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Stop Pretending You're Possessed

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Hermann rushed as quickly as he could to Newton’s cell to deliver the good news.

Newton was lounging on the bed reading but he set the book down and sat up when Hermann burst through the door.

“It’s official. Your last three brain scans have come back completely clear. You are no longer connected to the precursors.”

Newton grinned at him and Hermann resolutely ignored the ridiculous quickening of his heart at the sight.

“Oh, man, Hermann, that’s great! I mean, we all knew it was coming but I’m glad to finally have it be official!”

“We just need Rangers Pentecost and Lambert to come down here to release you and you will be ready to leave here. I imagine you will want to stay here in the Shatterdome for a few days while you find an apartment if you don’t choose to come back to work here. I understand you had been given an offer but have yet to make a decision one way or another.”

“Yeah,” New said, nodding. He made a face. “I just don’t want to have to commit myself to anything right away, you know?”

Hermann nodded sympathetically. “Oh, I most certainly do.”

“I just got out of the relationship from hell, you now? I need some me time.”

Hermann rolled his eyes. “Newton.”

“Not too much me time, though,” Newton continued, giving him a sly look from under his eyelashes.

Hermann frowned. “Newton, what are you talking about?”

Newton stared at him. “Are you even serious right now?”

“I’m always serious. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You and me, man.”

“What about us?” Hermann asked.

“Dude, we have drifted multiple times recently. I was already a bit of a Hermann connoisseur but I think that now I can officially declare myself a Hermann expert.”

“Yes, Newton, I am well aware that we know a great deal about each other through our long years of association and our recent drifting,” Hermann said. “I have not, however, learned how to read your mind so if you would care to elaborate I would be most grateful.”

“Hermann. Friend. Pal. Future husband. I know you’re in love with me.”

Hermann choked. “You can’t just inform somebody that they’re in love with you!”

“I mean, I clearly can and we both know I’m right,” Newton said. “I’m a little upset I had to even say it but there you go, you always were stubborn. Though how you thought you could hide something like that from me in the drift not just once but a whole bunch of times is beyond me. You were thinking about it an awful lot while rescuing me. And even if we hadn’t drifted you were way too gung-ho about saving me for it to be platonic. Like, I’m not blind.”

“I am not having this conversation.”

Newton snorted. “Yeah, like that’s ever worked with me before. It’s not so bad, though. I mean I’m not possessed anymore and not out to destroy the world and everyone who knew about the whole evil me bit was nice enough to cover that up to not panic the populace at the idea people could get possessed by the precursors. And even though Shao fired me a truly excessive number of times – like she didn’t even rehire me between firings and you’d think once would be enough – I am still like stupid rich. Once I get a chance to go shopping and get a real wardrobe I’ll be as hot as ever. And, oh yeah, in case you weren’t paying as much attention in the drift as I was…I’m every bit in love with you as you are with me.”

Hermann cleared his throat. “Really, Newton. I just…really.”

Newton raised his eyebrows and crossed his arms. “Are you seriously doing this to me right now? Are you seriously doing this?”

“I’m not doing anything,” Hermann snapped.

“Yeah, that’s the problem,” Newton said, sighing. “You are such an asshole.”

Hermann’s eye twitched. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me. Let me put it to you very simply: Are we going to be boyfriends when I leave here?”

“After you just called me an asshole?”

“Dude, I’m going to call you an asshole. Like, all the time. That’s just a thing that is going to happen. Stop getting distracted by stupid shit and just answer the question.”

Newton had some nerve accusing Hermann of getting distracted by frivolities.

Newton continued to stare at him and eventually Hermann realized he was still waiting on an answer.

“It’s not that simple.”

“It really is,” Newton said.

“I can’t give you an answer right now,” Hermann said. “I’m sorry but I can’t.”

“Okay. Fine.”

Hermann didn’t trust the gleam in Newton’s eyes one bit. The last time he saw that Newton didn’t break eye contact before literally taking a bite out of what he claimed was the least toxic part of the kaiju.

Rangers Lambert and Pentecost entered the room and suddenly Newton threw himself on the floor and began seizing.

“What in the-” Lambert started to say. “Jake, get a medic.”

Pentecost nodded and ran off.

“Newton, what are you doing?” Hermann asked, unimpressed.

