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they drift with a kaiju and hermann throws up in a convenient toilet and then they get in a chopper straight for the shatterdome. there’s only one direct line to the jaeger teams, and it is dead-central hq. hermann throws up again while they’re in the air, but they were both expecting it and they’re prepared. brought an on-flight vom bag. it’d be funnier under different circumstances. still, newt muses, it’s hard to feel triumphant about your breakthrough when, a), said breakthrough indicates you’re all going to die if you don’t get the news to the right people in time; b), you won’t know if it’s too late till it’s too late; c), you’re soaking wet and bleeding from the face and mostly blind in one eye and, in hermann’s case, holding a little baggie of your own puke. by the time they get to hq newt’s a little concerned he’s going to throw up, just from the nerves.

but the world doesn’t end. or, it does, sort of. it’s sort of ending all the time, right? the world doesn’t end.

 

there’s silence on the other end of the comm but newt knows what that’s about. he throws an arm over hermann’s shoulders as the cheer goes up, as every voice in the shatterdome starts shouting for joy; tendo’s still on the comm going guys? you okay down there? mako, come in. she’s not coming in, and bully for her. newt hopes she’s kissing her golden retriever of a drift partner. or pummeling him affectionately. or whatever those kids like to do. he couldn’t get a read on the guy, but if he’s good enough for mako… hell, newt doesn’t care. she’s incommunicado on the comm and he’s 99% sure that’s a good thing. he knows he wouldn't be, either. he’s not, in his own private way, he’s not coming in either; everybody’s cheering but he doesn’t make a sound. hermann’s quiet. mako and raleigh are quiet. it’s cool, they can all chill. apocalypse is over.

there’s revelries and mourning and cameras in everyone’s faces. who thinks to take pictures at a time like this? everyone, apparently. everyone wants to remember. everyone wants to be able to look back in ten years at exactly Where They Were When Humanity Won. newt wonders how many of these blurry shots of tear-streaked faces will end up in newspapers. he wonders if he’ll ever be able to find his voice again. he’s smiling; he even laughs. but no words come out. what do you say, at a time like this? has there ever been a ‘time like this’ before, ever? what do you say?

there’s reveling and mourning and commemorating to do, and he doesn’t want any of it. he and hermann sneak out without asking each other if the other one wants to stay. the lab’s quiet. they’re quiet.

they’ve been holding hands. just to keep track of each other. wouldn’t make sense not to. but hermann lets go, when they’re back home, in this weird little space they’ve lived/worked/fought/slept/everythinged in for the past three years. and okay, yeah, that makes sense. it’s their space. home base inside home base. doesn’t feel weird, letting go of his hand in here.

he doesn’t say anything. neither of them say anything. a vast silence and a tether between them.

hermann’s looking at his numbers and not at newt. whole wall of inert symbols referencing nothing but a void, now. a fissure that feels like it’s in newt’s belly, part of his insides. a little pinch of a stitch that used to be there. ghost of an old burning itch. newt thinks about his siblings, all of them, all of them he knew. knew their insides. every stitch that made them. being kaiju makes more sense to him than human. he knew all his parts.

hermann steps toward the blackboard and picks up an eraser and begins slowly, methodically erasing.

newt wolf-whistles.

hermann doesn’t jump. that would have been gratifying. he doesn’t turn around, or stop.

“you remember when mr. strauss told me not to erase side-to-side?” he asks. Hermann glances over his shoulder, finally. “you know, ‘cause it makes your butt wiggle.” he demonstrates. “you’re supposed to go up and down,” he adds. “like this.” he demonstrates some more.

Hermann goes back to his chalkboard. “i know,” he says. his tone’s so neutral. so neutral and so calm. newt doesn’t now what that means.

“i was looking at your butt,” he supplies helpfully. “pretty good-lookin’ butt. ‘specially when you, you know.” he waves a hand. “wiggle. while erasing.”

first words in the post-kaiju era are about hermann’s ass. that’s cool. he’s cool with that. better than remembering being-

“so glad you noticed,” Hermann says. so so calm. newt can’t get over how calm he is.

