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Live and Let Go

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“Yelena said Eren knew.”

Reiner glanced up, staring at Onyakopon, his brow drawn. Onyakopon wasn’t looking at him, he wasn’t looking at anyone. He knew the impact of his words.

Everyone in the room—an austere officers’ mess dominated by a long table, ringed with benches along three walls and a galley along the fourth, now repurposed as an impromptu strategy room, it’s only luxury was that it only stank of burnt oil, coal and tar, it didn’t reek of it—went still, it was already silent but there had been motions, rustles, coughing, sighs. Now there was nothing but the sound of the wind and the waves, the creek of metal and the ever-present churn of the engines.

Reiner’s eyes flicked to Mikasa, sitting by herself on a bench by the wall. Despite her quiet stoicism, he knew this would have the most intimate impact on her. He’d already figured out that Armin had started to detach the Eren currently destroying the world from the Eren whom he loved. As far as Reiner could tell, Mikasa hadn’t. He suspected she might not be able to. The pale, dark haired girl made no outward sign of discomfort, but her eyes got glassier and somehow, without moving, she crumpled further into herself. Reiner grimaced and tightened his folded arms around his chest, putting pressure against the sudden bloom of pain. He wasn’t injured. But he hurt looking at her hurting. Reiner even as a child always been perceptive about the people around him; he took care to observe them and understand their thinking and feeling. When he was younger he had used this skill to judge their loyalty to Marley. Preparing lists of suspected traitors. As an adult looking back, it filled him with shame, but he retained the habit of observation. He watched all of the people around him covertly. But out of all of them her pain affected him the most. He hadn’t yet had the time to figure out why.

Onyakopon cleared his throat and Reiner’s eyes snapped back to him, watching the dark-skinned man struggle under the sudden and intense attention of the others. He swallowed, gathered himself and ploughed on. “Eren knew that a limited rumbling to destroy the allied fleet would cripple every country including Marley. Yelena told him. She explained the economic devastation it would cause. No one would be able to attack Paradis for decades; it’s likely they would have sued for peace. Eren didn’t have to launch an attack on the entirety of the Marleyan continent or…” Onyakopon trailed off, the words unsaid. But it hung in the air. _My homeland._

“And the instant they rebuilt they would be back on us like wolves on a lame sheep.” Jean stood with enough force to overturn his chair, his hands balled into fists at his side, his longish brunet hair sliding into face.

Onyakopon didn’t answer immediately. He was never needlessly confrontational. But Reiner could see his anger in the tightness of his shoulders and the clench of his jaw. Justified anger. After a moment he spoke in the same low, hushed voice. “Why do my people have to bear the cost of a war between two nations that have both subjugated us? When this is over, you will have a home to go back to.”

Jean had no answer and no way to oppose what Onyakopon said. So the two men stood, staring at the table. Both straining in their own misery. Jean was right. Onyakopon was right. And it didn’t matter.

Jean started to cry, helpless stupid sobs. Hange, who was carefully feeding small sips of broth to Levi in the corner of the room winced at the sound and looked back. The misery of everyone around her had started to darken her usually cheerful expression. Onyakopon’s shoulders lost their tension as he half turned away from Jean. Reiner could read his thoughts: Jean’s just a kid. And he was still processing killing his fellow trainees just a day ago. Reiner watched Pieck touch the side of Jean’s arm, her soft eyes tender. Jean sat, getting control of himself, wiping his face, while she ran her hand over his shoulders.

Reiner looked to the rest of the pale and exhausted faces around the table. Armin had caught Annie’s hand in his own sometime during the almost confrontation, Annie was still crying, tears trailing down her cheeks. Everyone at the table had been crying, so much that no one even bothered to try and hide it anymore. Like being in a trench and pissing yourself when the shelling started, it just happened. Reflex. There was no point feeling embarrassed.

Well. He hadn’t cried. The circumstance was so surreal. But he deserved it. He hated that others had been dragged into his punishment but he couldn’t get into the headspace of grief for his own loss. Because he deserved it. His homeland. His hometown. His family. Wiped out by the hand of vengeance. The hand of a man he had wronged.

Reiner closed his eyes. Wishing, not for the first time, that Eren had killed only him during the strike on his hometown. But, of course, that was never an option. He pushed himself off the wall he’d been steadfastly leaning on for the last hour.

Without acknowledging the tension or the terse words, Reiner walked to the table and unrolled one of the maps, using glasses to hold down the corners. “Where did she say he’s going next?”

“Fort Salta.” Onyakopon said simply. “We have to intercept Eren at Fort Salta.”

Reiner grunted. “The aerial boat base. Makes sense. But…” His brow drew, he tapped his finger on the location of the base at the southern of the Marleyan continent. “Why now?”

Onyakopon blinked. Hange looked back again. “What?”

“Well.” Reiner picked up a balled-up rations wrapper and put it at the northern end of the continent. “Port Acrifa. That’s where the united fleet was. He had to move his wall of titans from here…” He tapped the huge island of paradise off the east coast and a forth of the way down. “To here.” He pointed to Port Acrifa at the northernmost tip of Marley. “With the element of surprise and the fact that the Titans can swim deep underwater to avoid detection… It would have made more sense to split off his forces, send them covertly by ocean around the north eastern coast, through the straights, and attack both the allied fleet and Fort Salta at as close to the same time as possible.”