Lambert moved closer and bent down, careful not to touch him. “He looks like he’s having some sort of a seizure. I thought he was fine! The brain scans cleared him of precursor influence. Were they somehow hiding their presence? We still don’t know a great deal about how this works. Or maybe it’s the loss of them that’s doing it?”

“He’s faking.”

“I don’t know, Gottlieb. That looks pretty painful and he has to be hitting his head.”

“Newton has always been willing to suffer for his art.”

“Why would he even be faking it? This isn’t like when he was possessed and trying to convince us that he was fine so we’d let him out and he could try and kill us all again,” Lambert said reasonably. “If you were right then he would be fully recovered and pretending to be possessed again or suffering some other debilitating medical effects. What could possibly be his motive? He can’t be trying to seek financial compensation for us or claim he was ill-treated, can he? We were nothing but professionals.”

“No, Newton isn’t terribly interested in money and he was just reminding me that he still has a lot of it,” Hermann said. “And while he will likely always view the PPDC as fascists, it is truly nothing personal as that is just how he feels about military organizations. I know he is grateful for all you have done.”

“Calling us fascists is a strange way of expressing that gratitude,” Lambert remarked.

Hermann laughed as he watched Newton continue his expert performance, giving no sign he could hear them talking about him. What an exercise in self-control this must be for him. “Yes, well, no one does strange quite like Newton.”

“I can believe that. So what could his motive for faking possibly be?”

Hermann looked away.

“You don’t know.”

That wasn’t it. But he really wasn’t going to discuss this with a man he only knew on a professional level like Lambert.

“Well, I won’t rule anything out but if Newt is faking he’s doing a damn good job of it so I’m going to need to get him checked out by medical.”

“No, I quite understand,” Hermann said.

He returned to work as the medical staff came in to evaluate Newton’s condition.

When he returned a few hours later, Newton was twisting his head around.

“You know you’re not going to successfully turn your head all the way around and if you try hard enough you’re just going to hurt yourself,” Hermann told him.

“I really don’t know what you mean,” Newton said, twisting his head a few more times before seeming to give up. “Apparently my medical scans didn’t show anything but we just don’t know enough about the precursors to be sure so I’m probably still possessed so I’m just going to chill in here for a little while longer.”

“Newton, are you pretending to be possessed because you’re mad I won’t date you?”

Newton laughed. “Wow, you came right out and said it!”

Hermann gave him a look.

“I would never pretend to be possessed,” Newton claimed. “Though if I did, that would probably be exactly why.”

“I don’t have to date you, Newton.”

“But you want to date me,” Newton countered.

There was little point in denying that even if at the moment Hermann could not, for the life of him, understand why.

“I don’t have to.”

“May the universe save me from stupid self-saboteurs who won’t let themselves be happy,” Newton muttered.

“I’m sorry, which one of us decided it would be way too embarrassing to just admit he liked his lab partner and instead left the country?” Hermann demanded. “To work for someone who had previously attempted to file a restraining order against you because you wouldn’t stop protesting her corporation and who you routinely called a fascist?”

“Okay, first of all, the judge ruled there was no grounds for that restraining order,” Newton said. “Secondly, I thought we agreed to pretend the precursors made me do that?”

“No, you agreed. You can’t just say something and that means I agreed,” Hermann said.

Newton stuck out his tongue. “So there.”

“A child wants to date me,” Hermann said, staring at the ceiling. “I hope he realizes there are no reasonable countries where I could legally date him.”

Newton rolled his eyes. “And anyway, I totally learned from what happened last time! That’s why I was very direct and clear and asked you to date me.”

“I’m not going to be held hostage, Newton.”

“Who is holding you hostage?” Newton asked rhetorically. “You don’t have to do anything.”

“I know I don’t but you’re going to refuse to admit you’re not possessed and leave here until I do date you.”

Newton shrugged. “That is the plan but who knows how that will work out? They might realize something and make me leave or you could just take forever to say yes and I’ll lose that battle of wills. Besides, it really is my problem if I want to be a little dramatic about this.”

“It’s not just your business!” Hermann exclaimed. “There are good, hardworking people who think you may still be out to kill us all!”

