Meant To Be (Pacific Rim RP, cyclopsdoe and Kuroh)

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Kuroh, Mar 9, 2015.

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  1. Character Sheet (open)

    Name: Kieran Rhodes
    Age: 26
    Face Claim: Jack Falahee

    As much as Kieran Rhodes enjoyed a good day of training in the Kwoom room, this was going a bit overboard. Everybody against everyone, duo after duo dueling on the springy floor, and he had gone far too many times for it to be good for his body. He'd actually lost count. Clearly, the Marshall wanted results, and soon. Why else would he hold a drift compatibility test as large scale as this one? Did he want to find new pilots? Was he planning to cut the less talented recruits? His method of keeping everyone out of the loop had the effect of stirring people up and motivating them, while simultaneously pissing off or terrifying anyone who liked to be in the know.

    It wasn't just the few who had better scores (which he totally did, but he wasn't one to brag… much), it was everyone, the sound of wooden sticks clacking against one another or against skin permeating the room from dawn until dusk, along with the grunts of exhausted men and women. Sweat dripped, salty and clear, from Kieran's face and arms, while his shirt clung to his body from the moisture (both in the air and on his body). His mind felt numb from dialogue after dialogue with his fellow ranger trainees, which wasn't altogether an unpleasant sensation, but he couldn't think in the midst of such a fuzzy veil of exhaustion.

    "Alright, that's it!" came the shout from the Marshall, who stood at the head of the room, a stern look in his surveying eyes. "We've seen what we need to see. Start clearing out. Anderson, Harkness, you two are mopping the floors today. Punishment for your abysmal efforts in the tests." The two young trainees in question groaned, their limbs already trembling from exertion; but if the Marshall gave an order, you followed it, no complaints. Kieran, for one, was more than relieved that he hadn't been chosen. Mopping up the literal puddles of sweat from the mat was a job nobody enjoyed, especially not after a long day of testing.

    With an audible sigh of relief, echoed by his luckier peers, Kieran was snatching a towel from the sidelines and mopping at his face. Man, his body was going to hurt like Hell the next day. He was sure of it.

    As he wiped off the sweat, he glanced over at the Marshall, who appeared to be deep in conversation with the Fightmaster, gesturing at the tablet in his hands and occasionally glancing around the room. It looked like there would be a new pilot duo chosen today. There had to be, given the amount of concentration on the Fightmaster's weathered face. Kieran stared, thinking back to every dialogue he'd had that day. Some had been more memorable than others, and at one point he clearly remembered feeling his best in months. After so many tests, he couldn't remember the name of the man, but he had felt that connection - a strong drift compatibility - with one person out of everyone the entire day. Maybe it was his time to shine...

    He was so lost in thought that when the Marshall looked up and looked him dead in the eyes, he didn't even notice; until, that is, he heard the bark of "Do you need something, rookie?"

    There was suppressed laughter from the remaining recruits, and Kieran flushed, replying with a quick "Sorry sir, no sir." His face was burning, and he took the moment to cover it with the towel again, scrubbing so people wouldn't notice the flush of embarrassment across his cheeks. With his luck, he'd just proven his idiocy to the one man who held his future in his hands. Fantastic. Absolutely faaaantastic.
  2. [​IMG]
    Royce Oneal || 29
    played by: Garrett Hedlund
    It had been an incredibly long day. Normally, Royce Oneal would have been happy for an extended training session, and the Kwoon Combat Room had more or less become his second home since joining the rangers and trying to become a pilot. However, the day had been surprisingly intense in all kinds of different ways and each match had left him more and more drained. The hours spent weren't without promise, of course, and there were a few people that the sandy-haired man had connected with during training, but most of the other candidates Royce had faced that day turned out to be inconsistent and unsuitable. It wasn't to say that any of those rangers were bad, or unfit, but being drift compatible with a total stranger was a rare and special thing.

    After the booming voice of the Marshall had put an official end to the day, Royce was quick to step off of the training floor and grab himself a towel. He was soaked with sweat, slightly out of breath and covered in a smattering of new bruises from careless hands or staffs. One thing was for sure, the would-be pilot was really going to feel this newest round of training come morning. It wasn't something that he was looking forward to, but a hot shower and a good night's sleep was—even if he was a bit anxious about possibly being passed over for an open pilot position.

    Who joined a war effort to sit on the sidelines the whole time? Royce wanted action, more than just hand to hand combat with humans.

    The crowd around him began to thin out, but the air was still heavy and humid. The towel in his hand was just as damp, but Royce ran it over his face once again before letting the rag settle across the back of his neck to soak up any sweat that he may have missed. Caught up in his own head and trying to decompress from such a draining session, Royce only came back to reality when he heard the Marshall's voice again. He looked up, blue eyes settled on his superior who was converged with the Fightmaster. As usual, they both looked incredibly serious, but Royce followed their eyes to a certain rookie—a man whose name he didn't know, but the movements between them had been something close to electric—drift compatibility.

    Without a second thought, and not even bothering to consider that the other rookie had just been reprimanded, Royce made his way over. “Hey,” he said, reaching out to catch the warm shoulder his fellow Ranger. “You and me earlier, that was...really something.” The match had been hours ago, and Royce must have been through at least ten other people but this man in particular had stayed in his mind. Royce didn't know the status of the other matches, not when he had been so focused on doing his best and quelling that urge to win to instead be equal, but the Ranger doubted that any other pair that day had been more magnetic.