“You’re right.” Armin angled his head to look at the upside-down continent of Marley.

“By the time he marches his titans from here,” Reiner pointed at the northern tip of Marley, “to here,” he pointed to the mountains at the southern border. “Most of the planes will have been evacuated. He can destroy the base itself thus limiting their refueling and repair options, but while they’re in the air they’ll be his biggest threat.”

“Aside from us.” Hange half-whispered.

“Hm.” Reiner wasn’t sold on that. “I would have split the forces and hit Fort Salta as soon as possible. Particularly with time to prepare.”

“Then why didn’t he?” Jean asked.

Connie hopped over from the bench against the wall, seeming to find this a more interesting topic than whatever had absorbed his thoughts up to this point. “Maybe he can’t do that? You know, split off groups of Titans?”

“It’s possible.” Armin shook his head. “Probably not a good idea to assume Eren has limitations in commanding the Colossal army. It’s complex enough to reorganize the wall titans from a line to a formation. And get them swimming in some kind of order. Also he would have had to be able to move separate groups of titans to get Wall Rose, Maria and Sheena to unite into one formation.”

“You Warriors got the drop on the brat.” Levi’s voice was raspy, like he was speaking through a fist full of thorns. He had propped himself up so he could be heard, but his arms shook under his own weight. “He wasn’t expecting you to take the attack to him. He had to hit the fleet first and fast. Or he wasn’t smart enough to figure it out in the first place.”
Reiner’s mouth opened, momentarily stunned. He glanced over to Pieck. The pain and fatigue on her features lifted for the briefest of moments. She caught his gaze. And a small smile brightened her eyes. All that hell. Losing Porco. _It wasn’t for nothing._

“What you did might have saved Fort Salta.” Hange finished Levi’s thought.

Beside Pieck Jean winced and hid his face in his hands. Reiner could read that too. Regret. Guilt. All of them—Mikasa, Jean, Connie and Armin—had fought to stop Reiner and the Warriors from preventing Eren completing his plan, not really knowing what that plan was. But Reiner knew Connie had lost his trust in Eren sometime before and Armin… was no longer seeing Eren the same way either. It was Jean and Mikasa who were suffering the most.

Pieck had stopped touching Jean, her features troubled by an inner conflict. After a moment she turned to him and clasped her own small hands over his larger ones, urging them down. She smiled at him. One of her heart stopping bittersweet smiles. Jean froze and then, comically, blushed.

Reiner glanced back down at the map, giving them space. Jean had always struck him as too gentle. He’d hidden it behind arrogance and selfishness… at least initially. But Reiner suspected the real reason was he had trouble stomaching what was expected of him as a soldier. And Pieck… Pieck was too good for war. Not that she wasn’t a strong, perceptive soldier and a formidable titan; but she was too kind sometimes. Too loving. It had made sense when Reiner learned that she had joined the Warrior program to save her father’s life. Pieck was also the youngest of them, almost the same age as Jean. It seemed fitting that they find some solace in each other, whatever it lead.

Reiner looked at Mikasa, who still stared at the table, mind a million miles away. She’d be the one affected most by this revelation. He could imagine the same regret and guilt Jean felt, betrayal. And…

Slowly, with great hesitation, she looked up and looked at him. Her dark eyes widened when she noticed him watching her, unshed tears glistening. Both she and Pieck shared an ever-present air of sadness; with Pieck it was the wistful notes of a tragic love song. With Mikasa, when her eyes met his Reiner felt her pain scrape through him, leaving him raw and bleeding.

He wanted to walk over to her and… do something… something… He started towards her before stopping himself and dropping his fists to the table. Her eyes flicked towards the motion then up to his face again and this time there was something else there, something hungry.
Reiner froze. Shit. His fingers jerked to the grip of his pistol strapped to this thigh, he forced his hand away. Using a gun on a ship risked a ricochet, hurting a bystander, damage to the hull or the engine. His second thought was to run. All of his nightmares flooded back; her savaging him with razor swords, butchering him like an animal. No. That was a memory. His gut seized and he had to breath deep to keep his mind in motion.

She isn’t armed, he forced himself to acknowledge. With her unarmed he had the advantage of size and strength. If she came at him, he could… he could possibly defend himself…
And then she did something Reiner could not have predicted even with all of his careful observations.

Still watching him her lips parted, she bit her lower lip, and turned away sharply, a faint blush on her cheeks.

Reiner knew what it was. He knew. Any other girl in a more amenable situation and he would have simply walked over and chatted her up. But he also knew it was impossible. Mikasa was a weapon and felt nothing for anyone but her master. He cleared his throat and turned his attention back to the map, suddenly finding the southern coastline of Marley deeply intriguing.

“Do you think it’s possible they evacuated the planes at Fort Salta?” Pieck asked, leaning forward, hope lighting her eyes.

“They likely would have been telegraphed the situation the moment our forces returned from Paradis.” Reiner rubbed his chin. “But, our chain of command is in shambles. Hm. I don’t know if they’d be smart enough to act on that.”

“We should figure out how to contact them.” Hange said; Levi was asleep now, his head in her lap. The strain of moving and talking tiring him out easily.

