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(I Think I Like) What I Don't Know About You

Chapter Text

Late May
Thursday, 2:45pm

The sun shone in through the big, wide windows on the side of the building, filling the room with warmth as Newt reached up and tugged down the shades with a sigh. He liked the way the sun shafted in through the trees out the front, but the glare through those big windows hurt people's eyes and heated up the vinyl booth seats and made customers not want to hang around.

"Fifteen minutes," Chuck called as he hefted a stack of bagged beans out of the back room and set about restocking the shelves behind the counter.

"Got it." Newt stopped and checked out the display case, making sure all the tasty goodies were stocked up and well presented - freshly baked biscotti and scones on the top shelves, and brightly iced cookies and dapper gingerbread men and ladies on the bottom - and continued on to grab a custom reserved sign and a chessboard.

The booth in the back corner where the sun dappled best got one reserved sign and the chessboard, leaving him to jog back to the front as someone walked in through the door.

"Hi!" Newt greeted brightly as he looked up at the newcomer, a man with a dour expression, ill-fitting suit, a stack of notebooks under one arm, and a cane clutched in his hand. The man sniffed his acknowledgement and looked around dubiously.

"Can I get you anything? We have the best espresso blend in the city. Guaranteed." Newt held his arms out as if to say 'Ta-da!', but the man just rolled his eyes.

"I need somewhere quiet to work for a few hours." The man shifted his weight slightly, and continued to look around the empty store with something bordering on disdain.

"Well, for the next fifteen minutes this place will be as quiet as a tomb. Quieter, even. Then for about twenty minutes, we'll see more traffic than Shinjuku on a Friday night, when about five billion soccer moms descend and drink us dry. After that, you're pretty much in the clear until five. You good with that?" Newt asked, shimmying his hips as if that'd sweeten the deal.

"I suppose it will suffice." The man glanced around at the table options before choosing the booth directly across from the counter by the drawn window shades.

"In that case, what can I get you?" Newt clapped his hands together and waited.

"Pardon?" The man paused as he settled onto the bench and set his notebook in front of him.

"That's some prime real estate you got there, buddy. Can't just let you stay rent free. Daddy's got bills to pay, y'get me?" Newt was sincerely beginning to wonder if the man was all there.

"Ah, yes. Of course. What teas do you have available?"

"Well, your hair's kind of silly." Newt said with a wink.

"I beg your pardon?!" That was sincere anger, whoops. Newt held up his hands and shrugged his shoulders sheepishly.

"Sorry, dude. I was teasing you. Y'know, because, tease. Teas. Heh. Uh. So, yeah. We have Orange Pekoe and Awake." Newt would swear up and down that he saw the man physically shudder.

"I suppose the Pekoe will have to do, though I do suggest you stock something less akin to swill; your business will suffer." The man sniffed and flipped open his notebook, carefully arranging a pencil sharpener, eraser and pencil in straight lines beside it.

"We're doing pretty okay with the espresso crowd, but I'll take that under advisement." Newt responded with a roll of his eyes and went to get the man's order.

He returned a few minutes later with a cup of hot water and a teabag, placing it on the table near the man's notebook. He didn't normally do table service, but he figured he could just this once. He craned his neck to see what the man was working on and his eyes lit up.

"Math, hey? You work over at the university?" He asked, drumming his fingers on the table.

The man glared at Newt's fingers and slipped his own up under his glasses to pinch the bridge of his nose.

"In a manner of speaking. Though, with the number of co-eds panicking all over campus, I cannot imagine much in the way of work is being accomplished." The man griped, clearly annoyed at Newt's interruptions.

"Ah, yeah. That'd suck." Newt commiserated. "Say, what's your name? Maybe I've read some of your stuff."

"I find that highly unlikely." The man said witheringly, drawing the cup of water closer so he could rip open the tea packet with a disdainful look and leave it to steep.

"Try me." Newt jutted out his jaw in challenge.

"Doctor Hermann Gottlieb, if you must know." He said with a sigh. "Though I do not believe that one such as yourself-"

"Holy sh-," Newt cut him off, stunned. It had been fifteen years since he'd sent the last letter. Fifteen years since Hermann had stopped writing back. "I've, uh, I've read all your work. It's the tits." Newt tried to play it cool; he'd gotten over that years ago. Really, he had.

"'The tits'?" Hermann responded, sneering as he dipped the teabag delicately into the water and placed it carefully on the saucer.

"Yeah, I mean, that work you did for the LHC was super ballsy. I really liked-"

"Five minutes!" Chuck yelled from the back room.

"Shit. Thanks, Chuck! Listen, I've gotta go prep, but maybe we can talk later?" Newt asked as he walked backwards away from the booth; he couldn't help himself, Hermann's letters had been the best part of getting his first few doctorates. "Oh, yeah." He called, stopping near the counter. "Name's Newt. Just... give a holler if you need anything." Newt stopped, waiting for any sign of recognition.

Hermann stared over the rim of his glasses and said nothing as Newt's shoulders slumped and he disappeared into the back room.

Five minutes later, as if on cue, a trickle of parents and children started to filter into the shop. First in small, staggered groups, and then a mass influx that had a line leading almost out the door. The volume level rose considerably as people practically shouted their orders as they reached the register, then Newt shouted them on to Chuck, the barista, and Chuck shouted them once more when he finished. A seemingly endless stream of double shot soy lattes and Americanos went to the parents as their children wreaked havoc over the store.

Hermann curled an arm protectively around his work, as a pair of eyes peered over the top of the table, one arm stretching up to try and grab at his pencil sharpener. A mother swooped in with apology in her eyes and carefully grasped the child's hand and moved it away.

"What do we say to the nice man you've interrupted, Denise?" She asked patiently and looked at the little girl.

"Sorry, Mister." The little girl said around the three fingers in her mouth.

Hermann nodded, smiling tightly and returned to his work.

Twenty minutes later and the noise levels had dulled and the place returned to some semblance of sanity. Newt held up his hand and high-fived Chuck behind the counter, then came out with a cloth and started wiping down tables and straightening chairs. He spoke briefly to the couple of remaining customers dotted around at various tables, and brightened considerably as the door opened and two tall men walked in.

"Principal Pentecost, my main man!" Walking over to clasp one of their hands and lean in to pat him on the back.

"Now, now, Newt. What have I told you about calling me that?" Pentecost chided Newt in a sonorous tone.

"That it's awesome?" Newt replied innocently, moving on to repeat the greeting to the other man.

"Good to see you, Herc. Your booth's set up. I hope today's battle is epic." He stepped back and saluted before returning to his work.

"Stacker." Chuck nodded as they passed by the end of the counter, he paused for a moment before grudgingly greeting the other man. "...Dad."

"Chuck, I've, uh-"

"Can't talk now. Got things to do." Chuck abruptly turned and walked into the storeroom. Stacker placed a hand on Herc's shoulder and slowly lead him to their booth, talking to him in a quiet undertone as they sat and set up the chess board.

Newt puttered around behind the counter for a while, wiping things down and serving the occasional customer who came in. At around a quarter to four, he walked over to Hermann's booth and placed a plate beside him.

"I didn't order this." Hermann barely glanced at the plate of biscotti before returning to his work.

"I know. It's on the house." Newt grinned and slid into the booth across from Hermann. "Consider it your reward for surviving your first Mom Rush at Kaiju Blue." And incentive to keep coming back. He added mentally.

"I, er, thank you." Hermann set aside his notebook and gingerly picked up the biscotti, biting into it carefully. "This is very good." He said sounding somewhat surprised.

"Thanks. What're you working on?" Newt couldn't help himself, he spun the book around and peered at it, trailing a finger along the lines as he read the equations. The number of times they'd managed to work each other out of a mental rut was unquantifiable. Maybe they still had the same zing.

"No, don't." Hermann protested, setting down the biscuit and brushing off his hands almost frantically. "I doubt you'd understand it and-"

"Now, my physics is a little rusty..." Newt cut in, a little annoyed that Hermann thought so little of him, but trying to remind himself that his letters clearly hadn't left that much of an impact on him. "But I think your issue is... right here." He spun the book back and tapped the book midway up the page.

"I don't see how you could-" Hermann started and then scanned the page more closely. He picked up his pencil and made a few annotations, occasionally erasing something and muttering under his breath. Newt watched him work for a moment with a small, sad smile on his face and slipped out of the booth.

---

Later

"Fifteen minutes!" Chuck yelled from the back room.

"Shit. Gotta go, men. Duty calls," Newt said, standing from the chair he'd pulled up to the booth in the back to watch the men play chess. "May your victory be swift."

Both Pentecost and Herc scoffed.

"In that case, may it be a long and arduous bloody massacre." Newt saluted and rushed off to prepare for the next wave - the Zombie Walk.

He paused and grabbed one of the custom reserved signs from beside the display case as he passed, walked all the way down to the cash register and set the sign on the table just beside the counter. He was about to step into the back room to grab some things to restock the baked goods, when he noticed Hermann standing with his books under his arm, leaning heavily on his cane.

"Hey, Hermann! Did you get some good work done?" Newt asked cheerily.

"I- Yes, thank you. I did." Hermann said, irritated by the overfamiliarity but trying to put politeness first. "I was quite, ehm, stuck on that equation. Your input was a tremendous help."

"Sometimes all you need is a fresh set of eyes, am I right?"

"Quite." Hermann shifted slightly, looking down at the floor.

Newt had a brief wild fantasy that Hermann was going to admit that he remembered him and they were going to fall into an epic friendship built on rigorous scientific and mathematical debate but then Hermann spoke.

"About the tea..."

"Oh, right. Eh, don't worry about it." Newt glanced around the serving area, trying not to let disappointment show as he focussed on making mental notes of everything he'd have to do before the rush.

"I really must insist." Hermann pressed, but Newt just held up a hand.

"Seriously, dude, it was just some hot water and, apparently, crappy leaves in a bag. Forget about it." Newt pulled a face at Hermann and then leaned over to rummage around under the counter for some more napkins.

"Very well. In that case, I must insist upon providing a handsome tip." Hermann reached into his pocket and pulled out some notes and some coins. Placing a five-dollar note in the tip plate, he nodded at Newt and began to walk away. As he was almost at the door, he turned and called out. "Also, my compliments to your baker. The biscotti was most enjoyable."

Newt shook his head and sighed as he watched him leave.

Chapter Text

Early June
Tuesday, 1:00pm

"Really?" Newt asked incredulously.

"I just don't see how a giant moth could beat a giant lizard." Chuck shrugged, continuing to wipe down the espresso machine with care.

"But-"

The front door jingled merrily and both men turned to watch Hermann walk in, a stack of papers and a notebook in his hand.

"Hey! You came back!" Newt grinned, turning towards the register.

"Yes, well. The atmosphere wasn't completely unbearable." Herman responded with a tense smile that made his eyes slit.

"Got a surprise for you." Newt jerked his head, motioning for Hermann to come closer as he disappeared into the back room.

Hermann glanced at Chuck, and inched closer warily.

"I wasn't sure which one you'd like, so I grabbed a few different kinds," Newt said as he walked out of the back with an arm full of small boxes and spread them out on the counter. "You can let me know which one you like and we'll get more of that in. I'm sure we can sell off the other stuff somehow. Tea doesn't go bad, right? I mean, it's dried leaves-"

"You did this... For me?" Hermann asked, tentatively, confused as to what would inspire someone he'd only met only once to go to such lengths.

"Sure, man." Newt shrugged, avoiding Hermann's eyes

"But... Why?"

"Dude, seriously? You're...you! Hermann Gottlieb! In my store! I didn't think we'd ever- I mean, dude. Your work on-"

"Doctor Gottlieb." Hermann interrupted.

Newt paused and stared at him, heart sinking. Maybe Hermann did remember...

"Really, dude? You're really going to do that while I'm praising you?" Newt asked, taking refuge in bravado.

Hermann had the good sense to look abashed. "Apologies," he said, looking down at his cane, clenched between white-knuckled fingers. "It's a... habit."

Newt frowned. Maybe he didn't remember and he'd just grown up to be a natural asshole. Newt was so confused he almost felt like simply exploding might be the best option. He eventually settled for neutrality and continued.

"Sure, ok. Anyway, man. I like to keep this place sort of..." Newt paused, thinking, his hands waving in front of him in an ambiguous manner. "Diverse, y'know. The more different types of people I get in here, the more interesting it is. Kind of a bigger ideological gene pool, you dig? And, well, I make more money. But that's kind of secondary."

"I see," Hermann said, switching his attention to the array of teas on the counter before him. "The PG Tips and Typhoo will do quite nicely. I'm sure you'll be able to sell the rest to the unrefined American palate."

"Don't hold back now, Hermann." Newt smirked as he cleared away the excess tea packages, putting them under the counter. "How are we going to know how you feel if you just keep it bottled up inside?"

"Cute." Hermann levelled a stare at Newt, lips curled in a moue of distaste that didn't extend past the facade. After yesterday's demonstration of higher mathematical ability, he found himself unable to completely dismiss the man. There was something familiar about him that had worked its way under his skin, making him curious.

"Glad you think so," Newt quipped with a wink, off balance but rolling with it. "Now, which tea will it be today, Professor?"

"Typhoo, if you please," Hermann said, ignoring the nickname as he pulled his wallet out. "And some more of that almond biscotti if you have it."

"I knew you'd be a biscotti man. I'm never wrong." Newt punched some numbers into the till, slapped it on the side a few times to get it to respond, and then turned back to Hermann. "Okay, that'll be five seventy-five."

Hermann counted out the change, placing a couple of coins in the tip plate, and stood to wait for his order.

"Y'know," Newt said as he released a stream of boiling water from the espresso machine into the cup. "I can bring your order over to you if you want to sit down."

"I am perfectly capable of managing my order, thank you very much." Hermann hurrumphed.

"Hey, no, man. Wasn't saying you can't," Newt said as he put the cup into a saucer and placed it on the counter, dropping the teabag in as he pushed it towards Hermann. "Just, y'know, two plates is awkward at the best of times, and-"

"I assure you, I can manage." Hermann replied coldly, his reserve of good will rapidly running out.

"Sure, ok. No big." Newt placed the biscotti beside Hermann's tea and backed away with his hands raised, palms out.

Hermann flipped the stack of papers and notebook over so the hard side faced up and snugged it into the crook of his elbow. Leaning against the counter, he placed first the biscotti and then the tea on the makeshift tray and walked towards the booth across from the counter.

"Also, in the future," Hermann called over his shoulder. "You should place the teabag in the cup before pouring the water. Dipping a teabag into lukewarm water makes for a putrid beverage and is a waste of perfectly good leaves."

Newt shook his head and crossed his arms, leaning back against the sink as he watched Hermann with a small smile. He totally grew up to be a natural asshole.

---

Later

"Any idea when Mako's next shipment's getting here?" Chuck asked as he came out of the back room with bagged beans for restocking.

"Shouldn't be more than a week, maybe two, if all goes well." Newt looked up from his book at the table nearest the front window. "Why?"

"We're running low on Onibaba, Scissure and Mutavore. Could do with another batch of each."

"Shit. I think our guy in Indonesia got washed out in a flood, so unless Mako found someone else, we may have to discontinue Scissure. How much have we got left?" Newt put his book down and walked over to the counter as Chuck went out back to check.

"About half a sack. Enough for around two weeks, if we keep selling 'em at the rate we have been." Chuck came out, dusting off his hands and looking at Newt questioningly.

"Okay, here's what's going to happen. I'm going to call Mako as soon as it's a decent hour in - shit, where is she? Vietnam, I think. Maybe? - anyway, I'll call her and find out what the deal is. If it's a wash, you're going to add three dollars to the Scissure price and put out a collection tin. Whenever someone buys the blend, explain what's happened and tell them that we're collecting money so this dude and his family don't, y'know, starve. Oh, and tell them that I'm matching donations dollar for dollar. Cool?" Newt spouted off at a million miles an hour, trying to make sure he covered all the bases.

"And if the guy's crop is fine?" Chuck asked.

"Then we don't do all of that, but we have a plan in place for if it does happen."

"Works for me." Chuck shrugged. "Let me know what you hear from Mako. The rest of it's good, but, yeah?"

"Haven't had word of anything going wrong anywhere else. We should be able to do more of Onibaba and Mutavore before we run out."

"Sweet." Chuck flipped a tea towel over his shoulder and set about stacking the shelves.

Newt turned to head back to his table and his book when he noticed Hermann packing up his papers.

"Leaving us so soon? It feels like you only just got here." Newt said, shoving his hands into his pockets as he sauntered over, acting nonchalant.

"Does it? I hadn't noticed." Hermann said without looking up.

"Well, you were all nose to the grindstone with your work and stuff." Newt swayed a little as he watched Hermann organise his notes just so.

"It happens that this place - during its quieter moments - is most conducive to productive thought." Hermann said, finally looking up with a small smile.

"I'm glad that you've found that here. You're totally welcome. Any time." Newt bounced on the balls of his feet, a genuine grin lighting up his face.

"Indeed." Hermann said, standing and picking up his notebook. "Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a faculty meeting that, for reasons unknown, I am beholden to attend."

Newt took a step back to let Hermann pass, and watched as he made his way to the door.

"Y'all come back now, y'hear?" Newt called as the closed behind Hermann.

"What was that?" Chuck turned around and boggled at Newt.

"I was trying to do a thing." Newt shrugged.

Chuck raised an eyebrow.

Newt looked down and scuffed his toe on the ground. "It won't be a thing."

Chapter Text

Early June
Wednesday, 8:15am

Newt danced around the cafe sweeping, singing along under his breath to the music playing as he made his way to the door and swept the dust into the vestibule and then outside.

"That's just gonna get tracked back in here if you don't sweep it to the curb," Chuck said with a shake of his head.

"Let them, I say," Newt responded with a flourish of the broom. "It gives me something to do in the down time."

"You'll be singing a different tune next time it rains." Chuck shook his head and turned to refill the coffee grinder.

The door swung open and Hermann walked in, muttering under his breath as he made his way to what he was beginning to consider His Booth, dropped his notebook on the table, and turned to the counter.

"You're in early today, Hermann." Newt stuck the broom in an out of the way corner and walked around the counter to take his order, inwardly turning cartwheels that Hermann had come back yet again.

"I arrived at my office at the usual time only to find a line of students waiting for me outside of the designated office hours." Hermann sneered.

"And you just left them there?" Newt asked.

"Life is full of disappointment. If I don't teach them that now, they'll never learn."

"That's rough, man. But hey, mi casa es su casa. Same as yesterday?" Newt pulled a tea bag out of the packet and waved it beside his face.

"Please. And remember-"

"Tea bag, then water. Gotcha." Newt cut him off with a grin. "Biscotti as well?"

"Not today, thank you. I find that eating while in a dreadful mood hinders the thought processes."

"I hear that, brother." Newt placed the tea on the counter and rang up the order on the till. "That'll be two-fifty."

Hermann pulled out a few notes and handed them over. "Keep the change. I'll likely be here for quite some time."

"Five minutes." Chuck interrupted, nodding at the clock and flicking the switch on the grinder.

"Here we go again. You're going to want to brace yourself, Hermann," Newt said as he walked over to the serving station.

Hermann looked over his shoulder with a raised eyebrow as he set down his tea. "Pardon?"

"The Mom Rush has nothing on the Rat Race. You missed all the fun last time, but I think you're going to be smack dab in the middle of it this time." Newt opened up the cupboard below the serving station to restock the sugar and stirrers and whatever else needed restocking.

"Should I, perhaps, leave?" Hermann asked, sitting down and twisting around to look at Newt.

"Nah, man. It's not, like, a war zone or anything. It's just a bunch of demanding, stuck-up suits. It'll be over before you know it." Newt shoved some napkins in the dispenser, looked at it critically for a moment, and then shoved even more in. "Just thought I'd warn you in case you got into that awesome 'figuring shit out' headspace and some douchebag with a smartphone ruined it and inspired you to commit murder or something."

"I sincerely doubt there is anything that could incite me to violence," Hermann said primly.

"I dunno, dude. I wouldn't put it past you. I've seen the looks you've given me sometimes and I'm mostly harmless." Newt grinned with a shrug.

"Mostly harmless?" Hermann raised an eyebrow.

"It's in the updated edition." Newt winked, remembering the letter he'd received after he'd recommended Hermann read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and bounced off behind the counter. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a stampede to prepare for. Chuck, we need more paper cups! Where do we keep the paper cups?!"

Hermann watched him go, trying to hold back the small smile that threatened to become a grin.

Five minutes later, the door opened and a steady stream of men and women in suits pushed their way in and lined up at the counter. Hermann watched as the cafe filled up, people standing shoulder to shoulder as they waited for their orders; small regulars, large blacks, double macchiatos, lattes, cappuccinos, frappucinos, Americanos, red eyes - an endless list of caffeinated beverages shouted in commanding tones.

Hermann held onto his tea cup to keep it steady as people jostled the booth table. His grip tightened around the shaft of his cane under the table; mostly to make sure that it wouldn't slip and trip someone, but also in case he had to defend himself from the ravening horde.

As with the previous rushes Hermann had experienced, within an hour the tide of people had ebbed, and the volume dropped considerably. Most of the tables were still empty; the vast majority had left as soon as their orders were up, undoubtedly steeling themselves for the day ahead.

Newt high-fived Chuck and wiped down the counter. Chuck took orders from a few stragglers, harried and rushed at their lateness, leaving Newt to his own devices.

Newt pulled himself a shot of espresso - nowhere near as good as Chuck's, but still not bad - and looked over the remains of the morning's baked goods. He thought for a moment, then picked out a muffin and a cookie and put them on separate plates.

Walking over to Hermann's booth, he placed the two baked goods on the table.

"Muffin or cookie, lady's choice," Newt said and took a sip of espresso.

"Excuse me?" Hermann looked up, blinking slowly as if still caught in thought.

"Your reward for surviving the Rat Race. We sold out of biscotti, but there'll be a fresh batch this afternoon. So, take your pick. Muffin or Cookie. The muffin is orange poppyseed, and the cookie is triple choc-chip."

"You keep giving me free food. I don't understand." Hermann looked up at Newt quizzically.

"I'm a big fan of positive reinforcement. Y'know, if I keep you happy, you'll keep coming back. And if you keep coming back, maybe one day we'll get to have an actual conversation. So, really, this is all about me. Muffin or Cookie?" Newt not so subtly pushed the plates towards Hermann. "Chooooose."

Hermann looked up at Newt steadily as though reducing him to equations and taking him apart piece by piece. After a moment, he seemed to have reached a decision and pulled the muffin closer.

"Excellent choice, my good man." Newt grinned as he picked up the plate with the cookie. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have five minutes of bliss before I have to go be a responsible adult again."

Hermann coughed as Newt began to walk away.

"You're welcome to, ah-" He gestured at the seat opposite himself. "-join me. I mean, that is, if you-"

Newt cut him off by sliding quickly into the seat and beaming at him. "This is awesome! Man, you have no idea how long I've been wanting to pick your brain in person. Seriously, I get that you probably don't want to talk to me, but, I mean, the feeling's not really mutual."

"I see..." Hermann said, clearly beginning to wonder if he had made a mistake in offering to share the booth.

"So, what are you working on? One of the Millennium problems? Riemann? Something a little more esoteric?" Newt bounced in place as he took a bite of his cookie, dropping crumbs all over the table.

Hermann sighed and lifted his papers to shake them off, arranging them more tidily - farther away from Newt - and setting them aside.

"Regrettably, my work is currently of the mundane variety. I have to put together five different final exams for four different student levels and they have to be submitted before the end of the week. It's all rather dull, really."

"But you have some interesting research lined up for the summer, yeah? I mean, it's not going to be petty bureaucracy when the students are gone, right?"

"There might be one or two avenues of research I may care to traverse. I have yet to finalise anything. Alas, Publish or Perish may put my more fanciful research ideas on hold." Hermann pursed his lips in displeasure and began shredding the muffin into bite-sized pieces.

"Man, that really blows. If I were in charge, I'd give you all the research funds you wanted and let you go at it. You'd probably find the equation for the meaning of life, the universe, and everything within a year if you weren't bogged down with make-work," Newt said, gesticulating with the cookie in his hand and sending crumbs flying everywhere.

"While I find it flattering that you think so, I hardly believe a year would be enough to find those answers. And it almost certainly won't be as simple as forty-two." Hermann popped a piece of the muffin into his mouth and chewed ruefully. "This is really, extraordinarily good. Please, pass my compliments on to your baker."

"I'll make sure he gets them," Newt said with a grin that slowly dimmed. "Man, I wish I had more time, but I've got shit to get done before the lunch rush. Maybe next time you're not too busy and I'm not too busy we could do this again, yeah?" Newt bit his lip and raised an eyebrow hopefully at Hermann. All he had to do was remind Hermann how well they'd worked together, how easily they'd understood each other. Maybe he'd be able to get Hermann to forget whatever had stopped him writing in the first place.

"I- well, ah. Yes. This wasn't a wholly unpleasant experience. I find myself amenable to future conversations," Hermann said as if somewhat surprised at himself.

"Wait, so, it was a little unpleasant?" Newt said, brow furrowed. Did he remember? This was all so stressful. He could just ask, but every time he considered it, fear tightened his chest and he thought no. Not knowing and being confused was easier to handle than knowing for sure.

"Well, uh. The crumbs." Hermann gestured at the table covered with the remnants of Newt's cookie.

"Right. Um. Next time I'll have something less crumbly," Newt said before turning towards the counter and yelling, "Chuck! Cloth!"

A cloth flew across the room from behind the espresso machine and Newt jerked backwards awkwardly to catch it.

"Lift." Newt gestured at Hermann's notebook and papers and swiftly wiped up the crumbs. "All good?"

"That will do nicely. Thank you." Hermann gave a tight smile, as though he weren't used to the expression.

"Sweet. Ok, I gotta jet. Talk later." Newt picked up his espresso cup and plate and dropped them off at the counter. "Oh, yeah. If you need anything, just see Chuck. Just remember to tell him-"

"Teabag then water. I know, already," Chuck said from behind the espresso machine, sounding peeved.

"You're a god amongst baristas, Chuck. Don't let anyone tell you any different," Newt said, rolling his eyes as he headed out to the back hall where he unlocked a door and headed upstairs.

"I don't," Chuck muttered sullenly and went back to work.

---

Later

Newt shuffled down the stairs carrying two open containers and bumped the door open with his hip.

"Coming through!" He called in warning as he backed into the hall and walked behind the counter to set the containers down near the baked goods display. "Hey, Chuck. There's another box upstairs. You wanna go grab it while I set these out?"

"Sure. Just on the island in the kitchen?" Chuck asked, flipping the tea towel over his shoulder and placing a clean cup on the shelf.

"Yup. Usual place." Newt grabbed a pair of tongs and began to set out the savoury pastries on the top shelf for the lunch crowd.

Newt didn't really want Kaiju Blue to be the sort of place people came to eat. The thought of all the washing up that would entail sent a shudder down his spine. He'd tried to cultivate an atmosphere that invited people to meet up and sit down and chat at their own pace, rather than encouraging a goal-oriented meal situation. He liked the casual customers, he loved his regulars, and coffee and snacks were enough.

He finished laying out the second box - more muffins and a few cupcakes - as Chuck came down with the last of it.

"I think they turned out really well today," Newt said, bouncing in place a little.

"I wonder why..." Chuck said with a smirk and flicked his eyes at Hermann's table and back at Newt.

"What? What are you saying?" Newt asked edgily, he'd never so much as mentioned to Chuck that he knew Hermann.

"I'm not saying anything at all." Chuck smirked harder, if it was possible.

"Shut up. It's nothing," Newt hissed.

"Sure it isn't. I'm onto you." Chuck raised and eyebrow at Newt and danced away when Newt tried to hit him with a tea towel.

"Just. Shut up. And stay up shut." Newt glared and turned back to the food display, trying not to crumble the biscotti as he placed it on the shelf angrily. When he was done, he took a plate and put a single piece of biscotti on it.

"Remember when you wouldn't give anyone free food?" Chuck murmured with a grin as he passed by to round the counter into the cafe proper.

"Didn't we just have a conversation about you and shutting up?" Newt practically growled in response.

Chuck held up his hands in a defensive pose, but the mirth on his face undermined any sincerity he may have been feigning.

"Hey, Hermann," Newt said as he approached the booth, shaking off any resentment he felt towards his irritating employee. "Told you there'd be biscotti this afternoon. It's fresh from the oven; still warm."

"You really don't have to keep doing this. You don't have to worry that I won't come back, and I'm perfectly happy to pay," Hermann said, looking over his glasses at Newt.

"It's no big." Newt heard Chuck snort from across the room, but ignored it. "I know you like biscotti and this is fresh and warm. I want you to have it." Newt shrugged.

"Fine," Hermann sighed. "On this occasion, I will accept. But I really must insist that you stop. I almost feel like you're trying to fatten me up."

"Definitely not trying to fatten you up. Just trying to be friendly," Newt said as he watched Hermann as took a bite and closed his eyes to savour the flavour. "And I can't promise that I won't give you stuff in the future because, hey, I'm nice like that."

Hermann's eyes flew open he stared at Newt while desperately swallowing, eventually grabbing the remnants of his lukewarm tea to wash it down.

"You!" He spat once his mouth was clear.

Newt's eyes widened and he took a step back, raising his hands defensively. He hadn't expected quite that much vehemence when Hermann realised. He couldn't remember saying anything to warrant that response in his last letter, but he wasn't the best judge of what the right thing to say was at the best of times.

"You're the baker!"

"I, uh, yeah." Newt deflated, rubbing his hand against the back of his neck, looking down at the ground as his heart stopped thumping wildly.

"And you just let me keep telling you to pass the compliments on?"

"Well, yeah. What was I supposed to do?" Newt was genuinely confused.

"You could have told me you were the baker instead of keeping it as some sort of sordid secret." Hermann seemed really put out by his new found knowledge.

"It wasn't any sort of secret. What, like, I'm Batman now? Let me tell you, The Baker has got to be the worst superhero in the business. What am I gonna do? Run around town throwing petite fours and croissants at supervillains?" Newt really couldn't understand what there was to get so upset about, if anything he should be upset that Hermann didn't even have the decency to remember him after five years of exchanging letters.

Hermann paused.

"... You make croissants?" He asked, obviously trying not to seem too interested.

"Sometimes." Newt added croissants to the list of things to make for the times that Hermann might come in. He couldn't help himself; even a Hermann that didn't remember him - and therefore couldn't be angry at him - was better than no Hermann at all.

"Ah. Interesting." Hermann sniffed as though disinterested, losing track of the argument and returning his focus to his papers.

"If you play your cards right-"

"I will be happy to pay for one, should you make them in the future." Hermann cut Newt off with a determined look.

"Hey, you can pay double if it'll make you happy." Newt grinned, knowing he'd lost control of the conversation but happy just to be engaging.

"Just the once will be sufficient," Hermann said quietly, looking down at the table. "Thank you for your generosity, but I am more than capable of taking care of myself."

"Hey, man, it's all good. I was just-"

"If you'll excuse me, I have a deadline to adhere to. Please leave me to my work. " Hermann interrupted Newt and picked up his pencil, turning back to his work with a determination that almost had a physical presence.

"Sure. I'll just, uh. Go. Then." Newt felt shellshocked at the sudden turn in Hermann's demeanour and walked back to the counter slowly. If he wanted confirmation that Hermann didn't want to speak to him again, he had it.

"Are you part Irish?" Chuck quipped as he returned to the workspace. "Because I'm pretty sure the first rule of being Irish is 'If you love it, feed it'."

"Shut up, Chuck," Newt said tiredly and began his prep for the lunchtime rush.

Chuck was right. He was screwed.

---

Later

Hermann packed up his things, sliding his pencil, pen and eraser into the pocket of his shirt, and stood. He looked over to where Newt stood behind the counter, drying coffee cups and putting them on the shelf. He opened his mouth to say something, and then closed it again. Newt had always noticed his comings and goings and initiated the conversations. Without that, Hermann wasn't sure what to do. With a sigh, he turned and walked slowly to the door and slipped out into the afternoon sun.

Out of the corner of his eye, Newt watched him go. Disappointed, but determined not to make Hermann any more uncomfortable than he already was. He'd consider it personal growth, but it didn't feel that way. Mostly, he just felt sad and a little hollow.

Chapter Text

Early June
Thursday, 7:25am

Hermann entered Kaiju Blue, placed his things on the table of his regular booth, and walked to the counter to order.

"Morning. What can I get you?" The man behind the counter asked. Hermann blinked at him for a moment and then peered around the espresso machine. Chuck stood near the door to the storeroom, flipping through a magazine, and the rest of the place was empty.

"Sorry, I was expecting, uh..." Herman trailed off.

"Newt? He took the morning off." The new guy said with a shrug and then stared at Hermann, waiting patiently for his order.

"Ah. I see," Hermann said. He heard a flutter of pages and then Chuck's head popped out from behind the espresso machine.

"Same as usual, Doc? Typhoo - teabag then water?" Chuck raised an eyebrow at Hermann and Hermann felt like he was being judged.

"Yes, thank you."

"Coming up," He said and then bent down under the counter. "Okay, Raleigh, teabags are down here. It's pretty much the Doc's personal stash because no one else ever buys it. Teabag, then water - he's pretty particular about that. It's not in the system so ring it up as Beverage - Other. Two-fifty. Got it?"

"Got it." Raleigh turned to the register and punched it in. "Two-fifty, please."

Hermann fumbled for his wallet and handed over the money as Chuck set the tea down in front of him.

"Thank you, gentlemen," Hermann said stiffly, nodding his head as he picked up his order and made his way back to the table.

The morning passed slowly. Hermann found himself distracted from his work. First by the morning rush, and then by the lack of sound in the place. It seemed that Hermann had become acclimated to the sound of Newt's voice echoing somewhere in the shop.

Hermann removed his glasses and, sighing, pinched the bridge of his nose. He had been putting together a Freshman calculus paper, which would have taken him less than an hour on any other day, but he found himself staring out the window and watching the sun play through the leaves of the trees instead. He heard someone slide into the seat across from him and looked up.

"Listen, I wouldn't normally do this," Chuck said, looking somewhat pained. "But, I've known Newt for half my life and I know he's not the kind of person who lets shit people say get to him."

Hermann remained silent and waited for Chuck to continue.

"Not unless they're people who matter."

Hermann blinked in shock, his jaw dropping as he tried to assimilate the new knowledge.

"I'm sorry, I don't understand how that could possibly be. I've known him for less than a week," Hermann said, doing a quick mental calculation and coming to the conclusion that the sum total of their personal interactions was one hour and thirty-seven minutes.

"He's taken a shine to ya." Chuck shrugged. "I think he's had a braincrush for a while now. You should have heard him prattling on about you after you left the first day. Most of it went over my head, but I think he's been following your work some time."

Hermann felt a flush of pride wash over him at the confirmation that Newt was actually excited to meet him, and, perhaps, even knew what his work was about, but he was still somewhat confused by Chuck's confrontation.

"What is it, exactly, that you are trying to tell me?" Hermann asked delicately.

"Look, don't tell him I said this, but, like I said, I've known him for a long time and he's, sort of, a friend. Whatever it was that went down between you two yesterday got him... quiet..." Chuck said meaningfully.

"Quiet." Hermann repeated, trying to imagine an instance where the man he'd known for such a relatively short time could have been described as 'quiet'. He came up short. Even when Newt sat by the window reading, he had a presence that seemed to fill the empty spaces in the room.

"See what I mean?"

"Yes, I rather think I do," Hermann said quietly. "But... what do you expect me to do about it?"

"Make up with him? I don't know what happened, but-"

"I asked him to stop giving me free food." Hermann was still unsure as to how that would have made Newt... quiet, but when Chuck cringed he realised his faux pas must have been greater than he could have possibly anticipated.

"Here's the thing. Newt's never given free food to anyone. Well, he takes the leftovers to the shelter down the road every night, but not to customers." Both of Chuck's eyebrows were raised, as though trying to convey the enormity of the act.

"Ah. I fear my assertion of independence may have aggrieved Newt greatly." Hermann looked down at the table and realised he was fidgeting with the arms of his glasses. He folded them and set them aside deliberately before looking back up at Chuck with his shoulders set. "I assure you, I will do whatever is in my power to right this wrong."

"Uh, thanks, mate. I just wanted you to, you know, apologise, or whatever. But if you want to make it a crusade, go right ahead. Not gonna stand in your way." Chuck placed both hands on the table and pushed himself up.

"In that case, let me first apologise for my actions making your workplace uncomfortable." Hermann nodded resolutely. Chuck just laughed.

"You're not a bad sort, are ya?" He said with a grin, and then gestured at Hermann's teacup. "Can I get you another? On the house."

"I-" Hermann began to protest, but Chuck cut him off with a raised finger.

"He got the box for five dollars. He's bleeding you dry, charging two-fifty a cup."

"In that case, I rather think I shall," Hermann said with a conspiratorial smile, passing his cup to Chuck.

---

Later

At a quarter to twelve, Newt entered through the door in the back hall, carrying two containers. He walked behind the counter and greeted Chuck and Raleigh in a subdued manner. Chuck looked over at Hermann and raised an eyebrow as if to say See? See what you've done?

Hermann did see.

Newt seemed smaller when he was this quiet; his personality and vibrance rolled back into him like furled wings. Even his hair seemed flatter. Hermann watched as Newt refilled the display case, slowly and deliberately, before coming out to head towards the serving station.

Newt nodded at Hermann as he passed, but didn't say anything and Hermann felt his innards twist a little at the realisation that this was because of him.

Hermann steeled himself and waited for Newt to make the return trip before calling out.

"Ah, Newt? Might I have a word?" He saw Chuck standing beside the till give him a thumbs up before he returned his full attention to Newt, who had come to stand closer to the table.

"Yes, Hermann?" He asked quietly - so quietly - as he stood there looking almost like a puppy waiting to be kicked.

"Please," Hermann said, gesturing at the bench across from him. "Have a seat."

"I'm sorry, Hermann, the lunch rush is about to start and-"

"Please, Newt," Hermann said looking up at Newt as sincerely as he possibly could. "This won't take long."

Newt sighed and sat, looking down at his hands on the table - hands that weren't even fidgeting.

"I wanted to apologise for my behaviour yesterday," Hermann began.

"You don't need to apologise. I get it. It's okay. You don't want to- ... I can be a little overwhelming." Newt shrugged, not looking up.

"It is not 'okay', Newt, and... It's not you... I am sorry for being unfathomably rude in the face of your generous hospitality." Hermann struggled with revealing this weakness - his heart sped up in anticipation of swift reprisal - but felt that it was only fair to open himself up to hurt in return for hurt he'd unknowingly inflicted. "I hope that you can find it in yourself to forgive me my appalling behaviour."

"It's okay, Hermann," Newt said softly, looking up with a sad smile. At least he had confirmation: Hermann didn't hate him, but he didn't find him that memorable, either. "I'm sorry that I made you uncomfortable." He hesitated a moment and then tentatively raised a hand out across the table. "Friends?"

"Why... yes. I suppose we are." He took Newt's hand in his own and shook it, barely able to contain his smile. "Friends."

"Five minutes!" Chuck called from behind the espresso machine.

"Shit. Gotta go." Newt dropped Hermann's hand and jumped up. "Talk later."

Newt sauntered over and tapped his hands on the counter. "Alright, ladies, are you ready to rock this rush?"

Hermann watched with a fond smile as Newt switched gears before everyone's eyes. He looked over at Chuck who gave him a double thumbs up and a cheshire cat grin before ducking aside so Newt wouldn't see. Hermann shook his head and laughed, returning to his work with a newfound vigour.

---

Later

Newt hoisted himself up onto the counter near the baked goods display and leaned over to set a reserved sign on the table closest to the till. Jumping back down, he turned and yelled into the back room.

"ZOMBIES!"

Chuck stuck his hand out the door and gave Newt the finger.

"Aw, c'mon, man." Newt flailed a little, but Chuck brushed him off.

"They're gonna take their time getting here, and they're gonna take their time ordering. So I'm gonna take my time getting ready." Chuck disappeared back into the store room with a wave of his hand, leaving Newt to scoff.

"Zombies?" Hermann asked, from across the room, brow furrowed in confusion.

"Afternoon crowd. Office workers, mostly. They usually start coming in around three-thirty and trail off at around four-four-thirty-ish. It's not so much a rush as a... depressed trudge," Newt explained, picking a quarter out of the tip plate and spinning it on the countertop out of boredom.

"Ah, I see," Hermann replied.

"Eh, if you're here as often as I am, you know the place's rhythms." Newt shrugged and kept spinning the coin.

Hermann was about to reply, when the door flew open, sending the little bell dinging like crazy.

"I found it!" A man burst in and hurried over to the counter, putting a flat paper bag down in front of him. "Well, not yours - I'm still looking, don't worry - but I've got the goods for Chuck, where is he?"

"Chuck! Order up!" Newt yelled in the direction of the store room before turning back and leaning over the counter to give the man a hug. "Tendo, my man, you're in early."

"I heard Chau's had some new stock in, so I went over to check it out - that place is so shady, trust me, don't go there - and it was just sitting there in a dusty old box with all these other awesome LPs. I'm telling you, estate sales have the craziest shit."

"Tendo! Usual?" Chuck walked out of the store room and straight to the espresso machine, grabbing the portafilter, filling it with fresh grounds and starting the process without bothering to wait for an answer.

"Thanks, man. I know it took me a while, but I finally found it for you." Tendo picked up the paper bag and slipped a record out. "Radio Birdman - Radios Appear. '78 International Release, near mint condition. There's a slight scratch, but it shouldn't be too bad. And you know I've been looking for this forever, so, beggars, choosers, and all that."

"Sweet! That's fanfuckingtastic. Give us a mo' and I'll check it out." He placed a small cup of espresso on a saucer on the counter, and turned back to pull another one.

"One to get the engine running." Tendo picked up the cup and knocked it back in a single hit, shaking himself out as he swallowed. "Hot damn, you make a mean brew."

"It's all in the wrist," Chuck said with a grin and a wink, and set down a second shot.

"And two to cruise." Tendo picked up the second cup and took a small sip, closing his eyes with a wide smile as he let it slide slowly down his throat.

"Let me get a look at that record now," Chuck said, wiping his hands off on a tea towel before gingerly picking it up. He slid the black disc out of its case and held it up to the light to see the damage. "S'not too bad. How much do I owe you?"

"We can settle it up next time you're in," Tendo said with a dismissive wave of his hand.

"Oh, hey, we're up," Newt piped up as a tired looking person walked in through the door. "Your regular table has been reserved, my good man." Newt gestured to Tendo's table with a flourish.

"Why, thank you, Sir." Tendo took a step back and bowed, before straightening and taking his espresso over to his table.

"Hey, keep an eye on this for me, would ya?" Chuck asked, handing the record over to Tendo as he sat down.

"Sure." Tendo put the record on the table and picked up the reserved sign. "What are my words today, brother? Reserved for 'Hepcats and all that'... Off day?"

Newt finished ringing up the order and shrugged. "Something like that."

"You'll get your spark back," Tendo said with a shrug.

"I think I might already have," Newt said with a small smile, but didn't elaborate.

"Good for you, man," Tendo said with a smile and continued sipping his espresso.

