From the many who enlisted in the military, there were so few who came to the survey corps. Of course everyone wanted the Police Coordinate. That was why most of them enlisted- to get a comfortable, protected life. Everyone tried their hardest to get their skill up and to somehow get into the Police, but in the end everything was up to A.R.M.I.N. And everyone know you cannot lie to the ARMIN. It measures your temperature, pulse and body reactions to make sure no one might bend the truth.
Marco would never forget his questioning with ARMIN, but though he was nervous, he thought he did ok. The second thing he would remember forever was when they called out what branch they were put in. Most ended up in the Engineering Department or Civilian Council, with 10% getting into the Police Coordinate, but only 5% get enlisted in the Galactic Survey Corps. Which of course, kind of shocked him as pretty much all of his friends were called out and enlisted in that exact department. Marco didn't mind though. Actually, he was very excited! He couldn't wait to get his gear and to be able to move around in outer space! It must be the best feeling in the world..
No, what Marco found most frustrating about joining the Survey Corps, was explained by two simple words: Jean Kirschtein.
He had developed feelings for Jean fairly early, back when they were trainees. He had always thought him skilled and talented and cool, but it was first when he started talking to him that he noticed how wonderful he really was. Jean was cute and adorable and awkward and quirky and Marco loved every single thing about him. But he knew he never had a chance, because as it turned out, Jean liked Mikasa… and was probably not interested in guys at all.
It was after practice, and Jean had missed one of his targets. Sasha had managed to get to it before him.
"Damnit, she stole my target!" He growled angrily.
"Oh come on, Jean! She was just faster than you and you know it." Marco said, rolling his eyes.
"But she saw that I was going for it!"
"So? It's not exactly against the rules."
"But I lost points because of it.."
Marco sighed, fogging his helmet for a second, before it disappeared again. He took a hold of Jean's shoulders and turned him to face him.
"Jean, look at me. You are one of the most talented people among us. A few points will not hurt your score, ok? You are fast and skilled and everyone who can't see that is a fool."
The light pink in Jean's cheeks made Marco want to laugh, but he frained from it.
"Thanks Marco.." He muttered with a small smile.
"Come to think of it, Marco.." Eren suddenly spoke, coming up beside them. "You seemed to let some of the others get the targets, even though you had a shot at them. Why?"
"Oh um.. I know it's useless when we get point for how many target's we hit, but I'm the slowest one here, so I thought I should attract the titans attention while the rest of you got to it." He explained, even though he realized it sounded stupid.
"I see." Eren said. "In other words, you're a natural leader. I think it suits you."
The others chimed in, in agreement and Marco couldn't help but smile, feeling a little flattered. In the corner of his eye, he noticed Jean smile and nod to himself, which was more flattering than anything.
Later, Jean and Marco were walking down the hallway on their way to their rooms. The others had gone ahead before them, so it was just the two of them. It was silent for a while, except for the sound of their footsteps echoing through the hall, before Marco spoke.
"I think you'd be a better leader than me, Jean."
Jean looked at him questioningly, with one eyebrow raised.
"Me? You gotta be kidding. I'm not selfless at all! What made you think that?"
"Don't get mad when I say this, but.. you're not a strong person, Jean."
Jean scowled at him. "What the hell?"
Marco hastily went on explaining, before he got pissed. "So you can really understand how weak people feel! But you're also good at recognizing what's going on at any giving moment and you know exactly what needs to be done. I mean.. most humans are weak, including me. But if I got an order from someone like you, I'd do my damn best to carry it out!"
Jean just shook his head. "You're crazy, Marco! But… thanks."
It was completely random that Marco heard what he did as he randomly walked by Jean's room. He couldn't catch everything, as it was muffled behind the door, but he couldn't help laughing quietly at what he heard.
"So, Mikasa… you come here often?"
"Of course she would come there often, it's the fucking cafeteria!"
"Ok ok… Mikasa. I.. like your hair? And you smell nice."
"Smell nice?! Well that's not creepy at all, Jean, jeesh!"
"Jean?" Marco said, as he tapped on his half open door.
"GAH!" Jean squeaked as he jumped. "Marco! How long have you been there?!"
Marco chuckled. "Not long."
"Did… Did you hear?"
"Uh-hu." He nodded, crossing his arms over his chest. Jean threw his arms over his head in despair.
