Remember the day we met.
“How about you, Heath?”
“Hell no! Ask someone else!”
“C’mon, Arthur. I know you wanna~”
“Hey, hey, stop harassing my squad, Hanji,” you laugh as you step between the eccentric brunette and your uncomfortable squad member, who sighs a breath of relief at your sudden intervention. “Don’t forget that they’re under mycare. Not yours.”
She wags a finger at you. “Oi, they don’t belong to you, [First]. They’re soldiers, not pets.”
You raise a brow, an amused smirk gracing your lips as you place a hand on your hip. “When did I say they belonged to me? I only said that they’re under my care. There’s a difference~” you sing-song.
Hanji laughs. “Oh? Three big, burly men need the protection of the oh-so slender [First]? I thought you picked them for your protection! Or did you just want hot men surrounding you?” she snarks. Your squad members still when they see your shoulders tense.
“Hey! I’m quite sensitive about that!” you puff out your cheeks childishly, and the three men almost lose their balance. Heath face-palms and Arthur shakes his head, while Connor shrugs. All three sweatdrop when you turn your back to the other Squad Leader, and stalk off.
“So how about it? Since your Squad Leader’s no longer he-”
They trail after you hurriedly, leaving Hanji to blink in surprise. A sly grin etches her face, and she lets out a small chuckle.
“I take it back. They are like her pets~”
I’m hiding in my room.
“Aiiiyeeee!!!!” cups shatter and water spills when the three men hear your high-pitched squeal. Their first instinct is to draw their blades, but when you come dashing into the room and slam the door behind you, all they can do is blink.
“Squad Leader [First]?” Arthur is the first to talk, but you shake your head to silence him.
“Don’t. Question. Me.” you enunciate, letting out a contained breath.
Remember the day we dreamt.
“She did not just tell them that…” you mutter to yourself, storming out of the castle to get some fresh air. You were flustered after accidentally overhearing a conversation between Hanji and your team.
“Say Arthur, did you know there are rumors circulating around saying that you like [First]?”
Heath lets out a low wolf whistle.
“Hots for the captain, eh? Wait till [First] hears this!”
“Shut up! Not one word to her!” Arthur protests. Heath’s laugh is like a roar.
“So it’s true then?” you hear Connor’s voice. Amusement laces his otherwise calm tone.
“Oh come on, you can’t hide it,” Hanji teases, before her voice significantly drops lower. “Let me tell you how to snag her.”
She goes down a laundry list of ways to supposedly ‘snag’ you, and your face turns red when she says something among the lines of “compliment her breasts” or “strip in the mud.” You quickly walk away, not wanting to hear anymore of Hanji’s nonsense.
You were looking up at the sky, when the sound of footfalls alerts you of another’s presence.
“U-um, [First]? Can I…Can we talk?”
You turn, to see a nervous looking Arthur, a smug Connor, and a smirking Heath. And from a distance, Hanji. You grimace.
“50 laps around the castle. Now.” you order.
The three men scatter, and you let out a frustrated sigh.
I think I’m gonna go visit Levi. At this point, he’s the only sane one here. you think, making your way to the short corporal’s office.
It was like a nightmare.
“You study him. Everything from his routine, to the food he doesn’t like, to his taste in women, and the number of times he has to go to the bathroom. You find out every. Little. Detail. That’s how you beat him.” Hanji’s eyes gleam wickedly as she fists Auruo’s collar. The man is at the point of passing out, but you’re too preoccupied with your thoughts to intervene.
What is Levi’s taste in women, I wonder? you think, blushing, but the sound of Auruo choking on his saliva snaps you from your thoughts.
“Hanji-san!” Petra steps forward from beside you, arms reaching for the choking Auruo.
“Enough,” you push past Petra, your hand falling on top of Hanji’s wrist. She looks at you, sighs, and releases Auruo. Petra steadies him, but he ends up falling when she lets go because Hanji grabs your wrist in a tight vice grip. You smirk, maneuvering your other hand to grab her other wrist. She mirrors you, and tugs you in close.
Everything happens instantaneously.
Heath positions himself behind you, in front of Petra and Auruo, while Connor and Arthur slink up on either side of Hanji, their swords drawn. They look like an angry pack of wolves, bristling and surrounding the woman who put their leader in a life-threatening situation. You faintly smirk, daring her to try something.
Hanji seems to snap out of her delusion as she releases you, muttering a quick apology before taking off. You watch her go, and breathe out a sigh of relief.
“Thanks guys. She looked like she seriously wanted to murder me just now.”
“Good to see you safe,” Connor nods at you. You grin at him briefly, and turn to look at Auruo.
“But you took the full brunt of her wrath, didn’t you? Are you still with us, Auruo?” you bend over and offer a hand, but the man scoffs.
