It’s a punishment, actually, being sent to scour the coast. And it’s effective in the sense that it’s both dull and depressing as hell, stepping around corpses of whales and sharks and hundreds of fish, deep-sea dwellers mixed with the tiniest minnows and all drying dead on the sand. The appearance of the Kaiju meant nothing short of annihilation for the Pacific Ocean’s ecosystems.
84% of the Great Barrier Reef was crushed in the first attack on Australia, and by now the satellite images show nothing but empty water; the teams of marine biologists who’ve been moving in these days aren’t finding much more than crushed debris from the polyps. One of the seven wonders of the world wiped away, and the species, fuck—not just rare and endangered species, but endemics, gone off the face of the earth. Lost.
Newt’s not ashamed to say he’s teared up a bit, thinking about that.
He gets that everyone thinks it’s stupid, nearsighted or obsessed or whatever. Possible end of humanity, we’ve got our survival to worry about, for the love of god man where are your priorities, all of that. And it’s not like he bugged anybody about it, even that awful night Hermann ran the numbers on how many species the jaegers and kaiju were likely to have already destroyed, and—it was the possibility that got to Newt, really, in the end, he was a man who lived for potential and discovery and it was, he’d said after maybe throwing some stuff, such a damn waste.
(Hermann just frowned and then brought him beer at 2 a.m. when Newt still couldn’t sleep, patted him awkwardly on the shoulder and frowned some more before he went home.)
There’s a comet grouper, only about half a meter long, twitching helplessly in a shallow pool of seawater. Lucky, Newt thinks grimly. If the copper shark’s body hadn’t washed up just so, it wouldn’t have trapped the tiny bit of water keeping the big fish alive. He steps closer and ignores the slick, lumpy layer of dead creatures that carpets the beaches from the Chukchi Peninsula to every island of Indonesia. Or rather, he swallows, tells himself he’s ignoring it, and keeps his eyes fixed on the grouper.
He grabs it in both arms and walks past the shoreline, knee-deep, lowers the fish carefully and watches it swim away, because there’s got to be worse things to be than obsessed.
Punishment isn’t quite the word, Newt decides about an hour later. His clothes are dripping wet and he’s been bitten by a disgruntled moray eel, is dabbing absently at the blood on his hand. It’s more that he did some pretty stupid, reckless stuff in the last week, and while things are settling down there’s probably more than one person who’d like him miles away from the lab. Just in case he tries to Drift with a bit of liver or something, who the hell knows, the baby Kaiju got confiscated immediately, which he is still—for the record—pissed about.
They need people, though, to comb the beaches like this and look for things that shouldn’t be there. Jaeger parts or bits of Kaiju, anything newly returning civilians aren’t supposed to get their hands on. A whole bunch of people on the Shatterdome staff have been sent out to do it.
He’s getting closer to the Dazhou harbor, walking south around land that was evacuated years ago, when he sees it up ahead. Movement, something big, going into the forest about half a kilometer away. The trees jostle audibly as it moves. And it’s probably just a normal predator, or even an elephant, their range expanded in the absence of humans. Still, Newt pushes up his glasses with his less bloody hand and starts walking a little faster.
After all, he’s meant to be looking for anything unusual.
Even if he wasn’t sure he’d seen something, the land ahead would have convinced him. The bodies here have been stripped down to bone, and not by decay or the flocks of scavenging birds. On the larger carcasses still partly intact—another shark, and dolphins that look as if the tide washed them in together— flesh has been ripped away in huge chunks and bones spat out half-crushed. Those scraps would normally have attracted at least a few birds, but when Newt thinks about it, he hasn’t actually seen any all day.
It rules out the elephant theory, to say the least.
There’s not enough clear sand to notice any tracks; looking back, Newt can’t even see his own path over dead things, driftwood, and the detritus of shipwrecks. But up by the tree line there’s too much crushed and broken foliage for coincidence, more than even the years’ worth of jaeger-and-kaiju-made tsunami should account for. And it looks centered, despite the chaos. Not quite a trail, but certainly closer than not.
