Mako lies in her narrow and uncomfortable bunk staring up into the darkness. Even Hong Kong gets cold and tonight is particularly chill, but she doesn't move to put on warmer clothes or get another blanket.
The Shatterdome is never quiet, even at night and she can hear the sound of heavy machinery, of voices calling, or vehicles driving past. She can hear the sound of the boats in the harbour, but she lies there waiting for only one sound.
Finally, she hears his footsteps echoing in the corridor outside her room. They stop in front of her door and she hears the latch turn. The heavy metal door swings open with a noisy creak despite his vain efforts to open the door silently. He steps inside and closes it. She hears him lock the door before he walks over to her bunk.
She waits and listens as he removes his heavy, battered jacket. He tosses it onto a chair. Then he pulls his heavy boots off, his trousers, his shirt so that he's just there in his boxers and his undershirt.
He sits down on the edge of the bed staring down into her face and she wonders what he sees through the darkness. Perhaps the paleness of her face, perhaps the gleam of the whiteness of the tank top she wears to bed.
His fingertips trace along the line of her cheek, lingering on her full mouth and she remains very still, keeping her eyes closed. His hand slides down her body to cup her breast through the thin fabric of her tank top, continuing its leisurely exploration down and when his cool, calloused fingers slip inside her cotton underwear. She bites back a whimper as his fingers slide deep inside of her, stroking and thrusting, applying pressure just so …
She's very wet and hot and his breath quickens as he concentrates on pleasuring her.
"I know you're awake, love," he says with faint amusement colouring his voice even though she know he must be exhausted after a long day.
"I wasn't sure you were coming tonight," she tells him softly, her hips arching up against his touch harder, panting a little as his clever fingers continue to touch and stroke knowingly. He knows exactly what will arouse her and he could bring her to release now if he wanted to do so. Instead, he continues to tease her and tantalise her.
He pushes the blanket aside, sliding the white cotton down her legs, his mouth following suit as his fingers continue their slow and gradual pleasuring of her body. He presses a kiss to the inside of her thigh and she moans as his stubble scrapes against her sensitive skin.
"Easy," as her body stiffens. "We've got the rest of the night," he reminds her.
"You're late," she corrects him.
"You bailed from the last set of meetings with the UN – you know how those guys go on and on and on …"
"There was a matter in the lab that required my immediate attention," she tells him. "Oh god, yes … please…," she whimpers and she can sense him smile. His mouth replaces his fingers and then all rational thought is gone as he tastes and arouses, pushing her right to the edge and over as she convulses around him.
"You're always so noisy," he mutters much later when they're tangled up together, her soft, slender body beneath his, both breathing heavily and covered in perspiration.
"And you swear a lot during sex," she tells him, feeling him still inside her, slick and still pulsing as he continues to pour himself into her. Her mouth is bruised and her throat is sore from crying out loud but her body is aching with pleasure and release.
Mako closes her eyes momentarily, breathing deeply of his familiar scent. She can taste him on her tongue, feel the imprint of his body on every part of hers. The heaviness of his body is warm and comforting, the steady thump of his heart measures the moments.
She knows him in a way that she never got to know Raleigh Becket. Her body tangles and wraps around his in a way her thoughts and memories meshed with Raleigh's during the brief time they were together.
If she had known that Raleigh had intended to sacrifice himself during Operation Pitfall, she would never have allowed it. She would have disabled her escape pod so that she could at least have died with her co-pilot, a man she had started to love.
Instead, when Raleigh Becket saves the world and gives up his life, it is Mako who finds herself floating on the cold, blue sea surrounded by nothing and completely alone in the world.
It is Mako who is left to help rebuild a new world following the destruction caused by the Kaiju and to deal with the almost overwhelming loss of all those she has ever loved.
In the darkness, she turns her head to press a kiss against his throat.
"Where is Max?"
"My room, snoring up a storm," he tells her as he angles his head so that he can kiss her, his mouth tender and loving, his tongue slick and sensual against hers.
"Sleep, Mako," he tells her. "I'm here."
"Don't leave without saying goodbye," she tells him.
