Actions

Work Header

A Widow's War: Erwin Smith

Chapter Text

Staring across the desolate farmland {Name} struck the match to light the tip of the crumpled roll up, blowing on the flame to snuff it out when her mouth filled with the bitter tasting fog.

 

{Name} knew from the days of the trenches, never to light more than one cigarette with a match. The deep gouge of missing flesh beside {Name}'s left temple served as a potent reminder of that.

 

Dazed and confused from a close to home shelling {Name} had wandered into a field. Coated in dust and blood, she'd fallen into a trench.

 

Too stunned to move {Name} had laid in the mud, blood and excrement for what felt like hours, but in truth what had been only a few short minutes.

 

The dulled tread of a boot on a hand startled {Name} into moving, and in turn, brought a gun muzzle to be pointed between the eyes.

 

It must have been overwhelming for the then five-year-old {Name}, as she could not recall the events between the moment of her discovery, to the moment the bullet ricochet off Private Tommy's helmet then lodged itself in her skull.

 

All that {Name} did know, was not to use the same match more than once when lighting roll-ups.

 

Uncrossing her legs {Name}'s boots crunched against the freshly laid snow, toxic smoke intermingling with her chilled breath it temporarily blocked her view of the dead fields.

 

Overhead the low droning of the distant bomber planes grew louder and more fierce in their approach.

 

A hand cupping both eyes to block out the low winter sun {Name} bit tighter on the roll-ups tip.

 

Up above the flying mechanisms of destruction, were not those of her homeland.

 

Which begged the question, of just how far the Germans had pushed over their borders.

 

"{Name}, please come back inside."

 

A weak breathy voice called across the whitewashed field, bringing {Name}'s hands back down against her side, a hand paused to take the roll-up from between her lips.

 

The paper sticking against the dry skin, a sting of pain came when it was pulled away.

 

Running her tongue over the small welt {Name} pushed off the barrel, boots crunching over the snow, she walked with caution around the barn.

 

It was only then {Name} realised how bold the colour of the barn was, bright red it contrasted sharply with the crisp white floor.

 

It could be spotted for miles.

 

Throwing away the roll-up {Name} pushed past the barn, the concern of it being almost like a beacon forgotten at the sight of the man slumped against the gate of the empty horse field.

 

Breaking out into a brisk jog {Name} bent to pick up the fallen crutch, a hand slipping beneath the outstretched arm {Name} gripped the small man's shoulder, her body moving to replace the crutch that had fallen from his grasp.

 

"Levi, you're going to kill yourself moving around like this!"  Angry at Levi's insistence to leave the house when he was almost stood at death's door {Name} pulled him tight against her side.

 

The chill that ran up her body was not from the winters bitter bite but from Levi himself.

 

"I woke up, and you were gone."  Weak and rasping, {Name} caught a faint edge in his voice, a slither of his old self breaking through.

 

With a pained smile, {Name} whispered an apology, her legs moving slowly so as not to exert Levi's worn and broken body.

 

Slowly Levi moved a shaking hand to rest over the one that {Name} had wrapped around his side, their fingers clicking together neatly. Levi managed a weak squeeze.

 

Tipping in toward Levi their heads knocked together lightly, a small smile breaking up Levi's pained pants  "I'm sorry."

 

Hearing the quiet apology, {Name} sighed in response. Since Levi returned from the front line, he'd been a totally different man.

 

Possessing a timidness that {Name} never thought was possible of Levi.

It made {Name} wonder what he'd witnessed on the front lines, to change a strong and assertive man, into a quiet and suddenly dependent one.

 

Not once in their eight years of marriage, did Levi ever depend on {Name}, he was strong-willed and assertive.

 

Yet, since Levi came back home {Name} felt a substantial presence in her chest.

 

The shock of opening the door to find Levi hopping up the path on a set of crutches still lingered.

 

Each time {Name}'s eyes fell upon the stump that was left of Levi's right leg, her stomach somersaulted violently.

 

It was even more painful when they made eye contact, Levi's one remaining eye was cold, and haunted by the things he had witnessed.

 

Keeping them both balanced {Name} used a booted foot to kick open the small white gate, the snow gathered on the wooden ledges falling in clumps to join its cold family in their once bright and vibrant garden.

 

The path was hidden in the white blanket they moved slowly towards their old cottage, the windows frosting up slowly, {Name} eyed the icicles that crept down from the overlap of the roof.

 

Pausing on the paved doorstep {Name} removed the hand that held onto Levi's wrist, the cuff of her coat shook down to grip the cold metal of the door handle.

 

"You have nothing to be sorry for Levi,"  Assuring him softly the feel of his cold lips brushing against her cheek relieved some of the weight in her chest, giving her heart a gentle flutter she'd not felt in a long time.

 

The soft strands of Levi's hair tickled against her cheek, the contact soothing  "I lov--!"

 

Bodies stumbling forward, pushed by some unknown force {Name} barely managed to keep her footing, her shoulder hitting roughly against the wooden edging of the front door a hiss of pain leapt from her mouth.

 

Eyes creeping wide {Name} heard the distant bark of a gun, but it was too late.

 

The sound scratched violently at her ears, it felt like it had physically taken hold of her brain and rattled it, slamming it against the inside of her skull.

 

Everything fell silent.

 

A deathly quiet that filled {Name} painfully.

 

Something dark sprayed up the front door as the weight at {Name}'s side became heavier.

 

Holding tighter to Levi's hand, their fingers knotted when they fell, they were no longer seized up but fell slack.

 

"Levi?"

 

Whimpering {Name}'s jaw quivered, staring straight at the sullied door of their home she couldn't bring herself to look.

 

A sudden warmth spread across {Name}'s shoulder, seeping through the coat to heat her shoulder.

 

Body twitching {Name}'s knees buckled, unable to keep the dead weight at her side upright, they sunk into the doorstep.

 

Levi slumped forward in the descent, {Name}'s fingers numbly scrambling to keep a hold on his head, it fell with a dull thud against the door.

 

What was left of it, at least?

 

No longer able to tell the difference between hair, or the blood and brain matter {Name} shrunk back, frozen in place as Levi's limp body slid down the door to fall into a heap at the foot of their home.

 

Fingers reaching out {Name} didn't still when the crack of a gun being reloaded sounded from behind her shoulder.

 

The rough crunch of the snow did not instil fear like it should have, fingers still reaching they soon closed around a fistful of snow, and pebbles.

 

The orders given never even reached her ears, it was like they floated on past, evaporating into nothing just like the sharp bursts of smoke that left her mouth with each panting breath.

 

Hair whipping around her face {Name} twisted her neck, both eyes painfully open, they burned with the strain and the winter wind, but still, they did not blink.

 

Though partially obscured with the tears that slowly began to collect within them, she recognised the object pointed at her.

 

Like the day she'd stumbled into a trench, {Name} was staring down the muzzle of a gun.

 

Though fate this time was not on her side, and she was not in the sanctuary of her allies.

 

Staring past the cold metal that had taken Levi's life with the same ease of extinguishing a flame {Name} met with the hard, and emotionally void gaze of the man brandishing a weapon.

 

Though his mouth was moving, {Name} could not hear what he was saying.

 

A loud buzzing had filled both ears, drowning out anything that tried to reach them.

 

Palm burning from how tightly {Name} gripped at the pebble dotted snow her fingers tightened their hold, the arm swinging out in the same instant the man swung the gun around, {Name} threw out the compacted snow as the man drove the gun downwards.

 

Like a strained band being snapped, {Name}'s body leapt into action.

The ice ball temporarily distracting the foreign soldier it was thrown hard enough to pop his nose, blood spilling her body rapidly lurched forward.

 

Using both shoulders {Name} slammed as hard as she could into the soldier, further staggering the movements he tumbled back.

 

A hand catching the calf of {Name}'s leg he almost brought her crashing down with him, a quick kick of the free leg given {Name} managed to break his hold.

 

The man's shouting alerted the other, slowly approaching soldiers.

{Name} could see their grim, grey outlines against the flurry of snow.

Guns in hand, they shouted orders back and forth.

 

Tripping back across the garden of her home {Name} bent quickly to retrieve the soldiers gun, adrenaline pumping, her fight or flight instinct had made a sudden roundabout turn.

 

With a sparing glance at Levi, a sob was choked back, her feet soon pounding across the snow, she almost slipped as she tore around the corner of the cottage.

 

The sharp ring of a bullet narrowly missing her body, she felt the shards of brick hit against her cheek.

 

Fingers biting into the cold metal of the gun all {Name} could do was run, the shouts of the fast approaching enemy at her back fuelling her forward.

 

The vast stretching fields were wide open past the cottage.

 

The closest being the woods that made up the edge of the isolated farm, they were a considerable distance from her, and already her lungs were burning.

 

Still, even though her body was already tiring, she refused to bow down.

Veering sharply to her right {Name} managed to keep up her pace, the barks of the guns behind firing round after round, they sent up little snow blizzards as they hit upon the cold ground.

 

{Name} knew not to keep running in a straight line, and so, almost with a spring in her step, she gave a lurch to the left that narrowly took her out of the path of another bullet.

 

Surely, they'd have to give up.

 

{Name} was not worth anything, there was no information {Name} could offer, she had nothing to give them.

 

Though {Name} was under no illusion what they could potentially do, she was confident she'd turn the gun on herself, before they caught up with her.

 

Pushing harder forward {Name} could sense that one of her pursuers had closed their distance.

 

Their presence setting the hairs at the back of her neck on end {Name} was close to the woodland, just one more push of speed and she'd be able to lose them in the trees.

 

The sound of her pursuers boots across the snow almost crippled {Name}'s will, they were literally upon her.

 

In the last dash of hope {Name} suddenly twisted, body ducking to avoid the outstretched arms {Name} used the butt of the gun, bringing it down with as much force as her arms could manage it hit upon the soldiers, hip.

 

A sharp cry of pain sounding from the man he staggered away, the outstretched arms falling to hold the area she'd hit {Name} failed to see the second incoming soldier.

 

The soldier did not hold back as he slammed into {Name}'s side.

Elbow out it caught {Name}'s rib, the gun falling from her grasp the impact buckled her instantly, their bodies collapsing into the snow.

 

The cold substance would have been welcoming on her heated skin, if not for the man she was in a confused tangle of limbs with.

 

Legs kicking {Name} fought back as the man tried to restrain her, his companion she'd recently butted scrambling across the snow to assist.

 

Slowly {Name}'s body tired, a forearm firmly pinning her chest, the man was practically laying on her to keep her still.

 

The burning of his breath running over her cheek {Name} felt the other man take a firm grip on her ankles, locking them down all she could do was give violent jolts of her body.

 

Barely able to turn her head {Name} felt her body go limp, with all the fight in her body bleeding out a strangled cry sounded her defeat.

 

Seeming to understand that she'd given up, the pressure on her chest was slowly removed, until eventually she was released.

 

Rolling onto her side, {Name}'s arms wrapped around her quaking body, legs curling up {Name} buried her chin against her chest.

 

The trees that loomed above seemed to mock {Name}.

 

Taunting {Name} pver how close she'd been to slip out of their clutches.

 

Her knowledge of the layout would have proved to be her greatest ally and would have worked against them.

 

Had {Name} of just pushed that bit harder, and not stopped, she would have been in their shadowy depths.

 

"Fräulein?"

 

Blinking laconically {Name} could only vaguely make out a voice, the blood rushing in her ears almost deafening.

 

It struck {Name} odd though, it sounded calm, a little short of breath, but gentle.

 

"Fräulein!"

 

Sounding far more peeved the second time, it made {Name}'s head turn.

 

There was no point in angering them, not when {Name} was at their mercy.

 

Almost blinded by the spots that danced across her vision, {Name} could only just make out the black object that floated in front of her.

 

It took a few more blinks, and slowly its edges smoothed out to reveal a gloved hand.

 

"Get up!"

 

The order was given in a German-accented French.

 

It sounded funny to {Name}'s ears, but it was clearly understood.

 

Rolling onto her back {Name} unfurled both arms, ignoring the offered hand {Name} used the weak appendages to bring herself up.

 

Legs burning they made her stagger off to the side, limbs twitching with the unexpected exertion, her head swam with the sudden movement.

 

Expecting to be allowed to fall {Name} was startled by the arm that caught her.

 

Jolting back rapidly both arms flailed when the hand once more made a grab to keep her upright.

 

Reeled in rapidly to a chest, {Name}'s arms managed to raise, the backs pushing at the man to keep distance between their bodies, and allowing her room look at him.

 

After a few short seconds of trying to break out of his hold, {Name} stared defiantly up at the man.

 

"Fräulein."

 

The tone was warning enough, trying to discourage the small amount of fight she'd managed to muster, though {Name} still pressed hard against the man.

 

"I suggest you comply,"  pushing back against her the man lowered his head until their faces were pressed nose to nose, his face hidden beneath both helmet and some kind of fabric mask  "Unless you want a bullet in your chest?"

 

Sounding out the threat as a question, like {Name} actually had an option the man finally managed to get a firm grip on the back of her coat.

 

The fabric pulled tight it effectively restricted {Name}'s movements.

