Outside Interference

Author's Note: So, I love this movie. Totally unapologetically. I love that Guillermo Del Toro specifically didn't want to make Mako a love interest (while still totally adoring her relationship with Raleigh). I do not love that apparently there were no escape pods in Striker Eureka.

***

Chuck Hansen was one cocky motherfucker. That was a simple fact of life for Raleigh Becket, like the endless bickering of Newt and Gottlieb, like the bone-deep contentment found in drifting with Mako.

Still, Raleigh had decided not to let it bother him - after all, while he might not have properly apologized, Chuck had stopped his most annoying posturing after Gipsy's first battle and then done a pretty outstanding job down at the Rift, until Stacker had ejected him. The remaining attitude Raleigh could live with. For one, Chuck had pretty good reason to be cocky, considering his track record as a pilot. And on the other hand, Raleigh couldn't help but hear Yancey's amused "Don't get cocky, Raleigh!" on that last day, hindsight making it obvious that he himself had been more than half-way there already.

What he had not counted on was that they would ever become friends. Yet, that seemed to be exactly what had happened at some point after the closing of the Rift. Mako enjoyed teasing him that it had happened when Chuck pinned Raleigh to the mat during their first sparring session, straddling Raleigh's hips and holding him down, the muscles in his arms straining but the grin on his face infectious. But then, Mako got way too much pleasure out of using her knowledge of Raleigh's innermost thoughts against him, so he chose to pointedly ignore her and just go about his business as usual.

It was a strategy that had worked pretty well with Yancey, after all, and being with Mako felt like having a sibling again, a family, something Raleigh had thought he'd lost for good. Still, there were certain things that should remain private, even between drift partners. After all, he had not once mentioned the fact that for weeks after her adoptive father's death Mako woke with tear tracks down her cheeks, after having spent the night clinging to Raleigh as if her life depended on it, unable to sleep at all if he wasn't there to hold her.

Mako's interference in his personal business aside, friends was undoubtedly what him and Chuck Hansen had become. With the kaiju gone, Mako was busy helping to adapt Jaeger technology into something fit for civilian use, and Herc Hansen had officially been promoted and served as liaison between Jaeger program, military and governments, often leaving the two remaining pilots at loose ends.

Sometimes Tendo joined them, but he'd found himself a lovely fiancée who for some reason seemed to want him around. So the two of them both spent a few hours every day in the simulators with their co-pilots, but apart from that they entertained themselves - sparring, exploring Hong Kong with Max and even watching movies, having discovered a shared liking for late 20th century action and sci-fi flicks. More often than not Raleigh spent these evenings snorting with laughter, trying to keep his beer down, while Chuck sniped at the screen, even resorting to throwing popcorn when the plot was too outlandish for his taste.

Alright, so possibly Raleigh spent a bit too much time watching Chuck out of the corner of his eyes, enjoying the strong lines of his body when they were exercising, his surprising tenderness with Max when the old dog became overheated during their excursions and the unguarded pleasure on his face when a movie captured his attention.

There was no denying the younger Hansen's good looks, the draw of his personality, and it had been much too long since anyone who meant anything had shared Raleigh's bed. But it had also been a long, long time since he'd had a real friend, another guy to just hang out and shoot the shit with, so Raleigh chose to ignore this inopportune attraction. He really didn't want Chuck to reject him in that abrasive way he put on whenever he felt threatened.

Hong Kong was the first time since Yancey's death that Raleigh had found a proper home, a place with people he cared about, and he was not going to risk losing it. No matter how much he wondered what it would be like to pin Chuck down, and not on a training mat either.

Life was good, and Raleigh was comfortable with the rhythm of it - until the day Mako interrupted another sparring session, both men evenly matched but neither one of them willing to call it a draw. He immediately noticed the crutches and the bandage around her left ankle and stopped in mid-swing, Chuck just barely managing not to hit him in the face. The Australian sputtered: "What the fuck, mate... Oh, Mako, what happened to your leg?"

Undoubtedly to everyone else Mako looked sheepish, but Raleigh could make out just a trace of smugness underneath and was about to ask what the hell she was playing at when she answered in her usual calm voice: "I'm afraid I fell and sprained my ankle. It's not bad, but I won't be able to use the simulator for a few days." She looked at Raleigh, appearing genuinely apologetic, and he knew she was up to something sneaky. "I apologize, Raleigh, you know I enjoy our time in the drift as much as you do."

"I'm sorry, Ray, that blows. Wish there was something I could do to help." Chuck laid a consoling hand on Raleigh's arm, and Raleigh couldn't help but look down to where they touched, feeling strangely warmed by his friend's genuine sympathy. He tore his mind away from the unsettling thoughts and leveled a suspicious glance at Mako, who had started to smile broadly at Chuck's words.

