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Jade & Sapphire

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“It's no use,” Historia's hushed voice broke the somber silence within the cabin. The blonde rested her head on her arms, her eyes void of life as she stared at the blank wall in front of her. “I feel like I just had a really important dream, but I can't recall any of it.”

Eren sat on a feather bed across from the girl, He rubbed at his temple as if trying to remember something significant as well. Why was that strange long haired woman suddenly appearing in his dreams? Who was she? What does she have to do with him?

“Ah, yeah, that's been happening to me too.” He exhaled briskly, an attempt to clear his muddled thoughts and after effects of that dream. Eren brought his gaze to the sunlit window, still mindlessly rubbing at his throbbing temple.

“Anyway, when did it get so late?” He asked.

Historia remained silent, so he stood up from the cot, and strode over to the large windowpane beside the table, “I hope with Captain Levi there, they'll be able to manage, but damn, our opponent is really the Reeve's Corporation,” Eren said, turning to her, “Isn't it?”

She did not answer, her once bright and lively cornflower colored eyes, now a cloudy grey blue, merely glance up at him. Eren sighed, taking a seat on the empty chair across from her. He thought of a million things to say to the broken girl whose sorrowful doe eyes were really starting to haunt him. They're vacant. They're frighteningly similar, almost like her eyes.

“Look I'm sorry,” he said after a moment, “It's because I wasn't able to learn the armor ability quickly enough that there was this setback.”

“Now we got to do things in this roundabout way.” Eren expected to be met with silence from the petite blonde again, but this time he heard her quietly respond, “Why are you apologizing to me?”

“Eh?”

“You want to hurry up and save Ymir...right?” He rose an eyebrow in question. Surely she still cared immensely for the taller freckled girl enough to want to save her. Although he did know it might’ve come as quite a disturbing shock to realize Ymir had been a titan shifter all along. As well as having been kidnapped by her back then. It made him grit his teeth to think about…the other traitors. And her. But Ymir had been different. Ymir was not a murderer. She was just lost. She was just smitten.

“Help?” Historia's sullen expression changed to one of confusion, “Maybe not help…I think my feelings have changed…” She trailed off, as she went through another flashback with a far off look in her eyes. “Ymir made her choices and she lived by them, even back then, I didn't have any right to go after her…there wasn't any more need for me.” She muttered the last sentence with disdain.

Eren surmised she might be going over the tragic event that occurred just over a week ago. The rescue mission that very nearly got them all killed. If not for his new found ability that saved them. His heart pulsed rapidly in chest at the mere thought of it.

Historia sniffed, “All I've got left, is this royal family I barely know anything about,” She straightened her posture, but kept her gaze drawn down, “I don't think someone like me is even cut out for such huge responsibilities.”

Eren tilted his head, brunet bangs obscuring his vision. He really needed a haircut one of these days. “Then what do you want to do?” He asked, brushing hair from his eyes.

A pregnant pause befell them.

“I don't know.” She finally responded, voice timid. Wringing her tiny hands in a nervous manner. They don't say anything after that. Both locked within their own minds. Mulling over past thoughts and present. Memories. Eren absentmindedly drummed his fingers on the table.

“I envy you, Eren.”

He rubbed at his neck, glancing at the little blonde as she broke the comfortable silence. She continued, “It may be really hard, but you always do exactly what you want to do.”

 “Not just you but everyone, everyone seems to have something important that they can put their lives on the line for.” Historia drew in a breath, “...Ymir looked after me you know, the real me that chose the Survey Corps, the me that I don't even know.”

 “But now that's she gone I–“ her voice broke, Historia pursed her lips. Shaking her head as she spoke again quietly, “I don't even know who I am anymore. Or what I even want.” She brought her gaze to meet his once more, “I bet you didn't even think…that someone like me could exist.”

“Yeah I didn't have a clue.” Eren blurted out.

 Historia's expression turned crestfallen so he immediately added on, “I mean look around at the world you're living in, if you gave up, everyone would get eaten and it'd be all over. Everything would be lost.”

“There's nothing to wonder about–“ Suddenly Eren remembered his other friends whom were currently partaking in another risky mission. Without him.

“Right now, Jean and Armin are off on dangerous duty, posing as us, rather than worrying about yourself, shouldn't you be worrying about them?” He asserted, looking her right in the eye.

Historia's realization of her blatant disregard for her fellow soldiers and friends kicked in hard. She blinked once, twice, mouth opening and closing, trying to form some kind of response.

“Sorry. I don't even know what I honestly feel right now.” She shrugged.

Eren's jarring expression was enough to make her want to feel some kind of regret. How could she not feel any kind of remorse for her friends. What kind of person was she if she cannot think about the safety of other people?

“Christa Lens always worries and thinks about everyone, right?” Eren watched her in bewilderment, she was talking about herself in the third person. No wait. That's right. Christa Lens does not exist anymore.

 “Because Christa Lens was a good girl…” Historia winced, then scoffed, shook her head to rid herself of the girl she once was, before continuing, “But Historia Reiss…”

“Wasn't loved by her parents or anyone for that matter, she didn't wish to be born into this kind of life,” The blonde huffed a cold humorless chuckle, the striking familiarity of it made Eren grimace in remembrance of another person. “But that's a pretty common story in this world of ours, right?” She stared through Eren with dead doe like eyes.

 “Everyone's lost hope right?” She whispered.

The increasingly pure apathy of her tone had Eren reeling back from her. “The real me is empty like this.” Her face was blank., like a mask. Devoid of any traces of the girl that he used to know. It terrified him, as his teal gaze roamed over her doll like face. Suddenly her nose became more angular, her eyes more deadened, her hair bled from gold to platinum. She was strikingly similar. Too similar to her. It made his heart wrench.

And then, Historia smiled. That very same smile, a small quirk at the corner of her lips. “There's no such thing as good girls like Christa Lens.”

He had enough. “I don't know about that.” He said, managing to pierce through her deprecating rant. “I can't speak for anyone else, but as for me, I disliked how you were before.”

His words were enough to stir some shock in Historia.

“Huh?” She looked at him incredulously. Eren felt relief deep within his chest.

He continued, “Well you always looked like you were being forced to do something you didn't want to do, you seemed weird and artificial, like a doll.”

The beginnings of life start to show within Historia's wide blue eyes as she narrowed them at him, clearly baffled at what he truly thought of her. The other her. She sighed tiredly, bringing her gaze down again, “I know.”

“But now there's something I can like about you.”

“What?”

“Because you seem normal now. Just a stupidly honest regular person with many problems."

The sounds of birds chirping outside resonated within the cabin as a comfortable silence stretched on. Dusk had the dying daylight shining through the large window pane to their left, bathing the both of them in a shimmering light. Historia stared at him, mouth agape.

“Thank you.” She said, voice delicate, then in a more firm tone, ”Thank you for telling me the truth.“

Eren shrugged, “You needed to hear it. I'm aware that you may not feel like yourself, but that's because you've never been yourself. Historia Reiss, I mean. She had no personality, but now you can give her that.”

Historia tilted her head, staring forlornly out the window in contemplative thought, “Yeah…yeah, you are right. I can start over...I can still be somebody.”

Eren flashed her a gentle smile, “But…Ymir…” His smile fell at the mention of the other titan shifter.

“What am I going to do...about Ymir...I can't, save her I mean, she doesn't want to be saved. But...I want see her again.” Historia mumbled. She dropped her head onto her hands, golden hair spilling around her shoulders, “I want to see her again.

Her muffled whimper brought a frown to Eren’s face. He was at a loss of what to say now. She was clearly heartbroken. Eren never knew what to do whenever he felt that same aching pain in his chest. All caused by a single girl. His way of dealing with emotional baggage was to swallow it down, tuck it away, far away. Deep down, until the pain dulled, and could no longer hurt him.

 He reached a hand out, lightly grazing Historia’s arm as she wept quietly into her palms.

“Ymir and I... I mean...I knew it was never going to be official, but, there was something there. Something beyond all the silly stuff she always said and did. Something unspoken between us.” Historia croaked, golden hair swaying as she slowly removed her hands from her reddened tear stained face. Her left hand clutched over her heart.

“I felt it. Every time I was with her.”

“Historia…”

"And I know she did too.”

Eren gazed empathically at the weeping girl. He knew Ymir and Historia had chemistry together, although he had figured it was pure platonic feelings at first. But ever since he witnessed Histora's break down at the wall, He's been aware their feelings ran so much deeper than that. So deep that it scarred in the absence of that person. He knew that feeling. He's felt it too. All too often.

Though he hadn't really known Ymir. He knew of her. She had insulted him many times and called him a range of wild nick names that he was surprised she could even come up with. He knew she did love Historia. Anybody with eyes could see that. But as what to say about her, he came up empty. In the end, he truly did not know what will become of Ymir. She might never come back. It would be better for Historia if they avoid the topic of Ymir completely.

He does the next best worst thing.

“You know, it's funny, what you've said before, how you knew there was just something between you two?”

“What do you mean? How is it funny?” Historia's tear struck eyes glowered at him, clearly offended.

“Because I have felt the same for someone as well.” He sighed.

The blonde’s eyes widen for a fraction of second.

“You have?”

“Yes.”

”But...how? With who?” An image of a certain ebony haired oriental beauty popped into Historia's head. But it vanished completely as a different name left Eren's mouth.

“Annie.”

Eren grimaced, just uttering each syllable of her name felt foreign. Strange. Heavy. Unwanted. But it's enough to have the dainty blonde snap at fully alerted attention. Almost comically so.

“Huh?!“ The table between them quivered as the blonde nearly jumped out of her seat, mouth in a surprised O shape. He leaned back into his chair, unperturbed. He expected this reaction.

"You and... Annie?”

"Yeah.”

Historia slumped back into her seat, covering her mouth in an astonished way, though she appeared more intrigued than shocked if anything.

"Your kind of the first person I'm telling this too." He ran a hand through his chest nut locks. It bothered him to talk of that wretched girl out of the nowhere like this. It was a sour topic he'd rather avoid, forever. But he understood Historia. She had bared herself to him, shining light on the darkest crevices of her mind. The least he could do was the same. Even it did ache to speak of the girl who betrayed him. Who betrayed them all.

 "I…wow. I never thought that someone like Annie…and you…” She pondered aloud, then immediately backtracked, "I mean no offense, of course, but Annie never seemed like the type of person that's...um…?"

 "None taken, it's fine. You're right actually.” Eren waved his hand nonchalantly, “She wasn’t, I know.”

He sat up in his seat, clicking his tongue as he recalled a moment when she, Annie and him were both still Trainee’s. He came up to her as awkwardly as a fifteen-year-old would, his chest warming at her presence. A confession was being made that day. He was sure of it; he was tired of dawdling around in the bushes. Gazing wistfully at the small girl from afar as she went about the everyday duties. And sparring was so much more difficult when it was with the person you love. He told her that day, with sweaty hands and a stuttering mouth. Only to be turned down. Rejected. Cast aside.

He predicted this outcome, because he knew Annie. But how she told him, was what hurt his heart all the more. How she stopped sparring with him after that day. Stopped talking to him. Avoided him at all costs. That hurt more than anything, that brought angry tears to his eyes that his friend Armin had seen in their shared cot. It didn’t matter to him that he was boy, he was emotional. Everything he felt was intensified to infinity. It’s how he’s always been. It’s how he always will be.

That girl only made it worse for him. Sneaking into Castle Utgard, the Survey Corp’s headquarters one spring day and catching him off-guard in an embrace. She pushed, and she pulled at him. He saw in her eyes she felt the same way he had. But then she left all too soon. Abruptly, without a word. He felt his anger bubble to the surface, he felt his heart swoop in joy. She was making a complete emotional train wreck out of him. Yet he still wanted her. Even now, he does.

“Whatever,” Eren scoffed aloud, then remembered the petite girl that sat across from him, she blinked in confusion, “Sorry,” He said sheepishly, “I just…just was remembering something, is all.”

“About Annie?”

“…Yeah.”

“Eren,” Historia placed a small hand over his own that rested on the table, a maternal look in her eyes, “You don’t have to talk about her for my sake, if it hurts you. I know you’re only trying to distract me from thinking of Ymir.”

“I just wanted to help you,” Eren sighed, then chuckled sadly, “Can’t even help myself. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking…”

“She really hurt you…didn’t she?”

Eren smiled but there was no joy in it, it was empty, like hers had been, “You have no idea.”

Chapter Text

It didn’t come as such a shock to Annie when he pulled her off to the side one field training day. Not to spar. To talk. Something the two didn’t usually do often.

“We-I have to tell you something. “He said, eyebrows knitted together in uncertainty. Like he was debating whether he should continue or not.  Annie neither moved nor offered any reply, and so he spoke again.

“It’s about us…or um…you rather.” He averted his gaze, ears tinging pink.

She had been expecting it. He was terrible at hiding his emotions; everything he felt was written plainly on his face. In his bright expressive eyes, in his body language. Annie was a pretty perceptive young woman; it didn’t take her long to connect the puzzle pieces. She hadn’t been so sure at first, but she believed her sparring partner Eren Jaeger was attracted to her. If his blatant wistful staring wasn’t enough proof, or the odd way he’d offer her nonsensical things and claim them to be gifts, like a smooth rock or a dented hair pin.

She’d have to be blind too not see this boys crush. Hell, all of the 104th trainee camp had to be. He made it so obvious. Foolish boy, she thought. I’m only going to break your heart. But she would do it as painlessly as she could.

“What about me? “

“I don’t know how to explain it,” He mumbled, more awkward shuffling, “I just…” He trailed off with a sigh. Lifted a hand over chest where his heart would be and sighed again. He held out the same hand to her, and she looked at it questionably before placing her small palm within his. It was warm. He was always so warm.

The paler hues of her skin contrasted greatly against his olive tones. “Here.” he murmured, and placed her small hand upon his chest. His own holding it there, she gasped as she felt the strong rapid rumble of his heart beat. Quick, thumping so hard she felt she could feel the tremoring pulse within her as well.

“Feel that?” He breathed, “It’s beating so fast, and we’re not even sparring.”

He clutched her small palm tighter in his, “You make it do that, Annie.”

Annie gazed up into his wide eyes and saw her own reflection waver back in ocean green depths. “Eren,” She said, voice as steady as ever, “What’re you telling me?”

The boy dropped her hand than, biting nervously into his bottom lip. The confession was there, just at the tip of his tongue. But he couldn’t get it out.

“Eren?” She brushed lightly at his arm.

“I like you!” He blurted out. There it was. Plain and simple. Even If Annie predicted this outcome she couldn’t stop the blush that painted her nose and cheeks an embarrassing red. Or the fluttering of her own heart.

A natural response, she thought. It’s understandable.

“I think, not the way that Franz likes Hannah, but,” he said quietly, moving closer to her, “Different. It’s deep, confusing. It makes my head spin you know? I’ve never felt this way for anyone before. My hands get all sweaty, and-and…” He shook off, “But yeah, took me some time to realize, what I feel about you.”

Another step closer, “And it’s that I care for you, Annie. I like you.”

Oh. Annie visibly gulped, avoiding his gaze. It hurt to swallow. “Okay.” She told him, because what else could she offer?

Whatever hidden emotions that were being displayed openly on his face were dropped as she uttered that word. He tilted his head at her, apprehensive. “Okay?”

“Is that all you’re going to say?” He was hurt, if not just a bit irritated. She could from the tremble in his voice.

I’m going to break your heart now.

“You have a terrible taste in women, Jaeger.”

“What?” He looked down at her incredulously, “The hell is that supposed to mean…?”  And his eyes go wide for a fraction of a second as he took in her meaning, “Oh, Annie, You’re not a terrible person. Tough on me sometimes, sure.” He chuckled halfheartedly.

 “I mean; I can’t find a thing that’s terrible about you.”

His tone gone soft as he told her this, stepping even closer to her. So close that she instinctively backed away from him. The crest fallen look upon his face made her own heart twinge unfamiliarly. 

 “...But you will,” She muttered, shaking her head, “You will, and when you do. It will crush you.”

“Annie…”

“You’re a good person Eren,” Another step back. “In fact, you’re far too good for me.”

Finally, he grew frustrated, as he always did when things got too erratic for him. Too much to handle. She was being too much. She was always too much. He marched toward her in three long steps, grabbed her by the shoulders so she couldn’t turn from him.

 “What’re you saying…Annie…Annie, look at me.”

But she wouldn’t. She couldn’t. If she did, she’d just be drawn too him again.

“I’m flattered, Eren. I am.” Annie focused her gaze on the trainee sigil embroidered on his shoulder, anything but him. “I am not a kind person, like you are. I’ll only end up hurting you.”

He released her abruptly, too wound up in her words, “But I’m not-!”

She reached up than, placing her hand over his cheek to placid him. His voice caught in his throat, only a whine escaped. His hands balled into fists, but he leaned down for her none the less.

“It’s better if we stay as we are,” She said, her own robin blue eyes staring fixated at a point beyond him, “It’s better if we don’t get distracted. Yeah?”

He deflated. All fight dissipating from his eyes, “So you’re saying you don’t…want too…?”

“Maybe if we have met under different circumstances. Maybe if there weren’t monsters roaming outside the walls.”

And in them.

Annie dropped her hand, “But the chances of that are non-existent.” Her eyes flickered to his briefly, the look of distress written on his face, the sign of rejection was too much for her to bare. She turned away.

“Find yourself a kind girl, Eren. Somebody worth your trust.”

With that she brushed passed him, barely missing the way his shoulders sagged, and his head drop low with his heavy heart.  

I’m sorry.

Chapter Text

It was those simple touches that sent a jolt of electricity down his spine. That feather light graze across his clavicle. The brush of her plush lips against his neck that left him careening for her, hands clenching the crate he's leaned on till his ashen knuckles turned a paler tint. Her nimble fingers sliding gradually up his abdomen; applying only the slightest of pressure to feel the contours of muscle hidden beneath the fabric.

They would be so close to each other, hidden in some dingy shed; he could always smell the perspiration from their last spar and the hint of lemon zest waft off her.

She was so small. So petite. He wanted to gather her in his arms and sit her on his lap, touch her in the same way she has touched him.

Each time he's tried, she would bat his hands away, as if to scold him. Like a mother would a misbehaving child. Then he would nuzzle his nose against her neck apologetically, and wrap his arms around her waist, hold her tightly against him till she tried to wriggle free from his embrace like a trapped cat.

It was odd of course. How she did not like being touched. Shied away from it. And yet favored being the one to do all the touching. He saw the way her pupils would dilate, black taking over icy crystalline blue, as she felt him.

Callous pale hands trailing over his clothed arms, across his neck then to cup his jaw and lean him down as she gently grazed her lips against his own. He'd willingly part his mouth for her; feel the wet warmth of her tongue dance with his own. A guttural moan would erupt from his throat.  

He'd fight himself for self control. He knew she was testing him. Seeing just how far he could go. How much he can take. It drove him mad.

How this seemingly apathetic girl can bring him over the edge with just her hands, the slightest touch would ignite the flames within him. Get him hot, heavy. He wanted her. 

Told her as much, but she merely payed attention to his words. Only physical contact. Eren figured that to her, this wasn't that much different from sparring. Fighting always meant getting physical; it meant touching. Invading your opponents space. Seizing them. Dominating over the other. 

It was just in her nature to take the lead. To take over. Though he wished she'd let him return his affection for her, he was just fine with letting her have the upper hand, for now. 

"You're making me love you." She gasped shakily into the shell of his ear once, warm breath ghosting over his skin causing goosebumps to rise. As she grinded into his lap, guided by his hands on her waist. His skin felt scorched and prickly beneath his uniform. Too much layers. He wanted them off.

"Good." He groaned into the crooked of her neck, damp with sweat, he brushed away the stray platinum tendrils that stuck to her skin, kissed her pulse point. Felt her thrum alive beneath his lips, "Now we're even." 

 

Chapter Text

The Reiss heir sat in shocked silence, her friend, former teammate’s words spinning around in her skull like an omnidirectional gear gone haywire. She absorbed this new information the same way she had when it was revealed to her that she was to become the new queen. She was overwhelmed, blonde eyebrows furrowed together in distress and her hands clasped tightly beneath the wooden table for she feared she might try to strangle the boy who sat right across from her. Who watched her take it in with unwavering teal eyes.

“Does anybody else know?” She spoke quietly, the slightest tremble in her voice. She drew in a breath to calm her frayed nerves.

“No one.” Was his curt reply.

The blonde shook her head, almost in disbelief, “Mikasa?” She whispered in question.

“No.”

Captain Levi?”

“No.”

The small girl put a hand to her temple, rubbed at it to soothe her pounding head, “What about Armin,” she sighed, “Did he know about the baby?”

The brunet across leaned into his seat with a defeated huff, “He didn’t,” he said, “But he did know of us.”

He turned his attentive stare from her to the window beside them that overlooked the expanse of a flourishing garden. One the queen herself had manned and planted with the children of the orphanage. They deserved the very best, she had thought. The very best.

“Of Annie and I.” He muttered, and dropped his gaze to the ground. Pursed his lips in frustration, because that’s what her very name brought upon him, “He is very perceptive, I wouldn’t put it past to figure out something like that.”

The young queen fumbled in her seat, folded and unfolded her hands. Rubbed at her temple some more, brushed away the golden bangs that fell over her azure eyes. At a loss of what to say, she wanted to help him. Like she wanted to help everyone. But this was, this was too much. That poor child.

Finally, she stood from her seat so abruptly the chair fell back from the force and looked straight into the boy with a piercing blue stare, like she was rending him immobile. He jumped momentarily but didn’t move. Eyeballed her with just as much intensity if not more.

“Goddesses, Eren!” She wailed, “You fought her!” The blonde flexed her tiny fists, sniffed and turned away, only to turn back with much more ferocity on her doll like face.

“You battled her, almost killed her!” She repeated, marching closer to him, “And she was pregnant with your child-!”

“I had no choice!” His booming cry stunned her into silence, and now he towered over her small form. But the queen did not waver, standing as rigid as she could and craned her neck to stare with equal challenge into his radiant green eyes. But she saw no fight in them, only misery. Only grief.

“I had no other option,” he lamented, “I hesitated. I did. But lives were being risked than, Historia.”

He turned his back on her, placed his open palms onto the table, hoping it could offer him whatever support. “The lives of my friends!” He sobbed, hung his head in remorse. Leaning his whole weight onto the table. Historia watched the boy crumble before her.

“It was a do or die situation,” He mumbled, then raised his voice, “It was either her or us!”

“Eren…”

“Her or humanity!” He cried.

“Do you not consider her human too?”

He clutched the edges of the table till his bronze knuckles turned white, “Of course not!” His voice shook, “How can I?!”

“She’s a…” He stilled, bit into his bottom lip until he tore through skin and could taste the copper in his mouth, see the wisps of steam rise above.

“She’s a…”

“She’s a titan.” Historia finished, placed a comforting hand upon the middle of his spine, as she had done back in that cave some time ago, only she saw no flashes of forgotten memory this time. “Just like you.”

“I don’t know what I’m going to do.” He said truthfully, his shoulders sagged with the weight of his actions, Historia came around to his side, and he turned to her, the corners his eyes gleaming with unshed tears. He had no care if the queen saw him like this; because she had already seen him at his worse.

“If she’s ever released from that crystal,” He shook his head, then banged a clenched fist against the table, startling her, “Fuck!” he bellowed.

“I don’t even know if she is alive in there.” He dropped onto his discarded seat, his face buried in his palms, and the tears came running, wet on his hands. “The baby…” She heard him whimper.

She could only offer him her condolences.  

Chapter Text

Infatuation was like a disease, it spread like a virus would, took over your mind. Turned you into foolish, bumbling idiot willing to perform outrageous actions for the sake of catching the attention of the person whom you desire. It was simple-minded, to hope that one day, you would be noticed, one day, all that effort and time wasted into pining and imagining sappy scenarios will soon pay off. Like receiving an award, you do not deserve. It was selfish, and sadly pathetic. When you want something you know you cannot, and will never have. When that something was a someone and pursuing them in anyway could get you killed. You were aware of it, and yet you still silently pleaded to the person that held your tiny heart in their hands, without even realizing it.

Here you were, thrown into a world far different from your own, tasked on a mission that you practically knew nothing about, that you should be focused on solely. Because if you do not focus; then you will never see your home again. Focus, focus! But your mind could only linger on with thoughts of a boy with the ocean in his eyes and a dare devil smile.

Here you were, quietly judging others from the shadows while he shone bright like the radiant sun, bursting with kinetic energy. You've observed him like a teacher would as he moved sloppily in hand to hand combat, all loose and no coordination. He was a train wreck, a complete opposite to your refined skills. But each time one of his opponents hit the ground, you felt pride swell in your chest, along with a horrible longing ache. It was bothersome, it was an illness that couldn’t be cured. You wanted it gone.

 At times when he turned his head and grinned triumphantly your way, his russet hair matted to his face with sweat, he was seeking your approval of his victory; you could feel your pulse quicken, and the heat coil within you, deep down. You are forced to look away. It was too much; he was too much.

You begin discussing the plan with your subordinates for the mission. This monarchy is a false one, you informed them, it was a hunch but based on the Intel you've gotten from spying on the estranged wall worshipers, it's very likely to be true. The true royal heir should be hidden among them. In these very trainee grounds.

One of them accused you of falling behind on receiving info, you spat at them how they have been slacking as well. These walls were changing them, making them soft, forgettable, forgivable. You must stay sharp and in control, somebody had to pick up the pieces once these two mishaps screwed up somewhere along the lines.

 The days go exactly like that, going over the plan in private, running through the details countless of times before they grew tired of the same old format and sought newer information.

It frightened you how much you craved a distraction from thoughts of him. It annoyed you how much you went about performing tasks such as dish washing, refilling gas tanks or feeding the stable horses, all too avoid him. The instructor approved of your readiness to work and assigned you more jobs around the camp. It helped, because you hardly saw any sign of him. Except during class sessions or hand to hand combat drills. It's there and the hours in between where you felt the hairs at the back of your neck stand; you could feel his gaze pierce through you.

What did I do? You could practically read his thoughts through his body language alone, why are you avoiding me?

He cornered you one day, you’re caught red handed holding twelve heavy canisters, six in each arm, just about to store them in the supply shed.

Need any help? He said and you replied no.

You've been avoiding me, he said, and you replied yes.

Why? He stared down at you with eyes like jade stones, tentative. Your voice is stuck in your throat, when you opened your mouth, not a word came out. So you bide your time and try to think of a generic excuse.

You tell him that you only want to focus on your military training, that the date of graduation was drawing nearer and to be a part of the top ten you must avoid any distractions. It was true for the most part. To become a real Military Police Officer and live safely within the walls you needed to be at the very top of your grade. It was required for the mission as well. Your mission.

He did not look all too convinced when you brought your attention back to him. His hard green gaze bore through you. He wanted answers. The real answers. The ones you could not say. The ones that would make him loathe you. The frightening truth locked up tight, bound in chains and thorns within you. Waiting for the day it will be free to terrorize.

You are a pest. You muttered to yourself, too yourself. But he heard you, and he huffed a humorless chuckle, thinking the insult was intended for him.

So I've been told. He snorted, then looked away, tongue in cheek, as if he were internally debating whether to continue on with his prying. But he digressed, nodded to the steel canisters in your arms.

Let me give you a hand. He said, and without waiting for your reply, he plucked six of the heavy canisters from you. Your arms now straining less from the absence of added steel. When you lifted your head to meet his lightened eyes once more; you found he was gazing down at you with a softened expression. An emotion that did not fit his usual brooding face, like he was pitying you. You froze. In fear? Anticipation? Anger? You couldn't tell.

He turned than, started walking in the direction of the supply shed. All you could do was follow him.

It was the day before the graduation ceremony; when all hell broke loose. The colossal Titan had breached through Wall Rose; Trost district became a cesspool of bodies, and blood curdling screams. People scrambled over the other to avoid becoming fodder to the Titans. The monsters lumbered across the narrow pathways of the district, snatching stray humans whom failed to escape in time.

You watched it all. And did nothing but wait; with the rest of your squadron. Some wept from the losses of their team mates, some stood tall and rigid, distress etched into their soul as their wild panicked eyes darted around.

From saving the bald headed kid to saving the loud mouth who always bickered, you couldn't offer to do much else. They were not your people. No matter how much every fiber of your screamed at you to move, to help. To do something! Anything.

But you wouldn't, you couldn't. Especially now that you were being watched by one of your subordinates. You could feel him questioning your motives through suspicious amber eyes; but then the Ackerman girl came zipping into the air, capturing the attention of the other trainees. She landed with grace onto the crumbling roof top, asking for the whereabouts of her brother.

I haven't seen him since the breach. You told her truthfully, when a choking sob erupted amongst the grieving graduates. It was the Arlert boy. The confession that spew from his mouth next made your blood run cold, and your chest painfully constrict within itself. Becoming narrower and narrower until it became harder to breathe. Your eyes burned with unshed tears and your lips quivered. But you did not weep for the dead. For your fallen comrades. For Eren Jaeger.

At least not on the outside.

It was miracle. Or rather it was a shocking revelation when the boy came back to the living world. Though apparently he never died in the first place, No. He was eaten, but not yet killed. Through sheer determined will, he had become a Titan.

Watching from above as his two closest friends embraced his unconscious body; You wished it didn’t have to be him. He used to be different; but now he was just like you. Just another tool to be used for war. That did not deter your affection for him, however. It only strengthened it, maybe it was because now, him and yourself shared something that was interminable. The power of shifting, becoming the very monsters that humanity oh so feared. Even though these beasts were not born but created; well it was not as if they would ever know. You hardly knew of the true history behind titans, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was getting back home. That was the only goal.

He searched for you, before the day of the 57th expedition, before you tainted your hands with the blood of soldiers, his brethren. He arrived at the MP Headquarters, his pressed Survey Corps cape fluttering behind with every step he made toward you. His expression oddly unreadable, it made you anxious.

Took me awhile to find you. He spoke once he was within distance of you. You wander too much.

The rifle on your shoulder grew heavy, so you set it down, leaning it against the side of the building. He observed you do so. Something about him watching you made your skin flush, a rose tint adorned your otherwise pale complexion. Or perhaps it was just the heat getting to you.

He crossed his arms coolly, leaning near the rife you had set down. Sneaking a glance at him as you tucked platinum tendrils of hair behind your ear, you took notice of how he chewed nervously at his bottom lip. A tick of his that only occurred when he was to make a difficult decision. You braced yourself for the worst.

I’m supposed to be patrolling right now. Your somber voice broke through his agitated state and he snapped his attention to you. So if you have something to tell me, please do so quickly. You finish briskly, mirroring his posture.

He hesitated, shook his head, tapped his foot impatiently. Looked away, then back to you. He seemed so restless, on edge. Like anything would pop out and attack from the shadowy crevices of Sina at this very moment. You felt pity for him. And something else, a twinge of a little warmth in your bosom, it made you want to touch him suddenly. Make the uneasiness go away. The intensity of this feeling was overwhelming. You did nothing. Only tightened your arms around yourself and waited for his response. Mentally fighting against the zealous pressure rising from within.

Did you mean it? He asked out of nowhere. You become perplexed at his question, so he continued. What you told me in the supply shed a couple of months ago?  

Embarrassment prickled at you like a thousand insects on your skin, and you immediately recoiled, without meaning to do so. What had been said in the supply shed? You had momentarily forgotten, but something had crumbled down, like the wall of Maria, something had been breached. It was you who allowed it. What with your mission so close, and your subordinates now a part of the Survey Corp. You couldn’t stray your focus to nonsensical things. But he knew what you said. Deep, deep down, you knew too.

I didn’t expect you to survive this long outside of training. You confessed to him. Had it not been for whatever happenstance Eren encountered prior to being eaten, he would have most definitely perished that fateful day in Trost. You still don’t know whether you should feel this relief that came with him being alive, or the otherwise fear that came with him being alive, and now a dangerous beast of a titan killer. Both felt about right.

But you meant it. He said, smiling slightly now, in that charming boyish way. The teenage girl inside you swooned. But on the outside your face remained blank, revealing nothing.

Most of it. You reply, offhandedly. Attempting to be as callous as ever, but he saw right through you. His grin widening like a child’s on the eve of Christmas.

He stepped closer, too close. You battled the insistent urge to retreat away from him. It was just something that came so natural to you. The impulse to flee from something that was undoubtedly problematic. And yes, this boy was indeed, a raging problem.

 I’ll come back to see you once the expedition has ended. He asserted, the tick now gone, replaced with that silly dare devil grin of his. Playing around the edges of his lips.

He was so elated, and for what? For something you had revealed to him in that dingy supply shed? Something that shouldn’t really matter given that you and him were both soldiers of different factions, and there was a no fraternizing law between the three military groups when on duty. But it wasn’t only that, it was also you, yourself. The secret of the many secrets you were guarding. You were just as much of a problem to him as he were to you.

But, goddesses be damned, if he didn’t look so adorable at this moment. Yeah sure, if you make it back. You reply, shrugging nonchalantly.

I will. He grew serious, holding out his hand to you, he stuck his pinky out. I swear it.

Your eyes flickered briefly from his teal gaze to the hand he held out, and you slowly lifted your own hand, locking your pinky finger around his. A pinky swear. How unbelievably childish, and yet you were smiling despite yourself.  He brought your hand to his lips, and you felt the velvety plush of skin brush across your knuckles. Your eyes widened at his chivalry, and you recoiled your arm so quickly, he burst out in a fit of laughter. You scoffed at him, rubbing the back your hand like it had been scalded. The warm feeling within your chest was blooming beautifully at this moment, running through your veins, acting as the very oxygen you breathed in. Goddesses. It felt so good.

So damn wonderfully good, that it was becoming horrible. You remember your mission, your father, your home.

Eren. You speak his name quietly, but it was enough for him to hear you. Noticing your distress, he placed a comforting hand on your shoulder, Yes? What is it? He tilted his head, his expression showed that of concern.

Concern for you. That warmth inside was spreading all over now; Like a fever. Why did it have to make you feel like you were incandescent, alight with desire when he was near, but leave you in ashes when the flames disappeared in his absence. You hated it. You hated how you loved it so much. You loved it. You loved him.

Nothing. You shook your head, coming back to reality, trying so hard to rid yourself of this unbearable sickness. I’ll see you soon. You told him, and then you fled. Remembering to grab your weapon, you take off, mingling with the citizens of Sina. You do not bother to glance behind you.

Of course you will! You heard him shout your way, with just a tad bit of that Jaeger attitude. You make haste to get further away from him.

In the end, you remind yourself all it had been was a stupid insignificant crush. As any girl your age would have. A stupid, silly, rotten little crush on the boy whose passion never left his eyes, that were like the ocean you had seen only once in your life. Whose touch burned you, literally so when he ripped apart your titan like a rabid beast.

In your still silent prison, you could only question why. Why did it have to be him? Why was he the one? Why did he have to hold your heart on a string, while you desperately tried to save him from offering his on a pristine platter.

Infatuation was like a disease. It could only harm you, if you did nothing to stop it.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The gauze wrapped too tightly around his torso made his skin itch like hell; Eren scratched at the course fabric every few seconds but he could only do so much with his blunt chewed up nails. Not to mention it was more humid than the gaping maw of a titan. The arrival of midnight did nothing to quell the sweltering heat of summer either. Silvery rays of moonlight broke through the canopy of leaves and gnarled branches high above, dotting the meadows below. The moon itself glowed brilliantly in its first quarter phase, strikingly similar to a Cheshire like grin. Eren felt mocked by it.

He was scorching out here, the air felt too dense and warm. It was almost suffocating, like breathing in mouthfuls of steam. It had never been like this back in Shigansina…sure it did get hot, but goddesses, never like this. He missed his old home, he missed the cozy weather, he missed swimming in the cool river waters. He missed a lot of things.

 Eren slapped at a mosquito that had the audacity to land on his shoulder, grimacing as he wiped his hand on the grassy ground beneath him. He sighed exasperatedly, flopping back down onto the dusty cot he’d forgotten. Honestly it smelled of musk and mold, combined with the heat, it was an altogether horrible stench that wafted to his nostrils the moment he even got near it. Eren wondered if Shadis intentionally had handed these out unwashed. Knowing the taciturn instructor, he most likely did, just to make them suffer a little more.

As if Eren wasn’t suffering enough. He glanced to the petite girl who lay soundly asleep just a foot away from him, soft little snores erupted from her as she breathed evenly in her slumber. It amazed Eren how Annie was able to even doze off in this furnace like weather, especially with all these insects buzzing around their heads. He slapped his arm this time as another one of those pesky mosquitos scurried across his skin. A flare of jealousy bloomed within him as he turned to his side to gaze at the snoring blonde girl.

Annie was quite an unsettling sight in her sleep; her usual blank facade was now replaced with a permanent scowl that adorned her lips, her eyebrows scrunched together every now and then, which made her look like she had a permanent cringe going on. She was even curled up into a little ball underneath the cot, so only her head stuck out, cropped ashen hair splayed all around her face, occasionally slipping into her partially opened mouth, but Annie snored on without a care.

In all honesty, Eren thought she looked hilarious more than frightening. Not that he would ever voice that to her. She slept completely undisturbed by the environment around them, and Eren wished he could reach that unconscious state of mind. But it was an endeavor for him to do so.

So he instead focused his gaze to the starry night sky above. The tall trees obscured his view somewhat; but Eren still managed to catch glimpses of the brightest stars that stood out from all the rest. He recalled being in a position like this three years ago; only he was not a Trainee of the 104th training corps, but a refugee of Wall Maria.

He was not with Annie Leonhardt, the cold brooding beauty of the 104th, but with his closest friends, Mikasa and Armin. They had laid on each side of him outside of the Refugee holding camp; a young Armin pointing out clusters of stars he dubbed as con-stell-ations and then giving them ridiculous names Eren himself couldn’t pronounce. Mikasa huddling to his side till their shoulders touched, offering him comfort in her silence.

That had been their only solace every night; while their every morning, and noon was filled with nothing but hard labor, plowing and picking through half barren crops. Being offered less than what they deserved, what they needed to survive.

It always pissed Eren off to just think about the past, and then to think further back upon the events that had happened, just drove him mad. So he tried to distract himself with thoughts of the future ahead of him. Of graduation that was now only six months away; of becoming a full-fledged member of the Survey Corp and serving under Commander Erwin Smith, fighting alongside the infamous Captain Levi.

Killing, eviscerating, utterly destroying all of the titans’ race. That was his dream; that was his goal.  

As Eren mulled in glee over the ever present future, Annie stirred restlessly in her slumber. Eyelids screwing further shut as if she were in pain, a sudden small gasp erupted from her throat immediately capturing Eren’s attention. It was then he noticed the perspiration that began to bead on her forehead, and the feverish warmth that was coming from her side.

Perhaps it was the heat finally getting to her, Eren reached out to take the scratchy blanket off her when she visibly flinched. “Annie?” Eren brought a tentative hand to her forehead, brushing away the matted tendrils of hair that stuck, and earned only a wince in response.

“N-no…"  She whimpered in her sleep, shrinking away from his touch. He sat up, growing more concerned as she began trembling abruptly. It was so unusual to see Annie- stoic, stone cold, kick-your-ass if you mess with her- Leonhardt appear so scared, so childlike as she subconsciously sunk herself deeper into the small sheet that barely covered her five-foot frame.

“Please…"  He heard her whisper quietly, “Please…don’t…”

“Hey Annie,” Eren spoke softly as he moved closer to her, careful not to wake her all to suddenly, he knew from experience when waking up from a nightmare, it was crucial not to startle the person, “You’re just dreaming, it’s okay.” He continued in his soothing tone.

“…Don’t…hurt…” Annie breathed out, flinching again when Eren’s leg accidentally brushed against hers, “Don’t hurt me…”

The pure fear expressed in her quivering voice made him recoil. Eren was taken back by her words. It sounded so unusual for the almost unbreakable girl. He blinked, glancing down worriedly at her, then reached over once more to gently nudge her awake, when suddenly Annie’s hand shot out catching him by surprise; she grasped at his wrist tightly in her sleep.

“No…more…"  She mumbled, eyes screwing further shut, mouth drawn into that signature frown of hers. Then pink lips curled into a half snarl, “No more…” Annie spoke again, this time sounding a lot like her cold self. She squeezed Eren’s wrist like it was a twig she was desperate to snap in half.

Eren winced, “Ow! Ow, Annie, stop!” To hell with not agitating her; he grabbed her by the shoulder, shaking her awake until her eyes fluttered open, revealing crystalline blue; and the hand that clutched at his wrist loosened its hold.

“Hmrph,” Annie grumbled, groggily sitting up, not exactly paying much attention to the startled shirtless Jaeger at her side.

“What the hell was that all about?!” Eren protested, rubbing at his now sore wrist, Annie merely glanced at him, looking dazed and just a bit lost. He noticed the goosebumps present on her arms, and the slow but erratic intake of breaths from her. Her platinum hair was a complete mess of tangles, spilling all over her face, but she didn’t seem to care. Or notice for that matter. Annie’s chest arose and fell with each breath as she eventually calmed, and became more lucid.

Eren sighed, bringing the hand that she had nearly snapped to rest on her covered knee, “Hey, are you alright?”

Annie focused her attention to his wrist and the mark she left on him that was disappearing rather quickly; then gradually lifted her head to meet his brightened eyes, that were lit in concern for her.

“I...” She trailed off, looking away momentarily, “Where…Where are they?”

Eren stared at her, clearly confused, “Where are who?”

Annie scrunched her brows together, appearing more puzzled than him, “There were kids…they're bullies…they wanted to hurt me…?” Annie finished the sentence as a question rather than an answer, becoming more aware of what she was actually saying, and who exactly she was talking too. She immediately backtracked, “I just had a pretty bad dream, is all.”

Eren huffed a chuckle, “Yeah, I can see that.” He observed her for few more seconds before flopping back down onto his own dusty cot, bringing his arms around to rest at the back of his head. “If you want,” He yawned, “I can’t really seem to sleep well either, so maybe we could just watch the stars together?”

Annie said nothing in response; Eren didn’t bother to turn her way or persuade her. But, eventually she did huddle closer to his side, bringing along that scratchy uncomfortable blanket. Insects buzzed about as the two trainees lay together in silence, watching as a weak breeze made the leaves of the trees above quiver.

“Bullies, huh?” Eren spoke after a few minutes had passed, though Annie was near half asleep. “You know...I used to be bullied too, always tried too fight them back but,” He scowled as he recalled the awful beatings he took, “I was too weak.”

Annie remained silent, Eren peeked at her from his side, thinking she had fallen asleep. Until he heard her quietly mutter, “So was I.”

She let out a tired sigh, repeating, “So was I.”

Eren felt her lean closer to him till their warm bodies touched; and then she did the most unexpected act that was so utterly bizarre for Annie Leonhardt. She lifted her head, and laid upon his wrapped chest, bringing a hand up from under the cover to rest on his abdomen. And though the heat was unbearable, and the gauze was itching like all hell; Eren stayed rooted in his spot.

Annie slept more peacefully that night. He, however, didn’t get a wink of shut eye, but Eren didn’t mind one bit, especially when he got to wake up a grumpy bedhead Annie in the crack of dawn.

 

Chapter Text

Eren swallowed down his anxieties, bracing himself against the cell that contained the female titan, with one final reassuring breath, he unlatched the iron lock that barred the large wooden door.

Immediately his body went rigid as the door creaked open slowly, but he willed it to move. Stepping inside the chilly darkness of the cell; masking his inner raw feelings in a layer of ice and stone. His expression became blank as he trekked closer to the prisoner, revealing nothing. He hid behind the façade, and stared at the girl that was chained to the cot bed before him. She appeared haggard, and cautious as his eyes fell over her form.

Her gaze was scrutinizing even behind the rusted iron bars. It was as if she was trying to make him crumble before her with just her cold eyes. But he would not let her have the benefit of the doubt.

The air was musky and stifling, he almost couldn’t stand it. The insufferable silence, and her icy observant stare.

She was the one to cut the thickening tension between them first, “You’ve finally come.” She spoke, quiet and calculated. His gaze flitted from the girl to the crackling fire of the torch on the nearby wall.

“Does the sight of me repulse you?” The shuffling of a blanket, and her empty sigh reached his ears. Eren focused on the flickering embers that danced in the dark. The glow of the fire reflected in his teal irises, if she were to look him right in the eyes, see through him, into his soul, she would see his torment play out through them like an act of drama.

“I figured you’d avoid my appearance after…”

She trailed off. Eren blinked, once, twice. Swallowed again, his right hand balled into a tight fist on its own, then he turned his attention to her. His chest felt heavy, uneasiness, and trepidation coursed through his veins.

“I tried.” He gritted out, forcing himself to look at her, and only her. She narrowed her cold blues at him, scratching absentmindedly at a spot above her shackled wrist. He noticed the flesh there was a patchy red compared to the rest of her pallid skin. He couldn’t help but take into account the dried brownish specs that lined her frayed sleeves and trousers. He swallowed for the umpteenth time.

Watched as she brushed back loose tendrils of ashen blonde hair behind her ear. Once upon a time, his hands had shyly done the very same gesture.

“Do you mind telling me,” She tilted her head questionably, “What’re you here for?”

Eren couldn’t provide a quick enough answer. He didn’t know quite know himself.

What am I here for?

The question rang in the recesses of his mind. But less of what, and rather why.

Why am I here?

He thought, because he was clueless. Having acted out of pure impulse; this girl broke him into little pieces that were already coming apart from the very beginning. Now he was just dust in the gravel, waiting to be carried by the wind.

“Are you going to interrogate me like your superiors?” She spat out, scorn laced into her words. Eren felt a twinge of sympathy for her.

“Or are you going to persuade me to join your merry band of heroes,” She scoffed, irritation playing on her austere features, “like Arlert has oh so been desperately trying to do.”

Eren knew that it was completely futile; she would never abandon her goal. She would never leave behind the life she was striving to get back too. She was not one to give up so easily. Neither was he, had he been in her place. Someone was waiting for her back home, that much he did know. That was the incentive that kept her going, that kept her chained to this cell. 

But he appreciated Armin’s fruitless efforts none-the-less. 

He stepped closer to the barred prison, noticing how she shrunk back against the head board, looking him over warily.

Fear

Eren halted mid-stride, “Annie,” He breathed her name like a whisper, “I’m not here to ask questions, or try to fool you into joining our side.”

Or hurt you

He hoped he conveyed enough honesty through his words, she seemed to believe him.

Annie studied him, “Then why are you here?” She asked timidly, not an ounce of demand in her tone. He wished for that split second she could read minds, because then he wouldn’t have to be placed in such an awkward position.

