It has neither been confirmed nor denied that Hanji is nocturnal. Many see her head off to her bedroom, but few have seen her sleep. Soft lights often glows from under the crack of her bedroom door, thought few thought twice of it. Sometimes, faint noises can be heard as well, maybe the sound of a pen scratching, or a page turning in a book.
Often, the other soldiers are just too tired to care. If their squad leader can go for days without sleep, good for her, but they certainly can't. Actually, maybe if she got some sleep, she wouldn't be so neurotic. Regardless, no one gives her sleeping habits a second thought.
However, should someone ask, they would learn that she does indeed sleep, if only just a little. Hanji is a busy woman with no patience for an idle mind. There is always something to write down, to think about, to plan for. So she does. Those are her good nights.
On other nights, the weight of everyday life in this world presses down like a weight she can't lift. She excels at keeping herself together for the sake of her squad, but sometimes its too much.
She has spoken to Erwin about some of those bad nights, where she can't move, or moves too much, or can't think, or thinks too much, and she was relieved he listened with a sympathetic ear. He assured her that it's normal to break down from time to time. It's expected, and something that she shouldn't be hung up over. He went on to say that it's the soldiers who don't lose it sometimes you have to look out for.
She thanked him for letting her wake him in the middle of the night, and she went back to bed. She knew all of that, of course, but it was reassuring to hear it from her commander.
As she has gotten older, she has adapted and become more accustomed to her work, and it suits her better. Yes, losing soldiers is still an incredibly challenging concept for her to get over, but it is one she accepts.
This night she is thankful that the reason for her midnight musings is not because of a death in her squad, but rather just the stress and expectations to succeed in her experiments. Her mind won't stop racing, which she would love any other time of the day, but now she is exhausted.
Flinging off her bed covers, she throws her cloak over her linen night clothes and decides to go grab a glass of water from the kitchen.
Doing her best to walk quietly through the halls, Hanji carefully finds her way to the kitchen without falling down the stairs (not a difficult task in a castle) or waking anyone up. She is surprised to see a soft glow coming from the kitchen door, much like the light that spills from her room late at night.
Softly pushing the door open, she is surprised to see Levi sitting in a chair at the small table, staring out the window.
At least she thinks it's Levi. She has never seen him up this late at night and in the same plain clothes. His head cocks a bit in her direction but he doesn't fully look at her. Of course he knows who it is.
"Levi?" Hanji closes the door behind her. Levi fully looks at her and gives her a tight smile that is so fleeting Hanji hardly registers it.
"Would you like a seat?" He gestures to the available chair opposite him and the window. Before Hanji accepts, she grabs a glass of water from one of the pitchers. She takes a seat and sips her water, and Levi resumes his gaze out the window. It's silent for a few tense moments. Levi doesn't care, and is in fact thankful Hanji isn't running her mouth. Hanji, though, is starting to feel a pressure to speak.
"I haven't seen you here before?" She sets her cup down and tries to see what is holding Levi's attention out the window.
"You mean in the kitchen?" Hanji only stares at him. She is in no mood for games. Levi again turns his attention back to her, but offers another slight smile. "I can't see the moon from my window, so I thought I would see if it was full or not. It would explain why the scouts have been acting like idiots these past few days." Hanji chuckled.
"You don't actually believe that, do you?"
"No, but I'm looking for answers, and this is a promising lead. You should be the first to identify the hypothesis I'm testing."
"That you believe the Wallists and their ghost stories?" Levi smirked and stood to get another cup of tea. Hanji watches his fluid motions, jealous that his late night trip downstairs is for something so simple as a cup of tea and a nice view of the full moon. He sits again and stares directly into her deep brown eyes.
"Hanji, are you alright?" Levi asks in a solemn yet comforting voice, the kind that gushes sincerity.
Hanji is absolutely not prepared for this kind of question from her usually steely Captain. Caught off guard, her mind once again begins to snap together and before she knows it, every problem she has had from the past month suddenly resurfaces.
The guilt she feels for being the reason why one of the youngest recruits suffered a broken leg and dislocated hip from testing new 3DMG year.
The exhaustion of trying to leaf through piles and piles of notes she took on Sawney and Bean, comparing them to the other titans she has seen outside the walls.
The fear of knowing that without breakthroughs on the titans, more people will die.
The anger over botched experiments,wasted opportunities, and likelihood of it all happening again.
The sheer stress of having to be a squad leader overseeing cadets, and plan missions, and to keep herself in shape, and for her to take a break , and it is all just catching up with her now.
She wills herself not to, but she can feel the tears coming. "Not in front of him. Anyone but him."
They start to fall, and Hanji covers her face. They fall harder and faster and she knows this has been a long time coming.
Levi looks on with empathy. He stands and moves his chair to be next to her. She doesn't look up when he carefully takes her left hand in both of his.
