There are a couple of universal constants. Real simple things, things that everyone knows without thinking too much about it, things that people know without having to be taught, things that are just accepted. The sky is blue. Trees are tall. Humanity is encaged behind walls for their own safety. And, of course, Armin and Eren touch way too much.
That last one is something you wouldn't know unless you met the two of them, admittedly, but the moment you see them it becomes glaringly obvious. They're always sat right next to each other, so close their thighs overlap and, no matter how many others are around, they will lean into each other to share a private joke and laugh. Their hands are intertwined more often than not. At night, they sleep in the same bed, curled around each other, Armin sniffling as Eren's snores breeze through his hair.
It's not like Connie has a problem with them being gay or anything. The real issue is the excessive PDA; it's enough to make anyone nauseous. None of the trainees ever talk about it, really, but it's always somewhere on the mind. It's not something normal guys do, but no one will risk Mikasa's wrath by bringing up the topic.
He walks into the boy's quarters not too long after dinner, fresh out of the shower, towel hanging over his shoulder. The first thing he sees is Armin and Eren. They're sharing Armin's top bunk, Eren leaning against the wall with Armin in between his legs. Armin has a book in his hands, reading aloud. He has a good voice for it, soft, but clear and assured. He doesn't trip over syllables the way most others would.
Still, it's overwhelmingly obvious that Eren's not really paying attention. His head is buried somewhere into Armin's neck, nuzzling just slightly. His fingers are absently stroking through Armin's fine hair, braiding and unbraiding idly, a movement so thoughtless that it's clear it's been done all too many times before.
Connie gapes. The scene is startlingly, frighteningly, obscenely domestic. "Seriously, you guys?" he splutters out, breaking the unspoken rule. No one ever talks about Armin-and-Eren to Armin and Eren.
Armin slips up a word then and looks down at Connie in mild shock. He hadn't even noticed Connie come in, so engrossed in Eren and the book was he. Still, he doesn't jump away the way another might in that place. If anything, in fact, he leans further back, pressing himself harder against Eren's chest. Eren doesn't bother to glance his way.
"What?" he asks. He says it so innocently, like he honestly can't see anything wrong with the picture.
He's already regretting bringing it up, but now that he started, Connie has no chance but to continue. "You two," he says, waving a vague arm at them both. "You're so – coupley. Homey."
"We're cuddling," Armin corrects and there's not a trace of embarrassment in his voice, damn him.
"Yeah, but why?" he asks, honestly baffled.
Armin smiles, the look just straddling the border of fondness and condescension. Surprisingly, though, it's Eren that answers. "You've never had a cuddle buddy, have you?" He is somehow able to pronounce the phrase without inflection, like the subject is just as commonplace as the weather. "We've been doing this since we were kids. You don't just give up a cuddle buddy."
"Not even if you join the military," Armin adds.
"I don't get what's so great about it," Connie mutters. Armin turns his head slightly so that he can meet Eren's eyes; no words are said but an entire discussion takes place. Then, after several moments of them staring and Connie shuffling his feet awkwardly, Armin holds out a hand.
The message is clear, but Connie still stares. "Well, come on," he says. There's another moment of hesitation before Connie grasps he proffered hand, swinging himself up to the top bunk. There are a few minutes of awkward shuffling around while they try to make a bed meant for one fit three growing teenage boys. Their limbs tangle around each other and their sharp ends poke each other and Connie wonders how they could ever find this pleasant. Finally, they settle into a somewhat comfortable position.
It's kind of weird at first. He hasn't been this close to another person in years, much less so intricately woven between two other boys the way he is now. Then Armin bends his head, just a little, and Eren moves Connie's hands into the flaxen strands. It's surprisingly soft, softer than Connie would have guessed had he thought about it. "I don't know how to braid," he mumbles, "the way you were earlier."
"I'll teach you," Eren assures him.
"Don't worry about messing up. Even if you tangle it, Eren will be able to get out the knots later," Armin encourages. Eren shows him how to separated a clump of hair into three strands and wind them over each other. Then he covers Connie's hands with his own, guiding him to the correct motion until he feels comfortable to try it himself. Armin sighs and leans back, picking up the book again. He stats reading again, picking up seamlessly where he left off mid-sentence. Connie has no idea what the story's about, but he quickly find it doesn't matter. Armin's voice smoothes out to a dull roar in the back of his mind, aided by the mindless repetition of his hands.
It's some time later when Connie looks up and finds Jean and Marco in the room, staring at him oddly. "It'll be lights out soon," Marco says. "Shadis will be coming around."
Connie nods and awkwardly extricates himself from the bed, going to the far side of the room where his own bunk is. When he turns to look, Armin and Eren are already engrossed in each other once more. They're lying down now, preparing to go to bed. Spooning, his mind supplies, with Eren not protesting being the little spoon.
He's braced himself for the comments he would hear and surely enough, they come the next day at lunch. "So, Connie," Jean says, plopping into the seat next to him. He internally groans. "I would've never pegged you for a homewrecker. Or I guess it's actually a threesome?"
