Disclaimer: I do not own Shingeki no Kyojin.
After the Storm
"Squad Leader Hanji… I—"
"—Oh, hi, Eren. Thank you for coming."
The boy expected at least an explanation as to why he was called there, but he was only greeted with the sound of Hanji shuffling through her things. It seemed to him that she really wasn't all there, considering she straightened the same paper stack twice, now three times. It didn't help her case when she kept adjusting her glasses that barely needed any movement up the bridge of her nose. Her hair was frazzled and some strands were sticking out like twigs, and at that moment all he saw in her was the stereotypical mad scientist. Maybe she was mad, but more emotionally mad than mad in the head.
Eren somberly realized that she might've locked herself in there for the whole hour Mikasa and he were watching over Levi. She might've used that time to beat herself up over the whole thing.
He had to force himself to say something to clear out the tension soaking the room. The walls felt like they were squeezing in on them, and he didn't like watching Hanji drive herself into insanity. This kind of madness didn't suit her at all. His voice came out squeaking as he asked, "Umm, I was just wondering why you called me here?"
"O-Oh, right," Hanji stammered as she pushed up her glasses with shaky fingers, "We're actually going to Erwin's office. I—we need to tell him about what we did to Levi."
"Wait," Eren gasped with wide eyes, "You didn't tell him about it yet?"
The squad leader shook her head and stalked past him. "No. No, I haven't. But we're going over there now."
Eren barely knew Commander Erwin, but he knew enough to know that this was not going to make him happy in the slightest. If anything, the man was going to be absolutely furious. From what Eren was able to tell, Erwin always had a plan, always stayed ten steps ahead of everyone. He proved this twice to him: once in the Forest of Giant Trees and again in the Capitol with Annie's capture. A man like that? Not welcome to twists in their plan—at least, not twists that didn't work in their favor.
And this was certainly something Erwin was against. Bar none.
"Oh… Okay," was all Eren could mutter in response. He slowly followed Hanji out of the room, the two of them leaving the disorganized stacks of paper on her desk, not noticing that one of them leaned too far to the side and fell to the floor in floating sheets of parchment.
The walk to Erwin's office was short in retrospect, but at the time Eren couldn't remember a longer walk in his life. The corridors were smaller than he remembered, and the smell was heightened to a lingering staleness that made his nostrils shrivel. He could already feel the sweat under his shirt collecting in his body's ridges, and when they finally got to the door to Erwin's office, Eren noticed that Hanji's clothes were soaked through in the back more than his were.
When the two of them entered the room, two pairs of eyes looked up from fresh paper to greet them. Eren's eyes snapped to the one he knew better and whispered, "Armin…"
"Eren," the shorter blond in the room replied. He held his gaze on Eren for a moment before swinging his vision to Hanji.
Erwin, seemingly picking up that something was off, urged, "Hanji? What's going on…" His voice trailed off when Hanji held up her hand.
"I have something to tell you, Erwin," she sighed, causing Eren to look at her. She turned to him and gave him a light smile, "Sorry for dragging you here, Eren. I just needed a boost to come here."
The boy watched her with blinking eyes and whispered, "Leader Hanji…"
"Take your friend and go. This is between me and your Commander."
Eren stared back for a moment before nodding. Glancing at Armin again, he cocked his head toward the door before walking out of the room. Armin followed suit, his level of curiousness through the roof.
The door shut behind them, but the both of them made no move to leave. Armin had his brows furrowed, but even though he was staring through Eren the other boy didn't budge. "Eren," he whispered, "What's going on?"
"Shh." The titan shifter motioned for his friend to stay quiet, noting to himself to tell him everything later. He wanted to know how this was going to unravel, and he felt a strange need to stand up for Hanji if things got bad. Sure, she didn't think things through and could potentially screw things up, but she had done nothing but help him this entire time. He couldn't just walk away and let her take the heat when he was an accomplice in this scheme.
A muted bang kicked him back to reality, and he flinched as Armin took a step back from Erwin's door. The two of them glanced at each other when Erwin's booming voice broke through the wood finish, "This is unacceptable!"
"I realize that it wasn't practical—"
"—Practical? You've compromised the mission and possibly his life!"
"'His?'" Armin blinked in surprise and turned to Eren, "What's going on, Eren? …Eren?"
Eren stood stark still as he listened, not responding.
"I can find ways to reverse this, I promise. There has to be a way."
"Yes, well, we have to postpone the mission because of this. I need to see if he suffers any side-effects before I release him at all. You better hope he doesn't, Hanji."
The boy couldn't move from the spot, churning the commander's words in his brain. Compromised a life? He never thought of it that way. All they wanted to do was get Levi better so that he could go on the retrieval mission. They were so caught up in the discovery of his crystallization and a remedy to Levi's injury that the consequences were glossed over. Looking back, they both made a serious mistake. They shouldn't have extracted his blood and fed it into Levi's bloodstream. There was no turning this around and now Levi's life was in danger.
