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Neighbors (Jearmin)

Chapter Text

Armin has been studying for almost two weeks for this exam. He has spent them in the library but this time he preferred staying at home since his back hurt too much for him to resist a chair.

It was his second year in college and Armin knew what should be done by now to pass the exams and have high grades, which he needed to keep his scholarship and the flat near the campus. His parents wouldn't afford to keep him in college if they had to pay for his standing there too, so his stress was double now that he realized he must pass that really hard exam if he wanted to keep approaching his dream of being a doctor.

Living in that building brought him peace since he moved in. The neighbors were all workers or students like him so he never had problems with them for anything at all, and sometimes the building was so quiet as if no one actually lived there. Certainly, when the exam season started he was more than thankful to the quietness and peace he was surrounded by, but in the daily life it also stopped him from things he wanted to do in case it would bother the neighbors.

His best friend Eren was quite noisy and every time he passed by Armin's apartment, he would joke about calling the Ghostbusters to clear the building of ghosts. He couldn't blame Eren, though it felt strange living with silence, ghost-like neighors, but it was good for his grades so any other thing seemed small and insignificant.

Armin woke up early in the morning after one of his nightmares and decided to go jogging to refresh his mind. It was still cold in the morning at the beginning of March but it didn't bother him at all while jogging around the usual places for half an hour to refresh his mind and body, even if it grew harder to maintain his normal pace for the lack of sleep and emergy. It was almost eight in the morning when he stopped by the bakery to buy some bread before heading home. He took a shower, had breakfast and after encouraging Eren to keep studying he started himself.

Time passed as he reviewed the last things he studied the day before, like the anatomy of the heart, the possible effects of narcotics on the functionality of the heart and ways to treat them. It was so much to study but everything was interesting enough for Armin to remember and understand so he immersed in information while standing in the middle of pipes of papers, postit and his laptop. It was only after past twelve in the afternoon when he started to hear noises from the apartment on top of his. At first ignored it since last time he checked it was empty so maybe there were new neighbors just moving in, the noises being unavoidable.

"What in the world are they moving?" He groaned after some minutes of non stopping noises, scratches on the floor all upon Armin's head that dug into his eardrums, forcing him to search for earplugs, but they didn't help much, so Armin moved to the bedroom.

The sounds of furniture scuffing on the floor stopped after a while before Armin's nerves were close to cracking. But the sweet silence was back allowing Armin to concentrate again on the subject he was in: the circulatory system.

After lunch (which was not much of eating but drinking tea and some coffee to fight he sleep) he stopped just to call his father to let him know everything was going just fine and he was keeping himself healthy. It's all they asked him for when Armin moved out of his parents' house and went to another city miles away from the safe, warm shelter for his parents' place. He didn't tell him about his nightmares, though, or about not eating much because his body didn't accept food anymore. Those things would only worry them and Armin thought his problems would soften after the exams finished and the stress ended, at least until the next semester.

But the noise started again, now being too many steps that didn't bother to slower down and they sounded like people were jumping or dancing over his head, laughing and talking loud enough for Armin to understand conversations. It was passed six when the real problem started, loud music that startled Armin the moment it turned on.

"It can't be... A party? Really?"

That was the last thing Armin needed. There were less than three days left for the exam to finally take place and all he had to do was reviewing what he already knew. But that wasn't less important than studying so the stress for the noise became really high and didn't let Armin concentrate at all, nothing helped and rage started pilling in his mind at the same time he started considering going to the library or dropping by Eren's place. The back was still killing him even after staying almost all day in bed so the library wasn't an option and joining Eren was even a worse idea. He tried using headphones with piano music playing, and at first it worked but the music grew louder and louder to the point of Armin feeling the vibration on the floor while walking bare feet.

"Oh my lord..." Armin groaned and pushed a pillow to his head while trying to calm down but he couldn't. All he wanted to do was go up there and scream to whoever was his new neighbor. His only hope was another person to complain so he could keep studying, but half an hour passed and the noise was only increasing, more people arriving and filling the already crowded place with extra laughs and dancing people. Armin was desperate at that point, his last nerve cracking the moment a glass object fell or was thrown to the floor, scattering into pieces with a loud 'woo' screamed by who knows how many people, and the good and nice Armin was fading behind the not so known angry boy with a throbbing vein on his neck and dark, cold blue eyes capable of freezing someone's blood.

Armin rushed out of bed not caring about his outfit, he took his keys and shut the door close with a loud crash and headed the stairs, storming up as the music was getting louder and Armin groaned loudly before knocking on the door as hard as he could. But no one opened. He repeated the actions multiple times until a girl opened the door showing a bunch of people squeezed into a not so big apartment.

"Oh hey" she said with a wide smile which didn't faded despite Armin's obviously angry expression. "Come in"

"No. I want to talk to the owner"

"Oh..." She nodded, probably understanding immediately the situation. "I think..." she turned around searching for someone in the crows and then she waved, calling someone. "He's coming"

A tall boy appeared at the door replacing the girl and completely blocking Armin's view of the apartment, the sudden difference took Armin aback for a second. His dark brown eyes dropped to Armin's height locking with Armin's blue globes and the shy side of Armin popped up,  stepped back and breaking the  eye contact.

"Who are you?" The guy spoke in a husky voice and Armin looked away trying to speak his mind out but now it was empty. The musicI'm here for the music.

"C-can you turn down the music?" His voice became a whisper, Armin cursed at himself for how small he felt in that moment. How was he going to confront that guy?

"What? I can't hear you"

"The music" Armin spoke louder finally gathering what was left of his nerves and looked at the boy in the eyes. He was expecting a bored expression, eyes rolling at him or someone to shut the door in his face, but instead he saw a small nervous smile growing slowly on the boy's lips softening his features.

"Yeah. Sorry... That stupid douchebag doesn't listen to me at all" voice was loud but the way he spoke was completely shy and embarrassed.

"I'm trying to study and my whole apartment is vibrating"

"It's that bad?" The boy chuckled and turned around, punching another guy close to him. "Tell Connie I will throw him out the window if he doesn't lower that fucking music" the other boy laughed, nodded and pushed his way through the crowd.

"Thank you" Armin smiled slightly. He was impressed, not expecting at all such a polite and understanding reaction. "I'm Armin. I live right below you. I mean, the 3E"

"Jean. And I'm sorry again. I hope that idiot listens to me for once and I'm not kicked out of here right after moving in"

"It's okay. Welcome to the building"

Armin smiled again and bowed before turning on his heels and walking down the halls to the stairs. He opened his door still trembling out of nervousness and stood there for some seconds until the noise decreased, the music lowering to a bearable level and even if the steps and laughs couldn't be stopped somehow he managed to handle it. The only thing that was distracting him now was the new boy living on top of him and his oddly soft and polite personality compared to the intimidating appearance.

Chapter Text

The deadline day came and Armin's exam was as hard as he expected, which was a good thing considering the circumstances because Armin prepared it more than enough to pass it with a good grade and he couldn't be more cheerful after finishing it.

"It was that hard? Jeez the last time I saw you like this it was a 3 hours exam" Eren mumbled while eating a donut.

He was in a café with Eren having a milkshake and waiting for more people who were having their own exams. That café became their reunion place, where the small group of friends would sit and talk, cry over failed exams, over stupid people, celebrate first and last day of each semester, or just chilling in between classes. No reason was necessary for them to drop by, they simply liked the place.

"I'm sure of the 70% of the answers" Armin smiled proudly, the exhaustion and tension of all those days gone since he stepped outside the class. He didn't his the content smile, never feeling ashamed of admitting his confidence in himself. He didn't brag about his good grades but he always worked amazingly hard so he deserved enjoying it.

"You're a genius, Armin Arlert"

"I just study hard" he chuckled, blushing a little. "These few days were a little hard to concentrate though..."

"Why? Ghosts finally came out of their hideout?" Eren smirked and pushed the rest of the donut in his mouth.

"A new neighbor. A noisy guy who apparently likes parties" Armin sighed. He said nothing about the confrontation he had, or about that minimal heart attack he experimented the moment his eyes lied on him, or the cute smile and his awkward behavior while trying to apologize to Armin. Basically because consciously he didn't think about it. Consciously.

"Wait. There's a real person in your buildings who actually knows what parties are?"

"Yeah he has been throwing parties these days" Armin remembered how hard was for him to hold back his stress the night before, and he didn't understand how nobody else complained. But the music lowered down before he could get angry and people seemed to abandon the apartment before ten in the afternoon.

"It doesn't sound like he's bothering you, though" Eren raised an eyebrow at his friend who simply shrugged.

"He is! But... I don't know. He doesn't seem like a bad guy either"

"Try to get in one of his parties and get crazy" Eren raised his arms waving them nonsense and people started staring at them, but Armin was completely used to Eren's natural behavior to be embarrassed by it. Exhaustion helped, too.

"You should go. I will sleep"

"You're boring" Eren threw a napkin to Armin, who rested his head on his crossed arms over the table. Suddenly his energy faded and he needed a bed and sleep desperately. Armin barely slept in 30 hours and almost didn't eat anything, there wasn't anything left his body could use as fuel to keep him going. His body was literally out of gas, luckily it didn't happen during the exam so it was OK for him to just rest a little.

"Eren... Can you take me home, please?" He mumbled, words trailed of to nonsense and by the time his friend asked him to repeat that, Armin didn't find strength. He felt dizzy and then... nothing.

×÷×

When Armin woke up he recognized the familiar fragrance of a car, his eyes opened just the necessary for him to check the surroundings and see that he was sat (half lied) in the backseats. Music was softly playing on the radio, low enough for it to be a murmur in Armin's ears. Sounds of voices and a laugh made his head bounce and Armin was suddenly conscious of his actual position. He stood straight up embarrassed after realizing he fainted in the café and his head was resting on Eren's tight.

"Welcome back from the dead" Eren smiled at him and patted his head lightly, more worried than sarcastic.

"I fainted?" Armin talked more to himself that the others, still not believed it himself.

"You did"

"Great..." He groaned and run his fingers through his hair pulling back the bangs and then shook his head to let it all fall into place again. "Hi, Mikasa"

The girl waved from the driver seat and smiled at him through the mirror, one of those smiles that sent a wave of guilt to Armin's insides for making her worry that much. She always worried too much about him, but it's not like she had no reasons to and Armin couldn't simply say everything was fine anymore, because that would only male her drop by his apartment every day with food and medication.

"Your mom called me and-

"Don't tell her" he shook his head nervously and Mikasa sighed. It wasn't the first time he asked her the same favour, and he knew it wasn't the last either.

"I won't" she smiled again to reassuring him. "But you need to take care of yourself, Armin"

The boy nodded and sighed, collapsing his pals over his eyes to rub them in an attempt to wake up completely. The car stopped few minutes later in front of his building and even if Armin was feeling weak, he smiled anyways like everything was okay and left the car thanking his friends. Armin hated being a bother to anyone so he pulled the little strength he found and walked slow but straight until he opened the door of his building and dragged himself inside where the blonde leaned on the before he would collapse. His legs didn't work properly and the stairs became a huge challenge to climb, frustration not being enough motivation to make his legs cooperate and support his small weight until he got home. After a few stairs Armin sat down cursing, completely worn out and close to passing out again.

"Hey" a deep but familiar voice spoke behind him. "Are you okay?"

"Jean? Oh, hi" he whispered and tried to smile but his head felt too heavy to support and it fell on the wall he was leaning on.

"You're drunk?"

"Exhausted, actually. Being drunk means having fun. I had an exam" he chuckled and let his body lie back on the stairs, completely forgetting about what dissimulation meant.

"You need help?" Jean bent squatted down in front of Armin and finally could watch him in the eyes. And his expression was friendly, sincere.

"I want to say no but... I can't reach my apartment" he felt stupid for admitting it but what else could he do? Sleep there until he was able to walk again?

"Come on, I'll carry you there" and without a word he lifted Armin as easily as a feather. Don't askplease"You're so light! Do you ever eat?"

But Armin didn't answer. He would use the fatigue as an excuse to stay quiet the rest of the little walk to the door and then go straight to bed. Being so near of passing out frustrated the attempts his mind did to make him understand how awkward everything was, and Armin just closed his eyes and rested there like it was an actual comfortable place to do so not some stranger's arms. Armin didn't notice when Jean stopped walking until he spoke.

"Armin. The keys" Jean whispered carefully to the small figure in his arms like wondering if he was still awake or not. Armin opened his eyes and slid his hand in a pocket, took the somehow heavy keys and slid the right one in the lock.

"Thank you" he whispered hoping Jean to put him down but the boy kept walking to where the bedroom was and lay him down in bed, the soft surface instantly relaxing all Armin's muscles and a sigh of satisfaction escaped his lips.

"You're welcome" Jean smiled and looked around nervously. "I should go now, but in case of anything... I'll leave you my number... somewhere. Now sleep" he took Armin's glasses off before the boy turned around in bed and passed out definitely.

÷×÷

It wasn't until the next morning next morning when Armin woke up feeling like he slept for a week straight, still wanting to lie there for some more but his stomach was hurting and priorities came first. He rolled in bed looking for his phone and fell to the floor in the action.

"Fuck" he groaned in a broken voice. Armin had to clear his throat after hearing that sound but he started to notice how bad he was.

"Great... I'm sick now"

The good part, his exams ended and Armin didn't have anything to do so the situation didn't alarm him. The bad part, he was sick and probably because of the exhausting weeks he passed through he would need a complete period of recovery to get on his feet again.

He got into the shower and stood under the hot water for long enough, feeling his whole body relaxing and the symptoms softening. Then he had breakfast, and even knowing he needed food he couldn't have more that a cup of tea, the leftover of a sandwich and tangerines, enough to calm the burning in his stomach. It was when he approached the sink to wash the dishes when he noticed a napkin perfectly placed with a pen on it.

"A phone number?" He couldn't remember at first but then it popped into his memory. "Oh. Jean"

He left the dished in the sink and returned to the paper, looked at it like he didn't know what exactly should he do with it and ended up placing it on the table staring at it for an hour. He seems to be a cool personKinda reminds me of Eren.

Armin typed the number carefully and saved it in his contacts, staring at the name for some seconds before locking the screen and collapsing back on the bed. Later that day, as he felt a little better he dressed up and took the keys. Armin needed food to cook something healthy since there was nothing but bread, eggs and rice in his kitchen, but when he opened the door Armin bumped into a plastic bag and a note placed on his doormat.

"Soup. Don't worry, my mother cooked it. It will help on your recovery. 
Jean"

Armin read it and took the plastic bag, checking the inside on his way back inside. SoupWhy did he gave it to me?

He opened the container and smelled the content. Chicken. It wasn't warm anymore but the smell filled Armin's stomach by it's own, hunger suddenly returning to him full force. Maybe he feels guilty for the noisy nightsOr maybe he's this nice. Armin smiled thinking about it.

He put some soup in a bowl, then in the microwave for a minute and sat down in bed with a blanket over his shoulders. It was warm, tasty, full of flavor and reminded him a little of the soup his mother made when he was sick, back when he was little. Armin grabbed his phone and checked the numbers, biting his lip when Jean's name rolled up the screen but he decided against the idea and called him mother instead. He really missed her.

Chapter Text

Armin spent all day home to recharge energies, and even though Eren called to check on him and offered to pass by, Armin didn't need his craziness to destroy his calm afternoon. After having breakfast he slept some more, tried to read a book but the letters turned smudgy after half an hour and eventually gave up. Even the TV was annoying him, so Armin lowered the volume and let it speak in the background just to feel less alone while resting and getting bored as hours passed slowly.

It was a pass 16:20 when Armin decided it was enough. The weather seemed to have warmed up a little and the idea of going for a walk became quite tempting. He put on some light blue jeans, white shoes and a dark blue sweater with 'FREEDOM' wrote in white on the front and white lines surrounding the long sleeves in multiple circles. That one was a gift from Eren and even if it was a little oversize for Armin he liked it anyways. It was cozy and kept him warm even though Armin didn't wear informal clothes too often, just at home or when he went to Eren's.

Armin was drinking some water and checking the clouds, trying to guess if he needed an umbrella, when he noticed the pan, now empty, that Jean let at his door that morning. should go and thank himHe bit his lip and considered the idea for a moment, doubtful thoughts popping in his mind turning the sudden idea into nerves growing in his guts. I wonder if he's home. 

Why not calling him, texting him? Jean let there his number for something, but he probably didn't want to be bothered for no reason. Maybe he did it because he had good manners. Maybe he was trying to be nice and polite.

But Armin couldn't show up at his door out of the blue. What if he's busy? Why if he's not even home? Yeah, I should text him.

And so he did. He took his phone out again.

Are   you   home I'm  Armin,  your   neighbor . I  want   to   return   the  pan.

It felt a little odd to text a stranger. It's not a complete stranger, thoughhe tried convincing himself that everything was fine, that it was the right thing to do and had no reason go be nervous. They were neighbors, and neighbors help each other. But Armin couldn't help but wonder if he was crossing a line, being a burden for someone who shouldn't even be worried about him. Maybe Armin should have left it at his door with a note and leave, but when that idea came to his mind his phone buzzed.

>YupWant me to go for itAre you feeling weak?

>No.  I'll   take it to your apartment

He is indeed a nice personArmin grabbed his keys, put the pan back inside the plastic bag and run out the door. The boy got a bit dizzy due to the sudden movement and slowed down on his way up the stairs. The idea of a walk wasn't as attractive as he thought when the dizziness got more intense and by the time he managed to get to the next floor Armin was sick again.

He tried calming down a little and waited some seconds for his body to stabilize, and knocked twice on the door. Armin heard steps approaching the door and a sudden bump, a loud noise as if someone or something fell. Short after that, the door finally opened and Jean appeared from behind it rubbing his right arm with an embarrassed expression, giving Armin the hint he needed not to make a comment.

"Hey" Jean smiled briefly and turned around walking back inside the apartment. Armin was about to give him the bag and get out but Jean didn't wait so Armin walked in and closed the door behind him.

The apartment was similar to his, same distribution of rooms but with totally different decoration. There were things thrown here and there with no coherence, two guitars carefully arranged on one side of the living room, a couch with a bunch of clothes covering it, boxes of pizza on a coffee table, the TV on the same table... Yeah, it seemed Jean was still trying to organize his apartment.

"Sorry, I'm cooking something..." Armin heard Jean speak from the kitchen and walked slowly in that direction, so carefully his steps were almost inaudible. Armin found Jean squatting down in front of the oven and the smell spreading around the room was  Armin making Armin's mouth water up. 

"Don't be. I'm the one who's interrupting you" Armin mumbled like if he didn't want to disturb Jean's concentration. He was so nervous and dizzy Armin had to work hard not to lose control over his legs.

"Want to stay over for lunch?"

"You have lunch at 5?"

"Considering that I woke up at twelve... Yeah" Jean smiled at him over his shoulder and straightened up, throwing the towel to a side and took the bag Armin put on the table.

"I... Hmm... I already ate so..." I'm not hungry. He wanted to leave and return to his apartment, fell on the couch and stay there.

"You look pale" Jean furrowed his brows at the awkward boy. 

"I am still recovering" a pink blush adorned Armin's cheeks. It was definitely time to go.

"You can stay if you don't have plans. We can talk. You don't have to eat"

Is he lonelyMaybe he wants company... He helped me once sowhy notArmin nodded and sat on a tall chair near him looking at the boy who bent down again, opening the oven and getting back to work.

Armin felt uncomfortable at first for sitting alone and in silent, with nothing he could come up with for a conversation. He let Jean work while he observed him, trying to guess things about him. By his looks you wouldn't tell Jean was the one with talent for cooking, he seemed more like the one to burn it down. It's funny. Armin chuckled at his own thoughts, loud enough for Jean to hear and he turned around.

"What's so funny?" Jean smiled and tilted his head lightly to a side.

"N-nothing" Armin stuttered, completely embarrassed and looked straight at his hands. He felt his cheeks heating up again, internally cursing for blushing so many times in less than an hour.

"It's okay. At least you're smiling"  

"What?"

"Even if you have to laugh at me, you're smiling and not awkwardly" 

"Why are you so nice?" Armin needed to change the subject or the embarrassment would make him faint again.

"I feel a little... Guilty" the boy smiled nervously and leaned against the countertop. I knew it.

"Guilty for what?"

"I didn't know you were studying this hard. My parties must have driven you crazy" Jean cleared his throat and turned around searching for a couple of glasses. "You didn't complain, though. And that only makes me feel worse"

He filled them up with water and gave one to Armin. His hands were still shaking and Jean noticed, Armin could say by his expression, but Jean sipped on his water and didn't say anything.

"Don't worry about that. I always end up like this after finals" Armin shook his head. He didn't want to sound like a nerd but... That's exactly what he was so, why hiding it?

"And your friends let you alone?"

"Kind of" he smiled and drank some water. "The only one who would have come wanted to watch horror movies and play videogames. And I don't feel like standing his energy today" he felt a little guilty for that, because he knew Eren would have just stayed there getting bored just to make sure Armin was OK. That was the main reason he didn't want his friend to go, because he knew Eren had better plans which Armin wanted him to attend.

"Hey, horror movies are masterpieces. Well, some are" Jean smiled at him and Armin rolled his eyes. He did remind him of Eren, excepting Eren's bad jokes and a personality a little hard to bear for a normal person. Jean seemed to be more friendly, nice... Calm.

"I like books"

"I don't read much" he started doing things again, taking plates, filling them with food, making a salad.

"You... Play the guitar?"

"I started in a band. It didn't work. But I still play"

"I learned some piano when I was younger"

"You don't play anymore?"

"A piano is more expensive than a school year" It was. He checked.

"True"

Armin had no idea what to talk about next. The nervousness started to fade away but he still felt awkward with the atmosphere in the room. He never liked those situation with stranger people where you have to act nice and ask about each other personal lives even if you don't really care. Armin did cared, but he felt uncomfortable talking about himself.

Jean dragged him out of his thoughts when he put a plate on his hands, Armin raising his eyes to him finding a smile rising widely on his lips.

"I said you didn't have to eat, not that I wouldn't offer you my juicy famous chicken" he winked and walked to the table. Oh no...

Armin followed him looking at the plate. It looked tasty, smelled really good, but that didn't mean he could eat it. The blonde stood down on the chair and put the plate in front of him. I don't want him to think I don't want to, but... God, I should have left.

Jean approached him and put a glass of orange juice in front of Armin, sliding the plate of food away from him.

"Here. It's fresh and full of vitamins" Jean smiled and sat down in front of him. He took the chopsticks and attacked the plate without a second look to the other.

"Thank you" it meant more than Armin could explain. The weight on his chest eased and he could relax a little. People used to look at him with pity, some of them even tried to talk to him about it like they knew what was happening in Armin's head. He hated it so he would avoid having lunch with them, going on a dinner... His friends got used to it and stopped bothering, Eren even made jokes about it and Armin couldn't feel more thankful for it.

Jean didn't seem to care eating alone by the way he was enjoying his food. Armin smiles at his juice and let his body fall a little on the table, resting his head on his arm.

"Are you tired?" Jean asked mouth full of food.

"No. I am out of energy. I was going for a walk but now I think wouldn't make it to the street"

"You should stay at home and rest" Jean mumbled and then swallowed. "When I feel really tired I don't even get out of bed"

"Ahh I hate lying all day. I need to do things"

"How are you gonna do things if you barely breath?" Jean laughed and Armin pouted.

"I am fine! Really!" He tried to sit straight again but he couldn't, giving up and resting his head on the table.

"The definition of 'fine' must be different in your world"

"Okay... But still, I don't like being lazy"

Armin looked at the plate again. He bite his lip nervously and stretched his arm out towards it. Maybe if I taste it... His stomach twitched but he touched the meat softly. It was warm and juicy. He tore a little slice with his fingers and looked at it for a moment, brought it closer to his lips. It smelled good.

Armin slid it in his mouth and chew on it slowly. He can so cook! This is really good. Armin raised his eyes to Jean who was staring at him expectant, checking his face for an answer. He raised an eyebrow and Armin smiled and nodded.

"I like it" he whispered after swallowing it all. I'm sorry for not eating the rest, he wanted to say but Jean seemed content with that so he shut up and observed the other finishing his food, all trace of nervousness vanishing from his mind and leaving behind a genuine smile.

Chapter Text

To make something clear, Armin wasn't anorexic. He didn't have any problems with food and it wasn't his choice not to eat. Actually, the days his stomach felt better things like noodles, pasta, spicy or any heavy food would be pushed down his throat leaving Armin pleased.

