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Newton's Cradle

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It’s different, after they return to the Shatterdome. Hermann won’t lie and say he wasn’t expecting it, wasn’t expecting the jittery way Newt’s new eyes won’t settle and the plates along his spine keep raising like armored hackles. A week ago, these had been the people who ordered his death. Now, he’s headed back into the lions’ den if not entirely voluntarily, then at least with some pretence of it.

Newt’s almost entirely sealed the bond between them. Hermann won’t pretend to know how it works or even pretend he has appropriate words to describe it. All he knows is that Newt feels… distant. Closed-off. And yet Hermann can still feel the edges of his emotions: fear, shame, loathing. It roils in a ball as bright and distant as a star, and if Hermann can feel it he’s amazed Newt can function at all. And yet, function Newt does, head low and steps heavy.

Marshal Hansen greets them in the loading bay. “Welcome back, Doctor Geiszler,” he says, grave but sincere. “I’d like to extend a formal apology on behalf of the PPDC for”—signing your death warrant—“our actions.” A pause, then: “And on a more personal note: welcome back, Newt. I’m glad things worked out this way.”

Newt just huffs, and won’t meet the Marshal’s eyes.

It’s frightening how quickly they fall back into a semblance of normality. There’s some adjustments that need to be made, rearrangements in the lab to account for Newt’s new size. Hermann makes them, even to his own side of the room, without comment or hesitation. He knows how it is to need the world to be shifted in accommodation, knows the frustration when people refuse even the slightest comforts. He arranges things Newt doesn’t, like new bedding, and tries not to go mad in the silence that follows.

Things are so, so silent. Newt can move incredibly quietly, for something so large, and he does so now, slinking around the lab like he’s barely in it. There’s no shortage of work; the new k-virus outbreaks are a mutated strain, resistant to the initial vaccine, and Newt spends the day buried in slides and samples and simulations. Hermann doesn’t understand most of it—biology and medicine are hardly his speciality—or, rather, doesn’t until the day he focuses on the bond and, suddenly, he does. He does because Newt does, and suddenly Hermann can watch that understanding as it flows, chaotic and jumbled and intense and beautiful and—

And there’s a sharp snort from the far side of the lab. Hermann blinks, and looks up. Six iridescent blue eyes stare back at him, round and startled.

Hermann mutters an apology, looks back down and tries to keep his mind to himself.

The truth is, things had been better after the Drift. It’d been easy, too easy, but they’ve known each other for so long, had so much resentment and misunderstanding simmering so hot, that even with the hive mind screaming the Drift had been like a lance. Cutting through neurosis and bravado and doubt and fear, leaving behind trust and connection.

The Ghost-Drift after had been even better, had stopped so many arguments before they’d started. They could both feel it working; Newt would open his mouth to say something awful, Hermann would bristle in preemptive retaliation, and then… nothing. Whatever kernel of irritation that had started chafing washed clean by the calm blue forever of their strange, Drift-built understanding.

Newt had come to his door, that first night, and Hermann? Hermann had opened it without a word. They’d spent every night together, at least until the k-virus had Newt’s flesh sloughing from his bones.

He hasn’t come back since. Not even now. Leaving Hermann, lying cold and alone and lonely in his dorm, trying to remember how to sleep alone.

He sleeps alone. He’s not sure Newt sleeps. Newt is there when Hermann gets in and there when Hermann leaves. Nor does Newt eat, near as Hermann can tell, and Hermann has no idea whether this is because Newt no longer has to, whether he does but never where Hermann sees it, or whether he’s slowly starving himself to death.

Secretly, Hermann suspects it’s the latter.

Newt does not look well. Hermann’s the last person who’d consider himself an authority on kaiju health, but Newt’s eyes are dim and his hide is dull. He sulks, quiet, keeps the lights as dark as he can get away with. He barely leaves the lab, or his room. His mind is almost as closed as before their Drift and he rarely ever uses the bond to speak, even though Hermann knows he’s perfectly capable of articulate conversation. Or, at least, as articulate as conversations with Newt ever get.

Because Newt is back and Hermann has a symbiotic alien slug attached to his brain, and yet Hermann hasn’t felt so alone in decades.

“He’s depressed,” he tells Vanessa, one evening when she calls. She thought Newt was adorable—or “adorkable”, in her exact words—from the first moment she saw him, and she’s always been his advocate wherever Hermann was concerned. Hermann’s not good with people but Vanessa is. If anyone will know what to do with Newt, she will.

“He’s depressed, and I don’t know how to reach him.” It feels like the understatement of the millennia.

Vanessa leans forward, closer to the camera. She’s in bed, wearing very little, and her cleavage is tremendously interesting. Or would be, on any other night. “Well,” she says, “what have you done to try?”

It’s such an innocuous question, but Hermann still feels himself bristle. “I… I haven’t wanted to intrude.” The excuse sounds ridiculous, even to him.

And to Vanessa, judging by her outraged, “Hermann Gottlieb! You obviously do want to ‘intrude’, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation. And I’m sure Newt would want you to, as well.”

Hermann scowls, looks away. “I doubt it. He’s been… distant. He could easily not be. I could be back in Berlin and he could talk like we were in the room together. And yet, he doesn’t.” It’s very… frustrating.

“Honey,” Vanessa says, “he’s been through a lot. He’s the only person on Earth, in fact, who’s been through what he’s been through. And he looks so different, now—”

“Why would he think I care about something like that!” There it is, the bright-sharp kernel of hurt. “He’s still himself, under it all. He never, with me…” Never treated Hermann’s own twisted, crippled body as something less than worthy. “For god’s sake, why would he think so little of me? After everything that’s happened?”

Vanessa just rolls her eyes. “It’s not about you,” she says. “It’s about Newt. And how he suddenly not only looks like one of the monsters the entire world has spent the better part of his adult life trying to eradicate, but how he has to live with the knowledge he could lose his mind and his humanity to them at any moment. If you’ve never given him any indication before you find the kaiju, at minimum, interesting rather than dangerous and horrifying, why on Earth would he think you would feel anything other than revulsion for him now?”

“But I don’t!” Hermann snaps. “And he’d know that if he just bothered to use this goddamn parasite he jammed into me to look!” He knows it’s the wrong thing as soon as he says it, sees the flare of pity on his wife’s face.

