"Alright, talk," Erwin said as he closed the door to his office behind Rivaille, somehow gesturing towards the chair in the same motion, making it clear that Rivaille should take a seat.
"Mm," Rivaille said, obliging the gesture as he pondered how best to explain. A sudden surge of very Eren-like 'fuck it' coursed through his head, and he shrugged to himself. Why not. "I think I've told you about my… situation before you picked me up?"
"Enough to understand, yes," Erwin replied.
"Right, well- we stole a lot, right? Only- there was always this… that one property- and we were never allowed on there. It'd've been stupid to try and get on, anyways, the security was always tougher than the rest and the other kids, they'd beat you if you even thought about it. But we got a shipment once a month, of food, from there. Big house on a hill, red-colored bricks."
"Ah," Erwin said. "The Reiss house."
"Exactly. She's not lying- at least, not… much. There's important shit in that house, that's for sure."
"Hm." Erwin seemed to think for several seconds, before fixing his eyes back on Rivaille. "If we got you in, would you be able to recover the information?"
Rivaille cocked an eyebrow. "You think you'd be able to get me in?" Erwin nodded, a trace of a smile visible. Rivaille narrowed his eyes. "If you got me in and let me have Hanji for an hour to build some fucking hacking devices…" he shrugged. "Shouldn't be a problem."
"Excellent," Erwin said, pulling up his own walkie-talkie and pressing down the button. "Mike, channel six."
"Roger, switching now."
Rivaille watched, bemused, while Erwin changed his channel as well and waited for Mike. Why Mike? Fuck if he knew.
"I'm on, Erwin. What is it?"
"Well, it appears our coffee shipment from Reiss &Co. is a week late. We're very much in need of that to keep the shatterdome working smoothly, I'm sure you know. Would you be predisposed to going and… having a chat with our dear Mr. Reiss?"
There was a moment of silence, then the walkie-talkie crackled. "I'm guessing I don't have much of a choice, here. Now?"
"No, in an hour. Where are you?"
"Was headed to the rec room."
"I'll send Rivaille to meet you there, then. He'll brief you."
"Thank you, Mike." Erwin put down the walkie, then focused back on Rivaille. Who, honestly, had long since given up trying to understand the mechanisms behind Erwin's actions, and found it much easier to simply trust that they would work out. "Go talk to Hanji about the hacking software, first. She should have something on hand. Then you're to go to the rec room, and find Mike. Explain to him about the situation with House Reiss and the information of beyond the walls. You two will head out to House Reiss- it's still not too late for social visits. Mike will talk to them, you will go explore the basement."
"Right. Any kind of information in particular you're looking for? I doubt I would be able to collect all of it."
"Focus on maps of the world beyond the walls, for now. We have three kaiju working with us, which eliminates some of the need… if there's anything on the kaiju's origins, that as well. Maps related to that."
"You're dismissed, then," Erwin finally said, his tone the formal one he used when in his Commander role. Rivaille nodded, standing up and heading towards the door. He paused in the doorway, looking uncertainly back to Erwin.
"Is there really a delay in the coffee shipments?"
Erwin half-smiled. "Go find Hanji, Rivalle." Rivaille scowled, but left nonetheless. After a moment's contemplation, he redirected himself through the mess hall, grabbing a coffee to go. Just in case.
Eren paced back across the door of Armin's room for the third time, ignoring Mikasa's pointed sigh.
"Look, Eren, why don't we just go to the mess hall? It's almost time for lunch, anyways," she finally said. Eren made a distressed noise in the back of his throat.
"And you're just… just fine, with this?!" he exclaimed. Armin, who was sitting on Eren's old bed, winced slightly, glancing hastily up at Mikasa. Eren instantly felt a pang of regret, but didn't withdraw his words. Mikasa's eyes narrowed slightly and her hand came up to tug absently at her scarf.
"No, I'm not okay with it. It's terrifying," she said. Eren stopped pacing, looking at Mikasa with a pained expression.
