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Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 12:29 pm
Earlier this year, I signed up for [community profile] trope_bingo. I'm into Round Two, and this time round I did all my fills on Pacific Rim.

So watch out for 5 fics coming your way. It's been quite a challenge writing for a new fandom! But I had fun with giant robots and the people who drive them. =)

Title: The Private Myth of Dreams
Summary: Mako and Raleigh shouldn't Drift together. Too bad no one told their subconscious that.
Content notes: Warning for swearing, the name of a particular Jaeger

It is too hot for autumn. Yet the autumn leaves that Mako is raking proves that it is indeed the right season. They lay so thickly that the green of the grass is lost among the reds and yellows of the fallen leaves.

The red and yellow create a sort of heat haze effect in front of Mako's eyes, and the warm colours makes Mako feel hotter than she already is. Sweat drips down Mako's brow, down her neck to pool on her shoulders, trickles down the back of her tank top to stop uncomfortably where she had unwisely chosen to tie her shirt.

She is a Jaeger pilot, she can handle a bit of discomfort. She keeps on raking, putting the leaves into tidy piles. She can't control the weather but she can at least put some order in her life.

An order that is very quickly messed up when someone jumps into the pile of leaves nearest to her.

It throws up more leaves than she expected - did she rake that much? - and she has to spend some moments waving red and gold bits out of her face. When she can see again, she frowns.

Raleigh Becket is sitting there among the leaves, smiling in that infuriating way that he was smiling when he was watching Mako try to unlock his door, and that man is just so infuriating with his insistence that Mako should be his co-pilot

(infuriatingly right)

His smile falters a little when he sees Mako's expression. "What, Mako didn't you ever learn to jump in leaves?"

"No," she says. "It sounds rather unsanitary." A leaf has stuck to her arm by means she really doesn't want to think about and she brushes it off. It's not the weather that is hot. It is Raleigh Becket and his inability to stop bothering her.

"Heh, hot and bothered," says Raleigh, like it's a joke.

It is not a joke. It is something that Mako needs to fix and put in order again. She thinks of cool as she picks up her rake. Cool, like lemonade, like jumping in puddles, like her stone garden.

"You have a nice garden." Raleigh can't keep quiet for long, not even when the sound of the rake is much louder than his voice.

"Thank you," Mako pulls the rake through, and approves of the lines it makes in the stones. Taking care of a stone garden is a mediative exercise that she is glad she has maintained. She even uses it sometimes to calm her mind before a drift simulation.

She had done that too for the actual Drift, but it had still ended in failure.

Raleigh's presence here is a magnet for her to keep thinking about the Drift. She steps onto the path alongside the stone path and glares at the intruder. He gazes at her innocently from the angel shaped hole that he had created in the rock garden. Like a snow angel, only in stone.

"Is that something you learned from your childhood too?" she asks.

"God, no. Stones are way harder than snow. Why are you asking, when you're the one who put me in there?"

"Me?" Mako feels her incomprehension show in the way she widens her eyes. "What did I do?"

Raleigh looks at her and he is always amused, so amused by everything. "We're sharing a dream right now."

Like the time that she chased the R.A.B.I.T Mako realises, and then a smell that tickles her memory but refuses to be properly identified fills her nose. She looks down at her stone garden and can't identify the thick blue liquid that fills the ridges she's made in the stones. It's only when it spills onto the path and over her feet that she realises this is Kaiju Blue, the toxic blood of kaijus...

"Woah woah we're not going there again." Raleigh makes himself known through his tight grip on her arm. Her feet are now encased in pilot boots, and it's water that laps at them, even if it is water tinted with Kaiju blue. She turns and confirms that he's in his Jaeger pilot suit as well, the tint of yellow in the helmet's glass unable to fully obscure that familiar face. "I'm not going to be yelling my lungs out again where no one can hear."

"Are we... still in the Drift?" Dread grips Mako. What if she was still in the Jaeger, what if she had really fired inside the hangar and was now walking around inside a Jaeger still causing destruction? "Raleigh! We - "

"No, we're out of the Drift. At least, my knuckles hurt enough from Chuck's thick head to prove what happened after we got out of Drift happened."

"It's a dream. You won't feel physical sensations." Mako knows that her voice is as flat as the look that she is giving Raleigh.