Eren combed a hand through his unruly chest nut locks, biting the plush of his bottom lip, the cloak around his shoulders suddenly felt too thick, too heavy. He was burning on the outside, and in.

Damn her

“I shouldn’t have to tell you.” He exhaled the breath he was holding. “I shouldn’t have to explain myself.”

He didn’t. He was here on his own accord, what reason should he have to provide her with other than,

I wanted to see you?

Yet he could not even voice that. But she caught the message regardless.

“Eren…” She shook her head like she had done many times before on the training grounds, disapproving of his clumsy techniques. It struck him, it was a needle piercing his heart, and his name on her tongue was the healing comfort.

“You know; you’re only hurting yourself by coming here.”

She was right, and for that one moment he did loathe her for being right. Letting the anger bubbling deep inside him rise to the surface, he tossed a glare her way, “Good to know you’re still as heartless as I remembered.” He retorted bitterly.

The silence that followed was unsettling, but then he saw the corners of her lips quirk in the barest hint of a solemn smile.

“Such hateful words, you really wound me, Eren.”

“Bull shit.” He hissed, “All you’ve ever done is lie.”

She recoiled almost instantly.

“Now you’re lying to yourself? That’s pitiful, Annie.” He laughed humorlessly.

Her sapphire eyes wavered, mouth drawn tight in a frown, she dropped her gaze from his. Instead focusing them on the metal shackles latched around her wrists. Her hair shrouded her eyes; she was closing off. Putting up an invisible wall between them, guarding herself as she had done in the past. It was her own way of protecting herself; become nothing, feel nothing. He would not allow it.

“You know; I won’t ever forgive you.” He told her, matter-of-factly. “For what you’ve done to me, to my friends.”

Annie didn’t budge nor make any comment, and so he continued. “But I also won’t ever forget you.”

Eren’s hands flexed on impulse, fingers unfurling and tightening, he hid them beneath his cloak, “Even when I don’t want to, I catch myself thinking about you.” His voice grown soft as he approached her. Now a hairbreadth away from the iron bars that separated them.

“You linger around in my head like some pesky insect I can’t get rid of.”

Why do you this to me?

“I hate it,” he trembled, “I hate it. It’s driving me fucking mad, and it’s only gotten worse now that you’re here. All I could think about is…!”

He shook off, facing away from her.

Us

Eren sucked in a breath, exhaling loudly to calm his nerves and erratic heartbeat. He almost didn’t catch the mumbling from her end.

“What?”

“I said,” She sighed, “What do you want from me?”

Her hands bunched up the blanket she was grasping, something to distract her fidgeting. “…It’s not as if I haven’t thought about it too.”

Eren found himself staring at her small hands, dirty, bound and nervous. Her nimble fingers digging into the thin fabric of the sheet. She still hasn’t looked up at him once.

“I wouldn’t say I’m plagued with those memories but…” She trailed off, contemplating, “…I do wonder often of what could have been.”

The what-if’s

He wanted to correct her, but spite caused him to scoff at her, “Really, you?” He was the one who had suffered most when the truth had been revealed. When she’d shown him her true colors. How could she even fathom thoughts of him, of them, when he couldn’t even function with the thoughts of her that struck through his mind like lightning on a daily basis. That haunted him in his sleep.

“Sometimes,” She ignored the biting reply, “But then I remember that this is reality, Eren. This is the truth that you still refuse to accept.”

She looked up at him than, one sapphire eye hidden behind tangles of blonde hair. The other one, watery and lined in red, reflected the sorrow he was feeling deeply at that moment. She was holding back so much. He was falling apart, and she was trying to keep herself together.

He swallowed again because his throat felt constricted; she was right again. She read him like an open book. He loathed her for that.

“No matter what, this would’ve been the outcome.” He could hear the slight tremor in her voice.

Hold yourself together

She was repeating that to herself like a mantra in her head, he knew. He could read her too.

“Maybe we could have been…something,” Annie licked her dry lips, shaking her head, “I don’t know. Maybe if we hadn’t been born into two separate worlds.”

She smiled that same melancholic smile. It took all of his resolve to not lash out at the girl.

Eren buried his head into his hands, breathing unevenly. One girl, that’s all it took to pull him apart by the edges. As if he wasn’t already being tormented by the memories of his father, and the heavy burden of hope placed on his shoulders by the people who demanded a hero.

Sometimes he wished he could just disappear. Evaporate into thin air like the empty husk of a titan, and be erased from the minds of people, and the ones he cared for. But that would be too easy now, would it. They needed him.

But he wanted her.

“Have I really made your life into a living hell?” Her inquiry caused a mirthless laugh out of him, he dropped his hands to his side. His eyes now puffy and swollen, and a darker shade of green.

“My life’s already been hell.” He sighed, “You’re just the fucking cherry on top.”

“…I’m sorry.”

“No you’re not.”

A pause. The silence rang between them. He wished he could extend his arms past the metal bars that stood in his way and reach for her. He wished that she didn’t have to be so damn important to him. Eren wished he didn’t care. But wishes don’t come true.

“Your trial is next week.” He croaked.

“I know.”

There wasn’t anything more he could tell her, not without triggering himself into tears or bouts of rage.  So he turned his back to her, the wings of freedom emblem fluttering in his quick movement, “I’ll see you then.” He bid her goodbye, and made his way to the wooden door that had been left ajar.

Eren was one step away from leaving this stifling dungeon when he heard her cry out.

“Wait!”

He stopped, halfway out the door.

“Eren, wait!”

He turned to meet her pleading sapphire eyes that glittered wetly under the light of the torch. Annie lurched forward further on the bed, her arms stretched behind her at an odd angle, as if she were trying to break through the chains.

“Please could you…” She winced as the metal rubbed harshly against her wrists, “Could you stay just a little longer?”

He stared at her dumbly, barely moving an inch from his position.

“You don’t have to speak. You don’t even have to look at me just- “

Annie glanced down to, teeth sinking into her bottom lip. She shut her eyes dropping back against the cold stone wall, mumbling, “Please, just- stay please.”

His hand stood frozen on the metal latch of the door, looking from one end of the dark path way to the girl bathed in the glow of the fire light, the one who stole his heart, and to this day still held it in her small hands.

He sighed, resting his head against the wooden door, “They’ll come looking for me if I’m here too long.”

“Five minutes is all I’m asking.”

He smiled wistfully, eyes glued to the dripping ceiling above, “Are you still afraid of the dark?”

When she didn’t answer, he let the heavy door creak shut behind him. He didn’t get far before he slid to the ground, with his head in his hands, and the sounds of her muffled sobbing echoing in his ears.

Chapter Text

Annie had never been like the other girls; she was an enigma of a young woman to those around her. She wore a mask all her life, one that looked much like her own face, melded over her own flesh and blood, a mask made of ice. Of apathy and boredom, one she had perfected over the years of infiltration, a facade that she had quickly personified. The mask was a part of her. No, it had become her. She was impenetrable, she was tough; smooth marble stone. Nearly impossible to break; but jagged and sharped around the edges. Untouchable to others, less they wanted to hurt themselves. But, there was a long thin crack over the smoothness that deepened with time, a tear in her heart, one caused by a troublesome boy.  

Though many of the trainee boys would walk on egg shells around her, avoid her at all costs, because she seemed unnatural to them. Closed off, unlike the other female trainees who bonded by gossip, and braiding each other’s hair. Who consoled each other when one of them wept because of the hard ships they had to endure from training. Annie preferred the company of solitude. She had no time to waste on silly conversations about feelings, and boys who cared only for their boosting ego. That is until she had the unfortunate luck of meeting Eren Jaeger. A boy with wide green eyes and a mouth that wouldn't quit. He was loud, annoying and pushy. So very pushy, he let his emotions consume him, acted out on impulse. Spat fire to the people who dared question his motives, He was a ticking time bomb. He was fiery on a leash.

Annie had never felt so alive than when was with him. How it happened? It didn't matter, not to her. She was a walking human shell. A mask given personality; and he breathed life into her. There was a something her father used to tell her all the time as a child, something that had to do with boys like Eren. 

"A foolish man will try to see through any crack in the wall, Annie. No matter how invasive it is, they do not care. They will peak, and prod. Then in time, they will tear it down. Let it crumble in their hands. A smart man, wouldn't dare, because he knows the consequences that will follow, should he try. Never the less, you must be cautious Annie, because in the end, they are both the same man." 

It never made sense to her. It did not make sense to her even now. Her father always spouted random idealistic views on things, sometimes even a philosophical approach. But it was all gibberish to her ears. She never understood him, until one day, she had let Eren Jaeger kiss her. He was rough, inexperienced, nervous as his hands trembled when he cupped the back of her neck and leaned down. It was over within seconds, and she was left with an unfamiliar heat, and something so very humane. That was only the beginning, the first of many of their little endeavors. The second time, she had him pinned, blue eyes cold like the non-existent glaciers across the land, he struggled beneath her. Shouted curses into her passive face. 

His eyes were large, wild, and she found herself leaning closer, and closer to him. It's when he stopped squirming did she realize what she was doing, but by then, his hand had already fisted into her blonde tresses, and he was challenging her yet again. He was passionate, but clumsy all the same. She felt slightly disgusted when his tongue had swept across her bottom lip, but the hazy look in his bright eyes had her oblige him. It was truly an experience Annie would remember, even after the events that would occur in the future. That day, the unfamiliar heat from before only intensified, coiled so tightly within her, it left her feeling breathless. 

But they had to stop; not only because they were wary of the instructor, but because Annie had gotten to over whelmed. Her heart was racing, beating in its cage and every pulse felt quicker than the last. They had only been kissing, and yet every nerve in her body felt ignited. Eren had been no different, except that he had looked at her with an expression she had never seen on him before. 

It wasn't rage, it wasn't confusion or annoyance. It wasn't even his usual determined attitude; he appeared...amused. Curious, as his head cocked at an angle to take in her flushed disheveled form, when he reached out to her she batted his hand away. Turned her back to him and marched all the way back to the girls’ dorms, because how dare he look at her as if she were something to entertain him. 

She had misjudged Eren, maybe there something else to him other than his stupidity, and passion. Maybe he could actually see through her, the girl she'd been hiding for so long. It was apparent, sometimes intimacy could break even the most hardened people. What frightened Annie the most...was the fact that she did not care. Not one bit. So he saw through the crack in her mask; so he was the cause of it. Despite that, Annie had thrown all her caution to the wind, and for the first time ever, she left herself unguarded. But only ever in his presence, and only when they were absolutely alone. He told her he felt special about it, the idiot, but how could she argue with him when his lips were leaving bruises on her collarbone, and his hands were learning newer techniques. 

The fourth time, she became undone, all her stone walls collapsing down around her, leaving her soft and pliable in his arms. Annie almost couldn't bear the heat; his body felt like a furnace as hers was only stoking his flames. If she were to look back on that day; she could say that's when Annie Leonhardt, the real girl behind the facade, shone. Slipped off that mask with ease that should not had been so easy, tossed it to the side, and rode those libidinous waves until she peaked. An experience that would be engraved into her memory forever. 

A dizzying warmth enveloped in her chest afterwards; and she was left in that euphoric sort of bliss. Her mind been blank when he pulled her closer to him. Later on, she would regret what had transpired, she would berate herself terribly for acting on a whim. But for that one moment, in his embrace, the butterflies fluttering in her rib cage, and his electrifying touch were the only thing that mattered. It had been the only time she had felt human, that she had truly felt, like a girl. 

So she had been careless, she was aware of that. But if Annie could go back in time to the very day that boy left a searing mark on her, she wouldn't change a thing. In the end, it wasn't just that she craved intimacy, but that in fact, Eren had seen the hidden girl, and the facade she put up as one and whole. Two mindsets bleeding together; and he loved them both. It was what caught her, what perplexed her. How could he love a liar? A fake persona given a body; but regardless of how, and why he did. He cherished her, right up until she broke him. 

He was foolish, she had thought, to love a mask. 

Chapter Text

What had happened?

She was so close to her freedom; so close to  breaking those chains, so close to home.

She was a failure. It seemed all to sudden; too difficult for her mind to process the circumstances that was unfolding in front of her very eyes. The world was spiraling around her so quickly; she was losing momentum, she was falling, failing.

Annie, Fall.  

She choked, suffocating in the cramped space of her titan’s nape; everything inside smelt like steam and fire. Humid, scalding, leaving a burning caress on her exposed skin. Words bubbled anxiously in her head, bouncing off the walls of her skull. Propelling her to,

Do something.

 Do something!

You’re a failure!

Escape!

Failure…

Oh Father…

 Father…!

I’m sorry…

She was terrified of her inevitable fate. Why did the odds have to work against her? she hadn’t trained all her life for this, hadn’t thrown away her child hood, her innocence, just to be captured. Just to continue on living as a prisoner of war, as if she had never been given the chance of a new life. She’d given up everything for this.

Her body convulsed in the thick membranes of her titan; she was finally crying. Throwing away the last of her armor. White hot tears streamed down her cheeks, leaving a red trail down its path. Annie Leonhardt had lost. She was failure; an outcast to the Marleyan warriors.

She had been ripped away of her status; of her promised future, of living luxuriously and safely with her father at the very top; of being accepted as one of them.

It hurt, so much. They were tearing her titans flesh to shreds, attacking her nape, scraping away the only security she had left. What could she do? What should she do?

Oh god

Oh god

I’m so sorry Father

Forgive me…

I wasn’t strong enough!

I’m sorry…

I’m sorry I’msorryI’msorryI’msorryI’msorryI’msorryI’m-

Cool air kissed her face; rough hands plunged into the loosening muscle, and latched on to her arms, and she shivered. Fear, and paranoia consuming her, over riding her senses. They pulled, and yanked, until her body was pressed against another, warm, heavily breathing, chest. A staccato heartbeat, in broken sync with her own pulsed in her ear drums. Everything else was background noise, the scent of blood, sweat and something earthy touched her nose, and it was all him. Only him.

Don’t open your eyes, sweet heart

You won’t like what you see

Her father’s voice was a soft echo, and she grasped onto the material of his shirt, buried her face in to the nape of his neck, sniffling. His arms tightened around her protectively, and he was murmuring into her hair.

“Oh Annie, what have you done?”

“Why did you do this?”

“Why?”

It was all why’s and what’s; it was all questions that she herself couldn’t bear to answer. Even if she did know all the why’s and what’s. The who’s, the how’s and the when’s.

“I-I just…” She coughed out, squeezing her lids shut, tears catching in the brim of her eyelashes, and he stiffened as he felt the wetness staining his collarbone, “I...just wanted to live a better life.”

Annie lifted her head, her fore head bumped against his chin, and she pulled away ever so slightly, but his hold on her was vice like. When she finally opened her eyes, and saw his hard emerald gaze fixated on her face, saw the lines of his mouth drawn in a frown, saw his chest nut hair wild and wind tossed, and so very him. Annie broke, she sobbed, “I just wanted to go home.”

That emotion that flickered his eyes, that understanding and rage all mixed into one indescribable thing. That empathetic face, the sag of his shoulders, the gentle sigh that left his lips as he cupped her face in his callous hands.

Wiped away her tears with the rough pads of his thumb, the way he tugged her closer, whispered to her nonsensical things, things that meant nothing to them anymore, but he said them anyway. As if it’d wash away her fear, the notion that he understood her present in his hushed tones. That he was there for her, even when he shouldn't be. 

That hurt above all else.

Chapter Text

He heard a sound, a soft melody carried by the wind. It was soothing, and low. It belonged to her.

She was humming, standing in the midst of a grove while she traced the hard edges of a tree bark; her touch as light as a feather. The tips of her fingers barely grazing the hard wood. It felt unnatural, utterly bizarre for him to even witness her be this gentle. What was she humming? It sounded so melancholic- He wanted to ask her, but he knew that if he tried talking, the spell between them would be broken. She would freeze; morph back to her usual facade, and then he would retreat far from her. So they never really said anything to each other during the afterglow moments like these.

The moments where they found themselves lost, and wandering the woods during the hours of midnight where everything was silent, where everything stood still. Of course, they did pay heed to their curfew hours, considering the cruel punishment that would certainly follow if they were ever caught. But she was clever enough to never leave any tracks; and he was smart enough to always follow her familiar path.

A breathy sigh came from her lips, sounding so solemn. Then she continued her wistful tune, pressing her palm flat against an oak tree; head bowed like she was in midst of a prayer, her other hand balled and pressed to her chest, right above her heart. A haphazard imitation of their standard salute. He observed her from his place upon their nest of discarded uniforms, he couldn’t see her face but from the way she slouched further, head sinking a little lower, the way her small form began trembling; his too big tunic sliding off one end of her shoulder, revealing more of her porcelain skin. He knew he should do something before she allowed herself to show any more weakness in front of him.

There was nothing she hated more than baring herself; but during the quiet hours of midnight, she would sometimes cry. For what, or who, and why; He didn't know. Just that he had promised he’d stop her before the tears could come; before she could fall apart.

He called her name, gently, blades of grass brushed his bare back as he moved to sit up. When she didn’t respond, he stood on his feet, and padded over to her. She was a whole foot shorter than himself, and his shadow eclipsed the moonlight that had shone down on her, bathing her in the darkness.

He whispered her name, his heated breath ghosting over her exposed nape. She stirred once, her humming now resonating within him.

A flutter a wings reached his ears, an owl hooted from above the gnarled branches. She never stopped humming, but her arms dropped, hanging loosely at her sides. He felt more of her body lean on him; her clothed back snuggling against his chest, her head resting against his naked collarbone. She was so incredibly warm, comforting, soft, he swallowed.

 Peering down at the crown of her head, he saw a splayed mess of platinum blonde hair tickling at his chest, cast nearly silver by the stark moon light glow, when did she let her hair loose?

When did she stop humming? He then realized, as he wrapped his arms tightly her waist, buried his nose into junction of her shoulder; that pleasant melody wasn’t coming from her at all. It was the rustle of the trees- the whistle of the wind between the leaves; it with the buzzing insects swarming the bed of posies. It was the otherworldly cosmos singing them a lullaby.

He listened; a euphoric tremor coursing through him, he pressed a kiss to the pulse line of her neck, and the gasp that followed thrilled him.

His hands traveled down south from her waist to her slender hips; stopping just above the hem of where his tunic ended, where cotton fabric gave way to smooth fair skin. He lightly drummed his fingers on her thighs; pecked her cheek as she shivered when he began gradually lifting the tunic inch by inch. The crisp seasonal breeze hitting her most sensitive parts caused a hitch in her breathing.

His hands were explorers on their own; roaming the expanse of her ribcage. Trailing up, up, up until they disappeared beneath the tunic; fingers glided over the swell of her breasts. She writhed under his touch; arching her back as he ran his thumb across her nipple. He murmured her name into her hair, cupping her soft flesh in his hand while the other danced down her sternum; lower and lower until his fingers reached the apex of her thighs. He closed his eyes, she made a noise that sounded of a whine and a whimper.

It was all a performance; it was a dance. It was art. Whatever it was; she and him. They were bonded by the forces of fate. He knew it when he had first set his eyes on her three years ago. A tug in his chest pulled him to her; he gravitated in her peripheral world until she finally saw him. He spoke her language in a flurry of fists, kicks, jabs and grapples, and they soon became attracted to one another; his burning soul left its mark on her. He knew he wouldn’t find another like her, not in a dozen years, not in a century, not in a millennium. Not even in the next life.

Funny thing though, fate was.

The music of the night came to an abrupt halt, as if time itself had frozen around them. She stilled in his arms- moved away from his embrace, the soft sift of the tunic covering her small frame was the only sound.

A blanket of silence blanketed over silence; it suffocated him somehow. His body felt paralyzed, unable to act when she turned to gaze at him. His reflection flitted rapidly in her eyes. Eyes that were like sapphires, and cold like ice, hidden beneath strands of silver; but that was all he could see. Her face…She didn’t have a face.

Her features- he couldn’t recognize them. Her face was indistinguishable; a distorted mirror of a girl he once knew. She held her arms out, reached for him and he allowed her to bring him closer- around them the forest was fading- she placed a hand to the back of his neck, and her lips ghosted over the shell of his ear.

“Will you remember me?”

A small hand braced on his chest, he stopped breathing.

The forest was gone.

 

 

Chapter Text

He’s way too stiff under her palms; like he’s trying to ease the tension by acting like a statue—shut down until further notice. And yet Annie thought she was the one with the major ‘this kind of touching is really awkward for me’ issue. Though it’s not like he didn’t want to be touched—more like he didn’t know how to deal with her touching him—And sure, okay, she understood that.

Besides, she was the one who offered to give him the massage in the first place.

“Let me show you another one of my techniques.” She purred to him behind the Boy’s cabin hours earlier, fluttering her lashes in a terrible attempt to be flirty—which Eren had found quite terrifying, though still pretty hot.

But he agreed, after choking on his spit and coughing till tears brimmed at the corners of his eyes.

Now here they were in the supply shed, during the brief down time that they were allowed between supper and curfew—Eren, lying face down on his uniform jacket, a buttoned shirt tossed somewhere behind them, and his bare sun-kissed back put on display for Annie’s wandering eyes.

She had to admit, the boy had some nice shoulders, slightly freckled, broad and wiry. Mikasa would surely bust a vein if she ever caught the two in the act—Annie smirked picturing the other girl fuming from the ears, face as red as the scarf around her neck.

That would be the drama of a life time play writers could ever hope to achieve.

Eren cleared his throat than, and Annie scooted further down his legs so she could work on his lower back, leaning forward to grab the lavender oil (that she totally did not steal from their Instructor) and dripped a decent amount onto her palm. She lathered until her hands were coated and the calming essence of lavender permeated the air.

Eren may as well have been playing possum with how still he was beneath her. Well, she was just going to have to change that. Annie leaned down, pressing her thumbs into center lower part of his back, splaying her fingers out to the sides. She pressed down sliding her thumbs up to the middle with the slightest bit of pressure—noting Eren’s hitched breath.

She ran her fingers lightly down his sides, and repeated the motion a good five or six times, adding more pressure each time. The lower part of Eren’s back was glistening with the oil, and really, Annie may have been having a hard time concentrating.

He flexed once, when she scooted up to sit on his thighs, and she liked the way his trapezius muscle’s bunched together, and loosened beneath his skin—really liked it. Eren wriggled underneath her for a moment, and she already had her hands back on him to ease the tension.

“You need to relax.” She murmured, smoothing her hands across his shoulder blades, and running them down to rest on the mid of his back.

Eren responded with something, speaking into the material of his jacket so she couldn’t hear.

Annie slid her hands back up, stroking small circles on his deltoid muscles. “Sorry, what was that?”

He lifted his head a fraction to speak clearly, “I said that’s impossible.”

“And why’s that?” She ran her knuckles down the curves of his spine.

Eren was silent for minute, probably basking in the magic her hands were working on him.

“You know why.” He sighed, and her fingers started doing the rubbing thing again, Eren closed his eyes, and sighed again, more blissfully this time.

Annie flicked her wrist. “Hm, I don’t think I do.”

But she didn’t stress him any further because he was already becoming pliant under her guiding touch. Let it be known that Annie did not offer this kind of service to just anybody—actually she’d never done this with anybody except —Okay, maybe a girl or two, but Eren really was the only guy she actually massaged. And he was cool enough with her for it to not be too awkward.

See. She considered him to be a very special guy, a little bit of an air head sure. But she admired those who talked a big deal, and actually acted on what they constantly protested about, instead of just being all ideas.

Regardless if they actually managed to pursue their goal or not. Annie found Eren to be the most interesting of all the 104th trainee boys. He was louder than the blaring horn when he wanted to be, he was selfless to the point of jumping in front of a gun to save a stranger, and he just carried all this…passion, this zeal that the other boys all just saw as being dramatic.

He was one of the most hard-headed people she’d ever met, her polar opposite. It was for that reason she found herself becoming attracted to him, she couldn’t just ignore the urges like that.

He was also cute, and his hair was always messy, and she liked that.

She also liked his physique, despite her jabs at his puny biceps, and skinny legs. Sparring with him was always her favorite part of the day. Even though he practically limped away after each session like a dog with its tail tucked between its legs.

It’s why she decided to give him a helping hand this time.

Eren stirred beneath her, and she was just about done with the lavender oil, smearing the rest of it over his back—it was getting to be a bit too warm in the dingy shed. Or maybe that was just her.

He groaned when she pinched lightly at his shoulder muscle, and Annie felt a dirty sort of thrill shoot through her.

Eren peaked an eye open when he felt more of her weight lean onto him, his cheek resting on his arms so he could see better.

“Annie?”

Her lips grazed over his exposed nape, it made him jump slightly—and then she pressed a feather light kiss to it. He tensed until he felt her weight lift off him.

Something vulgar snapped inside Eren, and made a lump form in his throat—A ferocious need building in his lower body was fighting his focus and so he shut down completely, and this time he really didn’t move. Tensing all his muscles, and burying his face into the fabric of his jacket. That had felt…really good. Too good, it was almost strange how good that felt.

Annie was getting rid of the evidence, tossing the empty bottle behind some crates and coming back to still see Eren lying face down on the floor like a corpse.

She snorted, and walked over him to the water basin, dumping the rag in, and squeezing out all of the liquid.

“I have to clean all that oil off you now,” She hovered over him, “So just bear with me until I’m done.”

That answering low groan she got made her smile deviously.

Chapter Text

She cried sometimes; only when she was alone, hidden away from anyone who’d be able to hear her distressed sobbing. It was an embarrassment for her, Annie Leonhardt never cried. Or show weakness of any kind; but sometimes, sometimes Annie just couldn’t keep the cap sealed on her emotions. Sometimes it would over flow, over-whelm her, catch her off-guard, and she’d find herself huddled under the weeping tree, angrily wiping away the tears that wouldn’t go away until she let herself give in to the desolation, the trapped guilt laying underneath her cold exterior.

She hated crying, she hated it because it only left her feeling more miserable. She hated it because when she cried, she was only thinking of her father, of her home across the sea. She hated it because it proved she was not yet ready to be a warrior. It made her heart heavy, and her head hurt; her eyes would stay pink, and puffy for hours, and she’d have to lie to others about allergies acting up so they’d stay away. Girls would steer clear of her in the barracks, boys hardly would approach her, fearing they might catch something too.

Only one idiot simply refused to do that. The extremely passionate, vengeance-driven —did not know anything about volume control—Eren Jaeger. Some days, Annie would take her place under the willow tree. Far behind the 104th Camp borders; she liked her solitude, and it was easy to let go in the shadows. But then he’d show up right when she was about done spilling her feelings, screwing the cap on. If he did notice anything that certainly did not equate to the passive, and aggressive blonde that he knew; he never commented on it.

In fact, Eren never said anything to her. But he never left her alone, either.  He’d just take a seat beside her; not too close, just giving the right amount of space she still needed. And they never passed a word to each other. In the beginning, Annie found him to be a nuisance, always following her around like some damned stray.

But as the days of their graduation grew nearer; she’d come to find comfort in his company. In the silence that they sat idly in under the weeping tree. She still cried, though Eren always seemed to come at the right time, when it all stopped; until one day.

She couldn’t stop. She didn’t know why; she just couldn’t stop—the tears wouldn’t end, they fell down her cheeks in burning rivulets, and she hiccupped, and she growled, and she was so, so very angry. And alone, and sad. And home-sick.

“Ugh, I…hate…” She sniffed and she coughed, wiping away at her wet cheeks with the damp cuff of her sleeve, “I hate this.”

Had she heard him coming prior, she would have never let him see her in the miserable state she was in. But she hadn’t, and he saw her. And still, he said nothing. But the look of pity in his glimmering green eyes made her almost want to snap his neck.

“Please, just go away…” She waved a tired hand at him, her throat felt too tight, her voice sounded so small. When he didn’t move, Annie glared at him under wet lashes, “Go away, or I will hurt you.”

Eren Jaeger, not one to walk away from a challenge, took a seat beside her, his usual spot. Not quite touching her, but not quite drifting from her, either. Annie glowered at him, but it proved ineffective when her eyes were rimmed in red, and her cheeks were damp, and rosy. She must have looked like a pitiful mess.

“Why won’t you leave me alone?” She asked, irritably, once she was done wiping away the residue tears off her face. It took him a moment to reply, but when he did, it was something offish, and stupid.

“I don’t want too.”

Annie, the stoic girl, the fighter, the soon-to-be warrior, gaped at him, bewilderment washing over her features. He looked away.

“I’ve never told anyone,” He mumbled, “By the way. It’s alright, to let loose sometimes, I understand.” 

Annie pulled at the weeds that poked her thighs, throwing them in front of her, and watching the swirling breeze carry them away. He’d known all along.

“You can’t keep everything bottled up forever, Annie.”

She turned to him, smiling wistfully, “You don’t know me.”

Chapter Text

The Court consisted of the Survey Corps newly appointed Commander Hange, Garrison Commander Pixis, and Commander-In-Chief, Darius Zackley. The Jury was merely what was left of the Survey Corp. All nine members present, standing, silent, dutifully, awaiting the sentence of their former trainee acquaintance, now turned wall-wide criminal, Annie Leonhardt.

Zackley coldly assessed the young girl below him; the guards had chained her to the same iron post that they had once chained Eren Jaeger too. How ironic; the young boy who was once in this very same position, now watched from the jury box above, jaw locked tightly, brows furrowing together in concern for the unknown.

Zackley straightened in his chair, pinning his attention on Leonhardt. “I believe you know well, how this will go.” He pulled a sheet from underneath the neatly stacked documents on his bench, “Annie Leonhardt, Ex-Military Police Officer, former Cadet of the 104th training camp, one of the Top ten.”

He placed the sheet down, “And, the Mysterious Female Titan.” 

The girl blinked, slow, and dazed; clearly under the influence of some type of sedative.

“You are guilty for Treason within the walls, the destruction of District Stohess, causing massive hysteria among the citizens of Wall Sina, and the murder of more than several Survey Corp soldiers, including those of the former Squad lead by Levi.”

Eren let his eyes drift to Captain Levi who stood rigidly in front of him, fading out Zackley’s speech as he continued to list Annie’s wrong-doings. He couldn’t see his Captain’s expression; but he knew well that Levi was glaring murderously at Annie. He knew well that he should be feeling that same bitter hurt, the same vengeful rage, too. But he did not. Eren, for once, did not know what he was feeling in that moment. It was a plethora of emotions. Everything hitting him at once. His head ached dully from one too many thoughts; was he confused?

His hands were sweaty, balled into fists so tight, the veins under his skin bulged. Was he angry? His heart felt as it were being squeezed in an iron fist. Was he hurt? The fist squeezed only tighter. Was he heart-broken?

Anyone could see it so blatantly written on his face; he was more hurt than any of the other members in this Court room. But for a different reason; one he would never make public. It wouldn’t matter to them, anyway. Nor would it to the girl who caused him this pain.

“And so, Annie Leonhardt,” Zackley cleared his throat, “We’ve got no further use of you here. You will be handed over to Survey Corp, under the watch of Commander Hange. You will be imprisoned in the dungeons of Castle Yggdrasil of District Utopia. From now, until your dying day.”

Soft murmurs broke from the Garrison side of the Jury Box; Commander Pixis stepped forward, “If I may have a word, Chief?”

Zackley turned to the old man, confusion etched on his features. “Having second thoughts Pixis, this was the agreement, was it not?”

“It was,” Pixis mused, “However, I’ve come to a better wager of this young girl.”

From the Survey Corp side, Commander Hange raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Is that so, Pixis?”

“It is so.” He held Hange’s firm gaze, “I believe we need more fighters in these walls; Shifting fighters, to be exact.”

“Are you implying something?” Zackley briefly glanced at the prisoner before him.

“I am saying, Chief, that we need this girl,” Pixis gestured to Annie insistently, “We need another titan-shifter, we need power, strength. Her power, and strength to be exact.”

A loud scoff erupted from Captain Levi, who had remained silent for almost the entirety of the trial; every pair of eyes were on him in an instant. “Another shifter?” He shook his head, “Look, old man, if I am forced to look after yet another shifter, and the one who had killed my former squad, I will resign from my position.” Levi hardened his glare, “Right after I’m done kicking your old dusty ass for proposing that stupid decision in the first place

Hange, already used to her fellow Captain’s crudeness, closed her eyes and breathed in deeply through her nose, mumbling something that sounded like, “Levi, please don’t.”

Pixis was determined though, shaking off Levi’s bitter insult. His eyes landed on the two younger soldiers who stood behind Levi. “Eren Jaeger, Armin Arlert!”

Armin shaken from a reverie, stepped forward, Eren followed. “Sir!”

“You two are the only titan-shifters that are on our side.” Pixis fixed with an almost pleading stare. “Do you understand the benefit of having another titan-shifter fight for humanity within the walls?”

“Do you understand that’s bullshit?” Levi quipped from the far end. Pixis glared his way. “What makes you think that this brat,” Levi motioned to the half drugged-induced girl, “Wants to fight for our cause?”

Zackley considered the words of both parties, though before he could make anything a final decision, Armin declared another option “I think we should hear from Annie herself, if she wants to fight for us or not!”

Eren looked at his friend, bewildered, Armin nodded to him, affirming his decision. “I agree, as well!” Eren spoke up, trying to muster as much weight into his weakened voice. Mikasa Ackerman, who stood idly at his side, took notice of this. “We don’t even know if Annie has much time left…in this world… Sir.”

The hard truth hurt him; but it made every Commander in the room freeze. Armin had a vague speculation of her death date, but that’s all it was. Eren only knew that it dreaded closer than either of theirs.

After a long-driven silence, and some shuffling of papers. Zackley’s attention was fixed on Annie Leonhardt once more. He tilted his head in wonder, taking in her eyes that were a cloudy robin-egg blue, “Can she even speak?”

He waited, and then the rattling sound of rusted chains resounded in the Court room. “She…can.”

She spoke. And all of Eren’s focus was on her in an instant; on her wild blonde hair that shielded her features, on her ghostly skin, on her clothes that—in some places were ripped, and covered in a dried red substance. But mostly, he focused on her voice. And how different it had sounded to his ears. The way it was so soft, and meek. Fragile on the edges. Like glass. He missed her usual tone of voice. The voice that was made of steel. Regrettably, he missed all of the old Annie. The one he—regrettably—had fallen in love with.

“Right then.” Zackley settled into his chair. “What say you Annie Leonhardt. If what Jaeger has said is deemed to be true, would you rather waste your remaining life in a dungeon cell, possibly interrogated and beaten,”—Eren frowned—“Or would you rather fight alongside humanity within the walls; even have the chance at becoming an honorary soldier?”

Eren knew Zackley had sugar-coated his last words. None of the nine left of the Survey Corp would ever look up to her, to a traitor. Annie’s gaze was on the floor, and she swayed every bit. Eren wished they hadn’t drugged her. He wanted to see what his—what the true Annie Leonhardt would say.

But much to his disbelief, the girl chained to that iron post, was the true Annie Leonhardt, and he was—regrettably—going to have to accept that.

“I’m…so tired.” She drawled, shaking her head to rid herself of the drug induced haze she was in. “So very tired of…of fighting.”

Eren passed a fearful look to Armin, who’s face resembled the same. Please don’t go there, Annie.

“I’ve been fighting…for a long time…and it’s turned me into…this.” She shrugged, or as much as she could with her limited mobility, “I’m…just…a tool used for war. I don’t want to be that…anymore.”

Zackley, hanging on her every word, nodded. Clearly intrigued by her display of emotions. Eren felt disgusted at his fascination.

“So, Leonhardt. Does that mean you choose to not, join the Survey Corp, and by association, fight for our cause?”

Annie gave a vague nod, confirming her decision. Inside, Eren was screaming profanities at her. She’s so stupid. She’s so damn stupid! What is wrong with her?! We gave you a way out!

He was not going to stay silent, and Armin, noticing the fierce determination on his friends’ face, tugged back at his sleeve. He shook his head in silent communication. Don’t do it. But it was Mikasa, who anchored him back to his calm. “If you cause a scene now, they’ll only punish her more. Don’t do anything you’d regret, Eren.” She placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. He trembled, glaring, hurtfully, down at the stupid girl. He had already done something he regretted. No matter what, no matter how much he suppressed his feelings. Annie would always have his heart in her hands.

And he loathed her for it. About as much as he loved her for it.  

I hate you. He watched as Zackley dismissed the court room, the decision made final. The Guards came to collect her, dragging Annie to her feet. She looked so lifeless as they her hauled away. He turned away from the scene. A day will come when Eren Jaeger did not suffer quite as much as he did already; but so as long as Annie Leonhardt lived; he’d just have to endure that pain—the twisting knife to his heart.

Chapter Text

Blending in was pointless. Socializing was a waste of her time; time she could be spending on actual training. But that big blonde muscle head had insisted she not be so inconspicuous—she had already caught the wariness of many other cadets around her due to her callous personality, and her so called ‘resting bitch face’ as Reiner delicately put it.

Though many avoided her due to being aware she was a rather cold—closed off person. And scary, apparently—she did not understand how she gave off that kind of vibe, but she wasn’t complaining. It kept people out of her way. Reiner had wanted her to make friends with these people—not even pretend, he wanted her to make actual friends.

“The best way to hide,” He said one day, biting off a big chunk of bread he’d stolen from Bertolt, “Is in plain sight.”

She found that to be ridiculous, as well as useless in regards to their mission. Why should she attempt to make friends with these people; that wasn’t her objective. She was a spy; a warrior. A titan-shifter. A wolf hidden among sheep. Her only goal was to collect information on the coordinate—and observe the Wallists’ who had kept their secrets hidden behind their beliefs.

Their plan was to attack the outer city district, Trost, right before graduation. However, they lagged on retrieving the whereabouts of the coordinate. It was as if it didn’t exist, and they were chasing a lost power of the progenitor titan.

It did frighten her a bit. Anybody who dwelled within these walls—from infants to elderly old folk—was capable of inheriting that power. They were people of the late Ymir. The one who made a pact with the devil to save her own.

They were like her. But she could not think of them that way. She could not think of them as equals—it’d only hinder the mission. And she certainly was not going to become anyone’s friend. But Reiner, being the asshole he was, had to purposely introduce her to the one person she just couldn’t shake off, no matter how hard she tried.

He was like a damn gnat; always coming up to her face— and getting into her personal space, and he was loud. He was so loud. And passionate—his eyes were a silver-gray. But he when he screamed, they flashed like lightning from a dark sky. He was the personification of a raging storm.

Annie really hated Reiner. She hated him even more when she found herself tuning in to the boy’s idealistic views. Every other night during supper, he’d go on a rampage about the unfairness, the discrimination, and treason within the walls. Then he’d go on about his most favorite subject—eviscerating all the titans.

Many cadets—including herself—figured he was not going to last very long once he stepped foot outside Wall Rose. The thing about this boy was—he was very passionate about changing the world, even when he knew, that it was impossible. He was an idealist. Just like her father.

Maybe that was why she began feeling an inkling of attraction toward him. Because he was part of the 1% who refuse to condemn themselves to the natural order of things—refused to accept the little of what was being offered to him, he demanded more. They all did. But he chose to speak out against the patriarchy, when no one else would.

Annie thought he was a special case. She never encountered a person so driven for change, and willing to risk everything for it. She wondered what he truly aimed for. What blurred the lines between anarchy and idealism for that boy? The two states of mind that required a raging spirit, and free will.

She wondered what it would be like…to live her own life—wondered what real freedom tasted like. Then one night came when she did not have to wonder anymore. Annie did not share in anyone’s beliefs’. But she could understand them; Annie was part of the 99% who accepted the way things were, and dealt with it accordingly. She never went against the flow; going against the flow meant imminent danger. But maybe that was why he tasted so good.

Her mouth on his had been hesitant at first—she had no clue how to go along with it. She never kissed anyone before. She hadn’t even thought of the very act of kissing another, until now.

“Annie—“ He breathed against her lips. Hot, and erratic. His eyes wide in disbelief. “Annie, what are you doing!?”

She didn’t know so much either. But she was impulsive. Her hands acted on their own, grabbing him by the collar of his jacket, and then lightly shoving him against the wall— right outside the back of the boy’s barracks. She peered up into his eyes through her lashes—“I want to know,” Annie murmured, licking her lips—Eren’s gaze flitted down. “I want to know what freedom is like.”

“What?”

And then she had stood up on her tip-toes; brushing her lips against his; situating her leg between his own, she pushed up to plant her lips more firmly against his, causing her knee to press against his groin. The low groan he emitted made her body all tingly—and heightened all her senses. She wanted to feel more.

“Eren?”

His hands were on her waist in an instant; and he was finally responding; slanting his lips over hers. Wet, and moving against her own a little sloppily, she made a protesting noise when his nose accidently bumped against hers. He immediately pulled back, flushed, and sheepish in the eyes.

“I’m sorry—I don’t—I can’t do this well.” Eren swallowed, nervous. As if she were going to scold him for being incompetent in kissing. Annie released the collar of his jacket, stepping back—it turned out he really did think that as he refused to let go of her waist.

“Wait--!” he pulled her back in, gently. “Just…wait.” Eren pleaded, “I can get better. Just…show me how.”

Annie wanted to laugh at him. She hadn’t a clue either—but she did know that this was not going to end so soon. Because once this ended—once she got what she wanted—she was going to cast him aside. That was just how it had to be. Protocol and all. Eren did not know any of that, of course.

“Maybe…” She pondered, splaying her palms across his chest, her nose grazed against his chin. “Maybe…we just kiss anywhere except the lips?”

Eren was perplexed; but then she leaned in, burying her nose into the junction of his shoulder—he smelt like sweat, and the earth’s soil. Eren’s body froze when her breath ghosted over his throat, and then her warm mouth was pressed against his throat. She felt the bob of his Adam’s apple beneath her lips, and heard the slight hitch of his breath. A thrilling sensation course though her—A need. A want. This was it. She switched, turning her head to the other side of his neck, and nuzzling it, before pressing a kiss against his pulse line. She was getting so warm. He was making her feel so dizzy.

“Annie.” He let out a shuddery gasp when she playfully nipped at collarbone. Then a primal urge drove her to sink her teeth into his neck—not too hard, but just enough that it caused him to hiss at the suddenness—her knee brushed against him, and she could feel the growing excitement she was inflicting on him.

His hands wandered from her waist to her hips, and then he lowered himself against her, kneeling so his palms glided across her ass, down her thighs, and without a warning he hefted her up— she yelped, at the sudden change, instinctively wrapping her arms around his shoulders, her legs dangled on each side of his waist.

Eren now had her back against the wall—he nuzzled her neck, breathing erratically. “Better?”

She groaned when she felt the wet slide of his tongue on her neck, “Yeah—yes.”

 His sloppy opened mouth kisses against her collar bone made the softest little whimpers come from her throat. Her face heated with embarrassment, but Eren found it to be hot, and endearing. He wanted to hear more of her.

And he did. With every slow roll of his hips against her center; each swipe of his tongue, every kiss he peppered the expanse of her neck and chest with. Annie careened against him when his chin dipped low into the neckline of her tunic, and kissed lower down her chest—she fisted her hands into the tangles of his chest-nut hair, whining when he couldn’t reach the parts of skin she wanted. Her body felt as if it were strung so tightly, and she needed to let loose.

“Eren—!”

“I know.” His voice was raspy, and heady with want; he nuzzled her chest, and kissed her neck, and cheek, as he gently set her back down. Her legs were wobbly, but he kept his hold on her— when she gazed into his stormy eyes again, they were glazed over, pupil blown wide across cloudy gray. She thought his eyes were otherworldly; stunning.

“You wanna’...?” He jerked his head to gas supply shed; it stood a little further behind from the Boy’s barracks, but Annie could spot from there, that the door had been left slightly ajar. How convenient for them. Her stomach knotted anxiously at the thought of being completely alone with him—what the obvious implication of going into that shed meant.

But she was riding high off that tingling buzz—the beating of both their hearts thumped loudly in unison, and she was breathing harder than before. Eren reached up, lightly tracing his fingers along the column of her neck. Annie grabbed his hand in hers, holding it against her bosom.

“Let’s go, before the instructor see’s us.”

In the shed; everything was dark. It smelled of old rusted tools, gas, and oil. They could hardly fit in, as the small space was stacked with canisters upon canisters of spare gas for their gear. But somehow, they managed; with the help of the moonlight glow through the shingles, and Annie’s guiding hands.

Eren had her sit on his lap to make more room for them—his mouth was already on her collarbone before she could say anything.

Annie gasped, shifting her weight on his lap. “Wait.” She hesitated, feeling his eyes on her. With trembling hands, she very slowly removed her uniform jacket, she could see the whites of eyes glint in approval, though still flustered. She tossed the jacket to the side, and then, taking her time, she lifted the hem of her tunic, but stopped midway. They were already relieved of the belts, thankfully, that day hadn’t been a maneuver gear training day.

Still she felt, oddly nervous. This was a new territory, this wasn’t sparring; or spying, or hiding from anything. She swallowed thickly—No, this wasn’t hiding at all. This was blending in. To some extent, that was. Also pure selfishness on her part; because she wanted to rebel a little bit, and what’s the fun in rebelling if couldn’t be with another rebel? This was her little bit of freedom; this moment was hers only.

She lifted the tunic over her head—leaving her clad in only the white uniform jeans and her standard black brassiere. Eren’s face—eclipsed by the blue glow of the moon—was in complete awe, he swallowed, rubbing his palms up and down her now naked waist. Annie closed her eyes, reveling in the sensation of his cool callous hands—she rocked against him subconsciously; causing deep little noises to spill from his mouth.

 “Y-you’re really warm.” His hands slid up her back, along the ridges of her spine; a shiver ran through her. She grabbed a hold of his shoulders, and Eren pulled her in closer; until their noses were practically touching. His breath was hot against her lips, and she could feel his unmistakable hardness he gently rocked against her inner thigh. He whispered, shakily, “Can I kiss you now?”

She did not want too, at first. But his mouth was parted, and wet, and inviting. She nodded, shyly, and then his hand reached to unclip her hair band—causing platinum tresses to fall limply at her shoulders. She sputtered out a strand that fell into her mouth, narrowed her eyes disapprovingly. But Eren was smiling the way he did whenever he accomplished something—boyishly, and radiant.

In her chest, there a flutter of something, like little feathers tickling her heart—though it was gone before she could even acknowledge it. Then his hand was in her hair, and his lips were on hers, and he was going slow this time, too slow in fact. She slanted her mouth over his, and parted her lips, feeling his tongue eagerly swipe across her bottom lip.

