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Jean Kirschtein nervously stepped out of the city transport bus onto the hot pavement. He was bombarded by the smell of engine fuel and asphalt and almost forgot to thank the bus driver. He turned quickly, readying a small wave, but the doors slammed in his face. He stumbled back as it roared and pulled off into the busy, midday traffic. Clutching onto the strap of the bag across his chest, he grimaced at the offending bus as it drove off.

“Well, so much for a peaceful city life.” Jean groaned internally at the aspect of having to use public transportation wherever he went now. Back home, he could walk anywhere he wanted, and even if it was too far there was always the family car. No traffic or busy malls to rack his nerves existed in the small town of Trost. But here in Shiganshina, at this university, he was way out of his element.

He turned back away from the street and raised a brow at the looming building in front of him. ‘Shigangshina University Admissions Office’, it read. He looked down at the email he had printed off, clutching it in his sweaty fingers. It was his acceptance letter, and he was told to be here at this building by one o'clock today. He checked the time on his old BlackBerry, noting it was 11:33 with a small sigh.

“Guess I could walk around the campus for a bit.” Jean tugged the strap of his bag further up his shoulder, glancing around for the best route to the main campus, before locating what looked to be a map off to his right. It was tucked away under a shade tree, which was nice in the sweltering heat of early August, but it also had a crowd gathered around it.

Jean scowled at the thought of being surrounded by hot bodies in this weather. He’d already made the mistake of wearing a button down and jeans, seeing as it was at least ten degrees cooler in Trost, which didn’t make much sense because it was only an hour away. Just being on the noisy bus had caused him to roll up his sleeves past his elbows, and now he was debating taking it off in favor of the matching white v-neck underneath.

He walked past the large fountain in front of the building, slowing down when a breeze blew through the bubbling water causing it to sprinkle on him, then joined the group gathered around the large stand-up map. He pushed his glasses further up his nose and squinted at the color coded blocks and small print. Thankfully, he was taller than most of the other people he could only assume were incoming freshman like him. Not that his height was particularly exceptional or anything, but most people his age didn’t get much taller. He quickly located the “YOU ARE HERE” red dot.

“Ohh, I wanna check out the student center!” An excitable brunette bounced in front of him, pointing at a blue square on the map across the campus from them. Her ponytail wobbled happily on her head as she chatted away with a small boy with a buzz cut next to her. He gave her a thumbs up before they were dashing off, hand in hand.

“Cute.” Jean watched the two run off, practically oozing sparkles and flowers as they went. In all reality, he wanted to puke. He turned back to the map and tried to locate where the English department would be. He was suddenly regretting not looking up this information himself before arriving. “I wonder what building it’s in?”

“What are you looking for?”

Jean snapped his head to the right, looking to the person who had spoken to him. Bright blue eyes and an angelic face framed with golden blonde haired peered up at him. Jean opened his mouth to respond but stopped when his eyes trailed down accidentally and took in the porcelain-like skin of his arms.

“Uhh...E-english department.” Jean swallowed, tearing his eyes away from the boy. Now was not the time to let his very gay tendencies take over.

The boy smiled and pointed to a green square labeled ‘Sina Building’ at the backside of the campus. “I was actually heading there myself, I can show you if you’d like?”

Jean relaxed, smiling back at the generous stranger. “Thanks, man. I’d appreciate that.”

“I’m Armin, by the way.” Armin reached out for a handshake.

“Jean.” He grasped Armin’s hand for a second before the two were leaving the crowd behind. Once they rounded the admissions office building, a cool breeze hit them making Jean sigh on reflex.

“New to Shiganshina, are you?” Armin laughed, eyeing Jean’s attire. Jean looked enviously at Armin who was wearing a simple, light t-shirt and shorts.

“Am I that obvious?” Jean tugged at his shirt, suddenly very self-conscious.

“No, I’m sorry!” Armin gasped. “It’s just because you were looking at the map and today is Freshman orientation.”

Jean thought he was going to have a heart attack after seeing the apologetic look on Armin’s face. “No, no it’s fine! This is actually my first time to this city.”

Armin smiled again, “Where are you from?”

“Trost? I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it…” Jean shifted his bag, nervously looking around at the campus as they walked. It felt like it’s own city, what with all the buildings being taller than ten stories. The center part of the campus was heavily shaded from the buildings and the breeze that filtered through made it more bearable for Jean.

“Hmmm,” Armin scrunched his brow thoughtfully, looking down to his black Converse. “Can’t say that I have.”

“Thought so,” Jean said, following Armin’s lead when he rounded what looked like one of the dorm buildings he’d seen on the pamphlet. “It’s about an hour away from here, one of those, “everyone knows each other” kind of places.”

“Ah,” Armin nodded. “That sounds nice, actually.”

Jean was a little surprised that Armin liked the idea of a small town. “Did you come from a small town, too?”

“Nope!” Armin beamed up at Jean. “Born and raised right here.”

“Wow, that sounds scary.” Jean shivered, sidestepping a discarded can on the pavement.

Armin laughed and reached for the door of a squat, brick building labeled ‘Sina’. It looked to be only three stories tall, making it one of the shortest buildings Jean had seen on the way over. It also seemed to be considerably older than most of the campus.

“It’s not all that bad here,” Armin motioned for Jean to enter through the door he held open. “After you.”

“Oh, thanks!” Jean hurried inside, breathing in the smell of old wallpaper and books. He looked around, noting the different sets of double doors that appeared to lead to theater sized lecture halls.

“Welcome to the English department.” Armin jokingly bowed, causing Jean to snort under his breath. “I assume this will be your major?”

“Yeah, it’s the one and only thing I’m good at.” Jean laughed cynically and looked past Armin to locate the stairs in the back corner.

“I’m sure you have other qualities too!” Armin signaled for him to follow. “I’m an English major as well but I’m getting a minor in Mathematics.”

“Those two are very different.” Jean was becoming concerned he’d befriended some sort of miniature genius.

“These double doors are all for the lectures.” Armin pointed to them and confirmed what Jean had already assumed. “And, yeah they are, but I just couldn’t decide between the two.”

“I guess I’m not much better.” Jean watched Armin’s back as he ascended the stairs. It was unfair how nice his ass looked in those shorts. Jean cleared his throat as they reached the top. “I’m wanting to minor in Sociology.”

“Those two are very different.” Armin cocked a brow, playfully throwing Jean’s words back at him.

“Okay, I guess I deserved that.” Jean grinned and looked around at the second floor; it wasn’t much different than the first except instead of double doors, they were glass doors leading to computer rooms.

“As you can see,” Armin motioned to the room. “This is where the computer labs are, and that…” he walked around a pillar and pointed to a door tucked away in a corner. “Is the writing center.”

“Okay, cool.” Jean filed the information away, knowing he’d need this place later. As much as English was his best and favorite subject, he was self conscious about his writing. “So, what’s on the third floor?”

Armin waved dismissively, shaking his head. “Mostly faculty offices. Nothing exciting, I promise.”

Jean pulled out his phone, checking the time once more. 12:15. He still had forty five minutes before the orientation would begin. He clicked his tongue and tucked the phone back into his pocket. Armin had pulled out what looked like the newest iPhone and was scrolling fervently through something.

“Alright, thanks for the tour.” Jean started to back away awkwardly. “I should probably find a place to chill until one.”

Armin looked up from his phone, blushing. “Well, if you want, you can sit in my office with me until then.”

“You have an office?” Jean looked baffled. “Please tell me you’re not one of those super genius kids who’s also a professor.”

Armin laughed at that. “Oh gosh, no! Nothing like that. I just work as an assistant to one of the English professors.”

“Thank god.” Jean clutched his chest and followed Armin up to the third floor, accidentally watching his ass again. “So is that like a work-study?”

“Yeah!” Armin beamed down at him over his shoulder. Jean quickly dropped his gaze. “I get help with classes since it’s in my field of study and I get paid. It’s nice.”

They walked down a long hall and as they approached the last door on the right, Armin fished in his pocket and pulled out a lanyard attached to a set of keys. He thumbed through them before finding the right one and unlocking the wooden door. When he stepped inside, the lights flickered on automatically.

It was a small office, two desks shoved into a one desk room, each on an opposite wall. The one on the right was very neat and tidy, it only had a computer with a few framed pictures on it. Jean was relieved to see Armin plopping down into the chair for that one. The other desk was cluttered, overflowing with papers and knick-knacks. There were a couple metal coffee cups left abandoned on the areas that were clean and Jean frowned at the numerous rings they had left in the wood.

“Sorry, Professor Smith hasn’t been in to clean up from summer.” Armin sent him an apologetic smile and pulled out the other office chair. “He won’t mind if you sit here.”

“Thanks.” Jean took it and sighed as the air conditioner kicked on. Armin started up his computer before turning back to Jean.

“I just need to check on a few things for Professor Smith, I’ll be right back, okay?” Armin stood up and walked to the door. “Feel free to browse when the computer starts. It’s not password protected or anything.”

Jean blinked at him, not sure if he should be worried or grateful that Armin was so trusting to let someone he just met be alone in his office. “Oh, yeah. Sure!”

Armin smiled again before disappearing around the corner. Jean quietly glanced around the room and decided the office was very boring. There wasn’t even any art on the walls. A musical tone caught his attention, and he watched as the computer flashed to Armin’s desktop. He nearly fell out of his chair at the picture, not that it was anything particularly exciting, but it was who the picture was of.

Armin’s face beamed back at him, arm looped around the neck of an incredibly attractive brunette. The hot guy had his arm looped around a scowling girl with short black hair. He could tell she was gorgeous, and if he’d been into chicks she would probably have been the one to catch his attention instead of the guy in the middle.

But no, Jean was very gay. He was sure he’d known he was gay since the day he was born. Now here he was, sitting alone in an angel’s office staring at the pale, green eyes of his friend. Or was it his boyfriend? If it was, Jean was going to be very pissed at how unfair the world was.

He kept staring at the ‘angel’s hot not-boyfriend’, as he was now going to call him. His lightly tanned skin, crooked toothy smile, and chocolate brown hair were short circuiting his brain. He looked back at his eyes and frowned slightly. They looked...off? He couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Not only was their color strange, like his eyes were supposed to be this bright green color and instead had some kind of fog over them, but he also wasn’t looking at the camera. His eyes were locked slightly to the side of it, but Jean dismissed the thought, chalking it up to that selfie fad where people were too cool to actually smile and look at the camera.

He reached for the mouse, deciding to check his Facebook when someone clearing their throat made him jump. He snapped his hand back, surprised to see Armin in the doorway so soon. He glanced at Jean before sitting down at his desk, looking at the background fondly.

“Sorry, that didn’t take as long as I thought it would.” Armin turned to him.

“It’s alright, I was just admiring your background.” Jean cleared his throat, trying not to mess up his words and say something like ‘please tell me hottie isn’t your boyfriend and that he is very single and very gay.’

“These are my best friends!” Armin perked up instantly, and pointed to ‘angel’s hot not-boyfriend.’ “This is Eren, he’s been my best friend since kindergarten. We grew up together here.” He switched to the girl who looked unhappy to be there. “This one is Mikasa, she’s Eren’s sister. Oh, and trust me, she’s nicer than she looks.”

Jean had completely zoned out after the “he’s been my best friend since kindergarten” because a victory party was going on in his head. That was one strike down, Eren was definitely not the angel’s boyfriend. Plus, he was playing around with the name, Eren, in his mind. It had a nice ring to it and it suited him.

“They seem nice.” Jean smiled, trying to reassure Armin he was listening when, in fact, he was not. He liked Armin, he was a really nice guy and easy to talk to. It was just too bad that his friend was hot or Jean might be hitting on him now. “Do they go here?”

“Yep,” Armin clicked open his browser, the school’s page being the default. “Eren is a Psychology major and Mikasa plays volleyball.”

“Is the team any good?” Jean was trying to be sneaky, working his way to asking questions about Eren.

“Oh, yeah!” Armin was logging in to his faculty account, occasionally glancing back at Jean as to not seem rude. “The Shiganshina Titans were undefeated last year. Well, the girl’s volleyball team anyway. I don’t pay attention to any of the other sports teams.”

“You seem like a supportive friend,” Jean remarked coolly. “What about Eren? Support him in anything?”

Armin paused scrolling through some files, glancing to a portrait on the desk. Jean hadn’t noticed it really, what with Armin’s desktop image stealing his heart. It was a picture of the three of them again. Only, they seemed a little younger, early high school most likely. It looked almost identical to the other, Eren in the middle, Armin beaming and Mikasa scowling. But what really threw Jean for a loop was Eren. He couldn’t be sure, cause the image was rather small, dwarfed by it’s bulky frame, but Eren’s eyes were different. It was the exact shade of brilliant green he had expected them to be, not faded and foggy like the desktop background.

“He’s not into sports.” Armin replied. “He spends most of his free time in the student center, working.”

Jean nodded, pleased he knew where to find this boy now. He was actually starting to creep himself out with how much he sounded like a stalker. Fishing for information about some guy’s friend he had just met, mentally noting his workplace so he could “accidentally” drop by some time, it was pathetic. Jean had no delusions about himself that he was normal.

“I see,” Jean watched as Armin continued sorting through files, occasionally opening one to read it.

“What about you?” Armin finally spoke again. “Play any sports?”

“I used to play soccer when I was little,” Jean shrugged. “But not anymore.”

“You and Eren have that in common.” Armin smiled at him and Jean nearly pumped his fist with excitement. “You remind me of him, actually.”

“Do I now?” Jean was trying to play it cool, but then he just so happened to look up at the clock on the wall, “Oh, shit.”

Armin followed his gaze and saw the time, 12:57. “Oh, no. I’m so sorry! You’re gonna be late!”

Jean stood quickly, grabbing his bag, and Armin followed him out of the office. He locked the door behind himself. “I’ll show you the way back, now’s not the time for you to get lost.”

“Thanks again man, you’ve been a big help today.” Jean led the way as they hurriedly trotted down the two flights of stairs and out of the building. Once they were out, the insufferable heat began pressing on them again.

“It’s no big deal,” Armin said between pants as they ran. “I remember how hard it was last year without any help.”

“So, you’re a Sophomore?” Jean fell back a little, letting Armin take the lead.

“Yeah,” Armin rounded that dorm building again. “I know I don’t look it, but I’m actually 19.”

“That’s okay, I’m only 18.” Jean was relieved when he saw the admissions office come into view. A group of students were gathered around the fountain.

“Looks like they’re just starting.” Armin slowed to a halt, catching his breath. “I’m glad we didn’t miss them.”

“I’ve said this a lot, but thanks again Armin.” Jean reached out for a final handshake. Armin grabbed his hand but turned it over instead. Jean blinked in surprise when Armin pulled a sharpie out of his pocket and scribbled some numbers onto the back of his hand.

“If you ever need anything, that’s my number.” Armin smiled gently, turning to leave. He waved back over his shoulder as he walked away. “Feel free to text me!”

Jean waved back, blushing heavily. Armin probably had completely innocent intentions with that move, but Jean’s brain was wired funny and it was making him overheat. Realizing he was probably about to get another tour of the campus, he shed the white button down and shoved it into his bag. The v-neck underneath was much more forgiving in the heat.

The orientation was exactly what he expected. A tour of the campus, presentation from the Dean in a too-large lecture hall, and then over to registration to sign up for classes. The last thing for the day was dorm assignments. He had been waiting for weeks to find out which of the two dorm towers he would be placed in.

Students were called up in groups and placed in quads. The dorms were sectioned off with four rooms to a quad and four quads on a floor. Each quad had a shared living room which Jean was not happy about. It was bad enough he was going to be roomed with some guy he didn’t know, but then he had to share a living room with seven other guys. Maybe girls. Some of the floors were co-ed.

He was getting restless, mindlessly tapping his foot when his phone buzzed in his pocket. It was a text message from Marco.

Freckles:

Hey Jeanbo!

How’s it going???

Me:

Boring.

It’s hot here and smells bad

Freckles:

Aww that sucks

Any hotties??? ;)

Me:

Actually yes

An angel named Armin

Angel has a hot not-boyfriend too

Freckles:

Oooh! Go on

Me:

Armin is a year older and showed me the English dept.

His hot not-bf is Eren.

Works at the student center apparently

Major is psychology

Freckles:

Nice!

So which one???

Me:

hot not-bf def

Marco I thought the heavens opened up when I saw his pic

omg that boy is attractive

I’ll tell you if I get to meet him

Freckles:

I’m excited! :))))

Oh and Mina says hi!

Me:

Hey Mina!

gtg they’re calling me back now

Freckles:

ttyl <3

Jean shoved his phone back into his pocket and picked up his bag as he followed the small red-headed lady who had called his name. He looked around at the other people in his group, wondering which one would be his roommate. They were led down a short hall to a conference room where an annoyed looking woman was sitting. She barely even looked up from her phone when they filed in.

“Ymir, this is your floor.” The red-headed woman passed her clipboard to the girl before smiling at the group and then leaving.

“Hmmm,” Ymir scanned the papers on the clipboard for a minute before finally looking up. “I’m Ymir, you’re RA. Don’t fuck shit up and we’ll be cool, alright?”

Several of the people giggled, assuming it to be a joke. She didn’t laugh though, only clicking her pen and scribbling something down. “Who’s Sasha Braus?”

“Me!” The hyper brunette from earlier waved from the back of the room. Ymir handed her a slip of paper.

“That’s your room assignment.” Ymir squinted at the next name. “Annie?”

A very small blonde girl stepped forward, and Jean wanted to think how cute that was, but she looked like she was ready to kill a man. She didn’t say anything, only accepted the paper she was given.

“Ooh!” Sasha slid up next to her. “Looks like you’re my roomie.”

“Joy.” Annie walked away and Jean instantly felt bad for her.

Ymir continued down the list, pairing up roommates and passing out assignments until finally, there were two people left. Jean and the kid with the buzz cut. Also known as the boyfriend of Miss Chatty Cathy.

Great.

“Jene?” Ymir squinted at his name, not even trying for the last one.

“It’s Jean.” He raised his hand nonetheless and she handed him his slip.

“My bad, man.” She nodded to him before turning and handing the final slip to the other guy. “Connie, right?”