“Maybe,” Vanessa says, “he doesn’t want to look because he’s afraid of what he might find if he does.” Vanessa sighs. Reaches out to run her fingers down her monitor’s screen, a poor substitute for the miles between them. “Sweetheart,” she says, “I know you think you aren’t any good at ‘the people thing’”—she makes scornful quote marks in the air as she says it—“but, trust me. The only way you can mess this one up is if you do nothing. I don’t care if you take Newt out for a romantic dinner or spend all day arguing with him in the lab. So long as it’s something to let him know there’s still someone there for him.” She smiles, soft and fond and sad. “Okay?”

Hermann thinks maybe he preferred it back when the only kaiju he had to worry about were three hundred feet tall. At least he could predict those. “Very well,” he says. “I’ll try.”

Vanessa grins. “And tell Newt to return my texts while you’re at it, okay? You’re not the only one who worries.”

The next day, Hermann arrives to K-Lab prepared with an entire list of topics for conversation, from light small-talk to deep discussions to screaming arguments. He made a vow last night to run down said list from top to bottom until he found something, anything, that would stick, and thus bursts into the lab with a, “I spoke with Vanessa last night. She said you’re ignoring her texts. Really, Newton, I—”

It’s a great opening gambit, he thinks. Newt always had a soft spot for Vanessa, so guilting him into some kind of something should be simple.

Simple except for the part where Newt isn’t in the lab.

“Huh,” says Hermann, apparently to no one.

Newt still hasn’t appeared by noon, which is unusual, even back in the days when he would insist on keeping, quote-unquote, “rockstar hours”. (“The world’s just as ending at three a.m. as it is at nine, dude,” being a phrase Hermann has heard too many times, with “many” defined as “any non-zero number of times”.)

Newt’s not in his room, either, or at least not answering when Hermann knocks. It’s lunchtime, so about the only other place Hermann can think to check is the mess. It’s a long shot, but at the very least, he thinks he might be able to find someone who’s seen a twelve foot kaiju on the loose.

“—been in the pool all morning.”

“Ew. Seriously? Is it dead?”

“I don’t think so. They kinda… explode, don’t they? When they die?”

Or, alternately, he could walk past two j-techs, gossiping in the hall.

“Either way, that’s gotta be unsanitary. Those things are toxic, right? Jay was complaining he missed training this morning ‘cause of it. Honestly, I don’t even know why they let it roam on the base. I don’t care who it used to be, it’s weird. All those eyes… the way it looks at—”

The tech startles when Hermann’s cane slams down on the floor.

“Excuse me,” he snaps. The techs have, at the very least, the decency to look ashamed.

Hermann, meanwhile, makes the decision to head back to his room. All of a sudden, he’s in the mood for a swim.

He’s by no stretch of the imagination a strong swimmer. But it’s one of those things he’s been told to do, on and off, by doctors grasping at pain management straws. He hasn’t been for a while, what with the world ending and all, but does have passing familiarity with the Shatterdome’s pool. Or, more accurately, stretch of walled-in private beach. As well as the “beach”, there’s also a proper lap pool, all sea water and concrete walls. And, today, a large grey lump, curled at the bottom of the deepest end.

Newt isn’t dead, and he’s not asleep. Hermann can feel him, barely, as a kind of numb black pit. There are fewer things in the world more pathetic, Hermann thinks, than Doctor Newton “Newt” Geiszler, Ph.D.(s), feeling sorry for himself.

Hermann doesn’t dive, and the water isn’t exactly warm when he slips into it. Still, it’s bearable, and he flounders up and down the length of the pool for half an hour our so. Newt doesn’t move, but Hermann can feel the regard like a sort of tickle in the back of his mind. It shrinks back when he concentrates on it, so he doesn’t. Focuses instead on the way his body moves through the water. Feels the burn in his lungs and in his limbs, a good sort of pain that inches out the agony. When he’s done with swimming he turns over on his back and tries floating for a while, but it was never a skill he quite mastered and he keeps sinking. At one point, his sinking means he kicks Newt, who startles so badly at the contact Hermann sighs and decides it’s time for them to go in. He shakes Newt with his foot, enjoying the oddly textured skin beneath his toes, until he gets a bunch of eyes, blinking at him through the water. Hermann gestures for Newt to come up and, after a moment, he does; rising from the bottom like a helium balloon from the ground, with no apparent effort on his part.

“How on earth do you do that?” Hermann asks, as soon as the structures Hermann is fairly certain are ears rise above the surface.

He gets nothing for a moment, just six slowly blinking eyes. Then:

Swim bladder.”

The voice is very soft, feels like it’s coming from a great distance. But it’s there, and it’s undeniably Newt’s.

“Very convenient. Where can I get one?” He tries floating again, mostly to demonstrate sinking. Or would do, if not for the hand that reaches up to catch him.

It’s just an instant of touch. The smooth, soft skin of a palm nearly bigger than Hermann’s chest, pushing upwards against his back. He can feel the edge of blunt claws, pressing against his side. Not to hurt or threaten, just there. The thought of it, of something so big and powerful touching him so gently, of pushing him up in the water so he doesn’t drown or struggle, sends a jolt of sensation right into his gut.

This is Newton. This is what he is, now. Changed, but still himself, and—

And the claw withdraws, too quickly, Newt’s whole body flinching backwards with it.


“Whatever for?” Hermann says, back to treading water to stay afloat. Then, because truly he knows the answer, he just thinks it ridiculous: “Come on. Help me out and let’s get back to the lab.”

Hermann never, ever asks for help. Not usually, but this is Newt. Newt, whose every eye goes very round. Then he’s gliding through the water, smooth and agile as a crocodile, pulling himself out onto the concrete with barely a splash. This, Hermann thinks, even as he makes his own way to the pool’s edge, was what Newton’s new body was made to do. Amphibious and graceful.

When Hermann gets to the edge, the big claw is back, lowered into the water. Hermann can feel Newt’s hesitation—”oh fuck he’s so fragile what if I crush him oh fuck be careful”—and doesn’t return it as he sits himself in the palm. He’s lifted straight out of the pool and deposited on the ground, smooth and effortless like he weighs nothing which, compared to Newt’s strength now, he supposed he doesn’t. Newt has to stand upright on his hind legs to execute the lift, which means that, for one moment, he’s towering at full height.

For someone they describe as a “small kaiju” Newt is, Hermann thinks, absolutely enormous. Maybe just shy of three meters when standing upright, not counting the tail, and nearly half as broad. His body is sharply triangular, big across the shoulders and slimmer across the hips, his larger set of arms roughly the size of Hermann. Newt’s smaller arms aren’t much bigger than an, admittedly muscular, human’s, folded up against his chest like someone miming a velociraptor.

