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It's All in the Hands of a Lazy Projector

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Hermann’s first time meeting Newton is not Newton’s first time meeting Hermann. That is to say, this particular instance of Hermann first meeting Newton is not their very first meeting. This makes it an introduction that is lopsided and awkward, and Hermann’s curse really does make these sort of things quite difficult.

However, because of said curse, Hermann doesn’t even realize that it’s lopsided at first, so after Pentecost introduces them his hand is waiting stupidly in the air as Newton refuses to shake it. He takes in the man’s indignant sneer along with his garish tattoos and hastily knotted tie, barely reigning in a sneer himself. “Is there something wrong, Dr. Geiszler?” he spits out, surprising himself with his own hostility.

“‘Dr. Geiszler’? Come on, dude, you can call me Newt, I think we’ve reached that point,” the other man says, rolling his eyes and giving Hermann’s hand a slap that seems strangely mocking. “Is he seriously working here?” Newton says to Pentecost, apparently unaware of how outrageous his own behavior is. “I mean, cool, whatever if he is, his numbers are pretty nifty and all that, but just a warning, we do not work together well.”

At this point, Hermann realizes just how one-sided this introduction is. Ordinarily, Hermann would awkwardly stammer out an apology in this sort of situation, but Newton is so oozing with casual arrogance and history – a negative history, from what Newton has said – that when Pentecost says, “Ah, so you already know each other,” Hermann only stiffly replies, “Actually, he knows me.”

Newton looks between Hermann and Pentecost, seeming to sense that he is out of the loop. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Hermann grimaces. He does not enjoy this part, he truly does not. “For whatever reason, it appears that my…situation never came up in conversation between us,” he says. “I was cursed by a fairy as a child so that I do not remember anyone I meet. Though I may have once known you, I do not recognize you today.” Hermann’s face heats up but he stares at Newton defiantly because he does not care to be ashamed in front of such a peculiar and irritating man.

Newton, on his part, only stares at him while Pentecost excuses himself. Hermann is grateful for one less witness to this humiliation, but at the same time he wishes Pentecost could have asked him to come along, for Hermann doesn’t like Newton. Already there is an unbalance between them that puts Hermann on edge, makes him shift uncomfortably where he stands. Despite their apparent history, this man with the offensive tattoos is still a stranger to Hermann, and it is discomfiting to be on the receiving end of Newton’s disbelieving look.

“Are you done staring yet, Dr. Geiszler?” he snaps, unable to hide his annoyance at being ambushed by this man, at the realization that this would only be the first of many, likely disastrous, first meetings with Newton Geiszler.

Newton finally blinks and then looks away. “Uh, sorry about that, dude. You just never told me about you curse, that’s all, so this is a bit weird. I mean, you probably know this is weird, you do this all the time, but it’s new weird for me, you know? This is way old weird for you.”

Hermann…does not know how to respond to that. People do not talk about Hermann’s curse like Newton apparently does, and Hermann isn’t sure whether he should be offended or not. How on earth did he manage to become acquainted with such an insufferable little man? “When did we first meet, exactly?” Hermann asks, gripping his cane tightly.

“A few years ago, at a K-Science conference in London,” Newton says, clearly still a bit shocked by this whole confusing situation. “And we talked a bit online before then.”

“Ah,” Hermann says, as if that's cleared anything up for him. Luckily he doesn’t have to say anything more, as Newton then practically screeches, “Oh my God, are you still wearing those shoes? I thought I told you to burn those shit-ugly things, you grandpa!”

Hermann winces at the pitch Newton’s voice manages to reach. He is fairly certain that this is not how his first meetings with people usually go. He scowls, a retort leaving his mouth before he can blink: “I’m sure I've said the same thing about your hideous tie, if that scrap of fabric even qualifies for the title.”

They fall into an argument so automatically that it’s a physical reflex, something Hermann can do without thinking despite the fact that he’s only just met this man. Hermann is sure, sure that they’ve done this before, and from the way that they so easily tear each other to shreds with their insults, Hermann can understand why their first meeting was also their last.

When Hermann finally returns to his quarters, he goes straight for the box that he’d left on his desk when he'd first arrived. He skims through the files inside, muttering under his breath. Even if they’d only had one meeting, Newton had indicated that they’d communicated before that: Hermann is sure that he would have made a file for Newton in that case. He eventually finds it buried at the bottom, one of its corners torn and the spine of the folder bent as it struggles to fit around the paper inside. Hermann raises an eyebrow. Why would the man whom he’d just met and spent hours arguing with have a folder that nearly surpassed the size of Hermann’s siblings'?

Hermann reads through their history and finds that when Newton had said that they’d “talked a bit online,” what he’d actually meant was that they’d corresponded for three years. He begins to understand why Newton was so startled by the curse, if he’d truly known Hermann for so long without knowing such an integral part of him.

Hermann frowns. Why wouldn’t he have told Newton? Excerpts from Hermann’s daily journal litter the file, the entries filled with a relationship of intellectual compatibility, confidence, and possibly even admiration. And yet on numerous pages, Hermann had written don’t tell him about the curse. For whatever reason, Hermann had apparently wanted to keep is a secret. Even if Hermann doesn’t know the exact train of logic that had led to that decision, he can’t help but approve now: the man he’d just met is insufferable and intrusive, and Hermann is glad that he’d kept at least that one bit of privacy for himself.

Hermann flips through the rest of the file until he comes to the last entry, which had been written in shaky handwriting and presumably followed their first meeting. Newton Geiszler is an infuriating kaiju groupie. We are no longer in contact.

Well, the infuriating part is certainly still true, even if the latter sentence is now rendered obsolete by the impending apocalypse. Hermann sighs and puts aside the file in favor of his most recent journal. In it he’d already written descriptions of the Marshall and the other scientists he’d be working with so that he could actually remember who his co-workers were in the morning. After jotting down a physical description of Newton, Hermann pauses, unsure of any one sentence that could adequately sum up that great big file. Finally, though the short description does not entirely satisfy him, Hermann settles for writing, Dr. Newton Geiszler is your former correspondent and current co-worker. Apparently you do not like each other.

 

Hermann is more prepared for meeting Newton again the next day, this time having had the opportunity to look through his notes before being accosted with the strength of the other man’s personality. When he walks into the lab, it only takes a glance at the man dissecting a Kaiju lung for Hermann to identify him as Newton, the man he apparently does not like.

