leave well enough alone.

“But you -” He bit at his lips, “I tricked you, I lied to you so much, how could you ever begin to trust me again?”

Newt sobered. “Hermann, were you lying when you said you loved me?”

No. ” Hermann’s voice shook, and he tugged Newton tighter to him.

“Good.” Newt’s smile stretched back across his face, eyes dancing, “Neither did I.”

“But…” Hermann could hear himself whine, “But I took advantage of you when you were in a vulnerable state -”

Newt rolled his eyes jovially, “Well, I embarrassed you at open mic night, dude, so I think we’re even.”

That surprised a short laugh out of Hermann, still trembling in Newton’s arms. He lowered his head down to rest on Newt’s shoulder as he continued thinking, “I’m afraid I still don’t fully understand. You decided to break this news to me with a proposal?”

Newt hummed, and Hermann could feel the vibrations flow from Newt’s body into his own, “I guess I just thought… being engaged to you this past week has been so amazing, I don’t ever wanna go back to anything else.” Newt smiled into his hair. “I want you for real, Herms. All the cards on the table.”

“All the cards on the table…” Hermann echoed reverently, still in shock. He lifted his head gently to look Newt in the eye, “But, when did you have time to get the rings?”

Now it was Newton’s turn to turn red, “Oh, those. I, uh, I had them made a few years back, actually. A couple months after we started working together. It was part of what tipped me off to your ruse, actually.”

Hermann’s heart soared, “But that was -”

“Like six years ago, yeah.” He looked sheepish, “I always knew you were the only one for me, Hermann, I’ve just been working up the courage.”

This man would absolutely be the death of him.

“We - we weren’t even dating!” Hermann sputtered, a blush creeping up his face.

Newt was practically jumping up and down in Hermann’s arms, “But they’re made from kaiju bone! It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, babe. And I would’ve proposed after we started dating! I’m not completely crazy.”

Hermann felt a smile tug at his lips, “Oh, I think your academic records would beg to differ.”

Newt gave him a wide grin, “You think you’re so clever, don’t you?”

“I do, I do think that.” Hermann nearly giggled.

They took a moment, just holding each other and breathing each others’ air. Hermann’s body hummed with the pleasure of holding Newt and knowing he’d never have to let go.

He brushed a thumb against Newton’s soft cheek, every one of his freckles stood out like a hundred overlapping constellations. Hermann was taken by the sudden urge to kiss every single one. He settled for sweeping Newton up into his arms, both of them laughing.

“Hold on, hold on man.” Newt pulled away from Hermann only slightly to get back down on one knee, eyes shining, “I never got to ask: Doctor Hermann Gottlieb - grandpa extraordinaire, master of trickery, and absolute love of my life - will you do me the honor of marrying me?”

Hermann laughed in elation, “I would be delighted.”

///

Two weeks later, Hermann has his feet propped up in Newton's lap while they watched a nature documentary on the couch.

Newt had been massaging Hermann’s bad leg for the better part of a half hour while Hermann melted further and further into the couch cushions with pleasure. Suddenly Newt halted his motions.

“Is everything alright, dear?” Hermann asked, still groggy from Newt’s skillful ministrations. 

“Did you hit me?”

“Did I what ?”

Newt pushed Hermann’s feet to the ground, “You did - You totally hit me with your cane! That’s why I got a concussion!! Holy shit, I just remembered!”

Hermann blanched, “Oh dear. That completely slipped my mind.” He looked at Newton carefully and placed a gentle hand on his knee, “You - you took me by surprise, but uh, it was not an appropriate response. I’m sorry, darling.”

“Oh, you’re not getting out of this that easily,” Newt laughed, advancing on his fiancé, “I expect recompense!” He pounced on Hermann and began to shower him with kisses, to Hermann’s delight.

“You’re - you’re not angry?” Hermann asked between giggles.

Newt stopped to look him in the eyes, “Well, the way I see it, ‘my husband gave me a concussion and then tricked me into thinking we were engaged’ is the perfect story to tell on our wedding day.”

Hermann huffed, “You’re never going to let me live this down, are you?”

Newt leaned forward and kissed him soundly, “Never.”