Jean drove to the house warming party Eren had been planning for weeks. On the way he kept thinking reasons to escape the commitment, but he knew that Mikasa would maim him if he dared not to show. His mood darkened as he got closer, he was already an hour late, he couldn't postpone his arrival any longer. It was not that he wasn't happy for Eren and his childhood friends finally being able to afford a bigger place, in a nicer part of town, it was that he was...well...
and he was having a very bad day.
He felt he was working his ass off for nothing, he never got any recognition for his efforts, he lived in a shitty flat in an ugly part of central Trost and lately he was also feeling kinda lonely. Nobody to receive him at the door, nobody to complain to, nobody to cuddle and watch a movie with. He could always quit his job and go back to his mom for temporary accommodation, but that would be admitting defeat and he would be having none of that.
He was definitely not in the mood for Jaeger to rub his happiness and good luck in his face. As an addition when he arrived the street was full, so he had to park two blocks away. He sighed as he cursed his luck and walked towards the house. October had just begun and the air was crisp and strong, making fallen leaves dance around him. Jean walked faster as he used his crossed arms as protection from the wind. This is definitely the worst time of the year to be lonely, he thought as he got closer to his destination.
He stopped at the given address and stared; the house was indeed beautiful. Old but in good shape, late Victorian style, two floors, a small patch of garden at the front. The wooden façade was painted light blue and white and it was among a crammed row of very similar detached houses, all varying in colour and size. Some people were sitting on the front stairs smoking holding a cheap plastic cup in hand. He recognized some of the faces and decided to escape from mindless chit-chat, so he quickly got into the house while mumbling some sort of greeting as he passed by.
The warmth of the place hit his face and he took off his coat. Leaving it on the banister, he stopped for a moment and after a minute of deep breathing he followed the background music and the chatter towards the living room. On his way he inspected every little detail of the place. Damn! The house was very nice, elegant and cosy.
Jean scanned the faces in the crowd and located Mikasa. The raven haired-girl just raised an eyebrow and look pleased with herself. That was enough for Jean, he had been seen, now he could just hang in the shadows for a while and then leave before...The hand that suddenly slapped his back made a loud noise, so loud that some people flinched and looked at the source of the blow.
“ I'm glad you made it, horseface!” Eren said with his brightest smile and Jean knew that he had been drinking little too much. He and Eren had this weird kind of friendship that was all shoves, insults and comebacks and Eren being tipsy meant he was even more affectionate. Mikasa swore that it was due to pent-up sexual tension between the two. Jean knew those were nothing but lies, of course he had never mentioned that the last time they were both drunk at a party he and Eren ended up kissing aggressively for five solid minutes.
“ Well, It's not like a had a fucking choice ” Jean explained dryly.
“ Come on, let me show you around” his friend said while putting his arm around Jean's neck and pulling him close, bending him sideways. The blond didn't want to fight so he let his friend drag him around pointing at random stuff and reciting facts, casually stopping to talk to people in between the tour and never, for one minute letting Jean go, boy was Eren ridiculously strong.
“ Eren!” The boy stopped to the sound of his name, and he turned around to see Connie's round head.
“ Hey, man, glad you came” Eren chirped happily.
“ Your house rocks, dude! You three really deserved a nicer place.” The boy thanked him looking prouder than ever and Jean struggled not to roll his eyes.
“ Nice to see you too, Jean, it’s been a while,” Connnie said playfully punching the blond man's shoulder, who was still trapped in his friend's embrace.
“ Yeah, I've been busy” Jean mumbled before he was interrupted by a body slam (that managed to free him from Eren) and a surpise bear-hug.
“ Jean!” The slim girl wearing her long brown hair on a ponytail hugged him so hard his back cracked.
“ Hey, Sasha” he tried to say, but he was lacking enough air to speak.
“ We have to go for a drink next week. I'll contact you with further details”
Jean groaned, but the girl ignored him, her attention on Connie and Eren, now.
“ Hey, guys... have you seen Marco?” She asked in a conspirational whisper.
“ I talked to him like half an hour ago” Said Eren looking around and trying to find him among the crowd.
“ Why?” Connie enquired
“ Why, you ask...have you seen who is here?” she replied, tilting her head to the side and, as if on cue, the three men looked to where she was pointing.
“ What the.... did you invite that asshole, Eren? Connie hissed.
“ What? Of course not! I hate that guy!” he defended himself
“ He is Thomas' new date” Sasha informed them and Jean had no idea of what they were talking about, since he knew none of the people mentioned.
