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Mako knew before she drifted with Raleigh. She saw it in how he held his body whenever he was around Chuck - there was some of what he felt about Chuck in his shoulders, the line of his jaw.

The beginnings of what he felt about Chuck.

She knew when he raised his fist to punch him. He hit him before Mako had the opportunity - not because Raleigh felt he needed to defend her, but because he wanted to be the one to hit first. She did not blame him. Chuck was infuriating. But underneath the egoism, bravado, and brash comments was something else entirely. Mako certainly felt, sometimes, that if she hit him hard enough it would come out.

Raleigh saw this in him - after just a day, or two. He was good at reading people. Mako was not. She had only ever been focused on one thing. Reading people had not been a necessary skill to develop. Mako only understood Chuck because she had grown up with him.

At first, they had been expected to entertain each other while their fathers talked about important things. Later, they had been expected to spar and study together. They became the two top students at the Academy and, one day, everyone assumed, they would pilot a Jaeger together.

That was when things had fallen apart.

Most people assumed that Chuck had been the reason they had stopped being friends. It was unfair to him, but Mako did not want to correct anyone’s assumption - no, it was me, it was because I was jealous. He got to be a pilot at fifteen. I got put on a restoration project, each mention of being the pilot of Gipsy Danger cut quickly down as Chuck killed kaiju after kaiju in Striker Eureka.

She had other reasons for wanting to punch him. This was why she allowed Raleigh to do it instead.

The first drift had been chaotic. In the second, she and Raleigh had been burning with pride, focus, and determination to beat back the monsters and show they had a role to play. She did not get a full picture of things until the third drift, as they waited, connected to each other, headed for the Breach.

It took time to get there. Plenty of time for things to wash over her and through her - especially since she and Raleigh were less filtered with each other. It started when she provided one of her interactions with a young, gawky Chuck. All limbs, freckles, really unfortunate ginger hair. Mako had been surprised as anyone when he had turned out as...attractive as he was.

Raleigh responded with his own images of Chuck - and Mako saw a certain focus to them that even Raleigh seemed unaware of. Perhaps it would be better described as a filter. Raleigh had catalogued all of Chuck’s most infuriating facial expressions and the way that he stalked the Shatterdome like he owned it.

Still, she might not have made the connection without flashes of other things as they walked Gipsy to the Breach. There were male limbs, kisses that occasionally scratched, the distinct sensation of being penetrated. It was right behind a lot of other things. He tried to keep it from her. But just like most pilots, he assured her, tried to keep those things.

But she sensed there was some other reason and that it was lurking behind that one. Lurking, like both their thoughts about Chuck.

She focused their drift. Her research on Raleigh, all the way back to his first test, concluded that Yancy had been the one to ground the neural connection. It was rare that two pilots were equals in that regards - Aleksis and Sasha had been rarities. She bolstered the connection with fond memories. Why we fight. She brought in music she had enjoyed, and Raleigh countered, and then they thought of the good meals they had eaten. Raleigh shared Yancy, and she her family, and Pentecost. Together, they brought Gipsy to the two kaiju circling the Breach.

Later, Mako’s tears weren’t just for Pentecost, for her second father - but she had not wanted to interrupt Chuck’s last moment with his father over the intercom. Goodbye, Chuck, she thought. He had been her friend. One of her only friends. If I return, I will watch after your father for you. I will make sure he takes care of Max.

She felt Raleigh object to this, and so she sent through to him - I do not understand dogs. She felt Raleigh grin.

Mako thought of Chuck as they struggled to the Breach, as her oxygen ran out and her brain began to race. He and her should not have been in vain. “Anyone can fall,” Raleigh said. She did not know how she felt about this.

She thought of Chuck when they were in their rescue helicopter, secure that both their deaths would mean something. Not just another dead Jaeger pilot, one last gasp of the once mighty machines.

Then three of their escort formation broke. Even though she and Raleigh had no access to the comm lines and had medics trying to distract them and give them oxygen it was clear something significant was happening. Mako moved to pull her earmuffs off, but Raleigh grabbed her wrist. She nodded and inhaled more oxygen. They were there for a reason.

Raleigh kicked the medic seated in front of him and pointed at the helicopters. He held his hands out, questioning. She glanced around and he raised his eyebrows - I just saved the world, it said.

The medic moved her pointer finger in the air. Then she pointed down at the water. Mako shook her head, and this time, the medic pointed her finger, pointed to the water, and then formed a plus sign with two fingers. She pointed to the water again.

Then Mako understood. She thought, Chuck was going to be pissed, because pilots were not suppose to leave each other. They would never eject another pilot who was conscious and connected - a firm, ingrained rule they learned from the first day of the Academy. No Jaeger would function without complete trust and cooperation.

“Still,” she said to Raleigh, when he posed the question, once they were in medical. “He would have done it for Ranger Hansen.” Pentecost would not have left Herc alone, if he had the option.

“I suppose that is an override,” Raleigh said. They were waiting with oxygen tubes in their noses while a sedative took effect. They were told they were soon going to have full body scans.

All they had heard was that Chuck had been brought back. She knew Raleigh was doing the same thing she was, working through best and worst case scenarios. The worst would be if he died, now.

Tendo came to speak with them after their second scan. “He’s in rough shape,” he said. “He lost a lot of blood, but...he’s in surgery. They had to give Herc a shot of something in the ass - almost bashed in the face of the last doctor who came to give him an update, because he didn’t have much to say.”

“Herc is now in a hospital bed?” Mako asked.

Tendo nodded.

“Room for one more,” Raleigh said. They were both going to have to stay overnight - Mako had broken her right collarbone and fractured several ribs. Raleigh had damage from Gipsy’s arm and leg leg being wrenched off on his side, though he attempted to pretend he was not experiencing pain or numbness. Remarkably, nothing was broken.

Tendo and two of Striker’s crew, Lara and Neil, rolled Herc into their room. He was mostly asleep, but still fairly pissed off. “Becket?” he asked, when he rolled over onto his good shoulder.

“Thought you might like some company, sir,” Raleigh replied.

“Fuck,” said Herc, and he looked at Tendo. “Someone’s got Max?”

“Alison’s got Max,” said Neil. “They gave him a dog sedative, though.”

“Ha,” said Herc, and he got a loopy smile on his face before he sort of passed out. Mako knew that state of consciousness. A Ranger’s sleep, even when sedated.

It took twelve hours more hours before they actually found out about Chuck. Herc had closed his eyes and nodded after the list was delivered. “But he’s alive. He’s stable?”

“Yes,” said the doctor. “The one leg needed to be set with pins and rods, might need more surgery. Internal bleeding is all corrected. We’re mostly concerned about the head injury-”

“Shouldn’t be. He has a thick enough head,” Herc said.

“He will need rehab,” said the doctor.

“I don’t fucking care about that,” Herc said.

This doctor, perhaps remembering the fate of his previous colleague, took several steps back towards the door.

Mako watched, for a moment, then turned away when Herc’s face crumpled and tears streamed down his face. She wished she was not attached by various I.V.s to her hospital bed. “It’s all right,” Herc said. “He’s my son.”

“He’s a good kid,” Raleigh said, and he meant it. Mako thought that perhaps it was a boy thing - many of the Americans on Gipsy’s crew had told her that it was common for them to beat one another up and then be immediately friendly afterwards. Mako had never quite understood it.

She went to see Chuck by herself while Raleigh slept. She cornered his doctor first. He had protested, briefly, about patient’s rights to privacy. She had just grunted at him. “I can’t really predict anything,” he said, after laying out a long list of possible complications because of the traumatic brain injury.

Mako was only able to look at Chuck for a moment. He was in a medically induced coma because of the swelling in his brain. His face was swollen, bruised, unrecognizable. She would not have known it was him were it not for his ginger hair.

“He meant he will need rehab for his brain injury,” Mako said to Raleigh at dinner that evening.

“Yeah,” Raleigh replied. He pressed his lips together. “One of the many specialists we’re getting?” Funding and money had come in immediately after their success hit the world news. Mako felt that, if she had not been sedated when she found out, she would have felt a good deal of rage over that.

There were two orthopaedists for the four of them. The one was appalled at Raleigh’s condition and immediately ordered a special physical therapist for him.

The neurologist was introduced to them and did his best to avoid Herc’s gaze. He turned and left before Herc could properly get up. “Coward,” Herc said.

He finally pinned the neurologist down at dinner, mostly because Herc was more familiar with the cafeteria layout. He was only more irritable. Raleigh shook his head at the doctor - he should have just dealt with it. Mako smiled, slightly. “Really, it was a hell of an impact,” Dr. Schwartz said.

“Nuclear blast will do it,” Herc replied. “How’s it gonna turn out?”

“Well,” said Dr. Schwartz. He shook his head. “It will depend on a lot of factors. And I don’t want to make any predictions until I’ve been able to observe him conscious.” Herc nodded at this. It was a good tactic.

“He’ll be fine,” Raleigh said to Herc, when the doctor left. Mako didn’t say anything, because she was not so sure. Raleigh had not seen Chuck.

“OK,” Herc said. Mako thought she might know how he felt - he should have been there, with Chuck. To protect him and keep him safe and finish the mission with him.

The next few days were blurred. She had a lot of drugs to take, press conferences she had to attend, and world leaders to debrief.

Mako remembered that Tendo questioned her about her caffeine intake. “Never a good sign,” she said, and Raleigh smiled. She was told not to really drink it, with all of her medications, but there was nothing else to do. It was almost harder to find energy after saving the world.

One of orthopaedists put Raleigh in a brace because of the ligament damage she found in his shoulder. She, Herc, and Raleigh were in identical structures that held their arms close to their bodies, resting on an orthopaedic pillow.

Plenty of journalists called them Hong Kong’s new heroic triplets. Mako wished that print journalism was more prevalent so that she had something to crumble in her good hand.

The first night the three of them slept in medical. The second night she opened her door and sat on her bed. Raleigh smiled at her from across the hall, seated on his own bed. “You want to help me get changed, first?” he asked. “Between us we’ve got two good arms.”

She nodded. It was like being in Gipsy, though - two arms between them. He seemed to be thinking the same thing.

They fought with the sweater he had worn for the press conferences - the sad vintage navy PPDC sweater was the most official thing he owned. Mako gave up after a minute and called for a nurse, because they would only injure themselves further. There was no point in prolonging their healing.

She sat on his bed and watched as the nurse undressed him. She could not help but notice that, sewn into the interior of the sweater’s collar was a panel with Y. Becket on it. She vowed that she would not make another joke about the lumpy sweater. Any of them.

The nurse smiled slightly when Raleigh followed into her into Mako’s room. “Don’t you want to turn?” the nurse asked, when Mako asked her to remove her sports bra as she faced Raleigh.

“We have drifted,” Mako said. The nurse shrugged her shoulders.