    I have a good feeling about this,” he went on with a wild grin, having not even bothered to introduce himself yet. “We're drift compatible. I know you feel it too.” Royce had always been fairly blunt, a cut to the chase type of guy and when he was excited about something, it was easy for him to overlook details like personal comfort or consider that someone else might not agree with him. That hardly mattered, though, not right now when there was a real chance for him to step into a Jaeger and finally do some good in the world.

    I'm Royce, by the way,” he finally said, remembering some of his manners. “I never got your name before.”
  3. Once he was done re-mopping his face, Kieran slung the now soaked towel over his shoulder. It wouldn't be much use anymore, but he'd have to wait to toss the used rag in the usual bin, which was unfortunately close to the Marshall himself. He had no desire to get back within the senior man's sights so soon, so he hung back, feeling the heat in his cheeks fade as the moment of reprimand passed. Most of the other trainees were gone or leaving by then, the Marshall not a fan of slow moving recruits. Lagging young men and women had more than once been roped into cleaning with the other unlucky recruits for the day. After the day he'd had, Kieran wasn't going to be one of them if he could help it.

    He was just about to pick up the courage to sneak around the Marshall and Fightmaster, both still deep in conversation, though apparently that didn't mean they were the slightest bit oblivious, when he felt more than heard the presence of another recruit. The heat of the hand on his shoulder, and the subsequent comment, had Kieran turning rather quickly on his heel (and nearly slipping, because wow was that someone's sweat? Ew). The movement brought him face to face with a fellow ranger, one whose familiar face immediately brought back that flash of almost instinctual recognition. Here were two minds that had moved in synchronization almost effortlessly.

    "Oh, uh, yeah," he replied, shaking himself from his earlier thoughts to focus on the task at hand, actually talking to someone. What a novel concept. "I don't think I've ever felt as good as I did with you." Well, that sounded entirely too informal for comfort, and Kieran grinned sheepishly, "I mean, with the dialogue. It was some good dialogue…" Good? He really couldn't have understated their connection less. Apparently, the exhaustion was getting to Kieran's mind and doing absolute wonders for his communication skills. He'd definitely be lying if he said he'd ever had anything close to that level of compatibility with anyone. Ever.

    The man (who exactly was he again?) continued talking, and Kieran's grin widened, even as he nervously rubbed at the back of his neck. "I'm pretty inclined to agree with you." He'd lost track of time during their test together, lost track of everything except the feeling of his movements meshing so fluidly with those of his partner. They were drift compatible. They had to be.

    Kieran blinked when he finally got the guy's name, and he brought his hand up with the intention of shaking Royce's before he paused, "Oh, uh, I'm Kieran. Kieran Rhodes. Nice to officially meet you." They had already met in all but name, the singular movements that could occur only in the Kwoon Combat Room or a Jaeger Conn-Pod an introduction of their own. "I've got to drift with you," he breathed before he could stop himself, dark eyes wide with a certain level of anticipation and need. Only after the comment passed his lips did he realize what he'd said, and Kieran flushed for the second time in so many minutes. Way to go for first (well, technically second) impressions.
  4. After joining the Rangers earlier in the year, Royce had logged more than his fair share of hours in the Combat Room. It was frustrating, maddening because he had absolutely nothing to show for it, and every time he thought there was a chance at drift compatibility with someone else, either he ended up winning the match, or another duo was more compatible, more in-sync. Every time he was passed over for a pilot position, the sandy-haired man grew a little more hopeless, and although he would never say it aloud, he was desperate to get himself into a Jaeger. His motives weren't solely grounded in wanting to go do good, or save the world, they were also personal. However, those secrets were no one's business but his own until he was in the drift.

    Calling their dialogue good was something of an understatement, but Royce could let it slide. Everyone was tired after a long day, and the training was not only physically taxing, but it also took an emotional toll. Anyone, even someone who should be excited over very clear compatibility, was allowed a pass after almost fourteen hours of matches. “Yeah, good,” he laughed curtly, nodding, “great, even. Excellent.” Naming off a list of synonyms wasn't a requirement of being drift compatible, but if it was, Royce liked to think he had that covered as well.

    You too,” Royce said, raising his hand to shake Kieran's, only to find that the other man had paused halfway there. Royce raised an eyebrow, unsure of what the sudden problem was. For a moment, the muggy air of the training floor got a little more heavy, bogged down with a bit of awkwardness as Royce dropped his hand back to his side. It wasn't odd for people to get caught up in their own minds, Royce did it all the time, but never in mid-conversation.

    Thinking that their first official meeting was over, and now worried that it would be their last, Royce was ready to back away. However, the man spoke again, his voice breathy and desperate, much like every secret wish that Royce had kept with him since coming to Vancouver. Kieran was something different entirely, a person that Royce needed to have beside him in a fight, someone who seemed to understand exactly what was at stake. If the Marshall and the Fightmaster didn't at least give them a try, it would be the biggest mistake the Jaeger program ever made.

