“Armin? Are you sleeping?”
His eyes were open and he was on his side. Strands of his hair were sticking to his sweaty forehead. It was hot, even for him. Armin had always loved the summer months. The vibrant colors, the sounds and smells…everything was more alive. His second favorite feeling in the world, as childish as it was to have such things, was the rain on his skin after a blistering day. When it stopped raining the sun would come back out and there would be a rainbow. He wanted to chase it to the end of the world. The sun seemed to chase every bad memory away. Tonight it was almost too hot to sleep. But he was comfortable, his head felt like a brick on his pillow. Her voice washed over him. He wished he could have made her feel as safe as she made him feel. Armin remained silent for some time, staring at a spot on the wall. He didn’t know whether it was a crack or blood. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know. Finally he answered in a small voice, “Trying to.”
Mikasa smiled slightly. “Sorry.”
They both saw things in their dreams. Dark shapes that reached out for them, coiling around their ankles, and dragged them down. He waited, but the plea never came. She was too proud to ask. He crawled out of his bed and into hers. She wouldn’t sleep without him curled up against her. His chin dug into her shoulder and his arms wrapped tightly around her waist. And there was his favorite thing in the world – her heartbeat pounding against his ear.
It was late. Past midnight and both of them had had too much to drink, but not as much as Eren who had decided to get into a drinking contest with Jean. It was hard to say who the winner was with Jean singing drunkenly and Eren passed out on the counter.
“Do you want to dance?” Armin asked. A shy smile softened his tired face.
“We should get Eren to bed.” Mikasa whispered. She stood guard over Eren’s sleeping body, a hand gently resting on the small of his back.
“He’ll be fine.” Armin reassured.
He was leaning against the bar counter, his head lowered to avoid the gaze of the bartender who kept glaring at him inquisitively as if to say, “How old did you say you were again?”
He hadn’t given his age, he hadn’t said anything in fact because who needed to say anything when you had friends like Eren and Mikasa? They drew the attention away from him with their charm and bravery.
“Do you want to dance?” He asked again.
“I don’t think I can dance.” She admitted.
“Oh come on, you didn’t have that much to drink.”
“No, I mean I don’t know how.”
“That’s good because either do I.”
“Who’s going to care? Jean? He’s so drunk he probably doesn’t even remember his own name.”
“Lucky him,” Mikasa muttered.
Armin smiled crookedly, baiting her unspoken words, her hesitant touch and the shadows that darkened her eyes.
Mikasa took his hand, despite herself. He pulled her to him, close enough to feel her heartbeat, close enough to see the smile in her eyes. He had a hand on the small of her back and the other clutching her hand. Her hands were cold in his and he didn’t know if he was leading or if she was (oh who was he kidding, she was.) He was trying desperately not to step on her feet.
Her eyes were cold and faraway, in the midst of battle, in a crowd or alone, even now as he held her close. They were a squall. A sky bruised blue and purple. But when she smiled it ignited what little light was left in her eyes. She smiled rarely, but when she did she did for him.
She ran miles away from everyone and thing in her mind. She had to, and he understood, for her to be strong she had to distance herself, but he was the one left picking up and piecing back together the shattered recollections. Mikasa left the burnout impressions of who she used to be, who they used to be, on his skin. Armin had shrapnel in his heart from her silence. Her bravery came at a price and she wasn’t bearing it alone. She always said she wouldn’t leave him behind, but she already had.
Mikasa rested her chin upon his shoulder and his arms circled around her waist.
All she knew was that she had had too much to drink, it was late, and she shouldn’t have been having these kinds of feelings for her best friend.
She stepped away from Armin. The good foot between them almost acted as a barricade. She knew how to isolate herself. “I’m going to get Eren home…goodnight.”
Armin had never felt more overshadowed by Eren than in that moment.
Armin hated when Mikasa fussed over him as if he were a child. She tended to his wounds with the care of a friend and the diligence of a field medic. She had no training beyond the books she had read. In truth he was a better medic than she was, having spent his childhood reading anything and everything, but he wasn’t going to tell her that. He was just happy she was here, with him.
“I’m okay, trust me.” Armin brushed her hand away.
“I do trust you.” She sighed.
“You’re hurt too.” Armin stated.
“But you’re not, are you?”
Mikasa breathed her usual “I don’t have time for this” sigh, but they had been sidestepping this conversation far too long. Now wasn’t the time for it either, but when was the time? The days when they had time were gone.
Others needed her help. She needed to be back on the battlefield. It was hard to leave him even when she knew he was safe. He was going to be okay. Everything was going to be okay. The logical side of her said there was no such thing as safe, but she had to believe in something. She believed in him…in his innocence and endearing smile. There was still so much horror he had yet to see. The world was cruel. It could take him away from her any second.
“I’m strong, too.” Armin whispered.
“I know you are.”
“And I…I can take care of myself.”
Mikasa just looked at him, not even bothering to raise an eyebrow. “I know.” She said again, brushing a wisp of hair out of his eyes. “It’s just I worry.”
