He never got grouchy.
He was your big friendly teddy bear, and you were his darling.
“Ah! [Y/N], you're not cold are you?”
Another chilly night atop the wall, though you could bear it. But when Bertholdt came over with the offer of a warm blanket to wrap around yourself, you couldn't resist. Taking his offer gratefully, you smiled up at him with a blush.
Bertholdt wrapped you in the soft material like you were a croissant, and stood behind you so you'd get some warmth from his own body too. He was still shy about these things even though you had been dating for two months now, but his arms boldly wrapped around you and pulled you back against his long torso snugly.
You wouldn't necessarily call yourself short, but Bertholdt easily towered over just about anyone with his impressive 6'4” frame. Funny, it was a wonder the Colossal Titan didn't consider him competition.
“...I'm so glad we can be together like this, even when times are so tough.” you smiled all the more, resting back in his gentle hold. When you were with him like this you always felt so safe and protected, like nothing could touch you.
Bertholdt held you a little tighter and nodded. “Me too...I...I love you so much...”
Vermilion danced on your skin and you closed your eyes serenely. The night watch wasn't so bad when you had one another like this.
Bertholdt had never felt happier than he did right now. There was a time in his life when he had felt so lost. Like he would never change, like he would never get over what happened to Marcel. Like he would never be able to surpass that side of himself that he hated so much. Forever destined to pretend.
Yet your genuine love for him had changed things. It had made that tender facade of his a reality. Now all he wanted to do was care for you, hold you softly in his clutch and stroke you, speak sweet words that would bring that familiar blush upon your pretty face.
“Y'know Bert, you're one lucky guy.”
The giant shot Reiner a sheepish glance, rubbing the side of his neck. “Oh?”
“You know what I'm talking about.” Reiner winked and nudged his side as they walked together down into the cellar, checking on supplies for the night. Always good to make sure nobody had snuck in and stolen anything...it could make the difference between life or death when it came time for a mission.
“Or should I say, who I'm talking about-”
“Alright Reiner, I get it.” Bertholdt shrugged away from him, but his best friend could tell he was crimson. Reiner let out a hearty laugh when he noticed.
“Hahaha! Ah, you'll never change. That's okay though, it's not like I want you to.”
He scanned the canisters and spare blades on the racks, noting that nothing was out of place in the torchlight.
“You really are blessed though. I mean it's not like Krista and I don't get along well, it's just that sometimes I feel like she has better chemistry with Ymir...”
Bertholdt had been busy looking through his corner of the room but he tensed up and looked around when Reiner mentioned it. “What...made you bring that up?”
Reiner shrugged and turned to him in the amber glow. “I dunno, I guess what I'm saying is that you're lucky to have someone so faithful to you. That's all.”
There it was. A tiny twitch, not noticeable even to someone who knew him so well, thanks to the dim light in the room.
“That's...ahaha-” Bertholdt laughed stiffly and closed his eyes, sweating a tad and touching his neck again, “-O-of course she is! [Y/N] would never cheat on me or anything like that...”
“Yeah I know, that's why I'm saying it. Relax Bert-” Reiner pet his shoulder on the way past as he headed for the stairs again. “Come on, it all looks good. Let's get to bed, I'm exhausted...”
Yet while Reiner had so easily moved the topic onwards, Bertholdt was still lingering in ten seconds ago. Maybe it was silly of him but...he kept thinking about it.
Borderline...obsessing about it.
Even when they went to bed he stayed awake, laying on his side with his nails in his mouth, thinking of all the boys you knew and the relationships you had with each of them.
There was him, your boyfriend, of course. Then there was Reiner, who had become your friend because of that. You were close with Eren and Connie but it was clear to see they were purely pals and nothing more. There were so many others though...and not everyone was so easy to read.
Hell, could he rule out the girls? Maybe you were secretly crushing on Ymir like Krista was...
A little bile rose in his throat at the thought of you ever cheating on him, ever abandoning him for someone else. It happened with other couples all the time, but surely not with you two, right?
Right. He had to believe that.
Otherwise he'd never get a wink of sleep again...
Bertholdt did his best to convince himself. To believe it, to buy into it.
She will never cheat on me.
“Hey Bertholdt, you're out of it today.”
Jean's hand slapped down on his shoulder (though he had to stretch and pretend it wasn't a strain), and Bertholdt spun around to face him with a jolt.
“Uh, yeah.” Jean scoffed before sighing and scanning the other corps members who were so busily setting up for more pre-mission training. He'd been tasked with putting together a mock Titan cut-out but it was heavy work.
“Mind helping me with this?”
Bertholdt didn't of course, never one to really refuse. He helped Jean prop it up, hoisting all the pieces into place. It was simple work, and didn't require too much focus. Maybe that was why his mind started to drift dangerously again.