“Dr. Geiszler,” he nods as he settles into his work station. When he looks up, it's to see Newton squinting at him suspiciously. “What?” Hermann says, wondering nervously if he somehow has two co-workers with tattoos and skinny ties, and that this particular one is not Newton.

“I thought you said you didn’t remember anybody?” Newton says, more accusation than question, and really more of a yell than a polite inquiry.

“I keep detailed journals,” Hermann says shortly.

Newton has to think about this for a moment, but then his face lights up with a grin. “Oh, so you can, like, read them and remember who you talked to the other day? Damn, that’s actually pretty clever, Hermann,” and though this latter sentence is said a bit more reluctantly than Hermann thinks is entirely appropriate, he cannot help but preen a bit at the praise.

Of course, Newton then ruins it by asking, “So what do your notes about me say?”

Hermann begins to realize why he doesn’t like this man, if asking such intrusive questions about Hermann’s curse is a hobby of his. “None of your business, Dr. Geiszler. It’s a private matter and I’ll thank you to say nothing more on the subject.”

Newton rolls his eyes. “Oh whatever, Hermann. They’re notes about me, that's not private! Eh, doesn’t matter, I can guess them anyway: ‘Dear Diary, I am unworthy of sharing a lab with this intellectually breathtaking, handsome stud of a doctor. I dare say that he charmed me at first sight.’”

Newton looks like he’s more than ready to continue to wax rhapsodic descriptions about himself, good lord, so Hermann quickly interrupts, “You did not charm me. Quite the opposite.” And if he says it a bit more forcefully than he intended to, it's only because his journal’s descriptions of Newton’s appearance had been a bit too complimentary for Hermann’s liking.

Of course, whatever physical assets Newton may possess are completely ruined by him whining, “What? You’re lying to me, dude, I bet it totally says that. What else would you have written?”

“Try, ‘Dr. Geiszler is insufferable and identifiable by his short stature, garish tattoos, and awful sense of fashion.’”

“Uh, no. Just no. I don't even think you have the right to say that, because seriously, Hermann, I’m pretty sure your clothes don’t even come from this century.” Newton blinks rapidly before mockingly widening his eyes in a look of shock. “Oh my God, Hermann. What if that’s part of the curse? Like, you can’t remember what this millennium’s fashion looks like, so you dress like that?”

Hermann's journal entry was entirely and completely wrong: he does not dislike Newton. He loathes him. The yelling starts almost immediately after Newton's comment and Hermann gets a sickening feeling of déjà-vu as they snip at each other. Even after hours of working and arguing, Hermann cannot shake the strange sense of familiarity that coats his and Newton’s interactions. Hermann only met Newton this morning – and he’s only met him twice before that, according to his notes – and yet they scream at each other as if they’ve been doing it for decades.

Hermann is not used to familiarity, or rather, he doesn’t think that he is. It sits warm and light in his chest through every insult and derisive comment. The juxtaposition throws Hermann so off balance that when he finally returns to his quarters, he has no idea what to write in his journal. He is frustrating, is all he jots down in the end, because that much, at least, he knows to be true.

 

Hermann is not surprised when Newton comes into work late without any sort of excuse, nor is he surprised when the other man turns up his irritating, repetitive music to an unsafe – or at least, at a very distracting – decibel. Hermann is not surprised by these things because this morning he woke up to the journal entry Newton is a twat, and thus far, Newton has lived up to that assessment quite well.

“Must you always play your music so loudly?” Hermann complains. A dull pain is forming beneath his temples, perhaps prompted by the din, but very definitely complemented by Hermann’s fruitless struggle to figure out why he’d written that Newton is a twat. Or rather, his struggle to narrow it down to just one reason.

Newton looks at him suspiciously. “How would you even know whether I always play it this loudly? For all you know, this could be a first time offense! You could be falsely accusing me!”

Hermann snorts. “It’s in my notes, Newton. Your atrocious music is such a fundamental constant that I have written it down. This is not the first time you’ve done this, nor is it the first time I’ve complained, so if you don’t mind?” He nods to Newton’s speakers and it’s condescending and smug and probably a bit childish. But Newton apparently brings out such behaviors in him and, if the stuck-out tongue Hermann gets in response is any indicator, loves to indulge in them himself.

However, even once Newton turns the music down to a normal volume, Hermann has trouble focusing. His concentration slips each time his attention snags on the chorus of the song that Newton is playing. Growling in frustration as he realizes he just made a mistake in his calculations, Hermann glares at Newton.

Newton rolls his eyes but turns the music off. Even afterwards, it takes Hermann awhile to get his mind back on track, though he only ends up writing for a few minutes before realizing that he has been unconsciously muttering the lyrics – all of the lyrics, not just the chorus – to the song Newton had just been playing.

“Newton,” he says. “I have never heard that particular song before and yet I am singing the lyrics. I do not know this song, and yet I know this song. Would you care to enlighten me as to why that is?”

“Why do you automatically assume that I had something to do with it?”

Hermann only gives Newton a withering look.

“Alright, fine,” Newton says, gesturing with his hand as if to wave aside Hermann’s ire. “I might have played it a hundred or so times yesterday and I think you were there for about eighty of them before you stormed out or whatever.”

Hermann breathes deeply through his nose. His journal entry had truly not prepared him for this lunatic of a man. Already, in the first half hour of being reacquainted with Newton, Hermann has been reduced to singing pop songs because of him. Hermann would have to consult his notes to be sure, but he is fairly certain that this is unprecedented. “What are you?” Hermann asks.

“A rockstar,” Newton says without skipping a beat, the arrogant little shit. “Relax, Hermann, I didn’t think you would remember it.” He looks at Hermann curiously and says, “Besides, isn’t it physiologically impossible for you to get a song in your head? Over two successive days anyway?”

Hermann wants to seethe, and Newton is a twat of the highest degree, so he does. “Me not being able to remember when you do something maddening or obnoxious is not an excuse for you to go ahead and do it anyway, Dr. Geiszler!"

“But you do remember!” Newton says. He is practically bouncing in place with an energy that Hermann’s notes indicate is normally reserved for new Kaiju specimens. “This explains so much! Whenever you get really pissed at me, it always carries over a bit to the next day. Even if you don’t know the specifics or whatever, the feeling is still there. So you do internalize at least some of your interactions with people! That actually makes sense, because how else would you, you know, progress as a human being if you didn't have some sort of memory function left? That is completely fascinating. Hey, have you ever thought about the exact mechanics of how your deal works? Because if at least some part of you is subconsciously remembering this stuff, then-”

Hermann has walked over to Newton’s side of the lab by this point, and he forcefully presses against Newton’s chest with the tip of his cane to get him to just stop talking. “I am not one of your experiments, Dr. Geiszler,” he says, unable to stop the tremor that runs through his words. “I am not fascinating. I am not a problem for you to solve nor a puzzle for you to play with, you…you utter…” Hermann cannot think of a single word to embody everything that Newton is, so he closes his mouth and drops his cane, fully intending to go back to his work station and ignore Newton for the rest of the day.

