The Trials and Tribulations of One Hermann Gottlieb, PhD
Pairing: Newton Geiszler/Hermann Gottlieb
Summary: The next morning, Newton barges into Hermann's quarters—he's still in the process of packing his items—and shoves his phone into Hermann's face. It's an article on some celebrity gossip site—the sort of thing that Hermann avoids like the plague—with a photograph of the two of them sitting at their table from the night before, Newton's head thrown back in a carefree laugh, photo-Hermann gazing at him fondly, lips slightly slanted upwards. The title reads, in a garish font, "More Than Just Lab Partners?"
It all starts on Hermann's birthday; Newton takes him out for dinner at an upper-class restaurant-slash-space-observatory that Hermann's fairly certain he only managed to get a reservation to due to their newfound celebrity status. It goes fairly well, up until they order dessert, Newton chattering about the newly-established programs for marine-life preservation are coming, Hermann listening intently; the first indication is small: the server who brings them their drinks menu has a fond look in her eyes and a smile twitching at her lips.
Hermann doesn't realize what it means—not even when she asks, "So, you two're partners, then?" placing emphasis on partners, and, out of habit, he nods.
Of course, he had thought she meant partners as in lab partners, not romantic partners.
Not that that changes anything; the evening goes off without a hitch, and then, the next morning—
The next morning, Newton barges into Hermann's quarters—he's still in the process of packing his items—and shoves his phone into Hermann's face. It's an article on some celebrity gossip site—the sort of thing that Hermann avoids like the plague—with a photograph of the two of them sitting at their table from the night before, Newton's head thrown back in a carefree laugh, photo-Hermann gazing at him fondly, lips slightly slanted upwards. The title reads, in a garish font, "More Than Just Lab Partners?"
"What is this?" Hermann questions flatly. Newt throws up his hands.
"That's what I want to know, dude—I went out for a bite, cuz, y'know, I haven't eaten anything in like, ages, and this dude just pops out of nowhere, shoves a mic in my face and begins asking me if we're a couple!" Newton finishes, flushed, hands moving wildly as he paces the area. Hermann raises a brow.
"Realistically, this'll blow over in a week or so—it'll be a hot topic for a short amount of time before they go back to…" he checks some of the older articles, "speculating what kind of lube Ranger Beckett uses."
Newton makes a face. "They seriously write articles on that?"
Hermann shrugs, going back to his packing, and Newton flops on his bed, scrolling through the various articles on the website, vocalizing his distaste at various articles. A pang of something unnamed tugs at his heart at the thought that soon, they'll go their separate ways.
It doesn't die down, contrary to Hermann's predictions; if anything, the two of them continuing as if nothing has changed—because nothing has changed, except perhaps sometimes when Hermann sleeps he sees flashes of Newton's memories and sometimes he wakes up to Newton knocking on his door, face drawn and pale from a night terror, and allows the biologist to climb into his bed, reasoning that physical proximity between Drift partners will help—only adds fuel to the rumors. Day-to-day activities that require leaving the safety of the Shatterdome become a nightmare of paparazzi hounding one or both of them, until even Newton, who's always insisted he wants to be a rockstar, takes one look at the crowd of people trying to follow them into a deli and groans, "Fuck being a rockstar—can we just go back to being forgotten and undervalued?"
Hermann shares similar sentiments—he knows it's been bad for everyone, and that the press attention they're getting is paltry in comparison to what Herc Hansen, Ranger Beckett and Mako are having to deal with, but even this makes him ache.
Thankfully, it does seem to peter out a bit, to the point where Hermann almost forgets about it, after two weeks, relegated to fifty-cent celebrity tabloids.
By that point, both of them have packed up, and Hermann is only stalling on finding a new place because he isn't quite sure how to function without Newton—over the past ten years, he's become almost alarmingly codependent, and Drifting afterwards intertwined them to the point where Hermann's not quite sure where Newton ends and Hermann begins.
It's Newton who broaches the subject one evening, after they've had a few glasses to drink—a celebration of the third week after the apocalypse was officially cancelled. "We should get a flat together," he proposes, "I mean, no offense, but the PPDC hardly paid us fantastically and I doubt you have a giant sum of money hidden away. Plus, I keep getting emails from various colleges and universities asking for the two of us to do guest lectures together—sharing a flat would only be logical."