"Damnit! I'm such an idiot! Ugh what am I gonna do.."
Marco chuckled again as he crossed the room to remove Jean's arms from his face.
"Relax, Jean! Just talk to her."
"I fucking can't!" He protested, throwing his hands up in defeat.
"Sure you can! You're Jean Kirschtein! You're always so confident in practice, what makes this any different!"
"Because! This isn't practice, Marco! This is asking someone out! A girl!"
"Oh, come on, it can't be that bad! Just take a deep breath, try to calm down and ask her out."
Jean glared at him like he had lost his mind and Marco rolled his eyes.
"Here let me show you." Marco said, before taking a deep breath. "Jean Kirschtein… will you go out with me?"
The look on Jean's face was priceless and Marco burst into laughter. All the color had completely drained from his face and stared with eyes. It was even funnier, because Marco actually meant it, but he didn't need to know that.
"Haha, very funny Marco…"
"But I'm serious Jean, just go ask her out." He grabbed his arm and started pulling him towards the door.
"Yes! Now go already!" He pushed him out and Jean eventually disappeared down the hallway. Marco sighed and brushed a hand through his dark hair. "Go before I crack and ask you out for real.." He thought to himself, with a sad smile.
Booming music was pulsing through the club as Marco made his way through the crowd. Neon lights were beaming around the big room and everywhere, people were dancing, or standing about, talking but he was looking for one person in particular. Finally, he spotted his signature sandy hair, with the darker undercut, sitting by the bar and he walked over to sit down beside him.
"Hey… You alright?"
"Marco? What are you doing here?" He muttered grumpy. Marco sighed.
"I heard about what happened in the mess hall."
The fiasco in the mess hall had quickly gotten around and within minutes pretty much the whole ark knew.
"You did?! Ugh Jesus Christ…"
"I think half the ship's heard by now…"
"Auuuuugh oh my God…" Jean groaned and Marco felt kind of sorry for him.
"Hey.. it's gonna be alright." He said comfortingly and patted him on the back.
"I made a huge fool of myself in front of everyone! And, and now… And now I'll never be able to talk to her again…."
"Jean… You got nervous. You got nervous around a pretty girl. That's hardly unusual."
"I bet she doesn't even wanna talk to me anymore!" He muttered.
"Now why would you think that? She's seen you in training; frankly everyone has! You're really talented out there and you even help out the cadets who're struggling. That's really cool." Again, Marco wanted to make him feel better. He wanted everyone to see Jean as amazing as he saw him. But Jean still wasn't budging.
"Whatever. That doesn't mean anything if I can't talk to her for five seconds without stuttering like a little shit." He buried his face in his hands and Marco sighed.
"Jean, look at me."
"Either you take your head out of your hands, or I swear I'll pull it out."
Jean grunted before looking at him. "There. Better?" He said and Marco punched him lightly in the shoulder.
"Ah- Hey! What was that for?" He whined.
"I was tired of seeing you sulk! You're smile is too nice to keep hidden." Marco stated with a warm smile. This made Jean laugh and nothing else mattered anymore, because seeing Jean smile was the best thing in the world and it meant he had somewhat succeeded in cheering him up. At least alittle.
"Hahaha. Oh God… Well at least I always have you to fall back on."
This made Marco's stomach drop, but he did his best to not let his smile falter. If only he had meant it… He wanted to say: 'Yes! For the love of God, please date me!' But he knew that wasn't possible. No he couldn't ruin their friendship, so instead he joked:
"Oh no, I'd never date you Jean! I only go for the crybabies on deck 8."
Jean laughed. A couple of minutes went by with Marco continuing to praise his best friend and trying to make him feel better, when he suddenly noticed something.
"Hey… I'm friends with the bartender here…" He recognized the man as a friend of his parents, whom he had talked to several times as he'd visited their apartment when he was younger.
"Wait, you know him?" Jean lit up excitedly.
"Heh, I have a feeling you'd love some illegal alcohol right now."
"Why didn't you say anything? I needed some hours ago!"
"Eeeeyh Marco! Thanks for the alcohol, buddy!"
Oh God, this was a terrible idea and he should never have done it. Jean was leaning heavily on him and Marco struggled to keep him up, while cursing himself for getting him alcohol in the first place. Why on earth did he think that would be a good idea.