What was the problem then? Doctors sent him to a Psychologist because physically his body worked well. Apparently, stress and a hormone turmoil was the problem causing his body to reject food, mixed with the consequences of a heavy medicine diet he followed as a kid. So, ironically, he had to take medicines to treat it. 

But that was a part of his past, which was supposed to be fading away. He was happy now, living his dream he worked so hard for and it was better than he expected. Armin made new friends who were amazing, different, special. Each one of them had their own problems to deal with so it wasn't hard for Armin to fit in with his peculiarities. It was the first time he could actually say he belonged somewhere and that was part of him now, it was his life and he loved it.  

Right now, looking at how Jean was washing the dishes whistling low and moving his head to a rhythm only he could hear, Armin was asking himself why was he still there. They didn't talk much and his head was spinning because of the dizziness and the pain. But somehow it was nice being there, in silent and calm resting on a now clean couch, comfortable and soft making him sleepy. However, a part of Armin could tell how Jean was containing himself because Jean was obviously an energetic boy and would probably have the music playing loud and singing to it. Somehow Armin felt like he was bothering Jean, so he stood up. It was time to leave back to his bed and stay there until he could walk straight without feeling like fainting. 

"Thank you for... the food". He spoke catching the boy's attention. 

"You're leaving already?" 

"Yes. I should sleep and take some medicine for the headache" when Armin stood up the gravity must have increased its strength because he fell right back on the couch.

"Wow. Stay there" Jean rushed to him throwing a towel to a side and bending down on him. He placed a  hand on Armin's forehead. "You didn't notice how hot you are?" 

"Am I?" Armin whispered amused trying to make Jean forget the fever, but instead he felt stupid and his turned even redder. "I- I mean... It's not so bad. I just need rest" Jean was extremely close which wasn't helping at all.

"And a bath of ice" Jean pushed his shoulders making Armin lay down on the sofa. "You stay here, cool down that fever, and then I'll take you later to your apartment"

"You don't need to be this nice to me. You don't owe me anything" Armin whispered. Maybe his fever was really high because he didn't feel like moving now even though he knew he shouldn't be there. 

"You're right. Too bad I'm naturally nice" he winked and Armin felt his cheeks flushing red. Thank god I have fever...

"I'm sorry" Armin whispered finally as Jean placed a wet and cold towel on his forehead. He was sorry for bothering Jean so much, and the boy was helping him even though they were practically strangers. 

"You should be. I don't know you, Armin. But you should be more careful about your health or this will still happening to you" then he covered Armin with a blanket and took off his shoes.

"I don't want to bother you... again. But thank you" he smiled weakly. Armin felt stupid again for getting to that point because he didn't know when to stop working and rest. It was his fault but Jean was the one helping him out even if he didn't have to. 

"You're not. I didn't have plans today so you can stay here and keep me company" Jean smiled and pushed back the coffee table where the TV, he turned it on and dragged a chair to stand there. 

Armin couldn't say if it was the fever or the exhaustion but he relaxed and kept staring at Jean forgetting his guilt and embarrassment. Jean had brown hair with a darker undercut which made his hairstyle kind of odd but funny. He had his ears pierced, three in the left one with small hoop earrings, and in the right he had two hoop rings down, one simple and small up in the cartilage and another one in the tragus. Armin could see a part of a tattoo on his arm but the sleeves were too longs to say what could it be. Jean was totally opposite of Armin making him extra interesting. He looked just like a member of a rock band, or maybe a tattoo artist, anything related to art. Or maybe sports, Armin couldn't say. But it was quite sure Jean was far from his world. He looked older too, but Armin didn't know as it was the first time he thought about it. 

"How old are you?" he whispered, curiosity taking over his mind. 

"Oh. Twenty three" Jean looked at him and nodded, waiting for the boy to answer his own question. 

"Sorry" Armin shook his head trying to concentrate. "I'm nineteen" he mumbled before yawning. He started to feel sleepy and closed his eyes, but his mind wouldn't rest. "What's your job?" 

"Right now I'm a waiter in a restaurant" the boy sighed "but I'm trying to get a job in a music company, as a producer"

"Music... I knew it was something like that" Armin whispered to himself. He heard Jean chuckling and then he felt how he turned the towel around on his forehead. The cold touch of the wet fabric made him shiver under the blanket, but it was refreshing and made his skin relax from the heat. 

"Try to rest" Jean whispered but Armin couldn't sleep. 

"Why did you moved here?"

"It's cheap and close to work. And It's close to my mother's house"

"Why don't you live with her?" just after finishing the question Armin wanted to slap himself. It wasn't his business and maybe Jean didn't want to talk about his private live.

"I'm kind of... Independent. I like being on my own, you know..." Jean smiled nervously and  scratched his nape. Armin noticed he did that sometimes when he was nervous or embarrassed, or when the situation was awkward. The younger wrote that little detail in the mental list he started about Jean.

"So you can have parties every night?" Armin chuckled trying to change the atmosphere. But he understood what Jean meant. He felt the same freedom, being on his own and living as he wanted to. He was lonely sometimes, though, but Eren was always there to remind Armin to cherish the lonely times.

"I think parties will be over for some time. I'm still recovering from the cleaning sessions I had to do. Those lazy asses run away when it comes to helping out"

"I've never been to a party. They dragged me to a club once. It didn't end well" Armin forgot to make himself look less nerdy and slapped himself mentally before deciding to shut up. But he headed Jean laughing which made him cover his face with the blanket.

"What happened?" Jean didn't made comments about his poor social habits, thing Armin was grateful for. But now he had to think about that event again and his memory was blurry.

"Something about drinking, losing a shoe and ending up making a confession which couldn't be more embarrassing" he sighed. He remembered little things after the third glass Eren gave him, but all the things he remembered were a reason not to drink ever again.

"You're a rough party boy" Jean laughed and patted Armin's head from over the blanket. "Look, if you aren't ashamed of unless one night of your life, you didn't live properly"

"Maybe. But I wouldn't repeat the experience"

"I remember one time I swam naked in a river. In November, at three in the morning. I wouldn't repeat that either" if Jean was trying to comfort the younger, he succeed. Because Armin burst out laughing and ended up coughing. "Don't laugh! I was sick for a week" but Jean himself was laughing at that point and both of them let it all out before calming down.

"You're kind of crazy..."

"That's what makes me this cool. Where would I be if I'd like being normal?"

"You have a point there..." normal people madre Armin feel out of placer. Normal people were the reason Armin was lonely for so much time. Normal people sucked, only wanted to drag him in their own misery. He was done with them.

"You're not normal yourself. And that's cool. I think we will be good friends" Armin took the blanket off his head glancing at Jean. Why would such an extroverted cool person want to be friend with someone as boring as me? He thought Jean was joking but the smile on his face felt honest to Armin. And it made him anxious. What will happen when he realizes I'm not the socially open kind of person? It wouldn't be the first time someone runs from his life.

"What?" Jean's voice burst his bubble and Armin realized he had been staring at the boy. "I'm not good enough to be one of your friends? Because I have some hidden talents too"

"N-no! I mean... I don't think you can find anything entertaining about me but... If you insist" Armin pull out a hand and offered it to the frowning boy. Jean took it in a soft shake and then jumped up.

"Great! Now, I'll bring you another towel because you're fever must still be high. Your all face is red" he pointed out while walking away to the kitchen. Great... The embarrassment and nervousness made Armin blush hard. But if Jean didn't notice, it wasn't so bad.

Chapter Text

The way Eren and Jean met was a complete disaster. As Armin was recovering his best friend decided it was a good idea to pass by. It could have been a good idea if he wouldn't have bumped into Jean on the stairs. And that's not the bad part, because they both were going up and somehow Jean ended up saying Eren was a bad friend for leaving Armin alone those days as he was feeling so bad. Eren didn't exactly explain how they ended up talking about Armin, though. 

"You should have seen the way he was talking to me! Who the fuck does that guy thinks he's talking to?" he was almost screaming while walking from side to side in Armin's apartment. Eren is that kind of person who feels offended for small comments, so when Jean questioned his and Armin's friendship, Eren exploded. And, for what Eren was telling Armin, Jean was pushing him to the edge, attacking him like he knew everything about Eren. 

"What exactly did he said that is so bad?" 

"Everything he said deserves a punch in his stupid ugly face!" 

"Like what? I bet you're exaggerating it all again, Eren"

"He was talking about me like he already knew me. Who does that?"

"So he called you a bad friend, right? That's all?" 

"All? That's enough to piss me off" he groaned and fell down on the couch beside Armin. The boy was wrapped in a blanket with a now cold tea in his hands. He learned to deal with Eren so he just let him talk until his angry moment passed and then he could change the subject fast and distract his friend. 

But this time it was kind of different because he was shocked too. Why is Jean so worried? Did I bother him that much that he feels like making my friends more aware or something? Or does he cares that much? Why, though? He was a mess, his head was a storm of thoughts, some positives and some negatives, and he didn't know which one to pay attention to. To be honest, he wasn't even sure about why it did matter. They said to be friends, so why was he doubting Jean's word?

That afternoon he could calm Eren down and then he kept bragging about that one young teacher from his college he was so entranced by. 

"He's not my teacher, so I guess it's fine. I got to talk to him yesterday"

"You went there when classes are over? Wow, you really like him, huh?" 

"Shut up" the boy chuckled and punched the younger. Every time Eren started talking about that mysterious guy he acted like a teenager stalking his crush. It was kind of funny actually. "He is cool. As cold as I thought but I think I can melt that ice" 

"Oh my god, Eren. Control yourself" 

They spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and it was so relaxing they both ended up falling asleep on the couch. When Armin woke up he found a small paper with "I'll see you soon" written on it. He felt like throwing up when he stood up. Too quickly... But it was nothing compared to how bad he felt the earlier days and he did feel much better. He took his phone and checked messages. And the only one was from Jean, inviting him to a little concert at the restaurant he was working in. 

>They said they would pay me much more if I can make the number of customers increase. If you're curious about my music it starts at 7 pm. 

Then Armin looked at the clock again. It was passed six and he still had to shower and get ready and all he could do was throw his phone away and undress leaving the clothes everywhere in the room before getting into the shower. He felt the energy running on his veins as he got dressed as fast as he could without getting sick again. And after drying his hair and getting ready he searched the direction in his phone. He had only 20 minutes left before it would started but he got there five minutes sooner after running as fast as he could. Why was he so nervous? It's simple. Because he felt like owing it to Jean after how much he helped Armin, but also because he was really curious about how talented was the guy. 

He didn't got too surprised when he entered a 'semi-pub' restaurant almost full of people. Many of them preparing the cameras as waiting for the performance to start. They better pay him more after this... Armin sat at a small table next to the wall and a waitress left the menu in front of him. He looked at it carefully while catching his breath and waiting for Jean to start. Armin ended up ordering a salad and as the waitress was walking away he could hear a familiar voice talking through the speakers. 

"Thank you all for coming tonight" Armin raised his gaze and could see Jean in front off all the people who were starting to stand up. "Don't be stingy and try eating something" he joked. It was clear that some of those people were his friends. "Sit down, eat some delicious food of our cook Sasha, who's a pain in the ass but a great chef". 

"Quit the jokes and take that guitar before I smash your head with a pan!" a pitchy voice broke the laughs and after she finished the laughs increased for some seconds. 

"I dedicate this one to my friend" Jean whispered to the microphone as he sit with the guitar on his legs. "We all miss you, buddy" he added and looked at a small group who were still standing up in the front. Armin could easily understand what was all that about by their expressions. One of them smiled and nodded at Jean, a girl placed her hands on her chest and looked down, and another two hugged each other. 

 

The first note sent shivers through Armin's body. It was a slow song, clearly sad and melancholic. The guitar filled the air somehow leaving breathless everyone present in the audience. Armin's eyes couldn't move from the slow and hypnotic movements of Jean's fingers on the chords, sliding lightly and pressing different points from time to time. But when he started to sing... Goosebumps all over his body made him tremble for a moment before he was sent back to the reality as the voice kept pronouncing word. His voice was deep and low, but so soft and beautiful Armin could see the sound caressing every one's ears as Jean closed his eyes to make it even more touching. The lyrics were in english but Jean had no problem with pronouncing perfectly every single sound, so when Armin started to understand what the lyrics were about, he couldn't stop some tears to fall. It was so sad and deep that even the waiters stopped and literally no one was moving as it went more and more intense. Jean's voice cracked with an amazing power spreading the emotion of the lyrics through the place. 

When the music stopped people waited some second until everyone raised and started clapping. Armin couldn't stop himself and stood up too, drying some tears which were still on his cheeks and clapped so hard his palms hurt. The small group was hugging and a girl on her knees shaking. 

"Yesterday was the anniversary of a loss, so this was for him, for his sister, and for his friends" Jean spoke when the applauses quieted down. "Now, let's get into something more fun. This is not a funeral, people" 

The next song was far more energetic, and all the songs after that were like that one; funny, happy and Armin had to admit that he liked them all.  Jean's voice was so nice to listen to, and he could notice how it changed when he was talking. It was something interesting to think about that Armin saved in the back of his mind for another occasion. 

It didn't last more than half an hour but it was enough for people to say that they would be back whenever Jean performed. And the employees seemed happy too for all the tips and clients they had that night. Armin stayed until the end, and when people started to leave the restaurant he sneaked in between the crowd to the back of the room where Jean was. He saw that group of people gathered around and patting Jean's back while the boy was slightly blushing. He hesitated at first but Jean saw him and immediately waved to him making Armin smile nervously. 

"You came!" he said as he walked towards him. "Have you been here all the time?"

"Yeah. You are amazing! Really, that first song was..." Armin still didn't found words to express himself as the nervousness of being watched was disturbing his mind. But Jean seemed to understand what he meant. 

"Thank you" he smirked and pulled Armin close wrapping an arm around his shoulder and forcing him to walk to the staring people. "Guys! This is Armin. My neighbor. Armin, there are Connie, Reiner, Christa and Ymir. They're nice" he whispered to the now shaky boy. 

"Oh, the sick boy. How are you feeling?" a short boy smiled at him.

"Oh" He told them that? This is awkward... "Much better, thank you" he smiled and looked at Jean whose smile didn't fade away. It was wide, bright and full of pride. 

"It's good to know that you actually exist. We thought he was making up the story" a tall girl smirked and raised an eyebrow in JEan's direction.

"S-story?" at that point Armin was more confused that nervous. 

"Yeah! The fact that you almost fainted on his couch and that you're too nice getting worried about bothering him when you have high fever" it was another girl, smaller and who seemed nicer that actually seemed concerned about Armin. 

"Oh..." He told them all that? Why? But Armin didn't ask. Instead he nodded and smiled nervously while Jean pulled him again, this time walking away from the group.

"Say hello to your parents, Christa!" Jean screamed as dragging Armin out of that place. Outside it was cold and dark. But that helped Armin recover from the sudden shock.

"Sorry. They're actually stupid" Jean spoke as he released Armin's arm. The boy chuckled at the sudden nervousness in Jean.

"So you've been talking about me?"

"Sorry about that too" they started walking heading their building.

"It's fine. And thank you for inviting me"

"I'm glad you came. So you liked it?"

Armin nodded maybe too hard or too much because he felt dizzy for a second. Too enthusiastic.

"You are amazing! Any of the songs Was yours?"

"No. I don't feel comfortable singing my own" Jean stretched his arms as they were waiting on a traffic light.

"But you do write"

"I try. Even if they're not good, it actually helps me think clearly"

"That's cool"

Armin was much more curious about the guy beside him. There they were, walking side by side to the same place, talking and laughing like normal people, but Armin was able to feel how unique Jean was. The boy had something that made him special, and it was the look in his eyes. He's look was so different from an average person. It was... deeper, brighter, like he saw something beautiful everyone around were blind to. And the wide smile on his face always somehow twisted Armin's insides. Yeah, he definitely had something special. 

"Oh, and I met your friend today" Jean mae Armin react.

"Eren. He told me" He hates you. 

"He's a jerk. What kind of friends do you have?" Armin started laughing at that comment making Jean stop and stare at him. 

"He didn't like you either" he breathed to calm down. "But he's a nice guy. Really"

"Bullshit. Like that stupid kid can be nice to anyone. He yelled at me when I tried to talk to him!" 

Armin wouldn't even bother explaining it. Jean and Eren were too much alike to get along easily anytime soon, but it was ok. They were too funny to force them to stop. 

 

Chapter Text

 

Jean had already been working in the restaurant for six months before moving to his new apartment. People there were nice and friendly, and you could say that was like a playground when there were no clients. He met Connie and Sasha there and they were quite close despite the age gap and their different personalities.

But it wasn't enough for him to feel motivated. Serving food to customers wasn't exactly his dream in life, but it paid the bills. And now, the company where he applied for a job wanted him to sent some of his work. He expected that and prepared some things beforehand, but Jean didn't expect the part where they wanted lyrics. Creating melodies or a full song wasn't too hard for him, music was streaming in his head 24/7, but lyrics were something different. Expressing his thoughts using words never ended well, mostly with groans and swearing, paper around the room and Jean in a really bad mood. He did have a couple of songs written but none of them was even close to be called 'good'. Unless that was what Ymin told him, and since she was quite good with writing Jean believed her immediately, but she flatly denied helping him. He did write sometimes when he needed to speak about anything he knew people wouldn't care of, but he didn't call lyrics to that.

The deadline was close and he still had nothing done beside the demos of two songs he composed and an old song he produced for the band he was in. Two years later and Jean was still really proud of that song. He hadn't any idea of what was he supposed to write about. Love songs were completely out of question and even if he could write about his passed away friend, Jean didn't feel right telling his story to strangers. Maybe it was only an excuse to give up because since the company contacted him fear started playing ugly games with his head lowering his self esteem to the point he was doubting of his demos too. It was frustrating to deal with all that while keep working every evening and having no one who ask for advice. His mother was waiting for him to accept the job at the family business, a bakery. But cooking or serving for him were both far from his dreams, and Jean didn't want to give his mother a chance to lower his confidence even more that it was. 

Performing in the restaurant that evening was basically for himself. He didn't mind about the money the manager promised him. He missed performing and seeing how much the customers enjoyed that half an hour increased his self esteem considerably. The applause and cheers charged the battery of his motivation making the last note of his guitar the beginning of an unstoppable proud giggle. His friends were there like in the old days, people were commenting nice things and then Armin appeared widely smiling and waving to at him. 

"You came!" he didn't thought the boy would actually go. He hoped so, though. 

"Yeah. You are amazing! Really, that first song..." He seemed nervous as always, but his smile didn't fade and his eyes were shining bright. Just then he realized the slight difference between how the nice comments from earlier and Armin's opinion felt. Yeah, when someone you know say something good about you feels better that when a stranger does, but Armin was a stranger too somehow. But it was that look in his eyes that had a special power over him. 

"Thank you" he finally reacted when he notice how uncomfortable Armin was because of his friends stares, so he introduced Armin to them. Not a good idea, and shortly after he dragged Armin away dedicating them a death look. I'll kill them later

"Sorry, they're actually stupid" he tried to act normal or pissed, but he was extremely nervous instead like he was catched doing something bad. 

"So you've been talking about me" Shit. Those blabbermouths... The good thing was Armin didn't seem mad about it. He was smiling and lightly blushed. Cute

"Sorry about that too" he was. He wanted to slap himself for trusting his friends. But he knew they didn't really pay attention to random things Jean said, so that made him realized how much he actually talked about Armin. Why? In that moment his mind was empty and couldn't remember.

"It's fine. And thank you for inviting me" 

"I'm glad you came. So you liked it?"

"You are amazing! Any of the songs was yours?" there he was again with that excited expression and Jean could bet that his eyes were shining again but the lack of light made it impossible to notice. 

"No. I don't feel comfortable singing my own"

"But you write"

"I try. Even if they're not good, it helps me think clearly"

"That's cool"

The way to their apartments was nice and funny. Talking about Eren didn't last long and after Jean talked about his friends or how much fun he had some days at work. But all the time Jean thought about those lyrics he needed to finish. At one point Armin seemed to notice.

"Something's wrong?"

"Eh? No. No" he smiled nervously and messed his hair to relax, but didn't work. Instead, the feeling that he should talk about it grew with Armin's curious or concerned look. "It's just... I have to write a song and send it to the company I'm expecting to be hired by before next Friday". 

"It sounds important. And you have problems with it?" 

"You could say that" Jean sighed. They were already climbing the stairs but the lights didn't work as the night before, so Jean only hoped not to stumble and fall this time. "Whenever I try to write something my head is empty of ideas"

"What about those you do have written? Maybe you could use one as an inspiration"

"I think that will only make me hate them more" he laughed nervously as realizing they were already on the third floor. "Well, thank you for coming tonight"

"Wait! Um... You wanna come in and talk? Maybe we can find something that inspires you"

"Really? Aren't you tired or anything?" that would probably help a lot but he didn't want to risk Armin's health making him stay up late. It was already passed 11.

"I slept enough these days, I feel really awake. But if you're tired or have plans or-"

"No! I mean, thank you. That would help really much" Jean would have shook Armin's hand if only he was able to see it. "I'm gonna have a shower and change into something comfy" he continued his way up the stairs "I'll message you!" he yelled and a 'shhhhh' replied back followed by a laugh. 

Jean felt so excited that he dropped his keys on the floor when he tried to open the door. Fucking lights. He searched them using the light of his phone and opened the door. He went straight to the bathroom for that shower to warm up his bones and then he picked some gray sweatpants, a white t-shirt and a blue and black large hoodie. He didn't feel comfortable asking Armin for food so he ate something before going just in case it would take some hours, which was really possible. Jean messaged Armin letting him know he was done as he gathered some papers and a notebook, and when he received the confirmation he took his keys and run out the door. Down, Armin already opened the door but he knocked anyway before pushing it softly and entering the apartment. He had been there once, but now it felt warmer, even welcoming. Seeing how clean and organized it was brought a light blush to him remembering how messy his apartment was when Armin went there.  

"Hey" Armin came out of his room tying his hair up in a small ponytail, wearing a huge hoodie and some shorts. The change from his formal look from before to this was really big, but somehow both looks seemed to fit him perfectly. "What?" Fuck. I've been staring at him

"Nothing. So, I got some of the things I wrote here in case you want to read them" 

"Do you mind if I eat something before?" Jean felt surprise about that but he nodded in a casual smile and followed the boy to the kitchen, sitting on one of the sits at the table. "Eren brought me this bowl of instant ramen. You're hungry?" It sounded more like a request than a question. Maybe he doesn't feel comfortable eating alone

"Um, yeah. Sure" 

"Great!" Armin looked excited. I was right

Armin was like a quiz, an enigma few people could fully understand if the boy didn't want them to. Jean could figure that in the little time they spent together. Maybe Jean didn't ask too many questions either, but what's funny in an ask-and-answer conversation? It's better to spend time with that person and answer the questions yourself. It's more interesting and surely a better way to get to know someone than a single conversation. 

And Jean was sure he would have to spend a lot of time with Armin to get to understand only half of him. Normal people are usually easy to figure out, and others don't interest you enough to try. But in Jean's eyes, Armin had that 'je ne sais quoi' that made his curiosity bloom up every time the boy was on sight.

"Here. It's hot" Armin put the bowl in front of the thoughtful boy with a pair of chopsticks and sit in front of him. Jean observed the cup of tea along with a small bowl of soup and a sandwich. It wasn't much, but it was the first time Jean actually saw him eating something, so it was ok. At least he knew Armin ate. 

"Itadakimasu!" [/いただきます/ Let's eat!]. Armin looked like enjoying the food he was eating, and even if Jean concentrated on his own ramen -he wasn't that hungry either- he couldn't help but look at Armin. 

"Jean, can I ask you something?" the sudden question startled Jean who tried to act normal and filled his mouth with noodles as he nodded in response. "Who's that person you talked about... back in the restaurant? I mean... If it's too personal, I'm sorry"

"Don't worry. He was... His name was Marco. He was in the same band as me some years ago. He played the piano" the memories made their usual way to that small part of his heart which still hurt after all that time. A soft smile tried to fade the sudden sadness, but his eyes couldn't lie."But I knew him for years before starting the band, since school. He was a nerd" Jean laughed at it and started playing with a chopstick. "I think I passed thanks to how stubborn he was about studying. We were friends back then, and then we grew up. Krista, the blonde girl from today, was his step sister. I owe her a lot" Jean had to clear his throat because the memories dried it up fast. He would have stop the story, he usually did. But something in the way Armin observed every single expression or move he made let Jean know that it was OK, that the boy was listening. Maybe talking to someone about it for once was a good idea, maybe Armin wouldn't freak out and would actually listen until the end.