Honestly, he thinks about calling it in, but they might tell him to wait, and he’d really rather stop standing around staring at destruction and start looking for the cause. So he wipes his hand on his shirt, ignoring the stain, and starts making his way inland.
He doesn’t think that it is, for the record. Not here, not when the rift is closed, and certainly not preying on washed-up marine life. On a scale of kaiju-worthy mayhem and destruction, Newt is pretty sure scavenging doesn’t even rate. Especially these days.
It’s just a stupid passing thought, if anything, and he dismisses it with the ruthlessness of someone who’s pushed aside of lot of things he used to wish were true.
He trips right over the kaiju’s tail.
As kaiju go, it is not very large. It’s miniscule, in fact, only twice as big as the average grizzly, with an odd length to its legs that just screams ‘youth,’ and Newt’s brain quickly projects a full-grown version about the size of a nice two-story house, like the place where he rented a room in Cambridge while he was teaching, the one with the window that never opened more than six inches, which sucked, and he’s keenly aware of how much his brain has gone off the rails but in his own defense holy shit.
“Holy shit!” he yells, which would be unhelpful even if he could somehow hear himself over the monster’s shriek of displeasure. Even in a Category 1, a sound like that would shake the earth, rattle buildings and shatter glass for a mile in every direction.
From such a small one, it’s practically... cute.
No. Newt actually hits himself on the head, leaving dirt smeared on his forehead. No, it isn’t cute, it is still a horrible monster that is about to kill him and leave his body on the forest floor for a late-night snack. Now is the time for escaping, pronto. Even if it’s only the second young kaiju known to have existed on earth, even if he’s been itching to find out how natural births figure into a species engineered and controlled to within an inch of their scaly lives.
He scrambles back on the trampled foliage of the forest floor, still staring.
The kaiju, having whipped its tail far away from Newt, rumbles and stares back.
Its eyes are blue-black, and a little more prominent than usual. This close, Newt can see two sets of eyelids closing and opening diagonally, one clear and the other so solidly armored that it clicks quietly shut. The shape of its head is relatively smooth, with ridges like streamlines but no horns or protruding armor plates, almost raptor-like for all that it’s too heavy. The largest of the head ridges runs from the center of its face along the spine, all the way down its tail.
The feet are talon-like, with heavy black claws, under legs just thick enough to support its body, but almost slender-looking for a kaiju. It looks like it would be fast, given the chance, but it hasn’t moved a millimeter since their staring contest began.
He wonders if it was kaiju more like this that entered the world in the time of the dinosaurs, only to find an unsuitable atmosphere and predators that easily outmatched them. Is this closer to the original species, whatever they were before they were turned into someone’s attack force?
And how the hell did it get here?
Newt being Newt, he has a theory, of course.
It goes back to the pregnant kaiju, Otachi, that died in Hong Kong. He’d wondered about that, as soon as he had time to wonder, because as a member of a species being engineered, modified and artificially grown, it made no sense at all for Otachi to be pregnant. Not intentionally. Drifting with the kaiju had given no sense that they even had reproductive habits anymore, let alone that they’d be encouraged to breed unsupervised.
“I think there’s something wrong with all of them,” he’d announced, following Hermann around the lab in clear violation of the hazmat tape. “Name me one infant, just one, that can pop prematurely out of the womb and want to attack things. Not an animal that size that still needs an umbilical cord, I mean, it could barely get its legs underneath itself, and it was suffocating, and still trying to eat me? Seriously fucked-up priorities, man. There is no way that’s natural.”
“It’s an unnatural species,” Hermann snapped at him. “They are made to attack.” He tried to step around Newt, but Newt just got in his way again, earning a scowl.
“Oh, come on! Show me the genetic marker for blind murderous rage.”
Hermann growled that he was about to give a concrete demonstration of it, which did at least get Newt to retreat to his own side of the room. It did not, however, come remotely close to making him shut up.
“I mean, obviously there’s aggression, right, and—I don’t know, maybe it makes sense for that to be more pronounced in kaiju. But seriously, when we Drifted together—” he steamrolled over the words as if it would take away the twitch in Hermann’s shoulders “—did they seem that aggressive to you? Like, unusually? More than us?”