Newt chatted with Tendo throughout the next hour, covering everything from how awesome the new Queens of the Stone Age album was, the fact that Gotye's earlier albums were a lot more interesting than his more popular fare, that song that neither of them could actually remember the name of, but had a very specific drum beat - they roped a few customers into that one, to no avail - and all the little spaces in between.

At around four, Hermann packed up his things and stood. He looked over and caught Newt's eye for a second and nodded before heading towards the door.

"See you next time, Hermann," Newt called as Hermann opened the door.

"Indeed you shall." Hermann smiled at Newt and walked out the door.

"That's Hermann," Newt said conversationally to Tendo. "We're friends. Again."

"You don't say?" Tendo said with a raised eyebrow and a smirk that he hid with the espresso cup. Not that Newt noticed, busy as he was watching Hermann walk down the street.

"I've gotta get into the 'Dome and relieve Allison before four-thirty. Can I get another?" Tendo asked, putting his empty espresso cup up on the counter.

"Sure, man, sure." Newt picked up the dirty cup and backed towards the sink, still watching out the window. "Hey, Chuck, two more for Tendo."

Tendo looked over at Chuck who just shook his head with a shrug and a fond smile.

Chapter Text

Early June
Friday 10:45am

Newt stood at the sink, agitatedly washing cups and shoving them at Chuck who was waiting with a tea towel.

"You gotta relax, mate," Chuck said as he grabbed another saucer before Newt dropped it.

"I'm fine. I don't know what you're talking about." Newt dunked a cup into the soapy water and scrubbed at the coffee line halfway down.

"All I'm saying is that it's not going to be a problem. You worry to much." Chuck set the dried saucer on the shelf with the rest and waited for Newt to hand him the cup.

"I'm not worried. What's there to be worried about?" The bell rang as Newt shoved the cup in Chuck's general direction, he dropped it as he spun around and it hit the floor with a shattering tinkle. Chuck sighed as he looked over his shoulder to see Hermann walking in.

"I'll get this and clean up the rest. Go," Chuck said with a shake of his head as he kneeled down to pick up the broken porcelain.

"Thanks, dude," Newt said absently as he stepped over to the counter to watch as Hermann walked over to his booth and stopped.

Three women sat at the table, lattes pushed to the edges as they pored over stacks of documents, discussing them in grave tones. One of them glanced up at Hermann and, not recognising him, looked back at her work.

Hermann stared for a moment longer before looking around the room at the other tables. Eventually, he walked past them and set his notebook down on the next booth over. He remained standing by the booth for a moment, looking back at his regular booth and then at the new booth with a frown. Eventually he seemed to reach a decision and turned to walk over to the counter.

"Hey, Hermann. Can I get you your regular?" Newt asked with an apologetic half-smile.

"Please." Hermann looked over his shoulder at his booth and his lip curled.

"Sorry about that, man," Newt said as he put the teabag in the cup and poured the water. "I turned my back for a minute and they just sat there. And there wasn't really a whole lot I could do. I can't really tell customers where they can-" Newt stopped and stared into space.

"Newt?"

"-sit." Newt finished belatedly, blinking as he looked at Hermann.

"Are you quite alright?" Hermann asked, peering at Newt as if he might have suddenly taken ill.

"Oh, yeah, man. I'm fine. It's nothing. Here's your tea." Newt passed it over with a grin. "I hope the new booth has at least a little math mojo in it."

"You and I, both," Hermann replied dropping the payment in Newt's other hand, the corners of his mouth curling downward in displeasure.

---

Later

"Only two have been broken in the last two weeks. We shouldn't need to order more for at least another two weeks," Newt said to Chuck as Hermann brought his tea cup to the counter and set it down.

"Hey, Hermann. Did you want another?" Newt asked as Chuck dumped the teabag in the trash and set the cup in the sink.

"No, thank you. I, uh, fear that the new both is lacking the, uh... 'maths mojo', as it were." Hermann sighed, disappointment writ across his face.

"That really sucks, man. You heading out, then?"

"My last class sits its final exam at midday. I believe I shall be able to return to the blessed silence of my office without needing to worry about further interruption." The corners of Hermann's mouth twitched up in pleasure at the thought.

"I guess you won't be in here as often, then, huh?" Newt had to hold back a disappointed sigh; he'd tried.

"On the contrary, without the rigorous schedule of lectures and office hours tethering me to campus during the summer, I am free to take my research wherever I will." Hermann's face eased into a smile of satisfaction that Newt couldn't help but reflect.

"Glad to hear it. So, we'll be seeing more of you?" Newt bounced in place, glad he was going to get another chance to woo Hermann's brain back to him.

"Undoubtedly." Hermann said with a decisive nod. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I really must get some work done today. Good day."

"Later, Hermann." Newt grinned as he watched him go.

Chuck sidled up beside Newt and looked down at him. "I know what you're up to."

"Remember that conversation we had about you and shutting up? It's still, like, one hundred percent relevant."

Chapter Text

Early June
Monday, 10:30am

"I think we need to get a filter or something for the tap," Chuck said as he looked at the small white flecks floating in the glass of water he was holding. Newt peered over his arm and shook his head.

"That's just lime build up; it looks funky, but it's harmless. I'll descale the faucets tonight after I close." Newt walked up to the other end of the counter, looked around the empty store, sighed, and picked up a cup. "Hey, you think I can juggle three cups?"

"Do you know how to juggle?" Chuck asked crossing his arms over his chest.

"Nope." Newt tossed the cup from one hand to another as if to get a feel for the weight.

"Then, no. No, I don't think you can juggle three cups."

The bell tinkled and both men looked over at the door, hoping for something to do. Hermann walked in and nodded to them as he made his way to his booth. He was about to put his things down when he noticed a sign in the middle of the table. His shoulders slumped and he moved to the next booth with a sigh.

"Hey, what- woah- no," Newt stuttered as his mind jumped between fifteen different responses to the situation. "Did you even read the sign?" Newt asked as he stormed around the counter to pick up the sign and wave it in Hermann's face.

Hermann gave Newt a withering look and reached up to hold the sign still so he might actually have a chance at reading it. "'Reserved for: My Granddad's Clothes.' I'm sorry, I don't know what you're expecting me to see."

"It's a reserved sign! I made it. For you," Newt explained. "See, all the regulars have one and I change up what the sign says before they come in each time. It's like a thing." Newt looked at Hermann hopefully, eyebrows raised and bouncing on the balls of his feet like a child.

"How was I ever supposed to understand that that sign was meant for me?" Hermann asked, subtly adjusting his sleeves; they were not anybody's grandfather's clothes.

"It's from a song. The next line is I look inc- Okay, so. In future, I'll make it a little less pop culture and a little more... you. Cool?"

"Thank you. I- I do appreciate the gesture." Hermann turned and collected his things from the next booth and brought them back. "I don't want you to think that I don't- ...There's dust on this table." Hermann cut himself off and swiped a finger across the surface.

"Uh..." Newt said, turning a little red.

"How long has the sign been here?"

"Well, uh. It's not like I've got a handle on your timetable yet. You're kind of erratic. I mean, you don't really keep any kind of regular schedu-"

"How long?"

"Two days." Newt cringed a little as Hermann raised an eyebrow at him. "Three days."

Hermann's eyes widened. "Do you mean to tell me that you've prevented anyone from sitting in this booth for nearly three days just so... just so what?"

"It's got your math mojo, man. It's like... your workspace, now." Newt shrugged, avoiding Hermann's eyes.

"Ah." Hermann said with a flush of pleasure that Newt now thought of the booth as Hermann's workspace. "Might I suggest that, at least for the foreseeable future, if I have not arrived by... say, eleven in the morning, I'll likely not be in and you can remove the reservation?"

"I guess that could work." Newt grinned bashfully.

"Now, I must visit the Gents. I hope that when I return, there will be slightly less dust in my 'workspace', as you put it." Hermann nodded decisively once, placed his notebook on the seat, and turned to head towards the back hallway.

"Sure thing." He said before turning to the counter and yelling: "Chuck! Clo-" The cloth hit him in the face before he could even finish the word. By the time he pulled it off, Chuck was watching him from behind the counter with his chin perched on his hands.

"You two are fuckin' adorable," Chuck said dreamily.

"Shut up." Newt scowled at him and turned to wipe down the table.

---

Hermann stopped in the hallway, closed his eyes, and leaned against the wall taking deep breaths - in through the nose, out through the mouth. First, Newt had shown him such kindness by giving him free food, and now the reservation sign. Hermann would admit that he was more than a little overwhelmed by the inclusiveness he had found in this place; he had only been looking for a few hours respite from the students who didn't understand the concept of office hours and he had ended up with... so much more.

He opened his eyes and straightened up, needing to take back control before whatever it was he was feeling overwhelmed him completely. He focused on the frames on the wall across from him; he had passed them many times but not given them much notice. There were certificates from the USA Barista Games proclaiming Charles Hansen as the Northeast Regional Barista Champion for the past two years, newspaper clippings of positive write-ups from the city's newspapers, Doctorates, awards from the local street papers proclaiming Kaiju Blue to be the Reader's Choice for four years in a row, and-

Doctorates.

Hermann could feel his knuckles turning white as he clenched the curved grip of his cane handle. With a huff, he turned and stormed out into main room. Newt had just finished wiping down the table and was throwing the cloth at a laughing Chuck when he saw Hermann.

"All clean and waiting for you to park it and wrap your brain around some epic math," Newt said with a flourish.

"You." Hermann pointed as he stalked towards Newt. "Geiszler."

"Uh, yeah. That's my name," Newt said warily as he held his hands up defensively and backed away, putting a table in between he and Hermann.

"Newton. Geiszler." Hermann continued marching forward, breathing heavily through his nose and glaring at Newt with the fire of a thousand suns.

"Dude, you're kind of freaking me out a little." Newt laughed uncomfortably.

"You left academia five years ago and disappeared into the ether," Hermann said, stalking closer.

"Uh, yeah. That was a thing that happened. Kind of." Newt moved the opposite way around the table from the direction Hermann - still pointing angrily at him - was taking.

"There are rumours circulating that you are dead."

"Well, clearly those rumors have been greatly exaggerated." Newt laughed a little shakily, still circling the table.

"I thought you were dead! You stopped replying to me and then you let me treat you as though you were some sort of, of... layman." A little of the anger drained from Hermann's face, leaving behind a touch of confusion. "Did you enjoy playing with me? Was it some sort of- of game to you?

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you, okay? It wasn't a game! Whatever I have to do to make it up to-" Newt stopped in his tracks. "Wait. Back up a little. I stopped replying to you?! No, dude. You stopped replying to me!"

"I never did anything of the sort. I sent the last letter to you on the seventeenth of August, fifteen years ago." Hermann sighed, looking down at the floor and fiddling with the handle of his cane. "It was months before I could accept you'd grown tired of me and moved on."

"I never got that letter, dude," Newt said, stunned. "I thought you'd gotten tired of talking to a nerdy kid and... I don't know. Got a girlfriend or something."

"You're a year younger than me, Newton. Hardly a significant age difference." Hermann sighed. "I looked for you; followed your publications. Kept up the blind hope that we might one day cross paths. And then everything just... stopped. I thought I'd missed my chance."

"Dude, I'm sorry. I don't know what to say."

"You could explain why you didn't just tell me when you knew who I was." Hermann's shoulder's slumped tiredly as he looked at Newt searchingly.

"You read my last letter... I thought you didn't want to talk to me. At least this way, I got to talk to you." Newt shrugged, looking away.

"You're Newton bloody Geiszler! Everyone wants to talk to you!" Hermann sputtered, ire rising anew.

"You've walked past my degrees at least twice almost every time you've been here. It wasn't like I was hiding it or anything." Newt pointed out, setting his hands on his hips.

"I apologise for not spending more time reading toilet walls," Hermann sneered.

"Well, I'm sorry you were so damn full of yourself that you couldn't be bothered to get to know me. Remember: you assumed that I was stupid." Newt spat.

"I assumed that you were dead!" Hermann shouted, breathing heavily in the silence that followed.

Newt blinked, jaw hanging open as he stared at Hermann.

"Shit. I'm sorry. I am so fucking sorry. I didn't even think." Newt came around the table and put a hand on Hermann's shoulder. "Here, come on. Sit down."

"I can make it on my own." Hermann yanked his arm away from Newt and moved to sit at his booth, brushing down his blazer where Newt touched him as he went.

"I didn't mean to worry you," Newt said, sitting across from Hermann. "I didn't know I could worry you."

"When I didn't receive a response to my last letter, I thought... I thought you'd changed your mind," Hermann said, looking down at his hands fidgeting on the table.

"I asked if we could meet at that conference in Stockholm, not to, I don't know, go to prom," Newt said with a wry smile.

"I, er, indeed. You did not," Hermann said, focussing on the table. "Why... why didn't you write another letter when you didn't receive a response?"

"I dunno, man. I was feeling pretty thoroughly rejected, y'know." Newt shrugged. "I thought we were friends."

"We were," Hermann said ruefully.

"We still could be. I mean, it's not pen to paper, but we can still talk and stuff. I don't really do research, per se, any more, but I'm happy to talk about whatever you're working on. If you want." Newt said with a small, hopeful smile.

"I would very much like to... reestablish our acquaintance," Hermann said, tentatively raising his hand out over the table. "Friends?"

"Of course, man," Newt said, taking hold of Hermann's hand and gripping it tightly. "Friends."

Hermann smiled genuinely as they shook for a little longer than was probably necessary. The tinkling of the bell over the door brought them back to earth as a customer walked in, and they broke apart, laughing a little awkwardly.

"Uh, If you've time now, I think you might be interested in some of the research possibilities I've narrowed myself down to for the summer break." Hermann said, looking at Newt hopefully.

Newt looked over his shoulder at Chuck. "You good manning the helm for a while?"

"Got it covered," Chuck said with a thumbs up.

"Sweet. Thanks, man." Newt said with a grin. "Oh, hey, when you've got a sec, can you get Hermann's tea?"

"Not a problem," Chuck said and turned to serve the customer, standing by the register looking up at the board.

Hermann flipped the notebook open and spun it around so that Newt could more clearly see the equations. "I have a theory about the viability of a traversable Einstein-Rosen Bridge. If-"

"Dude. Wormholes? Awesome."

The two sat together, huddled over the equations as Hermann outlined his basic theory. Hermann would occasionally write something to show Newt and Newt would grab the pencil from his hand and scribble something back.

---

Later

"It's the first Monday of the month, isn't it?" Chuck asked as he wiped down the steam nozzle on the espresso machine.

"Yeah." Newt said, scrubbing at the edge of the counter where he'd noticed a build-up of... something... under the rim.

"Kaidonovskys. Incoming." Chuck pointed to the window where an incredibly large man and a not insignificant woman were walking up the street toward Kaiju Blue.

"Shit!" Newt dropped the cloth, ducked past Chuck, and sprinted to the end of the counter. He sorted through the reserved signs, grabbed one, shoved it on the nearest table, and then bolted back down to stand by the cash register as the bell tinkled and the two walked in.

"Sasha! Aleksis!" He greeted the space between them, only a little out of breath. "Good to see you again!"

"It is good to see you, too," Sasha said. Or maybe it was Aleksis. They had never been able to work out who was who and every attempt to find out was met with a sly smile or a laugh. It was the one with the lady parts, Newt was pretty sure of that.

"Can I get you your regular?" Chuck asked, holding up the pot of coffee they kept for the plebeians with unrefined palates. And the Kaidonovskys who they would never refer to as plebeian. To their faces. Or ever.

"Two coffees. Black," The one with the man parts said, paying Newt and leaving a hefty tip in the tip plate.

"Your regular, coming right up." Chuck poured the coffees and watched as they took them to their table.

"Comrades in armchairs." The one with the lady parts read out from the reserved sign and laughed. "I like you, funny little man," She said to Newt and sat down beside her man, cozying up to speak with him in quiet, Russian tones.

Newt breathed a sigh of relief and exchanged a look with Chuck

An hour later, the Kaidonovskys left with a smile and a wave and Newt slumped against the counter feeling like an asshole.

"Are they often... violent?" Hermann asked, looking at the way Newt was standing and extrapolating the data from there.

"What? Sasha and Aleksis? God, no." Newt said straightening up. "The dude? He's a freakin' teddy bear. She... could break me in half with her pinky if she wanted to. She doesn't. I don't think. Maybe. It's just... whenever they're there, standing right in front of me... He is huge. It's super intimidating."

"Ah, I see." Hermann nodded slowly. "Do they come in often?"

"Not really. They're usually in on the first Monday, and the Tuesday in the third week of the month. Sometimes they come in at other times, but definitely on those two days. I'm not sure why that is." Newt walked around the counter and slid into the booth across from Hermann. "They run a security company on the other side of town - Cherno Alpha. I'm not sure what they do exactly, but he's the brains and she's the brawn and they're pretty cool when I'm not, y'know, having my own internal freak out."

"And they are also 'regulars'?" Hermann took off his glasses and set them aside with his notes. He picked up his tea and took a sip as he waited for Newt to respond.

"Yeah. They seem to like the bad Russian puns I come up with." Newt grinned a little.

"Indeed, 'funny little man'." Hermann smirked slyly over the rim of his cup.

"Hey, I'd rather be a funny little man than a funny little stain on the wall. That's not a hard choice." Newt shrugged.

"True, true..." Hermann finished off his tea and set the cup in the saucer carefully.

"Hey, Newt," Chuck called from the counter, hitting the cash register with the palm of his hand. "This bloody thing's stuck again."

"Ugh. Gotta go; duty calls." Newt bounced up from the table.

"I must also take my leave if I am to make my appointment." Hermann began to gather his things and stood. Newt picked up Hermann's teacup and headed back to the counter.

"See you tomorrow, yeah?" Newt called as he put the cup and saucer in the sink and moved to stand beside Chuck. "You've just got to finesse it a little, is all." Newt thumped the side of the till a few times.

"Indeed you shall," Hermann said, unsure if Newt was even listening anymore, and left.

Chapter Text

Early June
Tuesday 10:10am

"Ow. Damn it. Again."

Hermann entered to the sound of flesh hitting flesh and stopped short.

"What on earth?" He demanded as he came closer to the counter to see Chuck and Newt facing one another with their hands up, palms face down with their fingers touching.

"Oh, hey, Hermann," Newt said, not looking away. "It's just a friendly game of- Ow! Hey, no fair!'

"You snooze, you lose, buddy." Chuck smirked and turned away, digging under the counter for a teabag.

"I feel like you were cheating," Newt said, narrowing his eyes at Chuck.

"There's no rules in slaps." Chuck poured the water and put the cup on the counter in front of Hermann.

"Sometimes I think I will never understand what goes on in your minds," Hermann said with a shake of his head as he paid for his tea.

"We're a simple people, with simple pleasures," Newt said with a grin. Hermann rolled his eyes as he took his tea back to his booth. Setting the tea and his notebooks down, he tilted the reserved sign back so he could read it.

"Reserved for y=1/x." He looked over his shoulder at Newt with a smirk. "Better."

The door bell tinkled as Hermann sat down and both Chuck and Newt let out a yell of joy and rushed around to meet the new arrival.

"Mako!" Chuck picked up the woman in a bear hug and spun her around, giving her a big squeeze before setting her down again. "We've missed you 'round these parts." He said, giving her a rough kiss on the top of her head as he let her go.

"I have missed you both also," she said as she stepped back and turned to Newt.

"We weren't expecting you back until Friday," Newt said as he stepped stepped around Chuck.

"My work in Vietnam was finished. I did not want to waste any more of your money, and... I found I wanted to come home."

"I'm glad you're here." Newt smiled softly as he moved forward and wrapped his arms around Mako, pulling her close and holding her tight. "I've really missed you," he said into her hair before stepping back. "Okay, now, you've gotta tell me everything. Double macchiato for the lady, Chuck."

Newt lead Mako over to a table in the front corner near the window and started asking her about Vietnam, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines; how the crops were doing; if the farmer in Indonesia was okay; when the next shipment of beans would come in so he could start roasting again.

"Slow down, Newton. There will be time." She laughed and reached over to squeeze his hand.

"I'm just really excited to have you back. There are some blends I've been thinking about and I'd really like your input on them and- Hey, Hermann!" Newt cut himself off as he saw Hermann heading towards the door. "Leaving so soon? You only just got here."

"Ah, yes. Well, I- There's an appointment. At which I have to be. It must have slipped my mind," Hermann said, looking down at the notebooks in his hand.

"Oh, that sucks, man. But, hey, before you go, I want to introduce you." Newt stood up and ushered Hermann over to the table. "Hermann, this is Mako Mori, our woman on the ground, so to speak." Newt turned to Mako, and bounced in place. "Mako, this is - get this - Hermann Gottlieb."

Hermann turned and offered his hand. "A pleasure to meet you, Miss Mori," He said with a slight tilt of his head.

Mako stood and bowed before taking his hand in return. "Newt has told me so much about your work, over the years," she smiled fondly at Newt, who blushed and rubbed the back of his neck with his hand.

"Just, y'know, new papers and things." Newt shrugged, pretending to be blasé. "Oh, dude. Mako, Hermann's working on wormholes right now. We're friends again. He lets me look at his work. "

"Quite," Said Hermann.

"I am glad that Newton has someone to share his thoughts once more. I sometimes feel that he is wasted on us," Mako smiled at Hermann and reached out to rub Newt's shoulder affectionately.

"Indeed. I have a great amount of respect for Newton's intellect," Hermann said, shifting awkwardly.

"They fanboy each other!" Chuck called from behind the counter, having just finished serving a customer.

"I would not put it in exactly those terms..." Hermann frowned Chuck.

"I would." Newt grinned cheekily. Hermann side eyed him.

"We have developed a rapport based on mutual respect for each other's intelligence and nothing more. If you'll excuse me, I really must be going." Hermann straightened, and inclined his head at Mako. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Miss Mori. Good day, Newton. Chuck."

"See you tomorrow, Hermann!" Newt called as Hermann made a quick exit. "Now, you were going to tell me all about Vietnam. Man, I bet you had some great phở."

Chapter Text

Early June
Wednesday 11:30am

Newt looked at the door and then back at Hermann's empty booth.

"I don't think he's coming in, mate," Chuck said, looking at Newt intently. "I think it's time to take down the sign."

"But-"

"He said eleven. If he comes in, great. Maybe his booth will still be available. If he doesn't..." Chuck trailed off.

"Yeah, I know. I'll move the sign." Newt trudged around the counter and over to the booth, taking the sign and putting it back with the rest.

Chapter Text

Early June
Thursday 11:35am

Chuck put the sign with the rest of them and came to stand beside Newt and squeezed his shoulder sympathetically.

"Do you think it was something I said?" Newt asked staring at the empty booth.

"Probably." Chuck shrugged.

"Not funny, dude."

Chapter Text

Early June
Friday 11:30am

Newt pushed the door open with his hip and carried the containers of pastries behind the counter. He set them out in the display case carefully and then put the containers in the sink. Dusting off his hands, he looked around the store to see if there was anything that needed to be done and noticed Hermann sitting quietly in his booth.

"Hey, man! I almost didn't expect to see you today," Newt said, coming around the counter and taking off his apron. "You doing ok? Hope you weren't sick or anything."

Hermann looked up, eyes darting around the shop as if looking for something specific. "No, I- I am not- was not ill," Hermann said, removing his glasses and wiping them with a cloth procured from inside his blazer.

"Glad to hear it, buddy," Newt said as he slid into the opposite side of the booth.

"I thought I might give you and your... lady friend... time to get reacquainted without interruption." Hermann picked up his tea and took a deliberate sip, avoiding Newt's eyes.

"You what?" Newt stared at Hermann, dumbfounded.

"I know how prone to distraction you are and I felt it would be best if I gave you and her some time."

"Wait, what?" Newt squinted at Hermann. "You think Mako's my girlfriend?"

"I did get that impression, yes," Hermann said primly.

"Well, she's not. Okay? I mean, yeah, there was a... thing, but I wasn't what she needed and she wasn't what I needed and we're still friends, but. Wait, all this is irrelevant. You thought Mako was my girlfriend."

"I think I can be forgiven for my misapprehension," Hermann said with a blank stare.

"I don't even know how you got there in the first place. I mean, it's like seeing a dog and assuming there's pyramids." Newt boggled at Hermann. "How did you get there?"

"I-" Hermann coughed, picked up his tea and took a sip, and then set it down firmly in the saucer. "How else does one assume a relationship? The affection, the fondness, the hugging, the inordinate amount of touching - normal people do not touch each other with that frequency - the-"

"Dude, you've just described my interactions with most of my friends. Did you think Chuck and I were dating?"

"That is hardly an issue; you are neither as affectionate nor as free with your physical interactions with Chuck."

"I tried to hug Chuck once. It wasn't pretty. Doesn't mean I don't want to." Newt shrugged.

"I'm sorry, are you saying you wish to date Chuck?" Hermann frowned fearing he'd lost control of this conversation.

"Dude, are you sure you're not sick? I'd hug Chuck. Hell, I'd hug you if I didn't think you'd knock me across the room."

Hermann stared at Newt. "You would... hug... me?" He asked in confusion.

"Well, yeah. We've known each other for, like, twenty years. You're my friend. I like to hug my friends. But I also get that I've got to take other peoples' comfort zones into account. It's taken me a while, but I'm sort of getting the hang of it. You were easy."

"Pardon?"

"It was easy for me to get that you wouldn't appreciate hugging," Newt said as though it were plain as day.

"What about me says I would not?" Hermann asked, equal parts relieved, indignant, and curious.

"Well, you're reserved and stiff and you hold yourself apart from people. You've avoided skin contact every time you've paid for your tea, and, I dunno, just the way you comport yourself." Newt shrugged. "Are you saying that you would let me hug you?"

"I- Well." Hermann looked down at the table.

"Five minutes!" Chuck yelled from the storage room.

"We'll work up to that," Newt said with a grin, reaching over to pat Hermann's forearm as he stood. "Have we sorted out whatever got your panties in a bunch over Mako being my girlfriend? Which she isn't. Because I am single. Single, single, single."

"My 'panties' were not in a 'bunch'." Hermann huffed, glaring up at Newt.

"Sure they weren't, buddy. Sure they weren't." Newt grinned as he turned to go finish the Lunch Rush prep.

"Oh, Newton?" Hermann called as he walked away.

"Yeah?" Newt stopped at the end of the counter and looked back.

"I liked today's sign." Hermann pointed at the writing 'Reserved for: e i π = -1'.

Newt smiled fondly at Hermann. "Made me think of y-"

A crash resounded from the back room coupled with Chuck swearing.

"Shit! You okay, Chuck?" Newt turned and ran into the back room.

"Cupboard fell off the door," Chuck growled. "Hit me on the shoulder on the way down."

"But, you're ok, right?" Newt asked, looking around the door to see the cupboard on the floor.

"Yeah. Probably gonna bruise, but," Chuck said, rubbing his shoulder.

"Glad to hear it. You still good to cover lunch, or you want me to take care of it?"

"Nah, she'll be right." Chuck adjusted his arm, moving it around to get used to the new pain.

The bell on the door tinkled.

"Good, because we're up."

---

Later

Hermann stacked his papers into a neat pile and slipped them in the front cover of his notebook. He swept up the eraser shavings into a neat pile in the centre of the table with his hands for easier cleaning and slid out of the booth. Picking up his tea cup, he took it to the end of the counter and turned to pick up his belongings.

"Hey, Hermann. Done for the day?" Newt asked as he came out of the storage room dusting off his hands.

"As much as I can do at this locale, at any rate," Hermann nodded. "I'll have to run some simulations before I'll be able to return to manual calculations."

"Cool. I guess I'll see you next week sometime, then."

"Indubitably." Hermann smiled and returned to his booth.

"Oh, hey. Did you want to maybe try a hug?" Newt grinned, biting his lip, as he held his arms open in what he hoped was a welcoming way.

"Well, I, Uh... I- Um." Hermann blushed and looked at the ground.

"It's cool man, you don't have to say yes. Just figured I'd try my luck." Newt shrugged and dropped his arms with a wry grin.

"No, Newton," Hermann said, straightening up and looking Newt in the eye. "In the interests of friendship I feel it is my, my... duty to allow you this-"

"Hey, man. I don't want no duty-hug." Newt frowned and held up his hands, taking a step back. "I don't want you hugging me because you feel obliged to. That'd make me a pretty shitty friend."

"That's not- I didn't-" Hermann stopped and sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose between his forefingers. "It was a poor choice of words. I would... be amenable... to hugging you. Newton."

"You're sure?" Newt took a tentative step forward. "I mean, I know I can be a little overwhelming, but we've been working on it a lot and my therapist thinks I'm getting better at reading people, so I really don't want you to think-"

"Just bloody hug me before I change my mind," Hermann groused, glaring at Newt as he held his arms up stiffly.

"Okay. Cool." Newt stepped forward and tried to work out how to get his arms around Hermann in a non-awkward fashion. "How about we ease you into this with a bro-hug?"

"Bro-hug?"

"It's a low-commitment, minimal touching hug. Okay, so, put your hand up like mine." Newt held his arm up at a diagonal to his body, fingers pointing up toward's Hermann's chin. Hermann mirrored him. "No, your other hand. Okay, good. Now, we clasp hands and lean forward."

Both Newt and Hermann shuffled forward a little until they were able to lean into each other without toppling over.

"Okay, bring up your free arm and put it around my shoulder." Newt lead by example and felt as Hermann awkwardly followed, his cane butting against his back and legs. "Two pats to the back and we're done."

Newt gave the requisite two pats but felt Hermann's head drop to his shoulder and his arm tighten minutely. After a moment, Hermann inhaled deeply, patted twice and stepped back.

"That wasn't so hard now, was it?" Newt grinned.

"Indeed not." Hermann smiled, almost shyly, looking down at the ground. "I hope the, ah, bonds of friendship are now firmly... affirmed."

"We didn't need a hug for that, Hermann." Newt smiled and tried to make eye contact with a definitely blushing Hermann.

"No. No, of course not," Hermann said regaining himself. He looked down and realised their hands were still clasped. He laughed a little shakily, squeezed Newt's hand once and extricated himself. "Now," He said, wiping his hand off on his trouser leg. "I, uh... Simulations. I have simulations I need to run. Yes."

"Good luck with that, man," Newt said, patting Hermann on the shoulder as Hermann collected his things and backed towards the door. "See you next week."

"Indeed. Goodbye, Newton." Hermann fumbled with the door for a moment and walked out into the street.

"I think he like-likes you," Chuck said with a grin, leaning his elbows on the counter, hips swaying.

"What? No. That's just Hermann being... Hermann." Newt said dismissively, straightening up some chairs as he made his way back.

"For a smart guy, you're an enormous idiot." Chuck rolled his eyes and straightened up, putting his hands on his hips as he turned to face Newt. "Seriously. He stayed away for two days because he thought Mako was your girlfriend-"

"We sorted that out, dude. He was just trying to be a good friend," Newt cut in, aiming a finger at Chuck pointedly.

"He was just jealous, moron.“ Chuck reached out and slapped Newt upside the back of the head lightly. "Did you completely miss the part where he smelled you during that hug? The fact that he was redder than a tomato? Or the fact that neither of you noticed me standing over here sticky-beaking while you were having your little lovefest?"

"Dude, what? No. We've known each other for twenty years. He's not interes-." Newt stopped and thought for a moment and then shook his head. "No, really? You think he really?"

"I think you might be in with a chance, yeah." Chuck shrugged. "I mean, you've had a nerdboner for him since the second you heard his name, probably longer. I have the sneaking suspicion your nerdboner might be reciprocated, if you know what I'm saying."

"It's not innuendo if you just come right out and say it, Chuck." Newt said with a roll of his eyes.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. All I'm saying is, it couldn't hurt to try."

"So, I should, what? Ask him out? Like, on a date? A date-date?"

"Have you even been listening to me? Yes, you should ask him out. On a date. Idiot." Chuck threw up his hands in exasperation and turned to walk away.

"He won't be in again until Monday."

"That just means you've got two and a half days to work out what to say."

Chapter Text

Early June
Monday 9:30am

"No. No, I'm taking it down." Newt ran his hands through his hair agitatedly.

"Leave it." Chuck put a hand on Newt's shoulder to hold him back.

"This was not a good idea."

"It's not as bad as some of the ideas you've had," Chuck pointed out. "Remember when you had a cleaning frenzy and decided it'd be a good time to do the drains at six in the morning? Whole place reeked so much we had to close for the day. That was not a good idea."

"Okay, so maybe it's not the worst idea I've ever had. That doesn't make it a good one." Newt scrubbed his hands over his face and groaned. "I can't be here right now. I just, I can't. I'm going to go. I'm going to go and I'm going to bake and when I come back this won't even be an issue because he'll leave and never come in again."

"I really don't think that's going to be a problem, mate, but we're running low on cookies so not baking isn't really an option." Chuck shrugged. "You want me to let you know when he comes in?"

"No. Yes. I mean, no. No. Don't tell me. I'll just wait. Upstairs. Forever." Newt ran his hands through his hair again, making the odd angles it was sticking out at even more odd. "Okay, I'm leaving."

"If you're not back by eleven-thirty, I'm gonna come up there and drag your arse down."

---

Later

Hermann set his things down on the table and walked to the counter with a slight spring in his step.

"Morning, Doc. Usual?" Chuck asked as he popped a teabag in a cup and filled it with water.

"Good morning, Chuck. Tea would be very welcome, thank you," Hermann said with a smile. "Is Newton baking?"

"Something like that, yeah," Chuck said with a roll of his eyes. "You're looking pretty chipper today. Good weekend?"

"Indeed it was. The simulations I ran proved most insightful and I am eager to share my findings with Newton." Hermann beamed at Chuck and handed over his payment.

"Awesome," Chuck said handing over Hermann's tea.

Hermann continued to smile as he took his tea back to his booth and sat down. He laid his notebook, pencil, eraser and papers out carefully before leaning over to look at today's sign.

Reserved for: Dinner tonight?

Hermann frowned and spun the sign around to see if there was something else on the other side. On finding nothing, he frowned at it some more, before looking over to see Chuck staring at him intently.

"Is this the correct sign?" Hermann asked lifting it up to show Chuck.

"Yup. That is the correct sign," Chuck responded, clearly trying to keep some emotion or other off of his face; Hermann wasn't quite sure which.

"And Newton is...?"

"Upstairs baking."

"I see." Hermann grasped the pencil in his hand, squeezing it between his fingers as he thought. "Do you happen to know when he will be finished... baking?"

"If he's not back by eleven-thirty, I go get him."

Hermann looked at his watch - ten o'clock. He stared out the window, then back at the sign, and then out the window again.

The pencil snapped between his fingers.

"I can, uh, go get him now if you'd like," Chuck said, staring at the broken pencil.

"If you'd be so kind," Hermann said stiffly.

Chuck nodded and walked to the storeroom. He came out a few seconds later holding a broom and walked to the centre of the shop and stopped in between the counter and Hermann's booth. Flipping the broom brush-end up, he turned his head to look at Hermann.

"You're not going to, y'know, try and hurt him or anything, are you?" Chuck asked, eying the splinters on the table and Hermann's hand spinning more off the shaft with his fingers.

"I am not going to hurt Newton, no." Hermann said evenly, staring straight ahead.

Chuck took a deep breath and hefted the broom towards the ceiling, thumping it three times in quick succession. He waited a moment before doing it again. After a short period of silence, three answering thumps sounded.

"He'll be down in a moment." Chuck nodded towards the door in the back hallway.

"Thank you, Chuck. Your assistance is appreciated." Hermann dropped the pencil on the table, stood, and walked into the back hall to wait.

A minute later, footsteps echoed down the stairs on the other side of the door and it swung open far enough for Newt to stick his head out.

"What is it, Chuck? I've got to take the cookies out soon." Newt stopped in his tracks as he saw Chuck standing on the other side of the room, pointing towards the hall. Newt turned his head and noticed Hermann glaring at him. He shrank back a little and kept the door pulled close.

"Hey, Hermann. Uh, did you have a good weekend?" Newt asked, cringing.

"Might I have a word, Newton?" Hermann asked, levelling a blank stare at Newt.

"Sure, just the one, though," Newt quipped awkwardly, seeming somewhat hopeful that it would stick.

"Please step into the hall." Hermann asked, indicating the space in front of him.

Newt sighed and came out of the stairwell, shirt and jeans sprinkling flour on the floor as he moved to stand before Hermann, shoulders slumped. "I'm sorry. It was a stupid idea. I never should have-"

"Are you toying with me? Is this a joke to you?" Hermann asked coldly.

"What? No! No." Newt raised his hands towards Hermann in a panicked attempt to reassure him. "I thought it'd be a, y'know, a cute throwback to when we did everything in writing. I-"

"In the future, I do not wish to have unexpected questions posed to me on paper in your absence. If you have something to say to me, you will say it to my face," Hermann said staring Newt directly in the eye.

"I'm sorry, it won't happen again. I just thought- I don't know what I was thinking. Don't worry, it won't be a problem. I'll just-"

"Do you have a question to ask me, Newton?" Hermann interrupted Newt's babble.

"Ahh... Um. Do you want to have dinner with me? Tonight?" Newt asked, looking at the floor.

"Yes."

"I mean, it's ok if you just want it to be a friend thing, it doesn't have to mean anything. I'm cool with that. You don't have to say yes if you don't want to." Newt scuffed his show against the floor, avoiding eye contact.

"Yes, Newton. I will have a ... meaningful ... meal with you," Hermann said more firmly reaching out awkwardly to touch Newt's shoulder to get him to look up.

"Really?" Newt asked, pushing his glasses up his face with the side of his hand.

"Yes, really. I don't know how many more times I have to say it," Hermann said, a smile warring with a frown on his face.

"You don't have to say it again. Sorry, I'm just, argh... a total ball of nerves today." Newt grinned impishly.

A beeping alarm went off up the stairs behind Newt. His upper body twisted towards the sound and he looked apologetically at Hermann. "I've really gotta get those out of the oven before they burn. Can we work out the details when I come back?"

"Yes, of course. I'll be waiting," Hermann said with a smile.

Newton leaned in to give Hermann a hug but was pushed back by Hermann's cane against his chest.

"Really, Newton," Hermann said looking him up and down. "You are covered in flour."

"Oh, right," Newt said with a lopsided grin and spun around to run upstairs. He got to the door and paused. Turning back he scurried over to Hermann and stretched up to press a light kiss against his cheek. "Talk later," he murmured and then hurried back to the kitchen.

Hermann stood and stared at the door, feeling heat in his face and his skin tingling. He reached up to touch his cheek and smiled. Taking a moment to compose himself, he walked back into the cafe.

"I'm guessing that didn't go badly," Chuck said, standing at the end of the counter holding out a pencil.

"Indeed," Hermann said, barely able to contain his smile as he took the pencil. "Thank you."

Hermann sat at his table and took a sip of his now-lukewarm tea. He looked at the sign and shook his head, a small, old pain throbbing in his chest beginning to flare anew with hope.

---

Later

Newt came downstairs, whistling a jaunty tune as he took the baked goods to the display case and set them out. He picked out a single piece of biscotti and put it on a plate.

"Someone's a happy camper," Chuck said with a knowing smirk.

"You cannot bring me down right now, Chuck. It just isn't possible." Newt stuck out his tongue, as he washed his hands and dried them off.

"Wouldn't dream of trying, mate."

Newt continued to whistle as he made his way around the counter and over to Hermann's booth, sitting down heavily without invitation.

"Hi!" He grinned, pushing the plate of biscotti over to Hermann. "I know you don't like being given things, but this is 'I'm sorry for being an asshole' biscotti, so you should totally take it."

"In that case, I shall accept. Both the biscotti and the apology." Hermann picked up the biscotti up and took a bite, closing his eyes as he chewed. "This really is very good," he said, holding his hand up over his mouth as he chewed.

"Thank you. So, details and stuff." Newt drummed his fingers on the table.

"Yes. Where will we meet?" Hermann asked, setting aside the rest of the biscotti.

"Uh. Here?"

"You want our date to be ... here? In Kaiju Blue?" Hermann asked, confused.

"Well, not here here. Upstairs. In my apartment. I figured I'd make dinner, and we'd talk, and stuff, and, yeah. Is that... Does that sound okay to you?"

Hermann looked at Newt, feeling the table vibrate from Newt's jiggling leg and seeing the anxiety writ upon his face; the way his fingers twisted as he wrung his hands together.

"It has been some time since anyone has cooked for me," Hermann said with a wistful sigh.

"So, here is okay?"

"Here will do nicely, Newton." Hermann smiled encouragingly. "What time should I arrive?"

"Uh, seven, seven-thirty, eight-ish?"

"Well, which is it?" Hermann asked, exasperated.

"Seven-thirty? Does that work for you? I mean, it can be any time that works for you. I'm cool with that." Newt rambled a little, still nervous.

"Seven-thirty it is. Should I just come to the store?"

"There's a service door down the side of the building." Newt pointed behind him out the window. "Just ring the doorbell and I'll come let you in. Uh, are the stairs going to be a problem for you? With your... Shit. I should have thought of that. Is it- Will it-"

"The stairs will be fine, Newton," Hermann replied, a frisson of irritation running up his spine that he quickly quashed.

"Okay. Okay, cool. So. That's settled then." Newt said, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly.

"Indeed it is. I look forward to it." Hermann smiled genuinely.

"You don't have any allergies do you?" Newt asked, suddenly looking worried. "I mean, it would totally suck if on our first date I accidentally killed you because you're allergic to, I don't know, radishes, or something."

"I don't have any allergies."

"Okay. Okay, that's good. No allergies." Newt breathed a sigh of relief. "Any foods you just generally don't like?"

"Newt! I hope you're done because we are about to get slammed," Chuck called out, pointing out the window to a group of about thirty people entering through the vestibule.

"Holy shit!" Newt jumped up from the table as the first person stepped into the cafe proper. "Gotta go." Newt reached over to clasp Hermann's hand quickly before sprinting around the counter to the cash register to take the first order.

Hermann shook his head and smiled, grateful that the group of people between himself and Newt prevented Newt from seeing the way he rubbed his hand over the place Newt touched.

---

Later

"Holy balls, man. Did you see that?" Newt asked, walking over to Hermann's table as the last of the group, and the remnants of the lunch rush, left.

"I did, indeed," Hermann replied, looking over his glasses at Newt. "Some kind of tour group, I suppose?"

"Yeah- Oh, hey Mako," Newt cut himself off as Mako walked in, looking over her shoulder at the people standing on the corner. "So, yeah, there's this group doing a coffee tour of the city and we're, like, the third stop on the route."

"Excellent news!" Mako said with a smile. "Will they be coming regularly?"

"I spoke to the woman running it and she said she wants to try and make it happen once a month or so, but it'll depend on demand." Newt shrugged. "Still, they bought, like, everything. So I'm happy."

"Then I am also pleased." Mako grinned. "Newt, when you have a moment, there are some things we need to go over from the last trip."

"Sure, sure. Go set up and I'll bring your coffee over." Newt watched her go and then looked down at Hermann, only to see him side-eying her as she walked away. He leaned down until he was right beside Hermann's ear. "She's still not my girlfriend."

Hermann jumped, startled, and turned to face Newt, stopping centimetres away from his face.

"I wasn't thinking anything of the sort," Hermann said indignantly.