Eren felt physically sick. Something was caught in his throat and he felt lightheaded. Wobbling on one leg, he leaned on Armin's hands as the blond helped him stand.
"Come on, Eren. Let's leave before she comes out. You can tell me about this later."
"…Right," Eren sighed as he was led out of the hallway and down to the basement.
Compromised a life?
He needed to puke.
Mikasa woke up to a tingling sensation on her forehead, and she slowly blinked the sleep from her eyes to see what the deal was. As her vision shifted into focus, all she saw was a pair of dark orbs staring into her soul. Black strands of hair fell like black silk around her face, and strong arms encased her on either side.
"Levi," she breathed, watching his eyes on her. She sucked in a breath when his eyes narrowed into lust-ridden slits, his mouth slightly turned.
"Mikasa," he grunted, "Touch me."
"What? No," she rushed out, her eyes widening, "Levi, what's going on—" As she spoke, her arms came up and she placed her hands on his chest, going to push him off of her. But, he cut her off and made her gasp as he gripped both her wrists and sunk them into the mattress above her head.
"What's wrong," Levi drawled, his eyes blazing like hot coals, "You scared?"
Mikasa couldn't seem to catch her breath, and her stomach was turning. As she tried to move her legs, Levi stopped her by pinning them down with his knees. "Levi, stop," she tried to scream, but he cut her off with a scorching kiss.
Except, this time it wasn't scorching with fervor—it was burning so much it made her uncomfortable. This kiss was not wanted or permissible at all and Mikasa did not appreciate it in the least. She struggled under the soldier, forcing her arms and legs to work in her favor, but to no avail.
She didn't like this at all—she felt trapped.
Levi released his lips from hers with a pop as he sucked her bottom lip up, and went straight to devouring her neck. Mikasa made little squeaks as he nipped at her flesh. She tried to scream anything, but as she opened her mouth no words came out. Stop, no, stop, she wanted to scream. She tried reaching into her throat to pull the words out, but none came. Tears streamed down her face born out of pure frustration, and she resorted to thrashing and kicking and thrashing and kicking—
The image of Levi dissipated and the young woman woke up with a start, her vision dark as she was kicked out of her nightmare. As she gathered her bearings, she realized that an arm was tightly wrapped around her waist and a wave of quick breaths was heating up her shoulder.
"Mikasa," Levi croaked, sounding like he was trying to stop her from thrashing in her sleep this whole time, "It was a dream. It was just a dream."
As soon as she realized what was happening, Mikasa burst into tears, a gasp jumping out of her mouth before she clapped a hand over it. She didn't even care at this point if she was embarrassing herself in front of Levi. That dream was the scariest she's ever had, and probably because it was so vivid she could recall everything like fresh memories. It was always her worst fear, and having Levi be the one to overpower her this time… It was just too much.
"Ackerman," the corporal murmured, trying to get her to face him, "Whatever it was, it's over. Breathe."
Mikasa hiccupped before letting out a shuddering breath, and she shifted her body to face him. It was pitch black in the room, so at least Levi couldn't see her reddened and tear-streaked face. She let out another breath, slowly getting rid of her shaking.
Levi didn't say another word, but Mikasa could swear his thumb was rubbing warm circles on her hip. It felt stupidly normal, but she knew it wasn't. Either it was a trick or he was incredibly out of it, Mikasa mused. There was no way in hell he would do this otherwise.
Or maybe… It was the injection.
She suddenly remembered the terrible and emotional events that happened just hours before, and she realized that she wasn't prepared to face that Levi again. Either he remembered what they did and would never speak to her again, or he didn't remember and…
And what? She would feel cheated? Would she feel as if they went through that for nothing? Well, no matter what the situation was, Mikasa wasn't thrilled about it.
She had to leave now. Leave before he realized what happened to him. She would have to do it now when he was only half-conscious.
So Mikasa willed herself to leave the bed, get out of the room and far away from the captain. She moved to leave, but Levi tightened his hold on her. She stilled.
"Where are you going," he uttered, his voice still coarse from sleep. It didn't hide the fact that he still sounded bored. Mikasa almost scoffed.
"I have to go, Corporal," the young woman pleaded, tasting the salty trails that finally made it into the crooks of her mouth, "Please."
"It was just a…" the man stopped when Mikasa plucked his arm off of her and slipped out of bed, and he breathed out a long sigh, "Have it your way."
Mikasa quickly swiped the tears away from her face before nodding. She turned to leave, not watching the look of confusion on the corporal's face. There was no way she could explain everything to him now. About the injection, about their fight, about her nightmare. Especially her nightmare.
