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Author Topic: To Write is Human  (Read 392 times)

To Write is Human
« on: October 21, 2019, 08:32:15 PM »
There was a certain rhythm to the days, and pattern to the weeks, that was becoming increasingly familiar to Marco. He was glad of that, finding it had taken some time to adjust and settle into the strict structure of military life. How fortunate he was that Mina had enlisted at the same time as him, the kind-hearted girl a little piece of home and a friend in a sea of strangers. Slowly though, he was putting names to faces, getting acquainted with his comrades. They were his roots, giving him a sense of belonging.

In the short time he had been with the Training Corps, Marco had penned a letter to his mother every other day, unabashedly pouring his heart onto parchment, recalling and sharing little details of his days. Ever optimistic, he told her of his fellow cadets and their instructors (naturally, not wishing to worry her, he omitted the beration he had received from Commandant Keith Shadis). Responses came regularly, though not quite so often as to match Marco's frequency. After all, life in Jinae ticked on as it always had, and Ms. Bott had less to say than her son.

How he missed his mother. How he missed home.

With a free hour between classes, some cadets trained - riding horses in the arena, or running laps of the training grounds - whilst others chose to lounge in the dormitories, the barracks pleasantly warm with the afternoon sun. Marco, however, seized on the opportunity to write, his boots carrying him to the mess hall. Between mealtimes, it was likely to be empty.

Only, it wasn't.

Stepping inside the room, Marco's earthy eyes landed almost immediately on the figure of another cadet, sitting at one of the benches. "Hey Jean," he greeted brightly, though he did not know the boy well. His first thought was that Jean was studying - making the top ten took some graft, after all - but as he moved closer a half-glance told him it was letter paper on the tabletop, rather than books or notes. Marco smiled wide and warm at that, readjusting his grip on the parchment he carried, several pencils clutched in his freckled fingers. "Oh, so you're writing home too!"
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Re: To Write is Human
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2019, 09:01:24 PM »
Jean was discovering quickly (and with increasing frustration) that there was rarely any privacy among him and his fellow cadets. He couldn't even get into a "friendly" morning scuffle without it being spread around the barracks by lunch time. It was such a severe difference from growing up being the only child in a quiet home. Jean couldn't even sleep the first week, not used to hearing the sounds of others sleeping around him.

There were some days where he would just wonder if this was it. If this was really what he wanted. Was the training really worth it? But every letter received from his mother pushed him to continue. The green envelopes that came from his mother's old stationary set always made him smile, if only for a moment.

Jean always grew nervous on his walks back from the main building. The green envelope tucked under his arm beneath his jacket. The little envelope always felt heavier on the walks to find somewhere private to read, like a stowaway that would be killed if found. The memories of his childhood and how the other kids always made fun of him for being so close to his mom just stuck. They resurfaced as he glanced around the other cadets during his walks. He often would hide in his bunk, blankets and pillows ready to cover his "contraband" should anyone find him there.

He was grateful for the free time and the empty mess halls. He used to write in his bunk or storage closet. Though, after he accidentally locked himself in, he was desperate to find somewhere else to write his letters.

Hence, the empty mess hall during free time.

He was writing furiously, the soft scratching of his pen against the paper the only noise in the huge mess hall. It was peaceful and surprisingly clean (after cleaning the mess hall so many times, Jean became a bit of a perfectionist about it). He was just in the middle of a paragraph dedicated to his complaints about said kitchen duty when he heard a voice calling out to him.

He panicked a little, hand immediately coming down to hide the "Dear Ma" section of his letter- slapping the table and the paper underneath. He winced a little at the wet ink under his hand before he sat up and looked around. One quick lift with the paper sicking to hid hand told him that he would be rewriting his letter... again.

"No. I'm not," he responded, attempting to keep his voice flat. It didn't work out though, as his voice was higher than he would've liked. He cleared his throat, trying to shake his hand subtly. The ink was sticking, though. "Totally not. Just- uhh-" he glanced back down at the paper, trying to form some sort of realistic lie. "Just sending in a formal complaint about Jaeger." He tried to give Marco a convincing smirk, but it was just as panicked as the rest of him. « Last Edit: October 22, 2019, 12:23:59 AM by Jean Kirschtein »
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Re: To Write is Human
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2019, 10:01:13 PM »
No. I'm not.

