You couldn’t have stuck your tongue down the throat of somebody who loved you more; so I will wait for the next time you want me, like a dog with a bird at your door.
They leave Marley bloody and black.
Armin scrubs at the palms of his hands. In the dim light of dawn, it’s more for pressure and release than anything else; because he knows, in his marrow and in his bone, he can’t be clean of it.
It hadn’t felt real the first time he’d killed someone. This time it had. This time it was ugly, and unforgivable. And something since had settled in his gut. An animal, with black and white teeth.
He stops and turns the tap off.
He can’t face his friends. They’re as covered in blood as he is and as incapable of lawful exoneration as he is but he can’t . They’d eaten dinner together an hour ago. He’d thrown up five minutes after and Mikasa had looked at him the way she did when she knew something was wrong.
“Please don’t lie to me.”
He knows they’re all hurting, and for a multitude of reasons. Armin thinks about Sasha, and his heart twists. Mikasa’s alone in her room - maybe for the first time in years. and Connie won’t eat breakfast with her tomorrow. Connie’s outside still, with Hange and Levi. He’s got his fists in the dirt. And he’s pulling up nothing.
Armin scrubs his hand over his face and dries his hands. They’re red and raw. He doesn’t want to look at them. He doesn’t want to think about them. He goes back to the his room and pulls the sheets back - he’s already stuffed towels on the mattress so he doesn’t soak it through, because -
It’s midsummer and he can’t sleep when he knows Sasha’s body is sitting in his backyard and -
Hundreds of Marleyan children are sitting dead on their own.
He wets his thumb, and kills the candles light.
He doesn’t sleep. Or he does, but can’t tell. When he wakes again, it’s in a slow fit and a fast start. His attempts at not soaking the mattress were futile and he’s sweated through his clothes and into the sheets, the towels - probably even the wood. It’ll rot, if that’s true.
He breathes in. He thinks of Marley. he breathes out. He scratches at the skin around his eyes and then scratches at the skin around his mouth.
He thinks of marley. He closes his eyes. He thinks of Marley.
He’d killed those people - because Eren asked him to. He’d smelt their burning hair. Their nails and skin. He’d heard their screams, the whistle of steam and the harsh crack of bones, of skulls and spines. He’d seen what Bertholdt saw when he gutted Shiganshina.
Red water and a dark black sky.
The only relief he can glean from it is having a new body. The skin he had before he stepped foot in Marley is gone. The lungs, too. The bones. The muscles. The sinew. He was reborn after killing the Marleyans, and so the blood shouldn’t feel so much like a scar or an imprint but it does. He scrubs at his cheeks and his eyes and his mouth. He wets the start of his teeth and in the dark of his room he can’t deny it.
His old body had forsaken him. His new body is beyond forgiveness.
It’s with little forethought that he grabs the key on his bedside table and heads down to the basement.
Eren isn't unrecognizable, and maybe that's the worst part. That Armin can look at him and say, that's the face you make when you're thinking hard.
He’s not sure what he stands outside his cell for. maybe just to see him. It’s been so long - his hair’s longer and tied back; muzzled. He's got the fine starts of a stubble. Armin can - for all that knowing eren is worth - understand him even under longer hair and a sharper tongue. All of Eren’s anger which isn’t so surface level and boyish anymore, but pent up into adult trauma. Armin wishes he couldn’t, standing in the light outside his cell, thinking of Marley and the bodies he left behind - get Eren. He wishes Eren were a displaced memory. a smudged mirror in the back of his mind. Something less of what he used to love. Or still loves. Or wants to still love - but can’t.
Because it was Eren who asked him to. Eren who told him to. The colossal titan that Bertholdt left behind became Armin’s because it was what Eren wanted. The colossal titan that Armin didn’t want had killed hundreds because it was what Eren wanted.
Armin stops at his cell with that thought. That he’s only here because Eren wants him to be.
Past the cell, there’s a door. Armin’s only on guard at this hour because he offered to be, otherwise it’d be Hange or even Levi. Armin wonders briefly what they’ve said to him.
