chapter eleven

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freak like me

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Eren edged around the group of people gathered about the large bonfire, mindful of where everyone was sitting or standing within the shell of the old church. Mikasa was off bartering for new supplies - necessities such as shoes, bullets and soap - since she appeared the oldest and was taken the most serious by ‘adults’. It helped that she remained calm when being talked down to by people, instead of losing her temper like Eren. He wished he could blame it on the change….

At least they’d done their research and knew that this base was mostly trust-worthy, enough so that this was their second time trading the medical supplies they’d scavenged during their hunts. Too bad that they wouldn’t be able to return here more than another time or two, since in a few more months someone would realize that at least he wasn’t aging, not to mention they’d pretty much picked the surrounding area clean of supplies and would have to move on. It was getting more and more difficult to find any non-expired medicine at this point.

Eren wondered how many people who’d survived the solar flares, the Malform attacks, loss of electricity and the collapse of civilization in general were now dying because of the shortage of drugs. He stared at the bedraggled people huddled around the dancing flames as if it really would hold back the monsters in the night and felt a bit of pity for them; they were trying so hard to rebuild a society that wasn’t really worth it, in his opinion. Look at how they treated him and Mikasa. Look at what the sick would have to pay to get the few remaining drugs that would soon vanish.

Leaning against a crumbling wall that still held traces of a once ornate stone mosaic, he noticed that there was someone staring back at him. It was the same teenager who often could be found eyeing him when he last came to visit, a tall, handsome kid in his late teens with dark hair and pale blue eyes. The boy smiled at Eren before looking away to say something to the woman standing beside him, most likely his mother. Eren watched him for a minute, until the kid walked away.

A strange sort of hunger grew in him while he’d gazed at the other boy, a hunger different from the one that drove him out to hunt Malform. He knew that he was gay, that he didn’t care for girls, but it had been a recent discovery back in Köln, back before everything had-. He shook his head to clear it of the awful memory of that night on the roof, preferring instead to think of the day not too long after they’d moved into the condo when his mother had sat him and Mikasa down at the dining room table.

She’d appeared so nervous with her hands twisting in the skirt of her yellow dress, which had made him and Mikasa nervous as well, and insisted that she’d wanted to talk to them. Worried that something was wrong, that she was going to tell them that she wasn’t well or that she was leaving his father, Eren had leapt to his feet and gone to hug her. She’d laughed and finally said what the ‘talk’ was about, that she knew they were young but that they were in a bigger city now, and these ‘things’ were happening to kids who were younger and younger all the time. She just wanted them to know that she was there for them, that she would listen whenever they did want to talk about ‘it’. Eren had yelled that she was embarrassing them while Mikasa had blushed and pulled the scarf halfway over her face, and his mother had laughed again and said it was good because why should she be the only one embarrassed just then? He wished that he’d found the nerve to talk to her, to tell her that he didn’t find girls attractive, but he’d been so afraid of what his father would think-

“Hey.”

Eren nearly hissed in shock at the sound of a voice so close to him, and blinked several times before he turned around to make sure that his eyes weren’t glowing. He’d been so lost in his memories that he hadn’t heard another person approach, and cocked his head to the side when he realized that it was the boy from earlier. “’Hey’ to you, too.”

“I saw you standing there and thought you might like some company.” The boy smiled, his expression a little nervous yet oddly enough it only made him all the more attractive. “You seemed… alone. Where’s your girlfriend?”

“She’s not my girlfriend, she’s my sister.” Eren frowned and crossed his arms over his chest, his posture a little defensive at the question while his stomach twisted with some odd emotion. “She’s busy trading but she should be back soon.”

“Oh.” The boy’s smile strengthened and he stepped closer to Eren, his long, patched up dark coat swaying with his movement. “It’s just, you don’t look at all alike, so I assumed.” He reached out as if to touch Eren’s arm but stopped a few inches away. “I noticed you the last time you were here and wanted to approach you then.” He stared intently at Eren, his gaze not wavering from Eren’s face.

Was something wrong? Were his eyes glowing “I, uh, noticed you, too.” Did the boy suspect something?

“Good.” The boy smiled at Eren and stepped even closer, still staring at him. “Then do you want to go somewhere more private?”

Realization smashed into Eren and made the hunger he was feeling burn all the stronger. He was being hit on, wasn’t he? This was like some silly scene in a movie that his mother and Mikasa liked to watch. He wet his lips and noticed the way the boy stared at his mouth, caught sight of the racing pulse on the boy’s bare throat and the dilated pupils in those pale eyes. Yes, those were signs of desire, weren’t they?

He should probably say no, should go look for Mikasa but he found himself nodding, unable to fight his own feelings, that languid hunger that urged him on. The boy’s smile became wider as he slid his hand along Eren’s left arm until he could entwine their fingers and then led him further from the crowd of people, into a shadowed nook. “We won’t be seen here,” the boy whispered. “Just be quiet.”

“Oh-okay.” Eren wondered if he should say something, what he should do, but the boy appeared to be fine with taking control of the situation. He urged Eren to shed his oversized coat but nothing else and ran his fingers through the long bangs falling onto Eren’s face.

“Such beautiful eyes.” He placed a kiss on Eren’s forehead then urged him to turn around, to face the wall. “We need to be quick, before anyone notices.” His cool hands roamed along Eren’s neck, down his jersey-covered chest, pressed lightly against his stomach and then fumbled with the button on his jeans.

Staring at the peeling plaster of the wall in front of him, Eren realized that he was about to lose his virginity to someone whose name he didn’t even know in a quick fuck while standing in a half-destroyed church while surrounded by a bunch of strangers. Yet he wasn’t worried or ashamed, he wasn’t afraid, he just felt that new, delicious sense of hunger pulsing through his veins and demanding to be sated. He put his hands up against the wall, claws already out and digging into the plaster, and moaned when one of the boy’s hands slid into his open jeans to fondle his tumescent cock.

