"What are you people doing? Do you think that Titans are just going to kneel down and point at their necks?" Shadis was screaming at the 104th squadron's recruits, making them run laps around the training camp.
Krista and Ymir, always attached at the hips, noticed how Sasha was struggling to keep up with them.
"You would think that she would get used to this, given how many times she was sent on punishment laps for stealing food" – Ymir whispered to Krista, who was in turn trying not to laugh at her friend's expense – "Some people just aren't built for endurance, but for quick bursts of speed", Krista reasoned, "which when you think about it, in our situation is a better skill to have – it's better to quickly reach a Titan's neck than to chase behind it on foot". The freckled brunette agreed – "Good point to make, but please don't go around chasing Titans now! I don't want to tell to our commanders how 'Krista Lenz was devoured by Titans, while running after them screaming to let her slice their necks. Brave soldier till the end''" , causing the blonde to give up on trying not to laugh. Ymir, seeing as she managed to make her shorter friend laugh, started to smile more, feeling like she managed in her duty.
Eren and Armin were trailing behind Mikasa, who despite being on her 10th lap, didn't show any signs of fatigue, keeping up her pace and slowly getting father away from the duo.
How is Mikasa doing it so effortlessly? No, scratch that – how am I not doing it?
"Eren, don't overthink it. You won't be able to improve if you only focus on her".
Armin, who kept on seeing Eren's eyes going towards her friend, commented, causing him to almost tripping on himself.
"I am not overthinking! I'm just asking how come it comes so easy to her!" Eren spat, riled up with envy and shame for being caught by one of his best friends.
"Well you won't get any answers just by stressing yourself and training too hard. People have different timings they need to respect – getting injured by training too much isn't going to do you any favors".
Armin knew that the cause of Eren's outburst wasn't just of his lack of physical abilities – after all, he was one of the best , only a handful of people managing to be ahead of him, Mikasa being one. "You can always ask her how she does-"
"I DON'T NEED MORE HELP FROM HER!"
Silence fell between the 2 boys. Armin was trying to think of ways to explain his thought process, and Eren looked down at the ground, trying to distract himself with counting patches of grass. Maybe if I count them up to one hundred, I'll be focused on something else other than running. He looked to his right, Armin's head also lowered. Damn my anger – I keep burning relationships left and right
"Listen, Armin, I know what you mean, I just – I'm tired of always struggling. I need to become stronger on my own, I can't rely on other people for that", he reasoned, his flimsy line of logic seeming weak and without proof also to himself.
"Precisely. That's why we are in this training course together, to get better on our own. And before you say it, yeah I know my sarcasm is showing. But my point still is the same. Your willpower is second to none. And I don't doubt that sooner or later you'll excel at everything. But that moment will come sooner if you stop and listen to Mikasa. Right now, she's the best. And therefore, she's the best person to go ask for help". Blue eyes stared the taller friend down, daring him to speak against him.
"You're right. As always, you're right.". The brunette took a deep breath to calm himself. Looking back up, Mikasa was getting farther and farther ahead. Mixed emotions swelled up – envy, at her supposedly endless skill, anger, at her once again leaving him behind, stubbornness, himself ignoring his burning lungs and aching legs, and lastly, admiration. He hoped the last one didn't show through.
"Hey, Titan-killer! Already out of breath?" a tall blonde kid ran past both, mocking Eren by going backwards "Better get faster, or else there will be no more Titans to kill because they'll have died of old age!". Green eyes burned with intensity, and Eren forced himself to run faster. "Hey horse-face! If you want later on I can bring you out grazing!"
Armin followed the bickering duo, laughing softly at the scene. Better enjoy these moments while they last.
Back at the training camp, most of the cadets were barely standing upright, with some opting instead to lean on each other. Mikasa, who was now serving as Sasha's pole, noticed people, mostly pairs, attempt to walk towards the dining hall with various degrees of result. Her expression betrayed no emotions, but inside she was beginning to open up to people more. Ever since the incident, as she now started to call it, she only lived with Eren, and never left his side. Even though she would have been perfectly happy to stay at home with him, she also realised that she needed more human contact. Especially now that Eren is beginning to yell at me more often.
She understood why : Eren was always reckless, jumping into situations regardless of who was already involved, and didn't want to be coddled. But she couldn't help it. She was starting to barely open up more, but she still felt that extra connection to Eren. She was never sure of what that feeling was, was it a debt or something more?