    Thrown for a moment by the intensity in Kieran's eyes, Royce quickly collected himself. “I...yeah, we have to.” He was very close to giving an entire speech about why they would be perfect partners, and how no one else that day had even come close to matching each of his movements with the grace and confidence that Kieran had. Even just standing there and talking, the rest of the world seemed to melt away. Luckily, Royce stopped his mouth from yammering on before he made himself look like a fool. No one ever got a second chance at a first impression.

    Anyway,” he said, rocking back on his heels as he took hold of the damp towel around his neck, “I really hope we get the chance.”
  5. Royce was pretty sharp despite the long hours they had gone today, undergoing not just physically exhausting training but mentally taxing as well. After a good fourteen hours of it, Kieran couldn’t very well be blamed for his multitudes of slip ups and dumb mistakes. Unfortunately, they weren’t going to go unnoticed, not by the man in front of him, at any rate. “Excellent,” the dark eyed man echoed, a smile on his face. Sure, his hand-to-hand combat scores were high, as were his simulation scores, but when it came to drift compatibility, he’d always been lacking. For no apparent reason he just… couldn't jive with the majority of rangers on base, and would occasionally find himself wondering if he was ever going to be drift compatible with anyone.

    The fears made Royce’s appearance a welcome one, the synchronization during their dialogue a sign that there was nothing wrong with Kieran; he’d just needed to find the right partner. It was unfortunate, though, that the one time he did he immediately made a fool of himself right in front of the man. There was a slight tension in the air once he realized he’d missed actually shaking the other ranger’s hand, and he felt the moisture in his mouth evaporate. This might be his one big chance to become the pilot he’d dreamed of becoming for years, and he was more than nervous enough as is without the mistakes that had begun to pile up. Kieran had to get himself under control, salvage what little dignity he might have left because he needed what Royce had to offer - the elegance and control of someone who practiced just as much (if not more) as Kieran did. They had connected during their dialogue, and he couldn’t lose that so soon.

    Relief flooded through his exhausted body with Royce’s agreement, the words confirmation that he wasn’t the only one who had felt such pure magnetism as they’d moved together. He would fight for another opportunity to feel that again, and more. “If we don’t get the chance, we’ll just have to bring ourselves to the Marshal’s attention,” Kieran said in an undertone, worrying the edge of the towel hanging from his shoulder as he glanced towards the two older men who appeared to be reaching the conclusion of their conversation, tablet tucked safely underneath the Fightmaster’s arm.

    Kieran’s comment was an unusually bold one, seeing as he wasn’t exactly known for his audacity, especially towards authority figures. But, truly, he wanted to drift with Royce more than anyone, and becoming his co-pilot was the next logical step to his growing dream. So it was with an eager ear that he listened to the sandy-haired man’s reply, his chest tight with yearning.

    More time had passed since testing finished than Kieran had expected, and he was startled to hear the deep voice of the Marshal from where he was standing. “Rhodes, Oneal. Come join me for a moment.” The comment wasn’t a suggestion, and Kieran could feel his heart jump with anticipation. He glanced, wide eyed, at Royce as they followed to where the Marshal gestured, a hint of disbelief in his eyes. Either they were about to get a saddled with more work as punishment for dawdling, or their dialogue had been noticed by the two senior officers. He hoped with every fiber of his being that it was the latter.
  6. Getting the Marshall's attention was easier said than done. Not only was Stacker Pentecost a larger than life individual, but he was an incredibly busy man. Getting him to look twice at something that he had already deemed unworthy of his time was next to impossible. Even though Royce didn't wish to lose hope in himself, or the possibility of becoming a pilot, if the Marshall or the Fightmaster hadn't noticed his and Kieran's dialogue before, they weren't going to anytime soon. It was a daunting thought, something that frustrated Royce beyond belief, and he wanted so badly to move up from being an almost nameless and totally faceless Ranger to something bigger and better. Kieran was his shot at something more, and the thought of letting their connection go to waste should have been considered a crime in itself.

    Yeah, we will,” Royce agreed with a nod, making sure not to share his dismal thoughts. At any rate, Kieran more than likely knew exactly how hard it was to be looked at for a second time after being passed over. It was the story of Royce's life, both in his regular life and now during his time at the PPDC.

    There was barely a lull in the conversation when the deep, booming voice of the Marshall echoed through the nearly-empty room. Royce picked his head up, eyebrows high as he tried to process what exactly was happening. Maybe his dialogue with Kieran hadn't been overlooked completely, and with two other rookies already mopping up the copious amounts of sweat that had accumulated on the floor, cleaning was already covered—this was something new entirely. “Yes, sir,” Royce said, his words automatic when addressing the older man. He wasted no time crossing the room with Kieran, even though his legs were weak and burning from such a long, hard day.

    Wordlessly, Marshall Pentecost lead the way to an empty office that was just barely outside of the combat room. Royce wondered if the Fightmaster would be joining them, but he wasn't sure and the Marshall seemed to have the man's clipboard anyway. The sandy-haired man was nervous as he stood there, but he did his best to be respectful and not speak until spoken to. There were so many rules to remember, rules that had never existed in his life until just a large handful of months ago. The anticipation was killing him, but Royce kept his blue eyes on his superior, waiting until the man finally spoke.

    Your scores were exceptional,” he informed them, looking from man to man, although his expression was as neutral as ever, perhaps even a little hurried and disinterested.

    Royce blinked, hardly able to believe that this was real. He looked to Kieran and then back to the Marshall, a respectful smile on his lips. “Thank you, sir.”