There were less than ten people alive who would understand that comment, Mako realized. It was this thought that spurned her long neglected tears forward.

Raleigh wrapped his good arm around her. They both quickly found this awkward and shifted, without comment, so that Raleigh’s back was against the wall and Mako was able to slide in between his legs. She laid her head on his right shoulder and told him why she had started to cry.

“You don’t need to explain,” he said. “I used to cry over...just about anything.” He stroked her hair. “Yance used to make fun of me, but you know what, there are a lot of sad things out there…” He paused, and leaned forward. He nuzzled at her head. “You tell me what you want.”

It took her a moment to realize he meant it two different ways.

“Tonight, I wish to fall asleep with you,” she said. “And I do not know about tomorrow.” She felt him smile against her head. “I do not want to talk, right now.”

“That’s fine,” he said. It took awhile to find a position they were both comfortable in - they settled for both laying on their backs with their hands linked together.

She really did not know what she wanted. She saw many possible paths for them. Their relationship could be romantic, or sexual, or just deep and meaningful without those elements.

At first Mako had wanted badly not to like him. Raleigh had abandoned the Jaeger Mako had spent two years rebuilding. But then she saw his face when he first saw Gipsy again. She had always thought that Raleigh had left her, that he could not possibly love her if he had left. Like many things with Raleigh, though, she was unable to fully understand his feelings until she piloted herself.

What she did know was that she woke that morning and had slept well, despite losing her father, her Sensei, her Marshal. She had dreamt of him, but not the typical images - instead, a quiet moment when he had taken her to a lake in America and she had been able to swim, content in the knowledge the water would not poison her and that a monster would not emerge. They went for ice cream that night and he had pointed out a young boy that appeared interested in her. Mako had blushed.

A lot of the press left after three days and the UN agreed to continue to fund the PPDC and the Hong Kong Shatterdome so that they could continue to conduct research on the kaiju. They had not decided whether they would build more Jaegers - just in case. Mako would have thought she would have been one of the people who wanted to shout their strong opinion about this, but she found now she could not make the effort. Perhaps someday.

The doctors seemed to have waited to bring Chuck out of his coma. Herc sat with him for two hours, then began to pace around the Shatterdome. “I don’t think Herc can really tell Chuck about...and he doesn’t want a doctor to do it,” Raleigh said, as they sat in her old office and filled out paperwork.

“You have spoken?” she asked.

“He keeps walking by with Max,” Raleigh said, then shrugged. Mako looked up and watched. Herc was just pacing outside of their door. The Hansens are incorrigible, she decided.

Herc was trying to be Marshal and to keep together while Chuck was comatose. He had set up an office adjacent to Chuck’s hotel room.

Even if he was being a chicken shit, this was a way to lighten his load. “If you are busy this afternoon,” she said, when Herc paced by with Max again, “I can speak to him with the doctor.”

“That would be appreciated, I’ve got a conference with the UN…” Herc said, and he gave her a smile that indicated he knew that she knew. Mako nodded. “He is a bit wonky,” he added.

Chuck’s face was still bruised and swollen - Mako felt sick, because for a moment, she thought he looked beautiful like that, ruined. He looked at her and opened his mouth. No sound came out.

For a moment, he looked constipated. Then he said, “fucked?” His voice was slurred.

“You hit your head very hard,” Mako said. She glanced at the neurologist, who was still trying to hide in a corner. “You had to be put in a coma until the swelling went down. Your leg has pins in it. You will need rehab for both.” Chuck waved his hand over the cast his leg was in and the rods that came out of it and connected to a metal frame. He gave her a no shit look.

“You might need another surgery on the leg,” said Dr. Nydhart, the orthopaedist.

Chuck narrowed his eyes and then looked at the neurologist. “Aphasia is, uh, quite common for traumatic brain injury, as well as a host of other side effects, and no, I can’t predict-” A bit wonky? Mako thought, and she sighed, mostly on Herc’s behalf. “Nor can I say whether or not it will be permanent.” He rattled the long list off while Mako sat next to Chuck.

Chuck rolled his eyes, opened his mouth and then looked annoyed. He moved his mouth, like he was speaking, and his eyes gradually shifted to something that combined anger and fear.

“You understand us, though,” Mako said, just to be clear. Chuck nodded. She turned to the neurologist. “He said fucked, earlier.”

“We’ll need to run tests for reading and written comprehension,” the neurologist said. “And that’s something of a positive sign, with therapy, and time, more will come back, and…” Chuck raised his eyebrows at Mako.

“Max is with Alison or Tendo,” she said. “Is there a reason he cannot come and visit?”

“No,” said the Shatterdome’s main doctor. “Animals are very therapeutic.” Mako imagined that someone had had a very similar conversation with Herc eight or nine years ago.

She let the doctors talk to Chuck more, and interrupted when they were not straightforward about his leg. “There is a small chance you will be able to walk without aid all of the time,” Mako said. The orthopaedist glared at her. She understood. They did not want to cause him stress or make him angry. He could injure himself more.

Chuck clenched his fist. The orthopaedist regarded him. “The breaks were substantial,” she said. Another no shit look met this statement. It was interesting to see how much communication could be done non-verbally. “We’ll do our best, though, but a lot will be therapy.”

Chuck sighed and looked at Mako, then gestured towards the door. “I will go and get Max,” she said.

“We need to do some tests,” said one of the doctors. “It might be best to bring him by after dinner.”

Mako came back with Max after dinner. He wiggled hard in her arms until she deposited him on the bed with Chuck.

Chuck reached both arms out for him like an eager kid at his birthday. Mako could not help but grin. “Watch your leg,” she said. Chuck rolled his eyes. Max went right for his face. He eagerly licked him. The stump of tail he had wagged so hard his entire butt wiggled with it.

“Max,” Chuck said. “Max, Max.” It seemed like he was trying to say something else and didn’t realize he was just saying the dogs name. “Max, Max.” He pulled the dog in tight to his face.

Proof, Mako thought, that Chuck Hansen has a heart.

Mako moved Max’s indoor bathroom set-up into Chuck’s hospital bathroom.

She paused, for a moment, because she had been angry with Chuck for a long time and they had not been friends for years. But it was easy, apparently, to fall back into old relationships with familiar grooves. She had stopped being angry with him in the Breach. How could she still be when he had sacrificed everything for her? To clear a path for the lady.

Chuck rolled his eyes as Max continued to slobber over him and Mako picked up the pad as she sat down. Chuck had always been good at pulling faces. She had thought it was subconscious.

He reached for the pad, and then pulled a sheet of paper from the middle of the pad. Mako scrunched her face at his horrible handwriting. “You will have to work on this,” she said.

“Fucked,” Chuck replied, and Mako nodded.

“Of all the words?” she asked. Chuck rolled his eyes again.

His mouth opened and his jaw worked in a circle, then he said. “Max. Dad.” She couldn’t tell if he had wanted to say those things or if that was what had manifest.

“And fucked,” said Mako. “This show your priorities.” She smiled at Chuck and then looked back down at the paper Chuck had handed her.

He was very proud of you, it read. She had not been prepared for this. She did not like Chuck taking her by surprise. She turned away as tears filled her eyes. He shoved the paper at her further and she read the rest. Only reason he stuffed me in there - knew you and R. would finish the job. Loved you. You honored him.

She looked up. Chuck winced, waved his hand. “You did not have to. Now,” she said. Mako wiped at her eyes.

He opened his mouth again, and for a moment it looked like he was going to vomit. “Yes,” he said, finally, and then his face tensed again. He reached for the pad and wrote quickly. Had to. Wouldn’t if not now.

Mako nodded, and sighed. “Can I get you anything? Did I bring the right things for Max?” She let Chuck inspect a bag where she had put some of the things she had found in Chuck’s room. She had not liked going in there. She had not liked to see the lack of things he had brought with him from Sydney. Like he knew. But of course he did. Chuck had always been pragmatic.

She had quickly put in some well-worn squeaky toys and a blanket with blue printed bones on it. The blanket had been on the edge of Chuck’s bed and made Mako frown. It made her reconsider if Chuck had really become so different  from the awkward boy with a puppy that she had first met.

Chuck flipped several pages. BORED, it read, and Mako nodded. It was good forethought, on his part, to have this prepared.

“You have the movies?” she asked, and glanced behind her at the television mounted in the room. Chuck wiggled his fingers at her, and she understood - after spending years training and, in his case, piloting, it was difficult to just sit down and watch something. “I will see,” she said.

She tried to think about something, but nothing came to her. It was not until later, when she reflected how difficult it must be for Chuck to have to write things. It might be like, she thought, her when she had first moved in with Stacker. She understood English well enough but was not confident speaking it.

This had been when had first met Chuck. It was only two weeks after Pentecost had taken her in. He assured her Chuck was a nice boy and would be good for her to spend time with. She had frowned. She was frightened of other people, still, of anything but Pentecost. He knelt down and told her Chuck’s mother had died in Scissure a few years ago. This had made her feel better.

Mako had instantly been jealous of Herc when she met him. She was angry that Chuck did not understand how good he had it. She did not understand his anger.

They were told to wait in Chuck’s room while their fathers spoke. Mako had thought, like many boys, Chuck would pull out a video game or a movie. Instead, he dragged a plastic tub from under his bed and opened it. Inside was an array of colored pencils, paints, canvases, sketch papers… He had shrugged at Mako, and she had nodded.

It was hard not to recognize his talent - he blushed, slightly, when she took one of the sketchbooks but then he nodded again. While he started to draw, she looked at the pictures - outdoor scenes, vague anatomical sketches that you did as exercises that gradually evolved into detailed studies of his father and others around the Shatterdome. Then light sketches of machine parts and inputs. Jaegers followed. She inhaled sharply when she saw Coyote Tango, towering over a distant coastline, waves crashing against his shins.

“Oh,” Chuck said, and smiled at her. “Do you want it?”

“No,” she said, and shook her head. Then she furrowed her brow, because she could tell he was disappointed - that perhaps he had wanted to give it to her. “I - yes. But-”

“Right,” he said. “You want me to know I don’t have to, but...yeah.” He carefully removed it from the sketchbook and handed it to her. She nodded and put it on the small bedside table in his room. “I’m going to be a Jaeger pilot someday,” he said.

“Yes,” she replied. “I will too.” Chuck nodded, then returned to his sketch. It was Nova Hyperion, emerging seemingly from his memory. Mako picked up a colored pencil and began to draw shapes, as her mother had taught her. Zen tango, to ground and center herself. Many people did not know that Mako had always been angry and frustrated as a child - that Tokyo had just amplified it, funneled it.

She had kept the picture of Coyote Tango. For a long time she told herself it was not because of Chuck.

“We need to go shopping,” Mako said when she ate dinner with Raleigh that evening. “I hope we will find what we need.”

