A Titan grips Wall Maria and pulls itself up, rearing its head over the stones of their protective barrier. It is impossibly huge. Eren has to look up and up and up to see its face, skinless, red, contorted into a perpetual grin. There’s a boom louder than anything he’s ever heard before. The wall has been breached and Titans come flooding in.
Eren’s house is near the wall. Is his mom safe? He tries to run, but his feet won’t move. He tries to scream, but no sound comes out. His mom will die. She will die. As if the thought conjured the image, he is suddenly and inexplicably at his home, looking at his mother trapped under the wreckage of what used to be his house. A Titan picks her up by her waist and her legs dangle, broken, awkwardly in the air. It stuffs her into its mouth and bites down. There is the crack of bone breaking, the sickening squelch of flesh being torn apart. There’s blood everywhere - in the air, on the ground, on his face. Its throat bobs and she is gone.
Eren’s dad claws at his shoulders, tears streaming down his face, his hair escaping from its ponytail. “Stop!” Eren says. “You’re hurting me, stop!”
Grisha clutches at him, his eyes mad and rolling. “You should have saved her! Why didn’t you save her?” Heedless of Eren’s protests, he digs in harder, tearing skin and drawing blood. Eren flinches away and Grisha withdraws. He reaches for a pocket, pulls out a syringe. “Give me your arm, Eren.”
“No,” he sobs. “You’re scaring me!” Grisha ignores him and stabs the needle down, again and again.
“This is your punishment, Eren!” he yells. “Eren!”
“Eren!” Eren startles awake. His hair is plastered messily to his forehead with sweat. He struggles to see through the damp strands, but he can’t swipe them out of his way because his body is hopelessly tangled into his ratty blanket. Someone pushes it away for him.
“Armin?” Eren asks. It’s dark, and he still can’t see too well, but no one else in the boy’s dormitory would touch him so casually. He sees the shadowed silhouette nod its head and sit back on its haunches. As his eyes adjust to the darkness, he can make out more of Armin’s features: his hair tickling his chin, his head cocked to regard him thoughtfully, his hand resting lightly on Eren’s side.
“You were having a nightmare,” he says, softly so as not to disturb any of the other sleeping boys.
“Did I,” he starts and then pauses, coughing to get the sleepy grittiness out of his voice, “did I say anything?” He’s no stranger to nightmares and neither is his friend, but the majority of kids here have never so much as seen a Titan before. They don’t understand what it’s like to feel that helpless, that hopeless, that humiliated. He’d be scorned for screaming or crying out in his sleep. He’s spent years with these kids; he doesn’t want to lose their respect now, not when he only has a few months left in their company.
Armin can read through the lines. “You didn’t say anything,” Armin assures him. Because the number of boys in the training camp far exceeds the number of girls, each bunk bed is further divided to fit four people instead of the normal two. There’s a divider separating two people, but he and Armin usually leave their own open. When he lies back down, they are facing each other, close enough that their breaths mingle. “You were shaking a bit, is all. It woke me up.”
“I’m sorry,” he whispers.
“It’s fine," he says. He hesitates for a moment before speaking again. "Today is Visitation Day."
"I don't want to talk about that," Eren snaps. The words come out tight, harsher than he intended, and he feels momentarily guilty.
But Armin isn’t offended. "Alright, then," he responds simply. Armin knows that pity or sympathy will not be welcome. Instead, he offers his hand in a silent show of support. Eren takes it, intertwining their fingers together and tugging until Armin shuffles closer, until he feels Armin's eyelashes flutter on his cheeks each time he blinks. "Are you going to kiss me?" Armin asks quietly.
"I'm thinking about it," Eren admits.
They're not dating. They're not dating, but they hold hands. They never close the divider and they sleep in each other's arms more often than not. They cuddle. They kiss sometimes, and sometimes it gets a bit too hot and hands wander a little. There was one instance of mutual masturbation that they never talked about again. But they're not really dating.