“ He must be his newest conquest, its only a matter of time before Thomas finds out that he’s a superficial dick” Connie interjected and Jean took the opportunity to extricate himself from the conversation walking along the living room and opening a door that he assumed was the kitchen.
The room was blissfully alone. The muffled music filling the place made him feel at ease and he decided to relax. He opened the fridge and took one of Eren's favourite beers leaning on the counter afterwards. He took a swig while looking at his surroundings, it was comfortable and the decoration pleasing to the eye. The kitchen was large and nice, there was plenty of space for Armin to cook, there was even a place for a nice wooden table covered with a long blue table cloth. On said table rested plates filled to the brim with small nibbles, such as sandwiches, chips, crackers, cocktail sausages and cheese cubes speared by a toothpick.
A few minutes passed before some people came in, but they just took some of the plates and left again leaving Jean to just sip his beer in silence, happy that the interruption hadn't been major. Before long, half the beer was gone and the amber liquid warming his stomach reminded him he had not eaten anything, so it was better it he tried some of those tempting sandwiches, otherwise he wouldn't be able to drive back home. The man distractedly reached for a sandwich, but when he closed his fingers around the triangular piece of bread, he found himself holding a disembodied hand instead.
“ Jesus, fuck!!” He yelled jumping backwards.
“ Sorry!!! I'm so sorry” A panicked voiced uttered.
Jean's heart raced even more when he heard a voice but he saw nobody. He decidedly did not believe in ghosts, but this was fucking scary.
“ W-what the fuck is going on? W-where are you?” he said when his back hit the fridge.
“ I...I'm under the table” answered the bodiless voice.
Jean kept quiet, expecting more information, but none came.
“ Jesus, man. What the fuck are you doing down there?” he questioned getting close to the table and pulling on the table cloth.
“ Erhm... I think it's pretty obvious that I'm hiding...” came the wobbly answer
“ Well.. I'm not that happy to be here either but...”
“ My ex is here!” the voice interrupted in a tone between annoyance and distress.
There was another moment of silence and Jean rolled his eyes sighing. “Why don't you come out of there... I feel really stupid talking to the table”
A rustling sound later, a tall figure emerged from his hiding place. Jean opened his eyes wondering if he had managed to fit comfortably in that space. The guy was tall and dark haired and looked as young as himself. He was wearing a gray sweater that hugged his prominent belly and black pants that covered his chunky legs. He also had wonderful tanned skin and his full cheeks were adorned with freckles. The man was visibly nervous, and he rubbed his cute button nose as he tried to smile feebly.
Jean finished his beer in a hurry, feeling strangely pleased to see the owner of the previous discarnate speech was actually very cute.
“ Jean Kirschtein” He said immediately to break the nervous silence and hopefully put the man at ease.
“ I'm Marco Bodt” The man with dark hair parted in the middle and big brown bambi eyes stated. They shook hands, Jean noticed Marco's was very warm and smiled appreciatively.
“ So, Marco” Jean tried again, somehow he wanted to hear this man's story “You're hiding from your ex. Must have been a pretty awful break up”
“ Erm... no, not particularly” the man replied while he bit on the sandwich he had grabbed. “I mean, I’m a bit of a stress eater,” he continued between mouthfuls of sandwich, “so he broke up with me ‘cause I was getting fat.”
“ What an asshole!!!” Jean complained and Marco shrugged, his big eyes reflecting a quiet sadness and Jean could feel the rage starting to build in his stomach. How could someone be cruel to such a sweet, gentle human? He did not know Marco but he exuded a pleasant aura, he was sure this was the kind of person that attracts people with his kindness.
“ No, its all right” the dark haired man stammered trying to laugh it off. Jean did not buy a second of it, “I just don't want him to see me.. ‘cause, you know? He was right...” he said dismally while pinching his belly rolls with the hand that wasn't holding a sandwich.
“ Fuck that guy!” Jean all but screamed. “You should be outside having fun”
The other man shook his head, his eyes glued to the floor while muttering quiet excuses.
The door opened suddenly and both men stopped for a moment. Mikasa was silently looking at them, not bothering to go into the room completely, her beautiful face and raven hair seemed to float from the crack of the open door.
“ Come out. We're cutting the cake now”
“ Oh, I-I don't think I'll have any” Marco said sheepishly.
“ It's your favourite, strawberries and cream” Mikasa added before stepping backwards and closing the door. It was pretty clear that they didn't have a choice but to join the rest in merry celebration.
