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!It’s been a good evening.

Hermann is leaning against him, relaxed and loose limbed and smiling. Newt leans down and rests his nose into the crook of Hermann’s neck. He smells good. Not food-good, he can’t feed off werewolves, but just good, warm and comfortable and sweet.

Hermann whines, deep in his throat, leans heavily against Newt, Newt stumbles and is very glad he can shift Hermann’s weight and find his keys.

“You coming in, babe?” Hermann growls his agreement, smiling vaguely. He stumbles and has to brace himself against the wall.

“Dude,” Newt sighs, and leads Hermann into the living room. “I was really hoping to get laid tonight.”

Hermann flops across the sofa. “With who? He slurs, tries to scowl.

“With you, dipshit.” Newt lips his feet, sits down and sets them on his lap. He starts taking Hermann’s shoes off. “Fuck you and your- being able to get drunk self.”

Hermann waits until he’s gotten his shoes off, and turns around on the sofa so his head is on Newt’s lap. “We can have sex.” He nuzzles the front of Newt’s jeans.

Oh fuck yes. “You’re- really drunk,” He gasps, “That’s not a- good idea.”

“I think it’s an excellent idea.” Hermann noses at the button of his trousers. “Do I need to use my teeth?” He smiles at Newt, even with two weeks to the full moon, they are very sharp.

“Like that makes me want a blow-JOB!” Newt yelps the last as Hermann opens his trousers and takes him down in a long, delicious swallow.

Newt’s head drops back, groans. The fresh, hot blood bursts through him, he’s rock hard, Hermann’s mouth is hot and sweet and he hollows his cheeks, sucking.

“You’ve- done this before.” Newt gasps.

“Hmm,” and oh god Newt could just come now and he has to fight for control so it’s not over too fast.

“I- oh fuck-” And thought basically ends there and Hermann hums again, swallows, works his way down and werewolves must not have a gag reflext because oh god.

He sinks his fingers into Hermann’s hair, scratches across his scalp and yes yes yes. Hermann bobs up and down, tongue rasping over him, long and lingering, then down again, swallows, once, twice, and Newt comes hot and desperate and so very alive into his mouth.

Hermann gags, and sits up, hand coming up to cover his mouth and oh- oh right.

“Um.” Newt tries to pull his brain back together. “You didn’t- know that, about vampires?”

“So,” Hermann wipes his mouth again, “I did not just bite into an artery?”

“Nope,” Newt sits up, hands him tissues, “Totally normal. Not many bodily fluids beside blood. Sorry.”

Hermann wipes his mouth pulls a face. “Do you have any mouthwash?”

“In the bathroom,” Newt relaxes back on the sofa, “D’you want me to return the favour when you get back?”

Hermann pauses at the door, then smiles, “As long as you don’t have silver fillings.”
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The banging starts at three in the afternoon. Hermann looks up, a momentary flash of panic that this is it, they have found him as he is about to be dragged back-

But then it comes again, heavy and dull and throbbing through the structure of the house and no, it is not the hoards of hell come for him. He just has a neighbour who is a bloody arsehole.

Hermann gets up, hobbles up the stairs to the flat above, hammers on the door.

It takes a moment whoever it is making that godawful din to notice. The hammering pauses, Hermann bangs harder.

Finally, there’s a click and Hermann steps back, scowling. The idiot on the other side is dressed in a torn band t-shirt held together by safety pins, incredibly tight black jeans and a pair of sunglasses. Sunglasses. Indoors.

Hermann crosses his arms cross his chest, tries to force his tail still, it’s threatening to pull free and lash in irritation. “I have just moved in downstairs.”

“Oh,” The man hesitates. “Okay, sorry about the noise.”

“Yes.” Hermann says darkly.

“But, dude, it’s like the middle of the afternoon.” He shrugs. “I don’t do it past eight.”

“I work from home.” Hermann frowns. A little taken aback.

“Okay, but- this is my job.” The man crosses his arms, frowning behind his absurd glasses. I’m a drummer dude, I gotta practice.”

“At home?” Hermann snarls, what is going on?


This- should not be happening. Everyone else has been- pliable. He cannot get away from what he is and everyone just all too happy to agree to anything he wants, and feel entitled to any part of his body in return.

This man is just scowling at him, unmoving, unmoved. Hermann takes a breath, then- he swore he’d never do this again, he swore, but he has to know. “I think,” his voice drops, a low, sweet growl, “You will find you can practice all you want somewhere else.”

The wave of allure shimmer like a heat mirage around them, but the man doesn’t even flinch. He just continues to scowl at Hermann- no, not at Hermann, just over his left shoulder.

This man cannot see him.

“Yeah, I don’t think so.” He shakes his head. “I live here too. I’m playing until eight, you don’t like it, buy earplugs or something.”

The door slams. Hermann stares at it for a moment. Then he goes down and checked the doorbell name. Newt Geiszler.

He has a neighbour who is not affected by him. He has a neighbour who will treat him like a person. Hermann’s isn’t sure how to feel about it.

Particularly when the drumming starts again, thick and heavy and pounding.
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Not sure which so going with dog!Hermann and cat!Newt

Ewt pads along beside Hrrm, looking around eagerly as they walk towards the park. The grass is so long he almost vanishes in it, and Hrrm stops for a moment, nosing around until Ewt pokes his head out of clump of clover and licks his nose with a tiny, rough tongue.

Hrrm sneezes, and Newt lifts his tail and prances away, batting at daisies and rolling in the dandelions. Hrrm huffs, silly cat.

Then Ewt stops, tail dropping to lash eagerly at the grass. Hrrm follows his wide, eager eyes, and spots the young rabbit on the edge of the grass.

Ewt looks at him, almost bouncing with excitement. Hrrm drops down, almost to his belly, and together they skulk forward. The rabbit is nibbling at the grass, Hrrm can smell it clearly, which means it cannot smell them. It has its head down, feeding, as long as they do not make a sound-

They are only a short bound away, the rabbit is still feeding. Ewt extends his claws, scratches the ground. Hrrm bunches the muscles on his haunches, tenses-

“Woof woof woof!”

Hrrm, Ewt, and the rabbit all freeze as Max bounds over to them eagerly. The rabbit sits up, and is gone in a flash of a white tail. Hrrm whirls to snarl at Max for ruining their little hunt- but Ewt yowls in frustration and dives in after the rabbit.

Hrrm forgets Max, he dives in after Ewt- he’s too small to take on even a small rabbit-

He almost runs into Ewt. The rabbit is gone, and Ewt is sitting very still. Hrrm manages to stop in times, looks down at his small friend. Ewt does not look at him, his eyes are fixed ahead.

On the pond.


Hrrm sits, then flumps down on the ground. He leans down and licks Ewt. Ewt shivers, and turns to bury his nose in Hrrm’s fur. The smell of the foul, stagnant pond fills his nose and Hrrm huffs, trying to clear it.

He nudges Ewt, they shouldn’t stay here, he can smell the death here. Can taste it between his teeth. But Ewt doesn’t move, he’s starting to shiver.

Hrrm opens his mouth, and gently catches the nape of Ewt’s neck, he picks him up and Ewt mewls, shivering as Hrrm carries him back, out of this horrible place and back into the grass.

