I do not own anything in this story, besides the crack-riddled idea that this is based on. I swear, if Heiter wasn't dead, he would kill me, have Herbert bring me back to life, and then kill me again before defiling my corpse.
This is a crossover between The Human Centipede's own Dr. Josef Heiter and Re-Animator's Dr. Herbert West. I saw more then one strange similarity between the two, and just had to write this. They practically demanded it.
Dr. Herbert West, along with Hans Gruber, is property of H.P. Lovecraft and the Re-Animator films, their producers, and the lovely Jeffery Combs. Dr. Heiter is property of The Human Centipede, its writers and producers, and Deiter Laser.
The lab was surprisingly stuffy today, Herbert West reflected as he once again got to work on the antigen synthesizing they needed for the re-agent by product they'd discovered only weeks ago. Normally it wasn't this…humid in the laboratory, nor anywhere he was aware of in Switzerland. True, Dr. Gruber could have made it so in the confined space they used to distill certain proteins and such, but for what they were attempting, it was unlike him.
Odd, even by the older man's standards.
But he would work as he was told; do his job quickly and efficiently so that he had time for his own personal studies. (And personal they were, since no one, not even Gruber, knew of their true nature.) At least the work was easy today, and the proteins had already been separated from the other tissue samples. That only left putting the ingredients together and letting them cook. Then they could work from there, hopefully finding the ending result they had on accident all those weeks ago in a rage fueled brawl.
Herbert finished his work and sighed loudly, setting the equipment down carefully. He hadn't heard a peep out of Dr. Gruber at all this morning, completely unlike the very social man he had come to known in the past few years of his schooling. The man was always chatting with him, to him, trying to get him to socialize more, expand his personal horizons, to learn more German so that he could get out and meet the ladies. He had poked and prodded enough that Herbert had started learning some basic German, but only enough to know what others were saying on a small level and only if they spoke slowly.
Again Herbert sighed.
He wondered briefly if the man had gotten distracted again on his way to the lab this morning like he had a week or so prior… Certainly that woman hadn't been there again this week, not so soon. But then again, maybe it had been something else that had caught his ever fleeting attention. It was a wonder that they'd ever gotten anything done, let alone focused as they had on this now.
But even he knew that was a bit mean. Dr. Gruber was a truly brilliant man, even he knew that much. He wouldn't have gotten him as a specialty mentor if not, especially here in the Zurich University Institute of Medicine in Switzerland. No, if anything, the man was just a bit eccentric, something he himself couldn't complain about…
Regardless of what others said, Herbert was quite well aware of those around him…and what they said.
So, with a faint tick of tension and frustration, he finished up his measurements and careful notations before setting his notes off to the side, pencil lined up neatly along the binding of the spine. He as always this meticulous in his laboratory setting…one had to be when they worked under a man as chaotic and disorganized as Gruber. (Though the man had claimed that with genius came disorganization and clutter…) He couldn't see the connection himself, though by now he'd stopped arguing.
The chair had at least stopped squeaking now; he noted lightly as he rose, hands placed on the table before him as he took a deep, calming breath inwards before standing up straight to adjust his glasses. The thick frames had been slipping down his nose in the mugginess of the enclosed space, but at least now he'd be back in the main teaching lab, and back into the air's circulatory path.
That thought alone was what drove him to just open the door without stopping to listen for anything on the other side, or for potential voices within the classroom. Not that he would have cared much, since Gruber was indeed a teacher. However, the man he hit with the door on the other side did seem to mind, and said as much in the foreign tongue that Herbert was attempting to learn. Or, at least that's what he thought he said…he wasn't entirely sure.
But thankfully he hadn't hit him hard enough to drawn blood, so instead of staying to try and decipher what the man was raving on about, he simply moved to the side to wet down a small, clean towel from the sink to hand it to him for his slightly reddening face. He wasn't much for discussion anyways, and even if he was, he doubted he'd ever talk to one of Gruber's personal acquaintances, which is what this man appeared to be.