"I want you to," Armin says and that's that really. He couldn't say no even if he wanted to, not with Armin's eyes so intent upon him and the hand not holding his own carding gently through Eren's hair. It's a moot point anyway, because he doesn't want to say no. There is never a time when he doesn't want Armin.
Eren rolls over, pulling Armin with him so that the blond ends up atop him. Armin laughs, a quiet breathless noise, while he adjusts himself. He settles straddling Eren's hips with either knee and then lowers himself. Their lips meet and, as always, it’s like coming home. When they kiss like this, Eren can forget about his mom's death, his dad's abandonment, the Titans.
Armin makes a tiny noise and deepens the kiss. His tongue enters Eren's mouth. It's wet, it's hot, it's too good. Eren presses his free hand into his back, pushing Armin closer to him. He lets go of Armin's hand and puts it to the back of his head instead, burying his fingers in his soft hair. Eren sucks Armin's tongue deeper into his mouth and he whimpers.
"Would you two fags stop trying to get your rocks off and let the rest of us sleep?" Jean says loudly from the bunk below them. They jump apart. They separate too abruptly and Eren's head slams into the wall behind him and he curses.
"You're the one that woke everyone up, Jean," Connie yells from the other side of the room. His voice is laced with sleep and irritation.
"Whatever," Jean says. Eren hears Marco shush Jean and coax him back to sleep. He meets Armin's eyes, still on top of him. He's flushed red in embarrassment, but his erection hasn't flagged.
Eren offers him a sheepish smile and tugs him back down. Armin's head fits into the juncture between his shoulder and chin. Eren wraps his arm around him and tries to go back to sleep, knowing it won't work.
As if reading his mind, Armin kisses his neck and murmurs, "It won't be much longer until we're woken up. I'll stay awake with you."
Visitation Day is exactly what it sounds like. Every six months for the four years of military camp, the families of the trainees are allowed to visit. It's a joyous day, when families separated are finally reunited. It's nostalgic; it's the one day that the kids allow themselves to remember that they're still just teenagers, and that they're allowed to feel homesick.
It's a joyous day for everyone except Mikasa, Armin, and Eren. Eren's mom is dead and his father abandoned him. Armin's parents never returned from their expedition outside of the wall. No one knows if they're dead or alive. His grandfather died in the doomed attempt to retake Wall Maria. It's worse for Mikasa, who lost two sets of parents. For them, their only family is each other.
None of the others really understand. Even if their parents are dead, they still have someone who will come: a sibling, an uncle, a cousin. They three are left to themselves for the day. No one wants to compromise their own happiness by being around the trio’s depression.
They still have to do their normal two hour workout, beginning at five am and ending at seven, but after that, they have the rest of the day off. The excitement is evident and somewhat infectious. All around, trainees talk about who will be arriving and share stories about their childhood.
After, Armin and Eren go to the canteen for breakfast. Mikasa meets them there and they sit to eat with their usual group of friends. Their hands meet under the table and there is a moment of confusion while Eren tries to figure out how to eat with his left hand. Mikasa slips her scarf further up her face to conceal her grin.
"My pa's coming," Sasha says happily, digging into her plate while she talks. "It'll be the first time, too, because he finally got over the fact that I ran away to join the military."
"My mother is coming," Connie counters. "And she promised to bring some proper food too, not the garbage we get here. Fresh from our village. You guys can have some too," he adds magnanimously.
"Are you guys seriously holding hands?" Jean interrupts from the next table over. Everyone in the room turns to stare. Eren makes to stand, irritated, but Armin tugs him back down to his seat. “How much more gay could you be?”
"How about you mind your business," Annie says, surprising everyone. She is not one to voice her opinions, normally. One hand cradles her chin and the other twirls a fork idly. She doesn't even deign to look at Jean. "Someone might think you're projecting." Jean splutters, but he shuts up, his gaze still fixed on them and accusing.
