A/N:
There a secrets, and then there are promises. It's important to keep these. And if you don't? Well, unpleasant things might happen.

I really appreciate the reviews, so please send me one when you're done with the chapter.

Disclaimer:
«I do not own any of the following pictures, music, characters or the original universe. Nor do I own the Christmas Calendar or its content. I only own this Christmas story and the mixing idea.»

For practical purposes, Hange Zoë will be referred to with female pronouns. The character's gender has not been confirmed by the creator, so there is still a mystery about what is the truth of it. However, because it is hard to write around the pronouns, I chose the female gender because this is what they used for the English dub of the Anime. I hope that you all understand my reasoning for this, and that if you have another opinion on the gender, you can still replace the pronouns while reading.


DECEMBER 9TH


"Isn't this too stupid - even for you?"

Reiner had seen many strange things in his life. Some turned out to be pleasant, some did not. This was surely a case of the latter one. In front of him, dressed in the bright red fabric that Connie had discovered a few days earlier, stood Eren.

"Hey!"

"Well, there's nothing else to say, is there? It look makes you look even more like an idiot than usual."

"Don't say that," Krista pulled aside the sheet hanging by a coat hanger, serving as a screen. "I think he looks cute."

Cute!? A vein bulged on Reiner's forehead. Did she really think Eren looked cute? No, that was ridiculous.

"You don't have to tell him that," Reiner turned to Krista. "He's almost a man now, he should be able to hear the truth."

Both Krista and Eren opened their mouths, but before any of them had the chance to defend the eye-catching attire, the sheet was pulled to the side once more.

"Hahaha!"

"There, you see. Even Ymir agrees."

"Hm?" Giving the ox of a man the evil eye, Ymir leaned down to wrap her arms around Krista.

"That silly outfit." Reiner pointed at Connie. "Even you can see how stupid it looks, right?"

"Ah, yeah," she replied, her attention all on Krista, but then: "Oh, I forgot!" Ymir, the expression on her face shifting between glee and a mocking smile, handed Reiner something red. "They told me to give this to you."

"Hey, wha- Oh, hell no!" Realizing what it was he was holding in his hands, Reiner wanted to hurl it straight back at Ymir's stupid grin, but then there was Krista…

Here eyes were big and blue, and as he watched, it seemed almost like they were growing bigger. Growing soft in the face of her pleading eyes, he let out a heavy sigh.

"Fine..." He unfolded the fabric and put the piece on his head. "Happy?"

"Yes!" Krista nodded enthusiastically, looking at him with a smile that could melt a harder man than Reiner. "It looks amazing! You really do look good wearing that!"

"Yeah, you really do." Ymir got out, fighting to keep her laughed back. "Maybe you should start wearing that thing all the time? Who knows, maybe the Titans will think you're pretty as well?"

A dark shadow fell over his face but, before he could reply, they heard loud clapping on the other side of the sheet.

"Is everyone ready?"

The little group looked at each other, and then turned and walked out from behind the sheet. And, swallowing his once existing pride, Reiner followed them out to join the rest.

"Armin?" Eld looked down at the blonde.

"Well, it's not that easy," he begun, his nose buried deep into the book on his lap, "But if we could look away from the actual locations, then-"

"Krista should play Elisabet!" Jean cut Armin off. "We all know that nobody else here would fit in the role."

"Krista is gonna be the cute little lamb." Ymir disagreed. "That is the cutest part - so of course Krista will have it!" She smiled down at her short friend. "And I'll be there, carrying you as if you were my wife."

"Oh, Ymir." A giggle left Krista as she nodded, accepting the part Ymir had suggested for her.

"Okay," Armin scribbled down a note on the paper. "Then, would anyone else like to play Elisabet?"

"You should do her," Bertolt suggested. "No one else knows the story as well as you do."

To Armin's surprise, chatters of agreement rose, and before he knew exactly what was going on, the group had reached the decision that Armin had to play Elisabet.

"Okay, then that is decided. Krista will be the lamb, Ymir will be Jacob, and I… will play Elisabet. Does anyone else have wishes?"

"I think Eren would do a very convincing job as a sheep."

"What did you say, horseface?"

