Chapter One: The Hansens
A/N: Hello, everyone! So of course, like many of you, we have a deep love of the Hansens...and so decided to do a story focusing on their background and careers as Jaeger pilots. The pairings are obviously Herc/OC and Chuck/OC. Hope you enjoy!
November 11, 2019
"Hold still." Becky James's tone was firm as she gripped her blonde friend by the shoulders, appraising her. She carefully unscrewed the lid on the silver eye glitter, and Lilah Powell sighed heavily. Upon their arrival at the Hilton, Becky had immediately dragged her into the ladies' bathroom. From her handbag, she'd produced a small array of make-up and two bottles of 'liquid confidence'.
"Becky, I'm already wearing so much mascara I don't think I can blink," Lilah protested, not that it stopped her friend from lunging with the brush. Closing her eyes, Lilah could almost feel herself disappearing in a puff of glitter. She heard Becky's heels clicking on the tiles and knew her friend was stepping back to admire her handiwork. She opened her eyes to Becky's satisfied grin.
"You are a babe," Becky declared proudly, causing Lilah to turn towards the mirror in a brief moment of vanity. Of course, she was disappointingly plain compared to Becky. Rebekah James was every surfer's dream, with ridiculously long legs, a flawless tan and huge hazel eyes. Lilah on the other hand…she was just Lilah, with a mess of blonde curls and a disappointing height of five foot four.
Trust Becky to flirt her way past the attendant at Dan Murphy's and manage to procure two cider bottles without even being asked for ID. Then again, despite being two years under the legal age, Becky could pass for eighteen. Lilah was sometimes met with surprise when she told people she was fifteen. Becky called it being 'sweet-faced' or 'cute'. Lilah called it infuriating.
"Are we good?" Lilah asked almost anxiously. She and Becky had come with Becky's dad, Trent James. He owned a mining company over in Western Australia, and with his immense wealth, was a primary funder for the Jaeger Program. That was part of the reason Lilah had been able to come. The other part was Dylan.
Dylan was Lilah's older brother. Nineteen years old, and already one of the most well-known faces in Australia. Along with his best friend Kyle, Dylan was a Jaeger pilot – the very first in Australia. The pair were charged with the Vulcan Specter, a Mark 3 Jaeger that had been operating since early 2018. While Lilah swelled with pride for her older brother, she couldn't help but be jealous with how much he had achieved.
"Liquid confidence first," Becky trilled, a mischievous glint in her eyes as she twisted the tops off the bottles and handed one to Lilah before the younger girl could protest. "Come on, drink up. We're meeting the Hansens tonight. I've heard that Chuck is crazy hot."
Lilah couldn't help but roll her eyes as she clinked bottles with Becky. While her friend took a big gulp, she stuck with a modest sip. Lilah was already wearing three inch heels, and she knew a combination of that and alcohol would have her staggering around the function room in no time.
Chuck Hansen. The world's youngest Jaeger pilot at sixteen years old. He and his father Herc had been announced just today as the pilots of the Striker Eureka, the newest Australian Jaeger and only Mark 5 in existence. Lilah didn't know much about Chuck, but Dylan had had more than enough to say. Was it jealousy that contributed to her brother's angry rant about the younger Jaeger pilot? Lilah couldn't be certain.
Upon their exit from the bathroom, Becky grabbed Lilah's wrist and tugged her across the function room. That was always Lilah – following Becky's lead. She had more of a fascination with Jaegers than cute pilots. Becky was a passionate self-described 'Jaeger groupie', someone who followed the teams around wherever they went. She'd pestered and flirted with Dylan incessantly, until she had seen he wasn't interested in the slightest.
"Look, there he is." Becky pointed shamelessly, while Lilah's cheeks flared with heat at her friend so openly ogling the poor boy. "That's Chuck. Oh, and his dad, Herc. Don't you think he's hot, though?"
Lilah critically examined Chuck Hansen, where he was standing with a Coke in his hand and a lazy smirk stretched across his lips. He was about six foot, with dark blonde hair and a muscular physique. Good-looking? Yes. Incredibly arrogant? Definitely. By the smug expression on the boy's face, he looked like he was enjoying every second of attention he was given.