He lies down, puts Ewt on his paws and licks him. Ewt curls up into a tiny ball, whimpering softly to himself. Behind them, Hrrm hears Max bark and splash into the horrible pond. He growls, nudges Ewt. They are leaving now. They are now walking home with a dog that reeks of death.
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He said I needed to find new legs, Newt signs. if I don’t give him my tail-

“You will.” Hermann’s voice is dull and flat, without inflection. “Look. I made these.”

He pulls the cloth off the table, and at first Newt thinks these have to be- works of art. Some sort of sculpture in bone and pale steel-

“New legs.” He smiles.

Newt’s mouth opens, closes. Blinks. This- was not how this was supposed to go. I won’t be able to speak. He tries, uncertain.

Hermann pauses. He puts down the tablecloth. This is your choice. He signs finally. If you wish to go home, I can help you.

Newt hesitates, looks down at his legs. They are covered in scales now, his feet starting to stretch to fins. His legs aren’t beginning to root together yet, but that is only a matter of days- hours probably.

And if he does not give Chau his tail then, he’ll take it himself.

Besides, Hermann wouldn’t be able to hear him even if he does speak.

Okay, he signs, we can try. The legs are beautiful, and Hermann’s eyes light up, stroke long, gentle fingers down Newt’s cheek, and bends down to kiss him, very lightly.
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The rain is fading outside, which is a relief since Newt really hadn’t been looking forward to a flood. He blinks exhausted eyes, hands out the steaming plates of meat and fresh bread.

Mako looks dully down at her plates as though she wasn’t sure what to do with it. Raleigh nudges her gently, and she jerks, straightening suddenly.

Hermann hovers nervously, holding Stacker’s eating implements- the spoon and fork on a loop of leather to fit over his useless hands, but Stacker just smiles, and holds up his hands. “Thank you doctor, but I am quite alright.”

Hermann nods uncertainly and oh hell he looks awful. None of them are looking great but Newt just wants to grab Hermann and pull him to bed and sleep for about a month.

He settles with pushing him gently to his seat, and putting his plate in front of him. “Eat.”

Hermann blinks, “I must-”

“Just eat your fucking dinner-” Newt chokes off as a yawn catches him, wrenches his mouth open.

“We need-” Hermann jabs his fork into the meat. “I have to-”

“Thank you, Doctor Gottlieb.” Stacker says softly, he smiles. “Right now, we need you to eat and rest, and tomorrow we can start to heal.” He looks at Mako, who hangs her head, ashamed.

Newt winces, ducks over his own plate. Yeah. There’s like a dozen farms with dead crops because winter came six months early. There’s no way of making that sound good.

Mako raises her head, “I will.” She says firmly, a clear bell across the exhausted dining table. “I will repair this,” she looks down at her hands, flexes them, she sets her jaw. “I will.”

“We will.” Stacker responds, and puts a hand on hers. “All of us.”

Newt tries not so sigh. “Not too early in the morning, at least?”

Hermann scowls, kicks him under the table. “We will be ready whenever you need us, Si-” he chokes off as a massive yawn overtakes him. Newt smirks.

“We will not start before noon.” Stacker continues smoothly. “We will allow the sun time to warm the ground before we do anything.”

Newt tries to smirk at Hermann, but he looks so relieved himself that it falls a bit flat.

It has been a long, long week.
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“I am surprised you are not sleeping off last night.” Hermann demurs, smiling. “You were rather, enthusiastic.”

“Well yeah,” Newt shrugs. “Halloween, dude! You made a great xenomorph.”

“I am a xenomorph.” Hermann huffs. 

Newt leans in and kisses him. “A really sweet, adorable xenomorph.”

Hermann kisses back happily. “You made a lovely Ripley. Did Hermine mind being your prop?”

“She loved it.” Newt puts his arm around Hermann. “I kept sneaking her sardines. Now, we’re going to be late.”

Hermann looks up, the massive, gaping fissure leading into Boneyard. “In here?”

“Yep.” Newt strokes his arm, “It’s cool dude, you’ll love it. It’s Tendo’s idea.”

Hermann shivers as they pass out of the gold Anteverse sunlight, and into the cold cold cold of the Boneyard, the pits. The great walls rear up around them, damp and still as they round the corners, burrowing in and deeper into the old Master complex.

Tendo is waiting for them a turning away from the Kaiju graveyard, he smiles. “Hey Hermann! My man!”

He steps in, and throws something around Hermann’s shoulders. Hermann reaches up and his fingers find warm, rough wool, it’s a sort of poncho and Hermann buries himself in it, glad for the relief.

“Here,” Tendo leads him around the bend, and out into the sprawling, hollow darkness of the Kaiju boneyard.

It’s so huge here that it takes Hermann a few moment to notice the candles. There’s a cluster of them, just off the path, into the maze of bones. Hermann frowns, and steps off the path. He has to get on all sixes to climb over the skeletons and his heart tightens in his chest, a silent apology to the dead.

The candles mark out a little circle, and there are blankets here, two baskets. He looks back at Newt, frowning, and Chris and Alison are here too, and Diane. They climb over carefully and join him, sit down on the blankets and opens the hampers.

One is full of sandwiches, rice, last night’s cake. The other holds the remains of a skinmite and some local fish.

Hermann looks between them, then back into the expectant faces of his friends and oh, oh.

“Dia de los Muertos.” He murmurs.

“De los Difunos,” Tendo corrects him gently. “Yeah. We thought we might spend some times with your dead, today.”

Hermann looks around. The searchlights are dim, out here, the candles glint in empty eye sockets, broken teeth, shattered bones. Hermann rests a hand on the smooth curve of a fingerbone, then settles down beside Newt on the blankets. “Thank you.”

“No problem.” Newt smiles, “Never a bad excuse for a party.”

It’s a huge chamber, a Jaeger could get lost here. Their little firelight is a tiny pinprick in the miserable darkness, the heavy, oppressive sense of loss and pain that still weighs on this place.

But it is a pinprick, a tiny hole. And maybe in time, little by little, that might spread, grow and warm until the Boneyard will be- yes, a graveyard. A place to ponder and remember the dead and celebrate them, unnamed as they are.
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The fish are browning nicely. Bastian is in his elements, feeding the fire twigs and bits of leaf with no one to tell him not to. Karla is watching the fish with hungry eyes and Dietrich is off somewhere, exploring.

Hermann is looking at Newt. The other boy is dressed in leaves and rabbitskins and bits of clothes that might have fitted him when he was five. “Does no one grow up here?”

“Hmm-? Oh.” Newt shakes himself. “Of course yes. Everyone does.” He smiles. “You go home, eventually. But then you’re grown up, and the other grown ups can’t hurt you.”

Hermann thinks of Lars, shudders. Newt looks at him, and Hermann can see the firelight reflecting in his eyes. He knows. Hermann sighs.

“Will you stay?” Newt perks up. “It’s much nicer here. The pirates moor here sometimes, but they’re okay. Just don’t bother their treasure and bring them coconuts. And parrots, they like parrots too.”

Hermann hesitates, pirates are hardly safe, even from a distance.