She had gone back to Chuck’s room after bringing him Max. She was surprised that there were not art supplies. There might have been, but she had not wanted to look through the boxes under his bed. She presumed, if he still drew, their evidence would be more obvious. And Herc had shrugged when she asked.

“We need things?” Raleigh asked, and he glanced down at his shapeless sweater and pressed his lips together. Mako resisted the urge to laugh.

“For Chuck. To keep his mind off of things.”

“I thought we had access to tons of television and movies-”

“A hobby,” Mako replied.

“Chuck has hobbies?” Raleigh asked.

“He draws,” Mako replied. Raleigh raised his eyebrows and grinned. “It is not any...more silly than you. Knitting.”

“Not easy to find thick sweaters in Nome,” Raleigh replied. Mako shook her head. “Sort of a demand.”

“Maybe we will get better yarn,” she said.

“How is he? Leg bothering him?” Raleigh asked, and it suddenly occurred to her that she had not told him about Chuck’ at all.

“He cannot - there is a word, for it,” she said, and pulled out her phone. She typed in several things in Japanese before she was able to get what she figured was the term to translate. She showed the result to Raleigh.

“Aphasia?” he said. “He can’t talk?”

“Few words,” said Mako. “Max, Dad, fuck…” Raleigh laughed. At first she thought that it was just about the small group in his vocabulary. Then she realized it went deeper.

“Sorry, just...for all the trouble his mouth got him into…” Raleigh looked at her, and seemed to find it strange that she did not share his amusement. “Sorry.”

The disconnect was all the more jarring for everything they had shared in the drift - it was hard for her to remember that she had not been a complete open book, nor had Raleigh. That there were still things about each other that they didn’t know. That they were two separate people.

“Irony,” Mako said.

“Yeah,” Raleigh replied. “It’s not...I want him to get better. Go back to insulting me, I guess.” Something flickered in his eyes. Mako pushed it aside.

“They are getting him a tablet that speaks,” she said. Raleigh nodded.

“Still.” He tilted his head, as if trying to figure out what had turned on Mako’s protective tendencies towards Chuck. “Anything else on your shopping list?”

“You will see,” Mako said. She wanted some real chocolate, not the granular stuff that they were occasionally given in rations. This, she figured she had earned.

It was slow going, her with one arm and Raleigh using a cane, his leg still cramped and causing difficulty. People recognized them, too, many with cellphones with cameras. They did their best to smile and sign whatever was pushed in their faces. These were the people who had stayed, or who had to stay. They had been brave as well.

Mako and Raleigh were able to locate colored pencils and a sketch pad. Raleigh had smiled when they found a store with knitting supplies. He bought several sets of needles and a lot of yarn. The shop clerk thought he was adorable. Mako did not translate what she said about him. Raleigh seemed to bristle when people spoke about being puppylike.

“Do you need all that?” Mako asked.

“Thought Chuck might…” Raleigh shrugged. “He could make Max a sweater.”

The thought was so absurd that Mako snorted a slight laugh. Then she shook her head at Raleigh. If she had two arms, she might have embraced him.

That night Raleigh was able to help her undress. He had convinced Dr. Nydhart that he did not need to wear his brace. She was not pleased with him. He had not taken care of his initial injuries, of injuries he received on the wall. He needed extensive therapy to prevent him from being crippled when he was older.

Raleigh had just nodded - but looked at Mako. As though she was supposed to make this decision for her.

They found a way to curl into each other that didn’t hurt their arms or hurt Raleigh’s body. He seemed fine now, but she knew it was mostly painkillers. “A little more press tomorrow,” she said.

“Interview pieces,” Raleigh replied. “Why did you decide to dye your hair blue? What was life on the Wall really like?”

“No,” said Mako. “These are the ones who ask the…” She knew what word she wanted in Japanese. How Chuck felt had to be worse.


“Yes,” she said. “They ask them like they are easy. Tokyo’s Girl in Blue. Sydney’s Saved Boy.” She paused, wondered how they would characterize Raleigh. Someone, she was sure, would come up with a Jesus parallel - the Savior that Came Back. It made her feel sick.

“Yeah,” Raleigh said, and he stroked her arm.

“Stacker was good with press. With their stupid questions. Could always give an answer - but never what they wanted.” She felt tears begin in her eyes again and wiped at them with her good hand. She still needed him. He had so much still to teach her.

“I know,” Raleigh said. “I know.”

That night Mako was able to lay on her side and Raleigh spooned behind her. Raleigh seemed to do better with human contact - he was a tactile person, Mako thought. He and Yancy had always been affectionate. She drifted off to sleep thinking about it, Yancy’s hand on Raleigh’s arm as they drank, Yancy’s arm around him as they walked back from the bar, a tight hug after their victory…

They both went to see Chuck the next morning. Mako brought their items in a large bag. Raleigh hung behind her, still awkward with Chuck - with the sudden change in dynamic. “We have some things for you,” Mako said, and set the bag on his hospital table. She brought out a sketchpad and colored pencils.

She did not anticipate his response. She had thought he would find it presumptuous. Instead, he gave her a slow smile and then looked a little sad. He pressed his lips together and gave them a larger, dimpled smile and then flipped through his tablet to a page that had THANK YOU written on it.

“And this, if you get...tired of that,” Raleigh said, and reached into the bag. Chuck looked surprised. Raleigh pulled out the knitting needles he said were good for beginners. Chuck narrowed his eyes. “I knit,” Raleigh said.

Chuck wrote quickly. I don’t know how. He flipped the page. I don’t need a fucking sweater. Raleigh glanced down at his own sweater.

“Well, you wouldn’t be able to start with that,” Raleigh said, voice patient. “You could make something square. Like a square.” Chuck’s eyes widened and he looked over at Mako - as though she was responsible for what came from Raleigh’s mouth.

Chuck drew a rectangle. “Or a rectangle,” Raleigh said. “If you want to do that.”

Raleigh pulled out two skeins of yarn in a blue-green that was the closest approximation to the Striker Eureka Jaeger logo he could. He had asked Mako to compare colors for half an hour in the shop.

Chuck took the yarn and ran his hands over it. “Max,” he said, and closed his eyes. His jaw was set hard and it was clear he was trying to say something - or wanted to say something. A rehabilitative specialist was on their way, an American who had worked with many Iraq and Afghanistan war vets who had suffered from similar traumatic head injuries. “Ss,” Chuck said, finally.

“Soft. Yeah, it’s good wool,” Raleigh said. “You could make Max a blanket?”

Chuck waved his hands, and Raleigh slid closer to him to show him how to hold the knitting needles. Mako picked up the television remote, surprised.

“Should I put something on?” she asked. Chuck nodded, and she clicked through the library - she wanted something as far from their reality as possible and so she eventually chose Law & Order, which she knew was ideal from her own past experience in the medical wing.

“OK,” Raleigh said, and he smiled at Chuck. “First thing that we have to do is cast on - and, I’m, not as good as I should be, nothing is moving right, but-” Chuck shrugged his shoulders and watched Raleigh carefully.

Mako wasn’t surprised that it did not take Chuck long to figure out how to manage a basic knitting stitch. Soon, he and Raleigh were both clacking away and she had to raise the volume.

“Isn’t that a bit big?” Mako asked, watching the long strand that Chuck was working on.

“Max,” he said. He pointed at the blanket at the end of the bed. “Max.” He clenched his teeth together and flinched. She wanted to know if they should be helping him along or letting him struggle. So much of how she thought of Chuck - well, Chuck- she realized, was the brash and stupid things he said. Even as friends, he’d said plenty of stupid things to her. Chuck just couldn’t help himself.

Chuck exhaled. “So he can snuggle into it, right?” Raleigh asked, and Chuck nodded at Mako.

Raleigh was knitting quickly held whatever he was working on up for Chuck, who nodded - as though, after ten minutes, Chuck now understood all of the secrets of knitting. Raleigh set his needles down and then ran his fingers along Chuck’s stitches. “This is really nice,” Raleigh said. “You have a natural tight stitch, really good control - you haven’t dropped one, miscounted.” Chuck rolled his eyes - he didn’t need to write out that expression, but Raleigh just smiled at him.

Dr. Gottlieb and Dr. Geiszler arrived after an hour of knitting. Mako was relieved. She did not admit that Raleigh had been right and she should have got needles for herself. He probably had, and was just waiting for her to admit to it.

Newt was amused. “Hey, that’s really good,” he said to Chuck. “You have a natural stitch.”

Chuck narrowed his eyes at him, then shrugged his shoulders.

“We have your tablet prepared, Ranger Hansen,” Dr. Gottlieb said. “I took it upon myself to rectify some of the code errors while Dr. Geiszler downloaded extraneous voices for you to utilize.” Chuck smiled at this. Well, he probably smiled at the word rectify.

“Just want to make sure you have everything you might need,” Dr. Geiszler said. He bent down and pet Max, who had taken up residence at Chuck’s feet.

Dr. Gottlieb leaned back in the corner of the room and watched Mako, Chuck, and Raleigh with some degree of interest. “I’ve ensured more fluidity with the software, so it should speak nearly as fast as you can type,” he said.

Chuck carefully set his knitting aside and held his hand out for the tablet. He glanced down at it and poked at it with a single finger. Mako furrowed her brow for a moment, but then - of course Chuck would not have had to learned how to type. 

Go folk yourself, came a bland, American voice from the tablet.

Chuck looked immediately at Dr. Gottlieb. “Aw, c’mon, dude, you seriously turned off swear words?” Dr. Geiszler asked.

“What - no, Newt, in fact, it is not possible - rather, Ranger Hansen must have made a typographical error and the tablet merely did its best-” Dr. Gottlieb shook his head.

Chuck glanced down and then nodded his head. Go fuck yourself, the tablet said. Why the fuck do I sound like Becket?

“Standard setting?” Dr. Geiszler asked, but then he grinned and leaned in close to Chuck. “But you just need to - see that drop down menu, there? That’s where the so-called extraneous options are-”

This should sound more like it, Chuck typed, and he looked appalled at what had to be the Australian setting. It sounded more like the Crocodile Hunter than Chuck or Herc did.

“I didn’t necessarily preview them,” Dr. Geiszler said.

Chuck sighed, and Mako watched him carefully - it looked like he was confused, for a moment, about what he was doing. He looked down at the tablet, then at Dr. Geiszler, and then at the keyboard interface on the tablet. He exhaled.

Mako hoped it was the painkillers, or that he was tired. She had read several articles on traumatic brain injury on her own tablet, and had been concerned at the myriad medium and long-term side effects Chuck may experience. Things they could not necessarily diagnose right now.

“But, look, there’s a couple different - like, maybe try non-Regional Australian diction? I downloaded the, uh, non-regional diction package.” Dr. Geiszler said, scrolling down for Chuck. Mako’s eyes were able to read several of the options, many which appeared to be appalling - she did not want to know what the voice titled Comrade Chuck was going to yield.

