“Haven't you showered? You're starting to smell.”
I've been training hard for the past two hours out under the baking sun. What do you expect?
Besides, you didn't even smell at all. Yes, you were sweaty. But there was nothing particularly unpleasant about it. Hell, it was sort of like a badge of honor in this place. Proof that you'd worked yourself to the bone for the sake of the Survey Corps.
Jean was just saying that because he was Jean, and Jean was a Class A dickhead to you approximately 99.9% of the time.
“Don't listen to him.”
Marco would tell you sweetly, but you'd be the one reassuring him that it was completely fine. It had been going on long enough that you'd gotten used to his sarky comments. You started to become a pro at brushing off his sly remarks like they were withered leaves that had fallen upon your shoulders.
Jean didn't like that. So he tried different tactics.
That was where the trouble really started.
It was like that old saying went. 'Sticks and stones'...well...Jean started getting physical, and that wasn't so easy for you to handle. A jab at how you were getting some tummy chub paled in comparison to him shoving you so hard in it that you fell to the dirt. And the first time it happened you were, frankly, stunned.
Yet as always, that boy came to your rescue like some sort of guardian angel. He'd crouch over you and hold out his hand, concern lathered on his freckled face.
“Are you alright [Name]!?”
“I-I'm fine...” you'd always lie. Marco saw right through it of course, but he knew you were just trying to be strong. So he didn't question your reassurances, yet always made sure to keep his eye on you and try to intercept Jean when he could.
However...he had a cowardly side to him. It came as part of the package when you were so sweet-natured that you wouldn't even squash a bug. He was afraid to confront Jean, but not just because of how volatile he acted. It was also because they had once been friends. Good friends actually, eager to help one another out and even train together. Jean was haughty in his ways, but he'd had a good heart once upon a time.
Yet it seemed to become blackened at some point. And that also seemed to coincide with your arrival in the picture.
At first it had started out light enough. You didn't like Jean's arrogance, and as soon as he picked up on that he'd always be sure to play it up when he was around you. However...his jesting soon devolved into something more mean spirited, and eventually it became this twisted game. He had no cronies. No crew following him around. Just him vs. you, and that was enough.
Marco wished he had the courage to stop it. He wished and wished, until one day he actually managed to summon enough to intervene. Probably because on this particular day, Jean went further with his torment than he ever had before.
You were just walking down the corridor in one of the Corps buildings, when you saw a brown jacket come into the corner of your vision, followed by a sharp thump against your side as Jean deliberately veered into you. The action was followed swiftly by a dark little chuckle as you stumbled back.
A heavy sigh of exasperation left your lips. Now your shoulder was aching, great. As if the training hadn't already made you sore enough. Though granted, you had been pushing yourself harder than usual recently. Trying to get stronger.
“Whoops~ Oh, don't mind me [Name]. Geez, feels like it was more your fault though, now that I think about it.” Jean stood before you and folded his arms, looking down at you pointedly with those sharp amber eyes of his. “You're such a klutz. I still can't believe they let you join the Survey Corps. You'd be better off with those useless rats in the Military Police...though too bad you'd never be good enough to get offered a place there.”
There he was, off again. Didn't he get tired of this? You just turned your head and ignored him.
“What, did I offend you? Get over yourself.”
You started walking away from him.
“Are you running away now too?”
Usually it worked, doing things this way. What was he going to do, force you to stay while he belittled you further? Not likely. Not...usually.
Yet on this occasion, things panned out in a very startling manner.
Something suddenly snatched your wrist and hauled you back so hard you almost felt like your pained shoulder could be dislocated. His hand.
Something thrust up against your neck and pinned you to the wall with a layer of tan fabric. His arm.
Something leaned in close and hissed at you malevolently. His face.
“I wasn't finished talking with you.” he growled at you through his teeth, which certainly didn't remind you of a horse's in any capacity, despite the nickname he still carried sometimes. His hot breath dusted your cheeks, his narrowed eyes focused intensely upon your shocked visage.
