Fandom: Pacific Rim
Characters: Mako Mori, Raleigh Becket, Tendo Choi (Mako/Raleigh)
Word Count: 4200 or so
Rating/Warnings: M/mature (non explicit sex, canonical character deaths)
Summary: Because falling in love while grieving isn't straightforward. Inspired by this prompt.
Losing your dad the day after you find your soulmate should be a very organic conflict for this pairing, but fandom seems to gloss over it for the most part? Mouseover for translations- I wrote Japanese loanwords in romaji, but actual conversational phrases in Japanese (the same way we see Mako code switch). Any second language or translation mistakes are mine, but I promise my Japanese is fairly decent. ;) A big thanks to meiou_set on LJ for being a fantastically thorough beta!
The first time she asks is in the helicopter as they’re putting her oxygen mask on.
“No, ma’am, no other pods. I’m sorry.”
She nods. “Please ask the other choppers to keep looking. I know there’s only the smallest chance, but if that Kaiju survived the explosion, then maybe they did too. There might have been time to eject.”
Raleigh grips her hand. He remembers the desperation veiled in rational sounding explanations. Yancy had always been a great swimmer and people had been revived after hypothermic drowning. Gipsy’s Conn pod had been damaged; he couldn’t see to the left clearly, he just needed to check more carefully.
He’d searched past dawn; only ended up back on shore by accident, disoriented by blood loss and shock.
He’d stumbled and come crashing back to earth without the water pulling at Gipsy’s legs.
“Maybe even the whole Jaeger- Striker’s armour specs are higher than Gipsy’s and we made it,” she murmurs.
He sees the looks the paramedics exchange. He pulls off his oxygen mask, and there’s an edge in his voice when he speaks.
“Just do as Ranger Mori says.”
Her entire life’s goal was to destroy Kaiju; she’d single-mindedly forged and tempered herself to that purpose.
And victory had come against all odds with a cost she hadn’t calculated.
The world celebrates while they recover in a recompression chamber and then in medical. They’re both in too much pain to do much more than sleep- even forcing down water and trips to the toilet are exhausting. The post-Drift hangover is also intense- three Drifts in 48 hours and they’re both reeling trying to get used to how wrong and out of sync they feel in separate, damaged bodies. The closer proximity of a shared bed helps a little.
Striker’s remains were mapped via sonar- the radioactivity will make recovery impossible for months. And she knows she’s being irrational when she snaps at the tech who brings the report to medical. That she should rest and stop replaying the events in her head.
But she’s noticed a pattern. How his eyes had shuttered when she’d commented on how his meds had changed. The recently notarized copy of his will in an envelope on his desk. The brand new drive suit.
The most damning pieces come from Raleigh’s memories.
The world is coming to an end. Where would you rather die? Here? Or in a Jaeger?
You and I are the only two who have ever run single pilot. That’s why I brought you here.
Had he intended to die fighting all along? Had the Kwoon trials been a sham? The Raleigh that had stepped off the helicopter was nothing like cocky Golden Boy Becket from the reports and the algorithm scores she’d been given. No wonder her choices had been so off. If Raleigh hadn’t baited the Marshall into letting her fight there would have been no suitable candidates- besides one who was suited to drift with anybody.
And she hates resenting the idea of one last hurrah. Because she understands- she remembers Tamsin, the crippling weakness and smell of death closing in, the pain in his eyes as she died by degrees.
To him a few useful hours would be better than wasting weeks.
But she’s not okay with having to be the survivor again.
Raleigh’s voice, rusty with disuse, interrupts her brooding.
“Want to talk about it?”
“… We could have held Kwoon trials with Chuck Hansen. The kaiju weren’t going anywhere. I have copies of everyone’s algorithms. I should have thought of it.”
“You’re saying the Marshall didn’t make the right call?”
“No. But maybe he made a more selfish one,” she says bitterly.
“… What you mean?”
“You know what I mean.” She turns and glares, shoving him hard. “You did the exact same thing!”
He grunts as pain flares. “…Mako.”
And it’s like a dam has broken. Her words are as bitter as ashes and sharp as knives.
“Don’t you know how it would have hurt to lose you too? あなた見たいにずっと一人ぼっちなりたかったの？その人生もういやだと分かるでしょう
The look on his face stops her, and she puts a hand to her mouth and shakes her head.