Their kiss was noisy, but not as bad as the first had been—it was invigorating, fresh; inexperienced but sensual. It felt as if they were actual lovers. They both learned so quickly—what caused the other to make those certain sounds—what the other liked, and did not like. Eren, in particular, was surprisingly skilled with tongue, he found all the tender spots of Annie that made her gasp, and shudder.

It came to a boiling point. when Annie placed her hand on top of his own, then slid it tentatively over her clothed breast. Eren’s eyes went wide, his thick eyebrows furrowing—‘Is this really alright?’—he conveyed to her through his look alone. She squeezed his hand covering her breast, the action forced a throaty moan from her. “It’s alright,” She mumbled, “It’s alright, just—ah.”

He cupped both her breasts in his palm, running his thumb right over the soft material of her brassiere—he could feel the buds under his thumb harden. Annie hummed delightfully. His expression became unreadable. “You’re putting so much trust in me.” He whispered to her, then his hands were sliding down the straps of the brassiere, caressing her arms as he did so. A chill ran down her spine, she pushed her chest forward, Eren cursed under his breath.

“Annie—“ He whined, her smooth flesh molded under his palms perfectly, he swallowed again. Annie bumped her forehead against his own, their heavy breaths intermingling. “It’s okay.” She reassured him, pleasurable heat coiling in her lower body, she tightened her thighs around his own, rolled her hips against his more insistently, so that he could feel how much she was burning. Aching.

“It’s okay. I want this.” Annie held his head in her hands, leaning down to kiss him, long and chaste like. Eren breathed her in; brought her closer than she thought possible, they parted, and she saw in his silver-gray eyes something she thought she never wanted to see. But then he dipped his head low, and ran his tongue hotly across her nipple, and she was lost.

Soon his own tunic, and jacket lay rumpled on the floor. Her uniform pants tossed among them. Boots carelessly thrown to the side. The moon light filtering through the dingy roof illuminated the sweating bodies that lay tangled in each other.

Annie writhed underneath him; naked and vulnerable. His forearm braced on one side of her head. His fingers—slick, and learning—pumping into her at a pace that drove her wild. She brought a hand to her mouth—biting down to muffle her cries.

Eren mumbled nonsensical things into her neck—Does that feel good? You’re so wet. You’re so beautiful—everything was drowned out by the lewd noise of her own arousal, and the loud buzzing in her eardrums.  She never felt so alive. This was hers. This freedom, this pleasure, was hers. She chose this. Fuck the mission, Annie would deal with the consequences of her actions later. But for now; she just wanted to be rebellious.

Chapter Text

Eren told himself that this was going to be a onetime thing; they go to the shop, she gets what she wants, they leave, she’s content with her box of goodies for the next two days, and he’s satisfied he managed to catch another glimpse of that rare smile from the lion-hearted girl. He never told her, but that was his secret price in exchange for covering half the cost of her expensive sweets.

Mostly because—Eren had never seen her get so starry eyed over anything, least of all, over a pastry. Her smile always took his breath away though—it was something quick, and beautiful, and fleeting—he’d have to paint the best picture in his head every night, to remember it. A small quirk at the corner of her lips, innocent—childlike, and happy. Her ice-like eyes—always downcast, and cold—would sparkle the way Armin’s would whenever he spoke of visiting the ocean.

It was quite a sight to behold—being that it was the Queen of frost and pain herself, Annie Leonhardt. He never knew that she harbored such a sweet tooth, he’d found that out about a week ago, Eren thought it was actually kind of cute, of course he would never tell her that. He preferred having legs to walk on, he did, however, ask her how she got to liking this particular pastry.

Eren recalled Annie telling him something about how her roommate ditched some overdue paper work, so she was left with the brunt of it—but she had, instead also ditched the same overdue paper work in favor of a much more interesting case, and the witness she’d been looking for had brought her a pastry called a dough knot.  

He scoffed and had told her it sounded just like her to slack off. Though Eren did wonder what the yearly salary was for Military Police Personnel. Probably a much higher percentage than the Survey Corp, that was for sure.

Sweets, cakes and pastries were a rare delicacy, and were considered a special commodity only among the rich. Seeing as how sugarcanes were obnoxiously expensive, and taxed as well. Only the noble men, and women, and some high-end merchants who do their business in trade were able to purchase the sugarcanes in bulk, and granulate it as an ingredient to use in dishes.

Sugar was like salt in terms of quality and appearance; but instead of that prickle dry taste of salt, it was a fine white sweet tasting powder. Eren had tried it once in his life—and honestly, it tasted disgusting to him. The sweetness made his tongue too tangy, and he had to drink several cups of water to wash the taste away. Sugar was obviously better when baked into treats; but that one experience with it made him picky. Besides it wasn’t as if he’d be wasting his hard-earned pay on expensive treats. So, it did surprise him that Annie would do so, in a heartbeat.

He had first thought she had scared the baker into giving her a discount. Threatening them with the idea that’d she crush their skull between her thighs if they don’t hand over the goods. 

The scene made him chuckle out loud.

“Something funny, Jaeger?”

Eren swiveled around, his chest nearly colliding with Annie’s long nose (because she’s too damned short), she stepped back, peering up at him with that bored expression of hers, arms folded, one perfect eyebrow raised.

“Well?”

Eren hesitated, then shrugged. “It’s nothin’, I just remembered something stupid I did once.”

Annie’s blue eyes shone like he had piqued her interest—but he knew that was not the case. “You must have a lot of those memories.”

Another shrug, “Yeah, but they’re the good kind.”

She was silent after that, casting an observant look—making the hairs at his nape stand because even her eyes send chills down his spine—then she focused elsewhere, and continued walking in the direction they were headed. It was their usual routine, traveling to the market square before dusk, to the bakery where they quickly became regulars at. It was considered one of the best in the Stohess District, owned by a wealthy elderly widow.

The first time Annie had dragged Eren to the fancy pastel colored shop; the old woman behind the counter nearly had her eyes pop out her large magnifying spectacles. At first Eren feared it was because she had recognized him from the sketches in the month old news articles—the boy who became a beast—but then she had grinned exuberantly at him, three of her teeth glinted bronze instead of white, and then she congratulated Annie on finding a rather handsome one.

Eren had been confused—and horribly flustered. But then the woman clarified—“Oh Such a lovely duet, I’ll be sure to include the newlywed discount on your next purchase.”—Eren’s jaw had hit the ground, but Annie was already picking out what type of frosting she wanted, that’s when he noticed the silver ring on her middle finger he’d never seen before.

So that was that, and here he was now, her supposed fiancé. He guessed it did benefit her, the discount was fifty percent off, that was a deal you could not even bargain a merchant with. Annie could buy a whole six of the dough knots in a box for some silvers. She’d clutch onto the little pink flowery accented box like her life depended on it. And then she would smile prettily, never directed at him though, just the thought of eating her favorite treats. It’d pass over quickly. But he’d tuck the image away for later.

“Today is the jelly dough knot special.” She said, without looking at him. Horse drawn carriages galloped passed them, Eren sub consciously tugged Annie closer to the side of the road. She didn’t shake his arm off her shoulders, so he held onto her a second longer. They were nearing the bakery, Annie was just keeping appearances up.

He scoffed, “It’s basically jam and bread.” She shook her head, and he chuckled, musing, “You’re eating jam and bread!”

“No.” She wriggled free from his arm, and he dropped it, looking away sheepishly, “It’s a cake, not bread, and the jelly is sweeter, it doesn’t have seeds in it.” She pointed out. Eren rolled his eyes, “Cake is technically bread, but baked differently.”

He heard a huff come from her, and then she tugged at his wrist, so he was forced to stop, looking down to face her threatening expression. “Never say that again.” Her eye’s flashed dangerously. Eren felt his stomach do a somersault. And because he was never one to back down—and because Annie was irritated, and she was deadly gorgeous when she was irritated—Eren leaned down, until their noses were an inch apart, he smiled when he saw her crystalline eyes widen for a fraction of a second.

“Dough makes bread, and cake. It’s the sugar you’re really craving.” He told her, and when he spoke he swore he saw her eyes flit down, as if to stare at his mouth, but maybe that was wishful thinking, as it was actually him that did the staring. Annie made a hmph noise and pushed passed him—a giddy feeling arose in his chest when he noticed the rosy hue that stained her nose and cheeks, she put her hood up to hide her face, claiming she was getting cold. Annie was a terrible liar.

By the time they reached the bakery, dusk was on their tails—shifting the fiery sunset into a cool indigo. The old woman was wiping down the counter with a wet rag when the chime announced two usual customers. She grinned toothily when she saw them, she always did.

“Good evenin’ young loves’, I was just getting ready to close up—“ She chirped, then slapped the wet rag into the bucket on the floor, “Aw, don’t give me those puppy dog looks, I’ve got your orders right in the back!” With that she hobbled into the little storage room.

Eren glanced at Annie from the corner of his eye, with her hood up he couldn’t tell if she was feeling excitement in that moment. She really was like a little kid, sometimes. She’d gasp whenever the old woman would bring out the treats, and even hum a small tune in her throat when he walked her back to the Military Police HQ, the pastries warm in her hands. No one would ever know of that, but him. In a way, it made him feel special, but also, strange. Because it was like opening another side of Annie she had locked away, buried, and forgotten.

That’s how he knew she was terrible at lying.

 The old woman came back, carrying a steaming tray of round shaped pastries, glazed with vanilla frosting, the red jelly Annie had spoken of spilled from the overstuffed ones, Eren may not be a sweets kind of guy, but the delicious aroma that wafted over to him did make him drool a bit. He wiped it off hastily when he saw the old woman smirk his way.

“I hope you two young loves’ have a good one, and oh—“ The old woman snapped her fingers, half-way done with arranging the pastries into one of the intricate pink boxes.  “I almost forgot.” She wandered back into the storage, and minutes later, brought out what looked like two heart shaped cookies in plastic. Eren tilted his head, getting a closer look at the cookies, the hearts were frosted in different colors, one a dark blue lined with a white design, the other was two different shades of green.

Then he noticed the little designs that had been done on them. “This is,” Eren gawked, taking the blue cookie from her hands, “The wings of freedom.”

The old woman chuckled, patting his arm from across the counter, she offered Annie the green cookie, and glimpsing at hers, Eren could see the long thin horn of the MP’s unicorn sigil. The designs were delicately made, as if the old woman took extensive care not to spoil the image.

“It looks amazing.” Eren smiled, “Thank you.”

The old woman waved at him, “Bah! I made those in an hour, it’s nothin’ but I’m glad you like them hon’. I figured I’d show my respect to such a young couple who sacrifice their lives every day in the name of duty.” She gestured to the cookie in Eren’s hands, “One who fights for our freedom,” She said, then pointed to the second Annie held “and one who pledges our allegiance to the king.”

Eren turned to Annie was peeling back the plastic of her cookie, nibbling on the edge, she looked timid, small, almost cute. Eren nudged her with his elbow, “What do you think?”

“It’s good.” She bit into the baked cookie, a sound that was akin to a moan made its way out of her throat, Eren swallowed, his face warming up, and it wasn’t because of the steam. “It’s really good, I appreciate you baking these for us.”

The old woman smiled, it was not a joyous one this time, but one of melancholy, like she was reliving a sad memory. “Your welcome…You know, my husband was a member of the Survey Corp…” Her bespectacled eyes down cast to the jelly filled desserts, looking through them, not at them. “He was a lot like you know,” she focused on Eren, “Very energetic. Handsome, and strong. He was a light in my darkest days.”

The old woman was silent for a moment as she finished tying a string across the pink box, she rested both her palms, wrinkled and layered in a flour, on the counter when she was done. Eren felt it would be right of him to console her, but he was part of the Survey Corp now; he knew the toll of sacrifices that were made on each of their expeditions, even if he had just joined. They said It was for the greater future of humanity—especially since the fall of Wall Maria had pushed civilization to an even tighter boundary.

Her husband died seeking freedom, he could tell her that, but in his head, he would only hear the screams of a thousand people, blood raining from the skies, teeth sinking into limbs, tears and agony. So he said nothing, Eren was not such a good liar himself.

“He always told me, I had a pretty smile.” The old woman laughed, her three bronze teeth put on show, she handed Annie the pink box, and Annie in turn dropped the silvers into the old woman’s hand. “He said a smile like mine kept his demons away...” Annie thanked the old woman as she quietly reminisced about her late husband. Usually the old woman was chipper and bright whenever Eren and Annie stopped by her shop; some days though, she seemed to relapse into a memory that she’d retell in abstract images, vague run-on sentences through a nostalgic lens.

She snorted as she adjusted her foggy spectacles. “I had such bad teeth back then though, I thought I was the ugliest farm girl in Sina.” She shook her head, “But he—he said I was pretty, me, a girl with missing teeth. And I knew he was telling the truth.” The old woman leaned forward on her elbows, fixated on a space between Eren and Annie. “I knew because I saw it in his eyes…”

It was night by the time Eren bid the woman a good night and left the shop, Annie following in tow, the pink box in her arms—he felt heavy, strange. The old woman continued to reminisce about her husband even as she closed the shop behind them.

Eren snuck a peek at Annie as they walked side by side in silence; she was resilient the entire way. Their next destination was the Military HQ, and then he’d have to go back to his horse he’d left in their stables and make the long trip back to Castle Utgard.

“So, you’re good now?” He raised an eyebrow, Annie tucked her hood down with one hand, and Eren was glad he could properly see her face again, even if the only source of light was from the dim moon up above. “That should last you a couple of days if you ration them.”

“Why didn’t you comfort her?”

Eren halted in his tracks, back rigid, and he turned to see Annie gazing up at him, sapphire eyes turned silver in the dark, she was curious, her head tilted questionably. Eren sighed, averting his eyes, “What could I have said to her?”

“I don’t know, but I figured you would’ve said something when she talked of the Survey Corp.”

You know what happened to her husband,” Eren stepped closer to her, it was like the darkness was attempting to swallow Annie. “She knows what happened to him, why should I have to justify a soldier’s death like it meant something for the greater good of out future, I’m not stupid. He died horribly, he was eaten. What could I have said to her to gain her trust that he didn’t die for nothing?”

It was so dark, and the market square was another half mile away—no candle-lit lanterns hung on this side of the rode, so the stark the moon light casted a portion of Annie’s face in an ethereal glow, while the other portion was bathed shadows—and when she smiled at him, it wasn’t like all the other innocent smiles he had glimpsed before. She looked menacing, like object of his nightmares. The pink box in her hands was the only bright thing on her.

“Now you’re seeing things my way.” She said, and turned her back to him. The chill that crept down his spine was different from all the other ones that he had felt before—it was the thrill of fear. He watched her back, the green unicorn sigil retreating further and further away from him. He admired Annie, he respected her, and silently pined for her, but she would always remain an enigma to him.

Eren huffed, slowly catching up to her. Unaware that would be the last smile he would ever see from her.

Chapter Text

It was seeing her again—living, breathing; just standing there, right before him, while her carcass of a titan bellowed clouds of steam that blocked out the horizon behind her—made a jolt scream down his spine, paralyzing him in place. She seemed calm and bewildered all at once, confusion evident in her hazy sapphire eyes, after all, she had been asleep for nearly a year and a half.

If only it would have been more than that. If only she’d awoken before they had reached the ocean for the very first time. Before Eren realized that he had not yet achieved true freedom, before he declared war among the Marley. Before they crossed the sea to the other side; where his brother Zeke had been expecting his arrival.

If only she’d stayed asleep. If the massacre hadn’t happened—the Marleyan lives taken by his own hands—wouldn’t be haunting him, drowning him in a pit of despair. But it had to be done—right?

It had to be done. He told himself. Although he despised himself—Armin no longer trusted him. Mikasa was now wary around him. The veterans regarded him as a delirious individual—a loose-cannon to be closely supervised.

 And when he gazed into Annie’s eyes after so long—he could only see the eyes of a man he’d indirectly slain—an older man who cried out for his daughter, all the while fighting for his own life in an uprising that Eren caused for the sake of Eldian salvation.

It clicked in his head, how similar they looked. The aquiline nose, the platinum hair, the eyes—oh goddesses—her eyes, they were his, they were his eyes, and Eren Jaeger was a murderer.

“What have you done?” Her voice trembled—she had crossed the ocean to come back home—only to find the remnants of what was left. The stench of burning bodies, titan-infused chemicals, and decay permeated the air, and even the salt of the sea couldn’t push that away.

Eren said nothing, because the shame that seeped into his body like poison stole his voice. He felt heavy, and tired, a deadweight sat on shoulders, an anchor of guilt only dragging him further and further into hell.

Was he supposed to feel like this after breaking the chains? After finally achieving the freedom he strived for—the freedom he fought bloodily for? It wasn’t supposed to be like this, he wasn’t supposed to carry the weight of his dead enemies with him; he felt naked to the bone when her cold eyes roamed over his face—searching for an answer, a reason. It reminded him of Stohess, when she had betrayed him, and he’d been so adamant to not battle her. To not hurt her. Even when she shifted, even when his doubts became a reality.

Annie was offering him another chance, an explanation—even with the destruction of the Ghetto’s where she’d come from—gone up in flames, and still stacking smoke, very few Eldians refugee’s being tended too on the outskirts, courtesy of the Survey Corp.

He tried to lighten the mood—the way a madman would captivate his victims—he smiled, broken and withered, outstretched his arms before her, “We’re finally free.” He gushed out, “The Eldians’ own this land now.”

But in her eyes, there was only untapped rage, and disbelief. “What the fuck is wrong with you?!” She hissed. Then she stepped forward—anger momentarily forgotten, in place of desperation. She moved toward him like a frightened rabbit would a wolf. “My father—“ She pleaded, “Where is my father?!”

In his mind’s eye, Eren saw a flash of the very same look on a blond man’s face, as he fought against the Marley. He’d screamed her name a dozen times, shouted for forgiveness, Annie’s forgiveness—he took his guilt with him to his grave. He died in a spray of gun powder, and fire.

Eren wondered if the same will happen to him. “He’s dead.”

“You’re lying!” She surged forward, yanked him down by the collar his shirt so they were at eye level—he could see the tears brimming at the corner of one eye not shrouded by blonde hair; it was an angry red, surrounding a pretty crystal blue. He felt sick for thinking how stunning she looked when she cried.

You’re fucking lying. Take me to him,” She seethed, “Take me to my father.” Her grip on his shirt tightened, and he was forced to lean further down, his nose grazed against hers, and she breathed erratically against his mouth.

 “I can’t.” He whispered. His own hands reached up in attempt to pry her off him, “He’s gone. There’s nothing left.”

He didn’t see it coming—her fist jerking back, and then connected heavily with his jaw, snapping his head sideways, the blow made him stumble back—but she chased him, driven with hate—with sadness. Her other fist jammed into his cheek, and he felt something snap. But he did nothing—refused to defend himself against her grief.

She pounced on him—wild, and infuriated, pummeling his face until his blood stained her knuckles, and the sand beneath them soaked droplets of red. His eyes burned as steam began sealing his wounds shut—but she wouldn’t have that. Annie was hysterical, she broke into a sob when her fist broke his nose.

“You son of a bitch…” She hiccupped, “You bloody asshole, he was all I had!”

Eren turned his head, spat blood on the sand. “S-sorry—“ He tried to console her, but it hurt to speak. It hurt to look her in the eyes. There was no way he could tell Annie that her father died for her—for her freedom. She would never see things from his perspective, as would the others. They all just could not see what had been done for the greater good of humanity.  

Annie growled softly, “Shut up.” She closed her eyes, hands on each side of his head, gritty with sand, and blood. She twisted his hair in a fist as tears streamed down her cheek, and off her chin. Each one landing with a slight sting on his wounds. “Just shut up.”

Eren welcomed the pain, and the grieving girl on top of him. This was better than her shifting—this was better than her wreaking havoc on the others, hell bent on revenge like he had once been. Though seeing this side to her made her appear much more human in his eyes; he had to remember that she was like him in a lot of ways.

“Why?” She coughed in his face, “Why this? What happened? This was never you, Jaeger. You caused a war—“

“Time changes people.” His eyes were glassy as he peered through her, “When I saw the ocean, for the first time in my life, I saw…beyond it. I saw what could be ours, and I wanted to take it back.”

Annie shook her head—as if he were spouting nonsensical things. “You caused genocide.” Her voice cracked, “You annihilated them all.”

She tugged harshly on his hair, causing him to hiss in pain. “What makes you so different from them now, huh?” Another tug, “What makes you think you’re not like Zeke?”

Eren’s eyes flashed, and in the second it took for her to speak his name, he had already flipped them over, his arms barricading her head, her shock wore off in place of a deep simmering hatred. Hatred he welcomed.

“The difference is I did something.” He held her down as she kicked beneath him, “I made a better future for the Eldians’.”

Annie’s lips curled into a cruel smile reminiscent of her titan-form, she snorted, though there was no mirth present in her eyes. “You’re scum.”

Eren gritted his teeth, his face growing hot with shame, even the calming waves of the ocean could not pacify him. “Yeah? Well you’re no different.”

“I didn’t have a choice.” Annie pushed against him, but he was unyielding. “You chose to become a mass murderer.” That was true. But Eren was a tenacious young man. What he did was never for nothing. And Annie would see soon, the changes that would occur without the oppression of the Marley, every person who deemed him mad would—they would eventually see the world through his eyes.

 Eren was anything but patient, but for this, he would wait decades. For this, he would gladly carry the deaths of thousands of people or more—because Eren had once been a dreamer, and the only thing he dreamed of was real freedom.

Chapter Text

“Huh, we don’t really fit in this world, do we?” He said. Then he took her small bloodied hands in his. His hands were clammy, but still warm— so warm, she could feel his heat radiate through her, every pulse of their synchronized heartbeats was a gift to her ears. She never wanted to hurt him. She never…

“You, and me?” Eren mumbled, stepping into her personal space, and while her mind told her to flee—Run! —her heart did somersaults in her ribcage. She was at war with herself. Wide-eyed, and broken, and home-sick. She was a lost girl. A fragile girl, a crying girl.

“We’re both just cursed children,” He chuckled, dryly. No humor to be found. “We’re dying. And no one knows what to do with us.”

Then he pressed his palms to hers, and held them to his chest. She knew, she was aware. She had always been aware. Not even the Marley could take away her will. Her love, yes. But not her will. The tears running down her face were a reminder of that.

“But you know what?” He whispered, and closed in on her. He laced his fingers through hers, delicately. “We fit together.”

She closed her eyes. Bowing her head. Sobbed silently while he watched with green sympathetic eyes, no longer afraid of baring her weakness to him.

“We fit.” He repeated. She’d been floating far, far away, off to the deep end, but he had come to bring her back. Their intertwined hands were supposed to be her anchor, and very slowly she did, he steered her to shore, until he knew she was grounded.

She hiccupped. “I-I’m sorry.” She really was. “I really am.”

“I know.” He lowered their hands, leaned down to press a feather light kiss against her damp forehead. “I won’t forgive you, though.”

She smiled sadly, “I know.” She could run away as many times as she wanted too, but she would never get far, he would always come for her. He’d chase her across the great wide sea if he could, Goddesses be damned. He’d tear down the walls of the Marley, start a whole new war, all to collect her. She could fall off the edges of the earth, and he’d fall with her.

His infatuation for her left her breathless; smothered in a kind of pitying love that’d she’d never thought she’d ever receive from another human being. It was fascinating, yet terrifying. The things he would, and could, do for her. To her.

He pulled away, but kept his right hand tangled within hers. “We should get going, the Commander is waiting for us.”

Behind her, the waves of the ocean gently lapped away at the shore. Receding as far back as it could, and then coming forth all over again.

 

Chapter Text

There were only few things in life Eren Jaeger considered to be especially beautiful; so beautiful, they each had stolen a piece of him; and it was the little pieces that defined him, it was that lurch of his stomach when the inertia hit as he took flight for the first time, whizzing through the air on only wires, and vapor, his heart fluttery like a bird no longer trapped it’s cage. It was his childhood days when he and Armin would talk excitedly of the outside world like it had been an attainable fantasy.

It was the sweet and savory flavors of Mikasa’s home-made stew, just like his mother’s; it was his blood, sweat, and tears from his harsh training days as a Cadet of the 104th Training Corps. It was the blue and white wings on his back that he’d always dreamed of having and now earned them through his hardships; It was the smell of salt in the warm breeze of the ocean, the sound of waves crashing on land, and the grainy taste of sand grit between his teeth.

The fierce protection of his friends through pure selflessness; It was the freedom that he was one more step away from achieving, it was the wonders of the world beyond that he was so furiously desperate to explore, the bellowing roar of the beast that he held within him…and her.

The soft whispers against his neck, the ghost of her breath on his nape. The laden guilt he wore like armor; never taken off, not since that day. He hadn’t meant to lose control, but his willpower had been tested, and he couldn’t hang on, his sanity slipped from his fingers like loose thread, and he lost it. He lost her.

Now she haunted him; blanketed his memories of her, so he could only glimpse at her silhouette, he harbored her mind, like she harbored his; and they gradually became one. He inherited her power, but he never wanted it, stole her past, and swallowed it whole, invaded her existence, her life, her personality.

Eren knew everything there was to know about her; she was, and perhaps forever will be until his last breath, the most prominent beautiful piece of him he would cherish the most. 

Chapter Text

One. Two. Three. Four. Duck. Swing. Block. Counter. Duck. Counter. Swing—“Fuck!” 

 Jaeger heaved, scrambling to pick himself up from the impact of Annie’s knee jamming into his gut. He stood half-way, but a cough had him doubling over, wrapping arms around his bare stomach, and hissing out another curse. Annie delicately placed her foot down with all the grace of a dancer, cocking an eyebrow at him, scrutinizing his behavior, his faults and his inability to do anything the right way. Which to her, was just another nuance of saying Annie’s way.

“You left yourself open, that’s why you got hit.” She ridiculed him, tucking strands of blonde behind her ear. “Never leave an opening, even when you believe you’ve got an advantage.”

Eren’s response was to spit phlegm onto the dirt, he tried to glare at her; but only managed a shifty-eyed squint since the sun was beaming its harsh rays down onto his face. Shadis picked the hottest day for field training, as always, he just loved watching them all suffer. Eren scoffed, still wounded breathless from Annie’s kick. “You’re impossible.”

“Not impossible.” She panted, equally out of breath. “Observant, more likely.”

Ever observant Annie. Eren rolled his eyes, “That’s why you’re impossible.”

“It’s not that hard to read your opponent, Jaeger.” She was mocking him again. With one hand on her cocked hip; she stood at a mere five-feet, but he always felt like the smaller one under that wintry gaze of hers, even as she stepped in closer, having to crane her neck to look him in the eye.

Patience, and discipline, Jaeger.” She enunciated each word, “That’s what you’re lacking, maybe practice that more, and you’ll have the slightest chance of defeating me.”

Being this close to her without engaging in combat; Eren could now see the perspiration beading on her hairline, how low her bun sagged onto the nape of her neck, and how flushed her usually colorless complexion seemed. A faint rosy pink dusting across the bridge of her nose, tanning both of her cheeks and her shoulders.

 It looked almost as if she were, blushing. Such an outlandish emotion he knew a girl like Annie Leonhardt would never show. But this heat wave was making him all to dizzy, and he began to take more of Annie into account…like how prettier she appeared when touched by the sun. It didn’t help that she had discarded her beloved hood, as well their uniform jacket.

Yes. He was sparring Annie Leonhardt shirtless, while she trained him in an under shirt that bared more of her toned stomach than his over baked brain could handle. But he handled it. For the sake of pursuing his desire to learn from the taciturn blonde. Goddesses only knew how much he was going to handle today.

“Hah,” He huffed, “I have a better chance of defeating Mikasa than.”  He attempted to lock eyes with her, but she was quite literally right under his nose, so he just rested his attention to the crown of her head, besides if he lowered his chin anymore, he wouldn’t even be looking down at her face, nor would he be considered a decent gentleman.

Annie’s icy stare narrowed imperceptibly, a tick that came whenever Mikasa Ackerman was mentioned within her vicinity. “You have a better chance of defeating Armin, perhaps.” She folded her arms under her chest, and that made everything difficult because her breasts were pushed into his view. Jaeger had the respect to avert his eyes, quickly.

“Uh-huh, yeah.” A cough. He took a step back, it was far too humid for them to be standing that close anyway; he could hardly handle his own body heat, let alone another person’s body heat radiating onto his own.

His mind chose to screw him over then, because now a frivolous image was shoved to the fore front of his brain. Body heatSharing body heat…Sharing body heat with Annie Leonhardt. Oh fuck.

Eren swallowed; his throat parched, and his chest heaving with sweat, his entire back covered in dirt, and sand. He needed to leave, dunk his head in a bucket of ice maybe; but Annie had already noticed. She perked an eyebrow, tilting her head to the side. “Is something wrong Jaeger?”

Yes! “Nah,” He shrugged nonchalantly, “Just thirsty, I think I’m gonna’ get some water and—uh I…I think I’m done for the day too, actually.” Annie regarded him with a skeptic stare, giving him a once over that left him feeling a little more than naked. “…Alright.” She sighed.

He gave a weak smile, and a thumb up, then he ambled over to pick up his dusty shirt from their pile of clothes tossed off to the side. His uniform jacket and shirt was tucked underneath her white hood, so it prevented her clothes from getting dirty.  Sneaky one, she was.

He was just about to shake it off, when a small pale hand snatched the garment from him, Eren startled, looking down to meet Annie, who was flapping invisible dust specs from her hood. He thought she was insane to want to wear that heavy thing again; but then she took the hood by the sleeves, tying it around her waist, so the back hung off her behind. Now that was a look she pulled off well.

In his head Eren thought, damn. But outside, he just openly stared, mouth slightly agape, shirt slipping from his hands. Annie had to snap her fingers in his face to jolt him back to reality.

He blinked slowly, “Huh?”

“Come on, Jaeger, let’s get some water in you before you die of dehydration.” She touched his elbow lightly, and his attention was thrown to that one tiny touch, he wobbled when she tried to push him toward the Girls Barracks; two water pumps were available near the back, as the boys were out of service.

It just threw him off guard, or off his metaphorical horse, as he was already far thrown off his guard. He wasn’t even on guard to begin with. Eren was aware of the fact that Annie did not like being touched; and she did not just go around touching anybody, her hands were either hidden in the pockets of her hood, clenched in a fist, or planted on her hips. Casual touching was not a thing for her, it was forbidden as smiling was to the blonde. And yet, she had her hand on his elbow, guiding him into the cool shade, behind the Girl’s barracks. She was touching him.

“You’re touching me…”

If Annie heard his indistinct mumble, she gave no indication that she did. She dropped his arm, and started to crank the rusty old handle of the water pump, grunting as tried to push every drop of water into the bucket below. Eren was left leaning against dry wood, goose bumps went up his forearms; and he realized than that he had yet to put his shirt on. He wondered if anybody noticed Annie taking him away somewhere… both being in an out-of-dress-code state. It would certainly be an immediate punishment from Shadis, should he discover them. And any trainees who did see were going to spread gossip, because that’s just how other teenagers were. Nosy, and annoying.

Well, who cares. Eren threw his shirt over one shoulder, slumping against the wall of the barracks, the woodchips dug painfully into his back, but it was nothing to him by now. Besides, that little bit of pain distracted him from staring blatantly at Annie’s biceps as she pumped away.

Athletic, small and pretty, and smart. His brain was practically singing a tune to it. Why? Why now? Eren swiped sweat off his brow, swallowing again. He wasn’t in the right mind. Annie was so usually scary to him. It had to be the heat, the heat! Suddenly a bucket was shoved right under his face, water sloshed onto his chin.

Annie was there holding it up to him like an offering, “Drink.” Was all she said.

“All of it?” Eren took the bucket from her, Annie shook her head. “Leave some for me too.”

So he did. He drank from the bucket—that he prayed to the three goddesses was clean—and once he got his fill, and his throat wasn’t feeling scratchy or raw, he passed the bucket to her, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He smiled when she finished drinking the last bit of water. “Thanks for that.”

“Hm,” Annie made a little noise, placing the bucket down to her side, “Yeah, you don’t look so well, I figured you needed a break.”

“You figured?” Eren snorted, now feeling a tad more refreshed. “You don’t look like you’re at one hundred percent either, y’know.”

Annie cocked her head to the side, “I don’t?”

“No, of course not.” Eren pushed off the wall, stepping into her space, like she had done. “I mean look at you,” His hand reached out, fingers brushing against the exposed skin of her shoulder, “You’re all red.”

Her robin egg blue eyes briefly glanced to his hand, and Eren knew he was crossing the line there. But she didn’t comment on it, or shrug his hand off. She just…stared, rather curiously at him. Not a hint of disgust, or anger evident on her flushed face. So, he gathered up all of his Jaeger confidence, and took it a step further.

“You’re always over-exerting yourself Annie.” Eren mused, and with his unusual soft voice came the feather light touch of his fingers tracing the curve of her shoulder, skin reddened just like he said, he was careful not to press the pads of his fingers against her skin too roughly…she was touch sensitive, he knew that too. He didn’t want to scare her away.

“Maybe,” He rasped, because his throat was suddenly feeling so dry again. But he wanted to sound cocky. “Maybe you’re the one who needs patience, and discipline?”

His fingers rested on the pulse line of her neck, her skin was warm there; well it was everywhere especially, but there, it felt like the blood beneath her flesh was boiling. For some reason…that excited him. Eren parted his lips, going to say something, but not a word came out. So he tried for her name.

“Annie?” She wasn’t saying anything, in fact she hadn’t moved at all, frozen like a statue of porcelain underneath his palm, her blonde fringes shrouded her eyes. Eren took that as a bad sign, he deflated, feeling his ego shatter at his feet, and with it, something else equally fragile.

He dropped his hand, backing away from her. “I’m sorry...I didn’t— I’m sorry.”

He hoped she would forgive him. But the sentence hissed out of her clenched teeth spoke other volumes.

“Just, who do you think you are, Jaeger?” Her wintry gaze snapped up to meet his again; and—goddesses—it was a burning, smoldering gaze. The ice had melted away, revealing a burning heat. Fuck. He wanted to get burned. This heat wave was not doing him justice.

“Huh?” She pushed at him, hard. “Huh?!” She pushed him until his back slammed against the wall of the girl’s barracks. He grunted from the impact, his shirt slid from his shoulder onto the ground. From within the barracks came muffled sounds; feminine exclamations of ‘What was that?’ and ‘Where’d that noise come from?’.

Why were the other Trainee girls back so early? He should be worried they heard; but he was far too busy entertaining the seething blonde in front of him; the blonde whose piercing eyes said she wanted to eat him alive. Whose hands were currently running down his chest, blunt nails raking down his abs and down, down, down…Until he heard the pop of a button. He nearly lost his breath. Holy Shit.

Oh sweet Maria. Eren closed his eyes. This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t be happening. It’s a hallucination! The heat wave had finally breached his mind, and he was going insane!

“…Eren, hey, hey.” Two small hands reached up, gently grabbed his face, and tugged him until he felt the ghost of her breath on his lips. Oh. He peeled open his eyes, and they were met with a stormy simmering blue. How beautiful.

“Are you,” Annie licked her lips thoughtfully, and he mirrored the action, both gazes were drawn to each other’s mouths, “Are you okay…with this?” She brushed her finger tentatively across his waistline.

Oh. She was asking him permission…And here he thought chivalry was dead. Well, since they had already gone this far; he answered with quite a simple response. He kissed her.

It was just a plant of the lips. A simple peck, the same way Franz and Hannah would kiss in public. It was quick, but when he pulled away, he saw it wasn’t enough. For neither of them. No. He yearned for her; and Annie could be a very greedy person, she cupped his face in her hands and pressed her body flush against his, and her lips, tinted a bright pink, sought his once more.

Goddesses. His brain was turning to mush. Her lips were full, and wet, and pliant against his own hungry kisses. He felt light-headed, resting his russet hands on her pale naked waist, he wanted to kiss her there, too. He wanted to kiss her everywhere. A tingling sensation racked his nerves, heat flowing into his body; her own heat. Eren knew he was not going to be satisfied with just kissing. No. He wanted to touch her too. He wanted—he craved her hands on him, her pretty petite hands, calloused from fighting, but still so dainty. So very Annie.

She nipped at his bottom lip; and while he groaned, distracted from her assault; one of her hands disappeared from his face, and was snaking down his stomach, dipping into the waistline of his uniform pants; still, not quite touching him, but teasing him. Her lithe fingers leaving a searing touch wherever they trailed; right across the bulge of his undershorts. A soft gasp left his lips, and she licked his parted mouth, then grinned, so coyly, it made his innards twist into a wretched knot. She slipped her hand beneath the waistband of his undershorts, tugging them down some, freeing him from its confines; he hissed as her fingers closed around his length.

“Ah.” Her hand other hand caressed his jaw, before joining the other one in tormenting him. Eren buried his face into the crooked of her neck, panting heavily, he was coiled so tightly around her. Her body heat, and scent over coming him. Fresh Lemons, sun, and earth, and sweat. That was all her. Now it was all of him too.

He cussed once, whining into her shoulder, as her thumb slid over the tip of him; slick with his own liquid. Her eyes were closed as she worked him, humming sweetly against his collar bone. “Shush.” She nuzzled his jaw, he could feel her lips quirk up against his burning skin. “They’ll hear us…is that what you want Jaeger, hm?

The other trainee girls. Eren gulped audibly, he’d forgotten all about them. They were dismissed to the barracks early. Which meant that Mikasa could be among them! He bit into the plush of his bottom lip, groaning low in his throat. Or Christaor Sasha, or Mina, or any girl who bothered to get to know him. The boys would be getting dismissed soon too…they’ll all have to use the water pump. What if one of them saw him and Annie—!

“You’re twitching.” She licked a hot stripe up his neck, grasping him a bit harder than before. He choked on his spit. “You’re not thinking about other girls…when I’m right here, Are you?

“Ah—nah, n-no. No.” His breath grew ragged; shortening to little hot puffs blowing onto Annie’s nape, making her loose blonde tendrils flutter bewitchingly in the air. Eren swallowed, shakily raising a hand from her waist, he reached up, and tugged the clip from her hair free, throwing it off to the side. He felt triumphant when she growled against his throat, and then a hot flash of pleasure coursed down his spine as she sunk her teeth into his shoulder.

“Oh, fuck.” She was killing him. He was so close. He felt like he was going to combust; he felt too tight in his own skin, too itchy, too raw, he gave a few restrained thrusts into her palm, muttering nonsense into the shell of her ear. His breathing hot and erratic. He didn’t even know what he was saying,

“Please, please, please…”

Eren fisted his hand into the strands of Annie’s silver blonde hair, bringing her closer to him. Knee’s bowed, and legs trembling; sweat rolling down his temple. Rising to his peak, her name left his lips in sigh that sounded like a prayer; and he spilled into her clenched fist.

“Shhh…It’s alright.” Annie cooed, the warmth of her hands left him, and he breathed a little easier. He couldn’t move than, not after a racking bodily sensation such as that. Goddesses have mercy on him.

“Eren?” Annie untangled herself from his hold, just enough to look him in the eyes. Every inch of her exposed skin was tinted pink, such a pretty color for her, she looked so lively this way. Frazzled light hair, and sun-kissed skin, little pants coming from her parted rosy lips.

She was staring at him, a serene blanket of warmth in her curious blue gaze. Eren was struck dumb. He could only stare back, still stuck in his hazy after bliss.

“Um,” She averted his eyes, shyly. “So…that was good?”

The wiring of his brain zapped the life back into him, he blinked, the shine of awareness coming back into his teal eyes. Where was he again? Oh. Right.

“Holy shit, Annie.” Eren shook his head, eyes rounded in disbelief. “Holy shit.”

“Is that a yes?”

“Your hands are magic.”

She shrugged, wiping her hands on her undershirt, the corners of her lips quirked in the barest hint of a smile. A real genuine smile. Eren’s heart lurched into his throat, he swallowed it back down. He really fucking liked her. He laughed. So suddenly overcome with elation, and he leaned down to gather her in his arms. Annie wriggled in his embrace, putting a hand on his sweaty chest.

“Eren, wait, your pants are still—“

“WOAH!”

Both trainees jumped out of their skin; jerking away from each other so quick as if scalding water had been poured between them. The two stared at the fellow trainee who blinked owlishly at them; and, very, very slowly started backing away.

“Connie!” Eren faced the smaller boy, but failed to notice his disheveled state of dress—that being front of his pristine white pants popped open, slung low on his hips, and the very obvious stain of his undershorts…In full view.

“Oh.” Connie put a hand over his mouth. “Y-you, you guys were…”

“It’s not what it looks like!” Eren stressed, but it was too late for that. Annie pushed him behind her, to save him from making even more of a fool of himself.

“Don’t. Say. A word.” Her eyes, and threatening tone pierced through the poor boy; Connie swallowed, backing up so far, Eren swore he probably saw Annie as an actual predator. He nodded frantically, putting his hands up.

“O-okay, okay! I won’t. I swear, Cross my heart!” Connie made messy zig-zag motion over his chest.

That’s not a cross. Eren thought, but it seemed to satisfy Annie. She gave jerk of her chin. “Beat it bald boy.” Connie backed another two steps, and then ran; Eren believed the other trainees might think titans have been lurking behind the Girl’s barracks with how crazily fast he took off.

He watched Connie go. And then, remembered his pants. He pulled them up, and buttoned himself. Feeling out of place.

“Ugh, I need a change of under wear.”

Annie came around to his side, holding his shirt…She was wiping her hands on?!

“Hey!” He snatched his shirt from her, “What the hell?!”

“Oh what?” She scoffed, an odd mischievous glint in her eye, a new side of her he hadn’t seen yet.You dirtied mine, it’s only fair.” She patted his thigh, and sauntered to over the water pump, to fetch more water for them both.

Well. Eren sighed. At least his thirst was quenched.                

Chapter Text

 His back met the earth full force, spittle, and air knocked out of his lungs from the momentum.

Annie had struck the underside of his shins, causing him to lose balance. Eren coughed, turning himself over as he sputtered out bits of grass.  

“You must like eating dirt Jaeger.” She quipped. Eren fixed her with a tenacious glare, getting to his feet on wobbly knees, he dusted off his uniform; a groan escaping from him as he tried to regain his stance, his body was at its limit.

Damn her and her strong as hell legs. Annie cocked her hip. “You sure you want to keep going?” She tilted her head, coldly examining him.

“What do you think?” He balled his fists, fixed his composure, evened his breathing. No, he was not quitting yet. Not until he won. Annie freaking Leonhardt had kicked his ass way too many times to count in their sparring sessions, and damn it, he will keep at it until he got her to tap out.

“Suit yourself.” She shrugged, and raised her fists at level with her head, parting her legs just so.

A second passed; wind broke through the trees, the sound of leaves rustled in his ears. Eren charged at her, swinging a right hook at her chin, she guarded, and delivered a powerful kick to his calves which he failed to block.

He staggered somewhat, but regained himself, quick to deflect one of her punches. She was so damn fast. Eren focused more on defending himself as Annie unleashed a fury of jabs all aimed at his head. He attempted a side kick at her midsection, managing to catch her, though she’d been to close for him to land it effectively. Annie veered back, a hitch in her breath. Her face flushed a rosy hue, and she’s panting. He almost got her!

With his guard down momentarily, Annie took advantage. She surged forward, cuffing him right in the cheek, the blow snapped Eren’s head sideways and he, once again, collapsed to the ground.

Eren nursed his aching jaw in one hand as he propped himself up with the other. That hit was going to bruise. He winced, hearing a crick of bone as he opened his mouth.

“Annie, goddamn,” It hurt to even speak, damn her. Eren rubbed at his chin, “Why do you hit so hard?”

Annie wouldn’t give him an answer, instead she extended her hand to him as a peace offering. He ignored her help, getting to his feet on his own.

“Did I dislocate your jaw?” Eren froze as she pried his fingers off his face, tilting his head left and right. He slapped her hands away with a huff.

“What, you kick my ass and then try to nurse me? Quit it.”

“Well I’d rather not have the beast that shadows you plot my death if I break something in her baby boy.” She retorted, smug and condescending. Annie folded her arms; the Ackerman girl was probably snooping around these woods for her precious Eren. Ready to attack if he so much as shed a tear.

Eren snorted, cheeks flaring red, “We’re the same age!”

“Could’ve fooled me.”

A frustrated noise left his throat. “Whatever, let’s just get back to sparring.” He rolled his shoulders, easing the tension in his muscles. Annie stared at him, sighing exasperatedly. “How many times do you want to end up on your ass, Jaeger?”

“As many times as it takes till I have you tap out.” He rolled his eyes as he spoke; he wanted to win today.

“So, you want to keep at it because you’re embarrassed of constantly getting beaten by a fragile girl such as I?” Annie placed a hand on her chest, adding the desired effect by fluttering her eyelashes, further mocking him. It worked.

“Fragile, my ass.” He scoffed, undeterred, though now blushing furiously. “You can take down Reiner in two seconds!”

Annie shrugged, tucking locks of blonde hair behind her ear. “Honestly anyone can take down that big oaf if they’re smart enough.”

“Now,” She resumed her signature stance, “Let’s see if I can take you down in two seconds as well, might break a record.” She said, and her lips curled in a taunting manner. It was always fun making Eren get all riled up.

“Oh,” Eren sneered, “You’re so going down.”

With that he loosely raised his fists and advanced; hastily side stepping as Annie went for a straight knee strike, he leaped forward dropping down and grappling her legs, forcing Annie off balance and knocking her to the ground. He landed to her side, his weight keeping her down. A gasp left Annie’s lips as her head made impact with the dirt.

But she was relentless; Annie acted quickly before Eren could make his next move, opting for a counter attack as she immediately trapped his head in her arms; muscles tensed as she wrapped them around his neck in a vice like grip, tightening her legs around his middle for complete submission.

Eren released a raspy cough, attempting to lift her; she wasn’t so heavy that it was impossible, but then she applied pressure to his trachea, practically halting his breath. And his body went limp.

An-annie ah,” He struggled to suck in air, his hands both grasping at the grass beneath them, and squeezing Annie’s elbow.

“Feeling light headed, hm?” Annie muttered close to the shell of his ear, feeling she might snap his neck, she let her hold on him loosen. Eren tried again to heave her, but to no avail, her legs gripping his abdomen prevented him from any sudden movement, and he was already growing weak from lack of oxygen.

“Tap out if you want me to let go,” She whispered huskily. 

 “No way.” Eren laid his palms flat on the ground, one at her side, and the other at the side of his head. He hoped to the goddesses he didn’t break his neck pulling this off. Just as Annie was about to squeeze down on his windpipe again, he used the ground as leverage to lift his upper body just a fraction, his head still trapped in Annie’s arms prevented him from going any further. Then suddenly, he jerked his body to the side, a shot of aching pain powered through his neck as Annie refused to let go. Her legs were trapped underneath him, loose around his torso.