Then again, Lars was hardly safe, and they never had the opportunity to keep him at a distance. 
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Newt sinks down on the hillock and tries to choke back a sob. The forest is still, almost like a normal wood, but when Newt focuses on the trees, he can see the canopy doesn’t always attach to a trunk, and the trees seems to blur and fade into each other like fog. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees two shuffle away, and spring out into four trees.

He’s never going to get out of here. He’s completely lost.

Newt brushes down the folds of his blue and white dress. There’s a pinkish stain on the apron- probably from the mad tea party. Newt rubs at it, but it doesn’t budge- probably raspberry jam.

Newt licks the apron, grinds his nails into the cloth and picks and picks and it’s still there he can’t get it clean-

The tears burn his eyes, he screws his eyes shut but they sear their way through and he rubs at them hard but they streak down his cheeks and he can only curl up and bury his face in his hands.

“Are you cold?”

The words come, very softly, from behind Newt, he sniffs, rubs his nose. “What?”

“I said, are you cold? You can come in, if you want.”

Newt turns, behind him is an enormous coat.

It’s green, and puffy, and has a huge hood and basically looks like something a giant might wear in the arctic. No one seems to be wearing it. “Um, hi?”

“Hello.” The voice comes from inside the hood.

“Are you invisible? Like the cat?”

“Oh no.” The hood ruffles, and a broad head bobs up from the coat. “That cat is aggravating, always disappearing.” Large eyes blink at him. “You look cold.”

“Yeah.” Newt rubs his arms. The night is drawing in and the dress is thin cotton.

“Come on in, please.” The wide mouth quirks in a smile. Is it a frog? A snake? “The coat is big enough for two.”

Newt looks at it, and sighs. “I probably shouldn’t. I went into someone’s house and got to big for it and the house broke. And I got raspberry on my dress.” He pushes angrily at the stubborn stain. “I might wreck your coat.”

“Oh, I doubt that.” The frog-snake smiles and the smile just goes on and on and on. “The coat belonged to the bears. They said since I was cold so much I should have it. If it can survive bears, it can survive you.”

It’s the most sense Newt’s heard anyone make since he got here. It’s nice. He gets up and walks over to the coat. It’s got large wooden toggles and he undoes them carefully.

“Be quick,” the frog-snake shivers, “You’re letting the warm out.”

Newt nods, opens it enough to step inside. The coat is furry inside, and very warm. The frog snake is so thin he barely takes up any space inside at all. Newt pokes his head out from under the hood, and does up the buttons.

“There.” The frog snake smiles again. “Isn’t that better?”

Newt nods, yawns.

“You can sleep here.” He continues. “The forest will be moving all night- it’s the square roots you know, it makes them multiply, but in the morning the dogs will come to lick in new roads for the queen, and you can go home.”

“Thanks.” Newt sits down. The walls of the coat rise up like a tower around him, and the frog snake coils himself down to sit next to him. “I’m Newt by the way.”


Newt yawns again, and puts his head on his knees. He can sleep. Tomorrow maybe they can find their way out together.
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He tries sometimes, even now.

He’s only got a single spinneret left, and all it can do is to spit out loose, shapeless mesh. But- he did this, every few months for twenty years. Every now and again, Hermann lies on his bed, very still, and dreams of who he had been.

Hands, face, hair and mouth and two arms and skin soft and yielding and no claws and Hermann closes his eyes and itches all over for the longing of it. To walk unnoticed through the world, to be harmless, without threat. To be human.

Hermann opens his eyes, smiles sadly and lifts his hands to see the three fingers, the tough, tiny scales, the long claws.

His hands are soft and round. Pink and five fingered, with tiny seashell nails.

He roars in a panic and slams up against the wall. He tips and falls hard on the ground and lands on six limbs. His bad leg buckles and his tails lash and- he is fine. Everything is fine. He looks down at his familiar, clawed hands and is desperately glad to see them.

He sits up, pulls the blankets around himself, and tries to catch his breath. Was this a- hallucination? Did he eat something bad yesterday? No, it was just a puffball, he’s had those a hundred times…

He looks down at his hands, resting on the furl of his limbs. He swallows, touches his face, it feels fine, normal. Head, crest, cheekbones, jaw. Him.

Then his hands again and- what was it he did? He looks down at them, then moves them together into a pair, tucking his thumb away behind his hand, until the fingers take the rough approximation of a human hand. He frowns, thinks of his hands. Those other hands. The hands he had seen every day for twenty years-

And the skin around his claws begins to pale. Hermann chokes, catches his breath, and it fades. He concentrates again and it- spreads. Down from his claws and over the backs of his hands and his spare thumb blending in and fading into the skin. 

The claws dwindling to the tiniest shadows of themselves. The skin peach and light brown and the tiny black hairs springing free from the skin and Hermann closes his eyes and lets it- wash over him. up his arms and shoulders and back and over him like a sheet drawn slowly to wind about him.

He doesn’t open his eyes. Reaches up sinks his fingers into that oh so familiar hair, the ragged top and raw undercut he loves but never felt he got quite right, the soft, broad mouth, the shallow eyes, the absurd nose. His eyes burn, tears springing free and oh oh that’s him. It’s him again. He opens his eyes and staggers to his feet, nearly falling in the tangle of blankets around his feet.

His hand slabs clumsily for the lightswitch in the bathroom, his legs tremble and he longs to fall on all sixes but he only has for and the thought is thrilling and terrifying at once and- and-

And then he’s there, in front of the mirror, staring into a face he had not seen for nearly two years. Had never thought to see again.
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The houses are alive with lights as they pull into St Petersburg. Hermann steps down into a snow flurried street that looks more like something from the better class of animation than anything that belongs in the real world. Newt takes his hand and they walk out of the station amid the dance of flashing lights and a hoard of paparazzi kept back by Newt’s security people. He uncovers his face long enough to give them a grateful smile, and gets nods back.

The market is sprawling across the square, Hermann tucks his cape around himself against the Siberian chill sweeping out of the east, pressing his hands into the soft folds of rabbitfur.

He tries not to think of what Alison would say. He hopes the rabbits were at least eaten along the way, but Newt terns to be very… determined, on that front.

Newt turns eagerly, holding up a pair of blue gloves, trimmed in grey fur. “Try them on!”

He’s so excited, Hermann can’t help it, he tries them on and they mold themselves perfectly to his long fingers. “Go on,”

He sighs, shakes his head, but Newt pays and they are his. As are the muffs, and hats, the thousand myriad mementos and beautiful carved wooden pieces. Newt starts forward to kiss him a half dozen times, but stops, a breath away, and despite the beauty of the place, and the many lovely things they have bought, Hermann finds he’d be very happy to leave this frostfound country behind.

And maybe it’s that hurry that makes him careless, because when they’re safe back in the train and steaming south, and Hermann opens his laptop to check on the news- there’s his face, on the front page of every tabloid website.

“Ah fuck.” Newt leans over his shoulder. “I’m- really sorry dude.”

“Don’t be.” Hermann sighs, “It was going to happen.” He turns the ring on his finger, the soft, comforting weight of it.

“Well, yeah.’ Newt squeezes his shoulder. “But I have media guys, I’ll see what they can do, babe.” He kisses Hermann’s neck. “But yeah, if you have anyone you want to tell-”

He bends down to kiss him again, but Hermann turns his face up and those lips find his, a deep sweet kiss.