“… I’m sorry. I know why, but I just, I- can’t-“
And finally the tears come.
He tucks her close, ignoring the protest from his joints. She’s holding him too tight again and the grief howling through her is bringing tears to his eyes, but he doesn’t let go.
Five minutes later Raleigh was wrenching his door open and loping across the hall to bang on her door, dripping and half naked from an aborted shower.
“Mako! What- Mako let me-“
She’d opened the door wrapped in a towel, sobbing and clutching a pair of small red shoes.
It had taken two hours to cry herself out, and he’d quietly grabbed his things while she slept it off. She needed his support now more than they needed to function independently.
It perplexes her- it’s both the most natural thing in the world and totally foreign.
She’s had troubles forming connections and relationships since Tokyo. Language differences, the constant changes of base, her burning desire to be the best at everything- friendships were so difficult compared to the company of Jaeger schematics and her sensei’s unconditional acceptance.
But drifting and failing and fighting with Raleigh had dropped them into the deep end of a relationship she still couldn’t define. They’d pictured sharing a bed so differently after that incredible double win in Hong Kong. But now she can’t seem to navigate beyond the gaping hole in her life; her mind is an endless cycle of memories.
“…はっきりしなくていい” he mumbles against her hair.
He’s up. In more ways than one.
“ しょうがないよ.” He’s matter of fact but she bites her lip.
“... I’m sorry if it’s uncomfortable.”
“Don't be. I'm here for you. Not that.”
She closes her eyes. “I don’t feel like myself. And before…I wanted to, but now…”
“… Everything is still raw.”
She nods, feeling tears well up.
“I’m no expert. But after Yancy died the only thing that had any effect was time. Just keeping on going until it hurt less, less often.”
“I’m not good with people. And you- this- is important too. But… I can’t feel anything more right now. And maybe that’s not fair.” She curls a hand around his forearm so he can feel exactly how wrung out she feels. One of them wonders idly if the Kaidanovskys had such a strong neural handshake because they never really stopped drifting.
Forget fair. I get it.
She knows. And she turns, smiling wanly.
And she presses her lips to his for a moment.
He touches his forehead to hers and sighs when he feels her relax again
“Listen, Mako. I am fully aware this is a difficult time for you, and I’m really sorry to ask after all the PR stuff you’ve had to do already. But I was wondering if you could lend a hand with all the paperwork once you’re back. Marshall Hansen was a Ranger for years and… I’m sure he’s having a pretty rough time of it besides not being used to this side of the desk.”
She’d been so pre-occupied with her own grief. Herc Hansen had lost more than anyone that day, and Tendo has the look of a man who has been burning the candle at both ends. He’d worked with every Ranger they lost for years, but he has a Shatterdome staff of hundreds to worry about while they’ve taken time off.
“No, of course. I can help.” She hesitates. “Where-“
“I’ve moved Jaeger Research and Command to room 106, by Incoming.”
A storage room devoid of memories. She nods.
“I can start at 0900. We don’t have any plans, right?”
Raleigh smiles encouragingly and squeezes the hand she’s got on the table. “Nope.”
Tendo sags with relief. “You’re sure?”
“Might help keep my mind off of things.”
“Thank you. Again, I’m sorry even to ask.”
“No, its okay. Haven’t used my clipboard for ages,” she adds with a half-smile.
Tendo smiles –it’s their private joke. “Barely recognized you, Ranger.”
Her eyes fill with tears again, but she smiles proudly.
That she knows what Stacker Pentacost would have wanted after a successful Operation Pitfall. That she can help make that happen, even if sometimes her eyes and nose burn and her chest aches.
They tackle the funding campaign with the same sense of determination and cooperation that had helped them win the war. K-science arms them with the numbers, Mako and Raleigh front the publicity machine, and Marshall Hansen’s tragic resolution gives it heart.
They celebrate quietly when they get enough public and private funding for two “reserve and rescue” Mark V-Es. They won’t be enough if the war resumes at the same pace it ended on, but two Jaegers are better than none. Assembling the pieces gives everyone a sense of relief and purpose.
