1. You give them your arms as a warning, as a weapon, as a signpost that you are trouble with a capital T. You wrote your shaky allegiance all over yourself in a series of grimy tattoo parlours in Berlin, teeth sliding into your lower lip, shaking through the pain, high on adrenaline, the innate challenge of it, your own brain-- and although you’ve been the latter more than most, your mind’s never flashed quite as whitehotbrilliant as it has with the slick nick of a needle into your skin, burning you up from the outside in. You liked the pain, liked its inescapable realness, liked the blood it left behind. Blood has never bothered you. Every biologist has a deathwish, in his own way. You’re a challenge, and that’s exactly how you wanted it, and you’ll repeat it until it’s true. Do not bare your throat, even if it lets them see the whisper of a tentacle wrought there. Do not bare your throat, because you’re a motherfuckin’ genius, and you never surrender. Do not bare your throat, and do not back down, and maybe this time, just maybe, they’ll remember your name.
2. This is war, babe, so you make yourself a weapon. You can’t fight what you don’t understand, second person plural, but that plural never wants to buy what you’re selling, even when you’re not selling it, even when you’re screaming it at the top of your lungs. You could never fight the way they do, people comfortable sharing their own minds, a fate worse than death to you, a terror you cannot even begin to countenance. Your brain has always felt too big for you, full of dark corners with the wallpaper ripped off, blood on the floor and things in the closets that you never want to open. But wars need more than one kind of soldier, and you’re deadlier than most. They ignore you and ignore you until they can’t anymore, until you’re the loudest, brightest, best, until even the ink on your skin can’t keep you out. This is war, baby, and you’re fearless as fearless gets, and, it turns out, even being mad as a sack of cats can’t compete with that.
3. They first thing he calls you is a traitor. He says it in German, a language either he doesn’t know you speak or he’s the rudest man you’ve ever met in your life. You consider, for all of half a second, pretending that you didn’t understand him, but feigning ignorance has never been your strong suit, and if this man is going to call your names in your own laboratory he’s damn well going to get the measure of you exactly. So you say danke schön, and try not to enjoy the way his mouth twists at the side more than you should. (Which, as every authority figure you’ve ever met in your life has told you many times over, is not at all.) He meets your eyes and you figure that most people would back down from the hatred burning in them, would run a mile from the look on his face that says he wants to peel the skin off your bones and make you watch, but you’re not most people, and if there’s one thing you enjoy more than being a challenge, it’s having one right back. It wouldn’t do to get bored around here, you decide, and when he accidentally on purpose slams his cane into your desk as he walks away, you know without pausing for breath that you decided very, very right.
4. Pretend this never frightens you. Pretend that victory is an inevitability. Pretend it until you can’t pretend anymore, and never let them smell your fear, because you’ve bled until you’re almost dry, and you’re not leaving any blood to scent the water, not now, not this time.
5. You’re the enemy, or so they say. The Kaiju, of course, are silent, because you cannot get them to talk to you, even if a hidden helmet made out of spare parts that you diligently hide from Hermann may mean that they will not remain so forever. But the army, the heroes, the last defence of humanity, they’ve made their opinion very clear. They whisper behind your back and call your names to your face, and it’s great, you love it, you really honestly do. It’s better, it really is, to be called names for something you provoked than merely for existing. You’re a self-created irritant, and you’ve waited your whole life to be hated for what you are than for merely daring to be. You’re crazy and queer as a three dollar bill and you’ve been able to build a computer from scraps since you were six years old, and if they must hate you, they’re damn well going to hate you for the right reasons. Get in everybody’s face. Be the thing they can’t escape. Be loud and brash and unhinged and never, ever let them ignore you, and the thing is-- no matter what they say after your entrance, you’ve already won. Game over. Checkmate, bitch.