Defiantly, Eren lifts a strawberry from his plate. Fresh fruit like this is a luxury they're rarely afforded and each student is only allowed two. He holds it to Armin's mouth. Armin knows what Eren is trying to do; he’s making a statement. His eyes hold Eren's as he opens up and allows Eren to feed the fruit in. When he bites down, sticky pink juice drips over his hand. Eren waits for Armin to take the last bite of the fruit before bringing his hand to his own mouth and lapping up the juice there.
Eren takes a moment to look around the room. "Anyone else have a problem?"
There is no reply. Annie scoffs and rolls her eyes. Ymir, who is openly in a relationship with Krista, raises her cup to him with a smirk.
The conversation at their table has died down with their display and no one seems to know quite how to bring it back up. Their friends stare at their plates, not meeting their eyes. They’re content, usually, to ignore Armin and Eren’s relationship, which has always been a bit too friendly to be just friends. When it’s brought to their attention so abruptly and so directly, though, no one knows how to react. Mikasa jabs Sasha in the side until she starts speaking again and within a few moments, the canteen is loud again with people talking of their families.
“Was that really necessary?”Armin chides once the conversation is once more loud enough to cover his voice. Despite his chastising words, his eyes are alight and mischievous.
“Not necessary, no,” Eren says. “But it felt damn good.”
“I don’t need a knight in shining armor,” he says, but under the guise of playfulness, there’s a true warning.
“I know that already,” he responds easily. “I didn’t do that to defend you, you can do that for yourself. I did that because Jean’s an asshole.”
Armin laughs and Eren knows that he’s said the right thing. It wasn’t just some line, though; he’d meant what he said. Armin has never appreciated other’s misguided attempts to help him. He has always preferred to stand on his own two feet, under his own power. He’d always been stronger than most mentally and with his training, he’d managed to become physically strong where he was once frail. Armin doesn’t need protecting.
After breakfast ends, the trainees go to meet their parents. Eren, Armin, and Mikasa go outside instead. They go to a grassy field they found not to long after they arrived at the training camp. Since then, it has been one of their favorite spots for downtime. They sit beneath a large tree to ward off the sun shining on their face. It’s a beautiful day; sunny and bright. There’s just a hint of a breeze and it’s not too humid or stuffy. Because it’s Visitation Day, they’re not in uniform, but it’s too warm to keep on their customary sweaters. They pull them off and set them to the side, content in just their linen shirts. Even Mikasa takes off her red scarf and sets in her lap, playing with the fraying ends.
Eren spreads his legs and pulls Armin between them, fitting Armin’s back against his chest. He looks down to avoid the fond look he knows Mikasa is sending them; the one that is visible only in her eyes, the one that always appears when he and Armin are close like this. “Tell me about the ocean again,” Eren says.
Armin shakes his head. “I’ll tell you about space, instead.”
“What’s space?” Eren asks. Mikasa shifts closer to hear too.
“Outerspace!” Armin says, pointing straight up in response. His head tilts back, resting against Eren’s shoulder as he gazes into the sky. “It’s what’s beyond the sky, what’s past our planet.”
“There’s nothing out there but the sky.”
“Than what is the moon? Or the sun and the stars?” he challenges. “Our planet is just one of many out there, orbiting the sun. And the sun moves too, so the planets have to follow it.”
“But we’re not moving,” Mikasa says.
“No, we are,” he says. “Lie back. Can’t you feel it?”
Mikasa obediently stretches out on the grass, staring up at the clouds. Eren lets his weight rest against the tree, lets his eyes shut, and lets his body go lax. He can feel it, he thinks, when he concentrates. It’s dizzying and overwhelming, almost like falling. He can feel other things, too, when he concentrates like this. He can feel the heat emanating from Armin’s body, his heart pounding in tune with Eren’s own through his chest
Armin keeps talking, but Eren only partially listens, reveling in the new sensations he feels. “Out there is vast and dark and infinite,” Armin says. “And it’s filled with other stars like our sun, big burning balls of gas. And they have their own moons and planets, too, just like our sun does. There are whole other galaxies that have never been explored.”