“That’s me.” He smiled and took the paper from her, sending a small wave over to Jean. He nodded back in response.

“Okay, technically you kids are supposed to mingle or something but I couldn’t care less.” Ymir was gathering her things. “Just be here on the 20th with your shit, ready to move in.”

She walked past them and pulled the door open. “Oh, and make sure you read the guidelines on that slip I gave you. If one of you so much as even tries to sneak in a microwave, your asses are as good as dead.” She sent an incredulous glance around the room before walking out.

Jean was the first person out of the door after Ymir since a few had decided to stay and chat. He was not a sociable person by nature. It was a miracle he had managed time with Armin. He looked down at his right hand, smiling at the smudged numbers there. He took out his phone and quickly saved them under the name “Angel” before dropping it back into his pocket.

“Hey man wait up!” Jean turned around to see Connie jogging to catch up to him. He groaned quietly, not really keen on talking to this kid. But he was his roommate, so it was probably best he at least maintain open lines of communication with him.

“What’s up?” Jean stopped and waited for him. Connie braced his hands on his knees to catch his breath.

“I’m Connie Springer.” Connie waved, but didn’t offer a handshake. “I guess we’re roommates now, huh?”

“Uhh, yeah.” Jean nodded. “I’m Jean Kirschtein.”

“Cool!” Connie gave him a thumb’s up. “I just wanted to make sure it was alright with you if I have a fish.”

Jean paused, dumbfounded. It was an odd question, why would he care about that? It’s not like fish made noise or messes. “Nah, man. It’s okay.”

“Awesome!” Connie lightly punched his shoulder before turning to leave. “See ya in a couple weeks!”

Jean waved back, feeling a little better about the roommate situation. Connie was strange but at least he was considerate. He checked his phone; it was 4:35. He remembered that a bus would be arriving in about ten minutes so he hurried back out to the stop he had arrived at that morning. The bus didn’t go all the way to Trost, so he sent a text to his mom letting her know he would be at the stop just out of town in about an hour. She replied with an “okay dear.”

Jean fell back into the bench and sighed. He closed his eyes against the bright sun and instantly Eren’s face was there. Those stupidly gorgeous features were gonna haunt him. He wished he had enough time to drop by the student center just to see if he was there. No harm with looking, right?

The bus pulled up, all noise and heat, and Jean climbed aboard, scanning his pass before curling up into a seat in the back. He lulled off as the air conditioning washed over him.

Chapter Text

Freckles:

Jeanbo omw!!

Me:

k

Freckles:

<33333

Jean smiled at Marco’s ridiculous texts. They had been friends since the dawn of time and ever since high school when they had gotten their first cell phones, Marco had been an avid texter. He had to have multiples of everything when he texted, like he was afraid someone would think he wasn’t an absolute ray of sunshine if he didn’t send a smiley face with five mouths.

Jean tossed his phone onto the bed and went back to packing his boxes. In two days his mom and Marco would be driving him back to Shiganshina and dropping him off at the Rose dorm tower. He was mostly sad about leaving Marco behind. It wasn’t going to be easy not seeing him every day. But, Marco didn’t want to leave his girlfriend, Mina, and he couldn’t really afford Shiganshina anyway. He was happy at the local community college.

Jean folded his clothes and put them in the same box. To be honest, he didn’t have that many clothes so the one box was more than enough. He was about to strip his bed when the doorbell rang.

“I got it, Mom!” He called through the house.

He stepped around the boxes littering his floor and walked down the hallway to the living room. He glanced into the kitchen to see his mom baking. She was always baking something. He opened the door to reveal a very happy Marco.

“Hey,” Jean opened the screen to let him in. “Thanks for coming.”

Marco beamed and wrapped his arms around Jean in a tight hug. “Of course! I need to see my little Jeanbo off to big-boy school.”

“Marco, please.” Jean grunted, trying to push out of his grasp. “I can’t breathe.”

“Sorry!” He let go and took his shoes off, leaving them at the front entrance.

“Is that Marco?” Mrs. Kirschtein stuck her head out from the kitchen. “Hello, sweetie!”

“Hi, Mrs. Kirschtein.” Marco waved. “Something smells good!”

“I’m baking lasagna,” she smiled knowingly. “Hope you can stay for dinner!”

Marco laughed and followed Jean back through the living room. “You know I can’t say no to your lasagna.”

Jean rolled his eyes as they made it back to his room. He retraced his steps through the maze of boxes and plopped down on his bed. Marco got distracted by the clutter and was inspecting the boxes for their contents.

“I see you started without me.” Marco raised a brow at him, eyeing the partially stripped bed. “Were you just gonna sleep on the bare mattress for two more nights?” 

“Huh?” Jean looked back at his bedding and then frowned. “Oh. Oops.”

“You, dork.” Marco shook his head and helped Jean put the sheets back on his bed. “What are you gonna do without me?”

“Die.” Jean scowled at the number of boxes he was going to have to move. Marco had already gotten to work finishing emptying out his dresser.

“No, you won’t.” He folded the remainder of Jean’s t-shirts before moving on to the sock drawer. “What about angel and his hot not-boyfriend?”

“I haven’t texted the angel yet.” Jean threw all two of his dress shirts from his closet into the clothes box. He could always iron them later, if he even needed them.

“And why not?” Marco sealed up the box, but not before picking out outfits for the next two days. “He gave you his number, you should use it.”

“What do I even say?” Jean pulled the box designated for his books to his side. “Hey, I think your friend is hot, and I wanna know if he likes dick?’ How about, no.”

“Jean…” Marco gave him a warning glance. “I was just elbow deep in your underwear drawer, please don’t talk about dicks.”

“Sorry.” Jean smiled sheepishly. Marco was more than supportive of what sex Jean liked but sometimes Jean’s language was a little too crude for him.

“You could start by saying, ‘Hey man, wanna grab a bite before school starts?’” Marco nodded like he approved of his own words.

Jean groaned, placing his books into the box carefully. His pet peeve was damaged covers and bent pages. “You’re good with the people thing. I am really not good.”

“I literally just told you what to say.” Marco grabbed Jean’s phone off the bed and handed it to him. When he didn’t immediately take it, he forced it into his hands. “Send the text.”

Jean pouted, grumbling under his breath. “Okay, okay. Fine.”

He moved the little ball, scrolling to his contact list and found ‘Angel’ at the very top of it. He looked up and Marco was watching him with crossed arms. Jean rolled his eyes and clicked on his contact, selecting to send a message.

Me:

Hey man, It’s Jean from the Freshman orientation.

I was just wondering if you’d like to grab a bite to eat after I get on campus?

Before he sent the text, he showed it Marco. “Will this work?”

“Perfect!” Marco beamed as Jean sent the message. He tossed his phone back onto the bed and continued packing away his books. They ended up needing two whole boxes.

After a while, most of the dorm room necessities had been packed and the strong aroma of lasagna was wafting through the house. Marco was practically salivating, occasionally stopping to moan when his stomach growled.

“Okay, lets take a break and eat.” Jean pushed the finished boxes aside and helped Marco off the floor.

“Oh, thank god.” Marco rushed out of the room to the kitchen. When Jean arrived, Marco was already at the table with a plate in front of himself.

“Jeez, Marco. Save some for the rest of us.” Jean thanked his mom when she handed him a plate of fresh food. Marco just smiled around a mouthful of cheese before devouring his plate.

After dinner, Jean and Marco finished packing the things he needed for the move and they were going over a checklist Marco had made for what felt like the umpteenth time when Jean’s phone buzzed. Marco smirked when he picked it up off the bed, opening the message.

“It’s from the angel. He says he’d love to and wants to know if he can bring Eren.” Marco paused when Jean’s face lit up. “That’s hot not-boyfriend, right?”

“Fuck, yeah!”

“Jean!”

“Sorry.”

 ----

“Mom, don’t do that. Please don’t do the crying thing. Aww now look, you made Marco do it too!”

They had just brought up the last box to the 16th floor of the Rose dorm tower. Ymir had been waiting for them and gave him his own key to room 1604, before stalking off to greet the next person who had arrived. Marco had helped Jean lug all of his boxes into his room. Connie hadn’t shown up yet so Jean got first pick on which half of the room he wanted. The side under the window and by the balcony seemed the best, in his opinion. They were all looking over the balcony when he’d heard a sob.

“Would you two please stop.” Jean ran a hand through his hair and leaned over the railing. Marco threw his arms around Mrs. Kirschtein’s shoulders.

“But Jeanbo, you’re all grown up!” Marco wailed but it quickly died into laughter.

“You’re not my parent.” Jean scowled at him then looked at his mom. “But you are, and you’re embarrassing me.”

“I’m sorry, dear.” She hiccuped and opened her arms up for a hug. Jean begrudgingly stepped into her arms and squeezed her to him. “It’s just gonna be weird having an empty house.”

“Maaaa,” Jean groaned. He was now feeling very guilty about leaving her behind. “I’ll come home on holidays and long weekends, I promise.”

She sniffed and stepped back, wiping her eyes. “I know, dear. I love you.”

Marco beamed from behind her, he ate sappy shit like that up. Jean looked back down to his mom and kissed the top of her head. “Love you too, Mom.”

She smiled and went back into the room, probably to unpack Jean’s things. He let her do as she pleased, knowing it was useless to try and stop her when she was being motherly. Jean leaned back against the railing, but a noise from inside the room had Marco peering through the doorway

“Looks like your roommate is here.” Marco said. “He’s chatting up your mom.”

“His name’s Connie.” Jean closed his eyes, breathing in the fresh air he couldn’t find on the ground level. “He’s okay, I guess.”

“Look,” Marco turned to him. “I know you don’t get along with most people, but I’m not gonna be around to buffer your social awkwardness anymore. You have to make friends by yourself or you’re gonna hate it here.”

Jean gave him a blank stare. “Stop being right all the time.”

Marco laughed and looped an arm over Jean’s shoulders. “Well, at least you admit that I’m right. But I mean it, Jean. Start with the angel and work your way up, okay?”

“Yeah, yeah. I will.” Jean grumbled, leaning in to his best friend. He would’ve stayed there, enjoying Marco’s company but Connie stuck his head out of the door.

“Hey, Jean!” Jean and Marco pulled apart. Connie stared for a moment before going wide-eyed. “My bad, did I interrupt something?”

“Nah, man.” Jean smiled at him. Marco waved. “We were just talking. Did you get all your stuff in?”

“Yep!” Connie stepped out on to the balcony with them. “Wow, the view is amazing!” He bent over the railing, further than what Jean was comfortable with, and kicked his legs out behind himself.

“Be careful!” Marco was frantic, reaching for Connie. He just laughed and flipped back upright, landing on his feet.

“I used to do gymnastics, so don’t worry!” Connie smiled at Marco who was definitely still worried. “My girlfriend will be here soon, so I better finish unpacking.”

He went back inside, leaving Jean and Marco alone on the balcony again. Marco looked at him with a concerned smile. “It’s okay if you never can make friends with that one, I’ll understand.”

Jean laughed and hugged Marco. “This is why you’re my best friend.”

After an hour of unpacking Jean’s things and setting them up where he wanted them around the room, they were back out in the parking lot at his mom’s car. She cried some more, Marco snickered and eventually broke down and cried as well, and Jean hugged them both in consolation. He waved as they drove off and sighed heavily when they were finally out of sight.

He would miss them, but Jean didn’t like being emotional in front of other people, even if those people were his mother and best friend. His default emotion was annoyance and that usually came across as him being pompous or sarcastic. He was already doubting he could do like Marco wanted and make friends this year. Or any year after that.

Back in his dorm room, he found Miss Chatty Cathy on Connie’s bed playing on a DS. She looked up when he entered and smiled. “Hey! You must be Jean! I’m Sasha, Connie’s girlfriend.”

“Hey,” Jean sent her a small wave and crashed down on his newly made bed. “Nice to meet you.”

He was hoping she would leave it at that and go back to playing Pokemon or whatever the hell was making all that noise from her DS, but instead she decided to talk to Jean about anything and everything. Apparently Connie had gone to get her food, and she was an Art major, and Connie was too, and she was an only child, but Connie had a lot of siblings, oh and she loved dogs, but Connie liked cats. The list went on and on and Jean merely grunted and nodded or said “that’s cool” to keep up the facade of active listening. Finally, when his phone chimed to indicate a text message, she went back to her video game.

Angel:

Hey Jean!

You on campus yet?

Me:

Yeah I am

What’s up?

Angel:

The cafe opens tonight

wanna grab that bite at 6?

Me:

Sure!

You just saved me from my roommate’s noisy gf

Thanks man

Angel:

LOL

I’m happy to oblige

see you then!

Me:

Okay!

Jean checked the time; 4:50. He was not happy about spending the next hour with Sasha but he still needed to hang up his posters and put his books in the correct order on the shelf above his desk. It was a three tiered shelf which was just barely enough space for all of them. He had no idea where the textbooks were gonna go when he got them.

“Is that the book about burning books?” Sasha had turned off her DS and was watching Jean. He had just placed his last book, Fahrenheit 451, up on the shelf. He took it back down and showed her the cover.

“Yeah, you like it?” Jean was going to be very surprised if Sasha was a reader.

“No.” She scrunched her nose at the book. “I was just forced to read it in high school.”

No surprises there. Jean put it back on the shelf and sighed when Connie opened the front door. He had a couple of to-go boxes and Sasha nearly tackled him for it. “Sorry it took so long! You have no idea how hard it was to find a Chinese place nearby. Glad I didn’t have to walk far, though.”

He noticed Jean and nearly panicked. “Ah, I’m sorry I didn’t get you anything!”

“No, it’s okay.” Jean smiled at him, happy he was right about how considerate Connie was. “I’m meeting up with a friend for dinner soon.”

The two curled up in Connie’s twin sized bed, chomping down on orange chicken and battling on matching DS’s. It was already 5:40 and Jean had this habit of needing to be early wherever he went, so he waved goodbye to his roommate and meandered towards the student center.

It wasn’t far from his dorm tower, just the next building over. When he arrived, the food stands were just opening up and some students were following a sign down a set of stairs that read ‘Cafeteria’. He didn’t see Armin or Eren yet so he found an empty table away from the sunlight. He’d gone for a black v-neck and cargo shorts this time, he wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.

Jean settled in for his normal routine of people watching. When he had to go out alone, it was what he usually did to pass the time. His old BlackBerry didn’t have any apps or anything and the internet caused some hefty data charges for his mom, so he only used it to text people or call. They couldn’t really afford a new phone, and the only reason they could pay for this school was the large amount of scholarships Jean had received.

He sat his head on the table, resting in his arms, but then someone across the room caught his eye. A brunette in a white button down, opened up to reveal a black t-shirt was sitting alone at a table. The sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and his hands were clutching a styrofoam cup from one of the food stands. Jean focused on his face, a strong wave of familiarity washing over him, and then sat up quickly.

“Hot not-boyfriend.” Jean grew very nervous, very fast. The boy he had been daydreaming about for the past couple of weeks was sitting just across the room from him. He had stupidly thought up different scenarios on what their first meeting would be like and how he would woo him, but now his mind was completely blank.

Me:

Marco I see him

Hot not-bf is like 20 ft from me

Freckles:

Say hi!

Me:

I can’t

My hands are sweaty

Freckles:

Jean.

clam up and do it

NOW

Me:

I knew I shouldn’t have txt u

Freckles:

DO IT

Jean looked back to Eren, but he wasn’t alone anymore. Armin was standing next to him, hand on his shoulder. Eren was looking up at him as he spoke, nodding his head, and the next thing Jean knew he was standing and walking towards them. Armin noticed as he approached and waved to him.

“Hey, Jean! Over here!” Armin took the chair next to Eren, motioning for Jean to sit in the one across the table. He smiled at Eren, who was looking straight ahead as he sat in front of him. Eren did not smile back, which made Jean even more nervous.

“So, Eren.” Armin placed a hand on his shoulder and Eren turned to him. “The guy in front of you is Jean. He’s a freshman and an English major like me.”

Eren turned back to looking straight ahead, locking his eyes just below Jean’s. “Armin told me about you. I’m Eren.” He reached out tentatively with his right hand and Jean took the hint, accepting his handshake. Eren squeezed his hand a moment longer than was socially acceptable before letting go.

“Nice to meet you, Eren. And yeah, Armin has told me a bit about you too.” Jean smiled at him, hoping to see that toothy grin from the photos. No dice. Eren just stared back, adjusting his eyes on Jean as he spoke. It was kind of creeping Jean out how Eren wasn’t making eye contact.

It seemed he was a little socially awkward, like Jean. Which was just fine for him. As long as Eren had a nice ass he was willing to overlook anything off about his personality. Well, almost anything. “So, Eren, I heard you work in the student center? What do you do?”

“Why?” Eren stared at him blankly. Armin nudged his shoulder.

“I was just curious?” Jean tried. “It’s just a question, dude.”

Eren sat back in his chair, pulling his hands into his lap. Armin smiled at Jean. “He works the front desk, answers phones, and even helps in the Disabili--”

“I’m hungry.” Eren interrupted Armin, grabbing onto his elbow. Jean furrowed his brow at Eren, thinking it to be rather rude to just cut his friend off like that.

“That was rude.” Jean was looking at Eren. The brunette held onto Armin as he turned his head back to Jean.

“Excuse me?” Eren cocked his head, tone a lot more snarky than his blank expression. Armin’s eyes grew wide as he looked between the two of them. This was clearly not what he had planned for their outing.

“I was trying to listen to Armin and you cut him off.” Jean did not like Eren’s attitude at all. He was lucky he was hot.

“He’s my friend, not yours.” Eren scowled, the first expression Jean had seen him make since he sat down. “Besides, you sound pretty pompous and I don’t think I like you.”

“Eren!” Armin scolded his friend.

Jean’s jaw dropped as the glorious mental image of the angel’s hot not-boyfriend was completely shattered. He furiously tried to scrub the tanned skin from his mind, not to mention the muscles on his forearms, because he was an asshole. In every meaning of the word, Eren was an asshole.

“Jean, I’m sorry.” Armin was quickly trying to mend the situation. “He doesn’t mean it.”