“Hmm, eager, are we,” the boy whispered in his ear. “Just give me a moment. I’ve been dying to fuck you since I saw you.” He pumped Eren’s cock a few more times, until it was fully erect and Eren was whining in need, then shoved his pants and underwear down past his knees. “Just give me a moment.”

The boy pulled away a little, leaving Eren to feel frustrated without that taller body pressing against him, and there was the sound of clothes rustling and a zipper being pulled down. Something popped open and there was the squishing of liquid being poured out and spread around, and then the boy was back, his slick fingers sliding between the cheeks of Eren’s bare ass.

He hissed as one of them sunk inside, claws tearing at the plaster as his body struggled to adjust to the intrusion. “Fuck, but you’re tight. Haven’t done this in a while, have you? You’re going to be so good,” the boy crooned as he shoved his finger in all the way and curled it around. Eren bit into his bottom lip and rode out the pain, the hunger building despite it, maybe even because of it, and groaned when another finger was added. Things became hazy as his body struggled to adjust, his mouth filled with the taste of his own blood, his mind battling conflicting instincts of fuck/fight and-

“Ah! Da-damn! Relax a little, pretty boy,” the boy stuttered out as he pushed inside of Eren, who clenched his eyes shut as pain washed through him. He struggled to breathe through it, struggled to adjust, and nearly howled when the boy reached from behind to wrap a slick hand around his softening cock and pumped it several times.

“Yeah, that’s it.” The boy chuckled when Eren jerked his hips in time with those maddening strokes along his cock. “Fuck yeah, that’s it.” He began to thrust faster into Eren as his other arm hitched up Eren’s left leg and lifted Eren onto the toes of his right foot so he could sink in deeper, faster. The change in position made something inside of Eren light up, made him choke out a cry and scratch at the wall while pleasure exploded inside of him. He felt as if he was consumed by fever, his body covered with sweat and shuddering, his nerves on fire and skin sensitive to every touch. More – he wanted more of it, more of that insane pleasure, more of the force, more-

The boy pressed his face against the back of Eren’s head and began to shiver, thrusts growing erratic as he cried out. His hips slammed hard into Eren a few more times and then he began to slow down, his motions languid, leaving Eren at that terrible peak where he felt as if he couldn’t breathe, could barely think.

“Oh, yeah. That was good. Let’s… let’s take care of this.” The hand around Eren’s cock resumed stroking, firm and fast, and Eren shivered, body overtaxed from too much sensation. A few more strokes and he felt as if something snapped inside of him, a huge burst of ecstasy as he came with a strangled cry.

The boy moved away while Eren was still spurting against the wall, provoking a wince from him as he pulled out. “You were great, pretty boy. Thanks. I, ah, I have to get back now. See you again soon?” He didn’t bother to wait for an answer, just rearranged his clothes and left.

Eren stood there for a few seconds, mind pleasantly dazed from his release and body spent. Then he shook himself to help clear his head and set about to make himself presentable, hobbling over to his coat to fetch the scrap of cloth he always carried in case he fed and needed to clean up any signs of blood. It would do to wipe away the semen and oil smeared between his thighs, at least for now. He noticed a trace of blood on the cloth as well and wondered if he should be worried before pushing the thought aside – if he and Mikasa could feed from Malform, heal missing limbs and drink tainted water without any issues, somehow he didn’t think sexual diseases were a problem.

Once more presentable, he slipped away from the nook and went outside, away from the people. He stood underneath the stars and took a deep breath, still feeling a sense of peace, a stillness that he hadn’t known for… well, a very long time.

Mikasa found him a short while later, a large pack on her back and another bag in her arms. She came to a stop about two feet away and hissed. “You reek of sex,” she accused, her voice sharp and yet oddly confused.

“Yeah, I know.” He gave her a small smile then resumed staring up at the stars.

“Are you telling me that you had sex with one of these people?” There was a thump as she threw the bag down. “Was it consensual? It better have been consensual or I’m killing the entire-“

“Mikasa, don’t.” He reached over to grab hold of her arms. “It was consensual.”

She stared at him in confusion for several seconds. “You wanted it,” she asked in a small voice, her eyes wide and glittering with tears. “Are you… are you lonely?”

“I think I was just horny.” He gave her a sad smile and pulled her in for a hug. “We should still be teenagers, more or less. Don’t you get horny sometimes?”

She hit him on the back hard enough to knock the breath out of him before returning the hug. “Idiot. Of course I do. It doesn’t mean I go off and fuck someone the moment your back is turned.”

“Well, maybe you should. Don’t let me stop you.” He stroked his hand over her hair. “Maybe we both need to do it more often.”

“Maybe.” She pulled away enough to look at him. “So you just decided to have sex?”

He shrugged while he fussed with her scarf, settling it better around her neck. “It’s more a case of someone who was cute propositioning me. I figured… why not? It worked out mostly well.”

Her eyes narrowed at the last part. “Define ‘mostly well’.” There was a hint of a threat in her voice – not for him, but clearly for his recent sex partner and probably everyone inside the church, too.

He supposed that he should be thankful that she was reacting better than he’d thought over the situation, even if she still was being over-protective. “’Mostly well’ in that I didn’t try to drain him dry during the act, and he didn’t notice anything odd about me. I did claw the shit out of the wall, though. You might want to keep your hands covered during your first time, and maybe your eyes hidden.” Though Mikasa did have better control than he did.

She still seemed ready to go back and beat the shit out of the poor kid. “Is that all? He treated you right?”

