It all started off innocently enough, which seems contradictory when one considers that it also started off with Hermann in Newt’s bed.
But it really was all innocent, though. After the drift and the closure of the breach and the end of a too-long war, he and Hermann had (platonically) mended some fences, and elected to (platonically!) rent a place together when the PPDC started cutting down operations, and sometimes the side-effects of kaiju drifting meant debilitating nightmares so one of them would, occasionally (platonically!!), end up in bed with the other for comfort. Because, you know. Human contact helps nightmares, and all. Doubly so when it’s your drift partner, the one other person on the fucking planet who really gets what you’re going through. It just… made sense. It was simple science. And, in case he neglected to mention it, totally and completely platonic.
The point is, it had all started last night, where Newt had lurched awake at three in the morning in a sympathetic cold sweat, and not a minute later Hermann had come staggering in, visibly shaking, and he’d climbed into Newt’s bed and curled up close and gradually settled back to sleep. It was practically routine at this point, and Newt thought little of it. (...Well, okay, okay , he thought some things of it, like it’s not fair it’s not fair it’s my fault this had to happen to you, and I wish I could do more I feel so helpless I want to protect you from this , and I can’t get over how fucking clingy-cuddly Hermann is when he gets like this, what the hell. But what he’s getting at is, it wasn’t an unusual set of circumstances, given, well. The way their lives are. Normalcy is relative and all.)
He’d awoken that morning, groggy and irritable, to the continued, loud, grating sound of an alarm — Hermann’s, he realized after a moment, in the other bedroom. Normally Hermann turns it off quickly enough that Newt barely stirs, but, well, the man in question was huddled tight at his side instead of back in his own bed at the time, and didn’t particularly look like he was about to spring awake and go deal with the situation. So instead, the alarm blared on, and grouchy, barely-awake Newt was apparently the only one bothered.
“Hermann,” he’d croaked, and cringed at his own morning breath. (Seriously, did something crawl into his mouth and die while he was asleep? ...or, slightly more likely, did he get distracted and forget to brush his teeth before bed again?) “Hermann, the alarm.”
Hermann hadn’t stirred, only huddling further into Newt’s shoulder. Great. Newt had shifted under him with a huff, enough to work an arm free and give his side a jostle. “Hermann,” again, more insistent, and he’d given a quiet grunt of awareness but otherwise stayed put. “Hermann, come on, I don’t have to be up for another hour, go shut off your stupid alarm so I can go back to sl—”
Finally, Hermann had grumbled incoherently, shoved himself up on one elbow, kissed Newt full on the mouth, and rolled out of bed.
Suffice to say, Newt was very, very much awake after that, long after the alarm was quieted.
What the fuck.
The first ten minutes post-Incident™ are spent pretty much on variations of that thought process: What the fuck?? What the fuck. What the fuck. What the fuck?! A few minutes after that, he moves on to outright denial: he must have imagined it, right? Still been half asleep, had the world’s most realistic, most stupidly sappy Hermann-based dream. It couldn’t have been, you know, legit. Then, after a lot of that, finally, he reaches rationalizing: it definitely wasn’t a dream, he was extremely awake between the alarm and the, uh, the that. And Hermann would never, you know… do the… that. Not willingly, not consciously, not to Newt. So, the most logical possible conclusion is that he was still mostly asleep, with no idea what he was doing (or who he was doing it to), and that’s that. Right?
(There were several interruptions in that thought process for desperate, painful hope, please please let it have been real, but. Well. Newt’s not an idiot. Despite evidence otherwise, he’s not an idiot.)
He gives up pretending to be asleep after about a half-hour, and it takes him another five minutes to work up the nerve to wander out of his room. By then Hermann’s settled in at the kitchen table, reading the paper and eating what looks like a literal bowl of porridge (seriously, is this man a Victorian grandpa, what the hell, how is he only a year older than him). “You’re up early,” he comments with mild surprise, eying Newt with a raised brow and definitely not the utter, hot-faced shame he might have expected given the Incident™.
So. Points towards his “mostly asleep and unaware of what he was doing” theory, then. (Or he just doesn’t regret it , but no no no stop shut up you dumb idiot.)
“Mmh,” is all he can manage to say in reply, then he busies himself with getting a bowl of Lucky Charms. They eat in awkward silence, barely exchanging ten words before Hermann heads out for work and Newt settles in on the couch for daytime TV and definitely not thinking about the Incident ™.
Newt never does bring it up. Hermann doesn’t, either, even after a couple days of Newt being worryingly quiet around him. Gradually, Newt finds himself becoming comfortable with (or at least reluctantly accepting of) the conclusion that it was a thoughtless mistake by a man too sleepy to realize what he was doing. Soon, he assures himself, soon the whole thing will phase into distant memory.
