“And it doesn’t make any sense, it just doesn’t, why would they even be connected like this it’s like, like, like Lincoln Logs or something, remember those, Herm, they were like this really old toy they gave kids so they could build log cabins like Lincoln was supposed to have lived in, I guess, that’s why the name, actually, fun fact about Abraham Lincoln, did you know—”
“Newton.” Hermann growled, barely resisting the urge to bang his head against the chalkboard. “Would you please shut up?”
Newt’s babbling came to an abrupt halt and, for a grand total of maybe two seconds, their shared lab was blissfully, peacefully silent. Then Newt scoffed, shifting all his weight to one hip and pointing at Hermann with a bit of Kaiju tentacle. Blue gunk splatted from the end of the tentacle to the floor and Hermann eyed it with distaste.
“You know, Hermann, that’s just rude, ok, I’m trying to share my thoughts with you, you know, build up the working relationship, and all you wanna do is work in total silence—”
“Yes! Please.” Hermann turned back to his chalkboard. “Mathematics takes concentration, Newton. Not that I’d expect you to—”
“Hey, I’ll have you know I was way into math in college! It just wasn’t as exciting as biology. Which, by the way, is way more awesome then your stupid numbers.”
“Now who’s being rude?” Hermann muttered, drawing an angry sigma on the board.
“Still you, dude.”
“Oh for heaven’s sake, will you just shut up for five minutes?”
“Fine, dude, fine, we’ll work in total silence. Your funeral. Don’t complain to me if you get bored, though.”
It was an easy argument, one they’d had a thousand times, in fact, practically script-like at this point. Hermann honestly wasn’t sure why they kept having it.
… Ok, yes, he was.
Dr. Newton Geiszler was infuriatingly annoying, a perfectly awful chatterbox at the best of times. Not to mention the ghastly tattoos and his inability to leave his clothing on, always going about with his sleeves rolled up past his elbows so his tattoos peeked out from under the folds of cloth.
Dr. Newton Geiszler was also devastatingly brilliant, with a mind more precious than any others Hermann knew of, a mind that must be protected at all costs if they were to ever have any hope of understanding the beasts that had decided to ravage their planet.
And Hermann was hopelessly, ridiculously, painfully, stupidly attracted to him.
Newt made Hermann nervous in a way he hadn’t been in years, like his skin was crawling, itching to jump away from him, made his pulse jump and his palms sweat, slicking the chalk between his fingers.
It was stupid.
“That’s not silent.” Hermann’s reply was automatic. He realized he’d been standing in front of his chalkboard, staring blankly at the numbers with chalk in hand, and hadn’t written for several minutes.
“Shut up, dude, ok, I can’t figure this out. I need to think.”
Hermann turned around, frowning slightly. Newt had stripped out of his gloves and the tentacle was back in its chemical bath. Newton was standing in front of a simulation projection, frowning into the cross-hatching like it had done him a personal offense. With an offended huff of air, he swiped his hand through the projection, scattering the model, which quickly reformed itself.
Hermann’s lips absolutely did not twitch in fond amusement, and he crunched down on the feeling that didn’t exist immediately, grabbing his cane from where it was propped against the board and heading across the tape line.
Newt answered the question Hermann hadn’t asked, like he suspected he would. “There’s something wrong with the stacking of the veins in my model. The tentacle moves around on its own, like a chicken with its head cut off, separated from the host, so obviously it’s got nerve endings and stuff but it shouldn’t still be moving when the electrical impulses have been cut off…”
Newt pulled off his glasses and rubbed his eyes with the backs of his hands, raking his fingers up and through his hair, making it stand on end as he replaced his glasses.
Hermann peered at the model of the wiggling tentacle as it rotated gently in space. Newt was standing close, solid and warm, and Hermann was finding it more difficult than usual to concentrate. It wasn’t often he allowed his thoughts to wander in the lab like this.
“Hm.” He stuck his finger into the data stream and spun the tentacle a bit. “Well, your theory of Lincoln Logs, as primitive as it might be, may be your key to unravelling your little problem.”
“Huh?” Newt leaned in over Hermann’s shoulder, peering at his finger, but Hermann was firmly ignoring him. He could see it, the clear mathematical ratios that Newt had somehow missed. His mind whirled, unraveling the tendons and nerves inside the tentacle.
“Fascinating.” He breathed.
“Herm, what? Come on, you’re killin’ me here!”
