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It's Gotta Be You

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Songfic inspired by Isaiah's It's Gotta Be You.

 

XoXoX

 

The cab from Bluebird Taxi services moved at a moderate speed as it crossed through the intersection heading into the main highway from the direction of Karanes Airport. The driver, a middle-aged local with a pleasant disposition hummed an old classic tune, as his fingers tapped in a rhythm against the steering wheel. He snuck a glance at the younger man from his rearview mirror. Looking smart in a crisp suit and tie ensemble, the younger man seemed to be exhausted and somewhat out of place.

 

It must have been a rough trip for him.

 

“Y’er here for business, son?”

 

A pair of amber irises stared attentively at him on the mirror’s reflection. Yet the younger man responded with a smile and a chuckle.

 

Ah, a natural charmer.

 

“No, Sir. I’ve been on leave from a deployment abroad,” he replied politely.

 

“Military?”

 

“Yes, Sir. I just flew in from Marley and I’m actually here for a wedding.”

 

“Not used to the commercial airplanes, is it?”

 

“You got me there, Sir.”

 

“Just call me Lou, son. Y’er here for a family wedding?”

 

His passenger ran a hand against his slick blonde hair, the smile never leaving his face.

 

Not even once.

 

“It’s a wedding between a good friend and a former high school sweetheart.”

 

“The one who got away huh. Must’ve been hard for you when you got the invite?”

 

There was a slight pause as Reiner’s attention focused on the message that came through his smartphone. After replying a quick text from his best friend, Bertolt, he looked up to the driver’s face and replied, “Quite the opposite, actually. I’m truly happy for them.”

 

The driver’s eyes occasionally locked against his. “Let Old Man Lou tell ya something about soulmates, son. When I was seventeen, I’ve been with this high school sweetheart of mine, Mary, for two years. I said ‘this is the girl I was gonna make me my wife one day’. Every night I prayed to God to make Mary mine. He had other plans after all.”

 

One of Reiner’s thin eyebrows lifted in curiosity but he allowed Lou to continue on with the conversation. Hearing an old man’s love story was a refreshing change from the horrors he had to experience in his recent deployment, to which he still has recurring nightmares from. Every single night.

 

“I was a daredevil back then. So one day I got into a hit and run. Was left on the curb for a few hours. When I woke up, the doctor told me that I’m never going to walk again. I looked for Mary but I never saw her anymore. I found out from a friend that she’d been going out with the mayor’s son even before I got into the accident. I didn’t blame her, I blamed myself. For being reckless. I’m only nineteen, nothing to my name, I might’ve been a cripple for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t wish that life for her. She deserves better.”

 

“I’m very sorry to hear that, Lou.”

 

The older man shook his head as a snicker escaped his chapped lips. “One thing about being in the lowest, darkest pit of your life was when I was about to give up, He sent me a friend, Lily. She was a volunteer at the hospital I was at. She held my hand when I broke down, on the verge of giving up and she’d never let it go. Turns out Lily was Mary’s cousin and she has always been around. I was too enamored with Mary to even notice Lily’s presence.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Lily was the quiet, odd girl who always buries her nose in a book but had always been the one to offer her hands to anyone in need.”

 

He nodded his head upon coming to an understanding of the driver’s story. It has always been in Reiner’s nature to warm up to people of all ages and the old man’s story somehow resonated with him, without him even realizing the exact reason why.

 

His tired eyes took in the beautiful scenery of the pleasantly green roadside as the vehicle glided through the freeway en route to Old Town Shinganshina.

 

His brain began to reminisce the key memories he had from more than a decade ago.

 

Shinganshina had been the place where he spent most of his adolescent days as an exchange student from Marley together with Bertolt and Annie. It didn’t take long for him to climb the social hierarchy of the institution as gifted as he was - in looks and brains - to become the King of the school with Historia Reiss, whose wedding he’s attending, as his Queen. Their whole love story had been legendary that everyone had been betting on them making it together in the long run.

 

Alas, God had made her the soulmate of Eren Jeager, the second son of Shinganshina’s famous orthopedic specialist and also the younger brother of Zeke Jeager, the Tactical Division’s War Chief and also his reporting Officer in Marley.

 

Who’d have taught the Queen Bee would have ended up with the small town’s resident geek all along?

 

Yet it was not a surprise to Reiner at all. He’d seen the way Historia’s eyes would be fixated on the young genius whenever he walks by, the way she gazed intensively at the boy during his presentations at the school’s Science Fair or even in the way she and Ymir would pretend to pick on Eren, Armin and his adopted sister, Mikasa in the hallways just to mask her secret affection. Reiner knew it drove her crazy with jealousy every time Eren stepped up to defend Mikasa, the high school’s ‘Goth girl’ from one of Historia’s episodic bullying. Historia and Ymir even started a wicked rumor about how Mikasa was secretly a witch who kept real skeletons in her closet and practices dark magic to charm people in giving her their blood.

 

Yet now, the Universe delivers a rather ironic lesson to the daughter of Rod Reiss by having her be related to her arch nemesis through marriage. Last he’d heard from Connie was that Historia denounced her ties with the aristocratic Reiss family after her father deliberately sent Eren away from their front gates with multiple shotgun shells out of his hunting gun when the latter wanted to ask for his blessings on their engagement. Historia left everything behind just to be with a boy who had nothing to his name, fortune nor social status when Rod Reiss pretty much groomed Historia to become the lady of another royal household, much to her dismay.

