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I've learned to love abuse

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Oh darling, I've long forgotten how to live without you.

 


 

"A new crepe place?" Reiner asks, interrupting Annie's conversation with Pieck.

Odd.

Pieck never thought that Reiner, of all people, would be interested in crepes. He never seemed to care for sweets. Not to mention how picky of an eater he is. If he doesn't like the options presented to him, he's the type to refrain from eating rather than eat something he doesn't like. In fact, Pieck honestly can't recall if Reiner ever ate anything sweet in her presence before.

Annie looks a little miffed at being cut off like this. But she takes it in surprisingly good stride.

"Yeah. Sasha invited me to go out with the girls."

"Is it good?" Reiner asks.

Annie shrugs. "According to Sasha, yeah. I didn't have any. But the other girls seemed to like it."

Reiner nods seriously and takes his leave. Annie and Pieck watch him go to the corner of the living room where he pulls out his phone to send a message. That makes more sense. Reiner wasn't asking about the new crepe place for himself. He was asking for Eren, wasn't he?

Pieck finds herself grinning despite herself.

"That boy is so smitten."

"It's gross how dedicated he is," Annie says.

"You don't find it adorable and charming?" Pieck teases. She laughs at the disgusted look on Annie's face. "Come on, Annie! Wouldn't you want your lover to be that invested in you?"

Annie takes the time to think about that. Then with a firm frown, she shakes her head no.

"If it was just a little bit from time to time, it might be sweet. But isn't Reiner's level obsessive, especially recently?"

Pieck supposes that she can't deny that. But in the same breath...

"Eren doesn't seem to mind, though. So at least the two of them are compatible in that sense?"

"To be honest, some days, it kind of looks like Eren hates Reiner's guts," Annie says.

"Eh? How can you tell? His expression is always so muted... I thought he didn't like me at first because of that. But according to Zeke, that's just how he is?"

Is this because Annie, Bertolt, and Reiner went to the same high school as Eren? Pieck's ability makes reading other people and predicting their behavior simple. So she's never sure how much of what she's seeing is due to her ability and how much is something that everyone else sees. Probably because of that, Eren's unreadable expression fascinates her. It's almost enough to make her believe that he has an ability-block like Zeke, even though Zeke insists that Eren is a normal person without any abilities.

"Not... quite," Annie says with a hesitant frown. "He used to be very... expressive. Your eyes always naturally focused on him whenever he walked into the room. A certain kind of charisma, as Bertolt once described it. It used to piss Jean off a lot. Those two were always fighting about one thing or another. To be honest, it's a little hard seeing him like this."

"What changed?" Pieck asks.

There's a look on Annie's face that screams that she doesn't want to talk about this. Pieck has half a mind to tell Annie not to worry about it. But before those words can leave her mouth, Annie answers.

"Marco died."

Oh.

Pieck definitely shouldn't have pried. When they were in high school, there was a sick psycho that attacked people every few nights and left their half-eaten corpses in public places for everyone to see. Their entire neighborhood (and few other neighboring towns and cities) went on a lock-down, and it became forbidden for people to go out at night, especially alone. The killer was never caught, but eventually, the corpses stopped showing up. Because of that, the strict rules never went away (And the Warrior Division was formed to deal with issues like these, but that's neither here nor there).

One of the many victims was Annie's classmate, Marco.

On one hand, Pieck understands that there was a lot of people who were killed in those long months when the killer was active. But Marco was someone that had a face and a name. She knew someone who knew him and grieved for him when he was left so gruesomely in the park. Even though she never personally knew him, she felt his loss like a heavy blow.

"Maybe we should figure out when Reiner and Eren are going to the crepe shop and go spy on them!" Pieck says, quickly changing the topic.

Annie's eyes accuse her of running away like that. But Pieck isn't brave enough to face it. She dodges the look with a fake smile and waits for Annie's move. It seems Annie is also a coward. She doesn't address it.

"That would require for the two of them to agree on a time first," Annie says, nodding towards Reiner.

Pieck follows the gaze towards Reiner, who is frowning at his phone. Did Eren respond in negative? Or perhaps it's more that Eren hasn't answered at all? Is Reiner planning on just staring at his phone until Eren says something? That seems rather pathetic...

"Should we distract him...?"

Annie shrugs. "Suit yourself."

Seeing that Annie has no intention to do so, Pieck figures Reiner will be fine.

"Oh, did you have a chance to catch up on that manga I lent you?"

 


 

Porco is many things, but patient is most definitely not one of them.

"Oh, for Pete's sake! Mope in your damned room!" he exclaims.

Marcel lets out a heavy sigh and gives Porco a tired look like this is Porco's fault when Reiner's the one who's too preoccupied with his phone to properly help cook. And whose bright idea was it anyways to put both Porco and Reiner on the same cooking duty? Do they want everyone to get food poisoning? Not because Porco or Reiner would maliciously try to poison everyone, but because Reiner is useless and Porco would be too frustrated to be able to cook whatever dinner is properly.

"S-sorry," Reiner stammers like that's supposed to smooth everything over.

"If you're not going to help, just leave. I'll make dinner by myself."

Reiner just repeats his apologies without making any move to help. This is exactly what Porco hates about this guy. He's always all talk and never action. It pisses Porco off to no end that this is the guy that has a lover when Porco is still so painfully single.

"Is everything alright? You're staring at your phone really intensely," Marcel says, stepping in before Porco moves to physically remove Reiner from the kitchen.

And the dumbass don't even realize what a landmine Marcel just saved him from, does he? Reiner lets out a small sigh.

"It's just... Eren-"

Porco groans. "Of course, it is."

For a flash of a second, Porco believes that Reiner has a chilling glare aimed at him. But that must have been a trick of the light, because there's no trace of a glare in the next second. Right. Who is Porco kidding himself? Of course, there's no glare. It's Loser Reiner who ran away to another school district when the "bullying" got too "severe" when they were kids.

Tch. If that little could count as bullying, then Colt deserves a medal for all the shit he went through.

"Ignore Porco," Marcel tells Reiner. "What about Eren?"

Reiner gladly turns his attention to Marcel. "I texted him if he wanted to go to this crepe place Annie mentioned tomorrow. But he hasn't responded."

