A/N: Not sure how I feel about this one… But I wrote it anyway. I'm sorry if the French isn't that accurate. I'm not a fluent French speaker at all. I only used what I was taught in high school! This sort of plot was probably done before, but this is my own version!
"Hey there, Petra!" Squad Leader Hanji exclaimed from afar to her fellow comrade Petra.
Petra was sitting by the horses' stable, caught in a stupor. Hanji raised a brow as she treaded closer, not hearing or seeing a response from her comrade at all. Petra was simply deep in thought, unaware of the other soldiers that were busy working around her.
It was then that Hanji tapped her on the shoulder and asked, "Are you back from dreamland yet?"
Petra gasped at the sudden appearance of her superior. "Oh, good afternoon Squad Leader!"
"You seem troubled. What's wrong?"
"It's nothing. Just thinking."
"Oh you wouldn't care for such trivial things."
Hanji stepped in front of her comrade and knelt down. "Of course I would! Tell me Petra-dear!"
Surprised at Hanji's quirkiness, she looked around and whispered to her, "Are you sure?"
Hanji nodded vigorously with a smile.
But then Petra had second thoughts. "Maybe I shouldn't..."
"Oh come on!" The squad leader groaned. "I won't tell anyone!"
She stared at Hanji with a pout upon her lips. Was it really within merit for a squad leader to be acting so... nosy? At first, Petra was strongly against discussing her situation with anyone — especially any higher-ups. It was a situation she believed should not concern anyone else; but at the same time, simply thinking about it all ate away at her slowly. She wanted to tell someone but not any of her superiors. Although, there was exception to that — an exception perhaps only Hanji was a part of. Despite having a relentless craving for knowledge in science, Squad Leader Hanji was undoubtedly a trustworthy individual.
Petra chose to believe in that quirk of Hanji's and came out with the truth, secretly praying that she would not spread any gossip to her own squad. Or even any of the captured Titans.
Nervously, she explained in a quiet voice, "Well… I've been a part of Squad Levi for so long now… But I still don't know that much about the Captain, and…" She paused for a moment, contemplating word choice. "It... bugs me... really..."
Hanji's puppy-dog smile morphed into a mischievous one. "It 'bugs' you, huh?"
Suddenly, she laughed hysterically and fell on her behind. Petra stood up quickly in confusion. "Why are you laughing, Squad Leader?"
"You can't hide anything from me Petra darling!" She rolled forward and leaned into her ear. "I know you like him~."
Petra blushed and turned away. "What makes you say that? I never hinted at that at all!"
"But you're becoming so defensive now! And you're red!"
"It's... a hot flash!"
"From what, thinking of Levi~?" Hanji tried her absolute best to suppress her obnoxious laughter from the rest of the nearby soldiers but to no avail.
"Squad Leader, please...!" Petra scanned her surroundings frantically, embarrassed at these sudden outbursts.
"You say it bugs you but you just want to be able to talk to him more, don't you?" Hanji chuckled with a high-pitched tone.
"Squad Leader, you're going to attract the other soldiers over here…!"
"Oh, it's nothing to fuss about. You're a woman! You like men! It's natural. But I can read you like a book, Petra, and I can surmise that you. Like. Him."
Petra pursed her lips, suffering from a loss of words. What else was there to say at that point? Hanji continued to hound her.
"Well, since you want to get to know him so badly, I can give you some 'secret intel' on him if you'd like~." She sang. Petra was mildly annoyed, but she was all for that "secret intel" Hanji had collected.
There was a gleam of curiosity coming from Petra's amber-colored eyes, and the quirky squad leader took notice of it in full. She leaned towards Petra's ear again and whispered, "Word is that he was brought directly from the underground slums!"
Petra's eyes widened.
Really? My captain?
Petra had been struck speechless again and could barely lace together comprehensible words. "But... how is that even...?"
"Allowed?" Hanji pulled back and laughed, "Who knows? Cuz I sure don't~!"