Armin smiled slightly. He knew what that was like. To be ravaged by worry, to be wrought with every possible worst case scenario, to lay awake with his fears.
“I can’t, you know that…not now. I can still fight.” Armin tried to stand only to slump back down against the wall in what seemed like record time. His legs felt like putty and there were drops of blood running down his chin, staining the front of his shirt.
He felt small and thin and weak.
Mikasa put her hands on his shoulders. “I need you to stay here, okay? I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Goodnight.” Armin offered in a small voice.
Good? No. But they were alive and that was something.
Mikasa nodded. “Goodnight.”
Her lips ghosted over his bruised skin. He wished she would hurt him. Or at least stop treating him like he was fine china. I won’t break.
Mikasa didn’t say anything. Hell. He dared to even breathe. They didn’t want to disturb whatever this was. He kissed her, really kissed her for the first time. Every dream, even the ones that felt real, paled in comparison to the reality.
Armin stumbled back onto the bed. His hair was tousled against the neatly made bed. It wouldn’t be so for long. Armin knew she got off on making a mess for the Corporal.
Mikasa straddled his hips. She could feel him straining against his pants. Her mouth tugged off to the right in what appeared to be a smirk fitting the face of someone much more devious. It looked good on her in the pale moonlight that fought its way through the curtains. She pulled her shirt over her head, her fingers catching on the hook of her bra.
Even in the dark she could see him looking at her intently. He breathed her in.
Mikasa stopped for a moment to look at him, lacing her fingers with his and sighing contently. Her lips brushed his, down his chin and throat. Her tongue danced around his racing pulse, the hollow of his collarbone. He was still fully clothed, but she quickly remedied that. She tugged his pants down. She ran her nails down his chest. With her fingertips she traced his abnormal muscles. Gone was the boy she had grown up.
Armin inhaled sharply. She looked up at him. He had exasperation written all over his face. He needed her hands on him.
She undid her bra and guided his hands over her breasts. Down. He cupped the warmth between her legs. She tilted her head back, drawing in a breath.
He rolled her under him. He kissed her everywhere. He kissed the freckles that trailed down her breasts. He kissed her bellybutton. She ran her fingers through his long hair as he crawled lower. Pulling off her pants in urgency and tasting her through her underwear he moved his hands up and down her ribcage.
She covered her mouth with the back of her hand, biting at the sensitive skin there, to keep from moaning. His thumb brushed over her erect nipples. Her body said everything she wouldn’t. He felt every uncontrollable twitch, heard every beat of her heart, and committed to memory the look in her eyes. She was fire and she was burning down the bed they were in.
He twisted the lace of her undergarment around his fingers as he teased it down her thighs. His tongue pressed into her. Her mouth kept opening and closing as if about to give in. To voice the carnal noises he desperately wanted to hear from her. Her eyes were squeezed shut and her fingers twisted around the sheets. His hands gripped her hips. Fingertips lightly dancing across her thighs as he drew out long sought after moans from her silken lips.
“Armin,” She cried. She made a mockery of his name. It echoed hollowly through the moonlight shone room, but there was nothing hollow about her voice. It was desperate, needful. “Come here.”
They were friends, the best of friends, but in all his years of knowing her he had never noticed her subtle beauty. Sure he had noticed her grace, her strength, the way she held herself, her fierce loyalty, and the warmth in her smile. He’d come to admire those things, to cherish them, but now he loved every gentle curve of her body. He ached for her.
He’d never been this close to her before. This was the closest anyone could ever get to another human being.
She could feel how hard he was, pressing against her thigh. He pushed into her gently, kissing her again. Her lips were red from kissing him, but she never wanted to stop kissing him even if they both smelled like smoke and death. Even if it was the last thing she ever did. She moaned into his mouth, arching her back to meet his thrusts.
She wrapped herself around him – breath hitching, toes curling, her fingers in his hair, his tearing at the sheets.
They came together, clenched tight in an embrace. She’d never let go. And he’d promise to do the same.
Curled around him in the darkness, she never thought she’d be here…with him. She never thought it’d be him that left fingerprints on her soul. Who devoured her heart and made her cry out, casting any illusions she had into shadow and dust.
“Goodnight.” He whispered.
She laughed softly.
And it was a good night. She kissed his forehead and then his mouth. “Goodnight.”
Armin fell asleep to her voice. To the safety she enveloped him in.
He knew every inch of her – every scar, every freckle, every line of worry, every unspoken obscenity dying on her filthy tongue. She was his and he was hers until she wasn’t. She was gone.
He didn’t have a body to bury. No gravesite to lay flowers at. He didn’t have anything of hers…just her memories – turning his bones to ash, his happiness to shame.
He didn’t know how to live without her. He wasn’t sure he wanted to.
She had left him behind. Like he always knew she would. Because girls like her didn’t end up with guys like him. Girls like Mikasa didn’t belong in this world. They belonged to the stars.
There were no goodnights and no good mornings. There was simply the time he was without her.