That was when you realized just how tightly he was pinning you to the wooden wall, and you let out a strained choke.
“That's right...” he lowered his head slightly, a menacing shadow casting across his upper face as he squeezed you even harder against the surface behind you. “I'll make you squirm as a reward for being so rude to me, how's that? I bet that attitude of yours will go away if I make you faint...”
Marco saw it all. He watched with wide and horrified eyes from behind the corner wall, having been venturing down one of the connecting passages with a late night drink of hot milk for himself (a rare treat) and happening to hear the confrontation on his way. Yet he had never anticipated that Jean would lay a hand on you quite like that.
He was really hurting you. Marco could see it by the scared strain on your face, and he gripped he handle of the ceramic mug tighter within his trembling hand. How could Jean do this to you!? What the hell was his problem!?
He didn't even think then. As soon as your vision started to blur, Marco took action. His mind went blank, his fears dissipating in an instant as he gave in to the rage he had been feeling so long. Rage at both Jean and his own pathetic nature. It drove him straight across that corridor, and made him chuck that steaming milk straight into Jean's face the very moment he turned his head.
You still remembered the scream quite vividly. So animalistic...as if he had really become a squealing pig, something he so despised, in that moment.
Some time passed, and during it Jean didn't bother you anymore. It was a merciful break for once. You were able to focus on strengthening yourself even further before the next mission, and spending time with your friends Mikasa, Armin and Eren. Marco too of course, though he seemed very quiet since the incident. It was clear that the two had once been close, so you understood why he felt so pained.
“Hey Marco, you're looking kind of parched. Want some of my water?” you crouched down and offered him some from your flask after finding him sitting a little ways from the main training grounds. It wasn't especially hot today which you were very grateful for, but Marco had been pushing himself pretty hard, it showed. It was likely all done so that he could have a distraction from the burden he was shouldering.
“Don't worry about it. Marco, you acted on instinct. Besides, I'm sure you didn't hurt him too badly.”
You said that then, but the staring, sweating, shaking form he had in that moment should have been your clue. For when Jean finally returned from his short stint at the clinic, you realized that it really was bad.
His eyes were thankfully undamaged, which was a miracle really. But the entire left half of his face was now covered in mottled, pale scars. He didn't carry himself any more shakily than before, but you could see the blatant discomfort on his face when people stared. Jean must have been badly scalded for him to turn out that way, though granted, it was hard enough to source the right medical treatment for burns.
Regardless of what he had done before, you couldn't help feeling sorry for him when you saw what a state he was in. He wouldn't even look at you anymore.
And Marco started shutting himself in his room from that day onward, retreating just as Jean came out of hiding. Shadis must have found him either forgettable or useless, for he never pursued the matter like he would have with other members. You weren't sure how to feel about that.
“I guess Marco must be feeling ill or something.” Armin considered with a furrowed brow.
“Or maybe he's been feeling bad for Jean. Ugh...who would even pity that guy though?” Eren clicked his tongue and rolled his eyes. You weren't really paying attention to either of them though. Your attention was drawn by the tan and dark haired boy pacing across the way, alone, cutting a sombre figure against the sunny blue sky.
There it was again. That sharp pain that even he hadn't been able to deliver with all his torturous little ways of picking on you. That feeling of pity for him.
Neither of the other two seemed to even notice he was right there, so you used the excuse of going to fill up on more water in your canister and took the opportunity to subtly pursue him. Jean walked beside the stables, the horses scoffing and stamping their feet as he ventured past. His slow tour brought you to a set of medium sized sheds that were used for storing practice dummies and spare training equipment. Only then did you pipe up from behind him.
His figure stopped still in an instant, every nerve in his body seizing up. He slowly turned his head on his shoulders, but only enough to show you one heavy looking eye. After a bitter moment of silence, he spoke to you with hesitation:
“Jean...” you walked over with a pained expression, one which was genuine and heartfelt, “-I'm truly sorry about what happened. If I could go back in time and change things I would...”
