All things considered, it was a sign of just how far gone Jean was that he made a conscious effort not to wake Eren up as he snuck into his room at a quarter past three in the morning.
Eren was sleeping with his back to Jean, and Jean tip-toed quietly across the room before he reached out a hand and pressed it against the bare expanse of his skin. Eren’s skin was warm and smooth, but Jean’s fingers were icy from the trek across base, and Eren grunted and shifted away from his touch.
“You’re freezing,” he grumbled in a voice that was groggy with sleep. “Your fingers are like ice.”
Jean smirked, not that Eren could see. “Why don’t you warm me up, then?” he suggested with a lewd wriggle of his eyebrows – the expected response.
Eren let out a breathy sound that was probably a laugh. “I’m exhausted, you asshole,” he said, “I don’t want to fool around tonight.”
There’d been a mission beyond the walls earlier in the day, one that had gone incredibly well, by their standards. Most of the soldiers had returned, at any rate, and Eren had taken down more than a dozen titans. Jean had watched from horseback as Eren tore limbs from the titans that swarmed them, as he decapitated them and ripped out their necks. By the end of it Eren had been the only titan standing, and when he’d emerged, beaten and weary, the legion had triumphed. So ‘exhausted’ was probably an understatement.
Eren proved Jean’s point by suddenly letting out a long, low yawn that was ragged with sleepiness. Jean covered his mouth as he let out a yawn in reply, and then he felt it: a now-familiar feeling lit the inside of Jean’s chest, something warm and affectionate and suspiciously nice.
There had been a time when all Jean and Eren did was fuck. Their relationship, if you could call it that, had been born from lust – from something aggressive and needy that had consumed them from the inside out. They’d meet in secret and their mouths would clash with painful desperation, and then they’d get each other off and call it a day. It was never serious and it always ended as abruptly as it had begun, and without any fanfare. They hadn’t held hands or spent the night with each other, and they certainly hadn’t talked about it. Their arrangement was the furthest thing from affectionate in all regards.
But now – and god only knew why – Jean kept catching himself watching Eren and feeling sickeningly fond of the most inane, ridiculous things, like the way he yawned, or the way he wet his lips when he talked, or how he could never quite get his hair to lie flat. Even the sparse freckles that ran over his back were enough to bring out the bubbly feeling in Jean’s chest where once only lust had resided. It felt as though Eren had somehow weaselled his way under his skin, beneath his ribs, and had broken something in him.
Sure, it worried Jean, but at the same time it thrilled him. He’d never felt anything like it – the closest feeling was the rush of flying through the air with his gear, if anything – and he wanted to know what it was, what it meant, what it would take to keep it going. He wanted to know if Eren felt the same way.
“Come on,” Eren said invitingly, and he rolled on to his back. He reached a hand out and curled it around Jean’s wrist, the warmth of his fingers bleeding into his skin. “Are you getting in,” he asked, “or are you going to stand there all night?”
It was dark in the room, the hour late and the curtains long since drawn, but there was enough blue-grey moonlight in the room that Jean could make out the shadows of Eren’s face, the line of his nose, the curve of his lips. His eyes were soft gleams in the dark.
Jean only hoped it was dark enough that Eren couldn’t see how fondly he smiled. He toed off his shoes and shucked his shirt off over his head, shivering when his skin met the cold air. Eren rolled on to his side again, his back to Jean, and then Jean slid under the sheets with him.
The first time Jean had snuck out to visit Eren in the recovery ward after a mission, they’d fucked in the small bed until they’d both been breathless and sore. It had been desperate and violent and satisfying, and Jean hadn’t stayed the night because he’d known, logically, that they wouldn’t be comfortable in such a small space together.
Now, though, the space didn’t seem to matter. Jean wanted to ease his arm around Eren, wanted to curl a hand against his hipbone and pull him flush to his chest. He wanted to press his forehead to the nape of his neck and breathe him in. He wanted to absorb his warmth and melt against him. They could fit.
He placed a hand on Eren’s arm and ran his palm against it, heating the skin with friction. “Are you still injured anywhere?” he asked, just in case.