When the next nightmare comes, Newt remembers the last time and the Incident™ and briefly, guiltily, considers pretending he slept through the sympathetic panic, that he hadn’t woken up with a start and felt the tell-tale stuttering heartbeat and twitching fingers. But then his lungs grow tight and he can hear Hermann hyperventilating across the hall, and he kicks himself for even thinking it. So he fumbles for his glasses, makes his way out of his room, and creaks open Hermann’s door without so much as a knock (they never bothered knocking nowadays, not after the first couple times). He hesitates in the doorway, though, just a moment, and that gives him an alarmingly good look at Hermann’s face, pallid and wide-eyed and sweat-drenched, and if that doesn’t just make something funny twist in Newton’s chest.
He’s squeezed his way into Hermann’s bed within seconds, and boy, he will never get used to how readily Hermann makes room for him and latches on close.
He sleeps heavily, pleasantly, once Hermann finally stops trembling and drifts off himself. So sue him; human contact’s a decent sleep aid, and it’s not like he gets a lot of it these days. (The whole kaiju-drift thing had made him a bit of a household name, and not necessarily in a good way, which had impacted his hookup opportunities somewhat. And, well, besides, if he’s being honest, part of him doesn’t feel right inviting one-night-stands over now that he’s living with Hermann.) But the whole thing’s interrupted by Hermann’s stupid annoying god-awful alarm, snapping him out of blissful, dreamless sleep and making him cringe at the early-morning light.
This time, luckily, Hermann seems to have been properly jolted half-awake by the noise. Newt hears him grumble something incoherent and possibly not English, feels him reach over and scrabble for the buttons, trying to turn off the alarm, and—
—and then Newt feels lips, light and chaste, against his forehead, and then Hermann hoists himself unsteadily over Newt’s sleeping body and clack, clacks his way out into the hall.
Well. Okay. Okay. To stop himself from descending into a complete confused meltdown, Newt elects to treat this like an experiment. Because, like, that’s how they work, right? That’s how experiments work. Replicate conditions, replicate results. Can’t truly prove your hypothesis without that. So, this morning’s results: another half-awake Hermann, another kiss. A few different variables, sure — Hermann’s room instead of his, meaning he’d been slightly more awakened by the blaring of the alarm than previous, and of course “forehead kiss” (so gentle and sweet what the fuck what the fuck) was a slightly different vibe than “right on the lips” (right on the lips!!!).
If he were a scientist, he’d say those variables would need to be explored by further repeating the experiment.
...He is a scientist. Fuck.
Before he can think on that particular track much farther and, most likely, spiral into that aforementioned meltdown, his fake-sleeping is rudely interrupted by the sharp jab of a cane into his ribs. “Get up so I can make the bed,” demands Hermann, dressed and still slightly damp from the shower. He’s wearing his usual look of exasperated Newt-based annoyance. He does not look like a man who just realized he kissed his roommate sweetly on the forehead as he woke up.
“Jackass,” Newt grumbles, but he does roll out of bed with slightly less reluctance than usual. He tries not to think about Hermann’s just-washed hair or the shower-warmed pink in his cheeks or the subtle smell of his soap as he walks past him out of the room.
(He fails miserably.)
And so the days and weeks go by, and to Newt’s continued surprise, the Incidents™ continue to pile up. He’s kept on the “just consider it a repeated experiment” interpretation of the situation (because it is absolutely the only thing keeping him from losing his goddamn mind, or worse, talking himself into thinking maybe it’s for real only to be horrendously, painfully crushed), so, much focus has been put on the little changes in variables with each new Incident™.
One night it’s him having the nightmare (too wide, too much for the human mind to comprehend, a million voices all at once, eat your fuckin’ heart out Lovecraft—) and Hermann who makes it across the hall, settling heavy against Newt’s chest until the nerves calm and sleep gradually returns; he gets another sleepy peck on the lips the next morning. Another time that they’re in his room, he decides to resist the urge to complain and pretends to sleep through Hermann’s alarm across the hall; it takes nearly ten minutes of the racket for Hermann to finally relent, nose a kiss to the side of Newt’s neck, and leave to turn the damn thing off. One weekend, when the alarm hasn’t been set and thus is out of the equation entirely, Newt actually wakes up to the feeling of Hermann — who somehow ended up spooning him, and wow, ain’t that just a whole thing in and of itself — pressing his lips gently to the back of Newt’s head; and that really sends him spinning because it wasn’t the alarm what if he was really awake what if this is for real, but then Hermann settles back down with a hum and seems to drift back off to sleep for a solid half-hour more, so Newt has to (reluctantly) return to the conclusion that this is a strictly not-quite-conscious deal.
The real kicker is when it doesn’t even happen as a result of post-nightmare bed sharing. Hermann had been gone all day, juggling lectures and meetings and running back and forth between the Shatterdome and the university. (They’d scooped him up only a couple months after the closure of the Breach, offering a small course load and some research opportunities in-between the continued consulting and coding and monitoring he was doing with the PPDC. Newt, on the other hand, had little to offer once the kaiju threat was no more, and his somewhat controversial public reputation post-kaiju drift meant he wasn’t likely to see the same eager offers from academia as Hermann. Eventually, he’d reluctantly agreed to take a sabbatical under the repeated, annoying encouragement from medical and higher-ups that you really need to take a beak you clearly have PTSD and we know for a fact you haven’t gone to your therapy appointments blah blah bleh blah. So, Hermann worked, and Newt stayed home and did occasional one-off lectures or publicity appearances for the PPDC and generally felt like a nuisance. Hooray!)