He won’t keep still. With his eyes shut, Eren can picture the way he squirms and speaks with hand gestures, too excited about the topic to keep still. He can see the way his eyes shine when he thinks about what’s up there and out there. Being confined to these walls instills a sense of wanderlust in everyone as children. Most people outgrow it and resign themselves to a life contained in cages, but as Armin ages, his ache to leave and explore only grows. He drags Eren along with him in his enthusiasm. He’s bright like a sun, and Eren and Mikasa are not exempt from his gravitational pull; they have no choice but to orbit him.
Armin stops talking some time later when he’s exhausted his knowledge on space, slumping back against Eren’s chest. He’s breathless and panting from talking too fast and Eren hides a grin at the simple pleasure he receives from talking about something he loves. There are many things Armin loves this way, unconditionally; space, the outside world, the anatomy of living creatures and, of course, his two best friends. And the love he feels is returned.
Mikasa excuses herself. This is something she does each Visitation Day. Eren knows she goes to the training room and takes her frustrations out on a punching bag. This day is worse for her than it is for the other two, because she watched three parents die before her eyes, and lived with the knowledge that the fourth left without so much as a backwards glance at her, despite knowing her past. When Eren and Armin aren’t in the room with the other trainees to hear them brag about their parents, they can almost forget. Mikasa never forgets.
Eren kisses Armin’s bare skin where his neck and shoulder coincide. Then he does it again, and again, his lips traveling up Armin’s throat, one hand moving to sweep aside Armin’s hair. Armin tolerates it with good grace, giving a sigh of pleasure and tilting his head to the side so Eren has more room to manoeuvre. He groans when Eren laves at a spot just under his chin, sucking at it, licking at it, biting at it.
“Stop it,” he says, his hands batting half-heartedly at Eren’s face. His tone makes it clear this is not his desire, but Eren pulls away anyway.
"Kiss me instead, then,” Eren responds. Armin hums in acquiescence and turns his head so they can fit their mouths together. Eren licks into his mouth slow and filthy and Armin accepts it eagerly. The kiss is slow and lazy, like they’ve got all the time in the world, like they’re not out in the open where anyone can see them.
Eren thinks, in this moment, that he could be in love. He could be in love with Armin’s tongue in his mouth and Armin’s hands in his hair; he could be in love with the way Armin fits into his arms when they go to sleep at night and the way he shakes him from his nightmares before he can cry out in his sleep; he could be in love with the way Armin glows when he greedily sucks up knowledge and the way he shines when he can share what he’s learned with others.
Eren moans into Armin’s mouth and Armin hungrily laps up the noise. Eren pulls back, presses one closed-mouth kiss to his lips, two, three. Then he kisses his cheek and moves to tongue over his ear.
“That’s not fair,” Armin says breathlessly. His eyes, normally light enough to match the summer sky, are a dark murky color. Eren loves Armin’s eyes, but he loves it more when it’s this royal color, because he’s the only one who can put it there.
“Then make it fair,” he challenges. Armin’s eyes narrow and take on a determined look that Eren recognizes and he grins and raises an eyebrow to further spur him on.
“Fine,” he says. He pulls himself out of Eren’s grip, stands and stretches before sitting back down. Armin puts himself in Eren’s lap, facing him, and crosses his legs behind his back. He leans forward to breathe against Eren’s lips, exhaling damp and moist, his fingers creeping under Eren’s shirt and spreading out around his waistband. Eren groans and leans forward to kiss him again, but Armin dips back.
“No,” he chastises. One of his hands slip around to Eren’s back and slips inside his pants, his fingers petting his ass but doing nothing more. The other hand explores up Eren’s chest. His nails scrape mercilessly over Eren’s nipple over and over; Eren’s head thunks back against the tree and Armin uses the newly granted access to lick a long line straight up his neck. His mouth fastens over Eren’s pulse point and bites down hard. Eren ruts helplessly forward.