Hermann sighed, cracked his neck and sat down. “Like you said. They are following orders.”
“Right, exactly! And to be fair, they do seem pretty angry about that, which they take out on us, but—my point is, I don’t think kaiju were meant to reproduce naturally. After that much genetic engineering? I’m not even sure the creators thought it was possible, so, what if it happened by accident? What if the reason the baby’s brain was a little off—you felt that too, right?” he interrupts himself and waits for Hermann’s reluctant nod. “What if it wasn’t just the fact that it was too young? What if there were some kind of, of developmental defects when kaiju tried to reproduce in an uncontrolled setting, something off with the baby’s DNA?”
“Something wrong with all of them,” Hermann echoed, and Newt beamed at him.
Granted, he doesn’t see anything wrong with this one, and it seems gratifyingly reluctant to chew his face off, but Newt reasons that if there is a pattern of birth defects in natural-born kaiju, there’s no reason for them all to be the same. Some kind of organic dementia in one could mean organ defects, blindness, god knows what else in others.
Maybe stunted growth, too, he thinks, watching the kaiju’s tail sweep back and forth.
He stands up slowly, carefully, with his hands held palm-out as if a kaiju will understand the gesture. “Heyyy, buddy,” he says slowly. “Do you know who I am? Did you see me? I guess all the others did, huh, so why not you.” He edges closer as he speaks and tries to ignore the hammering of his heart. “So you don’t wanna hurt me, right? I’m kind of counting on that.”
This is almost certainly one of the stupidest things Newt has ever done, but he isn’t sure what else to do. Turn his back on it and hope for the best? Call in, and let somebody from PPDC kill it before he can even figure out what’s going on? No fucking way.
“You don’t wanna hurt me,” he repeats, and steps forward, holding out his hand.
The kaiju stretches its head forward, not lowered like a dog but still curious. It makes a half-musical rattling sound in its throat and, when Newt gets close enough, bumps against his extended forearm with the side of its jaw. That might bruise later, actually, but he’s so far from caring that he barely feels the impact. It touched me. A kaiju touched me, and I’m still alive.
He reaches carefully to put his fingers on the side of its face, wincing more the closer he gets to its mouth, but it still doesn’t even bare its teeth. “That’s it, yeah?” he half-pleads, feeling only a little unhinged. “Not gonna hurt me. Not gonna…”
Success. His fingertips touch down on the ridge along its jaw, skate nervously up along the thick pebbled scales that feel like every dinosaur he ever imagined except living, breathing, real. Newt glances up at its dark left eye, which is watching him with a wary sort of calm, and chokes back slightly hysterical laughter. It butts at him again, into his chest this time; he rocks back on his heels but stays upright, takes it as some kind of permission.
The skin below its chin feels startlingly smooth and fragile, even though it would probably take something large and razor-sharp to give it so much as a papercut. When he runs the back of his hand over it, the kaiju huffs at him, breath that smells like its raw-fish dinner.
“Ew,” he says, practically vibrating with delight.
He takes as full an inventory as it will allow, reaching as much as he physically can and keeping an eye on the teeth and the claws. “So we should check you out,” he says while he pats the big back-bending joint in its front leg. “See if there’s something wrong with your insides, maybe, and try to figure out where you came from. I’ve got some nice equipment, but none of it’s with me, and we might have to hide you for a bit. I’m not sure—yeah, okay, bad touch, I got it,” he says, stumbling back from the tail before it can smack his face.
It knows who he is. It has to. There’s no other viable explanation. He has no idea whether it can possibly understand him, but it must recognize him from the Drift, and it doesn’t want to hurt him. Maybe because it’s been totally cut off from its kind, it almost seems to like him.
Which means there’s another person in the world who it will like, too.
“Stay,” Newt tries. “Stay? Are you gonna stay here?”
The kaiju blinks both sets of eyelids, but offers no response.
“Honey, I’m home!” he yells as he half-runs into the lab, trying to keep the mugs in his hands mostly balanced and not make a total mess.
