EM Week 2013: Heartbeat

Warnings: mature content

A/N: This fic was inspired largely by a song of the same name by Bear's Den, and it's sort of doubling up as an entry for both Eremika Week and the Eremika Smut Week. I wanted to explore the idea of Eren and Mikasa not fully being able to belong to one another until they come to terms and learn to cope with their demons. Hopefully I was able to do these two justice.

When You Break

She finds him in the dining hall.

A single candle sits in front of him; wax collecting at the base, the light casts a dim glow on the empty tables and chairs, and accentuates the natural shadows of his face, carving darkness into the hollows of his eyes as they fixate on the dying flame.

She is silent when she enters the room, but he senses her presence regardless, closing his eyes and inhaling deeply as she comes up behind him.

"I went to check up on you, and you weren't in your room," Mikasa says.

It's not a question, and so she expects no answer. She doesn't pry, she doesn't nag—she knows how these things work.

They become two stationary silhouettes upon the stonewall, merely lost souls that wandered by chance into a hollow dining hall smothered in a blanket of silence.

"It's so empty," Eren finally says. And a faint echo follows.

"Come upstairs," she tells him, "It won't do you any good to be here at this hour of night." She places a hand on his shoulder, her fingers falling into place.

When he doesn't reply, Mikasa takes the seat beside him, placing her candle next to the dwindling flame of his own.

She knows the nighttime well—knows how it creeps into fragile hearts. She hears things in the darkness: a knock on the door, the thump of a body as it hits the floor. Frantic shrieks ring out in the darkness, telling her to run. And whispers that fill her head with treacherous thoughts slither in beneath the sheets, coaxing her to pick up her blades and surrender, for they promise her that only then will she be truly rid of them. It's many a night that she clutches the pillow to her ears, begging for sleep to take her.

His hand rests on the nape of his neck, his fingers pressing against the muscles and ridges of his spine. And when he speaks, Mikasa can see the plague of the night in his eyes, his gaze transfixed somewhere into the shadows of the empty hall: "I'm still here."

A lump catches in her throat, and fear descends upon its prey. She takes the hand that trails across the back of his neck in her own, and squeezes it tight, intent on never letting go. The other hand reaches up, to guide his face towards her, and she leans in, pressing her forehead against his.

He's still here—he says it with such sorrow. All he can see is the blood-stained cobblestone, and the empty chairs before him. Living becomes a privilege he doesn't deserve. And it scares her to know that he feels this way, scares her that he could leave her alone in this world and not give a care.

"Please don't go where I can't follow," she whispers to him.

It's a selfish request. And it's a selfish action when she pulls him to his feet and leads him away, but he lets her nonetheless, leaving the hollow hall behind.

. . .

They come to the end of the corridor where the hall splits into the men and women quarters. Mikasa let's go of his hand, and turns to face him; her fingertips on his chest, she stands on tiptoe.

"I'm still here, too," she whispers in his ear. And she places a lingering kiss on his lips.

They part, and she takes her leave down the left-wing. It's not long before his following footsteps answer her invitation.

She knows where this is going—and he does too. They've found themselves in this position more than once before. It's where they go when sleep evades them, when they wake abruptly in the night, screaming a lost name, it's where they go when they feel painfully hollow, or when they're overwrought with emotions they cannot bear.

He's obliging enough to hold the candle as she fumbles with the lock and key, and when they make it inside, he places it in its regular spot by the window before turning to face her.

He takes slow steps forward, and Mikasa takes slow steps back until she's pressed against the door frame, Eren's hand at her abdomen and his forearm above her head.

And when he kisses her, she can immediately tell that tonight is no different from the others. She can taste his sorrow on his lips and his desperation as he tries to be rid of it. Tonight is a night to forget. It's a night to chase away the demons that reside in their souls, and a night to forget the empty eyes and broken bodies that they weren't left any time to say goodbye to—until the sun sets tomorrow and they are haunted once more.

Because time can't heal all wounds. In the dim candlelight, she can see it in his gaze when he pulls away—the pain of The Fall still fresh in his green eyes even seven years later.

Her fingers move to undo his shirt, movements fluid as she works at the buttons one by one. He waits his turn, his forehead pressed to hers, his eyes closed tight, and his brow knitted together as he tries to take back control of his ragged breathing.

And it's only when he's managed to quiet the rebellious dry sobs that wrack his chest that Mikasa pushes his open shirt down his shoulders, caressing his arms on the way down, and bringing his hands to her chest to let him take his turn.