That was a part of her life she never told anyone.
All anyone knew about her was that she was strong.
No one knew why she wanted to be.
Mikasa emerged from the room and shut the door with a click. As she turned to go to her own room, she bumped nose-first into a strong chest. "Ow," she whispered softly, not awake enough to look up.
"Mi-Mikasa! I'm sorry, I didn't see you," Jean stuttered out as he realized who bumped into him. He tried to see what the damage was when he saw specks of… Were those tears? He stopped. "Hey, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Jean," Mikasa whispered before rushing past him and into her own room.
And Jean was left scratching his head in the hallway. "What the hell's going on with everyone," he muttered, "It's like I miss everything that goes down in this castle."
Eren was able to walk the rest of the way with Armin to his bedroom, and both of them didn't speak until they were securely behind closed doors. Eren wasn't going to divulge anything until it was just him and Armin. The information was too confidential—not to mention controversial. If word got out that Levi had been injected with his titan blood, eventually people would keep watch on him. Knowing the guy, he wasn't going to like that at all.
And not just people in the Scouting Legion would be watching. Levi was quite popular in the Capitol as well, maybe even more so than Eren. If they got notice of this tactic they might turn a suspicious eye towards the organization.
Armin sat at the foot of the bed as Eren sat on the other side. His legs hung off the ledge of the bed, and his elbows rested on his knees. Staring down at the stone floors, Eren started to draw imaginary trails through the cracks in the rock. "Armin…"
The blond turned his head, his locks brunching up on his raised shoulders. He was leaning his chin on his knees, and the hands clasped around his legs tightened at the sound of his name. "It's okay," he reassured, "I don't have to know right now."
"No, it's fine," Eren replied, "It's just… I don't know where to start."
"Hmm," Armin hummed, now tracing things in the sheets, "I guess that's up to you. I've been up to my ears in mission plans, so as far as your situation, I know nothing."
Eren furrowed his brows and nodded. Armin was his best friend, of course he was going to tell him everything. What was weird was that he wasn't sure if that was the best idea. It irked him that he had that feeling, but he shoved it to the back of his brain. Taking a deep breath, he got up from the bed and started pacing around the room,
"I learned how to harden my skin. I guess we can start there."
Armin's eyes lit up, admiration emanating from his features. "Really? That's amazing, Eren. I didn't think you could figure it out so soon."
"Geez, gimme some credit," Eren mumbled, but smirking shortly after. In complete boy-fashion, he admitted, "It feels cool."
"I'll have to research into this later if you don't mind," the blond noted, tapping his chin.
"Sure," the other boy shrugged. "That wasn't the biggest part, though. Hanji was able to figure out that the crystal has my very being etched in, so we came to the conclusion that the titan ability is… In my blood."
"In your blood," Armin relayed, "That doesn't make sense to me."
"What do you mean," Eren asked, looking over his shoulder to his friend.
"I don't fully understand, that's all," the blond muttered, somewhat talking to himself. He was staring hard into the sheets, slowly warming the fabric with his gaze.
Eren's neck was straining, so he turned back to face the other wall of the room, lost in his own thoughts. He was going to have to tell Armin what he and Hanji did at some point, but right now didn't feel like the right time. Eren then wondered if he felt that way because he felt guilty about it, and that was probably right.
Might as well get it over with. Exhaling a long breath through his nostrils, Eren just blurted the secret out, "Hanji injected some of my blood into Levi."
The titan shifter felt the mattress sink as Armin shot up from his plush seat. "What did you say," the boy asked breathlessly, posing a very rhetorical question. "Eren… Why?"
Eren cringed at Armin's direct question. He had a reason why, but right now it sounded selfish and petty and just downright manipulative. The feelings of nausea were coming back with full force, and Eren had to keep his breaths even to get rid of it. "I don't exactly know, Armin. Hanji knows better than I do," he said as he got up from the bed and turned to face his friend. He inspected the blond's eyes, pupils dilating in fear.
Something in Armin's look sent a chill over Eren's bones. He didn't feel comfortable at all in the boy's silent scrutiny—he felt exposed. It was like a sudden gust of wind swept through the room and repelled all the noise. Nothing except the static sounds of tension remained.
Eren's voice came out shaky as he whispered, "Armin… Hanji said she can find a way to reverse it—"
"—Erwin is right," Armin blurted, parrying Eren's optimism like a blade, "You've compromised the mission by doing that—"
"But it wasn't—"
"What about blood types—"
"We never thought—"
"Can't you see this is so wrong—"
"It wasn't my idea!" Eren was so defensive, but he couldn't help it. Armin was directing all of his doubt on him, and the boy couldn't handle something he wasn't even responsible for. The things he was responsible for were bad enough; Eren couldn't let excess guilt into his system. Of course, he immediately berated himself for snapping at Armin yet again, but he would stand up for himself regardless.