“If we can. Right now, there’s no connection between us and Fort Salta. They might have to find us. If they’re still in play. So we go to Odiha, get the plane airborne, then we intercept Eren at Fort Salta.”

“I don’t suppose we’re ready to talk about our plan once we get to him?” Annie asked. “Are we just going to talk to him? What makes—“

“Annie.” Reiner gave her a warning look. He understood her urgency. He also understood the powder keg they were all sitting on. “We talk to him. For now that’s the plan.” He glanced at Hange. “Is there anything more you need from me… Commander?”

“No, that’s good, War Chief.” Hange smiled as she tossed his rank right back at him, a wry challenge. “You’re so formal.”

“Yes...ma’a…I mean, yes, Hange.”

“I think it’s time for everyone to get some rest. It’s been quite an enlightening day. And exhausting. Come on you.” Hange shook Levi awake gently and eased him up to his feet. “Lets get you to bed.” Gently and without words Hange supported him as he stepped through the door in the bulkhead and into the hallway behind.

Reiner felt someone next to him, he turned to see Onyakopon looking at him with earnest intensity. Onyakopon caught Reiner’s hand in both of his. “I want to thank you, War Chief.” The man whispered, he leaned closer to keep what he said between the two of them. “Maybe its selfish but I know you were never a part of Marley’s wars of aggression outside of Paradis. And you fought there to prevent this outcome. To protect the world. My homeland.” He gripped Reiner’s hand harder. “No matter Marley’s lies, you fought for the right reasons. I can see that here, now.”

Reiner took a breath to deny Onyakopon’s gratitude then stopped. Denying, pushing it away, would just be selfish. “Thank you.” He said instead. “Glad to serve.”

Onyakopon nodded, then stepped towards the exit.

Watching him go, for the first time Reiner felt the absence of Marley’s chain of command with razor sharp clarity. There was no one to salute, no one to defer to, no ones orders to fulfill. No one to ignore his strategic advice. No one left in charge but him. Marley’s final War Chief: a bastard half-breed imposter and failure, who got his titan because of a lie. A War Chief who didn’t care that a citizen of a client state had just said treason against the Party.

Reiner snorted softly, which got him a look from Jean. Well. What better War Chief for a Marley that had been smashed flat by the product of its own malice? Reiner grinned and now Jean was staring at him with open concern. “I can think treason.” Reiner explained to him. “I can think treason now.”

“Wow.” Jean stared at him. “Please stop smiling like that.”

####

Mikasa watched Hange leave. Then Onyakopon stopped to speak to Reiner and she heard the gratitude in the man’s voice, even if she couldn’t make out the meaning of the words. He was thanking Reiner for his service. Mikasa’s breath caught. It was almost beyond belief, the man who had killed Marco, orphaned her a second time and was responsible for her home town being overrun with mindless titans. But then… she watched Onyakopon, her own blind loyalty had led her to assist Eren in his genocidal plan that would lead to the destruction of Onyakopon’s homeland.

She squeezed her eyes closed, folding her hands over her stomach. There was no denying it now. Eren knew he had other options and he chose to rain hell on his enemies in the most extreme way possible. And she… aided Eren in committing an atrocity. It made her sick, scared and sick. If she’d only…

She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up. Armin’s blue eyes gazed down at her an expression of concern on his face. “We didn’t know.”

“We didn’t want to know.” Mikasa countered.

Armin sighed. “I’m more guilty of that than you. I suspected. But I blinded myself to… It doesn’t matter.” He shook his head. “Mikasa, there’s no point blaming yourself. You just did what you always do. You protected Eren. It’s his responsibility what he did with that.”

Armin hesitated, looking at her with pained sympathy. “I know that doesn’t help.”

Annie had drifted over to Armin’s side, slipping her hand into his. Armin gazed at Annie as he continued “We’ve all done things we regret. But, if we accept that, we can forgive too. Maybe.”

Mikasa nodded.

“Get some sleep.” Armin patted her shoulder then dropped his hand and turned to leave with Annie.

Jean and Pieck remained. She watched Pieck’s thin, elegant hand run slow circles over Jeans back, her other hand tucked delicately in her lap. Pieck was feminine and beautiful in a way Mikasa could never hope to match. She balled her fists, feeling anger rise inside her. Sensing she was being looked at Pieck glanced up, caught Mikasa’s gaze and smiled. Her sad eyes made Mikasa feel so ashamed she dropped her gaze, blushing.

Mikasa knew the feeling from watching Historia fawn over Eren. She had always thought she was better at this than Eren, more able to recognize affection.
She’d known Jean liked her. That’s why she’d…

Mikasa closed her eyes, stopping the thought. People thought she was emotionless, but the truth was her emotions were so immense she could never figure out how to express them. Or even how to break them down small enough to really understand them.

Eren had asked her what he meant to her. She had answered that he was family. The moment the answer left her lips she had regretted it, but she thought… she’d have time to chip away at what she felt and make sense of it.

And then Eren went far away. And when she saw him again, he’d already murdered children and families on his way to whatever hell he was seeking.
It haunted her. What if she’d said something different? The thought that she had lost Eren because she had no ability… to speak her mind, to see herself as a woman who could… do what Pieck was doing. To touch gently, too soothe. To be something other than Eren’s terrifying bodyguard. To have what Eren had needed in that moment.

