Note: Just started watching/reading Shingeki no Kyojin, and I fell in love with it! That being said, I really like this pairing of Mikasa and Rivaille, so I hope I do it justice!
Disclaimer: I do not own Shingeki no Kyojin.
Before They Ventured Back to the Wall
Mikasa kept her head down as the Scouting Legion caravan solemnly made its way back to the wall. The constant squeaking of the cartwheel beside her was grating on her nerves, making her fingers grip the reins of her horse tighter. Her boots were covered in dried blood and dirt, and she could feel the blood on her face and arms harden in the sunlight. The gas tanks on her sides were weighing her down, and she silently berated herself for not putting them in the cart sooner. The grass on her left side swayed with the breeze, just like her black tresses flowed in front of her eyes.
Around her, the rest of the fighters were casting their eyes to the ground or listlessly watching the road in front of them. No doubt they were mulling over their mission, a mission which had failed in the span of four hours. Too much blood was shed, for no more than a third of their party was now walking back to the city. People lost friends, comrades, fellow trainees. Seeing the melancholy looks on the soldiers faces made Mikasa realize that even the strongest had no shame in eliciting emotion. Out of the whole surviving race, they were the ones who saw the most death.
When Eren and Mikasa were kids, the Scouting Legion was a symbol of hope. Even though they had lost more than thirty percent of their party every mission, they were still considered humanity's strongest weapon against the titans. It was the closest thing to a celebration whenever they would saunter through the streets, with people watching them and occasionally pointing them out by name. Eren was more vocal in expressing his interest, but Mikasa had her own silent admiration as well. But now, she just felt sick. There hadn't been a single moment in this mission that she felt heroic.
If Corporal Levi wasn't there to help her, she would've gone on a blind rampage on the female type—which would've ended her life. With a heavy heart, she mulled over the events that happened just a couple hours ago…
After she and Levi escaped the enormous female titan, Mikasa praised every god she knew that Eren was alive. She didn't know what she would've done if he had been eaten. The sight of it still hadn't left her frenzied thoughts.
But her thoughts were interrupted when she heard a groan come from the corporal. Right when she turned her head, Levi swung sharply to the right and flung himself to the nearest branch, practically dumping himself on it. Mikasa shifted her gear and swooped up beside him, landing with a small thud.
Levi regarded her with hooded eyes and grunted, "I've been injured."
Following his eyes, the young woman saw that his left pant leg was soaked with blood. Whether it was his or Eren's, she knew that he needed medical attention right away. However, if they were to get back to the others in time, medical attention would have to wait until then. "What do you want me to do?"
Another grunt escaped the corporal's throat before he gestured to the unconscious boy by his side. His voice was raspy, but managed to keep a hint of its smoothness, "As much as it pains me to say this, could you carry Eren for me?"
Mikasa didn't say a word, but nodded instead. She bent down to hold Eren above her head before letting him rest on her shoulders. Levi watched with dark gray eyes as she steadied herself, trying to think of any other woman that could hold a grown man and still utilize the 3DMG…
No one came up.
"Can you still use your maneuver gear?"
Levi snapped out of his confusion and glared at his mauled leg. Ruefully, he thought that her question should've been the other way around. "I can manage. Let's go."
Mikasa took no time in flinging herself forward that she missed the stunned expression on her corporal's face behind her.
Eren's deadweight was hurting her back, but she had to keep going. Release, gas, grapple, swing, repeat. The surroundings blended together as she flew through the forest. The faster she went, the less weight she felt. It was just a pain on the swings she had to make since her weight was two-fold. Within minutes, Mikasa made her way to the caravan waiting at the edge of the forest. She made one more long swing down to the ground before falling to her knees, Eren crushing her with his weight. Between the fight with the female type and carrying Eren's deadweight with the 3DMG, she was exhausted. One of the girls rushed to her side as two men lifted her friend from her back and onto one of the carts.
A familiar voice above her spoke, "Mikasa! Are you alright?"
She let out a short cough before getting back up on her legs. "I'm fine, Armin," she said, "Don't worry about me. Corporal Levi's right behind me, and he's injured."
As if on cue, the dark-headed man was swinging down in a drawn out swing, holding his grappling rope with one hand. Right when he got to the ground, a horse and wrappings for his leg were brought to him. A wooden plank was fastened to his shin after he was lifted onto his horse.
Mikasa and Armin turned towards the commotion and watched the corporal being swarmed with three or four people tending to him. She could practically feel the disgust he was radiating. He hated the treatment he was getting and she knew it. If she were in his place, Mikasa would want people tending to everyone else first.