Hermann hums, running the thought over, and nods. "Of course—we managed not to kill each other for ten years sharing a lab. What's the worst that can happen?"
Apparently, something must've gone wrong with the papers, because the first piece of mail they get when they movie into the flat—a two-bed one-bath little place in Boston, because Newton is nostalgic—is addressed to Doctors Geiszler-Gottlieb.
"Newton," Hermann says, brandishing the letter at the other, who's sitting at the kitchen bar, eating a piece of toast, "what is this?"
Newton peers at the envelope. "Shit!" he suddenly exclaims, "Hermann, what did you sign our last letter to MIT as?"
"Doctors Geiszler and Gottlieb, why?" he questions, puzzled as two how it has any bearing on the situation. Newton groans.
"MIT recently started using a hard-copy-to-digital transcriber for letters so that they can get a copy of it to all staff, and the program is…" he trails off. "Well, it does occasionally mistake certain things as others—and you gotta admit, your ampersands look pretty similar to a hyphen."
Hermann freezes. "That's—that's what happened?" he croaks, disbelieving.
"Sorry man," Newton shrugs. "We can try and get it changed, but that'll require a lot of paperwork and various phone-calls. We're better off just leaving it be—it's not like it's gonna affect anything, right?"
Except, as it turns out, they've been scheduled as Doctor Newton Geiszler-Gottlieb and Doctor Hermann Geiszler-Gottlieb for their lecture, which brings the celebrity column writers crawling out of their offices like termites from a piece of wood that's been disturbed.
Incidentally, that is also when Hermann's feelings decide to make an appearance—the very ones he'd been certain had been crushed upon his and Newton's disastrous first meeting. He finds himself lingering when he brushes against the biologist, heart thundering at a ridiculous rate when Newton makes casual physical contact with him, breath catching when the other laughs like he's some sort of teenager with a crush, never mind that Newton was his teenage crush.
He does his best to ignore it—they've got better things to do, and Hermann hardly has time for this—but, as always, Newton is far more blunt than he.
"So, Hermann," Newton starts one day over dinner, the two of them eating take-out on the couch. "I've been meaning to ask you something for a while—like, a long time, like, since years ago—"
"What," Hermann snaps, annoyed at the interruption; they're watching The Imitation Game, and he'd been riveted.
"So you remember our letters, right?" Newton asks, and Hermann sighs, pausing the movie—he can tell this isn't going to be a quick conversation.
"Yes, what of them?" he questions.
A nervous look flitters across Newton's face, and he clears his throat before continuing. "So, like, I had a bit of a crush on you, and it disappeared when we actually met, cuz, you know, that was a bit of a disaster, but then we had to share a lab for ten years and it turns out my crush wasn't gone but like, we were busy trying not to die, but now the apocalypse has officially been cancelled and correct me if I'm reading the situation wrong but I like you, like, a lot and you seem to maybe like me as well—unless, like, the feelings I got from you in the Drift were just echoes of my own feelings—, and basically I was wondering if you'd be open to maybe dating me?"
By the end of it, Newton's voice is higher than usual, face flushing from not breathing for so long, and Hermann is—
Hermann is—stunned. Happily surprised, obviously, but also stunned.
"Hermann," Newton says, hesitatingly, "you gonna say something? Like, I totally understand if you don't want to, but like, please don't leave me hanging."
Hermann tries to speak, only to let out a strangled squeak. Newton shoots him a concerned look, and Hermann clears his throat. "Yes—I'd—I'd very much be open to that," he manages, and Newton grins at him.
"Can I—can I kiss you?" Newton breathes, and Hermann nods.
"Yes," he whispers, and Newton leans forward, cupping his cheek, and presses his lips against Hermann's tentatively. Hermann melts into the kiss, grasping at Newton's lapels in an attempt to stay grounded.
When they finally break apart, Newton says, voice rough, "I've wanted to do that for years."
Hermann laughs, amazed, and Newton kisses him again, slow and sweet, like they've got all the time in the world.