    The large man nodded once and then continued on, “we'd like to give you a test run to see whether or not you're drift compatible. If you are, we'll go from there.”

    It was really happening, finally, someone had noticed their potential and was willing to give them a chance. This was all Royce had wanted for months, just a shot at getting into a Jaeger, and now that it was so close to happening, anxiety set in. If something went wrong, if he and Kieran somehow weren't drift compatible, or were unable to handle the intensity of being so closely connected, Royce would have to wait again, and hope and pray that there was someone else out there for him. Worrying had never been a habit before, but when the bottom fell out of almost everything he had, Royce couldn't help himself.

    Glancing back over to Kieran for a fleeting moment, Royce knew that he was the one. Anxiety or not, they already made an incredible team.
  7. Despite the ever remote possibility of a student going through the Jaeger Academy, passing, and becoming a pilot, Kieran had tried to stay optimistic that he would be one of the special few chosen to fight alongside a partner in the war against the kaiju. And now, after the six plus months of mandatory training, he might just have the chance to do what he’d come to do, and actually pilot one of the metal giants. That was, if Marshall Pentecost wanted he and Royce for that reason, and not something else.

    Don’t get too excited, Kieran, he thought to himself, there are a hundred different reasons he might call us over. In the past, Kieran had been known to expect too much, usually resulting in crushed hopes and occasionally aching disappointment. He hated the feeling of letting himself down more than anything, and as a result was afraid to be too hopeful in a situation just like this. But it was so very difficult to stop the excitement once it began, and his heart pound out an unsteady rhythm in his chest.

    There was no hesitation in his step as Kieran crossed the room, tossing his used towel in the bin as they passed by. Outwardly he may have appeared calm, his expression schooled into a careful look of curiosity, but below the surface was an anticipation that would have been less acceptable in the presence of the stoic Stacker Pentecost. Going into the empty office was nerve wracking on its own, too; there were too many terrifying stories of getting on the Marshall’s bad side for all of them to be false.

    Once he and Royce were fully inside the office, Kieran straightened up, adopting a military-esque posture in the wake of his nerves. Curiosity ate at his patience, and the seconds ticked by until Pentecost spoke. “Thank you, sir!” Kieran echoed, Royce having beat him to the chase. If he let himself relax now, there was no doubt that he would be grinning like an idiot, so he kept his jaw clenched and attempted to hold back the smile already growing on his face. He could see where the Marshall was going with this. All the man had to do was say those final words and Kieran felt like his heart would burst.

    It didn’t, not quite at any rate, but he felt the excitement build almost uncontrollably at the final confirmation that they were being considered for the position of jaeger pilots. One final test and they were through. All they had to do was pass the jaeger simulator in the conn-pods and they were home free. Kieran felt like he could soar. The moment he’d been working towards was finally within his grasp, and there was no way he would have reached this point without Royce. He would make sure to thank the man if he got the chance. The smile finally broke free of its constraints, and he grinned as he turned to briefly catch Royce’s eye. We made it. Together. Was what he wanted to say, but that would have to wait, for the Marshall wasn’t done speaking just yet.

    “We don’t have much time, not with jaegers going down faster than we can build them. So you two will be strapping into the test pod at 0800 tomorrow. Do your country a favour and drift the first time around, boys.” The piercing eyes of a man who knew exactly what he was talking about swept over the duo again, his expression utterly unreadable. If someone were to walk in now, they might hazard a guess that Pentecost was talking about the weather, and not the fate of two young men’s minds.

    One more glance and a quick “Yes, sir” later, the Marshall was dismissing them with a curt command. The moment he was out of sight, Kieran slumped where he stood. “Holy shit,” he gaped, running a hand through his messy hair as he turned to face his new drift partner. His potential new partner, he reminded himself. There was one more test to go through before it was set in stone. “I want to say that I can’t believe it, but if I’m honest it’s the only way this could have gone. Can’t say I was expecting that so soon, though.”
  8. Everything was happening so fast. Royce could hardly believe what the Marshall was saying, and it took an extra long moment for his over-worked brain to process the fact that after a short night's sleep, he would be drifting with Kieran. If everything went well enough, which Royce expected as such, they would be in an actual Jaeger within the week. Royce assumed as such anyway, able to pick up on the urgency in the Marshall's voice. The Kaiju attacks were becoming more frequent lately, and there was all kinds of chatter about what the Jaeger program would run out of first—funding or materials. The next best bet was the coastal wall, and in Royce's opinion, it was never going to work. However, the sandy-haired man didn't want to get sidetracked, not when he had just been given such amazing news.

    After being dismissed, Royce found himself out in the hallway with Kieran. The other man was the first to speak, taking the words right out of his mouth. “Holy shit,” he agreed, although there was a distinct amount of humor to his words, a breathless sort of laugh that had much more connotation than any sentence ever could. They were lucky—so very lucky to have connected with one another, and to shine so brightly in a room filled with just as much talent.

    Grinning, Royce leaned himself against the wall behind, the steel cold against his now clammy skin. He was grimy, worn out from the day, but the recent news had him flying high. The toothy grin on his face only confirmed how good he felt, and he was more than happy to listen to Kieran, to watch him as he ran a hand through his hair and speak so confidently about their connection. “Guess it's fate,” he laughed again, more softly this time. “You and me, man,” Royce pushed himself off of the wall only to give Kieran's arm a good-natured punch, “oh-eight-hundred; bright and early. Sleep good, alright?”