On the long trip by cart to the coast, she’d asked Jean to walk with her and as the others marched on ahead she’d silently worked up the courage.

She wanted to explain what had happened with Eren, to Jean, instead she’d blurted out. “Do you want me?”

And Jean had stared at her in shock, his mouth working soundlessly. When he finally could speak he’d told her “yes” in a strangled voice.

She’d stepped towards him and he stepped back holding his hands up between them.

“No.” He raked his brown hair from his face, looking panicked. “Why do this now Mikasa? When everything is so fucking complicated? Why not when we were cadets?”
Mikasa had stopped in her tracks, pain blooming in her like an underwater eruption, silent and too deep to see. “I don’t—“

“Look no, no. Don’t get hurt.” He’d held his hands towards her then dropped them. “I can’t.”

“Why?” The sound that came out of her startled her, it was high and desperate.

He pressed his hand to his face. “The only reason why you’re saying this is because Eren… Eren isn’t here and… Eren is… a giant monster… that’s going to kill everything outside of the island.” Jean’s face tightened in pain, his eyes longing. “I’ve wanted you since I first saw you. But not like this. It’s just too… too much. I don’t want to hurt you. Please don’t be hurt but I can’t even think about it right now.”

Jean’s words echoed in her head as Mikasa watched Pieck and Jean drift into the hall as per Hange’s suggestion of sleep. Pieck was being kind, Mikasa knew rationally. She’d seen no indication of interest between them. And she had no right to judge either of them if they were interested. But she also felt like Eren had marked her as his even as he tore her heart out. His actions would remain a wall between her and everyone around her. Even if Armin told her it wasn’t her fault, she knew they all judged her because she would not even entertain the possibility that he might have to die to end the destruction. She was responsible for him and what he was doing because she couldn’t end him. And she knew it. Her loyalty came first. She knew that even if they didn’t say it, they didn’t push it, they hated her for it. Even Jean. Maybe even Armin. They were all running away from her. All of them.

Mikasa clenched her hand into a fist. She felt an itch. Her soldier’s instincts put her on guard instantly, knowing she was being watched and she glanced up. Her mind and body froze.
Reiner was staring at her.

Connie and Reiner sat at that end of the table, a bottle of golden-copper booze from the ship’s stores beside Reiner. It wasn’t wine, it was hard liquor. A Marleyan whiskey. Reiner watched her over the lip of his glass, his golden eyes sharp and unrelenting. Like a bird of prey’s eyes.

She shivered. The sound of the armoured titan’s footsteps echoed in her memory, the sight of him 50 feet tall, steam billowing from his jaw, eyes glowing like fire, the sheer size and weight of him, somehow even more threatening than the Collosal.

Most people thought Mikasa was fearless. But she did fear. She feared _him_. She feared how indestructible he was, the armoured titan was impervious to her blades, it was only Hange’s invention of the dangerous and unweildy explosive thunder spear that had given Mikasa any tactical advantage over Reiner in battle. And then the man in the titan… Reiner was nigh indestructible. And smart. An opponent that could absorb her violence and then strike with cunning? Mikasa shivered. It left her feeling exposed. The shiver became a wave of heat that prickled over her skin and her pelvis felt heavy and achy. It wasn’t just fear she felt.Somehow the distance she felt between herself and everyone else faded when she looked at him.

Without taking his gaze off her, Reiner poured himself and Connie another drink. His was about four times as much as Connie’s.

“Hey.” Connie whined. “Thas not fair. You gave yourself more”

“I need more.” Reiner’s eyebrow arched as he smirked over the glass.

Mikasa blushed.

“I’m cutting you off. This isn’t beer. I don’t want you puking all over the mess.”

“Ah… I don’t wanna think anymore.” Connie lay his arm and shoulder on the table and leaned his head against them, swirling the whiskey in the glass. “Give me something that’ll stop me thinking.”

Reiner’s eyes flicked away from her to Connie and she crumpled a bit, relieved. He looked like he was considering Connie’s request. “Go ask the Hizuru engineers. If you’re nice they might set you up.”

Connie lurched up. “Really?”

“Yeah, check the boiler-room.” Reiner jerked his thumb towards the engines. “One of them has to be on watch.”

Connie stumbled toward the door, reorientated himself carefully when he got to the bulkhead and then managed to shove himself through a space three times wider than he was. Mikasa snorted.

“You just had two shots Connie.” Reiner called after him.

“What are you sending him to get?” Mikasa asked, concern for Connie overwhelming her nerves.

“They might have opium. Or morphine.” Reiner responded. “It’s up to him if he wants it.”

“Isn’t that addictive?” Mikasa asked.

Reiner shrugged. “Uh. Yeah. Does it really matter?”

“Yes.” Mikasa said, her brows drawing in anger.

Reiner stood up, draining his glass, setting it in the mess sink, and picking up the bottle. “You’re talking like he has a future Mikasa.” He moved towards the exit.

“What do you mean?” She stood up to follow him, grabbing his arm.

He looked down at her hand and then up at her. She flinched, pulling her hand back. “Connie is going to die. Jean is going to die. And you won’t kill Eren. So most likely we’re all going to die.”

