"You know," says Krista at lunch, her blond hair falling in her face, "I never would've pegged the two of you as drift compatible when training started."
Marco gives Jean a half-smile and raises his fist for a bump, which Jean happily obliges. "Really?" Jean laughs, his hand reaching for Marco's. "You didn't sense our astounding sexual tension from day one?"
"Jean!" Marco turns twelve different shades of red, batting Jean's hand away. He turns back to Krista. "Oh, Jean was awful when training started, Kris, we both know it. It took all that character development –"
"Your good influence," Jean says good-naturedly, ruffling Marco's hair – because he'd be damned if Marco's personality didn't have any hand in knocking their four solo kills (and three as part of a team, excuse you) under their belts.
Krista giggles. "You guys are adorable."
They eat in companionable silence for a while, Jean occasionally spooning corn and carrots into Marco's mouth as Krista watches, amused. Annie and Ymir join them, plunking their trays down onto the cafeteria's plastic tables.
"If it isn't Loverboy and Boytoy, PDA extraordinaires," Ymir says, leaning over and putting an arm around Krista. "Darling, we're never going to be that disgusting, all right?"
Marco lets out a laugh, the wonderful, good-natured kind that removed all tension. "Sorry," he tells them, pushing Jean away. "I actually thought you guys would pilot, though."
"Oh – no!" Krista squeaks as Ymir pulls at her hair. "I didn't think I could handle it. I've never been a combatant, really, and my scores were never that good, and I thought that I didn't really want to go out in a Jaeger."
"You were never curious about combat drift?" Annie pipes up, managing to sound disinterested nevertheless.
"I–" Krista scratched the back of her head. "I don't know. I'm fine where I am – Armin, Hange, you guys, San Francisco–but I guess I always wanted to know what it was like being in someone's head."
Jean opens his mouth to answer, but then the alarm rings and Mike's voice comes over the speaker, demanding all crews to report to deck.
Category III, Mike says, typing frantically on his keyboard –twenty miles off coast. Sozo, they've nicknamed it already. Erwin sweeps the room critically – Eren's broken arm, Annie's sprained ankle, Bertolt and Reiner in the middle of some spat. His eyes land on Jean and Marco. "Whirlwind. Hydra. Prepare to be deployed."
Jean and Marco high-five each other. "Ready to get that sixth solo kill?" Jean laughs, pulling Marco into a bone-crushing hug.
"You know I am," Marco replies, grinning.
"Get a room," Reiner moans, he and Bertolt walking after them.
It's always been like that, Jean suggesting and Marco going along with it. Jean's never excused it, because Jean had always been active and Marco had always been passive and in the end Marco had always been fine with Jean suggesting they prank-call Hange and Jean kissing him for the first time in the bunkers. It was simply the way things fell into place.
Perhaps he'd been right all along; Marco, after all, had never laughed at his top pilot dreams the way Eren had. It was Marco who'd encouraged his crush on Mikasa, and, when that fell through, it was Marco who'd helped him through the heartbreak.
And besides, Marco is the first person Jean had ever drifted with, and from the beginning it had felt like coming home.
Marco doesn't talk about his home, even though he's been to Jean's more times than Jean can count. Jean doesn't even know all the details, has never tried to look for the answers in the drift, just that Marco's mentioned that his dad drinks and hates his older sister's boyfriends and his mom is hardly there anymore. Jean's never questioned, especially not when Marco says – the Shatterdome is my home now.
Once he would have questioned how anyone would find this shit metallic hellhole home, but by now Jean's learned to smile agreeably. We're in this together, both of us. All of us.
The four of them are thirteen miles into the Pacific Ocean, Erwin feeding instructions into the intercom. Jean's grown to like the old man in an awkward, too-young-dad kind of way, but Erwin's eyes gleam with secrecy and Jean can tell he's barely scratched the surface.
"You guys good?" Reiner calls into the comm.
Jean has Whirlwind give him a mock salute.
Ready? Marco thinks. Jean hears it clear as day, and knows he doesn't have to answer.
The Kaiju is huge – far bigger than anything he and Marco have ever faced. "Man, that thing is ugly. Look at that ass," Reiner hoots, and although Jean, Marco, and Bertolt aren't the type to talk while fighting, it's comforting having Reiner there.
Hydra's built like a linebacker and Reiner and Bertolt engage it easily, grappling and stumbling and trying not to collapse into the ocean. Whirlwind falls back then lunges forward, blades at the ready, aiming for the strike –
"Shit," Bertolt yelps as Sozo swings its arm, socking Whirlwind straight in its center of gravity.
"What the fuck," Jean shouts, wincing as the robot careens backwards.
"Load those plasma cannons," Marco says. Jean leans forward and pushes some buttons, watching Hydra trap it in a headlock and bashing it repeatedly.
"We'll get through this," says Jean.
Whirlwind raises its arms, cannons at the ready. "Hydra, move out," Jean yells into the comm. "We can't get a clear shot."
Hydra bashes it twice more for good measure, then retreating as Sozo stands there, dazed. Jean aims, fires. Two solid hits, the kaiju crashing into the ocean, Reiner whooping in victory.
"Six," Marco laughs, and that's the last thing Jean ever hears him say.
Mike – "HYDRA, WHIRLWIND, THAT THING'S NOT DEAD YET–"
I love you, I love you, I love you – says the Drift, echoing a thousand times over, but then there's nothing after that; and for the longest time Jean hears Marco's pulse beating in his ears and then stopping. Reiner and Bertolt kill it, somehow, Jean feeling adrenaline coursing through his veins as he lands shot after shot after shot. Afterwards he collapses onto the bay and tries not to cry.
Notes: In this AU, Krista gets over her death seeker issues much earlier. Jean/Marco is a thing, Bert/Reiner are Heterosexual Life Partners, Annie/Ymir will be explored later.
Also, I just plugged in names from the jaegernamegenerator on Tumblr.
Annie/Ymir – Tornado Omega
Eren/Mikasa – Orion Moonlight
Reiner/Bertolt – Hydra Olympus