 

Little did the patriarch of the Reiss family know that the young man he chased away had been a promising young virtual app developer who was about to become one of the world’s filthy rich entrepreneur the very next year itself as a mega digital conglomerate had been eyeing to purchase all of young Eren Jeager’s intellectual assets and in return appointing said genius as the VP of Creative Media at the company’s headquarters.

 

Reiner could’ve imagined the old crone groveling at Eren’s feet, begging for his forgiveness.

 

Looking back, Reiner regretted his silence. He was supposed to be the strongest senior in school, he was supposed to protect his more fragile friends from social oppression but in order to please the young Historia, he’d have to pretend that he enjoyed being at the top of the social circle.

 

However, he was glad to know that the snarky, spoilt rich girl had grown to become a selfless and compassionate philanthropist, all thanks to Eren Jeager’s good heart, kindness, and determination in the past ten years since they graduated from high school. Both him and Historia would’ve never worked out anyway as they both were too caught up in lifting each other’s ego, by becoming people they were not. At times, he did secretly feel that his feelings for the girl had been one-sided but that feeling would always be pushed aside by his ego in denial.

 

The teachers, his peers, his juniors - even the janitor and the lunch lady had placed high expectations on him. He was the star quarterback of Paradis High’s football team and the top scorer within the academic ranks, until the day a new transfer student from the East Sea country, Hizuru stepped into the school grounds.

Her name was Mikasa Ackerman. She was two years his junior but her unusual IQ score allowed her to skip not one but two grades and obtained her a place in the senior classes. She also happened to be the newly adopted daughter of the Jeager family in town.

 

He’d known the first time she walked into his History class that she was unlike any other girl he has ever seen. Dressed in her black, mundane clothes with combat boots and smoky eyeshadow with black lip paint, two pigtails on top of her raven hair with a large pendant of the holy cross against her chest, she’d looked like she could have dropped by a funeral before she reached the school. She was the silent type, preferred to keep to herself in class and barely spoken a word to anyone in class except to the teachers. Especially in Literature class, where she quickly became Ms. Petra Ral’s favorite student.

 

She was a loner in his class, but he found out that apparently, she prefers to spend time with the juniors namely her foster brother Eren and his childhood friend, the geeky Arlert. He saw her as nothing more than his competitor amongst the school’s top academic ranks. She was a challenge to his academic position and little that he would’ve expected that she will soon become a challenge to his heart.

 

Everything began to change after he received the news of his estranged father’s death. He only met him once when he was eleven. That meeting ended as soon as it even began when he received a look of disgust on the old man’s face when he mentioned his mother’s name. The words that were exchanged next left an unforgettable bitterness at the back of his throat that he wished he would have erased that particular moment’s existence out of his brain for good.

 

He was a deadbeat. A dirtbag who walked away from his mother the day she told him that she was pregnant with his child. He left her behind when she refused to abort a growing life inside her womb that was his own flesh and blood.

 

Reiner knew he was unwanted but that deepest, darkest void inside kept telling him to track down his father and find the real reasons why. He wouldn’t even dream of having a normal father-son relationship. He didn’t even find the closure he was looking for. He had only received derogatory and hateful remarks instead. His denial kept pushing his self-punishing intention to go forward when he knew it would inevitably hurt him in the end.

 

That old man, a cook for his own living, didn’t even bother to at least find out his own son’s name.

 

So, when he received news from his uncle back in Marley (his mom was too shocked to function after she received the news) that the old man kicked the bucket three months later, well, part of him was glad that he died a lonely, miserable man. But the other small part of him was angry, disappointed that he couldn’t even try to initiate the slightest amends when he had the chance. Reiner closes his eyes every time he imagines his father collapsing due to a cardiac arrest in the middle of the kitchen where he works at. Back then, he wished he could see the old man’s face for the last time before Death took him to the depths of the underworld.

 

For the several following weeks after, Reiner discovered as if there was something inside him that fractured, its aftermath spiraling out of control inside his body like a car moving unforgivingly fast on a one-way route to the edge of a cliff. He found comfort at the bottom of cold beer cans and in every cigarette smoke that he puffed out of his lungs, always underneath the school bleachers - all by himself while he watched Bertolt, Marlowe, Jean and others practiced their throws and tackles across the track field.

 

After he thought he’d caught Coach Mitabi’s eagle eye gaze from across the field during one of his afternoons, he decided to relocate his secret spot to a large cedarwood tree behind the school library, the field still within his range of vision. He needed to run away just for a little while longer.

 

And then, there she was.

 

Leaning against the bark of the tree with The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe in her hands as she seemed to be scrutinizing each of the poet’s words inside her head.

 

He trudged forward anyway, his hands buried within the folds of his varsity jacket before asking, “Do you mind sharing your space?”

 

He received nothing but a shrug in response. Taking her gesture as one that was far from dislike or disagreement, he rooted himself on the other side of the large tree. There was a comfortable silence as he gazed upon the blue skies, both of them basking in the tranquility within the calm afternoon breeze and the falling of autumn leaves.

 

It took him a few more minutes of breathing before he decided to taint his perfectly healthy lungs with a concoction of tobacco, nicotine, and tar so it could help him think. He fished out the cigarette pack from the inside pocket of his blue and yellow jacket and had almost successfully lit a stick before he heard her stoic voice from next to him. “You got guts to light that behind the library.” She plopped down next to him on the dry green grass and her legs crossed underneath the frills of her black skirt. The Raven closed and placed gently on her lap.