“That’s it,” Armin murmurs. He slots their hips into place and rolls forward, the hand on Eren’s backside encouraging him to return the movement. Their dicks press together, hard and hot even through their clothes. They rock together, their movements quickly become sloppy and uncoordinated. Armin finally relents and kisses him again, breathing into his mouth, his tongue swiping and fucking in messily.
“Shit,” Eren murmurs. He raises an unsteady hand and undoes the laces of Armin’s trousers. They sag just low enough for Eren to pull out his cock and stroke it once roughly. The movement is easy and fluid; he marvels at how wet and slick it is from precome already.
Armin whines loudly, his head falling back, his mouth falling open, his eyes falling shut. “No, no, none of that,” Eren says. “Eyes open. You’ve got to make sure no one’s coming, I can’t see behind us.” Armin draws his eyes open with visible effort and fixes his gaze obediently over his shoulder. His body jerks against Eren’s even still. Eren jacks his hand up and down quickly. He squeezes around the base and smears precome back into the slit, rubs the ridge and spreads the foreskin back. Armin’s loud, he’s bound to draw attention, but Eren can’t bring himself to silence him.
“You planned this, didn’t you?” Armin accuses in his ear. “You started this here, knowing we were out in the open. Did you like the thought of someone seeing us like this? Do you want someone to walk over here and get an eyeful?”
“No,” Eren says, but it’s not quite truthful. He didn’t plan this. He doesn’t want anyone to ever see Armin coming apart like this. It’s a sight for him only, ever. He wants to be the only one that can make Armin moan so shamelessly and twitch like this with abandon. But the idea that someone could see turns him on. The idea that someone might walk past and see him claiming Armin like this makes his cock jerk and he stifles a noise against Armin’s skin.
“You do like it,” Armin says in awe. He undoes Eren’s pants. If Armin had been wet, then Eren’s positively leaking. He wraps their fingers together and encircles both of their cocks at the same time. He sets a pace that’s too slow. Eren can’t see straight anymore and he moans helplessly. “Shh, shh,” he whispers and the kiss they share is less of a kiss and more of a way to muffle the noise. Eren puts his free hand on Armin’s ass and slides down his crack. One finger breaches Armin’s hole and that’s it. Armin freezes momentarily, his entire body tensing and his eyes squeezing closed, and then he shudders and comes. Eren jacks him through it, enraptured as he shakes. His mouth falls open, but he doesn’t say anything at all. His hand keeps moving as he licks at Armin’s open mouth. He wants him so badly; he isn’t even sure what it is he wants, but he knows he wants everything. It’s only the second time he’s seen Armin come apart like this, but he knows he could spend a lifetime trying to make it happen.
“Stop,” Armin finally whimpers, over sensitized. Obligingly, Eren gives his cock one final fond pat and then let’s go. He’s achingly hard and Armin considers it for a moment before bending down and taking it into his mouth.
Eren cries out and shoves himself forward, down Armin’s throat. Armin pulls off quickly. “Hey, none of that,” he says and Eren obediently goes still. He wants to put his hands into Armin’s soft hair, but he knows he’ll yank if he does that. He fists his hands into the grass instead and whimpers when Armin takes him back into his mouth. He pulls off again, though, and Eren thinks he could cry from frustration.
Armin wraps a hand around his base and strokes his far too slowly while his tongue probes at Eren’s slit. He kisses the head before he closes his mouth around it properly, sucking harshly and then letting go again. “Please,” Eren says, hardly aware of what he is asking for.
“Wait, someone’s coming,” Armin says instead and backs up. Eren forces himself to hold still when what he wants to do is say fuck it all and give whoever’s coming a show. He wants Armin’s mouth so badly he thinks he might spontaneously combust. “False alarm,” he says lightly a few seconds later, and sinks as far down as he can. His mouth is tight and constricting, wet and hot and Eren’s going insane. He’s half aware that he’s babbling platitudes, but he doesn’t know what he’s saying and can’t stop the words from coming out.