“I mean, they’ve got me on pretty tight lockdown,” Newton said. “They know they’ll be fine. Maybe I’m wasting resources and time and money but, like, since when has that ever bothered me? And how sure am I really?”

“I hate you so much right now,” Hermann told him, turning to leave the room.

“I want dinner, a movie, and then a scenic walk on our first date!”

Hermann knew that by now he really should have lost the ability to be surprised by the lengths Newton would go to prove a point. Even after all this time apart. Newton couldn’t even end a friendship without going overboard.

But did everyone else really have to buy into it quite so thoroughly?

Apparently Newton was flinching back from religious symbols of all kinds. He was crab-walking. He regularly started seizing. He babbled incoherently (that one wasn’t anything new for Newton but he had been told several local priests had witnessed this and declared he was speaking in tongues). He was speaking languages he supposedly did not normally know how to speak. His voice would get deep and malevolent-sounding. He had wounds appear and disappear. He had even managed to vomit up something green.

He still couldn’t manage to turn his head around all the way.

“Look, mate, I know, I know,” Pentecost said, stopping in front of the door to Newton’s cell. “I don’t exactly believe in this stuff, either. But you have to admit, this is all pretty weird.”

“Yeah, I mean, does belief really have anything to do with it?” Ranger Namani asked rhetorically. “Unless not believing in stuff keeps you safe, what is going on is going on. And we already know Newt was possessed earlier. Why can’t he be possessed now, too?”

“Because now he is doing cheap knock-offs of the Exorcist,” Hermann said. “And science has cleared him.”

“Well, technically, we don’t really know,” Pentecost said. “We thought it cleared him but then all this is going on.”

“And, honestly, say you’re right and he is faking all of this,” Namani said. “Clearly the guy’s got some issues and maybe it’s better he stay put while he deals with them?”

“You two are my prime suspects in who is helping him with some of his props,” Hermann informed them.

Pentecost and Namani exchanged a look.

“Yeah, that’s fair,” Namani said.

“We obviously didn’t have anything to do with anything,” Pentecost said. “But we make sense as suspects.”

“So kind of you to agree,” Hermann said archly. He glanced through the window. Newton was scribbling furiously in his journal. Judging by the impressions he had been getting from the Ghost Drift, Newton was writing Captain America fanfiction.

Hermann knocked, if only to be polite, and quickly walked in.

Newton glanced up, set his journal and pen down, and rose to his feet.

He smirked and it was amazing how fast his eyes could go dead. This man could be an actor, he really could. “Hermann! We were wondering when we would see you again!”

“I come every day, Newton. Usually around the same time, it really works with my schedule.”

“Hi, evil Newt!” Namani greeted brightly.

“Amara, I thought we talked about this. He’s possessed, not evil,” Pentecost told her.

“He’s really not either,” Hermann said. “Though he is ridiculous.”

“Your face is ridiculous,” Newton told him.

“I mean, yeah, but we really don’t have a name for the evil alien hivemind and I don’t want to keep calling them the precursors because that is just too much of a mouthful,” Namani said. “And so is possessed Newt. Evil Newt gets the message across and he knows what I mean. Especially since I am explaining it now. And I have to differentiate from regular Newt because regular Newt, who I have never met, seems like he’s pretty awesome.”

“He is a rock star,” Pentecost agreed. “Or so I assume. That’s what Mako says at any rate. Which reminds me, mate, I know you’re possessed and all so this isn’t your fault but my sister says you have got to stop texting her you’re jealous of her eye patch. I mean, she’s still on board for helping you take out an eye if that’s what you really want but the loss of an eye jealousy is getting a little weird.”

“Texting?” Hermann repeated. “Why does Newton have access to a cell phone?”

“Why wouldn’t he?” Namani asked. “He’s only a little possessed and we’re monitoring what he’s doing with it. Depriving him of his phone is like an eighth amendment violation and he is kind of American.”

“I mean, I want to but I feel like it would impact my work too much. The fact she would still help me after everything…Mako is such a good friend,” Newton said, tearing up a bit.

“Did you forget you were supposed to be possessed?” Hermann asked, unimpressed.

“…To the human Newt.”

“Newton, you know they want to bring in an priest and do a proper exorcism, right?” Hermann asked. “And while I’m fairly certain modern day exorcisms are not the stuff of nightmares that sometimes led to death that they were in the past, this is really taking it too far.”