Swallowing, {Name}'s arms relaxed.

 

Reminding herself that {Name} was now at their mercy, a deep inhale dispelled her want to fight back.

Chapter Text

With a hand between the shoulder blades giving {Name} a push of encouragement, they walked back towards the cottage she'd not long fled.

Movements slow and sluggish {Name} tripped over her own feet, the burning in both calves and thighs making them stiff and painful to direct.

Catching herself before falling altogether {Name} shrugged off the aid of one of the soldiers, quick correction of her stance {Name} was able to move a little more fluidly across the cut up snow.

Sliding eyes left and right {Name} noted the German soldiers loosely flanked her, but still kept some distance from her.

Following behind was the soldier she'd struck, and the one who'd grappled with her. None of them moved to stand in front, keeping the area wide open with plenty of space for {Name} to move.

It was almost like they were testing her, to see if {Name} would try and take off a second time.

If not for the blurred outlines that moved around the garden of her home, and that she was sure this time that they wouldn't miss if they opened fire, {Name} would have made a second attempt to break free.
Nerves getting the better of {Name}, both feet stumbled like that of a newborn foal.

Unsteady, and being weighed down by a refreshed fear {Name} tried to ignore the burning sensation that spread down her thighs, seeping down until it reached the tips of her toes.

Coupled up with the icy bite of winter, her skin felt as though it was burning from the inside and out.

Tripping clumsily once more {Name} failed to break her fall, tumbling down into the cut up snow the icy particles bit into both her cheek and palms. Laying still {Name} hoped that the men would leave, and let {Name} freeze to death in the fields.

The small hope dashed when a sharp tap of a boot urged {Name} up.
Digging in against the ribs {Name} was confident that she could ignore it, pretend that she'd passed out and wait for them to grow bored of her antics and abandon her.

Again, the slither of hope was dashed when a pair of arms scooped under her own. No longer allowed to play dead {Name}'s feet moved to assist the soldier picking her up.

Dazed and quite confused {Name} stared at the soldier limping behind them, the rifle she'd struck him with bouncing side to side with each hopped step, his eyes bore into her own from beneath his helmet.

There was no doubt in {Name}'s mind that he was not going to forget what she'd done.

For the time being, it was not a pressing matter, to be consumed by the idea the german she'd struck down with a gun would hold a grudge was not to most concerning part of this turn of events.

Picked up, and thrown over the shoulder of the taller male who only a few short minutes previous threatened to put a bullet in her chest, {Name}'s fingers clawed at the back of his dirty grey coat.

Trapped in place by a strong arm, all {Name} could do was wriggle her shoulders, and swing both legs.

A devious thought birthed in {Name}, the tip of the right boot lingering dangerously close to the German soldier's groin it twitched nervously. Eyes still locked with the limping man behind them {Name}'s fingers seized tighter to the rough fabric of the man's coat when his arm tightened on her.

"The invitation for a bullet to the chest is still open." head tilted to cast a warning look at {Name}, she could just about make out the man's eyes beneath the flop of his sandy brown hair.

From the nose down, his face remained covered by a cloth face mask, leaving only his eyes exposed.

Facing away from the intrusive and somewhat malignant stare {Name} relaxed her right foot. The bastard be damned, he'd cottoned on to {Name}'s intentions.

Once more deflated, defeated and feeling at a loss {Name} resigned herself to being a willing passenger on the man's shoulders. Under the watch of the limping man, {Name} turned away, eyes scouring the now distant tree line she tried to imagine what she would have done if she'd reached them.

Remaining still {Name} twisted a hand into the back of the Germans coat to further secure her. {Name} was not naive enough to believe that the man was going to set her down nice and gently once they reached their destination, he'd already made a second threat to put an end to her now miserable existence.

An offer, that with each step he took, became more and more appealing.
In time, they stopped, the hand gripping tighter to the coat {Name} felt some small relief when the soldier crouched until her boots met with the snow that littered the ground.

Hands numb and close to locked in a clawed stance in the soldier's coat, {Name} felt a small wave of humiliation for the time it took to let the German go.

Stumbling back {Name} wriggled her fingers, gently coaxing them out of their claw-like positions {Name}'s head snapped up when the soldiers shrugged the rifles from their shoulders.

As if they'd have any hope to act as a shield {Name}'s hands raised, the palms exposed in a silent gesture for them to either lower their weapons or reconsider what they were about to do.

Without a single word spoken, {Name}'s chest ached in anticipation.
The soldier who'd carried {Name} was the first to move, gun pointed down, but not precisely away from her body {Name} felt her stomach constrict painfully.

With a hand falling away from the grip of the rifle, the soldier's hand stretched out towards {Name}.

Trying to swallow down the bile coursing steadily up the throat {Name}'s eyes scrunched tightly. Heart palpitating in her chest, it sent blood thundering through her ears, leaving {Name} almost deaf, and allowing her to miss the sharp knocking of wood.

"Inside, Fraulein."

Again speaking in the thick German-accented French, {Name}'s eyes popped open in surprise.

Turning slowly {Name} found herself stood beside the back door of the cottage, the old chipped paint of the door showing its age and {Name}'s lack of upkeep it acted as a temporary distraction.

It let {Name}'s mind drift away from the horror's her imagination was trying to concoct.

Though {Name}'s annoyance at her slacking on the maintenance of the backdoor was pulled apart at the seams, shredding the safety blanket it had created when her fear and uncertainty sunk its claws back in at the exact moment a hand pushed at {Name}'s shoulder.

Confused {Name} could only oblige their order to enter the cottage, moving somewhat mechanically she even went to slip off her snow logged boots.

That was until a hand gripped tightly at her coat, pulling {Name} through the spacious kitchen and into the short corridor.

With a rough shove, {Name} tripped on the flipped over corner of the old rug of her living room, breath seizing in an instant when {Name} found the living room was far from empty.

The cosy room felt cramped by their presence, there was far too many of them squeezed into the little room. From wall to wall all {Name} could make out was the malignant grey uniforms of the German soldiers, broken up with a splash of colour from their varying hair colours.

Angered by the lack of propriety {Name} nearly forgot the situation that she was in, this was not the time to put into practice social etiquette. These men were soldiers, not well to do gentleman, they were walking and talking beings trained to kill.

They were not taught to act accordingly, in their enemies home.
Mouth opening, it snapped closed when a ragged, wet breath tickled against her ears.

Acting almost on instinct {Name} turned without direction to its source.
In the corner of the room, and being propped up by one of his comrades, a man stood.

Stood being a loose term to describe his posture, the man was heavily reliant on the person beside him to keep him upright. Eyes levelling to the man's quivering lips {Name}'s mouth pursed tightly at the sight.

A deep crimson, an almost purple river flowed without restraint from his chapped lips, the cupids bow tinged blue, it was not from the cold.

Assessing the man's condition quietly {Name}'s eyes lowered to find the source of the blood flowing without restraint from the man's panting mouth. Four patches of torn and frayed cloth signalled the entry points of the bullets, two sitting on his chest, one in his upper right arm, and the last one had torn through his abdomen.

The soldier was a walking corpse, he had a few hours at most.

Glancing past the wounded soldier {Name} shock of the soldier's presence dissipated, even the mild concern for the man dying in the corner of her living room was thrown angrily to the side when {Name}'s eyes landed on one figure in particular.

Fingers curling tightly into the palms {Name} welcomed the painful pinch of her nails, squeezing them as tight as her body and mind allowed to restrain her unwelcome anger at the man calmly poking a few recently lit logs in the fireplace.

Residing in the armchair that was once Levi's, like it was his own the man did not bristle at the tempestuous gaze {Name} was levelling toward him.

From his profile, {Name} could see he wore a calm and well-collected smile, one arm propped on the rest of the armchair, the fingers stretched out to create rest for his chin.

"You're a nurse Fraulein."

Startled by the coolness of the man's tone, let alone the knowledge of her profession all {Name} could do was nod slowly.

"I can tell you've already given Franz a visual inspection," replacing the poker to its stand the man relaxed back in Levi's chair, the hand that once propped up his strong chin falling to grip the arm, his head tilted.

"Can you help him?"

Turning to face {Name} in the exact moment the question was asked, her breath left in a shocked gasp.

Bright and crystal clear blue eyes bore into her own.

Though the man's visage was playing the part of a concerned comrade, his eyes were telling {Name} that he would know if she dared to lie to him.

Using the tip of her tongue to wet her dry lips {Name} looked over to the man in question.

If {Name} was quick, and assisted by one of the soldiers, his chances of surviving were not high, but he'd have a slim shot at remaining with the living.

"It's a small chance, but at the very least I could make him comfortable," answering quietly {Name} was regrettably impressed that they all appeared to understand her.

"I don't have the proper equipment for performing surgery. He will have to stay conscious." Admitting to the grave matter that she was not exactly at a hospital, and so her medical supplies were limited the man's lips twitched at the corners, almost a smile, but not wholly.

With a slow nod, the man in Levi's chair gave a waving gesture of his hand, a silent prompt to proceed.

Nodding reluctantly {Name} turned to the man and his comrade, gesturing to take him to the kitchen she then turned to the soldier beside the door.

Grey coat stained {Name} recognised him instantly, he was the man who'd shot Levi, and the one {Name} had apparently broken the nose of.

Biting back the urge to take another swing at him {Name} asked him to retrieve sheets from the upstairs bedrooms, another was told to bring down her medical bag from the back bedroom.

Eyes closing {Name} knew that she should let the man die, let him bleed a slow and horrible death. But she couldn't. Whether it was the nurse instinct within her or the fear of what they would do if she refused, she was uncertain.

All that {Name} was sure of at that moment, was that she had a patient, and he needed immediate attendance.

Removing her coat {Name} threw it over the old bannister, the sleeves of her shirt rolling up as she entered the kitchen. The giant oak table in its centre having not been cleared of that morning's breakfast {Name} felt her stomach clench.

The memory of Levi sitting across from her made {Name} bite down at the inside of her cheek. It was not the time to lament, the man groaning in the corner of the room was what she needed to focus on, she could not allow herself to be distracted.

A loud, and tuneless whistling inhale announced the return of the man {Name} asked to collect the bedsheets, the nasally whistling grating on {Name}'s wired nerves she turned away from him as he bustled forward.

With an unsatisfactory smile, {Name} ran her hands over the table, knocking the plates and cups onto the floor with a smash before reaching across for one end of the sheet.

Both {Name} and the broken-nosed soldier moving in a kind of tandem to lay the sheet on the table.

With the table dressed {Name} turned to her patient, patting the wood and requesting he lay down, they moved without question.

Slipping around while the man removed his uniform {Name} grabbed up the soap at the edge of the sink, scrubbing both hands roughly a quick jut of her elbow turned the tap, the water spluttering from the pipe she rinsed both thoroughly.

Trying to keep focused on the job at hand {Name} pushed back the guilt that crept from the back of her mind.

They were her enemies. They'd shot Levi dead just that morning.

Yet, there {Name} was, about to perform potentially life-saving surgery on one of them.

Staring down at her shaking hands {Name} gripped them tightly together, a deep inhale taken to calm herself before turning to where the man was laid out on the table.

Bare chest rising in rapid pants {Name} spotted bubbles of air filling the blood that trickled out the exit wounds.

{Name} was honestly wasting her time, without the sufficient equipment, she was merely about to delay the inevitable, the man's lungs were collapsing.

Steeling herself {Name} told the gathered soldiers to remove the chairs, the medical bag dropped at the end of the table by the man's feet {Name} eyed it for a moment, before turning quickly to the sink.

Pulling out a wooden spoon {Name} moved up the table before looking down at the man calmly "This will stop you biting your tongue." Pushing the spoon between the soldier's teeth, he gave a slow nod of understanding.

Clicking fingers at the soldier who'd been holding up the patient, {Name} requested that he held both of the man's hands. Met with a confused gaze, {Name} opened up the medical bag to pull out a pair of clean gloves "It will stop him trying to grab me," explaining deftly she turned to the whistle nosed soldier "Hold down his legs."

Moving up to the injured soldier's side once more {Name} leant down to whisper in his ear "This is going to hurt, and you will probably die." Removing herself {Name} looked down at the man, his teeth bared around the wooden spoon their eyes met.

Though there was no anger in his gaze, just mutual understanding of what was the probable outcome of what {Name} was about to do.

Taking up the necessary instruments {Name} beckoned for the soldier who'd carried her.

Requesting that he act as her second, and prepare the stitching needle and the bandages {Name} took a deep breath, before lowering the scalpel to the man's chest.

The moment of the first incision, he thrashed, forcing {Name} to yell at him and warn him that if he could not be still, then he would most certainly die.

Understanding the graveness of his situation, the man became still.

From the corner of her eye, {Name} could see his fingers grow whiter with how tightly he squeezed on his comrade's hands.

Though it was undoubtedly a good sign, and that he was able to remain conscious was almost admirable, if not for the fact it was fruitless.
For the bubbling in the exit wounds, were not slowing.

Glancing up at the soldier who was acting as her second, their eyes locked.

For a brief second, a silent understanding passed between them. The soldier knew just as well as {Name} did; the surgery was pointless.

