She touches him more carefully with her titan hands than her human ones.
It should be the other way round, but no. When Annie is in human form, she doesn’t touch Armin at all except when she’s hauling him up from the ground after slamming him into it. When they spar, her hands dart and block and twist him around her small frame, cool and callused tools that she uses against him. They don’t look like they could ever be loving hands.
Titan hands don’t look like they could ever be loving hands, either. They’re used to scale walls, and reduce houses to rubble, and to pick humans up and eat them. He expects no less from the hand that reaches out to him, ready to pick him up from where he’s crouched on this dusty, god-forsaken plain, with the mangled bodies of dozens of his comrades around him, panicked and rider less horses screaming away. I’m next, he thinks, as he holds his breath in the agony of anticipation – why the hell is it taking its time? Armin fixes his eyes on the shadow that looms over him as the creature’s digits gently pinch the hood of his cloak. He’s more than ready to be yanked into the air and eaten or flung overhead to break his spine somewhere, but not for his hood to be drawn down (very carefully), so he can’t help but raise his terrified eyes to the titan’s face. Their stares weigh on each other.
Later, after all the carnage is over, (temporarily, at least) Armin picks his way through the forest to where he knows the titan is. Mikasa, frenzied in her quest to get Eren back, has fought long and hard, and the female-type titan lies crumpled on the forest floor, trailed by countless mangled bodies that bear testament to the blood on her hands – hands that lie on the same leaf litter as those bodies, now that Mikasa has severed the creature’s limbs. He needs to see them up close, needs to try and reconcile the fact that the hands which so carefully drew his hood down are one and the same as those which viciously snuffed out countless other lives. Actually there’s an official death toll, so they aren’t countless, but he doesn’t want to think about that. His eyes search the gloom at the end of the grisly trail, smoke gently rising from the remains of the titan form as it returns to nothingness. There’s a gaping hole in the back of its neck, whoever was in there has already cut their selves free, but Armin ignores that and starts searching. Find its hands, he chants, find its hands.
After a lot of tripping and stumbling, he manages to locate the disintegrating remains of one partly-clenched palm. It’s so red, the red of the muscle and flesh overlaid with the red of blood. Armin sinks to his knees and neatly folds himself into the spaces between thumb and forefinger; both warmed and chilled by the steaming flesh and the cold night air, thoughts of life and thoughts of death. He dozes off.
Armin wakes after a few short hours with the familiar weight of a stare on him and freezes. The flesh and bone that previously surrounded him are mostly gone, leaving him in the middle of a clearing. No shelter. He shifts nervously in his place, stands. Then walks over, slowly, to the base of one of the trees and looks up to meet that gaze. Annie. He realises, then, that she’s been watching him the whole time he’s been here, watching as he snuggled up to the remains of her titan flesh and fell asleep, watching while her body became fully human again as she sat in the treetops. Her eyes are lovely, dark and deep, (like the woods, and his desires, and the truth about everything), so he puts his 3-D manoeuver gear to good use and launches himself into the night air, comes to rest on the branch where she sits, legs dangling idly. They appraise each other warily for long minutes before she breaks the tense silence.
“Touch me, Arlert.” It’s a quiet whisper. “Make me feel human again.”
The look that washes over her face at that moment tells him more than she ever would have said aloud. He knows, then, that killing all those people is not something regrettable for her, because she’s fighting for a higher cause, and she’ll kill as many as she needs to just to see it through. Even if it’s the last thing she does, even if she starts to question her sense of self, or doubt that she was ever human, or ever felt human. And no matter how wrong he thinks she is, he’ll do this for her, because he could never say no to such a request. He wants, with every fibre of his being, to let her feel human again – no matter how transient or fleeting a feeling it is.
He takes a tentative step forward on the branch, grateful for its solid width beneath him as he slowly crouches next to Annie and takes her face in his hands and turns it to face him. She release a grateful breath at the feel of his palms cupping her face, nuzzling into their paltry warmth, hoping her eyes don’t reek too much of death and desperation. She was so close, damn it. Damn Mikasa. Damn Humanity. She returns her attention to Armin; who’s tracing her features silently with his eyes, and she brings her hands up to cover his only slightly larger ones, lacing fingers with him as much as possible. Touch is a luxury she doesn’t let herself afford, so to feel his hands smooth over her jaw, her cheeks, is an experience she drinks in as much as she can – right down to the callused sweep of the ridges on his fingertips. It’s overwhelming and she wants to burrow into his shoulder, so she does just that, drawing her arms around his frame at the same time.