Eren’s still tied up. His wrists taut; red and purple.
Eren looks at him from between the bars, his head tilted to the wall and says, "I didn't think you'd come here."
"I didn't either."
Eren doesn't smile or laugh. Or lunge at him in excited greeting. It’s different than when they were kids. When Eren would've pulled his arm through the cell bars and done something wholly Eren-like. Something so unwholly Eren like now.
"You’re here, then," Eren says, "for something."
Armin swallows and sits on the stool just outside his cell. In the dark Eren’s face casts long shadows and he looks older. And different - more different than what Armin considers obvious. "I want to talk."
Eren blinks and wets his lips, "I don't have anything to say to you."
“I don’t care.”
Eren blinks again and his mouth curls a bit, in what might’ve been a boyish smile a long time ago but now is just a display of teeth. Animals do that , Armin thinks.
Eren leans his head back to the stone wall of his cell and rolls his hips up, and Armin catches this as another display - pitiful discomfort , “Rope’s tight,” he says, and his teeth shine, “maybe I’ll talk if you take it off.”
Armin looks down.
“You’ll talk even if I don’t.”
“I don’t think you want to talk, Armin,” Eren says, “I know I don’t want to.”
Armin swallows again. What he wants to say he leaves unsaid because he knows he won’t get a clear answer. And because he’s scared he might be wrong.
It costs too much to flip coins with Eren. Armin wouldn’t even know what side to bet on.
“You can’t undo what you did,” he says, in lieu of a question.
Eren doesn’t say anything. Armin stands from the stool, and crosses to the barred door of the cell.
“Eren,” he says, slowly, “you killed children.”
To search for an admission of guilt inside Eren would get him nowhere.
“And yet,” Eren says, “you’re still here.”
Armin tenses. He wants to say - “Where else would I be?”“
Eren’s face shifts, and he looks at Armin, in a way wholly distinct from every other expression Armin’s seen on his face since his return. He’s not anguished like Armin wants him to be - there’s no brief flicker of guilt or want just something different that he can’t pin point.
For all that Armin has known Eren, Eren still won’t give him this.
“Come here,” he says.
“I can’t undo this for you,” Armin says.
“ Come here ,” Eren says again.
Armin breathes out. He clenches his fists. But - he puts the key in the hole and turns it. He steps inside the cell and watches Eren’s shoulders rise and fall. It's barely lit by a candle hanging off the wall. And it’s cramped with only the bed and podiums Eren’s stationed between, and a table with a chair in the corner opposite.
Armin says again, “Eren.”
“Undo the rope,” Eren says. And Armin wants. And wants. But can’t have, because so many things are forbidden.
He undoes the knots at the podiums, maybe too anxious to touch Eren, that feeling of something forbidden and wrong still lingering under his tongue. Like if he touches him, it’s true. And the animal wrought in his gut might claw itself free.
Eren undoes the knots at his wrists himself, and rubs at the chafed skin. It heals quickly; there’s barely any steam. Part of Armin wishes he’d let it stay, but then thinks maybe it’s best he didn’t. Eren wouldn’t want to remember. Armin probably wouldn’t want to, either. They’re similar like that. In wanting only to forget their grief, and what led up to it.
It’s not so unexpected when Eren stands, and Armin remembers their differences - where Eren is sharp and tall and Armin’s not. Eren circles his hand over Armin’s jaw, cups it with his palm and his fingers at the back of Armin's neck.
His mouth is warm when he kisses him, when he sucks Armin’s tongue along his and hitches his other hand to grab the other side of his face.
It feels like penance to be kissing Eren again. It isn’t anything like when they were teenagers and fumbling in the dark of a shared room - because then Eren had been admirable of Armin’s compliance, now he’s not so. He slips his fingers into Armin’s hair and tugs his head back to tongue at his throat. He bites at the junction of Armin’s neck and shoulder. And then the hollow of his clavicle.