Is this any fucking better? came from the tablet.

“Doesn’t sound like you, but doesn’t sound like someone doing a bad Australian accent,” Raleigh replied.

Chuck was getting a little better with typing, and he narrowed his eyes. Thanks. A lot better than the pad. He waved his hand over at the legal pad. Dr. Geiszler nodded.

“Thanks, I would go, like, nuts, if I had to write out everything - so, nothing to it.”

“The rest of us, of course, would find our sanity preserved,” Dr. Gottlieb interjected.

Yar, ‘tis still going to make things a lot easier, Chuck wrote, and it came out in a very stereotypical pirate voice. Raleigh and Dr. Geiszler grinned at him.

“I find it difficult to believe that, given all the trials and tribulations of our time, someone decided the best use of their intellect would be to program a pirate voice for that particular platform,” Dr. Gottlieb said.

Raleigh shrugged. “You either have to do something useful or useless, right?”

Dr. Gottlieb considered this for a moment, instead of issuing one of his normal grouchy retorts. Then he nodded. “Yes, I suppose so,” he said, and then looked over at Newt.

“If you are even implying-”

If you two are going to flirt with each other maybe do it somewhere else? Chuck typed, back in the standard Australian voice.

“Flirt?” Dr. Geiszler asked.

I meant fight, Chuck typed. Mako had to smile, slightly - this, at least, soothed some of her fears about his mental capacity. Dr. Gottlieb’s one nostril flared, while Dr. Geiszler looked clueless. Mako was not aware whether he was, or not.

Before they left, Dr. Geiszler said, Where’d you learn to knit, by the way? Chuck, already back to his blanket, pointed his needle at Raleigh. A light bulb could have appeared over Dr. Geiszler’s head.

Hermann rolled his eyes, but Newt looked completely clueless. Of course he was.

As soon as they left, Chuck looked over at Raleigh. “Where the hell did you learn to knit?”

“Therapy,” Raleigh said. Chuck inhaled and nodded. Then he reached for the pencils and began to sketch.

Mako knew that Chuck’s good spirits would not last. He waited until Raleigh left to go and see the orthopaedist.

Perhaps it was conscious, perhaps it was not. Mako was a little bit tired of trying to figure out about the exact dynamic between the two of them.

This fucking sucks, he typed.

“Yes,” Mako replied. “But you have not seen the specialist yet-”

Chuck met her eyes as he pounded on the tablet. She made a slight tsking sound, though technology, at least, was something they were not in short supply on. It was one of the few things that was not scrimped on, even as their budget shortfall loomed. What difference is it going to make like they’re going to be able to do anything to make it better Mako I’ve looked things up on my own you know.

It took her a moment to parse the statement out. Then she nodded at Chuck. “This may not be your only side effect, either,” she said. “But you are alive.”

Chuck looked at her and nodded. He exhaled, and she was surprised to see tears form in his eyes. She had not seen Chuck cry once - not even when he had once taken a forceful kick to the balls in the Academy’s kwoon.

“Chuck, I did not mean that-” Chuck shook his head. Mako stared straight ahead. She did not want to say something wrong, again. Tears trailed down his face, and the sight of it was enough to make her feel a bit nauseous. Chuck Hansen did not cry. So she pulled herself a little closer and took his hand, because it seemed that it was the right thing to do.

Chuck stared at their hands, together, and then at her. He used his other hand to type slowly, and the words came out one at a time as though there was a period between them. My leg is fucked and I can’t fucking talk and I never should have left him.

“No,” said Mako. Never leave your co-pilot. She had not understood when she drifted with someone though. “You did not leave. He put you in the pod.” She made sure to meet Chuck’s eyes. “He did not mean to dishonor you.”

Tears kept coming down Chuck’s face and she wondered if this was one of the side effects - depression, anxiety, behavioral changes and sharp changes in mood. Oh, Chuck, she thought. Even without the brain injury - he was more damaged than they knew.

Mako didn’t say anything further because it would not have the desired effect. Chuck did not want to hear anything right now. Instead she sat with Chuck.

Eventually his breathing regulated and his hand went a little slack. He was asleep. She was relieved. She was not very good at things like emotions.

That was what Raleigh was for.







Chapter Text

“Chuck is having a hard time,” she said to Raleigh that evening.

“Yeah,” Raleigh said. He seemed surprised that Mako would say this. “He’s got pins sticking out of his leg to hold it in a cage, he can’t talk, no one can tell him if he’s going to get better, and his brain is scrambled - and I’m saying that as someone with a scrambled brain.”

“Well, yes-”

“I didn’t mean to snap,” Raleigh said. “I just don’t…” He sighed. “I want to help him, because he’s...I know him better, now, I guess, and-”

“You have come to tolerate him,” Mako said. Perhaps she had judged everything wrong. It would not be the first time.

“I never had a problem with him,” Raleigh said. Mako arched an eyebrow. “Not until he called us bitches and said - and you, but you are-”

“Friendship is not always straightforward,” Mako said. “Relationships-”

Raleigh leaned in, then, and her breath hitched. She had waited for this.

She never would have been the one to initiate it.

His lips were plump, soft, and asked a question. Mako responded - if she agreed, this would be a significant commitment. She had seen Raleigh turned inside out, and he her. “Mako…”

“I want to be with you,” she said. “Tonight, I want to be with you.”

“Good,” he said.

They explored each other slowly. They took off layers of clothes when it occurred to them. They stroked each other’s skin. Mako had seen Raleigh undressed, before, but now she was able to touch. “May I..?”

“Yes,” he said, and she traced and drew her fingers along his scars. She thought of Yancy as Raleigh had thought of him as they marched for the Breach - laughing, the slightest crinkles forming alongside his eyes, the way he looked when he was half asleep and talking to Raleigh. She kissed right above his heart and then moved back to his mouth.

Raleigh trailed his hands down and reached inside of her low cut briefs. “Mako..?”

“Please, Raleigh,” she murmured. “I would like you to fuck me.” Raleigh’s fingers parted her and found her nub. He stroked with his thumb and traced his fingers back. “In the drawer,” she said.

“Mmm,” he murmured, but then kissed down her stomach and removed her underwear. Raleigh liked to do this - she had seen it, though she knew she was not supposed to poke at those memories, but she had wanted to know.

He did not disappoint. His tongue flicked as his fingers parted her. His tongue circled and he listened to the sounds she made and worked from them. He flicked at her, careful, then a little faster. He tongued her slowly. He drew her out and scuked.

She put her hands in his hair and groaned. She let him lead. It was soft, and wonderful, and slowly he pulled her, coiled her up, with just his tongue. Then he trailed his tongue all the way down and inside her and she moaned. “Raleigh, please - you are wonderful, but I feel you…” He licked up again and quickened his pace for a bit while she bucked her hips into his mouth. Then he pulled himself up, gently massaged her breast and kissed her mouth.

She reached for the drawer and removed the lube. She met his eyes. Each of them asked the same question, and she nodded. It had been some time for her, she had last been tested months ago. “You are beautiful,” Raleigh said, as she stroked his cock and ran her finger along the ridge. She coated it.

He sunk inside her like he was meant to be there - he had been, of course, already, in a more intimate way. “Oh, Mako,” he murmured, and she sighed as well. “Oh, Mako, you’re so-” She took her hand and guided his mouth to hers, she kissed him hard and then trailed her mouth along his jaw. “You’re beautiful, Mako, I…”

She responded by working her hips against his and raising her legs to grasp around him. She put another hand on his strong ass. She dug her fingers in to urge him to move faster.

There would be plenty of time to explore each other, plenty of time to find out what they liked. Right now it was what they needed - and she needed to be filled, to have Raleigh pressing in and out of her, to have Raleigh holding her. “Raleigh, please, more.”

He obliged, quickened his pace, and she found the angle she needed to grind her clit into him. After his mouth, with his cock in her, it did not take much. She hitched her breath as she came. She clenched around him.

“Oh, Mako, oh,” Raleigh said, like he was full of wonder at being able to do this for her. “Oh, Mako, so, so…” He filled her, then, and she welcomed the warmth.

He laid inside of her for some time. He fell asleep curled into her while she slept on her back. She waited until she was sure that he wouldn’t stir, and then got up to relieve herself and clean herself.

She and Raleigh were there when he woke from his leg surgery.

It was obvious he recognized Herc but had no clue who Mako and Raleigh were. He opened his mouth, but only a strangled, choked sound came out. Then he said, “Dad! Dad?”

“Chuck, hit your head, remember?” Herc asked, and leaned in. Chuck quickly grew panicked. Raleigh stepped out to grab a doctor. Monitors began to beep around them - heart rate, blood pressure. Mako found herself incredibly angry as Herc worked to soothe Chuck.

Raleigh came back and clasped her hand, and she felt anger in his grip as well. “Chuck, you remember?” Herc asked, but Chuck could not tell him.

The doctors should have prepared them for this. The doctors should have told them it was possible Chuck would be confused about his injuries - people were often confused, after surgery.

“I’ll give him a sedative,” the orthopaedist said. Raleigh was doing his best to glare at him, but he just didn’t quite have it in him. Even when he had been glaring at Chuck, before Operation Pitfall, there was still a sort of kindness in his look that had made Mako...well. It had made Mako know that she was safe with him.

Chuck looked over at her, and then over at Herc, and then opened his mouth again. “Let him wake up,” Herc said. The doctor nodded.

Raleigh glanced over at Mako and nodded - he did not like seeing Chuck like this. He was more than tolerating Chuck, then. Chuck looked so afraid.

There was more than just sympathy, in the way Raleigh regarded him. She remembered what she saw in the drift. She thought of what she had observed.

Raleigh would never do anything. It would be on her, if it were to happen. She did not like having this decision on her shoulders. She did not know what she wanted.

It was a week before they let Chuck into physical therapy with them. Mako and Raleigh sat with him, otherwise, or took him in his wheelchair on small trips around the Shatterdome. Max rode in his waist like it was a chariot.

One of the kwoon rooms was converted and turned into a rehab center. Broken Jaeger Pilots Only! said the sign that Raleigh slapped on the door. It made Chuck smile, at least, and so Herc smiled as well.

Mako watched as Herc did his best to stare down his physical therapist at each suggestion he made. “I’ve broken a hell of a lot of bones,” Herc said. “Broke this one before.” He still tried to be a good fatherly example for Chuck, when he caught him looking. It was endearing.

“Twice? Dangerous line of work, eh?” said the new physical therapist. Gord, who was Canadian. Raleigh had assured her that only Canadians would ever be named Gord.

“Go fuck yourself,” Herc said, softly, then smiled when he caught Chuck’s eye.

Chuck grinned for the first time in a long while, showing off his dimples. He was at the other side of the room where he was working with the traumatic brain injury specialist. She had him doing something with differently shaped blocks - ordering them as she had, putting them together. Mako knew Raleigh was glancing over along with her, waiting for Chuck to wipe everything off the table. But he worked dutifully with her for an hour.