Eren shook his head a little, the motion shifting the pillow they both shared. “I’m all healed,” he answered. “I’m just tired. Worn out, really.”
He grimaced. “Did I wake you?” he asked, wincing a little at the possibility. “Do you want me to go?”
Eren shook his head again. “No,” he said quietly, “you’re okay.”
It was quiet then, the world sleeping around them. Eren’s breathing was even and deep and Jean wondered if he’d somehow fallen asleep already. He shifted a little closer, trying to keep the movement to a minimum to avoid waking him, and then he pressed his forehead against the back of Eren’s neck. His hair tickled Jean’s forehead, soft and sweet-smelling, having been washed upon his return from the field. Eren shifted a little at the touch – awake, then.
“Why do you come here?” Eren asked so softly that Jean knew he could easily pretend that he’d never heard the question to begin with. Eren was offering him a way out as well as a way in. It made Jean’s heart race.
Eren had asked the same question a few times before, back when Jean had first started appearing whenever Eren had been placed in the recovery room after a mission. Jean had always grunted in response, teased him, told him to shut the fuck up with all his questions, and then kissed him hard enough to hurt. He’d only come for simple reasons, like boredom and lust, but now –
“I used to know,” Jean admitted, deciding that it didn’t matter what he said, not when they were both lying in the dark and it was three in the morning, “but it’s different, now.” He ran his fingertips down Eren’s arm to his bony wrist, his thin fingers. “I just… I want to be here. I don’t care what we do, if we sleep or talk or just – just lie here, I just want to be here with you.” He felt heat flood to his face, his knee-jerk reaction to expressing emotion to anyone.
Eren caught his hand in his own and weaved their fingers together. They never really held hands, not really, and for a long moment the only thing Jean could think about was the firm, warm pressure of Eren’s hand in his.
“Why, though?” Eren asked after a while, never satisfied. “This bed’s tiny and I know it takes a lot of effort for you to get here without being caught. What’s so great about being here?”
Jean sighed with frustration. “You, you fucking asshole,” he admitted, resigning himself to his fate, giving up on a battle that he’d long ago lost with himself, “you’re what’s so great about this place. Happy, now? You’ve turned me into a mushy emotional dickwad.”
There was a pause, then, “You like me. Properly, I mean. Not just – it’s not just sex now, is it?”
“I hate you, actually,” Jean lied, speaking into the skin of Eren’s neck.
Eren snorted. For a moment they were both silent, Jean’s heart pounding in his ears, and then Eren said, “I like you too, asshole.”
Jean was still floundering for something to say in response to that, when Eren picked himself up and turned himself over to his other side so they lay facing each other. It was harder to fit in the bed this way – their knees knocked together, their arms were trapped between them, and the pillow was too small to share comfortably.
Jean could feel Eren’s breath against his lips. “I didn’t mean for this to happen, you know,” he said with a sigh.
“Shut up,” Eren told him, and there was an unmistakable fondness to his voice, “you’re ruining the moment.” He grabbed his hand again and held it between them. He ran his thumb over the skin of Jean’s hand, soft and sweet, and Jean swallowed thickly.
“We’re going to wake up with numb arms,” he pointed out, though he kept his hand woven with Eren’s all the same. His breath came out shaky when Eren tightened his grasp. “We don’t fit like this.” He shifted his legs a little to prove his point, his knees butting against Eren’s. Eren slid his leg in between Jean’s and meshed them together like it was nothing, like Jean’s breath hadn’t just stuttered out of him in a rush.
Eren, clearly not satisfied with how close they already were, wriggled a little closer until their foreheads grazed together. “I don’t know,” he said quietly, “I think we fit together pretty well.”
The strangest thing, Jean realised, was that he didn’t really give a fuck. He knew he was going to wake up with a numb arm and an achy neck, and probably with Eren’s drool all over his chest, but he didn’t care. None of it mattered.
“You’ve fucked me up inside, I hope you realise,” he grumbled, and Eren smirked against the corner of his mouth.
“We’re even, then.”
Jean let out a heavy breath. “Good.”