He turned then, and you saw the full extent of the damage close up. It wasn't necessarily nasty. Just...sad. He was a handsome guy, but now a good portion of his face was marred with uneven scar tissue.
“...At first I thought you deserved it.” you admitted, and then clenched your fists by your sides, “But I was wrong about that, terribly wrong. Nobody would deserve something like this...”
“...Sheesh...you're...you're acting like I lost a leg or something...” Jean hovered his hand up by his injured cheek, fingers twitching as he took on an awkward smile and shrugged, “...I swear, it's really not that bad. Doesn't even hurt anymore.”
This was enough to make you want to cry. For Jean Kirschtein, now there was a first.
“Don't feel bad for me.”
“I can't help it...” you looked down and aside, but his slender fingers came under your chin in a smooth motion and tilted your gaze up again. He smiled much more tenderly this time.
“I deserve it. For all I put you through. I should be the one apologizing.”
“No, that's-” you flushed and shook your head, “-forget about that, okay? I don't even care about that stuff anymore, it's in the past.”
“...Well...I'm glad you were able to move on from it alright. And this?” Jean shifted his hand away and pointed at his scars with the other. “This'll get better with time too.”
Maybe he was right about that...
“Are you sure Jean? Look-” you suddenly reached out and took one of his arms, holding it up horizontally to your neck, “-you can try and make me faint if you really want to. I'd let you do it as payback-”
His eyes went wide, and he quickly jerked away so he could raise his hands and waved them frantically. “N-no, [Name], I don't need to do anything like that! No payback, I don't want that.”
“...Are you sure there's nothing I can do then?” Your spirits were still low, your worry clear.
Jean suddenly hummed in thought, and glanced up and aside, before settling his fresh and kindly gaze upon you again, “-Maybe there is one thing you could do.”
“Oh?” you braced yourself and asked: “What is it?”
“Will you come with me to see if Marco's alright?”
He truly was a changed man.
“Staying alone in his room for so long, all cooped up in there. It was bad enough for me being trapped in the clinic, and at least I still had some human interaction. He's going to drive himself nuts.”
As Jean walked with you down the dorm hallway to Marco's room, he started to sound like a true friend of the guy again. It was very sweet to hear.
“Well...here we are.” he even remembered the right room to go to, stopping with you outside of the door. He lifted his knuckle to knock, but then hesitated and shot a little look at you. “Before I do this...I did have one more thing to say.”
“Huh? Oh sure.” you smiled sweetly and nodded. “What is it Jean?”
He showed you a similar expression, looking a little shy with it. His cheeks even turned a little rosy, which should have been a dead giveaway for what he was about to say.
“I picked on you a lot, which wasn't right of course. But...they say that sometimes people have a specific reason for doing that...” he paused, and looked down at his hand, clenching it before his chest, “...They do it because...they actually like that person.”
Your heart thumped, and he glanced at you again, bashfully.
“I uh...I do like you [Name]. I have done ever since I first saw you. I wanted to get close to you, but I ended up going about it in a really backwards way.”
To say the least. Yet you weren't offended in the slightest. If anything, you were kind of flattered. Your heart was certainly running laps.
Jean smiled again then turned his attention to the door and actually knocked this time.
“I hope he answers.”
Third time's the charm.
Jean tried it again. Silence still. He frowned and stepped back, tilting his head. “I did it pretty loudly on those last two, so if he was sleeping he should have woken up. He's kind of a light sleeper, I remember that much.”
You were also a little concerned, and you reached out to try the door handle. Your brows raised with surprise when it shifted down easily, the door clicking open. Shooting an uneasy look up at an equally startled Jean, you swallowed thickly.
“Should I go in?” you whispered just in case, and after a moment of contemplation, Jean nodded.
“I think you better.”
So you did. A simple push and the door swung open. It was that time of day when everyone else was outside, steeling themselves for the next big Titan scuffle, so the empty corridors provided a backdrop of eerie silence to accompany you as you walked inside his bedroom.