One of the bullets had torn a lung, the strained breaths told {Name} that much without even seeing the air escaping out his chest.

What {Name} was merely doing, was making a vain effort. Or rather, acting in accordance with what the man occupying Levi's chair had wanted.

Though {Name} honestly suspected that he knew what {Name} was doing was a waste of time, it almost felt like she was being tested, again.

Refocusing on the task of retrieving the fragmented metal of the bullets and closing up the severed veins that were causing internal bleeding {Name} occasionally spared a glance for the man she was operating on.

If the soldier survived the surgery, he would not survive the night.

At the very least, she'd pump him with painkillers that would make his final moments peaceful. It was a small mercy that she was willing to give.

Sliding the needle through to make the final stitch {Name} looked up the table.

No longer holding hands the man was unconscious, his ability to withstand {Name} pulling out the bullet shards until the moment she began stitching aided a great deal.

Having needed to roll him on his side, the puddle of blood he lay in told {Name} all that she needed to know. The man had a few hours at most, and now that he was out cold, he'd pass with ease.

Cutting off the excess stitching {Name} requested the two Germans who'd kept him held down to gently lift him. The sullied sheet eased out from beneath; it ended up in the corner of the kitchen, a fresh one slid back under, they lowered him with care.

Taking a step back, {Name} ran the back of one arm over her sopping brow. To date, it had been the most stressful surgery she'd performed. With all eyes on her, it put her on edge, made her overly aware of every incision and stitch that she made.

The matter made worse by a tenfold, being that they were enemies of her homeland, and enemies of her.

Snapping off the bloodied gloves {Name} turned to the sink, the soap once more snatched up to scrub at her skin, she didn't stop until they were almost raw.

If anyone found out what she'd done, they'd try her as a traitor, a conspirator. They'd hang her on the spot. Regardless of the fact, the German soldier was going to die, they'd lynch her in a matter of seconds.

In her moment of cowardice to keep her life, she'd ended it all the same.

Using the elbow to turn the tap {Name} held back her tears.

Jaw flexing and clenching the lids of her eyes fell to a close, fighting back the overwhelming sense of betrayal of not only her country but that of Levi, she kept her back to the room until she was somewhat composed.

Grabbing up a tea towel it was run over both hands slowly, taking in a deep breath {Name} turned to face the lingering soldiers. Each one of their uniforms marred with blood, the dark stains showing their grey uniforms.

In turn, they all looked at {Name}, waiting for some word, any information on how their comrade was going to be.

Fixing a stare on the soldier, who, like her, knew that the man was going to die, a slight incline of his head told {Name} that he was not going to speak of what he knew.

"It's a matter of wait and sees now, though I doubt he will make it through the night. He lost a lot of blood." Trying to sound as close to professional as possible {Name} dropped the tea towel back down on the side.

In need of fresh air, {Name} moved silently out of the room, unsure of whether they'd allow her to leave the building she took tentative steps to the back door.

Pulling it open without issue {Name} inhaled the chilly evening air deeply. The biting cold welcome in her lungs {Name} patted down the pockets; they were empty.

A roll up most welcome at that moment {Name} paused when a gold-tipped cigarette dangled in front of her. Looking past the tempting smoke, {Name} paused on her retrieval of it.

Though shadowed by the doorway, the cold blue eyes were stark against the darkness.

Almost illuminated, they stared down at {Name} without emotion.

Unable to hold eye contact {Name} looked down at the snow littered doorstep, her fingers slowly closing around the gold-tipped cigarette she placed it in her mouth.

The scratch of a match lighting up {Name} peaked upwards, leaning towards the cupped flame she inhaled the toxic fumes deeply. A quick puff of breath putting the match out {Name} turned away from the door.

Slow steps carrying {Name} towards the edge of the cottage she didn't stop to wonder if they'd make a commotion, at that moment all {Name} wanted to know, was what they'd done with Levi's body.

Balancing the cigarette at the corner of her mouth {Name} pushed shaking fingers through her hair. From the moment she touched it, her heart gave an anguished leap.

Using the pads of her fingers {Name} broke up the dried crust, the flakes resuming a watery texture they stained the prints of her fingers.

Exhaling slowly {Name} stared down at the coppery colour that now marred her reddened hand. Swallowing {Name} blinked slowly, the salty warmth travelling down her cheeks, dripping down her jaw until they splashed upon the dark stain on the shoulder.

Mouth falling open the cigarette dropped, hands scratching wildly at her hair to remove the dried blood {Name} was no longer able to remain composed.

Unable to muster the courage to take the corner that would lead to the front of the house {Name} sunk, arms winding tightly around both legs she hugged them tight against her chest. Head buried in the knees a pitiful wail falling from her mouth, she rocked herself.

In a moment, just one small moment, {Name}'s life had fallen apart. A single bullet was all it took to close the final snare around the man she'd loved for over a decade.

A life snuffed out so easily that it was a cruel and unfair injustice.

What could {Name} have possibly done to be deserving of such a wicked hand?

Chest straining to keep her cries quiet, a hand released her legs, cupping the sound within the palm {Name} pushed hard against it.

The desire to scream building to a point it made her feel physically sick, {Name} eventually bit down on her bottom lip.

It could not be put off any longer, {Name} could not avoid taking the turn.

Sucking in a deep breath {Name}'s head tipped back, eyes blinking skyward the once white sky was splattered with dark oranges and reds. It looked so peaceful.

Running the back of a hand over her face to wipe away the tears, blood and snot {Name} slowly pushed on her knees.

With a hand holding the wall for support, her fingers scraped clumsily over the rough brick, a nail snagging on the chipped section she lingered over it for a moment.

Had {Name} not of almost slipped, the bullet would have caught her in the back.

A deadly shot that no doubt would have ended her misery there and then. Give or take a few minutes of the clock to allow her to bleed out.

Gripping the inside of her cheek between the teeth {Name}'s handmade a fist, pounding the chipped brick her head bowed.

Why did she run?

Pushing back the thoughts of what she should have done differently {Name} took the final step. Clearing the corner she came to a standstill, hand dragging away from the wall, it fell limply at her side.

Almost buried by the snow, Levi's body slumped against the wall. No care given when moving him; they'd only plucked him from the doorstep, and thrown him to the side like he was nothing but rubbish.

Slowly {Name}'s mouth fell open, but no sound left it.

The crunching of boots on the now relayed snow failed to rouse {Name}'s attention, though it did serve to fuel her denial.

Clumsily reaching for Levi, she pulled on his shoulder, rolling him over both hands cupped his frostbitten face. The bullets exit wound iced over she ignored it as her fingers tried to brush the once soft curtains of hair out of his face.

They felt as though they could snap.

Caked in blood, they'd frozen solid in the hours he'd spent out in the open. The once soft pink of his lips now bruised purple and blue.
If not for the gaping wound {Name} could have easily mistaken him for sleeping.

It was strange that he could look so peaceful in his death. Like all his fears and worries no longer clustered over him like a storm cloud. Levi was free of his inner torment, no longer burdened by his broken body, and fractured mind.

{Name} was left behind, her body and mind disconnecting at the seems. Levi had left her to face an uncertain future alone.

At that moment, she hated him. Hated the fact he'd found a sense of peace that {Name} could not experience, could not share with him.

The previous fear {Name} felt over why the men who'd taken her husband, and now taken over her home answered, she now knew her value to them.

Though it begged the question of why they'd tried to gun her down, if they knew that {Name} was a nurse, it made no sense.

Maybe it was because she'd ran because she'd tried to keep what little freedom she possessed. To still be able to make her decisions and choices.

With Levi's head balanced on her lap, the slow shiver in her body ignored. The chattering of her teeth barely noticed as her fingers combed the few loose strands that remained of his hair.

In time {Name}'s focus fell to Levi's lightly scarred fingers, the wedding band she'd slipped on eight years previous looked dull.

No longer holding the shine, he insisted on keeping, it was as dead as he was.

"Fraulein," a voice spoke tentatively from behind, a firm hand falling on her shoulder {Name} flinched away from it "Who was he?" The question sounded sincere in its false French accent like the speaker cared for whom Levi was, or instead had been to her.

"My husband." Answering bluntly, a hand fanned out, searching for firm ground {Name} eased Levi from her lap, resting him once more amongst the snow a hand pressed to a knee, she stood up slowly.

With a cold and callous gaze upon the soldier who'd asked after Levi's relation to herself {Name} slipped by him.

A particular kind of boldness coming in knowing of her value to them, {Name} trudged down the path that led to the barn that stood like a beacon against the snow.

Though it would be a crude burial, {Name} would not allow Levi to remain to lay in the snow.

It was the final offering of dignity that she could afford him, to bury him on the land he'd been born upon.

Chapter Text

Fixing the last button in place {Name}'s fingers traced down, sliding under the lip of the collar to smooth out its edges. Refusing to make eye contact {Name} focused quietly on the downturn of Levi's mouth. Clearly annoyed that {Name} would not meet his gaze even after trying to soothe her fears.

"{Name}?"

Mouth pinching {Name} withdrew her contact with him. Hands falling to cross at her front {Name} bowed her head, even more, chin practically tucked up against the chest.

"What Levi?"

Barely whispering {Name} found that her mouth was almost glued together. Voice coarse and dry from her earlier screaming match with the man now trying to get her to look up at him.

"I don't want to part like this." with his warm fingers curling beneath her chin, the index finger tapped the underside gently, tickling the skin {Name}'s head came up.

Trying to escape the tickling sensation Levi seized the opportunity, and took hold of her face in his hands "I have to go."

Voicing the truth of the matter {Name}'s eyes closed, tears threatening to spill she pushed into the warmth of Levi's palm as his thumbs wiped at her eyes "Promise me! Promise me you'll come home!"

Pleading {Name} cupped Levi's hands with her own, still refusing to look upon him the rush of breath from his agonised sigh tickled across her face.

Pulled in tight Levi placed a kiss over the scar at {Name}'s temple "I will always come home to you."

Swaying suddenly {Name} threw her body back against the rest of the chair.

Startled into waking a few rapid blinks cleared the glaze that covered her sleep deprived eyes, pupils adjusting from the darkness to the low gas light.

The creaking of wood brought {Name}'s mind out of its confusion, the kitchen table still occupied by the German soldier {Name} shifted uncomfortably in the chair.

For a moment, she'd forgotten about them.

Pulled away from the last memory of Levi before the war reached the French borders, it was not a happy memory, but the last one she possessed of him when he was whole when he was the Levi she'd fallen in love with.

Using the pad of her thumb {Name} wiped away the damp patches that lingered beneath her tired eyes.

Reminding herself how foolish it was to fall asleep in such an exposed way {Name} rubbed her worn hands together. Small blisters forming from the handle of the shovel she'd used to dig Levi's grave, she inspected them closely.

"Fraulein?"

A dry, rattling breath brought {Name}'s head snapping up. Beside her the soldier's chest heaved, a hand rising from his side it searched the air for something to hold.

With some hesitance {Name} stood up, coming to the edge of the table her body leant over. Glassy eyes swivelling in their sockets it took the man a moment to settle on her, a lurch in her stomach following when a weak smile cracked his bruised lips apart.

Dangerously pale the soldier's skin was clammy, deep purple circles almost hollowed out the eyes. The man laying on {Name}'s kitchen table, was seconds from death's snare.

Slowly the soldier reached out toward {Name}, the arm shaking with the effort {Name} met his hand in the middle. Fingers closing around her own {Name} was shocked by the slither of strength the man still possessed, the hold almost frighteningly tight for a person in his condition.

Wanting freedom from the unnaturally cold hand {Name} paused when the man attempted to speak. Words jumbled in a wet rasp {Name} frowned, a finger sliding back her hair to tuck behind the ear she leant in closer to him.

"D-does it hurt?"

Slurring out in French the man's breath tickled, the question confusing, {Name} raised her head once more. Eyes meeting {Name} froze when she looked down at him. The man was crying, his fingers trying to keep a firm hold on her hand {Name} cupped it tightly between her own.

The soldier wanted to know if dying hurt.

Every inch of her wanted to torment him, feed his fear and describe it in a horrific image. {Name} would have, if not for her head and heart being in disagreement.

"No. It doesn't hurt."

At the response the soldier gave a slow bobbing of the head, the gold-flecked eyes never once wavering from her face as the corner of his mouth twitched up.

Drawing in a sharp breath {Name} couldn't help but stare. In that moment {Name} allowed herself to properly look at the man, the weak but somehow cocky smile removing the fatigue of his war-weary face.

The soldier was not a man, but a young teenager. Eighteen at most, and already at the end of his life. Enemy or not {Name} could not help but think how cruel it was. The soldier had barely tasted life, and now he never would.

Somewhere a mother would be weeping for her son, possibly her only son, that was laying on a kitchen table, dying. No family or loved ones at his side, to soothe him.

Forgetting that the boy laying on the table was most likely the reason that Levi was no longer breathing, {Name} took a hand away from his, raw fingers combing lightly through the short crop of hair. Two fingers sliding down the soldier's palm she pressed them into his wrist, seeking out his pulse {Name} felt her throat constrict tightly. Counting between each pulse slowly grew longer, the beat growing fainter with each number she whispered.