6. You needle him because you don’t know how to not. You push him and you keep pushing, and, to your entirely hidden delight, he pushes you right back. He pushes you so hard that your head is spinning, and for the first time in your life you’re scrambling to keep up. It’s never happened to you before, this push-pull of constant snarling, and you love it, you’re drunk on it, you never want it to stop. He hates your tattoos, your t-shirts, that you play The Clash at 3am and that you leave dogeared William Gibson novels all over the lab, regardless of what is beneath them or whether you’re even reading them at the time. He hates you, so thoroughly, so viscerally, that it almost hurts, but he sees you, and when he hates you his hate encompasses all that you are and have the potential to be. He hates you as one would hate the universe, blinding, desperate, staring into the sun and refusing to blink. He hates you and you hate him and you think, for the first time in your life, that you finally understand how Mick felt about Keith-- or, at least, why he let him stick around. I’m a rockstar, baby, you tell him, manic at 4am and shirtless and pacing, and he barely even looks up from his calculations, and you hate him, you hate him so much that if you had any space left within your endorphin-addled brain for fear that you’d almost choke on how much you need it but shouldn’t when he says, perfectly sardonic, Really? How droll. Could you please be quiet now, old boy, the adults are trying to work.
7. Don’t ever look before you leap.
8. You realise when you’re in love with him the first time he submits a report complaining that you aren’t keeping up with your meds. He’s not entirely right but he’s not entirely wrong, because you’re the epitome of how can you be so smart, but--, which, in your case, means how can a man so smart always think that this time he goes off his meds it’ll be different, honest, your honour, I know all the evidence is to the contrary but if you just bear with me you’ll see that I’m always right, it’s kinda my thing, you see. You’re not sure you’ve ever hated him more than in that moment, could rip his teeth out one by one, burn his hard-drive, call him every thing you’ve ever heard muttered behind his back and you’d never had the grace to say, because you aim for the right places and not the easy targets, not for the ones marked useless cripple, because it’s not like you have any stones to throw in that arena, not after all the nights he’s talked you down, high and wild and only able to see him and the numbers and the things you can’t see, no matter how hard you try. You hate him, but you know as you sit in this emergency intervention meeting that you’re going to stand up and walk back out of here and into your lab and throw a spanner at his head, and nothing’s going to change. The last man who questioned your meds regime, you broke his kneecap with a three thousand dollar microscope. (Hey, if you don’t nail your shit down, dude.) You’re still gonna throw the spanner at Hermann’s head, but you’ll aim to miss. You don’t know what love is, but you swallow hard, know that you’re probably never going to get a better definition than this.
9. You’re a goddamn weapon, self-made and wired to blow at any moment, and you can be scary as fuck when the situation calls for it, which sometimes it does. The first time you think you’ve worked out enough of the Kaiju biology to strategize a killing blow, you elbow the guy on comms out of the way and give precise, if screamed, instructions of how to aim for the sweetspots, and in what order. They take it out in seven minutes flat, and when it comes in over the comms the whole room goes silent, like they’ve all just noticed for the very first time that you’re twenty kinds of crazy in a five foot six bag. You bow, ostentatious and confrontational and all, all wrong, and Hermann’s waiting for you at the door, whispers, Well, I daresay I could’ve done it better.
10. You and Hermann sometimes forget what language you’re speaking at any given time, have become placidly used to Pentecost’s barked English! when you’re calling each other terrible things in German without even noticing the switch. (There are some words, Hermann tells you, once and only once, that he never bothered learning in English.) German is a favourite sweater, comfort and the best language to yell in all at once, and you’ve secretly recorded some of Hermann’s most prodigious screeching, and you’re thinking of making a mixtape, except that sometimes you listen to it when you’re trying to fall asleep, and you would rather perform surgery on yourself than explore the implications of that one. We speak the same language, you tell him once, pompous and right, and he says, affronted, Regardless of what you think, you simply cannot speak Latin, and you never tell him that you meant science, but the next thing he did was hand you corrections to your data model for predicting Kaiju gestation, so you guess he probably got it anyway, and you’re relieved as fuck that you didn’t have to say it, because sentimental bullshit or what, Jesus.
