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Kaleidoscope Hearts

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The tumbler in her hand was almost gone. Only two fingers of liquid remained. The amber liquid sloshed from side to side, ice clinking. Drinking alone always made her a bit maudlin. It was a depressant after all. Not that she needed any help in that department.

“Hey! I’m home!” The booming voice didn’t need much help echoing through the empty house. She wished there was something to drown it out. Wished she’d turned on the TV. Wished there was someone else to run and meet him at the door....

“Babe, I’m home!” Followed by an exaggerated pause. “Babe?” Lumbering footsteps grew closer.

The remaining liquid slid from one side to the other in the cut crystal glass. A gift from a distant, german relative at the wedding. She watched the liquid swirl around, hyper focusing on the glass and the way the light reflected like a kaleidoscope of it’s edges. She wished people were like that. So that when the light hit them they shined and glittered.

“Hey babe, I thought maybe you’d gone out-” The voice stopped short as a burly figure filled the entry way. She didn’t bother actually looking up from the half empty glass in her hand. It made it easier to pretend. Easier to ignore the look of disdain she imagined on his face. His figure loomed closer in the background, but she resolutely ignored it, instead taking another gulp from the glass she’d been entertaining.

She vaguely heard his long sigh. It wasn’t that it wasn’t loud enough to hear as much as her thoughts just drown it out. Or was that just the buzz of the alcohol? She’d always been a lightweight, at least compared to the people she drank with. It probably didn’t help that she’d broken into the good scotch. The one that they kept in the cabinet above the sink for poker nights. The last time they broke it out was when…

She fought the wave of nausea that had nothing to do with the alcohol.

“You been here all day baby?” She flinched minutely at the word. Fingers involuntarily gripped the glass tighter. He sighed, seeming to catch his mistake and reached out to lay a repentant hand on her knee, her feet were tucked up under her. She tensed at his touch. His response was to sigh again, but he did retract his hand.

She felt the alien warmth of another person retreat, but her eyes remained on the glass, watching how the squares of ice got smaller the longer she held it. She supposed that people were like that. They only ever got smaller. Like was like the tiny waves she made in the glass, beating at their edges until they’re small. So small.

“How much have you had to drink?” His voice was unusually soft. If things were different she might have found it humorous. It had the same effect as watching a grown man at one of those miniature tables playing tea party with his daught-

She took another, longer sip.

“Just two fingers.” She held up the glass to show him that there were indeed, only two fingers worth left in the glass. “And not even your two fingers. Mine. Your fingers are much bigger.” She couldn’t help the smirk knowingly at how intimately acquainted she was with just how big his fingers were.

“It’s 3 o’clock.” Like she didn’t know the damn time. Like she didn’t know what time it was every fucking minute of every day. Like she didn’t feel the days crawl by painfully aware of how empty they were. Like she didn’t know exactly what should be happening with every passing week.

She gulped again but this time without taking a drink, trying to get rid of the sudden dryness in her mouth. Maybe that’s why she’d gotten the scotch out in the first place.

“It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.” One moment the cool glass was in her hand, the next it was gone. She might have noticed it’s absence if everything about her didn’t feel so empty already. Such a little thing was hardly noticeable.

Without the kaleidoscope crystal, and the swirling drink, and the smooth ice she had nothing left to focus on. Instead focusing on nothing in particular. Because if she focused on the present, really focused, she would have to acknowledge what the present really was.

And as it was, she’d been here since he left for work this morning, still in her PJ’s the ones with the drawstring that used to be her favorite. Her hair hung haphazardly around her face from the bun she put her hair in the night before. She would have to realize her hair was lank and greasy. That her skin was oily and her legs hairy. Her pajamas hadn’t been washed in a week and she stunk.

“Is this the good scotch?” The question wasn’t accusatory. Stunned actually. Confused mostly.

The good scotch.

The celebration scotch.

The special scotch.

“Well I didn’t get to drink with you last time. I’m only five months late right?” She didn’t recognize the voice. It was a smokers voice despite the fact that she’d only smoked once. The boys had brought over wedding cigars and she had taken an experimental puff before coughing till she was red in the face. Then he’d kissed her till she was red for a different reason.

Her voice had been full of laughter then. And dreams.

‘Dreams as big as the sky!’ He’d say. She only laughed then. Told him that her dreams were only as big as he was, but that was pretty close.

“We’ll have to get a new bottle anyway.” The foreign sound of her own voice cracking caused her to start. “Gotta have something for Jean and Marco right?” Something about it sounded like she was choking, the way the word lodged themselves in her throat and refused to come out. There was a huge part of her that wanted to be happy for them. But it was too drowned by grief.

“I heard you know. When they called you to tell you. I heard the adoption went through.” She paused for no real reason at all. “They got the baby.” The word fell from her lips before she could stop it. She wished desperately that she could pull it back. It had been so quiet. Maybe she hadn’t said it after all.