The skin on those arms, and on Newt’s belly, looks softer than on his back. Softer and paler, more of a greenish-yellow than an ocean grey. There’s a constellation of luminescent blue dots across Newt’s collarbones, and fins—folded back now they’re outside the water—along the edge of his large arms and down the length of his flattened tail. Hermann thinks he can see traces of shimmery iridescence in the membrane. He finds himself wondering, quite suddenly and keenly, what Newt would look like in the water, healthy and glowing and on display. He thinks maybe Vanessa had a point; Hermann’s never really considered the kaiju aesthetically appealing before, but that’s because none of the kaiju were Newt before. Hermann doesn’t really consider humans aesthetically appealing, either, with approximately one—formerly two—exceptions.

Hermann is staring, so Newt knows it. He drops back down to all (some?) fours, broad, diamond-shaped head dipped low, so his eye height is below Hermann’s. There’s an odd flicker across his skin, and Hermann knows—because Newt knows—that it’s a blush.

Hermann uses Newt to help him back to his things. The swim was good but the cold has left his leg cramping, and he knows from experience it’ll feel worse before it gets better (for a relative definition of “better”). Newt’s skin is smooth and textured beneath Hermann’s own, the scutes on his arm raising up into the more prominent armor on his back. He walks slowly to keep up with Hermann, gentle and timid in a way Newton Geiszler never is. Afraid for the first time of the violence in his own flesh.

I can feel your leg.”

Again, the voice is barely a whisper, a soft brush against his mind Hermann would lose if the moment weren’t a quiet one. Just the two of them and an empty pool.

“Ah,” he says. “Apologies.” It hadn’t really occurred to him Newt would feel his pain through their mental bond. “Is…” Hermann hesitates, then decides just to ask. “Is that why you keep it muted? The…” He gestures to his head.

There’s a pause as they reach Hermann’s bag. He pulls out a towel for himself, then one for Newt, too, because he’s nothing if not prepared. Newt seems surprised by the gesture, but takes the towel with one of his small hands. Hermann wonders how he decides which set to use for which task.

No,” Newt tells him, in response to his question. “No, it’s… I don’t mind. About your leg.” It never fails to amuse Hermann, in a dark sort of way, how they refer to his condition in such genteel terms. Your leg, indeed.

“What were you doing in the pool, anyway?”

Another flat sort of silence. Hermann can feel Newt thinking but it’s… slow, somehow. Muted. Not the chaotic emotional riot he’s see before.

I go there every night,” Newt finally admits. “Sea water makes me feel better, I dunno.” This is almost certainly a lie. If anyone on the planet knows why sea water makes Newt “feel better”, it’s Newt. “Besides,” he continues,“it’s not as if I fit into the shower any more. And smelling like dead fish and seaweed is better than ammonia and kill-all-humans.”

“Don’t be ludicrous,” Hermann snaps, before he can stop himself. “You do not smell like ammonia and you don’t smell like… like the other thing, either.” He pauses. It also hadn’t occurred to him Newt might be self-conscious over his smell, of all things; Lord knew the man hadn’t seemed to care one bit as a human. Still. If it’s something that bothers him… “You smell,” Hermann says slowly, “like sauerkraut.” Which, okay, earns him a blink and sharp spike of hurt. Except, “For god’s sake, not in a bad way.”

Dude,” says Newt and, god. Hermann didn’t think he’d ever miss hearing that stupid word but, apparently, he has. “Dude. ‘Not in a bad way’ how? And before you answer, remember not everyone is German.”

“Well, I am,” says Hermann. In German.

Newt replies in kind, and it’s only from the shift that Hermann realizes he’d been “speaking” English before.

No way? Really? Me too! What a coincidence!” A pause, then. “You know I hate sauerkraut, right? Like, quite specifically the smell of it.”

Hermann does know this, now that Newt mentions it, which, goddamnit. Vanessa was wrong, utterly wrong. He absolutely can screw this up. He’s just not good with people. He avoids them for a reason.

“It smells fine,” Hermann’s mouth says, even as his brain is trying desperately to stop. “It smells… crisp. Clean. Grandmother used to make it when we were children.”

Uh-huh. Wow, dude. Was she also efficiently serving beer and Black Forest cake in a dirndl while making you listen to Kraftwerk-Rammstein mashups at the soccer? Because I don’t think this conversation is German enough yet.”

“She worked for an insurance company, if you must know,” says Hermann, totally deadpan.

Newt makes a sound. It’s sort of like a dolphin’s bark, but pitched lower. It’s accompanied by a spike of amusement, and Hermann realizes it must be Newt laughing. He feels the corner of his lip curl upwards, just a little. It’s good to hear Newt laugh again, no matter how short lived.

You know, I sometimes forget you actually have a sense of humor under the prissy librarian shtick you have going on.” They’re walking by now, headed back inside the Shatterdome. Hermann catches a glimpse of Newt in the glass doors or, more accurately, catches the glowing blue slash of Newt’s mouth. He has his jaw open, just a inch or so. A smile, Hermann thinks.

“If you tell anyone,” Hermann says, “I will smother you in your sleep. I have an image to maintain.”

The sour kraut?”

“Indeed.” Maybe more than Newt intends. Hermann’s spent more of his life speaking English than German, and he’s entirely fluent. Except it’s a language he never truly feels comfortable in. It’s too… immediate. Too focused on the action, not enough on the purpose. He finds it almost impossible to communicate humor with; he just doesn’t understand how to be funny in English. And so being—thank you Newton—the “sour kraut” is the easy option. Far better to be thought of as humorless than incompetent in something so basic as humor.

It’s the salt glands.”

“Hm?” Hermann blinks, startled out of his linguistic frustrations.

Salt glands. They extrude excess salt, from the seawater. That, plus the whole being kinda acidic thing… That’s why you think I smell like sauerkraut. I mean, if you asked Mako she’d probably say I smelt like umeboshi, or Tendo would say I smelt like fish sauce.” A pause. “I’m not sure if sauerkraut or fish sauce is worse. At least umeboshi sounds kinda, y’know. Sexy.”

Maybe. If by “sexy” Newt means “dubious sexual act” which, who’s Hermann kidding? He probably does. Even still: “It’s not the worst thing in existence to remind people of their favorite foods,” he says. “Besides, it’s hardly noticeable. Unless someone’s rubbing their face in your armpit, I can’t see how they’d be in a position to comment.” Lord knows Hermann’s encountered plenty of humans with worse personal hygiene. Including, at various points, Newt himself.

You noticed.”