With each button he undoes, he places rough lips to the newly exposed skin. He spends an extended amount of time between her breasts. Kissing the skin peeking out from behind her bra, he's drawn to her beating heart. And when her entire chest and torso lies bare before him, he presses a hesitant kiss to just below her navel. Mikasa gasps, and Eren makes the journey back up, finding her lips once more.

He's ravenous against her, and she follows suit, eager, too, to lose herself in his feverish kisses and roving hands. They grow hotter and hotter: her hands tangle in his hair, and his hands cup her breasts through her bra as he pushes his hips into hers, and pushes her body back into the door.

She takes the liberty to wrap a leg around his waist, and the other one follows as he assists, hoisting her up into his arms—a well-practiced move that's been perfected over the course of countless nights, when the emptiness was too much, and they sought to fill the void.

He lays her down gently onto the sheets, hands raking up and down her sides, eliciting breathy sighs from her parted lips. She peppers his shoulders with light kisses, arching her back up to allow him access to the clasp between her shoulder blades. She can hear him muttering profanities as he tugs at the fastenings, followed by a triumphant exclamation. And she lets him pull the bra from her chest, and drop it to the floor.

He kisses the tops of her peaks, his tongue lapping at her chest and sending shivers down her spine. Her eager fingers go to his belt buckle, and not a moment later, her hands slip beneath his boxers, and he groans out a curse, biting his lip to stifle his cry at the very last moment.

His breathing grows more ragged, and his eyes roll back as he loses himself in her touch. But he doesn't let her take him for long—he never does. Once a poisonous thought corrupts the bliss of the moment, he moves to a different occupation to free himself from its suffocating hold. And so he kicks off his pants and boxers, before peeling her own pants off her slender body.

Starting from her ankle, he works his way slowly up, kissing the pale skin of her legs; he suckles at the smooth insides of her thighs, and presses a kiss to her core through the flimsy fabric of her underwear—and then he removes that, too.

When his green eyes flash to hers, she wonders if it's for the last time tonight, because once their clothes are shed, and they lay bare, exposed, and vulnerable, the emeralds of his eyes seldom meet hers again. But she's used to it. Used to the vast distance that lies between them even though they're skin to skin, and beating heart to beating heart, and she can't decide if this sentiment should pain her, or if she should feel grateful that they've found a way to find temporary solace in each other's arms.

Their lonely nights spent together have taught her that though they can free themselves of the pain and the voices that whisper in their ears by tangling themselves in the sheets, two halves don't always make a whole, and that as long as their demons hold them captive, they will never fully belong to each other. After all, they can't give away something that they never had in the first place.

Through hazy eyes she watches as his head moves between her legs, his thumbs massaging circles into the insides of her thighs. Her hips rise at his touch, and her breathing grows uneven as she tries to hold back the moan growing in her chest, as his tongue drives her closer and closer to that shining peak. But he stops just too soon, leaving an unbroken tension in the pit of her stomach; she gives a sigh of frustration, and he's quick to move back up, apologizing with a kiss to the base of her throat.

Sitting up, his legs straddling her hips, he inhales and exhales, his chest, sheen with sweat, rising and falling ever so slowly. Mikasa lies in wait, recognizing this ritual of his, and anticipating his next move. Eren leans down to whisper in her ear—asking if she's ready, asking for permission. Mikasa nods her head, and he slides into her. She grunts, her face clenched in a grimace, because maybe she wasn't as prepared as she thought she was. But the discomfort subsides, and she pulls her hips away and snaps them back to signal that she's ready to move.

It's not long before they fall into their familiar rhythm, their hips parting and meeting in sync at a steady pace. Her hands rest where the curve of his spine meets his ass, her fingers unintentionally carving her pleasure into his skin as the tension crescendos within her. They're face to face. He supports the bulk of his weight on his forearms as he moves above her, but his eyes are closed, and whenever hers flutter open, they're trained to peer over his shoulder, up at the ceiling above.

It's always this way. And she wishes it weren't.

Sometimes, she wonders what it'd be like to fall into the sheets with no will to forget, intent, instead, on remembering each dip and curve of each other's bodies. She wants to feel his grin against her skin, or the vibration of his throaty laugh. She wants each kiss to fill her stomach with butterflies, instead of an aching emptiness. One can only dream.

Above her, she hears a sob, and a tear falls to her cheek. Their hips come to a stop.

"Eren?" Mikasa whispers. She reaches up to brush away the tears collecting in his eyes, but he catches her hand.

"I—" he starts. He never finishes the thought.

He wipes his tear from her cheek, and his thumb lingers on the scar there. And she sees it in his eyes: his own guilt tearing away at him piece by piece, a culmination of the years gone by—he's always been so eager to self-destruct. His limbs start to shake, and his lips begin to form an apology that she's heard countless times before.