However, this isn't what they needed right now. There were bigger problems to face, and Eren further scolded himself for getting into arguments at this point. Hushing his boiling blood and steaming skin, he sighed, "Let's just go over to her office, right now. If anyone can help us, it's you."
Armin's brows slowly turned upwards, replacing his frown with a sort of sympathetic air. His shoulders also lowered as he consented, "Okay. But, this is dangerous, Eren. You guys don't know anything about the characteristics of your blood. Just know that… This could do terrible things to the captain's body."
Eren nodded firmly, despite feeling dead on the inside. Sounding as confident as he could, the boy urged, "Then we fix it before that happens."
"…Shit," Levi groaned as he rolled over in the sheets. Despite feeling awake, the man felt so disoriented that he couldn't tell his arm movements from his leg movements. With a snort, he mused that this is probably what it felt like to be tangled in 3DMG wires.
Sliding his arm under the pillow, he closed his eyes an inhaled the feminine scent lingering in the fabric. The smell of lavender made him remember that Mikasa was sleeping there with him, so he moved his hand to her side of the bed.
She wasn't there. He only felt the last of the indent she had left, the warmth barely there anymore. "When the hell did she leave," he wondered to himself, burying his cheek into the pillow, "And why." It's not like she had to. If he was being honest with himself, he didn't care one bit that she stayed. He couldn't remember the last time he slept with someone else, and it made him feel less of a titan-killing machine again.
As if responding to him, Mikasa's voice came to him in soft whimpers, and he realized with a start the very reason that she left in the first place.
"No, please… Levi, stop… Don't… Don't!"
Levi frowned and squeezed his hands so tightly that he was sure to leave red half-moons in his skin. She had a nightmare, and he was the one torturing her. He had a pretty good guess as to what it was about, but that didn't change the fact that he felt utterly guilty about it. This was even worse than watching her twitch in the sheets when he stopped her nightmare the first night. She was outright thrashing. What the hell was he doing to make her so violent?
It started as just mere whimpers, following by her squirming next to him. The only reason he realized she was awake was that she elbowed him pretty hard in the side. He woke up pissed, but as soon as he saw her tortured expression his features softened instantly.
"Ackerman," he whispered, staring on as she shifted to the left, then to the right, then lifted her head as if to get away from something.
At this point, he had no idea what was going on. He also didn't know whether to wake her up or not. Maybe it wasn't that bad, maybe it was just one of those little nightmares you could get over when you're getting dressed for the day. Hardening his resolve to let her get through it, Levi held back and… just watched.
Twin black eyes roamed over her face, barely registering her tensed features in the dark. From what he could make out, she looked like she was going through serious trauma. Eyes shut tight and producing wrinkles on the edges; furrowed brows that knitted together and dove down into the top of her nose; teeth making such a dull gritting sound that made him uncomfortable. This wasn't just any nightmare, he observed with a weird feeling in his chest. She was under duress, and she was trying to get away. His thoughts were confirmed when her movements became more rigid and spastic. Mikasa thrashed to the side and got him good in the stomach before he pinned her down. Wrapping a protective arm around her torso, Levi gasped out, "Mikasa—"
"No, Levi, stop!"
That made him stop cold, freezing his entire being for a moment in time. She didn't say some random man's name—she said his name. Here Mikasa was, seemingly being held down or tortured, and she yelled for him to stop.
This made Levi's chest throb with something terrible, and his heart seemed to slide down to his stomach in sticky goo. The feeling that encompassed him was foreign and dirty and something he never wanted to feel ever again.
"Ackerman," he yelled more directly, shaking her this time.
"No! Stop—" she responded in a surprisingly coherent scream. Levi was desperate as she struck her arms out, burying his head in the gap between her head and shoulder. His arm snaked farther under her, veins bulging in his sudden muscle use, and he held her down as hard as possible.
With one more breath, he snapped, "Mikasa!"
She woke up with a final twitch, and her breaths were ragged and harsh. He kept his lock on her, waiting for her to say something, anything to tell him that she was back to clear thoughts. Thoughts and images that didn't include him torturing her or forcing her down or anything of the sort. He could handle slaying fifteen meter tall titans, he could handle shooting someone down with no regrets.
But hearing her scream at him to stop almost made him break.
Relieved, he whispered, "Mikasa…" He didn't want to mention the nightmare, or anything she said to keep her from being self-conscious. "It was a dream. It was just a dream."