"When did you send the text? Maybe he's busy? Didn't he just finish his midterms? Maybe he's resting," Marcel says.

"Three hours ago. He left it on read."

Porco mentally cheers Eren. Then he realizes that Eren's the reason why he has to deal with a moody Reiner. Should he be cursing Eren out instead? Which is more important? Reiner suffering or Porco dealing with Reiner?

"He's probably busy," Marcel says reasonably.

Reiner sighs and nods. "Yeah. But... he could've sent me something. I would've been okay with 'k' or an emoji. This silence is killing me."

Then die.

Probably hearing Porco's thought, Marcel shoots him a glare. Then with a cheerful smile, he turns back to Reiner.

"I'm sure he'll get back to you. You just need to be patient. Come on, it's not healthy to be staring at your phone like that. Let's focus on cooking tonight's dinner for now, alright?"

Reiner nods glumly. "Yeah, you're right."

But Porco doesn't miss the dumbass glance at his phone from time to time. Jeesh, no wonder Eren isn't responding. Shouldn't there be a limit to being overbearing? What does Eren see in this guy anyways? No matter how old he gets, Loser Reiner will stay a loser. There are plenty of amazing people who are very much single and would be awesome to date. It's not like Porco is thinking of anyone specific when he says this, of course. He just means-

Marcel elbows Porco and gives him a withering look.

Porco hates his brother's mind reading ability.

 


 

"Eren left you on read?" Zeke asks Reiner during dinner after the others begged him with their eyes enough times to deal with this mopey guy.

Reiner nods with a pitiful expression on his face. Zeke sympathizes, to say the least. Not because his little brother is mean-spirited person who purposefully ignores people's messages. But because Eren is surprisingly air-headed when it comes to technology.

"He probably forgot that he didn't click send on the message again," Zeke assures him. "But if you're that worried, you should call him."

How many times has Zeke suffered because of that? He's long lost count as well as his anxiety in terms of Eren not answering him. It's much easier to relax and wait until he sees Eren again than to rely on technology when it comes to his little brother. Zeke made peace with that a long time ago. He thought for sure that Reiner was in the same boat as Zeke, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Is this an emergency? Does Reiner need to talk to Eren right now or else? Otherwise, Zeke can't imagine why Reiner is suddenly behaving so...

"I did. 23 times. He didn't pick up any of them," Reiner says.

23 times in the last four hours seem a little excessive. Or maybe Zeke is too old to understand? Reiner and Eren have been going out for the last four-ish years, so it'll be odd for Reiner to suddenly not understand Eren, right?

"That sounds like a lot," Colt says.

Oh, okay. So Zeke is correct. Reiner is being way too clingy. Zeke can't quite figure out why.

Bertolt pats Reiner's shoulder. "You know how Eren is. If you push him too much, he retreats. Back off a bit."

That doesn't seem to have eased Reiner's anxiety. In fact, it seems to have made it worse.

"W-w-what if this means h-he doesn't want to s-see me anymore? I-is this his way of calling it off? I... How am I supposed to live without him?"

Porco grumbles something that's a little hard to hear over Reiner's panic. Zeke imagines it wasn't something good from the exasperated glare Marcel shoots his brother. Annie looks like she's not paying attention to any of this. Pieck and Colt are both looking to Zeke, clearly waiting for him to step in. Bertolt is trying to calm Reiner down while glancing around pleadingly for help.

It looks like Zeke can't push it off to someone else. Damn being the oldest and the most responsible or whatever.

"Reiner, Eren has been with you for nearly four years now. If he meant to dump you, he would have done it much earlier."

That at least seems to make Reiner think. He takes a deep breath and nods determinedly.

"Y-yeah. You're right. I'm... jumping at shadows. T-there's no way Eren's sick of me... is there?"

"He's not sick of you," Zeke says as soothingly as he can. Mentally, he adds that if Reiner continues what he's currently doing, Eren would most definitely get sick of it. But he's not so heartless that he'd say that out loud.

"I think I'll... go call him again. Y-yeah. That's what I'll do. Thank you."

Without waiting for a response, Reiner all but bolts out of the room. He's already pressing his phone against his ear before he exits the dining room.

Zeke shakes his head. "He probably should lay off for a bit."

"Eren won't pick up," Marcel points out.

"His phone is most definitely off," Pieck agrees.

Bertolt sighs. "I'll go talk him down."

But he takes his time to slowly collect himself and get out of his chair. It's clear to everyone watching that he doesn't want to. Zeke decides to be merciful and motions for Bertolt to finish eating first. Eren isn't going to pick up anyways. Reiner can deal with this by himself until everyone has had some peace and quiet away from him. Bertolt gives Zeke such a thankful look that Zeke feels a bit guilty for not stepping in earlier.

"I wonder if something happened recently," Pieck says.

"Or maybe Eren said something? Reiner's usually not... this clingy, right?" Marcel asks.

Zeke can feel everyone's gaze land on him. Even if they look at him like that, it's not like he knows every little detail that goes on in his little brother's life. The best thing he can say is that Eren had his midterms so he has been even slower than usual in responding. But surely Reiner already knows all of that?

"I'll talk with Eren," Zeke assures all of them.

With that promise given, the rest of the Warriors return their attention to dinner and other light-hearted conversation. Zeke’s pretty sure that absolutely nothing has happened, but he supposes it won't hurt to look into it.

If it'll return peace and quiet in this shared Warrior Division household, Zeke has no choice. Annie did mention a crepe place that recently opened up. Perhaps Zeke will take Eren there. As a celebration for Eren finishing his midterms and a mental shield for Zeke against dealing with Reiner.

 


 

Eren does not pick up any of Reiner's calls.

It's 2 am, and Bertolt is honestly at his wit's end.

"Reiner, I'm sure he's sleeping now. Go to sleep."

"But what if he picks up this time?" Reiner asks, his eyes wide with mania.

They've had this conversation on loop for the past two hours. It doesn't matter what kind of logic or reasoning Bertolt brings up. Reiner will stubbornly (stupidly) refuse to listen. Bertolt has half a mind to kick his friend out of the room so he can at least try to get some sleep. But he knows that Porco will somehow find out about it and get back at Bertolt for releasing Reiner on the rest of them in the middle of the night.

"You were never this anxious about Eren before," Bertolt says, voicing what the rest of the Warriors talked about over dinner. "What brought this up?"