"—Don't," she pleads, "It's not your fault."

He doesn't believe her. He never does.

"Eren," she says, "Stop."

He complies immediately, pulling out of her carefully, he sits back on his knees, and when she rises to meet him, his eyes remain downcast.

Taking his hand in hers, she places it above her beating heart. And then she does the same to him, touching her palm to the warm skin of his chest.

She wants him to close his eyes and feel as their chests rise and fall with each inhale and exhale of breath. She wants him to internalize the rhythm that beats beneath their fingertips, wants him to remind himself that though they may feel empty and dead inside, the caverns of their chests, and the spaces between their lungs are not empty.

They're alive. Somehow. And maybe just barely.

She's unsure of whether there's a reason to why their hearts still beat—she'd like to think that there isn't. There are times that she lies awake well into the night, wondering which is worse: for the deaths of her comrades to be meaningless, or for their pain and suffering to simply be the heavy toll for a vision of a future they will never take part in. To die because you must. To die without meaning. Each is merciless in its own way, and yet one, if not both, is their reality.

She let's his steady pulse consume her, lets it overwhelm her and pull her under. And if there's one thing she's always been certain about, it's that she couldn't bear to lose him—not when he's all she has left.

"I don't know why we're both still here," Mikasa whispers, her voice breaking and defiant tears welling in her eyes, "But please, please don't leave me here alone."

Eren looks at her. For the first time in what seems like ages, he looks at her with those emerald eyes and that unwavering gaze.

"You know, better than anyone, that I can't promise you that," he tells her. His voice is resigned.

Mikasa can only nod her head.

They draw each other close, and in some ways it's the closest they've ever been. Forehead to forehead, and heart to heart. She knows. She understands. No selfish request, no amount of pleading could ever keep him by her side—it's not up to him. The future isn't for them to give away. They can't give away something that they never had in the first place. All they have is the present. And that will have to be enough.

Each kiss thereafter is hungrier, and more desperate than before. They're a mess of trembling hands and shaking limbs as they try to drown what they once desired. Her fingers rake down his ribs, and her tongue laps at his chest, and she gasps when she feels his hand reach south. His fingers stroke her center, and her eyes roll to the top of her head as he drives her closer and closer to her finish. She follows his lead, her hands trailing up and down him, and he throws his head back with a moan before lowering her back down to the mattress.

Again, he asks for her consent, soft words mumbled against her lips between shuddering breaths. She whispers back her answer, and he carefully slides into her, letting her gradually adjust.

They find their old rhythm, and Mikasa realizes that this is their reality: trembling hands that will never be clean, and hearts that may never be fully mended. All that's left to do is to hold each other tight, and still their shaking limbs for the night.

With each kiss, a pain in her chest threatens to spill down her cheeks, and she finds herself almost wishing she were empty once more. And in this way, tonight is just like any other night. Tonight is another desperate attempt to chase away all their fears and emptiness, but it doesn't work—it never does. The shadows always find a way to creep back into their hearts, so they try again, and again, and again to be rid of them. And though she knows that only failure lies ahead, Mikasa resolves to try once more.

She loses herself in the steady rhythm of their hearts and their hips, lets the shallow pleasure rise within her. His labored groans drive her breathy sighs as they cling to each other, making the familiar journey towards the edge together.

His tongue, teeth, and lips trace her skin. "Kiss me," Eren whispers into her shoulder.

So she does, her hands guiding him in front of her, she kisses him hard as they rock against one another, the flame of the candle beside the window flickering as it dies. The curling and winding in the base of her abdomen grows and grows, as the heat of their bodies rises and rises until it shatters and they tumble over the edge into an abyss of oblivion, the other's name choked out from behind quivering lips.

They lie shivering in the aftermath, parting only when their minds have finally settled back down to earth. And they're lost once again. They never know what to say or what to do when they've finished. Seldom do they share the sheets until the sun peeks through the window frame—more often than not they part ways until they must seek solace once more.

She's already asked once tonight, so she doesn't ask again. He already knows the question playing on her mind.

"We have training early tomorrow morning," he says hesitantly.

"I know," Mikasa whispers back, and a part of her wants to tell him not to go, to at least stay until dawn. She doesn't.

He leans over to kiss her one last time. She's grown used to this—his apologetic lips against her own, the cold the bed takes on after he goes. She puts all that she cannot say through words into the kiss, hoping that he'll be able to decipher the message she's left him, return it in full, and stay by her side. He doesn't.

Their hands are the last to part as he rises from her side. He dresses quietly, and doesn't look back as he shuts the door behind him. Sleep finds her not long after.

When she wakes, the morning is silent, no heartbeat beside her. And she's used to that, too.