When they left for lunch, Mako walked behind his wheelchair in case he needed it. Chuck was determined to push himself along, leg outstretched in front of him, Max in his lap.

Max seemed to really enjoy the whole experience.

Just like being in school again, Chuck wrote, tapping carefully with the tablet resting on Max’s head. Better get a fridge to tape my drawings on, dad. Herc narrowed his eyes slightly, then exhaled when he realized Chuck had called him dad.

Chuck's drawings were incredibly good, rather than the scribbles they had all dreaded when he had first started playing around with the colored pencils. 

“How’s your blanket coming?” Herc asked. Mako spied a hint of red behind Chuck’s ears and glanced over at Raleigh. He was, of course, oblivious and appeared concerned that Max wasn’t bothered by the tablet resting on his head.

OK, Chuck replied.

“You must be relieved to go back to your room,” Mako added. Chuck looked down at his leg and nodded. The cast was up to his mid-thigh.

“We all got moved into your hallway,” Raleigh added. Chuck turned and looked at him, almost like he was annoyed.

“Can’t spend money powering empty wings of this place,” Herc said.

They’re not closing us down, are they? Chuck asked, this time using more than one finger to type out the response.

“No, no,” Herc said, quickly. “A lot of people have left, gone back…” He stopped, then, and inhaled slightly. “Still want us to monitor things, lots of research.” Mako met Herc’s eyes and was glad he understood what she was telling him - they could not treat Chuck with kid gloves. “Hermann’s got them convinced that, if Gipsy didn’t succeed in nuking those precursor fuckers back to the hell they came from, they’ll make another, we get to stick around.”

Will they build more Jaegers? Chuck asked. Mako wished he was able to say it in his voice, so she could tell if he was excited or depressed by the idea.

“Don’t know yet. Need some serious cash for that. Commitment.” Chuck nodded, and Mako was surprised to see that he looked more thoughtful than excited.

He rolled up to her at breakfast the next morning. She was alone - Raleigh was still sleeping, exhausted from his physical therapy. Mako had resisted the urge to tell him that it was all his own fault. He should not have ignored the physical damage he suffered to take care of her, to take care of Herc...of Chuck. She wanted to blame him for earlier, as well, but she had no way to explain that.

You and Becket are sleeping together, Chuck typed, shoving his plate next to hers.

“We are-”

Saw you go into his room. Didn’t come out. Chuck finished. And don’t tell me it’s just cuddling. He narrowed his eyes at her.

“Why does this upset you?” Mako asked. Chuck’s face change considerably, the scowl turning into something that evinced a deeper kind of hurt and betrayal.

Just the two of you, he typed. She thought to a drawing he had done of the two of them when they had sat watching a movie and frowned.

“I am your friend, Chuck,” she said. “I have been-”

Oh, right. His hands flew over the tablet. You were a good friend, Mako, stopped answering e-mails because you were jealous...and everyone thought I was the dick, because they liked you better.

Mako was amazed he would even put those thoughts to words. She was concerned that they were...adolescent, almost - was that his head injury, though, or just Chuck? Then she realized it was just very succinct.

That she had hurt him. “It was my fault,” she replied. “But now, I-”

Want to take care of me, he replied. Poor little Chuck can’t talk, let’s get him some yarn to knit with and crayons to color with-

She grabbed his wrist and he made a high pitched gulping sound, sort of like a seal. His mouth curled.

“Mako!” It would figure that you needed to piss him off to aid in his healing.

“You are sorely mistaken if you do not think that Raleigh and I care for you,” she said. She was about to say more, but then realized she had not really discussed this with Raleigh. Even if he wanted it, she doubted he would respond well to her just coming into the room with Chuck behind her.

Even if he wanted it. Sometimes she thought she knew - but it was complicated, because she doubted Raleigh had really thought about it. Both because he had not known Chuck as long as she had, because things weren’t so knotted up for him...and also because she doubted Raleigh would conceive of a polyamorous relationship.

Before Chuck could reply she got up from the table and left.

She knew it was cruel - she hoped that she would be able to explain why, in a few hours.

She could feel the heat of Chuck’s stare on her back.

Raleigh was still in bed when she returned from breakfast. This was unusual for him.

She climbed in and spooned him, wrapped her arm around him and nuzzled into his neck. Raleigh woke instantly and curled into her. She stroked the back of his neck where his hair was short and soft. “I had breakfast with Chuck,” she said.

“That’s very brave of you,” Raleigh said. Part of his tone was apologetic.

“He has noticed we sleep together.”

“Nosy fucker,” Raleigh said, into his pillow. He pulled his head up. His hair was in his face. He was scruffy. She hadn’t noticed this.

“Raleigh,” she said, and for a moment, she hesitated. Perhaps it was too soon. On the other hand, time had taken on a different quality since she had awoken, hurtling through the ocean in an escape pod. There was too much of it and too little. She nudged him and he carefully rolled onto his back so that they could face each other. “It is complicated.”

“I know,” Raleigh said. He had marks from the pillow on his face. She ran her finger along them without thinking. He smiled.

“You care for him,” she said. “You would like to fuck him, you wanted to when you saw him, and now…” Raleigh blushed, at this, certain he had kept this from her in the drift. Mako raised her eyebrows, slightly. “You want to fuck him.”

“Mako,” he said. “I’m with you.”

“Yes,” she said. “But-”

“I’m not going that what you’re worried about, that I want Chuck and I’m going to…” He rubbed at his eyes and studied her. “Wait.”

“Raleigh. If this is so, I think-”

“You want him to..?”

“Yes,” Mako said. Raleigh’s eyes widened, and Mako wondered if she should have interrogated her desire more. If there should have been more to it than the closeness and protectiveness she felt for Chuck and the desire she had for him. It was possible that this was the sort of thing that someone did when they were young. A stupid decision that you would feel embarrassed by, later.

“People do it, you know,” she said.

“Mormons,” Raleigh said. Mako shook her head. Raleigh tried again. “Herc will kill us.”

“Herc is in the Marshall’s quarters, next to the office,” she replied.

“He’ll figure it out.”

“Is that your only objection?”

Raleigh was quiet for a long time. Then he said, “Yeah.” He shook his head at Mako. “ ‘Cause I’m the one he’s going to punch in the face.”

“Well, yes,” Mako said. “But after he does this, I think Herc would be most interested in Chuck’s happiness.”

Raleigh considered this. “I feel like this should be a more difficult decision.”

“I think we would be making the wrong one if it was,” Mako replied. She felt better, having articulated it.

After their breakfast, Mako was not sure what to do about Chuck. It turned out this did not matter - all she needed to do was convince Raleigh. He was a man of action.

It helped that Chuck was still in a wheelchair.

They both watched through their open door, waiting for Chuck to return. The wheelchair was largely silent on the Shatterdome floor so they both pulled back when they saw Chuck turn the corner. He looked like he had cried. Max was equally morose in his lap.

It was his head injury, Mako was sure now. Not that he was fundamentally different. Just unable to suppress that part of him that made sure Chuck Hansen did not cry.

She felt an ache in her chest for Chuck. This was for the best, then - she hoped, at least. It wasn’t the thing that you could discuss with his rehab therapist. Do you think Chuck might benefit from sex? With Raleigh and I? If we were all together?

They closed the door before Chuck got to his room. Raleigh waited until he slammed his own door, then got up and went across the hall. Mako waited in the bed, still clothed.

Chuck’s leg appeared first, then the rest of him, as Raleigh wheeled him into to the hallway. Chuck was trying to slap at him but couldn’t reach.

What are you doing? Chuck demanded, pulling his hands down so he could type.

“Come on, then,” Raleigh said, and pushed Chuck into their room.

“Hello, Chuck,” Mako said.

Chuck glared at both of them. Mako could hear Max whine from Chuck’s room - they probably should have planned for that, but it was too late now. Fuck both of you, he typed. I’m not going to make you feel better by telling you that- Raleigh interrupted him by leaning down and kissing him. Chuck’s fingers fluttered and the tablet didn’t speak whatever it was that he typed because it was not words.

When Raleigh pulled away, Chuck was still glaring, though there was confusion as well. The fuck?

“I had not yet discussed things with Raleigh,” Mako said, leaning back on their bed. “I apologize.”

Chuck’s hand was poised over the tablet. He looked from Mako to Raleigh and then back again.

You want me to...get in bed with you? He was looking at both of them as though they had acquired a head injury.

“For starters,” Raleigh said. Mako inclined her head. “If you want to, of course.”

Chuck’s face changed, his mouth pressing together and eyebrows raising, and he looked like he was going to cry again. Mako reached forward and put her hand on his knee. “Chuck…”

His expressions were incredibly elastic, and he transitioned easily to his normal, slightly arrogant resting face. So you want to fuck me together and then- He always so quick to lash out before thinking things through.

“Be with you,” Raleigh said, and he met Chuck’s eyes. He did that thing where he communicated solely with his gaze, some kind of strange telepathy he’d been given at some point. Chuck nodded back, and Mako smiled.

She helped Raleigh get Chuck into bed and settled back into the pillows. They were careful of his leg and moved him so that it was able to spread straight in front of him. Raleigh set a pillow under it.

Now? Chuck asked.

“We do not have therapy until this afternoon,” Mako said. “We thought you would like to watch a movie with us.”

“Yes,” Chuck said, then, “Max.”

“Got him,” Raleigh said. Chuck looked at Mako and down at his tablet.

Do I need to apologize to you? She knew he didn’t mean it in a sarcastic or arrogant way.

“No,” she said. “As I said, I should have consulted with Raleigh, but.” She shrugged her one functional shoulder and winced at him, slightly. “I owe you an apology.”

“Mako,” Chuck said. She smiled at him and then reached over and stroked his cheek. Then she caught Raleigh standing in the door, Max dripping out of his hands, smiling at them.

Max was more than happy to pile in with them. He sprawled across Chuck’s chest. Raleigh lay at Chuck’s right and Mako to his left.

“Raleigh has me reading the Harry Potter books,” Mako said, as she got the second movie ready.

Fuck, Mori, I thought I missed out on all that shit but I at least know about and read fucking Harry Potter.

“Can’t you set that for shortcuts, like, if you type f-u it just fills in fuck for you?” Raleigh asked.

Chuck considered this, and then shrugged his one shoulder. Max made a grumbling sound.

Mako watched Chuck carefully in therapy as he moved his mouth and tried to respond to a variety of cues. He did not seem any different. Not that she was doing this as part of a way to take care of him, to help him.

At some point she knew that she would have to admit, out loud, that she had a crush on Chuck Hansen since she was thirteen. Even in his awkward phase. It probably worked as a nice parallel to the crush that Chuck had always harbored for Raleigh.