There were a lot of people helping out here, including you. He could see you across the way with Armin and Sasha. Two more he didn't suspect...and yet...maybe he did? You seemed so close with everyone...so if something like that ever happened, it really could be anyone. You may have just seemed to be friends, but hadn't your own relationship with him bloomed out of a close friendship in the first place?
That was when he noticed something, while letting Jean up onto his shoulders and allowing him to put something in place. He smelled like sandalwood. It was distinctive.
Okay, then it was even simpler. He wouldn't have to worry. If you were ever intimate with someone then surely he'd smell them on you?
...Dammit. Who did he think he was, Mike?
No...this was going way too far. He needed to clear his head, take his mind off it all. He needed to ignore Reiner's words from before, they hadn't meant anything.
He just needed to trust you.
So he did. He trusted you.
He trusted you...maybe for a week longer.
Then it came back again. This time around, with a vengeance. This time...carrying the scent of sandalwood.
Everything had been going so swimmingly up until that point. You had been waiting there atop the wall for him, watching the sunset and preparing for the next lot of hours during which you'd have to stand to attention and pretend not to be too bored.
Yet it was Jean who approached you before Bertholdt could arrive, looking haughty as ever and carrying a small book in his hand. When he raised it high with a smirk your eyes widened, realizing it was your personal journal.
“What!? Jean how did you get that!?”
“You dropped it in the hallway this morning.”
“And you didn't tell me until now because...?”
“Heh-” Jean drew closer, and as he leaned over you he did something shocking. He leafed to the most recent pages and started reading in a mock feminine tone: “'Dear diary, today Bertl gave me the biggest hug in the world and I felt sooo special when he did-'”
“Give it back! Jerk!” you swiped for it and he quickly spun around to block you, laughing as he carried on reading:
“'Dear diary, had another nightshift today but luckily my big sweet teddy bear'- teddy bear? - 'was there with me-'”
Quickly you latched onto his back and tried to pull the journal away from him, arms reaching around his front frantically as he just kept moving around to stop you.
“You're such a bully!”
“I'm not a bully! You can't blame me for being curious, can you?” he chuckled, but then finally stopped shifting around and turned with it. “Fine fine, here you go-”
You reached out to take it, but he suddenly raised it in the air again, higher than you could reach. You jumped for it.
He cracked a mischievous smile. “What? You've got long legs, can't you get any higher?”
Jean and you got along well enough, and you knew he was just messing around with you, but your patience was wearing thin now and you really didn't appreciate him reading your private thoughts. Stopping your futile efforts, you almost said something to scold him, when suddenly another person intervened.
Bertholdt came up like a massive shadow behind him and snatched the journal with ease from his grip. Jean quickly spun around with fright, gasping a little and stumbling back beside you.
“Oh shit, Bertho--!!”
He was cut off.
Now you were the one who gasped with shock and horror, as Bertholdt held your journal in one hand, and Jean's tender throat in the other. Easy to grab, and so easy to crush. Just a little squeeze and it would snap right in two, wasn't that funny?
He ignored your loud cry and how it echoed into the night, dropping the journal as he pivoted his stance and swung Jean's limp body over the open drop beyond the edge. He watched callously how he writhed and clawed at his arm so desperately, choking with a petrified expression:
“DON'T!!” you cried again, this time seizing his other arm and jerking on it. At first he didn't budge, but then he slowly turned his gaze down towards you. The moonlight reflected in those eyes, but they might as well have been solid black.
There was no life in them. They were hollow.
He was angry.
“L-listen to your gir--” Jean started talking but wheezed when Bertholdt compressed his windpipe further. You desperately tugged on his arm again, tears filling your frantic gaze and glittering in the pallid glow.
“Please let him go! Please, I'm begging you!”
He stared at you for a good moment longer before finally obeying. Jean was switched back to solid ground again and allowed to drop. As soon as he met the stone he was on his hands and knees, scrambling away until he could reach his feet and sprint. Who knew what he would tell the others...yet Bertholdt let him scurry off into the darkness anyway, feeling that it was no matter to him.
Everyone could be dealt with somehow when you had strength and size on your side.
Speak of the devil, you only looked at him with disgust. Your journal now lay there ready for the taking, but you didn't care about it anymore. It was mostly filled with fawning over your 'teddy bear' Bertholdt anyway, as Jean had proven. Now though...now you wondered if any of those words held water anymore.
“Why would you do that!? He didn't deserve that! You could have killed him!!”
Bertholdt raised his hand to his face and rubbed his temples. Yes...he could have. Maybe he should have.