The response was unexpected, so much so that Marco blinked in surprise. Discreet though Jean tried to be, observant brown eyes detected the hand splayed protectively over the top of the page, and the subtle movements as the cadet furtively tried to pull his palm free. Normally Jean's voice dripped with self-assurance but now there was a tightness to its cadence, and his smirk failed to muster its usual swagger. The freckled cadet couldn't quite make sense of what he was seeing - or hearing.

"Really?" Marco's eyes widened at first, initially taking Jean at his word despite everything to the contrary. "Jean, I know you two have your differences, but there's really no need - " Marco paused then, a low groan rising in his throat as realisation struck. His free hand rose to his face, pinching the bridge of his nose in embarrassment. How foolish… why didn't he think for just a moment longer before speaking? Either this was a jest or an attempt at a smokescreen. "No, of course you're not making a formal complaint."

Marco's expression softened and, as his hand fell away, he nodded to Jean's paper. Beneath that hand, fresh ink was smudged and sticking - he was sure of it - though he didn't yet understand why Jean had reacted so strongly. Unless he was writing a love letter? That certainly seemed to be a possibility. But did Jean really think he was so nosy as to read over his shoulder?

"Do you want a fresh page? I brought plenty spare…" Marco reached to pull a sheet free from his small bundle, then hesitated. "Do you mind if I join you?" He tilted his dark head in askance as he uttered the question, wondering vaguely if he was intruding. "I shouldn't be too long, I'm just planning to write a quick letter to my mother." He smiled fondly, wide enough to reveal the dimples at the corners of his mouth. "She worries, you know?"
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Re: To Write is Human
« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2019, 04:07:22 AM »
Jean almost relaxed when Marco seemed to buy his bluff. He allowed his shoulders to slump, if only a little. He was so prepared to just pick up his things and slip out, leaving Marco on his own. Then Marco was going back on what he was saying, sounding more confused than anything else. "What do you mean? Of course I'm writing a formal complaint," he huffed, still trying to cling to his little white lie desperately.

He cringed a little at the ink that was most certainly staining his hands, finding that it clung to his skin and felt more like a tar than anything else. He couldn't risk Marco seeing. All it would take was one person to look down at his letters for things to go straight back to how things were back home. He wasn't respected back home. He was just the kid who hid behind his mom and severe lack of friends.

Here, though? Here he was completely on his own for the first time. It was still a huge shock for him, but his mother's written reassurances truly helped him. It seemed impossible that he could make friends here, he's made more enemies than anything else, really. He'd more than likely end up making more if this letter got out.

He scowled a little, Marco's relentlessly happy demeanor only causing Jean to raise his shoulders more. He watched him carefully, eyes shifting between the other cadet's freckled face and the doors to leave. He turned over, legs straddling the bench beneath him as Marco continued to talk and smile. What is with this kid? Was he really that happy all the goddamn time?

He seemed to size Marco up for a moment, considering the paper in the other's hand before looking down at his own. He raised his hand... yup, the paper stuck. He sighed softly, his hand feeling colder wherever the ink ended smudged against. He was tempted to call it a day, to just crumple up the paper and find somewhere else to write the shitty letter, but then Marco mentioned his own mom.

"You write letters to your mom?" He asked, unable to help the way his voice betrayed him. It was a genuine question this time, free of his usual teasing pretentious tone. He was so surprised that he couldn't even hide the raised brows and curious tilt to his head. He tried to catch himself, to hide the questions with a lazy smirk.

He pulled himself away from Marco, leaning back and tilting his head up towards the rafters of the mess hall. He tried to fix his fucking face, to school it into it's usual stupid smirk and unbelievable expression. "Wow- you uh..." Way too go Jean, you spent your entire childhood being teased for being a mama's boy, now you can't even think fo how to tease someone else? He shook his head, looking back down at Marco with what he hoped was an expression more similar to his usual.