"Stand up! I can't- hold all of you!"
"Ey wha- wha- what do you say we go back and party some more, man? I had a fun time.. fun time, yeah."
"I knew this was a bad idea!"
Jean started rambling on about some shit, that he didn't exactly listen to, like "Mikasa's so hot" and "Her boobs are so firm" and "Her spacesuit's so fine!". Marco growled under his breath as he struggled to open the door to Jean's room with his e-card, while at the same time holding him up. When he finally got the door open, he tossed him on the bed and he landed with a soft "thump".
"There. Now please, just go the fuck to sleep. We still have practice tomorrow!"
"Marco Marco Marco Marco! Marco, come on, let's practice dancing! Let's practice dancing…" He energetically took Marco's hand in one hand, and wrapped the other around his waist to pull him closer, then started to swing him around.
"Augh! Jean, you're drunk!" He tried to push him away, but then suddenly, his goofy grin faded and he looked dead serious.
"You're my best friend, Marco…"
"Erh… you're my best friend too, Jean." Where did that come from all of a sudden? Then, Jean slowly leaned in closer and Marco froze up.
"J-Jean?! What are you doing?"
"Sssh!" He stopped him with a finger on his mouth. His eyes were glossy, his pupil's blown wide and he had a tint of pink color in his cheeks. Marco blushed furiously. He couldn't believe what was happening- Jean was drunk! He should push him away! And yet, he just couldn't bring himself to do so. He just couldn't get his body to move. Marco's heart beat painfully hard and fast in his chest as Jean's lips moved closer and closer to his, in slow motion, until they finally met in a kiss. He couldn't bring himself to pull back. His lips were so hot and firm and his arm so protectively tight around his waist. So many times had Marco dreamed about kissing him and he had certainly not imagined it like this, but still… it was so good and he instinctively combed his fingers through his hair and pulled his head closer.
"Ngh, so good…" Jean mumbled against his lips.
MARCO, STOP. A voice shouted inside his head and he broke them apart.
"Shit! Jean, stop. You're drunk. We shouldn't do this."
"C'mon, just a little more.." Jean pushed on and kissed him again. Marco was helpless. His whole body felt weaker and it felt like his knees was gonna give under, beneath him at any moment. Eagerly, he kissed back, wrapping his arms around his neck. Before he knew it, the other's tongue slipped into his mouth and they were making out. He lost all train of thought, his mind only focused on the feeling of the other's mouth, until Jean's voice brought him back again.
"Mh.. Mikasa…" He moaned in-between gasps and Marco froze. Ouch. That was too much, he couldn't do it. He pushed him away, perhaps more forcefully than needed and Jean stared at him.
"I'm not your fucking rebound, Jean." He muttered angrily, before he disappeared out of the door and walked to his room as fast as he could.
The next day though, he regretted everything. Jean was piss drunk, he probably didn't completely realize what was happening. Had Marco taken advantage of his state? It was Jean who had kissed him, but still… He needed to apologize. But that turned out to be easier said than done.
Before practice, as they were changing into space suits, he tried to get a hold of him.
"Hey Jean I-" But Jean turned away and left before he could say anything else. Ok that was abit strange, but maybe he was in a hurry to do… something.
During practice, he avoided him altogether keeping a fair distance from him and he also seemed a bit… out of focus. He missed several targets, which caused him to swear loudly and he was slower than usual.
After practice, Marco was determined to talk to him. He made sure to wait until he was changing, so he couldn't just run off, because he was just in his underwear.
"Jean.." He started.
"What do you want, Marco?" He growled and Marco frowned.
"Well… about what happened last night-"
Jean suddenly slammed his locker shut with a loud bang. "I don't want to talk about it." He stood with his back turned breathing heavily and his hands balling into fists. Marco didn't dare pressing the matter any further and thought he should wait until they were more alone.
But by lunch, Jean was nowhere to be found in the mess hall. He asked the others, but no one had seen him since practice. Ok, so he was ignoring him completely. This was totally unfair. All appetite gone down the drain, Marco forcefully put his tray down, causing some people to turn, and walked off.
He couldn't believe him! After all this time that he'd ignored his feelings to do what was best for Jean and then he has the nerve to just ignore him after something like this happens! The hell if he was gonna stand for that. Quickly finding Jean's room, he pushed the small button and spoke:
"Jean. I know you're in there. Come on, you can't just ignore me like this."