As he starts to move, Newton grabs his arm to stop him. “No, shit, Hermann, I didn’t mean…I’m not trying to do any of that. Or, maybe I am, but it’s only because I’m way too worked up right now and you are kind of fascinating, you can’t deny that. But in a good way, not a I’m-going-to-experiment-on-you-kind-of-way. Wait, shit,” Newton says, putting his face in his hands as Hermann’s lips purse in disapproval.

“If this is your idea of an apology-”

“I’m bad at first impressions!” Newton yells.

Hermann is so thrown by this non-sequitur that he only stupidly says, “What?”

Newton lets go of Hermann’s arm. The other man’s flushed face is the only indicator that he feels as uncomfortable as Hermann does right now. Newton shrugs and says again, “I’m bad at first impressions, all right?”

And that’s all I have, Hermann thinks. His chest is tight for reasons that he cannot understand, because if his journal doesn’t tell him, then all Hermann has to go in is the present. And the present, when it involves Newton, seems to be a very messy thing. “You might make a better first impression if you didn’t play the same songs a hundred times in a row,” Hermann says carefully. “Or perhaps if you stopped purposefully acting out just because you know I won’t remember it.” He gives Newton a pointed look and the other man cracks a smile before slipping back easily into his usual, cocksure persona.

“You think I act out on purpose? Please, Hermann, you just can’t handle this much personality,” Newton says, gesturing to his whole body in a way that both amuses and slightly flusters Hermann, much to his own confusion.

To cover it up, he says dryly, “I truly cannot.”

“Yeah you can’t,” Newton says. His smile falters for just a moment and Newton says, “But seriously, I don’t do that stuff because of your curse, man. That’d be an asshole move and…well, I am kind of an asshole, obviously, but not that much of one.”

“What a relief, Dr. Geiszler. I am so thankful that you are only partially an asshole.”

“Okay, that right there? That’s why I like to rile you up. You’re just asking for it sometimes, you know? Like, I don’t know if that fairy put a stick up your ass after cursing you, but I’m pretty sure even magic couldn’t manage something like that. It’s practically performance art, how uptight you are.”

Hermann should be indignant, but somehow the insult feels more like an olive branch than Newton’s actual apology did. Hermann wants to despair at how easily he accepts it, how quickly he insults Newton in turn and allows them to slip back into their routine of trading verbal barbs between breakthroughs. Because he shouldn’t want to forgive Newton, not when he acts like such an unbelievable asshole.

But it’s like Newton said, the man is only partially an asshole, and for whatever reason, Hermann seems inclined to tolerate it. Later that day, Hermann doesn’t cross out the twat comment in his journal, but he does amend it so that it reads, Newton is not a complete twat.

           

“Morning, Hermann,” a man says as he sits down to eat with Hermann and Newton at their table in the mess. The man’s ID badge is obscured by his jacket, his features are plain and contain no distinguishing markers, and Hermann has no clue who he is.

“Good morning,” Hermann says shortly, grateful that his co-workers are used to his reticence and won’t see anything abnormal in the response. The man isn’t perturbed, at least, and seems to be content in having a very energetic conversation with Newton. Hermann is unable to follow what they're saying, too preoccupied trying to figure out who this man is and why he is on a first-name basis with Hermann.

On their way back to the lab, Hermann gives in and asks Newton, “Who were we eating breakfast with?”

Newton glances at Hermann. “Uh, Don Powell, he’s been here for a week. He’s one of my new underlings.”

“They’re not underlings, Newton, they’re interns,” Hermann says. “And if he’s your intern, then it is also your responsibility to impress upon him the Shatterdome's rules: namely, calling us by our titles and wearing his name tag properly.

Newton snorts. “Okay, I know you love having a doctorate and all, but that doesn’t make calling you by your title a Shatterdome rule.”

Hermann pinches the bridge of his nose as they enter the lab, neither of them quite settling into their work stations yet. “Newton,” he says slowly, “if he calls me by my first name and I don’t know who he is, then I infer that he and I have a completely different relationship than if he refers me by my title. Do you understand? I can’t place him as an intern if he’s calling me Hermann.”

“Oh,” Newton says, nodding. “Oh, right. Okay, yeah, I’ll kick his ass about that sometime. I’ve been wanting to wield my authoritative, but ultimately meaningless power over these interns anyway. And I’ll remind him about the name tag too.” Newton suddenly looks guilty, glancing to the name tag clipped to his jeans. “Is mine okay? You’ve never bitched about it before, so-”

“Yes, it’s fine. Your tattoos are…distinctive enough that I don’t need it,” Hermann says. He feels unexpectedly warm when Newton’s face lights up in response.

“I know you think that you didn’t mean that as a compliment, but I’m pretty sure you just expressed your undying love for my tattoos.”

“Hardly,” Hermann sniffs.

“Yeah, whatever, think what you want. Anyway, back on topic, you know you could have just asked Don who he was. Sure, it’d take him down a notch, but he is an underling.”

“Intern,” Hermann corrects. “And I dislike having to introduce myself twice. It is inefficient and I have to do too many introductions as it is.”

“Do you?” Newton says, smiling a little bit, like he’s playing a game that Hermann should know the rules to but doesn’t.

Though perhaps he does, to some extent, because Hermann is more amused than angry at the comment. “I assume so,” he says, unable to repress a smile. It disappears when Newton slaps him on the back, but Hermann spends the rest of the day puzzling over when exactly he’d stopped minding talking to Newton about the curse.

The following morning, Newton rolls up his sleeves as soon as Hermann walks into the lab. The action is casual, but it still snags on Hermann’s mind, though he cannot, for the life of him, deduce its significance. Shrugging internally, he turns back to his blackboards, putting it out of his mind as he works to perfect his model of the Breach.

 

Hermann studies mathematics because he can remember it. His love of numbers is, of course, more complex and consuming than just that, but it is probably the purest reason for why Hermann surrounds himself with calculations and equations. Because with that remembrance also comes certainty; Hermann doesn’t have to guess or assume anything when he’s working with mathematics. He can simply know.

