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Sydney is still recuperating from Mutavore’s chase through it—when they fly in Yancy can see the hole it made in the Wall, the still cordoned-off area of the city that looks vaguely as if it’s been flattened.  Herc stares straight ahead at the plane’s wall, and when they touch down doesn’t even appear to glance around the ‘dome.

The first thing Yancy notices about the Sydney Shatterdome is that it looks almost exactly like the Icebox, but it’s got less insulation and more windows.  The architecture’s all the same, though.

The second is that there’s civilians everywhere, curled up on cots that line one side of the narrow hallways, crammed into the mess when they pass it, milling around in the Jaeger bay, where there are more cots and blankets and sleeping bags lying everywhere. “What’s up with the security breach?” he asks, curious, and pulls his cap down a little, because he looks like shit from the incredibly uncomfortable plane ride and years of being in newspapers has taught him that looking anything less than flawless around civilians is a bad idea.

Herc glances at him like he doesn’t understand the question for a moment, then snorts. “When a kaiju walks through a city it leaves a lot of people homeless.”

“What, and the PPDC didn’t kick up a fuss at you housing them here?”

“Mate, the PPDC sold us to the government.  And they sure weren’t kicking up a fuss. So long’s we didn’t let ‘em in Striker the PPDC couldn’t do shit.”

Yancy grins a little, ducking his head to hide it.  He’s not the authority-challenged one, that’s always been Raleigh, but the Beckets are by nature loose cannons when it comes to orders if they don’t agree with the orders—it’s what fucked them up at Knifehead—and this particular piece of defiance is one he approves of wholeheartedly.  “What’d the Marshal have to say about that?”

“Tsk, tsk, fake a frown while the World Security Council was watching, warn me about the dangers of giving Jaeger tech to the world, bit of token resistance and then reluctantly admit it was all legal,” Herc says flatly, like he doesn’t want to talk about Pentecost, and yeah, probably Yancy shouldn’t have brought it up. But he hadn’t really been thinking about it.  “Knew it was good oil, just couldn’t say it out loud.”

“Better use of a Shatterdome than gathering dust,” Yancy agrees, shrugging one shoulder. “Good idea.  You should suggest it to Hong Kong, too.”

“I didn’t suggest it here.”

Yancy’s getting better at figuring out when Herc’s vaguely getting at the idea of Chuck that’s still hanging in the air in front of him all the time.  It’s a facial expression, maybe, it’s the way Max’s butt always wags a little like he can tell.

Chuck Hansen, arrogant prick extraordinaire, was apparently human, too.  Human enough to want to give homes to the homeless of the kaiju war, anyway.

Or maybe he just wanted to give the PPDC the finger.

Yancy’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

“You don’t have to suggest it there, either.  You’re Marshal, you can order it.  Much more effective.”

Herc makes a noncommittal sound as they draw up to a steel door with HANSEN H. and HANSEN C. printed into plaques beside it.  He fumbles with the key getting it open, one-handed, and, stepping in, chucks the bags to the left, lets Max flop up the steps and into the room as fast as his fat little legs will carry him.

“Get in here, Yancy,” he says, jerking his head at Yancy, who is watching how Herc hasn’t looked to the right at all.  “If they’ve got people sleeping in the bay, there’s not a bed left in the ‘dome that isn’t in this room, and with that fucked-up back of yours you’re not pulling up a patch of floor.”

Yancy doesn’t move, because he doesn’t need to know anything about Herc Hansen to see that he has no desire to room with him, and especially has no desire to room with him in this room. He’s probably offering up Chuck’s bunk, and Yancy’s not going to—

But he’s got a point about his back.  So he’s torn.

“Fuck’s sake, it’s you or some random gets pulled out of their room and we both end up with Skippy the Security Hazard.”  Herc’s voice is dry and harsh.

So Yancy comes up the steps.

Heads to the right.

For a moment he’s confused, because there’s a bed there, with sheets in a military tuck so tight he might actually have to have assistance getting them loose.  But that’s it.  That’s the only thing.  There’s a standard issue desk with a set of drawers built into both sides, and under the bed appears to be some sort of pullout storage, but the desk is totally spotless, nothing on it, and there’s not an article of clothing or personal item in sight. It’s totally and completely bare.

The only thing about it that tells him that Chuck Hansen ever lived here is that Max is struggling to jump up on the bed, wiggling insanely like Christmas is here, looking for someone who isn’t there and isn’t going to be again.

Yancy didn’t even really know Chuck, but fuck, he’s sad for Max.

He puts his bag down next to the desk instead of on the bed, because he doesn’t want to supplant whatever the dog is getting at by taking over it right now.  Twists back a little to glance at Herc, but the man is turned firmly away, kneeling to unpack his bag.

His side is slightly less immaculate, but only because the Fuck Off mug is sitting on the desk, a hat to match that one Chuck wore half the time is hanging off the end of the bed, and there’s a dog bed next to the bathroom door, a box of dog toys peeking out from under the bunk.

If Herc were Raleigh, he’d say, Hey, you all right?

Herc’s not Raleigh.

He doesn’t know how to ask.

So he takes another look at Max, who has managed to make his way onto the bed and is waddling back and forth over it like Chuck is hiding under the covers somewhere, and decides maybe it’s best to leave them alone for a while.  “I’m going to go shower and then pretend to be a social animal.”

He wants to sleep.

But it’s best if he gets out of here for a while, he thinks.  “Right,” Herc says, still not turning around.

While he’s in the shower, he wonders: if Raleigh had died at Pitfall, would he be doing this silent, stoic zombie thing?  Avoiding looking at his shit in their little house back in Anchorage?  It’s close to how he’d dealt with Mom’s death, buckling down and putting on a brave face for his brother and shutting the door to her room so he didn’t have to look at her stuff in there.

But without Raleigh to put on a brave face for, he’s not sure.

And Mom had never been his pretty much everything the way Raleigh has been since she died.

For sure he couldn’t have finished the mission the way Herc had, he knows himself well enough to know he wouldn’t have been able to speak, or think, or keep standing.

As he gets out of the shower, scrubbing down his hair and reattaching his leg once the stump is dry and his underwear is on, he feels the sudden need to hear his brother’s voice. So he gets dressed quick and walks through the room, where Herc is still mechanically unpacking a bag that Yancy is pretty sure is Chuck’s, judging from the jacket he’s pulling out of it, says, “Dinner at 1900?” and closes the door behind him the second he hears Herc’s affirmative grunt, pulling out his phone and keying the number five on his speed dial.

Raleigh picks up on the second ring, voice bright over the connection, and something in him relaxes, which is about when he realizes he and Raleigh are way too codependent. “What’s up, Yance?”

“Nothing. Just touched down in Sydney. The ‘dome’s housing half the displaced population of the city, you’d love it.”

“Actually, I’m pretty sure I’d hate that.  Have you forgotten my armed guard?”