...anyway, uh, where was he? Oh, right. Hermann had been out of the apartment working his ass off all day; a lecture here, then a meeting there, and then the PPDC needed him and then back to the university for office hours right after that and then another meeting, and on and on. Newt had started feeling the sympathetic pains via drift bleed by noon — start of a tension headache, a bone-deep pain spreading gradually from hip to knee — and, given a quick text confirmed Hermann didn’t expect to make it home until seven, he was sure to be downright miserable by the day’s end. So, because Newt can be a semi-thoughtful roommate-slash-friend(?? Are they friends?? He’s never sure) on occasion, he’d taken the initiative of tidying up the apartment some and having takeout ordered (from Hermann’s favorite place, no less; he can tell he loves it because it’s the only one he doesn’t openly and vehemently complain about) and old Star Trek episodes on the TV (because of course Hermann likes Star Trek, the big dork) by the time Hermann finally staggers through the door that evening.
Part of him expected Hermann to find a way to be offended (I do not need your pity, Newton) or otherwise brush off the gesture. Instead, Newt sees the tension immediately slip from his posture, and he leans heavily, unexpectedly into him with something mumbled that might’ve been a “Thank you, Newton,” and lets himself be hustled over to the sofa.
Not an hour later, takeout graciously dug into and Star Trek episodes lightheartedly poked fun at, Hermann is asleep against Newt’s side. It’s… not entirely unusual. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s not unusual. Hermann’s done this before, run himself so ragged on too much work and too little sleep (seriously, to think he makes fun of Newt’s dysfunctional lifestyle) that he dozes off over dinner or paperwork or a corny B-movie Newt insisted they put on. All that said, it doesn’t stop Newt from being taken aback every single time, unable to help but tense up at the pressure of Hermann’s entire dumb, bony weight on his person, the slow inhale-exhale as he sleeps. It’s particularly bad this time, because rather than just leaning against him with his head lolled back on the couch, Hermann’s head is resting on Newt’s shoulder, pressed so close that he can feel the man’s stupid haircut brushing his cheeks, warm breath rolling against his bicep.
It is, frankly — to use a term he never thought he’d use to describe Doctor Hermann “Put a Line Down The Middle of Their Lab Like an Angry Child” Gottlieb — adorable.
It is also completely untenable. Not only is Newt’s face hot from the close contact, he can feel the start of pins and needles from sitting with his arm pinned too long, not to mention sympathetic pain in his hip that will surely be agonizing for Hermann come morning if he falls asleep on the couch again. So, with great reluctance, he puts a hand on Hermann’s knee (which, uh. Hmm.) and jostles gently, trying to wake him up. “Hermann. C’mon. Time to go to bed, buddy.”
Hermann, not so much as opening his eyes, makes a kind of low, sleepy, noncommittal hum in the back of his throat, turns his head, and then there’s a kiss pressed to his jaw.
Newt freezes. Hermann’s lips don’t move, and after a few minutes, the gentle, even breath across his neck confirms that the man fell asleep mid-kiss, what the fuck.
This is, frankly, the worst-case scenario. If Newt wakes him up now, he’ll see that he was in the middle of kissing Newton Geiszler, and then he’ll be horrified and disgusted and never speak to Newt again. If he doesn’t wake him up now, Hermann will sleep for who even knows how long and then wake up and see that he was kissing Newton Geiszler and Newt just let him and he’ll be horrified and disgusted and never speak to Newt again. He spends the next ten minutes internally screaming, debating the two terrible options, and trying desperately to just watch whatever episode of Star Trek is currently on-screen (he’s long since lost the plot there) so he can pretend like maybe, somehow, he didn’t notice what was happening with Hermann and Hermann’s mouth.
(God, this is horrible.)
Finally, after what is definitely too long, Newt takes a breath, screws up the last of his courage, silently begs for mercy from the universe, and then rolls his shoulder so Hermann — lips and all — tumbles off and snaps awake. The man bolts upright and blinks, sleepy and uncomprehending and holy shit it is so cute and stupid-looking that Newt has to stifle a laugh. “Hey, morning, sunshine. C’mon, get your ass to bed if you’re gonna doze off like that.”
“I wasn’t dozing off,” Hermann retorts quickly, still blinking around the room like he’s trying to figure out where he is. “I was merely... enraptured by the, ah—“ He gestures vaguely at the TV, clearly stalling to see if whatever Captain Kirk is saying will cotton him onto the plot he’s missed, and then, when it doesn’t, lamely finishes, “this.”
“You’re a worse liar than me,” Newt snorts, earning him one of those Hermann glares that borders on a pout and, uh, that’s, that’s a lot. He deflects the little stutter in his chest by shoving Hermann’s shoulder playfully, insisting, “go on, bed . You and your leg’ll thank me come morning and you know it.”