"We... Fell for each other" he said it slowly afraid of the possible grimace that could appear on Armin's face. But the latter didn't change a bit, being a total relief. "We couldn't help it. It just happened, I think. But we didn't have to tell anyone because they all knew just for the way we acted. It was... Perfect. For me, at least. We never noticed, I never saw a single sign. He was such a great actor..." Jean's voice cracked without him being able to stop it. Armin handed his tea over to Jean and the boy accepted it with a tired smile. It was the first time he talked about it sober and the need of a bottle of whiskey crawled to his mind. But it wasn't the time for that. So he calmed his voice before keep talking.

"One day he didn't came to practice. He wasn't answering his phone and he was nowhere to be found. At first we thought he got lost because it was a new place. Maybe his phone died or... Fuck. I just..."

"It's OK. You don't have to tell me if you don't feel good about it" Armin reached Jean's arm and squeezed it softly.

"It's not that. I just... Never talked about it sober" he admitted and shook his head. No alcohol this time. I can't keep running away from this. "I had a bad feeling, a really terrible one. Did you ever feel that way and instantly called your loved ones to check on them just in case?" Armin nodded and lowered his glance. "Marco didn't pick the phone that time. And I felt like something awful happened. So I turned on the TV and changed from channel to channel like I... Like I knew. And not a minute after that the news popped up on many channels. Teenager jumps from a bridge to the freeway a-and... died. Run over by multiple cars. People recorded it... It was... All over the internet in seconds. He... Jumped. And I couldn't...".

It was enough. He stood up and turned around rubbing his eyes and drying the tears. Words wouldn't bring Marco back, they would never wip the guilt haunting him in his sleep or fix the broken part of his heart that would never heal. One year passed and he still didn't erase that last message Marco sent him. A simple "I love you" that was all he needed to forgive Marco for all the pain he dealt with. But talking about it to Armin... Beside painful -because each word felt like his throat was being filled with crystal scraps- the way his words cleared the storm in his mind felt relieving. People usually get uncomfortable and cut the conversation themselves, or are so drunk they don't even listen, so even if Jean tried to get it off his chest, nobody would listen. The only ones who would were his close friends, and they suffered as much as he did so there was no point on searching comfort in more wounds. 

"You know" he heard Armin whispering and turned around facing the boy. Armin was looking at his fingers and then raised his eyes at Jean. In them, the latter could find that kind of empathy Jean looked for but that only meant one thing. Armin knew that feeling too. "Some people aren't made for this world. I like to think that... they're in some place in peace with no pain or sorrow. Maybe keep struggling will end up in a good way, maybe they would have found peace here too... We'll never know... But once a person decides to leave this place it is totally out of our hands to dissuade them. Maybe is our fault, maybe they only wanted some kind of help we didn't know they needed. Us, human beings, are not perfect, we can't see further than they let us to. We can't figure out what's going on in someone's head. Sometimes it may be our fault, but when you love someone, show it to that person and do whatever it takes to let them know it, the guilt you feel is not fair. Because is not your fault, and that person knew it. Sometimes isn't anyone's fault. Feeling guilty is the proof of how much they meant to us. You loved him, you still do, but you can't blame yourself. It's a destructive feeling. If you want to keep fighting in this world change it for pain, because that will make you stronger". 

Who is this boy? Jean felt the pressure of his chest easing to the point his tears stopped. The pain was there, but not in the way it had been the whole year. He sat down staring at Armin speechless. The blonde looked back at him and shook his head erasing the lifeless gaze and his normally bright eyes started to shine again. Seriously though, who is he? 

"Sorry. I was thinking out loud" Armin stood up and picked up the dishes on the table. 

"No... I... thank you. You didn't say you were sorry, you didn't keep an awkward silence... Armin, I think you're the wisest person I know".

Chapter Text

Did Armin help? He hoped so. The thing is Jean ended up sending a demo and some lyrics to the company.

Armin gave Jean a simple advice and for some reason Jean seemed really surprised by it.

"Listen to your demos and imagine them as a background of a movie scene. What is happening? You can write about it"

For Armin was obvious. For Jean it wasn't. He couldn't believe such a small advice never crossed his mind. At first the boy couldn't concentrate on his work because he kept pointing out things he could change in the demo, or little mistakes he made, or anything at all. It got so late and they were so exhausted Armin had to send him to sleep promising Jean to help him the next day.

And so they did. After Jean finished his shift at the restaurant he went straight home and to Armin's door. The younger had dinner ready and they spent some hours talking about anything and everything. Jean said it helped him to clear his mind so Armin didn't argue, but the reality was Jean was looking forward to know more things about his new friend. So he tried to make Armin talk the most and he succeed, letting Armin tell story after story about his childhood, his little adventures with Eren and his 'gang', he talked about his parents, his dog...  Jean found it interesting how a boy like Armin who seemed to be the type of person who spends half of his time at home or school, had so many stories to share.

Jean found himself staring at the young storyteller in front of him, his attention changing from point to point. At first it was the energy Armin showed when telling a funny story about how his dog ended up trapped on a tree, or the time he jumped to a lake from the bridge to confront his fear of heights. Then, Jean lost himself in the big amount of details his mind was flooded by, like the small pitch in Armin's voice that would show up when he was embarrassed, the way the blonde haired would hug a pillow when trying hard to avoid a subject, how strangely sweet his smile was every time Jean spoke, his eyes shining completely focused on each word that rolled down Jean's tongue. Jean lost track of what he was saying more than once and had to start again because Armin's eyes were something his mind would focus on instantly. He just hoped Armin didn't notice how nervous he was.

And he didn't, mostly because Armin was nervous himself wondering how his small and boring stories could bring such a big bright smile on the older's face. He couldn't understand that, but he liked it so he tried to think about better memories to bring up just to keep that beautiful smile some more. He didn't stop to meditate about it, though. He was too busy searching into his memory for funny stories.

After some hours of talking, Jean played one of his demos and they listened to it quietly before Armin started talking about what he was imagining for that song.

"It feels like the perfect background for a teen running away from home"

"But it's not a sad song"

"I know. Running away in something that makes you feel free, not sad"

"You've watched too many movies" Jean chuckled and closed his eyes again. Maybe is not a bad idea.

"It's just an option" Armin punched softly Jean's arm "I have more"

But the running away started to make sense in Jean's mind to the point lyrics simply popped leading his hand on the paper without too much effort. They kind of made sense and even if Jean was conscious about how unfinished and simple the song was he felt confident enough to consider them good enough. He worked a lot in the demo so he hoped the low quality of his lyrics wouldn't be such a big problem.

So he sent the whole pack a day earlier and started praying. However he knew the answer would last at least one week to come, so that meant a week of torture for the poor boy.

It was Friday when Jean had a whole free day from work and was hanging out with some of his friends. He needed to distract himself and his crazy friends were the perfect answer. After playing some videogames in Connie's room with Ymir and Reiner the three of them met Christa, Sasha and Bertolt in a pub.

On the other hand, Armin had a quite busy day. Eren asked him for help to buy something for Levi's birthday. Armin had no idea how his opinion could help because he didn't know the man at all, so he got to the conclusion Eren just wanted company. It wouldn't have bothered him if the older wouldn't have been whining all day about how hard it was to find something suitable.

However, Armin kind of needed to get out. The only company he had all week was Jean, and even if he didn't complain at all about it, Armin felt like he was bothering his neighbor. It was a little hard to believe that Jean actually enjoyed spending time with him, specially since the only thing they did was watch shows, talk, eat and play some games. Or more Jean playing and Armin learning how not to die in the first two minutes. And for that reason Armin considered a good idea to spend all day out  with Eren and then meet Mikasa, Magnolia and Annie. The plan was going to the movies but Annie and Magnolia insisted on going to this pub. Eren wanted to go too and Mikasa didn't mind. So Armin went with them since he wasn't ready to go back home.

So, there they were, sitting in opposite sides of the same pub with their respective friends and trying to have fun. The music was loud enough for them not to recognize each other laughter and half an hour went by without nor Armin or Jean noticing the other.

"Hey! That's Ymir!" Annie stood up quite fast. "I'll be right back" everyone at the table turned around to see where the girl was running to, and Armin was about to pass out when he saw Jean right there, staring directly at him probably as surprised as he was. 

"Horseface is here too..." Armin didn't hear Eren because he was too busy trying to react and breath.

"Your boyfriend's here, Jeannie" Connie punched Jean's shoulder and he flashed his friend a death glare before standing up and heading the younger's table. He saw how Armin was suddenly nervous and he couldn't guess why, only hoping he wouldn't bother him. "Hey, Armin"

The blond haired boy jumped off his seat startled and all nervous, mostly shocked and greeted Jean with a big bright smile. None of them stopped to think about what made that encounter so awkward, but I could say it was the fact that they were used to their own apartments as the place for them to hang out, and meeting in a public place like a pub was a big change in their routine. 

"Jean! Hey. I see this pub is popular" Armin giggled happily and stood there, playing with his fingers. Jean noticed and fought back a funny smirk because he knew Armin would only get more nervous. 

"You're the neighbour, right?" Mikasa talked and gained the attention of both guys. He talks about me? 

"Y-yeah, I guess so. Jean Kirstein" he bowed politely before he noticed the bored look on Eren's face, and he rolled his eyes. 

"You're here" he snarled and turned to Armin again who was smiling awkwardly at the heavy atmosphere. But Jean decided to forget about Eren and take advantage of the opportunity he bumped into. "I'm with my friends, we're there" he pointed at the group that couldn't take their eyes off of the two boys. "Wanna join us?"

"Ye- I mean..." Armin gulped and looked to his friends. Eren wasn't pleased with the offer, but Mikasa smiled and nodded, grabbing Eren's wrist and obligating him to stand up. "OK then" Armin kind of sighed in relief and Jean almost run to the table they were heading.

"Armin! It's nice to see you again" Christa sent him a comforting smile. Armin didn't really think about having to confront Jean's friends again and now seeing them staring at him kind of made him regret his decision.

"OK... So, these are Magnolia, Mikasa and Eren. And Annie" Armin consciously talked louder than usual, trying not to be too awkward.

They started to introduce themselves and Armin hid behind Mikasa until Jean noticed him and slid an arm behind his neck, slightly pulling him closer.

"You wanna drink something? Let me pay as a thank you for your help" 

"N-no. I can't drink anything right now. My stomach already hurts a little" at that point Jean knew about Armin's problems with food and drinks, so he didn't argue. "If you want, we can hang out somewhere. I really want to repay you"

"Yeah! That could make it" Jean ran his fingers through Armin's hair messing the long golden locks and chuckled a little seeing how the boy's cheeks turned a bright pink. 

The rest of the night went by kind of smoothly. Their friends seemed to get along quite well, and even if Eren couldn't stand Jean at all, he had no problem with the rest. Mikasa somehow started talking to Sasha and both of them disappeared at some point, leaving behind a cheering Connie and a confused Armin. However, he didn't think much about it because he was having a quite good time. Christa was really nice, making Armin felt more comfortable for some reason while talking to her. Maybe it was her calm voice or how sweet her smile was every time Armin felt overwhelmed about the amount of different conversations. Well, it was calm until a jealous Ymir reclaimed all of Christa's attention leaving Armin a little uncomfortable with it. 

Jean rescued him more than once and when he saw how late it was and the fact that Armin was yawning constantly, he decided it was time to head back home. 

"You have it easier that Sasha and Mikasa" Reiner scoffed when they were about to leave and Jean punched him. Armin didn't understood the reference, thing that Jean was thankful for. He didn't need an awkward walk back home because of Reiner's jokes. 

"You could have stayed a little more if you wanted" Armin breathed the cold air, replacing the heavy atmosphere of the pub that was full at that hour. The change was good for his lungs, allowing him to clean his mind with the fresh and cool air. 

"I'm tired and I had enough for today"

"I liked it though. Your friends are really nice" 

"To you maybe, because you don't know them well. They can be assholes. Like that Eren" Jean grimaced at Eren's name and Armin started laughing. He couldn't help thinking how similar Jean and Eren were. 

"Eren is a good guy, trust me" 

"I trust you, not him"

Armin sighed and hid his nose in the neck of his sweater. The night was cold and humid but Armin liked it. That part of spring with warm days and cold night was always his favorite. It was past twelve, but since it was Friday there were many people walking downtown, happy cheering young groups starting their weekends. Armin was wondering how were they able to spend their weekends partying and repeat it each week, enjoying it with the same energy and spirit as it was the first day.

"Am I boring you?" Jean waved his hand in front of Armin's eyes startling the latter, who looked immediately at his neighbour just to see a smiley Jean staring at him. "You look amazed" he laughed softly and Armin shook his head.

"I was just thinking, sorry. What were you saying?"

"It's fine. I just asked you if you'd like to hang out with us more often"

"Oh.  Am... Sure" Armin for sure didn't expect that, but had to fight back a smile to hide how actually excited he was about it. "So... I was wondering. Is Ymir always so possessive over Christa?"

"Oh, that" Jean chuckled and nodded. "But she may have thought you liked Christa, so she went extra jealous"

"Jealous? I don't know, I thought they were sisters or something" Jean's eyes widened and choked on a laugh.

"I hope not. It would be a really violent situation"

"Oh! Ok" Armin nodded awkwardly. He suspected something but his oblivious mind liked to leave out the obvious hints and start making senseless deductions that most of the times ended up being incredibly far away from the simple reality. 

"Why? You liked our little angel?" Jean gave the smaller a nudge and Armin shook his head repeatedly. 

"No, no. I was just curious, that's all" he scratched his nape nervously. "I'm not really into girls, actually" 

"You're not?" 

"You didn't notice?" I should have? Jean was the shocked one now. He didn't even stopped to think about that, it never was a thing he would ask to someone. 

"No! I mean, I didn't think about that at all"

"Oh" Armin smiled nervously and lowered his gaze to the ground. Oh, shit. 

"It's not that I care about it. It's a personal detail you have the right to keep to yourself" Jean tried to make the situation casual again. He really wasn't bothered by what Armin liked or not, he was simply surprised by the sudden information and Jean was alway bad at expressing his thought with those kind of delicate subjects. 

"Everyone said it was obvious" Armin chuckled and sighed. "So I stopped bothering about telling people. I don't see the use in it. But I understand if you feel uncomfortable with me now" Jean noticed the not-so-well-disguised sadness in Armin's voice and he was quick to react.

 "Not at all! It's perfectly fine, seriously" Jean messed Armin's hair to gain his attention, which he did because Armin's eyes raised to Jean's face and they met for a second before Jean snaked an arm behind the smaller's neck. "You're still cool, kid". Jean didn't really understand why Armin would think he would mind, since he told him about Marco. But he didn't want to ask him that saving it for another occasion. 

They didn't speak much more before they got to their building. It wasn't an awkward silence, though. They simply walked beside each other enjoying the relaxed atmosphere surrounding them. Jean was relieved he didn't screw up the night and Armin felt strangely better, like all that time he had a pressure over his chest he wasn't even aware of and now it was gone, leaving behind a happier or rather relieved Armin. He didn't want to make a big deal of it so he decided to shut up and leave the subject fall apart, hoping it wouldn't pop on a conversation again until he and Jean were close enough for him not to feel uncomfortable about it. 

"We should really do more stuff together" Jean said already at Armin's floor. In they interactions, they created an unconscious habit of talking on the stairs and Armin watching Jean disappear up the stairs before going to his own apartment. 

"I guess, yeah" Armin was still thinking Jean would have more fun with his friends than with him, but he couldn't think about that when Jean's excited eyes were staring at him with that intensity.

"That's a promise, then. Don't make plans tomorrow!" the taller run up the stairs shouting and Armin shushed him down chuckling. He sighed and walked to his door mostly dragging his feet because he had no more energy to actually raise his feet from the floor. He entered the apartment and had to gather all the energy he still had to change clothes and take his medicine before collapsing on his bed. 

But Armin couldn't fall asleep. Instead, his mind started to mess with him cruelly. His heart started pounding harshly, his inside twitched and cold sweat started drenching his forehead, sending cold shivers down his spine. He was nervous, extremely nervous. It feels like... we'll have a... date?

Chapter Text

"Where are we?"

"Welcome to Kyojin Entertainment" Jean spread his arms in the air. They were standing in front of a building in Kyoto where Jean dragged Armin keeping their destination secret just 'to make it funnier'. He seemed to be quite proud of himself while Armin mostly confused.

**

That morning Jean woke Armin up with a message.

>We're going to Kyoto
>I'll knock at your door at 12:00, so you better be ready 
>Don't worry, you'll love it
>O(≧∇≦)O

Armin didn't sleep decently that night and in the morning he felt sick again. The reason? He was hella nervous. I mean, he got used to spending time with Jean but they wouldn't leave the apartments and the only time they met outside was by accident the night before. Armin had no idea of Jean's plans or where they were heading to, his head started spinning with all the possibilities. Jean never told him about Kyoto only that he used to live in a bigger city when he was part of that band, but after what happened to Marco all those people, the noise, the continuous avalanche of bodies that crushed on him every day, it made him anxious.

All those thoughts that messed Armin's mind the night before calmed down after a while. Armin managed to ignore them and attributed them to the fact that he didn't have a real date in three years, and Jean seemed to be the type of guy who whould make a perfect date. Armin slapped himself mentally and calmed his messy mind down enough to be able to sleep, but that message made our usually calmed boy freak out and about to cancel the plans.

But he didn't. In fact, under that pile of crazy feelings, he was excited. Armin had never been to Tokyo before, and he didn't expect to find a reason to go so soon. He didn't trust his sense of direction enough to go to Tokyo by himself, so he didn't.

After calming down he rushed in the bathroom to have a shower, and due to his hurry he almost slipped and fell while getting out but luckily he made it out unharmed. Armin had 20 minutes left until Jean said he would pick him up and he was already dressed up, had eaten and prepared a little backpack with water, sandwiches and his medicines. With nothing else to do and the nerves growing in his chest, Armin took his phone and texted Jean, then took his things, the keys and went straight to his neighbor's door.

"I thought I would be the early one here" Jean stood there for five seconds checking Armin out in the most shameless way, and then he turned around and walked away leaving behind a flustered and confused Armin.  "Nice outfit"

"Thanks" Armin whispered and looked down at his clothes. In fact he spent half of the time picking the style he liked the most, and he ended up wearing a plain light blue shirt, dark gray skinny jeans, black snickers and a long duffel coat since that day seemed to be specially cold. If I'm going to Tokyo, I'm doing it properly, he thought while dressing up, but after Jean's reaction, the blonde haired began to feel awkward like it was too much.

"Now I think I have to change not to look like a complete idiot walking by your side, Mr. fashionista" Jean dedicated Armin a quick last look before locking himself inside the bedroom.

Armin stood there, holding tight on his bag and his chest starting to feel heavy again, praying for Jean to change fast and to leave already. Maybe when they were outside and talking about whatever, Armin would feel casual again and all the paranoia that was threatening to take over him would fade away. That's the only thing the younger could think about, but when Jean opened the door and stepped outside, everything stopped for Armin, including his breath and maybe his heartbeat. Black ripped jeans, black shirt with irregular red lines crossing from side to side, a black, white and whine plaid shirt tied around his waist and a black leather jacket. It wasn't the color or the clothing choices, or the smirk on his face. It was all of it, an explosive combination of the intimidating atmosphere surrounding him, the confident smile addressed directly to Armin and the unusual style that surprised the boy to the point he could swear that wasn't the same person that walked in 10 minutes before. 

"You turned red, so I guess I did it right" Jean chuckled and got back to the kitchen to finish his miso soup, apparently ignoring the non stopping stare Armin wasn't able to control.

"Y-yeah" Armin, calm down. Breath and try not to faint again. The messy mind was replaced by a messy stomach, filled by tickling sensations that were increasing dangerously. Luckily, short after that Jean grabbed his bag, put his shoes on and they walked out the building while Jean gave Armin some information about his plans.

"We're going to a place I really loved, and don't worry I won't drag you through clubs"

"What place is that?"

"I can't spoil a surprise. You'll have to wait and see"

"Ahh..." Armin sighed and gave up on trying to make the older speak. He had never been the best persuading people anyways. "But can you at least tell me how are we going to get there?"

"I borrowed Sasha's car" he threw the key in the air just to catch it a second later, and stopped in front of a dark blue and gray Mini.

"She let you take her car to Tokyo?"

"I didn't actually say where were we going..." Jean scratched his name and laughed nervously.

"If she finds out she'll hit you with that pan" Armin chuckled and watched how nervous was his friend. It felt strange for such a tough looking guy to be so  harmless and even shy sometimes.

"Then this will have to be our secret. Jump in" Jean opened the door for Armin who sat on the passenger seat and closed it. Jean sat on the driver's, started the car and soon they were on the road.

"I didn't know you got a license"

"Yep. But I sold my car so now I'm a driver with no car"

"You sold it? Why?"

"I needed money for some stuff for my music, and the money from my job is to pay the bills so yeah"

"By the way, no news from that job?"

"Not yet. They receive many applications from really talented people"

"People like you" Jean turned to Armin for a moment, smiled and looked back at the road. 

Something in the air changed and it was... Nice. Maybe it was the constant smile on both their faces, the music on the radio, the sun entering through the windows. Something must have been because suddenly the destination didn't matter, the mess in Armin's head cleared, the heavy feeling disappeared. He hummed along to the music and encouraged Jean to sing since it was clear he wanted to, and they ended up having their own concert on the road with invisible instruments and gaps filled by the obvious 'lalala' screamed like it was a legit part of the songs. The conversation flowed easily, from laughing at Jean bad jokes to a class of anatomy that Armin decided Jean needed since he couldn't understand how his left lung and his heart could fit in such a small place.

"I can understand my case, but how small must yours be to fit in such a tiny body?" Armin laughed for 10 minutes at that. "I can't make you laugh at my jokes, but I ask you something serious and suddenly you're about to die of a laugh attack"

Yeah, it was an interesting trip. They changed from one subject to another and Armin didn't realize Jean had already parked the car because he was too busy explaining why he almost set his kitchen on fire once.

"Mikasa threw a bunch of water at me to extinguish the fire and I think that was the closest I've been of dying in my own house"

"How many times have you put yourself in danger in your apartment? Wait. I'm living right upon you and I don't know if I have to be worried about my own safety right now"

"Don't worry. Usually my accidents only threaten my own life"

"I will lock you in a padded room for your own safety" Jean pinched Armin's cheek and opened the door. "Let's go. I have a surprise, remember?"

Outside was windy but it didn't matter. Armin felt overwhelmed by the sudden view of bunch of people walking carelessly, high buildings all around, lights, advertisements, music. Everything was even bigger than he imagined in the first place. 

"You're coming?"

Jean was standing in the sidewalk waiting for him while people were walking from side to side, and in Armin's eyes he merged into the view like he belonged there. For a second he didn't see Jean the waiter anymore, the frustrated singer, the pained boy. He saw Jean in his true nature, an artist who oozed talent and was clearly made to live in a place as big as his dreams. He couldn't find a word that suited the feeling he was experiencing, but it was pride. Armin was proud of his friend, because even if he went through so many things that could have made him run away from there, he was calmly smiling in a place that supposedly made him anxious.

"Armin Arlert, move your butt. I'm freezing"

"Sometimes you sound like my mum" Armin chucked and walked towards him, and then he looked at the building behind him. "Where are we?"

"Welcome to Kyojin Entertainment" Jean turned around to fate the same building and spread his arms in the air.

"Kyojin?" Armin was confused again. The name sounded familiar but he couldn't put his fingers on what it was.

"Here is where I used to practice back with the band. It's not the actual agency, it's just a studio we had access to. It's the same agency I applied for that job" Armin tried to process all that information as soon as it came it of Jean's mouth but he was still clueless about why were they there. Or why would Jean go back to that place after all. He had so many questions he couldn't pick one, so he stood there with a half opened mouth and wide eyes until Jean made him react. "Come on"

"We're going in there?" Jean sighed and grabbed the sleeve of Aemin's coat dragging him inside. The air was warm and made the younger relax for a bit, enough for Jean to make him walk through the halls and without even noticing Armin entered a room and the door closed behind him.

"I really loves this place" Armin turned to Jean about to ask something but the taller shook his head. "Relax. They let me come whenever I feel like it. It's fine"

Armin nodded and turned again to admire the instruments around. Drums, a couple of guitars, a bass and a piano. His heart raced when his eyes met the last instrument and stepped forward. He didn't play for more than 8 years, excepting the times he went to instrument stores just to play for two minutes and leave. He took off his coat and sat down with his heart still pounding like crazy, placed his finger on a key and pressed it. Then another one, and two more, and after taking a deep breath he placed his two hands on the keys and started pressing them to a melody he always loved playing, Looking Back by Yiruma. It was the only one Armin learned to the end and even if he wasn't able to play it as beautifully as he would liked to, it didn't matter. There was something about that song that simply fit with every emotion possible, and he loved listening to it even after so many years. 