Yancy has not, partially because Raleigh complains about them every fifteen seconds they’re not in earshot and partially because they are extremely present every time his brother leaves the Hong Kong Shatterdome.  “Yeah, Raleigh, I forgot about them.  Tell me again how annoying it is to be so loved that people literally try to suck your dick in the streets when you walk by and need to be restrained by people with guns.”

The real reason for the guards is because Raleigh is also so hated that they fear an assassination attempt by kaiju cultists, but, you know.  Mostly Yancy likes to focus on the dick sucking, because if anybody tries to kill his brother he’s going to be seriously fucking unhappy.

Mako better bring him intact back here, that’s all he can say.  “Stop using the word ‘literally’ to mean ‘figuratively’.”

“Stop being a nitpicky jackass.  That’s my job, step off.”

“Was that a dangled preposition?”

“I’ll dangle your preposition, dickweed.”

“Kinky,” Raleigh chirps, and then, after a moment’s pause, with a smile in his voice, “I can hear you rolling your eyes, Yancy.”

“I liked you better before you discovered the concept of ‘humour’ and then butchered it.”

“Love you, too.”

“Have a good flight tomorrow, kiddo.  Call me when you touch down.”

“It’s gonna be, like, four in the morning, Sydney time.”

“He put me in Chuck’s bed, do you really think I’m going to be asleep?”

“Shit, really?”

“There is apparently not even one other bed in the entire Shatterdome.”

“Don’t sleep on the floor. You’ll get all stiff and shit.”

Yancy smiles at the phone even though he knows Raleigh can’t see him.  “Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, mom.”

“Isn’t that my line or something?”

“Not anymore. Now go make heart eyes at your future life partner and at least text me when you get in, all right?”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, mom.”

Raleigh hangs up, and Yancy pockets his phone.

Sets off to talk to some civilians.

Preferably children. Children are straightforward.

 

The next morning, Herc wakes him up at the crack of fucking dawn by tossing his leg onto the bed next to him. “Up and at ‘em, Becket,” he says, and heads for the shower.

Yancy has no fucking clue what’s going on for a minute, because he’s never functioning at his best ten seconds after waking up.  He rolls onto his back so he can get up without fucking up his spine and his shoulderblades touch something furry that moves, and then almost flings himself out of bed in shock before he realizes it’s just Max, who has curled up behind him, which… is so weird it’s uncomfortable.

He thinks he needs to change the sheets out, these ones clearly smell too much like Chuck if Max is picking this bed over the one Herc’s in.  Or his own bed.

Which, actually, looks untouched, so. Maybe not his own bed, but whatever.

Maybe he should just tough it out on the floor for a couple of months.

He picks up his phone to look at the time and finds two texts from Raleigh:

     [4:32AM]: We’re at the hotel in one piece.  It is genuinely the fanciest place I have ever set foot in, it’s kind of freaking me out. I’ll send you pictures in the morning when Mako’s in the shower and can’t see me taking pictures of a hotel room

     [5:29AM]: I see you managed to fall asleep in Chuck’s bed.  Good. Don’t tough it out on the floor

Yancy kind of wants to laugh, because yeah.  He might have brain damage, but if he could drift, he and Raleigh would still be able to. It’s the little shit like knowing what he’s going to think before he even has the opportunity to think it.

     [6:02AM]: I won’t, Jesus. I already told you I wouldn’t.

Raleigh’s response is almost immediate.

     [6:02AM]: what the fuck are you doing awake at 6 is there a kaiju attacking

     [6:03AM]: The Hansens double-teamed me.

     [6:03AM]: Kinky

     [6:03AM]: It’s been fifteen years and that is still not funny.

     [6:04AM]: You’re a fucking liar Yance

Yancy selects an emoticon at random and sends it, then hauls himself upright, tugging off his shirt so he can strap on the prosthetic and hook it in.  Once that process is done, he stumps to his bag to fumble for an antihypertensive and a couple of painkillers, swallowing them dry, and then rummages around for a shirt and a pair of pants.

He can’t bring himself to wear shorts anymore, it makes it too obvious, so he hops, ungainly, into fatigues, almost falls over and realizes as he catches himself with a shoulder on the wall that he’s too used to having Raleigh there to catch him when he fucks up with how much he can balance.  Lacing up his left boot by himself, a task that usually Raleigh insists on helping with—the one routine task Yancy lets him help with—proves impossible, because he just can’t bend down far enough and his leg can’t fold up far enough.  He’ll trip on the laces, he guesses.  Whatever.  Putting on a new shirt is equally an ordeal, but that’s more because he’s not really functioning enough to differentiate between holes and ends up with an arm through the one for the neck before he gets his shit together.

He’s tucking it in when Herc walks back out, buck-ass nude with a towel around his waist, and he turns away on reflex, because while he is used to Raleigh waltzing around naked, he’s really not feeling catching an eyeful of his commanding officer at six in the fucking morning.

Or, you know, ever.

Never would be good.

In the bathroom, he combs his hair into order again—his bedhead is something spectacular to behold, according to everyone he’s ever slept with and Raleigh—and shaves, not that he really needs to, but just on principle.  Stares at himself in the bathroom mirror, straightening his shoulders until he looks like he knows what he’s doing.

This has been a daily routine every day he has been able to stand up and do it since Mom died.

Look in the mirror. Remember that he’s Yancy Becket. Remember that he can take on the world. Figure out how to make everybody else remember it too, just by the way he holds himself.

You don’t need a straight back for that, he thinks, as he lets himself ease back into his morning grogginess. You just need to know it and own it.

He bends over to scratch Max’s ears when he gets out of the bathroom like he knows how to deal with a pair of grieving Hansens.  Fake it ‘til you make it, Becket, he thinks to himself as he straightens up and yawns, stretching his arms over his head and heading for the door. “We on tap today, Herc?”

“We’re on tap from now until the end of time,” Herc grumbles.

The Fuck Off mug has mysteriously vanished from the desk.  Yancy sees it in the trash can as he reaches the door. Resolves to get it out later, then decides maybe it’s best to let Herc handle himself like an adult instead of trying to fix it for him.  But what if he wants it later and it’s gone?

No. He’s going to leave it alone.

“Code’s 1003,” Herc says as he drops his dog tags beneath his shirt and bends down to pick up a shoulder bag in one hand.

“Whose birthday?” Because he’s never met a Ranger whose door code wasn’t that obvious.  It’s best that the essential people can get into your room without any hassle. Usually, it’s one of the pilots' birthdays.

“My mother’s. Reminded me to call her on it.”

“Ours was always just Raleigh’s.”

He lets Herc pass him and lead the way out the door, because he’s not really a leader, he’s a follower—in walking, anyway.  Even with Raleigh, a couple of steps behind the kid was always best for him.  “No fucking point in codes when they’re this transparent,” Herc says, sounding like this is an objection he's voiced many times before, and Yancy would roll his eyes, but it’s too fucking early for that kind of fine motor control.

