“Fuck,” Reiner mutters, like he’s pulling a splinter out of his palm or adjusting a too-tight buckle on his gear instead of cutting his fucking leg off. Bertholdt swallows back down the bile that rises to back of his throat the longer he muses on the situation, shifting his shoulders to adjust his hold on Reiner’s leg.
Reiner’s partially detached leg, and Bertholdt can peer into the cut to watch Reiner further cut away twitching hopefuls of nerves trying to heal themselves if he so desired. “What the fuck are we doing, Reiner,” he mutters back, without bothering to put a question mark there.
Mutters, because round a bend and take fifteen steps and trip over the rest of the 104th trainee squad, sleeping around a struggling fire. And it’s such a stupid situation, a case of spooked horses and a sudden storm and now they’re stuck outside the wall with barely any food and the shit protection of a partially-fallen castle.
Bertholdt has no idea why humans felt the need for so many goddamn castles.
“They’re hungry,” Reiner responds, damnably composed as he hacks through the last inch of flesh and skin keeping his leg part of his body. Bertholdt bends his knees slightly as he catches the full, surprisingly heavy, weight of his friend’s limb. “I’m feeding them.”
“This is one fucked up Mama Bear fantasy, Reiner, just so you fucking know,” Bertholdt hisses, even as he switches positions with Reiner, helps him hobble into a crouching position over the block of wood as Bertholdt swings his left leg on it.
Neither of them mention how neither of them should care, how they should be calmly stepping back and watching starvation take its hold, and neither of them mention how Reiner didn’t ask Bertholdt to help.
“We all have our secret kinks,” Reiner grunts as he marks where he’ll be sawing off Bertholdt’s limb, a few spare inches above his knees.
Bertholdt doesn’t grace this with an answer, focusing on working his knife under the layer of skin of the – of the meat. His silence seems to play the role of permission for Reiner, who balances on his leg and ever-growing stump, places the blade on the line he marked, and begins to saw.
“Fu – uuuuuck,” Bertholdt gasps, grip slipping on the knife he held and tossing his head back, pressing his palm to his mouth to keep the noise form rising to a scream.
“I know,” Reiner mutters, deep in concentration as he reaches bone, starts putting more strength from his shoulders into the slow back-and-forth motion. Listening to the crunch-crackle of the ossified exterior breaking, feeling a full-body burn that is hottest where Reiner holds the blade, Bertholdt can’t stop himself from whimpering, even as his mind rips through the knowledge that Reiner didn’t whimper once.
“I know,” Reiner mutters again, and unconsciously – unthinkingly, like this is muscle memory or instinct or something that it really definitely isn’t – he turns his head closer, kisses Bertholdt’s leg above the cut. Through the pain, Bertholdt watches how blood smears over Reiner’s lip, how Reiner’s tongue chases after it and licks away the red.
Oh, God, Bertholdt thinks to himself as Reiner cuts again, and the worst part is that the pain makes Bertholdt’s back arch but so does the lust, a feral, wicked flare in the base of his gut that coils down to where Reiner is hacking one of his limbs off.
“This is, this –” Bertholdt gasps, Reiner having to put his weight down on Bertholdt’s limb with a confused look as Bertholdt writhes, “This is so fucked up, Reiner.”
And he sounds like a whore, how his voice arches over Reiner’s name as Reiner cuts through the last of the fleshy strands attaching Bertholdt’s leg to his body. The slow-burn beginning of healing starts as soon as he body realizes he isn’t getting that leg back, an itchy, uncomfortable prickle he feels throughout his entire body.
Bertholdt focuses on this, on picking up the skinning knife and reaching for Reiner’s leg, before a hand on his hip stills him. From where he’s crouched, Bertholdt can’t really read Reiner’s expression but the hand on his hip becomes a hold, and Reiner tilts his head back to catch Bertholdt’s gaze.
Bertholdt is hard, and it’s obvious.
Clearing his throat, Bertholdt tries to shift back, because this is coming much too close to one of the subjects that they just don’t talk about, like ‘they’ve all three gone native and fucked the mission over’ or ‘Annie is in love with Armin; let’s pretend we don’t see anything’ or, in this case, ‘Bertholdt sports massive boners for his best friend; let’s move the fuck along’.