It was dark. Very dark. The blinds were closed, the heavy curtains drawn, casting the entire room into pitch. You only had a light blueish hue to guide you, vague shapes and shadows making up your surroundings until your eyes adjusted. And they only did so as your toe bumped against something.
That was when you noticed it. It must have been there the whole time, but you only picked up on it now.
The stench. A metallic, overpowering scent, yet not sweetened just yet. No...it was far too early for that. This was fresh.
You slowly looked down with eyes that could now see, and Marco looked back up at you with a vacant expression. Though it was hard to make out the entirety of it...considering that half his face was nothing but a few loose tendrils of red.
Your scream should have been longer, louder, but it was silenced too quickly by Jean's hand. The door had long been locked and barred by that point, as your creeping into the room had been so agonizingly slow. His nails curled around and dug into your cheek, drawing blood that stained his cuticles, and making you whimper in the process. Jean pulled you back against his chest, and you felt his lips brushing your ear, his other hand coming up to caress your cheek, and making sure to lightly grace your hips and waist on its way there.
“How do you like my little surprise? I'll bet ten dead horses that you weren't expecting that. You did seem to completely buy my act after all.” Jean hummed in your ear and you shut your eyes tight, hyperventilating against his clammy palm. He carried on: “Maybe I should leave the Survey Corps and take up acting. Though I also think I'd make a fine butcher, wouldn't you say? I mean, look at this handiwork-”
His hand suddenly moved from your cheek to the back of your neck, and, still keeping your mouth clamped, he grasped it tightly and forced you to bend over until you were almost nose to nose with Marco's split open corpse. Looking into his dead eyes prompted those tears to finally spill over and drip down onto his colorless skin.
“-I seem to have a knack for carving up pigs.”
Suddenly he hauled you back up again, and this time turned you to face him. His hand finally left your mouth and let you breathe, but he gave you zero time to scream before his arm slammed into your throat and thrust you back up against the wall of the bedroom.
“HAA-!” you wheezed and closed one eye with the sudden, dull pain that blossomed over your back and spread up your spine.
“Now you can't complain about this [Name]~” Jean leaned in close and pecked away one of your stray tears, smirking and licking it off his lips. “You did ask for it.”
You wanted to ask him just what he intended to do with you. Kill you just like Marco!? Jean seemed to read your mind through those large and frantic [E/C] eyes.
“Don't worry [Name]. That's not the kind of fate I want for you. It would just be such a waste...” his knee slipped up between your legs and you gasped, forced to rest on his thigh like that. He only chuckled, the noises you were making were like the most beautiful music to his ears.
And you. You were beautiful.
Especially when you looked so tragic. He loved you the most like this. Sure, it hadn't won him many favors, but it had been worth bullying you for so long just to see that gorgeous look in your eyes every day. You were already such perfection, it baffled him how you could improve in any way, but somehow seeing you look so vulnerable was just the ticket.
Biting his bottom lip seductively, Jean then let them part again. He leaned in at an agonizingly slow pace, making sure you felt every single passing millisecond as he came in for a kiss. The boy still held you there in that harsh way, and through the corner of your eye you could see Marco watching. You had to shut your own to bear it, more saltwater trickling down with the fresh sweat upon your skin. From fear this time...and a little exertion from trying to keep yourself conscious. Though you gave in when his lips met yours and his tongue forced them apart. Having to endure this unwanted, passionate gesture was enough to make you wish you really were unconscious.
It didn't take long. He was in the middle of tasting you when he felt you go limp, and only when he pulled back did he see that you were out of it completely. Licking his lips again, Jean just tutted and shook his head with a wry smile, letting you fall away from the wall and straight into his arms. He lifted you up and over his shoulder, going to the door, though not before taking one last look at his fallen former friend.
That smile grew into a twisted grin, and he squeezed your side.
“Yes...I like you a lot, [Name].”