Team extremely hot dads, because it needs to be more widely known that Tendo is also a dad. Though I do apologize for any OCC-ness, this is my first time writing Tendo and Stacker.
and i'll remember you for all the ones that won't
The three of them have exactly three things in common.
One, the Jaeger program.
Two, a kid.
Three, each other.
And for as long as they can remember that's all it matters (those days from before the first Kaiju attack no longer mean a thing, a lot of things back then don't mean a thing now).
They meet for the first time with the Mark I Jaegers still in construction behind them. The man is British, and something of a legend in the Air Force. Shaking hands, they exchange a near imperceptible nod (a damn close thing to a smile for old soldiers like them). It's one for a comrade in arms, and another one for staring down the eyes of the monsters they've learned to call Kaiju and coming back alive.
"Pleasure to meet you."
His accent isn't thick, but it is audible when he introduces himself to the man standing in front of him.
"I'm Hercules Hansen."
Under any other circumstances, they are men who may never have met one another. But the end of the world has never been anything but kind when it comes to bringing together a band of desperate fighters (all with a vengeance of their own).
The second time they meet again, the world has already suffered through two other Kaiju attacks. It is also the first time Herc drifts with Stacker, Tendo Choi's voice the only thing binding the two co-pilots together before they enter the Drift.
"This is Tendo Choi from the LOCCENT, your air traffic controller for today's run. Do try to play nice with each other, this is my first day on the job."
Herc lets out a soft huff that could have been a laugh while Pentecost only shakes his head at the amount of charisma coming through the comm.
They can both hear the smile through the comm.
"Engage the drop, Mr. Choi."
"Keep your pants on, Ranger, engaging drop right now."
(And at that, Herc lets out a genuine laugh that earns him a glare from Stacker but only because the man couldn't give Tendo Choi one through the comm.)
The drop is easy, a fall that is all in the muscle memories.
It is the Drift, like always.
"Initializing neural handshake in three… two…"
They have their eyes closed as it hits.
Knocking the air from their lungs and the breath from between their lips, there is a burning building crumbling before his eyes. The span of Sydney from the sky, and god, she's beautiful. Sweat drenched days of training for a war halfway around the world, the cocking of a gun deafeningly loud. Someone throws a gut punch, freefall, the span of England from the sky. There is a baby boy crying in his arms, and the drop of another nuclear weapon on the Kaiju over thirty miles inland. There is—
"—Neural handshake holding strong, boys. "
Through the comm, Tendo's voice cuts through it all. The only tangible thing keeping them anchored to the real world of monsters and oversized robots.
And then they are off.
The end of the world drives even the best of men to do the wildest things. But for now, they learn each other's name and face, and are content with just that.
He has three cups of coffee in one hand, a bagel balanced on top, and a stack of files in the other when they return two hours later from their test run. He is probably not at all what they expect (or maybe, he is exactly what they expect) when they look at him, bowtie skewed and one of his suspenders perched precariously over one shoulder, ready to slip off.
"Ranger Pentecost and Hansen, I presume?"
"Call me Tendo."
He gives them both a smile, one that quickly disappears when the file at the top of the pile threatens to fall. And then it is a mad dash that nearly has him emptying the three cups of scalding hot coffee on all three of them.
(He doesn't though. While that is somewhat of a minor victory, it does end with Stacker Pentecost holding on to his bagel, Hercules Hansen with an armful of paperwork, and Tendo Choi sharing his supply of good coffee mixes for the duration of their stay.)
It doesn't start until the day before Herc is due to return to his station back in Sydney.
They have known each other for exactly a week and a half, but that has already exceeded the length of most of Tendo's past relationships (and really, between all three of them, he gets the most say only because he has had more than zero relationship and hasn't married his high school sweetheart right out of college).
"…Are the two of you propositioning me right now?"
"I don't think that's what the kids are calling it these days." Herc leans back against the wall, his shoulders pulling taut beneath the tight grey shirt when he shrugs. But Tendo only stands closer to Herc, he hasn't been Hercules since the first time he's brought it up, and supplies with a grin like he is making a valid point in all of this. "But you do have the biggest bed."
