Let Me Hold You
“Jean?” Eren whispered. He lifted the arm he had wrapped around the young man’s waist and with his fingers touched the back of his head, caressing the undercut part. “Are you crying?”
“No, I’m not. Don’t be silly,” was the wide awake reply.
The birds were starting to sing. It was almost daybreak at Trost, but Jean was still in bed lying on his side. His eyes were closed but his mind was awake, and behind him, lying spooned against his back was Eren.
“You can cry onto me if you like,” the titan shifter offered, “I’ll hold you.”
“I said I’m not crying.”
“Do you remember,” Eren went on, “when I cried after the first round of hardening experiments? I felt a lot better afterwards.”
Jean’s memories were pulled back into that time when they were being hunted by the military police but conducting experiments because they had no choice but to hide and not hide at the same time. Eren failed spectacularly, and when everyone left the room but Mikasa, who insisted on watching Eren sleep for hours on end, Jean came in.
“I’ll take over. You missed two meals already. Go get something to eat. And have a bath while you’re at it,” he’d told her.
“I’m not leaving Eren,” she shook her head stubbornly.
“Look, Mikasa. If you want to spend many more years looking after the bastard you better take care of yourself first.”
“Jean’s right, Mikasa,” Eren piped up in a voice hoarse and tired. “Do as he says.”
After she reluctantly left Jean climbed onto the bed, lifting the shifter’s upper body so that he could hold him in the circle of his arms. Eren collapsed onto him and started to weep immediately.
“I tried, I really did,” he sobbed into Jean’s arms. “I willed myself to harden. I told myself, if Annie can do it then so can I…I told myself, the entire island depends on it. I could will myself…It’s all I have, isn’t it, this will of mine? I tried and tried and tried…” His entire body was racked with sobs.
Jean didn’t say a word but simply held him until the sobs quieted. Stroking Eren’s hair he told him, “There’s something missing, something we still haven’t figured out. We’ll try again tomorrow. You’ll be able to do it at some point, once we find the missing piece of the puzzle.”
All that weeping left Eren spent. He was starting to get sleepy once more. “Tomorrow…try again tomorrow…” There was a small smile on his face before he fell asleep again, slumped into Jean’s chest.
That was a memory of the past, but this time things were different. Historia was queen, and they were about to retake Wall Maria because Eren did figure out how to harden while inside the Reiss cave.
Military personnel got a two-day furlough for every month of service, so yesterday Jean decided to spend this particular leave visiting his mum at Trost. She’d mention whenever she could how much she always enjoyed having him and his friends over so every now and then he brought along Eren, Mikasa and Sasha. Connie always spent his off-days visiting his titanized mum at Ragako. Not wanting to miss any signs of her being sentient he’d ask one of his friends to accompany him so that if she started talking, someone would corroborate that he wasn’t hearing things. This time it was Armin’s turn.
So it was just the four of them at Trost. The girls occupied the guest room while Jean laid a sleeping bag beside his childhood bed for Eren to sleep in. Of course, Eren climbed onto the bed with him for sex. Pleasurable sex made more intense by the need they had to be as quiet and still as possible lest the others noticed. The sleeping bag remained untouched because Eren, ignoring Jean’s threats to kick him off the bed, preferred to be scrunched up beside him on the built-for-one furniture.
The morning after Jean woke up early but remained in bed. Eren was sleeping with his face pressed between Jean’s shoulder blades. They were spooning–again–with Eren being the big spoon. Why was it that Eren always ended up as the big spoon? He seemed to have a thing about hugging people from behind. Lean on me, he seemed to be saying. But he already carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. Wouldn’t he want to be comforted at least during his sleep? Jean tried to change positions, but Eren’s arm around his belly held him in place. Oh well.
His mind traveled back to the first time he brought Eren and the gang to his mother’s house. Mrs Kirschtein laid out a sleeping bag for Eren next to Jean’s single bed. But the visitor refused to sleep on the floor, insisted on crawling onto the narrow bed. “It’s too narrow, you’ll fall off,” Jean had said, annoyed.
“Who says I’ll be sleeping on the edge? Scoot over,” Eren shot back. They had to spoon in order to fit, and Eren was pushing himself toward the wall.
“It’s my bed, Eren!” Jean protested, kicking him.
“I’ll be big spoon,” Eren simply declared, kicking back.
“Why exactly do you get to be big spoon?” Jean glared at him in the dark.
“Because the older one always gets to be big spoon,” Eren explained with great conviction. “I’m the older one.”
“By a week!” Jean found himself yelling, supremely irritated by Eren’s logic. Then he offered his own: “The taller one always gets to be big spoon. I’m the taller one,” he pointed out with great satisfaction.
“By two inches!” This time it was Eren’s turn to yell.
“Three!” Jean corrected him loudly.