“i want a cigarette,” newt says.

Hermann puts his eraser down.

“no you don’t,” he says, and sighs. turns around, leans against the blackboard.

“yes i do. give me one of yours.”

“I don’t smoke,” Hermann says.

“yeah,” newt says. “i know. so give me yours. you weren’t gonna smoke them anyway. they’re stale. you hate stale cigarettes.”

“that’s why I kept them,” Hermann says.

“I know. I know. So you’d-”

“I’m not giving them to you.” (So he’d have a pack of old, stale cigarettes he couldn’t stand to smoke, as insurance against the inevitable craving; so when it got bad enough, he’d have to smoke something that burned in his throat, to remind him why he quit; because he couldn’t justify buying a new pack on rations when he had a few left over, never mind that they were two months, five months, a year old now, it’s been a year and he’s not going to start again, he isn’t.)

“I need to do something with my hands,” Newt says. “And I’m fiending. And we just saved the world. I have an oral fixation. I’m nauseous.” All these things are true. None of them are changing Hermann’s expression. What face even is that? He’s so calm. He’s like a placid lake. He’s like a clear day. Newt can synesthetically taste silica-enzyme composites and they taste like the color violet. They taste like 2017, when he helped Mako bleach her hair the first time. He remembers all his siblings. He can still feel the pinch under his ribs where the Breach used to be. Hermann’s staring at him like he’s numbers, calm static numbers. Like he’s familiar, safe.

Newt swallows. Tastes bleach. Tastes the color violet. Tastes a fainting spell, tastes a downswing. Swallows. There’s blood on his shirt. It’s fresh; it’s his. That’s what that is.

“Can I at least get a tissue,” he says, not to Hermann. He can get himself a tissue. Hermann’s still leaning against he blackboard not saying anything. Newt’s nose is bleeding. That’s fine. He can take care of that. Tissue. Or a tampon. Like in that movie. Maybe Raleigh has one. He’s jock enough and comfortable-in-his-soft-masculinity enough to carry tampons for nosebleeds. And or for menstruating. Newt doesn’t care what for. He needs a tissue. Why’d he think of Raleigh? Fuck that guy. He was all wrong about the kaiju. They’re family. And like it or not, you have to defend your family. His weird violent siblings always talking expansion, colonization. Newt gets it. He’s aware of his history. His own history. Self-styled exterminators. Colonizers. His knees bump something. He was getting tissues. There’s blood on the floor, now. His. He’s got to be careful about bumping things. His butt bumps into his feet. He’s kneeling on the floor. His elbow bumps the floor next, and then his shoulder. And he’s amazed at how clean the floor is. Someone must have mopped recently. There was blood on the floor. His. Blue and slippery and smelling of bleach. Violets. He rests for a moment. Hermann watches him.

“I think I may be having a seizure,” Newt says.

Hermann just watches him. The calm on his face is like nothing Newt ever sees there. It’s not a calculated calm, or a calm-hiding-fury, or a temporary calm even. It’s total. It’s peaceful. Newt wants to live in that calm. Or live under his gaze, at least, live with someone so calm watching over him.

“How do you do it?” Newt whispers. The floor’s cool, at least. He was feeling overwarm. “How do you just relax like that?”

“I think I’ve just had a seizure,” Hermann says. Calmly.

“Cool.”

They both rest a while. Newt doesn’t know how long. Eventually Hermann stands away from the blackboard, stiffly, and limps to his desk. Newt doesn’t move a muscle. He knows what will happen if he does. He just lies there, till a cigarette appears in his field of vision.

Hermann’s hand is attached to it. And his arm is attached to his hand, and his body is attached to his arm. And he holds out the cigarette to Newt and says, “If you can get up off the floor you can have this.”

“That’s mean,” Newt says.

“I’m calling a medic,” Hermann says. “We are both very unwell.”

“Let me have the cigarette first,” Newt says. “We’re having seizures. It could be my last cigarette ever. You know the medics won’t let me have one. You know they’re going to keep us under observation forever.”