Hermann rolls his eyes, but grabs his cane from where it was resting beside the couch all the same. “If you’re so eager to get rid of me, then,” he sniffs, and Newt feels his heart drop into his stomach and a litany of no no that’s not what I meant s start to bubble up, until he catches the drift-bleed thread of kidding only kidding floating between them. Phew. Inconvenient as many of the post-drift effects can be, finally being able to get an occasional read on the motivation behind Hermann’s barbs is highly appreciated.
Hermann gathers up the remains of the takeout as he stands, waving off Newt’s protests, and so he resigns himself to Hermann taking over cleanup duty while he lounges on the couch, trying to figure out what is happening in this episode, actually? He’s extremely lost on that front. He’s so wrapped up in trying to follow some convoluted technobabble that he doesn’t see Hermann approach until a hand is clapped on his shoulder, and at the unexpected human contact, his eyes snap up to meet Hermann’s like a dog that just heard someone say treat from across the room.
“Ah,” Hermann starts, swallowing and averting his gaze just ever-slightly, to Newt’s immense confusion. “Thank you again, Newton.” A beat, then, “for dinner,” he adds, as if he just remembered.
“Uh,” Newt eloquently responds, unable to stop thinking about the hand on his shoulder and oh god stop looking at his lips you weirdo. He’s so wrapped up in his own little mini-panic episode that he doesn’t really register just how long Hermann leaves his hand on his shoulder, nor the little squeeze he gives before he lets it go, until Hermann’s already halfway down the hall to his room.
Newt lies awake for a long, long time that night, thoughts muddled and body warm.
They make it a solid week after that without another Incident™ — even a nightmare midway through that doesn’t result in a morning kiss, to Newt’s relief and disappointment in equal parts — but then comes Saturday, and, well. Newt, unexpectedly, finds himself woken up not by Hermann’s alarm (obviously, he doesn’t set it on weekends), nor Hermann jabbing him in the side and demanding he move so he can get up and run to the loo. (The loo, for fuck’s sake, how aggressively British does this man have to be.) No, what wakes him up is a gentle murmur of “Newton” in his ear, a gentle wash of warm breath across his face, and then, just as his eyes have started to flutter open, lips brushing across his cheek.
It’s all Newt can do to freeze up and keep pretending to be asleep.
(He said his name.)
Several minutes pass without Hermann moving — still out like a light, still spooned up tightly against Newt’s back. (Since when did Hermann become so cuddly?? ...probably around the same time that he started, you know, kissing Newt in his sleep, actually. That would make the most sense; unconscious, misdirected affection in both forms.) He’s asleep, he’s absolutely definitely asleep, but he’d kissed Newt again and he said his name, plain as day, what the hell. Newt can feel his heart racing (why would he say his name, is he dreaming, or maybe he was awake maybe this is for real don’t you fucking dare Newt don’t get your hopes up like this), but somehow, by some miracle, he manages to stay still and semi-convincingly fake-asleep until, some ten minutes later, Hermann finally sits up, stretches, and climbs out of bed.
He almost breaks, a second later, when he hears the clack-clack of Hermann’s cane stop, his footsteps reverse back into the room, and then there’s slim hands pulling the bedsheets back up around Newt’s supposedly-sleeping form, tucking him in are you kidding him here.
He doesn’t dare release the breath he’s been holding until he’s heard Hermann’s steps disappear all the way down the hall. Then, and only then, does he exhale, and roll over, staring up at the ceiling and knowing in his heart there’s no way he’s going to fall back asleep now.
Hermann said his name. Why would he say his name?
...his anxious thought-circling must have been so bad this time that even Hermann caught wind of it through the drift bleed, because twenty minutes later the door opens again and Newt jumps, hiding his face and desperately pretending like no, no, just shifting over in his sleep, pay him no mind. “You’re not fooling anyone,” Hermann informs him plainly, not even having the decency to pretend he might actually be asleep. “If you’re going to be awake this early, for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, at least get dressed and come have breakfast like a reasonable human being.”
And then he turns and disappears back down the hall. It takes Newt another five minutes of psyching himself up before he finally sighs, throws the covers back, and relents to getting some degree of dressed.
By the time he’s settled on worn jeans, an old hoodie, and the most comfortable socks he had that were actually clean, Hermann is already fully dressed — slacks and a sweater, like always, but it’s his designated weekend-lounge I-refuse-to-leave-the-house slacks and sweater, and Newt can’t believe he’s gotten to know this dude well enough that he can differentiate that — and standing at the stove attempting to wrangle something-or-other in a frying pan. Which, uh. That is unusual, actually. Hermann knows how to cook exactly three things, and none of them especially well, so either he leaves meals to Newt (who’s only marginally better, but at least is willing to experiment with sauces and spices) or makes do with takeout or something pre-packaged. Newt finds himself standing, hesitantly, just beside the kitchen table instead of sitting down, unsure if he should elbow in to make himself something or just sit and wait for Hermann to be done and also, oh, you know, he’s still kind of definitely freaking out about the latest round of Incident™.