And Armin lets him because he can’t imagine it any differently. Eren tilts his jaw so he can teethe and it’s so comparable to when Eren would test his mouth at Armin’s wrist, just to feel his skin pulse. There’s familiarity in ferocious touch. When Eren bites hard and Armin bleeds, it’s because Armin wants him to.
And Eren could if he wanted, flay the skin at his chest and take out his heart. Eat it still-beating and Armin would wake up the next day and find it grown back and it would only ever be because Eren wanted it.
Eren steps away after the bite at his jaw, and there’s blood at the corner of his mouth. He licks it away, and Armin tenses. Eren sits on the bench again and leans his head back, he says, “Take your shirt off,” slowly, “and then your pants.”
Armin swallows but unbuttons his shirt and slips it off. Eren watches. Armin unbuttons his slacks next, and waits.
Eren looks at him, thoroughly, like he’s appraising him, then says, “Come here,” and when Armin steps closer, “get on your knees.”
Armin shifts and bites his tongue but kneels anyway. Eren looks down at him - expectant but nothing else. Armin knows he won’t ask for it - because he won’t force him.
Armin undoes the buckle of Eren’s belt and pulls it free from the loop. Eren keeps his hands away. Only when Armin tugs his pants down to his ankles does Eren move his hand to grab at his jaw.
It’s rough. Eren holds to bruise. He pries along it, at Armin’s lower lip to consider his teeth then open it with his thumb. He leans down a second, to lick into his mouth, to wet it. His fingers come second, drawing over the points of his molars and the flats of his back teeth.
Armin could bite but Eren knows he won't. Eren would. If Armin put his fingers in his jaw, Eren would bite and suck. It’s where they’re different. In their teeth.
“I know you’re good with your mouth,” Eren says, his fingers stilling on Armin’s tongue. “use it.”
Armin fumbles, but Eren’s surer than he is. He cups the back of Armin’s head, at the scruff of his neck and eases his hips forward so Armin can tongue at him. His nails cut a pattern into his skin, but Armin doesn’t make a sound or tell him to stop. He wants to be disfigured for a moment, by Eren or with Eren. That Eren wants this too is only a small similarity. The rest of what they each want is so different, with his Eren doesn’t wait and slips past Armin’s throat fast, and how Armin’s fingers dig into the meat of his thighs.
Armin’s jaw hurts with erens movements. But it’s a small sacrifice to have Eren inside him again - like they used to. That thought stings, and his eyes water when Eren pushes hard. His teeth grind, his jaw clicks and clacks. Armin holds his hands close to his pelvis and swallows him back further, and feels his hips and stomach pulse under his hands.
For all Armin’s tried - this is the only way he’s ever been good to Eren.
Eren makes a harsh sound when Armin licks his tongue along the underside of him, and picks apart a pace to roll into his mouth. His nails dig into the back of Armin’s neck. His feet scuffle at the cold stone. Armin digs his fingers into the shallow dip of his stomach and imagines he has claws to tear the skin away, to flay Eren like he’s flayed Armin, and sink his teeth and his hands into his gut. Because whatever's inside Armin, he wants it to match to what's inside Eren.
He pulls back, and Eren sighs. His fingers tense, and then he urges Armin’s head back. Armin gets that he wants to fuck his face, so he loosens his jaw and lets him. He uses his tongue when Eren seems to want it, and chokes when Eren wants him to, too.
Eren, before might've been gentle. Eren now, isnt. And Armin doesn't really want him to be.
When Eren lets go of Armin’s head and stops moving, Armin leans forward and drags his mouth down him again, but Eren only pushes his head back and looks at him strangely. His breathing’s out of time, fast and slow, all at once. He's got nail marks on his thighs and stomach.
He wets his lips before he speaks, “Wipe your mouth.”
Armin scrubs his hand over his chin. Eren watches, and then wipes his own hand across his chin. His hand comes back wet, with what’s erens and what's Armin’s. Armin shouldn’t feel proud for it, but he does. It’s the only way he feels close to Eren anymore.
