The mere idea that Bertolt is interested in Annie keeps him in a shocked silence for almost too long. Reiner’s already turned away because he never stops to listen when he thinks he’s right, he just does or says things and assumes that they play along. It’s an enviable quality and usually they do follow him, but right now Bertolt hates it.
"We’re all short-lives mass murderers right?" Reiner blathers on, staring at the distance. Bertolt opens his mouth to answer but Reiner talks over him. "Aside from us, who else would be able to understand?"
"That’s right," Bertolt says quietly when it seems that Reiner’s finally shut up. Complaining or protesting isn’t what he usually does, but he figures this time is as good a time for a rare exception as any. They might die soon enough and it’d be nice to have one less regret to take to his grave. "But you’re wrong."
Startled, Reiner turns around and Bertolt’s heart skips a beat. Nerves, and Reiner with his stupid, handsome face and hair like a halo against the setting sun. Bertolt swipes his suddenly damp hands on his pants and draws a breath. "It’s not Annie. I don’t like her like that." The rest he has to force through his dry throat and mouth, and the two words come out as a too fast and jumbled mess. "It’s you."
"What?" It’s not a very convincing question because Reiner did hear him, Bertolt can tell that from the color that spreads from Reiner’s neck to his face. At least he’s not the only one blushing, at least Reiner didn’t yell at him, at least Reiner is still himself.
"It’s you." Bertolt clenches his fists and raises his chin, eyes never leaving Reiner’s. He’s not going to be ashamed of this, not here and not now when everything might end. "I like you."
Reiner stares at him with wide eyes and open mouth, but unfortunately he doesn’t find his words before Ymir does. She’s laughing with abandon, the wretched woman, and hollering so loudly that anyone in the small forest could hear her. "Finally found your balls, eh?”
“Shut the hell up,” Reiner snaps, the red on his face deepening. He doesn’t turn his head though or look away from Bertolt. Any other time Bertolt would squirm under the intense scrutiny but since he wasn’t embarrassed by his own confession, he’s not going to be embarrassed by Reiner’s frank stare either. It’s out there in the open now and it’s up to Reiner to decide what to do with it. Finally, Reiner says with helpless confusion in his voice, "But you were always staring at her.”
"I was worried." Who he was worried about goes without saying and Reiner scowls, avoiding Bertolt’s eyes. With Reiner falling apart piece by piece, it had been comforting to know that Annie at least was still focused on the mission, that she was someone he could ask for help if the push came to shove. "And it wasn’t only her," Bertolt adds. It’s hard to stop talking now that he’s started. It’s like all his secrets want to spill out at the same time, never mind who’s listening. "I tried to be careful and you never noticed."
Reiner doesn’t ask the obvious question because he knows the answer as well as Bertolt does. The ‘why’ lies somewhere between insanity and being afraid, on a field of the worst time and place ever, and it’s not a ground they should tread right now.
"It’s okay, I don’t expect anything." Bertolt wraps his arms around himself, an imitation of a comforting hug and the only thing that offers him warmth in the cooling evening. "I only wanted to say it once, just in case."
The last words are barely out of his mouth before Reiner’s hands are on his shoulders, shaking him hard enough to rattle his teeth. "Don’t say that," Reiner says fiercely. "We’ll get out of this alive and then we’ll talk."
Bertolt blinks. "We will?"
"Yeah." The blush on Reiner’s face intensifies again and his hands slide from Bertolt’s shoulders to his elbows. The hands radiate heat through Bertolt’s two shirts and he knows exactly how wide and strong they are, even if they’re shaking a little right now. "You never notice anything either."
"I - " Bertolt starts, something fluttering in his chest like a caged bird, but then he sees them, colorful smokes rising high up to the sky behind Reiner. He’d recognize them anywhere. The chill isn’t in the air anymore, it’s set into his brittle bones. "Reiner."
Reiner spins around, alarmed, and swears crudely. "Faster than I thought they’d be. I guess they found Commander Erwin." Then he turns back and it’s a long second of things unsaid, things they simply don’t have time to say even if they’d want to. Bertolt reaches over and takes Reiner’s hand, one touch that has to be enough, and Reiner squeezes back before he says, "Let’s go."