And she just… cried. A sharp whimper came out of her mouth before her shoulders racked with hollow sobs. She cut her whimpers off with a hand over her mouth, and Levi almost wanted to tell her not to. No doubt she was conscious about crying in front of him, but he didn't give a single fuck that she did. He didn't care if she cried for hours; she just went through hell and wouldn't be human if she didn't cry because of it. Levi's chest emptied with each shake of her shoulders, and he was worried at how bad it actually was. Mikasa was obviously trying to get over the images burned into her brain, scrambling back to reality and the fact that they never actually happened. But it was a slow process, and one Levi was willing to sit through.
People would blame his softness on the situation, but that wasn't the case to him. Contrary to popular belief, Levi wasn't heartless. He was deeply troubled by what just happened, even if it was just a nightmare.
Suddenly, he realized that Mikasa probably thought him emotionless at the moment. He was so caught up in his thoughts that he hadn't said anything in awhile. Emptying his tired mouth, he whispered, "Ackerman." Mikasa tensed in his arms, but he didn't let that phase him. Instead, he tightened his arm around her and pulled her to turn over. He wanted her to face him, for reasons he didn't understand. "Whatever it was, it's over. Breathe."
Mikasa seemed to listen, breathing slowly before twisting her body to face him. He was grateful for her trust, considering what she just went through. He didn't know what he would do if she couldn't even look at him. He would've felt slimy without even doing anything, and that was somewhat annoying. Mikasa was strong, and for her to back down from this would have him tearing his hair out for days. There was no doubt in his mind that she would get over this, though. She had to. She could do anything. He would never admit anything like that aloud, but he thought about it more often than not.
Without even thinking about it, Levi started to trace circles on her waist. His mind drifted somewhere up in the thought clouds, lifting his consciousness from the real world. He was lingering in the space between reality and the world of ideas, not paying any attention to Mikasa's eyes widening on him.
So when Mikasa suddenly jumped away from him, he was quite disturbed.
"Where are you going," he asked, frowning when his voice sounded so monotone.
"I have to go, Levi. Please."
Levi figured it was because the man in her dream and the man in front of her were still the same person. Mikasa must've been caught in-between worlds, still trying to separate what was real from what wasn't. But, even then, it still annoyed him because he wasn't that person. He would never do such a thing, and if Mikasa didn't believe that she needed a serious reality check.
He started, "It was just a…" But Mikasa was already pushing his arm off of her and slowly slipping out of the sheets. It was no use. She wasn't going to talk about it anymore. Tired from lack of sleep and frustrated from the current situation, he conceded. "Have it your way."
Levi watched as Mikasa wiped the excess tears from her face. Why was she still crying? Were those new tears? He couldn't exactly tell as his eyes kept betraying him, his lids slipping down and begging him to sleep.
The darkness came right as his door clicked shut.
About an hour passed before Levi's eyes shot up instantly.
There was a flaming pain in his leg, so intense that his fingers were already clutching the sheets for dear life. Shudders racked his body and his teeth grated on each other as he hissed in agony. It felt like his leg was being severed at the knee, all of the pain concentrated in the veins running from there to the tips of his toes.
"Fuck," he seethed, reaching to grasp his leg but gripping the sheets again instead. Waves of fire flew through his bones and rippled in his muscles, his vision pulsing black at the edges.
Levi arched his back, as if that would quell the pain. Crashing back on the bed, he took one breath before his body arched again, another terrible groan ripping out of his mouth.
The second time he fell back onto the bed, the pain dissipated. A numbness filled the cracks where the pain had been, and Levi was left staring at the ceiling. He knew his vision was spinning, despite it being completely dark, and his head was pounding like someone was constantly squeezing it and letting go.
He had to do something. Something was wrong with his leg, and if he didn't get some type of medical attention right away he assumed it was going to fall right off. Tenderly bringing his legs to the floor, he got up and started limping towards the door.
Until he realized that he didn't need to.
The leg that he'd constantly been giving special attention to was suddenly fine at every step. Levi looked down towards his supposed injured leg, and took another experimental step to see if he was just thinking it. When no pain flared into his system, a memory of needles and rough hands on his limbs hit him with full force.
A new kind of fury took over him as he stormed to Erwin's office.
Levi had many different faces, and Hanji knew them all. She knew when he felt responsible for the deaths of his teammates from the subtle defeat in his features. She knew when he was swearing revenge on the titans from the way his eyes flashed promises of terror. She even knew when he was hungry from the slight twitch on his lips when he scowled.
But when Levi stalked into Erwin's office, she had never seen that face in the history of their friendship.
His eyes promised far more than terror, and the shadows under his eyebrows only highlighted the glint in his pupils. His bangs seemed to pull straight down his face, accenting the sharp cheekbones and ridge of his downturned nose. The grim line of his mouth was so thin and precise that Hanji felt like it could slit her throat if Levi willed it to, and his jaw was clenched in absolute rage.