Eren sighed as he let go of his sister and bent over to fetch the dropped bag. “Honestly? It’s clear that he does this sort of thing often, hitting on visitors and counting on them to be gone shortly. The sex was… not bad. I assume it’ll get better. But considering what we are, I’m fine with the way things happened.” It wasn’t as if he could have a long-term relationship with the guy, or anyone else. Not unless he wanted to tell them the truth about himself and Mikasa. “Come on, let’s get going if we’re done here.”

Mikasa made a hmph’ing sound as she stepped forward and snatched at his free hand, entwining their fingers together. “’Not bad’ isn’t acceptable. We’ll make sure the next guy is better. *You* deserve better.”

He couldn’t help it; Eren laughed as he tugged his sister closer and titled his head to touch hers. “You’re the best, you know that?” How many other siblings out there would be so determined to find their brother the best fuckbuddy possible?

A faint blush spread across her cheeks as she gave his head a gentle knock. “Never forget it.” She smiled, the expression sweet and pleased, the entire way back to their camp.

*******

Mikasa headed back to the small apartment, upset that she had spent most of the night looking for Thierry with nothing to show for all of her efforts. Perhaps Eren had more luck; his hunting instincts were sharper than hers and people responded better to his youthful, more emotional face as long as he kept his temper in check. 

Lost in her thoughts and depressed about the lack of success that night, it took until she had unlocked the door and entered the small living room to realize that something wasn’t right – she could smell Eren, but there were other, unknown, *exotic* scents as well. Struggling to control the urge to unleash her fangs, she tugged up her scarf the same time she scowled at the stranger sitting on the worn, scavenged couch. “Who are you?” 

“Ah, you must be Mikasa.” The petite blonde girl, dressed in a hooded sweatshirt and torn jeans against the autumn chill, shrugged her shoulders. “I’m Annie.” She lifted what looked to be a bottle of wine that she held in her left hand in greeting. “Your brother has told us all about you.” From the way that she rolled her blue eyes, she gave the impression that she wasn’t all that impressed as of yet.

“’Us’?” Mikasa closed and locked the door behind her then stepped further into the apartment. Now that the initial shock was over, she could make out the sounds from the bedroom, of bodies moving about on the bed she shared with her brother, skin sliding against skin, moans and whispers and- 

A furious blush spread across her cheeks. “Eren’s here with…?” She was going to *kill* him. He was supposed to be looking for Thierry! 

A slight, cruel grin uplifted the corners of Annie’s mouth when she lowered the bottle of wine. “Yeah, Bertolt and Reiner took a liking to him, your brother’s really cute. We came across him a short while ago at a bar a few blocks from here. Guess the guy he was looking for wasn’t there.” She shrugged and tilted her head to the side, seemingly unconcerned about what had brought Eren across her path. “The boys calmed him down when he got a little overzealous in trying to get some information out of the bartender, and one thing led to another.” 

Ah, that had probably been at Le Rêve, Mikasa surmised. Thierry had always liked the place, even if it didn’t live up to its name, being a bit of a dive. “Sorry, he can be a bit… impulsive at times.” 

“So I gathered.” There was another of those elusive, smug smiles. “I think that’s why the boys like him so much.” 

Why was Mikasa standing out here doing small-talk with a stranger? And a stranger who smelled different from everyone else, smelled… smelled *wild* and *strong* and oddly *comforting*.  She shifted from foot to foot and tried to figure out what to say, when more sounds drifted from the bedroom during the silence. 

“-d..damn, you won’t believe his... his mouth... oh god.” 

“Hah. Will… try it next…” 

Mikasa rushed to drop the bag she always carried with her unless she was hunting onto the floor, take off her coat and sit in the large padded chair next to the couch. “So Eren invited everyone back to the apartment. You’re… you’re fine just waiting out here while….” She couldn’t believe she had just asked that, her face blushing even brighter at the thought of what her brother was doing in the other room with two guys. *Two*. Granted, it had been a while, but two at the same time? She tugged the scarf up higher to try to hide her red face. 

Annie laughed, the sound low and a little mean, and offered Mikasa the wine bottle, which she accepted with a desperate thanks. “Normally I’d be in there with them.” She laughed some more when Mikasa coughed up the tiny bit of wine she’d just swallowed. “But your brother made perfectly it clear that he only prefers guys.” 

“Aren’t you… I mean, doesn’t that upset you?” Mikasa stared at the other girl while clutching the bottle to her chest. 

“No.” Annie shrugged while glancing over her shoulder at the bedroom door. “We’re rather open with our relationship, it keeps things interesting.” She looked back at Mikasa. “They’re free to pursue someone they want, just as I am, it doesn’t affect what we have for each other.” 

“Oh.” Mikasa took a long drink of wine to steady her nerves while she thought about that. She supposed it was similar to what she had with Eren, only without the sexual relationship between each other. They lived together, loved each other, couldn’t imagine being apart – they were each other’s lives and had no intention of ever changing that, they just sought sexual release with other people. “I think I get it.” 

“I thought you might.” For the first time since they’d met, there was a slight thawing in Annie’s aloof nature, a hint of genuineness in her slight smiles. “Which is another reason why I don’t mind that the guys are currently fucking your brother’s brains out right now.” 

“Gah. So don’t need that mental image.” Mikasa grimaced before she drained off the rest of the wine. “I’m grabbing another bottle. Do you want anything else,” she thought to offer as she went to the tiny kitchen. Eren had probably been too distracted to do so before… yeah, not thinking about that. It was a good thing that Eren cooked now and then as a reminder of better times, as their kitchen had a few ‘human’ staples other than several bottles of alcohol. 

“No thanks, we ate earlier.” 