He waited for a couple of seconds, but there was no answer.
"Jean, I swear to God, if you don't open this door right now, I will fucking hack your room's system. I'm the head in our class in engineering, you know I can."
Finally, the door slid open with a "psh!" and he saw Jean, sitting there, sulking on his bed. He sighed, furrowing his eyebrows.
"Jean… we have to talk about this. I know that you were drunk and didn't have much control over yourself, but to be honest, you kissed me! So it's hardly fair for you to ignore me." He paused, but Jean still didn't say anything. "Look, I'm sorry, alright? I won't do it again."
"It's not that, Marco…"
That caught him abit off guard. If not the kissing, then what could he possibly be upset about?
"Then… what is it?" He asked.
Jean looked out of the window, at the black, starlit universe and he looked… conflicted. Like he was fighting with himself.
"I can't tell you."
"If you can't tell me, than it's hard to help y-"
"I'm sorry." He interrupted.
"I know I hurt you, you know with the whole… Mikasa thing."
Marco smiled. Was that all he was worried about?
He shook his head. "It's fine Jean, I understand."
There was another pause of silence and Marco moved over to carefully sit next to him on the bed.
"So… you didn't mind?"
"…..I didn't hate it."
Silence. Marco swallowed hard. Did that mean that he had somewhat… liked it? His pulse quickened and he inched closer.
"Y-You know… If you wanted to practice with someone…. I wouldn't mind." He knew he was stepping in a minefield, but this might be the only chance he got to be close to him, he had to at least try. Jean turned to look at him, but his expression wasn't shocked. It was more like curiosity actually.
"I mean… all you need is a blindfold and you could pretend I'm whoever you want me to be." He pressed on.
There was a long nerve-wrecking silence, Marco's palms getting sweaty, and then:
"Yeah, why the fuck not."
Marco stared at him with an open mouth for a while. Was he serious? Was this actually happening? He shook his head to get back to reality and nodded carefully. With trembling hands, he pulled out a handkerchief from his pocket and carefully tied it around Jean's head, covering his eyes. Then, very carefully, he leaned in and pressed his lips against his. For seconds that felt like hours, he kissed him, without much response and then pulled back, wondering if this was such a good idea after all. But then, suddenly Jean placed a hand on the back of his neck and pulled him in, kissing him passionately. He kissed him firm and moved his hands feverishly through his hair and Marco couldn't help the small moan that escaped him. The kiss deepened, Marco's hands gripping at Jean's shirt and just as he was about to press his tongue inside his mouth, Jean hastedly pulled back.
"No!" He hissed and Marco jumped back, startled. Jean angrily tore the blindfold off and Marco noticed with a shock that Jean had tears in his eyes. Jean. Jean Kirschtein. Who never cried for anything.. Had tears in his eyes. What had he done.
"Jean?! A-Are you alright?" He asked nervously, the grip on his shirt loosening and suddenly, Jean grabbed his arms firmly.
"I can't do it! It's you I want Marco! I finally realize that now." Marco could do nothing but stare at him, his brown eyes wide and his body frozen. What did he just say? What were those words that just came out of his mouth?
"I.. I still have a crush on Mikasa… I think. Fuck, I don't know! But when we made out… I realized that I have feelings for you too." Marco could say anything. He couldn't move. It felt like he had swallowed a potato that clogged his throat. He finally broke out of his trance when Jean shook him firmly.
"Say something man!" Breaking out of his stare, he looked down at his beloved best friend, who were staring back at him in panic. It was so adorable, he couldn't help himself. He started laughing. Jean stared at him like he had stabbed him in the gut.
"Hahahaha! Oh Jean…" His laughter faltered and he softly touched his hand to his cheek, smiling warmly. "I've been in love with you ever since I first met you."
He nodded and there was a pause.
"Then, why the hell didn't you say anything?!"
"Well! Because! I didn't want to ruin our friendship and… you know!" Jean hit his shoulder softly with a pillow and he laughed.
"Marco Bodt, I'm almost insulted that you think something like that would ruin our friendship." Marco laughed with him. Everything was ok now. He wasn't mad at him and he even felt the same thing! Even if Marco's feelings were perhaps stronger, it was too good to be true.