“ Come on” Jean said standing straight.
“ No... I can't... I really don't want Oskar to see me like this” he said hugging his belly as if hiding it from prying eyes.
“ Fuck Oskar” Jean raged “Do you want cake or not?”
“ I probably shouldn't eat anymore anyway” Marco replied still looking at his rolls.
“ Come on, man, it's your favorite” Jean added and got one step closer to Marco, his hand instinctively reaching for the other man's.
“ Come on” he insisted “One slice of cake and then I'll take you home, ok?”
Marco opened his mouth but nothing came out. How was it possible that this really attractive stranger was offering him support? He seemed to be genuinely worried about him and trying really hard to help him. Jean had such a stern face and his eyebrows seemed to be permanently drawn together in an impatient scowl, but his whisky coloured eyes were kind, so kind and warm that they were making him feel blushy and tingly all over.
There was a loud gulping noise and Marco, his hand still in Jean's, brushed off the bread crumbs from his chest and belly as best as he could.
“ Ready” he announced, his voice a little more confident than before.
The kitchen door opened and everybody turned to the noise, momentarily ignoring Eren while he cut the enormous cake laying on the living room's table. Jean scanned the crowd, there were some whispers and he recognized the look people were giving them, a gossipy Ooooh-hanky-panky-in-the-kitchen kinda look. All of them but one.
There was man in the crowd, Jean knew the kind, handsome but cruel, nothing ever was good enough for him, his grey eyes were cold and he had a look of pleased mockery that clearly said “Of course, the fat man HAS to be in the kitchen” Jean never felt more disgust in his life. He thought about himself, having being a chubby kid, coming home, crying to mama because of the endless teasing. He had lacked the strength to do something about it back then, but there was something he could do now and if he could make Marco feel better at least for half an hour, he was gonna fucking do it.
Yes. it was clearly a moral obligation to help the distressed. It had nothing to do with the furtive desire of tracing his fingers on Marco's dark skin, connecting precious freckles to find hidden shapes.
Marco tensing next to him brought him to the here and now. The taller man had seen him as well. Jean didn't waste a second and grabbed the plated piece of cake that Armin was offering.
“ Marco” he called standing strategically in from of him, blocking Oskar from his view
he got his attention for a moment. “Do you want to try the cake?”
“ I-I really shouldn't” he responded hesitantly.
“ I didn't ask if you should, I asked if you wanted to” Jean insisted
Marco was silent for a moment, still fidgeting and the blond called his name again, softly, making the brown eyed man look into his whiskey colored ones.
“ You don't have to,” Jean declared while putting a spoonful of the spongy, creamy food in his mouth, “But this is fucking delicious” he added with an impish smirk.
Marco licked his lips slowly, his eyes never leaving Jean's mouth. He had the sudden urge to kiss the blond to taste the tartness of the strawberry and the sweetness of the cream mixing in his tongue.
“ Mmmmhhhhh, so good,” Jean moaned in an almost obscene manner, going for another bite.
Marco's eyes never left Jean's lips, he was smiling confidently now, as if he was aware of the effect he was having on the other man.
“ You know what? I've changed my mind” Those words made Marco look him in the eyes again.
“ W-what” he stammered voice small and weak.
“ This is my fucking cake and you can't have it” the man said cockily. And Marco couldn't do anything but release a heartfelt chuckle, covering his mouth immediately when a few people looked at him.
“ That's hardly fair” the brunet said trying to contain his smile “You can't tempt me to try the cake and then deny me access to it”
“ It took you too long to decide” Jean quipped “and maybe you should know right now that I'm a tease”
“ You did promise to take me home, though”
“ Right, let's just say goodbye” he said leaving the empty plate on the closest surface available to search for Eren. As soon as located his friend he lifted his hand and yelled at him. “Oi, Jaeger! Lovely house! I'm taking Marco home.” Then he just turned around, leaving the room in search for his jacket.
Marco froze for a moment, cheeks redder than a tomato. He shyly waved and murmured goodbye before following Jean hurriedly. People murmured again, even Thomas mentioned how nice they looked together and added an offhand remark on the beauty and gentleness of the darker man's eyes. Oskar just stood there in silence, mood soured and guts boiling.
10 minutes later the host received a text message.
: Marco B
I'm so sorry, just look after my car, please? I'll pick it up tomorrow.
Eren just smiled and got himself another slice of cake.