Erwin's chair slid off the rug in a muffled scoot as he shot out of his seat. "Levi," was his only warning before the man clenched his fingers around Hanji's throat.
A chorus of voices erupted from the room as Eren and Armin stood up from their chairs as well. They hadn't even been in there for more than ten minutes before Levi strode in.
Hanji struggled to breathe as her hands swatted at his arm. Her voice came out croaking, and she found herself gasping for air. It felt like her body was light, but she realized that was just the feeling in her head. She could tell her pipe was effectively tightened, and if she didn't get oxygen within the next five—
Dots swam in her vision as she tried to get the corporal to let go. Her back slammed against the wall before Erwin forced Levi back, and her knees gave way before she hit the floor. Her hands slammed onto the wooden floorboards, her glasses lopsided on her face. Oxygen came to her faster than she could take it in, leaving her a coughing and sputtering mess on the floor.
Voices came out blurry, or that was the only way she could describe it. Grasping for the right word, she came to the conclusion that they were actually muffled. Muffled from the ringing in her ears.
"Stop. Levi, enough—"
"You ruined me, Hanji! Get up!"
"Corporal Levi, don't touch her like that—"
"Let's calm down now—"
"Fuck you, all of you! Did you know about this?"
"We were just trying—"
"Levi," Hanji croaked before another cough fled from her throat. The four men in front of her swung their heads toward her as she got up on shaky legs. Her eyes were leaking at the edges, and if she wasn't mistaken she might've seen a flash of guilt on Levi's face. "Levi, I'm sorry. It was stupid, and I wasn't thinking straight. I put your life in danger without even thinking about the repercussions. I know you're mad. I know you're thinking so low of me right now. I don't know what came over me and I'll be regretting it the rest of my—"
She expected Levi to stand there and make her beg for mercy. So when she felt a hand grab the back of her head and pull her to the crook between his head and shoulder, she let out a broken sob. Her shoulders wouldn't stop shaking, and she put her hands on his shoulders to hold herself up.
"You always talk too much."
Hanji's laugh came out broken. "That's true, isn't it," she asked, not expecting an answer at all.
"I shouldn't have choked you," Levi said into her slightly greased hair, sounding guilty and… surprised? "I won't do it again."
She pushed off of him, holding him at arm's length. "I deserved it," she said, a heavy tone laden on her mouth.
"No. You were just trying to help. We're in a tight spot, and you tried to find the easiest way out."
Hanji took off her glasses to wipe at her eyes before settling them back on her nose. "Right," she agreed, looking at her toes.
Erwin softly put a hand on her shoulder, and he ordered her to get some rest. They all knew she hadn't slept since she injected Levi, and she must've looked something terrible.
Murmuring her apologies and good-nights, Hanji gave them one weak ghost of a smile before walking shakily out the door.
Mikasa didn't have any dreams after going to another empty room. Her head was devoid of any thoughts, and she felt like she was floating from her bed when she fell asleep.
When she awoke, the cold air caused her to lift the blanket up to her chin, and she just stared at the wall opposite her bed.
She pondered a lot of things, like she had always done. She wondered where Annie was, and if she was captured or not. She wondered about life, where it started and where it ended. If it ended when a person died, or before that, when a person had nothing else to live for. She wondered what would've happened if Eren did die—died a normal human being never to be seen again. Where would she be now? Would she have beaten that titan coming for her with that skinny broken blade if Eren hadn't shown up?
She wondered if Levi remembered what happened last night.
They had fought, they had grieved, they had kissed. It was the most emotional night Mikasa had ever had in her life, and she doesn't even think to regret it. The entire night had played over and over again in her head, forcing her to commit everything that happened to memory. How Levi was so quick to counter her moves even when drugged, how he opened himself up to her in ways she had never imagined. Most of all, she remembered the feel of his lips and the strong grip of his hands as he carried her to the bed.
All of it, she committed to memory. And it was going to stay there, in a locked chest, just for her.
The only reason Mikasa got out of bed was Eren's voice on the other side of the door. There was a knock before that, but even then she couldn't will herself to get up.
Opening the door a slight crack to allow the least amount of chill in, she asked, "What's wrong?"
Eren's eyes widened in surprise, for whatever reason. He searched her reddened tear trails and slightly swollen lips before answering, "We're all needed at Commander Erwin's office right away. He says it's about the mission."
"Okay." Mikasa opened the door wider before she went to out her boots on. Eren stepped in tentatively, looking around in confusion.
"Is this your room?" Ah. That was why he looked surprised to see her there.
Mikasa shoved a boot on before explaining, "No, my room's two over."
"I thought so," he said, scratching his brown clump of bedhead, "Why are you in this one?"
The other boot caught on her heel before easily slipping on right after. "Corporal Levi took my bed, remember?"
