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Month 1: Stacker Pentecost
---

Stacker is waiting for the anger to hit him. He’s seen it happen too often to think that he will be safe. He will get angry, he will hate himself for it, and then, finally, he will move on.

Grief like this isn’t a tool, it’s a cage. He can’t use it until he’s ready; he can’t be ready until he’s angry. And he can’t be angry when he’s already half dead. It takes all his energy to pilot himself through the day -- there’s none left to rage against things that can’t be changed.

He waits for it in PT, squatting with his back against a wall and a rubber ball clenched between his knees, counting breaths. Eight, nine, ten, and he stands up, sciatic nerve screaming all down one leg, loud but distant, like dulled sounds after a bomb blast.

He waits for it in the mess, sits with the other rangers and eats his food like a good boy and waits and waits for the moment to come. Boardman took two weeks to crack, then one day in the mess she broke Paol’s nose with her tray -- all the Trauma Risk Management initiatives in the world couldn’t stop her brother being dead.

He waits for it in therapy, testing himself, wanting to hate his therapist’s calm, steady voice and calm, steady face, wanting to call bullshit on the whole thing. He feels a flicker of something when his therapist says, “That’s tricky,” for the twelfth time that session -- he wants to share the joke with Kal but no, he can’t, she’s dead -- but even that can’t break through the armour of his grief.

Kal was the one who pushed them forward. The perfect Jaeger partnerships aren’t just compatible, they’re balanced. Kal knew when to move forward and Stacker knew when to wait, and the two of them together knew what to do. She would have been angry by now. She would have been so fucking angry by now.

Stacker is so busy waiting he can’t breathe for it. He wakes up from the nightmares -- from Kal’s last moments, trapped and bleeding out, watching herself die through his eyes -- and he gasps in a first breath, but even with the air in his lungs he still can’t breathe.

He’s waiting for it in the mess, eighteen days after Tokyo. Boardman and Paol are stealing each other’s food and betting on the new recruits. The lights above the east entrance have been fixed, twenty three days after Kal requisitioned the bulbs, and Boardman is saying something about the public shelters. Stacker tries not to listen.

“I heard they found her grandfather," she says. "He wouldn't take her." Sympathy is mixed with smugness at knowing something Paol doesn't. 

"Bullshit," Paol decides. "No way is Stacker's photogenic little survivor going into one of those homes." 

Stacker puts his fork down carefully. The official line is that 'those homes' are only for children whose relatives can't be traced after a Kaiju attack. The truth is not all families want to deal with a child who came so close to a monster and survived.

"Seriously," Boardman says, swapping her mystery meat for some more of Paol’s Coke. "The Mori girl is going straight from hospital to a kids' home."

And then, there it is. Eighteen days after Tokyo, the anger finally hits him. 

 

---
Month 2: Fuyumi Yoshida
---

Fuyumi can read between the lines of Mako’s file. The justification for having Mako on the base is paper thin -- strings have been pulled and favours have been bartered, and somewhere along the line someone decided Fuyumi was the perfect combination of talent and expendability to be brought into this mess. It’s only slightly closer to a compliment than an insult -- the balance tipped by the child at the centre of this, nine years old and heart-breakingly brave. 

Good morning, Dr Yoshida,” one of the guards greets her in English. He’s courteous to a fault, but he still has to see her ID.

Good morning, ranger,” she replies, pass in one hand, fingers of the other ready to place on the scanner. There are three different checkpoints between Fuyumi's quarters and Mako Mori. This is the only one where they greet her by name.

Inside, Mako is drawing, a frown of intense concentration creasing her face. She sits on the floor surrounded by a rainbow of crayons. She draws in black and grey.

“Good morning, Mako.” Fuyumi gives Mako time to get used to her presence before stepping forward. Today, Mako barely flinches at all. “May I see your drawing?”

Mako passes the drawing over. It’s a Jaeger.

“This is very good.” Fuyumi sits down on the floor, outside Mako’s protective bubble of crayons. “I like the lasers. Very practical. What’s its name?”