His eyes caught hers and she quickly turned away, for reasons she didn't know. Logically, it would be because she was responsible for his injury. Adding to that embarrassment, Mikasa was so wrapped up in adrenaline that she didn't even thank him yet. However, that still didn't explain the small flutter in her stomach.
Armin then turned to her, a grave look in his eye, "I was so worried you weren't going to come back! I heard you broke formation after we all heard Eren scream. What happened back there?"
Mikasa grit her teeth before facing him. Her voice was flat, "The female type managed to extract him from his titan form." Armin made an audible gasp but she continued, "Armin, she didn't eat him; she kept him in her mouth. It was obvious she was trying to capture him."
The blond pursed his lips and looked down in thought. "I figured she was after Eren. I didn't think she would eat him."
"She almost got away, too, but… Luckily the corporal was there in time," she looked away from Armin before whispering, "I couldn't save him, Armin…"
"What? Mikasa, that's not true. If you weren't there—"
"—I was there," she cut him off before sauntering off towards the caravan. He lifted his arm to reach her but she was out of his reach.
The girl walked to the cart Eren was lying in and peered over the edge to look at him. She placed her hands on the sideboard and watched his chest rise and fall with his deep breaths. Watching his chest move softly was enough for her—he was there, he was alive. "Eren…" she whispered with relief. There was a slight sting in her eyes before her vision became blurry.
She should've been with him from the start. This wouldn't have happened if she was there in his security circle. If she was there, she would have defended him and none of this would have happened. He would have gotten away. It was as if she could never be with him when he was in danger.
Mikasa was so far from her promise to his mom that it pained her.
And what's worse: she couldn't even protect him by herself. She wasn't strong enough to protect him on her own, and because of her weakness someone else was hurt in the process. Because of her selfishness, someone else got hurt. She could feel the blood in her body boil as she clenched her teeth. Her legs were shaking not with fear, but with anger. Not long ago, she had told everyone that she was stronger than all of them. Now, her strength didn't satisfy her in the least. Once again, she wasn't strong enough. Once again, Eren was in harm's way and she couldn't prevent it.
Once again, she failed.
All of this bore down on Mikasa all at once, and just as she was about to be pushed over the brink, a raspy smooth voice reached her ear,
"Hey, let go."
The girl's body snapped rigid and she stilled. Glancing at her hands, she noticed they were a stark white from her iron grip on the cart. She didn't even notice when her grip got so hard. When she slowly plucked her fingers from the hold, she felt an ache in her joints and there were a bunch of tiny splinters embedded in her skin. She winced and looked at the dark-eyed man on the horse behind her.
Levi had an indiscernible look in his eye as Mikasa searched his face. He took notice of the watery trails on her cheeks right before she turned away to wipe them off. Levi felt a miniscule pain in his chest, the most he had felt in a long time.
"None of this is your fault, you know."
The corporal could feel Mikasa's hard gaze from behind her, knowing that he hit home with that line.
When the woman held her head down, Levi ordered his horse to walk a couple steps to get in front of her. Mikasa's sight moved to the splint on his leg, and he noticed that her eyes were not as bright as they usually were. Instead of reflecting the sun's rays, her eyes were dull. Something in him boiled over and he started to talk, "You seem to put more pressure on yourself than most people. It's admirable, but trust me when I say that you have to let some things go."
Mikasa narrowed her eyes and shot him a glare, "I could've prevented this from happening if I was there. If only you guys did your job—"
"—Our job was to protect Eren with our lives, nothing more. The fault is not in whether we did our jobs or not, but rather in our choice to carry those jobs out," he watched her expression as he continued, "Everyone is driven by their own choices, and it's the accumulation of those choices that leads to outcomes. We made our choice to guard Eren with our lives; he's the one who decided to trust us in fulfilling our duty. In the end, all of our choices ended with casualties. I can bet your life that Eren realized that, and that that was what drove him to challenge the female type in the first place. Even if you were with us, would he have chosen differently?"
Mikasa's expression softened as she mulled over his words. With a forlorn look to the horizon, she whispered, "No, but I would have protected him."
Levi sighed at her naivety. For whatever reasons she had to want to protect Eren this badly, she was going about it the wrong way. There was a lot to learn. "I know you want to protect him, but there is more than one way to do that. You think that staying by his side and fighting his battles for him will be enough, but that's not the case. He won't learn anything if you're always there for him. I know it doesn't make sense now, but there's another way to protect him, and that is to put your trust in him."
