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Seasons of the Sea

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At the age of twenty-three, Mikasa gives birth to their first child – a small, tiny little girl – in their home by the sea, built after the defeat of the titans. An hour later, Eren disappears for three days, only a kiss on her forehead prior to signal his departure.

While he’s gone, Mikasa spends the time pondering if he’s coming back, wondering if perhaps their mutual decision to have a child wasn’t such a good one. She traces the outline of their daughters face when she’s sleeping, kisses her goodnight and good morning, and makes sure her belly is full. At night, she stands with her by the open window and rocks the infant to the sounds of the sea. The child still doesn’t have a name and Mikasa doesn’t want to make that decision without Eren; she decides to call her ‘Autumn’ for the time being, an ode to the season in which she was born.

On the morning of the third day since he’d left, Mikasa hears a knock at the door, a soft rap that she would never mistake for anyone but Eren. He lets himself in quietly, attempting to avoid disturbing her. He’s dirty and looks exhausted but he smiles when he sees her sitting on the rocker he’d built for her, their daughter swaddled tightly and fast asleep. He doesn’t hesitate to stride over to her and kiss her, peppering her face. She wants to be mad, to yell and scream and ask him where he’s been, but his excitement to see their daughter is almost palpable; she sees his fingers reaching to touch her before she can think twice.

She wonders if he notices the things she does – that their child has her eyes but his dimples, that she has Eren’s strong jaw and Mikasa’s round, apple cheeks. She watches Eren’s face change from curiosity to joy, sees the emotion take over his face as he holds one of her small hands in his and kisses it softer than he’d kissed her.

“I don’t want to get her dirty,” he says with an embarrassed smile. “But I have something for you. Come outside and look.” His voice rises at the end just a little and she can hear his excitement clashing with his attempts to keep his voice low and avoid waking up the baby.

When she stands up, cradling their child in her arms, she goes outside to see three large carts carrying wood and logs. Too many, she thinks. What are they going to do with so much wood? The wood will last through the winter to be sure, but why such big logs, and why so many? He must see the questioning look on her face because he finally says, “The house is too small. It needs to be bigger for her. I’m going to build her a room.”

And he does, with the enlisted help of Jean and Armin. They work for weeks during the day to build it, with both of them complaining loudly (“This isn’t our house,” says Jean. “Why do I have to do this?”) at being forced to help build Eren’s house. It isn’t until Eren reminds them that it’s for his daughter they hush up; they have a soft spot for the small child. (It helps that Mikasa brings fresh food and drinks often, too.)

Levi shows up sometimes, but Mikasa feels this is more for moral support as well as to oversee details, because she never sees him lift a finger. And though Eren hates taking orders from Levi outside of his work, even he has to admit that Levi helps catch small details they certainly would’ve missed without his keen eyes. Thus, their one-bedroom home by the sea grows into two, and though the second one is much noticeably smaller than the first, it is perfect for her.

They agree to keep her name Autumn, partly because Mikasa had been calling her that before his return but also, and more largely, due to them unable to agree on anything else. She hates all his name suggestions as much as he dislikes hers. And thus, as Autumn grew, changing with the seasons, Mikasa had never felt so content or happy in all her life.

Every night they before they tuck Autumn into bed, they make it into a game. She’s now three and lively, with Eren’s stubbornness (“No!” was quickly becoming her favorite word). They’d found that turning bedtime into a game was the easiest way to make her fall asleep, Eren chasing her around the house with Mikasa always there to scoop her into her arms, into safety. They both kiss her goodnight, Mikasa first and Eren second, and always tell her they love her; sometimes, before she nods off completely, Mikasa will linger longer, gently running her fingers through Autumn’s hair till she sleeps.

It’s after one of these nights that Eren slips into bed next to Mikasa and reaches for her immediately, pressing his body against hers and gently tugging at her ear. Her lips curve into a smile and she lets him unbutton her shirt, feeling his fingers dance down her stomach. It isn’t as toned as it once was (even she couldn’t avoid all effects of childbirth), but she knows he can feel the muscle beneath, still strong enough to keep her going. He slides the shirt off her shoulders, leaving her in only a plain white shirt and sleeping shorts.