(This is the ninth time Hermann has kissed him in less than three weeks. He’s starting to think that’s maybe, possibly, too many times to let slide without bringing it up. Not that he particularly wants to bring it up.)
(He said his name.)
It takes a moment for Hermann to stop struggling with breakfast — eggs, it looks like; scrambled, though given Hermann’s previous attempts with them, he suspects they weren’t originally intended to be — and glance over his shoulder to notice Newt’s presence. Newt knows he probably ought to say something, even just a simple hey or good morning or you’re really trying eggs again after you set the fire alarm off last time, but his stupid idiot brain keeps looping on Hermann’s breath in his ear and he says absolutely nothing. He must look especially off, because Hermann’s expression tightens with something that looks like actual concern, and after a moment he feels a telltale, metaphysical kind of tug at the base of his skull, Hermann pulling experimentally at their drift link so that he can practically hear the are you quite all right, Newton that goes unspoken between them. He mentally shakes off the inquiry (god he doesn’t want Hermann to see what’s got him worked up) and — with some reluctance, he can’t help but feel — Hermann releases the link and lets him be.
“You’re more than welcome to some of these, should they turn out,” Hermann says nonchalantly, grimacing as he briefly attacks the eggs with a spatula. “And on the subject, we’re probably overdue for some groceries. Would you have time tomorrow so we can both go out and shop?”
There’s a lot Newt could say to that, intends to say to that (like, of course I have time Hermann I’m unemployed with no real prospects for either my career or my personal life, or wait why would we have to go grocery shopping together you usually just nag me until I do it for you, or do you need help you look like you’re about to write those eggs a very sternly worded letter). But somehow, his stupid dumbshit idiot brain gets its wires spectacularly crossed in that moment, so instead he blurts out, “Did you know you keep kissing me when you wake up?”
Any other moment, the sheer speed with which Hermann snaps his head around to meet Newt’s gaze, eyes wide and lips tight, would have been hilarious. Now, it just makes Newt’s stomach drop through the floor, feeling like a block of ice.
There’s a long, horrible moment’s silence, and then, jaw working side to side like it strains him to even say that much, Hermann forces out a choked, “what.”
Now you’ve fuckin’ done it, Newt thinks to himself, and his hands fly up defensively. “Not, not like, you know — it, you were obviously still asleep, like, obviously, I know you wouldn’t— I just, I wasn’t sure if, like, if you’d picked up on it or uh, you know, which, clearly, you didn’t, and it’s not a big deal or anything, I don’t— uh, I mean, it’s not—“
Hermann continues to stare, goggle-eyed, lips moving momentarily as if he’s struggling to say something, anything. Despite his efforts, all he ends up landing on is another, equally forced, “what.”
“It’s not a big deal!!” Newt repeats, and half-consciously he notices he’s shuffled to one side so the table is directly in-between him and Hermann, a slight and makeshift defense. “It, you know, it’s, uhhh. Biological! Like, we’re in the same bed and you’re asleep and I’m sure you’re—“ lonely, he means to say, but he trails off (it seems a bit like he’s projecting, doesn’t it) and Hermann gives him a look, so he has to scramble to recover before this goes any more south than it already has. “The point is I know!! That you, uh. That you’d never, you know! Do that. To me. So, like, it’s cool, it’s cool, I’m good, we’re good. Nothing weird!” And he claps his hands together and smiles tightly, knowing it is, indeed, extremely, immensely weird, and that it being weird is entirely his fault.
Hermann continues to gape. If Newt didn’t know any better, he’d say he looked a little pink. (Or, no, he really does, doesn’t he? ...it must, uh, it must be the heat from the stove.) After several long, agonizing moments, during which he continues to open and close his mouth like a very offended fish, shifts to brace himself against the counter, and very much averts his eyes from Newt’s, he finally, finally manages to choke out, “How long.”
Newt blinks, uncomprehending. His hands have somehow come to clutch at the very top of his stomach in his nervousness, bunching up the worn fabric of his old MIT hoodie. “Huh?”
Hermann fixes him with a glare, which sends his heart plummeting into his gut again, even after it occurs to him that he looks more embarrassed than venomous. “How long have I been—“ he trails off, gesticulating wildly at nothing (a preexisting habit that had only worsened from the drift-influence of Newt’s ADD-and-mania-fueled mess of a brain). He finally stops and covers his mouth with one hand, brow furrowed and cheeks definitely pink, not saying anything more. He gets his point across anyway.
“Uh,” Newt replies, fidgeting. Oh, god. He can’t answer that, he really, really can’t answer that, because the answer to that is way too long to have not said anything. This is a disaster. This is a disaster and Hermann’s going to throw him out into the streets and never talk to him again, he’s sure of it.
“Newton,” Hermann says again, more insistent, turning fully to face him with a look that’s almost manic. (And Newt hates that look, because it reminds him all too well that the instability is fully, entirely, the fault of Hermann being stuck linked to his absolute garbage mess of a brain.) “How. Long.”