“What?” Eren spoke up. “Yes, I do.”

“What the hell is your problem?” Jean finally found his voice again, still trying to erase visions of what Eren’s ass would look like from his head. Eren leaned forward on the table, feeling for his cup. His fingers brushed the base a tad too harshly and then it was tumbling over, spilling across the table.

“Shit.” Eren pushed away from the table as Armin grabbed some napkins from the tabletop dispenser, frantically soaking up the mess.

“Way to go, asshole.” Jean stood before the liquid had time to drip over the edge into his lap. He was beyond pissed at Eren by this point, and any social graces he’d learned over the years were quickly going out the window. “Maybe if you’d watch what you’re doing, that wouldn’t have happened.”

“What the fuck did you say?” Eren growled from behind Armin.

“Okay!” Armin interrupted, standing up from the table. He wadded up the damp napkins, stuffing them into the now empty cup. “Lets go get food, Jean. Maybe happy tummies will smooth things over.”

Eren threw himself back into the chair, arms crossed over his chest. Jean was going to protest and say he’d rather eat alone now, but Armin was already halfway to the closest food stand. Jean sighed, moving to follow, completely crushed.

“Did I do something to make him not like me?” Jean had caught up to Armin at the Italian place.

Armin shook his head. “I’m sorry, he’s been in a bad mood lately. It’s not you. Though, I can’t say you were helping any.”

“Huh?” Jean looked down at Armin, baffled. “I didn’t say anything that he didn’t say first.”

“Telling him to watch what he was doing?” Armin raised a brow, glancing at Jean. When Jean continued to stare at him in confusion Armin backed down. “Oh...oh I’m so sorry. You couldn’t tell? Crap, I never told you either.”

Armin glanced back over his shoulder at Eren, he had his phone out and his headphones in. “Eren’s blind.”

Jean felt like the bottom of his stomach had dropped out. He was running back over everything that had transpired in the last fifteen minutes or so, trying to remember if he had done or said anything offensive. Well, besides the obvious that Armin had pointed out.

“Shit, no I couldn’t tell.” Jean dropped his head into his hands and ruffled his hair. “I offended him.”

“Most likely, no.” The line was moving now, they were just three people away from the front. “Eren isn’t easily offended, especially over something that petty, he’s just been irritable lately. Besides, I should’ve told you. Most people can tell so I didn’t even think about it. Sorry about that."

“It’s alright.” Jean was starting to get a headache. The line moved on and they ordered their Italian. Armin ordered a second helping of fettuccine alfredo, Jean assumed was for Eren, and they made their way back to the table.

Eren still had his headphones in when they approached. Jean beat Armin to the table and put a hand on Eren's shoulder like Armin had done. He felt he should at least apologize even if Eren had been an asshole. Eren pulled the pieces out of his ears and turned to him.

"Armin?" Eren reached out, feeling the hand on his shoulder.

"Uhh, no. It's Jean." Jean sat his to-go container down on the table. Eren quickly dropped his hand and shrugged Jean’s hand away.

"Tch. What do you want?" Eren unplugged his headphones and shoved them into his pants pocket. Armin was already back in his seat, holding on to their dinners.

Jean sighed and took his chair across from Eren. "Look, I just wanted to apologize. We got off on the wrong foot."

Armin passed Eren his to-go container and a plastic fork. He felt for the lip and opened it up, nearly drooling when the smell hit him. "If you're really sorry, buy me lunch tomorrow."

Jean was about to make a retort, partially expecting Eren to say something rude again, but froze. "I beg your pardon?"

Eren shoveled pasta into his mouth and swallowed the bite before speaking again. “My shift at the student center starts tomorrow and Armin will be helping Professor Smith, so bring me lunch and I’ll forgive you.”

“Wait just a second,” Jean frowned at Eren, barely noticing Armin snickering. “Forgive me? What about you? You were just as much of an asshole.”

“I’m not the one who was rude to a blind kid.” Eren shrugged, a smug grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. Jean could not believe the words that had just come out of his mouth. Not only was Eren an asshole, he was a prick too.

“You son of a bitch.” Jean glowered and took a bite of his pizza. Eren knew he had won then, even if the move was underhanded. It was true that he wasn’t easily offended, Jean just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

They ate in silence, well Jean ate in silence. Armin and Eren chatted through the whole meal. Every once in a while Armin would try to include Jean but he didn’t really feel like responding beyond simple replies. He was far too distracted with hating Eren. All that time and energy thinking about the sweet guy he had imagined in his head, was wasted. There was no way he would ever like Eren. Ever.

Chapter Text

Me:

That was the worst dinner of my life

Freckles:

What did u do???

Me:

I didn’t do anything

I swear

It was Eren

He’s an ass

Freckles:

Go on

Me:

Okay so I might’ve said something offensive

and then angel told me Eren was blind

I tried to apologize but he wouldn’t accept

Freckles:

pls tell me how that’s not your fault

Me:

He started it!

I swear Marco

Freckles:

let’s pretend I believe u

what did he say???

Me:

That I should buy him lunch tomorrow

Freckles:

Jean…

That sounds like he’s hitting on u

Me:

WHAT

NO

NO WAY

He told me straight up he didn’t like me

Freckles:

If u buy him lunch you’ll see him again

If he didn’t like u why would he say that???

Me:

To make me miserable

Freckles:

Jean ily but ur dumb

Mina is calling gtg <3

Me:

k bye

Jean groaned into his pillow and tossed his phone onto the nightstand. Tomorrow was the last day to buy textbooks and he had to get Eren lunch. It was not going to be a fun day. It was only a little after nine and Connie was nowhere to be seen, so he pulled one of his books down to read until he passed out. He decided George Orwell would work well enough to put him to sleep. As much as he loved his books, his writing wasn’t safe to be read in the late hours of the evening.

Jean was deep into the troubles and qualms of Winston Smith when the door flew open. He jumped, pushing his glasses back up his nose from where they had slipped down, and frowned as Connie rushed in. Jean looked at the clock on his nightstand, 11:15 it read. He hoped this wasn’t going to be a normal habit after school started later that week.

“Sorry, Jean!” Connie smiled at him and then yawned. “Sasha was invited to this party by her roommate, which was awesome by the way, you should’ve been there, but I said I wanted to be back by eleven cause I didn't want to bother you. Glad you’re still up!”

“It’s cool. I was just reading.” Jean closed his book and set it on the nightstand before crawling under the covers. He placed his glasses on top as Connie plopped down onto his bed. “Just, I usually go to bed by ten thirty and I have eight a.m. classes this semester so…”

“No worries! I usually sleep early too!” Connie fumbled around on his bed, kicking his shoes off before curling up under the blankets. Jean was about to turn the lamp off when Connie spoke again. “Hey, can I ask you something a little personal?

Jean froze, desperately wanting to say ‘no’, but what came out was, “okay.”

“I didn't really get to ask before cause Sasha was here but,” Connie sat up in his bed a little. “Was that guy from earlier your boyfriend?

Jean frowned, wondering who he meant. Then he remembered how Connie had seen him and Marco on the balcony. “Uhh, no. He’s my best friend.”

“Okay, sorry man!” Connie smiled apologetically. “You two seemed close.”

“We are.” Jean was a little irritated with the way Connie had asked the question so he added, “But I am gay.”

“Sweet.” Connie replied without missing a beat. “Single?”

“Yes...why?” Jean narrowed his eyes at Connie, very uncomfortable with the invasive questions.

“One of the guys at the party tonight was trying to set his friend up.” Connie flopped back down onto his bed, stretching. “He was complaining about the lack of available gay men on campus.”

“Just because he’s gay, does not mean I’m interested.” Jean replied flatly.

“He said he likes guys who read.” Connie smirked, eyeing Jean’s book collection. “And you seem to be a well-read, single gay man.”

“Connie, please.” Jean rolled over, tucking his head beneath the covers. “Why should I like him?

“Pretty sure he quoted “The Pearl” tonight. The only reason I know that is because I read it in high school.” Jean could almost hear Connie’s distaste when mentioning high school. “Also, he asked about you.”

Jean pulled the covers off of his head and rolled to look back at Connie. “Who is this guy?”

Connie shrugged. “Never caught his name, but everyone kept calling him ‘Jäger Bomb’.”

“Like the drink?” Jean furrowed his brow, trying to figure out who this guy could possibly be. Gay, well-read, and interested in him. The first person that came to his mind was Armin, but there was no way he could pull off a nickname like Jäger Bomb. Nor did he know if Armin was gay. “What did he look like?”

“Hmm 5’7”-ish, brown hair, clutching onto the blonde guy who was trying to set him up. Oh, and his eyes were kinda funny. Pretty unique color, if you ask me.” Connie yawned again before turning over.

"Why was he asking about me?" Jean leaned against the headboard, pulling the covers up to his chin.

"He asked if I knew you, since I was a freshman, and when I said you were my roommate he got quiet." Connie looked back over his shoulder, watching Jean. "My guess is he didn't wanna talk since I'm your roommate."

Jean did not want to think about how that description fit perfectly with the asshole he had dinner with earlier that evening. He turned off the lamp without another word, silently cursing the heavens at this sick joke. It was then that Jean knew he was screwed.

Eren was gay, single, very hot and very much an asshole, and Jean was hopelessly attracted to him.

---

The thing about Jean was that he had an impeccable sleep schedule. No matter what time he fell asleep, but always before midnight, he would be awake at seven on the dot. He never bothered with an alarm clock for this very reason, so when 6:55 rolled around and he was being jostled awake by a piercing ring, Jean was incredibly grumpy.

“Connie.” Jean called to his roommate who was still snoring lightly. He didn't wake up. “Connie, your alarm.”

Jean yanked the blankets off of himself, stepping onto the cold tile with his bare feet, and turned the lamp on. He looked across the room at Connie’s nightstand and found the offending clock blinking rapidly. When Connie merely rolled over, pulling the covers further over his head, Jean crossed the space between their beds and switched it off.

“Hey,” Jean nudged his shoulder. “Wake up or I’ll drag you out of this bed.”

Connie grumbled and peeked out from under the covers. “Mornin'.”

“6:55 is an incredibly annoying time to be awake.” Jean watched as Connie sat up, throwing his arms above his head in a stretch.

“I set the clock wrong, I guess. Trust me, I don’t like being up before eight.” Connie flopped back down onto his bed. “Goin' back to sleep.”

Jean sighed, he could go lie back down for a while, read something until the rest of the world was awake, but he really wanted a shower. His hair was sticking up haphazardly and when he ran his hands through it he could practically feel the oil build-up. As quietly as he could, he grabbed fresh clothes before sneaking into their shared bathroom. The one reason Jean had wanted this dorm tower was because there weren't any communal showers.

Several hours later he was pacing his dorm room as Connie and Sasha watched in scrutiny. It was getting close to eleven and that meant it was getting close to lunch. Lunch meant he would have to buy something for the asshole who was confusing his dick, and he did not like that at all. But here he was, walking in circles in the space between the two beds, contemplating what he should get Eren to eat.

“Jean, dude, you’re making me dizzy.” Connie shook his head as Sasha pretended to faint and giggled.

“Sorry,” Jean sat down on his bed, resting his elbows on his knees. He pulled out his phone for what felt like the billionth time to once again see there were no new messages. He tossed it against his pillow and sighed heavily.

Sasha sat up, wrapping her arms around Connie’s waist, “Something on your mind?”

“What’s a fail safe food anyone would like?” Jean looked between the two of them.

“You’re asking the wrong person.” Connie laughed. “Sasha likes everything.”

Jean groaned and fell back onto his bed, but then an idea struck him. He picked up his phone, ignoring Sasha’s pleas for pizza, and sent out a message.

Me:

Alright

What’s Eren’s fav food?

Angel:

omg are you actually doing this

Me:

Contrary to popular belief, I’m actually a nice guy.

Angel:

Sesame chicken

but we don’t have Chinese on campus

so Italian works :)

Me:

Sweet

Thanks

Angel:

I’m just glad he didn't scare you off

Jean thought about replying, wanting to spew out the list of reasons he hated Eren, but the clock was already ticking into the eleventh hour, figuratively and literally, and he needed to get going. Shoving the phone back into his pocket, he picked up his wallet from the nightstand and ran a comb through his hair.

“Hey, where’d you get the Chinese the other day?” Jean looked at Connie through their large mirror behind the stand meant for a television. Neither of them brought one, of course.

“You can see it from the balcony, I’ll show you!” Connie hopped off the bed and led Jean outside. From their balcony he could see most of the campus and off to the left was the main road into the downtown area. He pointed, squinting into the morning sun. “See that blue roof? Where the red car just turned in? That’s it.”

Jean followed his finger and just barely caught the back side of the car he was talking about as it disappeared behind a building. “Yeah, okay. Thanks man.”

Jean left the two lovebirds alone so he could begrudgingly walk to the Chinese place down the street. He was at a loss how they could have nearly every cuisine from around the world in that cafe but Chinese was not on the menu.

Twenty minutes later, and after passing the building twice, he found the Chinese place tucked behind a Subway and a laundry mat. By the time he managed to order his food from a tiny Asian woman whose accent was so thick Jean had to focus to hear her better, and then head back to campus, it was already noon. He was sweating but at least the chicken would still be hot.

“He better appreciate this,” Jean grumbled as he stepped past the sliding doors of the student center. A cool rush of air hit him like a brick wall, and he almost dropped the bag with the to-go container. Righting himself, he looked around the entrance and found the front desk in the middle of the room, backed up against a wide pillar. He was beyond ready to get this over with.

On the right end behind the desk was a small blonde girl, smaller even than that Annie chick from orientation. Her head barely cleared the high counter. To the left was the asshole. Jean frowned when he saw him happily chatting away on the phone to someone in need of his services. When he approached and quietly sat the bag of Chinese on the counter in front of Eren, the little blonde girl waved to him and motioned that she would help him. Jean smiled at her and shook his head, pointing to the bag. She tilted her head and looked to Eren as he hung up the phone.

Jean cleared his throat and Eren sat up straight, flashing a brilliantly fake smile to nowhere in particular. “Good morning, how can I help you?”

“I brought you lunch.” Jean placed the bag on the other side of the counter, next to Eren’s work space. Eren frowned upon hearing his voice.

“Jean?” Eren felt along the desk until his hand came into contact with the bag.

“Yeah,”  Jean was about to tell him what it was when he froze, and then he wanted to slap himself for forgetting. “Crap, I didn't get you a drink.”

“You actually got me lunch.” Eren sounded surprised, like this was all some joke and he never really intended for Jean to buy him lunch. Jean was starting to feel like he was in high school again and he’d just been punked by the upperclassmen.

“Yeah? I thought that’s what you wanted.” Jean was fishing around in his pocket for change. “Is there a vending machine around here?”

“It’s just down the hall outside of the bookstore.” The little blonde who had been watching them spoke up; her name tag read ‘Krista’. Jean smiled at her in gratitude.

“What do you want to drink?” Jean sighed, eager to just drop off the food and be done with it. He figured he could keep being friends with Armin as long as he maintained relations with Eren. Once he did him this favor, he could be forgiven and move on with his life.

“Dr. Pepper is fine.” Eren replied numbly. He still had a hand resting on the to-go box. Jean turned without saying anything and trotted off to the vending machine. He used the last of his pocket change, mostly dimes and nickels, to buy the drink he’d forgotten. When he came back Krista was inspecting the food, hovering over Eren.

“It’s not poisoned.” Jean glowered at her as she blushed and hurried back to her seat. He sat the bottle next to the now open container. “Here, your drink.”

“You got me sesame chicken.” Eren was blushing, pale eyes boring into Jean’s chest. “I love sesame chicken.”

“I know, Armin told me.” Jean watched as Eren stood, probably going off to eat his meal. “Alright, see ya 'round.”

“Wait.” Eren called out, placing a hand up on the counter. “Jean?”

“I’m still here.” Jean stepped back up to the counter, hesitating slightly and wondering if it was okay to touch him.

Before Jean could decide, Eren pulled his hand back, reaching for the cane under his desk. “Eat with me?”

Jean blinked, taken aback by the request. “I didn't bring food for me.”

“I might be willing to share, if you ask nicely.” Eren smirked, feeling along the bottom of the computer monitor to turn it off. He closed the container and picked up the bag, holding it out to Jean. “Carry this.”

Jean reached out instinctively, taking the bag as Eren picked up the Dr. Pepper. “Who says I want to eat with you? Maybe I have plans.”

Eren stepped out from behind the desk, sweeping his cane in an arch from side to side. “Right, that’s why you took the bag from me. I doubt you have anything better to do.”

“I was being considerate, you ass.” Jean growled, but followed Eren nonetheless as he walked towards the back wall. He watched him warily as he expertly navigated the lounge chairs and corners. He’d never been in close proximity to someone who was blind before but he definitely wasn't expecting him to be able to get around this much on his own.

Eren led them to the back wall, pausing to open a door labeled “Staff” when the tip of his cane came into contact with it. Beyond it was a small room lined with cabinets and a kitchenette. The majority of the floor space was occupied by an oval table with wooden chairs, it was obviously a break room. It even had a full-size refrigerator and microwave.

“Have a seat.” Eren was already perched in the chair closest to the door, waiting expectantly. Jean startled out of his thoughts and sat down next to him, placing the food in Eren’s reach. When Jean didn't immediately say anything, having been too baffled by Eren’s sudden change in demeanor, Eren sighed. “There isn't even a Chinese place on campus.”

“Yeah, it’s down the street.” Jean stared down at his hands, embarrassed.

“I’m aware, dumbass.” Eren flipped open the lid of the container then paused. “Fork?”

“You could be a little nicer to the guy who just bought you lunch,”Jean growled as he fished in the bag for the plastic fork the little asian woman had given him. He jammed into a piece of the chicken before plopping it into his mouth, completely smug.

“Did you just eat my sesame chicken?” Eren’s brow furrowed.

“You called me a dumbass,” Jean challenged. “Besides, what happened to sharing?”

“I don’t remember you asking nicely.” Eren pulled the to-go container closer to himself, hovering over it protectively.

“I figured that went out the window after you insulted me.” Jean leaned over the table, aiming for another piece of chicken.