11. Don’t tell him exactly how much you hate him. Don’t tell him that his opinion slices you open like a knife and stitches you back up better than new in one fell swoop. Don’t tell him that you dream about him, and you’re only strangling him in one in three. Especially don’t tell him that most of those are still sex dreams, regardless. Don’t tell him and don’t tell him again and call him every name under the sun, and never stop fighting to be his equal, to hold your own, to make him recognise you and never look at anybody else when you’re in a room with him, and find a new way to define winning.
12. You’re a rockstar, you’re a prodigy, and you’re sopping wet and bleeding in front of a man who could beat you to death with his bare hands and who’s laughed in your face more than once and you’ve barely even started. Hannibal Chau palms open your eye and calls you names no one on the face of the planet should be calling Dr Newton Geiszler, but sometimes being wrong and having the shit kicked out of you is the only way to get back up again swinging. Maybe you are an idiot, maybe you are in over your head, but if you don’t do this the world’s gonna end and only you can do it, only you can do this fucking stupid reckless selfish selfless thing. But the thing is that nobody else would be crazy enough, but you’re you and you’re exactly crazy enough and you have been all along, so you walk back into the lion’s den and demand your blood sacrifice on the altar of science, and wish you had a gun to punctuate how goddamn pissed off you are right now, but you don’t, so you bleed on this asshole’s carpet and you show him how far you can be pushed before you bounce back seething, and damn him, damn him to hell, because Hannibal smiles like a shark and gives precisely what you asked for, the way he was clearly going to all along. You’re steel inside a velvet glove, kid, you’re crazier than I was at your age, and that was pretty fuckin’ crazy, let me tell you that, he says, and you’re too tired to pretend, just say, Yeah, yeah, man. I know. You read my personnel file, good on ya. Now, give me my goddamn Kaiju brain or I’ll get mean.
13. Pretend that touching his mind, even for a second, is not the greatest thing that’s ever happened to you. Fail, without any hope of ever succeeding. Try again, and fail again, and blush every time you think of it, because you could’ve fucked him in the ruins of Hong Kong and not even felt guilty, because you thought you knew what beauty meant, but you’d never seen the inside of his head before, so you were wrong, you were so very, very wrong. Pretend that you’re not hard inside your jeans with blood pouring from your nose, and give him the gift of pretending that you didn’t see him notice, because you know now that he doesn’t want you to notice, and you never give him what he wants but you always give him what he needs, but if you get out of this he’s gonna discover what he needs is your tongue down his throat, but later, later, if you get out of this alive, and Jesus, Jesus Christ, you hope you do, because there’s things you’ve seen in there that you’d get down on your knees and beg for, and God, he wouldn’t even have to make nice.
14. You could die doing this. You could’ve died drifting with the worst enemy who is by mere (non-) coincidence the best friend you’ve ever had, and you could die fighting an enemy who’s stronger and faster and bigger than you, but you don’t know how not to fight, you can’t remember having ever done anything else. You don’t know how to not be this person, because you’ve only ever been you, and being you has been a pretty sweet deal, even if it’s also been a ride straight to hell at the same time. You could die doing this, but you don’t, you save the goddamn world, and you pull Hermann into a half-hug that your entire body itches to make something much, much more, and you could’ve died doing this and you’ve almost pissed yourself about six times today, but his skin’s hot beneath that hideous shirt he’s wearing and he smiles at you and God, God, you wanna know what’s crazy? You don’t even care.
15. Forget nothing, because you never do, and every time you see his eye, scarred to match yours exactly, remember that he’s the only person who’s ever jumped off cliffs with you without even looking, and hate him, hate him so much because he’s ruined you for everyone else, for as long as you both shall live. Give no shits and take no prisoners and be the rockstar genius weapon you were always meant to be, and if he’s the only person in the entire fucking room smiling at you, that’s victory, baby, because your parameters were never that normal, anyway, and fuck off and eat my dust, because now you know what fearless really means, and it’s the world that ought to be scared for once, and you roll up your sleeves, never pray for peace, were born ready for every goddamn inch of this beautiful glorious everlasting war.