Notes: I wrote this for a friend on Tumblr. She loved it, so I guess I can post this here. Watch out for Manga Spoilers (mainly chapter 51 and 50).
Coming to Terms
Someone has to get firewood, but it doesn't have to be Mikasa who is still injured. Eren watches with worry from the shadow of the cottage as she chops wood logs into pieces a few feet away. It's been a few weeks since she fractured her ribs upon falling from her horse in titan territory. Recovery is going without complications, but Eren can't help feeling responsible for it. Soldiers got injured, even more were eaten – and all because he got kidnapped and the military made an effort to bring him back. The guilt ate away at him constantly.
Finally Eren tears himself away from the wooden wall of the cottage where he leaned and makes his way over to her. He can't bear any longer to look at Mikasa exerting herself. She should be taking it easy and that certainly doesn't include chopping firewood behind the house.
"You shouldn't be doing this," he comments and halts beside her. Mikasa doesn't look at him, but focusses on heaving another log onto the chopping block.
"It's fine, Eren," she replies. "I can handle this."
"Let me," he insists, stretching out his hand to take the axe she picked up from the ground again.
"I told you, I got this," she tells him gruffly, holding the wooden grip of the tool out of his reach.
"Mikasa," he sighs, seizing her shoulder. She holds still at his touch, but keeps staring at the wood log waiting to be chopped. "You're still recovering, so just leave it to somebody else for now."
"But I need to do something," Mikasa exclaims and lets the axe drop out of her hand. It falls to the ground with a low thud and she finally turns to face Eren. His hand is still resting on her shoulder. "I'm going insane if I just sit around and do nothing."
"Then do something where you don't have to lift a lot, like washing the dishes or stuff like that."
"I hate working in the kitchen, reminds me of mothers."
"Ha," Eren breathes weakly, because he doesn't know what else to say. His fingers remain in place, holding on to her shoulder. Mikasa is pressing her lips together in a thin line after bringing up unpleasant memories.
"How about you take a break and I finish up here," he suggests after a moment in which neither of them dared to speak. She nods barely notable and steps back. Eren's hand slides off her shoulder in the process.
He takes her place in front of the chopping block and picks up the axe from the ground. Mikasa watches as Eren brings it down with full force and drives it into the log. The cutting edge drives into the wood and gets stuck about halfway in.
"What about you?" Mikasa inquires incoherently. Eren has raised the axe again – log still attached to its metal head – and lets it come down onto the chopping block. Upon the impact the cutting edge splits the wood all the way through and the two pieces fall sideways to the ground.
"What about me?" he repeats her question, as he readies one of the wood billets on the chopping block to repeat the procedure on it.
"The rings beneath your eyes are getting darker," she notes while she watches him chopping the wood.
"I have trouble sleeping," he admits after finishing the quartering of the log and getting the next one.
"Why?" Mikasa asks bluntly. Eren gives no reply, just drives the cutting edge into the wood repeatedly until it's split into quarters. She can guess the reason, though, she knows her foster brother well.
"It's not your fault," she tells him.
He slams the axe into the empty block and wipes the sweat from his brows. His breathing is a little hitched from the physical exercise. He stares down onto the chopped wood.
"I failed and got everyone into trouble," he states, voice strained.
"You did your best," she tries to console him.
"My best wasn't enough."
"Eren…" Mikasa's voice trails off. She has taken the few steps to get to his side and hesitantly brings up her hand, resting it on his shoulder in the same comforting gesture he had displayed towards her earlier.
"People died because of me." Eren turns and meets her gaze. "You got hurt because of me."
"I'm going to be fine," she assures him.
Their faces are only inches apart. About as close as that time outside the walls amidst a horde of titans when she thanked him for everything he's done for her. Mikasa can feel Eren's breath on her skin. His eyes shift over her features as she takes in every inch of his face. Her gaze gets caught on his lips and her breath hitches in her throat.
The blood is rushing through Mikasa's ears, drowning out every other sound. Questioning things is secondary, all she knows is that she's here with Eren, that she wants to comfort him with more than just words – because words can be so ambiguous and she was never really good with them. Gestures however are something entirely different, because they can convey complex things in the simpleness of their motion that words can't even begin to describe – she knows that and Eren's lips are so close and maybe it's absolutely selfish, but she really wants to kiss him.