“Yes. They did. It’s a little boy.” Someone sobbed at that. It took her moment to realize that it was her.

The air in the room seemed to thicken the longer the silence went on.

“You know, I spent all day thinking about it.” This wasn’t a lie. He closed the door that morning and headed to work and she crawled out of bed to the couch and hadn’t moved. Just sat.

Sat and thought.

“Thinking about how happy I was for them. How much they deserved it and how happy they were going to be. Thought about how long they’d been trying for this.” At some point her hand had come up to partially cover her mouth, as if trying to stop the flow of words that nothing else seemed to be able to cut off. “Thought about how they called late at night, when they thought I would be asleep to tell you. Everyone’s trying to be...I don’t want them to keep this quiet because of me. They deserve everything. Everything we had. I don’t want them to feel guilty for this miracle!” Maybe none of it made sense, but the alcohol had loosened her tongue. After not speaking for weeks a dam had been broken and everything, everything, was coming out.

“You would have been better off with Annie. You would have. The only thing wrong is this picture is me. Cut that out and it’s beautiful. Jean and Marco have their son and no one would be afraid to be happy about it. Ymir and Historia finally get married. Sasha and Connie would still come by the house…”

“And you. You would be smiling. You’d have someone else. And she’d make you dinner when you got home from work. And press your dress suits. And trim your hair. You and Bert would still be able to have poker night. And she’d take the kids out for the night. Because there would be kids. She’d be able to give you kids.” It was getting hard to breath around the boulder size lump in her throat and consequently hard to talk.

“But no matter how hard I think about it. I can’t wish for that. I’m too damn selfish and I can’t give you up.”

She pushed back the tears from her cheek haphazardly with the back of her hand and sniffed back her dripping nose. Too far gone to really care about any of it.

“And that’s why I got the scotch out. Because I wanted to celebrate. I wanted to celebrate Jean and Marco’s baby. And I wanted to celebrate that you’re still here and I am so fucking in love with you-”

She didn’t get a chance to finish because he was kissing her.

He was kissing her and it tasted like salt and scotch and him.

He was kissing her and they hadn’t kissed like this in such a long time.

And when they touched both of their shoulders were shaking. And their hands were trembling because everything was just so goddamn new.

And when she pulled back to look at him, her tears still blurring her vision the light reflected off his blonde hair and his blue eyes and he fucking shined.

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“I always wanted a boy.”

She kept her voice quiet like she didn’t want to break the spell on the room. Her hand absentmindedly traced over the dips and valleys of his bare torso as she spoke.

“Ya?” His voice however was distinctly louder. Not because he wasn’t to be quiet, just that he was shit at it. She shivered at his own light touch against her ribs. Back and forth. Back and forth.

“Ya. A little Reiner carbon copy. All light blonde hair and blue eyes and trouble.” When she closed her eyes she could still see him, squealing as he ran away from his tickle monster father, crawling into bed right between them when he couldn’t sleep. She could seem him all the way up to high school, a no good Casanova playboy with a head too big for his football helmet.

Reiner kissed the backs of her eyelids and then down to her nose.

“I hope he’ll have you in there too. Maybe you're hair.” He fingered a ringlet as he spoke. She laughed and lightly slapped his chest.

“Don’t wish that on him.” Reiner grabbed her wrist and brought it to his lips before setting it down again.

“Why not? I love your curls!”

“Because they’re a mane!” She regretted saying anything when Reiner gave her a hungry look.

“Course it is, because you're a fucking lionness in be-” She cut him off with a pillow to the face. He could feel the vibrations of his chuckle through the hand on his chest though the sound itself was muffled. He pulled it off and added it to the pile already behind his head, all the while grinning, unabashed.

“What’s Jean and Marco’s baby like?” She would admit she surprised herself with the question. Reiner’s smile softened and the hand that wasn’t already caressing her side came up to thumb her cheek gently. She sighed into the touch, eyes still locked with his own.

“He isn’t a very fussy baby but fuck when that kid cries, he wails. And they had to change him twice when I was there. The things a shit machine.” She just rolled her eyes while Reiner had a laugh. “He’s so small. He’s smaller than my hands, and when I held him my arms almost swallowed him. He doesn’t have much hair yet, so they aren’t sure what color it will be. But it’s the damndest thing. That kids got almost as many freckles as Marco.” She could see the residual sadness in his eyes as he described the child. She felt selfish for only thinking about how this was impacting herself to the point she couldn’t see how bad that Reiner was hurting. “He’s perfect. He’s so perfect.”

“I’m sorry.” She didn’t quite know what she was saying it for. For being so thoughtless and selfish the past two months? For being so lost in her grieving that he was alone?

For losing the baby in the first place?

“We can go see him tomorrow if you’d like. The baby shower is on Sunday, but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind. They ask about you nonstop.” She smiled even though her throat had grown too tight again.

“I would like that.”

“We should bring the scotch.”

“We can bring the scotch.”