He managed to get onto his back; before he could plan his next move, Annie completely rolled onto his chest. Eren’s hands acted on their own accord, landing on her thighs. He stilled, breathing heavily. Her arms left his neck, she placed them on each side of his head, lifting herself up a bit; he took in her small frown, Annie had noticed the slight bruising around his throat, that were slowly fading away. He should act now while she’s distracted. But…she was…warm.

Eren felt his cheeks burn, and it was obviously from being strangled half to death and nothing else. Annie lowered herself onto his stomach; loose blonde tendrils tickled his fore head, her harsh breathing mingled with his.

Eren.” She panted. His throat ached so bad, but he couldn’t stop himself from swallowing, a knot of nervousness making him clam up, because he had never heard Annie speak his name in such a low, and enticing voice.

 "Annie.” He didn’t know what else to say, so he cleared his throat. “Giving up already?” He added a cheeky smirk when her gaze hardened back to the good old Annie he knew; but then she did something even more provocative. She lowered her body onto him, so her chest pressed against his, Eren choked on air, “H-hey!" 

She was far too close. He knew that it was stupid to over think her proximity, because really when they’re sparring, they are constantly touching each other, but that was vastly different to what was happening now. And, what was happening now?

Were they still even sparring?

He nearly lost his breath when their noses touched, his palms sweated even more, were they placed on her thighs. A rush of butterflies released in his stomach; and furnace like heat spread lower. It was as if the whole mood shifted from fight or flight, to something that’s always been confusing to Eren, something more…intimate.

Regardless, he had to do something, throw her off, maybe. Try to pin her, and then finally he’d be a winner. But even as he tried to focus on a way to get Annie to tap out, his hormonal body reacted differently; Annie clambered to sit up on him, and he’s suddenly taken back by the sight of her heavily lidded sapphire eyes.

Against his better judgement of trying to win against Annie; a smaller voice piped up in his head, and it said, don’t look away.

Annie pursed her lips, contemplating something, and then she did something else that was equally if not more outrageous. She brushed away his sweaty bangs, and leaned down to kiss his forehead, and it was a tender kiss. Almost too soft for a girl like her. And a little weird. Annie sat back on his stomach, observing his reaction; which was anything more than astonished.

"W-what, uh?” His right hand left her thigh, he reached to touch the spot she marked with her lips.

She kissed him? She kissed him! His mind was thrown in the gutter; he didn’t notice when her weight left his body. She stood off to the side, arms folded, a hefty blush adorning her face. Eren lifted himself off the ground, hunched over, he stared dumbly at the trees in front of him, then turned to a very embarrassed Annie, mouth agape.

“What was that?”

She didn’t pay him any attention. “Hey,” Eren stood, towering over her, “Annie, hello?” He waved a hand in front of her face. This time Annie shrugged, her cheeks aflame. “I don’t know, forget about it, let’s just get back to sparring. It’s getting late.”

Eren cocked an eyebrow, Annie had never been one to be so flustered. Then again, he never—in his fifteen years of living—expected her to kiss him either. The girl was an enigma to him. He shook his head, “Alright fine.” He would let her little slip up go. Just this once. Annie sighed in relief, not considering Eren’s curious eyes on her. He felt something in his chest grow heavy with a certain feeling, heavy like an anchor being thrown off a ship. He ignored it. If Annie said it was nothing. Then it was nothing.

“So… back to where we started?”

“Yeah…”

Annie did that thing where she tucked her bangs behind her ear, a wisp of blonde fell flat against her forehead; Eren’s fingers itched to swipe it away. A sub-conscious reaction, however. He did not notice how his body was responding differently too her antics now.

He got into his fighting stance. The stance she had taught him. She mirrored him, though her arms were higher to accommodate her height. She inhaled as he exhaled. Neither of them made a move, another minute passed; Eren gulped, and then he advanced, attempting to strike her with a left jab, which she easily dodged, and struck him with an upper cut.

Eren stumbled, nearly tripped, but he fought to stay on his feet. Annie surged forward, her knee sweeping into his hipbone to stagger him. She hopped back, bringing her leg up to strike his head as he doubled over, Eren dashed out of the way, he quickly ducked and grabbed a hold of her calf. Annie’s eyes widened as he yanked at her leg, she fell to the ground. Eren hastily mounted her small frame, pinning her arms above her head. He’s exasperated now, perspiration clinging to his brow, but he’s proud he managed to take her down. 

“I got you now.” He grinned despite himself, showing rows of pearly teeth. He might’ve looked a bit crazy to her, but he didn’t care. Annie wriggled her wrists in his tight grip. “It would appear so, but,” her lips tilted in a shadow of sly smirk, “How will I tap out if you have my arms pinned?”

Realization dawned Eren. Fuck.

Uhh…” He drawled. Annie twisted her body causing Eren to put more of his weight on her. “Quit squirming!” Now, he was in charge. Now he was the one who stared her down, face to face, their noses almost touching. Her eye’s as blue as the skies above them, clashing with his vivid green, green as the forest that surrounded them.

His breath ghosted her cheek. Annie stilled, sapphire eyes locked with his. Eren felt, as well as heard, her heart pulsating heavily in its cage. His stomach did a somersault, he was so close to her now, he could count each of her eye lashes.

The mood had changed once again, but this time the tables have turned.

“Hey.” He mumbled. Annie swallowed, biting into the plush of her bottom lip, appearing utterly flushed, and tired; and she was giving him a certain look he hadn’t seen before. Different from when she was the one on top.

His hold on her arms loosened, but she did not throw him off as he expected her too. A familiar heat coiled within him. The furnace burned like ever before. Eren decided that he would be just as spontaneous as she was. He released one of her arms, Annie brought it to rest on his chest, but left it there, not pushing him away. In fact, she slid her palm from his chest, up his collar bone, to his neck, then to his face, she cupped his cheek. Eren’s heart could burst from his chest with how quickly it was hammering against his ribs.

He allowed her to bring him closer, and closer, until he felt her lips tentatively brush against his own. He exhaled, closed his eyes, and their lips met. Eren released her other arm in favor of holding her hip, her hand drifted to his chest. The warmth of her mouth sent shivers running down his spine, he slanted his lips on hers more insistently. Inexperienced to this raw emotion, this physical intimacy that was making his head spin.

His grunted, when she tried to nibble at his bottom lip. Annie slid her hand from his cheek, resting it on the nape of his neck, gradually, and with some restraint, they pulled away. Both panting, Eren rubbed little circles on her hips with his thumb, while his other arm rested above her head. He was not sure what was happening between them right now; But a plethora of emotions had awakened for the blonde beneath him. It was weird, and satisfying all at once. He felt giddy like a child receiving numerous gifts, Eren wondered if she was feeling the same.

Annie tugged lightly at his hair, snapping him back to reality. He decided to get her back, and placed a chaste kiss on her forehead, he leaned back on his forearms, and grinned; With his hair sticking out at every end, and the flash of his teeth, Annie couldn’t help but smile a bit too.

Eren drank in the view of her, her blonde tresses undone, loose strands of platinum tendrils spilling onto the bed of grass, blue eyes glittering with mirth, and lips pink and puffy from their kiss. The little voice in his head said,

She was beautiful this way. And every other part of her she kept hidden.

Eren wanted to tell her, but he continued staring at her, until she had the audacity to poke one of his eyes.

Ow! Don’t-” He grasped her offending hand, she snickered, the tiniest of giggles he ever heard. He thought it was the cutest thing.

“You going to get off me any time soon, Jaeger?” The tone of her voice was playful. When he stared at her again, she was still smiling, or half-smiling…whatever that slight tilt of her lips resembled. He wanted to remember this part of Annie forever. Eren hummed, “I still need you to tap out, y'know.” 

“This isn’t a win, y'know.”

“I’d say it is!” He barked out a laugh, leaned down to bury his face into her neck, inhaling her scent, of grass, and spring flowers, and the perspiration from their fight, his face burned, the butterflies in his stomach threatened to burst free. She ran a hand through his wild hair, he sighed contently, nuzzling her.

This was so different, he never expected that sneaking out midday to train with Annie would ever lead to this. He never expected that his first kiss would be with the small apathetic girl that could kick anyone’s ass.

“Eren.” She tapped his shoulder. He didn’t stir, instead laid his entire weight on her. She grunted, wriggling her legs from underneath him.

“Eren, I am not your mattress, get up.” She tugged his hair again, but he ignored the slight sting, and closed his eyes, snoring softly into her ear. She grabbed his shoulder, shaking him awake of his fake nap. But he only snored louder. Finally, she shoved him off, he rolled onto his back, releasing a fit of giggles, he dragged a hand down his beat red face.

“Ha…haha—I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it.”

The little voice in his head said, yes you could. Shut up. He thought.

“We should get back, the sun is already setting, and I know you don’t want to be scrubbing shit from the horse stalls if Shadis catches you.” Annie spoke as she searched the ground for her hair clip. She’s her usual self again, except, now she's…brighter, or maybe that was the sun casting its fiery colors over her. Alighting her in an ethereal glow.

He was so lucky.

She eventually found her hair clip, fastening her cropped hair into a tight bundle. Eren peeked at her from under his arm. She sauntered over to him, holding her hand out, he took it and she guided him to a stand. Instantly he was reminded of how truly tiny she was, and the urge to kiss her again resurfaced.

“I like you!” He blurted. Out of nowhere. Annie blinked, rubbing nervously at her arm, “Yeah?”

Eren smiled, touching her shoulder, “Yeah, you knock me the hell out.”

He immediately back tracked, realizing what he said was not meaningful to how he felt. “I mean like, not just when we’re fighting, I mean…” Eren tried to figure out what to say, how to get his feelings out.

Shit, Annie you’re full of surprises…I just—“

Annie’s hands shot out, and he didn’t have the time to block, but no attack came, instead she grabbed his face, pulling him down, and kissed him for the third time. Eren let himself relax into the kiss, but the moment he put his arms around her waist, she let him go.

“You're something else yourself, Jaeger.” A melancholic smile played on the edges of her lips. “I’ve already broken my rules now.” Annie’s gaze went somber, flickering from him to the grassy ground, a dejected sort of emotion wafted off of her. Eren didn’t understand, but he didn’t want to see her sad. He stepped forward, tilted her chin up in his hand, but she swatted his hand away, shaking her head.

“We have to go.” She stalked off, and he’s left staring at her grass stained back. The same anchor-like ache dropped into chest, the same kind of hurt from before, but it diminished when she turned around, hip cocked in her usual manner.

“Are you coming, or not?”

Eren bounded forward, like an excited puppy following its owner. Annie resisted the urge to roll her eyes, but she smiled again as they approached the main road. They continued walking in comfortable silence, side by side. His knuckles occasionally brushing against hers. 

 He wished this moment would drag on just a bit more. The scene before them was so surreal, the sun setting down on the horizon far beyond the trainee camp in the distance, painting the sky a water color mixture of reds, oranges, pinks and yellows. Annie, by his side, content, and his stomach doing loops on a ODMG.

“Pretty.” Annie mumbled, taking in the view as well.

The little voice in his head, that started to sound a bit like Jean said; not as pretty as you.

Eren took her by the arm, roughly pressing a kiss to her cheek, and then ran off, laughing madly. Annie was left sputtering, her face going redder than a ripe tomato. She stood there a moment longer, before chasing after him. They raced each other to the barracks. 

Annie eventually caught up to him, she jumped on to his back, hooking her legs around him so he couldn’t shake her off. Eren staggered forward, but clutched onto her thighs so she wouldn’t fall, her arms wrapped themselves around his neck.

“Go.” She tugged at his hair again, and there’s a slight sting to it, he’s beginning to think he might like that.

He snorted, “What am I, your horse?” But he gave in, providing her with a free piggyback ride until they reached the outer skirts of the trainee camp.

There they bid their goodbyes, and walked off to their own barracks that stood parallel to each other. Eren halted, just as he opened the door to the boy’s barracks; the voice in his head whispered, look over your shoulder, dummy.

He did. His heart skipped a beat when his eyes locked with Annie’s, who stood at the entrance of the girl’s barracks, hand gripping the door handle in the same fashion. She’s contemplating again, he noticed. She shrugged than, giving into whatever decision that flew across her mind. She blew a kiss at him, in her own apathetic manner. 

Eren chuckled, and he reached out to capture her invisible affections, though much more dramatically. He held it against his chest. Annie shook her head, smiling that not-so-smile of hers, as she turned to enter the barracks, he did the same.

The little jean-like voice in his head said, watch out, idiot, she’s way out of your league.  

Chapter Text

 

"Well, dreams, they feel real while we're in them right? Its only when we wake up then we realize that something was actually strange."  - Dominic Cobb , Inception (2010)


 

 

***

She loathed midnight, the deafening silence that accompanied the blackness swallowing the perimeter of their bedroom. All she could do was stare, stare into the void. Eyes as cold as crystal, shaping out every piece of furniture in the room. The dresser. The desk. The chair. The drapes. The glow of the moonlight filtering through the window on her bedside; the elongated shadows, stretching into sinister humanoid silhouettes on her walls.

She outlined everything. It helped to distract her. It was better than falling into a slumber, better than what she knew was awaiting in her sub conscious. At the very least, she was not alone. He was with her.

He was a light sleeper. So, she made no movement to disturb him. Instead lying on her side, back to him. It was worse that she was aware he had something to do with those… dreams she’d been having; those nightmarish scenes that replayed like a broken record in her head.

He was in them. Most of them. But he didn’t appear as the man she knew now, no. In her dreams, he was a boisterous young boy with a burning passion in his lively teal eyes. Such a contrast to the tired crinkled forest green she woke up to everyday. It shocked her to know that she’d been acquainted with him in the past. That past. The past that her dreams shown her. One she was beginning to feel horribly familiar with.

To know what she’d done him. The friends that once surrounded him. The bloodshed. The bodies. The betrayal. It left her gut churning, twisting, like a knife making a muck of her insides.

It was agonizing, almost serial to see a younger, vulnerable. and yet far stronger her commit these acts of treason and... The killing. There was so much murder.

Each death rewound itself in her mind so she was forced to watch the end of the lives that she...the past her had claimed.

Over and over.

Oh. that poor freckled boy. Who was he? And Those people, their screams of anguish, a girl with sunflower hair, body bent at an awkward angle slumped against a tree. A man with his neck torn apart, muscle and tendon barely holding the severed head.

Bones being pulverized to dust in a very, very large skinless hand. The squishing of soft flesh, that splatter of warm blood that seemed to rain upon her. She could almost smell the iron, feel the shroud of blistering steam on her face. Secondhand guilt poured over like a bucket of ice water. She trembled.

No no no! She was not that person now, not in this time. She was not a murderer. Not a liar. Not a monster.

She was a human. A happily married woman, whom was expecting.

But these visions shook her to the very core. She often put her hands protectively over her slightly swelled belly as if she could shield it. A horror like that should have no place in a child's mind. It shouldn't have any place in hers either. Yet it was there. Raw, simmering in the depths of her thoughts and current memories. Demanding to be seen, felt.

But why now? Why her? Why must she have to suffer these night terrors, the gory details of a past her from an age that almost seemed like a cryptic fairy tale.

She did not deserve any of this. That girl was not her. Not here.

But then, there was the boy. Him who slept beside her. He appeared just as passionate as the man she knew now. His anger though, it was uncontrolled, vengeful, feral. In her dreams, the boy with the daredevil grin morphed into a beast that stood on two legs. When he roared, she felt the vibration in her bones. Blood lust seeped off him like miasma.

He wanted to kill her. He wanted to eat her. He wanted to rip her limb from limb.

Stop. Please. Don't do this! Don't show me this!

A whimper escaped her lips, pale thin fingers grasped the sheets. Trickles of sweat dotted her brow.

“Ann—“

In her mind the beast growled. It sat on her chest. Arm less, driven by hate, screeching in her face. It's gaping maw wide open, spittle flecked onto her face, her ears rang with the sound.

Don't kill me. Please.

“Annie?”

The horrendous scene bled into yet another. It was him. The beast who was once a boy. But they were no longer in the forest of giant trees. They stood in a village square. Fifteen meters off the ground. She felt afloat, her body boiling, nestled within her own monster. He charged at her with an animalistic yowl that pierced through the air.

She had no time to run. When they fought, it felt as if every bit of her was slowly being crumbled into tiny pieces. She was losing.

 He ravaged her, teared her off her arms and legs, bellowed an angry roar onto the steaming mangled corpse. The next to go was her head, blonde tendrils soared in the red skies. The comforting heat that nestled against her was torn apart by the beast’s teeth. The sense of her impending doom ran through her mind, her blood turned cold.

A crystalline substance prickled at her skin, gradually enveloping her entire form. The cold evaporated the hot tears that ran down her ashen face. She realized that this was it, this was the end. She had become the fragile little girl she’d once been.

She felt the failure of it all, the lives that had been forsaken for this mission, and the aching longing of a place called home. The crystal soon cocooned her whole, acting as her shield in this cruel world. Darkness surrounded her.

The Silence was deafening.

“Annie!”

Eye’s snapped open, blue, bloodshot and watery. She could hardly stop the sob the erupted from her throat. He brought her closer till her back was flushed against him, cradling her gently against his chest. she was drenched in a cold sweat, every part of her quaking with the infliction of yet another nightmare.

“Shh, Annie, don't cry. You're okay. It's okay.” He cooed hushed words repeatedly into her matted hair till she calmed.

Sleep had taken over again without her knowing. She'll never be able to live peacefully if cannot escape that past. It would keep haunting her forever.

“Eren.” She sniffed, caressing the strong arm he draped over her middle, “I'm sorry I woke you up–I,” She squeezed at his forearm, twisting her neck to look at him, his green eyes were lit with concern for her, his expression was soft, tender. Despite his roguish appearance. 

He pressed his lips to her bare shoulder, chaste like. His stubble scratched lightly at her porcelain skin.

“Don't apologize, it's just a bad dream. We all have them.” He whispered, grazed his lips against hers soothingly.

Her breath hitched, “It was a nightmare.”

She turned her body to him, careful of her rounded belly. He ran his fingers lovingly through her disheveled hair.

“Want to talk about it?”

Brief flashes of the menacing beast rushed through her mind’s eye. She screwed her lids shut, borrowed her face into his chest, listened to the steady thump of his heart against her cheek. “No... not yet.”

What could she tell him, really. Those dreams, the night terrors, they're so vivid and strong. She didn’t believe anything like that could have occurred at first, she didn’t believe her hands were stained with so much blood, so, how would he? How could he understand a dark past he knew nothing of? She could barely grasp a hold of it herself.

She could piece together the gory scenes, the bloody fights all she wanted. But no matter how many times she relived them through a vision of her younger self, she would never know the full story of what had happened in a time where people flew on wired machines and cannibalistic monsters had roamed. She knew her story, and part of his. But the entirety of it all came up blank.

“...I noticed this has been happening a lot lately Ann'...you know if there is anything you want to tell me, anything, I'll listen,” Eren tucked her head safely under his chin, “I'll always listen.”

She smiled, lips feather light against his collarbone, Of course he would. He was that kind of person. She really did cherish him. Always brutally honest and respectful. She wouldn't want to lose him.

Perhaps she would tell him. Another time, maybe.
She could only hope he would understand. She could only pray that he would not suffer through the same nightmarish scenes.

The sound of his deep breathing, his beating heart soon lulled her into a dreamless slumber...


 


Uh! Squad leader! I just saw movement...her eyes!

A bespectacled woman quickly pushed past her alerted underling, practically shoving him to the side as she adjusted her glasses, scrutinizing at the girl in frozen stasis. “Hmm…” She hummed, put a hand under her chin, tilting her head as she paced back, and forth, hardened eyes never leaving the crystal cocoon.

“Time?”

“Approximately 0300.”

The woman nodded, staring fixedly at the shimmering crystalline and the female that lay within. She placed a palm over the crystal, the chill cooled her clammy palms.

“Write it down.” The woman ordered. Her underling obliged her, hastily whipping out a notepad and pencil.

“Looks like our guess may be living lucidly in this rock after all.”


“What do you mean Squad leader?”

The brunette smirked, almost manically, “It means, Moblit, that the girl isn’t dead, she just put herself into a coma. Or so I’m going to assume.”

The man stopped scribbling, he asked cautiously, “Will…will she ever wake?”

“Depends. That can be anywhere from now to decades later.”

The woman chuckled deeply, “But I hope she does wake while I'm still in my prime, I don't want to be old and gray elbow deep in the female titan's insides.”

She meant it as a jest but her partner greened at the thought.

“Either way. The Survey Corp will be ready for her when she does. No matter how much time will pass…”

At that the two continue their inspection of the female titan, formally known as Annie Leonhardt.

Within the crystal. The corners of Annie's lips tilted upwards slightly. It did not go unnoticed.

 

Chapter Text

Sometimes problems in life came slamming into you at the speed of a galloping stallion; Sometimes that problem brought about a headache every time it came your way; Sometimes, if not all the time, that problem was a certain bright-eyed suicidal bastard by the name of Eren Jaeger.

“I can’t believe your incompetence.” Annie hissed, her palm flat against his shoulder; she pushed again, causing him to sway, and thump back into her.

Eren grunted as she glared daggers at him. “I said I’m sorry!”

He’d been going obnoxiously fast on his ODM gear, failing to check his surroundings, and crashed into her blindside; the hooks of his wiring tangled with hers, and their momentum had given way until they both awkwardly dangled by the waist, eighteen meters off the ground; had they been outside the walls, Eren’s clumsiness would have surely gotten them both killed.

“You have eyes, Jaeger,” She gritted her teeth, “Learn to use them.”

Eren sheepishly looked away, “I was…”

Annie knew she would survive the fall if she unstrapped her ODM gear; but, Eren did not, and it was far too early for any giant chaos to ensue. So, she just opted to take out all her frustrations on him.

“First you couldn’t even balance yourself, and now you can’t even look where your flying?” She scoffed. “You’re a wreck.”  

“But I was!” Eren shouted, his outburst made him rock back and forth, “I was looking, I just got…distracted.”

“By what?”

Eren stayed quiet, uncomfortably so, He stared at the ground. Annie would have laughed with how much he resembled a swinging corpse, but she wasn’t the type too.

“Uh, by you?” He said it like he had just figured it out. Annie blinked, once, then twice.

“Why?” Her eyes narrowed suspiciously, was Jaeger keeping an eye on her? For what reason would he need to do that? Unless…

“I don’t know,” he half-shrugged, “I just thought…you looked pretty good.”

They stared at each other for second, and then Eren hastily added, “Using the ODM gear!”

Annie still couldn’t fathom his reason. “You were following me?”

“Um…No.”  Eren averted his eyes to a nearby tree.

“Am I that much of a distraction that you had to crash into me?”

Eren said nothing. Annie sighed once again. Miles ahead, a smoke flare popped off into the skies; signaling the end of ODMG training. Eren’s eye’s widened fearfully. As did Annie’s, though more so in annoyance. Surely Instructor Shadis knew they were missing, he wouldn’t abandon his trainees in mid of a forest; he couldn’t be that cruel.

But as the sun sunk low into the horizon, and the night breeze picked up, they both figured, that yes, Keith Shadis was in fact, that cruel.

Annie groaned, “I can’t believe this…”

“Looks like we’ll be trapped here for a while.” Eren tried make light of the situation, “Try to get comfortable.”

Annie’s hands balled into fists, she wanted so badly to knock that smile off his stupid face. “I’m going to punch you for this later.”

“I know.”

Chapter Text

 “Annie, remember one thing, even when the entire world is against you…Your father will always be by your side.”

“So—Promise me—Promise me you’ll come home!”

She was dragged back to consciousness by the sound of sobbing; hot tears dripped onto her forehead, landed on her cheeks, stung her porcelain skin red.

Annie’s eye’s fluttered open, slow, steadily gaining focus on the face of the boy who ruined her. The sky above him was clouded white with the steam of their titan shells; she breathed in, and smelled iron, sweat, and carnage.

“…Eren?”

He jerked when she uttered his name, she jerked with him, and it was then Annie realized, Eren cradling her body…What was left of it. As she peered down, she swallowed the spike of panic at seeing her own mutilated torso, her entire right leg, from the hip, gone. Her shredded clothes, and blonde tresses sticky with some foul fluid.

Annie suddenly felt so very cold, even as Eren brought her closer to his chest, even as her body regenerated the missing bone, muscle, and flesh. She was freezing, and she was scared, and homesick.

“Annie!” He whimpered, in his arms, she felt him tremble. He shook his head, then spoke her name again, softly. “Annie.”

The sight of her body, made her recall Marco. She looked away, back into the watery green depths of hell, that’s all she saw in Eren, his face was lined with remnants of shifting, as hers was.

“What…happened?”

Eren opened his mouth, choked on a sob, and kept shaking his head. No. No. No. No.

“I’m sorry—I, Fuck—I almost lost you.” He bared his clenched teeth, hissing in shaky breaths, so overwhelmed with the thought of her death. Of losing her? It struck through the ice of Annie’s heart.

“I almost killed you.”

“Why…didn’t you?”

Eren’s teeth sunk into his lower lip, but he didn’t look away, he gazed down at her with an unknown emotion reflected in his bright eyes. What was it? Odd. He was crying, and staring at her so tenderly, like she…Like she meant something to him?

The emotion was akin to kindness; but Annie knew the look of kindness…and this—Eren’s thumb brushed the hairs matted at her temple—this…wasn’t just kindness.

“I couldn’t.” He swallowed, “I just…Despite everything you’ve done, the blood you’ve split, the chaos you’ve caused…I wanted to only know you as the monster from the forest, a monster without a name…and I did, It got to the point where I wanted to devour you and t—“ Eren screwed his eyes shut, “Tear you apart…But then,” he grimaced, “Then I saw your face, I saw your tears and I remembered and I—“ He opened his eyes, fresh tears sprung in them . “I couldn’t. I couldn’t, because it was you.”

Annie wished he wouldn’t look at her like that; like she was somebody precious. She didn’t deserve this, she didn’t deserve that emotion his big green eyes conveyed to her so clearly, it hurt more than any physical pain she’d ever felt.

“I’m sorry.” She whispered to him, and Eren laughed bitterly, all the while bringing her closer to him as the Commander, and his Captain neared. “It’s far too late for that.”

Chapter Text

I

 

He could never miss a face like hers, even if was covered in the blood of their enemies. She stood on the edge of the trench, blonde tresses whipping like cords in the wind. Slain Eldian and Enemy soldiers littered the pathway that divided the war. Marley Commanders, warrior children and medics; all of them raced, wove around each other, bumped shoulders, tended to wounds, inhaled the stale air of death, and gun powder.

“It’s the female! Make way for her, Move your asses!” A harsh command from his unit’s Lieutenant had his feet automatically propel forward, following the tone of the Marleyan man, several other soldiers jogged behind.

She gave them no warning, but simply slit her wrist, and was gone in an explosion of steam and dust. He shielded his eyes from the rocks that flew into his vision, and in the mid of boiling mist, he saw her kneel, both enlarged skinless hands on the opposite end of the trench, and then, she leapt over to enemy lines, and took off, spreading the debris behind her without a care for her comrades.

She was, after all, the third fastest titan shifter, and she was merciless. An angel of death, of destruction; she dodged the spray of bullets that rained upon her. Their enemies, distracted by both the jaw and armored titan failed to react quick enough to the female’s counter attack. She charged into the fortresses walls, shoulder first, stones, iron and men all crumbled to her feet.

On three ends, Fort Slava was surrounded, neither the colossal nor beast titan’s absence could hinder the Marley’s military strength, however the losses were great, far more than he’d ever known, fighting on his own island, and against titans no less.

“Over here, Krueger! Hold this spot!” His leader, Lieutenant Humbolt dragged him by the shoulder, pushed him down into a rocky terrain that acted as a barrier, the men behind slid after him, their fire arms poised above the rocks, the pebbles beneath their boots bounced in time to the armored titan’s heavy foot falls that approached from the far end of the trench.

“Do you guys hear somethin’…?” A chubby boy whom everyone referred to as Squeak, covered head to toe in dirt, quaked in fear. “Like…a train?”

All men remained silent, ears perked, and heads swiveling left and right. Krueger did hear it. The blaring horn, a warning. It was faint, but nearing at a rapid speed.

“Don’t matter, they won’t get to us in time, prepare for infiltration of the Artillery base, with the female on our side, we don’t need to worry about any more casualties.” Lieutenant Humbolt shoved a rope into Squeak’s arms, and pushed him to the side, “You climb up there first, since you’re the biggest.”

The boy, not much older than fifteen yelped at the Lieutenant’s forcefulness, but he did as he was told. Scrambling up the jutted rocks on shaky hands, eventually making it to the very top; Squeak unraveled the rope into the depths of the Trench, Humbolt than nudged Krueger forward, “Now get your asses up there, move!”

Krueger’s hands reached for the rope, he hauled himself up, trying to balance his feet on the rocks to relieve Squeak of the weight. The walls of the trench tremored as he climbed, he thought of what would come of the Marley winning this war; halfway up, and one hand on top of solid ground, a flare shot up into the cloudy skies, blinding his sight with white light. He didn’t know who let go first, Squeak, Or himself. But he went tumbling down the sharp rocks of the Trench, landing heavily onto a fellow soldier.

Their Lieutenant screamed, “CANNON FIRE! OUT THE OF WAY! SCATTER!” Krueger rolled off the man, peering through the smoke to his far left, he saw an unconscious Squeak. Though he knew he shouldn’t give a damn for these men, he stood on wobbly legs, and took off, high on adrenaline.

Lieutenant Humbolt shouts of profanities were drowned by the explosions; Krueger scooped up the kid, tossing Squeak over his shoulders like a sack of potatoes, but his legs could only get them so far before a typhoon of earth and flames struck his back, flinging them like rag dolls into walls of the trench, the fire scorched his skin, the air pressure crushed his bones, he threw himself over Squeak’s body. He thought he’d die there, but it wasn’t death he was afraid of.

The blast had only knocked him out cold. In his unconsciousness, Krueger saw the ocean, he heard the waves crashing onto the shore, he felt the soft sand beneath his bare feet, the farewells of his friends drifted into his ears; the best moments of his life played behind his mind’s eye. Only in his dreams did he ever truly feel free.

And then, he awoke, with a ringing in his left ear, the taste of the sea on his tongue, and the scent of charred flesh in his nostrils. His body felt lighter than before. “Keith!” The boy Squeak, kneeled by his side, worried, a gash on his forehead bled profusely, but all Squeak could do was blink away the blood.

Krueger had his back to the trench wall, his head lolled forward, faint from the explosion, fatigued of risking his own damn life; risking his cover being blown. The once bright viridian of his eyes turned dull. Dead. He found himself staring at the stump of what would have been his right leg, residue smoke from cannon fire hid the wispy steam bellowing from the severed end. He squeezed his eyes shut, his skull felt as if it’d been split open like a fruit then glued back together.

“Others?” Krueger rasped. Squeak frowned, shook his head solemnly. “All our men were caught in the blasts, our Lieutenant is gone, but the flare that went off… that was a sign of truce. We finally took Fort Slava. It’s the end.”

While Krueger feigned the expression of terror, of grief, of bliss; his mind was already preparing for phase three of the grand plan. After three years of fighting for the Marley, three years since he’d seen his friends, his family. He would finally infiltrate the Mainland, the true home of his father, Grisha Jaeger.

 


II 

 

Upon arriving in the Mainland, Krueger tailed Reiner Braun, the holder of the armored titan, terrorist of Paradi Island, and, his former friend. Disguised as a handicapped veteran, he followed Reiner onto the train that took the withered soldiers home. He followed Reiner all the way into the gates of his late father’s birthplace, Liberio, a prison turned home to many of the pure Eldians. He chased Reiner’s shadow, soaking in whatever information he could, until he could follow no longer. The families, and lovers of every soldier, and child warrior blocked his sight, with one last glare at the tall blond man, he turned away.

Intermingling with the other shell-shocked victims of war that were being herded into a line, away from the families, the cheers, and celebrations. Away from happiness.

He hadn’t seen Squeak since the he left the battlefield. He hadn’t even seen his own brother, after being informed that the beast titan was indeed involved in the war, but in an airstrike on the coastline. Zeke was a perceptive man, so Krueger was relieved to be kept hidden from him for so long.

Then there was Annie Leonhardt, holder of the female titan, he hadn’t seen her since she jumped across that trench. He wondered where he could find a woman of her status in this Internment, and if she even lived in this section of Eldia.

“C’mon, this way!” Koslow, a Marley Commander bellowed to the injured soldiers in line, “Ugh, can’t you even walk straight?”

At the corner of his eye, Krueger noticed a young boy with snow white hair walk up to Koslow. “Are those injured soldiers Mister Koslow?” He asked, Krueger immediately recognized him as one of Reiner’s underlings. The boy who was in competition to inherit the armored titan, Falco Grice.

“Outta’ my way brat,” Koslow sighed impatiently, “These are Eldians who suffered psychological trauma, they don’t have families, they’re gonna’ be treated at this hospital.” He waved a hand to the elongated building at their left.

Falco appeared intrigued, “We have people like that too?!”

Koslow smirked, “Seems like you end up this way if you spend to long digging trenches on the front lines, it’s all those bullets going by and bombs going off like fwooKABOOM! Koslow’s booming voice caused the mind broken soldiers to drop down flat on their bellies, hands over their head as if a bomber plane were flying right over them, one man screamed and fell back into Krueger, knocking the crutch from his hand.  They went tumbling into the others, who all crashed into one another like dominos.

Koslow cackled at the mess he purposely made. “C’mon Koslow, knock it off!” Another Marleyan soldier tutted, but he to, had a cocky grin plastered on his face. Falco watched the commotion happen with a straight face, then he turned to his family behind, “I’ll catch up with you guys!” He waved at them, “Go home without me!”

Falco ran to the nearest whimpering soldier, kneeling to pat him reassuringly on the back. “Are you okay?” The man jolted in response, Falco frowned. “Please calm down…” He turned from the wailing man to Krueger, who was sprawled haphazardly on the ground. Goosebumps pricked at the amputee’s skin, Krueger felt another pair of eyes watching him, and it wasn’t the kid’s.  

“Your band is on the wrong arm.” Falco pointed out as he stood, walking near Krueger to kneel by the veteran’s side, Krueger remained silent, still as a living statue. Falco gently took him by the arm, loosening the Eldian band, switching sides so he could tie it around the right arm. All the while murmuring comforting words to the older man, “It’s okay, I’m sure it’ll get better… you don’t have to fight any longer.”

Once the band was tied tight around the correct arm, Falco patted him on the shoulder, “Everything will be alright from now on.”

Krueger almost believed the boy. But then, he heard her voice among the noise of screaming soldiers.

“Falco.” It was her. The cause of his paranoia. He never felt so naked than he did now. Krueger bowed his head, allowing a curtain of his hair to fall over his eye not wrapped by bandages. He wasn’t religious, but he did silently pray to any false god that he had grown to be unrecognizable to the Vice Commander of the Marley warriors, Annie Leonhardt.

“Oh! Miss Leonhardt!” Falco shot up, saluting the female warrior, cheeks tinged a rosy hue. “I didn’t know you were here!”

Annie folded her arms, raising a blonde brow, through his outgrown fringes, Krueger saw that her hair was loose, and long, a river of platinum silk falling over her shoulders, kept in place by a pin in the back of her head; he hadn’t noticed this change on the battlefield, but then again, his mind had been preoccupied on other things, like staying alive, and not being found out as a spy of Paradi Island.

She wore the standard Eldian warrior uniform for women; the skirt ended right above her knees, her dark heels were shinier than marble stone. The band on her arm was a distinct color than his own, and the kid Falco’s. it was red and silver. A mark of her status, but still, just a pet for the Marley to use.

“Well, my home is here, what’re you doing here,” She scanned the area of wailing soldiers. “Just what happened here?”

Falco rubbed nervously at his elbow, “These are the soldiers from the frontlines, they suffered from trauma, Commander Koslow screamed at them, made them all scared half to death, I just wanted to help them.”

He could feel the chill as her cold crystalline eyes landed on him, of course she would spot him, the damned kid was standing right next to him! Krueger neither said a word, nor moved an inch, just settled his gaze to the ground, paralyzed under her icy stare.

Falco noticing Annie’s attention piped, “Oh! I was just helping him fix his band, he had it on the wrong arm.”

Shut the fuck up, kid. Krueger gritted his teeth, the nape of his neck became damp with sweat. He swallowed inaudibly when he heard heels clacking on stone, and then a pair of pale lithe legs stood in front of him, he held his breath.

“Is that so?”

He clenched his jaw tight. Falco peered at Annie, head cocked to the side, wondering why the amputee man had suddenly captured her interest.

A catcall whistle broke the trance of the three.

Well, well, well! If it isn’t the monstrous beauty herself!” Koslow swaggered up to the stoic blonde, a cheesy grin overtaking his ugly features. “Lady Leonhardt, heard ya’ decimated the artillery base on the front lines!” He clapped a hand on her shoulder, Annie shrugged him off carelessly. Krueger felt himself breathe again as he was relieved of her cold eyes; they now glared at the Commander who waggled his eyebrows appreciatively at her attire.

“You Killed so many of em’!”

Annie turned from him, now fully facing Koslow. “I was simply acting as a decoy for the Armored and Jaw titan, I tried to avoid that many casualties.”

With Koslow as a distraction, Krueger lifted himself up on his good leg, though struggled to do so, A small body came to his side, and slung his arm over their shoulder.

“Here, I’ll help you up.” Falco grunted, the albino was too small and light for Krueger, so he kneeled awkwardly, willing his weight on one leg, stumbling a couple of times, until he managed to stand, but lean himself heavily on the boy.

“Miss Leonhardt!” Falco staggered a bit, “Miss Leonhardt, the crutch please!”

Krueger’s heart skipped two beats as Annie swiveled back to them, she was so close to his face, though her attention was still preoccupied with Koslow, she bent down to retrieve the crutch, handing it to Falco without a glance to him, or Krueger, flicking strands of blonde over her shoulder.

“Enemies aren’t casualties,” Koslow shrugged, pretending his eyes had been elsewhere instead of the Vice Commander’s rear as she turned to him again, arms folded. “The more dead, the merrier, we’re better off without them trying to steal our resources anyway.”

Falco stuck the crutch under his arm, righting Krueger to balance on the wood. Krueger only half-listened to the conversation between the Marley commander and Annie. Resources. They meant oil, the rare fossil fuels of ancient animals that roamed the entire world a long time ago. Their precious, precious fuel. What made Marley a dominant nation was their unlimited access to this fuel, and of course, the power of the titans.

“Koslow!” A fellow Marleyan Commander hollered from the threshold of the hospital. “What the hell is the hold up?! Where’s the damn line?!” He banged his fist on the wood panel, startling a poor soldier.

But… relying on only the five titan shifters, after losing both the colossal and founding titan, had weakened their military strength, they lost more men, more women and children than Krueger could count in this four-year war. Eighty-five percent of their brigades were made up of Eldian men, seven percent Eldian women, excluding the female shifters.

He’d only been part of the war for three years, while thirty-seven destroyers had been sent to Paradi in those four years. None returned. But he did. And he will finish what his father had started.

“Hold your fuckin’ horses!” Koslow sneered at the man, he turned to Annie, giving her a mock bow. “I’ll leave ya’ be, for now, Miss Leonhardt.” With a wink, he left, smacking Krueger’s arm as he walked by while hissing, “Oi! Get the hell back in line!” Koslow nudged another soldier in fetal position with his boot, “get up ya’ lazy bums! Get back in line or you’ll all be homeless!”

Annie barely paid the Commander any mind, brushing his advances off, in fact, she was enamored with the scruffy Amputee who towered over little Falco. Krueger noticed once Koslow snapped him from his daydreaming. Her attention had discreetly been on him the whole time.

Strange. He kept his head low, but he did meet her familiar eyes that begged for his. They were just as chillingly blue as he remembered, so distant, underlined with curiosity, with caution. But it was strange, because he did not feel suffocated by them as he expected. Everything else around him became white noise, irrelevant except for the dangerous beauty who was stripping him down to his bare soul, with only her eyes.

She had to know. She had to know it was him. 

Yet, she did nothing to jeopardize his life, nor his mission. She just stood there silently, and then with a nod to Falco—“Falco, let’s get back to Reiner and the others.”—Annie turned her back to the man, and was gone with the little warrior boy into the throng of Eldian families. Krueger watched her go, a tiny—pitiful—voice in the far recesses of his mind whispered to him. She spared you, because she still cares for you.

It was Eren who told that voice to fuck off.


 

III

 

The hospital was a more of a ward for the mentally or physically incapable; a safe place for the veterans who could no longer function in the real world for they all had lost something in that war, something that was key to who they once were. Be it a limb, or their sanity, or a keepsake. None of them had ties to any of the families within Liberio, they may as well have been walking ghosts.

Krueger was now one of them. He sat upon an old cot bed while an Eldian nurse tended to his bandages, the nurse was an old graying woman whose yellow eyes were sharp as a hawk’s. She tightened the gauze around his head to keep the cotton against his eye in place.

An ugly inflamed scar ran jagged from his brow line to his cheek bone after a piece of shrapnel from the blast had cut the skin of his right eye. He knew he could’ve secretly healed it back in the battlefield, but he figured it played well to his disguise either way. He hadn’t really planned for losing a leg, unfortunately. But the perks of being a handicapped veteran did well to benefit him on his venture, especially on obtaining information from the warriors.

The old woman, Ruth was her name, muttered something under her breath, tilting his head this way and that, then she carefully knotted the gauze, and cut the longer pieces that dangled. She huffed as she pulled back, dropping the scissors onto the metal tray by his bedside

“Ya’ could use a haircut, boy, it’s free.” She nodded over to the other side of the ward where a Marleyan man was enthusiastically hacking away the dirty blond curls of a young soldier—Krueger’s jaw dropped. “Squeak?”

“Eh?” Ruth crinkled her nose, “I’ve taken your blood sample and piss already, so ya’ good to go for examination.”

Too distracted with the appearance of his fellow comrade, Krueger failed to remember that he hadn’t done the examination yet. He never gave a blood sample, or pissed in a cup as the doctors would order. He had just hobbled in, before being whisked away by this wiry old woman.

Could it be she was the one in cahoots with the Eldians of Paradi? He knew he wasn’t the first spy on the mainland, there had been others before, others who lived in Eldia, who still served the dead restorationist movement, but the Marley too, had eyes and ears on every corner, and every Eldian spy had been silenced. But, maybe one did survive after all. 

“Are you…” Words caught in his throat as a Marleyan officer marched pass, Ruth raised a brow, stone-faced, giving nothing away. “Hm?”

“… Nothing. Would you mind if I have some pain killers, my head is killing me.” He would keep his mouth shut, if she were on his side, or a double agent of the Marley’s, the best thing to do, was to ride along with the flow. All that mattered was the vital information he stored away. There would come a time when the truth would be revealed, for that he was certain.

“Sure thing, I could only give you four per day though.”

Krueger nodded. Just as Ruth left him, Squeak picked up on his presence from the other side. The younger soldier jumped up in surprise, making the Marleyan barber drop his trimmer, and in turn curse at the boy, but Squeak was too excited to even care. “Keith!” He bounded over to the amputee, a wide grin on his round face.

“Keith! Holy goddess, it is you! I almost didn’t recognize you. You look like shit.” He laughed almost relieved, Krueger got a better look at him, now that his skin was scrubbed clean of dirt, he could see that Squeak had freckles, little brown dots covered the expanse of his cheeks and nose, his dirt blonde hair was short now, courtesy of the grumbling barber.

“It’s nice to see you too, Squeak.” Krueger tried to immolate the glee his partner extruded but fell short, only managing a half smile.

“Man, those jackasses back in the field, y’know everyone is calling me that now! My voice isn’t even that high!” Squeak shook his head, “My real name is Simon, Simon Wolfe,” he held out his hand, “It’s so good to see a familiar face ‘round here, y’know when I first checked in two days ago, I thought I was gonna’ be the only one from our unit...”

“At least we’re still breathing,” Krueger gave him a firm handshake, “that still counts as a victory also.”

“Yeah.” Squeak—Simon, was quiet for a minute, he sat down at the vacant cot across from Krueger’s. Scratching at the bandages wrapped around his forehead.

“So, have you had your examination yet?”

“Passed it just fine. Nothing to severe,” Krueger shrugged, “just a minor concussion, a damaged eye, and a limp.”

Simon gawked, “You’ve got no leg, my friend, I’d say that’s pretty fucking severe!” They both chuckled quietly, more of an airy laugh to fill the ward, the only noise in there were the sounds of stomping boots, hollering veterans without treatment, and nurses speaking consecutively.

“And,” Simon cleared his throat, “I—uh, never really got to thank you. Properly I mean, if it weren’t for you, my body would’ve been painted all over that damn trench.” he shuddered at the mere thought, “So thank you, for coming back for me.”

Krueger shrugged again, “it’s what soldiers do.”

Simon smiled, though a bit melancholier than before. “So, have you got a place to stay at?”

Krueger looked around, answering with a blatant, “Here?” 

“Are you serious?!” Simon gaped at him, “No way you’re staying here! This place is mostly for the mind broken, really, you won’t be able to sleep well with them thrashing and moaning in their sheets.”

Simon leaned back on his forearms, craning his neck to gaze at the ceiling above, piquing Krueger’s curiosity to also look up, but there was nothing.

“Uh,” Simon bit his lip, “Shit—ah, how about you come with me?”

“I thought you had no family?” 

“I don’t, not anymore.” Simon rubbed at his chin, there was small cut there that’d begun to scab over. “But I do farm work for another veteran on the east of Liberio, his name’s Oliver. He lets me stay in one of his spare rooms since he lives in a villa, and his daughter is hardly ever home, so it’s just him.”

Krueger mulled over the idea. Staying in another place would be in his best interest, there were far too many Marleyan officers surrounding the ward, not to mention curfews.

“I don’t know if I could be much help with farming.” He told Simon truthfully.

Simon swatted his hand as if batting a fly, “Eh, we’ll figure something out, he’s a very generous man, he served for years in the military, I’m sure he’d understand.” He leaned forward on the cot than, pointing a finger to the ceiling. “There’s only one thing he is fiercely protective of, and that’s his daughter, so don’t get any ideas if you see her, she’s hardly ever home anyway.”

The older soldier snorted, “What if she’s the one who gets ideas?”

“Assuming she’s into handicapped veterans, you could use a shave too, y’know, women these days don’t like all that scruff.”