And he could almost say for certain that the feeling was shared by the man now standing across from him, if his death glare was anything to go by. But his merely shrugged it off as he did so many other forms of social scrutiny, and continued on his way within the lab, politely ignoring the man as he continued to nurse his head as well as his pride.
But regardless of how much he tried to avoid the man, the man simply didn't wish to be avoided. He continued to slowly follow behind Herbert, eyes trailing on his form as he moved and worked, preparing today's materials for the younger students, supplies being arranged in the neat and orderly fashion he knew Dr. Gruber lacked. He wasn't sure what he was watching him for, or why, but it was a bit unnerving, to say the least. He felt the constant stare regardless of where he moved in the room, and no matter how hard he tried to ignore it, he simply could not.
But he did not wish for any sort of confrontation, so he simply turned and gave the man a calculating glance until he turned away, leaving Herbert to return to his work. But the moment he turned his back, he felt the gaze return, practically burning holes into the place between his shoulder blades. It made his self-conscious about his work, and even more so about his appearance…
Where this man was tall, muscular, and lean, he was short, scrawny, and whippet thin. Where this man's jaw was strong and proud, his was rounded and shy. This man had an air of confidence around him that demanded respect and attention, where Herbert's own merely encouraged bullying and torment. This man was cold, calculating, and everything Herbert could ever hope to be.
And would never be…
After ten minutes of complete silence in the work room, Herbert began to feel a bit jumpy, reasons and source of his agitation unknown. (Though he had the sneaking suspicion that it had to do with the man now practically shadowing him, his form only two or three pace's away from his own.) It made him jumpy and frustrated, at himself as well as the man behind him and Dr. Gruber. Where was that man? Shouldn't he be here by now?
And then the man was speaking to him in a tightly controlled tone, syllables of nothing but German spilling from between graceful, native-speaking lips. From the sounds of it, it was a series of questions, though for the life of him Herbert couldn't decipher their meaning. None of the words the man said were any that he'd learned, so instead of making a fool of himself, he simply kept quiet and at arm's length from the man, eyes and person guarded.
But his silence seemed to frustrate the man even more, and his voice continued to rise in volume and tone, until it was nearly demanding and more than insistent in whatever need it contained. The sheer force of it had Herbert shaking, his eyes slightly more dilated than they normally were behind his large frames.
What did this man want, and why was he asking him?
"You're scaring my personal assistant and most brilliant pupil, Josef." Herbert had never been more relieved to hear Dr. Gruber's light, accent filled tones. "He doesn't speak a whole lot of German, so if you want something, you'll have to speak English. He's from the United States."
The man frowned at Gruber, though it was clear now to Herbert that they did know one another. He took another wary step back, putting the island table in between him and this mysterious Josef person. Strength in distance, after all.
"I did not know you were taking on those idiotic American pupils, Hans." The man's English was a bit off, though it served its purpose. Herbert could at least finally understand him. "Business must truly be slow for you to do such things. That or you're using him for an experiment?"
Gruber shook his head no, not laughing as Herbert would have thought he would. The man's entire demeanor now said caution, pity, sadness…regret in the movement of when he placed his hands behind his back. Herbert was quite adapt at reading body language, and Dr. Gruber's clearly read sadness and longing.
"Nein, Josef, I am not." Gruber stuck out his hand, which the other man took in a quick but efficient shake. "This is Herbert West, one of my best and brightest students, and now laboratory and teaching assistant. He may come from America, but that does not make him foolish or dim-witted. On the contrary, he scored better than any student to ever have enrolled here at this institute."
The man huffed, an eyebrow quirked.
"Is that so, Hans? Then why has he not picked up the native language yet?" A viable question, though Herbert didn't feel like answering as he continued on with his daily routine, the supplies for the testing finally set out. "An imbecile, if you ask me Gruber."
"Then it is a good thing I did not ask, Dr. Heiter." Dr. Gruber smiled pleasantly, motioning for Herbert to come forward. He did so, walking out of his way around the tables to avoid the mysterious Dr. Josef Heiter, face blank as he moved. "Ah, Herbert, I'd like you to meet a colleague and old classmate of mine, Dr. Josef Heiter. He's one of the leading surgeons in all of Europe when it comes to the separation of conjoined twins. His brilliance in the field is well known about this institute."