But when he goes, to talk to his ‘media guys’, and Hermann stares back down at the screen, tries not to think about it.

Tendo is easy. He sends him a quick email. I am in St Petersburg, Mr Geiszler is spoiling me rotten, we’re getting married very soon. A moment’s pause, then, Do you want anything from Poland?

But then there is nothing, his mind is blank, empty and after a moment he closes the laptop and his eyes.

“Hey babe.” Newt wanders back in, and kisses the soft hair of his undercut. “You okay?”

“Of course.” Hermann shakes himself, looks down at his phone. It is blank, with no missed calls. He sighs, and switches it off. It can wait. The call- from Karla or Dietrich or Lars himself, can wait.

“Wanna go to bed?”

Hermann smiles, stretches, puts the electronics aside and relaxes into those warm hands, solid arms. “We’re over the border,” Newt murmurs.

“Yes.” Hermann steps into his arms, kisses him full and hungry, rich as red wine and sweet as a sugarlump between his lips.
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The shower is an old one, the pipes clack and groan and the water bursts out in a torrent. Hermann closes his eyes and leans against the tiled wall to take the weight off his trembling leg.

Vascus muscles, bone marrow, nerve tissue-

Hermann closes his eyes and forces the memory away.

There’s a bottle of shampoo on the side of the bath, a razor and a bottle of shaving foam left damp beside it, he picks it up and it leaves a circle of rust on the bath. A little foam and the razor and the hard-won straggling beard is gone and danke gott, he loathes that thing. The water runs over the raw skin on his chin and neck, courses thick fingers through his lank hair.

He lays down the razor, picks up the shampoo, it smells fierce, a little spicy and he remembers the faint hint of it on the man who had brought him here.

Good. Let it be that. Let there be scent and it foams up between his hands and so unlike the coarse, crumbling soap at the Gathering Place. Let there be softness, and riches, and all the beauty he spent his life dreaming of.

“Um-” the voice breaks from outside the door. “I’ve got some clean towels. I- kinda didn’t do a laundry run. Sorry.”

Hermann nods, but the door doesn’t open. Hermann peers around the shower curtain, puzzled, then-

Oh. “You can come in.”

The door cracks open, Newton’s head appears around the corner. “Um, you okay?”

Hermann smiles, trying to fight down the sheer thrill that he was asked, he could have said no and Newt wouldn’t have come in. He has a shower curtain and might have a door in his bedroom and-

Newt puts down a pile of faintly pink towels on the chair. “Do you need anything else? I’ve got your clothes here.” He pats the pile on the chair.”

“Thank you, but no.” Hermann ducks back inside. “What will happen to my old clothes?”

“That’s up to you. I mean, I can try and clean them, but they’re kinda- um. I’ve got loads of spares you can have, but I’m gonna do a laundry run soonish and-”

He trails off, Hermann hesitates for a moment, a sudden, desperate hungry to keep the foul, rotting things. They were the first things he owned. The first things that were really his.

“Those clothes- you do not want them? I can have them?”

“Yeah, totally. All yours.”

Hermann exhales slowly. “Then yes, please get rid of them, they’re past saving.”

“Okay, no problem. I got dinner going so- if you’re hungry, they’s plenty.”

His stomach growls, knots, “Thank you.”

Newton leaves. Hermann rinses the shampoo off and the stench clinging to him with it, he smells of sharp spices and cider apples, his hair smooth and unknotted, his skin clean and smooth-

But for his leg, that is knotted, gnarled with uncaring surgery. Hermann closes his eyes, turns the water off, and steps out waveringly onto the bathmat and finds the towels. They are soft, fluffy, wrap around him like clouds and Hermann opens his eyes, then. His clothes are a little too large, but Newton’s included a belt, and it all fits.

Hermann runs his hands over himself, the clothes, clean and simple and- normal. Not his reeking rags, not the while robes of a donator. Just clothes. Hermann looks up, and meets his eyes in the mirror and- 

The illusion shatters. He knows that face. He hates that face. Some avoid their clones, never meet them even as they bleed them slowly of muscle, bone, organs. But Lars Gottlieb had not been one of them.

Hermann closes his eyes. No more. They promised they could change his face. Just a few weeks, and he would never see this face again.

He turns to the door, throws out a hand to find the handle- and hits something that bumps against the wall. He opens his eyes just as his hand closes around the smooth handle of the walking cane.
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Luckily, humans have odd ideas about what to do with their free time. Newt had walked past this shop several times and had gone in before, marveling at what humans- so far removed from pain and fear-  enjoy doing.

The cuffs are very solid, Newt went with thick bands of stitched leather, with padding on the inside. Newt is careful as he tightens them around Hermann’s ankles, the strap between them passed through the basement railings.

Hermann sits up on his elbows, looks up at him. Newt crouches down beside him, close, but just out of reach. “Ready?”

“Never.” Hermann sighs, and closes his eyes.

When he opens them again, there’s someone else behind them.

Newt goes cold all over. Panic claws at his stomach and he wants to run, every instinct screaming to get away before those claws flash, those jaws sink into his throat-

He forces himself still, breathless and lifeless as those sharp eyes cast over him.

He’s looking for a threat. He can read that much. Newt hunkers down, trying not to look dangerous. It’s a waste of time, he can’t hide anything from those cutting, killing eyes.

But whatever they saw seems to have been enough, because the Victor’s taut muscles relax. He rises on all six legs, turns his back on Newt and oh Newt can breathe again, because the Victor would never, never turn his back on anything he wanted to kill.

The Victor takes a step, the leather ties snap tight and it stops, back legs nearly torn out from under him. He turns his head, eyes wide.

A tremor begins in his hindquarters, rising up the length of that long, lean body. The Victor moans, shuddering, it pulls at the restrains, but not with the terrible strength Newt has seen before. But a helpless, limp, trembling motions, barely rattling the D rings.

Newt suddenly wonders if Hermann had ever been tied up before, and knows, sharp as a tooth, who had done it.

What had done it.

Newt is down by his feet in moments, he ignores the huge talons, the lashing tails, and unbuckles the straps. Hermann hurls himself free in less than a heartbeat, clawing away and backing up against the wall.

Newt hesitates for a moment, then follows him. He crouches in front of him, looks into those dark, wild eyes. The Victor blinks at him, fearful and lost.

“Hey,” Newt whispers, “You’re okay.”

The Victor stares at him, he doesn’t understand. Newt tries to send warmth and comfort through the Hive, it seems to work, the huge claws slowly creep back into their sheathes, then long legs are drawn up to the ridged chest,

Newt sits beside him, he reaches up and gently nudges his hand closer and closer. The Victor’s eyes follow his hand, close when he rests it on his shoulder, rubs gentle circles on the junction of shoulder and neck.

There’s a heartbeat between them, his arm a bridge between them. Then suddenly, the Victor moves.

Newt doesn’t have time to run, when suddenly he’s on him, the lean weight of him, the claws pressed tight against his chest, the teeth pressed tight against his throat. Newt closes his eyes- hopes it will be fast-

But the claws don’t dig into his tender belly, the teeth don’t bite. Instead, the Victor curls into a tight little ball against him, trembling, a low moan breaking through his throat.

He’s crying.