“I’d look younger than you without, trust me.” Krueger chuckled.

Simon and he continued to share a couple of jests, even some back stories, though Krueger had to make up a fib here, and there. He felt, somewhat relaxed, finally talking with another instead of brooding in silence. It was fresh, and new. He craved social interaction just as the next person.

Then Ruth came strolling in with his pain killers in one hand, and Eren was reminded than, not to get too comfortable.

Chapter Text

IV

“So, you’re a vet, just like me?”

Krueger observed the hefty blond man who sat before him, Oliver wasn’t all that tall, not as tall as Reiner, but just a few centimeters above himself. He walked with a limp, had broad shoulders and a face of stone, hardened by his living, and his serving. But there were cracks on that stone, and they revealed themselves whenever Oliver genuinely smiled. So, which to say, that he didn’t smile so much. His hair was slicked, his beard trimmed, and the clothes on his back were that of a noble. He lived in a damned villa, if the grand family room they were having tea at didn’t scream rich. That was the top of the class, at least for the Eldians. Oliver was even allowed a plot of land to farm his own produce, it was considered a gift from the Marley themselves.

Eren thought spitefully, he probably did smile, when he’s spending his money on whores and expensive suits. But that was none of his business.

“You could say that,” Krueger looked the man in the eye, blue eyes, blue as crystals, “I’ve been forcibly resigned from the Marley army for my incapableness.”

“You mean handicappedness?”

He sighed. “That too.”

“Well…” Oliver gave him a hard-perplexed look, probably thinking of a way to get rid of him, drop him off to another family housing homeless vets, though it was none of that. Oliver turned to Simon who sat the end of the table with a steaming cup of tea in hand, “I can’t be the one to turn away a wounded vet, you say he really has nowhere to go?”

Simon placed down the tea, “Just back at the ward for the mentally broken, Sir, and he’s much to sane for that place.”

Oliver tapped a finger on the smooth table, slow, precise. He looked again to Krueger, who appeared bored, and most of all tired.

“I mean, you obviously can’t aid me or Simon here in field work, is there anything you can do?”

“I’ll do housework.” Krueger put it bluntly. “I’ll cook, even.”

“You sure, on that leg? I’ve got a bad leg myself, even I find it hard to move sometimes.”

He shrugged, “I’ll be tough, but it’s not that much of a hassle. And I’m good at tidying up, you can use some dusting in this room particularly.” Krueger nodded over to the drawn red curtains, where the sunset’s iridescent light streamed through onto the polished wood floors, little dust specs danced in its orange rays.

Oliver followed his gaze, gave something of a laugh and a cough. “As much as I would like a handicapped butler… I’m gonna’ have to decline.”

Simon seemed about ready to rebuttal, but Oliver held his hand up to the boy. “You can stay here, free of charge… or, eh—we’ll figure something out in the long run.”

Simon grinned, Krueger leaned into the plush of his seat, too exhausted to even word a thank you. At least now, he didn’t have to worry so much for Marley officers snooping about, the villa was as high up as it could get from the other houses, right up on a small hill, not overlooking the wall, but just about so. What a luxury.

“In the meantime, Simon here is just going to have to work twice as hard on the field to accommodate both of you living here.”

“Huh?!” Simon’s grin vanished. “Wait a min—”

“Oh, and another thing.” Oliver laced his fingers in front of him, serious. “You should know that I have daughter, she’s about your age. However, my daughter is off-limits. She’s a very busy woman, she doesn’t need to be pestered by the… infatuations of any man.”

The corners of Krueger’s lips quirked. “Wouldn’t dream of it, sir.”


 

V

Krueger stayed in the Villa for three days, he slept in a room that had probably meant to be a nursery, for it was really the tiniest bedroom in the whole house. There was hardly enough space for him to walk… not that he did much walking. But he couldn’t complain, the room did have a bed, a soft bed with feathered stuffed pillows and a mahogany nightstand to put his things. There was only one window, right to the side of the headboard. That window Krueger now made sure to keep shut, and covered with a spare sheet.

In the time that Krueger recovered from his minor to severe injuries, (that he had to continuously force stop his regeneration power for every night, or else he really would grow a new leg by next morning) He’d received a letter, mailed to him by a dove pecking at his window.

The letter held no words, just a lop-sided cross painted in ink, what looked like a scrawl of the letter X. But Krueger knew better, it was more than that. It was the symbol of the Eldia restorationists. Upon receiving the letter, he had felt as if he were being watched, from the inside, and out. He had ripped in half, and then the halves into pieces, then he had thrown those pieces into the fire place of the lounging room.

Someone out there knew who he was, but the frightening bit was, he knew nothing of whether it could be a friend, or a foe. If someone from Paradi had crossed the sea, just as he had. Then they were probably as inconspicuous as he. They wouldn’t attempt to contact him, less it was the right time. They certainly wouldn’t let him know of their presence by sending a dove with a forbidden symbol, a dove that could be easily tracked down, or even captured by the Marley themselves.

But then again, how could Krueger really know. It probably was a friend, but how could he know? He didn’t, and that’s probably why they sent that message to him. Nobody could know, that was how the original Krueger did it as well. Trust no one. 

Bastards. He seethed, clenched the leather of the armrest chair he occupied, steeling his sight to the dancing flames of the fireplace where he burned evidence not a day prior. He could do nothing but wait, wait for a for signal, a sign, that’s what he’d been told. But how the fuck, was that a signal?

He felt his teeth might crack under pressure with how roughly he was grinding them together. Had he had his right leg, it would’ve been doing that anxious bouncing it always did whenever he went other elevated levels of stress.

He would’ve stayed brooding in that chair all night, watching the flames crackle, and spark. If not the for the sudden slam of the front door making him jolt up in his seat. It was the middle of the night, Oliver and Simon called it a day after field work, had supper with him, then retired to bed. So that must mean—Krueger reached for his crutch, now made of stronger material—that the daughter had finally come home.

He hobbled from the lounge into dining room, becoming drowned in darkness, the only light flickered from the threshold of the kitchen at the very end of the table.  He kept as discreet as possible limping his way there, though the wooden floors creaked with even the slightest pressure.

His hearing picked up on a faint hum, a melody that grew softer as he approached the kitchen. It was Oliver’s daughter, for sure, he couldn’t wait to greet her.

He turned and stepped through the threshold. Immediately encountering the silhouette of a petite woman, she dug through a cabinet, completely distracted with retrieving something, that she failed to sense his presence right away. Krueger noted the civilian clothes she wore, a long skirt and blouse. So, she wasn’t a soldier, he assumed.

Krueger cleared his throat, loud enough for her to hear among the rummaging of tin cans. She startled, as he expected, but what he didn’t expect was her throwing a can of fucking tomatoes at him. He just barely ducked when it came soaring pass his head, crashing into the wall, knocking down a full dish rack. Krueger glared at the mess, out of breath, from irritation, mostly. His head swiveled back to the daughter, ready to tell her off, but he found he couldn’t get a word out. They became stuck in his throat, so he swallowed it down, then he opened his mouth to speak again. But still, not a sound came.

“You.” Annie gaped at him, and the shock on her face mirrored his own. He should’ve known. Why didn’t he—

“What’re you doing here?” She hissed, and there was this… trepidation in her eyes, eyes as blue as Oliver’s. He should’ve known.

He wanted to ask her the same thing. But no questions were answered, because Oliver, or rather Mr. Leonhardt came barreling into the kitchen with a pointed rifle in his hands.

“NOW WHO THE HELL—” He stopped short, realizing just who had barged into his home. One second he was ready to strike, but in the next, he let out a choked sob—“Annie.”—and in next he had tossed heavy rifle into Krueger’s arms, blindly walking by him, Krueger clumsily caught the weapon. In the seconds after, Oliver had enveloped his daughter in an embrace that even Krueger—no, Eren felt envious of.

“Oh, Annie! Annie, my sweet girl, you’re back, you’re finally home!” He sniffed into her hair, shuddered as he cried. Cried like a parent missing their only child would. “I’m… so glad.”

Annie said nothing, just wordlessly wrapped her arms around her father. But in truth, she was lost in the smoldering emerald gaze of the man who stood behind him.

Chapter Text

VI

 

Krueger felt stiff, brittle. His joints were not made of cartilage or bone, but of rotted wood. He had walked willingly into the den of lions, unaware that there had been any lions. How stupid, how utterly fucking stupid.

And there he sat, at the decorated dining table, having tea with them, like the foolish fuck he was. Paralyzed like he’d been when he first saw her. He couldn’t even look her way for too long, feelings of uneasiness would swallow him whole if he did. He’d go crazy, go mad, he’d end up spilling something to her he knew shouldn’t.

Why… why was that the effect she had on him?

“How’s Simon?” Goddesses. Her voice was enough alone. Yet he couldn’t help but glance at her, for a fraction of second. “You know him?” He asked.

“Of course I know him, this is my house, and he’s a tenant here.” She didn’t look his way as she spoke either, it didn’t help that they sat right across from each other, with Mr. Leonhardt at Annie’s side, one burly hand smoothing down her knuckles.

“He’s knocked out,” Oliver said. “Put him to work pretty hard today.”

Annie nodded, she kept her eyes drawn to the biscuits on her plate. “I heard about you on the battlefield,” Oliver muttered, not wanting the first meeting of his own daughter after four years to go to waste. “against the Mid-East Alliance, how you wrecked their artillery base single-handedly, you truly are a warrior. One of the best warriors the Marley could ask for.”

Annie didn’t appear as proud as her father, boasting of her success. She just stared blankly into her biscuits. A mask of apathy, of boredom. That’s the Annie he knew, that’s the Annie Eren remembered so vividly.

“And you know, Keith here was also on the frontlines!” Oliver gestured to Krueger, bringing him to light, “Bet You guys might’ve even crossed paths on the battlefield once.”

It was only than that Annie raised her attention from the biscuits, then that she looked up, straight ahead, Krueger met her stone-faced expression. “Sort of.” She said. His eyes widened, but that was the only indication he gave away of shock. Had she been watching him the whole time? Had she known the whole time? And yet spoke nothing of it to the Marley? Three years, three years of infiltration, of fighting, of acting as the eyes and ears of Paradi, and she knew it was him all along. For three years, and did nothing to apprehend him, or… had she?

He recalled the letter, the burning. A message. Krueger swallowed, deciding to purge his anxiety of being compromised by scalding his tongue with hot tea.

“Hm, a vet soldier and a warrior, my table had never been so blessed to have both,” Oliver took Annie’s small hand in his own, held it over his heart, “blessed as the Marley have been.”

Eren had heard enough. The tea he drank did nothing to purify him of this negative energy, it only served to liquify his rage. Age old rage, the animosity of a fifteen-year-old boy he thought he had abandoned so long ago. That boy was not who he was now; but this Eren threatened Krueger into silence, he held back, but when he spoke, it was almost accusatory.

“You seem to praise the Marley a lot.”

Oliver’s grip loosened on his daughter’s hand, Annie slipped it away from him to fold on her lap, he turned slowly to Krueger, his expression unreadable. “Oh, well, shouldn’t I? They’re the ones in control after all.”

The fifteen-year-old within him snapped, the nineteen-year-old seethed, Krueger was no longer there to placid them both. Annie must’ve recognized that madness in eyes, hues of green, shades of grey, an oncoming storm nobody could escape, because she immediately turned to her father, touching his arm. “Dad, I think it’s for you to head back to bed—”

“Control doesn’t mean they have power, their military is weak,” Eren emphasized, “In fact, they were so weak against the Mid-east, without the power they borrowed from the four titans, they would’ve lost the war.”

“Four warriors, you mean.” Oliver leaned back into his seat, arms folded, cold blue’s boring into Eren. A very Leonhardt intimidation, Eren was unperturbed. “And I know of their military strength, I am a senior vet.”

Eren scoffed. “Then you know, without the titan shifters, including that of your daughter’s, the Marley Nation would’ve been Mid-East territory by now.”

“They would’ve lost many wars.” Oliver cocked his head, scrutinizing the young man, Annie as always, stayed quiet. “Are you getting at something here, Keith?”

Eren breathed evenly, there was no use in putting on a scene, but he had to drill a point in this man’s head. “No sir… I just, I don’t like being given the illusion of freedom from another group of people who condemn us to cages like animals.”

There, Oliver understood, his face was as blank as Annie’s, but his eyes went somber. “You don’t like being controlled, you mean.”

“I don’t think anyone likes being controlled.” Eren’s attention went to Annie, ever-silent Annie. Annie fists unfurled themselves from her lap, and she got up from the table, pushing her seat back. She turned to her father, her body taut as a wire, “I think it’s really time for you to go to bed, dad.”

Oliver stared at his daughter, then to Keith. Then to his forgotten tea that had grown warm, he sighed. “Yeah… yeah, I hear you. I’ll go.” Slowly he raised himself from the seat, brought Annie into another heartwarming embrace, he soothed down the frayed tangles of her hair, whispered something in her ear, then he straightened his back, “Have a good night, my sweet girl. And Keith,” Eren locked eyes with the older man, there was something odd there. “I hope you have pleasant dreams of freedom.”

“Likewise.” Asshole.

Annie helped her father up the staircase, she guided him to his bedroom, and bid him a kiss goodnight. All the while Eren waited for her to return downstairs; and when she finally did, he prepared himself for the blunt fury he expected.

“What the fuck.” She spat, stopping short of distance between where he sat and the end of the table. “What the fuck is your problem?”

He blinked, “Excuse me?”

She inhaled, sucking her bottom lip between her teeth then exhaled as she spoke, it came as a whisper. “Don’t play games with me, Eren.”

She finally said it. His name, his real name. It’s been so long since he had heard his real name. It made him warm, elated, yes, that’s his fucking name. He was Eren Jaeger, holder of the attack, and founding titan, son of the rebel Grisha Jaeger, a Survey Corp member, and the hope of humanity. Annie made a sound in her throat, sauntered closer to him, Eren turned so that his body was facing her.

“Yeah, I know, I’ve always known, but I wasn’t so sure.” She ran finger on the table cloth as she approached him, a lioness stalking her prey. “You look more yourself now, with that crazed passion in your eyes.”

She knocked the crutch he had placed near his side to the ground with a swipe of her foot, stepping over it. Eren stared at the fallen crutch, then her. Given nothing of his inner turmoil away. She stopped, towering above him where he sat, “Y’know for a moment, I thought you had changed, I thought… after four years. Four grueling years, you wouldn’t be that loud-mouthed boy I’d grown fond of, the one who spoke his mind of liberation and bullshit, I thought that boy was dead.”

He saw from the corner of his eye; Annie’s hand had tightened around something silver. “But no, you’re still the same as ever. You still see the world in black and white.”

Eren smiled, a genuine smile. A daredevil’s smile. One he hoped could win her over. “There’s no other way to see it.”

She gazed down at him longingly, and it was too intimate for it be considered judging thy enemy. Eren wanted to reach for her hand like her father did, wanted to place it against his heart, and tell her that that boy would never die, could never die, he just grew to be quiet as war wrung him out. He learned, and he discovered, and he conquered, and he wasn’t as reckless as he’d always been. He wanted to tell her many things. But then she snatched the silver thing she had held onto the table, and shoved it against his jugular, so forcibly, it took by him by surprise.

With a knife pressed against Eren’s neck, and her knee between legs, she demanded through clenched teeth. “Why are you here?”

Eren wondered why she would bother to threaten him this way, it’s not as if he were human. He shrugged, or much as he could with her weight on him, and the knife nipping at his skin. “Your father allowed me too—”

“Don’t fuck with me.” Annie narrowed her eyes, she brought the blade to the side of his neck, pressed the flat steel against skin. Eren froze as she straddled his good leg, one hand held the back of his seat while the other held the knife, it’s sharpened edge pointed at his nape. She knew exactly what she was doing.

Annie asked again, “Why are you here?”

“I can’t tell you that.”

Blue eyes flared dangerously, and he felt the tip of the knife, a needle-like prick at the back of his neck. He hissed softly, felt her draw blood, tiny wisps of steam drifted from the puncture. He held his tongue. She wouldn’t kill him. She had all the time in the world to kill him, to kidnap him, to hand him over to his brother. But she did not. Eren was too important, she wouldn’t be so stupid as to waste him, not here at least.

Annie leaned in close, so close, the tip of her nose touched his own. Blonde tresses fell to his forehead like feathers, he could feel every pant, every breath she took, she smelled like black tea, and cinnamon. Not the scent of the girl he once knew long ago. “Of course,” She lowered the blade, and the small pain faded away, his regeneration healing the wound she’d inflicted on him. There was a clash as she tossed the knife onto an empty plate full of crumbs. Annie detached herself from him, moving to lean against the table. Her provocative, yet lethal actions left him with a dirty feeling. One he wasn’t so sure he liked.

“You’re spying on us, and the Marley, blending in with pure Eldians to send information back to your vile people,” She explained to him like she’d figured everything out. “I get it now, what I don’t get is why the Survey Corp would send their most valuable weapon against the Marley… to the Marley. Your people must be fools, always betting on gambles. Unless, the plan goes deeper than just spying…” Annie trailed off when she heard him snort. She fixed a glare on him, “What’s so funny?”

Eren couldn’t help it. She didn’t understand, she was just like her father. So, he laughed. Annie became puzzled, and clearly agitated. “What?”

“My people…” He wheezed, brought a hand up to smooth his hair out of his face, Annie should be able to see him better. “My people, Oh, Annie, you’re so fucking blind.”

She was confused now, glaring down at him all wide eyed, like he was a heretic, a mad man. He grinned, all teeth, just like he used to when he would eviscerate titans in his own monster, when bloodshed was all that he wanted. “Look at me,” He gestured with both hands to himself, “I mean, really look at me, what do I look like?”

“A Suicidal bastard.”

He chuckled dryly. “Really good observation, but look deeper.” Eren leaned forward. “What makes us so different, Annie? I mean, besides our ideologies, our beliefs. What makes you, different from me? We’re both subjects of Ymir… we both have eyes, we both have ears, arms, legs, well,” He looked down, shrugged, “For the most part.”

“What the hell are you implying?”

“What I’m saying is,” He paused, long enough for her to listen to him intently, to really hear him, “I am your people.”

It was not the answer Annie wanted. She shook her head vehemently, bolted from the leaning against the table to turn her back to him, she swiveled around to face Eren again, the mask she wore was crumbling to the floor, for her face was flustered, and when she spoke again, it wasn’t the steel tone of Annie Leonhardt.

“N-no. Your people were condemned the moment the first king chose to flee like the coward he was, instead of giving in to compromise.”

“And the Eldians here aren’t?” Eren wished he had his right leg, so he could really knock some sense into her. “Living within these walls?”

“They’re not walls, they’re internment camps—”

“Same fucking difference!”  Eren guffawed, “So the walls are shorter, so the Eldians here live more lavishly, so you’ve got advanced machinery, it doesn’t matter. None of it does, in the end, all of you are still slaves to the Marley.”

He watched her those dainty hands ball into fists, her gracious chest heave, and her chillingly blue eyes become more frigid. The light of the candles made her gold hair glow silver, she was more beautiful when she was furious. “A foolish man like you wouldn’t know what a slave is.”

“Don’t I?” He challenged her. “I’m burdened with the sins of my father, I have to live the remainder of my life with what he’s done.” Eren remembered the distraught face of his dear friend, the queen Historia, the tears that streamed down her cheeks in that forbidden cave. How badly he wanted her to end him right then. “But, my view of the world now, is not so different from his, he wanted restoration, I want revolution.”

Eren held his arms out to Annie, “How ‘bout you, hm?” He beckoned to her, “Have your views changed at all, Annie? Huh? Or, are you still daddy’s little angel?”

Stroking her rage led him to be pounced on by the lioness herself, she kicked him in the chest, the chair tilted back, and he fell over, but she attacked him before he could even hit the polished floors. His skull collided heavily with the wood, and her hands squeezed tight around his throat in the blink of an eye. He felt wetness hit his cheek, then his forehead. He sight was of full of her, full of a girl made of ivory, so easily that she could break into pieces, so easily that she could put her pieces back together, and start all over.

“You know nothing!” She wept, hair spilling around her shoulders, tickling every part of his face. A disheveled mess. He couldn’t speak, she pressed down hard on his trachea. “Nothing at all! You stupid, suicidal bastard,” Annie trembled above him, “You—you don’t know what I’ve done to get here, the amount of blood I’ve spilled, the sweat, t-the tears… “

She kept shaking her head, as if she could free herself from the sins she had committed. “I did it all for him. For my father.” Eren’s eyes started to water, the tan of face began to purple, Annie loosened her hold on him, just so. He hacked until he felt he’d cough his lungs out. “Do you think I give a single shit about those fat-nosed fools? About the Eldians? About the war? I am numb to most things, Eren. I… I’m just trying to live, until I can die.” Her hands left his throat, she slid off his chest, “I’ll continue to be a tool for the Marley, I don’t care, I don’t care about anything.”

Eren waited for his voice to come back; she very nearly squeezed the life out of him, but he couldn’t say he didn’t deserve it. Annie huddled to put her back against the wall, knees drawn to her chest, a scared little girl trapped in the body of a woman warrior.

“You… care for your father.” He coughed, crawling his way to her, so he could sit by her side. “You love him so much, you’d suffer for him. I know I’m the same, but it’s not my father who I suffer for. I didn’t have a choice, but you do.”

She mumbled. “No, I don’t.”

Eren reached for her hand, the same hand Oliver had touched, he was going to go beyond the boundary. They had already gone this far, he was going to take it further. Just a little more.

“You can help me—”

“Eren—”

“—We can put an end to the Marley, you, me, the soldiers back at Paradi, with Armin on our side, we’re bound to win,” He broke into her personal space, clutched the hand she had almost suffocated him with to his heart, “We could be free, Annie. Free to explore the world, don’t you want that?”

“Eren, the world isn’t,” Annie sighed, “The Marley aren’t our only enemies.”

“Doesn’t matter,” He laughed, though it hurt, “Whatever, whatever comes our way, we’ll stop them. We have that power. They don’t.”

He still held her hand to his heart, Annie unfurled her fingers to press her palm flat over his dress shirt, every beat that pulsed through her was the rhythm of distant war drums. Pledging the song of freedom. What he was offering her, her. She let the tears flow, but made no sound. “Hey,” Eren huddled close to her, he let go of her hand, but she kept it there, right above his heart. Kept him away, but near, all at once. “Join me.” He pleaded.

“I can’t.” The blue of her eyes was surrounded in pinks, her cheeks were damp, and red, blonde hair all over her face, she looked a wreck. Eren couldn’t get any closer to her, for she held him at a distance.

“You still don’t see that there is good and evil in everyone, Eren. There is no right, and no wrong. Eldian’s are truly vile, just as the Marley, we’re no different.” She sniffled. “Like you said.”

He grabbed her wrist, lightly, pulled her arm away, so he could break the barrier between them. Eren caressed her cheek, the same way he saw her father did, wiped the tear that ran freely with his thumb. “You’re not vile.” He rumbled, low. “You’re not the least bit like any of em’. Not Reiner, not Zeke, none of em’. You’re special.”

She scoffed, wrinkled her brows like he’d said the most the most ridiculous thing. “Is that why you believe you could still change me, that I’d follow you so willingly?”

Yes. He needed her trust, he needed her intellect, most of all, he needed an ally. It could be no one else.

“I’m not the only one who infiltrated Liberio.” He spilled the truth to her, Annie sniffed again, she looked at him through wet lashes, made his heart skip. “They will find me soon, I got a message just yesterday, I was told before I left Paradi that I’ll receive a signal from someone in the years to come, but… I don’t know whether to trust them. I don’t know who they are. Do you? “

Annie shook her head.

“So, I need you,” Eren’s voice was tender, but firm. He put his hand to her other cheek, forced her to meet his desirous emerald gaze. “I need you, when that day comes, and it will come soon, I need you by my side. If they’re an ally, you could prove your trust to them, if they’re an enemy, you could help me silence them. Please.”

He was begging her. Eren hadn’t begged for anything, or anyone since he had escaped that ritualistic cave with Historia. Since he had dropped to his hands and knees, in front of Dinah, cannibalizing Hannes, wishing for the strength his late mother knew he had to protect Mikasa.

And, he did want to protect Annie. Goddesses, did he want to shield her from this disgusting world, and show to her true freedom. They weren’t naïve kids anymore, but adults with solid purposes, though hers wavered.

“Annie?”

“I—”

A thump against the wall behind them, made both shifters jolt. Annie shoved Eren off her, wiping her face thoroughly. She stood on her feet, he tried to reach for her calf as she stepped over him, he called her name but she ignored him, she trekked quietly around the table. Eren struggled to heft himself onto another chair, to see what she had spotted. Once seated, his eyes flew to the young soldier who was frozen in fear in front of the lioness.

“Simon…” Oh no.

“How much did you hear?” Gone was the whimpering girl Eren witnessed a moment ago, replaced by the warrior.

“I—I, oh, I didn’t hear anything, I just… I just woke up, I came downstairs for some water.” Simon gulped. He still had his sleeping clothes on, his curls stuck out. But his eyes were wide awake, round, and frightened.

Ribbons of steam curled from where Eren tied off his pants on his right leg, he quickly undid it. Annie’s expression wasn’t one of remorse, wasn’t one of mercy. She snatched the knife, the one had clattered onto the plate earlier, the one she pierced Eren with. Simon gasped, stumbling back into the lounge room as she hounded him.

“Annie!” Eren cried out, willing his regenerative power to heal him faster. “Don’t do this!”

“Don’t lie to me.” Annie pursued the trembling boy, “Tell me what you know, what you heard.” He turned to run, but Simon was too slow for the warrior, she jumped onto his back, held his arm at an awkward angle, and the knife to his throat. He squealed underneath her.

“Tell me.”

Eren couldn’t witness this, he fell to the floor, dragging himself with one leg and a half to the threshold of the lounge room. Cursing himself, and her, and Simon. By the time he reached the inside of the lounge room, his leg had healed to his ankle, and Annie, stood over the body. Simon’s life was spilled onto the expensive carpet, the flames danced, crackled in the atmosphere, shadows flickered menacingly across her face. Her hands were stained.

Eren shuddered, trying to bring himself to stand, but he fell flat onto the ground, crawling his way to Simon. “Fuck…” He turned the boy over, the clean slice she made against his throat spurted blood, thick, onto his clothes, and the carpet, and his skin. “Oh fuck, fuck! Simon—Simon, I’m so sorry.”

“He would’ve ratted you out to the Marley authorities.” Annie’s voice was ice. He turned to her, there had to be a reason. She took a boy’s fucking life. “He was innocent!” He growled, his tone reminiscing that of his titans.

“I didn’t want to kill him!” She screamed, snapped and flung the bloodied knife into the fireplace, “I didn’t want to kill him! I did it for you! He heard, he heard every damn thing, that you were a spy, that were after the Marley. Fear drives people to do what they believe is right. Simon was neither good, or bad. Would you have taken that chance? Let him live, knowing what you are? What you could do to disturb the life he made here?”

Eren thought begrudgingly, as Simon’s body grew cold. No. No, he wouldn’t have.

“You said you wanted me to help you silence your enemies. Well, this is a start.”

His heart sank as he watched the carpet darkened further; He needed Annie. He did. She was crucial. I’m sorry, Simon.

There was a creak of wood upstairs, someone slinking in the dark. “… Your father.”

Annie sighed, wiped the red from her palms onto her skirt, “I’ll deal with my father, he too, follows those with power because he is afraid. It wouldn’t be too difficult to make him see that both sides are equally shitty, one side just gives us the decency of being treated like human beings. I prefer that side, I prefer freedom.”

Eren had gained the trust of one warrior; but it took the life of a fellow soldier to make her see, to provoke her, to have her act out on her own, and protect him. It could’ve gone any other way, he supposed. They could’ve met with another spy, and she could’ve backstabbed him the way she had done years ago, back in Wall Sina, back in Stohess.

It didn’t, though. Now he had to live with the consequences.

He grumbled, so very fucking tired, it must’ve been close to four in the morning. “What do we do with Simon?”

“Don’t worry about it,” Annie tucked strands of blonde behind one ear, “I’ll deal with that too.”

Eren watched her leave the lounge, descending up the steps of the staircase, he finally stood on his own two feet as she disappeared. They were both lunatics, in their own way, perhaps… that was also why he loved her.

Chapter Text

Annie was curious about the Jaeger boy’s eyes, because they were so peculiar, they stood out to her among the rest of his features. His irises were a tone of an odd chromatic gray. A mere shade, flecked with darker emerald hues for when he was brooding. But became tinted with lighter bits of gold for when he was proud, and vehement.

Despite him having such an odd color- could she even call gray a color?- his eyes still held that tenacity to them that no one would ever be able to match. She was fascinated by it. She’d become even more fascinated when she saw they could actually change vibrancy depending on his ever changing mood swings.

Annie asked about his eyes once; a question that was off guard, albeit pointless. But she’d asked him nonetheless. She questioned him in a way that sounded like more of an insult to him, if anything.

“Why are your eyes so weird?”

Annie mentally face palmed herself for being so insensible. Though he’d simply brushed off the unintentional callousness of her question, shrugged his shoulders in manner that said he didn’t know, and didn’t care much either.

“I was born weird, I guess.” He answered briskly. Annie stared at him the whole time, as he leaned against the rail of the watchtower, clutching a tin can of chilled bitter coffee. A warm breeze than picked up, ruffling the tangles of his cocoa hair.

Annie, was just a bit entranced. She could see his eyes better in the light of dawn. When he turned to look at her, she was petrified in place. The grays of his eyes were iridescent, shining a myriad of tones, tints and shades. Muted colors that bounced back at her, hidden in a shadow of an achromatic color.

Golds, greens, reds, blues. She saw them all behind that veil of gray.

It was better than star gazing.

Eren cocked his head to the side, worried she had come down with something. She told him that he was something of an anomaly. He had no idea what she meant, of course.

Then he surprised her with the next set of words that left his mouth.

“I think your eyes are pretty though.”

Annie was taken back, frozen in place as she locked gazes with him. But had to turn away, as her face flushed with pink, and she felt just a tad bit embarrassed. She’d just got a compliment! From Eren Jaeger no less.

“I… why do you think that?” Curious, she was though. Eren responded, “Because they’re blue, but not too blue, a clear blue, like crystal, and they sparkle in the sunlight too, it’s really pretty.”

Annie’s cheeks grew hot, she was so sure he could plainly see her embarrassment from how close they were standing next to each other.

My eyes… sparkle?!

Too tongue-tied to thank him, she shrugged offishly, desperate to play it cool. “Yeah, I thought the same of yours, gray suits you.”

He sipped at his coffee, and the tell-tale dimple of his cheek gave away that he was smiling.

“Do they remind you of anything?” He placed the tin down by his feet.

Annie blinked, grasping at the words in her head, words like storm, and thunder, and rage. But she could not say any of that, it was not in her character to do so. Less she gave the wrong impression, and Eren deserved better than that, than her. He chuckled. “It’s fine, I was kidding, I know you’d never think of anyone like that.”

Annie said nothing. But as the sun broke through dawn’s lavender clouds, and the skies faded from oranges to blues, and Morning came with the early drill bell. She crept ever closer to Eren. Her head at the same height with his shoulders. Sharing the last bit of coffee with him before Shadis came to collect them from their watch. She was content, even if it was just for that moment.

Chapter Text

   

 

 

Rendezvous [Rahn-duh-voo; French; rahn-de-voo]                                                                                                      

noun [ C ]

an arrangement to meet someone, especially

secretly, at a particular place and time, or the place itself

 

-

Annie didn’t expect to see him again. She figured the Survey Corp would’ve kept him bound in chains, miles underground where no civilian could reach. Where they could freely interrogate him as much they wanted. She thought they were as corrupt as the damned Military Police. But they had actually let him have his freedom, they allowed a monster like him— like her — to roam around, at least under the watchful eye of the infamous Captain Levi and his squad. Annie melded into the crowd as Eren drew nearer; leaving her associate Hitch to deal with the negotiating of purchasing tobacco for the higher ups, much to Hitch's dismay.

The brunet examined each crate of fruit stands laid out, Levi regarded him warily. The hood Eren kept up shielded him from unwanted attention but there were still stray spectators around whom watched his every move in fear, or in awe. They knew it was the shifter boy from the newspapers. Something in the back of Annie's mind told her that he wasn't there to just buy fruit.


 

“If you're going to buy something, make it quick I don't have all day.” Levi snapped, glaring at the few shoppers who stopped to ogle at him.

Eren nodded, “Yes Captain.”

But even as he dashed passed the apple and oranges, he kept discreetly glancing into the crowd of shoppers and merchants, eyes roaming across every face. Hoping to catch sight of her. He didn't exactly expect her to be off duty today , he knew how lazy the senior Military Police were, and how the newbies were mostly caught with the brunt of paperwork duty. She could even be on a mission, and be out of Sina for the time being.

Yet still, he wanted to see her, before he ventured outside of the walls. He knew this upcoming expedition was actually a trap meant for the perpetrator who supposedly murdered Hanji's titan subjects. Anything could happen, even with his new found ability. Feelings of doubt clouded his mind, but Eren willed it gone.

No time to worry. He really wanted to talk with her. Where could she be? Eren caught sight of a Military Police woman, a curly haired girl who seemed to have a permanent smug smile painted on. She turned away from the merchant who was holding out what looked like a pouch to face a shorter girl. Platinum blonde hair tied in a bun, arms folded in an uncaring manner, a bored expression.

The only thing that seemed different about Annie was that the Trainee insignia was replaced with the Military Police one, and she carried the MP's standard rifle on her back. She was... fuller too. Around the hips mostly, he could see that from here. Eren sighed, placing the peach he was holding back down. Now how in Maria's name was he going to escape Captain Levi? Said older male grunted in annoyance, tossing a plum into its crate, “Kid, if you don't hurry up this will be the last time you see the light of day, you know Hanji is waiting for us, and I'd rather not deal with her pestering.”

Eren bit into his lip. Eyes flickering between the fruit crates to the small blonde just a few feet ahead of him. She seemed to fall back into the crowd, leaving the smug looking girl to pay for the pouch item. The girl didn't look all too pleased about it either.

”Look mommy, it's Captain Levi!” A tiny voice piped up, both soldiers turned to look at a child dressed in rags who was skittering up to them from behind the crate, a merchant woman in tow. He stopped in front of Captain Levi, who simply raised an eyebrow at the child.

”My daddy said you are the best Captain he's ever had!” The boy spoke excitedly, the frail woman behind him wrung her hands in a worried manner. As if disturbing Captain Levi from his shopping reverie would have her hanged. Levi immediately took notice of this. He got on one knee to see at eye level with the child, Eren wondered if Captain Levi always hoped to that kind of thing.

”Is that so,” Levi spared a glance to the boy's mother, “Where is your father?” The boy's grin widened, “He's in the Survey Corp just like you!”

Eren decided whether or not he should help his Captain as he watched Levi's stony expression soften in front of the child. Never once had he seen that look on Captain Levi before, it was as if Levi had dropped his guard, completely. His cool facade crumbling to reveal the empathic man underneath.

Eren realized that the boy's father may have- could have been one of the many nameless death counts of the last expedition, and Captain Levi might’ve known him. He placed a steady hand on the cheerful boy’s shoulder. Eren made his decision to escape than, with some regret, he slunk away from his Captain, far enough until the crowd seemed to swallow him. It won't be a moment too soon until Captain Levi noticed his disappearance and he was sure going to go through hell for this, but this may or may not be the last time he saw her.

So he continued on, walking by shoppers who eyed him, and the merchants hollering out cheap prices, until he reached the stand where he had spotted her, it was a tobacco stand. When he asked the merchant tending there if he had seen where the blonde Military Police woman went, all that shady man said was he hadn't noticed her, then proceeded to offer him a special brand of grass that had a potent smell. He waved the merchant off, deciding he’d go look for that smug looking girl instead.

It didn't take long for him to find her at least; she hadn't gotten far. The girl was observing an entertainer while chewing on some caramel corn. Eren strode up behind her, tapping her shoulder, the girl startled spinning around to face him. She scrunched her face as if she was trying to figure out why a Survey Corp member would seek her out. “You want something titan-bait?”

Eren scowled at the insult. “I'm looking for someone.” He answered gruffly. The girl pursed her lips haughtily.

“Listen I'm off duty right now, so go bother some other MP.” She turned, but Eren abruptly grabbed ahold of her arm, causing the girl to drop the caramel corn she was holding, she yelped angrily, “You asshole! Look what you did!”

”I don't have time! I just need to know if—“

“Get off!” She ripped her arm away from his grip, Eren wished she hadn't shout like a mad woman, now there were more people watching him than before. He quietly apologized to the girl, telling her his name, he rummaged into his pocket to retrieve some coins to pay for the damned caramel corn she dropped.

The girl calmed when she saw the money, her eyebrows disappeared into her curled fringes. She snatched the coins, then stepped closer to get a better look at him; checking him up and down like he was a street walker. Eren felt just a bit uncomfortable.

”Eren, huh?” She held out her hand, smirking “I'm Hitch.” The two shook hands, Eren wondered why this girl couldn't have just been more civil from the start.

”So… You said you were looking for somebody?” Hitch folded her arms.

”Yeah, Annie Leonhardt, she was with you not too long ago.”

Hitch’s mouth formed an O shape at the mention of the stoic girl, then she smiled like she caught in on a secret. Narrowing her olive eyes mischievously, Hitch clicked her tongue, “ Oh I see.”

Eren disregarded her, “I need to talk with her, can you tell me where she went?” Hitch drummed her fingers on her cheek, “Hm, not really, she's kind of weird, you know. Doesn't really say much to anybody.”

”I know.” He sighed. “It’s just… This is important.”

Hitch considered him for moment, “Mind telling me what it is you’re begging to talk with her about?”

“It's… personal.”

She smirked wider at this, “Why would a scout want to talk with an MP on personal terms?”

Eren flushed, tugging his hood further down over his head, mumbling, “Reasons.”

 Hitch cackled loudly, drawing in more attention. Eren’s cheeks only burned brighter. “Alright, alright I don't know where she went exactly , but I can bring you to the Military Police headquarters, don't know if she went there but I know there's a secret backdoor that has a staircase leading directly into the ladies dormitories .” She waggled her eyebrows at him as she said the last sentence, Eren looked away, face tinged pink. From where he stood, Eren almost missed the small stature, raven hair and Survey Corp cape bellowing in the dusty wind buried among the crowd,  slowly approaching them.

Oh shit.

He latched onto Hitch’s upper arm once again ignoring her protests, though this time he was more gentle. Hitch huffed. “Well then, please lead the way.” He ushered her further from the merchant stands until they reached the forked end of the shopping district. Hitch lightly wretched her arm away from him.

 ”You need to stop manhandling girls buddy, it's not charming at all.” She rubbed at her arm in a fake hurtful way. Eren peeked behind them, trying to single out the features of his Captain. He didn't notice anything, but Eren knew he was coming. Eren was just grateful they hadn't chosen to wear their omnidirectional maneuver gear today or he would have been far more screwed.

Both young soldiers made their way passed the expensive large mansions of nobles and rich looking inns to the central Military Police building. Eren followed closely behind Hitch, there was not as much people in the luxurious parts of town as there was in the shopping district, only some higher class citizens in rich garb riding around in horse drawn carriages. But they barely spared him a glance. They reached the entrance to the building but kept out of sight, only some miscellaneous Military Police stood around on guard.

 “Okay, so you're going to go around in the back you see, but you’d have to wait a bit because the back door is always locked so I'm going to have to open it for you from the inside.” Hitch whispered. Eren narrowed his eyes in disbelief.

She sighed, “ Look , I'm not going to rat you out or anything, you have my word.” Hitch put her fist to her chest in the traditional salute. Eren pinched his eyebrows together, “I don't know, she might not even be in there.”

“Oh Sina you are so Indecisive!” Hitch dropped her arms, “You know what? I'm going inside, if you trust me enough in the five minutes it's going to take me to do this, then wait by the back door, it won't be long, and I'm sure she'll be there.”

With that Hitch spun on her heel, heading for the entrance, the other MP's that lazed about acknowledged her with a sloppy salute, one of them merely nodded his head as he unlatched the front door for her to walk in. Eren considered whether or not he should go with this plan, could Annie really be in there, especially this late in the afternoon?

His mind lingered on the petite blonde girl, and her cold sapphire eyes. Eren rocked on the balls of his feet, turning his head from where he suspected his Captain would appear any minute to the Military Police building where he could have been locked up in and autopsied on.

He began shrugging off his Survey Corp cloak. It would only draw in more attention from the scattered MP soldiers, luckily he was wearing his civilian clothes underneath. He hoped to the three goddesses nobody recognized his face, he hoped the Military Police's incompetence was high enough for them to not read the newspapers. Eren folded his cloak over one arm, hiding the wings of freedom insignia. He slowly approached the side of the building, he had to get to the back door, like Hitch said. That girl made it seem like this whole thing was going to be easy. She could have warned him ahead about the sneaking part.

It's not as if any person could just waltz in into the Military Police headquarters, Sina resident or not.

He ducked behind a tree as one of the MP's passed by, still taking precaution. Eren felt like a man on a mission as he slid from his hiding spot then darted for the right side of the building, just as he reached the corner, he heard a voice bellow, “HALT!”

Eren froze in his tracks. One of the guards have caught him, he turned around to face an MP soldier more or less his age with a peculiar bowl cut and undercut combination going on. The soldier was stern as he observed Eren. He definitely hadn’t been there before. Eren gulped.

“Civilians aren't allowed in the Central building unless you are involved in or bear witness to a crime” bowl cut guy stated matter-of-factly. Eren secretly thanked the goddesses for this guy’s cluelessness of not knowing who Eren was exactly.                                                                                         

“Who are you, and what business do you have here?” He queried.

“Well I—” Eren racked his mind for an excuse, “I–Uh… I was robbed you see, and I was just hoping if one of you officers could help me find the thief?”

“They are plenty of other officers on duty about the city, if you wanted to report a robbery you could have gone to one of them.”  Bowl cut guy said, folding his arms in an authoritative manner. He glanced at the half asleep Military police that were supposed to be guarding the entrance. “But I guess I could be of service to you.” He sighed.

“Can you describe to me the culprit?” Bowl cut guy immediately whipped out a notepad and a pencil from the pocket of his uniform.

Eren stared dumbfounded at the solder, shifting from foot to foot. “Uh… He was very tall… and um...” Goddamn it, he was wasting time here! Eren scratched the back of his head, grimacing as he pretended trying to recall the face of his imaginary thief. “He had hair… like yours but uglier, and a... horse face.”

The young man stopped scribbling (mindful of the hair comment), he raised an eyebrow at Eren, “A horse face?”

Eren nodded his head, looking not at all the like the poor victim of a crime. “Yup, the last I saw him was in the Market Square.”

Bowl cut guy pursed his lips into a thin line, seeming concentrated on something, “Odd… I just came from there.”

“Which side of the Market Square were you on?” He asked, now looking more skeptic.

The thought of the Market place brought Eren's attention back to Captain Levi and his awaiting punishment once the Captain got his small, but powerful hands on him. His mind worked in a haste to get rid of this pesky officer already. He only needed to talk a specific one anyway.

“The south side.” Eren answered, adding on, “But I saw the thief run north, I couldn't catch up to him what with the crowd and all.”

The taller solder rubbed at his chin, peering down at Eren, “I was just at the south side of the Market Square, I don't exactly remember anyone suspicious running, did you yell anything? Stop thief? None of that?”

Eren groaned, more out of impatience than misery, “No- I- I don't know...”

“What do you mean you don't know? You said you were robbed, usually a victim would draw attention to the thief, at least.”

 Eren could feel the MP's scrutinizing gaze on him. He was beginning to feel exasperated already, Eren tried to think of another plan. If only that girl Hitch could have just guided him in to the backdoor before taking off like that. It had been way passed five minutes already too; she probably lied to him. Damn her.

“Marlowe, move.” Bowl cut guy, or rather Marlowe froze in place at the cool tone of voice that spoke from behind him. Eren recognized that voice, her voice. His heart unintentionally skipped a beat. Marlowe hastily stepped out of Annie's way, she immediately locked eyes with Eren. Glimmering jades met calm sapphires. His eyes drifted to the little bundle of sweets she carried, then back to her passive face.

“Eren, what are you doing here?” Annie raised a blonde eyebrow, actually appearing surprised for a second, she turned to Marlowe, “Are you arresting him?”

”No! No, he claimed he was robbed, I'm helping him out like an officer should.” Marlowe explained, eyes flitting between the two soldiers. He huffed in annoyance, folding his arms,  he glared at Eren from the corner of his eye, "I just think he's been lying to me the whole time about getting robbed by a thief with a horse face.”

Behind him, Eren sniggered quietly. Marlowe sneered, “I believe he was trying to sneak into the Headquarters.

Annie blinked. “And why would he do that?”

“I don’t know! Ask him! ” Marlowe threw his hands up. “Ugh, I’m tired of this nonsense, I’ve got actual work to do y’know!   You handle him Annie.”

Marlowe stomped off to the entrance, leaving both Annie and Eren alone on the shadowy side of the HQ building, what Eren finally wanted.

Annie watched Marlowe’s back retreat in the distance, then her cold blue’s focused again on Eren, who appeared just a bit intimidated by her. Annie’s presence seemed to have that effect on him from time to time. Eren cleared his throat.

“So.” They spoke in unison. Eren prompted her to go first.

“Were you really trying to sneak into our headquarters?” Annie nudged passed him, Eren followed after her. Guessing she was going exactly where he’d been headed too in the first place. How convenient .

“Maybe...”

Behind the Military Police HQ was the backdoor Hitch had mentioned, though it didn't appear to be heavily locked. Annie knocked twice, waited, then knocked again.

“So, you come through here too?” Eren shuffled idly by her side.

“No. But it’s not as if you can waltz through the entrance doors now can you?”

Eren’s felt his cheeks flush with heat, “No, well… The real reason I’m here is because I wanted to have a talk with you… before the expedition, is all.”

Annie peered up at him through long lashes, “Oh?”

On the other side of the door, there was an audible click, accompanied by the sound of a latch being lifted. Then came a brief breeze as the door swung open, and there standing inside was Hitch.

“Took you long enough!” Hitch’s attention dropped to Annie who walked passed her as if Hitch weren't there at all. “Hey Ann’, I see you’ve caught up with your lover boy.”

Eren cringed. “Don’t call me that.”

Well it doesn't take a genius to put two and two together.” Hitch grinned.

Eren desperately tried to ignore the lewd kissing noises Hitch made as he trailed Annie up the stairs. He stayed silent behind her, until the two stopped at a door on the far end of the hallway. He was glad Hitch hadn't followed them.