Newt has actually brought tea a couple times this week. It just sort of… happens. He’ll walk by the nearest break room and the smell of the lemon ginger tea they keep will evoke a sense memory that isn’t even his, a feeling of warm hands and slowly relaxing shoulders and contentment, and before he knows it he’s poured two cups and is taking them to the lab.
Admittedly, he’s done it consciously this time, in the hopes of getting on Hermann’s good side.
Or at least a not-bad side. A side with more pleasant conversation and fewer formal complaints.
A better side, essentially, than the side Newt tends to be on.
“Uh, here.” He shuffles carefully into the practically pristine half of the lab and holds out one mug in a way he hopes is not at all evocative of bribery. “I brought some tea.”
“Thank you,” Hermann says, kind of brusquely, which is much better than the first time Newt did it, when they’d both kind of stared at each other with no idea of quite what to do and had resolved it by not talking for the rest of the day. This time, Hermann takes the tea but doesn’t turn away. “How was your little expedition this morning?”
“Ah! Good! Funny you should ask!” Newt winces internally and tries to dial it down. “I mean, pretty gross overall, what with the beaches covered in dead things, but."
Hermann’s forehead creases a little.
“I saved some fish, though, which I thought was—”
“What have you found?” Hermann blows gently on the steaming tea, eyebrows raised.
For a moment Newt stares at him with his mouth hanging open a bit, not because he’s surprised Hermann saw through his painful lack of subtlety, but just— what if it’s more than that? It’s slowly sinking in, how much drifting is a two-way street, and maybe little bits of Newt’s psyche are still floating in Hermann’s head, even from the quick-and-dirty drift they pulled with the kaiju.
Unscientific aside: do not think about “quick and dirty” in relation to Hermann. Distressing.
“Or, more accurately, what are you hiding?”
Right. Back to the well-earned accusation at hand.
There was never really any way around this, to be honest, and there’s probably no way to break the news gently. He eyes Tank C, the one with part of a spinal cord, and thinks it was probably stupid to try fooling someone who’s been inside his head, even if Hermann still won’t mention it. (He knew Hermann wouldn’t mention it, knows why he hasn’t, which somehow makes avoidance more intimate instead of less, which he knows Hermann knows but they just keep drinking too much of this tea Newt doesn’t even like and there’s no concealing the truth, is there.)
“Okay,” he agrees abruptly. “Okay, so I might’ve found something, just— don’t freak out, okay?”
Hermann does freak out, but then, Newt already knew that he would.
“You’re insane,” says Hermann, hardly for the first time, as Newt slows their borrowed, heavily-modified ATV to a halt. They’re about seventy meters south of where he found the kaiju. He didn’t want the vehicle to startle it, but he had to balance that against Hermann’s ease of mobility on the uneven sand that made his own legs ache after only an hour.
Not that he would ever, ever dare admit that consideration to Hermann.
They make their way up the coast with relatively little fuss; Newt only gets his hand slapped once for trying to grab Hermann’s arm and steady him, and really, he should have known better. Hermann notices the lack of birds in the area much more quickly than Newt had, because he’s one of those people who likes to watch birds flying around and doing absolutely nothing interesting, which Newt has been hassling him about ever since that time with the pigeons.
Hermann also grimaces at the bodies on the beach, but it seems more ‘how very undecorative’ and less ‘christ, what a crippling blow to regional and global biodiversity.’ Fucking mathematicians.
In what seems like no time at all, they are almost to the clearing and Newt is getting a little worried despite himself. What if the kaiju’s good graces were a one-time offer, and this time it decides it wants a lively human snack? Can they possibly escape? But he pushes the feeling aside because someone has to be the cock-eyed optimist here, and it sure as hell isn’t going to be Hermann.
As if on cue, Hermann says, “You know, if both of us were to die out here—”
“I’d go to the grave knowing I was totally wrong,” says Newt, and grins. “Is that what you wanted to hear?”