"You really write you mom?" He raised a brow, just trying to understand if Marco was fucking with him or not at this point. He narrowed his eyes a bit, looking over Marco once more just to try and get a read on this guy. He was always talking to others around him and seemed to be another one of those poor fucks that tried to be everyone's friend. Jean couldn't relate to him in the slightest before this moment.
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Re: To Write is Human
« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2019, 05:46:26 PM »
Jean seemed keen to maintain that the letter he so stubbornly mantled was nothing more than a complaint. "Hmm," Marco hummed, his response noncommittal. He was confident that his fellow cadet was lying - honestly, what grievance could he possibly have to make against Eren, besides a clash of personalities? - but didn't want to push the matter. Jean was being evasive for a reason, even if that reason remained a mystery for the time being.

You write letters to your mom?

The question was asked sincerely - at least at first - then an increasingly familiar smirk tugged on Jean's lips and he tilted his head back. Was he… was he holding back laughter? No, that didn't appear to be it. Marco frowned a little in his confusion, folding his arms and protectively clutching the bundle of papers to his chest. The question came again, leaving him to wonder whether there was supposed to be a correct answer. Whatever that might be, he only possessed the truth.

"Uh, yeah," Marco answered plainly. Although he couldn't be certain, it felt as though Jean might be about to tease him. Which seemed a little odd, given that they were alone and there was no audience to feed into the ridicule. Besides, Marco was sure most cadets - at least those who were halfway literate, and had family they were in any way fond of - wrote home with some frequency. Some didn't get the opportunity, he knew, thinking momentarily of Eren. This small bloom of sorrow compelled him to speak on. If Jean was going to mock him, he would weather it with dignity. There wasn't anything this boy, or anyone else, could say to dissuade him from his letter writing.

"Every other day, usually. I guess it'll get less as time goes on, and as we get busier with training, but for now this seems to be what works." Although Jean hadn't actively invited him to sit, Marco slid onto the bench opposite, and unburdened himself of the stationery, which included a small bundle of envelopes, bound carefully together with twine. Every cherished letter his mother had sent thus far.

"It's good for both of us, I think," Marco continued earnestly, cheerfully even, unhurriedly catching a runaway pen as it rolled across the tabletop. "She's on her own and, well, I've never been away from home. It's taking some getting used to." Then his focus shifted to Jean, trying to get the measure of the boy sitting across from him. He smiled again, kindly, and perhaps with a touch of concern. "What about you? Do you… do you not write home?" « Last Edit: October 27, 2019, 04:46:34 PM by Marco Bott »
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Re: To Write is Human
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2019, 05:54:16 AM »
Jean eyed Marco like a hawk, eyes flicking from the letters to Marco's expression quickly. He wanted to push and push, see just how mild mannered the freckled cadet really was. He was going to continue pushing, but something in Marco's response gave him pause. It was so... matter of fact. It was as though it was a mundane thing for him- like writing home wasn't a secret to be kept. Jean narrowed his eyes, shifting to keep a distance as Marco sat down.

He scowled as glanced back down at his own paper, brows knitting together. Marco continued speaking, talking about how often he wrote home. Every other day? That seemed so often compared to the every other week Jean took up. Everyone liked Marco, but he was constantly writing his mom compared to Jean. He pursed his lips, eyes fixed on his own letter as he considered all that Marco had told him.

He only glanced up when he heard a pen rolling, eyes shifting from the paper to Marco. His entire body was still and he hadn't moved an inch closer. His hand was still on the top of his letter, but he was still leaning away from Marco as much as possible on the bench without ending up on his ass. He found himself glaring at that smile, feeling his hair standing up a bit as Marco cornered him with yet another question.

"I mean..." He started, eyes falling back down to his letter as he considered the question. How the hell did he answer that and make it sound honest? What was the safe answer? What was the answer that wasn't going to end with him being ostracized once more?