"Of course you weren't," Newt said, tongue darting out to wet his lips. Hermann's eyes followed the motion, his breath catching as his eyes shot back up to Newt's. Newt's eyes widened a little and his breath sped up. Hermann bit his lip as they continued to stare at each other.

"Tonight. Dinner. Yes." Newt breathed, vaguely attempting to break away.

"Yes. Dinner... Tonight." Hermann responded.

"I have to go," Newt said, not moving.

"I have work to do."

"Same."

Neither moved.

"I'm going. Now. I am going now." Newt pushed himself upright and backed away from the table, only turning around when he reached the counter.

"Thought I was going to have to turn the hose on you two." Chuck smirked, seeing Newt's dazed expression.

"Mako wants a double macchiato." Newt said, looking slightly disoriented as he pulled a container out from under the counter and put some cookies on a plate, setting the rest out in the nearly bare display case.

"Wow, not even gonna rise to the bait?" Chuck snapped his fingers in front of Newt's face a few times.

"Hrmm? Dude, fuck off! Jeez." Newt glared at Chuck as he swatted at his hand.

"Hey, mate, just teasing. S'all good." Chuck turned with a shrug and pulled the shots for Mako's drink, steamed some milk and spooned some foam into a small cup and then carefully poured the espresso through the centre. "You want anything?"

"Nah, I'm cool." Newt picked up the drink and the cookies and took them around to the table Mako had set up at by the front window.

"Here you are, m'lady," Newt said as he set her drink down in front of her, and pulled up a chair.

"Thank you, Newt. Now, if you will just look here..." Mako turned the laptop so that Newt could more clearly see the screen. A political map of the globe with specifically highlighted regions denoting where their farmers were located. "The shipments from Colombia, El Salvador, Panama and Ethiopia should arrive within the next two to three weeks. Papua is just about to harvest and the cherries look good - the soil quality has improved very much since my last visit."

"Mmhm, sounds good," Newt said, nibbling on a cookie and looking over Mako's shoulder at Hermann, face down in his work.

"You seem distracted," Mako said narrowing her eyes at Newt.

"Do I? I'm not. I'm not distracted. Everything's cool."

Mako raised an eyebrow.

"Uh... I might be a little distracted." Newt ducked his head sheepishly. "I kind of ... have a date tonight."

"Ooh," Mako grinned leaning closer. "With who?"

"Hermann," Newt said, gesturing with his shoulder towards his booth.

"I should have known your interest in him was not purely professional," Mako teased with a twinkle in her eye.

"Hey, you know that wasn't the reason... you know..." Newt reached out and placed his hand over Mako's on the table.

"You are still taking too much responsibility for a decision that was mutual, Newt. It was not you. It was not me. It was us," Mako said decisively.

"I know, I'm sorry. I just-"

"Are you happy?" Mako cut him off.

Newt paused for a moment and thought.

"Y'know, I really think I might be getting there," Newton said, sounding a little shocked.

"Then I am happy for you." Mako smiled and turned her hand over under his, giving it a squeeze. Newt looked down at it and smiled.

"Thanks, Mako. That means a lot."

Newt heard the door bell tinkle and looked up to see Hermann standing beside it as another customer came in.

"You're leaving, Hermann?" Newt asked, standing slowly.

"I, ah, yes. I have some things that must get done and then a date for which to prepare," Hermann said, emphasising the word 'date' in Mako's direction.

"Dude," Newt said as he walked over to Hermann, pulling him away from the door so people could get through. "She's still not my girlfriend. She's one of my best friends, but she's not my girlfriend. Okay?"

"I apologise," Hermann said, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. "I'm being unfathomably childish about this."

"I get it, I just... don't want it to be an issue. She's my friend. You're... the guy I have a date with. Tonight." Newt grinned. "We have a date tonight."

"Yes. Yes, we do." Hermann said, smiling softly.

"I'm really looking forward to it. Like, super excited. In case you were wondering." Newt's grin grew bigger as he bounced on his toes.

"I am myself, uh, rather keen, if you will," Hermann responded with a shy smile, looking at Newt from under his lashes.

"Good. Okay, I'm gonna let you go, now. But, just so we're clear." He turned and gestured to Mako with both hands. "Friend." He swung back around and placed both hands firmly on Hermann's shoulders. "Date. Capiche?"

"I understand," Hermann said, abashed.

"Good. Now." Newt used his hands to hold Hermann in place as he leaned up to press a soft kiss to Hermann's cheek. "See you tonight."

From his position, he could see Hermann's ear turn bright red and felt a flush of heat against his cheek. He bit his lip and grinned as he stepped back.

"Indeed you shall. Good afternoon, Chuck. Miss Mori." Hermann nodded at each, still blushing, and stopped to smile at Newt once more, letting his eyes linger, and then turned to leave.

Newt laughed and shook his head as he watched him walk down the street before returning to sit with Mako.

"And you thought I was high maintenance."

Chapter Text

Early June
Monday 7:30pm

Newt stood by the table in his apartment, double-checking that he had the cutlery out and glasses beside each place. He rushed back to the kitchen to check the timer and then stopped to run his eyes across the rest of the space. It wasn't super neat, but it wasn't messy, either. At the very least, there were no tripping hazards and the stack of journals beside the ridiculously oversized - and equally ridiculously comfortable - couch weren't going to topple over.

The doorbell sounded from the speaker beside the stairs and Newt rushed over to the window to look out into the side street. Hermann stood waiting underneath the sickly yellow light by the service door, checking his watch. Newt pushed open the window and called down 'be right there!' before pulling it closed and hurrying down the stairs and into the back room. Flicking a switch on as he passed, he waited for the fluorescent lights to ping to life before opening the door.

"Hey, Hermann," He said with a smile, stepping back so Hermann could enter and closing the door behind him.

"I, ah, thought I should bring something. To apologise," Hermann said, holding out a bouquet of slightly limp flowers.

"Oh, uh. Thanks, man. You didn't have to," Newt said, taking the bouquet and giving it a tentative sniff. "I've always found it kinda weird that people gave each other flowers. I mean, it's like 'here, I like you so I got you this bunch of plant genitals, please stick your face in them and inhale their plant-y sex pheromones.' Not very subtle, y'know?"

Hermann's shoulders slumped a little, mouth working around a sentence he couldn't seem to form.

"Oh, shit," Newt said, eyes widening with realisation. "That was a dick move. I'm sorry. I'm such an asshole. Jeez. I like your genitals. Flowers! Flowers. I like your flowers. The flowers. Thank you. They're very nice. It was, um, very thoughtful of you."

Hermann stared at Newt.

"...Nailed it?" Newt said sheepishly.

"You're incorrigible," Hermann said with a shake of his head.

"That's why you like me," Newt grinned. "Come on, dinner should nearly be ready." Newt turned and lead the way back into the store, dark and eerie with the lights off and shaft of light falling across the counter from the streetlamp out front. He flicked the switch off as Hermann entered and opened the door to the stairs. "After you."

"Ah, you should go first," Hermann said looking up the stairs. "I'd rather not start this date with you getting frustrated at my speed, or lack thereof."

"Hey, I started it by telling you I like your genitals, so, fair's fair." Newt shrugged with a wry grin.

"I would still prefer if you were to precede me," Hermann said, gesturing to the stairs.

"Okay, if you insist. I'll just go see if I own a vase." Newt said as he stepped into the stairwell and held the door open long enough for Hermann to pass through. "It's pretty obvious where to go when you get up here." Newt continued to talk as he looked through his cupboards for anything tall enough to handle a bouquet of flowers and eventually settled on an empty spaghetti jar. He was filling it with water when Hermann entered and looked around.

"Hey, so, grand tour," Newt said as he put the flowers in the jar and picked it up. "Kitchen, obviously." He gestured to the space he was standing in with its countertops, large central island, and industrial strength oven. "Living room," He said as he walked through the space toward Hermann, past a well-worn, but comfortable couch, ridiculously large TV set between overflowing shelves filled with books, dvds, cds, cassettes, vinyl, and action figures. "Dining." He sat the impromptu vase in the centre of the table, near the places he'd set.

"That was probably all obvious given the whole open-plan thing, huh? So, uh, less obvious. Down the hall there," He said as he gestured past the end of the dining table. "First door on the right is the bathroom, second is the office-slash-lab-slash-library, and right at the end is the bedroom." Newt winked.

"This space is remarkable. You must get excellent light during the day," Hermann said, walking over to look out the windows that ran waist-to-ceiling from the kitchen and down the side of the building.

"Yeah, it's pretty sweet," Newt said, puffing up with pleasure that Hermann liked it. "I bought the building just over four years ago. Figured the area would gentrify eventually so I'd better get while the getting was good. Worked out pretty well."

"You own the building?" Hermann asked, tearing his eyes away from the view.

"I had the money just sitting there - patent's, y'know? - so I figured why not." Newt shrugged as a timer went off in the kitchen. "Ooh, it's ready. Do you wanna take a seat and I'll bring it over, yeah?"

Newt bustled off to the kitchen and set about serving, walking back to the dining table a couple of minutes later and setting down a steaming plate in front of Hermann. "Voilà, Shepherd's Pie. Made with real shepherds."

"This looks superb. Thank you, Newton." Hermann said as he took in the plate.

"It's nothing fancy," Newt shrugged.

"Fancy very rarely lives up to quality."

"Can I get you a drink? I've got... Um, water and orange juice. Shit, I should have thought of that. I always forget drinks and stuff," Newt babbled, looking crestfallen.

"Water will do, nicely, Newt," Hermann said, resting a hand on Newt's arm. "Stop worrying and let's just have a nice meal together, yes?"

"Right. Sure. Yeah. I'll be right back." Newt hurried off to the kitchen and came back with a pitcher full of ice water, pouring Hermann a glass before casting a final eye over the table and taking his own seat.

"So, bon appétit," Newt said gesturing for Hermann to start eating

"My god, this is good." He said swallowing his first mouthful, before. "My compliments to your chef."

"Compliments are always accepted." Newt grinned. "So, Chuck told me you had some exciting news you wanted to share with me," Newt said to change the subject.

"Yes! The simulations!"

Dinner passed quickly as Hermann outlined the results the simulations had furnished him with and how they affected his theory. Newt interjected occasionally, asking questions or offering an alternate idea here and there. Eventually, their plates were empty and Hermann leaned back in his chair, rubbing a hand lightly over his stomach.

"I can honestly say that that is the most satisfying meal I have had in an age." Hermann smiled. "Both in terms of quality and company."

"Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it," Newt said with a genuine smile. "It goes double for me. Well, not the food part. But the company part, definitely. Did you, ah, want to move over to the couch for dessert?"

"We can certainly move, but I think I may need some time before dessert is an option," Hermann said, letting his hand rest over his stomach regretfully.

"Sounds good to me. I'll just put this stuff in the sink." Newt picked up their dishes and took them into the kitchen, running some water so they'd be easier to clean later. "So, uh, did you want coffee? Or, tea?" Newt asked as he returned. "I don't have anything up here, but I can run downstairs and get it if you want it."

"Newt," Hermann said softly, patting the couch beside him. "I don't need anything right now."

"Okay, so, I have to tell you something... but I don't think I can sit for it." Newt ran his hands through his hair and took a deep breath. "It's really awkward and, uh, embarrassing, but I, like, really don't think it's fair to let you walk into this blind. To either of us, but, especially not to you."

"Go on," Hermann said, adjusting his position so he could follow Newt's pacing more easily.

"So, remember that part where I left academia and disappeared off the face of the earth?"

Hermann nodded.

"Well, it wasn't exactly one-hundred percent voluntary. I mean, I was getting frustrated with all the petty bureaucracy and everything that left me doing way more paperwork and teaching than actual research and had been considering throwing in the towel for a long time, but that wasn't why I left." Newt kicked an ottoman into place and sat in front of Hermann, looking him directly in the eye.

"I exist somewhere on the Bipolar spectrum. I was diagnosed when I was sixteen. It's kind of hard to pinpoint where I am on the scale, but I'm on there. I mean, I have more manic episodes than depressive, so it's not really like a pendulum swinging back and forth which can make it kind of hard to medicate - I still do, because I like to, you know, try and function as much as possible. But, here's where it gets complicated..." Newt stood and began pacing again.

"So, six years ago, the meds stopped, well, working properly. I don't really know what really went wrong. I was doing so much - sleeping and eating less so I could fit extra research hours in around all the crap the faculty was laying on me - and I guess my brain just kind of went 'Argh! I hate you!' and flipped the fuck out. Sort of. Things kind of went downhill slowly. I mean, I could feel everything breaking apart around me but I couldn't really do anything about it. It was more of a slight incline than a hill, really; it took months for it to be super noticeable. Anyway, eventually, I had an, uh, episode, late one night in the lab." Newt stilled and looked down at his hands.

"I don't really remember very much of it. Just a, sort of, intense build up of irrational fear that something - I don't even know what - was going to go wrong, and then hours later, there's broken glass on the floor, I'm curled up in a corner with my hands covered in small cuts and all I can think about is the ammonia that's creeping closer and closer to me. A janitor found me at, like, six in the morning, curled in on myself and staring at a puddle." He laughed mirthlessly, running his fingers over each other, feeling for the scars that had since faded away.

"And, uh, yeah. That's when I was diagnosed with a panic disorder and general anxiety on top of the bipolar. We've - my therapist and me, that is - mostly worked through the panic thing, it's not so much of an issue. Now I just get anxious about panicking and that can kind of, uh, make me panic. Um, anyway, it's why I wanted to have our date here. I, uh, don't really leave very much. I mean, I can and do - somewhat regularly - but I have to really work myself up to it... There's just so many variables out there and I don't really have control of any of them and the anxiety and the panic feed into each other and make things a billion times worse and-" Newt cut himself off, taking a deep breath and looking over at Hermann with a sad smile. "I just wanted us to have one nice date before you decided it was- I was too much."

"Newton," Hermann said softly and patted the space on the couch beside him once more. "I appreciate your candour. I imagine that it must have been very difficult for you to reveal these things about yourself... your past."

Newt sat beside Hermann, tense and miserable, looking down at his hands fidgeting in his lap.

"I cannot say with any certainty how far this will go. Nor can I say that I will handle any future... upsets... with complete grace; we are both of us very strong-minded men. But..." Hermann reached over and picked up Newt's hand, threading their fingers together. "I would very much like to try."

"You would?" Newt looked up at Hermann, his hand squeezing Hermann's involuntarily. "I mean, it's not going to be a bed of roses by any stretch of the imagination."

"Roses have thorns, Newt," Hermann said, sliding closer to Newt. "If it were easy, it would not be worth it."

"Huh. I hadn't thought of it that way. And, yeah, I get that. I just don't want you to think-"

"Newton," Hermann interrupted. "I feel I must make a confession." Hermann wrapped his other hand around the back of Newt's, thumb stroking along his index finger as he looked down at their joined hands. "The last letter I sent you - the one you did not receive - contained an... expression of my admiration."

"You kind of did that in every letter," Newt said, confused.

"Those was purely intellectual. The admiration I expressed in the letter was of a more... personal nature."

"Are- are you saying you had a- a- uh, a crush on me?" Newt asked, head jerking up to stare at Hermann in wonder.

"Not in those exact terms, no. I-"

"You had a crush on me. You had a crush on me." Newt practically danced in his seat at the revelation.

"It hardly matters now. You never bloody responded." The old hurt flared inside Hermann's chest at Newton's teasing and he pulled away.

"Hey, hey. No. Come back. I'm sorry," Newt said, his upper body following Hermann as he hunched in on himself. He cupped Hermann's jaw, thumb stroking just below his ear, as he gently guided his face up to look him in the eye. "I was planning to try and seduce you in Stockholm." Newt smiled gently and stroked Hermann's cheek. "Even if it turned out you weren't into guys, I just had to try. I still would have, too. If you'd shown up."

"I couldn't attend, Newton. Not after I'd tested the waters and found them to be cold. Better to stay home and lick my wounds than face that rejection again in person." Hermann's mouth twisted down at the side bitterly.

"I was going to face it head on. Better to be nearby if sexytimes were put on the agenda," Newt waggled his eyebrows lasciviously.

Hermann huffed a mirthless laugh, leaning forward to press his forehead against Newt's. "What fools we've been."

"We don't have to continue to be. I mean, you're here and I'm here and-"

"Be quiet, Newton," Hermann said as he leaned in and pressed his lips against Newt's softly, a hand reaching up to cup Newt's cheek, sliding back into his hair.

Newt melted against Hermann, pulling a leg up onto the couch to face him more. His hand slid down Hermann's neck to his chest and then under his blazer to pull Hermann closer. "I never really thought we'd ever get here," he breathed, resting his forehead against Hermann's and letting his hands roam over Hermann's surprisingly muscular back.

Hermann surged forward, capturing Newt's lips once more, hands sliding around Newt's middle and tugging his dress and under shirts out of the back of his trousers until his fingers touched skin. Newt shivered beneath his touch, breaking off the kiss to mouth his way down Hermann's neck.

"God, Jesus. Hermann," he moaned, pulling his hands back to undo the top buttons of Hermann's shirt and press a hot, wet kiss to his clavicle. "I don't want to rush you-"

"Newton, I am thirty-six years old and this has been fifteen years coming. I would like nothing more than to remove your trousers - and, indeed, the rest of your clothes," Hermann said, eyes rolling skyward as he panted heavily into Newt's hair. "If anything, we are not moving quickly enough." He slid a hand into Newt's crotch to emphasise his point.

"Fuck," Newt gasped as Hermann rubbed him through the seam of his trousers. He thrust his hips against Hermann's hand, unable to stop himself from forming a rhythm. "Jesus. We, uh, we're really going to have to, hrnn, move this to the bedroom. God, right there, uh. Jesus, fuck, you need to stop. I'm going to be impressing -ah ha, oh, oh yeah- no, no one with my stamina tonight." Newt clutched Hermann's shoulders as he looked down to watch Hermann's hand.

"Look at you," Hermann breathed, watching Newt's face, flush with heat and desire. "Let me touch you, Newton. Let me see you feel it." Hermann adjusted his hand, feeling along the hardness with his thumb until he reached the tip and applied extra pressure.

"I want to touch you, too. I want- I want to feel you. Everywhere. Please, fuck, Hermann. Fuck. You're gonna- you're gonna make me come in my pants," Newt laughed helplessly, dropping his head to Hermann's shoulder as his hips continued to undulate.

"You will, Newton. You can touch me anywhere you want," Hermann said, sliding his free hand into the back of Newt's trousers, fingers sitting at the top of the cleft, rubbing as Newt moved. "But, first I want to see you. Look at me." Hermann stilled his hand, waiting for Newt to raise his head and look him in the eye, before pressing down and rubbing faster. "Let go for me, Newton. Let go."

"Holy fuck," Newt gasped, shuddering as the first wave of orgasm rippled through him. His fingers tightened on Hermann's shoulders as Hermann's fingers grasped him tighter through the material, working him through it as the weave dampened.

Newt slumped forward, pressing Hermann into the arm of the couch as he went lax.

"You looked amazing," Hermann murmured into Newt's hair, raising a hand to rub Newt's back as aftershocks ran through his body.

"You made me come in my pants, dude," Newt said into Hermann's shoulder, voice muffled.

Hermann pressed a soft kiss to Newt's hair. "I got a little carried away in the moment... I liked seeing you like that; needy and desperate, just from my hand."

Newt lifted his head, a small dreamy smile on his face. "It wasn't just your hand," Newt said, cupping Hermann's cheek as he leaned back in to kiss Hermann, slow and lazy. "We could have done this fifteen years ago," Newt murmured against Hermann's lips. "We could have been doing this for fifteen years." As they kissed, Newt's hand travelled down Hermann's neck, across his chest and into his crotch to cup him lightly. "We can finish this up here," Newt said as Hermann inhaled sharply. "But what I really want is you. In my bed. Naked." Newt squeezed for emphasis and captured Hermann's gasp with his lips.

"Bed," Hermann said, pushing at Newt's shoulders. "I want to feel every inch of you against me."

"God, Hermann," Newt kissed Hermann as he tried to scoot backwards and stand up. "Up up up," Newt said into Hermann's mouth, pulling him with him as he moved.

Hermann's hands came up to cup Newt's face as he pulled himself away from the kiss. "Give me a moment," he said, pushing Newt away slightly as he leveraged himself off of the couch into a standing position. Steadying himself with Newt's hips, Hermann leant forward to kiss Newt again, feeling Newt's hands come up to push his blazer off his shoulders and throw it onto the couch.

They made their way through the living space towards the hall, bodies pressed together as they shuffled along. Hermann loosened Newt's tie, pulling at it until it came apart and dropped to the floor, forgotten. Newt pushed Hermann against the wall as he tried to undo his shirt, fingers dumb with lust and fumbling each button through the hole until he got his hands on hot, taut skin and stilled to take in the feel. He kissed his way down Hermann's neck to his chest as Hermann made quick work of Newt's belt, button and zipper, pushing his trousers down until Newt shimmied out of them and kicked them away with his shoes. He pushed at Newt's hips, steering him until he was walking backwards towards the bedroom once more.

Pushing Hermann's shirt off his shoulders as they entered the bedroom, Newt fumbled for the light switch before grabbing Hermann's belt and pulling him to stand by the bed.

"Fuck," Newt said, taking a moment to catch his breath. "You're half naked and you're still wearing too many clothes."

"I could say the same for you," Hermann replied as he unbuttoned Newt's shirt and tugged it off his arms revealing tattoos across his shoulders down to his elbows and over his chest, disappearing beneath his undershirt. Hermann stilled and stared, trailing his fingers lightly over the designs.

"Ah, yeah," Newt said looking down at Hermann's fingers. "I kind of have a lot of ink."

"Take off your vest, I want to see it all," Hermann demanded, eyes hungry.

Newt pulled his undershirt off and tossed it aside, standing before Hermann and waiting.

Hermann's eyes ran over Newt's body, taking in the colours and swirls surrounding realistic depictions of B-Movie monsters fighting each other and clawing through his skin. He reached out a hand and ran a finger along the lines over Newt's chest.

"They're stunning," He breathed and leaned down to trace the designs with his lips and tongue.

"I'm glad you like them," Newt said, leaning into the touch. "But you're still wearing too many clothes."

Newt pushed Hermann back and began to work on his belt, but Hermann's hands stopped him.

"I feel that, uh, I should warn you..." Hermann clasped Newt's hands tightly as he looked down at the floor and took a deep breath. He'd been so focussed on all the past hurt and processing the fact that Newt was alive, that he'd forgotten about this part - the part where someone saw his naked body and recoiled."My, uh, left leg is... shorter than my right and... less well developed. It can be... disconcerting... to some people. I would, of course, understand if you wished to turn off the lights."

"Hermann," Newt murmured, disentangling his hands from Hermann's so he could reach up and tilt Hermann's chin up. He pressed a soft kiss to Hermann's lips and brushed the back of his fingers along Hermann's cheekbone. "I want to see you; all of you. I want to touch all of you. I want you to feel as good as you make me feel."

Hermann closed his eyes, mouth drawn in a thin line of apprehension, and nodded as he released Newt's remaining hand. He felt Newt kiss the corner of his mouth, and then he was being turned and manoeuvred towards the bed.

"Sit," Newt directed and knelt down to untie his shoelaces.

"I can do that," Hermann interjected, leaning forward to bat Newt's hands away.

"Let me," Newton asked quietly. "Please?"

Hermann swallowed and looked away, fingers grasping tight on the bedspread as he nodded.

Newt untied his right shoe first and levered it off, pulling off the sock and setting it aside. He moved his hands up the calf muscle of Hermann's right leg to his thigh and then spread his hands over both, rubbing gently as he looked up at Hermann, who was still avoiding eye contact. He let his hands slide up to Hermann's hips and then down again to travel down Hermann's left leg.

Watching Hermann's face carefully, he untied the shoelace and levered it off, feeling the weight of a hidden lift as it slipped into his hand. He set it aside and softly kissed Hermann's knee as he pulled off the sock. Pressing dry, open mouthed kisses up Hermann's leg to his stomach, taut with tension, he once more began to work on Hermann's belt, pulling the leather through the loop and out through the clasp. He looked up as he undid the button and zipper and hooked his fingers into the waistband of his trousers and briefs.

"It's okay, Hermann," Newt said softly, but Hermann continued to look away, biting his lip. "Lift."

Newt drew the material down and off his legs, leaning back to pull them carefully off and push them aside. The toes of Hermann's left foot touched the floor, while his heel hung in the air. His right foot sat solidly on the floor. "Hermann?" Newt looked up, hoping he'd get Hermann's attention, and sighed as he kept resolutely looking away. "We don't have to do this if you don't want to."

Hermann sighed and leaned forward to pick up his trousers. "It's okay. People think they understand, but once they see-"

"Not for me, you idiot," Newt said, slapping Hermann's right thigh lightly. "I don't want you to do something you're not that into. I mean, fuck. I want you. I've wanted you since I was seventeen. I really, really want you. I don't think I can emphasise that enough. But I'm not that kind of asshole."

"You really don't have a problem with it?" Hermann asked warily.

"Have you seen you? You're all tight and lean and, fuck, there's so many places I want to put my mouth that I don't know where to start." Newt boggled at Hermann, putting his hands on his waist and kneeling up to look him in the eye. "Actually, that's a lie. I really, really, really really want to suck your cock."

"God, Newton." Hermann dropped the trousers and pulled Newt in, kissing him hard and holding him tight. Newt's hands ran up his back, returning the hug and kissing him with equal fervour. "You have no idea-" Hermann began, coming up for air and pressing his forehead to Newt's.

"I think I might have an inkling," Newt said, breathing heavily but unable to stop stealing kisses in between words. "I need you to scooch back. Centre of the bed." Newt pulled away from the embrace and stood, shucking his boxers and trying not to trip as he watched Hermann pull himself into the middle of the mattress. Finally completely naked, Newt followed, crawling across and straddling Hermann's legs. "I feel like I've wanted you here forever."

"I feel that it's taken us forever to get here," Hermann said, resting his hands on Newt's thighs, a smirk growing on his lips.

Newt returned the smirk, trailing his fingers over Hermann's half-hard cock as he slinked up Hermann's body. "Good things..." He kissed him on the lips. "Come..." Down his neck. "To those..." Across his chest. "Who..." His stomach. "Wait." Newt stopped, hovering over Hermann's cock, breath running over the head in slow, warm puffs.

"I cannot say that I've ever had the misfortune to have met a bigger prick-tease than you," Hermann choked out as he watched Newt wet his lips.

Newt raised a single eyebrow and licked the head softly.

"Newton," Hermann growled, hands fluttering to Newt's shoulders.

Newt chuckled and leaned in, kissing his way up the hardened flesh from the base to the tip and sucking in the head. He worked the shaft with his hand as he took him in deeper, pushing against the back of his throat before rising up again. Listening to Hermann moan and feeling his fingers skittering across his back and neck, Newt reached up and placed one of Hermann's hands on the back of his head, and threaded his fingers together with the other.

Hermann gently massaged Newt's scalp in time with the rhythm he set up, trying to hold his hips still and not arch into the wet, warmth. His breath came in short gasps punctuated by moans that he tried to muffle deep within his throat. He could feel the pressure rising, tension mounting in his shoulders and leg, as Newt sucked hard as he pulled up and swirled his tongue around the tip.

"Newton," Herman gasped in warning, trying to hold back. "Newton." He felt Newt's hand squeeze his tightly and the force of his suction seemed to increase tenfold. His breathing sped up as the he felt everything grow tighter and tighter, eyes squeezing shut and fingers curling into Newt's hair as the orgasm rushed through him and then... Free fall.

His limbs felt weightless as pinpricks of electricity danced over his skin, the only thing anchoring him to the ground - to earth - was the comforting warmth of Newt over his legs. He panted heavily as Newt worked him through it and then pulled off to crawl up his body.

"You made my glasses fog up," Newt grinned, blinking at him through the vapour.

"I apologise..." Hermann puffed. "Most profusely."

"I'll forgive you," Newt said, sliding to the side to lay beside Hermann. "On one condition..."

Hermann turned his head to look at Newt questioningly.

"...Stay?" Newt bit his lip, looking unsure.

Hermann rolled onto his side, wrapping an arm around Newt's middle as he pressed a slightly breathless kiss to Newt's lips. "Yes, Newton. I'll stay."

Newt grinned into the kiss and pulled back to smooth a hand over Hermann's hair. "Let me get the light. Do you need anything while I'm up?"

Hermann shook his head and watched Newt across the room. Pulling the covers out from underneath himself, he wriggled under them and held up a corner for Newt on his return.

"So, my faux pas was kind of prophetic," Newt said as he put his glasses on the side table and snuggled into Hermann's shoulder.

"Pardon me?" Hermann asked, wrapping his arms around Newt to pull him close.

"Turns out I do like your genitals."

Hermann huffed a laugh and rested his cheek against the top of Newt's head. "Go to sleep, Newton."

Chapter Text

THIRTEEN

Early June
Tuesday 7:00am

Hermann woke to sun streaming in through the window and the soft clink and rattle of something being set on the side table. He looked over to see Newt, washed and dressed, placing a plate and a piping hot cup of tea down, cringing at the noise.

"Sorry, man. I didn't mean to wake you," Newt said softly, sitting on the side of the bed.

"That's alright. I should, uh- I should be leaving," Hermann said, shaking the sleep from his head and pulling himself up onto his elbows. "I feel I've quite overstayed my welcome."

"Hermann," Newt said, putting a hand on Hermann's shoulder to stay his motion. "You're welcome to stay. And you're, um, you're welcome to, y'know, come back. Any time."

"I'm sorry, Newton," Hermann said running a hand over his face and relaxing into the bed. "The morning after is just always so dreadfully awkward." He looked up as Newton gave a hiccuping laugh, breathing quickly as his hands clenched his knees. "Newton?"

"Sorry. I'm sorry. I- Shit. You apologised and I thought you were going to say this was all a mistake and it shouldn't have happened and you didn't want to see me again and-"

"Newton, I want you to take a deep breath and look at me," Hermann said, placing his hands on Newt's shoulders and angling his body towards him. "Good. Now, are you listening?" He waited for Newt to nod before continuing. "If there is one thing I do not regret, it is saying yes to having dinner with you, and all that entailed. Do you understand?"

"Yes. Yes, I- Yes. Sorry. Thank you. Fuck. Great start to the day, Newt. Awesome." Newt laughed shakily through his bravado.

"Misunderstandings happen," Hermann said, brushing a hand through Newt's hair down to his neck.

"We're good at those." Newt said with a wry smile that didn't meet his eyes. "I, uh, made you breakfast." Newt gestured to the side table as he changed the subject. He looked up when Hermann didn't respond, seeing him staring at Newt with an odd look on his face. "Hermann?"

"Shh," Hermann said, drawing Newt in and kissing him. Leaning back, he pulled Newt with him to the bed, deepening the kiss.

"You have no idea how much I'd love to crawl in with you and just make out and fuck all day. But I've got to open the store in-" He pulled back to look at his watch. "-ugh, fifteen minutes."

"The perils of responsibility," Herman murmured, stealing another kiss.

Newt leaned in to it even as he tried to pull away. "That is not fair." He drew back and then had to duck back in to kiss the smirk from Hermann's lips. "Mmm, you are not fair. Not fair at all." Newt finally managed to drag himself away and stood, running his hands through his hair as he caught his breath. "Ok, so. There's tea and a croissant there for you - they're both probably cold by now, sorry. Um, I put a towel and toothbrush for you in the bathroom if you wanted to, y'know, shower. Your clothes are on the chair there. And, uh, yeah. Take your time."

"Thank you, Newton," Hermann said, holding out a hand.

Newt took Hermann's hand and smiled. He looked over at the door, back at Hermann and then scrunched up his face and leaned back in to kiss him again. "One more... Okay, last one... I'm going, I'm going." Newt stood up, straightened his shirt, and set his shoulders and walked to the door. Stopping at the frame he turned around and looked back. "I like you in my bed." He said, smiling softly. "Okay, I'm gone. See you downstairs." He drummed his hands on the wall and walked down the hall.

If the sound of his footsteps were anything to go by, there may have been dancing involved.

---

Later

Standing at the bottom of the stairs, Hermann adjusted the collar of his shirt and straightened his sleeves. He took a deep breath and cracked the door open, peeking through. Seeing few customers in the store and nobody looking in his direction, he stepped into the hall.

"Morning, Doc. Good night?" Chuck smirked, looking at Hermann's rumpled blazer.

"Quite," Hermann said, lips thin with irritation at Chuck's over-familiarity.

Chuck snickered quietly and look over to call out to Newt. "Hey, your man's here."

Newt looked over, his face lighting up as he spotted Hermann. "Hey, you're up!" Newt said, coming around the counter to wrap his arms around Hermann's waist and leaned in to kiss him.

Hermann stiffened, pulling away and turning his head. "Newton," Herman murmured as he extricated himself from Newt's embrace.

"Oh. I- Right. No. Of course. I just thought that- I know you said... but, no. Yeah, you're right. You're right. I get it." Newt stepped back, shoving his hands into his pockets, shoulders slumping.

"I, uh, must be going if I am to change," Hermann stepped around Newt to head to the door.

"Will you be in later?" Newt asked quietly.

"No, there's a faculty luncheon followed by the first session of exam marking. I'm afraid I'll be unavailable for the majority of the day," Hermann said, stopping by the door to look at Newt.

Right," Newt said with a sigh. Looking around the store he stepped closer to Hermann so they wouldn't be overheard. "Did you want to, I dunno, come over tonight? I mean, it's cool if you don't, it's not- The offer's there." He shrugged, not quite looking Hermann in the eye.

"I would very much like to, uh, see you tonight," Hermann said, a twinkle lighting up his eyes.

"Sure, sure. Around eight?"

"Eight o'clock, it is." Hermann said with a smile.

"Cool. See you tonight," Newt said, clapping Hermann on the shoulder and walking away slowly, looking at the ground.

Hermann frowned and turned to leave, unable to shake the feeling that he had made some sort of significant error.

Chapter Text

FOURTEEN

Early June
Tuesday 8:00pm

Hermann rang the doorbell and stood to wait under the dingy yellow street light. He looked up at Newt's windows to see if he would stick his head out and call down. After a short while, he pressed the doorbell again, just in case. He heard slamming and then Newt was opening the door for him to enter.

"Hey, yeah, sorry. Takes a little while for me to get down here," Newt said sounding a little out of breath.

"That's quite alright," Hermann said as he stepped through the door and followed Newt through to the stair well. "I have been very much looking forward to seeing you."

"Yeah, me too, man," Newt said already halfway up the stairs. "So, uh, did you want to eat first or just get straight to it? I mean, I've been in situations like this before, but, I dunno, it might be different for you."

"I'm sorry, different for me how? What situations are you talking about?" Hermann asked as he followed at a much slower pace.

"You know, fuckbuddies. Friends With Benefits. Whatever you want to call it, I'm cool with it," Newt said as he disappeared around the corner into the lounge.

"Excuse me?" Hermann stopped moving, foot hovering halfway to the next step as he stared up towards the sound of Newt's voice.

"I dunno. You can call it an erotic dalliance or something if that's what blows your hair back."

"Newton, stop," Hermann said increasing his speed and hauling himself up the rest of the stairs as fast as he could. "Where on earth did you get the idea that I wanted us to be... be… fuck buddies?"

"Really, Hermann? I don't think you could have said it any more obviously," Newt shrugged, picking things up off the couch and moving them to the coffee table.

"You are wrong," Hermann sputtered as he closed in on Newt. "I did not say anything of the sort."

"Okay, you got me there. You didn't say it. But you did make yourself pretty clear." Newt shrugged and flopped down on the couch.

"Nothing about this has any sort of clarity, Newton," Hermann said, staring down at Newt. "Exactly what did I 'make clear', and how?"

"You just want this to be a casual thing. No strings attached sex. I get it, it's cool. I mean, I wouldn't want to be in a relationship with with me, either." Newt rolled his eyes and looked up at Hermann with a grin that was a touch brittle around the edges.

"That's not the case, Newton. Not in the slightest. I've thought about what could have been for nineteen years- it is the exact opposite of 'casual'," Hermann sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose as he sat next to Newt. "Please tell me how you arrived at such an erroneous conclusion."

"You, uh, you pulled away. This morning. When you came down. And then you made up some stuff so you wouldn't have to see me," Newt shrugged, picking at a piece of lint on the armrest of the couch.

"First of all, I did not make anything up. The faculty luncheon has been in my calendar for weeks and marking is a routine part of academia - as well you should know," Hermann scolded gently. "Secondly, I pulled away because I am... not comfortable... with that level of affection in a public forum."

"Oh," Newt said quietly. "I thought that, y'know, you didn't want to be seen with me. I mean, we've hugged before. In public."

"That was before the... consummation... of our romantic intentions. I didn't think you'd ever... want anything more. Now that the boundaries of our relationship have altered so significantly, I am having difficulty reconciling the man I am with you, in here, with the man I am... out there."

"I didn't think... I mean, I want to tell everybody. I want to shout it from the rooftops," Newt said with a sad smile.

"I don't say this to a great many people, but... I like you, Newton," Hermann said, reaching over to take Newt's hand in his own. "I don't know what good fortune guided your romantic attentions in my direction, but I will be forever grateful that they did... even if it did take fifteen years for them to become known. I cannot promise that I will ever be truly comfortable displaying affection in public, but I will make certain... concessions."

"What do you mean 'concessions'?"

"The... allowance of certain publicly appropriate demonstrations," Hermann said, somewhat stiffly.

"You don't have to, Herm," Newt said, shaking his head.

"I do. If we are going to last more than a day, adjustments must be made. I have to take into account your... natural exuberance, and you have to tell me if you feel I have done something to wrong you." Hermann nodded firmly, squeezing Newt's hand.

"I can't promise anything, but I'll try," Newt said, squeezing back. "So, uh. What's considered a 'publicly appropriate demonstration'?"

"Uh... hand holding. At appropriate times."

"Check."

"A kiss on the cheek..."

"Lips?"

"Cheek."

"Spoilsport. Hugging?"

"...On special occasions."

"Blowjobs?"

"Newton."

"Ok, so, I know it's only been, like, a day, but, technically we've known each other for, like, twenty years. So, not really that fast? Um. Is this... is this an official... thing? Like, exclusive? I mean, it doesn't have to be if you don't want it to. I just want to know where I stand," Newt asked, fidgeting with Hermann's fingers in his hands. "God, no. I know. It's way too early for this conversation. I'm sor- Just forget I said anything. Stupid, Newt. Stupid."

"It's okay, Newton. I would, uh... I would prefer if you did not, ehm, see other people while we are... involved."

"And you?" Newt asked, hands stilling.

"I had no intention of it." Hermann squeezed Newt's hand and smiled at him, not giving voice to the part of his mind pointing out that there was no one to see.

"Can I tell people about us?" Newt asked, eyes wide and hopeful.

"Not, er, as an aside to their coffee order, perhaps," Hermann said with a twinkle in his eye. "But, friends and family, yes."

"Sweet. So, just to clarify, whenever we're here, I can touch you as much as I want, right?" Newt asked, turning onto his side to face Hermann.

"When we are alone, yes. Within reason."

"So, I could do this," Newt leaned in and kissed Hermann, softly, gently. "And it would be okay?"

"That is more than 'okay'."

"And this?" Newt slid his hand across Hermann's stomach and wrapped his arm around his waist as he kissed his way down Hermann's neck.

"That's very agreeable," Hermann said, clasping a hand on Newt's shoulder and tilting his head to the side to give Newt more room.

"This?" Newt hoisted himself up and swung a leg over Hermann, straddling his lap.

"That is encouraged," Hermann said, hands resting on Newt's hips as he stretched up to reinitiate the kiss.

"Your leg's okay?"

"My leg is fine, Newton," Hermann said, sliding his hand into the back of Newt's trousers and pushing his hips down firmly in emphasis.

"Jesus, Hermann," Newt breathed as their crotches pressed together. "I don't want to come in my pants again."

"I do not wish for that, either." Hermann used Newt's weight as a counterbalance to thrust up as he kissed and sucked Newt's neck.

"Fuck, you're going to do it again, aren't you?" Newt panted, gripping the back of the couch tightly.

"It's entirely possible." Hermann said, groaning as Newt pulled himself away and fell to the couch on his back.

"One day," Newt said, breathless and pointing a stern finger at Hermann. "One day, we will be able to make out on the couch without risking anyone's pants. Jesus, we're like a couple of teenagers."

"I apologise," Hermann said, reaching out to run his hand down the inseam of Newt's enticingly splayed thigh. "Perhaps we should take this to the bedroom?"

"I've got a better idea," Newt said, looking down at Hermann's hand and moaning as his thumb swept across the rapidly growing bulge. Reaching back, he shoved his hand between the backrest and the cushion and yanked out a small zip lock bag, chucking it at Hermann.

"What-" Hermann asked, picking up the bag and raising an eyebrow at Newt as he saw the contents - condoms, a small tube of lube, and some wet wipes.

"After last night, I may have strategically placed some emergency caches around the apartment. Y'know, just in case." Newt undid the button of his trousers and shimmied out of them without getting up. "Don't just look at it, Hermann. I want you to fuck me."

"Here? On- on the couch?" Hermann asked as Newt grabbed a ratty blanket from the back of the couch and shoved it under his hips and backside, covering the cushion.

"Yes, here. And soon, if it's all the same to you." Newt wedged a leg behind Hermann and raised the other one for better access. "Come on, come on, I want you in me."

Hermann fumbled with the bag, yanking it open and grabbing the tube of lube. Squirting a dollop on his fingers, Hermann adjusted his position so he could watch Newt's face as he slipped his finger in.

"Two. Start with two. Give it to me. Give me more. I need- I need it, Hermann. Please, you gotta let me have it," Newt babbled as he undulated against Hermann's hand, fists clenched against the cushion as he writhed.

"Patience, Newton," Hermann said, smoothing a hand over Newt's stomach to hold him in place as he licked a strip up Newt's cock. The babbling gave way to unintelligible muttering, and then to random, sporadic vowel sounds as Hermann wrapped his lips around the head and sucked him in. He worked Newt's cock in his mouth as his fingers scissored and speared into him, working him open until Newt's hands scrabbled in his hair, pulling him up by the roots.

"No, no. In me. Want you in me when I come. Please, Hermann. Now," Newt begged, hands coming down to cup Hermann's jaw as he pulled off with a wet pop.

Hermann looked up and watched Newt's face as he widened his fingers inside him and pulled them out slowly, the moan sending a jolt straight to his cock. Wiping the excess lube off on the blanket with one hand, he grappled with his belt buckle and button with the other until he was able to free himself. He fumbled with the bag for a condom and took great pains not to get lube on the foil cover as he ripped the packet open and slid it down his length. He gave himself a reflexive squeeze as he added a little extra lube and turned on the couch, his good leg bent on the sofa and the other straight and set on the floor.

"Are you prepared?" Hermann asked, hooking one of Newt's legs over his elbow and reaching down to position himself.

"I am more than ready. I am so far beyond ready. I want your dick in me yesterday. Give it to me. Give it to me n-" Newt's demands were cut off by a moan as Hermann slid in slowly, not stopping until he was fully seated.

Hermann's breath left him in a rush as he dropped forward, leaning on his elbow beside Newt's body as he waited for him to adjust. He kissed the nearest available skin, sucking lightly at a point just below Newt's jaw until Newt's hands lifted his head and directed him into a searing kiss.