Hermann leaves. And Newt doesn’t move. His leg’s tingling. Legs? Hermann comes back. He lights the cigarette with a match. Newt falls in love all over again. He can’t believe how much he loves this man. Hermann doesn’t even own a lighter. That’s the kind of romantic he is. He lights his cigarettes with matches. Always. It makes Newt feel all tingly in his, well, his legs, and his arm now too.

“I’ve called a medic,” Hermann says. Calmly. He sits beside Newt and holds the cigarette, lit, to Newt’s lips. Newt inhales. Total bliss. Total, awful, chemical bliss. He doesn’t cough. He hasn’t had a cigarette since he was sixteen. And Hermann isn’t going to smoke. He’s just going to watch Newt do it, from the floor, and hold the cigarette for him. “And I’ve disabled the smoke detectors in the lab.”

“Do you think Vanessa will mind,” Newt – says, really, doesn’t ask, because he kinda knows the answer.

“What,” Hermann says, not asking either, to match Newt’s not-question.

“Me pining over you for the next – forever, probably.”

“I will not abide pining,” Hermann says. The calmness could be gentleness, if Newt thinks about it hard enough. Wants it bad enough. “If you write a song about me I will – I will never, ever wear that blue sweater you like so much. Ever again. I will stop drinking black coffee and I will – Newton if you pine over me I will introduce myself to your parents.”

Newt whines. He can’t help it. Hermann wouldn’t, because despite ten years of mistaken supposition on Newt’s part, Hermann is not actually a spiteful person. But even the thought is horrifying.

“So help me God,” Hermann goes on. “They’d be delighted, of course. And you-”

“I won’t pine. Or write songs. How’d you know I was gonna write songs about you?”

Songs? Songs, Newton, plural?”

“Wanna hear the first one?” Newt asks. “It’s only half-finished, but-”

Hermann takes the cigarette away. Newt laughs. “I’m joking. I don’t think I could even play guitar anymore. Hey, wanna hear pi to the hundredth decimal?”

“It was you that memorized it,” Hermann says primly. “Not me.”

“Third grade. You won a whole pie and you chose cherry. You only ate half of it-”

“It made you sick. That was you, Newton. Your mother still has the picture of you.”

Newt thinks back and remembers – oh, hey. Yeah. The kid in the picture is him. Weird. “I was so sure it was you,” he says. The words come out all slurred. Uh-oh.

Hermann holds out the cigarette again. “If you have another seizure, you can’t finish this,” he says, “and I won’t let you have another.”

“Ever,” Newt asks, “or right now?”

The medics show up. There’s a stretcher. They put Newt on it. He tries to apologize. Everyone in the world is probably celebrating. Except these four guys. How’d they get all dude medics? Why’d they get all dude medics? Nobody answers. He tries to apologize. There’s an MRI machine, and sedatives he tries to say no to. Sedatives Hermann tries to say no to on his behalf, and then on his own behalf. There’s an MRI machine. This is the stupidest thing ever, Newt thinks.

They don’t actually give him an MRI while he’s out. They put bumpers on his bed, though, and when he wakes up he hurts all over. Grand mal, someone tells him. Right, like that’s news. How many? he asks. We’re not sure, somebody says. Great. Great. Hermann’s nowhere. None of his siblings, none of his friends. Him and the hospital bed. Great. Sedatives.

They don’t run any tests he can’t consent to. He thinks Pentecost’s to thank for that. Even, you know, beyond the grave or whatever. Seems like the kind of thing he wouldn’t have allowed. Or maybe he would’ve? By-any-means-necessary, even means like Hannibal Chau, Pentecost was a Slytherin to the core. Somebody had to be. Rest in peace. Newt wakes up and thinks of Stacker Pentecost until someone comes in with a clipboard. Grand mal, they tell him. How many? he asks again. Three, they say. Good. Great. Hermann’s nowhere. They put him on anti-epileptics and don’t sedate him again. It’s only been seven hours since the Breach closed. Newt thinks he’ll probs need cognitive retraining therapy. That seems fair. PTSD counseling. That sort of thing.