“Sorry, I don’t know – I just, sorry,” Bertholdt babbles, breaking eye contact with Reiner as he tries to inch farther back.
“Shut the fuck up, Bertl,” Reiner sighs, exasperated, before his other hand is on Bertholdt’s hip and he’s pulling Bertholdt closer and mouthing over his crotch, like this is a thing that they do, like this isn’t just part of the carnival of insanity that has been Bertholdt’s evening.
“Oh! Oh, fuck, Reiner, um,” Bertholdt breathes, and Reiner pulls back.
“Yeah?” All cockiness, that tone, a slow drawl that does not fit the shaded alcove they’re in, the two limbs that need to be skinned and de-boned next to them. Reiner is smiling at him from where he’s perched between Bertholdt’s thighs, one leg tossed over his shoulder and one growing leg balanced on the other.
He runs a large, warm palm over the twitching stub of Bertholdt’s left leg, digging his nails into flesh roiling with freshly born nerves. Bertholdt has to choke back a groan, at the pain-pleasure that sparks up through his leg straight to his cock, and Reiner watches how his dick twitches in reaction, before he does it again.
“Reiner,” Bertholdt says, and he’s not sure anymore if it’s because he had something to tell his friend or if it was just to have something to say. His voice chokes into a long moan when Reiner bends and mouths over the bulge of his cock in his pants, Reiner’s hands shifting to grip Bertholdt’s waist and hold him still.
“M’ gonna get you off,” Reiner mumbles, pulling Bertholdt’s pants down just enough to get his dick out.
“O – okay,” Bertholdt says, because while Reiner didn’t say that like it was an option, it seems like the kind of thing you respond to.
And because Bertholdt figures he might as well, he cards his fingers through Reiner’s hair, ignoring how Reiner looks at him like he grew an arm out of his head when he does.
Bertholdt’s a cuddler. Bertholdt is allowed to be a cuddler.
“Don’t look at me,” he hisses when Reiner just keeps… looking at him, like he’s crazy for wanting his post-amputation blowjob from his best friend – and he can’t focus on that too much without feeling like his head is going to explode – to be friendly.
“You’re such a pussy, Bertl, jeez,” Reiner responds, rolling his eyes before sliding down and deep-throating Bertholdt without so much as a by your leave.
“Ho – holy fucking shit, Reiner, Reiner, fuck,” Bertholdt babbles as Reiner swallows, breathes in through his nose and tries to take Bertholdt deeper.
It’s obvious Reiner hasn’t given many blowjobs, no matter how much of Bertholdt he can fit down his throat – he doesn’t know what to do with his tongue, sort of rubbing it along the underside of Bertholdt’s cock in repetitive, cautious movements, Bertholdt can catch the scrape of teeth every so often, Reiner can’t keep the drool and precome from leaking out the sides of his mouth as his lips puff up.
It’s pretty fucking hot, is what Bertholdt will conclude.
And it’s been awhile, Bertholdt will not deny that it’s been awhile, so it’s too soon that the heat inside him goes volatile, flaring and curdling through his blood in waves.
“Rein – I’m gonna, I need, fuck,” Bertholdt pants, pushing back on Reiner’s shoulders, his head, hands scrambling for purchase in something. With a grunt of annoyance Bertholdt can feel, Reiner slaps Bertholdt’s hands away and moves closer, palming Bertholdt’s balls in one hand and working his other over what he can’t fit into his mouth, humming gently.
And that’s what brings Bertholdt over the edge, writhing and gasping and scratching at the back of Reiner’s neck, vicious enough that Reiner grunts in response, making Bertholdt’s hips twitch.
Reiner swallows, calmly, and keeps swallowing after there’s nothing left for Bertholdt to give, sucking until Bertholdt is keening, begging him to back off. That’s when Reiner rocks back on his heels – his other leg must have finished growing back sometime during the proceedings – and wipes the back of his hand over his mouth, grinning arrogantly up at Bertholdt through swollen lips.