Petra placed her hands on her hips, staring at the ground. "Well, I… wasn't really expecting to hear that… that just makes him even more mysterious to me…" But these are still just rumors...
"Oh I'm not done yet! There's actually something more interesting. Because he's from the underground city," her voice quickly dulled to a sharp whisper, "he can speak French!"
Petra thought for a moment, attempting to wrap her brain around the concept.
She had failed.
"French? What in the world is that?"
"You don't know? It's an old language that was spoken by millions before the Titans came! I have no idea if anyone else speaks it anymore, but I know the captain does~! I asked him to speak some to me, but you know him! Always turning stuff down!"
Petra had a hard time imagining Captain Levi speaking another language. She did not even know what a different language would sound like apart from the standard English. How did it sound? What are the words? Is it all the same?
But there was something about Levi speaking another language that made him seem more attractive than he already was. His brute strength, military prowess and caring nature towards his comrades was attractive enough indeed, but his face and his voice and another language to boot?
Wait…! Petra's face was flushed again, and she covered her mouth. I shouldn't be thinking of those things…! She shook her head, trying to clear herself of those thoughts.
Hanji caught sight of the silly gesture and continued on, "One more thing though. I've read from various history textbooks that French has been called the 'language of love.' Isn't that just the most adorable thing?"
The language of love? There's such a thing? But whether it was a metaphor or a ridiculous nickname, Petra did not have the slightest idea.
After completing all of her necessary tasks for the day, she paused before reaching the end of the corridor leading to the dining hall. Thoughts about Levi's past and his ability to speak a completely different language intrigued her – she wanted to know so much; but, of course, there were boundaries especially with him – he had lines that must never be crossed no matter what the circumstance. However, she did not have any clue as to what those lines were. She had a hunch but not the exact answer; so she wondered whether or not she should even entertain him with those kinds of questions.
Perhaps it's a bad idea… She thought, but her heart wanted to dig deep. After all, she had developed feelings for the man after working with him for years now – shouldn't she be following her heart's intent? What is this thing only he knows so much about? This foreign language that no one else seemed to know?
This so-called "language of love?"
What was it all about? She wondered.
She took a step forward, into the dining hall and saw her captain sitting at a table by himself. He was drinking a cup of tea while looking over a pile of paperwork that came directly from the Commander.
"Captain?" She began, and Captain Levi glanced at her. "All of my tasks for the day have been finished, sir. Is there anything else you'd like me to do?"
Levi looked down at the pile of papers in front of him. "Here – you can deliver some paperwork for me." He pushed the pile of papers towards Petra and leaned back into his chair. "But that's all that's left for you. Unless you want to be on sentry duty tonight as well."
Petra picked up the pile monotonously, her mind lost in thought. Nonchalantly, she leafed through the stack of papers, hesitant to speak her mind. She and Levi were finally alone together – the perfect opportunity to talk to him. No one else was around to even listen in.
But… it's stupid… he'll probably scold me for asking such a stupid question… She said to herself and shook her head.
Levi eyed her carefully, observant of her immersed expression. Before she could take a full step forward, his lips parted to speak. "Something's bugging you." He said, and she instantaneously snapped at a modified form of attention.
"It's nothing. Just thinking, sir!"
Levi took a sip from his cup and swallowed, unimpressed as usual. She caught a glimpse of his cold stare and felt her own body tense up again.
"I just…" She held her tongue, feeling her face begin to warm up from embarrassment. Ohh… it's not a good idea to waste your time with it! One side of her screamed, fearing a wrath from Captain Levi; but she was already at the point of no return – it was too late to stop now.
She glanced off to the side, trying to string her words carefully in fear of upsetting her captain. "Sir, I just wanted to ask you something…"
Levi simply stared at her with a lifted brow.
"I heard that… since you're from the underground city… you can speak… French?"
A silence fell between them – a dreadfully awkward silence. The wooden clock on the wall above Levi ticked and tocked for what seemed like ages to Petra. Her face had become so warm, and her entire body was filled with embarrassment. She opened her mouth as if to speak, but no words came out. I shouldn't have asked after all…!
