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[personal profile] quietlyendless
Series: they were unfortunate lovers
Part: 01, 02
Chapter: 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06

------

It is very quiet. The whispering has fallen to a hush, fading into the background. Jean feels weightless, as if he has slowly dissolved into nothing without him noticing. The world looks washed out, faded, and every now and then it swerves viciously to one side, as if he is falling. But—

There is a hand above his shoulder, fisting his shirt, and digging into bone. Black hair over fair skin, and there is hot air puffing against his face, as a second set of breathing mingles with his own.

Jean opens his mouth, his throat dry. "Marco..."

The other boy tilts his head to one side, smiling. "Yes?"

"You're alive."

"You sound surprised."

For one terrible, terrible moment, Jean wonders if the last few weeks have been nothing more than a hellish dream. The endless drills, the lonely nights, the omnipresent grief in the marrow of his bones; the clattering of dice against wood, the hooded man, the whispering; he wonders if all of it was a long, extended nightmare and now, he is finally reaching the end, finally waking up to a time where everything is alright. There is no such thing as other worlds and undead monsters and time travel, and Marco was never dead.

Then the brunette leans in, closer than before, so that their lips are almost touching, and asks, in a tone several shades too quiet, "Why?"

And then Jean really looks, and he sees--

The dark red of dried blood sticking to cotton white, the shirt torn in one side; the pants ragged,as if something had raked through it with sharp claws. The blood splatter on brown jacket, one half of the collar missing. The black eye patch over the left side of his face, a long scar stretching out from underneath it, and his right eye--

Dark brown turned an eerie, bright yellow.

He flinches back, reacting purely on instinct, but the wall is an unmoving barrier behind him and there is nowhere else to go. The other boy tightens his grip and takes another step closer, wedging a leg in between Jean's thighs and leaning his entire weight forward, pinning him in place. His other hand is at Jean's side, curling around his hips in a tight, almost painful grip.

"What's wrong?" he asks, his voice still soft, still low.

"You--" Jean stops, breath catching in his throat. "You're--"

"Yes?" he says again.

Jean swallows around a lump of fear. When he speaks, his words are barely above a whisper. "Are you really Marco?"

The other boy's expression doesn't change. If anything, his smile stretches wider. "It's only been a few weeks, Jean. Have you forgotten me already?"

"No!" Jean's mind is scrambling for words, for some sort of explanation. "No! It's just. Are you. Did he--"

"Did he what?" he asks, their lips brushing.

Jean barely dares to breathe, his heartbeat loud in his ears. "Did he--?"

And then Marco is kissing him, hard and fierce and hungry. All coherent thought falls apart instantly as years of memories flood his mind. The pressure against his mouth, and the weeks of cold nights, too empty, too quiet. The constant ache in his heart is throbbing, growing stronger with each passing second as this boy becomes more and more real, warm and alive once more.

Jean pushes into the kiss with all his might, grasping at the other boy's shirt to pull him closer. He leans back against the wall, letting Marco's weight crush him, heavy and familiar. Marco bites at his lower lip; Jean gasps, surprised, then moans when he feels the other boy's tongue sliding over his lips, licking at his teeth. Heat surges into Jean's face, across his cheeks and he can't breathe.

Then Marco goes lower, pressing wet kisses down the curve of his neck. His whole body feels hot, twitching and restless, and Jean, panting for breath, turns his head to the side in a silent request. The hand on his shoulder comes up to cup Jean's chin, nails digging into the skin under his jaw, and then Marco is at his throat, biting and licking and sucking hard.

Jean shivers, tangles his fingers in Marco's hair and pulls, and whines. It's not enough. He still can't breathe and it's not enough, he needs more--

"I'm not human, if that's what you mean."

His breath hiccups. "W-what?"

"I'm not human," Marco repeats, leaning back slightly, his half-lidded gaze intense. "But you already know that, don't you?"

Jean stares. "What are you talking about?"

"You know, Jean."

"I don't--"

The grip on his jaw tightens, and Marco shoves his head back roughly, slamming it into the wall with a resounding crack. "Yes, you do," he hisses. "Stop lying to me."

Pain rings through his ears, and he has to swallow the protest forming in his throat.

"Is it true?" Marco asks, relentless. "Did you really sell me out to some stranger you met at a bar?"

Jean's heart stutters anxiously. "What did he say to you?"

"That you two had a deal. That when the time was right, you'd hand me over to him like some fucking sacrifice." His voice breaks a little near the end, wobbling with an emotion Jean hasn't heard in a very, very long time.

It makes Jean feel nauseous, bile rising up the back of his throat. "It's not like that," he begins, feeling helpless and trapped. "Let me explain."

"Oh, there's no need." Marco smiles again, small and bitter, and nothing at all like the expressions Jean has come to treasure over these years. "I understand completely."

"Marco--"

"What did he promise you in return? What was my life worth? Money? Forbidden power? Eternal youth?"

"No, that's not it! I asked him to save you!"

"From what? I was still alive, Jean."

"You would have died," he says desperately. Over and over. Everytime. "There was so much blood. You were bleeding all over. I knew you wouldn't have made it."