 

The hand holding the cigarette lowered down. “My former hiding spot’s been compromised. Sorry.”

 

“As long as you don’t light it near this tree, it’s fine. Or I’ll lose my hiding spot because of you”.

 

“Heh….” He laughed in agreement as he stashed the small pack into the folds of his jacket.

 

She offered him a couple of peppermint jujubes from her satchel instead. “It helps with the craving inside your mouth”.

 

Slightly taken aback with her kind gesture and her knowledge of nicotine addiction, he nodded and thanked her instead as his fingers reached out to one of the sweets on the planes of her palm. Slightly coarse but still soft to his touch.

 

She turned her gaze to the vast track field further ahead. “Trouble in paradise?”

 

“Wha-....” There was a short pause as he realized the underlying meaning of her question. “I didn’t expect you to notice things about other people than Eren and Armin.”

 

She smirked. “I noticed a lot of things about other people. Like how Jean is actually a good artist or how Connie’s forehead would crinkle when he’s thinking, even how Bertolt would sweat profusely whenever that Annie girl walks by in the school hallways. I also noticed that Ms. Ral is trying to lose weight by the amount of green tea she’s been chugging in class.”

 

Reiner was stunned beyond words but he remained his cool facade. “You got any dirt on me, Ackerman?”

 

“You’ve started drinking since last week. Ciggies a long time ago but it grew frequent the same time you started popping those beer cans.”

 

“Shit. They were right when they say you’re a psychic!”

 

“As far as what I’ve heard, all of them are wrong about me. And no, it’s called ‘observation’. There was a difference in the way you walk and talk to people lately. The rather faint burnt scent saturated to your jacket was a big giveaway. But don’t worry, I’m naturally more observant than most people. Though sooner or later, Principal Smith would have a word with you because you’ve been skipping out on your football practice for more than a week now.”

 

He was always the one with a lot of words flowing out of his mouth effortlessly yet for the first time, the most silent girl in the whole school had left him wordless.

 

“You’re here on your government’s scholarship, Braun. You were given an option to be here. Messing up your grades and school activities might cause you your future.”

 

His eyes stared towards the far distance, mulling over her unwarranted opinions. One would not have expected such thoughtful words would come from a girl her age. Historia couldn’t (or wouldn’t) even think past beyond the exterior physical of things or people.

 

His voice responded in a cracked whisper. “I-....I….have you ever experienced that feeling where you just feel lost? You can’t go back to how it used to be but you can’t seem to be able to move forward either.”

 

Out of reflex, one of her hands clutched at the large pendant of the crucifix resting against her chest when he mentioned a very specific word in his sentence. “I have. Been there, Braun. At times it feels like breathing underwater. It’s difficult but you need to breathe to live, though when you do, it’ ends up making you feel suffocated instead.”

 

His amber eyes snuck a quick glance at the girl sitting next to him, in disbelief. Her words rang too close to home. She continued, “Sometimes you make yourself bleed just to feel alive and not empty deep inside…”

 

“....or do anything to numb the pain so you would forget about it even for a moment,” he subconsciously finished her sentence without thinking.

 

She had the same look of understanding reflected on her face. Underneath the makeup covering her skin, lies an empathic heart whose hurting just like he did. There was a soul in pain, and loneliness beyond the facade that she puts on every day at school.

 

Out of the blue, three young teenage boys appeared from around the corner of the library and walked towards their direction. The taller brunette waved his hands to her as the shorter, bespectacled blonde-haired boy beamed jovially while the other boy with freckles on his cheek nodded at him.

 

The resident geeks - Eren, Armin, and Marco.

 

He unintentionally noticed the slight tinge of blush adorning her usually pale cheeks when her eyes landed on her foster brother.

 

“I gotta go. Sorry.” The raven-haired girl stood up and brushed away the dry red-color leaves from her skirt.

 

However, right before she walked away, she turned her head back towards him and uttered, “Braun, just because someone is lost right now, doesn’t mean they’re lost forever.”

 

The sudden jerking of the vehicle notified Reiner of its immediate halt, robbing his memories of its pleasant reminiscence from the past to his present.

 

Lou turned his head around and smiled. “We’re here, son.”

 

He looked back towards Lou and asked, “I apologize for drifting away earlier. Did you and Lily…?”

 

The grey-haired, jovial old man let out a hearty chuckle. “She did. She made me the happiest man in the world for 40 years now and still is. She blessed my home with 6 beautiful children and she’s waiting for me at home right now.”

 

His hand made quick work of fishing out a hundred dollar note and placed it on Lou’s aged hand, asking him to keep the change. Shocked, the old man pushed the money back. “This is too much, son. I couldn’t possibly!”

 

“Get Ms. Lily flowers or anything that would make her day today extra special, Mr. Lou. Consider it my thanks for sharing your wonderful story.”

 

He picked up his duffel bag from the floor of the car and stepped out of the vehicle, absolutely not missing Lou’s parting words, “I hope you’ll find your soulmate the way I found my Lily, son.”

 

He only nodded his head in return.

 

‘I have, Sir but I stupidly broke her heart’.

 

He breathed in the air he had been holding and slowly walked towards the entrance of the grand hotel in front of him.

 

He began to dread coming back here.

 

XoXoX

 

The wedding took place at the town church in the heart of Shinganshina the very next day. Eren looked dapper in his tuxedo, with a rose in his lapel and his long hair tied into a low ponytail. While Historia looked like the beautiful queen she was meant to be all dressed in white satin, beaming with genuine pride as she looked at her new husband’s face albeit she was a bit bashful when they were supposed to have their first kiss as husband and wife only a few seconds earlier.