"Hermann, you need to fucking move. Now," Newt said, breathless, as he wiggled his hips in emphasis.

Hermann captured Newt's lips before his demands could become a steady stream of horny babble and began to thrust, building up a slow rhythm. Newt's arms came up around him, holding him in place as he kissed Hermann in between increasingly more urgent demands for speed. Hermann complied, adjusting his position so he could gain a greater level of thrust from his foot on the floor.

Newt held the arm rest above his head to stop himself from sliding up the couch as he babbled yes and more and good and harder into Hermann's ear with growing volume that went straight to Hermann's cock and sent precursory thrills of electricity shooting up his spine.

"You need to- to touch yourself, Newt," Hermann said, panting heavily as he tried to maintain the rhythm without tipping himself over the edge. "I can't in this position. You have to- you have to do it."

Hermann rose up enough to give Newt space to move as his hand came down to grip himself, pulling and tugging at a near-frantic pace.

"God, Hermann, s-so good. So close already. Fuck, just a little longer. Fuck me harder. Give it to me. Give it all to me. Fuck, y-yes. Yes, Hermann, yes. Fuck. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck," Newt cursed as he drove himself higher and higher, coming with a gasp that turned into a low whine as he spurted over himself.

Hermann watched Newt's face, contorted in the agony of ecstasy and could feel the pressure that had already built become more insistent, pushing him over the edge until he came in erratic thrusts and collapsed on Newt's body.

Hermann twitched with aftershocks as Newt quivered around him. He could feel Newt's ejaculate seeping into his shirt but the desire and energy to move were not within his grasp. He felt Newt's arms wrap around him and a soft kiss pressed to his temple as he softened and slipped out of Newt with a shudder. He knew he should move and clean himself up, but the warmth of Newt's solid body against him was something he didn't want to give up so quickly.

"You're still fully dressed," Newt said absently, his hands running up and down Hermann's back over his blazer. "We should do that again. 'Cept... 'cept next time I wanna be completely naked and just... pull you out of your pants and ride you... Mess up your shirt when I come. Mmm, that'd be hot."

"You already did 'mess up my shirt'," Hermann murmured into Newt's shoulder, pressing a kiss through the fabric.

"I'll put it through the wash tomorrow... Hey, no, don't move. There's no moving." Newt tightened his arms around Hermann, refusing to let him go.

"I need to take the condom off; it's becoming quite uncomfortable. I'll come back." Hermann pulled out of Newt's arms and sat up, pulling a face at the splatters of come smeared into his shirt. He dealt with the condom as efficiently as possible, tying it off quickly and dropping it in the bin by the couch. Using a wet wipe, he cleaned himself up and tucked himself away and then used it to wipe as much of the excess lube off of Newt's cheeks and thighs as possible.

"Neatnik," Newt teased with a dopey smile, reaching up to pull Hermann back down into an embrace and wrap his legs around him to hold him there.

"Whatever did I do to deserve you?" Hermann groused half-heartedly as he settled back down on his side.

"I don't know, but you should do it some more," Newt said, leaning in to kiss Hermann softly. "I'd kind of like to keep you."

"You have me, Newton," Hermann replied with a blush. "For as long as you will."

Time seemed to pass slowly as they lay together, trading lazy kisses. Gradually they slowed and stopped until they were just lying with their foreheads together, breathing each other in.

"We can't sleep here, Newton," Hermann murmured.

"Not sleeping - basking," Newt replied with a yawn. "Maybe a little napping."

"No napping, either," Hermann chided, pulling himself up into a seated position. "My hip wouldn't allow for that much longer."

"Oh, shit, sorry. Are you okay? Are you in pain? Do you need me to move?" Newt asked, pulling himself upright and raising his leg so it was no longer over Hermann's lap.

"It's fine, Newt. I'm fine," Hermann said sternly, took hold of Newt's leg and lowered it back down.

"I'm sorry. I just don't want to hurt you accidentally. Or on purpose. Just to clarify." Newt wrapped his arms around Hermann's waist and rested his chin on Hermann's shoulder. "You'll let me know if I do, right?"

"I will let you know if it becomes unmanageable." Hermann said somewhat tensely.

"Wait, so you're in pain now?" Newt asked, relaxing his hold on Hermann's torso.

"It's a normalised constant, Newton, please-" Hermann was cut off as his stomach rumbled loudly.

"Oh, shit. You didn't eat before you came and with the whole crossed wires thing I didn't make anything. God, you must be starving. Hang on, I'll throw something together." Newt disentangled himself from Hermann and stood up, padding towards the kitchen in bare feet.

"Newton," Hermann called from the couch. "Please put on some pants before you cook anything."

Newt looked down and laughed a little. "I guess I should change my shirt, too. Be right back."

Hermann watched as Newt picked up his trousers and wandered down the hall taking off his shirt, completely unconcerned by the large windows he was walking past naked. He shook his head and smiled fondly in spite of the lingering discomfort hanging around his hip.

Sitting forward on the couch, he eased out of the blazer, checking it for damage before setting it over the arm rest and moving on to inspect his shirt. The come was beginning to dry and what had been a slightly uncomfortable mess when pressed up against the warmth of Newt's body had become a fairly dire situation. He undid the buttons and eased it away from the spattering of hair over his chest with minimum pain. His lip curled with displeasure as he folded it roughly and left it by his coat as Newt came back down the hall wearing boxers and an old t-shirt with a monster printed on the front.

"I figured you might need something to change into. I think this'll fit." Newt threw the t-shirt in his direction and kept walking towards the kitchen to rummage around in the fridge. Taking out a variety of vegetables, he chopped them up and threw them into a heated wok with a little soy sauce and then portioned it out into bowls.

"Is eating at the counter okay?" Newt asked as he grabbed a couple of forks and turned to pick up the bowls.

"It's fine," Hermann said, moving over to the centre island and pulling out a stool, leveraging himself onto it carefully.

Newt set a bowl down in front of him, a small smile on his face as he looked at the overlarge Shatterdome Records shirt hanging off Hermann's wiry frame. "I like you in my clothes," he murmured, leaning in to press a kiss to Hermann's cheek as he leaned against the counter to eat. "Dig in while it's still hot."

Hermann took a bite and chewed, knowing that it tasted good but not really recognising it. A tension had built in his chest and without really seeing it coming, he knew he was about to have a very painful conversation.

"It was Perthes, as a child," he said quietly, gazed fixed on a point past Newt in the corner of the kitchen.

"What was?" Newt asked around a mouthful of food.

"My hip. It... It's…" Hermann closed his eyes and pursed his lips, taking deep breaths through his nose. "The blood supply to the hip was temporarily lost, causing the femoral head to necrotise. It wore away the bone and compressed the cartilage, shortening the length of the leg by an inch and paving the way for the development of osteoarthritis in adulthood, the symptoms of which are beginning to present themselves." Hermann recited, distancing himself as much from the story as he could. "Treatment is favourable in those diagnosed before the age of ten, with a majority of cases regaining a full range of mobility after eighteen months to two years of treatment." He slowed down and paused, unable to work out how to explain the specifics of his case in a detached fashion.

"I was diagnosed at thirteen, though symptoms presented before I turned nine." Hermann felt Newt take his hand and looked over to see him watching with an expression sympathetic encouragement. "My... my father was very much of a mind that children should be neither seen nor heard. Though I had told Mumm- my mother of the discomfort, Father dismissed it as 'growing pains'. I... stopped complaining. Until more than two years later when I found myself almost unable to walk, so constant was the agony.

"I was practically bedridden for two years with my legs in traction or recovering from surgery." He sighed, lips twisting bitterly at the memory. "A perfect forty-five degree angle to rotate the femoral head and increase the range of motion. The surgery replaced it, allowing the remainder of the bone to survive while preventing further wear on the cartilage." Hermann paused and took a deep breath, closing his eyes as he continued. "It was already too late. The pain is always present, a low constant that only overwhelms after long periods in the same position, sudden direct force, or the whims of barometric pressure changes." Hermann stopped talking; the major points had been outlined, he did not want to dig deeper and twist the knife any more. He picked up his fork and continued eating, determined to not dwell.

"Your dad's a dick," Newt said with disgust, squeezing Hermann's hand tightly.

"There are many words for my father," Hermann responded dispassionately.

"Asshole. Bastard. Buttmunch, C-" Newt recited.

"That's enough, Newton," Hermann said quietly, finishing off his bowl.

"Sorry. It's a lot to take in and your dad's the clear villain of this piece." Newt pulled a face. "You never mentioned it in your letters."

"My letters to you were... an escape. You knew me; you knew my mind. My father was not present in our correspondence. My- my physical limitations were not an issue. "

"They're still not. Come on. Leave your plate. I'm going to take you to bed and wrap you up and not let anything else hurt you." Newt reached for Hermann's other hand to help him down.

"I don't need help, Newton," Hermann spat, pushing Newt's hands away.

"This isn't help, Hermann," Newt said gently, holding his hands up in a placating manner. "This is care. I want to take, you know, care of you, even if it's just a little... if you'll let me."

Hermann closed his eyes and gripped the countertop tightly, breathing purposefully through his nose as he willed the irritation to pass. Regaining a modicum of composure, he looked down and spoke quietly, voice coming out with a rough crack.

"I don't- I don't know how."

"God, Hermann," Newt said, tentatively placing a hand on his shoulder. "If I could time travel, I would go back and beat the shit out of everyone who made you feel this way."

"Using time travel in such a manner would irrevocably alter my history," Hermann said, latching onto logic as a means to shield himself from whatever it was his emotions thought they were trying to do. "Such a significant change would likely prevent our paths from ever crossing."

"I'd be okay with that if it meant you were happy." Newt squeezed Hermann's shoulder with a sad smile.

"I don't understand... why would you do this? I'm- This is- More trouble than it's worth. It's been a lifetime since we lost contact. Why would you waste yourself on me? Why are you even bothering?" Hermann's shoulders slumped, his hands dropping to his lap and twisting together painfully.

"You're worth it to me, Herm," Newt said, placing a hand over Hermann's to stop their motion. "It's not qualifiable - it's not even quantifiable - it just... it is what it is. I can't explain it. Your letters were the best parts of my first few doctorates. I don't know I would have gotten through it at all without you. You knew me and you kept up with me. And now... when I'm with you I feel... better. Stronger. And when you hurt… so do I."

"It just doesn't make any sense to me," Hermann said, frustrated at his inability to grasp the situation.

"Maybe one day it will," Newt said softly, pressing a gentle kiss to Hermann's temple. "For now... let me take you to bed."

Hermann acquiesced, sliding off the stool and following quietly as Newt lead him down the hall to the bedroom. He took off his trousers as Newt pulled back the bedspread, sliding in and holding up the sheet so Hermann could climb in beside him. Hermann side eyed him as Newt patted his chest, and held out an arm until Hermann gingerly slid over and rested his head over the bright swirls and monsters as Newt's arms wrapped around him.

"There's a park, down the road," Hermann said quietly, fingers tracing meaningless lines on Newt's chest. "With trees and a pond, trails to walk on..."

"Mmhm?"

"Would you like to go there with me? On Saturday?" Hermann murmured. "Is that enough time for you?"

"That's more than enough time, thank you, Hermann," Newt said softly, pressing a kiss to his hair. "I'd love to go to the park with you."

"Good. I- That's good. Very good." Hermann could feel Newt smile against his scalp as his arms stroked up and down his back.

"Shh... Go to sleep, Hermann."

Hermann closed his eyes and let himself drift, an unfamiliar warmth teasing the length of his spine, tendrils curling into his core, as he slipped into unconsciousness.

Chapter Text

Early June
Wednesday 9:00am

Hermann woke slowly, feeling groggy, to an empty bed and a note on the bedside table beside a cold cup of tea and a muffin.

Washed your shirt and pants; they're on the chair.
Your towel's in the bathroom.
See you downstairs.
-Newt

Hermann sat up and got out of bed, straightening up the covers before sitting and taking his time eating the muffin, looking out the window and over the low density housing spreading up to the north, the occasional block of high-rises cutting up the horizon. He showered and dressed and stood at the top of the stairs for ten minutes trying to prepare himself to be a decent human being of moderate temperament when he stepped into the cafe.

Opening the door, he walked to the end of the counter and caught Chuck's attention with a short cough.

"Morning, Doc," Chuck nodded and turned towards the cash register, jerking his head towards Hermann. "Hey, Newt."

"Morning," Newt said, rounding the counter and brushing his knuckles against the back of Hermann's hand as he passed him. "Come on, I'll take you out through the back."

Newt unlocked the door to the back area and stepped through, waiting for Hermann to follow before closing it behind him. He sidled up to Hermann and slipped an arm around his middle lightly. "We're alone back here. So, this is okay, right?" He asked nervously, leg jiggling in spite of his efforts to stay still.

"This is perfect, Newton, thank you," Hermann said, cupping a hand to Newton's jaw and leaning down to kiss him gently.

"Mmm, good morning," Newt said, smiling into the kiss and pulling Hermann close. "Wanted to say goodbye to you properly today."

"I'm very happy to oblige you," Hermann said, leaning down to kiss Newt once more, walking him slowly backwards towards the door and pressing him up against it, leaning his cane by the wall to take hold of Newt's hips.

"Mmm, you're frisky in the morning. I like," Newt said between kisses, taking a firm hold of Hermann's ass and pulling him closer still.

"Were you ever to wake up beside me, I might just show you just how 'frisky' I can get," Hermann said with a sly grin.

"Curse my baking super powers," Newt lamented, head thunking back into the door. "The responsibilities these hands hold." He gave a squeeze for emphasis.

"Speaking of responsibilities, Newton, I feel I must warn you..." Hermann pulled back to look Newt in the eye seriously. "I was going to tell you last night, but certain... distractions... took precedence. The final exams are piling up in my office and if I want to know peace in the future I must get them marked forthwith."

"Okay..." Newt said, puzzled as to how this was something he should be warned about.

"As such, I won't be able to come by for the next three days," Hermann said regretfully.

"That's okay, I'll see you after work." Newt shrugged, still somewhat confused.

"I'm afraid our nighttime rendezvous will also have to cease in the interim," Hermann said, the edge of his mouth turning downward with displeasure. "I need my routine in order to be able to complete this work in a timely fashion. And you are a distraction." Hermann's hands came up to cup Newt's frowning face, kissing him tenderly. "A delicious, consuming distraction."

"I guess I don't really have a choice," Newt said with resignation, arms loosening around Hermann, preparing to let him go.

"It's not that I do not want to be with you, you understand." Hermann smoothed his hands down Newt's neck to rest them on his shoulders. "The time which I should have spent marking yesterday was frequently interrupted by thoughts of Monday night. Doubtless, today will be consumed with last night. I fear adding more memories will slow my progress to a snail's pace and further disrupt my work thus ensuring that I have to spend even more time away attempting to complete it."

"Well, when you put it that way..." Newt said a small smile playing on his lips. "You find me that distracting, huh?"

"You have no idea." Hermann kissed him hard, pulling Newt close as he slipped off to the side and trailed down his neck. Nipping and sucking his way down to Newt's collar, he pushed it aside and latched on, sucking with as much force as he could muster.

"Ow, jesus, fuck. Dude, are you- you're giving me a hickey? Oh, fuck me, you're giving me a hickey." Newt panted, arms hands coming up to press into Hermann's back and a leg wrapping around his ass to pull him closer, the feel of Hermann working against his neck zinging straight to his cock.

Hermann pulled back and examined his handiwork, running a thumb over the red blotch peeking over the top of Newt's collar. "I wanted you to be sure I would return," he said with a sly smile, leaning in to kiss Newt once more. "I'm afraid I really must be going." Hermann extricated himself from Newt's clutches and picked up his cane.

"What? No. You don't get to do that and then just leave. No. That's just mean." Newt glared at Hermann, putting his hand on the doorknob to keep Hermann from opening it.

"I apologise, Newton. I didn't realise it would get you quite that worked up," Hermann said, glancing down at the bulge in the front of Newt's pants. "Though, that is something I'll have to remember... And something that will likely hold today's progress back significantly. If you want me to return any time soon, you really must let me go now."

Newt grumbled and opened the door, leaning on it as Hermann stepped through.

"I'll see you Saturday," Hermann said, leaning in to kiss Newt goodbye.

"Friday night," Newt countered.

"Saturday. Two o'clock." Hermann kissed him once more, firmly, and made his way down the street.

"Who's the prick-tease now, huh?" Newt called after him, but Hermann only waved over his shoulder and didn't look back.

Newt closed the door and leaned back against it, looking down at his crotch with a frown. "Asshole," he muttered, closing his eyes and thinking of every awful thing possible until he was able to take a step without discomfort. He raised his hand to his neck and ran his fingers over the hickey, the heat radiating from it making him tingle. He shook his head and laughed quietly, feeling a spring in his step in spite of the prospect of three days without seeing Hermann.

Going back to the cafe, he walked behind the counter, keeping his head down to avoid Chuck's eyes.

"You didn't leave with a hickey," Chuck said with a smirk.

"No, I did not," Newt said, trying to keep the goofy smile off his face and failing miserably.

"Welcome to puberty, son," Chuck said, placing a hand on Newt's shoulder.

"Fuck off, Chuck," Newt said, shaking him off and walking past, head down to hide his smile.

"You're just growing up so fast!" Chuck called after him, but all he received in return was a single fingered salute and the knowledge that he'd made Newt blush.

Chapter Text

June
Saturday 2:00pm

Hermann entered Kaiju Blue amidst the chatter and buzz of lazy Saturday afternoon conversation and walked to the counter.

"Thank fuck you're here, Doc," Chuck said, looking slightly ragged. "Hey, Raleigh, take over for a minute," Chuck threw the cloth he was holding at Raleigh, standing at the register taking orders, and gestured for Hermann to follow him towards Newt's door. "Take him. Take him and do whatever it is that you do. I don't care what, just, for the love of all that is pure and true, get him to sleep."

"I'm sorry?" Hermann asked, perplexed.

"It started late Wednesday afternoon," Chuck said, pulling his keys out of his pocket. "So, look, I know you know. He's not the kind of guy who's gonna let you be blindsided by something like this and you seem like a fairly solid guy." Chuck paused and narrowed his eyes at Hermann. "You better be solid - don't think that I won't fuck you up if you jerk him around."

"I have no intention of jerking anything of Newton's," Hermann said defensively.

Chuck raised an eyebrow.

"...Carry on."

"So, anyway, I thought he was just being all moony over you - seriously, mate, he's like a teenage girl when you're not around - but then came the twitching and the run on sentences that never end. I'm almost positive he hasn't slept a wink in days; he's baked so much we had to give things away two-for-one just to make space." Chuck ran a hand through his hair, breathing out heavily and gave Hermann an apologetic look. "I feel a bit like I'm throwing you into the lion's den, here."

"I understand," Hermann said, a feeling of apprehension settling in his chest like a dead weight.

"I really don't think you do, mate." Chuck unlocked the door and paused. “The chemist dropped something off earlier; they don’t usually do that on a Saturday unless, uh, his head doctor’s changed something. I’m not going to be able to get away for a while, so, uh, see if he’s taken it, yeah?”

Hermann nodded tensely as Chuck opened the door for him, the sound of loud, fast, punk rock music spilling down the stairs. "Godspeed." He said, clapping Hermann on the shoulder and closing the door behind him.

Hermann stood in the dark looking up towards the light and sound, steeling himself for the ascent and what he'd find when he got there. Taking a deep breath, he began to climb.

The living area was empty when he reached the top; no sign of Newt anywhere. He picked his way carefully through the things on the floor to the record player and flipped the switch, sighing in relief as the 'music' stopped playing.

"Newton?" He called, looking around now that he could think; baking trays and dishes were piled high in the sink, the island covered in flour and utensils. He could hear clattering and the low, constant burble of Newt talking somewhere in the apartment. He made his way down the hall, following the rise and fall of Newt's voice, and stopped outside the door to the study, quietly rapping on it with his knuckles.

"Hang on, there's someone here," He heard Newt say as he pushed the door open. "Hermann! You're back!"

"It's Saturday, Newton," Hermann said gently, taking in the crazed spike of Newt's hair, the smudges of flour and chocolate over his face, and the dirty marks on his untucked shirt.

"Oh, shit, really? So you're here for our date? Let me just wash my face and we can head out. Man, it's been a long time since I've been to a park. Oh, hey, I want to introduce you to someone, come over here," Newt turned around and pulled Hermann toward the computer. "Mom, mom, mom, hey, mom. This is the guy I was telling you about. My pen pal from when I was a kid? You were probably on tour. Anyway. Mom, this is Hermann. Hermann, this is mom. Hermann's a math professor at the university and he came into the shop and he thought I was dead but I'm not so now I'm keeping him. He's working on, like, wormholes and is super, super smart and did I tell you he did stuff for the large hadron collider? We're going to the park today and- remember that time you took me to the park and I fell into the pond because I was trying to catch a tadpole and then you took me to Oma's and I ran up and down the stairs naked for hours while you waited for my clothes to dry? I should probably change if I'm going to the park, hey, Herm?"

"A shower might be in order," Hermann said, smoothing Newt's hair down with a single hand.

"Oh, yeah, sure. I guess I'm a little dirty, huh? Okay, I'm gonna go do that." Newt bounced out of the chair and gave Hermann a quick kiss. "It doesn't feel like you were gone that long, but I still missed you. Weird, huh?" Newt started unbuttoning his shirt and walked out of the room, dropping it in the hall as he went.

Hermann watched him go with a worried frown and sighed. He looked at the computer and realised the video feed was still live.

"Er, I'm terribly sorry, Mrs. Geiszler. Newton appears to have forgotten about your call," Hermann said, leaning his cane against the desk and lowering himself to the chair so he was in frame.

"Schwartz," she corrected, looking tired as she took a sip from a coffee cup. "Monica Schwartz."

"My apologies, Ms. Schwartz," Hermann corrected awkwardly. "Uh, Newton appears to be a touch high-strung at the moment. Did you wish to wait for him to return, or shall I have him call you back?"

"I know my Newt. You, I do not. Your name is Hermann, yes?" She raised an eyebrow at him.

"Uh, yes. Doctor Hermann Gottlieb. It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance," Hermann stated, trying not to shrink in on himself as Newt's mother stared him down.

"Gottlieb, hmm? You are German?"

"Yes, we lived in Berlin until my father took an appointment at Durham University in England when I was four. I'm afraid my knowledge of the language has... slipped significantly in the interim," Hermann said with a twist of his lips.

"You were... 'pen pals' with my son?" She asked, shrewdly changing the subject.

"We corresponded for five years."

"Hrm... You work at the university?"

"Ah, yes. I'm a tenured professor in the Faculty of Mathematics," Hermann shifted uncomfortably, well aware of the fact that Newt's mother was giving him the third degree but quite unable to do anything about it.

"Do you like your work?"

"Indeed, very much. The wonders of the universe are writ in the language of numbers; we just have to be tenacious enough to ask the right questions. My work is purely theoretical, of course, but if I can untangle even a minute section, we are one step closer to unlocking all the mysteries we face as a species. Reconnecting with Newton has been most fortunate. His insight on my most recent work has been invaluable; I cannot say how long it would have taken me to decipher for myself without his help. His mind is truly extraordinary." Hermann looked away from the computer, a small smile on his face. Remembering where he was, he coughed and cleared his throat, looking down in embarrassment.

Newt's mom stared at him with narrowed eyes from the screen, the silence making Hermann's skin crawl even as he heard the shower turn on in the next room. After what felt like an eternity, she seemed to reach a conclusion, closed her eyes and nodded once.

"I will be truthful with you, Dr. Gottlieb," Monica said, setting aside the cup and clasping her hands in front of her as she looked straight down the barrel of the camera. "My Newt is a great many things; brilliant, vibrant, temperamental, loyal. But the one thing he will never be is easy. I do not wish to see my son get hurt-"

"I assure you, madam, I have neither the intention nor desire to do so," Hermann said, affronted.

"You may say such things, but your relationship is young. You do not understand what being with Newt will mean for you in time." She looked at Hermann sadly, taking a tremulous breath. "You cannot know the pain a mother feels knowing the difficulties her child faces, or the terrible things she must do to protect him. I must tell you this now - he attaches very quickly. If you are not serious, you must leave him before the damage is irreparable. You hold his heart in your hands, and it is a very fragile thing."

Hermann took a deep breath, straightening and gripping the head of his cane tightly. "We have known each other for twenty years. While we have not been in contact as of late, our correspondence gave us insight into each other's minds that I do not believe would have been present in a more direct friendship." He sighed and met her eyes. "Furthermore, your son has inspired a great deal of loyalty of his own here. He is well protected and well supported. I do not believe that there is one person amongst his group of friends who would not flay me alive if any harm came to him through my actions," Hermann stated, feeling a twinge at the knowledge that there was nobody who would do the same for him.

"The physicality of the act not withstanding, I- I would count myself among those people. I will take care with his heart, Ms. Schwartz." Hermann swallowed, he had yet to admit the depth of his affection on anything other than long lost paper, but he couldn't deny it; not in the face of a worried mother. "I will take care, because he- ... he holds my heart, also."

"I hope you are as good a man as my Newt seems to think."

"I don't know that anyone could live up to that expectation, but I will certainly try."

"So, Hermann, I was having some thoughts about- Oh, hey, are you still talking to my mom? I mean, it's great that you're getting along and everything but we've kinda got a date right now," Newt said as he entered the room speaking a mile a minute wearing only a towel. "Sorry, mom. Gotta go. Love you." Newt shut down the call with an exaggerated kiss noise and turned to Hermann. "Hey, what are you waiting for? We're going to the park. Come on, let's go."

"Newton," Hermann said as he stood, placing his hands on Newt's shoulders, feeling the energy thrumming under his skin. "I'm afraid we're not going to the park."

"What? No. No fair. You don't get to just go away for three days and then come back and cancel. I've been looking forward to this, man. We were going to go to the park and walk around and talk and stuff and it was going to be really cool but now you're all stuffy and British and-"

"I'm not cancelling," Hermann said, sliding his hands up to cup Newt's jaw, looking at his sallow skin and the deep, heavy bags under bright eyes. "We'll go another day. Right now, what you need most is sleep."

"Who could sleep now? I'm, like, wide awake. I feel like I could keep going for days, man. Like, seriously, I could get so much stuff done right now it isn't even funny. You working on anything? 'Cause I could probably blast through some higher math like butter."

"Hush, Newton. Chuck said you had a delivery earlier – was it something important?” Hermann asked gently, cupping Newt’s cheek to keep him focused.

“What? Oh, yeah, those. Just something my head shrinker thinks I need. I’m cool, though.” Newt leaned into Hermann’s touch, nuzzling his hand.

“You haven’t taken any?” Hermann slid his fingers into Newt’s hair, massaging his scalp to try and relax him a little.

“Nah, I don’t need them,” Newt said, resting his hands on Hermann’s chest, fingers tapping out the melody of the song stuck in his head on Hermann’s shoulders.

“Are you sure? They might make you feel… less agitated.”

“What? I’m not agitated. I might have a bone the size of Texas under this towel that could use a little agitation though.” Newt leered at Hermann and pushed his hips forward into Hermann’s, rubbing up against him.

“If you take your medication, I will ‘agitate’ whichever parts of you that so desire it,” Hermann said, leaning forward to kiss Newt softly, feeling guilty at the manipulation.

Newt surged forward, deepening the kiss and wrapping his arms around Hermann, nearly throwing him off balance. "Fine, fuck, fine. I’ll take the goddamn things just- fuck, Hermann, I've missed you. Even though it doesn't feel like you've been gone that long. I'm just so fucking horny lately; I could probably pound through concrete right now, no joke. Whenever you're around I just want to touch you, fuck, everywhere. It's like your skin is a drug and I just have to touch you and I get the biggest high of my life. Kissing you is like firing myself into the sun. I want to touch you. I need you to touch me. Are we going to do it here? Can we do it here?"

"Shhh," Hermann said soothingly, rubbing his hands up and down Newt's bare back. "I want you to take your medication, go into the bedroom, take off the covers and lie down and prepare yourself for me. Can you do that?"

"Fuck, yes. God, I can do that. I can do that, just let me-" Newt squeezed Hermann tightly, lifting him off the ground as he dove in for a hot, sloppy kiss.

"Medication, Newton." Hermann reminded him breathlessly as Newt put him down, pulling away so he could regain his balance and composure.

"On it." Newt turned to the table and picked up a paper bag from the table and ripped it open until a bottle of pills fell on the table. He picked them up and waved them at Hermann obnoxiously before holding it up so he could read the label while pulling a face. Spending a moment fighting with the childproof cap, he opened the bottle and shook one out into his hand, making a show of placing it on his tongue and swallowing it dry. He opened his mouth wide, lifting up his tongue and pulling open his cheeks to show it was empty. “Happy now?”

“In a manner of speaking,” Hermann said, mouth pinched at one side as he looked at Newt. He stepped forward and pressed his lips to Newt’s forehead, rubbing his shoulder reassuringly – though, whose reassurance he could not say. “Do you want to go to the bedroom?”

“Fuck, yes.” Newt bounced on his toes and leaned up to kiss Hermann again, hands scrubbing up into his hair and messing it up at the back.

“Bedroom, Newton,” Hermann said into Newt’s mouth, trying to pull away from his eager lips and hands.

“Right. Yes. Yes, right. Bedroom. Gonna fuck. Let’s do this.” Newt said, turning and jogging into the hall, his towel falling off in a pile in the door as he left still talking a mile a minute.

Hermann closed his eyes and leaned against the desk, taking deep calming breaths to prepare himself for sex with a manic Newt. Taking hold of his cane, he walked to the doorway, using it to flick the towel up into his hand as he continued down the hall. Entering Newt's bedroom, he had to catch his breath.

Newt lay in the middle of the bed, leg's spread, hard cock resting across his stomach, and three fingers in his ass, moaning and twitching as he clutched the sheet. Hermann clutched the doorframe, watching as Newt lifted himself to get a better angle, breath coming in short sharp pants as Newt opened his eyes and saw Hermann.

"Please, man, please. It's not enough. You have to- Fuck, hnnn, you have to- I need you. I need you h-here, now," Newt pleaded, fingers moving at a frantic pace.

"I'll be with you momentarily, Newton," Hermann said, forcing himself to move into the room to undress. "Don't stop."

Hermann took his time removing his clothes, wanting Newt to be as aroused and responsive as possible before he joined him; Newt's body might be on the far side of exhaustion, but Hermann had his suspicions that convincing his brain would not be an easy task. He took his blazer off and lay it over the arm of the chair, following it with his shirt after he'd released a few buttons. He sat to remove his shoes and socks, tucking them away neatly under the chair before standing to deal with his trousers.

"Take your fucking time, sweet jesus fuck. Should just take care of myself and come every where and leave you hard and desperate. Call you Hard Up Hermann," Newt giggled a little shrilly, letting go of the sheet to take himself in hand.

"Leave it, Newton," Hermann said sternly, placing his trousers over the other arm rest, picking up the towel, and making his way to the bed. Newt whined high in his throat, but let go, cursing Hermann's name, lineage and a variety of family pets as he did so.

Hermann sat, placed the towel near the pillow, and opened the drawer of the bedside table, pulling out a condom and raising an eyebrow at the clear optimism Newt had for their continued sexual relationship evident in the drawer. With a shake of his head, he pulled himself towards the middle of the bed and lay down beside Newt.

"You can stop now. I'm almost ready," He reassured Newt as he tore open the condom packet and slipped it down his cock.

"Oh thank god. I thought I was going to be doing that forever, which, I mean, it's okay for a while but any longer and my hand was going to cramp up," Newt said, flopping onto his side and wrapping an arm around Hermann, speaking into his neck as he alternated between talking and kissing and occasionally both. "How do you want me? I can do any way. Well, any way within reason. I mean I probably can't do anything super acrobatic or that, y'know, needs me to be ridiculously flexible, but whatever you want, man, I'll try it. I could do Around The World if you wanted to. Nobody's ever let me try that before. Would you be okay with that? I mean with your hip and everything I know there's some positions we probably can't do and I really don't want you to get hurt or anything so if you can't do it just let me-"

"Newton. Newt, look at me." Hermann raised Newt's so they were eye to eye and kissed him to stop the flow of chatter. "I want you to ride me."

"Oh fuck yes," Newt said scrambling to straddle Hermann and leaning down to lay hot, wet, sloppy kisses in the general vicinity of Hermann's mouth as he reached behind to line Hermann's cock up and slide back. "Fuck, yes, hot damn, that- that's what I've been waiting for. Mmm, oh yeah, I'm gonna ride the c-cocktrain to comesville and we're both gonna- gonna get off at the platform." Newt braced his hands on Hermann's chest as his hips rolled around and around, pulling and pushing Hermann's cock into and out of his body.

Hermann ran his hands over Newt's flushed skin, up his chest and over his shoulders, hoping to add to the feelings coursing through Newt's body and drive him higher even as he ignored the part of him that just wanted to lose himself in his own pleasure. He tried to focus; this was about getting Newt to a place where his mind would quiet and let his body rest.

"Feels like s-so long since we did this. It shouldn't, s-since we only did it, mmm - oh yeah, y-yeah, just like that - once, but, fuck, I missed you. Don't want you to ever stop fucking me. I can't get enough of your dick - I want it in me, on me, fuck, every- everywhere. I want to wake up and suck you off every morning. I want you to f-fuck me every night. I want you to fucking jerk your gorgeous cock and come all over me. Mark me- Shit, the hickey. The hickey's fading, Herm, I saw it in the shower, it's barely there. You gotta give it back to me, Herm. Please, I need- I need it back."

"Whatever you wish, Newton," Hermann breathed, bracing a hand on Newt's neck to make him lean forward enough that he could stretch up and lave his tongue over the mottled yellow and purple patch. Reaching between them with his spare hand, he took hold of Newt and began to pump in counterpoint to Newt's continuous roll as he latched onto a clear piece of skin near Newt's clavicle and began to suck.

Newt's breath left him in a rush, hips stuttering at the dual sensations of being fucked and sucked. "Yesyesyes, that's it. That's it. I'm close, so, so close. I can feel it like stars under my skin exploding and colliding and oh god oh god oh god it's here. Hermann, I'm coming, I'm c-" Newt cut himself off with a moan as he spurted over Hermann's chest and stomach, muscles clenching tightly around Hermann's cock as he stiffened. Shooting twice more, Newt's arms gave way as he went lax, sliding down to lay across Hermann, face pressed into his neck.

Hermann ran his hands over Newt's back as aftershocks coursed through Newt's body, soothing him with a low, constant murmur. He could already feel the pent-up energy dissipating, the constant movement and twitching fading in the afterglow.

"You can keep fucking me," Newt slurred through a yawn. "I don't mind... Might even... be up for round two... soon."

"It's okay, Newton. Sleep." Hermann said, gently raising Newt's head so he could slip his glasses off and set them on the bedside table. He ran his hand lightly across Newt's back and reached down to pull his still hard penis from Newt's body.

"Stay," Newt mumbled. "Stay in me... 'til I'm 'sleep. Don't want you to go." His arms tightened imperceptibly around Hermann who stilled, not wanting to rouse Newt now that he was finally heading towards rest.

"Shh, don't worry. I'll stay. Rest now, Newton," Hermann said as he pressed a kiss to Newt's damp hair and wrapped his arms around Newt as he drifted away.

A light snore rose from the vicinity of Hermann's ear, and Hermann breathed a sigh of relief. Reaching down, he carefully pulled his penis out and started the slow process of sliding Newt to the side so he could get up. He reached for the towel and gently wiped off the part of Newt's chest that he could reach and inched his way out, leaving Newt sprawled on his stomach, dead to the world.

Stripping off the condom, he headed for the bathroom and dumped it in the bin by the toilet before stepping into the shower. As he turned on the water, he looked at his dick; still jutting up, hard and proud and showing no signs of waning.

He sighed and leaned against the wall as the water washed over him, taking himself in hand for a quick, utilitarian wank; short, sharp strokes until he ejaculated over the tiles to the memory of Newt writhing above him. He allowed himself a moment to breathe before scrubbing himself off and stepping out to dry. Wrapping a towel around his waist, he took a washcloth and dampened it before heading back to the bedroom and sitting on the bed to gently clean Newt off.

There wasn't much he could do about Newt's chest and stomach, pressed as they were into the sheets, but he did the rest as best he could in slow methodical strokes so as not to risk waking him. It didn't seem to make a difference; Newt remained lax, silent and prone, through Hermann's ministrations. He sighed and pulled the sheet up over Newt, leaning down to press a soft kiss to his temple before standing and getting dressed.

Entering the main area, he surveyed the mess and sighed; there wasn't much he could do about the detritus on the floor except move it aside to clear a path, but he could make a start on the dishes.

He looked at his watch - four pm. With any luck, Newt would sleep for hours, if not through the night. He looked out the window at the sun still high in the sky and made a decision. Walking to the top of the stairs, he stopped, hesitating as he looked down. He closed his eyes and huffed before turning to the table at the top of the stairs and rooting through the bowl for Newt's keys. Grasping them tightly in his hand, he headed down the stairs into the cafe.

"Hey, Doc. Everything ok?" Chuck asked as Hermann walked to the end of the counter.

"For the time being, at any rate. He's asleep; we can only hope he remains so," Hermann said and found himself being pulled into a rough hug.

"You are a miracle worker, Doc," Chuck said, planting a kiss on the side of his head as he stepped back. "A real fucking miracle worker. Me and Mako have been trying since yesterday."

"Yes, well," Hermann said, somewhat embarrassed at the contact. "Uh, I must return home for a while, but I would... prefer it if Newt did not wake up alone. I feel honour-bound to inform you that I have borrowed Newton's keys in case I come back after you've closed."

"Uh, thanks?" Chuck said pulling a face at Hermann.

"I, uh, felt it best I let someone know," Hermann said awkwardly. "Also, I am unsure as to which keys I will need..." Hermann said, holding the key ring out in the palm of his hand.

"Okay, so, the three closest to the end open the doors in order - back door, centre door, Newt's apartment. You planning on being long? We'll be open until around six or so, depending on how business is."

"I plan to return forthwith." Hermann nodded at Chuck and left, making his way down the street to his apartment two blocks away.

Entering the lobby, he took the elevator to the second floor and disembarked, letting himself into his apartment. He didn't bother looking around or checking his ansaphone as he made his way to the bedroom - his apartment was utilitarian, some might call it spartan, and he received so few calls he often wondered why he kept up the phone at all.

Out of the closet, he pulled out a small backpack, ignoring the part of his brain that was telling him he was being too forward, and placed in it a change of clothes, his pyjamas, and toothbrush. Re-entering the main room, he sorted through the papers on his desk and chose the most relevant ones, sliding them into his notebook and put them in the bag with a pen, two pencils, a pencil sharpener and eraser.

He sighed and looked around the room with its blank walls and its hermetic severity, the only spot of colour the dull yellow envelopes scattered across the coffee table beside a dusty filing box. Picking up the bag, he slung it over his shoulder and turned to run a finger down the frame of the portrait of his mother for luck, and exited.

He made his way back to Kaiju Blue quickly and entered through the front door.

"Made it back no sweat," Chuck said as Hermann made his way to Newt's apartment.

"I thought it prudent to-"

"Don't worry about it," Chuck dismissed him with a wave of his hand and stepped in close, dropping his tone. " Hey, listen, when Newt wakes up, tell him I've got everything covered, alright? Mako and Raleigh are picking up shifts when they can, I can probably scrounge a few students looking to pick up some work, and if worse comes to worst Dad'll help out. I've put in an order at the bakery down the road for tomorrow, and for the next few days just in case. Newt's got all the time he needs."

"I'll be sure to pass it on," Hermann replied with a nod, moving to step past Chuck.

"Look, I just wanted to say," Chuck said, putting a hand on Hermann's shoulder and giving it a squeeze. "I'm glad he's got you. You're good for him, y'know. I'm still gonna hurt you if you dick him around, but I don't think you are."

"I- Thank you?"

"You're welcome," Chuck said with a cheeky grin and headed back to work, leaving a perplexed Hermann in his wake.

Hermann shook his head and continued on, upstairs and into the apartment.

He put the bag down and set to work, making his way to the kitchen and washing the stack of bakeware piled up before wiping down the counters. He shunted the piles of mixed media into a stack in front of the television carefully with the head of his cane and considered himself done. He looked outside at the setting sun and picked up his bag to do some work at the dining table as he listened to the distant sounds of Chuck closing up the store.

At nine he gave in and rummaged through Newt's fridge until he found enough food to make a sandwich, quashing the part of himself accusing him of overstepping.

At ten, he changed into his pyjamas and eyed the couch, working out how best to sleep on it without causing his hip too much trouble. He eventually came to the conclusion that the answer was 'no way' and sat at the table to work until he was too exhausted to care.

At eleven-fifteen, he heard a thump from the bedroom and raised his head to listen to Newt trudging down the hallway and into the bathroom. He looked away as the sound of urine hitting water echoed through the apartment, as though the very act of turning his head would somehow give Newt more privacy.

The toilet flushed and Hermann heard water running in the basin, splashes sounding before it shut off and Newt appeared at the end of the hall, still naked. Droplets of water sparkled on his chest where he'd made a half-hearted attempt to wash himself off.

"Hermann?" He asked sleepily, rubbing his eyes and blinking into the light blearily.

"Ah... yes?" Hermann said, suddenly feeling very silly that he'd intruded and made himself at home. "I'm sorry... I, ah, felt it best that there was, uh, someone here for you. I was going to sleep on the couch so as not to disturb you."

"No," Newt said petulantly, padding around the table to take Hermann's hand and tug at it until he stood up, fumbling for his cane. "You don't sleep on the couch. Come to bed." He pulled Hermann along and down the hall, swiping at the light switch on his way past, and into the bedroom.

Crawling onto the bed, Newt patted the mattress until Hermann lay down, then snuggled into him, head resting on Hermann's chest.

"You're wearing old man jammies," Newt said through a yawn, sliding the tips of his fingers between the folds until he touched skin. "Sexy."

"Go to sleep, Newton," Hermann said, kissing Newt's hair, eternally grateful that the darkness hid his blush.

Chapter Text

June
Sunday 5:00am

Newt woke to dawn creeping over the horizon and the sound of Hermann's breath, slow and even, beside him. He turned his head to look and smiled at the sight of Hermann, laying on his side with his back towards Newt clad in blue-striped, cotton pyjamas that rucked up at the waist to show a sliver of skin.

Scooting over, he wrapped his arm around Hermann's middle, hips snugging up against his backside, morning wood resting in the cleft. He nosed down the collar and pressed kisses to the back of Hermann's neck as he roused, sliding a hand under Hermann's pyjama shirt to splay across his chest.

"Good morning," Hermann said sleepily, arching into Newt's touch.

"Good morning, yourself." Newt pressed a soft kiss behind Hermann's ear.

"How do you feel?" Hermann asked quietly.

"Horny." Newt rolled his hips against Hermann's ass so he could feel him.

"I could tell," Hermann said as he pushed back. "I meant how did you sleep?"

"Like the dead. But the dead have risen..." He rolled his hips again for emphasis. "If you know what I'm saying." He grazed his teeth lightly across Hermann's neck, revelling in the shudder that ran through his body. "I seem to remember you telling me you get frisky in the morning."