The mess is exactly like the mess in the Icebox or in Hong Kong, but with more civilians in it. He’s forgotten his hat, so it’s a good thing he cleaned up, is his initial thought, but nobody even notices him. At first, he’s relieved by this, because fuck, he’s not at his best in the mornings, but then he catches on to the fact that the reason for it is because they’re all noticing Herc. Which sparks no jealousy, but after the third person who tells him sorry for your loss, Yancy thinks he’s about to punch somebody.

So, despite the fact that he feels like he’s about to go to sleep while walking and he’s not sure his brain is functioning well enough for it, he starts putting himself on the side of Herc away from the wall so that he can intercept the well-wishers and smile and be charming until they… don’t do that anymore.

It’s a stupid idea, probably. Herc doesn’t need his protection anyway.

But he can’t stop himself, because where it counts, one of his weaknesses is that he doesn’t know when to stop trying to take care of people who don’t need him at all.

One little boy with dark hair and eyes that look way too big for his head latches on halfway there, when Yancy exchanges a few words with his parents, and follows him, parents trying to convince him to come back, all the way to the mess, until he sits down to save a table while Herc is getting food, then stares at him from the floor.

“We’re sorry, Captain Becket,” his mother says, taking her son by the shoulder and trying to pull him back—somewhat weakly, he thinks.  She’s short on discipline.   He guesses he laid on the “back off” vibe too strongly, because she looks nervous.

“Nah,” he says, and leans forward even though the pain in his back immediately moves up a tic on the scale, resting his elbows on his knees to put his face on level with the kid. “It’s cool.  What’s your name, kiddo?”

“Tommy.”

“Yeah? How old’re you?”

“Seven. Your shoe is untied.”

Yancy grins and looks down, as if he doesn’t know this.

Herc comes back with a tray of food and two cups of coffee balanced precariously on it—Yancy wouldn’t have trusted himself with it, and he has, at least, two good arms—about the time Yancy goes, “Huh.  It is. Do you know how to tie shoes, Tommy?”

When the family has retreated, Yancy’s left boot has been laced up by an eager seven-year-old, he’s had a couple of minutes of chatting with the parents, or pretending to be lucid enough to chat with anyone, either way.  Herc points his fork at him and raises an eyebrow. “Don’t you Yanks have child labour laws?”

“He’s not in a boot-tying factory,” Yancy says, shooting for serenity and mostly ending up yawning in the middle of his sentence.  “Fuck, pass me that coffee.”

“Didn’t know how you took it,” Herc replies, but hands it over, “but it doesn’t much matter, because there’s only one way you can take it around here.”

“Heart attack in a mug,” Yancy says, but there’s no cream and all the sugar is synthesized because of the rationing, so he chokes it back black, which is how Raleigh likes it and which he is disgusted by.

Herc grimaces.

“You take it black, huh?”

“Got used to it.”

“Gross.” He doesn’t actually care, but he’s maybe acting up a little to keep Herc’s mind off his shit, because, again, he doesn’t know when the fuck to back off.  “What’s the game plan for today?”

“Book the interviews PR told us to book, they took care of the rest already.  After that we’re good until they actually do go on the air.”

Yancy nods, then yawns into his coffee, which tastes how he imagines lighter fluid would.

Something pokes him in the back, and he turns to see Tommy again, his parents sprinting towards them across the mess.  Clearly, the kid is a regular Houdini, when it comes to slipping the leash.  “Hey, kid.  What’s up?”

“Are you a Ranger?”

“No,” Yancy tells him, because he doesn’t really want to explain I got fucked up real bad by a kaiju five years back to a kid, and raises an eyebrow, turning as much in his seat as he can.  “But Marshal Hansen here is.”

Who knows, maybe, like Yancy, Herc will be able to tolerate the attentions of kids better than adults. As Tommy turns his wide eyes on Herc, who appears to be trying to drown himself in his coffee, Yancy twists to flash him a grin.

That’s Ranger Hansen?”

“Sure is.”

Herc’s eyes over the rim of his mug say he’s catching hell for this later.

 

The two of them look up at the long flight of stairs Herc’s stood them in front of, the word LOCCENT painted on the concrete below their feet.  “Yancy,” Herc says after a moment.  “Can you lift sixty-five pounds?”

“Uh, I can do about twice that as long as the bench is flat.”

“I’m not talking about the bench press, boy, I’m asking if you can carry Max up the stairs.” Herc indicates his arm, which is still in a sling.

“Oh.” Yancy looks at the dog, thinks, sixty-five pounds? and raises his eyebrows.  “You should really put your dog on a diet.”

“He’s not my dog.”

Which is really just Herc torturing himself for some stupid reason, because with Chuck gone, yeah, Max is his dog.  But if he wants to keep thinking about his son all the time, Yancy can’t stop him, and anyway, he’s not sure if he should.  “Right. No, I probably can’t.”

Herc sighs, glances back up the stairs.  “Well, can you pick him up and hand him to me with my good arm?”

“Living up to that name, huh, Hercules?”

“Nah, yeah, never heard that one before.”

Yancy hands him the dog, who is really fucking heavy and sets his back aching again, and starts up the stairs.  Herc puts Max down four steps from the top to get his key and Yancy watches him wheeze his way up the steps. He can’t decide if the dog is really out of shape or if this is just a breed thing, but he never seems to stop panting like he’s about to die.

Sydney’s now-empty LOCCENT space is prettier than Hong Kong’s—about three quarters of the circular walls are glass, excluding the doors at both sides—one side looks in over the Jaeger bay, the other half points over the water.  The dark tint to the glass makes Yancy think it’s probably only see-through in one direction.  “Nice,” he comments, as Herc walks across the room to the other door and unlocks that too, shouldering it open.

“If it’s not going to fuck up your leg too much to do it every day, we’ll be in here.”

Yancy steps in—the room is familiar, clearly the site of all of their skype calls over the years. “This your office? Kind of out of the way.”

“Stacker liked being available,” Herc says, putting down the shoulder bag he’s still carrying on the desk, “I like being unavailable.  If people don’t really want to talk to me, they don’t come up.  Cut down on a lot of the bullshit I used to get.”

In Yancy’s office back at the Academy, he’d had pictures on the desk of him and Raleigh and Jaz, mostly, a couple of Tendo and Alison, Illaspie and Zeke, the Gages.  Friends.  Family. Some visiting instructor had given him a “That was easy!” button that had said “Get the hell out!” instead, and he’d had that in there, too, along with various other paraphernalia built up over the years.  It was never that neat, but he could find everything.  Herc’s office, though, like his bedroom, is almost entirely impersonal.  “You clean up before you left?”