“Alright, alright! I’m sorry,” Eren grumbled as Jean chomped down on the second bite. “Can I have the fork now?”

Jean chuckled smugly, placing the fork in Eren’s outstretched hand. He watched as Eren practically inhaled his food, not even breaking once to wash it down with the Dr. Pepper. Jean wanted to be disgusted, but he was in awe of how fast he could chew before he was ready for the next bite.

“I don’t know CPR, please don’t choke.” Jean wrinkled his nose at Eren, eyeing a bit of sauce on his mouth.

“You don’t give CPR if someone is just choking, stupid.” Eren said between mouthfuls.

“Whatever, asshole. I’m an English major not a med student.” Jean rolled his eyes but then remembered Eren couldn't see that and sighed.

“Neither am I but at least I know that much, jerk.” Eren dropped his fork into the chicken and shoved it across the table to Jean. He glanced in it warily, noticing about half remained before picking up the discarded fork.

“This has your germs on it.” Jean frowned at the utensil, looking around for any clean ones. Eren slapped the table, making Jean jump.

“I don’t have any diseases, you prick. Just eat it,” Eren snapped, leaning back into his chair. Then he said, more to himself than anything, “Why am I even doing this?”

“Don’t ask me.” Jean plopped a piece of chicken into his mouth. “I don’t even know why I went out of my way for you in the first place.”

Eren paused, leaning forward on the table slightly. “Isn't it because you wanna get laid?”

Jean nearly choked. He coughed and sputtered before finally managing to find his voice again. “What?!”

“What do you mean, ‘what’?” Eren reached out and pushed the unopened drink in front of himself towards Jean, who took it gratefully. “That’s why we met yesterday in the first place.”

Jean washed down the bite then took a deep breath. “What the hell are you talking about? I’m not the one who invited you.”

“Obviously,” Eren quirked a brow. “Armin was setting us up.”

“He was what?”

“You ask too many questions.”

“You say a lot of crazy shit!”

Jean was no longer in the mood for Chinese, or any food really. He wasn't sure at what point he had let Armin in on the fact he thought Eren was hot, or the fact he was into guys in the first place. As much as he liked Armin from their brief encounters, he was suddenly feeling very vulnerable. He had no idea what was going on and Eren wasn't helping the situation with his snarky comments.

“Well, I hope you weren't expecting anything because I’m not interested.” Eren crossed his arms, the perfect image of nonchalance.

Jean was not expecting anything. He wasn't interested in Eren either. He was itching to leave that tiny, suffocating break room as soon as possible. But, he couldn't just let Eren win. He couldn't let him think that he was into him or anything. Eren wasn't going to get the last word.

“Listen here, you dick.” Jean balled his fists on the table, nearly shaking from irritation. “Why would I be interested in an asshole like you? All you've done since we met is insult me. I don’t have any idea why Armin tried to set us up but his judgement was clearly wrong.”

Jean was huffing when he finished speaking, and at some point he had stood up, looming over the table. Eren’s wide, pale eyes were locked on Jean’s chest, face contorting in anger. “Oh, yeah? It’s not like I was hoping for anything from you! Armin’s judgement is spot on so don’t even try to insult him!”

Eren was standing now too. Picking up his cane where he had left it, he walked towards the door and held it open. “Don’t bother cleaning up, just get out!”

Jean was seething, completely out of his mind with rage. “Fine! I hope you liked the stupid chicken!”

He stormed past Eren who called out to his back with a growl. “It was good, but don’t ever buy me lunch again!”

Jean turned, ignoring the stares of the people milling about the lobby. “I wasn't planning on it!”

Without another word Eren let the door fall shut, separating himself from Jean. The area by the front desk had gone quiet for all of two seconds as Jean stood there, panting. When he turned on his heel, marching towards the doors, the hustle and bustle picked up again. He was going to make sure he would never have to set foot into the student center again.

Chapter Text

Me:

Was this your idea of a joke

Angel:

?

Me:

You were trying to set me up with Eren?

Angel:

omg what did he do

Me:

Assumed I just wanted to get laid

Oh and then he kicked me out

Angel:

crap

Jean im sorry

ill talk to him

Me:

Don’t bother

I’m not interested

Why did you think I was?

Angel:

yeah I get it

I saw the way you looked at his photo

back in my office

Me:

Oh

You saw that?

Okay, well he’s hot

But an ass so not interested

Angel:

sorry! I didn’t mean to see

It just made me happy

Me:

Don’t worry about it

Jean scrolled through his phone book, idly skimming over names of people he could barely remember from high school. He was back in his dorm room, alone and grateful for it. He felt angry but at the same time empty. He wasn’t sure what he had been expecting from today. A part of him had wanted this to patch things over with Eren and maybe lead to a friendship, but the second Eren had opened his mouth he wanted to turn around and walk away. Everything he did grated on his nerves.

He thought about taking a nap for a grand total of three seconds before his phone was ringing. Grumbling, he answered it without checking who it was.

"What."

"Well, hello to you too, dear."

Jean gasped, sitting up straight. "Crap, Mom I'm sorry. I didn't know it was you."

She giggled into the receiver. "It's alright. Everything okay?"

"Just having a bad day. Nothing serious."

"Hmm." She hummed, pausing in thought. "Have you talked to Marco?"

"No, I don't wanna bother him." Jean leaned into his pillows, back against the low headboard. It was halfway true, he didn't want to bother Marco all the time, but he also didn't want to tell him he'd already fucked things up with hot not-boyfriend.

"He's your best friend, Jean. I don't think you could bother him even if you tried." She replied. Jean could nearly feel her scolding stare through the phone.

"Yeah, we're basically brothers, I know Mom." Jean smiled, letting his head fall back against the wall. His mother always knew how to make him feel better.

"Good." There was a rustle on her end, and then the sound of the oven beeping. "Gotten your textbooks?"

"Crap." Jean groaned, leaning forward to tuck his head between his raised knees. "I need to do that today."

"Your scholarship money is there for a reason, please use it." She sighed.

"Yeah, I will. Sorry, I just forgot. But I'm going right now, I promise." Jean stepped off his bed, sliding his feet into his high tops.

"Alright dear, call if you need me." A metallic clang let Jean know she was most definitely in the kitchen, probably cooking. "Oh, and call Marco!"

"Okay, Mom. Love you."

"Love you more. Bye bye!"

The line went dead and Jean pocketed his phone. He picked up his wallet and was out the door, heading to the bookstore. Which was in the student center. Eren worked in the student center. Jean groaned.

He stepped into the elevator but then nearly slapped himself. Eren wouldn't see him. He could just slip right past and go to the bookstore. No harm done. He did feel bad about thinking that way, but it was the truth. Hopefully that Krista chick would keep quiet. Then again, she couldn't see over the counter anyway. With that in mind, he felt a lot better about buying books.

Two hours and one insanely long line later, Jean was laden with two bags full of textbooks. He didn't even want to think about how this put a nice little dent in his funds. Tomorrow was the first day of school and at eight sharp he had his first college class. He was about to walk back into his dorm building when someone called out to him.

"Jean!" He turned to see Armin jogging towards him, waving. When he approached, he reached out for one of the bags. "Let me help."

"Thanks, man." Jean smiled and offered the lighter bag. "What's up?"

"Well, I was on the way to the student center when I saw you." Armin followed as Jean led the way to the elevators. Once inside, Jean pressed the button for his floor. "You looked like you needed help. Plus, I wanted to talk to you anyway."

"We can talk up in my room." Jean had a nagging feeling this was going to be about Eren. Armin peered inside the bag he was holding.

"I see you're taking Intro to Sociology." He eyed Jean, smirking heavily. "Well it's part of your minor. I should've expected it."

"What's that look for? Is the professor shitty or something?" The elevator dinged for the 16th floor. Jean stepped off, turning to the right.

"No." Armin shrugged, trailing behind him. "I liked the class. You get to do volunteer work."

"You made that sound so ominous." Jean glanced at him suspiciously as he unlocked the door to his room.

Armin shook his head as they stepped inside. Connie was still gone to who knows where, which was a good thing as far as Jean was concerned. He'd pretty much put two and two together about who "Jäeger Bomb" was and the blonde he had been clinging to Connie had mentioned. Things were awkward enough without his roommate getting involved.

"You can just throw it on my bed." Jean dropped his own bag, crumpling his blankets before plopping down next to it. Armin set his bag down next to the other one, standing and looking around the small space.

"So, you wanted to talk?" Jean patted the space on the bed next to himself, motioning for him to sit. Armin perched on the edge, turning slightly to face Jean.

"I'm sure you know what it's about." Armin wrapped his arms around himself.

"Eren." Jean deadpanned.

"He's not as bad as you think!" Armin went wide eyed. "I really think you two are a good match. If you'd just let me talk to him I cou--"

"Armin," Jean held up a hand to stop him. "I like you, I really do, and I want to continue being your friend. But I just don't think Eren and I can even be in the same room as each other, let alone try for a relationship."

"What happened, exactly?" Armin pulled a leg up on the bed, leaning in to listen.

"I got him sesame chicken from the Chinese place down the street." Jean rolled his eyes. "He offered to share but then he called me a dumb ass and then one thing led to another, and then he was griping that we only met yesterday to be set up and that all I wanted was to get laid."

Armin arched a brow at that. "Jeez, Eren."

"Yeah, I know." Jean leaned back on his hands. "It gets worse. So then he was like," Jean frowned heavily, making his voice sound as girly as possible. "I'm not interested in you anyway. Armin's judgment is never wrong, blah blah blah."

Armin busted out laughing, clutching his sides as he fell back onto the bed. "Jean, stop! That's too much!"

Jean chuckled, but didn't drop the shrill voice. "I'm Eren the asshole. I don't thank people for buying me chicken and I have a stick shoved so far up my--"

The door flew open making Jean squeak and Armin sit up. Connie was standing in the doorway with a plastic bag slung over his shoulder. He squinted between Jean and Armin, silently asking if he should leave.

"It's not what you think." Jean sighed. "Just come in."

"Awesome." Connie dropped the bag on his bed, and Jean could now see it was full of textbooks. He did a double take when he looked at Armin fully. "You're that guy!"

Armin looked from Jean to Connie, confusion falling over his features. "Have we met?"

"I'm Connie!" He rounded his bed and sat on it across from them. "You're Jäeger Bomb's friend. We met at the party last night."

Armin snorted. "His name is Eren, but yeah I am."

That was when Connie tilted his head to the side like a curious puppy. Jean wanted to smack him and tell him not to question it. But, it was too late. "You know each other."

"Oh." Armin looked at Jean apologetically. "Right, he must've heard me trying to get Eren interested in you."

"We had just dropped that conversation." Jean groaned, dropping his head into his hands.

"That guy asked about you, man!" Connie said enthusiastically. "Are you gonna date or what?"

"Connie, no," Jean started.

"Eren did say you have an attractive voice." Armin gave Jean a pointed look.

"Ohh!" Connie chided in.

"He said that?" Jean sat up, shocked. He was finding it difficult to believe Eren had a nice bone anywhere in his body.

Armin shrugged, admiring his nails. "I mean, I could find out what else he likes about you." He smirked, catching Jean's eye. "If you're interested."

"Why are you so determined to set us up?" Jean pulled his knees up to take off his shoes. "We barely know each other."

"You clearly have interest in Eren." Armin pointed out. "And Eren has expressed interest in you."

"Okay," Jean knew he had a point. "But what about the 'we only fight and insult each other' thing we have going on?"

Connie snorted and Jean glared at him. "What?"

"It's sounds like a playground crush." Connie's superior tone did not settle well with Jean.

"What the hell does that mean?" He snapped.

"Y’know," Connie rolled his eyes. "The boy pulls the girl's pigtails cause he likes her."

"He literally told me to get out and never buy him lunch again." Jean deadpanned. "Plus neither of us have pigtails. Nor are we five."

"Connie's right." Armin nodded. "Eren is bad at showing how he feels. That's why I know this behavior is just a mask."

Jean turned to him, a pleading look in his eye. "There's no way he likes me, is there?"

"Are you willing to try?" Armin asked.

Jean sighed, running his hands through his hair. "I would be lying if I said I hadn't been thinking about him the last couple of weeks."

Armin smiled and thumped Jean on the back encouragingly. "That's the spirit!"

Connie and Armin shared an enthusiastic high five. Jean groaned.

"Don't worry about Eren!" Armin was standing, making his way to the door. "I'll help that idiot come around. Besides, you're probably closer to seeing him again than you think."

And with that, he was gone. Jean threw himself back onto his bed, grunting in pain as he landed on his forgotten books. It was only three in the afternoon, but he already wanted to sleep.

 

---

 

"No. Absolutely not."

"Eren, c'mon. You said you liked his voice!"

Eren chucked the pillow he kept at his desk across their shared dorm room, missing Armin by a wide margin. When he heard it plop to the ground he grumbled, "You're lucky that missed."

Armin picked it up, clutching it to his chest. "What if I said he was interested in you?"

"And what if I said, 'no'?" Eren mocked. "Oh wait, I already did."

Armin groaned. "You're being unreasonable."

"In what way exactly?" Eren leaned back in his desk chair, stretching his arms over his head.

"You're not even trying." Armin scolded him. "Make a bet with me."

Eren sat up straight. "You have my attention."

"Go on a date with Jean and—"

"You lost it." Eren put his headphones on.

Armin crossed the room and yanked them from his head. "Oh, no you don't."

Eren growled, "Fine. What's the bet?"

"Go on a date with Jean and if you can't find one thing about him that you like, I'll never try to set you two up again."

Eren tapped the desk, biting the inside of his cheek. "What happens if I do find something I like?"

"Then, congratulations, you'll have made a new friend." Armin thumped him on the head.

"Ow!" Eren rubbed the spot. "Alright, fine. One date. But I swear to god if he says anything irritating, I'm done."

"You're too hot headed." Armin laughed, ruffling Eren's hair.

"Whatever. I'm just doing this for you."

"Maybe you'll come out of this wanting to do it for yourself."

Eren scowled and put his headphones back on, zoning out to the droning automated voice from the directional unit of his laptop. He was doing this for Armin. Not for some stupid, low and husky voice of an irritating freshman.

 

---

 

Jean liked school. He liked to learn and go to class. He did not like people. It was unfortunate that's all there were at school; people.

His first class was the fundamental intro course to his minor. Thankfully, it wasn't some stupidly large lecture hall fit for 200 plus students like he was fearing. There were only thirty or so people for his eight a.m. class and things were pleasantly quiet. Well, they were until Sasha sat down next to him.

"Hey, Jean!" She yawned. "Fancy seeing you here."

Jean grunted, barely acknowledging her. It was too early for her bright and chipper voice. But, before she had time to think of more stuff to babble about, the professor walked in.

He was a man of average height, bald with a bristly goatee. What struck Jean the most was the constant look of horror the man's eyes seemed to be showing. The bags under them were intense like he hadn't slept in twenty years, and it was alarming. He had a stack of papers tucked under one arm, and as he strode across the room to the desk at the front, he didn't say a word. He placed the papers down and turned abruptly, making several people jump.

“Good morning.” He spoke loudly and clearly, like he was demanding attention. “I am Professor Shadis. I hope you’re all where you should be.” He did a quick sweep of the class with his eyes. “Today will be simple. I’ll introduce the syllabus and then pass out the semester volunteer assignments.”

Jean zoned out, deciding doodling in his notebook was more interesting than the syllabus. His doodles became daydreams, and that led to Eren. It always lead to Eren. When he was trying to sleep, his overactive mind dredged up his face. He would find himself with Eren eating at the cafe, or in his dorm room, or at the county fair sharing cotton candy. He would think about holding hands and getting to stare into his stupidly gorgeous eyes, even if he couldn't stare back. He always left these daydreams in a foul mood. Eren would never think of him this way, his delusions were best kept locked away in his head.

“Hey! Jean!” A hushed whisper to his right had him snapping back to reality. Sasha was nudging him, trying to hand him a stack of papers. He apologized, taking a paper before passing the stack to the next person closest to him.

“You’ll complete the volunteer work in groups.” Professor Shadis' voice took precedence again. “This doesn't necessarily mean you’ll work together, but you will be in the same field. On the sheet, find your name under one of the groups and that’s your assignment for the semester project.”

Jean searched the page until his own name was glaring back at him. He was in the same group as Sasha, go figure. He didn't recognize anyone else but when he saw the group assignment, he squinted warily. He was to volunteer in Disability Services for a total of fifteen hours. Something wasn't sitting quite right, but he couldn't figure out why.

“Ohh!” Sasha leaned over, whispering excitedly. “I’m glad you’re in my group! I was worried I wouldn't know anyone.”

“Yeah,” Jean agreed. He felt bad, not wanting to upset her. “I’m glad you’re in my group too.”

“Wanna go sign up at the student center after lunch?” Sasha was packing her bag. Apparently Professor Shadis had dismissed class when he wasn't paying attention.

“Already?” Jean stood, throwing his saddle bag over his shoulder. “We have all semester.”

Sasha led the way out of the classroom, stepping out into the busy hallway of the main school building. “I heard that the good stuff fills up fast. It’s not just our class wanting to volunteer, y’know.”

Jean nodded his head, checking the time. “What about right now? My next class doesn't start until 10.”

“Alright!” She skipped ahead enthusiastically. “I can do that, let’s go!”

The student center was packed when they arrived. People were buzzing around the front desk, picking up coffee from the cafe, and even the bookstore was getting it’s fair share of activity. It was a madhouse and Jean had never seen so many people packed into the same, small space before. Instantly, his nerves were on high alert. His insides balled up when he thought about being in such a busy atmosphere.

Sasha whistled, raising her brows as she glanced around the front entrance. “I feel like a sardine in here!”

“That’s not how the saying goes exactly.” Jean frowned at her attempt, walking towards the overcrowded high counter he’d hoped he wouldn't have to ever see again.

She shrugged, then lit up like a firework upon seeing the tiny blonde, Jean remembered as Krista, through the mass of bodies. “Hey, little goddess! What’s goin’ on?”

“Sasha!” Krista blushed, smiling apologetically to the person she had been helping. “No one calls me that except Ymir.”