"Really, I mean it. 'Meeeeh, meeeh'."

The two of them were about to attack one another, but before their fists could make contact with the other's face, Mikasa swirled and knocked them both to the side.

"Wow, good job, Mikasa," Reiner complimented, "By the way you're handling those sheep, one would think you were a shepherd."

"There is another spot for a shepherd," Armin informed them. "We have yet to choose a Joshua."

"I'll take it." Her voice was determined, and if there had been anyone else wishing for that role they now withdrew quietly.

"Hey! I'm no sheep! I wanted to be Caspar!" Jean complained.

"You?" A snort came from the other side of the room. Until then, Oluo had stay still, looking at the commotion with a raised brow, but not any longer. "If anyone should step in the footprints of the wise king, it should obviously be me." Meeting a lot of sceptical faces, he continued: "Do I really have to explain myself?"

"No," Gunther sighed. "Please don't do that, Oluo. It's fine, just take the role of the black king."

"Thank you."

"And I will volunteer as a sheep as well," Gunther added, " And" he scanned the room left and right. "Connie, you can be a sheep, right?"

"Ehm, yeah, sure."

"Perfect. Then all we need is the angel."

"Hiii~" In through the door came an unsuspecting scientist. She was in a hurry, her glasses hanging halfway down her face. "I'm sooo sorry I'm late. You see," Trying to show them some of the documents she was carrying, her hand slipped, and suddenly the papers danced through the room. "Damn it!"

The sudden outburst made more than just a few blink. Hange was not one to curse, so... was something going on? Those closest to the door got up and moved over to help her.

Gunther, who wished for nothing more than to get this whole meeting over with - he hated things that were unnecessarily dragged out - smiled. He knew he would have to ask first, but imagining the eccentric scientist as an angel, he realized that might be just what they needed.

After all the papers were picked up, Hange showed them what she had been carrying.

"And that's exciting why?" Scratching the back of his head, Connie looked down at the drawing of a stone.

"Don't you see?" sighing, she pushed the drawing even closer to his face. "Here, see. That is a stone - an old stone."

"Y-yeah?"

Sensing that the conversation behind them could take quite some time, the rest of the group turned back to their task: Going through the plans for their play - as well as agreeing on the rest of the parts.

As they separated, Armin announced that he was heading for the kitchen to read the next chapter. The news brought smiles to the faces of some, while others let out a sigh.

"I'll run ahead to tell Petra to put on some tea." Connie sprinted towards the door.

"And I will go and inform the Commander and the Captain about it." Eld got onto his feet. "I know the Commander will be pleased, and that he will join us."

Armin nodded, a smile on his face. When he had first discovered the calendar and the secret inside it, he had thought it could bring a little joy to their lives. Still, this much? At first he had been a little disappointed that there were no little figurines or chocolate hiding behind the windows. If it had, then he could have given them out to his friends - making it so that every single one of them would have a little trinket to remember this year. However, the pieces of paper and the story written on them seemed to have given them more than a little figurine could. It had brought them together, and closer than ever.

So, after going to his room to get the calendar, opening the window, and taking the piece of paper with him, he went down to the kitchen. He was not the first. Those that had been informed of the reading had all been going around and telling the rest of the house. From what he could see, the only ones missing were Eld and the Commander.

"Here you go, Armin."

Armin thanked Petra as he accepted the cup of tea and tasted it with a kitten's tongue. He found a place by the table, and as soon as the Commander and Eld arrived, he began to read:


The ninth of December: The fifth sheep

… they had broken a solemn promise …


It was the year 1378 after Christ. Three godly sheep and a lamb with a bell stormed into the Hanseatic city of Hamburg. Behind the little flock ran two shepherds. An elegantly dressed black king followed the shepherds. Behind the black man, a little girl was running as fast as her short legs would carry her. After the girl, an angel hovered above the ground.

It was Sunday, and early in the morning. A few people were about in the streets on their way to morning mass in the old Jacob Church. As soon as they caught sight of the procession of pilgrims they gestured with their arms. Some of them shaded their eyes, and one of them exclaimed, 'God be praised!'