“Hey, hey.” Newt’s hands tremble, but he puts them around the Victor anyway, pulling him close. “It’s okay. They aren’t here, just us. It’s okay, it’s okay.”

And maybe some of that made it through the Hive, because the Victor’s eyes close, and he goes lax against Newt, the trembling slowly fades.

Newt holds him tight, whispers nonsense into Hermann’s shoulder until, pressed tight as they can together, no breath between them, they sleep.
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The train is whispering through the snow when Hermann wakes from his doze. It’s rocking slightly, and when he opens his eyes, Newt has pulled one of curtains up and is peering out into the night.

Hermann sits up. Outside, it must be well below freezing, but their little car is well heated and he doesn’t even bother with a dressing gown, sliding his arms over Newt’s shoulders and resting his chin on the top of his head.

Newt mumbles something, but he doesn’t even try for annoyance. For many minutes, they don’t say anything, just looking out into the blazing, dancing lights of the aurora, the silent banks of snow and the little sleeping Swedish villages sweeping past.

The breathless magic of the moment is so perfect, Hermann doesn’t dare to move or speak. Newt’s body thrums under his hands with the rhythm of the train, Hermann can feel him swallow, move his jaw, trying to find something to say.

Hermann decides to beat him to it, in case he says something asinine and ruins the moment. “Thank you.”

“Um- okay.” Newt turns, the lights cast strange colours across the planes of his face. “What for?”

“Do you think I’d have made it here, like this, without you?”

Newt shrugs. “It was your idea. I wouldn’t have come up with it.”

There’s another long pause, the train hisses through a tunnel- the rattle and bang makes them jump- but it passes quickly, and the din stretches out into nothingness again, stifled by the snow and the lights and the cold.

“We’re-” Newt clears his throat, swallows again nervously. “We’re a pretty good team, yeah?”

“I’d like to think so.” Hermann rests his head on Newt’s shoulder and closes his eyes, savoring every sensation of this. The heat of Newt’s skin, the smell of him, warmth and slight sweat from earlier. The sway of their bunk and the blankets and the solid block of heat inside their car- so different from the void of cold outside.

“You have- amazing ideas.” Newt continues. Hermann smiles, the words sparking sweet inside him. “I’m not to dumb either, but you- you get so much stuff- better than I do-”

“Nonsense.” Hermann kisses his shoulder, licks a line over his collarbone- not in seduction or with any aim of anything further, just for the sake of it, for the sensation of smooth skin on his tongue and the faint heat of sweat. “It takes nothing but an effort to try and think about someone else- and you have been very good at that where I am concerned.”

“Thanks.” Newt’s voice is low, a bit husky. He trembles, but it’s not the train. “That’s- I really try.”

“I know you do.” Hermann smiles. “I might have come up with this idea but you- fleshed it out, made it happen. You thought of places I would like to see and I’ve enjoyed- well, most of them.”

Newt chuckles, “And- uh, if I couldn’t? If I was- poor again, and couldn’t do all this?”

Hermann pauses, half wondering if the sudden blast of cold within him could have come from outside. “Newton- is everything all right? Is there anything you need to tell me-”

“What- oh, no!” Newt smiles, “Nah, I’m not leading up to say I’m bankrupt or anything, just- if I was.”

Hermann nods, “Just as long as this is not some- desperate last splurge. Newton, I really don’t care but I hope you’d take better care of your finances whether you were a millionaire or poor as a church mouse.”

Newt turns, his eyes are crinkled in smiles, soft and sweet and- rather different. It cracks open a strange, liquid warmth inside Hermann, sweet and tender. “Would you want to be church mice with me, if I were.”

Hermann chuckles. “Little mice with a larder of nuts under a pew.” He kisses Newt. “I’d nest with you, you ridiculous little mouse.” Another kiss.

“For ever?” And there’s something under that, something wild and raw and wide open that takes Hermann’s breath away because this is real. This is not some silly late night rambling. The wrong word here could be disaster.

He seems to have done well thus far. “Of course.” He says softly. “Until we’re both old grey mice complaining about the new vicar and the sorry state of wafers nowadays.”

Newt half laughs, and it’s nearly lost as the train sweeps through a brief flash of steep banks, the noise rising, then fading as they move on through the plain. “Then- uh.” He fumbles under the blankets. “I’d really like to be an honest mouse- um, with you.”

He opens his hand. There’s a ring.

The breath is snatched away from Hermann as surely as if Newt had opened a window into the subfreezing night. The band is very simple, dark silver, no ornamentation because whatever Newt says he really does try and he knows Hermann doesn’t like ostentation. Hermann picks it up and the moment stretches on endlessly as the train, as the night, as the dancing aurora above them.

“It’s meteoric nickel.” Newt breaks it, half desperate, half helpless. “It came down in Antarctica and I had it shipped over and cast and I was kinda planning to give it to you when we got to Narvik because- top of the world, you know, but then we were here and it was so perfect and-”

“Shh.” Hermann covers his mouth. “It’s perfect, love. Its wonderful.”

Newt blinks, “Then, um-” he mumbles against Hermann’s hand, Hermann pulls it off, “Is that a yes?”

“Of course that’s a yes.” Hermann replaces the hand with his mouth. “Of course.” Against his lips.

Newt’s eyes close, the lashes flutter against Hermann’s nose as he pulls away. “Oh thank fuck.” The sudden obscenity makes Hermann laugh, “Because I kinda thought I’d fucked it up and this really wasn’t how I thought it was going to go- I got a whole speech worked out and I forgot all of it-”

Hermann kisses him again, firmly, shutting him up. “The best laid plans of mice and men.”

Newt hits him with a pillow.
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(Somehow managed to delete the original ask, sorry! Cruella AU)

It happens so fast.

They are walking out of the labs, still arguing. He wants to expand their little semi-illegal operation into undermining the illegal fur trade directly- selling on sites like The Silk Road- Hermann is not quite so into that idea.

“And if the products are traced back to us,” Hermann snaps, striding across the pavement, “What do you think that will do to our stocks?”

Newt rolls his eyes, “I’m making this stuff, dude, of course I can make it different enough they can’t trace it. I’m careful.”

“So careful you almost got arrested-” Hermann is half turned to him as he storms over the gutter and into the road.

He says something more, but Newt doesn’t hear it, the volume knob for the world has suddenly turned down to mute, and Newt feels the rumble of the enormous truck in his bones, tastes the vibration of it’s roaring klaxon between his teeth.

Everything seems to slow, slick and liquid as syrup. Newt reaches out and his fingers close on the thick, clinging strands of Hermann’s furs. They clump and stick under his sweat-slick hands, clutching against him as though trying to save themselves.

Newt pulls, his mind jammed on the strength of the stitching, the tensile resistance of the furs he had made as they snatch tight against Hermann’s slender body, a tight little net as Newt hauls him- with the strength that makes children fight off bears and pregnant women lift trucks- out of the way.

Sound and time returns with deafening speed. Hermann’s body clashes against him and they stumble, a whirl of arms and legs and furs and the screaming, tearing wind of the huge truck as it catches them up and whirls them backwards to the pavement.