Raleigh gave her a pointed look after dinner, and she nodded. Chuck agreed without speaking, directing Raleigh to place Max in the bed with them when they got back. They put in the next Harry Potter movie and then fell asleep together.

When she woke, Mako felt strange. It took her a moment to realize it was because Raleigh’s ass was against her thigh, instead of him spooning her as he usually did. Instead, he had turned and had his head on Chuck’s chest. Max had crawled between the two of them and peered up at Mako with what she would characterize as a smile.

“Chuck is surprisingly comfortable,” Raleigh said.

Chuck grumbled, and then made a low sound. Mako immediately sat up, as did Raleigh, though he mostly had to pull away from Chuck because Chuck had been propped up on several pillows. Chuck waved his hand at the other side of Mako, where he had placed his tablet.

“You don’t want to be called comfortable?” Raleigh asked. His voice was soft, and Chuck levelled his gaze at him.

“Fuck.” Chuck said, and then pointed at Raleigh. “Fuck. You.” He smiled slightly, though, which belied the emotionless infliction almost everything he was able to verbalize had.

Mako smiled softly as he waved towards the tablet - she wanted to tell him it was all right, here, that they understood. She stopped because she realized there would probably be things he did want to verbalize.

Raleigh got ahead of her, though - all action, Mako, let’s do this. Mako, this is for real. He cupped Chuck’s jaw, levelled his gaze at him, and then nodded before he kissed him on the lips. The kiss was soft, almost delicate, and Mako watched carefully. Then he turned and smiled at Mako. He was almost more shy with her, despite already having kissed her numerous times.

Max barked. “Max,” Chuck said. It was almost as if he was objecting to his owner not getting physical attention.

“I’ve got him,” Raleigh said. He scooped the dog up. It left Mako and Chuck to complete things.

Mako found herself blushing. She remembered Chuck as a teenager, Chuck at the Academy, how angry she had been when she saw the first profile of him in a magazine. How good he had looked. “Go find Herc!” Raleigh said, and Mako had to glance back to see Raleigh make a shooing motion at Max to get him out the door.

“Fuck,” Chuck said. Mako looked back at him and pressed her lips to his. She was surprised how soft Chuck’s felt, how easy, and Chuck cupped her jaw and drew her closer. “Mako,” he whispered.

“Chuck,” she said. Raleigh sat back down on the bed, but at the edge, keeping his distance.

“Keep going,” he said. “If you want to, I mean…”

“Yes,” Mako said. She thought that maybe they should have done some research. Google could turn up all sorts of things. Or perhaps discuss what to do - especially given Chuck’s massive cast. He was basically immobile, for the point of this exercise. She imagined that there might be chaffing issues with his cast, as well.

She looked at Raleigh before she kissed Chuck again. He smiled, and he was probably right. It should be organic and it should theirs.

Chuck was the one to open her mouth and work his tongue inside and he was still gentle, still soft. Mako pressed back harder and grabbed at the back of Chuck’s head. It was easy to sink into the kiss - she thought of how angry she had been with him, how frustrated, and that those kinds of feelings could only originate from one particular place.

“You two look good,” Raleigh said. His voice was husky and he slipped closer to them. Chuck grabbed at the shirt that Raleigh had worn to bed and it bunched in his hand, even as Mako continued to kiss him. Raleigh leaned in and kissed at Mako’s neck, and then her collarbone.

It became strange, perhaps messy, but it worked - they explored each other’s mouths, necks, ears. Raleigh’s shirt came off first, then Chuck’s. Raleigh helped Chuck as he pulled himself upwards, groaning slightly. Mako thumbed at each of their nipples and smiled. My boys, she thought. “Gorgeous,” she said. Chuck made a huffing sound.

“You are,” Raleigh murmured. Chuck shot him a look - they were taking advantage of him, it alleged, because he could not object. “Damn straight,” Raleigh said.

Chuck smiled. It was genuine, because he was understood. “We should shift you to the middle,” Raleigh said. Raleigh touched Chuck with real care, and as he moved him, Mako slipped out of her shirt. She had taken her bra off before sleeping. For a moment, she felt self conscious.

They took either side of Chuck again and he put a hand on her breast. They kissed for some time, then Mako maneuvered between them, one of each of their legs between her own. She gasped when she felt Raleigh’s mouth on one nipple, then Chuck’s on another. Each was so different - the hard, firm grasp of Raleigh’s mouth as he sucked and used his teeth, Chuck’s earnest, swirling tongue.

She could not help but be a little pragmatic. “We should discuss-”

“What?” Raleigh asked.

“What do you want?” she said. Chuck stroked down her side. His hands had thick callouses, and she shivered at the feeling of the rough skin against her own.

Chuck glanced up at her and sighed, then he blushed and looked down. Mako shook her head - he didn’t need to detail everything, he would not offend her. He reached over her and his hand was on Raleigh’s chest. “Raleigh - Fuck?”

“You want me to fuck you?” Raleigh asked. Chuck nodded and glanced up. His eyes were framed by his long lashes. He looked nervous.

Raleigh glanced at Mako, who smiled at him. She knew he had not anticipated that request. “OK, yeah, I...Chuck, that would be really good.” His voice was a little deeper, and Chuck sort of smiled at him. “Mako?”

“I want to watch,” she said. She had never seen two men have sex. She knew Raleigh was more experienced with men. She could only guess as to Chuck. “Then we will see.”

She moved herself over to the side and back of the bed so she could lean against the wall. Raleigh handed her a pillow and she slid her underwear off. Raleigh passed her a small packet of lube, and she realized both boys were watching her. She blushed, but put some of the lube on her finger. “You wish to watch as well?” she asked, and smiled slightly.

“Mako,” Chuck said. She parted herself and stroked her hand from one end to the other. She pulled her legs apart so they could see, if they wanted it, and her foot touched Chuck’s uninjured foot. Chuck’s mouth hung open, and Raleigh leaned in and kissed his neck. He kept his eyes on Mako, though, as she slowly stroked herself. “Raleigh…” Chuck added, a little whine in his voice.

Raleigh slid out of his boxers. His cock was firm and hard against his stomach. Chuck reached and touched it, grasped it gently. Raleigh groaned. Mako concentrated her fingers on her clit, but moved slowly, focusing on the careful ebbs and flows of pleasure she could give herself. Raleigh slid Chuck’s boxers off as well, and it was as if he was on display just for them.

“Oh, Chuck,” Raleigh said. They had all lost muscle, in recovery, but Chuck’s body had retained the basic form - incredibly broad, muscled shoulders and arms, a tapered waist. Mako hadn’t seen Chuck topless, or even in a tank top, in some time, and she was surprised at the amount of hair on his chest. Raleigh seemed to like it because he stroked it. He and Raleigh were beautiful together, muscular, strong. Raleigh spread himself over Chuck’s legs. It gave her a good view of Raleigh’s firm ass before he rolled to the other side of Chuck.

Then Raleigh made a sort of sound, and Chuck furrowed his brow. Raleigh was looking down at Chuck’s cock and - well, Mako had always thought that the way Chuck acted he either had a big dick or a small dick. It appeared to be the former. Chuck made a huffing sound, objecting to the silence as they stared at him.

“Pretty well provisioned there, Chuck,” Raleigh said.

Chuck’s blush, it seemed, extended all the way down. Raleigh lubed his hand and stroked Chuck gently. “You don’t know that?” he asked. Mako circled her clit and stroked her folds, teased around her entrance. “God, I’m going to need you to fuck me soon with that...”

Chuck turned a deeper shade of red and squirmed a bit. “Fuck,” he said as he met Raleigh’s eyes.

“Good,” Raleigh said. His thumb stroked over the head of Chuck’s cock, then he moved over Chuck again to slide their cocks together. Raleigh had to spread himself wide around the cast and so it gave her a view of his ass, again. She moaned.

“Yeah,” Chuck said.

Raleigh kissed Chuck and ground into him for some time, and Chuck’s arm reached around and squeezed and stroked Raleigh’s ass. Mako hummed as she slid a finger into herself and used her thumb. When Raleigh pulled up, he said, “Mako?”

It took a few attempts to finally get Chuck arranged so Raleigh could work him open. Mako curled into his side. She kissed him as Raleigh slid his a finger into him. She held onto Chuck’s wounded leg so it was out of the way. “Is it good, Chuck?” she asked. “Do you like Raleigh finger fucking you?”

“Fuck, yeah, fuck,” Chuck said, and Raleigh grinned and ran his hand from Chuck’s knee to his groin. She was surprised how relaxed Chuck was, soft and pliant as Raleigh thrust his finger in and out. Then he added another.

“You’re so lovely,” she said. Chuck groaned. Raleigh grinned. All mine, she thought, and began to touch herself again.

“You look good like that,” Raleigh said, meeting Mako’s eyes. Chuck followed the gaze and nodded, though he seemed a little bit more apprehensive and intrigued - she wondered if he had been with a woman before. “So open, and ready for me, and I’m going to feel really good, Chuck, I want - do you want Mako, Chuck? Have you-”

Chuck sensed this question and huffed to stop Raleigh - and how strange, she reflected, how good they were getting at non-verbal communication - and he shook his head no and blushed.

“What?” Raleigh asked, and he pulled his fingers out of Chuck.

“Chuck has not been with a woman,” Mako said.

“Oh,” Raleigh said. He grinned, then, and thrust his fingers back in Chuck. “That’s where you need me to touch you, Chuck? You’re so tight - tighter than Mako.”

“Raleigh!” Chuck said. He was surprised, but then smiled. “Raleigh, fuck, fuck…” He struggled, then but didn’t seem to mind, slipping into an eager grunting sound as Raleigh presumably stimulated his prostate. He was so open for Raleigh - it was good to see this, and Raleigh was taking real care with him. Mako controlled her fingers, not wanting to bring herself to come.

“Chuck..?” Raleigh asked.

“Yeah,” Chuck said. Raleigh put his unbroken leg onto his shoulder and then slicked his cock up. Mako made a growling sound. Both of them seemed startled by this.

“You do not know how good you look,” she said, and was rewarded with Raleigh sliding into Chuck.

She was able to see Raleigh’s entrance and watch as his cock slowly slipped inside of Chuck. Each touch to her clit was just a little bit more electric and strong and she felt the slow build of something in her stomach, tension between her legs.

Raleigh was careful with Chuck in the beginning - more for his leg than his ass, Mako presumed, but once Chuck seemed to adjust himself Raleigh picked up his rhythm. “Chuck, you feel so good - you’re gorgeous, Chuck, isn’t he, Mako?”

“He is,” Mako said. “You are.” Chuck made a huffing sound, and Mako shook her head at him. Raleigh met her eyes and nodded at her. She slid her hand from between her legs and slid closer to Chuck. She ran her clean hand through his hair and then leaned down and met his lips. Chuck moaned into it, and then Mako reached and took his cock into her hand.