Something similar had happened in the town of Hanover a few years earlier. It was 1351, immediately after the fearful Plague that had cost so many human lives, not only in Germany, but in the whole of Europe. It was a Monday, and the market stalls on the great market square were about to open. Peasants in their worn, homespun clothes and market women in rough skirts had begun setting out their wares. All of them had lost some of their dear ones. It was just before the dawn of a new day.

It was then that a little flock of sheep suddenly sprang into the market. One of the sheep overturned a table of vegetables. After the sheep there came a strange company. There were a couple of shepherds, and a man in exotic clothes, black-skinned like an African. The black man was followed by a white-clad figure with wings on its back. Right at the end there appeared a little girl. She stumbled over the shaft of a cart full of cabbages and lay there after the rest of the godly company had left the market.

Elisabet wept bitterly when she saw the angel Ephiriel and all the others disappearing. It was the second time on the long journey south that she had fallen and hurt herself. Now she had lost the procession of pilgrims and was surrounded by people she didn't know. Not only was she in a foreign country, she was in a foreign century too.

The people in the market were terrified by what they had seen. They crowded round Elisabet, and a man poked her with his foot as if he was afraid to touch her. He wrinkled his nose and grunted horribly. But soon an old woman put Elisabet on her feet and tried to comfort her. She spoke a language Elisabet didn't understand.

'I'm going to Bethlehem,' said Elisabet.

And the market woman replied, 'Hamelin? Hamelin?'

'No, no!' sobbed Elisabet. 'To Bethlehem! To Bethlehem!'

Those were her words. The next moment one of the angels of the Lord appeared in an arc of light above the market. Elisabet stretched out her arms towards the angel and cried, 'Ephiriel! Ephiriel!'

The people in the market threw themselves to the ground, but the angel lifted Elisabet up into the air, flew over the spire of the new Market Church, and was gone.

He put her down on a country road outside the town where the sheep, the shepherds, and Caspar the black king were waiting.

'Isn't that just what I was saying?' chuckled Joshua. 'When one of the lambs is lost, the shepherd must leave his flock and find the lamb that has wandered away.'

He struck the ground with his crook. 'To Bethlehem! To Bethlehem!'

'How far is it to Bethlehem?' asked Elisabet.

'Not very far, my dear,' said Ephiriel.

After a while they came to a town on the bank of another river.

'This is Hamelin,' said Ephiriel. 'The river is called the Weser, and the year is 1304 after Jesus' birth. A few years ago a dreadful misfortune occurred in this town. Well, in a way they only had themselves to blame. They had broken a solemn promise, and that's something one should never do.'

'What happened?' asked Elisabet.

'The town had been plagued by rats for a long time. But then a rat-catcher arrived in town. He played on a magic pipe, and the sound of the pipe made all the rats follow him. The piper led the rats to the river, where they all drowned.'

'Wasn't that a good thing?'

'Yes, of course, but the people in the town had promised the man a big reward if he could save them from the plague of rats. When he had rid them of the rats, they refused to pay what they owed him.'

'What did the rat-catcher do then?'

'He began to play on his magic pipe again, and all the children in the town were bewitched by the music of the pipe and followed him. They disappeared inside a huge mountain with the piper, and were never seen again.'

Elisabet realised that maybe the woman in the market at Hanover had thought she was one of the children who had been lured into the mountain by the rat-catcher from Hamelin.

They were about to hurry on through Europe and even further back into history, when a sheep came running towards them along the road and joined the others. Now the flock numbered five sheep.

Joshua struck the ground with his crook.

'To Bethlehem! To Bethlehem!'


"That's kinda fun," Petra commented as they finished today's chapter. "I've never heard the tale before, but for some reason it reminds me of someone."

The group looked at each other for an explanation. They then turned to Petra, but the answer came from an unexpected source.

"Yes… He does seem like the perfect candidate."

None of them had even noticed him walking into the kitchen, but there he sat; on the bench right next to Petra.

"Wait, you know what she is talking about, Captain?"

Instead of answering them, the Captain simply closed his eyes and let out a sigh.

"Oh, yes." Petra nodded. "We've both been on the receiving end of the magic of Oluo's flute."