"There may be some truth to that supposition." Hermann took Newt by the wrist, pulling his hand out from his shirt and moving it down to press against his cock over the material.

"Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking' about," Newt breathed as he wrapped his hand around Hermann's dick and stroked it teasingly. "I want to fuck you," he breathed in Hermann's ear, giving him a squeeze.

Hermann moaned but didn't respond, leaning forward to grasp the bottle of lube from the side table and pass it back to Newt before stretching further to open the drawer to grab a condom and throw it over his shoulder.

"Get your pants off," Newt said, hooking his fingers into Hermann's pyjama bottoms and trying to push them down. Hermann swatted his hands away and undid the front button, raising himself to shove them past his hips and inch them down his thighs and calves with his good leg.

"Pass me a pillow," Hermann said, holding an arm out until Newt managed to tear himself away long enough to comply. Folding it in half, he placed it in front of him and rested his bent knee on it to support his hip. "Anytime now, Newton," Hermann could feel Newt's eyes on him but was unable to twist far enough to see anything.

Newt pressed himself against Hermann's back, tilting Hermann's head up as he stretched forward to kiss him. "Not gonna take off your shirt?" Newt asked, rocking slowly against him as he ran his hand over Hermann's stomach.

Hermann grumbled as he undid the top buttons of his night shirt and struggled to pull it off with Newt's help before tossing it on the floor. "Better?" Hermann groused.

"Much," Newt said, trailing his mouth down the knotty line of Hermann's spine as his hand trailed across Hermann's hip and ass and along the cleft. Picking up the lube, he squirted some on his fingers and rubbed them together to warm it up before sliding them into the crevice, eliciting a breathy moan from Hermann as he slowly teased his opening, dipping in and out as the muscles loosened and he slipped a finger in. Newt kissed and licked the small of Hermann's back as he worked him open, lips dragging up his hip and down again, teeth nipping lightly at the curve of his ass he worked a second finger in.

Hermann rocked back onto his fingers, whimpering at the stretch and burn. He reached back to card his fingers through Newt's hair and inhaled sharply as Newt nuzzled his hand and kissed his wrist.

"Now's good, Newton," Hermann said breathlessly. "Now's very good."

Newt withdrew his fingers and reached to find the condom, tearing it open and slipping it on quickly. Straightening, he kissed the juncture of Hermann's shoulder and neck and lined himself up, sliding in almost slower than he could bear. Wrapping an arm around Hermann's middle, he began to rock as he toyed with Hermann's nipple. He pressed his forehead between Hermann's shoulder blades and listened to his breathing, the gasps and quiet moans, Newt's name whispered in reverence.

Hermann couldn't say how long they stayed like that, moving slow and lazy against each other, the sounds quiet in the room. He felt the peak approaching like a distant point on the horizon, unhurried and far away but always in sight. He grasped Newt's hand, dragging it away from his chest and down to wrap around his cock once more, fingers filling the gaps between Newt's as they stroked together in a languid counterpoint.

Hermann felt electricity dancing over his skin, radiating out from every point Newt touched; his nose and lips between his shoulder blades, his hips against his arse with every leisurely thrust, his forearm pressing against his stomach and down to the apex of his thighs. The pressure was building low in his abdomen as their hands gripped and pulled him in unison, Newt's thumb swiping over the head on every downward thrust.

"It's coming. I can feel it, Newton," Hermann breathed, canting his hips back into Newt's pelvis as he worked his cock infinitesimally faster. He felt pinpricks of sensation flit across his skin, fluttering up his spine and flickering across his cheeks and eyelids as he gasped reverentially at the pleasure washing over him in a wave and he came over their joined hands.

Newt continued to stroke him even as Hermann's hand lost its traction and grip. His hips continued to roll, pace picking up a fraction as Hermann fluttered around him, squeezing until he followed with a gasp, arm tightening around Hermann's middle as his hips stuttered slowly to a halt.

They lay there silently breathing in synch as they rode through the aftershocks; Hermann's body shifting and twitching against Newt's in small flurries of sensation. Newt let his hand drift up and down Hermann's side as he softened and slipped out.

"We should do that every morning," Newt said, kissing the hard, jutting knob at the top of Hermann's spine and shifting back so Hermann could sprawl beside him.

"I think we'd combust," Hermann said, eyes closed with an utterly serene smile playing at the edges of his mouth.

"What a way to go, though." Newt grinned, leaning down to kiss Hermann slowly.

Making out lazily, the sun rose higher, shafting light over their glistening bodies as they lost themselves in the comfort of waking up beside another human being.

Newt pulled away and yawned, looking over at the bedside clock - eight-fifteen - and groaning.

"Ugh, I have to get up," Newt said looking very put out by the prospect.

"Oh, yes, right," Hermann said, blinking and shaking his head a little to clear away the pleasant fog that had settled over his brain. "Yesterday, Chuck asked me to let you know that you have all the time you need; he has people to help him with the shifts, and there's an order in at the bakery down the street for the next few days."

"Right," Newt said, slumping back down to the bed as he worried his lip between his teeth. "I guess that means I'm taking the day off..."

"I can't say that I mind very much," Hermann said as he inched over to rest his head on Newt's chest, hand sprawling across his stomach.

"Didn't think you would," Newt wrapped an arm around Hermann and rested his lips against his head. "Did you want to go to the park? I know I kind of messed everything up yesterday..." He asked quietly into Hermann's hair.

"You didn't mess anything up, Newton." Hermann pressed a kiss to the nearest piece of skin available. "Are you feeling up to it?"

"Yeah. It's, uh, easier if there's someone else with me. Distracting. If I'm by myself I have to put my headphones on and walk to the beat and I can't really stop anywhere unless I have a reason to be there." Newt shrugged the shoulder Hermann wasn't resting on. "I like being outside, though. And I want to go. With you."

"Did you want to go now?" Hermann asked, raising his head to look Newt in the eye.

"Maybe a little later. Right now, I'd kind of just like to... lie here and touch you for a while. Make up for lost time," Newt said as he pressed a chaste kiss to the side of Hermann's mouth.

"I am on board with this plan." Hermann smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling as he lay his head back down.

Silence returned to the room as Newt trailed his fingers up and down Hermann's arm, staring out the window pensively as the sun rose higher in the sky and Hermann dozed on his chest.

At nine-thirty, Hermann roused and stretched. "We should shower."

"I should probably wash these sheets, too," Newt said and shifted out of the bed.

"Would you, uh, care to join me?" Hermann asked, looking up at Newt as he lay sprawled across the mattress.

"Start without me, 'kay? I'll deal with the washing and be right there." Newt leaned down to kiss Hermann as he grabbed a pillow to pull its case off.

"I suppose that's a sufficient compromise," Hermann said with a heavy sigh as he manoeuvred himself out of the bed and reached for his cane.

"I'm sure you'll live." Newt shook his head with a small smile as he worked another pillow out of its case.

"I make no promises," Hermann said as he made his way to the door. "I may wither and die without your radiant glow to sustain me."

"Poetic." Newt raised an eyebrow.

"I have my moments," Hermann said with sly smile. "I shall await your arrival with bated breath."

Newt watched Hermann walk into the hall with a distinct spring in his step and turned back to strip the sheets and shove them in a laundry bag. He heard the shower turn on as he walked down the hall and dropped the bag down the stairwell. He returned to find Hermann standing under the stream, head tilted back as water ran over his face. He opened the door and stepped in, wrapping his arms around Hermann's middle and resting his cheek against his back.

Hermann crossed his arms over Newt's, threading their fingers together as he leaned back into Newt's embrace. "I could get used to this."

"Mmm, I want to get used to this," Newt said rubbing his cheek against Hermann's back .

"Ah," Hermann gasped, twisting away from Newt until he was facing him. "You need to shave." Hermann said, leaning down to kiss Newt anyway as he slid his arms around him to pull him closer. He pulled back to look Newt in the eye when Newt barely responded. "Are you feeling alright?"

"Sorry," Newt said with a slow shake of his head. "Guess I'm still a little tired."

"Do you want to go back to bed?" Hermann asked brushing Newt's damp hair off his forehead.

"No, it's okay. I want to shower and then go to the park and then come back and curl up on the couch and watch movies with you." Newt leaned forward and nuzzled into Hermann's neck, running his hands slowly up and down Hermann's back.

"We can do that." Hermann pressed a light kiss to Newt's head and reached for the soap, rubbing it over Newt's back until he had a decent lather. He swept his hands across the planes of Newt's back down to his arse and up to his shoulders, massaging lightly at the tendons and muscles. He worked his way down Newt's arms before leaning back to slide his hands between them and work on his chest and stomach.

"You're, uh, going to have to do it yourself if you want lower," Hermann said, hands settling on Newt's waist. "Though, I could be persuaded to..." Hermann brushed the back of his fingers softly over Newt's flaccid penis and raised an eyebrow.

"Sorry, I, um, I think you've worn me out," Newt said with an apologetic half-smile. "Let me get you." He took the soap from Hermann and trailed it over his chest and sides, following with his other hand to build up a lather even as it washed away. He started to kneel, hands running down the side of Hermann's thighs and paused, looking up questioningly.

"I thought you said I'd worn you out," Hermann said, confused.

"I just want to wash you." Newt shrugged, looking away.

Hermann stiffened slightly, hands clenching on Newt's shoulders.

"Please?" Newt asked with a sigh, hands resting just below Hermann's hips.

Hermann closed his eyes, taking a deep breath, and nodded tensely.

Newt knelt and ran the soap and his hands over Hermann's right thigh and calf, down past his ankle and over the foot before turning to the other leg. He applied the same ministrations to the left, with perhaps a slightly lighter touch; it was slightly smaller from constantly being favoured and the flesh softer in spite of Hermann's tension. Thin, silver surgical scars ran across the outside of his hip, long since faded, but no less visible. Reaching the foot, he ran his hand under the heel and followed with his other hand to wash the soap away. Leaning forward, he pressed a kiss to Hermann's hip and rested his head against his stomach, breathing slowly as he listened to the sound of water falling around them.

One of Hermann's hands detached from the grip he had on Newt's shoulders and came to rest on the back of Newt's head, fingers stroking softly over the wet mass of hair. "Thank you, Newton," He said softly, barely audible over the spray.

Slowly, Newt stood giving Hermann a half smile. "Turn around, I'll get your back. I've got you."

Hermann put a hand on the wall for stability and turned, letting Newt wash his back and massage his shoulders, drawing the tension out slowly.

Newt put the soap down and they ended as they began, Newt's arms wrapped around Hermann's middle and his cheek pressed between his shoulder blades.

"We should get out," Hermann said quietly. "I'm getting pruney."

Newt pulled away and stepped out first, wrapping a towel around his waist and drying off his glasses as he waited for Hermann to follow. He picked up Hermann's towel and held it open for Hermann to step into.

"I don't expect you to get over all your issues at once," Newt said, running his hands over Hermann's towel clad shoulders to dry him off. "I just... I'm not- I won't- I- ... Forget it. I'm sorry. Don't worry."

"It's- It's not..." Hermann said, wrapping the towel more tightly around himself.

"I know. I'm sorry. I just- I'm sorry, I fuck things up. Let's just get dressed... and go to the park..." Newt turned and trudged down the hall to his bedroom without waiting for an answer.

Hermann sighed and dried off before wrapping the towel around his middle, taking his cane and making his way to the lounge area for his bag. He looked around the open space and hunched in on himself before picking up the backpack and making his way back down the hall.

"Sorry, I... felt a touch uncomfortable changing in your lounge area," Hermann said as he stood in the doorway to the bedroom as Newt rummaged through his wardrobe. "I can, er, wait until you're finished." He heard Newt sigh and the distinct sound of a head thumping against wood in response.

"Hermann," Newt groaned as he pulled out of the wardrobe holding a t-shirt. "You're welcome here, alright? We've seen each other naked. I've been in you. You don't have to ask to get changed in my bedroom." Newt tossed the t-shirt onto the coverless bed and looked at Hermann tiredly.

"I apologise. I- This is your home. Your space. Your- Your... sanctum sanctorum. I do not wish to intrude," Hermann said with a twist of his lips, setting his bag down and turning to pull out his change of clothes.

"You're not intruding, Hermann." Newt said walking closer and placing a hand on Hermann's shoulder lightly. "I want you here. As much as possible. And I- I'm sorry that I fuck everything up so much and don't make you feel welcome. And I just... I'm sorry."

"You have nothing to apologise for, Newton." Hermann lifted Newt's hand from his shoulder and softly kissed his fingers. "I... I am rarely made welcome. Anywhere. It is I who should apologise for rebuffing your hospitality."

"I don't deserve you. I'm sorry," Newt said, resting his forehead against Hermann's back and tightening his fingers around Hermann's.

"What say we stop apologising to each other for perceived slights and go to the park, hm?" Hermann said gently against Newt's fingers.

"I'm sorry. Yeah, I- Yeah. Let's go." Newt dragged himself away and proceeded to dress, pulling on whatever jeans he could find to go with his t-shirt and grabbing two random socks in the same style but differing colours out of the drawer. "I'm gonna go put my shoes on and start the laundry. Meet you downstairs?"

"Yes, Newton. That will be fine." Hermann looked up from buttoning up his shirt to watch Newt leave and hurried to catch up. Shirt buttoned, he leaned against the dresser as he pulled on his trousers one leg at a time and sat to put on his shoes. Doing them up tight, he relaxed into the comfort of his supported heel; no longer feeling like he was tip-toeing around Newt's apartment. He picked up his pyjamas, folding them and putting them in his bag before shrugging on his blazer and walking into the lounge to drop his bag at the top of the stairs and start making his way down.

As he reached the halfway mark, he heard voices just outside the door that became clearer as he reached the door.

"I'm just taking the day off." He heard Newt say.

"Only the one?" That was Chuck.

"I don't know. Maybe? Probably? I'll be fine by tomorrow."

"You know I've got you covered if-"

"I don't want to be covered, man. I just want to work and not be such a fucking drag on you and Mako and Raleigh and everyone."

"You're not a drag, mate. Seriously, whatever you need to get you going good again, you got it."

"I don't like letting you guys down. I'm sorry."

"Don't sweat it. You just focus on getting your noggin' in check, okay? Is the Doc still here?"

"Hermann? Yeah. He should be down soon."

"He knows, right?"

"I guess..."

There was a long pause and Hermann realised he was eavesdropping. He felt awful, but he desperately wanted to know what it was he was supposed to know already.

"Mate..."

"I told him before this all started. He's a logical guy..." Hermann could hear the shrug in Newt's voice.

"Working it out for himself isn't the same and you know it."

"I know. I just... I don't know. I'm sorry. I'm a fuck up. I'm sorry."

"Jeez, Newt. It's alright. Just, let him know, okay? And take care of yourself. I'll stop in to check on you after work. I gotta get back. Enjoy the park."

Hermann heard Chuck walk away and Newt sigh as he opened the door to the back area and then there was nothing but the sounds of distant conversation and cups clinking.

Hermann cracked open the door and stepped into the cafe, wondering if he should go straight out the back, or pretend as though he hadn't just been eavesdropping. Chuck took the choice out of his hands by looking over and calling out Newt's whereabouts. He nodded his thanks and went through the back door.

"Newton?" Hermann called as he stepped through into the darkened room.

"Back here."

Hermann heard the thump of a washing machine close and the clicking of a dial followed by a rush of water.

"You ready to go?" Newt asked as he walked out of the small laundry room, wiping off his hands on his jeans.

"You're sure you're up to this?" Hermann asked, stepping close enough to feel the warmth radiating from Newt's body.

"I'll be fine." Newt stretched up to kiss Hermann on the cheek and took his hand to lead him to the side door. "Let's go." Dropping Hermann's hand, Newt opened the door and held it for Hermann to exit first. Following, he locked it, closed his eyes and took a deep breath as he shoved his keys in his jeans and his hands into the pockets of his hoody. "Okay, I'm good."

They walked down the block in companionable silence, Newt slightly hunched, face set in an expression of contrived calm, belied by his eyes zeroing in on every sudden movement in his visual range, seeming to catalogue them. Hermann watched him carefully out of the corner of his eye, unsure what to expect, but ready to take action should it seem necessary.

Entering the park, they followed a trail around a mid-sized pond, the sounds of children on the playground at the other end echoing across the grass. A couple with a small child fed some ducks, and various picnic blankets lay sprawled hither and thither.

Hermann spied an empty bench under a tree overlooking the pond and directed Newt towards it.

"There was a spot like this near the house where I grew up; a large willow with its branches hanging down to sweep the surface of the pond, the bench all but hidden from view," Hermann said as he sat, waiting for Newt to join him. "I'd go there every time I got one of your letters when I was home for the summer before I was old enough to leave. It felt somewhat clandestine; sneaking away to read and reread your words and your theories. I'd sometimes use a stick in the dirt to begin working out the problems you posed until it got too dark and I had to go back." Hermann inched closer until he was pressed up against Newt's side, reached into Newt's lap and took hold of his hand, threading their fingers together with a squeeze.

Newt stared at Hermann's hand blankly for a moment before looking up at him slowly. "You're okay with this? We're in public," Newt asked, sounding confused.

Hermann looked down, slightly abashed. "These, uh... these people are unknown to either you or I. Their expectation does not weigh so heavily on me."

Newt gave him a half smile and squeezed his hand back sympathetically.

"I used to read yours in my room with my headphones on. Loud. So I couldn't hear my parents fighting whenever mom came to visit when her tours were done. With the music playing, I could pretend it wasn't my fault." Newt rested his head on Hermann's shoulder and stared out over the water. "I was sixteen and working on my second doctorate but the only time I ever felt like anyone wanted to talk to me was when I got your letters."

"I would have sent more if it didn't feel improper," Hermann admitted, looking away so Newt wouldn't see his blush.

"I wish you had." Newt sighed. "Would have made dealing with my parents easier."

"My parents never fought," Hermann said quietly. "Never spoke to each other much at all. My siblings and I learned very early on the value of silence. Our house was like a tomb, most times, echoing with the footsteps of the barely living. Your letters relieved the monotony, dulled the tension. They made me remember that there were reasons to be enamoured of our world. Reasons to go on."

"I know the feeling."

They drifted into silence, staring at the pond and taking comfort in each other's presence.

"There's something I have to tell you," Newt said after a while, tensing slightly.

"Hmm?" Hermann responded, fearing his ability to act like he didn't know there was something coming would not be up to the task.

"You, um, you know the saying 'what goes up, must come down'? Newt asked into Hermann's shoulder.

"You're headed into a downswing?" Hermann brushed his cheek against Newt's hair gently, wishing he had it in him to be more demonstrably supportive.

"Yeah, I- Yeah," Newt sighed. "I've been feeling it since this morning; everything's sort of turning inwards. Dulling around the edges, becoming greyer."

"I suspected as much," Hermann said softly. "I didn't say anything as I thought a perceived confrontation might have been counterproductive."

"Yeah... No... I don't know. Chuck said I should let you know," Newt shrugged, leaning more heavily into Hermann. "It might not even get that bad. I could just be... like this for a while."

"To say that I don't care how you are would seem callous given the circumstances," Hermann said after a slight pause. "And it's dreadfully selfish, but I would have you near me any way I can. I have cared for you for a very long time; this isn't going to change that."

"You say that now, but this isn't going to be the last time it happens. It's going to happen again, and again, and again..." Newt trailed off with a heavy sigh.

"And I will try my best to support you through it." Hermann squeezed Newt's hand.

"You don't know that. You can't know that. You're going to get tired of it all and you're going to leave. Just like everyone else." Newt sat up and turned in on himself. He pulled his hands away from Hermann's and shoved them into his hoody pockets. "I'm sorry. I've fucked this up. I'm such an asshole. We should go." Newt stood and walked off, not waiting for an answer.

"Newton, wait," Hermann called as he hauled himself up and hurried to catch up. He stopped Newt with a hand to his shoulder and turned him until he faced Hermann. "You're absolutely right, I cannot know that I'll be here in a year or ten years or even six months from now, but I do know that I want to be here. With you. Now, and for the foreseeable future, of that much I am certain."

"I'm sorry, Hermann," Newt said with a sad smile. "I want to believe you. You have no idea how much. But I just... can't."

"Maybe - one day - you will," Hermann said, sliding his hand into Newt's hoody pocket and grasping his hand as he nudged him lightly to start the walk back to Newt's apartment. A small part of him unfurled and he thought he might have some small inkling of what Newt had been trying to tell him the other night.

Newt trudged along beside him in silence until they got back to the side door and Newt had to shrug his hand out of Hermann's so he could unlock the door. He held the door open for Hermann and closed it behind him before stepping to the side to move to the next door.

"Newton, please." Hermann stepped in front of Newt and wrapped his arms around him, gently laying Newt's head on his shoulder and rubbing the short hairs at the base of his scalp. "I cannot and will not make you any promises," He murmured into Newt's ear. "I will not coddle you, or dress up my words in cheer. But I will be here, and I hope that one day you will see my truth."

Newt's arms came up around Hermann's back, hands grasping at his blazer like a lifeline. He buried his face in Hermann's neck to stifle the disbelief that he couldn't let go of.

"What do you say we go watch that movie?" Hermann asked quietly after long moments had passed.

Newt pulled back, letting his hands fall away from Hermann's blazer and stepped past, not quite meeting Hermann's eye. "Is there anything you wanted to see?" Newt entered the cafe and waited for Hermann before unlocking the door to his apartment and stepping in.

"I have no preference. Choose something and put it on, I'll be right behind you." Hermann said as he followed him up the stairs.

Hermann heard Newt running water and the click of the kettle being set on its base as he rounded the top of the stairs and hung his blazer up.

"I put the kettle on in case you wanted tea," Newt said as he opened the fridge and pulled out a bag of baby carrots and a few sticks of celery. He dumped the baby carrots in a bowl, haphazardly chopped the celery into sticks and pushed them in with them. He grabbed a tub of cream cheese out of the fridge and put it and the bowl on the coffee table as the kettle clicked. "I don't really feel like making anything impressive right now so, uh, lunch?"

"This will do nicely. Thank you, Newton," Hermann said, sitting on the couch as he waited for Newt to bring the tea over. He took it from Newton and set it on the side table before turning back and holding out an arm for Newt to come and sit beside him. "What are we watching?"

"Hellboy," Newt said as he sat beside Hermann, feet curled up underneath him and his head resting on Hermann's shoulder. "It's about a demon who loves cats."

"Oh good..." Hermann said with a sigh and wrapped his arm around Newt as he pressed play and settled in to watch.

Halfway through the film - which Hermann was actually enjoying in spite of himself - Newt slid down to lay along the couch with his head resting on Hermann's right thigh. Hermann let his fingers card gently through his hair as the movie continued to play.

As the credits rolled, Hermann looked down to see Newt's eyes closed, breath coming in a slow, even rhythm. Carefully reaching for the remote, he turned the television and DVD player off, and allowed himself to watch Newt sleep, the worry he'd concealed writ clearly upon his face. When he looked up, the shadows were stretching long across the room and the sun was sinking low into the horizon.

Hermann looked at his watch and sighed. "Newton," He said softly, placing his hand on Newt's shoulder. "Newton, I have to leave."

Newt's brow furrowed in his sleep, and he rolled over, curling in on himself and pressing his face into the back of the couch.

Hermann sighed once more and pressed his hand against Newt's back in silent comfort before standing and making his way down the hall to take the blanket from Newt's bed. Returning, he laid it over Newt and carefully leaned down to press a kiss to his temple and whisper "I'll see you tomorrow".

He took his cup to the sink and returned for the barely touched bowl of carrots and celery sticks and cream cheese and put them away. Picking up his bag from the top of the stairs, he took it to the dining table, took out his notebook and wrote:

Newton,
I have an appointment in the morning, but I'll be around to see you in the afternoon.
You're in my thoughts.

He hesitated at the last line before signing simply Hermann.

Placing the note on the coffee table where he hoped Newt would see it as soon as he woke up, Hermann turned on a lamp, collected his bag, and headed down the stairs and out into the store. He nodded at Chuck and Raleigh as passed and headed out into the street to go home.

Chapter Text

June
Monday 2:00pm

Hermann entered Kaiju Blue, nodded at Mako, standing beside the cash register, and walked to the counter end of the counter to speak with Chuck.

"Morning, Doc," Chuck said, leaning against the counter.

"Good morning, Chuck. I was, ah, hoping to see Newton."

"He's not in today," Chuck said cagily.

"I expected as much," Hermann said and leaned in closer, lowering his voice. "I was hoping you would let me in to see him. I told him I'd be by in the afternoon."

"He generally doesn't like to see anyone when... you know..." Chuck said, half his mouth twisting down sympathetically.

Hermann had to resist the urge to hit Chuck with his cane.

"...But I guess you're not just anyone." Chuck took a deep breath and dug into his pocket for his keys, walking over to the door to unlock it. He paused and looked at Hermann before opening the door. "You know you can't fix him, right? He's just... this is Newt."

Hermann pursed his lips. "There's nothing to fix."

"Good answer," Chuck said, pulling the door open and allowing Hermann to step through into the dim stairwell.

"Newton?" Hermann called as Chuck closed the door behind him and he began to climb the stairs. As he ascended, he could hear the repetitive click of a turning record and the snowy hiss of the speakers. As he rounded the corner, he found Newt laying on the couch in a similar position to the one he left him in, the blanket laying on the floor.

"I'm not going to be very good company today," Newt mumbled into the cushion, not turning to look at Hermann.

"That's okay, Newton. Do you want me to turn the record over?" Hermann asked gently. When he didn't receive a response, he walked to the record player, stopped the turntable, lifted the needle and carefully turned the record over before setting it in motion again. The sound of a low, mournful trumpet filtered its way into the room and Hermann turned to sit on the couch by Newton's head. "I missed you."

"I'm sorry, Hermann," Newt mumbled. "You don't want to be around this. I'm not really in the mood to talk."

"You don't need to talk if you don't want to, Newton," Hermann said, stroking Newt's hair softly. "We can just sit here and listen to the music."

Hermann closed his eyes and relaxed into the couch, letting the music wash over him as his fingers ran through Newt's hair.

Eventually, the record stopped playing and resumed its rhythmic click. Hermann did not stand to switch it over. He let it run and continued to stroke Newt's hair.

He wasn't sure how much time had passed when his hip began to ache more ferociously. He adjusted his position in preparation for moving and looked down at Newt - eyes open, staring blankly at the back of the couch.

"Have you eaten?" He asked quietly, his fingers lightly massaging Newt's neck.

"I'll have something later," Newt replied after a long silence.

"Did you want me to make you something?" Hermann knew his culinary skills were no match for Newt's, but he could at least make something edible.

"No."

"Okay, well... I shall come by to see you again tomorrow." Hermann leaned over and pressed a kiss against Newt's shoulder, unable to make the angle necessary to reach his head.

"You don't have to."

"I want to, Newton," Hermann said, resting his forehead against Newt's back. "I want you to know that... you're not alone."

Newt's breathing hitched, but he did not respond.

"I'll see you tomorrow." Hermann reached for his cane and stood, stretching quietly to adjust to the pain, and made his way slowly back down the stairs.

"I'll be by again in the afternoon," He told Chuck as he exited the apartment.

"Sure thing, Doc. See you then." Chuck nodded.

Hermann walked to the door, nodding at Mako as he passed, his gait slower than usual due to the ache in his hip, and left to go home.

Chapter Text

June
Tuesday 2:00pm

Tuesday passed in much the same fashion, with the exception of Hermann going in to his office and working until two.

He arrived at Kaiju Blue, was let upstairs, and sat with Newton as music first did, then did not, play, and tried to let his presence comfort Newt in all the ways his words could not.

He left at five-thirty, determinedly trying not to feel disheartened.

Chapter Text

June
Wednesday 2:00pm

On Wednesday, he found Newt sitting up, resting his head on the back of the couch and staring down the hall. No music was playing: the apartment silent.

"Newton?" Hermann said quietly.

"Hey." Newt didn't look up or raise his head.

"How are you feeling?" Hermann asked as he stepped closer to the couch.

Newt shrugged lethargically.

"Do you mind if I sit?" Hermann looked down at Newt, fingers itching to run through Newt's hair for his own comfort as much as for Newt's.

"Whatever."

Hermann hesitated for a moment and then lowered himself down beside Newt, turning his upper body to lean against the corner so he could see Newt better.

Newt looked past him, through him, his eyelids rimmed with red and faint lines of dried salt tracked down his cheeks.

"Oh, Newton," Hermann breathed, resting a hand on Newt's neck, thumb brushing just below his ear.

Slowly, Newt's gaze drifted over to Hermann and something inside him shifted. With a shuddering sigh, he crumpled forward against Hermann's body, arms wrapping around Hermann as he pressed his face into Hermann's neck.

"I've got you," Hermann murmured into Newt's hair, enveloping him in a hug and holding on. He had been unaware of how accustomed he was becoming to Newt's easy affection until it was no longer available. He held Newt, soaking up the warmth and feel of his body pressed against his own, until Newt pulled back, not meeting his eye, and slumped down further until he was laying along the couch with his head resting on Hermann's thigh.

Hermann stroked Newt's hair, smoothing it down and massaging his scalp as he listened to Newt breathe. He already missed Newt's body slotted against his; wondered how long he'd have to wait until he felt it again.

He didn't speak; didn't want to break the silence that had settled once more over the apartment. He closed his eyes and let his hand do as it would, stroking and lightly twisting and curling Newt's short hair between his fingers.

He heard a soft, quiet thump just on the edge of his hearing and frowned, opening his eyes to look for the source of the sound. It came again, and then once more; irregular but certain in the stillness of the apartment. Again and again he heard it, but couldn't pinpoint the source.

Then he felt it.

A slow, spreading dampness in the material of his trousers, halfway down his thigh, just below Newt's face. He leaned forward and saw tears trickling down Newt's cheek, trailing to the end of his nose where they gathered and fell. Newt did not shudder, nor hiccup; he made not a sound.

Hermann curled his body protectively around Newt, hand gripping his shoulder as he clasped his hand over Newt's forehead, pressing him back into his stomach in an awkward hug.

"I don't think we should see each other anymore," Newt said quietly, voice steady but for a single crack that betrayed his emotion.

Hermann felt his heart go cold, a dark grip digging its claws in as the blood in his veins turned to ice. "No," He said, feeling his own eyes prick and his throat tighten.

"It's not going to work out. I'm always going to drag you down. We should end it now before it becomes even more painful." Newt's voice was thick but it was all Hermann could do not to lift him up and shake him for sounding so calm.

"Do I get a say in this?" Hermann asked, trying to keep his head but feeling like everything inside of him was breaking into little, tiny pieces.

"It's better this way. We won't- won't hate each other.... Won't hurt each other."

"I don't accept this," Hermann said, his grip tightening involuntarily on Newt's shoulder and forehead, pulling him closer. "I won't accept this."

"You'll be better off without me."

"I- I won't," Hermann's breath hitched. "I'll just be alone. Again."

"At least I won't be able to hurt you." Newt's voice was cracking and the tears were falling faster, but his words were held together by belief.

"You're hurting me now, Newton," Hermann whispered.

"I'm sorry. I can't be what you need me to be." Newt sat up, turning away from Hermann and staring down at his hands.

"No... No. You don't get to decide what I need," Hermann said determinedly, placing a hand on Newt's shoulder and pulling him back to look him in the eye. "Nineteen years, Newton. Nineteen years. I've wanted this chance since I was seventeen. You can't just take it away from me now." Hermann's hands cupped Newt's jaw, holding him steady. "I thought you were dead. I thought I'd lost my chance forever. Do you have any idea what that feels like?"

Newt struggled to pull away, apologies falling from his lips in heartbreaking repetition.

"But you're alive - you're alive." Hermann pulled Newt against his body in a fierce hug. "You're here and you're with me and if you think for a single solitary second that I am going to give you up without a fight you are severely mistaken."

"Please stop making this harder than it has to be. Please. I don't want this. I can't do this. I can't. I can't. " Newt pulled himself away, shoving Hermann back. "I'm not looking for reassurance or comfort or- or anything. I'm- I'm not good for you and I'm never going to be good enough for you. Just stop. Stop making this so hard. Go. Get out. Don't- don't come back! I- I don't want to see you anymore!" Newt pushed Hermann away and turned on the couch, curling in on himself and hugging his knees to his chest.

Hermann stared at Newt's back feeling at once hollow and shattered and disbelieving. Anger surged beneath the surface; he wanted to rage and shout and tell Newt what an idiot he was being, but he reined it in and shoved it aside. He knew he'd never be able to get through to Newt right now, weighed down as he was by despair and an overblown sense of his own inadequacy.

He took a deep breath, wiping his cheeks with his hands, and focussed on trying to give Newt what he needed.

"I'll respect your wishes, Newton. I- I will not come back," Hermann said, trying to keep his voice level. "However, I will not accept your other terms. We are not... broken up. We will talk about this when you're-... feeling better." Hermann leaned over and pressed his lips to the crown of Newton's head, feeling his eyes stinging with wet warmth, threatening to spill over. "Please do not give up on us so easily."

Hermann sat back and fumbled for his cane, easing himself out of the sofa and walked to the stairs. At the top, he turned back to look at Newt, hunched in on himself and, as far as Hermann could tell, still crying. He sighed and wished more than anything that he could go back and just wrap his arms around Newt and fill all their broken cracks with comfort. He turned and walked slowly down the stairs, feeling that every step was a bell tolling for the end of his brief happiness.

He exited the stairwell and made a beeline for the bathrooms to splash water on his face and clean himself up before anyone could see him. He stared at himself in the mirror trying to convince himself that everything would be okay once the black dog lost Newt's scent; Newt would see that Hermann wasn't going anywhere and they'd resume where they left off, hopefully stronger than before.

He refused to think about what would happen if Newt felt he'd made the right decision.

His heart felt heavy, weighed down in his chest, as he wiped his face off and left the bathroom. He walked through the cafe without looking at or acknowledging Mako or Chuck and left the building, heading towards the park as if on autopilot.

It was quiet in the middle of the week; no picnicking couples and far fewer children. Hermann sat on the bench he'd come to with Newt days earlier and stared blankly across the pond.

Hours passed and he did not move. The shadows stretched and spun on the ground as the sun traversed the sky sinking deeper into the horizon. He watched as the clouds turned a dusty orange and stood, feeling no lighter than when he'd entered.

He walked to a convenience store and bought a sandwich, returning to Kaiju Blue as Chuck was about to close.

"Hey, Doc," Chuck said, letting Hermann in and locking the door behind him. The chairs were on the tables and a mop stood in a bucket by the counter. "You left here pretty fast earlier. Everything okay?"

"Newton has requested that... I not visit anymore." Hermann stated carefully, trying not to rub salt in his own wounds.

"Jeez, I'm sorry, mate. That's gotta suck," Chuck said sympathetically, reaching out and squeezing Hermann's shoulder.

"Indeed. That is certainly one of a great many appropriate words for this situation," Hermann said, trying to avoid Chuck's eyes. "Though, I did not come to commiserate. I was hoping you would be able to get this to Newton and... and check to see that he's alright." Hermann handed Chuck the sandwich and took a step back.

"Sure," Chuck said with a fond smile, looking down at the sandwich in his hand. "Did you want to wait?"

"No, I... No. It is enough for me that someone looks in on him." Hermann stepped back towards the door. "Please take care of him." Continuing to avoid Chuck's eyes, Hermann pushed his way backwards out the door and made his way to his apartment.

Chapter Text

June
Thursday 7:30am

Hermann walked up to Kaiju Blue just as Chuck unlocked the doors and held them open for him to come in.

"You didn't tell me he broke up with you," Chuck said quietly, looking at Hermann with deep sympathy.

"He did not," Hermann said calmly; he'd had time to think and was not going to give in to histrionics until the final nail was in the coffin and the slab was levered into place over his tomb. "I refused to accept it until he is more... rational."

Chuck stared at Hermann, eyes filled with a mixture of shock and empathy. "I'm sorry, mate, I have to hug you now," Chuck said as he stepped forward and squeezed Hermann mightily before setting him down and stepping away. "You're a keeper. The others... well, the less said about them the better. All I'll say is they didn't handle it anywhere near this well. Newt'll come around, I'm sure of it. Just give him some time."

"Yes, well... I intended to." Hermann shifted uncomfortably.

"So, cuppa tea? On the house, man, seriously. You've earned it," Chuck asked, walking back to the counter without waiting for an answer.

"I, er. Thank you," Hermann followed Chuck slowly to the counter. He had intended on merely stopping in to check on Newt before heading to his office to throw himself into his work. Instead, he took the tea and sat at his regular booth - sans reserved sign - and stared out the window as he drank. He sat for an hour and slipped out during the morning rush.

---

Later

Hermann entered Kaiju Blue just before closing, sandwich in hand. He handed it silently to Chuck and left without a word.

The next week and a half passed the same way: He would arrive at seven-thirty, with a slowly dimming hope that Newt would have shown signs of improvement, drink a cup of tea while staring out the window, and then go into his office and lose himself in the stark, simple logic of his work. At the end of the day, he would return and hand a sandwich to whoever was closing - Chuck or Mako - and pretend that he didn't see their sympathetic stares or feel as pathetic as he must have looked.

Then he would go back to his empty apartment and sit and reread the letters he'd received from Newt when he was practically a child, using them once more to fill the empty spaces in his heart and file down the rough, ragged edges of his hope.

Chapter Text

Late June
Monday 7:30am

With a slow, plodding tread, Hermann walked towards Kaiju Blue and stopped at the door, waiting for Chuck to open it for him. He pinched the bridge of his nose, rubbing at the tear ducts; he hadn't been sleeping well and it was beginning to wear him down. He glanced at his watch, wondering what was taking so long, and peered through the window, feeling his heart stop.

At the end of the counter, hood pulled up and hands shoved into his pockets, stood Newt, staring down at the ground as he spoke to Chuck.

Hermann felt his knees begin to quake as he stared, his throat tightening and breath hitching as his stomach twisted itself into knots. This was the day. This was the day he'd find out.

He didn't know why, but, at that moment, Newt looked up. Seeing Hermann, Newt's face crumpled into a picture of abject guilt and shame. He said something to Chuck, shaking his head and backing away towards the door to his apartment. His hands came up defensively as Chuck grabbed him by the shoulder and held him still, speaking sternly to him as he pointed emphatically at Hermann, then at the floor between them, and then up to poke Newt sharply in the chest. He shook his finger in Newt's face and then pointed once more at Hermann as he released Newt who slumped into the wall, curling in on himself with his head hanging down.

Chuck scrubbed his hands through his hair and looked down at Newt, speaking to him once more and then waiting until Newt nodded slowly before heading to the door to open it and let Hermann into the vestibule.

"Morning, Doc," Chuck said quietly as he opened the door. "He's... better, but I wouldn't hold it against you if you wanted to slap him around some."

"I'm sure that won't be necessary," Hermann said, gripping the handle of his cane until his knuckles turned white as he stepped closer to his fate.

"Here's hoping." Chuck opened the second door to let Hermann through and squeezed his shoulder lightly as he followed. "I'm rooting for you," He said as he walked past him to head behind the counter, muttering a low Don‘t be a dick as he passed Newt and walked into the back room.

"Newton," Hermann said quietly, stepping into the middle of the room.

"Hermann..." Newt responded, voice low and gravelly.

"I believe you have something to say to me," Hermann said, bracing himself for the worst.

Newt looked at the ground, hunching over as he spoke. "Can we not do this here? Do you- ... Can we-..."

"Would you prefer to have this discussion in your apartment?" Hermann asked.

Newt nodded miserably, digging his hands further down into his hoody.

"Very well." Hermann followed Newt to the door and entered after him, watching him trudge up the stairs as he followed at a slower pace. When he reached the top, Newt was waiting for him, still not meeting his eye.

"Are you out of the woods?" Hermann asked, stopping a few feet away.

"I can see the treeline..." Newt shrugged.

"Good. I am... glad."

The conversation was stilted and awkward; Newt reticent to speak and Hermann fighting back the fear that gripped his spine, making him stand ramrod straight and seek refuge in formality. They stood in silence, each waiting for the other to speak. The tension in the room grew thicker and thicker until Hermann felt he could no longer bear it. He closed his eyes, breathing purposefully through his nose, jaw jutting out in determination as he looked at Newt and bit the bullet.

"Are you still of a mind that we should part ways?"

Newt hiccupped, face slowly turning up to look at Hermann with wide, scared eyes. "No," He said in a small voice with a sharp shake of his head. "But I'd understand if you did. If this is too much for you, it's-"

"Shut up," Hermann said, his resolve to stand tall slipping away the second Newt gave him the sign. He strode towards Newt and pulled him close, dropping his cane to the floor with a clatter as he wrapped his arms around Newt and buried his face in Newt's neck. "You fool. You utter, utter fool."

"I'm sorry. I'm so fucking sorry," Newt said tearily, clinging to Hermann like a lifeline. "Please don't leave me. I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. Please don't leave."

Hermann squeezed Newt tighter, leaning back and pressing a kiss to his forehead under the hood. "I didn't leave you when you told me to," He murmured into the warm skin. "What could possibly possess me to leave you now?"

"I don't want to lose you. Whatever I have to do to make it up to you, I swear, I'll do it. I'm just so sorry. I don't want to fuck this up-"

Hermann silenced Newt's babble with a soft kiss, sighing against his lips at the touch. "I just want to hold you. You have no idea how much I've missed you, Newton."

Newt returned the kiss and buried his face in Hermann's neck. "I missed you, too."

Hermann hugged him silently, taking in the feel of Newt's body pressed up against him and letting the relief wash away the tension that had taken up residence in his shoulders and back. He gripped Newt tightly, pulling him closer as the part of him that thought he'd never get to do this again crumbled and fell.

"Come lie on the couch with me," Hermann said, nudging Newt in the right direction as he felt the past few weeks begin to take their toll now the relief was not so sharp. Newt walked beside Hermann, refusing to let go as they shuffled to the couch. Hermann sat first, toeing his shoes off and swinging his legs up, holding out his arms to Newt as he got comfortable.

"I wanted you here. I didn't want you to go. God, I can't even explain it," Newt said quietly as he lay on his side, curling into Hermann's body and resting his head on his shoulder. "There was a part of me that just wanted to hold onto you and not let go until it was over. But I couldn't, y'know. I felt like I was just gonna be an anchor and drag you down with me. I had to let you go."

"I understand the impulse," Hermann said, resting a cheek against Newt's head. "But, please, do not do that to me again... Next time, if you need space, tell me. Don't-... Do not try and tear us apart." Hermann rubbed his hand down Newt's arm, sliding over the back of his hand to thread their fingers together and squeeze.

"I won't. Or, I'll try not to." Newt curled his arm up, bringing Hermann's hand to his chest to press a kiss to the back of it. "I wasn't really expecting you to come back. Nobody else ever did."

"I'm not anybody else."

"You're really not." Newt tilted his head to get a better view of Hermann. "Nobody's ever just... sat with me and endured it before. Mostly they just, y'know, tried to cheer me up or get me to go do things with them."

"It wasn't an endurance, Newton. I was, uh, being rather selfish." Hermann looked away guiltily. "I just wanted to be near you."