Reiner hesitates for a second and puts the phone down. Oh. So that's what it takes. Bertolt sits up from his bed, understanding that this is probably going to take all night. But that's okay. Either way, he wasn't going to get any sleep.

"I... was going to surprise Eren after his last midterm. So I went to his campus with some sweets I thought he'd like. He... was with some guys that I've never met, laughing and joking around."

That's it? That's what made Reiner this insecure? Of all the-

"Hey, do you remember the last time you saw Eren laugh?"

The hot anger burning in the pit of Bertolt's stomach doses out within seconds. The last time...? Now that he stops to think about it, he can't remember. When was the last time? Huh? Did Eren ever laugh in Bertolt's presence?

"Oh! When he was with..."

Right. Back when they were in high school. Eren was a lot more emotive then. His happiness, his sadness, his anger, and any other emotions were so easily readable. Even Bertolt, who was (and still is) socially inept, knew exactly what Eren was feeling with just one look (sometimes, he didn't even have to look). But he hasn't been able to do that recently (and no, he's not counting the times they didn't meet because Eren had midterms).

"Yeah, exactly," Reiner says, nodding even though Bertolt didn't finish his thought. "I haven't been able to make him laugh like that before. Isn't that the same as saying that he doesn't like being with me?"

When Reiner puts it like that, Bertolt finds it hard to dispute it. His certainty that Eren wouldn't leave Reiner and his annoyance at his friends seem to have all but disappeared. Bertolt sighs.

"I don't know. I wish I knew what to tell you, but I don't know that either. But I do know that Eren isn't the type to stay silent. If he truly didn't like spending time with you, he would have told you that."

Reiner's eyes land on his quiet phone.

"Don't you think this is the same as him saying something?" he asks in a hushed whisper. "If... If he leaves me, that's it. I have to kill myself."

Bertolt honestly doesn't know how to deal with this.

 


 

Reiner and Bertolt look like they haven't slept a wink. Both of them sit at the dining table for breakfast, depressedly staring at the food that Marcel worked hard to make this morning. If Marcel is the petty type (which, by the way, he isn't), he'd be offended enough to make a snide remark.

As it is, he feels that their gloomy mood is enough of a punishment for them. No need to add anything more.

"Aren't you two a sight for sore eyes?" Porco asks them, sniggering.

That and Porco will say more than all that needs to be said.

"No wonder Eren doesn't want you if you're spending all night with Bertolt!"

Okay, maybe Marcel should stop Porco before he goes too far. Because some of the things that just ran through Porco's head is most definitely not appropriate to say aloud.

"Do you guys want extra eggs?" Marcel asks as he elbows Porco.

Whatever insults gathering in Porco's mouth (Where does his little brother even pick up half these things?) gets lost by a loud, almost delirious yell from outside the kitchen. There's the sound of someone running and bumping into a few obstacles in the way. Then Colt bursts into the kitchen with a wild look in his eyes.

"R-Reiner! Eren! Eren's at the door!"

The reaction is immediate.

Reiner jumps to his feet, looking a second away from bolting towards the front door with a wide grin. But then he seems to have realized something because his excited grin disappears. With a look that Marcel can only describe as "dripping with dread," Reiner slowly turns to Colt.

"What... kind of expression did Eren have on his face?"

Now that's just a mean question.

Even Marcel struggles to read Eren as it is, and Marcel can read minds. Well, he says that, but it's not that easy. For one, it's near impossible to read someone's mind fully due to the sheer amount of thought (both conscious and not) that a human brain is capable of. For another, Marcel's ability gets sharper around those he is close to. So his little brother and some of the other Warriors are easier to read since they've known each other for so long. But Eren? Sometimes, it's easier to read a stranger's mind than his. Marcel suspects that Eren actually has a form of Zeke's ability to block others' abilities, no matter what Zeke says. But he doesn't have proof of that. And even if he can come up with a reason why he should spend time to get to know Eren to be able to read him, Zeke refuses to allow his little brother be taken advantage by them.

"It'll be better if you came and judged for yourself," Pieck says with a neutral smile.

Nice save, Pieck. Because it looks like Colt is still panicking from spotting Eren at their door to be able to come up with something coherent.

Reiner hesitates. Despite how desperate he had been to contact Eren, it seems he's now having second thoughts. Porco's nasty thought is completely unwarranted right now. Marcel shoots his brother a look of warning, but Porco misses it. With a wide grin of a mischievous child (Please, grow up), Porco opens his mouth and-

The doorbell rings.

Every pair of eyes are set on Reiner to watch for his reaction. He gulps loudly, but otherwise seems oblivious to everyone watching him. With bravado so fake that Porco starts sniggering, Reiner makes his way to the door.

Zeke must have answered it, because he's standing by the entrance with Eren, conversing lightly. Marcel can't read either of their thoughts. But their postures are soft and open towards each other. They always have such a gentle relationship. Marcel can't help but to wonder if that's what happens when you have such a wide age gap between siblings. Sometimes, he wishes he can trade Porco for someone as sweet as that.

"H-hey," Reiner manages out.

Marcel elbows his little brother and scolds him for that uncalled for comment. It occurs to him belatedly that it might have not been said out loud because Porco actually glares back (and Pieck looks curiously at them). Jeesh, Porco should think quieter so Marcel doesn't get confused like that.

Green eyes turn towards Reiner (and the rest of the Warriors peeking out from the kitchen). Marcel has no idea what is going through Eren's head. But that right there.

Isn't that annoyance?

Reiner must have seen it, too. His back tenses, and it kind of looks like he wants to run away.

"You said you'd buy me crepe. Why aren't you dressed?"

There's a small pause as that sinks in for everyone. Then Reiner perks up, his entire demeanor shifting into a giant bundle of excited energy that he always becomes when Eren is involved. He bolts forward and sweeps Eren into his arms. Eren's typical emotionally muted mask drops into that of bewilderment as he struggles against Reiner's hold.

"G-g-go get dressed, idiot! Let go!"

Reiner has a shit-eating grin on his face that's clearly ruining Porco's mood. He finally does as bid and puts Eren down. But he stays there for a bit longer, fingers just hovering over Eren as if he can't quite decide to touch Eren's shoulder.