He shook his head as he pulled his hand back from the table, the paper sliding underneath with it. He picked at the ink that had dried, attempting to do his best at preserving it. He didn't meet Marco's gaze, choosing instead to focus on the way the ink clung to his skin, getting in the little ridges in his palm and fingers. He rubbed at it carefully, watching as it smudged into a blue-grey stain. "Why write home? It's not like life here is very exciting." « Last Edit: October 23, 2019, 05:55:36 AM by Jean Kirschtein »
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Re: To Write is Human
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2019, 09:15:13 PM »
While naïve, Marco was no fool. He was aware of the tension that wound itself through Jean's frame - could see its physical manifestation - everything about the cadet's body language seemingly intent on building walls between him and the outside world. Vaguely, the freckled boy wondered if Jean had suffered in his past, if that was what made him so defensive. Although he couldn't be certain this was the case, compassion stirred in Marco, and Jean's glare bounced harmlessly off his sunny demeanour.

Warm, earthy eyes snagged on Jean's hand as he furtively slid the 'complaint' letter off the table. Marco quirked a brow in askance but made no enquiry, focusing instead on answering the question. In contrast to the cadet opposite him, Marco relaxed, casually propping his head up in his hand. Where Jean was guarded, he was decidedly open.

"Oh, I don't know, it seems exciting to me," Marco mused. "Getting to meet new people, from every corner of the Walls, learning new things…" He trailed off, wondering if Jean was perhaps more worldly than he - and thus less easily impressed. "You're from Trost, right?" Marco asked, tilting his head with curiosity. At least that's what he thought he had heard Jean tell Commandant Keith Shadis. "I'm from Jinae myself. It's rural, the sort of place where everyone knows everyone. I guess you've seen more than I have."

With a bright smile, Marco straightened, and began organising his letter paper, going so far as to lift a pen. Then his attention flicked back up to Jean. "You know, I hate to sound morbid, but letters are important. They capture people at a certain time and place. I wonder what I'll think, rereading these letter ten years from now…" For a moment, his focus drifted to the bundle of envelopes, knowing within them his mother's love and hopes for him were scribed indelibly in ink. "And if I'm not here in ten years… then my mother has something to remember me by. She can re-read the words that I've written again and again, and always hear my voice." This time, Marco flushed a little. That was a particularly soul-baring thing to say, even by his standards, but still he persevered. "I think that's special. Something worth writing home for."
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Re: To Write is Human
« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2019, 05:04:57 AM »
Jean still picked at the ink and paper on his skin, keeping his head down as Marco seemed to get even more interested. Jean's desperate attempt to get Marco to leave him the hell alone was failing miserably. He rubbed his thumb against his palm, skin feeling warm from the friction. He chanced a glance up at Marco, hating the fact that their eyes met. He was quick to look back down at his hands, just in time to watch the paper that was stuck to his skin be rolled into little balls and fall to the floor.

He didn't like how nice Marco always seemed to be. It was off-putting for a kid like him. Someone who only ever saw smiles from his peers when they were teasing him. He tucked his arms in a bit more, almost hugging himself only his hands were still very much in his lap. He shrunk down more, head still down. He refused to look at Marco still. He was quiet as he listened to Marco, his only reply being a simple nod when asked if he lived in Trost.

Then Marco kept talking and his words were only getting closer and closer until... yup, they hit too close to home. "Stop it," he whispered, hands curling into fists around the letter. The ink wasn't dry enough yet, he could still feel the faint tackiness on the paper.

"Just-" He took a deep breath, hating how his head hurt and his eyes stung with the emotions that were rising up. He didn't have time to add his usual annoyed tone, the one that Eren Jaeger was usually subject to. No, not even close. "Stop talking about that shit." It was a plea at this point, Jean's entire body tense. It felt like all it would take was one more push and something would have to give. Jean just hoped he didn't make another enemy tonight. Eren was more than enough to have as an enemy, if Jean were to be honest with himself.
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Re: To Write is Human
« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2019, 09:10:39 AM »
As he spoke, Jean shrunk smaller and smaller, in a manner Marco had never experienced firsthand before. Vaguely, it put him in mind of the stray dogs that lingered on street corners, starving and half-feral, cringing at the sound of approaching boots. Suffering, lonely creatures robbed of kindness. And then he spoke, and Marco's heart all but broke. Jean's voice was wounded, a terrible sound that wrenched painfully and caused a swell of regret to rise in the freckled cadet. There was none of the boy's usual bluster or bravado, only a raw, real plea.