He cannot know people so easily, even with his journal. For one thing, his notes have to be succinct enough for him to study quickly, so they rarely give the kind of detail that Hermann would like. Furthermore, though Hermann proclaims himself to be a man of science and exactitude, his notes are infuriatingly cryptic at times. One morning he wakes up to find the comment you do not hate him written about his lab partner, which is useless in helping Hermann orient himself towards Newton. Even by the end of the day, Hermann is unable to determine what their relationship is, too perplexed by the fact that he can enjoy both screaming at Newton and staring at his mesmerizing disaster of a haircut.  

Of course, even this isn’t as confusing as the day that Hermann’s journal reads You might be friends, which is a sharp contrast from the arrogant child comment of the day before. Hermann struggles to pinpoint how this change occurred, but his previous entries are only filled with things like He wasn’t a complete asshole today mixed in with bursts of profanity regarding the man.

Hermann tries to figure it out by surreptitiously studying Newton over his work, but, unsurprisingly, Newton’s physicality betrays no clues as to the depth of their supposed friendship. Nor does it betray anything particularly likable about the man, Hermann thinks as he watches Newton do a ridiculous little shimmy as he dissects a Kaiju spleen with an untoward amount of glee. Newton is also singing to himself as he works, which irritates Hermann, but not to the extent that it should. Hermann frowns. Is that what friendship is? Not being completely annoyed with another person’s obnoxious habits?

“Hermann?”

“Hm?” Hermann says, startling from his reprieve to find Newton looking at him with raised eyebrows.

“Uh, you were staring at me, dude. Do I have guts on my face or something?”

Hermann is friends with someone who calls him dude? He is having trouble coming to terms with this, struggling to imagine a less compatible person to have as his friend. He clears his throat and says “What, ah, what did we do yesterday?” Hermann always hates asking that, but he doesn’t seem to mind it quite as much with Newton. Was that a sign of friendship as well?

Newton looks even more puzzled than before, but answers the question. “Nothing really. I mean, nothing out of the ordinary.”

“I do not know what out of the ordinary means for us, Newton. Would you care to be a bit more specific?” Hermann says tersely, becoming more unsure by the second as to why he would label this man as his friend.

Newton rolls his eyes. “Would you care to be a bit more bitchy? Oh, wait, I get it. You’re mad at me again and trying to figure out why, aren’t you? Seriously? I was totally nice to you yesterday! I mean, yeah, I got some tissue samples on your side of the lab again-” Newton gestures to the taped line on the floor as he says this and, huh, so that’s what that’s for “-and you yelled at me forever about it, which was definitely an overreaction, and…okay, yeah, I can see how you could be mad, but that is still so unfair! I was a saint yesterday, I kept my music down and got you lunch and everything!”

Hermann blinks. “You got me lunch?”

Newton suddenly looks a bit awkward, eventually shrugging his shoulders like it’s not big deal. “Well, yeah. Your leg was hurting, even if you wouldn’t admit it, so I got you a tray. Wait, is that why you’re mad? Because if it is then I just give up, Hermann, I really do. You are impossible to please.”

“No,” Hermann says, looking down. He reflects that he is probably not a very good friend; though in fairness, he suspects that Newton isn’t always one either. “No, ah, I am not mad about it. Er. Thank you, for doing that.”

Newton shrugs again. “Sure thing, Herm.”

Ugh, Herm? Is that something that Hermann actually lets Newton call him? Hermann lets it go, not because Newton is his friend or because he’d noticed Hermann’s leg the day before, but just because he has much more important things to do than quarrel with his lab partner.

Later, Newton gets him lunch – again – and the two eat together at Hermann’s work station. They barely manage a single civil comment throughout the entire meal, and yet Hermann finds himself content. Friendship, he decides, is very strange. Or at least, theirs seems to be.

 

Hermann is fond of routine out of necessity. It’s not simply a matter of being “totally anal,” or whatever else Newton likes to call him. It’s the fact that other people can’t move Hermann’s stuff or touch his side of the lab, because he can only remember when things are moved if he is the one who moves them. He does not have the luxury of being unorganized like Newton does, because without his careful notes and intricate filing system, he does not recognize his co-workers, he does not know everything that he did the previous day. Hermann has to “go to bed early like an old nerd, Jesus, Hermann” because if he doesn’t regulate his sleeping patterns, he could end up taking a nap during the day and waking up with no idea who anyone is.

Unfortunately, this latter lapse in his routine happens more than once as Hermann dedicates himself to plugging the holes in the dam of the Jaeger program, as sleep subsides to the need to confront the chaos of the impending apocalypse. One day, months into trying to update the Jaegers' programming to give them some sort of edge, he finds himself dozing off at his computer monitor at three in the morning only to nudged awake what feels like seconds later.

“Hey, wake up,” Hermann hears. He reluctantly opens his eyes and blinks blearily at the man standing beside him. The man's hair is messy and his clothes are rumpled and dirty, but honestly, Hermann probably doesn't look much better.

The man also has a warm hand on Hermann’s shoulder, which Hermann seems to have mixed – or not so mixed, if the lazy satisfaction trailing through him is anything to go by – feelings about. Hermann shrugs off the touch and sits up, wincing as his neck protests the position he'd fallen asleep in.

“Come on, Hermann, we’ve been working all night. I want to go get breakfast and then maybe sleep for the rest of the day,” the man says, sticking out a hand to help Hermann to his feet.

Not really thinking about it, Hermann almost takes the hand, only just stopping himself before he can act on these – quite unusual – instincts. “Er,” Hermann says.

The other man raises an eyebrow. “You okay? You’re acting like-” the man’s eyes widen in realization and then he grins. “Oh, so it’s triggered by you falling asleep? Damn, that’s awesome. Or, it’s not, but…whatever, I’ve already screwed up this first impression anyway. Have you ever tried to stay awake for a few days, can you remember things when you do that? Obviously not a sustainable thing, but theoretically-”

“Are you going to introduce yourself or shall I just get back to work?” Hermann says icily. Hermann resents his curse being referred to as awesome, but truth be told, he’s more angry at the fact that it isn’t bothering him nearly as much as it should. Hermann should be fuming, not simply irritated.

Though it still is bothering him, so Hermann stands up without this man’s assistance and busies himself in turning off his simulators.

The man studies Hermann as he does this, as if only now realizing that this situation is an awkward and unpleasant one for Hermann. “Oh, right, sorry about that. You just usually recognize me; I’ve never had to introduce myself to you, totally forgot.” He sticks out his hand, a cocky grin spread across his face. “I’m your lab partner. Name’s Newt.”