Mikasa grabbed two bottles of wine, uncorked them and returned to the tiny living room, which was barely big enough to hold the second-hand padded chair, couch and table – they had just arrived a couple of weeks ago and weren’t planning on staying too long, so hadn’t bothered with anything too fancy. Annie accepted the wine bottle and didn’t have a problem drinking straight from it, leaving Mikasa flustered when she realized that she had forgotten glasses since she was so used to it just being her and Eren. Oh well, she knew she could handle a bottle with ease thanks to her nature, and Annie appeared to have a strong tolerance as well. 

“So, Eren said that you two are in town looking for this relative of yours?” Annie settled herself a little more comfortably at the end of the couch, her left leg tucked beneath her. 

Needing a drink, Mikasa paused before she answered to have a few swallows of the strong red wine. “Yes,” she answered once she was finished. “It’s a rather sad story – he’s gone a bit senile and left the care we set up for him, so we need to find him before something bad happens.” She didn’t want to think about Thierry right now, about how old he’d gotten, how bitter he’d become over how he continued to age and- No, not right now. She drank some more. 

“Yeah, Eren said much the same. He seems really worried about the old guy.” Annie spoke in a very bored tone of voice as she picked at the label of her wine bottle, clearly uninterested in some senile stranger. “We’ve been in town for the past month or two, just resting a while as we wander wherever the wind takes us, but we can ask around.” 

Mikasa wasn’t sure it was wise to involve strangers into this mess, especially since it was becoming clear that people finding out what she and Eren were only led to trouble. “That seems like a lot to ask.” 

Annie shrugged again. “It’s not a problem – like I said, the guys seem to really like your brother. It’ll give them an excuse to see him some more.” 

What could she say to that? It might raise suspicions if Mikasa pushed aside help when it was clear that they were desperate to find Thierry. Making a non-committal noise, she nodded once and drank some more wine, then changed the subject to where all Annie and her ‘guys’ had been in the recent years. They certainly were a well-traveled trio, moving around as much as Eren and Mikasa. Now that humanity has recovered to the point of establishing proto-cities in an effort to protect against the solar flares and Malform, they seemed to divide their time between living ‘civilized’ and out in the wild. There were certain benefits to both lifestyles. 

“What do you think about the rumors to build those domes,” Annie asked after a while. 

“Domes?” Mikasa tucked back the hair falling onto her face and leaned forward, her arms resting on the side of the chair. “You mean the city enclosure plans?”

“Yeah, they’re calling them domes.” Annie snorted in derision and set her mostly empty bottle of wine aside on the table. “To build these big, bubble cities in hopes of keeping everyone safe.” 

It was a good thing that Eren wasn’t here, or he’d start ranting right about now. “Well, it would help with the solar flares, but it seems a good way to trap everyone inside should there be any new problems or a Malform attack,” Mikasa admitted. “I’m not sure it’s the best solution. It seems more like putting your head in the sand and hoping the problem goes away.” 

A spark of interest lit up Annie’s blue eyes. “And do you think-“ 

The sound of running water from the direction of the bedroom made Mikasa jump to her feet. “One moment.” She guessed that the ‘guys’ had finished with their ‘fun’ for the night and hurried to the kitchen, where a large bottle of previously boiled water sat out on the counter. She poured some of that into a large glass and went back to sit on the chair, the glass in hand. “I’m sorry, you were saying?” 

“Nothing important.” Annie leaned back against the couch, her expression once more guarded. “Just happy to see that someone has their own opinion about things, for once.” 

The bedroom door opened to admit Eren and two strangers, both taller and a couple of years older than him: one with broad shoulders, blond hair trimmed in a short cut and light brown, almost golden eyes, and another with brown hair, green eyes, tanned skin and a friendly visage. A slight blush spread across Eren’s face when he saw Mikasa and he tugged at the hem of the plain t-shirt he was wearing along with a pair of boxers while on his way over to her, curling up on the large chair together. 

She hummed in satisfaction at the feel of him being so close, even if he smelled of soap, fresh water, sweat, sex and two strangers. He mumbled thanks as he accepted the glass of water, thirsty as always after sex, and fit his almost feverishly warm body against hers, seeking the comfort and affection that he always denied his sexual partners after intercourse. She wrapped her right arm around his shoulders and stared out at the strangers who sat on the couch, her gaze possessive and almost defiant when they stared back in confusion and a bit of envy; Eren slept with whomever he wanted and it never bothered her, but *this* was hers alone, this true expression of closeness that was never allowed to one-night stands and fuckbuddies. 

The blond guy, muscles on display since he only wore a pair of jeans, scowled for a moment until Annie elbowed him in the ribs, while the other guy, dressed similar to Eren in boxers and a long-sleeved t-shirt, appeared of a shier nature since he ducked his head and blushed a little. Eren finished his drink and nudged Mikasa’s shoulder. “Mikasa, this is Reiner and Bertolt.” 

She bent her right arm around to comb her fingers through his tangled hair. “So I gathered. Annie was kind enough to tell me about her friends.” 

“Hmm.” Eren cradled the empty glass in his lap and snuggled closer. “You two been talking?” 

“There wasn’t much else to do while you were occupied,” she chided. 

That earned her a mumbled apology, while across the small room, the blond guy reached over to grab at Annie’s abandoned bottle of wine. “Uhm, yeah, sorry for the… odd introduction. I’m Reiner. It’s nice to meet you, we’ve heard a lot about you already.” His stern expression softened into an affection smile as he gazed at Eren. “Eren’s got nothing but good things to say about you.” The other young man, Bertolt, quickly echoed that sentiment. 

“He’s a great brother.” Mikasa tilted her head to rest it against Eren’s, almost perfectly content at the moment – she noticed that, as well as smelling of sex and her brother, these two also smelled the same exotic way that Annie did.  