"Yeah, tell me why it feels like a sauna inside here again," Raleigh grumbled. But his voice was much lighter when he said, "So, you liked this co-pilot thing more than I expected huh? Shared dreaming is a thing for co-pilots."

"It is just your imagination, Mr Becket," says Mako as primly as she can muster. She can wake from dreams easily. Experience with frequent nightmares made that a necessary skill. Soon she'll leave Raleigh to his overimaginative brain.

... Except when she wills herself to wake up, as she always does, nothing happens.

"... hey Mako. Hey Mako! You're not off in another memory, are you?"

"I can't wake up," she tells him, short and direct. She doesn't believe in hiding things, and this is one thing too urgent to hide.

"That eager to get away from me?"

"Yes," says Mako. Directness has always been her friend, even when Raleigh looks at her hurt which makes her stomach twists a little. "But I cannot wake up."

"I've always just rode out my dreams," Raleigh mused, a fact that surprises Mako. He had spent so long alone, not like Mako who only learned how to wake herself up because she was tired of waking Sensei up, that she would have thought he would have taught himself to wake up from a nightmare. "But well, how hard can it be? It should be like exiting the Drift, shouldn't it? So, 1, 2, 3 - " He doesn't fade from her dream. "Well, so much for that."

"What should we do?" Maybe Raleigh has more experience here, from his 5 years as a Jaeger pilot.

Raleigh rubs the back of his head, a futile gesture with his helmet on. "Think us up a nicer location and nicer clothes?"

At that thought, the scene shifts. The sand scalds Mako even through the towel she's lying on, and Raleigh looks like his skin colour is red instead of white above his admittedly nice swimming trunks.

Mako looks down at herself and realises she is wearing what could only be called a bikini in the most generous of terms. "Pervert," she bites out.

Raleigh holds his hands palm out as if to block her disapproval. "Hey, I'm just wearing what I usually wear to the beach. Maybe you've worn such bikinis to the beach before, Ms Mori."

"Hmph," Mako says, mostly to cover up the fact that she finally remembers wearing this bikini as a dare when she was at the Sydney shatterdome. Chuck hadn't dared to even look at her for a week after. The heat of the sun distracts her from that thought, and she thinks of the best cocktail she's had at the beach, cool and refreshing.

As a sign she has got the hang of this, the desired cocktail appears on the sand next to her. She takes a sip and savours the coolness, while Raleigh looks at her enviously. Or he is looking at the slow way she swallows. Mako is not sure, and sometimes finds that she likes the attention.

"Well, as much fun as it is to relax," says Raleigh, after clearing his throat a few times. "Do you think being stuck in this dream is going to be a problem?"

"I don't know," Mako admits. "We were not taught about shared dreaming in detail in the Academy, only that it exists. What was it like - " She pauses here. Both the Drift and the way Raleigh spoke of Yancy, "Yeah, Yancy said this worked for him too....", so casual as if there was no gaping gulf where Yancy had been torn from him, told Mako it was OK to talk about Yancy. But this was the first time that Mako had talked about him without any prompting from Raleigh.

She forged ahead. "What was it like with Yancy?"

The frown that Raleigh has is a thoughtful one, and Mako relaxes when she realises that means that he isn't upset by the mention of Yancy. "I don't think we ever had a dream like this," Raleigh says slowly, as if he's replaying the dreams that they had in his head. "We knew each other so well, you know? We'd just dream about the people and the things we knew, replay a memory or two together. Honestly it was more like shared reminiscing."

Mako would be jealous of their closeness, except that she is embarrassed by how high the Drift compatibility is between her and Raleigh. She wonders what Yancy would think of the failed session between her and Raleigh.

"What the fuck Mako!" she hears someone yell, and she half-turns on her towel to find that the beach has suddenly filled with people, and it's Chuck and Bondi Beach all over again with Chuck turning away to splutter incoherently at the water. Honestly, Mako thinks-remembers, there were topless women and he was shocked by her bikini and when did she start chasing this memory again?

She shakes herself and is about to apologise to Raleigh for chasing the R.A.B.I.T again when she realises that Raleigh is looking into the distance. No, looking at someone. Mako's files on Raleigh didn't have any photos, but she doesn't need one to see the family resemblance between the man that Raleigh is looking at and her co-pilot.

Raleigh doesn't bolt when the apparition comes up to them, a sign of his bravery. Dream Yancy is bearing drinks.

Mako absolutely has to apologise now. "Raleigh..." She rests her hand on his arm, and is surprised at the radiating sun-heat she feels even in the dream.