“Yes, well. That’s a bit different, isn’t it?” There’s a flash of memory, Hermann can’t help it. Of huge heavy claws pinning him against concrete. Of Newt, crazed and feral. Of the feeling of something ramming itself up his nostril, of the sort of searing agony that made the pain in his joints look like candles against the sun. Of—

And, just like that, Newt’s gone. Out of Hermann’s head, bond slamming closed, heavy and final. Hermann gets three steps before he realizes Newt isn’t following, has stopped in the middle of the corridor, one big hand gripping against his head.


The eyes that look up at him are dull again. Dull and wary and sad. They only meet Hermann’s for a second, then they look away, and Hermann’s barely competent in human body language, let alone kaiju. Even still, he knows shame when he sees it.

He gets another memory. White walls and the reeking stench of Kaiju Blue. And Newt, blood corroding the tiles, a hole torn in his abdomen and a melting scalpel in his hand, carving out pieces of his own second brain.

Newt’s skin is smooth and textured, all at once, when Hermann runs his hand across the sweeping curve of jaw. Newt closes his eyes, a strange, choked-off keen not-quite escaping from his throat. Hermann feels the bone beneath his fingers shift.

“Newton,” he starts again. Then stops, and has no idea where to go. What’s he supposed to say? I forgive you for trying to take over my brain with alien parasites, because at least it sort of worked out in the end? Because he does, sort of, and it did, sort of, but…


“What’s done is done,” he eventually says. “There’s no going back, only forward.” The arrow of time points only one way. “But…” He hesitates, then: “But you don’t have to go forward alone.”

Newt just closes his eyes, and lets out a low and mournful keen.

“The answer is ‘yes’.”

Hermann stops, still only half-entered into Marshal Hansen’s office. “Excuse me?”

“Yes,” the Marshal repeats, not looking up from his tablet. “The budget you’re about to hand me. For renovations to the lab.”

Right. Yes. That. Herman doesn’t even bother to ask how the Marshal knows about it. Just takes a step forward, tries to re-collect his thoughts. “I’ve put together a proposal,” he says, tight and proper. “There are unused rooms in the lower Shatterdome. They’re larger than the current lab and I believe they would be simple to retrofit with access out into the bay. Given Doctor Geiszler’s new condition, coupled with the invaluable and life-saving work he continues to conduct on the k-vaccine, I—”

The Marshal does look up, then. “Am I not speaking clearly?” he says. “I know people sometimes have trouble with the accent. I already said yes. Ja. Yáuh. Da. Hai. Ne. Sí. Do I need to go on?”

Hermann blinks. “No, sir,” he manages. “Thank you, sir.”

“Good. Leave it on my desk, we’ll get something sorted.”

Hermann does as instructed, feeling oddly… adrift. He’d come in expecting some kind of fight. Come prepared to battle for Newt’s health and comfort. He’s not sure how to deal with being pre-empted.

“Is that all?”

Hermann’s about to say yes, when an idea hits him. “Sir,” he starts. “I need to request some… additional training. For myself and Doctor Geiszler. And yourself, sir.”

The Marshal leans back in his chair, eyes narrowing, interested now. “Oh?”

Hermann explains what he wants. It doesn’t take long. When he’s done, the Marshal says:

“Good idea. I’ll see what I can do.”

“And you’ve been briefed?”

The woman in front of him nods, bright and enthusiastic. She’s young, local. Has a razor-sharp haircut and what Vanessa would describe as “Caravaggio-level contouring”. The Marshal dug her up from god knows where, but she came well-referenced and aced all the psych tests.

Still. “You’ve seen the photos?” Hermann presses. “Miss Tong, I don’t want to deter you, but—”

“With all due respect, Doctor,” Tong says, voice soft and light. “We all want to make the world a little bit better, each in our own ways. This is my way.”

Hermann stares her down a moment longer, but she only returns his regard, placid and open. Eventually, he snorts. “Very well,” he says. “Come with me.”

“Doctor Geiszler, we have a visitor.”

Newt hasn’t spoken much since the day at the pool, has kept the bond mostly closed. But Hermann can still feel his prickle of irritation—and upset—at the formal title.

Dude, what—?” is as far as he gets, before emerging from behind a preserving jar and freezing.

Tong doesn’t even blink. “Doctor Geiszler,” she says, stepping forward. “It’s such an honor to meet you.” She gives a short bow, then extends a hand.

Newt looks at the hand, then at Hermann. “Dude, what’s going on?”

“Miss Tong,” Hermann says, “is from the Hong Kong Association of the Deaf.”

“I’m a qualified instructor and translator in Hong Kong Sign Language,” Tong says, her hands talking along with her mouth. “Doctor Gottlieb informs me you’ve recently lost the ability to communicate verbally with others. Marshal Hansen has hired me to assist with that.” Smooth and easy, like Newt’s just had a particularly bad case of laryngitis, not been forcefully mutated into an alien species.

“We’ll be taking lessons,” Hermann says. “As will the Marshal and all senior Shatterdome staff, plus anyone else who feels the urge to be educationally enriched.”

“I’ve lived in Hong Kong all my life,” Tong adds. “And I’ve always been proud of the PPDC’s work for the defense of our planet. It’s truly a privilege to be able to assist that work, even in this small way.” She smiles a smile that seems too big for her petite face.

Dude. Is she… is she for real?”

“Yes,” says Hermann. “Near as anyone can tell.”

A pause, then Newt extends one of his small hands. “Well. Then… I guess tell her it’s nice to meet her?”

“Doctor Geiszler says it’s lovely to meet you,” says Hermann.

Tong grips Newt’s hand in return, and her smile, if anything, gets bigger.

He isn’t sure what wakes him, not at first. Only that it does so with a strange sort of tugging unease, a deep and churning loneliness that settles hot and heavy in his gut. It’s not an alien feeling, but it’s an old one, and for a moment Hermann is sixteen again, buried under the covers in his old room in his parents’ home. It’s three a.m. after yet another day of half-heard whispers and giggles and averted stares. Of aching desperately for contact—any sort of contact—and not only getting none but knowing he will never be worthy of it, too monstrous, too twisted. Too broken and weird, rutting half-hard against the pillow, into his own hand, better get used to it, it’s the only action you’re going to get, no one out there in the entire fucking universe is going to want to

Hermann’s eyes fly open.

His eyes fly open because he isn’t sixteen and at his parents’. He’s thirty-eight, alone in his dorm at the ‘Dome, and…

And the thoughts he’s feeling—the loneliness, the lust—aren’t his. They’re Newt’s.