In some part of his brain, he wonders who’s on lookout. Armin’s concentrating solely on sucking Eren off. Eren’s facing the wrong direction to see people approaching and even if he were in the right way, he’s sure he wouldn’t be aware if a Titan were approaching, so blissed out is he. There could be someone standing right behind him. Anyone could easily walk by, and what would they see? Armin, his pants halfway down his legs, his mouth open around Eren’s dick while he sucks him off like a pro. Armin punctuates this thought with a barely-there scrape of teeth and Eren’s coming hard, pushing himself further into Armin’s mouth.
Armin gags on his dick and on his come and pulls off fast. The rest of Eren’s come splashes onto his face and he appears to be in shock. “I’m sorry,” Eren says. “Sorry, I should’ve warned, sorry.” He can’t say anything else right now; Armin has literally fucked him stupid. In place of words, he drops the handfuls of grass he'd ripped up, pulls him closer and licks the ejaculate from his face and kisses the flavor out of his mouth. It’s not particularly pleasant to taste, but Eren does it anyway. He’s vaguely aware of Armin tucking them both back into their pants and lacing them back up, arranging their clothes and hair so they fall back into place. There’s nothing to be done about their kiss-swollen lips or various hickeys, though.
“I love you,” is the first thing Eren says when his wits are back.
Armin goes still. “Is it just the heat of the moment talking?” he asks.
Eren rolls his eyes. “The moment is over,” he points out. “I mean it. I love you.” And he does mean it too. He's as in love with Armin as he will ever be with anyone. He's hopelessly crazy about him. He'd trade his life for Armin's in a heartbeat. It's not just the sex or the hormones; he has seen Armin’s good and his bad and Eren loves them both. If he's being honest, he knows he always has. Fuck anyone that says teenagers are too young to be in love; he's old enough to be months away from joining the military and putting his life on the line for humanity. He's sure as hell old enough to know how he feels.
Armin doesn’t ruin the moment with a trite “love-you-too,” not this first time. Instead he resettles himself into Eren’s arms and closes his eyes. “Alright,” he says instead. “Yeah.”
They fall asleep like that and stay there until Mikasa comes some hours later to retrieve them for dinner. Their friends are full of new stories to tell about their families, excited and happy. For once, Eren can’t find it in him to begrudge them their happiness. He joins the conversation, prompts them to talk more and jokes with the best of them.
“Hey,” Connie begins during a lull in conversation, “so are you two together or what? Like, dating.” He doesn’t look at Eren or Armin as he speaks out of embarrassment, but he jerks his chin in their direction to indicate to whom he is referring.
The rest of the table goes silent, waiting to hear the response. Connie was the first one to say it aloud, but they’ve all been wondering the same thing. “Yeah,” Eren says after a pregnant pause. “We are.”
“We are?” Armin asks and Eren blanches.
“Yeah,” he repeats. “I mean. If you want to. We can be.”
Armin pretends to ponder that. “Sure, why not?” he says after a moment. Eren can’t hide the goofy grin he knows he must be sporting, and doesn’t try to either.
“Well, that clears that up,” Connie says in satisfaction. “Someone should go tell Reiner. Didn’t he have a betting pool going around?” The table laughs and conversation, blessedly, moves on to other topics. When dinner ends, they return to their dormitories. Connie claps them both on the shoulder on the way to his bunk. “Make sure you’re extra loud tonight,” he says and winks exaggeratedly at Jean.
“Fucking faggots,” Jean murmurs under his breath, but Eren’s still floating on cloud nine, too happy to rise to the bait.
Shadis comes by soon and orders lights out. Armin wastes no time when they climb up to their bunk, crossing the divider and wrapping himself around Eren’s body. As time passes, the room gets filled with the sound of boys falling asleep, deep even breaths and snoring.
“I love you,” Armin tells him matter-of-factly. Eren’s on the brink of sleep himself, but he still hears the words. He hides a sleepy smile in Armin’s shoulders.
“Alright,” he says and places a brief kiss on his lips. “Yeah, okay.”