Hermann shakes the hand, unable to conceal his reluctance to do so. As casual as they seem to be with each other, this man – Newt – is still quite strange. “Newt?” he repeats, the name not sounding quite right to his own ears.

“Just Newt,” Newt says happily, and Hermann absolutely does not believe him.

“That’s not your name,” he says, a bit surprised at his own conviction.

Newt seems less surprised, making a face and rolling his eyes in what is -- theoretically -- a very unattractive combination. “Congratulations, Hermann, your subconscious – that will not let anything go, by the way – has successfully hated on me yet again. You got me, my full name’s Dr. Newton Geiszler.”

“You are named after the man who redefined physics, and yet you choose to be referred to as a small amphibian,” Hermann says slowly. He is bemused, fond, and vaguely hungry, and all three of these things are working against him finding any sort of logic in this situation.

“Biologist, Hermann,” Newton reminds him cheekily. “You have no idea how much street cred a name like that gets in my community.”

“I’d guess zero,” Hermann says, raising an eyebrow.

Newton shrugs, not seeming particularly offended by the comment. “And you’d be pretty much right, to be honest. But it still sounds pretty cool, so I’m sticking with it,” he says with a bright smile that heats Hermann’s cheeks.

“I believe you said something about breakfast,” Hermann says, looking down at his cane as he waits for this ridiculous, irrational -– and possibly unprecedented -- blush to subside.

“Yeah, and then sleep, you feel me?” Newton pulls at Hermann’s hand to make him start walking, which does not help Hermann’s complexion clear up in the least. Newton doesn’t seem to notice, content to chatter away at him while Hermann works to find his bearings. At the very least, he knows that his co-worker is a mess of a man and that Hermann finds him attractive. Which, to be honest, are not the most promising prospects with which to begin the day.

Hermann’s journal betrays none of these feelings, however. In some entries he references Newton’s appearance in more flattering terms than is ordinary for Hermann to use, but he never describes the warmth that runs through his limbs when Newton touches him, or how Newton’s smiles are apparently an appropriate impetus for him to start blushing. After a moment, Hermann decides that not writing any of it down is probably still a good idea. He certainly doesn’t need to start off the day by priming himself to start ogling his colleague. Of course, if today is any indicator, Hermann will still wake up tomorrow and find Newton attractive, but it is still not something that he needs to encourage in himself.

           

Hermann walks into the lab to find someone – tattoos, check; artificially and ridiculously tousled hair, check; skinny jeans, check; and that is definitely his lab partner – watching the television in the break corner. Hermann prepares his coffee while listening to the news broadcast and grimaces when he hears that the program is talking about the Wall of Life.

“Are they still nattering on about that?” Hermann says, turning to watch the TV with Newton. He takes a sip of his coffee and rolls his eyes as the man being interviewed spews utter trash about the pitfalls of the Jaeger program. Just what they need, another Wall disciple. “Who’s he?” Hermann asks. “Aside from being yet another parasite that’s decided to attach itself to the Wall.”

Newton glances between Hermann and the television, his hesitance alerting Hermann to the fact that he is, once again, missing something. “What?” Hermann says, trying not to feel self conscious.

“It’s, ah…it’s your dad,” Newton says.

Ah. He now understands Newton’s awkwardness, though he is sure that it cannot eclipse his own in intensity. “Oh,” he says.

Newton shakes his head. “I can’t imagine how family reunions are at your place. I mean, aside from that whole thing,” Newton says, waving his hand at the TV. “Though that’s bad enough, obviously. But seriously, I can barely keep my two cousins straight, even without your whole deal.”

“My family doesn’t do reunions,” Hermann says, watching the man – his father, apparently – on TV disparage the PPDC.

“No offense, but I can see why,” Newton says. “He seems like kind of an asshole.”

“I believe he is,” Hermann says. “Though I would have to consult my notes to be sure.”

Newton looks at him, wide eyed. “Hermann, was that a joke? Did you just make a joke?”

“It’s been known to happen,” Hermann says, almost choking on his coffee when Newton bumps their shoulders together playfully.

“Hermann Gottlieb, making a joke. Now that is something they should put on the news, not this shit,” Newton says.

"'Shit' is the correct term, yes," Hermann mutters, turning away from the television. "'Asshole' was also appropriate."

Newton looks at him for a moment and then shakes his head. “Not saying you’re wrong about that, -- because you’re totally right; sorry, but your dad is gross -- but for future reference, remind me to never actually piss you off. Even with your curse, you can hold a grudge longer than anybody. It’s scary, man.”

“I resent that implication, Newton,” Hermann says, “for, as you may have noticed, I am literally incapable of remembering anything to hold a grudge about.”

“But that’s what’s so impressive about it! You don’t even remember, but you hold a grudge anyway.”

Hermann rolls his eyes, feeling at ease despite – or perhaps because of, as Hermann suspects that no one ever talks to him about this sort of thing, let alone jokes with him about it – Newton’s casual disregard for the curse. He throws a sugar packet at Newton in retaliation, trying to ignore how his heart races in reply to Newton’s laugh when the packet lands in the biologist’s hair.

           

Though Newton had only suggested it offhand after he’d woken Hermann in the lab, Hermann actually has tried to stay awake for several consecutive days in order to cling to the memories he’s made. It is mostly something he did as a teenager, angry and desperate to somehow break the curse or just to remember anyone. He’s less bitter now; or rather, he is just as bitter, but he knows all too well that the inevitable crash and burn is simply not worth the extra time to remember.

But Herman’s Mark-1’s are failing and Hermann can’t help but nurse the hope that if he could just stay up and remember, maybe they could stand a fighting chance once more. It is, of course, completely irrational, but if there’s anything that Hermann’s learned while at the Shatterdome, it’s that the end of the world is rarely rational.

Newton has been staying awake too, but he’s been far too engrossed in his cloning theory to even look at Hermann for the past three days. They’ve really only spoken to each other in order to argue, more out of reflex than out of an actual need to discuss anything. The two extra days have not been enough to help Hermann figure out how exactly they orbit each other so easily, a fact which forces some extra, spiteful vitriol into his insults.

Hermann’s hands are shaking by that third day and his concentration is slipping, but he is so close to finishing this model that he forces himself onward, fighting to keep his fingers steady enough to pour sugar into his coffee.

“Hey, could you make me some too-” Newton says before he actually takes a moment to look at Hermann. Hermann grimaces. He knows he is not looking his best right now, but he is still hardly worth being the object of Newton’s incredulity.