Hermann pointed into the model, using two fingers to zoom the projection. “Look here. See? Your rather crude comparison to a child’s toy was not entirely inaccurate. The veins are arranged as a mathematical ratio, stacked up like your Lincoln Logs. Of course, I’d have to run the numbers to make any sort of accurate assumption, but if I was forced to guess, I’d say the number of nerves is directly proportional to the strength of the electrical impulse from the brains…” Hermann hummed under his breath, already trying to quantify his assertion in his head. “That’s why your tentacle there continues to twitch. The electricity bounces around the nervous grid.”
Newt was staring into the tentacle, brow furrowed, but Hermann barely noticed him, too focused on the tentacle projection. “It’s fascinating.” He murmured. “It’s practically impossible – it may be as close to a perfectly ideal machine as we’ve seen on this planet before—”
“Hermann, you’re a genius.”
Hermann was jolted back to the present, out of his cloud of math and physics, and blinked rapidly, reaching up to adjust his glasses with fingers suddenly clumsy with embarrassment, trying to quash the warmth licking his ribs at Newt’s words. “Well, of course, I am, but—”
“No, Herm, no.” A grin was spreading across Newt’s face and Hermann could practically taste Newt’s excitement in the air as he clapped his hands. “Hermann Gottlieb, you are an absolute motherfucking genius!” He jumped and spun on Hermann, grabbing him by the shoulders, eyes alight with new energy. “That’s exactly it! Do you have any idea how long I stared at that? Granted, probably not long, but still it felt like forever and you just took one look and knew, dude, I owe you one. I owe you ten! I owe you a million, I’m sorry for any time I made fun of your work, holy shit, I could kiss you.”
Hermann spluttered, face blazing. Newt’s face was very close, close enough that Hermann could count every one of his eyelashes if he were so inclined. Which he wasn’t. At all. “Newton, please, control yourself. It wasn’t nearly worth this hubbub or—”
The rest of his sentence was swallowed, muffled, erased by Newt’s lips crashing down onto his, and Hermann promptly forgot what he’d been about to say anyway.
Newt’s lips were chapped, rough, due to his tendency to bite at them when he was thinking, and he tasted vaguely of chapstick and coffee. He was gripping Hermann’s shoulders almost painfully, fingers tight, and as Hermann stared, bug-eyed, he noticed Newt’s eyes were screwed shut, almost like he’d needed the courage to lunge those last few inches.
They stood like that, frozen in a ridiculous panoramic, for what was probably only half a second – though, to Hermann, it felt like millennia – before Newt released him, breaking away with a gasp and a huff of laughter.
Newt turned away almost instantly, fumbling through the things on his desk for his tape recorder, chattering away at high speed. “No, really, seriously, this is awesome, like, this is gonna open up a ton of new research paths, like, I wonder if all the nerves are stacked like Lincoln Logs, or if it’s just something for the tentacle tips, like, maybe some kind of regeneration mechanism – it stores the electrical impulses in the grid until it can use them again…”
Hermann was barely listening, staring in slack-jawed shock at his partner. Newton kissed him. Newton kissed him. His whole body buzzed, heart sending blood roaring through his ears, and he cleared his throat, fingers slick with perspiration on the end of his cane, and headed for his side of the room again.
Clearly it was a one-time thing. Clearly Hermann should not dwell on this one-time thing, nor should he bring back the memory when he felt particularly frustrated or lonely or sad or at any time, really. Clearly Hermann should just carry on with his life, and should absolutely not think about what it might be like to kiss Newton Geiszler whenever he wanted.
Of course, the mind is a fickle and difficult thing, and Hermann’s, refusing to listen to perfectly logical reasoning, proceeded to do every one of those things in vivid detail whenever it was granted the opportunity.
Which was… often.
But time passed, as time tended to do, and if there was one thing Hermann was good at, it was ignoring details to focus on the job at hand. And so he managed to successfully shove the memory of the kiss into the back of his mind, into a little mental chest and lock it up tight.
Then, of course, Newton had to scare the ever-living hell out of him by doing something so incredibly stupid, Hermann had half a mind to murder him on the spot.
And then, under Pentecost’s orders, plan on doing it again.
And, of course, Hermann wasn’t going to let that blasted idiot kill himself trying to be humanity’s superhero rock star. Which is how he found himself standing outside, surrounded by broken buildings and the stench of rotting extra-terrestrial, preparing to Drift while the world ended around him.
“You ready for this?” Newton yelled over the surrounding commotion. Hermann made a strangled little noise in response, staring with horror at the thing he was willingly allowing to access his brain. He forced his wobbling legs to move, to stumble forward until he was standing shoulder to shoulder with Newton. Newt held the button in both hands, lips pressed tight in a grim, worried line, and Hermann was suddenly and forcibly reminded of the kiss he’d tried so hard to forget.