“Stand up,” Eren says, “and turn around.”
Armin stands and turns. His knees click from kneeling for so long, but it’s easy to ignore. Eren presses against him, his hands grabbing at Armin’s waist. His breath’s hot and harsh on his neck. He gathers quickly, Armin’s hands into an arch behind his back. And Armin already guesses the rope before he feels it.
Eren loops it slowly over his wrists. He knots it twice, then tugs so Armin hisses at the constraint. It burns his wrists.
“Is this tight enough?”
Armin swallows, “Yeah.”
Eren directs him to the table. And Armin lets him. He lets Eren mouth at his shoulder. He lets him bite and suck. And it burns. It's like pulling teeth, the draw in and the draw out.
“You’re tense,” Eren says, and his fingers press at his lower stomach.
Armin can only lean into his hand, and hold his breath. Eren’s not so kind to oblige him gently. Armin almost chokes when he touches him in the form of a fist and a fast tug.
“Do you still like it rough?” Eren says - and it’s humiliating. Armin flushes, and breathes out harshly. Eren presses him harder into the table, so Armin can feel him pressing onto his back, still wet from his mouth. It’s only a small thing, but he still feels proud.
“Do you?” he says.
Eren shifts his free hand to fist in his hair. Armin lets him again. Eren bites the side of his neck, and makes him whine, then reminds him of his hands tied back when he tries to grab at erens' sides for friction of a sort.
“Don’t talk,” he says, and lets him go - then says, lower, “bend over,” before pressing the flats of his palms to Armin’s shoulders and laying him flat on the desk. It’s cold, and scrapes a little at his cheek.
But Eren still fists his hand in Armin’s hair again, and puts his other fist to Armin’s mouth to unfurl his fingers and slip them inside, “Suck,” he says, so Armin does, until Eren’s fingers are wet and he’s taken his hand back to press one inside him.
Armin grits his teeth and his feet scuffle on the tile.
“Don’t move,” Eren says, and presses a second finger inside. He doesn’t leave time between - he curls upwards and downwards and uses his other hand to hold armins head steady. It’s not torturous, just different. He prods and presses, until Armin makes a sound he likes.
He presses a third finger in and leans down. His breath is hot on Armin's neck when he says, “You look good tied up.”
Armin breathes out. His own breath registers to be as sharp as Eren’s, if not sharper; but out of time. Armin’s only ever known them to be directly opposed. If Eren falls, Armin rises, and if Armin bleeds, Eren’s the one to make the cut.
Eren seems to think so too, he curls his finger over Armin’s ear and presses a fourth inside him, “Aren’t you like me now?” he says, “aren’t we the same.”
Armin should say no. But he came to Eren for penance. He can’t exonerate him, not even if Armin wanted him to. This is just a testament to who he is. This is just testament to what he wants and what he shouldn't have.
Armin should’ve said no in Marley. And before that too. He should’ve said no outside the cell. Eren would’ve let him then and he would let him now.
But Armin hadn’t then and he won’t now.
He’d let him mould him into a monster then and he lets him do it now. Sinew and stone - it doesn’t matter. Blood and bone - it does. If Eren wants him to bleed out on this table, Armin will. If Eren wants anything at all anymore.
Eren curls his fingers inside him and Armin whines loudly, fumbles and bumps his foot into Eren’s calf, but he doesn’t say anything about it. He only breathes out hot onto Armin’s neck again.
“You gotta be quiet,” he says, “or your friends will hear you, and you don’t want that.”
Armin shifts, and breathes out harshly. He squints his eyes shut and digs his nails into the palms of his hands. If he draws blood - it’s for Eren’s sake.
“I remember,” Eren says, “when you were loud,” he mouths along Armin’s cheek, and Armin feels Eren’s hand wrapping around him again and tugging harshly again - and again, “I remember when you would beg for it harder,” he says, “I thought you were so pretty then. You’re not so pretty now, are you?”
Eren removes his fingers quickly after, and says, quietly, after , "Spread your legs."