“It’s a shame you two aren’t into teaming up in bed, because- ouch! It was only a suggestion, Annie! No need to hit me!” Reiner flinched when Annie punched him again in the ribs, dropping the thankfully empty wine bottle to the floor, while Mikasa grimaced at the idea of having sex with her own brother – even if there was someone else involved. Beside her, she could feel Eren shudder. 

Bertolt laughed and shook his head. “Eren had the same reaction when we suggested it before, you know.” He laughed a little more until Annie looked over a whining Reiner to glare at him, his expression quickly changing to one of fear. 

“You’re both idiots,” the small blonde girl spat out as she stood up. “Come on, we’re leaving before you insult them any further. Go gather your clothes.” As the two young men scurried to do as they’d been bid, Annie turned toward Mikasa and Eren and nodded once. “Thanks for the hospitality.”

Mikasa pried herself away from Eren and forced herself to stand up. “You don’t have to go. You can wait a little closer to daylight if you want, til it’s safer.”

Annie waved aside the suggestion. “No, it’s all right, we’re pretty good since we travel in numbers. We’ll be fine.” She picked up a dark blue coat that had been folded near the couch and pulled it on. “Thanks, though.”

Her two friends came out a few seconds later, fully dressed and pulling on their coats. They both paused to give Eren a kiss goodbye and promised to see him soon, something that left Mikasa with mixed feelings – relationships were what had gotten them into this current mess. However, since it was *her* relationship with Thierry, she felt that it wasn’t her right to object. 

Eren closed and locked the door behind the trio and stood there for a moment. When he turned around, he offered Mikasa a shaky smile. “I’ll make up the bed and then wash off.”

“All right. I’ll clean up here.” She paused before she started gathering up the wine bottles. “So no luck tonight? I mean, other than the obvious,” she said with more than a little sarcasm. 

Eren’s cheeks grew red at the slight taunt. “I didn’t see him at all, and no one admitted to him having been in town for the last few nights or so.” He took a couple of steps forward. “Then I ran into those three and there was something about them…. I’m sorry, Mikasa.” 

Dammit, where could Thierry have gone? All reports pointed to him having come here, so how could an elderly man vanish so permanently unless the Malform had gotten to him? But Thierry knew better than most how to avoid them…. 

“It’s okay, go get ready for bed,” she told her brother. Eren looked as if he wanted to say more, but did as he’d been told after a few seconds. 

******* 

Over the next few weeks, Mikasa and Eren continued to search for Thierry while spending their free time with the trio. Eren certainly enjoyed a set of enthusiastic lovers who didn’t seem to care for any emotional strings, while Mikasa found herself looking forward to the time alone with Annie, another female who shared some similar mindsets. It seemed that here was a possibility for a relationship that they could participate in as long as it lasted, probably until spring arrived or they found Thierry, whichever happened first, and then part their way as casual friends. Neither she nor Eren were making the mistake of revealing too much of their past or hoping for anything long-term, just living in the moment and grateful that they didn’t feel so alone for once. Annie appeared to be indicating that she wouldn’t mind something more from Mikasa, but Mikasa was leery to move past friendship while still stinging from Thierry’s apparent betrayal. Eren told her that she was being foolish, that she’d broken off things with the man decades ago, but it was difficult to start any type of new relationship when dealing with the fallout of an old one, in her opinion. No, it was best to keep things strictly platonic.

On the prowl one evening while Eren ‘hung out’ with Reiner and Bertolt, Mikasa tracked down the scent of a Malform until she trailed it into an abandoned building. The older ones scurried away once they caught a whiff of her scent, but this younger one attempted to stand its ground and was soon barreled over and given a swift, vicious kick to snap its neck. She didn’t waste any more time before she fed, tearing into its throat and savoring the feel of hot blood pouring into her mouth, filling her stomach – each swallow made her stronger, made her feel more alive- 

Her head snapped back, certain that she’d heard a sound, a floorboard creaking as if something had approached while she fed. Scouring the shadows around her, she didn’t see any signs of movement for over least a minute, nor did she smell anything but the Malform beneath her and rotting wood, fabric and the waste from vermin. Hesitating just for a moment, she continued her feeding from before until she couldn’t swallow another drop, then she used her strength to twist off the creature’s head. Leaving the building as quickly as possible, she kept searching her surroundings, a prickly feeling moving up and down her spine as if there was unwanted attention focused upon her. She didn’t feel at peace until both she and Eren were locked up safe in their apartment that night, and couldn’t shake the feeling of being followed while out hunting for days. Yet she never could find traces of anyone.

******* 

Mikasa sat on the couch and tried not to think of how Eren had just gone into the bedroom with Reiner and Bertolt, of what her brother would be doing for the next hour or two, while Annie was sitting so close to her. The blonde girl had her hair pulled up in a pretty bun and wore some sort of perfume that amplified her already exotic scent, the usual hoodie exchanged for an intricately crocheted sweater in a blue color that matched her eyes. 

“You don’t have to be so nervous.” There was that slight, sardonic smile on Annie’s face as she shifted even closer to Mikasa. “I won’t bite unless you want me to.” 

“I- what?” Mikasa wanted to move away, to put some space between them but she was already at the end of the couch. “I just- I didn’t get much sleep today. It’s making me tired.” That was at least partially true. 

“Ah, and here I thought that maybe I was finally having some sort of effect on you. Such a shame.” Annie shifted a little closer. “You know, those three don’t have to be the only ones enjoying themselves. We could be having fun, too.” 

Mikasa shook her head fast enough to make her hair fly about. “I don’t think that’s a wise decision.” She liked Annie, liked her more with each passing day, but she didn’t make sensible decisions when it came to relationships – look at Thierry. Either she was too aloof, just craving for some sort of sexual release or she cared too much, hoping for a fraction of what she shared with Eren or what her real parents had found together, and both usually ended up badly. “I think we’re fine just as friends.” 