Newt, who’s also noticed Hermann’s wakefulness and has mentally fled, slamming the bond shut behind him. Still, Hermann can feel the trickle of shame, of self-loathing. Hermann has a single, sudden clear realization that kaiju can’t cry but Newt would be doing so now if he could. Curled up alone in the dark, frustrated and horny and “oh fuck oh fuck no Hermann please don’t hate me not you too I can’t—”

And there are moments, Hermann thinks, when the world changes. When the hole opens and another universe floods through. He remembers monsters crawling from the ocean and the look in Vanessa’s face when she told him about Lena and the blood pooling behind Newt’s sclera. Funny, he thinks, how none of those breaches had been of his making, for all they’d torn his life in two. Maybe, he thinks, it’s time to do a little tearing of his own.

So he rolls onto his back, and slips his hand between his thighs.

He’s no good at conjuring pictures in his mind. Hermann thinks in numbers, in abstracts, not in visuals. But he can imagine the smooth, textured feel of hide beneath his fingers, the sharp-clean scent of salt and acid. He can think of iridescent eyes and the shift of muscle, the soft scales of a palm as it caresses down his chest. There are a lot of things he doesn’t know, a lot of gaps he can’t fill. But he can imagine it’s a different hand the grips his cock, imagine a heavy bulk curled around him, imagine slow breath against his scalp, imagine the staccato chorus of hearts beneath his ear.

Very softly, very distantly, Herman can hear: “Oh god, oh god, oh god please I—” There’s so much want there, and tiny motes of hope glimmering like eyes in a churning dark of fear.

Hermann thinks of the smell of sauerkraut and he thinks of home. Of being held, of being safe, of being desired. This was always the intoxicating thing about the Drift, about the bond. Hermann’s no good at people, he’s good at numbers, at certainty. And the bond is a kind of certainty, deep and primal and real.

Pleasure builds in his gut. From the stroking of his own hand, yes, but there’s another source too. Dim and alien and not his, but he recognizes it, tries to focus on the feeling. On the slick twisting of his dick around his claw, wet and tangled, glowing in the dark and—

Please. Don’t.”

Fear, and shame, and of all people Hermann knows what it is to hate his own body. He pulls his focus back, onto his own hand and his own rhythm, his own fantasies of strength and bulk and care, Newt’s sensations a strange roil behind his mind.

When he comes, it’s big and messy, a warm typhoon that has his hips jerking in a way that will hurt tomorrow but that, right now, he can endure. He comes right into the sheets, right against his own belly, hand slick and stroking and just as he’s coming down he’s hit again. Not his orgasm this time. It’s Newt’s, strange and alien but undeniable in what it is, and Hermann can’t help the gasp as his body flares, tenses, tries to come a second time, tries to catch up with the rushing in his mind.

He panics, just a little, and so does Newt. They’ve experienced something similar, from the Ghost-Drift, but never this intense, this immediate. Herman gets one clear image of a Newton’s cradle in his mind, balls ricocheting back and forth and he laughs, even as his hips jerk and his balls clench and his body tries to come again.

“Narcissist,” Hermann says, voice choked, before it occurs to him he’s speaking to no one. That the feel of strong claws and smooth scales and pounding hearts is in his head. He’s alone. Alone and sticky in his room, prick twitching and balls aching and he wouldn’t say that was the best orgasm of his life, but it was certainly the strangest. Definitely more intense than Skype.

He’s halfway through cleaning up, wiping himself down with the sheet and throwing it into a corner, when he hears it. Barely a whisper, so quite Hermann’s not even sure it’s intended for him.

I don’t want to be alone.”

It is, he thinks, as good an invitation as any.

He doesn’t bother getting dressed, just pulls on a robe and grabs his cane. Newt’s room isn’t far, and Hermann’s raising his fist to knock on the door less than five minutes later. Newt’s been quite the entire time, withdrawn, emotions a tangled, confusing ball. Hermann isn’t sure what reception he’ll get but he has to try. Newt doesn’t want to be alone? Coincidentally, neither does Hermann.

It’s open.”

The door is. Hermann enters, walking into shadow beyond. He hates stumbling around in the dark, but the lights don’t come on when he presses the switch. Trust Newt to manifest his moodiness as physical damage to PPDC property.

He finds the bedroom with minimal tripping, and is greeted by a constellation of glowing eyes, watching him warily from a corner. The bed in here has been replaced with a large mattress-like structure on the floor. The idea of levering himself down onto the floor doesn’t excite Hermann, but he discards his robe and uses his cane and gets there in the end. Behind him, he hears Newt shift, very slightly.

There are blankets and pillows, arranged in a kind of nest, and Hermann grabs what he’ll need to be comfortable. Then he shifts over, and runs his hands along the dark shape crammed into the corner.

Newt is balled in on himself, tail curled over his snout. Hermann pulls it aside, then starts trying to lift one of the huge outer arms.

Dude, what are you—”

“Lift up,” Hermann commands. Even when not actively resisting, Newt’s roughly the weight of a small car so Hermann has no chance of manhandling him alone. Fortunately, Newt always was eminently biddable in bed if absolutely nowhere else, and so starts to uncurl.

Hermann takes his opportunity, rolling in until he’s spooned against Newt’s chest. He arranges his pillow and his blankets, settles in, sighs as he feels the agony slowly settle in his leg, and prepares to go to sleep.

After a moment, he feels Newt lower his raised arm. Very gingerly, as if afraid the reality of the situation will suddenly occur to Hermann and Hermann will flee from it. Hermann, who is very well aware of what he’s doing, just huffs and reaches behind him, fumbling until his fingers find one of Newt’s smaller hands. He drags it around his own waist, lacing his fingers to hold it in place. Now, maybe, he can finally sleep.

Newt cannot sleep. Hermann knows this because Newt’s mind is an absolute maelstrom of emotions, at the current forefront of which is the terror he’ll roll over and crush Hermann in the night. Hermann, who used to spend many nights asleep curled around his old cat, knows this is ridiculous.

“Go to sleep, Newton,” he says. “It’s very late, I’m very tired, and I have work to do tomorrow.”

Dude, I… I don’t think I can.”

“Well I’m going to go to sleep, so if you must have some kind of existential crisis, I’d appreciate it if you could do so quietly.” He shifts, curling closer despite the bite of his words.

Dude, I… This is weird. Too weird. Even for me.”

“For god’s sake why? It’s not like we’ve never shared a bed before. We used to do it when we didn’t even like one another.” Admittedly, not often. But sometimes, when despair and loneliness caught up past the aggravation, both with sex and without.

I always liked you.” So quietly Hermann almost misses it. Then, louder: “You don’t… You don’t wanna be the guy everyone thinks wants to deep dick a kaiju. Just… trust me. You don’t.”