"It's not like that," he sighs. "They're not even dating. It's just…nice. Comfortable, I guess."
"Comfortable," Jean repeats, dubious.
"Yeah," Connie confirms, "comfortable. Everything just kind of falls away and you don't have to think about anything at all for a while."
"That does sound nice," Marco says. He nudges Jean's shoulder. "Maybe we should ask them to try."
Connie jumps in quickly, grinning at the dreading look that's appeared on Jean's face. They both know that Jean can't resist Marco once he has an idea in his mind. "They were nice enough to let me join. I bet they'd let you two try, too."
"That sounds like a great idea," the freckled boy says, his eyes glinting in determination. He stands and Jean has no choice but to follow. Connie goes too, out of curiosity and amusement. Sure enough, when they get to the bunker, Eren and Armin are there, all over one another as always. And, as usual, for a moment they can do nothing but stare. When Eren and Armin are alone together, they get this bubble of surreal calm around them that is impossible not to marvel at; despite all the depravity and depression in the world, they can still find solace in each other.
This time, they're on Eren's bunk, below Armin's. Armin's laying on his back and Eren's crossed over him, his head pressed into Armin's stomach and feet brushing the wall. Armin's hand is resting lightly on the back of Eren's neck, a tiny contented smile playing about his lips. As they watch, Eren turns his head and blows a raspberry; Armin's hand clutches at Eren's hair and the smile blooms into full laughter.
Jean clears his throat awkwardly and looks at Connie for instruction. He shrugs. "They wanted to try the cuddling thing," he offers lamely.
Eren looks at them thoughtfully for a moment, considering each of them in turn. "I don't think the five of us can fit can fit on one bed," he says. The words are said ambiguously into the air and Armin's gaze is still vacantly locked on the ceiling, but they still know he's not addressing them.
"We could gather the blankets and put them on the floor," Armin says eventually.
"Make a fort?" Eren says. His green eyes light up in childish glee. "We haven't done that in forever."
Connie, Marco, and Jean watch helplessly as Eren stands and pulls Armin to his feet, not dropping his hand after they stand. "Well?" Eren says. "You've made forts as kids, right? Help us."
So they do. The five of them get their blankets and pillows from their bunks and spread them out on the floor into a crude tent. It's surprisingly fun; they have not allowed themselves to fool around this way in years. After it's built, they all huddle into the blankets. There's not too much room, so they end up strewn all over each other. It's fun, though, and comfortable. They play a silly word game and tell stupid, useless, fables. When lunch ends and they are forced to emerge, they are loathe to put their sheets back and destroy the evidence. Still, it must be done.
"Alright," Jean admits to Connie. "You had a point."
"See?" he says smugly.
They fall into the habit of lying like that whenever they have time, on the floor piled on top of each other. One day, without much forewarning of ado, Reiner and Bertholdt join them. "Here," Reiner offers and pushes the three bunks side by side. There's enough room for all of them now. They fall on top of each other. Reiner and Bertholdt become the base, as the two largest boys, and the others land strewn haphazardly somewhere around them.
They end up falling asleep like that. Shadis must have seen it when he came to order light's out. However, much like when it had just been Eren and Armin sharing a bed, he doesn't mention it the next day, nor indeed any day after that. The boys find themselves all in better spirits as the trend continues.
"What's gotten into you all?" Sasha marvels as she watches Jean and Eren, usually so quick to jump into a fight, share a joke. Connie explains it to her. "You've been cuddling?" she repeats.
"With Eren and Armin?" Mikasa interjects.
"I know it sounds weird," he says, "but it's really nice. I get why they've been doing it, even if they aren't dating after all."
"Of course they're dating," Sasha says dismissively.
"But they told me they're not," Connie argues.
"Look at them!" Connie turns to look. Eren's feeding Armin from his own plate; Armin's eyes are closed and he's trying to guess the food from taste and scent alone. Their hands are clutching each other on the table.
"Did they say they're not dating?" Mikasa asks.
Connie thinks back. "Maybe not in those exact words," he concedes. "But still, why would they let all of us in on their alone time? I've never even seen them kiss."
Sasha shrugs and Mikasa gives no reply, apparently having lost interest in the conversation. Connie resolves to ask them himself later.
"Yeah," Eren responds casually when he does. "Didn't you know?" Connie bolts upright.
"What? For how long?"
Eren and Armin look at each other, mild confusion flitting across their face. "You know, I don't think either of us ever formally asked," Armin says. "We just kind of knew."
"But then why," Connie starts. He flaps his arms wildly, trying to encompass them all curled together on the bed. "Aren't we, like, in the way or something?"
"For crying out loud, it's just cuddling," Jean says loudly. "Lay back down already, you're ruining it for the rest of us."
"Yeah," Eren agrees. "Besides, we do that stuff after you're all asleep."
Connie groans and covers his eyes with Marco's arms. He'd been better off not knowing.
AN: Totally inspired by this post: post/53942557841/guchax
It is literally the cutest thing go look at it
And of course, I couldn't leave out my favorite pairing