Armin messed up since the beginning, as expected, so he simply kept playing the main melody, but it was enough for him to ease a pressure he didn't know he have.

"You know you're eyes are shining? They usually do, but now they're even brighter" Jean was leaning on the wall right beside the piano, looking straight at Armin with a smile on his face but a melancholic aura surrounding him.

"They do?" Armin had a big trouble to look back at the older, maybe he was still too excited about that surprise. Maybe it was the tingly feeling in his stomach that was back and more powerful. Or maybe he got shy all of a sudden knowing Jean actually noticed something like that. Not even he could tell what wag going on with him. "Maybe the eyes are, indeed, mirrors of the soul"

"My poetic little friend, I'm glad you liked the surprise. At first I freaked out because I basically talked with no actual plan so I've spent the night bothering my friends until I got an idea by myself because none of those smartass could take me seriously for once"

"You didn't have to. I mean, I'm fine with videogames and movies. Watching you cook is fun too, specially when you get all creative and make a mess" Jean smiled and rolled his eyes. He walked to a small couch and sat there.

"But I wanted to do something special, and this felt the kind of surprise I was looking for. Besides, I haven't come here in months and I kind of missed it, it was like my second home"

"Then it worked! I really missed playing even if I can't remember much"

"I can tell" Jean tilted his head and intensified his stare making Armin shy again. He hated being shy because his face would turn red and his mind couldn't contact his mouth so he would stutter whenever he tried to talk. "You're very artistic for a scientific genius"

"Hey. Science is an art"

"Yeah. It has a lullaby effect, making me fall asleep instantly" Jean laughed and Armin rolled his eyes.

And they kept joking around for some more, Armin almost fell down while laughing, Jean played the guitar for a little, Armin kept pressing random keys without a certain melody to play but he didn't care. Armin wanted to ask Jean if he was OK because his eyes would travel to the now empty seat at the piano from time to time, but it didn't feel as the right thing to bring up at that moment. So, instead, he started proposing ideas for the rest of the day, like walking around the shops, going to a café, maybe visit Tokyo tower and the Asakusa temple. He had lots of ideas and the day was short, so it was Jean's turn to pick their destination since Armin couldn't decide.

Tokyo tower was awesome for Armin who took tone of pictures at the tower, at the people, at some stores, even made Jean pose for some pictures. Then they stopped by a café to rest a little and Armin convinced Jean to visit the Asakusa temple. Armin tripped on some stairs because he was too mesmerized at the view to look down. But Jean was fast enough and grabbed him by his coat, then scolded him but Armin's eyes were already lost looking around to even listen to his friend. It was still cold and windy, and the sky was getting darker so when the first rain drops fell on the boys' faces they hurried to the car. But the afternoon had already passed by and it was past six when they decided to head back, leaving the rain behind and spending half of the ride talking since Armin fell asleep at some point. Jean didn't wake him up then they arrived at the apartments and decided to just carry him which was a simple thing to do. Or that's what Jean thought until Armin snuggled into his arms and left a soft breath escape his lips, causing Jean to freeze and his heart raced, beating at an incredibly abnormal speed. His hair messed a little causing some locks to fall over his face which wasn't helping at all because Armin was looking even cuter.

Jean made it to Armin's floor, walked to his door and managed to open it without walking the sleeping boy up. He remembered that time he found him on the stairs almost passed out and carried him, just like that. Even if it had been only some weeks before, it felt so far away in time. Everything felt so different, including Armin's weight. He could swear the boy gained some weight which would be great news since he was worried about that, even knowing the reason behind it.

He placed the sleeping boy on his bed, took off his shoes and carefully his coat. When he tried to cover him up with the blankets Armin grabbed on his hand, squeezed it a little and then hugged it, pressing it against his chest and making Jean sit down.

"Why are you doing this to me..." He stood there for over 5 minutes, contemplating the smooth features of the younger's face and fighting back that part of him who wouldn't stop inciting him to get in there and cuddle Armin told sleep. That part was really strong and caught him off guard which made it even harder to resist, because Armin looked so huggable, he was so small and adorable that woke up the soft and weak part of Jean's heart and at that moment he simply couldn't resist it. But he did, he stood up, managed to release his hand from Armin's embrace and he left without looking back, but as soon as he closed the door he knew things wouldn't end there. What are you doing to me, you evil ball of cuteness?

Chapter Text

"Ok, but why?" 

"Because I feel like it. I can help you with everything"

"Deal. I don't know what got into you, little one, but I'll see you in half an hour to go shopping

Two days earlier Jean told the younger he was planning on throwing another party in his apartment. More than telling, he was kind of asking for permthro in Armin's opinion. Jean invited him but Armin decided not to go, using as excuse that he had plans with his friends. The truth is Armin was afraid of meeting Jean's friends and messing up, again. But he told Eren about it which was a terrible idea since his best friend decided it was time for Armin to have fun. 

"Once a year, Armin. You don't even have to leave home, just climb some stairs and knock on a door" Eren said. They were hanging at Eren's house, watching a movie none of them was paying attention to. "He is stupid but I heard he really knows how to party. Maybe he can teach you to have fun. Besides, we'll go too"

"You just want to go to a party, don't you?" 

"I want my little brother to start enjoying life because I'm a good friend" Armin gave him a questioning look, and Eren sighed putting the bowl of chips on the table. "Fine. I need someone to make Levi jealous. And alcohol. But the priority here is you getting out of you shell" 

"Why making him jealous?"

"Because he keeps thinking I'm like a puppy that's there just for him. I just want him to know that I have many options beside him, maybe he'll wake the fuck up"

"I don't know him but... Maybe that's not the best way, Eren"  Armin always had to deal with things like this. Eren and his ways of catching someone's attention. But Levi being quite older and more mature, wouldn't be as easy as every 20 year old guy.

"Believe me. It will work" Eren took a chip and winked at the younger. "Now, take that phone and tell him you'll go"

"I'm seriously not in the mood" Armin couldn't tell what was so scary about that party but he was really nervous. But Eren didn't take a 'no' as an answer, grabbed his friend's phone and before Armin could do anything about it Eren had pressed 'call' on Jean's number.

And that's how Armin ended up in front of a market waiting for Jean to show up. He hit Eren with a pillow in order to calm down and it worked, so now he was only worried about Jean trying to buy alcohol with him. He was still 19 and everybody told him he looked even younger, so he never dared to try buying any alcohol because it would never work.

"Armin!" the boy looked to his side and saw a his neighbor walking towards him. "So I guess you're serious"

"Yeah, I mean, I only have to climb some stairs and knock on a door" he laughed nervously. "It can be fun"

"That's the spirit" Jean placed an arm around Armin's shoulder and they both started walking in. "You take the cart and I'll fill it"

They bought glasses, some food Jean needed, soda, chips, bread, cheese, and a lot of things Jean pulled into the cart.

"How many people are you planning on inviting?" Armin chuckled as more items where thrown into the cart.

"I invite my friends, they invite theirs, and so on" he mumbled while staring at the sauces trying to pick some. "You can invite yours"

"Thanks" I didn't have to ask, at least.

After paying, Jean was worried looking at the amount of bags they would have to carry home. Specially because, looking at Armin, he didn't seem capable of lifting many. Hell he was wrong.

"I exercise every morning. Believe me, I look weaker that I actually am" the smaller took two bags in a hand and another one, heavier, into the other.

"Will you ever stop surprising me?" Jean took the other three and shook his head. "I need to check those muscles" Armin almost chocked on air and his face instantly turned red. His mind didn't gave him time to think about what he meant because it got messed up quite rapidly. "Arm wrestling, you and me, let's see how much can you resist"

"Oh" the younger punched himself mentally while trying to focus again.

It was hard, it had been for a week now. Since their trip to Tokyo nothing really changed between them apart of getting closer. But Armin couldn't stop his mind from finding his neighbor attractive. It wouldn't have been a problem, if the boy didn't decide to walk without a shirt from time to time, if Jean didn't break the 'personal space' boundaries and started to hug him more, casually play with his hair, get incredibly close while playing videogames. Armin thought it was only his imagination and tried to act cool with it, but he would blush more than he liked to.

Maybe that was one of the reasons he tried avoiding a party with Jean 'the party boy'. Because Armin thought he wasn't prepared to see him in action. But there was no way back and Armin was, deep down, excited.

So, the next day at 9, he was dressed up and ready for it. He tried to be, anyways, because his stomach felt better than usual which meant he didn't have to worry too much about the things he ate or drunk. So Armin waited for Eren to arrive to go together. Mikasa said she was going with Sasha and Armin didn't ask anything about it.

Three knocks startled him. The blonde boy walked to the door and opened it, revealing two green eyes and a smile on the other side. Eren wasn't alone, though, and by his side there was a grumpy raven haired man. Armin recognized him from a picture and immediately bowed to him.

"Armin, this is Levi"

"It is nice you meet you, professor" Armin bowed again and looked at him trying not to freak out. The man didn't smile or made any intention on introducing himself, which was exactly the type of thing Eren said he would do. He's so intimidating.

"Come on. I can already hear the music" Eren turned around and left the two alone. Armin took his keys, turned off the lights and closed the door behind it.

"Did Eren make you come" Armin asked. Maybe he wasn't the most social person around, but he wanted to get to know Levi.

"He said he was going to a party with his ex. So I came" Armin's eyes grew wide. I can't believe that actually worked. It was incredible that some grown up man would follow Eren to some random party just because he mentioned an ex. The boy surely had his methods, and it didn't seem to fail not once. Well, he didn't have any clue on how to make a relationship last more than two months, but that is another story.

"Oh. OK" Armin mumbled while climbing the stairs with Levi by his side and following a 'fakely excited' Eren.

"I'm glad to see his friends are not as crazy as he is. He talked a lot about you, Armin" the younger blushed and didn't know what to answer to that.

"He talks a lot about you too. Eren might act crazy like he doesn't care, but he's a soft guy"

"Armin! I can hear you calling me soft and ruining my reputation!" Eren's voice made the younger roll his eyes and chuckle. It was a mistery to him how a childish, crazy, 21 year old boy could be interested in someone as serious and intimidating and Levi seemed to be. And it was even more incredible that the interest was mutual. "You knock first, or he'll close the door in my face" Eren pushed Armin in front of the door. He knocked and waited for it to open, and when it did a blonde haired girl greeted them.

"Armin! It's so nice to see you! Jean didn't stop rambking about you coming and I started to wander if he was making it up or something" the girl giggled and stepped away letting the trio enter the apartment.

"It's nice to see you, too" Armin accepted the hug and then introduced the rest to her. Eren already knew her and didn't hesitate to go for another hug, but a quick-as-light Ymir grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her away.

"Jeez, she's jealous as hell" the taller sighed, but when he turned to Levi his face wasn't different from the girl's. He smiled, this time, and Armin knew he was playing his game again.

"Hey, little buddy" an arm fell over Armin's shoulder and made his breath hitch. "I should have said 'invite your friends, except the dick one'"

"Yeah, yeah. I'm not here to see you, horse face. Take the mony, I'm leaving to get a drink" Eren threw the bills to Jean and disappeared right after dragging Levi with him.

"Right. Take my part" Armin was about to take out the money from his pocket but a hand stopped him.

"You helped me organize this. You already paid"

"But-

"Eeeeehhh!" A voice caughed their attention and they saw Connie was walking towards them with two glasses in his hands. "You didn't stop talking about him but now you're hogging him. That's selfish, Kirsten"

"Shut up Connie"

"Whatever. Here, this is from me, the best bartender in town" Connie gave Armin the glass.

"Wait. Armin can't-

"No. It's fine" Armin accepted it with a smile making the taller really confused. "Today I feel good enough so It will be fine"

"Armin Alert, I'm proud of you" Connie looked at them not really knowing what were they talking about but he immediately dragged both of them to the group. Shortly after Mikasa and Sasha appeared and then some people Armin didn't know. He did recognize the girl that opened the door that day, now he knew as Petra. Jean didn't lie about the amount of people attending the party but, unlike other days, he banned the entrance to anyone else when the apartment was full enough.

And Armin didn't regret going. They had fun, with some alcohol running on his system the chat with strangers was easier and now he found out he actually enjoined spending time with them. Eren and Jean didn't kill each other, which made the party a success. Memorable things were:

-Annie and Mikasa arm-wrestling on a table, which Annie won 2 of 3 times.

-Connie was almost kicked out for some 'gay jockes' he found funny but pissed Jean and Ymir off enough for them to ban him from drinking the rest of the night.

-Levi and Mikasa chatting calmly away from them, worrying Eren and entertaining the rest of the group, because, quoting Reiner's opinion: "Both are really serious scary people dating child-like dorks". Yeah, Armin didn't suspect anything about Mikasa and Sasha until then but hey, he is an oblivious little one.

-Jean drunk dancing but doing incredibly fine, fact that made Armin focus on him even more. The alcohol didn't help and the fact that he was in a sleeveless shirt, either.

-Armin joining Jean and taking over the dancefloor, all ending up in a video that would embarrass him for the rest of his live.

It was funny, a lot more than any party Armin ever went to. At least here he had real food, he had people he actually enjoyed spending time with, Jean was there. In his drunk mind, the simple fact that Jean was there made that party 'the best party' for Armin. But he wasn't really aware of it because he was too busy trying to talk to 2 people at the same time about different subjects.

Jean watched him from outside the group. He liked to see Armin enjoying his time and being a real 19 year old boy for once. He had those sparks in his eyes that kept making it hard for Jean to look away, and if we add a cute laugh and an excited and happy behavior, we get a package which totally took over Jean's attention skills.

People left one by one, and after 1 AM there were only 6 people around, including Jean and Armin. Eren and Levi came in Levi's car, but since he drank Armin offered them to sleep at his place. Connie was already laying on the floor or Jean's living and Annie would sleep on the couch. The alcohol was already gone from their bodies at that point and that meant everyone was dead tired.

"We'll sleep in the bedroom" Eren announced as they were getting ready to leave the apartment.

"Fine" Armin didn't want to argue at that point. He just wanted to lay down and pass out. 

"You know..." Jean and the blonde one were pilling the pizza boxes in the kitchen to clean the floor and bring a futon for Connie. "You can sleep here, if you want, in case you don't want to stay in the same place as those two"

The first thing that came to Armin's mind was him sleeping in the same bed as Jean. The next, was Eren and Levi, together, at the other side of the door.

"I surely don't want to be near them tonight" he muttered and shook his head.

"Good. Then go change. I'll take care of Connie"

Armin froze. The tiredness was being replaced by nervousness and that was the last things he needed at that moment. It was a good option, right? He slept in the same room with Eren may times and it didn't feel weird, so what would that be different with Jean? That didn't convince him either, but he wanted to believe it was like that or else Armin would panic in the spot. So he swallowed his messy thoughts and smiled to his neighbor in the most natural way he could.

"Thank you. I'll be right back" he walked to the door where Eren was already pleading for him to hurry. They walked downstairs and in a minute were at Armin's door. The boy opened it and he didn't need to show them the way to the bedroom because Eren dragged Levi with him in that direction.

"I need my things and I'll leave you alone" Armin tried to hurry in changing, brushing his teeth, and tying up his hair just to leave as quick as possible. So 10 minutes later, he was knocking at Jean's door who opened up and let him inside. Connie was already comfortably sleeping in his futon, Annie passed out on the sofa and Jean was in his pajamas.

"You're quick" the older chuckled.

"I know Eren" was the only thing Armin said as an explanation and followed Jean to the bedroom. He felt nervous but too tired to care at this point. When he saw the bed he jumped on it and spear his limbs like a starfish. It was comfortable and smelled like Jean, fact that made the boy smile against the pillow.

"Hey, it may be big but I need space too, you know?" Jean sat at the other side and Armin rolled over to face him, covering himself with the blanket.

"Thank you" Armin mumbled and then yawned. He was extremely worn-out and his eyes were too heavy for him to open them.

"I didn't want you to get traumatized by those two. I'm telling you, I'm better friend that that Eren" Jean covered himself and turned in Armin's direction. The boy seemed to fall asleep any second.

"I mean, for everything. I really had fun today" the boy curled up like a kitty and bent an arm under his head.

"Me too..." Jean was sure his friend finally fell asleep so he turned off the lights and closed his eyes. His mind was full of random thoughts and none of them let Jean sleep for the next half an hour, but he finally passed out anyways.

The funny thing is, when Armin woke up, he had some strong arms wrapped around his waist and were hugging him firmly but comfortably. And, after the initial shock and after freaking out for some minutes, he started to actually enjoy it. The feeling of Jean's breath against his nape, his arms pressing him against his chest, the feeling of peace. He couldn't lie, Armin liked it. And fell back asleep.

When Jean woke up to the same position, he froze for a moment thinking about a way to explain it to Armin in case he got angry or pissed at it. But the younger snuggled into his embrace, letting out a softy breath and resting a hand over Jean's, that were placed on both of the blonde's sides. And if Jean had to choose, he preferred making up and explanation than moving from that position. So he cuddled the boy even tighter to his chest, closed his eyes and fell back asleep.

So, we could say things were really escalading, and at that pace it wouldn't last long for them to make a step towards eachother. But, life is not so easy, isn't it?

 

 

Chapter Text

"So... I got the letter"

"When?! You opened itYou're in?!" Armin's voice was raising second by second and Jean bit back a smile. "have to see it"

"Slow down, kid. You can come up and check it or you could-" The door opened and a rushed Armin stormed out right into Jean, sending both boys to the ground. "Open the door" Jean chuckled.

Armin whined and rolled off Jean searching for his phone that flew away when they crashed. The older was still laughing and rubbing his head since it hit the floor. He didn't expect Armin to literally storm out his apartment just for a letter so he thought it was a good idea to stand there and give the boy a surprise.

"You could have warned me, you know?"

"How was I supposed to know you are so excited about it?"

"Of course I am!" Armin readjusted his gassed on his nose in a way that was endearing to Jean, and sat there on his knees, wide electric blue eyes filled by sparkles staring expectant at Jean, the smile returning to his face. "So what does it say?"

"Why don't we... Go inside? And seat somewhere comfortable?" Jean stood up cleaning his clothes and helped the smaller to get on his feet, then both friends got inside Armin's apartment.

After waking up the morning after the party non of them felt comfortable enough to talk about it or brave to try thinking about it by themselves. Even though they knew something changed Jean and Armin pretended everything was normal, as if the warmth in their chests didn't exist, enjoying in silence all those feelings that they didn't know how to face. Armin believed it was just his imagination but he allowed himself to daydream about the possibility of Jean having feelings towards him, and at the end of the day he tried not to think too much of it since Armin didn't want to get too excited about something he wasn't sure about. Not even his throughts were clear and everything was confusing.

Jean was a mess in a way he didn't even understand. He knew what it is to have feelings towards someone, real feelings that are starting to grow from a friendship to something more without being able to do something about it. He wasn't oblivious to this, but he was to the other's behavior since he couldn't see the same change in Armin even if it was happening right in front of his eyes. For a song writer who claimed to be observant and interested in understanding people, their feelings and emotions and their ways to express them, he was completely blind to his neighbor's.

But only two days passed before the letter came and stole from them the opportunity of dealing with the situation.

"I can't look at it" Jean shoved the intact letter to Armin and stepped back. He was so nervous he felt about to faint. "Could you read it first?"

"OK" Armin bit his lip and took it, sit down and slowly opened the envelope until he was able to grab the paper inside. He unfolded it and looked at Jean, then breathed out and focused his look on the sheet.

The time stopped for Jean until a change on Armin's expression made his heart beat again. The blonde raised his eyes to Jean and showed a wide smile that sent shivers down the older's spine.

"You made it!" He whispered and took off his glasses, then offered Jean the paper. "You are the new producer of Kyojin Entertainment"

Jean read the letter quickly, feeling his heart rate speed up with every word and when he finished he looked at his friend. That was it, his dream job was finally his and that meant he finally did something good.

"I made it" he spoke almost shakingly and Armin nodded twice like he needed to assure Jean that he read it right, that it was true.

The celebration happened quite quickly, Jean throwing his arm into the air laughing, then taking Armin into and embrace and spinning him around like he was a puppet. Armin giggled and didn't protest waiting for Jean to let go of him, but he didn't.

"Thank you" Jean smiled in the crook of Armin's neck. "I couldn't have made it without you"

"I didn't do anything but talk to you. It's your achievement and yours only"

"Whatever you say, little fella" Armin giggled again and closed his eyes, breathing the fresh scent of Jean's hair, a mix of mint and apples. He felt the urge to run his fingers through it but hold it back not wanting to ruin that moment.

When Jean finally pulled away Armin hoped his face wasn't as hot as it felt. His eyes met a smiley face and sparkling eyes, pure happiness shaping into Jean's features. Armin wasn't sure what should he say or do, so he stood there waiting for Jean to do something, maybe start rambling about how nervous he was, how incredible it was. Anything that could distract Armin and let his insides rest.

What happened though was something that confused the younger at first. Jean's smile faded, his eyes dropped to the ground and he stepped back, running a hand though his hair to his nape and letting it rest there for some seconds. It made no sense, Jean should be happy and excited, dragging Armin out to celebrate the news, he should be talking nonsense and making it hard for Armin to follow his thoughts. Jean had no reason to be sad, worried, down, right?

"Hey, what's wrong?" Armin placed a hand on Jean's shoulder but the boy didn't turn around. "Jean, look at me" and he did. He was biting on his lower lip and avoided Armin's eyes.

"I just... I think I'll have to move back to Tokyo"

Words came out slowly, carefully pronounce like they were burning his throat on their way out. Jean didn't think about it before, his mind blocked out the idea probably protecting him from the need of choosing between his dream and his life. But now there was no way back which ironically meant there was no decision to make anymore and Jean only then realized that maybe it was easier that way.

For Armin it wasn't a shock, though. He thought about it ever since they went to Tokyo and even if he wasn't too conscious of how possible it was, he had a feeling there was no other way. The ride to Tokyo was long and Jean didn't have a car, or money to buy it at least. And there was no way he could go and come back by train every day with the crazy schedules he would have. He knew it even if he didn't like thinking about it, but when the other said it out loud it somehow turned real. Too real.

But Armin simply nodded, not letting the little heart break to show on his face, and stood calm trying to guess what was going through Jean's mind. He knew the idea wasn't pleasant, specially since Tokyo remembered him too much of Marco and of what happens to them, to him. He also knew that the big city stressed Jean out and moving back would mean him suffering of much stress. But he guessed it was worth it since it meant Jean would finally do what he most desired to.

"Probably. You can also try and move out of the center, somewhere not so crowded. Maybe it won't be so stressing for you" Armin tried his best to sound understanding and chill, showing a smile thad turned out to me more sad than he pretended.

"It's not that what worries me" Jean finally looked down at him locking eyes, Armin tilted his head like expecting him to keep talking but Jean didn't. He shook his head instead and let himself fall down on Armin's couch. "Never mind, I'll think about it when time comes".

For the next few seconds many emotions gathered in Jean's mind, mixing up into a sickening knock in his throat that didn't allow him to open his mouth and say everything he was feeling. What good would it make, anyways? What would change? Armin was already worried and seemed to be struggling with words as well, it would only make him worse and probably throw out the window the next few weeks they would have to just enjoy each other's company before splitting ways.

So Jean shut up and sighed, tilted his head back resting it on the couch. He was suddenly tired, even exhausted, and just wanted to lie there the whole day.

"Hey" Armin's voice made him react and open his eyes but Jean didn't move. The blonde looked worried, he was leaning forward and for a second Jean's heart sped up with hope, but then Armin stood up and walked away some steps before turning around. "We should celebrate this. You stay here. There's a bottle of wine in one of the drawers of the kitchen that Levi sent me to make it up for stealing my room the other night. I'll go buy a cake and them we'll call your friends and spread the news. OK?" Armin sounded excited but his eyes said otherwise, maybe that's why he was avoiding the other's gaze so much. Jean told him in countless occasions that he was able to read his mind thank to how easily his emotions would change the brightness in his eyes, sparkling when he was excited and almost lifeless and darker when he has angry. It's not like Armin believed Jean, but he had his doubts and decided to stay safe just in case, considering the danger in what he was really thinking about.

"Wine? Old fashion, I like it" Jean smiled back and tried to calm down. He was still happy for getting the job, so he needed to concentrate on the good news and drag himself out of hisnown misery. At least he still had some days left and he was planning on enjoying them to the fullest. "OK. But you have to pay it, my wallet is up"

"Any suggestion? Some flavour you want?"