“So that was good, right?”
Bertholdt draws in another breath, kicks Reiner lightly in the ribs. His leg’s grown back, he note dizzily.
“Fuck off. Want me to…?” He gestures vaguely at Reiner’s cock, tenting the material of his pants.
Reiner glances down, like he’s surprised, before he shakes his head. “No, the others will be up soon. We have to deal with this.”
With a wave of his own skinning knife, Reiner gestures at the limbs beside them. Bertholdt swallows with a dry throat; for a few minutes, Bertholdt had forgotten what brought them here. “Yeah…” he says.
They look at their legs, blood congealed at the cuts. The flesh at the top is ragged, sort of torn where the 3DMG blade wouldn’t saw and Reiner had to hack instead.
Bertholdt feels like vomiting when Reiner picks up his own leg and hands it to Bertholdt. “I feel like this will be easier to do if we aren’t working on our own body parts.”
“Yeah…” Bertholdt says again, faintly, sickeningly fascinated as he watches Reiner sit, drag Bertholdt’s leg onto his lap, and start working the skinning knife under the layers of Bertholdt’s skin, separating it from the flesh beneath.
“Bertl?” Reiner asks, looking at Bertholdt with a question in his eyes. With a shake of his head, Bertholdt shrugs.
“I’m fine, it’s fine,” he says, sitting down beside Reiner and working the blade back into the cut he’d begun before.
It isn’t fine. He isn’t fine.
Bertholdt splits the flesh in half once he’d skinned the thigh, working out the bone before cutting deeper, hacking the gouge in the flesh deep enough to make getting rid of the kneecap easier. Sasha is a wild girl, he thinks; they’d better not leave any bones in the meat at all in case she sees and recognizes that it isn’t an animal’s.
His fingers are slick and slippery as he wiggles the tips along the side of the cartilage, feeling the squishy, half-warm flesh part from the hardened surface with careful encouragement. There. He makes a few more cuts, pulling the kneecap from the cradle of flesh like a breech birth, poking at the meat with his knife to make sure he didn’t leave any bits of cartilage behind.
The shin is harder to skin, easier to bone, and Bertholdt takes one look at the foot before he cuts it away at the ankle, firmly refusing to deal with boning that.
“What are we going to do with the skin and feet?” he asks, quietly. They hadn’t spoken since they’d started skinning themselves, and his voice sounds loud in the pre-dawn grey. Reiner shrugs, tugging at Bertholdt’s kneecap gracelessly until it pulls away from the meat with a sickening, wet sound.
“Shove ‘em into a corner? Doesn’t matter if they find it anyway.”
“Yes it fucking does, Reiner,” Bertholdt hisses, abruptly angry. “Yes it fucking does matter if they find human feet and human skin that matches ours, because then they’ll find us and vivisect us and it won’t fucking matter that we were doing it so that they wouldn’t starve, it wouldn’t matter to them.”
His knuckles are white around the hilt of his knife, his hands shaking, and Bertholdt can’t hear through a ringing in his ears and the sound of his own harsh inhales.
“…sorry, Bertl, didn’t mean to make you upset, I was being an idiot, you know me. Of course we won’t just shove it into the corner, we’ll get rid of it, they won’t find it, I promise.” Reiner’s voice is soothing, his hand rubbing careful circular motions into Bertholdt’s back while his other works the skinning knife from Bertholdt’s hands.
He’s gripping the blade hard enough to grind against bones in his palm, Bertholdt notices to himself, wondering when that happened. Wondering why his fingers won’t unclench.
“I don’t –” Bertholdt gasps, shaking his head, and Reiner is there, curling closer, protecting him. “I don’t want to be a warrior, Reiner, I just want to go home, I don’t want to be a warrior or a soldier, I don’t want to fight, I want – I want –”
Bertholdt gasps, his lungs seizing, and Reiner is humming soothing nonsense, wrapping his arms around Bertholdt’s prone form. “I know, Bertl, I know, it’s fine, that’s fine, we’re going to be okay, it’s all going to be okay,” he whispers, rocking them back and forth and lying, they both know he’s lying.