Now it’s Newt’s turn to stand there stuttering and slack-jawed, withering under Hermann’s gaze. Finally, before he can regret it (which is a lost cause because he regrets it immediately), he manages to squeak out, “A few weeks?”
Any other time, literally any other time, Newt would have absolutely lost his shit at the visceral, wide-eyed, beet-red reaction Hermann has to that statement. Seriously, you’d think Newt had told him he’d forwarded his nudes to the entire PPDC or something (completely random example, definitely not based on something Newt did to himself in his training days, no sir). “Weeks?!” Hermann repeats, incredulous, voice actually cracking, and it is a goddamn shame Newt’s too horrified at everything that’s happening to properly appreciate these reactions.
“Not like, every day!!” He blurts out, knowing that’s barely reassuring at best. “Not even, like, not even every time we slept togeth— slept in the same bed. Like, it wasn’t weeks of daily fucking morning kisses—“
“Weeks, Newton!!” Hermann emphasizes again, voice just as shrill, more insistent this time. He tries to gesticulate and ends up whacking the forgotten frying pan, nearly upending it from the stovetop, and that provides Newt a brief reprieve from Hermann’s attention as he fumbles with that, cursing intermittently at what smells like a very unsalvageable breakfast. He finally settles for twisting the dial off and throwing the whole pan, burnt eggs and all, into the sink with a clatter that actually makes Newt jump. “Weeks, this was happening, and yet you couldn’t be bothered to give me a single indication that I was—“ he chokes on the words, can’t even bring himself to say it, this is awful, and folds his arms with fingers shoved tightly into his armpits (nervous, protective stance, Newt thinks to himself unexpectedly; perhaps it’s the biologist in him), looking very emphatically anywhere but at him.
“Well, how would you have brought it up?!” Newt squeaks defensively. His hands are continuing to fidget with the fabric of his hoodie, so much so that a distant part of his brain worries he might tear it. “I figured it’d make things worse to tell you and I might as well just shrug it off because it’s not like I— you know, I, it’s not like I don’t know you’re—“
And he trails off abruptly, because, well. He was going to say straight, but then it hit Newt out of nowhere, like a ton of bricks, that he actually… doesn’t really know? He’d assumed, for years, that Hermann was married — it’d been the prevailing rumor around the Shatterdome, and then he’d seen the Christmas card on Hermann’s desk of Vanessa (stupidly beautiful Vanessa, way to go Hermann, what the fuck) holding a little boy and well, he’d thought that was that. But then there’d been the drift, and Hermann asking Newt if he’d consider getting a place together (platonically) instead of, you know, going home to his wife and kid, and then eventually Newt realized that he never wore a ring, ever, and he maybe did a little internet sleuthing and found Vanessa’s Facebook profile that decidedly did not say “married” and also prominently featured several photos of her fondly embracing other beautiful women in a less-than-heterosexual manner. So, long and short of it, that had all thrown the whole Hermann is married in like a hetero way thing into pretty significant question. His knowledge of Hermann’s preferences now started and ended with “not Newt”.
He’s snapped out of his thoughts by the realization that Hermann is looking at him again, expression unreadable. Perplexed, maybe? “That I’m what,” he states suddenly, insistent, and panic settles in Newt’s gut as it becomes clear that he’s managed to back himself into yet another conversational corner. “That I’m what, Newton.”
“I mean,” and fuck his voice is breaking and squeaking like crazy now, stupid anxious Newt and his absolute lack of any presence whatsoever— “I just, I, you know. Uh. You like. Um. Girls? I think?” He preemptively cringes, because how did this happen. How did this happen. Just when he thought this conversation couldn’t get any more awkward, suddenly he’s indirectly asking Hermann about his sexuality. Maybe he’ll get lucky and the Breach will re-open in the next thirty seconds and it’ll be right under his feet and he’ll die instantly.
Hermann, to his credit, is taking the whole scenario rather well, by which he means he hasn’t yet lunged forward to bash Newt’s nose in with his cane. Rather, the maybe-perplexed expression has shifted to outright, very obviously boggled , like he can’t for a moment believe what is coming out of Newt’s mouth (which, to be fair, Newt can’t either. They’re on the same page there). There is a long, very long, utterly agonizing stretch of silence, and finally, dumbfounded, Hermann repeats, “girls.”
“...Maybe?” Newt throws on his best disarming grin, but only succeeds in making Hermann look even more astounded in all the wrong ways.
Another long moment, and then Hermann closes his eyes and inhales — long, slow, the way he does when Newt is in the middle of something especially ill-advised — and makes a valiant (but unsuccessful) attempt to release the clear tension in his shoulders. He takes a couple steps forward towards the table, and Newt instinctively lurches back because oh fuck here comes that cane to the nose, but Hermann merely pulls out a chair and sits heavily down, running a hand back through his hair. (It’s starting to grow out; he’s overdue for a trim. It’s very cute. God, Newt, now is not the time—)
“Newton,” he sighs, forcing the words out, and in the back of his head Newt feels a sudden spike of anxiety. Not his, he realizes, distantly, after a moment; not his, but Hermann’s, and he can’t fathom how that could possibly be true when it’s Newt standing here making an absolute ass of himself. Hermann sits up, meeting Newt’s eyes (anxious anxious anxious hammers at the base of his skull), and takes another heavy breath. “Newton. I am, in fact, very homosexual.”
