I apologize in advance for the poor quality of this fan fiction. I wanted to work with Kraus at a human level, and needed a female character to provoke it. In my haste I chose Kate (featured in the comics) and I know she is grossly out of character. I do not own Johann Kraus or Kate.
Kraus examined the wound with his gloved hand and the coarse fabric was not a welcomed feeling. There was no heat under the touch and this planted a seed of sudden concern when the realization slipped from Kate's mind that this was not a human treating her. The whirring of his containment suit was as present as other sounds encountered by coworkers, but she began to develop the idea that had made him as different as it did familiar. The gusts of released steam from his helmet had once frightened her, something so alien that her brain refused to accept his functioning within manmade material. Now it blended in with wind, slamming doors, clicking keyboards - everything that made Kate's everyday life what it was.
Her thoughts had consumed her mind to the point that when Kraus pressed on her burn she almost forgot it was already there, tricked by the pain into thinking he had injured her. "Hey!" she called out before she could filter her mouth and Johann started.
"Entschuldigen - please excuse me," he exclaimed and discontinued the pressing, barely touching her skin. Kate looked at the thick glass of his helmet as her mind wandered again, suddenly perceiving this long-time agent as a brand new species all over again. He released a breeze of steam and its intense heat washed over her bruised flesh.
"I never asked but..." she trailed off and Kraus angled his helmet towards her. "Are you... breathing? When you do that, I mean." her cheeks were red with unavoidable embarrassment - she'd known Johann for months and it would only make sense for her to have gathered a plethora of information about her agents. She had been selfish.
"You could say that," he responded, clacking across the room to his work bench where he began to leaf through yellowed pages of the ancient volumes he had hauled in with him from Munich. "It's a complex process. It resembles more so the release of built up heat from spent energy." he was quiet for a moment. "What injured you was not an uncommon demon; they are referred to simply as Chaos from ancient Rome. The burn is a symbol of their birth."
Kate did not respond immediately. "That's great, but what did I do to deserve it?"
"They create colonies within drifts of ash and you were most likely too close for comfort," Kraus explained briefly as he shut the book he was skimming with a soft 'poof.' "I can't do much for the injury besides wash it and treat it as a traditional burn."
"Okay," Kate nodded blankly and her eyes were ripped from their dry, zoning state as she watched the containment suit walk to the sink beside the work bench, washing and sterilizing tools and cloths. "Kraus, can you feel anything? When you're working?" her mind suddenly hit a wall at the concept that he lacked nerve-endings, the prime factor of touch.
Johann stopped moving the arms of his suit and Kate could hear the water running in front of him. A silence commenced that seemed to last for several minutes. "I can feel pressure," his accent split through the quiet like a hot blade. "I can feel... contact. Texture is alien to me, as is warmth. I had memories once of skin and clothe. You can only go so long without a sense before it digresses into a concept, a thought." he turned to her with a wet rag in one hand and a brown glass bottle in the other. "It is similar to losing your sight or even your limbs, I presume." he closed the distance between them and motioned for her to lift her shirt again which she did. "You miss it for some time until the ache becomes a shell and even when someone reminds you of the loss your regret of its absence becomes melancholy."
Kate was entranced by his words. Due to his robotic appearance she had simply written him off as a highly programmed mechanism, something made for a duty. Her regret ran deep to her pit and she found herself growing more embarrassed each moment. She observed his cleaning routine and clenched her teeth to the burn of the alcohol.
"For example," Johann began again while retrieving and cutting pallets of bandaging. "When I touched you, I could sense your wound and its history in a way you never could. But I was unable to detect the heat radiating from your core." he strategically taped the soft fabric over the burn. "I could not feel the goose bumps on our skin from the draft." his voice fell to silence as he finished his work.
"Even though you say the feeling becomes melancholy," Kate worded her sentence very carefully, her stomach tight with nervousness she hadn't anticipated. For the first time in their professional relationship she was afraid to offend him. "Does it...?" she couldn't finish. She was prodding him with questions that could have been asked in the beginning.
"Does it hurt?" he jumped in quickly, his mental abilities reminding her that he was beyond normal human capacity. "That is without question." he turned his back to her as he reorganized the books on his shelf. "The burn should heal completely in approximately two weeks. I cannot guarantee it won't scar."
Kate braced her palms against the arms of the chair but her body was reluctant to stand. She felt she was walking out on something with potential, a chance at connection with an agent who was the complete opposite of herself.