“Yeah, Mako, Chuck, her hand feels really good, doesn’t it?” Raleigh asked, and Mako could feel his thrusts increase. She looked and watched as Raleigh pressed in and out of Chuck. She pressed her lips together at the shot of heat between her legs. “Do you want to come, Chuck?”

“Fuck!” Chuck said.

“Mako, with me, yeah?” Raleigh said, and Mako had to smile at this. She wanted to ruffle Raleigh’s hair but resisted the urge. Instead she flicked her wrist along with Raleigh’s thrusts and watched as his cock moved in and out of Chuck. Then she massaged her thumb around and over Chuck’s tip as he writhed and came beneath her. Then Raleigh groaned and sort of collapsed over Chuck. Mako smiled.

Mako kissed Chuck then kissed Raleigh. Each was so different, and - this had been a good idea. Not that it had really been an idea. “Now what, Mako?” Raleigh asked, still deep in Chuck.

She glanced over at him. His eyes were closed and a smile played across his face.

Mako hadn’t really thought about this - they were both young, she supposed, and-

Raleigh slid out of Chuck, then kissed him gently. “What should we do for Mako?” he said. Chuck’s eyes slid open and a lazy smile played across his lips. “Should I go down on her, Chuck?” Chuck nodded.

Mako groaned slightly and Raleigh guided her down onto her back next to Chuck. He slid over her to kiss her mouth. Mako ran her fingers over the sharp muscles of his back and closed her eyes. She was pleased she could tell when Raleigh’s mouth was exchanged with Chuck’s as Raleigh kissed down her body. His tongue flicked over her nipples before he slid down between her legs and spread them apart.

Chuck’s mouth was still gentle, but...she could tell he was pleased, happy, that he had really wanted this. Raleigh, she knew already. “Tease,” she said. He kissed up and down the insides of her thighs.

Raleigh responded by using his tongue to part her, first her outer lips and then inner lips. Mako clenched her fingers in his hair and moaned into Chuck’s mouth. She felt Raleigh chuckle and smiled. Chuck shifted his attention to Mako’s neck and to her ear. Raleigh’s tongue was still licking her straight up and down, but then he thumbed, spread her, and focused his attention with a single flick.

Mako moaned and it was strange, for a moment, that there was no talking going on. Oh, Raleigh, she thought. Raleigh flicked at her clit again and then circled his tongue around her. “Raleigh, that. Yes.” He alternated with his tongue, lapping and flicking at her. “Yes. Oh. Raleigh.” Her need built and pooled quickly. She wanted, needed - and Raleigh knew, and he wasn’t going to give it to her just yet. “Oh!”

Chuck nuzzled into her neck. She wrapped her other arm around him and smiled at him, and he smiled back. All the while Raleigh’s tongue increased its pressure and, she realized, she was not going to last long. Then he put his thumb on her clit and rubbed and stuck his tongue deep into her. “Fuck, fuck, Raleigh,” she said. Chuck kissed her collarbone and then thumbed at her nipple. “Chuck!” He squeezed, and Raleigh’s tongue returned to her clit. He was softer, but faster, and Mako began to arch her hips into his attention.

She came in waves, over and over as Chuck squeezed her peaked nipple and Raleigh tongued her through it as she clenched. She pulled her fingers from Raleigh’s hair and exhaled, then closed her eyes. She understood how Chuck felt. She kissed him when he pulled himself back up.

She curled into Chuck, while Raleigh lay down beside her. Mako glanced at Chuck and could tell they were wondering the same thing - how long before Raleigh said something? Raleigh just made a soft, huffing sound into Mako, though, and wrapped around her a little tighter. “I want to see you fuck Mako, next,” Raleigh finally said. “I want you to fuck me too, Chuck, but…”

Mako smiled slightly as Chuck blushed and she kissed his cheek. She had not expected this from him.

Then she worried, again, about personality changes. Several weeks ago she thought she knew how Chuck would be in bed. But, then again, he had nearly died.

Chuck touched her cheek with his hand and furrowed his brow. She gave him a light smile and supposed, given what they had just done together, it would not be fair not to communicate with him. “I did not expect you to be so…”

“Sweet,” Raleigh said.

Chuck made a huffing sound and did his best to look offended. He was not able to sustain it for long, though, and he shrugged slightly.

“We should get breakfast,” Raleigh said. Chuck opened his mouth. “Lots of, uh...stuff, to do today.”

“Fuck,” Chuck said.

Mako had to agree - she found the attitudes of the physical therapists annoying. They could not help but act as though they were all children. As though they had not done one of the most difficult things ever, had succeeded, already had the perseverance to work through any type of obstacles. Hell, Chuck most of all. He had continued piloting even as all of the others died around him, and while he cloaked himself in arrogance about it, Mako knew it had to have affected him.

“Come on,” she said. “Would you like me to get your chair?” She glanced over to where Chuck’s wheelchair was. He sighed, then nodded. 

Mako knew she should not have been surprised that this would be the day when Chuck would not be compliant. The blocks came out again in physical therapy and Chuck quickly threw one into the wall. It barely missed the head of Raleigh’s physical therapist. “Chuck,” Herc said, and then looked at Raleigh and then Mako. Herc’s voice was soft, calm. He growled in the direction of Chuck’s therapist, who held her hands up and then stepped back.

Raleigh knelt down next to Chuck. I’m not a child, he typed.

“We know,” Raleigh said, and he could not help the smirk that played across his face. “But they don’t just do this to you - they did this to Iraq vets, right?”

“Yes,” said Chuck’s therapist - Brianna, Mako thought, she had remembered that it was a name that had not really struck Mako as a name, more an amalgamation of names. “And right now I need to assess a lot of different things, Ranger Hansen, so that we can develop a treatment plan and find where we need to focus our attention.”

Chuck glowered at her and flared his nostrils. I know, he typed. It became apparent to Mako that he might not have been legitimately angry - more confused, and she could almost see as he rewound the thought process. He’d focused in like this before.

She got the sense that he had been arranging blocks and not understood the context, which was what made him angry.

Sensei, she remembered, instantly. He had often treated Chuck as younger than he was - Herc had pushed him to the Jaeger Academy. Stacker had tried to push him back, had brought him books meant for someone a few years younger, trading cards, action figures of the Mark-I glory Jaegers.

“Chuck,” she said, and kept her voice careful. He raised his head to look at her. “It is OK to be angry.”

No fucking shit, Mori, he replied, but it seemed to ground him.

Chuck finished the Max blanket that evening when Raleigh decided that there was a particular television show from before K-Day that both of them needed to watch. Mako had to admit - the plot was quite interesting and well done and there was still humor in it. She did not think that she would want to watch something with monsters or explosions for some time.

“Here, I’ll show you how to tie it off,” Raleigh said, and he moved his fingers quickly through Chuck’s blanket. He held it up. It was about three times the size of anything Max would need and Mako marveled at how Chuck had managed to knit something like that so quickly.

“Max,” said Chuck. He handed it over to Max and he sniffed at the yarn before Raleigh wrapped him up in it. Max sighed. He appeared aggrieved, but seemed to sense that it was important for his person, so he closed his eyes and made a contented sound between Raleigh and Chuck’s legs.

Chuck laid his head on Mako’s good shoulder and she ran her fingers through his hair. Raleigh glanced over at them and smiled.

The next time they slept together Raleigh laid against the pillows and Chuck laid between his legs, his back to Raleigh’s chest. Mako straddled Chuck and slid his cock inside of her.

It felt so different. Just like their kisses.

She could not imagine that kind of intimacy, not after just three times in the drift. “Chuck,” she gasped, as he pressed a hand inwards and placed a finger on her clit. “Raleigh.” He grinned at her, and Chuck looked embarrassed. Mako leaned down and kissed him. “You feel amazing,” she said.

“Mako,” Chuck said, slowly. Mako could feel Raleigh working against Chuck to get friction. She met his eyes.

“That’s advanced maneuvers, Mako, we’re going to work up to that,” Raleigh said. Chuck huffed and laughed.

“Bastard,” Chuck said.

“Yes, bastard,” Mako replied. She was able to smack Raleigh lightly and he grinned at her. Then she pulled herself nearly all the way off of Chuck and smiled as he gasped on her way down. “Let me, Chuck.”

“Mako,” he said, but nodded.

She was completing something. She wondered about the universe where she and Chuck had piloted a Jaeger together. Where she had drifted with Chuck as many times as he had drifted with Herc.

Once they figured out what were things that they absolutely needed to have, there were not that many choices for where to go. Once they found out there were not going to be any Jaegers immediately built they had begun to talk about leaving the Shatterdome.

They were able to rule out places, as well- not the Western U.S., Australia, or Japan. But a place that spoke English, the language they all shared. One where they could each continue to get medical - a PPDC country.

Herc vetoed England. “Fucking poms.” No more was said. Chuck gave Max a look of apology, and Mako smiled.

“I hear that Toronto is very nice,” Mako said.

“Multicultural,” Raleigh added.

“Fucking. Cold.” Chuck said. One month on and he was doing better. He still mostly relied on the tablet in order to speak. His attitude began to improve after Brianna yelled at him about the people she had worked with who also lost their reading comprehension, their ability to write. She told him about one soldier who would read a menu, look at the waitress, and could not remember what he had decided to order. Mako could not understand why this had more of an effect on Chuck than the aphasiacs who were effectively silenced.

“They have an underground city,” Raleigh replied, and, when Mako looked at him, shrugged, “Chrome Brutus was Canadian, we…”

“Canada,” Chuck said. Mako nodded.

Herc had to give two months notice, each of them was only required to give two weeks. Their discharges all carried the proviso they would return as consultants if the Jaeger program were to be resumed or if the Breach opened.

If Herc knew about their relationship he did not let on. Now that he was Marshal he had the apartment attached to the Marshal’s office, and Raleigh, Mako, and Chuck were the only ones in the Rangers quarters. Mako argued that Herc was not stupid. She said that Herc had drifted with Chuck long enough - been his father long enough, but she did not say this - to know when he was satisfied and/or getting laid.

Satisfied? Chuck typed. He kept his face serious and blinked at Raleigh and Mako.

Raleigh leaned in and kissed his cheek. “Still,” Raleigh said. Mako did not know why they were overly concerned about Herc finding out the three of them were sleeping together. They had all been through so much and lost so much. What did this matter? But perhaps they understood something she did not.

She was willing to admit, after the past month, that there was plenty that she did not know.

Their first realtor drove them down to the new harbor front developments. “They’re the epitome of luxury,” she said. “Right on the lake.”

Mako looked at Raleigh, who looked at Chuck, who looked at Max. Raleigh laughed and then shook his head. “I don’t think so,” Raleigh said.

“Cost isn’t an issue,” she said, “I was told that the PPDC would-”

“I would like something older,” Mako said.

I would like a new realtor, Chuck typed, and then grinned at the woman.