    A hot shower and a late dinner down in the mess hall did little to quell Royce's excited anticipation for the following day. Much like a kid on Christmas morning, caught in that limbo-like time of the early blue dark and actual sunrise, Royce simply found it impossible to stop his jumpy thoughts. There was so much at stake, so much riding on just being able to handle the first drift—someone else's memories. His friends had told him story after story about compatible pilots who failed to withstand the intensity of their counterpart. Royce didn't want that to be him, to come so far only to be knocked back down. His stomach was in knots over it, but sometime during the night, solitary and quiet in his bunk, he managed to fall asleep.

    Morning came faster than Royce expected, but he was up, dressed and ready to go in no time at all. He had never been much of a morning person before, but the bubbling nervousness inside of him had mixed with an unshakeable certainty and Royce was feeling confident as ever as he made his way across the Shatterdome to the Drivesuit Room. He took in every sight that he could along the way, only feeling better about what he was about to do. Before he entered, though, Royce thought to wait for Kieran. It was ten to eight, and waiting for the other man seemed like the polite thing to do. After all, the was no “I” in team.

    Finally, Royce caught sight of his co-pilot, soft brown hair looking much less messy than it had only hours before. “Hey,” he called brightly, raising his hand in a quick wave, “good morning. You sleep well?” Royce hoped he had. “Are you ready for all this?”
  9. Fate. Yeah, maybe it was fate that had brought Kieran and Royce together. Well, that and a healthy dose of luck and endless effort. Kieran couldn’t stop smiling, a sense of wonder in his eyes and excitement in his step. He laughed, the sound brief and still incredulous, after Royce’s friendly punch to the arm. “Yeah. I’ll… I’ll see you tomorrow.” Standing motionless in the hallway, he watched his new partner turn to walk away, calling “And you sleep well, too!” rather belatedly after him, his mind still stopped short by the Marshall’s words. For the rest of the evening, too, his words came out jumbled, and Kieran was glad his friends had already had dinner. It would have been impossible to hold any sort of coherent conversation in the state he was in.

    There was no time, no method in which to prep for the next morning’s drift save for a good night’s sleep, which was easier said than done. Kieran tossed and turned for an hour or two in his bunk, the weight of the morning weighing down on his mind like hot lead. Even when he fell asleep, he was plagued with dreams that kept him from the deep sleep that he desired.

    In the morning, he showered again, quickly, attempting to control his wayward hair in the minutes he had left before he had to go. Kieran had woken up with his mind racing, thoughts (good and bad alike) running through his mind in a disorganized cacophony. In an effort to calm down as he wandered towards the Drivesuit Room, he ran through the breathing techniques his therapist had taught him years before. They didn’t do much, but he felt a bit less tense when he arrived to the sight of Royce just outside the door.

    “Morning,” he called before he even reached the man. Excitement bubbled in his chest, and he had to remind himself to breathe yet again as he stood there. The next few hours were going to determine his and Royce’s futures. Either they would become pilots, or they would go right back to the daily slog of training with no end in sight. Despite his worries, Kieran still managed a laugh and an honest reply of “I slept probably about as well as you did.”

    The next question was a little harder to answer. He and Royce knew next to nothing about each other besides their fighting techniques. In the drift, that strangeness would disappear, and they would learn more about each other than near anyone else would ever know. The secret of the mind meld lay in that drift, and it was there that their futures hung in the balance. Kieran knew how active and disorganized his mind was on a good day, so he could only hope that Royce wouldn’t be overwhelmed by it. On the other side of the coin, he worried that he wouldn’t be able to take whatever lay in Royce’s mind. He couldn’t be the cause of the drift failing, he couldn’t.

    “I’m not sure if I’m ready. It’s too soon to tell for that… But no matter what I’ll do my best. I’ll try not to let you down, partner.” Kieran’s voice was joking, but he felt the anxiety flutter at the edges of his mind, insidious and threatening. He clenched and unclenched his fists before pushing open the door and stepping inside, holding it open for Royce to pass through too.

    Inside, the Marshall stood with the relevant drivesuit technicians, his hands clasped behind his back. “Good morning, sir,” Kieran greeted, his tone finally serious. This particular situation did not call for brevity, especially not with Pentecost standing watch in his signature uniform.

    He changed into his drivesuit with the help of the technicians in silence, glancing frequently over at Royce to either smile in what he hoped was a confident way, or to check that he was almost ready too. Not that he was worried about the other man – he always appeared so much more at ease than Kieran felt – but already the sight of his partner was somewhat comforting. It was a good sign, given the trust two pilots were expected, no, needed to have. In no time at all he knew he’d be strapped into the simulator, ready to initiate what he hoped would be the first of many drifts with Royce, and he had to be ready for whatever was to come.
  10. Seeing Kieran and hearing his voice only made things all the more real for Royce. This was really happening, he was being offered a chance to be more than just a ranger struggling for recognition, and with his dark-haired partner, Royce didn't think that anything could go wrong. In his heart, he knew that he and Kieran were drift compatible, and that the test run was just a formality, something that needed to be done in order to be sure. Every other part of him was nervous, though, full of pent-up and excited energy that would have been released in training on any other day. He could only hope that things would go smoothly, and that the next time Royce suited up, he would be stepping into a Jaeger.