“Hooligan!” Hermann gasps, fights his way free of Newt and back upright. His face is pinched and bright red as he races after the disappearing truck. “Barbarian! Scoundrel! Visigoth! I’ll have you flogged, you upstart, delinquent-”

Newt should probably go after him. Hermann is working himself into a frothing rage and someone should calm him down. He should probably check the security footage, that guy was going easily twice over the legal limit-

His body doesn’t seem interested, pinned against the blissful solidity of the pavement. And Hermann is so gloriously alive, almost jumping up and down in his fury beside him. The furs swirling like stormclouds around him and not hanging, lank and filthy and sprayed with blood against the road.

Newt manages not to throw up, but his throat locks in a dry heave.

Hermann pauses, “Newton?” He turns, then the flush of rage drains for his face. “Newton! He hurries back, and drops beside him. “Oh Gott, he didn’t harm you?” Hermann fumbles with Newt’s coat, Newt half heartedly reaches up to bat those hands away but oh fuck it feels so good; those dancing, beautiful hands so warm and alive-

Hermann’s eyes are wide, “Newton- say something, if that- that brigand, that gangster hurt you-”

“No,” Newt croaks, he manages to lift a hand up, against the impossible pull of the Earth, and draws it to Hermann’s cheek. “Just- you’re okay. You nearly-”

“I would say so!” Hermann’s nostrils flares in renewed outrage, there are two little white marks on each side of his nose, and it rather makes him think of the General in a rage. “We could have been obliterated, that thing was going easily a hundred miles an hour-”

Newt’s stomach turns, he swallows. “Don’t.” He manages. “Just- don’t.”

Hermann grumbles, outragus interruptus, and subsides into a smoldering mutter about lawyers and the long arm of the law. But he doesn’t pull away from Newt’s hand, and even takes his free hand in his, squeezing, very tightly.
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Newt wakes up alone. He sits up, the bedroom is empty.

“Shit.” He throws the blankets off, and kicks his legs out. The door is open and a thin, cold breeze cuts into the bedroom. “Shit!”

He shoves his legs into a pair of pants, and doesn’t bother with more. “Hermann!”

No answer. Newt runs out into the narrow corridor. No sign of him. “Shit. Ah fuck.” Newt picks a direction, starts running, his bare feet slamming wetly on the damp ground.

Boneyard is empty at this hour, the base silent and breathless and cold. Newt shoves his head into the tiny cubby where Hermann works- nothing, dark and empty, the computers dark. Even thought it’s barely the size of a closet, Newt looks under the table just in case.

“Shit shit shit-” Newt runs his fingers through his hair. Come on, where would he go? Did he have a freakout and go back to Miami base? Nah, he’d have woken Newt, but what if-

“Oh no.” Newt moans, and runs flat out. The steel floor jars his heels with every step. He braces his shoulder and hits the outer door head on. 

The door bursts open, Newt half falls, half jumps down the six steps down to the cave floor. The air is freezing and Newt rubs his arms as he runs, teeth chattering. His breath huffs up in steam and his bare skin seems to smoke as he runs.

Most of the lights are off for night time. The ground underfoot is fine and ashlike, Newt stumbles and struggles to keep up a good pace, wincing as his foot hits something sharp.

He races around the wreckage of the pits, the waist-high remains of the walls. “Hermann!” He roars, but his voice is drawn up into the unimaginable space above him, choked and silenced.

This is horrible, this is a nightmare. He’s even had it a few times and Newt looks around despite himself not really expecting to see the Masters, but-

Just making sure.

He tries to remember where it was. Hermann’s memories are cloudy and uncertain, but Newt’s bare feet mark out the same steps as he had done- so many times, over the ruins and shattered dead earth, stumbling over wreckage and-

He almost trips over Hermann, in the end.

Newt skids, stops too short and falls back onto his ass. “Hermann!” The sheer relief sweeps through him. “Fuck man, what are you doing-”

Hermann doesn’t respond, he’s huddled against the remains of the wall. His eyes are open, but glazed. He doesn’t even seem to see Newt.

“Babe?” Newt gets up on his knees, “Are you okay?”

He reaches out to touch Hermann’s shoulder- then Hermann looks at him.

His eyes are wide, the pupils tiny. Newt freezes, and slowly lowers his hand. “Hermann?” he says softly, “D’you know me?”

A blink. Newt reaches to him through the Hive, and Hermann’s mind is- slack. Sleeping, lost in a nightmare.

“Ah fuck.” Newt mumbles, and floods the Hive between them with warm and safe and love. Hermann blinks at him again, but his clenched hands slowly relax. He’s still asleep, but in whatever dream he’s lost in, he can see Newt isn’t gonna hurt him.

“Okay babe,” Newt tries to think, waking sleepwakers is supposed to be okay, but waking Hermann here would be- not good. “Come on, let’s get you out of here.”

The vague emotions through the dream feed through faint hope and disbelief. They’re leaving?

“Yep, going now.” Newt gently takes his upper arm, and helps Hermann up. He takes two steps, then collapses back down onto all sixes.

“Okay.” Newt says firmly, “Come on sweeties, this way.” He puts a hand on to Hermann’s shoulders, guiding him slowly out of the ancient cave, through the boneyard and eventually out- out into the eternal sun and blessed warmth of the Anteverse.

Hermann looks at him, mouth open wordlessly. Newt wonder what he’s seeing, in his dream.

“Come on,” Newt encourages, “Just a bit further.”

It takes the best of two hours to trek through the puffball jungle and make their way to Miami base. The moment Newt opens the door, some part of Hermann seems to realises where they are. He pads over to the bed and drops flat on it, falling back into real sleep.

Newt groans and slides down to sit beside him, exhaustion crashing in after this aborted night of broken sleep.

Fuck the marshal’s orders, they are never overnighting in Boneyard again.
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“They’re all gonna be jealous,” Newt grins, and leans back in the taxi cab. “Ten years on and we’re still sexy sexy rockstars.”

Hermann would have once rolled his eyes, hissed at Newt, acted annoyed. It’s been ten years and he no longer bothers. “Hmm,” He leans in, and paws through Newt’s hair.


“What’s this, are those grey hairs, Doctor Geiszler?”

“Oh fuck you, I’ll have you know they’ve been grey since I was like, twenty.” He elbows Hermann, “You’re just jealous ‘cause you’re not a sexy silver fox.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Hermann looks at himself quickly in the taxi’s rearview mirror. His hair is still dark, not a thread of grey. Funny, both of his parents had gone grey in their early forties. “Besides, are you denying you want to show me off?”

“Hell no.” Newt kisses him, “I have the sexiest boyfriend ever, totally showing you off-”

The taxi pulls in at the old Shatterdome. Hermann pays the driver and they both step out onto the ancient helipad, now cracked through ten years of typhoons and heat and monsoons.

“We’re not the first.” Newt points, and Hermann nods, two people are standing near the entrance to the ‘dome. A man and a woman, even from here, he can recognises Rangers Beckett and Mori.

The wall of the Shatterdome is covered, top to bottom by a steel plate that had once come from the Wall project. On it, scribed in tiny letters, are countless names.

Somewhere on there are the names of Stacker Pentecost and Yancy Beckett. As they watch, Mako raises her hand and traces a worn name.

“Hey, Mako!” Newt calls, hurrying across the pad.

They turn and- Hermann stops dead.

Gott, they haven’t changed.