It wouldn't be long, he was almost there.

"Danke." Rasping out the word, the soldier's voice barely reached {Name}, with a furrow of the brow {Name} felt the man's hand go slack, a rattling breath pushing through barely parted lips {Name} snapped her gaze to the soldier's eyes.

Taking the hand off the soldier's hair {Name} gently brought it down his face, the lids of his lifeless eyes pushed down with the motion she set his hand back against his side.

Death was not new to {Name}. It came part and parcel with her profession. Yet none left her feeling quite so empty as the young man laying on her kitchen table did.

Rolling the watch at her wrist around {Name} took note of the time. As suspected, he'd not made it through the night. The minute and hour hand dancing over to land neatly together on the twelve. The soldier had been seconds off from midnight, so close to meeting another day, the opportunity robbed from him.

Pressing the back of a hand to her mouth {Name} shook her thoughts out. There was not a chance that she was about to sympathise with the recently deceased German.

From the floor above a spring creaked, one of the soldiers turning in one of the beds it made {Name}'s hand clench.

They'd come to her home, taken the life of her husband then had the gall to ask for her to save the life of their comrade. A task she'd failed to complete, but one they clearly did not care too much about.

Though the soldier had remained unconscious for the best part of the day, they'd readily made themselves at home, pilfering what small supplies {Name} had, before taking up her beds as if this was their second home.

Not one of them remained in the kitchen to oversee the outcome of the soldier.

As the thoughts consumed {Name}, feeding her anger and burrowing deeper the hatred she felt towards the men occupying her home, it gave birth to a new thought.

No one was watching her.

Heart racing {Name} clutched at her churning stomach. Now was the only chance gifted her, one that she could not waste. Breath hitching {Name} listened closely to the sounds above, searching for possible movement other than that of the soldiers stirring in their sleep.

It was quiet.

Though {Name} was certain they were all asleep, she could not be sure without going to check, but doing so would cost her time.

In a nervous fit of excitement {Name} crept towards the kitchen door, peeking out into the hallway she found it empty. Taking extra care in being quiet {Name} crept towards the bannister, the coat she'd thrown over it earlier still hanging in a disorganised fashion she peeled it away slowly, slipping both arms in quickly the skin of her arms tingled.

Caught somewhere between excitement and fear {Name} found herself filled with an unexpected amount of energy. Feet itching to start moving, her hands wrung together, palms sweaty a few quick strides brought {Name} to the front door.

In some oddly pieced logic {Name} guessed they'd expect it of her to try to slip out the back. It led to the woodland after all, and that was where she'd attempted her first escape too. This time, {Name} would head out towards the closest village.

Though, giving that was the general direction the Germans had come from, it was potentially a case of leaping from one danger to another.

With that in mind {Name} considered heading west to the neighbouring farm, it was long since abandoned and the last she'd seen it had fallen into disrepair, but it was better than staying.

The cottage was no longer her home, but instead, a carcass of memories and could have beens.

Puffing out her cheeks with a deep breath, she held onto it as the door handle twisted, the door popping open without a sound {Name} created enough space for her to slip out.

Under the moonlight the fields appeared to glow, the light reflecting off the untouched snow it was like nature's very own night-light. Releasing the stored breath {Name} watched the cloudburst twist and curl before it was overtaken by another rush of breath.

The air still, {Name} took some time to indulge in its tranquillity, the small taste of peacefulness filling her with a calm, it helped clear up her jumbled thoughts. In the mix of her panic to get away, {Name} almost forgot the prospect of the upstairs windows.

It was most likely the reason no one was downstairs, they could keep watch over both the front and back of the house via the bedroom windows.

Keeping close to the wall {Name} walked back along the side of the building, from there she could make it down to the barn and stay out of view, the real trial would begin at the barn.

There was always the option to move on foot, but given her earlier attempt at running, they'd catch up in no time. Unlike before {Name} did not believe they'd be so lenient with her.

The purpose of keeping her breathing had died with the German boy still on the kitchen table. Which left only one viable option, that would allow her to make a greater distance between them and herself in a short amount of time.

Decided on the plan of escape {Name} pushed across the garden, hands rubbing together for warmth she cupped them lightly every so often to breathe in the gap, providing a little more warmth. At that moment, {Name} could not afford to have numb, or chill bitten fingers.

Ears keenly listening for any other foot fall other than her own {Name}'s chest tightened with the building anxiety. Things were going too smoothly, even sparing a glance back at the house she found nothing moving.

No shadows, no give away little clouds of breath, just silence. It unnerved {Name} more than the prospect of finding someone on her trail, but still it did not stop her in her bid for freedom.

Taking the last few metres to the barn in a brisk run {Name} eased off the latch, one bright red door swinging open {Name} flinched when it groaned. Fingers curling around the door she paused, eyes darting back towards the cottage she swallowed down the lump in her throat. If the soldier's had heard it, she could not waste time checking. That in mind {Name} slipped inside, the heavy scent of dust and hay scratching at the back of her throat.

With the soft rustle of hay underfoot {Name}'s arms spread wide, fingers feeling through the darkness two sharp clicks of the tongue echoed through the barn, bouncing off the walls until they hit back against her ears.

A prolonged silence followed, until a gentle whinny and the impatient scratch of a hoof replied, telling {Name} which direction she needed to go.

Relieved at the sound {Name}'s heart gave a joyous leap, the tips of her fingers hitting against the splintered gate they traversed until they met with the open air. Another set of clicks and a large, wet nose pushed against {Name}'s palms, pushing and nudging for attention the stallion huffed heatedly when {Name}'s hands patted the side of the stallion's face.

Head bowing {Name} knocked it lightly against Farlan's, a gentle whinny sounding in reply to the contact {Name} searched blindly for the gates latch. Swinging open in a wide arc Farlan reared up, the powerful steeds hooves clattering across the hay, elated at being let out.

"Come, Farlan." With a hand on the horse's shoulder {Name} felt relieved when he trotted calmly at her side. Being Levi's horse, Farlan was a little trickster when it came to {Name}. Often nipping and biting at her, and outright refusing to allow {Name} to mount, Farlan was thankfully compliant. Offering a crumbled sugar cube {Name} smiled when Farlam lapped it up, a hand gently combing through the sandy mane he possessed, she walked beside him towards the door.

Steadying Farlan by the barn door {Name} now adjusted to the darkness, sought out a saddle. Using gentle pats and words to keep Farlan steady {Name} came to the last part, getting the bit in Farlan's mouth. Gripped in both hands {Name} approached Farlan, his dark eyes blinking down at her {Name} panicked when he looked ready to rear up.

"Please, Farlan, please!"

Whispering her pleas roughly {Name} held out a hand, fingers stroking down his long nose to soothe the stallion, hoping that he'd allow her to put the bit in his mouth with some gentle encouragement.

A huff of breath blew the loose hair out of {Name}'s face before Farlan trotted forward, mouth open and ready to take the bit {Name} was almost giddy in her relief.

Saddled up, and ready to go {Name} stepped into the first stirrup, swinging up into the saddle she took a firm hold on the reigns. With two sharp taps on Farlan's side, he trotted calmly out of the barn.

In the time {Name} had been in the barn a rough wind started up. The field no longer calm and peaceful as the wind picked up the loose snow, blowing it across the field like a sand storm her hair whipped wildly across her face, obscuring her view, but not enough that she could miss the pair of cold blue eyes trained on her.

The metallic click of a gun being loaded stole {Name}'s attention. Eyes sliding to the right the breath caught in her throat.

Against the blizzard, a pair of turquoise eyes shone brightly. Narrowed and focused the rifle levelled to his shoulder, the muzzle pointed squarely at {Name}.

Swallowing {Name}'s eyes burned, too scared to blink a tug on the reigns brought Farlan to a halt. The blue-eyed German being the only thing stopping the turquoise eyed one from shooting, his left hand was held up, two fingers extended in some form of halt signal.

"Bastards!"

Cursing under breath {Name} felt the rigidity in her body lapse when the blue-eyed German lowered his hand to his side. Eyes flicking to the armed man {Name} expected him to open fire, instead the weapon lowered, though his finger remained on the trigger.

Looking back {Name} held tighter on the reins when the blue-eyed man approached slowly, a hand out he patted Farlan calmly, walking around until he stood beside {Name}. A half-smile curving the corner of his mouth the man extended a gloved hand, silently gesturing {Name} to dismount.

"I thought you would have learnt from last time Fraulein," fingers curling around the small slack in the reigns {Name} watched the smile bleed away into a cold and calculating one "You can not run." Mocking {Name}'s first escape attempt a curve formed in her brow, they no longer needed her, there was nothing she knew that could be harmful to them if they let her go.

Teeth gritting {Name} turned away from the German, an almost haughty laugh sounding from an unknown source of bravery she gave Farlan a gentle pat on the shoulder

"Farlan."

As if Farlan himself was laughing a set of breathy whinny came from him. The turquoise eyed soldier stepping forward almost conveniently, three sharp clicks of {Name}'s tongue, reminiscent of Levi's, and Farlans back leg kicked out.

Wet and ragged breaths told {Name} that Farlan hit his target, a gentle tug on the reins bringing him back under control {Name} stared back at the blue-eyed German still standing beside her.

"Fine control you have there." with the hand moving up the reigns until the larger hand settled over {Name}'s the blue-eyed man gave a sharp, and forceful pull. Dismounted {Name} fell hard against the snow, the impact almost winding her a quick roll took her away from Farlan's stamping hooves.

Dragging her aching body on all fours {Name} froze when a set of dusted boots entered her vision. Looking up through watering eyes {Name} slowly pushed back, sitting on her legs, she hung her head in defeat when the click of a gun sounded.

Cold metal giving a firm kiss to the top of {Name}'s head, her fingers bunched tightly in the cotton trousers she wore.

{Name} almost smiled.

At least {Name} had tried. That was all she could have done, the thought made her chest swell. In a few short minutes, she'd be joining with Levi, that was a freedom all by itself.

Mentally prepared {Name} sat calmly awaiting her sentence. The man was clearly unwavering, the arm steady she couldn't even feel a single tremor in the gun pointed at her.

"Giving up already, Fraulein?"

Slowly the man dropped until he crouched in front of {Name}. Eyes meeting steadily a charming smile disarmed {Name}, with the handgun withdrawn the man rested the arm on a strong thigh.

The free hand he possessed taking a firm hold on {Name}'s chin, a meticulous application of pressure forcing {Name} to move in toward him.

"Your defiance is admirable, if not a little troublesome," speaking as though he was praising {Name} a brow arched sharply causing the man to laugh "We need a medic. Our last one died." Waving the gun still in his hand in some form of warning {Name} swallowed sharply "If you behave Fraulein, no harm will come to you. That you have my word on." removing his hold {Name} angled away as far as she could without falling over.

With the offer dangled as if it was a temptation {Name} stared at the man almost dumbfounded. How could she possibly act as their medic? Let alone trust that no harm would come her way when they were at war. If not being shot by them, it could be by another. Possibly a bomb, grenade or by a landmine.

"Nein!"

Growling out the refusal in the man's mother tongue, a snippet of satisfaction was felt at the man's genuine surprise at her clear pronunciation. The single word barely marred by her accent, unlike their poorly enunciated French {Name}'s chin jutted up to add weight to her decline of the offer.

Gripping his chin the man's eyes fell to a close, fingers curled to cover his mouth {Name} caught the faint sound of a laugh being stifled.

"Forgive me Fraulein, you seem to have misunderstood," with the hand falling away his expression became icy "I wasn't giving you an option."

"Neither am I," in a snap {Name} responded, unsure whether it was exhaustion, or simply frayed nerves, all {Name} knew was that she was suddenly possessed by a lion-like courage "With my knowledge I can kill you in a heartbeat, if you entrust your medical care to me."

Throwing out the threat, that both parties were as much of a danger to each other {Name} pressed her mouth into a thin line. Breath held as a tenseness spread between them, {Name} flicked her gaze to the soldier Farlan had kicked, the snow around him speckled red as he continued to hack and cough.

"You're quite amusing Fraulein, but your threat is a hollow one," hand once more at her face, he pushed back the strands of hair that covered the scar at her temple, a quizzical look flickered over his calm visage briefly "Even now, your instinct is to help Eren," fingers curling back when {Name} tossed her head away from his touch, a smile eased the tenseness in his face "You haven't got it in you to kill."

Sucking her cheeks in between her teeth, she bit down hard on the inside of her mouth. The man had {Name} there, even with the soldier they'd previously asked for her to give aid, she could have easily made him suffer more than he had. Made his death a slow and agonising one, but instead, she'd made his passing a clean, and calm one.

With a gentle sigh, the man stood up slowly, a hand once more held out to {Name} a swipe of her hand batted it away. Bringing herself up from the floor {Name} brushed the snow away from her clothes, fingers twisting in her hair it was deftly tied back.

"He'll be fine. No strenuous activity, and plenty of rest." Offering the advice {Name} looked towards the buckled over German, a tanned hand pressed to his chest he spat out another mouthful of blood. The turquoise of his eyes giving the rage in them a far more fiery perception {Name} looked back at the blue-eyed German.