Armin breathes out, but does as he's told. When Eren presses against him again, hot and rough, Armin stills. He waits and wants. Eren breathes in; directly opposed to Armin again, and pushes inside him.
Eren doesn’t wait for any more displaced emotions to slip through. There’s nothing gentle to be had; it’s rough that he wants. He fingers his hand through Armin's hair and grips tight with his hand there and his other on Armin’s hip and fucks him.
There’s no other way to lay it out.
Armin lets his fingers bruise. He listens to Eren’s unsteady breathing. He lets him bite and suck along any wanted skin. When he presses his weight into Armin, Armin rolls with it.
He’s on the battlefield at Marley again. He's complacent to a crime. He's guilty. The animal in his gut rolls over and howls; this is an admission on it’s own. Eren’s fingers tug at his hair. This is an admission too. Eren’s nails dig into his scalp. And this. Eren’s teeth trail at his ear. And this. Eren’s hand reaches between Armin and the desk and tugs at him. And this; especially this.
(If Eren was martyred, would Armin be martyred too? It’s not that they share the same beliefs. It’s that Armin’s the one who got on his knees.)
Eren rolls his hips into Armin’s again and picks a pace that draws sound. Armin can’t muffle it with his fists tied back, so Eren drags him up by his hair and covers his mouth with his palm.
“You’re all red,” he says, “is something wrong?”
Armin keens and Eren shifts his fist over him. He gets his finger tips wet, and palms him. He pulls and tugs. He licks a line up Armin’s neck to his jaw and draws him out of a dark, dark well.
And by then it’s not an admission anymore, it’s a confession .
"There," Eren says, "this is how I know you."
Armin finishes in Eren’s hand, and Eren’s fast enough and keen enough to catch it with his fist. But he holds there, even after. And stays, harshly rocking into him until he finishes too, and makes a scrambled little noise, mouth muffled at the back of Armin’s head. Movement and weight heavy.
He pulls out right after, and Armin feels him wet against his thigh, his mouth panting out - his hands braced over his shoulders. If he looks back, he knows he'll see Eren’s swollen mouth and red face - some kind of vulnerability in him. But that's why Eren turned him away. That's why Eren tied him up.
He doesn’t want Armin to loom. And it's a tell so clear; Eren can't hide it. His mouth startles with it and his chest heaves a little. Armin sees his fingers twitch at his sides.
But Armin doesn’t move, anyway. He waits. Eren kisses up his face, to his mouth where he sucks at the swell of Armin’s lower lip - then his tongue. In the dim light of his cell, they’re green and heavy, but no different to how they were before.
“You did good,” Eren says, and Armin swallows. Eren catches it. He can’t not. He waits and watches for a moment. He considers Armin’s mouth again, wet from some drool and tears.
Eren’s face sits the same as it’s been since he was fifteen. Armin recognises him, and he knows he would even if everything about him changed. He knows if he - instead of Eren - , dug his hands into the flat bone of his own chest and tore out his own heart he would see Eren in it.
Armin thinks he might say something more, but in keeping with his character, Eren doesn't. He shifts his hands to Armin’s wrists and undoes the knots. He doesn’t rub at the chafed skin, but he also doesn’t stop Armin from doing it. And he doesn’t stop Armin from turning around and kissing him, bruisingly slow. And biting his lip, and tasting his blood.
And watching, again. And waiting.
Eren wipes his mouth, after. Then he steps away to dress and sits on his bed. He holds his arms up and lets Armin tie him back to the posts. It won’t keep. If Armin's right, Eren will be gone tomorrow. He knows he should stop him, but he doesn’t feel an inclination too.
He’s taken his penance. He's eluded exoneration. He can’t cut out what Eren’s put inside him, not even if he tried. It’s always been there, that animal, and Armin doesn’t know what he would do without it. Whether he’d be himself, or a product of Eren and Eren’s want.
He dresses quickly and quietly. He steps outside the cell’s doors and only looks back once.
Armin leaves both with and without what he wants.