“No,” Herc says, pulling papers out of the bag.  After a moment, the question seems to confuse him, and he looks up at Yancy, looking around. “Military habits,” he explains, waving his hand vaguely.  ”Besides, I always got shit for having pictures anywhere.”

From Chuck, probably.

Because Yancy’s getting that feeling again.  “You’d hate the Becket residence,” he says easily, trying to distract him, rather transparently.

“You boys messy?”

“Not really. Raleigh decided when he was fifteen it was his job to keep everything passably clean.  Just a little disorganized.”

“Are you going to sit down, or just do the day upright?” Herc says after a long few minutes of silence. Yancy looks up from his phone and complies with the implicit order, pulling out the chair and sitting down.

“I’m flattered that you think I could.”

“I don’t,” Herc says, and slides two sheets of paper towards him.  “Here’s the questions this lot says they’re going to ask. They’re going to go off script at some point, but at least they’re pretending not to be scavengers.”

“Fucking press,” Yancy says idly, skimming over it.

“Fucking press,” Herc agrees, and puts an x next to one on his paper.  “Mark anything you know’s gonna fuck your brother up so we can give him heads up.”

“If they mention Knifehead, I’m personally flying out to kill them.”

Herc rolls his eyes. “Your brother’s a big boy, he can commit his own murders.”

“Yes, but can he get away with them?  That’s the important part.”

Three hours later, they’re watching the first interview of the tour on the screen on Herc’s desk, Yancy’s chair scooted around the other side to look over his shoulder. They’re playing the same dynamic he and Raleigh used to, probably because it works like a charm—Raleigh is all bright eyes and smiling face, chirpy and not too smart, and Mako is quiet and serious and handles fewer of the questions, but usually the ones that require a moral judgement.  Yancy used to refer to it as the funny-man-straight-man press personality, one that lots of pilot teams played off—both sets of Hansens had, in fact, albeit somewhat differently.

For a first interview, it goes pretty good.

Herc has half a glass of scotch in one hand as they’re watching it, looking skeptical at some of their answers, nodding at others, grimacing at one or two.  “Was he always that peppy on camera?”

“It’s exhausting to watch, isn’t it?” Yancy says, eyes trained on Raleigh’s face. If only they knew how fake that smile was.  Raleigh’s real smile doesn’t show that many teeth, usually.  “He used to be able to switch from his usual personality to Ken doll in about a half second.  Think this’ll tire him out a little more than it used to.”

Herc makes a noncommittal noise and knocks back some scotch.  Max looks tempted to start scrambling up his leg, and Yancy heads that off at the pass by reaching over to scratch his ears, because if Herc wanted a lapful of dog, he’d probably have one.  “Tell their security to take the long way back to the hotel so he can regroup before he has to deal with the paps, then.”

“Good idea,” Yancy says, and pulls out his phone.

Raleigh and Mako get a thunderous round of applause when they walk off stage, and Yancy sighs, shutting off the feed.  “PR’ll send us the relevant reactions on other networks,” Herc says, yawning, and rubs his temples. “In the meantime, I’m taking the dog for a walk.”

“You want me to do it?” Every time Herc shows his face in the ‘dome, he gets assaulted with condolences and thank yous, so—yeah, Yancy’s been trying to run his errands for him.  He doesn’t think his services are particularly appreciated, but he keeps offering them anyway.

“Nah, I need to get some air. And you can’t do too many trips of those stairs, anyhow.  Watch the link with PR in case something needs a quick response.  And stop trying to take care of me.”

Yancy’s about to protest, but Herc is gone, which is the exact same thing Raleigh used to do when he wanted to say something, but didn’t want to deal with the consequences of saying it.

He misses his brother.

Raleigh even at his most confusing and withdrawn after Knifehead was easier to get a read on than Herc. He sends Raleigh a text.

    [8:32PM]: Do you think Herc has human feelings or just vague approximations?

    [8:32PM]: Probably. Did I do ok

    [8:33PM]: Yeah, kid. You should check Twitter; you’re apparently trending.

    [8:33PM]: Did you just use a semicolon in a text

Yancy rolls his eyes and pulls up Herc’s Wikipedia page, something he is almost surprised he’s never done before, trying to figure out how to get into the man’s head, or at least through his thick skull a little.

He can’t fix the fact that Chuck is gone, but he can at least try and deal with some of the resulting problems.  Max will forget eventually, he’s a dog.

But Herc’s going to mope forever, as far as Yancy can tell.

And he can’t just sit still for that one.

 

Everything sort of comes to a head when Yancy trips for the fifteenth time over the corner of the storage unit under the bed, which was probably all well and good for Chuck, who had two functioning legs, but which Yancy, if he forgets it’s there or isn’t careful enough with his prosthetic, keeps hitting.

“Fuck it, let’s move that thing.  It’s not like you’re using it,” Herc says, sighing, and heaving himself up from the bed to cross the room. He’s clearly favouring his arm, newly out of its sling, when he pulls out the whole damned thing, shoving Yancy backwards onto the bed so that he can get him out of the way to move it. “This lot nests, just gotta fold it in.”

“Do you want help?”

“You can’t kneel,” Herc points out, and starts pulling drawers out.

There’s clothes inside—Chuck’s, obviously—and a set of textbooks, and a rolled up poster, which Herc puts directly in the trash.  The textbooks he piles onto Chuck’s desk, next to Yancy’s copy of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but he hesitates over the clothes for a moment before he starts transferring them into his own duffle, which is full already of the clothes Chuck had taken to Hong Kong. His face, which Yancy is watching probably too closely, is impressively steady as he starts folding the unit together, then starts nesting the drawers into each other and then clicking them into it, standing the whole thing in the corner.

It only changes when he straightens, wincing like his back is paining him, and Max whines. Both of them look for him immediately, a reflex now as ingrained into Yancy as it is into Herc.

He’s standing with his nose shoved into the still-open duffle, sniffing, wiggling back and forth, and when Herc says, voice rough, “Oi, Max,” turning halfway towards him, he raises his head and gives him a massive doggy grin, squirming like he’s trying to wag his nonexistent tail.

Yancy’s not sure what about the expression hits Herc like a punch, but it does, his flinch is visible—more emotion even than he’d showed when Chuck had died in the first place. He gets up off the bed, a bit of a struggle to stand, as usual, and doesn’t walk forwards, just watches as Herc struggles to put his poker face back on.  “You all right?”

“Fine,” Herc says, voice approximating normal, but Yancy is watching his fists tighten so hard that his knuckles crack.

Ordinarily, Yancy would leave right now.

But he doesn’t. “You don’t look fine.”

Max shoves his head back into Chuck’s clothes, still doing that thing that looks like wagging, and whines again, sounding eager.  Yancy grits his jaw and can see Herc doing the same.  “I’m fine,” Herc says again, biting the words out, and looks at the door as if to indicate where Yancy should be heading.

He doesn’t, though.