"Sorry, I didn't mean-"
Mikasa shook her head. "It's terrifying, but… I still trust Annie, you know. The things she showed me…" Mikasa shrugged, almost uncomfortably. "She's worth trusting."
"That's…" Eren started, stopping again moments later, considering his words. "I'm glad." Mikasa smiled at him wanly.
"Hm. Well…" Armin began, and Eren could tell that Armin had his smart-person mask on- he was holding himself a little stiffer than usual. "I don't know that we can necessarily trust… well, any of them, based on what they told me and what you've told me... But at the same time, they don't really have a reason to be truthful."
"We can trust them," Eren said. Armin regarded him for a moment. Eren lifted his chin a bit, almost wishing Armin would contradict him. Because, after all, if they can't trust them… then how can they trust you?
"We have to," Mikasa said, quietly, from her seat on the bed opposite Eren's. "How else can we move forward?"
After several seconds of silence, Eren resumed his pacing. A minute later, the bell for lunch sounded, and the three walked to the mess hall in silence. Eren glanced sideways, first at Armin, then Mikasa. Both of them seemed relatively lost in their own worlds. Eren didn't like it. The worry was practically tangible. Eren sighed, but went on to collect his lunch all the same.
The three sat down at their usual table and began eating—only to be interrupted moments later as Jean, Sasha, and Connie either took an empty seat or pulled one up.
"Mm, hi?" Eren asked around his mouthful of chicken sandwich, raising an eyebrow inquisitively at Jean's burning glare. I haven't done anything to piss him off lately, have I? I've hardly been around at all anyways…
"But, okay," Jean began, his eyes flicking to both Mikasa and Armin. "What the fuck is going on. First Eren's constantly gone, and then a random kaiju attack happens on our own shatterdome. Let me stress that I literally mean on. And Annie and Mikasa and Reiner and Bertl- who definitely went to go fight said kaiju- have been missing for five days, and Ymir and Christa suddenly vanished this morning as well?! Don't even try and hide it, we all," he indicated Sasha and Connie as well as himself, "know something's up."
"Uh, well-" Armin began, but not after exchanging a hurried but still very clearly guilty glance with Eren and Mikasa.
"And no bullshit," Jean said, glowering at Armin. Armin gulped, and looked pleadingly at Eren. Eren sighed, reluctantly setting down his sandwich.
"Alright, I'll tell you, but you can't tell anyone else in the shatterdome. Or, well, anyone else, period. Understood?" he said.
"Yes," Jean said, his teeth very close to being gritted.
"Yup," Connie added, and Sasha made a noise that was probably a yes, although it was distorted to the point of incomprehension by the amount of food in her mouth.
"Shake on it," Eren said, extending a hand to Jean first. Jean rolled his eyes, but took Eren's hand firmly in his own regardless, and gave it a firm shake. Eren then shook both Connie and Sasha's hands; only then was he satisfied enough to continue. "Right, well. I'm a kaiju, Annie's a kaiju, Ymir's a kaiju, Berthold and Reiner are traitorous backstabbing kaiju-"
"Seriously, Jaeger? You couldn't fucking act serious for once in your fucking life?" Jean growled, his anger written clearly on his face. Eren bristled after a second of being taken aback.
"What the fuck, Jean? I am being serious, you can fuck right off if you don't want to know, fuck you," he replied, slamming his hands down onto the table on either side of his plate, making everyone's dishes tremble slightly.
"There's… there's no way you're being serious, right?" Sasha said with a tone of fake joviality. Eren finally tore his eyes away from Jean's, looking over to Sasha. Her eyes were wide, and she had half a smile on her face, the kind she used when she knew she was in trouble with Shadis but didn't quite want to admit it yet.
"Ha…" Connie said as the silence dragged on. He looked completely lost. Finally, Mikasa took pity on them.