“Red Fury.”

Yesterday Mako drew Flying Death and Doom Breather. The day before she drew Hell Gift. There are seventeen Jaegers stuck to the wall of her bedroom, and when she’s put the finishing touches to Red Fury there will be eighteen. That makes thirty-six words Mako has said to Fuyumi since she took on this case.

She gives the picture back to Mako. “You let me know when you’ve finished Red Fury, and then we can put it up on the wall.”

Mako adds some grey to Red Fury’s lasers. Fuyumi would have gone with red, herself, but that’s nine-year-olds for you. No sense of style.

They pass the day drawing side by side. Red Fury goes up on Mako’s wall at midday, and by dinner time, she’s nearly finished Night Blaze. She also adds a sword to Fuyumi’s Jaeger, but declines to name it.

At the end of the day, the same ranger is still on duty at the first checkpoint out.

Good evening, Dr Yoshida.”

Good evening, ranger,” she says. Maybe she’ll call her Jaeger Sunshine Kitten, to match the golden hue of its machine gun.

 

---
Month 3: Stacker Pentecost
---

None of the new intake can fight for shit, and Stacker wouldn’t care but someone needs to kill the Kaiju now he’s grounded.

Boardman gave him 50:1 odds on the Chen sisters making it through Basic. When they open their mouths they’re pure East London -- if they go home now he’ll be down a month’s potato rations and the only two people left on base whose swearing sounds like home.

He has them with him on the checkpoint for the Mori girl today. He can drill them here in private.

They’re stripping and reassembling antique rifles. When he gives the order, they have to swap whatever they’re holding in their left hands -- and if they aren’t in sync, that’s it, game over.

“Now.”

They’re good.

He switches to Japanese, which all three of them are learning. “This time, swap the guns.” Saying it like that makes him feel like a civilian -- he needs to find out the word for rifle.

Without missing a beat, they swap rifles.

“Stand, face left, swap what you’re holding in your right hand.”

Jenna does it, and April mirrors her, turning right before she catches herself.

“Fuck.”

“What was that?” Stacker asks mildly.

“Fuck it all to fucking fuck, sir,” April says, saluting more sharply than any real ranger ever has.

Very good.” He uses Japanese for praise now, near exclusively. If the other trainees want him to stroke their egos, they can learn it too.

Dr Yoshida has been in with the Mori girl for two hours already today, which makes it almost time for their escort to the medical zone. The post-exposure tests for Kaiju survivors are meant to be once a week for six months; Stacker will make sure this survivor gets every last day of them.

“Permission to unfuck April’s rifle, sir?” Jenna asks.

Stacker casts an eye over the mess the sisters have made of two perfectly good SA80s. “Eyes shut,” he says. He can’t blindfold them on duty, but he can put the fear of Pentecost into them if they cheat.

“Sir,” they say in unison. They stand, eyes shut, and begin to feel out the rifle together.

The first time Stacker escorted Mako Mori to the medical zone, she lifted her chin and then ducked her head the whole walk there, like she was nudging an invisible balloon with her forehead. Sometimes she nearly ducked her head and then, at the last second, froze. Then she’d take a deep breath and follow through. She hadn’t been like that in Tokyo, but trauma does things to people, especially kids.

It wasn’t until they got to the medical zone that he’d understood. She lifted her chin for the strap and then ducked her head into the cage of the CAT scanner, and Stacker had never been prouder of any soldier than he was of her at that moment, drilling herself until she could place her head directly into the mouth of the monster.

Well done,” he’d tried to say, but his accent was too strong and she hadn’t been listening anyway.

 

---
Month 4: Fuyumi Yoshida
---

Yesterday Mako had a quiet day. That was okay. Everyone needs quiet days sometimes, and Fuyumi would be lying if she said she didn’t enjoy sitting in companionable silence with her youngest client on the base, drawing Jaeger schematics and watching educational videos on mechanical engineering, the only sound the North American English of the presenter.

