Cold. Freezing cold was the weather outside, and this mission would've been easy: the annual training on the snow-covered fields, in which one had to get a partner and try to survive two days on the drifts. Each soldier was even given enough food and other materials to last the entire time. Simple, that would be, if it weren't for his size. A night before the expedition, one of Hanji's experiments-in-progress had gotten into their sleeping quarters and shattered over his bed, shrinking him to roughly two inches tall. The only comfort was that he wasn't alone, for not long at all afterward, in some way that he couldn't explain, Armin had found and protected him for the night. The problem was that when he had shrunk, he was in normal clothes, not the ones that would be required for the mission. So there he was, on the snowdrifts, being jostled about inside his friend's coat pocket, which didn't provide enough warmth for him whatsoever. The only thing he could feel was the chill of the evening air, the only sound the beating of his own heart and the exhausted breaths of his friend, struggling to keep hold of whatever heat was around him.
The cold of the crisp night air was apparent, making it into his location as well, making him wrap his arms around himself, shivering and shaking like mad, and burying himself into the soft fabric of the pocket, barely getting in far enough. There was just too much cold air, too little warmth, and too much time to have to remain out there. If things didn't get better, he would surely freeze to death.
He rammed one elbow into his friend's pocket, trying to get him to stop for a second so he could catch his breath. Eren felt him slow his pace, walking clearly rather doggedly to one spot before setting down. White light from the glistening snow shone in as he was lightly picked up and rested on the other male's palm. From his standpoint, resting on his hand at roughly lower chest level, the shifter could see his friend's crimson-flushed cheeks, accompanied with panting from the strain of the trek (Armin had never really been known for his physical abilities and tired out somewhat easily). His tired eyes found their way to his friend, who was curling up in the center of his hand, shivering. Poor Eren, he must be freezing without any warm clothing. How is he managing to stay strong? He didn't have to come, but he insisted... Oh, why did I let him come along? Forget about a training exercise- it'll be a miracle if I manage to keep him warm enough! He gently closed his fingers over top of his friend, looking for some spot to set up, putting the one hand to his chest as he unpacked the materials. This looks like a good enough spot... Armin thought as he set up in an area without snow, placing the small tent he was given down, and the lone sleeping bag, as well as the provisions inside. The shivering in the palm of his hand continued all the while.
Though Eren could tell his friend's hand was a bit warmer than being in the fur and fleece of his coat, it wasn't quite warm enough, and even under his glove he couldn't seem to hold onto the bit of body heat emanating from it. Maybe he would freeze after all. People called him a fool for coming along even with his size, though he has a mixture of iron determination and pride that he just couldn't swallow. Many of his classmates had dubbed him a "suicidal bastard" due to this feverent personality, as they thought it would soon be his downfall. Maybe they were right. But no- he would not die here. He would keep going to achieve his goal no matter what the cost, even his life. He just hoped it wouldn't end up going that far...
He soon quieted down his thoughts as Armin found a spot to rest momentarily, sheltering him from the cold and ice as best it could. Certainly even for him, normally-sized and prepared, it wasn't an easy mission for him, though he knew that Eren couldn't pull much weight at all, and didn't mind if it were for the sake of his friend. Eren, please hang in there. I'll think of something. I won't let you die. The trees around them offered some protection from the howling winds as he eased back onto a large, smooth rock, positioned to lean against a young Pine. Yet again he checked his tiny friend for any frostbite, seeing if he could move at all as he gently leaned against the tree. Think of something, just use your head, damn it! Please.... Something... me come up with something... This was no good, and they both knew it. Neither could think of how they would survive together... But the thought of leaving Eren to die in the snowdrifts, gradually getting frostbite until his heart stopped... It was too unbearable for Armin to think about.
"A-Armin..." Eren coughed, still shaking like a leaf. "I-I'm not sure I'll... M-make it..." So even Eren acknowledged this?! That was the first time Eren had ever done so much as consider defeat! "N-No, you'll make it... I promise! I'm not going to let you die!" The brunette's teeth were chattering by now, pushing on to say anything with his breath, though could not do much but blow puffs of frosty smoke into the air. "I c-c-can't stand this... W-why did that damn experiment have to find me?! I c-could've done it, if it -wasn't for t-t-t-this damn size of mine! Why did it have to happen now?!" Both of them were heartbroken, and Eren didn't know what to do. "We could... Always retake this tomorrow." Armin replies through clenched teeth. Eren certainly wouldn't like this suggestion. "Are you kidding me?! We ac-c-cepted this mission, and we'd prove to be w-weak if we came back beforehand!" "Eren! If you stay out here, the snow will be your grave! Which is more important to you?! Fighting the titans, or finishing this mission with your death?!" He stood silent for a minute afterwards- Armin certainly had a point. "I'm sure there's something that could work! We just haven't found it yet!"