She felt anger crash through her, reflexively she snapped her fist into his jaw.

Reiner staggered back, sloshing some booze on the floor from the bottle. She saw him crouch, ready to fight, his eyes sizing her up. Then he stood upright, straightened his jacket and wiped the blood from his mouth.

She felt horror at what she’d done. “Reiner—“

“It’s just the truth Mikasa.” He glared at her, rubbing his sore jaw. “I don’t judge you for it. Being loyal to a monster? How could I?” He turned away.

She watched him walk down the hall towards the berths. Smoke from his healing mouth trailed behind him. “If it’s any consolation, I’m square with dying.”

After a moment, without understanding why, she followed him. Did she want to apologize? She didn’t know, she just couldn’t stay in the empty room with her own thoughts echoing in her skull.

####

Reiner spat the taste of blood out of his mouth and tongued his loose teeth. They’d already started to firm up in his jaw as his titan healing did its work. When the pain echoed to nothing, he took another swig. It would take half the bottle to start to dull his thinking; maybe three quarters, the whole thing, before his thoughts would be quiet enough for him to sleep.

He never woke up drunk of course, always sober. And the drunk didn’t last long enough either, sometimes he’d wake up sober from a nightmare in the middle of the night. A nightmare that almost always featured the woman who was currently trailing him to his berth for some reason known only to her.

It took every ounce of willpower to keep himself from turning to face off against her. Goddamn, Mikasa had no clue how scary she was.

Reiner stopped at his berth, opening the door. He heard Mikasa stop a few paces behind him. He turned to look at her. “What are you doing? You’re following me to my cabin.”
She stared at him with eyes that held an ocean of feeling but no apparent comprehension.

“Mikasa. You’re following a man… to his bedroom.” Reiner spelled it out. Islanders were different than mainlanders. Any woman from the mainland would know the implications intimately because Marley was—had been, he corrected—strongly natalist with very conservative values. Islanders, being trapped in a cage, had constant population pressure, they had looser morals, tended to hedonism and let their women enter the armed forces. Reiner took another swig. Yes he was definitely drunk enough to be reciting Marleyan propaganda to himself.

A blush bloomed on Mikasa’s features as she finally registered the implications of what he’d said and she looked like she was about to piss herself in sudden fear. Reiner almost laughed at her. Almost. He wasn’t an asshole. “Go.” He turned and gestured down the hall with the bottle.

When he looked back, she was crying. He stared at her. “This is dirty pool.”

She wiped her tears with the heels of her hand, her sobs both uncontrolled and completely silent.

“Alright.” He grabbed her by the neck, pulling her inside. “Get in here before someone sees and thinks I’ve done something horrible to you.” He eyed her resentfully. “Like punching you.” Closing his cabin door as quietly as he could behind her, he stepped further inside. They’d given him an officer’s cabin. It was the peak of ship-board luxury, even had a desk and a chair beside a bed a foot wider than a window sill. Still stank of oil, coal and tar tho. He unstrapped his pistol, hesitating before he laid it on the desk. Normally he’d store it somewhere near him on the bed, but he wanted it closer for now. Just in case. He turned back to her as he shrugged out of his jacket.

She had shriveled into herself even more, leaning back against his door, head down, her hand clutching at her throat. She looked like shit. Tired. Pale. Sad.

He pulled a glass out of the small cabinet over the desk and poured her a couple fingers worth out of pity.

He caught her wrist and pulled her to sit on his bunk, pushing the drink in her hand. He took the seat from his small desk and sat down backwards beside her. “Just so you know I reserve the right to ravish you at any point while you’re in here.”

Instead of laughing at his crude joke, Mikasa blushed harder and gulped the booze.

“Hey, hey…” He caught her hand before she drained it. “Slow down.”

She looked at him and then let her hand with the glass drop to her thigh.

Reiner leaned over the chair’s backrest and scrutinized the grey metal floor for rust as he rubbed the short hair at the back of his neck. “Mikasa…”
“Would you… ravish me?” She set the glass on the desk.

He blinked at her. Took a swig of whiskey. “What?” They stared at each other in one of the most palpably awkward moments of Reiner’s life. “What did you say?”

“Show me.” She began to unbutton her blouse. He watched her, stunned, until it fell open, exposing her bra. She started to unbutton it as well.

“Wait stop. It was a joke!” He jumped up, tripping on the chair. By the time he regained his balance the sides of her bra gaped open and she sat exposed before him, looking up with a bashful, yearning need. Her breasts bounced with her sharp, shallow breaths, pale, sweetly round, the nipples tight from the sudden cold air.

Reiner stared. The speed of his desire took his breath away. Yet still at the back of his mind, doubt scratched: she’s distracting me, she’s trying to kill me. “Show you what?” Reiner asked, then shook his head sharply. “No.” He sat beside her on the bed and started to pull her blouse closed. “This too much.”

“Jean said the same thing…” Mikasa let out a sound of strangled frustration. “What am I doing wrong?”

Reiner stared at her as he picked up the edge of her shirt to button it back up. “Jean. You did this with Jean?”

“I asked him if he wanted me.”

“Mikasa.” Reiner finished rebuttoning her shirt and sat back. He took another good long swig out of the bottle. He didn’t want to deal with Mikasa’s brand new form of crazy sober. “This isn’t something you can just charge into. That works when you need to make split decisions in battle. But not so good for this. You can’t push people too fast.”