Now Marco pulls back further, glaring at him with his one good eye. "I could have. I was still alive when you found me. There was still a chance. Why were you so sure I wouldn't?" Here, he narrows his gaze, expression darkening with anger. "Do you really think so little of me? That you were so certain I'd die on the spot. Do you think I'm weak, Jean?

"No! Fuck, you don't understand." Jean is pleading now, his fingers still curled in the other boy's shirt. "I've--there's this dice--he said--I wasn't sure I could get you help in time. I had to. I needed to save you."

"So you fed me to demons?" he hisses angrily.

"That--"

"I felt them, Jean," he mutters. "I could feel them tearing me apart. Every claw, every bite. I was awake the entire time and I felt them. I felt myself die."

"But you're alive now," Jean says, taking him by the shoulders, looking him straight in the eye, hoping. "You're here, Marco."

"Am I really?" he asks. "How do you know I'm not just a ghost?"

"Because I can feel you." Jean ran his hands across the length of Marco's shoulders, rubbing his palm into his collarbones. "You're real. See? You're here."

The other boy doesn't look at him, dropping his head into the crook of Jean's neck. "I don't feel real," he says quietly. "I don't feel...right."

Jean wraps his arms around the brunette, pulls him close. "You are. You're Marco Bodt."

"I don't feel like Marco," he murmurs. "It hurts all over. Like there's something else, trying to crawl out from inside. And I keep hearing things. In my head. And seeing...things. I feel like I'm slowly going insane."

"No," he says, as the other boy begins to shake. Jean isn't sure what to say; isn't sure what to do. "No."

"There was this huge hole in the ground. It glowed, like there was something inside giving off a green light, but when I looked in there was nothing there. It was just empty. The whole place was empty. And there was no moon. Just. Nothing."

Jean rubs circles into Marco's back, feeling lost. "No."

"Sometimes I forget to breathe," he whispers, so softly that the confession is barely audible, even in the completely empty room. "And then I realise I don't need to. What does that make me, Jean?"

He says nothing. There are a dozen words balanced on the edge of his tongue but none of them are right. There is a thousand conflicted emotions woven into the shape of Marco's voice, and not a single thing Jean can say to comfort him.

Marco shifts, pressing his lips to Jean's again, this time soft and uncertain.

He breaks the kiss, placing one hand on Marco's cheek. Their eyes meet and Jean searches desperately for some sign of--something. Anything. "Marco."

"Jean," he murmurs, his breath hot, his gaze slowly refocusing, intense and wholly unfamiliar. "I came here to kill you."

His whole body goes completely still. Those last six words pour down his spine slowly, coldly, settling in the core of his lungs like stone. His heart pounded tiredly in his ribcage, and his eyes burned. When he exhales next it comes out as a long shaky sigh, and he blinks rapidly, trying to keep his vision clear. "Are you going to?"

And Marco, kindest, sweetest Marco--the brightest of them, the most gentle--Marco pulls away from him completely. He takes a few steps back, out of Jean's reach, and looks at him with an expression that isn't his, coloured in bitter fury and pain. His fingers twitch against his hip, where the blades wait, and tucks in his chin, black hair spilling over his forehead.

"Not yet," he says, an echo of their past conversation, a promise for the future.

Then he sweeps one arm through the air, to the side, and distorted tendrils of black melt out of empty space, curling around his whole body in an oversized coccoon. The area around him seems to ripple, and then shrink, fading out.

And just like that, Marco is gone.

-----

Jean spends a long time in that storage, crouched by the wall, his head heavy in his hands. He doesn't notice the yellow-eyed shadows retreat, doesn't hear the sounds of fighting dwindle on the floors above him. Inside his mind's theatre, a hundred different lifetimes replay on the back of his eyelids, all of which begin with a bright blue sky; all of which end in grief.

When Bertholdt finds him, much, much later, Jean is still remembering a past cycle, the sound of Marco's laughter prancing in his ears, his face wet with tears.

-----

He wakes up in an impromptu infirmary, surrounded by the wounded and the sleeping. The overseeing soldiers immediately move into defensive positions, their weapons ready, standing in a semicircle around him. One of them darts out to call for Hanji, who materialises seconds later, grinning in his face, her eyes wide. "How are you feeling?" she asks, brushing away his attempts at a salute.

Jean settles for trying to sit up, bracing himself with tired aching limbs. He swallows against a parched throat, and decides on, "I've been better, sir."

"Any strange thoughts? Like a sudden urge murderous urge? Voices talking to you in your head? A weird craving? Anything unusual?"

"...no, sir."

Hanji only hums thoughtfully, but Jean can see the way the soldiers behind her relax fractionally, the tension seeping out of their postures, and he wonders, briefly, how long he's been unconscious, and what else happened in that lost time.

"Kirschstein, right?" she asks, waiting for him to nod before continuing. "You were found in one of the storerooms, seemingly unharmed, and alone. According to the members of your group you were assigned to the kitchen, but suddenly disappeared in the middle of battle. Can you tell me why?"