Watching Franz and Hannah had become her guilty pleasure of sort. Both so in love with each other, even if they'd never admit it. She couldn't help but feel envious. She wanted that connection.
And the only person I want to have that with is Eren – but I am not sure if he would even understand
Ever since the breach, Eren was only focused on 1 thing. She doubted that he would be open to have another thing bothering him.
"Hey, Mikasa, can you slow down just a bit? My legs are still dead tired" . Sasha, barely able to breathe on her own, was dragging her feet on the ground.
Mikasa allowed herself to slow down, and put one of her arm over her shoulders – Sasha was one of the only girl who she felt comfortable with, neither her undying support of Eren nor her walled up behaviour giving her any thoughts. "You know, if we get to the dining hall faster you could get a bigger ra-" suddenly Mikasa was the one being dragged towards the cabin, Sasha's strength overpowering her tiredness.
Mikasa was right,and Sasha managed to get a bigger ration than normal, even if she thinks it was the look on her face that scared to death the cook into giving her more food rather than her position in the line.
"So, Mikasa – I've been wondering, why is that you have this unwavering affection towards Eren? I mean, I don't want to assume things, but he's not the most, how to put it, caring type, it seems to me"
Sasha was unknowingly making Mikasa focus on the one thing she was trying to steer clear of. "It's not true. We care for each other, he is just more hot-headed than me, and is trying to better himself for everyone's safety"
"Well, he's certainly rash in his decisions, and I know that, like everyone, he has a lot on his mind – but wouldn't that also make him focus more on you?"
Mikasa stopped her fork, eyes going open and staring at the food on her plate. She knew that Eren cared for her, a hand unconsciously going to tug at her scarf, but she couldn't deny that the red head was making a good point. I'm normally calm and collected, but around Eren I do become extra protective of him – wouldn't he do the same for me?
Sasha watched as Mikasa was having this internal conflict, knowing immediately that she, as she often did, said too much. "Mikasa I'm probably wrong! Like I'm sure that he cares about you the same way that you care about him! I'm just saying nonsense, you don't have to listen to me!" she said, trying to convince the raven that, no, Eren did care for her, but she witnessed as her words didn't have any effect on her. Damn my big mouth! Should've just stuck to eating! .
Both girls continued with their dinner, almost no words between them.
Meanwhile, Eren and Armin, now finished with dinner, were about to leave for the barracks and get a good night's sleep. "Mikasa seems to have something on her mind right now, doesn't she, Eren?"
The boy , who was already focused on her, had to agree and nodded. "She seems somewhat razzled. I wonder what happened"
"Maybe it was when you basically screamed that you didn't need help from her – you know how she feels after one of your outbursts"
"But…she must know that it's just my anger taking over, after all-" he gulped, knowing how bad this would sound "I've done it other times, she would usually bounce right back". Eren was still staring at Mikasa as she joined Sasha to go to their barracks.
"Well…it could be that she got the idea that you actually don't consider her in any special way, unlike her"
"I need to talk to her"
"Normally I would agree," Armin interjected "but it's time for us to go to bed. We can't go outside and we certainly can't go into the women's cabin. You'll have to talk to her tomorrow"
"I don't want her to go to sleep with that thought in her head! If anyone asks, I'm training. Cover for me!". Without waiting for an answer, Eren took off towards Mikasa, hoping to catch up to her.
"MIKASA! WAIT UP"
The girl is question stopped immediately after hearing the voice. She was still thinking about what Sasha said, and it was causing to have doubts start forming – doubts about just what Eren saw her as.
"Eren. You shouldn't be here at this time, if any of the higher ups catch you-" "They'll catch us, training. Come with me". Eren now was face to face with Mikasa, and added, whispering "We need to talk"
The duo made their way towards the training field, making sure to stick to the shadows and not make any sounds, while Mikasa's mind was going a mile a minute.
We need to talk? We haven't interacted as much in the past few days. I made sure to force myself to steer clear of him – yeah sometimes I couldn't help myself, is he angry about that?
Eren meanwhile was trying to organise his thoughts, what to say, and how to say it. No easy task for someone so impulsive.
"What did you want to talk about" Mikasa asked, once both were certain that they were away from prying ears.
"I saw you at dinner, and you seemed out of it and, somewhat defeated. Did anything happen?" Eren asked, immediately mentally kicking himself for the vague question instead of plainly asking her if he had hurt her feelings…again.