"Eren's telling the truth. Annie showed me. In the drift-" Mikasa abruptly cut off, looking over Sasha's shoulder. The others followed her gaze, watching as Annie, Historia, and Ymir walked over to their table. Jean, Connie, and Sasha stared unabashedly, and Annie glared back, while Historia seemed concerned with the state of her boots and Ymir seemed, as usual, bored.
"I could eat all of you, you know," Ymir finally said, inspecting her nails. There was a moment of resounding silence.
"What the fuck Ymir?!" Connie cried, his arms flailing comically as his chair tipped back, almost too far. Eren fought back a snort, and noticed Historia trying the same. Annie looked unimpressed. Ymir shrugged.
"Just saying." She looked at Jean. "And confirming. Anyways," she added, turning to Eren, who immediately narrowed his eyes at her tone. "You can't know shit because your mental walls are still shit. So go fuck around in Hanji's lab or something while we fill the rest in."
"Aren't you leaving?"
"Will no one tell me anything?!" Eren exclaimed, throwing his hands up in the air, bringing them down to run through his hair afterwards, in complete exasperation and a touch of anger.
"Ymir's right," Annie decided to add, moving over to stand beside Eren's chair as if waiting for him to get up and leave. Which is probably exactly what she's waiting for, Eren thought sourly. "Yes, I am waiting for you to move. Your mind is still too open. Work on that." Annie's tone was final
Eren looked beseechingly around the table. Mikasa had her neutral face on, and Armin seemed to be siding with Annie and Ymir. Jean, Sasha, and Connie simply looked confused, and were of no help. Ymir waved at him sarcastically, Annie glared, and Historia avoided meeting his gaze. Eren sighed heavily.
"Fine, fuck you guys, too," he grumbled, grabbing his tray and leaving (before even having finished his meal, which was practically unheard of). He stormed out of the cafeteria, heading first to his and Rivaille's room and then, when that provided no distraction, to Hanji's lab. Halfway there, he scowled and decided he might as well practice his mental barriers. He aggressively pictured thick brick walls around all his thoughts.
He didn't stop when he arrived at Hanji's lab and was greeted exuberantly, though when Hanji told him he was welcome to take a seat and then promptly launched into a running monologue of what she was doing, focusing on dull bricks became harder and harder. Eventually Eren let go, trying to focus on Hanji's words while maintaining his mental shield on another level. He didn't know if it had worked, but…
At some point, Annie, Historia, and Ymir wandered down. Hanji also gave Eren a running commentary while she inserted the tracking device- a small metallic node, apparently- into each of the three's arms. Eren didn't make eye contact, focusing instead on hiding his feelings of shame for his earlier behavior behind nice, well-rounded bricks.
Eventually, after what seemed like hours, there was a swift rap on the door before it was flung open. Mike came in, carrying a full pack, followed quickly by Rivaille, who seemed to freeze at the sight of Eren.
"Eren…" he said, his eyes softening slightly. Eren lifted his chin, sure enough of what was coming. Think of brick walls, Eren. Brick wall. "Eren, you can't listen in on this. Then they'll know."
Eren stood up. "Bye, Hanji. Thanks for letting me sit here," he said, barely recognizing his own voice. He turned and left, brushing past Rivaille and Mike without acknowledging them. It was petty, he knew it was; but he was also too irritated at being ignored and brushed off to care. He went back to his room, collapsing face-down onto his bed, focusing on images of haphazardly stacked bricks.
Rivaille watched as Eren stormed away, not even acknowledging him. He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the guilt at having provoked such a reaction. It's fucking necessary, he told himself sternly, slinging his pack off his shoulders and opening it. If the other kaiju get hold of what we're doing… although Annie and Ymir might already have betrayed us. Fucking fucks.
"Rivaille? I assume you were successful?" Erwin said, entering the room behind Rivaille, carrying his walkie talkie in his hand.
Rivaille pulled out a travel drive and several sheets of folded paper, as well as a book. "You could fucking say that," he said, handing it all over to Erwin. Erwin took it interestedly, passing on the travel drive to Hanji, who quickly went and plugged it into her computer. "Mike defended the coffee bravely."