Marco's breath caught in his throat and he dutifully fell silent. For a long moment, he did not speak. "Jean…" he breathed then, the boy's name spoken softly. He leaned across the table, hands palms down, smoothing them over the worn wooden surface a little way towards the cadet opposite. He did not ask if Jean was all right, not when it was painfully apparent that he wasn't.

"I'm sorry," he murmured, the apology sincere. "I didn't mean - " Didn't mean to what? It was impossible to know precisely what his offence was when Jean wouldn't speak to him. "I'm sorry." Marco apologised again, tilting his head, trying to catch Jean's eye, hoping to get him to engage. Even if it only prompted the cadet to rage against him, Marco wouldn't mind, having the impression that his comrade was holding back a great storm of emotions. "We don't know one another very well, but… you can talk to me, you know." His expression was sorrowful, coloured with concern. Jean's unease was terrible and obvious but its source remained a mystery. "You don't have to, of course. I just mean… you don't ever have to think you're on your own. For all the people around, the barracks can be a lonely place."
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Re: To Write is Human
« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2019, 05:14:59 PM »
Jean was appreciative of the silence Marco granted him, taking it as time to calm down. He hated this- why was everyone trying to get in his business? He just wanted to be sad and mope on his own. He wanted to write his letters to his mom and be homesick alone. He didn't want Marco or anyone else to see him like this.

He grimaced a little as Marco leaned over, backing up out of instinct. He kept his head down, finding the wooden table was much more interesting than looking the other boy in the eyes. He was quiet, fists still clenched around the letter that was sticking to his hands. His poor hands were going to be covered in black ink after this. He didn't want to look at Marco, not when memories of his father's letters started coming back to mind.

Marco wasn't wrong. Letters were an amazing way to catch a person in the moment. Jean ended up keeping a couple of them. Sometimes when his father had extra time he would send home two letters- one for Jean and one for his mother. Jean kept every single letter that was penned for him specifically. They were tucked away with his mother's letters in a pocket on the lid of his little suitcase. There was one thing that Jean kept with him at all times, the little Survey Corps patch hidden away in his pocket.

Jean made the mistake of looking up at Marco when he started apologizing, which only served as the final hole in the wall of the dam that was holding his emotions. He sniffled a little before immediately going back down to staring at the table in front of him. He knew this was stupid. By the time dinner time rolled around he'd regret this stupid decision. But he allowed himself to speak.

"My mom-" He cleared his throat, hating how his voice sounded at the moment. He continued to fidget, hands moving to try and smooth out the letter. "I'm... I'm all she's got, now." He glanced down at the wrinkled and smudged letter, wincing as he realized just how awful it looked.

Dear Ma,
I'm doing fine here, there's no need for a care package. The bread still sucks- Mr. Harris would be so disappointed with the way its made here. Are you doing well? Has the doctor been by to check up on you again? I'll go home if you need me...


He didn't get very far by the time Marco walked in. He stared down at the words, wishing he was a bit more eloquent in what he wrote. It seemed like he always had these ideas of what he wanted to say, but the second the pen touched the paper everything just left him. He didn't want to miss out on writing home, though. His writing was sloppy, with over exaggerated cursive that took up way more space than need be. Compared to his father's tight and neat handwriting or the elegant scrawl of his mother's, Jean felt like his handwriting was just awkward.
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Re: To Write is Human
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2019, 08:40:01 PM »
For what felt like an eternity, Jean stared at the tabletop, fidgeting, smoothing out the crumpled paper in his hands. Until, at last, he looked up. The connection only lasted a brief moment, but Marco felt there was a profound vulnerability and sorrow in those amber-brown shades. There followed a moment of silence, a pensive sort of quiet. When Jean spoke, his voice was laced with emotion.

I'm... I'm all she's got, now.

Marco felt his chest tighten, his heart thudding hard as sympathy stirred within him. There had been someone else - a father seemed most likely, though it was also possible Jean meant a sibling - and something had happened to change that. Whatever the truth, there was a very human source to Jean's pain. Marco waited before responding, in case the cadet sitting opposite him planned to elaborate. Above all else he desired to listen, to not interrupt.