"Get dressed!" Eren snaps, looking a bit like a disgruntled cat.

The grin on Reiner's face softens. He leans in just a bit as if to go for a kiss, but then stops himself at the scowl on Eren's face. But he must have seen something he wanted, because he chuckles.

"Hey Eren, I love you," Reiner says.

Then he turns and runs, clearly expecting Eren's loud yell of "Shut up!" to follow behind him. From how brightly Reiner laughs, Marcel assumes he's no longer worried about whatever it was from before.

"He's... such an idiot!" Eren fumes.

It's possibly the most amount of emotion Marcel has ever seen on Eren's face. There's a scowl on Eren's face that keeps twitching like he wants to grin. And that's not to mention the blush that got even his ears pink. Despite trying so hard to look upset and angry, he looks rather pleased with himself.

No wonder Reiner is beside himself whenever it comes to Eren. Eren is really cu...

Marcel starts and quickly turns to his brother with a scowl. He pretends that that last thought was Porco's. As if understanding exactly what he's doing, his brother smirks knowingly and taunts him in thoughts. 

 


 

This is most definitely a bad idea.

For one, there's this thing called privacy that Annie is sure that both Reiner and Eren would like to have (probably not only for this date, either). For another, there's the fact that if she were to ever go on a date (No, she has no one specific in mind when she says this. It's hypothetical), she would definitely be like to be left alone and not be stalked.

But as it is, she can't resist joining the rest of the Warriors in seeing exactly what this date would look like.

No, it's not because her life is an empty shell with absolutely nothing going for her. Shut up. And no, it's not because this is the only way she'll ever go on a date. Fuck off. She's just here for the drama, because Reiner is going to fuck up. He always does.

Yup, she's here for the free show.

"You didn't pick up my calls or answer my text, so I wasn't sure if we were on," Reiner tells Eren as the two of them walk towards the crepe shop.

"What are you talking about? I said I'll come and you never told me what time." Eren's voice is sharp and accusing.

The others have various looks of disbelief that's echoed on Reiner's face. Annie feels like Eren wasn't this bad with technology before. Or maybe that was because of Armin's influence? And now that Armin isn't by Eren's side 24/7, Eren's true technological illiteracy is coming to light? For some odd reasons, Annie can't help but to think Mama Bear Mikasa has more to do with this situation than Armin.

"Oh, come on, Eren. I called a gazillion times. You're saying you didn't get any of that?"

Eren rolls his eyes and reaches into his jacket pocket for his phone. Then he pauses. He pats himself and any accessible pockets for a sign of his phone. Slowly, he turns to Reiner in alarm.

"Hey, where's my phone?"

"I honestly can't help you," Reiner says.

Porco straightens and is immediately stopped by both Pieck and Marcel. Annie thinks she hears a stray whisper of "Don't use your ability! They'll know we're following them!"

Eren mumbles something that none of them can make out. Annie wonders exactly what was said to make Reiner blush and stare at Eren so dumbfoundedly like that. Eren bristles at the reaction and ducks his head, but it's too late to completely hide his blush. Annie imagines Eren said something sharp, because Reiner grins brightly.

Ugh. Were these two always this gag-inducing?

"I kinda wish we can hear them better," Colt mumbles.

Zeke shakes his head. "Doing that will violate their privacy."

Doesn't following them on their date already do that? Annie feels that Zeke's sense of privacy is... tad bit skewed. She wonders if it's because they grew up with the military and other governmental suits poking and prodding them as "Warriors."

"Oh! Look at Reiner! It looks like he's going to hold Eren's hand!" Pieck squeals excitedly.

Marcel and Porco both hush her. Bertolt and Colt bump their fists in quiet cheer. Zeke looks like he ate something sour, but he keeps his opinion to himself. Annie can't help but to smile a little at their antics as she turns her attention back to Reiner and Eren.

As Pieck said, Reiner is staring intensely at Eren's hand. He looks like he's a second away from working up the nerve to grab it. But any time Eren glances at him, he flinches badly and looks to have lost all nerve.

"Pfft. He doesn't have the balls," Porco sniggers.

Annie agrees. They typically mock Colt and Bertolt for being mentally weak. But Reiner fits that bill more. She's never been able to figure out why Eren would ever agree to be with someone so weak. Doesn't it make more sense that Eren would choose someone that matches him in terms of strength and fortitude? Someone strong enough to hold her ground in a fight and not get easily pushed around mentally... And if that person sounds a lot like Annie, well, you're wrong. She's not looking for romance. That's dumb. Only dumb people look for romance. Why else would Reiner have a lover?

"He lost nerve again," Marcel sighs, shaking his head. But it doesn't look all that disappointed. If Annie didn't know any better, which she does, she would say that he's just as giddy as Porco that Reiner can't hold Eren's hand.

"C'mon, Reiner," Bertolt mumbles.

He's probably the only one here who actually wishes well for Reiner.

"If you don't, I will."

... Okay, maybe not.

Annie wisely decides against what exactly Bertolt means when he says, "I will." Is he going to run out and grab Eren's hand? Isn't the point to keep it a secret that they're stalking these two?

"Reiner," Eren calls.

He pauses at the look of guilt on Reiner's face. There's a bit of a tired sigh before Eren scowls.

"What? If you've got problems, just say it."

"I... want to 'hold' you."

Pieck lets out a gasp. They all look at her curiously.

"H-he doesn't mean... t-that, right?" she asks them.

"He means a hug, doesn't he?" Colt says.

There's a look on Pieck's face that screams of doubt. But she smiles uneasily and nods.

"P-probably. I mean, it's Reiner. He can't even hold Eren's hand."

As if to mock Pieck for her words, Eren lets out a small yelp. "R-right now? I haven't even eaten yet! It has to be now?"

They can't hear what Reiner whispers lowly to Eren. But it must have been pretty damning, because Eren looks reluctant as hell. Annie frowns. If Reiner dares to push Eren to do something he doesn't want... then she's certain that quite a lot of people (by that, she means Zeke. She wasn't volunteering herself. Shut up) would love to pummel Reiner's face in.

"I get it! These crepes better be the best."

Reiner leans in close and is stopped by Eren's hand.

"W-wait just a second. N-not in public, alright? There's... oh! There's a public bathroom in the park. You think you can be quiet?"