He crosses his arms over his chest, instead, pulls the chair out of the desk and pushes it over. “Sit down, sir.”

Herc obeys like his legs have been cut out from under him, so quickly Yancy is surprised. He doesn’t ever give the orders in this relationship.  Ever. And Herc doesn’t take them. But he is now, dropping his head into his hands and falling silent.

Max is starting to look confused now.

Yancy doesn’t want to look at Max anymore.  He looks at Herc’s back again, keeping quiet for his sake even though he has about a hundred things he wants to say.  He realizes, as he catches the minute shudder of the man’s shoulder, that he might be crying, and fuck, he doesn’t know how to deal with that.  With Raleigh, he does, but he doesn’t think Herc would appreciate a hug.

He kind of wants to leave, but something tells him he shouldn’t disturb this moment by opening the door. So he just stays silent, sits back down on his bed and watches the two of them.

Takes his cue from how Pentecost treated him when he woke up from his coma, and when Herc finally looks up, stares at the wall ahead of him, blankly, he stands again and squeezes his shoulder, briefly, before he heads for the door. “I’m going to go grab some food. Got my phone.”

He doesn’t expect Herc to use it, but the man nods mutely, still looking at the wall.

When he gets back, Herc is lying across his bed with Max sitting on his stomach, panting into his neck, one hand scratching the folds of skin at the bulldog’s neck. He doesn’t say anything to Yancy when Yancy puts the tray on his desk, but he does nod at him, looking dead into his eyes. “You good?”  Yancy says before he grabs his towel and goes to take his shower.

“Better,” Herc says, and that’s a more honest answer than he was hoping for, so he heads for the bathroom.

When he gets out, the food is gone, tray stacked neatly with the silverware.

A few nights later, Yancy dreams about his brother dying—it’s Raleigh’s dream, really, just his memory of Knifehead, so he’s dreaming about himself dying, if he examined it that closely, but in the horror of it it just feels like his brother, and Raleigh’s grief slams through him with the force of a small freight train as the cold air rushes into the torn-open cockpit and he feels terror and then silence through the Drift bond, the sickening aloneness that wasn’t supposed to come for just one of them.

He wakes up with a hand on his shoulder, and sits bolt upright so fast that he almost falls over.

He’s covered in cold sweat, panting, throat feeling hoarse, and the hand vanishes in the dark, the sound of Herc’s bed creaking across the room telling him the Marshal has returned to it.  “S—sorry,” he chokes out, trying to get his heartbeat under control.

“Don’t bother about it,” Herc says.  “Just thought I should wake you.”

The room retreats back into silence slowly, as Yancy forces his breathing into line and his pulse stops throbbing in his ears.

Herc’s snoring doesn’t start up, though.

Not until Yancy’s drifting off again.

He’s lying awake, making sure Yancy’s all right, and Yancy thinks, vaguely, before his eyes slip closed, Gotcha, Hansen.

Herc, used to years of not being able to be direct about anything he feels, doesn’t take well to comfort or comforting, but he picks up easy on body language and silent support. Or that’s Yancy’s theory, anyway, and he tests it a couple of times against a couple of easy things, like moving the under-bed unit out of the room and putting Chuck’s clothes in storage, and it seems to work okay, just him being there, occasionally clapping him on the back.

Here’s how he’s going to try and put Hercules Hansen back together:

Quietly. And fucking carefully.

 

Watching another interview in Herc’s office, Yancy bends to grab the whiskey bottle he knows is there from the third drawer down on the left.  “Hey, Herc.”

“What?”

“Every time they look at each other and decide what they’re going to say telepathically before they answer, take a shot.”

Herc looks at him consideringly, then grabs the bottle from him. “You get one every time he gives her the eyes.”

Yancy groans. He’s been watching his brother give her The Eyes for weeks now. Raleigh thinks he’s so subtle, but he’s so not.  Then again, maybe he just doesn’t care about subtlety. “Do you want me to get alcohol poisoning?”

“Dead men don’t snore,” Herc proclaims, because he is a massive hypocrite.

Yancy snorts, a habit he thinks he’s picking up.  “You’d miss me, Hansen.”

“Take a shot,” Herc says in lieu of answering, passing the bottle over as he keeps his eyes trained on the screen. Yancy glances up, and sure enough, Raleigh is looking at Mako like she’s hung the moon for him. Or perhaps as if she is the moon. It’s really hard to tell at this point.

The scotch burns going down. “Fuck, that’s strong.”

“Straight whiskey, son. Not like those bodgy Jack and Cokes you drink.”

“Whatever,” Yancy says, instead of defending his poison of choice, “take a shot, you fucker, they’re doing it.”

 

Raleigh calls him every other night.  On the nights in between, it’s Yancy’s turn.  Mako picks up once, says, “Hello, Captain Becket.  Raleigh is in the shower, he asked me to get the phone if you rang.”

“What’s up, Miss Mori?” Yancy says, instead of saying, you’re practically joined at the hip with my brother, I think you can use my first name or and why are you not in the shower with him—he refrains from the first because he knows it’s futile and the second because he thinks both Mako and Raleigh would kill him, and probably Herc would get in a kick, since he’s closest, reading a newspaper across the room.

“We have just come back late from an interview.  Are the repairs on your leg holding?”

“Sure are,” he answers easily. “How’s my baby brother?”

“You only spoke to him last night, he has not changed much,” she points out, and he laughs.

“C’mon, tell me an embarrassing story.  I promise not to tell it at your wedding.”

“We are not getting married,” she says crisply, the same way Raleigh does every time he says something like this, and he thinks, Hahaha. Just wait. Because he actually has fifty dollars with Tendo riding on Raleigh proposing in the next six months, and let’s be honest, who knows Raleigh better than him.  “I think you know this.”

“The gossip columns disagree with you on that.  According to Friday you’re already married.”

Herc snorts. Yancy throws the magazine at him, vaguely, missing by three feet—not that Herc can read it, because it’s in Japanese, but he’s not lying and he can prove it.  “Friday is not a reliable source,” Mako tells him seriously.

“I know. If Raleigh had gotten married without me there I would have had to kill him, and I know he wouldn’t risk that.”

“I think Raleigh could handle your murder attempt,” she says, but she sounds at least a little amused.

“Nah, I know where he’s ticklish.  I have this in the bag.” He can hear Raleigh’s voice in the background, now, and decides it’s his brotherly duty to embarrass him. “Does he miss me?”

He doesn’t need to look at Herc to know how hard the man is rolling his eyes.

“Yes,” Mako answers promptly. “He is pining.”

There’s her sense of humour, Yancy knows, although he can’t quite pin it down enough to exploit it. He grins, and knows it’s the one Raleigh says looks like a shark’s smile.  “That’s cute.  How can you tell?”

In the background, Raleigh’s voice sounds indignant, but Mako giggles a little before she answers, so delicate he almost doesn’t catch it.  “He keeps trying to make unfunny jokes and then justifying them by saying you would have laughed.  And he is always telling me that you like this food or the other when he has me try it.”