Newt blinks. It takes a few seconds for the words to land, during which Hermann squirms in his seat and visibly struggles to maintain eye contact.
Hermann is gay? (Of course. Of course he is. What was he ever thinking, what kind of heterosexual has an undercut and regularly, willingly wears sweater vests.)
Finally, finally it clicks, and he shouts “Oh!! ” so loudly that Hermann visibly flinches. Newt’s been set off, though, so he barely notices and all but flings himself into the chair across from him. “Oh, that — I mean, fuck of course, holy shit Hermann, I — wow. Why, why didn’t you say anything?! That’s so cool, and we, I can’t believe this, I could have helped you find a dude all this time, like, it’s not even a thing, you know, I-I’m actually bi—“
“I’m well aware,” Hermann mumbles, red-faced, and Newt at least has the decency to hush up and be a little humbled by that. Yeah, he’s… not exactly shy about his sexuality. There’d been a pride flag on his desk the entire time he worked for the PPDC, and he never really hesitated to talk about his hookups of various genders, and also there was that one time he snuck a guy into the lab to make out and Hermann showed up and yelled at him about how there is classified information in this Shatterdome Newton you cannot use the lab for debauchery. So, uh. Yeah. It would have taken an exceptional lack of observation for Hermann not to notice he was bi by now.
“Right,” he concedes, licking his lips and fidgeting in his chair. “Right. Anyway, uhh, anyway, is, is that what this has all been about, then? Like, come on, I can find you a date, man, you don’t have to get all sexually repressed or whatever—“
Hermann fixes him with a flushed glare, and Newt reverts to his usual nervous grin before averting his gaze. “You,” Hermann starts, and then pauses to huff a breath tightly through his teeth. “You are not registering in the slightest where I’m trying to go with this, are you, Newton.”
“Huh? I… uh. Maybe? I… tell me where you think you’re going with this and I’ll tell you if it’s where I think—“
“Newton,” and he looks outright pained at this point. Newt continues to stare, completely lost — is he that adverse to Newt knowing he’s gay? Maybe help him get back out there and find a date for, uh, probably the first time since he and Newt started working together? — as Hermann releases a heavy breath and digs the heels of his hands into his eyes. (The anxious anxious anxious continues to pound away in Newt’s skull through the drift-link, tinged, now, with something he can’t quite identify.)
He lifts his head and looks back at Newt after a long moment, expression such a mix of muddled emotions (disbelief? Dread? Anxiety? Embarrassment?) that it makes Newt’s head spin a little. “Newton,” Hermann repeats again, terse, forcing the words out. “I. I should hope you know by now that I am— I’m. Fond of you.”
“...Oh,” is all Newt can find it in him to say, because this is. This is not the direction he expected this to go. (Fond of you? Again with the aggressively British grandpa act, who is this man.) He can physically feel his brain looping through all the developments of this morning anew — Hermann kissed him again, Hermann said his name , Newt accidentally told Hermann about the whole series of Incidents™, Hermann is gay, Herman is fond of him — and this is a bad decision because letting his brain cover that much at once means it’s not paying much attention to what his mouth is doing, so what his mouth does is blurt out, “Does that mean we’re friends?”
Now it’s Hermann’s turn to blink sporadically in surprise, muddled expression looping back to its earlier state of boggled. “Are— what.”
“I— I mean—“ And his voice is shaking, oh fuck oh no not now, not here , not in the middle of taking to Hermann (who is gay and fond of him and he’s remembering the half-whispered voice in his ear and don’t don’t don’t). “I just, you know, I. I know I can be super annoying sometimes and I always mess up your stuff and I don’t do the dishes and it’s my fault you have nightmares and— and all that, so like, I don’t. I don’t know. I never know for sure if we’re, like if we’re friends or you just feel obligated to stick around because of the war and the drift and all that, right? But, I, you know, uh. I-it doesn’t really matter if, if you don’t, like—“
Somewhere in his rambling, Hermann had gone from mildly confused to incredulous to pinching the bridge of his nose tightly (and if it wasn’t for his little spiral, Newt probably would have felt the increasing rapid-heartbeat thud thud thud coming over the drift link), and finally cuts him off by outright slamming his hands onto the table. “You’re a bloody idiot,” Hermann practically snarls, and then he grabs Newt by the fabric of his hoodie and yanks him across the table and then he’s kissing him.
Newt comes to that last point a bit late. Several moments late, in fact.
Hermann’s lips are thin and slightly chapped. His face is hot. He still smells a little bit like burnt eggs. His hands are trembling slightly where they clutch Newt’s hoodie. Newt realizes he probably still has morning breath, which, Hermann is now probably intensely aware of that fact. His stubble is scratching at Hermann’s clean-shaven chin, which is probably less than comfortable for him.