 

Reiner, along with the rest of the guests, clapped their hands together in celebrating the newlywed, just before the sounds of howling could be heard coming from none other their former resident bad boy, Jean Kirschtein, who was standing next to him in the groomsmen line with Armin next to him. On his right, was none other than his immediate commanding officer, Zeke, the brother of the groom.

 

He couldn’t help but noticed the uneven number of bridesmaids to match the gents. It was even noticeable to most of the guests that the groom’s adopted sister was missing from the spot meant to be next to the bride.

 

She was not there.

 

A part of him was slightly relieved that the groom’s sister was not present at the ceremony. He just couldn’t imagine how he could still show his face in front of her after what he had done in the past. Yet the bigger part of his heart had been achingly yearning to see her even for a little while. Even if she were to appear in front of him right now with a man in her arms, he’d be heartbroken but he’ll congratulate the lucky guy anyway. Because he had claimed her heart as his, in the way he was too much of a coward to do so before.

 

From the last conversation he had with Zeke during the time when he received the wedding invitation from his family, Mikasa had been gone away from home for quite some time. Apparently, as soon as she completed her housemanship at the Karanes General Hospital in the capital city within Wall Sina, Mikasa signed up with a humanitarian relief camp to be stationed as a voluntary medical officer at the villages located within the rural areas in Hizuru, much to the Jeagers’ reluctant blessings.

 

“She always felt like she has an endless void she needs to fill inside her heart. As if she was always lost somewhere out there. She was afraid she’ll forget her real parents, thus the need to be at the very place where she last saw them alive,” said Zeke, before he took a long drag out of his cigarette and calmly puffing away as he talked about his younger foster sister. They were on a break in the middle of a roundtable discussion with Commander Magath and his PR team to prepare for the upcoming World Peace Conference, in order to celebrate the newly-founded Union between the three main military powers of the world - Paradis, Marley, and Hizuru. Zeke’s grey irises hid an inquisitive look from behind his tinted glasses as he glanced towards his Vice Commander, with his figure slumped against the hidden pillar outside the auditorium. He was aware of the fact that Reiner used to attend the same high school as his younger brother back in Paradis and that his foster sister was in Reiner’s class.

 

A large, masculine hand propped against his shoulder, breaking his train of thoughts. Bertolt stood next to him, with an ever-existent smile on his face. “Everyone left, Reiner. A few seconds more, I swear I should beg the priest to come back so he could marry you off to someone.”

 

“Fat chance, Bertl. Hey Annie. I missed you guys.”

 

Bertolt grinned as he nodded towards the blonde-haired woman with a toddler in her arms standing next to his tall friend.

 

“Hi, doofus.”

 

“I was hoping to hear, ‘we miss you too, Reiner’ but oh well, hey Brandon, I know you miss your Uncle Reiner right?,” said Reiner as he took hold of Bertolt and Annie’s 2-year-old son in one big swoop of his arms, earning a giggle from the little boy, his beloved godson.

 

There was a pause as the couple exchanged knowing looks between them, without their best friend realizing it.

 

“Hey, dork.” Bertolt’s eyes widened in shock as he looked at his wife. Apparently, his wife wouldn’t let an opportunity to taunt Reiner to go to waste. “I wonder why the groom’s sister is not at his wedding. They were practically attached at the hips when we were in high school.”

 

He gritted his teeth in response. ‘Not all the time, Annie.’

 

The blue-eyed, blonde-haired woman squinted her eyes in a poorly-disguised judgmental look at her husband’s best friend. “Heh, who knows…. maybe her resentment for you is a lot stronger than her love for Eren. We all know she won’t miss Eren’s big day even if her life depends on it.”

 

That was how much Mikasa loved her foster brother. He had known that fact more than a decade ago. He had spent enough time in her company secretly to learn about that.

 

“W-we should head to the reception now,” muttered Bertolt in the mild stuttering that Annie, his wife of 6 years, still found to be endearing to this very day. Thought it was not nearly enough to hinder her tendency to outspeak her mind when it came to his best friend, all going back to the outrageous incident which had caused the gifted young Ackerman to leave school abruptly right before graduation.

 

Reiner nodded. A reluctant look of relief on his face upon Bertolt’s timely interruption. He was a messed up kid and though he did excel his academic achievements, he couldn’t help but feel that he had failed as a friend and even more so as a human being when honor became the measures of a man. He was undeserving of anything remotely to her forgiveness, let alone her heart.

 

XoXoX

 

He was powerless to stop himself from gawking in sheer surprise after Zeke ended his toast to the newlywed. The master of ceremony surprisingly called for the only name that still managed to make his heart thundered in his ribcage. Even after a decade.

 

The emcee repeated his words again. “Could we have the sister of the groom up front to deliver a toast to our newlyweds? Dr.Ackerman-Jeager?”

 

The sound of heels against the marble floor resonated inside the silent hall as all the guests’ head turned towards the arch where Carla Jeager stood as she held the hands of a raven-haired woman, patting the taller younger woman’s hand in encouragement.

 

Gone was the resident wallflower of Paradis High School, the gifted Goth girl who found comfort in blending in with the rest of the world and not even once wanting to be in the center of any spotlight from ten years ago. In her place was a vision of breathtaking beauty which he knew without a doubt that all the others in attendance would agree with unanimously. If black was the color theme of her past, then the blood red dress clinging to her frame did nothing but highlighted the elegance that grew with her in time. Her cute, shaggy bangs remain but the long tresses were now a short do instead, retaining her youth even when it has been 10 long years since he last saw her.