“I don’t need your help,” he turns his nose heavenward as though to dismiss you, but to you, it looks like he’s pouting. And judging by the look on Petra’s face, this must be one of his ‘Levi-moments.’ “I don’t need any of your help!” he sweeps his hand to the rest of your squad, and they only exchange incredulous glances with one another.
“Be grateful, Auruo!” Petra scolds, thwacking him over the head. “[First] and her squad just saved your life! Be a little grateful!”
“Hmph, pestering woman.”
“Stop trying to be Levi-Heichou! He doesn’t even act like that!”
“Oi, Captain, we don’t act like that, do we?” Heath nudges your shoulder as he steps beside you. You smile as you watch the interaction between Petra and Auruo.
“Are you jealous that your dream girl’s flirting with Auruo?” you tease, and Heath does a double-take, glaring down at your giggling form.
“I-I don’t know what you’re talking about!!” he shouts, stopping Petra and Auruo’s bickering.
“Oh, I think you do, soldier.” you wink.
“Oh yeah? Then what about you and Levi-Heichou, huh, Squad Leader?” he smirks when the playful smile is wiped off your face, and your face starts to redden.
“You started it,” he reminds, laughing in triumph. You glare at him and turn away, pouting. “The hell was I thinking when I put you in my squad?”
You’re about to give some smart-ass response, but the sounding of a red flare prevents you from speaking. Petra and Auruo scramble to their feet, running to their horses.
“We have to find Levi-Heichou!” Petra and Auruo ride off without another word, and your squad looks to you for orders.
“Do we go after them?” Connor asks. You shake your head.
“There’s no need. They can handle it themselves,” you say.
“Or are you too embarrassed to see Levi now?” Heath points out, falling to his knees and pounding the floor as he laughs at you. You stretch your leg back, kicking him square in the face.
That shut him up.
The peaceful times have made us blind.
“Erwin? What is it?” you ask as the tall blonde approaches you and Connor with a hollow expression on his face.
“Gather your squad, [First]. I need your team to go after a group of Titans.”
“Three 7-class meters and two 14-class meters, but be wary for more,” he explains, and you nod, looking at the male beside you.
“Connor, find Arthur and Heath. I’ll ready the horses.”
“Understood, Captain,” he disappears, and you’re about to leave the scene too when Erwin grabs your arm.
“Be careful, [First].”
Your confusion is apparent on your face, but you nod. “Of course, sir.”
Remember the day of grief.
“We’ll split into two groups here. Connor, you’re with me. Arthur and Heath, go and inform Levi’s squad of the situation. When you do, fire a signal, and be on the lookout for mine,” you order. A chorus of “Yes, ma’am” echoes in your ears. “Good. Be careful.”
Arthur and Heath ride off, while you and Connor head northbound. You both ride in silence until a loud roar echoes from behind you.
“Three 7-class meters and two 14-meters!” Connor yells.
“Shit!” you fumble for the flare gun strapped to your thigh, and load it with a red missile. I hope they haven’t made it too far!
You fire, while Connor swings off his horse, readying his blades. He manages to take out two of the 7-class meters, but the third manages to grab him. In your haste, you toss the gun away and string yourself to the Titan grabbing Connor, freeing him by tearing off its nape with your sword.
“[First]!” Connor stands as you land beside him.
“On your feet! There are still two more!”
Connor nods, using his gear to latch onto the left branch while you take the right. You simultaneously zero in on one of the 14-meters, with you successfully slicing off its hands while Connor takes out its weak spot. It crumples, dead on the forest floor.
Connor nods, and you both take up the same position. However, as you’re coming in on your foe, your peripheral vision directs your attention away from the Titan, and you gasp upon seeing a beheaded, rotting body.
“[First]!!” you use your wires to escape the swing of the Titan, but it still manages to nick your side, slamming you into a nearby trunk. You cough and spit up blood, falling to your side, momentarily stunned.
“Bastard!” Connor lunges at the Titan, but it’s faster. In his rage, he makes the mistake of flying too high, giving the monster time to angle below him. Its arm reaches up, snagging Connor midair. A screech escapes your lips when a sharp cracking sound stops Connor’s steady string of curses.
“Connor!!” you scramble to your feet, taking out your blade, but instead of coming at you like you anticipated, it darts off into the forest.
“[First]! [First], what happened? Are you okay?” Heath is by your side, careful not to touch your wound as he steadies your staggering form. “Where’s Connor?”
You look ahead, eyes brimming with tears. “He’s gone.”
Heath stills. “Wh-what?”
“He’s gone,” you repeat, grimacing. “I’m sorry. It was all my fault. If I hadn’t been distracted, he wouldn’t have been caught.”
“Wait, which direction did it go?”