And with the forward momentum, her grief starts scabbing over. Mako starts to keep track of how many minutes go by without her mind cycling back to her sensei- five, twelve, twenty. It’s a relief to cry less, to be able to focus again.
And yet it’s still so easy to reopen the wound- getting his JLPT test voucher in the mail sets her crying her first week back at work; seeing his favourite meal come up for lunch a couple weeks later has her biting back a sob and reaching blindly for Raleigh’s hand.
They end up staring out into Gipsy’s empty bay, making do with a couple granola bars and juiceboxes.
“I’m so tired of feeling like this.” At least the afternoon is all paperwork and she can sit bent over her desk to hide her puffy eyes.
He gives her a squeeze. “I know.”
She gives a shuddering sigh and leans against him.
So she steels herself, bringing an extra box of tissue with the empty boxes and enlisting Raleigh for the helping hands and emotional support.
Tears slide silently down her cheeks as she takes down photographs, the collection of katana. She'll find a place for them among her things. But she’s in control as they box up his clothing for donation to those still in shelters from Otachi’s rampage, toss half-used toiletries and the jar of Marmite. Clean away the evidence that Stacker Pentacost lived so the new occupants can start fresh.
Maybe she’s used to the pain, maybe it’s dulled somewhat. Maybe her practical nature is asserting itself. But even though she feels brittle and tired, there's also a sort of relief when she drops the keys off at Command.
Tendo quirks his head. “Someone you know?”
“Yes. But not personally.”
“Ooh, a celebrity?” But he takes a look and understands instantly. “You wanna deliver this one now?”
“You don’t mind?”
“Yeah, no, go ahead.”
She’s not the only one walking wounded. His scar tissue is thicker, he’s learned to function around his loss even if it’s left him marked and changed.
But maybe the next logical move for him is actually taking a step back.
She starts heading for Bay 2 before stopping with a frown and backtracking. And she doesn’t know how she knew, but he’s in Incoming, lips moving silently as he inspects pallets and ticks off boxes on a list.
Raleigh looks up, surprised, and his grin flashes. “Well they say rangers sometimes take on the traits of their Drift partners.”
“Hmm.” She smiles, bending to take a closer look at the label on the crate. “The Mitsubishi I-28s?”
“And the X-12s and 13s.”
She can’t help grinning with excitement. New muscle strand engines. But she’s not here for that.
“This came in for you,” she says softly, and slides the letter onto the clipboard he’s holding. His eyes widen and then darken with consternation.
“Geez. I didn’t-” He takes a deep breath and shakes his head, staring, before restlessly pulling off his hardhat. He looks back up at her.
“Stay a minute while I read this?”
She squeezes his arm and nods, taking the clipboard and hardhat.
“As long as you need.”
Tendo swings around, surprised, and turns down the volume on the game.
“Hey, Becket Boy, come on in, pull up a seat! This here is the beauty of stand-by when there is no breach.”
“I’ll toast to that. Brought some drinks.”
They crack open a beer and Red Bull respectively and sit back in the swivel seats. Raleigh’s never seen the LOCCENT powered down like this- all the screens are dark and swathed in plastic save for the sonar display.
“So what brings you here on a Friday night?”
“Mako said you’d volunteered for night watch since Reggie called in. Figured we could catch up since she’s working on kata tonight.”
Tendo looks at him quizzically. “Well, I’m living a bachelor’s life until Monday, so it’s all the same to me whether I’m here or in quarters. Aren’t you rangers supposed to work out in pairs?”
Raleigh swallows. “Kenjutsu- it was her thing with the Marshall.”
His eyes widen and he nods. “Right. They learned it together.”
“Mastered it, actually. That was all her swordwork in Gipsy.”
“You know the brass insisted she design a blade for the Mark V-E?”
“Yeah, she was really happy about that. So Alison and the baby arriving Monday?”
“Mmmhmm. Going to be a family man again. She’s been dying for fruit stand smoothies and pineapple buns and dim sum. Can’t wait. Kid had just figured out how to scoot a bit when they moved back to her folks’ place. Now he’s close to taking his first steps.”
Raleigh catches the wistfulness under the excitement, looks down and nods solemnly. The war has cost them all in different ways. “I’m really happy for you. Family is… really important.”
Tendo takes a swig and gives him a rueful look. “I am grateful he has a future, man. Don’t know if you realize how close we came to losing.”