 

With every step that she took from across the hall towards the podium, his heart beats to a mysterious rhythm. It was like a strange déjavu where he felt like it has happened before or he dreamt that it had happened at least once in his lifetime.

 

“First and foremost, Eren and Historia, I truly apologize for missing your wedding vows earlier. I had to take a later flight because a high-risk patient of mine unexpectedly went into preterm labor. Knowing Dad, you’d want me to deliver the baby first don’t you?”

 

Dr. Jeager and the rest of their family laughed at her introduction but no one could possibly miss the proud smile on his face.

 

“I’m not one to make lengthy speeches but for today, I’ll make an exception for my  beloved parents and because I also lost a bet to Zeke.” Her words took a pause for her to give an acknowledging smile to Grisha and Carla, not without giving a mock glare at her older foster brother, earning an erupted laughter from all the guests.

 

“Ever since we were younger, on the day I lost my parents, Dr. Jeager and Mrs. Jeager not only open their home to me but they too open their hearts to a very lost, lonely girl and through them, not only do I have a father and mother again, but also two brothers. The first time I met them, I knew that they are amazing people, destined for nothing but greatness in life. True enough, I am very proud to see how far both Eren and Zeke have gone in life.”

 

“I am very blessed to have been your sister and best friend, Eren and today thanks to you, I am finally getting a sister of my own. I am truly happy to know that you and Historia found each other and fought the odds to be together. Today is your day and I pray that it’ll be the beginning of many days filled with nothing but happiness forever for both of you. God knows how long it takes for people to find true love like this, one you could not imagine living without. So, please join me in celebrating the newlyweds. Eren and Historia, may your lives be filled and enriched with happiness and love with each other for always.” She finished her speech by raising her glass, followed by all the guests as they gave a toast to the celebrated couple.

 

Reiner couldn’t evade the wave of helplessness brewing inside him, as every one of her words made their way directly to his heart, unchallenged and without resistance.

 

XoXoX

 

After catching up with Armin, Jean, Marco, Connie and the rest of their old high school friends, Reiner finally gathered enough courage to make a move towards where his commanding officer was - on the dance floor, with his foster sister.

 

“May I cut in?”, Reiner asked the two siblings on the dance floor, to which Zeke, taking the opportunity to adjust his glasses, responded quickly, “Why not? You guys have a lot to catch up.” He retreated away but not before he nudged his foster sister towards his promising subordinate. Mikasa froze when she finally recognized the newcomer who asked for a dance with her. At first, she thought it was Jean but she when she saw that pair of gold irises with the same old lost expression on his face, she knew her past had finally caught up with her present.

 

“How could you do this to me, Reiner? I thought we were friends!”

 

“I swear if I had known, I wouldn’t have gone to the Principal. Why didn’t you tell me about Mr. Levi? I honestly thought that he’s up to no good with you. I saw the way he looks at you, Mika. I didn’t like it. He even threatened me to stay away from you!”

 

“Reiner, he’s my cousin. The only fuckin’ family alive who I still have and who is not in prison! He fought so hard to keep me from being thrown into the system when I lost my parents.”

 

“Why did he have to treat me like I’m lesser than a piece of crap stuck on his shoe?”

 

“Families protect each other. That’s what he was doing! Protecting me.”

 

“Protecting you from who? Me? I would never hurt you, Mika. I lo-”

 

“Don’t you dare say that word.”

 

“I can’t help what I’m feeling.”

 

Mikasa shook her head furiously and retorted, “Why do you have to ruin the very friendship that we have? I’m a trainwreck, Reiner. You know, Mr. Levi was right. You should’ve stayed away from me from the very beginning. If you did, it wouldn’t hurt me as much as it does right now.”

 

“Whatever I’m feeling for you, Mika, just know it’ll never change.”

 

“Mikasa Ackerman. May I have this dance?” The svelte figure clad in the blood red satin dress moved closer to his larger frame, although she was hesitant at first.

 

“Reiner Braun.” Her gunmetal eyes soften as they locked against his. The dainty hand of a surgeon was clasped by a callous, roughened hand of a military man in a firm grip. His subconscious was afraid that if he didn’t hold on tight this time around, he would lose her again, just like before.

 

“Here I thought you’ll be marrying your adopted brother.”

 

“And I thought you’ll be the one marrying the bride.”

 

“I was almost sure you’ll be wearing black at your brother’s wedding but red suits you better.”

 

“I see the high school King still has no game after all these years.”

 

There were a few seconds of faintly awkward pause before they both erupted into laughter upon their impromptu banter. Meanwhile, the emcee called out to all the guests to fill the dance floor as the tune of a soft rock ballad started to play inside the hall. The distinctive opening tune of Linger by Cranberries began and was followed soon after by Dolores O’Riordan’s husky yet smooth singing.

 

Reiner cleared his throat as his other hand rested against the small of her back. “Who would’ve thought they’ll be playing our song? Do you remember that night when we hung out at the park after lab practice? This song was playing when we almost k-”

 

Trying to fight off a creeping blush, Mikasa was quick in stopping his sentence. “I bet Eren or even Jean has something to do with it. You know he’ll mess up his own wedding playlist.”

 

“Like he did during our prom night.”

 

“I wouldn’t know, Reiner. I wasn’t there.”