That declaration earned her a derisive snort from Annie, and before she knew it, the smaller girl was straddling her lap, jean-clad, muscular thighs on either side of hers and long, strong arms wrapped around her neck. “*I* think we could be even better as friends with benefits. You deny yourself too much, Mikasa. Learn to let go.” As if to prove her point, Annie leaned forward, eyes heavy-lidded and lips parted, and kissed her. 

Annie’s scent became intoxicating, her taste… her taste heady and something that Mikasa instantly began to crave. She kissed back, tongue delving inside Annie’s mouth while a moan escaped her, hands lifting to clutch at Annie’s shoulders. She felt the other girl’s lips curl against her own and warm hands slide beneath the sweatshirt she was wearing. The feel of smooth skin against her own startled a gasp from her and made her break off the kiss. 

“I- I don’t think-“ 

There was a low, guttural snarl as Annie pulled back. “That’s your problem, you *think* too much instead of being true to yourself. You go through the motions day after day, pretending to be this weak creature, denying what you truly are, when you can be so much more.” A spark of red began to show in her blue eyes. “You and Eren are both so much more. We can show you that, teach you what you’re meant to be and take away the masks. But you, you and *Eren* need to-“ 

Why was she talking about Eren right now? Why was there a possessive growl to her voice whenever she spoke about Mikasa’s brother? A warning sense – a hint of danger, of trouble - grew in Mikasa as she stared up at Annie, at the red in her eyes, and she used all of her strength to throw the other girl off of her. “Get away!” To her shock, Annie twisted in mid-air and landed in a crouch as if a cat, her eyes now glowing red and her mouth full of fangs. 

“I tried to do this the nice way, I did. Now just come along and it’ll be all right.” 

No – Mikasa didn’t know what Annie was, but she wasn’t going to listen. She needed to get Eren- Eren, who was in the other room with Annie’s friends - Annie, who was some sort of monster. Letting the panic build inside of her, panic and anger, she poured all of it out in her voice, well aware of what it would do to her brother. “*Eren*! Help me!” While she shouted, she charged at Annie, letting loose her own fangs and claws. 

The outburst seemed to stun the other girl, as did the immediate sounds of snarls, yelps and yelling from the bedroom. Mikasa took advantage of that to lash out with her claws, swiping them across Annie’s face. The girl swore and barely dodged in time to avoid being blinded, then attempted to knock Mikasa off of her feet with a low sweep of her right foot. 

“Just give in, I’m much older than you!” 

“Go to hell,” Mikasa growled out and drove her left shoulder into the bitch’s stomach, knocking her into a wall. Annie yowled and dug her claws into Mikasa’s back as she pulled away, but it was worth it to know she’d broken a couple of ribs with that impact. 

“There’s three of us, we’ll-“ Annie stared in shock as Eren burst out of the bedroom, wearing only his boxers and the pouch necklace, covered in blood with eyes blazing gold and fangs bared. There appeared to be no sign of intelligence left to him, only a ferocious savagery that was intent on destroying everything between him and Mikasa. In the bedroom behind him, Reiner could be heard pleading loudly with Bertolt to heal, to drink his blood, to hold on. 

Eren sniffed the air several times and seemed to finally notice Annie, his head swiveling in her direction. He dashed forward and almost had the swearing blonde within reach when Mikasa snatched at his arm and swung him around. “No, not now! There’s no time!” She was yowled and snapped at for her troubles, but Eren never hurt her when he was like this, his humanity subsumed by the need to protect his only family. She dragged him toward the door, pausing only to grab her bag, in a desperate need to escape before something else happened. If those three were here for Eren, where there others?

“You can’t run away very far! Daylight will come soon!” Annie screamed after them, her breath catching in pain. Mikasa didn’t stop to respond, she kept going for the nearest exit despite the gasps and cries they attracted from the people they passed because of Eren’s appearance. They kept running until they were out on the street, down past the weak street lamps until they came to a dark, deserted section of town. 

“Mi-mikasa?” Eren tugged at Mikasa’s hold on his arm and stumbled. “Wha-what happened? Are you alright?” He came to a stop and shivered, not from the cold despite the fact that he was mostly undressed, but probably from shock. 

Mikasa reached into her bag to pull out a packet of disposable wipes and made a soothing sound when Eren flinched at the smell. “I know, bear with it,” she crooned and began to wipe away the blood covering his face. “I… I don’t think Annie and the others were human. They wanted something from us. She tried to attack me and that’s when I… well, I panicked.”

Eren waited until his face was mostly clean and then nodded. “Yeah, Reiner grew fangs when I struggled to get away. Then….” His eyes grew unfocused. “I think I hurt Bertolt.” He never remembered things clearly when he lost control like that, which was why Mikasa did her best to never trigger the reaction – even in childhood, he could become so ferocious if he felt he was protecting something, but since the change, his instinctual, bestial side took over now and then. Since the worst of it happened when he was protecting Mikasa, it never bothered her. 

“It’s all right, you did it for me,” she told him, her right hand cupping his cheek while she smiled. After a moment, he managed to smile back, the expression uncertain at first. “Now stay here, I’m going to get you some clothes.” She wrinkled her nose. “It won’t look good, us leaving town with you half-naked.” 

A slight blush crept over his face. “Uhm, yeah, be thankful we didn’t get too far.” He hung his head forward, his long bangs falling to cover his face. “What are we going to do? What were they?”

Those were good questions, but she refused to think about them right now. “Use the wipes to finish cleaning up,” she ordered before she left, wringing a whine from him in complaint. Once out on the street, she stuck to the shadows while searching for suitable prey, this time human; she just needed someone of similar height to Eren and who was alone, which she found after almost twenty minutes. Feeling guilty about knocking out and robbing the poor soul, she put her speed to use to grab him, shove him into the nearest wall and punch him in the head until he was unconscious. Well aware that he’d be dead if a Malform found him, she forced herself to strip the middle-aged man of all of his possessions save his underwear and hurried back to where she’d left Eren. There was no telling how long it would take the trio to heal – the only thing in their favor was that the sun would rise in less than ten minutes.