Bad idea. He’s so slight for a boy, she has to squeeze tightly to assure herself that he’s really there, and then that makes her think of how easy it would have been to kill him with a snap of the spinal cord. Annie lets herself dispense with composure and shakily exhale when Armin finally returns the embrace, rubbing reassuring circles into the small of her back, both of them hitching their breath at the contact. She wants – no, needs – to feel the heat of skin on skin, so she presses her cheek to his (this way, she can avoid his eyes, too, though he can definitely feel the tears).
Armin cradles the broken monster in his arms, feeling much too tender towards her for his liking. When he feels the wetness between their cheeks (they’re both not sure who exactly is crying), he moves instinctively to soothe, presses a gentle kiss to Annie’s temple. Then the corner of her eye, and again, before his mouth trails delicately down her jawbone to reach her lips.
When he slants his mouth over hers, she is colder than he expected, and tastes of blood and loneliness and dark spaces and bitter tears and ruthless woman, and he drinks it all in. Draws her fully into a clumsy kiss, tears mingling with the exquisite sensation of scraped teeth and warm, wet pressure. They pull back halfway to look each other in the eye – echoes of darkened blue – before leaning forward again. Annie brushes her tongue against his lower lip, and draws out a fresh well of emotion from him: his grip on her waist tightens, and his kiss turns hard; their tongues meet. But it isn’t enough, and they both know it. They trail kisses down each other’s necks, nibble the shell of an earlobe, shift against the bark beneath them. Fingers still on the waistband of a pair of pants. He pulls her into another hug as his answer – anything.
Anything to let her feel human again.
The pair disentangle themselves to shrug off jackets and unstrap gear, shucking off clothing almost desperately (though the 3DMG gets better treatment and is carefully draped over a neighbouring branch). They let the discarded items fall through the foliage to the ground below, no one’s around to see, anyway. And they’re past caring at this point. Armin looks at Annie carefully as they unbutton each other’s shirts. Her eyes are usually so disinterested, but there’s little sign of aloofness now in the girl who methodically, but urgently, opens his shirt to run finely shaped hands over the planes of his chest. Armin bites his lip and shivers at the sensation, quickly finishing with her outer garment, too. It’s rather alien to be admiring a girl’s chest, but he leans over to reach around Annie and undo the clasp on her undergarments – she slips them off, and he reaches out to cup them as they draw into another languorous kiss, unpracticed hands ghosting over her skin.
The night isn’t so cold anymore, he thinks, heated from his belly as their hungry mouths close over one another, the breaths they share fluttering over each other’s flushed faces. She nips his collarbone and licks it teasingly; he releases a muffled groan and leans forward to do the same to her nipples, peaked from the chill and the exposure. As he rolls his tongue around one bud and massages the other with his fingers, her hands stray from his hair to his back and further down, to dig her nails into his ass as she whimpers and moans under his ministrations. Annie cups his groin as he suckles her and and he lets out a shallow, strangled gasp. He throws his head back and closes his eyes, but reaches out to undo her hair from its bun so he can grip the familiar yellow as she pleasures him too.
She’s not the only one who dreams of being touched after all, because, Armin thinks, he wants to feel human too. Wants to drown in the sensations that come with pressing bare skin against another, in the growing heat that coils throughout his body, at the low ache that builds in his nether regions. Temporary release, from this hell they live in every day.
They can sense each other’s desire now; it hangs thick and heavy in the air, waiting to be acted on. Sliding their underwear off is the work of a few moment’s scrabbling, and then they pause for a while to drink each other in, fingers intertwined. Annie smiles almost imperceptibly at him and he feels something inside him break, because it really hurts to know that this person in front of him is so near yet so far, so within reach yet so beyond help. He shifts then, moving to sit behind her and encircle her in his arms, her back to his chest as his scholar’s fingers trail down over her stomach to the apex of her thighs. She sighs and leans back as he feathers his touch over her core, tracing the shape of her folds before slipping between them to dip into the warm wetness.