Her hands lock behind his neck and she can feel the long, deep scar on his nape. She presses against it with the pads of her fingers, gently skimming across it. He flinches as if her fingers are on fire, recoiling a little from her touch. She leans up, placing an apologetic kiss against his lips. It takes him a moment to reciprocate and recover, but when he does, she’s relieved, feeling rather apologetic for her slipup.

He’d gotten the scar in their last, and final, battle – his titan form had been cut down, by her hand no less, and his survival had been nothing short of a miracle. Despite losing his ability to transform (she theorized that she’d somehow just killed off that form and while Armin completely disagreed, she preferred, for both her sake and Eren’s, to leave it at that), he’d remained mostly in tact. Physical therapy had helped him walk once more and while it had taken months for his back to realign itself, he was mostly fine – save for the large scar he bore as a reminder.

She’s pulled from these thoughts, letting out a small, breathy sigh when his fingers, clearly forgiving her, stop dawdling along her stomach to tease beneath her shorts. They skim the front of her underwear for only a moment before a finger slips into her. It’s easy to fall into these moments with him, with their daughter asleep and the world quiet around them except for the lull of the ocean.

“Eren…” She makes an attempt to stop him, to talk to him, but it’s lost among his lips and fingers – she supposes her words can wait another hour.

After, as her body is lazily wrapped in the sheets and he’s cleaning up, she decides to make another attempt at talking to him.

“Eren… Do you think Autumn is lonely?” Mikasa says, letting the question hang in the air between them. She pulls the covers up more, the open window bringing in a draft that chills her.

“No,” Eren says after a moment, going to close the window for her. He’s still naked and she can’t help but appreciate the view for just a second – he looks especially wonderful bathed in moonlight. “She has us. She has Armin and Jean. She even has Levi. Did you know he plays hide and go seek with her? I heard she’s never lost a game.”

Mikasa ponders this, thinking about their child who loves dandelions and swimming out to sea. She’s a handful and they certainly never run out of things to do with her, but does that make her happy? Mikasa pushes the blankets off of her, leaving her only in underwear she’d put on as an afterthought at the end.

“I think I’m pregnant,” she says, just loud enough to reach his ears. His posture stiffens before it relaxes and he turns to look at her from the window where he’d been caught up staring at the moon. She places her hands on her abdomen, the same place his lips had been on earlier, and says, “I feel the same. But I also feel different. Does that make sense?”

Eren walks over to the bed and sits down next to her, his weight sinking their bed. His hands cover hers and he laughs, “So there’s something growing right here, underneath our hands?”

“If by ‘something’ you mean a baby, then yes,” she says. “I think.” She considers that she’s felt fine lately, no nausea or fatigue. Her only real indication is that she’s incredibly late, which in itself is unnerving. She never bothers to keep accurate track of her days because her period is one of those reliable factors in her life. It always comes, no matter what – except, clearly, this time.

She closes her eyes as he shifts down to press his lips the spot where their child is growing. She can’t help the smile on her face when she hears his whispered, “Hello,” to her stomach. He says it so faintly she’s sure he thinks she hasn’t heard it, that only their child will know his first words to them; because she loves Eren, because she loves their children, she says nothing, and pretends to not have heard.

They spend the next couple of weeks making minor preparations, informing only those closest to them (Armin, Jean, Levi, Sasha, to name a few). They hold back on telling Autumn, only because they aren’t sure how to approach the topic with her quite yet. Eren begins to make a baby mobile, collecting seashells during the day with Autumn. He lets her pick out the prettiest ones she can find and they bring them home in buckets. She’s always so eager to show Mikasa and especially Armin her finds. Armin takes a special interest in attempting to tell her about the different types of shells, informing them that if Eren and her can’t tell the different types apart, then at least Autumn will know.

Eren drills holes in the larger shells, holes so small they’re almost invisible, and ties them together in long, uneven strands. He lets Autumn help loop all the pieces together until a mobile is formed. When Autumn asks, “Daddy, what’s this for?” he hesitates before looking at Mikasa, who conveniently looks away.

“For mommy,” he says finally. “For mommy to look at when it’s late at night.”

Autumn seems to accept this answer and she finally says, “Can I look with her?”

“Of course,” Eren says, pulling her onto his lap. “You both can, any time you want.”

The red bloom of blood beneath her is how Mikasa wakes up one morning. She knows instantly something isn’t right, that the feeling between her legs is too familiar and not something she should be experiencing during pregnancy. Her abdomen aches with familiarity and when she stands, she sees her fears have come true. It’s her crying that wakes Eren from his slumber next to her.