“Newton-”

“Bed,” Newton says firmly, taking the coffee out of Hermann’s hands and dumping it down the sink. Hermann wants to yell, wants to scream at this man, but he is so exhausted that he can barely spare him a withering look.

“You-”

“Are a genius, thank you,” Newton says. “And you look like death warmed over, Hermann. Almost literally; I’m not a medical doctor, but you look like you’re about to keel over any second now. I’m intervening. In fact, you’re lucky that I’m not hosting an actual intervention with balloons and sad people right now.”

“I don’t think they have balloons at interventions,” Hermann says.

“See? You’re indulging me, that is not a good sign. You are way far gone, Hermann.”

Hermann sighs and closes his eyes for a moment that lasts just a bit too long for him to pass it off as anything but exhaustion. Opening them again proves difficult and when he manages it, it's only to see that Newton has come to stand before him. This close, Hermann can see the bags under Newton's eyes and the wrinkles that line his face when he frowns. Hermann’s head is pounding. “You are too,” he says.

Newton shrugs. “I never claimed not to be a hypocrite,” he says. “I’m about to fall asleep on my feet right now, if we’re being honest. But hey, I’ll go to bed if you go to bed.”

“Very well,” Hermann sighs, unable to muster the energy to protest. It is probably for the best. Hermann does not trust himself right now; he can barely control his body with this little sleep, let alone his emotions, and he is far too tempted to take Newton's face in his hands and do something stupid to be allowed to remain in his company for much longer.

Newton walks him back to his room, talking the whole while in an endless litany that is more of a rant than any sort of structural, coherent argument. He rambles, his sentences trailing off before they’re finished or simply being cut off entirely in favor of new ones. Newton is truly as exhausted as Hermann is.

Hermann’s leg is trembling by the time they arrive at his quarters. Newton kindly doesn’t say anything about it, though he does help Hermann into his room. His talking has subsided to yawns by now, and he only stares at Hermann blearily while Hermann removes his own shoes.

“The things I do for you,” Newton says halfheartedly. “I might actually be dying, I am so tired.”

Hermann does not as much lie down on the bed as he just collapses on top of it. “Go to sleep, Newton,” he mumbles into his pillow, the relief of being able to close his eyes practically an ache that runs through his entire body. Hermann almost falls asleep right there, except for the shifting of his bed as a weight joins him there. He opens his eyes a fraction to find Newton beside him, lying face-down and yawning into Hermann’s sheets.

“Sleep in your own bed, Newton,” Hermann specifies, his speech slurred by the partiality of his consciousness.

“Not sleeping,” Newton breathes, appropriating one of Hermann’s pillows and smashing his face into it. “I just need to rest a minute before I go back to my room, okay?” Hermann only shoves weakly at Newton’s arm, but the warmth of Newton’s skin against his own is finally enough to pull him towards sleep.

 

The next morning, Hermann wakes up to another man sleeping beside him. Oh, he thinks, frowning. This is unexpected. It isn’t really like Hermann to bring someone to bed, not when he knows that he will inevitably wake up with a stranger. He wonders what caused this lapse of judgment, but as he cannot reach his journal from this side of the bed, Hermann settles for studying his new companion in order to orient himself. Hermann cannot help but raise an eyebrow at the man's appearance. He is…really not Hermann’s type, which only deepens his confusion. Maybe he likes messy hair and tattoos now? But no, Hermann is not as impressed with this man’s components as much as he feels fond of him as a whole unit. He idly runs his hand through the other man’s hair in a moment of indulgence while he thinks.

The other man wakes up in degrees, smiling in contentment as Hermann strokes his hair. “Hey,” he says sleepily.

“Good morning,” Hermann says, and for some reason, this statement causes the other man’s eyes to shoot wide open. Hermann’s hand freezes in place at the suddenness of the movement as he wonders what just occurred.

“You’re…you’re petting my hair,” the man says slowly. He is obviously confused; is Hermann not normally this intimate? Perhaps they are only casual partners and Hermann is acting inappropriately. “Sorry,” he says awkwardly, pulling his hand back.

“No, it’s really- I mean, don’t worry about it, but I was just wondering, ah, why. You were doing that.”

Hermann scowls as his cheeks flush in embarrassment. “We’re in bed together,” he says shortly, “so I assumed that that would be okay. My apologies.” He grimaces as the other man begins to blush and stammer.

“No, I told you, it’s…It’s just, we’re not, uh, together or anything, I'm just your lab partner. My name's Newton Geiszler.”

“You’re my lab partner…and you are in my bed.” Hermann knows that he sounds obtuse, but he is very confused about this whole thing, and it does not help that Newton appears to be equally confused. Hermann simply does not know how to react. It is one thing for Hermann to orient himself to a lover whom he cannot remember, but this is something outside of his experience: what one earth does one do with a lab partner one wakes up in bed with? Hermann kind of wants to pet his hair some more, but he should not want to do that to a colleague, so he brushes the feeling aside.

“Yeah,” Newton says, his accompanying laugh slightly hysterical. “I guess when you put it that way, it’s kind of weird. We were too busy working to sleep for a couple days and when I helped you back to your room I guess I kind of, well, fell asleep here too. Sorry about that, I think I was too tired to think about how weird this would be.”

It might be a bit less weird if Newton would get off of the bed that they’re still sharing, but Hermann is strangely reluctant to remind him of this fact. Hermann winces -- he appears to have a crush on his colleague, or at the very least, he wants to sleep with him. This is terribly inappropriate.

“Yes, well,” Hermann says awkwardly. Newton seems to choose this moment to remember that they’re barely a foot away from each other and scrambles out of the bed, only just managing not to trip himself over the sheets as he does so.

“Uh, I…oh shit, I suck,” Newton moans. “Sorry about this, I…I really did not think this through.” Hermann gets the feeling that Newton doesn’t often think things through, which must make him an irritating person to work with. Nonetheless, Hermann’s chest freezes a bit as the man practically sprints out of the room with a squawked, “See you at, uh, work or whatever.”

Hermann groans and shoves his face back into his pillow. Maybe if he can fall back asleep, he’ll be able to forget this entire humiliating morning. But no, he is far too awake to go back to sleep now. He reluctantly gets ready for the day and when he finally walks into the lab, it is, as he predicted, incredibly awkward. But Newton seems to be willing to try to forget the whole episode, lobbying casual insults across the taped line as he digs into his new specimens. Hermann eagerly yells back, relieved to be back to something that feels almost like normal.