Annie pushed her sweets into his arms. “Hold this, do not drop them.” She fished a key from the pocket of her uniform, then unlocked the room door, holding it open for Eren. He stepped in, instantly he was smacked with the stench of an overly fruity perfume. He wrinkled his nose, “That smell.”

“It’s Hitch’s.” Annie shut door behind them, locking it with the very same key. She removed the rifle from her shoulder, placing it on a stand near the large curtained window. “I always tell her not to stink up the room with it, she never listens.”

“I feel bad you have to share a room with someone like her.”

Eren held out Annie’s sweets, but she wasn't done getting comfortable. Annie shrugged off her uniform jacket, she folded the jacket, placing it a top the dresser that stood between the window and the bunk beds. She turned to sit on the lower bunk , then began tugging off her long black boots.

“So,” Annie struggled to get her left foot free. “What was this dire thing you wanted to talk with me about, Eren?”

Eren swallowed a lump in his throat. The sweets in his palms crinkled in their plastic. He stepped over to the dresser to place them near Annie’s jacket, along with his own cloak. “Well, this is going to be my first expedition.” He eyed her, Annie just got done freeing both her feet from the boots. She looked up at him than, apathetic as ever. “And?”

He sighed. “ And. I don’t know if- This is not to sound like I’m being pessimistic- but, I’m not sure if I’ll ever get another chance to see you again, so…” He trailed off, then swallowed again. “I just wanted to see you once last time, in case I don’t come back from this.”

Annie’s chilling gaze became warmer, her expression, more softer, akin to Captain Levi’s when he was consoling that child.

“I see.” Even her tone went gentle. For a moment, there was more silence. Only the ruckus from the offices downstairs could be heard. Eren would never refer to Annie as his lady, she hated putting a name to everything, and she loathed being someone’s property, as she would refer to going steady as. But they had established something a year ago, in their trainee days. Regardless of what it was, admiration for one another, respect, trust, loyalty, love ? It was something , a bond they had made from being reckless, and perhaps even a bit stupid. But they were young, and they were still young even now.

Eren wanted to kiss her.

“Eren, you’re a shifter, you’re not even human, you shouldn't worry that you won’t make it back.”

He huffed. “That doesn't change much of anything. I don’t even know how this power works, I could hardly grasp a spoon correctly! I’m not saying that it’s determined I’m going to die, but in the case that you never hear from me-” he cut himself off there. “Goddesses, Annie, I just wanted to spend time with you.”

Annie held onto his pleading green gaze awhile, she nodded over to the sweets he had put on the nightstand. “Give me a donut, you can have one too, if you want.”

Eren blinked. “Huh?”

“You said you want to spend time with me, well, here is your time.”

He did as she asked. Opening the plastic of baked goods, inside was the sweet powdered cakes Annie craved so much, he wondered how, and when was it she’d gotten such a sweet tooth. It certainly couldn't have been a trait she stole from him.

Annie scooted over on the bed, making room for him, he sat down next to her, handing her the treat while nibbling on his own. It was delicious, but he found he couldn't focus so much on the sweet flavor of the cake, as he could Annie’s delightful moans when she bit into it.

So they ate together quietly. Occasionally urgency would go off like an alarm in Eren’s head, reminding him that his Captain was still looking for him, and he shouldn't make Captain Levi wait any longer. the longer he was gone, the longer the punishment would be. Eren finished the last bite of his donut, feeling less at ease than before. “The woman who makes these is also an artist.” Annie wiped crumbs from her mouth with the back of her hand. “She does embroidery, and likes to paint birds.”

“How do you know this?”Eren gawked at her, “you actually talk to other people besides soldiers?”

Annie glared. “She loves to run her mouth, and I’m there for a whole twenty minutes until my order gets done.”

“Ah.”

Then he was at a lost for words, because Eren was never good at idle chit chat. Especially when it came to Annie Leonhardt.  He could see Annie from the corner of his eye, studying him. Waiting for him to humor her. To fill the silence. Had the tension in the room become more stifling? Or was it just him? The clock was ticking, the seconds going away into minutes.

“Eren?”

He turned, enveloping her in his arms. Their position was awkward, but he neither cared nor payed attention. He felt Annie go stiff, her nose was pressed into his collarbone, and he could feel her lips trying to form words, but her voice had run away.

“I’m sorry.” He hugged her tighter. Could feel her small frame quiver as she wriggled in his hold to get her arms free. “I needed this.” He breathed her in. Smelling of donuts, and gunpowder.

It took a while, but she eventually gave in, slowly wrapping her arms around his waist.  

Eren relished in the comfort she provided, he tucked his head into the juncture of her neck, Annie mumbled something into his shirt, then his lips found her pulse, and he kissed her there. Annie made a shocked little noise- immediately pulling back from him, blue eyes blown wide, one hand shooting up to cup the spot of her neck where he marked. She furrowed her eyebrows. “Hey…?”

“Hey.” He touched her cheek lightly, unafraid, he leaned down until his lips brushed her own. He waited for Annie to pull away again, to shove him off. But she did not, instead she firmly pressed her mouth against his.

His chest swelled with this delightful feeling, ecstatic, his heart pumped faster- Annie put a tentative hand on his shoulder, sliding her palm to rest at the nape of his neck where her fingers smoothed the wisps of hair there.

Eren tilted his head, desperate for more- he nipped at her, she parted her lips in a gasp, he caught it, slanted his mouth onto hers, caressed her tongue with his own. Annie groaned, and he tasted sugary sweetness. The temperature between them increased; was it part of Eren’s new found ability that he felt his skin grow itchy, and hot beneath the surface? What was this gnawing feeling churning inside him, this hunger- he wanted more of her.

Eren reluctantly parted from her, slightly out of breath as she, her cheeks were tinged a hot pink, and her lips just the same color. Wet, swollen, and panting. Eren swallowed. His throat gone dry, “Can you-” He cleared his throat, “Do you want to… Want me too …?”

Annie cocked her head, the thumb of her hand rubbed small circles on his nape, made him shudder. She was nearly on his lap, from their position, if Eren could get her to move a bit closer, just a bit- Annie read his mind, because she unfurled her arms from him, then stood, Eren missed her warmth momentarily as she stepped in front of him, he gazed up into those sultry blue eyes, half-lidded, full of  affection, of want. Those eyes were for him , only.

Annie grabbed a hold of his shoulders, placing one knee by his thigh, and with the other one, straddled his lap, she sat comfortably, hooking her arms around his neck.

“I missed you.” Eren murmured, the feel of her thighs surrounding him, and her breath on his lips, filaments of blonde tickling his cheek was giving him a sensory overload. Annie hummed.

“it’s hardly been a month.”

He shook his head, “Doesn't matter.” Craned his neck to peck her on the lips. “I want to be closer to you.” Another kiss. “Always.”  

Annie scoffed. “You’re far too clingy.”

Eren touched his forehead to hers, his body felt light as a feather, on the inside he was burning .

“Let me take care of you,” he brushed some strands of hair from her eyes, “You look like you could use some relief.”

Annie was hesitant, Eren shifted his hips to get a reaction out of her, a barely audible “ah”  left her lips.

“Just for today, please?

Annie’s slitted eyes spoke her answer, she clung tighter to Eren’s broad frame as he lifted her up, then gently laid her back on the bed, his gaze never left hers as he got to work, carefully removing her uniform slacks, Annie lifted her bottom so he could tug them free of her legs.

“You’ve always had nice legs…” Eren slid his palm down her bare calf, could feel the prickle of goosebumps on her fair skin. “Cold?” Carefully, he draped himself over her small body, lying to the side as not to crush her, “Don’t worry,” He whispered hotly into her ear, “I’ll make you warm.”

Annie turned away, flushed pink from her cheeks to her neck, and further down her chest. Eren watched her exhale a shaky breath as he traced her breast with his finger, down to her sternum, to her stomach, where he lifted the hem of her sweater some, just to feel more of her skin. His hand hovered over her stomach- he loved the feel of her abdominal muscles, she was so strong, this pretty little thing.

His palm fell flat, fingers just ghosting over the line of her shorts.

“Look at me,” Eren nuzzled her throat, pressed a kiss to her collarbone. “Please?”

Annie shyly met his heated green gaze, lips forming a small ‘O’ as Eren’s fingers dipped into the waistband of her shorts, he felt the tips of his middle and ring finger smoothing over damp curls, then-

“Uh…” Annie made a small noise, swallowing a lump in her throat, she was nervous. Eren pecked her cheek, “S’okay.”

He made sure to apply the slightest pressure, rubbing in circles, gradually increasing his tempo- hearing the hitch in Annie’s breathing, and her low groan made his pants unbearably tight.

Eren considered himself lucky to have caught the interest of such an enigmatic girl; to others she was unreachable, untouchable, a closed off vessel, detached from those who formed bonds like it was nothing, who made friends, whose friends became like family. Annie had been just a mask to him, but Eren had pierced through the tough exterior of her shell- of her heart. Or so he hoped. His hand ventured down, he teased her outer ring of muscle with his index finger, Annie muffled a whine with the sleeve of her sweater, she was undoubtedly wet, he could feel it, could even hear slick noise. Eren couldn't stop himself from smiling.

Regardless, Annie, for the moment, was his. And he was her’s.

Eren pulled his hand out of her shorts, fingers shining with her arousal, he chuckled when he noticed Annie’s adorable pout.

“Relax.” He spoke quietly. He climbed over her body, steadying himself on his arms, he hovered over her pretty flushed face. “You’re so cute.” He kissed her nose. Kissed her cheek once more, then her throat, down her collarbone, he lifted her white sweater further up until it was bunched above her chest.

He wasted no time, because he knew he did not have any more to spare. Eren lowered himself, to feel the warmth of her breasts on his cheek, the brassiere she wore was military standard, black, no intricate patterns, plain. She looked beautiful. He could feel- and he could hear, the even thud of her ever-beating heart.

Soft. Warm. Soft, Mine. He sighed, nearly shutting his eyes.

“Eren.” A hand tugged his hair, he blinked, looking up into sultry blues. “Let me take this off.”

He got up immediately, not so embarrassed that his erection was so obviously outlined through his pants. Annie discarded her sweater onto the floor, then, with utmost care, she unclipped the brassiere, and it too followed the sweater onto the wooden floors.

Eren drank in the sight of creamy rose tinted skin, of toned muscle, of strong curvy legs, of disheveled platinum hair and the rise then fall of her ample chest. That drew in his gaze far quicker.

“C’mere.” She beckoned to him with her finger.

He did. To finish what he started. For her viewing pleasure, and because it was so damned stifling in this room, he took off his own shirt as well. Eren stood at the foot of the bed,  letting Annie feel the contours of his own hard-earned body, he steadied himself with his hand on the top bunk, he leaned down to claim her lips.

When they came apart, both blushing madly, out of breath, Eren murmured to her, “I don’t have so much time until my Captain comes find me,” He licked his lips, and could still taste her sweetness. “And I know you don’t have much more time until your roommate comes back.”

“Your Captain will be sure to skin you alive for disobeying.” She toyed with the belt of his uniform pants, but her attention was on his eyes, he knew she loved his eyes, just as he loved hers.

He dropped his forehead to hers.  “Then let’s have this moment, like it’s our last.”

Annie’s answer was to mock him. “Oh, shut up. You don’t know when will be our last, this is not our last, you’ll know soon when it will be… but this,” She hauled him over her, as she slid up the bed, wrinkling sheets, and linen, “This is not it, for now, it’s still a beginning.”

He laughed, told her “I could live with that.” Told her that he loved her, and then silenced her with a kiss.

Just for now, this was his. His little bit of salvation.


 

Outside the dormroom, a certain smug-faced, curly-haired girl listened intently- one ear pressed against the solid mahogany door. The first loud moan she heard had her wicked smirk widen. That one was for sure, belonging to her oh-so stoic room mate.

She tried to decipher the soft whines of Annie, and the low groans of Eren that accompanied. That boy was sure a piece of work- and a fine piece of ass, if she had any right to say so herself. Annie you lucky prude!

A looming presence suddenly towered behind; HItch immediately picking up on it didn't even bother to turn around. She sighed exasperatedly, “Ugh, Marlowe quit pestering me, I’m doing spy work here.”

“What exactly are you spying on, cadet?”

Hitch perked at that authoritative tone of voice. That was not Marlowe. “U-uh…” She slowly turned her head, saw a forest green cloak, she craned her neck up to look into the dark coal eyes of Captain Levi, Humanity’s strongest. The short-tempered, short-statured hero.

“Um…” Hitch got to her feet, facing the Captain, she stood three inches taller than him but that didn't deter his overbearing, frightening presence.

He pointed to the same door that contained Hitch’s conniving roommate and her dense lover. Hitch swallowed. As much callous as Annie could be, she was still respectful of Hitch, and Annie did her many favors as well.

“Well, you see, Captain,” Hitch started, ready to regurgitate bullshit, because that was her game, anyway. “My roommate has brought over one of her many  boy toys and has decided to lock me out of my own room while she has her… fun.”

Levi wrinkled his brows. “Boy… toy?”

“And! Uh- Well, they’re gonna’ be in there awhile so, I just decided to wait outside.”

“And listen to them get busy, yes I saw.” He stated it so plainly that even Hitch- the joker-  burned with embarrassment.

“I’m looking for one of my own, I lost him in the Market Square, he snuck off I believe- that brat ,” Levi grumbled, “I got a lead from someone here that they’d seen him, trying to break into the Military Police HQ, for whatever damn reason.”

“Oh- ho ho! Well, that’s unfortunate!” Hitch laughed sheepishly, “I am very sorry you came all t his way, Captain, but the guy you’re looking for is not here, because you see, this is the girls dorm, and the only way to get in through here without passing the guards at the front door is through-”

“The back door?” Levi droned.  

Hitch was taken back. “Ah- You... know about that?”

“Yes, I know about the secret door, I'm the whole damn reason there's a secret door in the first place, I know my way around. How the hell do you suppose I got in here?”

A long boyish groan was heard through the door and, very faintly , the thud of wooden mattress railing hitting the wall.

It took him a minute, no, a second or two, before the realization spread across his face. Levi pinched the bridge of his nose, eyes screwed shut, he sighed, “Oh for fucks sake. Please, don’t tell me …”

Hitch sucked in a breath through her teeth.

Levi stared at her, then sighed again. That horny little shit.”

“I-I am so sorry, I didn't have anything to do with that, well, um… maybe, but not this part! Definitely not what I was expecting, especially of my roommate, who is a total hard ass by the way, I don’t even know what she saw in that naive guy, I mean he does have the looks but the brains-

“Shut up.”

Hitch shut up immediately. Levi got close, “I want you to relay a message for me, got it?”

“Yessir.”

“Good, tell Eren this,”  Levi ran a finger across his neck, his finger being a metaphorical blade. Hitch gulped again. “And let ‘em know to hurry it up and get his ass back to the Survey Corp Base before nightfall.”

“Yessir.”

Levi turned from her, not before giving one last foul look to the dorm door, “Ugh.”  and with that he was walking back down that long corridor. Hitch let out the breath she was holding.

Well, she tried. They couldn't say that she didn't at least try.

Another loud moan broke through the barricade that was the door. Hitch decided, it was best to leave the couple alone, for now. Best to break the moment after a blissful release. She sniggered.  Better get as many shots in as you can, Eren, your Captain will certainly never let you see the light of day after this.

 

Chapter Text

 

He saw her cry again. He watched helplessly, as tears ran down her cheeks, dyed crimson from the numerous cuts on her face, he could hear her choked sobs so clearly this time. Before it was just the sound of distant weeping echoed in pitched darkness, before it was just silhouettes, but now he saw- and he heard, so vividly, it was as if these memories were his own.

Were they his own?

“Grisha,” The woman turned to him, on her knees she sat, with her arms bound behind her. Her blonde hair matted to her face from sweat, and blood. Those savages. And even if she were sobbing, she kept her voice steady, perhaps to show him that she was not afraid of death, and neither should he be. “It’s okay, It doesn't matter what monster they turn me into,”

A man held a needle above her neck, the needle punctured her nape. His pulse raced. The needle. The serum. It’s the serum. It’s that dreaded serum!

“Because I’ll come find you.”

His heart plummeted, and so did the woman. Right down into the Island of the Devils. Where she herself transformed into one.

“Eren?”

He watched, and he screamed for her countless times, he wailed her name. Tearing out his own hair, cursing his own traitorous son. Damning him. Damning them . Then a hand was on his shoulder-

“DINAH!”

“Eren!” He was shoved backward, he felt himself fall, limbs loose, flying, before the back of his head banged against solid wood.

With a pained groan, Eren’s eyes slowly opened. HIs sight was met with two women who stood above him, staring down at him, one with worry, one with pity.

The one who pitied him was dressed royally, in white, Her gold-spun hair tied into a neat bun, a shining crown sat upon her head, sky blue eyes observed him, seeming apologetic, but for what?

“Historia.” he croaked. The Queen. His Queen. “What…?” He blinked, then he turned his gaze to the other one, and was met with coal black eyes, dark hair, and darker clothes against pale skin, a scar on the left side of her cheek, the scar he’d inflicted on her when he had first lost control of his titan. He remembered.

“Mikasa, what’s wrong?” Mikasa knelt by his side, helping him to sit up, dusting off the dirt from his arm.

“Eren,” Historia came to other side, “You were daydreaming… again.”

“Again?” He turned to her, “What do you mean? Did I hurt you?”

She shook her head, solemn as she appeared, “No, Eren, you were hurting yourself …” Historia pointed to his hands, Eren looked down, emerald eyes widened a fraction as he took in the bits of familiar brown hair that stuck out in his fists, his chewed up bloody nails… his bruised knuckles.

He... did this? What the hell was wrong with him. What was going on in his own head?

With one hand, Eren clutched his right wrist, trembling as he brought it up to his face.

“This is my hand.” He meant to only think those words, but both The Queen and his childhood friend had heard him. Mikasa squeezed his shoulder, brushing away some tendrils of long hair that fell over his eyes. He’d hardly bothered to keep trimming anymore, he looked so much like a person who lost his all in the war. Mind, and body.

“This is my hand.” He said again, more firmly. He needed to believe he was himself, with no anchor to hold him down, he felt his sanity drifting away into dark waters, the deepest parts of his mind.

“Yes, it is.” Mikasa enveloped him in an embrace, yet even that felt pitiful. “It is.”


 

Commander Zoe Hange, 14th Commander of the Survey Corp, sat behind her desk, hands folded in front of her. She took in the sight of her young shifter- the dark purplish rings around his eyes, his unkempt hair, fatigue in his mannerism and his fidgeting from her scrutiny.

Was this the very same boy that she had come to respect and rely on four years ago? He seemed like a completely different person from the boy he’d been. Well… she supposed change did come with growth, and maturity. She recognized that familiar heavy weight of guilt that sat upon her own soldier's shoulders, she too must go through the same thing, time and time again. It is just the protocol for war. Death begets death begets death, and so on and so forth. It was crucial to have a mind of fortitude and bear it all.

And Eren, for all purposes, was in fact, bearing it all, and more.

“Eren.” He sat up straight in his seat, hearing his own name seemed to pull him back into reality. “I hear you’ve had… another incident.”

He said nothing.

Hange leaned forward. Cutting right to the chase. “I understand you’ve had a lot to endure in the last couple of years, we all had. But I feel that, you aren’t being very vocal about it as the others. All of us here must work as a unit, Eren. That’s how things get done. And for you, our biggest asset in this upcoming mission, to suddenly be having these… episodes of memory loss-”

“It’s not.”

“Pardon me?”

Eren sighed, his gaze fell to his hands. “It’s not memory loss, i-it’s,” He sighed again. “They’re not even my own memories, but I keep remembering them like they were, all of them, not just my father’s.”

Hange sat back, perturbed, but she listened intently.

“I feel like I’m trapped,” Eren swallowed, “I feel like… my freedom has been taken from me, my will, like I’m losing my identity, like I’m slowly forgetting what parts of me are actually me .”

Hange closed her only eye for a moment, when she opened it again, the exhaust etched into every crevice of Eren’s face was so apparent, that even she recoiled. It truly was like he was a different person. Sapped of life, of his youthful energy.

“The mission-” She spoke, but held her tongue. Their final mission was of utmost importance, but how could she bring that to attention when Eren was not even in the right state of mind. They needed him. But they needed him sane, too. “My apologies, Eren, I still don’t grasp how a shifter’s access to their previous holder’s memory works, but I’m trying to understand. It it like a relapse? Do you go into a trance like state?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what I do, or what things I say, all I know is that whenever it happens, I don’t just relive the memory, I feel their emotions too, everything they’ve ever felt in that moment,” Eren pressed his fist to his heart, “I feel it too, and it’s like I’m there, like I am them, and they are me.”

He was losing it. Hange thought as she took in his words. Eren was losing sight of himself, of his touch with those around him. He had called Historia ‘Dinah’, he had once referred to Mikasa as ‘Kiyomi’ . Despite Hange’s curiosity of these people, and knowing they’d probably be crucial information tidbits to their mission, she refused to bring them up in this meeting, or Eren’s vicinity in general. If he heard those names, he would relapse again, she foresaw it. Her soldier’s sanity was more important to her than anything.  

“Eren, I want you to be ready for when we cross that sea, I need for you to be able to suppress those memories that overtake you, bury them, forget them, otherwise, they’ll ruin you, they’ll wring you out until there is nothing left of Eren Jaeger . Do you understand?”

Eren huffed. “I wish I could, but they come to me even when I don’t want them too, no matter how hard I try to resist.” He sounded broken, “I can’t be helped, I’m sorry for becoming such a liability, Commander.”

Hange rubbed her temple, leaning into her seat as Eren wallowed in being a burden to his peers. There must be some way. She tried to think of anything that could reel Eren back into their world when he became lost. If it was not Mikasa , if was not Armin, nor Historia for all her resemblance to the Fritz line. Then who?

An alarming idea purged its way into her thoughts. She pushed back, but that only made it stronger than the rest.

Maybe it was not that he needed a loved to bring him back. Maybe…

Hange eyed him. Eren sat stiffly. If the one’s he saw in those memories that weren't his, are loved ones of the past shifters, then the only other way must be through… an enemy. Someone he could never love. Someone he remembered through pure trauma.

Commander?” Eren’s voice snapped Hange from her reverie. Immediately she stood from her chair, “Eren, come with me for a moment.” She paced to her office door, unlocking it to step outside. Eren followed obediently.

“Where are we going, Commander?”

“The dungeon cells.”  

He blinked. “For what?”

Hange smiled thinly, “To pay an old friend a visit.”


 

Drip drip drip

Water that leaked from the cracks of the stone walls.

Rustle rustle rustle

A rat scurrying off into it’s hiding hole with yesterday's rations.

Clack clack clack

The sound of the night guard's boots pacing outside of her cell.

Clack Clack Clack- Kreeen

She sat up, what was that? The sound of another door opening? Was supper already being served?

Clack Clack Clack - Clack Clack CLACK

More booted footsteps abruptly stopping right outside, more than one. Two . There were two people, and then-

“Ah! Commander, I didn’t expect to see you down here, is there an emergency? Why is Jaeger here?”

Red-rimmed sapphire eyes widened. Jae-ger?

I asked for him to accompany me, how has she been holding up?”

“Quiet. As usual. Won’t eat much, and her chamber pot is nothin’ but piss. Not that I’m complainin’, probably the worst is her stench though, girl could use a bath, Commander, not that I feel sorry for her, but I’d rather not take care of a prisoner that smells like rotted ass.”

“I’ll see to it.”

There was some shifting, another step, quick. Anxious.

“Are you okay, Eren?”

“I just-”

His voice. She closed eyes. She remembered that voice…

“I don’t think I can, she’s- it’s been so long.”

Why did he sound so pained?

“Three years may be a long time, Eren. But not once have you ever gone down here, you never even went to her trial. I realized that this girl may be one of your biggest obstacles yet, perhaps, if you spoke with her, face your demons, you might feel more at ease.”

Inner demons? She laughed mentally. What was this lunatic woman speaking of? She heard a soft sigh, then a, “Yes, Commander.”

“But… what if she doesn’t to face me?”

She has no choice in the matter.”

There was a jingling of the night guard's skeleton keys as he approached the large plated cell door. Through the metal bars of the small window, she saw his beady black eyes glare down at her form. “Wakey, wakey, Princess.”

The heavy door unlatched, and slowly creaked open, the firelamps of the halls bathed them in an orange glow. Her two visitors. The Commander confidently strode in while her underling lingered behind every two steps.

“Hello, Annie.”

The door slammed shut behind them. A gust of wind followed, threatening to blow out the firelamps her visitor’s had brought with them.

“It’s been a while.” Commander Hange was cold, and course as Annie remembered her being, with that hint of insatiableness in that one amber eye of hers. What did this crazy woman want this time?

You must be wondering why we’re here. There’s no real reason as to why I’m here. I’m only here to escort Eren.”

“Commander, you won’t be leaving will you?” Came his anxious voice.

From behind the Commander stepped forward a tall lean man. He was broad shouldered, he had a tapered waist, long legs and long hair tied into a low ponytail. While his eyes shone bright emerald from the flames, there was little life in them. Who was this man? Annie scrutinized him. This couldn't be Eren , could it?

“No. But I will be observing this conversation, should anything get out of hand.”

A nod, and then he finally turned to her. “Annie… you remember me, don’t you?” Eren placed down the firelamp by her bedside, he dragged the chair the nightgaurd often used to sleep outside on to the front of her bed. He sat down, wringing his hands together as he drank in the sight of her disheveled state. She did the same with him. Those once vibrant eyes of his looked so drained…

“I haven't seen you in years, your hair is so long… don’t you put it up anymore?” He asked. Such a stupid question, too. Her hair fell at her waist now because she could not use scissors. She was not allowed sharp or pointed items within her cell- she ate food either with a spoon, or her hands, and wrote with a piece of lead. They kept her alive, maybe, partially groomed, and she also hadn’t bathed in a week, she wondered if Eren picked up on the smell- she felt the slightest bit self-conscious of it.

“I probably look different to you too, huh?” Eren attempted to smile, but it was fruitless. Something was bothering him.

“Like a wreck.” Annie tried to go for light tone, but her voice was dry, and rough from misuse.

“Yeah,” Eren shrugged, “I haven’t been in my prime for a while now.”

She could see that so clearly from his appearance to his body language.

“It… It looks different outside too. We regained Wall Maria, rebuild many of the stuff we’d lost.”

She knew that, too. Commander Hange was quick to inform her after they had cracked opened her crystal like an egg.

“Even our customs are changed,” He cleared his throat, “We gained insight on many technologies, they’re inventors and engineers in the walls now. More than there ever was. New recipes are being made every day, the wall’s have really been flourishing in these past years.”

Annie wished she could feel something as he spoke about his home to her. But all she felt was dread. An ache in her heart. Father. Then of course, there was recalling the gruesome details about the death of one warrior. It made her shoulders slump, and her head hang low, to even think about it. Eren stopped talking of the walls as he picked up on her mourning.

“Is Reiner…” She looked to Eren, “Is Reiner still alive?”

Eren chewed on his bottom lip, he turned his attention to his Commander who’d been silently watching the exchange from a corner in the cell. “I believe I told you this before,” Hange folded her arms, “But no matter. Reiner had escaped four years ago, along with your War Chief. It was Bertolt who was sacrificed to save Armin. It was… Our previous Commander’s choice.”

Annie was quiet for a moment. “... I see.” It hurt . Whether Bertolt was an acquaintance, or an ally… or maybe even a friend. It still stung. All of them dying. Being plucked from there roots, and thrown onto the ground . Soon Reiner will also pass on, and then the Chief, such was the way of their life, of a warrior. Of a damned titan shifter. She hated who she was more than she hated these people who chained her to these cell walls.

Eren watched her. “I never wanted to kill him, Annie.” He spoke steadily, like he was refraining from an outburst. Was there still a bit of the Eren she once knew in this empty shell of person sitting before her?

“But he gave me no choice.”

“No- I just forgot who had died is all,” Annie sniffed, she could feel her eyes sting- no matter how much she's cried, she would never run out of tears, “I don’t want to talk about this. If we’re going to discuss something, let it be about your world, or your people, or any other thing I don’t give a shit about.”

Eren leaned back into his seat, wearied. The Eren she once knew would have jumped from his chair, and tear her apart with either his words, or his hands.

“This is war, Annie. I know you lost people, but I’ve lost more.” He leaned forward, forcing her to look into his eyes, the firelamp casted eeries shadows on one side of his face, and he looked like a completely different person. His voice trembled. “I’ve lost so much more than just the lives-”

“So this is a contest now?” Annie seethed. How dare he?! “Who’s suffered more? Who’s lost more?! Have you gotten a good look at me Eren? I don’t know if you knew this, but I will expiring soon, sooner than you think-” She threw a nasty look to the Commander- “My body will rot away, my bones will turn to dust on this shitty bed. But maybe before all of that, you’ll eat me, or feed me to Armin. I’m sure he’d be so thrilled.”

Eren screwed his eyes shut. He stood from the chair, turning his back to her.

That angered her even more so.

“What’s the matter? It’s the truth. It’s what will happen. And you know if you steal my shifter power, I will haunt you. Even in death, I will find you, Eren, and I hope that then, maybe, you’ll understand what real suffering is.”

He stayed silent. Back turned. There were was a single tear rolling down Annie’s cheek, she scrubbed away at her face until her cheeks burned bright red.

“Look at me, Eren.”

He didn't.

Annie growled. “Look at me!”

“NO! DINAH!” Eren swung around.

Just as soon as that name left his mouth, he recoiled. Blinking rapidly as if he were being blinded, Eren clutched at his head. “You see?” He exhaled, “I’m already losing my mind. I can see it too,” Eren gave a breathy humorless laugh, “You lost yours as well.”

Annie could not understand what was going on with him. Or what he was talking about. Who the hell was Dinah?

“No you innate bastard,” she spat, “You still just don’t know how to talk to girls.”

Eren snapped his attention to her, he looked alarmed rather than hysterical this time. Green, green eyes narrowed at her, as if picking apart her words. “What?”

Then he clutched at his head once more. “... Commander?”

Immediately Hange was by his side, lightly touching his arm. “Eren, are you okay? How’re you feeling?”

There was a long pause, because Eren was too busy regarding Annie in a way as if he were seeing her for the first time. As if they were on the training grounds of the 104th camp, all those years ago.

“I- shit. My head, it kind of hurts.”

Annie was intrigued, the anger she felt seconds prior turned to ash. Was this… a test?

“Come on than, Eren, I think we’re done here for the night.” Hange shared that same intrigued look with Annie. It was. Eren was quick to leave the cell just as soon as the night guard unlatched the door.

If that one amber eye spoke volumes to Annie, it was that the Commander was definitely up to something, as she always was.  

Before the Commander could step out of the cell, she turned to Annie. “We will continue this tomorrow, early morning. Be awake then.” Then she was gone, and Annie was left in the shadows once more.

Her back hit the hard cot bed, she threw her arms over eyes.

Eren, what happened to you?

Chapter Text

 

Year 855

 

Wind whistled sharply passed Eren’s ears, drowning out the commands of the first Squad leader who flew just up ahead of him.Tall evergreens and bright blue skies became a whizzing colorful blur as he was urged to go faster, keeping his momentum balanced, but propelling himself forward, defying gravity for the longest time while his hair whipped his face.

 

Several other fresh-faced scouts lagged behind, Eren pushed off the top of a high branch, using the improved gear tech, he angled his body, somersaulting in mid air, then shot straight into the skies like a bullet, doing well to preserve his gas while maintaining his speed. He left the rest of the scouts to dart through clouds of vapor. One of the recruits became awestruck, watching him become weightless- free, flying higher near the sun, a real icarus come to life from one of Armin’s storybooks.

 

Eren loved training with the new recruits, he could never get used to the feeling of being admired for who he was, and not what.

 

The trainee’s themselves were an intuitive bunch, many more brains with just enough brawn this year round to beat their own ragtag crew that was the 104th squad. He supposed Armin was doing an excellent job with his new career as a professor of the Training Corp Program.

 

Though, Eren missed him. Missed his long ramblings of the outside world, his rapid interest with literature, and just who he’d been as a person.

 

Even so. Eren was proud of Armin. Of the man he had become. He had faced his demons head on long ago. Eren wished he could say the same for himself.

 

A distant pop, then fizzle sounded off from his right, a flare gun signaling they change course. Eren kept his gaze forward, twisting only his body to track the plumes of green mist shooting up from the forest. So high up above the trees, Eren got a clear vantage point of the whole mountain they’re to be doing a recon mission at. Reaching the very top was the goal for the 70th expedition outside of the walls.

 

The land outside the walls were vast, rich with minerals, exotic animals and abandoned villages. Commander Hange intended to explore of every inch of it, gathering resources and intel for civilization within the walls.  

The walls .

 

While they were free for the most part. Though cautious, preparing for their next mission overseas. The walls still stood, towering over them all. A grim reminder of their caged past. The king’s past.

 

He saw to it that no enemy would ever set foot on their land. Using the power of the coordinate, he commanded colossal titans by the masses to become the shield protecting the Eldians who had escaped with him from the clutches of the Marley. But that was so long ago.

 

This was a new age. Did they truly need those walls now? After so long, war after war, sacrifice after sacrifice. His brother promised he and his people freedom with the help of his royal blood, and Eren finally intended to use it after the next dozen recons of their land.

 

No. No. No. The walls are not to be touched. The walls are sacred.

 

Eren blinked. Unwillingly he lost momentum, being forced to slow down, a bit of dust got caught in his eye.

 

Didn't I tell you… You never listen!

 

Eren shook his head. Not now.

 

Didn’t I tell you… To not cross that fence? Didn't I tell you?!

 

The voice in his head was drowned out by Jean’s commanding tone carried by the wind.

 

“The mountain top is our rendezvous point, we’ll be meeting there with the other squads. No stopping until we reach that mountain! This is also a test of endurance!”

 

The recruits who lagged behind gave shouts of confirmation. One of them zoomed passed him. Smirking over their shoulder, giddy that they had finally passed one of their own Squad leaders. Eren met the mischievous gaze of a girl not much older then he. Big blue eyes, long fluttering black hair. Pale skin. A doll-like face akin to Historia.

 

His breath hitched. Chest tightened. Every thump of his heart gradually increased.

 

“Frieda?”

 

Everything stopped. For a moment. Freida was smiling at him. Just smiling as he plummeted down, down, down into the earth; The evergreens swallowed him, the sun was replaced with shadows. The branches he had so effortlessly avoided now scraped every inch of his skin as he sunk deeper into the forest.

 

“Squad leader?!”

 

A moment of alarm brought him back to reality, only for a second. But the moment was lost. As he had no idea what to do. His hands were stretched out, loose. Grabbing onto nothing. What was he doing? What was he supposed to do?

 

It was too late now. Eren closed his eyes, and prepared for the pain of his bones shattering upon impact. Just before his body could meet the earth, a blur of black and dirty blonde hair crashed into his side, knocking the breath out of him. An arm circled tightly around his waist, he and the other were nearly struck from the onslaught of tree trunks, but Jean dodged, and weaved between, using the rest of his gas to hike them up onto a thick branch.

 

Eren was thrown unceremoniously onto the solid ground. He could hear Jean panting, swearing under his breath.

 

“What the hell was that?!”  

 

His head began to ache. Eren sat up, gazing warily into Jean’s glaring amber eyes.

 

“You nearly hit the ground for fucksake! Eren, what’s your problem? Can’t you follow orders anymore, you’re supposed to be my second-in-command! Look what kind of example you’re setting for the new recruits!”

 

Eren blinked, slow. He looked down. Avoiding Jean’s expression of contempt.

 

“What is it, did your gear malfunction?”

 

His hands trembled. The gear strapped to his back felt a little to heavy for him now. Eren shook his head, “I… Forgot.”

 

“What?”

 

The ODM gear,” Eren looked up, “I forgot how to use it… momentarily.”

 

Jean’s anger vanished, replaced with the look of puzzlement. Jean circled Eren, observing his gear for any nicks, dents, or missing pieces. But Eren knew he would find none.

 

Finally he asked, “How?”

 

“I don’t know, my mind just… “ Flashes of Freida’s smile burned in his retina. Eren rubbed the side of his temple. “I blanked out for a minute, I’m sorry.”

 

Jean was silent, staring down at Eren like he was a lost cause. Jean never hid his emotions. Eren could feel his own pride ebbing away. Being pitied for losing himself was Eren’s greatest grievance. But he could do nothing to stop it.

 

“I’ll have to report this back to the Commander..”

 

“I know.”

 

“I can’t have you in my Squad if you’re going too… if this is going to be a reoccurring thing, you know that, right?”

 

“I know, do what you have to do.”

 

Jean sighed, unhooking a flare gun from his utility belt, he knocked in a bullet, then shot straight into the skies. Yellow mist rocketed high atop the tree they settled in. The recon mission was now terminated.


 

 

He waited patiently in the Commander’s office, hands folded in his lap. The muscle of his jaw clenching, a lump in his throat he couldn't swallow. His right leg slightly bouncing with trepidation.

 

He was doing so well these past few weeks- and now. ..

 

He wondered if Commander Hange was going to force him to go on temporary leave from the Survey Corp, she had threatened him with that course of action before. Eren didn't know what could be worse, losing his mind in the midst of doing tasks, or losing his mind in the dark lonesomeness of his bedroom.

 

The door of the Commander's office opened than, accompanied by a woosh of air, there stood Commander Hange, her expression sullen, though still unreadable. Eren swallowed once more.

 

“Commander.”

 

“Eren.” She gave a curt nod of her head. “Come with me.”

 


 

The ride to the that dingy shack in Dauper was a little over two hours; but Hange was always the one who chose such far away meeting points. The last, Eren remembered, had actually been outside the Walls of Maria. For precaution. Hange didn't want any civilians actually seeing them as they transported the female titan from one location to another. If was more for the safety of Annie Leonhardt than that of the people, really. After all she was marked a terrorist, just as Eren was in Old Eldia, except Annie was a traitor of the walls.

 

While Eldia had given Eren the title of ‘ Usurper’.

 

It was just one of the many ways they were alike, he supposed. The Commander slowed her stallion, and so he, and the several other guards she had brought with her followed, they began trotting down a small pathway hidden by a mess of shrubbery. Down the line of the path, Eren could see the little shack Hange had stowed away Annie, At the front door was Robb, the same burly watchman that’s been assigned to her for all these years, and by his side, one of Zeke’s many devotee’s, a blonde muscular woman standing two feet taller than the watchmen.

 

Eren always thought Yelena was quite a scary one. She practically eclipsed poor Robert, she stood taller than any other man of the Survey Corp; and her dark round eyes were always assessing everything around her, they gave Eren chills. But she was a loyal one, and that was what Zeke deemed most necessary.

 

As the group came to came to a halt, their horses skittering dust into the air, It was Robb who greeted them first.

 

“Commander! We were worried you forgot the location.” He chuckled. Commander Hange hopped off her horse, Eren followed after. The rest of the group stayed back, as their only job was to keep watch of the perimeter. Besides, the only protection they truly needed was-

 

“Hange!” The door of the shack was kicked open, startling both Robb and Hange, Yelena simply glanced behind her, boredly, then had to lower her gaze as a tiny fuming Captain Levi stomped passed her.

 

“‘Bout fucking time.” Levi huffed, he gestured Eren over to him. “I was getting tired of that hooked nose wench, now hurry it up and get your dose of medicine Jaeger.”


 

Inside the shack, everything had been cleaned, thoroughly. From the cracks of the floorboards, to the chipped wooden walls, even the single glass window looking out into a vast forest was gleaming, clearer than any of the windows of the Survey Corp base.

 

Eren almost wanted to laugh, but knew Annie wouldn't find it very funny; seeing as how, Levi had probably made her be the one to do all the cleaning. There was even a rag soaking in a bucket of soapy water by the door.

 

“He put you to work, didn't he?” Eren leaned back against his chair, one of two in the room. The other, Annie occupied, with thick chains binding her wrists to the floor. Her arms hung on each side of her; she was restricted movement, no matter how many times Eren had pleaded to his superiors that she was no longer as dangerous as she once had been. Annie was very much reaching her last year as the female titan, just as Zeke was at the cusp of his shifter power.

 

Eren tried not to dwell on that. It was difficult, however, seeing those tired lines under her eyes, more prominent than they had been months before, how thin her limbs were becoming, how pale a white her usually silver blonde hair was turning.

 

“He did. But I gave him hell for it.” Annie shrugged. “He is one pushy, tiny old man.”

 

Eren sniggered. “Don’t let him hear you say that!”

 

“As if I care.” Annie turned her head to the window, gazing longingly to the outdoors. To freedom. “So,” She focused her attention to him again, “before we get down to what we’re really here for, I just want say, I like what you’ve done with your hair.”

 

Eren fingered a tendril of his now short fringes, they no longer obscured his vision. He’d taken to grooming himself after the last year had resulted in his drunk self having an unfortunate accident with his longer hair… and some rapidly spinning gears.

 

He’d kept it trimmed short to his nape now, just as he had when he was fifteen… sometimes though, when he looked in the mirror, he saw entirely different man, sharper looking, older, completely taciturn. Not his father. But the other.

 

“Thanks.”

 

“Hm, you could’ve shaved though,” Annie cocked her head, “don’t know what you’re trying to do exactly, growing out those whiskers of yours, you’re starting to look a bit like my old Military Police Commander.”

 

Eren made a disgusted face, rubbing furiously at his cheeks, groaning when he felt the coarse hair that speckled his jawline. “Ugh I do! I really do , but it just grows back even quicker, shaving is a hard task you know!”

 

Annie smiled, slightly. At least she was at ease this time, compared to the last, and the last before that.

 

“It's not too bad.” She said. “I just think It’d look better if you shaved.”

 

Always the picky one, she was. Eren scoffed, “Of course, of course. Whatever you say, next time you see me, I’ll be sure to come back with a full grown mountain man beard, how would you like that?.”

 

She snickered. “If you can even call those five hairs on your chin a beard.”

 

“Oh, c’mon!”

 

They laughed. Annie shook her head, still smiling as she thinned her lips, taking him in, her blue eyes bright as a robins egg shone in the light of the afternoon sun. Glittering like crystalline, Eren was bewitched by them. But truly he was by all of her. It was not his fault, so much as it was his superiors for forcing her to become his ‘cure’.

 

 Eren did not want to ruin a moment like this with his personal baggage; but she was the only one who could handle such weight. The only one that their memories could not bleed through and take over, the only one they could not touch.

 

So , what brings you to my office this time?”

 

Eren sighed, “The usual, only this time… “ He flopped back into his seat. Scratched at his temple.

 

Annie raised an eyebrow. “Only this time?”

 

“This time, I saw an hallucination.”

 

Annie gestured for him to go on, or as much as she could with her hands bound.

 

“I ah- I saw Freida, the girl I told you about once before?”

 

“The Queen’s sister?”

 

“Dead. Elder sister, the previous founding titan, yes.” Eren cast his gaze down, shuffling his feet underneath him. “I heard her voice first, but since our last meeting, I’m able to ignore them now, most times, so as long as my mind is preoccupied with something. So that’s what I did, I was leading a mini squadron behind me when I saw her, she looked back at me and she…”

 

“... Eren you know I hate it when you pause.” Annie tapped her foot irritability,

 

“I’m sorry, just remembering it- it… felt more like a dream, if anything. Freida looked alive and real, and she, she just smiled at me.”

 

Annie cocked her head. “That’s it?”

 

“No I started to fall then.” Eren closed his eyes momentarily, reimagining the events prior. “And I don’t know what happened after that, I was just… falling, tried to use my gear but- I forgot how to work it.”

 

Eren felt blood rush to his cheeks as he muttered the last part. Not so much embarrassed as he was ashamed.   

 

“It’s like something was taken from me, a part of me, and I just forgot, sorry if I make little sense.”

 

Annie was quiet as she absorbed this information, she usually wasn't so quick to assess what happened or what he was feeling, it’s not as if she were an actual qualified physician, but she was amazing at deducing certain problems, relating to him or not. Annie cast her eyes down to her lap as she thought of a way she could help him.

 

“Do you still remember how to use the ODM gear?”

 

Eren rubbed his nape, “Well I- Yes, I do, but, it’s a bit fuzzy, like that feeling I’ve got when I just learned how to use it, my body isn't accustomed to the gear like it’s always been.”

 

“You really did forget.” Annie leaned against the chair, the weight of the chains putting a strain on her arms, she ignored the ache of her muscles, trying to think of an alternative.

 

“You said it felt like something was taken from you, did you mean the memory of learning how to use the ODM gear?”

 

Eren furrowed his brows, drawing back  “No, I haven't thought of that…” A sick feeling started to bubble in the pit of his stomach.

 

“I don’t know how the inheritance of the founding titan affects you mentally, but Eren, It does sound a lot like your memory was robbed from you.”

 

Eren didn't like where this conversation was heading to, didn’t want to hear the truth of it, really. It couldn't be.

 

It’s not possible.” He mumbled. “That’s not how it works that- the previous founding shifters are all dead, I inherited only the most of Freida’s memories, and my father…”

 

“You have to consider it,” Annie’s tone grew soft upon noticing Eren’s distressed face, “If this is the first time something like that happened, it’s very likely it will happen again.”

 

Eren grimaced, his gut coiled into itself. He could sense them watching him. Judging him. All of them.

 

“How could it be, how could they wipe my memories?” Eren stared at his opened palms, tanned and callous from his duty as a soldier. “I’d only ever been influenced by them, but this isn't something I can breakthrough, it just… happens.”

“Eren…”

 

“I can’t fight back, and that’s what worries me. I can’t do nothing against this, Annie. I can’t.

 

His hands clenched into fists, so tightly, blue greenish veins pushed from underneath his skin. Eren’s shoulders drooped, his head hung low. He was never prepared for the price of becoming a shifter, and never for the outcome. He was forced into this by his father. He wondered briefly, if his father too had most of his memories wiped by inheriting the founding titan. No. Eren had the founding titan abilities far longer than his father had by now; ten years, to be exact. Ten years… and three left to go.

 

What would become of him in those three years? What would his mind become without his balance, without Annie.

 

He didn't want to think of it.

 

“I don’t want to forget.” He whispered, looked up in time to catch the fear in Annie’s eyes, she masked it all too quickly.

 

“You won’t.” She said. “You’re stronger than that, Eren.”

 

He could feel the sickness bubbling, churning. His insides growing hot. His head felt too heavy for his shoulders. He could tell she was thinking of the inevitable too.