Newt stared at Hermann with a wistful smile. "That is the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me." Newt stretched up to give Hermann a soft kiss before settling back in with his head on his shoulder, looking up at him. "Still, thank you. It helped. I think it's, sort of, why I pushed you away so hard..."

"I don't follow," Hermann said with a frown.

Newt didn't say anything, looking down and playing with Hermann's fingers with his thumb.

"Newton?" Hermann prompted quietly.

Newt huffed out a soft, self-deprecating laugh, looking up at Hermann sadly. "Nobody could be that perfect and not be ruined by staying with me."

Hermann pulled Newt into a tighter hug, pressing his lips to Newt's forehead. "I am by no means perfect, in any sense of the word. I don't want to be perfect. What I want to be is with you. I can't make it any clearer than that."

"I'm kind of getting that, and you have no idea how much I want it to be true - you gotta believe me. But there's still a part of me that's convinced that... one day I'm going to wake up and you're gonna be gone."

"There's very little in this world that could make me leave you," Hermann said, using his free hand to smooth down Newt's hair. "Not your peaks or your troughs, not a surprise meeting with your mother, not-"

"Oh my god, I completely forgot I left you alone with mom on Skype." Newt dropped his head to Hermann's shoulder, burying his face. "I am so fucking sorry, I don't know what I was thinking."

"It's okay, Newton. You introduced us. Do you remember what you said?" Hermann asked, rubbing gently at Newt's neck.

Newt shook his head against Hermann's shoulder, but didn't look up.

"You told her you were going to 'keep' me." Hermann pressed a kiss to Newt's hair. "No one has ever said that about me before; not even so much as implied it. And yet, you've said it twice in as many weeks."

"People are stupid," Newt said, slipping his hand through the gap between the armrest and Hermann's body to hug Hermann tight. "But, it's true, y'know? I do want to keep you. I know I've been an asshole and you might not feel that way, but... that wasn't me."

"You don't have to say that to make me feel better, Newt. I know it was you." Hermann shook his head as Newt began to protest. "Shh, let me finish... All your fear and loneliness... sadness screaming into a megaphone in your mind; it was you. I might not like that they are given free rein, but I respect that they are part of you."

"How are you even real?" Newt breathed, wrapping his arms tighter around Hermann. "It's like you always know the right thing to say, even when I don't know that it's what I want to hear."

"Five years of letters, twice a month. It's almost feels like I've been in there." Hermann smoothed his hand over the back of Newt's head, cupping it gently.

"You don't want that, man. Half the time even I don't want it..." Newt gave a sad half smile. "You've just been so great through this whole... thing. Only Mako and Chuck have been that good, and they didn't start there."

"I- Yes, well..." Hermann looked away, mouth drawn down on one side as he stared into space for a long, tense moment. "My mother ... suffered from depression. Undiagnosed, of course - we were not a family whose minds were allowed to fail us." The bitterness was evident in Hermann's voice, but he tentatively met Newt's eyes, looking for a sign that he should continue.

Newt squeezed Hermann's hand, drawing it close to his chest once more, and waited.

"We... We were well off enough that she didn't have to work - my father preferred that she not - and, after the move to England, she had few friends... She hid it well enough that my father didn't know - probably never suspected - but... I spent many months convalescing after the diagnosis, and many months more learning how to adapt to my new reality. I was alone with her daily; I could see the cracks in her facade - the way her smile never quite reached her eyes.

"I would sit with her in the day room, once I'd regained some autonomy, quietly reading or doing my schoolwork. It wasn't much, but... I like to imagine that on those days, her smiles were genuine." Hermann sighed wistfully as he finished.

"They were. I'm sure of it," Newt said as he kissed Hermann's knuckles tenderly. "I'm sorry you're going through all of that again with me."

"You couldn't be further removed from my experiences with my mother, Newton," Hermann said, giving Newt's hand a reassuring squeeze. "Hers was a constant state of melancholy, only occasionally abating."

"I'm still sorry," Newt lay his head down, his lips against Hermann's fingers.

Hermann rested his head against Newt's, humming a soft response as he closed his eyes and letting himself drift.

"You ok?" Newt asked quietly.

"Just a little tired," Hermann murmured in response. "I haven't been sleeping very well lately."

"Oh, man... Was it- was it because of me?" Newt squeezed Hermann's hand tightly, nudging his knuckles with his nose.

"It was... difficult... to attain a quality level of rest with our relationship hanging in the balance," Hermann said nuzzling Newt's head and placing a gentle kiss to his temple. "I believe it won't be an issue any more."

"Here, lie down properly," Newt said, disentangling his hand and sitting up a little to grab a pillow from the other end of the couch with his feet and pull it back to him. "Lift," He directed as he wedged the pillow in behind them, took his glasses off and tossed them onto the coffee table, and snuggled back in to Hermann's body.

"It's not even gone nine, Newton," Hermann said, even as he wrapped his arms back around Newt and lay his head on the pillow.

"Who cares? We can totally nap. I think we've earned it." Newt stretched the short distance to kiss Hermann lazily.

"I suppose this morning has been particularly ... draining," Hermann said in between short kisses. "Though, I do have to go into the office later."

"Yes, dear," Newt murmured with a wry grin.

"Oh, Newton, I have missed you," Hermann said, eyes crinkling warmly as he pressed his forehead against Newt's.

"You don't have to miss me anymore. I'll still be here after. I promise. Sleep now." Newt kissed Hermann once more and nuzzled him with his forehead, letting his eyes fall closed and losing himself in the warmth and comfort of Hermann's body lying beside him as he drifted off.

---

Later

Hermann woke to fingers trailing lightly through his hair sending pleasant waves of sensation skittering down his neck and back. He turned toward's Newt's body, burying his face between his neck and shoulder and sighing happily.

"Did I wake you up?" Newt's voice said softly by his ear, his fingers sliding down to lightly massage Hermann's neck.

"Yes, but I don't mind," Hermann said, pressing his hand between Newt's shoulder blades to pull him closer as he stretched carefully. "What time is it?"

Newt leaned back to look over his shoulder at the clock on the wall between the kitchen and the lounge, exposing his neck and dislodging Hermann's head. "Just after eleven."

Hermann pulled his arm back and ran his fingers down Newt's throat, pulling back the collar to look at the pale, clear skin. "The mark's gone," Hermann said, looking up at Newt. He wasn't sure how they'd managed to change positions during such a short sleep, but he wasn't averse to it.

"Ah, yeah. It, uh, faded completely a few days ago," Newt said, looking away and avoiding Hermann's eyes. "...That was not a good day." He admitted softly, barely loud enough for Hermann to hear, even as close as he was.

Hermann stroked a finger from Newt's jaw down to his clavicle and looked up at his face. "Would you like it back?"

"I don't think it's going to lead to anything," Newt said with a twist of his lips. "I'm still not really feeling it. But, thanks anyway."

"It doesn't have to be about sex, Newton," Hermann said, pressing his hand reassuringly against Newt's chest. "I'm given to understand that you, uh, like having it... a blatant sign that you're- you're... wanted."

"You would- you would do that for me?" Newt asked shyly, colour high in his cheeks.

"Yes, though I would be lying if I said I don't get some small amount of gratification at seeing it on you," Hermann said with a slightly guilt tinged smile. "Do you want it back, Newton?"

Newt bit his lip, took a deep breath and met Hermann's eyes, giving a short emphatic nod. He let his eyes drift closed as Hermann cupped his jaw and kissed him softly before trailing his hand down his neck and brushing aside his collar.

"Visible or not?" Hermann asked quietly.

After a slight pause, Newt stuttered: "Vis- visible."

"As you wish." Hermann trailed his lips down Newt's neck, choosing a spot that would show above the collar of his usual attire. He kissed the spot gently, his hand curling around to support Newt's neck as he opened his mouth and began to suck. Newt's body surged against him, arms coming up to hold Hermann's head in place as he mewled faintly at the pain. Hermann changed pressure and angle to ensure it would be bright and long-lasting, before eventually slowing to press a gentle kiss to the livid bruise and nuzzle the underside of Newt's jaw with his nose.

He looked up with a small smile to see Newt, still biting his lip and eyes brimming with unshed tears.

"Are you okay? Newton? Did I hurt you?" Hermann pulled himself up into a sitting position, taking a closer look at the hickey to see if he'd done any lasting damage.

"I'm fine, I'm fine. I'm ju- I'm sorry. Fuck." Newt brushed his eyes roughly with his fingers before pulling Hermann down into a quick, rough kiss. "I'm okay. Don't worry. I'm sorry, I just... Don't know how to deal when good shit happens to me." Newt gave a slightly embarrassed laugh and looked away, wiping his eyes once more, lower lip trembling. "I really don't deserve you."

"Newton," Hermann sighed. "No backsliding, alright? Wait until I have a few bad days, then you'll be changing your emphasis." Hermann leaned down and kissed Newt. "I don't have to go in to the office if you need me to stay."

"No, it's okay. I-" Newt cut himself off, taking a deep breath and opening his eyes wide as he blinked repetitively to clear away the tears. "I probably just need a little time to calm down. You don't have to stay."

"It's really not a problem..." Hermann said as Newt sat up.

Newt set his feet down on the floor, sitting sideways to look down at Hermann. "No, it's cool. You could, maybe, come back tonight? We could get take-out and watch movies... Make out on the couch without risking anyone's pants." Newt gave a tentative half-smile, raising an eyebrow questioningly.

"We could do that," Hermann said, pulling himself to the edge of the couch and beginning to put on his shoes.

"You could, uh, bring your old man jammies; stay the night," Newt said, a tinge of hope evident in his voice.

"I don't know why you insist upon calling them that; they're a perfectly valid sleepwear choice," Hermann said, tying up one shoe.

"They are... if you're eighty." Newt rested his chin on Hermann's shoulder, wrapping an arm around his middle. "They're cute."

"I honestly don't understand you sometimes; first you say they're old and ugly, then you say they're 'cute'." Hermann groused as he pulled on his other shoe and tightened the laces.

"Never said they were ugly, but they're cute when they're on you. Bring them?"

Hermann finished tying his shoe and turned his head to look at Newt. "If you insist." He ducked in to kiss Newt quickly, running a hand down the side of Newt's head as he pulled back. "Are you sure you don't want me to stay?"

"No, it's cool. I should, y'know, get everything sorted out here so I can go back to work tomorrow. You go math. I'll be here with take-out menus when you come back."

"Math is not a verb," Hermann admonished as he looked around for his cane, frowning when he saw it across the room in the middle of the floor.

"Says you," Newt said as he followed Hermann's eyeline. "I got it." He stood and picked up the cane, bringing it back and presenting it to Hermann handle first.

Hermann refused to meet Newt's eyes as he took it, hands wrapping around the solid wood tightly, stroking over it as though checking for damage on a small child.

Newt held out a hand to help him stand, but Hermann didn't look up.

Hermann planted the cane firmly on the ground and pushed himself up onto his good leg using the coffee table for stability, leaving Newt to snatch his hand back into a fist against his chest.

"Right," Newt said in disappointment as he shoved his hand into his hoody pocket.

"Pardon?" Hermann asked, looking concerned as he took a step closer to Newt.

"Nothing. It's... nothing. Nevermind." Newt sighed and stepped back to allow Hermann passage around the coffee table, following him to the top of the stairs.

"What time do you wish for me to return?" Hermann asked, turning before he could start his descent.

"Whenever you want to come back is fine, really." Newt shrugged.

"Does seven sound alright to you?" Hermann asked, stepping closer to stand before Newt. "I'll finish up at six, pick up my pyjamas, and come here."

Newt huffed a small laugh, a grin quirking at the edges of his mouth. "Seven sounds good."

"I shall see you then." Hermann leaned down and kissed Newt tenderly before heading down the stairs and out of the flat.

As he made his way through the cafe, Chuck - serving a customer - caught his attention and raised an eyebrow at him. He nodded once, gave an awkward thumbs up and left to go lose himself in numbers.

---

Later

Hermann rang the doorbell and waited. adjusting the straps on his backpack that kept cutting into his sides as he walked. Eventually, Newt let him in, giving him a quick kiss before leading him upstairs and outlining their take-out options. "So, there's a decent phở place a couple of blocks away, but they're popular and delivery can take forever. Or there's a Chinese place that's not too bad. Oh! There's this awesome pizza place that's really good; they, like, had their pizza oven imported from Sicily or something. It's owned by this tiny, old Italian guy who swears at you in Italian if you don't order quickly enough."

"Pizza sounds fine," Hermann said, removing his bag and placing it beside the couch as he settled himself in.

"Cool. What do you want on it?" Newt grabbed his cell phone and flopped on the couch beside Hermann, curling his legs up underneath himself.

"Anything you want - except olives and anchovies."

"Ugh, joykill. Green olives?" Newt asked hopefully.

"No olives."

"Pfft, fine. Just let me put the order in and I'm all yours." Newt dialled the number and held the cell to his ear waiting. "Hi, I'd like to place an order for Newt - my address is on file... Sweet, okay. So, can I get a large pie with pepperoni, peppers, mushroom, onion, and double cheese? Oh, and some garlic bread... Cool. ... Yeah, just ring the doorbell... Well it works now... Yeah, okay... Cash... Uh huh. 30 minutes? Thanks. Bye." Newt hung up the phone and settled back into the couch beside Hermann.

"So, I maybe kinda just realised that we haven't exchanged numbers..." Newt said with an embarrassed smile as he handed the cell to Hermann. "You wanna put your digits in there and give me yours so I can do the same?"

"I don't have a mobile device. Never really saw a need; I can't imagine anyone needing to contact me that urgently," Hermann said as he gingerly took the phone from Newt. "I can give you my home and office information if you'd like?"

"Sure. Put your email in there, too. I'll send you dick pics while you're working." Newt grinned.

"You will do no such thing," Hermann said with a blush as he pulled out his glasses so he could read the screen.

"Fine, just really awesome selfies then." Newt hooked his chin over Hermann's shoulder as he watched him awkwardly type in his details. "Turn it to the side - the keyboard's bigger."

Hermann finished up and handed the phone back.

Newt took it and looked at the information with a pleased smile that quickly turned to shock. "Hold up, you live two blocks away? When did you move in?"

"Just under three years ago..." Hermann said with a twist of his lips. "Yes, we've been living practically under each other's noses for quite some time. The thought had occurred to me."

"Well, shit." Newt slumped back into the couch, staring down at the phone in his hand. "We've probably seen each other around heaps of times."

"Undoubtedly," Hermann said as he leaned down to dig his notebook out of his backpack. "Uh, would you care to...?" He passed it to Newt, holding out a pen.

"Sure. Any particular page?" Newt took the pen and clicked the button to release the nib, holding it at the ready.

"Inside the front cover is fine."

"On the binding? That's pretty serious." Newt quickly scrawled his number and email address signing with Newtrix XO and handed it back.

"I think it's safe to say we're beyond serious at this stage." Hermann flipped open the notebook to look at what Newt had written and snorted quietly. "You're still doing that, I see. I never could understand why you would sign off in such increasingly ridiculous ways."

Newt looked down at his lap, avoiding Hermann's eyes. "Uh... being me wasn't all that much fun, y'know. When I was writing to you, I got to be someone else for a while." Newt shrugged. "Seemed fitting."

"But you were still you," Hermann said, confused.

"No. When I wrote you letters... I was someone who had a friend." Newt gave a small half-smile, fidgeting with his hands.

"Newton," Hermann said, full of feeling, dropping the notebook on the table and leaning in to pull Newt into a hug. "You've many friends now; you've no need to regress to that."

"It's not regression. You were the first real one - it's a good memory, really." Newt sniffed as he hugged Hermann back, reaching up around him to wipe under his eyes. "Shit, man, I'm sorry," He said as he pulled back and took his glasses off to pinch his tear ducts with his index and middle finger. "I'm gonna be yo-yo-ing for a little while until everything evens out."

"There's no need to apologise." Hermann said brushing Newt's hair off his forehead. "I-" He was cut off as the doorbell rang.

"Shit, that'll be the pizza." Newt took a deep breath through his nose and sat up, grabbing his wallet off the table. "They get really angry if I don't get there quickly. There's napkins in the top cupboard by the fridge - grab them and pick a movie? I'll be right back."

Newt took off down the stairs at a fast pace, leaving Hermann to do as Newt bid.

As Newt came back up the stairs holding the pizza and garlic bread, Hermann was standing in front of Newt's DVD collection, reading the blurb on the back of one.

"What'd you pick?" Newt asked setting the pizza box down on the table and turning to look at the case Hermann held up. "Seriously? The first Star Trek movie? No. Uh uh. No." Newt took the DVD and put it back on the shelf.

"I saw the series as a child while learning English, but never happened upon the films. Is there something wrong with them?" Hermann asked, looking over his glasses with his eyebrows raised.

"Not all of them, just the odd numbers. Especially the first one. Ugh." Newt shuddered. "I wouldn't make my worst enemy watch that movie. It's just... boring... and nowhere near as profound as it likes to think. We can watch any of the rest of them, but the first one is off limits."

"I see," Hermann said, though he clearly didn't. "Why do you own a copy if it's that bad?"

"It's the first in the series. I can't not have it." Newt shrugged. "We can watch Wrath of Khan if you want. That I am totally cool with."

"Very well," Hermann said, pulling the DVD off the shelf and handing it to Newt. "Better set it up quickly; the food will get cold."

Newt shoved the disc in the player and grabbed the remote, sitting down beside Hermann to get the movie playing. Bumping against Hermann's shoulder companionably, he reached for a napkin and a slice of pizza as the credits began to roll and the music played.

About half an hour in, Newt noticed that neither of them were reaching for more pizza or garlic bread and flipped closed the box. "You want to lie down?" He asked during a quiet moment in the film, looking over at Hermann with a raised eyebrow.

"No," Hermann said distractedly, not dragging his eyes away from the television.

"Do you mind if I do?"

"Not at all. Wait... here." Hermann slid back on the couch and patted his thigh.

Newt grinned and lay down, resting his head on Hermann's good leg and grabbing Hermann's hand to hold it by his chest.

Hermann smiled, the fingers of his free hand carding through Newt's hair as he lost himself in the movie once more.

As the credits rolled, Newt pointed the remote and hit stop and turned the television off before rolling onto his back to look up at Hermann. "What'd you think?"

"It wasn't bad," Hermann said with a smile, continuing to stroke Newt's hair. "I think I'll have to see the rest before I can make a fully informed decision."

"I think we can make that a thing that happens," Newt said, turning his head to the side to rub his head against Hermann's thigh. He felt Hermann's cock twitch near the top of his head and looked up as Hermann shifted away.

"Sorry. I- Sorry." Hermann tried to angle his crotch away from Newt's head as he apologised. "I know you're not interested right now and that's fine. It will pass."

"Hey, it's okay. Just because I'm not feeling it doesn't mean you can't," Newt said, placing a hand on Hermann's hip to still his movement. "I could help you out with that." He brushed the side of his head against Hermann's zipper, feeling him twitch once more.

"No? No. I am not some- some lowly creature who's readily overcome by their more base urges. I will be fine. You don't have to." Hermann inched away a little more to give himself some breathing space.

"Maybe I want to," Newt said, raising a little and following Hermann so he could brush his cheek against the semi-hard bump in Hermann's trousers.

"But- but... I can't do anything for you," Hermann said looking perplexed.

"Jeez, Hermann... It doesn't have to be tit for tat every time," Newt said, rubbing Hermann's hip comfortingly with one hand. "I just want you to feel good; reciprocity not required. What d'you say?"

"I honestly don't understand where this is coming from." Hermann looked a little lost, staring down at Newton searchingly.

"Maybe I want to give you a reward for being the world's most awesome boyfriend." Newt smiled up at Hermann and moved his hand from Hermann's hip to his belt buckle and wiggled it. "C'mon, undo your pants; it's a little awkward from this angle."

Hermann's hands drifted down to settle on his belt, regarding Newt with a confused frown marring his brow. "Are you sure about this?" He asked quietly.

"Very." Newt turned his head a little and sucked the tip of Hermann's pinky finger into his mouth, running his tongue over the pad and feeling gratified at Hermann's sharp intake of breath. He released the finger and raised an eyebrow.

Hermann's fingers quickly worked open the belt and undid the button, pulling down the zip and his underpants in quick succession. He sat and watched as Newt shuffled up to get in a better position and took hold of Hermann's half-hard cock, stroking once before angling it into his mouth and sucking softly as it grew to full hardness. Hermann's eyes drifted closed involuntarily as his hips shifted minutely as Newt started a slow rhythm.

He clasped the armrest of the couch with one hand while the other fluttered around Newt's shoulder, patting and stroking as he tried not to take hold. Newt's shoulder bumped at Hermann's wrist, directing him further along until he let go of the base of Hermann's cock and placed Hermann's hand directly on the back of his neck. Hermann looked down to see Newt's eyes drifting closed as he nodded and returned his focus to the task at hand; taking in as much of Hermann's cock as possible before sucking as he pulled back. Hermann rubbed his fingers through the short hairs at the base of Newt's skull and closed his eyes, letting his head drop back and losing himself in the warm wet heat of Newt's mouth.

He wasn't sure how much time had passed - his sole focus the pleasure radiating throughout his body - but he felt Newt shift slightly, bringing his hand up to cup Hermann's balls, rolling them gently between his fingers as he hummed softly around Hermann's shaft. Hermann's hand clenched a little, scratching lightly at Newt's scalp with his fingernails as he felt everything begin to tighten and start to rush towards oblivion.

"Newt- Newton, I- I'm close. I'm very close," Hermann said looking down to watch as Newt mumbled around him and lifted his head a little more to put more effort into it; his neck rolling under Hermann's hand as he dragged and pulled Hermann's orgasm from him with his tongue and lips and soft, wet suction until Hermann arched and came with a muffled sigh, spurting into Newt's mouth.

He slumped back into the couch, breathing and twitching as Newt continued to suck him. He spurted one final time and aftershocks began to run through his body like marbles scattering across the floor. His hand stroked uncoordinatedly over the back of Newt's head as Newt let him slip from his mouth and they both sat there breathing into the silence.

"You look so debauched right now," Newt said blissfully as he looked up at Hermann. "All buttoned up with just your dick hanging out, your face all sweaty and come-drunk."

"Get up here," Hermann said, hand sliding away from Newt's head to pull at his shoulder.

"I should probably rinse first," Newt said as he sat up.

"I don't care." Hermann wrapped an arm around Newt's middle and pulled him close drawing him into a breathless kiss, tasting himself on Newt's lips.

"Mm, dirty." Newt smirked into Hermann's lips as they kissed.

"I may have to pass the title of best, er... boyfriend back to you," Hermann said blushing through a short breathless laugh, hand coming up to hold Newt by the side of the head as he kissed him once more.

"I wouldn't be able to accept. I've been a pretty shitty boyfriend so far." Newt's mouth gave a downward tilt as he let his head rest on Hermann's shoulder, looking up at him apologetically.

"Circumstances were not optimal, granted, but that does not make you a bad... boyfriend," Hermann said as he stroked Newt's hair, hand dragging down to cup Newt's jaw as he leaned in to brush his lips against Newt's reassuringly.

"See? You just earned the title back. You can't get rid of it that easy." Newt laughed awkwardly, ducking his head to wipe at his eyes before looking back up at Hermann. "You know, we don't have to use that word if it makes you uncomfortable."

"Which?" Hermann asked, puzzled.

"Boyfriend." Newt shrugged. "I mean, I'm cool with calling you my partner... significant other... Hermann. My Hermann." Newt smiled dreamily at the last. "I might be about to vomit rainbows."

Hermann huffed a laugh. "Please don't, I'll never get the stains out... My Newton."

"I knew you'd be a secret sap," Newt said with a soft smile. "Come here." Newt swung his legs over Hermann's and kissed him as he lowered himself to lie down, pulling Hermann with him.

Hermann's hand slid up Newt's thigh, palming at his arse before slipping under Newt's hoody and settling on his ribcage.

They made out like teenagers, lips smacking sloppily and hands roving across skin and cloth covered limbs as they lost themselves in the sensation of being close once more. Hermann broke away from Newt's mouth, trailing his lips down Newt's neck to press a hot, wet kiss to the bright purple bruise emblazoned against his straining tendons as Newt whimpered above him.

"Are you okay? Do you need me to stop?" Hermann panted, forcing himself to pull back.

"It's okay, the spirit is willing, but the flesh... is still full of downer hormones. I just- Ugh." Newt scrubbed at his face with his hands before peeking at Hermann through his fingers. "Intellectually, I know. I know. I mean, you wouldn't still be here if you didn't want to be. But emotionally? Everything's all fucked up and confused and everything's changed but at the same time nothing has. And I can push it aside for a little while and try to be with you how you deserve but it keeps coming back and makes me want to sit in a corner and cry." Newt moved his hands away, looking at Hermann with his lower lip trembling and eyes full of apology.

"Newton, please," Hermann said, placing a hand on Newt's chest over his heart. "Do not hide it. Do not bottle it up. My comfort and- and... gratification are not more important than your mental and emotional wellbeing. You do not need to perform for my benefit."

"It wasn't all a performance," Newt said, lowering a hand to his chest and wrapping his fingers around Hermann's. "When I was blowing you, that was simple, no turmoil of any kind at all; I knew what you wanted and I knew what I wanted. But the rest of the time... I really want to be that guy you know; upbeat and ... not a bucket full of messy feelings. It's just... exhausting."

"I imagine it is," Hermann said, squeezing Newt's hand. "But, know this: yes, I want you happy. Yes, I want you whole. But not if it's just on the outside." Hermann lifted Newt's hand and pressed a kiss to Newt's knuckles. "Facades eat away at people, Newton. I don't want one of those people to be you."

"I'm sorry. I really am. This must be so crappy for you." Newt's mouth turned down at the edge.

"It's not easy watching someone you… watching someone go through something like this and knowing there's no easy fix. All I can do is try to make sure you don't go through it alone and I- ... I failed." Hermann looked down, avoiding Newt's eyes. "I wanted you to be that man, also. So much so that I let it slide when it was obvious you weren't alright. I don't know how I can apologise for that."

"You don't need to apologise. Let's just... Let's just go to bed, hey? I'll try and sleep my way to a better mood." Newt squeezed Hermann's hand again and shifted his legs so Hermann could sit up.

"Whatever you need, Newton," Hermann said as he righted himself and tucked himself back into his pants.

"Go brush your teeth. I'll put the pizza away and be right there." Newt sat up and pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes, taking a deep breath before picking up the leftovers and mess and taking it to the kitchen.

Hermann watched Newt as he went; the slump of his shoulders and the sigh he couldn't hide. Hauling himself up from the couch, Hermann picked up his bag and made his way down the hall to do as he was bade. He brushed his teeth, listening to the sounds of Newt fighting to get the pizza box in the fridge, and headed to the bedroom to change into his pyjamas. Turning the bedside light on, he pulled back the sheets and sat to wait for Newt.

After a while, he heard the sound of Newt padding down the hall and entering the bathroom, water running and brushing echoed down to the bedroom. Newt appeared a few moments later, flicking off the overhead light and pulling off his hoody. Hermann lay back on the bed, pulling the covers over himself as Newt stripped down to his boxers, tossing his sweats by the laundry hamper, and crawled into the opposite side of the bed. He hesitated for a moment until Hermann held out an arm.

Newt inched over and curled up on his side, head resting on Hermann's shoulder and knees poking into Hermann's thigh. Hermann reached up and switched off the light before he wrapped his arms around Newt, holding him close and pressing his lips to the crown of Newt's head.

Hermann heard a muffled sniff and tightened his hold on Newt, murmuring gently. "It's okay, Newton. Don't hold it in."

Newt's fingers curled into Hermann's pyjama shirt, clenching them into a fist and turning his head to press his face into Hermann's chest as a wracking sob shuddered through his body. Hot tears streamed down his face and soaked into blue-striped cotton as his throat tightened and his chest ached with a pain he couldn't put a name to. He felt Hermann's hands softly stroking up and down his back and the silence of his support made him cry harder. He curled up tighter, pulling Hermann closer as his mind raced with all the mistakes he'd made and how much he'd hurt the both of them in such a short time and how he could never fix it and it would just happen again and again and again.

He let it all out into the curve of Hermann's neck, feeling pathetically grateful for the way Hermann didn't hush him or tell him everything was going to be okay and worse for the fact that he was inflicting all his sloppy emotion on him. He whimpered and whined between shuddering breaths, relaxing for the occasional moment only to have it all rush back to him and set the cycle off once more. His limbs felt tight and heavy from the constant clench and release and it was exhaustion and the rawness of his throat that finally forced him to settle.

"I'm sorry," He rasped as he slumped against Hermann bonelessly, all the fight gone from his body and his joints aching.

"No apologies," Hermann murmured, resting his cheek against the top of Newt's head. "If you need to... continue... do so. I'll not judge." Hermann felt his heart break a little at the small sob that escaped Newt's throat and the hot tears that merged to dampen his neck. He did what he could and held Newt close as he sobbed his way into a fitful sleep, watching over him as the night grew longer and eventually claimed him as well.

Chapter Text

Late June
Tuesday 5:00am

Hermann woke to Newt shifting quietly out of the bed as the sun peeked over the horizon and shafted through the windows.

"Newton?" Hermann asked muzzily, reaching out to touch Newt's back.

"It's okay, Hermann. Go back to sleep," Newt said, reaching behind him to squeeze Hermann's hand.

"Are you alright?" Hermann raised himself onto an elbow, brushing the sleep out of his eyes with his free hand while peering over at Newt.

"Yeah, I'm doing better." Newt turned and gave Hermann a small smile, leaning down to kiss him gently. "I've got to get to work. You should go back to sleep."

"You're not pushing yourself, are you?"

"Maybe a little? But sitting around not doing anything is just going to make it worse." Newt shrugged, picking at the bedspread uncomfortably. “I’ve, uh, I’ve been Skyping with my psychiatrist every few days, um, pretty much since this whole cycle started... turns out finding out the guy you’ve wanted for half your life wants you just as much can be a bit... I’m not- I don’t mean- It’s not you. This is all me.” Newt grabbed Hermann’s hand. “Shit. I’m sorry. Don’t- don’t feel guilty. I’m glad we met again – I wouldn’t change it. I just- I want you to know... we’re working on it. We’ll find a new cocktail that works. I- it might not get better straight away, but… it’s not something that’s going to fester.”

Hermann felt his heart clench with guilt, but pushed it aside so Newt wouldn’t see. He turned his hand under Newt’s and raised it to press a soft kiss to Newt’s fingers. “I’m glad you’re taking care of yourself,” he said, lowering Newt’s hand and holding it to his chest. “I just want you to be okay. Whatever I can do to help, you need only ask.”

“Thank you, Hermann. It means a lot.” Newt said with a sad smile. “I really have to get to work now.”

"Promise me you'll come see me if you need to," Hermann said as he lowered himself down to the pillow, stroking his fingers through Newt's hair, hand sliding down to cup around his neck reassuringly.

"I promise." Newt let Hermann pull him down into a short kiss. "Thank you, for, uh, you know."

"Anything you need, Newton." Hermann brushed his nose against Newt's cheek and let his arm drop back to the bed.

"I'll bring you breakfast before I head down," Newt said as he straightened and stood, padding down out of the room and down the hall.

Hermann closed his eyes and pulled the covers up over his shoulders as the sound of the shower running lulled him back to sleep.

---

Later

Hermann stood at the top of the stairs, closing his eyes and breathing deeply. He'd overslept and woken to a cold cup of tea and a muffin on the bedside table and the distant sounds of the cafe below. He'd eaten and showered and dressed and now there was nothing left to do but leave, yet he found himself reluctant.

It had been one thing to reveal his vulnerability to Chuck and Mako while Newt had been indisposed, another entirely to face the aftermath of that with Newt present. Steeling himself for whatever mockery may befall him, he descended the stairs and entered the cafe.

"Morning, Doc," Chuck said with a nod as he passed the end of the counter.

"Good morning," Hermann said stiffly, waiting for the joke to be made, but Chuck just tipped his cup towards Hermann, took a sip and returned to his magazine.

"Order up," Newt called as he finished serving a customer and Hermann stepped forward. "Hey, Hermann. Sleep well?"

"Quite well. Thank you for the breakfast," Hermann said awkwardly, still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"Not a problem. Did you want me to take you out through the back?" Newt asked with a raised eyebrow and a small grin as the bell tinkled and someone came in.

"No, it's quite alright. You have customers to attend." Hermann stepped to the side gesturing for them order and moved back once they were gone. He leaned in and lowered his tone. "Uh, I will be working from my office today, but if you need me for any reason at all, you have my number."

"I appreciate that, but I've dealt with this shit before. I'm not going to fly off the rails," Newt reached forward and placed his hand over Hermann's on the counter, giving it a squeeze. "I'll be okay."

"I expect you shall. I just wished to, er, further express my support."

"Thank you." Newt squeezed Hermann's hand again. "Did you want to come over again tonight? We can do Search for Spock and you can see what I mean about the odd numbers."

"I would find that very agreeable. Though, I won't be able to stay - I have an appointment in the morning."

"That's cool. See you 'round seven?"

"Indeed, I- Yes. Seven." Hermann glanced around the store and, seeing that no one's attention was directly on them, leaned forward and pressed a quick kiss to Newt's cheek, blushing furiously as he stepped back.

"You're adorable," Newt said, smile spreading from cheek to cheek.

"I am nothing of the sort. I'll see you tonight." Hermann straightened, turned, and left.

His face didn't stop burning until he reached his office.

Chapter Text

Mid-July
Thursday 7:45pm

June turned into July bringing with it a sweltering heatwave that left everyone limp and restless under the weight of the humidity. The Star Trek movies were finished; Hermann readily agreed that the odd numbers were markedly inferior, but had not developed the same perverse fondness for the singalong as Newt.

They sat in Newt's apartment at opposite ends of the couch, Newt in boxers and Hermann having been convinced to strip down to his undershirt; both were red and blotchy from the heat and the outstretched arms touching at the finger tips was the only skin contact either could stand. An air conditioner hung from the window doing little to cool the large space, and a fan slowly oscillated between them bringing brief respite on each slow pass.

"It's just going to get worse tomorrow," Newt said, wiping his forehead before the beads of sweat could accumulate enough to gather together and blind him. "We're running low on pretty much everything. I thought we'd be able to stretch it out until it cooled down a little, but since that coffee tour came through sales have picked up a lot. We pretty much have to start roasting those beans now or it's going to be my balls on the line. God knows what the humidity's doing to them even with the dehumidifiers running all the time."

"Sorry, I wasn't listening," Hermann said, head flopping to the side to look at Newt directly. "The humidity is doing what to your testicles?"

"Funny," Newt said, flicking Hermann's finger lethargically. "The temperature in my room's pretty much going to be set to fireball and the rest of the place is going to be hovering just around the sweaty rim of satan's asshole."

"Charming imagery." Hermann rolled his eyes.

"The point is, you probably shouldn't come around for the next couple of days." Newt rubbed his fingers against Hermann's, mouth twisted down at the side apologetically.

"We could, uh - if you're feeling up to it - go to my apartment. It has central air," Hermann said tentatively.

"Hermann, you bitch," Newt said, eyes widening as he sat up. "You've been holding out on me! Why aren't we there now?!"

"I... thought it would be taking you out of your comfort zone." Hermann blinked in confusion.

"Dude, ain't nobody comfortable in this zone. Let me pack a bag. I'll empty the dehumidifiers and we can go." Newt said as he jumped up from the couch.

"Are you sure?"

"It's a couple of blocks in a straight line, I'll be fine." Newt grinned as he walked down the hallway to his bedroom and grabbed a bag from the bottom of his closet.

He shoved a t-shirt and a pair of shorts in before heading to his drawer and throwing in a pair of boxers. He was about to turn the light off when he looked down the hall and saw Hermann putting his shirt back on, tilted his head to the side and grinned. Hurrying back, he opened the bedside drawer, grabbed a handful of condoms and the tube of lube and headed back out to the main area where Hermann was standing, setting his blazer over his attache case and looking over at him expectantly.

"We don't have to go if you don't want to. The lower temperature is really all my apartment has to offer." Hermann said, looking down at his hands twisting on the handle of his cane.

"Anything has got to be better than slowly stewing in our own fluids." Newt shrugged, grabbing his phone and headphones and shoving them in a side pocket. "I can bring a DVD or something if you want."

"I, uh, don't own a DVD player. Or a television." Hermann said regretting the decision to invite Newt over to see how empty his life really was.

"I'm sure we can find something to do," Newt said with a grin, bumping his shoulder lightly against Hermann's. "Come on, the sooner I empty the dehumidifiers, the sooner we can get to your ice palace." Newt did a once over around the apartment to make sure everything was off and then flicked on the lights in the stairwell and headed down.

Entering the back room, he went to the first dehumidifier and pulled out the quarter full bucket, dumping it in the sink in the laundry before moving onto the next. Hermann entered as he was emptying the third holding his blazer and attache in his hand.

"Nearly done, just got to get the last one," Newt said as he hurried over to get the last bucket and dump it out.

He set the reservoir back in place and shoved all the dehumidifiers as close to the high-stacked piles of jute bags sitting on pallets by the wall. Dusting his hands off, he headed back towards the cafe.

"Just gonna lock the doors, I'll meet you outside."

"I locked them as I came through," Hermann said, watching as Newt paused and tensed.

"I have to check them for myself. Because... I just do." Newt disappeared into the cafe and Hermann listened as he tested the doorknob, then took out his keys and unlocked, then relocked the door. He came back in and repeated the motions; sliding his keys in, locking the door, and then testing the handle. Heading to the exit, he flipped the switch to turn the lights off and locked the door, jiggling the handle before turning to Hermann.

"Okay, I'm good to go." Newt said, looking around at the long, dark shadows, tension still high in his shoulders.

Hermann looked over at Newt and offered his elbow.

"Dude, it is way too hot for that." Newt shook his head and started to walk down the street.

Hermann sighed and followed.

They walked in silence for the first block; Newt's shoulders tense and hunched, and Hermann walking as fast as his hip and the heat would allow. Newt drifted closer to him as people passed them and by the time they were crossing the street onto Hermann's block, he had latched on to Hermann's arm.

"Maybe it's not so hot," Newt said pretending to be blasé while side-eying a car idling at the lights.

"Of course," Hermann said with a small smile and began to angle Newt towards a nearby building. "This is it." As they came closer to the entrance, he raised his cane and pressed the automatic door button, both of them sighing as the chilly air hit them.

"Holy balls, this is magic," Newt said, letting go of Hermann's arm and stepping into the middle of the foyer to hold his arms out and turn his head upwards with an expression of pure bliss on his face.

"Indeed." Hermann watched Newt spin with an indulgent gaze and pressed the button for the elevator. "Come along, Newton," Hermann said as the elevator arrived, he pressed the button and held his cane up to keep the doors opened as Newt stopped turning and came to stand beside him.

"You were totally holding out on me," Newt said, wrapping an arm around Hermann's waist as the doors closed.

"I did not think that the heatwave would get quite so bad," Hermann said as the doors opened on the first floor and he stepped out, rummaging in his pocket for the keys.

"Did we just take the elevator to the second fl- Shit. Never mind. I'm an asshole." Newt cringed and shoved his hands into his pockets as he stood behind Hermann at his front door.

"If I don't have to take the stairs, I won't," Hermann said, trying not to let the defensiveness into his speech as he unlocked the door and stepped through, ushering Newt in as he hung his blazer and attache case from the coat stand.

"Yeah, sorry. I get that... Man, you must really hate my place," Newt said with a twist of his lips, looking up at Hermann apologetically.

Hermann reached up and stroked Newt's cheek with his thumb, angling his face towards him as he looked him in the eye. "There is no limit to the number of stairs I would traverse were you at the other end." Hermann leaned down and pressed a soft kiss to the corner of Newt's lips.

"There's totally a sappy romantic hiding under all those stuffy, British layers." Newt grinned returning the kiss with fervour. "Want to give me a tour?" He asked as he pulled back.

"It's, er, rather short, I'm afraid," Hermann said, ducking his head in embarrassment as he lead Newt into the main area. "The first door is the bathroom, the second is the kitchen. The bedroom is over there and this is... everything else." He gestured around the space to the desk and computer in one corner, couch and coffee table in another and a table with a single chair by the wall near the entrance.

Newt looked around at the blank walls and inoffensively shaded furniture, dropped his bag by the bedroom door and sat on the arm of the couch. "It's very Fortress of Solitude. Very you."

"Quite," Hermann said with a bitter twist of his lips.

"I mean that in a good way, y'know? It's functional and there's no distractions. Like you." Newt shrugged as he looked around, eyes coming to rest on the stack of paper and envelopes on the table. "Are these- You kept my letters?" Newt slid down onto the couch, picking up the nearest one and skimming through it. "Is this all of them?"

"Most of them," Hermann said with a blush. He'd forgotten he'd left them out; hadn't expected that Newt would ever have had cause to find them. "Some were damaged or stolen by boys in my form at school."

"I dug yours out of storage the day you appeared at work. They're in a box in the office," Newt said as he put the letter down and stood up to wrap his arms around Hermann's waist and kiss him. "I need you to fuck me now, you secretly nostalgic, romantic sap."

"Damn and blast," Hermann said, frowning and looking down at Newt apologetically. "I, uh... I'm not exactly prepared for, er, visitors of a sexual nature," Hermann said, ducking his head.

"I guess it's lucky for you that I'm a visitor of a sexual nature who is one hundred percent prepared." Newt gave a lascivious wiggle of his eyebrows and tugged Hermann towards the bedroom door.

"Just one second," Hermann said, turning to the bathroom and opening the door.

"C'mon, it's been, like, a week since touching without our skin potentially fusing together has been an option. I want to rub my body all over your body and hopefully there'll be some of those embarrassing squishing noises that make you blush every time." Newt called after him.

"Your seduction technique is truly devastating," Hermann said blithely as he returned carrying a damp face cloth.

"Get your pants off and I'll devastate you with my tongue," Newt said with a leer as he peered around the bedroom, dropping his bag by the bed and shedding his tee and pants. He bent down and pulled out the lube and a handful of condoms and dumped them on the bed.

"Ambitious." Hermann raised an eyebrow as Newt sat on the end of the bed and tugged him to stand between his legs. Hermann leaned his cane against the wall, tossed the facecloth to the nearest bedside table, and let himself be moved.

"I'm game to try if you are," Newt said with a grin, waggling his eyebrows up at Hermann as he tugged Hermann's shirt and undershirt out of his trousers.

"Maybe another time." Hermann watched with a small smile as Newt began to unbutton his shirt, doing three buttons before becoming distracted and rucking up Hermann's undershirt to press his mouth to the tight skin of his stomach above his belt. Newt's hands slid further up Hermann's shirt, one settling between his shoulder blades, the other at the small of his back, fingers splayed to cover as much skin as possible as he pulled him slowly closer.

Hermann's hand settled onto the back of Newt's head, holding him lightly as he kissed his way from Hermann's belly button up to the curve of his ribcage. Realising that Newt wasn't about to stop any time soon, Hermann finished unbuttoning his shirt and slipped it off his arms, tossing it to land over a chair in the corner. He followed it with his vest and rested his hands on Newt's shoulders, gently pushing him away so he could work on his belt. Newt leaned down to untie his shoes, cupping his calf in warning and waiting until Hermann leaned against his shoulders before lifting each foot and tugging the shoe off. He let Newt undo his trousers and tug them down his legs with his underpants until he stepped out of them and Newt tossed them aside.

