Connie calls it an 'indirect kiss', Jean reflects as he takes the mug from a boy he hasn't known three months and places his lips right where the other's were just moments earlier.
That's the stupidest thing he's ever heard.
He can still feel the warmth of Marco's mouth on the rim of the cup and tastes something suspiciously close to chocolate in the powdery remnants of coffee that wasn't fully dissolved, and wonders how it can qualify as indirect when the smell of military-grade soap hits his nose and there's nothing but subtle hints of someone else surrounding him. Marco doesn't seem to mind whatever Jean's left behind, whatever scents and tastes may linger when he hands it back and Marco takes another sip and the faint smile that follows the gulp of lukewarm liquid is a coincidence.
Neither of them mention that the other tastes like contraband.
Their first winter is horrible. There isn't any form of heating in the barracks and the blankets are so thin Jean swears he can see the pattern of Eren's striped boxers through them.
Not that he's purposely looking.
The dumb fuck has a habit of rolling onto the floor in his sleep and the resulting thud has every neck of a waking person snapping in that direction. Which is just about everyone because no one found it easy to sleep when they were laying in an icebox. Which may be the reason that he finally snaps, Mid-December during a snowstorm with flakes sneaking in through cracks in the walls and rips the covers from his body, sprinting--in a dignified manner--across the floorboards and all but throws himself into the bed beside his freckled friend.
He watches Marco's body jolt up, surprise and dreary panic provoking the action and Jean merely rips the covers off the brunet's body and turns over, muttering something about body heat and warmth and how the fucking snow means the world hates them all and wants them, especially him, to be unhappy. Marco just expels an amused, tired breath of air and pulls half the covers back from Jean, slipping back underneath them and pressing his face against Jean's shoulder blades and allowing a single palm to rest upon the fabric of the tawny haired male's shirt. It's warmer like this, he notes, and pretends he isn't aware of the looks and snickers that will be thrown his way in the morning.
The sheets smell nice, he notes, as his lips ghost over the clenched material in his hand and his eyelids slide shut over weary eyes.
A string of swears leave his mouth as he watches Marco's gear malfunction, sending the boy crashing down into the bushes below them. It's not a far drop, just a few feet and the foliage should cushion the landing but then again, kids have died before and Jean doesn't like the way his stomach drops at the image of the freckled kid sporting a broken spine and arm bent in ways it shouldn't.
Jean's on the ground in a matter of seconds, landing with a stumble that he will adamantly deny happened at all as he makes his way to the body entangled in a mess of twigs and leaves. He doesn't look broken, though he does look like a fish out of water and Jean snorts, bending down to help tear away at the constricting branches. Marco accepts the help without complaint and Jean grips the tanned hand tightly to pull him up, the wince upon his friend's face not going unnoticed.
Marco brushes it off with a slightly pained laugh.
Jean still hasn't let go of his hand.
It's warm, freckles splattering the back of it like a paint brush flicked at a canvas with abandon and there's an urge to try and find shapes in the little brown dots, one that is, for several reasons, ignored. Jean hasn't noticed the callouses on Marco's fingers before or the cuts and scrapes that scarred from their earlier months of training with the maneuver gear and he doesn't even remember pulling the hand to his face until his lips are brushing against the worn skin and Marco is coughing to get his attention.
Cheeks flushed on both ends, Jean drops his hand and clears his throat.
They don't mention it, and Jean's hand feels uncomfortably empty.
'It's all Jäger's fault', Jean insists, as Marco inspects his bruised eye and split lip, a disapproving and worried look painted on his face. He knows Marco isn't buying it, or rather, he doesn't really care whose fault it is and just wishes Jean would stop fighting with the boy, and while Jean wants to keep arguing, he doesn't.
He always loses arguments with Marco because when it comes down to it, it's logic versus emotion and he really can't argue with Marco's facts.
So he shuts up and pretends there isn't a shiver running up his spine when gentle fingers brush over the purple blemish or a thumb glides over his lower lip. Pretends he isn't staring at Marco's lips and pretends he doesn't notice how close their faces are when dabs at the blood with a tissue and checks to make sure the bleeding is coming to a stop.
Marco has nice lips. A nice face, really. Freckles scattered like stars over his face and eyes that remind him of his early morning coffee and lashes that are a lot longer up close than he originally thought. He doesn't look anything like a girl, and Jean scrunches up his nose a bit but it's a little late to start pretending Marco isn't attractive, and no, Jean doesn't want him to talk right now he's thinking, and that is why their lips are suddenly pressed together and Marco's chastisement fizzles out and oh.
That's what it feels like to drown.
Somehow, it's not as bad as Jean thought it would be.
Marco's shoulders have more freckles than he thought they would, Jean realizes as he presses a kiss to natural constellation of brown suns and stars that lay across the curved landscape of his boyfriend's--almost a year and a half and he still isn't used to that word--build. He can feel the vibrations of Marco's soft laughter through his skin and a whispered 'that tickles, Jean' that only makes him want to do it again.
Which he does.
The action prompts a light swat at his face over Marco's shoulder and Jean just unwinds his arm from around Marco's waist and catches it, pressing his lips to the back of the boy's knuckles. Somehow the afterglow isn't as awkward as he'd thought it would be--in fact, it's not awkward at all, aside from the knowledge that least two people were still awake during it and would not be able to look Jean in the eye in the morning.
Sucks for them, he figures; no skin off his back.
Well, in the figurative sense anyway. In a more literal light he's almost positive Marco's nails, even as blunt as they are, took some skin with them at some point during their bed sheet escapade but he can't find it in himself to care. So he kisses Marco's knuckles again and buries his head in the crook of a warm neck.
There's no protest when Jean doesn't let go of his hand.
They're graduating in a month.
He and Marco are entering the Military Police; Jean smiles. It'll be nice, really, to live within Wall Shina where they aren't about to be killed and where he won't need to wake up at the crack of dawn just to untangle himself from his partner and prepare for another shitty day of training. It'll be easy, from here on out, he tells himself with absolute certainty.
He looks at the boy beside him, pauses.
'I love you.'
Marco nearly drops the water he's holding and Jean just laughs, hooking an arm around the freckled cadet and pressing a kiss behind his ear. Marco returns the words when the shock of the statement wears off and that's good, Jean thinks.
Yeah, easy from here on out.
He shouldn't be surprised. He knows he shouldn't be, when he stumbles upon Marco's corpse. It's been three days and no sign of the uppity brunet all that time and that marks death for anyone, Hell a few hours could've been the cut off, but he hadn't wanted to believe it. He swallows thickly, resisting the urge to bend down and press a kiss to his forehead, to stroke what's left of Marco's hair and it's like a house fire--he can't look away, despite how it makes his stomach churn.
He's the one asked to move the body to the cart later in the day, and he obliges. A kiss upon an ashen cheek and tears stinging his eyes that refuse to fall, he puts the horribly cold corpse atop the pile and takes a step back, tries to think.
Funny--has it always been this hard to breathe?
Connie calls it an 'indirect kiss' Jean reflects as he stares at the lukewarm coffee in the mug Marco drank from so frequently, the chip in the handle and the dent in the side proof enough of that.
Maybe that isn't so wrong after all, he thinks, when he takes a swig and his stomach drops.
It tastes nothing like chocolate.