Annie can't hear what Reiner said, but she assumes it's an affirmative. Eren lets out a sigh like this is a chore, but ruffles Reiner's hair anyways. The affection on Eren's face seems a bit strained.

"Then let's make it fast."

 


 

The very first thing they rush to do is stop Zeke from running to stop Reiner and Eren. Since they don't have a gag, when Zeke tries to yell, they drag him in the opposite direction of the park.

"Colt," Marcel says, "you go follow them. We'll meet back up with you when they're heading for the crepe shop!"

The words of protest is all but lost in the commotion as the rest of the Warriors take Zeke away. Colt is left alone for this "mission" from Marcel.

Mean. Horribly mean.

Colt has to face this by himself? So when Reiner and Eren realize that Colt is there, they'll take all their anger out on him? Isn't that the same as Marcel saying that Colt is a sacrificial piece unimportant in the grand scheme of things?

Despite thinking all of these things, he finds himself at the public bathroom at the park. It's early enough in the morning that there aren't any kids around (Thank god. He can't imagine the mortification of explaining what he's doing here or what Reiner and Eren are doing to kids Falco's age). So at the very least, Colt thinks no one would be walking in on the two of them any time soon.

This sucks a lot, but he needs to make sure that the two of them didn't realize that they were being followed. So he takes a tentative step inside the bathroom.

At first, the sound he hears isn’t something he recognizes. It sounds... wet? Something wet and messy. Before his brain can make the connection, though, he hears a shuddering gasp followed by a whimper.

"R-Reiner... be gentle. It’s been a while."

It clicks.

Colt bolts out of the bathroom as quickly and as quietly as he can. Then, he puts up a barrier around the bathroom to hide it so that no innocent person will accidentally walk in as he did. Once all of that is finished, he allows himself to panic.

Oh god. Oh god. Oh god. What the fuck did he just hear? Okay, dumb question. He knows exactly what he heard and... and... Yeah, he knew that they went in the public bathroom f-for that. But somehow, his brain didn't make the connection.

It's indecent. Indecent and... aren't there a thousand and one sanitation issues of having sex in the public bathroom in the park? Maybe Zeke had the right idea of trying to stop them. But it's not like Colt can exactly go back in there to stop them now.

The little bit that he heard is already-

He feels like he can imagine it.

Eren's face flushed red as he whimpers. Those green eyes fogged with pleasure and tears. The way he-

Colt slaps his cheeks to snap himself out of his thoughts.

"Reiner is going to kill me."

"And why would Reiner do that?" Porco asks, looking at Colt with a leer.

Ah, of course Porco is here. So that was Marcel's plan. No matter how good Colt's barriers are for hiding people and things, Porco's ability to locate things is always superior. It'll be depressing if this isn't the truth Colt has always lived with.

Before Colt can answer, Porco takes a step towards entering the bathroom. Colt quickly stops him before he runs into the barrier. But instead of warning that Colt put up a barrier, what comes out of his mouth is-

"D-don't. They're still in there. D-doing..."

Colt can't bring himself to finish it. But it looks like he doesn't have to. Porco's face is beet red as he quickly jerks away from the entrance to the bathroom. Thank god Colt doesn’t have to explain it more than that.

The two of them awkwardly wait together, unable to talk or meet each others' eyes.

 


 

"Hey, isn't that Eren?"

Jean most definitely didn't startle and look around wildly in search of Eren, thank you very much. It's just that he happened to look up at the same time the question was asked. That's all there is to it. So if Sasha can stop giving him that knowing look, he'd appreciate it.

"Getting crepes, huh? If he's celebrating the end of midterms, he should've invited us!" Connie complains.

"Who's that guy he's with? I don't recall meeting him," Hitch says, pointing.

It actually takes Jean a few seconds to place the guy, which is saying a lot because he used to really look up to and admire Reiner. To think he's now a yes-man to Eren, of all people...

"Reiner Braun," Jean informs Hitch. "He went to the same high school as the rest of us."

"Oh, I heard of him. He was one of the kids that got chosen for that 'Warrior Division' program," Marlowe recalls.

Trust Marlowe to know all the details, even about kids he never met before. Then again, the whole "Warrior Division" situation look and sound really cool, no matter how anyone dices it. You were chosen by the government to be part of a special squad and be taken care of for the rest of you life. If Jean could figure out the criteria to join, he totally would have.

"He was always in the top five of our year," Floch tells the rest of them like he's bragging about his own achievements. "But he was really humble about it. If you asked him for help, you bet he'll work with you until you got it."

"Ew, I hate the goodie types. They always have some sort of parental issue," Hitch says.

Jean chooses to ignore that comment. "Let's go join them. I want to see if Eren also got the same answers as I did."

"Yeah! Let's eat!" Sasha yells, already running for the store.

Connie is a second behind her, shouting, "Jean's paying!"

"W-what?! I'm not paying!" Jean yells after them. But he doesn't miss that look on Hitch's face.

He decides to ignore it in favor of stopping Sasha from ordering way too much under the mistaken belief that he will be paying for it. By the time he arrives inside of the store, both Connie and Sasha are sitting at the table with Reiner and Eren. Eren doesn't seem to mind, but Reiner looks tense.

"I'm not paying," Jean says firmly as he pulls a chair over to join them.

"But Jean!" Connie whines at the same time Sasha clicks her tongue and says, "Have a heart!"

Eren, that asshole, doesn't bother hiding his chuckles. "Yeah, Jean. Have a heart."

It's only because they're all laughing at him that they miss it. The look on Reiner's face. Jean has always thought that Reiner was an easy-going guy who could very easily be everyone's older brother. But that look just now... Although the sheer intensity of it frightens Jean, it also makes Jean feel a bit relieved.

Reiner Braun is human, after all.

"Excuse us! We heard that Jean is paying!" Hitch says as she and Marlowe both join the table. Floch trails a little bit behind them.

Reiner tenses. His expression isn't that of hostility quite yet. But Jean is hard-pressed to call it anything but. Marlowe seems to have picked up on that and looks uneasy while Hitch looks like she is purposefully ignoring it for the sake of drama. Floch seems to have missed it completely it.

"H-hey Reiner! Remember me? We used to go to the same high school," Floch says.

There's a small pause as if Reiner doesn't recall that at all. He offers a guilty smile.