Pentecost can only stare at the two of them for one long moment before he is rubbing at his temple, applying just enough pressure to relieve the start of a headache.
It's not a question but a statement when Herc and Tendo glance at each other, like they have reconfirmed that yes, this is exactly what they want.
"The bureaucrats will have a fit if they ever found out."
"It's the end of the world and that is what you're worried about, Stack?" He gets a scowl, but it is less for what he is saying and more for the name. Tendo doesn't roll his eyes but it's a close thing. "-er."
Stacker doesn't know how they end up like this, no, he does, he personally agreed to this but he has a feeling that this too can only end in two ways: as disastrous as this war is becoming or as easily as this has all started.
"So, Mr. Choi, you say my bed is the biggest."
"Oh, I know so."
"Trial run, Stacker, always choose the fights you know you can win."
After all, he's seen how they look at each other.
It remains something of an on and off relationship between the three of them.
Tendo will drag Stacker down for a kiss, all tongues and filthy smirks in the way his lips quirk when Herc has been stationed in Sydney for too long. And when Marshal Pentecost visits the Sydney Shatterdome for any official business, Stacker will brush his knuckles down Herc's spine and pass on that kiss from Tendo when no one else is in the room.
They don't demand loyalty. It is one built on convenience and comradery and too many battles standing at each other's side.
This goes on for years.
And then they are back at the Anchorage Shatterdome.
Stacker Pentecost hasn't been a Ranger for a long time now. Hercules Hansen has piloted every Mark the Jaeger Program has ever funded into creation. And Tendo Choi is now the Chief LOCCENT Officer.
Plenty has changed, and not many for the better.
And just when they think the program is done for, they get eight more months.
He is lying stretched out beneath the sheets, eyes closed and at ease. The lines of his muscles finally a fraction looser than the constant taut pull he's got on himself. But that goes for all of them.
Stacker is lying between the two of them. Tendo who is leaning off the edge of the bed, reaching for something, and Herc who has an arm thrown over his chest, his face smashed halfway into the pillow they are sharing. The room isn't dark enough that he can't see the stretch of intricate tattoos covering a better part of Tendo's back (but that map has been a familiar sight beneath his hands since a long, long while now) or what he is doing when he is back on the bed. The click of the lighter too loud when the small flickering flame casts a warm red glow over the tangled state of their legs beneath the sheets pooling at their hips.
"You've got a kid coming, Tendo."
Stacker reminds him with a small frown, voice rough with the edge of sleep when he reaches over to take the cigarette from between the other's lips. There is no returning protest, just a resigned sigh before Tendo is flopping back down to the bed, eyes wide at the realization once more.
"Two more months 'til Alison's due."
Herc lifts his head from the pillow at their voices, rests his chin on Stacker's shoulder and mumbles something about having nicotine patches if he wants. "…How's Alison doing?"
There is shuffling and then Tendo has turned over to his side, hair mussed and smile a lovely twist over his lips. "She's good, wants to meet you though."
"Tell her soon, several more weeks and then we'll all be in Hong Kong."
"And then the countdown starts."
Tendo doesn't let go of the rosary wrapped around his wrist and hand when he traces their scars. Herc doesn't take off his wedding ring when he grips their arms and hips and thighs. And Stacker doesn't ever let this be the end, not when he is still alive to change the world.
They kiss around their imminent doom and swallow down the grief.
They are not affectionate men, but they are human. So when they wake up in each other's arms, they memorize the intimacy like they have memorized the first time they drifted. Herc's mind meeting Stacker's in a rush of memories only until the sound of Tendo's voice breaks through the white noise and brings them both home.
It's a simple thing that gets them through the worst of days.
While there are plenty of ways this war can end, there isn't a single one that doesn't have at least one (if not all three) of them dying to welcome the new world.
But they don't think about that, not when they still have this.
I tried really hard to stay away from the angst. And yes, Tendo has an open marriage with Alison, so no infidelity and the likes.