Jean squeezes his eyes shut, lets his face arrange itself into a puzzled frown, and takes a few moments to think. "I heard something," he finally answers. "Something strange. When I followed the sound, I ended up in the basement and it was crawling with those monsters. I was fighting them."

"And then?"

"And then I woke up here," he finishes, and looks around the room. "What happened?"

Hanji sighs, running a hand through her hair. She glances to the side and moves to drag a small wooden stool over, sitting down by the side of his bed. "Well," she says, leaning close, green eyes bright. "That's what we're trying to figure out."

In the end--after what must have been hours of endless interrogation, they finally pronounce him as 'safe' and order his relocation to the dormitories, effective immediately. Jean wanders out into the hall, taking in his surroundings. The castle is still standing strong, and the only signs of the previous battle lie in the various scratch marks over the stone walls. From outside, he hears the sound of soldiers during an afternoon drill, their voices cutting through the air, and the sun is hot on his skin.

When he gets to his shared room, he finds himself gravitating towards a window, where he spends the rest of the day watching figures march in the distance.

-----

"Jean!"

He jolts upright, realises he must have fallen asleep at some point because the sky outside has turned dark with evening. When he looks to the door, Connie is bouncing over to him, grinning. "Man, you're finally awake. We were starting to worry."

Light chatter fills the air as more people file into the room. Armin trails in soon after, glancing at Jean and hurrying over, his expression a mixture of relief and concern. "Are you alright?"

He turns, shifting his weight around so that now he's leaning against the wall, under the window. "Yeah, I'm good. How about you guys? What happened while I was out."

Connie shrugs, and drops onto his rear in the space next to Jean, folding his legs in. "The usual stuff. Drills every day. Getting yelled at. You didn't miss much."

"We did have a few more lessons on fighting strategies outside the wall," Armin adds. "I took notes. You can have a look at them later, if you want."

"Thanks," he says. At the door, he spots Bertholdt near the back of the crowd. Their eyes meet, and the tall soldier begins making his way over. "But what happened during the fight? To those...weird ass monsters that attacked the castle?"

Armin plops down beside Connie. "You don't remember?"

"Think I was pretty out of it."

The blonde fixes him with a searching look, frowning slightly. "Nothing at all?"

Jean carefully keeps his face steady, features pulled into a bemused grimace. "Only up 'till the basement. It pretty much blanks out after that."

"Hmm." Armin glances to his left, where Bertholdt is quietly settling down, crossing his legs. The two boys exchange a silent look, the latter giving a small, almost impercetible shake of the head, and Armin turns back to Jean. "We managed to hold them off somehow. And after a while, they kind of just disappeared."

"What, all of them?"

"Yeah."

"Just like that?"

He nodded. "We still don't know why they attacked though."

"It didn't seem like they were going after Eren," Connie adds.

"Why would they be targetting him?" Jean asks, incredulous.

"I dunno," the boy says, grinning half-heartedly, and Jean notices the shadows under his eyes, skin darkened by unpleasant dreams or insufficient sleep. Or both. "Why did they attack us at all?"

"They weren't normal, though," Armin says, staring hard at the floor, his blue eyes lost in thought. "Not titans, but not like other animals either."

"Well they did apparently appear out of thin air," Connie points out.

"I know. But something about them just didn't feel right." He glances around, at each of them. "Didn't you notice anything, when we were fighting them?"

Jean blinks. Bright yellow flashes across his vision, gone as quickly as it had come. "They weren't bleeding."

"Exactly." Armin cups his chin in one hand. "When we killed them, they just turned into smoke and disappeared. And the way they seemed to melt out of shadows...It's like they weren't even alive to begin with."

A silence fell between them, as all four of them consider this. Jean keeps his gaze lowered, tracing the wrinkles of his pants, and tries not to remember. Years of practice has made him an excellent liar; this isn't the first time he's known more than his peers, and it certainly isn't the first time he decides to keep that information to himself. He's still not entirely sure what happened in the basement that day, but going around talking about dead people coming back to life is never the right choice. Time travel has taught him that much, at least.

Connie breaks the silence first. "Think they'll come back?"

Armin sighs, rubbing at his eyes. "Who knows?"

Later, as they prepare to turn in for the night, shuffling tiredly between matresses laid out on the floor and arguing for the best locations--Jean silently unrolls his mattress on the floor, flattening the cotton with soft pats. Next to him, Bertholdt is already crawling under his covers, shifting around in an attempt to find a comfortable position.

Jean coughs, a tiny awkward sound.

The brunette stops, and looks up at him.

"They said that day," he starts, feeling an uncomfortable embarassment spreading in his chest. "You were the one who found me in the basement."

Bertholdt blinks, and nods.

"...thanks. I guess."

The other boy stares at him for a few seconds longer. Then, slowly, he gives him a small smile. "It's nothing."

Jean clears his throat. "Okay," he says, and clears his throat again as he rolls under his own blanket, back turned to the other boy. Then he closes his eyes.

-----

The next morning, Jean wakes up with a foot wedged under his chin and a sharp elbow digging painfully into the small of his back.

Connie takes one look at them and predicts a thunderstorm.

For once, he turns out to be right.

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