"You're alright, Hanji, you'll be alright," He murmurs softly, truly not caring that Hanji is crumbling in front of him. Everyone has their moments. Levi knows her well enough that she is not happy that it's such a public breakdown, but it's obvious this was a long time coming. He tightens his hold on her hands, and he is pleased when she responds the same way.
She tries to take a deep breath as she sits up. She takes a shaky sip of water, but doesn't let go of Levi. She doesn't even want to look at him, so she doesn't, however, she can't see how he never stops looking at her.
Her tears still fall, slower now, but the worst is over. They sit in silence.
"Would you like to talk?" She knows he means well, but she just can't bring herself to confide this much personal information right now. She feels horrible for even having that thought, because she can't think of anyone she trusts more than him. True, she did tell Erwin that one time, but that was a need to know scenario.
Hanji trusts no one more than Levi, but she knows how little he cares for her work. How ironic is it that the thing she loves the most is the thing that causes her this much duress?
She just shakes her head at his offer.
For someone as smart as herself, Levi is surprised at how little she sees how much he is concerned. He figures it must just be because it is late, and she wanted to have this moment alone. He understands completely.
Her tears have slowed almost to a stop, and Hanji's gaze is fixed on the cup on the table. Anywhere but Levi. Her mind is hyperaware of how he is holding her hand. No one has ever reached out to her like this.
Before he lets go of her hand, he gives a tight squeeze, and stands. He moves over to the stove, leaving a dazed and exhausted Hanji still staring at the cup.
"I'm going to make us some tea. How about you go up to your room and I'll bring it to you. You can see the moon from your window, can't you?" She gives a nod, and like a zombie she follows his order and begins to drift up to her room.
When the tea is ready a few minutes later, Levi heads on up and finds her sitting up in bed, madly scrawling in one of the many journals on her bedside table. He sets her cup on that table and Hanji barely looks up. He sits on the side of her bed, and glances around the dusty bedroom turned library. It takes all he has, but Levi manages not to comment on the state of the room while his friend is hurting.
"Can I do anything else for you?" He sips his tea and Hanji stops writing to look up at him. She has sobered up entirely.
"Why were you staring out the window?" Taking another long sip, before looking at her in the eyes again.
"Same reason as you." His honesty is a surprise to Hanji, but she doesn't let it show in her face. Instead, she tosses her book aside and gulps down her tea, despite the scalding temperature.
She wishes she could say he's right. He's dreaming of death; she's dreaming of failure.
Levi fully recognizes her response, and begins to sip his tea. Looking past her, and out the window, Hanji uses his distracted gaze to slip back under the thin blankets. She doesn't know what to say. Sometimes even just being in the company of someone who understands is enough.
"Will you stay?" Hanji speaks directly to the ceiling.
"Sure." She closes her eyes feels herself drift off. Sleep comes easier now that Levi is still sitting on her bed, sipping his tea.
She sleeps through the night, but still is exhausted when she wakes up.
She hastily dresses and rushes down to breakfast. The few remaining members of the 104th is just sitting down. Levi is there, of course, and fully dressed. His usually tired eyes show no sign of his late night.
Hanji makes her greetings, and looks to Levi for a response. He gives none. It was as if nothing had even happened.
Good. They're soldiers. This is how it should be.
But they're still human, and it shows. Levi now pays closer attention to Hanji's mannerisms to make sure she still is doing ok. Whenever she looks like she's unravelling, he offers a cup of tea in the kitchen before bed. Saying nothing, they just sit and sip.
On one particular day months later, Levi sees she is cracking, and more than usual, but is too busy with Erwin to sit down before she goes to bed.
The first chance he gets to slip away, he places a cup on her nightstand, though Hanji is no where to be found. She's likely still in her lab. Even if the tea is cold by the time she returns, Levi hopes the gesture will be appreciated.
That evening, he and Erwin are sitting in the small kitchen when Hanhi bursts in. She has tears streaming down her face. Erwin and Levi exchange glances and Erwin slips out. Once he is gone, Levi crosses the room to her, arms open, and lets Hanji sob into his embrace. She is mumbling something, but he can't make it out.
"Th-thank you," She keeps crying. Levi just continues to hold her. As per usual, they say nothing, though this time it is not due to sadness, but rather awe. Hanji finally put together that Levi is looking out for her, not just sharing an odd cup of tea.
When she finally pulls herself together, she sniffles, thanks Levi once more and excuses herself.
When she wakes up the next morning, the cup on her table is gone, and her books are straightened.
She smiles, and carries on for months.
The next time she starts to slip, Hanji knows it, but Levi does too. The night Hanji unravels, she enters her room to find two cups of steaming tea on her bedside table, and Levi sitting on the edge of her bed with the same sympathetic smile she has grown to love.
It's so long! I really hope you like this, because I like it so much I'm considering adding another chapter, even though this was supposed to just be a one-shot. Let me know!