Though not openly, it was clear that he was pleased by her change of mind. {Name} however, loathed her decision, and herself. For all the fight she'd had, it was sucked out of her just as quickly as it was gained.

It was clear they were not going to offer her an easy way out. The knowledge she possessed clearly too valuable, and her will to weak.

Tipping back her head, {Name} sighed heavily. The star littered sky offering a serene image that belied the bloodshed and chaos that was tearing up not just her country, but many others. It's untainted colours offering {Name} a slither of hope, that one day she'd overcome her fear of death, and allow her to embrace it with open arms.

"Forgive me."

Whispering to the night sky {Name} could only hope that Levi was not playing witness to the weakness she'd fallen prey to.

A rush of hot breath atop her head brought {Name}'s head down.

The familiar crunch of Farlan chewing at her hair both welcome and unwelcome a rough lurch forward to escape the hair chewing stallion sent her unexpectedly into the chest of the man who now had her life dangling within his hands.

Having tried to jump back {Name} found her arms pinned by the large hands the man possessed. Body becoming rigid when he pressed the side of his face against her own, {Name} felt a sharp pain slash through her chest at his cruel words.

"The dead do not listen. So they can not forgive."

Breaking away the man turned sharply on his heels, right hand raised {Name} made a grab at her throat when he dangled a silver chain from between his fingers.

"I will keep this as insurance of your good behaviour."

Slipping a finger through the misshapen ring held on the chain the man curled his finger around it.

"Welcome to the Schutzstaffel," speaking almost crudely of taking {Name} into their fold he ran his thumb over Levi's wedding ring "I am Erwin Smith, and it's a pleasure to have you." Catching the almost coy smile on his profile {Name}'s jaw flexed to keep her tongue at bay.



Chapter Text

An impatient huff of breath made {Name} turn. Met with Farlan's sad gaze a hand gently patted his nose, a tired smile offered in the hope that it would ease the stallion {Name} removed the reins.

Free of the riding equipment Farlan scraped at the snow with a hoof, itching to remain out and roam freely {Name} stepped aside, a firm pat to his thigh Farlan whinnied as he set off at a gentle trot.

Watching Farlan walk free {Name} envied the stallion, the thought ridiculous enough that it gave her a genuine reason to laugh. Who in their right mind envied a horse after all.

Finally, a dry cough left the man Farlan kicked if memory served his name was Eren, or at the very least that was what she had been told his name was.

Rounding on the man {Name} eyed him with faint amusement, the dark curve and print of a horseshoe marked the very edge of his jaw. If Eren were any closer to Farlan when he kicked out, the damage would have been more substantial. As it was, it looked to of caught the tanned male across the jaw and shoulder.

"I suggest you sleep it off."

Offering a snippet of advice {Name} was not surprised when a scoff came in reply. Snatching up the rifle Eren gave a jut of his head, ordering {Name} to move a small smile curved her mouth. Forced to swing the gun on his shoulder due to being unable to lift the right arm without cursing through the pain, {Name} put Eren onto the mental tally that she was keeping.

The first being the man she'd who's nose she had broken. The second one she hit with the butt of a gun, and now Eren, whom she had made Farlan kick.

It was not going to bode well for {Name} if she kept it up. Even with the promise given that no harm would come her way, it could not be assured when {Name} intentionally acted in a way that would warrant a retaliation. Even if merely prompted by her fear of them, there would only be so much they would put up with.

Keeping that in mind {Name} swept by the man who she was now essentially the puppet of, head bowed {Name} refused even to look back at him. Moving across the garden {Name} ignored the two soldiers stationed either side of the door.

It looked as though the whole house had woken up when {Name} stepped over the threshold. From the kitchen {Name} could hear the shuffling of boots across the floor, the scratch and groaning of wood told {Name} that they were removing their deceased comrade.

Taking the stairs {Name} crossed paths with another soldier, bleary-eyed his dark hair stuck out at odd angles, the palm of a hand kneading at one eye {Name} nearly tripped when he smiled down at her. Without returning the gesture {Name} carried on up the stairs, hitting the landing {Name} shrugged off her coat.

Following the source of her current annoyance to the bedroom on her immediate right, she threw the door open with little thought, and without knocking.

Standing in the doorway {Name} watched as three fully grown men tripped over themselves. In varying states of undress, they made grabs for the closest thing to conceal their exposed skin, all the while barking out complaints of her presence in a confused mixture of French and German.

With a shake of the head {Name} scanned over each of them quickly, singling out the person she had been looking for a firm nod was given.

Releasing the door handle {Name} pushed into the bedroom, clambering onto the bed {Name} made a grab for the burly blonde haired male. Eyes narrowing {Name} heard what was slowly becoming an all too familiar click of a gun.

Maybe they were under the belief {Name} was intending harm, or that she was goading them. In truth, her reason for being latched onto the shirt of the blonde haired male was very simple.

Closing in on the man's nose {Name} brought the other hand to wrap around the back of the male's neck, keeping him still she wriggled the bone until it clicked.

Releasing quickly {Name} listened as the man inhaled deeply. The sound of the air rushing up his nasal passages almost like music in comparison to the aggravating whistle his nose had been making.

"That's much better."

Hands placed together almost as if {Name} was in prayer she turned away, once more clambering across the bed to hop off the side she'd climbed on. Dismissing the bewildered stares {Name} slipped out of the room, thankful that the two newer arrivals at the door let her pass without a fuss.

Whether it was merely frayed nerves, or that her exhaustion temporarily made her act far more boldly {Name} was unsure. All that was certain was that {Name} needed to sleep, and listening to the whistle of the soldier's broken nose was irritating.

Mouth parting with a yawn {Name} was grateful to find her bedroom unoccupied, and untouched.

Closing the door {Name} made certain to twist the key, the thunk of the lock sliding into place allowing {Name} to feel at ease, even if only temporarily.

This room was the only place remaining; that was untainted by them. It was her small sanctuary, a place she could finally allow the tension in her body to be released.

Sat on the edge of the bed {Name} used her feet to push each boot off.

Far too tired to follow her usual night time routine {Name} crawled across the bed, throwing the blankets over {Name} dragged the top pillow from Levi's side of the bed.

Hugging it {Name} inhaled, his lingering scent offered a small amount of comfort, face burying in the pillow {Name} finally allowed herself to do what she'd been wanting to all day.

Biting into the pillow {Name}'s body shook with the overwhelming rush of emotion. It wasn't so much crying, but more like she was screaming. The sound only dampened when the pillow was stuffed in her mouth.

"You can't lay in bed all day."

Grumbling {Name} burrowed into the blankets, fingers clawing tightly to the edges to stop Levi pulling them off.

A click of the tongue sounding from the corner of the room made {Name} sign in reply. It was clear that Levi was not going to allow {Name} a lay in that morning.

Bringing her head out from under the sheets {Name} blinked slowly, adjusting to the warm glow of the gaslights her fingers rubbed at the sleep in the corner of each eye.

Outside it was still dark, the winter sun barely on the horizon line.

"Levi, what time is it?"

Sitting up in the bed {Name} watched him move around to the end, her coat draped over Levi's arm he threw it at her.

"Come on."

Without another word Levi left the bedroom, leaving {Name} confused. Curiosity peaked {Name} clambered from the bed, dressing hastily she tapped the front of each boot on the floor so that they sat comfortably.

Throwing on the coat {Name} left the room at a brisk pace, coming to a pause at the foot of the stairs she found the front door wide open.

Approaching it with caution {Name} gave a startled yelp at the sight that met her. Fields painted white, the snow fell in a gentle flurry, caught in the light of the still present moon it appeared to glow.

At the edge of the garden {Name} made out Levi's silhouette and two others. Leaving the cottage {Name} almost ran down the garden, carried by confusion and excitement {Name} came to a stop at the brick wall that encircled their home.

Stood between a sandy brown horse, and a red one Levi smiled, both horses saddled up and ready for riding he held out the reins for the red horse to {Name}.

"You said you always wanted to ride a horse in the snow."

Giving an explanation for the unexpected wake up {Name} felt her chest flutter, climbing over the wall she took the reins from Levi, a hand gently reaching to pat her designated horse she turned to Levi.

"What's his name?"

With a whinny, the reddish horse nudged {Name}'s hand playfully

"It's a she, and her name is Isabelle."

With an embarrassed laugh {Name} nodded towards the horse Levi was preparing to mount, asking without speaking for the horse's name.

"This is Farlan, Isabelle's brother."

Smiling {Name} held out a hand cautiously, unsure if Farlan would be as happy as Isabelle with contact from a stranger. A huff of breath from Farlan told {Name} that it was not the case, nonetheless she giggled at the tickle it gave her hand.

Mounting up {Name} took a moment to steady Isabelle, Levi far more experienced sat calmly waiting until Isabelle settled down.

With a click of the tongue and a gentle snap of the reins they moved in a gentle trot, the hooves crunching across the snow {Name} couldn't help but admire how beautiful the scenery was. It was almost like they were in their own little world, with nothing but them, their horses and their home.

A gentle nudge at her side made {Name} look across, beside her Levi was watching intently, eyes narrowed as if he was in thought.

"Do you miss it?"

Cocking her head {Name} didn't understand Levi's question.

"Miss what?"

With a look of annoyance Levi faced forward, a click of the tongue given {Name} could tell he believed her to be playing dumb.

"Living in the city. Moving away from the place you were born must have been difficult. It must be boring here for you?"

Straightening up, a moment of silence taken to thinking about it. Of course, the countryside was very different. It was quiet, and a good long walk to the nearest village, but {Name} was never bored, neither was there any regret in leaving the city.

"I do not miss it at all. Even if I did, it is a little late now that we are married."

With a smile {Name} gave Isabelle a quick tap, setting her into a light gallop with an excited laugh, Levi cursing {Name} for breaking off on her own he soon set Farlan to match with Isabelle's speed.

The chilled wind that accompanied the first snow of the winter bit at {Name}'s face, but still she remained smiling, happy that Levi had remembered such a small thing that she'd mentioned.

Slowly {Name} woke.

Rolling onto her back a hand draped over the eyes, they felt raw and puffy from the lengthy time spent crying.

In truth {Name} couldn't even recall when she'd fallen asleep. With an arm fanning out to the empty side of the bed, a small part of {Name} wished that it was cold simply due to Levi having woken early.

Even though it was what {Name} wanted his absence to be, she knew that living in denial was unhealthy, and {Name} would simply have to make with seeing him in the memories that currently replaced her dreams.

Throwing back the blankets {Name} slipped from the bed, a hand scratching idly at her bed hair {Name} finally caught sight of her appearance in the reflection of the dresser mirror.

Dried blood dyed her hair, small remnant stains littering both neck and face.

{Name}'s reflection reminded her of the days she spent in the trench. Private Tommy having given her a mirror to help clean up her face, the only thing missing was the mud and the wide glassy-eyed stare.

Pushing off the bed {Name} quickly gathered up a fresh set of clothes, hurrying to unlock the bedroom door it opened a crack.

Peeking out into the corridor {Name} watched the broad back of one of the soldiers descend the staircase, waiting for a few more seconds before slipping out the bedroom she crept across the landing to the bathroom.

Reaching for the handle {Name} hesitated, choosing instead to knock and save herself a potentially mortifying experience.

Of course {Name} was no stranger to the naked male body, being a nurse, she saw plenty.

It was simply a matter of not wanting to see any more of their undressed bodies than what was entirely necessary. Even the night before when {Name} waltzed into the room; she had received more than an eyeful.

Groaning {Name}'s head hit against the door, with no one responding to the knock, she was safe in that it was empty.

Taking care to lock the bathroom door {Name} turned the taps of the bath. The room was slowly filling with steam when {Name} undressed, the soiled clothes kicked into the corner of the room she ran a hand over each shoulder.

The muscles felt tight and knotted, fingers kneading at them it gave a small relief, but it was not a wholesome one.

Testing the water temperature {Name} hummed contently, slipping into the hot water she cupped her hands, collecting some of the water to splash over her face, and clear away the blood.

With soap in hand {Name} scrubbed at every inch of her body, the need to feel clean making her almost frantic. It was only when the soap slipped from her hands that {Name} stopped.  

Watching the small bubbled up square slide across the tiles {Name} gulped back the bile rising in her throat.

A pair of polished boots parted sharply, the soap hitting the lip of the sole, it flipped up against the shining leather.

Looking up with a snap {Name} felt her face flush.

Knees brought up {Name}'s arms took some time to coordinate in her panic to cover her exposed chest.

"Calm yourself Fraulein." bending to retrieve the bar of soap {Name} flinched when Erwin threw the soap back into the bath. The water making a popping sound, the soap created ripples against her legs.

The door was locked, {Name} made certain of it. So now begged the question, how did man get in?

Curled into an almost foetal position {Name} could not bring herself to look at him, face still burning she felt lost for words.

"How did you--?"

Cut off from asking the all important question {Name} frowned when a towel was shaken out beside her, held up almost like a modesty panel she stared at it for a long moment.

"I was already in here. Apparently, you just didn't notice."