“He’s adorable, isn’t he?” Yancy says, smug. “I’m touched.”

“Give me that,” he hears over the phone, in Raleigh’s voice, and then Mako’s murmur, that he can’t make out. “Please give me that?  Mako?”

“Whiiiiipped,” is the first thing he says when Raleigh comes on the line with him.

“Go fuck yourself, Yancy.”

“Watch your language around the lady.”

Mako says something in Japanese that he can’t quite make out, and as Raleigh is answering, he rolls his eyes, covers the microphone with his hand, and turns to Herc. “Is the wireless okay here?”

“Can’t believe it took you almost two months to ask that,” Herc replies drily.  “It’s shifty, but not as bad as China’s.”

“Raleigh,” Yancy says into the phone, cutting into his brother’s stream of Japanese. “Video me if you two are going to be talking the whole time, dickhead.”

While Raleigh’s looking for the button—because he’s shitty with his phone, since he’s been avoiding phones for five years—Yancy heaves himself up and crosses the room to sit next to Herc.  “Say hello to the dynamic duo,” he says, holding the phone at arm’s length so that he and Herc are both in the frame without leaning together as Raleigh and Mako shift into view.

It’s good to see the two of them—not that he doesn’t practically every day, watching their interviews, but still.  Raleigh’s smiling for real, the way he doesn’t for the cameras, and that’s nice. His hair is darker with water, dripping down his shoulders, because he’s apparently decided not to put on a shirt, a decision he rethinks the second he sees Herc, ducking out of the picture to reemerge with one pulled on, collar wet from sliding over his hair. “Hey, Marshal.”

“Herc,” Herc corrects. Yancy realizes that Herc has never once been the one to call the two of them to tell them something, it’s always him. “How’s the day?”

Mako and Raleigh look at each other.  “Uh—long,” Raleigh answers awkwardly after a long pause, and Yancy narrows his eyes.

“Why did you come back late from the interview?”

“We detoured and went bowling,” Raleigh admits, and Yancy makes a face, because bowling is not a hot date, and he’s sure he taught Raleigh better than that. They’ll be having words later. “Because Mako had never been. And we encountered some paparazzi.”

“Am I going to be seeing your score on tomorrow’s news,” Herc says flatly, crossing his arms. “Or did you do something worse?”

They look at each other again, and Mako looks ashamed of herself, and a little red around the ears, which would be cute, but is honestly more worrying.  Yancy puts his face in his hands.  “Damn it, kid.”

“You might just, um, want to check the internet,” Raleigh says awkwardly, and Yancy grabs Herc’s phone and googles Raleigh Becket one-handed.

“Did you fucking propose?” he says when he clicks images, and there’s a picture of Raleigh kneeling on the floor of the bowling alley in front of her, on one knee. Mako’s lower half is obscured by the shoulder of one of the security guys, but she’s holding a bowling ball.   “Mori, you just told me you weren’t getting married.”

“I was tying her shoe!” his brother protests, and Yancy looks at Herc’s put-upon expression and suddenly can’t stop laughing.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Herc says under his breath.

“You are so whipped,” Yancy says once he can talk again.  “Oh my god.”

“He was being nice,” Mako says, and Raleigh points to her as if to say, See, Yancy, see?, but Yancy is having none of that.

“Nice and whipped.”

Herc points to him, mimicking Raleigh, and Yancy refrains from putting his fist up below the view of the camera and asking for a fist bump, because they’re not really that kind of friends.

Raleigh rolls his eyes. “Whatever. How’re things on the home front?”

“Less quiet tomorrow than today, after that stunt, loverboy,” Yancy says, grinning. “You’re going to drive me to drink.”

“Already driving me to drink,” Herc mutters, and Yancy looks at him and raises an eyebrow.

“You would be drinking anyway, dude.”

“Did you just call me dude?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Fucking Beckets,” Herc says, and shoves Yancy out of his bunk with one hand.  “Go talk to your brother proper, I don’t want anything to do with you idiots.”

When Yancy finally hangs up, he tosses his phone onto his pillow and says, “So, how much shit do we have to give them tomorrow for the proposal?”

“I’m not pressed about it,” Herc answers, and Yancy blinks.  He’s learned that he doesn’t have to ask for explanations with Herc, though, not usually, so he just waits.  “It’s the two of them who have to answer the questions about it, and it’s not like worse photos’ve never come out.”

“Like that one of your brother in 2017,” Yancy says, lips twitching, because that picture had also involved someone’s little brother kneeling, but the woman over him had been in a state of advanced undress and pushing his head forward with a hand on the back of his head.  “Where he had his tongue u—”

Herc cuts him off. “Yeah, yeah, I remember. Scott was a fucking prick.”

“Yeah. He was.  Or that one of you with the—”

“It’s not like you’re innocent, mate, I remember your run with the g-string.”

“It was a speedo,” Yancy objects, “And I was trying to get Raleigh a date.”

“You looked like a stripper.”

“That was the point.”

“So what’s Raleigh’s eventual scandal going to be?” Herc asks, crossing his arms. “Was gonna ask earlier. Weird sex?  Drug problem?  Cheating? Cross-dressing?”

“All of those are more my purview,” Yancy replies, lying down as he laughs.  “Well, maybe except the last one, but I don’t think it’s his, either.  Raleigh’s kind of a boy scout when he wants to be.”

“Mental illness?” Herc asks.

“Yeah,” Yancy says, remembering Raleigh’s quiet withdrawal after Knifehead.  “Probably.  But he’s got a pretty good handle on it, I think.  And Mako’s there, she wouldn’t let him—well.”  He’s quiet for a moment, and wonders how this got serious before he answers. “He’s been better the last couple of months than he has in the last five years.  Kind of pissed that she could help him so easily.”

“Here’s my advice, Yancy,” Herc says.  ”Stop trying to fix everybody, you’re just setting yourself up for failure.”

Herc has stopped bringing up the ghost at his side every other sentence.  He’s a little less mechanical about some of his routines. He still stares at Max oddly sometimes, but he hasn’t looked like he’s looking through the dog at someone who isn’t there in a while.

Yancy thinks he’s doing okay, setting himself up for failure.

That maybe it’s worth it.

“Failure is also my purview,” he quips instead of responding to that properly.

 

When, finally, the usual questions have been thoroughly asked by everyone, and the networks that all still want interviews are scraping for new things to break, that’s when they finally bring up Knifehead.

Raleigh goes all quiet, and Yancy can practically see Mako bristling.  But his brother stops her from retorting with a hand—the gesture reminds him oddly of the way he’d asked her to back off Chuck before the two of them had had their fight—and answers.  “Well, it sucked, you know, the first few months after.”  First few years, more like.  He can feel Herc’s eyes watching him, but his are watching his brother. “He couldn’t really do a lot, and he’s terrible at asking for help, so there was a lot of—you know, having to figure out what he needed.”