“But it’s so cute!” Sasha leaned up over the counter, grinning widely at the flustered girl.

Jean shook his head, not really caring to ask why Ymir had anything to do with this, or why Sasha knew this chick. It seemed Sasha and Connie were sociable people, easy to talk to, albeit a tad abrasive at times, but they seemed to get along with most people. If Sasha’s broody blonde roommate had invited her to a party like Connie said, then she must be tolerable on some level. The people in front had cleared away and Eren sat patiently waiting for the next person to approach.

Now, Jean was a kind person. He avoided social situations whenever he could, but he prided himself in his pleasantries when forced to mingle and “make nice”, as Marco called it. So when he approached Eren, for the sole purpose of asking about Disability Services volunteer work, of course, he had every intention of playing his cards right and being a good boy. He cleared his throat, readying practiced words, and tried to speak.

But then Eren flashed a brilliantly fake smile like he had before and spewed a mock greeting that sounded like he was actually saying ‘what the fuck do you want?’ when it was simply, “Good morning, how may I help you?”

“Does anyone actually believe you when you speak?” The words came up like vomit, uncontrolled and bitter. Jean clamped his mouth shut, swallowing hard at the look of utter annoyance crossing Eren’s features.

“Oh.” His shoulders slumped, face falling. “It’s you.”

“Is that a problem?” Jean snapped, glaring daggers at Eren. Krista and Sasha had stopped chatting and were watching with rabid interest.

“Yes, you are a problem.” Eren turned his nose up at Jean. “You may leave.”

“I think I’ll stay, Your Highness.” Jean sneered. “But thanks for the offer.”

Eren sighed, tapping his fingers on the desk. “What do you want?”

“We have to volunteer!” Sasha piped up, looking from Krista to Eren. “We got put in Disability Services.”

Jean had been momentarily distracted by Sasha’s sudden, shrill voice so he nearly missed the look of horror that had flashed across Eren’s face. But he saw it. It made Jean’s brow furrow in confusion. In the couple of days that he’d know Eren, he could count on one hand how many times his face had held some form of honest expression. Two more were just added to the list, all thanks to Jean himself.

Krista quickly jumped into action, pulling out forms from the file folders on their long desk. “Fill these out, then!” She handed over the papers, smiling so brightly it put the sun to shame.

Whatever emotion Eren was trying to hide, Jean could no longer tell. He seemed to be an excellent liar. Although his fake smile and impassive features weren’t fooling him, he couldn’t tell what was underneath. It bothered Jean a lot more than he wanted to admit.

He filled out the simple forms before handing them back to Krista, letting his eyes fall to Eren once more. Eren had zoned out, seeming to be in his own little world, completely oblivious. Jean watched him as he sighed, chin resting in his palm, elbows on top of the desk. His dark brown hair was a tad disheveled, like it was getting a touch too long and the ends were curling out. But it sat in such gorgeous contrast to his tanned skin and pale, green eyes that Jean felt the look suited him. Eren blinked slowly. Once. Twice. His head tilted to the side and the corners of his lips twitched.

“Jean?” A voice to his right had him snapping back.

“Uh, yeah?” Jean blushed under the curious gazes from Sasha and Krista. The two girls stared for a moment before meeting each other’s eyes and giggling slightly. Jean could feel his cheeks heating up even more.

“See something you like?” Sasha teased. Krista giggled into her hand.

“Shut up.” Jean shoved his hands into his pockets, turning away from them. Eren sat up, now listening to their conversation.

“I’m just messing with you!” Sasha elbowed his ribs. “But Krista said we’ll get an email in a couple days with our volunteer assignments.”

Jean nodded. “Okay, then I’m going.”

“Aww, dont be like that!” Sasha called out as Jean headed for the entrance. He ignored her, squinting into the sunlight as it glared off his glasses. Even the mornings were unnecessarily warm and bright.

"Jean, wait for me!" Sasha quickly said goodbye to Krista and trailed after Jean.

"So, you know that guy?" She'd caught up, hiking her backpack higher and flipping her ponytail over her shoulder with a grin.

"Not really." Jean was starting to marvel at the fact that Eren was becoming a central part of most of his conversations lately.

"Well, he knew you by your voice so he must know you pretty well." Sasha retorted and struggled to keep in step with Jean's long strides.

"Look, can we not talk about him?" Jean stopped and turned to face her. She looked up, cocking her head like a curious puppy.

"Sure, Jean." Then she smiled, "wanna grab breakfast?"

"I'm not going back to the student center." Jean replied flatly.

"That's okay!" Sasha skipped ahead of Jean, tugging on his elbow. "I have a stash!"

Jean looked at her skeptically, "A stash of what, exactly?"

"Pop tarts!"

She tugged and pulled Jean all the way to her dorm room. She was on the same floor, but her quad was to the the left of the elevators. The living area she shared with the three other rooms was considerably more messy than the one Jean inhabited. The furniture had been shuffled around, someone's shoes lay abandoned on the coffee table, and there were blankets crumpled all over the place.

"Sorry about the mess." Sasha called over her shoulder as she unlocked her room. "Bert and Reiner are athletes so they've been pretty busy."

Before he was ushered inside, Jean could've sworn he saw a pair of boxers under the couch. She led the way into a quaint version of his dorm room. The layout was exactly like his, a hallway with closets leading into a square room with two beds and a long dresser against the leading wall. But the decorations were all wrong. It was obvious two distinct personalities shared the same space. Jean was able to instantly determine which side belonged to Sasha, mostly because her roommate was curled up in the bed along the wall. She looked up when they entered, glancing at Jean for a moment before going back to her laptop.

"Hey Annie." Sasha flung her bag onto her bed. "This is my friend, Jean! He's also Connie's roommate."

"I remember him." Her voice was monotone and bored sounding. She didn't even look up to reply at first. She typed for a few more seconds before pausing and making eye contact with Jean. "Hello."

"Uh, hi." Jean sent her a small wave but she'd already buried her nose back into the laptop.

"Make yourself comfy! I'll get the pop tarts."

There was a lot of awkward flowing from Jean. He was surprised that Annie remembered him from the five minutes they’d spent in the same conference room at orientation, even though he was aware of who she was, and how coolly she regarded him. This was their first time speaking face to face and she was treating him like they were comfortable acquaintances. No need for a formal greeting, apparently.

He watched her type away, tucking a strand of hair fallen loose from her updo behind her ear. A glint in the light caught his eye as she moved, and he squinted to make out a silver bar running through the top portion of her ear. He cringed, thinking how painful it must be to have a piece of metal shoved through your skin. She looked up, giving him a blank stare that burned his cheeks. He’d been caught looking.

“I thought you were gay.” Annie remarked, voice impassive.

“W-what?” Jean looked around the room, like someone else was there, whispering his secrets to this girl.

Sasha was still rummaging through the boxes under her bed, making an occasional whine when the box didn’t procure what she was looking for. She didn’t seem to hear, or maybe she just didn’t care about the conversation happening in the room. Jean was going to get no help from her. He felt that nagging sense of being raw and vulnerable again, like Annie’s eyes were going to pry open his chest and head and start rummaging around. He stared at her until she spoke again.

“Sasha said you were gay.” Annie shrugged. “But you were staring.”

“I don’t…” Jean started, unable to think quickly enough of how to respond to such an absurd accusation. In the end all that he could say was, “I’m gay.”

She nodded, not dropping her lazy stare. “So, you’re just socially awkward then.”

Jean gaped, cheeks flushing heavily now. She’d hit the nail on the head. Jean was gay and socially awkward. That’s it. The whole story. If ever there existed a summary of Jean Kirschtein, it was just that. He knew this about himself; hell, he basically created this persona. What better way to avoid people than perform poorly in social situations and stare openly at the hottest male ass around? Jean was the king of making people uncomfortable.

He did not like, however, other people calling him out on his shit.

“Aha!” Sasha popped up from the box her upper body had been sunk in, wielding two silver packages in her hands. She beamed at Jean and then faltered, glancing between her roommate and him. “What’d I miss?”

Annie resumed whatever she was doing on her laptop, and Jean vowed to never be alone with her. It was like she saw right through him and it was so alarming that he couldn’t even be angry about it. He sent a shrug and small shake of his head to Sasha, feigning ignorance of the situation.

“Blueberry or cinnamon?” She held a package in each hand, weighing them as she spoke.

“Blueberry's fine.”

Sasha decided it was better to walk and eat, and Jean had no objections. The longer he sat in the same room as that icy woman, the more strained he felt. They meandered around campus, eating their pop tarts and not questioning anything. It seemed Sasha didn’t have a lot to say when there was food in front of her. The quiet was comfortable, and Jean was even starting to enjoy her company more by the time breakfast was over.

They’d retreated to a bench nestled under a large shade tree. Jean was leaning backwards, elbows propped up on the back, eyes closed, when Sasha finally spoke. “I think you’re pretty cool.”

Jean lolled his head to the side, cracking open his eyelids to see her next to him. “Thanks?”

“I know I can be a lot to handle sometimes, and Annie doesn’t like me much. Well, most people don’t like me so I can’t blame her. Connie is that rare gem I worked my ass off to find and I ain’t lettin’ go of that, Jean.” Sasha shook her head, giving Jean a pointed look. “Anyway, people like you don’t normally like people like me. So, I think you’re pretty cool for stickin’ around even if you don’t want to.”

“Who the hell said I didn't want to?” Jean couldn't help it. He wanted to feel more gratitude from listening to her compliments, but he was too caught up on the idea that Sasha thought he didn't want her around.

“Ah…” She grinned sheepishly, pulling at her ponytail. “Maybe I read it wrong, but you always seem to be in hurry to go when I’m around.”

Jean sat up straight, turning slightly to face her more. “First off, I’m not some douche who has a specific “type” of person I exclusively like. Secondly, you just gave me pop tarts so that makes you pretty nice by my standards. I like pop tarts. And finally, you’re awesome. You and Connie are pretty much the only real friends I have here. So yeah, I like you being around.”

“Really?!” Sasha was positively glowing. Jean didn’t have time to brace himself before she was throwing her arms around his neck, pulling him into a full bear hug. “Oh, man! You really are cool!”

Jean froze, momentarily stunned, as she continued to squeeze the breath out of him. When he realized she wasn’t going to let go, he gingerly patted her shoulder. He only ever did the physical contact thing with Marco, and never with someone he’d known for barely three days. She pulled back though, eyes sparkling and hands clasped in front of her.

“You bounce back fast.” Jean adjusted his glasses, glancing warily at her fervent expression.

“I don’t dwell.” She stood and Jean followed. “I find that accepting things at face value makes life easier.”

She held up a fist, laughing as she playfully thrust it out, aiming at nothing. “Like rolling with the punches.”

Jean snickered, rolling his eyes at her display. “You wouldn't do well in karate with that form.”

Sasha walked him to his next class, since his started before hers. They waved goodbye and promised to go out sometime, all three of them. She skipped away as Jean walked into a large lecture hall, twenty minutes early.

It was mostly empty and he took the opportunity to find a seat near the back. This was to be his math course. Basic, college algebra. There was a reason he was picking a profession as far removed from math as he could. As he pulled out his spiral he’d designated for this class, his phone buzzed in his pocket.

Freckles:

Jeanbo

this radio silence is killing me

Me:

Sorry!

Things have been crazy here.

I never have a quiet moment.

Freckles:

I’m sorry :((((

wanna talk about it?

Me:

Can I call you later today?

Freckles:

I’m done with class at 4

call whenever after that

:))))

Me:

Thanks

I miss you.

Freckles:

I miss you too

I have class now

ttyl <3333

Me:

Oh.

Yeah, mine is starting too!

Bye Marco <3

Jean hesitated for a split second before including the heart. He never sent emojis or anything like that. Nor did he ever get this emotional over a text message saying he was missed. He stared at the messages to his best friend, realizing with a pang that it had been three days since he saw him last. That was the longest they’d ever been apart.

Jean sighed, running a hand through his hair. Fifteen more minutes until class.

Chapter Text

"What the hell is it?”

It has a name, y’know”

“Please tell me it’s not Nemo.”

“That’s lame, Jean. His name is Buggy.”

Jean glanced at Connie out of the corner of his eye. He was smiling proudly at the new addition to their room. A large fishbowl, complete with blue rocks, a comical “No Fishing” sign, and one very ugly, orange fish. Connie’s mother had brought it up in the afternoon, turns out they lived pretty close to the University.

“Buggy?” Jean choked on a laugh, quickly stifling it when Connie sent him a warning glare.

“Don’t be mean to him.” Connie warned.

“Oh,” Jean stopped and turned to the fish. It continued to swim slowly in circles. “Please forgive me, Bug-eye, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”

“Buggy!”

“Right. Much better.”

Connie sighed, retreating to his bed. Jean bent forward, making himself level with the fish. It’s eyes bulged out of it’s head. Black, beady pupils set into two orange orbs frantically flitted about it’s glass home. Jean almost felt sorry for the thing. It was as small as a common goldfish, but it kept bumping into the walls.

“Look,” Connie was back, handing Jean a pamphlet with a picture of a fish like his plastered on the front. “It’s a Celestial Eye. A breed of fancy goldfish. They’re fancy, Jean.”

“Okay, okay!” Jean pushed it away, grinning at Connie’s irritated expression. “I was just messing around.”

“So you agree Buggy is cool?”

“No way,” Jean laughed. “It still creeps me the fuck out.”

“Your loss.” Connie shrugged. “Buggy has been my confidant for years, now.”

“You actually talk to the fish?” Jean asked, silently hoping it was a joke.

“Well, it’s not like he can tell anyone what I say.” Connie slipped his shoes on his feet. He had a dinner date with Sasha. “Besides, he’s a good listener.”

Connie left Jean alone in their dorm. Well, alone with a creepy fish whose eyes were constantly locked on the ceiling. He stared for a moment longer as the small fish swished it’s tailfin, making another loop around the bowl. Jean narrowed his eyes as it stopped for a minute, and he could’ve sworn that the thing looked right at him.

“No. I’m out.” Jean grabbed his wallet and dorm key and ran out of the room. He didn’t go far, just to the living area in his quad. Before food, he had a promise to uphold.

Hey, Jeanbo.”

Marco picked up on the second ring.

“Hey, Freckles.”

You haven’t called me that in years.” Marco chuckled, but then he cut it short. “Oh, no. What happened?

“What are you, psychic?” Jean pulled his legs up onto the small, worn sofa where he sat.

You’ve been acting sappy towards me todayA text heart, really?” Marco said. “That’s rare. That means you’re upset enough to be affectionate.

“Get out of my head.” Jean grinned.

Never,” Marco hummed into the receiver. “So, talk to me.

“You used to work at the pet store, right?” Jean asked, suddenly remembering Marco’s first job.

Yeah, why?

“How long do goldfish live?”

Hmm,” Marco thought a moment. “Ten, fifteen years?

“Shit.” Jean leaned back into the couch. It squeaked in protest but he ignored it.

Looking to off a fish?” Marco snickered.

“No,” Jean groaned. “Nevermind.”

The line went silent for a moment. Jean was aware of Marco’s light breathing on the other end, a subtle reminder that he was still there. He was still there, only he wasn’t. An hour on a hot, stinky bus and one car ride separated them.

I assume the fish isn’t what’s got you upset.” Marco broke the silence, voice soft and calm.

Jean sighed, “Yeah, it’s not the stupid fish.”

Hot not-boyfriend?” Marco tried.

Jean nodded, but then rolled his eyes. Marco couldn’t hear a head nod. “So, his name is Eren. But I’m pretty sure I’ve told you that. Anyway, I brought him lunch yesterday and things went to shit.”

Hm,” Marco replied.

“Yeah, so he kicked me out of the break room after we argued. Told me to never buy him lunch again. But get this,” Jean sat up, his tone getting more excited as he spoke. “Armin told me Eren likes my voice, or some shit like that. Said he’s expressed interest.”

So why are you upset, exactly?” Jean could practically see the accusing expression on Marco’s face.

“I’m not very optimistic about him liking me. You had to have been there to get it.”

Uh-huh.” Marco clicked his tongue. “Sure.

“Marco, don’t do that.” Jean whined.

Do what?” He replied innocently. “I have no idea what you could be talking about.

“Are you doing the eyelash thing?” Jean asked, afraid to hear the answer. “You are, aren’t you?”

What’s wrong?” Marco’s voice dripped with mock concern. “You don’t like it when I bat my lashes at you?

“Ugh!” Jean threw himself back into the couch as Marco laughed at him. “I can’t even see you and it’s working on me.”

Sweet! Still got it.

“Yeah, yeah. Don’t get too excited. It’s because you’re Marco.”

And you’re Jean,” Marco stopped laughing. “Jean, who needs to suck it up and ask out the cute boy who works in the student center because he likes your voice.

“Do I have to?” Jean asked, exasperated.

Yes. Or I’ll tell your mom to never make you blueberry muffins again,” Marco teased.

“You wouldn’t dare.”

Don’t test me, Jeanbo.

Jean ruffled his hair and slid his glasses up into it. “Okay, I’ll give it a shot.”

Perfect! Now scurry off now, y’hear?” Jean could hear movement from his end, wind, and then the slam of a car door.

“Dork. Okay, thanks for talking to me.” Jean stood up, walking towards the elevators.

Jean, please.” A car engine started. “You don’t thank friends for being a friend.

“Right.” Jean laughed. “Bye, Marco.”

Bye, Jean.

---

The email about Jean’s volunteer assignment came in two days later on Friday afternoon. He read off the paragraph thanking him for sacrificing his time and energy to help those in need and he skimmed through what looked like some copy and pasted spiel about what it meant to volunteer. The screen blinked when he opened the attachment specifically for him, and when it loaded his heart stopped momentarily.

Assignment Name: Eren Jaeger

Actions Required: Taking Notes, assistance to and from classes, study partner etc.

Time: 15 hrs (as needed for the assigned student)

"Well, fuck." Jean closed the browser and logged off the school computer. He put his glasses back on, having not needed them to see the screen, and left the quiet room. He wasn't one to play around on the internet and now that his first experience using the computer lab had only led to disappointment, he was far less inclined to continue using it.