 

He let out a sigh. Who was he kidding? His long, pent-up guilt compelled him to say the very two words he should’ve said ten years ago. “I’m sorry.”

 

“For missing prom? Don’t be. You saved me from a night of embarrassment.” Her rose-tinted lips curved into an amused smile.

 

“That and for every pain I have caused you.”

 

She gazed up and looked deep into his eyes. “Water under the bridge, Rein. It’s been a decade.”

 

“A decade without you…I really missed you, Mika. Why did you leave without saying goodbye?”

 

HIs question remained unanswered though their bodies moved closer to each other, both were obviously unaware of the glances from the new Mr. & Mrs. Jeager, who were also dancing not too far from they were. The newlyweds were exchanging knowing smiles between them upon witnessing the interaction between two old friends who were too lost in their memories of each other.

 

Historia whispered to her new husband, “Thank you for inviting Reiner, darling.”

 

Eren moved one of her hands to his lips, kissing it gently. “Anything for you, baby. Although I’m quite surprised you wanted to invite your ex-boyfriend to our wedding.”

 

“Oh my darling Eren, it’s more for our sweet sister.”

 

“Mikasa?”

 

“I’ll refresh your memory later when we’re back at the suite.”

 

“That can wait, baby. I’m more interested in refreshing something else with you once we get to the room.” Eren finished his sentence with a wicked glint in his eyes and leaned down to catch his new bride’s lips in a searing kiss.

 

XoXoX

 

In the still of the night, away from where the festivities were taking place, after several rounds of dances and drinks, the two reconnected friends found solace at the balcony of the hall, overlooking the hotel’s outdoor swimming pool. Now that the older generation of guests like their parents and teachers have retired, the younger adults decided to bring the party to the extreme level.

 

Reiner and Mikasa managed to harrowingly escape Jean and Connie’s attempt to recruit them in a dance-off to Drop It Like It’s Hot and discovered the secluded hallway just outside the venue.

 

Mikasa leaned against the railing, taking her black pumps off before resting her weight on the surface of the cold steel. Reiner, who was leaning against the mason wall, casually fished out a cigarette from the inside of his suit and looked at her.

 

He asked, “Are you alright?”

 

“Honestly, I’m having a hard time trying to stay awake. Right before I was paged into the OT, I had just finished a 32-hour shift in the maternity ward. I hopped on the next plane back here after the emergency delivery.”

 

“Do you still want to stay or if not, I can walk you up to your room.”

 

“Maybe in a bit.” She exhaled a breath she didn’t realize she was holding.

 

He chuckled. “Do you mind if I smoke? Oh, before that…..” His sentence hung in mid-air as he took off his black coat and placed it on her bare shoulders.

 

She was slightly hesitant but she knew old habits die hard. He used to offer his varsity jacket to her every time they hung out together secretly in the past. On the other hand, he stepped away in a comfortable distance, not wanting to discomfort her as he lit a cancer stick. The light scent of his cologne from his jacket teased her senses. “How have you been, Reiner?”

 

“I’ve seen unimaginable things out there, Mikasa. Things I wished I could unsee. Although I’m really fortunate to always be deployed at places with decent facilities. It could’ve been worst.”

 

“You know, Zeke spoke very highly of you at our Christmas dinner last year. At first, I didn’t believe he was actually referring to the same Reiner Braun who I used to know back in high school.”

 

“I am honored if your brother thinks that way. But hey, Hizuru’s pretty far out. I heard that they don’t even have internet over there. What do you do when you’re off the clock?”

 

“I read a lot and do a lot of community work at the village with the children and volunteer educators. Akita’s in a remote, rural area so we have to make do with what we have over there. Every morning, I would go for a run and took a break at this one amazing view on top of the hill, overlooking Suzukoya no Mori, the most beautiful forest in Higashi-Naruse village.”

 

He gazed towards her, not missing the peace, pride, and love reflected on her beautiful porcelain face. He couldn’t help but be amazed on the eloquence of her pronunciation on words that were rather foreign to him. Hot damn, he bet that she could even make him fall in love with a car by only using her words.

 

Her grey eyes took in the changed appearance of the man standing next to her as he smoked on the cigarette he just lit. Even in the dim lighting of the hallway, she could perceive that he was obviously taller and where he had large, well-defined muscles before, he appeared slightly leaner and he had shed more weight as evident by his gaunt cheekbones. The thin line of facial hair only highlighted more of his handsome face. The person that she left years before was just a boy who made forgivable mistakes and this man in his place was different, in both his physical and demeanor. He looked exhausted and somewhat in a way, rather sad.

 

He cleared his throat, trying to push his voice out. The heart that thundered in his chest made it difficult for him to ask her the very question he had been dying to ask her. “Mika, are you still mad at me?”

 

“Not anymore. We were just foolish kids, Rein.”

 

“There was never a day that passes by where I didn’t wish I could turn back time to undo things.”

 

“Stop punishing yourself. Back then, I could not explain to you about everything either.”

 

“How’s Mr. Levi doing? I feel like an ass every time I think about what I did to you and him.”

 

“He’s no longer under witness protection so he can actually use our family name again since our uncle successfully helped the investigating officials bring down the whole underground criminal syndicate. Mr. Levi's now happily married to Ms. Ral and she just gave birth to their fourth child last month so that’s why they have to skip Eren’s wedding.”

 

Reiner’s amber eyes widened at her. “Wait, he’s married to our Literature teacher, Ms. Ral?”

 

“Yes, I’m now related- by marriage- to more than one person in our high school apparently.” Mikasa stifled a laughter.