Eren spends the next few days informing the few who knew that there had been a mishap, a miscalculation, that they’d made a mistake. He doesn’t think any of them believe him any more than he believes in telling the lie, but none of them ask any questions; he supposes they know asking anything too prying will only make the situation worse. If Eren’s honest, he doesn’t think either of them are up to answering questions.

Never does Eren consider him and Mikasa quite so lucky as when their friends come to play with Autumn in the days that follow. Her giggles can be heard through the breeze that comes through the windows of their home, and when she says, “Can we ask mommy to play with us?” it’s Jean who scoops her up and says, “Nope, because I’m not going to share you!” and proceeds to swing her in large, wide circles. Sasha’s voice joins his as she says, “But I want to play with her too!”

Sasha brings potatoes for lunch when she comes and does so frequently, which seems to be a source of amusement to Autumn, who soon calls her “Aunt Potato,” much to the amusement of everyone else and Sasha’s blatant dislike. (Blatant, of course, only when Autumn isn’t around. She certainly wouldn’t want to hurt the child’s feelings.) Armin likes most to show Autumn the world that he himself is still learning much about; he takes her exploring to the ocean, to the fields full of flowers, and sometimes he tells her stories about her parents. She doesn’t always seem interested or even that she’s listening, but he does it all the same.

It’s with some debate that Eren decides to put away the mobile but not to destroy it, a decision that comes about when he rolls over in bed one night, a few weeks after their loss, and is surprised to find it empty. Panic had set in and he started scrambling to get out of bed, going to Autumn’s room to find his daughter still asleep. Relief seeped through his body at finding her safe, which had left him only to find Mikasa. His voice echoed through the house in whispers as he said her name, “Mikasa? Mikasa?” over and over, until he came upon her figure in the living room, sitting in the same rocking chair he’d first seen her holding Autumn in.

She’s holding the mobile on her lap, fingering the different size shells. He debates if he should go back to bed and leave her be, to try and pretend he hasn’t seen this private moment. He’s on his heels to turn when he hears her crying, so quietly he knows she’s trying not to rouse him or Autumn. Instead, he turns her direction and takes a hesitant, tentative step towards her. His feet creak on the wood and she stops crying, glancing upwards in his direction.

“I’m sorry,” he apologizes. “You weren’t in bed. I was worried.”

“It’s okay,” she says, laying the mobile down on her lap. He sees her try to wipe tears away again, quickly and with the corner of her shirt. “I just… I wanted to come look at it again.”

“I did say you and Autumn could look at it whenever you wanted,” Eren answers, sitting down in front of her. He leans forward and rests his chin on her knee, sighing when she runs her hands through his hair. They stay like this for some time, unaware to Eren that he’s fallen asleep until he feels her gently shaking him.

“Let’s go lay down before Autumn wakes up,” she murmurs, taking his hand to help him up before guiding him to their bedroom.

Autumn is four, almost five, when she breaks her right arm. It’s no surprise to Eren that Jean had been the one playing with her, helping her climb tries, when he’d climbed too far ahead of her, so when she fell, there were no arms to catch her. It wasn’t a far fall, only that she’d been unfortunate enough to land on her arm at an awkward angle.

Armin and Eren spent the hour after the accident binding and splinting her arm with Mikasa attempting to distract her, although it turns out the distraction was unnecessary. Autumn holds herself well, and no one is more surprised than Jean when, after her arm is tightly packed, she looks at him and says, “Will you carry me up the tree tomorrow?”

Mikasa is never more certain that she’s Eren’s child than in that moment.

A few months after Autumn’s fifth birthday, Mikasa realizes she’s late. Very late, in fact, to the point she suspects something is up once more. She keeps it a secret this time, even from Eren, deciding that it’s in the best interest of her family. Despite it having been two years since she’d lost their last child, the wounds were fresh, and she fears waking up in a red pool once more.

But it doesn’t happen and soon a few weeks turn into two months. When her skirts and tops became too tight, she finally decided to tell Eren. She waits for the right moment, biding her time, and is presented an opportunity a week after her decision to inform him.