“People will think that anyway.” They already do, near as Hermann can tell. It’s still better than pity. Hermann is done with pity for a thousand lifetimes. “At least this way,” he adds, “I’m getting something in return.”

What’s that?”

Hermann rolls his eyes in the dark, making sure to put his shoulders into it so Newt can tell. “You, you idiot. I didn’t think I was being subtle, but apparently going five against thinking about you while you peered into my mind wasn’t a sufficiently clear signal. I’ll try and remember for next time.”

Jeeze, dude. You’re such a fucking romantic.”

“Oh, for god’s sake.” Hermann rolls onto his back, now also on edge. He gets the feeling Newt isn’t going to let them sleep until they’ve had this out. Whatever Newt thinks “this” is. “Newton, for both our sanities, just tell me what you want. Don’t make me try and guess. We’ll be here until the sun dies.” Bond or no bond.

Newt extrudes waves of misery. It’s better than numbness, Hermann supposes.

I want… I want for this not to have happened. I want to be myself again.”

“Too bad,” says Hermann. “I want not to have been born an ugly cripple, but it happened, and now we all have to deal with it.”

There’s a flash of anger at Hermann’s words, Newt rearing up until he’s a dark looming shadow against the ceiling, eyes bright and gleaming. “You aren’t ugly! Don’t say shit like that about yourself.”

“Yes, well. You aren’t a monster who deserves to be cut off from all human contact, so I guess that makes us even.”

Newt blinks, eyes going dark in an asynchronous ripple across his face. Then: “Wow. I walked into that one.”

Hermann allows himself a grin, just a little bit. “Yes. Yes, you did.”

Feeling pretty pleased about it too, huh?”

“Oh, yes.”

There’s a moment, then Newt settles back down. This time, it’s his hand that reaches for Hermann’s.

I’m scared,” he confesses. “I can… I can still feel them. Still feel what they want me to do.” A pause, then: “They want me to kill you.” Just in case Hermann was unclear on that the first time. The first decade-and-change worth of times.

“I’d prefer if you didn’t.” It is, perhaps, the only time in this entire abysmal war someone’s ever said as much with any hope of the request being honored.

How can you be so calm, dude?” Newt’s hand grips tighter, just shy of hurting. Hermann sighs and strokes his fingers across cool knuckles.

“What purpose would be served by being otherwise? Things are what they are. You’re still alive and have spared millions, billions, a horrific death.”

Everything’s different now. I’m different now.”

“That’s true of every day. Some admittedly more than others.”

Newt shifts. Closer, his hands daring to ghost across Hermann’s skin. Hermann sighs, rolls over and resettles himself on his side, enjoys the feel of so much bulk and muscle curling around him. Of the dull glow of eyes and the smooth shift of scales.

Now who’s the kaiju groupie?”

“Newton Geiszler I swear to god, if you don’t quiet down and let me sleep I will endure listening to every single one of your awful voice memos just so I can find out how to suffocate you.”

Wow. Cold. Also, fair warning: kaiju can go a really, really long time without breathing. Like, basically forever I think.”

“I’m going to sleep now, Newton.”

Blissful silence, just the dull hum of the air conditioning and the arhythmic huff of Newt’s breath. Hermann drifts, somewhere between too tired and not tired enough, held in place by four arms and watched by the guest inside his mind.

He isn’t sure what time he wakes up again, because Newt’s sabotage of the dorm lights has apparently included turning off the sim windows, too. What Hermann does know, however, is both that Newt is still asleep and there’s something moving across Hermann’s belly. Multiple somethings, in fact.

It’s… not what he was expecting to wake up to. When something thick and firm slides between his thighs and pushes, he tries very hard not to panic.

It feels like his abdomen is wrapped in snakes. Large ones. Logically, Hermann knows this almost certainly isn’t true; Newt has no pets that could’ve escaped, and the ‘Dome is largely impervious to wildlife. Even if it is true, panicking will almost certainly get him bitten in a way lying still will not.

Hermann tries very, very hard to lie still.

It’s difficult, though. Particularly with the not-snakes rubbing like they are. Rubbing where they are, and Hermann is quite hopelessly hard. That, he’s fairly certain, is what woke him up.

Oh, he thinks. Oh fuck.

The thought is loud enough to rouse Newt. Herman feels him startle, the entire world seeming to shift with the motion. There’s one bleary inquiry, then Hermann feels a jolt of pure panic. An instant later, he’s alone on the bed and the entire wall shakes as Newt throws himself back against it.

Oh fuck oh fuck I’m sorry oh fuck I didn’t mean to I swear I—”

“Newton?” Hermann has no idea what’s going on.

It’s desperately dark, but Newt’s his own light source, so Herman lunges for it. He hears one sharp, “No! Stay back!” before something strong and smooth wraps itself around his arm.

The thing is not a hand.

Oh Jesus, oh fuck. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to!”

The thing unwinds. Hermann sees a brief flicker of its shadow in the glow, and then it’s gone.

“Newton.” Hermann is quite proud of how calm his voice sounds. “What was that?”

Nothing!” comes the squeaky lie in response. “Don’t worry about it. It won’t happen again, I swear!”

Okay. So. Not snakes. That, Hermann thinks, is definitely a relief. Not snakes and apparently some part of Newt. Also a relief. Hermann can deal with “some part of Newt”.

Dude. No. Not this time. I really, really don’t think you can.”

Hermann sits up, grunting as his entire lower body protests the move. “Turn on the light,” he says. “I’m not having this conversation in the dark.”

I really, really think you shouldn’t have this conversation at all.”

“For god’s sake stop being a child and turn on the goddamn light!”

A pause, long and stubborn. Newt’s not just afraid, he’s terrified, can feel every tiny three a.m. victory shivering away into the void. Hermann closes his eyes, tries to push through his irritation. It’s not about you, Vanessa had said. Wise woman, Vanessa.

“Newton, please.”

Very slowly, the shadow in front of Hermann shifts. Reaches upwards. There’s the sharp snap of a light switch, then Hermann is wincing against the flood of blue-white LEDs. One of the reading lights, mounted on the wall above where the bed used to be.

“Thank you.” Hermann lets his eyes adjust. Newt is slumped in the corner, sitting on his tail and haunches in a way that doesn’t look particularly comfortable but which leaves his belly exposed. Herman crawls forward, awkward and painful, until he’s sitting at Newt’s side. He runs his hands over soft scales, beyond the end of Newt’s rib cage and onto the vulnerable flesh below. Newt jumps a little at the contact, so Hermann says, “Tell me if you need me to stop.”