"Don't worry about it. I was just deep in thought. No worries" I can't burden him with my questions about him, about…us. I can't.
"Just stop with the lying, Mika. I know you. Something is off about you. And I want to know what!"
"There's nothing to know! What I'm feeling isn't
Eren's anger was getting the better of him, and he struggled to remain there instead of blowing a fuse and leave her there. "Mikasa! What you feel is important! You're one of the best soldiers out there and we can't have you off in your thoughts while others are getting eaten by Titans! So just answer my question! What is on your mind?"
Mikasa was struggling with answering that. She wanted to let loose her emotions, but she didn't want to hear the rejection that, now she was sure, was to follow.
Eren then thought back to what Armin speculated. Guess if she isn't going to fess up, I might just ask her directly
"Is it something I said?"
Mikasa kept on not answering, looking at the ground while holding her scarf up to her nose
Taking her silence as a yes, Eren pressed on with the questions.
"Mika…what exactly-" but then stopped himself. That would be stupid. Too many choices to pick one. I really haven't been a good friend to Mikasa lately.
"Why do you not want me to be near you?"
The words left silence behind them.
For a while, all the two teenagers did was stare at each other. And Eren once again had to admit that Armin was always right. He was about to speak when Mikasa kept talking.
"I know that sometimes I may be overbearing, but…the thought of losing my family, m-my best friend, I don't know what I'd do. It's not done out of pity or some desire to be stronger than you, but because I – I…" Whatever Mikasa was about to say was interrupted by her almost breaking down and crying, and Eren was stunned to say the least, not knowing how to handle a crying Mikasa, his eyes wide open.
"And I know that you probably got sick of me, and I will be trying to leave you alone, but please, please, don't get hurt…I don't want to experience that type of pain again"
The dam holding Mikasa together finally broke, and she fell to her knees, holding her scarf to her face as tight as possible, and letting her emotions loose, crying her soul out.
Eren could only watch the girl cry, suddenly understanding her point of view. She lost her family once, and then part of her second family once more.
She isn't only protecting me, she's trying to protect herself as well
Suddenly the girl felt a pair of arms around her, and a hand pushing gently on her head until it reached a shoulder to lean on. Eren and Mikasa both stayed in that position for a couple of minutes, both unwilling to let go of each other.
The weight of the sudden understanding from Eren's part was almost too much to handle for him, remembering every moment when he pushed her away, But she wasn't taking pity on me, she was trying to protect her remaining family
Eren wasn't a fool, he knew that Mikasa cared about him on a level that he didn't quite understand, but always thought that it was out of feeling indebted from him.
He looked at her head, and although he knew she wanted to stay there a bit more, they had to leave or they'd be found out. Can't use the training excuse any longer.
"Come on Mik, let's go and get some sleep"
The pair walked silently towards the barracks, Mikasa still holding on the Eren, still sniffling gently. During the journey, Eren also reflected on his own feelings for Mikasa, if they had changed during the years living together.
She was always there for me – defending me from bullies, helping me stand my ground. Did I even say thanks? Even only one time?
Eren stopped walking, and pushed Mikasa in front of him, making sure that she was looking at him.
"I probably never said this to you, and I'm kicking myself for this, but it's the only thing I can do right now. Thank you for always being there for me - you've always protected me, and I always pushed you away, and I hate that you felt this way for all this time"
"I promise you, from now on, I won't push you away anymore! A-and I'll take care of you, the same way you've been taking care of me! You won't need to stop and look for me, because I'll be there on your side! I will always be with you!"
The boy was about to continue when suddenly he felt the girl hurling herself at him, arms squeezing his chest tightly,almost afraid of letting go.
"Thank you, Eren", she whispered, almost too faint to hear. "Can we sleep together? I don't know if I'll be able to sleep on my own right now".
They both knew that it was not permitted, but both didn't care about consequences.
After all, we're here to train to face death every day. What possible punishment can be worse?
Eren didn't answer, he simply started walking towards the shared barrack.
Careful to not wake anyone, they made their way towards Eren's bed, luckily being at the end of the line, and after getting under the covers, closed the curtains.
They laid on their sides, both watching the other, with a newfound feeling being shared between them, gentle smiles on their faces.
"Goodnight Eren, and Mikasa"
The voice of Armin was the last thing they heard, before they let themselves close their eyes.
I wonder if Hannah and Franz also do this .