    I don't think you'll let me down,” Royce corrected with a shake of his head. Just remembering their dialogue from the day before gave him a good feeling about their first drift. Royce could only hope that Kieran felt the same way.

    Finally, the technicians were ready for them, and the duo was permitted to enter the Drivesuit Room, where the Marshall was waiting for them. Royce gave Kieran a nod of thanks for getting the door, but quickly blanked his face and fell easily back into the military-like stance that he'd been forced to adopt since joining the Rangers. Giving respect was easy, and Royce had never taken any issue with Pentecost before. When the man was more or less giving the permission to join the war effort, the sandy-haired man found that he liked his superior that much more. “Good morning, sir,” he greeted after Kieran.

    With the help of the waiting technicians, Royce was soon fitted with a circuitry suit. The process took a little longer than it normally would have, and the technicians were quick to answer any questions that he had. It was reassuring, and although he and Kieran weren't going up against a kaiju yet, knowing that he was in capable hands helped to ease his remaining worries. In no time at all, battle armor was placed over the sleek-looking polymer and Royce was ready to go. He caught a glimpse of Kieran as he was being escorted to a detached conn-pod, but there were too many people around to be throwing out compliments. For something that was supposed to be a practice run, everything felt incredibly official.

    Hey,” he said quietly, blue eyes falling onto the other man as the technicians continued their prep all around them. “No matter what happens, this is going to be awesome.” If their drift didn't yield any results, Royce was sure to be disappointed, but nothing was ever going to stop him from remembering what a connection he had with Kieran. The corner of his mouth twitched into a half-smile as a tech brought out the spinal clamp. “Not that I think we're not going to kick ass at this.”

    Confidence really was key.
  11. It was thanks to the drivesuit technicians that Kieran didn’t mess up right off the bat. He was a little shaky, the nerves finally beginning to present themselves outside of his whirling mind. But the technicians knew what they were doing, and they’d done this hundreds of times before. One of them gave him a reassuring smile as he attached the chest piece, and Kieran smiled back gratefully.

    Finally, the application of the sleek suits was completed, and he and Royce were as ready as they could be for their first drift attempt as partners. They looked very official, battle prepped in their armour and suits. Kieran couldn’t keep his lips from twitching up into a smile. Not even nerves could take away the excitement he felt, and he turned to his sandy-haired partner to listen to what he had to say. Kieran nodded, brown eyes locking with blue in those few moments they had before the test could begin in earnest.

    “Thank you,” he murmured, though he knew there was no need to thank the other man just yet. But Royce’s words had given him a boost of confidence, the “we can do this” feeling he desperately needed. They were a team. Kieran could trust Royce, and he had to make sure that he was a man Royce would be able to trust right back. That meant confidence, and he was willing to put forward the effort to make it so. “These people won’t know what hit them.” He was steeling himself for what was to come, compartmentalising his mind as much as possible to reduce the shock. Everybody always said the first drift felt like drowning until the connection between pilots stabilized. He had to be ready for that so that he wouldn’t inadvertently freak out and ruin everything, not just for himself but for the other man in the pod with him.

    Kieran looked up, intending to say something else before they began, but the technicians were rushing them forwards, trying to give the entire simulation a somewhat realistic feel. They wouldn’t have time to talk before drifting if they became proper co-pilots, and if everything went as planned they wouldn’t need to talk anyways. The drift would take care of that for them, they would have all the time in the world in the neural headspace.

    There was a brief speech on drift simulation rules by the head technician, the Marshal standing off to the side with his arms crossed. Observing. Testing out the recruits before the real test even began. Kieran had to suck in a breath and remind himself to breathe. It wouldn’t do to go into panic mode; not here, not now.

    “Alright, Kieran, Royce, you’re all set.” The spinal clamp was attached, the conn-pod powered up and ready to go. All they had to do now was strap in and get the neural handshake going.

    “… good luck,” he whispered as he and his partner were shuffled into their respective positions, Kieran taking the left hemisphere of the conn-pod, the position he would usually control the left side of the body from in a typical jaeger. He and Royce were hooked up as if they were inside a legitimate jaeger instead of just the… well, the brain of one, he supposed, watching the pod clear of everyone but he and his partner.
    Any minute now, he would be initiating a drift with the one person who had been able to give him that electric feeling of a dialogue more graceful and illuminating than any dance. It was real. It was actually happening. With another deep breath, Kieran was clearing his mind of outside thoughts as he had been trained to do. The words “Engaging pilot-to-pilot protocol” came over the intercom, sounding distant and not all-there. He was ready, he could do this. With Royce, he could drift, he knew it.

    “Prepare for neural handshake.”
  12. The professionalism of the technicians made the simulation that much more real for Royce. If he didn't know any better, he would have gotten ahead of himself and thought that he and Kieran were headed out into a fight against a kaiju. Soon enough, it wouldn't be a long-sought pipe-dream and the only thing that was left standing in his way was the first drift. It would be safe, controlled, and the worst consequence was crippling disappointment that was to be followed up with mediocrity and endless days back in the Kwoon Combat Room. There was quite a bit of mental health riding on their drift, and Royce was doing his best to calm down before it was too late, and he fixated on something that would ruin the whole experience. He didn't want to do that to Kieran, someone who had been working just as hard.