God. Dude…” Newt runs one of his big claws down his face.

It’s not a stop, so Hermann keeps going, finds what he’s looking for in the shape of six little slits, three on either side, between the end of Newt’s ribs and the start of his hips. They’re very cleverly disguised, hidden between the scales, and Hermann probably would never have noticed them but for the way they pulse.

It’s like someone pushing a tongue, in and out from between their lips. Barely breaching the surface as anything more than an oddly rounded dome. Hermann runs a hand across one, and Newt lets out a rumbling keen. Then the muscles in his belly flex, and—

“There,” Hermann says. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

Fuck you dude.”

Very slowly, the other five tentacles also unfold.

Hermann studies them, runs his fingers across the one currently wrapped around his hand. They’re just… tentacles. Soft, dry, strong. Sucker-less. He has no idea why Newt got so precious about them.

“Because it’s weird, dude. Fucking 4chan reject hentai weird.”

“Are they sex organs, then?” Hermann gives an experimental lick to the one holding his hand. Is pleased by the way Newt’s toes curl over and his luminescence flashes.

No. I don’t… I don’t think so.”

“They certainly seem sensitive,” Hermann says between licks. He shifts closer, enjoys the feel as two more begin to wind their way around his body.

Yeah. Oh, fuck yeah, when you do that…” Another keening sound. Then: “I theorize they serve as both sense organs and as limbs for non-aggressive socializing.” His mind feels so clipped and strained, one soft lick from cracking open. It hasn’t escaped Hermann that, usually, Newt is the one making him crack. Hermann’s suddenly starting to see the appeal.

“There’s still something you’re not showing me.” He rubs his hand in the space between Newt’s thighs to demonstrate. There’s another slit there; he can see the muscles pulsing and contracting, now Newt is worked up.

Oh, fuck, dude I… I really don’t think you—”

“I’m not an idiot, Newton. I don’t expect you to have a human prick. Just, for god’s sake, if it has spines or teeth give me warning first.”

It doesn’t,” is all Newt manages. And then the muscles beneath Hermann’s fingers peel open, and something long and glowing and oozing is winding up his arm.

It’s another tentacle, because of course it is, though it has more in common with Newt’s tongue than the six others in his abdomen. It’s two, maybe three feet long, Hermann’s fingers just fit around its girth, and it’s wet with slick, iridescent mucus. The tip is sort of rolled and sort of tapered, and Newt starts making some very, very interesting sounds when Hermann begins to stroke it.

“I assume you’ve tested yourself.” The response Hermann gets in return is confused but not particularly articulate, so he elaborates: “I’d like to know beforehand if, for example, you cum acid.”

Oh. Oh, Jesus fuck no. No, it’s fine.” A pause, then: “K-virus. But… but the… the same strain…” The same strain Hermann’s already been infected by. He gets a fragmented memory pushed his way; of Newt alone in the lab at night, Hermann’s cells on one slide, his own cum on another.

Hermann smirks. “You did want to do this.”

Fuck, dude. Of course. I just… I didn’t think you’d want to.” Newt’s toes are clenching in the air, his big claws turned up so they don’t tear his bed. Hermann can feel his pleasure; the emotional release even more than the physical. Newt is so, so happy to be touched. Touched by Hermann. He hasn’t lost everything. Hermann still wants him. There’s hope.

Newt whimpers when Hermann pulls his hand away, his strange, prehensile penis—“Hectocotylus”, Newt supplies, almost in spite of himself—reaching and grasping to regain contact.

Herman kneels, one hand on Newt’s knee, the other on his ribs, and assess his options. There aren’t many, not with his joints being what they are. Eventually, he just decides to ask.


Is… is something wrong?” Laid over a current of, “oh god please don’t let there be anything wrong please no not now please oh”.

“In a sense,” Hermann says. It’s easier just to think of what he wants rather than to verbalize it, and so he does so. Newt jolts like he’s been slapped, eyes huge and bright and blinking.

Dude. Seriously?”

Hermann just makes an approving noise, stretching himself out on his stomach on the bed. He sighs as the weight disperses from his aching leg. Next time, they’ll have to find a more comfortable place to do this.

’Next time’. Oh, fuck. Oh fuck oh fuck.” Newt, giddy and half-mad with joy and lust. Hermann feels the bed dip as Newt moves, big claws positioning themselves just above Hermann’s shoulders, small hands caressing down his back.

Tentacles, winding around his hips.

Newt has four limbs to hold himself and eight limbs to hold Hermann. To lift him gently from the bed, suspended in the air. Hermann sighs, shifts a little, enjoying the feeling of sheer strength around him. There are fingers pinching at his nipple and a tentacle curling between his thighs, stroking it to hardness, even as two of its fellows spread Hermann’s legs.

It’s weird, Hermann won’t pretend it isn’t. It’s weird, but it’s good, too. So much smooth, shifting muscle, holding him helpless and suspended. The soft tug around his prick, the feel of Newt’s own slick alien cock stroking across his entrance. He tries to press back against it, inviting, although it’s hard to move against the limbs that trap him.

Okay, but seriously? You are never, ever allowed to give me shit for being a kaiju groupie ever again.”

Hermann growls. Of course Newt wants to mouth off. “I’m not here for a conversation, Newton,”

No, you’re here to get your rocks off on the thought of getting dicked by a monster, apparently.”

“You are such an obnoxious child. I’m enjoying it because it’s with you.”

There’s a pause, and for a moment Hermann thinks maybe that’s it. He doesn’t mean to always be so awful, to constantly say the wrong thing, but he doesn’t know how else to say what he wants to say. He doesn’t care what Newt looks like; whether he has two arms or four or none or a hundred. Hermann wants to be here, wants to be intimate, with Newt because it’s Newt. For all that he is, indisputably, an obnoxious child, Hermann loves him. Why on Earth would he waste his time otherwise?

Oh,” comes the reply. “Oh. Jeeze, dude.” Then Hermann’s being lifted, until his back is pressed against soft scales. Newt crouches lower on the bed, huddled protectively over Hermann, his tentacles—including the seventh—shifting and stroking slowly. Tenderly.

Then something probes at Hermann’s mouth. He’s opened to allow it entry before he realizes it’s Newt’s tongue, long and twining, stroking against his own. A kaiju kiss.

You… you know I love you… right?” The thought is very soft, the hesitation behind it very strong.