Autumn is playing underneath a large tree nearby, looking around it for Levi, who clearly looks exhausted from so much playtime but keeps up appearances for her. (Mikasa does note that his ‘hiding’ seems more like having her chase him in circles around the tree.) Sasha is nearby, but despite Autumn’s pleas of, “Aunt Potato, come play!” she hasn’t budged, clearly napping under the sun. Eren looks at the tree Autumn and Levi are playing around and says, “I should build her a swing. Can you imagine how much more playing she’d do here? We’ll never get her inside.”

And with those words, Mikasa smiles, and says rather lightly, “I think we should build two.”

“One for us?” Eren tilts his head and glances at her.

“One for her brother or sister.” Mikasa’s smile widens as she sees recognition cross Eren’s face. She sees – just for a moment – the same worries cross his features that she’d had over the last few weeks, right before he starts saying, loudly, “A baby? A baby!” He’s picking her up, attempting to spin her before remembering, and putting her down with a sheepish smile.

“A baby?” Autumn has come walking up, holding Levi’s hand. Although his eyes are clearly looking down at her dirty hand holding his he doesn’t pull away. Sasha has cracked her eyes open and is staring at the four of them with newfound interest.

“A baby,” Eren repeats, kneeling down by her. Her brown hair is coated in a layer of sweat and she has streaks of dirt across her cheeks. Eren reaches forward to try and rub some of it off and the gestures makes Mikasa smile a tiny bit more. “We’re going to have a baby, Autumn.”

There’s a quiet moment between all of them before Autumn asks, “Where do babies come from?”

They spend the following months preparing, telling those closest once more about the expected child. Their friends bring gifts (despite Mikasa’s protests) and her favorite is a gift from both Jean and Armin – a wooden cradle, hand-crafted by Jean’s hand and designed with Armin’s measurements. Sasha makes it known she’s added her own influences, too – the carved flowers on the sides were her idea and she says, with a small smile, “When the baby is born, we left a space to add their name at the top.” And, indeed, on one of the sides is a long, blank slate, waiting for a name to be carved.

Eren pulls out the mobile from years earlier and hangs it above the cradle in their bedroom. It’s dusty and some shells have chipped, but the three of them make a game of finding new shells to replace the old. Mikasa tends to pick up the large, flat ones, while Eren and Autumn tend to go for the rounded, curly types. Yes, she thinks, she is his daughter, through and through.

“When will the baby be here?” Autumn asks one night, sitting on her parent’s bed as she watches Eren making the final touches to the updated mobile. “Is it a boy or a girl?”

“The baby will be here soon,” Eren answers, glancing over at Mikasa, her stomach perfectly large, perfectly round. “And we won’t know till he or she comes. But you’ll be the first to know when we find out, okay?”

“Okay!” She’s excited at the prospect of being the first to know a secret between her parents. She goes to Eren and reaches up to touch at the shells. “Will the baby like these?”

“I think so.” Eren picks her up and, with a smile crossing his face, says, “I think it’s time for bed!” She screams loudly and bolts from his arms, running from the room and heading to her bed.

Mikasa laughs as Eren chases after her. Her stomach is too big and Autumn is too heavy for her to carry now; she’s can’t help but be sad that her child has grown so much. She follows Eren and Autumn into her room and watches him pull the blankets up tightly around her. He kisses her forehead and walks over to the window, opening it for her, letting in the cool breeze and the sound of the ocean.

She walks over and kisses Autumn on the forehead and tells her, “I love you. I’ll see you in the morning, okay?”

Autumn nods her head, saying, “I love you too, mommy.” She reaches up and hugs her tightly around her neck before she lets go. Before Mikasa can step away, Autumn leans in and places a kiss to her stomach, adding, “Goodnight, Baby, I love you too.”

On the evening of her twenty-ninth birthday, Mikasa gives birth to their second child, a girl who looks nothing like Autumn did when she was born. She’s loud and strong, comforted only by the breast of her mother. Mikasa loves her from the moment she sees her and, as promised, Eren brings Autumn in to look at her sister before anyone else knows.

“A girl,” Eren tells her, sitting down on a chair next to their bed. “You have a little sister.”

Mikasa shifts the baby to let Autumn see her better and watches as she examines the baby for a moment before saying, “She’s not very cute. What’s her name?”

Mikasa can’t help but laugh for a second before she looks at Eren and, with a rather large, tired, exhausted smile, she says, “Summer. Her name is Summer.”