"You may be right... Either way, I'm going to do whatever's right for the sake of your safety." Armin replied softly, reclining gradually, his tone softening again, gently stroking the tiny human in his hand. "Oh, Eren. What mess have you gotten yourself into this time?" he chuckled weakly. "What?! W-would you rather have had me not take the assignment?!" Eren scoffed, crossing his arms. "No- I just think that you probably would've been excused this time around. We're supposed to have to take this every year, right? You could've made up for it with working twice as hard on the next one. It's not like that's hard for you." "Yeah, I guess that would've been easier... It's too late to turn back now. I refuse to make you fail just because I wrecked the whole thing." "I'd rather fail a mission than wind up with a dead friend." he replied, sighing as he realized Eren couldn't be swayed... Then again, was that news?
It wouldn't be too hard to think about, for soon he would have worse troubles up ahead. Little did he know that the exact thing that could end up saving the shrunken soldier would find its way to them. He was thinking hard on the matter, racking his brain for any possibilities, no matter how unlikely, when he leaned back a little too far, bashing his head on the tiny tree. The impact caused his coordination to go haywire and lose his grip on Eren, tossing him in the air in surprise. Armin rubbed the spot on his head where he had bashed it into the the tree, and then became truly horrified by what he had done.
Poor Eren barely had a single second to realize what was going on, before finding himself tossed into the open night sky. The cool breeze of the night was upon him more than ever now, making him shiver even more. Oh, if only he had somewhere he could go to get out of it! However, all other thoughts about weather or the mission were taken away instantly as he quickly discovered just what sort of prediciment he was in. For moments after he saw that he had been tossed right over his friend's open mouth. He tried as hard as he could to get himself away by scrabbling frantically at the huge tongue directly under him, though it did nothing to help him at all. He ended up just slipping further toward it until he landed onto the muscle and feeling himself get tugged further in.
That was the moment he noticed everything calm down around him- surely Armin had gotten as frozen as the ice on the landscape noticing what had happened. After that, the first thing he noticed about his surroundings was the sudden heat washing over him of his friend's warm breath and internal body heat. The second was the damp, slick, somewhat sickening environment he had been placed in entirely by accident. The third was that he had no idea what to think.
His thoughts were somewhat broken by the sudden secondary realization where he was; he was inside of his friend's mouth, riling him up and starting to thrash against the inside of Armin's cheek, unable to say anything then with his mixed-up feelings of both relief and terror. The thick saliva he was now slathered in, as much as he hated to admit it, even to himself, was definitely much warmer and in some ways more comfortable than the outside air's temperature. Though even with this comfort, he was terrified with the sick thought of being swallowed alive. It was already deeply uncomfortable with the only thing stirring around him was the tongue underneath him, occasionally flicking him lightly occasionally, as if tasting him. Then he felt the cold air seep in, hearing more scrabbling, but this time it wasn't his own. He was soon after being slid forward, away from the dangerous throat behind him, falling with a small stream of saliva onto his friend's hand.
Neither of them spoke, Armin a bit too choked up and Eren too afraid, both of his own thoughts and that horrifying experience. That was, until a cold breeze stirred around them, causing Eren to cry out with the cold, quickly followed by a panicked, guilty stream of apologies from Armin. "A-Armin, it wasn't p-purposeful... I know it was an a-a-accident." he assured, shivering again. Now he wasn't just cold, but now he was Soaking wet, and cold on top of that. What felt even more horrid to him was a split in his judgement; one part of him was terrified by the accident; another entirely was freezing and tired and wanted warmth so badly, even if that place was indeed his friend's mouth. And meanwhile Armin looked as if he would burst into tears any second... Even if he had been mad, he couldn't be for long, what with Armin's current demeanor, exposing the gentle, sweet boy that he was, or at least towards those he cared about. Things had just gone from bad to worse in a few split seconds.