    A short speech from the technicians under the watchful eye of the Marshall had Royce leaving his own thoughts behind. His mind was practically empty with the exception of his training, and the advice from a few of his pilot friends. He had always heard that the first drift was intense, something like drowning but it was important not to panic. The sandy-haired man had been a ball of barely-controlled energy since the night before when he'd gotten the news from Marshall Pentecost alongside Kieran, and he was determined not to let a few last minute jitters get the better of him. Behind those nerves, was blind, bold excitement and Royce had never been more ready.

    You too,” Royce said in response, moving himself and his armor over to the right side of the conn-pod. Their places felt natural, right, and Royce was sure that in time, suiting up would begin to feel routine and second-nature. It was difficult for him to keep the smile off of his face, like a dog with a bone, he was almost incapable of hiding his excitement and while it was slightly unprofessional, Royce didn't seem to care. On top of fighting for their world, what person didn't want to pilot a Jaeger and punch monsters in the face?

    At Kieran's side, Royce drew in a deep breath and exhaled every distraction that had been bouncing off of his mind's walls. The technician's voice that had crackled over the intercom made the whole experience official, and finally, it was time.

    Intense didn't begin to describe the feeling as a mixture of memories flashed before his eyes. Some were his own, school with his sister, a first kiss with the neighbor girl, that time he'd been beaten up—but there were other pictures in his head, images of a little boy, a house, a pet, family. Royce felt like he was drowning, overwhelmed as he breathed deeply, swallowing hard each time another memory washed over him. It was a struggle not to cling to latch on to a better time and cling to the mirage of normalcy.

    The feeling of being underwater began to lessen and each memory began to blur into one wave that easy passed over him. Royce thought that he was in the clear, close to breaking through the glassy surface of his own mind until the veil of memories began to take shape into something else, something more familiar. That day was always sitting in the back of his mind.

    The warm, blue water lapped at a white, sandy shore. The air was humid, kissed with salt as it wafted through the open patio doors. Cabo was a paradise, a heaven on Earth that Royce never wanted to leave. He was tangled in crisp white sheets, arm slung around the sharp shoulders of a brunette. She was smiling, her head resting on his chest and the ring on her finger sparkled in the mid-afternoon sunlight. Perfect would have been an understatement.

    What's that?” Diem asked, her delicate features piquing into a look of curiosity.

    Royce opened his eyes, having been intent on a nap. “What?” he asked, looking out toward the door and balcony.

    Diem sat up and wrapped the sheet around herself. “There's something in the water.”

    It was so real that Royce had been able to smell the sea and feel her skin against his. He gave his head a shake, as if to physically repel the memory from further taking shape. Those kaiju bastards had stolen enough from him, and Royce wasn't going to let them take his revenge too. With a shaky breath, Royce opened his eyes, back in the conn-pod with Kieran at his left. He could feel the other man in his consciousness, a dull buzz that seemed to overtake every part of him. It was comfortable, something that made him feel that much more alive.

    With a certain amount of confidence, Royce balled his right fist and connected his covered knuckles with the palm of his left hand. He was ready.
  13. The fifteen seconds before the drift after the technician’s cool voice said “prepare for neural handshake” felt impossibly long, each moment lengthening in ways that made the whole situation feel like a dream. One Kieran had no desire to wake up from, no matter how scared he was. He sucked in a breath, letting it out as slowly as he could, taking up the last few seconds before the final words were uttered.
    “Neural handshake initiated.”

    The drift began with a sudden, almost painful rush of thoughts; his own were nearly indistinguishable from Royce’s when they rushed past in a blue-white blur. He caught images, brief and insubstantial in his mind, but they were memories. His own past blurred with that of his partner, the familiar and unfamiliar swirling to create a mosaic of thoughts he could barely understand, and though a part of him grasped for stability, he held back, aware that latching on to any one memory could result in the neural connection failing, after what was sure to be a painful ride. He wouldn’t do that to himself, and certainly not to Royce, who had every right to stand on even ground with a kaiju and fight. Kieran would not be the one to hold him back from that dream.

    There were glimpses in the sifting memories that Kieran wanted to avoid, of his mother sobbing as she begged him not to leave, terrified she’d never see him again. Others, dark points in his own life where leaving his room was more difficult than anything, and those memories were dim, distorted with the dark tint of anxiety. Each memory flashing by had Kieran forcing his attention elsewhere, attempting to divert the flow so he wouldn’t have to see his own history; there was also the brief thought that maybe he could keep those months of his life from Royce, as well, as if he could do that and be trusted fully. Unlikely.

    Just as they neared proper synchronicity, one of Royce’s memories solidified, and two minds observed the same scene from entirely different perspectives. To Kieran, there was nothing wrong with the image, no sense of what happened that day, and it seemed peaceful. Royce, on the other hand, had experienced all of this before. It took a burst of effort for him to mentally push the other man’s memory away. He would not pry, even as their minds melded and every thought was shared between them.

    Finally, when the near infinite flood stopped and everything was bared that could be bared, Kieran let himself breathe again, hardly aware that he had ever stopped.

