See, the thing about Newt's work was that it was very delicate, thank you, and sometimes it was exhausting to concoct all the pertinent solutions and maintain all the correct temperatures and remember where everything was in relation to his elbows and various tools, like, whatever: nobody was perfect, okay. He tried his best, at least ninety-five percent of the time. What else could he say?
"Newton, what are you trying to say?" Hermann demanded, voice tinny but no less insufferably haughty over the cell phone Newt had propped against his shoulder. He spun, attempting to somehow mop up viscous chemicals as he simultaneously rescued rare, precious kaiju organs from premature decomposition, which was incredibly difficult to do as he carried on a conversation, and why was he even bothering, anyway?
"I have not the smallest iota of an idea."
"Trust me, I know, I know. We can't all be prodigal trailblazers, Hermann, leave that to the real scientists," Newt said, and laughed to himself, and then he fumbled the phone. Cursing viciously, he caught it just before it landed in something that probably, most likely, would not do good things to cheap, plastic PPDC-issued junk tech. He managed to catch the tail-end of what he was fairly certain was a dry, self-important Hermann Lecture that culminated in "you utterly narcissistic imbecile," and said something vaguely resembling, "Mhm, very interesting, Hermann," just to be safe.
"And you're not even listening to me, as per usual. I do not have any notion why you maintain this charade that you care at all whatsoever about my opinion of the working conditions of our lab, which—"
"—which we share, blah blah blah, don't cross the line, bah humbug and harumph," he finished, snickering at Hermann's affronted splutter over the line. "Listen, I called because I thought I should let you know, out of respect for our long, beautiful working relationship, that something acidic might have trickled over to your side of the lab and, maybe, eaten away at some of those papers stacked on the floor by your desk?"
"Newton!" Hermann sounded pained, wow, he should marry his research one of these days. The ceremony would no doubt be tasteful and Victorian. "Those documents were very important, how could you possibly—"
"Just a little!" he said, plopping a spleen—well, a piece of a spleen, anyway, kaiju were huge motherfuckers, weren't they—into a new glass column. "Just the tiniest little corner of the stack, barely anything, you can definitely still see most of the numbers—" He felt a slight, infinitesimal pang of guilt as Hermann made a noise like a dying cat. "And anyway, it was totally not my fault."
"It is always your fault, Newton, you are a human wrecking ball, God in heaven—"
The spleen was doing something very uncooperative now, turning colors no alien spleen was meant to turn, and oh god, was something bubbling? That could not be good. "No, baby, no, I can fix this, I can do better, just give me one more chance," he begged it, ignoring Hermann's baffled, "Pardon?" in his ear. He grabbed frantically at the tongs, fumbling them, realized he probably couldn't fix this situation one-handed, and said to Hermann, "Gotta go, important work to be done."
"Newton, I swear to you, do not hang up this phone, follow my instructions—"
"No time, man, science is happening," he said, and then without thought tacked on, "Bye, love you," and threw the phone in what was likely the direction of his desk, not bothering to end the call. Hermann probably kept talking, but hello, science.
It was only afterwards, once he had rescued the large majority of the spleen and treated himself to a celebratory coffee, boots propped up on his desk, that he replayed the conversation in his head, grinning to himself at his own wit (and what, okay, so he found himself amusing; he never claimed modesty). And then he got to the end, and the track in his head ground to a halt, a high-pitched whine ringing in his ears like the sound of a needle scraping a record.
"What," he said to himself, feet falling from the desk as he slumped in stunned mortification, "the fuckity fuck, Newton."
Hermann was not attractive. Hermann was not Newt's type. Hermann was a caricature made out of a cliche made into a cartoon character, and when he spoke, Newt liked to overlay his words with that wah wah wah noise adults made in the Peanuts cartoon. They were friends, like, of course, by necessity, but also because he did actually like Hermann, sue him, nobody insulted him quite like Hermann did. But he'd never pick him out across a crowded room and fantasize about taking him home and—
All right, so, he wanted to blow Hermann so fucking bad, like, just get down on his knees and unzip Hermann's slacks and see if he still frowned like frowning was going out of business even when he came. He wanted it so bad it rivaled a nicotine craving in how antsy it made him, and hey, that was an awesome idea, how about a cigarette, Newton?
He was out on the roof before he knew it, and he shivered and hopped in place and shotgunned like three disgustingly stale cigarettes because, fuck it, it was the end of the world and everything, who even cared? When his lungs started to ache, he conceded it was probably time to walk of shame his way back to the lab to face the music (something dramatic and instrumental and Hermann in a doom and gloom kind of way). He got all the way there before he decided, no, actually, he was hungry, he was starving, so if he went to the mess hall right now, it would not in any way be classified as hiding.
He grabbed a tray of—well, of something, and went over to join Tendo, who was lounging at a table near the back of the hall as he fiddled with his phone. "Lord of all Jaeger tech, the great and powerful Tendo," he said in deference as he sat, and Tendo looked up with a smirk.
"Newt, my main man, what's happening?"
"Oh, not much, just my life imploding in my face, many and varied mistakes spreading out before me to gobble up my happiness." He twiddled his thumbs and stared down at some Chinese-ish something or another, and then he sighed and admitted defeat and picked up his chopsticks. "The usual. How is the magnificent Allison today?"