Patience may be the child psychologist’s secret weapon, but it’s not the military’s. Fuyumi’s chain of command is getting increasingly worried that there may be nothing special about Mako Mori at all. It’s a good sign, in its way, that Mako is picking up on the worry, but it does raise the probability that today will be a quiet day, too.

Fortunately, patience is not the only tool in her arsenal.

“Good morning, Dr Yoshida,” Ranger Pentecost greets her at his door. His accent is coming on well. There’s nothing quite as motivating as having a nine-year-old child’s linguistic prowess outpace one’s own.

“Good morning, ranger.” She can just about see past him into the neat, impersonal living space Ranger Pentecost has failed to make his own in the last three months. He is not officially one of her clients, so she keeps her thoughts to herself.

He grimaces, telegraphing a new word or phrase coming up. “Did you hear the storm last night? I hope it did not disturb your sleep.”

She corrects him; he nods, repeats her, looks so exactly like Mako when she’s gearing herself up for another go in the CTG scanner that it is all she can do not to laugh.

They make small talk about the weather for the walk to Mako’s rooms.

Mako squeaks when the door opens to reveal both of them. She leaps up and runs to Ranger Pentecost, arms outstretched, certain of her welcome. He swings her up, growling affectionately, and lets her cling, limpet-like, to his broad chest. She presses a kiss to his cheek, and Fuyumi looks away from the unguarded love written in every crease of his face.

Yesterday I learned how to spot-check a viscous coupling unit,” Mako tries to say. Unlike Ranger Pentecost, she has not been practising this sentence in her head for several hours, so it doesn’t quite come out right. However, viscous coupling unit is pronounced perfectly.

“You are a very clever girl,” Ranger Pentecost says.

Mako nods into his shoulder. “I want--” By now, her English is good enough to ask for anything she wants -- a ride on the ranger’s shoulders, mochi, to show him her drawings -- but it’s not a surprise when she squirms so she can see Fuyumi, then switches back to Japanese. This is why Fuyumi brought him here today, after all -- to prise out what she could not reach. “Please ask him when I can join him in the Jaeger.”

Oh. Like so many breakthroughs, it is, in retrospect, obvious. Fuyumi will have to skype her own therapist this evening; for now, she puts aside her own reactions and focuses on the job at hand. Perhaps tomorrow she will have her own quiet day.

 

---
Month 5: Stacker Pentecost
---

Stacker exists in pieces.

“Yes, ranger, very good. Now again -- and this time, impress me.”

A piece of him to eat and sleep and shit, to keep his flesh stuck to his bones however much it wants to get free.

“You’re favouring your right leg. Take a break -- you’re no good to me if you can’t stand.”

A piece of him to train the Chens. They need a strong hand to bring out their potential -- that’s something he can do. He can map out their weaknesses, see which will harden under pressure and which would only shatter. He knows when to shout and when to praise, and this piece of him can do it, disconnected from the piece of him that never wants to speak again.

“Again. Faster.”

A piece of him to protect Mako. He will not watch her be swallowed up by the machinery of this war. He has to tread carefully -- he is known not to be impartial -- but he can still put the right word in the right ear. His presence, too, is a tool, six foot two of stern black man reminding the scientists that Mako is a person, not a specimen.

“April, you’re on point; Jenna, fall back. On my mark.”

A piece to relive Kal’s death, over and over. He quarantines it off from the rest of him, only lets it show in his eyes when he needs a command presence his stripes don’t give him. He was in the Drift with her when she died, and that connection still hasn’t broken. If that’s what keeps him in pieces, he can’t begrudge her that.

“It’s an assault course, rangers, not a tea party.”

It’s easier not to risk anyone else cutting themselves on his sharp edges. He would be no use to the Chens if every command was shot through with the knowledge of what failure brings. He could not let Mako reach her arms out to him if there was a risk he’d cling too hard. He cannot allow loss to make him useless, and so he exists in pieces, eating and sleeping and shitting his way from one day to the next.

“Good. That’s good. Well done, both of you.”