"Doctor Kraus," she spoke in a solid tone and he turned to look at her, releasing a gust of steam. "This may be completely out of line and inappropriate but I can't leave without..." she shook her head and did not glance at him as she spoke. "What does... what do you feel like? Your... form?" the familiar silence returned like yearly snow and finally her eyes leveled with the containment suit.
The bars that ran across the indented cylinder on the front of his helmet clicked rhythmically but he did not speak for several seconds. "My form?" he asked suddenly, and mainly to himself. "Es wurde zu lange..." he approached her with hesitant steps, his fingers joined at the tips as if in anticipation. "Are you not repulsed?" his submissive tone concerned Kate, as though she had made a terrible mistake. Perhaps it was dangerous.
"I guess not," she realized it as she said it. "I feel intrigued, maybe. A little frightened."
"Well you have nothing to fear," he assured her with a dry laugh that dropped almost instantly. "I cannot harm you unless I wished it. The feeling, though..." he tapped his fingers together. "It will be concerning at first."
"I will be brave then," Kate smiled despite the anxiety constricting her insides.
"Okay well," Kraus had always been confident, assertive, and often times bossy. But this had vanished with a simple sentence and crumbled into a reluctant mess, afresh with curiosity. "I must leave my suit."
Kate's brow furrowed. "Won't you dissipate?"
"If I stay uncontained for too long, yes. I would die." his fear was apparent now too and this left his visitor unnerved. "It will be for only a moment... only a moment..." he was fiddling with the various knobs on his suit and Kate observed with growing discomfort as he clicked a gauge that released an unfriendly hissing noise, long thin clouds of steam streaming from it and disappearing into the air. As this happened the containment suit deflated to a heaped mess at her feet, as if it had never been occupied at all.
She was about to comment on his invisibility when the shape of a human body formed in front of her, hazy and out of focus. She drew in a quiet gasp, never believing this was possible before now.
"It's alarming, isn't it?" Kraus's voice emitted from the apparition. "To see me like this."
"It's incredible," she whispered and could not keep herself from reaching forward. He didn't recoil as her hand met a completely unfamiliar surface texture, her body jumping from the shock. It resembled gelatin at first, like it was covered with a resistant skin. Then her palm pressed through and the sensation became one of sweeping warm water, but much lighter in density. Through the substance she could feel vibration, a tactile murmuring that was similar to the fuel guzzling of modern machinery but a life force pulsated within it. Her mind was awash with sensations as it tried to generalize what it was experiencing. She was not touching him, she was embracing his body as a whole - her hand was inside his chest but it did not pain him. The concept was unreal.
As quickly as it had begun it ended. His body began to break down into steam, leaving tiny droplets of water on her hand that when she touched disappeared without wetness. When she lifted her head the containment suit had been refilled, the soft hiss of air shooting through the vents of his helmet. A cold seep of despair formed between her lungs and ribs.
Kate opened her mouth to speak but couldn't gather words.
"I did not mean to frighten you," Kraus remarked eagerly when he saw her reaction. "I knew it may not be the best idea but it's been years since someone-"
"It was beautiful," she interjected with a scoff-like laugh. "I can't think of another word."
"I thought of the substance that way when I was in Munich, before the fire," he explained as he reset the various mechanisms on his chest and neck. "When it became my body I began to consider it as something much less impressive."
Kate could not tear herself from her thoughts. "Could you feel me?" she inquired, her urgent tone so unlike her normal facade. Kraus had barely seen her take interest in much besides work since they'd met. She definitely had never before cared this much for him.
A sound resembling a sigh was heard as he released another gust. "It isn't something I could explain to you that you would be able to fully relate to," he admitted with an undertone of sadness. "But I could."
"I felt your heart."
"You can call it that."
"What was it?" her round eyes were mirrors of her internal reaction, overflowing with curiosity and a new type of passion. Johann was as confused and excited as she was, for he had felt her warmth and with it resurfaced a countless number of memories connected to the same stimuli, shedding themselves of dust.
Steam blew from his vents. "It was what many people refer to as their heart. It can be called emotion but in very raw form. When I lost my flesh my soul became the embodiment of my mind." he paused to examine her face as he was unsure she was following. "Many people cannot handle the level of intimacy that is reached by interacting with an uncontained form."
"I can't shake the feeling," she admitted in a wary tone and Kraus sensed her exhaustion.
"If you wish to lie down in my chamber you may," he suggested as he returned to his workbench to distract himself from the long-forgotten sensations he was experiencing. He heard the creak of the chair as Kate stood and forcefully lifted her feet in shuffled steps towards the back of the room. He waited until the chamber door clunked shut before he looked up from his busy work, hot steam gushing through his helmet in a sigh. He should have told her.