"It should be, Hans, as we both attended here to study." Heiter smirked, tone almost…playful now. He seemed to find it funny that Herbert was cautious about him now. "It has not been that long, has it?"
"No, it has not Josef. But please, you both seem a bit uncomfortable. I think we got off on the wrong foot, or I believe that's how the saying goes." He gripped Herbert's shoulders tightly. "My boy, would you mind giving us a few moments?"
Herbert nodded, and politely moved off towards the back room, the private shared laboratory, as the two men moved closer to one another and began to once again speak. After a few tense moments, the two men embraced one another and smiled before talking rapidly in German once more. Though Herbert could still hear them through the door, he couldn't have eavesdropped if he wanted too. He didn't speak German that well…yet.
But as their talking became more heated, Gruber's speech started fluctuating back and forth between German and English. And this, no matter how hard Herbert tried to focus on his notes, was too interesting to pass up.
As the conversation seemed to have to do with him…
"You cannot have him, Heiter! He is my student, my apprentice!" Grubber shouted, before switching into German again, rapidly shouting something in the man's face. Heiter responded in the like, and whatever he said must have upset Gruber even more, because he turned his back and raised his hands to shout. "Herbert is not a threat! He is nothing but my student, and a brilliant one at that!"
Heiter's tone dropped so that Herbert couldn't hear it.
"How could you think such a thing! He may be a bit different at times, timid even, but he would never do something like whatever your apprentice did!" He snarled. Herbert sighed…defending his honor? He didn't need it… "Herbert is helping me to discover a cure for brain death!"
The room went still and quiet.
Heiter didn't seem to have a come-back for that one.
"He is…what?" English, why is he speaking in English? It didn't make sense…he seemed to hate the language.
"That's right, Josef, he's helping me to break the barrier on brain death. He's even composed and discovered a formula, a serum, if you will, that will negate it completely. It was an accident at first, but he was able to replicate the conditions exactly." Gruber sighed. "That boy is a genius, and he'll be able to continue on my work once I'm…"
"That is why you called me here, isn't it Hans? You want me to take him on as my own in the event of your death. In the event that the disease takes you before old age can?" Herbert couldn't see the motion, but he could only imagine that Dr. Gruber had nodded. "You know that I've never been much of a social person."
"What a coincidence, neither is he." West could hear his Professor's smile in his voice. "Talk to him, get to know him, you have much more in common then you think you do. And you have to promise me, Josef, that if anything were to happen, you'd help him. If not for him, then for me."
Herbert West held his breath.
And Dr. Heiter agreed.
Herbert smiled fondly as he finished putting the final stitches into the creation before him, thinking fondly of his time spent with Dr. Heiter in his home lab after the man had rescued him from the asylum he'd wound up in when they found him testing on Gruber's body. The man had taught him so much about human structure, and the possibilities that it had when combined with a brilliant mind like his own. He'd taught him so much in the two years after Gruber's death…before he transferred back to Miskatonic Medical University in New England.
Everything he'd done recently had been influenced by that man, his greatest tutor, as he had been the one to instruct him on some of the more…beneficial parts to being a German bred scientist. Things like where to put his lab…or where to keep his research notes so that they wouldn't be found. He could even remember exactly what the man had said in regards to his own work space, the one night late in the lab. The one they'd spent in the companionable silence of research and practice.
"My personal laboratory is in my cellar, if you must know." Dr. Heiter responded tersely, tone clipped and consonants hard one day as they worked. "Out of sight, out of mind, out of the way. It is best to keep it away from prying eyes, especially in the line of work we're both in. This is why it is where it is."
He remembered it as he did the first time he ever made an incision into living tissue, or the first time he'd been called by his full doctorate title, or even the first time he'd injected dead tissue with his completed re-agent…it was exquisite. He'd been in Heiter's company with each of those memories, and though he'd never forget them, he'd also never forget the first time they'd met.
That little stitch in time…and his memory.