He’d guessed during the Shatterdome tour, but drifting with Mako had made the odds crystal clear. She’d had all the pieces on the board in her well-organized mind, watching as Jaeger after Jaeger toppled and Kaiju came faster and stronger.
“At least it’s scaring up money for us. And I hear you about the future part. Still trying to figure out what we’re doing.”
Tendo eyes him speculatively. “So you and Mako…?”
Raleigh shrugs, half shaking his head. “… It’s complicated.”
Tendo raises his eyebrows and nods grimly. He must have heard the scuttlebutt. Raleigh sleeps in her quarters and they spend their time off together, so everyone assumes. But he knows them. Knew Yancy and Pentacost.
“Glad you’re here for her, brother.”
He nods, gripping Tendo’s shoulder appreciatively for a moment, and they turn their attention back to the game. It helps to have a buddy who understands.
“Hey. Came to pick up her passes.”
She blinks. “Oh. I was just going to bring them back to quarters.”
“Yeah, I know, but I figured it was my responsibility. Plus I got off fifteen minutes early.”
“Best not to advertise that in a room of peanut counters,” Tendo says with a grin, fingers clattering over the keyboard.
Raleigh chuckles. “Foreman cleared me. You can take it up with him. How’re Alison and the baby settling in?”
“Fan-tastic, thanks for asking.”
Raleigh grins and claps him on the shoulder. But she can see how unsettled and restless he is already, so she casts about for a distraction.
And smirks when she hits on it.
“There’s some fan mail for you in the corner there if you’re curious,” she says, pulling the passes out of the top drawer in her desk.
“Yeah?” He walks over and grins when he pulls out a crayon drawing of what is recognizably a Ranger in a drive suit with spiky blond hair, with AAroN scrawled across the top. “Now that is pretty awesome.”
She watches, eyes bright, as he opens the next package.
He tilts his head and glares. “Mako.”
“I think you’re supposed to wear those. Like the sponsor T-shirts,” she says, determinedly straight faced.
Raleigh picks up the package and sets it on her desk, ignoring her sputter of mock outrage.
“You think so, huh?”
She rolls her eyes and smiles. “We get …personal items like these at least once a week for you. I’m glad I’m not the sexy part of the team. We can’t even donate them, but we have to send a thank you postcard anyway.”
His annoyance at being baited evaporates. “So... you think I’m the sexy part of the team?”
She blushes, speechless for a moment, and Tendo starts coughing. But she quirks her shoulders and tips her chin up. “Sure. Your individual posters sell at a much better rate than mine.”
“’Cause, for the record, I disagree.”
She flushes again and temporizes. “Well, Gipsy sells better than either of us.”
She smacks him on the stomach, lips twitching. “Raleigh.”
He grins, unrepentant.
But a one-on-one had to happen sooner or later. And Jazmine doesn’t hesitate once Raleigh excuses himself.
“So Mako. I’ve been wondering for a while. How’d you get him in a Jaeger again?”
Mako glances at Raleigh’s retreating back and pours herself more tea before answering. “I didn’t. The Marshall found him and convinced him to come back to the PPDC.”
“See, from what I’ve learned about Drift, I can’t believe that he was willing to let some random person into his head again. That it even worked with anybody after Yancy. They were always a unit; even as kids. And it’s supposed to be based on commonalities. You can’t tell me you grew up the way we did.”
“Realizing we were Drift compatible was a surprise.” She stops in the middle of the canned response, studying the woman across the table. The last couple days have been revealing, intense. Jazmine Becket isn’t much like the sweet young girl in the majority of Raleigh’s recollection, and it’s not just the facial piercings and tattoos. Growing up in foster homes and fending for herself in a Rim city have made her tough, whip smart. She’s matter-of-fact when she tells stories that make Mako’s eyes widen and fill Raleigh with guilt and regret. But she’s like her brother too- frank, resilient. She’s survived and moved on without becoming entirely jaded.
It’s good for him too, even if his emotions have been running high ever since he received that letter. They’re trying to figure out if they can be siblings again, and Mako is glad to be the one supporting him while he sorts it out, as she reminds him that remembering Yancy doesn't always have to hurt.
So she decides to be forthright the way she won’t with the media.