"Nope. But make it be as sweet as you" he smirked and Armin rolled his eyes.

"You're old fashion, too" he groaned while searching for his keys.

"It's not like I lied, though"

"Shut up"

"Never" Jean chuckled and stood up. "You're cute while grumpy, by the way"

"And you're annoying"

"I thought you liked that part of me"

"I can't remember that conversation" Armin turned to Jean from the door and the older was staring at him, a smile lingering on his lips softening his features. Suddenly he didn't want to go anywhere away from him, but he bit it back and sighed. "I'll be quick"

"You better"

Jean was left alone and suddenly that place felt a little less familiar without the other boy around. He shook his head to try and get back to reality, then took his phone and searched for the first number that would come up. Armin. OK. The second one. It was his mother. I guess I should call... His insides protested but he shut it down and called, a tiny voice in the back of his head praying for her to decline, but her voice answered at the other side of the line, and Jean knew she didn't check who was calling.

"Hello?"

"Hi, mom" he spoke and heard a little gasp, then two seconds passed by with none of them daring to talk.

"Jean? Is it you?"

"Yeah mom. Your only child, remember?" He sighed.

"I wasn't expecting you to call anytime soon"

"I know... I just have some... News" now he was doubting. Why am I doing this again?

"Something happened? Are you OK?" He recognized worry in their voice, thing that softened his heart a little. It was his mother, after all, but he wasn't expecting her to worry that fast even though they haven't talk in some months.

"No, mom. I'm fine, everything is fine. Better than fine, actually. That's why I'm calling"

"Oh. That's good. What's it about?"

"It's about a job"

"In the restaurant? Did they promote you? You're better than a waiter, Jeanie" there she was again, but Jean didn't mind this time.

"Not in the restaurant. In the... Music business. As a producer. In Tokyo" silence again. He knew it wasn't the best idea to tell her he was going back there, he was going to torture himself like that again and go through anxiety attacks until he would get used to it.

"Honey... You remember we're renting the apartment, right?"

"Yeah. No, I wasn't going to move back there either way. They'll pay me enough to rent my own, don't worry about it"

"Good. Honey, I know you don't want to talk about it but-

"Don't. I'm not calling because I'm sad or scared or to... Talk. I just wanted to let you know"

"I'm just worried about you"

"I know mom, but..." He notice the lump already growing in his throat. It always happened while talking to her. She always reminded him of what happened, of why he should move back with them and give up on his dreams because "it was safer that way". He understood she was worried, but he couldn't even see her because the way she would look at him was... Pitiful, like he was made of thin glass that was already cracked and he could crumble any time. And he hated that, feeling torn and weak, unable to get on his feet because of that weight she always reminded him he was carrying. "Never mind. I have to go now, OK?"

"Jean..." she breathed out heavily. "I'm proud of you, you know that, right?" he didn't expect that, either. It came from the person who tried changing his mind for the past ten years, trying to get him into sports, into cooking, encouraging him in pursuing a career as a lawyer, anything but music. She never went to any of their few concerts, never bought a CD, and even if she admitted that he had talent for music and his singing was pretty good, her concept of the music industry was so low she constantly warned him of drugs, of morals, and for her working as a musician wasn't a real job, it was more like a hobby that would eventually end and he Jean would end up with half of his life wasted and no studies, so he would never have a real job and his life would be ruined.

So yea, Jean never thought neither expected her to say those words. His father supported him a lot even in his personal subtle ways of buying him a cake when they first sign the contract with the company, buying tickets that will later give to someone else because he had no time for concerts, or also convincing his mother of letting him live in their little apartment in Tokyo that belong to Jean's mother's deceased brother. And, after Marco, his parents showed up in the funeral and his father made sure to give him the space he needed when his mother only wanted to drag him back home.

"Thank you" he whispered, a small warm wave spreading over his chest digging deeper than he ever though it would, directly to his heart filling one of the wholes he struggled with.

"Just, be careful. OK?"

"Don't worry. I'm great now, seriously" he finally smiled, a tiny little one but it was more than nothing.

"What about your friends? How's Christa?"

"Oh they're fine. Christa is studying right now, a future vet. Ymir still lives like she doesn't give a damn and his parents allow her anything. Reiner is taller, this year entered the rugby club. And... People from the restaurant are cool too"

"I'm glad to hear that... Really"

"I know. But mom, I really need to go now, so we'll talk later on, OK?"

"OK. I love you honey"

"Love you too. Tell dad that I called, and when he's back let me know so I can talk to him too"

"I'll tell him"

"Thanks. Bye"

"Take care"

Jean just hummed before hanging up and breather out heavily all the air in his lungs, letting the stress and tension gathered in his guts escape his body, suddenly exhausting and needing that bottle of wine more than ever.

Jean decided against calling anyone else by the moment an go straight for the alcohol. Too many emotions in too little time caused him a bad stomach ache and the best solution was drinking it away, and when he found the quite expensive Pinot Noir his eyebrows arched.

"Oh, well... At least his taste in wine is good" he murmured and sat in a chair waiting for Armin to come back. Jean watched the hands of his watch tick away the time while observing the small apartment from his place. It looked like his, but the vibes were completely different and he had never been there all alone, finding it a little uncomfortable. But in one way or another it helped him to calm down and regain control over himself.

They were good news, he'd been dreaming for years to get in the music industry, and after the failed attempt with the group Jean nearly gave up on in, not feeling strong enough anymore to endure it. However, time passed and his inspiration didn't disappear, always returning in a way or another distracting him from whatever job he though it was a good alternative. Writing lyrics wasn't as "easy" as before, though, for a person who tried his best to use music as a distraction from himself words became an enemy, to the point the only lyrics he could write were sad, depressing verses. So he concentrated in the music compassion, the production part and let his mind lead his fingers through the guitar. He knew there was no other thing in life that would feel the same as music did, so finally being able to do it was somewhat like a dream.

The problem is, if it was like a dream he didn't want to go to sleep just yet because his current reality was as good as that.

"I'm back" Armin's voice startled Jean. He was so immersed in his own dilemma that he didn't hear the door opening and closing or the boy's giggle when he spotted Jean studying the bottle in front of him like he wanted to learn the ingredients by heart.

"Oh hey"

"Having fun yet?" Armin raised and eyebrow at him and Jean just rolled his eyes.

"I was waiting for you to start the party" he smiled and lied his eyes on the box in the blonde's hands.

"Me or the cake?"

"Both" Jean giggled and Armin followed. "Where do you have the... Thing. To open the bottle?" Armin laughed at that, his voice squeaking a little.

"Right" he cleared his throat and Jean kept his eyes on the boy that was struggling to stop laughing but it just escaped his throat free and hopelessly. "Sorry". Breath in, breath out, breath in. He seemed ready to face Jean again but the moment he opened this eyes he cracked again.

" Just... Point to it, OK?" The boy laughed even harder but pointed to one of the drawers and Jean let him let it all out while he opened the bottle of wine and search plates and a knife for the cake.

The next half an hour was dedicated to small talks, a lot of staring and, most importantly, eating. Red velvet cake with red whine, a good combination for celebrating such an important event. Armin didn't bring up the subject in some time and that allowed Jean to relax again, clarify his thoughts and just enjoy the moment. He did pushed him to call his friends, though, and they had to endure cheers and a bunch of happy people inviting themselves over to celebrate. Jean managed, however, to convinced them to hang out the next day and go somewhere, have fun and just enjoy the good time and good news. For their own reason, both boys had zero energy to pretend it was a great day, and didn't have to talk much about it before deciding they would spend that afternoon there, finishing that cake (Jean, mostly) and the bottle of wine (again, Jean) while losing themselves in meaningless conversations and curious memories, details they found interesting and felt like talking about. The boys needed to put themselves together and even if they weren't completely able to, being there, together, like everything was back to normal in the small world they built up together in those small but familiar apartments, it allowed them to forget for a little that it was about to be torn apart the second they'd say "see you tomorrow". So they didn't, and not for some rational consent they fell into, but because Armin fell asleep laying over Jean's legs while pretending to watch a movie and Jean had no intentions to wake him up.

Jean carried the sleeping boy in to the room, trying to fight back the flashback of that afternoon he found a half dead Armin on the stairs and helped him get to his apartment, put him in bed just like that and felt guilty for his own contribution to the boy's bad state. However his reasons for feelings guilty this time were completely different, even though only few weeks separated both moments. Weeks that felt like months for the huge amount of events that filled his life with unstoppable changes, some bigger than others yet all of them important. Spending time with Armin made a big change in Jean, one that the boy himself never even tried to accomplish. And that is erase his fear of the past. It wasn't completely gone but only started to hunt Jean again that day, after finding out he was moving away to the anchor holding him in place, away from the enraged waves of memories that move him in his daily basis from place to place in his own mind. Armin was there to talk, he always listened and gave advises as wisely as he knew. Armin never shut his mouth when Jean did something stupid, and even though it never stopped Jean from doing it anyways it was reassuring to have someone to tell him the truth, without the fear of him shattering to pieces. Armin was kind and a little childish, quite innocent, but not really. He was strange, complicated, but so transparent around him like he didn't mind Jean digging into his mind and finding out the answer of unspoken questions. Armin was surely the most interesting, mysterious, complex, and, of course, adorable human being Jean'd ever been near of. 

And now he was leaving. Or, more precisely, he was forced to leave it all behind without even starting to understand the boy. And that only made Jean hate his own dreams for an instant, looking down at the steady figure of the small boy breathing in and out slowly, peacefully, golden locks spread around messily yet perfectly in some strange way, his lips partially parted letting out puffs of air wit a soft sound. But Jean hated himself even more for not being able to control himself when his body lied down beside the other, embraced Armin who instantly snuggled against his torso and tangled his legs with Jean's like it was his instinct, the most natural and beautiful of all the reactions his sleeping mind could have had. And it made Jean's heart pound in his chest with such force he was sure it would wake up the boy if he didn't die before that could happen. 

"You know?" he murmured, so quietly it was like a shaky breath that only formed words in the back of his throat. "You don't remind me at all of him. But still, you make me feel just like he did" Jan traced his fingers up Armin's back and tangled them in the long, blonde locks that slid against his skin like the purest silk. "There's something about you, Armin Arlert, that I really need to keep by my side. It drives me crazy in a way it makes me feel sane. I don't even understand myself right now, but I do know that it's a fact it won't go away even if I'll move. Maybe I'll never tell you, or maybe I'll man up and spit it out when I finally make up my mind if we're still friends. But, if there's a chance for us not to fall apart, I promise I'll do everything it takes to stick in your life even if I have to pay Yimir to give me a ride here every weekend just to see you. Wait and see. This won't end before it starts, ok?" 

Jean knew he was talking to himself, but still needed to put it in words for it to make sense. It still didn't, but his mind finally shut up and after 45 minutes of staring at the sleeping face of Armin wondering what was he dreaming about, Jean dosed off. 

And, surely, that speech wasn't just because of the pile of emotions threatening to break free each second and making him kind of unstable and sensitive. It meant something, a promise to himself that he wouldn't go back in time to the boy he was before meeting Armin. Even though that boy wasn't bad, he was hurt and had no hope to find a cure anytime soon. But here it was, in the shape of a funny, naive, fashionable and a little (a lot) scary when angry blonde boy, and Jean wasn't going to lose it without a fight. Even though he still wasn't sure of how close he wanted Armin to be (even if he kind of suspected it. Kind of a lot), Jean was sure they were meant to meet somehow and you can never give up on what fate puts in your way. Never.

 

Chapter Text

 

"I told you I don't need more help, Armin"

"Yeah, and you also said you needed a truck to get all your things to Tokyo"

"Ymir will-

"She won't drive to Tokyo and back ten times and you know it"

"But-

"No buts, Jean. You need the truck. He can get one"

"But why does it have to be him? I don't want to owe that dumbass anything"

"Oh just forget about your pride already and accept the help, will you?"

"Gosh... It's not about my pride. It's because he is..."

"My friend. Believe me, I had to convince him too"

"Arlert, you can get anyone to do whatever you ask, don't you?"

"If I try hard enough, maybe" 

You probably guessed by now, but that one friend Armin is talking about isn't other than Eren. In the middle of moving, Jean found out he needed someone to drive him and his things to his new place, and there was no one with a car big enough for that. So Armin found a solution Jean clearly didn't agree with. But there was no use in arguing with Armin about it, especially when Armin was right this time and Jean was just his stubborn self.

Armin had been helping Jean pack his things after the boy contacted the company, everything was already planned and the only detail left to scratch off the list was moving. Jean already met up with them and signed the contract (trip Jean used to show Armin a little bit more of the city); also, there was a spare room in one of the company's apartments for their staff, and since technically Jean wasn't new in the company they offered it to him right away, so he had a place to move. They gave him a week to settle in before actually starting work, which gave him enough time to properly resign from the waiter job and also meet all his friends to "celebrate" his dream job. And to say goodbye to that place, and Armin.

Jean felt strange for moving after a month of living there. Looking back, it seemed like half a year passed by, a long, long time where a bunch of things happened that changed his life and himself in a way two whole years couldn't. Seeing the apartment as messy as it was when he moved in brought back some memories, like how hard it was to convince his friends to help him carry the things up the stairs, or how nervous he was the first night when the place filled up by a bunch of people that ate his food, brought as many friends as they pleased and had the time of their lives while Jean was worried about being kicked out of the building in his first night. It was quite a day, and then... Armin. 

He didn't think much about the boy at his door, scolding him for the noise. Jean was happy there was someone young in the building, but by how they met Jean was afraid Armin would get the wrong idea of him, but the worry didn't even get to bother him. However, when he found Armin on the stairs, half dead, Jean grew worried about the boy's health. Jean would easily worry about people, but now he felt partially responsible for the boy's condition, and decided to keep an eye on him until he felt better, just to make sure he would recover. That's why Jean gave his phone number to Armin back then.

Jean had his job, the friends that would never let him rest, strange and awkward conversations with his mother, a boring everyday life he was getting used to, and he was... OK. Not great, not bad, and even though he improved now he felt like stuck in a limbo of routine and emotionless days.

However, Armin showed up at his door, ate a little (too little) of his food, got sick on his couch, asked him random questions, explained him his delicate situation, opened himself to Jean and waited patiently until Jean finally opened up to him. And Armin turned out to be the easiest person to talk to, that one that made hours fly by, the one that kept Jean awake at night smiling by his own like an idiot at little things they did, said, planned... Jean didn't notice just how close they became until that trip to Tokyo, and then Christa said something that Jean couldn't understand at first until after that party. She said: "I haven't seen you smile like that to anyone beside Marco. You have that sparkle in your eyes that only shows up when he's in the room". It was scary, for a reason Jean didn't seem to completely recognize yet, he was slowly feeling uneasy. 

Jean started to notice just how little he was sad lately compared to before, how he stopped getting himself busy whenever he was alone just to avoid thinking. Jean smiled more, sincere smiles, that he saw in the mirror sometimes surprising himself, not recognizing himself in the bright, happy expression the mirror showed him. He watched a video of himself and Armin at that party, and was like seeing a ghost from the past. He wasn't sure he liked that, but it felt... Good.

And now he had to leave.

"Quit spacing out or well never finish here" a t-shirts landing on his head made Jean react. His lips curled in a smile that grew to a grin while grabbing the cloth and finally turned to his young, blonde friend with the brightest blue eyes Jean ever saw.

"Let's take a break" he crashed on his bed on the little space the luggage and pile of clothes didn't cover. He was exhausted, but Armin seemed to have fun, pointing out things he liked and didn't stand about Jean's choice in fashion.

"We did two hours ago" the younger protested, causing Jean to chuckle.

"Yeah. That's enough work for today"

"How lazy can you be?"

"Just lazy to do things I don't wanna"

"Oh how childish of you, Mr. 'I'm older than you and deserve respect for that'"

"Just shut up and come here" Jean reached out across the bed, grabbed his friend's arm and pulled him in bed. Armin didn't have time to actually try to fight back (not like he had a chance anyways), and fell over the clothes he already organized and were ready to get them in the luggage. Jean made him roll to his side and face him, now lying face to face in an awkward position Jean didn't plan.

"You fucked up my hard work" Armin tried to chuckle the awkwardness away, but it came like a nervous giggle and it only made Jean smirk.

"Good. Then you have to stay a little more" the older smiled proudly, and Armin crooked an eyebrow. Jean was too clingy that day and he couldn't guess the reason being that behavior (not like he complained. No, that wasn't the case).

"What's with you today? I though you were excited, and now you act like you don't want to move there"

"Nah... I guess I just noticed how bad I'll miss the peace of this place"

"You? The peace? Come on, I'm not dumb" Armin didn't buy it and Jean knew. But it was his best excuse.

"Tokyo is so crowded and loud. Seriously... And the room is little. And I don't know how much time it'll take to save money to move to my own place. It's just frustrating and I'm tired"

"Hmm..." Armin wasn't buying it at all. He tried dissimulating it, though, not wanting Jean to insists in the lie. He knew it was hard for him to go back there, Armin was conscious of the fact that Jean was still fighting with the ghost of Marco and the person who lost him. He didn't want to push Jean to talk to him about it if he didn't want to.

What Armin didn't know was the real big reason why Jean wasn't ready to move, and it was better that way for now, at least for Jean. He was stressed enough for all the changes, didn't need to fuck it all up and have remorse for the rest of his days. But Jean didn't want to move, even though he couldn't catch Armin when the boy rolled away from his grip and stood up.

"I'm not packing anymore today, Arlert" he groaned into the pillow. Jean closed his eyes and tried hard to get his brain to obey and stop making stupid decisions.

"I was thinking about going for a walk. Maybe buy some food and just enjoy the weather. You need fresh air"

"Agh..." Jean groaned again. "Do I get to eat some noodles? The spicy ones. A big bowl of ramen, maybe"

"Still ignoring my advice about eating healthier?"

"Completely" the boy raised his head, glanced back and grinned widely.

"Whatever" Armin rolled his eyes, not being able to hold back a smile. "Just move your butt. It's getting late and I don't know how late do the restaurants stay opened"

"Remember me why I allow you to talk to me like that, little buddy" Jean sat on the side of the bed, stretching his body lazily with watery eyes.

"Because" Armin stepped towards him, crouched in front of Jean, resting his arms over his knees. He looked up, locking eyes eyes and for a second Jean got lost in them. "You know I'm right" Armin smiled proudly, sticking out his tongue.

"Maybe" Jean breathed out the air he'd been holding back and placed a finger under the boy's chin, tilting it up slightly, observing how the blonde's eyes widened in surprise only making the grin to get wider. "Or maybe because I like that bossy part of you" he poked his nose and moved, carefully helping Armin up and leaving the room, consciously leaving behind a confused and flustered Armin. "Forget the noodles. You pick the restaurant"

On one hand, Jean knew what he was doing. Just messing with Armin? Ahm, I don't think so. He was trying something, even if he wasn't doing it completely on purpose. Jean was flirty, clingy, he wanted to know if he could get the reactions he expected from the boy. He thought that, maybe, it was a way to keep their relationship away from the friend zone, now that he was moving away and he'd see the boy less, he needed to create strong feelings to resist the transition from neighbors to... Maybe message buddies for a while until they could see each other again.

On the other hand, however, Armin was... Confused. Ever since Jean announced him the date for his moving Armin tried staying positive, be the good friend he was and help the completely unorganized Jean to pack his things. The boy thought that it was exactly what Jean needed, a friend, someone to be there for him through that scary change. But then... Jean started to act... Like that, and Armin never had enough time to actually process all of it. He wasn't even sure about his own feelings about it, and being so close to the date they'd be parting ways, only made it harder for Armin to choose a side.

Was it okay to follow that part of him which was obviously falling for his neighbor? Or should he fight it back and and stay safe? But, let's be serious for a second. How can you possible stop yourself from falling in love? Is there a way that doesn't include hurting yourself in the process? It's not something you can turn on and off whenever it's 'a good moment' for you. And Armin learned the lesson when he found himself wanting to ask Jean to stay. Of course he wouldn't, but somehow a selfish part of him didn't want to lose Jean and Armin felt like it was most likely what was about to happen. And he was scared.

But, of course, things were moving quite fast and Armin didn't have enough time to stop and meditate about his situation. There was a good part, though, because it gave him the chance to spend all the time he could with his friend without the need to come up with a plan -or an excuse, as Eren liked calling it-, and Armin was free to roam around Jean's apartment, get to know every little detail about him and, even if he didn't like to admit it to himself, the fact that Jean was a little more affectionate towards him those days caused a tingly feeling of happiness at the pit of his stomach that widened the smile on his face every single time.

And now, while dragging Jean to a vegetarian restaurant, Armin's smirk couldn't get brighter. Why was Jean allowing him to pic, knowing that Armin would take the healthy way? It's still a mystery. But it didn't matter, because Armin had that selfish feeling of power over the oldest and he was enjoying himself.

"Why do you hate me?" Jean whined while standing in front of the place. Armin simply shook his head and scoffed, pushing the big, grumpy guy inside the restaurant.

And...

"OK. It's better than I thought..." Jean didn't know what to pick from the menu, so Armin chose for both of them. And Jean regretted his doubts in his friend's judgement after tasting the surprisingly tasty food on his plate. "What's it called? I need to learn how to cook this thing"

"Enchiladas" Jean's confused frown made Armin chuckle. "Don't worry, I'll note it down for you later"

"Great then" he had a mouthful of food while Armin was enjoying his salad and the exotic juice he ordered. And they shared some moments of stares without a word to say, strangely falling into a comfortable atmosphere that ended up with both of them smiling like idiots with their half eaten dished on the table.

Only when a waiter approached them to offer some more water is when the boys snapped out of their little bubble and got all flustered and shy.

"Still don't want to go back yet" Jean mumbled while walking down the street, side by side with a quiet blonde boy that didn't raise his eyes from his hands since they left the restaurant.

"What's your suggestion?"

"No clue" he chuckled, causing Armin to follow with a giggle and so the awkward silence lost some of it's power. "But the weather's great, the company is the best and I feel like enjoying it a little longer"

"Okay then" Armin rises his eyes and glanced sideways to Jean, who was staring at the nothingness in the distance. "But still don't know where could we go"

"What about the p-

"No pubs" Armin interrupted almost too fast.

"The... park" Jean frowned for a second, and then tilted his head slightly to a side. "I'm not thinking about parties 24/7 you know? I'm a decent guy"

"Okay, sorry. Which park?

"The big one near your college. I love the views from up there at night"

"Wait. But it's close now, Jean. It closed like two hours ago"

"I know. We'll sneak in" Now it was Armin's turn to frown. He was confused for a second, but after seeing that spark in Jean's eyes he couldn't get himself to refuse that idea.

"A decent guy, you were saying?" He smirked, and Jean rolled his eyes. With a sigh he grabbed Armin's hand and walked away dragging the boy with him until he realised that they were basically holding hands while walking down he street and Jean let go, mostly because he didn't want Armin to feel uncomfortable. But he only needed a quick look to his companion to see those sparkling eyes stuck on him, and a shy smile softening the boy's features, understanding there was no uncomfortable thing there.

It was easy for Jean to find an entrance, the one he and his friends used back in their teenage years to get in there and have their own little parties. The good thing, it was still there. The bad thing, Jean was now too big to get through the gap in the fence. So he had to jump, and ended up screwing up his jeans. But beside that little mishap, the atmosphere was so calm and comfortable now that both boys felt comfortable enough to invade the others personal space again while walking up a small hill till they got to the place Jean was leading them.

The hill was high enough to see Tokyo lights from up there, shining in the back of their city. With the soft murmur of the trees dancing in the wind, both friends lost themselves in their own minds for some minute, each one of them debating with their own fears and doubts, but finding a strange comfort in the other's presence.

"You know..." Armin started. He didn't have anything planned to say, as a goodbye. But if there was a perfect time to speak up, it was that exact moment. "I'll miss you"  he whispered, still not daring to look back at the other. Even if he could feel Jean's stare piercing through his brain, Armin kept his eyes fixed on the few flickering spots on the sky. Don't you dare getting emotional, Armin. It's not like you won't see each other again. Just... Not as frequently.

"Will you? I thought I was a pain in the ass" Jean chuckled, causing Armin to roll his eyes... Of course Jean would try to change subjects, there was no doubt that emotive conversations  weren't his style. However... "You known I'll miss you too, right?" Jean's arm snaked around Armin's shoulder and pressed the blonde's body against his chest. 