 

---
Month 6: Mako Mori
---

Mako’s face is hot. It’s not fair. She fights back the tears, but her breath is too loud and wet, she sounds stupid, she sounds like a child. Her eyes prickle. She won’t cry. She won’t.

The man in the white coat looks at her like she’s dangerous, but it’s not fair, he just said she wasn’t. Now he won’t tell her anything, just makes shhhing noises, bends down so his ugly stupid ugly nose is too close and says stupid things. He won’t listen to her, she’s got to stop crying and make him listen to her.

I can kill the Kaiju.”

She knows she’s got the words right, but he’s saying it again, slow and mean:

You are a very healthy little girl. The nasty Kaiju exposure didn't do you any damage.

He means she’s not special. He means she can’t help. But she can, she knows she can.

A wave of frustration spills over her. She chokes on her answer, it comes out a sob, it hurts, it claws at her throat and she needs her mama.

Everything is hot and bright and she can’t breathe, and when she gulps it tastes of snot and tears and hiding and ash and death.

Someone touches her. She can’t look up, not with the tears still coming, not when the man in the white coat who says she’s not special can see. Then Stacker is speaking and she hates him, she hates him, because she wanted her mama and he’s not her, why is he here when he’s not her?

Her whole body shakes. Her chest is tight and full. It hurts and it hurts and it hurts and she tries to breathe and it smells of Stacker and it’s not her mama but it’s safe. She thinks she’ll never stop crying. Her throat aches from it.

All she can hear is the blood in her ears and the wrench of her sobs and a voice, Stacker’s voice, rumbling through his chest and into hers, saying, “There’s a brave girl. Good girl. Brave girl. I’ve got you. I’ve got you.”

 

---
Month 7: Fuyumi Yoshida
---

Marigold Boardman is lurking outside Fuyumi’s office when Fuyumi packs up for the day. Marigold isn’t due to see her until Friday -- Thursday? -- but the smile in Marigold’s eyes makes it clear this isn’t the bad kind of unscheduled meeting. Marigold leads her up to the gym, where--

Oh.

Pentecost is doing push ups. And on his back, her hands planted firmly on his broad shoulders, Mako is doing the same. They’re even dressed alike, with black t-shirts, khaki cargo pants, and bare feet -- his on the floor, hers on the backs of his thighs.

It’s quite possibly the cutest thing she’s ever seen, and she includes in that calculation the clip of the kitten jumping in and out of a box everyone keeps sending her, like just because she’s on a secret military assignment somewhere that blocks Facebook, she might never see another cat video again.

Pentecost is breathing loudly and steadily, modelling a pattern for Mako to follow. Mako’s breath, in turn, comes out in controlled pants, an adult’s discipline in a child’s lungs.

It was chin ups before,” Marigold half-whispers to her. “He used the bar --” She jerks her head at a horizontal bar about two and a half metres off the ground. “-- and she pulled herself up on his feet.

Highly qualified therapists do not let out involuntary whimpers at the sheer cuteness of it all, but it’s a close one.

Apes had to go sit down for a minute,” Jenna Chen adds. Fuyumi has no idea when she appeared, so firmly her attention has been on the steady up and down for Pentecost and Mako. April Chen -- the sisters call each other Apes and Jazz; no one else here does -- is over the other side of the gym on a treadmill, possibly trying to run off her earlier embarrassment.

Fuyumi sees a slight tremor in Mako’s arm, and two push ups later Pentecost lets out a dramatic sigh and falls to the floor. Mako manages one more push up and then sprawls, triumphant, on the firm wall of Pentecost’s back. The two of them lie there until Mako has her breath back, at which point Pentecost groans.

“You win, Mako-chan.”

Mako looks in turn worried, proud and hopeful. “Seal claps?” she asks.

Whatever that means makes sense to Pentecost: he smiles with his whole face. “Seal claps,” he agrees. “Safety procedure engaged?

Mako flattens herself against Pentecost’s back, her whole body clinging on as if she could mould herself to him. “Check,” she says, serious as a pilot about to enter the Drift.

