Everything’s too desperate and rushed for thinking until all of LOCCENT hears Raleigh Becket’s voice over the comm link. As applause and cheers fill the air, Newt mentally flails for a moment while his brain catches up with the fact Hermann hugged him. Five years of living in close quarters, four years of letters, twelve years of knowing of each other’s existence, and it’s the first time the physicist lets Newt touch more than his hand or arm.
Newt thought it was a personal space thing until … well, the Drift.
Now he has almost enough questions to make his head spin, but Hermann is looking at him in a way Newt’s pretty sure means he’ll die a very messy death if he asks before Hermann is ready to answer. That’s alright. He can wait. For a little while at least.
The party sort of swallows Newt and it’s several hours and a number of adult beverages before he notices Hermann has totally and, let’s be honest, typically, vanished. Newt figures he’ll be in the usual place—his room—so he sways off in that direction.
He’s generally not big on social niceties, but Newt actually knocks at Hermann’s door and waits to be invited inside. The Drift wasn’t quite enough preparation for this. He freezes like a rabbit in headlights while he processes the sight in front of him: Hermann wearing less than five layers of clothing. In fact, he’s clad only in pajama pants. The man’s torso is bare. Almost.
Hermann’s wings (or WINGS!, as Newt’s brain refers to them) are folded against his back covering him from the tops of his shoulders to just below his waistband as he lies face down on the bed, head resting on his crossed arms. The feathers are a rich reddish-brown not unlike Hermann’s hair and are liberally smudged with white. Newt can’t pull his eyes from the way the auburn of the scapulars contrasts with the man’s pale skin and the sheer length of the primaries and their serrated leading edges that say ‘owl’ in no uncertain terms.
"This is too perfect, dude," he says, only a smidgen too loudly. "The Little Owl. Athene noctua. ‘Wisdom goddess of the night.’ Athena’s owl. They fit you."
The wings twitch nervously, then settle as Hermann turns his face to Newt. "I didn’t know that. I never thought to ask from what species they were taken," he says quietly.
"That semester of vertebrate taxonomy paid off, I guess," Newt says with a shrug as he lets himself slide down the door to sit on the rug. "Listen, I’m not going to say anything about," he gestures vaguely to Hermann, "this, so you don’t, like, have to kill me or take out my vocal cords or tongue or anything like that, even though you’ve probably wanted to do that for years already … ." He finally notices the somewhat amused expression on Hermann’s face. "I’m babbling, aren’t I? I should probably just shut up, but it’s really hard because this is completely surreal and I’m kinda overwhelmed because, holy shit, dude, you’re a genius and a biological marvel with wings that work and they just look so fucking gorgeous on you and … I maybe had a little tiny bit too much to drink at the victory party."
"I would never have suspected," Hermann says with a mock sincerity emphasized by a slow flexing of his wings. "Inebriation aside, how do you feel?" he asks, his tone concerned.
"Awesome, sore, and like my head is going to explode any second. So, kinda an average I-just-saved-the-world sort of day. Also, sorta nauseous and tired enough to collapse." He squints through the unbroken lens of his glasses. "How ‘bout you?"
"The same," Hermann replies, breaking into one of his rare smiles, "without the nausea. I know better than to drink after suffering traumatic brain injury." The smile twists into a smirk.
"Aw, any excuse to skip a party," Newt scoffs. "Seriously, though, I really could pass out at any moment and I was hoping, maybe, you’d let me sleep in here, with you? Not with you with you, I mean. The floor would be fine." He finishes in a whisper; "I don’t want to be alone."
"I must insist you stay where I can keep an eye on you tonight. You’ve caused me quite enough worry for one day." Hermann seems to reconsider the amount of care evident in his voice and assumes a snarkier tone. "I’m also not so cruel as to make you sleep on the floor, you nitwit. As long as you stay on the outside and try not to grab … them in your sleep, it will be fine." He gives Newt a considering look. "After you shower, of course. I’m not letting you into my bed in your current state. You can use my facilities so I can come to your rescue if you fall."
"That would make it, what, three times in twenty-four hours you’d have saved my butt? Does that make you my guardian angel?" Newt teases.
"Shut up and bathe, Geiszler," Hermann growls, waving the wing closest to Newt as if to push him in the direction of the bathroom. "You’re obviously too tired and drunk to think properly." Newt ducks into the bathroom before he sees the faint blush spreading across Hermann’s cheeks.
It’s unexpectedly easy for the two men to arrange themselves in bed given their notorious struggle to share a workspace. Whether they’re too exhausted to argue or a bunk designed for a single burly soldier is actually roomy enough for two diminutive scientists, they quickly find comfortable positions with Hermann on his stomach and scootched a bit closer to the wall than his usual and Newt curled on his side hugging a spare pillow to his chest. Within minutes Newt is snoring softly. Hermann allows himself a fond sigh as he stretches his wings. Before folding them against his back, he hesitates, then gently drapes one over Newt’s sleeping form.
Newt wakes at some ungodly hour feeling much too hot. He tries to shove away the quilt stretched over him, only to touch a raft of feathers. He freezes. Right. Wings. Giving in to his legendary poor impulse control, he strokes from the alula to the very tips of the primaries in front of him. Hermann grumbles and the wing flexes once, smacking Newt solidly in the face. Newt grins, brushes powder down from his nose and cheeks before it can make him sneeze, kicks off the regulation blanket, and curls up closer to his bedmate, allowing Hermann’s wing to cover and warm him.