There was a pounding at the door. “Shut your pie holes, you two dipshits!” It was Sasha. “We can bloody hear you from across the hall!”
“Sorry!” Jean and Eren replied in unison.
“Listen,” Sasha hissed. “Mikasa becomes anxious when you make a racket. Just keep it down, okay?”
The two boys apologized again. Regarding positions, Eren was lying, of course, because during the rare times Captain Levi let himself be cuddled post-sex Eren got to be big spoon and the captain didn’t seem to mind. Jean, too, was lying, because when he and Marco had experimented with sex it was Jean who got to be big spoon, even if Marco was taller. Marco simply didn’t care who was which.
To settle the big spoon-little spoon issue Jean and Eren eventually did rock-paper-scissors. Eren lost and was grumpy the entire night.
That was a time when they fought and argued over every little thing. Things have settled down a bit nowadays; the longer they got to know each other the more they learned to compromise or simply drop it.
Jean smiled at the memory as he closed his eyes, reveling in the warmth of the body next to his, listening to the chirping outside the window, knowing his mum would soon be downstairs doing what she loved–cooking for her boy and his friends. The girls safe in the guest room, no titans around to devour them. It was such a luxury, a beautiful morning like this, when you can look out the window and see a new day was at hand with a blue sky full of dreams and pink clouds making way for the sun to shine through. It was peaceful, so gently peaceful. Eren’s breathing was warm against his skin and it was the little details, the warmth of this young man alive and lying next to him and breathing softly while he waited for daybreak, along with the recollection of the acts of kindness his friends did for him the other day, that made Jean want to cry. Such a lovely, momentary, fleeting peace.
Eren must have felt it, the barely perceptible trembling, the erratic breathing, the tightening of the belly when you are trying your best to keep the tears from falling.
“Jean, are you crying?” Eren had asked. Jean denied it.
“Do you remember,” Eren tried again, “that time when I told you about my mum? You held me and I cried, for like, what, an entire afternoon? I felt stronger the next day. Crying’s good, you know…”
Jean listened but didn’t say anything for a few moments. He did remember, that night when Eren looked so morose and Jean found out it would have been Carla Jaeger’s birthday had she been alive. He didn’t have a genuinely tragic story like that to tell. But then he felt he owed the other guy an explanation. “Eren, listen. I can’t weep. I want to, but I can’t,” he began, his back still facing the brunet. “You see, I’m not strong like you. Not everyone is strong like you.”
The feel of Eren pressing his forehead between his shoulder blades prompted him to go on. “Eren Jaeger tries, fails like shit, weeps, and then wipes his tears and gets back up and tries again. He just keeps on moving forward. Again and again. But I’m not like that, you see. I’m weak, Eren. I can’t overcome obstacles the way you do. All the time I’m terrified of the consequences of my decisions. Every time I take a life it destroys me on the inside. Every time I see people die because they were following my orders I am totally wrecked…” Jean sighed before continuing. “I know you’re dying on the inside, too. But you cry and move on and just keep at it regardless. I don’t have that kind of strength.” The young man beside him didn’t say anything but he felt the fingers press harder on the back of his head.
Jean went on. “If I break down I don’t think I’ll be able to recover. That’s why I can’t all out cry. Because once I start bawling I won’t be able to stop…I’ve seen soldiers, Eren, left leaderless. They’re like paper boats tossed out into a stormy river, rudderless and aimless. Right now there are soldiers that look up to me as their leader and I need to be strong, or at least, appear to be strong. I lack the ruthlessness of Commander Erwin, or Armin’s pragmatism. All I have is this leadership that people ask of me for some reason. And to stand in front of them and lead them I can’t give in to my emotions.” He paused for a few moments, listening to the growing chorus of birds waking up to the first rays of the sun. “One of these days, when I can break down and no one’s the worse for it…Someday, at a time and place when I can collapse in a pool of tears and no one cares because I’ve served my purpose, when that day comes I’ll let it all out. And I’d want you to hold me.”
He turned around so that they were face to face on the narrow bed. “Will you wait, Eren, for that day to come?”
The look on Eren’s face was kind, the touch of his fingers on Jean’s cheek tender. “I’ll wait,” he whispers. They gaze at each other for a few moments before nodding off to a light slumber, foreheads touching.
It was the clanging of pots and pans from downstairs that awaken them. Jean stretches, yawns and then glances at Eren before rolling on top of him, grinning that old familiar cocky grin of his. “Hey, hot stuff,” he propositions, a naughty gleam in his eye, “let’s fuck before my mum barges in announcing breakfast.”
Eren wraps his arms around his neck and pulls his face down for a kiss.
After sex and breakfast they pack their horses and leave Trost to return to work. While riding Jean gazes at his friends’ backs with great affection, remembering what happened the day before.