"It's… hard. Being someone's everything," Marco murmured with quiet understanding, his honey-brown eyes dropping to the small bundle of envelopes. They were still fairly pristine, but over the coming months they would become increasingly dog-eared, as he revisited their contents. His thoughts were of his mother then, alone in a house that must seem so quiet without him being there, their front door framed by climbing roses. At this time of year, the blooms' perfume would linger in the afternoon air. For a brief moment, homesickness stung Marco, bright and hot. He swallowed, and turned his focus back to Jean.

"You enlisted, right…?" The question was asked gently, cautiously, as it was one Marco felt intrusive. There was something needlessly tribalistic about the notion of conscripts and enlistees, as though one group was preferable to the other. They were all cadets, they all carried the symbol of crossed swords. But there was no denying it took a certain courage to willingly enter the military. He wanted to remind Jean of this fact. "And you're aiming for the MP. You have ambition, Jean, and drive. If anyone can make the top ten, it's you." Marco's words were warm, sincere, though his expression remained solemn. "Your mother must be proud."
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Re: To Write is Human
« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2019, 06:02:16 AM »
Jean cringed a little when Marco started to speak, not wanting to become someone’s pity project. He didn’t need anyone’s sympathy. He hated it, really. He hated it the second the solider and priest showed up at his door and handed that stupid patch to fourteen-year-old Jean with bullshit excuses and apologies. He hated it when all the neighbors showed up to the calling hours, Jean standing next to an empty casket and clutching the still bloody patch. He hated it when his mom made him go to church every night that followed that week. He hated it when everyone would look at the two of them in the back, a broken mother and son, both too weak to be without the patriarch. He hated it when he went back to his apprenticeship, his boss giving him a basket with the leftovers from that morning and extra cash stuffed under the still warm rolls. He hated it so fucking much.

Spotting Marco’s own little bundle of letters made Jean feel better, at the very least. He wasn’t the only one who wrote home. He wasn’t the only one with a mom who still worried and cared for him. At least Marco understood. ”I… uh…” he started dumbly before biting his lip. Should he really go that far? Did he really want to tell Marco, someone who had been a stranger up until just five minutes ago, about his greatest tragedy? In the end, it could only serve as more ammunition against him.

His hand came up to the left pocket just above his heart. The pocket that held his father’s patch. When it wasn’t there, it was tucked away in a boot or another pocket. It was the one thing of his father’s he had left that his mother wouldn’t miss. Well, one of two things. If anyone bothered to rummage through Jean’s trunk, at the bottom they’d find a Survey Corps cloak two sized too big for him. His father’s, which was pristine for the sole reason he hadn’t bothered with it that morning. Sometimes, when he was still grieving, he would wrap it around himself and pretend that the thing fabric and slowly fading scent of his father’s cologne was enough to feel like a hug. It had to be enough, it wasn’t like his father was coming back anytime soon.

“I enlisted, but that doesn’t make me some goddamn hero,” he muttered, feeling like he sounded a little too much like Jaeger with that statement. “I enlisted and want to join the MP just to get my mom out of Trost. It’s nothing noble. I’m just as selfish as Eren claims.” It’s blunt and the one thing he can get out without emotions taking over his voice. His hands went back to fiddling with each other, rubbing the tacky ink. “If… If I don’t make it then I’ll probably end up just like my father. Then no one will be there for my mom…” He grimaced, eyes welling up with tears again at that thought. He was really doing this, wasn’t he? He was really putting his mom through the same shit again.
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Re: To Write is Human
« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2019, 10:14:19 PM »
Little gestures spoke of Jean's discomfiture. The way his teeth grazed his lip, the hesitation when he spoke, how his fingertips alighted on his breast pocket. Marco watched with dark, concerned eyes, desiring only to comfort his fellow cadet, though he remained unsure of how to do that.

"Not a hero, but brave nonetheless," Marco insisted, confidently and with characteristic gentleness. The surety and bluntness of Jean's next words caught him off-guard, carrying with them what seemed to be a vaguely self-deprecating edge that he hadn't expected. Since when did Jean ever agree to anything Eren said? "You're not selfish," Marco protested, with a firm shake of his head. "I have a lot of time for Eren, but he's wrong about this. About you. I'd bet my life on it."