This made Mikasa's eyes change. The life filtered back in and she peered up at his sitting form. With a whisper, she repeated, "Trust… in him…"
The corporal just watched as her eyes went blank in thought. They both didn't have time to say anything else when Commander Irwin ordered them to evacuate the area immediately.
There were titans closing in on the group, and they needed to get out of there fast.
Levi swerved his head back to the trees, seeing a few ten meter classes approaching their party. They were still a good distance away, but he still gave orders to the surrounding troops,
"I want the ablest-bodied men and women guarding us from behind, forming a V-formation around the wounded! Get all the injured to the center of the party on the fastest carts!" After he barked out the orders he glanced at the woman beside him, "Eren's friend, can you still fight?"
"It's Ackerman, sir," Mikasa bit out, earning an eyebrow raise, "But yes." Everyone was already scrambling around at this point. Supplies were being loaded and carts were being driven away.
"Don't call me that," Levi bit out before realizing it. Mikasa rose an eyebrow, but he just looked to the forest again. In a stern voice, he ordered, "I want you in the rear formation. If you feel the need to give out orders, do it. Keep the titans in the forest as long as possible; you guys will have the advantage with your gear."
"Right," Mikasa answered before watching Eren's cart getting pulled away by the horses. She watched for a brief moment before turning back to Levi.
But he was already gone.
Mikasa rushed to the forest, meeting up with Jean, Armin, and a few of the others left on scouting duty. Of course they were the ablest-bodied people of the remaining few—they weren't sent into the forest to deal with the female type. As much as it pained them to keep away from the fray, they were the lucky ones.
She relayed Levi's commands to them before they swooped up into the trees to finish off the titans that were approaching the forest edge.
Ackerman perched on the first branch she could see before scanning the area for any titans. The first one Mikasa spotted was a lumpy ten meter class, ambling through the trees. Calculating a swing route, she ran across the branch she was on and quickly grappled the next tree. Her gas forced her through the air at breakneck speed right behind the titan, and she unhooked her chains to grapple its nape. Remembering how Levi upped his speed by spinning his body with the inertia, she flung herself directly at the eotena, twisted her body as sharp as she could, and sliced right where she intended to. Blood splattered all over her clothing as she righted her body to grapple and swing to a safe branch.
She glanced at her sword and stared in awe at how clean that kill was. Her blades didn't dull like they usually did with each impact.
"Amazing," she thought out loud before two skinny eight meter classes caught her attention. They were approaching a short distance from each other, and Ackerman waited them out for a few more seconds. Using her newfound abilities, she positioned herself perpendicular to the titans' line of sight. Waiting for the right moment, she paused until the first titan walked right past her. Grappling the tree from across the way, she twisted her body again and sliced the first titan nape clean. When she neared the tree, Mikasa pushed off of it with her foot and grappled a higher target. She was flung into the air before she even heard the first titan slam into the ground. Right when she reached the peak of her swing, the woman grappled the second titan's neck and finished it off with another body spin.
She didn't say a word as she swung away from the steaming bodies, scanning for other titans.
That was Armin's voice. The woman looked around the find where he was, but he swung up to meet her and immediately started rambling, "We don't have much time. The group of titans that came into the forest earlier is starting to dissipate. We need to get back to the formation."
Mikasa's face was blank. "Have we gotten most of the ones nearby?"
Arlert nodded quickly and spoke fast, "Yeah, most of the ones that were headed our way were taken care of. The party is probably safe, but we need to catch up before our horses get spooked."
"Horses?" That thought never even occurred to the girl when they were sent to fend off the titans. How could she have missed something so vital to their success?
Armin grabbed her arm and piped, "Yeah. I got some people to hold horses for us. We only have enough for us to ride in twos, but that's more than enough."
Mikasa nodded before following Armin down to the group waiting at the edge. Everyone grabbed a hold of the first horse they saw and pulled their partners up. Just like that, they were racing to the rest of the group.
The black-haired girl held on to Armin's waist as they fled, and she could only wonder if the rest of the group was okay. They had taken care of the titans in the forest, but if there were any more on the plains, they were all in trouble. What was worse: her adrenaline was starting to wear off, eaten by fatigue.
But when they got there, the rest of the party was okay.
Armin slowed the horse down and let out a drawn out sign of relief. "Whew… lucky."
Everyone seemed to be fine. It felt like there were no encounters on their part, which made Mikasa relieved for more reason than one. Looking towards the head of the group, she spotted Levi exchanging words with Commander Irwin before spotting her and the others. They both looked back at them before the dark-haired man pulled his horse to the back of the group.