Hermann doesn’t say anything to that, oddly enough; he meets Newt’s eyes but then just kind of stands there. His cheeks are flushed a bit pink, probably from walking in the sea breeze. Finally he swallows, rolls his eyes and starts walking again, muttering “idiot” under his breath.
Just a few paces away, he repeats Newt’s mistake and steps straight into the little clearing without seeing it— though at least he doesn’t trip and fall on his ass. Newt follows quickly, as if his presence could possibly make a difference if the kaiju is feeling testy.
“Good lord,” Hermann breathes, and the kaiju rattles back at him.
That time with the pigeons went like this:
Newt and Hermann were sent off to California to lecture on some of their biggest findings in Kaiju Science to date; Sydney’s Shatterdome was the central hub of discovery thanks to them, but they needed to make sure the other side of the rim kept up to date. Their new boss Marshal Pentecost packed them onto a plane with a seriously tragic lack of specimens and an admonishment to ‘try not to kill each other,’ and away they went. The trip was hellishly long because no reputable airline would go over the Pacific, and by the time they stumbled off the plane at LAX both of them were jet-lagged out of their goddamn minds.
Their first lecture was cancelled because after checking into their hotel, they split the Ambien Newt had gotten from the stewardess on the JFK to IAD flight, and short of breaking down the door of the room there was no way anyone was going to wake them up. Their second lecture was cancelled because the PPDC’s most brilliant scientists had no idea how to accurately dose controlled-release zolpidem, and when they did wake up it occurred to them to complain about sharing a room. Newt, awake at the right time of day for the first time in half a week, suggested just kicking out other hotel guests to free up a room until the concierge finally was able to communicate to him that everyone was there from Anchorage and Lima and Panama to hear them speak.
Newt accepted this, groaned, and walked to Starbucks for a peace offering.
“You couldn’t get one of your doctorates in pharmacy?” Hermann growled, clutching his venti coconut latte and squinting angrily at anything resembling light.
“Dude, it’s 9 a.m. and we’re awake like normal people. I’m pretty sure everything’s fine.”
“We missed two of our lectures. We could have died.”
“Oh my god, how are you such a drama queen? We’ll stay an extra day or two. Calm down.”
They bickered their way through the most bizarre and brilliant presentations their audience had ever seen, interspersed with Q&A sessions that were the academic equivalent of fistfights but still more educational than the average peer-reviewed journal. Their colleagues walked away from the lectures feeling dazed, and deeply grateful that they didn’t have to work within a thousand-mile radius of Drs. Geiszler and Gottlieb.
On Saturday, they technically had the day off, so they went up to San Francisco to meet an independent think tank of scientists who claimed to be making progress in explaining the extreme variations between one kaiju and the next. As Newt suspected (and as Hermann grumbled during the entire train trip north) they were full of shit, but he felt like they should check these things out when they had the chance, just to be sure.
The somewhat unexpected bonus was that as they left the facility, Hermann actually seemed grateful to be spending years of his life working with Newt instead of those belligerent pot-smoking weirdos. Better the groupie you know, or something like that.
Still, they split up for the afternoon. Newt walked up to the tourist-trap boardwalk around Oblivion Bay, stared at the huge decommissioned jaegers and thought deeply unpleasant things about whatever moron considered this good waste management. He also bought some overpriced nachos and a Magnum ice cream, the latter of which he took along on his walk back down the peninsula to the poorly reconstructed Golden Gate Park.
There weren’t many people around, even on a Saturday, but Newt was so engaged in removing every bit of crunchy chocolate shell with his teeth that he almost didn’t notice the lone figure up ahead, feeding birds on a bench between battered and sad-looking redwoods.
“Seriously,” he said, dropping down next to Hermann, “this is how you’re gonna spend your time?”
“Please, don’t feel obligated to join me,” Hermann replied, his tone dripping with in fact, please go.
“Oh, trust me, I did not come to the other side of the world just to hang out with you some more.”
Neither of them moved.
Newt put the nearly bare ice cream stick in his mouth and examined the birds crowding around their feet. There were a few small ones that his brain automatically classifed as sparrows, regardless of plumage or however the hell else you were supposed to tell birds apart, but it was mostly just garden-variety pigeons. He was pretty sure they were less useful than rats, and had no idea why anyone would take a vested interest in keeping them alive and well-fed.