"No Mako. It's ok." He pats her hand but doesn't take his eyes off the apparition. "I think I know this memory."

"Helloooooooo," Yancy draws out the greeting. Usually when men from the other technical teams greet her this way Mako gets annoyed, but Yancy has the same earnestness Raleigh has that it doesn't rankle in the same way. "I don't think you're my brother you're way too pretty to be him."

"I'm right here Yancy." Raleigh's voice is too low and too quiet to be part of this memory.

"Oh yeah, how could I overlook this big lump over here."

"Miss you too bro."

Mako can't help herself; she squeezes Raleigh's arm at the thought of the emotions that he must be feeling. She can't imagine what she would do if her parents appeared in this dream. (No, this is not the time and place for them, no they absolutely cannot appear.)

Raleigh's hand atop hers squeezes back. How can he be so strong, to comfort her when it is him who is facing the person that he has loved and lost?

Dream Yancy doesn't notice. "Oh, so you actually do remember me, your poor older bro who had to stand in line and melt into a puddle to get you your drinks, you ungrateful jerk." Yancy winks at Mako, or at the girl that Mako is supposed to be in this dream. "Just happened that I tripped and fell and got three drinks instead of two. So there's one for you too."

It seems it wasn't just Raleigh who was just kind, so kind. Mako finds herself blinking as she takes the extra drink. It must be the way too bright dream sun.

"Hope you actually like that," Yancy says.

She takes a sip. "It's good!" she blurts out. She doesn't actually taste it.

"I have a good eye," says Yancy. He bends low to speak to Raleigh as he hands his brother his drink.

Raleigh actually laughs, although now that Mako knows how bright and happy the sound can be she also knows this laugh is a pale substitute, hollowed and with the shine taken off. "I intend on it," he says, and Yancy straightens, grinning.

"What?" Mako asks.

"He said you're really pretty," says Raleigh. "And maybe Chuck over there wants to say the same."

Mako puts down both her drinks before sitting up like Stacker had taught her - back straight, shoulders back - and looking Chuck in the eye. She might not know what Yancy said to Raleigh but she does know what Chuck is about to say to her.

"What the fuck are you doing Mako?"

"I'm wearing a bikini."

"Shit Mako, you can't just do that."

"Why not?"

"It's just not right."

"Like the way you said I shouldn't partner with Raleigh?" Mako mutters. It's not what she said to Chuck back then, but the fight outside of Sensei's office is still weighing heavily on her mind.

"You're dressing slutty just like the other girls - "

Mako speaks this rehearsed line aloud. "But I am a girl like them."

Chuck snorted. "Yeah? Two bit whores don't have brains."

Mako remembers this bit well enough. She kicks out and sweeps Chuck's legs from under him, taking him by surprise and sending him face first into the sand. Then she takes the back of his head and digs his face into the sand for good measure. "That's right. I'm too smart to sit around and listen to you, as you say, talk smack."

Chuck disappears from under her hand, leaving her with a fistful of sand. When Mako looks up, she sees Yancy has disappeared too. The sky is turning grey and overcast with the first traces of a storm. Raleigh doesn't even look up as the wind picks up, eyes only for Mako. She wonders when she became the centre of his attention, both in the waking world and here.

"You know," Raleigh says. "Chuck's pleasant personality aside, he was actually saying you're smarter than the average beach blonde."

Mako pursed her lips. "He did not have to be, how do you say it? An ass about it."

"Well, if that's what you did to him on that beach you sure taught him good. I remember you using those moves during the tryouts."

"Chuck never became my Drift partner because he couldn't read my moves," Mako said, before she could think better of it.

She could tell that Raleigh wanted to ask another question she couldn't answer to his satisfaction. He had the same expression when he asked why she listened to Stacker, and all she could tell him was that it was due to respect. The wind around them began to pick up in speed.

He began to speak -

And stopped when the loud thump, thump, thump of a Jaeger walking in water reached them.

"Not the best time to dream of a Kaiju attack, Mako," said Raleigh, scrambling to his feet. The fine white sand of the Gold Coast had turned to snow, just as powdery but much colder.

"This is not my memory," Mako replied, when the Jaeger appeared out of the mist, solid and impossibly huge.