Jean came across as endlessly confident, someone who was very vocal about his desire to join the Military Police - to some, that might be enough to colour him selfish - but this conversation revealed a depth to him, and a hurt that Marco had not suspected. With a pensive sigh, he sat back a little. "Didn't you hear yourself? You want to take your mother to the interior. That's the definition of noble."

If… If I don’t make it then I’ll probably end up just like my father. Then no one will be there for my mom…

The question that this faltering, emotional statement roused was one that Marco dared not ask outright. And yet he felt blind, lost in the dark, without an answer. As tears shone in Jean's eyes, Marco's expression softened and he leaned forward once more, again sliding his hands across the tabletop. Perhaps Jean would glimpse them in the corner of his eye, and be reminded of the fact that he wasn't alone. Better yet would be to get up, to skirt around the table and sit next to the boy from Trost, but Marco didn't want to push him unduly. If those tears began to fall, however, he would be compelled to move.

"Talk to me, Jean," Marco murmured, stretching a little further to rest a warm hand over one of Jean's own, hoping to temporarily still the fidgeting. He might end up with a few inky splotches, but they would be all but lost in the sea of freckles. "About anything. Everything. Nothing. Whatever you're thinking or feeling. Whatever you want." Jean didn't know him well, it was true, but Marco hoped he knew enough to understand that anything spoken here would remain within the four walls of the cabin. "I've never had a father, so maybe I won't understand. But I'll listen, Jean. Just… just talk to me."
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Re: To Write is Human
« Reply #13 on: November 07, 2019, 03:35:10 AM »
Jean’s face twisted up into a grimace, though he didn’t pull away from Marco. He didn’t Understand Marco’s insistence on him being brave. It seemed ridiculous, Jean Kirschtein and brave were not words that went together. Ask around base - no one thought Jean could be brave. Jean was careful to ensure no one thought he was brave; it was the brave ones That didn’t go home. Jean’s father was brave – he was fearless and look where that got him. He was so brave, there wasn’t even a body for Jean and his mother to bury. Jean wasn’t brave. He didn’t want to be brave. He didn’t understand why Marco was suddenly on his side. He couldn’t help the little scoff at the idea of Marco belting his life on Jean being wrong about himself. Marco’s words couldn’t change Jean’s idea of himself. Jean was the cocky asshole that’s all he would ever be

Jean nearly pulled away when the other boy moved his hands closer. He didn’t want any of this contact. He didn’t want Marco’s sympathy, least of all his pity. He couldn’t tell if it felt more like something was sitting heavy in his throat or if something was squeezing it. Either way, it was getting harder to breathe. He cleared his throat before letting out a wet laugh. ”Fuck, I don’t know, Marco,”He shook his head, Staring down at the table. He didn’t dare blink, knowing it would cause tears to fall if he did. ” He’s dead, what does it matter? He wanted to be a fucking hero and now he’s dead. Dead just like everyone else that joins the Survey Corps: Anyone who isn’t dead just got lucky.”

He winced, hating how he could feel the sting of tears falling down his face, making the skin warmer. He reached up, using the back of his hand to press against his eyes to try and stop himself from crying. He was pretty sure it was only succeeding in smearing ink on his face. He didn’t want Marco to see him like this. He didn’t want anyone to see him crying.

His resolve didn’t last, though. He should’ve known better. He wished Marco wasn’t here. He wished he never walked into the dining hall this afternoon. He wished he just brushed off Marco like everyone else. He wished he wasn’t a part of this stupid war. He wished a lot of things that just wouldn’t come true. He let out a sigh, feeling his chest stutter with the effort of trying to hold back his emotions.

”He is… he was a good man. I’m- I’m named after him. Jean Aramis Claude Kirschtein,” he explained, hand moving back down to the table. Talking about simple things like this made it easier. It made it less heavy. Less about all that he lost and more of what he had. He clenched his fists as through he was trying to cling onto the last pieces that were holding back his emotions. “He did everything for Ma and I,” he explained, voice quiet and tight, as if he was just barely keeping himself together.

