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An Unexpected Blessing

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As Eren slowly awakened, memories flashed through his mind. Recent ones… Or at least… That’s what the young Alpha thought they were. Memories of lifting the boulder, and sealing the hole in Trosts’ gate. Of Armin and Mikasa, an Omega and Alpha, respectively. Though he and Mikasa were the only ones who knew Armin’s Omega status, and he hoped it would remain that way. How Armin had pulled him from his Titan form. Then… hazy memories… Of Titans closing in… A soldier whirling through the air, slaying the Titans effortlessly…

That same soldier, landing on the back of a slain Titan, while being backlit by the sun.

The wings of freedom…

Eren opened his eyes, and promptly sat up. Taking in as much as he could about his surroundings when he did. Wherever he was was dark, lit only by the light of torches. Additionally, there was something hard and unyielding tightly wrapped around his wrists. Though he did not move his hands from beneath the sheets to check. Not yet, at least. Having finally looked up, what he saw demanded his attention.

The series of vertical bars in front of him, made of grey metal and evenly spaced, told him everything he needed to know about where he was. He was in a prison cell, somewhere. The knowledge caused fear and panic to bubble up within Eren, as it would for any Alpha caught in a similar situation. Or Beta or Omega, for that matter. Even worse, was not knowing for certain just what he’d done to be locked up here. Possibilities, all related to him changing into a Titan, flashed through Eren’s mind.

At that moment his attention was drawn to the two men before him. So much so that he was completely focused on them. One was tall, blond, and seated in a chair in front of his cell. The other was shorter, with black hair styled into an undercut, standing a short distance to the blond’s left.

And it was all because the blond Alpha spoke. “You were out for three days, and you’ve only awakened now? Over something so small?” A short pause, as if to give Eren time to reply. “Eren. Are there any questions you have?”

Eren’s eyes were wide, and for a long moment, he couldn’t speak. He knew the identities of the two Alphas before him. The two best soldiers in the Survey Corps. Commander Erwin and Corporal Levi. The same Corporal Levi who held the title of “Humanity’s Strongest Soldier”. If the two of them were here, and with such serious expressions… Eren began to fear what was to come.

That both Erwin and Levi were Alphas was not surprising to Eren. The strong, almost spicy fragrance that was an Alpha’s natural scent was there, plain as can be. As it was on him, the way it had been ever since he’d presented at the age of fifteen. Eren could also detect two other distinct scents, both the more subdued scents distinctive to Betas. That no Omegan scents were to be found was not surprising, given how things were in their society.

It didn’t make that right, but it was still how things were.

But letting his thoughts wander could wait. It had to wait. “Uhm… Where am I?” Better to simply go along with things.

It was then that Eren lifted his left hand, seeing the shackle around it for the first time. His suspicions were all but confirmed, then. A fresh wave of anxiety bubbled up in him, then, at the uncertainty of his fate.

Erwin spoke, then, in a cool, calm tone. “You’ve probably figured this out, but you’re in an underground cell. You’re currently in the custody of the Military Police. We were finally allowed to talk to you only a few moments ago.” By “we”, Erwin clearly meant himself and Levi, though Levi himself remained silent.

Silent, due to the fact that he was thinking about all of this. When he’d rescued Eren Jaeger and his fellow recruits in Trost, he hadn’t known what the situation was. Not precisely, at least. All he’d known was that he’d saved two young Alphas and a Beta from becoming Titan food. But that was before the Military Police had taken custody of Eren. A young Alpha with messy brown hair, green eyes, and who was currently quite anxious and distressed, if his scent was anything to go by.

Somehow, all of that was true. And naturally, Erwin had come up with a plan after hearing of this. A plan that would benefit the Survey Corps and, by extension, humanity as a whole. It would come at a price, though. A price that Levi knew Eren would have to pay. Indeed, Levi already knew the details of Erwin’s plan. And the thought of carrying them out already had a distasteful feeling stirring in his gut.

All of Erwin’s plans came at some sort of price, Levi knew. High or low, it didn’t matter. Something always had to be sacrificed when one fought for survival. Fought for humanity’s survival. Levi was no stranger to paying a price for survival. Making sacrifices. Indeed, Levi was no stranger to paying a price simply to survive. He had done so for years before joining the Survey Corps. Still did, actually.

That didn’t mean he had to like it. Yet Levi was seen as the ideal Alpha by many. Given his status as Humanity’s Strongest, that was not surprising. It meant that the price he paid had been worth it, on some level.