 

His voice suddenly took a serious tone. “How about you, Mikasa? Is there someone waiting for you back home in Hizuru?”

 

“Yes,” she answered deadpanned and without hesitance, looking up at his face. Reiner swallowed bitterly, trying very hard to keep the smile on his face from falling upon hearing her response.

 

“I hardly left home too long because he tends to be extra clingy after I finished a long shift. Super grumpy, extremely emotional and definitely high maintenance most of the time. Well, what else can I expect from a very rare breed.”

 

He couldn’t even finish the whole cigarette now. “What is this lucky guy’s name?”

 

“Mr. Midnight. He’s my Siamese cat, adopted from a patient who had to let him go 2 years ago. He’s been my best friend ever since…..I got you, didn’t I?”

 

Reiner held his fist against his lips right before he broke into a big laughter. “Oh God, Ackerman. You have a very evil sense of humor.”

 

“Come on, Rein. You’re reminding me of Mrs. Jeager every time she asked me that question. I’m not sorry I’m married to my work. I have no time for commitments. Most of the men I’ve met ran straight out of the door when I said I’m a Gynecologist. There’s nothing appealing about my work apparently.”

 

“Well, they don’t deserve to be with you then. I think MDs especially ones who look like you are truly alluring.” He stuffed the half of unsmoked stick into the nearby bin with an ashtray, completely oblivious to the way her cheeks blushed at his sentence. She shook her head to herself. Some things have never truly changed. He could still make the butterflies in her tummy flutter excitedly just like when they were younger.

 

He held his hand out to her and said, “Can I walk you back to your room, Ms. Ackerman?”

 

Their walk back up towards her hotel room had been filled with conversations of their high school memories, a reminiscence of bittersweet memories that they knew even how much they tried to forget, to let go, the memories had been binding their two separate souls together. He looked at her and smiled, trying to fortify his remembrance of her complete being. From the way she smiled, walked and the way she talked. The hands of time had been truly kind to her.

 

When they reached the door to her room, he asked her, “Would you like to have breakfast with me tomorrow?”

 

“I already promised the Jeagers, but if you don’t mind, you’re really welcomed to join us.”

 

“If it’s not imposing, then that would be great.”

 

They stood in front of her room, gazing at each other in a comfortable silence. After several seconds, Reiner decided to break away, in fear of subconsciously taking an action that they would both regret in the morning after. “Good night, Mika.”

 

“Reiner-wait-you asked me earlier…I never said goodbye to you because it was never the end. At least not to me. Never was.”

 

He nodded, resting his hand on top of her raven hair in tenderness as if they have never aged at all, just like he used to do when they were just teenagers. “I’m glad.”

 

XoXoX

 

The very next morning, he knocked on the very same door he left her at the previous night, but there was no answer. On the way to the breakfast lounge, he came across one-half of the newlywed, which was thankfully Eren. Looking fresh-faced and very much in bliss, he hesitantly gave Reiner an unexpected answer. “I’m sorry, man. Mikasa was called in for another emergency operation back in Hizuru this morning. In fact, you just missed her and Zeke. He left with her to the airport about 15 minutes ago.”

 

He wasted no time in taking the next cab to the airport but apparently, he was 25 minutes too late, he couldn’t have felt more disappointed with himself when he felt a hand tapped him on his shoulder.

 

It was Zeke.

 

“If you’re looking for Mikasa, she went into the boarding hall half an hour ago but she did ask me to give you this,” said Zeke as he handed an A5-sized paper with her name card attached and a short, consequential message written in her cursive penmanship :

 

I’m sorry we couldn’t have that breakfast together.

Don’t be a stranger and drop me an email sometimes.

I can’t promise how soon I can check for messages nor return your calls though.

But I will absolutely reply as soon as I can.

Regards,

Mikasa

 

The simple lightweight paper ironically held the most significant weight to his destined path in life.

 

His blonde-haired superior cleared his throat and adjusted his glasses. “So, Reiner, I’m not trying to pry or anything but what’s up with you and my sister?”

 

Reiner let out a long sigh. “It’s a long story, Zeke.”

 

He shrugged. “Well, it’s a long ride back to the hotel anyway. Let’s go, Braun.”

 

XoXoX

 

The months following the wedding was slowly becoming torturous to him. It felt exactly like how he felt 10 years ago when she left the school abruptly, without a word the week before graduation. He had sent at least an email to her every other week, but until today, there was never a reply back. His dwindling temperament had even become the subject of ridicule by his colleague, Porco Galliard. The Tactical Division’s resident bad boy poked fun at his lackadaisical enthusiasm and overall, his general attention. He would usually be the one to shoot down Porco’s every baiting remarks but ever since he returned from Shinganshina, he has not even once countered nor even noticed Porco’s taunting.

 

The unbearable situation was beginning to affect his work performance and thus, it led to him being summoned by his immediate superior, on one fine Thursday morning to sit down in his room for a ‘chat’.

 

As soon as he sat down in front of his War Chief, he blurted, “Sir, I apologize. I am fully aware the main reason why I am here.”

 

Zeke nodded and handed him a paper file containing confidential information on the next mission. “That is why it is very difficult for me to do this to you. You know I hate sending you away from home but the recent happenings only reinforced my decision. You’re being transferred, Reiner.”

 

Reiner looked down at the file in his hand. Great. Another deployment, another place that couldn’t fulfill the deep missing void inside him. His eyes widened upon reading the next location he would have to make his next temporary settlement for God knows how long.