    “-eathe, guys. There we go. Neural connections are stable and synchronization levels are optimal.” If Kieran had been paying attention, he might have heard the relief in the technician’s voice, the barely there shake that told him they’d been just as worried as he, perhaps more so. But he wasn’t, his mind was a little preoccupied with the feeling of having someone else in his mind, so close to his deepest held beliefs and musings. Oddly enough, he wasn’t the least bit worried that Royce would try to delve into them. Or perhaps it wasn’t so odd. Co-pilots were meant to trust each other implicitly, after all, and already that seemed so easy.

    In the same moment Royce moved, Kieran did too, fist and palm connecting. If they had been in an actual jaeger, the movement would have been perfect, he knew it.

    There was no need to speak, not when the distinct consciousness of his partner buzzed at the back of his mind. He couldn’t ignore it, but it wasn’t overwhelming, either, not like the initial rush had been. “Wow. That was… something.” He thought, testing out the link between his thoughts and Royce’s. “This is amazing!” There was barely concealed awe on his face, and he knew that Royce could feel the excitement and almost childish glee bubbling up inside. He could feel his partner’s determination through the drift, something so tangible he wanted to reach out and touch it. But no, Royce was at his side, and their thoughts were linked.

    In spite of the unfamiliarity of the whole experience, Kieran could say that without a doubt he had never felt more right. This was where he was meant to be, and this was his destiny, if he could allow himself to believe in such a thing. He felt like he belonged here, at Royce’s left, and he could feel the burning desire to get in an actual jaeger with him. It was… well, it was more of a need than anything at this point.

    “Drift is holding. Great job, boys.”
  14. Inside of his own mind, between glimpses of things Royce had longed to forget, Kieran's memories began to make appearances. It was more than simple pictures of being a kid, and going to school, hanging out with friends. The other man's memories hadn't taken shape the way Royce's had, but he could feel what Kieran felt. The woman crying, those months spent inside—he felt that despair, the desperation and loneliness wrapped in a thick layer of anxiety. Royce wasn't one to pry, but drifting meant taking the good with the bad and even if those pictures were never given a verbal explanation, Royce imagined that he would find out soon enough. Every drift brought pilots closer together, and it was the most easy and unfortunate way to get to know another person.

    After coming so far and training so hard, Royce was determined not to let his memory of Cabo beat him. The journey that had been on since that fateful day was all for Diem, and Royce didn't think that he would be able to live with himself if he screwed up the last thing that stood between him and a real fight with a kaiju. Revenge was all Royce wanted, a chance to make Diem's death be something more than a statistic, a name engraved into a memorial. This was all for her, and Royce only wanted to make her proud. Wherever she was, he just hoped that he was at rest.

    The apprehensive voice of the technician broke through the flood of memories to give an update of their connection. Now that Royce was in control of his mind once more, he had every bit of faith in the stability of the neural bridge. He could feel Kieran in his head, extra thoughts humming behind his eyes, nerves coming alive with sensations that weren't his own. It was an intimidating feeling, although not unwelcome and hardly distracting. With time, it would become second nature, something that Royce didn't even think about whenever he stepped into the conn-pod with the other man.

    Although Royce thought that he knew almost everything there was to know about drifting, one thing that caught him by surprise was hearing Kieran's voice in his mind. There was an echo around those words, making Royce laugh as the co-pilot spoke once more. “Holy shit,” Royce thought and looked over to Kieran. He didn't miss the other man's wide and mesmerized smile, his own expression very much the same as they experienced Jaeger tech in tandem. Whatever happened, this was something that Royce was never going to forget, along with how very right their connection felt.

    Soon enough, the technician was back online to let them know that their drift was holding. They had done it, together, and Royce breathed a sigh of relief just for the fact that it was over. Everything was sure to be smooth sailing from there—he had a partner now, someone to work with against the enemies of the deep and Royce didn't think that he could have found anyone better. Drift compatibility was rare, even among family members, but to find it in a total stranger was the closest thing their world had to magic. Kieran was special, and Royce had never felt closer to anyone.

    After being disconnected and interfacing with the Marshall for a few fleeting seconds, Royce and Kieran were dismissed. Logistical information was sure to follow soon enough; what Jaeger they would be driving, how soon they could expect to be called for a mission, new room assignments. Royce was too busy basking in the glow of accomplishment to give a thought to the future. The present was so bright, and there was a part of him that could hardly believe what he and Kieran had just accomplished.

    We did it,” he grinned, now back out in the hallway they had met in that morning. “I can't believe it. We did it.” He shook his head and ran a hand back through his hair, gripping at the strands just for something tangible. His expression may as well have been a permanent smile. “We're pilots!” He raised his hand and presented his palm to Kieran, hair long forgotten and intent on a high-five. “This is...” he trailed off with a satisfied sigh. “I mean. Wow. Just.” Speechless was hardly ever a word that could be used to describe Royce, but the experience had left him in total shock and awe.

    Royce was still flying high, and he could still feel the dull buzz of Kieran's consciousness in his mind. Residual drift was something that Royce had heard of, that it could happen to any pilot, new or experienced. He didn't mind so much, not right now when he was so happy. “Do you want to get something to eat?” he asked, wanting to know more about his partner. “I'm starving.” Plus, a late breakfast never hurt anyone and eggs were scientifically proven to be the easiest food to bond over—or maybe Royce was just making that up.
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