Newt dragged his eyes up Hermann's naked body and then back down, leaning forward to kiss his way down Hermann's hip and bury his face at the apex of Hermann's thighs beside his half-hard cock, inhaling deeply. "That is the best smell in the world," Newt mumbled into Hermann's skin.

"I'm sorry, what? Sweaty bollocks?" Hermann asked, pulling back as he looked down at Newt with his upper lip curled in a moue of distaste.

"A little bit of that, yeah," Newt looked up and wrapped his arms around Hermann's middle, resting his head on Hermann's stomach and nuzzling him with his nose. "Mostly it's just you. Especially when you're turned on. Y'know, they've done studies that show that people who smell good to each other are compatible."

"Is that so?" Hermann asked, running a hand over the side of Newt's head affectionately.

"Yeah, you smell so fucking good to me... means we're, like, super compatible. Or, well, you're super compatible with me. You haven't told me that I smell bad or anything, so I'm assuming we're not completely incompatible, but-" Newt cut himself off as Hermann unwrapped Newt's arms from his middle and gently pushed him back to lay on the bed, following with his body to drape himself over Newt.

"You smell..." Hermann leaned down to press his face to the juncture of Newt's neck and shoulder, tongue darting out to lick Newt's clavicle quickly before inhaling. He sighed as he made his way back, dragging his nose up his neck and across Newt's cheek. "Delectable.” He said into Newt's lips before kissing him tenderly, sucking Newt's lower lip as he gasped. He felt Newt begin to harden against him as he rocked his hips to the rhythm of their kisses, slow and deliberate.

"Holy fuck," Newt panted as he broke away for air. "Now you really have to fuck me, you silver-tongued sweet talker, you."

"Pass the lubricant," Hermann said, resting on his elbow and holding out a hand. Newt stretched backwards, arm flailing towards the lubricant and sweeping it and a few condoms towards him when he couldn't gain purchase. Grabbing the tube, he flicked open the cap and handed it to Hermann who squeezed out a generous dollop, slid slightly to the side, and trailed his finger's down Newt's arse to his entrance, fingers circling slowly. He looked at Newt and raised an eyebrow. "Ready?"

"Any time now. Any time at- Oh, yeah. Mmhmm, yeah." Newt nodded and closed his eyes, lips pressed tightly together as Hermann began to stretch him.

Hermann watched Newt's face as he moved from one finger to two, taking note of each gasp and sigh as he scissored his fingers and thrust slowly in and out. He paid attention to each squeeze of Newt's hands on his shoulder, and the way his body twitched when he twisted his fingers a certain way.

"Fuck, your fingers are the best," Newt moaned, stretching up to pull Hermann into a kiss before dropping back to arch into the sensation. "Like a- fuck, yeah, unh - like an octopus. All l-long and thin and, fuck, man, you get e-everywhere. Like fucking tentacles. Oh- hey, nonono, don't stop, don't stop."

Hermann's head dropped forward to Newt's chin as his fingers stopped moving.

"What? What is it? What?" Newt demanded, shifting his hips to try and get Hermann's fingers moving again.

"Sometimes," Hermann said, raising his head to look at Newt. "I don't know what I'm going to do with you."

"You could stick your dick in me," Newt said, wiggling his ass against Hermann's hand. "Just, y'know, a suggestion."

Hermann closed his eyes and shook his head, pulling his fingers out and wiping them on Newt's thigh - ignoring the indignant squawk. He picked up a condom and pulled back to sit on the edge of the bed. Quickly sliding it on before turning back, he adjusted his position so he'd be able to keep his bad hip locked and straight and get all the leverage he'd need from his good leg. Positioning himself, he looked up at Newt questioningly. Receiving a nod, he held himself steady as he pushed in and then rested his elbows on either side of Newt's body as Newt arched with a moan and wrapped his legs around Hermann's waist.

Hermann's hands slid under Newt's back, curling around his shoulders to pull himself up, deeper into Newt's body. He rested his forehead against Newt's chest as he breathed shallowly, feeling Newt twitching around him as he began to roll his hips. He kissed the nearest patch of skin, dragging his lips across the brightly coloured monsters emblazoned on Newt's flesh.

Newt's hands danced across Hermann's back, clenching and kneading as he met every thrust. One hand slid down, pressing against the curve of Hermann's back and urging him on. "Stay with me, Herm," Newt panted. "Want to see you."

Hermann raised his head, looking at Newt with dark, hooded eyes as he kissed along Newt's jaw and picked up the pace. He could feel Newt's cock trapped between their bodies, pressed his stomach down and rubbed against it to see Newt's eyes dip closed and a stream of uh yeah just like that fuck Hermann yes bubble forth.

Newt turned his head, capturing Hermann's lips sloppily and losing all his moans and sighs into the wet warmth of Hermann's mouth. His feet pressed against Hermann's ass, pulling him in deeper with every roll of his hips. He broke away from the kiss as he tried to rub himself off against Hermann's belly. "Please, I need more. Fuck, Hermann, more." He arched into Hermann's body, neck stretching tight and taut, a choked off moan spilling from his mouth as Hermann pushed harder.

Hermann kissed his way down Newt's neck, kissing and licking and sucking until he reached a spot just above Newt's clavicle and latched on. He sucked hard, resisting the urge to break away and moan as Newt clenched down tight around him, his hands coming up to hold Hermann's head steady. The extra tightness pulling him in as he moved more frantically and erratically and the pleasure that had been building at the base of his spine exploded outward suddenly, pleasure tightening everything and forcing out a gasp that had him hunching over Newt, dragging his lips away from his neck, as he spent himself in Newt's body.

"Hermann. Hermann, please. Touch me. Fuck. Touch me." Hermann heard as though from a distance as he panted into Newt's chest.

"Sorry. Sorry, I- Sorry. One... One moment," Hermann said breathlessly as he came back to himself, letting go of Newt's shoulder to send his pleasure-drunk hands down the sides of Newt's body. Clasping the end of the condom tightly, he pulled his softening cock out and slid down to kneel on his good leg as Newt protested the absence. He pushed two fingers into Newt, sliding in and out and crooking his fingers to stroke his sensitive interior. His other hand angled Newt's cock into his mouth, gripping tightly at the base as he set about sucking and pulling at a demanding pace.

"Fuck, yes, f-fuck. Herm- y-yes. Just a little- little more. Fuck." Newt babbled, feet pressing into Hermann's shoulders as he tightened his fingers into Hermann's hair and tried to rock into his mouth.

Hermann added a third finger, pushing and stroking as he listened to Newt falling apart above him.

"I'm close. So close. Fuck fuck fuck. God, yes, yes. Now now now".

Hermann pulled off and jerked him hard, watching as Newt arched and spurted over his stomach and chest, clenching down tightly on Hermann's fingers. He stroked him through it, pace slowing as Newt relaxed into the bed, his feet slipping off Hermann's shoulders to hang down his back.

Hermann let go of Newt's cock, hand falling to the side to curl around Newt's hip as he lowered himself to the floor and rested his head on Newt's thigh. He pulled his fingers out slowly, hearing Newt whimper above him at the extra sensation, and pressed a gentle kiss to the quivering muscles twitching under Hermann's cheek.

They stayed there, breathing into the silence until Newt took a deep breath and let his legs slide off Hermann's shoulders, moving to sit up.

"Don't ooze on the bedspread," Hermann murmured as he followed his pillow to the side.

"Your pillow talk's as stellar as my seduction technique," Newt said lazily, reaching down to pat Hermann's head awkwardly as he inched his way off the bed without sitting up.

"We're a matched set... Romantically maladjusted bookends," Hermann said as Newt lifted his head and slid off the bed to kneel beside him. He felt himself enveloped in Newt's arms, gentle lips pressing across his temple and eyelids and cheek before his mouth was taken in a soft, sweet kiss.

"We should get off the floor," Newt said, nuzzling Hermann's cheek, hand stroking up and down his side.

Hermann gave a noncommittal sigh, resting his head on Newt's shoulder. "Perhaps I wish to stay here."

"Perhaps we'll both cramp up and never leave," Newt said, bussing the crown of Hermann's head with his lips. "Do you want help getting up?"

"No, I can manage," Hermann said, tensing slightly as he pulled away from Newt. "Get yourself cleaned up." Hermann looked down as Newt's arms slipped from around his body. He glanced over as Newt sighed heavily and pushed himself to his feet. He watched with a confused frown as Newt walked away, feeling he was missing something.

"Fine, but I'm going to snuggle you so hard when you get in that bed it isn't even funny," Newt said as he grabbed the washcloth and started to wipe the come off his chest.

"I see no flaw in this plan." Hermann brushed his confusion aside and focussed on removing the condom and tying it off, tossing it in the wastebasket by the door.

"You want to, uh... before I..." Newt held out the washcloth to Hermann, gesturing to his backside with his spare hand.

Hermann took the cloth and wiped himself off, taking care to get the patches on his side and shoulder before passing it back. Rolling to the side, he balanced on his knee and placed his hands on the end of the bed to push himself up without jarring his leg. He made his way around the bed and pulled back the sheet, sliding in as Newt went to the door and threw the cloth towards the bathroom.

"Your hair looks amazing right now," Newt said, stopping by the edge of the bed to take in the sweat-slicked spikes and rough curls adorning Hermann's head on the pillow. "No! Don't touch it!" Newt jumped onto the bed to stop Hermann from smoothing it down. "I did that." Newt held onto Hermann's hands and leaned over to kiss him. "Messed up your pristine facade, revealed the debauched sex-god under it all. You look hot." Newt smirked at Hermann's blush. "I want a picture of this."

"Newt, no," Hermann said as Newt rolled to the side of the bed to rummage through his bag for his phone.

"Is that a serious no, or an embarrassed no?" Newt asked as he sat back up with his phone.

"Both?"

"Are you worried I'm going to show it to people? Because, trust me, I don't want anyone but me seeing this. I'd have to fight them off with a stick." Newt knelt beside Hermann with the phone in his hand. "How about I take the picture, and if you really don't like it, I'll delete it?"

Hermann frowned, twisting the bedsheets between his hands. "I don't know..."

"You can frown in the photo if you want. It makes you look totally punk rock." Newt grinned.

Hermann glared at Newt.

"Jesus!" Newt's eyes widened and he fumbled the phone up to frame the picture. "Don't move. That's perfect." Tapping the screen to focus on his cantankerous boyfriend, he quickly took the picture and flopped down beside Hermann to show him the screen.

"This..." Hermann took the phone off Newt and held it far enough away that he could focus on it properly. "This hardly looks like me at all."

"Maybe not the you in the streets," Newt said, leaning over to kiss Hermann's cheek. "But definitely the you in the sheets. And I get to see it every time we fuck."

Hermann rolled his eyes and handed the phone back. "I suppose you can keep it. If it makes you happy..."

"Oh, it really does. You have no idea." Newt grinned and locked the phone screen, leaning back to drop it on top of his bag.

"Get into bed, Newton," Hermann said with a shake of his head.

Newt pulled back the sheet and clambered in, scuttling to lie on his side and wrap an arm around Hermann, squeezing him tight. "We should never leave here," Newt said as he buried his face in Hermann's neck. "Just stay forever and cuddle in the AC."

"I knew you only liked me for my cold interior," Hermann teased, resting his head against Newt's as he relaxed into his warmth.

"I like your cold exterior a lot, too." Newt kissed Hermann's shoulder and looked up. "Seriously, though, I will blow you whenever you want until this heatwave is over in exchange for some of this glorious airconditioning. Any time."

"You're always welcome here, Newton," Hermann said, stroking Newt's jaw and tilting his chin up to kiss him softly. "You don't have to pleasure me for the privilege; it's already yours."

"Thank you, Hermann. I appreciate it," Newt said, ducking in for a quick kiss. "But what I meant was that I want to spend as much time here with your dick in my mouth as possible."

"You're terribly crass at times," Hermann said with a laugh. "But I cannot say that your arguments aren't compelling."

"What can I say? I have a way with words." Newt stopped and looked away shyly. "So, it's really, uh, it's okay if I come back tomorrow? I mean, the roasting and all is going to turn my place into a furnace and if you need your space that's cool, I don't have to come. I just-"

"Shh," Hermann hushed him and turned Newt's head so their eyes met. "You can come back tomorrow and the day after and the day after that."

"You know I'm going to have to leave, like, ridiculously early every day, right?" Newt said with a twist of his lips.

"That's fine. The door will lock when you pull it closed behind you." Hermann said reassuringly, kissing Newt's cheek and running a hand through his hair.

"You're sure?"

"One-hundred percent."

"Okay. Okay, cool." Newt kissed Hermann gently and lay his head back down. "Hermann?"

"Yes, Newton?" Hermann settled back down, closing his eyes as he lay his head against Newt's.

"You've got the title right now." Newt nuzzled into Hermann's chest pressing a kiss to his pectoral.

"Go to sleep, Newton," Hermann said, smiling into Newt's hair.

Chapter Text

Mid-July
Friday 11:00am

Carrying his attaché case and regretting his decision to continue to wear his blazer in this level of heat, Hermann entered Kaiju Blue and waited until Chuck had finished serving a customer before approaching the counter.

"Morning, Doc," Chuck said with a nod. "Newt's out back with Mako."

"Good morning, Chuck. Might I...?" Hermann pointed at the door between the cafe and the back room.

"You mind going round the side? Every time that door opens it's like a dragon breathing fire in here." Chuck shrugged apologetically.

"Not at all." Hermann nodded and turned to exit.

"Have a good one, Doc," Chuck called as Hermann walked out the door.

Hermann walked around to the side door and peered in, seeing the rolling doors at the back of the building up high, large fans blasting the heat away from the cafe, and the dehumidifiers running almost to capacity. Newt and Mako worked near the doors, looking over a spread of roasted beans on a table and picking some out to toss in a nearby bucket. Hermann stepped into the room and called out to get Newt's attention.

"Hey, Hermann!" Newt shouted and turned to say something to Mako that Hermann couldn't hear over the fans. Mako nodded and looked over to smile and wave at Hermann as Newt made his way around the tables to come stand before Hermann. "I wasn't expecting to see you until tonight. What's up?" He asked giving him a quick kiss on the cheek.

"I was on my way to the office and wanted to know what time I should expect you," Hermann said watching as Newt wiped the sweat off his face.

"I dunno, maybe around seven or eight? I was thinking I'd mix everything together tonight so I don't have to leave so early tomorrow. It'll change the flavors, but, fuck it. Heatwave rules." Newt shrugged. "Sound okay?"

"That sounds fine. Would you like me to order food, or will you eat before you leave?" Hermann asked wondering how anyone could stand to work for so long in this heat.

"Take out sounds awesome." Newt grinned. "You've still got the title."

"Indeed." Hermann ducked his head shyly. "I'll see you tonight." Hermann looked towards Mako avoiding Newt's curious stare, took a deep breath and stepped closer to Newt, leaning in and pressing his lips to Newt's, gently but firmly. Blushing, he stepped away and looked up to see Newt glaring at him.

"Damnit, Hermann. Still?" Newt scrubbed his hand over his face roughly. "Sometimes I just don't fucking get you, y'know? We've been sleeping together for how long now? She's not a threat to you. Jesus, fuck."

"I wasn't- That's not-" Hermann stammered, holding his hand out to try and placate Newt. "I was only trying to-" A loud buzzer sounded from the oven, cutting Hermann off.

Newt looked over to Mako, raising an eyebrow and jerking his head in the direction of the oven, holding up one finger to let her know he'd be right there.

"I really don't have time to deal with this shit right now. But we are going to fucking talk about it, and you are going to listen." Newt took a step forward and kissed Hermann angrily on the cheek, glaring at him as he stepped back. "I'll see you tonight."

Hermann watched as Newt turned around and stomped over to the oven to help Mako remove the roasted beans. He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and index finger and sighed as he turned to leave. As he reached the door, he turned to look back, mouth drawing down at the sides as he watched Newt empty the beans onto a cooling table and resolutely not look his way.

Hermann sighed once more and left, a heavy weight on his shoulders and the certainty that it was going to be a long day.

---

Later

Hermann sat at his desk working through a proof as the smell of fresh, hot pizza wafted through the apartment from the coffee table behind him. Tension rode high in his shoulders as he hunched over the paper, scribbling away furiously until he pressed too hard and the lead broke. He threw the pencil angrily into the pile of shavings at the corner of the desk and picked up a new one, returning to his work with a sneer.

A knocking at the door drew his attention and he threw the new pencil on the table - surely shattering the lead all the way through - and pulled his glasses off, leaving them to hang around his neck. Reaching for his cane, he stood and kicked the chair back roughly, hissing at the pain that radiated out from his hip and just served to ratchet his irritation higher. Making his way to the door slowly, he opened it and stared at Newton coldly. "Newton, I-"

"No, Hermann," Newt said, pulling his headphones out as he pushed past Hermann into the apartment. "I talk, you listen." Newt threw his bag through the bedroom door to the foot of Hermann's bed and turned to glare at him.

Hermann closed the door and followed Newt, stopping in the main area and resting both hands on the head of his cane and glaring at Newt as he paced. "If you would just listen to me-"

"No, I'm really fucking pissed at you right now. I mean, seriously? Dominance displays? You think she's going to try and steal me away from you? That we're going to be so overcome by the heat that we're going to start mindlessly rutting on the floor? Huh?" Newt threw his hands up in exasperation and scrubbed them through his hair agitatedly. "You've got your mark on me, ok?" He pulled down the collar of his shirt and pointed at the hickey. "I'm not going to fucking forget it. Do you really trust me that little? You want to piss all over me to get your scent markers in play, too? How about I just get 'Property of Hermann 'Posessive Motherfucker' Gottlieb' tattooed on my ass?"

"You couldn't have read this situation more incorrectly if you'd tried," Hermann said, drawing himself up to his full height to scowl down at Newt. "I was not attempting to, to... display dominance, or anything of the sort, and I do not fear that Miss Mori will poach your regard."

"Sure, that's why you're suddenly all over me in front of her." Newt crossed his arms, glowering at Hermann unrepentantly.

"I was trying to show you more affection in public." Hermann spat, breathing heavily through his nose, jaw clenched tight with ire.

"What? No. You don't like PDAs. Why would you do that?" Newt asked, face settling into a confused frown.

"Because it makes you happy, you bloody ingrate!" Hermann shouted, emphasising his anger with the thump of his cane.

Newt stopped, standing stock still as he stared at Hermann in shock. "Really?" He asked in a stunned voice. "You did that for me?"

"I had thought that having a smaller audience would make it easier. Clearly I was wrong. Don't worry, it won't happen again." Hermann turned away from Newt and stomped towards the kitchen. "There's pizza on the table. The half with olives and anchovies is yours."

Hermann pushed through the door and resisted the urge to slam it behind him. Opening one of the upper cupboards, he pulled out a bottle of pills and looked at them bitterly, feeling a steady throb in his hip. He walked over to the sink, tossing his cane roughly to the side to hang off the counter and tried to open the childproof lid, twisting and turning it before becoming frustrated and throwing it into the sink. He stared blankly out the window at the next building, a tightness settling in his chest as he gripped the counter and forced himself to breath evenly.

After a while, the kitchen door opened and he heard Newt come up behind him, arms wrapping tentatively around his middle. "I'm sorry," He said, resting his chin on Hermann's shoulder.

"Do you really trust me so little?" Hermann asked, refusing to turn his head to look at Newt, not quite ready to let go of his anger.

"Of course I trust you. It just... seemed out of character for you. I mean, it is out of character for you. And you stared straight at her before you did it. If I'd had any idea..." Newt trailed off, tightening his arms around Hermann's waist.

"I've been working my way up to it for a while," Hermann said, looking down at Newt's arms, lips twisted bitterly. "Small gestures, mostly. You either didn't notice or turned them down. I thought... if I were more obvious, you'd understand..."

"I'm an oblivious shit at times. But," Newt sighed. "You don't have to change yourself out there for me to get it. You show me every time we're alone. I don't need grand gestures."

"I know how I seem to people, Newton; I'm cold and abrasive and brash. It- it suits me - I don't have to deal with social mores or- or peoples' feelings. All my time is my own. But then you come along..." Hermann raised a hand from the counter and wrapped it around Newt's wrist. "You've got friends and they care about you greatly... I don't want them to think you're attaching yourself to someone who doesn't value you."

"They don't think that," Newt said kissing Hermann's shoulder. "You-... you brought me food every day after... after I tried to break up with you, just to make sure I was eating. They know you care for me, even if you don't show it in the usual ways."

Hermann scoffed. "Chuck's threatened me with physical violence if I hurt you. Twice, now."

"That's just how Chuck shows he cares; he'd never tell me to my face. He protects people." Newt shrugged, pausing for a moment before continuing. "He, uh, threatened me if I didn't at least talk to you that day. He's your friend, too."

"He threatened you?" Hermann asked, turning slightly to look at Newt in confusion.

"Yeah, uh," Newt ducked his head, rubbing his forehead against Hermann's shoulder before looking up again with shame in his eyes. "I just wanted to run away and hide when I saw you. Chuck made me stay; told me you'd been there every day at open and close, waiting patiently. Said if I didn't pull my head out and talk to you, he was going to dropkick me off a pier."

"I don't understand. Why would he do that?" Hermann looked down at his hand on Newt's wrist and brought his other up to cup Newt's elbow protectively.

"That's why, Hermann," Newt said, jiggling his elbow. "You show it, in a million different little ways. Chuck's not an idiot. You've earned his respect." Newt leaned his forehead against the side of Hermann's head before adding: "Mate."

Hermann huffed a small laugh, leaning back into Newt's embrace and turning his head to press against Newt's.

"Are we cool?" Newt asked quietly.

"We are, as you say, 'cool'," Hermann replied, closing his eyes and breathing Newt in.

"Does this mean we get to have make-up sex now?"

Hermann opened his eyes to see Newt looking at him with a small grin. His hip throbbed. "The pizza will get cold."

"Sooo, make-up pizza, then make-up sex? I hear make-up pizza is the best pizza you'll ever have." Newt leered as Hermann turned around in his arms, bringing his hands up between them to cup Newt's face. Leaning down, he kissed him gently, revelling in the little noise Newt made.

"For future reference," Hermann said, breaking away from Newt's lips. "I am not threatened by Miss Mori's place in your life; I am glad of it. If you and she were not friends, we might not be here right now."

"What?" Newt asked, brow knit with confusion. "She wasn't even in the country when you came in the first time. And she was six when we stopped writing to each other."

"She let you go," Hermann said, kissing Newt softly. "I pity her and all the fools who didn't hold tighter."

"God, Hermann." Newt surged forward, kissing Hermann for all he was worth as he pressed him up against the sink. "You can't just say things like that and expect me to not want to jump straight to the make-up sex."

"I can and I will," Hermann said primly. "I did not sit in an apartment reeking of olives and anchovies just so you could not eat it."

"You know, I'm pretty sure the only thing that can spoil make-up sex is too much pizza," Newt said, sliding his hand into the back of Hermann's trousers.

"Then don't eat too much," Hermann patted Newt on the cheek condescendingly.

"Is there a reason you're avoiding the make-up sex?" Newt asked, narrowing his eyes at Hermann.

Hermann looked to the side, avoiding Newt's eyes, mouth turning downwards in shame. "I may have... kicked something before you arrived. I'll just need a little time before I can engage in any... strenuous activity."

"Shit and you've been standing all this time. Can I do anything? Do you need to sit? We can sit. We'll sit and we'll eat the pizza and then we can make-up cuddle. We'll make that a thing," Newt said as he fussed over Hermann, taking a step back and rubbing his upper arms soothingly.

"Newton, please. Stop." Hermann took Newt by the wrists and lowered his hands away from him. "Just give me a moment and I'll be with you presently."

"I just want to help," Newt said, looking at Hermann pleadingly.

"I know, but... you can't. Please, Newton." Hermann turned back to the sink, waiting until Newt walked away before picking up a glass off the drying rack and filling it with water. He looked over his shoulder to see Newt watching him from the doorway, a mixture of sadness and frustration on his face, and waved him off.

He waited until he heard the door close before picking up the pill bottle, taking a deep breath, and opening it carefully. He shook two out into his hand and threw them into his mouth, swallowing half the glass of water before setting it down on the counter. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, knowing it would be a good ten minutes before they began to work.

Taking his cane, he walked slowly to the door, closed his eyes and exhaled. He listened to the sounds of Newt shifting in the main area; the thumping of a cushion, the opening of the pizza box. He pressed his forehead against the cold, hard surface of the door and counted to twenty before stepping back and opening it.

Newt had arranged all four cushions into a semi-circle by the armrest, forming a nest. He looked up at him with wide, worried eyes as Hermann stepped through the door and made his way to the couch.

Hermann pursed his lips and eased himself down onto the couch. "There's no need to fuss," He said, pulling two of the cushions out and moving them behind Newt so he could sit comfortably. "It will pass."

"Just because it'll pass, doesn't mean I don't want to pamper you a little," Newt said, leaning back and taking Hermann's hand where it lay on his knee. "I was kind of an accidental asshole and I want to make it up to you. If your hip's hurting-"

"Please, Newton, don't do this." Hermann pinched the bridge of his nose. "I've taken some painkillers, it will pass."

"Right. Sure. It'll pass. Have some pizza." Newt let go of Hermann's hand and sat forward, pulling the box towards him and picking up a slice. He tossed it onto a napkin and passed it back to Hermann without looking at him before grabbing his own piece and tearing into it.

Hermann sighed and picked at the topping, finding his appetite suddenly gone. He watched Newt as he ate a few slices in silence, tossing the crust of the last one back into the box before moving on to another.

After his third slice, he turned to look at Hermann, halfway through his first slice. "Did you want anoth-" He cut himself off, visibly softening as he saw Hermann hunched in on himself, chewing slowly. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. I just don't have much of an appetite," Hermann said, taking another bite.

"Right. Then... I guess I'll put this away." Newt flipped closed the pizza box, scrunching up his napkin and taking them both into the kitchen.

He dumped the napkin in the trash just inside the door and pulled open the fridge, unable to stop himself from smirking slightly when he saw everything organised from tallest to smallest and labelled with its best before date in large, sharpied letters. He put the large box on top of everything and closed the door, walking back into the main area and leaning against the wall. He looked around as Hermann continued eating, drawing closer to the crust. There were no art prints or pictures on the eggshell white walls and the few books in the room were mathematical in nature. He took a closer look at the notebook on the table, his finger hovering over the formulae as he read.

"You got further with the Einstein-Rosen Bridge theory?" He asked, looking towards the couch.

"What? Oh, yes. Bring it over, I'll take you through it." Hermann pushed the last of the crust in his mouth and wiped his hands, waving Newt over.

Newt took the book to the couch, toeing his shoes off as he handed it to Hermann and curled up beside him.

"This series of equations should help to prove that a wormhole could maintain stability between two fixed points in space," Hermann said, gesticulating over the page and looking at Newt to make sure he was following.

Newt nodded and curled closer, watching as Hermann flipped back a few pages and outlined how it connected to an earlier idea he'd had.

An hour later, Hermann yawned through his sentence and Newt gently pushed the notebook closed.

"We can go over it some more another time," He said, tossing the notebook onto the table and leaning back to wrap his arms around Hermann and rest his head on his shoulder. "Sorry for being such an asshole today."

"Apology accepted," Hermann said with a fond smile, pressing a kiss to Newt's forehead.

Newt wasn't sure what he else he could have expected, but he'd hoped that the apology might have been at least a little bit mutual. He leaned forward, pressing his closed mouth against Hermann's shoulder to muffle a sigh.

"What do you say we go to bed, hmm?" Hermann asked, squeezing Newt's knee. "I believe there was some make-up sex in order?"

Newt pulled back and looked at Hermann consideringly before shaking his head. "No, it's okay. You're tired and I'm... tired. Let's just go to bed." He stood up and held out his hand, no longer surprised when Hermann appeared not to see it. "I'll go brush my teeth then."

Hermann watched Newt go, walking slowly into the bedroom to change into his pyjamas. He sat on the edge of the bed in the dim light of the bedside lamp, hand placed lightly on his hip as he waited for Newt to finish in the bathroom. The sharpness of the pain had long since faded, masked by the drugs in his system, but the memory of it shrouded the area and hung as a grim reminder that this was only a brief respite.

Newt entered pulling off his t-shirt. "All yours," He said, nodding towards the bathroom as he tossed his tee on his bag and started undoing his shorts.

Hermann left to brush his teeth, staring at himself in the mirror as he tried to discern the source of the awkward tension hanging between he and Newt. He spat and rinsed and found himself no closer to an answer as he made his way around the apartment, turning off lights.

He entered the bedroom and found Newt lying in the bed, staring at the ceiling. Resting his cane in its customary position, he climbed in beside Newt and settled himself into a position he knew wouldn't aggravate his hip when the painkiller wore off. He turned his head on the pillow to look at Newt, glasses off and staring straight up, and reached out to take his hand. Threading their fingers together, he raised them and pressed a kiss to the back of Newt's hand, wanting to feel Newt's comforting weight pressed up against him but unsure how to ask with this tension lingering between them.

Newt rolled onto his side and gave Hermann a small smile; not removing his hand, but still too far away. "Goodnight, Hermann," He murmured as he closed his eyes to sleep.

Hermann held on to Newt's hand, kissing it once more before wrapping it in both hands and resting it on his chest. "Goodnight... My Newton."

Chapter Text

Mid-July
Saturday 8:20pm

Newt put the last of the wrapped bowls in the fridge and wiped his brow, looking at the mess he'd made of the kitchen - flour and chocolate chips strewn across the island and floors, measuring cups and utensils piled in the sink. He set about cleaning the place up so he could leave. He wiped down the countertops, shoving most of it onto the floor to be swept up into a small pile and picked up with a small dustpan and brush.

He looked over at the clock on the microwave and then back to the pile in the sink. He'd been procrastinating, trying to put off going to Hermann's since the awkwardness had started between them. It had occurred to him that he could just not go, but that had made him feel worse than the prospect of sitting in awkward silence, not even trying.

Rinsing everything off as best he could, he filled the sinks with water, leaving it all to soak; he'd do it in the morning while waiting for the baking to finish.

He dried his hands off and moved around the apartment closing all the windows. Dark clouds hung on the horizon, swiftly getting closer and turning everything an eerie shade of green; he hoped the rain would cool everything off and drive down the humidity that had been hanging like a pall all day. He flicked off the industrial strength fans he'd brought up from downstairs and took his bag to his bedroom, swapping out dirty clothes for clean.

He flicked off the lights as he made his way back into the main area and checked to make sure he hadn't missed anything. He eyed the package sitting on the table - it had arrived earlier in the day and he was going to wait, but... he grabbed it and shoved it into his bag and hurried down the stairs, looking the doors behind him and heading out into the street. He shoved his headphones in his ears and jogged along the sidewalk to Hermann's building quickly, trying not to take notice of anything as he listened to the steady beat and felt it echoed in his stride.

Reaching Hermann's building, he ran up the stairs and knocked on Hermann's door, keeping his features passive as he looked around the hallway. One song finished and another started. Newt frowned at Hermann's door and knocked again. He continued waiting, keeping the beat with his heel until the doorknob started to move and he pulled his headphones out.

Hermann opened the door looking somewhat haggard as he stepped back to allow Newt entrance. "I was about to call you. Tonight isn't going to be the best for me."

Newt dumped his bag on the table and turned to look at Hermann as he moved slowly and carefully into the main room. He held himself back - he'd never seen Hermann hobble before - but every fibre of his being was itching to go to Hermann and try to help. "Are you ok? Did you hurt yourself?"

"No." Hermann leaned against the wall, lifting his left foot off the floor and giving a relieved sigh. "There's a blasted storm coming in," He said gesturing out the window in agitation.

"Do you want me to, I dunno, make you a cup of tea?" Newt asked, needing to do something.

"No. I'm just going to have a long soak in a hot bath and turn in." Hermann grimaced apologetically. "It's not going to be much fun for you if you stay."

"I don't always have to have fun." Newt shrugged. "I'll get your bath started."

"Newton, please. Don't do this, not tonight," Hermann said, pinching the bridge of his nose tiredly.

"Then when? When should I do this?" Newt asked, hands out in exasperation, "I've tried. I've tried to bring it up at better times but you shut me down. Every time. And I... I can't do it anymore." He took a step closer to Hermann, standing before him pleadingly. "I can't stand back and watch you in pain and just let you suffer. I can't do it. I don't have it in me. Tell me what to do."

"You could leave. I have it under control. There is nothing you can do," Hermann said plainly.

"Damn it, Hermann. Just because I can't see you doesn't mean I won't know you're hurting," Newt said, wanting to reach out and wrap Hermann in a hug but knowing he'd just be pushed away.

"What is it you think you can do to help? Hrm? This is pain. Physical pain. Often so deep that no drug can touch it." Hermann stared at Newt coldly. "I burn with every step. I ache with every breath. This is my reality, Newton. What is it you think you can do?"

"I don't know," Newt admitted, shoulders dropping. "I want to- to... comfort you. I want to make your life easier. I want you to let me help you occasionally. I want you to know you can lean on me - physically and metaphorically. I want to take care of you."

"You want me to rely on you? You-"

"Don't put words in my mouth. That's not what I said." Newt cut him off with a glare.

"You want me to get used to you being there when I need help? You want me to lower my guard and assume you will be there? And when you're gone? What then? This-"

"Woah, wait, what?!"

"This is my life!" Hermann spat, holding up his cane and shaking it at Newt as he stepped forward. "This is my autonomy!" He took another step, features contorting as pain shot up his side. "This is all that I have!"

"Hermann, please, stop. You're hurting yourself!" Newt put his hands on Hermann's shoulders to steady him, halting his forward momentum.

"I can rely on no one except myself. I have no one except myself." Hermann sneered two inches away from Newton's face. "And when you're gone - and you will leave - I will be all I have left."

Newt stared at Hermann lips parted and throat tight, feeling his heart breaking. "Is this... This is what it felt like... for you." Newt stepped forward and wrapped his arms tightly around Hermann. "I am so fucking sorry." He pressed a kiss to the side of Hermann's head, holding tighter as he tried to pull away. "I don't want to take away your autonomy. I don't want you to rely on me." He leaned back and looked Hermann in the eye. "I want to hug you and- and bring you cups of tea and try and make you more comfortable. I- I can't take away your pain - I know that... but I can try to make it hurt a little less..." Newt put his hand between them, placing it over Hermann's heart. "In here."

"And if I get used to it? Do you know how much harder it will be when you go? How much more painful?" Hermann panted, still glaring at Newt for all he was worth.

"I don't think either of us are going to get away from this unscathed. We've known each other way too long." Newt touched his forehead to Hermann's. "But, for what it's worth, I don't think walking away is going to be an easy decision. For either of us."

"We were bitter, hurt, angry little boys when we started corresponding. We've only really known each other two months. How is that any basis for long-term prognostication?" Hermann asked, closing his eyes against the honesty in Newt's.

"Those bitter, hurt, angry little boys grew up into bitter, hurt, angry little men. We're not so different now than we were." Newt raised his hand to rub the tightness at the back of Hermann's neck. "The biggest change is that we get to choose where we want to be; there're no oceans stopping us or parents telling us what to do. I choose to be here with you, Hermann. I don't want to leave, but... you can't keep pushing me away."

"And if I can't stop?" Hermann stepped back, pulling out of Newt's embrace and closing in on himself. "What then?"

Newt let his arms drop, feeling small and vulnerable as he watched Hermann's walls go up. "Then... it's probably going to hurt like hell."

Hermann nodded once, adjusting his grip on his cane as he looked down at the floor.

"I'm not asking you to, I don't know, throw open the door and roll out the red carpet. Just... crack it a little. Let me pass you things through the gap."

For the longest time, neither moved; Hermann staring at the floor and Newt watching Hermann, waiting for a sign. If there'd been a clock in the room its ticks and tocks would have been deafening in the silence. As it was, Newt's blood pounded in his ears, feeling every throb through his veins as a step closer to doom.

Finally, Newt couldn't stand it any more. "Can I- can I hug you? I really want to hug you. I don't-" Newt took an involuntary step forward, voice dropping to a whisper. "I don't want this to be the end."

Newt watched as Hermann breathed evenly, hands clenching and releasing on the handle of his cane, tension ratcheting higher and higher, until he gave a barely perceptible nod and Newt felt a relief so profound that he nearly tripped as he stepped forward to wrap his arms gently around Hermann's shoulders.

Hermann allowed himself to be held, standing stiffly with his arms between them, hands still tightly gripping his cane, as Newt's body heat soaked into the tight tense muscles of his shoulders and torso. Taking a deep breath, he lowered his head to Newt's shoulder, refusing to let himself think of the implications and just letting himself be, if only for a moment.

"This is what I wanted. To give this to you." Newt kissed the side of Hermann's head. "Take it; it's yours." Newt gently rubbed his fingers against the back of Hermann's neck, stroking up against the grain of the short hair at the back of his scalp as he listened to Hermann breathe. He felt Hermann shift slightly and prepared to move away but then Hermann's hand snaked tentatively around to his back, fingers curling tightly into the material of his tee.

"I can't make any promises," Hermann said quietly, not raising his head. "But I- I don't want to lose this. I don't want to lose... you."

"We're on the same page, then," Newt said, rubbing his hand up and down Hermann's back. "Do you- Can I get your bath started for you? It's just turning the faucet on and waiting..."

Hermann took a shuddering breath and straightened, closing his eyes as he inclined his head towards Newt. "Please."

Newt let his hands slide away from Hermann's back and neck, bringing them around to cup his chin and look him in the eye earnestly. "You're important to me, Hermann. I'm not doing this to be an asshole or because I don't think you can. I'm doing it because I-... I care, okay?" Newt kissed him softly, standing on his toes so Hermann wouldn't have to bend, and turned to walk into the bathroom without waiting for a response.

Newt knelt beside the bath and got the water running, waiting until it had heated up enough before shoving the plug in the hole. He stayed there with his hand dragging through the stream as he heard Hermann walk slowly into the bathroom and sit on the chair in the corner.

"Is the temperature good?" Newt asked, looking up to see Hermann unbuttoning his shirt and shrugging it off his shoulders.

Hermann stuck his hand under the water and adjusted the tap until it was running hotter. He wiped his hand off on his trousers and undid his belt and button before leaning forward, hissing at the angle, and undoing his shoes. He pushed them off with his hand and stood carefully, steadying himself with his cane as he used the other hand to slide his underpants over his hips until they fell loosely to his feet. Stepping out of them, he stood naked before Newt, not meeting his eye.

Newt rose and moved back to give Hermann room to get in to the bath. He clasped his hands together behind his back so he wouldn't be tempted to meddle.

Hermann took another step forward and stopped, still avoiding eye contact. He breathed slowly through his nose, jaw clenched tightly and lips pressed flat in a thin line. He swallowed and turned the head of his cane towards Newt, tentatively holding it out as he adjusted his weight onto his good leg.

"Are you- are you sure?" Newt asked softly, looking down at the proffered cane but not reaching out to take it.

Hermann kept his eyes closed, jaw jutting out as he nodded and shook the cane in Newt's direction.

Newt reached out, wrapping his fingers around the shaft just above Hermann's hand and waiting until Hermann released it before drawing it back towards his body. "Thank you."

Hermann stayed silent as he turned and leant over to grasp the handle set into the wall above the bath and step onto the non-slip surface. He lowered himself into the hot, steamy water and leaned back, feeling his skin prickle as he began to sweat. He heard Newt hang his cane from the sink and leave the room, and sighed as he lowered his hands under the water, trying to let himself relax.

"Lift your head," Newt said gently as he came back in.

Hermann opened his eyes to see Newt holding a rolled up towel and pulled himself forward a little to let Newt settle it between the rim of the bath and his neck. He felt Newt's lips press against the side of his head as he leaned back and closed his eyes.

"I'll be out there. Do you want the door closed?" Newt asked as he pulled back.

Hermann shook his head, not wanting to speak as he felt the heat sinking into his muscles and bones and finally bring down the tension he'd been carrying. He heard Newt leave the room once more and let himself drift.

Newt picked his bag up off the table and took it into Hermann's room, kicking off his shoes so he could lie on the bed. He stared at the ceiling, trying not to think. That lasted a whole three seconds before he was sitting up and fidgeting. He grabbed the tube of lube off the bedside table and flipped it over to read the instructions and ingredients on the back. He put it down and picked up a condom, staring at it until he realised he was just reading Durex over and over again and threw it back on the table.

He drummed his hands on the edge of the bed and considered listening to some music as heavy raindrops began to thud against the window, thrown against the glass by wind whistling through the hollow between buildings. Thunder rumbled in the distance, loud enough to be heard through the double-glazed windows.

Newt stood up and padded into the living area, gravitating towards the shelves set up beside the desk for something to keep him occupied. He'd read most of the math texts during one or other of his degrees, and he had copies of most of the journals that were there. There was a stack at the end of a shelf that weren't organised by publication or date and he frowned and pulled them out, trying not to dislodge the sticky notes poking out of the top.

The covers were worn and cracked from frequent perusal, but they looked familiar. He flipped open to the bookmark and found a paper he'd written during his third doctorate, notes written in the margins in Hermann's scratchy handwriting. He grinned and skimmed through them, skipping to the next and then the next until he came to the last few, published well after his abrupt exit from academia; emphasised by the fact that he'd only managed to retain fourth author status. He sighed as he put them down on the table and straightened them up to set back on the shelf.

He heard water slosh as Hermann stood up and looked towards the bathroom door in case he was needed. The sound of a towel being pulled off the rail and the slough of material against skin followed and Newt sat down to wait. The scrub of a brush against teeth echoed through the apartment as Newt doodled a monster on the corner of Hermann's blotter, all sharp teeth and reptilian eyes with a voice bubble reading 'You should be mathing!' ballooning out from its mouth.

Hermann made his way slowly from the bathroom to the bedroom, towel wrapped tightly around his waist and hair dripping. He made it to the bedroom and sat to pull on his pyjama bottoms, foregoing underpants for the sake of convenience. He was buttoning up his shirt when he heard Newt come to stand in the doorway, leaning against the frame.

"I should probably go home now. I know I can be a pretty aggressive snuggler in my sleep." Newt shrugged.

"You can stay," Hermann said quietly. "The storm's here and the pressure is dissipating... I should be back to normal come morning."

"I don't want to make things worse," Newt said with a twist of his lips.

"You won't." Hermann looked down, fingers twisting in the hem of his pyjama shirt. “I know my limits, Newton.”

Newt watched Hermann and sighed. “I don’t.” He ran a hand through his hair and let out a slow breath, looking at Hermann tiredly. “I don’t want to start shit up again, but… I’m never going to know. I’m always going to have to ask. It’s probably going to frustrate the hell out of you, but I have to keep doing it because I don’t want to be the one who hurts you accidentally. Do you- do you get what I’m saying?”

Hermann continued to stare at his fingers in his lap, biting his lip as he closed his eyes and nodded.

“Okay. Okay, cool…” Newt let out a relieved sigh, settling into the silence that followed feeling only slightly uncomfortable. “Do you really want me to stay? Because I’m good with going home if it’s what you need. Or want.”

"Stay,” Hermann said quietly after a long pause. “Please. I-... I find your presence... comforting."