Hermann is kissing him? Hermann is kissing him—
Just as that fact is starting to land, Hermann has released him, letting him flop heavily back into his chair, still dumbfounded and slack-jawed and processing. Hermann is absolutely, entirely beet-red, rubbing the back of his neck, good leg shaking rapid-fire (Newt’s nervous tic, Newt’s habits bleeding over into his head). “Well,” he says, and even in his current state Newt doesn’t miss the slight cracking of his voice, nor the unsteady clearing of his throat. “Well. I. I should hope that clear things up for you.”
Newt’s silent for several more seconds. The warm, sleeping whisper of Newton. The I am in fact very homosexual. The fond of you. The Hermann just kissed him? “I,” he starts, and stops, a process that continues for a while longer as his brain skips and stutters like a needle at the end of a record. “...do you not hate me?”
“Newton, good lord,” Hermann gapes. “You have six PhDs. We live together, Newton—”
“You did a— you kissed me!!” He shrieks suddenly, delightedly, the pieces finally clicking together and oh my god that happened that was real life no one was asleep — “Holy shit, do you have a big gay crush on me—?!”
“I hate this, you know. I need you to understand how incredibly difficult you make it to like you.”
“But you do!!” And there’s energy buzzing through him, enough that he springs from his chair without thinking, and between that and the Herman kissed him and the fact that he can feel cry-laughter bubbling up in his chest and pricking at the corner of his eyes, he finds himself flinging his arms tight around the man, perched on the edge of his chair and ignoring the indignant squawk of surprise he makes. “Holy fuck you like me, you don’t hate me you actually like me, all this— the letters and the moving in together and the drift and I thought you were married, but this, you—”
“Newton, please, my hip—”
That’s enough to make him stop crowding into Hermann’s lap, at least, and he drops to his knees beside him instead. Gazing up at his face, he can see he’s still pink-cheeked and there’s a wetness gathered in the corners of his eyes as well (sympathetic or individual, Newt’s too riled up to tell), and after a second it occurs to him that Hermann’s arms are still curled loosely over his shoulders, slim fingers resting between his shoulder blades, and that’s just a whole big feeling in and of itself. “You like me,” he says again, wonderment in the words.
“My God. Yes, Newton, yes, I like you,” Hermann snorts in reply, and this time Newt doesn’t miss the fondness in his tone, fond of you, holy shit. “Certainly took you long enough to realize.”
“How long?” He’s smirking, now, more than eager to turn the tables on Hermann with the opportunity presenting itself.
To his delight, Hermann responds exactly how he hoped he might — blinking in surprise and, somehow, managing to flush even deeper, very deliberately breaking eye contact. “Ah. None— none of your concern,” he responds evasively. Newt crowds insistently into his personal space, not letting him off the hook that easy, until finally Hermann clears his throat and reluctantly adds, “a while.”
“A while,” Newt repeats, barely stifling a giggle. His face is barely inches from the line of Hermann’s jaw, now, and from here he can see the way his lips (his lips that he kissed him with, like for real) quirk subtly upwards.
“Like you’re so much better,” Hermann retorts, shoving him away, though there’s a playfulness to the action Newt never would have expected. “Weeks, Newton. Weeks you apparently sat there silent and uselessly pining while I was—”
“I didn’t want to make it weird!” He squeaks. “Like, come on! You kept half-asleep kissing me and I didn’t think you would actually be into it so — actually, yeah, yeah hold on , how are you making fun of me for this when you were the one—”
He’s shut up quite thoroughly by Hermann kissing him again, soft and sweet and lingering this time in a way that leaves Newton feeling quite boneless. He catches on a touch quicker than before and manages to return it properly, drawing his hands up to clutch Hermann’s shoulders and leaning into the sheer warmth of him. (He’s bony as hell, and his lips are wide and thin, and he definitely still smells like burnt eggs. Everything about this is perfect.)
Hermann’s grimacing when they pull apart, but smiling, either contagiously (Newt’s beaming without restraint and he knows it) or of his own accord. “You’re overdue for a wash,” he comments, brushing back some of Newt’s greasy hair (which, oh). “Perhaps you ought to go take care of that while I—” His gaze flicks momentarily back to the pan in the sink— “...attempt to salvage breakfast.”
“Mmm. Counterpoint,” Newt replies, shifting so he’s settled directly between Hermann’s knees, arms looping around his waist, throwing on his best pseudo-seductive smirk. “I make breakfast because you suck at cooking, and then we eat it on the couch and then we make out.”
Hermann huffs, but somehow, he still looks fond. “ Counter- counterpoint,” he retorts, nudging Newt away with his foot. “You go and shower, and for God’s sake, brush your teeth, and I will order takeaway to be delivered.”
“Uh-huh. And then we make out?”
“Behave,” he says curtly. It’s not a no. Newt bounces to his feet, and manages to slip in one last peck before he darts off to the bathroom to wash.
(That night, Hermann follows him to bed without so much as being asked, curls up against his chest, and kisses him long and slow. They sleep better than they have in months.)