It wasn't new, it wasn't unusual, they've been even closer than that. But the atmosphere was overwhelming, the emotions almost tactile traveling like whispers to their minds, letting both of them know the exact state the other was in. Because both friends were completely aware that what was happening between them two was beyond a simple 'friendship interaction', and also knew the other was consciously contributing for it to be happening. It was like an image in front of you that you can't deny, and even if you close your eyes to it, it will still be right there. 

"Are you sleepy?" Jean murmured after a while. They didn't move, didn't speak and didn't dare to look at each other. No matter how easy it would have been to just turn their heads in the right angle, they couldn't find the guts to break that moment and open a door to something premature. 

"No" 

"Good" Armin chuckled slightly, and the hand around his shoulder became a full embrace where Jean basically got behind Armin, wrapped his arms around the shortest and rested his chin on the boy's head. I got used to this too fast... And now I have to let go? Damn... Time always works against me. 

"Maybe I get a license and go visit sometimes" Armin muttered, sounding absent minded, but actually he was considering the idea.

"Concentrate on your studies. College start's soon, right?"

"Soon, yes..."

"Then I'm in charge of the meetings, okay? You go get smarter"

"Bossy" Armin folded his arms over his torso in a self-protective manner. He was blushing like crazy, even started trembling and didn't want Jean to notice just how affected he was. Maybe he should have stepped away from his friend and just end that suffering, go back home and sleep the troubles away. But of course that didn't even get to the options Armin was weighing in that moment. 

"Sush. I'm trying to enjoy the views"

"You don't need your ears to see, you know that?" 

"Have mercy on me, will you?" Jean whined, tightening his embrace. "Saying that I'll miss you now feels a little masochist"

"It's funny, though. You never talk back" 

"Cuz at least I care about your feelings. You, on the other side..." 

"I do care! It's just... It's in my nature, I guess"

"To make fun of people?"

"Not people. You"

"Why?"

"Cuz I don't bother much around people in general. I don't pay enough attention to notice things. But with you... They just come easily"

"So what you're saying is that I'm dumber than the rest?"

"Did you even listened to what I said?"

Jean giggled and was about to answer to the frustrated boy, but a flashlight caught his eye and knowing what that meant he moved as fast as he could, hiding behind some bushes and dragging a the startled boy behind.

"What the-

"Shhh" he placed a hand on Armin's mouth stopping him from screaming, while making a sign to the boy to watch through the bush. Two guards were walking towards them while talking to each other, and Armin's eyes widened in panic. Jean, on the other side, was rather calm. He took his hand off Armin's mouth and let it fall to the boy's knee, meeting Armin's hand and grabbed it, trying to keep the boy calmed.

The guards walked passed them, not noticing the boys, and when they were far enough Armin finally allowed himself to breath again.

"That was close"

"Cool, right?"

"Cool? You have problems, Jean Kirstein" Armin shook his head and chuckled, slowly recovering.

"I'm nostalgic. Once I came here with Reiner and some friends from highschool. The guards chased us around and I managed to escape, but two of them got caught. The alcohol and all of it fell on them"

"You were a rebel"

"Still am. I'm a bad influence for you, mister 100%"

"If it wasn't already obvious enough..." Armin chuckled, tilting his head to a side. It worked to calm him down for a second, but the look in Jean's eyes made his blood rush once again. You better not, Armin. Quit acting like a hormoned teenager.

"Exactly" Jean scoffed and rolled his eyes, biting back a grin. It was fun to mess around with the other, but he knew there were limits he needed to respect (even if they stopped seeming so important). Just for now.

"We should get going before they come back" Armin jumped to his feet, careful enough not to lose balance and fall on his butt. The best idea was to get out of there and run back home, maybe hide in his bed fore a couple of hours and try his best to make his heart beat at a normal rate again. A tea should work, maybe two, maybe calling Eren -no. Mikasa. Ask her for some advise. Even if he thought he could control himself, knowing that it was the last night he had to spend with the other, soaked his feelings in gasoline and threatened to light a match against Armin's will. But, again, Jean had no intentions in letting the latter escape so easily. 

"This place is big and they won't pass by in the next... hour and a half or maybe two. Depending on how lazy they are" the older grabbed Armin's hand and tugged, forcing the boy to sit back down on the grass with a gasp. "Let's just relax and enjoy the stars"

"There's almost no stars here, Jean" 

"I can't change that, so bare with me, will you?" 

"I was joking" he bit his lip and laughed softly, part because of the nervousness and part because of how defeated Jean looked. "Chill" 

They lied down, bodies inches apart from each other and eyes nervously looking at each other for a split of a second before moving back to the black sky. There were still tons of things on their minds, and the debate between taking them off their chests or staying quiet was getting harder to handle. But somehow they managed to keep the conversation going, as natural as possible, blushing when their hands touched or shushing the other down when their laughs became louder than intended. But time passed by smoothly, and even if Jean wanted to stay there -and Armin didn't mind it, either-, it was getting cooler and the ground wasn't the best place to sit at one in the morning. So, they had to put an end to their night, at least in that park. 

Carefully, they managed to get out without the guards spotting them, and after Jean jumped out and nearly got injured, both boys got on their way back to the building they lived in. Walking slowly surrounded by a comfortable silence, there was nothing left they wanted to say -at least, something they knew they were able to say-, so the only thing left both felt brave enough to ask was tickling on the tip of their tongues and threatening to escape any minute. 

"Do you-" Armin started. 

"I was thinking-" Jean interrupted. 

They stopped walking, glanced at each other fairly amused and both sighed, defeated. Maybe some things don't need to be asked, maybe they're just obvious. But still... 

"Mine? Your room is a mess" Armin tilted his head like he was considering something, and Jean simply nodded. 

And so they returned to the silence, with and obvious tension growing strong between them and making it hard to keep their minds clean. Mostly for Jean, while Armin was trying yo convince himself that Jean's room was such a mess that spending the night in his apartment was the best option, and since it wasn't the first time they would sleep together there was nothing special about it. 

Well... beside the fact that it was the last night. And the incredibly big ball of feeling they were holding back. And the sexual tension. And the clouded, messy minds. And- 

Ok. Maybe there was something special about it. But lying to himself was a desperate method for desperate times. Even if it didn't work well. 

"I go change and I'll be right back, ok?"

"Great" 

They were in their spot on the stairs, staring at each other and finally considering the fact that maybe it wasn't the best idea (you know, spending the night with your crush knowing you're also their crush, and also knowing that the stupid boundaries you built to protect the other seemed to be turning into a thin, fragile sheet of paper). But there was no way they would spend the last few hours they had to be together, apart. So Armin rushed into his apartment, stumbling here and there while changing to his pajamas, brushed his teeth, drank his pills and stared in the mirror arranging his hair for no reason. And Jean grabbed some sweatpants and a shirt and changed faster than ever, noticing just while brushing his teeth that he was wearing his shirt reversed. Calm the fuck down! Jean slapped himself so hard he winced, and almost did it again because of how hopeless he was acting. 

Breath. Calm down and try not messing it up. You can do this. It's just sleeping, nothing you never did before. Jean stepped inside Armin's apartment, closed the door and a head appeared from the bedroom, greeting the older with a smile. At least he seems calm, Jean thought, now standing in the entrance of the room and observing the blonde moving the covers and preparing the pillows. But Armin was dying inside, even if he didn't show it. 

"You can get in. I'm going to the bathroom" Armin patted Jean in the back and left. 

"Great..." Jean murmured. Doubtful, he sat on the right side of the bed and hoped for Armin to be quick before he panicked and  run right back to his own place. For his luck (or not), Armin stepped in shortly after and almost jumped in bed, giggling. If Jean didn't know better, he would say Armin was acting his normal self, happy like a toddler who couldn't wait to fall asleep. However, the nervousness in Armin's moves, his eyes avoiding Jean's and the non-stoping giggle gave Armin away. In other circumstances, Jean would have found it funny. But in that exact moment his state may or may not have been worse than Armin's, and the only thing Jean wanted to do was fall asleep sooner than later. 

As you may guess, nor Armin or Jean could sleep. They lied there, lights off, staring at the ceiling and listening to the soft sounds that were a mixture of their breathing and their hearts beating hard inside their chests. Their minds were a mess, and nothing made sense anymore. Not their problems, their hesitations, the rational -and obvious- reasons not to cross some limits, their fears... Everything was eclipsed by a dark cloud of hormones, repressed desires and many, many emotions that created a lump in both their throats, drying them up. 

Don't turn your head. Calm down and fall asleep. Don't look, or you'll be done. Armin knew he was losing himself, but as seconds passed he grew to not care about the consequences. He was still afraid, though, for Jean, and a little for himself, knowing that lighting a fire in such a desperate moment wasn't a good idea. It would only hurt them both. But it hurts even more to hold back. 

Is he thinking about it? Did he fall asleep? Is he as nervous as me? Maybe I'm just exaggerating, maybe he  knows it would be a dumb thing to do. But maybe not doing a thing is the dumbest option. Jean was in the middle of a serious debate with himself. All kind of insecurities fell on him and the boy started doubting every possible thing to say. 

Now, this is where you tell me it was the stupidest thing to do when they decided to stay as friends until Jean settled down and adjusted to his new life, and Armin got used to live by himself again. Until they tasted how their interactions would go after Jean moved out. An here is, my friends, where I have to agree with you. Not because it was a stupid decision, but because they were so oblivious to think that they could actually control themselves and the situation. Us humans sometimes tend to overestimate out abilities, and our trust in them blinds us, not letting us see how fragile and weak we are in reality. 

When the last crack on the already damaged walls appeared, Armin gave up and turned his head towards the side Jean was lying on, just to meet the boy's gaze staring at him in the dark. He had a feeling like Jean was about to move, but he didn't. Seconds ticked away, and none of them dared to do anything, even breathing. They were in the verge of a cliff, only needing a little push to jump in the abyss. Jump, not fall. Because it was intended, on purpose, and needed. 

"Tell me to shut up if I say something stupid, but... I have to tell you or I'll explode" Jean's voice ran in Armin's ears like a whisper, drawing his attention from his own thoughts for a split of a second. But just then, as he noticed how real everything was, is when Armin felt that push, and he let out all the breath in his lungs before jumping harder than he ever did. And, oh, it felt so damn good. 

"Shut up"

"Wait, but-

"Shush"

"Armin"

"Not now, Jean"

He fell, but he made sure to drag Jean down with him. 

So he leaned forward, ignored all the alarms that went off the moment he moved a finger, and in less than two second Armin quieted down the gasp leaving Jean's mouth, by collapsing his lips on the oldest's. And he pushed closer, took the lead, woke Jean up from his astonished state and... Well. Let's say he didn't open the forbidden door. He demolished it, and Armin didn't regret it one bit after feeling the same intensity and pressure being returned by Jean.

If you're gonna mess up, at least make it big, right?

 

Chapter Text

The idea of kissing Armin never left Jean's mind since he started seeing the boy in a different light, his mind constantly wondering back to the image of the blonde's lips, causing his train of thoughts to suffer a full derailment. However, actually kissing the boy was so much different, something Jean thought he was ready for, but oh boy, was he wrong.

On one hand, Armin kissed him first and not the other way around, thing Jean didn't expect at all considering how awkward and tense he was every time Jean invaded (consciously and on purpose) his personal space. On the other hand, the boy's lips were as soft and tender as he imagined, but they were demanding, confident, taking the lead on the situation like Armin had full control over his nerves. Unlike Jean, Armin acted as if he made a decision and was strongly determined to fulfill it, and the older felt a sudden need to let Armin do, to let go of himself and the strings he tied himself with, and follow the boy in whatever direction, empty his mind and just... Feel. And Jean lost sense of reality, of his reality, and for the first time in what felt like ages there were no painful memories to disturb him, no regrets, no guilt, nothing beside the present moment they were living in, he and the boy Jean fell so deep for without even noticing.

Sensing how the kiss was slowly losing it's initial intensity, and with a sudden fear of Armin pulling away giving an end to that sudden but needed breath of fresh air, Jean placed a hand behind Armin's head and kept him in place while flipping both of them around in bed till he managed to get on top of the blonde, straddling him and supporting his weight on one hand placed at a side of Armin's head. Jean quieted down a gasp of surprise leaving his companion's throat by deepening the kiss, pressing his lips harder on the other's and moving them in a faster peace, matching Armin's. He was taking the lead, using Armin's brief moment of confusion to take back his usual position in that relationship. However, Armin didn't stay back and attacked, raising his hands and tangling all his finger's in Jean's brown locks, running them slowly over the darker undercut at the back and then up, grabbing two handfuls of hair and and pulling slightly, barely enough for Jean to feel it. The older's head spun around feeling all Armin's reactions, his body moving underneath him and pulling him down as if he was too far away.

Then, Armin slid a warm, wet tongue against Jean's lower lip easing the pace of the kisses and causing him to let out a low groan breaking the silence that surrounded them. The boy mirrored the movement, meeting Armin's expectant, needy tongue at which Armin sighed satisfied. At this point, Jean was quickly losing whatever control he had left over his own body and mind, but if that meant causing those kind of reactions on Armin then Jean couldn't care less.

Regarding Armin, he tried staying rational, conscious of everything, he tried to convince himself that he needed to go slow in case Jean was not prepared, in case he was rushing things (most likely, but it was too late now). The boy gave up and kissed his friend first, but that doesn't mean Armin wasn't scared anymore. He was internally screaming at least the first five seconds of the kiss because there was no response from the other and Armin almost pulled away prepared to apologize and pray for the Earth to open wide under his feet and swallow him along with the pile of embarrassment and regrets over his shoulders. That's why the feeling of Jean's lips moving, responding and turning the sudden, awkward touch of lips against lips into a proper kiss, made Armin's whole body relax, his mind cleaning of the dark clouds and allowing him to breath again.

Everything in the air was messy and hot and wild, all the things they've been holding back for days was out and none of them seemed to mind it. The storm in their minds became tangible, traveling from their insides to their fingers, their lips, their whole body, and leaving their heads free from all stress and worries they both had been carrying. The contrast was huge, but the peace was overwhelming.

Like they belonged there, together. Communicating in every way they could just how much they wanted each other, how much they cared. It wasn't rational because their minds had been completed off since Jean flipped then around, but it was real and sincere, a wave of warmness flooding their senses that only increased the temperature, blood almost boiling under their skin. 

It's too much to ask for a moment like this to last forever? Happiness to it's fullest, freedom, love.

Maybe this is why something felt off for Jean, even if he didn't want to admit it. Giving in and enjoying that overwhelming feeling again, like he deserved it.

Without Marco.

Memories hit him in that exact second, when he found himself really, really happy. But memories can't wait, they just come to you when your guards are down enough for you not to be able to hold them back and locked down. And Jean's guards were nowhere to be found, so behind his eyelids the image of Marco shone bright, smiling at him like he always did. It was the day they went to that concert, walking side by side on the road and Marco decided to go crazy so he turned around, grabbed his hand and kissed him right there and then in the middle of a crowded street of Tokyo, and then run dragging Jean behind him without another word.

And Jean's chest hurt. It hurt like it only did once in his life, cutting his breath like a knife pressed to his neck and freezing his body, his mind, the blood in his veins. Only the slow motion movie of Marco running in front of his eyes was still working, and the tears bursted out his eyes like two waterfalls. And Jean jumped away, rolling down the bed and hitting the floor with a loud thump but his shocked mind didn't process the pain. He curled up against the closet, breathed out and collapsed in sobs with his knees against his chest and his head down, darkness swallowing him and his pain. He almost didn't hear Armin's voice calling his name, the only clear sound was his own heart hammering against his chest eclipsing even his wild, heavy breath.

"Jean! What- hey, hey..." The blonde was already there, kneeling down by his side, a hand doubtfully reaching for Jean's hands. At the soft warm feeling Jean shuddered causing Armin to move his hand away.

The younger was confused, shocked and mostly scared. He had no idea what was happening to Jean. He had never seen the male cry, much less collapse like that. So Armin was truly scared and worried, not knowing how to act or what to say, or even if it was ok to say something.

"What happened?" He asked carefully, his own voice betraying him. But there was no response from Jean, and Armin bit back a second question. He then sat down on the floor then against the bed, far enough from the other, observing the static dark shadow of Jean. Armin's heart broke a little with every sob leaving Jean's lips, imagining the tears soaking his cheeks and eyes red and puffy. He was feeling guilt and weak and the confusion stopped him from doing anything at all to try and help his friend.

Armin's stomach was starting to hurt, a bitter taste traveling to his mouth threatening to make him throw up the dinner. It wasn't new, though, that heavy feeling was already a part of him and even if Armin was slowly improving the urge of throwing up was sometimes too strong to hold back. However, in that occasion Armin needed to put himself together and control his body, because Jean needed help and there was still a part of him that hoped Jean wanted him to be there. So Armin clenched his fists and bit his lip, breathing out carefully and relaxing his muscles until the urge became just a feeling, something he could control easily and wasn't so dangerous and unpredictable.

In the silence, Jean's thoughts spoke louder than usual and the angst was reinforced by every feeling of regret crossing his mind. Because, he shouldn't feel guilty for wanting to start again with someone as amazing as Armin. He felt stupid for regretting having such powerful feelings towards the boy, because Armin was good for him and basically Jean had no idea what he did to deserve being that special one for Armin. And having regrets for being in that moment, in that place with that someone was something Jean wanted to beat himself up for. It wasn't fair for Armin, the boy did nothing wrong to deserve being refused.

But... Jean was feeling guilty. How could he feel something so powerful for another person beside Marco? The one he claimed to be the love of his live, the one and only. Did he lie to Marco back then? Was he lying to Armin? (not really, he said nothing to him about his feelings. But still...) Was he lying to himself? He had no idea, and in that moment there was no rationality left for him to actually try and find out the truth. He was a mess, and feeling stupid for it. Crying over a long lost love was not something he did in front of another person, because after two years he was supposed to have overcame it. Jean knew what Krista told him about deserving to be happy was true, but Jean thought back then that being happy was impossible without his sunshine. And now...

Am I trying to replace Marco? That only thought made his insides flip. It wasn't fair for Armin or Marco.

"I'm sorry"

Jean finally reacted when he heard Armin's voice coming from somewhere in the room. Tears stopped long ago, but somehow he was still feeling like crying. Jean's body was weak because of the roller-coaster of emotions his body had been put through, and even raising his head was a difficult task. But his mind cleared up enough for him to form some coherent sentences and try explaining himself before Armin felt unnecessarily guilty.

"Don't. This isn't your fault. At all" Jean saw Armin's head rising and falling back against the bed. 

"But I shouldn't have kissed you like that, out of the blue. I know you're not ready but-"

"But I want it to. I want this. It's just... I- I can't" he whispered that last part like he himself wasn't able to fully understand what it meant. "Yet"

"Why?"

The question was evident and understandable, but Jean found it hard to get and answer for that. Not yet. Why? Why can't I do it now and think I'll feel better later? Jean had no idea, but that's how he felt. Because he wanted to start something with Armin. He wanted to start over and leave behind all the nightmares and regrets hunting him for years, let himself fall in love again and keep Armin by his side. Jean truly wanted all that to happen. But... not yet?

"Have I ever told you how he was? Marco?"

"Um... A- a little"

Jean breathed in, then. He stood up slowly holding on the door behind him to avoid losing balance, and when his knees seemed to be strong enough to support his weight Jean stepped towards the bed and sat beside the spot Armin was on the floor.

"For everyone who never knew him, Marco was kind of like the average guy. He didn't stand out and back in high school he hated being noticed". Jean let the memories flood his mind, years and years of moments Jean couldn't get himself to leave back. As if he was searching for an anchor to keep him conscious, Jean reached forwards and placed his hand over Armin's head grabbing gently one of the long locks of golden hair and rolled it around a finger. "And I am... Well, you know me" he chuckled, and Armin let his head fall back looking up at the dark ceiling and allowing Jean to play with his hair. "I remember on day in school I sat at the table by his side out of the blue and basically everyone looked at me, cuz the other guy was standing there observing me stealing his seat. And then the people turned to Marco, and he turned bright red. Aaand he kicked me off the chair"

Jean paused and enjoyed the small laugh of Armin, easing the tension in the atmosphere. His heart still hurt and talking about it wasn't helping, but Jean felt the need to go through that and just let Armin know who Marco was and the real big impact he had on Jean's life.

"So, you really fell for him, huh?" Armin whispered teasingly, and Jean groaned refraining the need to grab harder on that hair and tug it.

"Bad jokes, Arlert? Really?"

"I had to" Armin giggled softly. "Sorry" But of course Jean didn't mind it, not a little bit.

"But... I guess I did" Jean sighed. "We already knew each other, though. Having like the same group of friends made it easy to have him around. But Ymir was my best friend back then, and Krista was Marco's step sister so they're the ones who practically pushed us two together. You see, Krista's dad was always at home so they couldn't meet there, and Ymir's mom would get home so early they should have skipped classes to... Have some 'private' time together. So, being the good friend I was and with none of my parents at home couple days a week at least, I ended up letting them spend the night there. And I had to abandon my own place to go sleep at Marco's"

Armin turned slightly to face Jean and even in the darkness and from that far the older was able to see those eyes concentrating on him. And even if they caused him to go back to the actual moment they were in, Jean felt like it was a good thing. So he wouldn't get lost in the memories.

"Why does it sound like you're complaining?" The smaller asked and Jean chuckled again. He knew Armin was trying his best to make the conversation somewhat pleasant, even if it wasn't.

"I'm not. Basically that's where things really started to escalate for me, getting a crush on him and all. But he was just so oblivious and innocent he never noticed a thing, even if I didn't really try being subtle about it. He said he was just too concentrate in studies, music and fitting in but he was naturally oblivious and there's nothing to do about it. Like, hell, once I even told him I'd kiss him if he asked for it. And you know what the idiot answered?" Jean got really into the story telling, his voice raising lightly and he even groaned once, emphasizing his disbelief on Marco's innocence. And Armin giggled.

"What?" The boy asked, and raised from the position he was sitting in, crawling back on bed and sitting at the other side, cross legged and facing Jean in the dark.

"He said 'Why would I ask for a kiss? Who does that? It sounds just so weird and awkward. Can you imagine people asking for kisses in their daily basis?'. He looked so surprised and got really into the argument talking on himself and I laughed for like 5 minutes at that. He was just so confused..." Jean let out a broken laugh, warm tears coming out his eyes but he didn't try to stop them. There was no use because it was too painful and at the same time a sweet memory he didn't want to forget.

"He ended up asking for one, thought" Jean continued, trying to get his voice to work properly. "Poor boy, some friends kept picking on him because he had never kissed a girl and Marco was just curious at that point, I guess, about how does it feel like. He never really talked about liking anyone so I didn't know if he liked girls or not, but him asking for a kiss definitely confused me for good. He asked if I was serious, and I said yes. And he simply leaned over me and freaking kissed me out of the blue like he had done it thousands of times" Jean groaned again, a smile spreading on his lips. Innocent, innocent Marco.

"I was shocked and by the time I reacted he pulled away, jumped from bed all excited about finally kissing someone, and he didn't even noticed how dumbfounded I was. Fucking unbelievable"

"Oblivious indeed" Armin giggled.

"More like blind" Jean shook his head and Armin laughed. "Something good came out of it, though. He got a crush on me, too. But I had no idea because after that he got so awkward and distant I seriously thought I fucked it all up for some reason. I really didn't understand a thing and he was acting strange, always avoiding being alone with me and every time I tried approaching him and ask him what was wrong he just... Run away. Literally. He would look me in the eyes for like two seconds and then turn on his heels and sprint on the hallways in the opposite direction. I even failed on a test because of that mess, and when I told him later on he felt awful"

"He felt bad because you failed on a test?" Armin giggled and Jean too.

"That is Marco's life philosophy. A broken heart can be fixed but your grades will hunt you for life" Jean bit his tongue for a second, trying to calm down his racing heart. That was Marco's life philosophy. "But... He was strong, and brave, always dealing with things his own way. While I was trying to get used to the idea of losing my best friend, Marco was trying to understand his own feelings the best way he could, and alone. It must be scary to just wake up and realized you fell for your male best friend and have no one to talk about it beside the said male best friend. I had Ymir, and she is kinda opened about these stuff so it was easy for me. But he..." Jean breathed in deeply and let it all out slowly.