“I don’t know what you mean by taking it too far,” Pentecost said. “He’s possessed, we keep trying things, an exorcism is just one more way to try and free his spirit.”

Hermann took a steadying breath. “Because he is not possessed and even if he were it would be by a hostile alien hivemind, not by the devil or a demon.”

Pentecost shrugged. “So it probably won’t work. We can’t know for sure until we try.”

“Plus, like, look at this,” Namani said, taking a cross out of her pocket and taking a step towards Newton.

Newton hissed and drew back.

“You are chewing the scenery something horrible,” Hermann said flatly.

“Maybe he’s no longer possessed by the precursors and is now possessed by like a demon or something?” she suggested. “I mean, I’m not an expert. But maybe getting possessed once makes you vulnerable to getting possessed again? You’d think fighting a possession would take a lot out of you.”

“Newton, it’s been two weeks,” Hermann said, deciding to not even try and deal with the idea that maybe demons had invaded Newton’s mind on top of everything else.

“Puny human, as if your notions of time mean anything to us! We are eternal! We have been here since before the dinosaurs! One time we ate a dinosaur and it was kind of amazing!” Newton said, his voice halfway between its usual possessed tone and the cliché demon voice one saw in film.

“Newton, I know for a fact you would eat a dinosaur if you could. I’ve seen you consume way more kaiju parts than can possibly be healthy for you.”

“That really isn’t saying much, human Hermann, because you believe consuming any kaiju parts is too much.”

“While that is true, I’m fairly certain you ate your own body weight in kaiju specimens over the years. And that was only when I was in the room. God only know what you got up to when I left you alone for five minutes or when you were growing your own.”

“First of all, kaiju really don’t taste that bad,” Newton said. “Secondly, are you saying I’m chubby?”

“Of course I’m not. You always wore way too many too-tight t-shirts and skinny jeans back when we were working together and when you were possessed you wouldn’t shut up about cross-fit.”

“That wasn’t so much the possession as it was the fact that it’s literally impossible to do cross-fit without talking about it all the time,” Newton said. “Trust me, as an evil alien hivemind possessing your future husband, I would know.”

Hermann ignored that. “And there’s no reason you had to consume any kaiju parts.”

“Of course there was! Newt is a biologist.”

“I despair for the state of the discipline if you really think that means you are not only allowed to but supposed to consume your subject.”

“It was all in the name of science,” Newton said.

“Mad science, maybe.”

“Come on, Hermann, you know that’s the best kind.”

“Aren’t you getting bored yet?”

“Irrelevant. Possession has nothing to do with boredom, dude, and you really should have seen how dull Shao’s board meetings could be. They wouldn’t even let me have fidgets because I apparently ‘wouldn’t stop throwing them at people when they were being stupid’. Like it’s my fault everyone was being stupid all the time.”

“Well even if you’re not, I’m getting bored of this.”

“We’re a little insulted that someone who does math for a living has such a low boredom threshold and is not interested in us,” Newton said. “I guess it really is a sign you need him back in your life. But we’re not giving him back because you’re kind of the worst and won’t even date him like a normal person.”

“Newton, what about any of this screams ‘normal’ to you?” Hermann asked.

“Are you possession-shaming me, dude? Because that is not cool.”

“It really isn’t,” Pentecost spoke up.

Hermann glanced over to see him and Namani shaking their heads disappointedly.

“I really expected better of you, Dr. Hermann.”

“Ranger Namani-”

“What? I’m calling you a doctor.”

“She is respecting your title, mate. She’s got you there.”

“You are a horrible influence on them,” Hermann told Newton.

“Nah, they’re just naturally cool,” he replied.

“Can you two at least pretend that you’re taking this seriously?” Hermann asked.

“Taking what from your point of view is Newt pretending to be possessed seriously?” Namani asked.

“I don’t know, I think we’re doing a decent job,” Pentecost said.

“You’re right. I should have more faith in us,” Namani said. She held out a hand and Pentecost high-fived it.

“I don’t know, Hermann, I feel like your resolve is wavering more than mine is,” Newton said.

“Are you still pretending to be possessed?”

“I was never pretending to be possessed,” Newton said.

“That’s a yes, then.”

Newton just smiled innocently at him.