Mikasa absorbed what he said in silence, shedding more silent tears.

He cupped her cheek in his hand, his blunt fingers buried in her thick black hair, brushing her tears away with his thumb. “What is this really about?”

She leaned into his touch, trembling and again he saw the flash of hunger in her eyes. With her in this state, it didn’t terrify him; it excited him. Her lips looked moist; they were plump and red from crying. Even though every alarm bell in his head rang as he leaned in, kissing her, he was too drunk to catch hold of his actions.

At first she didn’t respond and he was left nipping and licking her lips with no reciprocation, then she started to imitate and it sent a thrill through him. He slipped his tongue over her lips and into her mouth and she mimicked him. He started to push her down into the bed as the kiss became more aggressive and intimate. This was feeling less and less like a distraction or a seduction to get him off guard; more and more like the real thing. Mikasa did want to learn, and she was charging into it, shedding uncertainty as she went.

Just as he was about to make good on his joke, Reiner pulled back, panting. Mikasa watched him with lidded eyes, her pupils dilated. “What is this really about?” He asked again.
Instead of answering, she moved in for another kiss.

He put his hand over her mouth. “No. I want an answer first.” He picked himself off the bed and righted the chair, pushing it back, further from temptation. He sat down, folding his arms over his chest.

Mikasa stared at him with the same raw hunger that had unnerved him at first. Well. It still did. His fingers itched for the pistol behind him. He resisted.

“He…” Mikasa began, then cringed, pressing her fingers against her lips.

“Go on.” Reiner smiled. “Think of it as a military debriefing. Let’s get the facts. Who’s he? What did he do?”

“Eren.” Mikasa pulled her knees up to her chest and brought the glass to her lips for a sip. “He asked me what I meant to him.”

“What did you say?” Reiner took a slow drink from the bottle.

“I told him he was family.”

He choked, spitting a haze of whiskey all over the floor but managing not to snort it through his nose. It still burned his sinuses. He coughed, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand while Mikasa glared at him, affronted. “Really?” Reiner said. Eren must have grown up while Reiner wasn’t around, grown up and clued in. And then got shot down. Poor man, Reiner thought. He didn’t say it, though.

“Yes.” Mikasa replied curtly.

“Mikasa I saw how jealous you got when another girl so much as looked in Eren’s direction.”

She didn’t answer, just took another sip.

Reiner plowed on. “Were you scared you couldn’t be what he was asking of you? Or you didn’t know how to?” He stopped, considering. “So you’re trying to fix your mistake with Eren. First with Jean and now with me.”

Her eyes widened, looking at him like she’d never seen him before. She quickly drained her glass and stood, slamming it down on his desk.

“Oh. Now you’re leaving. Now that all the cards are on the table.” Reiner goaded her, grinning. For some reason her presence made more of his old self come through. The mean, cunning, crass boy that he’d been.

She glared at him and turned toward the door, reaching for the handle. He stood and slid his hands over her waist till he’d caught her and pulled her close. He was startled at how small she was, he had to lean forward to whisper in her ear. “Stop.” He understood now. The man she loved had loved her back… and she had been unable to fight through her own timidity to claim him. And then he went further away from her than she could ever travel, tearing her heart in half, and leaving her thinking she only had herself to blame. Reiner kissed her temple, rocking her in his arms. “If it makes you feel better… scream against me.”

She turned around slowly, her gaze inscrutable but not angry.

“You didn’t do anything wrong.” Reiner said, cupping her face in his hands, crouching to eye level. “But the last time we were this close you were trying to cut my head off. And you did just attack me. Forgive my confusion.”

“I’m sorry.” She blushed, then turned her head, catching his wrist in her hand. She kissed his palm and then she bit his thumb, hard. He winced as a mischievous look passed over her features, followed by the same intense hunger. So close to the murderous rage he’d seen in her eyes when she’d severed his arm and mangled the other when he revealed himself a traitor. “You think I was here to kill you?”

He shook his head. His body reacting to her proximity and that look… It burned through him. He leaned forward to kiss her, refusing to be cowed. Just like then. He’d charged her and her flying off Wall Maria. Fight back. Keep moving.

She met his kiss eagerly and if she had been learning before, she was aiming for mastery now, grabbing his neck, pulling him against her, her tongue pushing his lips open before he moved to do it to her.

They moved clumsily to his bunk without breaking the kiss. She pushed him down till he was kneeling on the bunk and stepped back. “Take your shirt off.” She ordered.

Reiner grinned. Mikasa had always been bossy. Although she’d never directed it at him before. “Technically I outrank you, Private First Class.” He retorted but complied, unbuttoning his grey-green army shirt and shrugging out of it. He had just enough time to drape it over his chair before she’d grabbed the hem of his singlet and would have torn it off. He caught her hands, straining against her strength to stop her. “It’s my only one.” He kissed her lightly on the lips and moved back. She came after him and he put up a hand. “Uhh. Wait. Right there. You want this you wait.” He had to establish some control over her or she might just kill(well, incapacitate) him in her passion. Or damage something he needed. He caught the hem of his singlet and began to slowly bring it up over his stomach. Her eyes watched the progress like a guard dog watching a piece of meat held just out of reach; her entire body vibrating with chained lust.