At least now he knew Eren's last name, and why he was called "Jäeger Bomb". What an unfortunate person, Jean thought. On one hand, he was not at all excited about spending one-on-one time with Eren for an equivalent of fifteen hours. One another hand, he was very excited about spending one-on-one time with Eren for an equivalent of fifteen hours. To say the least, he was conflicted.

When he arrived back to his room, he stopped short of opening it. He could hear two distinct voices inside. In and of itself, this was not a particularly interesting thing. Sasha was over frequently enough, but this second voice that wasn't Connie's, was male. A very familiar and comforting male voice.

He hastily unlocked the door and stepped inside, mouth already pulling into a grin despite himself. The men inside stopped talking upon his entrance and the taller of the two put his hands on his hips with his head cocked and face saying 'bet you weren't expecting me'.

"Hey, Jeanbo. Sorry I just couldn't stay away."

Marco grinned and his cocky facade fell when Jean ran across the room and threw his arms around his shoulders. He buried his face in Marco’s chest, nearly sending them stumbling backwards.

"Oh thank god," Jean breathed. Marco giggled and returned the hug, although he seemed a bit taken aback.

"Jeez." Marco patted his shoulder tentatively. "It's been a week of college. I didn't go off to war."

"Shut up," Jean groaned. He squeezed tighter. "This whole week has been shit. Everything is shit. Today was shit."

"Wow. Sure you're not dating?" A voice interjected from across the room.

They broke apart and Jean sent Connie a warning glance. He clamped his mouth shut in response and pretended to organize his desk, dutifully ignoring the two friends.

"You didn't tell me you were coming." Jean sat on his bed and pulled Marco by his elbow, making him follow.

"It's called a surprise." Marco replied sarcastically.

"You of all people know I don't like surprises." Jean deadpanned.

Marco sent him an incredulous glance. "You ran at me so fast with such an awe struck look on your face I thought you were actually going to kiss me."

"No thanks, dude," Jean laughed. "I prefer my men to be shorter than me."

"And tan with cool nicknames," Connie teased.

"Ohh!" Marco's face lit up and he turned to Jean. "That's hot not-boyfriend, right?"

"Marco, no—"

"Marco, yes!"

"I thought he was your best friend?" Connie pointed to Marco. "You can't keep him out of the loop."

"Yeah, Jean!" Marco agreed. "Can I meet him?"

"Wait a second you two." Jean held up a hand, signaling for them to stop. "Eren and I aren't a couple, nor is their any sign we will ever be one. He's also the reason today was shit."

"You never even tried to ask him out, did you?" Marco shook his head in disapproval.

"I have a very good reason for that." Jean countered.

"Sure, Jean." Marco rolled his eyes. "Spill."

"He's my volunteer assignment. I have to spend a total of fifteen hours this semester taking notes for him and walking him to class and stuff." The room fell silent. Connie was propped against his desk, nodding slowly. Marco leaned over and wrapped an arm around Jean's shoulders.

"That's perfect!" He nearly shouted. Jean blanched.

"How?!" He tried to push away from Marco but his grip was like iron.

"I can see it now, baby." Marco waved his freehand in the air, like he was motioning to some grand sight. "Reluctant partners, slowly falling in love over late night study sessions, coffee breaks, and hurried notes between classes."

"What kind of movie do you live in?" Jean grumbled, pouting heavily. "This is not some rom-com, it's my life!"

"No, Jean." Marco replied dramatically. "It's your destiny."

At this point, Connie was a lost cause. He was laughing so hard Jean was sure the neighbors would hear. He gave up trying to convince Marco how incredibly wrong he was. He knew it was just a ploy to poke fun and lighten his mood. The thought was appreciated but Jean still acted grumpy.

“C’mon, you’re not fooling me.” Marco winked at Jean and finally released him. “You talk about Eren so much, I know you’re excited about this.”

“Hey, Marco. Did he tell you Armin was gonna set him up?” Connie sent Jean a shit eating grin.

Marco blinked in surprise, then it quickly turned into an overly dramatic pout as he stared Jean down. “No, he most certainly did not.”

“Fuck you, Connie.” Jean grumbled under his breath.

“Payback for the fish comments.”

Jean rolled his eyes and reluctantly turned his attention back to an expectant Marco. “Angel said he would work on getting Eren to come around.”

“Boom. Married. Wait, who the fuck is Angel?” Connie interrupted.

“Please shut up.” Jean rubbed his temples.

“It’s a good start, Jean.” Marco smiled warmly, finally letting his jokes rest. Jean sighed and nodded his agreement.

“Wanna get lunch?” Jean tried changing the subject.

Marco shook his head. “I already ate, so no worries!”

Jean could hardly believe the words that were about to come out of his mouth. Reluctantly, like he was forcing each syllable past his teeth, he said, “The food is in the student center. Eren works in the student center.”

“I am suddenly very hungry.” Marco jumped up from the bed, face lighting up like a firework.

“I thought so,” Jean whined.

---

The student center was thankfully empty. It was well past the normal lunch hour and most of the people milling about were headed to the basement rec center or were studying in small groups. Of course, Eren was on duty that day. He was on duty every day. Hell, he worked so much Jean was starting to wonder if he even attended classes. His desk partner was not the tiny blonde girl today, but Ymir his RA.

“There,” Jean pointed to Eren from the entrance. “That’s him.”

Marco was clinging to his arm, practically buzzing with excitement. He glanced from Eren to Jean with a pleading look. It was almost like he was silently asking to approach the desk and strike up a conversation with him. Which was completely absurd as far as Jean was concerned. He had agreed to let Marco have visual contact with Eren, not to actually meet him, or something like that.

“I’m gonna talk to him.”

Before Jean could protest, Marco was walking away. He called out to him in a violent whisper, “wait, no!”

Marco was all control and smooth as silk as he slid up to the counter, sending a wink to Ymir when she caught his eye. He cleared his throat so Eren took notice, so he sitting up a little straighter, face lighting up like he was expecting someone.

“Jean was right, your eyes are gorgeous.” Marco’s voice was low and had a certain edge almost like a purr. He was flat out hitting on him. This very not gay, taken man was hitting on another guy.

Ymir nearly choked on her beverage, she slapped a napkin to her face as liquid fell from her lips. Eren on the other hand, was turning beet red. Although the excitement from before Marco spoke was gone, he still looked very flustered. Jean tried to interject but Marco held up a hand, eyes still focused on Eren. The laughter and snorts from the other end of the desk were starting to die down finally.

“I’m sorry, um,” Eren tried to speak. His voice came across small and meek, and a billion times more shy than Jean had ever heard him. “Who are you?”

“Friend of Jean’s.” Marco smirked. “I need you to know the things he says about you.”

“He talks about me?” Eren’s head was tilted like a curious puppy. There wasn’t a hint of resentment in his voice and this alone was enough to keep Jean quiet.

“I can’t get him to shut up about you.” Marco leaned closer to Eren, smiling around every syllable that dripped from his lips.

Eren must’ve felt his presence enclosing, because he leaned back slightly and his red cheeks burned brighter. Jean had never seen Marco like this before, generally his friend was reserved and good-natured. To see him putting the moves on another dude was starting to become very damaging to Jean’s mental image of an “innocent Marco”.

“W-who are you again?” Eren stuttered.

“So, my name's Marco and I’m Jean’s best friend. He tells me everything. Literally everything.” He put a small emphasis on the last two words to make sure Eren understood his meaning. “He thinks you’re hot and even though he’s an ass who doesn’t know what feelings are nine times out of ten, he likes--.”

“Okay.” Jean pushed Marco aside. “I think we’ve heard enough from you.”

“What the hell is going on?” Eren frowned. He didn’t seem angry like Jean thought he would be, but almost a little anxious.

“I got my volunteer assignment.” Jean word vomited like he usually did in tense situations. He was panicking, trying to distract from Marco’s style of helping, and words just came pouring from his mouth.

“Jean.” Eren replied, recognizing the voice of the person that now spoke to him. “Have you been here the whole time? Cause that would be really fucking rude.”

“Yeah well,” Jean narrowed his eyes at Marco who just grinned innocently back. “It’s not like it would change your perception of me to think I’m rude.”

“True.” Eren sat back in his chair and let his face fall to the normal, neutral expression. “But I already know about your volunteer assignment. I am the other half of it, stupid.”

“Do you see this shit?” Jean gestured to Eren and sent a pleading look to Marco.

“In his defense, that was a silly remark considering the circumstances.” Marco shrugged and leaned on the counter, resting his elbows on top.

“I like this one.” Eren grinned and nodded. “Jean, why didn’t you tell me you had a nice friend? He balances you out.”

“Are you fucking serious?” Jean grumbled and threw his hands up in exasperation.

“Now, now Jeanbo,” Marco chided. “Let’s be big boys about this.”

“No thanks, mom.”

Jeanbo, don’t be rude to your friends.” Eren smirked, liking the way the nickname sounded.

“You are not allowed to call me that.” Jean growled at him. “I’m already going to have to deal with you all semester, don’t make this more difficult than it has to be.”

“Me?!” Eren stood up from his desk. “I don’t need your help, so you can just fuck off!”

“Then why are you in Disability Services?” Jean was more agitated than anything else. Most of the time, Eren made absolutely no sense to him. Now was not an exception to that pattern.

“You don’t understand shit, do you kid?” There was a new voice in their conversation. Ymir, who had been actively trying to drown out their incessant voices with her music player, was now glaring Jean down.

“Ymir, it’s fine you--”

“No, Eren.” She interrupted him. “You don’t need to waste your time on this prissy snob who doesn’t give two shits about you.”

Ymir.” Eren smacked his hand on the desk and she put her hands up defensively.

“Okay, I won’t say nothin’ more.” She gave one last look to Jean and Marco before putting her headphones back in and zoning out to the computer screen.

“I’m sorry, Jean, but you should go.” Eren sat back down, mindlessly tapping the desk with his fingertips.

A very familiar feeling was washing over Jean. A feeling that he had said something he shouldn’t have said. Which, in reality, didn’t feel fair that he was receiving all of the blame. There was clearly a lot Eren wasn’t saying and the more Jean opened his mouth, the more he fucked up. So, before he just walked away, he wanted to clear the air.

“What don’t I understand?” Despite everything Eren said or how blunt he could be, Jean still wanted to try. He actually surprised himself with how much he wanted to know more about Eren.

“You really wanna know?” Eren asked. It seemed Jean wasn’t the only person here surprised at him.

Marco prodded Jean’s side encouragingly when he hesitated. “Uh, yeah. I do. I hate the feeling that I’ve said something I shouldn’t have.”

Eren paused a moment, thinking about something. Jean wished his neutral expression was more readable so he could at least guess at what was going on in that crazy head of his. Finally, Eren nodded like he’d decided on something.

“If you can manage an evening out with me, I’ll answer that question.”

“Excuse me?” Jean’s eyebrows shot up and he had to blink a few times to make sure he wasn’t dreaming this whole scene. Marco pinched his arm and shook his head. He winced but it was enough to force him to relax and look past Eren's haughty tone.

“If you can’t, then you have to find a different volunteer project.” Eren sneered, emphasizing heavily on the last word.

"You're not a project," Jean replied flatly. "But I accept your challenge."

Eren's face fell slightly, a small crack in his facade. He recovered it quickly and reached out a hand towards Jean, motioning to seal the deal with a handshake. "Sunday night at 6 work for you?"

Jean took his hand, careful not to hold on too long despite the voice in the back of his head telling him to pull Eren closer. "Yeah, where do I meet you?"

"Come to my dorm. Armin can tell you where it is."

"Right. See you then."

"Okay. It's a date."

"Right. A date."

"Yes, a date."

Marco coughed loudly behind Jean and then quickly tried to play it off like it wasn't obviously fake. Eren sat back down without another word and Jean only hesitated for a second before Marco was waving to Ymir and pulling him back out the front entrance.

"Congrats, Jeanbo." Marco said once they were safely clear of the student center. "You're going out with hot not-boyfriend."

"Yeah," Jean smiled despite himself. "Yeah, I guess I am."

Chapter Text

"Jean, your friend is really hot."

Armin leaned over Jean's backpack that sat between them on his bed and whispered behind his hand. Not that Marco could hear him through the bathroom door, but Jean narrowed his eyes and scooted closer to whisper back.

"Marco isn't gay," Jean replied, but then he remembered the casual way Marco had flirted with Eren not an hour ago. Even if it was for Jean's sake, it had freaked him out. "I think."

Armin smirked. "Good enough."

"Don't even think about it." Jean shook his head and leaned away from him. "He's got a girlfriend."

Armin pouted but relented when Marco stepped out from behind the closed door, smiling apologetically. "What'd I miss?"

Jean shrugged. "Nothing much."

Armin stood and pulled out the desk chair and gestured for Marco to take his seat on the bed. "I'll sit here, you can have the comfy seat, Marco."

Jean stiffened, sending Armin an incredulous glance. I'm on to you and your lopsided halo, he thought. Of course, Armin remained oblivious to Jean's stares. His eyes were locked on a flushed, freckled boy who was grinning sheepishly and taking Armin's old seat.

"So, did you need something Jean?" Armin finally took his eyes off his prey.

"He has a date with Eren." Marco spoke when Jean hesitated, turning his body towards the foot of the bed to face Armin.

"Finally." Armin sighed happily.

"I just need to know where your dorm is." Jean rolled his eyes. "You could've told me over the phone so I'm not sure why you insisted on coming over."

"Jean!" Marco playfully slapped his arm. "Be nice to Armin. He's been really sweet."

Armin blushed heavily and scratched the back of his head. "Oh, it's not a big deal. I just like hanging out with Jean."

"Right, sorry," Jean mumbled.

"We're in the other dorm tower. First floor, room 102." Armin grinned when Marco hummed his approval. “So where are you guys going?”

“It’s not even really a date,” Jean sighed. “It sounded more like he wants to settle whatever this shit is between us.”

Marco leaned his elbow on the overstuffed backpack, raising a brow to his friend. “I was there too, y’know. He totally changed his tune once you started playing nice.”

“See?” Armin piped up. “Eren responds well to compliments. Besides, I’ve known him since kindergarten. He doesn’t just ask people out if he doesn’t like them. Not his style, man.”

Marco clapped Jean on the shoulder, making him flinch. Armin giggled. “I think It’s time we give you a lesson in chivalry, Jeanbo.”

“Excuse me?” Jean whipped his head around to Marco. “I’m a perfect gentleman.”

Marco threw his head back and let out a bark of a laugh. “To me, yes you are. But I can hardly remember your last boyfriend. Pretty sure that was the one who broke up with you over a text that involved the words “asshole” and “selfish”.”

Jean started to retort, ready to give Marco a tongue lashing but then he couldn’t deny the truth. “Yeah, okay. But it’s not my fault he didn’t like me! I was just being myself!”

Marco just shook his head and smiled. “You’re a peach, and I like you. If he didn’t then you’re right, that’s his fault. But, first date etiquette couldn’t hurt to help Eren warm up to you.”

Jean wasn’t sure he liked that idea. The thought of changing his personality just to appease another person didn’t sit right with him. If Eren couldn’t like who he really was, then there was no way they would work out. But, Marco rarely steered him wrong so to make him happy, he’d do it just this once.

“Alright,” Jean sighed. “Lay it on me. What do I need to do?”

---

It was all wrong. Jean could feel it. His stiff shoulders and stupid clothes and the way the sun was bearing down on him. All of it felt wrong. He was fake. His hair gel was gross and the cologne that Marco left was giving him a headache. His lessons in being a good date lasted long enough to frustrate all three of them, and Armin didn’t even do anything besides watch Marco’s ass. Marco was so focused on priming and snipping away at Jean that he never even noticed the hormonal blonde fidgeting in the corner. It was enough to distract Jean to earn a few smacks from his freckled friend for not paying attention, though.

Thankfully, Friday ended and Marco went back home. Of course, Jean was sad to see him go because he was left alone all day Saturday to mull over his incessant thoughts of how badly he was gonna screw up this date. So, when Sunday rolled around and the hour drew nearer, his stomach was hurting and he could feel his throat trying to close up.

Standing outside Eren’s (and Armin’s) door was when the reality of all of this crashed over him like a tidal wave. He didn’t bother with dressing for the occasion, it wasn’t like Eren would care anyway, but the cologne was what was bothering him the most. It wasn’t his and that was making him upset. His mind raced as he prepared to knock, holding his hand against the wood. What if he can tell my cologne is different? Does he even know what my normal cologne is? Wait, what if smells bother him? I know people like that. Shit. My hands are sweaty, I guess we won’t be holding hands. Why would we? This isn’t a real date, right? Fuck! I hear him moving around inside. Maybe I should go home. Fuck! He’s by the door. SHI--

“Jean?” Eren had opened the door, poking his head out cautiously. “Is that you?”

“Uhh…” Jean tried to speak but ended up stepping backwards and nearly tripping over his own feet. “Sorry.”

Eren opened the door fully, and Jean’s heart skipped. He looked good. His hair was unruly like usual but when matched with the baggy, dark blue sweater, black distressed jeans and the leather cord with a brass key around his neck, he was hot. The sweater looked thin and nearly hung off one shoulder so Eren’s collarbone poked out. Jean swallowed hard as he unconsciously zeroed in on that bit of exposed skin. One of his many weaknesses on the male body: collarbones. Not to mention a long list of other things that he was quickly trying to squash from his mind at that moment. He was actively trying to avoid any awkward boners tonight.

“For what?” Eren interrupted his thoughts. “Being a mouth breather outside my door? Cause you’re forgiven then. As long as my neighbors didn’t also hear the big bad wolf huffing and puffing.”

“I’m not a mouth breather!” Jean retorted. But then he remembered his etiquette lessons and refrained from saying something back that was equally as rude.

“I heard you from inside,” Eren deadpanned as he stepped back to allow Jean to enter. “You’re a mouth breather.”

Jean rolled his eyes and stepped past Eren, desperately avoiding looking at how well his jeans clung to his legs. Once inside, he instantly noted Eren’s half of the room. It was messy. Books lay strewn across his bed and desk. A few were on the nightstand and on the window sill. He leaned a little closer to one that was open on the desk and realized he couldn’t read it. Of course it was in braille. He instantly felt stupid for forgetting something so simple.