"Wait a-ackk!" Ymir fought to catch her breath between choking on the bits of bread. Finally the battle was over and Ymir came out victorious. "What?!"

"Oluo can play!?" Connie chimed in.

"Don't know if that's the accurate word for it..."

Pouting, Petra gave Levi a friendly box on in the upper arm. "Oh, come on, Captain. It's not that bad."

"..."

"Really!"

Levi sighed. "It's not too bad."

"There, you see? Even the Captain enjoys it." The young woman smiled happily. "...even if just a little bit." she added as a deadly glare threatened to burn a hole through her skull.

"Strange," Hange grinned down at them from her place up on the mantelpiece. "I distinctly remember you telling me that you hated music." Her eyes became narrow as she leaned forward, almost tipping over, but at the last moment she caught her balance.

Ignoring her, the strongest warrior for humanity looked out through the window before getting on his feet and heading out the door.

"Wait-" Hange called after him.

Levi stopped, but it was not because of the scientist's plea, but for the loud hark from his second in command.

Just then, Eld had walked into the main room. He had been absent most of the day due to a special request from the Commander. However, here he stood and, looking at his face, it was clear that he was about to announce something.

And so he did, and a few minutes later:

"So, are everyone ready?"

They looked at each other and nodded.

"Okay," Eld continued. "The concept of this 'Secret Santa'-game is simple. All of your names are written on pieces of paper inside this box. I have made sure to mix them, and now all of you are to pick one name each from the box. The name that you receive will be the person that you are to give a gift to on the 24th of December. However, you are not allowed to say who you picked. That is to be a secret - even after the gift is given." He looked around at the soldiers. "Are the rules clear?"

There was another round of nodding, and Eld took this as a good sign.

"Okay." He handed the box to Krista. "If you would draw, and then pass it along?"

Krista nodded, picked a piece of paper, looked at it, and then handed the box to Ymir.

"Oh, I know what I'll do." Ymir grinned as she opened her piece of paper. "I'm gonna give myself a really nice wife. Or, what do you think, Krista?"

Krista giggled at this, but Eld was quick to take Ymir's note and look at it.

"Oh, and I forgot to mention one thing. If you are so unlucky - or lucky," he sent a curious look at the two girls, "to draw your own name, you have to give it back."

The rest of the drawing went without any problems. Sure, there were some sour faces - especially from captain Levi - but there were many happy ones a well. On one end of the table, Mikasa paled, her eyes widening as she glanced at the name on her note. Across from her, Krista let out a giggle, passing the box along. As the box reached Oluo, a record made on the most sour face in history was written down, while Connie got a cheeky smile on his lips.

Happy with how the event turned out, Eld looked around the room with a strangely proud expression on his face. That was, until he locked eyes with Hange. He couldn't put his finger on it, but there was just something immensely unsettling in her eyes as she looked at him. And, for a minute, he began on a prayer, begging that he would not be the one with the dubious honor of receiving a gift from the scientist.

Looking down at his own, a small smile appeared in the corner of his mouth. He'd never thought that he'd actually get his wish fulfilled.


Returning to his room, Reiner fell heavily down on his mattress. As the rules had been explained, the ox of a man had closed his eyes, telling himself that this was the moment. As the box had been handed to him, he had painted a picture in his head, and closed his eyes. He felt around the box, and grabbed a piece of paper. Looking at it, his heart was full of hope, but this was soon crushed as he saw what six letters were written on it: A.

Not that he had anything against the girl, not at all; he had great admiration for her abilities - and to be honest, they even frightened him a bit. He was not against the idea of finding a gift for her, but the man had hoped for a different name. A special name. Her name.

But, what was done was done, and it was Mikasa who was to receive a gift. The question was what. He had thought about suitable gifts ever since the idea of this 'Secret Santa' was introduced, but his ideas had fallen into categories - and none of them fit Mikasa.

"What could she like..." he muttered to himself. She was not a girly girl, or the typical boy. She was not one for interesting researchable objects, nor the lover of sweets. It would take some time to think through, but luckily, time was something that they had. The gift didn't have to be done until the 23rd. Up til then, he just had to keep one eye open.


A/N:
Question of today: Do you do Secret Santa? With who? Any hints on who you got?

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