"Magnificent," said Tendo with a smile that made Newt jealous, and Newt frowned and considered.
"Can I ask you a question? Don't answer that, I'm gonna ask either way."
Tendo laughed. "Never doubted."
"Would you, maybe, in any way, classify me as a human wrecking ball?"
"Yes," Tendo said, definitively.
And, well, there was no arguing with that.
When he couldn't possibly kill any more time without imagining the further collapse of civilization as he knew it, he made his way back to the lab, picking up a tea for Hermann on the way there in the hopes that it might distract Hermann from, he didn't know, thinking? Not that Hermann was probably thinking about it anyway, he fairly oozed professionalism, and Newt bet emotions danced in one ear and out the other without ever taking root. Except pride. And stuffiness. Was stuffiness an emotion? Hermann could make it one, no doubt.
Hermann was at his blackboard when Newt walked in. Newt set the tea on his desk without comment and walked over to his side of the lab, stood, and stared at his various instruments of scientific genius like he'd never seen them before in his life. He reached over and switched on the stereo after a moment, and from the corner of his eye, he saw Hermann stiffen.
"Doctor Geiszler, if you please," Hermann said to his blackboard.
"Doctor Gottlieb," Newt replied, mocking, because damn, ouch. He hadn't been Doctor Geiszler since that time Hermann had gotten drunk on piss-poor beer and started a duet with him in front of Herc Hansen like seven freaking years ago. That was a pretty definitive rejection, which was so unfair considering Newt hadn't meant to make a proposition to begin with.
He turned the music down anyway because, to be fair, this was all his fault.
Except, the more he thought about it—and he thought about it a lot, because his research was really going fuck-all right now for some reason he couldn't fathom—the angrier he got that Hermann felt he had the right to act like such a baby about this. People made mistakes, slips of the tongue, especially around people they were comfortable with, and normal people understood that. But of course Hermann wouldn't. Hermann was not "normal people," he was—
"You are so emotionally constipated, man, has anyone ever told you that before? Because that should be in the dictionary: Gottlieb, ancient word for "the stick up your ass that blocks all the feelings from coming out.""
Hermann spun around faster than anyone holding a cane should be able to spin. "Excuse me?" he spit, the color high on his cheeks, and for a moment Newton could only stare at him, because all of a sudden, he realized that it was true.
He didn't want to blow Hermann. Well, he did, but he didn't only want to blow Hermann. He wanted to tease him until he blushed bright red and then temper it with sentiments he didn't know were in him; he wanted to reach up and fuck up that stupid, ugly haircut Newt knew he did himself. He wanted to argue and brawl, intellectually, and he wanted Hermann to know what it meant when he did it. It meant he knew Hermann, better than anybody else knew Hermann, all his bluster and faults—of which there were many—and that he liked Hermann more than anybody else did, in spite of and because of them.
Because he did. He liked Hermann so damn much.
But of course, for once, none of the shit going on in his head actually made its way out of his mouth, and there was nothing between them but stunned silence until Hermann finally said, "Where do you even get off—" and Newt snickered before he'd finished, because even in this moment, those words out of Hermann's mouth were utterly hilarious.
Looking more irate than he'd ever seen, Hermann turned back to his blackboard.
"No, wait," Newt said, scuttling over, "wait, I just confessed my undying love, dude, you can't just ignore me—" And that got Hermann's attention quicker than throwing kaiju bits at the back of his head ever had, which had been a fail-safe method of engagement Newt had never thought to try and top till now as it provoked a yell in a fewer than three seconds approximately ninety-two percent of the time, even when Hermann was in a snit and ignoring him. Now Newt was questioning his own methods.
"You most certainly did not do anything of the kind."
Newt thought for a moment, bouncing anxiously on his heels, and then he asked, finally, "Hermann, you know we're friends, right?"
Something like uncertainty came over Hermann's features, an odd twist to his mouth that said something other than you idiot or I'm going to use obnoxiously big words to cover up the fact that I know I'm wrong (and okay, maybe that was a somewhat loose interpretation). "Are we?" he said, with what Newt felt was unnecessary drama, and Newt couldn't help but roll his eyes.
"Obviously," he said.
Hermann squinted at him and took an aborted half-step forward before shuffling back again. "And…" he said, sounding uncertain. "More?"
Newt cast about for words, but for once in his life, words failed him. He gave a shrug. "I dunno, man. Maybe?" He grinned. "It's the end of the world as we know it, and everything," and damn, that had sounded more poetic and apt in his head.
"Indeed," Hermann said, lips curling into an answering smile like he knew just what Newt meant anyway, and hell, of course he did. And that made Newt want to say everything, even if he didn't know what everything was just yet, not quite; except just then, Stacker Pentecost paged them that they were needed—urgently—on the roof, and they bustled off, ready, set, go, to save the world.
("Unscientific aside: Hermann, if you’re listening to this, well, I’m either alive and I’ve proven what I’ve just done works—in which case, ha, I win—or I’m dead, and I’d like you to know this is all your fault, it really is, you drove me to this," he said, and what he meant was, "Bye, love you." He trusted Hermann to understand.)