"Hey, Chuck." Becky was all flirtatious smiles and meaningful glances as she sidled up beside the Jaeger pilot. He didn't look at all averse to her attention, and Lilah couldn't blame him. Becky was very pretty. She thought she had a good idea what was going to happen here. "I just wanted to say, congratulations. You're so young to be a pilot, but I bet you'll be brilliant. I mean, you just look so strong."
"Thanks." That smirk never faded from Chuck's lips as he casually leaned against a table, watching Becky closely. "What was your name?"
"Becky James." The brunette tossed back her long bronze tresses. "My dad is Trent James, you may have heard of him. He owns a mining company in Western Australia. Oh, and this is my friend, Lilah Powell."
"Charmed," Chuck barely spared Lilah a glance, before his attention was back on Becky. Lilah felt somewhat awkward, standing there watching her friend flirting with Chuck. He was responding with enthusiasm, so she mumbled some excuse about finding Dylan. Turning around and almost stumbling over her heels to get away from Chuck and Becky, Lilah just about cannoned into a man and woman.
"Sorry!" she squeaked, before her humiliation tripled when she realised that she was standing in front of Herc Hansen. Beside him was a pretty woman with green eyes and long brown hair in a black cocktail dress. Neither of them seemed to be as ecstatic as Chuck, but Herc offered Lilah a tired smile.
"Hercules Hansen." He offered his hand, and Lilah couldn't help but smile in return as she shook it. At least Chuck's father wasn't lacking in manners. "This is my friend and medical officer in the Jaeger Program, Joanna Caldwell."
She glanced between them. "Lilah Powell."
"Dylan's sister?" Herc raised an eyebrow, glancing across the function room. Sure enough, there was Dylan, fair-haired and chatting animatedly with Kyle. "He's a good kid. Great pilot, too. He and Kyle have done an excellent job, and it'll be an honour to help them out."
"Lilah!" Dylan had noticed his younger sister and made a beeline for her, sweeping her into a warm embrace as Herc and Jo made their way over to the beverages table. Lilah couldn't help but grin, grateful for her older brother's company. Aside from Becky, he was the only person at this stupid function that she felt relaxed around. "Having fun yet?"
"I am now," Lilah admitted, tucking an unruly curl behind her ear. When she looked around, she couldn't see Chuck or Becky anywhere. "Becky kind of ditched me to hang out with Chuck Hansen."
"Huh." Dylan didn't look incredibly surprised, and Lilah had to admit that even she wasn't shocked. If there was choice between hanging out with someone cool and staying true to her friends, Becky would always choose someone cool. "That brat. His dad's okay, though. I noticed you were talking to him. He's a great guy."
Lilah enjoyed spending time with her older brother. Since Dylan had become a Jaeger, he spent most of his time at the Shatterdome. Rose, their mother, was constantly complaining about how little time her precious oldest child spent at home. Dylan was practically all Rose talked about, and Lilah couldn't help but feel that her mother compared the two of them, whether intentionally or not.
"I might go and find Becky," Lilah murmured, suddenly feeling awkward and insecure around her perfect, talented older brother. Dylan glanced at her quizzically, but Lilah set off across the function room, trying not to trip in her heels. She could never admit to him that she envied him. Envied his Jaeger, his capability in battle, his popularity…everything. She was just Lilah Powell, Dylan's little sister.
Lilah traipsed out into the passageway, raking a hand through the tangle of her blonde hair. She pushed open the door to the ladies', freezing when she heard the sound of someone moaning softly from a closed cubicle. Lilah kept completely still, in the awkward situation of not knowing whether she should stay where she was or back out of the ladies'. After a few excruciating moments the toilet door opened – and Lilah's jaw dropped.
Becky exited the cubicle, tugging down the hem of her dress. Chuck followed her, buttoning up his shirt and doing up his tie. Lilah was suddenly, embarrassingly aware that she had walked in on her best friend having sex with Chuck Hansen in a toilet cubicle. A toilet cubicle. Becky caught sight of Lilah in the mirror and whirled around, hand pressed to her heart.
"Oh my God, Lilah! What the hell?"
Chuck glanced casually at Lilah, obviously not as shocked as Becky. In fact, he offered her a self-satisfied smirk, one that made Lilah want to slap him across the face. How could he be so casual about the whole thing? Becky looked mortified, her cheeks burning bright red. She glanced at Chuck over her shoulder as she clicked across to Lilah.
