Reiner and Eren switch just as Eren’s bodyguards (captors) call for the mission to begin. Whatever his own personal frustrations about the subject, Reiner has to bury them deep. He stretches and flexes inside Eren’s body, getting used to his smaller size. Reiner can’t help but stare at the thinness of Eren’s wrists.
Part of the reason Reiner had volunteered for the swap was under the assumption that his body would be less jarring for Eren. He’d forgotten how strange he’d find it though, inhabiting a new body for an extended period of time.
Reiner lets the sensations wash over him whilst his mind focuses on his next move. So plan A “convince Eren to escape” was out the window, that left plan B – kidnapping Eren during the switch and doing their best to make sure he didn’t notice. Clear goal; improvise as they went, pretty much every mission of his life so far.
All right Reiner, he thinks, let’s improvise. He reasons that going along with mission to block up the Trost’s gate would get him an escort to the wall and, once the mission is accomplished, his ODM gear would do for getting him over the wall.
Resolved, he joins the elite team of soldiers (somehow including Mikasa) as they begin their journey across the wall. As they progress Reiner realises he has no idea (aside from Mikasa) what his companies names are.
A guilty pang shoots through his chest before he brushes it off. It doesn’t matter, he thinks. Getting Eren safely away is all that matters and that’s only going to get easier the more ground they cover.
They make quick progress along the wall and Reiner knows he’s grinning, caught up in the thrill of the moment. A plan in motion, moments away from contact and he feels ready for it. Ready for the fight. He’s always felt this was something him and Eren shared.
There’s the constant reassuring presence in the back of his mind where the others are. He doesn’t pull or press on it. Focuses instead on his breathing, on the sunlight beaming down on them, on clenching his hands and feeling the sensation. He’s barely started; the last thing he wants to do is switch back.
In the interests of focusing on this goal he notices Mikasa casting glances at him.
“Stop looking at me like that. Focus on what we’re doing.”
Mikasa gives a small frown and Reiner regrets his comments. He thought that was pretty in character for Eren. Titans, titans and more titans’ right? He faces forward again but Mikasa continues, “Eren, listen to me. Whatever happens, I want you to know I’m going to stay by your side until the end. I promised.”
Her tone is earnest and her eyes are so intent. Reiner’s throat closes up, in the face of her devotion. She’s not – this is – a series of emotions twist around inside of him and he blurts out, “This isn’t the end. So, I wouldn’t even worry about it. We’re going to be just fine, trust me.”
He aims for a reassuring grin but it’s hard to know if that has in any way convinced Mikasa. The open emotion on her face has hidden itself away. Her gaze has narrowed slightly. I don’t know how to pretend to be Eren, Reiner frantically realises. Is there some other comment she’s expecting? Some other promise he always makes before going into battle?
They move in silence for the remaining time whilst these questions tick over his brain. It doesn’t help his concentration. He shakes off the double image of another part of the wall where Eren is with his body.
The Captain of their group halts the expedition and they have a few precious frozen seconds before engagement. Reiner brushes away the jitters; Mikasa can suspect Eren of all manner of strange behaviour. It doesn’t matter and it doesn’t change anything. After all, she can’t stop him escaping.
Feeling buoyant at this realisation and a little sorry that Mikasa’s devotion is going to come to an end, he decides on a parting gift. Turning in a pivot he seizes her wrist, leaning over the swords she’s already drawn and plants a light kiss to the side of her cheek.
“Stay alive Mikasa.”
The signal is given and the mission is a go. Reiner transforms into a titan.
Eren trips almost immediately after switching into Reiner’s taller body.
“Don’t fight the instincts, his body knows what he’s doing. You have to trust that,” Bertholdt hisses, catching Eren before his falls. Embarrassed, Eren brushes him off.
“Alright, alright I got it.” He could do that. They were moments away from another titan engagement. Eren reasoned he kind of had no choice.
Reiner’s body is strange, or being in Reiner’s body is strange. Now he’s really looking down at Annie, and whilst moving into position he misjudges how broad his shoulders are and knocks into Bertholdt at least twice.
How am I supposed to fight like this? Eren wonders a panic starting up inside him. He takes several calming deep breaths, trying to keep his attention in the moment and ignoring the pull of the minds and his actual body.