Maybe he should just kill everyone who ever looked at you? Everyone who ever so much as breathed the same air as you? Then he really wouldn't have any reason to worry at all.
Just you and him. Forever.
“You're not going to tell me!? Huh!? Just going to pretend like it didn't happen!?” you were growing more and more enraged with every passing minute. You stormed past him to pick up your journal, but something stopped you.
Much like his hand had seized Jean's neck, it now snatched your arm. You yelped at his abrupt iron grip upon you and stumbled a little, trying to pull free with a few desperate jerks of your body in the other direction.
“B-Bertholdt stop it!”
“Are you going somewhere?”
His voice was cold, his actions colder. He jerked you closer and seized the 3DMG straps crossed on your chest before you could get away, hauling you to the precipice.
“S-Somebody help! HELP!” you yelled, but the tall boy only let out a cruel chuckle as he dragged you, heels digging in and all, to your doom.
“It's 2 in the morning and we're on the quietest side of the wall. Do you really think anyone is going to hear you?”
Before he could fully push your helpless feet off the edge, Bertholdt leaned in closely and inhaled your scent. You shuddered and whimpered as he pressed his nose and lips to your neck, going limper in his hold.
“Mm...there it is. I knew it...”
He suddenly pushed you over that last inch and you squealed as he held you out by the front of your shirt, the straps tugged up taut against your skin as they struggled to support your dangling weight.
“He's all over you...” Bertholdt uttered darkly, staring at you without a single scrap of mercy in his typically calming eyes. It would be all too easy to guarantee right here and now that nobody would ever associate with you again. Your final moments would be with him and him alone...and he'd prefer that to a lifetime of wondering what you were up to when he wasn't around.
Yes...just like Marcel, he'd toss you away and rid himself of the burden. Granted, in Marcel's case he'd fed him to a Titan but still.
Just like Marcel, he loved you too deeply to let you live. For if you stayed alive you'd only be tainted by others.
He had to do this.
“D-Don't! Please, please don't do this!!” you pleaded tearfully, hot salty water streaming down your cheeks in copious rivulets. Bertholdt tilted his head in that cute manner he often did, though now it was only creepy.
“What? Would you rather I killed you differently? Maybe crush you to death in my arms? Choke you out right on top of this wall? Or perhaps I could just transform and eat you, then I'd have the chance to take my rage out on some other deserving people...” he pondered his options.
“I-I don't deserve this!” you whimpered, and he frowned a little.
Was this it? Was he really going to do this!?
“L-Let me go!” you begged, but soon realized your mistake as his grip loosened.
You were stuttering. You were scared. You were shaking.
Yet you at least managed to clutch his arm and gave one last look into those eyes, desperately. He was a psychopath...a psychopath, but you'd appeal to him.
You'd find some way of keeping him happy for now...because at least then you'd be safe.
At least then you'd survive.
“I-I mean it! I love you Bertholdt, I t-truly do!! I promise, I promise I'll never even look at another guy again!”
Bertholdt paused, and narrowed his gaze, gripping you tightly again. “And what about girls?”
“No girls!” you quickly insisted. “Nobody! Only you! I'll only have eyes for you!”
Those startled orbs of yours did flicker to the journal lying there, and back to him again.
“Y-you're my teddy bear...a-and I'm all yours, okay?”
It took a moment. Bertholdt mulled over your words like tasting a fine wine, but eventually he took the merciful route and pulled you back onto the ground again. He always had his leverage. He could always do what was necessary if it came to it, for he'd done it once before.
So he believed you.
Thankfully he couldn't smell a lie.
“Th-thank you...thank you...thank you...” you repeated it a few times, legs buckling as you almost fell to your knees. Yet Bertholdt was quick to pull your sobbing self against him. He held you just as he had done so many times before. His once secure yet now malevolent hold took your back flush with his chest, his arms wrapped around your front.
As he kissed your ear in silence it almost felt like you were both pretending that it all had been a dream. A horrific, torturous dream.
That was certainly where Bertholdt's mind was right now. He'd forgotten all about Jean and Marcel and any suggestion of betrayal. His frightening rage became a tight little ball that he could swallow down again and just pretend didn't exist at all.
Until the next time someone forced it out of him of course.
He was hopeful that would never happen though. In fact, he was convinced. Yes...everything would be so sunny and perfect now. He truly had nothing to worry about.
Yet as you stood there, basically trapped in the hug of the boyfriend you had once loved, you knew you were never going to see him the same way again no matter what he did from now on. You'd thought once upon a time that he was this cute, sweet, gentle thing...someone who would never even dare to hurt you or make you tremble despite his domineering presence.
In the end though, he wasn't like that at all.
Deep down, he was feral. Deep down he was angry. Deep down he was a killer.
And there was nothing cuddly about that.