"Sorry. High school was... a long time ago for me."

Ohhhh. What a cool answer. Jean feels frustrated for some odd reasons.

"It's fine to not remember this guy, Reiner. He's just Floch," Eren says.

Floch opens his mouth to protest and is thankfully stopped by Sasha.

"Are you two out on a date or something? Eren, you're going to make Jean jealous!"

"Who's jealous?" Jean snaps.

But from the corner of his eyes, he sees it. The blushing grin on Reiner's face as if he's over the moon by such words. The way Eren's cheeks dust pink as he suddenly turns his focus towards the crepe he has. Wait, are these two actually-

"Reiner's buying me crepes because he owes me. That's all," Eren says firmly.

Because Eren's attention is glued to his crepe, he doesn't see the hurt on Reiner's face. Oh god, these two are. What the hell? That's so not fair. Eren isn't single? How dare this bastard get someone before all of them combined? What the hell is Jean supposed to do about his three year plan then? Eren better take responsibility for ruining all of Jean's hard work!

"Pfft. Yeah, Sasha. Why would they be dating?" Connie laughs, oblivious to the look on Reiner's face.

"W-why don't we order something first?" Marlowe says quickly.

The break in conversation helps ease the mood. Jean is glad that Marlowe stepped in like that, because he doubts anyone else would have and Hitch, the only other sharp person, would have most definitely pushed Reiner into a corner for fun.

"So how's the Warrior Division treating you?" Jean asks once their orders go in.

"It's... livable."

How vague. Is he not allowed to talk about it?

"What do you guys do?" Connie asks.

"Is the food any good?" Sasha asks.

"Is there any way to join?" Floch asks. This one, Jean also wants to know the answer to.

Reiner holds his hand up to stop the barrage of questions. "I can't answer any question about the Warrior Division. It's forbidden."

Top secret stuff, huh? Damn, that's so cool. It's like Reiner is saying that he's a secret agent who lives in a different world away from the rest of them.

"Ah, come on! There has to be something you can tell us! Like..." Hitch glances at Eren and smirks. Jean knows that look. He mentally wishes Eren and Reiner good luck. "Like when did you two start dating? It must have been something recent. You never looked like you had anyone special, Eren."

Eren doesn't even bat his eyelashes at her nor her antics. "That's because I don't."

Hitch's amusement seems to multiply at the sight of Reiner deflating. What a sadist. Although Jean feels bad for Reiner, he doesn't want her wrath to be focused on him either.

"Eh? Not at all? But you two look so cozy together!" Hitch asks, pretending to be shocked.

"Believe me. What's between us cannot be called romance."

The look on Reiner's face is more of acceptance. So they aren't actually dating? Heh. How perfect! Then Jean can comfortably resume his three year plan without any worry. Thanks Hitch. Your sadism came in handy.

"But I'm shocked that you two kept in contact," Jean says lightly.

"I have my reasons," is all Eren will say on the topic.

It makes Jean curious as hell. But Eren's the type to get more and more tight-lipped the more you push him. If Jean really wants an answer to that, he'll have to get crafty. For now, he should give up on it.

"Even if you don't think so, I do love you," Reiner blurts out all of a sudden.

Jean doesn't think he's the only one who chokes on air at that. He can't bring himself to look away to check, though. If he looks away now, he fears that he'll end up missing something exciting.

Eren rolls his eyes like that's an annoyance. "I'm sure."

"Hey! Guys! What a coincidence! Meeting you! Here!"

The words fall out of this person's mouth like forced staccato. The smile on this person's face is just as forced. And he makes his way over to the table and pulls up a chair without care.

"Marcel?" Reiner asks. He looks confused for a second before something must have dawned on him. His expression becomes grim.

This Marcel person motions for someone. Jean follows the gaze and spots a group of people. From the way Reiner's expression turns annoyed (and the way Eren seems to let out a small sigh), it's clear that these people might be part of the Warrior Division.

"Why don't we get a bigger table?" Hitch suggests, her eyes already set on her next target.

"This is a huge group. Are you going to be okay with paying for all of us?" Connie asks Jean.

"We'll order something small," Sasha says, even though they've already ordered.

"For the last time, I'm not paying!"

 


 

"Wait, you have an older brother? I thought you were an only child!" Floch exclaims when the introductions finish.

The man who introduced himself as Zeke doesn't seem bothered by that. "We didn't grow up together."

Eren's attention is back on his crepe. He doesn't seem to care about anyone else that has joined. In fact, the minute he finishes, he stands up.

"Where are you going?" Reiner asks.

"Bathroom."

Reiner nods and stands. Oh, are they both going? Perfect timing. Floch was going to ask where the bathroom was before he got distracted by the offer of Jean paying for all of them.

"I need to go, too," he says. He stands up to join them.

Hm? Why are they glaring at him like that for?

"What a coincidence. I have to go, too," the guy who called himself Porco says as he stands. He sneers at Reiner. "Got a problem with that?"

There must be some unspoken backstory between these guys. Floch doesn't care too much to ask about it, though. He follows the group to the bathroom, feeling a little bit like he's back in elementary school.

"Hey Porco," Eren says suddenly.

"Y-yeah?"

"Catch."

Eren grabs Floch by his arm and pushes him at Porco. The only reason this worked, by the way, is because Floch is caught off-guard. It turns out that Porco is a decent guy. He grabs Floch and helps steady him before turning to Eren.

By then, Eren and Reiner both run towards the exit.

"You-"

Porco, as it turns out, is actually not that decent of a guy. He tosses Floch to the side without care and bolts for Reiner and Eren. Floch doesn't understand them. They haven't even gone to the bathroom yet! He picks himself up and runs after them.

Eren must have realized that he didn't buy enough time. He looks around really quickly before nodding.

"Reiner, I'll make it up to you later."

The next second can only be described as brutal.

Eren kicks Reiner's knee, causing the big guy to stumble and fall. Porco, who picked up too much speed to stop in time, crashes right into him. Floch is smart enough to not have sped up so much. He is able to dodge around them and-

Run straight into a wait staff who was holding a tray of food.

The three of them mercilessly get covered in all sorts of sweets. For a second, it looks like Eren will run back to them to help them out but seems to have changed his mind. He gives them a mocking salute and leaves the store.