Newt stared at the side of Hermann's head, trying to work out if he was being honest or just humouring him. Taking in Hermann's hunched posture and lack of eye contact, Newt closed his eyes and let out the breath he'd been holding. "I'll just go brush my teeth."

Hermann nodded and watched him go out of the corner of his eye. He stood and hung his towel over the back of the chair to dry before pulling back the covers and lowering himself into bed. He flicked on the bedside light and relaxed into the pillows, staring at the ceiling and trying not to think.

Newt returned, stripping his tee and shucking his shorts, and crawled onto the bed, careful not to jostle the mattress too much as he sat cross-legged facing Hermann. He leaned back and pulled the package out of his bag, sitting with it in his lap as he looked at Hermann. "So, um, I was going to wait until we were at my place, but, uh, I'm really bad at keeping surprises... surprising. So... I got you these." He held the package out to a frowning Hermann ducking his head shyly.

Hermann took the package and turned it over in his hands, staring at it in confusion. "It's not my birthday... Did I miss something?"

"Just... open it. You'll see." Newt said, hands fidgeting in his lap as he watched Hermann expectantly.

Hermann picked open the sticky seal and slid the contents out into his hand - a pair of blue and white striped cotton pyjamas.

"They're for you. To, uh, keep. At my place. If you want to. I've emptied a drawer in case you, y'know, want to keep some clothes there. Or not. You don't have to. It's cool. I mean-"

"Thank you, Newton," Hermann said, smiling at Newt for the first time in what felt like forever.

"You like them?" Newt asked, eyebrows raising hopefully.

"I do." Hermann looked at the package for a while longer and then passed it back to Newt. "Take them with you and put them in my drawer."

Newt grinned and leaned back to put the pyjamas on top of his bag. He sat back up and grabbed the wrapping, throwing it over his shoulder to land on the floor, shrugging at Hermann's disappointed look. "I'll get it tomorrow."

"Incorrigible." Hermann shook his head. "Get in here," He said, patting the space beside him and holding up the sheet. He braced himself as Newt crawled up the bed, reached over him to put his glasses on the nightstand and slipped under, watching Hermann's face carefully as he slotted himself against Hermann's side.

"Is this okay?" Newt asked, holding himself stiff as he watched Hermann's face for any sign of discomfort.

Hermann wrapped an arm around Newt, one hand sliding up into Newt's hair and gently pushing him to rest his head against his shoulder as the other reached across to take Newt's hand and wrap it around his middle. "Now it is." He rested his cheek against Newt's hair, inhaling the smell of freshly roasted coffee and clean sweat.

Pulling his hand out from underneath the covers, he turned off the bedside light before bringing it back to run his fingers up and down Newt's arm. He lost himself in the warmth of Newt's body as rain thumped heavily against the window and lightning flashed sporadically, illuminating the room and casting eerie shadows up the wall.

"I've always had to be... independent," Hermann murmured into the dark, feeling freer and more able to articulate himself without Newt's gaze upon him. "Sympathy was a commodity reserved for condolence cards. For all my successes academically... intellectually... my physical deficiencies hung as a stark, unspoken reminder that I was not as worthy as my siblings; competent and accomplished at work and play both."

"You don't have to do this, Hermann," Newt said softly, arm squeezing around Hermann's ribs as he turned his head to the side to kiss Hermann's shoulder.

"I want to. I want you to know ... It's not intentional." Hermann took a deep breath and continued. "My father kept a totalitarian rule on his house; it was run with military precision. We were to be dressed and seated for breakfast by seven o'clock, no exceptions. Tea was at six. We were silent and obedient and, in some respects, fearful. He was not a... vicious man, but he was a cold one who demanded respect.

"We were each of us sent to boarding school at the age of seven, thereafter gathering only during the summers and unavoidable holidays. He had designs for each of us - Dieterich was to be a lawyer, Bastien and Karla doctors, and I an engineer. Dieterich swam, Bastien rowed, Karla played viola, and I ran. I ran until I could run no more." Hermann paused as he felt Newt tighten his arm around his middle, whether understanding the implications, or just providing comfort, Hermann chose not to ask.

"After the diagnoses, the surgeries, the convalescence, I was all but forgotten. My father turned what little attention he'd had for me toward my siblings; no longer pushing me to excel. I pushed myself. I studied and I succeeded in all my intellectual endeavours. I went to university in Berlin - his alma mater - thinking it would make him proud... He didn't attend the graduation ceremony. No one did. I... gave up. I became as cold and hard as he was; I wanted no one, I needed no one." Hermann took a deep breath closing his eyes before continuing. "I am my father's child, Newton. At once his greatest disappointment and most resounding success."

"That's not true," Newt said, raising his head and wiggling back to lie on his stomach beside Hermann, resting his head on Hermann's chest to look him in the face. "You're warm and you're funny and you care. So fucking much. You're not him."

"It's kind of you to say-"

"It's not kind. It's true." Newt slapped Hermann lightly on the chest. "Do you think I'd fight so hard for a man like your dad? I mean, I've never even met the guy and I want to kick him in the ass so hard he tastes my toe jam."

"Must you, Newton?" Hermann said with a grimace of distaste.

"Yes, Hermann, I must. He's an asshole and I don't like him, not one little bit." Newt reached up to cup Hermann's jaw, thumb stroking softly over his cheek. "I hate him for how he treated you. You can have all the mixed feelings in the world - that's your right - but I'm firmly on the side of hate. He's a shit." Newt inched forward, stretching up to kiss Hermann firmly, pulling back slightly to stare him in the eye in the dim light coming through the window. "All his asshattery and he couldn't snuff you out; couldn't take away your humanity. You're a good man, Hermann, and I'm going to keep you even if it's an uphill battle, both ways, in the snow, and twice on Sundays."

Hermann stared at Newt with wide eyes and swallowed. "Okay."

Newt shook his head and took a deep breath before reeling back with a confused frown on his face. "Wait, what? You're not going to fight me on this?"

"No," Hermann said softly. "I don't- ... I don't want to be him... I never did. I do want to be with you, though... I cannot change overnight, but I will try to let you in."

"That's all I ask," Newt said.

"It's different," Hermann said quietly, looking down and avoiding Newt's eyes. "I imagine. You offer your hand to anyone else and it's practically nothing; a sign that you care. No more, no less. But you do it to ... someone like me, and it becomes a tangle of history and all the assumptive thinking that has colluded to try to slot me into a box into which I clearly do not fit. It's different. You presume a level of normalcy and try to apply it where it's inapplicable. I am not trying to push you away. I am simply... existing in the world that I know."

"I didn't even think of it that way," Newt said, biting his lip and looking ashamed. "You've been so good to me through all the shit I piled on you and... I want to be able to support you, too. I just… I don't know how. I mean, I get- yeah, I get that you don't want people making assumptions about you and what you can do. I get that. But, I thought, I mean, I was kind of hoping that I wasn't- ugh, this sounds so stupid now. Just... forget it. I'm an asshole. I'm sorry."

"What were you hoping?" Hermann asked, tilting his head to the side to look at Newt curiously.

Newt ducked his head and looked away. "It's arrogant and dumb. Forget it."

"Tell me," Hermann pushed, taking Newt by the chin gently and turning his head to look him in the eye.

"I was kind of hoping I wasn't... people," Newt said, avoiding Hermann's gaze.

Hermann stared at Newt as he followed the conversation back to find the trail of logic Newt was working from and then closed his eyes and shook his head. "You're not people. I would not explain myself to people. I would not give people the benefit of the doubt. You... matter. I will take into account your need to... provide care, but you mustn't abuse it."

"I'll try not to," Newt said solemnly. "I just... I don't want you to feel that you're alone in this. I overstepped tonight, I know I did. I should have thought it through more. Or, at all. I was telling myself I was looking out for you, but... I was really just thinking about me. All I can say in my defense is... I don't like it when you're hurting. I don't like not being able to do anything about it. I don't want to be that asshole who makes you change to suit my needs, but... I can't just turn off the part of me that cares."

"You must realise the same is true of me, also? I've been living with this for twenty-seven years, Newton. My walls are built high and dug in deep, and they are there for a reason. I cannot bring them down." Hermann said, sliding his hand back to cup Newt's neck. "But I can give you a tour of the battlements. And maybe, one day, the castle proper."

"I'd love to see your battlements," Newt said, leaning forward to brush his nose against Hermann's.

Hermann nudged Newt's nose aside and pulled him in for a kiss, lips sliding against each other gently. Hermann's hand slipped up the back of Newt's neck, massaging his scalp as Newt sighed into the kiss.

"I don't have to leave until after eight tomorrow," Newt murmured against Hermann's lips.

"Whatever shall we do with all that extra time?" Hermann said, smiling into Newt's mouth.

"I can think of a few things... If you're up to it, that is." Newt pulled back slightly to look at Hermann in the dim light coming through the window.

"I'm feeling better already." Hermann reached up and brushed a strand of Newt's hair from his forehead as Newt tilted his head to the side and raised an eyebrow enticingly. Hermann shook his head. "Not quite that good, I'm afraid."

"Worth a shot," Newt said with a shrug.

"Always." Hermann squeezed the arm he had wrapped around Newt, covering his mouth with his spare hand as he yawned.

"You should sleep. I'll take my shot again tomorrow," Newt said with a wink, patting Hermann's chest. "Do you need me to move?"

"Just a touch... How you were before was comfortable," Hermann said, holding his arm out so Newt could roll onto his side and rest his head on Hermann's chest.

Hermann nuzzled the top of Newt's head and let himself relax, closing his eyes and turning his head to the side to sleep. "Goodnight, My Newton."

Newt pressed a kiss to Hermann's cotton-clad chest and hugged him tightly. "'Night... My Hermann."

Newt listened to the sound of Hermann's breath evening out, and stared into the dark trying not to think about how close he'd come to losing everything. The rain had abated: the thunder no longer loud enough to be heard through the windows. Newt took comfort in the slow rise and fall of Hermann's chest, lifting and lowering him in a slow rhythm.

He turned his head and pressed his face into Hermann's chest, inhaling deeply to fill himself with Hermann's scent. He pressed another kiss into the cotton and lay his head back down, closing his eyes and trying to will himself to sleep.

Chapter Text

Mid-July
Sunday 7:15am

Hermann woke to Newt drooling into his pyjama shirt and hard against his hip in the dim morning light. He closed his eyes and let himself take in the warmth of the solid weight pressed up along his side. The ache in his hip had dimmed considerably since the night before, no longer worked on by the pressure of the storm. The pain was subtle, but manageable, and would remain so as long as he took care.

He looked at the bedside clock and sighed; he'd wanted to lay there and bask some more, but with Newt's timeframe and his own resurgent 'friskiness', that was going to have to wait until another day. He stroked Newt's back gently, up and down - first with fingers, then the palm of his hand - as he murmured softly into Newt's hair.

Newt stirred, coming awake groggily, scrubbing his face against Hermann's chest before reeling and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "Ungh. Wha...?"

"It's quarter past seven, Newton," Hermann said, still rubbing his hand up and down Newt's back.

"Mmph," Newt replied intelligently, slumping back down to lie with his head on Hermann's arm. He rubbed a hand over Hermann's chest, pulling a face when it hit the wet patch. "Ugh, I drooled all over you. Sorry."

"Don't rub it in," Hermann said, taking Newt's hand and holding it by his stomach.

"Sorry, man. I guess I slept extra hard last night." Newt rubbed his eyes against Hermann's arm before raising his head to squint up at him. "You feeling better?"

"Much, thank you."

"How much?" Newt asked, flattening his palm against Hermann's stomach, fingers scratching lightly just under the waistband of Hermann's pyjamas.

"At least..." Hermann took hold of Newt's wrist and pushed his hand down into his pants. "...this much."

"Oh, that much, hey?" Newt said, wrapping his hand around Hermann's cock and stroking softly, keeping his touch light. "That's not very exact, you know? I would have thought a man with your mathematical-" Newt paused to stifle a yawn into Hermann's shoulder. "-talents would be more precise."

"Am I boring you?" Hermann teased, hips shifting into Newt's grasp.

"Just relaxing... my throat," Newt said with a wicked grin, leaning over to lay open-mouthed kisses up Hermann's neck, over his jaw to his mouth. He tugged lightly on Hermann's lower lip with his teeth, sucking lightly on it to soothe. Raising up on his elbow, he deepened the kiss, lips sliding together wetly as Newt teased Hermann with his fingers. "Exactly how much better, though?" Newt asked as he pulled back. "We really need to work on your precision."

"I'm currently at an approximate three, but I feel that with a little finesse you might find the results more satisfactory," Hermann said, stretching up to chase Newt's lips.

"Three? You're three better? We may have to work on your reporting technique, too." Newt smirked.

"I'm three better than before you put your hand down my pants," Hermann said pursing his lips. Newt tightened his grip a little. "Four. That's definitely a four."

"What kind of scale am I working with here?" Newt asked, leaning over Hermann and brushing teasing kisses over his face. "I need to know. For science."

"Ten seems reasonable," Hermann said, pulling Newt down to kiss him soundly. "You've quite a ways to go."

"I think I'm going to need to adjust the testing apparatus to ensure consistent results," Newt said thoughtfully.

"How, exactly, are you going to, uh, adjust the apparatus?" Hermann asked with a small whimper, hips still moving up into Newt's hand rhythmically.

"Orally." Newt winked and pulled the sheet over his head, sliding down Hermann's body to push up his pyjama shirt and nip at the slight swell of Hermann's abdomen.

He stopped stroking as he adjusted his position, rolling onto his knees to get a better angle. Stroking resumed, he pressed his face against Hermann's stomach and dragged his light stubble across the skin, smirking at the shudder he felt pass through Hermann's frame. He kissed and licked across the expanse before choosing a spot near Hermann's hip to press his mouth to and suck forcefully as he tightened his grip on Hermann's dick.

"Oh, oh. Five. Definitive five. Don't stop," Hermann gasped, hand settling over the sheet on Newt's neck.

Newt kept sucking until the mark was sure to be dark and visible and pulled back to press a kiss to it before turning his attention further south. He slowed his strokes as he leaned forward to sweep his tongue over the head of Hermann's cock, using an arm to hold Hermann's hips in place as he surged up off the bed.

"Seven," Hermann choked out, grip tightening around Newt's neck as he felt Newt's lips wrap around him and suck him in. "Eight!"

Newt huffed out a laugh through his nose as he bobbed down further, sucking as he pulled back, each time going a little further but focussing on the head. He felt Hermann's fingers loosen from his neck and slide up to rest on the back of his head. Newt's eyes closed and he let out a moan as he slid right down Hermann's length, taking in as much as he could.

"Nine.

Concentrating on pushing Hermann as far back into his throat as possible, he swallowed around him, pulling back and trying again, this time a little further. He rolled Hermann's balls in his hand as he breathed slowly through his nose, willing himself to remember exactly how to relax his muscles and take Hermann all the way down without panicking. He felt the tip of Hermann's cock brush the back of his throat and tried to widen his mouth, concentrating on the comforting weight of Hermann's hand on the back of his head. Hermann slid in further and he swallowed reflexively, feeling a light tapping as Hermann's fingers fluttered on top of the sheet.

"God, Newt- Newton,“ Hermann pleaded, voice dripping with desperation.

Newt pulled back almost all the way, flicking his tongue under the head and stroking his shaft with his free hand as he caught his breath. Without warning he slid down farther than he'd gone before, pushing Hermann into the back of his throat and swallowing, swallowing, swallowing, hearing only Hermann's choked off I'm c- co- before he was arching up involuntarily and spurting down Newt's throat.

Rising up, Newt sucked Hermann through the aftershocks, bringing his hand up to tug and rub slowly until Hermann's hands grasped for his shoulders to tug him off entirely. He rested his head on Hermann's stomach, fingers drawing meaningless designs over and around the hickey, as he listened to Hermann pant his way into a pliable afterglow.

"Eleven," Hermann said, once he'd gotten his breath back.

Newt huffed a laugh and wiggled around until his head was peeking out from under the covers. "First trial and you've already broken the scale."

"It could be an outlier," Hermann smirked. "I recommend a rigorous schedule of experimentation to provide a larger pool of results for analysis."

"I think we can organize a period of extensive data collection," Newt grinned, patting Hermann's side.

"We'll require more than one test subject, of course." Hermann slipped his hand under the sheet and down Newt's back.

"Where're we going to find another on short notice?" Newt asked Hermann with wide eyes of feigned innocence.

"I'm sure there's one lying around here somewhere." Hermann pushed against the curve of Newt's ass making him rub up against his hip.

"I volunteer." Newt moaned as he rolled his hips in lazy circles against Hermann's side to get more friction.

"Thought you might." Hermann stretched forward to kiss Newt lightly. "Straddle me. I want to suck you." He murmured into Newt's lips.

"Seriously?" Newt reeled back, staring at Hermann, mouth slightly agape.

"I can give you a hand job if you'd prefer..." Hermann said, looking uncertain.

"No. No! I just- Jesus." Newt surged forward, taking Hermann's mouth in a swift, forceful kiss. "I swear, you've got a list called Newt's Buttons somewhere and you're just checking them off one by one. Where are my glasses? I wanna watch this."

"They're on the side table. Just, ah, just one- two things," Hermann said, watching as Newt raised onto his haunches and leaned over him to grab his glasses.

"Yeah, what?" Newt asked, blinking down at Hermann as his eyes adjusted to the clarity.

"Try not to thrust and... pull out before you, uh." Hermann made a rotating motion with his hand.

"What? You want me to come on your face?" Newt snorted.

"It would be preferable, yes," Hermann said, shifting uncomfortably.

"That's your preference?!" Newt stared at Hermann, stunned. "You totally do have a list."

"Would that I did," Hermann said with a rueful smile.

Newt flopped down on his back and wiggled out of his boxers, tossing them over the edge of the bed. Rolling onto his side, he slung a leg over Hermann's middle and rose up above him, grinning down at him as he lowered himself to capture Hermann's lips in a searing kiss. Resting on his elbows, he rolled his hips up Hermann's torso, dragging his cock along Hermann's stomach, leaving a thin, wet trail in its wake.

Hermann reached between them and took hold of Newt's cock, stroking firmly and smirking as Newt moaned into his mouth. "I believe we have some more tests to run, hmm?" Hermann ran a hand down Newt's side and took hold of an arse cheek, pulling Newt up.

"The title is engraved in stone and it's yours." Newt kissed Hermann soundly and sat up to walk forward on his knees until he was over Hermann's chest. Holding on to the windowsill, he looked down between his arms and raised an eyebrow. "Is this good for you?"

Hermann didn't look up, eyes focussed on Newt's cock, bobbing in front of his face. "It's perfect," Hermann said, running his hands up Newt's thighs, bracing one against the bed with the L of his hand in the crux of Newt's thigh, while he ran his fingertips along the soft skin of the shaft and back down to grasp him at the base and angle him towards his mouth. "Do remember, Newton," Hermann said, breath puffing over the head of Newt's cock and sending a shudder through Newt's body. "You'll be expected to report your findings as the experiment progresses. We wouldn't want to have to redo our work now, would we?"

"I wouldn't be so sure about that, man," Newt said, letting out a long slow breath. "I'm at about a five just from the view."

"Then let us begin." Hermann's tongue darted out to swipe up under the head, swirling around before he stretched up to pressed, open mouthed, sucking kisses as far up the shaft as he could reach. He licked his way back and drew the head into his mouth, reaching around to push Newt's hips slightly forward as he began to suck in earnest.

Newt watched with his jaw hanging open, raising a hand to push his glasses back up his nose when they threatened to fall off. He tightened his thighs to keep him in place and tried to keep his hips as still as possible as he watched Hermann take him in and pull back with his eyes closed and a small furrow of concentration in the middle of his brow.

Hermann's hand wrapped around the base of Newt's cock, stroking him in time with the long, slow motions of his mouth. He rolled his neck forward and back building a steady rhythm as he sucked; he'd never be able to deep throat, but he could swirl his tongue and get Newt off as well as any other. His other hand massaged Newt's thigh, thumb snugged up behind Newt's balls and pressing lightly.

"Fuck, Herm. E-eight. Fucking hell, your face. K-keep going, keep going," Newt babbled, still holding onto his glasses. He gripped the window sill with his other hand, knuckles turning white as he held himself still.

Hermann turned his head slightly when he pulled back, adding a twist that made Newt's thighs clench and his knees press tightly into Hermann's ribs.

"Fuck it, nine. Nine. I'm really close, so close. Don't stop, don't stop. I'll pull back, I promise. I pr- damn you've got a magic mouth. Fuck. Fuck." Newt pulled out of Hermann's mouth with a wet slurp, hand letting go of his glasses to scrabble for his cock only to have Hermann swat it away as he set up a vigorous rhythm, looking up at Newt from under his eyelashes.

Newt's locked eyes with Hermann, panting hard as he felt electricity shoot up his spine. Everything tightened as his hips thrust involuntarily and he striped Hermann's neck and cheek, forcing himself to keep his eyes open to watch.

Hermann worked him through it, using both hands to milk Newt until all his cock gave was a sullen drip onto Hermann's chest and he sat back on his haunches, limbs turned to jelly.

Newt flopped to the side, lying diagonally across the bed, one leg curled underneath him, the other hanging heavily over Hermann's middle. He panted face down into the mattress, glasses pressing uncomfortably into his cheeks as Hermann's hands stroked the back of his leg until he found enough energy to roll over and grin at Hermann dopily. "I can't feel my hands," He said with a low giggle.

Hermann smiled, eyes closed with a hand resting on Newt's knee.

Newt inched his way closer to Hermann on his back, twisting sideways until he had to give in and push himself up to move until he was pressed up against Hermann's side. He kissed Hermann's chest, his shoulder, a space just below his ear, and then rose onto his elbow to draw Hermann into a soft, slow, sweet kiss. He pulled back and reached for the box of tissues on the side table.

"Sorry," Newt said, pulling out a few and carefully wiping the come off Hermann's face. "I know you don't like the taste."

"It's not the taste." Hermann opened his eyes and gave Newt a half-smile as he reached for a few tissues of his own to wipe down his chest and neck. "It's the sensation. I find it... unappealing."

"Well, in that case..." Newt stopped wiping and leaned back down to kiss Hermann some more, unable to stop his laugh when Hermann's smile made it impossible to continue. Rolling over, he straddled Hermann again, raining kisses on his upturned face. On his lips, his cheeks, his eyebrows, chin, ears, nose, hairline, until Hermann started laughing and wrapped his arms around Newt's neck to pull him down and kiss him properly.

"I don't want to go to work," Newt said, nuzzling Hermann's cheek as they broke for air. "I'm going to see about taking some more people on. Maybe train Raleigh up to open and close. Get myself a proper weekend."

"I did often wonder why you worked every day," Hermann said, leaning his head to the side to let Newt kiss his neck.

"I didn't really have anywhere else I wanted to be before." Newt shrugged, reluctantly pulling away to look Hermann in the eye. "I live there, I work there. Pretty much everyone I know comes in at some point during the week. It distracted me. There wasn't really a reason not to work all the time. Until now."

"Then I am fully supportive of this plan. I look forward to actually getting to spend a lazy Sunday in bed with you." Hermann raised an eyebrow in silent challenge.

"Sadly, it's not going to be this one. I have to leave-" Newt looked over at the bedside clock and pulled a face. "Ugh, five minutes ago. And the baking's not something I'm gonna give up. That's just not gonna happen. In future, I'll just... let you sleep and then... come back and wake you up. With a blow job."

"How long does it take to train new staff?" Hermann asked pulling Newt down and distracting him with lips and tongue.

"I should go," Newt said in between kisses, trying not to let himself just relax into Hermann's body and go for round two.

"You should," Hermann agreed, running his hands up and down Newt's back and kissing him again.

"I'm going." Newt flopped onto the bed beside Hermann and rolled over to the other side to sit up. "You want to come to my place tonight? We've roasted enough that we shouldn't have to go again before it cools down, so it won't be too hot there."

"I've got an early meeting tomorrow that I cannot miss, but I'll come by the cafe this afternoon to work," Hermann said, stretching his arm out to brush his fingers over the small of Newt's back as he leaned over to grab his bag.

"Sounds good to me. We could have dinner tonight instead of a pants party?" Newt asked as he pulled on his tee. "Or dinner and a pants party before I send you home all alone?"

"Dinner is a certainty." Hermann said, watching Newt pull on his boxers. "We shall see how the rest transpires."

"Sweet." Newt grabbed his shorts and pulled them on, shoving his dirty things in the bag and dropping it on the bed.

"Newton," Hermann said to get Newt's attention as he picked up the packaged pyjamas to put them in the top of the bag. "Those two drawers are empty." Hermann gestured to the end table Newt was standing beside.

Newt glanced at them with a frown for a moment before turning back to Hermann with his eyebrows raised. "Really?"

Hermann nodded, laughing as Newt bounded over the mattress and kissed him stupid, hands on either side of his face to hold his head in place as he knelt over him. "I have to leave," Newt muttered into Hermann's mouth, barely breaking the kiss. "But we are so having a pants party tonight."

"I'll hold you to that," Hermann said, swatting Newt on the arse. "Go now, or you never will."

"I'll see you later." Newt kissed Hermann once more and wiggled back off the bed, stopping to pull his headphones out of his bag and plug them into his mp3 player before slinging his bag over his shoulder and standing. He swiped the wrapping off the floor and turned to Hermann with his hand out. "Pass me those tissues, will you?"

Hermann handed over the soiled tissues and watched Newt walk out of the bedroom, listening to the sounds of the bin in the kitchen opening and closing. He raised a hand to Newt as he walked back past the door, closed his eyes and relaxed into the bed with a smile on his face hearing the front door close.

---

Later

"Yeah, sure, like I believe you can teach me how to dunk. Come on, I'm not that gullible," Newt scoffed as he put some dirty cups into a tray beside the Wei triplets' corner booth.

"We have a net just your size. Any five year old could make that shot." Cheung laughed as his brothers high-fived over his head.

"Cheap, guys. Real cheap. I'm hurting, man. Right here." Newt placed a hand over his chest, pouting emphatically, before picking up the tray and taking it back to the counter, shoving it over so Chuck could take the cups and stick them in the dishwasher.

Looking up as the bell rang, Newt bounced around the tables to walk over to the latest entrants with his arms open wide. "Principal Pentecost! We weren't expecting you today; luckily, your booth's free. You want the chessboard?"

"Thank you, Newt," Stacker said, patting Newt twice on the back and stepping aside as Newt turned to Herc and repeated the gesture.

"Good trip?" Newt asked as he stepped away, walking backwards towards the counter to grab the chessboard off the shelf.

"As well as can be expected," Stacker said, turning his upper body to raise an eyebrow questioningly at Herc.

Herc nodded and brushed past Newt. "'Scuse." He walked to the counter and coughed to get Chuck's attention. "Chuck... I caught up with your Uncle Scott..."

Newt couldn't help but watch, seeing Chuck's jaw clench and back straighten as he stared at his father. He jerked his head toward the storeroom and entered, waiting until his father followed him before closing the door.

"So, uh. Can I get you anything? You know my coffee isn't as good as Chuck's... but if that's bad news, they'll probably be on par," Newt said, looking between the closed door and Stacker, wanting to know what they were talking about in there, but even he could see when he should just shut the fuck up and do his job.

"Well, it's not good news... A large black and a flat white, please," Stacker said as he sat down. "You may want to hold off on making them for another five minutes."

"Sure, no problem." Newt nodded. "Hey, Mako's out back. You want me to see if she's free?"

"I'd appreciate it." Stacker opened the chessboard and began to set up the chessboard with white on Herc's side of the booth.

Newt cocked his fingers at Stacker and headed into the back room, leaving the door slightly ajar so he could hear the bell.

"Hey, Mako," He called as he walked towards the roaster where she was busy getting out the remnants of the coffee beans with a can of compressed air. "Your dad and your not-dad are here. Stacker wanted to know if you're free."

"Oh! I was not expecting them so soon," Mako said, putting down the aerosol and wiping sweat off her forehead. "I will clean up and be right there."

"Cool," Newt nodded and pursed his lips, shoving his hands into his pockets as he spun on one foot to turn around. He took two steps and turned back. "Look, I don't know what's going on, but I think I should at least warn you. Something's gone down; Herc's talking with Chuck in the storeroom and everything feels a little awkward out there."

Mako stopped and stared at Newt before nodding once. "Thank you." She said before continuing to the laundry room to wash up.

"So, uh. You know I'm still here if you need to talk, right? I mean, the thing with Hermann, it's cool. It turned out his panties were my panties and the bunching was-" Newt cut himself off, staring at Mako wide eyed. "This isn't coming out right. Whatever. Just. I'm here for you. If you need it."

"Thank you, Newt." Mako dried her hands off and reached over to pat Newt's shoulder. "But I am okay."

"If you're sure... I mean it though. You can call me any time, little dudette. Nothing's changed."

"I think you are getting sentimental in your old age," Mako teased, as she walked towards the door.

"Cheeky," Newt retorted, poking out his tongue as she laughed and walked through. He shook his head and followed, seeing Stacker rise to return her bow before they both slipped back into the booth - Mako sitting beside Herc.

Newt quickened his pace as he headed back to the counter, squeezing Chuck's shoulder as he passed. "You ok, dude?" He asked quietly as he watched Chuck finish filling the dishwasher and set it running.

"Yeah... Everything's just a little fucked right now," Chuck said with a shrug.

"Not to be an asshole, but... when is it not with you two?" Newt asked with a sympathetic look.

"Touché." Chuck responded with a roll of his eyes.

"Stacker ordered a large black and a flat white. You want me to get them?"

"Nah, it's cool. I got it." Chuck set about grinding the beans and making the drinks.

"So, you know you can, like... talk to me if you need to," Newt said awkwardly, wiping down the counter to avoid Chuck's eyes.

"I talk to you every day, man." Chuck stuck the portafilter in the machine and pulled the first shot.

"I'm making a gesture here, dude. Don't make it weirder than it has to be," Newt said, throwing a glare in Chuck's direction.

"Sorry, mate," Chuck shrugged as he set down the large black. "Not that I don't appreciate it, but, I'm good."

"Well, the offer's there," Newt shrugged and went back to wiping down the counters. "Oh, yeah, I'm thinking of, y'know, getting some more help around here."

"Oh?" Chuck looked at Newt with a raised eyebrow, emptying and refilling the portafilter.

"Just thinking that it might be good to have a couple of days off here and there. You, too, if you want them." Newt looked at Chuck expectantly.

"Sounds okay to me. You run it past Mako yet?" Chuck shoved the portafilter back in the machine and pulled the second shot.

"Not yet, but... this isn't a crazy idea, right?" Newt hadn't consider the possibility before, but now that it had occurred to him... "You're not gonna veto it, are you?"

"Nah, it'll be good for you to not spend so much time down here." Chuck steamed the milk and used a spoon to keep the foam from the cup. "Glad you've got a reason for it now, truth be told."

"Me, too," Newt said, ducking his head to hide his grin. "You want me to take those over?"

"If you wouldn't mind, yeah." Chuck placed the second cup down on the counter and stepped back to let Newt grab them.

"Not a problem, man." Newt took the drinks over and set them down just as Mako was rising to leave. "Your order, gentlemen," He said with a nod before touching Mako's shoulder to stop her going. "Hey, you got a second?"

Mako nodded and followed Newt back to the counter, eyebrow raised expectantly.

"So, I was thinking that I maybe wanted a day or two off during the week, so maybe we could hire some more peop-"

"Yes," Mako said decisively.

"I didn't even finish my sentence," Newt said, a little wide-eyed.

"I have been telling you for years that you don't need to be here every day," Mako said pointedly.

"True. So... you're cool with it?" Newt asked, bouncing on his toes a little.

"I more than approve," Mako grinned.

Newt turned around to see Chuck smiling at Mako and raised an eyebrow. "Were any of those college kids you had in a few weeks back any good?"

"Yeah, a few of them weren't bad. I'll give 'em a call and see what's what," Chuck said, looking over at Newt a little reluctantly.

"Awesome. You guys are the best. I cannot wait to tell Hermann." Newt grinned and did a little dance on the spot.

"If you'll excuse me, I have to finish cleaning the roaster." Mako took a step back and waved at Chuck as she turned slowly and walked through the back door with a smile.

Newt turned to see Chuck watching Mako go, fingers curling as he returned her wave. His eyes widened and he quickly glanced over his shoulder to look at Stacker and Herc before darting around behind the espresso machine and tugging Chuck down so he could whisper in his face. "Holy shit, dude. You and Mako?! When did that happen?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Chuck said edgily.

"You finger curl waved! You don't finger curl wave friends!" Newt whispered, agitatedly flexing his fingers in Chuck's face.

"Shit."

"If you hurt her I will kneecap you," Newt poked Chuck in the chest, hard.

"If you'd threatened any higher up, I wouldn't have worried," Chuck smirked.

"I'm serious, dude!" Newt hissed and then dropped his face into his hands. "Ugh, now I have to go threaten to kneecap her, too. Damnit. You two can never break up. You'll both be in traction for months and this place will go under."

"Easy there, tiger. We all love this place too much to let anything happen to it. I mean, you and her managed to not to fuck it up when it ended," Chuck shrugged.

"Holy shit! You knew?! Keep your voice down! Stacker will eviscerate me." Newt stared at Chuck with wide eyes.

"He'll be too distracted disemboweling me," Chuck said with a pointed look. "Look, we've got a handle on this. We're not going to fuck Kaiju Blue in the process. Little faith, man, ok?"

"Fine. But I meant it about the kneecapping. I will go out and buy a baseball bat just for the occasion. I'll write your name on it and everything." Newt narrowed his eyes at Chuck and poked him once more for good measure.

"Mate, I will let you," Chuck said, looking at Newt sincerely. The bell rang as the door opened and Chuck looked over Newt's head and squeezed Newt's shoulder. "Your man's here. Go take a break, I've got shit covered."

"Fine," Newt said as he straightened. "Can you get Hermann's tea and an Americano ready?"

"Not a problem." Chuck rummaged under the counter for a teabag as Newt made his way around the counter to stand beside Hermann's table.

"Hey, Hermann," Newt grinned as Hermann set his notebook down on the table.

"Newton." Hermann greeted looking Newt directly in the eye as he leaned over to press a quick kiss to his lips. As he pulled back, he blushed at the smile that lit up Newt's face. "That's why, you insufferable fool," Hermann muttered, taking refuge in grouchiness to hide his answering smile and the way his heart did a little flip at the sight.

"Just so you know," Newt said, dropping his volume and leaning in close. "I really want to take you out back and do devious things to you in your underpants area. But Mako's out there, so will you settle for tea?"

Hermann shook his head and closed his eyes, letting out a long-suffering sigh. "I suppose tea will have to suffice." Hermann said as he slid into the booth, opening up his notebook and taking his pencils and eraser out of his blazer pocket and setting them beside it.

"Order up," Chuck called and pushed the two cups over the counter for Newt.

"Thanks, dude," Newt said as he picked them up and took them back to Hermann's booth. "I'm on break, mind if I sit?" Newt asked as Hermann took the tea from him and placed it on the far side of the table, looking up at Newt with an unimpressed expression. "Stupid question?"

"Very," Hermann replied as he slid over a little further to give Newt more space.

"So, I ran it past Chuck and Mako and we should be getting some more people in by the end of the week." Newt grinned as he ripped open a pair of sugar packets and dumped them into his coffee.

"You needed their permission?" Hermann frowned, looking at Newt as he dunked the teabag slowly in his cup.

"Well, yeah. Between them they own half the store. They have veto power in case I make a stupid decision when... you know." Newt shrugged and took a sip of his coffee.

"Ah, I see," Hermann said eyeing the colour of his tea critically before dropping the bag on the saucer. "You'll be able to take time off in the near future, then?" Hermann asked, looking at Newt over the rim of his cup.

"Well, nothing's set in stone yet, and there'll probably be training to do, but, yeah. In the next couple of weeks or so." Newt grinned, bumping his knee against Hermann's under the table. "No idea if Chuck will take advantage of it."

"Why would he need to?" Hermann pressed his thigh up against Newt's leg, willing himself not to blush.

"He's here almost as much as I am. I don't think he wants anyone to go away thinking we make bad coffee. Don't let that whole 'laid back' thing he has going on fool you; that kid is one-hundred percent dedicated. Mako might mellow him out a little. Maybe." Newt widened his eyes and shook his head, still reeling a little from the news.

"Sorry, what?" Hermann looked at Newt, perplexed, as he slipped his glasses onto his nose.

Newt turned to face Hermann, hand covering half his face in case Pentecost suddenly developed lipreading abilities. "You can't tell anyone. Stacker will destroy us all," He whispered. "Apparently they're a thing now. It's weird, because they're technically siblings, but I am not sticking my nose in there to work that one out."

"That... is quite a lot to take in," Hermann said, eyebrows raising near to his hairline.

"You don't even know the half of it," Newt said with a shake of his head. "Anyway, enough about them. What're you working on now?"

"You remember how I was working to prove that a wormhole could maintain stability between two fixed points in space?" Hermann asked, picking up a pencil and turning the notebook towards Newt.

"Yeah?" Newt scanned over the equations, tilting his head to the side as he frowned.

"The direction the equations are leading me in is not so much that the wormhole would work across a fold in space, but, more... a breach in the fabric of reality," Hermann said significantly.

"Holy shit. Alternate dimensions?" Newt said, staring at Hermann in wonder. "If you don't get a Nobel for this, I will eat every brick in this place."

"I'd really rather you didn't," Hermann said, secretly pleased at Newt's certainty. "This is all still very much in the early stages. I haven't even begun to put it all together."

"You will," Newt said, squeezing Hermann's knee under the table. "Do you mind if I...?" Newt raised an eyebrow as he reached for the pencil.

"By all means," Hermann said, releasing it to Newt's hold.

"Ok, so, what you have here all makes sense," Newt said, circling the air above a set of equations. "Over here is where you lose me. I mean, it could make sense, but it would require magnitudes more gravity than you're currently factoring in..."

Hermann watched as Newt worked through the thought; occasionally making notes and writing out equations in the notebook. He smiled as Newt gesticulated, raising his hands to his head and flicking his fingers out like his brain was exploding before leaning back over the notebook, and Hermann felt his heart give another little flip.

"I love you."

Hermann wasn't expecting himself to say anything at that point, but, contrary to every fibre of his being, it didn't feel awkward or worrying.

It felt natural.

Newt froze, staring at the page in front of him without blinking. "Say that again."

"I love you," Hermann repeated, feeling his chest tighten as Newt turned to stare at him.

"Does this count as a special occasion?" Newt asked, continuing to stare at Hermann without expression.

"Pardon?" Hermann asked with a frown. He wasn't sure what he expected, but it definitely wasn't that.

"Does this count as a special occasion?" Newt repeated, emphasising every word carefully. "I'm sorry. I- I can't. Screw your rules." Newt turned bodily and cupped Hermann's chin with his hands, leaning forward to kiss him soundly. He coaxed Hermann's mouth open with soft lips and tilted his head to the side to draw Hermann in. Pushing Hermann into the corner of the booth, his hands slid down Hermann's neck to rest on his chest before he pulled back to touch their foreheads together. "You can't say things like that to me in public and not expect me to react that way, man."

"I'll keep that in mind for when next I tell you I love you for the first time," Hermann said blithely, hands coming to rest on Newt's sides, but not pushing him away.

"You, too. I love you, too," Newt kissed Hermann again, unable to stop the happy little burble of laughter that echoed up out of his chest. "I've been wanting to say that for so long. Fuck, I love you."

"Did he just propose?" Chuck yelled from the behind the counter.

"Better!" Newt called over his shoulder, not taking his eyes off Hermann as he slipped his hands around him and hugged him tight, grinning like he might never stop. "You're never getting rid of me now."

"Good," Hermann murmured, ducking forward to give Newt a quick kiss. "I rather like the idea of keeping you."

"You have me." Newt's smile softened as he brushed his nose against Hermann's. "Are you still okay with this?" Newt gestured to his arms wrapped around Hermann.

"Given the milestone, I think we can entertain a revision of the 'rules', as you put it," Hermann said with a soft smile. "But I do need to sit up."

"Of course. Shit. Sorry." Newt untangled himself from around Hermann, shifted back, and held out a hand.

Hermann looked at it steadily, closing his eyes as he took a deep breath and placed his hand in Newt's upturned palm, allowing himself to be pulled up into Newt's side. An arm wrapped around his back and he let himself rest against Newt's solid weight. Under the table, he squeezed Newt's knee.

"Still love you," Newt said, hooking his chin over Hermann's shoulder and picking up the pencil from where he'd dropped it on the table.

"I'm glad the feeling hasn't abated in all the time we've been apart," Hermann said drolly, but felt a thrill run up his spine every time Newt said it. "Now, where was I?" Hermann adjusted his glasses and looked down at the notebook.

"I was telling you that you need more gravity," Newt said, tapping the notebook with the pencil.

"That is the one thing nobody has ever said I was lacking," Hermann said with a soft snort.

The sounds of the two bickering melted into that of the room; the clink of coffee cups, the hiss of the espresso machine, the click and scrawl of chess pieces on the chessboard. Customers came and went, the tinkle of the bell signalling a beginning and an end for all. The Wei triplets left and Tendo arrived, bringing with him his wife and a vinyl disc for Herc. Chuck and Mako brushed fingers whenever their dads weren't looking. The volume of conversation ebbed and flowed like a tide.

And in a nondescript booth, in a small cafe, somewhere on the northern part of the eastern seaboard, Newt and Hermann held hands under the table.

Chapter Text

Epilogue

Dear Hermann,

Hi! The lady running the Gifted Students International Outreach Program gave me some addresses and I thought I'd write to you because you sound fun.

I'm Newton Geiszler, but you can call me Newt. I’m fifteen, I like monster movies (Godzilla forever!) and I just finished a Masters in Applied Math at MIT. I'm just waiting for the dickholes in the faculty to approve my PhD. proposals now.

Your bio said you're still in high school, but don't worry: I'm not one of those boy genius types who's going to look down on you for that.

You're into space, hey? My dad took me to Cape Canaveral when I was twelve. We didn't get to see a launch or anything, but the space centre was kind of cool. The simulators and everything were all kid stuff and they didn't really have any of the real instruments set up. How awesome would that be? Getting to play around with all the real equipment the real astronauts use?? Do you think you want to be an astronaut one day?

Anyway, I hope you write back. Your bio was the only one that had any personality in it. (Seriously, dude, the other ones were about as interesting as drywall.) I think we could be really good friends.

Later!

Newtronium.

---

Dear Newton,

I must say that I was pleased to receive your letter; I hadn't expected anything to come of it after submitting my details. Though, I feel I must warn you, 'fun' is not a adjective usually ascribed to me.

The only reason I am still attending high school is that my parents feel (and have apparently always felt) that accelerating my education would leave me socially stunted. More fool them.

Cape Canaveral is a dream of mine. To go there for a launch would bring me no greater pleasure. I, too, am disappointed that the displays at the space centre are geared towards the lowest common denominator.

I am not considering becoming an astronaut.

I'm assuming that, given your recent completion of your Master's degree in maths, you've been published? If so, have you calculated your Erdős number yet? It may seem silly of me, but I look forward to one day having my own.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

Hermann Gottlieb