Hermann does know this—he’s known it since the Drift—but can’t say as much, who with his mouth currently being full of alien tongue. Instead, he just sighs, allows his body to go limp and loose in Newt’s strange embrace. Lets his mind think of all the things he loves about Newton Geiszler. Passion, compassion, a kind of tireless and understated bravery. Newt plays the reckless idiot but the truth is he’s as shrewd and as sharp as anyone Hermann’s ever known. Newt is driven by curiosity and wonder, rare commodities in their cynical ruin of a world, and he hides them beneath his fool facade. Newton, who believes everyone is good wants to save them all, all the time, human and kaiju alike. Who would destroy his own body time and again to achieve it. A pacifist caught in an alien war, dreaming desperately of peace.

How could Hermann resist such a bright star?

Oh. Oh, dude. Oh…”

That strange and twining prick pushes in. Hermann sighs, arches back against it. It’s slim at the end and it’s slick, but it still hurts. A good sort of hurt. Hermann moans at the feeling, sucks a little harder at the tongue in his throat.

There’s a sort of opening at the tip of that tongue. It is, Hermann knows from painful experience, where Newt can extrude the brain parasites his particular breed of kaiju were built to inject. Hermann supposes he should be grateful for it, for the imperfect technology that allowed him to keep his lover. The anchor that forms their cozy little hive of two. So he presses his tongue into the divot, gets a low keen from Newt in response.

Newt’s prick, meanwhile, is thrusting. Gentle in-out motions that dive a little deeper every time. Not deep enough, in Hermann’s opinion, and he tries to push back, finds he has nothing to push against. So he begs for it instead, not with his mouth but with his mind. Newt can speak through their bond and Hermann tries the same now, a desperate plea of more more more please more more please.

He feels a spike of pain in response, an instinctive flinching. He’s being too loud, too insistent. He didn’t think he was, but… But Newt’s pushing in, deeper and firmer, so what does it matter?

Hermann lets himself go. Feels the body-hatred recede as he allows himself the experience of pleasure. Of hands stroking his chest, sharp little claws scratching across his nipples. Of five strong tentacles, sliding over his flesh, holding him suspended. One tentacle wrapped, pulsing, around his prick, another stroking the inside of his mouth, one more the inside of his ass. Stretching, filling. Coiling, and Hermann had thought he wouldn’t be able to take three feet of tentacle inside of him but holy god he hadn’t thought of doing it like this. He hadn’t, but Newt certainly has, is working deeper and fuller until Hermann thinks he’s going to burst, until he’s crying out around the brightly glowing flesh that fills his throat.

It’s good. It’s so good. No pain, no control. Just pleasure and freedom. He’s held, and safe, and wanted and—

And the breach opens. Deep within his gut, pulsing through his limbs like earthquake and hurricane. He comes in wet and messy bursts, all across the bed, body shaking, or trying to, still held fast by too many limbs.

Above him, Newt cries out; a deep and inarticulate bellow. Hermann can feel his building pleasure, ricocheting across their bond. Feels the orgasm crest and feels the odd stretch in his body as something is pushed inside it. Feels the fill as said something is deposited deep inside.

He comes a second time, or tries to, and so does Newt; that odd feeling of insertion coming once again. It should be frightening but… but it’s Newt. He said Hermann would be fine and, so help him, but Hermann believes it. Newt would hurt himself but he wouldn’t hurt Hermann. Not like this.

The strange… Hermann doesn’t want to think of it as a laying but that’s what it feels like, so… The strange laying happens a third and final time. Hermann’s cock twitches painfully but he’s well and truly spent, can do nothing but hang, limp and satiated, every nerve in his body buzzing. Above him, he can feel Newt panting heavily, and it dimly occurs to Hermann this is maybe the first time he’s really noticed Newt breathe since his change.

One of his hands finds Newt’s against his chest, and they lace fingers, even as Newt lowers him to the bed. Slightly sideways and to the bed, so he’s not dumped in the wet spot. Newt’s prick is still curled up inside him, the heavy fulness still sitting low in his gut. “Wha’,” Hermann manages. “What…?”

Spermatophores,” comes the answer. “Um. They should dissolve in a bit.”

They are, Hermann can feel them softening, liquefying. It’s… warm. Interesting. Then gross, when Newt withdraws back into himself and hot, glowing kaiju cum gushes out onto the bed.

Hermann just sighs, content and well-fucked, his body heavy and tingling and blissfully free of pain. Orgasms always were the best pain management.

Hey, so, Herms?”

If only Hermann were ever allowed to enjoy the afterglow.

He makes a grunt. Newt has been cleaning them with a (slightly crusty, thus probably pre-used) towel he retrieved from somewhere, but now he stops. Stops, and turns out the light.

Yeah, so… you know those horrible sweater vests you love so much?”

“Really, Newton? Must you?”

Um. Yeah, dude. Yeah I must. ‘Cause, like. Your back? It’s kinda glowing. So… might wanna cover that up.”

Hermann just groans, buries his head under a pillow. His own k-virus infection never got as severe as Newt’s did; Hermann never sloughed flesh or felt the scream of the hive. Newt found the secret of stabilization before Hermann’s infection progressed to that point. But the stabilization isn’t a cure, and it left Hermann a genetic chimera; mostly human, except for where he isn’t.

Which, apparently, includes bioluminescent markings on his back.

I’m sorry, dude.” Newt radiates guilt and misery, a deep aching shame for his failure. That he couldn’t snap his fingers and save the world. Narcissistic idiot.

“It’s hardly your fault.” Except it sort of is, and they both know it. Not the part where Hermann isn’t dead or worse. The part where Hermann would bet money that, whatever Newt did to test himself, he used samples of Hermann’s human cells, not his kaiju interlopers.

Um. Yeah.” Even under his pillow, Hermann can hear the ttcht-ttcht of Newt scratching the scales on the back of his neck. “Sorry? If it makes you feel any better, it looks really pretty? Like constellations.”

That does make Hermann feel somewhat better, though he’d never admit it. He’s been called a lot of things in his day, but “pretty” was never one of them.

Newt hesitates a moment longer, then lays his bulk down on the bed. After a moment, Hermann feels soft fingers trace the bony landscape of his back. “They’re already fading.”

So is Hermann. He knows he should wake, shower, return to his room, return to his lab. The war rages even now, and Hermann has so much to do and not enough time to do it in. Not enough time to snap his fingers and save the world.

Maybe, just for one morning, he can focus on saving one person, instead.

“Pity,” he says, in response to Newt’s comment. “But I suppose, now we know how to bring them back, you can see them again soon.”

The only response he gets is from their bond; a bright bubbling gush of hope and joy and love, and Hermann drifts along it into sleep.