Answering {Name}'s question the man who'd introduced himself the night before as Erwin Schmid shook the towel, apparently trying to encourage {Name} to step out of the bath.

"And you did not think to announce yourself? I knocked on the door!"

Arguing against Erwin's answer, she remained in the bath. There was not a chance that she would step out, not with him stood there and only a towel was separating them.

"Did you Fraulein? I must not have heard it."

Erwin's voice held an edge of amusement as the situation was of some entertainment value to him. It would not have been an issue if it was not at {Name}'s expense.

Mouth pinching together {Name} slapped a hand against the water, how could he treat a total invasion of privacy as a laughing matter?

It was her home, not theirs. Even with the situation being what it was, {Name} was savvy enough to have knocked on the door.

Any respectable man would have announced his presence before allowing a woman to undress.

"You perverted wretch!" almost shouting {Name} made a grab for the towel.

Not trusting Erwin not to remove it once she was stood up, and totally exposed she made an awkward show of rolling the towel up.

Shoving each end of the bath sheet under an arm {Name} stood up, the towel unrolling as her body left the water it dropped to her knees, keeping her covered.

Stepping out of the bathtub {Name} threw her head forward. Wrapping a towel around her wet hair {Name} could feel Erwin staring at her back. Teeth grinding {Name} glanced back at him, eyes narrowing at his almost inquisitive stare.

With one arm crossed over, the other propped on top, the fingers gripping at his chin, the index tapped against his bottom lip.

"Forgive my intrusion Fraulein," speaking quite softly Erwin's head raised "But how long were you married?"

A vicious twist in {Name}'s gut at the use of what was now the proper tense of her marriage, she stuttered the answer.

Repositioning himself from the perch he'd made of the door frame that led to the other part of the bathroom, Erwin gave a slow nod.

"Eight years is a relatively long time."

Taken aback by the comment {Name} could not understand where his line of questioning was going, so she remained silent.

"From what I saw of you," he paused, a hand raising to halt {Name} from throwing the bottle she'd snatched up from the nearby shelf {Name} lowered her arm slightly, but did not put the bottle down "You haven't bared any children."

Swallowing the bottle slipped out {Name}'s hand.

Glass smashing when it met with the tiles a hand unconsciously pressed against the scar that stretched from hip to hip on her abdomen.

"I'm barren."

Explaining stiffly {Name} picked herself out of the glass field she created.

A hand wiping across her mouth {Name} crouched, slowly collecting the segments of glass to deposit in the sink, a temporary measure until she could clean it properly.

"Barren?" Erwin questioned quietly, his tone balancing somewhere between confusion and uncertainty.

Resting both hands on the knees {Name}'s head bowed slightly.

Why was {Name} even telling him, it was none of his concern. If anything, all she was giving him was more information to use against her. It was a sore point already that he'd seen her naked.

To tell him of her inability to bear a child, made her feel even more exposed than if she whipped off the towel and let him see every inch of her.

"That's all you need to know."

Almost choking on the words {Name} stood up quickly, moving to collect her clothes from the hamper she'd placed them on {Name} froze when Erwin's finger tapped at the scar on her temple.

"Does it have something to do with this?"

Pulling the towel on her head so it covered the indentation {Name} sighed heavily.

"Have you no understanding of a person's privacy," Losing patience, and thoroughly annoyed by the line of questioning Erwin was taking {Name} stepped around him, heading for the door "Or for that matter, how to act accordingly."

Twisting the lock {Name} welcomed the cold rush of the breeze in the hallway, a door or window was open somewhere "I have no intention of talking with you or your friends outside of what is to be expected of me."

Meeting Erwin in a dead-on stare, it peeved her that his mouth held a faint curve, which she was some source of amusement to him "So until I'm needed. Shut up!" Purposefully slamming the bathroom door {Name} ran the short distance to her bedroom.

 

Chapter Text

Pacing back and forth {Name} bit at her fingernails.

 

Since the bathroom encounter {Name} remained locked in her room, thankfully left alone it gave {Name} time to cool down, to assess the situation.

 

Though it was difficult when all her thoughts overtaken by food. The last meal she'd partaken in, was over a day ago, her hunger suppressed by the complete upheaval of her life.

 

Now, though, another loud rumble and gurgle told {Name} she needed to eat.

 

Unlocking the door {Name} felt a sharp thump hit upon her forehead. Fingers pressing over the offended area {Name} stepped back at the same moment the German did.

 

Apparently having opened the door at the exact moment he'd intended to knock, it was her forehead that received the knocking from the giant hand instead.

 

Eyes stretching wide as the man bumbled and stuttered an apology {Name} eventually shook off her surprise, her hands capturing the tall males wildly waving hands she pushed them back against his body.

 

Apparently, the man possessed some nervous habits, noting the slow crawl of a bead of sweat beginning at his hairline {Name} gave a breathy and equally nervous laugh.

 

"I'm sorry! I didn't mean to hit you!"

 

Almost shouting the apology {Name} scrambled to cover the male's mouth. Both hands pressed tightly over; they were as quickly taken back.

 

Wiping both hands down her trouser leg, {Name} shouldn't have been surprised by the thin layer of sweat that dampened the palms.

 

"It's fine. What did you want?"

 

Speaking slowly, for fear of exciting the males nervous habits again {Name} finally recognised the man as the one who'd smiled at her on the stairs the night before.

 

"Your wanted downstairs." Speaking a little more calmly the man stepped back, a finger scratching at his temple, he smiled again, a bit more sheepish than the first one "Sorry again."

 

Apparently feeling the need to apologise again {Name} sidestepped him. Wondering what they could need, {Name} followed the bumbling soldier, pausing when he stepped aside suddenly.

 

Between the open front door, and the garden a soldier lay. Chest puffing out with panting breaths {Name}'s eyes flicked down to the source of the pain.

 

Teeth bared as {Name} sucked in a breath; she could understand why no noise was made to alert her, but on the other hand, she couldn't grasp how their unit was still breathing.

 

In just over a day, one of them had died. One had his nose broken, one limping, one unable to use his arm for getting kicked by a horse of all things.

 

Now, one of them had his ankle in the snare of a hunting trap.

 

Standing over the soldier {Name} stared down at him, before shaking her head "Are you sure your medic didn't shoot himself?"

 

Grumbling as she moved out the door to take a look at the wound the soldiers head shot up from the floor "What was that?!" Shouting back at her, a wave of anger riled {Name}.

 

"I said you have to be the most hopeless group of soldiers I have ever seen," crouched beside the injured leg she purposely jabbed it, causing the man to hiss and whine "What kind of idiot puts his foot in a hunting trap, of all things, during a war?!"

 

Though he'd raised his head to rebuke, it quickly fell back. Satisfied {Name} gave a quick visual examination.

 

The trap wasn't too deep, at the very least he'd not tried prying it open, his boots having stopped the teeth going further in.

 

Feeling around the base of the trap {Name} sought out the release mechanism, finding it {Name} turned to the man lingering at the door.

 

In time {Name} would have to learn their names, rather than continuing in her mind calling them all bastards, and only adding a number to the end.

 

"I need towels, salt and my bag."

 

Giving the man a list he nodded, stepping over her to retrieve the things she'd asked for {Name} adjusted her body to a more comfortable position.

 

Placing a knee on the uninjured foot of the soldier {Name} closed index and thumb around the release mechanism, before pulling down a scarf from the hooks by the door. Waving it to get the man's attention he slowly propped himself up on his elbows.

 

"Tie this just below your knee," throwing it at him she adjusted her body as he sat up slowly, one of the other men coming forward to support his back "I need to reduce the blood flowing to the wound."

 

Though {Name} was sure he knew what the scarf was going to do, she felt the need to explain it.

 

Eventually, the man came back with the items {Name} asked him to retrieve, shuffling to the side {Name} told him to be ready with a towel.

 

"Once I release this, you need to push his leg up and keep it elevated." Speaking slowly to him, {Name} waited for some form of understanding, a stiff nod being all she received.

 

Pulling the release mechanism the teeth of the trap relaxed, allowing {Name} start to pull them out the man's leg, he kicked out, catching {Name} in the chest.

 

Shouting back up at him with a warning that if the trap sprung again, she'd be forced to amputate his foot, the soldier went an incredible white.

 

With understanding between them {Name} adjusted her positioning, the trap eased away, the soldier waiting ready with the towel moved to do his part.

 

Taking care not to catch her hand {Name} set beside the door.

 

With the threat out of the way, {Name} turned focus to her patient, a steady current of blood had already soaked through the towel, {Name} made them switch to a new one.

 

As it was, {Name} could not see the damage. Not with the boot and trouser leg in the way.

 

With a quick glance, {Name} spied the soldier holding up the man's leg, and attached to his hip was a sheathed blade, a perfect tool for what {Name} needed to do.

 

Without asking, or even giving a warning {Name} unclipped the blade, the man lurching in surprise {Name} felt the atmosphere tense up as the knife raised.

 

Slicing down the leg of the trousers, one hand untied the lace of his boot. Placing the handle of the knife between the teeth, {Name} loosened the slashed material from where it had been suctioned inside the boot.

 

With the blood filling up the leather making it difficult for {Name} to slip it off; {Name} didn't have time to waste on being gentle.

 

Bringing a leg out from where {Name} sat on it, a booted foot stretched out, hitting against the injured man's thigh she pushed against him, the boot slowly releasing.

 

With a final tug, the boot came free, in doing so, it sent blood splashing up the door frame.

 

Throwing the boot behind {Name} pulled off the blood-logged sock, roughly pushing up the slashed trouser leg she was finally able to take a look at the extent of damage the trap had done.

 

Spitting out the blade {Name} grabbed her bag, a fresh set of gloves pulled on {Name} used her index finger to push into one of the bites the trap had left.

 

Wriggling at the pain, {Name} told the man elevating the leg to hold it firmly.

 

With the leg still, she once more pushed into the wound, barely losing the tip of her finger she was relieved to find that the holes were not deep.

 

Packing wadding into the holes that dotted the man's leg, {Name} cleaned one, using the salt to wipe its edges to remove any lingering rust from the trap and to disinfect the opening.

 

Quickly threading up a stitching needle {Name} cut away the torn flap of skin that had covered the hole. It was beyond saving and would risk infection if stitched over.

 

With the needle ready {Name} pinched the hole together, pushing the needle through at its top, she pulled the stitching thread tight to bring the skin together.

 

Repeating the action {Name}'s mouth filled with air, running an arm across her brow she tapped the shoulder of the man who'd assisted her.

 

Offering the handle of the knife back to the man a small thanks was given for her use of it, in turn, he smiled, the blonde, brown scruff around his mouth softening his appearance.

 

"Danke," Taking back the knife he set it aside, his bloodstained hands slowly wiped on the one remaining clean towel.

 

"No need to thank me bastard thr--!" cutting herself off a little too late {Name}'s mouth pursed when he looked back at her.

 

Turning back to cleaning the leg she'd freshly stitched {Name} hummed nervously.

 

When it came down to their medical care, she felt as though it was possible for her to be assertive. Especially as they all appeared to be walking accidents, and had need of her.

 

The mindset having extended over into the aftercare, her temporary name for the man beside her, slipped out.

 

"So you've assigned us numbers then?" Apparently amused he tapped {Name}'s shoulder.

 

Swallowing nervously {Name} gave a sidelong glance "I don't know your names. So I've numbered you in order of meeting you." Answering his question quietly {Name} searched for any sign that he was going to react poorly to the news she'd numbered them all.

 

Instead, he laughed. With a hand cupping over his mouth, the broad shoulders trembled as he tried to compose himself better.

Somewhat bemused {Name} almost leapt out her skin when his large hand clapped down on her shoulder.

 

"You're an amusing little thing Fraulein," steadying his voice; a quick cough cleared his throat of laughter "My name's Mike."

 

Introducing himself the hand slipped away from {Name}'s shoulder, held out in offering {Name} stared at it for a moment before taking it.

 

Dwarfed by Mike's much larger hand {Name} was surprised by how lightly he held it, the gentle shake broke as he pointed to the quietly grumbling soldier she'd just patched up.

 

"This idiot is Gunther." patting the man's leg Mike gave a half smile when Gunther replied in German with something {Name} did not fully understand.

 

Though from a guess, it was far from polite.

 

With an unsure smile, {Name} tapped Gunther's leg, telling him to put it back down. Standing up {Name} stretched out her hands for Gunther to take, assisting the man to his feet, she moved under his arm to act as his support.

 

With some effort they managed to hop through to the living room, easing him onto a chair {Name} pulled up a footstool, a cushion placed on it Gunther gingerly rested his leg on it.

 

"I will bandage it later, but for now let it get some air."

 

With a nod given that Gunther understood, {Name} moved back out to the hallway.

 

It was a total mess.

 

Littered with bloodied towels, and other pieces {Name} had used to fix up the man's leg.

 

Sighing, {Name} knelt to collect the mess in a pile, bundling it inside one of the towels she carried it through to the kitchen.

 

Surprised to find the area scrubbed down {Name} could only see a faint stain from the man who'd died on the table.

 

Finding that the broken cups and plates she'd thrown to the floor were gone too, a brow crooked up.