"Oh," he breathed out, abruptly ending the conversation. It didn't bother them, though, because Mikasa was already heading out the door.
They made their way through the hallways, never getting used to how cramped Headquarters was. The walls played tricks on them if they stared hard enough, seeming to close in on them. Some people couldn't even handle being in the basement for too long, and only a few select people guarded prisoners down there.
"I'm still not used to these hallways," Eren blurted, making her smile because she knew he wouldn't admit this to anyone else.
"Me neither," she agreed in return, and the boy gave her an incredulous look.
"You can take down thirty meter titans but you can't handle three feet of space?"
"You can turn into a titan but you can't handle three feet of space?"
Mikasa laughed right before he chuckled to himself.
"After much discussion, we are delaying the recon mission until tomorrow. Myself and a few others deem this assignment worthy of more people, and so new plans have to be drafted and more formations need to be put in place. Furthermore, more members will be coming back from the safehouses. We'll be counting on them to join our forces tomorrow afternoon. I want everyone to still be on the lookout for any suspicious characters, but as of right now we're holding off our plans."
Mikasa and Eren exchange a look, sharing a look of alarm. There was no other reason that the mission would be postponed.
He knew. He knew about Levi's condition, which could only mean that Hanji told him… Or…
Mikasa glanced at Levi, only to see that he was already looking at her. His eyes were gleaming white, shining like predatory eyes in the dark. Mikasa praised herself for learning to keep her face straight, because on the inside she was a gaping fish out of water.
Levi remembered. He remembered everything that happened that night, especially what happened after. She could see the racing emotions in his face, from anger to frustration to rage. He looked so furious that she found her fingers shaking behind her back. She clenched her hands together tighter, hoping Levi didn't see the slight movement in her elbows.
Mikasa was terrified. She felt like her thoughts were glitching, trying to pile on top of each other and sometimes skipping from one to the next. Commander Erwin was still rambling on, giving his bullshit speech on why the mission was going to be postponed, but she couldn't hear him. His voice was drowned out by the screaming thoughts in her head.
Was he going to kill her? That was a bit much, but she wouldn't put it past him. Was he embarrassed, going to hound her for making him open up to her like that? Did he say any incriminating information? Everything and nothing sounded plausible and Mikasa wanted to check out of her own mind. It was cramped yet isolating, silent but screeching, grinding but lagging—
Suddenly, the ringing, crowded sensation stopped when the Commander belted out, "Meeting adjourned."
Everyone thrust their hand on their hearts before moving out of the room, funneling themselves through the doorway. Mikasa had the unfortunate position of being on the farthest wall from the door, so she was at the tail end of the group. Half-walking, half-waddling across the rug on the floor, she hummed to herself to distract from wary eyes. She already knew he was watching her, and she felt like a helpless lump of prey. Mikasa hated the feeling of being trapped and having no escape. It wasn't one she came across often, because she was usually on the other side of the hunt. Mikasa was a hunter, preyed on only by him.
She was almost to the door when she acquired false hope that he'd let her go unscathed. Her feet were almost to the threshold—
An image of a spider trapping a fly in its web flitted across Mikasa's thoughts, and she halted in her tracks. Her breath hitched when she looked directly into his eyes, and she slowly straightened up when he swung the door closed with his arm.
Levi was assessing her, watching her every move. If she took one wrong step, Mikasa had the feeling that he was going to pounce. Lash out before she could react. He was a wound up spring in her eyes, filled with tension and prone to burst at any moment. She didn't know whether there would be blood if he did, but if he drew some of hers she wasn't going down without drawing his, too. Because Levi wasn't the only victim. He was the one that attacked her last night. Did he not unleash his blood red fury on her skin? Was it her job to watch over him if he did it to anyone else? It had been mutually abusive to them both, and she would make sure he knew that.
"Don't call me that. Understand?"
Oh. She had had enough of that shit. Screw being scared of what he'd do if she made the wrong move. He was being so unreasonable with her it was making her head boil. With a passing thought she wondered if there was steam rolling off of her, too. "Make up your mind! First you tell me call you that, then you get mad and tell me not to, and it starts all over. It isn't fair!"
Levi pulled her down by the collar of her jacket, and he seethed, "Fair? You wanna talk about fair?"
Mikasa furrowed her brows, berating her poor choice of words. One wrong step. That was all it took. "I didn't—"
"I currently have titan blood in my system—without my consent—and now I'm the reason why Annie is getting further and further away. If this mission goes completely wrong, it's entirely your fault." He shoved her away, leaving her gaping at his words.
Ouch. She expected something more… Not that. Levi was cruel, but he wasn't the type of person to swing the blame around. He had been there to tell her it wasn't her fault that Eren was almost captured. From what she heard in the past, he would do the same for others. Sometimes he'd be there for someone dying, reassuring them they had an impact on the world to give them peace. So when he all but dumped the blame on her shoulders if they couldn't retrieve Annie, Mikasa was taken aback.