He wondered if Newton would be opposed to trying it again, considering they were probably both about to die anyway.
“Three… two… one!”
Hermann was a child again, in university. Math was good – math made sense. Numbers were always the same and there was always a correct answer.
Newton was there, sitting in a chair while a woman needled ink into his skin.
Numbers, filling a white board.
Laughing with people he didn’t recognize, but knew Newton did.
Newt’s consciousness was pressed against his, prodding with wonder at the memories surrounding it, and Hermann’s mind sank into Newton’s, savoring the feeling of life as they melded into one consciousness.
Hermann, standing at his chalkboard, frowning at a line of numbers. There was chalk on his cheek, and Hermann felt a burst of affection that wasn’t his.
A floating tentacle, spinning slowly in a projection model, and words – “Hermann, you’re a genius.” –
horrifying crippling fear, twisting stomach, clenching guts,
go for it don’t do it don’t be an idiot no yes maybe what if he doesn’t ah fuck it
soft lips, heartbeat painful, ears roaring, cheeks burning—break away, turning, babbling, too nervous to breathe,
holy shit holy fuck can’t believe I just
Kaiju. Swirling, angry, alien.
Hermann realized it exactly same time that Newton did, the dawning horror spreading across their shared consciousness.
Hermann crashed back to reality, realizing he was shaking. There was wetness on his face that was either tears or blood – probably a bit of both – and he reached quivering hands up to yank off the headset.
“Yes, of course.” He ground out, stomach churning. “I’m completely fine.” He fought valiantly for a few moments before his stomach betrayed him and he flung himself towards the convenient toilet only meters away, lunging headfirst into it and vomiting.
Hermann hated vomiting; he retched into the toilet bowl for a few moments, loathing every second. His brain throbbed against his temple and he wondered how much damage he’d just done to it.
Cloth pressed into his outstretched hand and Hermann’s fingers closed around the handkerchief, dragging it up to his mouth to wipe away the bile.
Newt’s face was tight with concern, blood smeared on his forehead and under his nose. His eye was bloodshot, streaks of red piercing the white, and Hermann drank in the sight of him, whole and alive and aware.
Something clenched his gut, something quick and tight and a little bit guilty, and he blinked, confused, but Newt was already talking, babbling, and the funny thing was, Hermann knew what he was going to say an instant before he said it.
“The plan!” Newt spluttered, and Hermann picked up the rest of his sentence as easily as breathing.
“It’s not going to work.”
Hours later and the world was saved and Hermann stood alone in their quiet lab, staring at the blank chalkboards while the rest of the base thudded with a wild sort of unconstrained joy.
He could feel the Drift with Newton pulsing gently in the back of his mind. If he prodded at it, it flared to life, filling him with a buzzing sort of warmth down to the tips of his fingers.
“Stupid.” He breathed, shaking his head.
Hermann’s cane clattered to the ground as he jumped, splitting the silence with a sharp crack and his hand hit his chest to calm his startled heartbeat.
Newt’s smile was hesitant, almost worried, and Hermann realized with a jolt of surprise that Newton was nervous. He could feel it, lurking in the back of his mind, a jittery panic bleeding through the ghost of the Drift.
“Newton, calm down.” The words were out of his mouth before he made a conscious decision to say them, but there they were, so he pressed on. “I can feel your… panic.”
Newt laughed a little, reaching up to rub at the back of his head. “You can feel that?”
“Of course.” Hermann reached behind him for the rolling desk chair, pulling it forwards. He lowered himself down, wincing as the movement sent jolts of pain through his bones. He’d overexerted himself and his leg was not happy with him.
Newt made a soft noise, hand drifting to his hip.
Now it was Hermann’s turn to be surprised. “You can feel that as well?”
“Pain’s in the mind, dude.” Newt offered a tight smile.
They lapsed into silence, neither willing to broach the subject first. Hermann shifted a bit on his chair, the memory of Newton’s lips on his floating to the forefront of his mind with little prodding. But now, with the ghost of their joint venture into insanity pressing insistently against the back of his mind, his own memory of their kiss was layered with Newt’s memories too – the mind-numbing terror that Newt had feel deep in his bones as he screwed up more courage than Hermann had ever had, or the strange memory of the taste of his own lips.
Hermann felt himself blush and cursed in German under his breath.
He looked up to find Newt examining him, something serious in the set of his face. “Don’t call me that.”