Chuck shrugged. "Sure."
Becky grabbed Lilah's arm and tugged her out of the ladies'. Lilah could tell by the fact that Becky was almost stomping, heels digging hard into the carpet, that she was mad at her. She felt confused and also irritated. Anyone could have walked in on what was going on. When they had distanced themselves, Becky whirled around to face Lilah, hazel eyes narrowing.
"What is your problem?"
"What's yours?" Lilah held up her hands defensively. "I just walked in, Becky. I wasn't expecting…that."
At the mention of Chuck, Becky sighed dreamily. Lilah rolled her eyes. No doubt Becky thought this meant they were madly in love. Lilah would be fifty bucks that Chuck had no intention of dating Becky. Her romantic illusions would be unfulfilled and then she would mope until the next cute Jaeger team member showed up and the cycle would start over again.
"Isn't he just so good-looking?" Becky gushed, causing Lilah sigh heavily. She didn't want to shatter her friend's dreams, for there were some things in life that Becky needed to realise the truth by herself. Glancing over her shoulder, Lilah noticed Chuck heading back towards the function room. He noticed her looking and offered her a grin. Lilah responding by narrowing her eyes and turning away.
You are bad news, Chuck Hansen.
Joanna Caldwell calmly observed the crowd that had gathered in the convention center of the hotel, sipping on her glass of champagne every now and again. It was made up of the sort of people she never trusted, and certainly never befriended. Politicians, heiresses, groupies with stardust in their eyes, all wearing masks to appear as anything other than what they were. Even she felt a bit fake, with her brunette waves cascading around her shoulders, standing in a skimpy cocktail dress with heels that were so high, she was beginning to question their purchase. No one knew she owned them. This was not exactly her normal, or preferred, look.
In fact, the only person who seemed remotely real was standing to her right, eying a bottle of whisky behind the bar. Hercules Hansen may have been Australia's biggest hero, but he certainly did not like to play the part. Unlike Chuck, who had practically jumped at the opportunity to have his ego stroked, Herc was avoiding the attention at all costs.
Smiling, Joanna leaned against the bar, taking one last swig of her drink. She noticed Herc looking over her. It was hard not to, the man had been staring all night.
"You going to say something, Ranger, or are you just going to keep drooling all over the bar?"
Herc sighed, motioning to the bartender. "If I knew you were going to be like this all night, I wouldn't have invited you."
"Yes, you would have," Joanna replied, stepping over to Herc. She began to fix his tie, which he had been pulling on the entire night, no doubt suffocating in the environment. She could hear him sigh in frustration, which only made her tighten it a little more.
"And…and what makes you say that?"
Joanna looked up, green eyes meeting his deep blue. He was still a couple inches taller, even with her outrageous heels. "Well, it's very simple, really. You and social interactions mix together about as well as oil and water. If I wasn't here, you'd either be gone or drunk off your ass."
"That isn't fair."
"Oh, it's perfectly fair." Joanna stood a bit higher, reaching around until her mouth was right on his ear. She felt him stiffen, subtly but there. Making Herc Hansen, savior of the world, uncomfortable, was one of her favorite pass times. "Besides, I had my own invite. Chief medical officer, remember?"
With that, she lowered herself, slapping him on the chest before reaching for another glass of champagne.
"Woman, you're going to be the death of me," Herc said as he took a shot.
Joanna had to laugh at that, but her smile was short lived. She and Herc had a…complicated relationship to say the least. It was years filled with words unsaid and actions not taken, regrets, spontaneity, and far too much alcohol. And for the longest time, there had just been a comfortable existence, neither of them talking about what could or should have been. They were too busy surviving. The Kaiju had given humanity the gift of dropping everything and moving on with life.
That was until a small celebration for Herc's 39th birthday the night before resulted in the two waking up very naked in his bed.
She would never admit it to him, but that had been the best morning of her life.
Herc Hansen was supposed to be a simple man. He claimed to be, as did most people who knew him. He loved his football and he loved his beer, and getting into fights seemed to prove his manliness in ways she could never understand, although the years had started to knock some sense into his thick skull. He rarely lied and was always straight to the point, but there was something about him that Joanna could never quite wrap her head around. For a simple man, he was still such a mystery to her, and it made her uncomfortable sometimes. Every now and again, she appreciated the reassurance of knowing what a man had on his mind.