Their second realtor took them to a variety of houses in the West End. Mako picked out one that would allow them to have an easy time getting to the University of Toronto Medical Center and that had three bedrooms. “I may sleep with you,” she said. “But I would like my own space.”

The realtor furnished everything, though she called Mako when they were back in Hong Kong. “The California King bed - it’s going to take up the whole of the bedroom on the main floor, I think. You won’t even be able to get a dresser in there.”

“That is Chuck’s problem,” Mako replied.

The realtor arranged an apartment for Herc on the other side of town on their trolley line. Herc had signed off on it just based on the pictures. “Swinging bachelor pad,” he said. Chuck rolled his eyes.

There was a party before the three of them left.

Mako watched while Chuck tolerated one of Striker Eureka’s crew members putting a cone shaped party hat on his head, and then on Max’s.

This reminded her of what she had confided to Raleigh two days prior when they were waiting to get X-Rays. “I worry about Chuck, still,” she said. Raleigh arched an eyebrow. “I worry that some of the...positive changes, they may be because of his injury.”

Raleigh shrugged his shoulder. “Or saving the world, or not having to pilot a Jaeger anymore, or way to tease it apart.” Mako had nodded. She realized she felt bad for enjoying Chuck, for...loving him, if the reason was because he was not really himself. Raleigh nodded at her. She liked that she did not need to say these things to him. “You loved him before.”

“I did-”

“Mako,” Raleigh said, and he smiled slightly. “ I don’t know...everything about you two, what it was like for you, but I know that, Mako.”

“You like good like that, Chuckie-boy,” another tech said. He took a picture of Chuck in the hat and Chuck gave him the sort of glowering expression that Mako had seen less and less, then smiled at him. “What you gonna do, when you get to Canada?”

Freeze my balls off, Chuck typed, then shrugged his shoulders. Mako and Chuck had registered to take some classes at the University of Toronto and Raleigh had decided that he was going to play house husband for the time being and concentrate on his physical therapy. He had decided to take up swimming.

Mako didn’t even know if he knew how to swim.

Mako sipped from her glass on wine and smiled and nodded at all of the Gipsy Danger techs. The Hong Kong Shatterdome was going to remain open for research and many had stayed on to work on applications of the Jaeger tech. There were fewer people who had family to return to than did not, it seemed.

She wondered if they were angry at them for leaving. Everyone had offered their support - or, at least, said they understood why they wanted to go. They seemed more angry with Herc, though none would show it to his face. It seemed they understood their desire to be young, but thought Herc still owed something.

Tendo and Alison hugged her, hard. They were leaving with their daughter soon as well. “Do you know what you’re getting into, Ms. Mako?” Tendo asked.

“I think she’s already well into it,” Alison said. “You e-mail me with any questions about my people, eh?” She presented each of them with a tight knit winter cap, which was apparently called a toque, and gift cards to a place called Tim Horton’s.

Chuck was right - it was very cold when they got to Toronto. If Mako had balls they likely would have noticed it. Suffered for it.

Mako realized that the ice was not exactly compatible with Chuck’s bumper cast. “We should have put more thought into this,” she said. She hadn’t thought about it because they had been told they had a car service to take them wherever they wanted to go.

Chuck had only just started with the modified cast. He looked ridiculous with it, the bumper was almost twice the size of his other leg and he swung it around like a movie monster. He used a cane - Hermann had given him one day in the mess when he thought no one was looking.

Mako figured that she would have cause for concern if Chuck had enveloped Hermann in a hug. But he had done the very Chuck thing and just nodded at him.

They both helped him out of the car. Raleigh helped him up to the walk. Their own landlord had perhaps over salted, so they had to switch to moving Chuck through a sort of frozen slush.

Chuck allowed Raleigh to help him into the large bed in the downstairs room. Max’s bed, with two Max blankets, lay at foot of the bed. Chuck was currently knitting a smaller blanket that Mako knew to be for the puppy that he was going to get for Herc when he arrived in Canada. It was good. It pulled them full circle.

“Good,” Chuck said, and smiled at Mako. He spread himself across the mattress and even Chuck could not spread his limbs to reach all four ends. Raleigh hopped in with him, and Mako followed, taking her socks off first. “Very.”

“I said that it was all you,” Mako replied. “Everything is bigger in Australia.”

“Texas,” Raleigh said, and laid his head against Chuck’s chest and sighed. They were like puppies together - each craved physical touch and affection. It confirmed for Mako that they each had the right instinct in seeking out the other two. The bed almost seemed big enough that Mako would be able to sleep without one draped over her like a starfish. Or there was always her very own bed.

Though given the temperature outside she was beginning to understand why people might want to cuddle together. Raleigh turned and smiled at her. “This isn’t even cold,” he said. Mako did not quite agree, but she understood that it was important for Raleigh to be able to assert this.

“It is cold,” Mako said. “We will do the sensible thing. We will make hot chocolate and watch movies.”

“I think,” Raleigh said, “that we should christen the bed.”

“Raleigh,” Chuck said. He pushed himself up so that he could kiss Raleigh. Mako smiled as she watched them. Chuck trailed a hand down Raleigh’s side and grabbed at his hip. Mako turned her head. She could watch them for some time, she loved the play of their two bodies together.

She would later have to admit that it was a good instinct on Raleigh’s part. It was nice to drink hot chocolate naked in bed, warm from sex, and watch movies. Max slumped between Raleigh and Chuck, content and snoring.

A lake effect storm moved in that night to welcome them to the city. Raleigh was usually the first to wake up - he opened his eyes and hopped out of bed, got coffee, did whatever it was that he did in the morning. She and Chuck woke slowly, dozed, yawned, and curled into each other.

Chuck woke them both the next morning.

“Mwuh?” Raleigh said, not used to not waking on his own accord.

“Snow,” Chuck said.

“Was coming down like a bastard last night,” Raleigh said.

“Snow!” Chuck said.

“Have you never seen it?” Mako asked. Chuck waved his hand - he had seen snow, it said. But not around his house. Not where he lived and where he woke up in the morning.

Raleigh helped Chuck slip on the knit sock he had made to cover Chuck’s bootie. Chuck slung his arm around Raleigh’s shoulder for balance. Mako smiled as Raleigh tugged on a hat with a large pompom on the top.

There was at least a foot of snow outside. Mako thought that it might be the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. Their small residential street was completely pristine - no one had shoveled yet. No plow had come. No one had driven through it. The trees were coated. Everything was coated. “Like a fairy tale,” she said, and Raleigh nodded at her. “I feel bad.”

“Oh, come on, Mako!” Raleigh said. He plopped Max down into the snow, which was deeper than him. Then Raleigh bound down their walkway towards the street. Max looked up at Chuck and then hopped back into the house. Chuck closed the door, and Mako provided him with his needed balance.

They each met eyes as Raleigh turned his back to them. They quickly put together snow balls. Mako hit Raleigh in the shoulder, while Chuck hit him in the ass. “Oh, are we going to play that way?” Raleigh asked. He turned and hit Mako with a snowball. “Not fair.”

“We should build a snowman,” Mako said.

“A snow Chuck,” Raleigh replied.

“Chuck?” Chuck said.

“It will have an angry face,” Raleigh said. “Little slanted angry eyebrows made with twigs and stones, an angry face-” Chuck shook his head at him, but Raleigh had already started to roll a ball for the bottom of the snow Chuck.

Chuck sat on the stoop while he and Mako built the snowman, pelting them with snowballs until he ran out of available snow within his radius. He made an exaggerated frown when Raleigh put his grey PPDC cap on top of the snowman with the angry face.

Mako understood, suddenly, Raleigh’s motivation. That Chuck, the one who doffed his cap and smirked at her in the Kwoon, the one who had been rude to Raleigh at lunch, he was gone. Or he had just been a caricature. Mako smiled. “We should make him a snow Max.”

“Not. Ha. Hard,” Chuck said, very careful with his words. “Fat.” He brought them an extra collar when they were done. Mako had made one large round ball and put a head on it. Raleigh had sort of made a snout for him.

One of their neighbors was out shoveling their drive and looked at Chuck with trepidation as he tottered towards them with his bootie.

“Hello!” Raleigh said, face mostly obscured by his stupid pompom hat. Chuck handed the neighbor his iPhone. “Would you take a picture?”

“That’s, uh, some snowman,” the neighbor said. “You guys in college?”

“They are,” Raleigh said. The neighbor nodded.

“We are graduate students,” Mako replied. They weren’t, really - no one quite knew what to do with their Jaeger Academy degrees, the fact that she and Chuck probably knew as much as most undergraduates about mechanical and electrical engineering. It was why they were taking liberal arts classes. Chuck was doing art history and life drawing, Mako literature and political theory.

“Oh,” said the neighbor. “Sorry - it’s just, you know, nice, quiet street. Cute dog.” He peered into the window, where Max was looking at them. It was almost like the dog was concerned - why be outside in the snow when there were blankets and a big bed inside? Clearly his people had lost it.

The neighbor took a picture of the three of them and Chuck sent it to Herc, then passed the phone to Raleigh. “Food,” Chuck said. He hobbled back into the house. Mako nodded while Raleigh made small talk with the neighbor.

The phone buzzed. Raleigh grinned. Then his face went white and he nearly dropped the phone into the snow.

“What?” Mako asked.

I know what you are doing with my son, the texted response said.

“I think this is a joke,” Mako said.

“I think he’s going to slowly kill us,” Raleigh replied. Their neighbor gave them a tentative smile and then went back to shoveling.

“It is his way of-” Mako furrowed her brow, not sure.

“Food!” Chuck called from the house. Max barked.

Raleigh went inside, but Mako lingered for a moment to consider their small yard, their small street. The snow was falling again. She sighed.

So this was why I fought, she thought. Tears formed in her eyes as she remembered Stacker and how he had spoke to her of moments of his childhood with Luna. It had not been ideal. They had been poor, but there had been times when they had organized cricket games with the neighbors or had taken the bus into the center of London and gone swimming in Hyde Park. Or the moments from when they had been in the RAF, before K-Day, time spent with Tamsin and other friends - gambling some nights, drinking, other times they just went out to see a movie and four of them would share a huge bowl of buttery popcorn.

She realized that Raleigh had passed the phone to her. She typed tentatively and closed her eyes when she pressed send.

We love him. she wrote.

The response came swiftly. Herc was not a sadist.

You better. it read. Or they’ll only find pieces.

Mako smiled. She imagined Herc smiling too - because he was able to threaten his son’s boyfriend and girlfriend. Because they had sent him a picture of the three of them in the snow.

Understood, sir, she wrote.

And watch what he feeds Max, Herc wrote. Dog needs to keep his weight down.

I will, Mako replied.

“Mako, come on! Chuck sort of made grilled cheese!”

Mako glanced around once more before heading inside, not sure if she wanted to know what that meant.