Note: Taking a few liberties with 'love at first sight.' :D Dear god, what else would Herbert fall in love with? A woman? Don't be daft.
“Ah! Herbert! Come in, come in…” The laboratory looked exactly as it always did, with the outer offices slightly rumbled and disorganized by mounds of paperwork and the occasional cup of elderly coffee. But there was something in the air, a feeling of apprehension exacerbated by Dr. Gruber’s uncharacteristic exuberance. Herbert West raised an eyebrow as his mentor tugged excitedly at the sleeve of his sportcoat.
“Yes,” Herbert shrugged off the elder man and gently sent down the duffel bag he carried his notebooks in. “I usually come in, don’t I? Dr. Gruber?”
“Of course!” Gruber laughed and patted Herbert on the back with fatherly affection. “Yes, of course you do! But today…” He waved a finger teasingly. “Today is special! Today I have something to show you…”
Herbert frowned. He didn’t like surprises, and Dr. Gruber was being suspiciously jovial in a manner that seemed inappropriate at seven in the morning when Herbert was still feeling indignant about being awake. “Oh?”
“Yes, I think you’ll find this particularly… interesting,” he winked at Herbert, something West had not even thought possible until that moment. But as Gruber began to make his way toward the tiny closet of a room that held their current test subjects, Herbert felt the oddities sliding together to form a coherent idea.
“Has there been a new development?” He hurried to Gruber’s side. “That batch of rats that we’d had on two milligrams a day, did they—?”
“No,” Dr. Gruber shook his head as he opened the door and the rustling of many small, caged mammals became audible. “Far more interesting, if you can believe it.” He walked with agonizing slowness over to a small box that Herbert recognized as a temporary residence for the corpses of their resident subjects. A large, white rat was withdrawn, and Gruber clutched it with gnarled fingers. Herbert stared. “I added a little something to the formula you were giving group A…”
“… and killed one of my animals?” Gruber smiled gently as he turned toward the counter.
“No, no, no… dear boy, I would never interfere directly with one of your experiments.” He picked up a hypodermic needle and a small bottle of vibrant yellow-green liquid and nodded to Herbert as he withdrew six cc’s. “That should be enough,” he murmured absently to himself as he prepared to inject the lifeless body with the strange liquid, inserting the needle carefully at the base of the rat’s neck.
“I don’t understand…” Herbert interrupted. “What are you trying to accomplish?” But Gruber simply smiled, not even looking up to acknowledge his young prodigy. “You will see,” he said as he completed the injection and stepped away from the body. When Herbert opened his mouth to speak, he lifted his finger to his lips in a classic gesture urging the younger man to be quiet.
“It won’t be long,” he whispered. And, indeed, after a moment there came a shrill, animal screech of pain. Herbert jumped back, looking around the room wildly, trying to determine the source of the noise. But Gruber remained calm; he laid his hand on Herbert’s upper arm after a moment and directed his attention back to the rat. Herbert went rigid, and breath hissed between his parted lips.
“You brought it back… back to life,” his face began to flush slightly with amazement and enthusiasm. The rat had stumbled to its dead feet and begun to sniff around it for other rats or food. Herbert giggled giddily. “You really did it… and it… it could be used on humans?”
“Maybe,” Gruber responded. “The mixture may need to be reevaluated for human use… and, of course, testing on larger mammalian subjects will be necessary before we begin human trials. Funding will be crucial. Then there’s the ethical side of things…”
Herbert nodded, but he wasn’t really listening. He was staring into the depths of half a bottle of yellow-green liquid and knowing that he had the rest of his future to absorb that strange color, and learn to love it in a way he could not love another human being.