The sordid part of Reiner reveled in this. Having power over her; over something she needed… and could only get from him. The same part that, as a kid, had compiled secret lists of all the treasonous behaviour—or suspected treasonous behaviour—of the people around him, the people he didn’t like. He was seducing the woman that had rejected Eren. Rejected him out of fear and confusion yes, but Eren still hadn’t managed to have her. Reiner was breaching Eren’s wall, his fortress. About to make his loyal weapon into a woman.

It was revenge of a sort. Not that he wanted revenge. He watched her lick her lips as he finally pulled the singlet over his head and off. She still waited for him, still obedient despite herself. Maybe cowed by her own ignorance. He could humiliate her now. His night-terror made flesh. Tell her no. Kick her out.

The moment stretched, Mikasa’s expression turned more beseeching. Reiner dropped his singlet on the floor and laughed softly, “Good girl. Come.”

It was like a gun going off, she rushed him, grabbing around his waist, kissing and biting his neck, pushing him roughly up against the cold steel wall. Reiner shivered at the sudden temperature shift. He let her do whatever she wanted and she started to trail her bites and kisses down his chest, glancing up here and there to gage his reaction. Reiner grinned at that and ruffled her hair; he was already hard and would have easily taken her the moment his ass hit the bed, but she was so enthusiastic he was happy to go where she led. Then she started nipping and licking his nipples. He moaned, his amused cunning shattered, now he was no longer capable of being smart. She moved lower, down his chest, past his navel, licking and nipping the soft trail of hair disappearing into his waistband. She looked up at him, her eyes hazed with lust and innocence.

“Don’t bite, don’t use your teeth, don’t suck hard.” He said breathlessly as he unbuttoned his pants and dropped them to his knees. Now she could see what she’d done to him through the thin fabric of his underpants.

Her fingers brushed the skin of his lower belly as she considered.

Reiner figured she might stop here, he’d had virgins before and this was usually the point they got cold feet… at least for a bit.

She glanced up at him and he quirked an eyebrow at her. She breathed out through her nose, her eyes darkening with anger. Without looking away she pulled his underwear down and resumed kissing his lower belly, her fingers trailing down his inner thighs.

He thought about stopping her or telling her she didn’t have to, but she might just get angrier. Mikasa’s pride was engaged at this point, he could tell, and failure was not an option.
Hesitantly she touched the base of his cock, already fully engorged, then her fingers tripped lightly up to the tip. He felt his belly clench, his breathing quickened, his knees got weak and he grabbed her shoulders for balance.
Experimentally she closed her fingers around his shaft and started to slowly stroke it. His dug into her shoulders as he groaned and felt himself get stupider with each stroke.

As an expert swordsman, Mikasa’s grip was firm but nimble and she seemed to have gotten a handle on judging his responses. She’d always been good at reading his intentions when they’d sparred. She found the rhythm, the firmness of grip and the subtle motion of fingers that threatened to undo him with an almost unnatural swiftness.

Just as she was about to win, he caught her fingers in his own. “Stop.” He used every bit of willpower to lift her hand up. It was too impersonal for him; he was a romantic at heart. “Is that all you want? Just to give me a hand job?” He kissed her fingers without breaking their shared gaze and she gasped, blushing.

She might have technique but he had strategy. He pulled her up so she was kneeling like him. “Take off your shirt.” He demanded, echoing her earlier order.

Mikasa unbuttoned her shirt, seemingly a little flustered that the rules of engagement had shifted. She hesitated shrugging out of her shirt, her confusion making her suddenly more timid and modest. Reiner pulled it off and slid her bra straps over her shoulder, very slowly. Taking the time to get himself under control while appreciating the view. He slipped his hand up her chest and neck till he was cradling her head in his palm and when he kissed her again, he forced her backwards, off balance, so she had to clutch at him to stay upright, frozen in the middle of a takedown.

He kissed her deeply while she clung to him—by design. And he held her in that precarious position while he trailed kisses down her throat, over her collar bone, down the swell of her breast and took the button of her nipple between his lips, tonguing and nibbling.

She gasped and squirmed against him, but he had her in a position that countered much of her considerable strength, he had her at his mercy. He pressed his unoccupied hand to her breast, rubbing the nipple with his thumb and squeezing the heft of it gently. As he did so she started making little gasping moans and squeaks. He had to swallow laughter that the stoic Mikasa could make such sounds—if she heard it, it could break their truce and he was aware how fragile she was now, how easily she could be crushed by humiliation.

He released her breast and slid his hand over her taut belly—more soft and rounded now than he remembered, but still tone—down under the waistband of her shin length skirt, under the panties and over the soft nest of curls till his fingers slid into warm, wet heat and she frankly squealed as his index finger found her little knot of nerves. He teased it with his finger tip as she started to buck her hips against his hand, openly moaning now.