"But then maybe, knowing that we're both cool with this… we could start over?" Jean suggested and how could he ever resist those pleading eyes of liquid gold? He merely nodded and once more, Jean leant in to kiss him. He took his time this time, touching his cheeks with both hands, gracing his jawline with his fingers and then carefully pressing their lips together. If the other times had been good, this could not compare. It was soft and yearning and it was like both of them were trying to taste as much of each other as possible, both with mouth and hands. Fingers roamed through his hair, over his chest, opening his shirt. Lips brushed over his neck, his shoulder, his collarbone. The lights dimmed down, indicating that the Ark was turning to night modus and their shapes could only be seen by the dim glow of the night lamp over the bed that had to be turned off manually.
With clothing neglected on the floor and soft moans sounding in the dark, everything else was forgotten, because nothing else mattered. For this moment was pure and honest but also intense and yearning and Marco was surprised over how strongly his need for intimacy grew. A strange feeling washed over him that something big was about to happen, though he didn't know if positive or negative and frankly he didn't care. All his life he had felt so small and insignificant compared to the enormous, everlasting universe, but now, for the first time in his life, he felt as if he was part of something bigger and it was an amazing and strangely peaceful feeling he did not want to let go of.
Jean was floating in nothingness with his mind and body more relaxed than he had ever been. Where was he? Outer space? No.. This was different. An odd feeling of peacefulness he had never felt before surrounded him and then suddenly a slight pain in his chest. "Ba-dum." A heartbeat? Again it came and again until it made a steady rhythm. A warm feeling spread over the right side of his chest and he shivered as a warm breath on his neck tickled him. Slowly, he blinked open his eyes, to be met by the roof of his room. A dream?
"Ngh.." The boy in his arms moved a little and he looked down to see Marco, beautiful Marco sleeping on his chest. That's right… the feeling in his dream wasn't all that different from what he had felt that night. Smiling happily to himself, he kissed the top of his head and closed his eyes, going back to sleep once more.
They both woke with a start, jolting upright in the bed as the alarm rang loudly through the ship. For a minute, they watched each other with horrified eyes.
"Is that…" Marco whispered.
"Shit." Was Jean's response and they practically jumped out of the bed as they simultaneously realized what the alarm meant. Titan attack. The two of them scrambled around, throwing on the first pieces of clothing they could grab. Suddenly, the speakers sounded and they halted.
"All members of the Survey Corps report in the west wing immediately! I repeat, all cadets report in west wing now!" It was Lance Corporal Levi.
"Fuck!" Jean cursed and before he could think, he grabbed Marco's hand and stormed out of the room. Out in the hallway, people were panicking, civilians running everywhere and Jean swore loudly once more. They were pretty far away from the west wing and they still had to get to the equipment room to change into their spacesuits.
"Jean, calm down. Don't panic, we'll just get there as fast as we can." Marco comforted him as they darted through the crowds. When they finally managed to change into their spacesuits, they stormed towards the west wing. Their feet slammed against the titanium floor as they sprinted away, but then, out of nowhere, they fell back as something suddenly crashed into the ship and tore off a piece of the wall. The vacuum from the hole immediately sucked in everything nearby and Jean only just managed to grab hold of Marco's arm, before he was sucked in and he clung desperately to the ship. The odd part was that Marco did not look scared at all, just really serious, like he always did when he was in his 'soldier mode'. Jean tried with all his strength to pull Marco in and tears started forming in his eyes as his hand dug painfully into sharp metal, blood pippling into his glove, but the vacuum was too strong.
"Jean, you can't do it! Just let go!" Marco shouted, but Jean did not let go of him. Instead he let go of his grip on the ship, still clinging to Marco's arm and they were flung into space. They were at least 200 m away from the ark when they finally were able to stabilize themselves with their thrusters. Jean had managed to hold on to Marco's arm as they were flung out, but looking around, he noticed the ark were surrounded by titans.
"We're heading out now! All cadets who hasn't assembled yet will be left behind!" He heard Corporal Levi command in the transmitters.
"Lance Corporal, Kirschtein and I are off course. A hole was breached in the south-east side of the ship and we got sucked in. We're about 200 m away from the south-east side of the ship." He heard Marco reply.
"God dammit! Ok, we're sending back up to you, cadet Bodt. Hold on."