Joanna opened her mouth to say something, though at the time she was not sure what, when a mess of a girl stumbled upon them. She recognized her from earlier. Lilah Powell, according to Herc she was the younger sister of one of their other Jaeger pilots. The poor thing was beet red and looked about ready to run from the room.
"What's wrong, dear?" She asked, trying to sound as concerned as possible. Why was she so certain it had something to do with Chuck?
She cleared her throat. "I caught Chuck and Becky…um…"
Joanna had no idea who Becky was, but the sudden bright red complexion on Lilah's face was more than enough for her to connect the dots. Herc, however, was not as adept when it came to the world of women. He looked a little confused, and worried, and possibly angry already, but any mention of Chuck was enough to get him there, unfortunately.
"Say no more. Why don't you have a seat and…Herc and I will handle this."
Lilah practically fell into her chair. She looked like she could use some comfort. Luckily for her, Dylan Powell seemed to be out to win the Brother of the Year award. He was at her side in an instant.
"Am I missing something here?" Herc asked, looking between her and Lilah.
Joanna bit her lip. "Chuck wasn't a virgin, was he?"
Herc looked at her like she was crazy. "Why would you-"
To watch the realization dawn on him was a little hilarious, she had to admit. First, he looked like a man who suddenly remembered his age, and deflated a little. Then the anger returned. He was more subtle about it than Chuck, she had to give him that, but Joanna knew that look very well. Chuck had invoked it far too many times in his father.
His gaze instantly locked on Chuck, not that he was too hard to find. He was walking around the room with the smile of a boy who got everything he wanted, and then some.
Herc took another shot before practically storming off from the bar, making a beeline for his son. Joanna had to almost jog to catch up to him, which was not an easy task in heels. Falling would have been a marvelous way to kick off the evening, though it might have made stopping Herc easier. She barely managed to grab his hand and pull him to a stop.
"Not here," she whispered, glancing around the crowded room. Most of the occupants were far too into their drinks and conversations to have noticed, although she saw Lilah staring wide-eyed at them from the bar. "Starting a fight with your co-pilot is hardly a good kickoff to Striker's career."
He didn't say anything, but he didn't make another move for Chuck either. His grip on her hand was painfully tight, but Joanna said nothing about it. Anything to keep the peace.
"Hercules Hansen!" Some man shouted, slapping him hard on the back. Herc was a formidable man, but even he stumbled slightly at the sudden contact. Joanna had no idea who the man was, but she figured he was some sort of politician, one she probably never voted for. "How is Australia's greatest Jaeger pilot this evening?"
Herc looked pained. He always did hate compliments. "A little worse for wear, sir. These gatherings aren't exactly my area of expertise."
"I suppose not! Fighting Kaiju is more your field! Leave the talking to us and the fighting to soldiers, that's what I always say." He turned to Joanna, his gaze making her skin crawl. Even from here she could smell the alcohol on his breath. "And who is this lovely lady? I don't believe I've had the pleasure of making your acquaintance."
Joanna saw Herc roll his eyes, not that he had ever been a word master when it came to flirting. "This is my friend Joanna Caldwell. She's a medical officer in the program."
"Charmed," the man replied, kissing the back of her hand like he was some old-fashioned gentleman. Joanna subtly rubbed it on her dress when he turned away. "I believe some photos are in order."
They looked like quite the heroic pair, Herc and Chuck Hansen. Framed and lighted in the right ways, Herc even started to look like he wasn't suffering from all the attention, though compared to his son, he looked like a regular grouch.
Joanna had managed to catch Chuck before the paparazzi had whisked them away, redoing his tie and calling him out on his stunt from earlier. He shrugged it off like it was nothing, but she knew the message had gotten through. For five years she had looked out for him while his father was away at work, and that had been more than enough to get Chuck to take her more seriously than him. Sometimes she wondered if Herc just kept her around for that purpose.
Watching the two of them stand up there, the heroes of Australia, of the world, Joanna could not help but feel the fear creep up her spine. Herc had been at this for years. He was one of the first and had piloted every model of Jaeger the governments could come up with, but every time he went out to fight, she thought he would never come back. It had been enough to make her sick on more than one occasion.
Now they were both up there, father and son, the only family Joanna felt she had left in the world. If they went, where would that leave her?