"He always dealed with things alone. And so one day he locked us in the school's bathrooms, pulling me in without a word and then stared at me for over two minutes. I was really confused, but I was going to let him speak so I stood there quiet and waiting. And suddenly he started rambling something about having feeling for me and not being able to make them go away and that he was sorry. He was sorry" Jean sighed. "And I laughed. I fucking laughed in his face like he just told me the best joke ever. I'm such an idiot" he shook his head, tears still falling but he made no attempt on drying his face. "And he was in the verge of crying, so I just said something like 'You're apologizing for returning my feelings. That makes no sense'. And then I froze. And he froze. And we stared at each other like two fools trying to process the new information"

"Wow that's... A random confession" Armin muttered, embracing his knees and pressing them to his chest. And Jean felt the sudden need to reach forwards and touch him, just to feel him. But he didn't.

"It was, but it worked. Kinda. I mean he needed some time to just get things clear and we talked and talked and talked until we basically confessed everything but still we didn't even go on a date yet. It was strange, but I don't regret it at all" Or do I? Jean shook the thought out of his head and concentrated again. "He was like... It was so easy being around him, it was like breathing. Normal, and you do it basically without thinking, but you can't live without it. I- I got to the point I pictured a whole life by his side, you know?"

Silence. And Jean's tears fell down his cheeks like two small rivers, going from stray drops to an unstoppable, continuous flow of salty liquid. And Jean fell back on the bed, eyes closed and breath hitching, sobs back reinforced and the boy just embraced his body, the image of Marco slowly fading and Armin's replaced it. And he just cried harder, clenching his fist around the shirt he was wearing. Because Armin was right there, inches apart, and he couldn't pick him over a memory. He felt just so damn guilty it was breaking him slowly.

And Armin stayed quiet, crying in his spot for the first time in months because he was suddenly conscious who he was competing with to get to Jean's heart. And that someone had been -and still was- so important for Jean, Armin felt defeated. I was so oblivious thinking I had a chance.

But Jean could almost hear what was going on with the boy, and he knew the weight he just put over Armin's shoulders was too heavy. And Jean moved his hand to his side, stretching it and reaching Armin's foot, he breathed out and raised from his position. And even if it hurt Jean moved closer to the boy and pulled him closer in a hug that was instantly returned. And Jean manhandled the smaller easily to lay both of them down on bed, hugging each other like their lives depended on it.

And they didn't say anything again. Both boys lied there until both calmed down and they were just so exhausted they fell asleep. And woke up together after barely four hours of sleeping, with fresh memories of everything that happened that night.

Under the light of a new day, their lives seemed less dark and cold, meeting eyes after everything they shared was... New. It was a strange and unique feeling none of them knew exactly how to face, so they took turns to shower and then they had breakfast. And one small joke after another allowed them to go back to the natural interaction between them, Jean being cocky and lazy and Armin ordering him around and pushing him from the back to get his things done before Eren would show up with the truck, ready to get the rest of Jean's things to his new apartment.

And Armin stopped himself from hugging Jean too often, from staring at him too much, from getting too close to him. And Jean bit back random compliments, he shook away thoughts about how cute did Armin pout or how cute was he when gettin all bossy. And both hoped it was for the best, avoiding something that may have been awkward and unwanted in a day minutes seemed to pass faster than usual and cutting their time together in half.

And before they actually noticed, Eren called. And shortly after Connie, Sasha, Annie and Ymir showed up to help Jean get all his things out and down the stairs. And now being a bunch of people Armin and Jean were somehow more relaxed while being around each other, relieved. Of course Ymir noticed something was off and nudged Jean trying to ask him but he run before the interrogation began. Eren gave Armin a strange look and Armin knew he'd have many questions to answer.

The sight of an empty apartment was always sad for Jean, the place he took days to organize was now empty and he had to start again somewhere else. Away from his friends, away from Armin, and too close to his past. If I only could turn back time... he thought for the thousand time. But he couldn't, and the only thing Jean was able to do was keep moving forwards, even if he couldn't get over the past he had to move, keep going.

Armin had to push him out the door, and then inside the truck.

"I prefer getting back there with my stuff" he groaned and Eren rolled his eyes. But Armin didn't care about their attitudes, and pushed Jean on that back seat and then he got in beside him, and Eren started the engine. A lump grew in Armin's throat at the sight of the building disappearing on the mirror, and then he noticed how Jean was looking at him, and his heart sunk in his chest. So he grabbed his hand and squeezed, because he had nothing left he could do, no way to stop the time and the following events from coming. Because Jean was moving to Tokyo to pursue his dream and Armin wouldn't be the one stopping him.

Maybe, if he would have asked, if he would have said it, Jean would have left it all. Maybe he really would have seen the big opportunity he had in front of his eyes and he may have taken it. But Armin didn't ask, and Jean didn't say a thing. So they traveled in silence holding each other's hands, rubbing circles on each other's knees, locking eyes for barely seconds before looking away. And Eren scoffed, but he didn't comment.

"Wow this is kinda cool" Eren said while parking in in the place reserved for Jean's car.

"Wow a nice comment, I didn't know you were capable of this" Jean rolled his eyes. Why was he so aggressive? He had plenty of reasons for it but none of them was Eren's fault. And Jean still had to pay his frustration on him because he had no one else.

"Oh do you want your stuff to accidentally fly all over the place? I can do that"

"Stop it" Armin jumped out the car and turned to the two still in the car staring at each other like they were a breath away of breaking each other's faces. "Both of you"

"You realize we both are older than you, Armin?" Eren teased, opening the door and exiting the car.

"Well, you act like two five years old fighting over a toy" Armin rolled his eyes and moved to the back of the car. He was tired, he didn't eat anything the whole day and now that he was facing the reality where Jean was finally moving away, Armin was kind of... Grumpy. And considering the messy night both of them, had Armin's mind was slowly collapsing. And even if he tried, the boy couldn't fully control his temper.

"Maybe if horse-face wouldn't-

"Shut it, Eren"

"You pick you're boyfriend over your best friend? I thought we had a code!" 

"He's not my-" Armin breathed in, breathed out, and raised his eyes to meet Eren. "I'm not picking a side. You both are 5-year-olds and I'm sick of both of you equally" 

"That hurt" Jean appeared, grinning like he always did when he understood something behind Armin's words than usually not even the blonde knew it was there. "I though I was special" he chuckled, and Armin chuckled, and for the first time in the whole day they were completely confortable again. 

But it didn't last, because the reality was right there into he back of that truck, and confortable or not Jean and Armin were nearly done with it all. 

"Okay, love birds. Who's gonna come help with these things? This is not part of the deal" Eren leaned on the car and crossed his arms over his chest, lazily. Armin nodded and Jean rolled his eyes. 

"I called someone. I don't want to owe you anything else"

"Oh but you already do"

"No" Armin interrupted the two. He knew that was a bad idea and was kind of surprised they didn't take it further than just a few mocking words. But Armin was not going to stay there and watch, let the time pass by as the ache in his chest was increasing. No, there was no use in wasting time since it wouldn't change a thing. "owe you one, Eren. I asked for a favor, remember?" he breathed out, ignored the "don't-make-me-punch-you" glare of his best friend and swallowed down his nerves. "NOW. Where's your friend?" he looked at Jean and the boy shrugged, grabbing his phone and typing down something a text. 

He was sure he told Bertholdt to wait for him in the garage and help him carry the boxes up to their apartment. But the guy wasn't answering his phone and Jean had no plans to ask Eren to help him. And he couldn't make Armin do even more than he already did.

"Hey! Sorry I had a little... Accident"

A tall -very tall-, young man appeared out of nowhere, all sweaty and breathing heavily. And Jean eyed him up and down curious, while the other two just stared at the new incorporation with nothing to say.

"About time, man" Jean reached out and patted Bertholdt's back while the guy was chocking on air, trying to catch his breath. "What was now? The car, the phone, your jeans...?" 

"A-actually, I was with the computer when I saw the time, and stood up too quickly... so the coffee ended up on the keyboard" 

"You'll end up broke" he chuckled, and then turned to Armin. "This is Bertholdt, the other roommie that didn't make it last time" 

"O-oh the one who got stuck in the elevator..." Armin scratched his nape, slightly embarrassed for bringing that up.

"Careful not to catch his bad luck" Jean teased, Armin chuckled and Bertholdt dedicated him the meanest glare he could form on his always gentle face. 

"And I am Eren, the chofer who has a date in 2 hours and can't be late. If I'm late again Levi's gonna dump my ass so we better move"

Armin raised an eyebrow questioningly to his friend, wondering if he really believed his words or just needed an excuse to accelerate the process. But Armin didn't comment, and nodded as the four boys started taking cardboard boxes out of the back of Eren's truck and pilling them on the ground, deciding how were they going to move them all up to the eighth floor.

And Eren was driving Armin back, so even if at first he wasn't going to help with the second part of the plan, he had to face the reality that Armin wasn't leaving like that and the faster they'd finish the sooner he'd be leaving Tokyo. So Eren bit back his pride and grabbed two boxes, got inside the elevator with the new guy Bertholdt and they boy disappeared leaving behind Jean and Armin with the rest of the things.

Armin found it easier than he did before, to accept the idea of maybe losing Jean. Because that was his fear, and he hated himself for it. But Armin didn't miss to notice how comfortable was Jean with the new situation, how well was he handling the changes. And Armin knew Jean wanted to start his new job and finally live his dream, so of course it made sense, after all Armin himself tried to help Jean to get where they were in that moment.

"Hey... You..." Jean bit his lip, thoughtful. You wanna stay? He had something to say, something to ask, but a big part of him felt like it was a big mistake. "Thank you for everything, seriously" he spoke up, and swallowed the heavy lump in his throat.

"You better be thankful. When I pay Eren for this favour I'll end up broke" Armin scoffed, but smiled softly maybe the bitterness behind it showing just a little. But he was just a student, not an actor, he didn't know how to mask emotions that well even if he tried his best.

"Wait. You'll actually pay him money?"

"Not exactly. He'll ask for a lunch or something, and will end up ordering half of the menu"

"Having friends should allow you to ask for favours for free" Jean shook his head. Everyone told him he was just too selfless, but the boy really didn't get why was it so hard for people to be nice just because.

"Well, when's the last time you asked Connie for a favor and it came for free, mister?" Armin crooked his eyebrow and Jean scoffed.

"I said friends" he chuckled and Armin rolled his eyes.

"Right, because Connie is just some kid from work you have to put up with"

"I- shut up" Armin smirked victoriously, and Jean just shook his head. Yeah, he'll miss those moments Armin made him feel like an idiot. So he looked down at the boy once more and finally walked to the elevator, a big box in his arms and a bag hanging around his right forearm. And Armin followed, dragging behind him two suitcases of clothes.

Up, the door of the apartment was opened and a laugh could be heard along with some lively chats coming from inside. When the two entered the place a girl Armin knew now as Isabelle jumped off the table she was sitting in and rushed to him, welcoming the boy and offering him help with one of the suitcases. Altogether, they would be three flat mates living there now that Jean moved in, and the good luck made for Jean to already know both of them from before, thing that made it easier to adapt.

"You!" Jean pointed at Bertholdt who turned to him startled. "There's one more suitcase down there and a bag"

"Understood"

"Great! Now we can get out of here" Eren appeared at least from the bathroom and he looked straight at Jean. Maybe because he knew that if he would have seen Armin's look he wouldn't rush things like that.

"Am- Ere-" Armin was ready to protest, but Jean interrupted.

"Yes you can go. I can do the rest alone, and I have Bert to kick my ass if I don't gather my things" Jean smiled and Armin's heart sunk in his chest. "Go, and text me when you get home"

Armin wanted to speak but words got stuck in his throat and forcing them out wasn't a good idea. So the boy nodded and dropped his eyes to his hand feet. Don't you dare crying, not now. But Jean wrapped him in a tight hug, and it was as cozzy and welcoming as ever, warm and safe. And Armin teared up hiding his face against Jean's chest, his arm wrapping around Jean's torso.

It's not a goodbye. We'll meet again, and we'll text each other and we'll call and... Jean knew it was stupid to act so dramatic over something like moving, since he did it a lot and he stood in the last one little over a month, which was too little time to get attached to it like he did. And Armin was less than an hour distance by car. It wasn't the end of the world. But after what they started the previous night Jean had the feeling distance would only create more damage to their now cracked friendship, and would make it ten times harder for Jean to get to a conclusion about what he wanted to create with Armin -if he wanted to do do at all-.

Life was so easy inside those walls where lazy days passed by with Armin in his fancy pajamas and Jean in his recycled shirts and sweatpants. With the food Jean cooked and made Armin eat over limits. With the videogames Armin always failed to learn how to play correctly. And the movies Armin spoiled when they got to the best part. With the chatting past 1 in the morning where philosophy and humans' ethics were the favorite subject to discuss about and none of the two would get tired of listening and then responding to the other's point of view in life.

"I'll text" Jean whispered and Jean hummed. And they breathed in and out before finally pulling away ignoring how everyone was looking at them.

"Let's go" Eren talked with something that felt like worry in his voice, and he placed a hand on Armin's back.

The blonde stepped back then and turned around walking slowly to the door with his friend's hand still on his back assuring him he wasn't alone. And they got out of the apartment without Armin looking back just in case he couldn't hold back the tears. And he dedicated a quick smile to the tall man who stepped out of the elevator with the rest of Jean's things and then Eren pushed him inside because Armin's feet got stuck to the floor.

"Can I sleep at your place today?" He whispered, looking down at the dark brown floor of the elevator.

"I- I told Levi I'd go to his place but if you need to I could cancel-

"Yeah, no. Sorry. I'll just call Mikasa. Don't worry"

Eren would have cancelled it all if Armin asked, but Armin didn't want to ruin his friends plans. And Mikasa was a better counselor anyways. But, no matter what, Armin wasn't sleeping in his bed that night.

And Jean watched him walk out the door, disappear, and only when Bertholdt entered the apartment and closed the door is when Jean breathed out and collapsed on the couch. Isabelle headed the fridge then without a word.

"Speak up" she sat by his side with two bottles of beer in her hands and offered one to Jean. The boy grabbed it, took a large sip of it and then sighed.

"I lost him".

Chapter Text

Armin shook his head, whining out loud and collapsing backwards on his bed. He proceded to whine some more, not caring about being too loud because there was no one who could hear him that Armin really cared about. 

"Why's this so difficult?" he whispered. He closed his eyes, defeated, and tossed his phone away somewhere on the bed, frustrated at his struggle with words. 

After a month of practically living with Jean, texting him should have been the easiest thing for him. If he managed to maintain a conversation face to face, when didn't have much to share, why couldn't he talk about his day and explain Jean his frustrations with classes? The older was quite casual about it, but Armin felt too strange and out of place. 

Maybe because he really wanted to see him again, and texting was simply not enough. Also, Armin hated the not-agreed but very obvious restrictions in the subjects they could bring up. One of them was that turbulent night, the other was the unspoken agreement to give themselves some time, and the last one was the exclusivity of their not-yet-existent relationship. But, even so, he wasn't quite ready to touch those subjects, his mind still too messed up and confused to know what exactly to do about all that. 

It was good they could still talk normally, though, and Armin was glad about it. Jean still tried his best to update him about his life there, about what he was working in or how strange his schedules became, but also let Armin complain about all the project he already needed to get done for school, or the silence of his apartment, the effect of the stress on his body... All over texts or short calls day after day for over two weeks without being able to meet again. 

Armin was waiting for Jean to set a date, do as he said and take care of their meetings. But Jean didn't say a thing, Armin understanding that as a time off to think, to make up his mind and do something about the pit of confusion he was drowning in. The blonde boy tried to be rational, understanding and patient, but behind all the excuses he used to convince himself there was this fear he didn't want to admit, but he couldn't deny it, either. Armin was afraid that, in the end, Jean wouldn't choose him. 

His history with Marco went back to high school, many years in the past filled with so many memories it was impossible for Armin to compete with that. Less than two months where serious things only happened in the last few days. It's too little to have the confidence Armin needed, but enough to want to fight for it. 

However, with Jean reluctant to meet up and have a serious talk about it all, Armin couldn't do more than overthink things and get frustrated over little details. Like that text he didn't know how to type, too worried about sounding uninterested or extremely excited. It wasn't like him to be so unnatural, but Armin didn't want to mess up (again). 

<You underestimate yourself and your talent too much for my liking

>You have too much faith in me 

<Or are you being like this just to get some compliments to feed your ego?

> ... Or not. 
Why's your image of me so dark? 
I thought you would soften down now that you miss me that much but guess I was wrong

<Don't try and change topic. What you're sent me sounds awesome so far so give yourself the credit you deserve.
And are you avoiding meeting up to force me to miss you? 
That's so low, even for you 

>Everything I say will be used against me
Warn me so I'll be more careful 
Jeez you're cruel

>Jokes aside You know it's not like that, right? 
I'm not avoiding you Armin

I know, Armin thought. He wanted to kick himself for saying that, even if it was just a harmless joke. But Armin didn't know, in reality, if Jean was avoiding him or not, because he didn't ask more than a couple of times and Jean never denied wanting to meet him, but didn't cooperate to create the opportunity for it to actually happen. So Armin was confused, and doubtful, and since he couldn't see Jean face to face while the boy told him this, Armin wasn't able to believe it completely. However, doubting Jean tasted so bitter Armin felt guilty, and not being able to stop himself was driving him crazy. 

He breathed out, blindly searching for the phone over the surface of his bed. 

<I know 
Sorry, it was a joke
I know you're busy, so am I
But I do miss you

>Can you talk? 
I wanna call you

<Can't
We can talk tonight if you still want to tho

>Sure! I'll be in the studio so just call me whenever you're free

<I will
I have to go now

>Nerd up!

Armin chuckled and sighed. I'm sorry. 

×÷×

Jean didn't want to think, so he got himself busy with anything he managed. Getting used to the equipment, learning how the sophisticated programs worked, meeting some of the artist the company was working with, his co-workers, starting to work in songs... Jean didn't sleep much, either, only when he was tired enough not to think at all after hitting the bed. And he had nightmares again, but he wouldn't admito that to Armin.

He should be enjoying it, right? Living the dream, giving his 120% now that he finally got the job he could only dream of. Being down and depressive was the one thing he didn't expect, even with the obvious sadness the memories of that place would cause him. And Jean hated himself for that, he was ruining his own dream life, and couldn't blame it on anyone else.

Maybe Ymir was right, telling him he should probably wait before moving, accept the help and drive to work till he was completely prepared to move in. But Jean knew it wasn't that simple, because of the schedules and because it was not worth it all the money and the stress. Jean was sure he would be able to handle it well after a few days, having friends there to help him settle in just right.

He couldn't predict Armin, though, or the depth of his trauma. Jean had no idea that moving in a temporal apartment, with a temporal job, would bring him the opportunity of a permanent calmness, something he gave up on searching but found it anyways. And then he had to give up on it in order to pursue what he believed it was his dream.

Armin... He missed the blonde more than he thought possible. They knew each other for less than two months, spending together only a few weeks, but the boy became the only one capable of chasing away the pain, even if that wasn't enough to help Jean move on and make a fresh start. That would probably never happen, though, the wounds left permanent scars behind, and some of them were only now beginning to heal. Jean blamed himself for this, too, because unwillingly he dragged Armin in that mess without a warning, and even if Armin didn't complain, Jean wasn't that stupid not to know how his choices affected him. But everyone has limits, and Jean surely didn't want to reach Armin's and lose him for good, but he didn't want to tie him up and keep him by his side, either, if he wasn't able to overcome his demons. Armin didn't deserve that.

Jean decided to try by himself, then, and keep Armin out for some time just to avoid worrying or hurting him. But he missed the guy and couldn't hide it, every day it passed he felt stupid for overthinking things when it was as simple as showing up at his door one day, aware of how happy that would make Armin and himself. But he couldn't risk to get into another breakdown when his feelings for the blonde hit him in the face hard enough. He knew that would happen again unless Jean got to any conclusion about his own feelings, until he made a clear decision. Or unless he forgave himself.

But it was hard to do this last one, since he still had no idea why Marco... left. Jean had been living with a constant question mark that rested over his shoulder, following him everywhere. He couldn't even say it yet, that Marco killed himself, but let's go one step at a time.

First thing first, Jean decided to talk to someone. He didn't know who to, though, not wanting his friends to get extra worried about him, but it was time to start being selfish and call in a favor or two, if not for him he would do it for Armin. So Jean called Ymir, because no matter how rude the girl might be on her daily basis they had been friends for ages. 

He'd have to go back, then, and he couldn't go and not meet Armin. If I ask her to come she'll know and make me go meet him. Ymir knew him too well, and even if he didn't tell her about everything that happened after the party, she saw him there, she saw them together, and she was smarter than him when she wanted to. And with Christa... Let's say that if Jean was able to fool one of them, the other would catch him for sure. 

So here he was, reading Armin's messages and wondering if he could keep the distance for too long. Armin missed him, and Jean missed the small bossy boy, too. And two weeks away was nearly the time they spent together, and that was not OK. But still... 

"At this rate I'm gonna lose him for good..." 

×÷×

"Sorry to bother you. I needed some... advise"

"It's not a bother, really. Umh... Sugar?"

"Thank you"

Armin got a phone call he didn't expect at all while trying to get rid of a headache. At first he thought it was Jean, but the name on the screen was certainly surprising. Levi. He asked if he could pass by to talk, no real detail for Armin to know what exactly he wanted, but he accepted instantly. Half an hour later they were in Armin's living, sitting on two opposite spots of the couch and preparing their teas in silence, Armin glancing at the man curiously. It was the first time he was alone with Levi, but he found the man quite interesting, and even if his intimidating and cold appearance stopped the blonde from being more friendly that he thought appropriate, Armin still tried his best.

"I know Eren must have told you this already, but I'm not exactly the romantic type..." the man finally looked back at Levi, and for the first time the younger found emotion in those dark globes. "He isn't, either, but... I think he is holding back emotions, or like not showing them as he wants because of me. You must find it hilarious for a thirty-something man to come searching for advice to you, but I don't want to mess it up" 

Armin's eyes widened in shock. He didn't expect him to be that honest and straightforward about something so personal. Not around him, at least, being basically strangers and all. But Armin put the surprise aside and tried to process all of the information, and using the one he already got form Eren, understand what exactly was Levi asking him. 

"Not hilarious, just surprising. But, I mean, your whole relationship with Eren is surprising, to be honest"

"I still don't understand it myself, either" Levi chuckled, lowering his gaze to the cup in his hands. 

"What do you need to know?"

"I don't want to know what he told you, that's his business. It's just- I can feel he holds back, he can't be nervous at this point but still acts doubtful, and I'm just shitty with feelings"

"I don't know if that's because of you or because of him. He's always been scared of having his heart broken. Maybe Eren wants to make sure you won't leave him before opening up completely"

"Stupid brat..." Levi sighed and shook his head. "The only thing we have in common and it had to be this? Fuck..."

"Eren likes you a lot, though. I mean, you've been together for like two months now and he didn't talk about someone else at all, which is new to me"

"And how do I show him I won't? If I start a talk like this with him he makes jokes and pisses me off and we never finish one. And I get it, he's not in for cheesy stuff, but..."

"Go straight to the point, it's easier that way with Eren. When he expects nothing so he won't be prepared beforehand"

"But I want to change, too. I don't know, be more emphatic or something"

"You don't need to, though. I think... You just need to be completely honest with him. Put the fears aside and be you, that's probably the only thing he'd like. Eren's already head over heels with you as you are. So keep doing whatever you did till today 'cuz it's working"

"You give me too much credit"

Armin let the silence fall over them, giving Levi time to meditate. He felt proud of the smile lingering on the man's lips and the uncharacteristic relaxed brow. Armin sipped on his tea and waited, wondering how those two got to that point so fast, and what did Levi see in Eren that made him so fond of the boy. Also, Armin knew Eren well and he did understand why people fell for him, but Eren had never been so dedicated to a relationship before. What was it they found in each other that kept them together despite their differences? But Armin envied them for that, for being so sincere about each other and their relationship, so dedicated, and for trying hard to make it work. 

His mind wandered back to Jean, and his heart ached. Am I trying hard enough? Is there something I can do, really? 

"You should give yourself the same credit, you know?"

"What?" Armin barely heard the words, too immersed into his own mind. But now Levi was staring at him and he frowned slightly, curious. 

"Eren told me. About Jean. I know it's not my place, but I hope you're not doubting yourself because of it"

"Oh" he didn't know what exactly was Levi trying to say. He told Eren about everything that happened with Jean, but didn't know he talked it with Levi. Not that he cared, but Armin didn't expect Levi to care about it. Now he was dumbfounded, not knowing exactly what to answer to that. Was Levi trying to be nice because Armin listened to him? Or he did care?

"Actually, I thought you two were already together, at the party he was looking at you in the same way my friend looks at his fiance. Whatever is happening right now, I can bet that it didn't change"

"Really?" 