Eren draws away. He's out of her reach, fetching the next log and Mikasa feels like at least some of her organs became a lot heavier, because they seem to have descended in her body. Once again she got so close and once again he pulled away in the last instant. Maybe Eren just really doesn't want to kiss her. Maybe he keeps slipping through her fingers because he doesn't care that much – at least not in the way that she does.
"I'll be finishing up here," Eren states upon placing the wood on the chopping log. "See you inside."
"Right," Mikasa replies almost automatically and turns around. "I'll send you someone to help bringing in the wood," she offers about halfway to the cottage. He gives no reply, just brings down the axe and drives it into the wood.
Mikasa can't sleep because her mind is rattling on and on and keeps returning to Eren. What she feels for him has become undeniable for her. First she had tried to tell herself that eventually as they grew older she'd be able to let go of him. But now she's certain that she wants to spend the rest of her life with him – however long or short that might be. How he feels for her is still a bit of a mystery to her. Is it brotherly affection? Something more? Something less? Something entirely different? Sometimes she feels like he doesn't even want her around, because he's always running off without her or pushing her away.
It's hard to fall asleep when your mind just won't shut off and she wonders if it's the same for Eren when he berates himself for all the things that happened and all the people that got hurt or killed. Is he lying awake right now, tormented by such thoughts? Now that she's considered it, she can't get the idea out of her head and she just wants to go to his room to see how he's doing. But she's scared that he might push her away again and seeing him in misery but being unable to make him feel better (because he won't let her in) is the worst thing she can think of right now.
Still, after a few more moments Mikasa can't take it any longer and slips out from under her covers. It's early autumn and the nights have started to become chilly, so she starts shivering almost as soon she leaves the warm confines of her bed. She wraps the scarf closer around her neck though that doesn't really help, because it's only covering a very small part of her body.
As she tiptoes into the hallway, she tries to tread carefully to make the least possible noise. The wooden floorboards occasionally creak a little beneath her bare feet. At Eren's door she hesitates. Should she knock or just sneak in? Or should she just forget about this stupid idea and climb back into her own bed?
Eventually she decides that if she has already come so far, she might as well pull through with it. She takes one last deep breath, then she presses down the door handle. Carefully she enters the room and shuts the door behind her. The moon is not full, but shining bright tonight, casting the scene in silvery-white light. From where she stands she can make out Eren's back as he's lying in his bed. There's no telling if he's asleep or awake.
She comes up closer and in one daring motion she lifts up the covers and slides underneath them. Immediately the heat of Eren's body that is trapped beneath the sheets engulfs her. It's warm and comforting and yes, she definitely could spend the night here, maybe even sleep better than she has in a long while.
Mikasa holds her breath, becoming aware of how close she is to Eren. The possibility of disturbing his sleep is suddenly troubling. What is she even doing here? The only time she and Eren shared a bed was when they were kids and Mikasa was new to the Jaeger family. They had yet to get a bed for her, so she was spending the nights in his for a few weeks. She didn't mind having someone beside her, it made her feel safe, and Eren didn't complain. Sleeping alone in a bed again was quite hard after that.
Eren shifts in front of her in the small bed. She finds herself staring into his green orbs, gleaming faintly in the dim light. So he was wide awake after all.
"What are you doing?" he asks, voice a hoarse whisper.
"Watching over you, so you can sleep," Mikasa offers in an equally low tone.
"I'm not scared."
"I know you're not," she clarifies. "Know what you're also not? Alone."
His face is cast in shadows, so she cannot read his features. There's just silence from Eren and anticipation building inside Mikasa. This is the moment before he pushes her away again, she thinks and her heart cramps in her chest.
And then he sighs, breath brushing hotly over her face and blowing some of her inner tension away. It is not rejection – not absolutely downright, not right away. The covers rustle and the outline of Eren's body moves in the semi-darkness. Fingers find hers beneath the sheets and Mikasa has to remind herself that it only can be Eren's hand that has reached for her, because there's no one else here. Eren being the one to initiate touch is uncommon.