“Do you really want to annoy me into dating you?”

“Hermann, I’m going to level with you, I always knew it was going to be a matter of annoying you into dating me.”

“I don’t even know what to say to that.”

“Come on, did you really think it would be any different?” Newton asked.

“The alien hivemind sure is interested in my love life for some reason,” Herman replied.

Newton rolled his eyes. “赫尔曼,你真的认为我想这样做吗?你真的认为我经历过,就像谁知道有多少年 - 因为它不是十岁,让我告诉你,每个人都像牛顿一样拥有你十年的时间,就像我从漂移到傀儡一样,真的很难告诉旅程,但比这还少很多!也许六年?但不管怎么说!我的观点是,你认为我是否经历了所有这些,伤害了马可,并扼杀了你,甚至没有让法西斯主义的一半召唤到我想要的那么多,而只是为了仍然在这里严重欺骗拥有?不,当然我不知道。但你是世界上最荒谬和固执的人,我知道你爱我。我知道你想和我约会。只要不要成为法西斯主义者,并且已经说好了”

Hermann stared at him and let out a laugh despite himself. “Newton, you are terrible at that language.”

Newton looked affronted for a second before cracking up as well. “Dude, I know, right? But you got the gist of it.”

“Well I understood you were complaining.”

“So yes. Also that wasn’t me that was the precursors. Or rather, that was me. Because I am the precursors.”

“I really cannot take any more of this nonsense today,” Hermann informed him.

“Okay. We’ll just be here. Plotting the destruction of the human race and all. See you tomorrow!”

Why was this the man Hermann dreamed about? He really didn’t know but it the last two decades had taught him anything it was that this was just his life and he might as well accept it.

When Hermann called Tendo that night, the man unhelpfully laughed for a solid ten and a half minutes.

“Yes, well, I suppose I can see how from a distance this might be seen as amusing,” Hermann said. “But try living with it.”

“I really don’t think I would be that much help if I were there, brother,” Tendo admitted. “It’s the kind of thing you know you would never be extra enough to do. But Newt…Newt has always been that extra.”

“Rangers Pentecost and Namani feel much the same as you do,” Hermann said. “Some people, such as Ranger Lambert, think there may be something to Newton’s hopefully intentionally bad theatric. These two do not and are being terrible enablers who can barely be bothered to deny it.”

“Man, do I wish I was there,” Tendo said wistfully.

“Tendo!”

“What? I’m not so I can sort of vaguely pretend to be supportive here.”

“Do you think you could try one less degree of separation?” Hermann asked.

“I could but probably not very convincingly.”

“Why did I even call you?” Hermann wondered aloud.

“Your incredible fondness for me, I suppose,” Tendo said. “But listen, seriously Hermann, what are you going to do here?”

“I’m not sure there is anything to do. Newton is behaving like a child and enabling him will not help. Ignoring him will not help. Nothing will help. And I do not have the heart to stay away from him now that he is back to himself. Even if he won’t admit it. I didn’t have the heart back when he truly was possessed and saying the most vile things to me.”

“Yes but you told me why he’s doing it.”

“There could never be a good reason for what he’s doing. Perhaps if he were scared they weren’t really gone or feeling ghost effects or not feeling ready to face the outside world – even if virtually no one knows of his involvement – I would find it understandable if not rational. He is throwing a tantrum because I didn’t agree to date him.”

“Yes, well, that’s Newt for you. But he’ll respect your decision. He’ll be the literal most obnoxious person ever about it but he’ll respect it. But you didn’t give him a decision.”

“How could I have? So much has changed.”

“That sounds like an excuse.”

“It’s a very valid concern!” Hermann insisted. “I don’t know when he started to get possessed. He’s not even sure about that. How much of my memories of him over the years are of him and how much aren’t? When we fought was it because I was frustrating him or because the precursors wanted to get rid of me? Who is he now after the trauma? Who am I? Do we even still fit together? How do we know that we still want to be together and aren’t just coasting along on nostalgia and the potential of a decade ago? Are either of us in the proper place for a relationship right now? Newton and I never do anything by halves. If this goes badly…I can’t lose him again, Tendo. I’m stick of losing him.”

Tendo was quiet for a moment. “You’re right, Hermann. Any one of those is cause to proceed with caution, let alone all of them.”