 

Country of Deployment: East Sea, Hizuru

Location of Settlement: Higashi-Naruse village in the state of Akita, remote south of the capital city. A growing agricultural town with limited amenities.

Purpose of Deployment: Leading an envoy in providing security and protection to both United Nations relief team and volunteer professionals. Improving liaisons with Hizuru’s Federal and State Government.

 

The Vice Commander of Marley's Tactical Division Infantry was out of words upon absorbing all the information that was presented in the plain paper file. He looked back towards his War Chief in disbelief while Zeke leaned back against his leather chair and smirked, “Unless if you’d like to remain here, I would talk to the higher-ups and nominate Marcel in your place instead.”

 

He felt a new sense of vigor flowing through his body. “No, Sir. I accept this mission. When am I expected to touch base in Hizuru?”

 

“In two weeks time.”

 

“Great. I will make the necessary preparations, though I would like to ask your permission for a few more days of leave as well prior to leaving.”

 

“Any particular reason?”

 

“I am going to Shinganshina to see your parents and ask for their blessings. I’d like to officially court your sister.”

 

A meaningful smile appeared on Zeke’s face. “I expected nothing less than my right hand but you should really think twice before getting involved with the Jeagers. We’re an eccentric bunch you know.”

 

“Too late, Zeke. I’m already in way too deep. I lost her 10 years ago. I am not going to make the same mistake again.”

 

“Godspeed, then. Oh, you know if you’re really getting serious with Mikasa, you’ll eventually be related to your ex-high school sweetheart.”

 

“Does it matter??! I would be related to you too! Don’t jinx things for me, Zeke.” His salute was halted by his disbelief as Zeke barked into a criminal laughter.

 

XoXoX

 

Back in Akita, Hizuru, Dr. Mikasa Ackerman was performing her on-the-clock rounds in the Maternity Wing of the new Women and Children Medical Center. The morning she had to rush back from Shinganshina was the beginning of a woeful period for her. She didn’t want to leave things hanging and conversations unfinished with Reiner but she had a duty that she must follow through until the very end and an oath that she must fulfill. To put her patients’ life and well-being on top of her own. She really couldn’t let a pregnant victim of a landslide incident pass away on the operating table just because the doctor has some unresolved personal issues.

 

Her silent distress was comforted temporarily upon seeing the woman's baby, the one she had delivered the day after she returned to Akita. He was alive and breathing well inside the special nursery in the NICU. She knew that the little boy would grow up to be a fighter one day. He defied the odds of his own survival after all.

 

Moments like this made her feel the sacrifice that she made for her chosen career path was truly worth the loneliness that comes with it. Her birth parents and foster parents inspired her to choose a life to serve others. A hand rested against the glass window of the nursery. She chose to push aside her desire to have her own family so other women can have theirs.

 

“Dr. Ackerman, there you are,” came the soft, soothing voice of Nurse Anka. “This young gentleman said he’s here to see you.”

 

Mikasa turned around to nod her acknowledgment and found herself rooted to the sterile hospital floor as she realized she was looking at the exact same face she didn’t realize she had been missing for the past two months.

 

“Rei-Reiner?”

 

“Hello, Doctor. I hope you can help me with a problem I’ve been having.”

 

“What are you doing here?” She remained calm as Nurse Anka took her leave, leaving them alone in the hallway.

 

“I think I have a heart problem.”

 

She squinted her eyes in a playful doubt. “I can refer you to our Cardiologist….”

 

“But there’s only one doctor who could treat my heart problem though.”

 

“You know that must be one special doctor for you to fly all the way here from Marley to consult her. Or him.” She crossed her arms in amusement.

 

“You bet.” He grinned, never felt more alive than he was at that particular moment. His eyes then caught the sight of the nursery and said, “Those are really adorable babies.”

 

There was a genuine pride on her beautiful face as she followed his line of vision. “Yes they are and just so you know, I personally delivered all the babies inside there.”

 

“Amazing. Would you like to have mine, Doctor?”

 

“Wait. What?”

 

“What time does your current shift finishes?”

 

“How long will you be here?”

 

“For as long as it takes and for as long as I am needed.”

 

Just like the night in Shinganshina, they found themselves lost in each other’s eyes again. This time, she welcomed the hand that grasped hers in that firm grip of his and the words that followed after. “Mika, the love that I have for you since we were younger only made me want to be a better man. Don’t let me live another day without you.”

 

“God, you’re such a dork.”

 

True to his words, after six months of courtship with due diligence, he pulled another surprise after dinner on the night when they were both off duty. He dropped down on one knee and asked for her hand in marriage on top of the hill overlooking Suzukoya no Mori, her favorite place, with countless stars in the night sky as their witness.

 

It was perfect the way it was.

 

Reiner’s lips haven’t stopped offering praises to the God above for blessing him with where he was right now as he put the princess cut ring, etched with amethyst - her birthstone - on her finger. He has already conquered half the battle to make Mikasa his wife for life. The other half? Well, it would be to convince Mr. Midnight to stop biting his ankles every time he came over to her house. That cat from hell has severe attachment issues.

 

Otherwise, he was grateful that he finally found and will own the love he had thought he lost.

 

XoXoX

 

THE END

 

A/ N: Thank you for your time! I hope you've enjoyed the story. I truly had fun writing it. After all, we could all use some happiness for our beloved characters. Till next story!

Also, I've written some follow-up headcanons for you to enjoy if you're keen to find out more about their life together after this story. Read here!