However, thinking of his own sacrifices would have to wait.

For now, Levi listened while Erwin spoke to Eren. Told him that his friends, the two who had been with him in Trost, were being questioned. Them, as well as anyone who might know something about Eren Jaeger’s past. Along with revealing the key that had been found on Eren’s person. Then, Erwin told Eren of the rumors the Survey Corps had uncovered. Specifically, that a solution to the Titan threat supposedly lay in the basement of Eren’s old home in Shiganshina.

But when asked to confirm the truth… Eren only said he did not know. At least, that’s what he knew prior to his father’s disappearance. The rest… he simply didn’t remember it.

“So… you lose your memory, and your dad goes missing? Isn’t that convenient…” It seemed like a reasonable thing to say, given that they had to act out this show in front of the Military Police. Believing everything Eren said, without question… It would cause them to become suspicious. Jeopardize their plan.

“Levi… I thought we already agreed he has no reason to lie.” Erwin’s gaze shifted as he spoke, and his eyes met Levi’s for a split second. In the blond Alpha’s eyes, and in his tone, Levi could tell Erwin knew his intentions. Leave it to Erwin to be two steps ahead of everyone else when it came to making plans. Not only that, but Erwin also happened to be very good at reading people. Even so, Erwin didn’t know everything. Like the fact that Levi had secrets even Erwin didn’t know about.

That no one knew about.

Now was not the time for Levi to consider his secrets. That would also have to wait. For now, he continued to listen, as Erwin continued to speak to Eren.

Specifically, about what it was Eren wanted. A question that perhaps Eren should have expected, given the nature of his current situation. Caught off guard, Eren simply remained silent. And listened, as the blond Alpha before him spoke of a plan. A plan to recover the Shiganshina district, and find out what secrets lay in his basement. Do so using his Titan power.

Then Erwin began to speak of how Titans held great influence over humanity’s fate. How the Armored and Colossal Titans likely were the same as himself. Humans, Alpha or not, it wasn’t known, who could become Titans. And… how he was the key to freeing humanity from the threat of the Titans.

“I…” Eren tried to speak. Tried to form an answer, while he remembered.

The day he’d seen the Colossal Titan appear, Wall Maria’s outer gate shattering under the force of its’ blow. Titans swarming in… His attempts to save his mother… and being powerless to do so. Seeing her devoured by a Titan…

Then the Colossal Titan’s reappearance in Trost. How nearly the same thing had happened, though Wall Rose had not fallen. Yet Eren had seen his fellow trainees, Alphas and Betas alike, devoured. People he’d trained with for years. Whom he’d considered friends. Along with so many other innocent people, who hadn’t deserved such a horrific, painful death. None of them had deserved that.

Rage began to bubble up within Eren, then. Fueled by anger at everything the Titans had done. Keeping humanity trapped within the Walls, carelessly taking human lives, all of it.

Levi’s voice cut through the silence. “Hey, we don’t have all day you little brat. What are you going to choose?” It was excessively rude and blunt. Levi knew that. If he’d had a choice, things wouldn’t be this way. Eren, this young Alpha who held a power he barely understood, would have all the time he needed to choose. Except they didn’t have all the time in the world. There were plenty of people who wanted Eren dead, and the time when Erwin’s plan would be put into motion was drawing close.

Whether Eren lived or not, was a choice that lay in his own hands. At least in part. Eren raised his head at that moment, and his gaze locked with Levi’s. In those green eyes, he could see passion, determination… And anger, that too. Likely over past hurts, if Levi was correct.

It was then that Eren gave his answer. The answer Erwin and Levi had been waiting for. “I want to join the Survey Corps, and kill the Titans.” Every single one of them. They were monsters, and it was nothing less than they deserved.

Oh. Not bad.” The kid had guts, Levi could say that much. Few within the Walls would brazenly say such a thing. In fact, most trainees avoided joining the Survey Corps, if they could help it. After all, dying in a Titan’s jaws wasn’t something that would ever be appealing. But Eren, this bold Alpha whom Levi had only just met, said he would join the Survey Corps and kill the Titans. As if he didn’t plan on dying.

It was impressive. Truly impressive.

Levi walked forward, speaking as he did. “Erwin. Go tell the higher-ups that I’m vouching for him.” Once Levi reached Eren’s cell, he raised his left hand, and wrapped it around one of the bars. Felt the cool metal against his hand when he did. Then… “Not that I trust him at all. I just want to be around to kill him if he ever goes rogue.”