Pentecost gets back on his hands and feet, in position to do more press ups, and Fuyumi gets it. Seal claps. She hasn’t seen this in years.

Pentecost lets himself down, then pushes up hard and fast enough to launch both hands off the ground. In midair he claps, then lands back in position, smooth as any Navy SEAL. He goes down for a second one, Mako radiating pride, and Fuyumi finds she can’t look away.

 

---
Month 8: Stacker Pentecost
---

Mako is watching Stacker eat his breakfast and worrying about something. There’s a good chance that something is him.

What do you need, Mako-chan?” he asks. Sometimes he finds himself thinking in Japanese now -- some phrases just feel more natural that way. It shouldn’t be a surprise -- he will never feel his left leg twinge without hearing “Mother sucking cock fucking son of a gun” in Kal’s voice, and this is just the newest version of that -- but it still feels like an achievement.

Dr Yoshida says everyone gets nightmares.

Stacker forces himself to relax. The Kaiju that took Mako’s family is dead. It’s not enough, but it has to be.

She says I don’t have to talk about them, but I can if I want. She says if I have a really bad nightmare, I must come and tell her and she will brush my hair until all the monsters are brushed out.

Mako is looking pointedly at Stacker’s close-cropped hair.

Dr Yoshida is a very clever woman,” Stacker manages.

Mako nods, satisfied with this answer, and continues to watch him eat his breakfast. She saw a video about nutrition last week, and now she has views about his fibre intake. Stacker has, as Kal used to put it, eaten more military rations than he’s had hot dinners, so he’s just happy when his meals have texture. But it matters to Mako, so he chews, swallows and takes his time.

Once he’s done, she stands and holds out her hand for him to take.

My shift doesn’t start until 1000,” Stacker says. It’s 0750.

The look Mako gives him speaks volumes on the stupidity of adults. Stacker can feel his heart swell in his chest.

Dr Yoshida’s shift starts at 0800,” Mako says.

Stacker has just been outmanoeuvred by a ten-year-old child. He couldn’t be more proud.

 

---
Month 9: Fuyumi Yoshida
---

There are never enough therapists on a military base. Fuyumi’s specialty is preadolescent trauma, but over the years she has balanced both halves of a divorcing couple, up to four links in one chain of command, seven members of a formerly eight-person team, and all three people in the sweetest love story she’s ever witnessed. She is no stranger to compartmentalisation. Everyone is entitled to privacy, even and especially inside her brain.

She doesn’t answer Stacker when he sits, black uniform on the dark green “make the grown up feel comfortable” chair, and asks how Mako’s doing. She doesn’t answer Mako when she sprawls, pale blue dress and pretty pink shoes joining the bright blues and greens of the 5-to-10-year-old beanbag, and asks how Stacker’s doing. But she does pay attention to exactly what they ask -- and how.

In spite of that, she missed it at first. Mako’s worry for Stacker takes many forms -- she’s terrified of losing him to drowning, to bowel cancer, to his bad dreams -- but until now, it’s always been worry for him, not about him.

“Stacker is so wise,” Mako says, subtle as a Jaeger. “Isn’t he wise?”

For one terrible, hilarious moment, the very first time this came up, Fuyumi thought Mako was trying to set them up. Her mother figure and her father figure, together at last. But no, Mako doesn’t want her to say yes. That’s become clear.

“Wise?” Fuyumi prompts, but Mako just keeps looking silently down at her hands. One or both of the Chen sisters have been painting Mako’s nails again -- dark blue with silver glitter, already slightly chipped. Last week Mako wanted bright pink, and Stacker went on a Quest, as grimly determined as Fuyumi has ever seen him. Apparently John Paol had some. If you’re going to fight giant alien sea monsters, you might as well feel pretty while you do it.

But yes. Wise is an interesting word. Mako wants to be strong like Stacker, to be brave like Stacker, to be a pilot like Stacker, but wise? That’s never come up before.

Oh. The pieces click together. Wisdom as a discriminator. Mako is worried Fuyumi prefers Stacker to her -- perhaps loves him best? Because in Mako’s mind, who could fail to adore him? And Mako, after all, had been an only child.