Yancy makes a disparaging sound, even though he knows Raleigh’s absolutely right, he is terrible at asking for help.  “Well,” Herc says, “he’s not wrong.”

“C’mon, man, take my side,” Yancy says absently, but his eyes are still on Raleigh.

“He hated having stuff done for him,” his brother is continuing.  “But you know, some stuff we just had to.  It was weird,” and now the grin is back, bright and fake, “because he’d been taking care of me our whole lives, having the roles reversed.”

Yancy knows Raleigh can’t check it now, but he pulls out his phone and fires off a text.

     [11:15PM]: THIS IS WHERE YOU SAY “IT WAS TOUGH” AND STOP TALKING, RALEIGH.

Herc is trying not to look amused at his furious texting.  Raleigh is still talking, now responding to a followup question about his last statement, if Yancy doesn’t miss his guess.  “Yeah, for the last three years before we joined the PPDC we were kind of on our own.”  This is just the truth, but that’s about as far as either of them have talked about it—not that other details haven’t come out, because they have, but not from Yancy and Raleigh. “They were kind of our saving grace, you know.”

Back on safe ground, praising the PPDC.  Herc looks at him again. “That bad, huh.”

“I was working over a hundred hours a week,” Yancy says, flatly, and watches Herc’s eyebrows lift. “Two jobs.”

“Full time, then.”

“Yeah,” he says, and huffs, looking slightly away before he realizes he’s doing the same thing he’s trying to get Herc to stop doing.  “One of them was at Starbucks. Seven fucking days a week.”

“I avoid having my name written on cups,” Herc says, and Yancy’s grateful for the cessation of questions.

“Shame. I could have spelled it Herakles.”

“That’s why I avoid having my name written on cups,” Herc says, eyes back on the screen, and then he pulls out a bottle of scotch.  A new one. He seems to keep the drawer fully stocked without Yancy ever seeing him replace anything.  “Take a shot every time Miss Mori looks like she needs a drink.”

“Ah, schadenfreude,” Yancy says, and takes the bottle. “My favourite kind of game. You’re on every time Raleigh realizes he’s said something too smart and does that stupid little airhead eye-widening look.”  Raleigh does it as he’s saying it.  “Take a shot.”

Herc takes the bottle back and screws off the top, complying.  “At least neither of them flirts with reporters.”

“Nope,” Yancy says, turning the “p” sound into a popping noise.  “That was my job.  Married couples don’t need someone to flirt with reporters.”

“They’re not married,” Herc points out.  “Take a shot. Actually, take two.”

Yet,” Yancy says, before he obeys.  “They’re going to end up that way.  And then adopt a football team’s worth of kids.”

“Your football or my football?”

“Yours, but actually, ours too.  Fifty-three sounds about right.”

Herc snorts. “What makes you say that?”

“Well, I know Raleigh wants kids,” Yancy says, ticking off points on his fingers, “I know he wants to adopt, and I know he’s hard to refuse.  And I think Miss Mori, as an orphan of the kaiju war, would not be opposed to picking up some orphans of the kaiju war.  And neither of them will want to pick and choose their kids, they’ll end up with the whole orphanage.  Take a shot.”

Herc gets the closest to laughing he has in a long time when Yancy mentions the orphanage, a strangled noise. “Put your money where your mouth is, Becket,” he says, after he’s done his shot.  “A hundred if they still haven’t in two years.”

“Make it three,” Yancy says, and grins, “And you have a deal, sir.”

Raleigh’s going to end him if he ever finds out how many bets Yancy has down on his love life. He doesn’t really care. “Deal,” Herc says, and spits into his palm, holds it out.

“That’s disgusting,” Yancy complains, horrified, and for the first time he can remember, Herc’s mouth curves into a sharp smile, although it doesn’t last for longer’n a second.

“Are you going to shake on it, Yancy, or not?”

“Not with that hand.”

Herc grabs a tissue and wipes his hand off, sits back in his chair.  “My kid always thought that was disgusting, too.”

Yancy watches his face closely, but, for the first time since Pitfall, he doesn’t look like mentioning Chuck hurts him.  He does notice, though, that Herc still doesn’t say his name.  “That’s because it is.”

“Bunch of prissy fucks,” Herc says, and takes a shot.  “I guess I’ll have to trust you, since you’re a wuss.”

“I’m pretty sure nobody but Scott has ever done that with you,” Yancy tells him.

“Stacker,” Herc says, and Yancy’s eyes widen.  He has to bite down on his tongue to keep from laughing, imagining that.  “We were young,” he continues, glancing at Yancy’s face. “Miss Mori’s age, maybe.”

Yancy hadn’t realized they’d known each other that long.  “If I wanted to swap spit with you, I’d just kiss you.”

“Keep off-handedly flirting with men left and right, Yancy,” Herc replies, seemingly unperturbed, “and people’ll start figuring you out.”

“Figuring what out?” Yancy asks, challenging.

Herc rolls his eyes and doesn’t answer him.

 

A picture of a younger Herc and Stacker Pentecost, grinning in army uniforms, appears on the wall of the bedroom, at some point.  Then a picture of a blonde woman with freckles and Chuck Hansen’s mouth precisely. Never any pictures of Chuck, and Yancy never comments on any of them, just pretends they’re not there.

This is a little like Raleigh and therefore a little familiar, except Raleigh seemed all too eager to put up photographs of his mother and then of their glory days, like he was trying to hurt himself, and Herc’s pictures are more like something he wants, but hasn’t allowed himself to have before.  Like some bizarre act of rebellion against something Yancy can’t identify.

Not that he says any of this. Not that Yancy ever asks.

But Yancy isn’t Chuck, he doesn’t laugh.  And he doesn’t object.

And Herc never actually looks at the pictures, as far as he knows.

Just has them there, like he can chase the shadow of his son away with a picture of his wife. Max never touches them, even though he could, if he tried, and Yancy half expects him to.

“Good boy,” he tells the dog when Herc is in the bathroom, watching the dog look at the slightly flapping edge of the picture and not go for it.

 

They sit around in a hole in the wall bar the day before Easter that Herc says won’t care about who they are—they have a break, because Mako and Raleigh are in France, which is not keen on scheduling interviews for a holiday—and Herc orders Yancy some horrifying cocktail with tequila in it, because apparently, he wants Yancy to suffer, and Yancy orders him a Jack and Coke because if he’s going to be miserable tomorrow, Herc is going to be miserable now.  “Fucker,” Herc says when his drink arrives, but knocks it back quick enough.

“At your service,” Yancy replies, and chokes back some of his tequila, vowing never to let Herc pick his drinks ever again, because he’s going to be feeling this tomorrow. “I’m getting way too old for tequila,” he says as he puts down his drink.