"I'm glad you feel that way, Mr. Hansen, because there is in fact something you can do: Take my place during the simulations." Raleigh and Chuck exchanged looks, completely baffled, but Mako remained unruffled. "You've spent enough time sparring, it's obvious to anyone watching you, even if they haven't seen your brain scans - which I have. You must have noticed that you are drift-compatible."

"Wha…" Raleigh knew he probably wore an incredibly stupid expression, but that was what he felt like after all, so it seemed appropriate. "No. No, Mako, we aren't. We would have noticed. Wouldn't we?" He looked at Chuck and was suddenly not quite so sure anymore when he noticed the way the other pilot was avoiding eye contact and shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot. "Chuck?"

By this point he really didn't need the confirmation, but Chuck nodded anyway, still not meeting his eyes: "Well… I might have suspected something. But we both have co-pilots already, so it's not as if it mattered!" The defensiveness in his voice was refreshingly familiar, and Raleigh relaxed a bit, even as he looked daggers at the aforementioned co-pilot of his, who knew exactly why Raleigh had that particular blind spot. He almost missed Chuck's next words, but they should not have come as a surprise: "But hey, with Ms. Mori out of commission we can give it a try, sure. I don't mind double duty, it's not as if we're fighting kaiju, after all."

How was Raleigh supposed to decline without raising Chuck's suspicions or insulting him? And how was he supposed to accept, considering everything the Australian would discover once they were drifting? Mako was really lucky he loved her, because she was still smiling guilelessly and replied as if Chuck had been addressing her and not Raleigh: "That's very generous of you, thank you. I'm glad Raleigh won't be grounded because of my accident."

"Yeah, thanks, man, I appreciate it," Raleigh smiled through gritted teeth. He. Would. Kill. Her. Just as soon as he figured out a way to drift with Chuck Hansen without him noticing that his friend spent way too much time picturing him naked. He was so, so fucked.

Mako, on the other hand, felt much too pleased with herself, not fazed at all when Raleigh cornered her after bowing out of the interrupted training session as politely as he could, ignoring the look of confusion on Chuck's face. Without bothering to change Raleigh caught up with his co-pilot and, having gotten himself all worked up, bodily shoved her into his room, hissing angrily as soon as the door fell shut: "What do you think you're playing at? Chuck has just about forgotten how much he hated me at first, and now he'll think I've only ever wanted to get into his pants. Thank you very much, Mako, for ruining one of the few good things in my life!"

Gently but firmly pushing him back a step but otherwise completely unruffled Mako replied: "You're exaggerating, Raleigh, and you're underestimating Chuck." Looking up at him, she added, her eyes softening: "But if it really bothers you that much, I can make up a reason why you have to miss your simulator training until I'm back on my feet."

It was that more than anything else that decided him - Raleigh Becket was not going to hide, not behind Mako or anyone else. He'd survived all the kaiju had thrown at them, he'd survived Yancey's death, he'd survived going into the fucking Rift; he would survive being rejected by Chuck Hansen. Still, he spent the evening hiding in his bunk, channel-surfing compulsively because he was unable to settle down. His nerves were so raw, he almost jumped out of his skin when, at a time most of the base was fast asleep, someone knocked on his door.

"Go away, Mako, not in the mood to talk!" he yelled, feeling grumpy, compounded because he was disgruntled with himself for being so out of sorts. Altogether he was not in the mood for company, not even Mako's.

The knocking resumed, and a decidedly male voice came muffled through the steel: "Sorry to bother you so late, mate, but could I talk to you for a sec?"

Raleigh's heart sped up in a way that was completely ridiculous in someone who'd faced down kaiju for a living, and he sat bolt upright and was already halfway to the door before he even realized he was moving. He had no idea what Chuck might want from him so late, but it had to be important. Some of his worry probably showed in his voice as he faced the younger man: "What's up? Everything alright?"

Chuck was shifting from one foot to the other nervously, even scratching his head as he shook his head, his expression strangely embarrassed: "Nah, no worries. Nothing's wrong. I'm just… I'm sorry to bug you, but I figured there was something I should tell you before tomorrow."

He was not meeting Raleigh's eyes, leaving Raleigh completely baffled by his friend's uncharacteristic behavior. He settled for inviting Chuck into his room with a shrug of his shoulders: "Sure. Come on in."