Eren closed the door before crossing the short entranceway to the closet. Naturally, when he bent forward to pull something off of the floor, Jean got a killer view of his ass. He was slowly losing the war against awkward boners and the date hadn’t even officially begun. Not a date, he reminded himself.

Eren emerged from the closet with his backpack and walked right past Jean to his bed. He sat it down while Jean watched, and rifled through it’s contents. After a moment, he pulled a book out, ran his fingers over the cover and then nodded. He turned and held it out.

“Here,” Eren said. “This is for you.”

Jean stared at Eren from where he was leaning against the desk. He slowly walked towards him, looking from the tan book to Eren’s flushed face. He gingerly took the book and let his eyes drop to the cover. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. He flipped open the cover, almost surprised that he could read it, and quickly read the synopsis. Definitely his type of book.

“This isn’t in braille.” Of course the first words out of Jean’s mouth would be stupid words.

Eren snorted and zipped up his bag. “Duh. It’s not for me.”

“Oh.” Jean looked back to the book, and actually smiled. Eren had gotten him a gift. “Why?”

Eren simply shrugged and grabbed his keys from his night stand. “I read it over the summer and after I met you, it kinda struck me that you might like it too. So I got you a copy.”

“Uh, thanks.” Jean held the book against his chest, suddenly feeling very protective of it. He watched Eren for a moment before shaking his head and clearing his throat. “So, where are we going?”

Eren sent Jean a grin. That same grin he’d been so desperate to see just last week. “How do you feel about surprises?”

“I hate them,” Jean started, but then Marco’s face was in his head. “But, I can make an exception for you.”

Eren raised a brow and frowned. “Please don’t. You being overly nice is weird.”

“You ass! You’re the one who just gave me a gift!” Jean snapped.

Eren laughed. He actually laughed and Jean’s heart felt like it was tap dancing behind his rib cage. “That’s more like it.”

“You can leave the book here,” Eren continued. “We’ll come back for it tonight.”

Jean nodded, letting his new book rest on top of the pile on Eren’s desk, then they were out the door.

---

Neither of them liked the idea of taking the bus anywhere and thankfully Eren’s idea of a date, whatever that was, was within walking distance of the school. Jean kept his hands in his pockets and nearly got lost in the sound of Eren's cane methodically swiping across the sidewalk. The silence wasn't awkward, in fact Jean was relieved to find he liked being quiet next to Eren. They'd come to a corner when Eren finally spoke.

"I hate crosswalks." The words were mumbled almost under his breath, but Jean still heard them.

"We just gotta wait for the light, yeah?" Jean glanced down to Eren who had his arms folded over his chest. He wasn't sure, but it sounded like the response was some sort of half-hearted grunt.

The lights changed and Eren hesitated, seeming to listen intently for a moment before stepping out into the street. Jean looked both ways, honestly more nervous than he wanted to be. He knew how strongly independent Eren was from their few meetings and Armin's stories, so he tried his best to not be a rude, mother hen in that moment as they crossed the street.

They were only a few steps out, the street to their immediate right vacant of cars waiting at the light, when Jean saw it. A red Suburban was barreling towards them. Years from now Jean would think back on this moment and wonder how he knew the car wasn't going to stop. But he would never be able to explain how he knew. Maybe it was some sort of baser instinct, or an other worldly force, but his gut said move.

He audibly gasped, it was loud enough to stop Eren in his tracks and start to turn back towards Jean who was following behind. He gripped Eren's elbow, yanking him into his chest, and then they were toppling back onto the sidewalk. The speeding Suburban did indeed fly through the intersection but then came to a screeching halt just past the light. It wasn’t long before it was taking off again.

Jean never saw anyone get out of the car, his face was full of Eren's hair and his back ached from slamming into the pavement. His heart pounded loudly in his ears and he was sure his legs were shaking. He laid there, holding tight to Eren who was flung over his chest, and took several deep breaths. He'd never been so shocked in his life.

"Jean?!" Eren's voice cut through the roaring in his ears. "Jean, what the hell happened?!"

He took another deep breath before speaking. "Some asshole ran the light."

"Holy shit, are you okay?" Eren was trying to sit up and extract himself from Jean's grasp.

"S-sorry," Jean breathed. He released Eren, who crawled to a sitting position next to him. Jean leaned up, or he tried to but the pain in his back made him think better of it.

"Ow, fuck!" Jean winced and rolled onto his side, pulling his shirt away from the tender skin on his back.

"You're hurt!" Eren fished his phone out of his pocket and swiped away at it as it talked back to him, listing his actions audibly.

Before Jean could protest, saying he was fine, Eren was calling someone.

"Krista? It's Eren. I need— huh? Oh, yeah we are. That's kind of what—" Eren yanked the phone away from his head as a shrill voice blared through the speaker. He waited for it to die down before cautiously bringing it back to his ear. "Are you done?... Okay, good. Look, Jean got hurt and I need you to take a look... Yeah I'll be by the clinic as soon as possible. I owe you one." He hung up the phone and reached out and gripped at Jean's shoulder, worry lacing his features.

"You didn't have to call someone, it's not that bad." Despite his words, Jean could barely speak without wincing more.

"Right, and I'm a pretty girl." Eren rolled his eyes. Jean snorted at that. He secretly felt that was a mostly true statement. "Let's get you up."

Eren helped Jean stand, much to Jean's dismay, before stopping awkwardly. "Where's my cane?"

Jean looked around, then something white caught his eyes back out in the street. It was Eren's cane, bent at odd angles. It seemed it had been accidentally abandoned when Jean yanked Eren back to safety, and then promptly run over by the asshole who'd forced them off the road.

"Uhh..." Jean started. "How badly do you need it?"

Eren sent him a look that practically screamed "did you really just ask that?", before sighing. "Well since I'm mostly blind, I'd say I need it."

"Oh good," Jean replied sarcastically. "Cause it's totaled."

"It's in the street, isn't it?" Eren deadpanned.

"Yep."

"Asshole ran over it?"

"Yep."

"Beautiful."

Jean involuntarily winced when a breeze ruffled his shirt over his skin, catching Eren's attention. "Forget it, just give me your arm. We need to get you to the clinic."

Eren gripped his elbow and Jean lead the way, albeit with a limp, to the clinic. He would've protested but at this point he felt it would only insult Eren to say he didn't want to go to the clinic. Besides, he couldn't hide the fact that his back stung like hell. He was almost sure it was bleeding.

They walked arm in arm and Jean could've sworn Eren was trying his best to help hold his weight. Jean glanced down to where Eren's elbow was linked with his. Yeah, he was blushing now. Eren was touching him. Willingly making physical contact. Sure there wasn't much of a choice in the matter with Eren’s cane demolished, but even the pain in his back couldn't kill his racing heart. He wasn't sure if that was entirely due to adrenaline anymore.

"Asshole drove off?" Eren asked as they approached the clinic.

"He stopped for a moment, probably to make sure we weren't dead, then took the fuck off." Jean grumbled. "Stupid son of a bitch."

"Figures," Eren huffed. "There aren't a lot of decent people in the world."

"Tell me about it," Jean laughed dryly. "People suck."

"Hell yeah." Eren smirked, squeezing Jean's arm a little tighter.

Jean couldn't help the smile that tugged at his lips. It was a genuine expression of happiness. The last time anyone made him smile like that was when Marco had come for a surprise visit. In fact, Marco was the only one to make him genuinely smile. At least until now.

Krista got them right in to the clinic, saying it was an emergency case. She pulled Jean and Eren into a private room, quickly forcing Jean to remove his shirt. Turns out he had two large abrasions on his shoulder blades and some tender spots over his ribs that were already starting to bruise.

She left for a moment to find the larger bandages so Jean and Eren were alone. "Does it hurt?" Eren pried.

"As much as I want to say 'nah, it's cool', and look like a badass, it really fucking hurts." Jean sighed.

Eren snorted, but didn't make fun of him like Jean thought he would. Instead, his next words sounded shy. Almost as shy as the time Marco hit on him. "Thank you."

Jean blinked. He looked down to see Eren with his shoulders hunched, trying to look as small as possible. His hands were shoved between his thighs, and his head hung low.

"Uh, yeah. It was nothin', man." Jean shrugged.

Eren sighed, seemingly relieved. "No, seriously. That's the reason I hate crossing streets. I swear to god that's the second fucking time that's happened there. People come flying their stupid asses over that stupid hill and don't notice the light until it's too late."

"I hate people." Jean leaned his elbows onto his knees. The paper from the patient table where he sat crinkled under his movement. Eren perked up at the noise, turning his face towards Jean.

"I hate people more." Eren challenged. Jean breathed a quiet laugh at that, blowing off the playful remark.

They fell into another comfortable silence for a minute, but then Jean remembered something. "Hey, Eren?"

"Mm?"

"Earlier," Jean started. "You said you were mostly blind... " He trailed off, suddenly thinking it was a rude question and he should probably just shut his mouth before more word vomit came up.

"Yeah, and?" It wasn't snarky. Eren genuinely sounded curious.

"Well, I mean. Uhh... what does that mean exactly?" Jean fidgeted when the skin on his back pulled a little.

Eren laced his fingers behind his head, leaning back in the small chair where he sat in the corner. "Very few people who are blind, are one hundred percent blind. Like, in complete darkness. That's rare."

Jean nodded his head, not wanting to speak in case Eren would keep talking. Apparently it was the right choice because Eren continued. "I can see some light and colors. Nothing has any clarity though. Mostly distorted blurs, like looking through one of those fogged bathroom windows."

Of course Jean had to push his luck. "You're a lot less angry. I'm surprised you answered my question."

"Watch it, Jeanbo—"

"Don't call me that!" Jean snapped, cutting him off.

Eren just laughed. "Well, you saved me today. I figured you at least deserved that much."

Jean decided it was not a good time to remind Eren the whole reason for this "date" was so he would answer his question concerning disability services. Eren’s independent streak was a little more than unnerving at this point.

Thankfully, Krista chose this moment to come back in, tiny arms laden with huge bandages and a bottle of rubbing alcohol. She smiled apologetically before unceremoniously dumping the supplies on the counter by Eren.

"Sorry, sorry! The job of a med student is never done apparently!" Krista was washing her hands and somehow searching for gloves at the same time. "I had three other people stop me for pain meds on the way here. Can you believe their audacity?"

Jean merely smiled shyly at her but Eren was a lot more talkative. "Don't they need to make an appointment to get medication?"

"That's what I'm saying!" Krista sighed exasperatedly as she dried off her hands and slipped on the smallest gloves she could find. They were still a little baggy over her boney fingers.

"So!" She turned to Jean, smiling brightly. "Let's clean you up."

Jean nodded and then his stomach was in knots when he watched her pour the rubbing alcohol onto a gauze pad.

"Nervous?" Krista asked sweetly. "The abrasions are large so I figured a 4x4 would be better than the little alcohol wipes. Get it over faster y'know?"

Jean could only nod again, too afraid to speak. He hated doctors and clinics. The smell of isopropyl alcohol made his stomach turn. Apparently he looked way more shaken up then he felt, because Krista was pausing again, holding the damp cloth above his skin.

"Would you feel better if you held your boyfriend's hand?"

Jean instantly felt heat returning to his face, but before he could react and correct how very wrong she was, she'd placed the alcohol soaked gauze onto his stinging flesh.

Jean hissed, sitting up straighter. "Ow! Fuck, you could've warned me!"

"Krista, he's not my boyfriend." Eren was pouting in the corner.

"Yeah," Jean agreed, breathing heavily now.

"I know," was her cheery reply. "Just a distraction, sorry!"

"You might be more evil than Ymir," Eren laughed.

"Now, now," Krista scolded. She put a fresh dressing over the abrasion she'd just cleaned, securing it in place with paper tape. "Don't bring my girlfriend into this."

Jean raised a brow at that. Slowly, he made the connections in his head. Eren worked with both Krista and Ymir. They were dating. Sasha knew Krista and by default he assumed Connie did too. He was starting to feel out of the loop.

"Does everyone know each other around here?" Jean stiffened as Krista cleaned the other abrasion.

"Mostly," Eren replied. "Krista and Ymir have been dating since middle school. They went to high school with Armin, Mikasa, and I. Ymir pulled along these two brutes named Reiner and Bertholdt once we started college because they're all athletes."

"Don't forget Annie!" Krista piped up over Jean's shoulder. "Bert and Reiner have been friends with her since elementary school. Just like you and Armin. I heard they even used to live together."

"Oh yeah," Eren leaned back, seeming to be lost in thought for a moment. "Isn't her roommate that vacuum girl?"

"Vacuum...?" Krista bandaged up the wound, ignoring Jean's gawking at their conversation. "You mean Sasha? She's so fun!"

"Hey," Jean piped up. "I know her. She's my roommate's girlfriend."

"What a small world!" Krista giggled.

"Looks like you've officially been inducted into the squad." Eren grinned, leaning forward onto his knees.

"Yeah, Jean!" Krista stepped back to admire her work. "Welcome to the group."

Jean couldn't help but smile sheepishly at that. He wasn't sure he could remember how to keep all those names straight. He'd never had that many friends in his life. Now it seemed he had more than he could keep track of.

"Uh, thanks I guess." Jean dropped off the table and tugged his shirt over his head.

“Here are some fresh bandages and gauze,” Krista chirped, handing Jean two boxes. “Don’t get the dressings wet and tomorrow night you can take them off. But then you need to clean the abrasions and redress the wounds, okay?”

Jean looked over his shoulder, wondering how he was going to accomplish that. “Right, that should be fun.”

Krista smiled apologetically. “I’m sorry, but an infection would be a lot worse, trust me.”

Jean nodded. “Yeah, I get it. Thanks Krista.”

“Oh, please!” She skipped towards the door and held it open for them. “It’s the least I could do for a friend!”

Jean smiled and saw Eren waiting quietly in the corner. He walked up to him, noticing how Eren’s attention was caught by the sound of his footsteps. Or maybe it was his movement. He did say he could see some lights and colors. Whatever the reason, Eren’s eyes were on Jean as he stood over him.

“Ready?” Jean asked.

Eren stood and Jean looped his free arm, not carrying the bandages, with his like they’d done before. It easily could’ve been Jean’s imagination, but he could’ve sworn Eren blushed at the bold move. He led the shorter man out of the room but the tiny blonde called out to them one last time.

“Oh, and Jean!” She said. “If you notice any clear fluid leaking from the abrasions, it’s normal! And ice those ribs!”

Jean stiffened, trying desperately to lower his head as the other patients in the lobby gave him quizzical stares. Eren snickered into the palm of his free hand but quickly dropped it when Jean lightly elbowed his ribs.

“So, now what?” Jean asked when they’d left the student clinic.

“Well, I have another cane back in my room and I can’t imagine you feel up to walking to where I had in mind.” Eren shrugged as if it didn’t honestly matter to him. “Movie night?”

Jean’s stomach flip-flopped. “Y-yeah. Sure, I mean, that’s cool too.”

“Jean Kirschtein.” Eren stopped walking, pulling at Jean’s arm. “Are you actually nervous?”

“What?” Jean frowned. “Why would I be?”

The corner of Eren’s mouth twisted into a small grin. “Going back to a boys room. Alone. For a movie night.” He leaned in closer to Jean, standing on his toes to whisper in his ear. “Who knows what could happen.”

Jean pulled back instantly, his heart beating loudly enough he was sure Eren could hear it. He gaped like a fish for a moment before finding his voice, even though it came out sounding weak. “I-I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Eren threw his head back and laughed. Jean started to tally up all the times he’d heard that laugh tonight. “I’m just messing with you, man. You’re so easy to screw with.”

“And here I was starting to think you weren’t a complete asshole.” Jean rolled his eyes as they continued to walk.

“Whatever, douche,” Eren replied. “We still have a bet riding on this evening.” Jean didn’t reply, choosing to remain quiet on the way back to Eren’s dorm and to a hopefully successful evening.

An evening without awkward boners, Jean thought as they stepped past the threshold to Eren’s room. Movie night with the hottest guy he’d ever met was a go.

Chapter Text

“What do you mean you’ve never watched X-Files?” Eren pulled his comforter further over his head, face distraught. Jean grimaced up at him from his position on the floor, typing away at the unfamiliar laptop. They had formally decided that there wasn’t a better test of Jean’s patience for the bet than being cooped up together in the tiny dorm room. Somehow a movie night came out of it.

“I don’t do spooky ghosts, man.” Jean shuddered and lazily flipped through the movie selection on Eren’s Netflix account. He was lying on his stomach on the large area rug since any other position would hurt the fresh abrasions on his back. Eren leaned over the edge of his bed, face partially buried behind an overstuffed pillow. He looked absolutely put out.

Eren giggled despite his frustrated expression. “You said spooky.”

Now it was Jean’s turn to look put out. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“If you had seen X-Files, you would know.” Eren turned his nose up at Jean and smirked.

Jean sighed. “Okay, okay. We’ll watch your stupid ghost show.”

“Aliens, Jean,” Eren deadpanned.

"Whatever," Jean huffed. "No offense, but how are you gonna watch it?"

Jean was worried Eren would be upset but he was surprisingly cool about it. "Well some shows have a descriptive audio feed. But this one is old and doesn't." He shrugged, scooting over to make room for Jean on the bed. "I saw the series before I lost most of my sight and I just like Mulder's sass."

Jean nodded and joined Eren, albeit a bit awkwardly with his bandaged back.

Several hours later, Jean and Eren were nestled on his bed, lying on their stomachs with the comforter thrown over their heads. More than a few times Jean had jumped when a random creature would make a surprise appearance, sending Eren into a fit of laughter. In all honesty this was not how he imagined his first time in Eren’s bed. His warm presence at his side, listening to Mulder tease Scully was far from the mental images he harbored in the back of his mind.

Hey Jean, remember that thing about awkward boners? Lets not do that while the lizard man eats livers okay?

Jean quickly controlled his thoughts and focused back on the show. He tried, oh he tried, but Eren’s face was so close. He could feel Eren’s foot against his ankle. Eren's foot would tap happily to the audio he was listening to and brush against Jean’s exposed skin where his jeans rose up slightly.