"Mhm. Eren was worried, and asked for my opinion. Jean seemed nice, I don't really know much about him. But I saw you two, and even if I suck at these things I'm not blind. Whatever you had back then can't be erased so easily" 

Armin blinked at the other, not really understanding. So he stood silent and looking at the man, chest warming up with so many emotions he couldn't even process them all at the same time. Eren being worried enough to go to Levi; Levi deciding to talk to him; Jean looking at him... like that? Wait. Did he really look at me that way? But when? How? Armin couldn't remember anything like that. But maybe because he was too busy avoiding Jean's eyes to notice, worried the older would see his soul through his eyes, like he used to say. 

But that was the party. Days before that night... 

Armin didn't notice just how many things were still needed to be talked between him an Jean till that moment. Because a bunch of questions suddenly popped up in his mind and Armin had no answer for any of them, which made the urge to see Jean again much less controlable and more important. Why did it have to be so hard? To ask questions?

Or was it, really?

"I don't-" he whispered, eyes still lost somewhere in the blankness of the walls. "Thank you, a lot. I don't mistrust him or his feelings about me at all, but I wish- I'm just... Scared"

"You should tell him, you know? Eren and I are not the perfect duo, but talking helps a lot. And he's probably just like you"

"But what if-

"Then he'll tell you"

"Maybe you're right"

"Maybe I am" 

Armin chuckled at that, and Levi did too. The blonde was dealing with a turmoil inside, but still managed to calm down just enough to keep a smile on his face until Levi finally left few minutes after. 

He was confused, to begin with. And too stressed out to guess whether he should be freaking out or calling Jean in that exact second. He knew something was up with Jean, that he wasn't ready to talk about it, at least with him, but Armin wondered if it had to do with him or not. Was Jean as confused about them as Armin was? And in that case, did he feel as doubtful about Armin as the blonde was about him? Because Armin didn't want Jean to have even more stress because of him, apart of all of the Marco related things. 

"I can try..." he mumbled, staring at his phone. And he called, even if it wasn't night and was probably disturbing Jean in his work. But since he finally gathered some courage to face at least a small part of his fears, Armin needed to go for it. 

"Armin! Hey" the blonde smiled as soon as he heard Jean at the other side. It was still not nearly as real as he liked their conversations to be, but Jean's voice sounded clear enough to calm him down a little. 

"Can you talk right now?" 

"Sure! Just give me two seconds. There's too many people here... Now it should be fine" 

"Sorry. I know I said tonight but- I kinda needed to talk to you now so... Yeah" 

"You complain about my ego but feed it constantly, Armin Arlert" he snickered and Armin rolled his eyes powerfully at the nothingness, lips curling into a helpless smile. 

"My bad. I guess I have to bully you a little and balance the situation" he smirked at the well known defeated sight that came from the other. 

"Call me masochist is you please, but I miss you despite your merciless attacks" 

"Masochist"

"What did you need to talk about?"

"Nothing specific, just wanted to hear you" Armin bit his lip and shut his eyes closed. Now, how do I start this conversation?

"Are you down today? You sound sad" 

"Amh... Not really. Just- strange"

"What happened?"

"Levi came today to talk. He just needed a quick advise, and then... He said something that made me realize some things"

"Like what?"

"About us. It left me thinking"

"Should I get worried or...?"

"No! God, no. Sorry, it's not that kind of talk" Armin let out a nervous laugh and ran his fingers through his hair. 

"Good, because I lowkey panicked"

"This is positive. I think. I mean... I need to know some things, and I want you to tell them to me"

"Um... Sure. Whatever you need"

"It's just... I would have asked earlier but I was worried you'd be too busy with the job, and after... you know, I didn't want to put any pressure over what we have and... I don't know. But talking to Levi I realized maybe it was all in my head so... Here I am"

"I'm never too busy for you, you know that, right? And I don't want you to hold back things just because of me. Whatever you need to talk about, it's perfectly fine with me. And I'm being serious here, Armin"

"OK... I needed to tell you that just in case"

"What do you want to ask me, little one?"

"I... Maybe I sound stupid, but I'm still trying to guess what to think about us right now. And I've realized I've never told you that I like you"

"Oh. I- damn you're right! Shit!" and he began to laugh so loud Armin's nerves vanished laving no trace behind.

"Don't laugh when I'm trying to confess to you!"

"S-sorry. But it's hilarious, you can't deny it. And it sound's cocky to say it like this, but I know. And I like you too, Armin. A whole fucking lot"

"And so step one is solved" Armin chuckled, heart beating with ease after those little but persistent worries were scratched out his mind. It wasn't the end of the list, but somehow saying and hearing those words meant more than he thought. 

"And step two is...?"

"I'm curious to know why" Armin confessed, lying backwards on the couch and staring at the ceiling. 

"Why I like you? You expect me to list down everything? You better sit down, it'll take a while"

"Stop teasing, you idiot! I'm serious" Armin laughed and covered his face, cheeks shining bright with a crimson color covering big part of his face and rushing up to his ears. 

"I'm serious too. There's a lot of reasons why, starting with the fact that you're gorgeous, and I adore your eyes. I could get lost in them anytime with not a single complaint. And then there's so many layers of you I lost count, you won't stop surprising me, like right now. And you're so warm and... I don't know. There's something about you that makes me want to protect you, but at the same time it feels like you're the one protecting me, and it's quite overwhelming. I've never met anyone like you before, and you make drive me nuts when at the same time you calm everything down. I make no sense right now, and it's really hard to explain 'cuz I still don't know how  exactly  I feel about you , but I do know that when I look at you I see the light I've been looking for, and I'd do anything to keep you near" 

Shit. Armin didn't expect such a long confession, and by the time Jean stopped talking the tears had already damped his face, his hand pressed hard  over his mouth to avoid making any sound that'd give him away. He writes music, after all... 

"Armin? Are you still there?"

"Y-yeah. I'm here. And that was..."

"Are you crying? For real?"

"Don't you dare laughing at me" 

"I wasn't going to. But now I want to hug you so bad it physically hurts. What in hell did you do to me Arlert?"

"Say that one more time and I promise I'll just give up on everything for today and go" 

"I'm the irresponsible one, remember? And you have class tomorrow" 

"And you think I can concentrate with all this messing up my mind?"

"Saturday. Let's meet up on Saturday"

"Step 3 is a date"

"A date. You chose, I'll show up and we'll go wherever you want. And then you can tell me about why you like me this much and blow up my ego"

"It's so hard to make a comment when you say things like that" 

"At least you're not crying anymore. It's worth it" 

"I-" Armin cleaned up his face with the sleeve of his hoodie. He was still trying to recover, and Jean didn't help at all, mercilessly attacking his sensitive heart as if he knew exactly what to say to make him burst in tears. After so many days of overthinking, filled with frustration and doubts and fears, he grew too sensitive and Jean clicked the switched that made him explode. And now he was probably not going to stop in a while. "Thank you"

"Don't ever doubt yourself, OK? I'm sorry it takes so long for me to be ready, to move on completely, but it's not your fault. My stupid dilemmas are all on me. You only help. I should have told you all of this days ago, but I'm not doing the same mistake twice. If you want us to talk more, I'm in. I just want to make you happy, Armin"

"Quit making me cry you moron" he trembled with a sob chocked by his laugh. "You do make me happy, even while being apart. I can wait whatever it takes until you've found your answers, it doesn't bother me at all. But I just needed this... To make it real, you know? To be completely sure"

"I must have saved a baby from a burning house in my past life to deserve you"

"You're cheesy..." Armin bit his lip and shook his head slowly. Every comment affected him too much to the point Armin didn't know if he was still crying or now anymore. "I love it" he whispered.

"Better, 'cuz I can't help it. And I can't wait to see you blush at every comment"

"Suddenly I have my Saturday completely busy"

"If Ymir pics me up, I'll be there by lunch"

"Perfect"

"Then it's a date"

"It's a date"

"That one to Tokyo, though..."

"Don't even try. We were just friends"

"Then the park"

"If that's your idea of a date I should save up for bailing us both out of prison frequently"

"That'd be fun! We'd have the best excuse to stay together longer while in jail"

"That's- I'm not going to jail, Jean"

"Not even for me?"

"... You're incredible" 

He laughed, and Jean laughed, and if he closed his eyes Armin would have felt like they were right next to each other. Oh how he missed that, almost feeling like they were back to those first weeks where everything was casual and natural and there was no drama they needed to deal with. Just the two of them in their little bubble enjoying life and each other's company. 

Even if it didn't mean hardships would stop there, setting the date for a meeting was a big step. And from there, they could work their way through everything else with time, patience, and mutual support. But, for now, Jean forgetting about work and Armin about studying, they let minutes fly and sank into a comfortable conversation, filled with laughs, sarcasm, flirting and crazy suggestions about how Hollywood-like would it be for them to try escaping prison and becoming fugitives after a failed attempt of a date. 

Chapter Text

"Bert? Yes- Oh, no, everything's fine. But I need your car. I mean, we need it. Armin has to be somewhere and needs a drive and- No, it'd be till tomorrow, probably. I promise tomorrow I'll bring it back. Tank full. Sure! Yeah, thanks bro! See you in an hour or so. Bye"


 

When Saturday came, Armin was a nervous mess. Jean was supposed to come by the apartment because he missed it, so Armin had been cleaning all morning. Not because he needed to, the place being already clean enough for Jean to call him a freak, but because he had to do something not to go crazy. 

After nearly a month, meeting Jean face to face was something he truly needed. However, as happy as he was, Armin was still wondering how should he act around the boy. The last time they saw each other was the most awkward and depressive situation he had got into lately, then  the weeks of silence and not that much talking about the important stuff put Armin into a situation when he couldn't say what was OK to do or not.

Not that Jean had it any easier, not trusting himself or his inner stability to stay calm around Armin and act normal. It seemed as if he forgot the fact that before they were extremely confortable invading each other's personal space, so why would it be different now? Specially because they confessed everything they had been holding back, so it should be even easier to just be himself without fearing he'd do something inappropriate that'd scare Armin away. Being rational didn't make any change, though, and Jean ended up frustrated at himself even on his way to meet the boy.

Ymir tried to help... It didn't work. Saying "The bar's already low, you don't need to be perfect" only made Jean feel worse. But she told Jean that "What Armin needs is for you to show him that you mean it, then he'll support you throw all you're going through without a doubt", and the boy set a goal on those words: make sure the blonde understood everything Jean felt for him. 

He had no time to build a plan, though, 10 minutes later his friend dropped him at the apartment complex and left with a wave and a sadistic grin. 

Damn... This is weird. He didn't lie abut missing that place, maybe because all the memories inside, but it still felt like a piece of him was created due to that place. First time he got to live alone, having his own space... He missed that, too. Actually, he grew so used to the place Jean nearly forgot he needed to ring the bell, that he didn't have keys anymore.

"It's Jean" he answered when a rushed voice asked at he other side.

"O-oh! Sorry- I-" and the door opened with a buzz. Jean could tell Armin was nervous by how fast he hung up, imagining the boy running to do whatever he needed to before Jean got there. Did he oversleep? 

Up, Armin's apartment door was open, and Jean bit back a smile while entering the neat place. Everything was just the same as the last time he had been there, it smelled the same, felt the same. Yet... Armin was nowhere to be seen. 

"Hey!" he spoke and crossed the room.

"Just a second!" Armin yelled back from... The bathroom?

"Are you OK?"

"Yes!"

He didn't sound fine to Jean, the boy growing worried as he approached the door. He knocked once, no answer, so he tried again. 

"Armin? What's wrong?" And the door clicked open. Jean pushed it slowly wondering what could have happened for Armin to be secretive, but then he saw the blonde and the frown grew deeper but out of confusion. "What-

"A gum- It's in my hair"

Armin's blue eyes stared back at Jean wide and sad, hitting him right in the chest. He was even pouting, hands holding at his hair in the right side. And Jean wanted to die, because that look in his eyes was too adorable for him to bare the weight of it. However, Jean reacted quite quickly -for his own surprise-, and, clearing his throat to release some tension, he broke the eye contact and concentrated on said gum stuck to the golden locks of Armin's. 

"Let me see"

He stepped closer and raised his hands to replace Armin's. It was indeed a piece of chewing gum, stuck somewhere at the high of the boy's jaw. His hair grew a lot since we met, he noticed, and it grew some centimeters since the last time he saw Armin, too.

"You should cut it"

"I didn't want to hear that" the boy sighed and turned to the mirror. He seemed disappointed, not that sad but more like tired, as if his enthusiasm disappeared.

"Want me to cut it?" The older offered.

"You? Cutting my hair? No way" Armin looked alarmed, but even if Jean felt slightly insulated with the lack of trust the boy had in him, he smiled wider.

"I've done it before. I cut my own too. I can't do anything else with the hair but I'm kinda good at cutting it"

"You want to cut my hair" Armin stated, to which Jean simply hummed, and the boy chuckled. "You're my date not my barber"

"Your barber date" Jean deadpanned.

"That's not-" Armin was laughing, and Jean bit his his lip. How he loved making the blonde laugh like that.

"I'm serious"

"Oh I can see that" He wiped a stray tear and turned to Jean once again. This first meeting couldn't have gone any better, apparently, the nerves and tension gone and both of them were smiling like it was their natural condition to be happy around the other, even with the situation that was going on Armin felt as if it was meaningless all of a sudden. Jean wanted to cut his hair? Weird, but that date was never normal, to begin with. "Fine"

"Yass~" Jean clapped his hands together with enthusiasm, as if he won some prize, and Armin laughed again.

"Don't get that excited. It's creepy"

"Scissors, comb and a towel" He commanded staring down at the boy. He seemed quite determined, and Armin's cheeks were starting to burn for no specific reason.

"Something else, sir?" Armin raised an eyebrow, mockingly, and Jean rolled his eyes. His hands then raised till they rested at both sides of Armin's head, thumbs caressing at his cheeks, and Armin's knees nearly gave up.

"Please?"

"Much better. See? Easy"

"Damn how I missed your guts, little one" Jean chuckled and let go of Armin, stepping back and away from the entrance so the boy could go. He was flustered and didn't do a good job covering it, which Jean found adorable. He really, truly, missed this. All of it.

"Give me your jacket"

And he did, Armin disappearing right after giggling at nothing specific, and came back with a chair and scissors, and let Jean do the rest.

It was quite simple, Jean asking him about the length he could cut, doing some comments about what he thought it was better so there won't be a big difference. Also, Armin clearly stated that he would use those scissors against Jean if he did some weird, coconut hairstyle to him. Turns out Jean did know what he was doing, Armin was surprised by how nimbly the boy was using the scissors, and had quite a good eye to cut it just right. Armin calmed down and let the other do whatever he had to freely, eyes fixed in the other's face through the mirror, a deep frown forming out of concentration.

"Turn around" Jean requested and Armin complied.

"Don't cut it too short, I need to tie it up"

"Got it"

Jean laughed at how Armin would grimace at the hair falling on his face, and the other would whine and tell him to speed up.

"Almost done"

"About time"

"Here. I'm done" And Jean stepped back to look at the boy. "Yep"

He helped Armin with the towel and cleaning the hair off his clothes, and smiled when the boy seemed content with the result

"You're not that bad at this" He stated, and Jean rolled his eyes again.

"You're welcome"

"Thank you"

And silence fell over them. Not an awkward one, but more like a tense moment when none of them were brave enough to just go for it.

Just show him, Jean remembered those words, and he sighed deeply. Yeah, I really should. And he raised a hand to the boy's hair pushing the bangs aside and leaned forwards, lips meeting milky skin. A gasp caressed over the skin of his neck in a short breath, and Jean wrapped the boy in a shelter-like embrace, pulling him to his chest as Armin was still partially frozen in shock. Then the shorter melted, wrapping his arms around the other and hugging him tight, grabbing fistful of the fabric of Jean's T-shirt.

"I really missed you" The blonde confessed, face buried in Jean's neck inhaling the mix of cologne and natural scent. He missed everything, from the small talks to his sole company, or the cocky attitude, the lame jocks... But it was this, the hugs, the safety of those moments, is what Armin craved to have back.

He had never been a huggy guy, not feeling the need to cling to someone like he did with Jean. Maybe it started because Jean didn't ask before grabbing him and crushing him in a hug, or just invading his personal space in any way he pleased. It was strange at first, but finding out that it was rather pleasant and calming it made the boy fond of those feelings to the point he stopped thinking twice about it. Until his feelings grew, then those moments were strange again, and slightly painful, but the boy found too much comfort in his arms to pull away.

And now here they were again, and Armin didn't want to put an end to it just yet. Not even when Jean tried, whining like a child that doesn't want to go to school and clings to his mom for dear life.

"Oh now this will be a cuddling date or...?"

"Sorry..." He mumbled and sighed in defeat.

"I wasn't complaining, though" Jean chuckled and run his fingers along the golden locks of the other. 

"Now" Armin stepped back, coming his hair back and shaking his head, letting it fall back in place. "As comfy as this might be, we should get going"

"It was you who seemed reluctant about it though"

"Just- Go!"

He pushed the other out of the bathroom. They spent way too much time inside that place for it to be a proper date, and Armin promised himself it would be different, that they would go through the dating step even if they had in the past, just this one was official. So what's more cliché of a place that the movies? Nothing. And that's exactly what he was planning to do.

"Do you have any food in here?" Jean ask already in his way to the kitchen. 

"You're 24/7 hungry" 

"Like I can help it"

"You wouldn't even if you could"

"And I'm still hot so who cares?"

"Your arteries in 10 years"

"When did that line work on me?" Jean smiled over his shoulder and Armin rolled his eyes. It never worked, but still Armin liked teasing because it was one of the few things he could use against the man, one of the few things that kept Jean away from the way Armin pictured perfection.

"There's instant ramen, but you had enough of that this week"

"Man, I miss cooking..."

"No time?"

"And I wasn't in the mood for it, either"

"Mhm... You want to?" Armin leaned back against the counter observing how Jean's eyes traveled along his quite empty fridge, biting on his lip.

"What? Cook here?"

"Yep"

"You have no ingredients" The boy chuckled and closed the fridge. "Maybe the next time?"

"Oh- so there is gonna be a next time?" Armin raised and eyebrow, fighting back the laughter as good as he managed.

"If this 'time' ends, yeah, there will"

"Cheesy..." Armin chuckled then, trying to cover his embarrassment but failing, and decided it was the best moments to go clean the bathroom. "Just grab whatever. I'm sweeping the floor"

And he was gone.

Jean watched him leave and stood in place, wondering if he was being too selfish and should keep it down, but Armin's reactions made it so worth it. Who would say a  5.4 feet, skinny boy held such a strong temper inside? Specially when he acted so shy and introverted in the first meetings, insecure about what he said or did. However, now that he let go of any boundaries he may have kept at first Armin proved to be a strong, wild soul that didn't fear expressing himself, from the most sweet, genuine feelings to those serious and deepest aspects of his personality. Armin was such a complex person Jean knew he'd need time to get to know him, but didn't expect Armin to let him. I'm truly the luckiest man alive, he dared to think. Because, how comes the two most amazing people he ever met decided Jean deserved the privilege to walk the same path as them, hand in hand?

Jean had worked hard not to compare Armin to Marco, but even when he did, those two were so different in most aspects he couldn't find anything to go with. Marco had been such an oblivious, selfless soul, Jean felt the need to give him all he got to compensate for how shitty the world could get. With Armin, however, the roles kept on changing back and forth till they got to a state of harmony, Armin being strong enough to put Jean in place and helping him through different things, while showing his own weakness for the other to understand, and accepting the help. 

Jean still didn't understand what Armin saw in him to endure all that, why was it worth it for the boy to try. But he wouldn't be a hypocrite and walk away thinking "Armin deserves better", because if he was what Armin truly wanted in his life, enough to go though all he did, then Jean would give his best to grow into that person he knew Armin deserved, while still being the one Armin liked. 

Maybe that was the most mature decision he took in a long time, and also the scariest one, because failing would mean breaking Armin's heart and his own. I won't give up before even trying, he told himself, and so he did. 

Because Marco was still in his mind, the debates kept on taking part of his sleep time and memories messing up his dreams, and Jean still felt as if he was betraying the boy he once loved so much. Is it possible to love two people the same way? 

A phone ringing draw Jean out of his mind bringing him back to reality and he reacted. It was Armin's. At first he paid no attention when it stopped, but Armin's voice raising made him frown and the boy exited the kitchen just to find the blonde standing at the door of the bathroom, phone to the ear and the dustpan in the other hand. He seemed froze, eyes wide as he was listening to whatever the person at the other side had to announce. And weren't happy news. 

Jean took the dustpan carefully from the boys hand, but Armin didn't react. At the end of the line Jean could hear the voice of a woman talking but didn't understand a words she was saying, so he waited worry growing as Armin seemed to have forgotten how to breath by now. 

"Where-

His voice trembled, and Jean figured the boy was nearly in tears. He had never seen Armin cry, not really. Not like he had any occasion to witness it, but now he didn't think he could stand observing the boy breaking down and doing nothing. He thought it wasn't right for him to do anything just yet, though, getting involved in whatever was going on, it wasn't his place.

"Of course I'm coming. I won't stay here waiting for news when I haven't seen him in months, mom. I know- I want to be there, everything else can wait. No, I have the savings. Yes... love you too... Bye"

And he hung up, face blank and paler than the usual, and his eyes dropped to the phone. Jean kept quiet, waiting, and the boy turned to him after some seconds with tears shining at the corners ready to fall if Armin gave them permission.

"I- I have to go home" he announced, and Jean finally moved, walking to him till they were standing face to face just one or two steps away. "My grandfather is in the hospital... Turns out he had been sick for some time now, but no one told me not to worry me. He's feeling worse now..."

"You have to go? Right now?" 

"I know, I'm sorry. I was really excited-

"No! Forget the date. Do you have someone to drive you there?"

"I'm taking the bus. It's slower but I can afford it" Armin turned on his heels and headed his own bedroom, phone landing on the surface of his bed as the boy began searching for a backpack to get some clothes for two days. 

"I can drive you" 

"That- No, really. It's fine. I just need to grab a bus and I'll be there in four hours or so" 

It was obvious Armin was trying his best not to cry, not to panic and take control over the situation. He felt safer when he could do something, even in situations where there was nothing he could do. If he let Jean help he'd be exposed and the last thing Armin wanted is to make that day even worse. 

Jean didn't give up that easily and stepped forwards. He grabbed both of Armin's trembling hands in his own to stop him, keeping him in place, and trying to calm down the boy. 

"Hey... Breath" he whispered and Armin made an attempt to free himself from the grip, yet it wasn't enough. "You need to calm down and breath" Jean repeated and very carefully pushed the boy till he sat at the edge of the bed and the older crouched in front of him. 

"I just-" his voice was trembling again and refused to meet Jean's eyes. He wasn't going to force Armin to let him go with him, but Jean wouldn't let Armin leave the apartment in such a vulnerable and hectic state. 

"Just breath"

Armin's fists closed around Jean's fingers and the boy let his body fall forwards till he collapsed into Jean's chest, who was fast enough to raise just enough for Armin not to fall off bed. He wasn't crying, but his whole body was trembling and his irregular breath reminded Jean of a panic attack, but didn't seem that serious, either. 

"I should have visited him more often" Armin murmured. "I wish they told me sooner..."

"You're going now, that's important"

"I don't-

"What?" Jean pushed him back again so he was able to look at the boy. "What is it?"

"I don't want to go alone" Armin confessed, and Jean's heart broke a little by how small and hurt he seemed. 

"I'll be damned if I let you be alone" Jean said loudly even if his first intention was to keep that to himself. It did make Armin look back at him, eyes shiny, wide, pure like oceans. "Let me drive you there, OK?"

"But the car-

"I'm asking Bert"

"And your job-

"A couple of days won't be a problem"

Armin's lips parted again but no question or protest came out this time. Instead, he closed them and they pulled back in a soft smile. That's it. Much better.

"Thank you..."

"Anytime. And by that, I mean literally anytime you need me here, OK? Just say the word and I'll be there"

And Armin pecked his lips. Short, soft, fast, but it happened and Jean's heart jumped and flipped around inside his rib cage.

"Thanks for showing up in my life" the blonde whispered and Jean smiled so wide his cheeks could have hurt if he kept it on too long. 

"Thanks for letting me stay"

"I- We should-"

Jean nodded. He had to physically stop himself from kissing the boy, reminding himself that they had to pack some things and he still needed to call his friend. How would he function after that?

So Jean stood up and pulled Armin on his feet as well. 

"I'm gonna call Bert. You pick what you need and we're taking the train to Tokyo"