The captain sighed deeply and sank into his chair. He crossed his arms and looked up at Petra with the same, cold stare. His voice was low: "And who was the bastard that told you all that?"
The tension within her returned, and she replied swiftly, "Squad Leader Hanji, sir."
The captain scoffed and turned his head towards the corridor. "Of course she would. Fucking Shitty-Glasses."
"I'm sorry for asking, sir!" She was quick to her defense. "I guess my curiosity went… a little too far…"
Petra blushed and began sifting through the papers in her grasp while Levi took another sip from his cup, flustered.
"I'll just… deliver these then…!" she smiled awkwardly and walked away.
His eyes followed Petra as he continued to swallow more tea. Upon finishing the last drop, he placed it lightly onto the saucer and exhaled, listening to Petra's boots shying away from him.
Damn Shitty-Glasses. He cursed.
"Petra." He called out to her. She stopped and turned around. "Come back here."
She obeyed him and quickly returned with a straight posture. She was always like that whenever she reported to him, and Levi had begun to find it amusing; but he knew that her seriousness was not always necessary. "At ease, Petra. When we're alone like this, you don't need to be so uptight."
But it felt so strange to her. "Yes sir!"
He stared at her again, finding her still tense. "Petra."
"Yes, sir?" It was amusing…
"…Never mind." And it was also rather cute to him in a way. "Listen, Petra. You don't tell anyone about it. Understand?"
She nodded in agreement.
"Otherwise they'll just start pestering me to translate shit."
"I won't tell anyone, sir."
She felt beyond strange, being able to talk to her captain about such matters. She was always so shy when it came to asking about his personal life or even any personal details about him. It was the military after all, and he was her higher-up – subordinates do not usually ask questions of the sort; and it was nowhere near related to Titan-slaying or the Corps or anything they have ever discussed – all the more reason to feel odd about asking.
The subject seemed so sensitive to her.
"At any rate, you've got my attention for about ten more minutes. Ask whatever you want about it now or ask never."
She swallowed hard, hoping to ask the right questions. She simply wanted to get to know him better. Was that too much for her?
"Captain… I understand that a question like this may seem trivial to you, but… how does it feel to know how to speak a completely different language?" Her eyes suddenly sparked with curiosity once again. "Surely it must feel like… a special ability or something. I've never heard of anyone that's able to speak another tongue."
"I don't feel any special," he said to her plainly. "It's the same set of words we all know, just pronounced differently."
Another question crossed her mind, the light in her eyes growing bolder: "Do you mind… speaking a few?" She caught herself for a moment. "I-If you don't want to that's fine! I'm not ordering you to, sir!"
"…You're a bit jumpy today, Petra," he replied.
She bowed her head in disappointment. "My apologies, sir… To be honest, I just didn't think you'd be willing to talk about any of this. It's all very surprising to me."
Levi extended his leg underneath the table and pushed the chair in front of him with his foot. "Sit down for a minute and calm yourself."
She blushed. "Yes sir…" Sit with the captain? Alone? He's never wanted this before… And it was true. Never had she experienced a time where he had wanted her to sit with him, alone in the same room together. He was always so focused on his work or busy scolding other soldiers.
She pulled up the seat and sat down, scooting in close to the table.
"Ten minutes," he repeated and thought for a moment. He then shifted in his seat and spoke again: "French isn't all that special."
Petra tilted her head. "Hm?"
"It's just like English when you read it. But it sounds a hell of a lot different when you speak it."
"I've never heard of something like that before..." She wondered what it must have been like for the citizens back then – how it felt to basically read English but speak an entirely different language. It was astonishing how different life was like back then; but after condensing behind the walls, life was one in the same for everyone.
Petra stared at Levi – at his tight lips rather. He stared at her too, at her bright, amber eyes, waiting for her to speak again.
"Captain… I'm just very curious…"
He raised a brow again. "What, you want me to teach you or something? I'm a squad captain, not a professor."