“See? I can’t just-”

“But you didn’t answer the question,” Tendo interrupted. “Everything is a risk. You’re probably never going to be able to parse out exactly who did what between him and the precursors. Maybe for big events. The time you told me he called you in the middle of the night and he was crying too hard for you to understand anything but your name and Alice and ‘sorry’ and you stayed on the phone for hours trying to calm him down? That was probably him. When he texted you the next day saying he wasn’t as young as he used to be and couldn’t hold his liquor and had a fight with Alice but was fine? That was them. But for the rest, does it really matter? None of those individual incidents matter.”

“I suppose so,” Hermann said reluctantly. “It will drive me crazy not to know but I wouldn’t be the only one.”

“Nothing has ever upset Newt more than feeling like he’s not in control of a situation,” Tendo agreed. “You want to know who Newt is now? Find out. Talk to him. Honestly this whole ridiculous scheme sounds just like him but you’ll want to make sure that that isn’t just him trying too hard and putting on a front, trying to be the person he used to be. Who are you? You know the answer to that and Newt will, too, if you just spend time with him. I honestly can’t imagine the two of you not fitting together. And I know that’s what you thought back then and then things fell apart but that wasn’t you and him. That was you, him, and the assholes who want to kill us all. I won’t lie to you, there’s going to be a lot of ‘but you used to’ and guilty ‘I wish you still’ but that’s the cost of doing business. It’ll be hard but you just have to focus on the here and now. Maybe some of it is nostalgia but you have history and it’s absurd to expect you to ignore it.”

“You’re right. I know you’re right,” Hermann said. “I just know that I’ll step in it. Maybe he will, too – actually, knowing Newton, I know that he will – but he’s so much more vulnerable than I am right now. I asked him what happened to his glasses and he got upset because he loved those glasses but the precursors surgically fixed his eyes against his will. But there’s no way to avoid it. Obvious minefields, yes, but even the smallest things have the potential to be linked to something devastating. And I’ve had my share of misery without Newton, too, which I definitely can’t talk about with him without making him feel guilty even though none of this was his fault.”

“No one said this would be easy. And maybe you two have never known how to be careful around each other and if you get too careful you’ll just freak each other out but you know each other. You drifted together. You know each other. A lot has changed since then but not the core of who you two are. Should Newt really be dating five minutes after being freed? Probably not but it’s not up to me and it’s not like he’s starting a new relationship. He would just be adding a new dimension to the strongest and most stable relationship he has. You’ll have to decide if you think it’s worth it. I know he left last time when confronted with Feelings but I’d like to think he’s grown since then and if attempted murder and the near end of the world and hivemind possession can’t keep you two apart I don’t think anything will forever. If you try this it will make you happy. Maybe forever, maybe not, but you can’t plan for an end before something even starts.”

Hermann groaned, finding he couldn’t argue with any of what Tendo was saying. “When did you get so wise?”

“Probably sometime in the more than a decade I’ve been married,” Tendo said, laughing.

“I never told him no,” Hermann said. “I just said I wasn’t sure. Then he went completely crazy.”

“Well you’re going to have to tell him something. ‘Ask again later’ will only buy you so much time.”

“I know exactly what I want to tell him,” Hermann said, surprising himself. “I just wish I didn’t have to watch him throw himself around the room and speak like Batman while I do it.”

“Then you really shouldn’t have fallen in love with Newton Geiszler,” Tendo said bluntly.

Hermann laughed. “I tell myself that every day. But I wouldn’t change it. Not any of it.”

They spoke for a little longer then Hermann found himself drifting off much easier than he would have expected. Perhaps it helped to have finally made a decision.

Hermann’s first impulse the next day was to go find Newton and speak with him but he forced himself to go to the lab instead. He lasted about an hour accomplishing very little before he realized he was just wasting time trying to force himself when he was clearly incapable of focusing just then.

He went to Newton instead.

Newton was playing the guitar he somehow had gotten his hands on and singing ‘One Week.’ He was a talented guitar player and while his singing wasn’t what Hermann would call ‘good’ by any stretch of the imagination there was something so endearing about watching Newton pour his soul into something he so clearly loved. He hadn’t seen Newton smile that wide since he didn’t even know when.