“Here, hurry up and get dressed.” She shoved the clothes at her brother, grateful that he had used all the wipes to clean himself. Eren frowned at the clothes and shoes, which were still a bit too large, but dressed without complaint, handing over the man’s wallet to her. Mikasa checked and found a few credits inside, which she added to the ones she carried. They’d need to buy new supplies once they reached a town where they felt safe enough. 

As soon as Eren was dressed, she held his hand and began to run, heading toward the outskirts of town. It would look odd, two shapes leaving town, but with the sun rising, few people would want to follow them and risk exposure. The two of them would be fine – they would heal from any damage the solar radiation inflicted upon them as long as they fed often enough. If they ran most of the day and the next, they would reach a cave where they kept some supplies stored in case of an emergency, enough to hold them over for a few weeks.

Eren squeezed her hand and kept pace beside her, silent as a shadow. Mikasa held on tight, afraid he would slip away at any moment. She didn’t know what Annie and the others were or why they wanted Eren so badly, but she wasn’t going to let them harm her brother. She’d kill anyone who tried to take Eren away from her. 

*******

Annie followed Pedro down the long, narrow path carved in stone, the smooth walls dimly lit by sparsely spaced lights that flickered with the pulse from the generator. Reiner and Bertolt walked behind her, and judging from the shuffling of their feet, their heavy footsteps, they were just as nervous as she was to meet with the others. It wasn’t a good thing, to be returning empty-handed… 

It felt as if they were walking forever, sinking deeper into the earth, when eventually they reached the large cavern a few minutes later where several others were gathered. Annie stifled a gasp when she realized that the *Elder* was present, his squat, furry body mostly covered in the rough brown cloak he wore, the hood pushed back to reveal his simian face. “Such a simple task, and you failed it,” he said in way of a greeting, his deep voice raspy and guttural, the words barely understandable as they were forced through a throat that wasn’t meant for human speech except he’d had *years* to master the ability, years and a burning determination. “Bring back the two neophytes so we could finally learn who made the boy and know how he turned the girl.” 

Reiner, always the impulsive one, rushed forward before Annie could gather her scattered wits and figure out the best approach in face of such censure. “You don’t understand - that Eren, he’s some sort of monster! He’s as bad as a Mutate! He nearly tore Bertolt apa-“ 

“Quiet!” Annie hissed at her partner when she noticed how the Elder’s eyes began to glow red. “Let me talk!” she ordered, her own eyes glowing and her fangs peeking past her top lip. Bertolt hurried forward to grasp Reiner’s right arm and whisper in his ear, to tell him that he was fine now, that Annie would handle things for them. Reiner scowled for a moment, all bluster on the surface yet his hands trembled as he shoved them into the pockets of his jeans. 

Sparing the two a harsh look for a few seconds, Annie did her best to compose her features before she turned back to face the Elder and the other vampires arranged behind him, recognizing a couple of them – all of them amongst the oldest of their species. Was this a tribunal? Were they in that much trouble? Why were two neophytes worth this much effort?

She kept her expression as dispassionate as possible when she began to speak, allowing none of her thoughts to show. “We went to New Paris as instructed and found the neophytes – Eren and Mikasa. They were tracking down someone they claimed was a relative, a Thierry Meyette, information which we passed on to our superior, Zeki, as quickly as we could since it seemed important. After doing so, we established contact with the two and worked to build a rapport since we’d hoped it would make the extraction easier.” She rubbed her left side, over the ribs that Mikasa had broken, while reciting the recent events in as even and respectful a tone that she could manage. “During that period, we determined that they possess an extremely close bond which can be useful in controlling them and are in fact feeding on Mutates. We never witnessed them feeding on humans.” The elder vampires shifted about, whispering at the news, and the Elder’s round eyes narrowed. “It’s clear that they don’t really know what they are.” 

She took a deep breath and moved on to explain what went wrong, hoping that it wouldn’t be used against them. “When I attempted to deepen the relationship with Mikasa in order to assist in bringing them both here… for some reason the girl panicked. She screamed for help, which set off the boy. He became… unusually savage.” She paused as she recalled the night, swaying for a moment at the memory of the blood, the sight of Bertolt’s torn flesh. ” I’ve never seen anything like it before. He attacked Bertolt and Reiner and would have fought me, but he didn’t touch Mikasa. They were able to escape, and as it was right before daylight, we lost track of them.” She finally allowed the frustration she felt to show in her expression and her voice. “Even after we healed, we couldn’t find them. They had few supplies – they shouldn’t have been able to go very far yet they vanished. Once we were certain we lost them, we returned.” 

The Elder stared at her, his eyes glowing that awful deep, bright red and his fangs so thick and sharp in his large, crude mouth. She feared for herself just then, herself as well as Reiner and Bertolt, and flinched when the Elder raised his hairy, disproportionally long right arm. “Zeki, fetch the human.” 

One of the cloaked figures behind him, the small, slender man with his dark brown hair pulled back in a long braid, bowed and left the chamber. “You did one thing right,” the Elder told them. “You sent that message to Zeki. You might have lost the neophytes, but he managed to find the prize they were searching for.” 

Zeki returned, half-dragging, half-carrying a babbling old man into the large chamber. Annie flinched again, this time from the smell of decay and madness that the human radiated. He was dressed in a simple robe – it appeared that someone had taken the time to clean him and wash his grey hair as if he was a pet. He cried out and pulled at Zeki’s grip when he spotted Annie, and then cried out again, in disappointment. “Not Mikasa, not my pretty Mikasa. Thought you said you’d bring my pretty Mikasa,” the old man mumbled, tears streaming down his wrinkled face. 