Those words were bitter and distasteful on Levi’s tongue. Even so, he spoke them. All part of the act they were forced to perform. And necessary, in order to convince the Military Police to release Eren Jaeger from their custody. Indeed, there were many who would rather see Eren dead, regardless of how his power might benefit humanity. More importantly, regardless of whether he was a person. One who had, in all likelihood, been completely unaware of his abilities until they’d manifested.

So Levi continued to speak. “I doubt the brass will disagree. After all, I’m the only one fit for the job.” Exactly what the Military Police would want to hear. That Humanity’s Strongest was more than willing to kill Eren Jaeger if necessary. Fuck, the two Beta soldiers from the Police standing nearby probably believed it without question. All because of how he’d spoken. As though killing Eren would be easy…

But Levi could reflect on this later. “All right, kid. Consider yourself a member of the Survey Corps.”

Levi took in Eren’s expression after speaking those words. Saw anticipation, of the sort one might have when a long-held dream might finally be within reach. And fear, as well. Fear that also bled into Eren’s Alphan scent. Fear Levi had put there, with the words he’d had no choice but to say.

Then Erwin spoke, saying it was time for them to leave. To continue convincing the Military Police and General Zacklay. Convince them, so that Eren would be placed into their custody with certainty. What would happen next; what Levi would have to do next… It turned his stomach. So much so that it made him want to vomit. Though Levi would carry out that duty, he wished, more than anything, that it didn’t have to be this way.

*****

After Erwin and Levi left, Eren sat quietly in his cell. His Beta guards apparently paid no attention to him, as though he were unworthy of it. But Eren knew better. The posture of the one guard he could see was tense, ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice. Indeed, the man held no sympathy for the prisoner he was guarding. And Eren didn’t have to hear him speak to know it.

There was an… edge, of sorts to the Betan scents of his guards, as well. One that told Eren they saw him as a threat. That he could very well die soon, if someone wished to end his life.

It was with that in mind, that Eren reflected on what had just happened. Of all the things he’d expected, he hadn’t expected to wake up with the two strongest soldiers in the Survey Corps outside his cell. It had been a bit unnerving, to be in the presence of the two older Alphas. One of whom he practically worshipped as his hero.

“That’s Corporal Levi! I hear he’s as strong as an entire brigade!”

Nor had he expected to be recruited into the Survey Corps, with Levi himself taking charge of him. On top of being told he was the key to freeing humanity from the Titans, it was a lot to take in. No one could blame him for being a bit nervous, could they?

They couldn’t. Especially if they knew what he did. That people wanted him dead simply because he could turn into a Titan. Dead, because of a power he barely understood. If he didn’t understand it, then odds were no one else would, either.

If that weren’t enough, Corporal Levi had stated, in no uncertain terms, that he would be the one to execute Eren. Should Eren ever lose control of his Titan powers, of course. Except Eren had doubts about that. The words Eren had heard were spoken with a calm, casual certainty. The way someone might talk about the weather, or other average, everyday things. Yet he’d stared into those grey eyes, as that proclamation had been spoken. And what Eren saw in Levi’s eyes told a different tale.

In those eyes, Eren had seen regret, and doubt. Almost as if the older Alpha were acting in a role he’d rather not have. Speaking words he’d rather not say. Would Levi really kill him, if duty demanded such a thing? Eren did not know for certain… But somehow, he doubted it.

What would happen next, Eren did not know. So he remained in his cell, silently, waiting to find out.

Chapter Text

As Levi stood with his back against the wall, disgust clawed at his guts. The sort that one would experience after having eaten spoiled food, or something that hadn’t agreed with them. That would make someone want to vomit, to get whatever it was out of their body. But for Levi, those sick feelings came not from his last meal. No, they were the result of his actions. Actions he’d had no choice but to perform, yet still… Here he was.

In a room on one of the upper floors of the courthouse. Speaking with Hanji, while Erwin spoke with Eren just across the room from him. While Mike, tall Beta with a fucking incredible sense of smell, stared out the window. Despite that, even Mike couldn’t smell everything. There were things even Mike’s incredible sense of smell hadn’t been able to detect. All for the better, as far as Levi was concerned. It meant that the secrets he kept were unknown to others.

Levi listened to what Hanji said. Replied to the other Alpha in a way that they hopefully wouldn’t find dismissive or rude. Hanji got on his nerves sometimes… But they were a friend of his. All while his thoughts over-powered seemingly everything else.