After he’d satisfied himself that she was eager for more, he slid his hand deeper, reaching her opening and tested it with a finger while his thumb remained pressed against her clit. There was no doubt Mikasa was a virgin, but Reiner could already tell her active lifestyle—horse-riding, aerial maneuvering, attempting to murder him—had broken down much of her physical virginity. If he took her now, it would hurt a bit, it might even bleed. But not much. And with her as hot and overwhelmingly eager as she was, it wouldn’t slow her down much.
He slipped another finger into her, rubbing up towards her stomach from the inside while she moaned, and squealed and squeaked. So many amusing, silly, sexy sounds; he smiled against her breast.

And then she said his name. “Reiner.”

It dropped through him like a depth charge. He looked up.

She stroked the side of his face with the one hand not keeping herself up by clutching him. “Reiner. I want you.”

He let her slide down to the bed. Once she was no longer clinging to him she started to pull off her skirt and panties till she was naked. Underneath him. Naked.

He looked down at her, her breasts flushed, nipples tight, taunt belly, rounded hips, and her sex wet and ready. She looked up at him, her face flushed, mouth parted, eyes full of hunger for him.

Reiner knew she blamed herself for Eren doing… Blamed herself for Eren breaking bad. She blamed herself because she hadn’t told him she liked him, or loved him or that she wanted him. Reiner had thought at first it wouldn’t have made a difference, but seeing Mikasa like this—yielding, passionate, wanton—he suspected it would have been the only thing that could have changed Eren’s mind.

He kicked his pants all the way off and knelt down between her legs, propping himself up with an arm by her head. He didn’t tell her it would hurt, why bother when she’d probably regard a warning as mockery. Instead he slipped his hand out of her. He caught his penis, guiding it to her threshold. “Don’t flinch, soldier.” He said as he slid full length inside her with a slow thrust of his hips.

She made no sound of discomfort but the sounds of pleasure stopped, he let her adjust to his size for a moment, let her realize the pain would be temporary. And then he began to move.

The stillness persisted for a few thrusts; then she started to move with him, rocking her hips up to receive. A delicious heat built between them, sending waves of pleasure into his core. The moaning and squeaking came back. He moved his hand against her lower belly, letting his thumb touch her knot and stroke it in time with his thrusts. She whimpered at that and seemed to melt against him.

“Reiner.” The way she looked at him… He sped up his thrusts and the movement of his thumb, feeling himself so close, everything narrowed to the feel of her around him, wet, warm, the touch of her hand on his neck, her breath… her desire for him.

She screamed against him, clinging to him, when the inevitable crashed through her and he had enough presence of mind to stop before he went after her. She kept moving tho, looking at him with pleasure drunk eyes, urging him to join her like some kind of succubus.

“Stop. Your instincts are telling you lies.” He said, catching her hips. He was so close to the edge, one, two more thrusts and he’d pop.

“Why?” She asked, squirming against him, against the bed. Pouting. Mikasa pouting?

With an act of will he withdrew from her, still hard, balls still tight. He kept his hand on her hips so she didn’t follow him. When he regained some more of his senses he explained. “I don’t want to create a fatherless kid.”

She looked taken aback, her brow furrowed. She looked at his groin and pulled herself to her knees and urged him up. “No biting, no teeth, don’t suck hard.” She repeated then bowed to kiss his stomach. She looked up at him, eyebrow quirked. “It’ll be a stalemate.”

He chuckled, running his fingers through her soft black hair as she took his tip between her lips experimentally, then a little more. She was still a novice, so she couldn’t take him deep but she made up for it by rubbing his shaft and balls and Reiner lasted about a minute before his hand was fisted in her hair and he was groaning on the brink. “Mikasa!” He hissed as he emptied himself into her mouth.

She swallowed with an air of smug triumph as he collapsed on the bed beside her, smiling inanely at her.

“Salty.” She said. And then she laid down beside him, tangling her fingers in his short blond hair. “You’ve done this before?”

“Sex? Yes.” Reiner replied, stroking her shoulder and side to her hip.

“How many people?”

“Five. Six now.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Was Pieck one of them?”

“A couple years ago. But we’re just friends now.” Reiner said, bemused at her sudden jealousy. He tapped the tip of her nose and changed the subject. “You were pretty good for a Private.”

Mikasa preened a little at that.

He wanted to tell her that if he was Eren, he’d have given up genocide for her. But he didn’t think he could say it in a way that she wouldn’t take wrong. “You should go back to your cabin.” He said instead.

“Can I sleep here?” She asked. “I don’t like the motion of the boat when I’m sleeping.”

He couldn’t say no. Which was a bad sign if he thought about it. He nodded and let her settle herself against his chest while he stroked her shoulder. It was awhile before she fell asleep.
Reiner propped himself up a bit to look at her. She looked so young and soft in her sleep—her arm curled under her head, all the harshness gone; he’d gotten the impression she’d fought because Eren fought, became a soldier because Eren became a soldier and he wondered what she would have become if she’d never met Eren.

Well. Then he’d never have met her. He brushed the hair from her face. “You almost made me want to live.” He whispered to her. Of course if she did, it wouldn’t matter, because she wasn’t going to let go of Eren. So he would just die with one more added regret. Reiner lay back and hooked his arm around her waist, enjoying the sweet smell of her hair and skin mingled in with the musk of her arousal for as long as he had with her.

Just before sleep took him, he wondered if he should get up and get drunk again to stop the nightmares… but with her warm in his arms and comfortable he decided not to, drifting off into a deep, undisturbed sleep that lasted till dawn.