He sighed loudly, to make clear that this was totally dumb, and grabbed a slice of bread.
“Is it just me, or are these smaller than the ones in Europe?”
“Significantly,” Hermann confirmed, sounding almost proud. “Actually, we have several types in Germany, but Columba livia and Zenaida macroura are both smaller than Columba palumbus.”
Hermann looked over at him with this awful, almost wounded expression, but when he saw Newt’s smile he made a disgusted noise and the tightness in his shoulders lessened.
“So what’s that one?” Newt asked, elbowing Hermann and pointing at the nearest small not-pigeon.
“Passerella iliaca; a fox sparrow. It will probably be flying north in a month or two.”
“Where you even keep this shit in your brain is— hey, what about that one?”
They kept up like that until the light was fading and they had to catch the train back to Los Angeles, followed by another awful setup of flights to get to Sydney. This time there were no sleep aids provided by well-meaning airline employees, and the jet-lag hangover was so bad they got a week’s vacation upon their return to keep them from blowing something up.
But when they did finally get back in their own lab, Newt would occasionally needle Hermann about useless Latin and rats with wings and not needing the opinion of a birder on giant monsters from beyond. The other researchers assumed it was just another onion-like layer to their personal and professional hostility, and no one noticed the way it made Hermann’s mouth twitch in a carefully hidden smile, or that Newt sometimes would keep food that went bad so Hermann could feed the birds nesting on the Shatterdome roof.
Back in the clearing, their little kaiju friend and Hermann are slowly getting acquainted while Newt stands by and tries not to feel like a nervous helicopter mom. A minute ago it head-butted Hermann’s chest just like it had done to Newt, but it’s not bumping into Hermann with as much force as it used before, and seems to be completely avoiding his bad leg in favor of poking its nose at his arms and torso. Almost like it noticed, and cares enough not to hurt him.
“Huh,” Newt says aloud without meaning to.
Hermann turns his head anyway. “What?”
“Nothing. Just, I think it likes you better,” is all he says.
Hermann visibly preens (there’s really no other word for it) and goes back to petting that spot under the kaiju’s chin. “Then if nothing else, we know it has impeccable taste.”
Newt rolls his eyes, but supposes he kind of walked right into that one.
“Is there any way to tell if it’s male or female?”
“Nah. Well, not that I’ve figured out yet. There’s no obvious external physical markers that’d be analagous to anything on this planet. We’ve just been assigning gender to kaiju randomly, or not at all. We called Otachi female in reports because of Baby Otachi Junior, but it’s not like we can really be sure how their pregnancies work, you know? And the last one, Slattern—”
Hermann grimaces. “I don’t believe they should have called it that.”
“Well, you know. Bunch of military types all amped up for battle…” He tries for a ‘what-can-you-do’ sort of shrug, and can tell it falls flat by the annoyingly understanding look on Hermann’s face. Newt trails off and sighs, rubbing a hand through his hair. “Yeah, I didn’t like it either,” he admits.
It’s the sort of thing they’ll only ever say to each other, a sentiment still not entirely welcome in an aggressive paramilitary atmosphere, even in 2025. Or—not to put too fine a point on it, but—the sort of thing a ranger might’ve challenged, but not two scientists still widely considered so obnoxiously and single-mindedly intellectual as to practically be aliens themselves. Proving themselves to the fighting force had been an ongoing challenge, and you didn’t win points by quibbling over the name of some dead monster.
especially when PPDC has been so welcoming so unexpectedly friendly in a great many ways such discoveries being made better than back home certainly better than Father’s shadow
Newt sways on his feet, blinks back the flash of whatever that was and glances at Hermann to see if he’s noticed.
He has, of course.
“So,” Hermann says quickly and crisply, in one of his more obvious attempts to Not Talk About Feelings and Especially Not Drifting, Ever. “You were saying?”