The words were automatic, and not the least bit truthful, and Hermann felt a rush of embarrassment swell their connection as he remembered, suddenly, that Newt had seen and felt his feelings on the nickname in the Drift. He knew as well as Hermann did that Hermann felt a guilty sort of pleasure that Newt had chosen to grant him a nickname, for all his blustering about hating it.
Newt quirked a half-smile, the seriousness abating somewhat and Hermann sighed. “Oh, stuff it.”
Now Newt was grinning full-out and just like that the tension evaporated like mist. Hermann nodded at the nearest chair and Newt plopped down into it, rolling a bit closer to Hermann, using his feet to scoot the chair across the floor. He crossed their tape line with barely a glance, and Hermann was suddenly struck by how stupid the entire thing was. What use was a tape line separating sides of a room when they’d shared the same mind?
He opened his mouth to say just that, when Newt, as Newton always tended to do, interrupted him with something completely surprising.
“You don’t hate me, do you? For the ki— Er, for dragging you along on a suicide mission?”
Hermann blinked, mouth still open, completely thrown. After everything, after all that they’d been through in the past few weeks alone, after sharing the same headspace - after Hermann had willingly hooked himself up to something he expected to kill him, just so Newt wouldn’t have to shoulder the burden alone, Newton still remained that insecure?
“Of course not!” He said, stiffly, pressing a hand down on his aching leg. “Don’t be ridiculous, Newton. Besides, it worked, didn’t it?”
“Well, yeah, but—”
Hermann let out a long, slow breath and gathered every scrap of courage he possessed. Newt’s anxiety was bleeding through the ghost of the Drift and Hermann wasn’t exactly the calmest he’d ever been, but this had to be done, and by God, Hermann was going to do it.
Fortune favors the brave, dude.
Besides, even if this got thrown resolutely back into his face, at least Hermann would convince Newt that he didn’t hate him. Honestly. The notion was ridiculous.
In fact, if Hermann thought back even as far as their first meeting, when insults had been slung and barely a week had passed before a tape-line split the room neatly in two, he suspected he never had.
“No, Newton.” He sniffed, and motioned him closer. Newt blinked and half-stood, rising out of the chair. Hermann impatiently motioned him even closer, and Newt stepped in so close that Hermann could have whispered in his ear if he so chose.
Instead, Hermann took a deep breath and—
Well, ok, so it was a bit of a lunge, a bit of a crazy jerky sort of motion that probably looked as terrifying as it felt, but Hermann had one shot at this and he wasn’t going to blow it. Not when he was so close. He lurched forward, wrapping his hand around the back of Newt’s neck and dragged him the last few millimeters into their second kiss.
For a split-second, it was awful. Their lips crashed together too fast, bruising and hard, and Newt didn’t seem to catch on right away as to what was happening. Hermann clung to him like grim death, giving himself five long, slow seconds before he could break away and pretend this never happened.
Then Newt made a muffled groan and melted – that’s really the only word Hermann could find for the way Newton went boneless, slumping down into the kiss while he braced himself on the arms of the rolling chair. Hermann lifted his other hand and rested it against Newt’s cheek, the ghost of the Drift pulsing with that kind of strange euphoria only a kiss can bring. Newt’s rapidly spinning emotions spilled into Hermann’s mind like a deluge, a waterfall of light and laughter, and suddenly the entire kiss was perfect.
Then, of course, because it couldn’t last forever, the rolling chair suddenly lost its battle against friction and went shooting backwards, just as Newt tried to press closer down into the kiss, desperation tinging the bit of his mind Hermann could still feel and they were abruptly separated. Hermann went sliding backwards with the chair, mind gone blank with surprised as Newt stumbled, looking dazed.
For a moment, they just stared at each other – Newt, half bent over, red-lipped and gaping and Hermann, drinking him in, lips and fingertips tingling with adrenaline.
Then, Newt snorted, breaking the silence. Hermann pressed his lips together, feeling laughter bubble in his chest, before he started to chuckle. The moment Hermann made noise, Newt lost it, slumping to the floor and pressing a hand to his forehead.
They laughed like that for long minutes, nearly hysterical with relief and joy. They were alive. They were alive and whole and the world had been saved and Hermann had just spent the last several minutes getting thoroughly kissed.
In all his life, Hermann couldn’t remember being happier and as he leaned forward in the chair, holding out his hand for Newton to take, he thought – no, he could feel – that Newton felt quite the same way.
“Take two?” Newt asked, a wicked little grin crossing his lips and as Hermann rolled his eyes in response, lips twitching in an answering smile, he couldn’t stop himself from being a little daring, a little bold, leaning down to steal a quick, third kiss from Newt’s surprised lips.
After all, fortune did tend to favor the brave.