Once inside Chuck seemed reluctant to continue, wandering around the small space and looking at pictures he'd already seen a dozen times. Raleigh sat down on his bunk and simply waited. Finally Chuck stopped in front of the photo of Yancey and Raleigh after their first kill, looking at it intently and letting a finger hover a few millimetres above the paper. When he spoke it came out in something of a mumble, his Australian accent stronger than ever: "My dad always says I'm complete rubbish at compartmentalizing, so I reckon there's no way you'll not notice when we drift."

From under his lashes he shot a glance at Raleigh who felt as if he should know where this was headed but had no clue. So he stared back impassively, always his first line of defense. Chuck blew out a breath of frustration and crossed the distance between them in two quick steps, growling: "Ah, fuck it. Compared to fighting kaiju this should be a piece of piss…"

With that he was in Raleigh's space, eyes intent, and Raleigh couldn't say anything, could barely catch a breath before Chuck's lips were on his. It was not much of a kiss, mainly because Raleigh was so dumbfounded he lost his balance and fell back, hitting his head against the wall behind his bunk. Chuck made an aborted movement as if he wanted to follow him but stopped himself, instead staying upright. He bit his lip and looked everywhere except at Raleigh, even as he said with forced levity: "Right, I gave it a fair go. Now it's up to you what you'll do with it, Ray."

The latter was still gaping, his brain trying desperately to catch up with what had just happened. There was no way Raleigh Becket got this lucky, a voice in the back of his head insisted. However, looking at Chuck who was trying very hard to keep up his facade of false bravado, Raleigh decisively squashed that voice. His brain might still be undecided, but his body certainly knew what it wanted. Feeling a grin spread on his face, Raleigh sat up with a grunt: "I say we run with it…"

Not giving Chuck a chance to react he fisted both hands in the Australian's washed-out Academy t-shirt and hauled him in for a proper kiss. Their mouths smashed together inelegantly, but Chuck quickly adjusted, and Raleigh couldn't stop a groan from escaping at the first touch of tongue. All too soon, however, Chuck broke away, although the huge smile on his face made it hard to feel disappointment. Especially when he pulled his t-shirt over his head in one swift movement, exposing muscles that Raleigh had only ever admired in secret, and looked on expectantly while Raleigh followed his example.

"Ace," Chuck grinned, all signs of hesitation or embarrassment from earlier completely gone, and put a hand in the middle of Raleigh's bare chest, pushing him back and crawling onto the mattress, strong legs bracketing Raleigh's hips. "I've been wanting to do this for ages."

Raleigh laughed hoarsely and pulled Chuck down for another kiss, feeling the younger man's rapidly hardening cock brush his own through the fabric of their pants. Apparently neither one of them was in any mood to take it slow.

Quickly becoming addicted to the taste and the twisty thing Chuck did with his tongue, Raleigh licked into his mouth while letting his hands wander down strong shoulders and lean back to a delectable ass, appreciating the firmness of the muscle under his hands as he gripped it firmly. Chuck swore into the kiss and ground downwards, and Raleigh couldn't suppress a delicious shiver - not a lot of people were able to pin him to the mattress, and he rather enjoyed the sensation.

However, turning the tables was fun, too, so, twisting his upper body, he rolled them over and took a moment to take in the sight of a half-naked Chuck in his bunk, breathing heavily, face flushed and hair sticking in every direction. It was every one of his late night fantasies come to life, and Raleigh leaned down and licked a wet trail from Chuck's kiss-swollen lips to his slightly hairy chest. On his part Chuck seemed happy to just lie there for the time being, watching Raleigh from eyes dark with arousal.

It made something inside of Raleigh clench, but he decided to ignore the feeling for the time being. Instead he found nipples already hard and worried them with teeth and fingers, the body beneath him arching as he bit down gently. Chuck's hands came up to tangle in Raleigh's hair almost painfully, and his voice was hoarse as he begged: "Fuck, too much! C'mon, man, you're killing me here…"

Some other time Raleigh would watch Chuck slowly come apart under his hands, but at this moment he was almost as desperate for release as the Australian, so he relented and sat back on his heels for a moment. Quickly he worked Chuck's pants down his legs, not bothering to ease them over Chuck's sneakers, and then did the same for himself, pathetically grateful that they were both wearing nothing more complicated than tracksuit bottoms.

Just then Chuck obviously lost patience, because strong arms wrapped around Raleigh's shoulders and he was pulled back down, losing his balance and landing half on top of his lover with a grunt. They both half-laughed their way into a kiss, but then Chuck, ignoring the tangle of pants around his ankles, clumsily slung one leg over Raleigh's hip and they both hissed as skin slid against skin. It was dry and just this side of painful, and Raleigh buried his face in the crook of Chuck's neck and bit down even as he starting grinding against him in earnest.

