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love won't find its own way home

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So, people talk shit. Happens all the time, specially in the barracks. Sometimes he'll hear horseface flung in the opposite direction, but throatily meant for him. Once in a while there's even a comment about Marco, but Jean's just incredulous about those, because come on, everybody knows Marco's a likeable guy. Besides, freckle-face — really? are they snot-nosed instead of men? — can take care of his own crap. Armin gets his fair share of heckling, too. Probably more than his fair share, in fact, mostly from those not amongst the 104th trainees. Those poor assholes outside their group don't know what's coming to them when they harass him, usually, and that's why they do it. They think that they can get away with it. But if anything can get you hit in the mouth fast, it's saying something absolutely awful to Armin in front of Eren.

If you wanna get hit faster, do it in front of Mikasa.

Jean guesses it's because they've known each other since forever. They're all childhood friends, right? Grew up in the same town and all. Experienced the same stuff. Some heavy stuff it was, too. Jean tips back in his chair while he drinks from his tin mug at dinner, but he's eyeing the trio over its rim. They sit together, of course, Eren and Armin next to each other, right in front of Mikasa. I wonder if it's so she can keep an eye on the both of them, Jean thinks. Man, Mikasa's such a great girl.

He can't help but keep an eye on them too, after that. Well, all three of them. It feels kind of voyeuristic, like he's up to his ankles in their world. Like he's treading water in Shiganshina. Sometimes, seeing them is almost uncomfortable. But they're so clockwork together, and it's kinda fascinating to watch, most of all when they don't know it. The candid parts are the best, when people siphon off into groups during their downtime. Cliques, maybe. Armin wanders away sometimes to talk with Bertholdt or wave at Annie; he seems to be the most sociable of the three. But he always comes back, and then Jean sees them out of the corner of his eye, distracted, while he loses at cards to Marco. He gets to see them openly, pantomiming at one another, not always finishing their sentences because they each can fill it in. Armin laughs at Eren. Mikasa has this softness towards Armin. Eren taps the side of Armin's head to talk to him, and flicks the ends of Mikasa's hair when she says something he doesn't like. They're all so intimate.

Could be that's why Jean feels sometimes like he hates Eren a lot. He doesn't really, and he can admit that to himself, if not to other people. But he has this pull about him, reigning Armin and Mikasa in, and who can even compete with that? How come he gets two? Jean doesn't know what they see in the guy, who's so mouthy, who's too earnest with his death wish and hot blood. Maybe it's the way he bumps shoulders with Armin. Maybe it's the way he peers at the callouses between Mikasa's fingers. And with Eren so appreciative of Mikasa, maybe it's the way Mikasa looks at Armin like he's a patch of clovers. And with how dedicated to Eren Mikasa always is, maybe it's the way Armin swings his legs faintly but gladly when Mikasa sits next to him. They're all for each other, Jean realizes. They're all wound up in this weird, enamored thing.

Jean watched Eren kill a fly once. He hit it with a stack of papers. Armin had grimaced and seemed to be scolding him, kicking lightly at the side of Eren's boot with the toe of his own, and Jean noticed after a moment that Armin wasn't reprimanding Eren for getting the fly on the paper, but for killing the fly. Why is this kid even here? Jean wonders sometimes. This clingy kid with his books and water-eyes. He feels bad for a fly, he can't handle a Titan. Jean's never seen Armin really hurt anything in his life.

The 104th is out eating with another squad again. More trainees, no higher ups, and nobody they're really familiar with. They don't mingle much; the squads mostly keep to themselves, encased in their own values and heirarchies. It's hard enough that they'll be separated when they're sorted into the different military fields. Best not get mixed up with other squadrons entirely.

Mikasa's sitting between Eren and Armin this time and they're spooning dinner into their mouths, each at different paces, their own specific ways, with which Jean has by now familiarized himself. Maybe he does this too much. He sees Mikasa touch both Eren and Armin's hands, for different reasons but in similar ways. Soft ways, despite the black swallow of her eyes, the way she only glances at anybody else. Other trainees see it, too, and they mutter. They always mutter. Jean hears them. They say, Check her out. They say, I think she's riding both their dicks. They say, The blonde has a dick? They say, Bet she's a slut. That last one makes Jean's ears go hot in an angry way. He stands up in a manner that makes Marco say his name haltingly.

Armin stands first, though. Maybe Eren didn't hear it, but Armin's always sharp, and now his face is sharp, which contrasts weirdly with his button nose and baby face. Jean kind of doesn't like it. He also doesn't like it when Armin strides over to the trainees, because it all just feels out of sorts.

Admittedly, he does like it when Armin hits the guy in the nose.

So, the kid doesn't have much of a right hook, maybe, but it sure leads to a lot of excitement, and several of the trainees from both squadrons that night leave the dining hall with bloody knuckles and angry overseers. Jean spies the Shinganshina three leaving, of course, together. Armin's on Mikasa's left. Jean's never seen anybody so happy to have a busted lip.