"I won't," he promises.
She closes her eyes and allows herself to drift into sleep, knowing that he will keep the monsters away.
At dawn, he untangles himself reluctantly, pulling on his clothes on and crouching beside her bunk. He touches a fingertip to her lower lip. "See you soon," his voice deeper than usual from sleep. She blinks awake sleepily and her mouth curves into a smile. He presses a kiss against her soft mouth and leaves.
"Any updates – Mr Choi? Miss Mori?" Herc asks coolly as he stands in the corner of the meeting room. He doesn't like sitting down for his briefings and tends to stand or walk around the room listening intently. His team are accustomed to this behavior and have learned to accommodate the pacing.
Mako and Tendo exchange glances and both of them choose to rise to their feet. "I have been working with Mr Choi to attempt to improve the strength of the neural handshake and to better identify the factors that will enhance Drift compatibility." Mako stands straight as she speaks, staring directly ahead, her dark blue jumpsuit looking a little large on her slim frame.
"A copy of our findings will be sent to you after this briefing, Marshall Hansen," she tells him, dark eyes meeting steady blue eyes calmly.
"Very good, Miss Mori, Mr Choi," the Marshall says politely.
He moves on to ask questions of Newt and Hermann and Mako and Tendo sit down again and listen intently to the scientists' latest findings, rolling their eyes as the two cloud their findings with their usual bickering. Herc distills the feedback from his meetings with United Nations representatives and identifies any issues that need to be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
Discussion in the room is open and spirited as the Australian encourages the sharing of frank opinions. He is not one to stand on ceremony or obfuscation and problems are identified and address quickly without any finger pointing.
After the briefing, as everyone leaves the room, Mako walks up to Hansen.
"A copy of our report, sir," she tells him, handing him the thick sheaf of papers.
"Some light reading, I see," he remarks with a faint smile on his mouth, his fingertips brushing against hers as he takes the papers from her.
Her pale mouth is still slightly reddened from the night's activities and he can see the redness on the paleness of her throat from where his beard has scraped at the sensitive skin. He wishes he could slowly remove her jumpsuit from her right now, that he could back her against the wall and kiss her. Fuck her against the wall so hard that nothing else in the world exists except them.
From the look in her dark eyes, he knows she feels exactly the same way.
They stand there staring at one another for a long moment. Her dark eyes are still shadowed with loss and sorrow, a loss that is mirrored in his own blue eyes. It is only when he is with Mako that he is able to temporarily forget the piercing grief that is the loss of his only son.
Mako glances around and when there is no one else in the room, she allows her hand to reach out and touch his for the briefest of moments.
"Please let me know if you have any questions about our findings, sir," she tells him formally and leaves the room.
Mako attempts unsuccessfully to muffle her cries in her pillow as she crouches on her hands and knees on the bunk. Herc's hard, strong body is behind her, thrusting into her as his hands touch her swinging breasts and then slide down her body to grip her slender hips, thrusting harder and angling each thrust so that it goes deeper and deeper. Her body is tight around him, milking him and his cries are hoarse and faintly obscene as he empties himself within her, collapsing heavily on top of her as they both lie face down on her narrow bunk.
He licks the saltiness of her bare shoulder and bites lightly. Eventually he pulls out of her and they laugh as they both mutter about the mess and the wet patch but then she is against his bare chest and he is holding her close and whispering her name.
"Sleep, Mako," he tells her, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "No more nightmares," he promises her and she believes him and closes her eyes and sleeps.
"You forgot your coffee, Marshall," Mako tells him as she puts a mug of coffee down before him at the table and sits down across from him in the mess hall. Herc looks down at the coffee. Black, no sugar.
"Thank you, Miss Mori," he tells her with a polite nod, almost as if he hadn't spent the night losing himself in her body and making her scream with pleasure.
Max waddles over to sniff her hand and she pats him affectionately as she starts to eat her lunch. They talk of cadet statistics, of combat outcomes, of neural handshake strength and the imminent preliminary testing that is to take place in the new Mark VI Jaegers. They are joined by others and the conversation continues.