"I'm just curious, that's all… but I'm beating a dead horse at this point. Although… if you don't mind, please teach me, sir…! Or at least show me…"
He was quiet for a moment. "…I'm not too good at this whole teaching thing. So where the hell would I start."
Petra's ears perked up.
He looked directly into her eyes. "What is it that you want to know."
She wanted to know everything – everything about this language that was so alien to her; but what questions should she ask? What constituted as a good question and what was a stupid one? She felt embarrassed enough.
She thought harder: Ask about the basics, of course.
And she began: "Um… how do you say the simple words like 'I am' in French?"
Without hesitation, Levi responded with two unfamiliar sounds: "Je suis."
"Je… suis?" She repeated slowly but not quite matching the same accent as Levi's.
"Je suis – 'I am.' An example would be 'je suis un homme.'"
Petra's brow wrinkled. "Je suis… un homme?" Her words were almost jumbled, but she was close enough, much to Captain Levi's amusement. She repeated the sentence, over and over, comparing it to English and breaking it apart grammatically. Levi watched her, talking to herself in order to teach herself. She messed up one of the words a few times but continued to repeat the sentence like a perservating old man.
It was entertaining to watch. All the while, he gazed into her brightly lit eyes, then her lips and hair – he had to admit:
She was beautiful no matter how silly she looked, repeating the same sentence over and over.
After being on the same squad with her for years, he watched her grow into the strong, powerful woman she was. She was so loyal to him, always obeying his every command. She trusted him, and he trusted her.
He was a short man, but he was not blind – even he could see that she was attached to him from the very beginning.
But it was a shame.
It did not matter how long they have known each other – he was a horrible match for her.
He came from the slums; he robbed, even killed simply to get what he wanted in the name of survival. He was a heartless man, allowing his comrades – his family – to die in vain. He did not deserve to be with the likes of Petra; but if he was so heartless, then why did he feel attached to her?
Why did he feel so warm inside whenever she spoke with him?
Why did he feel an intense fear whenever the thought of losing her crossed his mind?
Suddenly, Petra's fluent expression of the same French sentence brought him out of his trance. "Je suis un homme."
The utterance was perfect now, and she said it with such seriousness. Secretly, Levi was beyond entertained because only he knew what she had been repeating. He kept his cool demeanor and said to her, "That sentence means 'I'm a man.' I really hope you're not a man, Petra." It would be a shame, actually.
Red again, she blurted to him, "Well then how do you say 'I'm a woman' then?"
He opened his mouth and paused.
Je suis une…
"You'd say 'je suis une jolie femme.'" You are a beautiful woman.
"Je suis… une… jolie femme…" Her accent had improved radically – she began to sound like an authentic French speaker at that point.
Before she began her rounds of repetition again, he uttered quickly, "Actually, I made a mistake. You'd say 'je suis parfaite.'"
"Je suis parfaite." Correctly spoken in one go.
Levi spoke in longer strings of words, confusing Petra even more. She listened intently to what he was saying, trying so hard to translate what she knew, but she was too inept in the language to understand what he was truly telling her, right to her face.
"Je suis un mauvais homme, Petra. Mais tu es parfaite. Je ne te mérite pas." I'm a horrible man, Petra… but you're perfect...
I don't deserve you.
"I got lost…" Petra said shyly. "What does all that mean?"
"…I'm a man… and you're a woman, Petra.'"
She pouted, unable to repeat the long sentence. "Um… what's the most basic thing to say?"
"And how do you say that it French?"
"Je m'appelle Levi. You'd say the same thing using your own name. Je m'appelle Petra."
"Je m'appelle Petra."
"Tu es Petra."
Even the way he said her name was different from English. A certain tone accompanied it – a soft one that made her stomach fuzzy from hearing it come from his lips.
"Je m'appelle Petra. And… je suis… parfaite? Did I get that right?"
He nodded, proud of her learning, and he said with a soft voice that was uncharacteristic of him: "Tu es parfaite, Petra."