It was impossible to get any words out; what could he possibly say? Anything he tried could be taken the wrong way very easily. He couldn't believe it, and tried to refuse to. But the truth was apparent... He really had almost eaten his best friend! Why... How... He gulped down his fear, avoiding Eren's gaze in case he was uneasy. "A-Are you injured?!" he choked out, grimacing with the horrendous, nightmarish occurrence beginning to haunt him. Eren shook his head. "No, just a little shaken up. I'm fine, I promise. Still just a bit cold..." It was difficult to believe Eren didn't seem mad or afraid in the slightest. There still was that threat over his head, like a cat about to pounce somewhere in the distance, lurking in the shadows. It would just need to right oppurtunity to strike. And was it just him, or was Eren looking hopefully up at him, as if asking for something he was afraid to verbalize...? He looked away awkwardly, feeling somewhat sick to his stomach from the past few moments' accident. He didn't even want to look down at his friend, though found his eyes met with Eren's gray-green ones momentarily.
How would he phrase it? Any possible way that he could, it would come off terribly. He was even scared by this idea, but if it were the only way, so be it. He couldn't really move at all in this state, feeling his limbs start to go numb... This was no good. He had to say it before he crystallized in a casing of ice. He tapped Armin's hand, looking up to communicate that he wanted to get to eye level with him. Once he was, he looked directly into those panicked blue eyes that belonged to his friend, eyes that had seen the war around him unfold and could practically see through what Eren was about to say. "A-Armin, I t-think I'm getting f-frostbite..." he barely breathed, the air whipping his face all the while. "I-I'm going to freeze..." And indeed he had started to lose even more feeling in his fingers, and feeling as if he was getting warmer... He was stating to die from the cold. "Armin, I'm sorry, but I don't have any more time to say it! I'm getting hypothermia! And I think we both know the only place that's warm enough is... Is..."
"No! Eren, you can't be serious!"
"Armin, please! I don't have any other options!"
"That's just wrong! There's got to..."
"I AM GOING TO DIE IN SECONDS!"
Both of them had been silenced, reduced to tears, and equally scared of the idea, though there wasn't any way that could be thought up quick enough to work out before he froze. "Don't look..." Armin said after a second, gulping, gently picking his friend by the collar of his short-sleeved shirt. He then proceeded to gently place him on his back, his head facing outwards, into his tongue, slowly bringing Eren into his mouth. It was anything but comforting, but if Eren were to die otherwise, it was surely worth it. But then again, he could still easily be swallowed by mistake... That was still a dizzying thought in the blonde's mind as he felt Eren settle. It kind of tickled... But it still just felt wrong. In any other circumstance, he couldn't have been swayed to commit. Even he knew and understood that this simple-seeming and twisted action had saved his best friend's life. He kept his mouth slightly ajar for a few moments before closing it gently, though not enough that no air got in.
How Eren wished things had not had to have gotten so extreme as this. It reminded him of the vicious titans he so hated, to be stuck inside the maw of even his closest and most loyal friend. When he had first settled to lightly hold onto the massive tongue, he had been met with a sudden warm current from the breath that hadn't yet escaped Armin's mouth into the stinging winds. He dared not look too closely around him, not wanting to get any more fearful than he already was. So instead, the rest of his senses alerted him of what was happening around him. Occasionally he was pushed in different directions, feeling the slimy liquid around him pour over him. There was an interesting scent coming off of the saliva, but otherwise there really wasn't much to detect. There was a sort of swishing sound every time Armin lightly swallowed, the shallow breaths he managed to get out, a tinge of panic adorning each. But overall, it was just dark, wet, and soft. Almost comfortable if it weren't for the truth to it. He would be able to rest more calmly now- or at least with the reassurance he wouldn't die of frostbite or hypothermia. Being gulped down on accident was an entirely different fear that he'd rather not dwell on.
And after a bit of dinner for both of them, he was there for the rest of the night, feeling surprisingly calm after a while about the whole ordeal. Armin was keeping a great deal of care and attention on his part, making sure to only swallow enough occasionally to send down a little saliva, and not the tiny soldier down to his stomach, where he would surely die. This was a more relaxing thing to think about, and made the situation easier to cope with. And all throughout the chilly night, things remained just so, with the tiny human finally warm enough to get a bit of rest. It took a while for him to feel comfortable enough, of course, but eventually found himself nodding off. Armin, on the other hand, wasn't calm in the least. He was still unbelievably afraid for his companion's safety, and got not one wink of sleep the whole night.