It dropped to one knee before them, all of its weight going into that gesture, then the other knee came down, and it was falling over -

Mako moved, dragging Raleigh along with her to bring them both to safety, just as the Jaeger came to a deafening crash on their heels. It wasn't until she stopped that she found she was in her Jaeger suit again. She looked down at the hand that had been supporting Raleigh, and found it covered in blood.

Next to her, Raleigh made a low pained sound, like the keening of an animal. His Jaeger jumpsuit was not the same black that Mako was wearing. It was white, and one shoulder had been ripped right through to the flesh and blood beneath, blood that was leaking out -

Raleigh keened again and all Mako could think was (my partner needs me). She wrapped her arms around his torso and pulled him up further from the mysterious Jaeger.

This close, she could hear him that his keening was a chant, over and over again Raleigh was saying, "Yancy. Yancy. Yancy..."

She glanced behind them to see how far they were from the Jaeger that could explode at any moment, and saw a sight that she could not forget. It was Gipsy Danger, worse than Mako remembered her. When Mako came to fix her, she was tattered and neglected, but in this memory she was still smoking and sparking, her Conn Pod a raw gaping wound.

Her co-pilot needed her right more this moment. Raleigh was still chanting Yancy's name.

"Raleigh, Raleigh." She pressed her forehead to his. "This is just a memory. I'm Mako. I'm here. We just piloted Gipsy Danger, I fixed her, I fixed her for you - "

She repeated those facts over and over again, her own mantra to override Raleigh's chant, and she only stopped when Raleigh's gloved hands rubbed over her face.

Mako had not realised she was crying. She also rubbed at her own face, even though Jaeger pilot gloves were tough and not designed for wiping tears away.

"Yeah, I need to remember that," said Raleigh. His voice was hoarse, whether from emotion or the memory of smoke inhalation Mako was not sure. "You did good with our Jaeger."

Mako smiled despite herself. "I'm not your co-pilot."

"I'm starting to think this dream is an attempt to convince us otherwise. I saw the co-pilot that I lost. You saw the co-pilot that you couldn't have." Raleigh waves at the downed Jaeger. "And now Gipsy shows up to remind us that she's the Jaeger we ought to be piloting."

Mako doesn't quite see the connection. "You're twisting logic to match your idea of how things should be."

Raleigh stands, and this time he's not keening when he looks at the Jaeger. He holds out his hand to Mako without taking his eyes away from Gipsy Danger. "Come with me then."

There was never a choice. Mako takes Raleigh's hand, and stands.

This is a dream. This is a dream, and that is why as they walk, the snow melts beneath their feet to reveal stone steps that rise and lift them up to reach the Conn-Pod. As Raleigh passes through the jagged hole in the side of Gipsy's head, Mako has to stop at the gash she sealed. She used depleted uranium and steel, she remembers.

As she recalls this, the metal flow from the point where Mako is touching it, although the metal is not hot to the touch. Raleigh tugs her along, insistent, so Mako can't observe this strange phenomena.

There is more to see than just that. Inside the Conn-Pod wires snake back to their original position, glass shards piece themselves together in a peculiar jigsaw puzzle, and bent metal unravels itself back to its true shape. When Mako and Raleigh finally stand in the middle of the Conn-Pod, it is back to the condition that it was supposed to be.

"This was all your work," says Raleigh, his voice warm with praise. The praise is misplaced - Mako was just fixing things, like any true engineer should do.

But it's hard for her to say these things when Raleigh squeezes her hand so gently. His palm is as warm as his words. "Raleigh," is all she manages. He was right, about what the dream meant.

Raleigh understood anyway. He squeezes her hand, then says, "But it isn't quite complete yet."

Mako knows what he means, and turns to the harness where Jaeger pilots strap themselves in. Raleigh helps her up as if she's ascending to the throne, before letting go to take his place at his station. The harness locks in place easily, and the pilot suit syncs well.

"Pilots, engaged," Gipsy's AI greets them. "Initialising neural link."

Raleigh remembers the Drift exactly the same way as Mako does. In it, they come to the same understanding that they should have realised all along. There was hope yet that they would experience this perfection again. There was hope yet that they would pilot a Jaeger together.

Mako doesn't remember the rest of the dream after waking up. But it's this hope that lets her stand next to Stacker and watch the other Jaeger pilots leave for battle against the Kaiju.

Raleigh squeezes her shoulder - his hand in the waking world is as warm as it was in the dream. She does not need to look at him to know that he feels the same hope that she does.