“You’re thirty,” Herc says. “You saying you can’t keep up with me?”

“You’re drinking Jack,” Yancy argues.  “And I’m not thirty yet.”

“Whose fault is it I’m drinking Jack?”

“What, you want to trade?”

“Do I look like I want in on that world of pain?”

Yancy flicks the water from the condensation on his glass at him, then remembers Herc isn’t his brother and he’s probably going to get ripped a new one for that. Herc just levels him with a long, unimpressed look.

“Sorry,” he says, and his voice cracks embarrassingly, “Wasn’t thinking.”

Herc actually starts laughing, which Yancy has seen him do all of three times in the whole time he’s known him.  It fucking figures it would take him turning into teenaged Raleigh to do it.  “Jesus wept, Yancy, I’m not Stacker, I’m not going to take your head off for a little bit of water.”  Yancy relaxes, a little bit, and then Herc continues.  “But I am making you drink another one of those Slammers.”

He groans. “If I throw up tomorrow I’m aiming for your side of the room.”

Herc waves down the bartender. “Another one of those for him, huh?”

“Fuck you.”

“You brought this on yourself, Yancy Becket.”

After last call, Yancy can barely see straight and he definitely can’t make his leg work right. Either leg, really. Herc isn’t really in much better shape, but he’s at least better at holding it, so it’s him with Yancy’s arm around his shoulder dragging him home.  It’s not quite a carry, but it’s not quite not, either. “’m too fucking old for this,” Yancy tells him, slurring his words.

“We both are,” Herc tells him, voice infuriatingly steady.

“Haven’t been this drunk since I turned… turned, fuck, twenty-one?  Tendo took me out.  ‘s that’n ad for a nudist beach?”

“Steady up there, Yancy.”

“Y’know I thought about getting you drunk, a couple of months back.”

Herc snorts, turns towards him.  “You couldn’t drink me under the table if you tried.”

“Yeah, but you might’ve actually talked.”

They go about half a block in silence.  “You mess with shit you should leave alone too much, Yancy.”

Yancy does and he knows it. He’s always been that way. “You kids and your meddling dog.”

He knows what he was going for and he thinks maybe that wasn’t it.

Herc does have to pick him up a little to get him up the stairs into the room and then put him in the bed, tugging off his boots for him and shoving up the leg of his fatigues to undo the lower fastenings of his prosthetic, fingers fumbling for it because he’s never done it before, only seen Raleigh do it.  “Thanks,” Yancy tries to say, but it might be in French, he’s not really sure.

“’s no problem.”

Herc drops into his own bed thirty seconds later.

When Yancy wakes up in the morning, he remembers mostly everything, but it’s sort of hard to think about it past his massive fucking headache and his overwhelming need to vomit. He’s pretty sure he couldn’t unstick his tongue from the roof of his mouth if he tried, and he’s pretty sure he doesn’t want to, because his whole mouth tastes like he’s been licking roadkill. “Overdid it a little,” Herc says, and of course he’s awake, the fucker.  Something snarky in Yancy’s head says that the elderly need less REM sleep.

It’s not until Herc exhales in a sharp half-laugh that he realizes he’s said it out loud. “Go take a shower and brush your teeth before you throw up all over yourself, Becket.”

“With all due respect, sir, I hate you,” Yancy says, and tries to get out of bed, but falls over because despite the fact that the shoulder strap and the harness are all still on, his prosthetic is not.  “Ow,” he says into the floor.

When he looks over to Herc, hauling himself onto his back so he can get the leg on, the man looks halfway between pissing himself laughing and the worst headache in the world. “That’s the most fucking pathetic thing I’ve ever seen,” Herc manages, still wincing.

“I think I need life alert.”

“You’re not that old,” Herc tells him, but crosses the room at a gingerly walk and bends down to help him up from where he is still dejectedly lying on the floor. “Now go take a shower, you smell like tequila and shit decisions.”

“It was your shit decision to make me drink tequila,” Yancy whines, but stumbles off to obey.

They’re a pathetic sight in the mess hall, faces buried in their coffee cups and eyes red, wincing at small noises.  Tommy, who has taken to sitting next to Yancy at every meal and occasionally bringing some seven-year-old friends, is not sensitive to their hangovers, chirruping away about something seven-year-olds do while Herc glares Yancy into a hole in the bench and Yancy contemplates suicide.  “Are you okay, Yancy?” the kid says after Yancy groans into his coffee for the fourth time.

“No,” he says. “I think I got cooties last night.”

The kid’s eyes go wide and terrified.  “From a girl?”

“That’s right,” Yancy says, and yeah, this isn’t his best form, but whatever.  He doesn’t feel like playing Pied Piper to the kids of the ‘dome today.  “Feel like poop.”

Herc inhales some of his coffee by accident and manfully has to not gag all over the table. Watching it is about the only good thing that’s happened to Yancy today.  “I have to go find my mom,” Tommy says, inching away, and then he’s off.

“You ought to adopt a football team of your own,” Herc tells him, and Yancy mimes putting a gun in his mouth.

“No way. Kids are only fun when I can give them back to their parents.”

“You’d be a good dad.”

“I am not adopting a football team.  Being an uncle to one already sounds like too much.  Maybe a cat.”

Herc makes a face, like hearing Yancy suggest adopting a cat is the worst thing he’s ever heard.

The rest of the meal passes in silence, both of them trying to avoid looking at the lights in the room or through the windows.

 

Raleigh and Mako come back from their world tour looking exhausted and annoyed, but Raleigh brightens instantly when he sees Yancy on the Sydney airpad, and, ignoring the reporters, throws himself into Yancy’s arms.  The only reason they don’t fall over is because Yancy knows it’s coming and braces for it, but jesus, does it hurt his spine.  “Yeah, kid,” he says, muffled against Raleigh’s shoulder, “I missed you, too.”

Herc has moved, like he knows them well enough to know what they’ll do, and maybe he does, standing in between them and the cameras, which won’t stop anyone who can move their feet and get a different angle for long, but they break apart quick enough that it doesn’t matter.  Yancy ruffles Raleigh's hair, because yeah, actually, that’s the longest the two of them have ever been apart, and he wasn’t really a fan of it, as weird and codependent as that is. “Captain, handle the press while I get this lot inside,” Herc orders, pulling him away from his brother and shoving him towards the cameras.  “And don’t cock it up.”

Yancy gives him a look of utter betrayal, but obeys, because he always does, in the end.

His looks of utter betrayal don’t work very well.  He’s not as cute as Raleigh and he suspects Herc has had several years of practice resisting Chuck’s wiles.  But it’s always worth a try.

“Captain Becket!” a reporter is saying, “Captain Becket!”  There’s a microphone shoved in his face.

He’s going to get Herc back for this shit, somehow, but for right now, he plasters on his smile and starts talking.

He can multitask on plotting his revenge.