Fandom: Pacific Rim
Spoilers: Yes, for movie.
Warnings: mild swearing, frank discussion of a character's death.
Summary: Written for azarias for the 2013 Pacific Rim Secret Santa on AO3 and the prompt: 'Herc Hansen & Stacker Pentecost'. Herc and Stacker have a heart-to heart the night before Stacker and Chuck suit up to go drop the bomb on the Big Bad of the movie. Short and introspective.
Every Third Thought Shall Be My Grave
A Pacific Rim fan fiction, written for azarias for the Pacific Rim Secret Santa 2013 Challenge on AO3 and the prompt 'Herc Hansen and Stacker Pentecost'.
Stacker Pentecost climbs all the way to the roof of the Hong Kong Shatterdome before he lets himself look down.
He finds the dome as humbling as ever. It's half cathedral, half aircraft hangar, lit by rays of dim neon light that pierce the ever-present steam and gleam upon the bodies of the Jaegers in their docks. The Jaegers have the patient aspect of old gods. It takes countless hours of work and hundreds of people to repair and supply one mighty warrior. To Stacker's mind, the Jaegers represent humanity at its best.
The sheer magnitude of their achievement reminds Stacker why they still fight. The Jaegers are why he still makes the climb up to the roof of the Shatterdome, even though he finds the flights of stairs increasingly difficult these days.
Stacker climbs until the only things above his head are glass and stars. He clambers out into the centre of the dome along the gantries the mechanics use for servicing the massive hoists that move the Jaegers. He only stops climbing when he's under the very centre of the Dome's glazed roof and the only thing between the void and his boots is a weave of metal mesh finer than his finger.
Stacker leans over the gantry and gazes at the Jaegers. The mechs look like toys. They're like Optimus Prime, or stern armoured knights, or the battered effigies of crusaders in churches Stacker visited as a child, stone feet resting on lions or hounds declaring deaths in battle or in bed.
"Beauties, aren't they?" says Herc from behind him.
Stacker turns round. He moves carefully because his balance isn't as good as it once was. Herc stands with his one good hand clenched upon the rail. His face –what little of it Stacker can see behind the raised fleece collar of his ridiculous jacket-is as rigid as a statue.
"They're not bad," Stacker says.
They both stare at the Jaegers. Corporate branding aside, each mech has a character that's wholly its own. It's a spirit that's present whether the Jaegers are fighting or in dock. Striker Eureka has shoulders like a football player and an arrogant air. Stacker wonders if the personality of its youngest pilot has rubbed off on the mech. He hopes not.
"That was a good speech," Herc says after a while."Inspirational."
Stacker sighs. "That," he says, "was just a fancy way of saying that we're probably all going to die."
"Maybe." Herc shrugs, catching his jacket as it threatens to slide from his injured shoulder. "But it was a bloody good speech. Like I told the lad, either we sit and wait, or we go do something really stupid."
Stacker raises one eyebrow. "Isn't that an Australian tradition?"
Herc grins reluctantly. "The bomb may be stupid, but at least it's something." He glances at Stacker, who fails to stifle a yawn. "Hey-you should get some rest. We'll –" he pauses, winces, and corrects- "You'll have to go out soon. You should be sleeping."
"Probably," Stacker admits. He does not move. He's always found the Dome peaceful, something that people who only see the place in daylight can never understand. Standing here and speaking to Herc is nearly as good as sleep. Besides, it's likely to be the last peace and quiet that Stacker sees before the events he's set in motion comes to their sudden and inevitable conclusion.
"I should be talking to Chuck," Herc says.
"You should," says Stacker.
They stand together for a while, silent as the mechs who keep their vigil far below.
"It's strange," Herc says at last, "not going into battle."
"I feel strange going into battle at all," Stacker confesses. "It's been too long."
"It's like riding a bike," says Herc. "You don't forget." He glances sideways at Stacker. Stacker is reminded that Herc is more perceptive that anyone, especially his meathead son, gives him credit for. "It's not too late to change your mind."
Stackers snorts. "You can't pilot a Jaeger with a broken arm."
"There's some might say that," says Herc."But they'd be wrong. Piloting a Jaeger's as much 'bout mental strength as physical. Look at that lad Raleigh. Look at you, in Tokyo."
"Herc," Stacker says."Stop complaining. I'm dying."
Herc opens his mouth to speak again, stops, perhaps remembering Stacker's sudden retirement, and frowns. The silence stretches out between them as the Jaegers bear mute witness.
"Don't know what to say," Herc mumbles eventually.
"There's nothing to say," says Stacker. "We've had a good run."
"It's not over."
"Not yet. But it's close. "
"How?" Herc's hand clenches on the railing. His knuckles blanch white and his jaw juts out as if Stacker's death were some enemy he could punch in the face.
Stacker smiles without letting it show upon his face. "Cancer," he says briefly. "Just like Tamsin. Been a while now. Tried to hide it, but that won't be possible for much longer. I can't remember the last time I just did nothing. I'm ready, Herc. Believe it."
His friend's brow creases in a frown. "Are you sure you're fit to fight?"
"I have time. I'd rather spend it on my own terms; that's all. It'll be an easier death than Tamsin had."
He isn't sure if Herc will protest again, but the Australian just nods. They're both soldiers. They're old enough to know you don't win every battle.
Stacker takes a deep breath. "I want you to be Marshall," he says. "After I'm gone."
Herc sighs. His hand uncurls from the railing with a convulsive shudder and he looks Stacker in the eye for the first time since his announcement. "Stacker," he says, his drawl even stronger than usual, "you know it don't work like that."
"Who else is capable? Damn it, Herc, who else would want the job? If we fail, it'll be up to you to use whatever we've got left to fight the kaiju. You think anyone else wants that job? If we succeed, the Jaegers will be retired and broken up. You think anyone wants that job either? Think about it."
From the expression on Herc's face, he's thinking very hard. "What if I say no?" he asks Stacker. "Who then?"
Stacker's grin has a bitter edge. "You can't. It's my last request. I know you well enough by now to know you're not about to turn it down."
Herc grins ruefully. "Take care of Chuck," he says.
Stacker's own smile fades. "Look after Mako," he says.
"She's a good pilot," says Herc. "She'll look after herself."
Stacker smiles. "She'll certainly try."
"She's a good girl, Stack. How'd you do it?"
Stacker thinks of Mako, of her blue hair and red shoes, and allows himself a moment to recognise not only how much he will miss Mako, but how much Mako will miss him. "I didn't," he says, remembering those far-off days when Tamsin was still alive and Mako and Stacker were still getting used to living together. "Just lucky, I guess. It was all her."
"We've all found family here." Herc says. "Lost it, too."
Stacker sighs. "That's not the only thing we've lost," he says. "I'm tired, Herc. I'm tired of losing."
"So you go out there and take one for the team?"
Stacker squares his shoulders, hoping that that the plan to bomb the Breach is far more than an old man's suicide mission.
"No," he says, "we go out there, and win."