Mako slips her foot out of her shoe and allows her foot to touch his leg lightly, caressingly. He pauses as he speaks, swallowing hard but then continues what he is saying.
When he looks at her later, the expression in his eyes tells her that there will be payback that night. Mako hides her smile.
"Do you ever regret this?" she asks him in the darkness of her room as they lie there, waiting for their breathing to grow calm again.
Herc Hansen's retaliation is always swift, hard and very satisfying for both of them.
"Fuck no," he mutters fervently. "But you know I'm too old for you, Mako. One day, you'll end up with someone who's better for you – a younger, less battered bloke."
"I only want you," she tells him softly, curling up against him and pulling him tight.
The night of Operation Pitfall, he had gone to her room, wanting to check up on her, aware that she had suffered a crippling loss. He had found her there, lost in nightmares and screaming at the top of her lungs. Somehow comfort had turned to sex. Sex had turned to comfort and something a bit more. Whatever it was, it had continued from that night.
Now months later, here they are … breathing ragged as they speak to each other haltingly. Herc's the only person in the world who knows about what she sees in her nightmares. In turn, Mako is the only person who knows how much Herc misses his son – who knows of the constant grief and regret coiled tightly inside of him.
Herc tells her stories of when he first met Stacker Pentecost, of when he knew the Becket brothers, of Raleigh as a young cadet. He tells her of his life growing up in Australia and of what the world was like before the Kaiju.
Like every night, he holds her until she sinks into a dreamless sleep, her slumber watched over by a grim, battle-scarred soldier.
Herc stands at the edge of the mat in the kwoon, arms crossed as he studies the cadets. He assesses them as they fight in pairs, listens to their feedback and he gives suggestions regarding their combat moves. At his side, Mako makes notes on her clipboard, giving him commentary about each cadet and noting his feedback.
The Kwoon fightmasters run them through various kata and demonstrations of various swords and weapons. It is extremely impressive – controlled, graceful and athletic.
It has been a busy morning with the Jaeger Assault Specialists running through the ins and outs of what it takes to bring a Kaiju down using a Jaeger. The specialists ensure that trainees and pilots are prepared for combat with a Kaiju, teaching them offensive and defensive tactics (attack and retreat) that can be utilised in their fighting styles.
"You've done well, Miss Mori," Herc tells her. "There's some real potential here." He is studying the cadets narrowly, aware of the hours that Mako, together with the Psych Analysts, has spent identifying the best possible combinations and the most mentally tough of the cadets.
"Thank you, sir," she tells him with a respectful bow and walks across to Tendo to hand him her notes from the session.
She stands and watches as Herc speaks to each of the cadets, guiding and advising. He is an accessible leader, down to earth.
She watches as he raises a hand to rub it across his chin consideringly. She knows how the roughness of that stubble feels on her hand … and on other parts of her body. The sunlight makes his hair gleam a dark red and as if sensing her gaze, he turns his head slightly and his blue eyes meet hers in a silent communication.
Water is everywhere and Mako is drowning. Raleigh's hand reaches for hers and she watches him slip away through the deep water to disappear into a scorching burst of flame. She is screaming.
"Wake up, Mako!"
She wakes up but she is still screaming and her eyes are wide and terrified above Herc's hand where he is trying to silence her cries.
Her face is drenched with tears and her throat is hoarse from the screaming.
"I'm sorry I took so long to get here …" he whispers, brushing the tears away from her face with his thumbs and holding her hard against his body. "Had a long video conference with London – went for hours … only just got away now. I got here as soon as I could."
"It's not your fault," she whispers, her breath coming in sobs as she buries her head in his chest and tells him about the nightmare.
"Chuck, Stacker and Raleigh chose to sacrifice themselves … there was nothing we could have done," Herc tells her, all the pain in the world in his voice as he presses a kiss to the top of her head and his arms tighten around her.
"It still hurts so much," she whispers.
"I know … I know."
She pushes him onto his back, pulling off his shoes, unbuckling his trousers.