Fuyumi is hit by a heartswell of uncompartmentalised love. She should probably deal with that on her own time.

But this, this is progress. Fuyumi will need to think carefully about where to take this, but Mako’s silence and fidgeting, night-tipped fingers are good, they’re really good. Mako is worried about losing Fuyumi to Stacker, but there’s not even a hint of fear that she might lose Stacker to Fuyumi.

Fuyumi looks down at her own gently clasped hands -- nails dull and unpainted -- and smiles.

 

---
Month 10: Stacker Pentecost
---

Cadet Giorgi Svanadze puts too much of his weight on his back foot. He’s too cautious. Stacker could use him on the ground, maybe in the air, but not in a Jaeger.

“Again.” Stacker wants to see what Svanadze will do at the point of exhaustion -- he wants to know if that’s what it takes to push him into creativity. He watches Svanadze cut through the air with his training staff and sees nothing new.

“Try no staff,” Mako says. Her voice is quiet against the grunts and gasps of Stacker’s latest supply of new recruits. “Same form, no staff.”

Svanadze freezes. He looks to Stacker for confirmation.

“You heard Miss Mori,” Stacker says.

Svanadze’s movements without the staff are exactly the same as his movements with them. His body pushes against the memory of the staff and the memory pushes back.

“Good,” Stacker says, more for Mako’s benefit than Svanadze’s. “We can work with this.”

-

Cadet Dina Ibrahim will not commit. She’s technically proficient, her reaction times are superb, but Stacker hasn’t seen her put her whole body into a single thing she’s done.

“Again.” 90% of Ibrahim is better than 100% of most of the new recruits, but Stacker has no interest in anything less than everything.

Stacker looks down at Mako, who has been watching Ibrahim carefully, picking at her pale blue nail varnish as she thinks.

Mako looks up at him. “I think she is lonely.

Stacker can’t tell if the switch to Japanese is to spare Ibrahim’s pride or his own. He should have spotted that. Tomorrow they’ll try Ibrahim with a partner -- see if that gets them any closer to the remaining 10%.

-

Cadet Ingrid Voigt cannot think for herself. Stacker wants to throw her in the ocean to find out if she’ll swim without a direct order. He’s seen dead things with more initiative. He’s seen major generals with more initiative, that’s how bad it is.

“Again.” Mako is the one to bark the order this time. Stacker recognises his own voice in hers when she does it -- all his years of frustration packed down into her tiny form.

He’s not sure what Mako is looking for in Voigt. She can do anything they ask her to -- and nothing they don’t. He’ll keep training her for as long as she can keep up, and then he’ll have to find another pacemaker for the rest of his merry band.

“Again,” Mako says before Voigt has finished the form, and Voigt falls back into the starting position without a moment’s hesitation. It’s a pretty trick, but it won’t replace real thought.

Mako-chan,” Stacker says, low and gentle.

I know,” Mako says, “but she’s trying so hard.

Stacker places his hand on Mako’s shoulder. “Carry on.

-

Cadet Princewill Okparaeke lost his entire family to a Kaiju attack. He wants to pilot a Jaeger to the bottom of the ocean and kill the fuckers before they break the surface.

“Again,” Stacker says. Okparaeke kicks and punches like his body is disposable. He throws himself into everything he does with a desperation Stacker doesn’t want to recognise.

Mako’s eyes are fixed on Stacker, not Okparaeke. “Dr Yoshida gave me a sticker today," she says.

I like stickers,” Stacker says lightly. Okparaeke is good -- good enough Stacker’s not sure why he got dumped in with the rest of his collection -- but he needs to work on his control. “I will call on her this afternoon.

He squints at Okparaeke’s stance. There’s something not quite right, but he can almost see what it is. He doesn’t need to look to know that beside him, Mako is doing the same.

 

---
Month 11: Fuyumi Yoshida
---

Mako drags Stacker into Fuyumi’s office by his hand. The two of them are oozing frustration -- Fuyumi could almost reach out and touch it.

