She doesn’t usually have to wash the scarf that often. Titan blood evaporates and she is good, strong, and fast enough to avoid getting her own blood on any clothing, especially her most precious possession. However, she is not good, strong, or fast enough to avoid food splatters when she makes the unfortunate decision to sit next to Sasha at mealtime after a particularly rough day.
The scarf ends up peppered with flecks of unseemly food and, well, it looks like laundry will be done earlier than normal. Sasha is so apologetic though that she can’t bring herself to be mad at her friend; Mikasa merely excuses herself to go wash. While scrubbing remnants of gravy from the deep crimson of the fabric in the laundry room, she wonders when Eren will be done with the rest of his survey corp duties. Every day she doesn’t see him feels like a year after living with him for so long.
Somehow, the fabric retains its vibrant color, even after all these years. When she presses it close to her nose she can still barely smell the faintest remnants of Shiganshina, of a home with parents and a much happier Eren. Rather than leave the scarf in the room with everyone else’s clothes, she chooses to bring the damp item back to hang above a fireplace so it will retain the smell of something homey. Nothing else could really compare, however, to that fateful day when a boy with eyes like a storm draped blood colored softness around her neck and let her feel warmth again.
Mikasa sinks down next to the fireplace, knees curled into her chest. She'll only allow herself to sit so unprofessionally in the comfort of a lonely barrack. Her neck feels too bare without the familiar fabric around it, but she knows that toasty fabric will be a simple comfort that comes soon enough. The heat begins to get to her muscles after a long day of exercise, and her eyes close for some amount of time. She thinks of lying in soft grass with Armin and Eren in another life where the military would’ve been no more than a distant fantasy, and Eren would have been with her always in a home that felt like a home.
"Mikasa?" There’s no mistaking the voice or the footsteps of Eren walking into the room Mikasa shares with too many other people. She doesn’t even bother to think about how he should be with the rest of Captain Levi’s team, or sitting in his room where they kept him locked up, because for the first time in a long time his presence puts her at ease. He looks like himself again, in his simple old shirt, eyes still serious and brows intense as ever.
She smiles and it feels like summer’s come early.
"I’m glad to see you, Eren," she murmurs, expression still tinged with sadness and exhaustion. She sits, he stands, a room’s distance between them, and Mikasa can see that in the time she hasn’t been with him he’s grown so much. There’s something very bittersweet about that to her.
In just a few steps he closes the space between them, striding across the room and she thinks of how he’ll look in a few years as a man, a full fledged member of the survey corps with the green cloak flying behind him. The thought of her as a woman next to him, fighting side by side, arises as well and offers her some comfort. She quiets the part of her brain that adds ‘if we make it’ to the end of every thought she has about the future. He takes a seat next to her so they’re shoulder to shoulder, putting his warm hand on top of hers.
"I’m sorry I haven’t been around much lately," he says, "I miss you. And Armin, and the rest of the team too. Maybe not Jean though." At that she stifles a snort of laughter and shakes her head at their silly rivalry over nothing.
"You don’t need to apologize," she replies, squeezing his hand, "Just as long as you come back at the end of the day, I’ll be happy." He exhales softly, leaning against her and it’s a nice weight. Solid and real. Mikasa knows he’s not vulnerable like this normally and takes some happiness in knowing that she’s one of the few people he’d let see like this. And the same goes for her. She rests her head atop his and sighs in contentment when she notes that nothing’s truly changed. He still feels the same and smells like home. Suddenly, Eren’s expression changes and he looks at her, confused.
"Where’s your scarf?"
She gestures up at the fireplace, realizing that the fabric should be dry by now. With one movement, she pulls the scarf down from where it’s hanging. It falls around her shoulders, nice and toasty. Bringing it up to her nose, she’s displeased to find out that it smells more of this room and her new life than home. An idea lights in Mikasa's brain and she turns to Eren, who gazes at her with his intense eyes and looks surprised when she drapes it over his head.
It’s been years since someone other than her wore it, but the sight of Eren wearing the red scarf on his head makes something swell in her chest. There’s almost a lump in her throat, almost, as she gathers some of the red fabric in her hand and feels the worn material.
"Mikasa…?" Eren asks, his face a little pinker than normal as she leans in, heart threatening to beat its way out of her chest. She's never had the nerves to do this before, but refuses to let fear stop her. Every time fear has taken hold of her heart, she loses something. And she's promised herself to never let that happen again. Especially not with Eren.
"It’s warm, isn’t it?" she murmurs, closing the last bits of space between them as she presses her lips to his. Her hand gently closes around the scarf, tugging him closer, heart pounding as she realizes he’s kissing her back. Their first kiss. It’s better than anything she could ever imagine, especially as he puts his hand at the small of her back to keep her near.
When they break away, Eren has a rare, gentle expression on his face as he takes off the scarf and wraps it around her neck once more.
Finally, it feels like home again.