"Mako, no, we don't have to –"
"I want to," she tells him in a low voice as she pulls his trousers down, yanks his boxers down, freeing him and he groans as she takes him into her hands. His fingers tangle into her hair as she takes him into her mouth.
When she moves up to straddle him and sink down on top of him slowly and deliberately, his hands grip her bare hips for a moment before reaching up to touch her breasts which are thrust out as she arches, moving up and down, back and forward so that the full, hard length of him is buried inside of her.
His hands return to her hips and he thrusts hard and powerfully, watching the way each thrust ripples through her slender body, watching the way her face contorts and her eyes close in pleasure.
When it's done, she collapses bonelessly on top of him and he kisses her cheek as she falls asleep and he watches over her, keeping the nightmares away.
The first time she laughs again, it's like a fist to the gut.
They're sparring in the kwoon as they have done many times before but she has swept his feet out from under him and he falls to the ground, swearing loudly.
The laugh that comes out of her mouth is unexpected and makes him stare. He has not associated laughter with Mako Mori and he finds himself mesmerised by the sound. As she reaches down to pull him to his feet, he realises that she is starting to heal.
"Cheeky little bugger," he tells her as they circle again, his smile wolfish and ready. He doesn't let her take him down again and the fighting is hard and intense. Both are exhausted and satisfied once it's done and it's really just a taste of what's to come later that night.
"You know, you should be one of the people trying out for a spot in the new Mark Sixes," he tells her as they head towards the showers to cool down.
In the showers, only a low wall divides them and if Herc steps closer, he would be able to look down and see Mako's naked body. He resists the urge and stands still, the water sluicing down his own body. He is not a patient man, but he can wait until he has him to herself, when there is no need to hold back or pretend.
"There's only one person I want as my co-pilot, sir," she tells him calmly. "If not him, then I'm happy to never pilot a Jaeger again."
She wakes up from her sleep, blinking drowsily and notices that he's still awake, watching over her.
"You should sleep," she tells him, smiling up at him and then she falls asleep again, feeling safe and secure.
He closes his eyes and whispers all the things he can't tell her when they're awake.
On Chuck Hansen's birthday, she knows where Herc will be. She walks to the crowded cemetery in Hong Kong overlooking the harbour that is reserved for the heroes of the Kaiju War. Herc is sitting on the thick green grass, Max at his side, staring at the tombstone above an empty grave.
He is dry-eyed and silent and when she comes to sit down beside him on the grass, he puts his arm around her slim shoulders and starts to tell her stories of when Chuck was a child, of the day Charles decides to call himself Chuck, pissing off his old man who can't stand the bloody Yanks.
As Mako laughs at his stories and prompts him for more, it occurs to Herc that perhaps he's finally healing as well.
By the time Herc's birthday rolls around in November, the Second Jaeger programme is well and truly up and running and the Mark Sixes are being tested by Rangers in the field.
The world remains on alert, ready for any sign of the Kaiju returning and Marshall Hercules Hansen has found himself one of the most powerful men in the planet without ever having had any aspirations to such power.
On the night of his birthday, he returns to his room to quickly change clothes before going to Mako's room and finds Mako Mori waiting for him in his bunk – soft, welcoming and completely naked.
An hour later, he collapses on top of her heavily, muttering,"Best fucking birthday present ever."
He has to take that back, though, when she gives him a vintage wristwatch from World War II with his name engraved on it.
"Do you like it?" she asks him hesitantly, her dark eyes huge and apprehensive.
"I love it," he tells her, admiring the look of the watch on his strong wrist.
"I love you," she tells him softly and before he can respond, she is pushing him onto his back onto the bed. "Tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu"," she murmurs and the formality of her words is contradicted by the fact that her mouth is sliding further and further down his lean body. He breathes her name as her warm mouth closes around him and he thrusts into her willing softness.
He closes his eyes, pleasure subsuming him and he forgets everything for the moment except Mako.
When the Kaiju attacks India, the early warning system designed by Newton and Gottlieb prevents massive loss of life and the people are evacuated to safety zones with impressive efficiency.
Herc deploys two Jaegers along with research teams to observe every move made by the Kaiju and to retrieve the brain after it is destroyed.