 

“I wish it didn’t have to end this way.” Eren stood from his seat, walked three steps, then fell to his knees in front of the girl who kept him sane. Annie looked down into his pleading green eyes, lips parted to draw in a breath. “If I had authority, I’d free you from these chains, I’d let you see your father, I’d let you go home.”

 

“I know.”  Sometimes he’d talk nonsense to her, it was his outlet. He’d say things to her that he’d lock away inside himself. Annie had heard most of his secrets already. She had known all this time of his infatuation with her. Only Eren failed to make her realize it was not just infatuation, but hopeless love. Desire. Longing.

 

“I wish the titan’s didn’t exist, this power. If none of it existed, if none of it came into existence, the things I’ve done, the things you’ve done, we’ve done.“ He choked on a sob, “My mother would be alive, my father, my friends.”

 

It stung her to think of the original 104th squad. “I know.”

 

Eren reached out for her, wrapping his arms around her hips as much as he could, he laid his head upon her lap, cheek pressed against her cotton dress, he sighed softly.

“Eren, don’t.” Annie warned him, just to remind him the proximity he was within of her was prohibited, touching was prohibited. If they were caught in this position, Annie would not see Eren for as long as she had left to live. Yet he broke this rule so regularly that she grew accustomed to it, only cautioning him of what could happen.

 

“Why is this world is so cruel.” He spoke not just to her, but to himself as well. “It takes things from me, one by one, even my body, and now it’s taking my memories, I only have so much left to give it.”

 

Annie turned her head to the door. The only barrier that kept she and Eren from those awaiting him outside.

 

“I can’t fathom forgetting everyone I’ve ever known.”

 

The knob of the door jostled slightly, causing Annie to jump. “Eren- Eren, you have to get up!.”

 

He buried his cheek into the folds of her dress, Annie could almost feel the prickle of his facial hair. “ I don’t want to forget you .”

 

She stilled.

 

“I can’t. I can’t .” He was sobbing.

 

Annie swallowed, worried. Glancing from the door to the broken young man at her feet. She could only do so much for him.

 

“Eren, you won’t forget me. Even when I’m gone, You’re far too stubborn.”

 

Her voice went unheard as he clutched at her dress, she could feel him trembling. Had her hands been free, she would’ve grabbed his face and forced him too look her in the eye as she spoke those words to him. She too, was scared. But she chose not to focus on the future so adamantly. This life wasn't chosen for her, she was forced into it, just as he was.

 

Eren was right in a way, had the power of the titans not existed, the world would have been a better place. Even for all it’s wars and chaos. Titans, and shifters we’re just another oddity thrown into the mix. Annie couldn't wait to be free of this shitty world. She cared for very few people, and loved only two. She wouldn't be leaving behind much.

 

Eren clung to her small frame like his very life depended on it, and perhaps it did. He sobbed quietly, but no tears fell from his face, because they had dried up long ago. He didn’t want to lose her. She was his anchor. But he couldn't cheat death. No matter how hard he willed the founding titan’s power to alter it’s paths. Thirteen years was thirteen years. It was a fair trade, but a cruel one.

“I promise,” he lifted his head, meeting those striking blue eyes he’d grown to love. “I promise I’ll remember you, I won’t forget,” he swallowed. “I won’t. Stay with me, okay?”

 

Annie smiled sweetly, perhaps the last Eren would recall in the years to come.

 

“Okay.”

Chapter Text

The rickety stairs gave a quiet groan each step Annie took. Up, and up she went, following the tall man in white.

 

He calls himself Kruger now, an alias perhaps… or the name of someone that he knew?

 

Her eyes never strayed from his back as he led her through littered alleyways, and vacated backyards, she suspected he made the route to be a more difficult path for her to trace back to, should she want to seek him out again.

 

Well, as cautious as he was, Annie Leonhardt did not rise in rank for nothing, she hadn’t been made Vice Commander just because she had fought valiantly against the Marley’s enemies for nearly four years. She was the one who had formulated battle plans with Chief Zeke, the one who led the young warriors alongside him, the one who trained them in combat. The one who picked up Reiner constantly because his incompetence, and his weak mind often made him a secure target to their enemies.

 

Bertolt was dead. Or presumed dead. Even years later, it still ached to think about it. So, on Bertolt’s behalf, she took his place as Reiner’s voice of reason, as much as she loathed to do so. She was a bit harsh to him, still; she never forgot what he made her do back on that island. She never forgave him for it either.

 

She wondered if Eren would ever forgive her for all the trauma- all the betrayal she’d inflicted on him, all the deaths she was held accountable for.

 

Did he come to Eldia to sate his revenge? Did he come to kill me… To kill Reiner?

 

She watched him, watched his long brown hair swish with every movement he made, then finally when they were nearly to the roof of the tenement building, he turned down a dimly lit hallway, she followed swiftly after.

 

At the end of the hallway, the gray light of afternoon shone through a window looking out to the filthy alleyways below. A small table was pushed underneath the window, it held a cracked vase, but no flowers. Eren stopped at a door that was painted a murky shade of green.

 

Like his eyes. She thought.

 

“This is it.” He spoke after not saying anything for the whole of the trip. Then he rummaged in his coat pocket and took out a small, rusted skeleton key. Annie was faintly reminded of the one he used to wear around his neck as a trainee. That one had been the key to his basement, Reiner had informed her, the key that had led Eren to the truth.

 

The door whined as Eren pushed it open after he’d unlocked it. An uneasy feeling settled in the pit of Annie’s stomach than, twisting, and turning her innards. It felt like she’d swallowed a can of worms, and it didn't go down right. Annie grimaced, taking a step back,  She wasn't quite so frightened as she was determined to find out why Eren was here, and how. In the back of her mind, she always knew she would meet Eren again, but she’d thought it would be on opposite sides of the battlefield, as titans, not as people.

 

Perhaps that was why she was beginning to feel nervous. He did say he only wanted to talk. When he sought her out in the market place as she lagged behind Reiner and the young warriors. He had caught her by the arm before she even realized they were being followed.

 

“I’m going back to my apartment. Follow me if you want to know why I’m here, I’m sure you have questions, and I have answers.” He whispered into her ear.

 

“And if I don’t?” She had replied.

 

His shadowy green eyes had then flickered to the young warriors, then to Reiner, then to her. And she’d caught the meaning.

 

Now she was here. Alone, with him. The most wanted man in the country.

 

I shouldn’t have left so abruptly… Reiner would wonder where I’ve gone off too.

 

In hindsight, it was stupid of her to leave without so much of a word to her underlings, and Reiner. But, she did not want to draw attention to Eren. Reiner would surely know it was him, just as she had. Even behind the long hair that covered his eyes, the bit of facial hair he’d hadn’t shaved in days to disguise himself.

 

She hoped Reiner wouldn't seek her out, she hoped the kids would keep his attention off of her long enough.

 

Stay where you are safe, you idiot.

 

“Are you coming in?” That murky green settled on her again. Annie hugged herself, she did her best to appear unperturbed, stepping into the room. She squinted, making out the shapes of his sparse furniture, It was too dark inside… and colder, she noticed once the front door had been shut.

 

“Sorry, I don’t have any firewood.” Eren was a white shadow in her periphery as he moved around, “For now, I’ll just open the windows, and don’t worry, I’ve chosen the most secluded part of town to live in, there’s hardly anyone outside that would hear us.”

 

That last part did little to quell Annie’s nerves.

 

Eren unlatched the little lock of the window, drawing it open. The warm breeze kissed Annie’s skin, she closed her eyes momentarily taking solace in the outside, and the smell of sea salt in the air, it did feel unbearably stuffy in here.

 

She heard the sound of wood scraping on wood, turning to see Eren holding out a chair for her. He had no kitchen space, the room was boxy, and closed in, she guessed this was one of those apartments where the washroom was located outside, but she caught a glimpse of a large basin underneath the bed. The room didn't looked much to lived in either. It was practically bare, safe for a few of coats hanging in a little wardrobe opposite of the bed. That made it all the more difficult for her to decipher how long he had been here.

 

Eren beckoned to her. “Come, sit.”

 

The table was round, and small, but no smaller than the one outside, and a mug of whatever he’d been previously drinking was left right on the middle. Annie took the seat he held out for her, still observing every corner of the room.

 

Eren took his time removing his white trench coat, hanging it up among the others in the wardrobe.

 

No doubt none of those clothes are actually his. Nor did he pay for them.

 

After wandering about, he finally sat down across from her, his hair tied back into a knot, reminiscent of the way she used to wear it. She wore it differently now, as her hair had grown longer, and Annie found she had little time to keep it short as war closed in on them. Some of it fell loose around her shoulders, while the rest was tied back in an old fashioned bun. She decided she’d be the one to break the ice between them.

 

“How did you get this place?”

 

“Is that the first thing you want ask me?”

 

“Yes.”

 

He nodded, scooting his chair closer, enlacing his hands a top the table. “I needed somewhere to stay and lay low for awhile, so I started to look for inns to live in this district, luckily I found a woman in a textiles shop who was renting out this room,” Eren gestured to the bed that was situated in the corner of the room, “told me an old man used to live here, but he died of a heart attack on that very bed, so she was having trouble finding a tenant.”

 

Annie knew he was only revealing this much because the information was outright useless to her… She would have to ease in on him until he slipped something important up. But she would have to be discreet upon doing so. Have patience. Though she was never one for waiting.

“How long?”

 

“How long what?”

 

“How long have you been staying here?”

 

Eren quirked an eyebrow, “How long have you been fighting that war with the Mid-East union?”  

 

“Three years.” She answered before she could stop herself. Annie pressed her lips together, mentally berating herself.

 

Well, it’s not as if that bit of information mattered to him. He might have already figured it out given that the warriors hadn't invaded the island… yet.

 

“You’ve been here for three years?” She questioned him carefully, observing his reaction. Yet no amount of emotion passed over that stone facade of his. His passiveness nearly mirrored her known.

 

“No.” His heavy green gaze bore into her, “Far less in fact, but I didn’t expect to stay this long. It was my curiosity that got the better of me.”

 

So he was here for less than three years… but he’s stayed in this room for more than a day, perhaps even weeks… months... a year?

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“The people here, the so-called ‘pure bloodied Eldians’. They’re not so different from the Eldians on the Island.”

 

The way he spoke the words pure bloodied Eldians, it did not sound as if he resented them for the self proclaimed title, but rather he couldn't believe it was one. He leaned in than, searching her face for a glimmer of… something. Annie schooled her features into apathy. She’d learned to hide her emotions long ago, she was better than at it then he ever will be.

 

“You knew that to, didn't you?” Eren cocked his head, never taking his eyes off her, and she the same.

 

“I always figured the Eldians here would at least think differently,” He continued softly, “have different views from the Marley. But… They think of us Islanders just the same as the rich used to think of peasants outside the wall of Sina.”

 

Annie clasped her hands tightly beneath the table.

 

“The Eldians here, they live just as we do. They suffer from the same hands, they’re oppressed by the same group of people.”

 

It’s true. We do think we’re better than those who live on the island. But in the eyes of the Marley, a rat is a rat, no matter how ‘pure’ our vermin blood is.

 

“Not to mention, there is no royalty ruling this country,” Eren leaned back, “Is there?  All I ever see are Marleyan Military men and Eldians.”

 

“The Marley don’t have a monarch, they have their own government.”

 

“Yes, but there is always someone controlling them from behind the curtains. Our king on the Island was a fake, I’m sure that news reached you long ago.”

 

It had. You’re new ruler is Historia Reiss. True heir to the throne.

 

Annie dare not speak her thoughts, however. She had known Historia Reiss as Christa Lenz, the doll-like innocuous girl of the 104th squad who put the care of others before herself. The news of the Reiss heir only reached her when Pieck had come to her rescue in the dungeons of the Survey Corp base. While Eren and the rest of the Survey Corp traveled to Shigansina. It still came as a surprise to Annie. She’d known the king had been a fake, known the true heir had been hidden among them… She just never would have guessed it would have been that girl of all people.

 

“Who is ruling Paradise?” She asked, a bit rashly. But she knew, given that kind of power, Historia could not have held the Island up on her own these past four years.

 

Eren’s mouth pulled back into a slight scowl. “Whose ruling this country?”

 

Annie studied him for a couple of seconds, then sighed. “If it’s not the Marley, then I truly don’t know. Maybe there is a secret royal family like there was on the Island, but I haven't heard or have seen anything of them, nor do I know if they are Eldian or not.”

 

That was the truth of it. At least part of the truth. The Marley hid their secrets well enough.

 

Eren nodded, “We… Paradise has a queen now,” Eren snatched the mug from the middle the table, staring deadeye into it, before placing it back on the table. His mind seemingly elsewhere.

 

“She’s reliable… good to her people, too good in fact.”

 

Annie didn't miss the way he gritted out that last bit. The Queen is a sensitive topic for him . Annie guessed. Given that reaction. Something odd went down in Paradise, and it had involved the Queen herself.

“Was she the one who sent you here?”

 

He fixed her with resolute stare. “I have my own reasons for being here.”

 

And what could those reasons be?

 

Eren allowed her to mull over his words. Outside, the birds chirped happily, resting on the clotheslines of tenants, a dog barked from someone's yard in the distance. She could almost here the waves of the ocean crashing onto the shore. Somewhere around the Seaport’s Marketplace, Reiner began to worry for Annie’s absence.

 

“Tell me,” Eren said after a moment, “those kids you were with, they are your successors?”

 

Annie sat up, peering at him through narrowed blue eyes. “One of them is, yes.”

 

“Which one would that be?”

 

Her temper rose. “You haven't even told me why you are here, why should I tell you who is going to inherit my power?”

 

He was silent for a minute, then he shrugged. “I’m curious, is all.”

 

“I know who are the successors for the armored titan.” He added before Annie could get a word out. Her mouth hung open slightly, blue eyes wide, shocked for all of a second, before she masked it. A little too late, though, Eren saw it all.

 

“That little brunette girl, and that fair haired boy. They were talking loudly of it when I tracked you down.”

 

“How long were you following us?!”

 

“Long enough.”

 

Annie leaned against the chair, trying to compose herself as she tucked back strands of blonde behind her ear. “They’re… only one of them is going to inherit the armored titan.”

 

Eren snorted. “Obviously.”

 

“I guess one of them would have to prove themselves better than the other, is that it? That they’re worthy to wield such power?”

 

Annie said nothing.

 

“You went through the very same kind of training didn’t you?”

 

We had the jaw’s and colossal titan than. Annie glowered at him. There was not much competing against the others, not unless we had too.

 

Eren ignored her tenacious expression, “Do you know who was the female titan before you?”

 

The question caught her off guard. She never once thought of the previous female titan… Often when she tried, the memories of them came up foggy, unclear.

 

“I don’t… My memory of that day is blank. I woke up with the power of shifting, that’s all I know.”

 

It was the truth. All that she could recall really, was that she had been clutching the very trick ring her father had insisted she take with her to the island.

 

“Aren't you curious of that day?”

 

Yes.

 

“Why should I be?” Annie did her best to sound dismissive. “It’s just one warrior passing their shifter ability to another, who possessed the female titan before me doesn't matter.”

 

“Is that the same mentality your little warrior is going to have once they devour you, and take your power?”

 

“It should be.”

 

“So you don’t care for living until the end?”

 

Annie almost scoffed at that. She had two years left before the life began draining from her body, before her wits completely abandoned her, and she wouldn't be able to tell apart one face from another. Her heart ached when she thought of her father having to care for her in such a vegetative state… No. That was no way to live the remainder of her life. Her father deserved better than that. Better to be through with it. Better to die quickly, than to start wishing for death.

 

“My end is nearing,” Annie put a hand to her chest, right above her heart, “as is Reiner’s I’m sure you guessed, we have another year until our successors became titan shifters.”

 

“What about your father?”

 

A beat. Annie blinked slowly. “What?”

 

Eren shuffled closer, picking her apart with those green, green eyes of his. “Back when we were trainees, you used to talk a lot of your father when we sparred together… You even compared me to him once. He was also the one who taught you how to fight in that unique way you do, am I right?”

 

“He did… yes.”

 

Fury bubbled to the surface, frothing, boiling, and so very hot . It made Annie’s skin itch, she wanted to rise from the table and grab Eren by his collar, shake him and seethe into his face that if he even came within a mile distance of her father, she will kill him.

 

“I wouldn't get so curious about my family,” She managed to say through clenched teeth, “Don’t think I’m so naive as to believe you came to this country alone.”

 

Eren raised his eyebrows at her barely contained threat. There was glint of something in his eyes. Something like amusement… And something else.  “Protective of your father, I understand. Don’t worry. I don’t even know what he looks like, though if you bear his resemblance, I’m sure I’d be able to tell him apart from other men just from his face alone.”

 

Annie scowled at him. Much to her irritation, Eren smiled, though it was a peculiar kind of smile.

 

“You always did have a fierce look.”

 

Why does he sound so impressed?

 

“If you’re not going to tell me why you’ve come here, then why did you seek me out?” Annie stressed, folding her arms. She was growing tired of his mind games. “How do I know you’re not going to attack this port tomorrow, or the day after? There must be some reason you chose me, of all people, to reveal yourself too. What’s your gamble?”

 

Eren’s face became serious, his mouth drawn in a tight line. He swallowed, focusing those green eyes somewhere above her head.

 

“Remember that day you kidnapped me from the Forest of Giant trees?”

 

Annie’s grip on her forearms tightened imperceptibly. Yes. How could she forget that day. An utter failure it’d been.

 

“You slaughtered my Captain’s Squad right before my eyes, every one of them, I watched each of them fight to protect me, only for them be crushed or stomped to death like insects.”

 

She closed her eyes. Yes. She could still feel how easily their bones crunched beneath her large limbs, the way their blood permeated the air like a fine red mist, clouding her senses, her judgement, making her sick to the stomach.

 

I could still taste it even. The blood. The smoke...

 

She felt sick even now, just thinking about it. Just remembering.

 

“And I was too late to save any of them because I chose to believe in them, believe that I wouldn't have to use this power I was given. I was wrong.”

 

Annie shuddered.

 

“Tell me Annie, Is that what they were to you? Little bugs that got in the way of your mission?”

 

She snapped her eyes open, her hands coming down so hard onto the table, that it splinted, and blistered beneath her tightly clenched fists, the force knocked the mug that was teetering at the edge of the table off, it cracked as soon as it hit the wooden floors, pieces flew everywhere. Eren did not move. He simply watched

 

. “ I did what I had to do!”

 

The outburst left her panting, she pushed away from the table, standing on shaky legs.

 

I need to get out of here. I need to find Reiner… The kids…

 

“All for nothing, because you failed regardless. All those lives, gone. And you, coming back empty handed, bearing the weight of it all.”

 

She swallowed, twisting her neck to look him over. Eren remained seated, staring at her coolly. Her fingers furled, then unfurled. She wanted to hit him.

 

“Guilt.” He said, as if she didn't know this weight he spoke of. “I can see it clear as day in your eyes.”

 

She wretched her eyes from him, looking to her boots. She was trembling. From anger, from fear.

 

Eren placed his elbows on the table, leaning forward. “... Reiner isn't fairing much well either isn't he? I remember when he kidnapped me as well, when he started talking to me as if nothing had changed, when he had only just revealed he was the cause for the breach in Wall Maria.”

 

Eren shook his head. “I found him infuriating, I even told him and Bertolt that I’d make sure they die by my hands, a slow and painful death.”  

 

The way he was speaking, like he was reminiscing of a fond memory, it made Annie want to gag. It made her want to bolt out the door.

 

“Thinking back on it now,” Eren scoffed, “it’s quite embarrassing, what I said. I didn't know the full story, I didn't know why you guys invaded the Island, why you attacked the walls, killed so many innocent people, why you tried to kidnap me… I was so blinded by my rage back then, I was too hurt to pay attention.”

 

He stood from his seat than, but his eyes stayed on her. Green. Stormy, leaden with pity. Pity for her. Annie unconsciously took a step back.

 

“I never stopped to realize you three were only following orders. Three innocent children… Sent to an Island far away, trying to keep your identity hidden while you mingled among us for years. It’s no wonder Reiner lost his mind in the end.”

 

Annie exhaled as he crowded her in, she walked backwards until her back hit the wall, and there was nowhere to go. His eyes alone turned her to stone.

 

“Four…”

 

“Hm?”

 

She looked up at him, her mouth moving on it’s own. “There was… four of us… He died before we got to the wall, I wanted to go back, but Reiner … Reiner wanted to continue the mission, we we fought, but in the end I realized it was too late to go back… And, Reiner, he always wanted to be like him , like Marcel. The hero in the group, the leader. I told him were were useless without him, so Reiner told me if we truly needed a leader… If we truly needed Marcel… then he would become Marcel.” She let out a shaky breath, remembering how she had kicked Reiner’s face bloody, knocked a few of his teeth out, only for him to jump back at her, with promises spilling from his bruised mouth

 

Eren said nothing, but tilt his head.

 

It’s partially my fault Reiner became mentally ill. Annie thought miserably. But it is your fault too. She peered up at Eren, who watched her listlessly.

 

“Do you still want revenge on us, for what we did?” She hated how meek her voice sounded.

 

I am afraid of him. But should it come down to that, I will fight him. I must protect Reiner, and the other warriors. I must protect my father.  

 

“No. All I know is that I have to keep moving forward, until all of my enemies are no longer a threat. Until we are free of oppression, free to roam the world.”

 

“... We?”

 

“Yes. You’re the same as me, y’know.” Eren grabbed her hand, Annie nearly flinched from the contact. “We’re both Eldian, unless you buy into that Marley propaganda that the Eldians of paradise are ‘Devils’ .” He spat the word out like a curse.

 

Annie shook her head frantically, a chill ran down through her spine as Eren held her small hand in his own.

 

“Yet every Eldian in this country speak of us that way, the descendants of Ymir, the girl who made a pact with a demon. The wretched blood, they call us. Traitors, outsiders, murderers , criminals. And me ?”

 

He chuckled, it was a mirthless sort of laugh. Deep and resounding. “Well, I’m just as frightening to them as the devil himself, aren't I?

 

He pulled her in. “You- you have the founding titan’s power.” She stuttered as she tried to yank her hand back, but that only made him tighten his hold on her.

 

“I do.”

 

“You are a danger to us.” She tried to push Eren, tried to kick him even, but he was far too close, and he pulled her with him each time. His height, and strength eclipsed her own.

 

I can’t make him bleed. And I can’t shift in this building!

 

“And you are in dangerous territory,” She warned him, “the Marley aims to recapture the founding titan, they all gathered in this very district to discuss how they would.”

 

“I’m sure they had. I’m not much of threat without it after all. I also aim to capture a titan shifter here as well.”

 

He let the idea sink into her. Annie stopped struggling against him,  struck with morbid curiosity.

 

“Have you heard of the War Hammer titan?”

 

Annie opened, then closed her mouth. She shook her head, though she was more confused than anything. “Only in meetings, I’ve never seen the actual titan, nor the person who wields the power.”

 

He wants the War Hammer shifter? Not me… Or Reiner, Or even Zeke?

 

She felt relief, for less than a second.

 

“No you wouldn't. The family keeps themselves well hidden. Even for an Eldian family, they’ve had close ties with the Marley for many years, but the War Hammer is exclusively they’re own, the Marley do not own them.”

 

“So you’re going to kidnap one of our shifters?”

 

“I’m not going to kidnap the War Hammer, I’m going to eat them, their power is valuable, and I aim to steal it.”

 

She didn't know what to say to that. So that is his plan, to claim the War Hammer’s abilities? He revealed it to her so casually she almost couldn't believe it.

 

As long as it’s not in Liberio… as long as he stays within this district I… I don’t have to fight.

 

The very thought was traitorous, but her life was in Liberio. Her home, her father. If Eren’s plan did not involve her, nor Reiner. Then… she supposed it was no concern of hers. Marley be damned. Unless they call upon her to engage him in combat, but by then she should be miles away from this damned Seaport.

 

“I think- “ She tugged at his hold on her, “I think I’ve been gone long enough, I have to go back Eren.” She looked up at him, her eyes a clear chilly blue, and her tone just as biting.  “Let. Me. Go.”

 

He did, in an instant. Annie rubbed her hand, now reddened by how tightly he clutched onto her. She turned her back to him, heading for the door, ready to bolt out, just as she twisted the knob he was upon her again.

 

“Annie.”

 

She yanked the door open, almost ran out, but he caught her arm. She was all but ready to reel back and sock him square in the face.

 

“You won’t tell anyone.” It wasn't a question, but a statement.

 

She whipped her head back, tossing an icy glare over her shoulder. “How do you know I won’t?”

 

“You’re not as loyal to the Marley as the others, they might pass it off as aloofness, but I can see through you.”

 

He let go of her arm, but his fingers remained touching her.

 

“You waver on a line between the Eldians in Paradise, and the Eldians here.”

 

“I care nothing for your people.” She hissed.

 

“And you’re terrible at lying.” His fingers grazed her elbow, she could feel his feather light touch trailing up her arm.

 

“I won’t pressure you to join my cause, it’s your decision who you side with. But know that back on the Island, I have more power than all of the Marley hoped to have. An army that sleeps, and they’re stronger than all of the nine titans combined. They’ll only awaken at my command, once I get back.”

 

His fingers grazed her shoulder now. Annie shivered involuntarily, not just from his touch. “Why are you telling me this?”

 

“I know you better than you think, Annie. You stay serving the people who you believe will allow you to live normally, but you don’t want to keep fighting any more than I do.”

She felt the tips of his fingers press down on her neck, he was leaning into her ever so slightly.

 

Even his voice became soft as a whisper. “If you join me, I will make sure this war ends more quickly, Paradise will soon have peace, and they’ll be no more fighting. Perhaps for centuries to come.”

 

No more fighting. No more war...

 

It sounded like a dream, really. All she ever wanted… even as a little girl. Was to live an untroubled lazy life with her father. Unbothered by world around her, not tangled within other people's affairs, fighting their wars, winning their victories, bearing their shame of failure. Even with two years of living left, she imagined she could do all of that...

 

But it is only a dream.

 

She felt Eren’s breath ghost over her lips, and the way his hand rested carefully on the nape of her neck, drawing her in closer, and closer.

 

"And then what?" Annie mumbled, blue eyes flitting between his mouth, and half-lidded green eyes.

 

But then his lips grazed hersshe gasped, shoving him away with all her strength. Without even thinking Annie swung her leg up and kicked his stomach, air was pushed out from his lungs, his back hit the floorboards with a loud 'Crack', Eren rolled onto his side, coughing wildly.

 

"Would the Survey Corp just pardon my treason?" Annie seethed, irked by his actions. "All the people I've killed? Don't think you can me fool with your speech, I'm not so easily manipulated. I know no matter whose side I fight for, I will always be a prisoner."

 

She turned than, and she fled the room. Racing down the hallway, she couldn't get out of there fast enough. Her boots stomping down the rickety stairs could be heard throughout the whole building.

 

Eren winced as he tried to sit up, but he was smiling even through the pain. "I'll see you again, Annie."

 

Chapter Text

She’s more cautious now than ever, paranoid, even. Chills racked her body, even walking among crowded streets, surrounded by her peers. She still felt as if she were being watched. Annie swore those shadowed green eyes of his were tracking her everywhere she went. Even if she did not ever catch a glimpse of him.

 

She was constantly looking over her shoulder now, trying to seek him out through the throngs of people, but she never saw him. He attended that, she knew. He hid himself well, it bothered her, just as it drove her to an edge. There was only two more days left until the meetings between the Marley’s officials, and Chief Zeke were dismissed, and then they were off to board the train back to Liberio.

 

The thought of Eren Jaeger attempting to sneak into Liberio, did not escape her, however. She often tossed and turned in her makeshift cot of the barracks. Restless, as her mind replayed everything he’d said to her like a broken record.

 

“I’m not going to kidnap the War Hammer, I’m going to eat them, their power is valuable, and I aim to steal it .”

 

“I know you better than you think, Annie. You stay serving the people who you believe will allow you to live normally, but you don’t want to keep fighting any more than I do.”

 

“... You don’t want to keep fighting any more than I do.”

 

“... Anymore than I do… “

 

He was right. Annie did not want to fight in anyone persons war. But what did it matter for whom she fights for?

 

They’re both shitty, the Eldians… the Marleyans…

 

The Marley had control over Eldians from the very beginning, until Ymir Fritz was born and came across an earth devil, whom she was said to have formed a pact with in exchange for power... Or so, that was what the Marley wanted Eldians to believe.

 

Through that mysterious power, birthed what would be the first ever titan shifter. After thirteen years of Ymir’s reign, she’d died of an unknown cause, and her power was split into nine inheritors, with one Eldian holding that of the founding titan. With the power of the nine titans, Ymir’s successors led her people to war against the Marley. A war that they promptly won.

 

As Eldia’s Empire expanded, so did the genocides of the Marleyan people. The Eldians were said to have used only their titans to purge other races, and steal their land, erasing many cultures in the process. They slaughtered, and they conquered anyone in their path. Until mutiny's started to rise within the nine shifters, only with the founding titan, the master of all, the coordinate , were they able to maintain order.

 

Then the Great War occurred. Millions of Marleyans, and Eldian’s died in battle for dozens of years, until a hero was raised among the Marley, the legend of Helos. The one Marleyan who sided with an Eldian family. With his luck, and the Eldians strength, he had defeated Karl Fritz and his titans, and put a stop to the raging wars. But the Marley had gained seven of the nine titan shifters in the process.

 

The first king had fled to the Island of Paradise, taking with him as many Eldian refugees as he possibly could, and, using the power of the founding titan, he commanded colossal titans to form a barrier around the remaining Eldians. Threatening that should the Marley ever seek to wage war against them again, he would release the titans, and flatten the earth.  

 

Those walls...

 

Annie remembered, the walls of Sina, Rose, and Maria were made of stone and iron, but… From what she’d heard, the three Walls were actually inhibited by those very dormant colossal titans. Hundreds of them, perhaps even thousands given the perimeter of each wall encircling the whole Island.

 

That’s what he meant, when he said he had a sleeping army … An army of giants.

 

The thought made her shudder. Eren had come to try and manipulate her by flaunting his power, she would not have any of that.

 

You’re no different . She thought. You want to conquer them just as they conquered you, it’s an endless bloody cycle.

 

She wondered if it would ever truly end, or if peace will ever be their silver lining.

 

If only...

 

“Miss Leonhardt?” A hand tugged at her wrist, Annie jolted back into reality, forgetting where she was for all of a second. The sound of waves, and seagulls made a cacophony of noise in her ears, the smell of sea salt was heavy in the air. The boardwalk of the pier, right. I’m so out of it.

 

She looked over her shoulder spotting a smaller girl whose blonde hair was back pulled into a ponytail, she wore the cadet uniform of the warriors. The girl peered up at her with dark worried eyes.

 

“You’ve been staring behind us for awhile, is something wrong?” The girl cocked her head to the side, trying to see what her Vice Commander could not.

 

“I’m fine, Zophia, I appreciate your concern.” Annie waved her off. “Go catch up with Reiner and the others, you should start packing today too, we leave the morning after tomorrow.”

 

The girl, Zophia, seemed reluctant to go, but she obeyed without question. Running off to join Reiner, and the other young warriors who’d gone ahead of them. Annie watched their backs as they retreated.

 

Her blue eyes swayed to Reiner as he ruffled the hair of his younger cousin, one of his successors, Gabi Braun. That girl was a fury to be reckoned with. All loud talk, a boisterous ego, and temper that burned like wildfire.

 

Annie frowned. She is like Eren… Or, at least, what he used to be.

 

Then there was Falco Grice, an Albino boy, and the brother of Colt Grice, the successor to the Beast titan. Falco was more reserved, like her, but often blustered when it came to Gabi. He was always trying to compete with her, no matter what the case was. Be it, physical combat, or a hot dog eating contest, Annie found his spirit to challenge Gabi at every turn rather amusing.

 

Udo, a black haired bespectacled youth, and more often than not, the brains of the young warriors, followed politely by Reiner’s side, Zophia caught up to him, startling the boy by clapping her hands on his shoulder. He let out a shrill scream, causing the group to erupt in fits of laughter.

 

Annie’s lips quirked in small smile. Zophia was to be the Female titan’s successor, but she still had a long way to go.

 

“Are my eyes deceiving me, or is our brooding Vice Commander actually smiling?”

 

Annie sighed at that weary lilt of a voice. “I don’t brood, Pieck.”

 

Said woman scoffed in response, swinging around so she stood in front of Annie. Annie was an inch shorter than Pieck, only five feet to her five foot one, but with that crutch Pieck was balancing herself on, she looked smaller than usual. Pieck was the night to Annie’s day. Long, thick black hair and dark sultry looking eyes that observed everyone, and everything.

 

While Annie preferred to use her free time honing her body into shape, Pieck often slept in. For her duty as the Cart titan required her to carry an arsenal on her back, the panzer unit, and more artillery than a tank.

 

But even for all of Annie’s strength, cunning, and skill, Pieck was still the most perceptive of the eldest warriors. Catching on to things that are often unseen in the eyes of others.

 

In other words, she is sneaky, and conniving.

 

But perhaps that was why Chief Zeke doted on Pieck. Always exclaiming she was ‘Exactly Right’ in any context.

 

“You never smile, not even at celebrations. What is the special occasion that brought on such a joyful mood?” Pieck glanced over her shoulder momentarily, looking back at her with a clever smile. “Could it be you’re possibly falling for the Armored titan? How sweet, you were staring directly at him, after all.”

 

Annie gagged. “Ugh, stop it, I was looking at Zophia. Anyway, what’re you doing here, didn't you leave with Colt and Porco earlier?”

 

“Ah, yes Pokko.” Pieck wagged her finger. “Poor Colt, couldn't handle his drink, he had two ales, thinking he could one up Pokko and the Chief, but he ended up being the one had.” Pieck shook her head. “He threw up last night’s supper all over poor Pokko.”

 

Annie grimaced. Glad I wasn't there to witness that.

 

“The chief was with you guys?” Annie started to walk down the pier, Reiner and the young warriors were slowly becoming a speck in the distance. She ought to catch up to them soon. Pieck followed at her own pace.

 

“He was.” Pieck nodded. “The meeting’s were dismissed earlier than usual, Colt was also with him this time.”

 

Annie perked at that. Interesting.

 

“Did Colt say anything of the meeting?”

 

Pieck gave a dry chuckle. “Only that it bored him to death, he isn't the most reliable informant, y’know, he kept saying Chief Zeke alluded him, Colt told me that the only secret our Chief  intended on revealing was, quote, the secret way he wipes his ass , unquote.”

 

Annie made a disgusted noise. Men.

 

“Anything else?”

 

Pieck hummed thoughtfully. “Hm, in the months to come, we should be preparing for our next attack on Paradise, though I’m sure you, as the Vice Commander, has received such information.”

 

“Of course.” Annie lied. She did well to mask the surprise. I was not told anything of this! Why the hell are we jumping into another war when we just got back from one?!

 

Irritation bubbled within her. I don’t want to go back there. And… If I leave… What damage will Eren cause here?  

 

Annie was the only one who knew that the ‘Usurper’ of the Marley resided on this very land. She did not tell a single soul. Even if her anxiety made her want to scream out for him to just leave her alone. For she knew she was being followed… Or at least, she felt so. Even now.

 

“You probably dread going back to that Island, huh?”

 

Annie groaned.  “I need a vacation.”

 

Pieck put a hand to her mouth, giggling. “ Well what better way to spend a vacation than on an Island.” She nudged Annie with a wink.

 

Annie merely rolled her eyes. After a moment of walking in comfortable silence, she decided to prod the Cart girl for more information. Or whatever quips of it she could stow away for later. Both young women stopped at a bench, once Annie had caught sight of Reiner standing watchfully off the shore of the Beach, while the kids chased, and splashed water at each other in the shallow waves. Completely ruining their uniforms. No doubt Commander Magath will get on me for this.

 

“So you’re saying the Marley are going to host a festival in Liberio?”  Annie leaned against the rails. The ocean breeze whipped her blonde hair about.

 

Pieck nodded. Taking a seat on the bench, she rested the crutch beside her. “So I’ve heard. Apparently the festival is to be a peacemaker sort between our enemies, as well as our allies, every countries representative whom had battled or aided the Marley in the past is going to be there.”

 

Annie raised an eyebrow. “That’s a war waiting to happen.” At home, no less. Damn it.

 

“Maybe.” Pieck hummed, “But I’ve heard rumors… Rumors that the Tybur family will actually be the ones to host the festival, on behalf of the Marley. What is his name… “ Pieck put a finger to her chin in thought, “Ah! Willy , Willy Tybur, yes. The Eldest son of the Tybur family, he’s to be the one to tell the story of the Great War, or Marley’s version of it at least.”

 

Annie furrowed her brows. “The Tybur family? Like… the Tybur family from the Eldian history texts?”

 

“The very same.”

 

“But… They hadn’t revealed themselves in centuries? What purpose would they have to show themselves now?”

 

Truthfully I thought the powerful Tybur family were a myth… But they’re real? What the hell else is being kept from us?

 

Eren’s voice echoed in her mind.

 

“The family keeps themselves well hidden. Even for an Eldian family, they’ve had close ties with the Marley for many years, but the War Hammer is exclusively their own .”

 

They’ve had close ties with Marley for many years. A drop of sweat ran down Annie’s temple.

 

“The Marley do not own them.

 

The legend of Helos. The Marley warrior, and the family who sided with him to overthrow the king…

 

Annie groaned. “Oh, shit.”

 

“Eh, sorry? I was only saying that the Marley consider the Tybur’s as honored guests, compared to other rich Eldian families.”

 

Annie cursed again. “I should’ve listened during those stupid History sessions.”

 

Pieck blinked languidly. “Um, yes. I suppose you should have. Why?”

 

Because the Tyburs are the family that have the WarHammer titan... The family whose ancestors aided Helos centuries ago. And now Eren…!

 

Annie jolted, wiping the bit of sand that caught in her eye. Pieck watched her warily. “Well you’re jumpy, is the thought of having to be sociable at a festival getting to you?”

 

Annie side-eyed her. “Yes. What time do we leave for Liberio?”

 

“At around 0600 am, Why?”

 

“When’s the next scheduled train for Liberio after that one leaves?”

 

Pieck was giving her a discerning look now. “ I’m not so sure , I think the next one is scheduled to board a week from now… Hey don’t tell me you plan on bailing on us.”  The cart girl chuckled lightly.

 

“No, I’m only asking in advance, in the case that one of us miss this one.”

 

Annie inwardly cringed. Eren was right, she was a terrible liar. But asking Pieck would be quicker than finding out the information on her own. Right now, time was of the essence.

 

“Tell Reiner I’m heading back to the barracks to pack up, and to make sure the kids dry off their uniforms when they’re done, I don’t want Magath getting on my ass for anything.”

 

“You suddenly sound determined,” Pieck raised an eyebrow, “What’s with this change of attitude?”


Annie turned to face her. “Oh, nothing . I just remembered, I have a date tomorrow.”

Chapter Text

Time was of the essence. Upon leaving the pier, Annie had Thirty-two hours to come up with a plan. She now had twenty-four hours to set the plan into motion.

And counting down.

The day ran its course, hour after hour passed by. The crack of dawn was spent running drills for the young warriors to keep them in shape. As the morning came by, Annie had gotten a hold of Pieck, claiming she needed the cart girl for a special mission.

The ‘mission’ in retrospect just turned out to be that Annie had need of Pieck’s womanly advice in shopping for more enticing clothing. Pieck had reminded her it was against the Marley regiment to be seen out of their standard warrior uniform when out in town. Yet she still gave some decent tips involving fashion. Though Pieck herself wasn't much of a shopaholic either. Her taste in casual clothing often involved long ankle length skirts, stark white blouses and boots. That wasn’t exactly too far off from their own dull standard uniform style.

If there was a way, Annie would have longed to contact her old roommate Hitch Dreyse of the Military Police and ask her for advice regarding quality feminine fashion.

After all, that was an ingredient to the scheme she was cooking. To capture the eyes, to draw away attention. Feed into the obliviousness as to not alert her prey. What better way to do that than to use her own body? It was all part of the plan.

 Annie Leonhardt was not above luring in naive men like a black widow does its meals by flaunting her femininity, or feigning innocence for that matter. It was one way to get what she wanted without breaking arms. Though she found she lacked the charismatic charm many young women so often do have; she made up for it with a more salacious wardrobe to tease and taunt. Never too touch, however. She would never stoop that low.

In the end, many men only wanted one thing after all. 

But Eren is different.

Annie crinkled her nose at the sight of a tacky blouse patterned in seashells. She moved the blouse to the side, sifting through the rack of clothing for something to catch the eye.

Well… Maybe not so different. He does want something from me. My loyalty.

Pondering, Annie fingered the sleeve of a cashmere pullover. The material was softer than any of the clothes she owned. Though she grimaced when she caught sight of the outrageous price written on the slip of paper dangling from the hem.

He thinks I’m easy to manipulate. He thinks just because I showed some sympathy for his people I would willingly join his side.

She had mulled over his words after that meeting. What did it matter that she spared a couple of lives in Paradise when she had killed hundreds more? In fact, what did it matter to him?

Annie shook her head, losing interest in the line of colorful blouses and sweaters. She moved about the small shop, squeezing through racks of polished leather shoes and fake pearls. But nothing caught her eye.

Pieck came burrowing out a thicket of frilly skirts than, a bit clumsily on her crutch. She smoothed the stray away tendrils of her long black hair that had gotten stuck on a button. The cart girl’s hair tended to get caught in anything. Annie folded her arms, nodding to the dark silky bundle Pieck clutched to her chest with one arm.

“What’s that you got there?”

Pieck only smiled, she held her arm up, unfolding the garment. It rippled like waves down to her ankles, a navy color greeted Annie’s eye. The dress looked decent; the sleeves stopped halfway down the forearm, the top was loose with a low neckline. And the skirt was cinched at the waist, it wasn’t too long, nor too short. Annie at least wouldn’t have to get it tailored to suit her height.

She gave Pieck a nod of approval. “Not bad.”

“Thought you might like it.” Pieck held out the dress, dropping it into Annie’s awaiting arms.

 “Not to be intrusive, Vice Commander. I know you said you wanted to look for more flirty styles. But you yourself aren’t a very flirtatious person. It begs me to wonder who exactly it is you are looking to impress, hm?”

Annie rolled her eyes, turning her back to the cart girl in search of the shop owner. “That’s none of your business.”

“Aw.” Pieck pouted. “Well, if you don’t tell me I’d just have to assume you’re playing dress-up for Reiner.”

Annie made a noise of disgust, to which Pieck giggled at.

She ignored Pieck’s japes after finding the shop owner. Annie had tried on the dress, and confirmed it was indeed a good fit. After she changed, she’d paid the shop owner the dresses full price; which was unfortunately half of the large sum she made as her rank of Vice Commander. It was even more expensive than that cashmere pullover.

Annie knew even Hitch would balk at this. But silk wasn’t cheap, and it especially wasn’t cheap for Eldians’.

Though it shouldn’t matter to her. Money being spent on frivolous things.

It’s all according to her plan. She will avoid engaging Eren in a fight. She will distract him, feed into his ideals of her joining his cause. She will keep him at the Seaport for as long as she could.

He will never board that train to Liberio.

Annie was going to make sure of that.


 

 

The Market’s only liquor shop closed during the afternoons. Annie had to meet with Reiner and the young warriors for lunch at a quarter to 13:00. But she had sent Colt to make her order with the old man that tended there. Colt was skittish at first. This districts law was different from that of Liberios when it came to alcohol. They prohibited those under the age of 18 to purchase alcohol under the suspicion that they might try to make off with it across the heavily guarded waters.

Though the old man was an Eldian himself. And Sometimes when the Marleyian authorities were out of earshot, he complained that his eyes were so bad, he couldn’t tell a young adult from an elder.

Her order was quite a popular drink. Marleys’ own special brew of red wine. Made up of fresh black grapes from the farms they’d hijacked from Eldian families in the far country side. Annie had tried it before though. Not being a fan of alcohol, she thought the taste was mediocre at best.

Perhaps Eren would think differently.

Annie waited outside the luncheon Café for Colt to arrive with her wine. She leaned against the boarded windows with Reiner accompanying her. He sat to her left on the bench by the front doors, and held a tin can of boiling lemon tea, occasionally taking sips. The inner skin of his palms was tinged a brighter red than tomato. Annie knew the tea must’ve been scalding him, yet Reiner had no reaction to it.

He welcomes the pain. It keeps him awake, reminds him he’s still alive.

She made no attempt to start a conversation with him. It always ended the same way. She didn’t like looking at his pathetic state. It made her feel almost guilty if she stared at him too long, and she believed she had no right to start sympathizing with him, yet.

From Inside the Café Annie heard Gabi’s proud piercing voice, the young cadet was going on about how she had destroyed the Mid-East Union’s armored train with a homemade bomb she concocted. It’s only the 25th time Annie had heard the story since they had gotten back from the trench. Annie doesn’t understand why Gabi was thrilled to offer herself as a willing sacrifice for a foolhardy plan. Though it worked, it was still reckless.

And stupid.

She wondered what a meeting between Gabi and a young Eren would’ve been like.

Like two stones scraping against each other perhaps. Emitting spark after spark, until they get a fire going. But that fire would slowly grow too big because, as reckless beings, the two would just keep fanning it until that fire became wildfire. And that wildfire would slowly spread and consume any and everything in its way.

In short, they’re both obtrusive, quick-to-fiery people. But that was a meeting only in theory; if she were to compare Gabi, and the Eren she was forced to follow less than a day ago. There wouldn’t be as much similarities. In fact, Eren never truly came off as being enraged at her. Maybe irritated.

Though he was certainly forward…

Annie’s mind came to that not-so kiss he’d given her before she fled. She tsk’d, turning her face away from Reiner so he wouldn’t spot the embarrassing blush that adorned her cheeks. Not that he’d notice anything within a foot of him these days.

“Hey, Miss Leonhardt!”

A voice called out. Both Reiner and Annie swiveled their heads to the owner of that voice—a tall, fair-haired young soldier who was running up to them, clutching a brown paper bag to his chest.

Colt was out of breath once he stopped short of his small Vice Commander. “Hey—” He coughed, trying to catch his breath, “—I got your wine.”

He held the paper bag out to her by the handle of the wine bottle inside. Annie took it by placing her hand on the bottom of the bottle first. She spared a glace to the contents inside to ensure it was exactly what she asked for.

“The bottle is smaller than I expected.”