This was the way that the two stayed, with the occasional moment he had to be taken out so his friend could swallow fully without the worrying of what would happen to him the next day. The safety continued, even to such an extent that Eren felt his fears slowly and completely slipping from his tight grasp. At some point a few hours later he got comfortable enough to look around with only the slightest unease.
By the fifth hour of the day, the blonde boy could see the other groups running back at unimaginable speeds for someone like him, then realized what was happening: a few hours, two maybe, remained for them to get back, and the sun was already setting. He barely managed to pack up everything in time to meet up, racing as fast as he could down he steep incline of the hill without tripping. After he reached the bottom, he broke into a swift run, which was terrible for his pacing and physical state. His breaths were quick and short, his steps heavier, his legs numb. He was out of breath and tired, excess amounts of saliva pouring out of his mouth. Armin was even scared to drink anything in case he endangered his friend. This was too much. And, eventually, that still didn't help, for the dehydrated and exhausted soldier kept running on, instinctively swallowing despite himself, realizing what he had done seconds later as his friend screamed.
All he had done for the time was rest, remaining a bit worried by Armin sudden increase of excessive speed, when he felt a giant current of saliva run over him. He had found this odd, until he heard a horrific gulp, causing him to be washed down the blonde's massive throat. All the while he tried to get back up in a panic, he felt currents pull him down, dragging him against the interior of the slick walls of Armin's slimy gullet. Yes, now here was what he had been afraid of. He was indeed being swallowed by his own friend. And by now he cloud not hope to escape the raging waves within. It was only a matter of time until the inevitable... Seconds later, he winded up on his back, splashing into the gurgling acids of the ocean within Armin's belly. Now he had wondered why he had made such a foolish choice, in complete terror, of deciding to out his life at risk in such a way. Hypothermia couldn't possibly be worse than this... He was silently panicking, feeling around his surroundings in fear, so he at least knew what he was up against. He barely squeaked out his friend's name.
Armin was paralyzed again, unable to believe what he had done. He had promised to keep Eren safe and sheltered from the storm outside, but this?! This was far too extreme and dangerous! He wasn't even sure that Eren was still alive, until he heard his name being called from somewhere inside. "Eren! Are you hurt?!" he gasped, trying to pinpoint his friend's location. If he could just hold on for long enough, then he could spit him out. It wouldn't be too hard, anyways, for him to do so, being already so sick from tiring himself out.
Now what was he supposed to say in response? "Y-Yeah, of course I'm hurt, you just- what?!" But looking down at his hands, even with the poor lighting that he could barely see in, he was completely sparse of any acidic burns that could show any sign of digestion. At leas there's that... "A-Actually, I'm not. I'm not sure how, though. I'm just a bit afraid..." Somewhere high above him, he heard more gulping as a generous amount of oxygen went down to him- certainly Armin looking after him and making sure he didn't suffocate in the long run. Besides which, the icy winds would sting and bite, but now, he was far more comfortable than he had ever been; well, temperature-wise, at least. Here was still the deeply-embedded fear of being digested sometime over the remaining time he had in Armin's stomach... Surely this wouldn't end well. But he tried to push this aside as he leaned against one of the slick walls, however demeaned slightly by the various content-seeming gurgles and groans of the other boy's stomach, was otherwise alright. Just a little mentally scarred was all, and aware of the nauseous truth to his current situation. One way he could die, the other it wasn't even a question...
"I-I'll be fine. It doesn't really make sense to put me back out into the cold, where I'll actually be imperiled. I'm afraid... You'll have to leave me in here until we get back." "What?! Eren, y-you can't be serious!..." Armin cried out in shocked surprise. "I'll be fine, I promise..." Eren responded, settling down against the wall he was against. "B-But, you'll die..." Armin insisted weakly. "The way I see it, I'm sure to die one way, but, miraculously, this is not that way. If I get out our in the cold again, I'll freeze pretty quickly. We're just... Going to have to put up with this until we get back. And then we can sit by the fire with the rest of our commerades back from the trip. I promise, if I get any odd feeling from the portion of time I'm in here, I promise I'll let you know. But the quicker we get back, the sooner you can spit me out. So please try to make some headway, but don't tire yourself out like that again, alright?" Armin didn't respond for a second, starting to pace himself as he kept going on the icy path with the reassurrance that Eren was safe for the time being.
"I will. Don't worry."