”Even when he got fired- even when he knew that the military was his only and final option- he still made sure I celebrated my thirteenth birthday…” He trailed off as he thought back to his father. He chewed on his lip now that he wasn’t speaking, peeling the skin between his teeth. He could taste blood when he stopped to speak again. ”I- shit I don’t know. He’s been… gone for about a year now. We got the news just a couple weeks before my fourteenth birthday. I’m fifteen now… I spent the first year anniversary in the same shithole place he joined.” He couldn’t help the bitter tone that his voice took on at that statement. It was poetic in a way Jean really didn’t want to think about. He just hoped the age old saying of history repeating itself wasn’t true.
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Re: To Write is Human
« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2019, 02:14:45 PM »
In the quiet space of the mess hall, Marco's heart was cracking.  It didn't matter that he didn't know Jean well, not when waves of grief rolled off the boy thick and fast, the anguish of loss writing itself into his angular face.  Those amber-brown eyes were heavy with unshed tears now, his unhappy gaze burning stubbornly into the tabletop.  But he spoke - he shared - and Marco listened closely.

His suspicions were, sadly, confirmed.  Jean's father was dead.  What he hadn't expected, was the revelation that Jean's father had been a scout.  Marco blinked in surprise, lips pressing solemnly together as his heart plummeted to his boots.  Suddenly, Jean's disagreements with Eren had an entirely new dimension. 

Beneath the weight of grave words, those heavy tears began to fall, streaking down over Jean's cheeks. The cadet hastily pressed the back of his hand to his face, trying to stem the tide, leaving a couple of ghostly smudges of ink on his creamy skin. He shuddered as he wept, raw with emotion, but Marco knew better than to interrupt.  He would make sure Jean was presentable before he stepped back outside though, not wanting the boy being asked any difficult questions, or teased for the splotches.

For a moment, it seemed that Jean might lapse into silence, but then he spoke on, describing a man who did and gave everything for his family.  The corners of Marco's mouth lifted into a small, gentle smile.  Jean Aramis Claude Kirschtein, to give the cadet from Trost his full title.  He suited it.  The compassionate smile was short-lived, however, snuffed out as Jean continued, alluding to the fact entering the military had been a desperate, final option for his father, an essential choice in order to provide for his wife and son.  And Jean's bereavement was so painfully recent. A year was nothing in the grand scheme of things, not when it concerned such a monumental loss.

Marco was pressing forward, the table's edge biting into his middle.  He wished he could soak up some of the cadet's suffering, that he could do something to help bear this burden.  Somewhere in the back of his mind, he made a note to find out what date Jean's birthday fell on.  It pained him to think his fellow cadet had seen the occasion pass here in the barracks, away from his mother, and so close to the anniversary of his father's death.  Marco could only hope Jean hadn't felt alone, that he had been able to express his grief, and that he had found some small way to celebrate.  Perhaps next year he could recruit Mina to the cause and the pair of them could bake Jean a cake, or do something to let him know he was thought of.

"I wish there was something I could say, or something I could do, to take away your pain," Marco murmured.  A tenderhearted and gentle boy though he was, the weight of Jean's loss was so gargantuan that words, however softly spoken, could offer only so much comfort.  "This world is unfair.  Good men die as heroes trying to do the right thing and it... it's awful and cruel."

Marco exhaled quietly, his gaze dropping to his freckled hands, close to Jean's own.  "Never mind good, your father sounds like he was a great man. Someone who put you and your mother first.  He... he must have loved you both fiercely."  He grazed his bottom lip with his teeth thoughtfully.  The shapeless figure of his own absent father skulked in the periphery of his mind, though Marco banished the spectre swiftly.  This wasn't about him, but rather the boy sitting across the table.

"It's cliché I know, but the dead matter.  As long as they are remembered, as long as their memory is kept alive.  And you - " Marco's gaze swept back up to Jean's face.  He felt the pull to move, to embrace him, as though as hug from a stranger could do something against such immense sadness.  "- you have the gift of your father's name.  And you wear it well, Jean, you really do."
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