“It sounds awful- and it almost grounded us- but I think maybe terrible trauma was part of what we had in common. We’re both stubborn, resourceful, used to winning. We’ve both seen enough of the world to believe it’s still worth saving. And realizing we could read each other in the ring… it made him hope. And the way he fought for me… helped me trust.”
“Which you don’t do usually either. Huh.” She digests for a second before she tilts her head and smiles. “It took me a few weeks to realize I’d actually lost both brothers. I’m glad I wrote.”
Mako smiles tentatively. “I’m glad too.”
They still share her bed at night, although as her grief ebbs, it’s more for companionship than comfort. And those other feelings stir and grow again. She notices the play of muscles in his arms and under his thin cotton tanks, how handsome he is when he smiles. The hunger that sometimes flashes in his eyes when he looks at her, that prowls the dreams in the ghost-Drift before he wakes and edges his hips away from her.
But the images she contributes have started to mirror his, sparring leaves them both breathless and flushed from more than just physical exertion.
And he knows. But he makes every effort to keep it easy and friendly. The message is crystal clear: the ball is in her court.
Neither of them can say why she finally feels steady and unencumbered enough. She still misses her sensei, still replays favourite memories of patient Japanese lessons and holding his hand walking through a Shatterdome full of Jaegers every day. But she’s also thinking of the future, hungry and curious for more- ready to venture forward.
So one night she turns to Raleigh and pulls him close after they walk in the door. And she laughs against his mouth when his hands clutch convulsively at the small of her back and her neck, when she hears his God YES, Mako in her mind like a shout.
Making love with him is like annealing steel, fluid and bright, burning everything else away. They explore hard muscle and heating skin and drown in the heady, hot pleasure of tangled limbs and hungry mouths. He’s focused and reverent despite the long simmering need and her wry amusement at his western notions. He wants this to be painless and ideal; she just wants to cement what they’ve been forging for so long. But she trusts him to lead, and he uses his mouth and hands until she is slick and shattered and molten, eager and impatient. And when she finally sheathes him it’s with a hiss of satisfaction, and his lingering worries melt away as she molds herself to him and they move as one.
After, she smiles at how full their hearts are, at the pleasure and satiation pulsing through their bodies.
You and your definitions and boxes.
Now we can request couple’s quarters.
He can’t help laughing.
But for the first time he’s uneasy.
“Yes.” And she’s calm and steady as she checks his grip on the bokken. Raleigh’s no novice to melee weapons so he holds it firm but easy. He has similar height, strength and reach so it’s the perfect length and weight.
“I really don’t want to intrude.”
She nods. It does ache, thinking of the long hours she spent with her sensei and this bokken, in rooms like this all over the world, practicing. But it’s not the point.
“Kenjutsu is best practised in pairs. And you are my partner. We honour his memory by honing this skill, not the opposite.”
He still looks troubled, so she continues.
“Besides, how long do you want me to dial down my moves? We launch next year. Live telecast.”
He smiles slowly, eyes sparking with challenge.
“As long as you think it’s the right thing to do.”
“I don’t think so.”
He doesn’t need the Drift to know what she’ll say next, to feel the unshakeable love and trust.
“I know so.”A/N: I know, I know. I complain about Mako/Raleigh being a fandom angst-fest and this is the fic I write? #sheepish
Well, since this is my LJ I’m going to explain: I wanted a more honest look at love in the face of loss than what was out there, especially after seeing the prompt on the kink meme.
I’ve lost two family members as an adult. And losing my stepsister was about a billion times worse than losing my grandfather two years before. I loved them both. He died of old age. She did not.
And I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t breathe for crying. And my fiancé just held me and looked at me with pity and confusion because I could not function or feel or act like myself. And there was nothing he could do to make it easier except be there. Because all I could think about was the horrible way she’d died and all the wonderful memories I had of her, and scream why internally. It didn’t make sense. (TBH, it still doesn’t.)
But eventually I had to continue working and living and not feeling fuck this is so unfair every minute of every day. And we moved the date several months later, got married and have two beautiful girls now. Life goes on, and loss is part of the freaking human condition. It’s not pretty, often irrational (especially the denial and anger stages), and there’s no magic event that “switches off” your grief. But for most people, the trajectory ends in acceptance.