Chuck cursed, fingers scrabbling over Raleigh's shoulders and back, finding purchase and meeting Raleigh thrust for thrust. Neither one of them seemed to want to stop kissing, but their harsh breaths, pants and groans made it difficult to do more than slide open mouths against each other. Altogether, when Raleigh had pictured anything like this happening, it had been much smoother, more than the dry slide of cock against cock, but it still beat pretty much any sex Raleigh had ever had.

"Fuck..." he exhaled, his arms beginning to tremble as he felt the wave of sharp lust begin to crest, but Chuck was right there with him, anticipating him as if they were already sharing the drift. He rolled them over in one quick movement, so when Raleigh came he was bucking beneath the younger man's body.

Chuck stopped moving while Raleigh rode out his orgasm, his eyes light as he simply watched, ignoring the hard line of his own arousal still trapped between their bodies. Finally Raleigh regained enough breath to ask with a smirk: "And what the hell are you waiting for, an engraved invitation?"

With that he hefted himself up so Chuck was on his back, legs bracketing Raleigh's hips, his grin widening when the younger man huffed in surprise, obviously not used to being manhandled. Not giving him a chance to recover, Raleigh bent down and swallowed Chuck's cock, dark red velvet over steel and already leaking. Chuck swore and bucked upwards, but Raleigh steadied him with one hand and used the other to help him take in as much as he could. It had been a while, but Chuck was so close already, it didn't take a lot until salty bitterness flooded his mouth.

Raleigh coughed, taken by surprise after all, swallowed, but still had to wipe some stickiness off his chin. He laughed, couldn't help it, his whole body hummed with contentment, and Chuck grinned back at him, beautiful as he came down from his high, and pulled him down for a slow kiss, almost unbearably sweet after the frantic pace of their encounter so far. They tasted each other for what could have been two minutes or ten, heart rates slowly decreasing, bodies beginning to stick together. Finally Raleigh pulled away and sat up. He padded naked to the small sink in the corner, wiped himself down quickly, and wetted a towel before coming back to sit down on the edge of the mattress. Chuck had not moved, lying back with satisfaction radiating from every pore of his body and watching Raleigh's movement with obvious approval.

"Now, that's what I call room service!" He grinned, totally unaffected by the fact that he was sweaty and sticky, pants still around his ankles, above his sneakers. Only after Raleigh used the towel to clean most of the mess from his stomach did he sit up and leaned over in order to kiss Raleigh softly. It was almost too gentle, leaving Raleigh strangely unbalanced and at a loss for words.

Before he managed to pull himself together again Chuck was up and at the door. The look in his eyes mirrored something inside of Raleigh, and both of them smiled a little uncertainly. Then Chuck ducked his head and left, calling over his shoulder: "G'night, Raleigh - I'll see you tomorrow…"

"Right. See you tomorrow!" The door clunked shut and Raleigh fell back onto his bed. This was not how he'd envisioned this night going, and with Chuck gone he was suddenly unsure what would happen from now on. Turning his face and breathing in the smell of sex, of Chuck and himself, he relaxed almost in spite of himself. Nothing to do but try to get some sleep.

Surprisingly he did, even oversleeping, leaving him scrambling to get ready. They were testing how effective Jaeger technology would be for search and rescue operations in extreme environments, not in giant robots but piloting smaller units. Raleigh usually enjoyed the simulator runs, but today he had other things on his mind. At least Mako had made herself scarce, because as he changed into his suit, he noticed some rather distinct marks on his neck. He flushed, pointedly ignoring the looks the technicians gave him. Then he was ready and there was nothing to do but enter the simulator and meet his co-pilot.

"Morning, Raleigh. Alright if I take the right side?" Unsurprisingly Chuck was already there, looking up with a welcoming grin, as if nothing had changed. Chuck knew as well as everyone else why Raleigh always chose to ride the left side of a Jaeger. But Raleigh appreciated the gesture anyway and found himself smiling back. Their eyes locked for just a moment, and he had to tell himself to keep breathing. They were professionals with a job to do. As if to confirm this the younger pilot turned away casually: "Well, in that case, let's do this."

"Catch you in the drift, Chuck," Raleigh managed, telling himself one last time to remain calm and stepping into his spot. Somehow it was comforting that Chuck's facade cracked just then and he shot Raleigh a heated gaze, licking his lips. Remembering what that mouth could do, Raleigh found himself grinning widely, undoubtedly not fooling anyone, especially not Chuck, who looked inordinately pleased. Their eyes locked - and then the neural handshake engaged and they were in each other's heads.

In the Jaeger cockpit, Raleigh Becket was still smiling. He figured he owed Mako an apology. Or chocolate or something.

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