"Floch! What did you do?" Jean exclaims as the others come running when they realize who is in the center of the problem.

And of course, this asshole will blame it all on Floch when it was really just a combined of bad circumstances.

"I just want to use the bathroom!" Floch wails.

 


 

It's been a while since the Warrior Division got into this big of a trouble with Commander Magath.

Although Reiner tries to explain to Magath that it was just bad luck that things lined up as such, everyone else all claim that it was all Reiner's fault. Were they that upset that Reiner had a date? But weren't they the ones who cheered him up when he was feeling down on whether Eren liked him or not? He doesn't get the other Warriors sometimes.

But to be confined to the house for a month is excessive, even for Magath.

Eren's midterms are finally over. That means that his time is free to be taken up by Reiner again. Why can't Magath understand that and let them be?

"Hey Reiner, Pieck left your dinner in the kitchen," Bertolt tells him when he returns to their shared room.

"I'll eat when I'm hungry."

Bertolt for a second looks like he wants to say something, but he seems to change his mind. Good. Reiner isn't in the mood to listen. He knows his friend means well. He really does. But right now, he just wants to mope.

The worried look that Bertolt keeps shooting him is starting to get annoying. Reiner decides to rest his friend's worries by at least leaving the room. He just hopes that this doesn't mean the other Warriors will get on his nerves instead.

"Are you going to eat now?" Bertolt asks when Reiner moves.

"Maybe I'll feel hungrier if I move around," Reiner says.

Bertolt nods.

They don't say anything more.

*

Reiner finds himself in the kitchen in hopes of dodging the rest of the Warriors. Just why is it they're now concerned with what he's doing when they didn't seem to care an ounce about him in front of Magath's accusing anger?

It's not even that he considers them friends. But he feels rather bitter at this rough treatment.

"Why are they always so..."

He trails off at the strangest sight before him.

It must be because he's still mopey about the whole situation with being forbidden to leave and therefore, seeing Eren. That is the only logical explanation he has for this.

Why else would he imagine that Eren is right outside of their kitchen window with what looks to be a bloody bat?

The can't-be-Eren glances up and spots Reiner. He puts his finger to his lips, telling Reiner to be quiet. Reiner nods in agreement. Then Eren makes a motion to open the window.

Probably because this person looks so much like Eren, Reiner moves to obey without question. Besides, even if it turned out to be some kind of an evil spirit or what have you, Reiner can easily overpower a being like that.

"Yo," the can't-be-Eren says. "Told you I'll make it up to you, didn't I?"

Oh.

Reiner's wrong. This is Eren. This has to be Eren. Not just any Eren, but his.

"What did you have in mind?" Reiner asks.

Eren grins and holds his hand out for Reiner to take. "Come. I'll show you."

*

"Erm... about that bat..."

"Want to lick it?" Eren asks, holding the bat towards Reiner to take.

He shakes his head. "No, just... Did you get rid of the guards around the house? Magath's going to blow a casket when he hears about this."

"It's fine. I took out the cameras, too. So at the very least, they'll know that someone attacked but not who."

Reiner doesn't think that that's fine at all. But it is reassuring to know that Eren won't be caught. Although Reiner supposes he'll be in trouble once everyone realizes that he is no longer in the house. It makes him wonder if he should just stay out with Eren until they drag him back.

"Good. I don't want you to get in trouble because of me."

Eren scoffs. "The only one who'll be in trouble is you. You're the one leaving even though you're grounded."

And where did Eren hear about that? Did he find his phone? Before he can ask, Eren catches his attention by holding up a key.

"I-is that...?"

"The key to the isolated warehouse. No one will bother us."

Reiner feels his heart flutter. How does Eren always know exactly what Reiner wants to hear? How does he look unwaveringly into Reiner's eyes without any hesitation or fear? How could Reiner not fall head over heels for him?

"Eren, I love you!" Reiner says as he opens his arms out for a hug.

He's stopped immediately by Eren, who puts his hand on Reiner's chest to stop him from coming any closer. Eren scowls at Reiner. And it'll have been cold if not for the blush on Eren's face.

"S-shut it. Save it for when we're alone."

Reiner can't help the smug grin on his face.

*

Eren's breathing shakes with effort, but he doesn't stop Reiner this time. Soft whimpers escape his mouth periodically. The hand gripping Reiner's back keeps switching from too tense to too loose. Like Eren himself can't quite figure out how much strength he's putting in.

Reiner's always thought of himself as the one who would infinitely prefer to be hurt over doing the hurting. But something about seeing Eren's face flushed and teary-eyed, hearing the soft whimpers and gasps from pain, feeling Eren's usual composure fall apart... Reiner honestly can't get enough.

He trails his teeth along the edge of Eren's collar bone, feeling Eren shudder beneath him. He watches Eren tense. He watches Eren's breathing quicken. He watches Eren's eyes focus on something in the corner of the room.

Oh, but that won't do.

Reiner is a selfish man.

No matter how much pain he'll inflict on Eren, he wants Eren's attention focused solely on him. It's so pathetic, he wants to laugh at times. Just how dependent he has become to this gorgeous man named Eren Jaeger. All the while, Eren so easily dismisses his feelings as nothing more than what one would feel for their favorite snack.

But that's not it. That's not it.

Reiner doesn't feel this way for anyone but Eren.

"W-what?" Eren mumbles, glancing at Reiner. "Aren't you hungry?"

"I want your eyes on me."

Eren's lips twitch like he can't quite decide if he wants to laugh or to scowl. "You want your snack to stare at you while you eat? Fine. Fine. I said I was going to spoil you, after all."

Why is it that Eren's eyes never feel judging? Why is it that Eren's eyes are never afraid?

Reiner adores those bright green as his teeth sink into Eren's shoulder. The skin gives way, letting Reiner taste the sweet blood. But that's not all he wants. How can he be satisfied with just this?

He tears off the skin, feeling the muscles pull and protest. Eren bites down on his lips to stop himself from yelling out. What was the point of coming to this isolated place if Eren won't let himself go? Ah, but now Eren's lips are dyed a beautiful red that Reiner just wants to lick away. Would it be okay? If it's just a little bit?

When his attention drifts towards Eren's lips, Eren mercilessly stops him.

"No."