Thoughts of how he’d beaten Eren bloody in front of a full courtroom, all while appearing cold. Ruthless, in his treatment of the young Alpha who possessed the ability to transform into a Titan. He’d kicked Eren hard enough to knock out a tooth, and that had only been the start of it. Left Eren bleeding, and in pain; obvious without having to hear any utterances indicating it.

It had all been a part of Erwin’s plan to ensure that Eren was placed with the Survey Corps. So that his power could be used to free humanity from the Walls and Titans that held them captive. And that plan had succeeded, for all that what Levi had done to ensure it disgusted him. Already, many thought Eren a monster that would change into a Titan and kill at the slightest provocation. Which was the sole reason for the act Levi had been required to put on. He wished this hadn’t happened, though. Wished, more than anything that this hadn’t been the price to pay for saving Eren Jaeger’s life.

Oh, Levi could kill, if he needed to. Enough Titans had fallen under his blades to prove the truth of that. Humans, too; an occasionally unfortunate necessity, when one had to fight for survival in the underground. Still, that didn’t mean Levi enjoyed hurting people. Especially when that person had been chained up, and at his mercy. If given a choice, Levi would have gotten Eren into the Survey Corps without harming him. But he hadn’t had a choice, and now… Levi could only face the consequences of what he’d done.

Either way, Eren’s life had been spared.

For now, at least.

Another expedition beyond the Walls would happen in the near future. One that Eren was to prove his usefulness on. If he proved useful, the odds of him being allowed to live greatly increased. To say nothing of what would happen if he lost control of his Titan power before then. A condition of the decision that had been reached in the courtroom just a short while ago. Eren Jaeger had placed under his watch… And it was Levi’s duty, as Humanity’s Strongest Soldier, to end his life if he ever went rogue.

‘Or if the higher-ups demand his execution.’ There were more than enough people in the interior who would prefer to see Eren Jaeger dead. Nile Dawk, too, though not before dissecting Eren to gain what knowledge he could about the Titan threat. Indeed, the threat of Eren Jaeger’s execution remained very real…

‘Could I really kill him, if someone ordered me to?’ A question Levi did not know the answer to.

It was then that Levi heard Erwin welcome Eren to the Survey Corps. Say that he looked forward to working with the Titan shifter. Knowing that he needed to say something as well, Levi crossed the room as Eren and Erwin shook hands in agreement. Crossing the room in only a few steps, Levi sat on the couch next to Eren, settling his right arm over the back of it.

And Eren flinched, hard, as he felt Levi’s weight settle on the couch next to him. Brought his hands up to his chest, too; another unconscious defensive gesture. Immediately, Eren mentally berated himself for doing so. He’d seen the gun pointed at him. Knew that if Corporal Levi hadn’t beaten him in the courtroom, he likely would have died then and there.

Next to him, Levi spoke. “Tell me, Eren.” He needed to say this.

“Y-yes, sir!?” Eren stuttered, knowing that his fear was unnecessary. His face and stomach ached most of all… But Corporal Levi didn’t seem like the sort of soldier who took pleasure in beating up his subordinates.

“Do you resent me?” Levi asked softly. Hoped it was clear that he truly hadn’t wished to harm Eren.

To Eren, the meaning was clear in Corporal Levi’s words. “N-no, sir. I know you needed to put on an act.” In his eyes, too, along with his expression.

“Good, then.” At Eren’s words, Levi breathed a sigh of relief. They were simply superior and subordinate, but even so… Levi didn’t want Eren to hate him. An understanding like this couldn’t change what Levi had done. But it could change how things would be going forward.

A certain future that Eren now knew he had, for the time being. His life could still end, he knew, if he ever lost control of his Titan powers. Or if he couldn’t learn how to control them. Not that Eren would allow it. If he could learn how to use the 3DMG, and complete his training as a recruit… then he could learn how to control his Titan powers. It would be hard, since Eren didn’t understand why he could change into a Titan. But somehow, he would manage it.

Determination had to count for something, after all.

Not to mention that he was now under Corporal Levi’s charge. The Alpha he’d looked at with starry eyes as a young recruit, who might also end his life. Yet the knowledge that Corporal Levi might very well be ordered to execute him did not frighten Eren. Should have, but did not.

Because for some reason, Eren felt more certain that Levi would not be able to bring himself to end his life.