Hermann found himself standing there, entranced, until Newton finished his song and glanced up and saw him. He quickly set down his guitar.

“I-Hermann! What are you doing here?”

“If my presence is unwelcome, I can leave,” Hermann offered, knowing Newton would never take him up on that. It had taken all of two days of being in PPDC custody before Newton started to perk up when Hermann entered the room and lose interest when he left, no matter how many times the precursors shouted at him to leave.

Sure enough, Newton narrowed his eyes. “Don’t you dare.”

“I want you to know that you’re the most ridiculous disaster man I’ve ever me and I’m seriously concerned that you lack the ability to make good decisions,” Hermann informed him.

Newton choked. “Well good morning to you, too!”

“This whole pretending to be possessed thing is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen in my life and I have not only shared a lab with you for years but lived through monsters from another world going from hard science fiction to a dreary reality.”

“Rude.”

“I’ve spent the last two weeks going slowly crazy because of your antics,” Hermann said.

“Yeah, I noticed, but I just really feel you need to increase your tolerance for crazy antics,” Newton said. “I mean, you’re working with Jake and Amara now. Like come on.”

“I realized something, though. As ridiculous as this whole thing has been…the last few years I would have given my right arm to be standing here now dealing with your utter nonsense.”

Newton stilled. “Really?”

Hermann smiled. “Yes, Newton. I never would have suspected it but my life is so dreadfully dull without the chaos that you bring to it.”

“Well,” Newton stopped. Swallowed. “I can safely say that I have never been called boring. Not once. Not ever.”

“Well of course not? Who could possibly say such a thing with a straight face?”

“I, uh, I’m kind of getting mixed messages here. You did call me a disaster who can’t make good decisions but now you’re kind of smiling and acting like you like that?”

“I know you may take issue with the first part of my statement and I look forward to discussing it with you at length later,” Hermann said. “But I do. I really do like it. Despite the fact I know that that will just give you motivation to act even more ridiculous in the future.”

“Well duh. But don’t give me too much rope. I’ll just end up hanging myself with it or you or someone else. And the first hint you pity me I’m throwing a kaiju at you.”

“An entire kaiju? Where would you even get one-? I really shouldn’t say anything you might regard as a challenge at this point, should I?” Hermann asked.

Newton smiled at him. “You catch on quick.”

“It’s been twenty-two years,” Hermann said dryly. “I hardly think that counts as quick.”

Newton shrugged. “It’s all relative. The oldest a human could be is still nothing compared to the age of the planet. We’re forever young, you see?”

“I’m sure you’ll cling to that when you start going grey.”

“I did, you know, have a lot of fun being possessed,” Newton said suddenly. He stood up and took a step towards Hermann. “Not like real possessed but like hokey possessed. I haven’t had a chance to be immature in a while and I think it really helped people see me as a person who maybe is a bit of a disaster and not the precursor emissary or your tragic Lost Lenore or whatever.”

“Please, Newton, as if I would ever be that maudlin,” Hermann scoffed.

“I know it wasn’t really fair to push you,” Newton said. “But I wasn’t really giving a damn about being fair. I still don’t, really. So I’d apologize but I wouldn’t mean it and I know you hate insincere apologies more than none at all. So…yeah. I’ve spent too long running from this and then being forced away and I am just so done with that. So. I want to date you. But this kind of needs to be a mutual thing. So. Thoughts?”

“This is probably a terrible idea.”

Newton shrugged. “We’ve had worse.”

“Neither one of us has had a real relationship in quite some time. We’re bound to be terribly out of practice.”

“Good thing we’re both fast learners and don’t give a damn about conventionality.”

“If this ends badly, it will likely be cataclysmic.”

“I trust us. I think we would handle it like mature, responsible adults. It’s about time we did, huh?”

“I haven’t said no,” Hermann said quietly, taking a step towards Newton.

Newton smiled at him and took a step closer. “You haven’t said yes.”

Hermann took the final step and looked into Newton’s eyes. He hadn’t quite realized how alive they were until he was forced to stare into the deadened eyes of the precursors for weeks on end. He could spend hours just staring into them and still not be able to say for sure the exact color they were but he would enjoy trying. Maybe later he would.

He leaned in closer and just before his lips brushed against Newton’s he whispered, “Yes.”