"I thought you're going to spoil me," Reiner reminds him.

Eren shakes his head. "Not that much. I don't want to taste 'me.'"

Shame. Eren tastes so deliciously. It always feels like a wasted opportunity every time Eren turns him down. But he knows better than to push against Eren's wishes now. Especially not after that painful month of no-contact Eren put in place after Reiner kissed him with his mouth full of skin and blood for Eren to enjoy. That's fine. It's not like Reiner enjoys eating sweets all that much either. So it's fine that they don't have to share every little thing they love.

Reiner turns his attention to Eren's neck.

He absolutely loves Eren's neck and chest area the best. It's probably because it's so close to Eren's heart. He doesn't normally make it a habit to go for Eren's organs (especially not the heart. What if something goes horribly wrong because he ate it? But he wants to. He wants to so bad. Isn't it more romantic that way? The monster that eats your heart). But once in a while, it isn't so bad.

Once in a while, he bashes Eren's rib cage in and feasts. It adds a different kind of flavor to the meal. How a single person can manage to taste so differently every time has to be magic. Reiner has no other way to describe it. He supposes that makes him unimaginative and stupid.

The muscle finally gives in to Reiner's insistent tugging. It rips off of the bone messily. Once he's chewed and swallowed, he goes back to lick it off. There's an embarrassing loud sucking sound as he cleans the bone. He knows he doesn't have to be this neat, but there's something rather satisfying about seeing the clean bone protrude out of Eren like that.

He laps at the overflowing blood, quenching his thirst. How marvelous that the human body allows for so many different flavors and nutrients. It's not something he can easily talk about with anyone else. Nor is it something he can look up online. But once anyone had such a delicacy, how could they ever stomach to eat anything else? Why would you purposefully spoil your appetite with anything less?

"Eren..."

Reiner stops when he realizes that Eren is unconscious. Was it the pain? Was it the blood loss (because the newspapers they spread on the ground seem to be completely soaked)? Whatever it was, it was too much again, huh?

"I love you, you know."

With such a pathetic confession hanging in the air, Reiner returns to eat.

*

Officially, Reiner's ability as listed by the government is "the ability to sense others with power."

It's neater than ever admitting that he's the monster that killed so many people and left their half-eaten corpses in public places. He can eat normal people, don't get him wrong. It's just that those with abilities smell and taste so much more appetizing. So it's technically less to do with an "ability" and more to do with his hunger.

He can't tell you when or why he started craving human meat.

When he was younger, he ate the corpses of the debt collectors that showed up at their doorsteps. His mom said that it made him a hero to get rid the world of such horrible people. Sure, they had to move around a lot, but that was because of the debt collectors that always showed up. It was dangerous to live in one place for too long.

The only time they had to move because of Reiner and not because of a debt collector, was when he accidentally killed and one of his classmates. His mom spun a tale about bullying and got him transferred to the next district over. That bully "mysteriously" disappeared, and no one ever found him.

But thanks to that move, he met Eren.

Eren was bright. When he smiled, Reiner felt like his heart would explode. Every little detail about Eren became instantly memorized. Anything that Eren liked slowly creeped up high on the list of things that Reiner was fond of.

All except for Marco.

But let's not recall unpleasant things.

In the middle of his first year as a high schooler, his mom died.

It was a debt collector. Reiner was out with Eren and the others and wasn't home to protect her. That's how he explains to everyone later. But that's not what happened at all. He got into a fight with her. She thought he was spending too much time out. He felt that she was being too clingy.

He infinitely prefers the taste of humans before they became a corpse. That's what he learned.

With no one to stop him, he did as he wished for a while. He ate when he wanted. He played around as much as he wanted. He went to school so he wouldn't worry Eren. And one night, it was Marco that he met and ate. It made him infinitely happy to have Eren lean on him to cry. Just for that alone, he was willing to forgive Marco's existence.

Few nights later, it was Eren that stood in front of him.

Reiner didn't give him a chance.

"I've always thought you looked delicious. Let's check, shall we?"

He killed Eren.

He watched the life leave Eren's eyes. He felt Eren's body cool to match the night's temperature. He felt Eren's blood dribble down his chin. He clutched to the corpse and cried and cried and cried.

And Eren gasped back to life. Slowly, he began to heal himself while watching Reiner with hooded eyes.

It was the first time Reiner learned of abilities. The reason why he was so attracted to Eren must have been that, he realized. The reason why certain people always stand out to him. It's because they have abilities.

"So you were the murderer..."

Eren didn't shame him. Eren didn't tell him to turn himself in. Eren just calmly thought things through. And arrived on...

"Then shall I be your exclusive food source?"

In exchange for not killing anyone ever again, Reiner got to keep Eren.

Logically speaking, it's an unfair deal for Eren. Reiner can even make the argument that there's actually nothing that Eren can possibly gain from this. No one knows that Eren is saving these people in exchange for dying every few days or whenever Reiner can't hold his hunger back anymore. He isn't rewarded for being a hero nor acknowledged. If he had thrown Reiner into prison as the one who has been killing all those people, Eren would have been given the ultimate honor of stopping the murderer.

But as it is, isn't it just Reiner that's benefiting from all of this?

Reiner gets to eat his full without ever worrying about being discovered. He gets to hog all of Eren's time as much as he wants. He gets to be as close to Eren's heart as he wishes (physically, at least). And most of all, he gets to sit next to Eren while waiting for the recovery process to start.

Sometimes, Eren regains his consciousness before he's fully healed. Other times, he only wakes up once all injuries have been healed. Reiner thinks it depends on just how desperately Eren wants to wake up, because the amount of damage he leaves on Eren doesn't seem to impact it much.

Today, it seems Eren will wake up once he's fully healed.

Reiner gently touches Eren's hair and pushes it out of Eren's face. He makes it a point to never go near Eren's face when he eats. That way, he can pretend their intimate time together is due to something completely different.

It'll be easier if he was normal. If he could just never consume human meat again, Eren would never have to constantly suffer like this.

But if he was like anyone else, how else would he have tied Eren to himself like this?

How else would he be able to have Eren in his life, even if this is severely limited by how long Eren's noble sense of duty lasts.

"I love you. You are the only one I'll ever want."

Perhaps if he keeps repeating that, one day, Eren will come to believe him.