She found satisfaction in the way he said her name in this new language. It was all too beautiful — his voice, the pronunciations, his fluency — every piece of it. She could have tricked him with her repetitions just to get him to say her name more — it would have been music to her ears; but she wanted to learn more of this beautiful language that Levi knew so much about. She wanted to delve deeper into this unique side of her quiet captain.
While trying to form her own original sentence from the new words she learned, she struggled to find the right order. The grammar used in English was much different compared to French. It was becoming too confusing. Unhappy with the struggle, she sighed and leaned back into her chair. "This is kinda difficult…"
"I told you, didn't I? Speaking it is a hell of a lot different."
"But what else is there to learn? Besides how to introduce yourself?"
"The different ways to talk about yourself and about the other person."
"And how do you do that?"
Levi stared at the corner of the table, formulating how to explain it to her in a simple way.
"…Whenever you talk about yourself, you use the word 'je' because it means 'I.' Whenever you talk about the other person, you can use the word 'tu.'"
"And 'tu' means 'you?'"
"Yes. But you should only use that variation of the word if you know the person you're talking to."
"It can be considered rude if you don't know them."
"Well we know each other… So could you give an example?"
It did not take long for half of the translation to process through Petra's mind.
"Okay, I'm… um… I don't know the rest."
"'You talk a lot.'"
"Oh…!" Petra gasped and turned her head, too embarrassed to look at Levi with such a red face. Do I really…?
"…I'm kidding, Petra."
Upon hearing him, she sighed in relief.
But sadly she was still red.
"You learn fast though. Better than any of those brats out there."
"Thank you, sir! But… how about I just learn how to talk about myself before learning how to talk about others?"
"How would I do that though?"
A good question.
He stared at the corner of the table again, contemplating this so-called "lesson."
His eyes wandered, to her hands that rested on the table; to her arms; her chest; her neck; to the smoothness of the skin on her face. Then he suddenly remembered the most recent Titan encounter his squad had in the forest:
A 15-meter class Titan against Petra and Eld on a rainy day.
Upon slicing through the Titan's nape, her blade broke and a chipped piece flew at her face. It had left a shallow cut on her cheek that would heal in a matter of days, but it was too long for her to consider it as shallow.
Levi saw her staring at her reflection in a puddle on that rainy day, and she whispered something terrible about the long cut on her cheek:
She did not feel beautiful with it.
Levi exhaled, disturbed by what Petra had said back then even though her cut had disappeared completely. His eyes then met with Petra's, and she stiffened.
"…Repeat after me, understand?"
They were eye to eye, giving each other their full attention; but Levi's cool demeanor was suppressed. No matter how strong he was in the battlefield, he did not see himself as strong enough to say what he had wanted to her in plain, comprehensive English. But he spoke his mind in French, his attitude softening before her: "…Je m'appelle Petra, et je suis très belle." Your name is Petra, and you are very beautiful.
"Je m'appelle Petra, et je suis très belle," she repeated.
"Je serais toujours, peu importe quoi." You always will be, no matter what happens.
"Je serais toujours, peu importe quoi."
"Now repeat it again."
"Oh! Um…" She took a deep breath, wishing to impress her bilingual captain. "Je m'appelle Petra, et je suis très belle. Je serais toujours, peu importe quoi."
And just then, something rare happened:
He had cracked a small smile. "…Not bad."
Shocked at her tremendous effort, she shot up from her seat. Her blushing had never ceased ever since she spoke with Hanji. "But what did I just say…?"
"Some facts about you," he said calmly.
"But what exactly?"
"…You said your name and who you are." And it's all true.
"And who am I exactly? Based on what you just made me say?"
Refusing to translate, he scoffed at her and stood, back in his own unimpressed demeanor. "Tu jacasser."
"No I don't!"
Pushing his chair in, he straightened his jacket and made way for the door. "Whatever. Lesson's over. I need to report to Erwin for whatever the hell he needs now."
"Oh… yes, sir." He heard her say quietly behind him. There was a form of disappointment hidden in her voice. He looked over his shoulder at her, his gaze colliding with hers once more.
"Petra." He uttered her name again.
"Yes, sir?" She answered.