 

It was not cleared up by her, so it left only the Germans.

 

Uncertain how to take their sudden propriety {Name} moved to the bin.

 

Dumping the towels in the bin she removed the set of gloves, letting them join the others before {Name} once more scrubbed her skin raw at the kitchen sink.

 

An angry growl reminded {Name} why she'd initially wanted to leave her room. Drying her hands slowly {Name} scoped out the kitchen.

 

The supplies at the start were limited, but with the unexpected extra mouths, things were in a more dire situation.

 

It had been {Name}'s intention the day they'd arrived to head out for supplies, of course, that plan failed, and she now doubted they would let her go.

 

Though with what {Name} knew of the war, her German guests were well behind enemy lines.

 

That in mind {Name} went to retrieve Farlan's reins from the corridor. A coat picked up off the hook {Name} threw it over her shoulders, searching the pocket {Name} was happy to find a somewhat crushed roll up.

 

Smoothing it out it was quickly lit, a deep inhale of the dry tobacco {Name} savoured the burn that spread over her tongue.

 

The tobacco supply was also small, and another good reason to go to the village.

 

Stepping out the front door {Name} made sure not to knock the trap, even though it had already triggered, she'd known them to snap suddenly.

 

Throwing down the roll-up, {Name} brought both hands to her mouth. With a high pitched whistle sounding across the field, {Name} slowly jogged down when Farlan answered the call and trotted happily up the field.

 

Leaning up against the wall {Name} found a small cluster of the soldiers, though only one of them was to {Name}'s interest and slight disapproval.

 

After their encounter that morning, Erwin was the very last person she wanted to see, or even have to speak with about anything.

 

Clicking her tongue {Name} held up the bit when Farlan pushed his nose against her face, a quiet whinny sounding he opened his mouth.

 

It seemed to have let him roam the field freely, put {Name} back in his favour.

 

"Fraulein?"

 

Erwin called for {Name}, though she chose to ignore him. Swinging a leg up onto the wall Farlan came to stand beside her, allowing her to mount quickly.

 

The coat she'd thrown over him the night before serving in place of a proper saddle it took a moment of fidgeting to get comfortable, Farlan remaining still as she moved around until a gentle tap to his side started him to a trot.

 

Steadying Farlan when they reached the small cluster of soldiers {Name} kept her focus on the direction of the village.

 

"I'm going for supplies. I won't be long." Giving the reason, {Name}, waited for any objections to be thrown out.

 

"On your own?" The question did not come from Erwin, but the man beside him.

 

Turning {Name} recognised him as the one she'd broken the nose of, but then fixed. Or as she called him in her head, bastard number one.

 

"Yes. I can't exactly take anyone with me."

 

Stating what should have been obvious {Name} gave a click of the tongue when the burly man tried to argue.

 

"Tell me, what do you think they will do if I trot in with one of you?"

 

Trying to keep the sarcasm from her voice, led to it sounding flat and monotone.

 

"Currently you have three that are utterly useless. Not including the dead one,"

 

Speaking factually {Name} was forced to tug at Farlan's reins as he became agitated, circling him slowly {Name} looked back towards the direction of the village.

 

"My supplies are limited, if one of you bungling idiots get shot, I can not drag you back here, nor could I assist as more than likely, I'd have taken one."

 

Presenting her argument, {Name} waited for one of them to counter.

 

Their silence was telling {Name} all she needed to know.

 

"I will go with you."

 

Taking a step forward the tan male {Name} knew to be Eren shot her a dirty look when she scoffed at the idea.

 

"Your French is horrible. They'd spot you a mile off," shooting down Eren's offer {Name} shook her head.

 

Giving assurance that she'd return {Name} snapped at Farlan's reins, setting off in a gentle trot.

 

"Try not to kill yourselves," calling back a hand waved her departure "Or at the very least, do so outside."

 

Half expecting a gun trained on her back {Name} was pleasantly surprised they let her go.

 

A quick glance over the shoulder reaffirming the matter that they'd allowed her to go {Name} leant forward, a firm pat given to Farlan's neck she allowed him to break out into a full run.

 

A small excited laughter bubbling up in her chest as the field became an almost blur {Name} relished the feeling of riding once more.

 

Even if doing it bareback was more than a little uncomfortable.

 

Hair whipping wildly {Name} entered the alternative path that cut through the wood, slowing Farlan to a more comfortable pace {Name} kept her ears open.

 

Even though her German guests were behind enemy lines, that much confirmed by the lack of a chaperone, it did not mean that {Name} was entirely safe on her own.

 

If they'd made it this far, there was potential for others to be lurking.

 

Approaching the village slowly {Name} was pleased to see that it was still relatively untouched by the war.

 

The quaint town was almost sleepy given that war was at its country's border.

 

The sloping paths busy with the villagers, it had not entirely escaped the fear. Though people were smiling, there was a tenseness about their movements.

 

Leading Farlan to a post {Name} dismounted slowly. Hands rubbing at her inner thighs {Name} stretched out her legs slowly.

 

Riding bareback was not the wisest choice she'd made in a while, not when both legs were left aching.

 

After a few moments, {Name} felt like she could walk normally, tying Farlan up {Name} gave him a gentle pat before setting off into the village's centre.

 

It was a pleasant change, to hear her language without the thick accents of another. The voices of the people passing, some stopping to greet her, was like music to the ears.

 

It made {Name} feel at home once more.

 

Approaching the market stall {Name} was ready to call out to its owner, her voice catching when someone called out her name.

 

For a fleeting moment, panic set in, thinking one of the soldiers had followed her.

 

Turning slowly {Name} was relieved to see a familiar, and friendly face.

 

Dressed up in the army uniform, and with a broad and cocky grin spread over the males face. Jogging over to close the distance {Name} smiled up at the man when he reached her.

 

"It's been a while, Jean."

 

Greeting Jean almost timidly {Name} frowned when his smile faded. A hand running up his cropped two-tone hair, Jean groaned quietly.

 

"I keep forgetting that you're married. I got myself worked up seeing you here." With his usual cocky manner, Jean cocked a brow "Unless that's changed?" Sounding almost hopeful of the idea Jean took a moment, face morphing into horror on realising what he'd said.

 

Face crestfallen {Name}'s head shook slowly "Still married." Answering meekly {Name} averted her gaze from Jean's mortified expression.

 

Typically their greetings followed the same line, Jean jokingly asking if Levi was still in the picture, it was regularly followed up with the man in question appearing, and giving Jean a clout.

 

It hollowed out {Name}'s chest, knowing that it would never happen again.

 

Trying to recover Jean gave {Name}'s shoulder a gentle nudge "I'm sorry, I didn't think."

 

With a small laugh, {Name} gave a shrug "When do you?"

 

With feigned offence, Jean dramatically placed a hand on his chest "You wound me, madam."

 

Laughing over their awkward greeting {Name} turned back to the vegetable stall, quickly giving a list of what she wanted {Name} delved into her pockets for the required coinage.

 

Thankful she'd picked up the right coat on her departure, the large cloth bag passed over, once the coins settled in the fat woman's hand.

 

Without asking Jean took the bag from {Name}, the usual cocky smile that he wore showing when she attempted to protest "It's the least I can do."

 

Nodding her thanks {Name} turned, the next thing on her list was the bakery. Though the selection as of late was always small, it was better than nothing.

 

In time, both Jean and {Name}'s arms laden. Bulk buying would hopefully mean not having to venture out too soon.

 

As long as the men went gently on the food this time.

 

Stopping dead in her tracks Jean continued forward, speaking of things he'd witnessed at the front line, and how thankful he was to be on leave.

 

{Name} was free. Alone, completely alone.

 

The realisation hitting {Name} like a rush of cold water, her aching arms almost dropped the bags that she was carrying.

 

{Name} Could very quickly take off.

 

Leave and be free of the Germans.

 

"Jean?"

 

Finally stopping in his tangent Jean turned, a fair distance had grown between them {Name} almost tripped in her hurry to catch up with him.

 

"Jean, I need your--!"

 

As quickly as the words were to rush out, they swallowed down.

 

In the corner of {Name}'s eye, a figure loomed.

 

Resting casually atop a barrel, a cigarette hanging from the edge of his mouth it moved up with the slow curve of the smirk that adorned the lips.

 

Standing at her side, Jean gave {Name} an encouraging nudge with his elbow, hands filled with the shopping she had done his head tilted when {Name} remained silent.

 

"What is it?"

 

Bringing his head up Jean scoped the area, eyes narrowed when they landed on the man {Name} had also taken notice of.

 

Dressed down in the slightly stained shirt, his grey uniform trousers and boots now easily passed for casual wear.

 

Shirt sleeves rolled up above the elbow Mike retrieved the cigarette slowly, the smoke drifting out casually and calmly {Name} almost keeled over with his brazen attitude.

 

"Who is that? I do not recognise him." Jean's question roused {Name} out of her almost stupor.

 

With a quick shake of the head, a shoulder rose in a half-hearted shrug. It would be easy to say she did not know; it would be even easier to out the man staring at her.

 

Weighing up the options {Name} gave the area a quick scope.

 

Jean in truth was the only soldier she had seen, the only other males being small children.

 

Outing Mike for who he was, would put everyone in the village at risk. Jean included.

 

"Are you alone?" Asking quietly {Name} leant in towards Jean, head turning to reduce the chance Mike would be able to read her lips Jean snapped his head down, brows knitting at the question.

 

"Yes," seeming to understand what she was asking Jean moved to stand in front of her, but not enough that Mike was out of his view "Is there something you need to tell me?"

 

Voicing the concern {Name} gave a shake of the head.

 

"I do not know whom he is," lying quickly {Name} felt her stomach knot, she did not like it.

 

Lying to a dear friend, lying about the danger sitting on his doorstep.

 

It made {Name} feel sick, but she could not be selfish, she wanted to be free of them, but it was not worth the lives of the innocent people around her "I was merely asking if he could have come back with you or any others."

 

Taking {Name}'s lie at face value, Jean gave a small, thoughtful hum.

 

"Probably just passing through then." Jean reasoned, a small smile lighting up the corner of his mouth "As long as he is not my competition?"

 

Thankful Jean's suspicion faded as quickly as it roused {Name} managed a weak laugh.

 

Signalling Jean to start moving once more {Name} spared a glance at Mike, his posture looking far more relaxed than it should have been for where he was, {Name} tore her gaze away.

 

For now {Name} wanted to enjoy Jean's company, to forget the mess that she found herself in, and act like she was not on the verge of an emotional breakdown.

 

Turning to the window, {Name} sighed heavily. With it being winter, the sky was already darkening, meaning {Name} would have to head back soon.

 

Travelling at night was very merely, asking for trouble. Finishing up the glass of wine {Name} was tempted to order another, the villages local pub surprisingly stocked, it did not take long to realise why.

 

Without the men, there was only a few elder gentleman there to drink. Jean himself was still nursing his sixth drink, a small amount of the amber liquid rolling around the glass as he tilted it he quickly drained it.

 

Placing the glass back down with what appeared to be reluctance Jean twisted in the stool. One arm draped over the bar his bloodshot eyes bore into her own.

 

"Stay."

 

Unsure what Jean meant {Name} lifted a brow sharply "What?"

 

Sucking in a breath, Jean took on a troubled expression, hand gliding up the back of his two-toned hair.

 

"Stay here. With me tonight."

 

Rambling Jean leant forward, a hand falling on her own, he gave it a gentle squeeze.

 

Bemused by the outburst {Name} gave Jean a laugh in response, it was probably the drink talking for him.

 

Watching Jean's face, however, made {Name} stop, there was no playfulness in his eyes, he was serious.

 

"Jean, I am married." Though it hurt, to use Levi as an excuse, rather than an actual reason, she was not about to hop beds, especially when Levi's was still warm.

 

It had only been a day ago, that he had passed, {Name} could not forget that and go into the arms of another. Not when {Name} had only ever known Levi.

 

With an agonised groan Jean sat back "You are right," taking back his hand Jean came over bashful, face flushed and unable to look {Name} in the eye "Please forget I said that?"

 

Grinning {Name} nodded once, a hand patting Jean's shoulder lightly {Name} slid off the stool "Good night, Jean," taking her leave {Name} managed a small laugh.

 

Of all the things that could happen, being propositioned by Jean was unlikely. Giving it no more thought {Name} watched the shadows that slowly spread across the village, the sun creeping closer to the horizon line, the sky was painted with pinks, orange and purple.

 

The night fast approaching, it was time to head back to her dirty little secret.

 

Farlan already loaded up with the supplies, all {Name} needed was to untie, and mount up.

 

That was all {Name} needed to do.

 

Misleading Mike would be easy.

 

Though {Name} could not see him, there was no doubt that he was close by, keeping watch over what she was doing.

 

Once out of the village, and back on the road, she could drop the supplies and take off on Farlan.

 

There was no chance that Mike would be able to keep up.

 

Idea tempting {Name} made to untie the reins, a sugar lump offered in the flat of her palm Farlan snatched it up greedily.

 

Guiding the reins back over Farlan's head, a shift in the shadows made {Name} stop.