"You're always looking after me and I don't feel like I deserve that at all."
It almost sounds like a confession the way he mumbles it low beneath his breath.
"Is that why you keep pulling away? Because you don't think you deserve that I care for you."
Eren doesn't have a replay, he just breathes out a short "ha". Mikasa figures that's a yes. She entangles their fingers more tightly, so he cannot draw away his hand.
"What I said in the fields back then when Hannes got eaten and we were very likely to be next," she states softly, "weren't just empty words to make you pull yourself together and get you back on your feet again – I really meant them. I am so thankful for having you in my life."
"How haven't I become a burden to you yet?" he inquires and it shocks her that he even would consider a thing like that. "How can you continue to care for me so selflessly when all I do is biting more off than I can chew and you have to make sure that I don't choke?"
"I'm not selfless, I'm actually really selfish," Mikasa corrects him. "I've had a taste of a life without you and I don't want it. I'm doing my best to keep you safe so I can have you by my side. Because," she gives herself a moment to consider if phrasing it like that is the right choice, before concluding to say it anyway, "I love you, Eren, and I want to be with you."
The room falls back into nightly silence with only their shallow breathing quietly vibrating in the semi-darkness. Mikasa keeps holding on to Eren's limp fingers, not letting him draw away should he want to make the effort. The faint glint in his eyes is still all she can make out of his face.
"Mikasa, I…" She clenches her jaw while Eren is having troubles to continue his sentence. Don't you dare turning me down now, she thinks, don't you dare! But he seems to give up on saying something. Instead he leans in and presses his lips onto hers. The thin skin is dry and a little rough but the motion is gentle and soft.
Mikasa is stunned. For a while now she has been thinking about kissing Eren, but never has she imagined he would be the one to initiate it. She takes a second to process what is happening, then she lets her eyes fall shut and gives in to the moment. Their mouths move reluctantly, still only trying to get the hang of things. She doesn't know how she expected it to feel, but it's sweet and her heart is beating in her throat and there's a pleasant shiver sneaking down her spine that she doesn't want to stop.
When Eren tears away his lips, it is only to trail a line of kisses over her cheek and to her ear. He gently pushed forward when their lips were intertwined, so Mikasa is lying on her back with him hovering above her. She can feel the edge of the mattress right beside her upper arm, but she doesn't mind, because Eren is breathing into her ear now.
"I still don't feel like I deserve you or anything you do for me," he whispers, "but I'll stay with you for as long as you want me to."
"That's forever then," Mikasa informs him and sneaks her arms around his back, "or at least as long as we live. And don't you dare cheat and get yourself killed or I will find a way to raise you from the dead and give you hell."
Eren is a little surprised. So she really is that serious about it – he wouldn't have dared to hope. He always thought she felt indebted to him after he saved her life six years ago. Also his mother relied on Mikasa to look after him, so he suspected part of his foster sister's protectiveness over him came down that and her feeling responsible after he lost his mother. Hearing now that it's different makes his racing stumble in his chest.
"Alright," he agrees and caresses her temple, "but in exchange don't you dare die while trying to protect me – don't you dare die! I couldn't take it."
Mikasa's body becomes nearly limp, fingers no longer gripping his shirt. Her eyes stare blankly at the ceiling, because she's having trouble processing his words. She knows that Eren cares for others, but he's not one to express his feelings in words, so this takes her by surprise.
"Because I love you, too," he adds quietly.
Mikasa gets a hold of herself and tightens her embrace around Eren, pulling him onto her. He buries his face in the curve of her neck and she ignores the protest of her ribs over his weight pressing into her. She wants to be close to him and be able to inhale his scent, she's willing to put up with the pain.
"Agreed," Mikasa replies softly, "but I still will protect you when you get yourself into trouble again."
Eren leans back to look at her in the pale moonlight that is pouring into the room. He takes in her face with her dark eyes and framed by black hair. He lets his fingers run through a few strands. "Deal."
Mikasa can't hold back a soft laugh. They sound like they just agreed on a bet and not like they confessed their love for each other. But she is happy, so maybe she's also laughing because of that. Before Eren can ask her what the matter is, she pulls him into another kiss, breaking away only for one word.