They couldn't say more, because right then, titans were approaching them. Jean immediately activated his swords and evaded a titan's big claws as it attacked him. In a swift movement he managed to move above it and slice its neck. In the corner of his eye he saw Marco fighting as well, but then he was attacked by another b class. It seemed like ages that they fought off titan after and titan and meanwhile drifted further and further from the ship.
"Fuck! Where are those reinforcements?!" He hissed.
"We'll just have to make do!" Marco replied and then suddenly, the numbers and calculations lit up in front of him darkened.
"ARMIN?!" He tried desperately. There was no answer. His beacon had died, which meant he had no aim other than his eyes.
"Yeah, me too! I think we're too far into the nebula!" But luckily, they managed to fight off the last of the titans and panted for breath. He could see the other titans die down in the distance and thought with relief that back up must be coming soon. They were probably so busy fighting off the other titans, that they couldn't get to them. Instinctively, he moved closer to Marco's side. However, it seemed like their luck didn't last long, because right when he reached his friend's side, his jet pack died down.
"Shit! I'm out of fuel!" He yelled.
"My thrusters ain't working either!" Marco was quiet for a moment and as he glanced over to him, he had the most horrified look on his face.
"Marco..?" He spoke carefully.
"Mine's not working either.." He almost whispered and then it dawned upon him.
"It's ok!" Marco tried to reason. "They'll find us soon, we'll just have to stick together!"
Jean nodded in hopes that he was right and took a hold of his arms.
But luck didn't seem to favor them that day. For hours they floated through space, further and further away from the ship and after a while, it got hard to breathe. Jean felt light headed as he panted heavy in an attempt to suck in the little air in his suit.
"Jean…" Marco spoke and he noticed how pale and weak he looked.
"We're running out of oxygen." His eyes widened.
"….We can make it! We'll just have to get back to the ship… somehow."
"Jean…" He said again and this time he looked dead serious. "At this point, only one of us can make it."
Jean shook his head, refusing to believe it.
"No, we'll make it together. No way in hell I'm gonna leave you now."
Marco smiled and to his utter shock, it was the most heartbreaking smile he had ever seen. It felt like a fist clenched around his heart and the lump in his throat made it even harder to breathe.
"It's ok, Jean." Marco said soothingly, but he just kept shaking his head.
"I'd rather one of us came out of this alive than none."
"You can't do this."
But before he could protest further, Marco had connected his oxygen to Jean's without him even noticing.
"NO! Dammit Marco, I just got you! I can't loose you now!" He shouted. He felt sick.. his whole body felt cold and weak. Marco just smiled again and this time it was a lot warmer. Like he was assuring him that everything was going to be alright. Then.. he reached over and pressed their helmets together with a "clink". He kissed the inside of his helmet and before Jean realized what he was doing, he pushed him with all his might towards the ship. He tried to get back in an odd swimming motion, but it was enough to make him drift towards the ship instead away from it.
"NO!" Tears streamed down his face and as he watched the person he had just realized he loved most in the world float away from him, his eyes drifting shut, his heart might as well have drifted with him. He cried and shouted and cursed, but before long, it felt like he was choking and everything darkened.
Jean woke up in the medical bay of the ark, with an oxygen mask covering his nose and mouth. Flashes of people finding him out in the open space went through his mind. People shouting, people talking to him, but he hadn't answered. As they brought him back to the ship, he had drifted in and out of consciousness until he blacked out completely. As his eyes finally managed to focus on the white ceiling, he glanced around the room. He noticed Eren were in the bed next to him, with Mikasa and Armin sitting by his side, looking glum as fuck. He couldn't help but feel kinda mad. At least they had their friend. And then he suddenly realized that his best friend in the whole world, the person he loved most was gone. Sweet, innocent, funny, strong, beautiful Marco was gone forever, floating off in space somewhere, and there was nothing he could do about it.
"Marco…" He whispered subconsciously and a single tear fell from the corner of his eye. Mikasa seemed to notice and looked up.
"Jean!" She spoke, surprised and turned to the side, but Jean didn't bother trying to see what was there. "Commander." She said again and two people appeared at the sides of his bed; the Lance Corporal and the Commander.
"You're awake, cadet… How are you feeling?" The Commander said, but Jean didn't answer. He looked back up to the ceiling and wondered if the world would have been better off if he had been the one floating into space and not Marco.