The Jaegers triumph and Hansen heralded as a hero. Mako goes in search of him after the debriefing and finds him standing on top of the ramparts of the Shatterdome, looking out to sea.
As he stands with his hands stuffed into his pockets, frowning slightly as he studies the horizon, Mako longs to smooth the furrows from his brow, to kiss his stern mouth until it is curved in a familiar, sensual smile that only she ever sees.
When he sees her, his expression lightens and he watches as she walks up the stairs towards him, to stand next to him on the wall.
"I've received a request to second you to the Anchorage Shatterdome. They are re-commissioning it."
She says nothing, her dark eyes staring out at the water steadily.
"Will you go?" he asks her evenly.
"If those are your orders, then I will go, Marshall," she replies in a low voice.
He says nothing, leaning forward onto the railing, his knuckles whitening in tension as he grips the railing. Mako's hand slides along the railing so that their hands are touching, even as they stand side by side, looking out into the distance.
"It is a tough one," he admits. "You are needed here. Tendo needs you, those bastards Newt and Hermann would tear each other to shreds if you weren't here to keep the peace …"
"And you, sir – do you need me?" she asks him tranquilly.
Herc pauses for a moment before responding. "I'm a commanding officer, Miss Mori – responsible for the ongoing success of the Jaeger Programme. It would be inappropriate for me to be making decisions with my cock, no matter how good it feels when I'm inside your tight cunt - or your even tighter ass."
He's deliberately being crude and cruel, even as he remembers the feel of her against him last night. No woman has ever given herself over to him so completely. Mako denies him nothing and he can no sooner resist her than he can stop breathing.
"I think you should go." His voice is harsh and low and his hands tighten around the railing convulsively. She allows her finger to move slightly, to touch his lightly in the merest suggestion of a caress.
"I don't want to go to Anchorage," she tells him calmly. "My place is here. With you."
"Damnit Mako, you knew this couldn't last …"
"Do you love me?" she asks him, without turning to look at him.
"Fuck," he mutters beneath his breath. "Of course I bloody do." Mako smiles, a small secret smile.
Herc Hansen will never be a man with eloquent and poetic declarations of love. The plain-speaking, unpolished Australian is a steadfast sentinel who keeps the world safe and the monsters at bay.
"Then I'm staying here. With you," she tells him. As she turns to leave, she pauses,"I am sure I can speak with Anchorage by video conference –technology is a wonderful thing, Marshall."
Herc rubs his hand across his stubbled jaw. "Sometimes I wonder who's really in charge here," he tells her ruefully and watches as she returns to the Shatterdome.
That night, it's Mako's turn for revenge – pleasurable, sweaty, sensual vengeance that makes them both collapse in exhaustion.
"And you wanted to send me away, Marshall" Mako murmurs, her teeth sinking lightly into his lower lip.
"I take it back," he says in defeat, staring up at her, the jet black hair framing her pale face as the blue tips swing around her jaw-line. "If the world ends tomorrow, I want to be with you."
She kisses him lingeringly. "Yes, sir," she promises him, the expression in her eyes contradicting the obedience of her words.
She rolls onto her back and closes her eyes as she pulls his hand to cover her flat stomach. "And a father should be with his child."
Herc stiffens and stares down at her, naked shock and disbelief in his eyes. His hand is gentle as it rests on her smooth skin wonderingly. He lowers his head and presses his lips to her abdomen reverently.
"How did you let yourself get bloody preggers?" he demands and she lifts her eyebrows in mild reproof.
"No birth control is one hundred percent," she tells him calmly.
His voice is shaking when he raises her hand to his lips. "I bloody love you, woman," he tells her. "You got that?"
"And we're getting married," he tells her.
"And you're not going anywhere."
"You, too," she tells him calmly.
"Jesus, I'm going to be a dad." Terror, disbelief and joy war on his face and she nods, tears in her eyes as she kisses him.
Later, when he finally falls asleep at her side, there is a smile curving her lips as her fingers tangle in his red hair and she watches over him. For the first time in a long time, there will be no more nightmares.