Neither have they, and it’s only now, only here, that Hermann can see it. Newt, and Raleigh and Mako and all three of them could have stepped out ten years ago. Hermann could half imagine he could turn around and they could all be here, Marshall Pentecost, Herc Hansen, Tendo Choi-

“Hermann! My man!”

Hermann turns, and the illusion dies.

It’s Tendo, but - changed. His hair is grey around the temples, his eyes marked with crows feet and the smile lines around his mouth don’t smooth away any more. It’s a shock to see him. It’s a shock to see someone who’s changed.

His smile fades, although the wrinkles still flicker on his skin, a wink to time. He looks at them, the four of them, unchanged. Timeless.

Something cold locks in Hermann’s stomach. He looks at Newt, he’s trying to smile, but he’s shocked too. After ten years of always seeing the same face in the mirror, the same face across the breakfast table, Tendo has shaken him. “Hey man,” He forces a smile.

“Newt, great to see you!” Tendo smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. There’s an uncertainty there, almost fear. “You- look great.”

There is nothing they can say to that. If to look great is to look exactly the same as the last time you met, they cannot say it back to Tendo. “You all look great.” He hesitates.

“Great moisturiser,” Newt tries to brazen it out, although there’s a faint quaver in his voice. “I’ll send you a few cases, you’re back in the states, right-”

He’s trying to make this normal, pretend so hard maybe they could make it real. Raleigh’s eyes spark and he joins in, a brassy cheerfulness to cover up the fear.

Mako meets Hermann’s eyes, remains silent. She can’t look away, Hermann’s can’t. It’s like the Breach calculations all over again, something he doesn’t under stand but knows is wrong, something bad, hiding just under the surface. They don’t know what it is yet, but it’s there, unable to ignore, like a burrowed insect, under the skin.

They need to do something.
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They fan out across the sky, close enough that their wings almost touch. Newt is a little higher, flying small circles around them and keeping his eyes on the ground. 

Stacker is riding Herc, lying flat down on his neck in full harness. He’s got a spyglass to one eyes, following the roads lining the swollen Totten river.

Hermann is leading them, his shoulder muscles are tight from this long flight, but he hasn’t said a word. Newt hesitates, wondering if he should suggest a break. By the Living and the Unborn, Hermann is beautiful. The armor hides the worst of the scars, and the way he flies- a long, rippling motion like sunlight on water, like a ray in the deep sea.

He looks up, meets Newt’s eyes, and gives a tired smile. Newt smiles back and-

“South-southwest!” Stacker shouts, “Five tails wide, south riverbank!”

Newt sees them. A huddle of Mountlings, two, maybe three Wisichers. They are on what’s left of a bridge, carried away by the floods. they are so far over that their tails are almost hanging into the waters.

Newt is about to dive, but Stacker holds up a hand. “Hold.” He’s scanning the area around with the spyglass. “They aren’t flying over,” He growls, “Why aren’t they-”

As if in answer, one of the Wisicher does exactly that. She spins around and launches herself off the bridge. Her wings flare in a dark, gleaming rainbow of colours, ripple and dance with every desperate beat-

The bolt hits her in mid flight.

A cry splits the air, and Newt only realises after a moment that it came from him. The bolt hits the dragon just under her wing joint, and seems to burst, a mesh of netting wrapping around and snaring the wing. She shrieks, and drops like a stone.

“Alexis- get her!” Stacker shouts, and Herc echoes it. The white furred Polora dives down to the river. “Everyone else-”

He breaks off, because Hermann had swept down into a dive.

“No!” Newt shouts, and drops after him. He can see the soldiers now, the sun glinting off the steel arms of their bolt thrower. He’d only ever heard of these things- had barely believed they existed-

Hermann doesn’t hesitate, he swings over the terrified dragons, and a gout of white flame bursts from his jaws.

The wet tree bursts into clouds of billowing grey smoke, blinding and choking. Newt lands with a bone-jarring bump, the mud sucking and splattering his armor. “Go!” He shouts to the frozen crowd- “Fly, quickly!”

“There are-” One of the Mountlings looks at him, her eyes rolling in panic. “We saw three, mounted- they’re here-”

“Go!” Herc lands hard beside him. Sasha is with Hermann, tearing out the hunting nest. Pieces of metal clatter, smoking, out of the hollow. One of the soldiers tries to climb out and Hermann spins, so fast Newt barely sees him move, and his tail catches the man on the back. He screams, spinning through the air to be sucked down into the dirty brown river. He doesn’t come up.

Horns blare. Hermann rears up, wings flaring, his eyes are wide, white and rolling. Flame is raging around his jaws red on the smoking black blood there. He shrieks, and spins around, stumbling down to the road.

“Prince, stop him!” Stacker shouts. Newt pounces and lands on his back. Hermann howls and his claws lash out- then stop.

Newt looks into his eyes. The fear, the terror. Was that the last thing he heard, before his family was murdered? Those same horns? “It’s okay.”

Another blare, shrill and brassy. Hermann shudders.

“We do this together.” Herc growls. He prowls forward, nudges Newt and Hermann gently behind him. “Sasha?”

“Thirty horse, some of those bolters.” She lands almost on top of Newt, her thick fur damp and spotted red with blood.

Stacker looks at the huddled mass of starving, exhausted dragons. “Go,” He says, more gently. “We’ll take them.”

This seems to work. Maybe it’s finally sank in that the rescue has arrived. They flail over the river in wild, desperate wingbeats, crashing into the far back and crawling away into the thick brush.

Alexis soars over them in return, a fine rain of filthy water dropping down. He’s more grey than white, shaking himself like a wet dog and spraying Herc, who hops and flares his wings in disgust. “She’s on the North bank, safe.”

Stacker nods, “We have a patrol coming.” He looks around, carefully. “Prince Newt, on the right. Charge their flank on my order. Alexis and Sasha- I’m sorry, but there’s a good muddy bank down there, hunker down and wait for them to come abreast. Herc and I will hit them face on and- Prince Hermann?”

Hermann trembles, his wings rise, tail lash.

“Stay at our side.” Herc says softly, “We need your fire.”
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(Never seen Orphan Black, this is more of a Never Let Me Go ‘verse)

Newt gets the latest one in the mail. “Caucasian male, tall, 120lb, dark hair, dark eyes, one harvest. St Andrew’s church at 8pm, discretion required.”

 Discretion required. Newt swallows. That means he’s of someone important. Newt pulls a spare set of clothes from the wardrobe. Hat, scarf, big coat. Thankfully it’s midwinter or the clothes would look weird. 

After a moment, he throws a box of makeup into the pile. Just in case they need to do something drastic. He’s never had a ‘discretion required’ before.

Newt leaves his bungalow by the back door, he shuffles painfully through the dead leaves, wincing with every crunched footstep. There’s no moon, the sky is cloudy and, soon after Newt turns off the main road and into the little side-street that leads to the ruined church, it starts to rain.

Newt shrugs up his collar, he ducks around the side of the building and to the old gate that never locks. He pushes it open a few inches, and the hinges squeak. Newt freezes, and wriggles through.

The graveyard is pitch-dark, Newt blinks and blinks and squints. The rain falls in soft rustles on the leaves, gleams on the stone graves and the church steps.