           

Hermann does not tend to go to parties – people often complain about attending parties where they know no one, but for Hermann, this is every party – so when Newton asks him if he’s going to the Shatterdome’s Halloween bash, he shakes his head. He expects Newton to go regardless and is surprised when, at the end of the work day, Newton pulls out two packs of beer from under his desk.

Newton hands one to Hermann with a pointed look and says, quite solemnly, “We are going to get smashed tonight if it kills me. I don’t care how uptight you are, do not protest this; you need a drink, Hermann.

Hermann really does, so he drinks. The fact that his file on Newton has by now eclipsed those of his parents probably has something to do with his compliance as well, but Hermann is choosing ignore this. He and Newton drink steadily, casually insulting and poking fun at each other as they do so, their insults growing slightly less founded and slightly more ridiculous the more inebriated they get.

“I’m drunk,” Newton sighs happily.

Hermann rolls his eyes. “I thought that was the point.”

“No, the point was to get you drunk.” Newton points a finger at Hermann in accusation. “And it worked. I’m a genius.”

“Newton, you are ridiculous,” Hermann says, though he stumbles over the last word, so perhaps Newton has a point.

You’re ridiculous,” Newton says. “Damn, I wish you could remember this tomorrow though. You’re not going to believe me when I tell you how drunk I got you.”

“I hardly believe it now,” Hermann says. Then, rather indulgently, for it’s with the express purpose of seeing Newton smile, he adds, “Perhaps I will write it down later, if I am not too inebriated to hold a pen.”

Newton does smile at that and Hermann finds himself happy to return it. He seems to be entirely too sentimental when it comes to this man, and the alcohol certainly isn’t helping him keep his cool. Hermann suddenly realizes how close they are and cautiously draws back, taking another sip of his beer.

Newton sighs, but leans back too, cradling his drink in his hands. “Hermann, have you ever tried to break the curse?”

Hermann cannot help but flinch slightly at the question. “I know you possess no filter, Newton, but that is a highly inappropriate thing to ask,” he fumes. “You would not ask me if I’ve ever tried to cure myself of my limp; why would you ask me this?”

“It’s different!” Newton protests. “All curses are theoretically breakable. They’re meant to be lessons, not disabilities!”

“Well mine has only ever been the latter!” Hermann says. “Do not delude yourself into thinking that working together and drinking a few beers with me means that you know my history, Newton, because you don’t.

“Well maybe I would if you would just tell me it!” Newton shouts. “I’ve known you for almost ten years, you asshole, you don’t think I’m at least a little bit a part of that history?”

“No, because I do not remember you!” Hermann says. “You’ve known me for ten years, Newton – I’ve known you for less than a day!”

“That doesn't mean that we’re not friends, you jackass! It doesn’t matter if you remember it or not – you still know it, so stop pretending that you don't.”

Hermann’s throat closes up at Newton’s proclamation and he grips the edge of his desk. “If we’re such good friends, then why do we argue like this?” he asks tightly. “That is not what friends do.”

“Yeah, but it’s what we do,” Newton says. “Because you hold grudges and you’re so goddamn uptight and…fuck, Hermann, I’ve told you this before, but I am bad at first impressions, okay? I suck at them. I’m really an acquired taste and…”

“...And I am not capable of acquiring you,” Hermann finishes.

Newton shakes his head. “No, I didn’t say-”

“Newton,” Hermann says, sighing into his hands before looking back at his lab partner. “Why are you so interested in my curse? You cannot cure it, and I have a feeling that I’ve already told you that it’s not yours to experiment with.”

Newton shakes his head quickly. “No, I don’t want to experiment with it or cure it or…well, obviously I want to cure it, because it sucks that you have to deal with it, but I…” Newton looks at Hermann defiantly. “Look, it’s a part of you, alright? And I know you get annoyed when I ask about it – or, sometimes you do, you’re kind of changeable about it, which does not help me make a good first impression, if we’re being honest here – but I’m probably not going to stop. I can’t just pretend that it’s not important.”

That is a fair, if slightly selfish, answer, and for whatever reason, it is enough for Hermann. “The curse isn’t a lesson for me, Newton,” he says. “It's a lesson for my father.”

"You're shitting me."

Hermann gives Newton a withering look and Newton thankfully shuts up. Hermann continues, “He had a lover in Germany whom he promised to return to after he finished his studies in England. Obviously, he did not, for he married my mother and had me and my siblings as children. It turns out that his old lover was a fairy, and she was rather unhappy when she found out that he wasn't coming back.”

“So she cursed you?” Newton says.

“‘So you did not remember me, so your son shall never remember you,’” Hermann quotes, “‘and it shall be so until your tainted blood can form a bond again.’”

Newton is silent for a moment before slamming back the rest of his beer. “Shit,” he says somberly. “Have I mentioned what a complete asshole your dad is?”

“I wouldn't know,” Hermann says dryly.

“But there is a loophole,” Newton points out. “She did give you a way to break the curse.”

“Of course she did, fairies always do. We know what it means, we always have: if my father or I can form a lasting bond with another person, then curse will likely be broken.” He snorts. “And it is never going to happen.”

“Okay, not with your dad, yeah, but you could do it.”

Newton looks so hopeful that Hermann's whole being aches for him, but he has to say, “No, I cannot. I can’t remember anyone long enough to form that kind of a bond.”

His lab partner seems to be lost in thought for a moment, but he suddenly breaks out into giggles and lays his forehead on Hermann’s desk, wheezing with laughter.

Herman scowls. “What is it?”

“This is totally not okay, I know, and I should not be laughing about it,” Newton says between giggles. “But, dude, your curse can literally be broken by true love’s kiss. You’re such a cliché.”

“It is not true love’s kiss, it is a bond,” Hermann huffs, indignant, but Newton’s laughter continues until Hermann is pulled into its tide, chuckling quietly alongside his lab partner until they decide that it’s time to trash their empty bottles and leave the lab.

 

When Newton presses his lips against Hermann’s, Hermann does not feel surprise or alarm. Instead he sighs into the kiss as if he’s been waiting for this for years, his heart hammering in his chest as he kisses Newton back.

However, he can only allow himself this indulgence for a moment before he gently pushes Newton away. “Bad idea,” he manages to say.

Newton’s blissful smile twists into a grimace. “Fuck you,” he says. Before Hermann can even think of how to respond to that, Newton continues, “No, seriously, did you just say that you think I’m a bad idea? There are nicer ways of letting a guy down, Hermann, Jesus.”