Mike nodded, looking rather pleased beneath his fringe and moustache.
"Whoa…" Hanji said, causing all three men to look at her. On her screen she had pulled up a- well, it looked like a map, but so completely different from any map they had ever seen. There was just so much… land. And blue. Lots of blue. Hanji fiddled on her keyboard, and suddenly the map shifted, narrowing in on a red marker. Three concentric circles were etched out around the marker.
"Oh," Rivaille said.
"That must be home," Erwin added.
"Wow. And look," Hanji said, tapping her screen with a finger. Rivaille fought down the urge to wipe the screen clean of the oily fingerprint. "This is… more water than in all our lakes combined, probably." She squinted closer to the map. "Pacific… Ocean?"
The four of them crowded closer to the screen, as if of one mind, and spent several minutes studying the digital map. Finally, Hanji spoke up again.
"So we'll ask what direction the portal's in. Then we send off our girls- we can strap recorders to them using elasticord or something similar- they already said they'd go and see how many days that would take, to travel there, right? That way we'd get two birds with one stone, so to speak… we can line up the terrain with the recorder's recordings, figure out the precise route. Cause the trackers I gave them won't work too far outside the walls… This is a very detailed map, though," she said, zooming in once again. "I wonder how…"
"Hanji," Erwin said sternly, but Rivaille didn't miss the way he almost smiled. "Focus on the mission at hand right now, not how they made the map."
"That might be on one of the other files on the travel drive," Rivaille muttered. Hanji glanced at him in excitement before catching Erwin's eye and subduing herself.
"Right, right. Right, once we get the position of the portal, we can program this map into the jaegers, and use that to navigate our way there… of course, if we're accompanied by our kaiju, we shouldn't have much of a problem. I wonder if they could keep the other kaiju away from us while we advance? It might be slow going, considering we're going to be needing to carry weapons enough to collapse a trans-world portal…"
"Do you truly think the recorder would work properly?" Erwin asked, and Hanji nodded excitedly, opening her mouth to clarify.
"Sorry, I'mma let you finish, but can I go? I had to jump at least three fences to get that map. And I doubt I'd be helpful in planning…" Rivaille waved his hand. "Whatever it is you're planning."And I want to get back to Eren and apologize. For nothing. Fucking brat.
Erwin nodded, clearly distracted. "Yes, you're dismissed," he said. Rivaille saluted once, turned sharply, sidestepped Mike, and left. He let his feet guide him on autopilot back to his room, thinking about the map and the sheer vastness of the land and blue water that was depicted. And once he'd thought that the inside of the walls were big- but that the freedom he chased, the one he longed for so much- that it was so big? It was incredible, unbelievable, impossible—but what did hundred-year-old maps stand to gain by lying?
He opened the door to the sight of Eren lying facedown on his bed.
"Yeah?" came the muffled reply. Rivaille was mildly relieved to note that the tone wasn't angry.
"You okay, brat?"
Eren rolled around at that, pulling himself up into a sitting position. He fiddled with his bootlaces, and Rivaille twitched. Boots on the bed…
"I just… no one's telling me anything. And I get why, but all this… it all concerns me. And I can't know anything. And…"
"…yeah," Rivaille said after a second. There wasn't much else he could say. "Sorry. We have to."
"I know," Eren said glumly. Rivaille sighed to himself, wondering why, of all things, he had to like this boy. Handsome, pouting boy. Whatever.
"Would a kiss make it better?" Rivaille finally asked.
Eren looked up sharply at that. A few seconds passed, then he looked back down at his laces, smiling softly. "Maybe," he said.
"Guess we'll have to try," Rivaille said, moving forward. Then he stopped. Eren looked up as he did so, confused. "But first, get your fucking boots off the fucking bed."
Full title: The Title-less Chapter, or: the author has had a severe drain of chapter-naming creativity
I'm basing this off the they're-in-california theory rather than germany (cause like… pacific rim and all)