As he’s watching, something moves in the shadow of the stairs. Newt perks up, but doesn’t move. His throat seizes because- what if it’s a set up? Discretion required. A famous one. Newt’s never done anything so dangerous.

He takes a breath, he wishes he’d thought of better code words, three years ago when he’d thought this was just a big adventure. “The red haddock flies at midnight.” He calls softly, feeling like a total idiot. If this is a set up, he really doesn’t want those to be his last word.

“But tomorrow will be froggy.” The voice comes back, stiff and disgusted but Newt relaxes. It’s him. “Did you choose the code yourself?”

“Don’t laugh.” Newt shuffles over. The man in half buried under the mountain of coats and he stinks. It’s a good disguise. Homeless man reeking of shit gets avoided by everyone. “Want a change of clothes.”

The man looks up, the distant streetlights flare in his eyes. “Probabaly should not.” He sighs, “Keep them until we’re off the streets. I don’t suppose you have access to a shower?” He gets up, and hobbles over. One leg drags. Newt’s throat closes, one harvest.

“Sure, and hot water.” He says instead. 

He holds his breath, and offers the man his arm. The man takes it with a sigh of relief. “Apologies for the smell, I- I was- I needed to-”

“Don’t worry about it.” Newt tries to breath through his mouth. “My place isn’t far, I’ve got a spare room while we get you your papers.”

For a moment, they shuffle on in silence. Newt squeezes through the gate first, the man follows. “I’ll need more than just that.” The man sighs.

Newt doesn’t say anything, but then they pass under a streetlight and Newt can see his face.

It’s not the same, of course. He’s Newt’s age at most, under the filth and dirt, he’s even got a few leaves in his hair. But it’s not enough to hide the cheekbones, the chin, the deep dark eyes. “Gottlieb?” Newt breathes.

The man nods. “My name’s Hermann.” It’s half snarled. 

“Okay.” Newt says softly. “Mine’s Newt.”

Hermann nods. “Thank you.” He says softly. He looks up at the light, as they pass by it. “I’ll need surgery.”

“I’m a doctor, I know people.” Newt squeezes his arm. “Our people. And you can crash with me until you’re healed up and feeling okay.”

Hermann takes a deep breath. “Thank you.” He says again. His body trembles, he misses a step and his leg buckles. Newt steadies him, holds him up, winces at the thought of the amount of cleaning his coat’s going to need. The man leans against him for a moment, closes his eyes. “Thank you.”

The words come up as though ripped out of some deep part of him, as thought this was some kind of- harvest. A harvest of desperate words.

“It’s okay.” Newt’s mouth is dry, a little numb. “Seriously.” The words seem pathetic in comparison.

For a moment, he can only hold the other man. Tries to ignore the stench. “Come on,” he tries to sound cheerful, “Let’s get you home and cleaned up.”
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Newt must have fallen asleep after all. He wakes up stiff and shivering, still under the table. He bites of a groan as he props himself up on stiff legs, blinks a few times to clear the sleep from his eyes.

Hermann isn’t there.

The destroyed tupperware boxes are still there, torn apart and starting to stink as the cloned remains rot. His bag trails away in a blur of blue and claw marks.

Newt’s eyes follow it, the track of blue stains to their battered sofa. There’s a new tear down one of the seat cushions, the stuffing puffing out, tipped with more blue.

Newt pulls himself carefully out from under the table. “Hermann?”

There’s a scratching sound from behind the sofa, a faint creak. Newt takes a breath. It’s not the Victor. The Victor wouldn’t be hiding.

Even so, he doesn’t walk around the sofa. He squats down on the seat cushions and carefully pokes his head above the back, haunches clenched to leap away if- if-

He can’t even think it. It’s beyond thought, an instinctive tremble in every nerve. The tension that had kept him alive, for so long.

It fades quickly though, when he sees Hermann.

He’s huddled up against the back of the sofa, spines poking little holes in the hessian sacking, the weight of him pressing a hollow between the wooden stats. His legs are pulled up to his chest, four arms crossed into a wall and head tucked down. He trembles again, squeezes his arms, his legs tighter, coiling up to make a tiny ball even tinier.

“Hermann.” Newt hesitates, doesn’t know what to say. He lopes down, falls heavily on all fours beside Hermann and slides his legs out to sit beside him. The tendrils on his back flare and instinctively reach for Hermann, but his flinches away, and Newt forces them flat.

“I’m sorry.” He tries. It seems a good bet.

“What in the world for?” Hermann’s voice is low, grinding and wretched.

“I should have told you.” Newt drops on his belly, puts his head on his forepaws. The heavy tendrils of his tail twine and flick. “If you knew, you wouldn’t have- freaked out.” It’s the best way he can put it.

“Freaked out.” Hermann repeats. His arms drop away and he looks up, his face is slack, jaws open in small, helpless pants. He’s so miserable and he’s the most beautiful thing Newt has seen and wow he feels bad about that but oh fuck it’s him it’s Hermann.

Hermann must have seen the relief on his face, he twists away. His hands come up, trembling in shame.

Newt slides closer, gently bats his hands away. “Hey, hey.”

“Don’t-” Hermann’s voice is frail.

“It’s okay-”

“I could have-” he chokes.

“You didn’t.” Newt takes a breath because it’s true. The Victor could have killed him. He would have been as easy a target as the cloned meat- and probably tastier. But it hadn’t. “Not a scratch, look-” He spins around on his rump.

Hermann looks at him, takes a deep breath, and lets it out with a heavy shudder. He rubs his face, his arms, the back of his neck. The spines stand up, Hermann wraps his arms around himself and this time his breath comes out raw, ragged- a cry.

“Hey- hey-” Newt forgets the Victor, the trembling terror-instinct of the last night, and pulls Hermann in. He feels frail in his arms, the terrible strength of his other self melted away and gone. Thin bone and spun muscle and Newt wonders how he could have even been scared of him, even for a moment.

Hermann doesn’t move for long moments, his sobs breaking great and fearful as though each one was rent from his body, his hands keep moving, mapping out around his body, reassuring himself that he is his, he belongs to himself and there is no one else in there.

“Shh.” Newt rocks him. He thinks, for a moment, of the great bodies of their larger cousins, how Newt could huddle against them and let the horrors of the Anteverse whirl around them like a storm against great rocks. He tries to be that, in the Hive if not in body, great and solid and unbeakable and warm and holding life and comfort in every crevice of his body.

Hermann must have felt it, and lets out a weak chuckle. He looks up, and this time, the worst of the pain has passed. “If it counts for anything, I don’t think I- it- would have hurt you. The hunger- nothing else mattered, but I- it was still there, under my skin, I wouldn’t have-” he touches Newt’s shoulder, very lightly. The tips of his claws- those deep blue, razor sharp claws- whisper so softly against his skin.

Newt looks into his eyes, and- he knows. he can feel him, Hermann and, deeper still, the Victor. There, in the Hive, curled up alone and afraid and- in it’s own way- ashamed.

“I know,” he says softly. “It’s okay.”

“I’m sorry,” Hermann whispers. “I ruined this. You worked on this for months and- and we should be so happy and- I ruined it.”

Newt shrugs, and hugs him again. “I’ll make more. We’re fine, Hermann.”

October 2017

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