Newton tries to storm off, but Hermann grabs at his arm to keep him in place. “No, Newton, listen to me. I am the bad idea here, not you. You do not want to be with me.”

“Uh, pretty sure I do, that’s why I kissed you,” Newton says, as if Hermann is dense. Hermann grits his teeth.

“Yes, and I won’t remember that kiss in the morning,” Hermann says stiffly. “I won’t remember who are.”

“But you will!” Newton says, gripping his hair in frustration. “You always remember! You kissed me back, you can’t do that and then tell me you don’t remember me.”

“Actually, I can, because without checking my notes, I wouldn’t have even known your name! Even now I don’t know why I have feelings for you, only that I do. You would have to constantly remind me. You would have to remind me every single day. Can’t you see that that’s unfair to you?”

“I don't care!" Newton shouts, sounding like a petulant child to Hermann’s ears. Hermann cannot believe that he has feelings for this man, but he most certainly does, if the way his heart pangs at Newton’s words is any indicator. "Fuck, Hermann, have you ever thought that maybe we could break the curse together, or that that maybe I want you even if we can't?”

“Newton, no. I'm sorry, but no. The curse cannot be broken. I am the only one who can break it and I have tried, and it has never worked. Please,” Hermann says, walking away from Newton. “Let’s just forget about this.”

“Easy for you to say,” Newton mutters cruelly, turning away from Hermann and going back to his work station. Hermann wants to somehow relieve the silence that hangs heavily in the lab, but he can think of nothing to say that could help. This silence continues throughout the coming months, only interrupted by vicious shouting matches and cruel verbal jabs, Hermann entirely thrown by the ache and fondness he feels for Newton in the midst of their confusingly hateful dynamic, until it all finally comes to a head when he finds Newton lying prone on the floor after drifting with a Kaiju.

 

Even if Hermann weren’t physically disabled, the PPDC still wouldn’t have let him pilot a Jaeger. A neural bridge is built out of the love and trust that comes with sharing memories, and Hermann simply has no memories to share. Though the doubt had never been voiced aloud, it'd always been assumed -- even by Hermann -- there is just nothing in him to drift with.

So no one is more surprised than Hermann when he finds himself offering to drift with Newton, not even Newton himself. But the choice comes to him as easily as breathing. He looks at Newton and his bloodshot eye and knows that he must be capable of doing this for him. He must, because he is pretty sure that somewhere along the line, he fell in love with Newton Geiszler. Somehow, even though he'd only met Newton earlier today, he loves him. Hermann can hardly muster up any shock at this realization, for he is sure that even though he just met Newton today, he has known him for far longer than that. And so Hermann gives him this; he chooses to give him this.

“Three…two…” Newton says, counting down to the drift sequence. Hermann squeezes his eyes shut. “One.”

The drift is a whirlwind tearing itself through Hermann’s mind; it uproots everything it finds and tosses it into their collective pool of memories. Hermann’s vision swims with Newton’s memories and the Kaiju’s and his own. Hermann gasps as his own past submerges him, drowning him in what, to Hermann, is a foreign sensation: recollection. Suddenly he knows things about himself, instead of just suspecting or deducing: he knows that he doesn’t like fish because an aunt had once served it to him undercooked and gotten him sick; he knows that he hates his father not just because of the curse and the Wall, but because his father is a genuinely horrid person; he knows that he'd hid his curse from Newton in order to appear normal for a change, and that when they'd first met, the shouting match had been so vicious that afterwards Hermann had shoved Newton’s folder to the bottom of his filing container in spite. Hermann at last remembers why he loves Newton: they match wits and throw their brutal honesty in each others' faces and spend quiet mornings in the lab together and drink beer and understand -- they understand, more than anyone, what it means to be two scientists facing the end of the world.

When Hermann emerges from the drift, he vomits almost immediately. His head pounds with the pressure of the three sets of memories he’d inherited, as opposed to the mere two that Newton has to deal with. “I remember,” he gasps, reaching for his handkerchief.

Newton’s jaw drops. “The curse. So this worked, it-”

“Newton,” Hermann reminds him, and Newton nods reluctantly and they go back to rushing around and trying to save the world. As soon as they tell the Rangers about the nature of the Breach and as soon as Mako and Raleigh turn out to be fine, Hermann pulls Newton to his room, kissing him soundly as soon as the door shuts behind them. The kiss feels right to Hermann, fitting in snugly with his memories of having loved and wanted Newton for so long. Of course, Newton immediately tries to make the kiss dirty, sticking his tongue into Hermann’s mouth and grabbing at his ass, but Hermann only rolls his eyes and pulls away.

“We are not doing this now. You are filthy,” Hermann says.

“But I finally get to kiss you,” Newton whines, and Hermann rolls his eyes again, but gives him another kiss. As much as Newton – and Hermann, really, now that he finally remembers how long he’s desired Newton for – wants to, they don’t get much further than that, too exhausted to do more than pull off their clothes before collapsing into bed.

“You remember me,” Newton breathes, pressing himself into Hermann’s side.

“I do,” Hermann says quietly. He runs a hand through Newton’s hair, sighing when it's just as soft as he'd remembered it to be.

“So, not to burst your bubble or anything, Hermann, but true love’s kiss totally broke that curse,” Newton says, peppering Hermann’s ribs with kisses.

Hermann gives Newton a light shove, smiling when Newton buries himself further into Hermann's side in response. “I seem to recall that happening after the curse was broken,” he says.

“Mmm, whatever, a drift is like a brain kiss anyway,” Newton says, as if that’s supposed to make any sense whatsoever. “Though, for the record, I always wanted you, curse or no curse.”

“But I prefer this,” Hermann says, moving down slightly so that he can look Newton in the eyes. “I like to remember you.”

“And what do you remember about me?” Newton asks, smirking lazily.

“Mostly that you’re impossible,” Hermann says, unable to hold in a laugh when Newton sticks out his tongue at him. “But also that I’m quite fond of you.”

Newton nestles his head firmly against Hermann’s chest. “I know that’s British stiff-upper-lip for ‘I love you,’ so I’ll just say that I love you too.” Hermann doesn’t protest, allowing his eyes to slip shut as Newton breathes rhythmically beside him, his steady presence enough to pull Hermann towards sleep.

 

When Hermann wakes up, it’s to see Newton already looking at him, his eyes soft as they trail up Hermann’s face. “Hermann?”

Hermann smiles and puts his hands on Newton’s cheeks, pulling him in for a kiss. “Newton,” he says simply, marveling at the grin that spreads out across Newton’s face in response.