You look ahead, but then you realize why Heath is asking.
“Heath, don’t!” he lets you go, mounting his horse. He races into the thick jungle, disappearing almost instantly. “Dammit!”
“Arthur, did you and Heath manage to locate Levi’s squad?”
“Go find them. We need their help,” you stand, whistling to your horse.
“But what about you?”
“I’m going after Heath.”
“You’re hurt! You can’t-”
“That’s an order, Arthur,” you hiss, mounting the steed. “Find them. We have no time to waste.”
“Why don’t you just fire a flare? We shouldn’t sep-”
“Enough with the stalling, Arthur!” you yell, “I would have if I hadn’t thrown the gun away! Now hurry!”
“Y-yes, ma’am!” He leaps on his horse and rides off. You don’t look back as you race after your other two comrades.
Please, please don’t let me be too late!
Nobody wants to die too fast.
You drop to your knees, eyes wide with horror. Body parts were strewn everywhere, on the ground and above the branches. Blood drips from the severed limbs, and the eyes of Connor and Heath look up at you, unseeing.
“[First]!” the voice doesn’t even register in your mind when Arthur lands beside you. He pales as he takes in the bloody scene.
A loud bellow echoes from above, and Arthur tenses.
You’re too slow to react; you can’t bring yourself to look away from Connor and Heath, but a blow to your side sends you back to reality. You skid along the ground, staring up in horror as the Titan, decorated in blood, crushes Arthur under its foot.
The Titan starts rushing at you, ready to take your life too, but you don’t move. How could you? It was your fault that your comrades were dead. You were better off joining them.
You close your eyes, waiting for the finishing blow that never comes. Instead, a loud bawl echoes throughout the forest, and you open your eyes to find Levi perched on top of the decaying corpse.
The stoic corporal looks at you to Arthur. It’s then that you notice he’s still breathing, and your name sounds off his lips. Seconds turn into years as you approach him.
“Squad Leader [First], a-are you still there? I…I can’t see…I-”
“I’m right here, Arthur,” you reassure softly. The man hushed, content with knowing that you hadn’t left yet.
“Don’t,” you interrupt firmly, closing your eyes. “I know.”
“Good.” You hear him smile before warm fingers brush against your cheek. Your own hand comes up to help the dying man cradle your face, interlocking your fingers with his. You both fall silent, but before it becomes too comforting, Arthur breaks it.
“Don’t cry, Squad Leader. It’s uncomely of you.”
You let out a bitter laugh as you open your eyes, finally noticing the tears dripping from your [e/c] orbs. “I think you have me mistaken for someone else, Arthur. I’m not as strong as you make me out to be.”
“There you go again,” the man mumbles, chuckling. “Always belittling yourself, when you know you’re worth so much more…”
“Stop. I couldn’t even take care of my own squad. I don’t deserve to be called a squad leader. I let you all-”
“No.” Arthur’s grip on your hand tightens, effectively silencing you. “It isn’t your fault that Heath and Connor died. Stop blaming yourself. You shouldn’t punish yourself when our decisions led to our fate. How do you think the others would feel if they saw their captain laughing at their sacrifice?”
You don’t answer, opting to stay silent until your fallen comrade expels a long sigh.
“Anyway, I’m tired. I think I’m gonna take a long nap now…is that okay with you, Squad Leader?”
Despite the situation, you chuckle. Reaching forward, you let your fingers brush through his blood-matted hair, to fall over his eyes, lulling him to sleep with your actions and words.
“Rest, Arthur. I’ll still be here when you wake up.”
He smiles one last time, mouthing a thank you, and that’s when you feel his hand fall limp. Your fingers curl around his, gently bringing his cold palm down to lay it to rest over his chest. Grief clings to your form as you lower your head, your shoulders racking with dry sobs as you silently mourn for the fallen men scattered around you.
It was painful for me.
You and Levi rode back to headquarters silently, side-by-side. Behind you was a cart containing the bodies of your fallen comrades, along with ten other bodies. You hung your head, thoughts lingering on today’s earlier events.
“Your team did well,” Levi comments monotonously. Your eyes soften at his words.
“So live for them.”
“Corporal?” you look at him.
“Tch, don’t start bringing in that rank shit now,” Levi sneers, reaching into his pocket and pulling out three crests. He reaches his fist out, and automatically, you give him your palm. He gingerly places the fabric into the palm of your hand, but instead of pulling his hand back, he rests his hand in yours. “Don’t forget why they died.”
To protect me.
Levi pulls his hand away, and your fingers curl around the precious emblems. You smile, a tear sliding down your cheek as you press your friends’ memories into your chest.
“Thank you, Levi.” Thank you…Connor. Heath. Arthur.
I could see your face, I could hear your voice.