 

Turning slowly {Name} paused when a figure crept forward.

 

Resting at the edge of the building calmly the blue eyes appeared brighter when consumed by shadows, giving Erwin a far more sinister appearance, it unsettled {Name}.

 

Giving the area a quick scope {Name} was pleased to find their immediate vicinity empty. Tugging the reins down {Name} walked Farlan in a circle, halting him at the edge of the building that Erwin was resting against he moved forward with the cover Farlan provided.

 

"Are you trying to get me killed?"

 

Whispering harshly {Name} placed a hand on Farlan's shoulder to keep him steady.

 

"You have been making an excellent attempt at that yourself."

 

Answering coolly Erwin walked in front of Farlan, a gloved hand taking hold of his reins it brought the stallion to a standstill and allowed Erwin to look up at {Name}.

 

"Pardon?"

 

Astonished at the suggestion, {Name} was readying to tell Erwin that he was shot in the head.

 

That was until it dawned what Erwin was trying to say.

 

Mike had seen Jean and {Name} together, wearing the French army uniform it made sense the conclusion they'd no doubt jumped too.

 

"I did not say anything."

 

Giving quiet assurance {Name} tapped at Farlan's shoulder, forcing Erwin to release the reins and step aside as the steed moved forward.

 

"You expect me to believe you, Fraulein?"

 

Using the sacks {Name} hauled herself up onto Farlan, thighs still aching from the ride earlier a grimace twisted her mouth.

 

"I do not expect you to believe me," guiding Farlan to move into a position that kept Erwin out of view a tug on the reins brought him to another halt.

 

"I am many things. However, stupid is not one of them." Frustrated by the accusation {Name} would betray them a jolt from Farlan forced {Name} to squeeze her thighs at the horse's side to stay saddled.

 

Stepping back when Farlan became agitated Erwin offered up a coy smile.

 

Turning in the direction they needed to go, Erwin, gave {Name} an unreadable look from over his shoulder. "I think you misunderstood me again Fraulein," taking a hold on the reins a gentle tug set Farlan in motion, Erwin slowly guiding them up the darkening road "I was asking whether you were comfortable enough with us, that you would expect to be trusted?"

 

At the question, {Name}'s eyes widened. Was Erwin honestly suggesting that she'd kept her silence, for her want to stay with them?

 

"You deluded cur!" Sniping in return {Name} was half tempted to kick him in the back "Don't think for a second I want to help you or even stay!"  Lowering her voice to keep from drawing attention {Name} sat back when Erwin released the reins, stopping once more he waited until {Name} came up to his side before resuming his relaxed pace.

 

"Fraulein," Erwin tilted his gaze to meet hers "You had the perfect opportunity to leave when your little soldier propositioned you."

 

"Tha-- What?!" Prepared to argue Erwin's point it caught at the tip of her tongue. It was only then {Name} noticed Erwin no longer wore his uniform, but civilian clothes "You heard that?"

 

Once more adopting a coy expression, Erwin lifted a thick brow "You are not only a necessity but a liability Fraulein."

 

With Erwin's visage becoming unreadable again; Erwin tapped a finger against {Name}'s boot.

 

"We had no choice but to let you go today, your argument was a sound one," taking the hand away Erwin tucked it in the coat pocket he'd somehow managed to acquire.

 

"But we could not risk you stumbling across help, it was necessary to tail you."

 

Inhaling sharply {Name} snapped Farlan's reigns, heel digging into his hind leg he broke into a run.

 

With a knot forming in her stomach {Name} allowed the tears to flow freely. It was never a matter of wanting to stay; it was very much the opposite.

 

When Jean opened the door for {Name}, offering a chance to get away with ease, it was not them; that made her refuse.

 

Though Jean was none the wiser, in a day, she had become a widow.

 

With the war raging on, there had always been a good chance that would happen. Just not the way it had.

 

The mere idea of going to bed with another man was the furthest thing from her mind.

 

No matter the situation, she could not bring herself to do it, to allow a man to take her, while Levi was barely cold in his grave.

 

It was preposterous for Erwin even to think that she would. To use Jean in such a cruel manner, was unthinkable.

 

Taking the path through the woodland, {Name} brought Farlan to a slow trot. Trees bare of their foliage it did nothing to thin out the branches.

 

Their gnarled and twisted fingers blocking out the moonlight {Name} felt as though she was riding blind.

 

A distant snap made {Name}'s head turn, the direction hard to decipher with the echo it created she made Farlan stand still.

 

Listening {Name}'s skin prickled when a collection of twigs snapping echoed around her.

 

There was not a chance Erwin could have caught up.

 

A part of {Name} genuinely hoped that Mike would appear from the trees, or that a wild animal would scuttle out of the brush.

 

Heart pounding {Name}'s breath caught in her throat when a hand closed around her arm.

 

Dragged down from the horse {Name} made to scream, the sound trapped by the giant hand that closed over her mouth.

 

With an arm tight around the shoulders, {Name} found herself pinned against a broad chest, hot breath gliding over her cheek when a mouth came to press against the ear.

Chapter Text

Legs kicking {Name}'s fingernails clawed at the giant arm, whimpering breaths beating against the hand covering both mouth and nose {Name}'s heart fluttered in relief when a familiar voice whispered in her ear.

 

"It's me Fraulein," Mike's deep voice was welcome, though still alarming, he took away the hand covering her mouth "Stay calm, we have visitors."

 

Explaining the reason behind the rough handling {Name} almost went to kick up a fuss.

 

Until the cold lick of metal pressed under {Name}'s breast "Don't make me use it Fraulein. I've never had to kill a woman," positioning {Name} so that her body trapped between his muscular thighs Mike repositioned his grip on her shoulder "I don't want you to be the first."

 

Sounding oddly upset by the idea {Name} tried her best to relax. A barely noticeable rustling approaching from behind {Name} felt Mike's head turn, the scruff of beard scratching at her hair.

 

"Mike?" Barely making a sound, his hand gave her shoulder a squeeze, head turning back the chin settled on her head once more "It's Erwin."

 

Unsure whether that was something to be relieved, or pissed over {Name} turned her head away when Erwin crouched in her peripheral.

 

"What's the situation?" Whispering Erwin steadied his feet.

 

Above Mike's head lifted, allowing movement of his jaw without continually knocking against her head as he spoke: "Eren spotted them coming up from the west."

 

West?

 

That would suggest they were coming up from Bourges.

 

"Fraulein?"

 

Without needing to be asked, {Name} knew what they wanted of her. Shifting in Mike's hold, {Name} remained silent.

 

Digging the heel of a boot into the dirt to keep herself from sliding {Name} shook her head when a branch cracked a little too close for her liking.

 

If not for the knife jutted against her rib, {Name} would have called out, but with the threat of being discovered, she chose to be silent.

 

In time Mike's hand slid down her body, wrapping at her waist a gentle pull made {Name} push back. Using each other's body for the support they stood, guided back by Mike's arm, Erwin led their retreat from the clearing.

 

Farlan having been startled by her sudden removal from him oddly remained in the clearing, hoof occasionally scratching at the ground, he mixed it up with shaking out his glossy mane.

 

With the noise drawing the French soldiers {Name} made a rash decision.

 

Four rapid clicks of the tongue and Farlan's head raised.

 

The sharp tip of the knife tucked under her breast pinched at the skin. Mike's hold tightening Erwin paused in their retreat.

 

Ignoring the pain at her rib {Name} gave a quick succession of clicks, the sound forming an almost melodic pattern, she hoped it was correct, for Levi had never actually taught it to her.

With a soft whinny, almost like he understood, their eyes met.

 

Even in the dark, Farlan looked forlorn but determined.

 

Head up Farlan looked every bit the proud stallion he was, rearing up his magnificent form, the supplies dropped off his back.

 

Clopping his hooves loudly Farlan made an incredible amount of noise, almost hopping around until he broke out into a full gallop, back the way they'd come.

 

Shouts rang up across the woodland. Giving away their positions {Name} couldn't help but feel ashamed for their stupidity. Hanging her head {Name} held back a groan when the rush of boots across the leaf and twig-littered floor built to a cacophony until it faded into the distance.

 

A long and palpable silence spread between the trio.

 

Still hugged against Mike's chest {Name} relaxed when the knife was taken away from her breast, the hand at her waist drifting down it hit upon her hip, a gentle squeeze given {Name} almost recoiled.

 

"Clever little Fraulein." Once more pressing against her ear, Mike murmured the praise.

 

"Don't thank me," forcing out of Mike's hold {Name} stumbled across the wood "Thank the man one of you bastards shot."

 

Returning to the clearing {Name} stared down at the sacks of supplies. Eyes rolling {Name} moved away from them, arms wrapped around to hug her body {Name} kept her head down.

 

From behind {Name} could hear the murmurings passed back and forth between Erwin and Mike. Their shoulders and arms occupied by the sacks {Name} could only understand snippets of their conversation, but not enough to make sense of it.

 

At most, {Name} knew that she was the topic of discussion, still unaware of her name, she was always referred to as "Fraulein."

 

"{Name}."

 

Calling back to them {Name} could tell the two men stopped, no doubt their faces wearing their confusion.

 

"My name is {Name}."

 

Clarifying what she was trying to tell them {Name} carried on walking across the field, the soft glow of the cottage absent she guessed they'd gone for the abandoned look, hoping not to draw the French soldiers to them.

 

Stopping for a brief moment {Name} stared up at the building.

 

Using Farlan as a decoy, served to seal Erwin's point further.

 

Levi aside, Jean gave {Name} a chance to be free.

 

Conflicted emotions were not a viable excuse; if she'd reasoned, she knew Levi would understand. Jean no doubt would have been upset, or even angry, but he too would have appreciated the situation.

 

Back in the clearing {Name} had the tables turned, even if it resulted in Mike driving the knife into her chest.

 

They would have been cornered; she would have still been alive when her countryman reached her to rat them out and give up their location.

 

Rounding on the two men walking up behind {Name} took advantage of the fact their hands were full. Hand springing out {Name} swung the back of it at Erwin, catching him sharply across the jaw the sound emitted echoed around them.

 

Not even waiting to find out if it hurt Erwin as much as it did {Name}'s hand it was curled against her chest.

 

Rubbing the back of the now throbbing hand {Name} almost marched the last few meters, kicking open the gate she stopped as the door opened.

 

Almost doe-like eyes staring down at {Name}, the bumbling German stepped out of the way when she pushed on through.

 

Taking the stairs in two's she ignored the voices calling after her, the throbbing of the hand becoming an issue {Name} paused outside her door.

 

Shaking the hand wildly as if it would help with the pain, she stamped on the floor, all the while hissing and cursing.

 

Ceasing in her flailing when the creak of step alerted {Name} to the presence of another, her body seized up. At the mouth of the stairs Erwin lingered, visually calm, his eyes held a look she'd not yet played witness.

 

The raw red of his left cheek answering {Name}'s wondering if it hurt him, as much as it had her.

 

A slight scratch sitting in the centre of the red patch dribbled a small bead of blood down his clenched jaw.

 

The moment Erwin took a step forward, {Name}'s body moved.

 

Finding the handle {Name} turned it quickly, throwing her body against it {Name} tripped backwards into the room. Falling on her rear a foot kicked out to close the door, Erwin's raised arm catching it before it slammed back into the frame.

 

Pushing across the floor {Name} yelped when her back met with the wall, shrinking her body against it both legs drawn tight against her chest.

 

Arms holding them tightly in place {Name} buried her face down.

 

A painfully long silence enveloped the room.

 

Heart hammering, it skipped a couple of beats when Erwin tapped at her leg with the tip of his boot.

 

"Fraulein," cold and cutting Erwin demanded her attention "Look at me."

 

Trying to get the quivering of her jaw under control {Name} slowly raised her head, though it remained tucked in the relative safety of her crossed over arms.

 

Vision blurry {Name} hiccuped quietly, a few quick blinks clearing up her sights {Name} took a gulping breath when she found Erwin crouched in front of her.

 

"Thank you."

 

The two simple words shocked {Name} into a forced calm. Mouth holding back the shaky breaths of her crying {Name} could only stare back.

 

What was Erwin up to?

 

Seeing the uncertainty in her, a sigh flared his nose. Fingers rubbing his reddened cheek Erwin pulled back the hand when it touched upon the thin slither of blood.

 

Running the thumb over the bright liquid Erwin's thick brows rose in something akin to surprise "You didn't have to help us back there," dropping the hand to rest on the other between his legs he wiped the blood away on the trouser leg "We were in a serious pinch. Your quick thinking changed that."

 

Expressing gratitude for {Name}'s act of betrayal Erwin's mouth flicked up at the corners to resemble something she could only assume was his genuine smile.

 

Erwin was undoubtedly driving insult into the injury, whether intentional or not. The gratitude for her actions was far from welcome.

 

"Get some rest," pushing up Erwin straightened up swiftly, a hand patting lightly at {Name}'s head she tipped away from the contact "You're certainly proving to be a worthwhile investment, {Name}."

 

Hearing her actual name roll out of Erwin's mouth made {Name} shudder.

 

The foolish act of giving it up was just one more piece she'd placed in his arsenal.