Ymir slaps him soundly on the back before being moved further along the line. “Here and now,” she chirrups. He resists an urge to punch her, although he has to admit the sting from where her hand made contact helps a little with the focusing.
He operates his ODM gear safely down into Trost and after that it gets easier. It takes a while, but like breathing, Eren realises that as long as he doesn’t linger too long in thought on any action then he can do it.
Bertholdt and Annie stay close, both physically and via visiting. Ymir has been assigned elsewhere and lost early in the fray. He can feels she’s safe though, or he can feel her racing heartbeat at least. He turns his attention away from the connection again.
“Here and now,” he mutters to himself. Their part of the mission is basically distracting the titans, as far away from (Reiner) Eren as possible. The Titans are just as horrifying up close as last time. Their strange uncanny human faces, their lurking puppet movements, just as disgusting. Such creatures really shouldn’t be active during the daytime.
Eren’s body (or he supposes Reiner’s body) hums with satisfaction after managing to cut one down. He’s pleased he doesn’t at any point freeze with fear, that his training and anger keep him (and Reiner) safe. It could be hours or minutes before he finds himself with a breather, alone on a rooftop with no titans close by. Bertholdt scrambles up next to him and, both panting, they pause for a minute, enjoying being alive.
Eren turns to his companion intending to ask about Reiner’s status when he feels a sense of alarm race through Bertholdt. He’s starting intently behind and just to the left of Eren. Frowning Eren follows his line of sight and – there’s nothing to see. They’re the only two atop the building.
“Bertholdt?” The man in question jumps a bit and turns back to Eren while feigning a smile, but Eren can practically feel his apprehension. Actually, wait, he can feel it, of course he can, just like the feelings of alarm. Eren pushes through the fog of someone else’s (is ever going to get used to this?) feelings and asks, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” A lie, Eren tastes it like before on his tongue and Bertholdt’s face drops into an incredibly guilty look. Furious Eren charges forward into Bertholdt’s personal space. They can’t go around keeping secrets – especially not whatever this is.
Except – except he has been trusting Reiner’s body’s instincts.
This close Eren can feel Bertholdt’s breath on his face and smell his sweat; he has to look up into his wide eyes. There’s a sharp delicious twist in Eren (Reiner’s) stomach that derails his thoughts. His mouth feels dry and his face warm. He can’t think and therefore only acts, letting Reiner’s body respond to the familiar situation.
He brings his arms up to hold Bertholdt, mindful of his swords, and presses his mouth just below Bertholdt jaw. The rough stubble tingles against his lips and – oh god, Eren feels like he’s on fire what is happening?
He freezes awkwardly as Bertholdt goes stiff and unresponsive in his arms.
“Ugh guys? Sorry to interrupt but we’ve got a 9 metre closing in.”
Eren leaps back from Bertholdt to see Marco standing close by, clearly slightly winded but smiling at them rather softly.
“THIS IS NOT WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE,” Eren immediately blurts out in embarrassment. Bertholdt doesn’t say anything and rather determinedly avoids eye contact with either of them. Eren wants to kick him. This is so embarrassing.
“Don’t worry, your secret’s is safe with me,” Marco continues soothingly, “I’m certain these things are an open secret kind of situation anyway.”
“We’re not – we’re – there are titans. The titans are the only things that any of us should be caring about it. After that, when humanity is properly free is the time to think about other ordinary things.”
“Now you sound like Eren.”
Eren has no idea how to answer that. Bertholdt, with his face burning red, starts to laugh, “I think Eren has had an influence on all of us.”
“He’s something of a vanguard type person isn’t he? Do you think he just got so angry he became a titan?”
This exchange is cut short when an impatient Annie takes down the approaching titan.
Eren gratefully returns to focusing on staying alive.
Reiner groans. Buried deep inside the titan form he hears Ymir’s voice. She’s standing on his shoulder, the one not hefting the boulder obviously, talking straight into his ear. Annie had been doing a perfectly fine job of checking in. Ymir should be focusing on keeping herself alive.
He’s almost at the gate, or giant hole in the wall would be more accurate, and to the credit of the garrison they have been keeping the titans off his back.