He scanned the lot of them, seemingly counting heads. Looking at Armin and Mikasa, he asked in bewilderment, "Everyone came back?"
Armin spoke up, "Yes, sir. Mikasa ordered us to hold horses so we could flee before more of them came back." Ackerman was about to object when Armin subtly elbowed her in the ribs.
Levi raised an eyebrow at the girl, "Well, that went better than I expected." He regarded her glare for a moment before trotting back up to the front.
Mikasa waited until he was out of earshot. Armin didn't know what hit when she clocked him on the head. He wailed before she cupped his mouth and whispered in his ear, "Why'd you tell him that I said that? That was your idea."
Armin muttered inaudible things before she took her hand off his mouth. He turned to her and whispered back, "Because, Mikasa. You're going to be in command someday, sooner than later. Just helping your reputation out."
Ackerman muttered, "I can do it without lying."
The blond then gave her a look. "When we went into the forest, I noticed something. You gave us orders at the start, but then you left us without warning. You're a strong fighter, but you can't be in command unless you learn how to lead." He took her back to the time after Eren was eaten the first time. "Remember when you gave us the speech that you're stronger than us? We all believed it, and we all respected you, but after that you left us behind and blindly went in enemy territory. I know you were blinded by rage, but you gotta learn to control that."
Mikasa was at a loss for words. He was completely right. Even when she witnessed Eren getting swallowed up, she didn't think clearly. That counts as two times she put her life in danger because of her emotions.
Was she really that attached to Eren?
She needed time to think, and when the horse was at a slow gait she was quick to dismount. Armin offered to lend her the horse, but she insisted that she walked. He nodded before pulling ahead of her.
She had walked head-down next to Eren's cart most of the way, until a horse came up to her side. She turned to see Levi walking upright next to her with his horse in tow. Mikasa's eyes widened, "Corporal? You're walking?"
The splint held in his hands was chucked into the wooden cart before he responded, "We're almost to the wall. I don't want the people to see me wounded."
She understood. It was one thing for the people to see how many were wiped out on their missions, but a whole other thing entirely when the strongest warrior was hurt. It symbolized a crack in the hope of humanity—if their strongest fell, what would happen to the rest of them? This made her feel even worse for putting him in that position, and it was pasted all over her face.
Ackerman turned her face slightly towards Levi, but not all the way. He could see the outline of her profile, and saw the guilt in her lidded eyes. She was mad at him for not protecting Eren, he knew, but the guilt in her eyes wasn't settling well with him. It only reminded him that she was still an innocent woman. She needed to be reminded yet again,
"This was because of my decision, not yours. Now keep your head up before I do it for you. We're nearing the wall."
Mikasa was looking down for so long that she didn't even notice. Her legs were on autopilot the moment she felt exhaustion fill her body.
For one last request, Levi handed her the reins of his horse. "Unlike a wooden cart, this won't give you splinters. Get on."
She watched him fall behind before mounting his horse. Her thoughts wandered off and she could only focus on the horse's mane in front of her...
Mikasa snapped back to reality when one of the wounded soldiers in the cart spoke, "Oh, finally came to?"
He twisted his gaze to her in shock, "Mikasa?!"
Her friend was too forceful with his voice and movements, but the effects of his titan transformation were still present in his eyes. Mikasa needed to calm him down despite the joy she felt in seeing him alive. But was it joy? Or just massive relief? "Don't try to get up yet. You should just rest for now."
It was no use. He screamed, "What about the female type?!"
Mikasa faced forward towards the wall before answering, "She got away…"
Eren was a mess. Questions spilled from his mouth, "Why? Everybody… What's… What about the plan…?"
With remorse, she whispered, "It failed." A pause. "You need to rest…"
Eren then noticed the wings adorning the cloak covering him. "This is… was it you again who saved me?"
I didn't save you, Eren. The woman couldn't look him in the eye this time. She couldn't tell him the truth; she couldn't tell him that she had failed had it not been for Levi. It was then that she reminded herself to give him a real apology later. "We… almost made it to the wall."
All conversation stopped then.
They were nearing the gates.
Note: I intended this to just be a one-shot with a lot of interaction between Mikasa and Levi, but I'll gladly turn into a chapter story if you guys want! So waddaya say, more Rikasa action?! Let me know!
Note 2: I love this pairing so much; they're both badasses. And I also loved writing Levi. He's such a cool character!
March 2014 Edit: Changed "Rivaille" to "Levi." Doing this for all the remaining chapters. Also, changed 0.5% of the dialogue, nothing huge. I just had Levi call Mikasa "Eren's friend" unti she introduced herself.