Was this even Levi? The same guy that forced her to eat his plums just because she fainted from hunger? The same guy that worked her until she bled under her fingernails because he knew she had it in her?
No. It wasn't him. She didn't know what it was, but it just wasn't. This was just a shadow of him, a darker and more intense part of him that she didn't want to encounter ever again.
For a split second, Mikasa wondered if Levi was slowly being taken over. The thought of him being overtaken by the raging titan blood in his system made sense to her somehow. Especially if it was Eren's. The boy had temper flares like no other, and she could imagine what just a small sample of his blood was doing to the corporal. There had to be some serious mental and physical trauma going on inside of him, and maybe that was what was making him so angry.
If she could somehow bring him back to the surface, maybe he'd go back to his normal self.
But how was she going to do that? Was she supposed to slap him? Coax him out of there with soothing words? She shook her head, clearing her mind and starting over. Those felt too cliché and worthless at the moment. She had to think of something more personal—something that they both shared that would pull him out of the darkness.
She would challenge him.
Mikasa had always been the one to face him head-on, and it had worked the first time. If she could get to him through arguing, maybe he could take the reins again.
Planting her feet on the ground, she puffed out her chest. Her voice low and calculating, she said, "Maybe it's your fault."
Levi's orbs glinted as he took immediate offence. "What," he bit out.
The glare he shot almost had her turning tail and rushing out the door. But she was Mikasa Ackerman, and she was going to win. "Maybe you shouldn't have gotten hurt in the first place."
"I was saving you," he blew out, making her bangs sway back.
Not enough to phase her, though. She chose to ignore the swell of emotion in her chest when he said "you," since she was sticking to the notion that this Levi wasn't all there. "You shouldn't have let Eren get in danger in the first place—"
"I let him make that decision himself, something you never did for him—"
"And how did that turn out for you? Weren't you the one that told me that each small decision turns into one big outcome? That's exactly what happened here. You shouldn't have let him make that decision on his own and you know it!" She could feel her veins pulsing along her neck and forehead, her adrenaline pushing her to a new high. There were only a few select times she had lost control of herself, but when she did she almost couldn't stop. "At least I'm able to keep people alive," she seethed, poison oozing from her mouth.
She went too far and she knew it. There was a solid black line in the sand and she overstepped it by two miles. His squad was wiped clean, and regardless of why, it was still his team. They were under his command and there was no doubt he had grieved over their deaths from the moment he saw their body bags. Mikasa sucked in her breath, about to apologize for her misstep when Levi got right in her face.
"And here I thought you were being selfless," he whispers, teeth grinding out each word. "Now I know the truth: you're the complete opposite. To the brim. And you know what's worse than being selfish, Ackerman?"
She stared hard at him, shaking in her bones.
"It's being selfish for someone else," Levi bit out. His eyes were in tiny slits now, teeth bared and ready to rip her throat out.
Mikasa was shoved one more time before Levi opened the door. He didn't even give her a second glance, slamming the door in her face and scraping the tip of her nose in the process.
There was always an odd silence that followed the slam of a door. It was as if the rest of the sound left along with the person that smashed it shut, leaving nothing in its wake. It was a feeling of stark space, leaving one wondering if their own heart had stopped beating.
Mikasa felt swallowed by it. She lifted a shaky hand to her face, cupping her mouth and swearing to herself. She had gone way too far for him to just brush it off. He was certainly not going to be seeing her for awhile.
She didn't even want to leave the room. It felt as if this was her only world, trapped in a room after someone she cared about had left. It had happened before, and again after that. Was she destined to get used to that feeling of being left behind? That feeling where no matter what you did, it would be for nothing?
Taking a seat on the floor by the door, Mikasa pondered a lot, like she always did. She wondered if she would end up alone. She wondered what it meant to be the strong one. If she was the strong one, who was supposed to come to her rescue? No one, apparently. Because she was alone.
Like a hammer to her fragile thoughts, someone was suddenly knocking on the door.
To be continued...
Note: Guess who's back, back... Back again, gain. Digi's back, back... Tell a friend, friend. There's no amount of apologies I can write for being so devastatingly late with this update. We're talkin' MONTHS here, and I'm really sorry about that. I'll try my best to get the next chapter out as soon as possible. I have things plotted out until Chapter 12, though, so there's that. :D
Note 2: Hmmm, Levi seems to only get very emotionally inclined around Mikasa. Why is that? And sorry about the amount of intensity in this chapter! There's some delicious things to come in a few chapters, I promise you. If you want me to put some type of warning (or even increase the rating) lemme know in the reviews. Thanks for reading!