Jean shifted, just barely, trying to get that much closer. He kept his eyes trained on the computer screen, not looking to Eren who had his chin resting on his arms and eyes closed. He slid his leg over until the tapping foot made solid contact with his ankle and then stopped. Eren’s eyes were open then, trained on the side of Jean’s head.

Jean swallowed thickly as he watched Eren out of the corner of his eye, worried too much movement would give him away. He leaned forward on his elbows, pretending to be engrossed in the show when all he could really think about was how Eren…

How Eren’s foot was now overlapping Jean’s leg.

When the hell had that happened? He felt warm toes gently brush against the inside of his ankle, just above the line of his sock and below the hem of his pants. Then there was the gentle pull on his leg that got his heart kicking into overdrive and all attempts at actually watching the credits for the episode went out the window.

Eren cautiously slid Jean’s leg closer to himself, but it wasn’t enough to really bring it up in conversation. It was almost mindless, like petting your cat while you watched the news. Jean chanced a look towards Eren and he nearly choked on air. He was still looking right at him.

“Why are you looking at me?” Jean quickly started the next episode.

“It’s too dark in here for me to see your blur,” Eren replied sarcastically.

“My blur?” Jean furrowed his brow at that.

“Mm,” Eren hummed. “I did tell you I can vaguely see shapes and colors, stupid.”

Jean reached over and flicked his forehead. “Don’t be an ass.”

Eren growled at that, rubbing at the spot. Despite their rocky start, it seemed X-Files was bringing them closer and if Eren’s knee now resting against Jean’s thigh was any indication, they were getting closer than he had anticipated for a first date. Jean was convinced this show was working actual supernatural phenomena or some shit.

“I was trying to tell you I wasn’t looking at you,” Eren huffed. “Just your general direction.”

“Don’t sass me.” Jean chuckled.

Eren smirked heavily, sending chills down Jean’s spine. Definitely the good kind of chills. Eren shifted his leg even closer. “That’s not the only thing I can do to you—"

“If you were gonna have a boy over, you could’ve just sent me a text.”

Eren and Jean jumped at the sound of a new voice in the room. They’d been so enveloped with their conversation under the blanket that they hadn’t even noticed Armin walking in. He was practically standing over them, arms crossed over his chest.

“Fucking christ!” Eren sat up, taking the comforter with him. Jean decided to remain still since moving fast with his injuries wasn’t even an option. He looked over his shoulder and smiled sheepishly at Armin.

“What the hell, Armin?” Eren growled, tugging the comforter around himself more securely.

Armin chuckled and sent a knowing look to Jean before dumping his bag onto his bed. “Chill, I’m just screwing with you.”

“I know that, jerk.” Eren pouted. “You snuck in here like a fucking ninja or something.”

Armin raised a brow at that, turning to look at his flustered roommate and his equally flustered date. “Eren it’s like nine o'clock. I always get back at this time.”

Jean blinked, momentarily surprised and fished his phone out of his pocket. Sure enough it was a little after nine and much later than he had intended to stay on this date. He had been so distracted by Eren at his side, Eren taking care of him, Eren being cute and kind to even notice just how long he had been in his presence. He also was fully aware Eren had been about to say something highly suggestive before Armin flounced in with his mischievous smile.

“Shit,” Eren sighed. “I didn’t realize…”

He trailed off as Jean shifted next to him, sitting up to put his shoes back on.

“You’re leaving?” Eren bit his tongue as soon as the words left his mouth. Jean fortunately caught his pleading tone. He smiled to himself before turning to look at Eren, ignoring Armin’s snickering in the corner.

“Yeah, I should probably go.” Jean shrugged. “Eight a.m. classes and all.”

“Oh.” Eren nodded, unable to hide his disappointment. Jean was about to say something like ‘I’ll see you tomorrow’ when Eren cleared his throat and continued. “You really need your beauty rest anyway.”

Armin snorted despite himself and Jean scowled.

“Are you always this much of an asshole?” Jean grumbled and stood from the bed. Jean knew he shouldn’t say the words on his mind, they were spiteful and no matter how lighthearted he could make them sound, knew it was probably not very tasteful. But he was never one for tact.

“How would you know if I needed beauty rest?” He regretted it as soon as he said it. A small weight settled in his stomach that threatened to drag him down but he stayed rooted, waiting for Eren to blow up at him. But what he received was far from it.

Eren busted out laughing.

Jean sighed internally and couldn’t help but smirk at Eren who was clutching his sides and giggling wildly. He really thought he was cute. A bit over the top emotionally and impossible to read, but still cute. As Jean watched him laugh, wrapped up in his comforter with his hair mussed more than usual, he knew he was screwed.

“You’re a riot, Kirschstein,” Eren managed around his fit of giggles. “I like you.”

It was probably just a simple sentiment said in his high from giddiness, but it hit Jean in the gut. It hit him hard, stirring up the cacophony of butterflies lying dormant in his chest and setting his face on fire. He swallowed around a knot in his throat before backing away towards the door.

“Right.” Jean smiled feebly. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“What?” Armin butted in. “No goodnight kiss?”

With that, Jean bolted, leaving behind the sound of Eren throwing things across his dorm and Armin squealing.

He managed to make it into the elevator of his dorm tower before curling in on himself and burying his red face in his hands. One thing he hated about himself was how easily flustered he was. Eren’s voice saying ‘I like you' was rolling around in his head as he mindlessly left the elevator, walked down the small hall past people he didn’t know, and unlocked the door to his room. Connie was there with Sasha but he completely ignored them as he flopped down on his bed and pulled out his phone.

 

Me:

Freckles. Help. I'm done for.

 

Jean stared at his phone for all of two seconds before a well placed smack to the back of his head caught his attention.

“Yo, earth to space man. You in there?” Sasha was hovering over him, concern shadowing her features.

“Mm?” Jean managed and sat up to face his roommate and Sasha. “What?”

“Wooow.” Connie whistled. “Must’ve been some night.”

“He’s in love, Con.” Sasha took her place back on Connie’s bed, wrapped up in his arms.

“I am not!” Jean instantly snapped out of his reverent state, pouting heavily.

Connie threw his head back and laughed. “Right, okay.”

“Whatever.” Jean flopped back onto his bed, turning away from them. He did not need a lecture from them when he knew his best friend was about to do the same.

“Best to leave him be.” Jean heard Sasha whisper before mumbling about returning to her own room. They said goodnight and parted before Jean’s phone buzzed again.

 

Freckles:

Go on

Me:

He’s cute.

He likes me.

There was leg touching.

Freckles:

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Touching is good ;)))))

More dates, yes????

Me:

Well, I sorta ran out of his room.

Freckles:

Excuse me.

Me:

Only because Armin came back

and started talking about kissing!

Freckles:

Why is there no face palm emoji???

Kissing is normal for a date u dork

Me:

Ugh.

I know.

But it didn’t feel right.

Freckles:

Jean if ur gonna wait for the

“right time” its never gonna happen

Me:

It’s not like I’m waiting for some cliche

caught in the rain moment.

Freckles:

SHUT UP AND KISS THAT BOY!!!!!!!

Me:

Goodnight.

Freckles:

You know u love me <33333

Me:

Yes.

But goodnight you giant sap.

Freckles:

Night Jeanbo xoxo

 

Jean smiled at his phone in the dark, rereading the words of his best friend. He knew he was right, that waiting for some perfect moment was not the way to work a relationship or in this case, a potential one. He sighed and plugged in his phone and sat it on his nightstand then walked to the shared bathroom to change into a t-shirt and sweats.

He crawled back into bed a couple minutes later and was asleep before Connie could even start snoring across the room.

---

The following week went by really fast. Jean had lunch with Eren as many days as he could, successfully taking Armin’s spot. Not that Armin minded, he was more than happy to let Jean have his lunch partner. Things were starting to go smoothly after Jean got over his nerves and they both brushed under the rug the events of their first date. It seemed neither was ready to talk about almost kisses and inappropriate activities under a comforter.

Friday had finally arrived and Jean found himself in the student center's employee breakroom with Eren for the fourth time that week. This lunch started quietly much to Jean’s surprise. Normally Eren would be chatty and playful, poking fun at Jean for whatever reason and Jean would snap back with a smile on his face. But today Eren had given him a kind and gentle look when he arrived, silently walking with him to the breakroom.

Jean supposed things really hadn’t progressed with Eren in the past week. In fact things had plateaued. Their movement had halted at friendship and if Jean was being honest, he liked being Eren’s friend. His company was warm and vibrant and conversations were never boring. If it wasn’t for that flutter in his chest when Eren smiled or the almost overwhelming desire to kiss him when he pouted, Jean would be happy as friends.

They sat down in their usual spot at the oblong table, Jean passing Eren his portion of the food as Eren folded away his cane. Jean watched him carefully, thinking of what he should say to break the odd tension in the air. But before he could, Eren turned to face him and made genuine eye contact much to Jean’s surprise.

“I still haven’t told you,” Eren spoke. Jean stopped searching through the bag of takeout and slowly sat down.

“Told me what?” He had a small suspicion this was in reference to the date they were pretending hadn’t happened.

“Oh so you forgot our bet?” Eren smirked, leaning over the table into Jean’s space.

“Our…” Jean scrunched his brow, almost losing himself in admiring Eren’s grin.

Eren rolled his eyes and brandished a fork at Jean. “The one where I tell you why I’m taking help from Disability Services if you manage to survive a date with me.”

Jean blushed at the mention of their date.

“I’d say you survived.” Eren laughed then paused like he remembered something. “Sorta. How’s your back?”

“It’s fine.” Jean shifted and the movement tugged at the bandages slightly. It was already starting to scab over and that made him incredibly itchy. “You know you don’t really have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

Eren shrugged. “I’m a man of my word. Besides, you want to know, right?”

Eren had almost sounded hopeful and if it wasn’t for his casual shrug, Jean would’ve questioned it.

“Well, yeah. If it’s about you, I’d like to know.”

Eren’s eyes widened slightly at that but he quickly composed himself and opened the takeout container in front of him. “Well,” he mumbled around a mouthful. “I’ll just be blunt. I need the financial help.”

Jean couldn’t argue with that. He was here on scholarships alone. He nodded in agreement even if Eren couldn’t see him do it. He opened his own lunch and watched as Eren took another couple bites.

“I’m not the smartest person,” Eren continued. “I’m no Armin so scholarships only helped me so much. It was either join Disability Services or no college.”

“Armin is here on scholarship?” Jean questioned, pausing before taking his first bite. It’s not that he thought Armin was rich or anything, but he said he’d lived in the city his whole life. Maybe it was that idea that made Jean think he had some money.

Eren hesitated for a moment like he was mentally debating what to say. He let his head drop, gaze falling on the orange chicken before clearing his throat. “Well, yeah. His grandfather is retired and can’t really afford our tuition here. Hell, I don’t know most people who could pay that.”

Jean’s natural reaction was to ask why Armin’s parents weren’t paying for his school but then his own shitty father came to mind. He had bailed on Jean and his mother a few years back leaving them in a financial strain. That alone taught him not everyone had a happy, stereotypical family. His next reaction was to the word ‘our’. That was too weird not to point out despite his conscience screaming at him to shut up.

Our tuition?” Jean asked after swallowing a forkful of rice.

Eren sighed. “Caught that, huh?”

“Ah…” Jean started. “You don’t have to answer that, my bad.”

“Y’know,” Eren responded with a smile. “You’re awfully considerate for an asshole.”

“Takes one to know one,” Jean grumbled.

“What are you, five?” Eren laughed and Jean shot him a dirty look that he only realized afterwards was completely pointless. “But yeah, he’s also my guardian. And my sister’s.”

Jean thought about the pretty black haired girl from the pictures in Armin’s office. If he remembered correctly her name was Mikasa and she played volleyball for the school. Eren smiled at his food when he mentioned her. It was then that Jean realized how much love Eren had in him. He had seemed so rude and closed off when they first met like he didn’t really care about anyone or anything.

Now it was like a new light was illuminating him. Eren loved worth a hundred people and anyone lucky enough to receive it would never be able to forget it. Jean lived for these subtle moments where suddenly the world shifts and it’s like a curtain opening. These moments almost make him laugh with how obvious the change is and how stupid he had to have been to not see it before. Eren was an emotional tidal wave and he craved for it to crash over him even more now.

“Jean if I tell you…” Eren started to speak again but then pulled away. He laughed darkly under his breath and shook his head. “Nevermind.”

“My dad walked out on my mom and I about three years ago,” Jean word vomited. He was feeling guilty for receiving all this private information and thought sharing a little might help Eren to open up more. That and he spoke the first thing on his mind when he was nervous.

Eren sat up straighter, head cocked in curiosity.

“He was abusive to her,” Jean continued, staring at his half eaten lunch. “He ignored me. He was also our main source of income since my mother never got a degree in anything. So I’m here on scholarships too.”

There was a heavy silence in the air. Neither of them were eating or moving, Eren had his eyes locked on Jean and Jean slowly lifted his head to stare back. He was waiting to see if Eren would talk. The breakroom was their safe zone now and both silently knew what was said here would stay here. Maybe they both needed a person to just listen and understand. Maybe Eren needed Jean and Jean needed Eren.

“I was 15,” Eren whispered. He cleared his throat again and spoke a little louder. “We were driving to see Mikasa’s game. She was a sophomore and a starter for the varsity team at our school. Mom and Dad were really proud of her. I was too, I mean, but they were over the moon.”

Eren stopped and smiled again at nothing, like he was lost in his memories. Jean watched him intently, taking in all the small nuances of his face and the way his fingers fumbled nervously with his fork. It was obvious he didn’t talk about this much, maybe not at all. So Jean didn’t dare speak to break whatever world Eren was losing himself in.

“This guy ran the red light and hit us.” Eren clenched his fist around the fork and Jean could see in his pale eyes a fire that had never been there before. Eren was furious. “Of course it was the front end so my parents…” Eren trailed off and shrugged, pushing his lunch away from himself. The fire was gone.

“The glass got me in the face.” He gestured vaguely to his eyes and then sighed heavily. “That’s really it.”

The burden of his words weighed on Jean and made his stomach sour. Even if it wasn’t his place to feel shitty about what Eren had told him, he couldn’t help himself. He wouldn’t dare stoop and feel pity for him since he knew that would cause him to lose any ounce of trust Eren had in him.

“Thank you,” Jean finally said.

Eren hummed, shaking his head. “Bets a bet.”

“That’s not…” Jean argued but Eren glared at him, shutting him up.

Jean backed down, not wanting to argue with him. The exchange wasn’t exactly even but arguing at this point would only piss him off. He’d finally been accepted back into the breakroom and able to eat lunch with Eren, no way was he gonna push it.

“Ever think that maybe I wanted to tell you?” Eren eyed Jean and even his tanned skin wasn’t hiding the blush rising on his cheeks.

Jean rolled his eyes then steered the tense conversation in a different direction. “Got any scars?”

“What, you can’t see them?” Eren seemed genuinely surprised.

Jean looked Eren over one last time, at least the parts he could see above the table not covered by his t-shirt.

“No?”

“Look. Right around my eyes.” Eren moved his chair closer around the table, sliding his hand along the top until he came into contact with Jean’s arm. He leaned over his lap and tugged at his wrist. He guided Jean’s hand to his face, fingers forced to brush under his eyes.

Jean’s heart had stopped momentarily before jumping into his throat, cutting off any words he would’ve said as Eren guided his hand to run over the tiny white scars he hadn’t noticed before. They formed a random pattern under his eyes and some in his eyebrows. Eren let him go and Jean continued running his fingers over the raised flesh, almost like he was amazed by them.

They were mere inches apart and an earthquake could’ve been going on and Jean wouldn’t have noticed. Eren smelled like Chinese takeout and his warm breath falling over Jean’s face was becoming his new favorite memory. He had stopped staring into his gorgeous eyes and was now watching his lips, hand cupping his cheek.

Eren licked his lips and leaned forward further into Jean’s space but then there was a knock at the door. Eren stopped then leaned back, grinning like the cocky little shit he was. Jean was watching him and if he didn’t know better it almost seemed like Eren knew that. Eren winked at him as Krista walked into the room.

“Sorry, but your break’s over Eren.” She smiled sheepishly, looking between the two of them before quickly retreating.

“You’re a tease.” Jean sighed when she left.

“Oh?” Eren smirked. “I’m sorry, were you expecting something, Jeanbo?”

“I said not to call me that!” Jean snapped as he cleaned up the table.

“But it’s so cute!” Eren retorted and retrieved his cane, unfolding it so he could leave.

“Whatever.” Jean trashed their extra food then shoved his hands into his pockets.

Eren giggled then in a flash he was at Jean’s side, gripping his arm with the hand not preoccupied with his cane. Jean gasped when Eren traced his fingers over his shoulder then up his neck to grip his jaw. Before Jean could question him Eren turned his face and leaned up on his tip toes, placing a chaste kiss to his cheek.

When he dropped back down Jean was frozen in place, eyes wide. Eren smiled gently and scratched at the back of his head. “That was a ‘thank you’ kiss. For listening, y’know?”

“Oh, uh yeah.” Jean mindlessly rubbed the spot that was still burning from Eren’s lips. “Y-you're welcome.”

“I’ll call you, yeah?” Eren shuffled his feet then turned towards the door. He moved effortlessly across the room to hold the door open for Jean, waiting for him patiently.

“I’d like that,” Jean agreed, still partially spaced out from being kissed.

He had gotten a kiss on the cheek. That was some sappy shit that only happened in books or movies. But it had happened in real life. To him. From Eren. Kissed by Eren fucking Jaeger.

He left the student center still in a daze and even the hot-ass sun outside and the Sahara desert winds couldn’t pull him down. His brain wouldn’t catch up and before he knew it he was standing outside the English building. He was staring at the door to the little, squat building when he finally came crashing back down.

He grinned like a fucking maniac and if it wasn’t for his own startling reflection in the glass doors he might’ve walked into class like that. Calming his expression, he blushed and opened the door to the building, clutching his phone to begin impatiently waiting for the promised phone call.