“Thanks for dropping the new plan on me there,” Ymir continues. Reiner does feel a twinge of guilt over not keeping Ymir up to date. She wasn’t exactly part of their mission after all, as she regularly reminded them. There also hadn’t been a lot of time to update her in the first place.
“We didn’t have a lot of time –“
“Yeah – yeah look I’m almost with you – Annie and Bertholdt have been keeping Eren out of trouble and given your obvious kidnapping plan – I’ll disappear with Eren over the wall alright? Keep him alive, gets us both out of the way of your grand plan.”
Reiner adjusts his hold slightly and pauses for a moment to allow the soldiers to take down another titan coming towards him. It’s not a bad plan, makes things easier although it does mean that there’s no easy way for them to meet up with Zeke. He says as much before continuing to move.
“Why meet up with Zeke at all?” Reiner can’t help it; he freezes at the suggestion, a dangerous move really given their situation. He quickly starts forward again before addressing her comment.
“Very funny,” he tries, “But you can’t - ”
“I’m on our side Reiner - and you really think that Zeke won’t have Eren eaten? He’s of no use to your plan and you’re just going to hand him over to the cause?”
Reiner feels a twisting in his gut, that’s part of the point. Part of what they signed up for. Death was coming and they had a mission, a responsibility. If Zeke saw fit to – if Zeke –
“If that’s what has to be done,” is what he says but the twisting horror in his stomach settles there. Eren’s cluster, they’d feel every moment of it, every moment of his spine being cracked opened and the fluid made to run. Scarified to their cause. Reiner knows he could achieve the same aim if he just put down the boulder now and let the damn titans eat him.
And Ymir feels his anxiety and uncertainty on the subject. She presses her case ruthlessly, “Or we run. I know somewhere safe or safe enough, we could hold up for awhile. Away from Zeke, your plan, these sorry people.”
“They’re not people – they’re monsters just like –“
“Just like us actually. Quite why we’re not on their side I have no idea. Wouldn’t even be that hard, considering how eager that Commander was to utilize Eren –“
“Fuck off Ymir. Now is not the time – Shit!“
“DAMN IT! Reiner put the boulder down. You’ll have to fight him! Don’t die you idiot!”
During the course of their conversation they had finally reached the wall. Just as another titan had clambered through the opening. Boulder down, Reiner takes it down quick and hard. Eren’s titan form is vicious.
Ymir has vanished, but he knows he’ll be seeing her soon. They can deal with her notions of defecting later, first though Reiner heaves the boulder into place. Blocking up the entrance to Trost, really if they had some time then Annie’s abilities would be much better suited to this sort of work – Reiner squashes those thoughts immediately. He has a kidnapping to finish.
It’s a quick thing to escape from the confines of Eren’s titan form and use Eren’s gear to scale the wall in his human form. There are no troops above and he turns and spies a figure racing along the wall towards him. Ymir, only minutes away.
He can’t wait for this chaos to be over. Down over the wall won’t be safe but at least the intrigue will stop. Then it’ll just be a case of getting them to Zeke. He watches the flare for their victory ark up in a glorious green line whilst he waits impatiently.
Then he realises he’s not alone after all.
It’s Mikasa. His eyes track the steam coming off her swords as the titan blood evaporates into the air, swords she’s doesn’t lower.
Shit, Reiner thinks. Come on Reiner, think, what would Eren do? He says the first thing that comes to mind, “I’m going to Shingasusaha Mikasa. I have to know what my father - ”
“Give him back.” Mikasa hisses, her voice is cold and her expression is hard.
There’s a silence, a long aching one. Reiner waits another beat – hoping that he might convince her without a fight but the time is ticking down, what if others of the military join them? His musing is cut short as Annie visits next to him.
“If you’re going to go you need to go now.”
“I know that.”
“You keep doing that Eren. Talking to voices that aren’t there, whoever you are I’m not -”
“Go,” Annie hisses and she’s right. The sooner they run they better. That flare means Eren is going to want to switch, that more military are coming and Ymir’s not with them yet. He turns to flee and Mikasa comes after him. She’s fast, faster than him and he goes down and there’s a sharp pain in his forearms as he badly catches his fall. The stone is warm beneath his hands.
Annie whispers by his ear, “Let me.”
Relieved, Reiner switches with Annie.