“The old man told me It’s a little less than the standard size, seven-hundred fifty millimeters, but that’s the kind of bottle you get for the amount of money you gave.” Colt explained as courteous as he possibly could. He had always been intimidated by the little Vice Commander more so than Reiner, and the Warrior Chief, Zeke.

Annie sighed. “This’ll do then. Thank you, Colt.”

Colt gave a nod to Reiner. “What’s that you got there?”

“Tea.” Reiner muttered.

“Ah. So, are you guys going to have your own celebration too?”

Annie shared a glance with Reiner, who shrugged in response. She turned to Colt, drumming her fingers on the wine. “This is our celebration, I guess. Some peace and quiet, it’s too rowdy in there.”

Colt chuckled, “Yeah they’re pretty loud, huh.” He shuffled his feet a bit, looking every bit apprehensive as his light-colored eyes darted from the front doors of the café, to his superiors.

“Erm- Ahem—Miss Leonhardt?”

“You can just call me Annie, Colt. Only the kids address me Miss Leonhardt, and you’re hardly a kid.”

The cadet jumped, a pink hue adorned his pale cheeks. “Right! Heheh, it’s just you’re the Vice Commander and I well— never mind!” He shook his head frantically. “I just—I just wanted to give my thanks to you… for training me, that is.”

Colt sighed, running a hand through his hair. “I know I’m not a quick learner, but I’ve been getting the hang of the techniques you’ve taught me. I’m hoping to put all your teachings into good use when I acquire the Beast titan.”

Annie stared quizzically at him for a moment. Colt swallowed under her piercing blue gaze.

 “Yes well,” She nodded after a couple of seconds, “See that you do. I don’t always dedicate my free time to training soldiers who aren’t my priority.”

Colt grinned at that, pulling up the sleeve of his uniform. “Don’t worry, I will!” He flashed her the underside of his forearm; his sheet pale skin was littered with purple and green faded marks. Courtesy of the Vice Commander herself.

But he seemed proud to bare them. “I didn’t earn these bruises for nothing,” Colt rolled his sleeve back down. “Those kicks of yours really hurt, and you grapple way too hard, sometimes I feel like I’m going to pass out from it.”

“That’s kind of the point.”

Colt laughed again. “I suppose so. Well that’s all I wanted to say. I’ll see you guys later! I promised Porco I’d make up to him by buying him lunch this time.”

“Try not throwing up on anybody.” Annie called out after him. Colt flushed, ducking his head as he entered the café. The doors opened, noise erupted from within—then the doors swung shut behind him, quickly muffling the racket.

Annie took her place against the boarded the windows. Still drumming her fingers against the wrapped wine bottle.

Eren said the same thing to me once too… Didn’t he? During our trainee days…

“You trained with Colt?”

Reiner’s gruff disused voice almost startled her. Almost.

She shrugged. “I trained Colt, for some time. Yes.”

Reiner sipped his chilled tea once, then asked. “Why?”

“Why not?” Annie rubbed her temple, feeling the feather light fingers of déjà vu prod at her brain. A conversation had started like this between them years ago, hadn’t it? It almost seemed like she was a trainee again, back on Paradise Island, back within the walls. Back with the 104th squadron. In that memory she had bitterly answered, “Because you threw the idiot my way.”

In the here, and now. She only sighed, “He asked me too. And Zeke isn’t the best at hand to hand combat. Colt will be at a disadvantage if the only thing he picks up from the Chief is how to pitch a ball.”

Reiner made an airy sound, like a laugh but not quite. “… You know sometimes I see them when I look at the others.”

Annie perked an eyebrow, but she knew what he was going on about. She was glad she wasn’t the only one who did.

“Bertolt, Marcel…” Reiner leaned against the back of the bench, craning his neck up to the cloudy afternoon skies. “… The entire 104th squad. I see them all here. All the time. The dead ones especially.”

He grimaced, “I wish I didn’t. They haunt me everywhere I go. Especially him.”

Reiner took a hard chug of his tea, swallowing audibly. Annie swore she almost heard the man whimper.

“This is my penance I suppose… I hurt him the most.”


 

 

Thirty minutes to 20:00, Annie hurriedly made her way down the same back alleyways Eren had led her though a day prior. She clutched the top of her long trench coat with one hand, underneath it she carried a satchel. The wine Colt had purchased for her was safely hidden inside. Night had already set in, and the skies were a clear indigo speckled with distant twinkling stars. There was a brisk chill in the wind, coming from being too close to the sea, but it was nothing she couldn’t handle

The silk dress she bought in the morning felt light, and pleasurably smooth against her skin. The hem of the dress swished around her lithe pale legs. She would have worn some woolen stockings she owned too; but they itched badly so she discarded them in favor of shorts to wear beneath the dress.

Annie had styled her hair to the best of her ability. She settled on a loose braid; combing her long bangs to the side, tendrils of platinum blonde still obscured her eyes. She also had applied a bit of light make-up. A sweep of mascara to make her eyes stand out, nude lip stick, a dust of dark eyeshadow for a sultrier look. She even powdered her face to a livelier rouge complexion. This game wasn’t new to her, so she had taken to learning about cosmetics and beauty earlier on.

Though Eren wasn’t the type to care much for appearance. If she was being honest with herself; Annie didn’t know what Eren looked for in a woman. Or if he favored the opposite sex at all.

She’ll find out soon enough though. It’s not like it mattered too much to her. She knew him. And he had known her. They had respect for each other. That’s what mattered most. That familiarity. That admiration. If she played her cards right, she might be able to manipulate him; as he had tried to manipulate her, using only her words.

There might not even be a need for the wine.

Still, she tried not getting her hopes high. This was Eren Jaeger, after all.

"-Isgusting bastard!”

Annie halted in her path.  

Glass shattered in the distance, followed by raucous laughter.

What was that?

Going for a stroll at night pass the Marleys’ curfew hours was dangerous; walking in the back alleys at night pass curfew hours, was even more dangerous. Annie squared her shoulders, continuing down the narrow cobblestone path towards the noise. She walked carefully to avoid having her heels clack too much.

Annie stopped short of a corner, just when that same obnoxious laugh erupted.

“Oh shit, Look! Look at his eye! Haha!”

She crept forward cautiously. Keeping one hand on the grimy wall, she peeked around the corner. There was a dumpster which obscured a lot of her view. But Annie did see two young men. One who was sharply dressed, and laughing like a hyena, and another who stood off to the side with his back facing her, that one’s arms were crossed. But she saw clearly the absence of the star arm band on both men.

Marleyian Civilians? What are they doing in an Eldian neighborhood? …

The dumpster hid her view of what she was certain was a poor incapacitated Eldian.

The laughing man kicked at the body behind the dumpster, Annie heard a low groan.

“C’mon gutter rat, preach to us again. So we can knock you the fuck out some more.”

Annie swallowed inaudibly.

This is none of business. Turn around. Don’t look back. These things always happen.

And she was. She was just about to step away, to put what she saw behind her, and erase it from her memory. Until she heard his voice.

“You’re only going to… damage your delicate fists.”

Annie shut her eyes, sighing exasperatedly.

Damn it.  

“C’mere, you one-eyed bitch.”

Annie peeped around the corner again, the laughing man was no longer laughing, but snarling into the face of the suicidal idiot she was supposed to use her nearly non-existent charm on.

Damn it Eren!

Annie could barely see the other titan shifter, and his long hair fell over his eyes and much of his face. But that well-dressed young man was holding Eren up by his shirt high enough that she could make out the cuts on his cheek, and the smear of red covering his chin. The one holding Eren hissed something, before launching his fist into Eren’s stomach—Eren doubled over, but the suited man caught him, holding him up by his shoulders, before striking Eren’s chest with his knee.

Eren fell limply; Annie winced.

That’s twice he’s been kicked in the chest now.

The well-dressed man who seemed to be doing all the violence gestured to Eren, looking to the other young man who stood idly off to the side. “Walter, frisk him. Dirty rat may actually have something of value on him.”

The one called ‘Walter’ cringed at Eren’s crumpled form on the ground, “Fuck no. You do it. I don’t want to touch him, he looks so filthy.”

The well-dressed one sighed with a dramatic roll of his eyes. “Ugh, fine.”

Annie decided that was enough. She stepped out into the open.

“Hey.”

Her presence startled the two young men enough for them to look fearful for a split second.

“What!—Oh…” The suited man jumped to his feet, looking every bit like an angry well-dressed pig in Annie’s eyes.

“it’s just another Eldian…” He smirked, his eyes landing on her armband, then scoured the rest of her body.

“But this one’s a doll, you got money pretty girl?” His smile was lecherous.

Annie ignored him. “That man there, leave him alone.”

“Or what?” The suited man was approaching her now. Sure footed, and cocky.

These types are always cocky.

“What’re you going to do little girl, hm?” He stopped just a foot away from her. He attempted to be dominating but it didn’t work on her, he wasn’t so tall, in fact, he only had three more inches on Annie. She wondered how Eren could let himself get beaten by such a shrimp of a man.

Annie shrugged. “Nothing. I’m only asking you to leave him alone. You’re beating up a defenseless civilian, and for what? I thought the Marleyians of this district were already rich. You certainly look so, why waste your time stealing from the poor?”

The suited man looked bewildered for a moment, then he laughed that hyena-like laugh of his that had Annie, and even the one called Walter cringing at the sound.

“Why the fuck,” He stepped closer, “would I care about what you think? Walter get over here!”

Walter hesitated, “Uh—but I’m watching the gu—”

“I said get the fuck over here!”

“Okay.”

The suited man leered down at her, “You see, nobody gives a shit what you think. You’re nothing, you were born a little squealing rat like that one over there. Little Eldian girl, you might dress prettily but you’re worth no more than shit off my shoe.”

“Is that supposed to hurt my feelings?” Annie dead-panned.

The suited man chortled. “You think you’re tough, huh?” He leaned into her face, this one reeked of musky cologne and sweat. Annie wrinkled her nose but looked directly into his eyes. Challenging him.

“No, I’m just a bystander. Are you really going to force yourself on a frail woman like me?”

“Frail?” His eyes trailed downward, lingering on her chest some. His eyes narrowed upon meeting her face once more, his hand reached out to grasp her, “Let’s see how frail you really are—Huh!?”

Annie caught his wrist, twisting it. The suited man yelped, not expecting any retaliation, he tried to pull away, but she quickly dragged him down to her height.

“Very.”

She kicked his ankles, so he tumbled over, but she still had a firm grip on his wrist. She yanked his arm higher, forcing him to his knees.

“Ah, fuck! What—what the fuck, you bitch! Walter!”

Annie expected this ‘Walter’ to intervene. She acted fast, without a second thought— she kicked the suited man’s head into the nearby dumpster. Her polished black heel went flying in another direction. He was out the moment the impact came, sliding down the dumpster like a forgotten rag doll.

Walter hadn’t reacted quick enough, he stared at his friend’s unconsciousness body. Too overwhelmed to do anything. “Holy shit… Heinz! Fuck!”

Walter waved his hands hysterically. “You fucking killed him!”

Annie rolled her eyes. “I only knocked him out. He tried to grab me after all, we may not be protected against violence, but we are when it comes to sexual assault. I had every right to defend myself against a molester.”

Walter shook his head frantically. “Heinz is not a—a molester! He—Oh, fuck off! I’m going to report you to the authorities!”

Walter turned to run. “An Eldian whore like you should be locked up—”

Annie tilted her head. Eren stood in Walter’s way.

The Marleyian’s hands were trembling. “Get—get out of my way…”

Calmly, Eren took hold of Walter’s throat. Walking him into the same wall the suited man Heinz had held him against.

Strangely, Annie felt her stomach drop. As if this was the part where she knew it was going to get out of hand.

“Wait… Eren—”

He squeezed Walter’s throat, so tightly that the dirty tan of knuckles became a lighter tint. The young Marleyian emitted a choking sound, grasping at Eren’s arms, weakly shoving at his face, Eren merely brushed off the other’s hands.

“Eren.” Annie cautiously approached his side, like one would a rabid dog. With him closer now, Annie could see the damage the two Marleyians’ did to his face. There was a bruise blossoming underneath his right eye, his lip was split, bleeding profusely, and his left eye—Annie gaped— was gone. Where there should be an eye was just shriveled eyelid skin, and a nail length scar running from his brow to his cheek bone.

“I don’t get it,” Eren’s voice was soft but gruff. “I felt his fists on my face, he made me bleed. I never made any attempt to fight back, and yet,” Eren leaned in, “… Yet the true hatred I saw was in your eyes, how you did nothing but watch. You secretly enjoyed watching him beat me.”

The whites of Walter’s eyes were wet and reddening from lack of oxygen. He beat at Eren’s chest, to no avail. Eren observed him with a lack of emotion. He could’ve been looking at the wall itself, the way Eren regarded this Marleyian boy.

“Do you really hate me so much? Is all that hate well-earned for one Eldian? Did I deserve the beating he gave me, for simply existing? To what—atone for what my ancestors did to his hundreds of years ago? This is a new age now, why do we have to stay living in the past?”

Annie tentatively touched his elbow. “Eren, that is enough.”

He looked at her, finally. Annie almost wished he didn’t. His one eye didn’t look like his own, brightly peering down at her through his tangles of dark hair.

Walter was starting to gag, clawing at Eren’s hands. His feet beat on the pavement. Eren focused on him again. Holding him for a moment longer before releasing him. Walter sucked in a breath, red welts lined his throat. Sensing freedom, he tried to run, but Eren immediately shoved him back.

Walter coughed, “Just let me go, please!”

Eren delicately grabbed the Marleyian by the chin, he turned Walter’s head so the Marleyian’s view was focused on the petite blonde before him.

He leaned in so that his mouth was aligned with Walter’s ear. “Apologize to her.”

“W-what?”

Annie stepped back, folding her arms. “Eren, this is unnecessary.”

His behavior was unsettling her. Already had the moment he got back up.

What is wrong with him?

“Not to me.” Eren didn’t take his eyes off Walter. He clutched the Marleyian’s face tighter, causing the man to whimper pathetically.

“This woman here. She’s the Vice Commander of the Warrior’s Unit. In other words. A titan shifter.”

Upon hearing that sentence. Walter’s eyes bulged from their sockets more so than when he was being strangled. His mouth went agape in shock.

Annie’s face rivaled Walter’s. Though she appeared more furious than anything.

This bastard just revealed my identity!

“She’s a high-ranking soldier,” Eren continued, ignoring the blonde’s murderous glare at his side.  “Not a bitch, not a whore. She’s the reason you never became fodder for your enemies.”

Eren let go of Walter’s chin, nudging him toward her. “Apologize.”

Hot tears ran down Walter’s cheeks. He looked even younger, bawling like a child in front of her.

“I—I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know—we didn’t know. I’m… please—” He turned to Eren. “Can I leave now? You were right about Heinz! But I never laid a hand on you o-or that girl, please let me go.  I won’t tell… I won’t tell anyone I swear!”

Eren looked to Annie. There was something in that vivid green eye of his she didn’t like, something that caused her insides to turn cold as ice. Feeling uneasy, she hugged herself tighter. Giving her back to him.  

Eren kept his sight on her but lazily gestured to Walter. “Go.”

Walter sprung to his feet, ready to flee from the dumps of the Eldian tenement back alleys. Eren caught him by the arm before he could make a break for it.

“Bayside Pier, by the docks, where the trade boats come in.”

Walter blinked away his tears.  “H-huh—”

“Your mother lives by there.” Was all Eren said. Walter was silent, comprehending Eren’s words, then he sobbed louder. Eren let him go. For sure this time.

 

Chapter Text

“That was so foolish of you! Idiot. You’re an idiot!”

Annie threw the broken heel she had snapped onto the table with more force than was necessary. She was pissed, and bare-footed because she couldn’t walk wearing only one high heel. Her braid she had carefully styled was frazzled and coming even more undone. Her face was flushed, her breathing erratic, she glared contemptuously at the very idiot who was becoming more irksome by the second. He didn’t even show an ounce of worry, shrugging out of his soiled white overcoat while she screamed at him.

“You realize that Marleyian could have gone to the authorities by now, and you told him who I am!”

Eren took a spare hanger from his wardrobe, “You know you’re more prone to outbursts now. I like that, makes you more human. Don’t worry, he won’t tell.”

Annie flushed a darker pink at his previous comment. “You don’t know that.”

She sighed when he turned his back to her to hang up his coat. If the Marleyian authorities showed up at her door tomorrow, well, she’s going to be trialed, and quite possibly stripped of her rank. She would be forced to explain what happened in front of her peers and the Marley’s officials. Even if she claimed self-defense, the justice system of the Marley had always been unfairly cruel to Eldians. She wondered if Eren told that Marleyian who she was on purpose. He probably had.

Asshole.

She felt two large warm hands on her shoulders, Annie jerked away from the touch. Looking up into that one bright green eye. Eren held up his hands, “Sorry, let me get your coat for you. Then we could talk. That’s what you came here to do, right?”

She regarded him coolly. “… Yes.” Annie removed her trench coat, handing it to him. Then brought the satchel above her head, mindful of the glass bottle within, she carefully placed it on the table right to her snapped heel.

She knew Eren was staring at her. He did it so blatantly, she almost felt compelled to cover her chest as if she were standing there nude. Instead, she folded her arms and took a seat. Boldly raising an eyebrow his way, Eren did the same with a curious tilt of his head.

“… Nice dress.” He commented plainly.

“Thanks.” She answered in the same tone.

With that he went to go hang up her coat. “So, what’s in the bag?”

“Wine.” Annie opened the flap of the satchel, she took out the bottle, brushing her heel out the way, she placed the wine on the middle of the table. “It’s a Marley brand favorite.”

Eren hummed. “Hopefully not spiked with anything?”

“No. but I’m starting to wish I did put something in it, with the way you acted.”

She could see the corners of Eren’s lips tilt upward in a smile.

Annie leaned against her seat, crossing her legs underneath the table. “Why were you out there pass curfew? Were you spying again?”

Eren rummaged in his overcoat pocket for something. “Hn, and who exactly am I going to be spying on?”

Annie huffed, “You tell me.”

He shrugged, finding what he was looking for, he took the hair tie out of his coat pocket. “It was an experiment for me. I just thought,” He turned to her, “If I’m an Eldian here, I should try to live like one, blend in.”

“You’re insane.”

He merely shrugged again.

She took in the bleeding scratches on his face that were gradually disappearing. The cut on his lip that was slowly mending itself, the bruise underneath his right eye that was slowly fading. All his injuries were healing, except for his left eye.

“Did they do that you?” Annie gestured to his scarred eye. Eren occupied the empty seat across from her, playing with the hair tie in his hand.

“I did this… to myself.”

That took Annie back. She furrowed her brows, “Why—”

“I have to look the part of a poor Eldian citizen, don’t I?”

He’s more mentally unstable than Reiner… Or is this… Is this part of some bigger plan of his?

Before she could ask him another question, he beat her to it.

“So, what’s your story.” Eren raised his hands, tying his long hair up into a bundle. “You obviously sought me out. But what’s your reason for being here, Vice Commander?”

The way his voice dropped an octave as her title rolled off his tongue made her shiver. She composed herself. “I’ve been considering your offer.”

“Have you?”

Annie bit into the plush of her bottom lip. Feigning hesitation. “This… This isn’t me saying yes straight away but… I have been thinking what would be better for my father once I pass.”

She wrung her hands under the table. “I know I won’t last in this world too long. And my father is handicapped, he’s been out of work since I was a child. He’s my only family, so when I die, all my earnings will go to him. Honestly, my death is inevitable, so I at least would like to pass knowing he’s living somewhere safe, preferably out of this godforsaken country.”

Annie spared a glance to Eren. His right eye was focused solely on her—which unsettled her some—but he seemed to be lost in thought.

“You really care about him.”

“Of course I do, he’s my father.”

Eren settled back into his seat. Drumming his fingers onto the table. “… Say that I can smuggle your father into Paradise—”

Annie perked up.

“—how do I know you won’t betray me in the long run?”

The blonde narrowed her eyes.

What the hell? He practically begged me to join his rebellion, now he’s having second thoughts? I’ll have to clear his doubts…

“You want my power, right? You want me to join forces with you and aid you towards whatever goal you’re aiming for.” Annie leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table. The low neckline of her dress dipped lower, revealing more of her pale bosom. She caught Eren’s working eye dart down before immediately focusing on her face again.

She smirked inwardly.

“You should know this by now already, Eren. There’s a limit to the people I care about. But I always put myself, and my father, first.”

“So that just guarantees me your loyalty?” His voice sounded tight.

“Shouldn’t it? How many times do I have to mention that I’m going to die soon? I don’t care what happens after. If you promise me my father’s safety, and can see it through, we might have a deal.”

Eren still drummed his fingers. He started to tilt his chair backward, the way a distracted child might do in a boring class.

“it’s war Annie, some people die. Some people live.”

“Yes, and the weak follow the strong. The strong protect the weak.”

She peered at him through her darkened lashes. “We’ll just have to make sure the odds are in our favor then, won’t we?”

The creaking of his chair resounded in the small studio room. Increasing, then decreasing in volume. Annie watched him as the gears in his mind spun.

“… You’d stay by my side,” He spoke quietly, his eye cast down, “Even if that means the whole world will be against you?”

Annie blinked. The whole… world?

“What do you mean?”

Eren shook his head, halting his chair shenanigans. “I’m the most dangerous man in the world, according to the Marley, I have all the power they want. Other nations know what I am to them, a threat. But they don’t consider me their ally, because I am Eldian. I am also a threat. Pretty unfair isn’t it? Paradise is an island of war criminals born from war criminals. It’s become a target for countries all over the world. They want my power, Annie. To subjugate my people.”

Annie stared at the wine bottle.

“So, I decided to take the matter into my own hands on Paradise.”

“You did come here alone.” She muttered. The realization suddenly dawned on her only then. It would make sense. If the Survey Corp—the Queen—or whomever mandated power on Paradise were to enact terrorism on Marley soil, considering their Eldian history, their so-called blood of the devil, then the Marley would ally with its former enemies to bring them down. To the Marley; Paradise was an even bigger enemy than all the nations they had fought.

Everyone on that island would be eradicated.

A seed of unease settled in the pit of her stomach.

And Eren plans to steal the War Hammer titan from the Marley… He’s committing a grand sacrifice, thinking all his people would be willing to fight for him! He’s mad but also… right.

“I do have some people on my side. I had to act first, or the Marley surely would have. Tell me, weren’t you and the other warriors going to initiate an attack on Paradise, regardless of the actions our people took?”

Annie bowed her head. Eren got his answer.

“That’s why I ask,” he scooted his chair closer, leaning in on his elbows, mirroring her pose. “If you will stay with me, even when you will be marked as an enemy to not only the Marley and its allies, but too Paradise as well.”

Annie shook her head, “My father—”

“Will be safe.” Eren assured her, his green eye gleaming brightly beneath his tousled fringes. “He’s an Eldian, it will be easy to hide him among the others. You can’t claim he’s your father, of course, but you’ll still be able to see him from time to time.”

Upon hearing that—her hands trembled, she balled them into fists to still them.

What is this… Trepidation? Is he really convincing me? No… No, I cannot be tricked.

 Annie looked at him. At his green eye, peering at her with all the curiosity of a cat. Then to the scar where his right eye should be. Then she looked to the wine she had purchased.

I got two years left too live.  I do not plan on wasting those two years fighting your war, Eren.

She moved forward and grasped his strong tan hands into her own small pale ones. She heard him sharply intake a breath.

“As long as my father is safe, and this war is over before I reach my death date. Then you found yourself a warrior. I just hope you don’t make me regret it.”

Eren was too stunned at her touch to form a quick response. He was still looking at their entwined hands, his mouth opened slightly. Experimentally he ran his thumb over hers. Annie watched the movement with heavy lidded eyes.

“You’d stay by my side?” His voice was almost a whisper.

“Yes.” Her voice sounded breathless, she didn’t know why.

“Fight a war with me?”

“Yes.”

They stayed like that for a while. Time seemed to just pass by, Annie couldn’t believe how tiny her hands were in his.

… He’s warm…

She didn’t know what was to come next. Then, Eren brought one her hands up to his lips, and he kissed her knuckles. His facial hair felt scratchy against her skin.

Annie fought to keep herself from squeaking at the sudden show of affection. The apples of her cheeks tinted a rosy hue, becoming darker beneath all that blush she had applied.

What- what is he—

“If you were going to join me, you didn’t have to doll yourself up like that.”

Annie’s blue eyes widened. “What?”

He still held her hand close to his mouth, she felt his warm breath tickle her skin, she shuddered. “I think that was a bit excessive of you. I prefer you just as you are, Annie.”

Annie scoffed. She yanked her hand back, heat rising to her face, and in other places. “I didn’t dress up for you!”

He only smiled.

Annie tsk’d, turned her beaming red face from him. “And what was with that, anyway? Kissing my hand like some… prince.”

He shrugged. “I was being chivalrous.”

“Chivalrous?”

“Don’t girls like a chivalrous gentleman?”

She scoffed again. “You are anything but gentle.”

“Is that why you were drawn to me?”

Annie sputtered. Her cheeks so red, it looked as if she had come down with hives. “Excuse me?”

“Why else would you have dressed up like that?” He gestured to his cheeks, “All that make-up? You look… not like yourself, but I appreciate the lengths you went through. Even bringing wine.” He nudged the bottle.

Annie, dying to change the subject. Decided it’d be best if they open said wine. Now.

He’s got me feeling weird…

“We should open it, don’t you think? I wasted hard-earned money on it after all.”

Eren chuckled. “You broke my only cup, remember?”

“Ah.”

“Don’t worry.” He got up, looking her over again. “I have some metal spares. Unless you’d rather drink straight from the bottle.”

“And get your infectious craziness? I don’t think so.”

Eren snorted. He turned from her, walking to his bed, he got down on one knee then pulled out a small crate from underneath.

As he rummaged through the crate. Annie swiftly pulled out a small vile from inside her brassier. The vile was filled with a clear liquid.

One drop for dizziness, two drops for drowsiness, three drops for sleep.

She didn’t know what it was exactly. The shady Eldian dealer she had bought it from after lunch hour hadn’t known himself. But Eren was a titan shifter, he could heal any injury sustained to him. So, even if this questionable liquid was dangerous for his body, she was sure his power would mend it.

I hope.

Silently she popped open the wine cap. And, dropped the designated amount of liquid into the wine.

One. Two. Three.

She closed the cap tightly. Stuffing the vile back into her bra cup. It was uncomfortable there. But also, unnoticeable. Eren had checked her coat pockets when he went to hang up her coat, she was sure of that.

Said titan-shifter got to his feet again. Holding two metal tin cans. Annie rested her chin in her hands as he placed the cups on the table.

“You want to do the honors, or should I?” He jested. Annie humored him.

“Go ahead. It’s your celebration.”

Eren chuckled again, grabbing the wine bottle. “Celebration for… what exactly?” He popped the cap open, then poured the red liquid equally into both cups.

“You got a warrior in your ranks now, I’d say that calls for a celebration.”

“Hm…” He looked at her with a twinkling green eye and a smile playing on the edges of his lips. “I guess so.”

He grabbed his tin cup, and she grabbed hers. They clinked their metal cups together. Then they drank to good fortune. Or, rather Eren did.

Annie let the wine touch her lips on the rim of the cup, but did not let a drop go in. She feigned swallowing the alcohol. Eren drank the whole thing. Then he placed his cup back on the table.

He made a face as if he had eaten something strongly sour.

“Blegh.”

Annie couldn’t help but laugh at him. She never laughed, but sometimes it slipped through. Her laugh was obnoxious, and curt. She hated it. But from the warm way he regarded her, she would think he liked that sound. Annie cleared her throat.

Eren grumbled. “Don’t laugh at me. I drink my fair share of alcohol all the time. I’m just not big on wine.”

“Too fancy for you?”

He snorted. “I prefer ale to grapes.”

Eren plopped down into his empty seat. He eyed the wine for a moment, before grabbing it again, and pouring himself another cup.

Annie gave a condescending look. “Not big on wine, huh?”

“I’m not, but… Eh, I’m big on alcohol.”

Annie frowned at that but said nothing.

I might have to stop him if he keeps drinking…

Anyway, look whose talking. You’re still on your first cup.” He pointed to her own tin.

Annie shrugged. “While you may be big on alcohol, I never was. And I don’t think I can handle it very well, I do need to be sober if I’m heading back to my station.”

 “Does Reiner drink?” Eren swished the wine in his cup before taking another gulp.

Annie furrowed her brows. Thinking back to the first year the remaining warriors spent back in their homes away from that devil island. Reiner would down a bottle of scotch quicker than a parched man in a desert would down water. The hard liquor had only made things worse for him of course.

She shifted in her seat. “Nothing else aside from tea.”

“Hm, that’s strange.”

You’re strange.

“How is he?”

“Drowning in his guilt. Still mourning over our loss, seeing dead people that aren’t actually there.” Annie described Reiner as if she were describing the weather.

Eren hummed into his cup. “You know, it wasn’t until after Bertolt died, I started to feel guilt over his death.”

“So, he did die?”

Annie should have known. But, somehow hearing about Bertolt from Eren, made her heart sink. It was never confirmed, not really. Bertolt was considered missing in action. But the warriors who had been to the island, all knew he wouldn’t have lasted long in Paradise. He had been the colossal titan, after all. Nicknamed the god of destruction. The second titan to fear after the founding.

“I thought you would know of that?” Eren had the gull to look surprised, he placed his cup back on the table.

“No, well… we only theorized it to be true.”

“I’m sorry.”

Annie waved him off.

What’s the point of apologizing now, or at all even?

“That must mean, there is a new colossal titan?” She looked at him expectantly.

“it’s not me. No. The person who inherited the colossal titan is reliable but…” Eren broke off in a heavy sigh. “their views differ from my own too much. I don’t think I could ever win them over to my side. “

Annie caught the hint of sadness in his voice. She folded her hands together. Slouching into her chair, with a tongue to her cheek. Her thoughts surrounded by that of the previous colossal titan shifter.

“You know Reiner used to tell me that… Bertolt had feelings for me. That he always had, since our cadet days. He said Bert would stare at me a lot.”

Why am I revealing this to him?

Though she supposed Bertolt’s secrets shouldn’t matter. It’s not like Bertolt was alive to sulk in embarrassment anymore.

Eren was bewildered. As if something like that would never go amiss by him. “And you never noticed?”

Annie shrugged. “I wasn’t paying attention to him all the time. He was too tall to look up at, I wouldn’t know if he was staring at me or not, or even what face he was making unless I got a stool.”

Eren laughed, but quickly disguised it as a cough when Annie glowered at him.

“You’re still pretty short you know, how old are you now?”

“Twenty. And you’re still a suicidal moron.”

Eren raised his cup to that.

He gulped down the last of his wine, his tongue darted out to catch that last ruby drop beading down his lips.

Annie’s face burned as she observed him, she rubbed her thighs together smoothing her hands over her lap. Swallowing inaudibly, Annie pulled her attention to the window behind them that over looked the vast dirty back alleys of the neighborhood. The window was shut to prevent the chilly air from entering, but she could still faintly smell the sea, miles away.

She wondered if that Marleyian she had knocked out had woken up at some point. Hopefully that one suffered a concussion.

Elsewise I’m going to be charged with assault twice.

“Annie,” She heard Eren clear his throat, “I-uh… wanted to apologize for that kiss, the other day.”

Annie straightened.

When she turned to him, he appeared rather sheepish, scratching at his temple. If Annie didn’t know any better, she would think he was also blushing, but it was hard to tell given his olive complexion.

“I acted impulsively but, these days I often do things without even thinking.”

She folded her arms. “Like trying to kiss a girl without her consent?”

He winced. “Yes.”

“I accept your apology than.” She narrowed her eyes, taking him in. Eren looked relaxed if not a bit agitated. Russet fringes fell over his eye, he swept the tendrils back over his ear. The first button of his shirt was popped open, and there was still was some blood stains dotting his collar. It made him look a bit feral to her. Annie cocked her head to the side, “Maybe you can make it up to me?”

It’s only a matter of time until the drug kicks in…

“Huh?” He blinked. “Make it up to you?”

“You nearly stole my first kiss.”

“That was your first kiss?!”

She blushed, nervously shuffling her feet as butterflies erupted in her belly. But she forced herself to keep her sight on him.

“Almost first kiss. And what of it? I have duties, I just—I don’t waste my time on that kind of thing.”

Eren rubbed the nape of his neck. “Neither do I… So, you want me too…?”

“Kiss me again?” Despite how wired she looked, her tone was unwavering. And—

It’s just Eren. One kiss shouldn’t matter. He’s going to knock out soon, anyway… I need a distraction.

Eren got to his feet. In three steps he was in front of her. Annie craned her neck to meet his face, which was twisted in uncertainty.

“Just a kiss?”

She nodded slowly, never taking her eyes off his.

He leaned down, brushing loose platinum tendrils from her face, then cupped her cheek. His vivid green eye bore into her blue ones, she was sure was going to drown in green for the rest of her life if she let this happen. She was sure was going to regret it.

No. It doesn’t matter. None of this matter. All that matters is—

Annie closed her eyes, she smelled grapes on his breath as he inched closer, and then felt his lips on hers. He was warm.

Oh.

The kiss shouldn’t had lasted as long. But it did. A simple peck had turned to something chaste. Something far more intimate than they had intended. Eren pulled away almost immediately when he felt Annie’s cool fingers enclose around his wrist.

They stared at each other. Close, and curious. As tension thickened with pleasure from their kiss. Her first kiss with the most wanted man in the country. Who she had once mentored.

Eren muttered as he tucked her hair behind her ear. “It’s a miracle that I can get someone like you on my side.”

Annie surged up, grasping the front of his shirt, he straightened and stumbled, but his hands found her slim waist. Without the extra inch her heels had provided she was forced to stand on her tip toes. She pulled him in and kissed him fervently. Eren slanted his mouth over hers, and she felt the brush of his tongue against her lips, asking permission. This was so new to Annie. Hesitantly she parted her lips, felt his tongue run along her own. She shivered, nearly recoiled, but relented. Relaxing into his arms.

She tasted summer wine. Black grapes, alcohol, sugar and, beneath that, Eren. Just Eren.                               

His hands moved lower down her hips, smoothing the soft silk of her dress. She could almost feel his heated palms on her body through the thin material. As if he were leaving a burn where he touched her. It must be due to his shifting ability, but if that were the case, she should be burning him just as well.

Her hands moved to his broad shoulders clutching him tightly. Eren groaned, pulling back only an inch just to rest his forehead against hers. He stilled, holding her close. His erratic breathing matched her own; their tempo synchronized.

Then he chuckled lightly.

Annie’s attention went to his well-kissed lips then to his green eye that was heavily lidded. She pressed her thumbs in the hollows of his collarbone. “What?”

He laughed again, “Sorry, I just had this outrageous thought.”

“About what?”

He smirked, lowered his head to the side of hers, lips to her ear, and whispered. “That you put something in that wine.”

A spike in her pulse broke her through the hazy bliss, Annie’s eyes widened. Alerted, fearful, but she didn’t dare pull back. Eren kissed her neck. Then his body began to grow slack against her. But he ground himself to her, using her small body as his anchor.

“… I had to stop you.” Her voice trembled but was firm. She held onto him tightly, her arms looping them selves around his shoulders as his knees buckled.

“I wanted you to be… free.” He mouthed against her neck, his strength failing him. His weight on her doubled as his legs gave out. Annie grunted, holding him up as if she were embracing him. Gently she lowered him to the wooden floor, with her hand cushioning his head.

Eren’s eye was still open, pleading green as he struggled for lucidity, but it was a battle he was quickly losing. His eye locked on her, and she found herself trying to explain to him why.

“Liberio is my home.” She brushed locks of dark hair from his forehead, Eren looked a lot younger, a lot like his old self. 

“It’s the only home I know, the only true home I have. I do love my father. But I also care for my cadets, the warriors, even Reiner. I couldn’t let you take that away from me. I couldn’t let you hurt them, no matter what the cause.”

Eren sucked in a breath, as if to say something but even his coherence weakened. Annie could see the pupils of his eye becoming unfocused. It hurt her to see him in such a state, after the moment they had shared. It ate away at a piece of her heart.

I’ve never felt such guilt since… Marco.

She grabbed Eren’s upturned hand. “You’re right about one thing,” Annie’s lips tilted upward in a sad smile, “I did dress up for you.”

The fingers she held twitched, “… Knew it.” He rasped from a grimace that tried to be a smile. Gradually his eye closed, and his hand became limp in hers.

She stayed there with him for a while. Gathering her jumbled thoughts, swallowing down her guilt, locking away her feelings.

I did distract him though… I did.

The reassuring thought only made her feel worse. Annie stared at Eren’s peaceful unconscious face. Silently, she leaned down and kissed his scarred left eye. Eren did not stir, the only movement was the rise then fall of his chest. Annie got up slowly, dusting off her dress.

“I’m sorry.” She said. “Maybe in a different world, in a different time. But not here, not now.”

Annie turned, hurriedly she grabbed her coat from the wardrobe, threw open the door, then fled. Forever leaving behind promises of freedom, of something more with an idealistic boy.

To Reiner, I must go to Reiner.

She ran as fast as her bare feet could take her.

And Chief Zeke, I have to tell them. No matter what, I protect my own. Just like you do, Eren.

Chapter Text

He's already gone.

She spent three years training that stupid idealistic boy, what a waste that had been. And he had left such an impression on her too. Awakening these emotions, she had never felt before—attraction, want, admiration, and… want.

Being with him almost made her feel human. Like a real girl with real feelings.

Atop an abandoned smoking house, Annie Leonhardt stood, surveying the damage of the area. Barely sparing a glance to the group of scarred cadets surrounding her, she stepped forward, squinting through the heavy black clouds that burned her eyes. In the far corners of the Trost District, she saw the titans lumbering their worthless weight around. The smell of death was heavy in the air and she could hear the faint screaming of civilians who failed to evacuate their homes.

'This world is burning...’

She tilted her head upwards, the skies were an eerie mixture of reds and oranges. The ash from rising flames polluted the air. She could taste it, dry and gritty.

'And Eren is dead.'

As despairingly announced just a few moments ago from Armin Arlert, who was currently choking back on his tears.

As well as, Mina Carolina. That sweet twin-tail haired girl who took the time to talk to a brood like Annie. Who wasted her precious lifetime to try and befriend the stoic blonde.

Annie never let anyone through, though. Her walls were impenetrable to anyone else.

'Oh Mina.'

Annie blamed Eren for everything. She knew this would happen. His true ambition was to annihilate the titans after all. The fiery youth probably led himself to an early grave leading a troop of cadets not yet ready to die, but not yet ready to give up either. The titans wiped out the rest of the team as soon as their leader became incapacitated.

'He was never meant to be a leader in the first place.' Annie thought bitterly. But thinking of that, she was reminded of him.

How he never let any obstacle stop him from achieving in something; How he made her pulse race with every flash of his smile, or her stomach somersault with the simplest touch on her shoulder.

She shook her head hastily.

'No, that's insignificant.'

She reassured herself. 'And he was bound to die anyway. He was reckless. He was naive...'

His death had been inevitable. What was he to her anyway? Just another name and face. A name and face she had gotten to know so very well.

The mission is more important than some ambitious little boy.'

It was true. The mission was what she must keep her focus on; as she had been doing for the last five years.

Annie would not cry for him. She was stronger than that. He didn’t deserve her tears. He didn't deserve her affection. And he deserved far better than a killer’s sympathy.

He was just another lost soul.

'You hopeless idiot—You suicidal bastard. You had to go and die.'

Annie turned from the group; bringing a hand up, she touched her face. Felt the wetness on her cheeks, then hastily, almost out of anger, wiped her eyes with her sleeve until her face became blotched with red.

Had she been crying the whole time? How embarrassing.

She hid under the hood of her sweater, covering her unwanted emotions. Regardless if the others were mourning.

No, her pride was far too much for that.

'Crying over one dead idiot.'

She sniffed.

'How pathetic am I? '

She wanted to laugh at it all, her father had told her to treat everyone like her enemy. But she had done the exact opposite. People walked into her lonesome life, people besides Bertolt, and Reiner. Some stayed by her, some walked around her, some approached cautiously as if she were a wary lioness.

But the biggest mistake was letting him in. Letting him know her; teaching him all that she knew. Reassuring him, helping him, disciplining him. Loving him

People like Eren did not walk, he ran, he pushed, he shoved his way into her heart.

It was killing her from the inside out. She had too after all, indirectly helped cause this chaos.

Annie sunk her teeth into her bottom lip to mute the sob that threatened to escape her.

Her small hands balled into tight fists, her knuckles turned a paler white. She screwed her eyes shut, silently let the tears fall. No one was watching her anyway. Everyone was too far gone in their own grief.

Every beat of her heart ached, every pulse was in anguish for that suicidal bastard. Annie knew she had to isolate these emotions, these raw feelings. Wanted too, tried too.

Really tried too.

She couldn’t.

'I'm so sorry, Eren.'

Chapter Text

Close quarter combat training was always difficult, combat training in general was difficult. Combat training with Annie Leonhardt was not only difficult, but dangerous. She didn’t have a limit to how much she could subdue her opponent, the petite blonde always opted for full force. even for a defensive move that shouldn’t hurt so much.

“Couldn’t you let up a little?” Eren panted, wiping sweat from his brow line. Over-exerted and aching all over from constantly having to block Annie’s powerful kicks to his shins.

Annie tucked a lock of blonde hair behind her ear, patiently waiting for him to regain his composure. Just so she could kick his ass all over again.

A couple of yards from them, Jean sparred with Marco, occasionally throwing a nasty look Eren’s way. He was waiting for the day Eren would challenge him to an actual fight. Eren just liked to humor the taller boy by choosing to spar with Annie so close to the spot where Jean and Marco would train.

Of course, this meant Jean got a full show of Eren eating mouthfuls of dirt every time Annie knocked the brown-haired youth off his feet. A dumb idea popped into Eren’s mind than.

“Hey Annie,” Eren beckoned to her, “C’mere for a second.”

Annie raised an eyebrow, she sauntered over, arms folded. “What is it?”

“I know we’re technically training and all, and you obviously have the upper hand here, but uh…” He scratched at his nape, “Do you think you can… let me win a round. Just once?”

He felt stupid as soon as the words left his mouth, Annie even gave him the kind of expression that read ‘Are you serious’?

“It’s just—ugh…” Eren’s cheeks flushed as he mumbled, “I want to show-off… since Jean is an asshole, I want him to see that I’m better than him, so he could shut up about all the fights he won against Marco. Just this once, please?”

Annie put a hand to her chin, considering Eren’s dumb idea to boost his sore ego. “And, If I let you win, what’s in it for me?”

“I’ll give you my bread rolls during supper for a week.”

How nice, but I’m not Sasha.” She rolled her eyes. “Give me something that’s worth losing over.”

Eren racked his brain for a better trade but found nothing he had was worth the price of him cheating in combat. “Uh…”

“How about this, Jaeger.” Annie snapped her fingers. “If I let you win, from this point on, until our graduation day, only I will be allowed as your sparring partner.” 

“Wait but,” he furrowed his brows, “Aren’t you already, I mean, I don’t really ask anyone else so…”

The look on Annie’s face said she was serious. Well, she was always serious, but there were different types of seriousness she conveyed, and this one said, ‘Take it, or leave it’.

“Okay, deal! I’ll only spar with you from now on.”

He almost missed it, but Eren could have sworn he saw the corners of her lips quirk up in a small smile. “Let’s get started than.”

She took her defensive stance, Eren stepped back. Bringing his fists up, ready to block whatever she dished out at him. Of course, he was still going to have to work for her defeat. Annie stared him down, clear blue eyes narrowed, lips pinched in a slight frown. Perhaps she was going about how to make his win look convincing.

Then she charged, taking Eren by surprise. She almost never made the first move. Annie swiftly brought up her left leg, caught his hip, and stunned him. Eren winced, staggering back, just as Annie swerved, swinging a right hook to his cheek, the punch made Eren’s head snap sideways, he nearly tripped over his own feet but caught himself.

A quick glance to Annie from the corner of his eye showed him that she wasn’t putting up any guard, her arms stayed at her sides, slightly bent with her fists clenched.

She’s giving me an opening!

He acted immediately, ignoring the ache of his bruised cheekbone, he dashed forward and hooked his arms underneath her armpits, promptly kicking her ankle. Annie buckled and Eren pivoted himself so that he grappled her swiftly, they both went down in a cloud of dust.

He had used the very same grappling technique Annie used on him countless times. He finally had her trapped beneath him, using the strength of his arms to press down on her slim neck.

Annie kicked out her legs, grasping at the sleeve of his uniform. Sweat beaded from her temple, she grunted, beating at his arm a couple of more times before sighing exasperatedly, “Alright, alright. He’s done looking, you can let me go now, show-off.”

Eren didn’t move, however. Except to loosen his arms around her neck a bit. Annie furrowed her eyebrows, puzzled.

“Hey, Eren?” She tapped his arm impatiently.

He still didn’t budge.

Eren heard her but being that he was slightly distracted at the prospect of being on top of an opponent who has brought him to his knees many times; who happens to be a female—and who he happens to sometimes find himself thinking about more than he should be thinking about certain females in the trainee corp. He wasn’t exactly in the most responsive state right at that moment.

What he did let out was a soft squeak. And that was only because Annie had pinched his ear.

He let her go after that, sitting back, and immediately crossing his legs. He folded his arms tightly against his chest and purposely avoided Annie’s quizzical stare. His face flushed from the battle, and the proximity.

“What the heck was that?” Annie side-eyed him, leaning on her arms.

He shrugged humming an ‘I don’t know’ sound, and—goddesses Annie stop asking questions!

She quirked a blonde eyebrow, before releasing a huff that sounded very much like a throaty chuckle. “Oh, I see.”

Eren’s face flushed a darker red.

“You wanted to give me a taste of my own medicine, is that it?”

He snapped his attention to her with an incredulous look, as if she had grown three heads. Is that really what she thought?

Eren shifted uncomfortably, “Well… maybe?”

Annie gave him a dead eyed stare that only served to unnerve him further and make him cross his legs tighter.

“Well, I’m glad you enjoyed that while it lasted. Next time, it will be you laying on the field with my foot on your throat.”

Eren winced but gathered his confidence, what little he had of it. “Y-yeah, well—maybe, you’ll be the one laying on the field… for real next time!”

The blonde stood, dusting off her white uniform pants, “Mm-hm, talking big for a cheat.” She stepped over to him, leaning down slightly, and at this angle, with him having to look up at her, she was far more menacing.

“You have a cute nose, Eren,” she tilted her head, causing blonde fringes to fall over one eye, “don’t make me break it.”