"Of course we understand that you need recovery, but when you're ready we need to ask you a few questions." The commander said. Jean still didn't answer. He exchanged a look with the corporal and then they left. He closed his eyes again, hoping the morphine dripping into his arm would drag him back into unconsciousness.
"I think you'd be a better leader than me, Jean!" The words rang through his memory and tears slipped from his eyes.
"You're wrong, Marco." He whispered, before darkness took him once more.
After he had recovered, Jean spent most of the time stewing in his room. Armin tried to tell him that it wouldn't do him any good and that he needed to get back into the world, but he ignored him. He was right of course. The room only brought memories too painful to handle. Memories that had been so beautiful and amazing at the moment, but now were the worst thing that could happen to his mind. He actually did go to see Eren once, believe it or not, both out of empathy and to get away from the damn memories. And he managed to answer the commander's questions. But other than that, he never moved. He didn't show up to practice for a couple of days and wondered if he would get kicked out of the Survey Corps or if he was excused for a while longer. But how could he do anything else? He wasn't as great as Marco said. He was weak and it seemed impossible to pick himself up after this.
But then, around five days after he'd been brought back to the ship, Armin suddenly came bursting through his door.
"Jean!" He yelled, and the look of stunned shock piqued his interest.
"They… They found Marco.."
For a moment, Jean sat there, staring at him and then he nearly knocked Armin over as he rushed out of the room and headed straight for the medical wing.
He was met by the corporal and the commander again at the door.
"Kirschtein.." Corporal Levi stopped him, but Jean interrupted him.
"I need to see him." They were quiet for a moment.
"Please.." He pleaded. Levi looked to the commander and he nodded.
The door slided to the side, and there… lying in a bed with the lower part of his face covered by the oxygen mask… was Marco. Jean fell to his knees beside the bed as he stared at the freckled face in disbelief. He was alive… He was alive! At the moment he realized, it was like something pulled him out of the dark water he was drowning in and he finally reached the surface.
He never left his side after that, just sat by his side, stroking his hand as the machines he was hooked up to beeped. He'd been explained that they'd found him not long after they'd found Jean and had taken him into immediate attention to start his heart. The cadet's hadn't been told until five days later, because he had been too weak for visitors and needed attention at all hours. But Jean didn't care about any of that. He was alive! And he'd been alive all these days. Days that felt like an entire lifetime. It was so unbelievably wonderful. He never left. Never ate and slept barely slept only sometimes, on Marco's chest when he couldn't stay awake anymore. One day, he spoke to him.
"You were wrong, you know." He said quietly, looking down at his hand. "I'm not a good leader at all. I'm weak." He sighed.
"You're a much better leader than I am."
"Jean…" He looked up, startled. Had the words had come from Marco?! He stared at him with wide eyes and eventually, his dark eyelashes fluttered his eyes open, carefully. Jean gave him a moment to gather himself and take in his surroundings and then his brown eyes landed on him.
"Am I in heaven..?" He said in a weak, hoarse voice. Jean was too shocked; he didn't know what to say.
"You're here, so I must have gone to heaven…" He continued. It seemed like he tried to justify for himself.
"Marco…" Jean finally whispered.
"Jean, why are you crying..?"
"Marco.." He repeated. "You're not dead…"
"Not dead?" Confused, he lifted his head a little and looked around the room. "Oh." It seemed it finally dawned on him and Jean, not able to hold back anymore, threw his arms around his neck and hugged him tight.
"Oh my God, you're not dead!"
"I… I guess not."
Jean laughed out of pure happiness and a tear escaped the corner of his eye. He pulled back and took in Marco's beautiful, confused, freckled face. He was pale with hollow cheek and had dark circles under his eyes, but Jean thought he'd never looked better.
"Shit, Marco, don't ever do that again!" He said and Marco laughed.
"I'm sorry, Jean."
Then, feeling like he might loose the chance at any moment, he pressed his lips to the other's in a desperate kiss.
"I love you." He breathed against his lips when the kiss ended.
"I love you too." Marco murmured back and stroke his fingers through his hair like he had done that night.
This was it. This very person was what had kept him alive, what had inspired him to move foreward, what had supported him through his while life. Finally, it felt like he had purpose in life.