God, she’s already so slick and practically aching for him, but she’s going to savour every touch – this is probably the first and last time, anyway.
She exhales in relief as he slips a finger inside her, in and out, shallow strokes interspersed with flicks at her clitoris. She brings her own hand down to join his, aligning their fingers as they slip in and out of her vagina. Annie rocks back at the sensation and Armin groans painfully; his penis is pressed against the surprisingly soft curves of Annie’s bottom, and the feeling is hard to endure silently. From the clenching of her walls and the quickening of their fingers’ pace, he tell she’s close, so he dips his other hand in between her legs as well to play with her nub as he presses hot, breathy kisses to the underside of her ear until she stiffens, shuddering and writhing as she climaxes.
Even though she’s still sore, she moves from her position to face him, licking her fingers experimentally – he leans forward and takes them in his mouth, sucking and licking them clean, letting her do the same to his fingers. His cock twitches just then, and it doesn’t escape her notice.
“Well, Arlert,” she purrs, lifting a satisfied brow, “are we in need of some attention too?”
“Did you even need to ask,” he breathes, wistfully, resignedly, as he kisses the inside of her wrist; “Touch me, Leonhardt. I need this too.”
And she complies, sliding further down the bough to lower her lips to his member. He fists a hand in her loose hair as she licks him from base to tip, swirling her tongue around the head. Her tongue darts over the slit at the tip and he makes tiny noises of pleasure; she smiles with her around him and moves to press kisses down his length, fingers cupping and stroking his balls. He’s aflame with hazy pleasure, and presses her head closer when she slides her hot, wet mouth over his length again, taking him in almost fully. The things one can pick up from bunking with other teenagers, he thinks, as she bobs up and down over his penis, lightly stroking his thighs. He gasps in complaint when she grazes him lightly with her teeth then removes her mouth – pulls her into an open-mouthed kiss because he needs to touch her more. He can taste sweat and heady desire on her lips now, the cold echo of emptiness banished for the present, by him. He’s glad.
Armin strokes Annie’s cheek and places a stabilising hand on her shoulder as she straddles him, then flips them over so she’s pressed against the trunk below him, his arms bracketing her head. Which prompts her to quirk her brows, again. He kisses that expression off her face.
It is bliss and sensory overload and a thousand other things combined when he enters her, pressing inch by inch of his length into her warm folds, creating a delightful friction that elicits a whimper from him.
“That was an unmanly noise, Arlert.” He responds by tweaking her nipples, hard.
"Rude. If you’re going to say my name during intercourse, call me Armin,” he breathes into her ear. “Annie.” “
Not as shy as you usually are, huh,” she prods him in the ribs.
“Get moving already.”
So he does, pumping his hips slowly in and out of her entrance, hooking her legs around his waist as he grinds slowly. He takes his time, rotating his hips to sink in further, and reveling in the feel of Annie all around him. Their bodies are entwined, touching so intimately that his mind can no longer make out where he ends and she begins, or which of them it was who needed to be touched by the other, because right now they’re together in this. Shifting and moaning in tandem. Here and now, they can forget about the dead bodies below, forget about how desensitised they are, forget that they are too young, at sixteen, to be feeling this way about the world at all. They incoherently gasp each other’s names, and anchor themselves in the base desire sweeping over them – this is what it feels like to be human, this sacred act that lets them forget about everything else as they surrender to their fundamental nature. They come together, Armin's fingers bruising her hips, Annie biting down on his collarbone hard enough to mark him for the next week.
Where I go, when I go there
No more weeping anymore
Only in and out your lips
The broken wishes, washing with them to shore
“Thank you,” Annie says, as they move apart and lie back on the bark to catch their breath.
“You’re welcome,” Armin smiles faintly, as he hands her the 3DMG so they can get back down to ground level and gather their scattered clothes.
“ It helped me, too.”
They ride back to the Karanese District in sombre silence, bypassing the sleeping wall guards with no fuss – flying over the gates is almost too easy. They part on a cobbled side street with one last touch, knowing that the time they meet, they won’t have the chance to again. Then, they’ll be enemies who fight instead of lovers who bicker, and her asking him to touch her will become something impossible, a memory encased in crystal that stops time.