“Yeah. Well, given they way they’re created by the Precursors, and all the genetic engineering that went along with it, I’d be willing to bet a large percentage of kaiju are so physically different as to be sexually incompatible, which also means that the attributes of one may be completely unhelpful in determining the sex of another. So even if I had every single kaiju to examine, which I don’t, I might still have to start from scratch with each one.”
“So you may not be able to find out,” Hermann says, just to needle him.
It’s true, but Newt still glares. “I’ll think of something! Or we could always…”
It’s a vague, pretty meaningless gesture he makes, but it must convey the basic concept of drifting because Hermann immediately blanches and snaps, “No. Absolutely not.”
“Yeah, okay, okay,” Newt sighs, reaching up to pet the kaiju’s scaly nose. “Don’t freak out. It was just an idea.”
“You realize we’re going to have to tell Hansen.”
“Uh, yeah, Captain Positive, I’m aware of that, thanks.” Newt doesn’t look at him — he’s trying to see if the kaiju has ears he can find — and he doesn’t say he’s kind of scared shitless of telling Herc Hansen of all people that we found a live kaiju, oh but it’s a nice one, please can we keep it instead of gutting it on sight like it’s a pig and we’re all in Lord of the Flies? (He respects the PPDC, he does, at least most days, but seriously, there’s narrow-minded and then there’s grieving, wounded people who’ve set themselves up as Earth’s knights in shining armor.)
“Newton,” Hermann says more quietly, and that does get Newt’s attention, gets him to duck around the bulk of the kaiju’s neck to catch sight of Hermann, who is watching him with unexpected gentleness. “It will be all right. Just try to be patient with him. You managed to convince me, after all.”
“Yeah, but you’ve—“ He stops, fairly certain the words are still forbidden.
“I have,” Hermann agrees. “And I suppose it’s left me more amenable to the idea of a kaiju lacking hostile intent, though that may simply be… more, ah—” He fixes his eyes on the ground, where he is digging the end of his cane into the sandy soil. “well — your influence.”
He presses his lips into a thin line with what is definitely a blush spreading across his face, turning his ears an endearing shade of red, while Newt just sort of gapes. Newt has no idea if Hermann meant ‘ten years stuck with you and you’ve started infecting me with kaiju-loving cooties’ or ‘remember that time we mashed our brains together and now you love the smell of chalk and I’m apparently cool with this baby version of the alien beasts that have ravaged our planet’, but either way, whoa.
“Look, do you—” he starts to say, but the kaiju moves and interrupts him.
It lowers its heavy body almost like a camel would, bending the joints in one pair of legs, then the other, until its belly rests on the ground. Once it successfully completes this maneuver it lists slightly to the left, just enough to rest its side against Hermann, who stands there looking thoroughly speechless and just a tiny bit flattered.
“Oh my god,” Newt hisses, grabbing at his hair, because the sight is very close to causing him physical pain. “You can’t tell me that’s not adorable.”
“Groupie.” Hermann has leaned over to peer at the ridge along the kaiju’s spine, now just below eye-level, and is resting a hand on its side, and his tone is so absently, unexpectedly fond that Newt has to take a moment to allow the universe to realign itself and/or explode.
“Uh, so,” he tries when neither happens and the quiet starts to feel weird. “We go to Hansen?”
The sharp, not-quite-amused glance from Hermann lets him know that his use of the plural was not quite as subtle as he’d hoped. “Yes,” Hermann says anyway, nodding along with his words the way he sometimes does when he’s thinking. “Considering the marshal’s upcoming duties as the Shatterdome is dismantled, I believe sooner would be better than later.”
“All right.” Newt shifts on his feet, pets the kaiju’s head one last time and tries, unsuccessfully, to swallow down his nervousness. “Shall we?”
Hermann straightens up and nods again. “I suppose we shall. Lead on.”
“Sit, okay?” he tells the disgruntled, rumbling kaiju as they leave. “Just sit right there.”
“I doubt it knows how to sit, Newton.”
“Screw you, our baby’s a genius,” Newt replies, and then wonders, in the oppressive and immediate silence that follows, if it might not be kinder for Herc to just shoot him.