This was the ‘uncle’ that Mikasa and Eren had been searching for? Annie exchanged a confused look with Bertolt and nearly missed seeing the Elder gesture again toward Zeki. 

The graceful vampire bent down to lean over the sobbing human, who was now sitting hunched on the ground. “Tell us about your pretty Mikasa, Thierry. This young lady is a friend of hers.”

Watery, cloudy eyes looked Annie’s way. “You know my Mikasa? Pretty, isn’t she? So cold and perfect.” 

Annie forced a swallow past her dry throat and nodded, a fake smile pasted on her lips. “Yes, I’m good friends with her – her and Eren.” What did this have to do with anything? But if it kept the Elder from being angry with them….

The old man drew back, his wrinkled features drawn in a scowl. “Eren! Ah, not Eren! Damn that boy! He took my pretty Mikasa away, took her into the sun where I couldn’t follow!” He started sobbing. “Said I couldn’t survive out there, she did. Said Eren needed the wild, needed away from people, so outside they went. Pretty Mikasa, always young, always strong.” He hunched over, his body wracked with sobs. 

‘Into the sun’. The words reverberated inside Annie’s head as she first stared at the wreck of a man, then looked up at Reiner and Bertolt, at the shocked expressions on their faces. She whirled around to face the Elder. “He can’t- it’s senility, right? He can’t be serious! None of us can go out into the sun!” 

“It would explain how they managed to escape you, would it not?” The Elder waddled in a circle around the sobbing old man. “How it’s taken so much effort to track them down, how they survive so long in the wild, only occasionally venturing into the newly forming towns.” 

Reiner pushed forward again, taking advantage of Annie’s confusion, of her trying to wrap her mind around the concepts of *vampires* who could survive the sun – not only sunlight, but this newer, more potent version. “But how, sir? What makes them able to survive this when not even you can?” 

The Elder produced a parody of a smile and motioned once more to Zeki, who leaned toward the old man once again. “Thierry, tell us more about that damn ‘Eren’ who took away your precious Mikasa. Tell us his name.” It took a little prodding, but after a few seconds, the old man uncurled enough to sit up, wiped his wet face on the sleeve of his robe and seemed to glare up at Zeki. 

“Jaeger. Eren Jaeger took her away. Curse him every day, I do. Just want my pretty Mikasa back.” He clutched at Zeki’s robe. “You promised, right? Make me strong like her, yes? Strong like my pretty Mikasa.” 

Zeki glanced at the Elder, who gave him a curt nod. The vampire picked up the old man and carried him away, while Annie once more stared in shock at the Elder. “Jaeger?” Was that why Eren and Mikasa had never shared their last name? They truly had been siblings – Grisha Jaeger had a son and an adopted daughter. Why hadn’t Annie made that connection? Behind her, Reiner cursed under his breath while Bertolt groaned deep in his throat, probably at how *damn* *close* they had been to something so… so… so *fucking* *important*. 

“Jaeger,” the Elder agreed. “Grisha Jaeger’s son. You know how close the man came to a cure – perhaps much closer than we ever suspected.” He hobbled toward Annie. “And now his son and daughter are out there, seemingly immortal, seemingly thriving on blood, seemingly able to turn others, and *seemingly able to survive in the sun*,” he shouted. Everyone, even the older vampires, cringed at the sign of his anger. He took a deep breath before he continued. “I want them. I want them found, and I want them brought to me, alive and well.” He made sure to stare pointedly at Reiner when he spoke that last part. 

“We’ll do it,” Annie promised. She’d failed once, she wouldn’t do so again. 

“Uhm, sir?” Bertolt surprised her by stepping forward, until he stood by her side. “I just remembered something when you mentioned Grisha Jaeger.” He rubbed at the back of his head as if nervous, a faint blush spreading across his cheeks. “Eren… well, we got to know him rather well the last few weeks.” His blush deepened, making his green eyes stand out even more. “The thing is, he always wore this little bag around his neck, even when we were… well, he never took it off.” 

“Yes?” The Elder gazed at Bertolt, his face slack but eyes intent. Annie took that as a good sign. 

Bertolt ducked his head and shuffled his feet. “What I mean is, he didn’t like talking about it, the bag. Just said that it was important, that it held some memories of his parents.” Ah, that made the Elder’s eyes glow a bit brighter, and Annie wanted to smack Bertolt and Reiner for never mentioning this to her before – then she remembered feeling something similar, that last night with Mikasa. “He didn’t like us playing with it, but the one time… I thought I felt a ring inside, maybe a few tiny stones, and what felt to be a small key.” 

“Yeah, there was definitely something like a key in there!” Reiner took several lunging steps forward. “It’s like Bert said – he was all touchy about the thing and never took it off. Not even when he bathed.” 

The Elder rumbled in approval. “Perhaps you didn’t mess up as badly as I thought after all.” He nodded several times, as if excited. “We need the boy *and* that bag. Grisha Jaeger was rumored to have had some secret research he was working on before he vanished, the boy may very well be it. He is our main priority from now on.” He watched as everyone bowed their heads in acknowledgement before turning around, his steps an inelegant waddle as he left the room. 

Annie faced Reiner and Bertolt and was certain that her expression matched theirs – a fierce determination to be the ones to bring in Eren and Mikasa, to not let anyone else claim the siblings. *They* would be the ones to save their race, to ensure their survival, and to make up for their mistake. If it felt a bit like payback for the shame of being bested then all the better, but it was also personal now for them. Eren and Mikasa needed to learn that they were no longer human and where their true priorities lay. Annie would force that lesson down their throats if she had to, one way or another.

*******

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