“Reiner is the food god!” Sasha sings, happily as she dances around the fire where several hunks of meat are sizzling. “Reiner can find deer in any forest in any land, with his magical senses and magical might!”
Her stomach decides at this moment to add its own harmonization, gurgling pathetically in a way that matches how all their stomachs had been complaining.
It’s a sigh that forces a smile onto Bertholdt’s face, muscles drawn unwillingly into the expression as he feels an unwilling amount of relief, of happiness.
“That’s a fuckton of luck,” Jean drawls from beside Bertholdt, and Armin shakes his head.
“Or skill, Jean. Hunting isn’t as hard for everyone as it is you.” With that, the blond boy presses his hand to Reiner’s shoulder, who holds the place of honour at the head of the fire. “Thank you, Reiner.”
Shrugging, Reiner digs his canines deep into the first cooked piece of meat, delivered to him by a singing, blissfully grateful Sasha, and rips away a hunk, chewing determinedly. “Bertholdt helped.”
“Beeeeertholdt,” Sasha sobs, flinging herself into his arms. Bertholdt locks his knees to keep from falling, tightens his arms as her weight sways from side to side while she babbles, clawing at his arms and pressing her face into his neck.
“You’re welcome, Sasha,” Bertholdt mumbles, rubbing his hand up and down her back, the girl in question snotting herself out on his shoulder when she isn’t chewing on the piece of his leg she has in one hand.
“…and you MADE BROWNIES that one time, Bertholdt, I always knew you were a hero, I ALWAYS KNEW –” Sasha pauses in her rant to tear into the meat in her hand, and Bertholdt swallows stiffly as he sees fibres of it sticking between her teeth. With a loud gulp, Sasha swallows, and then heaves in a breath to continue.
“Oi, Sasha, I think I saw berries in the bushes back there, wanna check? It’d make the meat better,” Jean breaks in, sniffing as he scrapes his sleeve over his mouth, wiping away the juices from the meat he’s eating. Sasha’s head whips to the side wickedly fast, her head latching onto Jean’s.
“Where?” she hisses, and from across the camp Connie’s head whips around, his gaze falling onto Sasha. Connie ambles over easily, picking up another piece of meat off the spit as he finishes the last bite of his first.
“Where’re we goin’?” he mumbles around his full mouth, and Sasha cackles, grabbing his wrists.
“We’re getting berries,” she snarls, and then the two of them are scuttling around the corner.
“There are no berries.” Bertholdt says.
“There are no berries.” Jean agrees, and directs a grin Bertholdt’s way. “I’m just your fuckin’ saviour.”
Jean holds Bertholdt’s gaze and lets the air settle back into silence before he speaks again. “This doesn’t taste like deer, man.”
“Don’t know what it is, but it isn’t deer,” Jean continues, examining the meat in his hand before he shrugs and takes another bite. “It’s food and I’ll eat it and I won’t start shit, but I know this isn’t deer.”
Then he pushes himself off the wall Bertholdt was leaning on, kicking Ymir so that she’ll make more room around the fire and settling himself next to her.
“…You haven’t had any yet,” Armin says from beside Bertholdt, and Bertholdt jumps, wondering when the boy got there.
Bertholdt shrugs, uneasy. “I’m not – um.”
It would be too much of a blatant lie for him to say that he isn’t hungry.
Armin smiles at him, gentle. “We’ve all had a first serving, so. Here.” He holds his hand out, and gripped in it is a large chunk of meat, obviously cooked with more care than the others. “You should eat, Bertholdt. You’re not looking well.”
Bertholdt stares as he feels his stomach contract on nothing but air, doubling over and churning with how empty it is. “Armin…”
“We’ve all had a first serving but you, Bertholdt.” Armin steps closer, and Bertholdt can see growing concern in his eyes. “You need to eat.”
“…yeah,” Bertholdt agrees slowly, reaching out and folding his fingers around the meat Armin’s offering. It compresses slightly under the pressure. Clear juices drip from it, running over Bertholdt’s hand.
Armin’s eyes are cautious, expectant.
Bertholdt raises the meat to his lips and bites.