“I don’t want to I don’t want to I don’t want to,” Mako says, all in one breath, as Stacker tries desperately to meet Fuyumi’s eye over her head. Dried tear tracks shine on Mako’s cheeks.

I don’t know,” Stacker says, answering the question he thinks Fuyumi is going to ask. “She couldn’t breathe, she started crying, and now--” He makes an expansive gesture, trying to encompass everything one adult would say to another about an irrational child.

Fuyumi isn’t being fair. There’s twenty years of training and experience between her and Stacker -- enough that she should be able to notice his behaviour without judging it.

She hesitates for a second, mouth open, ready to speak. Whichever language she chooses will pick a side, and she needs to avoid that for as long as possible.

She gestures for them both to sit down. The dark green chair of adulthood isn’t out at the moment, nor are any of the beanbags, so they both have to settle for the comfortable grey couch of traditional psychotherapy. Mako still has three of Stacker’s fingers clutched in her hand.

“I don’t want to,” Mako says again.

Stacker takes a deep breath before speaking. “What don’t you want?” he asks her, making the language decision for them.

Mako doesn’t see the conciliation. She continues to speak directly to Fuyumi: “I don’t want to. No. No.”

She sounds much younger than either Fuyumi or Stacker is used to. Fuyumi looks at her and sees the child she could have been twelve months ago. She doesn’t know what Stacker sees.

Mako starts crying again, big, heaving sobs that shake her whole body. Stacker gathers her into his arms, letting her crumpled face smear a mess of tears and snot against the jacket of his dress uniform.

“It’s okay. It’s okay. There’s my big, brave girl,” he whispers.

Mako pulls back and addresses him directly. “Then why are you giving me away?

Stacker flinches as if struck. “Giving you away?

You said--” She turns back to Fuyumi. “He said he was going to stay with me, he promised he was going to stay with me, but Dr Hasan said that’s not true, Dr Hasan said-- he said--” She takes a deep, snotty breath. “He said I was going to have a new daddy and I don’t want a new daddy, my daddy is dead, I want Stacker, I don’t want to be given away.”

Stacker has been listening intently, but it takes him a few seconds after Mako has finished speaking to understand. “Oh, Mako-chan,” he says. “No.”

A new flood of tears and snot. “No?” Mako echoes, her voice tiny.

I don’t know the word in Japanese,” Stacker says to Fuyumi.

He says it in English.

She thinks she might have misunderstood -- even with these changing times, it's not a simple thing for a Japanese child -- and for all she doesn't want to cut Mako out of this conversation, he must see the doubt on her face.

"I pulled some strings," he says. "They owe me."

She tells him the word in Japanese.

“I want to adopt you, Mako-chan, Miss Mori,, my big, brave girl,” Stacker says. His eyes are not dry. “If you will let me?”

“I don’t want a new father,” Mako says in a whisper.

“I know,” Stacker says. “I don’t want to be your father. You have a father. I just want to be yours.”

Mako takes another deep, snotty breath. The tiniest smile is peeking out from behind her cloud of worry and doubt. “Yes. I want that.”

 

---
Month 12: Mako Mori
---

Mako’s family died a year ago today. She draws pictures of them and puts them in her blue box that Stacker gave her for her birthday. She taught Jazz and Apes to sing the theme from Totoro like her daddy did. She paints her nails like her mama did. She is big and brave and they would be proud of her, and she will never see them again.

When she thinks about it her chest hurts and sometimes her voice goes away. Dr Yoshida says that’s okay, and Dr Yoshida knows a lot, even if she doesn’t know what the master cylinder piston does in a hydraulic disc brake, which Mako has explained four times -- and they watched it in the video with the man who always looks like he’s eating.

When Mako grows up she and Stacker will have a Jaeger called Flying Death. It will have lasers and a sword and they will make the whole world safe from the Kaiju. When Mako grows up, no one else will ever lose their parents like she did. She and Stacker will make sure.

===
End
===

Any and all feedback loved and hugged!